New Song of the Week: TITUS CALDERBANK: “Mistakes”

Titus Calderbank

Titus Calderbank is a remarkably talented young singer/songwriter from Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, and he’s just released a beautiful and moving new single “Mistakes“. The song has a bit of a gospel quality, with a haunting piano-driven melody fortified by a soaring organ riff, celebratory drumbeats and Titus’ gorgeous vocals, backed by anthemic choruses. His deeply resonant vocal style is quite marvelous, with a power to stir our hearts and souls.

About the single, Titus explains “‘Mistakes’ is a song about failure and regret. A song about missing the mark. It’s also a song of redemption and asking for forgiveness. Humans often fall short. At the end of the day, we have to accept that we’re all trying our best. What I hope to communicate through this song is that mercy and forgiveness are always an option. We can either be slaves to our past mistakes or make peace with them and move on. We can grace our enemies with forgiveness or we can die with bitter hearts.

Choices I made
Long ago they
Bubble up
And they surface to my soul

But darling then
Was I myself
Was I who I wanted me to want to be

Won’t you take a part of me
Won’t you take a part of me
Place it deep, deep, deep, deep, deep, See if I still make mistakes

Here’s a video of him performing the song live, with his lovely piano as the only instrument to accompany his beautiful vocals that remind me a bit here of Rufus Wainwright.

Also released in conjunction with “Mistakes” is a second track “Could Have Done Better“. It’s a bit lighter in tone, with a catchy guitar-driven melody, but still features that lovely organ, strong percussion, and Titus’ arresting vocals. Like “Mistakes”, it also deals with atoning for one’s past wrongs and asking for forgiveness. It’s a wonderful song too.

Connect with Titus on Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream his music on Spotify / Soundcloud
Purchase on iTunes /  Bandcamp

New Song of the Week – GHOSTLY BEARD: “Tell Me”

Ghostly Beard Tell Me

In an effort to try and showcase more artists and bands on this blog, today I’m launching another new feature “New Song of the Week”, where each week I’ll post a newly-released single. For my first selection, I’ve chosen the poignant new song “Tell Me” by Canadian artist Ghostly Beard, which dropped yesterday, May 6th. Ghostly Beard is the artistic moniker of French born, but now Montréal, Canada-based, singer/songwriter Patrick Talbot, who I first wrote about in March 2018 when I reviewed his beautiful album Inward.

Somewhat of an enigma, Ghostly Beard prefers the focus to be entirely on his music rather than him, therefore, has chosen to remain physically anonymous, and never shows his image on any of his albums or social media, nor does he perform live. That said, he’s a thoughtful and talented songwriter, producer and multi-instrumentalist with a lot to tell us, which he beautifully expresses through his compelling lyrics, sublime vocals and dreamy, mellow soundscapes that draw from soft rock, jazz, pop, progressive rock and fusion, among other influences. When listening to his music, one can hear his inspiration from such legendary artists and bands as Steely Dan, Pink Floyd, Michael Franks, James Taylor, Cat Stevens, the Beatles, Genesis, XTC, and Weather Report. All his music is entirely self-produced at his own Studio GB in Montréal.

“Tell Me” starts off with a somber piano riff and strummed electric guitar, then as Ghostly Beard’s smooth, comforting vocals enter, gentle percussion and bass are added to the mix, creating a rather melancholy yet lovely soundscape. The bluesy guitar solo in the bridge is especially nice, and I love the glittery keyboard synths in the final minute that end the song on a high note.

My interpretation of the lyrics are that they speak of a troubled relationship that’s breaking apart, and that only through their shared love can they try and salvage what remains. Ghostly Beard told me that on a broader level, they’re generally about how things in the world seem to be upside down these days.

The beast is crawling
A darker looking future
You can’t live without a tear
The door is closed, alone it ends, tonight
Hiding the light, oh no!

Now tell me what’s knocking me down
And why were you screaming so loud
Tell me what’s knocking me down
While the world is spinning around

There’s only one thing left
To stop this pain
With all our loving
We could try

Connect with Ghostly Beard:  Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Purchase his music on iTunes / Bandcamp / Amazon

THIRD TIME LUCKIE – EP Review: “Face the Beast”

Third Time Luckie EP art

A month ago I featured British alternative pop/punk band Third Time Luckie on this blog when I reviewed their beautiful single “Love and Violence”. They’ve now dropped a new EP Face the Beast, which I have the pleasure of reviewing today. Originally formed in 2006, the band had early success, releasing two EPs and an album, but eventually disbanded in 2014. Fortunately for us, founding members Chris Horner (guitar & vocals) and Carl Swietlik (drums) decided to give it another go, and Third Time Luckie was reborn an older and wiser trio in late 2016 with a new bassist Andy Clare. Based in the southern England resort town of Bognor Regis, Sussex, the band’s high-energy style of melodic pop/punk rock is strongly influenced by some of their favorite bands like Blink-182, Green Day, Alkaline Trio and Sum 41.

Face the Beast features five stellar tracks, including “Love and Violence” and some other previously released songs. Green Day’s influence can clearly be heard on the first cut “The Grind“, with a frantic riff that’s strikingly similar to the main riff in “American Idiot”. The guys follow through with more electrifying guitar solos of their own, along with a driving bass line and thunderous drums that make for an exhilarating song. The lyrics speak to escaping a soul-crushing rut in a boring town, and making a change for the better: “And so, we all stick to the grind. And so, something gets left behind. Go do what you like, cause my mind’s made up now. And so, fuck you, I’m leaving this town.”

That Day” is a reworking of a song the band originally recorded back in 2008. The upbeat song is a rousing pop/punk ode to a woman he loves, recalling the day he met her: “I remember that day so clearly. It’s stuck down in my head. I get the warmest feeling lying next to you in bed. The grass is always greener when you are around.” The anthemic “Never Alone” is a song of encouragement to someone suffering from depression. Chris does some fine shredding on his six-string as he fervently sings: “You found your way, your way back to our lives. You found your way, your way back to our hearts. All the while you were lost in the smoke. We were there too, and you were never alone. / You can push back and fight it. Or face the beast and ignite it.” Andy and Carl keep the rhythm with a solid bass line and a cascade of tumultuous percussion.

The poignant “Love and Violence” is a plea from one partner in a fraying relationship to another, urging her to stay with him and try to work out their problems. The words “love and violence” represent the highs and lows – the good times and bad – of a relationship. “Stay with me now cause I know we’re forever. And evermore it’s you and I in love and violence.” The guitar work is fantastic, and Chris’s pleasing vocals sound great whether he’s earnestly crooning the calmer verses or passionately wailing the dramatic choruses. The guys’ backing vocal harmonies are wonderful too.

The final track “Wide Eyed Thinking” was the first single the reconstituted band released in 2017, and it’s a real banger. The guys let loose here, unleashing a furious barrage of gnarly riffs, wildly crashing cymbals, and chugging bass. The song’s only two and a half minutes long, but it’s a beast. The lyrics speak to finally coming to terms with the reality of a toxic relationship that’s beyond repair: “Nothing I did was ever good enough for her. Wide eyed thinking, how can I get away? This ship is sinking, and I’ve been led astray from you. Now I sing a different tune.”

Face the Beast is a terrific little EP that showcases the strong songwriting and musicianship of Third Time Luckie. I’m impressed by these guys’ resilience, as well as their dedication to excellence, and I hope they continue making more great music for our listening enjoyment.

Connect with Third Time Luckie:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music on Spotify / Soundcloud / Reverbnation
Purchase on iTunes

JADED JANE – Artist Spotlight & Interview

I’ve commented previously on this blog about my continual amazement at the sheer magnitude of enormously talented musicians around today who are creating incredible music. In such a seemingly overcrowded industry, it’s inevitable that so many of these musicians and bands struggle to get their music heard, despite the ready availability of a staggering amount of it that’s free for the taking (which as we all know is another entire set of issues). That’s where music bloggers like myself come in, writing about indie artists we like and helping to spread the word about their music and hopefully gain them a few more followers and fans. With that in mind, today I have the pleasure of introducing to my readers the remarkably talented and undeniably charismatic Olsson brothers Axel and Adam who call themselves Jaded Jane.

Jaded Jane 2

Originally from Gothenburg, Sweden, but now split between Gothenburg and Glasgow, Jaded Jane seeks to celebrate humanity and diversity through their music, writing compelling songs with positive, life-affirming lyrics. Drawing upon a wide range of influences such as pop, rock, soul, R&B and hip-hop, they create beautiful, piano-driven melodies and lush soundscapes. Since 2015 they’ve produced four excellent albums, and are now recording their fifth, due for release later this year. I reached out to Jaded Jane to talk about themselves and their music, and was happy Axel agreed to share some of their story.

EML:  Hello Axel. Thank you for agreeing to talk with me. First off, by way of introductions, tell me a little about Jaded Jane – when did you guys form the band, and how did you and your brother Adam decide on the name “Jaded Jane”?

Axel:  Thanks Jeff. I am super glad to be part of your music blog. Jaded Jane and the musical adventure of brothers Axel and Adam Jane Olsson began in our early youth, being the sons of musician Christer Olsson (Plums, Noll 31, Scandinavian 5) and a mother with a passion for music. Growing up to the sounds of Motown, The Beatles and Michael Jackson, to name a few, it was only natural for us to develop a keen sense of melody, harmony and originality. We grew up in the Gothenburg, Sweden suburb of Hammerhill, and our path eventually lead us to New York & Los Angeles, where we spent ten years back and forth immersing ourselves with some of the most inspiring musicians on Earth. The name Jaded Jane came to me in a dream in 2013, when I was living in New York. The name deals with the jaded aspect of the modern human being. Jaded Jane is also a song from our debut album Diversity, and is about life, death and meaning. The name ‘Jane’ has an androgynous quality that is inclusive and gender neutral.

EML:  What prompted you to make those moves from Sweden to Los Angeles and New York, and why did you choose to leave New York for Glasgow, rather than return to Sweden? Does Glasgow have a more thriving music scene?

Axel:  It’s been a long road moving back and forth to New York, Los Angeles and now Glasgow. We came home to Sweden for a few years after New York, and then we ended up collaborating with a few Scottish artists which led us to Glasgow. It is a vibrant music city, with areas that remind me of Brooklyn, NY.  When you are moving to a new city you are putting yourself in a whole new world, which sculpts you into another story and adventure, I have always been excited about learning and growing on all fields as a human being. So I am now in Glasgow, while Adam is still based in Gothenburg.

EML:  Your music is beautiful and uplifting, and your songs offer positive, life-affirming messages. What is the inspiration behind your music and sound?

Axel:  That means a lot to hear that the songs & music spread those messages. We feel that the music we create is greater than us and has the power to heal by touching people on a deeper level. By being brutally honest with ourselves, we allow others to feel that side of us. The things that are the most personal are ultimately the most universal. My inspiration comes from experiencing all of life’s challenges, both the highs and lows.  From a young age, me and Adam starting asking questions about our society, and felt an urge to share our musical stories with other people in hope that it will touch and lift someone who is low.

EML:  Do you both write the songs and lyrics together? And do you both play all the instruments and synths yourselves, or do you work with other session musicians to help create your music?

Axel:  I have written all the songs on the albums released thus far, and we do play all of the instruments. However, on the new album “117” we’re currently working on, Adam is featuring two of his new songs. Adam plays fretless bass, guitar and sings, and I play the piano, synthesizers and also recording and producing the tracks. We previously collaborated with guitarist Mike Stern on our first album Diversity, and L.A.-based soul singer Frank McComb on The Puzzle, an album we made prior to becoming Jaded Jane. But our journey really took off in a new direction while meeting our third member Åke Linton, a sound artist from Sweden who is now part of creating the soundscapes and sounds of Jaded Jane.

EML:  The track “Crystal Stair” on your latest album Salvation is an intriguing song. How did you discover that speech from Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., and why did you choose to build a song around it?

Axel:  The whole Salvation album was recorded live in a studio in Gothenburg, on Queen’s old console and the song “Crystal Stair” was just a small improvised part that came from one of the sessions. Both me and Adam have always been inspired by Martin Luther King, and we thought it’d be cool to have his voice on top of the melodies and sounds of the improvised piece.

EML:  I was touched by your recent Instagram post about your struggles and frustrations with trying to make it in this very tough music business. Your music is so wonderful, and you guys need to be heard by a larger audience, which is why I’m happy to feature you on my little music blog. That said, one of the issues I think is that today, most people seem to prefer hip-hop, Country or rock music, rather than beautiful, piano-based easy listening compositions like yours. Yes, there is still a niche for your genre of music, and there are successful artists making music similar to yours such as James Blake and Sufjan Stevens, but they often collaborate with hip hop or other artists to appeal to a wider audience. You’ve stated that you would like to collaborate with other artists, and in fact have a couple of times, like you did with rapper Scope (Jake Lewis) on the track “Life” from your album “One Way”, but that it’s been a struggle getting more artists to collaborate. Any thoughts?

Axel:  You are very right, It is a big challenge to get people to listen to a full song nowadays, even though you spent your whole life building and working on your craft, The masses seem to react to the loudest playing songs. I am looking forward to writing and recording more with similar minded artists, The struggle in paying rent and earning money for food has and I am guessing will always be there when it comes to true artistry, I am a full time busker / street performer in Glasgow at the moment, and that has definitely made me humble in how hard it can be to earn money; it gives you a whole new respect for how to use them.

The music business is a tough field to be in, I have always felt and I know Adam felt it too. We are outside of the business, however, we the songwriters and artists are what makes it possible to make a business out of it, so I am determined to find out what’s going on.

EML:  Your press release states that you’re managed by Scirca Music Group. Some artists & bands choose to hire a management company or PR firm to help them, while others wish to do everything themselves. Have you found it helpful to work with a manager?

A year ago I reached out through social media in search for a music publisher and manager, which got me in contact with the newly started Scirca Music Group. It has been a learning experience for both me and Adam and for the management company, as they are just starting out. I would like to encourage other artists to learn about how it all works, and how it is built up, that is the key to understanding and hopefully knowing where you want to go from there.

EML:  What are you guys working on now? Any plans for another album?

Axel:  As I mentioned earlier, we’ve been recording a new album “117” to be released later this year. It’s being recorded and mixed by our Sound Artist Åke Linton. I’m singing & playing on an old upright piano, and Adam is playing a Spanish nylon guitar & also singing some vocals. The last pieces of the songs on ”117” are being recorded with string arranger & producer Mattias Bylund adding a cello to the songs by cellist David Bukovinszky. Last but not least, I am laying down the bass lines on a 1976 Moog Synthesizer and warm analog pads on a 1980s Korg Polysix. We just shot the first music video for our upcoming single ”Trapped”. It was exciting and it turned out great.

EML: Is there anything else you’d like people to know about Jaded Jane that I’ve neglected to ask?

Axel:  Yes, we want to share our message of “Ignorance Separates, Music Unites”. We want to take a stand even more, making it clearer that we are for all human beings,  especially the ones without a voice. Equality, Humanism, and Reverence for the Beauty and Majesty of Nature are all subjects we care about.

We are from the “hood” of our hometown and we wish to display a different side [to that part of the Gothenburg area] than what is mainly portrayed in media with their car fires, etc. The growth of racist/nationalistic political parties such as SD* is something that we want to be an antidote for. We’ve always stayed clear of politics in our music but when it comes to these ethical & moral values we want to be very clear that we stand for diversity, equality and lifting positive stories about the “hood” which almost always have been a place of brotherhood and acceptance for us. Yes there are problems, but there need to be a more nuanced and balanced portrayal in media. We want to do our part as a counterweight to the negative.

* SD stands for Sweden Democrats, ironically, a socially conservative and far right-wing populist political party.

So lets dig a bit into Jaded Jane’s wonderful catalog and get a feel for their music. They released their debut album Diversity in 2015, a genre-bending work featuring eight tracks drawing upon pop, rock, soul, R&B and hip hop elements. As the title suggests, the songs address uplifting themes of embracing diversity and working together to make the world a better place. Every track on the album is superb, but my favorites are the lovely ballad “Jaded Jane”, the anthemic “After”, “Meaningful Destiny”, with its beautiful piano and shimmering guitar, the funky “The Cure”, with guest vocals from rapper KJ Denhert, and the soulful and fun “Walk the Walk”. Their musicianship and knack for writing infectious melodies that hook us in right from the start are impressive, and I love Axel’s casual vocal style that frequently breaks into a crooning falsetto.

In February 2017, they released their fantastic second album One Waywhich saw them branch out and further experiment with their sound by incorporating more complex and multi-textured synthesizers, deep bass lines and trap beats into their soulful mix. The highlights here are “Tell Me What”, with spacey synths and a funky bass line that’ll rock your world, “Breathing”, with colorful psychedelic synths and guitar chords that are fucking magical, and “Life”, a brilliant track featuring killer rap verses by British rapper Scope (Jake Lewis) that beautifully complement Axel’s falsetto vocals. The uplifting lyrics speak of not letting your past troubles define you or keep you from realizing your dreams: “Living life just watch me risk it, made mistakes but don’t regret ’em / I put on a happy face to hide where I come from / Put your knife down, listen to my rhyme / Everything’s gonna be alright.

Only eight months later, Jaded Jane dropped yet another album Always & Forever, once again going off in another direction with their sound. This time, Axel’s beautiful piano playing takes center stage, with the songs all featuring sublime piano-driven melodies that take their music toward an ambient, easy-listening vibe. In describing his inspiration for the album, Axel wrote as if speaking to his father: “When I sat down by the piano I could feel your presence. I let the songs happen the way they were meant to. Through music we can communicate with another world, here it is, and it is for you, in the here and now and in the hereafter.” The beautiful title track “Always & Forever” is a moving tribute to their father. “Hard to believe that you are gone this time. Oh give me strength to carry on. Easy to smile when you are by my side. You’ll live forever in my heart.” The video was filmed on a snowy night in Gothenburg.

The opening song “Serendipity” is a serene, 13-minute long piece of atmospheric heaven, with extended runs of delicate piano, guitar and whispery synths that are mesmerizing. The song begins as an instrumental-only track that seems to end at around 3:45 minutes, then starts back up at 4:00, this time with Axel’s tender vocals singing the praises of their father: “It was your light. It was your love, that shone through all of us.” This portion of the song ends with a gradual fade-out of reverb at around 8:45, only to start back up at 9:30 with sparse piano keys, accompanied by strummed guitar and whispery synths that throb until the end of the song.

Jaded Jane Salvation

Their fourth and most-recent album is the gorgeous Salvation. Released in November 2018, the album continues with what Jaded Jane refers to as their “exploration of soulful soundscapes of consciousness” that we loved on Always & Forever.  The entire album flows like an atmospheric river of mesmerizing piano-driven sound, enveloping and transporting us to a comforting place of love, peace and serenity. The beautiful title track “Salvation” has simple, spiritual lyrics that speak to finding peace of mind and salvation in the hereafter: “I’ll stay right here, through my last tears. Ain’t got nothing left to fear. Salvation. It’s the longest street, I will follow thee to another space and time. I will walk this road, never looking down, to the place that we’ll call home.”

Another standout track is “Ethereal”, which lives up to its name with breathtaking atmospheric music. Axel’s piano work is absolutely stunning, backed by sweeping glittery synths, gently thumping drumbeats and Adam’s subtle guitar notes.

“Orion” is a beautiful instrumental track, consisting of only delicate piano, gentle drumbeats and whispy ambient background synths. Though over five minutes long, it seems much shorter. The track segues uninterrupted into album closer “Crystal Stair”, with a continuation of the gentle drumbeats and whispy synths. At one minute, words from a famous 1960 speech by Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. at Spelman College enter: “Your life’s blueprint must be a commitment to the eternal principles of beauty, love and justice. Don’t allow anybody to pull you so low as to make you hate them. Don’t allow anybody to cause you to lose your self-respect to the point that you do not struggle for justice. However young you are, you have a responsibility to seek to make your nation a better nation in which to live.

The track encapsulates the message of love, tolerance and social justice that Jaded Jane seeks to spread by Salvation, and with all their songs. I greatly admire these guys, both in terms of the wonderful music they make, and the positive vibes they spread through their kindness, love and joy. I cannot wait to hear their new album.

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

ROADKEEPER – Single Review: “Old Man’s War”

Roadkeeper

It always makes me happy when I discover a new band and instantly love their music. I was so impressed by the beautiful songs of the band Roadkeeper that I had to write a review of their latest single “Old Man’s War“. The Tyler, Texas- based group was formed less than a year ago by producer/vocalist John Eric Hetherington and drummer Nick Cogdill, who both previously played in the post-punk group Knifight, as well as guitarist Trevor Tull and bassist Daniel Griffith, all of whom are long-time friends. Roadkeeper is completely independent and self-produced, doing their recording, producing and mixing in John’s studio – dubbed ‘Yacht Country’ – and releasing their songs on their own label Equal Temperament.

Blending dreamy shoegaze with dramatic psychedelic rock, Roadkeeper crafts exquisite songs that envelop us with complex melodies and lush soundscapes, while delivering compelling lyrics that give us something to think about. Beginning in the fall of 2018, they released a series of singles, starting with “God in the Light of the Bar”, a laid-back song with shimmering guitars, horns and breezy synths, and “The Creeps”, a beautiful, anthemic song about emotional manipulation and abuse. In February 2019, they released their mesmerizing third single “Gushers”, which the band explains “deals with recent years’ murders of unarmed black people by police officers, and the way law enforcement and apologists reframe the job of police officer as a war or conflict between the just and unjust. Also how privileged people are starting to reframe their own lives and minor struggles as heroes journeys.”

Now the band follows up with their fourth single “No Man’s War” a melancholy but beautiful song about anxiety and worry over things, both real and imagined. The song starts off with a mix of both chiming and strummed acoustic guitars, as John sings in soft, breathy vocals of his fears:

I’m afraid of so many things
What the hell am I doing
Waiting for a change
People never change
And I’m stuck inside my heart
Waiting for someone to pick me up
And tell me everything’s OK
That it’s only just a dream
Wait and see

The music swells with lush shimmery synths, fuzzy bass and chiming guitars as he tries to convince himself that all is right with the world and he’s got nothing to worry about:

No disease is coming for me
And no conditions waiting to take you from me
And the world is happy
No one is dying
The ice isn’t melting
And everyone can be themselves

The dramatic sweeping synths continue during the bridge, then abruptly end, leaving us with just a simple strummed acoustic guitar as John reaffirms his anxieties and feelings of pessimism in the final verse:

I’m afraid of so many things
Every time I read
What’s breaking in the world
I lose a piece of me
To an old man’s war
They won’t be around to pick it up
When everything falls down

With “No Man’s War”, Roadkeeper continue to bat a thousand, delivering their fourth consecutive win in the form of a perfect song. I’m happy to be following this talented group of guys, and excited to hear what they come up with next!

Connect with Roadkeeper:  Facebook / Twitter  / Instagram
Stream their music on Spotify / Soundcloud
Purchase on Bandcamp / iTunes

THIRD TIME LUCKIE – Single Review: “Love and Violence”

Third Time Luckie single art

Third Time Luckie – is that a great band name or what? – is a 3-piece alternative rock group based in the southern England resort town of Bognor Regis, Sussex. Formed back in 2006 by founding member Chris Horner (guitar & vocals), like many bands, Third Time Luckie has undergone some personnel changes in the intervening years, and now includes Carl Swietlik (drums) and Andy Clare (bass & vocals). Drawing influences from some of their favorite bands like Blink-182, Green Day, Alkaline Trio and Sum 41, they play a high-energy style of melodic pop/punk rock.

The band has recorded a number of fine tracks over the years, including their recent single “Wide Eyed Thinking” (you can check them out on their Soundcloud page). Their latest release is “Love and Violence“, a terrific song that will be included on their forthcoming EP Face the Beast, due out later this Spring.

Starting things off with a flourish of drumbeats, they quickly hook us in with an arresting guitar riff overlying a driving bass line and accompanied by a gentle drumbeat. The music then explodes into a stirring crescendo in the choruses, thanks to a speaker-blowing barrage of raging guitars, wildly crashing cymbals, and deep, buzzing bass. The guitar work is fantastic, and there are some nice piano keys in the final chorus as well, providing another texture of sound that makes for a really interesting and highly satisfying listen. Chris has a pleasing vocal style that sounds great whether he’s earnestly crooning the calmer verses or passionately wailing the dramatic choruses. The guys’ backing vocal harmonies in the choruses are wonderful too.

The poignant lyrics are a plea from one partner in a fraying relationship to another, urging her to stay with him and try to work out their problems. The words “love and violence” represent the highs and lows – the good times and bad – of a relationship.

Stay with me now
Cause I know we’re forever
And evermore it’s you and I in love and violence

Cry with me know
It doesn’t really matter
We’re living for today
Come on let’s run away

The guys’ skill at songwriting and crafting memorable melodies is strongly evident on “Love and Violence”, and they’ve got a bonafide hit on their hands. I really like this band, and am looking forward to hearing Face the Beast when it comes out.

Connect with Third Time Luckie:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music on Spotify / Soundcloud / Reverbnation
Purchase on iTunes

A BLUE FLAME – 3-Track Single Review: “Blueprints For Time Machines”

A Blue Flame EP art

I’m not quite sure what’s behind the current flood of creative energy, but it seems that nearly everyone is putting out new music in 2019. At least that’s the case for a large percentage of the artists and bands I’ve featured on this blog over the past three and a half years. Another one of them is A Blue Flame, the music project of British singer/songwriter Richard Stone, who’s just released a new three-track single “Blueprints for Time Machines“, the first of four releases that will comprise his upcoming album due out this summer.

A Blue Flame’s songs tell compelling stories about life, love, faith, loss and heartbreak through poetic, heartfelt lyrics and sublime melodies. The passage of time and the challenge of keeping the faith – both in God and yourself – are recurring themes in his songs. Musically, his songs feature an eclectic range of styles from doo-wop and old-school pop to easy listening ballads, folk and rock, delivered with his smooth, pleasing vocal style. I first featured him on this blog in October 2016, when I reviewed his beautiful album What We’ve Become is All That Now Remains. In January 2018, I reviewed his equally stellar follow-up album When Your Whole World Turns to Dust, which dropped in September 2017. (You can read those reviews by clicking on the “Related” links at the bottom of this page.)

A Blue Flame

Stone 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. About these new singles, Stone explains: “Blueprints has the interesting concept that if you went back in time to improve what you’d done, you’d make the past better than the present you have already created through mistakes made in the past!

The exhilarating first track “Blueprints for Time Machines” is short, lasting barely over two minutes, but makes quite an impact with a thunderous mix of roiling riffs and hammering percussion, punctuated by staccato bursts of stabbing guitars and punchy drumbeats. Stone’s passionate vocals are commanding as he loudly proclaims “Blueprints for time machines. I need designs and plans and schemes. So I can make yesterday better than I made today.”

A Blue Flame keeps the energy flowing with “You Blink and it’s Gone”, an exuberant song with a wonderfully complex melody incorporating elements of rock’n’roll, Latin and pop music. The intricate layered guitars are fantastic, and I love the lively trumpet work and backing vocal harmonies. The lyrics speak to a relationship that’s lost the initial spark that drew them together in the beginning, and now looking back with sad resignation: “I wish that I’d known then what I know now. I would have held you high above the crowd. / Feels like forever, then you blink and it’s gone. You need to let go, but you’re still holding on. And you can’t even tell if you’ve lost or you’ve won. You blink and it’s gone.”

Things turn melancholy with the languid “Pull for the Shore”, a track that almost sounds like two songs melded together. It starts off slowly, with acoustic guitars and gentle snare drum, then a smooth organ riff enters as Stone sings in a rather sad tone: “You’re lost again. You feel like you’re running on the spot again. Reached inside and given all you’ve got again. You think you may be headed for the drop again. You’re down my friend.” Eventually, the pace of the music quickens and music builds as he urges self-preservation: “Hey ho, don’t take anymore. Pull for the Shore.” Two-thirds of the way through, the tempo abruptly transitions to a faster rock vibe, with heavier guitars, organ and drums. Stone repeats the affirming line “Hey ho, don’t take anymore”, ending the song on a positive note.

A Blue Flame continues to deliver music that’s meaningful, interesting and always a joy to hear. All three tracks are marvelous, and a great start to what will surely be another superb album.

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

CARY BALSANO – Single Review: “Versailles”

Cary Balsano Versailles

Cary Balsano is a handsome and talented young singer/songwriter of Italian origin who’s now based in Liverpool, England. I last featured him in September 2017 when I reviewed his beautiful single “Horizon” which you can read here. He’s just dropped another lovely single called “Versailles“, a tender and moving song that speaks to coming to terms with addiction.

The instrumentals are simple, consisting of Cary’s beautiful strummed acoustic guitar, accompanied by subtle bass and a spare kick drum keeping the beat. Cary’s gentle vocals are earnest and heartfelt as he sings about his and his love interest’s addictions – to drugs and to each other, as a way of dulling their pain and insecurities. To me, Cary’s naming the song ‘Versailles’ would seem to be a metaphor for a desire to make a peace accord with their demons and each other.

You are the fire
You are desire
The city lights have gone too far
You are craving a gram

This is a way we live our pain
A crying shame
Breathing our lies
Victims of life
So come to Versailles
And I never want to let this go

You are my lust
You are covered in dust
And I still feel the same old pain
It’s you and me and our fame

We’re all in the same boat
Living in fear of living

Connect with Cary:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream his music on Spotify and purchase on iTunes

INFINITE EIGHTS Release New Video for “Off the Rails”

Infinite Eights is an incredibly charismatic and astonishingly talented indie alternative pop/rock band based in Tampa, Florida. They were one of the first bands to follow me on Twitter back in the fall of 2015, when I was just starting out as a music blogger and still a complete unknown. At the time, two of the band members, Parker Wilkson (guitar, keyboards & vocals) and Tyler Hanks (drums & percussion) were still in high school, and Davin Norman (bass) was in college. I was immediately impressed by the high quality of their songs, as well as their kindness and gracious humility, and wrote a feature about them for this blog in April 2016, which you can read here.

They originally formed in 2012 while still young teens, and have released numerous singles over the years, as well as a six-track EP Unfound in 2015. Their music is characterized by gorgeous melodies, sparkling synths, lush keyboards, intricate guitar riffs, and nimble bass and percussion. Infinite Eights has performed in several music festivals alongside some of the biggest names in music, including The 1975, Phantogram, AWOLNATION and Sir Sly, among others, and has opened for Kaleo, AJR, In the Valley Below, and The Relationship. It’s given me great pleasure to follow them on their musical journey, witnessing their growth and maturity as a band on an upward trajectory.

One of their recent singles is “Off the Rails“, an achingly beautiful, bittersweet song about how one partner is giving up on the relationship. The song is magnificent, and a perfect example of their superb songwriting and musicianship. It opens with a stunning guitar riff, backed by shimmery synths, Davin’s pulsating bass and Tyler’s gently pummeling drumbeats. Parker’s guitar work is impressive, and he lays down a breathtaking guitar solo in the bridge that literally brings tears to my eyes. His heartfelt vocals are lovely, ranging from breathy to impassioned as he fervently sings “Cause you’re going off the rails. Know just what that entails. Gonna let our love go stale. You’re going off the rails now.”

Infinite Eights video cast
The cast of the “Off the Rails” video

Infinite Eights has just released a wonderful new video for the song, their first ‘official’ video.  The action tells the story laid out in the lyrics, about a young woman giving up on the relationship and saying goodbye to her partner, played by Parker, as she boards a train that will carry her away. The outstanding video was skillfully directed by band friend Ashley Acevedo, and is dedicated to Parker’s beautiful mother Natalie, who tragically passed away in January.

Connect with Infinite Eights on Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music on Spotify / Soundcloud / Reverbnation
Purchase on iTunes

SECRET AMERICAN – Album Review: “Warmth & Shelter”

Secret American album art

Sometimes you just want to hear music that makes you feel good, am I right? Well, that’s exactly what you get with the aptly titled Warmth & Shelter, an absolutely delightful album from the band Secret American. The album came out in May 2018, but I only recently learned about it from fellow music blogger Tina Romano, who wrote a wonderful review for the blog Niche-Appeal.com, and recommended that I give this band a listen. Well, I have to say that it’s one of the most enjoyable albums I’ve heard in a long time. I’m sorry I never heard this album in 2018, because I’d easily rank it among the best of that year.

Secret American’s refreshing sound is at once retro yet contemporary, unique yet familiar. While listening to the songs I kept wondering ‘who do they remind me of?’ Then it finally dawned on me that the carefree California pop-rock vibe of The Lovin’ Spoonful was the retro part, while the contemporary side evokes the laid-back grooves of Cage the Elephant. While their song lyrics often address serious subjects that require a bit of thinking, they’re presented with sunny melodies, breezy instrumentation and pleasing vocals that make for happy listening experience. The songs are infectiously catchy without hitting you over the head, slowly boring themselves into your brain, but in a very good way. When I first listened to Warmth & Shelter, I thought ‘these songs are nice’. On the second listen, I thought ‘this is a really good album’. By the third spin, it was ‘I fucking love this!’ and have been hooked ever since.

Born from the collaboration of singer/songwriter and guitarist Derek Krzywicki, who lives in the small town of Carpenteria on the California coast east of Santa Barbara, and his long-time friend Todd Mecaughey, a producer/engineer who lives in Philadelphia, Secret American is a bi-coastal band of sorts. Derek had written several songs after leaving the band Cheers Elephant, and reached out to Todd about helping bring them to life. Despite their distance, they began working together on music fairly regularly for over a year in Philadelphia, as well as collaborating through the internet from their home studios, and eventually formed Secret American. Todd has stated that the name comes from them being simultaneously proud and ashamed to be American (a sentiment I currently share). Using Derek’s songs, the two created their debut album Warmth & Shelter. For the recording of the tracks, Derek played guitar, bass and sang vocals, Todd played drums, Kevin Killen played pedal steel, and Katie Frank played keyboards. Todd also engineered and produced the album. Along with those four, three additional musicians – Tony Unander, Alex Baranowski and Rory Geoghegan – were enlisted to complete the lineup for live performances.

Secret American2

The album kicks off with the title track “Warmth & Shelter“, a sweet tune about making a life in the country with your beloved, knowing there will be rough spots, but that everything will be alright: “Oh my dear, I wish to lead a Countried life. Hard work low wages. But these days, they lie ahead of us just out of reach. We’re making changes. I’ll hold the book you’ll turn the pages. Take what we want, take what we need, this little home, this dog we feed. This land of ours it’s all we need. Give me warmth and shelter, heart as well to count, count, count, on me.” The twangy guitars, cheerful synths and bouncy drumbeats are sublime, and Derek’s falsetto vocals, backed by his and Katie’s smooth harmonies, are sheer delight.

I don’t usually include so many videos in my reviews, but the band has produced highly entertaining ones for several of the album’s songs that are worth sharing. Feel free to watch them (or not). This one for “Warmth & Shelter” beautifully showcases Derek’s strong charisma and playful spirit.

Speaking of charisma and playfulness, Derek has it in spades on the charming and droll video for “Bang Bang“. He states in the video notes that it was made “to explain some of the choreography for their first band practice. It is now our default music video.” Honestly, how can you not love this guy? The song has a soulful Americana vibe, and is catchy as hell, with a delightful mix of jangly electric and twangy slide guitars, accompanied by a gently galloping beat. Derek’s vocals are quirky as he croons the humorous lyrics that speak to sexual desire:  “I’m a standing tall and ready, not a man in disguise. I want you to blow my head out, right between the eyes. Sooner or later, like it or not. Tie yourself together and I’ll undue your knot. Send me your love on that ball and chain.”

Why Believe?” speaks to the current state of political, economic and environmental upheaval. The song’s bubbly instrumentals and vocals sharply contrast with the darker lyrics about trying to avoid becoming totally cynical or hopeless in the face of challenges on multiple fronts: “The hotter the hotter the deeper the water. I think it’s time for a swim. Shame to the shameful, blame to the blameful for frying their lies in a pan. Why Believe? I can’t believe myself. Too poor to retire, too young die.”

The great tracks keep coming as the album continues, each flowing beautifully into the next. “Good Men Change” addresses the impermanence of life and not always taking things at face value: “Bad men dream, good men lie. / Clocks go round, things unwind.” One of my favorite tracks is “Amen, California” an enthralling ode to Derek’s (and my) home state. The song is beautiful, with a languid tempo and smooth instrumentals that evoke the blissful feels of a sunny day at the beach. Derek’s vocals are soothing and warm as he croons of the California state of mind: “Be free, like the fish in the sea. Let the waves crash on you, and be reborn in California.” The track sounds like a live recording, with street noise and children’s voices heard in the background.

Another favorite is the joyful love song “I Wanna Know“. If this song doesn’t make you feel good, then I don’t know what will! The simple lyrics ask the object of his desire if they share the feelings he has for them: “I wanna know who’s side you’re on. I wanna know you completely and turn on your TV and put your records on.” Much to the band’s surprise and delight, the song was featured in the premier episode of the YouTube original TV show Weird City, produced by Jordan Peele and Charlie Sanders (which you can watch by clicking on this link). The video for the track, which was filmed on location in Philadelphia and edited by band member Tony Unander, is also a pleasure to watch.

Chelsea the Cat” is a wonderful slice of Americana confection, with some tasty guitar work, while the funky “Wish A Well” really channels Cage the Elephant. In fact, Derek’s vocals sound a lot like Matt Shultz on this track. Yet another favorite of mine is “Human“, one of the most interesting tracks on the album from a musical standpoint. The melody is mesmerizing and beautiful, with sort of a sped-up and modified ska beat, and the intricate, layered guitars and lush, exotic synths are gorgeous. Derek’s slightly echoed vocals are captivating as he sings of what it means to be a human, rather than a certain race, nationality or type: “I’m a human, I’m not labeled on the shelf. / So long being a stranger. Wearing the name that they gave ya.” The lyrics eventually recite the first few verses of the National Anthem, delivered in a completely different way that seems to lend the words new meaning.

Closing out the album is “Magnolia“, a pleasant lo-fi instrumental that opens with a sweet acoustic guitar riff and gentle synth beat that’s eventually joined by a simple organ riff that lends a bit of a carnival vibe. Halfway through, a lovely chiming guitar enters along with a string synth chord, and the result is pure bliss. The instrumentals fade as the song comes to an end, leaving us with just a few discordant notes of acoustic guitar.

I cannot gush enough about this marvelous album and band! Secret American is a group of incredibly creative and talented musicians, and they deserve to be big. I really love their sound and style, and hope they’ll soon make more of their incredible music for us to enjoy. Those of you fortunate to live in the Philadelphia area can catch them at their upcoming show on March 29th at Underground Arts in Philadelphia.

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