SORICAH – EP Review: “Let the Fire Burn Free”

Soricah

Soricah is a singer, songwriter, guitarist and producer whose music is influenced by her rich international and multi-cultural heritage. Being of Irish/Mauritian ancestry and having spent various times of her childhood and adulthood living in Ireland, Africa, Mauritius and London, her exposure to a wide range of music and people give her music a unique sound that’s a blending of genres and styles. Formerly a member of the band Rebekah Met Sarah, Soricah has also performed as a solo artist in London and Ireland. She has supported musical acts such as The Palma Violets and renowned cellist Jo Quail, and has been a frequent collaborator with members of The Artist Community of Studio 180, and the East London artistic warehouse scene. She’s also been featured on a number of projects with different artists, and her collaborations have been aired on Freakfm, BBC Radio One and a variety of Irish and International radio stations.

She currently splits her time between Kent, England and Dublin, Ireland, and recently dropped her debut EP Let the Fire Burn Free, featuring four tracks written and sung by her. She also played acoustic guitars on the tracks, and co-produced the EP with Daniel Doherty, who played electric guitar, bass and drums. Gary Molloy played cello and piano, and the songs were mastered by renowned British mastering engineer Pete Maher. The artwork was designed by Valerie Pezeron.

The first track “Waiting” is a beautiful song, with a sultry melody that conjures up images of a beach bathed by warm tropical breezes. Both musically and vocally, the song has a definite Lana Del Ray vibe. A distinctive element is Gary Molloy’s gorgeous fluttering cello, which gives the track a haunting, dreamlike sound. Soricah’s strummed acoustic guitar and smooth, sensuous vocals are complemented by Daniel Doherty’s sultry bass line and crisp percussion. The lyrics speak of intense passion and longing for someone, which Soricah seductively croons “Come a little closer. Feel my body move. My heart is beating faster, waiting for you/ You take me away into the stars is where I’ll stay. Waiting for you, waiting for you.”

Back to Him” is an interesting song, and a perfect example of how Soricah skillfully blends a mix of cultural elements into her music. The song has a delightful, exotic-sounding Latin or gypsy folk melody. The colorful and spirited acoustic and electric guitars are fantastic, and I love Daniel’s distinctive bass line and assertive drumbeats. The lyrics are also interesting, spoken to a lover – either a man or woman – who appears to be confused and conflicted about their sexuality: “You change your faces every day. One minute you’re in love, then you’re running away. Back to him.”

On the title track “Let the Fire Burn Free“, Gary’s vibrant cello takes a starring role, giving the song a lush classical feel, though the lively guitars, bass and drums keep it in folk-rock territory. The song seems to be about freeing oneself from the judgments of others that diminish your own sense of self-worth: “How could you blame yourself, when it was good it was the best. And how could you be such a mess, when you tried to be honest? And how could you cause so much stress, with the family there’s no contest.”

Juliette” is a lovely song of affirmation and self-worth, with lyrics assuring a woman that she doesn’t need a man to make her whole: “And Juliette, you don’t need no Romeo. You’d be better off alone.” The beautiful tinkling piano keys and soaring cello are the musical highlights here, and Soricah’s warm vocals are sublime as always.

Let the Fire Burn Free is a wonderful little EP with four excellent tracks, each having a distinctively different sound. Through a rich mix of stylistic elements and lush instrumentation, Soricah and her fellow musicians have crafted a highly satisfying work.

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Stream her music:  SpotifyApple MusicSoundcloudYouTube
Purchase:  Google PlayAmazon

SOFT SHELTER – Single Review: “Just a Ride”

Soft Shelter Just a Ride art

Soft Shelter is a talented young singer, songwriter, guitarist and music producer based in Santa Barbara, California. He writes pleasing indie dream pop songs laced with alt-rock, psychedelic, pop and electronic elements, and featuring thoughtful lyrics sung in his soft, breathy vocal style. Since the release of his first single “Ashes” last November (2019), he’s been a busy guy, dropping a new single or EP every month or so, most recently his three-song EP Judgment Day on May 1st. Now the hard-working artist is back with a lovely new single “Just a Ride“, which dropped June 26. The song was written, produced, and mixed by Soft Shelter, and mastered by Matt Pereira (aka KOMAK). The cool artwork for the single was created by Theo Morrow.

The song addresses the feeling of being blindsided by the discovery that your lover has cheated on you, turning your world upside down and leaving you wondering what you’ll do or where you’ll go next. I like how he uses snippets of voice overs by the late comedian Bill Hicks at the beginning, middle and end of the track. Hicks’ opening line “There is a point—is there a point to all this? Let’s find a point.” really encapsulates the feeling of bewilderment one is often left with at the realization that a relationship we thought was good has suddenly blown apart. Soft Shelter laments in the chorus “I came home and saw you there. You weren’t alone, I had to stare. It’s my time to go, I left at dawn. That life I knew, I’m moving on.” Hicks’ words offer assurance at the end that things will be alright: “Don’t worry, don’t be afraid—ever—because this is just a ride.”

Musically, the song features a rather melancholy but pretty piano-driven melody, accompanied by gentle percussive beats and lovely keyboard synths that soar to a swirling lushness in the choruses. The acoustic and electric guitar notes Soft Shelter injects at various points in the song add a nice textural element that brightens the overall aesthetic of the track, keeping it from becoming too maudlin.

The beautifully-filmed video was directed by Elena Gaeta, and features Soft Shelter performing the song in and atop a gorgeous sage green Mustang convertible as he drives through what I’m guessing is the countryside outside Santa Barbara.

 

Follow Soft Shelter on Instagram
Stream his music:  Spotify / Soundcloud / Apple Music
Purchase:  Bandcamp / Google PlayAmazon

FIREGLOW – Single Review: “Won’t Forget You”

Fireglow

Fireglow is a rock and roll band based in Sydney, Australia. Through their fun, upbeat style of 60s and 70s-inspired music and lively on-stage performances, they’ve built quite a local following since forming in the spring of 2018. Making the music are Chris (guitar/vocals), Sean (guitar/vocals), Bruno (bass), Catherine (keyboards) and Frankie (drums). Starting with the release of their first single “Back of Her Blue Eyes” in June 2019, they’ve been on a creative tear, dropping three more singles over the next six months. This past April (2020), they released their debut EP Fireglow II, featuring four new tracks. One of those tracks is “Won’t Forget You“,  which they released as a single on June 12, along with a video.

Even though it was released at the beginning of winter season in Australia, “Won’t Forget You” has a sunny vibe that makes it the perfect song for summer. Opening with the lines “She was fresh out of school, and she blew my mind like a virgin stone blowing down the sands of time / Summer sun wasn’t kind, it blistered our skin”, it’s a lighthearted song about the ups and downs of a summer romance. Over a toe-tapping groove courtesy of Bruno’s warm bass line and Frankie’s snappy drums, Chris and Sean layer a colorful mix of rhythm and jangly electric guitars, while Catherine’s ukelele and swirling organ riff adds a nice touch to the proceedings. Chris and Sean’s vocal harmonies are really wonderful too. It’s an incredibly pleasing tune that seems to channel the music of 60s bands like The Lovin’ Spoonful and The Turtles, as well late 70s Tom Petty.

The sweet video shows the band’s playful nature as they perform the song and frolic outdoors in the woods or by the seashore, waves crashing at their feet. It’s clear they like to deliver a little fun with their music.

Follow Fireglow:  Facebook / Instagram
Stream their music:  SpotifyApple Music
Purchase:  Google PlayAmazon

BRYDE – Album Review: “The Volume of Things”

Bryde

I was not familiar with the music of Welsh-born and now London-based artist Bryde before my fellow blogger Robert Horvat (whose blog Rearview Mirror is outstanding, so do check it out) asked that I consider reviewing her new album The Volume of Things.  Despite Robert’s confidence, after blogging about music for more than four and a half years, I’m still terribly insecure about my writing, and often feel out of my league when it comes to discussing music. I also often struggle with album reviews, as I find capturing the essence of the songs and what the artist or band is attempting to express through those songs can be a daunting task.

With that in mind, as I customarily do for all artists and bands I review, I listened to Bryde’s back catalog to more fully acquaint myself with her music in order to at least try to sound halfway intelligent in my review of her new album. And I can unequivocally state that I was immediately impressed by her strong, deeply meaningful songwriting, exquisite melodies, richly-layered guitar work and enchanting vocals.

Bryde is the artistic moniker of singer-songwriter and guitarist Sarah Howells, who’s been writing and recording music for over ten years. She started out as one half of alternative folk/pop duo Paper Aeroplanes, who together released a number of wonderful singles, EPs and albums between 2010 and 2015. Also in 2015, she began recording and releasing a series of singles and EPs as Bryde, culminating in the release in 2018 of her marvelous debut album Like an Island. The album is a dramatic collection of 13 stunning tracks exploring darker themes inspired by a break-up, all expressed with a heavier and edgier, yet still fragile, alt-rock sensibility. The lead single “To Be Brave” has been streamed more than 3.2 million times on Spotify.

Now she’s returned with her sophomore album The Volume Of Things, which dropped May 29th. The album was partly inspired by the emotional burnout she experienced following the release of Like an Island, which led her to explore a new paradigm of self-healing. She describes the work as “the calm before the storm – before a new calm I’m working towards.” That said, the record sees her return to a somewhat gentler, more folk-oriented approach, though the tracks still exhibit her passionate songwriting and skill for delivering a rousing, guitar-driven rock song.

This is perfectly exemplified on the beautiful opening track “Silence“. The song opens rather tentatively, with Bryde softly crooning “So, I was restless as a child. Full, like a rain cloud, this desire” accompanied by shimmery guitar notes. Then it blossoms into a glorious, exuberant anthem with driving rhythms and lush guitars as she plaintively sings of seeking inner peace and contentment though the love of another: “Can I come in, can I be part of this silence? And leave here with my heart on the outside. Can I come in, can you satisfy this feeling? I want it to be more than redeeming.

On “The Trouble Is“, Bryde implores to a lover who’s unable to find contentment in life, always feeling that things never live up to their expectations: “I think that trouble is what you want. I think the struggle is just what gets you off. We’re in the same America. Looking for some way to get it right. The things you think to yourself at night.” The song has a comforting vibe, with a wonderful, head-bopping melody, vibrant 80s-flavored synths and a fantastic bass line. But the highlights for me are her sumptuous mix of fuzz-coated and swirling guitars, as well as her captivating vocals that harmonize so beautifully with her guitars.

Done” sees Bryde confronting someone who’s broken her down and killed her spirit until she’s finally done with the relationship:  “…steal all my dreams, insist I ought to have none. Stayed on my hands til they’re numb. My defenses crumble one by one. Stay strong, and stay well. Think I forgot what it was like, this effortless hell. To be here, with you there. Deaden my eyes, poison my mind by daring to dwell in possibility.” She continues with this theme on “80 Degrees“, desperately trying to bring closure to the lingering pain and bitterness over a failed relationship. The biting lyrics are a perfect example of her songwriting brilliance: “And of all the things that you didn’t throw, your fancy gifts were the first to go. Now the charity shops round here know me by name, think I’m insane. / All the things we said we wanted, don’t want them anymore.”

As the album progresses, I’m struck by the superior quality of every track. The hauntingly beautiful “Flies” has a captivating guitar-driven melody that’s absolutely stunning. The music builds to a dramatic crescendo in the bridge – guitars and Bryde’s vocals blazing – then calms at the end as she softly croons the refrain “Negative thoughts divide and multiply like flies.” She taps into her pop-rock alter-ego with the exuberant radio-friendly gem “Paper Cups“. With an infectiously bouncy beat that aims straight for the hips, the song is a delight from start to finish. The chugging, jangly guitars are wonderful, as are her lilting vocals as she sings to someone with whom she’s found comfort: “Call it what you want. Tell me things too loud to hear. Collect all my words in paper cups.” Be sure to check out this cool 360° video.

Bryde takes a darker turn on the haunting, grunge-infused “Hallelujahs” and the moody but beautiful “Another Word for Free“. I love the mesmerizing synths, and her vocals have an almost ethereal quality as she softly croons “Would you be the weight off my shoulders?” She picks up the pace on “Handing It Over“, with fuzz-coated jangly guitars layered over an exuberant uptempo rhythm.

Outsiders” is another hauntingly beautiful track, and one of my favorites on the album. Bryde bares her heart and soul here, entreating to someone she loves who doesn’t share her intensity of feelings: “And I want something more than whatever it is you came here for. You say that no one knows just what they want, but I do. I do. I want you.” The wobbly, mysterious synths are bewitching, and her breathy heartfelt vocals convey a strong vulnerability and sense of longing expressed by the lyrics.

The album closes with the stunning title track “The Volume of Things“. Bryde sings the lyrics that seem to be about the challenges of being completely honest, both to others and to ourselves: “We shed our coats as the temperature rose like a lump in my throat. A voice drowned out by the volume of things I won’t talk about.” Her gently strummed guitar is positively sublime, punctuated by beautiful notes of twangy guitar. Three quarters of the way into the track, a military-style drumbeat enters as the music swells to a sweeping, cinematic crescendo. It’s a magnificent finish to a truly spectacular album.

Follow Bryde:  Facebook / Instagram
Stream her music:  SpotifyApple MusicSoundcloud
Purchase:  BandcampGoogle PlayAmazon

New Song of the Week – THE FRONTIER: “It’s You”

I had knee replacement surgery at the beginning of the week, so have felt out of sorts as I contend with the residual pain, swelling and stiffness. That, combined with the continuous stream of bad news on seemingly all fronts, has put me in a bit of a funk. So it was a real joy – a blessing, really – to hear the wonderful new single “It’s You” by pop-rock band The Frontier. It was love at first listen, and I’m pleased to make it my New Song of the Week.

The Frontier is an unsigned indie-pop/alt rock band from Fairfax County, Virginia (west of Washington D.C.). Formed in 2016 by singer/songwriter and guitarist Jake Mimikos, a very kind, talented and funny guy who first released an EP Chaos to Clarity as a solo artist in 2015, The Frontier has released numerous singles and two EPs, most recently Luminescence in June 2019. One of the singles that appears on that EP is “Dark Places” a gorgeous song I loved so much that it went to #1 on my Weekly Top 30 and ended up at #15 on my Top 100 Songs of 2019 list.

Like many bands, they’ve undergone some changes in line-up over time, and now consist of Jake on vocals & guitar, Eric Boggess on lead guitar, Eric Dolinger on bass and Eduardo Santana on drums. I’ve followed both Jake and The Frontier since 2016, and have enjoyed all of their music. “It’s You” is a catchy and upbeat song of love and devotion sung to someone who’s made his life more worthwhile and complete. I love the exuberant and beautiful melody, and the plucky guitars, swirling synths, galloping bass and crisp percussion are perfection from start to finish. Jake’s vibrant vocals sound better than ever, and I think it’s one of their best songs yet.

The song was released around the time of Jake’s 38th birthday. In conjunction with the single release, Jake made a video featuring contributions of footage sent to him by fans. He explained: “As I get older, and my circle gets smaller, I feel deeply grateful for the people who have always supported me and continue to do so. I doubt this song will change the world, but maybe it will brighten up somebody’s day or mood just a bit. I especially appreciate everyone who participated in the music video. This was perhaps the most fun I’ve ever had putting one together. Thank you for your contributions. This song is dedicated to…you guessed it..YOU! This will be the last song I release under The Frontier for a little while. I’m gonna take a break and focus on myself and maybe do some solo shows here and there.”

Well, the song and video certainly brightened my mood! Thank you Jake and The Frontier.

So many nights I wondered
Wondering how long this could take
How much time I wasted
Thinking about how many more mistakes I could make

Oh oh oh
And it’s you I finally found the light
Oh oh oh
And it’s you because it feels so right
Oh oh oh
And it’s you until you change your mind
Til we’re out of time

So many lies I told myself
All of the loneliness I felt
It disappears with I’m with you
And I know that you feel it too

Oh oh oh
And it’s you I finally found the light
Oh oh oh
And it’s you because it feels so right
Oh oh oh
And it’s you until you change your mind
Til we’re out of time

Ooh, the time I wasted, chasing, waiting
Ooh, the time I’ve wasted, chasing, waiting

And it’s you I finally found the light
Oh oh oh
And it’s you because it feels so right
Oh oh oh
And it’s you until you change your mind
Til we’re out of time

Connect with The Frontier on Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music on Spotify / Soundcloud / ReverbnationApple Music
Purchase on Bandcamp / iTunesGoogle Play

New Song of the Week – SECRET AMERICAN: “Here Comes A Man”

Secret American4

Secret American is a delightfully unique band I’ve grown to love over the past year or so, ever since being introduced to them and their music by another blogger. They’re a bi-coastal band, born from the collaboration of singer/songwriter and guitarist Derek Krzywicki, who lives in the small town of Carpinteria on the California coast east of Santa Barbara, and his long-time friend Todd Mecaughey, a producer/engineer and musician from Philadelphia. 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. Using songs Derek had written previously, the two created their debut 2018 album Warmth & Shelter (which I reviewed in March 2019). The band was gradually expanded to a seven-member lineup with the addition of Katie Frank, Tony Unander, Alex Baranowski, Rory Geoghegan and Jon McNally.

Their refreshing, laid-back sound is at once retro yet contemporary, eccentric yet familiar. While their song lyrics often address serious subjects that make us think, they’re presented with sunny melodies, breezy instrumentation and pleasing vocals that make for happy listening experience. Since the release of Warmth & Shelter, Secret American has been recording and releasing new singles that will eventually be included on their second album. Their latest is “Here Comes a Man“, which I’ve chosen as my New Song of the Week.

The song opens with a rather pensive trumpet, then settles into a languid tempo, highlighted by a strong, thumping drumbeat and wonderful twangy guitar notes. With seven musicians contributing to the music, we hear all sorts of instruments and sounds, including horns, snare drums, keyboard synths, guitar and bass. But perhaps the most striking of them all are the occasional reverb-heavy distorted guitar chords that punctuate the proceedings from time to time, adding a touch of danger to the otherwise sunny upbeat vibe.

I love Derek’s smooth singing voice, which registers in the higher octaves just below a falsetto. He sounds appropriately seductive as he sings the great come-on lyrics to a woman he finds attractive, urging her to ditch the man she’s with and give him a chance instead:

Hello, I’ve seen your face before, I don’t recall your name
You’re looking at me too long through a glass of champagne
I’m a greyhound headin’ at ya, making all the stops
I’m a loosening my collar, I’m a drinking on the rocks
But the man right next to you, who is that man?
Is he making you happy, doesn’t look like he can
So I’m a walk right to ya, gonna pass that man
My eyes wide open

Here comes a man (x3)
Here I come

“Here Comes a Man” is another terrific song from this incredibly talented group of musicians. Their superb songwriting and musicianship never fail to amaze me, and so long as they continue to produce such great songs, I shall remain a devoted fan.

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

Song of the Day Challenge – Day 14: SHIPS HAVE SAILED – “Rise”

Song A Day Challenge

Sadly, all good things must eventually come to an end, and today is the 14th and final installment of the Song of the Day Challenge I’ve been doing over the past two weeks. The final day’s theme is “Your song of the day”, and my pick is the new single “Rise” by Ships Have Sailed. The Los Angeles-based duo consists of songwriter, vocalist and guitarist Will Carpenter and drummer Art Andranikyan, and I featured them twice on this blog last year when I reviewed their beautiful singles “Escape” and “Skin”. (You can read those reviews by clicking on the links under ‘Related’ at the end of this post.)

Like many of their songs, “Rise” is an uplifting song of resilience and hope. The song’s lyrics are particularly relevant given the current state of things as a result of the COVID-19 epidemic, which has essentially upended everyone’s life. This past March, after much planning and preparation, Ships Have Sailed embarked on what was to be a 10-show tour across the Southwest with fellow L.A. band Quitting Whitney. After playing only the first show in Las Vegas, their tour came to an abrupt halt the next day as the COVID-19 outbreak suddenly began spiraling out of control. They were forced to turn around and head back to L.A., their tour and dreams in ashes. I had purchased tickets to see them at the legendary Troubadour on March 22, and needless to say was terribly disappointed.

Like all musicians and bands, Will and Art were forced to reassess their plans for the months ahead, and decided to release “Rise” as a single. About the song, Will explained: “In the midst of all the chaos that was happening around us, I felt oddly calm. I can remember realizing that our touring plans were likely done at least for six months and quite possibly longer, and knowing we needed to adjust. I’d had this song “Rise” finished for a minute, but it hadn’t really showed me where it belonged yet. I just sort of realized that it was here in this situation we’re all living through where it belongs…in the middle of this chaos, reminding us all that we can, and will, weather this storm.”

The song has more of an alt-rock feel than many of their recent songs, with gnarly synth bass grooves and more aggressive percussion. Will’s vocals are as sublime as ever though. Take a listen:

Follow Ships Have Sailed: Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music: Spotify / Soundcloud / Apple Music
Purchase:  iTunes  / Google Play / Amazon

EML’s Favorite Songs – THE POLICE: “Every Breath You Take”

The_police_-_every_breath_you_take

My favorite song of the 1980s, and one of my top 10 favorite songs of all time, is “Every Breath You Take” by English rock band The Police. It was the lead single from their hugely popular and critically acclaimed masterpiece and fifth and final album Synchronicity. The song was a massive hit, spending 8 weeks at #1 on the Billboard Hot 100, 4 weeks at #1 on the UK singles charts, and also reaching #1 in Canada, Ireland, Israel and South Africa. It was the best-selling single and #1 song of 1983, and the fifth best-selling single of the 1980’s in the U.S. Rolling Stone named it the 84th best song on its list of 500 Greatest Songs of All Time, and it won Grammy Awards for Song of the Year and Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group. In addition, Sting received the 1983 Ivor Norvello award for Best Song Musically and Lyrically from the British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors.

It’s interesting to learn the back stories behind many of our favorite songs, and the one for “Every Breath You Take” was fraught with tension, both in terms of it’s creation and during its recording sessions. Sting wrote the song in 1982 after his split from his first wife Frances Tomelty and early in his relationship with Trudie Styler, with whom he began having an affair while still married to Frances. He and Frances had been next-door neighbors to Trudie, who also happened to be Frances’ best friend! The affair was widely condemned, and Sting retreated to the Caribbean to escape the tabloids.

He wrote the song while staying at Ian Fleming’s Goldeneye estate in Jamaica (Wikipedia), and the lyrics are essentially from Frances’ perspective; they’re the words of a possessive and jealous lover who’s watching “every breath you take; every move you make” of their partner. In a 1993 interview for The Independent, Sting recalled: “I woke up in the middle of the night with that line in my head, sat down at the piano and had written it in half an hour. The tune itself is generic, an aggregate of hundreds of others, but the words are interesting. It sounds like a comforting love song. I didn’t realise at the time how sinister it is. I think I was thinking of Big Brother, surveillance and control.” Ironically, many interpreted “Every Breath You Take” as a love song, which amused Sting to no end.

The recording process for the song was also fraught with difficulties, as personal tensions that had been simmering between the band members, especially Sting and drummer Stewart Copeland, came to a head. In a 2004 article written by Richard Buskin for Sound on Sound webzine, Synchronicity music producer Hugh Padgham claimed that by the time of the recording sessions, Sting and Copeland hated each other, and verbal and physical fights between them were a frequent occurrence. The tensions almost led to the recording sessions being cancelled, but fortunately for us, band manager Miles Copeland (Stewart’s brother) intervened and calmed tempers enough for them all to continue. You can read that fascinating Sound On Sound article here.

One of the amazing aspects of the song is how minimalist the instruments really are for such a magnificent track. Sting wanted fairly simple, straightforward instrumentals for the track that would basically consist of his bass, Andy Summers’ guitar parts and Copeland’s drums keeping a very straight rhythm with no fills. Tensions arose when Copeland wanted his drums to have a greater impact. Padgham recalled, “Stewart would say, ‘I want to fucking put my drum part on it!’ and Sting would say, ‘I don’t want you to put your fucking drum part on it! I want you to put what I want you to put on it!‘” Thankfully, Padgham convinced Sting to let Copeland add more drum parts, along with keyboard synthesizers and the single-note piano keys that give the song it’s signature hypnotic melody. Sting overdubbed his bass, as he often did, plus he added sounds from his Dutch upright electric double bass (which he nicknamed Brian) to achieve a fuller sound.

For his part, Stewart Copeland was never satisfied with the final product, and later commented: “In my humble opinion, this is Sting’s best song with the worst arrangement. I think Sting could have had any other group do this song and it would have been better than our version—except for Andy’s brilliant guitar part. Basically, there’s an utter lack of groove. It’s a totally wasted opportunity for our band, even though we made gazillions off of it, and it’s the biggest hit we ever had.”

Well, I strongly disagree, and so apparently did millions of others who loved the song enough make it a massive worldwide hit. I think it’s brilliant, and as close to perfect as a song could possibly be. I had it on repeat while I wrote this piece, and found it utterly captivating every single time. From the moment I hear that opening drum blast, the song thrills me as much today as it did in 1983.

Every breath you take and every move you make
Every bond you break, every step you take, I’ll be watching you
Every single day, every word you say
Every game you play, every night you stay, I’ll be watching you

Oh can’t you see, you belong to me
How my poor heart aches with every step you take

Every move you make and every vow you break
Every smile you fake, every claim you stake, I’ll be watching you

Since you’ve gone I’ve been lost without a trace
I dream at night I can only see your face
I look around, but it’s you I can’t replace
I feel so cold and I long for your embrace
I keep crying baby, baby, please

Oh can’t you see, you belong to me
How my poor heart aches with every step you take

Every move you make and every vow you break
Every smile you fake, every claim you stake, I’ll be watching you
Every move you make, every step you take, I’ll be watching you

The music video, filmed in black and white and directed by British rock band Godley & Creme, won the Best Cinematography award at the 1983 MTV Video Music Awards.

New Song of the Week – WONS PHREELY+theHorses – “Restless to Run”

Wons Phreely Restless to Run

I’ve been following Australian-born, and now Los Angeles-based, singer/songwriter Wons Phreely (aka Justin Wonsley) since first learning about him in 2016. He’s an interesting, funny, thoughtful, hard-working and highly creative guy, and I love his music and off-beat vocal style. He grew up and began his music career in Perth, but relocated to Los Angeles in 2015 in search of a more dynamic and varied artistic environment where he could grow as a musician and artist.

In 2016, with his backup band The Horses he released an autobiographical single “Stars” that addressed his experiences overcoming self-doubt and fear of change, and enabling him to make the life-altering move from Australia to Los Angeles. In November 2017, he followed up with another great single “The Night Has An Alibi,” accompanied by a strange but brilliant video he directed in which he’s portrayed as only a head.  I reviewed both singles, each of which ended up placing on my Top 100 Songs lists for 2016 and 2018, respectively. (You can check out those reviews under “Related” at the end of this post.)

Now he returns with a brand new single “Restless To Run“, which I’ve chosen as my New Song of the Week. As with all his songs, Wons was inspired by his own life experiences: “I wrote the song about your (my) famous first romantic tryst and how it got all messed up.”

But he elaborates on a larger, more philosophical level: ‘Restless To Run’ is about all the many paths we can choose in life, and how sometimes we have to run down the wrong ones, fall down, get back up and then choose a new road to head down. We all mess up, fail and have false starts, I signed a with a big management and publishing label, but I had this feeling like it wasn’t right, like I had to get away, start again, and run in my own direction. Then I got to LA, where I felt more like myself. Even if I’m struggling daily, I’m doing things on my own terms, like directing music videos, or writing songs for people. Its not easy, but it’s the right road for me. And sometimes the failures can be what make us feel alive. 

I’d like to dedicate this song to the spirit of embracing failure. That’s what I connect to in rock and roll. I wrote it after the passing of David Bowie. I actually found myself crying a little, which is something I’ve never done over the passing of a famous person. It felt almost like the end of an era when artists could experiment, and still be accepted by pop culture, with no consideration for commercial results. Just self expression on who they are and how they felt. Bowie’s first few albums completely flopped, and yet an industry and the public still supported him until he had formed his musical identity and began to connect through a very personal expression of who he was. Same goes for artists like Springsteen, Prince and Elton, who were failures for their first couple of records, but carried on anyway. And these artists arrived at some truly unique styles and self-expression that still resonates today. Time is a tricky one. It’s about learning who you are as you grow into yourself. Bowie made me want to make music that’s fun, camp, glamorous and sexy.”

Like all his songs, Wons starts with a catchy melody and bouncy, head-bopping beat, then layers jangly guitars, snappy drumbeats, and exuberant, swirling synths that evoke a sun-kissed and carefree Southern California afternoon. But the real highlight are his delightfully quirky but pleasing vocals that start off with a plaintive croon, then veer off into a joyous, breathy falsetto that’s so endearing. And I love how his Australian accent shines through.

He’s also released another clever video to accompany the single, about which he explains: “I wanted the video to feel like simpler times. It was deliberately shot with a lo-fi approach using a handheld iPhone with no lenses or smooth, stabilized shots. The aim was to convey innocence and romanticism—a longing you can only really capture and express through music.”

Wons also made a lyric video for the song that opens with an aerial shot of Hollywood that zeroes in on a billboard on Hollywood Boulevard that shows the video playing.

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PAUL IWAN – Double Single Review: “Returning (Red)” & “Returning (Blue)”

Paul Iwan3

I’ve recently been revisiting a lot of artists that I’ve previously featured on this blog, as so many of them are putting out new music. One of my personal favorites is British artist Paul Iwan, a gracious and talented singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist from Liverpool. Last October, I reviewed his outstanding single “Reward”, which was a cover of the song originally recorded by Liverpool new wave band The Teardrop Explodes. I liked it so much, it spent four months on my Weekly Top 30. Now Paul is back with a new single “Returning”, for which he recorded two different versions – “Returning (Red)” and “Returning (Blue)”.

He wrote the song last year for submission to the Liverpool Acoustic 24 hour Songwriting Challenge at Threshold Festival 2019, and he won! Like many singer-songwriters, Paul’s lyrics often reflect his own life experiences. The theme of the 2019 Challenge was ‘Returning’, which inspired Paul to contemplate his own personal struggles with PTSD and addiction, and explore the concept of returning as it relates to his experiences with relapse and regression. The competition also pushed him to venture outside of his usual comfort zone and into a more acoustic setting, where the song could speak for itself.

Now, a year later he has released two newly recorded versions of the song to coincide with what would have been the first day of Threshold 2020 (unfortunately sidelined by the damned COVID-19 pandemic). The Red version of “Returning” is in Paul’s more typical exuberant alt-rock style, with layered synths, loops and electric guitars, whereas the Blue version is stripped back to a simple arrangement with acoustic guitar, piano, vibraphone and subtle percussion. The songs were performed and produced by Paul at Studio 45 in Liverpool, and mixed and mastered by Andy Fernihough at 3rd Planet Studios Liverpool.

So I lean into my darkness
I touch the trauma with the tips of my fingers
Under this light how can I see?
The shadows are shifting; inviting me in.

You are there
You are there
Suffocating and suffering
I hold my hands
I’ll be watching
And I’ll be waiting for you
I’m returning to my fear, its all I know
I’m returning to my tears, it’s all I know.

I know my storm is coming in
Whatever I’ve taken
You hold my soul my memories
This face in the mirror
The face of my nightmare
Lost and corrupted

I’m returning from a distance
But my reflection is all I see
I’m yearning for the past
The one I thought I’d lost forever
So much pain within

I’m returning to my fear
It’s all I know

I like both versions a lot, but I think I prefer the Blue version if I had to choose one over the other. I like the higher clarity of sound in the Blue version, where the lovely piano keys and acoustic guitar really stand out. Also, Paul has a distinctive and vibrant tenor singing voice, and with the more subdued instrumentals, the power of his vocals and lyrics are allowed to shine through. Take a listen to each version, and decide for yourself.

 

Connect with Paul Iwan: Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream his music on Spotify / Soundcloud / Apple Music / Reverbnation
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