MICHIGANDER – EP Review: “Everything Will Be OK Eventually”

Photo by Kris Herrmann

As a lover of music, I listen to a lot of it, often for several hours a day. As a music blogger, I also learn about at least one new artist or band a day too. And every now and then, I come across a particularly good one who’s been around for several years, wondering how I could have possibly not known about them earlier. One such act is Michigander, an alternative rock project from Michigan (obviously) who makes some of the most consistently good melodic rock I’ve heard by any act in a long while. Over the past few weeks, I’ve been bingeing on their back music catalog, and can honestly say that I love every one of their songs – a rarity for even some of my favorite artists and bands. They dropped their latest EP Everything Will Be OK Eventually on March 19th, and I love it so much that I want to shout about it from the rooftops.

Michigander is the brain child of singer-songwriter, guitarist and producer Jason Singer. Originally from the central Michigan city of Midland, in 2014 he moved to Kalamazoo, where he started his music career playing in dive bars and open mics. He released his wonderful debut single “Nineties” two years later, followed by several more singles and two outstanding EPs, ​Midland in 2018 and Where Do We Go From Here​ in 2019. I first learned about Michigander in late 2019 when I heard his single “Misery”. One of the songs from Where Do We Go From Here, “Misery” spent many weeks on the Billboard Adult Alternative chart, peaking at #20, and has been streamed more than 3.5 million times on Spotify.

Over the years, Singer has been joined by other talented musicians for the recording and performing of his music. The current Michigander lineup includes guitarist Jake LeMond, bassist Connor Robertson, and drummer Aaron Senor. (Senor also has his own music project Dawning, whose gorgeous EP Petals I reviewed last month.) Singer has also recently relocated to Detroit.

Everything Will Be OK Eventually, released through C3 Records, was produced by Singer and long-time collaborator Jake Rye, recorded at Social Recording Company in Adrian, Michigan, and mastered by Mike Cervantes. I think it’s Michigander’s finest work yet, with a fuller, more polished sound, thanks to a greater use of electronic elements than on their previous music. In an article about the EP in BrooklynVegan, Singer explains his approach for the creation of this record: “In the past, I didn’t want to write anything I wasn’t sure we could pull off live. This time, I didn’t care. I incorporated programming and samples that went beyond being a rock band. I became more sure of who I am, what I want to do with music, and how I want to go about it. I tried to be more vulnerable and make something I’m very proud of. I got to add in everything I always wanted to.”

As its title suggests, the EP offers positive messages of hope in these troubled times, delivered with dreamy, upbeat melodies and gorgeous instrumentation. Singer confided on his Instagram page: “I am so happy that these songs are now out in the world for you to hear. Each one of these tracks was a labor of love that my friends and I worked so hard on for over a year. I hope this EP finds a special place in your heart for the years to come. I hope it becomes the soundtrack for this time in our lives as we are slowly healing and returning to some sort of normalcy. I couldn’t have made these songs without the help of my best pals and my incredible team.”

He further elaborates in his comments for BrooklynVegan: “Even though there was so much uncertainty, I found peace in the fact we were all in it together. It was straightforward about the times we’re in, but it was meant to be peaceful. I’ve said the title over and over again to all of my friends; eventually, we’ll get back to normal, and everything will be alright. Personally, I’m very optimistic and hopeful about everything to a fault. You can hear it in the music. I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad thing though.” It certainly isn’t, and the result is a stunning collection of songs that make you feel good, even in the sad parts.

The EP opens with “Better“, an exuberant yet poignant song about loss and wanting to be a better person; “Cause life might be good, but I wish that it would be better. Just want to be better. / Cause you tried to love me and I probably should have let you. Cause things would be better. Things would be better with you.” The song is gorgeous, with a swirling torrent of jangly and chiming guitars, driven by a pulsating bass line and urgent drumbeats, all melding into an electrifying wall of sound. The dual guitars of Singer and LeMond are quite breathtaking.

The touching video for “Better”, which was released concurrently with the EP, shows a man, played by Alex Wells, missing his former wife or girlfriend and trying to straighten out his life and become a better person, while Singer lurks in the background (or foreground) as he sings the song. At first it appears the man missing his wife or girlfriend is making himself better in the hopes of winning her back, but at the video’s end, it’s revealed that she had passed away. About the video, Singer explains: “I’ve wanted to do a video that doesn’t feature me as the focus. So when [director] Tyler [Appel] pitched a story-driven narrative for this one I knew right away it was the right vibe. I think it really captures my personality as the video is goofy but also makes you cry. It’s emotional. ‘Better’ is probably my favorite song off the new EP, it’s the type of song I’ve always dreamed of writing and sounds the closest to what I think Michigander embodies.”

Next up is “Let Down“, the deliriously-catchy lead single for the EP and the band’s highest-charting single to date, peaking at #8 on the Billboard Adult Alternative chart. I love this song, which is currently enjoying a long run on my own Weekly Top 30. The track’s arrangement and production values are superb, and a close listen reveals so many wonderful touches like Senor’s ace drumbeats, LeMond’s rousing guitar solo in the bridge, and the haunting piano keys in the outro. The lyrics speak to those optimistic feelings one gets when meeting a possible new love interest, but also the nagging fear that it won’t work out: “Well I feel like I’ve known you. Even though I’ve only met you. I don’t wanna mess it up, I’m probably gonna mess it up. / Cuz I got high hopes, I got high hopes. But they let me down, they usually let me down.” The sweet video shows Singer’s playful side.

Saturday” starts off gently, with strummed guitar and delicate percussion as Singer softly croons “Well it always feels like Saturday when I’m next to you. / And it’s all downhill from here, the minute that you walk away.” Soon, the song expands into a beautiful guitar-driven Kings of Leon-esque anthem. Singer’s heartfelt vocals remind me of Sir Sly front man Landon Jacobs as he plaintively sings of his fear of losing the things he values: “I heard my voice on the radio for the third time this week. So scared to death of losing it, I can’t breathe. And It’s all downhill from here, the minute that you realize that we’re all living in fear. And it’s something that we can’t hide. Well I don’t wanna, I don’t wanna let you slip away. Let you slip away.”

The beautiful tunes keep coming with “Headlights“, a bittersweet song about a lost love that Singer co-wrote with LeMond. Once again, the arrangement and instrumentals are stunning, with glittery piano keys and synths, over which LeMond’s layers chiming guitar notes. And as always, Singer’s vocals are deeply moving and lovely as he sings “Cause I can’t get over you. And I don’t think I want to.” “OK” is a bouncy, lighthearted tune with somewhat dark but optimistic lyrics that speak to wanting to be with the object of one’s affection, but also acknowledging that it’s alright to be alone, at least once in a while: “You’re the only one that I want to see right now. But since you’re not here, I think I’ll just go home. Kicking up the dust as I wander around downtown. I’ll do anything to not go home. It’s OK to be lonely. It’s OK to be alone sometimes.” I especially like the interplay between the jangly guitar chords and tinkling piano keys that take the edge off what could be an otherwise melancholy message.

Closing track “Together” is a charming song about coping with the anxiety and isolation many of us experienced at the outset of the global pandemic: “Well oh my god, the world is ending. Do you still want to meet me for dinner? If the world’s gonna fall apart, maybe we could fall together. If the world’s gonna fall apart, I’ll stick with you.” Musically, the song has an exuberant, sweeping melody, highlighted by glittery synths and jangly guitars, giving it a bit of a Coldplay vibe. The blaring trumpet notes add a lovely sophisticated texture to the track as well. At the song’s end, Singer wistfully laments “Wish I could be with all my friends, but I’m feeling all alone again.”

Well, what can I add about this beautiful EP that I haven’t already gushed about? Everything Will Be OK Eventually is a stunning, flawlessly-crafted work, and easily one of the best EPs of 2021. I now count Michigander among my favorite artists currently making music, and look forward to hearing more stellar music from them for years to come.

Michigander will open for Mt. Joy at a socially-distanced Detroit show on May 7 (tickets).

Follow Michigander:  FacebookTwitterInstagram

Stream their music:  SpotifyApple MusicSoundcloudYouTube

Purchase:  AmazonBandcamp

DUNKIE – EP Review: “The Vanishing and Other Stories”

Dunkie is the whimsically-named music project of Welsh singer/songwriter and musician Anthony Price. Based in the town of Mountain Ash in the South Wales Valleys, Price has written and recorded songs for many years, and in late December 2019 he gifted the world with his exquisite debut album Working to Design. An ambitious and monumental work, the album is a stunning, meticulously-crafted labor of love featuring 17 tracks. Partially inspired by the books and works of author Richard Matheson, Working to Design is a concept album, filled with heartfelt songs exploring the oft-covered subjects of life, love, the passage of time, death and loss, but also healing, hope and rebirth. (You can read my review here.) It was also a collaborative effort, involving contributions by more than 30 other musicians and vocalists who performed on various tracks, most notably Wayne Bassett, a fellow Welsh musician and producer, who played numerous instruments on several tracks, and produced, engineered, mixed and mastered the album.

Now Dunkie returns with a lovely five-track EP The Vanishing and Other Stories, another wonderful collaborative effort featuring an eclectic mix of stylistic elements ranging from rock, folk and pop to electronic and alt-country. For this work, Price co-wrote, arranged, produced and mixed the songs with Wayne Bassett. As with the recording of Working to Design, he once again enlisted a dozen other musicians and vocalists to add their talents to various songs. And the album artwork was again created by their friend, Welsh Figurative Artist Michael Gustavius Payne. Recorded at Robot Recordings in Aberdare, Wales, The Vanishing and Other Stories is being released on Friday, March 19 through South Wales music label Dirty Carrot Records, and is available for purchase on Dunkie’s Bandcamp profile. 

Having different musicians and vocalists performing on various tracks gives the EP more of a compilation feel, although the common thread running through the entire work is Price and Bassett’s superb songwriting. The songs address various aspects of loneliness, isolation and fear – emotions many of us have experienced or grappled with over the past year. About the EP, Dunkie explains: “Reminiscent of 1950’s & 1960’s short story anthologies, collected together in the world of Corgi and Penguin paperbacks, we’ve aimed to create a similar aesthetic with this EP.  These songs/stories are grounded in the mundane yet heightened by a haunting, terrifying and sometimes surreal reality that surrounds us, present with despair for human lives, searching for hope in humanity and our own existence within it.  Standalone stories, that exist in the same storytelling world we write.” He’s also provided a line or two of commentary for each song.

The beautiful opening track “The Vanishing” touches on feelings of emptiness that often stem from isolation, and ponders whether love can be a healing force. Dunkie elaborates “When lives begin to pull and push away from gravity and humanity, can one collective last breath of society prevail? Maybe only love can fill the hole within the soul…” The song is absolutely stunning, with lush, sweeping instrumentals highlighted by glittery synths, marvelous guitar work by Price, Bassett and Adam Price, and shimmery mellotron played by John Barnes. Anthony Price has a gentle and distinctive singing voice that sounds like a blend of Thom Yorke and Neil Young, and his vocals are deeply moving as he croons “I could disappear and leave without a trace from this world. I’ve left the human race. Nobody sees me, nobody sees me, sees me anymore / You’ll miss me when I’m gone / Only love can fill the holes within your soul.”

Shadows On The Sun” is an incredibly pleasing folk-rock song with a catchy and upbeat toe-tapping melody, and featuring more of the gorgeous guitar work played by the same three who also dazzled us on “The Vanishing”. Dunkie explains the song’s message: “How long can a surface hold its form before cracking? In a world where darkness rises and lights dim, one earthly, broken figure can no longer take it anymore…

Dunkie takes us off in a different direction with the haunting and contemplative “Choke“. Seven musicians play instruments on this mesmerizing track, highlighted by Terry Payne’s bewitching flute and Jennifer Drew’s inventive percussive textures. Mali Davies sings the captivating lead vocals, supported by gentle backing vocals by Anthony Price and Rob Lear. The lyrics seem to address the fear and desolation of facing one’s impending death, yet the music is ethereal and soothing, conveying a sense of peaceful resignation: “A fading lifecycle.. Visions searing the skin.. and the figure screams as the silent walls close within a room.. Choking the tears begin, again.” The song seems to end at around 4:42 with sounds of a person drawing their final breath, accompanied by a monitor indicting no heartbeat. But then the music abruptly returns, as if to signify the release and rebirth of the person’s soul into another dimension.

Deep Dark Heart” is a bittersweet song about a relationship in which both parties have drifted apart, becoming almost like strangers and afraid to be honest with each other: “Blinded by inner demons a mute couple attempt to feel what one each feels, but this comes with a price and begins to pull them from underneath… and slowly takes seed.” The song was co-written by Price and Bassett, along with contributions by Mark Purnell on music and Joanne Jones on lyrics. Purnell also played acoustic and electric guitars and sings vocals along with Sarah Birch. Another reviewer, Grayson Jones, compared their vocals to those of Cat Stevens and Stevie Nicks, and I have to agree. Their wonderful vocals are tender and heartfelt as they sing of doubts and unease toward each other: “Is it in my head? Or is it in my heart? Questions go unanswered through the tether of your bark.” Musically, the song has a haunting alt-Country vibe, thanks to the twangy guitars and Terry Payne’s mournful violin.

On “The Vanishing Shadow“, we have the pleasure of hearing lovely vocals by a third female singer, Lauren Coates. The song has a peaceful, atmospheric soundscape, thanks to shimmery synths, delicate strings and gentle percussion. Coates’ soft, captivating vocals perfectly fit the ethereal vibe, which is broken only by the piercing synth sounds at the end. The lyrics seem to speak to people losing touch with each other through fear or indifference, leaving us to wonder if our lives have any meaning at all: “When lifeforms fall out of reach from one another, into an endless pit of fear, the emptiness in space appears… and they question if they are really… gone.” Coates’ sings “The hardest thing to do, is to prove you exist. With every single coat that you paint erased…and I’m gone.”

Those who purchase the EP will get a sixth bonus track, an alternative version of “The Vanishing”, recorded at an Abertawe Road Studio session. This version is somewhat stripped-down, with richly-layered guitars, magical synths, and Price’s sweet vocals the only sounds we hear. But what sounds they are! The jangly and shimmery guitars are deeply resonant, with a fullness of sound that’s incredibly impactful.

To sum up, I must say that Dunkie has gone and done it again, creating another work of musical art that’s as perfect as it could possibly be. The Vanishing and Other Stories is a gorgeous, expertly-crafted little EP, and a testament to the impressive talents of Price, Bassett, and everyone else involved in its production.

Connect with dunkie on Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream/purchase his music on Bandcamp / iTunes / Spotify / Soundcloud

Fresh New Tracks Vol. VI

New music continues to gush forth from the creative juices of too many artists and bands to mention, and here are three great new tunes, all released on March 12th, by (in alphabetical order) French dance/rock band DeStijl, featuring British singer Liam Croker, British singer-songwriter Flo Gallop, and Florida alternative pop-rock band Infinite Eights.

“F.O.S. (Howie B Remix)” by DeStijl featuring Liam Croker

DeStijl is a dance-rock band originally from Montpellier, France, but now split between Montpellier and Manchester, England, where their new lead singer and drummer reside. Their music is strongly influenced by such bands as New Order, Depeche Mode, Joy Division, Editors, Primal Scream, Doves, Kasabian and Massive Attack, and they’ve released six albums over the past 25 years (with a 10-year break lasting roughly from 2000-2010). Liam Croker is frontman and lead singer for Manchester-based electro/dance-pop/funk band The Winachi Tribe, whose terrific music I’ve written about several times on this blog. Howie B is a legendary Scottish composer, producer and DJ who’s worked with artists such as Björk, U2, Tricky, Massive Attack, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Soul II Soul an Robbie Robertson.

De Stijl and Liam Croker collaborated on the electro/dance-pop track “F.O.S.” (along with a few other songs released in 2020), and have now released an exciting new remix by Howie B. The single will be included on a forthcoming collaborative EP by DeStijl and Liam, due for release later this year. The track was produced by Howie B and mastered by famed mastering engineer Peter Maher.

“F.O.S.” (full of shit) is a cheeky take-down of the egotistical blowhards Liam’s met over the years who are full of themselves – essentially full of shit. The original version is a great song, with an infectious and strong pulsating dance groove, punctuated by spacey synths and shimmery guitars. For the remix, Howie B shaves 47 seconds off the song, and modifies the dance beat with trip hop elements. He also emphasizes the spacey aspects, adding subtle industrial synths that give the track a darker, somewhat more menacing vibe. Liam’s saucy croons have a bit more echo, adding to the track’s overall air of mystery.

Follow DeStijl:  FacebookTwitterInstagram

Follow The Winachi Tribe:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

“Can’t Be Friends” by Flo Gallop

London-based singer-songwriter & self proclaimed comedian Flo Gallop was raised around music. Her father was a songwriter, so she grew up learning to emulate him, scribbling words into her diary that she would eventually translate into songs. Drawing influences from some of her favorite artists like Oasis, The 1975, Bastille, and Tom Odell, she writes honest lyrics set to catchy, upbeat melodies. A natural-born artist and sociable soul, she loves to perform – something that’s been impossible over the past year of lockdowns and such. Like all musicians, it’s driven her crazy, but that hasn’t stopped her from writing and recording songs.

She’s previously collaborated with the likes of Tom Fuller and Will Thompson, but in late January, Flo released her debut single “21”, then followed a month later with a Rob Savage-produced remix of the song. Now she’s back with her new single “Can’t Be Friends“, a fun and flirtatious track about falling for the wrong person, and blithely ignoring the consequences. In an interview with the webzine PopDust, Flo confided: “The song was written when I was in that headspace of just not being able to cut someone out who was no good for me. It’s also about making the excuse of ‘being friends’ when you know that’s just never gonna happen with that particular person, but you use it as your defense to keep seeing them.” I can attest to the folly of this approach, as I’ve ‘been there, done that’!

The song has an infectious, trap beat-driven groove, highlighted by a great little guitar riff, and accompanied by shimmery synths, a tasty thumping bassline and snappy drums, all of which build to an exuberant crescendo in the chorus. Flo has a distinctive and lilting vocal style, which she uses to great effect in expressing a playful sense of both resignation and exasperation over her inability to quit the guy who’s never gonna be right for her: “We always played this game, until we’re fighting fires again. It’s how we know we’re both to blame. This is why we can’t be friends. You always blurred the lines and I can never cut these ties.”

Follow Flo Gallop:  FacebookTwitterInstagram

“Nausea” by Infinite Eights

Formed back in 2012 while young teenagers, Infinite Eights is a charming and talented indie alternative pop/rock band based in Tampa, Florida. They were one of the very 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 impressed by the excellence of their songwriting and musicianship, as well as their kindness, professionalism and gracious humility, rare qualities in musicians that young.

In addition to their studies, they’ve released numerous singles over the years, as well as a six-track EP Unfound in 2015. They’ve performed in several music festivals alongside some of the biggest names in music, and have opened for Kaleo, AJR, In the Valley Below, and The Relationship. I’ve featured them twice on this blog, the first time in April 2016 (which you can read here). It’s been a pleasure watching them grow and mature as musicians, and their music keeps getting better and better.

Infinite Eights have just dropped their latest single “Nausea“, delivering more of their signature gorgeous melodies and dreamy instrumentation we’ve come to love and expect from them. Parker has become a programming wizard, producing a lush, swirling soundscape of glittery synths, over which he layers intricate guitar notes, while Davin and Tyler drive the pulsating rhythm forward with their commanding bass and drums, respectfully. Parker’s warm vocals have also matured quite nicely too, and he’s never sounded better. His plaintive soaring falsetto in the choruses is beautiful and deeply moving. Though I cannot make them all out, the lyrics seem to speak to the stomach-churning emotional roller coaster aspects of love and relationships. Parker told me he drew inspiration from Jean Paul-Sartre’s novel of the same name: “The song is an exploration of the feelings that arise when a period of existential dread is punctuated by an encounter with a potential romantic partner. Those feelings may be best summed up as ‘parasitic’ – attaching yourself to someone as a means of finding direction and escaping a sense of purposelessness.”

Follow Infinite Eights on Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

Fresh New Tracks Vol. V

There continues to be such a tremendous amount of new music being released that I simply cannot keep up with it all! Consequently, I’m going to have to do more of these group posts in order to feature more artists and songs. Here are three great new singles by artists or bands located on the west coast of North America, (in alphabetical order) Bealby Point, Matt Jaffe and Yard of Blondes.

“I’m So Bummed Out Right Now” by Bealby Point

Named after their favorite beachside vacation spot, Canadian alt-rock band Bealby Point had a rather serendipitous beginning. Comprised of four childhood friends who grew up in North Vancouver – Jack Armstrong (lead vocals), Jordan Studer (bass), Clayton Dewar (lead guitar) and Zack Yeager (drums) – Jack and Jordan were already a two-piece band when, one day in 2018, they stumbled upon music coming from the house of their old friends Clayton and Zack, who were also playing as a two-piece. The four reconnected, quickly realizing they complemented each other’s instruments and music styles, and Bealby Point was born.

On February 17th, they released their debut single “I’m So Bummed Out Right Now“. Recorded with veteran producer Matt Di Pomponio, the single will be included on their forthcoming EP, due out later this year. The band states the song was inspired by missing out on opportunities to hang out, have fun, and create memories with your best friends because of being stuck at home during the recurring lockdowns. The upbeat melody, buoyant guitars and snappy drums create a fun, breezy vibe that contrasts with the melancholy lyrics about feeling lonely and isolated, beautifully sung by Jack in vocals that go from a vulnerable croon to plaintive falsetto: “I’m so bummed out right now. Don’t leave me behind. Don’t leave me inside. Watch my friends through a screen. Stuck in a box, alone without me. Having fun without me. Making me feel, oh so lonely.” It’s a fine debut from Bealby Point, and I look forward to hearing more from these guys.

Follow Bealby Point:  FacebookTwitterInstagram

“Time Traveler” by Matt Jaffe

Matt Jaffe is a talented, hard-working and silky-voiced young singer-songwriter based in San Francisco who’s been making music since his early teens. While playing at an open mic one evening when he was only 16, he was discovered by Jerry Harrison of the band Talking Heads, who went on to help him produce his first album. In the years since, he’s written scores of songs, released three more albums, and has performed as an opening act for Blues Traveler and Wilco, as well as co-written songs with Tom Higgenson of the Plain White T’s. Matt has also served as musical director for experimental theater, collaborated with poets on genre-bending spoken word, and curated residencies among fellow songwriters. And if that’s not enough, he also volunteers with Bread & Roses, a non-profit that brings live music to facilities such as prisons, rehab centers, and foster homes. Having suffered from seizures himself since 2015, Matt also uses his music to unite local and national epilepsy communities.

Matt released his fourth album Undertoad on February 12th, and I especially like one of its singles “Time Traveler“. It’s a melodic and beautiful track, with exuberant jangly guitars and lush sweeping synths that build to a dramatic and glorious wall of sound. I’m a fan of male voices in the higher ranges, and Matt’s vocals are stunning as he fervently sings the lyrics that speak to regrets for past mistakes and time wasted: “I’m the time traveler, and what I were to flip the hourglass. Watch promise of the future turn to phantoms of the past. I wasted all my moments dear, traversing centuries. Cause it not time, but distances, dividing you and me.” “Time Traveler” is a magnificent track, and I think it’s one of Matt’s finest.

Follow Matt:  FacebookTwitterInstagram 

“Hummingbird” by Yard of Blondes

From humble beginnings in France as a folk pop duo making mostly acoustic music, Yard of Blondes have come a long way in the years since relocating to Los Angeles in 2014. Now a four-piece, they’ve made a splash on the L.A. music scene with their exciting and edgy style of alternative rock. The band is comprised of French-born singer/songwriter and guitarist/vocalist Vincent Walter Jacob and bassist/vocalist Fanny Hulard, Turkish-born guitarist Burak Yerebakan, and California native Forrest Mitchell on drums and backing vocals. Yard of Blondes are no stranger to this blog, as I’ve previously featured them three times, most recently last October when I reviewed their last single “Do You Need More?” On February 19th, they released “Hummingbird“, the fourth and final single from their forthcoming debut album Feed the Moon, due out later this year. The single and album were produced by Billy Graziadei, mixed by Michael Patterson, and mastered by Maor Applebaum.

Never shy to take on social and political issues, the band actually wrote “Hummingbird” a few years ago after the protests in Ferguson, Missouri that erupted after the killing of Michael Brown, as well as in the wake of yet another school mass shooting. They explain “Being in the U.S. for only a few years at this time, we came to realize America was dealing with a lot of things that were unresolved for decades and centuries. The growing appeal for conspiracies and alternative narratives also [played] a great part in our writing this song. Ironically, in the music video, we tried to picture an invisible threat coming at people, something like a virus, destroying our community. Now that we are in an actual pandemic the song takes on another meaning.

The song is a rampaging beast, with a barrage of jagged, gnarly guitars, driving bass and pummeling drums, befitting the dark and violent subject matter. Vincent and Fanny’s commanding vocals start off with an angry resignation as they lament “It’s happening again. It’s not a crime to shoot a humming hovering around. It’s happening again in my town. They’re killing hummingbirds. Soaked in blood. They soon grow more impassioned as they furiously scream their refusal to accept that the killings were provoked: “I don’t believe you when you said they attacked you! I don’t believe you now!” It all makes for a fearsome and compelling track, both musically and lyrically, and I think “Hummingbird” is their best song yet.

Follow Yard of Blondes:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

AU GRES – Single Review: “At Home in the Dark”

Last October, I featured Michigan-based artist Au Gres (the music project of singer-songwriter Joshua Kemp) when I reviewed his charming debut single “Nervous”. A delightful melding of indie rock, lo-fi and synth pop elements, the song speaks of allowing ourselves to be vulnerable in order to more fully experience the joys of life, love and relationships. I liked it so much, it spent two months on my Weekly Top 30.

Now he returns with his second single “At Home in the Dark“, another stellar and dreamy track, but this time featuring a somewhat edgier rock vibe he describes as “indie pop with teeth”. The song was produced and mixed by Jake Rye at the Social Recording Company, and mastered by Mike Cervantes (the same guys who worked with another Michigan artist Dawning, whose stunning EP Petals I reviewed a few weeks ago). Josh and fellow musician Noah DeLeon played guitars, and both they and Jake all had a hand in programming synths. Brodie Glaza played drums, and Josh’s girlfriend Linsley Hartenstein played the lovely piano in the outro.

“At Home in the Dark” is essentially a sweet love song, in which Au Gres assures his romantic partner that he’ll be there to support and comfort her through good times and bad: “I want to be there when it rains / I want to know you on your bad days, baby / I want to be there when you start to think the wrong things in the right time frame / So I’m on my way to hold you close / If it rains outside we’ll stay indoors with a glass of red we’ll sing in prose / We’ll do what it takes to feel at home in the dark.”

To drive home his message, he and his fellow musicians start with a palette of delicate swirling synths, then layer multiple textures of guitar and percussion to create a lush, emotionally-powerful soundscape. The music swells to an exuberant crescendo in the choruses, highlighted by a dramatic guitar solo in the bridge. Interestingly, the song opens with the same crescendo that later appears in the choruses, putting the song on a strong footing right from the start. Josh has a fine singing voice, and his lovely comforting vocals are perfect for conveying the tender feelings of love and devotion expressed in the lyrics.

With both “Nervous” and “At Home in the Dark” to his credit, Au Gres maintains his perfect score of releasing outstanding singles. I’m confident we’ll be hearing a lot more great music to come from this talented man.

Follow Au Gres:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

Stream “Nervous”:  Spotify / Apple Music / Tidal / Soundcloud

Purchase: Bandcamp / Amazon

Fresh New Tracks Vol. IV

It’s time for another installment of fresh new releases, and today I’m featuring three songs by (in alphabetical order) Ronnie the Bear, Tarraska and The Orphan The Poet.

“Moon Eyes” by Ronnie the Bear

Ronnie the Bear is the music project of Joshua Rukas, a charismatic and silky-voiced singer/songwriter from Grand Rapids, Michigan. A talented and versatile musician, he’s also drummer for punk/emo rock band MUSCLEMAN, as well as a former member of alt-rock band Dancing On Pluto, who I reviewed a couple times prior to their splitting up in August 2018. Last September, he released his stunning debut single “Do You Feel That?“, which I love so much that it ended up on my Top 100 Songs of 2020 list. He followed up at the end of October with his wonderful EP Lucid Dreams, and on February 14th he dropped his latest single “Moon Eyes“, a sweet song of young love that’s the perfect tune for Valentine’s Day.

Josh’s music is a pleasing blend of lo-fi alternative pop-rock, hip hop, psychedelic, synth pop and emo that he describes as ‘bedroom pop’, as he composes, performs, produces, mixes and masters all his own music at home. Over a lovely humming synth that sounds like a mellotron, he layers a colorful mix of swirling keyboard synths, crisp percussion, guitar and xylophone to create an enchanting backdrop for his soft, comforting vocals as he tells a lover of his strong feelings of devotion for her: “I want to melt into your arms / Your eyes are bigger than the moon / I’ve got a blanket built for two / I know I’ll find some warmth in you.”

Follow Ronnie the Bear on Twitter / Instagram

“Renegade” by Tarraska

Tarraska is a rock band based in Bournemouth, England. Influenced by some of their favorite bands like Alter Bridge, Metallica, Iron Maiden, Foo Fighters, Van Halen, Tremonti, Five Finger Death Punch and Guns N Roses, their music is a blend of classic and modern hard rock, characterized by heavy riffs, hard-driving rhythms and aggressive vocals. Originally formed in 2014 by lifelong friends Jack Lande and Ben Parker as a primarily acoustic cover band, the duo began writing their own songs in 2016, incorporating more electric guitars and heavier bass into their sound. They started touring around the UK, performing their own songs, and by the end of 2019, they had played more than 300 gigs in all manner of venues – pubs, clubs, restaurants, festivals and at private events. Jack plays rhythm and acoustic guitar and sings vocals, Ben plays lead, rhythm and bass guitar. Shaun Brown assists the duo on drums.

The guys released their excellent debut single “Trailblazer” in May 2020, and followed up in December with their second single “Renegade“. The two singles will be included on their forthcoming debut album, due out later this year. Both songs were recorded and mixed at Absolute Studios and GMMix in Bournemouth by Gareth Matthews, and mastered by Grant Berry at Fader Mastering in Manchester. Like a rampaging beast, “Renegade” storms through the gates with a barrage of fiery riffs and thunderous rhythms. Jack and Ben dazzle our senses with their strong musicianship as they unleash an unrelenting arsenal of guitar power, while Shaun shatters the airwaves with his powerful drum fills. Jack’s commanding vocals hold their own throughout the track with the hard-hitting instrumentals.

Jack told webzine Rock Regeneration that the song “deals with the emotions felt for a forbidden love and serves as a warning against lowering your guard in the face of real but ephemeral desires”. He further elaborates on the song’s press release: “For me, ‘Renegade’ is our most ambitious and musically expansive track to date, incorporating so much of the music we love and outlining what we want the band to become in the future. As for the song itself, the lyric tries to capture the intense and confusing emotions felt when caught up in a whirlwind love that, whilst genuine, may have or lead to destructive consequences.”

Follow Tarraska:  FacebookTwitterInstagram

“The Moxie” by The Orphan The Poet

The Orphan The Poet is an alternative rock two-piece from Columbus, Ohio consisting of vocalist and guitarist David Eselgroth and bassist Jake Floyd. Though we follow each other on Twitter and Instagram, I don’t know a whole lot about them, other than that they’ve been putting out great music for around five years, and seem to have a hell of a good time doing it. They released their debut EP Terrible Things in 2016, and have followed up with number of singles and a second EP in the years since. Two of their singles have garnered more than a million streams on Spotify: “Terrible Things” with over 1.8 million and “Queen Cobra” with over 1.1 million.

Their latest single “The Moxie” was released on February 12th. The song was written and produced by David and Jake, with the help of frequent collaborator and music producer Matt Squire, mixed by Joe Costable, and mastered by Mike Kalijian. According to a feature article I found in Earmilk, the guys wrote the song over Zoom during the early days of quarantine. The lyrics were inspired by their feelings, their positive outlook on life, and determination and self confidence that are the very essence of the word “moxie”. David confided “There were times when growing up I very much identified as a nerd to be honest. At the same time, I was a confident nerd. Looking back at the song now I’m like ‘oh, that’s what it’s about. This is what it means to me. These are the times that I’ve known I was a big dork but that didn’t change the strut in the step or whatever it was. I could see so much of myself in the lyrics just from my own experiences of being the nerdy kid. He wasn’t in the cool crowd, but he thought he was cool.”

The song is a tasty slice of exuberant alt-pop, highlighted by swirling synths, thumping bass, bold hand claps, and a riotous cacophony of fuzz-coated wailing guitars. David’s intense, spirited vocals are every bit as fun as the music. The lyrics are basically nonsensical, but speak to having a joyous, unabashed confidence: “Crash my car just to cause a scene / I’m gonna flip my spliff like I’m Steve McQueen / Soak my shoes in gasoline, I got these Motown moves from a magazine / (And all I wanna do is) Two step, marmalade, fever shake / I’m like a juiced up, tidal wave, every day (I got it) The Moxie.”

Follow The Orphan The Poet:  FacebookTwitterInstagram

PETER KLEINHANS – Album Review: “I Was Alive Enough”

Peter Kleinhans is a New York-based singer-songwriter who, after spending 30 years as a professional harness horse racer, trainer and announcer, decided to turn his love of music into writing and recording songs. His music is a pleasing mix of pop, folk and rock, but it’s his skill for telling engrossing stories through thoughtful, intelligent lyrics that makes his songs so compelling in a Harry Chapin kind of way. He doesn’t have a particularly strong singing voice – his vocal style is more of a talk-singing – but it’s warm and comforting, and perfect for storytelling.

In February 2018 he released his debut album Something’s Not Right to critical acclaim. LA Music Critic hailed it “one of the best debut albums we have reviewed“, while Neufutur Magazine called it “an album that blends together Dave Matthews with the protest tradition of performers like Neil Young and Phil Ochs.” He later released, in November 2019, an excellent video for album’s title track “Something’s Not Right”, a song about the sense of uncertainty and unease that many Americans seemed to be feeling about their country and their own future, while still trying to remain optimistic and grateful for what’s good. You can read my feature about the song and video here.

In December (2020), Peter returned with his second album I Was Alive Enough, featuring 12 tracks he states are “very specific to this very strange moment we are all living in, with songs about our fear of missing out (“FOMO”) and greed (“Race to the Bottom”), as well as mistrust of the media (“Fake News”). But it’s also hopeful and spirited, about appreciation for NYC graffiti (“91st Street”), a love of horse-racing (“W1775”) and the power and joy of solitude (“Table for One”). What binds many of the tracks together for me is the significance of each song’s characters despite their powerlessness. The befuddled news-watcher in “Fake News” is as real as the story of the horse W1775, the farmer in “Malagasy Uprising”, the homeless man in “Homeless” as much as the hapless narrator walking past, or even the corporate stooges in “Race To The Bottom”, who have more actual power and influence but who are ultimately prisoners of the soulless world they inhabit. One of the main things I was driving at in this album was the significance of every life.

The 12 songs run the stylistic gamut from gentle folk ballads and bouncy pop to pleasing Southern rock and world music. Peter’s lyrics are so good that I’ll be quoting a lot of them, so bear with me as you read on. The album kicks off with “FOMO“, a breezy pop tune highlighted by some nice jazzy piano keys, along with gnarly guitars and jaunty organ that contrast with the matter-of-fact lyrics addressing his, and everyone else’s, shortcomings and how there must be a pill to deal with all our myriad anxieties: “I’m looking for a doctor just to tell me I’m crazy. My girl says I’m older, vain, stupid and lazy. But no one says what everyone knows to be true, that I’m totally crazy and so are you. / Yes, keep me medicated, keep those bottles full. Cause I’ve got FOMO, can’t handle missing out. You know I’m all about regret and doubt.

Race to the Bottom” has a heavier pop-rock treatment, with rousing, multi-layered guitars, thumping drums and tasty psychedelia-tinged organ, all set to a strong foot-stomping beat. Peter sings the cynical lyrics spoken from the perspective of corporations hoping to cash in on a brain-dead public: “We got a fractured nation, a distracted population. Got to take advantage just the best that we can. But we better hurry ‘fore they get their pitchforks in motion, cause they’re getting pretty tired of being taken by the man. So, come with me on a race to the bottom, where the pickins are easy and there’s plenty of prey.

Continuing on a similar theme, he addresses how we all seek out the kind of news that feeds our own world views on “Fake News“: “So go ahead and play me some fake news, and I’ll just change the channel if want to change my views“, and how some want nothing to do with those holding opinions different from theirs: “Woke up to find someone’s unfriended me today. Doesn’t like the way I see the world. It could be we never were such good friends anyway, but I’m still stinging from the epithets he hurled.” The song starts off as a gentle piano ballad, then expands into a lively melody with guitars, bold percussion and what sounds like clarinet, which adds a nice but slightly unsettling vibe. The song has a bit of a Harry Chapin feel, and is one of my favorites on the album.

91st St.” is a wonderful ode to the graffiti-covered and abandoned 91st Street subway station in New York City. The station was deemed superfluous by the subway authority and closed in 1954, and later came to be known by New Yorkers as the “Ghost Station”. Peter wrote a marvelous article about the station and the song in October 2018, which I featured on this blog and can be read here. The song has a progressive/jazzy vibe, with a cool drumbeat, funky bass line and fuzzy guitar riff. Toward the end of the track, Peter injects a quirky little psychedelic synth that makes for a great finish.

Peter addresses the oft-covered and eternally relatable subjects of love and relationships on a few tracks, with lyrics that are painfully honest and real. On the bittersweet Americana-tinged “Our Journeys“, he sings of how he let his partner down, but is thankful for the good things they enjoyed together: “Now this song isn’t one of mistake or regret. I chose what I chose, and I’ll take what I’ll get, but when push comes to shove, it still hurts to hurt someone you love. And you were willing to spend your whole journey on me, and the value of that, maybe I just wouldn’t see. So please let me take the time to thank you now.” On the lovely “Table For One“, he sings his praises of being alone: “All I watched as a child, replayed the same scene. Go find a fair princess, make her a fair queen. But repeating the playbook has cost me a lot. Maybe you find who you are when you find who you’re not.” And on “Palpitations“, he sings of traveling the country with his new bride, not caring where they end up so long as he’s with her: “These palpitations inspired by you are invented by me. Palpitations are my body’s way of telling me I’m finally free.”

Homeless” is a poignant song about how those of us living in big cities co-exist with homeless people as we go about our days, intersecting with each other, yet living in completely separate worlds and fearful of becoming too involved: “There a man I see almost every day. He’s got a black dog with a collar. It used to be ‘could you spare a dime’ now it’s ‘could you spare a dollar?’ Sometimes I give, sometimes I don’t, depends what’s in my pocket. But he’s a man locked inside an invisible cage, and my dollar won’t unlock it. There’s no future, there’s no joy. He once was an adorable boy. Once he started to fall, he found no safe place to land. Walk right by that ghost of a man. It’s the crime I commit almost everyday. It’s the violence of looking away.” 

On “Malagasy Uprising“, Peter sings from the perspective of a farmer recalling the horrors of the nationalist rebellion against French colonial rule in Madagascar that lasted from March 1947 to February 1949, and now trying to eke out a living in peace. He uses African elements and instruments, along with a lilting chorus by female singers, to give the song an exotic flavor that works quite well. He channels a bit of Tom Petty on  “Beneath Two Moons“, a song that speaks to the love of personal freedom over romantic entanglements. And he sings of being with the one he loves in of the Land of Enchantment on the appropriately enchanting “New Mexico“, “where the people think we’re pretty, and there’s turquoise everywhere.”

One of his best ‘story’ songs is “W1775“, a poignant saga about a horse who started his career as an award-winning race horse, then spent time pulling a carriage in New York, and eventually living out his final years in a pasture. Peter elaborates on the song’s inspiration: “I trained racehorses for many years and I earned a deep respect for the animals. One of the things about horse racing that you just don’t find when following other animals, is the story within every horse’s career, all of which is documented and is occasionally remembered but more often forgotten.”

I Was Alive Enough is a delightful album, not only because it’s a pleasing listen, but also due to its great storytelling. As I alluded to at the beginning of this review, Peter is a masterful lyricist and storyteller, not to mention a fine musician. Each song is a gem, with no two sounding alike, keeping the album sounding fresh and surprising from start to finish. 

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

EWAN PATRICK – Double Single Review: “Feels Good To Be Alive/Two Hearts”

Ewan Patrick is a singer-songwriter from Edinburgh, Scotland who’s long been dedicated to the study and making of music. He studied contemporary classical composition at Napier University in Edinburgh, then earned a graduate degree in Music Production at Leeds College of Music. He’s also played in many bands over the years, with whom he performed extensively across the UK, including at a number of major music festivals. Some of his songs have garnered airplay on national BBC Radio 1, as well as various BBC regional stations and on commercial radio. More recently, Ewan has begun recording some of the songs he’s written over the years that, in his own words, “never quite found their place in any of the bands I’ve played in.

Last October (2020), he released his first double A-side single “Retrospect/Hurricane”. Both are very good anthemic pop-rock songs that beautifully showcase his songwriting, performance and production talents, as he records, mixes and masters all his music himself. Now he returns with a new double A-side single “Feels Good To Be Alive/Two Hearts“, which dropped February 1st. All four tracks will be included on his forthcoming debut album, due out later this year.

“Feels Good To Be Alive” speaks to how we can become complacent about life, and sometimes bitter that things didn’t turn out quite like we’d hoped or imagined. The song starts off low-key, with Ewan’s acoustic guitar accompanied by gentle percussion as he plaintively sings “How did this happen and when did I grow cold? I’m feeling insignificant as I’m reaching the end of the road. I won’t let my life disappear and slowly fade. It’s time for me to reframe and make the change.” The song then explodes with a torrent of electric guitar and crashing cymbals as he passionately sings with a strong sense of optimism and hope, and a belief that life is still worth living: “The rain keeps falling but it washes over me. Nothing’s working but I’m feeling carefree. I’m still hurting, yet it doesn’t bother me. Why? Because I’m still alive. It feels good to be alive.” It’s a beautifully-crafted and uplifting song.

“Two Hearts” is a deeply personal song that came to Ewan while writing his own wedding speech. He states that he was “not for a minute trying to contrive a love song for my future wife but it just kind of happened.” The song is appropriately beautiful and moving, starting off with Ewan’s acoustic guitar and heartfelt vocals as he sings of his love and devotion, and how his bride has made him a better man: “You took my hand. Made me a man. You’ve made me better than I’ve ever been. Come walk with me through hopes and dreams, and together we’ll take the world head on. Two hearts will beat as one.” The song gradually expands into a sublime ballad as he layers gorgeous chiming electric guitar notes, piano and heavier percussion, along with some beautiful cello performed by his good friend Rebecca Rowe.

Both songs are outstanding, and I must say I’m very impressed by Ewan’s strong songwriting, singing and musicianship skills. Not only are his songs finely-crafted from a technical standpoint, they also have a lot of those less tangible qualities of heart and soul that allow them to speak to us on a more personal and meaningful level. I see a bright future for this young artist, and look forward to hearing more music from him.

Follow Ewan:  FacebookTwitterInstagram

Stream his music: SpotifySoundcloudApple Music

Purchase:  BandcampAmazon

SHIPS HAVE SAILED – Single Review: “Breathe”

Los Angeles-based alternative pop-rock duo Ships Have Sailed have long been among my favorite indie acts, and I’ve featured them on this blog a number of times over the past three years. (You can read those reviews by clicking on the links under ‘Related’ at the end of this post.) Consisting of singer-songwriter and guitarist Will Carpenter and drummer Art Andranikyan, they write thoughtful, uplifting lyrics, which they adorn with dreamy melodies and sublime arrangements, and deliver with outstanding instrumentation and Will’s stunning vocals. They’ve released quite a bit of music over the past eight years or so, and have been on a particularly creative streak since the beginning of 2019, starting with their gorgeous single “Escape”. They’ve subsequently released five more excellent singles, their latest of which is “Breathe“, a beautiful song of optimism and strength that dropped January 27th. The song was written by Will, Art and Kelsey Mira Duennes, and produced by Will. The exquisite strings were played by Dan Hange.

I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Will in person on two occasions, and follow him on social media, where he frequently connects with his followers and posts positive and hopeful messages. He sometimes opens up about his own fears and insecurities, which I and many of his followers can certainly relate to. He was inspired to write “Breathe” by reflecting back on his own dysfunctional family and difficult upbringing, as well as the incredible resilience people have shown throughout the pandemic that’s upended so many of our lives. He told the webzine Earmilk, “’Breathe’ is the exploration of what our traumas and our inner demons can do to us over time…how they can isolate us from those we need the most, and how they ultimately have the potential to be our biggest downfall.” The song urges us to step back and take a deep breath, face our personal demons and traumas with a clear head and the belief that we can – and will – get through this.

All Ships Have Sailed songs are wonderful, but I have to say “Breathe” immediately ranks among their finest. It starts off with a gentle, atmospheric feel, highlighted by hauntingly beautiful piano keys accompanied by gorgeous shimmery guitar, ethereal synths, finger snaps and subtle percussion. Will breathily croons “All those secrets we keep inside / Run, run, run, hide, hide, hide until we stumble in the dark of our lies.” The song expands in the bridge into a dramatic anthem with soaring strings and thunderous percussion, the emotion in Will’s vocals rising along with the music as he fervently sings “Heart is racing, running for the light, I got to keep on breathing.” The music eventually calms back to the languid, soulful vibe we heard at the beginning, and by song’s end I’m covered with goosebumps, always a sign of a beautiful song that touches me deeply.

I’ve shared both Spotify and Soundcloud links of the song, so take your pick!

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

JUSTIN BEYNON – Album Review: “In Motion”

Justin Beynon is a musician and singer/songwriter based in Aberdare, Wales who I recently learned about when he reached out to me about his just-released debut album In Motion. Music has been a major part of Justin’s life since his childhood, and he’s played an active role in the Welsh music scene for the last 30 years. As a member of numerous bands over the years, he’s been featured on several albums, as well as collaborated on many projects as a session musician. He’s also taught guitar and piano for the last 24 years. Several years ago, he built his own home studio and began learning how to use new technology so that he could record the backlog of songs he’d been writing over the years. Last year he decided to produce his first solo album, and got busy recording songs in his home studio, singing and playing all the instruments himself, other than on four songs that he recorded in a studio with the help of a friend and former bandmate Meirion Townsend on drums. The tracks were then mixed and mastered by Matthew Evans.

Justin elaborates on the things that inspired him to record and release the album: “Long before this pandemic was even on the horizon, I had experienced some of the most difficult and emotionally challenging years to date. As a result, I began to feel my passion and drive for playing and creating music slowly ebb away. Things got really difficult. I wondered if I was done. But, as has been the case so may times in the past, music came to my rescue. This collection of songs started life as two separate EP’s but with a common thread, that life is constantly ‘in motion’, regardless of what gets thrown at us.

Putting this album together has been my way of navigating a very difficult time. It was a big step forward for me as a writer, to have the freedom to work to my own timescale and have the tools to record myself, without the restrictions of studio costs etc. It was also my first step in releasing my own music under my own name rather than a band name. I called the album ‘In Motion’ as it seemed an appropriate title to a life and body of work gathering momentum over time, from the past and into the future. It’s been my way of making sure that these songs don’t live and die in my head. I hope that whoever hears them will find something positive in them.

Well, I must say that after listening to In Motion, I’ve found plenty to like. First off are Justin’s engaging and catchy melodies. As someone with no musical aptitude whatsoever, I’m always impressed at how musicians are able to write great melodies and bring them to life with thoughtful arrangements and masterful instrumentation, which brings me to the second aspect of his music. Justin is an excellent guitarist, seemingly at ease playing a wide variety of styles ranging from folk, country and Americana to blues rock. He’s also a fine pianist, as evidenced on the opening track “All Inside” and the beautiful “All the Way Through”. Then there are his intelligent, heartfelt lyrics that speak to us in deeply meaningful ways which are expressed through his wonderful, no-frills vocals that remind me at times of the great Tom Petty.

He hits the ground running with the aforementioned “All Inside“, a rousing folk rock song that seems to speak to a relationship that’s failed due to a break down in communication and trust. Justin starts things off with his strummed acoustic guitar, then layers assertive piano keys and a driving bass line to add emotional depth to the song as he plaintively sings, “You’ll land, just like you did last time. You’ll stand, by keeping it all inside / Tell me, the reason for your disguise. Help me by keeping it all inside.” His blistering electric guitar that enters in the bridge and continues through the end of the track ends things on a high note.

Justin taps into his more soulful side on “The Walkover Rule“, laying down bluesy riffs over a mellow and funky groove that make this one of my favorite tracks on the album. He really channels Tom Petty on the next three tracks. The first, “Who Delivers?“, is a lovely, contemplative song where he seems to question the existence of faith: “Everyone’s talking like they know something. Like they found God. It’s probably nothing. Everybody knows somebody who delivers.” On the Beatle-esque “Another Universe“, he sings of hope and healing: “Until the sun comes out and warms the air like it was nothing. The day’s begun, start it all again. The fire and the rain will wash it all away into another universe.” And “The Sticks and the Stones” sounds like the best song Tom Petty never recorded, with a mix of jangly and twangy slide guitars that give the song a wonderful country rock vibe.

The melancholy “All the Way Through” is another of my favorites, as I’m a sucker for beautiful piano melodies. With only his haunting piano keys and stirring strings as a backdrop, Justin sadly laments to his partner of her unwillingness to make their relationship survive: “There’s nothing I can do to get you back inside the simple life. It’s perfectly entwined, and the love we’re trying to find is true. I really wanna see this all the way through. I’ll take it to a place where there ain’t any rules. I’m all out of luck.”

The mood picks up considerably with “Cheap Coat and Broken Wings“, a lively folk rock tune with some great Southern rock guitars, and on “One Long Kiss Goodbye“, with it’s exuberant toe-tapping melody and wonderful mix of jangly, chiming and gnarly guitars, accompanied by sparkling piano keys and snappy drumbeats. “Paper” is a particularly beautiful track, thanks to Justin’s shimmery guitar work and earnest vocals, enhanced by what I’m guessing are his own backing harmonies. The song seems to be a continuation of the sentiments first introduced on the opening track “All Inside”: “I don’t want to leave it all to chance. Do you want to wait for something greater? You’ve always lived with flashing lights. All of your dreams wrote out on paper.” He closes things out with “The Things That You Do“, a pleasing Country rock song with more of his terrific guitar work, and lyrics whose meaning I can’t quite figure out, but seem to speak to a loved one who takes him for granted: “The reason I fight ain’t over you. It’s not about the things that you do. I try, and I try ’cause of you, and you alone.”

To sum up, In Motion is a very fine, well-crafted album, and a wonderful debut effort from this remarkably talented musician. I’m truly impressed by Justin’s songwriting, musicianship and vocals, as well as his outstanding production abilities, and he should be very proud of what he’s created here. If you like an eclectic mix of folk and country infused with elements of blues, rock and pop, then you will enjoy this album.

Besides Soundcloud, Justin’s music can also be streamed on Spotify and Apple Music