CARY BALSANO – Single Review: “Versailles”

Cary Balsano Versailles

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

INFINITE EIGHTS Release New Video for “Off the Rails”

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

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

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

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

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

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

SECRET AMERICAN – Album Review: “Warmth & Shelter”

Secret American album art

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

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

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

Secret American2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SHIPS HAVE SAILED – Single Review: “Escape”

Ships Have Sailed

I’ve followed Los Angeles duo Ships Have Sailed on Twitter for a couple of years, but have somehow neglected featuring them on this blog. I’m now remedying that sad situation, as they’ve just released a beautiful and deeply moving new single “Escape“, and I love it. Ships Have Sailed is the brainchild of vocalist/guitarist Will Carpenter, and after collaborating with a number of fellow musicians starting around 2012, the lineup now permanently includes drummer Art Andranikyan. They play a pleasing and infectious style of pop-rock characterized by memorable melodies and thoughtful, uplifting lyrics. I had the pleasure of meeting Will last year in Los Angeles, and his gentle kindness comes through in his sublime vocals.

Ships Have Sailed released their debut EP Someday in 2013, and followed two years later with Moodswings. They also released a few EPs between 2015 and 2017 that featured remixes or acoustic versions of previously recorded songs. More recently, they dropped two stellar singles – “Up” in 2017 and “Let’s Just Dance” in 2018, along with some great remixes for both. Their latest effort is “Escape”, which dropped on February 22nd, and I think it’s one of their best songs yet.

From the moment we hear the opening guitar chords and delicate synths, we’re enveloped by a warm and heavenly soundscape. Then Will’s soft, comforting vocals enter the mix, and it’s pure bliss. He has a beautiful voice that melds perfectly with the gentle instrumentals. The music intensifies in the third verse as Art’s crashing cymbals and assertive drumbeats bring drama to the track. Will’s vocals rise to the occasion, becoming raw and impassioned, raising goosebumps on the back of my neck.

The song speaks to a person struggling with personal demons and addiction. About the inspiration behind the song, Will explains: “Everyone has struggled. Born as the stark expression of an especially trying year, ‘Escape’ represents a shift from what we’ve become best known for, exposing a more vulnerable angle. It represents musical honesty in its most raw form, and we truly hope it makes you feel something.

So you stumble through the world run against the grain…
There’s a demon in your mind with a boiling rage…
Screaming at the sky do you feel insane? Someone better hold you down.
Someone better figure you out…
Someone better hold you down…
Get off this ride…

If you look into the sky can you feel the rain?
Does the needle in your arm take away the pain?
Do you wonder if you’ll ever find a home again…
beyond this cheap escape…my friend.

The powerful and stunning video shows scenes of Will and Art performing the song, alternating with scenes of a young man experiencing emotional turmoil. Filmed in and around Los Angeles, it was directed by Michael Easterling & Jaala Ruffman of Talkboy TV, and produced by Ruffman. The cinematography was done by David Parks, and the actors are Caleb Thomas, Zarah Ruffman & Clarity Ruffman.

To learn more about Ships Have Sailed, check out their Website

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

GRAVITY CASTLE – Single Review: “I’ll Just Be Me”

I'll Just Be Me - Cover

Gravity Castle is the music project of Oliver Kersey and Gabriel Gledhill, and they just dropped a wonderful new single “I’ll Just Be Me“. The duo are seasoned musicians and multi-instrumentalists based in Provo, Utah. Prior to joining forces, each was independently involved in music for more than a decade, and between the two of them play more than 10 instruments.  Oliver, who’s originally from England and moved from London to Utah with his fiancé in 2012, met Gabriel while he was performing with another artist at a cafe in Provo one night, but nothing clicked between them.

A few years later they reconnected, and by that time, Oliver was performing as Oli K. Gabriel and two other musicians joined Oliver, and Oli K became a band. Unfortunately, people kept getting their name wrong, and the final straw came on the night of July 4, 2016 when the band was performing at a festival in Ogden. The PA announcement of the festival activities, which was on a continuous loop, kept referring to their band as “Oil K”. Almost immediately afterward, the band was rechristened Salt Valley. They released an excellent EP Roots in 2017, and had a successful run, but two years later Oliver and Gabriel decided to split off as a duo, whereupon Gravity Castle was born in September 2018.

The two share a versatility for writing, recording, and producing all their music in their own, self-built home studio. They released their debut EP Beginnings in December 2018, featuring five beautiful tracks, and in January 2019, they released their first music video for one of the tracks “I’m Sorry.” They also launched their YouTube vlog series Gravity Files, where they discuss their music, songwriting tips, their approach to the music business, and more. Check it out, as well as their music videos, on their YouTube Channel. “I’ll Just Be Me” was released on February 20th.

It’s an upbeat pop-rock song with a message that it’s okay to be yourself, and not allow others’ expectations define who you are: “Sometimes I feel like I don’t fit all the roles I’m paired with. I redefine, I walk a line. Know I’m going nowhere. Biding my time with questions. It doesn’t take much to keep me laughing. This could go forever to figure out why I know I’m doing just fine.

Musically, the track is a vibrant soundscape of sparkling and spacey synths, accompanied by beautiful chiming guitar, subtle bass and a spirited parade of skittering drumbeats. Oliver’s resonant vocals are heartfelt and charming, and I really like Gabriel’s backing falsetto harmonies. The distorted refrain of “I’ll Just Be Me” adds interest to the track. Throw in the catchy melody, and it all makes for a delightful feel-good anthem.

Connect with Gravity Castle on Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music on Spotify / Soundcloud / Apple Music
Purchase on iTunes / Amazon

WIDE EYED BOY – EP Review: “Sun Again EP”

Wide Eyed Boy Sun Again EP

Since first hearing their incredible debut single “Wolves” two years ago, I’ve been totally smitten with British band Wide Eyed Boy. I’ve featured the charismatic Liverpool foursome on this blog three times now, beginning with my review of “Wolves” almost exactly two years ago, in February 2017, then a review of their magnificent follow-up single “Loving You is So Easy” that July, and an interview in May 2018, shortly after the release of their third single “Sun Again”. They’ve just dropped their first EP Sun Again EP, and it’s my pleasure to feature them for the fourth time.

Wide Eyed Boy consists of Oliver Nagy (Vocals), Jonny Ball (Guitars), Kobi “Danger” Pham (Guitar, keyboards) and Tom Taylor (Drums). They all met at the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts, and quickly bonded over their shared love of music. They made the decision to release a series of singles to get their music out there and heard, and they’ve succeeded quite nicely. Since the release of “Wolves”, they’ve earned a reputation as one of Britain’s best indie bands, and have gained a large following of loyal fans.

The EP includes their three aforementioned singles, plus two new tracks. It opens with the title track “Sun Again,” an exuberant affair, with roiling riffs of Jonny and Kobi’s fuzzy guitars and bass, propelled by Tom’s furious drums and wildly crashing cymbals. Oliver has one of the most beautiful voices around today, and his smooth, clear vocals are dazzling, soaring along with the instrumentals as they build to a goosebump-inducing crescendo. About the song, the band states: “It’s about escape. Breaking out of that vicious cycle of mundane life and getting back that sense of freedom to go do whatever the hell you want.”

The beautiful new video just released for “Sun Again” features actor Daniel Donskoy, and alternately shows scenes of Wide Eyed Boy performing the song, and scenes of Donskoy portraying a man who’s angry and in distress, racing his car through the English countryside, then running from the car into a field and collapsing on the ground, spent and finally feeling free.

I loved “Wolves” the moment I heard it, and made me an instant fan of this band. Everything about this phenomenal track is perfect – the haunting melody, compelling lyrics, flawless arrangement and production, propulsive drumbeat, gorgeous sweeping synths, nimble, layered guitars, and Oliver’s incredible vocals that are absolutely mesmerizing. Oliver stated the song ‘is about letting people in that are bad for you.’ He passionately sings “Why can’t I leave it all behind? Why can’t I save myself this time? I fall just a little bit, don’t wanna be a part of it. Wolves are the only friends I know.”

“Wolves” was so awesome that I didn’t think the guys could top it, but I was even more blown away by their magnificent follow-up single “Loving You is So Easy“. The swirling guitars, sultry bass line, sweeping gnarly synths and Oliver’s captivating vocals are all positively breathtaking. The song lyrics are fairly straightforward – “I don’t care the way you care. I can see it in your stare. But the way that we collide, it’s getting harder every time. Loving you is so easy. Easy when I’m down, down, down” – but Oliver delivers them quite seductively, before launching into a soaring falsetto in the chorus, adding more chills to the ones already covering my body. I love this song so much it ranks #13 on my Top 100 Best Songs of 2017 (“Wolves” was #17).

Next up is “See the Light“, yet another beautiful song from this amazing band. This track is slower in tempo and more ballad-like than their other songs, with acoustic guitar, shimmery synths and gentle percussion. The song is about a relationship that’s failed past the point of return and the desire to move on. Oliver’s heartfelt falsetto vocals are sublime as he plaintively sings the poignant lyrics: “I’ve gone missing. Something’s not alright. I don’t wanna run but I’m struggling to see the light. / Can’t you see what I’ve become? Stay away from me.”

The band closes out the EP with the rousing pop/rock banger “Fire“. The radio-friendly track features a catchy melody, pulsating synths, chiming guitars and pummeling drums that all build to an exciting crescendo in the chorus. The lyrics are a plea to someone for whom the singer has strong feelings to save him with their love and support: “Fire! I’m burning now. I really need you now. Fire! Don’t let me down. Pull me from the ashes.

Sun Again is an awesome little EP with five outstanding tracks, and a testament to Wide Eyed Boy’s impressive songwriting and musicianship. I cannot wait to hear what new songs they come up with next to dazzle our eardrums.

Connect with Wide Eyed Boy: Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music:  Spotify / Soundcloud
Purchase:  iTunes / Google Play

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

lyia meta2

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

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

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

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

JETSTREAM – Single Review: “Delta Blues”

The other day my friend Susan tweeted about a new song “Delta Blues” by a band I’d not heard of before called Jetstream, tagging me along with several other music-loving friends as she customarily does to help spread the word about indie bands. Well, let me say that every single one of us were immediately blown away when we clicked on the YouTube link and listened to the song. Wow, “Delta Blues” is one hard-rockin’, foot-stompin’, gritty blues-rock mutherfucker! And though Jetstream sound like they’re from Tennessee or Mississippi, they’re in fact originally from the Rock of Gibraltar, and now based in the UK!

Jetstream
Photo by Eye Candy Photography

Like many bands, Jetstream has undergone some personnel changes since their formation in 2008, but the current lineup consists of Nolan Frendo (vocals), Stu Whitwell (guitars, keys), Tristan Tonna (drums), Justin Pou (bass), Aaron Ignacio (guitar) and Tristan Tonna (drums). Among some of their many musical influences are such greats as Aerosmith, Pearl Jam, Foo Fighters, Kooks, Counting Crows, The Killers, Kings of Leon, Coldplay and Green Day – all awesome bands I also love. They released their first EP in 2014, and have followed with a number of singles since then, the latest of which is “Delta Blues,” which dropped on October 26 (a date that interestingly saw a tremendous number of new releases by several artists and bands, a few of which I’ve recently reviewed).

“Delta Blues” kicks off with Tonna’s pounding drumbeat as Whitwell and/or Ignacio lay down deadly riffs of gnarly guitar, backed by a sinister pulsating synth and Pou’s throbbing bass line that set an ominous tone. Frendo’s gritty vocals deepen the tension as he tells the unfortunate tale of a woman named Delta Blues who swept him off his feet, only to betray him.

Way down in Mississippi I found the sweet Delta Blues
She strut so very pretty, I knew I had nothing to lose
She made her name in this town when her mama was 17
Knocked down a whiskey jigger, make eyes across the room
Be first to pull the trigger, don’t trust what you assume
She made a name in this town when her mama was 17

The guys dial up the heat of the instrumentals to boiling as Frendo passionately wails the chorus, sending chills up and down our spines:

And I, I met her in a dusty tap room
I kissed her in the Southern sun
I shot her in the darkest alley
I miss her in another’s arms

The rampaging guitars, bass and drums continue laying waste to the airwaves as Frendo’s raw vocals keep heaping new layers of chills upon us straight through to the end. What a great song! Take a listen and dial up the volume to full-blast!

Connect with Jetstream:  Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music on Spotify / Apple Music / Soundcloud
Purchase on  iTunes Google Play

ALEXIS GERRED – Album Review: “Alexis”

Alexis Gerred3

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

Alexis album

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

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

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

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

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

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

PAUL IWAN – Single Review: “Parasite”

Paul Iwan

Paul Iwan is a singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist based in the music mecca of Liverpool, England. He’s been involved in music since his early teens, playing and touring with numerous bands and, more recently, writing and recording his own songs. In 2008 he was mentored and championed by Ray Davies of The Kinks, and continues to collaborate with other artists and friends across the UK. He released his debut album Reveal in September 2016, an impressive tour-de-force that I reviewed, and encourage my readers to check out. Now, Paul is back with a powerful new track “Parasite.” It’s the first single off his forthcoming second album RESISTER, a autobiographical work of sorts that will address his newfound sobriety.

Paul told me that not long after the release of Reveal, “I was involved in a motorcycle accident, just as I was preparing to gig, which set me back quite a bit. In the following 18 months, I got clean and now I’m in recovery… I didn’t realise I had an issue, until I did! ‘Parasite’ is a warning, a lesson and a true story. Like all of the songs on RESISTER, this song is a fragment of my life prior to getting clean. It’s a song about addiction becoming a permanent fixture to solve issues, to erase memories and repress feelings.

“Parasite” was written, performed and produced by Paul, with Steven Burkert on drums. It was recorded at Studio 45 and SPACE in Liverpool, mixed by Andy Fernihough and beautifully mastered by Pete Maher (U2, Rolling Stones, Depeche Mode). The song opens strong with a gnarly guitar riff and Burkert’s pummeling drumbeat, accompanied by an echoed backing chorus repeating ‘OH!’ as Paul sings in his urgent tenor vocals of his internal struggles: “My head begins to spin, my double vision taking me. My soul, my body, my mind, I wish I could control it all again.” The music builds with heavier guitar and bass, hammering drums and glittery piano synths, ultimately exploding with Paul’s frantic riffs of jagged guitar in the chorus as he fervently agonizes: “I’m a pulsar. I’m paralyzed. Pulled apart by the parasite. A stranger in my own skin.

Eventually, a male voice over speaks of the pathology of alcohol addiction:  “Nobody quite knows which drink it is that takes him over the edge of being a merely social, hearty, laughing drinker into a morose and hungover wretched creature.” Paul laments of his inability to shake off his addiction: “The shame I feel is all too real. I know that I’m addicted. I’m too weak to stay in the fight. I’m down.” The guitars and power drums continue to rage and roil through to the end, making for a dramatic finish to a spectacular and deeply moving song. The lyrics, instrumentation, vocals, and production are all superb, and I look forward to hearing RESISTER upon it’s completion.

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