VICIOUS ROOSTER – Single Review: “The Moon is Dancing”

Vicious Rooster is the music project of singer-songwriter, musician and producer Juan Abella. Born and raised in Argentina, Juan began learning to play guitar at the age of ten, and played in bands and wrote songs while in high school. In college, he juggled his business studies with guitar lessons and playing in bands, then after graduation he temporarily set aside his music dreams to focus on his business career and long-term relationship. After the relationship ended, and experiencing stress over some family issues, he made the decision to quit his job and pursue his dream of becoming a musician. He adopted the moniker Vicious Rooster, and relocated to Los Angeles in 2016 to study music business at the renowned Musicians Institute in Hollywood.

Drawing inspiration from such bands as The Beatles, The Black Crowes, Guns’n’Roses and Alice in Chains, among others, Vicious Rooster melds elements of classic rock with Southern rock, folk and a bit of grunge to create his own unique style. He writes, sings and produces his songs, and plays guitar and harmonica. Using songs he’d previously written as well as new compositions, he released his excellent debut album The Darkest Light in 2017. It’s an ambitious and impressive work, featuring 12 tracks and running over an hour in length. Nine of the songs are more than five minutes long! Many of the song lyrics address moments where he felt lost during the transition from his past life and what became his present one.

After a three year long hiatus, he returned in August with his latest single “The Moon is Dancing“, a dark and powerful song with roots firmly planted in Southern rock. The song opens with a melancholy harmonica riff accompanied by a gently strummed guitar, evoking images of the Old West. As the song progresses, Vicious Rooster adds layers of chiming, gnarly and wobbly distorted guitars, along with heavier percussion, all of which build to a thrilling crescendo. He has an arresting and resonant singing voice, and his heartfelt vocals rise along with the intensifying music to impassioned screams that bring goosebumps.

The lyrics speak to feeling overwhelmed by worries, anxiety and loneliness: “The tension’s rising / My mind is going insane / And my defenses slowly crumble down / The moon is dancing / My thoughts are rolling to nowhere bound“; and searching for peace of mind and a sense of purpose in life: “I hope to find some peace along the way / I’m gonna rest my soul / I’m gonna keep on living life like there is somewhere I belong.” It’s a fantastic song.

To learn more about Vicious Rooster, check out his website

Follow him on FacebookTwitterInstagram

Stream his music:  SpotifyApple MusicSoundcloud

Purchase:  BandcampAmazonGoogle Play

OCEANOGRAPHY – Single Review: “Rainbow Records”

Oceanography is the music project of Oakland, California-based singer-songwriter and guitarist Brian Kelly. I recently learned about him when he followed me on Twitter and reached out to me about his music, which I liked at first listen. Drawing from an eclectic mix of styles and genres such as alternative rock, garage, rock’n’roll, punk, folk and pop, and expressed though exquisite guitar work, intelligent lyrics and arresting, emotion-packed vocals that remind me at times of Bono, Adam Duritz of Counting Crows or Robert Smith of The Cure, Oceanography creates melodically beautiful and incredibly compelling songs. Why he’s not more well-known is a mystery to me, as he’s really good!

He released two EPs, the first in 2011 simply titled EP1, followed a year later by the excellent Parachutes of Plenty, receiving critical acclaim from numerous Bay Area music critics. Then, after a seven-year hiatus, he dropped his brilliant debut album Collier Canyon in 2019. Named after a winding road in the hills outside of Livermore, California, a small city east of Oakland where Kelly grew up, he was inspired to write the album after some life-changing events. He explains: “I had planned on moving to LA, but then everything took a turn for the worse. First I was laid off from my job, then my girlfriend (and bandmate) broke up with me. So instead, in my mid-30s, I moved back in with my mom. It was a depressing situation. When I needed to clear my head, I’d take a drive in the hills outside of town.”

For the production and recording of Collier Canyon, Oceanography consisted of Kelly on guitars, bass, synth and vocals, Brock Bowers on drums, and Scott Barwick on keyboards. The album was mixed by Peter Labberton and mastered by Mike Wells. Filled with melancholy but lovely songs about loss and a nostalgia for the past, the album is an outstanding work, and I highly recommend my readers check it out on one of the music streaming sites listed below.

One of the singles Kelly released from the album is “Rainbow Records”, a bittersweet song about missing someone with whom you once had a romantic relationship, but still haven’t gotten over. Back in the days when cassette tapes were popular, many of us would record songs we liked from the radio onto mix tapes we’d make on our portable tape recorders. With this in mind as he thinks back on his own breakup, Kelly wistfully laments: “I’m thinking of you now / I can’t put out the torch, it has to burn out on it’s own / So I pull out your old Maxell tapes and play some radio songs.” He recalls happier times, while quickly acknowledging they’re now gone forever with the passage of time: “I remember you in ’84 knocking it around to ‘Purple Rain’ in the record store / Playing songs we can’t afford, now the tipping point has tipped and our fountain of youth has turned to shit.

Musically, “Rainbow Records” has a pleasing folk-rock vibe, but with a rather sorrowful undercurrent that makes for a surprisingly impactful track. Kelly’s guitar work is superb, starting off with a beautifully strummed acoustic guitar, over which he layers jangly electric guitar notes along with a humming bass line. Bowers beats the toe-tapping rhythm on drums while Barwick does a fine job with his subtle keyboards. Kelly’s fervent vocals have a strong vulnerability that nicely convey his feelings of heartache and longing expressed in the lyrics.

The terrific video he produced for the song shows a parade of old mix tapes, behind which is an ever-changing background of both real and surreal images, interspersed with footage of Kelly singing the song and playing his guitar.

Follow Oceanography:  FacebookTwitterInstagram

Stream his music:  SpotifySoundcloudApple Music

Purchase:  BandcampGoogle PlayAmazon

BENJAMIN BELINSKA – Single Review: “Young in Baltimore”

Ben Belinska

Benjamin Belinksa is an earnest and thoughtful young singer-songwriter and musician based in Newcastle, England. Born in Stoke-On-Trent to Welsh and Polish parents, Benjamin moved to Newcastle when he was 17, but soon thereafter spent time in Glasgow, Berlin, and then Paris, working at a series of menial jobs while also writing music as time permitted. After meeting fellow musician E.A.R in Paris, the two formed the band Paris, Texas, and released two albums with cult producer Kramer (Low, Will Oldham, Daniel Johnston). Eventually, they moved back to Newcastle together, where Benjamin suffered two serious setbacks: First, while rushing to catch a connecting train in York station, he left behind a suitcase containing most of his early songs, which he never recovered. Then, months later, he was viciously assaulted in a random attack by four guys in broad daylight as he was walking home from work, suffering injuries to his eye and throat that landed him in a hospital.

It was during his recovery period that he decided to stop drifting once and for all, and set down roots in Newcastle. He also got the impetus to write songs for what would become his debut solo album Lost Illusions, set for release on August 28. Thinking back on his years of drifting, and how it became an inspiration for the album, he told Ali Welford in an interview for NARC. Magazine: “Drifting is not a bad thing – it allows you to let go of many illusions, but still, they are very attractive. I wanted to grab hold of one again – namely, that I am the master of my own direction. The title ‘Lost Illusions’ is a reference to the childish disappointment that we all go through when we discover that the world is just a lot of silliness. But despite this, it only has one theme – the extraordinary sadness and wretchedness of human life, and my amazement at the fact that this wretched life can nevertheless be so beautiful and precious.”

On July 31st, Benjamin released “Young in Baltimore“, the lead single from the album. Like all the tracks on Lost Illusions, the song was recorded by Benjamin with a back-up band, and mixed and mastered at Soup Studio in London by Giles Barrett and Simon Trought. It’s a charming dream pop track, with a sunny, retro vibe that calls to mind some of the great soft rock and synth pop songs of the 1980s. The song has a lovely, upbeat melody, with a lively toe-tapping beat overlain by chiming synths and warm guitar notes. It all creates an enchanting soundscape that serves as a pleasing backdrop for Benjamin’s gentle, heartfelt vocals as he sings the bittersweet lyrics about a woman contemplating love’s regrets: “When you were young and dumb, he promised to make you his wife. Natural, and he’s cold, you say you’ve wasted your life.” The song also strikes a particular chord with me, as I grew up in San Jose, California, which is mentioned in the lyrics: “Was the winter in San Jose, yeah, the heart attack by the bay? What will you do, your past is blue, and your life is stuck there.”

About “Young in Baltimore”, Benjamin told me “While writing the song, I was thinking about the pressure to conform that we all go through, and how some of us enter into situations, relationships – not out of passion, but out of the illusion that we have no choice. I had moved to a new city, I was working a job I hated. I kept asking myself questions like ‘Have I made the right decision? Should I be doing this? Was it better before, when I was younger?’ I was also obsessed with Robert Frank’s photo-book ‘The Americans’, thinking about the people in those pictures, imagining their lives. I kept coming back to this image of a woman on a train. All of my regret, reluctancy and nostalgia collided with this image. It became a prism out of which another formed; somebody considering the end of a marriage. Only later did I realise it was a symbol of my life at that moment.

As for the bright-sounding music, it’s there to counteract the story. I was living in Glasgow at the time, too. It rains a lot there, so it was also in defiance of that. A rainy place needs sunny music.

Connect with Benjamin:  FacebookTwitter
Stream his music:  SpotifyApple Music / Soundcloud
Purchase: BandcampGoogle Play 

GHOST FAN CLUB – Single Review: “Speak to Me”

Ghost Fan Club

While most singer-songwriters tend to express themselves through their music to one degree or another, Tyler Costolo really bares his heart and soul on his songs. And like a number of musicians, The Fort Lauderdale, Florida-based singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist has chosen to articulate his feelings through song under a unique moniker to identify his music project. In Tyler’s case, there are two of them: Two Meters, which he created in 2018, and more recently, Ghost Fan Club, which he started earlier this year.

The music he creates as Two Meters has an edgier, more experimental vibe, with unconventional melodies and time signatures, heavily-textured guitars, harsh industrial synths and unusual lo-fi ambient sounds. Together with his distinctive off-kilter and monotone vocals that go from gentle whisper to impassioned screams, Two Meters’ songs are haunting, sometimes beautiful, and often startling. Under Ghost Fan Club, which he calls his “emo partner to Two Meters”, Tyler explores his softer side, with music consisting of mostly strummed acoustic and electric guitars, accompanied by more understated synths, drum fills and vocals. But with both projects, his deeply personal and honest lyrics explore the dark themes of loss and death.

He’s released a few singles as Ghost Fan Club, his latest of which is the poignant “Speak to Me“, which dropped August 14. Released through the independent label Knifepunch Records, the song was written recorded, produced and mixed by Tyler in his bedroom. It’s a very short track, running only one minute, twenty seconds, but makes quite an impact in that brief time. The song was inspired by Tyler’s memories of his mother: “One thing I didn’t consider when my mom passed away is that I’d eventually forget the sound of her voice.”

The song has a languid, moody vibe, but with an air of hopefulness. Over a reverb-heavy jangly guitar riff, Tyler layers sparking synths and gentle percussion to create a haunting, yet enchanting soundscape. With his soothing, breathy monotone, he expresses out loud his mental conversation with his deceased mother, telling her that he misses her and wishes he could hear her voice: “When I wake up I miss you most. I stay haunted by your Ghost. Speak to me, so I don’t forget your voice.” It’s positively sublime.

Connect with Ghost Fan Club: Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream his music:  SpotifyApple Music
Purchase:  Bandcamp / Google Play

THAT HIDDEN PROMISE – Single Review: “You Can Have the World”

That Hidden Promise single art

That Hidden Promise is the music project and alter ego of British singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Wayne Lee. Based in Somerset, England, he’s been recording and performing under that moniker since 2011. The talented and versatile fellow writes his own songs, creates all his own music, including beats and percussion, and plays acoustic and electric guitar. He’s produced an extensive catalog of alternative and pop-rock music over the past nine years, often incorporating blues, post-punk, folk, electronic, psychedelic and shoegaze elements into the mix, resulting in a varied and eclectic sound, and delivered with exceptional guitar work and vocals that remind me at times of Bob Dylan.

that-hidden-promise-photo

I first featured him on this blog in May 2017, when I reviewed his single “All Things, All Will Come”, then again in October 2018 when I reviewed his wonderful all-acoustic EP Drifted Hope. In August 2019, he released a compilation album All Things Here, Till Now (2011-2018), a sort of greatest hits album volume one, featuring 22 of his best recordings over that seven year period, including the five songs from Drifted Hope. Many of the tracks are really excellent, and I highly recommend my readers give them a listen on one of the music streaming platforms listed at the end of this review.

Now he returns with “You Can Have the World“, the lead single from his forthcoming album Who Knows Now?, scheduled for release on September 18. The album was entirely self-produced and recorded between March and May 2020, and Lee explains that many of its songs explore the subject of “trying to understand where we are individually and as a society, hence its title ‘Who Knows Now?‘” He further elaborates “The concept behind the single, is of someone looking into a city and world riven by division, chaos and revolution, whilst seeing the potential to rise through sacrifice and failure and up against a system all too quick to take the credit.”

The song blasts open with an onslaught of chiming and fuzz-coated gnarly guitars, accompanied by thunderous percussion that never lets up for an instant. Lee’s intricate guitar work is nothing short of spectacular as he delivers an explosive torrent of ever-changing textures that go from beautifully melodic to aggressive buzz-saw to screaming distortion. It all serves to create an electrifying and powerful backdrop for his plaintive vocals, driving home the urgency expressed in his biting lyrics. I think it’s one of the best songs he’s ever recorded.

As the city breaks down
I will look across and smile
For a thousand times or more, I’ve seen it die

A silhouette of reflections
A beating heart of righteous rage
Brings us to a point of certain change
And it goes
And it goes
Again

You can have the world
If you’re gonna pay
Though have you got the nerve
To fail again and again
Those who lead won’t keep you down
They may seek acclaim
But it’s clear
If I win, If I fail
In this world
Ain’t a damn thing to do with them

Connect with That Hidden Promise:  FacebookTwitterInstagram
Stream his music on  Soundcloud /  Spotify /  Tidal / Napster
Purchase on  iTunes /  Amazon / Google Play

AISHIA – Single Review: “Oceans Roar”

Aishia

Aishia is a lovely and talented young singer-songwriter who’s also gracious and kind, a rare commodity in an industry filled with oversize egos. Born in raised in Mumbai, India and now based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, she began studying Indian classical music when she was just five years old, but later developed an interest in western music and started taking lessons from a renowned vocal teacher in Malaysia. Building on her natural vocal gifts, her lessons have paid off well, as she has developed a rich and captivating vocal style.

When she was 11, she became obsessed with the music of Taylor Swift, and started writing her own songs. She recalls “I realised that she wrote and performed [her own songs], and therefore I ventured to do the same. I wrote about everything from my daily life to fantastically fictional tales about love and heartbreak. Most of these old songs will never be published, but they did help me become the songwriter that I am today.” Now 19, she is currently studying music production and sound engineering from Point Blank Music School, London.

In January 2019, Aishia released her enchanting debut single “Aura of Gold (The First Meeting)” (you can read my review here), then followed that March with her similarly-titled album Aura of Gold. Co-written and produced by Malaysian composer and music producer Zameer, the album is a stunning experimental concept work. The two wanted to create a cinematic environment through which its music could successfully tell the story of two people who fall in love, but eventually have to part ways due to events beyond their control. In April of this year, Aishia released her single “Turning Waters”, then followed with “Girl in Violet Clothes” in June. Now she returns with her latest single “Oceans Roar“, a sultry track that explores the feeling of being head-over-heels in love. Once again, the song was produced by her frequent collaborator Zameer.

Together, the two have created a steamy love song that’s a perfect tune for summer. Over a languid, pulsating dance beat evoking the fever of strong sexual attraction, Zameer layers a mix of techno and deep House synths that add to the song’s sensuous vibe. He even includes whoosh sounds to help us imagine waves crashing on a beach. Aishia has a beautiful, emotive singing voice, and here she summons her seductive vocal powers to express the intense romantic ardor described in her lyrical love letter. It’s a wonderful song.

I could find a hundred ways
To tell you how I feel today
Makeup’s on that vintage face
Cycles, hot summer days
I like it when it doesn’t rain
Will you tell me all you want to say?

Glittering wings of light
Starting to take flight
But you know that I’ll be by your side

Cause oceans roar, with your tones
You’re the one I adore
Oceans roar, oceans roar

Found out what I wanted to say
I’ll write it, on a piece of slate
Chalk marks, painted on your chest
Ice creams, frozen popsicles
Come with me to eternal grace
I’ll show you, how beautiful you taste

Connect with Aishia:  Facebook / Instagram / Twitter
Stream her music: Spotify / Soundcloud / iTunes 
Purchase:  Google PlayAmazon

CALLUM PITT – Single Review: “Fault Lines”

Callum Pitt single art

As a music blogger, I’m sent a continuous flood of music by artists, bands, labels and PR reps for my consideration for possible reviews. While a lot of it is decent or even quite good, I cannot possibly write about all that comes my way. But every now and then, a submission stands out among the rest, grabbing my attention or resonating with me in such a way that makes me want to share it with my readers. Such was the case when young British singer-songwriter Callum Pitt reached out to me with his powerful new single “Fault Lines“. I was not familiar with Callum, but after listening to it and his previous songs, I became an instant fan, as I love his music.

Based in Newcastle Upon Tyne in northeast England, Callum writes folk-inspired alternative and dream rock songs influenced by such acts as The War on Drugs, Bon Iver and Fleet Foxes. With his soft, pleasing vocals, rich harmonies, beautiful melodies and meaningful lyrics, he’s captured industry attention and built a growing fan base since the release in 2017 of his gorgeous first single “You’d Better Sell It While You Can.” His equally beautiful second single “Least He’s Happy” has been streamed nearly two million times on Spotify, an astonishing feat for an indie artist. He’s followed those two singles with several more over the past three years, as well as a four-song EP Poisoned Reveries in 2019. Also in 2019, Callum won the Alan Hull Award for songwriting. The award, named for the Newcastle-born songwriter and founding member of Lindisfarne Alan Hull, recognizes song-writers living and working in the North East.

Callum dropped his latest single “Fault Lines” on July 24th, which was released via Humble Angel Records. Although he’s addressed social and political issues on previous songs, with “Fault Lines” he takes a more direct and outspoken approach. He explains: “‘Fault Lines’ is about polarization. It is directed at the British government and right-wing press who have incited hatred and division in the public through their rhetoric over the past few years in particular, splitting us down the middle as ‘leavers’ or ‘remainers’, demonising immigrants and refugees, and allowing the stain of white supremacy to spread. It encourages ignorance and prejudice to be met with education and conversation.”

Though the lyrics are rather scathing, Callum delivers them with beautiful instrumentation and sublime vocals. His strummed guitar work is really wonderful, and complemented by lovely keyboards and crisp percussion that create a resounding backdrop for his fervent vocals lamenting the current socio-political divide afflicting Britain. The lyrics also describe the situation in the U.S. pretty well, which is why the song resonates so deeply with me. The large ceramic pitcher Callum holds in the photo that’s been broken and glued back together symbolizes our fractured society that can still be repaired if we have the will to come together in open and honest conversation.

Seems like all you do is fight and see the world in black and white
Spinning truths like you can move our minds as wind upon a kite
And we feel so small, like we can’t stem the tide at all
As papers sow the seeds of anger, setting off like a snowball

Well we got lies making divides from these soothsayers
Setting fires between two sides and I feel jaded
I push my head above the water
Pull away from the disorder, as the tides polarise

We got fault lines running through our bones
The division grows and leaves these empty holes

We rise and fall under the weight of words that fan the flames of hatred
When we demonise, we form a mind that will not be persuaded
Well I am so small and I can’t change too much at all
I’ve got no answers to these fractures, other than breaking these walls

Well we got lies making divides from these soothsayers
Setting fires between two sides and I feel jaded
I push my head above the water
Pull away from the disorder, as the tides polarise

We got fault lines running through our bones
The division grows and leaves these empty holes

Follow Callum:  FacebookTwitterInstagram
Stream his music:  SpotifyApple MusicSoundcloud
Purchase:  Google PlayAmazon

WAITING FOR SMITH – Single Review: “Lines of Love”

Waiting for Smith Lines of Love

Waiting For Smith is the music project of London-based singer/songwriter Harry Lloyd. His music career was born from adversity; while working as a ski instructor in the French Alps, Harry broke his back in two places during avalanche training. Fighting for his life as he was airlifted to the hospital in a helicopter, he had an epiphany that he should dedicate his life to music. He spent a year in bed recuperating and learning to play guitar, eventually naming his music act Waiting For Smith after a drummer named Smith who always failed to show up for recording sessions.

He quickly got to work writing and recording songs, and since late 2017 he’s released 12 outstanding singles that collectively have been streamed over 345,000 times on Spotify. Given his own life experiences, Lloyd is fascinated by change, which has inspired him to write songs that reflect our innate ability to evolve for the better. He says “I’m also a hopeless romantic, so a lot of my songs focus on the different angles on love. My music is like a free form of therapy and hopes that he can bring a similar liberating feeling of comfort and emotion, to make listeners smile and sometimes cry.” His sincere, accessible lyrics are delivered with upbeat, pleasing melodies, beautiful guitar work and his warm, soothing vocals.

Waiting for Smith

Following up on his previous single “Long Life”, a bouncy and heartwarming Americana-infused song he wrote during his recovery, Waiting for Smith released his latest single “Lines of Love” on June 26th. Produced by Andy Wright and Gavin Goldberg (Eurythmics, Annie Lennox, Massive Attack, Natalie Imbruglia, Jeff Beck), the song was inspired by a long-distance phone call from a friend Lloyd had one night while walking around King Cross. The song is a plea for someone to keep the faith and persevere through a difficult time in their life, an assurance that a loved one or friend will always be there for them no matter what, and that everything, even the most trying times, will pass eventually. Lloyd states “I want people to feel hopeful when listening to ‘Lines of Love’, to dance carefree and even raise their hands in an almost tribal sense of unity. We can overcome the speed bumps in the road, our lives and our relationships and that is surely where the good stuff comes from – out of the struggle.

“Lines of Love” has a pleasing folk vibe, opening with Waiting for Smith’s soothing vocals accompanied by his gently strummed acoustic guitar. A kick drum enters as he croons “It’s often difficult to over speculate. One minute you’re up and then you’re down, and that’s your day.  It’ll be alright, it’ll be just fine, it’ll be OK. But I guess we’ll never know. So please hold on to my lines of love, they are strong. And I promise that it won’t be too long now, before we have our house down by the sea in the sun.” As the song progresses, soft percussion is added along with his own backing vocal harmonies, giving the track a fullness of sound and a comforting sense of warmth reflected in the hopeful lyrics. It’s a wonderful song, and another winning single from this very talented young artist.

Follow Waiting for Smith:  FacebookTwitterInstagram
Stream/purchase his music:  SpotifyApple MusicSoundcloud/ Google Play 

A BLUE FLAME – Album Review: “The Secret Breeze”

British singer/songwriter and musician Richard Stone – who goes by the artistic name A Blue Flame – tells compelling stories about life, love, heartache and loss through poetic, thoughtful lyrics and sublime melodies. His music reflects an eclectic range of influences from doo-wop and old-school pop to easy listening ballads, folk, jazz and rock, delivered with sophisticated and utterly pleasing instrumentals and his smooth, clear vocals. The passage of time and the challenge of keeping the faith – both in God and oneself – are recurring themes in his songs, and while a lot of his lyrics are sad or bittersweet, they’re also lovely to listen to and rarely depressing, offering glimmers of optimism and hope. Stone also has a wry sense of humor that shines through on some of his songs.

A Blue Flame2

I first featured Leicester-based A Blue Flame on this blog back in October 2016, when I reviewed his beautiful debut album What We’ve Become is All That Now Remains. In January 2018, I reviewed his equally superb follow-up album When Your Whole World Turns to Dust, which he released in September 2017. (You can read those reviews by clicking on the “Related” links at the bottom of this page.) Now he’s about to drop his third album The Secret Breeze, set for release on August 17th, and which I’m previewing today.

Stone writes all his songs, sings vocals and plays guitar, and arranges them with assistance from Adam Ellis, who co-produces and also plays guitar. Other session musicians adding their skills to the album included Damon Claridge on drums, Tony Robinson on horns, Glenn Hughes on piano and Hammond organ, Tom Bull on upright bass and Jo Preston on flute. Though some of the songs were written prior to the outbreak of the pandemic, others reflect these trying times, as he explains: “One of the album themes (as ever) is loss, as I suppose that’s what I feel so keenly. I think the brightness of the 1960’s casts a long shadow to mix metaphors somehow. All that hope and positive change seems like it almost never happened.”

The Secret Breeze features 12 tracks, all of them very good to excellent, but I’ll touch on the ones that resonate with me. The opening track and first single released in advance of the album is “With Love from a Friend“, a bewitching song that beautifully showcases A Blue Flame’s superb songwriting and arrangement skills. The delicately strummed acoustic and chiming electric guitars, sparkling piano keys and jazzy upright bass notes are exquisite, and when combined with the languid tempo and lovely vocals, the song has a dreamy, atmospheric quality. The lyrics seem to be about an inability or fear to fully act on one’s true feelings: “I’m writing a letter that I’ll never send. From the edge of my memory, time without end. And I’ll write at the bottom, ‘with love from a friend’.” It’s a gorgeous song, and instantly one of my favorites on the album.

It’s Raining All Over the World” speaks to the sorry state of current events the world over, what with a global pandemic, rising authoritarianism and social unrest causing anxiety just about everywhere. A Blue Flame fervently laments “What have we done my friends? Looks like the end. Now it’s raining all over the world.” Despite the rather depressing lyrics, the music is great, especially the infectious doo wop melody, terrific guitar work and vibrant piano keys.

Another favorite of mine is “Too Fast“, both for its wonderful instrumentals and relatable lyrics. The song starts off with a gentle acoustic guitar, then a marching drumbeat ensues along with Spanish-style guitar notes as A Blue Flame sings of the rapid passage of time (something that freaks me out on an almost daily basis anymore): “We were too young to know what we were doing. Its just how it is. It’s how we all live…way too fast.” Eventually, the music expands to a carnival-like vibe, with exuberant flutes, horns, and more of those lively marching drumbeats that contrast with the pessimistic and timely lyrics: “The world’s a great big mess. It’s mad. And we can’t catch the truth as it rushes by. So, so, so, so sad.”

The bittersweet “The Moon Obscured the Sun” sounds like a song Harry Chapin and Burt Bacharach could have written together. The lyrics speak to a love that might have been, except that the two never had the courage to act on their feelings: “I remember you from a lifetime long ago. We were frightened into silence, by the things we didn’t know. We couldn’t find the words to say a love we should have spoken yesterday.”

Tiny Little Thing” is a poignant anthem about not allowing others to bring you down with their negative thoughts and hurtful words, causing you to curl up into a ‘tiny little thing’ a kinder and gentler metaphor for the fetal position: “These could be the good old days, if you decide to make them so. Don’t turn yourself into a tiny little thing. It doesn’t matter what you’ve done, who hurt you, or who you hurt. Don’t turn yourself into a tiny little thing.” I like the jangly guitars and crisp percussion, but the highlights for me are Hughes’ wonderful piano and organ work. And it goes without saying that I love A Blue Flame’s highly emotive vocals.

The standout track for me is the dark and sultry “Your Mother Said Everything Was Beautiful“. It’s a brilliant song, with an edgier vibe than many A Blue Flame’s songs, and I love it. The lush instrumentals are absolutely fantastic, especially the gnarly surf guitars, Hughes’ mournful organ and Robinson’s blaring wah wah trumpet that brings chills. The lyrics seem to speak to the conundrum of how people with the most wealth and power are often the most unhappy in life: “Your mother said everything was beautiful. Everyone had everything. They saw themselves as queens and kings. They had the keys to the secret breeze. They owned the wind in the trees. So please now tell me why, did all the people cry?

Album closer “If Tomorrow Ever Comes” is an interesting and dramatic song about contemplating the end of the world. It has a complex melody and powerful, varied instrumentation that make for a fascinating listen. It starts off like a folk tune, with sounds of waves crashing onto a beach, accompanied by a gently strummed acoustic guitar and reverb-heavy electric guitar chords. An organ soon enters as Stone croons “If tomorrow ever comes, I’ll be waiting there for you. You can take my hand and say ‘we did all that we could do’.” The music continues to build with jangly and distorted guitars, bass, heavier percussion, tambourine and glittery synths, while his vocals become more impassioned: “And if our sorrow ever leaves. We’ll dance into the sky. Looking down upon the earth, we’ll hold each other tight./ But we’re stuck inside a clock, wishing it would stop./ And you can’t tell what is real, when you’re turning on a wheel./ For if the world should end. We’ll not be there my friend./ If tomorrow never comes.” The music rises to a powerful crescendo, then fades as the song ends with the same crashing waves we heard at the beginning. It’s a fine finish to an outstanding and thoroughly satisfying album.

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

ANIA – Single Review: “Poison”

Ania

I recently learned about the amazing guitarist, songwriter and singer Ania Thomas – who identifies herself simply as Ania – when I read an interview with her by my Austalian friend Robert Horvat on his blog Rearview Mirror. Growing up in Poland, she developed a love for music at a young age. She emigrated to America as a teen, first to Chicago where she studied music at the School of Rock, then relocated to Los Angeles, where she’s now based, to study music at USC and also the Musicians Institute in Hollywood. Inspired by such artists as Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails, Blondie, St. Vincent, Tool, Rage Against the Machine, L7, Nirvana, Soundgarden and Alice in Chains, her aggressive music style is characterized by modern synth textures, killer guitar solos and commanding vocals.

In 2019, she released two terrific hard-rocking singles “Run Away” and “Doors Close”, then followed up this past May with her third single “Poison“. All three songs will be included on her forthcoming debut EP Ania in Chains, due out later this year. Ania wrote, sang and played guitar on the track, while two friends from her music theory class, both of whom are named Matt, played bass and drums. She also engineered and produced the track herself.

About “Poison”, Ania told webzine comeherefloyd: “The song is about a breakup and that someone who breaks you. [It] shows how people are focused on their own world and are ignorant of the society we live in. As people, especially millennials today, we forget and are ignorant of the corrupt political system we are a part of, and are more interested in social media.” In an interview with the webzine UDS, she further elaborated “I tried to write a dark pop song something in the veins of Nine Inch Nails’ ‘The Hand That Feeds’, that has a dark pop element to it and synths similar to what St Vincent writes.”

Well, I think she succeeds quite nicely, producing a song that’s longer and darker than her previous songs, and featuring progressive rock elements that give it a more sophisticated vibe that’s both compelling and satisfying in equal measure. Ania works magic with her guitar, delivering intricate riffs of jangly, grungy and psychedelic guitars while the two Matts keep the moody rhythmic grooves humming along with their bass and drums, respectively. The swirling spacey synths add to the song’s ominous atmosphere, as do Ania’s ethereal vocals as she almost menacingly croons the refrain “Air is filling up with poison, and you keep breaking my shit.

She’s also released a colorful video for “Poison” that was directed by Will Milvid and beautifully filmed by Alex Ioanoviciu. She explained her intent behind the video to the website Scottish Music Network: “I wanted the ‘Poison’ video to expose the inauthenticity of the beautiful and vibrant image that many people associate with Los Angeles. Hollywood glamour is a part of the city, but it’s got an angsty side too. We all have an impact on the world around us. I want people to wake up and think critically for themselves, and understand that we can all fight for change if we aren’t absorbed in our own image. Sometimes we’re blinded by it. But if we look up from our phones, we can fight for change and a better future.”

In the video, Ania is shown performing the song in an alley off Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles, interspersed with scenes of her breaking records and smashing a pie in her boyfriend’s face. In other scenes, she’s shown performing the song on stage in front of her drummer who’s wearing a Trump mask, finally having an altercation with him where she knocks him on his ass. Totally works for me!

“Poison” is a marvelous song that further advances Ania’s rising star as a female rock artist on the L.A. music scene and beyond. I plan to continue following her on her music journey.

Follow Ania:  FacebookTwitterInstagram
Stream her music:  SpotifyApple MusicYouTube
Purchase:  Google playAmazon