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.

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

Soricah

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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New Song of the Week – SAMI CHOHFI: “Dirty Your Soul”

Sami Chohfi

Sami Chohfi is a charismatic and talented singer-songwriter with an international pedigree. Half Brazilian by ancestry, he was born in Sacramento, California, and raised in both Florida and Brazil, before relocating to Seattle in 2001. Since 2008, he’s been front man, lead vocalist and guitarist for alternative rock band Blue Helix, and more recently, has been recording and releasing singles as a solo artist, beginning with “It’s Just Me” in April 2019. His latest single is “Dirty Your Soul“, which along with his two previous singles, will be featured on his forthcoming debut album Extraordinary World, due out later this year. “Dirty Your Soul” is a lovely and uplifting song of hope, which I’ve chosen as my New Song of the Week.

Sami wrote the song while vacationing in Lisbon, Portugal in early 2019. He explains his inspiration for the song” Walking the streets of Lisbon, I heard a street musician playing a beautiful song. In a crowd of people I was the only one who seemed to be listening. This reminded me of how being an artist can be a lonely journey. When we reveal our souls all we want is to connect with others and be accepted. If I could give my younger self advice, I would tell him this: ‘While life might bruise your body and dirty your soul along the way, you should remember to always find hope in yourself and fight for a better tomorrow’.

The song has a pleasing folk vibe, with strummed acoustic guitar and the faintest of backing synths and percussion. Although not part of the lyrics, at the beginning of the video these words are shown, providing the contextual basis for the song: “Children are born with a pure and innocent spirit. As we go through our journey and face our obstacles, life may dirty your soul.” Sami has a beautiful singing voice with quite a range, as I’ve heard his raw, impassioned rock vocals on some of the Blue Helix songs. But here, his vocals are mostly gentle and comforting as he sings “And if I knew that life would split me in two, maybe I would not have given so much.  Cause it’ll dirty your soul, It’ll dirty your soul.”

The delightful and colorful video was filmed in various locations in India over a period of 10 days during Holi Festival, an annual festival marking the arrival of spring, and a time of forgiveness, renewed friendship and the triumph of good over evil. The video was directed by Alexandre Suplicy, and shows Sami performing the song with his guitar in various locations, including the majestic New Rangji Mandir temple in Vrindavan, the colorful Patrika Gate in Jaipur, and the Old Delhi Spice Market, where he’s in a cart being pulled by a man on a bicycle. Some particularly sweet scenes are of Sami sitting and playing his guitar surrounded by Indian children, who throw bowlfuls of colored powder on him. Throwing of colored powder is a tradition of Holi celebration, which is often referred to as the ‘holiday of color’. Besides English, the video is also available in Portuguese and Hindi.

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ANDY STERN – Single Review: “I Don’t Mean To” ft. Greg Blackman

I recently learned about British songwriter Andy Stern when he followed me on Twitter, and reached out to me about his new singles “I Don’t Mean To.” and “It’s Your Love That Keeps Me Going“. Originally from London, but now living in Herfordshire, Andy has long wanted to be a songwriter, and taught himself to play the guitar around five years ago so that he could write songs. In his bio, he explains “I have always loved listening to beautiful melodies written by the likes of Paul McCartney, Stevie Wonder, Barry Gibb and countless others. Melodies that take you somewhere unexpected. I also love the stark, simple messages that Phillip Larkin expressed in his poems; he can make you think, ‘I didn’t realise I felt that till now’. These people have helped me write songs about my own life experiences and observations. As we go through life our perspectives on love and close relationships change. This is what I try to capture in my songs.”

Not being a singer himself, Andy looks for talented singers who are touched by his songs and lyrics enough to want to sing them. As such, he has worked with established British vocalists like Greg Blackman and Roisin Quinn to help bring his songs to life. Greg has a beautiful and soulful voice, and happily sang vocals on Andy’s latest singles. Nick Kozuch programmed additional instruments and produced both tracks, and played guitar on “I Don’t Mean To.”. Daniel Arbiter played guitar on “It’s Your Love That Keeps Me Going”.

“I Don’t Mean To.” is a heartfelt song of apology to a loved one, letting them know you didn’t mean to make things difficult, and hoping they’ll give you another chance:  “You and me know, we know that we don’t get on too easily. It’s nothing new, Me trying too hard to get through to you. Probably drove you away. I don’t mean to.” The song has a pleasing vibe, with strummed guitars, gentle percussion and delicate synths. Greg’s soft, smooth vocals nicely convey the vulnerability expressed in the lyrics.

The second track “It’s Your Love That Keeps Me Going” is a beautiful song of love to someone who’s love has sustained him. The track has an R&B feel that calls to mind some of the 60s and 70s songs by Soul groups like The Originals, The Dells and Heatwave, thanks to its languid doo wop-inspired melody. The instrumental work is really lovely, highlighted by intricate guitars, gentle drumbeats that sometimes border on military-style, and smooth organ. Greg’s beautiful vocals sound especially soulful here, occasionally rising to a sublime falsetto that reminds me of the late Donny Hathaway as he croons “And it’s you, makes me see what a wonderful world this can be. Like you open it up for me. Happiness is a gift that you give to me thankfully. Cos it’s your love that keeps me going.”

I’m impressed by the quality of Andy’s songwriting and lyricism, and really like both of these outstanding singles a lot. To hear more of his songs, check out his Website and one of the music sites listed below.

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SOFT SHELTER – Single Review: “Just a Ride”

Soft Shelter Just a Ride art

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

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

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

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

 

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BRYDE – Album Review: “The Volume of Things”

Bryde

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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BLOOM DE WILDE – Album Review: “The Heart Shall Be Rewarded by the Universe”

Bloom de Wilde album art

Bloom de Wilde is a London-based singer-songwriter, producer and visual artist with a fascinating and eccentric avant garde sound. Born in the Netherlands to a Dutch artist mother and an Indonesian father who lead his own traditional Indonesian music ensemble known as Gamelan, Bloom’s experiences growing up in a multi-ethnic environment led her to develop an innovative and imaginative approach to her music. Drawing from an eclectic mix of influences by some of her favorite artists such as Radiohead, Jeff Buckley, Tom Waits, Björk, Billie Holiday, Chet Baker, Nina Simone and Toxic Chicken, Bloom fuses elements of dream, ethno and experimental art pop, folk and jazz with unconventional melodies and a rich mix of instruments to create exuberant, colorful soundscapes that transport us to exotic, faraway places. Moreover, her unusual and distinctive vocal style has earned her comparisons to Joanna Newsom, Kate Bush and Björk.

Bloom De Wilde2

Bloom has been writing and recording songs for several years, and some of her older tracks can be found on her Soundcloud account. In July 2019, she began releasing a series of singles, starting with “Soul Siren”, which won both the International Songwriting Award for best female singer songwriter, and the UK Songwriting Competition for Best Video. That October, she followed up with “Rock, Plant & Animal”, a hopeful ode to nature and earth. That song won the Alternative Friday Award for best Folk & Art-pop track. She later released two more singles “Atlas Cassandra” and “Do & Be”, and on June 12, dropped her debut album The Heart Shall Be Rewarded by the Universe.

Released via Dream Society Records, the album features those four tracks plus two others. I asked her why she’s calling it an album when it contains only six tracks. She responded that “format-wise it’s an EP, but content-wise it’s definitely an album.” The songs were written and arranged by Bloom, who sang all vocals and played several instruments including piano, Fender Rhodes electric piano, guitar, harmonium, glockenspiel, organ and synth programming. The tracks were co-produced by her and Nick Trepka and Sam Ritchie, who also played some of the instruments. In addition, ten other musicians played various instruments on the album, including flugelhorn, kora, viola, violin, trumpet, trombone, saxophone, tuba and double bass, all contributing to the songs’ lush, dreamy sounds.

About the album, Bloom explains: “These songs have all been inspired by the human beings and cats that are closest to my heart; and as we are all the Universe perceiving itself through infinite subjective perspectives, I feel it is via the Heart that the Universe speaks. In these strange and challenging liminal times, I feel it is possible for us to create a new reality – a life-sustaining harmonious world where people are kind and generous to all earthlings, human or animal, and look after the planet and it’s plant life with love and care. This album is an invitation to celebrate life in all its wondrous, colourful exuberance. Let’s sing, dance, dream, paint, play and meow a new world into existence.

Bloom opens her album with “Soul Siren“, a delightful song of love. Employing an exotic and lush array of instruments, highlighted by soulful trumpet and shimmery notes from a West African kora, she fashions an enchanting backdrop for her quirky vocals. She uses her voice like another instrument, reaching almost childlike high notes as her voice sweetly coos, then soars with an emotion-filled confidence in the choruses.  She sings of her strong emotional and physical connection with her beloved – she’s the siren to her soulmate: “I will show you all the secret hearts I’ve hidden in my chest. We could now do all the things that we always wanted to, but never dared. I’m all yours, your Soul Siren.”

On the pleasing and catchy “Do & Be“, Bloom urges us to just live our lives as simply and honestly as possible, keeping in touch with the real world and the natural beauty around us, and not overthink everything: “Sleepers should be dreamers, oh i know It’s so obvious it drives me crazy.” The colorful and whimsical video she made for the song showcases her creativity and playfulness.

Atlas Cassandra” has a rather dark spiritual vibe, with Bloom sounding like a high priestess as she croons against a dramatic and mysterious backdrop of tinkling xylophone, somber drumbeats and soaring strings. The captivating “Rock, Plant & Animal” is a beautiful, uplifting tribute to earth and nature. She explained her inspiration for the song: “I wrote this song for my children, about this living Earth I love so dearly, and all the precious life upon it. I believe everything in this world has a living essence, a soul, and all is connected. We are all One – Rock, Plant and Animal.” (You can read my detailed review here.)

The exuberant anthem “Animal Spirit” was written in 2018, and in a sense could be considered Bloom’s theme song. It expresses her philosophy – her inherent ‘animal spirit’ if you will – of her reverence for earth and all living things, and how she chooses to conduct her life on this planet, promoting respect for life in all its myriad forms: “I won’t stop, I’ll never give up. I’m inside this eternal movement. I will not be held back by darkness or heaviness. Never, never cease to be driven by the heart, by the art, the magic and the marvellous.”

Pale Moon, Golden Light” is a tender and languid ballad, with a more stripped-down sound consisting of only piano and light percussion. Bloom softly croons to a boy with assurances that her love can calm the savage beast in him: ” What’s the matter with you boy? Madness strikes under your window with a sword. Climbing up & down the ladder. Who is there? I’m there. / Could it be that you’re the one for me?

The Heart Shall Be Rewarded by the Universe is an utterly enchanting and eccentric little album that’s unlike anything I’ve ever heard by any other artist. Bloom de Wilde is a brilliant, creative and innovative artist, though I can imagine that her style and sound might not appeal to everyone. But if you like music that’s colorful, avant garde and thoroughly unique, you will enjoy this album.

Connect with Bloom:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream her music:  Spotify / Soundcloud / Apple Music
Purchase:  Bandcamp / Google Play

NATH JACKSON – EP Review: “Dreamers & Deceivers”

Nath Jackson

June 5th was a popular day for new music releases, and I’ve been writing about a fair amount of it over the past few days. My latest entry is the new EP Dreamers & Deceivers by British singer-songwriter and guitarist Nath Jackson. I first learned about the talented Leeds-based artist last summer when I reviewed an EP by electronic music project The Ocean Beneath that he collaborated on. He co-wrote and sang the lyrics on two of the tracks on that EP, and I was really impressed with his beautiful vocals.

Nath has now released a collection of songs with his own debut EP. Once again, he collaborated with The Ocean Beneath, who produced the EP. Backing vocals were sung by his brother Aaron Jackson, with drums performed by Karl Rigby. The EP contains four tracks, the first of which, “Oncoming Storm“, was released as a single last December (you can read my review here). It’s a hauntingly beautiful number, highlighted by Nath’s gorgeous strummed acoustic guitar, melancholy but lovely piano keys, and gentle cymbals evoking waves crashing on the shore in advance of an oncoming storm. His smooth, clear vocals are urgent yet comforting as he sings to someone afraid of committing themselves to love or even to life, for fear of being hurt: “But it’s all too little too late. If life’s a game then you better play. From the upside to the down. The lost and the found. You better move soon before you hit the ground. And they’ve all got something to say. Waiting for those better days. From the love that you choose. There spreading out the news. Where do you go when you got nothing to lose? Nothing to lose.”

Setting Sun” was one of the songs he co-wrote and sang for The Ocean Beneath’s EP. Their version had a lush and mesmerizing synthwave approach in the style of Giorgio Moroder, whereas Nath’s version is more stripped-down, with stunning layered acoustic and electric guitars, drums and gentle orchestral synths. Both are wonderful and I love them equally. I love the sound of his vocals as sings of someone trying their damnedest to avoid committing to love: “Well you may be the last one standing. The devil’s on your tail but you keep on graspin’. Sail your dreams out to the sea. Pulling on the line and bring them home to me. The love light and watch it shine. And I won’t stop until you are mine. You don’t know what you’ve become. And you can’t hide behind the setting sun.”

The Beatles-esque “Blink of an Eye” starts off with just Nath’s piano keys and plaintive vocals, then the music gradually builds with added percussion, strings and guitar to become a beautiful, uplifting anthem. With his brother Aaron’s soaring chorus in the background, Nath entreats a loved one about what I’m guessing is an attempt to try and get their relationship back on the right track: “Maybe there ain’t time to look back. Trying to keep peace of mind. Staying on the right track. Well I guess no one’s to blame. Or in other words, stop sliding away, before it hurts. You keep on coming in and out of my head. Wanna say the things the things that are better left unsaid. We can dance under the moon. I’ll be your fool. Make up our own rules. Staring deep into space. And we’ll watch the world go by. Within the blink of an eye.

The title track “Dreamers & Deceivers” has an edgier folk-rock vibe, with a lively guitar-driven melody. I like the mix of acoustic and swirling electric guitars, and the organ adds a nice textural sound to the proceedings. The lyrics speak of both parties coming to the realization that their relationship is broken beyond repair, and it’s time to end things and move on: “Fingertips away but oceans apart. An exit to an overplayed part. As you stand, you dream and deceive your way to the end of the line. Hit the road always the first to say, it’s time now baby, bye, bye, bye. The air that you breathe, the money you need, it feels like you’re gonna explode. Hold on to one last look. It’s high time I gotta go, go, go, go go.”

Dreamers & Deceivers is a terrific little EP, and my only criticism is that I wish it had more than just four tracks. Nath is a fine songwriter, guitarist and vocalist, and I could listen to his pleasing music for hours. For now, I’ll just have to play his EP on repeat until he releases more music.

Follow Nath: Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream his music on Spotify / Soundcloud/ Apple Music
Purchase on Bandcamp / Google Play

JAMES BAKIAN – Single Review: “Kiss Tonight”

James Bakian Kiss Tonight

One of the youngest artists I’ve had the pleasure of featuring on this blog over the past couple of years is the remarkably talented British singer-songwriter James Bakian. (You can check out my previous reviews, which are listed under ‘Related’ at the bottom of this page.) Based in London, England, the hard working and charismatic teen began writing songs and playing piano as a child, and released his first EP in 2016 when he was only 13. He writes all his lyrics and music, records and/or programs all the instruments, and even produces and mixes his own songs. Since 2016, the prolific young artist has released a second EP and more than 20 singles!

Now he returns with his latest single “Kiss Tonight“, which drops today, June 5. It’s a romantic, feel-good love song about the strong feelings of desire you get when you’re around that one special person, but also a bit frustrated that they’re being slow to respond in kind. Like many of his songs, the melody is driven by his jazzy piano keys, accompanied by warm synth bass and mellow, toe-tapping percussive beats. James adds funky guitar notes and ethereal swirling keyboard synths to the mix, creating a lovely musical backdrop for his smooth vocals.

I’ve been following James for well over three years, and it’s been gratifying to see him mature and grow professionally. Not only has the quality of his songwriting continued to improve, but as he’s gotten older the sweetly innocent vocals of his early teens have nicely matured into a rich and deep baritone that sounds more soulful than ever. Despite the fact he’s still only 16, his beautiful resonant vocals convey a maturity and confidence that makes us believe him when he sings of his ardor:

I’ve been waiting for this
Endless searching for it
Everything I wanted
I need someone who I’ll miss tonight
I need someone I might kiss tonight
Oh yeah
Just give me your all
Give me everything
I won’t hesitate
I need someone I might miss tonight
I need someone I might kiss tonight

Now I’m waiting for you to say something
But you’re not giving me what I wanted
So I’ll sit back and wait for you
Wait for you to make your move
Cause it’s impossible to ignore you
I could try but I really don’t want to
Yeah you got me feeling the blues
I got nothing better to do

Tell me what you want
I mean come on there’s gotta be something
somebody who you can trust in
Oh
Tell me what you need
Maybe I could supply it for you
in my head I just wanna adore you

“Kiss Tonight” is another stellar single, and I see only a continued upward trajectory for this very talented young artist.

Connect with James:  Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream his music on  Spotify / Soundcloud / Apple Music / YouTube
Purchase on  iTunes / Google Play

LYIA META – Single Review: “Now I Know the Reason Why”

lyia meta2

One of my favorite female vocalists is Malaysian singer-songwriter Lyia Meta, who I’ve featured a number of times on this blog over the past two and a half years. (You can read my previous reviews listed under “Related” at the end of this post.) Based in Kuala Lumpur, Lyia is an astonishingly talented, gracious and lovely woman, with a dazzling powerhouse voice to match. (She’s also a highly accomplished visual artist, and last year did a wonderful pencil drawing of me, which was very flattering to say the least!)

With her deep, smoky and resonant vocal style, and masterful ability to cover multiple genres ranging from blues and hard rock to pop and country with ease, she’s become an international music star, winning numerous music awards over the past several years, including the 2018 Josie World Music Artist Award, which was presented to her in Nashville, Tennessee. More recently, her song “All of My Love” has been nominated for an International Portuguese Music Awards People’s Choice Award in two categories.

While Lyia often writes her own songs, she also collaborates with other songwriters and musicians from time to time, not only to broaden her own musical horizons, but also to support other songwriters. With that in mind, for her latest single “Now I Know the Reason Why” she collaborated with songwriters Mike Jones and Jerry Jake Howard, Sr. The song was inspired by a true story and written from first hand experience, and although it’s not Lyia’s own story, the powerful lyrics strongly resonated with her. The song was produced by R. Gary Farmer, who also played organ and keyboards. Session musicians Michael Headrick played steel and lead guitar, Chips Roland played bass and Al Samples played drums.

“Now I Know the Reason Why” is a beautiful, blues-soaked country song about the sorrow and pain that comes from losing someone you love to another. The bittersweet lyrics are from the point of view of a woman seeing the man she loves marry another woman. It’s the kind of heartbreaking torch song Patsy Cline could have sung back in her day, and Lyia’s marvelous heart-wrenching and bluesy vocal performance makes us believe she’s lived every word of it. Listening to her sing, it’s easy to think she’s from Nashville rather than Kuala Lumpur. The instrumentals and music arrangement are superb, and I especially love the terrific organ, piano and steel guitar that give the track its wonderful country flavor. It’s a great song.

I saw my baby with her yesterday
Oh how it hurts, it was his wedding day
I saw my love walk down the aisle
I heard the words they had to say
I heard them say ’til death do us part’
Every word was hurting my heart
And I saw the way he kissed her
And how he held her so tight

I saw the way he held her hand in his
And lord, all I could do was cry
Because I’m losing the one who loves me
And now I know the reason why

I saw the way he kissed her
And I saw the look in her eyes
And then I heard them say ‘I do’
And all I could do was cry

I saw my love walk down the aisle with his new love
And then I watched them drive away
Lord I lost my true love on that day
And now I know, yes now I know the reason why

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