SARAH MAY – Single Review: “Nothing to You”

London-based singer-songwriter Sarah May has had music in her blood nearly all her life. She began writing songs at the age of nine, and taught herself to play guitar and keyboard. She recorded her first song when she was 14, and released her first CD of original songs at 17. Since then, she’s continued to write, play and release music, also managing to earn a Bachelor’s degree in Criminology and Criminal Justice along the way. To date, she’s written over 100 songs that touch on many of life’s perplexing issues such as love and heartache, depression, addiction, politics, sexism, partying and financial hardship.

Sarah has just dropped a gorgeous and haunting new single “Nothing to You.” It’s a rather long track, clocking in at 5:22 minutes, but is so lovely and compelling I don’t want it to end. Opening with a somewhat mournful keyboard synth, the song gradually expands into a captivating soundscape of moody synths and gentle percussion as Sarah’s smooth vocals wash over our ears. Her voice is stunning and understated as she earnestly sings the lyrics addressing the pain of unrequited love, of being obsessed with someone who has no feelings for you:

Sittin’ here missing you knowing I’ve not crossed your mind
Things still remind me of you regardless of the passing time
Trying to find out what you’re doing without having to get in touch
Feeling like a stalker, Never knew I liked you this much

I wanna go wherever you are right now
Though I know it’s not a good idea
Or I could drink alone at home
Find someone else on Tinder

I want you to see me and fall in love with me
I want you to be near and sense that I am here
But dream is all I do, because I mean nothing to you

The backing choruses, which I’m guessing are Sarah’s own vocals layered over her main vocals, are sublime, giving the track a dreamy ethereal quality that beautifully emphasizes the sense of loneliness expressed in the lyrics. It’s a marvelous song.

Connect with Sarah May: Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream/purchase “Nothing to You” on Spotify / Soundcloud / iTunes

NOREiKA – EP Review: “Still Falling”

Peter Noreika

NOREiKA is Peter Noreika, a singer/songwriter from western New York state, near Buffalo. He started out his music career as a guitarist for a few heavy metal bands, but eventually quit the business to become gainfully employed, get married and start a family. He never lost his passion for music, though, and eventually picked up his guitar once again and returned to making music, this time as a solo artist. In 2015 he released his debut EP METACOUSTiFOLK, a three-track work in which he combined his love of heavy metal and acoustic guitar and interpreted it in a folk music style. As he describes in his bio, “I’m a blue collar guy in a white collar world. I’m a heavy metal shredder with an acoustic guitar. The music I write and play is not of the style I typically listen to. I stopped trying to be specific things, and instead started going where the wind would take me. I’m not bound by genre. I’m free to do what I want, and that’s what I’m going to do: Make “MY” music. 

He followed METACOUSTiFOLK a year later with Throw the Switch to Begin, featuring four acoustic and melodic rock songs. In 2017, he released his third EP BoXaRoX, on which he departed from the fuller sound of his previous EPs by stripping down the music to just acoustic guitar and vocals. I also reviewed that EP, which you can read here.

Keeping to his pattern of releasing a new EP each year, NOREiKA has just dropped his latest effort Still Falling. The new four-track EP sees a return to heavier instrumentation, with the addition of electric guitars and synthesizers, as well as more serious subject matter. As with his previous releases, he wrote and performed all music (guitar, bass and synths) with the exception of drums, which were played by the legendary Joe Goretti (who also played drums on the first two EPs).

Noreika EP

Finding My Way” kicks off the EP with layers of fast-paced intricate guitars, accompanied by just the right amount of percussion to keep the beat, while letting NOREiKA’s awesome guitar work shine. In his urgent vocal style, he sings about the struggles of being an aging rock musician. Not one to handle the routine of a 9 to 5 career, you’re living your dream of doing what you love and playing music, but time and the endless grind of touring and performing take their toll on the body and spirit too.

Living the dream, I never run out of steam. 
Get to pick and choose, I got nothing to lose. 
I can do no wrong when I’m rockin’ my song. 
Having a blast, when I’m playing fast. 
Then it’s off the stage to turn the page, 
on another day, in my own way. 

It faded away and left me in decay. 
There was nowhere to go, after the show. 
So I roamed for a while, mile after mile. 
Time passed by with no reason to fly. 
I never did jive with the 9 to 5, 
but it sucked me in and here I begin. 

How do I find my way back home? 
It’s been too long, and I’ve grown too old. 
How do I find my way, to where I belong? 

Tightrope” is a rather dark sounding song with chugging riffs of jangly and chiming guitars, spooky synths and a powerful thumping beat. The hopeful lyrics offer encouragement to a loved one to have faith, be honest, and not give up in their search for their own truth and path forward. “Moving on, facing fear, to soar you will defy. Speak your mind, say your truth, and never, ever lie. Closer to the other side, claim the prize that you can’t buy.”

The subject definitely turns darker on “Moment in Time,” a song about coming to terms with one’s self-destructive behavior and the damage it’s caused to his life and relationships. “Tried to tell me, but I walked on past, to one more day that could have been my last. You had enough, and taken all you could, so you gave up on me though I never thought you would.” The hard-driving beat and NOREiKA’s muscular, layered guitar riffs make this a real banger of a track.

On “View From the Heights,” NOREiKA sings of the rebelliousness of youth and the yearning to be free:

Hitting the streets, not sure where we’ll meet. 
I got a place in mind that’s hard to find. 
In the back of the park where it’s always dark. 
We can take a toke and share the smoke. 
I can see the lights coming. 
Got to run to be free. 
I can see the lights coming. 
Won’t they let us be. 

Once again, he dazzles our senses with his skillful guitar work, weaving together multiple textures to create a rich, guitar-driven soundscape that’s both dynamic and incredibly satisfying to lovers of guitar rock like me. I love Goretti’s aggressive drumming on this song, and the well-placed wobbly synths are terrific as well, lending a bit of a psychedelic vibe to the track. In fact, all four tracks are superb, and I think Still Falling is NOREiKA’s finest work yet.

Connect with Peter:  Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream his music:  Spotify / Reverbnation / Soundcloud
Purchase:  Bandcamp / iTunes / Amazon

ARTIST SPOTLIGHT – EVERY LOVELY THING

I’m always intrigued by the names musicians and bands come up with for themselves, especially when they’re interesting, clever or unusual. I recently ran across an act with a particularly nice moniker – Every Lovely Thing, an aptly-named music duo from Dayton, Ohio consisting of singer-songwriters Marianne Kesler and Kate Stanton. Long-time friends, the two share a passion for music, and one day in 2015 while having coffee together they decided to collaborate on writing a song. Marianne was already an established singer-songwriter, having written and recorded her own songs, but it was the first time she collaborated with another to write songs, and it was a totally new experience for Kate.

One song eventually turned into twenty and, now that they had a repertoire of songs, they decided they needed a name for their project. In an interview with Ohio-based webzine The Crazy Mind, the ladies explained the inspiration behind their name: “Our tagline is ‘songwriting duo creating beauty out of brokenness one note at a time’ and the name Every Lovely Thing is echoing that concept. It came to mind while reading lines from the Bible, “ … Whatsoever things are lovely … think on these things”.” Their pleasing sound can be best be described as ambient dream pop, characterized by beguiling melodies, delicate instrumentation and sublime, harmonizing vocals. Kate plays piano, keyboard, and synths, while Marianne plays acoustic guitar on most songs. Kate sings lead vocals on many of their songs, with Marianne providing the counter-parts and harmonies.

In August 2016, they headed to St. Louis to record their first single “Running” with producer Ben Kesler at Red Pill Studios. The song was released later than month, with the accompanying video released on October 1st. It’s an arresting song with a quiet intensity. The simple but hauntingly beautiful piano-driven melody, accompanied by gentle percussion and spare synths, create a somewhat somber, yet hopeful mood for the poignant lyrics. “Thinking of who I used to be. My brokenness is all I see. I keep pretending to be free. The past has made a fool of me. / How far? How long? I keep running.” They explain that the song is about toxic relationships, but rather than the term “running” meaning to flee from problems, it’s intended to represent “a healthy acceptance of ourselves, and of moving (or running) toward the freedom of positive life-affirming boundaries.”

Their follow-up single, “Not the Only One” was released in April 2018. About this track, the ladies state: “We feel the song is very accessible … probably everyone can relate to feeling like they are the only one in some situation during their life. One favorite line is ‘weighed down with sorrow so much deeper than our own’.” The enchanting song has a similar haunting quality as “Running,” with Kate’s delicate piano notes, but this time includes Marianne’s soothing acoustic guitar and pleasing drums played by Luke DeJaynes.  Kate’s vocals are soft and lovely, and when combined with Marianne’s backing harmonies, the result is an incredibly moving and beautiful song.

The ladies have recorded a number of songs, five of which are available for streaming or purchase on Bandcamp, and have been performing them and additional songs at gigs in and around Dayton. Here’s a video montage of a performance in Springfield, Ohio in October 2017:

They just released a new video of their latest single “Can You Show Me,” and strike gold once again with their compelling lyrics, sweet melodies and gorgeous vocal harmonies. Marianne’s acoustic guitar takes center stage on this song, accompanied by Kate’s delicate keyboard and other synth sounds. The song speaks of searching for  spiritual guidance to help overcome fear and self-doubt, and guide one’s path forward in life:

Black hole blinding vision obscured 
Panic rising terror incurred 

Fallen trembling shaken and stirred 
Waking wanting awaiting your word 

Watching wondering 
Longing listening 
Breathing, beholding everything that’s You … 

Where will I go? 
How will I know? 
Which way leads home? 
Can you show me? 

The lovely video for the track, which they produced, shows scenes of Marianne wandering around her town as if in search of something, discovering clues painted on rocks hidden in various spots.

Every Lovely Thing are two very talented singer-songwriter-musicians who together create beautiful, uplifting music that’s pleasing to the ear and soothing to the soul. I look forward to following Kate and Marianne on their musical journey, and hearing their new song creations.

Follow Every Lovely Thing on Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music on Spotify / Apple Music  
Purchase on Bandcamp / cdbabyiTunes / Amazon

JAMES BAKIAN – Single Review: “Terrified”

James Bakian Terrified

James Bakian is an exceptionally talented, hard working and charismatic young singer/songwriter from London, England. He wrote his first song at the age of six, began studying piano at seven, and released his first EP By Your Side in 2016 when he was only 13. In the two years since, the prolific musician has continued recording and building a loyal fan base. He released his appropriately-named second EP Unstoppable – a really fine effort featuring six tracks – in late 2017 (which I reviewed), and so far in 2018 has released an astonishing 12 singles, the latest of which is “Terrified,” which drops today, November 23.

Now 15, James possesses a phenomenal vocal styling with a depth and maturity beyond his years. He writes all his own lyrics and music, records all the instruments, and is now even producing his songs. I’ve been following him for about two years, and it’s gratifying to watch him grow professionally and hear his vocals and music style get better and better as he matures. He was recently a Featured Artist on BBC Radio London’s BBC Introducing show, where his song “Ice Cold” was played.

“Terrified” is a lovely, soulful track, with sublime jazzy synths set to a gentle drum loop. James’ tinkling piano keys are exquisite, driving the delicate melody forward and creating a beautiful backdrop for his smooth, heartfelt vocals that speak to feeling lost, aimless and alone, without purpose or love in his life. James states that it’s “about someone going through a dark time but choosing to remember and hope for the good times, and reaching out for help.” Despite his youth, he manages to convey the sense of pain and despair expressed in the lyrics in a way that’s believable and convincing. It’s another stellar effort from James that only bolsters my belief that this talented young man has a very bright and promising future.

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

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

Guest Post: ‘The Ghost of Graffiti Past and The Allure of the 91st Street Subway Station’ by Peter Kleinhans

Peter Kleinhans

This is a guest post by Peter Kleinhans, a musician based in New York City who this past February released his debut album Something’s Not Right. After spending 30 years as a professional harness horse racer and announcer, at the age of 50 he decided to turn his love of music into writing and recording songs. He explains a few thoughts about his new-found music career:

“I wish I’d begun writing music at an earlier age, because as a father of two who also drives harness racehorses, bets thoroughbred horses professionally, raises organic beef, chicken, and lamb, and is engaged to be married for the third time, I find that the music often gets squeezed to the sidelines. But I’m happy with what I have had the time to create, and I hope that listeners will find something to enjoy here.

Although I’ve only started with music over the past couple of years, I credit the years of racing horses, often in the Midwest, hanging out with the Runyonesque characters of that business, and sharing their daily travails, for much of what I’ve written. I was born and raised in New York City, left it for twenty years, and am now back. It’s an amazing city, full of amazing people, but New Yorkers are just as often oblivious to the daily existential struggles of a family in Indiana as the other way around. The horses aren’t my full-time business anymore, but I still drive occasionally.”

In his thoughtfully-written article, Peter discusses his inspiration behind a new song he’s recorded called “91st Street,” in which he describes the storied past of the former 91st Street subway station.

The Ghost of Graffiti Past and The Allure of the 91st Street Subway Station

At the time of writing, I have a gig in six weeks, and three unfinished songs to get done for it.  If you’ve ever been in a similar situation, you might be familiar with the fact that it’s easier to write about what you’re working on instead of working on it.  It’s a variation on that disastrous first-line-of-a-poem that goes something like “I sit here, waiting for ideas to enter my failed brain.” But the song I’m currently writing, about the abandoned subway station on 91st street and Broadway, begs for context.  It’s written for those people who know about the history of New York’s subway system and graffiti’s place in it. But I realize that those people are becoming further and further between, so for those who don’t know much about that history, here’s some context, here’s something of what I’m trying to get at.

Kleinhans 91st St Platform
The view of the 91st street platform recalls a different New York.

If you ride the 1 train in New York regularly, there’s a good chance you’ve been riding past an iconic piece of the city’s ever-changing history without ever noticing it.  Between the 86th and 96th street station is what some New Yorkers call the “Ghost Station.”  When the subway was built in 1904, trains were shorter, and stations were built at 86th, 91st, and 96th.  With longer cars entering the scene in the 1950s and no real justification for three stops within such a close proximity, the IRT company, who then ran the 1 train, made the decision to close the station in 1954. The station has remained dormant since.  However, its relatively easy access combined with a healthy dose of  spookiness, intrigue, and mystery, have made it a magnet for subway connoisseurs, especially those with a hankering to remember what New York looked like just a few short decades ago.

In 2002, Henry Chalfant, along with co-conspirators Tony Silver and Martha Cooper, released the twentieth-anniversary edition of Style Wars, regarded by many as the iconic documentary piece on the emergence of hip-hop, most specifically the then-emergent phenomenon of subway graffiti.  The anniversary edition contained a treasure trove of new material, most excitingly a seemingly never-ending montage of Chalfant’s photographs of the city’s most creatively-bombed subway cars.

But 16 years have passed, even since the twentieth anniversary of Style Wars. Nevertheless, a fascination continues with the work and culture from the 70s and 80s, and one of the few places to actually feel a bit of that old texture is the 91st street station. I haven’t had the guts to jump down onto the tracks from 86th street and run along them for five blocks to visit the station, at least not yet. I don’t have a bucket list, but that would be on it.  Although it doesn’t take much to find graffiti, it’s increasingly hard to remember that graffiti and subways used to be inseparable as medium and message.

But the trains are now gone as the artists’ primary canvases, ever since the MTA claimed victory over subway graffiti in 1989. The subways, once seen by some as “masterpiece art galleries” and which tourists had once come New York to witness, were now clean and cool – a huge quality-of-life improvement from the point-of-view of most New Yorkers. For some, nostalgia lingers.  I grew up riding the subway in New York and I miss the graffiti deeply.  The subways may have had a bad last couple of years as far as ‘signal problems,’ but anyone who remembers the subways in the 70s would be quick to point out that they encompassed an entirely other level of dysfunction.  Graffiti grew out of these difficult and dangerous times in a city on fire, and to completely glamorize it as an art, while glossing over its flipside of danger and violence is to sanitize it in a way completely counter to its original intentions.

As a New York Times review of the 20th anniversary edition of “Style Wars” put it back in 2003, Absent the urine-soaked subway platforms and pervasive sense of danger that accompanied the rise of graffiti art in New York in the 70’s and 80’s, viewers can happily sit back in their parlors and decipher the green and brown polka-dotted caterpillar scheme that unites ‘’Seen’ and ‘Doze,’’ or Quik’s inventive letter-ending arrows pointing sideways, outward and upward to a seemingly endless universe of graffiti.

Klenihans Pic 2
Dondi’s legendary “Children of the Grave”, 1980; it ran two days before being painted over.

Kleinhans pic 3
The “white elephant” car used as one of the first in a series of graffiti-control measures that started in New York City under Mayor Ed Koch, circa 1981.

The subway train cars were quite literally whitewashed in the 1980s, marking the beginning of the end of subway graffiti. The closure of 5 Pointz in Queens in 2013 – a graffiti landmark substantial enough to  draw crowds – marked another dramatic victory of the corporate over the merely creative. 5 Pointz is now being developed into a 40-story luxury residential building in Long Island City.

5 Pointz was painted over — with no advance notice to the artists whose work had been displayed there for years — over the course of one night.

Kleinhans pic 4
5 Pointz, in its glory, April, 2013

Kleinhans pic 5
5 Pointz, whitewashed, November, 2013

My inspiration for writing the song “91st Street” was to honor this fading culture.  Although graffiti is everywhere now, the culture has been commodified, made clever, palatable, and digestible like everything else.  You can create a masterpiece on your computer using only your brains and your fingers; once you had to straddle a parked train and decorate it from top to bottom, with paint you had stolen, in the middle of the night, the police or a rival gang around a curve and ready to pounce.  And you knew that even if you succeeded, your work had no permanence — it would be painted over within days.

What makes the 91st street station important is that it’s one of those weird lost-in-time places that, from simple benign neglect, has become a repository for a fertile period in the history of New York art.  Taggers continue to make the short pilgrimage to view and perhaps to tag one spot in the one place in the New York subway system that is more like a shrine to the past here than just about anything else.  After all, cleaning it up wouldn’t make anybody any money, and therein lies its durability. Like a root cellar where one can imagine all manner of unnameable fungi finding a foothold, it maintains its spirit of dankness and chaos in a world that would love to be done with such inconveniences. It holds a special place in my heart and some day I hope to stand on its platform like the anachronism I suppose I am.

“91st Street” has a progressive/jazzy vibe, with a simple but cool drumbeat, funky bass line and fuzzy guitar riff. Toward the end of the track, Peter injects a quirky psychedelic synth that makes for a great finish. You can listen to “91st Street” by clicking the link below:

https://drive.google.com/file/d/0BzMXix1s0HGeZk9meVBoRExwcVN1YU1rcGg2SDlVeEFmWVo0/view?usp=sharing

To learn more about Peter, check out his website and connect with him on Facebook /  Twitter  / Instagram
Stream his music on Spotify / Soundcloud / Apple Music
Purchase on iTunes

THAT HIDDEN PROMISE – EP Review: “Drifted Hope e.p.”

That Hidded Promise EP Cover

I always find interesting the artistic monikers that musicians come up with for their music projects, and I’ve featured quite of number of such artists on this blog. My latest is That Hidden Promise, whose new EP Drifted Hope e.p. drops today. Based in Somerset, England, That Hidden Promise is the artistic alter ego of singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Wayne Lee, who’s been performing live and recording under that name 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 rock music over the past seven years, often incorporating blues, post-punk, folk, electronic, psychedelic and shoegaze elements into the mix, resulting in a highly eclectic sound. In May 2017, he released a single “All Things, All Will Come,” an upbeat rock song with exuberant guitar, percussion and synths, which I reviewed. Now, with Drifted Hope e.p., That Hidden Promise delivers five all-acoustic tracks that are darker and more introspective.

He kicks things off with “If I,” a song that seems to ponder the meaning of his existence within the universe, which in and of itself is almost beyond comprehension to me. His strummed guitar chords are strong, clear and lovely, and his vocals earnest as he wistfully sings the thoughtful lyrics:  “If I could sit still for a minute more than I can. Would I lose all of myself for that minute, though now it’s gone, it’s gone. But now, if I had that minute back, what’s the point in that? / Why should I think the universe contracts a while to a single point of nothingness. And is this cycle infinite? Can we know?

The Drop” has a melodic folk-rock vibe, with heavily strummed guitar and slightly off-kilter vocals that seem to channel Bob Dylan. He sings of how he’s done with someone who won’t give him a break: “You know I don’t know what I did to offend you. Seems if you could bring me down you do it. You sneaky little sh**.”  On “The Gallery of Drifted Hope Acoustic,” he laments over past mistakes that have taken his life down the wrong path, negatively impacting friendships and his future: “And I remember when the world seemed bright and new. Now see a gallery of drifted hope, of things I blew away.”

Though essentially an acoustic folk song, “See, Hold It, Feel” has a slight Pearl Jam grunge vibe, at least to my ears. It’s a wonderful and moving track, with some really fine intricate guitar work. “We Can Come Together Acoustic” is an upbeat, hopeful song about putting aside petty differences and focusing on the good in each other: “We can’t do much about deception. We can’t do much about the lies. Misinformation all around us.So put your arms around me, I’ll put my arms around you. And we can dance all night and we can gaze at the moon. And when it’s all said and done, we might not agree. But I believe that we can come together.” Positive words that I could do well to follow myself in these rather divisive times.

Drifted Hope e.p. is a solid work by That Hidden Promise. I really like his contemplative lyrics, and his ace guitar work is sublime. His vocals can be a little flat in spots, but at the same time they reflect an honest vulnerability that’s very appealing, and work well with his emotive acoustic style.

To learn more about That Hidden Promise, check out his Website and connect with him on Facebook & Twitter
Stream his music on  Soundcloud /  Spotify /  Tidal / Napster
Purchase on  iTunes /  Amazon / Google Play

TEISAN – Album Review: “Headspace”

Teisan2

TEISAN is an exceptionally talented and prolific young singer/songwriter from Mannheim, Germany. He started playing guitar at the age of 14, and quickly began writing songs in a predominantly ambient acoustic style. His songs tend toward a more introspective side, with deeply personal lyrics delivered with smooth, heartfelt vocals. In his bio, he states “I like to make music about things I experienced in my life. What I write down in the lyrics helps me in dealing with past events.” In early 2016, when he was only 17, he released an excellent debut album Different Point of View, then quickly followed that August with a five-song EP Wait For Autumn. In October 2017, he released his second album Impatience, and this past August (2018) dropped his third full-length album Headspace, an ambitious and stunning work featuring 14 tracks.

With the new album, TEISAN explains that he “wanted to be more creative with his music by experimenting with new sounds and melodies.” The title Headspace symbolizes exploration into someone’s head, “going deeper into a personality and diving into a new world that only exists in their mind. This year was really stressful for me. I had to work on some personal stuff and didn’t have much time for music. But that’s what I needed the most in that time. So I tried to fit it all under a roof and realized it doesn’t matter how much stress I’m in – I need music and the process of music making [is] a way to relief this stress.”

The album starts off with the brief title track “Headspace,” which at first sounds like an instrumental only song, with shimmery synths highlighted by sweeping strings and tender piano keys. But a more careful listen reveals that what sound like spacey synths are actually TEISAN’s heavily distorted vocals. Next up is the sweet acoustic ballad “Anchor Pt. 2,” which I reviewed in June. Delicate, airy synths are layered over a pleasing acoustic guitar riff, along with sounds of finger snaps, gentle percussion and added subtle guitar chords that create a serene and beautiful backdrop for his soft and earnest vocals.

TEISAN uses synthesizers and acoustic guitar to great effect in the creation of gorgeous soundscapes on most of the album’s tracks, and a perfect example of this is the beautiful “Fade Into Me.” The lush, multi-textured synths are sublime, with delicate piano keys and subtle guitar notes that make for a captivating listen. The spare lyrics on this track are loaded with meaning: “Maybe I’m giving up on my life. Maybe… , but I’m giving it time.” On “Coins,” he weaves together beautiful sweeping synths with rather harsh industrial sounds to create feelings of discord, yet manages to add calm with his soothing acoustic guitar. So too with his vocals, that start off as a soothing falsetto as he croons “Sinking down,” but turn raw and impassioned as he confronts the one who caused him pain: “It’s so hard standing next to you, you think you can tell me that. I remember the times in my head, I was paralyzed and you didn’t help.”

Oceans” is a short and simple, but moving, track with only piano and subtle background synths providing the riveting sounds for TEISEN’s bittersweet lyrics: “Another sleepless night alone, you only open up when the bottle loses weight.” Such a great lyric there! He continues with the themes of sadness and loss, and trying to move on after a failed relationship on the mellow “I’m Okay, I am Alright,” and the wistful “Strangers In A Parking Lot,” a lovely song with acoustic guitar and the gentlest of synths. TEISEN’s vocals have a pleasing vulnerability as he sings “I count the stars, you count what’s yours, and it’s tearing me apart. And all I wanna be is in your arms, like we were never lost.

Keeping with the subject of exploring the mind’s deepest thoughts, TEISAN senses a former loved one’s presence on “In My Room,” and thinks of a girl he’d just as soon forget on the folk track “Daydreams“: “Take back the seasons to relive, it never happened, didn’t exist. You know I can’t resist the pity to forget, I couldn’t remember you as well.” One of my favorite tracks on the album is “Hate Me and Run Away,” a short but captivating song with a marvelous jazzy piano riff and bluesy guitar notes. The lyrics are simple but powerful, and his slightly distorted, breathy vocals have an air of cool detachment that makes them all the more compelling: “I’m trapped inside my head, all the time that I spend for you, it is all gone, all gone. Hate me for this, I’m begging you, please hate me for this.”

Crystals (Groundlevel)” has an almost psychedelic-rock feel, with sweeping spacey synths, distorted guitar, a strong bass riff and heavier percussion. I even detect traces of what sounds like sitar. TEISAN’s breathy vocals are slightly altered, adding to the otherworldly vibe that’s quite marvelous. “Ice Red” is an interesting song, both musically and lyrically. It starts off with a church organ, then transitions to layered acoustic guitars with gauzy synths. The lyrics seem to speak of helping someone in need of healing support, though the singer’s not sure he’s up to the task: “Maybe you need someone to lead, maybe even a place to hide. We can put our anger aside to make things right. All my friends are deep underneath, happiness is all make believe, I can’t put my sadness aside to make things right.” But then he acknowledges the support he was given, and decides he needs to repay the favor: “I’m seeing you’re constantly feeling so down – I can’t leave you behind. ‘Cause you stitched all my wounds, and I made a wish and you filled me with love, so I can sleep in the nights.” “Moon and Sun” is a lovely folk rock song that made me think of John Mayer, a good thing as I’m a big fan of his.

TEISAN returns to experimentation in big way for the album closer “Headache.” The track starts off with numerous skips that give the feeling your listening device or CD player has developed a malfunction, then at 15 seconds it all settles down and we hear his smooth vocals and acoustic guitar, but with unusual assorted background noises that suggest dissonance as he sings about changing. At the one minute mark, the song transitions yet again, this time to a hauntingly beautiful piano riff, backed by atmospheric echoed synths that gradually fade to the outro. What a superb ending to a magnificent, stunning album!

Headspace is a gorgeous album – dare I say, a masterpiece – and I continue to be blown away by TEISAN’s skill at writing such compelling, poetic lyrics and composing incredibly beautiful instrumentals, and his arrangements and production values are impeccable. For a man of only 20, his music and lyrics exhibit a remarkable maturity. This young man is destined for greatness, and his music needs to be heard by millions of ears.

He touches on his future music plans: “I don’t know which way I’ll go on my next album – if it’s some old work I want to get out, or if it’s new stuff – but I sense it that the next one is going to be more “me” . I’ve been reading a book called “Nada Brahma” and It’s quite interesting and changing my perspective when it comes to the world and of course music.

Connect with TEISAN on  Facebook / Instagram
Stream/purchase his music on Bandcamp or YouTube

LOUIE JAMES – Single Review: “Yellow Doors”

Louie James single

I recently stumbled upon a talented young singer/songwriter from Wakefield, England named Louie James, and was immediately struck by his fresh and honest take on folk rock. He started making a name for himself last year with the release of two stellar singles “Different World” and “Tonight,” and has now returned to grace our eardrums with his heartwarming new single “Yellow Doors.”

The track opens with a tender acoustic guitar riff that quickly drew me in, and once Louie’s soothing vocals entered I was totally hooked. It always amazes me when such a simple guitar riff can have the ability to move us so deeply. Louie’s earnest vocals have a breathy quality that’s pleasing and calming, yet at the same time so powerful. The recurring deep piano chord and whistled chorus are especially nice, adding lovely textures to the track.

The song lyrics speak to his feelings for his new love and how she’s made his life better.  “We’re chasing yellow doors, dreaming of the days. Keeping track the score of when our dark times slipped away. Before she came along, there was a shadow in my life. And I’m glad she stuck around. Made something right.” Take a listen to this beautiful song:

Connect with Louie:  Facebook / TwitterInstagram
Stream his music:  Spotify / Apple Music
Purchase on  iTunes

HANNAH CLIVE – Single Review: “Remember to Breathe”

Hannah Clive2

Hannah Clive is a lovely and charming singer/songwriter based in London, UK, and I’ve been meaning to feature her on this blog for a while. Influenced by such legendary ladies of song as Adele, Carole King, Kate Bush and Janis Ian, Hannah writes heartfelt songs that cross many genres, including indie rock, folk, pop, alt-country, blues and even a bit of jazz. She released a gorgeous single “Remember to Breathe” in November 2017, and I’m finally getting around to reviewing this wonderful song.

The track opens with an ominous synth chord that draws us in, then Hannah’s exquisite piano riff enters and we’re instantly hooked. Wow, this is stunning! A delicious assortment of sparkling synths are added along with subtle guitar and gentle percussion, courtesy of producer Brian Tench, creating a dreamy soundscape that’s the perfect backdrop for Hannah’s captivating vocals. I’m blown away by her ability to seduce us one moment, then nearly move us to tears the next. It’s all incredibly breathtaking, so her admonition for us to ‘remember to breathe’ is entirely apropos! The song is so utterly mesmerizing that I keep hitting replay.

The lyrics speak to the concept of having faith and believing in yourself, casting aside obstacles that try to stand in your way, and finding your own truth and path in life:

And when the power of love is greater than the love of power
So it’s said, then my friends we might find some peace
And though it sounds naive –
It’s a direction in which I could set my feet…but just
Remember to breathe

Connect with Hannah:  Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream her music on Spotify / Apple Music / Soundcloud
Purchase on  Bandcamp / iTunes