ImageBeatZ – Single Review: “Now or Never”

ImageBeatZ is the latest music project of British composer and producer Justin Stephens. Based in the historic town of Ipswich in the eastern English county of Suffolk, the prolific musician has recorded and produced an impressive amount of electronic music since early 2016, both as a solo artist and in collaboration with other artists. He’s covered a wide range of styles, including Deep House, Chill House, Chill Step, Trap, Trip Hop and Lounge, though his preferred style is Deep House.

His first music project was called Infected Sun, and I reviewed one of his mini-EPs “Summer Nights” in 2018. He created his second music project AudioBytes in early 2020, and continued to release a tremendous output of music, including a terrific 18-track album Hold Me Tonight in September. He also hosts Friday Night House Sessions, a two-hour Deep House show he runs every other week on Facebook Live at 7:30 pm GMT, where he’s often joined by other special guest DJs. It’s an enjoyable show, so check it out if you’re into House music. He’s amassed more than a quarter million streams under that name. Now he’s created yet another new project ImageBeatz, which he’ll launch on New Year’s Day 2021 with his first single “Now or Never“.

With his latest project ImageBeatZ, Stephens blends Deephouse with NuDisco and pop to create a more upbeat and accessible sound. His first single “Now or Never” is an infectiously catchy dance song that aims straight for the hips. The lyrics speak to taking a chance on something or someone new. Starting with a thumping Deephouse EDM bass groove, he layers crisp percussive beats and sultry synths, then tops it off with a deliciously funky Nile Rodgers-style guitar riff. His use of a more prominent guitar is something new for Stephens, and I like the extra textural dynamic it adds to the track.

The lovely vocals are provided by a singer who, for reasons that both Stephens and I cannot fathom, does not wish to be named. She sings to someone to whom she’s attracted, wanting to be more than just friends: “I believe we can find what we’re looking to find / Someone to make us whole again / Doesn’t take very much to look around and see us, maybe we can be more than friends / You know we’ll make it feel right / We can turn this night into something new to relive again / So take my hand, take a chance / Let’s not let this night end, again / Now or never, let’s take a chance and do what we would never do.”

“Now or Never” will be available for streaming on Spotify and for purchase (if you would like to support the artist) at Beatport.com on 01/01/2021.

Stephens also hosts the Friday Night House Sessions, a two-hour Deep House show he runs every two weeks on Facebook Live at 7:30 pm GMT. He’s often joined by other special guest DJs like DJ JerryS and DJ Embrace. It’s an enjoyable show, so check it out if you’re into House music.

Follow ImageBeatZ:  FacebookInstagram

JONNY POLONSKY – Album Review: “Power and Greed and Money and Sex and Death”

This past April, I wrote a feature article about Brooklyn-based artist Jonny Polonsky, along with a review of his marvelous album Kingdom of Sleep, which you can read here. An accomplished singer-songwriter, producer and multi-instrumentalist, he’s been actively involved in the music industry for over a quarter century, both as a solo artist and as a session musician and/or member of a number of bands, including Big Nose (with Audioslave/Rage Against the Machine drummer Brad Wilk and bassist Tim Commerford) and Puscifer. On November 13, Jonny returned with his eighth album Power and Greed and Money and Sex and Death, featuring eight songs touching on the good, the bad and the ugly of this thing called life. He wrote, arranged, recorded, produced and engineered the album at home during the pandemic lockdown in Spring and Summer 2020. Mixing was done by Mike Tholen and mastering by Dave Collins. 

Jonny Polonsky3

The album kicks off with “Electric Tears“, a foot-stomping psychedelic rocker that seems to touch on the vow “til death do us part”. With lyrics like “To the sound of thunder we’re torn asunder / O, Dulcinea! So sweet the vulture / The main offender, the plane descender / We fall together and live forever!“, I’m guessing the two lovers are about to perish in a plane crash, confirming their love for each other. On the timely and topical “In Between Worlds“, Jonny lobs a scathing attack on racism and bigotry, and those afraid or unable to accept that America continues to evolve, both socially and demographically: “I think your thinking is deranged / I see the sadness in your soul /Morbid, bent /And strange how you still fail to see that these changing times are not your enemy.” In the terrific video, he plays both a TV newsman reporting the news and a musician performing the song on a television show stage, accompanied by footage of street protests and a defeated-looking Trump. Musically, the song has an urgent, piano-driven melody, with gnarly guitars, organ and dark synths. The piano work is especially good here.

Imitation Life” is a lively power pop gem, with a strong driving beat and wonderful jangly guitars that give the song a retro 60s sound. Jonny admonishes another to let go of phoniness and superficiality, and live her truth: “Sad eyes, you shouldn’t waste your time / Realize, this is no imitation life. You’re alive.” One of my favorite tracks on the album is “Summer Soldiers“, a melodic tune featuring lovely vocals by singer-songwriter and former member of the Go-Go’s Jane Wiedlin. The song’s uplifting lyrics seem to be telling us not to let others define us, nor keep us from living our full potential: “Don’t let ’em lay you down and roll you out / And when you’re alone and don’t know who to trust / Tempted to self destruct / Discarded and left to rust.” The song starts off with a brief snippet of Little Richard’s hysterical laughter, then settles into a pleasing mid-tempo beat, with enchanting spacy synths, shimmery keyboards and crisp percussion. I really like how Jonny and Jane’s vocals are in perfect harmony.

On the brooding “Under Your Spell“, Jonny uses sweeping industrial synths and beautiful distorted guitars to create a haunting cinematic soundscape that gives the song a bit of a David Bowie vibe. He has an unusual vocal style that’s both raspy and breathy, which he uses to great effect on this track. The lyrics speak to him having fallen for someone who seems to be emotionally unavailable, insecure and afraid of revealing their true self:  “How’d you end up on the inside? How do you know me so well? With your eyes on fire and your coat made of eagle, now I’m under your spell.” Another standout track for me is “Completely Surrounded by Love“, with its gorgeous blend of twangy and jangly guitars that give the song a folk-rock feel. The song seems to be a thank you to someone who helped him overcome his personal demons through their love and devotion: “I was afraid, so afraid of my own mind / I believed in you / I couldn’t think for my own self / But I know I am completely surrounded by love.

Jonny saves the best for last with the stunning and bittersweet “Where the Sunset Sets“. Starting with an achingly beautiful melody, he layers shimmery keyboards, chiming guitars and airy synths to create a breathtaking atmospheric soundscape. His vocals are deeply heartfelt as he sings to someone who seems to be slipping away, possibly from dementia or even on the verge of their death: “And everything that had binded me to you, just leaves you sad and confounded / What once had been a folie a deux, is just a memory you detest. Your name, it doesn’t matter / Your face, you will soon forget / Our eyes, beaming into one another / Leave a trace in anyone you’ve ever met .” The seven-minute-long song has an epic and cinematic quality, and is my favorite track on the album.

Power and Greed and Money and Sex and Death is a wonderful album that gets better with each listen. I like how Jonny keeps things sounding fresh and varied by using different music styles, tempos and sounds on each track, and as always, the production values and arrangements are first-rate.

Jonny will be releasing a deluxe 12-inch vinyl version of the album, pressed on transparent red vinyl, with a full color cover and lyric insert with photos, and including a 16.5″x23″ fold out poster and free digital download card. Purchase of this deluxe album includes unlimited streaming of Power and Greed and Money and Sex and Death via the free Bandcamp app, plus high-quality download in MP3, FLAC and more. Shipping is anticipated on or around February 1, 2021.

Connect with Jonny: Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream his music: Spotify / Soundcloud / Apple Music
Purchase:  BandcampAmazon

THE OCEAN BENEATH ft. FRAN MINNEY- Single Review: “Skin”

When I last featured British electronic music project The Ocean Beneath on this blog in July 2019, it was to review his marvelous debut self-titled EP The Ocean Beneath (which you can read here.) The Ocean Beneath is the brain child of Leeds-based musician, composer and producer Matt Burnside. Influenced by bands such as Gunship, HVOB and Talk Talk, he combine 80’s synthpop elements with modern recording techniques, analogue synthesis and huge melodic grooves to create music that sounds retro, yet fresh and now.

He recently teamed up with Leeds-based singer-songwriter and electronic musician Fran Minney for their smoldering new collaborative single “Skin“, which drops today, September 29th. In their own words, the song “encapsulates the almost drunken touch-starved feeling a lot of us have experienced during lockdown these past few months with a beat to help you dance out that desperation.” Well, I must say that Matt and Fran do a superb job in capturing those desperate feelings of desire through their sensuous instrumentals, arrangement and vocals.

Photo by Matthew Baxter

After listening to “Skin” a few times, it struck me how it has a somewhat similar feel as Everything But The Girl’s 1995 hit song “Missing”, not only because of the way it transitions back and forth from a calm, moody vibe to a sensuous dance groove, but also that Fran’s sultry vocals remind me of Tracey Thorn’s.

The song opens with enchanting glittery synths, then Fran’s lush vocals enter as the music expands with darker, more ominous synths and a crisp percussive beat. At the one minute mark, a throbbing dance beat ensues along with Fran’s haunting, echoed vocals, and lasting around 15 seconds before calming down, only to briefly return at 1:50. This back and forth pattern continues through the rest of the track, building to an exhilarating crescendo in the final chorus before calming back down at the end. It all serves to create a strong sense of tension and unfulfilled desire that makes for a very powerful song.

The days and the months
The weight of your touch
I’ve waited so long
The dry thickened clay
Baked deep in the layers
I’m breaking away

I am lost in your skin
Feel the waves crash within
I’m off my feet
I’m floating
Your skin, your, your skin, skin
Your skin, your, your skin, skin

The sand and the blood
A coarse thickened flood
I waited so long
The foam and the blue
That brought me to you
The pull of a truth

I am lost in your skin
Feel the waves crash within
I’m off my feet
I’m floating

I die a little each time x3
I die a little
I die a little each time x3
Let me drown in this night

I am lost in your skin
Feel the waves crash within
I’m off my feet
I’m floating

Connect with The Ocean Beneath: Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music:  SpotifyApple Music / Soundcloud
Purchase:  Bandcamp / Google Play

Connect with Fran Minney:  FacebookTwitterInstagram

RONNIE THE BEAR – Single Review: “Do You Feel That?”

Ronnie the Bear is the music moniker of Joshua Rukas, a talented and charismatic young singer/songwriter and musician from Grand Rapids, Michigan. He’s also a member of the punk/emo rock band MUSCLEMAN, as well as a former member of alt-rock band Dancing On Pluto, who I reviewed a couple times prior to their splitting up in August 2018. On September 9th, he released his stunning debut single “Do You Feel That?“, the first track from his forthcoming EP.

Josh composes, performs and produces all his own music, as well as the mixing and mastering, and I must say he’s done a masterful job (no pun intended) with “Do You Feel That?” Starting with a languid, seductive synth bass beat, he skillfully layers a lush array of shimmery and grainy-textured synths, accompanied by gorgeous chiming guitar notes, then bathes it all in just enough reverb to create a dreamy, atmospheric soundscape that carries us off to an enchanting faraway place.

He has a smooth and warm singing voice, and his somewhat echoed vocals are really lovely and soothing, perfectly complementing the song’s atmospheric aura. Halfway through the song, he briefly transitions to rapping a verse of lyrics, pulling it off quite nicely. Then, during the final minute, his vocals are electronically altered, giving them an otherworldly feel that enhances the song’s overall dreamy vibe. I love it!

The song seems to be about living life to the fullest and in the moment, being independent and free to make your own decisions, and unafraid of what the future might bring:

It might be time to shake things up a little
No longer feel the danger 
I'm just trying to feel myself a little 
So glad I'm on my own 
I think I want to dance just for a little 
Not a care if it's been raining 
I'll leave my shoes behind and let my body be my guide
I'll get by
 I'm just strolling through life

Follow Ronnie the Bear on TwitterInstagram

Stream/Purchase “Do You Feel That?” on SpotifyGoogle PlayApple Music

XENNON – Single Review: “Hilt”

XENNON is a British synthwave artist/producer who up until recently was based in Tokyo, Japan. His music is heavily influenced by the synthesized sounds of the 80s, as well as Japanese game and video culture. He’s also curator of the Synthwave Sounds playlist on Spotify, which has amassed over 40,000 followers. In September 2019, he released his debut album MIAMI COP, a concept work inspired by the 80s hit TV show Miami Vice, as well as the synth-driven pop-rock that was so popular at that time. MIAMI COP tells the story of an alternative Miami circa 1987, where the city is a dystopian world in which technology has advanced far beyond our own world’s, and crime has spiraled out of control. (You can read my album review here.)

Now XENNON is back with “Hilt“, the first single from his forthcoming second concept album Dark of a Distant World. Inspired by the sci-fi and fantasy movies of the 80s such as The Neverending Story and Masters of the Universe, the album will take the listener on a journey to other worlds as we follow Kurt, a boy who holds the key to saving the planet Eternicron, and embarks on an adventure that transcends time and space. Once again, the concept and featured artwork was done by Travis Wright, who continues to work with XENNON on all of his releases and stories.

The song opens with an assertive synth drum beat that provides a strong rhythmic groove driving the song forward. XENNON then layers a colorful mix of swirling, shimmery synths, pulsating percussive beats and lots of crashing cymbals to create a vibrant, optimistic soundscape that has an almost anthemic quality. As the character Kurt, he plaintively sings of his struggles and self-doubt, not sure whether he has the fortitude to continue, but clinging to the hope that through another’s love and support, he’ll prevail. “I’m not sure I’m getting better. Days drag me down sometimes I’ve found. But maybe if here, beside you I stand, with this hilt tight in my hand. I’ll take it to the other side and get out, safe and sound.”

It’s another great song by XENNON, and I look forward to hearing more tracks from his latest concept album.

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

New Song of the Week – THE FRONTIER: “It’s You”

I had knee replacement surgery at the beginning of the week, so have felt out of sorts as I contend with the residual pain, swelling and stiffness. That, combined with the continuous stream of bad news on seemingly all fronts, has put me in a bit of a funk. So it was a real joy – a blessing, really – to hear the wonderful new single “It’s You” by pop-rock band The Frontier. It was love at first listen, and I’m pleased to make it my New Song of the Week.

The Frontier is an unsigned indie-pop/alt rock band from Fairfax County, Virginia (west of Washington D.C.). Formed in 2016 by singer/songwriter and guitarist Jake Mimikos, a very kind, talented and funny guy who first released an EP Chaos to Clarity as a solo artist in 2015, The Frontier has released numerous singles and two EPs, most recently Luminescence in June 2019. One of the singles that appears on that EP is “Dark Places” a gorgeous song I loved so much that it went to #1 on my Weekly Top 30 and ended up at #15 on my Top 100 Songs of 2019 list.

Like many bands, they’ve undergone some changes in line-up over time, and now consist of Jake on vocals & guitar, Eric Boggess on lead guitar, Eric Dolinger on bass and Eduardo Santana on drums. I’ve followed both Jake and The Frontier since 2016, and have enjoyed all of their music. “It’s You” is a catchy and upbeat song of love and devotion sung to someone who’s made his life more worthwhile and complete. I love the exuberant and beautiful melody, and the plucky guitars, swirling synths, galloping bass and crisp percussion are perfection from start to finish. Jake’s vibrant vocals sound better than ever, and I think it’s one of their best songs yet.

The song was released around the time of Jake’s 38th birthday. In conjunction with the single release, Jake made a video featuring contributions of footage sent to him by fans. He explained: “As I get older, and my circle gets smaller, I feel deeply grateful for the people who have always supported me and continue to do so. I doubt this song will change the world, but maybe it will brighten up somebody’s day or mood just a bit. I especially appreciate everyone who participated in the music video. This was perhaps the most fun I’ve ever had putting one together. Thank you for your contributions. This song is dedicated to…you guessed it..YOU! This will be the last song I release under The Frontier for a little while. I’m gonna take a break and focus on myself and maybe do some solo shows here and there.”

Well, the song and video certainly brightened my mood! Thank you Jake and The Frontier.

So many nights I wondered
Wondering how long this could take
How much time I wasted
Thinking about how many more mistakes I could make

Oh oh oh
And it’s you I finally found the light
Oh oh oh
And it’s you because it feels so right
Oh oh oh
And it’s you until you change your mind
Til we’re out of time

So many lies I told myself
All of the loneliness I felt
It disappears with I’m with you
And I know that you feel it too

Oh oh oh
And it’s you I finally found the light
Oh oh oh
And it’s you because it feels so right
Oh oh oh
And it’s you until you change your mind
Til we’re out of time

Ooh, the time I wasted, chasing, waiting
Ooh, the time I’ve wasted, chasing, waiting

And it’s you I finally found the light
Oh oh oh
And it’s you because it feels so right
Oh oh oh
And it’s you until you change your mind
Til we’re out of time

Connect with The Frontier on Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music on Spotify / Soundcloud / ReverbnationApple Music
Purchase on Bandcamp / iTunesGoogle Play

BRANWELL BLACK – Single and Video Review: “Love Life”

Branwell Black Love Life
Photo by David Pear

I recently learned about the talented young British artist Branwell “Bran” Black when he followed me on Instagram. Influenced by some of his favorite artists like Kate Bush, Madonna, Charli XCX, Kerli, Evanescence and Tokio Hotel, the London-based singer-songwriter, producer, dancer and model creates captivating synthpop music. Born in Oxford, England but raised partly in France, both Bran and his older brother Morgan developed a love of music while very young, as their father was an accomplished rock drummer. Being around live music much of his life and seeing fans reacting to his father’s music inspired him to start producing music of his own. During his years in France, Bran started to write and produce music with Morgan, with whom he eventually formed a band called Brothers Black/Posie. Spending part of his youth in France exposed Bran to a different culture and different musical elements as well, and a result he’s also recorded and produced music in French.

Bran has been a busy guy over the past year. In September 2019, he released his debut single “J’attends L’amour”, then quickly followed up with “What You Want”, as well as an EP Posie with his band Brothers Black/Posie. This past February, before everything shut down in response to the COVID-19 outbreak, he performed at a sold out show with his back up band at O2 Academy Islington. And on May 8, he dropped his latest single “Love Life“. Bran told me the uplifting song has a double meaning: “It’s a reflection on my love life, and also a voice to tell me to love life itself.” He wrote the music and lyrics, played piano, sang vocals and produced the track, with Morgan providing added vocals. Matt Willis played guitar, Dan Rosu played drums, and mixing was done by Edwin Harris.

The song has a sunny and sensual retro 80s vibe, with a pulsating EDM beat and vibrant, shimmery synths creating a captivating soundscape. I really like Bran’s tinkling piano keys, as well as Matt’s edgy guitar notes at the end of the track. Bran has a soft, sultry vocal style that’s seductive, yet vulnerable as he plaintively sings of wanting not only another’s love, but also being able to love oneself and the life he has. Morgan’s vocals are also lovely as he sings the refrain ‘love life’.

I wanna be with someone that’ll love me forever
Laying staring at the stars never believing in better
All around is all I see and all I see is you
Love the one you’ve always known is true

If your heart really wants it tell me that you want it
Wake up
Well I don’t need another star-crossed lover’s breakup

So baby, I wanna be with someone that’ll love me forever
Telling memories, I want to be the one you can treasure
Forever, and ever
If your heart really wants it tell me that you want it
Wake up
Well I don’t need another star-crossed lover’s breakup
That’s life
That’s what it feels like
Love life

I wanna be with someone that’ll love me forever
And wherever I’ll be they won’t forget me in December
Love life
All around is all I see and all I see is me
Forever, and ever
Love life

In addition to his musical side, Bran has started to incorporate dancing into his performances to bring his music alive through physical expression. What that in mind, he’s now released a stylish new video for “Love Life”. The video was filmed, directed and produced by David Pear, and showcases Bran’s strong charisma, as well as the influence of artists like Madonna and Charlie XCX, exemplified by his and his fellow models and dancers’ voguing.

Follow Branwell:  FacebookTwitterInstagram
Stream his music:  SpotifyApple MusicDeezer / Soundcloud
Purchase:  Amazon

YOUNG DECADES – Single Review: “Islands”

Young Decades

Young Decades are a new English rock band based in Manchester who released their beautiful debut single “Islands” on April 24th. Before I get into discussing the song I’ll provide a bit of background on the band members, who’ve had a bit of a journey to get to where they are today. Prior to forming as Young Decades earlier this year, three of the four current band members were part of Liverpool-based band COLOUR, which itself was formed early in the 2010s from the ashes of two previous acts – Liverpool band The Changes, and Manchester band Red Light Motion. As COLOUR, they released a number of terrific singles and EPs, including “Strangers”, “Kafé” and “The Famous Boy Making Things”, winning a BBC award and national radio play along the way.

With their sound moving in new directions in early 2020, the band in short order lost two girlfriends and their drummer, and decided to relocate to Manchester. With a COVID-19 lockdown looming, they rushed to hold auditions for a new drummer, posting ads everywhere they could around Manchester. After only 20 minutes into their first audition with one of Northwest England’s best percussionists in the form of YouTube drummer, Luke Bolger, the decision was made to bring him into the fold. The four immediately reformed as Young Decades, in reference to the first two decades of the century from which the band was formed. The official lineup now consists of James Tidd (vocals), Scott Harvey (guitar, keyboards), Liam Downey (Bass) and Luke Bolger (drums).

Young Decades’ music is a glorious mash-up of rock, synth pop and EDM elements, and “Islands” is the very embodiment of their lush, dreamy sound. The gorgeous song was co-produced by the band and Tom Longworth, and mastered by renowned mastering engineer Pete Maher (U2, The Killers, Nick Cave, The Pixies). The song has a sweeping, synth-driven melody reminiscent of some of The Killers songs that I love. The galloping riffs and thumping drumbeats beautifully evoke the urgency expressed in the lyrics about two people struggling to save themselves by running away to find a place they can be free. I love the richly colorful synths throughout the track, and one of the song’s highlights for me are Scott’s hauntingly beautiful piano keys.

James has a wonderful, emotive singing voice, and his vocals sound amazing as his earnest croons in the verses soar to passionate heights in the chorus, accompanied by stirring harmonies that bring goosebumps. “Islands” is a stunning record, and a spectacular debut for this talented band of musicians.

I’m On The Run, I’m Hanging On
Just Hold Your Breath, And Grab My Open Hand
A Hurricane, An Aching Pain
Is Closing Down, Shutters On Everything
Oh My Love Is, Ever Burning
Build It High, As the Seasons Turn In
[Oh
My Love] Oh My Love, [Time Is Up] Time Is Come
[Oh My Love] To Build Something From the Sea
Build An Island, Where We Can Be
I Need The Dry Land, Just You And Me

Can We Build That High, Can You Say You’ll Try
Don’t Just Sit And Stare, I Can Almost Feel It
The Cooking Sand, Falling Through My Hand
Like The Time We Waste, Being On A Different Page
Oh My Love Is, Ever Burning
Build It High, As the Seasons Turn In
[Oh My Love] Oh My Love, [Time Is Up] Time Is Come
[Oh My Love] To Build Something, From the Sea

Build An Island, Where We Can Be
I Need The Dry Land, Just to be…
All Ours, It’ll Be All Ours, It’ll Be
All Ours, It’ll Be All Ours, It’ll Be
All Ours, It’ll Be All Ours, It’ll Be
Build An Island, Where We Can Be
I Need The Dry Land, Just to be…

On May 2nd, Young Decades released a special EP Islands Audio Negatives, featuring five alternate versions of the song, including acoustic, instrumental and slowed-down versions the band is calling “audio negatives”. They’re all really beautiful, so do check them out:

Follow Young Decades:  FacebookTwitterInstagram
Stream their music:  SpotifyApple MusicSoundcloud
Purchase: Google PlayAmazon

BEN PRIORY – EP Review: “Solent Side”

Ben PrioryBen Priory is a talented young music producer and composer from the southern English coastal city of Portsmouth. Influenced by some of his favorite artists like twenty one pilots, Mike Shinoda and Only The Poets, he skillfully creates fascinating and compelling synthwave and synthpop songs having a level of maturity beyond his young age. Last June (2019), he released his stunning debut single “Here We Go”, a collaboration with fellow musician and singer/songwriter Charlie Pereira, both of whom were only 17 years old at the time. I reviewed the song and loved it so much it spent many weeks on my Top 30, and ended up on my Top 100 Songs of 2019. He followed up that October with “If Only”, an enchanting and trippy song with trap and Middle Eastern elements, and featuring vocals by Michael Lacroix.

Now Ben returns with his first EP Solent Side, a concept work of sorts with songs inspired by his having grown up by the seaside. The sea around the city of Portsmouth is called “the Solent”, and Ben told me “Solent Side is about the connection with where you grew up, where you feel you belong.” Once again, he collaborated with several vocalists and musicians on the songs. The EP was mixed and mastered by Philip Marsden.

The first track “Night Shift” features captivating vocals by Belfast artist Crash Helmet Kid, who also played guitar. Starting with a throbbing synth bass groove, Ben layers all sorts of delicate and spacey atmospheric synths and sound textures to create a beautiful otherworldly soundscape for Crash Helmet Kid’s angelic, ethereal vocals. I could listen to this bewitching track again and again.

Burning” is a marvelous piano-driven track that transitions back and forth between a languid, rather moody vibe and an exuberant head-bopping dance beat. Ben’s keyboards are wonderful, as is the guitar work by Ollie Lowres and Charlie Pereira. We also finally get to hear Ben sing here, and his vocals are terrific. The lyrics seem to be autobiographical, speaking to his own coming of age as a musician and wanting to explore the world beyond Portsmouth: “There are dreams in my head, I have visions. Dancing on the stage, people singing my songs. I lie awake at night, simply thinking. You lie there too, simply aching. And we’re burning. / There’s a wide, wide world waiting for you. So get yourself outside and go find it. And we’re burning.

Ben takes a pensive turn with “Fluoride“, a lovely track about growing up and learning to accept responsibility for one’s actions, particularly with regard to how we treat one another (at least that’s my interpretation of their meaning). The poignant lyrics are beautifully sung by English singer/songwriter Elisia Carter, who conveys a vulnerable sense of resignation about her friend’s immaturity, yet remaining hopeful that he will learn to value and respect her: “Rolling downtown in your white Mini Cooper / Playing around in a drunken stupor / You wonder what’s it like, life on the other side. / Fluoride, fluoride, can you light up the night? Can you call me by my name?” I love the song’s mellow hip hip beat, jangly strummed guitar, gentle vocal harmonies in the chorus, and the sounds of falling rain throughout that give the track a somber vibe.

The final track is a remix of Ben’s prior single “If Only“. The original version had a strong trap beat, highlighted by a simple but mesmerizing piano riff, accompanied by otherworldly synths. The remix is shorter, and has a slowed-down trip hop beat, with harsher, more industrial-sounding synths and ominous piano keys that give this version a darker feel. In the original version, Michael Lacroix repeated the lines “I wanna follow my dreams / If only you let me”, but in the remix his vocals are electronically altered to the point of being an unintelligible chant that nevertheless resonates with the listener.

Solent Side is a wonderful little EP that provides further evidence of Ben Priory’s impressive songwriting and production talents. He’s an imaginative guy, and I love that he not only explores a variety of music styles and sounds, but also collaborates with lots of musicians in the creation of his songs. I can’t wait to hear what he comes up with next.

Connect with Ben:  Facebook / Instagram
Stream/purchase his music:  Spotify / iTunesGoogle Play

Song of the Day Challenge – Day 10: ABSOFACTO – “Lemon Drop”

Song A Day Challenge

Today’s Song of the Day Challenge is “A song that’s been stuck in your head”, and my pick is the delightful “Lemon Drop” by Absofacto. I love the song, which is currently in the midst of a long run on my Weekly Top 30.

Absofacto is the solo project of singer/songwriter and musician Jonathan Visger. He’s been making music for over 15 years, first as a member of Michigan-based indie rock band Mason Proper, and later as a solo artist, and recently scored his first breakthrough hit with his captivating single “Dissolve”. A sleeper hit, the song was originally released in 2015, but went nowhere. In 2017, he signed with Atlantic Records and released his EP Thousand Peaces. “Dissolve” was included on the EP, then re-released as a single in 2018, but once again failed to gain traction, which is hard to believe as it’s such a great song.

Absofacto

In 2019, the song received renewed interest due to a meme on the music and video-sharing app TikTok, and became a surprise hit. It debuted on the Billboard Alternative chart in June 2019, and after a long, steady climb, reached #1 in January 2020. Absofacto followed up with the single “Rewind” in November 2019, then in March 2020, dropped “Lemon Drop”, along with another song “Python”.

On his Facebook account, Absofacto describes his music as “warped cloud odd dream beat / bubblejam / idyllicrunk / spacebass / twilight zoneout / wavewave“, which pretty well paints an accurate and colorful picture of his cool, synthpop sound. “Lemon Drop” is one of his best tracks, with a breezy, uptempo vibe and infectious dance beat. He uses lots of sweet and spacey synths to create a dreamy, atmospheric soundscape for his soft, breathy vocals. They have an ethereal, yet seductive quality that makes them utterly enchanting as he sings to a loved one of his ardor. It’s a fresh and modern take on the age-old subject of romance.

Blond camaro, gold leaf, yellow lemon drop
You’re my one and only, just the way you are
Wanna see the world from the front seat of your car
Tell me you ain’t far, tell me you ain’t far 

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