New Song of the Week – MELOTIKA: “Beautiful Disguise”

I follow thousands of indie artists from around the world, and have featured several hundred of them on this blog over the past five and a half years. One that I’m particularly fond of is Canadian artist Melotika, the alter-ego of singer-songwriter Mel Yelle. The hard-working, charismatic and personable artist began her music career in Toronto, releasing her first music in early 2018, but moved back to her home town of Montreal last summer. Her distinctive, sultry vocal styling, exotic beauty, and strong sense of individuality and determination coupled with an endearing vulnerability, set her apart from a lot of other female artists. Her honest and relatable lyrics touch on the universal subjects of relationships and love, as well as timely issues such as the minefield of social media and how pressures to conform can affect our emotional well-being.

I’ve featured Melotika’s music on this blog several times over the past three years, when I reviewed her singles “Unaware Part II [Blindside]”, “Bittersweet Reality“ and Bury the Bones, a dark, haunting song about a woman who’s a psychopathic killer. And just last month, I featured a collaborative single “Eternal Eclipse” that she recorded with German electronic music producer Lazer Squad as one of four fresh new tracks.  Now, the prolific artist returns with her latest single “Beautiful Disguise“, which I’ve chosen as my New Song of the Week. Released on February 12th, it’s the lead single from her forthcoming album Dancing Without You, due for release this coming fall. She wrote the lyrics, and the music was composed by her frequent collaborator Sean Savage, who also mixed and mastered the track.

A concept album, Dancing Without You will be a collection of songs that Melotika states are “sort of like a personal diary exposing super vulnerable moments of my life, through alternative electro pop dance music. If I were a teenager, this would have been the perfect pop album to listen to.” Especially fond of artists like Blondie, Eurythmics, Madonna and Depeche Mode, she wanted to capture the essence of their 80s dance-pop/new wave sound for “Beautiful Disguise”, and I think she and Sean succeed quite nicely. The mesmerizing song features a lush palette of shimmery, almost haunting synths and bold hand claps layered over a hypnotic dance beat. Melotika’s rich, sultry vocals were run through tape, providing a captivating vintage texture that’s quite appealing.

“Beautiful Disguise” is based on a song Melotika first wrote in her late teens. She shared some details about it on her Facebook page: “The original song was called ‘Misery’ then switched to ‘Victim’ for some time. The song was a generic angsty break-up type song. Last year when I looked back at it, I decided to reinvent the song and add some more fictional story telling. I thought that a typical break up song would be cliché and over done, so I created a tale about a beautiful forbidden lover, and breaking free from the toxic situation. The lyric ‘The devil inside of me is the devil inside of you when you got nowhere else to go’ refers to the concept ‘misery loves company’. Do we fall in love with bad people or are we obsessed and fall in love with the drama?

Connect with Melotika on  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music on Spotify / Apple MusicSoundcloud
Purchase on iTunesBandcamp 

Fresh New Tracks Vol. III

For my latest installment of recent releases, I’m featuring four scintillating new singles by international artists (in alphabetical order) Favourite Daughter, Lazer Squad featuring Melotika, NAYAD and Alex Southey. Three of them – Favourite Daughter, Melotika and Alex Southey – are Canadian, Lazer Squad is German and NAYAD are Swedish.

“Long Distance” by Favourite Daughter

Favourite Daughter is the music project of Toronto-born and now Montreal-based singer-songwriter Julia Kennific, who’s just released her terrific debut single “Long Distance“. Drawing inspiration from such artists as Courtney Barnett, Hayley Williams and Julien Baker, she creates her own unique brand of infectious indie pop/rock through catchy melodies, honest, vulnerable lyrics and emphatic vocals. Julia wrote and sang vocals on the song, with assistance by Sam Eastman on guitars, Sam Donald on bass, Kate Markle on synths, Edward Scrimger on drums and Gabrièle Côté-LeBreux on percussion. The track was produced, recorded and mixed by Steven Gibb at Lites Down Studio, and mastered by Richard Addison at Studio Trillium Sound.

Julia elaborates on her impetus for writing the song: “I wrote ‘Long Distance‘ on an unplugged, rented electric guitar during a blackout on a night off from an opera gig I was doing in Halifax in the summer of 2019, in tears after a frustrating phone call with my then-girlfriend. We were spending a four month stretch away from each other while I travelled for work. Neither of us were communicating well, and our daily check ins became monotonous. Both of us kept up the charade that we were good, while allowing fear and resentment to build up, which ended up costing us the relationship entirely. It’s about trying to keep up appearances that everything’s fine, while running from the inevitable.

The rousing song features lively rhythms and chugging guitars, creating a cheerfully upbeat but anxious vibe that builds as the song progresses. It all works beautifully to convey feelings of running away from one’s problems, yet knowing you’ll have to face up to them sooner or later: “So it’ll feel like I’m dying till it doesn’t anymore / I’ll rebuild again, Lord knows that I’ve done it before.

Follow Favourite Daughter:  FacebookInstagram

“Eternal Eclipse” by Lazer Squad featuring Melotika

Lazer Squad is a versatile and talented electronic artist and producer from Germany who creates EDM, Synthwave and Nu-Disco music. He began his music career over 15 years ago as a drummer for a punk and metal band, as well as playing and touring with numerous bands as a backup musician, eventually transitioning to electronic music. In 2020, he wowed critics and fans alike with his excellent debut album Undead Nightmare, which he then followed with a series of singles. His latest effort is “Eternal Eclipse“, a mesmerizing EDM track featuring sultry vocals by Montreal-based singer-songwriter Melotika, a hard-working and charming electro pop artist for whom I have a special fondness. She’s released quite a lot of music over the past three years, and I’ve had the pleasure of featuring some of it on this blog. She will soon be dropping her debut album Dancing Without You.

“Eternal Eclipse” serves up an infectious EDM groove that aims straight for the hips, giving us three and a half minutes worth of joyous escapism. The timely lyrics describe what it feels like to be stranded in the middle of a global crisis with a loved one: “Everybody’s trippin’ out / Taken back, shaken up / Nobody even knows my name / Thinking about tearing down, and I’m singing a song. Singing alone. What can I do without you?” Have a listen and prepare to move those hips!

Follow Lazer Squad:  FacebookTwitterInstagram

Follow Melotika:  FacebookTwitterInstagram

“Holy Lakes (Dusk)” by NAYAD

Stockholm-based duo NAYAD create dreamy psych lofi pop, which they humorously describe as “Tame Impala, Lana Del Rey and ABBA had an orgy and the result is us” – a pretty spot-on characterization of their gorgeous sound. Last summer, they burst onto the Swedish music scene with their breakout Swedish-language single “Ingen vet”, then followed up with the English-language “Don’t be mad if I don’t come along”, gaining airplay on Swedish National Radio and other radio stations. In November, they dropped their third single “Holy Lakes (Dusk)” a stunning track celebrating their love of nature. Although the single is now more than two months old, I’m featuring it now because they just released a beautiful video for the song.

The song is utterly captivating, with achingly beautiful piano keys, accompanied by stirring atmospheric synths creating an enchanting soundscape for their sublime vocal harmonies. About the fascinating video, they provide a bit of enlightenment: “NAYAD loves mother earth. We immediately had a clear picture that the video for ‘Holy Lakes (Dusk)’ would be a journey through lakes and mountains, because that is the theme of the song. We used an introductory film to national parks around North America and cut it together with other goodies we have collected over the years.” Much of the imagery they used includes old footage of Yosemite and Yellowstone National Parks.

Follow NAYAD:  FacebookTwitterInstagram

“Rosie” by Alex Southey

Alex Southey is an indie folk singer-songwriter and musician currently based in Toronto. He’s released quite a lot of music over the past few years, including two albums: Christmastown in 2019 and last year’s You’re Not Just a Body to Me. Since that release, he’s dropped three singles in advance of his forthcoming third album …And the Country Stirred, due for release on February 5th. The latest of these three singles is “Rosie“, a hauntingly beautiful and deeply personal love song to his erstwhile hometown of Vancouver. Alex sang and played guitar, piano and the soaring string arrangements, Kenny Feinstein played fiddle, and Tommy Drinkard played pedal steel and mandolin. The track was produced and mixed by JUNO Award winner John Critchley and mastered by Aaron Hutchison.

About the song’s title, Alex elaborates: “Who is ‘Rosie’? I had been wanting to write about a place, but knew that I’d have to personify it. I was trying, failing, at growing rosemary naturally on my balcony and I began to find the word alluring. I fused it with this personification concept and it became the name of the person when in reality, the song is a love letter to Vancouver where I was born. I feel a sort of mysterious attraction to Vancouver. The city sells itself well, but has its pitfalls: rain all the time, darkness, basements, high price of living – it can all seep into you. For a long time, I was giving something to it and it didn’t give me anything back.” In his sublime and plaintive vocal style, he croons of his mixed emotions: “Rosemary, I can stay away / You say it well, then you take it away / Got no problem, follow up / You’re the one I say I’m from.

Follow Alex Southey:  FacebookTwitterInstagram

TAFARI ANTHONY – Single Review: “No Good”

I recently learned about Toronto-based singer-songwriter Tafari Anthony when his PR rep reached out to me with his new single “No Good“. After hearing it, as well as listening to his terrific catalog of songs, I’m excited to now introduce this talented Queer artist to my readers. Influenced by some of his favorite artists ranging from Prince and John Legend to Lennon Stella and Charlie Puth, Tafari blends R&B, pop and soul with sultry melodies and deeply heartfelt lyrics to create songs with incredible emotional resonance and depth. His powerful lyrics touch on subjects of love, relationships, life’s hardships and finding self identity and worth in a society where most people feel they need to blend in to be happy. The power of his music reflects the fact that his name ‘Tafari’ means “he who inspires awe”.

Tafari has released a substantial amount of music over the past five years, starting with his debut EP Die For You in 2016. He’s been nominated for a Toronto Independent Music Award and receives regular airplay on CBC Radio, with one of his singles being named one of CBC’s Most Influential Songs of 2016. He has also performed alongside Shangela (RuPaul’s Drag Race) and has performed at Toronto’s Dundas Square and Massey Hall. Within the past year, Tafari was awarded a star on Canada’s Walk of Fame in Toronto, and was recently selected as one of CBC Searchlight’s top 25 performers in Canada.

This past January, he released his single “Centerfold”, then followed in May with “Live in a Dream’. On October 21, he dropped his latest single “No Good”; all three singles will be included on his upcoming EP The Way You See Me, due for release on November 20. The track was co-produced by Tafari and Alexander “Sandy” Flockhart, engineered by TEFO, mixed by Brandon Unis and mastered by Brad Smith. The beautiful, poignant song is about how some relationships are just no good for us, yet we seem powerless to resist, ending up pursuing them against our better judgement. Tafari confides, “It takes a lot of self-reflection to be able to realize these patterns in ourselves and even more to get out of them once we are aware. Realizing that you crave the unhealthiness of the relationship. Personally, I often let people treat me like shit for way longer than I should – but once I’m done, I’m done.”

He further elaborated on his thoughts to the webzine American Songwriter: “I’m hoping listeners will really connect with this [song]. It is so much easier than you’d think to get trapped in this cycle of a bad relationship. I’ve heard too often from people that when a relationship is going well they feel like it’s missing something and that something is the drama. It gives us this false sense of excitement, when really the constant drama, [analysis,] and need to always be looking for confrontation is not a healthy relationship at all. Hopefully this song helps bring clarity to even one person who is in a situation like this.”

The song has a sensual groove, anchored by a pulsating synth bass beat and accompanied by warm keyboards, finger snaps and some nicely-strummed guitar. Tafari has an impressive vocal range, and here they’re especially lovely and heartfelt as they go from breathy to raw to falsetto, beautifully conveying a sense of sad resignation expressed in the lyrics:

 “We put the good shit down for a rest / ‘Cause goddamn, I love when you stress / See the vein pop right through your head / I guess some would call us a mess / So now we’re standing here, feeding obsession with crippling fear / But I love it dear / Do I need to explain anymore / That’s why I had to leave / ‘Cause you’re no good for me.

Connect with Tafari:  FacebookTwitterInstagram

Stream his music:  SpotifyApple MusicSoundcloudYouTube

Purchase: BandcampWebsiteAmazon

IDUNA – Singles Review: “Here We Are Alone”/”But We’re Not Alone”

Iduna

There’s so much terrific music being produced these days by scores of independent and unsigned artists and bands, and it’s a real challenge for them to break through the sheer volume of it all to get their music heard. With that in mind, it gives me pleasure to feature some of the talented ones on this blog in the hopes of giving them a bit of press, and one that I must share with my readers today is Canadian rock band Iduna. They recently released a brilliant double single “Here We Are Alone”/”But We’re Not Alone“, which blew me away the moment I heard them.

Based in Toronto, Iduna consists of Jason Craig (Guitar and Vocals), Trison Boyes (Guitar and Vocals), Tim Saulnier (Bass) and Gabriel Lavoie (Drums). Drawing influence from some of their favorite bands like The Smashing Pumpkins, Pearl Jam, Matthew Good Band, Biffy Clyro and Kings of Leon, they make exceptional alternative rock that’s exciting, hard-hitting and melodic, with thought-provoking lyrics touching on relevant issues such as morality and social justice. Having two guitarists who also share singing duties gives their sound a fuller, more varied dynamic not found with many bands.

In 2017, they released their outstanding debut EP Counterpart, then followed a year later with “Nosedive”, a scathing song of protest against the fear-mongering politicians and news media who spew their bile to keep the public divided and angry. Since then, they’ve released several more great singles, the latest of which is “Here We Are Alone”/”But We’re Not Alone”, which dropped on July 31st. The songs are especially relevant given recent events, particularly the COVID-10 pandemic and accompanying health, economic and political fallout. With the songs, Iduna in their own words seeks to offer “a thread of optimism for those feeling isolated and alone. A rallying cry reminding everyone that we’re all in this together, and a plea for a more inclusive future. Even in moments of isolation or despondency, remember that the world is full of kindhearted souls eager to connect and overcome. Together we are stronger.”

“Here We Are Alone” opens with a nimble bassline solo by Saulnier, then ten seconds in the song blasts through the speakers with a fusillade of raging guitars and explosive percussion.  My god, Craig and Boyes nearly shred their guitars to the breaking point, delivering wave upon wave of intricate, eardrum-shattering riffs. Saulnier and Lavoie drive the massive rhythm forward on its path of sonic destruction with their throbbing bass and smashing drumbeats. To fully appreciate this song, turn the volume all way up!

Craig sings lead vocals here, with Boyes providing strong support with his plaintive backing wails. Together, their raw, impassioned harmonies bring chills as they plead for people to try and come together with more empathy and understanding:

Here we are alone
But we’re not alone
Our link, the bond
Awake in your arms, hollowed

This I beg of you
Please, I beg you to
Give up the ways
That push away and keep us down

Here we are, here we are alone
See the ape has gone and dug a hole

This is not the world
We grew up in
They’re cutting out the youth
From tomorrow 

This I beg of you
Please, I beg you to
Ease the days, lay seeds of change
And lift us all, to lift us all!

The second track “But We’re Not Alone” is a somber, yet hopeful response to “Here We Are Alone”, an assurance that we’re in this together and, if we help one another, we will be OK. The song has a mysterious, almost ghostly vibe with instrumentals consisting of hauntingly beautiful piano keys and orchestral string synths. Craig and Boyes’ vocal harmonies are quite captivating as they intone as if singing a hymn:

Not alone
Here we are
You’re not alone
I’m reaching out to you

Sorrow feeds that show
New hope

Here’s an entertaining behind the scenes video showing the band creating and building the set for their music video.

Follow Iduna:  FacebookTwitterInstagram
Stream their music:  SpotifyApple MusicSoundcloud
Purchase:  BandcampGoogle Play

KROSST OUT – Single/Video Review: “Funerals”

Krosst Out Funerals

One of the things I most enjoy about being a music blogger is getting to know a lot of musicians and bands through social media, and following them on their musical journeys over time. An artist I’ve grown particularly fond of is Krosst Out, a singer-songwriter and rapper from Toronto, Canada. I first learned about him in early 2017, when he reached out to me about his debut EP Life of the Party, an outstanding work that examined the darker aspects of party life, along with the sex, drugs and alcohol abuse that often go hand in hand. (I reviewed that EP, as well as one of his later singles, both of which you can find under “Related” at the end of this post.)

Born and raised in the small Ontario town of Campbellford, he first studied piano as a child, then took up the bass guitar in his teens. Influenced by the music of artists such as Manafest, Eminem, Underoath, Rage Against The Machine, System Of A Down, Vinnie Paz, Nas, and Marilyn Manson, he developed a love for alternative rock, hip hop and rap. He played in various local bands, developing his rapping skills along the way, and eventually moved to Toronto, where he started writing his own songs. Drawing upon the aforementioned influences, he fuses hip hop with grunge, alt-rock and punk to create his own unique sound. Like a lot of hip hop artists, his songs draw heavily from his own life experiences, with honest, raw and introspective lyrics.

On March 13, he dropped his latest single “Funerals“, and followed up with a brilliant companion video for the song that was filmed and directed by Eric Soto. The track was produced by Adam Van Ameringen, recorded at Pink Distortion Music in Toronto, and mixed and mastered by Sean Savage.

“Funerals” is a deeply personal song for Krosst Out, and touches on how he’s changed and grown since leaving Campbellford. It’s often challenging when people leave home and move away to make a new life for themselves, and though we generally maintain a sense of love and fondness toward family and friends we left behind, the distance and passage of time can complicate or often diminish relationships. Krosst Out told me the song title “Funerals” is a metaphor for the death of his old self. “I feel like I’ve just grown so much that I’m unrecognizable now, but at the same time, if I wanted to go [back] home I couldn’t. Also, the more you grow, the more you have people that will hate you for that.”

The song opens with Krosst Out telling us who he is now, accompanied by resonant keyboard notes:

I’m not that kid that you used to know
Now I’m living life so unusual
Less weddings and more of these funerals

The tempo then abruptly shifts to a heavy dub step beat, as the music expands with a dramatic mix of spooky psychedelic synths, deep, throbbing bass, glittery keyboards and some of the sickest percussive synths I’ve heard in a while. The instrumentals are really superb, creating a dark and moody backdrop for Krosst Out’s impassioned free style rapping as he laments about the guilt trips foisted upon him by his mother and friends:

You’re always telling me that I don’t pick up that phone much anymore
And you don’t call home
Why are the people that you’ve got ignored
Saying that you’re one of us
But it’s pretty clear that you’re not
You think that you’re better
You think that you’re big now
Move from the small town
Go and get the big stuff
Now that your ego’s even bigger now
And you fucking forgot our names, wow

From that same town where nothing ever happened
But that was back then
Fuck those memories you can have em
I’m past it
I’m not that kid that you used to know
Want black roses at my funeral
And I’m sorry mom, but I’m not that kid that you used to know

He goes on to sing that his new life isn’t all a bed of roses either:

But if you have to know I hate this city
Cause I been here too long
And I know that I can’t go home
Cause I don’t belong
And no I don’t need no phone call
Hold on, spare me the sad song
I don’t need to hear about the old me
It should be quite clear that’s what I don’t need
I’m just a grown man who can’t afford these groceries
If you think the grass is greener on my side
It’s not really

The fascinating video was filmed mostly in a church, and shows Krosst Out singing the song as if addressing an imaginary congregation. He then goes into a restroom, where he cuts off all his hair, and is later shown as his new self singing the song in a gymnasium, as well as outside at night, digging a hole with a shovel, seemingly for the purpose of burying his old self.

Connect with Krosst Out:  Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream his music on Spotify / SoundcloudApple Music
Purchase on BandcampGoogle Play

MELOTIKA – Single/Video Review: “Bury The Bones”

Melotika2

Melotika is an indie/alternative pop artist born and raised in Montreal, and now based in Toronto. The alter-ego of singer/songwriter Mel Yelle, her distinctive, sultry vocal styling and exotic beauty set her apart from other female artists. With a strong sense of individuality and determination coupled with an endearing vulnerability, she writes brutally honest and relatable lyrics touching on subjects of relationships, love, and how social media and pressures to conform can affect our emotional well-being.

I featured Melotika on this blog twice in 2018, when I reviewed her previous singles “Unaware Part II [Blindside]” and “Bittersweet Reality“.  On February 18th, she dropped her latest single “Bury The Bones“, a dark, haunting song about a woman who’s a psychopathic killer. The song was co-written by Melotika and New York-based songwriter and producer Gory Gloriana, and produced, mixed and mastered by Sean Savage. About the song, she explains: “‘Bury The Bones’ reveals suppressed dark emotions about an unhealthy, fictional love story. As a society, we have a weird obsession with psychopaths, murder and lust. This song is a creative take on these subjects from the perspective of an individual with an unsettling mind.”

The song opens with sounds of someone digging shovelfuls of earth, backed by gentle, mysterious synths and Melotika’s eerily chants of “do it”, conjuring up images of a black night where something really bad is about to go down. A languid beat kicks in as the music swells with a darkly beautiful mix of contrasting shimmery and gnarly keyboard synths, increasing the sense of unease.

Melotika’s sultry vocals are amazing, conveying a quiet desperation bordering on menacing as she entreats her lover in a thinly veiled threatening manner to not abandon her, or else he will pay:

Stepping by your place, I can’t erase you
Another face, that I cannot replace
Take another toll, tell me you want more
Loathsomeness; I can’t ever love

Don’t ever leave
Don’t let me down
Don’t take the best of me
What goes around comes back around

You may abandon me but
My heart beats steadily for you
Cold dirt can’t hold me down
Walk away and bury the bones

Finally reaching a point of madness, her voice rises to a chilling shriek in the chorus as she implores:

I can never love someone
I’m your contaminated loaded gun
Don’t you ever leave my friend
Don’t you let me down

The dark and brilliant video, written by Melotika and filmed and directed by Eric Soto, brings the lyrics to life in a kind of horror film vignette. A couple, played by Melotika and her real-life boyfriend and songwriter/rapper Krosst Out, are shown walking to and entering her apartment after a night out. We’re shown scenes of them together, juxtaposed with scenes of her in her bedroom, singing the lyrics. They get comfortable, and she goes into the kitchen to arrange the flowers he gave her and pour them glasses of wine while he watches a video of her on TV. Problem is, she’s slipped some poison into his glass, and he soon drops dead. While all this is happening, the camera pans the numerous framed photos of other men on a nearby table. The video ends with yet another man appearing at her door with a bouquet of flowers, and the cycle begins again.

Connect with Melotika on  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music on Spotify / Apple Music
Purchase on iTunes or BandcampGoogle Play

TED KENNEDY – Single Review: “Not Enough”

Ted Kennedy is a producer/composer of electronic music based in Toronto, Canada. He’s been producing and recording music for several years, and released his first EP Late in 2014, and followed two years later with a second EP Lost, both of which contain some very solid tracks. He also curates a weekly live show called Frequencies, featuring live sets from forward-thinking electronic artists, producers, and MC’s. The shows take place on the third Thursday of every month at Handlebar in Toronto.

After a bit of a hiatus, Ted is once again recording more songs, and released a new single “Forty” earlier this year. Now he returns with another single “Not Enough“, which dropped on April 12. About his latest single, Ted told me “Like a lot of music I have been writing recently, ‘Not Enough’ is inspired by the sounds of Toronto’s underground electronic music scene. Curating Frequencies, I’m constantly blown away by the amount of talent here. It’s tough to be an artist in this city; rents are high, venues are closing, and platforms big enough to give artists any meaningful exposure are nearly non-existent. Everyone has day jobs, roommates, and bedroom studios. Despite the challenges, artists put in the work and create great things. This song is inspired by those artists, their sounds, their creativity, their energy. I just hope I did them justice.”

On “Not Enough”, Ted employs a strong thumping EDM beat and moody, pulsating synths that give the track a bit of a Depeche Mode vibe. In fact, his deep, sultry vocals even sound a bit like Dave Gahan’s here. The driving dance beat is hypnotic and seductive, compelling us to move as it carries us away to a dark, yet dreamy place. Throughout, Ted uses deep bass and fuzzy, otherworldly synths to give the track added texture and depth. I found myself getting lost in the music, not wanting the song to end.

The lyrics speak of a love affair in tatters, in which the love they had is no longer enough to sustain the relationship:

Damn taste of love is all I know
It’s always on, not enough
Your love is my own ruin
A quiet knot undone

Our love is all in cinders
Our love is not enough
I’m always in the windows
I’m always on the run

Ted will be performing “Not Enough” at Handlebar on Thursday, April 18 as part of his Frequencies series.

Connect with Ted on Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream his music on Spotify / Soundcloud

FEATHER WEIGHT – Single Review: “Volcano”

feather weight

Feather Weight is a fairly new band from Toronto, Canada who play music that incorporates elements of Garage Rock, Dream Pop and Psych. They’ve released only two singles thus far – their debut “Just Take the Pill” in May 2018, and “Volcano”, which dropped in late November – and I can unequivocally state I’m already a big fan of theirs. When their drummer Raymond Cara (who I know from his also being part of Toronto bands The Autumn Stones and Andrew LaTona & the Nightshades, both of which I’ve featured on this blog) shared “Volcano” with me the other day, it was love at first listen. In addition to Raymond on drums, the other band members include Alistair Bundale on lead vocals & guitar, Neil Culbert on guitar and backing vocals, and Jordan Quinn on bass and backing vocals. All are accomplished musicians who’ve been involved with other bands in the thriving Toronto music scene.

The song starts off with a subtle but intriguing little guitar riff, then a pounding drumbeat enters, leaving us anticipating what’s coming next. Suddenly, a gorgeous chiming guitar arrives, immediately engulfing our eardrums in a shimmering soundscape. The tempo adjusts to a gentle driving beat as more guitar is layered over the primary riff that continues throughout the song. Alistair’s passionate echoed vocals enter the mix and the result is a song so sublime it brings goosebumps. Given the perfection of this and their first single, I expect we’ll be hearing more fantastic songs from Feather Weight – and soon, I hope!

I asked Raymond about the song’s meaning and how they chose the vintage footage for the wonderful video. He told me it was actually from an old GM promo from the early 1960s for an electronics and car showcase. About the song’s meaning, he explained: “I would say a lot of the basis of this song deals with the pressure of human repression building up underneath and the process of liberating ourselves from that pressure. The way we framed the video is in a way to show a woman finding her liberation at a time when women’s roles were strongly defined by positions occupied in the home. I would think of this more though as an analogy for the meaning of the song rather than the actual point of the song. [But] even though we may find a sense of liberation, that doesn’t mean we are free. The human condition in the cultures and societies we have created foster isolation and alienation and cause many mental health issues, so at some level she is running a fool’s errand, so to speak.” Watch, listen, and prepare to be blown away by this marvelous song.

Connect with Feather Weight:  Facebook / Instagram
Stream their songs on Spotify / Apple Music
Purchase on Bandcamp / iTunes

THE AUTUMN STONES – EP Review: “Into the Light”

Autumn Stones EP

The Autumn Stones are a Toronto, Canada-based band who play music that’s difficult to label as any particular genre, but who cares, really, so long as it sounds great. Their beautiful, pleasing sound incorporates elements of alternative rock, dream pop, jazz, and what the band refers to as “literary rock,” which I take to mean songs built around intelligent, thoughtful lyrics – which theirs have in abundance. Another aspect of their music is their use of a wide array of instruments, especially saxophone and organ that, along with their signature gorgeous jangly guitars, creates a lush soundscape for their wonderful songs.

Autumn Stones

Formed in 2009, the band’s current lineup consists of founding member Ciaran Megahey (vocals & guitar), Marcus Tamm (bass), Dan Dervaitis (guitar, keys, piano), Gary Butler (sax & keyboards) and Raymond Cara (drums & percussion).  They released their debut album Companions of the Flame in 2011, followed by Escapists in 2015, which I reviewed in 2016. In June of this year, they dropped their third album Emperor Twilight, a stunning work that I also reviewed. Now they’re back with a new four-track EP Into the Light, which dropped November 23. Like Emperor Twilight, the EP was co-produced by The Autumn Stones and Andy Magoffin, and is described by the band as a companion piece to the album.

First up is the title track “Into the Light.” Band frontman Megahey explains about its creation: “We were working on ‘Into the Light’ around the same time as the album sessions, but it wasn’t quite ready to record. Simultaneously, we all felt it was among our strongest songs and couldn’t wait to realize it fully. I’m glad we took the time to fine-tune it and now the track gets its own spotlight in this EP release.” The wait was certainly worthwhile, as “Into the Light” is magnificent. The gorgeous track features layers of exuberant jangly guitars, along with warm saxophone, both hallmarks of The Autumn Stones’ beguiling sound. Megahey’s smooth vocals are sublime, with a seductive quality that also manages to convey a sense of vulnerability. The lovely sax notes on this track were played by Paul White.

The second track “Hardwired” is a terrific pop-rock song with jazzy undertones, courtesy of Gary Butler’s wonderful strutting sax. The guitar work is great too, and the distorted flourishes at the end make for a nice finish. Megahey sings of his hedonism: “My dirty brain is like a slave. It’s like a beatnick. I’ve seen the light. I found the truth. It doesn’t hide. It doesn’t need to. I’m hardwired.” “Higher” soars with lots of soulful sax and fantastic jangly guitars, accompanied by Marcus Tamm’s deep bass and Ray Cara’s crisp percussion.

The Bigger They Fail” is an acoustic version of a song by the same name that appeared on Emperor Twilight, and was previously released as a B-side to that single. Like the original, it’s a hauntingly beautiful dreampop song that reminds me a bit of “Under the Milky Way’ by The Church. This stripped-down version features only acoustic guitar, piano and a bit of tambourine, but is still every bit as stunning and compelling as the original. And it goes without saying that Megahey’s vocals are bewitching as always.

Like all their releases, Into the Light is perfection from start to finish. I love the Autumn Stones’ music, and will likely continue to feature all of their future musical offerings. They will be launching Into the Light with a show at Toronto’s Monarch Tavern on December 8, with guests TBA.

Connect with The Autumn Stones:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music:  Spotify / Apple Music
Purchase:  iTunesBandcamp

ANDREW LA TONA – Album Review: “Human”

The great city of Toronto, Canada has a thriving music scene, and I’ve featured a number of artists and bands based there, most recently The Autumn Stones and their stunning album Emperor Twilight. After seeing that review, singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist extraordinaire Andrew La Tona reached out to me for consideration of his latest album Human for a review, and I’m so glad he did because it’s fantastic! I can say without equivocation that I love his extraordinary album. Andrew’s a creative and gifted composer, songwriter and musician who employs all sorts of experimental and unique instrumentation, melodies and time signature and chord changes that make for incredibly interesting songs that always deliver unexpected surprises for the listener.

Andrew has had a lifelong love affair with music. As he explains in his bio:

“It seems as if music has been my life since the day I was born.  My mother always reminds me that as a toddler, she signed me up for a Mother and Tot music class. A fond memory of mine is that for as long as I remember, there has always been a piano in my home.  At the age of seven, I began formal lessons in piano and classical theory through the Royal Conservatory of Music for seven years. By fourteen I made a commitment to myself that music was to become my life.  I discovered my father’s old guitar hidden in the basement.  I took it upon myself to learn by ear, listening to records and reading guitar magazines.  When I entered high-school I was proficient on Piano, Guitar, Bass and Drums.  I made the band room my home, where I played in all the school ensembles, refined my sight reading and theory, and learned Trumpet, Euphonium and Flugelhorn as a personal project.”

He went on to study Radio Broadcasting and Journalism at Seneca College and School of Communication Arts, and from 1999 to 2006, he played with various groups with long-time collaborator Edward Kramer, with whom he founded the bands Odd Man Out and Yesterday’s Gone.  They recorded four albums together, and Andrew personally completed three solo albums which went on to be the foundation for his and Ed’s band Big Stereo, to which he devoted his full attention from 2006 to 2009. Since 2010, Andrew has continued to work on his own music, and Human is his latest album, which dropped in June.

Andrew La Tona

Human is a commentary of sorts on the current state of things, in which Andrew expresses his antipathy for today’s leaders, our growing obsession with gadgets, and ponders our place within the vastness of the universe. His lyrics are so well-written and compelling that I’ll be quoting a lot of them. The powerful opening track “Leader” speaks of how humankind’s ignorance and greed is wrecking our planet, yet we’re hungry for leadership to help us solve our problems, but our leader (Trump) is a fraud:

Here, we find ourselves trapped inside a fate so paramount 
And we live for ourselves with no regard for other animals 
Our mother earth is threatening with disaster 
We’re blind, we are condemned to live upon the soiled earth 
How could we figure out how to reverse our plight, our misfortune, our ignorance 
Total genocide 

You’re not the leader we want 
Leave or we’ll never have peace 
The way you speak is absurd 
It warps the minds of our young

Musically, the track starts off with a distorted spacey synth, then expands to a rolling drumbeat as Andrew begins singing in his silky, yet vulnerable voice. His layered jangly and chiming guitars are marvelous, and he uses a variety of synths to great effect in creating a very intriguing song.

Borderlines” is a feast for the ears. Andrew employs guitar, bass, organ, horns, cymbals, drums and glittery synths to weave a rich tapestry of sound that unfolds throughout the length of the enthralling track. The song is about breaking free from mind control and expectations placed upon us by oppressive societal norms.

I want to be free. Free from your borderlines
I need to break the mold you’ve always cast for me
And in my mind, there’s a place like this
Without your rules, your greed

Andrew takes on people who feel success is having more money and stuff than everyone else on “At the Top.” The delightful song has a Latin vibe thanks to a peppy Samba beat and instrumentation that beautifully softens the bite of the lyrics:

Boast among your rich yuppy friends 
‘Bout how you trample on all those around you 
All just to end up at the top 
And what’s left for you? 
Is there more than just the cars – the yacht? 
Honestly, I’m not impressed 
Baby, nothings cooler than you, my friend

Power and Prowess” is an incredibly satisfying ‘fuck you’ to Donald Trump, which automatically makes this a winning song in my book! The track has a fast-paced galloping drumbeat, with wonderful intricate guitar work and crisp layered percussion.  Andrew vocals get downright raw as he snarls the scathing lyrics:

“Be the champion”, that’s what you tell yourself 
I guess in your mind you are 
It’s true you shit on johns of gold 
You’re at least champion of that 
So how can you lead the people of today 
Forward to tomorrow? 

I doubt you know the gravity of your post 
I’d say no 
There are people out there who want to love 
There are people out there who don’t want to die 
You’re not one of us 
We should be blessed with human rights 
No one should be groped by you 
No one should be owned by you 
You’re in charge of you, big boy 
And that’s all (And that’s all) 

Weald that sword in battle, head up to the front line 
Bring yourself to ‘fess-up to one crime 
Let us know who’s running the show 
You’re not the man for the job 
Move over, asshole 
We can save the world 

One of my favorite tracks is “The Walls,” a beautiful declaration of love to someone to whom you are beholden. This song is so utterly captivating it gives me chills. It’s as if Andrew has gone out of his way to make the guitars and synths sparkle like jewels of sunlight strewn across the sea. His fervent vocals, which occasionally soar to a smooth falsetto, are positively sublime.

Another favorite is the bouncy “Laniakea Supercluster,” a fascinating track that has a strong Talking Heads vibe. Along with his echoed vocals, Andrew uses lots of otherworldly synths to create a sci-fi feel to go with the lyrics that speak to the fact that, on the one hand, Earth is but an insignificant speck in the overall massiveness of the universe, but on the other hand, it’s our home and so very significant to our survival and well-being.

So Long to the Human Race” is an apocalyptic clarion call after a nuclear war for those who survive and repopulate the world to try and co-exist in peace and be one with the earth. The gritty guitars, heavy buzzing bass,  organ, and spacey synths lend a somber mood.

It makes me sick to look upon all we’ve done
And the little we’ve done to help
And if I could, I’d eat up all the terrible things we’ve done
And shit it down your throat 

Can’t you see that our kind is a warning 
From the first flame, to the first rocket 
So little is left of what we blew all our cash on 
And burned up all the oil 
And killed who we loved 
So long to the human race 

Time Goes Ever By” touches on our obsession with our mobile devices, addicted to the siren song of staying connected on all our social media accounts, at the expense of many other facets of our lives. I know I’m sometimes guilty of this behavior myself. Musically, the track has a lovely melody, with some terrific guitar and organ. And have I mentioned that I love Andrews’ vocals?

Everyone around me seems to be gripped by the same illness 
Never putting down their device 
Never looking up from their trance 
Never have the time to sow seeds 
Never stepping past the bar 
Of this jail we’re put in by ourselves and our will 
Can we find the strength to let drop the rock upon the screen 
And our friends logged on the web

Human is a brilliant album on every level I can think of – composition, melodies, lyrics, instrumentation, vocals, and production. Andrew has done a masterful job with all aspects of the album production, and should be very proud of this outstanding work. And if all that weren’t enough, he even did the amazing cover art!

He’s now in the process of forming an ensemble of musicians to perform with him live, and is excited to have them add some amazing character and flavor to the songs from Human, as well as some of his songs from his back catalogue.

Check out Andrew’s Website and connect with him on  Facebook 
Stream his music on Spotify / Soundcloud / Apple Music
Purchase on Bandcamp / iTunes