Fresh New Tracks, Vol 12 – IAMWARFACE, Paul Iwan & Lines of Flight/The Ocean Beneath

It’s back to the UK for my latest edition of Fresh New Tracks, and today I’m featuring three powerful new singles by acts I’ve previously featured on this blog – IAMWARFACE, Paul Iwan and The Ocean Beneath, as well as Lines of Flight, an act I’ve not written about before, who collaborated with The Ocean Beneath on the track I’m including.

IAMWARFACE – “The Black Room”

British nu-rock band IAMWARFACE are one of my favorite acts, who I’ve happily featured on this blog many times. From the moment I first heard their explosive debut single “Say My Name” in 2016, I’ve been a devoted fan. Based in Brighton and London, and fronted by the immensely talented and flamboyant singer/songwriter and producer Matt Warneford, their aggressive name is a fitting metaphor for their bombastic groove-based style of electro-rock. Warneford has a commanding presence and powerhouse singing voice, with the ability to raise our adrenaline with his dramatic impassioned vocals. Since their debut, they’ve continued to deliver one incredible song after another. Three of their singles – “Say My Name”, “Closer” and “Fear the Future” – have reached #1 on my Weekly Top 30 chart, with “Closer” ranking #58 on my Top 100 Songs of the 2010s.

With their latest release, “The Black Room“, IAMWARFACE deliver more of their signature incendiary rock we’ve come to love and expect. I love their massive sound, highlighted by searing riffs, grinding basslines, explosive percussion and moody industrial synths, all of which blend together in a combustible alchemy to create a darkly beautiful backdrop for Warneford’s fearsome vocals. The song was actually written a couple of years ago, and has been played by the band in their live set for a while. They decided it was time to have it fully mixed and mastered, and released to the world, and we fans are glad they did! It’s another sparkling gem in their unbroken string of superb singles.

Connect with IAMWARFACE:  Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

PAUL IWAN – “CONTROL”

Another long-time favorite of mine is singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Paul Iwan, who’s based in Liverpool. We’ve been following one another on social media for nearly six years as well, and I’ve also written about him and his music numerous times. Paul’s an outstanding guitarist and songwriter, with a strong, resonant and emotive vocal style. His powerful single “Reward”, which was a cover of the song originally recorded by Liverpool new wave band The Teardrop Explodes, spent four months on my Weekly Top 30, and ranks #50 on my Top 100 Songs of 2020.

Paul has just released a powerful video for “CONTROL“, one of the songs from his forthcoming album PRESENT, due for release on April 8th. The video, filmed and directed by Scott Mealey in Waterloo Methodist Church in Liverpool, shows Paul performing the song against a backdrop of historic imagery of troubling events and strife, courtesy of TechNoir. Of special note is that Paul is playing his beautiful 1965 lime green Framus guitar, once owned by The Teardrop Explodes frontman Julian Cope, which he purchased in a broken state and lovingly restored. Paul, who has struggled with PTSD and addiction, states that the song is a confrontation of fear, and a reminder of the power within us all to overcome those fears. For the recording of the track, Paul played the blistering guitars, haunting piano keys and sweeping synths, Jim Duncan played additional guitar and Steven Burkert played drums.

Connect with Paul Iwan: Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

THE OCEAN BENEATH & LINES OF FLIGHT – “Strands”

The Ocean Beneath is the electronic music project of Leeds-based musician, composer and producer Matt Burnside. Influenced by bands such as Gunship, HVOB and Talk Talk, he combines 80’s synthpop elements with modern recording techniques, analogue synthesis and huge melodic grooves to create music that sounds retro, yet fresh. Like many electronic artists, he often collaborates with other musicians and vocalists, and has released a sizable amount of terrific music, some of which I’ve reviewed previously. His enchanting collaborative single “Skin”, with Leeds-based singer-songwriter and electronic musician Fran Minney, earned a spot on my Top 100 Songs of 2020 list.

Lines of Flight are a Leeds-based dreamwave/synthpop/electro-folk duo comprised of Matthew Henderson and Helen Whale. They started collaborating as strangers at the beginning of the lockdown in March 2020, recording songs using only iPhone handsets & headphones. Their sound is influenced by Depeche Mode, Joy Division, OMD, Gary Numan, The Cure, New Order and Eurythmics, all acts who are also strong influences for IAMWARFACE. In the two years since they began, they’ve released 10 singles. Their latest single “Strands“, a collaboration with The Ocean Beneath, is their eleventh.

The origin of “Strands” began as a series of 20 tweets written by Matthew starting around Christmas 2019 and continuing through 2020 and 2021, about his personal struggles, painful memories of the loss of his father that seemed to cast a pall over every Christmas, the fact he was about to be a father for the first time, and the value of music to help him get though it all. After publishing them as one coherent piece he named “Strands” in December 2021, The Ocean Beneath urged Matthew to record these tweets as a spoken word piece. Together, The Ocean Beneath and Lines of Flight then composed a hauntingly beautiful ambient instrumental to go with the written piece. There are two tracks, the first with Matthew’s spoken vocals, and the second an instrumental-only piece.

Connect with The Ocean Beneath: Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

Connect with Lines of Flight:  FacebookTwitterInstagram

ALEXIS GERRED – Double Single Review: “Unbreakable” feat. MiG Ayesa & “Mary Go Round”

Alexis Gerred is an engaging and multi-faceted artist based in London, England. He began his career on stage, performing in productions of American IdiotOur House, Dreamboats and Petticoats, The West End Men, and Rooms, but his true passion is for music and singing. I last featured him on this blog in November 2018, when I reviewed his wonderful debut album Alexis (which you can read here). Now, I’m pleased to share his new double single “Unbreakable“, featuring vocals by MiG Ayesa, along with “Mary Go Round“, a cover of the song originally recorded by The Struts. 

“Unbreakable” was written by Gerred and produced by TylaJoe Connett, and is the lead single from his forthcoming EP, due for release later this year. The song features guest vocals by MiG Ayesa, the acclaimed Australian-Filipino singer and actor who’s performed on Broadway and London’s West End in such mega hits as Rock of Ages, Thriller Live, Annie, and We Will Rock You. It was Ayesa who’s responsible for inspiring Gerred to become an entertainer himself.

When Gerred saw his very first musical We Will Rock You, based on the career and music of Queen, in London’s West End and starring Ayesa, it was a revelation. He recalls: “I watched MiG Ayesa take to the stage and his delivery, passion and charisma flipped a switch inside me. Although I had never even attempted singing a note before, I knew I wanted to emulate him and follow a path that would one day see me up on that stage, too. I’ve followed his career and plucked inspiration from so many things he’s done. One that stands out in particular was his time on ‘Rockstar: INXS’ where I loved his rock ‘n roll style of showmanship.”

Having Ayesa record a song with him was a dream come true for Gerred, as not many artists get the opportunity to collaborate with the star who inspired them to make music to begin with. And let me state that the combination of these two talented and charismatic vocalists results in sonic fireworks. “Unbreakable” is the hardest rocking song Gerred’s ever done, and he really summons his inner beast to great effect, his raw vocals nicely contrasting and complementing Ayesa’s somewhat smoother vocal delivery. Musically, the song has an aggressive stomping groove and deliciously funky vibe reminiscent of the Red Hot Chili Peppers. I love the thunderous, driving rhythms and blistering guitars that hit full throttle in the bridge, highlighted by a screaming guitar solo that’s matched by note for note by the guys’ explosive vocal alchemy. Wow!

Collaborating on “Unbreakable” with Ayesa is even more meaningful given the personal nature of the song, which is based on a negative experience with a former acting agent. The song is about staying driven and focused on one’s dreams, an important message for many of us in today’s challenging, uncertain world. Gerred elaborates “This song is about resilience and determination. If I can inspire someone to take charge of their own lives and bounce back from adversity, that’s my goal.”

On his beautiful cover of the Struts song “Mary Go Round”, Gerred does great justice to the original, while making it his own. His vocals are a powerful combination of vulnerable and raw, beautifully conveying the feelings of pain and heartache of a broken relationship expressed in the poignant lyrics. “How long before my little pill starts kicking in. How long before your broken heart starts giving in? Here we go up, here we go down. Mary go round and round and round.”

It’s great to see Alexis Gerred back and sounding better than ever. Both “Unbreakable” and “Mary Go Round” are superb, and if the rest of the tracks on his upcoming EP are even half this good, it’s going to be a winner.

To learn more about Alexis, check out his website
Connect with him on Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream his music on Spotify / Apple Music
Purchase on iTunes

PLAINS OF SILENCE – EP Review: “Archangel”

Plains of Silence is a progressive/post-rock act based in Lincolnshire, England, and comprised of the very talented double threat of songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Rick Whitehead and bassist/guitarist Geoff Standeven. The busy duo have also been active with other bands and music projects both in the past and present. Both were members of alt-rock band The Saboteurs (who I’ve previously written about and are now on hiatus). Rick also records music under his music project Sparralimb, and was previously a member of now defunct rock band Tripswitch, while Geoff also plays bass with metal rock band Sleepless.

As Plains of Silence, Rick and Geoff create exquisite instrumental compositions that incorporate elements of progressive, alternative, grunge and metal rock. Rick plays lead guitars, keyboards/synths and drums, while Geoff plays rhythm guitar and bass. Last August, they released their debut single “Jeremiah”, a darkly beautiful 8-minute, 40-second long tour-de-force of melodic guitars, meandering rhythms and cinematic crescendos. Now the guys are back with their debut EP Archangel, which they’ve released on Bandcamp. The EP will be available beginning March 4th on all major streaming sites.

Archangel features “Jeremiah”, along with four new tracks, each of which sounds uniquely different and most of which are fairly long, running well over five minutes. Kicking off the EP is the gorgeous title track “Archangel“, which Geoff told me is dedicated to all mums everywhere, and in particular his own mum who’s currently battling cancer. He said he wanted to write something from the heart that people could connect with, and after listening to the track, I think he’s succeeded quite nicely. The song begins with a somber but lovely acoustic guitar riff, backed by a rather mysterious gravelly background synth of some kind that provides a fascinating contrast with the haunting guitar notes. Two minutes in, the music expands into a glorious and almost spiritual Pink Floyd-esque soundscape, with shimmery guitars, throbbing bass and emphatic drumbeats.

Plains of Silence switch things up on the next track “Redded“, a moody rocker with a blend of grungy and melodic riffs layered over a strong driving rhythm. Rick lays down a tasty psychedelic guitar solo in the bridge, before the song fades out. This is followed by “Jeremiah“, which I think is my favorite track on the EP. As I alluded to earlier, the song is a monumental tour-de-force and a feast for the ears. The song starts off with a simple but arresting acoustic guitar riff lasting slightly over a minute, at which point it’s joined by a rhythm section of subtle bass and measured drums. Soon, the guitar becomes more intricate and melodic up to around 3:45, when the tempo increases with edgier riffs and more forceful drums and bass. The instrumentals continue to build until everything erupts into a dramatic crescendo of grinding gnarly riffs, pummeling bass and assertive, military-style drumbeats that transition to a barrage of thunderous percussion. The music calms back down to just strummed guitar and thumping drumbeats for the final minute as the song ends on a somber note.

As its title would suggest, “The Saint of Killers” is the darkest, most intense track on the EP, with strong progressive and alternative metal underpinnings. Much of the song features a furious barrage of grinding buzz saw riffs, crushing bass and explosive percussion, interspersed here and there with brief interludes of beautiful chiming guitar notes and subtle drumbeats, all of which serves to create a powerful and sonically fascinating track.

The final track “Starlight” is a wonderful melodic rock song, highlighted by Rick’s impressive guitar work and Geoff’s gorgeous driving bassline. The first two-thirds of the song is hard-hitting, with an onslaught of heavy riffs, bass and drums. But at around 3:45, the tempo abruptly changes to a serene, contemplative mood, with lovely strummed guitar notes and ambient natural sounds of birds chirping in the breeze all that we hear. It’s a fine, soothing close to the EP, ending it as it began with the first notes of “Archangel”.

Archangel is a stellar EP, and a testament to the creativity and talents of these two musicians Rick and Geoff. Anyone who’s a fan of progressive rock or alternative metal, delivered with outstanding musicianship, will enjoy this record.

Connect with Plains of Silence: FacebookTwitterInstagram

Stream their music:  SpotifyApple MusicYouTube

HOLLY REES – Single Review: “English Bay”

As I continue working my way through new music being released by artists I’ve previously featured on this blog, I now bring you British indie folk artist Holly Rees. Based in Newcastle, the talented singer-songwriter and guitarist has been writing and recording exceptional music over the past five years or so. Her honest, relatable lyrics, often inspired by her own personal experiences, are wrapped in beautiful, understated melodies and fine guitar work, and delivered with her lovely, highly emotive vocals.

This past December, Holly released her sublime EP The Lost Songs, featuring five acoustic songs she recorded in isolation during lockdown. You can read my review of the EP here. Now she returns with a new single “English Bay“, which she wrote in 2019 while on tour in Canada. The song was recorded with her band members Ryan Peebles on bass and Rhys Melhuish on drums, and thus has a fuller, more hard-driving sound than the acoustic tracks on The Lost Songs.

The song starts off gently, with Holly’s slightly grungy strummed guitar and smooth vocals as she sings of a woman who catches her eye: “She walked past me with her headphones in singing her heart out. A Stanley Park evening. I guess I do the exact same thing.” Thirty seconds in, the rhythm section kicks in with Ryan’s driving bassline and Rhys’ snappy drums, turning the song into a vibrant, head-bopping rocker. Holly’s gnarly guitar hums with greater urgency as the song progresses, her plaintive vocals rising to the occasion and brimming with heartfelt emotion, but still upbeat enough to avoid becoming maudlin.

The lyrics speak to feelings many of us have experienced when embarking on a new romantic relationship, unsure as to whether we want to truly commit to another person, but also fearful we’ll screw things up and scare them off: “And I keep saying I’m trying, and I wonder if it’s true. Come on, bear with me ’til I get cold feet, and tell me to stop messing around./ I guess I never listen when they told me, everyone’s a little bit lonely.”

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

GRANFALLOON – Single & Video Review: “The Pigeon”

Last July (of 2021), I wrote about British artist Granfalloon, the music project of enormously creative, thoughtful and talented singer-songwriter, producer and guitarist Richard Lomax, when I reviewed his single “Working On Your Own”. Based in Manchester, his unique music style is a pleasing hybrid of lo-fi alternative folk, experimental and electronica. “Working On Your Own” was the second single from his third album Positive Songs, which was subsequently released on August 27,(which coincidentally also happens to be my birthday). The album is a collaborative work featuring 11 tracks produced for The Positive Song Project, launched by Lomax and his friend Lobelia Lawson during the first lockdown of 2020. He invited songwriters to create new music by challenging themselves to focus on positive aspects and feelings, rather than negative or depressing songs about feeling isolated and bored during lockdown. The response was overwhelming, resulting in the creation of over 300 tracks by artists from around the world.

Today, Granfalloon is releasing “The Pigeon” as the third single from Positive Songs, along with a sweet animated video. The press release for the single explains his inspiration for writing the song: “In early 2020, Lomax formed a short-lived but intense relationship with a dove on his bedroom window ledge. The two would meet up during their weekly ‘middle class clap for the NHS’, exchanging ribald tales and knowing coos until Lomax realised it was no dove that he’d befriended but a lowdown, dirty pigeon. Unperturbed, he penned this song about eschewing the imaginary in favour of finding worth in the everyday.”

Come and see the doves
On the window ledge
There is hope on the outside

In a world of wonder
Who needs fantasy
In a world of wonder
Believe in you and me
Who needs unicorns
When we've got rhinos?
Who needs doves
When we've got pigeons?
Who needs angels
When I've got you?

For the recording of the song, Lomax sang lead vocals and played acoustic guitar, organ, Omnichord and programmed beats and synths, Lobelia Lawson sang backing vocals and played piano, Steve Lawson played bass, Adrian Ingham of alternative rock band Hello Cosmos played electric guitar, and Andy Lyth played drums. Together, they’ve created a trippy and wonderful piece of ear candy.

The song opens with Steve Lawson’s thick, pulsating bassline setting an infectious rhythmic groove, over which Lomax layers smooth organ and Omnichord, accompanied by Lyth’s measured drum beats, and punctuated by Ingham’s gnarly guitar notes. The result is a cool, almost jazzy vibe, though more lighthearted thanks to smooth Omnichord and synths. I love Lawson’s bass, which turns funky at times, and Ingham’s marvelous psychedelic guitar solo in the bridge is a real treat. At the song progresses, Lomax adds lots of quirky synth sounds that nicely suggests the playfulness of the pigeons. His warm vocals are delightful too, backed by his and Lobelia Lawson’s wonderful lilting harmonies. It’s a terrific song.

The stylish and charming animated video, created by Granfalloon and Jordie Roomer of Roomer Animations, brings the song lyrics to life with scenes of a colorful building of apartments situated above a row of storefronts, all populated by groups of whimsical pigeons involved in an array of everyday pigeon activities.

Follow Granfalloon:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

The album Positive Songs is only available as a digital download on Bandcamp and in CD format, though the singles are also available for streaming on Spotify Apple Music & Soundcloud.

Photo of Granfalloon is by Paul Samuel.

PHILIP MORGAN LEWIS – Single Review: “Redchurch Street Blues”

British singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer Philip Morgan Lewis is one of the most creative and prolific artists I’ve encountered in my more than six years as a music blogger. Drawing from an eclectic range of music genres and influences, including alternative rock, blues, R&B, soul, garage rock, folk and EDM, the London East Ender crafts his own unique style of blues-soaked rock. That unique style, combined with his distinctive raspy singing voice that sounds like no one else, makes his music instantly recognizable as only his.

Over the past decade, Philip has released an impressive amount of music, including two albums – Grief Harbour in 2017 (which I reviewed) and Now + Then this past September – as well as two EPs and scores of singles. I’ve also reviewed several of those singles, most recently “I.O.U” this past August (you can read some of those reviews by clicking on the links under ‘Related’ at the end of this post). Now the hard-working musician returns with a fantastic new single “Redchurch Street Blues“. In addition to writing, singing and producing the track, Philip also played slide and electric guitars and organ. Drums were played by Jon Harris, bass by Ben Jones, additional electric guitar by Rob Updegraff, and backing vocals were sung by Philip, Vicky and Little A. The track was recorded at One Louder Studios London by Alan Emptage, and mastered at Fluid Mastering by Tim Debney.

I’ve stated previously that one of the things I like about Philip’s music is its unpredictability, and how no two songs of his ever sound alike. With every release, we’re treated to an entirely different sound and vibe than the song before, and “Redchurch Street Blues” is another fine example of that. The song is a raw and bluesy ode to the hardscrabble East London neighbourhood he once lived in, which in recent years has undergone gentrification, along with all the positive and negative changes that comes with it.

The song’s retro and bluesy vibe has one foot planted in late 1950s rock’n’roll, with noticeable shades of Buddy Holly, Gene Vincent and Elvis Presley. In fact, Philip seems to channel Vincent with his be-bop-a-lula-esque vocals in the bridge. The other foot is firmly planted in the present, with a contemporary blues rock sensibility similar to some of the music of two of my favorite bands, Cage the Elephant and The Black Keys. The dual intricate guitars of Philip and Rob Updegraff are outstanding, floating over Ben Jones’ pulsating bass groove and Jon Harris’ thumping drums keeping the tight rhythm.

About his inspiration behind the song, Philip elaborates: “Redchurch Street is set in Shoreditch. I used to live a couple streets down on Bethnal green which is rougher and saw a good deal of the riots; it’s part of the poorest borough of London, Tower hamlets. It’s the home of the colourful Bricklane market and of course the Cockneys which by the way my daughter is as she was born in Whitechapel. Gentrification started a while back as posh shops and franchises moved into the area and most of the little shops, tenants and businesses had a hard time surviving with rent rising and all. I guess this is the way of the world, but the contrast remains stunning from one street to the other, with the City of London and its billions looming over in the east end of London.”

Builders aren’t building
Landlords evicting
The rent is trebling
No signs of easing

Cars are burning
While my baby is sleeping
The streets are a-blazing
And the bonfire grins

I’ve got the red church street blues
And I’m down in the gutter
There goes the neighbourhood

We toil everyday
For a misery pay
Ain’t got too much to lose
When you’re down with that blues
Now shops they are closing
And the malls keep on thriving
Got a bag full of nothing
And the pawnbroker’s spleen


I’ve got the red church street blues
And I’m down in the gutter
There goes the neighbourhood

Now the tables are turning
Heads are consulting
Inflation is rising
And my blood pressure steams
I’m just a dead man walking
Lord I’m up to my chin
I’ve been played now I spin
And the banker still grins     

I’ve got the red church street blues
And I’m down in the gutter
There goes the neighbourhood
It seems like yesterday
Will never fade away
No matter what you hear
No matter what they say
You’re on your own

I’ve got the red church street blues
And I’m down in the gutter
There goes the neighbourhood

Here’s a video of Philip’s acoustic performance of the song:

Connect with Philip: Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream his music: Spotify / YouTube / Apple Music
Purchase:  Amazon / Deezer / Bandcamp 

HOLLY REES – EP Review: “The Lost Songs”

Holly Rees is a talented and thoughtful singer-songwriter based in Newcastle, England who’s been writing and recording exceptional indie folk songs for the past five years or so. Like many songwriters, her poetic lyrics are inspired by personal experiences that make them highly relatable to us listeners. She then delivers them wrapped in beautiful, understated melodies, fine guitar work and lovely, heartfelt vocals, all of which have earned her critical acclaim and a loyal following, with flattering comparisons to artists like Laura Marling and Courtney Barnett.

Holly released her debut EP Ilex in 2017, garnering airplay on BBC 6 Music and a feature on Tom Robinson’s BBC Introducing Mixtape. In 2018, she performed at the Hit The North and Evolution Emerging music festivals, and released her excellent second EP Slow Down. She followed with “Text Me When You Get There”: The Live EP in May 2019, and that September, dropped her single “Getting By“, which I reviewed. On December 10th, she surprised us with release of The Lost Songs, an all-acoustic EP originally recorded in isolation exclusively for her Patreon supporters (patreon.com/hollyrees) that she’s now gifted to the world. 

She explains: “Here are the lost songs – songs I’ve written over the past three years that have fallen down the gaps. I never really intended these sad soft songs to see the light of day, but coming towards the end of another year I thought it might be nice to share them now, as a gentle winter gift before we draw a line under the year and start fresh in 2022. As some of you know, I’ve had to shield for a lot of the past two years, which is where this project started, in isolation. Every part of this project I’ve done by myself – writing, playing, recording, mixing, mastering, even the artwork – and I’m really proud of that. I hope that in listening you might find some of the joy, peace or escape that I found in making it.”

It’s a gentle EP, featuring five melancholy but lovely acoustic folk songs addressing conflicting emotions stemming from lost loves, missed connections, and the passage of time. With only her beautifully strummed guitar notes and clear, soothing vocals, Holly has created exquisite little gems that are simple yet profound, with a quiet intensity that touches the soul. The opening track “heather” is a kind of love song to her home of North East England (she told me that she actually got a heather tattoo right before leaving for her Canada tour in 2019, as an homage to the heather on the moors where she grew up): “I could be anywhere, except that the rain is making me homesick. Cry at your records, you were always such a sensitive soul. I tried to wear my heart on my sleeve but I must have got cold. And I feel open for the first time in a year.

Likewise, the enchanting “victoria” is a heartbreak song to the British Columbia capital city: “Oh Victoria, I think you always knew that I would fall for her. Victoria. She broke my heart for a year, god was I trying. But first came Victoria, Vancouver Island.” On the bittersweet song of unrequited love “i just want you“, Holly softly laments about being hopelessly in love with someone who just doesn’t feel the same about her: “Tell me about your family and living with your brothers. Tell me all your favourite streets, your heartbreaks and lovers. Tell me everything except the one thing I won’t ask. You don’t tell me if you feel the same. I know that you can’t do. I know it’s all on me, but I’m sick of writing about things that I can’t change. But I can’t change. I just want you.”

She touches on how shyness and fear of rejection sometimes hold us back, possibly losing out on opportunities for love on “seattle“. She sings of seeing a woman she’s attracted to on a bus in Seattle, but being too afraid to make contact: “Don’t know why I still hide like I’m seventeen. Smile and I won’t meet your eyes. You take down your bike. This must be your stop and we’re out of time. Go to Seattle maybe you were the one.” The serene “glad it’s you” has a bit of a Joni Mitchell vibe, and finds Holly content in a loving and trusting relationship: “Been singing with my all exposed. Been listening with my eyes closed, but my heart’s open. No I haven’t felt like this in a long time a long time, but I’m glad it’s you.

The Lost Songs is a wonderful little EP that beautifully showcases Holly’s strong songwriting, singing, recording and production talents. I’m confident she’ll continue to impress us with more outstanding music in 2022.

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

LIAM SULLIVAN – Single Review: “Rodion’s Poem”

Leeds, England-based singer-songwriter Liam Sullivan has become a favorite artist of mine ever since I first learned about him in Spring of 2020. He’s a thoughtful and talented songwriter and guitarist who pens lyrics addressing the oft-covered topics of life, love and loss, but in a way that really speaks to our souls. He then delivers them with a vibrant and warm singing voice that’s both beautiful and comforting, accompanied by his exceptional guitar work and superb arrangements. Liam’s been writing and performing music for well over a decade, both as a member of various bands and, more recently, as a solo artist with a back-up band of musicians he assembled to help bring his poetic lyrics to life.

Last year, Liam set himself with an ambitious goal to release a new single roughly every 6-8 weeks. While he hasn’t quite met that frantic schedule, he has released eight singles over the past year and a half, the latest of which is “Rodion’s Poem“. (I’ve reviewed four of his previous singles, most recently his beautiful song “Jerusalem” this past July. You can read some of those reviews by clicking on the links under ‘Related’ at the end of this post.)

As its title suggests, “Rodion’s Poem” was originally a poem written by Liam about Rodion Raskolnikov, a fictional character and protagonist of the 1866 novel Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky. Liam decided to turn the poem into a song that he planned on releasing some time next year, but worried he wasn’t moving forward quite fast enough, he ended up recording the track for a late 2021 release. The words of the poem, which are now lyrics to the song, are Liam’s take on Rodion’s life, reflecting on the love that is bestowed on the character despite his wayward actions. He felt the melancholy vibe of the song made it an ideal track for wintertime.

There’s another poignant aspect to the song as well. The nylon string guitar Liam used in the recording of the song was once owned by the father of a close family friend. After the father passed away, Liam was helping his friend clean out his father’s house and came across the guitar. He instantly fell in love with it, and his friend kindly gave it to him.

Like many of Liam’s songs, “Rodion’s Poem” is a gentle and stunning track. But unlike most of his songs that are built around guitar, this one is built around the piano. And what beautiful piano notes they are, accompanied by gorgeous cello played by Christine Avis and Liam’s delicately strummed guitar. Then there’s his warm vocals, backed by lovely harmonies, all of which make for a truly exquisite track, and one of the most beautiful I’ve heard in a while. It’s the perfect song for sitting by the fire with a loved one on a cold winter’s night.

Connect with Liam:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream his music:  Spotify / Soundcloud / Apple Music / YouTube

MMIV – Single Review: “The Drugs Are Running Out”

MMIV is the music project of young British singer-songwriter Max Rawdon. I actually first wrote about MMIV two years ago when it was a fledgling band comprised of Max and two other musicians he’d met while at the University of Leeds. Alas, they weren’t able to survive the challenges of the pandemic, and eventually went their separate ways. Now based in East London, Max has decided to continue MMIV as a solo artist, and has released his first single “The Drugs Are Running Out“.

Calling it “a sad indie ballad in pop song’s clothing“, Max wrote “The Drugs Are Running Out” to address his conflicting emotions about turning 22, and the realization he’s now fully into adulthood, with all the added responsibilities that entails. He explains “The song chronicles the creeping awareness that youth won’t last forever, and the moment that the party is peaking, but also, unfortunately, about to end, knowing that work is always there in the morning.” The track was written, performed and recorded by MMIV, and produced by George Murphy (Drug Store Romeos, The Specials, The Coronas).

It’s a charming pop tune, with a catchy toe-tapping beat and thumping bass groove, accompanied by snappy drum fills, ethereal synths and breezy guitars that gradually build to a joyous crescendo as the song progresses. Max’s clear, low-key vocals have a pleasing quality too, with just the right amount of emotional intensity that grows in tandem with the music.

I've not been agreeing with my food recently
Told me you know someone great that I can go and see
One day, we're caught in the rain 
So we'll get off the street and back to your place
And open up a bottle of wine
Take our wet clothes off and hang them to dry
Then it's a party with all of your friends
But you know that the night will come to an end
And you're all laughing, but you don't know why
While clothes are hung to dry

I told you I was leaving for a new town, a new city
I thought that it was sad that I couldn't stick around or take you with me
You know that I adore some fun, so why don't we stay a little longer
You said in that case maybe we'll need something stronger

So the next day we do it again
We get off our jobs and back to your place
And open up a bottle of wine
Take our work clothes off, head into the night
Where it's a party with all of your friends
But you know that the night will come to an end
You're all laughing, but you don't know what about
Cause your friends are hung to dry and the drugs 
The drugs are running out
Yeah, the drugs are running out
The drugs are running out
Yeah, the drugs are running out

“The Drugs Are Running Out” is a terrific song, and a fine debut effort from Max. I look forward to hearing more songs from this promising young artist.

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BARBARA – Single Review: “Rainy Days in June”

Barbara is the music project of Henry and John Tydeman, two charismatic brothers from Brighton and Hove, England. Bucking the current music trends of hip hop, dancepop, 80s revival, post punk and godawful bro-country, their sunny, uplifting sound is a charming and anachronistic blend of – in their own words – “a bit of 70s US AM radio, a dash of English music hall, the effortless catchiness of a Broadway musical, a sprinkling of sequined power pop, luscious Disney strings and glorious golden harmonies.” Listening to their songs, I’d say that’s a fitting description I cannot improve upon.

The guys released their wonderful debut single “BRB” this past January, then followed in May with “New Communications”, a lighthearted take on the pitfalls of social media. Both songs garnered support by BBC Introducing and Louder Than War, and this past summer, they had the pleasure of performing at the Isle of Wight Festival. Now they’re back with a breezy new single “Rainy Days in June“, which dropped November 26th. Lovingly produced by Tom Rees, vocalist and guitarist for Welsh band Buzzard Buzzard Buzzard, the song is a delightful ode to the joys of being alone. John and Henry sang vocals, with keyboards played by Henry, guitar by Dean Llewelyn, bass by Jack Hodgood and drums by Lawrie Miller.

Barbara really do channel the 70s on “Rainy Days in June”, with a pleasing and catchy pop melody that reminds me of songs like John Sebastian’s “Welcome Back”. In fact, it would make a great theme song for a TV sitcom. The sunny keyboards, buoyant rhythms and colorful guitars create a joyful backdrop for John and Henry’s lilting harmonies. Their smooth vocals are sublime, perfectly capturing the carefree sense of contentment with quietly sitting alone at home with a good book, away from the craziness and noise of crowds. It’s a terrific song, and my personal favorite among their three singles.

People say I'm silly to be sitting on my own
They're going to a party, but I'd rather be at home
Rainy days in June, but I'm making the best of it
I'm a halfway through this hardback
And I long to get back to the rest of it
These rainy days

Rainy days in June, with nothing to worry me
And there's no one I need to see
And no where important to go
But god knows I remember there were hundreds of people
And so, I'm ashamed that I took to my heels and slipped away

In a nod to the throwback vibe of the song, the brothers used a great vintage photo from the 60s of their grandparents John and Pauline for their single cover art. And for the delightful video, they used footage taken from their holiday in France this past summer.

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