CARY BALSANO – Single Review: “Horizon”

 

Cary Balsano

Cary Balsano is a talented young singer/songwriter originally from Italy who’s now based in Liverpool, England. He’s written and recorded scores of songs both as a solo artist and in collaboration with others, and recently released a beautiful new single “Horizon,” accompanied by a stunning video.

The song and video convey a sense of powerful connection with the world and, to my mind, the title “Horizon” symbolizes the brief but meaningful time we spend on this earth. Cary’s deeply personal and moving lyrics speak of life, love and loss, most notably of his father:

Living by the day, dealing with your grace
All I want is a kid to name
Hoping for some fun, looked in a grave where I saw my father’s face
We got a love and I made my mistakes
And I’ve got nothing to prove to you
We’ve got a lot to learn ’round this fire place
It’s called life and I have lost

Musically, the track has a quiet intensity, with soothing acoustic guitar and gentle percussion that keeps the track grounded but never overpowers. Cary’s beguiling vocals are filled with emotion, yet comforting at the same time. Take a listen:

Connect with Cary:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

Stream his music on  Spotify

PROJECT – EP Review: “Purge”

Purge

I discovered Welsh rapper Project a few months ago when he contacted me about his new EP Purge. At the time, I had a huge backlog of reviews that I’d already committed to write, but at long last I’m finally getting around to reviewing Purge. I must state up-front that I find a lot of today’s rap and hip-hop music to be dull or uninspiring, but Project’s music is brilliant on every level.

Born Jake Brimble and based in Cardiff, Wales, Project draws inspiration from hip-hop artists such as Tech N9ne, Atmosphere, Macklemore and Hilltop Hoods. Melding sweeping orchestral instrumentals with bass-heavy hip hop beats and gritty riffs, he creates music that’s edgy and melodic, something I find incredibly appealing when it comes to hip-hop. He’s also an exceptional wordsmith, penning authentic and deeply personal lyrics that address relevant topics such as ambition, relationships, loss and substance abuse. With his nimble, rapid-fire rapping style, he delivers those lyrics with an energy and passion that’s electrifying.

Project

Project released his terrific debut EP Rectify in July 2015, which was well received by DJs, music critics and fans, and followed up with Purge, which dropped at the end of May. The EP features five tracks, all of which are excellent. The hard-hitting first track “Vocalise” perfectly exemplifies his dynamic music style. Opening with tinkling piano, xylophone and resonant strings, a strong bass-driven hip-hop beat soon kicks in, and Project raps the poetic lyrics that speak to his struggle with making it as a rapper:

You see I need that sweet release
So give me a greasy beat with a fat-ass bassline
Now that’s my kind of treat
Don’t give a fuck about what anyone else is doing
I’ll just keep on spewing verse after verse til my brain feels like I’m abusing it.
I’m losing it. I just cant stop
All the voices in my head are talking about is hip-hop
I’m rhyming in my sleep when I should be counting sheep
Has this shit gone too deep, am I a broken fucking freak?

The instrumentals become more complex as the song progresses, with scratching added, along with chorale-like backing choruses that he heavily uses to dramatic effect on most of the tracks. Those soaring choruses are expertly blended with haunting strings, electric guitar and a thumping bass line on “Him” and “Energy,” the latter of which also features a marching band-style drumbeat and some lovely piano keys in the outro.

Project’s skillful use of disparate and contrasting instruments and technique is beautifully represented on the superb “Aftermath.” The track starts with a mournful church-like organ riff and delicate xylophone, then explodes with nu-metal guitar riffs and thumping bass. Backed by an ominous chorus, Project’s fast rapping really showcases his amazing vocal dexterity. The song lyrics seem to address the replacement of his identity as a person with that of his rapper persona:

I put the pistol to my head, the moment we said goodbye
I pulled the trigger even quicker and to my surprise
I stood up took my pulse but I was still alive
Jake was no where to be seen. I’m the only one survived

The dark video shows Project singing the song inside an abandoned graffiti-covered church.

A standout on the EP is “Midnight Rush,” a powerful and rather painful song about acting in a careless and self-destructive manner while under the influence of alcohol that results in tragedy :

I got a chip on my shoulder, better knock it off
‘Cause if I push too hard I’ll have to pay the cost
I can’t see through the flames of froth
I shoulda took my chances when the coin was tossed
Ah fuck it, let’s have another ball
What’s the worst that can happen when you hit the bomb?
If I’m gonna get pushed then I’ll just push back
Talk shit get punched maybe catch a bitch slap
That’s a given, but I’m invincible

The track is quite melodic, with an R&B feel and soulful backing vocals by Sophie Adams.

 

Purge is an exceptional sophomore effort from Project that provides further proof of his amazing talents as a composer, lyricist and vocalist. He’s currently working on his third EP, which he states will take more of an organic musical approach, and I can’t wait to hear it.

Connect with Project:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

Stream his music:  Spotify / Soundcloud / YouTube

Purchase:  iTunes

THEY CALLED HIM ZONE – Single Review: “Death Drive/I Like Noise”

Death Drive Art

I’ve been revisiting a number of artists that I previously featured on this blog, and my latest is the Bradford, UK dark wave/psychedelic/electro-pop band They Called Him Zone. Formed in early 2016, they quickly released their debut EP Miami, then followed up with a stellar mini-album Crow Swan Wolf in February 2017, which I reviewed. Now they return with a double single “Death Drive / I Like Noise,” released today, the 25th of August, through their label Ambicon Records.

They Called Him Zone consists of Mik Davis (lead vocals, drones and production),  Steve Maloney (guitar, backing vocals and production), and John Bradford (keyboards and percussion). For these songs, they were joined by Cat McLaughlan who provided backing vocals. In describing their sound, sometimes the band’s own words offer the best explanation: [Our music] “combines sultry electronica with chewed-up, modulated guitars, evoking rain-drenched, neon-daubed streets, proscribed chemicals, and black-clad malcontents wearing mirror shades after dark. And it’s always dark where they come from…

They Called Him Zone 2

Both songs seem to address our darker sides. Lead track “Death Drive” evokes a shadowy netherworld of lust and danger with its hypnotic beat and harsh industrial synths. Maloney’s gritty and sometimes wailing guitars amplify the sense of foreboding, while in a rather menacing monotone, Davis sings the lyrics that seem to speak to an addiction – whether it be drugs, sex or some other obsession:

We’ve become so cold, playing out in the rain,
Waiting out for June, you make me cold sweat…
My body shakes when I’m with you, I feel no pain…
The death drive.

The equally dark video for the song was produced by Bradford-based Twenty Twenty Films, and features alternative models Zombie Cat Girl and Miss Gerrish, and method actor Mark Morris.

The B-side “I Like Noise” is a short track with a fast, repetitive beat and pulsating synths that deliver a post-punk psychedelic feel. Like the music, the lyrics are minimalist, and my guess is that they’re about numbing one’s pain by engaging in pleasurable but dangerous or taboo activities:

I like pills, I like noise, I like thrills, I like toys…
I like girls, I like boys, I like machines that make noise…
I like noise, I like, noise, I like machines, that make noise…
I tried love, I tried hate, I tried pain…

Both songs are brilliant, further demonstrating that They Called Him Zone is a cutting-edge band who pushes boundaries to create music that’s distinctive, mesmerizing and always provocative.

Connect with They Called Him Zone: Facebook / Twitter

Stream their music on  Soundcloud and purchase on Bandcamp

CAMERON MILLS – Single Review: “Burning On Full Steam”

Cameron Mills is a talented young singer/songwriter based in Devon, UK. Despite the fact he’s only 18 years old, Cameron has a phenomenal singing voice that sounds far beyond his years. He began taking singing lessons at an early age, and has performed at many gigs and concerts since before he was ten. He enjoys performing swing and jazz songs, as well as old classics and modern folk-pop that suit his mature vocal style. I think he sounds like a more soulful version of Rick Astley.

Cameron Mills

He released his first single “Autumn Leaves” in 2015, and followed up with a couple more before dropping his latest single “Burning On Full Steam” in April of this year. It’s a catchy, folk-infused pop tune with an almost gospel quality. The track begins with a slightly mysterious hummed chorus, then lovely strummed guitar and gentle percussion take over, accompanied by Cameron’s rich, warm vocals. He sings about dreaming big and not letting anyone or anything prevent you from trying to reach your goals: “You’ve got to aim for the stars. Nothing less. No matter what people say. Don’t let them get in the way. Never let anything get in the way. Aim for your dreams, Keep burning on full steam.

As an added bonus, here’s a video of Cameron singing a pretty decent cover of Stevie Wonder’s classic song “Superstition.” It really showcases his vocal ability.

To learn more about Cameron, check out his Website and follow him on Twitter and Facebook.

Stream his music:  Spotify / Soundcloud

Purchase:  iTunes

TONI SIDGWICK – EP Review: “Lions”

Toni Sidgwick is an indie singer-songwriter based in County Durham in northeast England. She was born and raised in the remote Shetland Islands northeast of the Scottish mainland, and began her musical journey by busking on the streets of Edinburgh. Her unique style of folk/pop draws from influences by artists such as Ben Howard, London Grammar and Bruce Springsteen. And like those artists, her lyrics are often deeply personal and introspective, speaking to the complexities of life, relationships and her place in this world.

Toni released her debut EP Lions in June, having worked with the brilliant young producer, Lauren Deakin-Davies, and I have the pleasure of reviewing it. Delicate strums of her acoustic guitar introduce the first track “Carry My Heart,” a gentle, lovely ballad in which Toni acknowledges her independence, but also desire for a romantic connection: “I can carry my life, I’ve been doing it for some time. I can carry my life, will you carry my heart. Her vocals are understated and soft, yet reveal a quiet intensity that makes the lyrics feel all the more powerful.

Toni ramps things up a notch on “Only One Way,” a lively track about being honest and true to your feelings toward another. Toni’s vocals are clear and confident as she emphatically sings: “And I gotta stay true to me. And I gotta stay true to you. There’s only one way, only one way, only one way…that I can be.” I love the fast-paced jangly guitars and toe-tapping percussion. Just like the lyric “it makes me happy,” this song makes me happy and is my favorite on the EP.

Dance” is a beautiful, tender ballad with acoustic guitar, gentle percussion and a beguiling harmonica riff. With heartfelt emotion, Toni sings “Oh dance with me. Don’t you dare stop moving our two left feet. Slow dance, dance. We’ll go higher and higher than we dare to chance.” The title track “Lions” is a peppy little number with plucky guitars, crisp snare drum and just a hint of bass. Toni sings of drawing on one’s inner strength to make it through this crazy world: “We are lions, we gotta roar.

The folk-rock song “Be Anything” speaks to holding on to another’s love and support that enable you to be a better person: “You pull me closer. And in your heart, I can be anything.” A combination of strummed acoustic guitar, a sturdy bass line, and light percussion make for an intensely satisfying track. In fact, all five songs on Lions are intensely satisfying, and it’s clear that Toni poured her heart and soul into its creation. It’s a debut effort she can be proud of.

Connect with Toni:  WebsiteFacebook / Twitter / Instagram

Stream her music:  Spotify / Soundcloud / YouTube

Purchase:  iTunes

WILDCOHEN – Single Review: “Jacksons Son”

Indie duo WildCohen make music that’s hard to categorize. The Sheffield, UK duo, comprised of producer and multi instrumentalist Jody Wildgoose and songwriter and multi instrumentalist Rob Cohen, play songs that run the gamut from new wave psychedelic to folk and pop to alternative rock, and everything in between.  Jody plays bass and sings, and Rob plays guitars and also sings. According to an interview with Local Sound Focus, both guys were in previous bands (Jody in Various Vegetables, and Rob in Marmalade Sun), and decided to record together starting about two years ago out of mutual admiration for each others’ work.

WildCohen-Photo-by-Carl-Rose-696x462

Their debut album BloochyKoo, released through indie label Spoonjuice Records, features twelve eclectic tracks, and “Jacksons Son” is the first single. The song is a bouncy psychedelic romp that immediately forces the head to bob and hips to sway. Razor sharp synths, accompanied by crisp jangly guitars and crashing cymbals, move along a humming bass line. Gritty distorted vocals and a tumultuous mix of airy and chaotic choruses add to the track’s otherworldly vibe.

The fantastic video features an artful phantasmagoria of colorful psychedelic images of planets interwoven with Jody and Rob performing the song. Check it out:

Follow WildCohen:  Facebook /  Twitter /  Website

Stream their music:  Spotify /  Soundcloud

Purchase it:  iTunes /  Amazon /  Bandcamp

Single Review: THAT HIDDEN PROMISE – “All Things, All Will Come”

I seem to keep featuring UK artists and bands on this blog, but there are just so many good ones to choose from! Another artist I recently stumbled upon is a solo act that goes by the name That Hidden Promise. Based in Somerset, That Hidden Promise is the artistic alter ego of singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Wayne Lee, who has been performing live and recording under that moniker since 2011. The talented and versatile fellow creates all his own music, including beats and percussion, and plays electric guitar.

That Hidden Promise

He’s produced an extensive catalog of alternative rock music over the past six years, often incorporating blues, post-punk, electronic, psychedelic and shoegaze elements into the mix, resulting in a decidedly eclectic sound. Overall, though, I’m reminded of Oasis when listening to several of his songs – a good thing to my ears. The last few months have seen him writing and recording new music. He released a track for a Blackpool charity album (Goodbye Avenue), a lovely instrumental track “To Drift and Dream,” and what he calls a ‘non-Christmas’ Christmas single “Snow Won’t Fall/A Day Can Change Your Life.”

Now, the release of “All Things, All Will Come” on May 12 marks the first new material of 2017 for That Hidden Promise, with more planned for the coming year. He also intends to go on tour later this year to promote his new music. He explained his inspiration for the new single: “It was written in a moment of boundless optimism, in the belief that despite what’s going on, despite what you feel is keeping you down, despite the negativity clouding the world, if you keep going, things will come right for you.” The single was self produced, with all instruments played by him, and mastering was done by Audio Animals.

“All Things, All Will Come” storms out of the gate, instantly bombarding us with gritty riffs of shredded guitar, awash in crashing cymbals. This hard-hitting track is adrenaline-raising rock at its finest, with some awesome guitar work, and the production is first-rate. He fervently sings “Thought a crowded web of lies, I can see the truth. I can see the path ahead, so leave your binds behind. / In time you know that all things, all will come to you someday, my friend.” It’s a great song.

To learn more about That Hidden Promise, check out his Website, and connect with him on Facebook,  Twitter.

Stream his music on:  Soundcloud /  Spotify /  Tidal /  YouTube

Purchase:  iTunes /  Amazon

Interview & Album Review: THE PUSS PUSS BAND – “Echoes Across the Cruel Sea”

Although I call myself “Eclectic Music Lover”, frequent readers of my blog know I’m particularly fond of alternative and hard rock. That being said, I truly appreciate great music in any genre or form, and every now and then an artist or band comes along whose music deeply touches me. Such is the feeling I get when listening to The Puss Puss Band. Their jazz and folk-infused pop rock sound envelops me like a warm blanket, transporting me to a place where all is good with the world – and wouldn’t that be a nice place to land! As I stated in a review of their self-titled EP last November on this blog (which you can read here), “their easy-going instrumentals and smooth vocals make for an incredibly pleasing listening experience – sort of a Style Council meets England Dan & John Ford Coley with just a touch of Dan Fogelberg.”

Hailing from Wales, The Puss Puss Band consists of multi instrumentalists Asa Galeozzie and Lee Pugh. Both have worked with numerous artists and bands in the UK and the Welsh music industry over the last ten years as writers & session musicians. They perform every aspect of their music: songwriting, instrumentals, vocals, arranging, engineering, producing and mixing. Asa plays guitar, bass, percussion, piano and melodica, while Lee plays lead guitar, bass and piano, as well as sings lead vocals. Now, with significant contribution from seasoned musician John ‘Rabbit’ Bundrick, the guys have produced their first full-length album Echoes Across the Cruel Sea, which dropped on April 10. It’s a collection of 12 gorgeous tracks that range from dreamy ballads to catchy, upbeat songs.

Puss Puss Band2

Before launching into my review of the Echoes Across the Cruel Sea, I asked the band some questions about how they came to be, as well as their inspiration for the album. Lee graciously provided these responses:

1.  First off, how and when did you both meet and decide to collaborate?

We met studying sound engineering & production about thirteen years ago, and have worked together ever since with our own bands and as session musicians.

2.  What’s the origin of your name “The Puss Puss Band”?

When we first started planning this album it was purely intended as a studio project. We’d meet a few times a week at Asa’s to run through ideas and songs, and his cat would sit on a stool and just watch us play. It dawned on us after a few months of this that we were essentially a ‘house band’….for an audience of one cat. Her nickname was Puss Puss.

3.  Do you both share songwriting duties on both lyrics and music?

Yes. We share lyric/song duties and bounce them between us. Sometimes the lyrics come from one of us fully formed, but often we’ll fettle those a little between us, then trial a quick scratch demo to work through the arrangement, and once we’re happy we fire up the mic’s and amps and start passing instruments back and forth. We’ll often capture an essentially live stripped down performance, then we build up from there. “Thinking Of You” is a good example of that. We recorded the acoustic guitar, piano and vocal live in one or two takes, and then the rest of the track was completed with a few over dubbed guitars.

4.  Is there a back story regarding the album title Echoes Across the Cruel Sea? It’s a lovely album, and most of the songs on the album are really pleasing, Are they meant to stand in contrast with the word “cruel” in the album title, almost like an antidote to cruelty in the world?

The album is intended as an upfront honest journal of the last ten years of our personal lives. There’s no artistic license being used in the lyrics…we set out to be fearless and honest in that regard. It’s essentially a sneaky concept album although we resisted the urge to make the songs flow too obviously from one to the next. The “cruel sea” represents life, love and all it’s uncertainty and the songs themselves are the echoes of our thoughts, feelings and reflections over that period of our lives.

We set out to be as transparent and laid bare as we could make it, lyrically, musically and production wise….no studio trickery, no bullshit, no ego talk, just an honest account of our lives which we hope we’ve managed to present in a somewhat universal manner which anyone hopefully can relate to in some capacity?

5.  How did John Rabbit Bundrick come to collaborate with you on the album? Were you specifically looking for someone else to provide music input?

Asa is a massive The Who fan and heard that Rabbit was back doing session work after finishing with The Who a few years ago. We sent “Feline Fine” over to see if he’d be interested. Rabbit said he loved the track and was more than happy to play in it…and without fee which was incredibly generous given his insanely huge CV and standing in the industry. We mixed it and sent it over to him, and he asked to hear some other tracks from the album. He said he was really digging what we were doing so his joining us for the rest of the album just took off from there.

We were adamant after years of working with others and all the creative compromise that comes with that, that this album was only going to be the two of us so we could maintain and hopefully achieve our shared vision of what this album would be. But the chance to work with a session musician of Rabbit’s calibre made it a no-brainer obviously.  His piano work is beautiful and his mastery of the Hammond organ is pretty much unparalleled by anyone else. Rabbit contributed something very special that we couldn’t provide ourselves and is so humble, professional and generous that it wasn’t just a thrill but a pleasure and privilege throughout.

6.  Do you guys have plans to do more live performances or even tour a bit?

Yes, hopefully we’ll start putting together a hand-picked session backline later this year from our contacts, and look at taking the album out. This was intended purely as a studio album, but the response we’ve had the last few months kind of makes it inevitable that we will once again take to the road in the very near future.

7.  If you could collaborate with any artist, living or dead, who would it be? 

Lee: David Bowie/Burt Bacharach
Asa: Brian Wilson/Roger Waters

Rabbit has already played with almost everyone already! If you haven’t seen his discography you should check it out…it is mind blowing how much he has contributed to music in the last 40 odd years!!

8.  Perhaps a bit premature to ask, given you’ve just released a new album, but any plans for more music in the future?

Not premature at all 🙂 We’ve already started writing the second album and Rabbit is on board to join us again. Don’t want to give too much away too soon but the theme for that album and it’s content are already taking shape. All we’ll say is the first album was more introverted and personal. In the next one we’d like to reach out a bit more to touch on the state of the world we all find ourselves in right now, and the growing distance between us all as we try to make sense of the world we are struggling to maintain our roles in it, and try to hold a mirror up to that rather than just preach about it.

9. Anything additional you’d like people to know about Puss Puss Band. or things I neglected to touch on?

We are just two fiercely and proudly independent musicians. We’ve pretty much now achieved our goal of becoming creatively self sufficient. We write, arrange, perform, engineer, produce, mix, master everything ourselves from our very very modest and basic studio. We’ve thrown the rule book out production-wise, and harked back to the old fashioned recording approach to create ‘our sound.’ I guess we just hope that people respond to that and hopefully hear something in it that you don’t get from modern production, with all it’s close, dry, sterile mic’ing, separation and heavy compression throughout. But above all else I guess we just hope that people find something in our music they can relate to and enjoy because that means more to us than anything else.

puss-puss-band

OK, so let’s dig into the album. First off, as I alluded to earlier, Echoes Across the Sea is gorgeous, overflowing with lush soundscapes of multi-textured instrumentation and smooth harmonizing vocals. The songs deal mostly with the vagaries of love and relationships. The terrific “Bucko’s Lullaby” kicks things off, setting the tone for the entire album. We’re greeted by gentle xylophone before layers of guitar, percussion, organ and beautiful strings enter the proceedings. With a hint of sadness in his seductive voice, Lee sings to a loved one who’s slipping away emotionally: “Something in that smile says you’ve changed. Those big brown eyes look further away. What happens when love goes lame? You screw it all up and start over again. You box it all up and you throw it away.

Next up is “Alone,” an upbeat track which was originally featured on their previous EP, but gets revisited on this album. As I’d mentioned on the EP review, this song has a discernible Style Council vibe. It’s a great song, with some really fine guitar and piano. Things turn mellow on the lovely “Fall Back Down.” Lee’s vocals are so seductive on this track (and many others) they could lure a turtle out of its shell! The guys rock out a bit on “Cliff Song,” which features some tasty guitar riffage.

The remainder of the album stays on the mellower side, starting with the moving track “Inwake.” To a gentle guitar riff, Lee sings: “Can we help it, this changing season, or are you just like me? The things that we feel seem less than real, like faded memories. The twilight hours keep you safe and warm as I creep out of the room. In the blink of an eye to you and to I, every wave between you and me, the change we feel, just echoes across the cruel sea.”

The beguiling “Beeswax” is a standout track, with marvelous instrumentals featuring chiming synths, Rabbit’s lovely piano and organ, and the guys’ deft guitar work. Lee’s vocals are utterly sublime, as they also are on the enchanting tracks “Say it First,” “Thinking of You” and “Feline Fine” – the latter of which is probably my favorite of all their songs. It was also included on their debut EP, but this new version features beautiful piano work by Rabbit, which makes the already great tune sound even better. And no pun intended – well, just a little – Lee purrs “You got me working double time, you got me clocking overtime, you got me feline fine. And I know I can’t show you the things that I see, but sometimes I wish I could. Because you got something that makes me feel glad at night. And you got everything because you know you’re right.”

The tracks “End of June” and “Perfect World” have a pleasant folk-rock feel with lovely strummed guitar, set to a languid beat, though “End of June” has the added bonus of some spiffy electric guitar. The album ends on a bittersweet note with “Not Just You,” a compelling ballad that speaks to the despair of living in a depressed industrial town, with little hope of things getting better. “No one talks, your mom’s depressed, your dad went empty in his chest. There’s nothing left. And everybody wants to be anywhere else it seems. Not just you.

Echoes Across the Cruel Sea is a well-crafted album, with outstanding production values. The Puss Puss Band’s lyrics, music and vocals are all stellar, making this an album I can listen to on repeat – which I have done!

Connect with The Puss Puss Band: Facebook /  Twitter

Stream their music:  Soundcloud /  Spotify

Purchase it:  Bandcamp /  iTunes

Album Review: TWINTWO – “Twinwho?”

UK hip-hop artist Twintwo is one of my favorite rappers. I love his honest, thoughtful song lyrics and wonderful vocal delivery, especially given his British accent that I find quite charming. Hailing from Yorkshire and born Robert Winterburn, the hard-working singer/songwriter records and produces all his own songs. He released a terrific five-track EP Mr. Winterburn in 2016, which I reviewed on this blog exactly one year ago, that you can read here.  He’s back with a full-length album entitled Twinwho?, which dropped today, April 27.

Twintwo
Photo by Paul Blinston

Like many rappers, Twintwo writes autobiographical lyrics for his songs as a way of expressing himself though music. A skilled wordsmith, he writes about his self-doubt and the challenges of trying to make it in the music business, coming to terms with being an adult, and relationships – both romantic and with friends – and how they relate to his career choices.

Twinwho? opens with ominous synth sounds as we’re introduced to “Haven’t Changed,” a scathing tirade against those who doubt him and cast aspersions upon his dreams.  He rapid-fire raps “Call me the shit, call me the villain. I work on this music ’cause it’s so appealing to prove you’re wrong. Release the song, then you got family asking how you are feeling./ I don’t need a plan B, bitch where’s your head at? What’s with all the negativity? I don’t care if you ain’t feeling me. I’m feeling me. It’s real to me.”

The dark video was filmed in a gloomy abandoned warehouse, the perfect setting for the grim-sounding track.

Moving along, on “This Year,” Twintwo questions whether his life has in fact changed – hopefully for the better, though he doesn’t seem entirely comfortable with some of those changes. He’s not sure why, but last year felt weird – but then so does this year. What he is certain of, though, is that he wants to keep growing as an artist, not remain stuck in the same spot he was then or even now. He sings “This year’s been weird, it’s clear/ I don’t want to be in the same place I was last year, ’cause last year was weird. I sat and I stared, but I don’t want to be in the same place I was next year, ’cause last year was weird.” The track features a lively hip hop beat that has a bit of a carnival vibe.

Now is a good time to point out that he has a knack for artfully choosing some fantastic hip hop beats for his songs that always sound perfectly suited to the lyrics. Employing a somewhat similar beat on the lighthearted track “Pizza Girl,” Twintwo sings about lusting after a girl working in the pizza parlor, even though she happens to be abusing drugs, and he already has a girlfriend. And who hasn’t at one time or another lusted after someone who was wrong for us?

Pizza Girl
Photo by Paul Blinston

One of the standout tracks is “I’d Be Better,” a song about the difficulties of finding success as a rapper, and comparing himself with friends who chose different career paths by going to ‘uni.’ He questions his goals, while remaining defiant in his decision to push forward with his music: “Oh what I do just to get famous. I’m nameless, brainless, don’t know what my game is. Lifestyle dangerous, but but nothing changes. When you’re doing jack, I’ll be better being famous.” In addition to the compelling lyrics, the instrumentals for the track are really terrific, with lots of piano, percussion and violin. The wonderful video for the song was filmed in Twintwo’s home and around his town, and stars his mum and friends. It tells the song’s story in a lighthearted, endearing manner that’s a joy to watch.

Not a Cool Guy” has Twintwo bemoaning the fact he’s been spending a lot of energy and money trying to impress his girlfriend, possibly at the expense of his career: “I’m not a cool guy, got no tattoos. Three years old are my Air Nike shoes. I don’t follow trends I’d rather spend everything that I get on a vid just to push more views.” The somber beat and instrumentals are simple but quite effective for the theme and lyrics. He turns deeply introspective, agonizing about his doubts and fears on “Demons.” “I’m seeing demons when I’m sleeping. Am I losing my mind? I think you will find that I’m a goner. I’ll be working hard, I’ll be working on these records. I ain’t seeing friends as much, ’cause this music takes over. Feel like rap’s got me trapped. I can’t seem to adapt.” The dark track features haunting instrumentals and a sinister, disembodied voiceover that perfectly fit its theme.

Continuing on the introspective theme, Twintwo contemplates the rapid passage of time and whether he’s made any progress in fulfilling his life goals with “Time Flies.” The melodic song has a fantastic hip hop beat, accentuated by beautiful mesmerizing synths and awesome strong percussion. The track quickly segues to “Lethal,” which features guest rappers FMA, 12 Gage & DREADNOUGHT. The five and a half-minute long hard-driving hip hop song is a departure from the other songs on the album in terms of sound, though it still addresses the challenges of being a successful rapper in the highly competitive hip hop genre. “Most of these cats go undisturbed. I’m lethal when I got the mike in my hand. It ain’t a problem.” It’s nice to see him collaborate with other rappers, and it’s a great addition to the album. His awesome rapping skills are evident as he holds his own with the others.

Rob Winterburn1

One of my favorite tracks is the album closer “Before You Leave,” mainly because of its compelling, bittersweet lyrics. Twintwo sings of the conflicting emotions he feels about losing some of his friends as he continues on his quest to build a career in hip hop, and coming to terms with the realities of how friendships sometimes fade away as we move on. The song opens with a mournful piano movement and sounds of a rainstorm. As the strong hip hop beat sets in, he raps:

I don’t want to lose them. I wanna keep on top of them. Fuck, I don’t knowI finally had to break the cycle, and now I’ve been going full pace with this music since the start of this year, and this music’s is all about what I wanna do. But what some people don’t realize is that you have to work on it every day. Like it’s not just gonna just fall on your lap. Yeah sure, take a day off,  but whilst you’re relaxing, there’s someone working as hard as you. It’s hunger, it just get’s addicting.

I talked to my closest friend about the issue, she said ‘it’s just life, and even though we miss you, you have to keep going, you have to go continue. ‘Cause one day you’ll wake up, then the blow will hit you that you could have tried harder.’ 

I love my friends, I do. But you gotta put yourself first. If they don’t stick around, I know it really hurts. But you gotta do you. / Thing is, I’m a low maintenance friend and like, you can just text me once a week or once a month or whatever. I still show love and stuff, ’cause I know we’re busy and stuff. And the thing is, you shouldn’t have to really rely on your friends to make you happy, because one day they’re gonna leave you or stab you in the back. It’s just life…everyone’s busy now.”

I love this fantastic album, and am so happy to see Twintwo continue to grow as an artist. He seems mature for his years (he’ll turn 22 in June) and I’m confident he’ll make an impact on the world of hip hop and rap.

The tracklist:

  1. Haven’t Changed
  2. This Year
  3. Pizza Girl
  4. I’d Be Better
  5. Not A Cool Guy
  6. Demons
  7. Time Flies
  8. Lethal (ft FMA, 12 Gage & DREADNOUGHT)
  9. Before You Leave

Connect with Twintwo:  Facebook /  Twitter /  Instagram

Stream his music:  Soundcloud /  Spotify /  YouTube

Purchase:  iTunes /  Bandcamp

EP Review: JORDAN HERBERT – “Just Recently”

Jordan Herbert is a talented, soulful young singer/songwriter from Northampton, UK. In 2016, Jordan’s released his debut EP Roots to wide acclaim, reaching #6 on the iTunes Singer/Songwriter charts. Throughout the rest of the year, Jordan and his five-piece band, which includes musicians Harley-Joe Arnold, Jason Smith, Sam Thorne and Tony Young, toured extensively throughout the UK to promote the EP and build a fan base. In February, Jordan released a follow-up EP Just Recently through Spoilt Brat Records (what a great name for a label!) and it’s brilliant and beautiful.

Jordan Herbert

The four-track EP showcases Jordan’s abilities as both a superb wordsmith and vocalist, not to mention the great musicianship of his band. The title track “Just Recently” kicks things off in a big way with exuberant jazzy guitars, funky bass and a healthy dose of drums and crashing cymbals. Jordan vocals are captivating as he passionately croons the hopeful lyrics:

The way it’s looking now, I’ve been running around, chasing dreams I know that just can’t come true. And I’ve been running around and puttin’ it down, makin’ a sound, standing around with my head in the clouds, I was screaming it loud and I hope you can scream it too. Just recently I’ve, got it stuck in my mind, and I cant let go no no, it’s playing games in my mind.”

Next up is the sublime “How Could You” – to my ears is as close to perfection as a song can be. Floating above what sounds like an extended organ riff with snare drum are delicate guitars of varying texture and nuance, accompanied by Jordan’s intoxicating vocals that reach in and grab hold of your soul. This song is gorgeous. With pain in his voice, he sings:

How could you still end up getting it wrong, movin’ along without you. See lately, I’ve been thinking about you lately. Is there something that can save me? ‘Cause I’m done and I’ve quit foolin’ around.”

The pace quickens at around four minutes, with a flourish of guitars and vocals that are at once both sad and beautiful. The video for the song is fantastic. Shot in black and white and directed, produced and edited by Pete Cobbe, the video shows Jordan singing the song with his guitarist playing beside him in front of a black background. They’re the only things visible, conveying a poignant sense of aloneness.

Don’t You Worry” brings a return to the upbeat jazzy vibe of the first track, with an irresistible groove and funky guitar riffs. This song is just begging to be performed in a nightclub! Things take a more serious turn on the lovely folk-infused ballad “You,” a bittersweet song about trying to hold on to a relationship that’s falling apart. “When you feel like you’re not strong, just know that I’ll keep on holding on. When I’m fallin’ I keep calling I can’t get through.

Just Recently is a terrific EP, and I give it two big thumbs up! Every song is wonderful, and with only four songs, it leaves me wanting more. Guess I’ll have to wait for Jordan’s next release.

Connect with Jordan: Facebook /  Twitter  /  Instagram

Stream his music on Spotify  and purchase on iTunes or Amazon