A.WAKE – Single Review: “Railings”

A.Wake is the musical moniker of Anita Wake, a fascinating and innovative singer-songwriter and musician based in Sheffield, England. She’s been a member of several bands, in which she played bass and sang backing vocals, and more recently, decided to start creating music as a solo artist. With a keen interest in sound therapy, mysticism and the healing properties of music, she seeks to incorporate healing frequencies and modern music elements into her songs.

She released her enchanting debut single “Lemuria” this past July, and followed in October with her darkly stunning second single “Railings“, which I’m featuring today. Inspired by an idea by r. Crampton, A. Wake wrote and recorded the song, sang vocals and played keyboards, while Steve Hulme produced the track. About the song, A.Wake says “‘Railings’ is a modern synth sound song, embedded with a healing frequency to align the heart chakra, to help heal feelings of sadness and loss.”

Opening and closing with sounds of pealing church bells, the song is both beautiful and haunting. The dramatic and stunning swirling orchestral synths have a mysterious quality, punctuated by moments of piercing sharpness and booming percussion, all of which create a ghostly cinematic soundscape. A.Wake’s layered vocals are bewitching mix of mellifluous croons and breathy whispers, adding to the song’s spooky ethereal vibe. Though I cannot pinpoint exactly where the healing frequency lies within the song, I will say that the sounds and overall aura are so powerful and resonant, I can feel its existence.

The lyrics are sung from the perspective of someone who’s already passed away to a loved one who’s still living and missing them, trying to reassure and comfort them in their grief: “The railings round my grave, hold ivy for you. You are not to blame, I died before you. Heaven is to blame, I’ve cried for you. Patience is the game, I’m trying to be. Saying your name. I feel you near me. Looking at your frame, I watch you watch me. If I could hold you just a day. If you could hold me in some way, I’ll know.”

The video for “Railings” was created by PSYNC and directed by Douglas John Thorp, with images of A.Wake singing the song superimposed against footage of her in a Sheffield cemetery shot by Thorp and Rob Cohen. Thorp had this to say about its creation: “There’s a beautiful simplicity to it, dealing with love & loss across the divide that needed a stripped down approach to match. All the shots are hand-held in one location & the video splits itself into two halves: yearning & the possibility of rebirth. Fans of Ari Aster’s ‘Midsommar’ may spot a few unashamed influences here, particularly the use of strong daylight as an unsettling presence. Perhaps also some of the 1970s British folk horror tropes where landscape & natural sounds signify something altogether more disturbing.”

Connect with A.Wake: FacebookTwitterInstagram

Stream her music:  SpotifyApple MusicSoundcloudBandcamp

HULLAH – Single Review: “Wild as the Wind”

One of my best new finds of 2022 has been British singer-songwriter, producer and sound designer Charley Hullah, who goes by just his last name, stylized as HULLAH. I first learned about the handsome, talented and highly engaging London-based artist as a result of being a guest moderator for the BBC Music weekly song competition Fresh On The Net, for which he’d entered his gorgeous single “Chasing Trains”. I loved it the instant I heard it, so much so that it ended up spending 20 weeks on my Top 30 chart, going all the way to #1.

Born and raised in the Midlands, HULLAH relocated to London in 2013 to study songwriting at The Institute of Contemporary Music Performance, where he earned a B.A. Since graduating, he’s worked as a creative freelancer in the music and media industries, writing and producing music for his solo act, as one-half of the electro-pop duo Futuretape (currently on hiatus), and for other artists, as well as sound-designing for theatre, creating digital content, organising music workshops and working on events such as the Artist and Manager Awards. Most recently, he became Content Manager for Disabled Students UK, and has held the role of Content Manager for Alight Media where he developed a content delivery department for high budget nationwide out-of-home media campaigns.

According to his bio, HULLAH “creates music inspired by a passion for nightlife culture and stories from the queer community. Wrapped in the sonic flavours of trip-hop, 90’s house and synth-pop, his tracks emulate a nocturnal spirit and are complemented by the themes of city living, alienation, ambition and a sense of dejection – commonly expressed through his lyrics. His songs, both introspective and solitary, offer insight into how he navigates his way through the noise and distortion of everyday city life.” His music is inspired by such acts as as Everything but the Girl, Real Lies, Portishead and Pet Shop Boys.

He’s just released his third solo single “Wild as the Wind“, and it’s every bit as magnificent at “Chasing Trains”. Written and produced by HULLAH and mixed by Matt Catlow, the track features more of the lush, sultry vibes I loved on his previous song, but with even more sound textures that take it to a higher, more sophisticated level. Whereas “Chasing Trains” was entirely electronic, “Wild as the Wind” is anchored by a deep, sensuous bassline played by fellow musician Gabrielle Ornate, and fortified with spine-tingling distorted guitar work played by Orlando Sadler. HULLAH explains: “I knew that I wanted and needed live instrumentation on this one so I reached out to my great friends Gabrielle and Orlando. Gabrielle laid down killer bass on this that just glues the whole track together. It packs a gut-punch. Orlando mirrored the sense of dejection in the soundscape and lyric by creating these huge, distorted synth-like guitar lines that create an awesome atmosphere.”

Well, I have to say that together, they’ve created something quite spectacular. “Wild as the Wind” is a dramatic, hauntingly beautiful little masterpiece. The combined warmth of Gabrielle’s sensuous throbbing bassline and HULLAH’s plaintive sultry vocals contrasts with – yet perfectly complements – the icy soundscape created by the ghostly industrial synths. There are so many wonderful little instrumental touches heard throughout the track, like the sparkling keyboards and delicate jangly guitar notes. I’ve been listening to it on endless repeat.

As to the song’s meaning, HULLAH elaborates: “‘Wild as the Wind” is an ode to the wilderness I feel inside myself – the parts of myself I don’t understand and have to grapple with. It’s about trying to make friends with your own insecurities, worries, dread, hopes and desires – the things you don’t quite understand but that equally push and pull you in life nonetheless. There’s the ‘us’ that we present to the world and then there’s the ‘us’ that we are when we are alone, uncomfortably alone. That’s what I mean by wilderness, the space in between those two versions of yourself. ‘Wild as the Wind’ is about not trying to contain this wilderness – it’s about truly seeing those aspects of yourself and attempting to accept and be at peace with them. The song was initially written about two people in my life that were going through hard times. As I kept writing, I later realised that it also reflected my own experience navigating this wilderness I felt they were also battling with.”

You've spend a lifetime looking for something on the other side
You could spend another drifting like you do
All that guilt and history is like a thorn caught in your sleeve 
I know the pain, the hurt and how you yearn to let it go

And I can't save the soul you hold
And I can't save you on my own
I can't do that, but you can't see that
If you don't swim now you will drown

You're as wild as the wind
And I can't catch you
Cause you're as wild as the wind
And I can't cage you

You're so warm outside, but so cold within
A smile is a wall that's caving in
You're breathing to a rhythm that you can't play
Little feet don't make big steps without 
Soles that can tread some hard ground
So how many years will be lost before you finally take the reins?

There's no escaping a wild mind
No easy way to win the fight
But you must fight back
You must see that all that you need is in yourself

Cause you're as wild as the wind
I can't catch you
Cause you're as wild as the wind
And I can't cage you
You're full of grace and gold
So let the wind be what you know
And be as wild as the wind
And let it take you

Though time is all you fear
And nothing is all you feel
Keep on running for a reason
Just let that reason be your life

Connect with HULLAH:  FacebookTwitterInstagram

Stream his music on Spotify / Apple Music / Soundcloud 

Purchase on Bandcamp

CALLUM PITT – Single Review: “Mayfly”

Callum Pitt is a thoughtful and talented singer-songwriter based in Newcastle Upon Tyne in northeast England. Inspired by the music of such artists as Elliott Smith, Julien Baker, Adrianne Lenker, Sufjan Stevens, The War on Drugs and Fleet Foxes, he creates, in his own words, “indie-folk with a grand, orchestral, chamber pop sensibility plus an alt-rock edge”. His music is characterized by lush harmonies, captivating melodies, and honest, meaningful lyrics touching on subjects like depression and anxiety, and social and political unrest, delivered with his soft, pleasing vocals. In other words, his songs are beautiful.

He began writing and singing songs in this teens, performing in pubs and small venues in and around Newcastle. He released his wonderful debut single “You’d Better Sell It While You Can” in 2017, and in the years since, he’s dropped an impressive number of singles as well as a four-track EP Poisoned Reveries in 2019. His beautiful second single “Least He’s Happy” has been streamed more than two million times on Spotify, with several other singles garnering over 100,000 streams. He’s also earned accolades such as the Alan Hull Songwriting Award for songwriters in 2019, and participated in the Fender Player Plus competition in 2022.

Photos by Daniel Stark

I’ve previously reviewed two of Callum’s singles, both in 2020: “Fault Lines” (which spent 10 weeks on my Top 30 chart and ranks at #84 on my Top 100 Songs of 2020 list), and “Sea of Noise”. Now he’s back with his first new music in two years almost to the day, a lovely, deeply personal single “Mayfly“. The song was written and composed by Callum, who sang lead vocals and played acoustic and electric guitars and keyboards. Additional musicians performing on the track include Luke Elgie on bass, Gavin Christie on drums, John Martindale on percussion, Ada Francis and Jodie Nicholson on backing vocals, Alex Saxon, who wrote and played the saxophone line, and James Leonard Hewitson on trumpet. The track was co-produced by Callum and John Martindale, who also engineered and mixed it at Blank Studios. Mastering was done by Robin Schmidt.

The song is essentially about adulthood, and Callum’s feelings of apprehension over the responsibilities he’ll face as a potential parent, fearing he might not be up to the task: “I’m 28 now, eventually not feeling like a teenager anymore and probably will have my own children in a few years’ time. ‘Mayfly’ talks about that worry I have that living with anxiety and bouts of depression will mean I will never be able to provide that emotional stability that children will require. It’s quite a hopeful song though, as I still have a few years yet, and mainly talks about the ambition that I’ll be more emotionally stable and at peace as the years go by. I often look at people in their 30s and 40s and think they appear very at peace, but maybe there are always relative struggles and difficult things to overcome, and we always have to cherish the highs and know that the lows are inevitable.”

“Mayfly” has a lively, upbeat melody that contrasts with the poignant lyrics. One of the many things I like about the song is how each instrument is allowed to shine. With every new listen I hear little instrumental nuances, like the perfect melding of acoustic guitar notes and delicate piano chords in the verses, and how the drums become more intense in the choruses, accompanied by glorious exuberant riffs and swirling keyboards. Callum’s smooth vocals are both comforting and heartfelt, backed by Ada and Jodie’s lovely harmonies, and Alex’s bold saxophone in the final chorus is the icing on the musical cake. It’s another wonderful song by Callum.

The lovely video, filmed and directed by Sel MacLean, shows Callum singing the song in various indoor and outdoor settings in an around Newcastle.

Those of you in the UK can catch Callum at one of these upcoming shows:

Saturday, Nov 19 – The Common Room of the Great North, Newcastle Upon Tyne

Saturday, Nov 26 – Songs From Northern Britain @ The Georgian Theatre, Stockton-on-tees

Saturday, Dec 10 – Avoid Shit Xmas Parties, The Central, Gateshead

Connect with Callum:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream his music:  Spotify / Apple Music / Soundcloud
Purchase:  Bandcamp / Amazon

BARBARA – Single Review: “Waiting Outside Alone”

Since bursting onto the British music scene at the beginning of 2021 with their wonderful debut single “BRB”, pop duo Barbara has built a loyal following with their pleasing retro brand of, in their own words, “soft, syrupy progressive fop pop”. The music project of Henry and John Tydeman, two charming brothers from Brighton and Hove, England, Barbara describes their sound as “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 feel-good music, I’d say that’s a perfect description I cannot improve upon.

They followed “BRB” with three more singles, including the delightful “Rainy Days in June” (which I reviewed last November), as well as their debut five-track EP Mildly Entertaining this past April. Now they’re back with a terrific new single “Waiting Outside Alone“, which drops today, November 9th. As with their other songs, John and Henry sang vocals, with keyboards played by Henry, guitar by Dean Llewelyn, bass by Jack Hosgood and drums by Lawrie Miller. The song features their signature sunny vibe, with a bouncy, toe-tapping 60s groove fueled by subtle bass, snappy drums, a colorful mix of chiming and gnarly guitars, and cheerful synths, punctuated by some tasty organ notes. But the highlight for me are John and Henry’s beautiful lilting harmonies, which are quite marvelous. I love how well their singing voices complement one another.   

In sharp contrast to the song’s carefree, upbeat sound, the thoughtful lyrics touch on a darker, more serious subject. Barbara explains “The lyrics reflect an intense, youthful frustration; ‘Waiting Outside Alone’ both calls out the reactionary elements that have come to dominate British politics, and laments the sidelining of young people from the fractious national debate.” The same can be said about American politics. “Waiting Outside Alone” is song we need today, and I love it.

Everywhere we walk about, we stop to talk about people, and places and things,
It’s all we want to think, kick up a stink about people, that wait in the wings by the side of the stage, in the words on the page of the editorial, the dictatorial view,
Shouldn’t the commentator’s comment be true?

Where did the chancers, dreamers, blue eyed schemers,
Men in suits and window cleaners go?
Ooh, wo, ho, oh, oh


Coz I’m waiting outside alone,
And the rest of the world don’t know,
That it breaks me down, the way those clowns are treating me, keeping me, waiting outside alone

Everywhere she goes she says she’s making this country’s case and staking her well-found reputation on stiff upper lips and soldier songs

Stiff upper lips won’t save the men in suits and badger baiters oh,
Ooh, wo, ho, oh, oh

Coz I’m waiting outside alone,
And the rest of the world don’t know,
That it breaks me down, the way those clowns are treating me, keeping me, waiting outside alone

Coz I’m waiting outside alone,
And the rest of the world don’t know,
That it breaks me down, the way those clowns are treating me, keeping me, waiting outside alone

Do I have to be on my own?
Ooh woo ooh ooh ooh
Ooh, woo ooh ooh
Treating me, keeping me….

Connect with Barbara: Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

Stream their music: Spotify / Apple Music / Soundcloud / YouTube

New Song of the Week: “All Said and Done” by RYAN REDWOOD

Ryan Redwood is a creative, charming and affable young British singer-songwriter based in Lowestoft. I’ve been following him since the beginning of 2018, back when he was lead vocalist for alternative indie rock band The Only Route, and reviewed several of their singles. After the band called it quits at the end of 2019, Ryan soldiered on as a solo artist, writing and recording songs influenced by some of his favorite acts like Oasis, The Charlatans, Catfish and The Bottlemen and Blossoms. He released his first single “Perhaps” in December 2020, and since then has released four more singles, the latest of which is “All Said and Done”, which I’m pleased to select as my New Song of the Week.

Ryan says “All Said and Done” is “effectively two songs sort of bashed together“. He’d finished the initial framework for the song, but hadn’t yet developed a bridge. He’d also composed another musical piece, but didn’t feel he could create an entire song around it, so he came up with the idea of inserting it into the middle of “All Said and Done” to change things up a bit. Under the guidance of producer/engineer/multi-instrumentalist Sam Wilson, who then recruited his musician friend Dylan Levett to play sax, together they’ve created a wonderful, more melodically complex and interesting track.

The song starts off as a rousing rocker, with a lively blend of shimmery and jangly guitars bathed in reverb and accompanied by assertive thumping drumbeats. At the two minute-and-fifteen second mark, the music abruptly downshifts to a mellow instrumental interlude lasting about a minute, highlighted by Dylan’s terrific saxophone solo, giving the song a jazzy, sophisticated vibe. At the end of the interlude, everything ramps back up to the urgent rock groove heard at the beginning, ending with a strong finish. Ryan has a relatively low-key vocal style that’s not particularly powerful, but he does a fine job here, his earnest vocals rising in intensity along with the music.

The lyrics speak to the inevitable predictability and drudgery of day to day life that eventually afflicts us all as we age, but also taking solace in the fact we have a loved one beside us to help and support us along the way: “I can’t help but shake the feeling I’ll wake up one day, in the same job, in the same house, in the same place. When it’s all said and done, it’ll be me and you. When push comes to shove, it’s always better with you. When it’s all said and done, it’ll be us forever.”

I think “All Said and Done” is Ryan’s best work yet, and nicely showcases his growth and maturity as a musician, songwriter and vocalist.

Connect with Ryan:  FacebookTwitterInstagram

Stream his music:  SpotifyApple Music / YouTube

MOUNT FAMINE – Single Review: “Offcuts”

Mount Famine are a British post punk/synth-infused indie rock’n’roll project based in Derby. Formed in 2019 as a collaboration of seasoned musicians with a shared love of such bands as The Cure, The Psychedelic Furs, Pet Shop Boys, Manic Street Preachers, Pulp and Suede, they aim to create music that, in their own words, “produces the adrenaline-fueled highs of indie disco dancefloors.” Hallmarks of their vibrant sound are infectious melodies, lush soundscapes and soaring vocals. A rather enigmatic band, they have no photos of themselves on any of their social media, nor do they list their members’ names. Band front man and vocalist Martin Stanier, who I know of from his having reached out to me on Instagram, explained that they’ve steered away from photos, wanting the focus to instead be on their music.

Beginning with their debut single “Faith” in January 2020, they’ve released a string of excellent singles over the past two and a half years. This past March, I included their fourth single “Distance” in a Fresh New Tracks post. The song garnered support from BBC Introducing East Midlands and Louder Than War, as well endorsements from actor Robert Carlyle and British broadcaster Terry Christian. I liked the song so much, it spent 11 weeks on my Weekly Top 30 list. Now they’re back with a new single “Offcuts“, a rousing anthem that calls to mind some of the great songs by New Order, Manic Street Preachers and The Killers.  

The song storms through the gates with an exuberant soundscape of swirling synths, roiling guitars and driving rhythms. Martin’s sparkling keyboards have a wonderful cinematic quality, and the layered shimmery and grungy guitars are quite marvelous. Also outstanding are the humming bassline and emphatic thumping drumbeats, both of which add great power and depth to the track. And, as always, Martin’s resonant vocals are incredibly pleasing, rising with a commanding force in the choruses. 

The song’s lyrics touch on the drudgery of executive management, work hierarchies, and the disposability of workers. Martin elaborated further: “It’s about a moment I had recently where I doubted myself. I spent some time in the company of some very senior managers in my job who weren’t nice or kind and treated others lower on the food chain really badly. And all the others treated them with adoration and respect that to my mind, they didn’t really deserve. I wondered if I had got it wrong and that doing this was the way forward. I mean, it didn’t last very long because of course that isn’t how to be or to treat people, but it also echoed the behaviour of a lot of our world leaders of late.

I am the new normal in rock and roll; discos
Kiss me, between the sheets
You're so discreet, discreet

Maybe I misunderstood
And dreams and schemes are not as fun 
As real life, through office doors
We are Offcuts on director's floors

Maybe I misunderstood
And dreams and schemes are not as fun 
As real life, through office doors
We are Offcuts on director's floors

Fast cars, high class bars
Now you are stars, all stars
Diamonds and dollars
Now you look down on us, on us

Maybe I misunderstood
And dreams and schemes are not as fun
As real life, through office doors
We are Offcuts on director's floors
 
Maybe I misunderstood
And real life is Hollywood
And Sundays walking through the malls are the best days, best times of all

Funny, you're so funny
They laugh with you
But money and power have made you sour

Maybe I misunderstood
And dreams and schemes are not as fun
As real life, through office doors
We are Offcuts on director's floors
 
Maybe I misunderstood
And real life is Hollywood
And Sundays walking through the malls are the best days, best times of all

“Offcuts” is a fantastic radio-friendly song that’s certain to be a hit.

Follow Mount Famine:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

Stream their music:  SpotifyApple MusicSoundcloud 

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