Fresh New Tracks Vol VIII

It’s time for another installment of Fresh New Tracks, as there’s so much great music being released. Some of the best of it continues to come from the UK, so I’m dedicating this edition to that island kingdom. I’ve chosen three outstanding new singles from British acts I’ve grown especially fond of: Young Decades and Liam Sullivan, both of whom I’ve previously written about on this blog, as as well as The Banshees, who I’m thrilled to feature for the first time.

“Mediterranean” by Young Decades

Born from the ashes of Liverpool-based band COLOUR, Young Decades formed at the early onset of the Covid pandemic. Like every other artist and band around the globe, they were unable to tour or perform live, so they made the most of their down time by setting themselves on a mission to build up a catalog of songs, and I can emphatically state that they’ve succeeded quite nicely. They released their beautiful debut single “Islands” in April 2020, then quickly followed with four more excellent singles, as well as several collections of remixes and alternative versions. On March 5th of this year, they released an EP Let You Down, which featured all five singles, then soon dropped their sixth single “Sinner” on April 23  (you can read my review of “Sinner” here.) The stunning anthem has spent the past two months and counting on my Weekly Top 30.

They also gained, then quickly lost, a drummer, but in April they recruited a replacement, so their current lineup consists of James Tidd (vocals), Scott Harvey (guitar, keyboards), Liam Downey (bass) and Lee Cameron (drums). The various band members are scattered about the Midlands and North West England, but meet up for rehearsals and recording in the city of Stoke on Trent. Now the prolific group is back with a wonderful new single “Mediterranean“, a jubilant celebration of being able to travel more freely again. The band elaborates “Think back to that one perfect trip: the first dive into the water and the feeling of escape. With travel limited, the need for escapism has reached fever pitch. ‘Mediterranean’ is a blistering expression of that bottled-up feeling. Starting like some beachside dream, it kicks you right back to everything good about getting away and the lyrics are dotted with glimpses of holiday life: sleeping on the beach, burnt skin, foreign coins, full moons on open sea and diving into some warm Mediterranean waves. Another anthem built for live gigs… somewhere warm.”

All Young Decades songs are uplifting, melodic and beautiful, with exuberant synths, driving rhythms and stellar guitar work. But for me, the real highlights of their music are Scott’s dramatic piano keys and James’ impassioned vocals that make their sound distinctive from any other band and instantly recognizable as only Young Decades. They don’t disappoint with “Mediterranean”, delivering another top-notch song and a fine addition to their perfect string of exceptional singles.

Follow Young Decades:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music:  Spotify / Apple Music / Soundcloud
Purchase: Bandcamp / Amazon

“Jerusalem” by Liam Sullivan

One of the standout artists I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know in the past year or so is singer-songwriter Liam Sullivan. The Leeds-based musician is a fine songwriter and guitarist, with a vibrant and warm singing voice that’s both beautiful and comforting. His music can generally be classified as alternative rock with folk and singer-songwriter elements that make for an incredibly pleasing listen, and I love every one of his songs. 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.

Like Young Decades, Liam has set for himself an ambitious goal of releasing a new single roughly every 6-8 weeks. While he hasn’t quite met that frantic schedule, he has released six singles over the past year, the latest of which is “Jerusalem“. (I’ve reviewed three of his previous singles, most recently his beautiful song “Stadium and Churches” in April, which you can read here.)  The song has a harder rock vibe than his last several singles, with a faster tempo, a stronger driving rhythm and edgier guitars. Liam’s always emotive vocals have an even greater sense of urgency here as he sings about his faith and spirituality using biblical references. The song was inspired by his being asked to be a godfather to his friend’s twin babies. While he never considered himself to be religious, he was greatly honored and took being a godfather very seriously. It prompted him to explore what it means to have faith in a broader sense, and also search for answers and question his own faith and spirituality. It’s a beautiful and heartfelt song.

Follow Liam:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream his music:  Spotify / Soundcloud / Apple Music / YouTube
Purchase:  Bandcamp

“4AM” by The Banshees

The Banshees are an indie alternative pop-rock duo based in Liverpool, and comprised of Vinny Pereira on vocals & guitar and Paul Holligan on lead guitar. The two met through a mutual friend at a party in Liverpool, hit it off and eventually formed as a band in December 2018. They soon began playing gigs in Liverpool and in May 2019, released their debut single “Self Medicated”. Over the next two years, they’ve continued to release a string of outstanding singles, earning praise from critics and fans alike, along with features in prominent music publications and websites like NME, Rolling Stone, Pitchfork, Kerrang, Guitar Player, Stereogum and Spin, as well as TV music stations MTV and VH1. Their sound has been favorably compared to The Strokes, Arctic Monkeys and Talking Heads. I love all three of those acts, and after having The Banshees’ music on repeat in preparation for writing this review, I can confidently state that I love their music too.

On July 1st, they dropped their latest single “4AM“, a song the band describes as “harking back to the club scenes of the 90s panic, punk and angst all mixed up into a journey of the mind. Nobody wants to be nobody, or maybe it’s just that now we live in a world where self perception of importance carries more weight than the bigger life picture of just being happy.” To my ears, the song has an almost punk aesthetic, with a frenetic dance beat, a strong, thumping bassline, and emphatic gnarly guitars. The guys’ superb musicianship really shines through, with first-rate production values and powerful pulsating rhythms pulling us willingly into an exhilarating soundscape that compels us to throw all our preconceived notions and bullshit out the window, just let loose and be. With a wry matter-of-fact tone, imbued with a touch of cheekiness, Vinny emphatically laments “The habits you created to survive will no longer serve you when its time to thrive. No focus on yourself for a change. Woulda’ coulda’ shoulda’ kept your goal in range. I’m so tired of bein’ tired. I’m so hard to please. Just gimme the truth, so I can go back to sleep.” Give me more of this!

Follow the Banshees: FacebookTwitterInstagram

Stream their music: SpotifyApple MusicSoundcloud YouTube

Purchase:  Bandcamp

PARIS ALEXANDER – Single Review: “Lost in the City”

Paris Alexander is a singer, songwriter, composer and electronic music producer based in Brighton, England. He recently dropped a mesmerizing new single “Lost in the City“, which I like so much that I have to share it with my readers. Co-produced by fellow Brighton singer-songwriter and producer Eirene at Alexander’s Blue Door Music Productions, the track is the third single from his forthcoming album Renaissance, due out later this year.

The talented musician has been a long time collaborator with Eirene, as well as Norwegian coldwave/post-punk artist Antipole, with whom he co-wrote, sung on and produced three albums together (one of which, the 2017 release Northern Flux I reviewed). Alexander and Antipole have also worked together on projects with other artists, remixing songs for such acts as Clan of Xymox and She Past Away. Additionally, Alexander has worked with London electro-psych band Leg Puppy on some of his music.

Starting with an assertive stomping drumbeat, Alexander layers a hypnotic bassline, moody swirling synths and bold jangly guitars that immediately make me think of The Cure. Some of the guitar work was played by Simon Meek, with added drums by Martin Meadows. Alexander’s deep baritone vocals have an ominous haunting quality, nicely conveying a rather dystopian vibe befitting the dark lyrics about the cold and anonymous aspects of urban life – how despite living amongst lots of people, we can sometimes feel very isolated and alone. The combination of living in a densely built environment with little or no natural spaces, and feeling overwhelmed by technology, only serves to exacerbate one’s sense of isolation and disconnection, of feeling ‘lost in the city’.

We’re lost in the city
Going nowhere so fast
We’re lost in the city
Little do we care
We’re lost in the City
Techno, nostalgia, round cars, designed beer
We’re lost in the city

Our brains are gone
Lost to receivers, transformers, flat screens
We’re lost in the city
Strobe light flashing away
Inner world far from here
A world of rich hue

Get lost in yesterday
In the city or in our minds
Hang on to the thread of hope
We’re desperate to find……(repeat)

We’re lost in the city….(repeat)
Lost in the city

The darkly beautiful video was filmed in black and white by Eirene along, and in the vicinity of, the Thames River in historic South East London. The black and white tones and brooding skies beautifully enhance the darkwave elements of the music. Particularly interesting is that the scenes are all nearly devoid of people, adding to the overall sense of coldness and isolation expressed in the lyrics.

Follow Paris:  FacebookTwitterInstagram

Stream/purchase his music:  SpotifyApple MusicBandcamp

Philip Morgan Lewis – Single & Video Premier: “Come Find Me Back”

As I’ve noted numerous times on this blog, there’s a tremendous amount of music talent in the UK, and one of the more creative and imaginative artists among them all is singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer Philip Morgan Lewis. The London East Ender boldly experiments with a wide array of genres and influences, ranging from alternative rock, blues, garage rock and folk to R&B and EDM, in the creation of his exciting and eclectic style of blues-soaked rock that nicely suits his distinctive raspy vocals. And he isn’t afraid to address the darker side of humanity and the emotional wreckage of failed relationships, love gone bad and our sometimes self-destructive ways, while also offering glimmers of hope and redemption. His unique sound is instantly identifiable, as he sounds like no one else I know of.

He’s released a fair amount of music over the past decade, including his debut EP Karma Comedown in 2016, followed a year later by his brilliant album Grief Harbour, which I reviewed. In the years since, he’s dropped a number of singles, two of which – “Blowtorched Dreams” and “Rock That City” – I also featured on this blog (you can read those reviews by clicking on the links under ‘Related’ at the end of this post). Now Philip returns with another great new single “Come Find Me Back“, along with a terrific video which I’m happy to premier. Released via label Tx2 Records, the single was written, produced, performed and mixed by Philip, and mastered by legendary mastering engineer Pete Maher. The backing vocals were sung by Annick.

“Come Find Me Back” is a heartfelt song that speaks to someone’s fall from grace and the break up of a family. Philip elaborates “The song is about the breaking up of families and single parenting in an era where it’s simply easier to separate than to fight for your love and try to do everything you can to mend relationships. And someone trying to find his grace back in the spiritual sense, in a way to become stronger, accept past errors, and try and reunite and fix things.”

Philip brings his poignant lyrics to life with mournful piano keys, intricate guitar work and gently soaring horns, all working together brilliantly to create a beautiful and haunting soundscape. A close listen reveals how he skillfully layers multiple guitar textures to create both nuance and depth of sound, with subtle bass and percussion nicely transitioning to bolder rhythms in the anthemic choruses. His plaintive, blues-soaked vocals are powerfully emotive, conveying his despair and pleas for forgiveness and acceptance back into the fold with a heart-wrenching rawness. 

Love it's just just a couple of lines
To let you know I miss you babe
And it's just just a couple of bars
To let you know I messed things up

All that is left inside of me
Is the thought of our crazy little family
And it feels so warm 
But time keeps on passing us by
And I wanna hold you both so tight
Until that one fine day
Until I find my way

Hope is all I have
Grace come find me back
Until that one fine day
Until I find my way

I can't make you feel like I do
Though I wish you could see me now
Now I know that you couldn't love me
Like the man that I used to be

All that is left inside of me
Is the wrong that I did and a mystery
How to learn to forgive myself
What a mess
Time keeps on passing us by
And I wanna hold you both so tight
Until that one fine day
Until I find my way

Hope is all I have
Grace come find me back
Until that one fine day
Until I find my way
Hope is all I have
Love don't count me out
Until that one fine day
Until I find my way back to you


The beautiful video, which Philip directed and edited, was filmed in London’s East End, and shows scenes of mostly empty streets, parks and playgrounds, as well him in what appears to be an empty house. All serve to represent his feelings of isolation and loneliness, both at home and within the larger context of a big city that should be teeming with life. The child’s drawing of a family of three, shown blowing around on the sidewalk, is a particularly touching element.

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

LIAM SULLIVAN – Single Review: “Stadiums and Churches”

There’s a lot of musical talent out there, and I’m particularly impressed by the sheer number of exceptional musicians and bands that continue to emerge from the UK – something that’s long been apparent to even the casual music observer. One of the standout artists I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know in the past year is singer-songwriter Liam Sullivan. The Leeds-based musician is a fine songwriter and guitarist, with a vibrant and warm singing voice that’s both comforting and beautiful. His music style can generally be described as alternative rock with folk and singer-songwriter elements that make for an incredibly pleasing listening experience, and I love every one of his songs that I’ve heard.

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. Like a lot of musicians who were prevented from touring or performing to live audiences, he made the best of the Covid lockdown situation to write and record new music. He’s released four singles since last May, the latest of which is “Stadiums and Churches“, which dropped April 9th (which seems to be a big day for the release of new music). I’ve reviewed his previous two singles “When This is Over” and “Be Kind”, which you can read by clicking on the links under ‘Related’ at the end of this post. Those two singles have become his most successful yet, and with plans to release a new song roughly every six weeks for the rest of the year, the hard-working artist’s music career is destined to grow exponentially.

He was inspired to write “Stadiums and Churches” during the first lockdown after watching the British sports documentary series Sunderland ‘Til I Die. An episode addressed how sports stadiums have sat empty during the lockdown, which got Liam to thinking about all the stadiums, theaters and churches, where masses of people normally congregate to celebrate events important to them, that were now just empty and lifeless places.

To drive home his message, he starts with a lovely piano movement that forms the basis of the song’s haunting but beautiful melody, accompanied by his strummed acoustic guitar, subtle bass and gentle percussion. He first laments about all the empty places where we once assembled: “The churches and stadiums are hollow empty places now. Nowhere to gather, nowhere to believe, nowhere to go at all” but then seems to address his own personal feelings of abandonment: “Where did you go, where did you go, why’d you leave me here alone?” His guitars and soothing vocals turn more urgent in the choruses, bolstered by sweeping strings and more dramatic percussion that convey a sense of hopefulness about the future as he sings about returning outside: “Head out the window. Can you feel the daybreak?” I love his vocals throughout the song, as well as his exuberant guitar solo in the bridge and the soaring crescendo at the end. It’s a fantastic song, and I think it’s one of Liam’s best yet.

Follow Liam:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream his music:  Spotify / Soundcloud / Apple Music / YouTube
Purchase:  Bandcamp

New Song of the Week – LIAM SULLIVAN: “Be Kind”

Liam Sullivan is an accomplished musician based in Leeds, England who’s been writing and performing outstanding music for well over a decade, both as a member of various bands and as a solo artist. He’s a fine songwriter and guitarist, with a vibrant and warm singing voice, and his music is a pleasing blend of folk and alternative rock. I first featured him on this blog last May when I reviewed his lovely folk single “When This is Over”. Written and recorded during the COVID-19 quarantine, the poignant song is a hopeful look ahead toward happier times. Now Liam is back with his latest single “Be Kind“, a hauntingly beautiful and deeply moving song I’m happy to make my New Song of the Week.

Liam wrote “Be Kind” back in 2016 while travelling around Europe, but his lyrics resonate now more than ever as he advocates for kindness and acceptance at a time when many people are feeling anxious, fearful or angry. He states the song “is about getting out of the darkness of the city and finding solace in nature. Using this as a metaphor, it also looks at taking responsibility in relationships and standing up with kindness and not always pointing the finger.” 

The opening lyrics speak of someone with a closed mind who doesn’t seem to want to deal with problems: “Meet me in some corner of the dark and distant city. Away from all the handsome men, away from all the pretty. I promise I will listen if you promise not to talk. Don’t talk of indecision and don’t talk of all these thoughts. / I promised my belligerence, you promised to be calm. Just be calm.” Eventually, through the patience and kindness of another, he softens his resolve and opens up to other points of view and toward a common understanding: “Meet me where the trees begin to disinfect the sky. I promised I will live and learn. You promised to be kind. Just be kind.”

Musically, “Be Kind” has a darker, more powerful sound than most of his previous songs, yet still features the stirring melodies, beautiful layered guitars and emotion-packed vocals we’ve come to love in his music. The song starts off as a gentle folk ballad with strummed acoustic and electric guitars and subtle percussion, then gradually builds to a dramatic and stunning anthem, highlighted by bold, fuzz-coated jangly guitars, throbbing bass and exuberant drums. His intricate guitar work on this song is some of his best, and his commanding vocals have a vulnerable fervency that’s really touching. It’s a magnificent song.

Follow Liam:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream his music:  Spotify / Soundcloud / Apple Music / YouTube
Purchase:  Bandcamp

ImageBeatZ – Single Review: “Now or Never”

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

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

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

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

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

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

Follow ImageBeatZ:  FacebookInstagram

100 Best Songs of the 2010s – #53: “Human” by Rag’n’Bone Man

The song at #53 on my list of 100 Best Songs of the 2010s is “Human” by British blues artist Rag’n’Bone Man. An intensely powerful song with a gospel feel, “Human” was a huge breakout hit for the imposing singer/songwriter born Rory Charles Graham. With his soulful and raw bass-baritone voice, he passionately sings of having human frailties, and that he’s neither a saint nor a demon, nor does he have all the answers: “Some people got the real problems / Some people out of luck / Some people think I can solve them / Lord heavens above / ‘Cause I’m no prophet or messiah / You should go looking somewhere higher/ I’m only human after all / Don’t put the blame on me.” I love the deep, booming bass line, thunderous percussion and soaring string synths.

The song was released in July 2016, but didn’t chart in the U.S. until early 2017. It reached #1 in many countries, including Austria, Belgium, Germany, Switzerland, Greece, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Russia and Slovakia, as well as the Billboard Alternative and Adult Alternative charts. Shockingly, it peaked at only #74 on the Hot 100, a chart I personally now find largely irrelevant.

The video for the song has been streamed more than 1.175 billion times.

New Song of the Week – CALLUM PITT: “Sea of Noise”

This past summer I had the pleasure of learning about the immensely talented young British singer-songwriter Callum Pitt when he reached out to me about his single “Fault Lines” (you can read my review here). A beautiful song with biting lyrics decrying governmental and media efforts to divide and polarize society, “Fault Lines” has enjoyed a 10-week run on my Weekly Top 30. The prolific artist has been releasing singles every two months in 2020, beginning in May with “Out of the Trees”, followed by “Fault Lines”, “Ghost” and now his latest, “Sea of Noise“, which I’ve chosen as my New Song of the Week.

Based in Newcastle Upon Tyne in northeast England, Callum writes folk-inspired alternative and dream rock songs influenced by such great acts as The War on Drugs, Bon Iver and Fleet Foxes. With his soft, pleasing vocals, rich harmonies, captivating melodies and meaningful lyrics, he’s captured industry attention and built a growing fan base since the release in 2017 of his gorgeous first single “You’d Better Sell It While You Can.” His equally beautiful second single “Least He’s Happy” has been streamed nearly two million times on Spotify, an astonishing feat for an indie artist. 

About his latest single, released on October 6th by label Humble Angel Records, Callum explains “‘Sea of Noise’ alludes to feelings of helplessness and hopelessness while feeling surrounded by quite a lot of negative things. Despite this, it mainly discusses the importance of having a person (or activity) which takes your mind away from that mindset, keeps it away and gives a feeling of having a form of control in life.”

With “Sea of Noise” Callum delivers yet another outstanding track for our listening enjoyment. The song is beautiful, with a sweeping back and forth melody driven by a powerful stomping percussive beat, and accompanied by a lush mix of shimmery synths and moody strings. But the highlights for me are his gorgeous intricately-strummed chiming and jangly guitars and enchanting falsetto vocals. His voice nicely transitions with ease from a gentle tenderness to soaring passion as he sings of finding solace from the surrounding din through another’s support: “The colours were running from all this distortion in my head / The speakers were humming, circling feedback in our ears / Swept by the currents further until the choruses blurred and your shout was a murmur / Felt your tug away from the crowds ‘cause, everything always seems so loud / While we’re drifting in this sea of noise flooding in our ears and our eyes.”

Follow Callum:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream his music:  Spotify / Apple Music / Soundcloud
Purchase:  Amazon iTunes

Jono McCleery – Single Review: “Call Me”

After more than five years of blogging about music – which enables me to learn about a least a few new artists or bands literally every day – I’m still surprised when I discover an artist who’s been putting out superb music for several years that I knew nothing about. Just goes to show how many talented artists and bands exist out there, making some really great music. One such artist is British singer-songwriter and guitarist Jono McCleery, who’s latest single Call Me – which dropped October 23rd – has captured my attention. He also released a beautiful accompanying video for the track on October 29th.

Based in London, McCleery was deaf until the age of four, unable to perceive any acoustic stimuli. But when he turned 11, he picked up a guitar for the first time and took to it immediately. He eventually became part of the lively London “underground” and a member of One Taste Collective (OTC), a project founded in 2004 to support musicians and poets of all styles. Some of the artists who emerged through the collective include Little Dragon, Jamie Woon, Kate Tempest and the Portico Quartet, all of whom McCleery has worked with.

As I do with all artists and bands I write about for the first time, I checked out McCleery’s back catalog of music – which is pretty extensive – to get a feel for his sound and style. After listening to quite a few of his songs, I can unequivocally state that I love his music. He plays an incredibly pleasing style of what I’d loosely call contemporary folk, though many songs feature elements of electronica, world music, shoegaze, dreampop, soul and jazz. His music is characterized by captivating melodies, lush but understated instrumentation and his warm, soothing vocals in a style that to my ears is reminiscent of such artists as Sufjan Stevens and James Blake.

His first release, in 2008, was his self-produced debut album Darkest Light, a collection of eight lovely acoustic folk tracks. He followed in 2011 with There Is, a stunning, more experimental work with a greater emphasis on world, electronic and jazzy elements, and featuring collaborations with renowned artists Fink and Vashti Bunyon. One of the album’s tracks, a mesmerizing cover of Black’s 1986 hit “Wonderful Life”, has been streamed more than 3.6 million times on Spotify.

2015 saw the release of his third album Pagodes, another beautiful work that received widespread acclaim. Deutschland Funk called it “a stroke of genius”, while Rolling Stone described it as a “flawless album”. And in 2018, he released Seeds of a Dandelion, a marvelous album of covers in which McCleery re-interpreted songs like Roy Davis Jr.’s dance classic “Gabriel”, the Cocteau Twins’ “Know Who You Are at Every Age”, Atoms For Peace’s “Ingenue” and Beyonce’s “Halo”, an enchanting track which has been streamed over 8.8 million times on Spotify. Webzine Line of Best Fit called the album “a strong collection of songs, made with the upmost respect for its inspirations.”

Now he returns with “Call Me”, the second single from his forthcoming fifth album Here I Am and There You Are, set for release on November 20th via the Ninety Days Records label. The album, which McCleery recorded in just four days with the help of a few musician friends, is an homage to the Afro-American jazz musician Terry Callier, who died in 2012. I’ve had an advance listen of the album, and it’s every bit as stunning as his previous works. “Call Me” was written and sung by McCleery, who also played guitar. Supporting musicians include Steve Pringle on keyboards, Milo Fitzpatrick on bass and Dan See on drums. Production and mixing was done by Brett Cox, and mastering by Emil Van Steenswijk.

The song touches on the struggles of separation and finding inner strength. McCleery explained his inspiration for the song: “When I revisited the song before recording the album, I decided to dedicate a verse to Terry Callier’s song ‘Dancing Girl’, and these are his lyrics: ‘I saw a dream last night, bright like a falling star, and the sources of light seemed so near, yet so far. I thought I was in flight out where the planets are, moving between day and night. Here I am, and there you are.’ And then more recently whilst listening to the album recordings as quietly as possible, that line ‘here I am and there you are’ stood out. And I decided to use it for the album title.“

The song has an enchanting, almost jazzy vibe that’s at once melancholy and beautiful. McCleery’s gently strummed guitar, accompanied by subtle bass and the softest of toe-tapping beats, immediately draws us in, and once he begins singing the poetic lyrics in his soothing vocals, we’re more than eager to follow along. The instrumentals become more lively and his vocals more earnest in the choruses, and I love the haunting little piano chords that enter halfway into the track.

The gorgeous video was produced by France-based screenwriter and videographer Giovanni Di Legami, and features clips from his movie Idem, starring actors Roxane Colson and Jean Yann Verton.

Connect with Jono:  FacebookTwitter / Instagram

Stream his music:  SpotifyApple MusicSoundcloud / Napster

Purchase:  Bandcamp 

THAT HIDDEN PROMISE – Album Review: “Who Knows Now?”

That Hidden Promise is the music project and alter ego of British singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Wayne Lee. Based in Somerset, England, he’s been recording and performing under that moniker since 2011. The talented and versatile fellow writes his own songs, plays acoustic and electric guitar, and creates all his own music, including beats and percussion. He’s produced an extensive catalog of outstanding alternative and pop-rock music over the past nine years, often incorporating blues, post-punk, folk, electronic, psychedelic and shoegaze elements into the mix. The result is a varied and eclectic sound, delivered with exceptional guitar work and distinctive vocals that remind me at times of a young Bob Dylan.

I’ve featured That Hidden Promise on this blog a number of times over the last three-plus years, most recently just two months ago when I reviewed “You Can Have the World”, the lead single from his new album Who Knows Now?, which dropped October 2nd. The album is an ambitious and meticulously-crafted work featuring 12 tracks that, in Lee’s own words, “explores what it is to be in these times, through the joys, the frustrations, the anger, injustice and how do we even know what our place is in this world anymore?” The album was recorded and entirely self-produced, mixed and mastered by Lee between March-May 2020.

The album opens with “Intro“, an ominous instrumental track with a harsher and more psychedelic feel than any previous songs I can recall hearing by him. The spooky industrial synths and mix of wailing and distorted guitars set a darkly beautiful tone for what’s to come, and I love it. Next up is “You Can Have the World“, and as I wrote in my review of the song, Lee’s intricate layered guitar work is nothing short of spectacular as he delivers an explosive torrent of ever-changing textures that go from melodic to aggressive buzz-saw to screaming distortion. It’s an electrifying and powerful wall of sound for his plaintive vocals, driving home the urgency expressed in his biting lyrics that speak to finding strength through one’s confusion and rage over a corrupt and unjust system in order to survive and ultimately rise above it: “You can have the world if you’re gonna pay / Though have you got the nerve to fail again and again / Those who lead won’t keep you down / They may seek acclaim but it’s clear / If I win, If I fail in this world, Ain’t a damn thing to do with them.” I think it’s one of the best songs he’s ever recorded.

On “Your Own Enemy“, he urges us to live our own truths and forge our own paths forward in life: “Cut out all the voices, all the actions not working for you / Act free Act simply Act in your best interest / Forego your ego / Your shackles, release them / Construct your own self, not one projected for you.” Over a driving rhythm of throbbing bass and urgent toe-tapping beats, he layers a mix of gnarly and jangly guitars, all of which makes for a rousing and satisfying folk-rock song.

Caught in Yesterday” is a breezy and pretty tune, with lots of great guitar work and pleasing horn synths. The lyrics are an assurance of unconditional friendship, acceptance and standing by someone,: “You’ve got nothing to prove to me / If the world should split in two I’d be on the side with you / If the world should break in four we’d belong for evermore.”

Following on that thread, “End Game” is pre-apocalyptic, and speaks to finding acceptance and peace of mind when the end does arrive: “As we reach the end game / As we near our time don’t let fear sweep over / Just learn to free your mind / So take me with you to paradise / Away from conflict Away from these times.” It’s a musically complex and stunning song, and a real testament to Lee’s impressive songwriting and musicianship. The song opens with an ominous-sounding drumbeat, accompanied by gentle industrial synths, then a lovely strummed guitar enters along with shimmery synths, softening the mood as Lee begins to sing. Eventually, the languid vibe is briefly interrupted by a flourish of screaming guitar, only to calm back down. This back and forth continues through to the end, punctuated by some really stellar guitar work. It’s one of my favorite tracks on the album.

As the album progresses, I’m struck by how really good every track is, as well as the variety of melodies, textures and sounds he’s used. It holds our interest from one track to the next, keeping the record from ever feeling monotonous or predictable. “One Day Other Than This” is a melancholy but lovely song with his heartfelt vocals accompanied by gentle string synths and beautifully strummed guitars, whereas the gorgeous “Stop Praying For the Sun” has a sweeping cinematic feel like a song you might hear in a Western movie soundtrack. Lee explained to me that lyrics are about not waiting for things that are out of your control to happen (praying for the sun), and also whether what you’re doing or where you’re headed is just delusion: “A new delusion of false design / If the best of times will come / Stop praying for the sun.”

Not In This World (Or the Next)” has a folk/Americana vibe, with a bouncy, head-bopping beat and lively riffs of jangly guitars. That Hidden Promise seems to ponder about our purpose on this earth: “I’ve given more than I can take / How much longer should I have to wait? / There’s time to come, there’s time to try / You give your all, but is it right? Alright.” The hauntingly beautiful “What Lies Beneath” is another favorite of mine, thanks to its eerie melody, piercing synths, and incredible guitar work.

That Hidden Promise turns more hopeful with “Calling All You Seekers“, a poignant ballad about holding on to our sense of adventure and optimism, and never giving up: “Calling all you seekers / The places yet to go / The majesty of wanderlust forever taking hold.” And even more so on “In the Night Time“, a celebratory folk-rock song about grabbing hold of one’s dreams and trying to make them real: “In the night time I’m inspired, and I just can’t settle / On fire / And this fever burns inside.

The closing track “Screaming in My Soul” seems to be somewhat auto-biographical, or at the very least, touches on some of the demons that plague musicians and songwriters if I’m reading these lyrics correctly: “Do you know what’s it’s like? To have a demon strip your soul / Well I know /All the songs that are trapped in my head / All the words that are lost in some black hole / I wish I could know how to bring them home / Got a screaming in my soul now.” Over a pulsating hypnotic groove, he layers swirling synths and a mix of intricate guitar riffs and textures to create a mesmerizing track.

With “Who Know Now?, That Hidden Promise has created his best work yet. It’s an exquisite album filled with exceptional songs, and his impressive songwriting, musicianship and production skills are evident on every track.

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