SINGLE REVIEW: Turn Me Up ft. Gyptian by Matthew Schultz

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Matthew Schultz is a multi-instrumentalist, producer, singer and performer who started out playing guitar in Chris Daughtry’s first band.  He has already made a strong impact on the music industry with his previous releases. His first single, Money or Me, was produced by Armando Guarnera and earned him a nomination at the 2013 EOTM Awards, as well as one for best new male artist. He followed this up with Crazy Heart (ft. Alessia Guarnera) in 2014, then in 2015 he released We Own The Night (feat. Jim Jones).

Last year, 2018, saw a plethora of successful releases for Matthew Schultz. In January, he released the single Promise For Keeps, following up with a version featuring Jamaican reggae singer Gyptian and an Electric Bodega remix in the following months.

That remix has accumulated a million plays on Spotify and the track became part of a viral craze on Instagram (#promiseforkeeps), featuring some of the biggest stars from NBC hit show World of Dance. Also hugely popular was another single, All Night Long, featuring Gyptian and Rico Tayla and Somewhere Far, which has racked up an enormous 7 million streams since its release last August. His last single release, Go, also notched up streams in the millions.

This latest track, Turn Me Up, is a return to the very successful collaborative relationship with Gyptian after the purely solo releases of Somewhere Far and Go. It starts with a laid back, gently insistent triplet-based synth rhythm and the three chord structure around which the song is built emerges, augmented by punchy and intricate percussion.

On the first verse Gyptian takes the lead vocals, laying down an infectious reggae-influenced vocal melody. The overall sound is distinctly dancehall with a strong Major Lazer vibe and his vocal performance is charismatic, with an exotic flavour. Lyrically, it’s about feeling intoxicated by someone (“It’s an inferno being around you.…”) and this is perfectly reflected in the understated yet hypnotic music.

It builds to the catchy title hook before Matthew takes the lead on the second verse. His vocal melody is delivered an octave deeper, providing a nice contrast and also a variation to the first verse. The arrangement is cleverly structured so that this verse later repeats, becoming one of the song’s main hooks.

Overall, this is yet another excellent dancehall track by Matthew Schultz with a fine cameo by the gifted Gyptian and flawless, cutting edge production. With its languid, chilled out vibe and mesmeric rhythms it’s the perfect soundtrack for late summer and will no doubt become hugely popular once more both on the dancefloor and on streaming sites. After several hugely successful singles behind him, Turn Me Up sounds like another smash that will be particularly appealing to fans of Major Lazer and Tory Lanez.

 

 

VERDICT= 9 out of 10

Alex Faulkner

Listen here:

 

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ARTIST REVIEW: Tamaskin

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Tamaskin is a pop/RnB artist, a singer, rapper and songwriter originally hailing from Charleston, South Carolina. For a while Tamaskin has been leading somewhat of a double life, attending the College of Charleston on the one hand then experiencing the celebrity lifestyle by attending numerous music award shows, fashion shows and A-list parties. This has giving him a rounded, worldly view of life which has influenced the music he makes.

He’s also influenced by the great recording artists in musical history and forged his own artistic style that he calls ‘moonlight music’. This is an apposite phrase for the often languid, seductive vibe of his music which combines RnB, pop and rap into a unique fusion. He first released an EP called Undefeated and in July, 2019 released his debut full length album, Murder Mountain.

This ten track album showcases Tamaskin’s many talents as vocalist, rapper and songwriter. It contains numerous highlights from the brooding, orchestral dubstep-influenced RnB title track, the anthemic laid back groove of Road and the harder hitting intensity of Crazy.

Other highlights for me were Let Go, which alternates rap sections with a female sung chorus, the powerful Dim My Light with its gospel-tinged backing vocals, the mellifluous and inventive rapping of Love Yourself and the classy closing RnB ballad Black and White.

Overall, Tamaskin is a versatile and multi-talented modern RnB artist that has everything it takes to hit the big time. With an excellent debut album in the bag, new fans should also check out the footage of his live performances on his website. I predict a very bright future for this artist.

 

Visit his official website HERE

Visit his Instagram HERE

SINGLE REVIEW: 2nd Chances by Happy Curmudgeons

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Happy Curmudgeons are a rock/pop band with shades of folk, blues and country hailing from Bloomfield Hills in Michigan. Their  musical journey  has had a lengthy gestation period.

In the 1980’s singer/songwriter and guitarist Dave Hamilton was in a band called the Angel-Headed Hipsters and met none other than Velvet Underground legend Lou Reed who told him he was a great songwriter and to stick at it.

Many years later the band were formed with Jeff Warner on guitar and Amy Dixon-Lavery on additional vocals. Recently, I gave a stellar review to their album, Meant To Be, as well as the single released from it Soulsville, which you can read here and here.

This latest single, 2nd Chances, is taken from their second album and was written by Amy Dixon-Lavery (lyrics) and Dave Hamilton. It’s a languid and emotive country rock ballad featuring lead vocals from Amy Dixon-Lavery, acoustic guitars courtesy of Dave Hamilton, Takashi Iio on standup bass, Jeff Warner on lead electric guitar and Rick Beamon on drums.

It also features a stellar supporting cast of musicians including Jim “Moose” Brown and Mark Byerly of the Bob Seger Band on Hammond B3 organ and keyboards respectively (Byerly also contributes the string arrangement to this track). Other contributors include David Patton on cello, Chaz Owsley on cello plus Barbara Peyton, Laura Creamer and Cathleen Wiley on backing vocals.

This song starts with plaintive and shows the band expressing a more emotive and reflective side to their music, leaning more towards folk and country, genre wise. Starting with a melodic acoustic guitar line it breaks out into a strummed three-chord pattern soon joined by a solemn cello melody over a stately beat.

It features a superb lead vocal performance from Amy Lavery-Dixon whose voice conveys a great deal of poignancy and feeling, bringing to mind some of the great female country singers of the past.

The lauguid pace and melancholy feel to the music allows the listener to absorb the words and subject matter of the song. Lyrically, it is about wanting to leave the past behind, wipe the slate clean and focus on the future.

The first verse captures the feeling of wanting to put unhappy experiences to rest and not dwell on them any longer: “Well, I don’t know where I’m going but I know where I’ve been…and I can promise you one thing, I ain’t ever going back again….”. It leads to the understated but memorable title hook and chorus: “I believe in second chances, I’ve got in faith in me and you, looking forward to tomorrow, time can heal all wounds…”.

The second verse gradually builds up the arrangement in a very effective way, with a more intricate beat, rich Hammond organ and a warm cluster of female backing vocals filling out the sonic spectrum. After the second chorus is an excellent, carefully crafted lead guitar solo from Jeff Warner before one final chorus and a partial repeat of the first verse brings the song to a satisfying close.

Overall, this is a very well written and performed country rock ballad by a versatile and deeply musical group. 2nd Chances allows Amy Lavery-Dixon to take centre stage on lead vocals but every band member brings something to the table musically along with some fine contributions from guest musicians. If you’re a discerning music lover searching for authentic yet modern Americana, look no further than 2nd Chances by Happy Curmudgeons.

 

VERDICT: 9.2 out of 10

Alex Faulkner

Listen here:

 

 

E.P. REVIEW: Don’t Panic by Datastar

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Datastar are an EDM songwriting and production collective based in Queens, New York City. Their members are wide ranging, from a DJ to a record store owner. Their music is similarly eclectic, encompassing various genres including techno, house, future house, pop, rock and hip hop, often with an undercurrent of the psychedelic. Most of their music is instrumental thus far, with use of vocoders and samples thrown into the mix.

This EP, Don’t Panic, consists of four tracks that are all essentially in the EDM genre, though each a little different in style. The EP starts out with the title track and it’s the perfect introduction to their signature sound.

It begins with an immediately memorable swirling synth melody, before futuristic vocoder-infused vocals inform us to “Slide…bounce….don’t panic!” over crisp snare rolls and a pulsing four to the floor kick drum groove. As the track progresses, we hear a fantastic arpeggiated synth melody that goes off to some weird and wonderful places sonically the second time around. It’s an excellent house track full of energy and musical personality, making a fine opener.

Just Like That shows their more psychedelic side, a laid back future house track with an infectious, bouncy bassline that brought to mind the modern future house classic Gecko by Oliver Heldens. Set to a languid 2/4 house beat, the track is built upon intertwining layers of syncopated and swelling pad synths, house piano and the recurring title hook, a whispered vocal. The track is arranged to perfection, with the various sections leading into each other seamlessly. The subtle use of dynamics means the music sounds fresh to the very end.

Third track Nardo is based around a three-chord progression on top of which is an array of catchy synth melodies and insistent piano backed by an energetic house beat and a simple, mesmeric bassline for the most part. In certain parts, it breaks down to an ambient style section replete with tranquil, blissed out synths and an exotic, Spanish guitar type melody that conjures images of golden beaches and crystal clear oceans. The contrast with the main upbeat section is highly effective, and this section has a particularly danceable beat which should go down well in the clubs.

The final track Blackheart is the darkest and moodiest sounding one here, built around a brooding, ominous sounding synth riff and a meaty, 2/4 beat. This one brought to mind the intense instrumentals of mid-period techno pioneers 808 State. The music has a decided hypnotic quality that is enhanced to a high degree in a section that cleverly combines a triplet rhythm in the synth over the strident beat. This track has a definite different flavour to the rest of the EP which has a more general ‘party vibe’ and shows they have the potential to move in all sorts of creative directions in the future.

Overall, this is a consistently superb EDM EP by a collective of talented writers and producers. Across the four tracks they display a wealth of creativity whilst remaining within the realms of commercial accessibility. Every track here will be popular on the dance floor but the music’s richness of detail and nuance means it’s equally as enjoyable just to listen to. On this evidence, Datastar have a stellar future ahead of them.

 

VERDICT= 9.1 out of 10

Alex Faulkner

Listen here:

 

SINGLE REVIEW: Wildfire by Chris Corey

Chris Corey is a Canadian singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist who was raised in Northern Ontario. After taking a break from music for several years he decided to return to the fold and has been busy working on his full length debut album which is due to be released in 2020. His music is essentially an eclectic blend of pop, rock, folk and 80’s New Wave, amongst other influences. His two previous releases prior to this were Feel My Love and Worried About You.

This latest single, Wildfire, is an epic modern pop track that shows his 80’s New Wave influence. Starting with just bass and a pulsing four to the floor kick, synths are added to the blend to create the bedrock for Chris’s passionate and emotive vocal style. The first verse depicts a relationship that’s gone through stormy weather: “Got lost in a tail wind that left us both for dead…”.

The song builds to a stately and instantly memorable chorus where Chris gets to shine vocally. The vaulting vocal melody and overall sound brought to mind synth-pop legends Duran Duran and the more recent 80’s-influenced work of The Killers (as well as Brandon Flowers’s solo albums). The well crafted middle eight gives the song an extra emotional weight, culminating in a powerful section of synth arpeggios before one last blast through the soaring chorus. Special credit should also go to the production which sounds like a fully fledged realisation of Corey’s artistic vision.

Overall, this is a first rate modern pop track with a subtle 80’s influence and a killer title hook. Chris Corey is blessed with a voice that is both distinctive and radio friendly as well as having a gift for writing memorable melodies set to strong, relatable lyrics. Wildfire could be the song that really sees his career take off in a major way.

VERDICT = 9 out of 10

Alex Faulkner

Listen to Wildfire HERE

SINGLE REVIEW: Joystick by Amaru

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Amaru is a singer and songwriter as well as being a trained actor. Originally from the Republic of Suriname (South America) he has been residing in the Netherlands since 1991. In 2008, he began releasing music with his debut single Put Your Hands Up. His 4th single Independence Day was released in 2016 and won a Bronze Award at the Global Music Awards In Los Angeles. Since then he has worked on his full length debut album Champagne Attitude, which was released in 2018.

This track, Joystick, is taken from that album and it’s an upbeat RnB track that features Amaru both rapping and singing. Over an infectious beat, Amaru lays down the verses with an assured, distinctive rapping style, the rhythm bringing to mind the classic Fight For Your Right To Party by The Beastie Boys. Joystick also has a similar party vibe and switches to sung vocals for the instantly memorable title hook: “You can bring your X-box, I will bring my joystick…”.

From the lyrics to the second verse it becomes obvious that Amaru isn’t talking about computer games: “This is what grown ups too, consensual, respectful too, a come-together of the mind, body, senses …so divine”. After an equally entertaining third verse the track finishes with repeat choruses and some nice vocal extemporising from Amaru.

Overall, this is an extremely catchy and risqué RnB track from an artist with his own unique style. Equally adept at both rapping and singing, Amaru has a cheeky charm and his lothario persona along with his witty innuendos are guaranteed to put a smile on your face. It certainly has the kind of infectious hook that sticks in your mind after one listen and could well be the track that brings Amaru to a bigger, worldwide audience.

 

VERDICT = 8.6 out of 10

Alex Faulkner

 

 

Watch the video on YouTube HERE

Listen on Spotify HERE

SINGLE REVIEW: Beast Made Of Steel by Rob Georg

Rob Georg is a country singer and songwriter originally hailing from Tuebingen in Germany. He became interested in music as a child, taking up the piano and then switching to guitar. He bought his first guitar at just 14 and this led to writing his own material. In 2018, he released his first official song Push That Horn and in December of that year came his first full band release, This Ain’t My First Rodeo. That song made it into the US National Radio Hits AC Charts Top Ten and since then he has released Ghost and Time For Some Ink, both of which I reviewed highly favourably (read here, here and here).

This latest track, Beast Made Of Steel, is one of his more upbeat and lyrically lighthearted tracks, co-written with Kristin K. Smith and Skot Bradley. It’s essentially a tribute to truckers and written from their perspective. After a brief slide guitar intro the first verse captures the essence of a trucker’s life and the lyrics display a Johnny Cash-style wit and poetic quality: “I’m chasin’ heat mirages, trying to stay out of garages from Houston to the hills of Tennessee…”.

Rob’s authentic vocal performance here is first rate, singing in a baritone register that suits him down to the ground. Augmented by strummed acoustic guitar and rich organ, a meaty beat enters for the memorable title hook. The second verse has some humorous lines highly relevant to our era: “Getting brainwashed by some crackpot who thinks that everything is just one big conspiracy…”. The final choruses take the song to the next level, firstly through a mass singalong of the title hook then modulating to a higher key, finishing the track on a high.

Overall, this is another very enjoyable release from the prolific Rob Georg. It’s authentic country written and performed to perfection , with a playful tone and a decidedly modern twist to the lyrics. Naturally, it will be particularly popular in the trucking community but the song has a universal appeal and should increase his army of fans even further.

VERDICT = 9 out of 10

Alex Faulkner

Watch the video on YouTube HERE