SINGLE REVIEW: Lakeland Plaza by TheKunig

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TheKunig is the artistic moniker of electronica producer, musician and looper Micky C who hails from Derby, England. Specifically, his production skills include drum loops, sequencers, synths and bass. Under this moniker he has released several albums since 2015 including On The Canvas, Urban Album, Kunigunda, Coulda Tried Harder and his most recent album, Bloodline, released in March 2019. His music has been featured many times on one of the UK’s most prominent and important shows for breaking new artists, BBC Introducing. I recently gave a stellar review to his last release, In Love (read here)

This latest track, Lakeland Plaza is a more laid back, languid affair than the ebullience of In Love, though also shot through with an air of melancholy. Musically, it is upbeat with smoky, evocative Rhodes playing a reflective sounding chord progression, backed by an excellent swingbeat. The female lead vocals give the track a distinctive character and her voice, combined with the summery vibe of the music, brought to mind Corinne Bailey Rae’s classic Put Your Records On.

However, the lyrics are the source of the melancholy I mentioned above. It depicts, as TheKunig puts it, the ‘story of a broken romance’. The lilting vocal melody makes the troubled words feel nicely understated, but the superb chorus captures a sense of deep heartbreak: “I don’t hear about your mistakes, I just wanna life my life without you, so have a nice day, close the door and be on your way, there’s not much else I wanna say, I just wanna live my life without you….”.

After a melodic keyboard passage, the last verse adds to the emotional complexity of the situation as her lover returns and her feelings for him arise once more: “Oh, it’s not right…I wanna kiss you when we fight….”. This poignant line is repeated and hangs in the air, bringing this languid but emotive song to a touching close.

Overall, this is a fantastic follow up to  the anthemic pop-dance of In Love. The musically blissed out but lyrically heartbroken Lakeland Plaza is the perfect contrast. It shows more evidence of TheKunig’s talent for melody and production with the added dimension of real emotional depth in the portrayal of love gone wrong. It’s an apposite single for the summer with wide ranging appeal and should win him a legion of new fans.

 

VERDICT= 9.1 out of 10

Alex Faulkner

 

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SINGLE REVIEW: No More Games by Dejhare

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Dejhare is a singer and songwriter based in San Jose, California. She first released an eponymous six-track E.P. in the autumn of 2018, which was popular. Dejhare is currently busy working on the release of singles and her full album which is scheduled to be out late summer. She has completed the album with help from her collaborator/co-producer Robert Berry.

Her music is an eclectic mix of pop, jazz, Motown, soul, dance, soft rock and acoustic. Already this year she has released the singles Trust My Love and What Is Love?, which have both generated acclaim and high listening figures on streaming platforms.

This latest single, No More Games, is an upbeat pop track from her upcoming debut album Unbreakable. Built around an infectious groove and instantly catchy synth melodies, Dejhare’s distinctive, exotic lead vocals are what helps this song truly stand out from the crowd. Her voice has a unique tone that brought to mind pop legend Gloria Estefan and she delivers an emotive and compelling performance here.

Lyrically, it depicts a struggling relationship where is she is being badly treated by her lover, captured succinctly by the addictive chorus hook: “No more games….no more drama”. The catchiness is enhanced by the use of syncopated rhythms and musically enhanced by string lines that either double the vocal melody or provide an effective counterpoint.

The production is also augmented by brass in certain sections and after the fine middle eight, we hear an unexpected but very slick keyboard solo (presumably performed by Robert Berry, a progressive rock musician as well as producer). The song finishes with reiterations of the title hook.

Overall, this is a well written, performed and produced pop track that recalls the great production style of 80’s pop yet still sounds decidedly modern. Dejhare has a strong voice and artistic persona which will continue to win her new fans, especially if she continues to release quality material like this.

 

VERDICT = 8.6 out of 10           

Alex Faulkner

 

 

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SINGLE REVIEW: Untold by Lights That Change

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https://lightsthatchange.bandcamp.com/

Lights That Change are an alternative shoegaze/dreampop group, the musical brainchild of producer, composer and multi-instrumentalist Marc Joy. After a long career in numerous bands, Marc formed LTC and they emerged with their first material in 2013, the E.P. Rainbow On Your Shoulder. In 2016, they released their highly acclaimed debut album Byzantium and have since released the SONICODIA E.P. as well as the singles Winning and Don’t Run (A Christmas Hope).

The line up has changed but members and contributors have included Mal Holmes (Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark) and John Bryan (father of The Joy Formidable’s lead singer Ritzy). Their music is comparable to both 80’s alternative/indie groups like Cocteau Twins and The Cure along with more modern alternative bands like The xx and Cigarettes After Sex.

This latest release, Untold, features the crystalline vocals of K. Michelle Dubois and is a good showcase for their ethereal but accessible musical style. The song is built on a bedrock of languid yet intricate drums, low-end guitar lines that seem to float in mid air and a subtle wash of psychedelic synths and reverse reverbs.

The effect is decidedly mesmeric, bringing to mind the fragile beauty of Massive Attack’s Teardrop (ft. Liz Frazer of Cocteau Twins) and the mysterious otherworldliness of Pyramid Song by Radiohead. K. Michelle Dubois’s distinctive lead vocals complete the sonic landscape, enriched by echo-drenched harmonies.

Overall, this is another excellent single from Lights That Change that cements their status as one of the leading lights in the alternative/dreampop scene. This genre has always been popular but has passed more into the mainstream in recent years and I expect this song will help LTC’s already sizeable fan base increase exponentially. I look forward to hearing more from this unique band in the future.

 

VERDICT = 9 out of 10

Alex Faulkner

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SINGLE REVIEW: Which Way To Go by Troy Remedy

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troyremedy.net

Troy Remedy is a hip hop artist and producer from Dallas, Texas. The latter part of his moniker was inspired by the healing effect of music itself and there is a strong spiritual vibe as well as the influence of soul in his hip hop. So far, he has performed in cities like Dallas/Fort Worth, San Antonio, Austin and Houston. He has previously released the singles Underdog, City Lights and Steal My Soul (which I reviewed very favourably, read here) from his upcoming debut album My Own Worst Enemy.

This track, Which Way To Go, starts out with an evocative intro consisting of spaced out guitar and synths then Troy interjects with an assured and direct rapping style. Bolstered by a laid back but punchy hip hop beat, his honest and soul searching lyrics take centre stage with this track depicting his struggle to find his path in life: “Gotta ask myself, what it is I’m pursuing….”.

The first verses are a marvel of rapid fire delivery and eloquent lyrical flow that describe the various problems he’s faced with, summed up succinctly by the title hook: “Even though I’m still not knowing…not knowing which way to go.”

After the first chorus we hear an unexpected but very refreshing bluesy guitar solo, and these guitar licks recur through the second verse.  The lyrics here are even more visceral: “Seen a massacre in broad day, watching as the crowd scatters through life’s maze…..most would say they have nothing to live for, no inner peace, nothing to strive for”. This sense of desperation is reiterated by the final refrains of the title hook.

Overall, this is another compelling and unrelentingly honest hip hop track from Troy. He has found his own artistic niche blending hard hitting lyrics with underlying spiritual themes of redemption and hope, which gives his music a real emotional depth and power.  Musically, this track effectively blends hip hop with a melancholy blues-rock guitar sound to great effect. For people looking for hip hop that is 100% “real” and from the heart, look no further than Troy Remedy.

 

VERDICT = 8.8 out of 10

Alex Faulkner

 

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SINGLE REVIEW: Time For Some Ink by Rob Georg

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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, which I reviewed highly favourably (read here).

This track, Time For Some Ink, is a distinct contrast to the emotionally troubled epic balladry of Ghost and shows a whole other side to his musical persona. It’s a very upbeat, tongue in cheek ode to the joys of getting a tattoo, a subject which so many will relate to but not one I’ve encountered in a rock song before.

The song starts out as laid back as you can get, with low-end guitar melding with a slow roll on the snare drum. From the opening lines you know that this is going to be a fun, light hearted song: “I need to catch a buzz from a tattoo pen, got to get some pictures on my skin”. The bridge is short but effective (“Tell me I’m addicted, I don’t care what you think”) before exploding into the anthemic title hook that you can imagine the crowd singing along to with ‘devil horns’ aloft.

The second verse gives a little more lyrical depth as it describes how tattoos tell the story of his life on his body. After the second chorus the rock ‘n roll factor is turned up to eleven with a Slash-style, wah-drenched guitar solo. Indeed, the whole song wouldn’t have sounded out of place on Guns ‘n Roses classic album Appetite For Destruction.

Overall, this is a highly enjoyable, hugely entertaining track which shows the rockier side to Rob Georg. He shows his voice is just as adept at rock as at country ballads and, again, his gift for writing epic, singalong choruses. This song is guaranteed to be popular with his current fan base and should win over plenty more, especially the fellow tattoo lovers out there!

 

VERDICT= 8.7 out of 10 

Alex Faulkner

 

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ALBUM REVIEW: Time’s Still Now by Senses Reeling

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www.momentsofpleasurerecords.com

Senses Reeling are a studio-based musical project and collective based in the south of England centred around Nick Fuller and Paul Midcalf,  along with other musicians. They have released four EPs since 2012 including Ferocious Love, Burst Through The Blue and Missing Something. Their music is essentially indie/alternative pop and they cite influences such as The Blue Aeroplanes, Frank Turner, Squeeze and Elbow. However, they also encompass diverse genres such as elements of lo-fi, punk and experimental, spoken word and musique concrete.

Time’s Still Now Is their debut album and consists of twelve tracks. It feels very much an album of the times, with highly relevant social issues of this era featuring strongly in the lyrics. This is balanced by a detached philosophical approach that highlights the timeless aspects of the human condition, as all good art does.

It starts out strongly with the upbeat indie pop of Signs of The Storm. Built around a sparse, bouncy beat and a picked, melodic guitar line, the opening lines immediately convey a depth and emotional maturity: “I’ve always kept my eyes open, not hidden from the dark….”.

The arrangement builds gradually with the entry of a muscular bassline then breaks down for the chorus augmented by synth strings. The lyrics here depict the futility of trying to prepare for hard times: “So when the signs of the storm became to real to resist, and the heavens loudly opened to only my clenched fist, all that preparation was more than fooling myself...”.

The chorus, and the end of the song, concludes, “maybe distraction is a better way?” and it’s a fine observation to make. Leaving the question open makes it more artistically interesting, letting the listener reflect rather than be told what to think.

Second track Press For Freedom is a very apposite song in the current climate, about cases of phone hacking and leaking by the British media, although it’s a relevant problem worldwide. Musically, it’s much more alternative and starts out with a percussive pattern that draws you in. The whole track is rhythmically angular with very effective use of syncopation and frequent accent shifts.

Every section of the song has a different time signature but they all flow seamlessly, with snaking guitar lines driving the music forward. The conviction behind the song is captured in lines like, “money talks in court when victims have none…” and the barbed refrain “Don’t let them off the hook”.

Someone Else is closer to the style of the first track and has already been released as a single. You can read my full review about that song here, but suffice it to say it is another very thoughtful alternative pop song, this one making us think about how much we need to appreciate the older generations, particularly our own elderly relatives.

The brief but beautiful Close is one of the most minimal songs here, consisting of just solemn piano and an affecting lead vocal, with subtle backing vocals towards the end. It brought to mind the moving melancholy of Mad World by Tears For Fears. Lyrically, it’s an honest confession of how much someone means to them: “You might not think you’re close….but believe me your the very air that I breathe….”. A tender and poignant ballad that shows a very sensitive side to Senses Reeling.

The Rest Of My Life is another contrast, a gritty indie song that made me think of mid-period Blur with its insistent guitar rhythms. The vocal performance is reminiscent of U2’s Bono and in parts Suede’s Brett Anderson (a compliment!). This is the group showing their harder side and once again shows their gift for memorable melodies. The lead guitar by Mike Youé of The Blue Aeroplanes gives the track real bite and is all the more effective for being used sparsely elsewhere.

Foreign or Poor is just as gritty, with a coruscating lyrical message to convey about a tragic fire that occurred in England. For those not familiar, a tower block in London, Grenfell Tower, burnt down killing 72 people. The anger people felt was because  safety concerns had been ignored and the songs reflects this, observing that the people who died in the tragedy were unjustly neglected.

Staring with dissonant chords on piano, the lyrics depict a bleak reality: “Feels like it’s the law, you don’t count if you’re foreign or poor…”. Another affecting and thought provoking track that ends in a blaze of raging guitars, perhaps depicting the out of control fire.

A Trick is a return to their more light hearted alt. pop style which stands out for a very fine lead vocal by much lauded UK singer/songwriter Tom Williams and a strong melody augmented by Smiths-esque jangling guitars. It’s more personal content acts as an effective contrast as the following Labels is another very intense track. This one looks at the divisive political situation that has been created in Britain by the referendum to leave the European Union.

Musically, Labels is perhaps the most difficult track to categorise but it’s essentially electro pop with jagged reggae-style guitars and punctuated with stabs of brass. The brooding sonic landscape brought to mind XTC’s Making Plans For Nigel and The Specials’ classic Ghost Town, another song written in an era of political turmoil.

This synth-heavy sound continues into ninth track Easy. This one has an interesting and unusual beat, a recurring feature in their music. It deals with how much technology rules our lives and the cost that comes with it. Halfway through it enters a very catchy refrain section that drives the point home: “Just because you can doesn’t mean that you should, easy isn’t better, easy isn’t good….”.

Together is the most avant garde track on the album by far; an eight minute instrumental (mostly) based around a haunting piano melody overlaid with a female spoken word monologue. The words are actually excerpts from someone’s diary being read after they have passed on. The music gradually builds underneath the monologue and it’s surprising how the quotidian details of someone’s life can be so moving when set to music. A very creative and affecting piece of work the band can be proud of.

The poignancy stays at eleven for the next song, the heartfelt mid-paced track Please Don’t Stand Out In The Rain. It’s a caring song, offering advice to someone who’s suffering with grief and encouraging them to let the grieving process take its course but not let it take over their life. For some reason, not many artists are brave enough to write about the difficult situations of life but Senses Reeling are artistically the richer for it.

The final track, Belong, deals with one of the most important aspects of the human condition, the desire to belong somewhere. It’s a string-drenched epic ballad replete with their customary rhythmic invention and unexpected changes in musical texture.

Halfway through it breaks down to a tranquil middle section with reflective lyrics: “The quietness to hear myself think, that sometimes I run from… this place was their beginning and their end”. As it builds back up for the songs climax It brings to mind the stirring indie anthems of Elbow, especially with the uplifting refrain, “There’s a heart where we belong….”.

Overall, this is a highly accomplished debut album full of musical range and emotional depth. Senses Reeling forego the frivolous themes that dominate the mainstream and aim straight for the jugular, with hard hitting but hugely melodic commentaries on both social and political issues as well as the deeply personal. This album will appeal to indie and alternative music lovers across the spectrum and deserves all the plaudits it will doubtless receive.

VERDICT= 9.2 out of 10 

Alex Faulkner

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E.P. REVIEW: Human Nature by Halogyns

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http://www.facebook.com/halogyns

Halogyns are an all-female, guitar based alternative rock/pop group hailing from St. George in Utah. The group formed only last year and consists of Kamry Thelin, Dana Fontaine and Mari Ericksen who are aged between 17-19. Despite their relative youth and newness as a group they sound as if they’ve been playing for years and have emerged with a fully fledged, distinctive sound and artistic persona on this EP. Musically, they are comparable to Haim, at times recalling the 90’s alternative group The Cardigans and even further back, Blondie.

This EP, Human Nature, consists of six tracks and from the first seconds of opening song, Take Me Under, you feel you’re listening to a group with something a bit special. Built around a hypnotic lead guitar riff and breaking into a Heart of Glass-style alt. disco beat, the next thing that captivates you is Kamry Thelin’s voice and emotive vocal style. Their music is a very modern blend of pop, alternative/indie and a distinct but understated dance influence.

Lyrically, it fits the slight melancholy feel of the music, encapsulating the beginning of a romantic relationship before feelings have been confessed. This is summed up succinctly in the chorus: “I wanna love you but I keep quiet, you radiate the waves so take me under. A beautiful, poignant song you can dance to, and a fine start to the EP.

Even better is Love Drug, a slightly moodier but equally infectious alternative pop track with a swinging feel. After an understated verse and brooding bridge underpinned with a pulsing bass line it builds to a fantastic chorus built on a hi-hat heavy dance groove (the drumming throughout the EP is excellent).

The chorus hook is superb and lyrically depicts the opposite of the previous song, expressing conflicted feelings about a difficult relationship: “We got history but you see that don’t mean anything at all…. you poison dreams with your love drug”….”. With its Nile Rodgers-esque funk guitars and addictive hook, this would make a perfect single.

Next is the title track which shows the band’s gentler side. Based on a picked acoustic and light electric guitar chord progression, Kamry delivers a moving vocal performance that brought to mind Stevie Nicks. Once again, the lyrics dwell on relationship issues with poignancy and insight: “Don’t know how to function when your love burns my skin, get it all together…why do I let you in?”. It’s a sophisticated and mature take on the difficulties of love, all the more impressive considering their age.

Control is a return to their alt. disco signature sound, this one propelled by a Stayin’ Alive type low-end guitar riff and an interlocking bass and drum groove. As with their other songs, this one is enriched with Haim-style backing harmonies, especially on the chorus. This song is about dealing with a domineering partner, something that will resonate with a lot of women (“I feel your control….it’s all I know…”). Another great track that is a possible contender as a single.

Break is another classy piece of songwriting, this one a mid-paced pop track full of gorgeous lilting melodies and rich vocal harmonies. They truly sound like the musical successors of Fleetwood Mac and Haim on this one in particular, and the delay drenched guitar riff is also highly effective, reminiscent of the guitar style used by U2’s The Edge.

The EP ends with the lead single What You Want. It features the group’s now familiar strengths, starting out with a strident four-to-the-floor beat on the punchy first verse. It’s underpinned by yet more propulsive guitar work and intricate, restlessly inventive drumming, serving as the backdrop for another heart-rending vocal performance from Kamry. Lyrically, it’s another conflicted tale which captures the torment of torn feelings and feeling alone in a relationship, yet finding strength in the process: “I found my own way….you’re no longer my weakness”.

Overall, this is a consistently brilliant EP from a young female group who have already mastered their musical style and sound. Showing a lyrical maturity beyond their years, they write affecting yet accessible alternative pop songs that will connect with many, given the chance. I get to review a lot of talented up and coming artists, but if I had to put my money on one act becoming the ‘next big thing’ it would be Halogyns.

 

VERDICT = 9.3 out of 10

Alex Faulkner

 

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