SINGLE REVIEW: Runaway by The Fireflys

Attachment_1530960762.jpeg

The Fireflys are an alternative rock/Americana hailing from Runcorn, in the North West of England. They are based around songwriter and lead vocalist Lee Wylding, and have become one of the North West’s most popular bands. They’ve already garnered plenty of media attention, with Mike Peters of the legendary punk group The Alarm describing them as “a good mix of REM and The Gin Blossoms”. Other strong influences include Neil Young and Tom Petty, but The Fireflys have developed their own style.

This song, Runaway, is the second single released since they signed to Strawberry Moon records and is taken from their forthcoming fifth album Only Us, Northern Lights. From the melodic introduction featuring some fluid electric lead guitar, it’s apparent that this band are treading their own path. Lee Wylding has a strong, distinctive voice that bodes well for their long term appeal and musically it lies somewhere between the well crafted songwriting of Tom Petty, but with the raw, edgy guitars of Neil Young circa Rockin’ In The Free World.

The musicianship of the entire band is first rate, but most importantly Runaway shows their ability to produce the kind of memorable choruses that pack out stadium arenas. Lyrically, it is romantic without being sentimental: “Runaway with me, let the people stop and stare, cos we don’t really care...”. There are echoes of Springsteen and The Smiths in these words which rock aficionados will appreciate. They will also enjoy the spirited, mellifluous guitar solo towards the end, not something you hear much on the radio these days.

Overall, this is a superb song that brings back classic songwriting and authentic musicianship in an era of over-produced, synthetic pop. The Fireflys may well capitalize on the recent resurgence in popularity for alternative music, and they have everything it takes to break through into the worldwide market. Runaway could well be the song that helps them kick down the door to the big time.

 

VERDICT: 9 out of 10

Alex Faulkner

Listen here:

Advertisements

SINGLE REVIEW: Buss Di Bassline by Audiovascula

BUSSDIBASSLINE(1).jpg

Audiovascula is an EDM/reggae/dancehall artist hailing from the City of Montego Bay, Jamaica. He grew up in a musical environment, even hearing 12 feet speakers pounding on the concrete walls of his room. This made a major impact on him and his music is an exotic hybrid of reggae and dancehall, currently huge, as well as a big hip-hop influence, R&B, pop and various genres of EDM.

This track, Buss Di Bassline, is a perfect showcase of his unique sound. Starting out sounding like a standard EDM track with fizzy synths, it then surprises the listener with a loping hip-hop beat that brought to mind James Brown’s classic Funky Drummer sample. Audiovascula’s inimitable vocal style then grabs your attention, with an arresting performance of controlled rhythmical flow.

The track is hugely catchy, managing to combine the vital energy of hip-hop with the more laid back style of reggae and dancehall. In terms of vocal style, the only reference point that immediately springs to mind is Shabba Ranks, though Audiovascula is really a true original. The deep dub bass will hit even harder in a club environment, and I can see this becoming a huge hit on the dancefloors.

Overall, this is an artist with his finger on the pulse musically, and this track will surf the wave of popularity that reggae/dancehall flavoured EDM is currently enjoying. Having his own distinctive vocal delivery will help him further stand out from the crowd, but the music itself is original and massively addictive. Audiovascula and Buss Di Bassline could be spreading like wildfire this summer.

 

VERDICT: 9.1 out of 10

Alex Faulkner

Listen here:

ALBUM REVIEW: Involution by Martin Del Carpio

Martin_Tree_2.jpg

https://martindelcarpio.bandcamp.com/album/involution

Martin Del Carpio is an experimental electronica artist hailing from New York. His music is a unique hybrid of electronica, avant garde, spoken word and musique concrete, as well as occasional songs which he performs lead vocals on himself. Previous releases include 2011’s X album, followed by Goddard in 2013. A retrospective compilation called Lost Illusions was released in 2014, while 2015 saw the release of an experimental music project called Notes From The Underground.

This album, Involution, is a ten-track concept album that was strongly influenced by the passing of his mother and the spiritual/existential questions it raised. Fundamental to understanding the album is Carpio’s belief that we are essentially spirits, forms of energy that survive the death of our physical body, which is reflected in the music. After the short, poignant intro the hard-hitting industrial electronica of Dolphox seizes the attention.

Phosphorus is an instrumental that has a mystical, otherworldly aspect, achieved partly through skilled use of reverb. Gradually a beat emerges, with a haunting piano melody repeated till the end, which creates cumulative power. Alma is perhaps the centrepiece of the album, featuring a spoken word monologue that asks the deepest existential questions of the human condition: “What is behind the stars? What dark invincible sphere lies there?“. It’s an extremely powerful and thought provoking piece of art.

Camera Obscura continues the spiritual theme, recanting a Christian prayer in a whisper over an evocative, mysterious soundscape. Say A Prayer then surprises the listener with sung vocals for the first time. The moving lyrics are about feeling a spiritual connection regardless of belief: “Say a prayer in your heart, even if it doesn’t make sense…”.

Witchery is an unsettling but inventive piece of electronica, reminiscent of the claustrophobic intensity of Massive Attack. This is contrasted perfectly by the hymn-like purity of November (Black Rose). It’s a heartbreaking elegy for his mother, sung beautifully. The lyrics manage to be both dark and uplifting at the same time: “Oh black rose will you sing? For the heart beats no more…”.

The following I Only Want You To Love Me (Letter to the Father) is another spoken word instrumental that is brave and unflinching in exploring the difficult emotions that follow the passing of a loved one. The final song Ashes is, again, a very affecting and beautiful piece of music. It consists of just an a capella vocal, lyrically a sort of spiritual mantra that celebrates his mother’s passing as part of nature’s cycle of life: “I give these ashes back to the earth, to nourish lands and skies above.…”.

Overall, this a unique artistic expression of dealing with grief and the soul searching questions that experience raises. It’s a difficult and emotive subject handled with great sensitivity and emotional honesty, much to his credit. He has developed a musical oeuvre that is very individual, and the eclectic nature of the music is held together cohesively by the central theme of the album. It’s essentially a work of art that will move anyone who hears it and challenges the listener as all good art should do.

VERDICT: 9 out of 10

Alex Faulkner

Listen here:

ALBUM REVIEW: A Far Better World by Michael Regina

A_Far_Better_World_cover.jpg

https://www.michaelregina.com/

Michael Regina is a composer, producer and multi-instrumentalist born in the Bronx, New York City. He was inspired as a child by the classic performance of The Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show and he’s been performing musically since his early teens. Starting out on violin and French horn, he got into guitar in his teens and in the 1980’s began writing and playing with bands. This led to becoming the main songwriter and lead vocalist of glam metal band WHITEFOXX.

They garnered attention in rock magazines around the world including the American publication Hit Parader and Britain’s best known rock magazine Kerrang. They were regularly played on radio and were offered several record deals. These were eventually all declined and they disbanded in 1989. Now based in New Jersey, Michael has turned his compositional talents to New Age music, which allows him to apply the skills and knowledge he learnt both in the classical music field and in rock music.

This album, A Far Better World, is his fourth, following on from the albums Ascension, Winter Chill and New Day which were released in 2017, except for the latter which was released this year. It consists of eleven tracks and was produced by himself in his own home studio.

Opening track Genesis 1 is an evocative way to start the album. The title obviously brings to mind the Biblical book describing the beginning of the world and this track perhaps depicts the start of a far better one. There’s a subtle grandeur to the music that reminded me of Vangelis, another New Age composer who had a background in rock music (he was a member of Aphrodite’s Child). There’s a strong influence of classical on this one.

The following Tomorrow’s Realm is more a combination of his rock and classical influences. Whereas much New Age music can often be instrumental with no use of percussion, here Regina employs a simple 4/4 rock beat as the bedrock of the music. On top, a haunting synth melody is overlaid, supported by a brooding chord progression. The structure also shows his songwriting influence, with repetition of the various sections similar to what you’d find in a rock song.

Continue M is one of the more cutting edge sounding tracks, and will appeal to a broad range of electronica fans. The core of the track is a restless, syncopated bassline that drives the music forward while otherworldly synths are interweaved into the sonic tapestry. It certainly achieves its aim of transporting the listener and one of my personal favourites on the album.

Peace and Time is another fine piece of composition with a languid, dreamy feel. It is based around a simple, spacious beat which forms the platform for another Vangelis-style epic melody, which Regina clearly has a gift for. The following Lullaby In The Stars is a gem; the melody is immediately memorable and its built up gradually with synths either doubling the melody or harmonizing it. It gives a real sense of transcendence, as if floating through space.

Next comes the title track and it’s a stately, expansive piece with another haunting, enigmatic melody that is varied across the course of the track with various synth sounds. I enjoyed how the music broke down almost to a whisper before blossoming back into full Technicolor. Seventh track Lunar Lounge is very aptly named, being one of the more harmonically adventurous pieces on the album. The modulations help to take the music out into the ether and it’s a very pleasant place to be. Another understated but finely crafted melody, underpinned by subtle but effective pulsating synths.

Cool Space is a nice contrast. Starting with just a simple chordal progression, it builds into a brilliant piece of electronica, with use of rhythmic synths reminiscent of Giorgio Moroder. It’s relatively brief at two and a half minutes but is certainly one of the album’s highlights. Light Years Away is an epic, twice as long as its predecessor and lives up to its title. It’s the musical equivalent of an astral travel and is another showcase for Regina’s talent to create a mystical soundscape.

This ‘space exploration’ vibe continues into the final two tracks, With Honor, and the album’s real epic, Dream Within A Dream, which clocks in at six and a half minutes. The former is striking for its use of exotic percussion towards the end, giving it a magical feel. This segues into the final track nicely, which is a suitable end to what has been a vast musical odyssey. It’s one of the best melodies, which is beautifully harmonized. The last three minutes are truly ethereal, giving a feeling of space and time being displaced.

Overall, this is a highly accomplished and thoroughly enjoyable voyage through sound by a composer who combines his classical and rock knowledge to great effect. Every track has its own qualities, yet it works as an organic and cohesive whole. Any fan of New Age/ambient music, or just electronica fans in general, will find much to admire here and I hope Michael Regina gets the wide audience his music deserves. https://open.spotify.com/album/6Ktzk8jcfgQi47JvkrJYt9?si=21s_sgaKRzyU9TEVvDeOqQ

 

 

VERDICT: 8.8 out of 10

Alex Faulkner

 

Listen here:

 

 

ALBUM REVIEW: Afternoons In A Warm Embrace by ToffoBean

Screenshot_2018-07-08 Afternoon's in a warm Embrace - Full Album .png

ToffoBean are a production team based in Glasgow, Scotland. Their music is a blend of jazz, soul, hip hop and funk which they describe as Chillhop, Lo-Fi Hiphop, Jazzy Lounge and downtempo. Previous releases include Cherry Wine, God is Pooh Bear and the Cafe Au Lait EP. They use various vocalists and sometimes rappers on their tracks, though are often instrumental.

This album, Afternoons In A Warm Embrace, consists of twelve tracks. Throughout the album, guest guitarist Jim Burns contributes stellar jazz guitar. This can be heard straight away on the slinky opener Dust to Deity. Over a laid back hip-hop beat, a languid chord progression floats across the speakers, with some mellifluous clean lead guitar weaving in and out to great effect.

Abide in The Heart is a dreamy instrumental with a lovely recurring piano figure whilst You Always Want What You Can’t Have is a very well written track with a sultry lead female vocal and a pulsating, funky bassline. Nico’s Beat is a mellow track with a subtle vocal refrain while Let’s Get Lost is the musical equivalent of a jacuzzi. Featuring a seductive, almost ethereal vocal from a French (or French sounding!) female, jazz guitar, sax and flutes float over a deliciously simple but effective groove.

Need You is quality jazz-tinged soul with a catchy refrain, while Peace Like That carries on the vibe at a slower pace. The bassline should get credit here, and indeed the bass throughout the album is first rate. Blue Noir is moodier with a male spoken word vocal, possibly a film sample.

Kirchwasser takes us back into sensual climes with some Je T’aime style breath noises. Moon Tan is jazzy hip-hop with a fine performance from an emcee with a spiritual vibe, with Hold Onto This Feeling a return to the ‘lazy Sunday’ feeling. Closing track The Orange Grove is a great way to finish, a hypnotic beat with a quirky, repeating bassline interspersed with some gorgeous soulful vocals and harmonies.

Overall, this is an excellent album that has been designed as a continual musical experience. The cumulative effect is indeed deeply relaxing and transports the listener to some interesting places. The musicianship and production is first rate, whilst the musical variety within the tracks means there’s a surprise around every corner. If you want the highest quality chill-out music, look no further than ToffoBean.

 

VERDICT: 8.7 out of 10

Alex Faulkner

Listen here:

SINGLE REVIEW: Summer Nights by SOUNDSTREAM

cover

SOUNDSTREAM are an electronica/EDM group from Kiev, Ukraine. They formed in 2008 when Denis Timish (DJ FatCat) and Alexander Bulanov (Bulya) met at university and decided to form a group. Their first track Feels like Heaven was an immediate success, and the line up changed over time which eventually lead to the release of several albums including Number One, Partytime, Midnight Hour and Dancefloor Generation, One More Time, Resurrection”, Maxximum Drive and Way To The Stars.

This track, Summer Nights, is being released along with four remixes. The ‘radio edit’ version grabs your attention immediately with an addictive synth melody. This style of EDM is what they call HandsUp/Eurodance, which is essentially up-tempo, high energy house music. It’s soon obvious that this group have a firm grasp of production and how to build a dance track. With a speaker-pounding ‘four to the floor’ kick, the percussive elements are added in layers to create momentum and energy.

Vocally, it has two contributors. Rapper/MC Yuriy ‘DJ Spacedreamer’ Muktarov gives a great spoken word performance on the verse, contrasted nicely by female sung vocals on the chorus, performed by Ann Pazyura. With a chord structure mildly reminiscent of the dance classic Mr. Vain it will sound somewhat familiar to dance fans, but the lead melody and killer title hook is entirely their own. The breakdown section towards the end is very effective in building up to a climax at the end. Also worth checking out are the various remixes.

Overall, this is a highly enjoyable piece of up-tempo house that is guaranteed to get a dancefloor heaving. With first rate production plus two high quality vocal performers in their arsenal, SOUNDSTREAM have the perfect track for a summer heatwave and EDM fans/DJs worldwide will want to add Summer Nights to their playlists.

 

VERDICT: 8.8 out of 10

Alex Faulkner

Listen here:

 

 

E.P. REVIEW: Another Round by Uncle Brent & The Nostone

Front_Uncle_Brent_Another_Round_2.png

https://www.facebook.com/UncleBrent.and.theNostone/

Uncle Brent & The Nostone are a four-piece Americana band hailing from Austin, Texas. They have been together over a decade and have become huge favourites on the live circuit there, leading to plaudits including being nominated Best New Band in Presidential Glen. Uncle Brent is the front man of the group, contributing guitar and lead vocals, assisted by Jimmy Durham on lead guitar, Chuck Smith on bass and Emilio Ramos on drums.

This EP, Another Round, follows on from the 2015 EP, Bobbing For Crapples. It consists of two tracks in contrasting styles, Salt and Lime and Sarah’s Creek. The former is an upbeat country rock song that nicely showcases their strengths as a band. Uncle Brent’s assured, authentic vocals are backed up by some fine musical synergy from his band mates, sounding like a group that’s played together for years.

Lyrically, it’s a good-time ode to a wild night where the drinks will be flowing: “Senorita Margarita, won’t you come over tonight…”. The title, of course, derives from what people like to enjoy with their tequila, and you could imagine a packed bar loving this music. It has a nice middle eight breakdown section featuring some lush piano work, before blasting back into a succinct guitar solo and a couple of choruses to round it off. Great track.

The following Sarah’s Creek could not be more different, both musically and lyrically. Consisting of just guitars and vocal to begin with, Brent gives a sensitive and affecting vocal performance on a song about the difficult subject of child abuse happening undetected: “In that little house across the street in Sarah’s Creek, lives a monster of no good….”. It’s a powerful and moving song that builds to an emotional climax which feels cathartic. A very brave and well executed piece of songwriting.

Overall, this is a very fine EP that shows two different sides to this first rate Americana band. Salt and Lime is classic country rock guaranteed to get toes tapping, whilst Sarah’s Creek is poignant and deeply moving. Contrasting the good and bad sides to life is the role of the artist, and this band can feel very proud of their work. Assuredly a huge hit with their existing fanbase, this should also make them plenty more new ones along the way.

 

VERDICT: 8.6 out of 10 

 

Alex Faulkner

Visit the official website HERE

 

2550x1440