SINGLE REVIEW: Soulsville by Happy Curmudgeons

HC-Hi-Rez.png

Happy Curmudgeons are a rock/pop band with shades of folk, blues and country hailing from Bloomfield Hills in Michigan. Their debut album and musical journey to get there 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, which you can read here.

This track, Soulsville, is taken from that album and makes an apposite choice as a single release. It’s an upbeat rock track based around an instantly infectious bluesy guitar riff, which starts out the song. Backed by the excellent rhythm section of Rick Beamon on drums and Takashi Iio on bass, the band hit a strong groove before Dave Hamilton’s assured and authentic vocals complete the sonic picture, his vocal delivery lying halfway between Neil Young and Lou Reed.

The song was originally inspired by seeing the Grateful Dead perform in Chicago and it’s essentially a love letter to that city’s vibrant music scene, the Soulsville in question, as captured by the opening lines: “There’s a place that I know, somewhere to go…I like to hang around….downtown is the place.”. The spirited energy of the music perfectly mirrors the lyrical subject matter with Beamon and Iio interlocking with Hamilton’s crunchy chords and driving riffage.

The second verse depicts the Chicago strip where all the music happens: “See it move with style, the strip’s for miles….lights the night on fire….”. After this the music really explodes with a colourful burst of saxophone played by guest musician Jeff Tabaloff. His mellifluous sax playing adds to the soulful musical vibrancy and he’s allowed free rein with an extended solo that showcases his skills. This leads into a succinct guitar solo before the final verse rounds off the track nicely.

Overall, this is an excellent single release from Happy Curmudgeons that highlights the strength of Dave Hamilton’s songwriting and the synergistic musicianship of his gifted band members. It’s old school rock ‘n roll but with a refreshing energy and vibe that is missing from so much of today’s synthetic chart music. For anyone searching for new music that’s authentic, catchy and colourful look no further than Soulsville.

 

VERDICT = 9.1 out of 10

Alex Faulkner

 

Listen here:

 

Advertisements

SINGLE REVIEW: Don’t You Dare! by Red Tan

Attachment_1564456307.jpeg

https://www.facebook.com/redtanofficial/

Red Tan is a female electro pop artist originally from the Philippines. She has studied and performed music from aged 16 and performed worldwide as a jazz singer. After meeting her husband, music was put on the back burner for motherhood, but he encouraged her to get back into music and she got a spot at the World Championships of Performing Arts. Tragically, she then lost her husband to the dengue virus but she bravely carried on to win two medals. She’s since reach the grand finals of Open Mic Uk, performing at the O2 Arena.

This track, Don’t You Dare!, is part of an EP dedicated to her late husband. It’s a feisty and upbeat electro pop song that encapsulates her strength and resilience of character. The track starts with a message to anyone who has tried to hold her back: “Thanks to all of you who put me down….”.

Her voice is as strong as her character and as the music progresses her versatile vocal range and distinctive tone come to the fore. The contrast between the relatively sparse verses and the huge choruses is effective, as is the breakdown bridge which begins: “Without you I wouldn’t be where I am…..you made me realize how strong I am”.
It builds to a powerful and anthemic chorus, Red Tan defiantly singing, “I am tough, you won’t wreck me….”. She is bolstered by a punchy beat that shows an influence of dubstep along with modern sounding synths, produced to perfection.

Overall, this is an inspiring and empowering electro pop track from a highly gifted artist who’s had to overcome considerable adversity. With a very strong voice well suited to radio, the catchy and instantly memorable Don’t You Dare! seems like the perfect song to project her on to the world stage for what will undoubtedly be a long and successful career.

 

VERDICT= 9 out of 10

Alex Faulkner

Listen here:

 

 

SINGLE REVIEW: Hope and Glory by Book Of Shame

Attachment_1564420611.jpg

https://bookofshame.bandcamp.com

Book Of Shame are an alternative rock from London founded by Pete Boyd (vocals, electric guitar) and Gary Bridgewood (guitars, basses, synths, mandolin, violin, strings, vocals). The two members bonded on a shared love of alternative artists and you can hear a wealth of influences in their work from Nick Cave’s band The Birthday Party to the more avant garde side of David Bowie, along with Wire, Talking Heads, Captain Beefheart and The Velvet Underground.

The result is a completely unique sound, with eclectic styles brought together in an inimitable way, what they have termed “acoustic-electronic-ambient-rock”. They began releasing material in 2018, with their first single Compatibility. This track, Hope and Glory, is taken from their eleven track album, simply called ALBUM.

It’s a seven minute tour de force that flicks two fingers at everything that’s conventional about songwriting and what constitutes a typical single. Opening in a blaze of angular guitar lines, Pete Boyd’s highly distinctive vocals enter along with primal, tribal drums courtesy of Fergus Gerrand.

Boyd’s gripping vocal performance holds the whole thing together, his vocal style like a mixture of Syd Barrett, Howard Devoto, Wire’s Colin Newman and, at times, Captain Beefheart. The music walks the tightrope between chaos and order and this sense of disorientation is captured in the lyrics to the first verse: “Everything is changing, head is rearranging, spine is realigned…undefined”.

The music expands and grows into unexpected territory, with a powerful passage featured synth brass and a visceral section of razor-sharp lead guitar. It then breaks down to strummed acoustic guitar then builds back up to a colossal wall of sound with Boyd wailing “Welcome to the land of hope and glory…”, perhaps a sardonic comment about Brexit-era Britain.. It ends in a pile up of rapid drum fills and raging guitars, a tumultuous climax.

Overall, this is a hugely engaging and original alternative rock song that embraces an array of genres, from fringe punk to prog rock and everything in between. Pete Boyd makes for a compelling, idiosyncratic lead vocalist and the way the band fuse eclectic styles to form an epic one of their own recalls Radiohead, circa Paranoid Android. If something truly different is just what you’re searching for, take a walk on the wild side with Book of Shame.

 

VERDICT= 8.7 out of 10 

Alex Faulkner

Listen here:

 

 

SINGLE REVIEW: Strong by Mark Winters

markwinters_strong.jpg

http://www.markwintersmusic.com/

Mark’s positive perspective and influences from the people in his life, and a love for guitar drew him to music. He started his career playing cover songs with the support of a close friend and along the journey felt the urge to share his own original voice. Mark’s poetic style comes from his Grandmother who taught him how to write poetry and express himself.

This song, Strong, perfectly captures his signature sound, what Mark defines as “rock with a positive vibe”. Starting with a high end guitar motif, Mark’s distinctive vocals enter and weave a memorable melody, soon augmented by an equally melodic and inventive bassline. The arrangement is finely crafted with swirling tom-tom patterns on the drums building the music up to the chorus.

For the first time, the music breaks into full 4/4 time and the uplifting message behind the song is captured in the anthemic refrain: “Hold up your head now, baby….keep your eyes on the prize”.

The second verse depicts him wondering how to advise someone struggling with life like he once did and relates how what he’s been through in the past can act as guidance and inspiration for them. After the second chorus is a catchy refrain section based on the title, before one last bridge and repeated choruses leave the song on a euphoric high.

Overall, this is an inspiring and ebullient rock/pop track from the Mark Winters. Mark proves himself to be both an accomplished singer and songwriter, aided by excellent supporting performances from his band. With its memorable hook and radio friendly sound, Strong should win Mark Winters and his group a much bigger fan base in preparation for his debut album release.

 

VERDICT = 8.7 out of 10           

Alex Faulkner

 

Listen HERE

TWO TRACK REVIEW: Doors To Manual/ Bruising by TheKunig

My God.jpg

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 stellar reviews to his last two releases, In Love and Lakeland Plaza (read here and here )

These latest two tracks, Doors To Manual and Bruising, are both taken from TheKunig’s forthcoming album Where’s My God? As with every track TheKunig releases, they are both a little different to each other and to his previous singles.

Doors To Manual is a slinky electronica track with a jazzy four-chord progression underpinning a soul/RnB style vocal melody. This particular juxtaposition of genres brings to mind artists like Disclosure and AlexaGeorge, though TheKunig always manages to impose his own sonic identity on his productions.

Starting with just synth, a simple but effective bassline and a punchy, intricate beat enters to form the bedrock of the track, providing the platform for a superb female lead vocal performance from a guest collaborator.

Her soulful tone gives the track its emotional resonance as she depicts a relationship in a difficult place: “You can say I haven’t tried to cross the great divide, your feelings come and go but I still love you so…..”. TheKunig shows his musicality halfway through the track with a jazz-tinged, expressive synth solo that adds a little more flavour to what’s already a fantastic track which should open up a few more doors for him, commercially speaking.

Bruising is somewhat more up tempo, starting out with a funky, Stevie Wonder style keyboard break then bolstered by a Fools Gold-esque breakbeat. The melodic vamp forms the backbone of the whole track, with the ostinato bassline giving it a nice balance. The vocals in this one are more understated and work seamlessly with the rest of the track.

The punchy, super slick production gives a sound ideal for radio and the vocal hook is deceptively catchy. Underneath is another of the jazzy synth melodies that helps to unite these two differing tracks, sonically. Its restless, infectious energy makes it perfect to dance to, and brought to mind some of Mark Ronson’s work post-Uptown Funk.

Overall, these two tracks consolidate TheKunig as a consistently excellent electronica artist which bodes well for his upcoming album. The tracks work both as well crafted and memorable songs as well as dance tracks that will be popular in the clubs. Doors To Manual has the most potential for radio with its killer melody and modern urban pop sound while Bruising is guaranteed to get the dancefloor heaving. The album looks like it’s going to be a classic of its genre.

 

VERDICT= 9 out of 10

Alex Faulkner

 

Listen here:

SINGLE REVIEW: Inevitable by Forest Robots

Inevitable Cover.JPG

Forest Robots is the musical brainchild of electronic artist and composer Fran Dominguez. He has previously released two full length albums, Supermoon Moonlight – Part One and Timberline And Mountain Crest (both of which I gave glowing reviews to, read here and here). These albums were essentially conceptual works, ambient instrumental soundscapes inspired by nature.

This latest release, Inevitable, is a distinct contrast to those works, moving into the area of traditional songwriting and featuring vocals performed by Dominguez himself. The genre is influenced by classic 80’s electronica/synth-pop groups such as Depeche Mode and Cocteau Twins, as well as a My Bloody Valentine influence in the use of guitars.

Set to a mid-paced, slinky Daft Punk-style electronic beat, the music is propelled by pulsing, highly melodic Depeche Mode synths and a subtle but effective bassline. This forms the bedrock for the distinctive, rich lead vocals with Dominguez singing in a low register not unlike Depeche Mode’s Dave Gahan along with the understated style of New Order’s Bernard Sumner.

Lyrically, the song is essentially one about self-empowerment and not giving into the self-doubt created by a success-obsessed society: “They try to pretend that they know something that you don’t”. This builds to a momentous chorus with the mesmeric vocal hook, “When you know you know, you know…”. After this is a section of spectral guitars that gives the track an otherworldly feel akin to his previous work.

The second verse is direct in its unflinching honesty about life’s vicissitudes: “No point in pretending, heartbreak will always come…”. This is far from a ‘glass half empty’ outlook however, with the ultimate message hugely positive and empowering.

Overall, this is a bold step forward into unchartered territory for Forest Robots and already a highly successful one, creatively. Retaining some of the sonic qualities of previous material, Inevitable is a very well composed and performed synth-pop track, with Fran Dominguez’s vocal style as unique as his musical approach. Accessible, yet nothing like most of the mainstream music out there, Inevitable should gain Forest Robots a whole new legion of fans and open many doors.

 

VERDICT: 8.7 out of 10

Alex Faulkner

 

 

Listen here:

SINGLE REVIEW: The Weekend by IAmOaks

OFFICIAL_1551636789979.png

http://www.iamoaks.com

IAmOaks is a hip hop/RnB artist hailing from New York City. His previous releases include the singles Boom, Undaunted, Kickin It and Trap Goals (feat. Kridakal). His music is essentially a laid back form of hip hop with RnB elements, vocally delivered with his own unique style that lies halfway between rapping and singing.

This track, The Weekend, is a chilled hip hop track featuring the vocals of Tamara Nekola. It starts out with a brief spoken word intro before a languid but infectious hip hop beat kicks in. IAmOaks delivers the verse in an assured and relaxed style, with a natural talent for eloquent and free flowing rhymes.

His strong self belief shines through in the lyrics: “Confident…took my ego and polished it”. However he cleverly undercuts this with the instantly memorable sung chorus: “These times that I feel so good, only on the weekend, only for the weekend….”.

It’s a sentiment that most people will be able to relate to and will connect with quickly. The second verse maintains the high lyrical quality of the first, with some entertaining lines: “I’m like a diamond in the rough or you can call me Nemo…”. Besides the slinky beat, the track is nicely grooves along by the subtle but effective bassline and given a nice sonic shimmer by the synths in the background.

Overall, this is a fine hip hop/RnB track by a charismatic artist with his own natural style. The Weekend has that killer combination of a great hook with a relatable message and the summery vibe to the sound means it’s the perfect time of year to release it. I expect this track to exponentially expand the fan base for IAmOaks and bring him to a deservedly wider audience.

 

VERDICT = 8.7 out of 10

Alex Faulkner

 

 

Listen here: