SINGLE REVIEW: Body Talk by JayQ

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JayQ is a singer, songwriter and rapper in the hip hop/RnB/dancehall genres and hails from New Orleans. He has been involved in music from an early age, honing his singing and performance skills while participating in his local church choir. Since then he has developed his own music and on his debut EP, JayQ 4U, he has collaborated with the Grammy award winning hit maker SOK07 (who wrote Drunk In Love by Beyoncé ft. Jay Z). He has also collaborated with the up and coming OBA.

This release, Body Talk, is his major release for the summer and it’s a slinky RnB/dancehall track with a decidedly sensual vibe. Starting out with a simple but effective synth melody, JayQ enters with sparse handclaps, which soon develops into a seductive beat that will lure people to the dance floor. Similarly, the arrangement is cleverly built up with subtle layers of synth and percussion brought in gradually.

JayQ has a naturally assured and relaxed style on the mic, with a distinctive style and artistic persona. The vocal melody is very influenced by dancehall and reggae and delivered with panache. The catchy “Talk to me, babe” hook quickly sticks in your mind.

Lyrically, it depicts a situation that many will relate to, about chasing after a woman who is playing hard to get but has a strong physical allure. This game of cat and mouse is captured in edgy, entertaining lines like, “You give me the cold shoulder when I try to get intimate…I’m like the Pentagon baby, I don’t negotiate with terrorists….”.

Overall, this is a perfect RnB/dancehall track for the summer by a naturally gifted up and coming artist. Designed for the dance floor but equally radio friendly (except for some suggestive lyrics, perhaps), this should help to put JayQ on the musical map and garner a wave of fans in the process. With further strong material in the future, he may find himself being hailed as the new Drake.

 

VERDICT = 8.8 out of 10

Alex Faulkner

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ALBUM REVIEW: DLW1 by Urban Fu$e

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https://urban-fuse.com/

Urban Fu$e are a multi-national musical collective from various parts of the world and originally the musical brainchild of songwriter and producer Suzanna Lam. They consist of eight members hailing from diverse places as Lagos, Nigeria; Nassau, Bahamas, Nashville, Tennessee; San Francisco Bay Area, California and London.

Their music is equally diverse, traversing the genres of dancehall, hip hop/rap, V-pop and Latin though always united by a strong dance beat. They have previously released a number of singles including Can’t Steal My Deal, Urban Spice , Xu, Till The End and Splurge amongst others.

The album starts off with the perfect pop/RnB of Runaway, which has already been released as a single to great acclaim. It features a superb, very sensitive male lead vocal performance, a singer blessed with a voice that could almost be described as angelic. The song depicts someone feeling heartbroken over the ending of a relationship and wanting to escape to convalesce.

The succinct verse driven by a pulsing RnB beat soon leads to the excellent chorus that sticks in the memory upon the first listen. The lyrics are decidedly modern with references to Instagram and texting, which will help teenagers relate. The gentle male vocals are nice contrasted by the female rapper in the third verse, whose direct style acts as the ideal counterpoint and adds even more modern edge. A fantastic start to the album.

The second track Freedom shows the multi-cultural and multi-national aspect of Urban Fu$e. It’s based around an intricate hip hop beat with rapid fire kicks which lays the platform for some slick rapping in French on the early verses. It leads to another memorable chorus hook sung in English, with a distinct reggae/dancehall vibe: “I am the dragon in the kingdom, I am the lion in the dungeon, I know that music is my freedom…”. Later on, we hear a slickly delivered verse from an American rapper which adds even more international flavour. This track has also been released as a single and rightly so.

Third track BIG (International Mix) is another hip hop/RnB meld that blends rap with another killer sung chorus. This title hook is how the track begins, an infectious melody that you soon find yourself humming. It’s about overcoming struggles and chasing after success: “Make it big, go big or go home….”.

The first verse cleverly alternates between singing and rapping, the first lines depicting a tough childhood: “My mama wasn’t there nobody to hold me….nobody to patrol me”. The rapping is once again in different languages, firstly in American (the same rapper as on Freedom) before switching to a Vietnamese rapper after the second chorus. Another excellent track with worldwide appeal.

Retire In Peace (RIP) maintains the same tempo and hybridized genre fusion and musical style, focusing on the struggle of making money and playing the financial game. It features just one American rapper who delivers with conviction in a manner not dissimilar to Eminem, with an equally adept capacity for lyrical dexterity and flow. This is once again counterpointed by a sung title hook that works effectively.

The other three tracks on the album include an English and Vietnamese mix version of the track BIG, which sticks to one rapper in their respective languages. This makes sense for releasing the track in different international territories. The other track is a clean version of Runaway, removing the cuss word in the chorus. This makes it more radio friendly and palatable to a universal audience, similar to what Cee Lo Green did with his smash hit Forget You.

Overall, this is an eclectic and truly modern album that balances accessible pop hooks with cutting edge hip hop, RnB and dancehall. Bringing people together from different cultures and uniting them is what music should be all about and Urban Fu$e have the potential to become the leading light in musical multiculturalism. With several standout tracks that have already found success, I see a big future for Urban Fu$e and the many gifted artists involved.

 

 

VERDICT = 9.1 out of 10

Alex Faulkner

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E.P. REVIEW: Born In The Wild by 308 Ghost Train

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https://www.308ghosttrain.com/

308 Ghost Train are a rock band with a difference. Although their music harks back to the classic rock of the 70’s and 80’s, they have a spiritual message behind their songs and a lyrical approach that is decidedly modern. The band is the musical brainchild of singer and songwriter POSI Award-winning songwriter and vocalist Anthony “Train” Caruso.

The band name refers to a Bible passage, the Gospel of John 3:8, which compares the Holy Spirit to the wind. That explains the ‘Ghost’ part and Train is Anthony’s nickname – referring to his stoicism and determination which comes across in his music. As a vocalist he has been compared to Bruce Springsteen, John Fogerty (Credence Clearwater Revival) and John Mellancamp, amongst others.

This EP, Born In The Wild, consists of five tracks and starts with the lead single 21 Guns and A Million Tears. It’s a powerful and highly emotive stadium rock anthem that brings to mind the uplifting anthems of Bon Jovi with the blue collar lyrical seriousness of Bruce Springsteen. Featuring a passionate and authentic vocal performance from Caruso, the song is about how veterans are treated after military service and the ones who lose their lives serving their country.

This is a subject dear to Caruso’s heart as he has served in the military himself and this shows in the conviction with which he delivers the words. The title refers to the 21 gun salute given at military funerals for those who lost their life in battle and the song poignantly begins with the sound of bagpipes. This breaks into punchy classic rock with a solid, meaty drum sound and a rich wall of electric guitar chords. Caruso has the strong and distinctive voice necessary to soar above the music, particularly on the fist pumping, instantly memorable chorus.

The lyrics pull no punches with the second verse beginning with these powerful lines: “There’s an oath every defender takes, dedication for freedom’s sake, they’d rather die in an unmarked grave so we can live in the home of the free and brave”. As with Springsteen’s Born In The USA, Caruso delivers a searingly critical message under the guise of a singalong anthem. it’s one of the best rock tracks I’ve heard for some time and an obvious choice for a single.

The next track Worn shows a gentler, more personal side to his songwriting. It’s an epic rock ballad that begins with picked acoustic guitar. The lyrics depict an emotionally troubled state but his underlying faith shines through: “I know I’m in the palm of someone’s hand…”. The song builds to another cathartic chorus with Caruso delivering at the top of his range. The final chorus is particularly emotive and you can imagine thousands singing along, relating to the words of spiritual struggle with empathy.

The title track Born In The Wild is the most light hearted song on the EP, an uptight rock song with a healthy dose of country, driven by rich organ. Once again, he displays his gift for writing killer choruses, which is one aspect that separates great songwriters from merely good ones, in my opinion. The chorus lyrics are as American as mom’s apple pie with the great tag line: “In the back of a Chevy, I was born in the wild….”.

I’ll Unbreak Your Heart is the band’s ‘lighters in the air’ ballad in a style comparable to Bon Jovi’s Always or Aerosmith’s classic I Don’t Want To Miss A Thing. As with all with his other songs the lyrics dig emotionally deeper than most, with lines like “feels like you’ve tumbled off a cliff in the dark… but I’ll catch you girl and unbreak your heart…”. The emotional power of the song is enhanced by the swelling strings and this would be another good choice for a single.

The final song on the EP is another one with a serious and important social message, This Is My Home. On the surface it sounds like a vintage piece of classic rock with an AC/DC style strutting chord progression. But under the hood is a moving and empowering song about a child fighting cancer. Cleverly starting from a perspective of meeting the girl, it flips to her perspective and she expresses her defiance in fighting the disease in the towering chorus: “You’re not welcome here, cos this is my home…..you’re the invader, I’m  the crusader, I’ll fight you off on my own…”.

As cancer has become such a blight on so many lives this is a hugely inspiring and uplifting song, especially to those battling against it or those with loved ones in this predicament. It’s particularly aimed at child sufferers, however, and the band will be filming the video for this song at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee. A great way to finish.

Overall, this is a hugely enjoyable EP that resurrects classic rock n’ roll into the 21st century with a socially aware and spiritual lyrical approach. With the lead single, 21 Guns and a Million Tears, they have a modern classic on their hands but this EP is solid gold right the way through. Aside from Caruso’s singing and songwriting, credit should also go to the excellent musicianship from the rest of the band which functions as a tight unit. Hopefully 308 Ghost Train will reach the people in the numbers they deserve.

VERDICT = 9 out of 10

Alex Faulkner

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SINGLE REVIEW: Girl on The Moon by Martin Del Carpio

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https://martindelcarpio.bandcamp.com/track/girl-on-the-moon

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. 2018 saw the release of Involution to which I gave a highly favourable review (you can read that here)

This track, Girl on The Moon, is a haunting acoustic ballad with an intriguing air of mystery. This is partly achieved by the use of audio footage from NASA’s moon landings at the beginning and end of the song. Martin has a gentle voice full of character that suits the material perfectly. The opening line has an enigmatic quality that draws the listener in immediately: “I once knew a girl who dreamed of impossible love….”.

After a scene setting first verse the song builds up to a simple but highly memorable and effective chorus. This is augmented by a subtle beat, backing vocal harmonies and interspersed with colourful, magical sounding synths.

The poetic, mystical quality of the lyrics continues into the second verse: “From the ground of the moon I’ll watch her blossom from afar...”. The arrangement also gradually builds with subtle details being incorporated seamlessly. The final verse which uses echo effects is especially effective.

Overall, this is an evocative and mysterious ballad that has an undeniably captivating quality. It is Martin Del Carpio’s most commercial release so far whilst still managing to maintain his artistic integrity. In the wrong hands, this song might have been fey but his tasteful, understated approach means he achieves that rare thing: a genuinely beautiful song.

 

VERDICT = 9.1 out of 10

Alex Faulkner

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SINGLE REVIEW: Boomerang by Saba Brothers

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https://www.s3sababrothers.com/

https://www.facebook.com/s3sababrothers/

Saba Brothers are a three piece pop/rock group consisting of three brothers, Raymond, Steven and Nathan who are based in Sydney, Australia. They formed in 2010 as youngsters and eventually began writing original material to go along with their popular cover versions, which they performed at numerous venues in their region. They released their first single Walk Away in 2018 which was a success, going on to release several singles from their Life EP and then another single, Smile.

This track, Boomerang, is their latest single and shows them beefing up their signature sound and giving it a rockier edge. From its opening bars, the crunchy guitars and lead guitar lines grab your attention but Saba Brothers still retain their accessible pop side.

Breaking down to acoustic guitar for the first verse, the electric guitars return for the ultra catchy chorus which is augmented by vocal harmonies. Rather like other groups such as the Beach Boys and Bee Gees, these brothers have a natural vocal blend that gives them a rich, distinctive sound.

The three members are all excellent musicians and work well as a tight musical unit. Lyrically, the song has quite a profound spiritual message for a three minute song that can be summed up as “you reap what you sow” and what you give out to the world you will eventually receive in return. After the second chorus, they let rip with a very well constructed guitar solo performed by Raymond, something you don’t hear enough of in the mainstream anymore.

Overall, this is an infectious rock track from a talented trio of brothers who are completely in sync with each other musically. The years of playing together have paid off and they’ve developed their songwriting and sound to a level where they stand poised to take their success to the next level. With wide ranging appeal to both rock and pop fans, the sky is truly the limit for the Saba Brothers.

 

VERDICT = 8.6 out of 10

 

Alex Faulkner

 

SINGLE REVIEW: Wasting Time by Ray Ryder

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https://www.rayryder.com.au

Ray Ryder is a singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist hailing from Australia and his music is in the country rock/pop category. Having studied music from a young age he eventually founded the group One Step Ahead who played with Sting, Chris Isaak and Bryan Ferry, amongst others. In 2016, he released his eponymous debut album which he wrote, performed and produced himself. This led to developing a large fan base. In 2017, he played the world’s biggest remote festival, the Birdsville Big Bash and has since visited Nashville to perform a series of showcases.

This song, Wasting Time, is his latest single and it’s an infectious and upbeat country rock track. Starting with a meaty drum beat and subtle but catchy guitar riff, Ray’s authentic and earthy lead vocals then become the focal point. After a succinct first verse it breaks out into a memorable chorus with reflective lyrics about learning lessons and finding the right path in life: “I’m a long way from where I’ve been, I’m not sure what’s wrong or right….if the point of living is not to fall on the way then I’ve been wasting time….”.

After the second chorus the song leads into a half-time section that provides nice rhythmic variety and features some rich organ. After breaking down for the third chorus it builds up to a concise and effective guitar solo that gives an extra musical lift to the track before driving home the last choruses to complete a perfectly arranged three minute song.

Overall, this is an impressive new release from Ray Ryder that has the authenticity and deep lyrics of country rock but with a modern pop production style that extends its commercial appeal even further. This song will be a sure fire hit with his present fan base but his potential to reach a massive worldwide audience is certainly very  strong. Hopefully, Wasting Time will be another important step towards that goal.

 

 

VERDICT = 8.7 out of 10

 

Alex Faulkner

 

SINGLE REVIEW: Jealous by Violeta

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https://www.facebook.com/Violeta-Bozanic-230235573986828/

Violeta Bozanic is an Australian singer, songwriter and pianist but perhaps most notably a child prodigy who’s launching her pop career at the age of just eleven! She has competed in various talent competitions across Australia including Australia’s Got Talent and Talent Quests Australia, which she won. She also won the prestigious 2018 World Championships of Performing Arts.

She has now co-written her debut single Jealous with Dapo Torimiro (John Legend, Stevie Wonder And Justin Bieber) which was produced by the world renowned Jeffrey Weber.

Jealous is a flawlessly produced pop/RnB track that provides the perfect vehicle to showcase Violeta’s precious talent. Her singing voice is highly mature for her age and listeners will assume she’s in the age group of most pop stars just from the music alone.

Starting with a lovely acoustic guitar figure, this continues and provides the melodic bedrock for her lead vocals. Her voice is strong with a huge range, both low (for a female) to very high. This large vocal range is used as an effective dynamic, singing in a relatively low register on the verse before leaping up an octave for the chorus.

Again, the rhythms of the vocal melody are counterbalanced cleverly with long melodies on the verse contrasted with short, catchy refrains on the highly infectious chorus. The repetition of the title hook is very effective, along with the call and response backing vocals which feature some rich harmonies.

Lyrically, it’s a relatable tale of being messed around by someone trying to induce jealousy but becoming wise to it. The audience this track is aimed at will particularly resonate with the subject matter but its appeal is universal.

Overall, this is a hugely impressive debut pop track that would be an achievement for any artist, let alone a girl of eleven. Her style and voice already sound fully mature and fully developed, with a distinctive tone and a range that could rival any of the world’s biggest stars. Pop stardom seems almost an inevitability for Violeta.

 

VERDICT = 8.8 out of 10

 

Alex Faulkner