E.P. REVIEW: The Troubled Boy At The Bonfire Disco

Troubled Boy at the Bonfire Disco - Cover

Freddie Bourne is an American singer songwriter hailing from Jackson, New Jersey. He has been very highly placed in various talent competitions including winning Liberty Idol in 2010. He is known for fronting the bands Exit 22 and Sahara from Jackson and Manalapan, New Jersey, respectively.

His solo career began in 2012, and he has opened for acts such as Tyler Hilton from the television show One Tree Hill, Jersey Acoustic Music Award Winner Chelsea Carlson, and played for Gavin and Joey DeGraw’s bar The National Underground. He released his debut album, Only Human, in 2013.

This EP, The Troubled Boy At The Bonfire Disco, consists of four tracks and constitutes his fifth project. The style is essentially contemporary pop, a blend of Lewis Capaldi-style acoustic/piano singer-songwriting with some EDM aspects incorporated to give the sound a modern edge. This is perfectly encapsulated by the excellent opening track, I Hope You Don’t Forgive Me. Based around picked acoustic guitar, Bourne delivers a haunting vocal melody in his distinctive, emotive singing style.

You can hear the influences of songwriters like James Blake, Daniel Powter and Richard Marx in the melancholy, intimate nature of the music, at least at first. After the chorus hook, it breaks into an unexpected EDM section, before returning to the second verse augmented by warm strings. With its radio friendly sound and subtle but effective title hook, this has huge hit potential and also as soundtrack music.

Second track Jeni is another well crafted song, this one more straightforward stylistically, essentially anthemic pop/rock that brought to mind Paolo Nutini and Coldplay, circa A Rush Of Blood To The Head. Bourne gives another compelling vocal performance in his plaintive upper register, with subtle touches of electronica emerging in the second verse. The concise guitar solo working in tandem with synths was a nice touch and once again, the vocal melody sticks quickly in the memory. This would also make a fine single release.

The EDM production style returns to the fore on the intro to Pale Blue Sky, before breaking down to a sparse verse. This allows the vocals to dominate, backed by a minimal beat and haunting piano arpeggios. The simple hook of “I’ll fly with you…” proves addictive and the way the arrangement builds to an EDM finale is cleverly done. Again, the commercial potential is big, owing to the wide ranging appeal of the pop/dance crossover sound.

Final track Spacedust has an equally languid tempo, Bourne delivering a Chris Martin-esque falsetto vocal that sounds natural and uncontrived. Once again, it is something of a slow burning epic, gradually building in texture and rhythm towards an understated but highly intricate blend of picked acoustic guitar patterns and interweaving synths. This track will again have a large across the aboard appeal, particularly those who love Coldplay’s more recent output.

Overall, this is a consistently strong collection of songs by an upcoming artist gifted with both a unique style of his own and a contemporary, commercial sound. In an era where male singer-songwriters are dominating the charts worldwide, Freddie Bourne has everything it takes to make it to the top and this EP could potentially be a major step towards that goal.

 

VERDICT = 9.1 out of 10

Alex Faulkner

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SINGLE REVIEW: Better Than Before by Eduard Alexogiannopoloulos

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Eduard Alexogiannopoloulos is a singer and songwriter in the acoustic pop genre originally from Greece (as some may guess from his surname) but is now based in England. His musical style has been compared to Counting Crows, Matt Costa and Third Eye Blind though I would personally place his music in the category of songwriters like Ed Sheeran and George Ezra, along with the British group from a few years ago, The Feeling. He released his first single, Need To Know, in 2017.

This song, Better Than Before, is a great showcase for Eduard’s unique sensibilities as a songwriter. Musically, the track is essentially upbeat acoustic pop and Eduard is blessed with a distinctive yet very radio-friendly voice. Lyrically, there’s a likeable quirkiness that is self-evident from the opening lines: “All we need is an hour of sunshine, a glass of cheap wine….”.

What is impressive about the song is how memorable it is without relying on over-repetition like so many modern chart hits. The vocal melody soon latches in the mind while the lyrics continually move the song forward, so that it never grows stale. The subtle Scouting For Girls-type quarter-note piano also aids the momentum and special mention should go to the first rate production, which both inventive and classy.

Overall, this is a well-crafted, infectious second single from a young singer/songwriter who has a gift for writing charming melodies set to colourful lyrics. His music seems perfect for the times as well as highly suited to mainstream pop radio, so with more songs of this high quality I predict this is one name you may hear a lot of in the future. Good luck pronouncing it.

 

 

VERDICT: 8.6 out of 10 

Alex Faulkner

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SINGLE REVIEW: Something Else by Tim Spriggs

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www.timspriggs.com

Tim Spriggs is a singer and songwriter hailing from Australia. He grew up in an environment surrounded by music, learning guitar along the way. Over the past ten years he has been honing his songwriting craft and this has culminated in the release of his first material, a five song EP called Something Else, with this being the title track and lead single. His music is essentially in the genre of acoustic pop though he has stated that he listens to a wide array of artists and genres.

To my ear, Tim Spriggs belongs in a long lineage of acoustic singer/songwriters and troubadours. His finger picking style recalls classic songwriters of the past like Nick Drake and Cat Stevens, along with more modern artists like Ed Sheeran and George Ezra. Vocally, Tim is blessed with a rich baritone voice, singing in a low register similar to Ezra and not sounding unlike fellow Australian Nick Cave at times.

Something Else is exquisitely recorded, consisting of crystal clear acoustic guitar and vocals, at least to begin with. The song is about individuality and making your own choices despite the influence of others: “They tell me what I want, maybe it’s what I need….but I want something else…”. The first section features some fine Nick Drake-esque finger picking from Spriggs, who has developed a unique style as a guitarist.

This minimal style is nice contrasted by a 2/4 section featuring some Western-style whistling and tastefully driven electric guitar. The resulting sound is very polished and radio friendly, which bodes well for his commercial prospects. More importantly, the song has a memorable hook and an emotive quality that is best described as ‘real’, clearly written from the heart.

Overall, this is an extremely accomplished song from an artist who has emerged fully formed and hit the ground running. He has developed his own style so that he stands out from the crowd yet would not sound out of place next to similar sounding artists on mainstream radio, a difficult and vital balancing act. I expect his music to gain rapidly in popularity and the release of his debut album could make a seriously strong impact on the music world.

 

VERDICT: 8.7 out of 10

Alex Faulkner

 

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SINGLE REVIEW: This Is Love I’m Feeling by Emmanuel Dalmas ft. Kirby Howarth

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Emmanuel Dalmas is a multi-genre composer based in the South West of France. He started composing in late 2016 as a weekend hobby, and produces his music in his home studio, often  collaborating with various vocalists. His compositional range is hugely eclectic, from classical to reggae and rap, with New Age, lounge, pop, dance and experimental in between.

This song, This Is Love I’m Feeling, shows his songwriting extending into the country genre. Vocally, it is performed by Kirby Howarth, whose warm and emotive voice is perfectly suited to the material. It starts with crystal clear picked acoustic guitar,  a melodic bassline and some understated but effective country-style lead guitar. The vocal melody is memorable without being repetitive, and the music is very well crafted with some unexpected chord changes.

Lyrically, it is deeply romantic in tone as the title suggests, and the emotional depth in the words allows it to transcend cliché and sentimentality: “I was living life in the shadows when you came into my life….”. Special credit should also go to the nuanced and tasteful production, which is of the highest standard and bodes well for its commercial potential. In fact, with its very pop sound you could imagine it on the radio next to artists like Justin Timberlake, who also recently began fusing country and modern pop.

Overall, this is a superbly written, arranged and produced song by a versatile and accomplished songwriter/composer. The song is genuinely touching, aided by a wonderful vocal performance from Kirby Howarth. With its radio-friendly sound and wide ranging commercial appeal, this could be the song that really puts Emmanuel Dalmas on the map.

 

VERDICT: 8.8 out of 10 

Alex Faulkner

SINGLE REVIEW: Roller Coaster Night by Shane Scheib

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This song, Roller Coaster Night, is a collaboration with producer Ryan Mohr. It’s a very modern sounding EDM-tinged pop track, just about perfect for radio. It grabs your attention from the start, with a short intro based on rolling toms, then Shane delivering a very catchy vocal melody with energy and flair. His voice is strong and  distinctive yet wouldn’t sound out of place amongst pop contemporaries like Justin Timberlake or Ed Sheeran.

He has a definite sonic style here, with some fantastic synth swirls on the bridge giving it an almost futuristic vibe. It really bursts into life on the chorus, a pumping beat and Uptown Funk-esque high end guitars combining with a very memorable title hook. After the second chorus, it enters a breakdown section based around a long, anthemic melody that’s the perfect contrast to the rhythmic nature of the chorus. It will also sound great to sing along to at 2am in a club!

Overall, this is a very well written, performed and produced pop/dance track from an artist with a very authentic musical background, showing he can compete with the current luminaries of the pop world . It’s a great song for the season, and will work both on radio and the dancefloor, the best of both worlds. And who knows, there’s still time for it to go viral this summer.

Shane Scheib is a recording artist born in Eastern Washington State, growing up in Coulee City and Ellenburg. He studied jazz guitar at Jeff Berlin’s Player’s School Of Music, and guitar theory under Yuzuru Tanakura. For a while, Shane got involved in missionary work, and upon his return to the States was encouraged to move to Nashville, which he eventually did. Since then, he has released some highly successful EPs including Genrelicious and Fast Friends, which garnered rotation on over 100 radio stations.

 

VERDICT: 8.6 out of 10

Alex Faulkner

 

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SINGLE REVIEW: LIFE by Race Against Fate

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http://www.raceagainstfate.com/

Race Against Fate is the musical brainchild of singer/songwriter Vik Kapur, who hails from Toronto, Canada. In 2013, he decided to start this solo project with the concept of combining Western pop/rock with Eastern sounds, such as Indian instruments like sitar and tabla. This idea has not actually been really explored before although has been touched upon by such diverse artists as George Harrison and Anouska Shankar. Aside from Indian influences, Vik cites U2 and The Smiths as pop/rock influences.

This song, LIFE, is a sensitive, plaintive pop ballad in a similar style to artists like Ed Sheeran and Sam Smith but augmented by the rich, vibrant and exotic sound of the sitar. It consists of just crystal clear strummed acoustic guitar, interspersed with tasteful injections of this magical sounding instrument. Vik has a very fine singing voice, pitching in the highest part of his vocal range without a problem. The passion in his performance also lends emotive weight to the song.

Lyrically, it’s a classic tale of not being able to get over loving someone and move on with your life, captured in the memorable chorus: “Now you’ll never, ever see what it is that you mean to me, it’s surrounding me like a disease, our life’s got a hold of me….”. There’s some excellent singing and extemporizing towards the end as he varies the vocal melody.

Overall, this is a very well written and performed acoustic ballad that’s given an exotic and original flavour via its Indian influence. While the song holds up in its own right, this unique musical concept will help Vik Kapur stand out from the crowd in a saturated pop market. With a commercial voice and strong songwriting style, he has major potential to go far in the future. Maybe LIFE is the song that will help take him there.

VERDICT: 8.8 out of 10

Alex Faulkner

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SINGLE REVIEW: West Coast by Yam Haus

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https://www.yamhaus.com/

Yam Haus are a four piece pop-rock band hailing from Hudson, Wisconsin. Having met as classmates, the group consists of vocalist/guitarist Lars Pruitt, Seth Blum on electric guitar, Zach Heinlein on bass and Jake Felstow on drums. Despite forming only recently, they have already written and recorded their debut album Stargazer and amassed a huge following on social media, gaining acclaim for their live performances along the way.

This song, West Coast, is an upbeat pop/rock track with an infectious summer vibe. Musically, they incorporate the funk-influenced sound of Maroon 5, while Lars Pruitt’s likeable, radio friendly vocals will be popular with Ed Sheeran fans. They also have a strong EDM influence, reflected in the synth sounds and melodies as well as the production.

Lyrically, it is romantic in theme, with the West Coast a metaphor for harbouring feelings for someone: “I’ve been hanging on the West Coast of my heart, right where I meant to from the start...”. The song is well written and structured, with every section catchy and memorable aided by some fine guitar lines and Calvin Harris-esque synth melodies.

Overall, this is an excellent track that has its finger on the pulse in terms of combining the most currently popular styles, pop and EDM. With its pristine, high quality production it’s just about perfect for radio and streaming playlists, and in Lars Pruitt they have a charismatic lead vocalist. There’s every chance that this group could achieve success on a par with the current luminaries in the pop world, and this song should be another step towards global domination.

 

VERDICT =  8.8 out of 10

Alex Faulkner

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SINGLE REVIEW: Mercy by Manuel Bair

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https://www.manuelbair.com/

Manuel Bair is a pop/rock singer and songwriter originally from Newport, Oregon but raised in California. In 2016, he set out to relocate to the Pacific Northwest, while writing and recording music in his home studio in Sun River, Oregon. He has been working on an album, Living Proof, with veteran rock producer Deane Ogden (David Foster, Sarah McLachlan, Seal) and has released two singles, 2017’s Once I’m Gone and Your Return in 2018.

This third single, Mercy, is a pop/rock song that starts out like an acoustic indie pop ballad in the style of Ed Sheeran, James Bay and Harry Styles. Manuel has a fine voice for pop, with a warm tone and the emotive quality necessary for a ballad to sound authentic. Lyrically, it is about trying to communicate to someone how much they mean to them: “All I need is for you to stay in one place, so you will see all I’ve done to show you how you mean the world to me….” runs the understated but effective chorus.

The arrangement starts to build in the second verse but stays on course as conventional pop until the third minute, where it explodes with a sudden key change. The last ninety seconds then shows the more raw, rock side to Bair’s oeuvre, with some mellifluous lead guitar towards the end to complete a well arranged song.

Overall, Mercy shows how Manuel Bair has found the perfect middle ground between tasteful pop and rock, balancing a commercial, radio friendly sound with the passion and energy of rock music. This is the seamless fusion of genres which has been so successful for Harry Styles, and there’s no reason why Manuel Bair won’t make a similarly strong impact with this excellent single and forthcoming album.

 

VERDICT: 8.5 out of 10

Alex Faulkner

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ARTIST REVIEW: Susan G

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Susan G is a singer and songwriter hailing from Seattle. She possesses an authentic, rich soul voice and you can hear the influence of classic soul singers like Etta James and Mavis Staples, along with modern pop singer/songwriters like Sia and Sara Bareilles. Musically, she fuses the retro-soul sound of Amy Winehouse with 90’s pop/RnB to create a unique synthesis.

In 2009, she released her first album The Way To Here and then the single No Room For You in 2014. This was followed by the Some Freedom EP in 2016, featuring the classic song A Better You, which became regularly featured on IHeartRadio. The same year she experimented with a more urban sound, releasing the single Need You Here featuring the rapper Redhead.

In terms of live performance she has shared the stage with Colbie Caillat, Sony artist Ryan Cummings, The Voice’s Austin Jenckes, Zarni de Wet, amongst many others as well as selling out venues all across Seattle. She is due to release another album later this year, and her YouTube Channel is helping her reach a wider audience, featuring a mix of original material and covers of well known songs.

Usually she performs with just vocals and keyboards, and I particularly enjoyed her interpretations of The Weeknd’s I Feel It Coming, her cover of I Fall Apart by Post Malone and a haunting rendition of the Amy Winehouse modern classic Back to Black. She also does excellent versions of well known hits like the ubiquitous Shape of You by Ed Sheeran and Look What You Made Me Do by the current Queen of Pop, Taylor Swift.

But it is her own original material that showcases what a great talent she is. The epic six minute ballad Push and Pull had me enthralled from start to finish and the lilting Unafraid, featuring the guitar talents of Skylar Mehal, is another fine piece of songwriting that could appeal to country audiences. Indeed, she has the potential to appeal right across the musical spectrum.

Overall, Susan G has everything it takes for major success in terms of singing ability and image. If her upcoming album is as strong as her previous work, there’s no reason why her fanbase won’t increase exponentially. Her soulful yet modern sound is perfect for the times. This could be a name you’ll be hearing plenty of in the future.

VERDICT: One To Watch!

Alex Faulkner

www.instagram.com/susangmusic 

E.P. REVIEW: Hearticulate by J.P. Edwards

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J.P. Edwards is a singer/songwriter originally hailing from Texarkana, Texas. Aided by the experiences of an itinerant childhood, he started singing and writing music at an early age. His music is essentially acoustic pop, though there are elements of folk, blues and jazz present also. He has the intimate style of singers like Ed Sheeran and John Mayer, with the versatile voice of Justin Timberlake.

This EP consisting of eight tracks that are a perfect showcase for his musical abilities. Opening song Destinations, about the journey of a relationship, is just vocals and picked acoustic guitar. He has a voice suited to the material and the song’s lilting vocal melody soon latches in the memory.

Second song Drop Everything is a male/female duet and strummed rather than picked. The song’s quality is instantly apparent, a short verse leading to a gorgeous chorus. The blend of their vocal harmonies is exquisite, especially on the middle eight and the lyrics are touching without being trite. An obvious choice as the track to take to radio, and could well be the one that breaks him into the big time.

Other highlights of the EP for me were the sophisticated, jazzy Grave, the epic pop of Stargazing and last track World Tour, which is a sweet song that uses the idea of musical stardom as a backdrop to a heartfelt love ballad that cleverly sidesteps cliché.

Overall, this a very assured and accomplished EP by a songwriter who sounds at the top of his game. There are several potential singles to choose from, and with Drop Everything he has a surefire hit on his hands. Record companies are no doubt searching avidly for the new Ed Sheeran, and I think J.P. Edwards may just be the man.

 

Alex Faulkner

Verdict: 8.7 out of 10