Freelance music journalist Alex Faulkner reviewing the latest new unsigned or up and coming music. Feel free to follow me on Facebook and Twitter. Get the latest reviews via email by signing up to the blog, the 'follow' button is on the right hand side. Down a bit.
Faye Jule are an international music collective consisting of singer Sam Adler (Odessa, UA), songwriter Stefan (Berlin, Germany) and music producer Kara (Nashville, USA). Despite their different locations, they are able to effectively collaborate and the result is a dreampop/alternative style comparable to a group like The xx, Chvrches and an artist like Billie Eilish, along with echoes of groups like the inventors of dreampop, the Cocteau Twins. They released their debut single HYE in July and have already received strongly positive reactions and begun garnering a fanbase.
This second single, Never Dies, is a delicate and highly emotive ballad which opens with solemn, sparse piano chords that set a poignant tone. Then we hear the crystalline vocals of Sam Adler enter and the beauty of her voice combined with the haunting vocal melody cast quite a spell. The opening lines appear to depict a romantic relationship that has run its course: “The party’s over, our minds are clearer….”.
Much of the song’s emotional power resides in the nostalgia for the bliss of youthful love: “The sun was brighter, the days were longer and we ran heedless into another song…”. After a minimalistic first half of mostly just lead vocal and piano, the arrangement builds with acoustic guitar and a beat driven by intricate hi hat patterns. The mood of reflective melancholy is sustained to the end, with Sam Adler’s vulnerable vocals going to some wonderful places at the top of her range.
Overall, this is a superb modern piano ballad in the dreampop genre. Faye Jule manage to balance artistic authenticity with excellent, radio friendly production and there lies the secret to huge commercial success, as well as critical acclaim. Faye Jule have the potential to go very far and Never Dies could open many doors for them with enough exposure.
The genesis of the husband and wife musical duo Arienne hearts Charlie is a fascinating and moving story. Arienne grew up in Louisiana where she found musical inspiration in the songs she heard that expressed the pain of the Deep South. Meanwhile, only a block away, her future beloved Charlie was playing gospel churches as a child. They eventually met at graduate school and it was love at first sight. Both have juggled their musical career together with their mutual work in psychotherapy and mental health. Their music fuses their influences together; Charlie’s influences include Motown and Funkadelic along with jazz musicians like Wes Montgomery and George Benson. Arienne adores Billie Holiday, Amy Winehouse and Patsy Cline, which fits hand in glove with Charlie’s natural jazzy style.
This album, The Greatest Show, consists of ten songs (plus differing versions of three of the album tracks). It opens with the languid and sensual Voyeur, Charlie’s superb jazz guitar skills becoming immediately apparent with a sophisticated chord progression. He also takes lead vocals on the verse, his voice smooth with a wide range and a fine falsetto. Arienne then enters for the second verse, and her voice is the perfect compliment to Charlie’s; a crystal clear and distinctive tone mixed with vocal power that she expresses as the song progresses.
Loving Day is also a jazzy song in 6/8 time that features both vocalists giving wonderful performances. Charlie here gives counterpoint vocals and harmonies to Arienne’s sweetly sung lead vocal. This track sounds hugely romantic but has a political underpinning; it references the famous Loving vs Virginia case of 1967, which ruled that laws banning interracial marriage violated the Constitution. This is referred to by the song’s title, as the lyrics depict their love for each other in a world where interracial marriage is not yet fully accepted: “Disapproving looks still come our way though it’s been so long since Loving Day…”. With an absolutely beautiful melody and a theme very relevant to our present day situation, this song strikes me as an instant classic.
All Of Me is another finely crafted song, this one more light hearted with a toe tapping rhythm driven by brushes on the snare. You can hear how Arienne and Charlie’s influences meld perfectly here, Arienne giving a performance that brought to mind Patsy Cline, with Charlie delivering a fine Wes Montgomery-style jazz progression.
Next comes the fabulous Bare, which was released as a single. It’s a dreamy jazz ballad that positively exudes sensuality, Arienne giving a smoky and sultry performance as sexy sax wails in the background. Once again, it shows Charlie’s and Arienne’s gift for writing consistently superb songs that recall a golden age of music from when the music really mattered. Their deep love and desire for each other gives this track an erotic power that will have couples round the world feeling amorous.
Dysania is another delightfully languid and sensuous ballad that perfectly reflects the meaning of the title (dysania is a chronic feeling of not wanting to get out of bed!). With an excellent arrangement based around subtle, lush strings and exquisite guitar work from Charlie, it provides the musical bedrock for a delicate vocal performance from Arienne. The stacked backing harmonies provide the ideal contrast to Arienne’s performance which exudes seductive, “come hither” charm.
Solitude is quite the contrast, a deeply melancholy ballad as the title suggests. Arienne sings with a voice full of feeling as she depicts herself at a low ebb: “I sit in my chair filled with despair, there’s no one could be so sad with gloom everywhere….”. After several songs of blissful romantic joy, this sad song is all the more powerful and shows the darker side of life that we all encounter at some point.
Autumn Leaves opens with a fabulous descending guitar run, the music maintaining the bittersweet melancholy of Solitude. “Since you went away, the days grow long…but I miss you most of all, darling, when leaves start to fall…” sings Arienne wearily. The music then switches to a fast paced Django Reinhardt style section featuring a magnificent flute solo from their high school son Ciaran, who impressively improvised the solo (and has his own EP coming out soon). It then returns to its bluesy, moody vibe until the end which lands on an unexpected major chord, giving a glimpse of hope.
Next comes a most unexpected but refreshing cover version of No One Knows, originally by heavy rock band Queens Of The Stone Age. Charlie must have noticed the jazz influence on the song’s chord progression and realised it would work in their particular style. This version really brings out the musicality of the song and works well within the context of the album.
Beauty (for Arienne) follows, a gorgeous instrumental that allows Charlie’s gifts as a guitarist to take the spotlight. It’s another wonderful composition that evokes his deep feelings for his beloved Arienne, every note played on his acoustic guitar conveying deep emotion.
The album concludes (aside from bonus tracks) with Montero (Call Me By Your Name). This is a very up to date cover of a track originally by Lil Nas X. It shows they certainly have their finger on the musical pulse as this track was only released in 2021. Again, although the original is a hip hop track, this version works well with an arrangement full of evocative, warm brass and strings and a distinct Mariachi vibe.
Overall, this is a real gem of an album by a rather special musical duo. The Greatest Show is a superb collection of sophisticated songs that range from the romantic and sensual to the political. Their natural musical chemistry is self-evident and they cover the whole range of the human condition across the course of the album. Bringing back the great music styles of the past with lyrics relatable to our world as it is today, Arienne hearts Charlie have truly struck artistic gold and deserve to become hugely successful.
jac0b is the artistic moniker of Jacob Hallsten, an EDM writer/producer hailing from Sweden. His music is specifically in the Big Room/Progressive House genres and he has already enjoyed success with his previous releases. In 2018, he released his debut singles Vibe and I Don’t Mind, the latter generating close to a million streams on Spotify, with Vibe also a great streaming success story.
He now returns in 2021 with his latest track, Falling, which has already generated nearly 200k streams. It’s a big sounding Calvin Harris-style house track featuring a fine female vocalist. It follows the standard template for an EDM track, but it becomes immediately apparent that jac0b does this style with great panache and a style of his own.
Opening with a pumping four to the floor kick, it builds up nicely then drops down for the verse, just piano and vocal. The lead vocals are produced to perfection and every section has its own catchy melodic hook. This time the build leads to an anthemic section with a huge sounding synth riff. This verse/build/riff section repeats then it returns to the simple kick pattern with which it began whilst a Giorgio Moroder-style synth arpeggio lays low in the mix, giving the track energy and momentum to the very end.
Overall, this is a classy EDM track from a writer/producer who has already experienced success. With flawless production, a first rate female lead vocal and an instantly memorable synth hook, Falling has all the makings of a massive dance hit both in the clubs and on the streaming sites where tracks like this break first. The future is looking bright for jac0b.
Matthew Schultz is a multi-instrumentalist, producer, singer and performer who started out playing guitar in Chris Daughtry’s first band. He has already made a strong impact on the music industry with his previous releases. His first single, Money or Me, was produced by Armando Guarnera and earned him a nomination at the 2013 EOTM Awards, as well as one for best new male artist. He followed this up with Crazy Heart (ft. Alessia Guarnera) in 2014, then in 2015 he released We Own The Night (feat. Jim Jones).
2018 saw a plethora of successful releases for Matthew Schultz. In January, he released the single Promise For Keeps, following up with a version featuring Jamaican reggae singer Gyptian and an Electric Bodega remix in the following months.
That remix has accumulated a million plays on Spotify and the track became part of a viral craze on Instagram (#promiseforkeeps), featuring some of the biggest stars from NBC hit show World of Dance. Also hugely popular was another single, All Night Long, featuring Gyptian and Rico Tayla and Somewhere Far, which has racked up an enormous 8 million streams.
It was featured on Spotify’s Editorials Chill Hits, Brand New Chill, Wachenende, Pop Relax, Slo Down, No Stress and went Viral 50 in 8 countries as well as charting on Music Week and Itunes Electronic Charts. His last release, Turn Me Up (ft. Gyptian) has accumulated over one million streams and featured on Matchbox Indie Club Hits Volume 1 – Essential Commercial Pop Club.
This latest release, One Wok (ft. Zolo), is a laid-back dancehall track in the vein of artists like Tory Lanez, Kranium, Skillibeng and Major Lazer. It starts out with a languid but very catchy refrain from Zolo over a four chord synth progression, deep dub bass and simple but effective percussion. It then switches to Matthew’s fine lead vocals on the verse, which works as a nice contrast to Zolo’s slick rapping.
With a syncopated, lilting rhythm guaranteed to get hips swaying on the dance floor, the track builds to the irresistible title hook: “I one wok for you….”. Lyrically, it’s about desiring someone so much that you’re prepared to put in the hard yards to get them.
The words to the second verse from Schultz are decidedly sensual and designed to get dancing couples feeling amorous: “Baby girl, talk that talk, you’re smooth like wine, girl, my hands on your waist while looking in your eye….”. The track closes out with the infectious title refrain, the top notch production full of cool sound effects that add to the ear candy.
Overall, this is another great dancehall anthem perfect for the late summer. Following on from several hugely successful tracks is not easy but Matthew Schultz and his featured guest artist Zolo have created another banger that will undoubtedly slay on the dance floor and will work for commercial radio too. Schultz has a definite talent for producing summer smashes that sound good all year round and One Wok is yet another.
Sir Magnus is an award winning Pop/EDM artist and songwriter, originally born in Syracuse but now based in Las Vegas. After over a decade being successful in the corporate world he decided something was missing from his life and that was music, his first love. He made the bold decision to relocate to Las Vegas and began his musical career. He’s since had a lot of success with releases including Lips, Grand Central Station and The Decree EP, amongst others. This led to him winning a SAMMY award and he has become a leading voice in the black artistic community.
This EP, The Infinity Cove Sessions: Overture, consists of six tracks (plus a remix of the track Fear) and breaks out of the blocks strongly with what could be considered the title track, Infinity. It’s a vibrant, superbly crafted EDM/Pop track with a decidedly futuristic sound and production style. Opening with a haunting and evocative synth intro, Sir Magnus delivers the captivating verse in octaves. He has a strong, soulful voice with an emotive edge that gives his music an added depth and, most importantly, a gift for writing great melodic hooks.
Infinity is convincing proof of this, launching into an instantly memorable and catchy chorus bolstered by a massive beat. Lyrically it captures the passion of infatuation in simple but very effective terms: “This is infinity, baby…keep rushing in…”. With its radio friendly sound and killer hook, it’s a natural choice as a lead single.
Next comes the hypnotic futurepop of Armor, where his EDM influence comes to the fore. Based around a pulsing “four to the floor” kick, Sir Magnus delivers another superb lead vocal. Lyrically, it challenges the traditional view of a man being unemotional and distant, advocating for a more open and vulnerable approach as captured by the title hook: “I will take my armor off”. Again, it’s a clever fusion of sophisticated pop with the synth euphoria of modern dance music.
Silver Magic Jesus is a very interesting track, starting out with just acoustic guitar and vocal. It captures the inner conflict of someone with a strong religious faith having “fallen from grace” with a carnal experience. This moral and spiritual conflict is depicted in lines like: “I feel so guilty but I feel so beautiful, the way you work me, you’re like an archangel…”. From the midway point, the music develops in an unexpected way, with a strong influence of dubstep in the Skrillex-style sawtooth synths and rapid fire bass drum patterns. An excellent track highlighting the complex relationship between sexuality and faith.
The following 5k Shuffle is another example of how Sir Magnus deftly blends memorable pop melodies with the entertaining infectious energy of an EDM track. With a fantastic vocal melody that brought to mind vintage Michael Jackson from the 70’s, this then merged into the expected format of an EDM track with its rises and drops. Lyrically, it’s a light hearted song about the need to escape with a little hedonism now and then. Another gem of a track.
Imagination Brilliance Sequence is an interesting instrumental interlude that shows his strength as a composer. Clocking in at two minutes, it makes a strong impression with strident strings and then a swirl of intricate synths.
This is followed by the brilliant Prism, which acts as the perfect showcase for his affecting vocal style. Singing in his upper register, his vulnerability shows though in the understated but very memorable chorus hook: “I want to diffuse your light like a prism, I want to shield my eyes when you’re like this”. Starting out like an emotive pop ballad, it builds into a euphoric EDM anthem with Giorgio Moroder-esque synths and is yet another stand out track. The final track is a remix of another fine track, Fear, which originally featured on another release, Tales Of A Darker Shadow.
Overall, this is a first rate EP from a charismatic and uber talented singer and songwriter. Similar to an artist like The Weeknd, Sir Magnus has an ability to combine songwriting sophistication and musicality with the addictive hooks and sounds of EDM. With award winning success under his belt, it’s about time Sir Magnus is recognised as a major talent and goes global.
The genesis of Jet Stream began back in 2016, when best friends Joe Molnar (vocals/guitar) and Saurav Sridhar (bass/drums) played a high school talent contest. They found an instant musical synergy based on their similar tastes which revolved around rock and pop. Fast forward to the 2020 pandemic, and the two friends suddenly had a lot of time to explore their creative ideas. They worked with various talented producers around the world via online collaboration and ,in 2020, have begun releasing the fruits of their labours with The EP. In 2021, they’ve followed up with Only You and Electric (Acoustic).
This track, Strawberry Moon, perfectly showcases their unique style of rock-pop and features the guest vocals of Katrinus. After an intro of piano, acoustic guitar and subtle harmonies, Katrinus’ strong and radio friendly voice takes the first verse. The arrangement builds cleverly, starting out with funky guitar and fingerclicks before a beefy full time beat kicks in.
It builds to the anthemic chorus sung by Joe Molnar, which provides an effective contrast. The lyrics are romantic in tone without being trite: “Someday, I wanna go after all those dreams you couldn’t capture and as long as we stay on our little pasture, a strawberry moon will watch over us tonight”. Interestingly, there is an equally catchy after-chorus section and this kind of songwriting sophistication is another strength of Jet Stream. The rest of the track maintains its contrasting mixture of male and female lead vocals with clever use of dynamics.
Overall, Strawberry Moon is an excellent pop rock track that fuses the pop punk/rock of bands like Hoobastank, Blink 182 and Fall Out Boy with a mainstream pop production style. Katrinus makes a fine guest appearance and delivers first rate lead vocals, equally matched by Jet Stream to create a song perfect for radio with a wide ranging appeal. The future is bright for Jet Stream with more of this winning formula.
Cole Parrish is an American female acoustic singer songwriter who has been releasing music for over a decade. Her declared aim in making music is essentially spiritual, hoping to make music that soothes the soul and sees her vocation as “a music quest of love and intent, to find the ears who need the songs most.” She released her debut EP back in 2011, the four track Modern Day Sway. She followed this with singles including Find A Way in 2012, Step By Step in 2014 and There in 2015, accumulating a large fan base along the way.
This latest single, Stand Aside, is her first release for several years and is a succinct but very well crafted acoustic ballad. Clocking in at under two minutes, it captures the listener from the start with a strident, strummed four chord progression. Cole’s lilting and distinctive voice then enters, bringing to mind artists like Lisa Hannigan and Sarah McLachlan.
The song is about someone struggling to cope with their demons and suggesting they let themselves be helped: “You aren’t so good at solving problems, trying to do so on your own...”. It leads to the simple but instantly memorable refrain, “So let go, take hold of what you’ve got and let go....”.
In the concise second verse she makes it clear she’s not going to be their saviour: “Thank god I’m not the one who solves them, I am just a conduit…”. The song then closes out with the title hook, which is unusual. but works perfectly.
Overall, this is an exquisitely crafted and performed acoustic ballad by a gifted singer and songwriter. It’s the work of an artist who has fully honed their style and the result is a poignant and moving song that has huge commercial potential owing to its relatability and radio friendly sound. Cole Parrish is a name you might well be hearing a lot more of.
The Gangsta Rabbi, a.k.a. The King Of Jewish Punk, is the moniker of the multi-instrumentalist, singer/songwriter, composer and producer Steve Lieberman. He was born in Brooklyn, New York to a working class Jewish family and now resides in Freeport. Perhaps more than most artists, his work needs to be understood in the full context of his life.
He has been considered an ‘outsider artist’, partly attributed to his lifelong struggle with bipolar disorder which began for him at the age of just eleven. He has been releasing studio albums since 2002 and has now released over thirty, along with live albums and countless cassettes. He has shared the stage with Weezer, Andrew WK, Glassjaw, Ryan Dunn and The Misfits, but had to retire from performing in 2011 owing to having to battle an advanced form of leukaemia, returning briefly to the stage in 2016.
In 2018, he was admitted into a hospice and remarkably has carried on creating, producing his most challenging works including completely covering Jethro Tull’s Thick As A Brick (a major influence) and thrash metal versions of the British Opera, The H.M.S. Pinafore and Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture. In 2019, he released his 3 hour magnum opus, Symphonie-Thrash Du Professeur Juif Rebelle.
More recently, the Rabbi has now entered the Guinness Book Of Records for the world’s longest composition, his 33 hour magnum opus Noise Militia #38/76! You can read my review of this here and also a review of the overture to this piece which he released in 2020 (read here).
This latest release is a radical avant grade/punk rock reworking of two well known songs melded together into a medley. The two songs covered are Hey Jane Mansfield Superstar! by Sigue Sigue Sputnik and For You by Bruce Springsteen, written early in his career.
As with all of the Rabbi’s music, it has a ferocious energy which he sustains from start to finish. It begins in a blaze of pounding drums, raucous electric guitar and the inimitable fusion of layered classical instrumentation that makes the Rabbi’s sound so completely unique.
Whereas much of the Rabbi’s music is instrumental, these cover versions call for vocals which he delivers with total conviction. The Rabbi’s vocal style is typically idiosyncratic, overloaded with distortion and set back in the mix so that it becomes a seamless part of the sonic melange.
As with other avant garde artists of his ilk such as Captain Beefheart, the potency of the music is in how he combines the melodic with the dissonant and at times atonal, creating a fierce tension that keeps the listener gripped throughout. His version of the Sigue Sigue Sputnik Classic is a highly entertaining five minute rollercoaster ride which bleeds into his equally vibrant Springsteen cover .
This version of For You, from Springsteen’s debut album Greetings From Astbury Park, applies the Rabbi’s colossal wall of sound and contains another commanding vocal performance. Through the controlled chaos you can hear the Rabbi delivering The Boss’s urban poetry with vigour and aplomb. In truth, the passionate, surging momentum is notable for capturing something primal and vital, which much of Springsteen’s modern music lacks.
Overall, this is another exhilarating release from the Gangsta Rabbi, whose enthusiasm and creative energy remains utterly undimmed by his precarious personal health situation.
Taking on two alternative classics and reinventing them through his highly original artistic lens, this release actually serves as a perfect starting point for newcomers to his remarkable musical approach and sound. Hopefully, there’s plenty more to come.
Andrew Pinnock is a composer/musician and producer hailing from Rutland, UK. He has been playing keyboards for over 40 years having taught himself to play the Skater’s Waltz on the piano whilst visiting relatives in Canada, when he was just 11 years old. His music is instrumental and ambient in style and he regards his main musical influences as Jean Michel Jarre, Enigma, Mike Oldfield and Kebu, amongst others. He has been releasing music online for several years and built up a YouTube following in the process.
This track, Melodonia Pt. 4, is a four minute ambient instrumental which begins with a hazy swirl of evocative synths and sounds of nature. This sets the tranquil mood for the rest of the track, which develops with an intricate and nuanced piano melody. It starts out sounding rather bright, in a major key, before taking some unexpected but interesting harmonic detours. You can hear shades of other ambient composers like Brian Eno and later-period Mike Oldfield.
Towards the end, the music switches to a more haunting minor key, which compels the attention to the end and gives the composition another layer of sophistication. It returns to the major key and ends poignantly with only the piano melody remaining.
Overall, this is an impressive ambient instrumental from a fine English composer and musician. His sophisticated style has clearly been developed over a long period, incorporating numerous influences and combining them to forge a unique style of his own. Hopefully, his music will become more well known to other fans of ambient and instrumental music both in his native Britain and worldwide.
Darrin Lee Jr. is an R&B singer/songwriter and also the founder and CEO of Carter’s Music Group. He grew up in Louisville, KY. He began singing at an early age, and was given a rich musical education by his grandmother who introduced him to legendary blues artists like Bobby Bland and B.B. King. As his musical palette expanded he got into 90’s R&B like Boyz II Men, Aaliyah and Brian McKnight. This provided the inspiration to try writing songs himself and this music is a big influence on his current material. By 16, he was using every penny he had to record his songs in a studio and everything has developed from there.
This debut EP, PUSH, consists of six tracks all in the R&B genre. The tracks blend contemporary R&B with the radio friendly production style of more modern artists like Usher and Chris Brown.
Please Don’t Go is an emotional plea to a lover set to a languid R&B groove, and features some stellar production which gives it a cutting edge, modern vibe perfect for radio. Darrin gives a passionate yet perfectly controlled vocal performance and the sparse but effective musical backing really allows his vocals to shine. The lyrics are brutally honest and pointed: “I know I ain’t perfect, ask yourself is it worth it?” before pleading with his lover to stay on the memorable chorus.
Change My Ways has a very cool, almost psychedelic intro consisting of backwards guitar before breaking into a funky R&B track driven by gorgeous, warm bass which works as the perfect contrast to Darrin’s versatile high end vocals. Lyrically, it’s an honest expression of turning a new leaf and raising your game, ditching bad habits and adopting personal responsibility: “No more late nights, no more crying about me….cos life is a lesson, you don’t pay attention then you’re gonna miss it, you better get off these streets and raise your family or you’re gonna regret it.”
Just Wanna Dance is a sultry and slinky track with smoky electric piano setting the vibe, before a crisp beat kicks in. Darrin’s nuanced vocals really stand out on this track, capturing the sensual mood of the song’s theme. It’s music for the bedroom or to set the tone for a romantic evening with a lover and the refrain “I just wanna dance” latches in the memory upon the first listen and acts as the track’s main hook. A definite contender as a single release.
About Us (ft. T-Real) has already been released as his debut single and it’s easy to see why. An upbeat R&B track with a hip swinging groove, it boasts a super catchy title hook and a seductive lead vocal from Darrin. His voice is complemented perfectly by featured guest, hip hop artist T-Real, who really helps give the track personality and flavour. It’s a song about ignoring what others think about you and focusing on love. Ideal for radio, this was an understandable choice for a debut release.
Broken Hearted has also been released as a single and shows the more vulnerable and sensitive side to Darrin’s songwriting. It finds him in a low place emotionally and his falsetto vocals are superb in the way they convey his feelings. Echo-drenched guitar creates a melancholy soundscape on the verse then a kick and finger click provides the rhythmic momentum on the fine chorus. Great track.
Tell Me How You Feel is more like a hip hop track, with confident yet laid back rapping on the verses which works well in contrast with the sing choruses. The languid beat and chorus refrain have a mesmeric effect and the production is once again first rate and highly innovative. This would make an excellent choice as a further single release from the EP as it sounds very much like a hit to these ears.
Overall, PUSH is a fantastic R&B/hip hop EP from a highly gifted singer and songwriter. Darrin Lee Jr. has spent years honing his craft and so has already fully matured and developed as an artist. The EP stands out for its consistent quality throughout and truly every track would stand up as a potential radio release. Darrin Lee Jr. could very well become the next Usher or Drake.