SINGLE REVIEW: Eyes on You by Danjul

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Danjul is a singer/songwriter and performer based in Los Angeles. He has been developing his music since 2008, when he started searching for producers to collaborate with. In 2010 he started working with Matthew A. Nelson, who intuitively understood him as an artist. He cites his influences on his work as Michael Jackson, Missy Elliott,  Brandy, Justin Timberlake and Prince. In 2018, he released his debut album Origin of Times to great critical and public acclaim (you can read my highly favourable review here).

This track, Eyes on You, is an upbeat pop/EDM song that showcases the more commercial side of Danjul’s complex artistic persona. Starting with a simple guitar melody amidst a haze of futuristic production effects it builds in tension before exploding into the verse with an infectious dance beat.

Danjul’s distinctive lead vocals then take centre stage with a seductive vocal melody that captures the attention. The track is packed full of addictive melodic hooks from the verse refrain of “Don’t stop dreaming, move your body, lose your mind” to the euphoric title hook delivered in a high Justin Timberlake-style vocal register.

Danjul’s considerable vocal range comes to the fore and as the track progresses his voice is morphed through a range of cutting edge production techniques that gives it a decidedly modern and up to date sound. Aside from the track’s catchiness, the muscular beat and pulsing bassline is guaranteed to get people on the dancefloor and I can imagine this going down a storm in the clubs.

Overall, this is an excellent pop/EDM single from a versatile artist gifted with a fine voice for pop. Eyes on You is perfectly placed between pop and dance, so has the potential to be both a huge hit on radio and on the club scene. If there’s a track that could catapult Danjul into pop’s big league I’d be happy to put my money on this song. However, as long as he maintains this level of quality then major success is only a matter of time.

 

VERDICT: 9 out of 10 

Alex Faulkner

Listen here:

ALBUM REVIEW: Howard Herrick by Howard Herrick

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Howard Herrick is a songwriter and producer hailing from New Jersey. He has written music in many genres (just a few being pop, rock, jazz, blues and orchestral) both as a solo artist and as part of the group Minster Hill. He’s written and produced music for both film and theatre, including My One and Only, Vanishing on 7th Street, Very Good Girls, Nightlight and Peter Pan 360.

He’s also been Executive Music Producer on several film productions and written several label artists. Recently, he composed music for Shaquille O’ Neal’s video game Shaq-Fu: A Legend Reborn and is currently writing and producing music for the second series of American Beauty Star.

This eponymous solo album was entirely written and produced by Howard, who also performed (and engineered) most of the instruments, as well as mixing and mastering the music. He collaborates with various vocalists, both male and female. It consists of nine tracks and acts as an excellent showcase for his songwriting versatility and musical eclecticism.

The album starts with perhaps the most modern production, Hold My Hand. It’s a slinky pop/R&B track in a similar style to The Weeknd and mid-period Justin Timberlake.  The song is superbly crafted, highlighted by a memorable lead vocal performance, by a male singer gifted with a huge range and a powerful, distinctive falsetto.

He sings in the upper register of his voice throughout, over a simple but effective beat driven by a pulsing kick drum, along with piano and catchy synth riffs. Written in a minor key, it starts with the highly memorable chorus and lyrically deals with having faith in the strength of a relationship and facing the future without fear. Hold My Hand is an obvious choice as a single and sounds like it belongs at the top of the charts.

Show Me That One Again is a complete contrast, a poignant ballad consisting of just piano and a warm, intimate vocal. It’s a moving song about how the responsibilities of adulthood have dimmed the ebullience that the young have: “You say your owned now by some business-suited man…”.

The essence of the song is captured succinctly in the chorus: “Just remember for a little while, you once were young and had that smile, I haven’t seen it since I don’t know when, won’t you show me that one again?” Exquisitely crafted and sensitively performed, it harks back to the classic singer songwriters and confessional style of the 70’s.

Third track Go and Hear is another sharp contrast, opening in a blaze of heavy, low end electric chords and rich organ. It’s soon joined by a meaty backbeat and an edgier lead vocal that fits with the overall rock sound. It features a huge sounding chorus augmented by Queen-style stacked backing harmonies. It also features a fantastic guitar solo, bringing back the late 80’s commercial rock sound.

Behind Closed Doors recalls the 80’s again, but this time the synth pop sound which has recently come back into vogue through groups like Chvrches and The xx. This makes it one of the album’s most contemporary tracks and lyrically it is certainly the darkest, opening with the bleak lines: “I’ve fallen to the depths of despair, to the darkest of places, no one else is there….there are no familiar faces…”.

The emotional depth and honesty displayed here gives considerable power and weight to the music and shows real authenticity in terms of artistry. Starting with a guitar and bass figure, it gradually builds into an epic pop track that mirrors the gravity of the lyrics. The lead vocals are performed in different octaves, which gives it a distinctive, memorable sound. Around the three minute mark, the song breaks down to a poignant section where a ghostly sounding vocal portrays the dark emotional landscape that the song expresses.

The following New Heart is set at a similar tempo but much lighter in subject matter and musical vibe. It’s a soulful pop track with another compelling vocal performance, with use of falsetto once more on the title hook. A classy piece of pop songwriting and restores the generally upbeat mood of the rest of the album.

Sixth track Is Love Enough brought to mind the emotive style of early 70’s Todd Rundgren, but the musically colourful arrangement and unexpected chord changes made me think of one of pop’s most underrated songwriters, Jeff Lynne of E.L.O., as well as 80’s group Tears For Fears. Despite all these influences, Herrick stamps his own sonic identity aided by a particularly strong lead vocalist who delivers near the top of their  range. The numerous subtleties and details make for a piece of perfect pop that you’ll never grow tired of.

If I Fall Off The Next Step shows yet another side to Herrick’s songwriting, featuring a female lead vocalist. It’s a delicate, beautifully written acoustic ballad augmented by short bursts of Spanish guitar. Her crystalline singing voice along with with the finger-picked acoustic playing is reminiscent of Joni Mitchell, and the enchanting melody makes it one of the album’s finest tracks.

Nothing Lasts Forever returns to male lead vocals and also a return to the Todd Rundgren-esque sound and style of writing. This is a track where Herrick displays his breadth of harmonic and rhythmic range, with some unpredictable chord changes and subtle use of shifting rhythms and syncopations. There’s some wonderfully jazzy chords after the second chorus that takes the music to another level of sophistication.

The album finishes with another female sung track, Sad Plant. Despite its downbeat title it’s actually an upbeat pop track that recalls elements of Stevie Nicks, Like A Prayer-era Madonna and a more modern pop group like Haim. The song has a summery feelgood vibe and ends this extremely accomplished album on a satisfying high.

Overall, this album is a masterclass in songwriting across an eclectic range of styles and proves emphatically that Howard Herrick deserves to be known as one of the most proficient and versatile songwriters of this era. With the track Hold My Hand he has a dead cert hit with sufficient promotion and there’s several other tracks that would make fine singles. But what makes the album stand out is the musical and emotional range of the songs. Highly recommended.

VERDICT = 9.2 out of 10             

Alex Faulkner

Listen here:

 

Visit Howard’s official website HERE

 

 

ALBUM REVIEW: Fire by Project Rod Williams

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www.aug1stmusic.com

Project Rod Williams is an electro-dance pop studio ensemble which is the musical brainchild of songwriter/musician Rod Williams. Musically, it is a fusion of classic 70’s disco music like Giorgio Moroder and Donna Summer, 80’s synth pop such as Depeche Mode and Erasure and more modern pop artists like Justin Timberlake and Pharrell Williams. Rod has collaborated with lead vocalist Ben Dial on this album with additional vocals by Matt Williamson, Hannah Montwill, Nataly Andrade and Alex Silva.

The album, Fire, consists of eleven tracks (also featuring club mixes of nine of the songs) and has a conceptual theme. Half of the songs on the album are about enjoying the passion and seduction of nightlife and the other half are about the longing and pain often brought on by romantic relationships. The album is due for release on January 7th, 2019.

Opening track Let’s Get Out is the perfect representation of the Project Rod Williams sound and style. It grabs you from its opening bars with infectious percussion locking in with an alluring 70’s disco-style bassline. This is soon augmented by syncopated 80’s-esque synths before breaking into a full, very danceable beat that gets the toe tapping. The smooth lead vocals of Ben Dial enter the picture and his voice brings to mind cutting edge modern pop like Maroon 5 and the more recent work of Justin Timberlake. Alternate lines are layered with backing harmonies so that the music is constantly evolving and developing.

Thematically, it exemplifies the concept of the songs that celebrate living the good life, with the lyrics highlighting the appeal of escaping the daily grind by looking forward to Friday night and the weekend: “We work all week from nine to five, making money to live our lives…..”. The extremely catchy refrain captures this joyous feeling succinctly: “Leave our problems at the door, laugh, jump and scream, let our hearts be free…..”.

This is followed by an equally memorable chorus and Rod Williams shows his ability to make every part of the song a hook, a hallmark of the best pop songwriters. After the second chorus it enters an excellent breakdown section with a sophisticated vocal arrangement that brought to mind the finest Michael Jackson songs arranged and produced by Quincy Jones.

Second song Come On continues the lyrical theme but is musically quite different; smoky Rhodes and a more complex and unusual rhythmic pattern. There is a more rocky feel to the seductive and raunchy lead vocal performance, fused with Vince Clarke (from Erasure and one time member of Depeche Mode) style pulsing, futuristic-sounding synths. The descending vocal melody is fiendishly catchy, with an overt sexuality to the sultry lyrics: “I see you staring across the room, your eyes are saying what you want me to do….”. Great track.

Third song Hot To Trot returns to the more traditional dance rhythms of the first track but stands out for the addictiveness of the title hook and for featuring some very funky Nile Rodgers-esque high end electric guitar. Indeed, the way the song celebrates the hedonistic side of life (“We can be flirtatious, lose our minds and act outrageous…”) made me think of Rodgers’ classic group from the 1970’s, Chic. This infectious style is combined with low-end synths and piano lines with occasional stabs of synthetic brass to create a potent sonic concoction.

Next comes Fire, the title track of the album. It maintains the funk guitar sound of the previous song, but has a more modern EDM four-to-the-floor beat, at least to begin with. Vocally, the breathy falsetto style made me think of Prince and one of the dance classics of recent years, Get Lucky by Daft Punk ft. Pharell Williams. Once again, the title hook latches in the mind upon first listen and the use of female foreign spoken word vocals lends an exotic flavour. The falsetto lead vocals are contrasted by a section of low-end male vocals that adds to the song’s very sensual theme.

The following Invasion feels in ways a continuation but has a more rock vibe, with some low end lead guitar lines which work well with the swirling synths. The lead vocals are this time contrasted by certain lines being whispered, which adds a lot of atmosphere and encapsulates the power of seduction which is this tracks subject matter: “I can’t fight the way you hypnotize….invade my body, invade my soul…you’re taking over me, you’re in control….”.

After this, the album switches to the second aspect of the album’s theme, the pain that comes from love. Sixth song Take Cover has a much more emotional tone after the light hearted and sexually orientated earlier tracks. It’s a mid-paced synth pop epic in 6/8 time, with lyrics that are rather deep and poetic, about the tempestuous nature of romantic love: “The sky will thunder tonight, from lightning sparks my rage ignites, when flames of passion burn high you better find a place to hide…”. This kind of emotive synth pop is more reminiscent of 80’s groups like Soft Cell and The Human League.

You Were My Lady is the first truly traditional love ballad on the album (the only one not written by Rod Williams) and it’s a very well crafted one with a lilting vocal melody. It allows lead singer Ben Dial to perform in a more gentle and sensitive way, which he achieves with distinction. It’s a rather moving song about reflecting on happy times after a relationship has ended, then contrasted with the stark reality: “Now that house is empty, the music’s gone from the radio that used to play that song….”.

Bad Boys Don’t Cry returns to the more uptempo synth pop style whilst maintaining the lyrical theme of this half of the album. Musically, it has a real Giorgio Moroder vibe with rhythmic synths driving the song along. It’s about how men are not supposed to appear vulnerable or sad when going through heartbreak and contains yet another strong title hook. Ninth song Broken is rather more angry in its tone with some rather visceral lines: “Fake love you gave to me, filled my blood and clogged my veins…”.

Though the following I Say contains similarly downbeat and tormented lyrics, musically it is one the lightest moments, recalling the euphoric anthems of Erasure. The vocal melody is irresistible, providing another fine example of Williams’ melodic consistency and also features a superb synth section comprising several combined sounds.

The album ends on a rather melancholy but poignant note, with the heartfelt ballad Nobody Wants To Know, which features lead vocals from Matt Williamson. Matt powerfully conveys the troubled nature of the lyrics about not feeling supported by friends during dark times: “Can’t they see the tears I try to keep concealed?“. The music builds as the song progresses, with a sky-scraping string arrangement that closes the album on a musical high, even if the words are sad.

Overall, this is a modern pop album of a very high calibre that fuses the synth pop of the 80’s with the euphoric sound of 70’s disco, then brings it into the 21st century with cutting edge production. Aside from one track, Rod Williams has written, arranged and produced the whole thing which shows his artistic versatility. The album feels like a real labour of love and runs the gamut of emotions, from joy to despair. As if that’s not enough, the album comes with club mixes of nine of the songs, tailor made for the dancefloor. Put simply, Fire is an album laden with killer pop tracks of wide ranging appeal and has enormous commercial potential worldwide.

VERDICT = 9.1 out of 10

Alex Faulkner

 

Release date: 7th January, 2019

Listen to the album here:

Listen to the club mix of Come On:

 

SINGLE REVIEW: All Night by Grayson Word

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https://www.facebook.com/graysonwordmusic/

Grayson Word is a soul/RnB singer hailing from Nashville. Although only eighteen, this year he’s already released his first EP, Different Kind of Free, which was produced by Nathan Meckel at the Cowboy Jack Clement Studio in Nashville (Johnny Cash, U2, Louis Armstrong). Grayson regards his main influences as classic soul singers such as Marvin Gaye, Al Green and Stevie Wonder along with groups like Earth, Wind & Fire and The Rolling Stones.

This song, All Night, is a soul-infused pop track perhaps closest to the style of Justin Timberlake and Bruno Mars. Starting with mood-setting piano, it bursts into life with an infectious beat augmented by funky guitar and catchy vocal hooks from the start. On the verse, Grayson sings in his lower register with a smooth, distinctive voice not dissimilar to George Ezra. It builds swiftly to the falsetto chorus which lodges in the mind instantly.

On the second verse, we hear short bursts of Rhodes electric piano which adds to the soulful feel. After the second chorus a concise guitar solo gives a little more musicality and flavour before returning for one last chorus. Lyrically, it’s timeless fare about being blown away by a girl and wanting to spend time with her: “We can spin some Marvin Gaye and do it all again...”. Grayson’s vocal performance is superb and the flawless, slick production makes it perfect for radio.

Overall, this is a highly impressive soul-tinged pop track by a young artist mature beyond his years. With an impressive voice plus a natural charisma, his youth will only add to his commercial appeal and this song will work equally well on the radio as well as the dancefloor. He may already have the song that helps him break through to the big time, so he could well be a name you’ll hear plenty more of in the future.

 

VERDICT = 8.7 out of 10

Alex Faulkner

 

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

 

Listen here:

 

 

E.P. REVIEW: Evolution by EMBI

 

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https://www.facebook.com/Embi.Official/

EMBI, a.k.a. Michele Beneforti is a singer/songwriter and guitarist who was born in Tuscany, Italy, and currently based in Los Angeles. At 18, his band Hot Love Trio won competitions that allowed him to opening for members of The Doors and Robben Ford at national and international festivals. He then won a scholarship for the prestigious Berklee College of Music, earning a degree in performance, and a live performance of his song Highway featured on their official YouTube channel to great acclaim.

As EMBI, he has performed in Boston for 4 years and performed a set of entirely original material at Salem Jazz Festival. Simply as a guitarist alone he has made a strong impact, performing with the original all-female band of Beyonce and Gospel artists Phil Thompson, Freda Battle and Dorothy Norwood. This EP, Evolution, is his debut and consists of five tracks.

The aforementioned Highway opens the EP, and its musical sophistication is immediately apparent. Musically, it is a cutting edge blend of soul, RnB, pop and electronica, with a distinct jazziness to the complex harmonic progression. Starting with filtered synths, clean guitar and his distinctive, smooth lead vocals, it soon explodes into a huge chorus with a pulsing EDM beat.

It manages to be refreshingly different in its sound yet would not feel out of place on the radio, alongside Sam Smith and Justin Timberlake. His remarkably mellifluous lead guitar skills makes a few cameos, but wisely, he keeps this subtle in the mix where it is effective. A superb piece of modern pop, and the most obvious choice as a single.

Second track Over and Over (ft. Spnda) is a laid back but very catchy piece of soul/funk, with some very jazzy overtones. It brought to mind the Stevie Wonder- influenced Jamiroquai and EMBI’s vocal delivery also brought to mind 80’s soul/pop legend Maxi Priest. Hip-hop artist Spnda makes a brief but effective appearance with a succinct rap towards the end, lending the music an extra level of modernity and variety.

Brooklyn Lights is a nice contrast, a poignant song that shows his more sensitive and lyrical side, as shown on the excellent chorus: “Take me back where my sun will shine, from the city heart to the Brooklyn lights….”. It’s a track that’s clearly from the heart about needing a place to belong, a timeless theme of the human condition. He allows himself a brief display of guitar virtuosity towards the end, with some lovely melodic lines.

Fantasy World is another change of pace, this one a serious ‘state of the nation’ message with some powerful heavy rock dynamics: “The dark cloud is rising with violence, we shouldn’t be colour blind to live in peace…”. It initially develops into a powerful blues track that displays another side to his musical range, then changes gear halfway through, morphing into a funk section, then a spine-tingling spoken word passage that gives the track a striking emotional depth.

Cocoa Eyes, the final track, is a funky instrumental that allows him to express his musicality to the max, which, to his cred it, he has reined in on previous tracks. It has a smoky vibe, gradually building from an Albatross-style languid mood to a tight funk groove where his entire band get to enjoy a blow-out, whilst still keeping it controlled. A great way to finish the EP.

Overall, this is a fantastic debut from a very gifted songwriter and musician. He has a fine singing voice and the songs are well crafted and produced in a manner perfect for commercial radio. He manages to balance this with also forging his own sonic signature, which is no mean feat. It certainly won’t hurt also being a stellar guitarist, but it’s the voice and the songs that should ensure that EMBI becomes a huge success, and I expect this EP to kick start a meteoric rise.

 

VERDICT =  9 out of 10

Alex Faulkner

Listen here:

SINGLE REVIEW: Miss Perfect by JK Theta

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https://www.jktheta.com/

JK Theta is an R&B/pop singer and songwriter hailing from the Tampa Bay area in the United States. He was born in Mountain View, CA, and has been singing since childhood but turned professional aged nineteen. For two years, he was performing with a group called Decades Rewind but decided to forge a solo career. He has been busy working on his debut album #MakeADifference, from which this song is taken.

Miss Perfect is an upbeat piece of modern pop that shows aspects of his many influences from pop solo greats like Michael Jackson, Prince and Bruno Mars to vocal groups like Boys II Men and Maroon 5. More specifically, this song brings to mind Off The Wall-era Michael Jackson and the slick, highly musical sound of Bruno Mars. It melds infectious Nile Rodgers- esque funk guitar, a bouncy bassline and tasteful use of brass at certain points in the track to great effect.

JK instantly grabs your attention with a superb vocal performance that lies halfway between Bruno Mars and Justin Timberlake, stylistically. The vocal melody is irresistibly catchy throughout, especially the instantly memorable chorus. His lead vocals are aided by tight, perfectly executed backing vocals that shows the influence of his favourite harmony groups. Lyrically, it’s about coming across the girl of your dreams, a subject many will relate to.

Overall, this is a fantastic single from a highly talented singer and songwriter who has taken the best aspects of his many influences and formed his own unique style. While it has a very modern pop sound, the use of authentic musicianship gives it an old school vibe that means it will appeal to pop fans of all ages, right across the board. To put it simply, Miss Perfect deserves to become a worldwide hit. With further music of this quality, JK Theta is surely destined for the top.

VERDICT: 9.3 out of 10

Alex Faulkner

Listen here:

SINGLE REVIEW: Never Wanna Leave by Xavier Toscano

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Xavier Toscano is a singer/performer and pop artist hailing from San Jose, CA. He’s been singing since 2008 and has accumulated a large fanbase on social media. His music is most definitely in the pop category, and he cites his influences as Justin Timberlake, Maroon 5, Rihanna and Madonna. He’s an independent artist and releases his music through his own record label, CBM.

This song, Never Gonna Leave, is an upbeat dance-pop track with a strongly commercial sound. Starting with EDM-style synth riffs, a pulsing 2/4 dance beat kicks in with a buzzing synth bass. Xavier enters with an instantly catchy vocal melody which builds to an equally memorable chorus, aided by a swirling synth arpeggio that adds rhythmic energy and momentum.

The production and overall style/sound is reminiscent of the hi-NRG pop that dominated the charts in the late 80’s, when Stock, Aitken and Waterman ruled the pop roost. Xavier has a natural voice for up tempo pop and delivers a fine performance here. Lyrically, it is fairly standard fare and not the focal point in this genre.

Overall, this is a well produced and performed dance-pop fusion that is perfect for both mainstream radio and the dancefloor. No doubt it is already a big success with his existing fanbase, and I can see him reaching an even bigger audience as Never Gonna Leave has appeal right across the board.

VERDICT: 7.8 out of 10 

Alex Faulkner

Listen here:

ALBUM REVIEW: Origin of Times by Danjul

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Danjul is a singer songwriter and performer based in Los Angeles. He has been developing his music since 2008, when he started searching for producers to collaborate with. In 2010 he started working with Matthew A. Nelson, who intuitively understood him as an artist. He cites his influences as Michael Jackson, Brandy and Justin Timberlake, and I can also detect the influence of Prince in his work. However, Danjul has created his own unique style/sound during the three years he’s taken writing and producing his debut album Origin of Times. It’s a musically ambitious piece of work that consists of eight diverse tracks.

It begins with an atmospheric, minute-long spoken word instrumental that sets the tone for the whole album. Over echo-drenched piano and choral synths, Danjul lays his heart bare immediately, stating, “My life began surrounded by darkness, yet I’m still determined to find my light…..therefore, I share with you my greatest sacrifices……”. It’s a gripping and powerful way to begin an album.

City of Chaos, the second track, is a remarkable piece of songwriting and production. A fusion of electronica, rock, dance and RnB, it’s the musical equivalent of a rollercoaster ride. It’s the first taste of Danjul’s versatile vocals, leaping from a verse delivered in a low range to the heights of his falsetto. Yet it all seems effortless. The track is packed with hooks, the catchiest being the “Hell yeah!” refrain, augmented by gritty low electric guitars. It’s the most futuristic sounding song I’ve heard for a while.

Third song Chapter of Love has already been released as a single/lead track and understandably so. It’s an emotive RnB ballad that showcases Danjul’s extraordinary vocal talents. The music has a stately grandeur and classiness that brought to mind both Prince and Michael Jackson in their pomp, especially the rich falsetto harmonies. With its instantly memorable chorus, it was an obvious choice for a single and could be the song that breaks him into the big league.

Fourth track The Path is unique as a sonic experience as well, another fusion of dance and RnB with an almost cinematic vibe from the superb production. It’s a heady cocktail of synth strings, dreamy lead guitar and inventive percussion. There’s a slight Latin feel to the intoxicating and exotic rhythms that brought to mind the infectious tribal pop of Shakira. The central hook is simple but hugely effective, a spiritual call-to-arms: “Come on, follow me….walk the path…“.

Story of She is another slice of perfectly executed pop, from the inventive and nuanced arrangement to the vocal performance which is restrained yet emotive. It is one of the more mainstream moments on the album, which provides some stable ground for the more experimental and daring songs that surround it. Both The Path and Story of She are potential singles and perfect for radio.

Magic Carpet is another fantastic track with an exotic sounding intro. It launches into a hypnotic 2/4 beat and sounds like The Weeknd in a really blissed out mood. The title hook has a mesmeric quality that increases with every listen.

Tower is perhaps the deepest song on the album, seemingly about the struggles and difficulties of completing this artistic project. Starting with a minute of strings and swirling synths, Danjul confesses, “It took me years to build this, my blood and tears carved it…”. It builds gradually to a cathartic and hugely uplifting sonic tour de force.

Final track Madhatter’s View is a fine way to finish; another Prince-influenced piece of RnB that sounds like its been sent back to 2018 from twenty years into the future! The electronic grittiness brought to mind the cutting-edge production style of Taylor Swift’s recent Reputation album. Aptly, it finishes in a flourish of strings and harps to complete the journey.

Overall, this is a dazzling debut album from a unique artist. His vocal talents alone would guarantee a certain level of success as a singer, but his original and versatile music should help to catapult him into similar realms of success that his musical heroes achieved. Credit should also go to his visionary producer and collaborator Matthew A. Nelson, who’s produced this with his finger on the pulse. It’s a strange quirk of nature that some people simply seem born to be stars, and, on this evidence, Danjul could well be the next big thing in the world of pop.

 

VERDICT: 9.1 out of 10 

Alex Faulkner

Listen here: