SINGLE REVIEW: Terror in Disguise by Savannah Nider

Savannah Nider is a singer and songwriter born and raised in Pawnee City, Nebraska. She was already getting music industry attention for her singing at just fifteen, which led to working with people who were involved in the careers of Grammy winning artists including Collin Raye and others.

After moving to Nashville in 2019, she met a well known songwriter, Joie Scott, which led to her first co-written song. She was then introduced to producer Bryan Cole, who produced her latest EP. Her song We Are Us reached no.1 on the ITunes country singles chart in South Africa.

This song, Terror in Disguise, is an upbeat and highly emotive pop/rock track produced to perfection by Bryan Cole. It represents something of a departure for Savannah, who had previously been solidly in the country genre. But to her credit, she’s pushed herself out of her comfort zone in order to do something a little more musically daring.

Beginning with a haunting piano melody over an insistent guitar figure, Savannah’s expressive and instantly distinctive lead vocals then take centre stage in a compelling way. The verse conveys that a relationship has gone awry, as a partner turns out to be not the person they thought they knew (“maybe that’s why it’s a dangerous disaster…”).

The rhythmic descending melodies on the verse are contrasted by the cathartic chorus, which finds Savannah in her upper register augmented by beefy electric guitars. Musically, it brought to mind Shania Twain, the Stevie Nicks songs of Fleetwood Mac, with more modern artists like Taylor Swift, Miley Cyrus and Sia. More remotely, it reminded me of great 80’s female pop like Belinda Carlisle and Alannah Myles.

The chorus succinctly captures the strong emotion behind the song: “As it all falls down we just watch it from the ground...”. The second verse is just as emotionally visceral: “You’re a tragic masquerade….”. The genuine melancholy of the depicted situation is perfectly counterpointed by the relatively upbeat energy of the music, with every musician playing with passion and conviction. The final choruses allow Savannah to express the considerable power and range of her voice, leaving the listener on a high.

Overall, this is a superb follow up song to the hugely successful We Are Us. This song constitutes a brave leap into uncharted artistic territory for Savannah, but she pulls it off owing to her versatile voice and deeply emotive performance. If she can maintain this high standard, the sky’s the limit for Savannah Nider.

 

VERDICT = 9.1 out of 10

Alex Faulkner

 

Listen here:

 

SINGLE REVIEW: Do What You Gotta Do by Dejhare

Dejhare (pronounced Dei-Jhar) is a singer and songwriter based in San Jose, California. She first released an eponymous six-track E.P. in the autumn of 2018, which was popular. Dejhare then released her debut full length album, Unbreakable, in 2019. This brought her more acclaim and expanded her fanbase. 2020 has seen the release of D7, a seven track experimental album that featured reinterpretations and dance versions of seven songs from Unbreakable.

This latest track, Do What You Gotta Do, is specifically about the COVID-19 pandemic which has affected all our lives so much worldwide. It’s immediately become one of her most popular tracks, and it’s easy to see why. Musically, it’s a very catchy pop/dance track whilst lyrically it’s a song that almost everyone will be able to relate to, as we learn to grapple with the “new normal”.

Starting with pulsing, upbeat synths, when Dejhare’s instantly distinctive vocal sound enters it melds with the EDM production style perfectly. Her sound brings to mind the anthemic, euphoric Europop of Lady Gaga, combining her exotic vibe with a style all of her own. The verses depict how everything we experienced as regular life has been turned upside down (“No more dining out…“).

It’s the chorus where this song really shines, lyrically combining personal responsibility with not losing your essential humanity and empathy: “Wear your mask but never close your heart!” This is a vital and inspiring message in a time where crucial efforts to save lives also mean social isolation and an unnatural distance between us all. Musically, the hook is instantly infectious and the middle “bridge” section provides another memorable refrain: “The new normal, we have to adopt, the new normal, we have to evolve..do what you gotta do.”

Overall, Do What You Gotta Do feels like Dejhare’s most important release so far and, musically, captures her at the height of her powers. Mainstream pop needs to reflect the highly serious nature of the times we’re living in, whilst retaining the qualities of timeless great songwriting. Dejhare has managed to achieve this difficult balancing act and it deserves to be her breakthrough track to a huge worldwide audience.

VERDICT = 9 out of 10

Alex Faulkner

YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/c/Dejhare
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/dejharemusic/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Dejhare
Twitter: https://twitter.com/dejhare

Listen here:

ARTIST INTERVIEW: Jesse Neo

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Jesse Neo is a British-Australian singer, songwriter, DJ and producer. Now twenty, he began his musical journey at seven years old, starting out with piano, violin and vocal lessons. Within only months, he was composing original music and by eighteen he had written over 100 songs. His music is essentially a unique fusion of pop, EDM, hip hop and new wave and he also runs a site containing fully produced backing tracks – http://www.gemtracks.com

I got to ask him a few questions about his music and his views.

1. Your music is an original blend of several genres, who do you regard as your major musical inspirations and do you have an all time favourite artist or group?

I grew up playing classical music, so at the heart of all my inspirations are composers like Mozart, Beethoven, Bach and Chopin. As I got into high school, I slowly got drawn more into the pop and electronic world, and became very inspired by artists like Lady Gaga, Michael Jackson and Britney Spears. I remember attending festivals and raves and falling in love with David Guetta, Martin Garrix and Steve Aoki. I think they have all played a role in shaping my sound.

2. Some are your lyrics, such as the song Sex Magic, are very exotic, intriguing and unusual for mainstream pop. What do you consider your influences for lyric writing?

I try to make my lyrics as different, experimentative, symbolic and deep as possible, while making them catchy, easy to remember and almost reductive. This gives listeners that are only in it for the hype to enjoy themselves, and those that are more aware of reading in between the lines to truly open their third eyes as they decipher my lyrics.

3. The internet has undoubtedly changed the traditional music industry, and now streaming is the main medium that people use to listen to music. While this means artists don’t make much money from sales anymore, streaming allows worldwide exposure. What are your views on this development, and is it good or bad for you as an artist?

I think online streaming music is actually a good thing. Based on research that I have garnered from several entertainment lawyers, I learned that 20 years ago, most music fans were under 30 years old. As they got older, their spending on music began to diminish. However due to online streaming, even grandfathers and grandmothers today are spending money on music. This means the amount of money spent on music is actually increasing! This gives more chances for new artists to expose themselves, and fans to access more genres.

4. This year, you launched your excellent website Gemtracks (gemtracks.com) Can you explain what led up to the founding of the site and what it offers?

Yes, Gemtracks is actually a marketplace that I created where singers and rappers can buy beats for their songs. It may come as no surprise that the majority of my income that I have been making in the past few years were not from my music alone but writing music for other people. So one day I decided to start an online store where I could sell the copyrights of my songs for other artists to use. This eventually proved to be very successful, so I eventually decided to turn Gemtracks into a marketplace where anyone can sell beats. Not only has this helped the industry, it has also given artists a new way to earn income.

5. What’s next in the pipeline for you as an artist, are there future releases in store for your fans? And where can newcomers learn more about you and your music?

I actually have some songs ready to for release, but I was hoping to film a music video to draw up some hype before releasing them. The filming was meant to take place this year, but due to the pandemic, this now must be postponed until near year, which is fine as it gives me more time to prepare the storyline.
Newcomers can learn more about my music on my Spotify: Jesse Neo

SINGLE REVIEW: Ain’t It Strange by Xanthia Skye

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Xanthia Skye is an English singer and songwriter. She was highly musical from a young age, becoming involved with musical theatre at six and triying different instruments, settling on the piano. In achieving her classical Grade 8 in professional vocals she encountered numerous musical styles and developed a love of such diverse artists as Ella Fitzgerald, Fleetwood Mac and The Cranberries. This eclecticism is reflected in her music, which is a blend of pop with jazz and soul influences intertwined.

This song, Ain’t It Strange, is her second release after her debut single, Hold Me. The song is a slow paced pop ballad with a sophisticated jazzy undertone. It’s the ideal showcase for Xanthia’s outstanding voice, bringing to mind the vocal power of Adele and the range of from Florence and the Machine, another noted influence. Set to a melancholy and emotive backing of warm electric piano, Xanthia’s vocals captivate from the moment they enter.

Lyrically, Ain’t It Strange is about reflecting on painful relationships memories from the past, captured in the opening lines: “Words in my head stained like tattoos on my skin, when I vowed to forget you, how could I begin?”. It builds to an understated chorus with some poignant lyrics: “Twenty three turns on this earth, I know people are not the same, show me love can change, ain’t it strange?”.

The way the arrangement builds gradually across the verses and choruses is very skillfully done, along with the pristine, faultless production. A beat emerges only during the final choruses, augmented by subtle but very effective backing vocals and some lovely vocal extemporizing from Xanthia.

Overall, this is a very well crafted and exquisitely performed pop ballad from a young singer and songwriter blessed with a fabulous voice. The music has a radio friendly sound, slightly jazzier than mainstream pop, and she’s already managed to carve herself a commercial niche. For fans of artists like Adele and Taylor Swift, they will most likely find Xanthia Skye’s music much to their taste and so the sky really is the limit for her in the future.

 

VERDICT = 9 out of 10

Alex Faulkner

Listen here:

ALBUM REVIEW: The Language Of Clouds by Scott Howard

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https://www.scotthowardmusic.com/

Scott Howard is a singer and songwriter from Fort Lauderdale, FL. Music played a big role in his childhood. Born to an entrepreneurial opera star in New York State, Scott Howard’s mother began the Long Island Lyric Opera which propelled him into the world of inspiring, finely tuned, and captivating music. His musical journey is closely bound with his spiritual journey as he is resolute to use his song writing as a force for good after the tragic loss of his son, Maxx.

His inspirational songs have already reached many, with his debut album, Ascended Man, accumulating 6.4 million streams. He uses a special kind of instrument tuning, 432 Hz, which is regarded by some as the frequency of the universe and therefore has a spiritually uplifting effect on the listener.

This album, The Language of Clouds, is the follow up to Ascended Man and consists of four songs. The album begins strongly with Written in the Clouds. It starts with a beautiful intro consisting of strummed acoustic guitar and celestial sounding synths. From the opening lines you can tell Scott takes a deeper approach to lyrics than most: “What language do you speak when you say hello to a cloud, out loud?”.

Scott is blessed with a strong and distinctive voice which some have compared to Cat Stevens, and he has a similar inclination towards the mystical. After a succinct verse it builds to a powerful and memorable chorus with poetic words: “Thunder and lightning be along to say, “Wake up and find your way”. Lyrically, it’s about becoming spiritually awakened, the underlying message essentially behind all of Scott’s music. Interestingly, the arrangement ends on another verse rather than the traditional repeat choruses.

The following Queen of Hearts has an equally crystalline sound, the theme of this one more romantic, about finding your soulmate. Beginning with exquisitely recorded acoustic guitar, the first verse sets the scene of trying to find true love: “When I was a younger man, a little voice called to me, “You’ll meet the woman of your dreams, a real life fantasy”.

The second verse depicts a more realistic and down to earth perspective on building a lasting love relationship: “To rebuild our hearts takes every moment, bricks and blood and tears to make a love that lasts forever, at least a million years…”. Once again, it explodes into an uplifting, epic chorus, Scott displaying his excellent vocal range.

Third track Dreamer is more up tempo, driven by infectiously rhythmic acoustic guitars. It’s another philosophical and reflective song full of spiritual wisdom: “Everything that’s evergreen is turning brown…. life is always changing, life is rearranging”. Once again, it features an anthemic and singalong chorus, one of his real strengths as a songwriter.

The album closes with a live performance of the profound and inspirational Harvest Blessings, which is about the dawning of a new spiritual era: “As the trumpets herald the new earth, the time to weep is over….”. The lyrics have a deep poetic and mystical quality that brought to mind Dylan and Leonard Cohen at their most spiritual.

He closes the song with a powerful message that it is how we think that creates our future: “The truth is yours to find…so manifest your best….your mind creates nightmares and miracles…”.

Overall, this is a wonderful short album from a unique singer/songwriter with a powerful spiritual message to convey. Combining the mystical introspection of Cat Stevens with the anthemic energy of Bruce Springsteen, Scott Howard has already inspired many. The Language of Clouds could see him reach many millions more with its universal appeal and many words of wisdom enshrined in memorable melodies.

 

VERDICT= 9.1 out of 10

Alex Faulkner

ALBUM REVIEW: Without Maps – 30 Years of Moments by Moments Of Pleasure Records

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This is a sampler of material from the Moments Of Pleasure label, founded in Brighton, England in 1989. It essentially features the work of six artists: Senses Reeling, Rogue Beauty, Almost Charlotte, Bluff, A Long Valley and B-Vox.  The common thread pretty much throughout is the involvement of Nick Fuller and Matthew Griffin – two of the five founders (along with Anthony Squires, Ian Philipson and Bill Russell) who comprised Almost Charlotte – the band behind its original single release.  The style of music throughout is essentially alternative pop/indie, though it branches out into more diverse genres over the years.

The compilation consists of nineteen tracks and begins with the upbeat funk-tinged indie pop of Rogue Beauty’s I Choose. Based around an infectious groove, the soulful female vocals are aligned with a memorable melody and an equally melodic baseline which acts as a fine counterpoint. Wah-drenched guitars add to the “dance-rock” vibe and synths complete the soundscape to great effect.

Next comes Eastern Eye by B-Vox which brings to mind some of the great indie pop of the 80’s such as Julian Cope and The Clash classic Rock The Casbah. Over crunchy guitars, the distinctive male lead vocals carry the song aided by eloquent lyrics and a highly catchy chorus hook. The subtle brass which punctuates certain parts adds an extra splash of musical colour.

Bluff’s Go Home Now comes next, written by Matthew Griffin it’s driven along by a Pump It Up-style bassline and Trevor Warman’s aggressively upfront guitar.  It notably features a contrast between the light, poppy verse and the heavier chorus which brings to mind The Pixies though musically it is more akin to the indie bands of the era (1992) such as Ned’s Atomic Dustbin, also harking back to arty punk bands like Wire. A superb and succinct piece of punk-influenced guitar pop.

This is followed by the sophisticated synth pop of Rogue Beauty’s Burn Down (Icon Park). It’s a viciously satirical song that aims its ire at celebrity culture: “Roll up folks for the PR man’s game, let’s wallow in the glory of a name, thank you Hello and Gossip and Morning TV, forget about real life and lose the real me.” Though it was written in 2001 by Nick Fuller and Matthew Griffin, the message resonates even more today, where celebrities are treated as deities in some cases.

Foreign or Poor by Senses Reeling brings us right up to date.  Infused with a similar righteous anger, this one deals with the terrible tragedy of the Grenfell fire, which occurred when a tower block in London burned down due to flammable cladding after health/safety concerns had been raised by residents and ignored.  There’s a strong sense of social injustice and moral outrage at how people were neglected as if they didn’t matter: “We can talk forever, but it has got to change, it has simply got to change.”

Their Way by A Long Valley is a more conciliatory song about not being overcome by hatred and bitterness, again a message that is more than apposite in Brexit-era Britain: “An open loving heart forgives, refusing bitterness for good, believing freedom always lives, as hatred never could.” Musically, it’s a solemn five-minute epic augmented by haunting synth strings.

Almost Charlotte’s Hope is a more traditional indie pop song, combining the light guitar style of The Sundays with the quirky vocal style of Julian Cope and Morrissey. It’s an effortlessly infectious track with a gloriously simple structure – featuring a prominently stabbing and melodic bassline by Anthony Squires – that proves sometimes less is more.

Ferocious Love by Senses Reeling is yet another song with a timely message. Recorded in 2016, it’s about those who deny the destruction of the environment or ignore it, in particular governments. Since then we have seen the rise of the eco-warrior movement which has become particularly well known this year through activists like Extinction Rebellion and Greta Thunberg. They would certainly nod in agreement at such lines as, “Faith in our invincibility ignores a power so plain to see, no figure will make it right, no bribe will quell the fight, this place defines us and cannot disappear, we’ve got to talk“.

The following Attitude by Bluff is one of the compilation’s high-paced, punkier moments. It’s a thrilling ride, based around a simple but highly effective three-chord progression girded by an equally effective bassline.  This provides the bedrock for a lyric about someone with hypothetical views when it comes to helping those less fortunate: “There’s nothing to concern your cosy little world, on the outside there is no one suffering….”. It’s a potent, passionate song delivered with consummate conviction and one of the stand-out highlights for me.

There are shades of Depeche Mode in Paul Midcalf’s pristine production and the  pulsing synths of Easy by Senses Reeling, a rumination on the increasingly Orwellian use of data collection through our increased technology (“Surveillance or benign? Do we see the creepy line?“). Recorded in 2019, again this is a song that will only develop increased relevance as our lives become dominated by gadgets and subliminal advertising.

Anyone by Rogue Beauty is a low-key but lyrically powerful acoustic track about how losing yourself in a crowd can be a form of emotional protection: “And no one hears you scream beneath the neon sun, out here in the crowd you could be anyone.” The use of exotic percussion gives this a unique musical feel and acts as a nice contrast to the songs that surround it.

Missing Something by Senses Reeling is perhaps the most unexpected musical departure on the compilation. Based around a Latin American groove and piano style along with double bass and appropriate percussion, it’s a tour de force with a captivating lead female vocal by Rayne Gomes. Lyrically, it’s typically incisive, about how we don’t appreciate the moment if we are always chasing after the latest material acquisition (“A bigger house, a newer car…”). Full of sophisticated musical touches including some deft classical guitar work, it shows the impressive range at their artistic disposal.

Rainfall by Almost Charlotte returns us to more familiar sonic terrain, another finely crafted alternative pop song written by Matthew Griffin and recorded back in 1989. It’s a touching track about not being afraid to reach out to friends when going through some troubled times.

Someone Else by Senses Reeling is another song written from a standpoint of compassion, about how the elderly are neglected and should be appreciated while they’re still here. This is captured in such moving lines as, ” It’s only when we hold a hand so fragile and fading, that we realise the true cost….”.

Almost Charlotte’s Among The People is an interesting song, a character study about an extrovert young woman who refuses to be tied down to a relationship: “If you talk to her of love she’ll often turn and hide her eyes, if you ask her for a dance she will dance until you say goodbye…”. Recorded in 1990, it’s a poignant twist on the theme of unrequited love and says something larger about the shallow nature of modern relationships.

Some Small Control by Senses Reeling is another emotive song by Nick Fuller, with a sassy female lead vocal that brought to mind someone like Sia. It’s about trying to cling to the things you can control when all is turning to chaos around you. The arrangement here is excellent, with subtle piano and xylophone added to the musical palette.

Rogue Beauty’s Friends and Enemies is back to an edgier, fiery style, another well aimed attack at the banality of celebrity culture and how this has infected the music industry. (“What does the X stand for? Where will it end? Victorian Freak Show returns…” is clearly a dig at Simon Cowell and The X-Factor. (I heartily applaud!).

Bluff’s Switch Off is about wanting refuge from sensory overload.  Built around Joy Division-style interlocking drums and bass (the driving bassline by Colin Clifford being a particular feature) it’s built on rich, slightly heavier electric guitars than their signature sound. In “Sometimes I wish I had the guts just to switch it off, when the walls close in…..” it features one of the album’s most anthemic choruses: Fantastic song.

The compilation closes, aptly, with another social justice song, Your Place by Senses Reeling. This one is about the housing crisis in Britain where a combination of stalled social house building and the unaffordably high prices of private housing means that many people are left stranded – some at the mercy of exploitative landlords.  Musically, it’s one of the most unique here, a dance/rock hybrid that brought to mind Bernard Sumner and Johnny Marr’s Electronic. The contrast between the lively, upbeat music and the serious, saturnine lyrics make for a potent dynamic: “Easy to say that we all deserve our own space but it looks like they’re keeping you in your place….”.

Overall, this is a wonderful compilation of 30 years of material produced by this little-known hidden gem of a record label, Moments Of Pleasure. At nineteen tracks, it’s quite the epic listen that charts changing styles and times through a standard that is consistently high throughout, without a dud song here. The songwriters involved show a considerable amount of musical and lyrical skill, boldly dealing with the deeper issues of modern life and the human condition. It will be particularly loved by indie aficionados but any discerning music lover will find much to treasure here and much to discover beyond by checking out the induvial releases by the 6 acts.

 

VERDICT = 9.2 out of 10

Alex Faulkner

 

Listen here:

ARTIST INTERVIEW: Vanlalchhanhima Ralte

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Vanlalchhanhima Ralte is an independent singer, musician and songwriter. Along with this, Vanlalchhanhima Ralte is a Director of Vanlalchhanhima Ralte (OPC) Private Limited, which is an Independent Record Company, an Independent Record Label & an Independent Publisher. He has released both cover versions and original material, accruing a very large fanbase in the process. His latest release is a cover version of the well known song Achy Breaky Heart, watch the video below:

 

 

I got to ask him a few questions about his music:

Your latest single release is a cover of the well known country pop classic Achy Breaky Heart, originally recorded by Billy Ray Cyrus. What made you want to cover this particular song?

“Yes, that’s right. It’s a well known song, even to my childhood, I know and listen to that song. It make me want to cover because for the sake of the love of a classical music in it time. And I do interested to build it into this modern influences…”

You’re an independent singer, musician and songwriter as well as owning your own record company, do you find it difficult to balance your role as an artist along with dealing with the business side of the music industry?

“Yes, of course. A very good question in here. Too much, let me just say the role is too much to think from an artist level to an executive level. All so much for one person. One in a performance, and one in a none performance streamline of doing it all independently. Sometime, I think I need a balanced diet.”

Who are a few of your favourite artists or groups and do you have one all time musical hero?

“Yes, although I haven’t met in real life. One to mentioned the one whose era has been changing from country music to a kinda pop appeal, the one and only Taylor Swift. Whom I’ve been trending her through an internet, mostly Facebook, YouTube and on an Instagram. In that sense, she kinda well known for more than a decade.”

How do you feel about the modern music industry, do you think streaming music helps an artist reach people or is it unfair for the artist to allow people to listen and enjoy their music without paying for a single or album as it used to be?

“Into this modern digital world of consideration, an internet plays and transform the way the music industry used to be as comparing from the classical 70’s 80’s 90’s. I don’t see any unfairness for the people on the music to stream and listen them freely, if they want to make benefit for an artist, they will, if not, they wouldn’t.

What are your future plans for your music? Let people know about upcoming releases after this one and how they can keep informed about any new music you decide to release.

Well, good question. I’m currently working under one Christmas project. That I haven’t had any set for it releases date, but it will be in the month of December 2019. This will be for the love of the Lord & Saviour Jesus Christ, the sweet born baby, sent on earth by thy Heavenly Father God. The writes of the lyrics has already been completed, which I completed last month October 2019. It will be in an English & Mizo. As this is not yet a release or published, I will not mentioned the title of the EP or the songs name yet. So, stay tune for my upcoming Christmas song release. It will be available on my website, Official Artist Channel (YouTube), etc. Website: https://www.vanlalchhanhimaralte.com OAC: https://www.youtube.com/VanlalchhanhimaRalte

Thank you, Vanlalchhanhima, for the great interview!

 

 

Visit Vanlalchhanhima Ralte’s official website HERE

 

 

 

 

E.P. REVIEW: Bittersweet by Mason Roberts

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Mason Roberts is a singer and songwriter currently based in Kalamazoo, MI. His music is essentially emotive pop in the style of James Blunt but with an electronica/EDM aspect to his sound, akin to James Blake. As a vocalist, he has been compared to Josh Groban and Michael Bublé, amongst others. He has released several EPs before this one including Big City, Naturally and Come Home Tonight along with the recent singles 2 Close, Open Wide and Emotionless.

This EP, Bittersweet, consists of four tracks and begins strongly with the title track. Starting with a haunting acoustic guitar melody, Mason’s highly distinctive vocal style emerges along with a simple but effective beat which then develops into a more intricate EDM rhythm. Mason gives an affecting, memorable vocal performance often near the top of his considerable range. The contrast between the delicate melodies and more strident beat makes for a very effective dichotomy.

It’s on the second track though where Mason truly gets to shine vocally. Shattered begins in a similarly understated way to Bittersweet, similar in style to an artist like Sam Smith, then starts to build to an epic chorus where Mason’s rich vibrato comes to the fore. The power of the vocals is matched by the strength of the vocal melody and the combined effect is breathtaking, especially the extended high note on the line “Make me whole again…”.

Burn maintains his signature sound of EDM-infused pop, this one even featuring a snare roll and riser before the chorus. Once again, the vocals excel and the “Let me go” hook sticks fast in the memory. The balance between well crafted songwriting and a slick modern arrangement/production style is very skilfully managed, making it cutting edge whilst having strong traditional elements.

The final track is an acoustic version of Bittersweet and the intimacy of this version allows the beauty of the vocal melody and lyrics to make more impact. It will be up to listeners to decide which version they prefer, but both have their merits.

Overall, this is a very strong EP from a singer songwriter blessed with an exceptional voice. The standard of the songwriting matches the quality of the vocals and the infusion of EDM elements gives it a decidedly modern appeal. It’s surely only a matter of time before the world catches on to the brilliant talent of Mason Roberts and perhaps this is the EP that kicks down the door.

 

VERDICT= 9.1 out of 10 

Alex Faulkner

 

 

 

Listen here:

 

ALBUM REVIEW: Journey Home by Monica Ortiz

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https://www.facebook.com/monicaortizmusic/

Monica Ortiz is a country/pop/adult contemporary singer and songwriter. Ever since she was a child she’s had a very strong relationship with music and felt the desire to express herself creatively from an early age. This debut album Journey Home, which consists of nine songs, is the end result of her musical journey so far and features a number of collaborators and guest performances. She has co-written several songs with Charlie Lowell from Jars of Clay and there’s vocal contributions from Matthew Koziol and the McCrary sisters.

The album starts with the poignant piano ballad The Woman I Became. It acts as a fine showcase for Monica’s crystalline vocals and emotive, inspiring songwriting approach. It’s a style that was known in the 1970’s as “confessional”, where full and open expression of feelings was paramount. The opening lines paint a touching picture of parental love: “When I was little you said it would be hard, you sat me down and warned me of future scars….”.

Monica’s delicate and sensitive vocal performance in a high register perfectly expresses the lyrics that depict the difficult process of growing up, of a girl growing into a woman and standing on her own two feet. Aside from a fine piano arrangement, the song features strings which add to the emotional effect, especially on the moving and memorable chorus. A very strong opening song and one co-written with Charlie Lowell.

The second track Burn Out is a mid-paced country-tinged pop song written by Matt Odmark from Jars of Clay and Heather Bond. Monica very much makes it her own, delivering another fine performance that brought to mind Shania Twain’s country ballads. The musicianship and production is absolutely flawless with slick backing harmonies augmenting Monica’s lead vocal.

The following Pigtails, which is similar style musically and lyrically, is a plea to a partner to allow her to fully be herself and not try to control her, (“Just let me dance to my music, let me drum to my song”) a subject that many will be able to relate to. It features some lovely instrumental touches from the strummed acoustic guitar to some tasteful, creamy sounding slide guitar interspersed throughout. Once again, the backing harmonies enrich the vocals at various points to great effect.

On My Side is altogether different, an upbeat pop track with a reggae-tinged rhythm and a vocal from Monica in the highest part of her considerable range, bringing to mind Cyndi Lauper or Kate Bush circa Wuthering Heights. The melody is instantly infectious with the funky guitar adding to the catchiness. The beat is mostly in half time but cleverly switches to straight 4/4 and the whole arrangement is full of rhythmic invention. That’s something the discerning listener will enjoy, but this song’s huge commercial appeal is in its addictive lead melody. A definite contender as a single release.

Bring Me Home is a return to the emotive piano ballad style of the opening song. It’s on this kind of song that Monica gets to excel as a singer, and here she gives an enchanting performance. Lyrically, it’s about needing someone to show emotional support.

This Time is a little different, this one a country pop song that opens with a fine fiddle part. It’s a duet performed with Matthew Koziol and Matthew takes the lead on the opening verse. Monica joins in on the excellent chorus, their contrasting voices blending and complementing each other perfectly. She then takes the second verse giving a nice ‘yin yang’ vibe to the song, and lyrically it’s a positive affirmation about giving a relationship another go.

The Mirror is both a melancholy country ballad and an empowering, uplifting anthem. It’s about a woman who has reached the end of her tether while in an unhappy relationship and decides to leave, as captured succinctly in the superb singalong chorus: “She can’t take it anymore, her suitcase sitting by the door….she won’t back down”. Another potential single.

Let Me Be There is more emotionally straightforward and musically a toe-tapping country rock song that has an authentic, roots vibe. This song is actually a cover version of an Olivia Newton John which was originally released on an album in 1973. It’s traditional country at its finest, featuring a sweet lyric about wanting to be in someone’s life. The subtle low male vocals on the chorus are a nice touch as is the rich Hammond organ which adds to the instrumental texture.

The album closes aptly with one final piano ballad where Monica once again gets to shine, vocally. Backed by plaintive piano and evocative strings, she is eventually joined by the gospel-tinged vocals of the McCrary Sisters whose contribution lends the song an uplifting, highly spiritual quality. Lyrically, it’s particularly moving, about losing a loved one: “A forced goodbye when heaven can’t wait….”. It’s a fitting end to an album that, as the title implies, takes the listener on an emotional journey.

Overall, this is a very fine collection of country pop songs that allow Monica Ortiz to showcase her skills as both singer and songwriter. Her different collaborators bring variety yet there’s also a sense of cohesion and musical unity. With a flawlessly produced sound and several potential singles, Monica Ortiz has everything it takes to break through to the big time.

 

VERDICT= 8.8 out of 10 

Alex Faulkner

 

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ALBUM REVIEW: Confessions of The Machine by Dav!d&CLARA

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https://www.davidandclara.com/

Dav!d&CLARA is an electronica outfit based in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Whilst it sounds like a duo, the Clara in question is in fact a machine, David’s computer. David was initially inspired by seeing Gwen Stefani in 2004 and has since developed his own unique style in his home studio. He has already released several albums including Emotion Machine, Human, Adventures in Love, Lust and Life, Body Work and Art of Audio. Along with Stefani, he regards NIN/Trent Reznor as a seminal influence.

This album, Confessions of The Machine, consists of fifteen tracks and opening song Repair is a good introduction to his idiosyncratic style, blending echo-drenched spoken word over a swirling sea of synths and rhythms. It’s an intoxicating sound full of empowering lines that draws you in and not like anything else you’ll have heard.

Out By The Shore is a breezy piece of electro-pop delivered in a distinctive drawl, Ain’t My Fault is a sensual soulful track that will go down well on the dancefloor while the excellent Solidarity is about following your own path, not the herd. High On Life is also superb, an unashamedly honest ode to hedonism: “Get stoned, get drunk, gulp it down, breathe it in, get high on life….”.

Jump is another empowering message about being prepared to take a leap into the unknown, while the hymnal Agape is perhaps the most spiritual song featuring both low and falsetto vocals in tandem. Dreaming of L.A. is one of the album’s finest moments, a simple but infectious 2/4 groove and a catchy flute sample providing the platform for a fine vocal melody and a great hook. Pop My Clutch is a fun way to finish, a sultry song full of none too veiled sexual metaphors and innuendo.

Overall, this is an original and unpredictable alternative/electro pop album by an artist who has forged his own inimitable style. When his electronic sound is combined with both his unique lyrical approach and great vocal hooks the result is very effective and there’s several tracks that hit the mark in this way. Not many artists can lay claim to their own style of music but Dav!d&CLARA can.

 

VERDICT= 8.5 out of 10

Alex Faulkner

 

 

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