Dawson Rutledge, Monsters, 2017

dawson rutledge - MonstersOne of the best things about doing this is that you get to hear a wide variety of music. And since variety is the spice of life, this album is been making quite a few rounds in my CD player lately.
The 19 year young Dawson Routledge is a fairly new name on the scene, delivering his first official album here, the 9 track album Monsters.

Probably best described as a mix of soft rock, pop, jazz and folk, Monsters has turned out to be quite the laid back affair. But of the kind that grabs you with an unique voice, clever lyrics and a delivery that is beyond Rutledge’s years.
Sometimes a song starts with a hook that makes you wonder if you have heard it before, but in the end this is all original. The overall sound is warm and does justice to the songs that are carried by their pop sensibilities and folky arrangements. It is clear that he is serious about his craft, especially since his picking skills are on par with his vocals. And the subtle rhythmic changes are often the icing on the cake.

Personal favourites are When Life Gives You Monsters and Heavy Heart, but there are enough choices to please many.

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Alan Simon, Excalibur IV, 2017

alan simon - EXCALIBUR-4From never having heard of Alan Simon, now on to a second album. The first was his recent released Songwriter double disc, which I enjoyed very much. And since this one is called Excalibur IV, The Dark Age Of The Dragon, we can be pretty sure that there have been Excalibur albums before this (duh).

Not sure if everyone will agree with me, but for me one of the highlights of Simon is the diversity on offer. From folk, to rock, to classical and many in between, you can find a lot of genres on this album. Sometimes even in one song. And while in many cases that would make an album suffer from a lack of focus, this guy produces songs that are able to tell a story, even without words. The fact that all is executed beautifully only helps of course. Just take a look at the guest list: Michael Sadler (Saga), Martin Barre (Jethro Tull), Moya Brennan (Clannad), Roberto Tiranti (Labyrinth), John Helliwell (Supertramp) or Bernie Shaw (Uriah Heep) to name a few! What all these names confirm is the scope of the material.

So a haunting song like Alone can stand firmly besides a more rocking song like for instance Stonehenge. Just like the pop bliss of Calling For You easily sits besides the proggy Don’t Be Afraid or the dreamy and almost opera-esque The Last Lament Of A Fairy.

For me there is no more excuse in trying to find earlier albums. Great stuff, worth checking out if you, like me, have been living under a rock as far as Alan Simon is concerned…

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FAS IV, Catatonia, 2017

fas iv - catatoniaHow time flies when you are having fun… Still catching up on 2017 releases, and now it is time for the second album from FAS IV/ FASIV that landed on my desk. I really liked their first album so in that case it is always nice to hear what comes next.  The band originates from San Francisco and consists of Frank Abreau Salazar IV on guitars and vocals, Miles Delaco on bass and production and Tim Aristil on drums.

The music sometimes reminds a bit of songs and bands of the past (the Beatles being an obvious choice), mixed with more modern acts like Muse or Oasis. The album opens with the extended intro of Broken Mirror before kicking into gear with the title track. The first of many songs with a memorable hook and catchy melodies. Because even when the reverberated sound brings back memories of the Eighties, it is clear they stand with two feet in the now. Many of the songs have developed a bit of a crush with me. Chelsea, Deep Inebriation or Different Personality being a few of them. I love the band’s energy and knack for songs that sound familiar but fresh. So that dose of pop mixed in with the rock really serves them well.

And thus we, the people, have another band on our hands that deserves to be big. Maybe not 100% original, but what they do, they do with class and conviction.

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FXRRVST, May XXVI, 2017

fxrrvst - may xxviDon’t break your tongue trying to pronounce the name of this outfit. Simply put this is to be referred to as Forrest. And the members are Holly Forrest and Matthew Fuentes, from Toronto Canada. Influenced by the lyrics and unconventional song structures from Tegan and Sara and the vibes and guitar of Fleetwood Mac, the duo is sees this as their first step in taking world domination.

Now that is quite a bold statement in the press information. I will spare you most of the rest of the press blurb and just focus on what my ears tell me. And there is no denying that the 9 songs on offer are catchy. Every song has a hook and melody that is instant. And much to my enlightenment, they still manage to stay away from all too obvious choices and routines in their songs. So that is indeed a plus, and a big one.
And while this is marketed as a alt-rock band, for me this is not quite true. Alt is a tag that I suspect will put off people, thinking that the weirdness outweighs the primal attraction. And in this case I am quite sure that a lot of people would find it easy to enjoy the music, once they are persuaded to give it a listen.

I have been playing this for quite some time now, and I still think they musical vocabulary goes way beyond your average radio hit. And that without losing the instant lovable factor.  So maybe that world domination aim is not so dumb after all…

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Sonja Kristina, Anthology, 2017

SONJA-KRISTINA anthologyThis double Anthology disc from Sonja Kristina, of Curved Air fame, features a collection of her solo work and rare and newly recorded exclusive tracks. It also features custom cover art and her personal liner notes. Makes sense because she personally picked the songs. Or as she puts it; “these are my reveries on life and love through the decades”. Decades? Yes, after topping the British Music female vocalist polls throughout the seventies and being the first woman fronting a rock band, she is still vibrant and edgy today. And catching the spotlight whenever she performs live.

The 21 songs on the discs are proof of a lady willing to experiment (no wonder after being in a prog band for 50 years), but also does not shy away from delivering intimate songs. And everything in between. So the variety on the album is enormous. From folk, singer songwriter, to pop, Beatlesque pop rock and so on. All held together by her voice and a feel for melodies that are able to seduce you.
I guess it is safe to say there is something for everyone here. For the casual listener, as well as the more demanding aficionado. Not sure this collection will find its way to all who would enjoy it. Alas so many today are so unaware of all the real music that is available…

I very much enjoyed listening to the album and hit repeat several times. That ought to tell you something!

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Ghostly Beard, Invisible, 2017

ghostly beard - invisibleSince bursting on the scene with his fantastic first EP Infinite, the multi talented Patrick Talbot, the enigma behind Ghostly Beard, has been anything but invisible. Constantly letting the world know about his musical discoveries, or writing articles sharing his knowledge, he has proven a firm advocate of Indie Music.

So hot on the heels of that first offering, we now get the first full length, Invisible. On it are 11 songs, with a total playing time of just under 50 minutes. The first that struck me about the album was the change of direction. Or change, maybe it is more of an enhancement to his style on the EP. Did I mention Pink Floyd then, a name that popped up listening to this was Steely Dan. A band known for playing deceptively simple sounding songs which actually were far more complex, and always played with stellar musicians delivering timeless performances.
And throughout the songs on this album, I hear some of the same typicals. On the surface they are melodic, with great lyrics too. Fairly short, so fit for airplay on any station. But underneath that surface, his compelling bass work, his fantastic feel for guitar solos, or the shining keyboard work, tells you here is a master at work.
So far there have been 2 videos to get into the album, the tasty wonderful Blue and the very funny Fool. But there are many songs on this album I could mention. Too many really. Personal favourites now are Set Me Free and A Reason To Leave, but that might change over time.

Yes he did it again and simply surpassed my already high expectations. Wonderful colourful music that everybody needs to check. What’s next Patrick?

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Alan Simon, Songwriter, 2017

alan simon - songwriterIt never seizes to amaze me how much there is to learn about all the music out there. Here I was thinking I had never heard of Alan Simon before, and then it turns out he has been involved in a wealth of albums, rock operas and soundtracks! So maybe you know about the Excalibur releases? I didn’t to be honest, but if this compilation is anything to go by, the man is a songwriter indeed. And in capitals! No wonder he can have people from for instance Supertramp, Midnight Oil, Fairport Convention on board, as well as guests like Alan Parsons, Martin Barre, John Wetton and Justin Hayward, to name a few.

This 40 track double CD is divided in a world & symphonic side and a “British” side. For me, CD 1 is filled to the brim with wonderful music. Indeed a lot of folky melodies and instruments, as well as more classical sounding pieces. But all done with a great sense of atmosphere and emotion. Melancholy runs strong throughout the songs, but that makes it easy to connect. The second CD is more pop and rock oriented I guess. But the quality and melodies remain. All released between 1995 and 2017, but sounding fresh and vibrant.
Lots of details, perfectly produced and very varied. Rich in ideas and textures, with a plethora of different instruments, it is a pleasure the keep hitting the play button.

Very impressed by the wonderful collection of material and a trigger to go dig in his back catalogue, I have been missing out! And since Excalibur IV has just been released, again with an impressive cast, I get another chance of finding out more…

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Jordana Talsky, Neither Of Either

jordana talsky - neither of eitherAs you may or may not know, my tastes in music are pretty eclectic. Of course a lot of what I listen to falls into one or the other category of rock. But in my opinion it would make no sense to neglect all the other music that is out there. So when I got a taste of some songs by Jordana Talsky, I did not hesitate to ask for a copy.

And simply put, first track Run is all the prove I needed that this is a special artist. Based solely on all the sounds she can make with her vocal cords (singing, humming, percussive, etc), this track blows me away every time I hear it, catchy as syrup, yet impressive because of how it is set up. Pure bliss! And to prove the point even further, next track Around You All The Time is more into friendly jazz territory, not unlike the early work of Sade. Next up is Ways, which somehow reminded me a bit of Alanis Morissette in her delivery, yet with a far more earthly sound and another catchy chorus. Sick is another track with emphasis on all kinds of vocals, albeit this time with added drums. Last track of the first disk (the release is divided over 2 cd’s, side A and B) is Bitter Sweet Heart, a slow song, where her delivery grabs you by the throat. What a performance here.
Side B starts with Spark, a more light hearted song and still Jordana shines with her singing. This side ends with an acapella rendition of the famous Morissette track You Oughta Know, which still radiates a great vibe.

So even when you have never heard of her before, here is an artist with an amazing voice, and the talent to wrap it in fresh songs that enchant. Class!

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Guy Paul Thibault, It’s About Time, 2017

guy paul thibault - its about timeFor reasons not disclosed in the press sheet, Guy Paul Thibault has been absent of releasing new music for 17 years. Back in the day he released 5 successful albums, so that makes It’s About Time (duh!) #6. The 10 songs are written, recorded and performed by Thibault, with guest appearances from Shawn Cherry (drums) and David Bradshaw (violin and mandolin).

Opener Here She Comes is a contemporary folk song. Great acoustic guitar and a light footed feel that is easy to catch on to. Misdemeanor is a catchy pop rock tune that will please both the casual listener as well as, well people like me :). Songs like Hills, Tallest Man On Earth, Stay (For Riley) or Saturday Night show a mature writer at work, able to add depth to his songs. And songs like We Just Don’t Care or Saving Grace just plain rock. And then there is still a ballad and a singer/songwriter track. So yes diverse, but all held together by the confident delivery of the man’s voice.

Despite not being familiar with older work, I think that Guy Paul qualifies as an experienced musician who delivers well crafted songs that will appeal to many music lovers. So personally I hope that the next set of songs will not take another 17 years to surface.

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B.D. Gottfried, Through The Dog’s Eyes, 2017

bd gottfried - through the dogs eyesA couple of years have past since the previous album from B.D. Gottfried (vocals, drums, keyboards) landed on my desk. And that was quite an enjoyable affair. And now Through The Dog’s Eyes has been released. Even when you might not be familiar with the name, Gottfried is a seasoned pro who has been around. His writing style is probably best described as pop / rock combined with often witty lyrics. In fact, I guess production wise this album rocks a tad more than before. But that extra bite only adds to the charm.

And charm this has in spades. Every song owns the ability to nest itself in your brain for you to hum along to. And while that might make you think that the songs are predictable and simple, they are not. Every track has an edge to it. A break, a non standard bridge, you name it. But the combination of all the used elements is just working. At least for me they are. From the opening track Something You Weren’t, to the should be a hit Blame It On The Money, to the suspense of Frequencies. Any of the 10 tracks on offer brings something to the table.

So it is safe to say that this is another album that the world should hear. Fingers crossed it is listening…

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