Maks, 3FT No Diving, 2017

maks - 3ft no divingMaks are a Dutch rock band, initiated by singer and multi-instrumentalist Maks A. Assisting him are Peter Bernauw (guitars), Claudio Guliker (bass), Andy Kockelkoren (synths), and Jeroen van Tuijl and Tommy Stillwell (guitars).
Coming from a punk background as a drummer, Maks also played in cover- and later new wave bands. Eventually to end up in a blues rock band. So I guess it is little wonder all these influences somehow sip through in the music on this album. Although, when pressed to describe the music, I would go for pop rock with some wave accents (because of the synths).

While listening to this it is clear there is experience behind this. For instance, adding a little flute solo to The Gods In My Head, steers the song away from a fairly standard pop song. Clever. Most of the songs are carried by not too complex rhythms and chord progressions. Yet adding little things here and there gives them a bit of sizzle. The songs have hooks and melodies that will quickly sound familiar. Even when in Critical Mess there is a synth melody that made me think of Kraftwerk…

The result is an album that aims to be a pleasant listen and delivers just that. It never outstays its welcome, and will not shock the world for ground breaking new additions to the world of music. But it does not need to be.

Time will tell if this sparks the intended career as a professional musician.

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Hello Stranger, Long Division, 2018

Hello Stranger - Long DivisionHello Stranger are a fairly new band, who met in LA around 2015. Sam Deffenbaugh is the singer / guitarist, Daniel Rodriguez the drummer, Sam Plotkin also plays guitar and sings the harmonies and the band is rounded out by Doug Slohm on bass.

Listening to the album I cannot deny there is some massive appeal here. The songs are catchy (often damn catchy in fact), and Sam D has a voice that ought to make many a young girl take note. Well, I am not a young girl and and I still like the singing 🙂 . But there is more to this album: there are enough distorted guitars and variation at work throughout the album to keep me interested.
Still the band prove many times they are not a one trick pony. Where a song like Victorious has hit written all over it, The Flood is a riff monster waiting to explode. All The Things I’m Not sounds powerful, yet is carried by groove and a lighter sphere that works like a charm.

Most of the songs clock between 3 to 4 minutes, so will work in a radio format. I hope the band will get picked up, because they write quality songs that stick in your head and still manage to avoid the overly used clichés.

Nice one!

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Gregory M. Hurley, Seafoam, 2018

gregory m hurley, seafoamHow fitting to name your album seafoam, and put a strat in that colour on the cover. Nice touch! What is also nice, is what Greg Hurley is offering us on this debut.

Well debut, it might be his debut album, but in his young days, Hurley spent a lot of time honing his skills on every stage that gave him a home. And now, after years of being inactive (life sometimes gets in the way), he has built a studio and unleashes his work to the unaware public.

And I must say, the man knows how to play and write a decent tune! I guess the songs are a reflection of his influences. And I am confident that The Beatles rank high there. A song like You’re You clearly fits well in the Beatles songbook, and Hold On Tight would sit comfortably on any mid career ELO album (and no, it is not a cover from them).  Other influences seem early Santana on songs Where You’re At and Pick It Up or Steely Dan on WiggleRoom.
The title track is a wonderful moody instrumental, but actually every track on the album is tasty and well done. Especially considering he played everything himself if I understand correctly.

Bottom line, this release deserves a big audience because the songs will appeal to everyone who appreciates quality pop / rock songs.

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Ted & Majella, Better Together, 2017

ted & majella - better togetherThe Ted in this release is famed guitarist Ted Turner, whom you might know from his days in Wishbone Ash, or the couple of tracks he played on John Lennon’s Imagine album. Majella is not only his wife, but also a singer and together they invented a new genre called new age soul.

Well I will be honest as always, to me this sounds like a singer songwriter album with lots of pop sensibilities and with heartfelt guitar playing (imagine a bit more rocking version of Mark Knopfler). Yes, there is lots of soul present in the songs, but coming from inside, not akin to the musical genre. And I guess the new age bit refers to their look at the world we live in today. “Everything has a relationship, we are nature, and systems only exist through collaboration. And are bigger than us.”

Nothing wrong with that of course and despite my critique about the genre tagging, there is absolutely nothing wrong with the music. It might be more light-footed compared to the stuff I usually listen to, but everything, from the playing, to the sound, and to the delivery oozes class.  Majella has a pleasant voice and her melodies work. The result of all this, is that the album radiates a passion. For life, for each other, and for nature.

So this is beautiful from start to finish and in my opinion suited for the majority of the people. Dreamy and sometimes intense!

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Sule, Hold On, 2018

sule - hold onTo be honest I cannot remember how I got this, and since there was no additional info included, I know next to nothing of the artist in question, except that he goes by the name of Sule. And probably is from Canada.

What I do know is that this album contains 16 tracks (and not 15 as it says on the art). The first 11 form the actual album, and the remaining 5 are bonus tracks. Often regular tracks in a different form, or sung in French. What I also know is that Sule is not set on a specific genre. Most of the album (at least in my ears) falls in the pop category, although a bit of rock elements are added here and there. But you will also find traces of country, rap, and R&B in the mix.
So what does that leave us with? Well actually, since it is sunny here, this will lighten up your BBQ with ease. It is feel good, melodic and nothing complex. It radiates the positive energy to really get the party going.
His singing shows traces of Seal, so it is warm and soulful. Combine that with songs that still feel authentic, despite probably not winning any originality contest, and the result is something that I would rather hear instead of 95% that gets played on mainstream radio. Not bad at all!

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Ghostly Beard, Inward, 2018

ghostly beard - inwardWell, not sure if I can add anything to what has already been said about Ghostly Beard. But of course I am still trying just that 🙂
Because there is a lot to like about the music of Patrick Talbot, the bearded one himself. After the Infinite EP, with it’s magnificent prog leanings, came first full length Invisible, which proved a treat with it’s sophisticated, sometimes fusion like approach. And in what seems only a few months after, we are now treated with the third release, titled Inward. Seems the guy loves words that start with I.

And to be clear, I love the music of this man. Not because he is the best singer in the world. He isn’t but can deliver his tunes with an inspiring honesty and clever use of backing vocals. Also not because he is an awesome instrumentalist who seems to handle every instrument with an ease that could make people jealous. He does not play to impress, he shines because he serves the song in the best possible way.
No, it is because of the feel good nature of his songs!

Yes, on this album some tracks are melancholic, but they do not make me sad at all. Ever since getting the album I have been listening I don’t know how many times, and the album always picks me up. From the slow burning How Does It Feel, (great chorus and heartfelt guitar solo) to the full on happy Going Away, every song enchants me.

In his words this album defines his style as an artist. To me the only thing that is important is that I hope he releases many more songs. Treat yourself and pick this up!

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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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