Guy Paul Thibault, The Road Between, 2019

guy paul thibault - the road betweenWhen you play over 200 shows per year and still manage to record a new album, you must be dedicated to your art. So welcome back Guy Paul Thibault to these pages. And while it took 17 years to release predecessor It’s About Time, this one took only 2 years.

But many things I wrote about then, still apply now. The Road Between is as diverse and varied as before and carried and held together by the confident vocal performance of Thibault.
But this time I also want to mention his guitar playing. Especially his clean stratocaster tones in tracks like Who Are You or Don’t See Me Cry are worth noting. The latter strangely reminds me of Robert Cray’s Strong Persuader by the way.
Stand out tracks for me are Dangerous Strangers and Talk To Me. But those are amongst the more rocking material on offer, and that remains the more natural environment for me. Especially when compared to the country twang in Take Me. Then again, No One Understands is a pretty good ballad!
Oh, I should also mention that, besides drums, percussion and backing vocals, Thibault did all the rest himself.

Pleasant, solid and enjoyable are fitting words for this collection of tracks.

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John Wiseman, Filling The Void, 2019

john wiseman - filling the voidOne should never underestimate the power of building a good track order for one’s release. But when your album covers a pretty wide range of styles, how you go about? I guess Cumbrian artists John Wiseman has had something to think about after completing the recording of his third album…

Because this is an album that is all over the place. From pop, to rock, to jazzy, to electronic and back. Now I do not mind experimentation or variation. It’s the spice of life. But I can also understand that an artist is asking a lot from his (would be) audience when the output is so diverse. Many critics love to put a certain tag on a release and making things difficult for them is often not appreciated.

So you understand I have been struggling a bit to find the words to describe my listening experience. Many tracks on this release are catchy, like On Your Side or Grow Up. This type of tracks has a bit of Eighties pop vibe that many people still appreciate. Won’t Last or Calling Out sound more modern, even when their backbone is not unlike the ones mentioned before.
But then comes the kick in the teeth; after listening to this album back to back a couple of times, these difference seem to iron out a bit. In a weird kind of way it all starts to make sense! So where I was first tempted to say that John might consider grouping his songs and releasing them under different names to attract a specific audience, now I am not longer sure. Even when I do think there is room here and there for improvement as not everything sounds  convincing.

Make up your own mind, but the more often I heard it, the better it got.

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F-uki, F-uki Music, 2016

f-ukiFrom Japan comes F-uki, who was pretty adamant I’d write about this album. So I will. Self described as “Pursuit of balance between universality and originality. Various types of songs”. And stating The Beatles / Paul McCartney and Yellow Magic Orchestra as influences.

So what does that leave us with? Well, there is no denying that part of the songs seem influenced by the Beatles. And maybe even a bit of Beach Boys too. Not sure about YMO, but some tracks definitely fare more into electronic territory.

And while I think there are some good ideas presented on this 10 track album, for me that desired balance has not yet resulted in songs I am dying to hear more often. Some of that is because the difference in styles does not sit well with me. Some of that is because the execution of especially the rhythm parts (drumcomputer) is not on par with the melodies. And maybe even some is down to using lots of production tricks that seem out of place in my ears.  All this creates a certain nervousness that makes it hard for me to hear it back to back.

So I applaud the ideas and the effort but for me, if the Beatles inspired work was done more true to style, or kept modern, albeit with less experimentation, this would have been a much more enjoyable result. Also, more attention to drums and bass, will also help in getting the message across.

Maybe it is just me, so give it a try if the thought of this pursuit excites you.

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Ronny Morris, Sweet Silence, 2018

ronny morris - sweet silenceI cannot help but smile while listening to this debut from Danish musician Ronny Morris. Not because of the beautiful and a bit mysterious artwork. Not because of silly lyrics, or anything like that.
No I smile because this album keeps reminding me why I like music. This guy obviously creates for the love of art. And not because of stupid things like fame, winning TV competitions, reality TV, etc.

But even if you do not fall for that, there are lots of reasons why you should check out this album. First; it is a damn good pop rock album with tons of moody songs that reach out to your soul and heart. Morris also has a fine voice with that bit of edge that many people find attractive. Also the performances and production are top notch.
Another reason is that this is produced in a climate neutral way. First time I ever heard about that, and, being a firm believer we are here to make sure our children also have a planet to live on, a worthy cause.

And last but not least, even when all songs are accessible, by no means they are carbon copies of things you have heard a thousand times before. If I would be forced to mention a reference, it would be something like Bryan Adams met Donald Fagen with a bit of Beatles thrown in for good measure. Also the sophisticated sound reminds me a bit of 3rd Matinee, but that is a reference not all too many will understand.

Most important thing is you go listen to this album, it truly deserves your attention.

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Baskery, Coyote & Sirens, 2018

baskery - coyote & sirensTalking about never judge a book, ehr CD by the cover. Don’t know about you, but when I put this CD in the player I was kinda expecting some sleazy garage type punk hardcore or something like that. Turns out this is anything but!

Reading up a bit, I found that this is a trio of sisters from Sweden that, on the promise of a record contract, moved to the US. After some ups and downs they did record an album worth of songs, but things got complicated once more. In the end they managed to get a large part of the songs of this album back in their hands and decided to release them themselves.

So now we are treated to the pop rock that is Baskery. Alas I do not know anything from the musicians, but at least my guess is that the sisters are singing. And they glue well together too. A song like Cactus Baby is a fine example of how they combine their vocal prowess with a pop rock backing.
It must be said, music like this ought to be heard by many more people. This sounds like real people making real music. And making it sound “commercial” without adding way to much sugar…

Pretty good effort, worth checking!

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Ljungblut, Villa Carlotta 5959, 2018

ljungblut - villa carlotta 5959When the first song was playing, I was suddenly thinking “have U2 gone new wave?” But then I remembered I was listening to the latest album by Norwegian band Ljungblut, with the mysterious name Villa Carlotta 5959 and it is the sixth release.

From the press sheet I found that Ljungblut started as an outlet for the musical ideas of Kim Ljung (Seigmen / Zeromancer) and this has slowly developed into a 5 man band. This album is sung in Norwegian and closes a trio of albums. And I guess a remarkable thing about it is that, while I do not understand one word, I still connect to the music. Yes, more prove that music is THE universal language.

Overall the songs are melancholic of nature. Varying in tempo and dynamics, but melancholic. Imagine travelling alone along the coastal fjords in Norway: you will enjoy the beautiful and changing scenery, but it is still cold. Not that these tracks will leave you cold mind you. With it’s organic sound and the feelings pouring through, this will warm your heart and soul.
In the opening I referred to U2, this because the voice of the singer and a bit of the guitar sound. Yet the music is in general far more keyboard heavy, hence the new wave reference. However, there are still guitars used throughout, so it remains a bit in the rock genre.

Pretty sure this is an album that many people would dig, so give it a listen!

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Peak, Electric Bouquet, 2018

peak - electric bouquetAnother album that has been playing for quite a while here at YMB HQ, is the debut from NYC band Peak. Consisting of Jeremy Hilliard on guitar/ vocals, Otis Williams on keys/ vocals, Eric Thachuck on bass and on drums Dale Paddyfote, who is replaced by John Venezia for live shows. Hilliard is the main songwriter.

What is really nice about the album, is that it is an obvious melting pot of influences that may seem far fetched, yet the band make them work. Think of funk, blues, fusion, dance music and rock. Or as Jimi Hendrix, Steely Dan and Chic having a coming together, wooing the crowd with a vibrant mix of songs, sounds and beats.
Yes the album moves around with the various tracks. But when it is over, I cannot help but think that it was a damn fine listen that just made me feel good. And upon listening closer, it is also clear that underneath all those positive vibes, is a band that knows how to play and treats you with little musical accents and arrangements that show their ability.

So if you should need more prove that it is possible to create independent music that is easy on the ears, sounds good, is suited for a large audience, and is still filled to the brim with class musicianship, look no further.

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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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