Single Review: “The Last American Virgin”

“The Last American Virgin” is the latest single from KATZ, a trio from Manchester, UK, self-released this New Year’s Day, as the first single of their upcoming EP to be released on February 3rd.

The band consists of Ben Williams on vocals and guitar, James Bradbury on lead guitar and bass, and Archie Wilkinson on drums.

The track is a bittersweet tale of lovesickness, inspired by the film of the same name, with an energetic mixture of surf-rock, indie pop and, punk, proudly DIY and Lo-Fi, as it was recorded “in an attic bedroom of a shared student house” according to the band, directly into cassette on a TASCAM 244, the venerated 4-track portastudio.

KATZ – fLTR: James Bradbury, Ben Williams, Archie Wilkinson.

It starts with a frantic guitar strumming of 2 chords for a short while, an almost metronomic drum joins in, then the first verse comes, summing up the song for us:

Dreaming of her

Wishing I could be with her

She sees other guys

Wish I could make her mine

The pace of the song is energetic, the urgency emanating from it is nothing short of infectious, standing in sharp contrast with the melancholy and disillusionment found in lyrics, like the chorus:

Maybe it’s just me, maybe I’m not your type
why’d you have to tell me you’re mine
Maybe it’s just me, maybe I’m not your type
why’d you have to feed me these lies

Towards the end of the song, the drums play a machine-like staccato and Ben lets out a wistful falsetto, almost like a lament, before ending the track with a final chorus.

The end result is a lively tune, a song that contains elements of a potential classic: a universal pop song theme, a relentless tempo, and tight musicians whose sound seems embarked on a mission, we won’t hear the last of them for sure.

Single Review: “Keepsake”

“Keepsake” is the latest single from Permanent Vacation, the British/American acoustic duo based in Rome, self-released this January 20th, and it’s the last single out of their debut album, to be released this march on the Z Tapes label.

The track is another example of their characteristic blend of indie-pop and low-key folk, slow guitar arpeggios greet us politely, and a soft voice shares with us a melancholic lamentation:

Tell me you miss me and I’ll see you soon

Tracing your veins in the black of a room 

Taking up spaces wherever you move 

Fighting off this deep and terrible gloom

It’s a tale where the empty spaces take too much room to cope with, where the narrator keeps telling herself that someday her other will be back, while at the same time knowing fully well that it’s only a futile illusion.

The arpegios continue throughout the song, with the lyrics and the vibe creating the picture of the narrator dancing a slow, lone waltz with the memories of a long lost love, those feeling are expanded in the second verse:

I read your letter six times yesterday

Smoothed out each wrinkle and tasted your name

See you tomorrow but it never came

Been here a while but who can I blame? 

The narrator engages in emotional self-harm, poking into inner open wounds and making sure they won’t heal, at least not for now, towards the end another guitar enters the scene to add to the overall bittersweetness of the song.

The song expresses tastefully the feelings of loneliness that can exacerbate in winter, a fitting soundtrack for this troubled winter from this duo, who are commendable for their sincere and consistent output.

Single Review: “forgetmenot”

“forgetmenot” is the debut single of COSMO, the musical project of Cosmo Bellamy, a musician based in Manchester, UK, self-released last November 27th.

The track is a lovely example of lo-fi bedroom-pop duet with a subtle focus on the beats, it starts with a slow-tempo beat followed with a relaxing guitar strum, then subdued twin vocals make a polite entrance to center stage, bringing gorgeous melodic vocals contrasting with a melancholy-themed chorus:

Late on a Saturday
I’m tryna figure out
just what I want;
To forget you or not

Cosmo starts the first and only verse of the song, which is a small exchange between him a singer name Martha with both portraying a former couple reflecting on what went wrong with their love, with lines such as:

Silly me.
I guess I haven’t
figured out how to feel,

The track keeps drifting along with a series of soft breaks and repetitions of the bridge and chorus, only to climax in the last chorus, when both elements intertwine in a soft whirlwind of gorgeous vocal harmonies, and then a saxophone joins the tune, and keeps playing alone for a short while after the track is finished.

The track is catchy as it can be, the vocals and the way they were recorded and produced at times give the feeling of a hazy kaleidoscopic daydream, the elec piano and occasional synth pads add to the feel, it’s a track that won’t be forgotten that easily by anyone who is lucky enough to listen.

Single Review: “Never”

After a short break of 3 weeks, we’re (ok…ok, I’m) back in business, with (debatably) renewed energy and (hopefully) sharpened ears.

“Never” is the latest single of Khrystal, a singer-songwriter from Kansas City, KS, released on the last day of 2020, on Manor Records.

“Never” – Khrystal

The track begins with a haiku over an atonal bossa-nova guitar, letting us know that we’re about to enter unfamiliar territory:

Solar alignment

To end and begin are brave

Universal flow

A minimalist rhythm pattern sets in, and Khrystal, in a unique delivery halfway between humming and hushed rapping, shares with us, who are willing to listen, a short story of self-determination, gratitude and humbleness, and faith set to poetry, with lines that appear at each end of the song:

I’m writing this letter to you

Tell you I won’t be back soon

Tell you it will be never

The song ends after the second instance of this verse, ending the song in an abrupt fashion.

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The song stands out for two reasons: the first one is its brevity, at 1:16, it’s impressive the way that Khrystal has managed to cram a notable amount of substance into such short duration, the second is its ambience, she succeeded in creating an unusual vibe, almost dream-like, without resorting to sound effects trickery, using just her poetry, subtle guitar strumming and her breezy, almost whispering voice.

An original and positive note to wave goodbye to a (to say the least) difficult year.

Single Review: “Honey Touch”

“Honey Touch” is the latest single from Charlotte Bumgarner, a singer-songwriter based in Tulsa, OK, released this December 11th on Manor Records.

The first word that popped in my mind within the opening seconds is “Sweetness”, the track opens with a soft synth pad chord, giving the sense of entering into a cloud, and when Charlotte’s delicate vocals slowly radiate, the cloud walls feel like aural cotton candy, the feeling only intensifies with the first lines:

honey touch, sweetest taste oh a sugar rush

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Charlotte Bumgarner

While the dreamy ambience keeps glowing in the background constantly, the lyrics take a bittersweet detour, especially towards the end, when Charlotte laments:

i can never let go of you or this feeling in my chest

feeling in my chest

After those lines are uttered, the music ends in a fadeout, the clouds fade away into the distance and we slowly drop down back into reality.

The single is a delightful example of Dream-Pop, the soft sounds and ambience took me on a brief sonic watercolor daydream, the ideal soundtrack for a winter sunset.

EP Review: “II”

“II” is the latest EP from Dead Rituals, a band based in Naples, Italy, self-released last October.

While this is not a one-man band, Dead Rituals is centered around its frontman Andrea Caccesse, who also serves as its sole songwriter, producer and engineer, with a cast of collaborators, most notably vocalist Brita Penfold, who is featured in a couple of tracks.

The EP is composed of 3 tracks and an acoustic version of one as an added bonus, the 1st track, “Broken Memories” starts with an anthemic ambience, a driving and punchy drum kicks in, minimalist guitar lines join, and Andrea introduces himself, telling us a story of overcoming a negative and hurtful relation, punctuated by lines such as:

I don’t care if we lose it all.

‘cause after we’re gone, we’ll fade in the dirt.

After such intensity for the first to minutes, the track closes with a minute and a half of a slower, introspective segment, as if he teller is experiencing a brief period looking back in quiet reflection.

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Andrea Caccesse – Dead Rituals

The following track, and IMO the Highlight of the EP, “Slow Down”, is a more mellower tune with in an unusual 5/4 time signature, the mood is a little more upbeat, from the ethereal synths, and the plea for a respite with a sneaky twist between the lines:

I am taking my time Slow down,

slow down and come to me.

I need to lie down

I am already over the edge.

The 3rd track, “When The Lights Are Out” takes a turn into a broody direction, acoustic guitars come to the forefront to add to the melancholy of the tune, the ethereal synths keep lurking in the background but in a more sombre vibe.

The final (bonus) track is an acoustic version of “Slow Down”, not much to add to it, perhaps Andrea wanted the effort to end in a lighter note, who knows?

Each track was created in a different style and mood, at first glance, they appear to be seemingly mismatched, but what keeps it all together is the thematic thread, about the ups and (mostly) downs of being with someone, giving the listener a conceptual feel, and making the effort more cohesive in the process, the musicianship is top-notch, and combined with the decent production skills of its creator, the end result is a highly satisfying record from beginning to end.

Single Review: “Grace”

“Grace” is the debut single of Nate Adamson, a singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist from Vancouver, BC, self-released last October 2nd.

The relatively lengthy (5:32) track is an anthemic country-flavored indie-rock ballad, with gorgeous melodies, acoustic and lead guitars that strike the ear gently, providing a fitting background for Nate’s breezy vocals, singing subtly cryptic lyrics that maybe can be read as a love song, or a self-assurance declaration, or both:

What am I supposed to say?

Asking me why I ran away

Its better now, I’m glad you’re gone

Grace won’t be steering me wrong

The climax of the song is an intricate guitar solo at the final minute and a half of it, fading out into silence.

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Nate Adamson

The production values are well above average, every element is very well balanced, the guitars, the drums and the keyboards lie in harmony and give plenty of room to the vocals to flow.

The single brings to the forefront Nate’s multiple hats and talents, as a composer, as a vocalist, as a multi-instrumentalist and most importantly, as a producer, all done with flair that seems effortless for some reason, and all of it is condensed here into song for the world to listen, and it should.

Single Review: “Won’t Stop Dreaming”

“Won’t Stop Dreaming” is the debut single from The Reality TV, the musical project of Benjamin Mace-Crossley, a musician from Chester, UK, self-released this past November 16th.

Benjamin, who’s also known as half of the experimental post-punk duo PKNN explores in this single a more melodic and accessible side of his music, gone are the spoken word vocals and dense rhythms, or at least they’re stored away until another opportunity arises.

The track is a blend of indie-pop and minimalist synth-pop with subtle elements of his more familiar post-punk, it starts with a simple and straightforward drum machine pattern and casio-like chords, adding layers upon layers of sounds, starting with his voice and completing the build up with the guitar, with an unassuming guitar solo in the final minute.

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Benjamin Mace-Crossley – The Reality TV

The most noticeable thing to my ears are his vocals, they’re relatively high in the mix, more than the usual, Benjamin sounds very confident in front of the mike, and he also sings his own harmonies in the second half of the track, giving an interesting range of vocal hues.

True to his Post-Punk sensibilities, Benjamin penned a lyrical cautionary narrative of a toxic and self-destructive relationship from a first person POV:

And I won’t stop dreaming

And you wont stop letting me down

Can’t you see I’m broken on my knees

You’ve got me by the throat, stop letting me breathe

What comes out of all of this is a dark yet poppy tune, Benjamin is definitely not afraid of showing a lighter shade in his music, and we won’t stop enjoying the single thanks to it.

Single Review: “Nihilistic Dreamer”

“Nihilistic Dreamer” is the latest single from Senseless Optimism, the musical project of Brit Tsewole from Lowell, MA, self-released this November 27th.

The track is another dreamy display of Brit’s special blend of Jazz-influenced Indie-Pop, sprinkled with her unique voice on top, a soothing smoky contralto sounding unlike anything else I’ve heard in the genre.

In addition to her voice, the most noticeable feature in her music is her compositional talent, with her unusual chord structures and guitar playing, she plays with the pop rulebook, adding her own artsy doodlings into it.

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Brit Tsewole – Senseless Optimism

The song is a melancholy-laden tune about the desire to escape, escape from our situation, from our past, or from a stiffening place:

And now I wonder why I try.

Fly my way outside,

Fly away.

The minor chords are in charge, augmenting the negative feelings with the desolate guitar strumming, with a brief sweet interlude towards the end of the song, like a sunny daydream in the middle of a dreary day, only to return to reality in the final bars.

The final result is like a honey lemon tea, with extra lemon, it may be heavy and sour but the sweetness goes up to the tongue in droplets, something unusual to make sense of an unusual approaching winter.

Single Review: “Sad Eyes”

“Sad Eyes” is the latest single from “The Shop Window”, a band from Maidstone, UK, to be self-released this November 27th.

The core of the band, Carl Mann and Simon “Syd” Oxlee, have a long experience in the music scene, playing together in some form or another since starting in the mid 90’s as a band named Westpier, and together with Martin Corder and Phil Elphee, they bring to our ears a brilliant Jangly Power-Pop anthem.

Interestingly the track sounds nostalgic yet refreshing, a homage to the great bands of the pre-britpop days but at the same time forward-looking with lots of vigor, it begins with 4 bars of a lone jangly guitar line with the rest of the band joining in with a bang, letting us know that things are going to get intense.

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The song is a bittersweet tale of shared moments between Carl and his Grandmother, it’s a song filled with love, an ever-lingering feeling of the unavoidable end, and the importance of enjoying those moments together and cherishing them while you still can.

The poignancy of the tune is well expressed in the lyrics:

I showed you photos of your great grandson

How he’s grown, how he smiles

Reminds you of when I was young

For a moment time stood still

Thanksgiving is not celebrated around these parts (Israel) but the song lovingly stressed the point of how all of us should be thankful to our Grandparents and cherish every moment we can still spend with them, I sure will.