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Sunday, May 29, 2016

David Bremner: Gentle Healing


Scottish singer and songwriter David Bremner has a fantastic new release titled “Gentle Healing,” if you haven’t heard this one yet, let me assure you it is a lovely ballad. The song has such a soul-searching quality, something that I desperately relate to at this stage of my life (I’m always on the lookout for sympathetic music and this one doesn’t disappoint). The strummed guitar and ethereal background are perfect backdrops for the slide guitar that cuts through the mix. It reminds me a little bit of the dissonances in Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata” – something so pure and empathic but still there is pain we can hear. Of course, Mr. Bremner’s voice is powerfully emotional, it’s mature and strong yet so wonderfully capable of delivering the gentleness for which the song calls.


For anyone interested (and you should be) you can preview and purchase the song through http://vibedeck.com/shineonrecords/gentle-healing

Serge Bulat: Queuelbum


If you read the introduction to a project and you find these words describing it, you're bound to be intrigued:

…a shifting realm of sound, visual art and philosophy; your ultimate race against time and limitations. The experience requires maximum involvement: challenge your imagination and be willing to break the rules of logic. Use your imagination - this is the only force that fuels evolution. Get ready for the journey!

The above passage is the artist Serge Bulat’s remarks about his newest release titled “Queuelbum,” and it is absolute sonic genius. It’s a large work which clocks in at eleven tracks. Many of them are odd and beautiful soundscapes which take a somewhat minimalistic approach but in the best possible way. It’s strange, but tastefully and incitingly strange.


My piece of choice from the album would have to be number six “Interqueue,” a very cinematic piano-scape that transforms into stunning sound design (almost like the kind you’d hear in the background of David Lynch’s “Eraserhead” but way more beautiful – although still pretty creepy). Of course, although this is my favorite, all the other tracks measure up just as well.


I strongly recommend you check out Serge Bulat’s website and read about this wonderful project, you won’t be disappointed! www.sergebulat.com

Friday, May 27, 2016

Francis Bowie: Superblind Forever Free




All of my friends who know me well, know that I love quirky. Other things I love: synths, abstract lyrics, instrumental intros, and distinct singing voices. Frances Bowie has all of these and more; the new album titled “Superblind Forever Free” is a psychedelic-synthy romp through worlds of desperate sonic reality. The themes are catchy and the mood is futuristic and still so familiar.

The album begins with the instrumental track “Are You Hungry?” it’s a sort of electro-prelude featuring a semi-orchestral approach to synth composition. It’s part electric-light-parade and part vintage indie-rock. Probably its biggest strength is the subtle evolving nature of the track, it’s very cohesive but at the same time never boring.

“It’s in the Way” is next up – octave voices soar over thin synth lines. Melodically, it seems like it could be right at home with a late 1950’s early 1960’s slow dance scene from a movie. On the other hand, the drums and instrumentation make it decidedly modern.


The third track is “Fit In” (also featured in the above music video) is a song with a very slick guitar line accompanied by whistling. These vocals are way more rock-belty a la the “other” bowie. A song about not being accepted is nothing new to indie music, but again, the instrumentation and arrangement makes for an extremely original sound. A Hammond organ is also featured prominently in this number which scores big points with me.


“Cathedral” has probably the most orchestral intro of the whole album. To me, it is reminiscent of The Blue Nile’s song “The Downtown Lights” (a song I adore by the way) in the way the chord progression is simple but very lush. This stands in contrast to “Forever” with a piano loop along with what sounds like a found-sound drum loop. The vocals soar in this one; they are dreamy, reverbed and beautiful. The chorus employs a little more of that 1950’s flavor which seems like a minor theme in this album.

I’m skipping over the track “The Idea is Always Free” (not that it’s not great – it’s got a lot of spoken word qualities – which is cool) only because I love the title track “Superblind” so much which is next.

Sad and upbeat is tricky to pull off well, I think no one did this quality better than The Flaming Lips, but Francis Bowie makes a pretty strong play for equality with those guys. The piano in "Superblind" is played beautifully and with background vocals are so ethereal it sounds very cinematic. All of this serves as a soundbed for the aforementioned dreamy vocals. The chorus sounds an anthem of “Leave your things behind, trust the superblind” is about as catchy as I can write. 

Tracks 8, 9, and 10 offer a lot to round out the sound of the album “Don’t Fucking Tell Me” is just aggressive enough to be sympathetic if you are feeling irritated. “Alea Lacta Est” lets me use my college-Latin for once in my life (the die is cast), it’s a very short track but makes for a nice interlude. “Fuck Education” has much the same mood as “Don’t Fucking Tell Me” but it takes quite a bolder stance in a “damn the man” type mentality. As a college professor, I really wish they had been more specific with the chorus sounding “fuck formal education” but the syllables probably wouldn’t work that way.

To me, the winner in the last half of the album (other than the title track) is number 13, “Rollercoaster” a quick song featuring hard hitting pop rhythms, a terrific electro-funk bass line, and a catchy melody. I think fans of late Sneaker Pimps would appreciate this song greatly.  Like so many other songs in “Superblind Forever Free” the vocals are helped along by a doubling at the octave – something that is pulled off expertly on this album.


Overall I can say honestly that in my 5-7 listenings of Francis Bowie’s newest release I was able to hear something new and beautiful each time. It’s a remarkable work of indie sounds and I’ll probably have it in rotation for a while still. I’ll look forward to the next release, in the meantime, you should check out “Superblid Forever Free” on Spotify and hop over to the website here: www.francisbowie.com

Monday, May 23, 2016

Janna Pelle: Key Change


In what is quite possibly the most wonderful exploration of keyboard instruments since the famous "Switched on Bach" by Wendy Carlos, Janna Pelle has given us yet another reason to love the ivory and ebonies. Her new (ambitious) 2016 album titled "Key Change" is a grand tour of keyboard instruments including the Harpsichord, Wurlitzer Organ, Piano, and many others. Luckily for the audience, there are also a series of videos exploring the individual instruments - such as the one below featuring the Harpsichord. 


It's nice to know that in our current time of limitless keyboard opportunities for sound (though sampling and synthesis) there are artists keeping alive the tradition of acoustic instruments thought not to have a place in the recording world. For that reason, we can all applaud Janna Pelle. To learn more (as well as hear samples of music) please visit her website at www.jannapelle.com

Monday, May 16, 2016

Gotham Theory: Why'd You Break Up With Me?



Sometimes it’s just got to be noisy. Rock n’ roll (especially the kind that traces itself back to the blues) ought to be gritty, loud, and beautifully unkempt. This is how I feel anyway, and it’s good to know that Baltimore boys “Gotham Theory” agree with me. Direct from the bio section of their website they note firsthand:

Gotham Theory is jumping on the train to strip rock back down to the basics. Mixing big riffs and bluesy solos is a sound that may seem familiar based on their influences, but with groovy rhythm section Gotham Theory evolves from those influences to craft a unique sound.


I would add that there is an artistic sensibility present in the music as well. Maybe it’s the pop-art cover (reminiscent of Roy Lichtenstein) of their newest studio album “Why’d You Break Up With Me?” (which may be ordered at the band's website gothamtheory.com) that indicates there is going to be a lot of meat on this intellectual bone. The album clocks in at 11 tracks and while the sound is distinct to each number, there is a common thread of time-tested ruggedness that runs through each song (two of which: “Angry Boy” and “Stepping Out” can be heard on their website).

“Angry Boy” pays homage to distorted guitar blues from the rifts right down to the story-oriented lyrics. It hits the ground running with in-your-face repeating melodies and doesn’t let up for the duration. The vocals are fantastically melodic and yet, they are gruff and scream-oriented which is not an easy nuance to pull off, but here it is done masterfully. “Angry Boy” is not only a declamation of a life gone wrong – it is a sympathetic call to the audience which says “feel this with me!”

“Stepping Out” is no less aggressive than “Angry Boy” but it is quite a bit more optimistic in its sound. At its best, it has an almost disco-quality, that is, if disco could be played with only distorted guitar, drums, and bass (ahhh, I’m missing the slide drums). The lyrics couldn’t be any better, a song about proud cheating is so wonderfully assertive with masculine energy. In a world populated by emasculated betas trying desperately to downplay their testosterone, it is good to know that we can still enjoy art not catering to the modern political climate.


Visiting their YouTube channel is also worthwhile for the acoustic covers - only one up right now, but it's a performance which demonstrates this is a live band (no disrespect to their studio work which is incredible). Here in this cover of Amy Winehouse’s “Valerie” we get to see Sam Brewer belt passionately while Josh Sunderlin strums beautifully in support. It’s an incredible rendition of a great song – hopefully, we’ll see more of these in the future.



I think if John Lee Hooker could have developed precognition and been able to see down the generations to acts like Gotham Theory, he’d be happy. It’s nice to know that younger musicians are maintaining a strength of character, writing engaging lyrics, and just playing the shit out of their instruments for the sake of rock. The band, made up of Sam Brewer on drums and lead vocals, Stu DePoy on Bass, Zach Mason on guitar, and Josh Sunderlin on guitar and lead vocals make for a very powerful sonic quad. Do yourself a favor while you’re downloading “Why’d You Break Up With Me?” – make sure you also listen to it with a pair of headphones just to get every lyric and grungy guitar chord. 

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Winner: Phil Joseph for Best International Artist


We are pleased to announce our first winner in the category of Best International Artist: Mr. Phil Joseph!


An ambition of ours here at Current Music Thoughts was to bring to our readers excellence in music making within the independent world - and I'm sure you know how many artists there are to hear. That being said, there are individuals who are making music that just jumps out and screams to be acknowledged. Such an artist is London-based Phil Joseph and his unique, tasteful, and masterful rendition of the classic Ben King tune "Stand by Me." It has upbeat dance and reggae elements which breathe new life into the track as if giving it a second-wind during the midnight of the original's popularity. 


Featuring the rapper Malik on the verses it is original and yet at the same time such a beautiful homage to classic American music. This reason, more than any other, is merit enough for the award as in a period of waning interest in the USA Mr. Joseph gives us a positive nod. It's a love song - but at the same time we're all wondering if there is a dual meaning saying "stand by me and everything is going to be OK" and from this side of the pond, we appreciate it. Congratulations Mr. Joseph on an outstanding achievement, we will be anxiously awaiting many more tunes!


Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Artist Interview: TJ Leonard

A few weeks back I posted a review of some songs by Swedish country-artist: TJ Leonard. Now he has graciously agreed to an interview to speak about his music which I find fascinating.

MW: Mr. Leonard, thanks for being here!

TJL: Hi thanks for having me.

MW: I’m curious, as I think most readers are, what brought you to writing, recording, and performing country music?

TJL: I come from a family where music always were in the centre when we got together so it came natural. I studied music for a couple of years and after that I started to write and produce music. We formed the band Chestnut about six years ago and I wrote most of the songs. I got into country music at the time Keith Urban released Somebody like you in 2002 and I haven't listened to or written any other kind of musc since then. So that song really inspired me and I started to listen to all kind of country both old and new.

MW: Sometimes country music (in the USA) is seen as a “national-music” and while there have been a few notable non-Americans performing it, there haven’t been many. What has the reception been like for you among US audiences?

TJL: I get fan emails that says that they think my music is awesome and that they can relate to the lyrics so that's great and the songs are climbing the charts too so I guess I'm doing something right. So far everything is happening in the cyber world so I would love to come over to perform face to face with the US audience :)

MW: Are you ever afraid of being treated like a novelty?

TJL: HAHA that is a new word for me.Well the weels of music business turns very fast these days so it could be that I am a novelty but does it worry me? No not really. It is what it is. I will write music and release it. Some will like it and some will not.


MW: Your songs are beautiful and very engaging, no question about that, could you cue us in on your process for writing?

TJL: Thanks for saying that. Well, I often get an idea while driving my car or taking a shower for example. I record it on my phone so I don't forget it. I have a studio in my basement so when I have the time I can go down there and start working on the song. Most of the time I write the music and the lyrics at the same time and the topic of the song will decide the content. I write about things in my life or about stuff going on around me. I meet a lot of people in my job and a lot of stories comes up when I talk to those people.

MW: Where has been your favorite place to perform so far?

TJL: We used to have a big country festival close to Stockholm called Lida country festival. The stage was huge and it was a great place to perform at. I also did a small gig in Nashville in 2014 and that was also a special one.

MW: There seems to be at least a small folk-element to your songs – am I correct in this observation?

TJL: Yes, I try to include those elements. I love the sound of dobro, fiddle and banjo and to me a country song should contain some of those instruments. Coming from Sweden my songs will have a kind of pop feal to them of course, so without those instruments they would be pop-songs with country lyrics.

MW: Do you have any tours or other projects on the horizon?

TJL: I have a couple of gigs booked for this summer but no tour. I have a day job and a family so it's not that easy to just take off. Country music is getting bigger and bigger over here and my kid is growing so I hope there will be one in the future. I've started on a second album though. I haven't decided if it will be a full album or an EP yet. The plan is to go to Nashville in October to write and meet people and to get inspired. I love that city!

MW: Thanks so much for your time!

TJL: Thank YOU and thanks for the great review.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Blue Moon Harem: Deep into the Blue

Veteran musicians Jon Bix and Demetri Joannou are set to release a new forthcoming album “Deep into the Blue.” This will be their third studio release under their current incarnation of “Blue Moon Harem” – as a generous bit of trivia for CMT readers, lovers of the 90’s will remember the duo from the Boston-based group “Requiem.”


“My Front Door” - a song about not escaping those who hold a grip on us - is reminiscent of rock sounds from two decades ago – some clean/distorted guitar strums over a gruff but at the same time very melodic tenor. The song follows a progression of increasing tension until it hits the chorus with some banging drums. It’s got incredible energy! The inclusion of a very tasteful guitar solo makes the piece very satisfying.




Other songs on the album are equally successful. Tracks such as "Lie" are wonderfully blues-nuevo all the while keeping a grunge-edge (plus some noise elements that really make the track stand out). There is a balance going on here; an almost literary symmetry that can really only occur with the artistic fermenting over time. Mastery in not only one’s instrument and performance, but perhaps more importantly: style. Blue Moon Harem has this in spades. To learn more, please visit their website here: bluemoonharem.com

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Chasing Jonah: War Paint

Heartfelt and soulful are words I used to describe the South East American independent music scene. During my college years, I was a strong devotee of Underwater (formed from the Florida band “Rosewater Elizabeth”), Tourmaline, and Alison With One. It’s hard to put my thumb on the sound but there is an almost mystical simplistic and yet passionate quality which seemed like a common thread running through all these artists.


It is nice to see that 13 years later, this tradition still continues in the form of Florida based group: Chasing Jonah (fronted by singer/songwriter Ashley Dudukovich) and their newest release “War Paint.” The chord progression sounds something like a I, vi, iii which creates for an extraordinarily sentimental sound. This is offset; however, through the strength of Dudukovich’s cutting vocals. She perfectly navigates the grey-space between a Broadway belt and sexy whisper. Still, there is also pain – reserved pain, but it comes through beautifully. These is nothing about this song that doesn’t work for me; it’s an absolute gem deserving of significantly more views/listens than the current 585 (although, I imagine that is going to change as people share these works with fellow music fans).

Chasing_Jonah_Shauna_Hundeby_East_Coast_5-(2) 


Their album “Prelude” (almost on endless repeat at my house) can also be heard on their website here: http://chasingjonah.com