Current concise reviews of the albums by adult alternative, contemporary, and crossover artists. Images
of album artwork and links to both internet-based resources are always included. Click on the title to
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The Cellophane Flowers
More Digest Entries
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\r\nphoto: Rachel Schroeder
\r\nimage © Mermaid Kiss 2012
.: more Mermaid Kiss :.
Salt On Skin (2006)
Mermaid Kiss* (2003)
Electric | Demo* (2003)
Love Her Madly (2002)
* review, interview, photo feature article
click image to visit artists' CDBaby
Evelyn Downing (lead vocals)
image © Mermaid Kiss 2012
(14 October 2012) Another Country is the twelve-track 2012 album by Britain's Mermaid Kiss. Their fourth release is the result of the artists' five year American Images project. It follows the artists on an imaginary journey from picturesque Boston to the bright lights of New York, down via the Appalachian Mountains where time stands still, and on to the steamy South. In their imaginary journey, they drive through the America of films and of music; an America uncorrupted by reality. The songwriters actually have not yet visited America.
In the spirit of offering something new and unexpected on each album, Another Country departs from earlier Mermaid Kiss outings in several dimensions. First, still fronted by Evelyn Downing, the music is clearly planted in singer/songwriter territory without reference really to any other genre. Sadly, the album also celebrates Eveyln Downing maturing in her professional career and her own life and is therefore the last Mermaid Kiss album she will front.
The album is the first digital only release by the band. There will be no physical product. Consequently the artists have gone to great length to full illustrate it online. Visit the Another Country webspace to navigate the album's story and images. The album is the first to feature a photograph selected from submissions by Mermaid Kiss enthusiasts. The cover image was supplied by Rachel Schroeder who also provided lyrics for the track "The Scissored Ground."
The album is the first to include work from a variety of guests, many that have toured with Mermaid Kiss during the years they did so. The lineup includes: Evelyn Downing (vocals, harmony vocals, flute); Wendy Marks (flute, cor anglais, oboe, recorder, harmony vocals); Jamie Field (acoustic guitar); Pete West (acoustic, electric, bass guitars and harmony vocals); Colin Henney (keyboards); and Steve White (drums).
The album was recorded, engineered and produced by Evelyn Downing with additional recording by Steve Redfearn at Rockhopper Studios. It was mixed by Evelyn Downing and Andrew Garman at The Goat Shed. Aside from the one track mentioned above, and "Interludes for Cor Anglais and Piano" by Wendy Marks and Colin Henney, all words and music are by the longtime writing team of Jamie Field and Evelyn Downing.
Another Country launches with the brief scene-setting, keyboard-washed and Americana-styled song "Frontier." Mermaid Kiss selected their single "Circles of Fire" as the first of the album's longer tracks. The most gentle of arrangements back Evelyn's crystalline vocal delivery. Listen for non-obtrustivve guitar, flute and keyboard excursions that break through strategically.
In "Dust Bowl Bride" light percussion works alongside acoustic guitar to provide a thematic backdrop to Evelyn's evocative and powerful vocal delivery. The flute provides a haunting Celtic break between vocal passages and harmony vocals create great texture in the chorus. Voice shines through gentle acoustic guitar as the story of "Rhonda and the Paper Crane" opens. Bass and further arrangements underscore Evelyn's bright lyrical delivery. Harmony vocals contribute texture to the mood as the song plays out. Listen for the tremendous acoustic guitar solo.
"L.A. Aria" is one of the album's standout tracks. Here and the very best illlustration of the singer's range, Evelyn's powerful lead vocal glides atop layered harmonies only initially and then keyboards in the ballad's stunning introduction. Listen for the transitional segment led by Wendy Marks' oboe mid-song and great keyboard work within the rich arrangements. Evelyn's power is also evident in "The Scissored Ground." The flute and electric guitar solos within the song are an oustanding contrast.
"Ghost Rider" is also one of Another Country's standout tracks. The arrangements of upbeat track combines guitar, recorder and strings. Listen for the especially well placed recorder solos. The lyrics and melody of this radio-friendly pop number actually have a great hook. The mysterious down-tempo sound of "Trail of Tears" perfectly suits the intense lyrical message delivered in Eveyln's layered vocal passages. Wrenched with emotion, the piano-based ballad "Comes and Goes" brings the sung portion of Another Country to a conclusion. Listen for the especially well-delivered mid-song oboe solo.
There are also three lovely instrumental interludes, two of which two serve as segues between the album's movements. The third features a warm Americana-styled melody that concludes the album. The three numbers were all written by and feature the musicianship of Wendy Marks on Cor Anglais and Colin Henny on piano.
While many of us will miss new recordings by Evelyn Downing with Mermaid Kiss, she has music talent and a voice that will not be denied, so we remain hopeful that she will return to music someday. We are pleased to report that Mermaid Kiss will continue on. New vocalist Maria Milewska is onboard and the recording of the next album is already well underway. Jamie is involved in yet another female vocalist project which should bear fruit in the next year. Wish the artists luck in their future endeavors and return here often for more news on Evelyn, Jamie and Mermaid Kiss. Another Country will be available from CDBaby and other online sources. Bravo!
click image for Rachel's website
\r\ncover illustration: Sophie Milner
\r\nimage © Middle of Nowhere
.: more Rachel Sermanni :.
Black Currents (2012)
exclusive interview (2012)
click image for Rachel's FaceBook
image © Middle of Nowhere
(10 September 2012) After February's remarkable four track EP Black Currents and June's beautifully packaged "Eggshells" single -- containing both 7” vinyl and CD versions) -- Rachel Sermanni has released her much anticipated full length debut album Under Mountains (Middle Of Nowhere Recordings (UK) SERMANNICD05, 2012). The album was mastered at Abbey Road Studios. Be sure to read our exclusive interview with Rachel conducted in September 2012.
Much of what I wrote when reviewing Black Currents can be applied to Under Mountains as the album is really an extension of that four song EP, and Rachel continues to garner plaudits both from critics and fellow musicians. Elbow frontman, and BBC 6Music presenter, Guy Garvey called her, "Really, really something special. She's amazing. Listen to her voice. Quite astonishing."
Music has far too many genres these days and the twelve beautifully conceived and executed songs on this disc could be filed under 'female singer-songwriter,' 'neo-folk,' 'folk-noir,' 'chamber-folk,' etc., but in truth, the music transcends all attempts to pin it down and label it.
The album is produced by Ian Grimble who also produced Black Currents, and as he did on that collection, he's wisely used a limited, acoustic, musical palette of guitar, piano, bass, occasional percussion and a trio of violinists, Siobhan Anderson, Louise Bichan and Laura Wilkie, who, along with pianist Jennifer Austin, also provide backing vocals. This gives the disc great unity, which is a fine achievement as the earliest of the songs here was written while Rachel was still at school. He ensures the focus throughout is firmly on Rachel's voice and the songs.
"Breathe Easy," "The Fog," "Black Current" and "Song To A Fox" were the four tracks that made up the Black Currents EP (review). "Waltz" is the most sublime track I've heard in many a long year. It's a song that first appeared on Rachel's Live At The Bothy EP (as is "Little Prayer"), but in the time since that original sparse recording, "Waltz" has been lovingly nurtured and shaped into a thing of consummate beauty on which Rachel duets with Louis Abbott from the band Admiral Fallow.
What makes Rachel truly exceptional is how the combination of her voice and the writing pulls you into each song, living it rather than simply hearing it; you're on the inside, in the world her music constructs. Very few artists can do this. Sandy Denny at her best comes to mind as perhaps the prime example. This is an album that will appeal to those who like Laura Marling, Karine Polwart, Emiliana Torrini, Nick Drake and anyone who loves great music.
Although there are still three months left of the year, Under Mountains is a clear front-runner for my album of 2012. It is well deserved. Rachel Sermanni has an exceptional gift and is using it wisely.--Jamie Field in Kington, England
click image to visit Kate's website
\r\nphoto: Kathryn Learie
\r\nimage © Kate Morgan 2010
click image to visit Kate's FaceBook
photo: Kathryn Learie
image © Kate Morgan 2010
(03 September 2012) Kate Morgan is a rapidly emerging Canadian singer songwriter who was brought to our attention in her recent tour alongside Yael Akron and Pomme. While her image is evolving from that on her The Kate Morgan EP (Kate Morgan (Canada), 2010) front cover, her music is clearly planted in accessible singer songwriter-styled pop. The silkscreened eight track EP is beautifully yet simply packaged in a jewel box with lovely photos and song credits.
Kate is joined by band members Austin Short (guitars), Dasha Postnikov (piano), Tobi Duquette (drums, percussion) and Jonny Milstein (bass) on the EP. Additional guests provide further instrumentation to the arrangements. Besides the EP, Kate released the two more recent singles "Gypsy" and "You Were Made For This" in 2011. Listen to streams Kate's recent recordings at her website.
Most would count themselves lucky to have met their idols within a lifetime yet Kate Morgan has already shared the stage with those that have gone before her. After a tight and well received performance at the 2010 Lilith Fair in Calgary, Kate was invited onto the Vancouver stage for the finale where she performed alongside the likes of Sarah McLachlin, Sheryl Crow, and Erykah Badu. At just sixteen years of age, Kate was the Lilith Fair Tour’s youngest performer!
A few years have passed and Kate has relocated from Kamloops to Vancouver BC where she continues to pursue music as a career and lifestyle; closer to her band, fellow writers and producers. While she gracefully takes all opportunities and success in stride, Kate’' continual growth in all facets of her craft speaks to an unrelenting passion for music and to an uncommon determination.
With a sweet yet powerful voice, she is introduced on the EP with the gentle tunes "Lovin' You" and "I Love You More." But she really comes alive in the accessible and standout rocker "The Outside." In addition to the rich piano-driven arrangement, listen to the layers of Kate's voice as well as her solo lead atop the lone acoustic guitar in the song's conclusion. The track "Energy" is a lovely pop-oriented bookend but Kate demonstrating her power in delivering the lyrics with a stunning vocal performance.
In contrast, "Broken Toys" is a melancholy ballad whose instrumental arrangements build in strength across the song's running time. "Makin' Me" is a rousing and catchy rock oriented pop tune. Although thick electric guitars dominate the arrangement, Kate's solo lead vocal soars atop the the instrumentals without multitracking. The country styled "I Know" is performed alongside slide, electric and acoustic guitars. Listen to her stunning track "Where You Belong" a song that clearly show's Kate has the chops of the other young women dominating pop music today.
Kate's recordings following the EP find the artist with thicker, more robust arrangements. The rock song "You Were Made For This" is the first example. In "Eyes Wide Open," Kate sings atop gentle guitar with much thicker drum percussion elements. Her voice is maturing as demonstrated by the clarity of her delivery.
"Gypsy" (video) is a gorgeous track, sung powerfully atop crisp arrangements mixed perfectly underneath Kate's vocal work. "What I Need" is another lovely pop song that shows the maturity of the singer's talent. As a final illustrating of her breadth, listen to Kate's track "Never Be That Girl," a rhythmic dance-oriented electronic number.
Kate Morgan clearly has a bright future. Acclaim at an early age will help propel the singer songwriter to achieve significant success in her music career. Her EP is an excellent launch point. Clearly she will progress towards a full length album which we will eagerly await.
click image for Magnolia's website
\r\nimage © Lizard Records 2012
.: more Magnolia :.
exclusive Chiara Gironi interview (2012)
click image for Magnolia's FaceBook
Chiara Gironi (lead vocals)
image © Magnolia 2012
(03 November 2012) Magnolia is an Italian progressive rock band that was built on the foundation of the core members' earlier band Eclissidra. Fronted by the stunning Chiara Gironi, Eclissidra released one EP entitled Fiora di Pioggia (SIAE (Italy) ECL001, 1995) and recorded the yet unreleased eleven track album In Questo Momento in 1998. Work on the band's next album began immediately thereafter, although the gap and minor lineup changes led to renaming the group Magnolia. Although generally available throughout Europe today, Magnolia's debut album La Zona d'Ombra (Lizard Records (Italy) CD 0085, 2012) is presently only available in the USA through import sales channels. Read more about Chiara Gironi and the making of the album in our exclusive interview.
Magnolia is comprised today of Chiara Gironi (vocals and backing vocals), Donatella Valeri (piano); Simone Papale (bass); Claudio Carpenelli (drums and backing vocals); Butno Tifi (electric and classical guitars and backing vocals); and Alessandro Di Cori (electric, acoustic, 12-string, lapsteel guitars and ebow, bass, synth, backing vocals).
About La Zona d'Ombra (literally, "The Shaded Area") Chiara told us, "It's a concept album that tries to describe the most important moments in life and the different, sometimes contrasting feelings of a man condemned to death penalty. It's been inspired by David Hicks’ story, a young black man prosecuted for his grandmother's murder in Texas, who was executed on January 6th, 2000." The album's lyrics are in Italian. There are brief radio clips in English.
The fourteen tracks of La Zona D'Ombra run an hour. Three of the tracks are longer than the others with running times of over six and seven minutes respectively, the remainder vary significantly with times between two and almost five minutes. There are consistent themes that run through the entire album making it best to listen through in its entirety from one end to the other.
Eclissidra was formed in the mid-1990s based on the foundation of British progressive sounds and in fact when Chiara responded to their advert for a singer she said they were thinking of Genesis and Pink Floyd. As the artists have evolved Magnolia's music clearly has maintained allusions to UK progressive music. Consequently those that admire the work of Karnataka, Panic Room, Magenta, Mostly Autumn and The Reasoning are certain to be delighted with Magnolia's album. Chiara told us in our interview that she was also profoundly influenced by the work of Kate Bush. Listen to the clarity and intensity of Chiara's vocal work to hear the references.
Magnolia's album is broken into five discrete sections. The extended title track opens with an English radio clip and then introduces the band and the album's themes to the listener. Gentle acoustic guitar and piano-sound synth brings the album to life before harmony vocalise takes hold. Chiara's crystalline lead vocal is introduced along with more powerful synths as the arrangement deepens. The first of the three "Road To Hell" tracks--this one with an English radio blurb and dramatic instrumentals following the album's theme--follows.
Three tracks comprise the next section of the album. Chiara's vocal is especially powerful in metal-tinged rock track "Non ho." "Li Fuori" and "Home" are two similarly styled upbeat melodic rock tracks with brief electric guitar excusions. We were especially fond of the soft introduction on "Home" and production of the stunning lead vocal parts and rich backing harmonies on both of them. The second "Road To Hell" instrumental marks the end of the section with crisp acoustic guitar and keyboard washes that echo themes developed thusfar while navigating the listener to the next part of the album.
Six tracks are included in the second major portion of the album. "Lettre Di Annie" is a soft and melodic track fronted with Chiara's delicate vocal delivery. Glistening electric and slide guitars as well as harmony vocals join the mix in the memorable chorus of the song. The musical theme continues to develop in the album's standout tracks "Piccola Ala" and "La Gabbia." Listen to the dramatic transitions between verse and chorus and pay attention to Chiara's stunning vocal delivery.
The darkest track on the album, "Nel Mio Nome" is a gentle, stark and moody piano-based ballad. "Ellis One" is begins almost equally dark yet is far more instrumental. Chiara's at-times electronically texturized vocals are brooding. We were pleased that "Ellis One" warmed up in its final passage. Almost-spoken echoey vocals dominate "Corridoi" alongside keyboard and electric guitar excursions that contrast with rich progressive rock crescendos and tremendous vocal solos. The final and most powerful instrumental "Road To Hell" track closes the section. Listen for the extraordinarily powerful guitar solo midsong before the gentle and downtempo acoustic guitar and keyboard washed concluding passage.
The album's last track is a gentle acoustic ballad "Black Out." Sung expressively by Chiara, it is performed over acoustic and light electric guitar. Magnolia's debut album La Zona D'Ombre is a superb work and one that we've been anxiously awaiting since the video of "La Gabbia" promoting the project was first shared with us in October 2011 by one of our regular correspondents. Listen to the album this year!
click image to visit Camille's website
\r\nphoto: Dirk Heydemann
\r\nimage © Camille Miller 2012
.: more Camille Miller :.
Somewhere Near The Truth (2007)
Carnarvon Street (2004)
Balligomingo Beneath The Surface (2002)
Interview and Photos (2002)
She Knows (2001)
click image to visit Camille's FaceBook
photo: Dirk Heydemann
image © Camille Miller 2012
(13 October 2012) Ten years since first hearing her sing on Beneath The Surface, Camille Miller, a remarkable singer songer and member of the first women of Balligomingo, has officially completed her latest offering. The fourth solo outing by the artist since her debut, the new EP Parallel to the Sea (2012), is a six track collection of upbeat pop and rock songs. Originally from Canada, Camille is well known for her crystalline, well-honed and powerful voice and robust acoustic guitar playing.
Parallel to the Sea is Camille's first recording since her 2007 full length album Somewhere Near The Truth. She has traveled extensively during the period and those following her on FaceBook will know she has another full time job with her young family.
Camille's second solo album Carnovon Street continued to build upon her recognition after recording songs on Balligomingo's Beneath The Surface (2002). Read our interview with Camille here. The artist's 2001 debut album She Knows drew additional attention by the media following the Balligomingo release. Read our reviews of Camille's entire discography using links at the left.
Half of the new EP was recorded by Rick Salt at Lois Lane Studios, Nanaimo, BC while the other half was recorded, engineered and mixed by Chris Aiken at Studio 124, Warsaw, Poland. Camille wrote all of the songs exclusively except "Artificial Joy" which was co-written with her longtime writing partner Nick Hagger.
Produced on two continents across an extended period of time, Camille (lead vocals) is accompanied on Parallel to the Sea by an array of supporting musicians. Partial credits include: Chris Aiken (drums); Pat Steward (drums); Nick Haggar (bass, electric guitars); Ken Scardina (bass); Doug Elliott (bass); Camille Miller (acoustic guitar, electric guitar); Rick Salt (electric guitars); Darren Harry (electric guitar); Lindsay Martell (electric guitar, backing vocals); Mike Norman (keyboards); Steve O'Connor (keyboards); Joel Spillette (keyboards); Tina Jones (backing vocals, banjo, trumpet); and Hannah Herbison (opening scream on "Let Go!"). Buy the CD to find out more of the details of who plays where!
Those that follow Camille Miller's work will recognize a couple of the tracks on the new EP. The standout and most notable of these is the keyboard-laden upbeat concluding number "Artificial Joy." The song's placement will clearly leave the artist's listeners longing for Camille's next full length album. An earlier demo version of the gentle acoustic ballad "Song By You" is the second on the EP that Camille's followers have likely heard. Camille made this available on SoundCloud earlier. The heartfelt ballad will tear at listeners' heartstrings.
Parallel to the Sea opens with the guitar-laden and rhythmic pop-rock song "Tiniest of Hearts." Listen to Camille's power in the verse and the textured vocal harmonies in the chorus. While the guitar work is especially noteworthy, Camille's vocals will draw listeners further into her new EP. Her crystalline voice delivers the lyrics of "All About You" delicately with just enough backing harmony alongside the banjo in the arrangements to produce the ideal texture for the song.
"Mountains and Moons" is the perfect bookend to "All About You," although the arrangements are richer with layers of acoustic and electric guitar working beneath Camille's lead and other artists' backing vocal work. Listen most carefully to the range of Camille's lead vocal in the verse. Her variation of power is tremendous. "Let Go!" is a powerful pop song layered with guitars and backing vocals and a certain audience favorite in Camille's live performances.
Camille Miller will continue to build her audience with the release of Parallel to the Sea. Return here for further information about the release of Camille Miller's new EP. We admire Camille for being a devoted and full time mom and continuing her music career. Keep up the great work Camille. Your fans are sure to stick with you.
click image for Karnataka website
\r\n2 x CD | DVD version also available
\r\nimage © Immrama Records 2012
.: more Karnataka :.
The Storm (2000)*
Karnataka in Concert (2001)* [DVD]
Delicate Flame of Desire (2003)*
Live in the USA (2003) [DVD]
Strange Behaviour (2004)*
Gathering Light (2010)
w/Fula HLC Rotherham (2000)
w/Mostly Autumn HLC Rotherham (2001)
Mean Fiddler London (2001)
w/Sleeping Giant Aylesbury (2002)
w/October Project NYC (2002)
Classic Rock Festival Trenton (2002)
The Brook Southampton (2003)*
Robin 2 Bilston (2003)
w/Mermaid Kiss Stourbridge (2003)
* accompanied by interview
click image to visit band FaceBook
Hayley Griffiths (lead vocals)
image © Immrama Records 2012
.: more Hayley Griffiths :.
Silver Screen (2010)
interview and photos (2010)
(15 December 2012) Karnataka--a UK band that has been heavily covered by this publication since 2000--has evolved over the last two years to their third mainstream lineup. Now fronted by Hayley Griffiths, reviewed here back in 2010 as a classical crossover artist, Karnataka's newest project is an almost two-hour live album, DVD and BluRay set entitled New Light Live in Concert (Immrama Records (UK) KTKCD006 and KTKDVD0001, 2012). The booklet includes stunning photos of the artists contributed by Chris Walkden. The album is the band's first output since Gathering Light (2010).
In addition to Hayley Griffiths (lead vocals), Ian Jones (bass, bass pedals) is joined by Enrico Pinna (guitars, vocals) and newcomers Caĝri Tozluoĝlu (keyboards); Colin Mold (guitars, violin, vocals); and Matt McDonough (drums). The recording was done at The Met Theatre in Bury, England on 23 February 2012. The DVD must be seen to appreciate the band's on-stage performance and Hayley's striking visual presence.
Griffiths is a classically trained singer who has had long successful runs with Riverdance and Lord of the Dance as well as other West End outings. In addition to her classical crossover album Silver Screen (Surefire Music Group (UK) HG CD001, 2010), she completed an album of of traditional and contemporary Irish-themed music entitled Celtic Rose (Surefire Music Group (UK) HG CD002, 2011) just as her signing to Karnataka was announced.
Hayley's vocal work is a departure from Karnataka's prior singers Rachel Jones (pre-1998-2004) and Lisa Fury (2008-2010). The Karnataka spin-off project Chasing The Monsoon, that was also meant to include Fury's vocal work has not yet been released. We understand that a new studio recording by the current lineup is underway.
The New Light album and DVD find the band in their 2011-2012 tour with a good run of live performance experience. individual members have clearly become comfortable with the band's repertoire that spans their last dozen years although none of the tracks from Karnataka's debut self titled album have been included. Their performances are indeed outstanding. Arrangements have been tuned for the brighter and more robust keyboard work and to Hayley's vocal style. The addition of violin parts to the arrangements suits the music quite well.
Both the CD and DVD versions benefit from tremendous production and attention to capturing the details of the vocal performances as well as the arrangements without one over powering the other at anytime in the set. Video work is solid and not too choppy as so many unthoughtful concert recordings can be. The DVD provides an excellent introduction to the new lineup especially for those that either can't make it to see Karnataka live. It is also clear from the DVD that the band's stage show has evolved significantly since earlier tours.
Likely the best track to compare the first lineup to the third is the new arrangement of "Heaven Can Wait." The difference between the Kate Bush allusions of Rachel Jones and Hayley's classical/West End sound makes a tremendous difference, and diehard fans will find it quite noticable, but not offensive in any way.
Similarly, the powerful "Tide To Fall" is likely the best track to note the difference between the Lisa Fury-fronted lineup and the current team. Most of the live tracks, as one might expect, feature extended guitar and or keyboard solos. Karnataka's unique blend of Celtic and Middle-Eastern flair is certain to draw attention to this arrangement. Listen for the Riverdance or Lord of the Dance riff in the track.
"After The Rain" was fronted by Anne-Marie Helder and Rachel Jones on Delicate Flame of Desire. The rendition by the new lineup has of course has been reworked to better suit Hayley's vocal. She has done an especially good job on the vocal solo. Also listen for the new string arrangement in the mix.
In addition to the new renditions of material from The Storm, Delicate Flame of Desire and The Gathering Light, Karnataka have included of Haylety Griffith's tracks on this album. A real testament to her vocal talent, "Lagan Love," also recorded on Haley's Celtic Rose album, is performed brilliantly here atop a light keyboard wash. The stunning Hayley Griffiths song "Our Love" from Silver Screen is sung operatically against Karnataka's Celtic rock arrangement to the audience's sheer delight.
Karnataka are indeed back. Their New Light tour was extremely successful and brought back a loyal following to the band. They have now just completed the Forbidden Dreams tour where they played even more new material to audience delight. The New Light CD set, DVD and BluRay are available from the band's website. In addition to the music tracks included on the CD set, the DVD includes band interviews and a tour photo gallery. We can't wait for their next studio album. Bring it on!
click image to visit official website
\r\nimage © White Shore Music 2012
click image to visit Kim's FaceBook
image © Kim Edwards 2009
click image to visit Kim's FaceBook
image © Shay Arthur Photography 2012
(02 September 2012) Kim Edwards' debut album is a fourteen track followup to her self-titled EP and is entitled Wanderlust (White Shore Music (USA), 2012). The album was produced by Randy Adams and Kim Edwards and resulted from a successful Kickstarter project. Kickstarter is being used on an increasing level by both established and new musical artists. Kim is joined by a vast range of musicians that contribute to the album's arrangements.
"Each of the songs I’ve written for Wanderlust has been a reflection of a different place of travel—the album is a collection of songs from my journeys,” explains Dallas, Texas-based singer-songwriter Kim Edwards. The epic and elegantly emotional chamber pop on Kim's debut album, Wanderlust, documents three across the country moves and a lifetime devoted to studying lush theatrical pop.
"As a kid I studied Alan Menken’s Disney Scores for The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, and Aladdin. I remember being fourteen and doing some online research and I found the company in charge of the scores and I wrote them saying, 'I'm a student of orchestration, could you send me some scores?' and they did!" she says laughing.
The album is an introspective travelogue of relationships, stories, personal growth and spirituality. The dynamic sprawl of the wonderfully quirky arrangements extends from intimate piano-and-voice spare elegance to epically sweeping strings and playful circus-y brass passages, often in the same song. The album's mood is satisfyingly diverse, from the chamber-pop poise of "Blue" to the breezy tropical folk of "Aloha." Kim’s singing has an angelic purity with a touch of silky grit. Her delivery is graceful and tender, managing to be emotionally resonant without overly affected.
"The Show" wraps around the listener, starting off with a jaunty piano motif that's then layered with airy Queen-esque backup vocals and a whimsical snare drum pattern. The song exudes pop awe with seasick trumpets, festive trombones, a plinking triangle; it's an expansive but tastefully nuanced relationship narrative that manages to be both humorously absurd and warmly sincere.
The vaudevillian melodic motif is reprised instrumentally in "Interlude." Kim said, "My producer, Randy Adams, and I decided to put that in the way old movies have an intermission. I wanted to do something different. Having a brass interlude tribute to 'The Show' wasn’t normal; I tend to like doing things you wouldn't expect."
Kim studied classical piano starting at age four and for a short while was a piano performance major in college. Her grounding in music theory, orchestration, and arrangement is clearly evident on Wanderlust. But despite such an academic background, she has a free-spirited creativity that keeps the album joyfully accessible.
Her process for tracking the sweetly sentimental strings on "London-town" is a window into this low-key, natural artistic flow. "A friend who plays violin and viola came into the studio and we just winged it. We'd just hum parts, record it with the violin or viola, and layer them," Kim explains of the tracking process.
The singer credits moving from her snug Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania hometown for much of Wanderlust’s lyrical inspiration. "I moved across the country three times in the last two years: Pennsylvania to Texas to California and then to Texas again to record the album," she details. "When you do this, you meet all sorts of people with totally different viewpoints and life experiences.
The scripture-based track "121" is emotionally inviting and a non-denominationally biased lullaby. The track builds from mournful violins to powerful pop-rock dynamics. "I just love how that scripture is beautifully worded. I love the imagery and the flow of it. I appreciate ancient literature of any kind," Kim says. "When I was writing the music those words just came out; it’s one of my favorite passages in the bible. It brings out a lot of comfort and assurance."
Kim and her producer Randy Adams took a year to finish the album due to Randy’s busy schedule as an in-demand sound engineer. "For the longest time I didn’t hear the finished product until a month or two before the release date. When I heard all instruments together, I got choked up," Kim says candidly. "I'm so used to hearing myself with just piano; my songs were bones before but then they came to life as a living, breathing creature."
Kim has taken the Wanderlust album on her first tour, playing mainly in coffeehouses and intimate living room performances. Don't miss this charming and uplifting chamber-pop artist when she hits your local java spot, and check out her heartwarming travelogue Wanderlust.--original manuscript by Lorne Behrman in New York edited by Russ Elliot in Boston
click image for Loell Duinn FaceBook
\r\nimage © Loell Duinn 2011
\r\ndistributed by Quartier23
.: more Loell Duinn :.
click image for Loell Duinn FaceBook
Olja Frolo (lead vocals)
image © Loell Duinne 2011
click image for Loell Duinn FaceBook
Olja Frolo (lead vocals)
Alba Iulia, Transilvania, Romania
image © Mishu Vass 2011
(02 September 2012) Loell Duinn was born in spring of 2003 growing out of various musical projects dating from 1995. The ensemble has clearly evolved and matured over time into its current form. Their sole release to date is the twelve track album Retrospective 2003-2008 (Loell Duinn / Quartier23 (Germany), 2011). While this album may be challenging to obtain in some territories, a brief listen to streams available at YouTube (example: "Green Fairy") will be enough to convince even the casual listener to search it out.
Today the band is based in Croatia. Founded by Alen Zarifoviæ (classical guitar, 12 string acoustic guitar, vocals) and Olja Frolo (leadvocals, percussion), Loell Duinn began performing as a duo. Soon they were were hosting different musicians and drew critical acclaim for excellence in their performance, but they felt less comfortable in music's metaphysical form. Their growth came through time and new experiences and ultimately two new members: Goran Brezac (drums, percussion) and Patrik Šæira (keyboard, accordian) with whom Loell Duinn becames a complete and stable project. Their album also includes Ivona Kiršiæ (flute, woodwinds) and Marino Matošiæ (accordion, woodwinds). Learn more about the artists in our exclusive interview with Olja Frolo.
The band say that they have have composed some fusion of Arabic, Spanish, Balkan and local sounds using different languages, such as English, Croatian, Swedish, local dialects and invented languages. All the songs are composed as vocal-instrument parts that are mello, melancholic melodies connecting ethnic/folk elements with norms of classical music through historical vision of medieval, renaissance and baroque music in a modern performance.
"Cantalena" (subtitled "The Construction of Love") is the album's rousing opening number. It blends the warm vocal work of the lead singer with world music and serves as the perfect introduction to Loell Duinn. Likely their most popular song, complete with music video, is entitled "Green Fairy." Layers of Olja's delicate vocals glide above keyboard washes, percussive strings and deep percussion. Listen for the orchestral tones of the keyboard washes between the lyrical passages.
A Middle Eastern theme is developed through the excellent combination of dense instrumental arrangements and Olja's ever swirling vocalise in the stunning track "Desert Voice." The crescendo is breath taking. The extended instrumental of "Ples Života" eventually opens into a lovely and upbeat Celtic-tinged vocal-based number. "Embraces" (subtitled "Swan Song") couples Olja's powerful vocal work with a dense orchestral arrangement. The relatively brief vocal passages in this stunning track left us longing for more.
Olja delivers another incredible vocal in the wordly track "Zlöto Mojé" alongside crisp percussion and strings joined by woodwind. Listen for her power in the verse and warm choral arrangements in the memorable chorus. We also especially appreciated the acoustic guitar part in the song. "Sea Gulls" is a densely arranged piece and also features an amazing vocal performances. Sung in English, listen to her power both in lyrical and vocalise passages in the track.
"Shera Aila" is clearly the most middle eastern-sounding track on the album. Atmospheric instrumentals are rooted in woodwinds while whispery vocals provide texture. The rich progressive-style organ and Olja's richer vocal passages almost perfectly echo the melody of "Embraces." We adored the acoustic guitar instrumental within the track.The two songs work extremely well together although they are separated on the album.
The first half of "Jesen na Jastuku" is a warm ballad that provides a notable contrast with other tracks on the album. A tempo change mid-song provides an upbeat bridge before the ballad texture returns. The orchestral woodwind-driven arrangements and warm evocatively presented vocals in "The Mirror of Lies" contribute to the strength of the song. Listen for the vibrato in Olja's stunning delivery.
The album's epic length track is entitled "Yearning." With a running time of over seven minutes, slightly longer than "Shera Aila," "Yearning" serves as an excellent summary of Loell Duinn's sound, embracing the full range of instrumentals and Olja's vocal work. The accordion and acoustic strings all work especially well in this moody track. The CD concludes with the everso gentle ballad "Kadá Zaspin Za Se." The very soothing vocal harmonies are absolutely the best on the album. Accordion and acoustic strings also blend uniquely with percussion in this wonderful concluding number.
While their first album encompassed five years of writing and eight years of calendar prior to release, Loell Duinn has now reached international acclaim. Surely we don't want to have to wait as long for the follow up to this amazing album from this talented ensemble.
Nadina's Debut Album: In The Now
\r\nimage © Nettwerk Entertainment 2012
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interview and photos (2012)
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image © Nettwerk Entertainment 2012
(20 November 2012) Nadina's Legbanese roots ring through in her first full length offering, a stunning twelve-track 55-minute album, entitled In The Now (Nettwerk Entertainment (CA) - 6700 30964 2 3, 2012). While the artist has been recording on and off since 2007, she was recognized by her current label in 2008 when work on In The Now began in earnest.
At Nettwerk's recommendation, Nadina also connected with Delerium and has now been a featured vocalist on the two tracks "Monarch" and "Awakening" (iTunes bonus track) from Music Box Opera, their latest release. Enthusiasts will also be familiar with the incredible "Shou Baddou Yseer" EP Nadine released almost concurrently with Delerium's first single from the new album "Monarch" also featuring her vocals. Indeed, Nadina's time has come.
While arrangements include both original and electric production, Nadina sings in English, Lebanese, Egyptian, and Classical Arabic on the record and distills a variety of textures and moods into her music. The sounds are certain to appeal to enthusiasts of Delerium, Conjure One, Balligomingo and others. The twelve-track CD is adorned with lovely silkscreening and the artwork includes a lush 16-page booklet with full lyrics.
Nadina's life story is certainly as interesting as her music. Her fiance is Canadian swimmer, Brent Hayden who won the Olympic Bronze in the 100m freestyle. Nadina has an interesting story, having fled with her family from Lebanon, as a child. Read more about Nadina in our exclusive interview and in the biography at her own website.
In 1986, Nadina became the first child from Lebanon and the Arab world to every participate in the Zecchino D'oro UNICEF festival in Italy. The contest required particpants to perform a song of their choosing translated into Italian without any prior knowledge of the language. Delivering a powerful rendition of "Vola, Palombella" [Fly Bird of Peace] to a television audience of over 25 million worldwide, judges awarded the young singer a gold medal, and the song became something of an international phenomenon. Instantly, her voice stood out, and she swiftly embraced the stage at charity concerts and functions across her native Lebanon and internationally.
Arrangements on Nadina's album are lush and laced with vocal layers provided by producer Michael Fadel and vocalist Christie Smith. These arrangements add texture and feel to the individual tracks and also add to the overall magic of the album. Nadina has a powerful and crystalline voice that dominates the lyrical passages most effectively.
About her style, she comments, "It's an amalgamation of North American and Middle Eastern sounds. I wanted to merge classical Arabic strings/instruments and modern Western beats. I tried to bridge all of these styles so the music doesn't lean far one way or the other."
"Sorrows & Goodbyes" directly delves into Nadina's childhood and the war surrounding her. It's an intense, yet invigorating track colored by the Nay flute and Nadina's vibrand lyrical storytelling as she croons, "Flashbacks of the war appear in dreams."
"It's about my experiences in the war," she reveals. "I wrote the song so it could apply to other people's experiences as well. It brings me back to that time, specifically when I could feel the bombing. When I'd perform back then, I could feel what was going on oursite. The song also reflects on others who had to fight and how many people lost their loved ones."
From turmoil to love, the record traverses a scope of emotions as diverse as the soundscapes themselves. Never losing sight of both of her homes, Nadina will even release separate versions of the album worldwide. Ultimately, Nadina crosses both cultural and aural barriers and creates something entirely her own with this debut.
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\r\ncover photo: Amy Carr
\r\nimage © Left Angle Records
A-K Karney Music 2012
(02 September 2012) Karney shows an ear for poetic phrasings that encapsulate the impact of socio-political themes that are often as unsettling as they are urgent. This is true of her 2011 A Beautiful Day EP, whose tracks have been incorporated into her latest full-length album Love and Respect (Left Angle Records / A-K Karney Music (USA), 2012). Her latest work builds on her 2001 Karney debut album and the All Connected (Left Angle Records (USA), 2004) follow up. Karney's 2002 "My Little Bush" reggae style single from the All Connected album also drew critical acclaim.
Karney has addressed such topics as young war victims, the unreasonably harsh penalties enforced on those violating marijuana prohibition, global warming, and outsourcing and its affects on workers. Her heavy lyrical themes are balanced out by winsome rhythms and some lighter fare that veers away from the political into more personal musings on life's small pains and pleasures, along with the occasional wry wink at unvarnished sexuality.
Written by Anna K Karney, Love and Respect is comprised of ten varied tracks. Karney (vocals, guitar, keys) is accompanied by a talented ensemble that includes: Jeff Herrera (drums); Kim Manoleus (bass); Mike Doyle (guitar); Karl Perazzo (congas, shaker, caxixi); and husband Bill Ortiz (trumpet). We especially appreciated the arrangements and fine mixing of Karney's vocal work.
There are several common threads running through Karney's musical creations, whether they involve her funky indie rock band, her singer-songwriter outings with only a guitar, her compositions for video games and other commercial clients, or her work with a variety of name brand artists and bands. Karney's music has always contained elements of solid musicianship based on diverse influences, a knack for writing appealing and energetic songs, and the benefits of frequent collaboration with top artists.
The strength of Karney's voice is evident from the new album's opening title track. Listen for the glistening trumpet solo and especially warm backing harmonies in the gentle rocker. Mid-tempo ballads like "A Beautfiful Day" and "Not Lost" feature Karney's lead vocal and layered harmonies alongside electric and acoustic guitar arrangements. Listen for Karney's sensitive and delicate vocal delivery.
Upbeat accessible tracks also grace Karney's new album. We especially liked "Hold On" whose warm sound exhibits Americana influences and "Across The Planet," whose harmonies were most reminiscent of October Project. "Snake Oil Salesman" is clearly the most progressive style track on the album. Layers of Karney's vocals soar above the crunching electric guitars.
The stunning track "Wild Green" is most reminiscent of 70s psychodelic rock combining eastern influences and sounds of Jefferson Airplane at times. The similarly influenced even Beatlesque sound of "Eternity" contributes to the album's great diversity. The rousing chorus and an excellent acoustic guitar solo are certain to draw listeners' attention.
The album's standout is a southwest influenced track (think Santana) called "Aurora." Karney's clear lead vocal work soars above acoustic and electric guitar and robust rhythm section. Harmonies add texture especially in the chorus and echo parts of Karney's stunning lead.
Love and Respect concludes with a stunning remake of "On My Knees," a track that originally appeared on her debut album. Her stunningly clear vocal work on the especially tender ballad is backed with both acoustic and electric guitar. Listen for the sharp contrast and power of her voice in the chorus as it builds towards the song's crescendo.
The use of dynamic changes, unusual instrumentation, and poetic lyrics has gained Karney considerable attention since she set out on her solo recording career. CMJ Music Monthly, Relix, the Stranger, and Zero have all profiled Karney in recent issues while her tours reach increasingly larger audiences along with fans tuning in from far-flung locales thanks to web simulcasts of several recent shows. Low tech indie rock fans have been able to keep up with Karney through radio play on numerous stations.
Stream Karney's new album at her BandCamp page. This is a great multi-faceted album that grows listen after listen. Visitors that appreciate fine songwriting, a vibrant live sound, and lyrics that enjoy female vocals and don't shy away from harsh realities have been getting on board as Karney's growing musical enterprise gathers steam.
Staring at the World
\r\nimage © The Cellophane Flowers 2012
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image © The Cellophane Flowers 2012
(02 December 2012) The Cellophane Flowers have become known for being masters of driving, quirky pop. Their songs reflect an eclectic array of influences from tribal drumming to West Coast alt-rock to the dark tinge of 80s pop. Though bustling with ideas, the band leaves the sublime vocals of their stunning lead singer Francesca Corradini with the room to bring their songs to life. Tthere are no superfluous special effects. There is a truly organic feel of the music, baring a resemblance to that of an earlier time, would be perfectly suited to vinyl, a fact that hasn’t escaped the band.
The band's latest offering is a ten track album entitled. Staring at the World (The Cellophane Flowers (UK), 2012) offers beautiful, delicate vocals infused with haunting melodies, encapsulated in splendour and driven by passion and bursting with modern day tales. If you’re searching for a delicious new album that’s reminiscent of PJ Harvey, The Smiths, The Magic Numbers and the National, then Staring at the World was made for you. The band's new album bears delicious and well ripened fruit from their recent work with producer Dave Allen (The Cure / Depeche Mode / Human League / The Charlatans) and builds on the critical success of last year's If I Was A Girl EP, that led to appearances on BBC Radio 1 and 6, local UK radio and numerous radio stations in the US.
Hailing from four different corners of the world, The Cellophane Flowers pull together a diverse range of backgrounds and influences to create their unique sound. Italian leading lady Francesca Corradini joined the band in the time-honoured fashion with an NME ad before heading to the pub. Drummer Nick Guy has one foot planted in Egypt and the other in Suffolk, growing up on The Cure and cutting his musical teeth in bands in Leeds and London.
Nick told us about the album, "Creating this album and working with Dave is the most inspiring thing we've ever done. We've properly mixed it up with our approach to each song. It's an album so we wanted to get the variety of what we do in there. But it's all held together with some dark lyrics, great hooks and catchy melodies."
Then there is guitarist Ian Sumner who grew up in Brazil, before graduating from samba to Kraftwerk and The Stone Roses. Australian-Italian-Maltese bassist Luca Napolitano can lend his hand to almost any instrument, to the extent that he actually bought a bass and played it for the first time on the day of his audition for the Flowers. Listen to the glisten of the electric guitars that characterize the otherwise minimialist (read as "non-glitzy") arrangements.
The band are indeed a force to be reckoned with, leaving unsuspecting audience members dazed and enthused through their whirlwind of sounds, instrument swapping and short but incredibly sweet live sets. The band's full length album Staring At The Word is a gem with timeless quality, stunning vocals and melodies that will ring through listeners heads all day long. Bravo!
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image © Charlotte Sometimes 2012
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image © Charlotte Sometimes 2012
(25 September 2012) The fourth release by emerging singer songwriter Charlotte Sometimes is a six-track 22-minute EP entitled Circus Head. It is the artist's first release following her performances on The Voice. Charlotte's debut album Waves and the Both of Us (2008) was followed by two independent EP releases Sideways (2010) and The Wait (2011). Read our September 2012 interview with the artist and review below.
Interview. Musical Discoveries: On the new EP Circus Head you let the audience peer into your world. What life experiences have had the most significant influence on the new record?
Charlotte Somtimes: I think the evolution of my life has been a strange and powerful one. I was in a really transitional place when I wrote Circus Head I was getting to know myself as a woman and the whole EP is more observational than my last few records. Instead of complaining it has a tone throughout saying, "I guess this is who I am, this is what I'm about," and there is love and hate in that observation.
Since your last EP release, what have been the most remarkable challenges you have faced as a musician?
Being judged by millions of people on TV was pretty crazy. But I'd have to say figuring out how to survive in an economy that is [not] very artist friendly anymore [is also challenging].
How would you say that your appearances on The Voice influenced your career afterwards?
I think The Voice influenced me in a way that I couldn't have been influenced playing gigs at clubs. It was a validation that so many artists need. I am a sensitive one, so it's nice to know that some of the biggest stars in the world think I'm talented.
I of course was disappointed going home, but I think of my music career as a marathon, not a sprint. And The Voice was just another cool chapter in my life.
Contrast your time with the label to how life changed when you went independent?
Being with a label comes with a lot of good and bad. It's awesome to have money to support the tours you do and have a huge machine promoting you. But usually that doesn't last and what you get is a lot of lessons you would have learned if you weren't signed. But utimately I think there is something to be said about both roads, as I've taken both.
It's harder to support myself now, but I have one hundred percent control over my image, music, and my money. That is pretty priceless. But hey, I am not going to say I wouldn't sign to another major label.
What do you find most exciting about the music industry and your role as a rapidly emerging female artist?
Being able to connect to my fans on a more intimate level. I don't think you had that opportunity years ago. I love being a female in this industry, because I think being a female is a powerful thing. But I cannot stand when people say "girl music" [because] beging female is not a genre!
Do you have any visions of changing the music scene through your work?
I try not to think about what others are doing. I try to follow my own path and let the universe guide me. This is who I am. Some people like it [and] some people don't.
Besides music, what else rocks your world these days Charlotte?
I am in love with The Walking Dead! My boyfriend and I watch is constantly. And I am obsessed with cats! Yup, I'm a crazy cat lady. Circus Head Review. Charlotte's new EP opens with the upbeat "Brilliant, Broke and Beautiful." Heartfelt lyrics are delivered atop pulsing guitar and electronic arrangements. Self-backing harmonies are especially brilliant in the chorus. The delicate solo vocal delivery on the almost reggae-styled "Second Best" is perfectly accompanied by lighter arrangements with softer guitar and gentle keyboard washes. The artist's emotion rings through on every note building tension and then releasing it.
One of the centerpieces of the album is the powerfully delivered rock anthem "Make Love To A Stranger." Listen to Charlotte's vast vocal excursions and the significant power in the singer's voice. The radio friendly number is certain to be one of the artist's crowd pleasers in her live performances. The downtempo title track again finds Charlotte emotionally delivering the lyrics with her lead vocal soaring far above the crisp arrangements.
"Paint The Sky" is the most delicate number on the record. The gentle--almost country style--ballad features the singer at her tenderest. The brightly delivered chorus is brilliant. The album concludes with the tremendous track "Misery Business." Charlotte's rapidfire and percussive vocal delivery further demonstrates her range. Listen to Charlotte's power in the dramatic chorus.
Charlotte Sometimes is becoming an established female artist. Building on her TV appearance, loyal social network following and three self-released EPs, the artist has a lot of runway ahead. She now needs to press on towards another full length album.