MissFD - Transcendence Album Cover

Miss FD   Transcendence  Quantum Release Records

www.MissFD.com 

Dark Electronic artist Miss FD returns with her fourth album, Transcendence. In addition to the ethereal voice and music of the album’s namesake, the seven-track album also features Robert Dante (a collaborator on Miss FD’s early work) on “Transcendence Intermezzo” and Vulture Culture on the track “Delirium.”

The album opens with “Despair” and “Vagaries,” whose music conjures up fond memories of Switchblade Symphony. Although the vibe is the same, Miss FD is her own beast on these songs, journeying through them with Gothic swagger and singer/songwriter craft work. The slow stomp that begins “Vagaries” is one of my favorite moment on the albums, by the time the guitars stagger in it has you completely hooked.

“Delirium” (featuring Vulture Culture) kicks the energy up a notch, giving the listener a more danceable backdrop. The string work towards the end of the song takes the whole thing over the top. If you were unconvinced, this is yet another moment that will easily win you over. “All the Pieces” has a similar effect on the movement of your limbs. “Delirium” and “Transcendence Intermezzo” (a piano instrumental with a Classical leaning) are moments that offer ample evidence that Miss FD has little interest in boxing her sound into corners.

One of my favorite moments on Transcendence is “Little Galaxy.” The song starts out fairly lowkey but turns into a vocal masterpiece by mid-song. The layered vocals are harmonies are simply gorgeous. “Icarus” is another favorite for me, sprinkled with Classical bits and Gothic ambience. Miss FD’s voice seems more commanding on this one as she declares, “I’m going to rise, you’ll see…” amidst the piano and string work. It’s a spectacularly reflective moment and a great track to end the album with. It definitely leaves you craving more.

I was largely unfamiliar with Miss FD prior to hearing Transcendence (I did some “catching up” on YouTube). It feels weird now to think I once lived in a world where I didn’t know her music. This is a gripping album that grabs ahold right away and doesn’t release you until it’s ready. It feels a bit Gothier and a little less Danceable than the previous work I have listened to, which, in my opinion, gives it a more intimate, even more mature, overall sound.

From the MASTERFUL artwork to the superb sound quality, this is one of my favorites of 2018 so far. It’s an album you should give a chance to, no matter what style of music you enjoy because it’s just that damn good.

#MissFD #GothMusic #mark1340 #Transcendence #EBM #IndieMusic

Orchestrated

Midge Ure             Orchestrated           BMG

Midge Ure is pretty fantastic. From his work with later years Ultravox to his solo material, the man has always had a golden voice. The kind of voice that Peter Gabriel has. Or Johnny Cash. Or Jerome Wincek. Or Paul Carrack. Or Aloe Blacc. The kind of voice that sucks you in and demands your attention. This time around, Ure puts his voice in a different context though. Orchestrated is exactly as it sounds, a collection of Ultravox and solo songs as viewed through the lens of composer Ty Unwin.

I’m not normally one to go for orchestrated re-imaginings (especially a full album’s worth), but even I have to admit that these are completely excellent. Ure’s voice is so much more powerful when surrounded by such dynamic instrumentation. The lush sound you expect is here, but there is so much more depth to it all.

“Breathe” is one of many highlights here. The lyrics come to the forefront immediately, whereas the original version didn’t capture them as eloquently as they are here. By the time Ure hits that unmistakeable chorus you are already melted. This song is even more relevant in 2018 than it was in 1996. “Death in the Afternoon” is like a Rock Opera here, starting out as completely haunting piece and building to a dark carnival of a crescendo that takes it to new heights. I love the original version, but this is an altogether different beast. Of course, “Fragile” is a highlight as well. The song builds on the original quite well, this one just soars so much more. You literally feel like you are taking flight during this one and it’s wonderful.

This isn’t all re-imagined though. Unwin and Ure offer us a new collaboration as well in “Ordinary Man.” It’s got a commercial-era Genesis appeal, yet it doesn’t feel quite as musically complex. Piano, gentle strings, and Ure’s unique voice push everything along and the rise and fall throughout is just gorgeous. Such a great song.

Overall, I enjoyed this so much more than I anticipated I would. I have always been a fan of Ure’s music and hearing it like this is so enjoyable. It really gives you a better feel for how textured, complex, and intelligent his work is, both musically and lyrically.  It’d be a shame if you missed this.

#MidgeUre #BMG #Ultravox #Orchestral #TyUnwin #OutHereAllNight

Bomb Pop

Hawk            Bomb Pop

Hawk may have started out as a David Hawkins project, but it quickly evolved into a supergroup of Alt Rock veterans.  In addition to Hawkins, the band includes Gary Louris (Jayhawks), Ken Stringfellow (The Posies, REM, Big Star) and Pete Thomas (Elvis Costello & the Attractions).  And Bomb Pop offers exactly what you hope it does, a great, off-kilter Rock and Roll record with a tinge of Alt Rock jangle, a smidgen of Midwest Country, and a dash of psychedelia here and there to round it all out.

The band kicks it off right with “Allison’s Gone,” reminding me a great deal of The Lemonhead’s best moments. It’s catchy and quirky and melodic and make’s you feel good, despite it’s dark subject matter. “I Lied” is another of Bomb Pop’s best moments, with a Pop hook that is drenched in psychedelia. The horn work and layered vocals and general weirdness of it all is brilliant and catchy and strange all at once. “Take My Time” and “Mrs. Anderson” are also prime examples of the jangly Pop feel that lies close to the surface here. Both songs are infectious, and, by the first chorus, you can’t help but try and sing along. They just feel like summer, dammit.  The Country-laden “Dry Your Eyes” sticks out like a sore thumb with its steel guitar and sad rhythms, but it’s unbelievably good. It’s an interesting way to end an album of Alt Rock songs, but hey, that’s part of makes it an alternative to the mainstream right?

Bomb Pop is a fun album that is perfect for a sunshiny drive with the top down. If you like any of the members other bands as well as artists like Lucero’s more up-tempo material, Bart Davenport, early Beck, The Replacements, and The Lemonheads then you’ll love Hawk’s Bomb Pop.

#Hawk #BombPop #mark1340 #OutHereAllNight #AltRock

Campfire

Kasey Chambers & the Fireside Disciples

Campfire

http://www.KaseyChambers.com

For those unfamiliar with Kasey Chambers (which a few short weeks ago included me), she is Australia’s most successful Country singer and this is her twelfth studio album. She is joined on Campfire by the Fireside Disciples, which include Chambers father, elder Alan Pigram, and Brandon Dodd of Grizzly Train. The album is inspired by the campfire songs of her young life growing up on the Nullarbor Plain.

What immediately hit me is Chamber’s pretty damn unique voice. Feminine, powerful, haunting, all of the qualities that keep a listener completely engaged. It commands your attention in the same way that Johnny Cash, Jerome Wincek, Fleming McWilliams, and EmmyLou Harris’ voices do. It’s very traditional sounding, which makes it stick out like a sore thumb when compared to her Radio Pop Country contemporaries.

There are so many personal favorites to choose from here. I absolutely “Abraham” which is this brilliant mix between Ani DiFranco’s early work and old Gospel spirituals. It’s gentle acoustic lead work and subtle harmonies are just un-freakin’-believable. This song will completely melt you. The haunting “Orphan Heart” hits me in the feels as well. It’s got a chant-laced melody that immediately grabs you and harmonies that will send chills down your spine.

The animal-centric musical fables (the catchy as all-get-out call and response of “Big Fish,” the Bluegrass stylings of “This Little Chicken,” and the cautionary “The Fox and the Bird”) are pretty fascinating as well in my opinion. Maybe they aren’t the most “song-oriented” pieces on Campfire but the storytelling prowess Chambers & Co. exhibit here feels as if they are making a historical record for future generations.

Overall, this is a fantastic album. This is certainly not my favorite genre of music, but Chambers enchanting voice quickly catches your attention. The band keep your attention from that moment on with such traditional instrumentation and approach that it all feels like an alternative to pretty much everything most people know about. Having grown up in a family of amateur Bluegrass musicians, I can tell you assuredly that Campfire is the real deal.

#KaseyChambers #Campfire  #ModernSpirituals #Hope #RealCountry #Mark1340 #OutHereAllNight

Honey Child

Honey Child     Aeronaut Records     www.honeychildchoir.com

There are many dilemmas one can have in life. One of the most beautiful I have come across though is Honey Child. Led by opera singer Claire McKeown (alongside Claire Boutelle, Aimee Jacobs, Danielle Mandell, Dayna Richards, Jacquelyn Sky, and Cynthia Zitter) Honey Child was born from McKeown’s feelings of disconnect. Basically, she missed her freaks, so she set out to create a sort of Alt-Opera known as Chamber Pop and, sometimes, Heroine Folk.

As someone who doesn’t listen to a lot of Opera, but does have a love for Symphonic Metal, I find Honey Child quite fascinating. This self-titled debut runs the gamut in styles, from more traditional pieces to edgier ones, yet each is completely driven by the vocals. The minimal instrumentation makes this a calmer affair then that of the operatic singers that rule Symphonic Metal. Because of that though, I think Honey Child has a potentially wider appeal.

“…And So Goodnight” is a favorite of mine here. It almost has a Christmastime feel with sleigh bells in the background and a traditional Yule flare. “Gotta Wait Another Night” has a bouncy, Ragtime edge that reminds me a bit of Ben Folds at his quirkiest. The mildly muddled sound of the vocal takes it to a more Alternative place than much of the album. The beautiful and soulful “Our Last Goodbye” takes the album out on a high note and is my personal favorite track on the album. The vocals are gentle and heartfelt and when the piano and background vocals really start to take shape it becomes a beautiful tribute to love lost.

Overall, this album takes a few listens to wrap your mind around. I would imagine that it’s not quite Opera enough for the Opera crowd, too vocally for the Folk crowd, and not bombastic enough for the Symphonic Metal crowd. So, if you are looking for something that sounds soothing, gorgeous, and intimate then you should certainly check out Honey Child.

#HoneyChild #HeroineFolk #AeronautRecords #ChamberPop #ClaireMcKeown

“Satisfied

http://www.AshleyJ.net

Ashley J. is a Pop singer from Orlando. Her latest music, the Satisfied EP, is a short, powerful, and quite danceable, tour through the world of Pop music.

“Like You Used To” reminds me a lot of the mid-nineties Dance Pop bands. The thin production and the soulful vocal take me back to a time when Pop music had more to it than Hip Hop backbeats and Rap interludes. “Trapped” is a big Pop number with a Broadway flare lying just below the surface. It gets under your skin early on and really sticks with you, which is likely why it was placed first on the EP! The album’s closer, “When I Come Home To You,” is another highlight. It starts of acoustically but gets a nice boost from the programming that takes over the song by about halfway through. It’s a feel-good number that reminds me of the best things Katy Perry does, without really sounding like her.

Overall, this is a fun EP to listen to. It’s radio-friendly and well-produced, which is not always something you find with independent Pop music. Ashely has a strong voice that takes the production over the top, but I really find myself hoping for a little more substance lyrically. You should definitely check this out if you like quality Pop music and decide for yourself!

 

Here Come The Aliens

Kim Wilde- Here Come the Aliens

earMusic    www.KimWilde.com

Having sold over 30 million albums, Kim Wilde is a household name in much of the world, but is best known here in the United States for her iconic hit “Kids In America” from the very early 1980’s. For me, it is her fourth album, Teases & Dares, that made a younger version of me into a lifelong fan. I still love the futuristic look and feel of that album, and Here Come the Aliens has the same kind of vibe, albeit more contemporary. It mixes big Pop gems, thoughtful ballads, and tongue-in-cheek Pop rockers that remind me of how good this genre can be when people live a little.

I absolutely dig the duo of songs that kick the album off. “1969” blends from the sounds of the radio dial switching to an electro-laden Pop gem that mixes big fun with some serious groove. Wilde sounds fantastic and the big, sing along vibe goes playfully well with the “Here come the aliens” tag line. “Pop Don’t Stop” is another fun, upbeat number that looks back to better days. The duet style vocal (with her brother) is fantastic and gives it a big radio feel that you simply can’t deny. It’s as infectious as they come and lyrically, it’s anthemic and thoughtful in much the same way as Bryan Adam’s “Summer of ‘69” or Alien Ant Farm’s “Homage,” stressing the importance of music in our lives.

“Solstice” is a quieter moment that stands out as well, opening with Wilde’s still shining voice, nearly naked. As the piano begins to lead the song along, it starts to take the shape of a radio ballad without losing it’s intimacy. The album’s final moment, “Rosetta,” has a similar feel, proving that Wilde is just as much a balladeer as she is a Pop star. “Cyber Nation War” is an odd section of the album, but as an old Teases & Dares fan, this is exactly what I had been hoping to hear. It’s like a Pop version of Mad Max complete with a weird background choir and lots of synthesizers! Heaven.

Kim Wilde and her crew really nail it on Here Come the Aliens. This is one of those late career moments of brilliance that happen from time to time. I enjoy most of her albums, but this is arguably her best. It may even be arguable that that is arguable. If you enjoy Pop music that embraces the fun just as much as the beauty, then this album is for you. If you have ever been a Kim Wilde fan and fallen off, then it’s time to jump back on immediately. Everything you love about her is summed up on this album.

Mark Fisher

Nina June Bon Voyage 

www.ninajune.com

Dutch born, Amsterdam-based Nine June is introducing herself to the world via Bon Voyage. The album, “about the hidden loneliness of our generation” is a smooth mix of lush electronics and organic songwriting that blends the ambience of artists like Massive Attack, Sam Smith, Carina Round, and Lisa Stansfield while maintaining it’s own unique feel throughout. Not an easy feat.

The centerpiece here (rightfully so) is June’s gorgeous voice. It’s rich, soulful, and feminine, capturing you in the feels without the need for aggressive parts or vocal noodling. “We Watched It All Come Down” is my favorite example of what she has to offer on Bon Voyage. Her voice plays beautifully off the layered electronics and sparse piano. Her voice commands the song, moving it forward thoughtfully. It has such an intimate feel to it that I absolutely love.

“Out To Sea” is another favorite of mine here. It’s world rhythm backbeat is a perfect compliment to the soulful vocal and the chorus has a big, important sounding vibe to it that I can’t get enough of. It reminds me a bit of Paula Cole musically, but Nina June’s voice is a lot smoother. “For Love” is another ultra-noteworthy moment on an album full of highlights. It has gentle piano and brass section that brings some deeper mellow to the piano-led singer/songwriter feel of the majority of the song. In contrast, “Keep on Moving” brings a groovier vibe to the album.

What I particularly love about Bon Voyage musically is how intricately, and well, that June blends the electronic and the organic. There are very few artists that I can enjoy that from and this album is maybe the best example I have found to date. For lack of a better way to say it, everything feels “real” here. If you are looking for music that is both artistic and thoughtful, then this should be in your collection.  Play it loud.

Mark Fisher

Kill J     Quasi (EP)

Kill J are from Copenhagen, Denmark and consist of Kill (music) and J (vocals). Unlike so much Scandinavian pop, Kill J are firmly rooted in Hip Hop beats with vocal delivery that is as much Ellie Goulding as it is Candice Pillay.

Quasi is a cross section of styles but it’s certainly not afraid to make you uncomfortable when the opportunity presents itself.”You’re Good But I’m Better” has a very “right now” appeal to it. It would fit well into any mainstream Hip Hop/Soul station’s playlist. J sings very soulfully here, which shows her excellent range, and it tops off Kill’s strong, hook-heavy backdrop.

“Propaganda”  is easily my favorite track here though. The high-pitched sexiness of the vocals (which is mixed with spoken word pieces) reminds me a great deal of the quirkiness of Die Antwoord while musically it treads Peeping Tom and mid-career Bjork territory. The whole song is about how J doesn’t fit the mold and she would probably be more popular if she “looked like them girls in porn.” “Mama Taught Me Well” follows it with a cinematic ambience that is spine tingling. It lyrically takes on the seedy underbelly of sexual abuse, relying again on the high pitched, straightforward vocal backed by a driving eighties New Wave rhythm. These two songs are a lot more experimental than the EP’s earlier reliance on Hip Hop and Soul and sound like a more natural fit.

This EP really came out of nowhere for me. While I can respect the Hip Hop elements, they pale in comparison to the edginess of the more experimental moments that dominate the end of the EP. Fans of Hip  Hop and Soul in the 00’s will find some things to enjoy about Quasi but fans of artists like Bjork, Die Antwoord, and Ellie Goulding may find a new hero in Kill J.

War

She is We     War      Vanguard Records

She is We is the new project from former He is We vocalist Rachel Taylor. This her debut album, recorded for the artist-centric Vanguard label (Collective Soul, Flogging Molly, Widespread Panic, etc.), and comes on the heels of the momentum of her former band. Having never really paid much attention to He is We, I wasn’t sure entirely what to expect here but Taylor knocks it out of the park, offering a batch of Pop-centric tunes with an Alternative Rock edge and a set of lyrics that are about as raw as they come lyrically but plenty smooth musically.

As with any great album, the opening track sets the bar extremely high. The bouncy, New Wave influence of “Boomerang” is a spectacular track. The gentle synths and head boppin’ cadence of the vocals make it danceable and fun but the lyrically biting, explosive chorus seals the deal. “Crazy Heart” has a similar New Wave edge but it’s much more anthemic. It’s the kind of song you fall in love with immediately if you like any kind of Pop music at all. “Blue” is another highlight for me. Taking a darker turn, the song really spotlights Taylor’s strong vocal work, letting the music take a back seat also gives it a more cinematic feel. Her vocals are particularly soulful and intimate on songs like “Blue,”  “War” and the uplifting power anthem “Lead the Fight On” and, for me, this is very much an album driven by the vocals and lyrics.

War is as smart vocally and lyrically as any Pink album but has just enough edge to appeal to fans of Alternative Rock and New Wave. Taylor manages to take a style of music known for its shallowness and give it some depth. If you enjoy anything from Pink to Prides to Lights then you should definitely check out She is We’s War.