Zao’s Latest LP Will Appeal Equally To The Band’s Established Audiences, Metalcore Fans

Courtesy: Observed/Observer Recordings

Veteran metalcore outfit Zao has gone through so many changes throughout its three decade-plus life.  The band has seen multiple changes in its lineup(none of its founding  members remain today) and label homes.  It has even gone from once being known among the Christian music community to just being a straight up metalcore band.  All these changes would be more than enough to doom any musical act, but somehow Zao has weathered every storm and soldiered on, cementing its place in the metalcore community with 11 albums and even a number of EPs.  This past Friday, the band continued to cement its reputation with its 12th album, The Crimson Corridor.  Released through Observed/Observer Recordings, the 57-minute recording is heavy in terms of its musical and lyrical content, each of which will be addressed here.  The recording’s production rounds out its most important elements and will also be discussed as part of the album’s overall examination.  Each item noted is important in its own way to the whole of the album’s presentation.  All things considered, the band’s latest album proves to be a work that will appeal widely among the band’s established audience base and metalcore fans in general.

The Crimson Corridor, Zao’s latest album (its 12th) is a presentation that will appeal to the band’s established audience base and metalcore fans in general.  That is due in part to the album’s musical presentation.  The first thing that audiences will note in examining the record’s musical presentation is that it shows the band has not lost any of its fire even now more than three decades into its life.  The ferocious guitar riffs, drums, and bass pair with the familiar almost black-metal style vocal performances to mostly make this record’s arrangements engaging for the noted audiences.  It is an approach that has remained specific to Zao going as far back as 1999’s Liberate To Ex Inferus.  Few if any other bands in the metalcore community can say that they have such an intense sound and stylistic approach.  At the same time, the band, in its current iteration, does try to take listeners in softer, more contemplative places in the music at times.  ‘The Web,’ the album’s 10 minute-plus finale, is one of those moments in which the band moves in a more brooding nature. ‘Nothing’s Form’ is another of those moments.  The almost whispered vocals of front man Dan Weyandt that work opposite his screams later in the song makes for such a powerful juxtaposition.  ‘R.I.P.W.’ finds the band embracing what sounds like a Tool influence at some points against its more familiar post metal approach for yet another unique addition to this album.  Between that arrangement, the others noted here, and the rest of the album’s entries, its overall musical presentation proves important in its own way to this recording.  The heaviness of the record’s musical presentation works with the album’s equally heavy lyrical content to make for even more interest.

As has already been noted, the lyrical themes featured throughout The Crimson Corridor center on the topic of mental health.  Specifically speaking, information provided about the album notes that the record’s themes focus on “depression, anxiety, and anger.”  To that end, this makes the album relatable, but not something that audiences will find themselves ready to take in anytime.  Listeners will have to be in a very specific mindset in order to fully appreciate the noted lyrical themes.  Case in point is the lyrical theme featured in the album’s latest single, ‘Transitions.’  Information provided – again – about  the album points out that the lyrical theme of ‘Transitions’ was influenced by famed writer Isaac Asimov’s quote, “Life is pleasant. Death is peaceful. It’s the transition that’s troublesome.”  Weyandt expanded on the quote, stating, “It’s about eternal return and my place within it.”  In other words, the song’s lyrical theme is somewhat contemplative to say the least.  This is illustrated in the song’s lead verse and chorus, which states, “The snapping of strings/Strange rhythms in sounds/A reminder to us that all things must end/I feel the sword of Damacles staring down at me/A flower blooms in the final act of self preservation/The mountain and the sky/They collide before the river’s eyes.”  The song continues, noting, “Delusions drain us of safety/Our foundation is rotting/Creatures crawl out confused/The cycle continues/From the season of loss/To the season of life.”  The song’s second verse continues in similar form with just as much metaphorical language.  This is certain to generate its own share of discussion among listeners, what with its seeming existential rumination about one’s place in life, as pointed out by Weyandt. It is just one way in which the album’s heavy lyrical content proves so important to its presentation.  ‘Nothing’s Form’ seems to take on human failings

While ‘Nothing’s Form’ is not necessarily an indictment of mankind for its failings, it is still a deep examination of this aspect of society.  This is inferred as Weyandt sings in the song’s lead verse and single, ‘I watched the heathen plead to the sky/I watched the convert curse God as he died/I watched the ghost wandering without a guide/No form to abide/I watched perfection put on a disguise/I watched the honest speak only in lies/I watched the mirrors and saw only things I despised/That lie behind my eyes.”  The displeasure at humans’ hypocrisy continues in similar fashion in the song’s similar verse with mentions of the heroes feeding “the innocent to the wolves/Laughing like fools” and of “the builders abandoning their tools.”  Simply put, this comes across again as an indictment of human hypocrisy; The bad doing good and vice versa, the caring not caring, etc.  It runs in its own way, with the noted overarching theme of the development of depression, anxiety, and anger.  In turn, it is one more example of the importance of the album’s lyrical content.  ‘The Final Ghost’ points itself out as yet another example of the importance of the album’s lyrical content.

‘The Final Ghost’ seems to echo the noted theme of the development of anger by also incorporating a story about the meek becoming angry and overpowering those in power.  That is inferred from the song’s lead verse, which states, “The round of robins/Hunted down the hawk/They were high on honey/From the lion’s skull/The robins’ beaks were sharpened/The hawk’s claws were not/They tore it into pieces/Singing, “Arise to fall”/The sky was screaming as it rained feathers and bones/Collective dreaming/We’re all one and alone.”  The seeming statement of the less becoming angry and standing up for themselves continues in the song’s second verse, which tells the story of a mother rabbit killing a raven that tried to take her child.  Audiences will be left to discover this one for themselves.  Overall, the song leaves little doubt about its relation to the album’s overall theme while doing so in its own unique fashion.  When it is considered with the other songs noted here and the rest of the record’s lyrical content, the overall lyrical presentation here proves itself to be Just as heavy and impacting as the album’s musical content.  Even with that in mind, there is still one more item to examine here.  That item is the album’s production.

The production of The Crimson Corridor is important to examine because of its impact on the album’s general effect.  As has already been noted here, the musical arrangements featured throughout the album are heavy.  There is a lot going on from one song to the next.  Between the intense vocals and the wall of sound created through the songs’ instrumentations, there is a lot going on in each composition.  Thankfully, listeners get a full impact from all involved thanks to the production.  This aspect made sure that even with so much going on, the whole of each composition shines through.  It is still intense overall, but that is what Zao’s established audiences and metalcore fans in general have come to expect from the band.  Keeping that in mind along with the impact of the album’s lyrical and musical content, the whole of these elements makes The Crimson Corridor a powerful new offering from Zao that will appeal to the band’s established audience base and the most devoted metalcore fans.  The Crimson Corridor is available along with all of Zao’s latest news at:

Website: https://www.zaoonline.net

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ZAO.Official

Twitter: https://twitter.com/officialzao

To keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news, go online to https://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.  

Bill Kwan’s ‘No Ordinary Love’ Is A Unique Tribute To Sade

Courtesy: Ikeda Music

It goes without saying that singer Sade is a highly respected member of the music community.  She has been cited as an influence for equally famed names, such as Beyonce, Brandy, and even rapper Rakim of Eric B. and Rakim.  What’s more, she has even been honored by the British government by being named to the Order of the British Empire.  Needless to say, such honors have been well-deserved.  Later this week, jazz singer Bill Kwan will pay his own tribute to the famed singer when he releases his new covers collection, No Ordinary Love.  The nine-song collection is a presentation that fans of Kwan and Sade alike.  Those audiences will find the collection worth hearing at least once.  That is due in part to the compilation’s featured songs.  They will be discussed shortly.  The arrangements of those songs are also of note, so they will be examined a little later.  The record’s sequencing puts the finishing touch to its presentation and will also be discussed later.  Each item noted here is important in its own way to the whole of the record.  All things considered, the record proves to be a unique compilation that is worth hearing at least once.

Jazz singer Bill Kwan’s collection of covers of Sade’s music is a presentation that Sade’s fans and Kwan’s fans alike will find intriguing.  That is due in part to its featured songs.  The songs featured in this 41-minute compilation are interestingly enough, a relatively thorough representation of Sade’s catalog.  Five of her six studio recordings are represented here, going as far back as her 1985 sophomore album Promise and as recent as her latest single, ‘The Big Unknown,’ which was featured in the 2018 movie, Widows.  ‘Flower of the Universe,’ which was included in the soundtrack to Walt Disney Studios’ 2018 big screen adaptation of author Madeleine L’Engle’s 1962 novel A Wrinkle in Time is also featured in this compilation.  The only work that is not represented in this compilation is Sade’s debut 1984 album, Diamond Life.  Why Kwan did not pull from that album is anyone’s guess.  That aside, it is the only of Sade’s records to not get a nod here.  So again, to that end, Kwan’s new covers collection is still for the most part, a career retrospective of sorts for Sade.  It is just presented by another artist.  This is something that fans of Kwan and Sade alike will appreciate and is just one part of what makes the record worth hearing at least once.  The arrangements featured here add to the compilation’s interest.

Sade has always been known during her career, for crating songs that are distinctly R&B in style.  So to have her songs converted into jazz compositions was a risk.  That goes without saying.  It also goes without saying that in converting the songs over in t his case gives Sade’s works whole new identities.  Case in point is ‘No Ordinary Love.’  Sade’s original is, for the most part, a smooth R&B jam.  Though there is the most subtle hint of a rock influence as the original song progresses.  That gives the song a unique edge.  The only thing that carries over from the original to the rendition performed by Kwan and his fellow musicians is Kwan’s vocal performance.  Everything else here is unique to this song, from the gentle, flowing string arrangement, to the incorporation of the keyboards and funk-infused guitar line and percussion.  The edge that builds in the original composition is present here, too, but again is completely unlike its source material.  Whether that divide is good or bad will be left for audiences to determine for themselves.  Regardless, it stands as a prime example of why the arrangements featured in this collection make it so intriguing.  Kwan’s take of ‘King of Sorrow’ is another example of the importance of the record’s arrangements.  Where a song, such as ‘No Ordinary Love’ breaks noticeably from its source material, this song stays closer to that source material.  The bass line at the center of the original song is present here through the use of a cello, and is accented nicely through a piano line in place of the strings that were used in the original.  There are additional strings here, but they are more of a backing element along with what sounds like an accordion.  The whole (including the steady time keeping)   gives the song a unique samba style approach in Kwan’s version even as close as his take sticks to the original song.  It makes the song a rendition that fans of each artist will enjoy and in turn one more example of why the arrangements featured in this recording are important in their own way to this compilation’s presentation.  It clearly is just one more example of the importance of the record’s musical arrangements.  ‘Haunt Me’ is another notable example of the importance of the arrangements featured in these covers.

While Sade’s original take here is grounded in a decidedly Spanish guitar style arrangement and piano, Kwan and company’s rendition presents much the same sense of melancholy, but in his own fashion.  The piano line takes the place of the guitar here while a muted trumpet – which replaces the saxophone line in the original — adds a certain accent to the whole.  That combination of elements, together with Kwan’s own airy vocal delivery gives the song a new identity while still mostly staying true to the original.  It paints a picture of those dimly lit night clubs of the 1920s and 30s that have so often been portrayed in so many gangster flicks that are set in that era.  The differences are there, but the two are still close enough that again, audiences on both sides will enjoy this take.  To that end, it is just one more example of what makes the collection worth hearing.  Any of the record’s other songs can be cited in supporting the noted statement.  Keeping that in mind, the arrangements’ importance is even clearer.  Even with this in mind, the record still has one more important element to examine in its sequencing.

The sequencing of No Ordinary Love is important to examine because of the impact that it plays in terms of the arrangements’ ability to keep listeners engaged and entertained overall.  The record starts in mid-tempo fashion in ‘The Sweetest Taboo’ before pulling back significantly in the much more relaxed take of ‘Flower of the Universe.’  The record switches things up noticeably from here by slightly picking up again in the Latin-tinged ‘King of Sorrow’ before pulling back yet again in ‘Jezebel.’  Kwan and company’s cover of ‘No Ordinary Love’ picks the energy back up yet again before yet again pulling back in ‘The Moon and the Sky.’   From here, the album’s energy picks up ever so slightly once more in ‘Love is Stronger Than Pride,’ which itself gives way yet again to a more relaxed work in ‘Haunt Me.’ The whole thing ends in relaxed fashion in ‘The Big Unknown.’  Looking back at all of this, the album’s sequencing clearly keeps things interesting from beginning.  It goes back and forth from one song to the next, making sure that listeners never get too comfortable with one energy and style or another.  It shows that plenty of time and thought was put into this aspect of the album.  When that aspect is considered along with the songs and their arrangements (and their respective importance), the whole of these elements makes the collection in whole a presentation that fans of Sade and Bill Kwan alike will find appealing.

Bill Kwan’s new collection of Sade covers is an interesting tribute to the work of someone who despite having only released six albums, is still among the genre’s most influential artists.  It is a presentation that will find wide appeal among audiences.  This is proven in part through the record’s featured songs.  The songs represent a relatively healthy representation of Sade’s catalog and will appeal to audiences in its own way.  The arrangements that Kwan and his fellow musicians present will generate their own share of interest in their own way.  That is because some are more closely akin to their source material than others.  Regardless, each arrangement still presents its own unique identity in each instance.  The sequencing of the featured songs rounds out the most important of the record’s elements.  It prevents the compilation from becoming redundant since it constantly changes up the songs’ stylistic approach, and in turn energy.  When this aspect is considered along with the record’s other noted items, the whole becomes a presentation that fans of Sade and Bill Kwan alike will find worth hearing at least once.  No Ordinary Love is scheduled for release Friday through Ikeda Music.  More information on the compilation is available along with all of Kwan’s latest news and more at https://www.facebook.com/BillKwanMusic.  

To keep up with the latest entertainment news and reviews, go online to https://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.  

‘Erstausgabe’ Takes Moka Efti Orchestra From Fictional House Band To Real, Enjoyable Jazz Collective

Courtesy: Six Degrees Records

When Babylon Berlin first premiered in 2017 on German television network Sky TV, few if any would have thought it would become an international hit.  More than four years after its premiere in its home nation though, it has gone on to become a hit among American audiences on Netflix, with all three of its current seasons streaming through that service.  The series has been certified fresh on Rotten Tomatoes with a score of 97 percent.  A big part of the period noir series’ success is its “house band,” the Moka Efti Orchestra.  The 14-piece organization has proven to be such a key part of the series’ success that it has gone from being just a collective element for the series to being a real recording and performing entity.  That just goes to show the collective’s popularity.  That popularity is likely to continue its growth when the organization releases its debut album, Erstausgabe Friday through Six Degrees Records.  Roughly translated, the title means “First Edition,” which is fitting, considering again, this is the group’s first full outing.  The 13-song offering is a presentation that will appeal equally to fans of Babylon Berlin and jazz fans.  That is due in part to the collection’s featured songs.  They will be discussed shortly.  The performances of said songs add their own touch to the presentation and will be discussed a little later.  The record’s sequencing rounds out the album’s most important elements and will also be discussed later.  Each item noted here is important in its own way to the album’s presentation.  All things considered, they make the album overall a surprisingly enjoyable new addition to this year’s field of new jazz albums.

Moka Efti Orchestra’s debut album Erstausgabe is a strong first outing for the band, which started out as just a fictional collective that is part of a television series.  The 51-minute record helps the group take a big step from the screen to the real musical universe in part through its featured songs.  Some of the songs featured in the album are works that the band performed on Babylon Berlin while others are new, original compositions.  What’s more, some of the songs are instrumentals while others feature lyrics.  Some of those lyrical presentations are performed in German while others are presented in English.  Even more important to note is the diversity in the stylistic approach to the songs.  The whole thing opens with a composition in ‘Hollaender Mash Up’ that is one part 1920s swing and one part 1960s cool jazz.  That sounds like an odd combination, but it works.  On the other hand, a composition, such as Rainbow is a more modern style work that lends itself to comparison to works composed by Harry Connick Jr. and his big band.  On yet another hand, ‘Gloomy Sunday,’ the album’s penultimate song, is a deeply   moving blues style work that take audiences way back in time to the smoky night clubs of the 1920s and 30s with its controlled piano line, string arrangement and vocals.  It is one more example of that aforementioned stylistic diversity presented throughout this album, and it feels so real thanks to that real performance.  Speaking of performances, they will be discussed shortly.  Getting back to the subject at hand, the noted diversity in the arrangements’ stylistic approaches and sounds works with the diversity in the new, original tunes and songs composed for the series, and even the diversity in the instrumental and vocal performances to make the songs in whole, a strong, powerful foundation for Erstausgabe.  Building on that foundation and strengthening it is the band’s performances of the songs.

The performances in question are important to examine because of the impact that they have on the album’s general effect.  One of those performances – that of ‘Gloomy Sunday’ – has already been noted.  Singer Severija Janusauskaite’s smoky vocals and the gypsy style violin line pairs with the simple yet so rich piano performance, to make this performance so immersive.  The overall performance will keep listeners fully engaged and entertained.  The rest of the orchestra gets its chance to shine as the song progresses, with full horn and percussion ensemble joining.  The addition of those elements shows the arrangement’s evolution and makes the song even more immersive, even as short as it is.  The whole of the two “movements” makes the performance in whole so enjoyable and just one example of what makes the album’s performances notable.  On a completely opposite end of things, the performance presented in the instrumental track ‘Frenzy’ does its own share to show the importance of the group’s performances.

‘Frenzy’ clocks in at two minutes, 15 seconds.  That brief run time is fully utilized from start to end complete with the…well….frenetic yet controlled drumming and percussion from Larry Mullins and Tobias Backhaus, and equally energetic performance on clarinet from Gegoire Peters.  The strings and horns, which serve as support, are just as enjoyable to hear as they add their own flourishes to the whole.  All things considered here, the orchestra’s performance proves just as engaging and entertaining as its performance of ‘Gloomy Sunday.’  To that end, it is yet another example of what makes the group’s performances in whole important to the record’s presentation.  The band’s performance of ‘Zu Asche,  Zu Staub’ (‘To Ashes, To Dust’) is yet another example of what makes the band’s performances here so important.

The band’s performance of ‘Zu Asche, Zu Staub’ is a notable example of the overall importance of the group’s performance because the song itself is so much unlike anything  else featured in the  album.  It is another multi-part composition whose first movement is more modern classical than jazz.  The real jazz element comes into play in its second movement.  The drum solo that opens the movement lends itself to the work of the likes of Gene Krupa and Buddy Rich.  The vintage 1960s style work that rises from here, complete with Janusauskaite’s powerhouse vocal performance makes for such a wonderful growth from the song’s first movement.  When it and the song’s first movement come together, the whole presents a performance that is just as engaging and entertaining as any of the other performances featured here.  Keeping those other performances in mind, when they are considered with this one, the whole makes clear why the performances are so important to the album’s presentation.  They enrich the listening experience just as much as the variety of arrangements that make up the album.  As much as the performances of the album’s featured arrangements do to make the album so appealing, they are just one more portion of what makes the album successful.  The album’s sequencing rounds out its most important elements.

The sequencing of Erstausgabe is important to examine because of its impact on the album’s general effect.  Listeners will not a clear change of style and energies throughout the record, showing unquestionably that some thought went into the album’s sequencing.  The album’s first trio of songs is mostly up-tempo even as their styles change from one to the next.  From there, the sequencing pulls things back in ‘Snake – Together Alone’ and ‘Crocodile Blues’ before picking right back up in ‘Frenzy’ and ‘Lange Beene.’  ‘Zu Asce, Zu Staub’ serves as a real break point, changing the album’s mood completely through its unique arrangement and energy.  From there, the energy rises again in ‘Rainbow’ and “Wannasee Weise’ before easing off once again in the much more laid back ‘Die Nacht.’ 

‘Gloomy Sunday’ pulls the record’s energy back once more before the band closes out the album on a high note in ‘Tschuldigensemal.’  Looking back through all of this, it is clear, again, how much time and thought went into the sequencing.  The result of that time and thought results in an album here that impresses just as much through its general effect as its content.  When everything is considered together, the bigger picture makes the album a unique addition to this year’s field of new jazz albums that every jazz fan will agree holds its own against any release from the band’s American counterparts.

Moka Efti Orchestra’s debut album Erstausgabe is a unique presentation that makes quite the name for itself among this year’s field of new jazz offerings.  That is due in part to its featured musical arrangements.  The arrangements are diverse in their styles, ranging from ragtime, to klezmer, to even some classical jazz.  That diversity in itself guarantees listeners’ engagement and entertainment.  The performances of the featured songs build on the foundation formed by the arrangements, adding even more enjoyment.  That is due to the fact that the performances are themselves so rich.  They fully immerse listeners in the songs.  The sequencing of the songs puts the final touch to the album.  That is because of the impact that it has on the album’s general effect.  It ensures the album’s energy and styles avoid any redundancy while also providing just as much enjoyment through the band’s performances.  Each item noted here clearly has its own impact on this album’s presentation and enjoyment.  All things considered, the album stands out and holds its own among this year’s field of new jazz albums.  Erstausgabe is scheduled for release Friday through Six Degrees Records.  More information on the album is available along with all of Moka Efti Orchestra’s latest news at https://www.facebook.com/mokaeftiorchestra.  

To keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news, go online to https://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.  

Magg Dylan Debuts New Single, ‘Pawns,’ Companion Video

Courtesy: Cowgirlzen Entertainment/Eclipse Records

Independent metal band Magg Dylan debuted its new single and its companion video this week.

The band debuted its new single, ‘Pawns‘ Tuesday, along with the song’s companion video. The band premiered the song and its video through Eclipse Records, with which Mushroomhead was once aligned early in its life.

The musical arrangement featured in ‘Pawns’ presents a sound and stylistic approach that is very much in the Euro-metal vine. That is evidenced through the combined use of the keyboards, the down-tuned guitars, thick and heavy bass and drums, and vocals.

The lyrical theme featured in ‘Pawns’ touches on a topic that will resonate with many listeners according to front woman Suzanne De lulio.

“‘Pawns’ is about feeling controlled,” she said. “It’s about more than what the lyrics appear. I was really nervous about the honesty in our lyrics for ‘Pawns.’ We just felt so defeated. [Guitarist] Brucifer [Jordan] and I were sitting on the beach in the Outer Banks after some 2020 events thinking we still have the sun and our stories to tell. The funniest part was when we did the bridge. Brucifer looked at me and said “Really? That’s what you want to say there? You’re an intelligent evolving woman and that’s what you want to say?” I responded, “That’s how I feel and it’s honest frustration. That’s what is coming out.”‘  

The video for the band’s new single was shot in a junkyard. The visuals are meant to represent the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and the emotions that have stemmed among many as a result of the devastation.

More information on Magg Dylan’s new single and video is available along with all of the band’s latest news at:

Website: https://www.maggdylan.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/maggdylan

Twitter: https://twitter.com/maggdylan

To keep up with the latest entertainment news and reviews, go online to https://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest entertainment news and reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Don’t Believe In Ghosts Launches Guitar Giveaway Contest; Plans New Single Release

Courtesy: Imagen Records/ADA Warner/O’Donnell Media Group

Don’t Believe in Ghosts is giving audiences the chance to win a guitar signed by the band.

The contest is part of a push to promote the band’s forthcoming album, Solutions, which is scheduled for release May 14 through Imagen Records/ADA Warner. Audiences can enter for a chance to win the Fender guitar simply by following the group on Spotify and pre-saving/adding the band’s forthcoming single, ‘Put Your Head Back On’ through Spotify and/or Apple Music.

‘Put Your Head Back On’ is scheduled to make its debut Friday. It is the latest entry from Don’t Believe in Ghosts. The band has released a variety of songs over the past year. Among those songs are: ‘Still Holding On,’ ‘Living Like This,’ ‘The Chase‘ and ‘Don’t Wake Me Up.’ It is unknown as yet if the album will feature the noted songs.

More information on Don’t Believe In Ghosts’ latest single and contest is available online along with all of the band’s latest news at:

Websitehttps://www.dontbelieveinghosts.com

Facebookhttps://www.facebook.com/DBIGhosts

Twitterhttps://twitter.com/DBIGhosts

To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews, go online to https://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Adult Contemporary, Pop Rock Fans Will Find Plenty To Like In The Workday Release’s Debut Album

Courtesy: ENCI Records

More than a month after premiering the debut single from its forthcoming album, Like the Light of Stars, independent music act The Workday Release is scheduled to release that album.  Scheduled for release Friday through ENCI Records, the 11-song presentation is a work that makes the act, the brainchild of singer-songwriter David Ottestad, poised to be one of the next big names in the adult contemporary and pop music.  That is proven through the album’s musical and lyrical content.  ‘Going Up in Flames’ is just one way in which the collective content makes the album entertaining and engaging.  It will be discussed shortly.  ‘I Do,’ the record’s latest single, is another example of what makes the album appealing.  It will be discussed a little later.  ‘Keep Out The Wolves’ is yet another example of how Like the Light of Stars prove itself so enjoyable.  When it is considered along with the other songs noted here and the rest of the album’s works, the whole becomes a work that any adult contemporary and pop fan will find enjoyable.

The Workday Release’s debut album Like the Light of Stars is a shining new offering within the adult contemporary and pop communities.  That is proven through its musical and lyrical content.  ‘Going Up in Flames’ is just one of the songs featured in the approximately 40-minute record whose musical and lyrical content pairs to support the noted statements.  The song’s musical arrangement forms its foundation with its gentle percussion, guitar, and piano.  The minimalist approach to the arrangement is a clear illustration of the old adage that less is more.  The simple, gentle melody crated by the guitar and piano is so enriching while what sounds like a brush on the snare, echoing, adds its own touch.  The whole of the arrangement makes the song’s impact so hard hitting.  The impact of the arrangement through its simple stylistic approach and sound, pairs with the song’s contemplative lyrical content to make the song overall even deeper.

The lyrical content featured in ‘Going Up in Flames’ seems to come from the vantage point of someone who is at one of the many crossroads that everyone reaches in life.  One can argue that it presents something of an existential discussion.  That is inferred as Ottestad sings in the song’s lead verse, “It’s swelling up again in my heart/And I can’t face it/Send me back out in the dark/Like I have before/So I raise my voice to God/ ‘Tell me what’s your problem?’/And I brace for/Only thunder/Down on my knees/But  still there’s nothing/So father/I am up/Waiting for your favor/While the hills here/Are going up/Going up in flames.”  He continues in the song’s second verse, “I can’t find you in the clouds/Like when I was younger/And the air that I’m now breathing/Is mostly smoke/And it fills my mind with doubt/Did you ever love me?/And I wait for/You to come and help me breathe/But still there’s nothing.”  Again, this is someone who clearly is at a difficult point in life.  Now whether the “father” reference is religious or referring specifically to an actual father figure is unknown.  It would seem this is somewhat religious, especially considering the declaration from the subject that he wonders, “Did you ever love me?”  That note of the hills going up in flames is metaphorical language that the subject is using to point out the feeling that the subject feels like the world is…well…burning around him and he is getting no answers from a higher power.  If in fact that is the case, then the manner in which this familiar topic is broached here is unique.  It will certainly resonate with listeners.  That is because most people, if not all, have been at the point at which the song’s subject has reached.  When that accessibility is paired with the depth of the song’s musical arrangement, the song’s overall impact deepens and makes the song an even clearer example of what makes Like the Light of Stars so successful.

In contrast to the moving, seemingly existential nature of ‘Going Up in Flames,’ ‘I Do’ – another of the record’s most notable entries – is a much happier song, showing the variety in the album’s musical and lyrical content.  ‘I Do’ is the most recent of the singles spawned from Like the Light of Stars.  Premiered April 3, the song’s musical arrangement is a simple, upbeat composition. The use of the guitar, vocals and minimal percussion collectively lends itself to comparisons to works from the likes of John Mayer and The Nomadic to name just a couple of acts whose work is so similar.  

The lyrical theme featured alongside the song’s upbeat musical arrangement was made clear in comments made recently by Ottestad about the song.  He essentially pointed out through his comments that couples far too often take the term “I Do” for granted as something they only say at a wedding.  He said of this topic, “‘I do’ isn’t just something you say on your wedding day.  It’s something you say every day.”  No lyrics need examining in this case.  Ottestad hits the nail on the proverbial head with that statement.  Men and women alike are guilty of taking those words for granted, and both need to make more effort to say them more often.  The joy that comes for couples in saying those words daily is echoed through the energy in the song’s musical arrangement.  All things considered here, the song proves to be yet another key example of what makes Like the Light of Stars engaging and entertaining.  It is just one more example of what makes the album worth hearing.  ‘Keep Out The Wolves’ is one more example of the album’s strength.

‘Keep Out The Wolves’ is yet another simple work in regards to its musical arrangement.  Ottestad’s simple vocal delivery and guitar performance here alongside some slight added production elements make the song’s arrangement a work that will appeal to fans, again, of John Mayer.  In the case of this song, it will also appeal to fans of Owl City.  Even with those influences in mind, the song’s arrangement still boasts its own identity.  To that end, it makes the song appealing in part.  The song’s lyrical content pairs with the musical content to make the song even more engaging and entertaining.

The lyrical content featured in this song comes across as being another existential commentary, but unlike that of ‘Going Up in Flames.’  The seeming existential commentary is presented right from the song’s outset as Ottestad sings, “You’re feeling second rate and far behind/Overlooked by God/Event the devil walks past/Without a second glance/And you can’t make a sound/Leaving home to find your missing voice/Unsure of where you left it/Worried all your sins have come to light/And what else can you do?/Your silence paints them true/Bring the fire/Burn yourself to the ground.”  Ottestad continues in the song’s second verse, “When you get back up/You feel brand new/Now that you’re facing forward/It might be some time until you can speak/But when you feel first sound/Be sure to make it count/the ones who linger/Nail themselves to  the  floor/There’s only so much you can do/To keep the wolves out/And I will hold the door  shut/Sooner or later/They’ll  swallow you whole/They’re starving for your secrets…You can’t escape it/They’ve come with torches/To burn down your home.”  Ottestad adds to the discussion in the song’s third verse, “Kill all  the lights and lock the doors/Get down before they see you/How you’ve come to miss  the days before/Overlooked and free/And now you’re on your knees.”  He concludes in the song’s fourth (yes, fourth) verse, “There’s no room for monsters here/Not in this quiet town/They can’t force you out/Turn you to ash/To keep themselves safe.”  Looking back through all of this, what it all seems to say through its metaphorical language is that no matter what one does in life, the wolves will be there.  The wolves are those people who only wish you harm and want to kick you when you are down.  Even with the wolves being there, one cannot let them win.  Rather, one must just live one’s life regardless because the wolves will always be there.  It is a familiar lyrical topic, and is presented in its own unique fashion here.  When the serious message is considered alongside the song’s moving musical arrangement, the whole makes this song yet another important addition to the album.  When it is considered along with the other songs examined here and the rest of the album’s songs, the whole of that content leaves no question about the album’s overall success.  It all comes together to make the album among the most notable of this year’s new independent albums.

The Workday Release’s debut album, Like the Light of Stars, is a record that given the right support, could help the act become one of the next big names in the realms of adult contemporary and pop.  That is proven through all three of the songs examined here.  The songs show a similar stylistic approach to the songs’ musical arrangements but an ability, regardless, to adapt to the album’s various lyrical themes, making each song engaging and entertaining.  The noted songs in whole are clear examples of how the album’s musical and lyrical content make it worth hearing.  When they are considered along with the rest of the album’s works, the whole of the record’s body makes it well worth hearing at least once among any adult contemporary and pop rock fan.  Like the Light of Stars is scheduled for release Friday through ENCI Records.

More information on The Workday Release’s new album is available along with all of its latest news at:

Websitehttps://encimusic.com/theworkdayrelease

Facebookhttps://www.facebook.com/theworkdayrelease

Twitterhttps://twitter.com/datsettodivad

To keep up with the latest entertainment news and reviews, go online to https://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest entertainment news and reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Tracy Bonham’s Debut Family Music Album Is A Great Tool For Elementary Level Music Educators

Grammy®-nominated rocker Tracy Bonham will make her first venture into the world of family music Friday when she releases her debut family music album, Young Maestros Vol. 1.  The 11-song record is short, clocking in at just 29 minutes, but still offers plenty for audiences of all ages to enjoy, not the least of which being its varied musical arrangements.  They will be discussed shortly.  The lyrical content that accompanies the album’s musical arrangements makes for its own share of enjoyment.  It will be discussed a little later.  The record’s sequencing rounds out its most important elements and will also be discussed later.  Each item noted here is important in its own way to the album’s presentation.  All things considered, they earn the album a spot on the list of 2021’s top new family music albums.

Tracy Bonham’s debut family music album, Young Maestros Vol. 1 is a work that leaves audiences looking forward to its follow-up in the best way possible.  That is proven in part through the record’s varied musical arrangements.  Throughout the course of the album’s nearly 30-minute run time, it presents listeners with arrangements whose stylistic approaches and sounds span the musical universe.  ‘Background Singers’ for instance takes listeners back to the golden age of Rhythm and Blues as it pays tribute to…well…background singers.   The subtle keyboard line, guitar, and bass join with the subtle vocals to present the noted stylistic approach and sound.  ‘Shake Like a Rattlesnake,’ which comes a little earlier in the album, uses its country music style sound and stylistic approach to conjure thoughts of country music legend Johnny Cash.  As a matter of fact, there is a moment in the song’s chorus and its refrains in which she will have listeners thinking of Cash’s timeless hit ‘Folsom Prison Blues.’  More specifically, her refrains sound like Cash’s as he sings in his chorus, “I hang my head and Cry.’  Cash isn’t the only country music legend to whom Bonham pays tribute in this record’s musical arrangements.  ‘Song Without an Ending’ immediately lends itself to thoughts of Hank Williams’ timeless song, ‘I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry.’  As if that is not enough, Bonham even pays tribute to Julie Andrews with references to Andrews take on the big screen adaptation of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s The Sound of Music.  That is quite a wide spread of musical styles and arrangements, and it certainly does not end there.  When the varied arrangements and styles noted here are considered with the rest of the album’s musical content, the whole builds a solid foundation for the album.  Building on that foundation is the engagement and entertainment offered through the album’s equally diverse lyrical content.

The lyrical content featured alongside the album’s musical arrangements follows one central theme of music and music theory.  The matter is discussed through a variety of musical topics  ‘Big Beats,’ whose musical arrangement is a direct tribute to a certain well-known song from Sir Mix-a-Lot, and ‘Beats to a Measure’ are both songs that address basic counting in music.  ‘Feelin’ Pretty Major,’ with its throwback 1960s style pop rock style arrangement and sound, also notes beats.  It additionally approaches the topic of major and minor thirds, and other chord structures.  One of the most notable of the songs here, in terms of its music theory-related content comes early in the album in the form of ‘All The Blackbirds.’  The song is actually a unique pneumonic device meant to help young listeners who might be learning how to play piano.  Bonham does not immediately come out and make that clear.  Audiences have to listen close in order to catch the subtle connection, but it is there.  That Bonham could so creatively find a way to help young pianists develop their talent in this case is impressive.  Considering this, the other lyrical content noted here and the rest of the album’s lyrical content, the overall lyrical content featured in Young Maestros Vol. 1 does well in following the theme of the album’s title.  It and the album’s musical content collectively goes a long way toward making the album successful.  Even with this in mind, there is still at least one more item that makes the album work.  That last item is the record’s sequencing.

As already noted, the album’s musical arrangements are unique of one another throughout the course of its 29 minute run time.  The album’s lyrical content varies from on to the next, too, even as it centers on one central theme.  The record’s sequencing plays into that variety in both aspects.  It ensures that the content in both cases constantly changes, ensuring listeners’ engagement and entertainment.  At the same, the sequencing also ensures that the energy in the record’s songs stays stable from start to end.  That energy seems to stick within a specific range from one to the next, never getting too slow and soft or too fast and loud.  That the energy remains so stable throughout shows even more why the record’s sequencing is so important.  When that overall importance is considered with the importance of the record’s overall content, it makes the album’s overall presentation even more engaging and entertaining.  All things considered, the record more than proves it deserves a spot among this year’s top new family music albums.

Tracy Bonham’s debut family music album, Young Maestro’s Vol. 1 is an impressive first family outing for the Grammy®-nominated rocker.  Its positives start in its musical content.  That content proves diverse throughout, reaching across the musical universe.  It features some country and bluegrass alongside some kindie pop and even R&B and hip-hop.  This alone ensures a wide appeal among audiences.  The lyrical content that accompanies the album’s music arrangement is diverse in its own right.  That is even as it follows one central lyrical theme.  The diverse lyrical content featured here touches on basic music theory concepts, making it a great tool for any elementary level music educator.  The sequencing of all of the noted content puts the finishing touch to the recording, bringing everything full circle.  That is because it ensures the record’s content changes up constantly.  Each item noted is important in its own way to this album.  All things considered, the album proves itself an enjoyable new family music offering that will appeal to a wide range of listeners.  Young Maestros Vol. 1 is scheduled for release Friday through Melodeon Music.

Pre-orders for Bonham’s new album are open now.

More information on Tracy Bonham’s new single, video and album is available along with her latest news at:

Websitehttps://www.ecrmusicgrop.com/artists/tracy-bonham

Facebookhttps://www.facebook.com/TracyBonhamMusic

Twitterhttps://twitter.com/tracy_bonham

To keep up with the latest entertainment news and reviews, go online to https://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest entertainment news and reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

The Workday Release Reminds Couples To Say, ‘I Do’ Every Day In New Single, Video

Courtesy: ENCI Records

The Workday Release wants people to remember the importance of maintained love in its latest single.

The act, the brainchild of singer-songwriter David Ottestad, debuted its new single, ‘I Do‘ and its companion video April 3. The premiere of the new song and video follows that of ‘You‘ and its video, and that of the album’s lead single, ‘Say a Lot With Light,’ its lyric video, and official video.

The musical arrangement featured in ‘I Do’ is a simple, upbeat composition. The use of the guitar, vocals and minimal percussion collectively lends itself to comparisons to works from the likes of John Mayer.

The lyrical theme that accompanies the song’s musical arrangement serves as a reminder to listeners to not take their vows and love for their significant others for granted.

Ottestad pointed this out in a prepared statement, in which he talked about how the video illustrates that message.

“For the video, I wanted to portray the idea that ‘I do’ isn’t just something you say on your wedding day,” he said. “It’s something you say every day. I thought an interesting way to show this was to have the video take place in a time of life transition, and in this case, going through the process of moving. I decided to shoot the video with my wife and show us getting back into our wedding dress and suit years after initially saying ‘I do’ as a symbol of wearing that phrase during changing circumstances.

“It also gave us a chance to feature some of our favorite local businesses in downtown Fullerton, where we live,” added Ottestad. “Especially during the pandemic, being able to make a video that serves as an encouragement to the viewers to #shopsmall was really important to me. We made a purchase at each store we filmed at and had so much fun visiting each spot in our wedding attire.”

The track listing for Like the Light of Stars is noted below.

‘Like The Light Of Stars’ Track Listing:

1. Say A Lot With Light

2. You

3. I Do

4. The Future

5. Hospital Grounds

6. Going Up In Flames

7. Every Voice I Hear Is Mine

8. Sunlight

9. Keep Out The Wolves

10. Circles

11. Six Feet From Defeat

More information on The Workday Release’s new single and video is available along with all of its latest news at:

Websitehttps://encimusic.com/theworkdayrelease

Facebookhttps://www.facebook.com/theworkdayrelease

Twitterhttps://twitter.com/datsettodivad

To keep up with the latest entertainment news and reviews, go online to https://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest entertainment news and reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

The Lancasters Takes On Scammers In New Single, Video

Courtesy: Rivertale Productions/Fuzzy Cracklins Records/Epidemic Records

Independent rock band The Lancasters debuted its latest single last week, along with its companion video.

The band premiered its new single, ‘Scallywag‘ and its companion video April 5. The musical arrangement featured in The Lancasters’ new single bears a notable classic rock vibe in the vein of Lynyrd Skynyrd. That is evidenced through the use of the distorted slide guitar, the rich sound of the drums and equally steady bass line. One could just as easily make a comparison (albeit slight) to works from Led Zeppelin.

The lyrical theme that accompanies the song’s musical arrangement takes on scammers who use television and other media to take people’s money.

Front man Dave (his last name was not provided in the news release announcing the single and video’s premiere) talked about the song’s lyrical theme.

“I have to say that I really enjoy it when I find people chatting about stars and cosmic flows that bring some kind of energy,” he said. “But what I enjoy the most is to sabotage these s****y fake beliefs from the inside”

Dave’s band mates Steve and Fred (their last names also were not provided in the noted press release) expanded on those statements.

“It’s kind of a personal revenge, we can’t stand these pricks and the lies they spread on TV,” they said. “All that glitters is not gold, sometimes it’s just plastic garbage.”

The video for ‘Scallywag’ illustrates and translates the band members’ statements. It features the trio as a group of fake psychics trying to scam viewers as the song plays over the silly visuals.

More information on The Lancasters’ new single and video is available along with all of the band’s latest news at:

Website: https://thelancastersband.bandcamp.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/thelancastersband

To keep up with the latest entertainment news and reviews, go online to https://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest entertainment news and reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Assertion Debuts LP’s Third Single

Courtesy: Spartan Records

Independent rock band Assertion debuted its latest single last week.

The band debuted its new single, ‘Deeper in the Shallow‘ April 7. The song is the third single from the band’s newly released debut album Intermission. Its debut follows that of the album’s first two singles, ‘The Lamb to the Slaughter Pulls a Knife,’ and ‘Supervised Suffering.’

The musical arrangement featured in ‘Deeper in the Shallow’ is a heavy, fuzzed, guitar-driven composition. The sound of that guitar arrangement, works with the thick rhythm section and vocals to give the song a sort of post-hardcore style sound.

The lyrical theme that accompanies the song’s musical arrangement touches on a heavy topic, according to front man Justin Tamminga.

“(The song) was written roughly 14 or 15 years ago. (It’s) sort of a letter to my sister, who had just moved to the town I was living in and was starting to hang out with people in the “scene.” We grew up in an abusive household and a lot of these people’s actions mirrored those of my mom and stepdad. When you grow up in a traumatic environment, it tends to hinder your ability to see abusive behavior because you’re used to being treated poorly and not having your boundaries respected. This is also why we came up with the band name Assertion. So the song is a mixture of our background mixed with the current time and place we were living. I went on to play this song in a band called Hands Of Toil, until [band founder] William [Goldsmith] heard it and wanted to play it. William, [bassist] Bryan [Gorder] and I reinvented it, dropped the tuning and added a bit more dynamics.”

The track listing for Intermission is noted below.

‘Intermission’ Track Listing:

Down Into The Depths

The Lamb To The Slaughter Pulls A Knife

Defeated

This Dream Does Not Work

Pushed To The Limit

Deeper In The Shallow

This Lonely Choir

Supervised Suffering

Set Fire

More information on Assertion’s new album and single is available along with all of the band’s latest news at https://www.facebook.com/Assertionband

To keep up with the latest entertainment news and reviews, go online to https://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest entertainment news and reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.