Blanchard’s Debut LP Is A Solid First Effort

Courtesy: Cumbancha Music Publishing

Courtesy: Vis-a-vis

Francesca Blanchard is not the most well-known name in the music industry today. But the French-born singer-songwriter is no stranger to the music industry. She has been writing music ever since her childhood. And in 2011, she released her very first recording, Songs on an Ovation. The record, a six-song EP, was released via Emote Records. Now a little more than four years after its release Blanchard will finally release her debut full-length studio recording for American audiences. The aptly titled Deux Visions will be released Friday, October 2nd via Vis-a-vis. Deux Visions is such an aptly titled record because Blanchard presents both her French and American roots throughout the course of the album’s twelve total songs. She sings half of those songs in English and the other half in French. In doing so she is able to reach not just her French-speaking listeners but her American listeners, too. This is just one element of the album worth noting. In direct correlation to her dual vocal approach, the lyrics to each of her songs have been printed in the album’s companion booklet side by side in both French and English, too. Not only does this mean that she will reach both audiences even more but that she will also guarantee keeping her listeners engaged. She and her label made sure to not leave out anyone. And being that this record is her debut full-length recording that is an especially good choice. Having noted her dual approach to her debut album, the next logical element to examine in this record is the combined musical and lyrical content of her album in whole. That material in question is notable because it stands out from so much music from her more well-known pop counterparts. It stands out because it switches seemingly from song to song. And even the lyrical content of each of the album’s songs boasts its own depth in comparison to that of other female artists. The combination of that standout musical and lyrical content set alongside the previously noted albums leads Deux Visions to prove itself one more of the year’s best new world music albums.

The official release date of Francesca Blanchard’s debut album Deux Visions is still roughly five weeks out at the time of this review. Even being so far out from its release it can still be said of her new album that it is one of the best of this year’s new world music field. It proves this in more ways than can be noted in one sitting. So this critic will focus on just a few ways in which it proves itself so impressive beginning with her performance of the album’s twelve total songs. Blanchard, who is French by birth but currently lives in Vermont, splits the album’s tracks right down the middle, singing half of the songs in French and half in English. She is not the only bi-lingual artist to use this approach. Colombian pop star Shakira uses a similar approach as do the men of Los Lonely Boys, kindie rock act Future Hits and others. While the approach that she takes is not exactly new, it does not make it any less important. That is because as with the albums released by the previous artists and acts, it shows an attention to detail so as to not alienate one listener base or another. What’s more, some of the aforementioned acts (and others) don’t always balance the linguistic approach on their albums as much as she has here. In many cases, the foreign language performances seem to take precedence over the English-language tracks. Though, it can be said that Future Hits come close as they go through their album Today is Forever first in Spanish and then repeat each song in English. While Blanchard’s approach isn’t quite at that level, the equal balance of French and English performances rather than a random slathering of French and English presentations ensures that audiences of both English and French backgrounds will be able to equally enjoy her new album so to speak. That is a solid foundation for her debut record. And it is just one level of that foundation, too. The presentation of the album’s songs both in English and French within the album’s booklet strengthens that foundation even more.

Francesca Blanchard’s balanced, dual-language approach on her debut album Deux Visions makes for a solid foundation for this first effort. It is not the only element that allows this album to sit so strongly, either. Each of the album’s songs are printed both in English and French in the album’s companion booklet. This means for French audiences whose abilities with English might not be so strong will still be able to enjoy it just as much as those English-speaking listeners whose abilities with French are just as weak. Some might read this and ask why this would be so important. The answer here is simple. It is important because especially today, not every group, band, or act includes lyrics with their albums. That can easily lead to misinterpretation of lyrics in many cases. In the case of a foreign language record, not having lyrics greatly diminishes the interest that those not familiar with the album’s linguistic approach might have in the album. What’s more even those albums that do include lyrics are not always guaranteed to include translated lyrics for those not fluent with the featured artist’s/group’s/band’s language. It does not necessarily have to mean English, either. It can be any language. In the case of this album it just so happens that Blanchard has seen to it along with Vis-a-vis that the songs’ lyrics were printed in both French and English. This means that those English audiences not familiar the French language will be able to understand the lyrics to each song just as much as French audiences not familiar with English. What this means is that Blanchard’s French and English audiences alike will be able to take in her debut album in whole without worrying about missing out on any of it. Simply put, everybody is at the same level in listening to this record as a result. This takes the foundation established by Blanchard in her performances that much stronger. It is not the last element of the album’s success, either. The overall musical and lyrical content of Blanchard’s album sits atop the foundation set by her approach to the album’s songs and their presentation both on record and in writing in two languages.

Both Blanchard’s dual-language approach to her new album both on record and in writing do plenty to make it an impressive first effort from the talented, young artist. For all of their importance to the overall structure of this record, the actual content of the album in regards to its musical and lyrical content is just as important to its whole. In regards to both elements, Blanchard manages quite well to stand out from so many of her more well-known counterparts. Listening to the album’s musical content, the first comparison that this critic came up with was to Mazzy Star. That is at least in songs such as ‘Mon Ange,’ and ‘Rame.’ At other points, listeners can hear hints of Vanessa Carlton (at least in her vocal delivery style), Norah Jones (both vocally and stylistically) and others. The combination of such comparisons in regards to both Blanchard’s own vocal delivery style and the overall stylistic approach to her album’s songs shows its ability to hold its own against said artists. The same can be said of the album’s lyrical content. Each of the songs present lyrical content that can be best described as being deeply personal and just as moving. ‘Rame,’ the album’s opener is just one example of how the album’s lyrical content helps the album to hold its own both in the underground realm and against more well-known mainstream acts. Blanchard presents a subject that is in a very dark place. Yet being in such a dark place, her subject still holds out hope, singing that “All is not lost/No/All is not lost. In the case of this song, Blanchard uses the metaphor of a person out at sea in a sinking boat. Despite the situation looking hopeless, her subject receives a sign of hope; a sign that everything will be okay. It is definitely an interesting approach to the topic of maintaining hope and even a partially optimistic outlook on things in those dark times. ‘Le Blues’ is another good example of how the record’s lyrical content helps it to stand out. Blanchard writes in this song of how the blues make her happy. What is interesting about this is that she is not necessarily referring directly to the blues that many might think. She refers seemingly to the different shades of blue in the world as well as the blues as a musical style. The gentle tones of the song’s piano line and the song’s overall somewhat jazzy style accent those lyrics so well. The combination of her play on words and the song’s musical content makes this song yet another prime example of why Deux Visions lives up to its title. ‘Papa…Pere’ is one more example of how the lyrical content of Deux Visions makes it such an original, standout recording for Blanchard. This deeply emotional piece presents Blanchard’s subject apparently singing to her father. It is inferred as she sings, “I looked up at the sky/And I said your name/Papa…Father/Where are you/And that’s when I saw you/Your star/Dancing across the sky/Flying over the atmosphere’s horizon/And just like that you heard me/And you came to me/Papa.” This is just one small portion of the song’s lyrical content. But it is a strong example of why this song helps to make the album in whole stand out. Those lyrics (and the rest of the song’s lyrics) alongside its gentle musical backing will move to tears every person that hears it. Any person that is not so moved is either heartless or not human. It is just one more example of how the combination of Deux Visions’ lyrical and musical content together serves to make it a standout recording both against music produced by Blanchard’s more well-known counterparts and for herself. Together with the presentation of its songs in both French and English both musically and on paper, all three elements show without argument why Deux Visions is a solid start for Blanchard and why it is also one of the best of this year’s new world music records.

Deux Visions is an impressive first full-length effort from Francesca Blanchard. The twelve-song record presents its songs both in French and English both on record and in print. The combined musical and lyrical content of the album’s songs add even more to the album’s benefit. All three elements combined, they prove that this record is just as enjoyable for audiences as those released by her more well-known counterparts in the mainstream pop and rock worlds. Being such a strong effort, the album in whole also goes to show that it is without argument one of the best of this year’s new World Music records so far. It will be available Friday, October 2nd and can be ordered direct via Blanchard’s official bandcamp website at It can also be pre-ordered via that website now. More information on Deux Visions is available online now along with all of Blanchard’s latest news at:




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Get Stoked Proves It’s Just As Talented As Its Bigger Named Pop Punk Counterparts On Its New EP


Courtesy: Imminence Records/Persistent Heart Media

Courtesy: Imminence Records/Persistent Heart Media

Mount Pleasant, Michigan’s five-piece pop-punk band Get Stoked will release its new EP this month. Washington Street, the band’s new EP, will be released Tuesday, August 19th via indie label Imminence Records. This four-track disc is a good fit for anyone that is into bands such as A Day To Remember, All Time Low, and Yellowcard just to name a few. It’s interesting to note that among the EP’s five tracks, its opener is one of its best tracks. It’s interesting in that the song in question is an instrumental track that lasts not even two minutes. That song leads straight into what is another good example of audiences can expect from this EP in the form of ‘Actions Speak Louder Than Words.’ This song’s title *ahem* speaks for itself. Audiences will understand in listening to the song’s lyrical content. And as a final example of what the band has to offer on its new EP, it also offers the song ‘Forward Progress,’ which is a welcome breath of fresh air after the more emotional songs that preceded it. Each one of the songs profiled here is by itself a solid pop-punk production. The songs in question combine with the other two songs not noted here to make for an EP that any pop-punk fan will find enjoyable.

Get Stoked opens its new EP with an instrumental that is simply considered the album’s ‘Intro.’ The song clocks in at not even two minutes long. To be more precise, it is only one minute and thirty-eight seconds long. Ironically enough, as short as the song is, it proves in the long run to be one of the best songs on the disc. It’s one of those songs that proves not every good song rock or otherwise needs lyrics to make it work. It would be just as easy to hear front man Cameron Wheeler singing alongside his band mates. But they—Jacob Cardona (drums), Ryan Turek (guitar/backing vocals), Ben Jensen (bass), and Zach Smith (guitar)—hold their own throughout this song’s ninety-second plus song. Cardona’s time keeping is spot on next to the work of Turek, Jensen, and Smith. For a band that is currently signed to an independent label, this introduction from the band shows that its sound is Just as solid as anything released by any of its bigger named counterparts. And that solid sound doesn’t stop here, either as audiences will note in Washington Street’s first full length song, ‘Actions Speak Louder Than Words.’

‘Actions Speak Louder Than Words’ is one more example of how easily Get Stoked stacks up against its bigger name pop punk counterparts. The song, which seems to center on personal relationships is the first chance for [Cameron] Wheeler to put his talents on display on this release. To be more exact, it comes across as being centered on a personal relationship with a former love interest. He goes so far as to make a commentary about all the men that the woman in question had slept with. This leads him to sing to her, asking, “What did you expect/We’ve all tried our best/And if you didn’t succeed/You blame it all on me/These cold winter nights/They leave me quiet and discreet/Who are you to tell me/Who I can and can’t be/When first we barely knew each other/But lately/I bet I’ve come to find out/What it is you’re looking for/And I can’t understand it/I won’t understand it/Until you explain it to me.” It is from here that Wheeler and company proceed to sing about the former love interest sleeping around with other men. And that leads everything full circle back to these opening verses, making them far clearer for listeners. Wheeler’s subject here is expressing the mix of emotions felt by someone who is dealing with an unfaithful partner. That lyrical theme alongside the song’s energy and sound makes the song whole and just one reason that pop punk fans will appreciate this record.

While Wheeler and his band mates delve into some emotional territory on Washington Street, there is also at least one song with a more positive outlook on things on the EP’s penultimate song. That song, ‘Forward Progress,’ exhibits a subject that has gone through the worst but still sees the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel. That is something rare in today’s music industry. It seems like so many songs, regardless of genre, focus mainly on breakups and other negative topics. Wheeler sings in this song, “This is a thing called forward progress/I hope you know that I could care less/This is a thing called forward progress/I hope you know that I could care less/Face clenched/And arms bent/I’ll march through this/With only intent to make who/I wanna be/A realistic vision of myself/And everyone around me.” The defiant stance taken in these final verses gives a completely different view of life in comparison to the songs that come before ‘Forward Progress.’ And they make the song’s title far more fitting, too. It is Wheeler and company saying collectively, “I am going to be who I want to be no matter what others think of me.” This is an important message for the band’s audiences, especially in this age. Together with the previously noted songs and those not noted here, Get Stoked present to audiences an EP that is a work that is just as solid as anything released by its bigger named pop-punk counterparts.

Audiences can hear Get Stoked live now as the band is currently on tour with Backslashes and Bad Ideas. Audiences will also be able to pick up Washington Street at the band’s live shows after it is officially released. More information on Get Stoked, its tour schedule and more is available via the band’s official Facebook page. To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to the Phil’s Picks Facebook page and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog, too.

Atlanta Based Indie Hip-Hop Duo Ready To Break Out On Its Debut LP

Courtesy:  Autumn + Colour

Courtesy: Autumn + Colour

Atlanta, Georgia is home to some of the biggest names in the music industry.  It is home to Sevendust, Collective Soul, Stuck Mojo, and Stuck Mojo just to name a few.  It’s also home to hip-hop duo Outkast, whose members just recently announced that they are heading back on the road together after an extended hiatus to work on their own projects.  For all of the big name acts that call “Hotlanta” home, there are just as many lesser known acts that call that great city home, too.  One of those acts in question is another hip-hop duo that goes by the name of Ante Meridian.  The duo—Rozewood and Mr. Enok—re-issued its debut album this week.  At a time when mainstream hip-hop has become as tried and boring as mainstream rock, Ante Meridian’s debut proves to be a breath of fresh air for purist hip-hop and rap fans.

‘True Friend’ is the perfect kickoff to Sons of Heaven, the duo’s debut record.  Emcee Rozewood ruminates in this song about the loss of a friend to what would seem like gang violence.  He writes on the track, “Today I cried/Lookin’ at your photo/My n****s is gone/Thought about buying a gun and comin’ along/But it’s time for revenge/Return death to death givers/And dump they body in the soon to be red river/Sittin’ in my crib/On the stress mode/Loadin’ the clip…I can’t take it/The beauty of a childhood has been forsaken/Dear God please forgive me/For the acts I will do/The gats I will choose to spray s***…” There’s obviously some deep emotion expressed through this song.  What really makes the song interesting is the control that both Rozewood and Mr.Enok exhibit through the song.  The easy thing to do would have been to craft a battle rap style song.  Instead, the duo crafted a song that presents a figure with what would seem a much more collected thought process.  The song’s almost eerie, underlying piano lick set against Rozewood’s cool, collected rhymes creates a truly powerful first impression for the pair. It’s only the beginning of what fans will appreciate from this record, too.

Sons of Heaven’s second track, ‘N.Y. Thing’ is another impressive track.  The song is quite literally a lyrical love letter to the city that never sleeps.  Rozewood and Mr. Enok pay tribute to New York in this song.  It opens with a short sample with a man stating, “You’re a New Yorker/That will never change/You got New York in your bones/Spend the rest of your life out West/But you’re still a New Yorker.”  From here, the duo goes on to write of their favorite city, “If you’ve ever been to New York/You would understand what feel like to be caught in a wasteland/Trying to survive with a gun on your waistband/No matter where I’m at/I know where I am.”  The tribute goes on from here , bringing up memories of friends from the duo’s past that lived in New York’s five boroughs.  It might be pushing it, but it almost presents a song much in the same vein of Scarface’s ‘My Block’ just with a slightly different attitude.  It’s one more song that given the chance could be the duo’s next single.

The songs mentioned here are just small portions of what listeners have to look forward to from Ante Meridian’s new album.  Just as worth noting from Sons of Heaven are the likes of: ‘Remember My Eyes’, ‘Limitless’, ‘Red Lotus Blossom’ and ‘13th Floor’ with its gentle string backing. That backing set against Rozewood’s talents make this one of the highest of highs on this record.  These songs and all of the rest that make up the album’s seventeen total tracks are available now online on Ante Meridian’s Band Camp website, and via Amazon at  More information on Ante Meridian’s debut re-issue and more is available online at  To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at

Gypsyhawk’s Sophomore LP Another Hit For Metal Blade

Courtesy: Metal Blade Records

Guitars, bass, drums, and vocals.  That’s really all rock and roll needs.  And that’s what Pasadena, California’s own Gypsyhawk has brought to the game once again with its new album, “Revelry and Resilience.”  This album is a straight forward hard rocking work that will have every warm blooded rocker out there banging his or her heard, and putting his or her horns high with pride.  “Revelry and Resilience” is an example of everything that is and ever has been right with rock music.

The whole rock party kicks off with fittingly with the song, ‘Overdrive.’   To quote the line, this song is all killer, no filler.  From the killer guitar solos from Andrew Packer and Erik Kluiber, to front man Eric Harris’ Lemmy Kilmister-like vocals, to drummer Ian Brown’s driving beat, this song is a perfect start to the record in every way.  The band barely lets up from here, kicking right into ‘The Fields’ with equal adrenaline.  ‘Hedgeking’ follows in similar fashion, keeping the adrenaline and the blood flowing in its listeners’ veins from start to finish. 

There’s little letting up from there on throughout the remainder of this record.  Gypsyhawk’s sound has obviously evolved from its first album, “Patience and Perseverance.”  The band had a solid old school rock and roll sound on that record.  But the band’s sound seems even more honed this time out.  The band is right up there with the likes of Fireball Ministry, Airbourne, and others of that ilk on this album.  What makes Gypsyhawk better than those bands though, is its ability to cross the rock and roll spectrum, rather than stick to one style.  Airbourne is more closely linked to AC/DC and Fireball Ministry is compared more to classic Ozzy.  In the case of Gypsyhawk, this band has guitar work that pays homage to Lynyrd Skynyrd, Judas Priest, and even Iron Maiden just to name a few.  And as already noted front man Eric Harris’ vocals are weirdly similar to that of Lemmy Kilmister.  All of that being noted, Gypsyhawk’s new album, “Revelry and Resilience” will be a favorite among the fans of true old school guitar driven rock and roll, this reviewer included.  In fact, there is little doubt that by the end of the year, it will find itself on this reviewer’s list of the year’s best hard rock and metal albums.

“Revelry and Resilience” will be available in stores and online next Tuesday, August 28th.  It can be ordered direct through Metal Blade’s website at  The band will be performing a handful of live dates this Fall and Winter to support the album.  Fans can check out those dates and all the latest from the band online at,, and  

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