iLana Armida proves herself once again as a master of smooth, summery pop music. Fresh off of writing for Doja Cat’s smash hit album Planet Her, her new single Summertime Love continues to prove her ear for pop music. In this case, she once again brings the smooth, summery vibes to create an inviting love song.
iLana’s breathy, soothing vocals perfectly match the airy synths and light beat, crafting a perfect song to evoke a blissful summer day. iLana is, of course, the master of this formula, having racked up 7.6 million Spotify plays on songs she co-wrote. Her choice to remain an independent artist, like other artists like Tinashe, has allowed her to create every aspect of her artistry – including by mixing cultural influence. The label system, traditionally bad at handling any mix of styles (see the aforementioned Tinashe as an example), probably would not know how to handle her mix of influences from around the globe. iLana herself is of mixed heritage, and her ability to stay ambiguous culturally and take influence from everywhere serves to create a welcoming sonic environment for all.
In her words, “I sing songs that incorporate multiple languages and genres purposefully so that people of all cultures and backgrounds and ethnicities can feel connected to the music…I want everyone to feel accepted and united.“
A Flock of Seagulls, the decade defining synthpop and new wave band, are back on August 20th with their second orchestral album String Theory after 2018’s Ascension. This album, once again, features the Prague Orchestra (among others) to add new instrumental backing to 11 new recordings of classics and fan favorites. The album, like Ascension, features all four original members, including lead vocalist and hairdresser Mike Score, his brother drummer Ali Score, fellow hairdresser and bassist Frank Maudsley, and guitarist Paul Reynolds.
From their genre codifying hit singles such as “I Ran (So Far Away)” to their distinctive visuals that were constantly played on MTV to lead singer Mike Score’s outrageous haircut, all of which are referenced in pop culture to this day, the group helped make the 1980’s what they were aesthetically. The group, interestingly enough, continues to examine what their classic songs would sound like in a more timeless format.
The answer is largely that the songs, including “Say You Love Me”, “Messages”, “The More You Live, The More You Love”, “Remember David” and “The Story of A Young Heart”, gain a new coat of paint that only enriches the already well loved tracks. This is a lovely gift to hardcore fans and casual enjoyers of their hits alike.
After releasing his acclaimed album “Norwegian Pop” earlier this year, LearningToDive is back with a much more introspective song. Bravo Bonez, the one behind the LearningToDive project, wrote the song for the 80’s pop and post-punk inspired album, but realized that it was unique enough to merit its own moment as a standalone single. The song’s atmospheric yet sparse sound, mixing genres like country and sophisti-pop, makes the song as gorgeous and meaningful as it is.
The song itself is a reflection on being united with family. Bonez’s longing performance, along with Alba Rose’s otherworldly backing vocals, help to underscore the song’s message of wanting to return to a life left behind. The song’s video provides an interesting lens into this – it was filmed in Ocean Sound Recording Studio, the Norwegian studio where the album was recorded, far away from his loved ones. The song has elements of melancholy, but it provides a sense of hope.
About the song, Bonez said that “‘You Said It Best’ is an uplifting, heartwarming message incorporating themes of self-acceptance, forgiveness and gratitude, and is about coming back to one’s roots and working out what really matters.”
Ghanaian-Swedish artist Aurelia Day continues her string of excellent singles with “Huntress”, a Dancehall infused track themed around woman empowerment. The song’s beat is appealing enough to get anyone moving but unique enough to have lasting power long past the song’s runtime. Dey’s delivery does nothing but enhance the song’s innate swagger. It’s hard not to feel her power in each sneer of “little boy” and the confidence and poise in lines like “you can call me Katniss or Xena warrior princess, if you don’t come over here, I will hunt you down with the spear, grown woman have no fear”.
Dey’s dedication to the female warrior archetype shines through in the song, as does her commitment to inspiring changes in listeners. The song exemplifies a particular form of liberal feminism, both calling back to the warrior archetypes and seeking to empower and lift up all women. The song remains perfectly accessible to all audiences, but with a twist of afrobeat and dancehall.
When asked about the song, Dey called it “perfect for female empowerment boost and norm-breaking stereotypes. It’s about being a huntress – brave and ambitious. Creating a boundary pushing track exuding liberal feminism; breaking gender norms and gender associations. To take command, not only in a relationship, but in any area in a female or non-male life, to claim space. The dancehall beats enhance the funny metaphoric sensual references and the feeling that “I’m in charge”. I want to inspire my listeners to feel and embrace these feelings.”
Norwich based artist Ryan Soanes returns with vibrant new album, ‘The Journey‘. Somewhere between pop-punk and emo, the album is youthful but shares lyrical themes that are emotive and mature. A stand out number on the release comes in the form of refreshing single, ‘Call My Name’. Armed with synthesisers and guitar lines that will leave you breathless, the melodic number captures Ryan’s thoughts perfectly. Relatable and able to resonate with millions across the globe, Ryan’s lyrical themes are expressive and human.
Dedicated to creating music that helps raise awareness of mental health issues such as depression and anxiety, Ryan’s been raising money for the charity Samaritans from the album sales. A way to give back to his friends, family and supporters who helped him through difficult times, Ryan Soanes deserves wide recognition.
Describing the story behind “Call My Name”, Ryan states: “the song was originally written years ago before I even released music, it was written as a love song to a girl I was dating at the time, however, in recent times when I decided to rework the song, I had broken up with the girl… this gave the song a whole new meaning and vibe completely, it’s a happy song that went sad, now the meaning is as followed; the main character is going through / has gone through a breakup and realises their fault, they regret it all and want to reach out to their ex to be on good terms, however they can’t find the words to justify their apology or feelings, the girl refuses to reply or give him another chance (“hello my dear I’m standing here waiting on you / I’m facing my fears waiting on you”), this is a personal experience to me.”
“Little Lady” is a truly breathtaking single. Based on the early experiences of parenthood, husband and wife duo Toby & Pip are passionate and truly heartwarming. Dedicated to their daughter Josie, who inspired the addictive folk-pop tune, this joyful love song brings hopes to thousands across the globe, and sits perfectly during Valentines. A weekend filled with love whether you’re in a romantic or platonic relationship, this warming single professes that love truly does win.
Their second single to date was released back in 2020 describes the first steps forward in parenthood. It also touches on how becoming a parent makes you want to be the best you can be and always do the best you can for your child. Paired with a fitting music video, Toby has filmed one second of Josie’s life everyday on his phone, and the music video is made entirely from the daily shots.
Toby & Pip are playing a Valentines live-stream tonight at 9pm over on their Instagram, and we highly advise you tune in.
Founded in Caerphilly, South Wales in 2019, Wolf Storm is led by vocalist Nia John, who has an unforgettable voice. Their version of this 80’s classic will surely remind the country of how loved the song truly is. Bonnie Tyler’s ‘Total Eclipse of the Heart‘ is one of those tracks that will live on forever, and Wolf Storm’s interpretation cements that.
As for the story behind the name, Wolf Storm came from a particularity unusual fan of their music – Zebb the Wolf. Sponsored by the band, Wolf Storm raise money at their gigs for his upkeep. Stars not on the stage but off too, Wolf Storm seem like real, genuine people.
Though possessing a talent for creating their own original music, Wolf Storm are best known for covering classic artists such as Pat Benatar, Aerosmith, Thunder, ACDC, Rolling Stones and Fleetwood Mac to name a few. Capturing the emotion of the original while adding their creativity into the mix, their rendition of ‘Total Eclipse of the Heart’ still holds onto the track’s powerful arrangement, simultaneously feeling refreshed from Nia’s revised vocals.
Midweek drinking is a terrific thing, until you bring work into the equation. No matter how good an idea it feels to keep putting off the ‘one last drink’, there is something about a midweek hangover which is a crime against humanity. Numbness and pain somehow managing to co-exist for a day which lasts far longer than 24 hours. Heavyball know this and share our pain. Their latest album, “When Can You Start?” is a concept album relating the final week in the life of an office worker whose hopes and dreams are quashed at every turn. Hope springs eternal but sometimes, the refuge of the pub is the best option.
Though several of the tracks have a jaunty, two-tone feel, the mood across the album varies from both joyous to despairing, perfectly summing up the lives of many stuck in a dead-end job: it’s a means to an end but it can soon become a pit it’s impossible to escape from.
To accompany a suitably mood-swinging listen to the album we suggest a proper pint – no American IPAs or fizzy 3% stuff, go for something which tastes lovely but quickly turns into a terrible mistake without you realising until it’s far too late (probably the following day). Can’t go wrong with Black Sheep. Look, posh Black Sheep!
Modiwo are a Romanian band, though are more like a solo project with lots of musical helpers. Their figurehead, singer Oxana Gherghel, is eminently likeable, just like the band’s music – it’s traditional europop on one very basic level but clings to your brain far more than flotsam you might watch on Eurovision. Perhaps it’s the combined musical prowess; perhaps the slightly ethereal vocals with their subtly exotic twang; perhaps it’s the super-trippy video which accompanies it, leagues ahead of anything else we’ve seen recently. Maybe it’s the exotic folklore which continues to flow from their Transylvania base. So, what to gently sip whilst drifting off to their honeyed pop?
We’ve opted for a couple of shot of palincă, a spirit brewed in the Carpathian basin, in the shadow of Dracula’s castle. Made from plums, apricots, apples, pears, or cherries, it originated in Hungary, though it has a very similar variant in Romania.
We’re delighted to add grappa to our list of beverages to enjoy music to, not least because it gives us the opportunity to push Johann Sebastian Punk into the spotlight.
Since 2013, Johann has been aggravating the Italian music scene cognoscenti (and anyone else in his way) as he embarked on a determined campaign to bring his remarkable personae and music to an audience being spoon-fed plastic sound. It wasn’t an immediate success. In fact, it wasn’t much of a success even after the immediate lack of action had passed. Although supported by a loyal band of fans in his home country, there was no way the Italian media were going to stand for his unconventional look and sound, both of which apparently change with the weather – often during the same day.
So, he was launched his latest album, Phoney Music Entertainment, to a much larger audience, specifically targeting the UK, a place renowned for taking rebels, waifs and strays under its wing and nurturing their wayward talent. We’re not sure if Johann needs nurturing, his album sounding so robustly confident, that if anything it’s us that need gentle encouragement. Although portraying himself as something of a court jester, Johann is actually on a serious mission to get audiences to demand more of their “pop stars”, both in terms of material and as artists. We readily accept appalling music as either a joke or a trivial annoyance, but in truth, it’s grating and mood-adjusting for us and depriving musicians of genuine talent and worth the airtime and platform they desperately crave.
Phoney Music Entertainment sees Johann honing his technique (this is his second release) yet drifting from the shoulder-shrugging classic pop of “Tragedy” to the quasi-disco squelch of “The Quintessential” – none of it should really work together but it does – primarily because we’re programmed to accept rock/ballad/rock as a template that has to be stuck to. It’s a quite marvellous record, full of joy but at the same time making us feel somewhat gloomy that this is but a sparkling raindrop in a somewhat sorry puddle. But the album and do your bit.