Sunday, 9 October 2022

Flash Single Review: Esther Crow - Homemade Halloween

"Homemade Halloween" is the new single from the illustrious Esther Crow and it has certainly been worth the wait. The song essentially provides a narrative for sustainability, and does so in a fun yet unapologetic way.  Following fast on the heels of her most recent release "Stuff", this song truly has it all with its potent message, live instrumentation, and killer opening riffYou should also check out the video for this song, where the artist's sustainability message is recited by a singing tree.

The lyrics of the song are equally impressive, providing the kids with numerous examples of how to create their very own Halloween experience. Now it's 'time to use those magical minds', and 'take something old and make it new'. Whether this involves turning a blanket into 'monster fur' or creating a 'subway car' out of a box, we are all encouraged to get creative through using that 'artist brain'. 

Although the music appears to be wild and chaotic at times, the artist always appears to be in complete control, even allowing the song to really let rip at the end in an almost psychedelic foray into the unknown. Her ability to scan complex vocal patterns into very tight spaces also enables her to reveal her message without diluting the impact of the music.

Esther Crow is a unique artist, who manages to create musical soundscapes that intoxicate and delight in turn. Her music takes the listener on something of a rollercoaster ride, where classic rock riffs are exploited to perfection, and transformed into an originality of intent and purpose. She is an eco warrior with a clear vision, providing a narrative of sustainability and hope for future generations. She also manages to do this with both humour, and an acute awareness of pop sensibility. I just hope the song gets the recognition it truly deserves. 

Esther Crow - another slice of retro rock perfection.

Friday, 7 October 2022

Album Review: Todd'n'Tina - Dynamite!

Dynamite is the debut album of Todd'n'Tina, a family-friendly duo from Minnesota, USA. The album features ten super sounds brimming with pop sensibility and raw attitude. The music is punchy and highly melodic, and delivered with a noticeable intensity of purpose. Now I don't know if it's the old punk in me or what, but their music really ticks all the boxes for me, with its slightly retro sound delivered with power, energy and finesse.

"French Toast Day" really throws down the gauntlet with its thumping backbeat and minimalist keyboard. The vocals are released full throttle, exclaiming how every day should be a 'french toast day', and why not? Shades of the Rezillos on display, where rhythm, melody and attitude combine in a delightful piece of power pop.

"Dermatologist Assistant" bounces along in fine style, with its hypnotic piano, and infectious rhythm. The lyrics keep the listener intrigued throughout, as the artist declares 'I'm a dermatologist astronaut yes that's a thing'. The song also features some intriguing galactic sound effects to further enhance the dramatic effect. A hint of There Might Be Giants on display here, with a reciprocal vocal that is highly effective.

"Unicorns and Narwhals" informs the listener as to why these two creatures (both imaginary and real) simply 'can't be friends'. There are various reasons for this, including how 'they both have horns so nobody's going to win', and 'one likes to fly and one likes to swim'. A truly imaginative lyric, which succeeds in telling the type of story you could probably recite in a children's book. 

"Silly String" features a backing track that reminded me a bit of Cornershop's "Brimful of Asha", but this time sped up, and delivered with a touch more exuberance.  Here the message is one of classroom angst, where the lyrics recall childhood memories that are perhaps still a little raw. Nonetheless, the artist manages to transform these tortured childhood memories into a cathartic outburst of energy, where nothing really matters because 'I've got silly string'.

Apparently "Giraffes Like Peanut Butter", well who am I to disagree, although I could hazard a guess that there aren't too many songs around with a similar song title. The harmonies here are superb, and the intensity of the music typifies their sound which is uncompromising and relentless. The reciprocal vocal resurfaces again here, as does the piano, providing the glue which holds the music together.

"Panda Bear Dance" is an absolute delight, with its melodic piano, and its lively groove. So simple, yet highly effective, and easy to dance to, as long as it's not 'in your underwear'. The song has an infectious vibe which is incredibly catchy, and very easy on the ear. A real treat for the little one's who are sure to absolutely love it.

"If Darth Vader Had an iPhone" sounds like Star Wars has collaborated with Batman, and hired Frank Black to help out on vocals. Another delightful piece of power pop, which is sure to be very popular live. The song is pure twelve bar blues, and grinds away with noticeable intensity. The vocal scan is superb, and really opens up towards the end, with the chant 'go Darth Vader' providing real sing along opportunities for the kids.

"Peanut Butter Pickle Truck" bristles and shines in glorious fashion, with an exuberant piano and vociferous vocal competing for space.  The harmonies reminded me a little of the B52s, providing a melodic diversion to the relentless rhythm on display. The song then somewhat surprisingly, and seemingly out of nowhere comes to an abrupt halt. Shame, I would like to have heard more. 

"Flossing is my Hobby" is my absolute favourite track on the album, with a sound that pays homage to the new wave era of the late seventies. The music is truly exhilarating and sets a breathtaking pace, revealing its full identity in just one minute. This is a no-nonsense piece of foot stomping energy, delivered with heaps of attitude, and topped off with an absolutely mesmerising guitar solo to seal the deal. 

"Two Old Friends", finally brings the album to a close, whilst also providing a noticeable change of pace.  Here a sublime vocal delivers a delightful melody that glistens and shines throughout.  The song explores themes of friendship, conflict, resolution and ultimately hope, where as long as we are loyal to our friends we can 'find something good in each and every day'.

I really like this duo, their lyrics are original, and their sound is raw and authentic, which is somewhat refreshing in the digital age. One of the major strengths of the album is that both artists can really sing, and each deliver their message, in their own unique style. They certainly know how to engage the listener, and have managed to put together a selection of songs which are both entertaining and thought-provoking. Ultimately, this is a feel good album, it's great fun, and brilliantly executed, so if you want to brighten up your day, then give this album a spin, it truly is out of this world.

Todd'n'Tina - simply dynamite.

Sunday, 4 September 2022

Album Review: Stacy & Athena - Best Day Ever

Stacy & Athena are a musical duo from New York, who have been writing and performing music since their college years. Having gradually gone their separate ways to bring up their respective families, they reconnected as a result of the pandemic, collaborating on a socially distanced birthday song. They had so much fun writing together, that they decided to keep going, resulting in the release of their debut album Best Day Ever. The album is quite superb, featuring rich acoustic instrumentation, delightful harmonies, and a host of original songs that are sure to inspire and entertain children across the globe.

And whilst we're discussing the globe, the opening track "Save Our World", attempts to do just that. Here the duo explore 'the type of things we can do' to save our planet, because ultimately, 'the earth is counting on you'. Here 'we go round and round and round to make the change somehow', whether this involves planting trees, or recycling our waste, we are all encouraged to do our bit for the planet. The music supports the sentiment here, with the acoustic guitar taking centre stage, piercing the wall of sound on display amongst an array of instrumentation competing for space.

Next up, "I Believe in Me" really conjures up a heart warming message of positivity, where we are reliably informed 'I can do anything because I believe in me.' The lyrics encourage the kids to think for themselves, and perhaps most importantly never 'follow the crowd'. Again the acoustic guitar takes centre stage, with a shuffle beat and a sparse bass providing additional support. Towards the end the song is stripped down to its bare essentials in true anthemic style, where we are encouraged to 'clap our hands' and sing 'because I can do anything'.

Feelings and emotions are clearly a hot topic at the moment, with the new generation having to deal with an increasingly complex and confusing world. The song "Breathe" further explores this topic; offering possible solutions, such as the importance of remembering to breathe particularly when we feel angry. The bass playing is a real stand out here, rich in texture, and demonstrating an exquisite understanding of both space and melody. The whispering harmonies contribute further to the lyrical impact, creating an overall atmosphere worthy of the theme on show. 

"Best Day Ever" has a lovely Crosby Stills and Nash vibe, featuring lyrics which declare with supreme confidence that this will be 'the best day ever', and 'we're gonna have fun', and why not? Life is too short not to. The melody rises and falls in tune with the overall vibe, which is relaxed and uncomplicated. The harmonies are highly effective, particularly on the chorus which is swimming in pop sensibility. 

"Chocolate Chip Cookies" has a tougher, more raw appeal, which at times ventures almost into Ramones territory. This song has heaps of attitude and really grabs the listener around the throat demanding to be heard. I love the bridge which features a dazzling guitar solo, with perhaps a hint of wah-wah pedal thrown in for good measure. No nonsense, pure rock and roll - love it!

From new wave to seventies disco, "Kooky Crazy" is a real blast from the past, featuring a rhythm guitar that wouldn't sound out of place on a Chic album, alongside an effusive saxophone and a pulsating bass that had me almost jumping out of my seat. Brilliant!

"Some Kids" has a nice country vibe, featuring crystal clear vocals alongside a stomping rhythm section. The arrangement is paradoxical, in that although the kids are told to 'stop' this only encourages them to continue with whatever activity they are currently embarking on. This idea is then reversed at the end, where the kids who finally want to sleep are told to 'wake up', much to their consternation. A very original idea, highly interactive and great fun.

"Happy Birthday to You" is another lively anthemic song, full of fun and gusto. I love the nonchalant vocal, which encourages the listener to join in with the actions. Whether they are instructed to 'clap to celebrate', 'march to celebrate', or 'jump to celebrate', the message is clear and we are all eagerly listening. The chorus is the real standout, with a hypnotic hook that really cuts the mustard. There is so much going on here, and all packed in to a song barely more than a minute long. 

All in all, a truly inspired album, crammed with alluring melodies that will no doubt delight and inspire the kids in turn. I love the freshness and energy of the music,  which is highly original, thought-provoking and brilliantly put together. Their sound draws on influences including, folk, country, rock and even disco at times, and does so in fine style. On this form I'm sure we'll be hearing much more from them in the future.

Stacy & Athena - the world needs you.

Tuesday, 23 August 2022

Album Track Review: Music With Michal - Fireworks

As the weather warms up here Down Under, it's the perfect time to pop on this summer jam from Music with Michal. Taken from her latest release Summer Days, "Fireworksis a scintillating piece of atmospheric pop with one of the finest melodies you are ever likely to hear. The song also benefits from the welcome input of the Tiptoe Giants, who contribute some superb harmonies throughout. I suggest you keep an eye out for both these artists, because they are currently on an upward trajectory, and heading for the top.

The song begins with stirring keyboards that create the sense that something special is about to happen. The pulsating rhythm builds the tension, as several families who have gathered on the beach anticipate the onset of a spectacular scene. Surrounded by their loved ones, onlookers revel in the 'happy atmosphere' of this celebratory evening. As the fireworks shoot across the sky the chorus builds to an explosion of sound that delights the senses.

Just as you think the melodic component has run its course, we are then treated to another tuneful treat as we revel in 'wonder and delight', 'on this beautiful night’. The bridge then shifts gear in almost rap style, informing the listener to 'look up at the colourful skies' with a chant that is both infectious and uplifting. We are finally left with the chorus to see the song out, which it does in fine style, repeating the refrain with delicacy and finesse.

This song ticks all the boxes. It has superb lyrics, a magnificent tune, an ambitious arrangement, and fantastic production. All in all, an excellent song by an amazing artist who is currently setting the pace from her home town of Christchurch. I've already played this song numerous times, it is so intoxicating, you are guaranteed to feel good after hearing it.

Music With Michal - rocket to the top.

Friday, 8 July 2022

Video Review: Levity Beet - Fine Feathered Dinosaur

"Fine Feathered Dinosaur" is a recent release from the very talented Levity Beet, an award-winning artist from New Zealand, who has been making music for children and families since 2008. The song is super catchy, short, sweet and to the point, signing off in just under two minutes. 

The music video is equally impressive, and really brings the song to life. The idea behind the video is pretty simple, a happy dinosaur couple give birth to a baby dinosaur who then goes on to dance throughout the day making friends along the way. How can you not love a video like that?

The video also highlights the little known theory that 'many of the dinosaurs we once imagined as big scaly lizards actually had wild bright feathers'. Now I'm no expert when it comes to making videos, but I love the way this video captures your attention immediately. The colours are tasteful and inviting, and the animation courtesy of Dooverberry Dave is superbly executed.

Levity Beet is a very exciting artist whose reputation continues to grow, and on this form you should be hearing a lot of him in the future. He has released five albums to date, featuring a host of superb catchy songs for the kids to groove along to. 

Levity Beet - dinosaur boogie.

Sunday, 26 June 2022

Album Review: The Little Rockers Band - Getting to the Gig.

The Little Rockers Band are a duo from New Jersey, USA, and their most recent album Getting to the Gig provides a much needed tonic for the troops. This album is seemingly dedicated to all the kids out there, who may have missed out recently as a result of the pandemic. It's superbly put together, and is essentially a concept album, which focuses on travel and movement, with a particular emphasis on children's fascination with travel generally. The songs on display here, entice the children to both have fun and use their imaginations on this magical journey of wonder and intrigue. 

The album begins its intrepid journey with the opening track "Travelling Rock", a flirtation with twelve bar blues which you are sure to love if if you are an Elvis fan. Shades of "Jail House Rock" come to mind, but this time around the lyrics anticipates all the excitement that lies ahead 'all the way across the country'. The song also features some superb harmonies which add both melody and texture to the track. The song also includes a mesmerising guitar break, followed by some intricate piano playing, that is sure to have everybody's feet tapping.

"Anywhere" features a Hammond organ, and a rhythm pattern slightly reminiscent of the Kinks "See My Friends". The song is quite rich in texture and provides a running narrative of this particular magical mystery tour.  In this world, it doesn't really matter where we are going, or when we get there, we just kick back and enjoy the trip. Here we are 'riding round without a care', all is well with the world because I have 'you by my side', and 'you can take me anywhere'. Great stuff!

"Riding on My Bike" is slightly funkier, featuring a clean guitar sound sparring with a quite sophisticated drum pattern and an almost reggae inspired bass. The lyrics are tight and compressed, creating the necessary tension for the chorus to really explode. Again, the song reflects on the simple pleasure of enjoying a bicycle ride as we take in a bit of sightseeing and 'make friends with the clouds up here'. Being an avid cyclist myself, I can really relate to this song, with its cool, laid-back delivery.

"Super Kid" also incorporates a funkier approach, with the Hammond organ once again taking centre stage. The bass and drums create a sublime groove with effortless expertise. I also love the reciprocal vocal, which blends together with noticeable clarity throughout. Again a clean guitar with a hint of delay provides a superb introduction for the bridge to fully materialise. Now I'm only guessing here because I don't have the sleeve notes, but are the lyrics here referring to the quiet achievers who don't always get noticed, but make a huge difference? I'll leave that for you to decide.

"Looking Out My Back Door" provides a wonderful rendition of the famous Creedence song, beginning with a guitar sound that could have been lifted from David Bowie's "Let's Dance". This is an excellent rendition of a classic song, by one of my favourite US bands. You are sure to love this, the musicianship is exquisite, as are the vocals, which blend together perfectly.

"Smoothie Shake" provides a surprising musical departure, featuring a drum machine, which could sit quite comfortably on an OMD or Human League album. Despite this seemingly eighties vibe, the lyrical imagery is steeped in fifties nostalgia, as we 'do the smoothie shake'; a dance which turns out to be suitable 'for both young and old'. The lyrics really hit the mark, and you could almost imagine Fonzie grooving along to this song with the rest of the gang on the set of Happy Days.

"I Wanna Have Some Fun" is a real foot stomper, and in true eighties fashion, sounds like Robert Smith has been drafted in to write the backing track. The bass and drums really drive the song along with exquisite power and minimalism. The message is clear and to the point 'I wanna have some fun', don't we all?  This is a truly uplifting song, that attempts to move and groove in time with the heartbeat of the universe.

"Shooting Star" is slightly heavier, incorporating a more distorted guitar, along with a hypnotic keyboard. The arrangement on the verse creates the type of tension and release that allows the chorus to really soar. The message here is clear, get out there and try and reach your potential, because you too can be a 'shooting star'. The song also features a truly fabulous solo on the bridge, adding additional vitality to the track. The music finally draws to a close with some delightful piano, serenading a somewhat sweet and yet powerful vocal.

I guess you can't have a song about a road trip without mentioning "Traffic Lights;" a song which describes the regimental directions emanating from traffic lights, which we are sure to encounter on our way. The lights are then cleverly utilised to dictate the movement of the song, resulting in the lyrics inspiring the musical arrangement. There are also some interesting musical hooks dispersed throughout, with some tasteful guitar playing adding a certain ambience to the overall sound.

"The Wheels on the Tour Bus" actually plays homage to the famous nursery rhyme, although this particular rendition features a bass line which reminded me a little of T. Rex's "Hot Love". The song is incredibly catchy, and a great way to finish off the album, with a lively rendition of a famous children's song, executed with a quite detached and yet whimsical delivery. 

This duo have created a soundtrack to a wonderful uplifting journey, where children are entertained and inspired in turn. Although the album appears to be firmly entrenched in fifties nostalgia, it also references musical influences from other decades and does so seamlessly. The harmonies are superb and the musicianship is thought-provoking and tasteful throughout. All in all a magical journey of melodic delight, which is sure to have wide appeal.

The Little Rockers Band - the golden age of rock 'n' roll.

Monday, 6 June 2022

Flash Single Review: Tom Weber - I Need a New Song

I met Tom Weber on Instagram during the early days of the Pandemic. We've never actually met face to face, or even spoken on the phone, but due to the wonders of modern technology we've been able to keep in touch bonding over a mutual appreciation of some of our favourite bands. Including the Psychedelic Furs and New Order, a band who I was lucky enough to play support to back in the day.

Having become more familiar with his work of late, I've realised he must qualify as one of the hardest working children's musicians around. His most recent single "I Need a New Song" is great; it immediately grabs your attention with the kind of hook that really makes you sit up and take notice. 

The song has a nice relaxed groove, with bongos carrying the momentum, alongside an imaginative bass, and some subtle guitar underpinning the groove. The keyboard floats around in melodic sympathy to the lead vocal, and the lyrics cleverly describe what the artist hopes to achieve by creating this elusive song.  He does this by emphasising how this isn't 'any kind of song', but a song which is going to make me 'sing along', and 'move my feet'. I'm sure we would all agree with that.

Towards the end the music gradually slows down, as the artist quietly reflects on his search for a melody to 'sooth my soul'. The music almost floats into jazz territory here, as the individual parts gradually dissipate into the ether. The trumpet which had previously boldly declared the instrumental hook, now moves around almost forlornly amongst the ashes of the dying song, searching for a place to rest. Well, I'm not sure if that's what the artist intended, but that's what it sounds like to me. A melancholy drift into the unknown.

All in all an inspired idea, and a great song with a hook to die for. Tom Weber clearly knows how to craft music that has real singalong appeal. A man with an ear for a great melody, who has come up with a fantastic song that I for one, would love to cover myself.

Tom Weber - lost and found.