GiANT, The Artist – ‘The Ocean EP’

Independent Spotlight is a continuing series on Stewart’s blog. The series revolves around independent artists and bands sending their music to Brett to review. No band is promised a positive review, and all music is reviewed honestly in an effort to better independent music.

In this evening’s edition of the Independent Spotlight, we shine our gaze on an independent hip hop artist who has released his senior studio endeavor this last week, GiANT, The Artist. (I’ll just refer to him as GIANT from here on out.) His new record, entitled ‘The Ocean EP,’ is quite longer than your usual EP. Clocking in at eight tracks plus an introduction, the release is a lengthy statement. It’s a deeply personal one, too, which is what makes it so compelling. Let’s explore the new EP and discover if it’s worth having in your music collection this summer.

The introduction to GIANT’s new EP is an intriguing one. It pulls a few different samples together over a particularly atmospheric soundscape. It sets the stage elegantly for ‘Let It Burn,’ the first real song. Featured artist Lizzy provides a wonderful dichotomy to GIANT’s performance on the track as he delves into his mental and social struggles. GIANT explores bipolarism, anxiety, sleeplessness, and so much more. It’s an intense way to explode out of the gate, needless to say.

‘I’m The Bad Guy’ is an especially honest break-up song about the kind of turmoil and pain that someone goes through in the aftermath of a less-than-ideal relationship finale. GIANT toys with the emotions of feeling like ‘the bad guy’ after being pinned as one by a previous partner. It’s a relatable notion, I’d argue, and one that’ll resonate with a lot of listeners who have gone through similar pain. ‘Jet Lag’ follows with similar relatability, digging into GIANT’s struggle toward individuality growing up.

‘Therapy’ fills its spaces with some interesting soundbites, including iPhone ringtones and occasional gunshots. It’s a track that further details GIANT’s struggles with emotional instability and mental illness. “I say I’m fine,” he muses, “it’s so easy to believe me.” It’s a sad sentiment – one that echoes how thousands of people feel every day. ‘Calling Cape Cod,’ a song that follows, is also a bit heartbreaking as GIANT seems to eulogize and memorialize a close one who died.

‘Different’ has some of the finest beats on the record. It’s a really stunningly crafted landscape that GIANT occupies. That’s very much worth mentioning at this point, anyway. The production of ‘The Ocean EP’ is superb. GIANT is accentuated masterfully by a huge array of sonic intricacies that vary from track to track. ‘Virginia Beach Interlude,’ for example, is one of the best excursions through terrific instrumentation.

The final tune, ‘The Ocean,’ has a unique sense of finality and resolution to it. After an album of such distress and turmoil, GIANT seems to reach some sort of consensus within himself by the end of it. In a way, it’s a reassuring ending to an emotional rollercoaster. GIANT is hopefully turning his back on those harder times toward something much better.

Check out the album on SoundCloud now:

TalentDisplay – ‘Different Place’

Independent Spotlight is a continuing series on Stewart’s blog. The series revolves around independent artists and bands sending their music to Brett to review. No band is promised a positive review, and all music is reviewed honestly in an effort to better independent music.

In this afternoon’s edition of the Independent Spotlight, we shine our gaze on Talent Display, an indie hip hop artist from Los Angeles who’s recently dropped a new EP. Entitled ‘Different Place,’ the record is an endeavor to combine the Brooklyn rap sound with west coast vibes – thus culminating the performer’s past and present into a cohesive piece of music. Is this an EP worth adding to your collection this summer? How does it stack up against its indie hip hop counterparts? Let’s dig in and find out.

‘Different Place’ begins with its titular song, a pretty personal track that delves into TalentDisplay’s emotional struggles with a relationship and the dark times he’s experienced. The song is surprisingly relatable; TalentDisplay’s jaunt through his turmoil and subsequent rise from the ashes is inspirational and wholly authentic. I love the pop sensibility of the track as well – that’s the west coast aura that TalentDisplay has injected into his sound.

‘Went Around The World’ is an intriguing track in the realm of production. TalentDisplay is employing a varied palette of sonic musings, from tactful auto-tuning to synthesizers and borderline funky beats and riffs. This intense approach feels like a hybrid of Frank Ocean’s soulfulness and Chance the Rapper’s eclecticness. In comparison to many independent hip hop projects, TalentDisplay’s roster of talent is fairly small, making the size of these productions even more impressive.

‘LA Be The City’ is probably the weakest track of the five, at least, lyrically. TalentDisplay moves through lyrical pride for the city he lives in, and peppers that soundscape with plenty of commentary about the city’s women. I think it’s a good track, albeit one that lacks some of the depth of its predecessors. It isn’t nearly as compelling. But, as an artist from Chicago, I understand city pride – it’s good TalentDisplay has it and can write about it.

‘Paris,’ a track featuring a French verse by SHI 360, is one of the more compelling efforts in this small collection. As the name alludes to, it’s about the city of Paris. Unlike ‘LA Be The City,’ however, it’s chock-full of insightful introspection in regard to the recent terror attacks in the French capital. The inclusion of SHI 360 truly completes the song, though I’d love a translation in liner note form to know what exactly he’s rapping.

The album then closes with ‘Another Destination,’ an atmospheric, soulful tune that logs TalentDisplay’s penchant for traveling across the world. (He actually wrote this EP when doing so.) It’s an elegant finale, perhaps even the finest produced track on the album. Everything is perfect in its place on this track – not one note or lyric feels awkward or misplaced.

There is a lot to dig about ‘Different Place.’ It’s an excellent indie hip hop record, one very much worth adding to your collection. There is so much monotony and cliche within this genre’s indie community, so it’s wonderful to see such a fresh, interesting effort like this EP.

1FM – ‘Wish You Well’

Independent Spotlight is a continuing series on Stewart’s blog. The series revolves around independent artists and bands sending their music to Brett to review. No band is promised a positive review, and all music is reviewed honestly in an effort to better independent music.

In this evening’s edition of the Independent Spotlight, we shine our gaze on 1FM, a Philadelphia-based band that’s just released their sophomore studio endeavor entitled ‘Wish You Well.’ The five track EP follows their debut, ‘Burning Bridges,’ which received particularly kind reviews from fans and critics alike. (Including myself.) The new effort is already available on Spotify and other services. So is it worth spending time in the new sonic pastures 1FM is exploring? Let’s dig in and find out.

When I reviewed their last EP, ‘Burning Bridges,’ I noted that 1FM will appeal most to younger audiences. They have a very Fall Out Boy, My Chemical Romance, Wombats type sound. It’s reminiscent of the kind of music that dominated the mid 2000s. The songs are danceable, often very anthemic, and typically appeal to teenagers dealing with some form of angst. ‘Wish You Well’ is definitely the same in that regard, so it’s worth prefacing that if that kind of music doesn’t appeal to you, you won’t find what you’re looking for here.

Having said that, if you’re seeking a fix of this kind of music, 1FM remains a powerful bastion for it in the independent scene. ‘Fire in the City’ embodies that aforementioned anthemic nature in a pretty bombastic, intense production. I like that 1FM is still running with their pop sensibilities – these are songs that’ll get their audiences singing along for sure. ‘Wish You Well’ is even more explosive, toying with the band’s penchant for mixing in a metal-esque sound into its songs. When the lead vocals reach their climax, they turn into a screamo-like presentation that’ll be hit-or-miss for fans.

‘A Little Bit More’ is a nicely written track, perhaps evoking some of the better lyricism of the EP. I’m not sure if any of these songs are extensively deep, but tracks like ‘A Little Bit More’ do a nice job formulating the band’s pop musings into coherent products. The relationship themes that ‘Wish You Well’ explores seem to get more fully fleshed out on ‘Another Thing’ as well, which I enjoy seeing. I want to see 1FM continue to expand the depth of their material. I think ‘Wish You Well’ is a noticeable improvement in most ways.

The finale, ‘Four Letter Word,’ is a melancholy journey about falling out love. It’s a theme that I think a lot of teenagers will really latch onto – relationships and love that haven’t panned out in an ideal way. Thus, I think ‘Wish You Well’ is very much worth tuning into for a specific audience. This is niche music; there’s no doubt about that. But it’s good for what it is, and 1FM are slowly expanding within their own sphere, which is good to see. ‘Wish You Well’ is available now!






Milan Hendrik EXP – ‘Applegate Drive’

Independent Spotlight is a continuing series on Stewart’s blog. The series revolves around independent artists and bands sending their music to Brett to review. No band is promised a positive review, and all music is reviewed honestly in an effort to better independent music.

In this evening’s edition of the Independent Spotlight, we shine our gaze on Milan Hendrik EXP, a blues rock outfit with that’s about to release their third studio endeavor, an album called ‘Applegate Drive.’ The eleven new tracks are particularly refreshing for fans of soulful blues performances in the indie scene – a seemingly increased rarity these days. The album is set to drop this Monday, August 1, and will be available on all major digital music platforms. Is ‘Applegate Drive’ worth grabbing next week? Let’s dig into it and find out.

Typically when I recieve content to review from indie artists and bands, I receive disjointed emails of erratic MP3’s and disorganized Dropbox folders. I’ve learned over the last several years that the scene is many things, but it’s rarely tidy and organized. I must laud Milan Hendrik EXP in that regard. I received an early copy of ‘Applegate Drive’ presented beautifully in a high quality DDP player. The presentation, though, is accented more importantly by the production. This album is mixed and mastered in a grand fashion.

Milan Hendrik EXP, as the name suggests, is a creative vehicle for vocalist/bassist Belle Hendrik and guitarist Barry Milan. They’re also joined by John Hill keys, but they often perform as a duo and I doubt think I’d be amiss by arguing Milan Hendrik EXP is primarily a two person effort. Their collaboration seems close and personal, and the music does echo that. There’s a camaraderie here that’s lovable and immediately engaging. The first two songs on the album, ‘Looking at the Moon’ and ‘Dominican Republic,’ are rocking powerhouses of strength and prowess, tearing through the soundscape with a notable ferocity. The latter, though, is especially lovely.

‘Highway Blues,’ the third track on the album, is where Milan Hendrik EXP begins to flourish. It’s such a killer blues rock track that’s even infused with some gospel and Americana elements. Hendrik has the feel of Lucinda Williams in her prime, harnessing an intense drive to propel each song forward with an unmistakable passion. As a song, I’d align ‘Highway Blues’ with Bob Dylan’s ‘Blind Willie McTell,’ an outtake from ‘84’s ‘Infidels’ with an eerily similar flair. The title track follows with a stellar introduction of blues harp, something that really rounds out the blues rocker’s atmosphere.

‘Bad Bad Boyfriend’ takes the blues that ‘Highway Blues’ and ‘Applegate Drive’ flirt with and amplifies the style times ten. It’s a bombastic execution, perhaps even the most explosive on the album. I can’t stress enough how much blues fans are going to enjoy this record in the indie scene – ‘Bad Bad Boyfriend’ is unlike anything I’ve heard in the scene for a very long time. ‘Couldn’t Get (My Christian On)’ follows up with a frank, but excellent delivery that toys with gospel influences in a very tongue-in-cheek manner. Personally, ‘Couldn’t Get (My Christian On)’ will be the song I return to most on ‘Applegate Drive.’

‘Sista’ is a song that causes the listener to grab for the nearest phone flashlight or lighter. It’s definitely the kind of tune that will have audiences uniting under a sea of tiny lights. It’s a soothing, enjoyable track, and definitely offers a sonic contrast to ‘Murry River Song,’ the traditional-esque song that comes next. That song sounds a bit like a folklore piece – a rather dark one that experiments with minor keys. In fact, this theme runs strong toward the end of the album, and is again presented with ‘London Town,’ another song that seeps traditional influence.

‘There’s a Light’ is an elegant ballad as ‘Applegate Drive’ closes in on its final moments. It’s the weaker track of the collection simple due to its trope-driven lyricism, but considering the remarkably high bar its predecessors set, it’s a weak link that still proves fairly hardy. (One must laud the album’s good lyricism through most avenues.) After two tracks like ‘Murry River Song’ and ‘London Town,’ you could also argue that the lighthearted feel of ‘There’s a Light’ is also desperately needed. That feeling doesn’t stay long, however, since ‘Fine Line’ explodes like an atom bomb in your face for the finale. It’s a track that sounds like Heart wrote and performed it. But no, it’s Milan Hendrik EXP’s tune. (Heart is awesome, though, so that’s a high compliment.)

‘Applegate Drive’ is truly extraordinary. It’s an album that dominates the listener’s attention with a diverse, terrifically performed palette of songs and emotions. Every one of the eleven tracks has its place, and there’s no fat to be found – nothing that could have been trimmed. It’s a razor sharp collection that sets a new bar for blues rock in the independent music community. So, yes, it is very much worth grabbing on the service of your choosing come Monday!

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Billy Sterg – Five Of His New Tunes

Independent Spotlight is a continuing series on Stewart’s blog. The series revolves around independent artists and bands sending their music to Brett to review. No band is promised a positive review, and all music is reviewed honestly in an effort to better independent music.

In this evening’s edition of the Independent Spotlight, we shine our gaze on Billy Sterg, an independent singer songwriter with an ‘impressive range’ that’s released a slew of new singles recently. His songwriting and production style has caused some to draw parallels to the likes of Sting and Bruce Springsteen due to the “timeless and emotional” music he’s penning. Thus, let’s explore five new tracks from Sterg, all of which are available on a variety of platforms, including his official website.

‘Bamboo Bar,’ the first track we’ll be digging into, is, very as its name suggests, an island themed endeavor. Thus, its execution is sort of hokey, perhaps akin to ‘Margaritaville.’ Sterg does carry himself nicely, though, and the instrumental performances are actually fairly excellent. The song is injected with a heavy pop sensibility that even borderlines contemporary “country.” (Zac Brown or something similar.) This could make it a perfect song for the playlist at a summer cookout this season.

‘Delila’ has a decisively different style – a far superior one, I’d argue. It’s much more suave, and far more smooth. The song is doused in a few different styles. The strings evoke French gypsy music, and the guitar banter is akin to Spanish stylings. All of this culminates rather nicely, resulting in ‘Delila’ landing as one of Sterg’s better songs available. ‘Dreaming’ feels like a spiritual, more upbeat counterpart to ‘Delila,’ and Sterg is accentuated by a superb performance on behalf of his backing band and vocalists. As a lyricist, Sterg defines himself a bit stronger in tunes like ‘Dreaming,’ proving he has chops beyond things like ‘Bamboo Bar.’

‘Nothing Lasts Forever’ does sound like it was left on the cutting room floor of ‘Tunnel of Love,’ so I get the Springsteen comparison. The synthesized, reverb-laden atmosphere is most certainly similar to The Boss’ classic 1987 record. Hence, the performances on ‘Nothing Lasts Forever’ do feel a tad dated. They are also, however, particularly lovable, and I think fans of 80s love ballads are going to go nuts for ‘Nothing Lasts Forever.’

‘Woman’ is a good hodgepodge of the four tracks that precede it in this review. It has the ‘island’ feel of ‘Bamboo Bar,’ the emotion of ‘Nothing Lasts Forever,’ and the pop sensibility of ‘Dreaming.’ Out of the five tracks, it’s a close second to ‘Dreaming’ in competition for Sterg’s finest work showcased here on the Spotlight. Thus, I’d highly recommend checking him out if these kind of jams are up your avenue. These are well done songs worth your time. They’re quite fun.

(Oh, and instead of including album art above, I included a painting of Sterg’s. If he ever gives up music, he’s got quite the career in that art form. What a lovely painting!)

Old Blood – ‘Live at RADA’

Independent Spotlight is a continuing series on Stewart’s blog. The series revolves around independent artists and bands sending their music to Brett to review. No band is promised a positive review, and all music is reviewed honestly in an effort to better independent music.

In this afternoon’s edition of the Independent Spotlight, we shine our gaze on Old Blood, a Western Australian five pieces blues rock outfit. Their eclectic sound has taken eighteen months to craft and each of the five songs on their new EP, ‘Live at RADA,’ are original creations. The recordings were, as the name suggests, recorded live in front of an intimate audience at RADA Studios last year. Are they worth adding to your collection of independent music this summer? How do they stack up against the rest of the scene? Let’s dig into the new record and find out.

For the purpose of performing this album’s tracks in a live setting, Old Blood brought on three additional performers, rounding out the band to eight members. This is their first release, which is rather unique considering the band opted for a live debut. In that regard, ‘Live at RADA’ is an impressive beast. It’s recorded beautifully, the performances are particularly tight, and the organic feel of the recordings suits Old Blood very nicely. ‘Grand Plan,’ the opening song, introduces a soundscape chock-full of fantastic organ and bass riffing, matched perfectly by especially good lead vocals. Tony Papa-Adams, the frontman of Old Blood, holds the listener’s attention masterfully, crooning in a bluesy fashion that complements the overarching sonic themes instead of overpowering them.

‘Lay Down’ compliments its predecessor well, opting for a more melancholy, atmospheric space. The addition of a second percussionist really adds quite a bit of flair to each composition. While ‘Grand Plan’ is a decently written song, ‘Lay Down’ seems to stretch the outfit’s creative wings even further with some excellent lyricism. It’s a dark, bluesy breakup track that evokes an intriguing element of soul, too. Papa-Adams tearing into the landscape with an intense growl toward the finale is absolutely compelling, and he’s accentuated so powerfully by such a tactful instrumental performance.

Clocking in just under twelve minutes, ‘Blue Jean Blues’ is probably the tallest order on this album that Old Blood attempts to fill. When a group delves into such a lengthy song, it can often devolve into ostentatious soloing and meandering. Initially, I was apprehensive of this because of how concrete ‘Grand Plan’ and ‘Lay Down’ were prior to this song. After listening to it four times over, however, I’m convinced that this is one of the best tracks of its length in the indie scene. Each solo, each verse, each note feels like it has purpose – as if it was meticulously planned out prior to its performance. At the same time, however, it feels spontaneous, too. It gives the impression that Old Blood is off the beaten path, but they’re also aware of it and they’re thriving off of it.

The foot-stomping ‘Slippin’ is an interesting entry toward the end of the album, offering another jaunt through a reverb-laden atmosphere. Though the song feels a tad somber, it also seems to round out the lyrical themes introduced in ‘Lay Down’ as the songwriter takes a step toward independence from his blues. ‘Medicine Man’ closes the album in a bombastic way, offering one of the most terrific performances on ‘Live at RADA.’ It’s a heavy-hitting closer that leaves the listener wanting so much more from Old Blood.

Hopefully we get so much more from this band. ‘Live at RADA’ is a resounding success. As a debut album, it’s daring and different enough to warrant your attention. Lyrically and instrumentally, it’s crafted painstakingly and the eighteen months of work truly does show. On the production end, RADA Studios did the band justice, and not a note is ill-mixed or oddly mastered. Go check it out on Band Camp now.

Pauline Frechette’s ‘Song For Michael’

Independent Spotlight is a continuing series on Stewart’s blog. The series revolves around independent artists and bands sending their music to Brett to review. No band is promised a positive review, and all music is reviewed honestly in an effort to better independent music.

In this evening’s edition of the Independent Spotlight, we shine our gaze on Pauline Frechette, a renown pianist and composer who has recently released a new studio endeavor. Entitled ‘Song For Michael,’ the new track was arranged by David Campbell and aids in continuing Frechette’s reconnection with her roots. Pauline Frechette is her birth name, but she has become known to many over the years as Raven Kane, her ‘rocker’ persona. Now, this third-generation composer is bringing it back home with classical music and performance under her real name. Is ‘Song For Michael’ worth including in your music collection? Let’s dig into it and find out.

Frechette has performed with some of the finest talents of the twentieth century. Her prowess on the piano and as a vocalist has accented the likes of Paul McCartney, Cher, and Neil Diamond. Standing on her own, however, she is no less poignant or masterful. ‘Song For Michael’ is a beautiful, melancholy experience that highlights Frechette’s passionate performance with complete tact. Her lone piano is accompanied only by a very soft string section. The strings complement her musings in a gorgeous way; they rise and fall in waterfall fashion, sweeping back and forth behind Frechette’s piano to great effect.

Frechette’s performance is elegant in the purest sense of the word. For such a talented performer, she has embraced a unique element of brevity in her execution. ‘Song For Michael’ is just two and a half minutes, and at no point do her excursions feel ostentatious. Neo-classical performers can sometimes fall victim to listless instrumental meanderings. Even a talented pianist can wander into several minutes of exploration without fully fleshing out a composition’s emotional weight. Frechette, however, feels calculated, but organic. Her execution is exquisitely sharp. Every note feels important, every chord feels meaningful. That’s a notable feat.

‘Song For Michael’ is a poignant performance, an introspective one that feels pensive and a bit somber in nature. Due to Frechette’s aforementioned brevity, I’d argue the song is also easily accessible, even for a listener who isn’t prone to classical compositions. It’s a song very much worth having in your collection of music, and fortunately, you can do so because it’s on iTunes now. Go give it a listen – it’s a lovely affair.

Sam and the Black Seas – ‘The Game’

Independent Spotlight is a continuing series on Stewart’s blog. The series revolves around independent artists and bands sending their music to Brett to review. No band is promised a positive review, and all music is reviewed honestly in an effort to better independent music.

In this evening’s edition of the Independent Spotlight, we shine our gaze on Sam and the Black Seas, an independent four-piece outfit that seems to find its way into a few different genres: folk, rock, alternative, and so on. Unlike most bands of four people, however, Sam and the Black Seas have opted for a more unusual set-up. They’ve got two acoustic guitarists, one of which is on lead vocals, a cellist, and a drummer. Their latest studio endeavor is ‘The Game,’ a new single with an exceptionally shot music video. Let’s explore the new track and determine if its worth including in your music collection.

‘The Game’ is chock-full of personality and musical prowess. The acoustic guitars banter off of one another in a particularly fantastic fashion, and the enthusiastic, thunderous percussion accents those performances splendidly. All of that is then underscored by a haunting cello performance. This culmination feels organic and fully-realized. Sam and the Black Seas have crafted a sound unto themselves, and there’s an impressive amount of instrumental talent involved. Each of these for men can really play their instrument. Lyrically, it’s constructed elegantly, too.

The music video for ‘The Game’ is, quite simply, the very best music video I’ve ever seen in the independent music scene. Goodness, it’s so immensely creative and professional. I’d go as far to argue that the quality of this video, which is really more a short film, trumps that of most music videos that get released from major artists in today’s industry. The eclectic nature of the visuals perfectly highlights the equally compelling sonic portrait that Sam and the Black Seas paint throughout ‘The Game.’

The production of ‘The Game’ is worth noting, too. For a four piece outfit that performs entirely acoustically, Sam and the Black Seas pack quite a punch. This kind of music can be especially difficult to record properly. The sound is bombastic and acoustic instruments can be temperamental with microphones and studio set-ups. Whenever I’ve seen an indie group attempt something similar to this, they’ve often fallen on their face in the studio. Sam and the Black Seas haven’t.

‘The Game’ is one of the best indie releases of the summer thus far. It’s the second single Sam and the Black Seas have released on the Atomic Fat label. Thus, keep tabs on them. If this song is any indication, amazing things are on their way.

Lucy, Racquel and Me – Their Self-Titled Debut

Independent Spotlight is a continuing series on Stewart’s blog. The series revolves around independent artists and bands sending their music to Brett to review. No band is promised a positive review, and all music is reviewed honestly in an effort to better independent music.

In this evening’s edition of the Independent Spotlight, we shine our gaze on a rather peculiar, but immensely fascinating act. They’re called Lucy, Racquel and Me. As the name alludes to, they are a three piece creative effort. They haven’t ever met, however, and their collaboration is conducted entirely through the internet. This has become somewhat more common in recent years in the independent music scene, but it’s not often you see an outfit as coherently constructed in this fashion as Lucy, Racquel and Me. Let’s explore their new self-titled debut album and discern whether or not they’re worth adding to your music collection.

To provide some context, Lucy is a lyricist from Canberra, Australia. She wrote or co-write most of the songs on the album. Racquel is a vocalist from California who performs said duty throughout the whole album. Finally, ‘Me’ is the composer, who resides in France. To be entirely honest, I’m still not entirely sure who ‘Me’ is – the final third of the puzzle isn’t as directly credited as the previous two. To be fair, though, the name of the band also does this – the third and final person isn’t named, but Lucy and Racquel are. Again, all of this concretes the impressiveness of these three being able to craft any sort ‘complete’ sound across vast distances.

The new album, which was released a week ago, is eleven songs long. Thus, it’s quite a lengthy endeavor, all of which can be streamed on Sound Cloud now. The music takes a cue from the Beatles and Paul McCartney in style, something that works for it nicely. (Technically, all music takes a cue from the Beatles, but Lucy, Racquel and Me are clearly very directly inspired.) Hence, the album is mostly soft rock tinged with pop sensibilities. This makes the album very accessible; I’m sure most music fans will find something to appreciate or at least hum along to this album.

The opening of the record is ‘Hello Sunday,’ a track where Racquel harmonizes with some overdubs of herself to wonderful effect. It’s easy riding, smooth to listen to, and very well produced, setting an excellent tone for the album. The song’s lyrics lack some depth, but if we’re being honest, so did a lot of the early Beatles catalog. It’s a song designed to make the listener feel good. It does that very well.

‘Children In Bare Feet’ follows ‘Hello Sunday’ with an intriguing contrast. The lyrics of this song are actually quite beautiful and offer a bit of depth, making it a perfect follow-up to the lovely ‘Hello Sunday.’ The electric guitar solo is particularly good, offering some increased instrumental variation on top of the acoustic-based composition. The induction of that guitar also foreshadows ‘One Day,’ a song that ties itself to the instrument for a bluesy romp through passionate love themes that feel surprisingly original. (When you receive dozens of ballads a day like I do, love songs quickly become burdened by the same tropes. I think the exceptional performances on ‘One Day’ keep it from falling victim to that.)

The atmospheric ‘Shattered’ continues the trio’s journey through eclectic sonic experimentations on this album. It’s worth noting how complete and organic these songs feel. Every piece of ‘Shattered’ and its counterparts feels completely authentic, as if everything was recorded in the same studio at once. This is the biggest hurdle a project like this has to overcome, and I think Lucy, Racquel and Me have mastered it surprisingly well – perhaps better than any other group I’ve seen attempt this.

‘Untraceably Gone’ is definitely a bit odd to listen to this time of year – this is definitely a winter song both in content and in spirit. It sounds like it’s off a Christmas record, which does make it feel a bit out of place after four tracks that don’t even step in that kind of direction. On the flip side, though, it’s a really stunningly performed song that does do an apt job at showing the trio’s prowess can go in a very different direction. I think Lucy, Racquel, and Me could tackle a variety of genres to great success.

‘Love Now’ is another love ballad, one that takes a page out of the ‘All You Need Is Love’ songbook. It’s probably the most bubblegum song of the collection, but it isn’t without its merit, especially when followed by the fiercely independent ‘Gone Baby Gone.’ The two accentuate each other nicely. In some ways, these songs seem to catalog the downfall of a relationship. ‘Love Now’ is the beginning, and songs like ‘What Did We Do Wrong?’ definitely denote the end. ‘All True,’ however, may be the best of those more melancholy break-up songs. Racquel’s performance is absolutely fantastic.

‘Coffee Queen’ is a very loveable track, as is ‘Silence For Beginners.’ The former is very folksy and coffee-shop, and the latter is doused in contemporary jazz influence. Now, these are great songs. Their placement, however, is awkward. ‘All True’ has a haunting sense of finality to it – a bittersweet resolution of the album’s emotions. Having ‘Coffee Queen’ follow it doesn’t feel right. ‘Coffee Queen’ and ‘Silence For Beginners’ should be moved earlier into the sequencing, with the album ending with ‘All True.’

I must laud Lucy, Racquel, and Me. I get a lot of music from artists that collaborate over the internet and it very often shows. It doesn’t one bit here, though, and their new album is very much worth listening to. It doesn’t at all sound like it was recorded so differently. It’s a splendid journey that makes one eagerly anticipate the next.

Press Release – Milan Hendrik EXP – July 21, 2016



Milan Hendrik EXP To Release New Studio Album This August

On Monday, August 1, Milan Hendrik EXP will release their third studio endeavor, an album entitled ‘Applegate Drive.’ The dynamic excursion through rocking blues, soulful delivery, and roots-based performance is an elegant look into the band’s new repertoire of songs. The record includes eleven new songs and will be available on all major digital music platforms via CD Baby Distribution. (iTunes, Amazon, Google, Spotify, etc.)

Milan Hendrik EXP is fronted by Belle Hendrik, a soul, blues, and jazz singer who also plays bass and guitar. She has been lauded for both her solo music and her work with Milan Hendrik EXP. In the latter, a talented outfit joins the vocalist to craft an electrifying mix of blues and soul music unlike anything else in the independent scene. From start to finish, ‘Applegate Drive’ is a jaunt through passionate songwriting, masterful performance, and raw chemistry.

Previously, Milan Hendrik EXP was known as The Rogue Gene feat. Belle Hendrik. The new moniker brings some changes within the line-up of the group. Hendrik performs bass, Barry Milan sings and plays guitar, and John Hill performs all of the band’s keys. Hendrik and Milan often showcase their music as a duo, but the full band performs together as well.

‘Applegate Drive’ is to be released on the independent music label Rogue Gene. At the end of this month, fans will also be able to catch Belle Hendrik at the Darwin Entertainment Centre and the Araluen Centre in Alice Springs for the ‘Pearl’ Janis Joplin ‘Rockumentary’ concert. (Hendrik will star in the performance, taking on the roll of one of her foremost inspirations.)

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