Single Review: Natalie Joly – “Yours to Stay”

Natalie Joly

photo courtesy of Nina Pickell, LLC

Single Review of Natalie Joly: “Yours to Stay”

Last month, I reviewed “Will You Ever Stop,” the second single from Natalie Joly‘s unnamed upcoming album. In this review, I’m introducing you to her new, third single, “Yours to Stay,” which drops today.

Natalie Joly - Yours to Stay

image courtesy of Nina Pickell, LLC

“Yours to Stay” proves Natalie can deliver an emotional, memorable ballad. The first couple of notes on the piano actually recall several piano-driven eighties hard rock power ballads, though Natalie stylistically remains much closer to her mid-level pop-friendly rock ‘n roll musical center. Natalie’s big, long, powerful notes, where she’s able to add length and power without sacrificing tone, are the closest thing this song has to a hook, though I also really dig the classic rock guitar runs, the key to any power ballad. Power builds throughout the course of the song, increasing the emotional currency slowly but steadily throughout the entirety of “Yours to Stay.” A very solid effort that’s enjoyable on the first listen but increases its hold on you with each subsequent play.

Looking Ahead

Check the “Events” tab of Natalie’s Facebook page to find upcoming live performances. (Currently, none are listed.)

Single Review: Eliza & the Delusionals – Sentimental

Eliza & the Delusionals

photo by Luke Henery; photo courtesy of Reybee, Inc.

Single Review of Eliza & the Delusionals: “Sentimental”

Looking for a light, enjoyable good time? “Sentimental” is a catchy, jangly, upbeat pop song that has more than a bit of character. You might recognize Eliza & the Delusionals from their energetic, catchy 2019 breakout song “Just Exist,” which has almost 300,000 views on YouTube. Well, if that given you high expectations for this band, don’t worry. You won’t be disappointed by “Sentimental.”

Eliza & the Delusionals - Sentimental

image courtesy of Reybee, Inc.

The song starts slowly and airy, but it grows quickly into a guitar-based pop song with a steady, progressive beat and rich wall of sound almost entirely throughout, with minor breaks in the beat only at the exact moments necessary, in addition to a distorted dancing guitar line, particularly late in the song, to give the song texture. If it hadn’t been released in the fall, I would suggest it’s an ideal song for the summer. No matter; just keep it in your playlist until next summer. I’m pretty convinced it has enough staying power that you’ll still appreciate it by then.

Looking Ahead

One place you’ll be able to find concert dates for Eliza & the Delusionals is on the “Events” tab of the band’s Facebook page. (There are currently no dates listed.)

Single Review: Jamie Fontaine and the Level – “Save Your Life”

Jamie Fontaine and the Level

photo courtesy of Head First Entertainment

Single Review of Jamie Fontaine and the Level: “Save Your Life” (Stryker Records)

Boom! With a vibe that melds heavy rock like Three Days Grace with an almost grunge-like edge, Green Bay’s Jamie Fontaine and the Level deliver a song that’s explosive from the very first note (well, the first note after the buzz) on “Save Your Life.” Wry vocals cut through the wall-of-sound guitar/bass/drums, breaking momentarily – a very cool and effective songwriting trick – to launch into the chorus.

Jamie Fontaine and the Level - Save Your Life

image courtesy of Head First Entertainment

“Save Your Life” is a full-of-energy, get-yourself-pumped-up number that you’ll sing along with. Except during the guitar solo, of course; that’s when you’ll air-guitar. Sound-changes in the bridge and periodic vocal-only (or vocal-mostly) bits provide the variety necessary to ensure this song only improves over multiple listens. This is one of those catchy rock numbers that could be one of Jamie Fontaine and the Level’s signature songs for years to come.

Finally, to quote Jamie Fontaine, “The song began as a story of a failed relationship, one you literally need to save your life from.” It seems like the perfect song to review on Valentine’s Day, does it not? Turn it up!

Looking Back

Actually, I’ll start by looking back. I added this song to my review queue a few months ago, so it’s not surprising that since releasing “Save Your Life,” the band has released another single, “Low.”

Looking Ahead

You can find upcoming shows on the “Events” page of Jamie Fontaine and the Level’s website or on the “Events” tab of the band’s Facebook page. And if this song is any indication, the band will rock your face off. Two shows are currently listed: On May 16, 2021, they be at the WAMI Awards at Turner Hall Ballroom in Milwaukee, WI; on May 30, 2021, you can catch them at The World’s Largest Brat Fest 2021 at the Alliant Energy Center in Madison, WI. Obviously, during a pandemic, check those listings as the dates grow closer.

Single Review: Richard X. Heyman – “Choices We Make”

Richard X. Heyman - "Choices We Make"

image courtesy of Howlin’ Wuelf Media

Single Review of Richard X. Heyman: “Choices We Make”

Richard X. Heyman proves once again his position as one of the premier independent rock ‘n roll singer-songwriters with the release of this enjoyable, thoughtful pop-rock release.

Richard X. Heyman

photo by Nancy Leigh; photo courtesy of Howlin’ Wuelf Media

“Choices We Make” is a throwback. A sixties/seventies-style, soft-touch rock ‘n roll protest song. With a rich, full sound reminiscent of generations of radio-ready, mid-speed rock hits, this song is the sort of thing you might hear from singers ranging from John Mellencamp to Jackson Browne, but with Richard X. Heyman’s more gravelly vocal, more along the lines of Randy Newman (but with a little edgier rock attitude) or maybe a mellow (though still uptempo) Bruce Springsteen. The verses bounce along with a friendly tunefulness, and the choruses are fun to sing along with “The future is ours for the takin’. The outcome will be settled of foresaken by the choices we make, by the choices we make.” It’s another instant classic from Richard X. Heyman.

“Choices We Make” was a timely release, dropping on October 30th, 2020, just four days before Americans made a choice; the “Choices We Make” YouTube video was posted a week and a half earlier, on October 19th. Though the choices referred to in the song could be personal, political, or social, if there was any doubt, the subject matter in the music video suggests it’s all of the above. That, of course, is one sign of a well-written song – it’s universal enough to be applicable to more than one situation, able to fit the listeners’ needs. Speaking of universality, “Choices We Make” checks off the most universal sign of well-written song, too: It’s really catchy and fun to listen to!

You Might Recall…

I reviewed Richard’s 2017 In Cognito release, but I missed covering his 2019 Pop Circles album. I did, however, review The Doughboys’ Running For Covers, with Richard on the drums.

Single Review: Make Believe Friends – “Scream”

Single Review of Make Believe Friends: “Scream”

“Scream” rocks. It has power, vocal strength and agility, churning kick-ass rock guitars, and a hooky earworm quality that’ll result in you singing it to yourself hours or days after last listening to it. Seriously, check out this song!

Make Believe Friends - Scream

image courtesy of Glass Onyon PR

It’s a song with very serious content, expressing righteous anger and frustration at the racism and intolerance that boiled over in 2020 in America: “Are they out of their heads? Streets filled with bloodshed. All we want are solutions from bigot-run institutions.” Though you’ll mumble your way through the verses for the a few dozen listens, the chorus you’ll be singing along to by the end of the first is: “All I want to do is scream! Another crazy night, and I’m lost and all alone. Scream! Another crazy night, I just hope I make it home.”

There’s a really cool off-balance yet straight-ahead element to this anthem, as the beat advances mercilessly, while an occasional snake-charmer guitar bit in the bridges helps settle the mood before musical and vocal explosions. Likewise, even as the song moves steadily forward, there’s always a feeling that the vocals may change direction at any moment. I love when songs do this. Bonus points for the important social subject matter.

“Scream” lies in a somewhat-heavy, somewhat-melodic, very original musical zone that would appeal to hard rockers, melodic rockers, and some metal and progressive fans. Among bands I’ve reviewed at the blog, I’d implore fans of Love and a .38, Edge of Paradise, and Kings of Jade – and the more melodic half of Forever Still’s fans – to add this song to your playlists.

About the Band

Make Believe Friends is the musical alter ego of Lunden Reign‘s Laura Espinoza (guitar) and Mindy Milburn (lead vocals). On the recording of “Scream,” Laura and Mindy are joined by Phil Soussan (Ozzy, Billy Idol, Last in Line) on bass, and Mike Avenaim (Scott Weiland, Selena Gomez, Zella Day) on drums. “Scream” was written by Laura Espinoza, Mindy Milburn, and Nikki Lunden and produced by Laura Espinoza and Mike Avenaim.

Though none are currently listed, you’ll be able to find Lunden Reign gigs on the “Upcoming Shows” page of the band’s website. Make Believe Friends has past gig listings on the “Events” tab of the band’s Facebook page.

Single Review: Adam Lee – “I Am a Coward”

Adam Lee

photo by Lisa Sullivan; photo courtesy of Adam Lee

Single Review of Adam Lee: “I Am a Coward”

Adam Lee has a deep, dark, gravelly voice with a very unique tone that conveys wisdom and insight, plus a strength and fullness with which he can bring forth great, booming power. It’s been a few years since I reviewed Adam’s album Sincerely, Me in advance of its 2017 release. This single is a welcome reintroduction to Adam’s original style. Among the styles I mentioned in the Sincerely, Me review, this resides closer to the hauntingly Chris Isaak/”Wicked Game”-ish end of his range.

Adam Lee - I Am a Coward

image courtesy of Adam Lee

“I Am a Coward” begins slow and soft but with a steady, traveling beat that it maintains all along. Adam’s voice begins low and questioning, building with the music while adding wisdom, leading into a fade-out with “I am a coward. I am afraid. But even a coward can learn to be brave. If I’m not a lion, am I the cage? I am a coward, but I can change,” then returning with “We always can change.” From that point, the song builds, as if clouds are opening, until the music swells, Adam’s voice booms, and you get goose bumps and chills. The song ends with the hopeful message: “We always can change.”

With his release of this well-crafted song, it’s a pleasure to get to review Adam’s music again. Be sure also to check out the lyric video for “I Am a Coward” on YouTube.

Adam Lee

photo by Lisa Sullivan; photo courtesy of Adam Lee

Looking Ahead

The Tour page of Adam’s website is where you’ll find upcoming gig information. Not surprisingly, there are no gigs listed right now.

Single Review: 2WEI feat. Marvin Brooks & Ohana Bam – “You Want It”

2WEI, Marvin Brooks & Ohana Bam

photo courtesy of DRPR

Single Review of 2WEI feat. Marvin Brooks & Ohana Bam: “You Want It” (Position Music)

Regular readers will remember how I was digging out from a massive backlog when I started writing reviews again regularly in mid-2020. In early September, when this single, “You Want It,” dropped into my inbox, I was still reviewing material I received in 2018. But this song is so catchy, so memorable, so much fun that I placed it into my review queue because I knew I had to share it with you, even if several months after its release.

2WEI feat. Marvin Brooks & Ohana Bam - You Want It single

image courtesy of DRPR

The music just explodes out of the speakers on this song. It’s the sort of tune you’d expect to hear during play stoppages in NBA arenas or perhaps as relief pitchers’ intro songs as they walk in from the bullpen. The rising and falling provide punch points perfect for action scenes if used for a movie trailer. And after I read that 2WEI (Simon Heeger and Christian Vorländer) were known for their trailers, that makes sense, too.

Marvin Brooks‘ powerful vocals work well alongside’s Ohana Bam‘s smooth, rhythmic rap, both atop 2WEI’s supportive music bed that takes the listener on a journey. Well, not so much “listener” as “get on your feet and dancer,” but you get the point.

Within the song, there are memorable lyrical bits, from the parts interspersed with “You want it” and “I got it” to the raps, there’s a lot unpack within this song about chasing your dreams, but it’s a fun ride and so worth it. Even the “la la la la, la la la la la, la la la la, whoa, whoa” bridge is a singalong bit by the second listen. 2WEI, with Marvin Brooks and Ohana Bam, have the makings of a crossover pop/hip-hop hit here. Give it a listen.

Single Review: Amy Kakoura & Simon Scardanelli – “Only With the Heart”

Amy Kakoura & Simon Scardanelli - Only With the Heart

image courtesy of Simon Scardanelli

Single Review of Amy Kakoura & Simon Scardanelli: “Only With the Heart”

Amy Kakoura‘s rich, warm vocals are both powerful and delicate. Hers is the voice around which this duet revolves. She’s joined by Simon Scardanelli, whose classic, unique, quirky pop rock vocal delivery adds character to the tune. Simon’s voice is instantly identifiable, off-kilter but comfortably familiar in pop and rock realms, while Amy’s is more room-filling and theatrical. As a duo, Amy and Simon produce a memorable combination on “Only With the Heart.”

The song’s softness is driven home by the strings, while its power rises and falls like an ocean’s waves. Finally, it employs one of my favorite song tricks, seeming to end then returning for another powerful minute before finally fading away. “Only With the Heart” is an uplifting song well-conceived to play that role on a soft-touch playlist, likely also suited to a self-encouragement song collection.

Looking Ahead (and Back): Simon Scardanelli

You’ve seen us review Simon repeatedly herein – initially my review of his Dr Scardo release Dog Dark Days on Day Two of the Blog‘s existance as item number three of my “Road Back to Music Journalism” series; most recently RST’s review last summer of his single “It Really Is a Pity.” Before RST’s review, back in April 2020, Simon released “God Gave You Such a Winning Smile,” an edgy, jangling, thoughtful rock anthem I had intended to review, time-permitting, though my backlog was long and growing at the time. Definitely worth a listen, too.

You may occasionally find Simon performing live by checking the “Events” tab of his Facebook page. And, proving that lockdown time isn’t always wasted time, when I checked Simon’s page I noticed a link to this trailer for The Little Prince – A Musical, a new musical adaptation by Sam Chittenden and Simon Scardanelli. Simon’s always creating; always worth keeping an eye on.

Looking Ahead: Amy Kakoura

Though the calendar is empty now, check the “Dates” tab of Amy’s website to find out about future performances. You can also keep up with her on Twitter. And you’ll find a short clip of Amy singing on the Little Prince trailer mentioned in the last paragraph above.

Single Review: Natalie Joly – “Will You Ever Stop”

Natalie Joly - Will You Ever Stop

image courtesy of Nina Pickell, LLC

Backstory

It would have been a few years ago – 2018, maybe even 2017 – that I almost reviewed a Natalie Joly live gig, so this write-up is long overdue. I had planned to head up to Chopps American Bar & Grille in Burlington, MA after work, but work ran late that night, so I missed the chance. Natalie has been rising in the Boston area music scene for nearly a decade now, since she was 14, creating buzz and winning awards along the way, so I’ve been looking since nearly day one of the Blog for a chance to share her music on these pages. Scheduling hasn’t yet worked out to catch a live performance, but I am pleased to get a chance to review Natalie’s new single.

Single Review of Natalie Joly: “Will You Ever Stop”

Natalie Joly

photo courtesy of Nina Pickell, LLC

There’s a rich trademark tone to Natalie Joly’s vocals on this “Will You Ever Stop,” reminiscent of old-school edgy pop-rockers like KT Tunstall – and I hear a bit of Paramore’s Hayley Williams in Natalie raucous pop rock vocal ending – but right from the opening guitar riff this song in particular suggests a country-pop/rock vibe that would place Natalie on the radio alongside the Taylor Swifts of the world, borrowing heavily from the guitar-pop styles of the ’80s and ’90s but with updated vocal phrasing and tempo.

Throwing attitude through the verses and rounding it out with an expressive voice that hit some tonally wicked-cool notes, “Will You Ever Stop” confirms that Natalie Joly is radio-ready and poised to level up in her music career.

“Will You Ever Stop” drops today, January 29th, with the accompanying video scheduled for a February 5th release. This song is a follow-up to Natalie’s November 2020 release of catchy, syncopated, mid-tempo pop-rocker “Running Circles.”

Looking Ahead

There’s a full-length album in the works. And when Natalie has live gigs (or other events), you can find them on the “Events” tab of her Facebook page.

Single Review: Home Cookin’ Band – “Working for a Good Tip”

Home Cookin' Band

photo courtesy of Glass Onyon PR

by Eric Harabadian, Contributing Blogger

Single Review of Home Cookin’ Band: “Working for a Good Tip”

Home Cookin’ Band is a talented blues-rock troupe from Chicago. The band consists of Anastasiya Protasevych on lead vocals and guitar, Kevin Lahvic on bass, Michael Costelloe on lead guitar and Jeff Gilbert on drums. Protasevych, originally from Western Ukraine, relocated to the Chicago area in 2017. Her unique vocal style reflects notes of such disparate artists as Chrissie Hynde, Nico and Annette Peacock. It’s a sexy, come hither approach that is hauntingly memorable and smooth as silk. Costelloe simply smokes on leads and delivers a real meat and potatoes rock ‘n roll tone. Lahvic and Gilbert spent many years in the popular Chicago act Matthew Morgan and The Lost Brigade.

Home Cookin' Band - Working for a Good Tip album cover

image courtesy of Glass Onyon PR

The single “Working for a Good Tip” makes for a strong debut. Protasevych and Costelloe penned the tune and it’s a straight up depiction of life as a waitress. They certainly know of where they speak, having both plied their trade amongst wait staff in the many clubs they have played. The band lays down a classic mid-tempo Stones-like groove that should really connect with folks on the dance floor. Home Cookin’ are air-tight and really know how to succinctly present a hit. They seamlessly walk that line between blues and pop. This track has a lot of personality and soul. It’s also got some great hooks and clever turnarounds that prompt this reviewer to want to hear more.

Looking Ahead

Obviously there aren’t any live gigs at the moment, but when there are, you will be able to find them on the “Upcoming Shows” page of the band’s website or on the “Events” tab of the band’s Facebook page.