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Joe Astley sings the everyman blues in his world-class single, Suburbia

Joe Astley

Drawing parallels between Bitter Sweet Symphony, sans the bitterness, Joe Astley’s orchestral feat of folkish rock, Suburbia, taken from his forthcoming debut album, is for anyone who has ever felt the gravity of their hometown dragging them down more insidiously than anywhere else.

The opening lyric, “this city’s got it in for me, there’s a thousand other places that I wish to be”, delivered through harmonic lines that soak the record with sepia-tinged lament as they resound over the rugged acoustic guitar chords, orchestral strings and soaring electric guitar notes as they wind old school Americana into the release starts the single on a sombre note.

The profoundly uplifting release seamlessly progresses into a defiantly strident score through the refusal to fade away into the misery that soaks the streets of working-class towns and cities across the UK. The Wigan-based professional singer-songwriter and instrumentalist sonically attested to the bleakness scribed in Orwell’s The Road to Wigan Pier while simultaneously pulling beauty from the destitution that his accoladed career is pulling him from.

As some artists bemoan the current climate of the music industry, Joe Astley is thriving as definitive proof that with the right balance of tenacious songwriting, insurmountable talent and effortless charisma that immerses you into the emotional states he orchestrates, success is still in the sightline.

Between his residency at the Cavern Club, SKY TV streaming the live run-through of Suburbia, his debut EP on the shelves in HMV, and all his singles charting in the iTunes top ten, it’s impossible not to feel giddy when anticipating his next move.

The launch of his debut album, Twenty-First Century Times, on January 20th, 2023 will undoubtedly open up even more roads for Astley as he takes his boy-next-door resonance wherever he goes.

Purchase Suburbia on Apple Music or add it to your Spotify playlists.

Follow Joe Astley on Facebook & Instagram.

Review by Amelia Vandergast

Kwun Interview: Allowing himself to fully flourish on debut release Supernatural

After impressing us with his epic debut single from October 2022 called Supernatural, Mexico/UK-based creative Kwun takes us deep with the realms of the healing arts and more with such an insightful interview to embrace. Showing us what it’s like to be a music producer and artist, we find a kind soul who just wants to make timeless music.

We appreciate you taking some time out of your busy day to speak with us, Kwun. Firstly, where are you based today and what is the music scene like currently in your local area?

Kwun: It’s a pleasure, I appreciate you taking your time too! So, I’m here in Tulum in Mexico, which is where I live for some of the year. Between here and the UK.

I really don’t know what the music scene is like here, to be honest! I was a healer in a previous profession and still tend to gravitate more towards these kinds of things. Tulum is that sort of place. That said, I have a project on right on now where I’ll be working with some local musicians so will be checking out the scene more to find the right musicians.

What’s it like to be a musician and producer? Do you feel like it’s an advantage or a disadvantage sometimes?

Kwun: That’s a really interesting question, and one that no-one’s ever asked me before! I guess I see it all as part of the same thing, like the whole creative process. The musicianship, the songwriting, the producing. It’s how I’ve always done it. So it’s neither an advantage nor a disadvantage. Though if it had to be one, then I’d go for advantage! I usually have a very clear vision of what I want the song to sound and feel like, and having the skills to see that through is a definite plus.

Though I can see benefits of working with a producer also, for sure. Would totally be up for that, for a future project. It would have to be approached with a completely different mindset though, and would be a different process altogether.

As for disadvantages, it’s has never occurred to me that it has any disadvantages. I work with a bunch of session musicians anyway, so it’s not like I play all the instruments myself. And the session musicians always bring their own flavour and flair and usually something really magical to the mix. Which I love.

In fact with my future single release, ‘Ancient Ageless & True’, I don’t actually play anything on it at all, so I just produce. And I sing. I always say I’m doing karaoke on my own track with this one!

If you met someone who had never listened to music before, how would you describe your creations?

Kwun: Well, they’re a very eclectic bunch of songs with a few rousing instrumentals thrown in. Be prepared to be taken on a journey through sound, textures, beautiful melodies, visiting many different genres on the way. We’ll work our way through from Beatlesque songs, to funk and hard rock, via some Afro-beat inspired grooves and some Jazz. Each track is different from the last, juxtaposed in such a way that will tantalise, intrigue but yet somehow sound familiar and feel like home! Some lyrics will make you think, others might move you to tears, as they have done with some of my friends who’ve heard certain as-yet-to-be-released tracks. The lyrics invoke strong emotions, putting you in touch with your humanity! And many of the tracks are journeys within themselves.

If you were in charge of the music industry for a day, what would you change first and why?

Kwun: I would open up the possibility to take more risks with artists, meaning I’d widen the range of what is let through and marketed in the mainstream. The thing is, people’s music tastes are a lot more eclectic and intelligent than what the industry would sometimes give them credit for. So that’s what I’d change.

Do you have any tips for independent musicians who are new to the game?

Kwun: Well, I’m pretty new to the game myself, but what I’d say is build a really strong team. You’ll need their help! And stay true to what you want to create, try not to be swayed by what you think others want from you. Obviously, an appropriate amount of diplomacy and playing the game is necessary. We’re all doing our job as best we can! But just be true to who you are artistically, and the rest should fall into place.

What’s the best advice you ever received?

Kwun: Well, what comes to mind right now is something my mentor, Francesca de Valance once said. She said to be more expansive and to allow myself to show up as all of me. And to not squeeze myself into a very small box! Words to that effect. It was a permission slip in a way to do more of what I was already doing.

Last of all, where can we see you live next and what goals do you have for 2023?

Kwun: No live plans as yet, I’m afraid, but I’m aiming to shoot a video of a couple of my songs here in Mexico with a live acoustic band. The band will consist of a string quartet and some of the local musicians I mentioned earlier. Not exactly seeing me live in person, I know, but hopefully the next best thing.

For 2023, I’m releasing my debut album, titled ‘Ancient Ageless & True’, after the song I mentioned earlier. There will be a few singles leading up to that, including the title song itself. I will shoot more music videos. I have a few other goals which are in the early stages of planning, so don’t want to say too much yet, but hopefully I’ll be to able to share some exciting news with you all in due course.

Hear this top song on Spotify. See more news on IG.

Interview by Llewelyn Screen

Swing back to the late 60s with Sarah Streitz’s dusky groove-led rock hit, Time Passes

Ahead of the release of her 2022 album, Different Space, we got stuck into the retro grooves of Santa Fe and Minneapolis singer-songwriter Sarah Streitz’s single Time Passes. While there’s no arguing with the titular statement, clearly, Streitz doesn’t conform to the linear passing of time if the tonal nostalgia that the dusky rock record spills is anything to go by. With just a few licks of the bass and her effortlessly cool vocal performance, you’re doused in late 60s synaesthesia.

After leaving Americana and country (mostly) behind her, Streitz teamed up with the Grammy-winning sound engineer Marc Whitmore to deliver soundscapes that would make Tarantino’s head spin. Evidently, Whitmore poured the same magic into Time Passes as he did with The Black Keys records – there’s something infinitely intoxicating about her demurely vintage vocal timbre colliding with the bass lines that roll around the shimmering organs and spacey sonic effects that bring a touch of modernism to the trippy swing of the single.

Time Passes is now available to stream on Spotify.

Review by Amelia Vandergast

Ma Bell aka Kathy Bell Interview: A True American hero

https://www.facebook.com/mabellfishingblues/videos/?ref=page_internal

Sometimes in life you meet someone who just wants to sing for the love and nothing more. This is the story of Ma Bell aka Kathy Bell. She is the ultimate underdog and loves making others happy. A selfless soul awaits.

Hello there Ma Bell aka Kathy Bell. How are you doing today and have you found that the music scene is properly back in your local area?
Ma Bell: I have found that this last year has been incredibly busy. I feel the music scene is definitely back.

You’re a DJ and also a songwriter with Bob McGilpin. Please explain how that fusion started and how creating songs makes you feel?
Ma Bell: I began in music at an early age, playing piano in the Church of God where my grandfather preached for 57 years.
I always had a passion for music but never thought I was good enough and had to go through quite a lot before believing in myself. I had written a silly Tobacco Barn song due to seeing a barn smoking with my friend and manager, Ruth Brown. She said write that into a song but I had no idea how that could be a song. A friend said get ahold of Bob McGilpin. I have to say he is the very best and not only is a co-writer but an amazing Friend. We now have 2 songs. America She’s Cryin co-written with Bob McGilpin a Platinum hit but also Freedom Truckers co-written with Bob McGilpin that has hit platinum twice.

Never too old to dream. I love your motto. It’s so true. Do you feel you’re in a dream while on stage and living out your destiny?
Ma Bell: I absolutely feel it is my dream. I have had the dream of performing on the Grand Ole Opry Stage one day since a child. I never give up on that and work hard. I have gone through sickness etc and am chasing my dream late in life, but still believe it can be possible as long as I never give up and keep working hard.

Who do you make music for and where do you call home?
Ma Bell: My home is in a very small town in Indiana called Sheridan. I make music when an inspiration hits. It is usually something from life. It can be funny or it can be serious.

Do you have a favourite song that we should definitely hear you sing live?
Ya all come! I love having fun in character as “Ma Bell” with my audience. The more they sing and tap feet, the more animated I become.

Can we spot you live before 2022 ends or do you have some events slowly cookin’ on the stove for 2023?
Absolutely, that would be awesome!

Find out more on her Facebook page.

Interview by Llewelyn Screen

Stay A Little While: Michigan RnB artist ✦kenji✦ tried to run but couldn’t escape on Questions

Losing his mind and doing whatever is possible to get away from the anxiety of the jagged world, ✦kenji✦ sounds in a tormented mood to swim from the rough seas of doom that have no future on Questions.

✦kenji✦ is a Grand Rapids, Michigan-based indie RnB singer-songwriter who loves to fuse in that experimental technique to dazzle all our minds.

The record outlines the struggles of escaping toxic relationships, and how trying to get away from these interactions might prove difficult.” ~ ✦kenji✦

With a tranquil elegance and so much to learn from, ✦kenji✦ is in brave form and leads us away from the darkness that can ruin the lives of too many.

Questions from Grand Rapids, Michigan-based indie RnB singer-songwriter ✦kenji✦ is a splendid soundtrack to anyone who knows they should leave, but just can’t yet. Drenched in pure honesty and with so many unique elements to explore, this is a stunning anthem for millions of lost spirits.

When your soul is rumbling, it’s best to change the direction.

Listen up to this fine song on Spotify. Check out the vision on IG.

Reviewed by Llewelyn Screen

Coming Around: Boadicea rockets in with that safe and sound feeling on This Gift

With the end of the rope there and nothing else to say, Boadicea cuts deep into our emotions as we look around at that mysterious ghost who is lurking in the shadows on This Gift.

Boadicea is a 3-piece Middlesbrough, UK-based indie rock band who loves to sauce the airwaves with that grungy delight which is so crunchy and real.

We play original songs, hard-hitting drums, distorted driving bass with melodic vocals mixed amongst it, to get you up and bouncing.” ~ Boadicea

Changing our moods around rather quickly and belting out an unexpected gem from the ground, Boadicea laces up our boots and gets the blood flowing, dripping with joy in hearty aplomb.

This Gift from Middlesbrough, UK-based indie rock band Boadicea is a punch-filled effort made with so much grit and intensity. Delving into our senses rather effortlessly, we find a hugely enjoyable performance made with outstanding melodies. Rich in so much to love and with stacks of energy lathered into the soundscape, this is a fine single to play on repeat.

Hear this new effort on Spotify. See more moves on IG.

Reviewed by Llewelyn Screen

Hold On Me: Gary Mictian longs for that rare moment of body-shuddering love on I’ll Wait

Certain of something which could eventually breeze away into the night sky, Gary Mictian sings with conviction and well-loved kindness and hope with his latest single I’ll Wait.

Gary Mictian is a London, UK-based indie singer-songwriter and music producer who connects electronic pop, dystopian sci-fi and cinematic sound all together like he was born to make music.

Sending us into a romantic flurry of emotions, Gary Mictian can truly rocket into our ears with much excitement because of his hugely likeable music vibration that sends pulses into overdrive.

I’ll Wait from London, UK-based indie pop singer-songwriter/music producer Gary Mictian is a supreme effort of monumental magnitudes. Laced in so much beauty and genuine honesty, this is a fine song to take our hearts into what it takes sometimes for true love to happen.

If you have the perseverance and feel the return energy connection, two souls can be together forever.

Listen up on Spotify and see more vibes on IG.

Reviewed by Llewelyn Screen

It’s all in the soul of Laura Vida’s timeless seminal single, Thank You for Sayin’ Goodbye

In anticipation of her in-production upcoming music, we delved into the redemption-soaked RnB album, Healin’ Love, from the Southern California-born singer-songwriter Laura Vida, who has spent the past thirty years working with some of Nashville’s finest.

After recording with Giant Records and being produced by James Stroud, Laura Vida turned her talents away from country to RnB to give us one of the most impassioned RnB records of the last few decades.

The standout single, Thank You for Sayin’ Goodbye, is definitive proof that even on the darkest days, there’s always a silver lining – if you are prepared to look for it. The smooth rhythm and blues release soulfully testifies to the strength that can be found in the wake of the most bitter goodbyes which follow infidelity. It’s a timelessly powerful playlist staple for everyone who wants the reminder that with enough faith, in anything, you can always brighten the next corner you turn. We can’t wait to hear what follows.

Stream Thank You for Sayin’ Goodbye on Apple Music and YouTube.

Review by Amelia Vandergast

So Good: DeVonte Singh doesn’t rush the love on I N U

Feeling so happy in every conceivable way imaginable to humankind, DeVonte Singh holds onto the moment and shall take that extra time needed to make sure each second is truly special on I N U.

DeVonte Singh is a Baltimore, Maryland-based indie RnB solo singer-songwriter, engineer, Reiki master and music producer who makes heart stopping music to hold on tightly with.

I am beyond thankful for my mentors throughout this music journey. It didn’t really mold and grow until I started learning from Mr Morpheus, members of Force Mds, Full Force, and Senator VI. V told me Make sure when you move you move with confidence. I’m reaching for ultimately opening up touring with groups like, Silk sonic and Adele.” – Devonte Singh

Lathered in so much to feel rather delighted about, DeVonte Singh is rather terrific on this fine release to warm up those cold rooms again on this galvanising effort. Precise to the second and urging for more candles to be lit, as our minds float away to that perfect romantic state of reflection.

I N U from Baltimore, Maryland-based indie RnB solo singer-songwriter/music producer DeVonte Singh is such a loving single which will heal many hearts in believing that true love is actually possible. Performed with a majestic energy and flowing with so much passion, this is a fine song to embrace with care.

Hear this fine new release on Spotify. Find out more via IG.

Review by Llewelyn Screen

Spotlight Feature: Pop-Punk’s Fiercest Lyricist, Juliette Irons, Advocated for the Heartbroken in her Latest Anthem, Skydive

After a brush with disorientating heartbreak, the Toronto-born, LA-based artist, producer, and dancer Juliette Irons picked herself up, dusted herself off and released the stormer of a pop-punk anthem, Skydive, as an act of solidarity with anyone feeling the same anxious dejection.

Skydive follows on from her evocative whirlwind, Prisoner of My Mind, which introduced the airwaves to the claustrophobia of anxiety. Still on stellar lyrical form, Skydive ensnaringly traverses the euphoric highs and dark and despondent lows of a situation-ship to prove even if you’re the one broken and bruised, you’re not the loser.

No heartbreak can survive the flood of dopamine that surges from Skydive. The rap verses are the vindicating cherry on the hook-sprinkled pop-punk cake, which tastes like 00s nostalgia, but Juliette Irons always brings her own signature emboldening flavour to the mix.

“Skydive was inspired by the confusion that comes from whirlwind heartbreak. I had just come out of a brief rollercoaster situation-ship that ended abruptly without much explanation. I felt like I had been thrown from a moving plane, woke up on the ground, and I was the only one who jumped.

I had given everything to this person, only to end up a shell of myself as I picked up the pieces during a realisation that everything was over. I hope this song can help other people going through a similar ungrounding shock to the system, and we can be empowered through it together.”

The official music video for Skydive will officially premiere on November 18th. Catch it on YouTube, and stay tuned on Facebook & Instagram, as Skydive is only the first part of the story. The concluding chapter will be told through her follow-up single, The Fear of Flying.

Review by Amelia Vandergast