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The Jellybeans “Look At Us Now”

17 Sep, 2012 Andrea Guy

Those girls from Jersey are back! The Jellybeans are a group of ten girls from Our Lady Of Mercy Academy in Jersey City, NJ. “Look At Us Now” is the first single from their soon to be released third album.

The Jellybeans are kind of like the girl’s school version of Straight No Chaser. This song was written by Tony Coviello, the girls Music Director, and it is a really uplifting song with a retro melody.

It is hard to believe ten young girls can harmonize so well. They sound like a big girl band, which is kind of what they are, but in the case of The Jellybeans, there’s no lead vocalist, its all the girls. It is that blending of voices that really sets them apart from any other groups out there. They aren’t ten girls looking to upstage one another, they are a team and when they sing, everyone, no matter the age, will want to listen.

“Look At Us Now” is the perfect song for these girls too. They’ve moved on to high school and the lyrics are perfectly suited for anyone that is moving on in their life, whether its the transition from middle school to high school, or high school to college to college to the real world.

The song is full of determination. The lyrics “Look at us now. You see the smiles on our faces ‘cause we know that we’ve made it and we’re heading places. Give us a chance. We’ll show you what we can do. When opportunity knocks, we’re gonna break right through.” are perfect.

This a song that gives you hope and The Jellybeans young voices are a perfect fit for the song’s message. Of course, these girls could sing the Jersey City phone book and sound good.

This is the kind of song you want your tweens to listen to. It’s a song with a positive message, sung by girls that can sing without any overdubs. What more can any parent of a music lover ask?

“Look At Us Now,” they sing, and the whole world watches and listens to their great song!

Review by Andrea Guy
Rating: 5 Stars (out of 5)

The Listener’s Job “No Vacancies”

11 Jul, 2012 Andrea Guy

No Vacancies is the first album by Paul van Geldrop’s solo project, The Listener’s Job. The five songs that make up the EP are a great example of Progressive Rock. The Listener’s Job makes music that can be compared to bands such as Yes and Marillion.

Some people might think that 5 songs aren’t enough to give you an adequate picture of an artist’s sound, but in the case of The Listener’s Job, it is. The songs all are piano based, which should come as no surprise to anyone that is familiar with Paul’s music. He started out taking keyboard lessons for seven years and has spent time as a keyboardist in a few bands.

Paul doesn’t want to be pigeon holed into any particular genre though. However, his music does seem to fit well into a few genres; progressive and new age are the two that are most prominent.

“Midnight Prayer” opens the EP. The melody surrounds and engulfs you. Paul’s vocals are haunting and almost larger then life. The song is dramatic and also soothing, though a careful listen to the lyrics will prove that the song is anything but soothing. The lyrics “I know my soul my soul will suffer in hell. What is left of this empty shell. Don’t you remember hours of sin? To remind you what has been.” illustrate this point.

The song “I Can See Paris” is probably one of the most relaxing you’ll hear. Piano and violin sounds fill your ears and Paul seems to be whispering the lyrics into you ear. You might be tempted to call this a lullaby, because it is so slow and calming, but like most of the songs, there’s something deeper lurking in the lyrics. “Here we have the answer to the long lost prayer.”

There’s a sense of helplessness and frustration in these songs. “Nowhere Left To Run” opens with “They say this life is just a dream. I’d give anything to wake.”

No Vacancies is an EP that is hauntingly beautiful. Paul van Geldrop has a voice that could soothe even the most savage beast. The songs are all beautiful, but that music hides an inner turmoil. These songs are not songs to bring you smiles. They may soothe you, but if you truly listen, you’ll know that they are much more than that.

The title’s alone suggest that these songs aren’t pretty little ditties. Surely you can’t expect happiness from “Eulogy?” The melody of this song is probably the most melancholy.

One of the surprising things about these songs is their length. 4 out of 5 of them clock in at under 4 minutes. They have the length of a pop song, yet their subject matter suggests that they should be epic. Paul has a way with songwriting that is concise and to the point, and though short, none of the songs feel like they are leaving the listener hanging.

Paul has worked on film scores as well as theatrical productions. That is something you can definitely see in the EP. The melodies continue telling a story even when Paul isn’t singing.

What the five tracks of No Vacancies show us all is that beauty can be found everywhere, even in sadness and pain. Whether Paul continues to record under the name The Listener’s Job or just as himself, it will be the listener’s job to hunt down his music. It will be interesting to see if there is a change in the mood of his songs in the future. For now, we can be content with the moody tunes from on No Vacancies.

Review by Andrea Guy
Rating: 5 stars (out of 5)

Kevin Wilson “Saturday Sessions”

27 Jun, 2012 Andrea Guy

Saturday Sessions is the latest release by guitarist, Kevin Wilson. This record is aptly named as the songs were recorded only on Saturdays between November 2010 and September 2011. Saturday Sessions is the first record to feature Kevin on vocals. This album features re-recordings of songs featured on Kevin’s 2009 debut, Self Portrait, as well as one new song, “Tomorrow Never Comes.”

Why are these songs being re-recorded? The answer is simple. This time round, Kevin is providing the vocals to his songs. After one listen of Saturday Sessions, fans may wonder why Kevin didn’t sing on his debut. His voice is just as strong as any of the vocalists he used on Self Portrait. In fact, on several, his vocal is the better one.

“On The Lake” opens the record. Though an acoustic album, Kevin’s vocals have a hint of the rocker he usually is. Even the acoustic guitar sounds like it really wants to plug itself in and amp things up.

You get a trip back in time with “Self Portrait.” The original version had a strong 70s vibe going on, but on the new acoustic version, that vibe is even stronger. The melody may have you thinking of Blue Oyster Cult and their famous “Don’t Fear The Reaper.” There’s no cowbell here, but maybe there should be one.

“Scars” is definitely one of the songs that really had a makeover for this album. It is still a wonderful ballad, but unlike its counterpart on Self Portrait, that was very easy listening and featured a female backing vocal, this song now feels more folksy. The acoustic version is much more simplistic and intimate.

“Tomorrow Never Comes” is next. The only song that didn’t appear on Kevin’s debut. This song has a nice folk/country sound and is very radio friendly, especially for country stations. It would be at home next to anything by Zac Brown Band or James Taylor.

“Pictures” gives listeners a taste of Kevin’s guitar playing talent. When you listen to the acoustic guitar on this song, you’ll think you’re listening to Lindsey Buckingham.

The closing track is “Words Of A Poet.” In its original form, “Words” was a rocker. Now that it is stripped down, it is more folk oriented and a lot more relaxed.

Saturday Sessions really gives you a chance to appreciate Kevin’s songs in a different way. The acoustic versions have simpler arrangements that allow you to focus on the music as well as the lyrics, but above all else, you get exposed to Kevin’s voice.

It is hard not to draw comparisons between the two versions of these songs. There’s a lot of differences and not only in the vocals. The production is different and that really gives the songs a totally different life. Saturday Sessions is like a Saturday, a little laid back.

This album is a great place for new listeners to get exposed to Kevin’s music. The music is raw, and Kevin’s voice, though not as refined as the vocalists on Self Portrait, is pleasing to the ears. If you are a longtime fan of Kevin’s, his two albums are kind of like a before and after shot, though it is impossible to say that one version of a song is better than an other.

If you really want exposed to Kevin for his guitar playing abilities, his first album is the way to go. Either way, you are going to hear many of the same songs, just in a different fashion. Saturday Sessions proves to anyone that will listen that Kevin Wilson is truly a multifaceted performer. He can write songs, play guitar and sing. A true triple threat!

Review by Andrea Guy
Rating: 5 stars (out of 5)

Lindsay May “Shimmer”

16 Mar, 2012 Andrea Guy

With a little bit of folk and a heaping helping of country, Lindsay May storms into your ears. Her latest release Shimmer is proof that good music with a country feel doesn’t always come from Nashville. Lindsay May hails from Kelowna, BC.

Shimmer is May’s second album and its a thing of beauty. Ten perfect songs gathering together on one album reminding us that albums can be good from start to finish. Lindsay hits on some of the most important things that make an album great; good songwriting, a great voice, and great musicianship. With these things in place, it is no wonder that Shimmer is so good.

With an album where no track can be labeled a pot boiler, it is hard to point out stand out tracks. “Spinning 45′s” is a bluesy country rocker. Its a twangy song with great guitar riffs. As Lindsay sings out the names of some great classic artists, she’ll have younger listeners wondering what these 45s are, that she’s singing about. The rest of us, will smile and try not to feel old. This song is pure fun.

The album’s title track “Shimmer” is a surprisingly more pop oriented song. It is definitely radio friendly. It is easy to imagine it being played back to back with artists like Gloriana or Lady Antebellum.

“Star In The Sky” is a folk song with a sweet lyric and a gentle melody. Lindsay’s voice is very much her own for the most part, but on this particular song she sounds more than a little bit like Natalie Merchant.

There’s a little bit of a dreamer in “Nashville.” The song illustrates perfectly, a singer/songwriters determination to get to the city where she could reach her dream. The opening line sets the stage as Lindsay sings, “I’ve got my guitar. I’ve written twenty songs so far. And all I can think about is Nashville.”

Lindsay’s music has been described at alt-country. This genre as always seemed to be more like country that reflects more of what country music used to be like. There’s a little bit of that sound to Lindsay’s music, but she’s not an artist that can easily be put in category.  The first version of “Lie To You” has a hint of bluegrass to it, but an acoustic version of the song closes the album, and the two versions could not be more different.  The acoustic version will definitely appeal to those that like a little less twang to their music.

“Stick Around” is the bluesy-est song on the album. The melody is slow and smooth, but the guitars really wail and even whine on this one. The instruments really convey the sorrow of the lyrics.  “Off in the distance, between hope and despair, there is a finish line, will you wait for me there.”

Perhaps its companion song is the more fun sounding “Hang Around.” This girl isn’t worried about the guy leaving her. In this case she’s ready to settle down.  She goes the acoustic blues route on “It Ain’t Easy…Being Me.” Its another bad relationship song, but isn’t that what country music is all about? Lindsay knows how to convey that bad relationship angst well.

No matter what your preference, you’re likely to find a song or two to love on Shimmer. More likely than not, you’ll fall in love with the whole album, because it really is that good. Lindsay May is an artist you don’t want to let pass you by. She may not be a household name yet, but Shimmer may just be the album that makes her one.

Review by Andrea Guy
Rating:  5 stars (out of 5)

Danny Milan “Bridge To Sky City”

03 Feb, 2012 Andrea Guy

Bridge To Sky City is the follow up album to Danny Milan’s 2010 album Cast Away Mariners and The Nostalgic Time Travelers.  Those who haven’t had the good fortune to listen to Danny will pick up on the influences of the two great “piano men” of the 70s, Elton John and Billy Joel.

This album really focuses on Danny’s growth both as a pianist and a singer.  Danny is just twenty years old, but he is vocally ahead of many of the performers in his age group.  Even when he rocks out on “Blind Alley,” you’ll notice how theatrical his voice is.  He fits in better with artists like Josh Groban or Michael Buble than John Mayer.

There is a maturity to Danny’s music that is lacking in most of the pop music flooding the airways.

Call his sound adult contemporary or pop vocal, but what he’s really presenting you with is a collection of songs that sound like they could have been pulled from a Broadway show.  The duets with Becky Ciocca (Lay It On The Line), Jennica McCleary (Falling For A Fantasy), Julia Hunt (Don’t Put The Fire Out), and Barry DuBois (Sky City)  really show off the theatrical side of his voice.  These songs sound like they could have been pulled from a show such as Rent.

These duets really stand out.  So many duets feel like they are just two voices singing in different places, and the only reason they’ve come together is through production.  That’s not the case here.  “Sky City” is a powerful song that is made that way because of Danny and Barry’s vocals.  Both voices are strong, but they aren’t competing. They share the song, and in doing so they give it life.

This album is a wonderful example of fine playing, good songwriting and fine vocals. Danny treats us to the best of all the worlds, but if you truly appreciate piano playing “Ophiuchus’ Fantasy” is the song for you.  It is the only instrumental on the album and it lets Danny show off his skills at the piano in a way that a pop song simply can’t.

Danny has a voice that is perfectly suited for love songs.  John Barrowman is perhaps the only other voice out there that has the same quality—that “he could sing that New York City phone directory and make it sound romantic” quality.

The songs aren’t all hearts and flowers.  “Silence” is about a relationship that is struggling. The lyrics—” Your silence is killing me quickly, without a sound.  No one has asked you to fix me.  All I am asking is that you…Answer me please, please.  Oh, damn the silence”—are heartbreaking.

Danny Milan knows how to bring emotions through in his music.  When he sings, you feel the love or the heartache.  The most heartbreaking song is “Dark Eyes.”  The lyrics are full of the pain of breakup.  “You’re impossible, impossible.  I hope you leave this night, and find the sunshine of the day.  But you won’t.  For your dark eyes, dark eyes shield the light.  You push all those who cared away.  Dark eyes, dark eyes, what a night.”

By the time you finish listening to an album by Danny Milan you will be emotionally charged. His songs will affect your heart and soul.  Bridge To Sky City is Danny’s fifth album. That’s quite impressive when you take into account his age.

If you are the type of person who is looking for an album of finely crafted pop songs, look no further than Danny Milan.  Bridge To Sky City should be on everyone’s wishlist this year.

Review by Andrea Guy
Rating:  5 stars (out of 5)