If you’re a regular York Calling reader, you should be well aware of our Monthly Favourites series by now. Basically, I choose my favourite songs of the month and create a round-up review and playlist to showcase them, with the aim of giving these artists a wider audience. It’s been pretty successful so far, with this being out 18th iteration in the series!
Review by Jane Howkins
Photo by Haawa
Haawa – Say It
First up is Haawa, a poppy artist from New York City. Say It has a mainstream pop vibe, but it also adds in moments of r&b and classic pop, making for a fantastically catchy package altogether. The beat is smooth, adding a soulful quality to the tune. The piano sounds really clear, melting away against the rest of the music – it’s particularly gorgeous to behold as the track breaks down on the chorus. And who can forget the vocals, drifting along in a perfect way. This is a must listen for all fans of pop!
MAL – Hero’s Gold
Adding a more rock and roll twist to this list is MAL, an alt-rock power trio from Los Angeles. Hero’s Gold has something of a 90s alt-rock sound, creating a fantastic throwback to that scene. The guitars are used really well here – they’re very powerful, making it all the more impressive that a three-piece band has managed to create such a huge sound! The bass adds a lot of melody to the track too, throbbing along against the beat. The vocals are perfectly suited to the genre of music, full of emotion and angst throughout.
S. J. Armstrong – Summer Sunshine
Dream-pop has become rather popular in recent years – S. J. Armstrong is here to capitalise on the movement with latest release, Summer Sunshine. It’s a perfect title, as there really is something very optimistic and positive about the entire song. The vocals drift along nicely against the guitars and beat, creating lovely textures in the background. The keyboard organ is also a lovely surprise, adding something a little more unique to this wonderful tune. I guarantee that you will love Summer Sunshine if you give it a chance!
The Electric MZ – Dawn
Swedish groove-rock band The Electric MZ is another intriguing proposition, as they also include elements of funk, jazz and psychedelia within their music. Dawn is an instrumental track, but it’s utterly beautiful, seeing the collective create gorgeous soundscapes that will suck you in, whatever style of music you’re usually into. The guitars, keyboards and rhythm section create moving layers of sound, changing every so often to create more variety. The saxophone solo is the real stand out point here though, weaving in and out of the music in a gorgeous way.
Robert Vendetta – Vacation
Nordic artist Robert Vendetta adds a wonderful retropop sound to this list with his new release, Vacation. The rhythm is really bouncy, making you want to tap your feet along to this positively upbeat number straight away! The piano is used exceedingly well with the bass and drums, enhancing the optimistic themes even further. The chorus has that classic singalong quality that we all love, adding in a pretty string section in the background to further the retro feel. It’s a little different from most pop music nowadays, but that’s why I love Vacation so much!
The 23s – Slaves
Sheffield band The 23s is an indie pop band with a difference, as I also feel like Slaves has elements of new wave and electronica. It’s quite a dark sounding track, featuring a cool bassline that pulsates against the drums in a cool way. The vocals are quite low, adding an almost menacing sound to this amazing song. It all really works though, creating something that is catchy, yet not overly mainstream (which is definitely a good thing to me). The outro is also pretty astonishing, showing a band truly skilled at songwriting. This track really needs to be heard to be believed!
Into The Light – Bridge
Into The Light is a rock and roll supergroup from Rochester, New York, creating a heavy form of rock that also adds in elements of the hardcore punk genre. Bridge sounds epic from the very start, introducing a slew of killer riffs that have both attitude and groove. The vocals are shouted over the music, containing a great deal of emotion and angst. The energy never really lets up, creating something that will have you headbanging in no time. I cannot wait to hear what Into The Light come up with next time around!
Cas Du Pree – London
Dutch singer-songwriter Cas Du Pree adds a lovely Europop quality to this list, mixing elements of both classic pop and more modern pop music together in a wonderful way. The synths have a gorgeous sound as they work their way through the music, sounding especially great when mixed with the piano, bass and drums. Cas’ has quite a soft sounding vocal range, but his voice works really well with the style of music he creates on London. It really is a wonderful piece of work, and one all fans of pop should try!
Andrew Schneider – Hideaway
Andrew Schneider is a Chicago-based multi-instrumentalist who makes music that spans across several different genre boundaries. Hideaway is quite jazzy in terms of the rhythm, which also has something of a Latin vibe. The guitars add something extra special into the mix, as they have a spaghetti western feel at times, adding yet another style to this cool piece of music. Hideaway is a song that continually changes, keeping you constantly guessing as to what is going to come next! It’s great to hear something a bit different from the norm!