Freeworld Brings Positivity With “D-Up (Here’s To Diversity)”

There’s nothing quite like watching a group of players collaborating together on something so big and powerful that it takes a team of a dozen or more musicians to really bring the vision to life, and in the music video for FreeWorld’s “D-Up (Here’s to Diversity),” we get a glimpse at this process like no other out this spring. The energy is bouncing off of the beats and the artists in equal measure, and it’s transcending the limitations of long-distance recording without feeling entirely COVID-inspired. FreeWorld are making world-class music for musicians in this release and stimulating any true melody lovers along the way. 

This is undeniably structured like a rock n’ roll song, but there’s no defining the elements that accentuate the vocal harmonies, rapped lyrics, jazzy percussive components, nor the pop-influenced rhythm using conventional terminology. Experimentation was the order of the day for FreeWorld here, and although it’s true that they aren’t breaking away from a consistent pattern of grooves and socially smart lyricism, there’s nothing else even slightly predictable about what unfolds as we get deeper into the guts of the single. It’s thought-provoking but not overloading, which is a change of pace from what I’ve received in a lot of similarly stylized content this year. 

Watch the official music video for “D-Up (Here’s to Diversity)”

The swing of the drums is relentlessly eclipsed by the joint force of the singers in this master mix, but the synchronicity between every element here is something to be praised no matter how you look at it. “D-Up (Here’s to Diversity)” has an elegance to even its more chaotic moments that I haven’t been able to find as much in the mainstream pop I’ve recently listened to – much to my chagrin – and I can see where it could wind up being one of the key features to bring them out of obscurity and onto the radar of a mainstream audience. 

I’ve been hearing good things about this project since early January, and listening to “D-Up (Here’s to Diversity)” has made it clear why other critics have been taking so much interest in the music this crew is making. There’s a noble motivation to the creation of this single and its accompanying music video that cannot go without mention in any credible review of FreeWorld’s latest release, but beyond what its poetic narrative stands for, I think it shows us a true path to the solution it suggests and celebrates in its lyrics through music itself. 


Enter The “Mad World” of Me And My Nightmare

Surprisingly agile and constantly presenting itself with a little more gusto than the tone of the lyrics would ever call for on their own, the beat behind Me and My Nightmare’s take on “Mad World” is definitely a shot of life I’m not used to hearing in this song – but one I welcome all the same. When most of us think of “Mad World,” thoughts tend to go towards the Donnie Darko soundtrack right out of the gate, but Me and My Nightmare reject the gothic undertones of that rendition entirely here. This performance is straight out of the club and geared towards dancefloor dwellers, and it might startle you how ace the composition in play actually sounds in this context. 

There’s a lot of new wave influence present in this single not completely disconnected from other versions I’ve heard of “Mad World” before now, but it’s never dominant in the overarching cosmetics here at all. On the contrary, it’s a subtle component of the harmonies and the structure of the song – which remains almost totally intact from beginning to end with little changes from past covers of this piece – with the electropop aggression taking center stage more often than not. 

Watch the video for “Mad World” below

The music video for “Mad World” is about as explosive as its source material is, touching on political subtexts in the song otherwise easily overlooked if not understood through this additional visual companion. Me and My Nightmare manage to work the lyricism into a very rebellious place seamlessly, and given the times we’re living in at the moment, it would seem all the more appropriate to drop this single/video combo before the conclusion of April 2021. Timing is everything in alternative music, but this crew most certainly knew that when drawing up the concept for their latest release. 

Although the social aspects the band tackles with “Mad World” are obvious to anyone who looks at the video for the song, there’s nothing predictable about the way the verses hit us in the moment. The lead vocal is so piercing and yet melodic when we want it to be, fashionably reflecting the anger and optimism that comes with trying to fight for something better in the world nowadays. There’s symbolism for miles here, and the best part about it is you don’t have to look very hard to find a generously applied artistic wisdom in every facet of the music. 

I really like what I’m hearing in this single and its music video, and though Me and My Nightmare are a brand new act trying to establish themselves in one of the most competitive chapters in pop music history, they couldn’t have put on a better introduction than they did with “Mad World.” There have been plenty of times in which I’ve criticized bands for starting their campaign with a cover song, but when taking into account the originality Me and My Nightmare give something as familiar to me as this composition is, I’m now all the more excited to hear what their original work will sound like. 


Get In “Trouble” With Jane N’ The Jungle

Guitar parts don’t have to be blistering to move us, but when they are, it’s incredibly difficult to ignore the righteous sizzle they can produce when under the command of skilled musicians. Jane n’ the Jungle take distorted melodies and raging riffs very seriously, and if you have doubts about this, you need to hear what they just recorded in “Trouble” this spring. In both the single and the music video made in support of its release, Jane n’ the Jungle approach the often overly-complicated task of making cutting rock the way it was always supposed to be made seamlessly, and I’m very pleased with what they end up creating. 

“Trouble” features lyrics that are actually kind of simple, particularly when compared side by side with a lot of the content this group has released in the past, but they’re not missing the soulful honesty everything Jane n’ the Jungle have recorded thus far has contained. We don’t get the full story from the linguistics in this piece so much as we get a peek at where the trail starts – it isn’t until we take in the crash of the drums and the growl of the guitar strings that the words being sung to us start to take on their proper weight. 

Watch the video for “Trouble” below

The visuals in the music video for “Trouble” are a bit understated beside this soundtrack, but then again, most anything probably would be. There’s been a real drought in contemporary pop when it comes to grit and overdrive-saturated melodic weaponry, but I think a band like this one might have the ability to change that narrative if they keep writing songs as tight as this one is. The video doesn’t have to extend the vibe but instead simply present us with the material as cleanly as possible, which is exactly what takes place here. 

Anyone who listens to rock knows that there really hasn’t been much to get excited about in the genre for a long time, at least outside of the underground, and a track like “Trouble” definitely hits the spot this spring for that very reason. Jane n’ the Jungle know that their sound is a rare commodity nowadays, but they aren’t being stingy with the gifts they’ve been granted at all – contrarily, they’re giving us everything we can handle in their latest release. I can’t wait to catch them live sometime soon, and I think I won’t be the only one eager to hear them play “Trouble” on stage. 


Pistols At Dawn Hear “Voices”

Atlanta based 5 Piece band, Pistols At Dawn, are a blend of Alt Rock, Metal, and Modern Rock stylings. They consist of, Adam Jaffe on Drums, Tommy Richardson on Guitar, Devin White on Guitar, Billy Sullivan on Bass, and former Rockstar Supernova finalist, Chris Pierson on Lead Vocals. The band’s original Guitarist, Mike Buffa, tragically passed away in 2018. Buffa was a founding member of PAD, in 2015. Their new single is their first one from the 2020 EP, Nocturnal Youth.  

“Voices” isn’t a full on audio assault, but nor is it a pseudo ballad type. It’s somewhere in the middle, which typically seems to please the largest contingent. It’s got the growling vocal motifs, the slightly down tuned guitars, and it’s heavy on cymbals. However, the track is supremely well composed and equally well performed. Pistols At Dawn may not be reinventing the wheel, but they certainly know how the wheel, works. 

The band was inspired to write “Voices,” as a way to address the potential to become overwhelmed by the seemingly endless downpour of rhetoric and opinion. In today’s world, everyone has a platform to express their opinion, and while democratic in its intent, we’ve also seen how divisive and disillusioning it can be. PAD either observed, experienced, or both, just how taxing this can be on one’s mental health, and overall state of being. It’s a noble effort, and it should always be lauded when artists use their platforms to actually say something. It never hurts to have a rocking track, behind that message, either. 

Watch the video for “Voices” below

As far as production goes, “Voices” is top notch. The band enlisted Jeff Tomei of Smashing Pumpkins and Matchbox 20 fame, to produce Nocturnal Youth, and subsequently, “Voices.” The record was mixed by Maor Applebaum, who has previously worked with Faith No More. The guitar tracks are aligned, perfectly, and they demonstrate the skills of both Richardson and White, individually and collectively. Pierson performs at such a high level that you get the feeling he doesn’t need much in the way of being produced, and the drums and bass put the heaviness in the track. 

The video for “Voices,” features the band in a single room shot, surrounded by a buffet of candles. They claim they were going for intimacy, and while it feels a bit claustrophobic and nondescript, it ultimately serves its purpose. With the exception of Pierson, who has something of a look, the rest of the band appear to be just regular guys. Some may be critical over the lack of a definitive esthetic, but it really boils down to your genre, and who you’re trying to connect with. Pistols At Dawn is a rock band, and to attempt to look like anything other than who they truly are, would likely be reductive. 

For fans of energetic and impassioned Rock Music, “Voices,” will satisfy. The performances are without fault and there is a meaningful and significant message, contained within the song. Personally, I was left wanting to hear more from the band. Pistols At Dawn, shows the ability to be captivating with “Voices,” and that promise should carry them into their next phase. As for their current phase, Nocturnal Youth, and in particular, “Voices,” is loud and impressive enough to get people to listen. 


Dova Lewis Is A “Dreamer”

In the first shot of the music video for Dova Lewis’, “Dreamer,” we see a wooded area, with a luminescent figure, center framed. It’s a brief shot, and we quickly move to Lewis, herself, who is mildly obscured in a variety of effects.  Later on in the video, we see the same figure from the opening, furiously moving to the chorus, with as much intensity as brevity. The entire video has a cinematic/arthouse aura. Dova has something of a history as a filmmaker, which should certainly explain and contextualize what we see, and feel, in the “Dreamer” video. 

The most sensational and fascinating backstories, often belong to those who have endured varying degrees of suffering. Dova Lewis’s story, is a blend of discovery, introspection, loss,  travel, culture and ultimately, hope. It’s probably not accurate to label her as the tortured artist, but there is a certain gravitas to not only her work, but her presence as well. The single, “Dreamer” is from her self-titled, debut EP. The song is unquestionably a powerful and impressionable introduction to Dova Lewis. 

Watch the video for “Dreamer” below

Upon first listen, “Dreamer” is something of a “background” song. It has a well written melody line for the verse, is pleasant, and soothing. It’s not until the chorus kicks in, that we realize we are in for something much more than a typical AC pop song. Lewis, who is initially casual and reserved, explodes into a near scream, with a somewhat bluesy brogue, that will certainly draw your attention. She delivers the chorus line with such fervent energy, that you wonder if someone skipped to another track, without your knowledge. 

Lewis has a background in harder edged Alt Rock, as well an overall zealous appreciation of all things, grunge. In fact, her somewhat obscure collection of Old Grunge Rock VHS tapes, somehow led her into dabbling into filmmaking, as previously mentioned. It’s obvious, Dova has cross pollinated her influences into something, rather original, and certainly representative of her innermost expression. On “Dreamer,” we hear many sides of Lewis, as well as the visual tapestry of emotions, she weaves with her passion and lyrical prowess. You get the impression that Lewis approaches absolutely nothing, at half speed. 

The mix on “Dreamer,” leaves little to be desired. The drums in particular, are thunderous, concise, and almost a bit tribal. Lewis’s vocals are positioned, perfectly, especially on the chorus. She reportedly worked with Darryl Lake, who boasts Erykah Badu as a previous collaborator, so we are safe in assuming that she had an expert pair of ears in the session. In short, all of the fine touches came together on this track, to give it a fair chance of being received, solely on its artistic merit.  

I’m up in the sky/and you’re afraid of heights/I’m just a dreamer. Anyone who has ever felt a disconnection from another,  who can’t relate to their desire for something greater, will feel that lyric. It’s the obstacle that rarely gets discussed as it relates to the pursuit of goals, which is not opposition, but rather lack of support. Dova Lewis has made a stirring first impression, and now the follow up will be essential of course. As for now, the dreamer in all of us, can begin to be reawakened.

Listen to Dova Lewis on Spotify


Raquel Kiaraa Drops “Dear Jesus”

“Dear Jesus” is the latest single from singer/songwriter and pianist Raquel Kiaraa after the release earlier this year of her single “Love to the Moon”. Where that one was a nice throwback groove, this time she’s traded the more upbeat energy for something quieter initially but is hiding so much raw honesty, it’s sure to take your breath away.

It’s almost a trojan horse tactic she employs for this song because even looking at the cover art provided, you see a woman in the thrills of life and the promises it has to offer, glowing and draped in beautiful flowing pieces of clothing. The actual sound of the song is more like when you’re laying in your bed, looking up at the ceiling and speaking aloud to anyone that’s listening up there. It’s in parts heartbreaking, desperate, personal, and feels incredibly powerful and real. The way even Raquel says the opening words “Dear Jesus” is just filled with so much emotion, like this, isn’t the first time she’s come to this part in her life to have to say these words, even as in the song she admits she’s, not a religious woman and even wonders if her misgivings she’s done have played a part in her words falling on deaf ears. The monologue she delivers in music form is elastic and goes from this quiet inflection to this feeling that resembles bombast but is actually far more controlled than that. Like when you’re screaming into the void.

Listen to “Dear Jesus” below

This thing just sounds beautiful too, from the steady drumbeat that almost feels like the pulsing heart of Kiaraa as she bares it all, to the sliding electric guitar and bass that honestly provide more comfort and empathy to Raquel’s performance than the fictitious entity that she calls out to. It’s not exactly a religious song but uses the common phrase for many as a turning point as a way to explore faith and when we’ve kind of gone through our metaphysical Rolodex and have run out of places to turn, where do we go next? 

Kiaraa admits that she’s not religious but believes in the signs of the spirits and that can be taken to believe she has a faith built into herself, but now even that’s letting her down, so she’s turned elsewhere hoping, literally praying for some kind of answer to be bestowed to her. Raquel’s voice is just incredible and for someone entering music at this point in her life, better late than never because she has an unparalleled talent that will take her very very far. She has the passion and commitment and the world is begging to hear the stories she’s telling in all their humanity and truth. It’s a true performance piece to allowing her to capture the sounds of sadness and grief and anguish without allowing her voice to sound sloppy. It’s sad singing at its finest and I’m being utterly sincere when I say that. “Dear Jesus” is now currently streaming on Spotify. 


Camera2 Fell In Love With “Natalie”

In the new single “Natalie” by New York rockers Camera2, the curious lines “But I just need you to know I feel you and it’s beautiful the moment I laid eyes on you / I knew I really knew you / But you’re still so careful” declare so much more than a connection with a resiliency most of us spend a lot of time trying to master in our personal lives. What we’re being presented with in lyrics like these suggests a deeper desire to get away from insularity and actually feel someone else. Considering the predominant trends in American pop music today, that makes Camera2’s style of poetry quite a unique offering indeed. 

The video for “Natalie” essentially takes the premise of the lyricism here and goes into another dimension of surrealism, touching on themes of vampirism that aren’t boxed in by some sort of hackneyed Halloween theatrics. The symbolism is impossible to miss – unless you’re the most surface-level listener in the history of pop.
It alludes to an even grander depth within the artistry of this band that producers would have been foolish not to highlight in this scenario. Deep-feeling rock doesn’t have to drift into emo, and a release like this reminds us as much. 

There are so many different ways we could break down the contrast between the beats and the harmony in this single. Especially as we progress through the song, but at no point does the deliberate disconnect between the atmospheric tones and the steady, gritty percussion grow overwhelming. A little bit of discord can go a long way when it’s purposed properly, and it’s more than obvious listening to “Natalie” that Camera2 were thinking about this very fact when they were putting the final compositional touches on this piece. 

Watch the official video for “Natalie” below

I honestly love the way the beat evolves here, and despite the jaggedness of the arrangement it never sounds like an afterthought beside the decadence of the understated vocal harmony at the forefront of the mix. It actually reminds me quite a bit of the indie singer/songwriter and UK underground icon Howard James Kenny. Specifically with regards to how the otherwise electronic frills are safeguarded by the consistency of the rhythm. Nothing ever sounds synthesized or out of place in this arrangement. That takes time, patience, as well as a greater grasp of tone, which is something Camera2 clearly have in spades.

“Natalie” is delicate, unsheltered, and forward in its stunning emission of light sonic indulgences. From my perspective it’s actually sporting one of the most stunning videos to debut from an indie source in the last couple of months. To put it as simply as possible, what Camera2 have developed here is worth putting whatever you’re listening to in this moment aside in the name of exploring their capabilities as a band, which, as I’m sure I won’t be the only critic to note, are not something you can expect to find every day on the FM dial. 


Sin For Saints Sings “Sad Songs”

A new generation of punks are intent on redefining what emo and alternative rock can mean and consist of in 2021. Among those I’ve personally had the chance to review in the last couple of months, Sin for Saints are definitely among the more intriguing bands in this movement worth taking a second look at. In their new single and music video, “Sad Songs,” they borrow some aesthetical cues from an old school (second wave) emo style of songcraft that is lyricism-heavy but not lacking a bit of danger coming off the amplifiers, and while some might deem it a mild throwback, I think it’s just the right amount of retro and contemporary to get numerous audiences excited. 

I really love the cerebral balance in tones presented by the relationship the lead vocal and these guitar parts develop once the chorus has rolled around, and overall, I think it ultimately yields one of the more surprisingly brooding narratives we could have faced in “Sad Songs.” Without being too straitlaced about it, Sin for Saints are putting on a masterclass in adopting simplistic pop cues where it works to extend a melody but otherwise abandoning any continuity in the mix when chaos better represents a stated emotion, which is something a lot of bands would spend an entire career trying to properly grasp. 

Watch the official music video for “Sad Songs” below

There are certainly some post-hardcore influences in Sin for Saints’ sound that you would have to be a complete outsider to indie rock not to notice in “Sad Songs.” I for one would really like to hear them expand upon these understated elements in their style sooner than later. There’s still a lot of room for experimentation in this group, and judging from the swing of the beats in the climax of this single, it’s something they thankfully aren’t going to shy away from at this point in their campaign.

Sin for Saints need to be on your radar if you appreciate quality, hard-hitting alternative rock with a slightly melodic twist. While they’re not the only pop/punk revivalists treading some provocative waters at the moment, they’re definitely becoming a new favorite of mine. It’s hard to steer away from a band that has the kind of loveable chemistry this unit does, and in time, I think it’s going to produce a lot of big hits for their brand of new-era punk rock. 

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