Each week (or almost every week), The Other Side Reviews brings some sensational ear-candy to our readers – that’s you. This week we have a bit of a mishmash of artists that are “keeping it real” and we hope you enjoy it. Ranging from Danny Mellin’s indie-folk to Ilona Mahieu’s alternative rock and Nash’s indie-pop, here is our latest instalment of Keeping It Real.
TROPICAL BOYFRIEND CATALOGUE – ‘SUGAR FREAK‘
I don’t know if you can call a band “cute”. I’m not speaking about “cute, cute”, but just adorably quirky. If I can call a band “cute”, then Tropical Boyfriend Catalogue is on the list. Based in London, England, Tropical Boyfriend Catalogue is an indie-pop trio with an innovative and eclectic sound.
Technically, Tropical Boyfriend Catalogue (TBC) formed in 2019 with their debut EP Go! being released in 2020; however, the group unofficially began many years before. After meeting at high school and playing music together, the group had a taste of what would later become TBC. When Kami Ivanova (vocals and guitar) and Zak Lyons (guitar and keys) attended the same university, they began writing the content for Go!. Once they graduated, the pair relocated to London and recruited Adam Thomas (bass) and Craig Medlin (guitar); the rest is history.
A five-track EP, Sugar Freak is 16 minutes of blissful ear-candy. While it has a distinct indie-pop sound, Sugar Freak incorporates different genres including the jazz-flavoured ‘Wasted On You’ and folk-tinged ‘Facing Myself Again’. The clever arrangement of singles makes the transition from one style to the other smooth and charming. The one element that really carries the EP is Ivanova’s warm and enchanting vocals reminiscent of Carol King and Joan Armatrading.
“Sugar Freak to me is all about focusing on yourself and growing as a person.” – Kami Ivanova on Sugar Freak
DANNY MELLIN – ‘EASY’
Releasing his debut single ‘Without You’ at only 14 years of age, Danny Mellin is potentially one of the youngest artists I have had the honour of featuring. Following ‘Without You’, Mellin released a debut EP Holding On in 2018 with several singles since then. At only 17 years old (at least I think that’s the right age), this Oxfordshire singer-songwriter has received critical acclaim from notable media such as BBC Introducing and CLOUT.
Heartfelt and captivating, Danny Mellin ups the ante with his reflective single ‘Easy’. A follow-up to his energetic indie-rock anthem ‘Beaten Up Nikes’, Mellin adopts a more laid-back and tranquil sound in this new track. Engaging instrumentation integrates well with the Mellin’s warm vocals increasing the simplicity and sentimentality of ‘Easy’. I don’t think this is a nostalgic song, but it certainly provokes the wistful ambience of those reflective ballads. Either way, I enjoy it and it makes me smile each time I hear it.
“‘Easy’ is about teenage summers, socialising with friends and camping at festivals, but it also understands these are carefree days and ones where forever memories are made.” – Danny Mellin on ‘Easy’
THE SOVIET INFLUENCE – ‘TAKE MY FIRE’
Combine Pixies with Radiohead and Talking Heads and you should find The Soviet Influence. Formed in 2011, this Canadian rock band has received critical acclaim from notable press such as Obscure Sound, Divide and Conquer and Alan Cross since their inception. Described as “moody, passionate and elegant” by Barry Gruff, Peter Snow, Ty Mackenzie, Blake Morey and Peter Morey bring a distinct sound to the music scene with The Soviet Influence. With two full-length albums and several singles to their name, the latest addition is ‘Take My Fire’ (the third song from their upcoming album Socialism: An Introduction).
With elements of grunge, post-punk and hard rock, The Soviet Influence takes traditional genres and adds a modern twist to them. A contemporary political rock song, Snow uses provocative lyrics to incite an evocative response. Emotional and explosive with heavy guitar riffs and dynamic vocals, ‘Take My Fire’ is an indisputably anthemic track. Now I know why Barry Gruff described the group as “moody, passionate and elegant”.
“‘Take my Fire’ is a song about breaking out of complacency and taking a stand. It’s about leaving the distractions behind and trying to change the world.” – The Soviet Influence on ‘Take My Fire’
REVOLUTION RABBIT DELUXE – ‘GENERATION VOYEUR’
Hailing from South East Wales, Gwent to be exact, Revolution Rabbit Deluxe is a foursome playing indie-rock songs with some punk overtones. Compared to Manic Street Preachers, Feeder and Super Furry Animals, Revolution Rabbit Deluxe (RRD) fuse the synth-based sounds of post-punk with the melodic elements of Brit-pop to create genre-bending music. With two albums under their wings and a growing reputation for engaging material, RRD is about to release their third album – the most eclectic to date. Here we are going to look at their single ‘Generation Voyeur’, which is part of the full-length album Myths and Fables.
From the first second, you know ‘Generation Voyeur’ will be a powerful and compelling single. While the instrumentation is steady and sure, the cleverly layered synths and guitars make for a sonic rollercoaster. When you incorporate the bold, dynamic and reflective lyrics, ‘Generation Voyeur’ has a somewhat haunting sound and eerie ambience. The thing is, it is this eeriness that completely enchants you.
“A power-pop, Brit-rock, alt-indie excursion into the photograph-it-all club, from the latest dinner to the most intimate of their traumas and dramas.” – Revolution Rabbit Deluxe on ‘Generation Voyeur’
NATALIE NICOLE GILBERT – ‘VINCENT (STARRY STARRY NIGHT)’
We don’ often feature cover songs, but when we do they need to be exceptional. On that note, may we present you with award-winning artist Natalie Nicole Gilbert and her rendition of ‘Vincent (Starry Starry Night)’.
Natalie Nicole Gilbert comes from a musical family with a pianist mother, vocalist sister and guitarist brother, so it makes sense that she would embrace music from a young age. Her first songs were written when she was only five years old, now she has nine solo albums and numerous singles to her name. Over a decade experience as a radio host and voice-over talent, this LA-based artist is either consulting on music licensing or self-producing original material. Now we look at her cover of Don McLean’s ‘Vincent (Starry Starry Night)’
Known for her heartfelt lyrics and endearing vocals, Gilbert adopts a piano-driven version of ‘Vincent (Starry Starry Night)’ as compared to McLean’s guitar-driven ballad. The simplicity of a piano and her voice exclusively enhances the sensitivity of the track, particularly as the song is so poignant and doesn’t require embellishment. Gilbert’s moving and heartwarming voice embraces the delicacy of the song with an overwhelming sense of elegance. Basically, the original may have been penned over 40 years ago, but Gilbert has revived ‘Vincent’ for the 21st century.
“I spent many summers taking college courses at UCLA and took a class on the Anatomy of a Pop Song. We were asked to select a legacy song to research and I chose this song by Don McLean. I’ve always loved Vincent van Gogh’s paintings and took that opportunity to read more of his life and work. It was interesting because, unfortunately, like so many artists he wasn’t fully appreciated while he was alive.” – Natalie Nicole Gilbert on ‘Vincent (Starry Starry Night)’
MIHI NIHIL – ‘BE THERE’
Based in Los Angeles, USA, MIHI NIHIL (pronounced mee-kee nee-keel) is an alternative rock quartet making its mark on the LA music scene. Named after the vocalist Mihi Vox, MIHI NIHIL is gaining positive attention with tracks being released in major motion pictures offering a glimpse in their upcoming self-titled debut album. Working with veteran producer Adam Lasus (Helium, Madder Head), the group has captured a live performance sound and made it digital with a lush, layered and timeless sound.
The debut single from MIHI NIHIL is ‘Be There’. Released in September 2020, the track is a combination of Radiohead, The Clash and Pixies, but with enchanting female vocals. Benjamin Montoya (guitar), Nick Steinberg (bass) and Adam Alt (drums) display their proficiency with powerful instrumentation complementing Vox’ vocals. A heavy track with a killer guitar solo, ‘Be There’ is a hypnotic single that will reverberate through your body and leave you gasping for breath at the end.
“We do all our writing and recording in one room together in a free-flow fashion. ‘Be There’ was one of the first songs that emerged from those moments. It has a very nostalgic feel and the lyrics reflect on losing people, time and wanting to be present. Although written before 2020, ‘Be There’ seems all too appropriately timed for now.” – MIHI NIHIL on ‘Be There’
NASH – ‘EVERY TIME’
Growing up in post-Soviet Russia, music was Nash’s guide to life and self-expression helping him interpret and define his surroundings in a melodic and cathartic fashion. Listening to The Beatles and The White Stripes as a youngster, he became infinitely influenced by the indie-rock sentimentality and sound. After relocating to London, England, the talented singer-songwriter began his musical journey and took steps to be part of the music industry.
In 2016, Nash recorded his debut EP She Don’t Know with producer JB Pilon at London’s RAK Studios. The EP was released in 2017 garnering much positive feedback from publications and radio stations, such as BBC 6 Radio. The rest of 2017 and 2018 saw Nash focusing on live shows across London, but he has returned to the recording studio to bring us his new single ‘Every Time’.
Reminiscent of The Beatles, The Monkees and Dodgy, ‘Every Time’ is a melodic track with simple harmonies. Recorded during the Covid-19 lockdown, the song is a reflection of feelings of isolation and loneliness experienced by people globally. Known for his resonant vocals, Nash’s voice is somewhat haunting in ‘Every Time’. Oddly enough, the upbeat instrumentation complements the eerie vocals enhancing the track’s melancholic sensitivity and sentimentality.
ILONA MAHIEU – ‘IN MY BONES’
Beginning as a solo project for vocalist Ilona Pointeau, the band Ilona Mahieu only formed as a quintet after Pointeau reached university and recruited some like-minded friends. Now, Ilona Pointeau (vocals), Jack Williams (guitar), Sam Appleby (guitar), Mark Fifield (bass) and Emma Taylor (drums) are a genre-defying group with a growing following of their energetic, eclectic sound. The latest addition to their discography is the single ‘In My Bones’.
A follow-up to their single ‘Criminals’, ‘In My Bones’ is a melodic and hypnotising track. Dynamic instrumentation complements the Pointeau’s heartbreaking vocals sending shivers up your spine. Lyrically, the single focuses on difficult relationships within home environments; however, it is the desperation in Pointeau’s voice that emphasises feelings of hopelessness, pain and heartache. While inspired by artists like Bon Iver, ‘In My Bones’ reminds me of Evanescence using an alternative rock style with haunting vocals to increase the significance of the track…or maybe it’s just that Pointeau is highly reminiscent of the mesmeric Amy Lee.
“I wrote ‘In My Bones’ with my best friend when I was 14 about confronting a toxic parent. We bonded over our experiences having struggled with our relationships with our parents. The huge crescendo and powerful breakdown was only added within the last couple of years as the song originally ended with a defeated tone. Being able to take this song from being vulnerable and crushed, and make it empowering and strong feels like the perfect way to conquer my fears of my father and our relationship.” – Ilona Pointeau (vocals) on ‘In My Bones’
CHAYLYN – ‘I DESERVE BETTER’
She began to sing at age three. She began to play the piano at age seven. Since then, singer-songwriter Chaylyn has not stopped playing and making music. Based in Indianapolis, USA, this solo artist is embracing the pop music scene and drinking a lot of her favourite beverage – coffee.
While Chaylyn has only released a few singles online, she has received widespread coverage for her work with a feature on Red Barn Radio and a School Assembly tour with the NextEra artist collective consisting of over 200 shows in seven months. Fun fact: at one of the gigs she face-planted on stage in front of a few hundred people. Moving from her gigging history, we look at her discography with the latest addition being ‘I Deserve Better’.
Her first release in 2020, ‘I Deserve Better’ was recorded with Paul David in Nashville, Tennessee. As the recording was during the Covid-19 lockdown, they were unable to book a studio and used David’s home studio instead. Some online collaboration was also involved with Cremaine Booker recording the cello sessions remotely.
While ‘I Deserve Better’ is a sombre track looking at the challenges of depression and anxiety, it has a smooth, gentle and serene timbre. The simplicity and stripped-back nature of the instrumentation complement and enhances the sincerity of the single. Lyrically, ‘I Deserve Better’ is a poignant song, but it is the warmth, boldness and clarity of Chaylyn’s voice that emphasises compassion and genuineness.
“This song is the story of my lifelong battle with depression and anxiety. Throughout the song, I am speaking to my depression directly acknowledging where it began and the events which caused it. I let my listeners into my mind to see what this struggle looks like for me day to day and bring them to where I am now – knowing that I deserve better than what depression makes me believe. I wrote this song to inspire others to tell their stories of what they’ve learned they deserve better than.” – Chaylyn on ‘I Deserve Better’
JAKOB KUPFERBERG – ‘IT’S (NEVER) TOO LATE FOR LOVE’
Living a nomadic life (and on four continents to date), Danish singer-songwriter Jakob Kupferberg finds solace not in a house with a white picket fence but in music. Using his distinctive acoustic sound, Kupferberg presents a powerful and engaging breed of folk-pop or folk-rock…I don’t know, I just know it’s engaging. Inspired by dissimilar acts, such as Jeff Buckley and Zach de la Rocha of Rage Against The Machine, his songs are politically-charged with an intense sense of fury, but also vulnerability. His latest single is ‘It’s (Never) Too Late For Love’.
Penned in 2016 after experiencing a political awakening in Australia – Melbourne to be exact – ‘It’s (Never) Too Late For Love’ is a rather touching but tragic song. Lyrically, ‘It’s (Never) Too Late For Love’ is distressing, discouraging and disturbing pointing out the despair of humanity in 2020. However, there is a twist at the end that lifts the calamitous veil and instils a sense of hope.
Sonically, the ballad is a melding of Marius Ungureanu’s string arrangements and Kupferberg’s signature guitar tunings. Instrumentally, the track can take you on an emotional journey with dips and ascents in sound, but it is Kupferberg’s husky vocals that emphasise the desperation of the song. Place those lyrics to this stripped-back sound and you have a sincere, sensitive track exuding raw honesty.
“I think one of the great strengths of art is predicting and framing an irresistible narrative about the future. 2020 turned out far different than anyone of us could have ever imagined or predicted. We still have a long way to go, but no matter how much we fuck up this planet it is never too late for love. I wanted this song to reflect one of the greatest and deepest capacities of humankind: to be resilient and able to show mercy and actively loving in a time of great crisis.” – Jakob Kupferberg on ‘It’s (Never) Too Late For Love’
LUCAS AB – ‘ONLY OVER’
Based in New York, USA, Lucas AB is the solo project of Lucas Baumgart. While he began performing as Lucas AB in 2015, it was only in 2017 that Baumgart released his well-received debut single Maybe. Inspired by acts like Phoebe Bridgers, Neutral Milk Hotel and The National, Lucas AB has a moody and mysterious synth-driven sound bridging relaxed dance motifs with insightful lyrics. The latest addition to Baumgart’s repertoire is ‘Only Over’.
Written, recorded and self-produced, ‘Only Over’ is the follow-up to Lucas AB’s track ‘Blue’. Moving away from the experimental dance sound of ‘Blue’, ‘Only Over’ leans towards a more pop sound retaining the dreamy synth-driven ambience. Conceptually, the track is a suspension of nostalgia with a recognition of the present and a mystified awareness of the undefined future. This “weird feeling” is easily captured with the insightful lyrics, wistful sound (reminiscent of 1980’s pop) and a moving sense of longing.
Note: ‘Only Over’ is the second single of 2020 and the first track off Lucas AB’s upcoming EP.
“‘Only Over’ was recorded and produced at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic. Even though it was written in late 2019, its sentiment of being “out of time” resonates deeply with the prevailing themes of living in a pandemic: high nostalgia, listlessness and longing.” – Lucas AB on ‘Only Over’