L.A.-based electronic producer @Shoffymusic releases new album “…Onward” led by opening track “fade”

SHOFFY, “fade”

Following up the singles “Nightmares in NYC” and “Love Ya”, L.A.-based electronic producer Shoffy releases his latest full album …Onward, on which “fade” is the opening track. Shoffy’s style is likeably low key and even mysterious at times, though we already heard with “Love Ya” that he can break loose with an infectious dance track. “fade” is seeping with intrigue as we wonder, though one repeated verse, why the singer feels like he’s going to fade away, and Shoffy leaves you with a few sullen images to digest set to a light house rhythm track. It’s an engrossing start to an album of many moods (including one track “Olivia” featuring rapper sIDizen King) filled with consistently slick production.

In “All My Friends”, British alt.rock singer/songwriter @DrewThomasmusic ponders life changes and what you should do about them

DREW THOMAS, “All My Friends”

Drew Thomas is a promising talent from Nottingham whose affable personality shines through the songs through which he lives his life. “All My Friends” has an anthemic Killers-Sam Fender bent about it that fronts the reality that in certain times of our lives things change among friends, and sometimes we’re the spectator waiting for it to happen to us, or perhaps even resisting or even resenting those changes. “All My Friends” embraces that time full on with guitars ablaze and rocks out accordingly, splendidly sung by Drew. With songs like this that would sound great played live in concert (and the video above captures a favourable taste), I wouldn’t expect Drew Thomas to be a DIY talent too much longer.

Rising indie talent @Steven_Thad releases new EP “Mr. R&B” featuring “Goodbye, Farewell”

STEVEN THAD, “Goodbye, Farewell”

Washington D.C. area pop/R&B talent Steven Thad quickly follows up his pensive “Do You Remember” with a new 5 song EP of originals, Mr. R&B, on which it’s included, along with another standout track, the brief but touching “Goodbye, Farewell”. Despite all of the good intentions in the relationship he’s singing about, in this song Steven sings with resignation about one that has completely ended, and in its simplicity you can sense the understandable isolation when he sings of his recurring thoughts about that person which probably won’t leave his head for a while yet. I enjoy Steven’s lo-fi approach to his songs, which are alternately upbeat and joyous, or quieter and ruminating. Be sure to check out the EP and his other songs while you can, most of which I’ve reviewed in these blog pages this year.

Meet British alt.pop singer/songwriter @JoulieFox with stirring track “Running”

JOULIE FOX, “Running”

British singer/songwriter Joulie Fox evokes the sultriness of Lana Del Rey with the power of Marina Diamandis and dashes perhaps of Lady Gaga, Sinéad O’Connor and Julee Cruise. Her new song “Running” focuses on someone getting as quickly away from a relationship as she can, but accompanying this are thoughts awash of unfinished business which will have to be dealt with at another time. It’s kind of an unsavory part of breaking up, but the song’s surreal melody and arrangement and Joulie’s careful, atmospheric vocal breathe it full of intrigue on an atypical musical ride.

It’s “10/10” #28: @Dimash_official @CrashAdamsmusic @hannemjoen @thehim & @brunomartini @allaboutmaggie @jayb1rdmusic @GOSofficial @ScottMagnus9 @HVNNIBVL #Holne

Fine new music releases have been bountiful of late, so it’s “10/10” time again with edition #28!  In “10/10”, I write about 10 hot and fresh songs in no particular order, for your kind consideration and attention.  I continue to write individual blog posts about certain songs.  That does not mean that songs in the “10/10” lists are any less than those featured individually, in fact three songs from edition #27 by Petawane, Showtek and Sage Castleberry, all currently appear on the BILLCS Top  30.  So you get to learn about more new music that I hear but I may not otherwise get to write about.  These songs may even receive airplay on one of the many affiliate online radio stations that are learning about my blog choices and finding them good fits for my radio shows such as “Your Weekend New Music Mix” or “The Big 20”!

  • DIMASH QUDAIBERGEN, “Zhalyn”

He’s a superstar in his native Kazakhstan, but musically the global playing field becomes a lot smaller when you possess talents like Dimash Qudaibergen. He’s a classically trained singer, composer and multi-instrumentalist who can sing in a dozen languages. He can also reach High C notes with ease, which is always remarkable for a male performer because so few can do that. You won’t hear it in “Zhalyn” though, which means “flames” in English, and while it’s sung in Kazakh, you’ll be swept away by the enticing exotic rhythms, arrangement and Dimash’s commanding vocal. Very rarely do foreign language songs cross over into the English language music world, but “Zhalyn” warrants your attention.

  • CRASH ADAMS, “Give Me A Kiss”

It’s one of the brightest end-of-summer songs this year, and “Give Me A Kiss” is another winner from Toronto duo Crash Adams, their first release this year. They always come up with carefully crafted ear candy that rocks out with a goal of making you smile. The accompanying video above, which already has over a million views, is a treat as the duo, sporting matching jackets, shirts and slacks again, take over a part of L.A. to spread positive vibes, complete with the return of their sofa (this time it’s yellow). All that’s needed to complete the circle is for Crash Adams to resume playing some live gigs in the near future.

  • HANNE MJØEN, “I Never Told You”

Hanne Mjøen is a rising pop singer from Norway whose music is beginning to attract attention and resonate worldwide with streams approaching the 25 million mark. She also was featured on Canadian dance producer Felix Cartal’s “My Last Song” last year. “I Never Told You” is perhaps her strongest release to date, with her well-honed vocal set against a bubbly, sometimes euphoric backdrop that supports her story of confidence and being strong, knowing that you can’t always tell the people closest to you everything that goes on in your life. With “I Never Told You” leading the way, I’m sure Hanne’s songs will continue to grow and continue to reach more people through the integrity of her lyrics.

  • THE HIM & BRUNO MARTINI, “Before You Break”

“Before You Break” recalls those points in time where you might want more out of a relationship or situation, but realize that for the best it’s wiser to just walk away. It’s the latest release from The Him (aka Jeroen Kersters) in collaboration this time with Brazilian producer Bruno Martini. It’s a solid house release that veers to the pop side of the spectrum, with an gritty vocal by an uncredited male singer. There’s some pedigree songwriting talent (Toby Jacob and Tiggi Hawke, among others) that have made “Before You Break” happen, so if you enjoy Loud Luxury, Joel Corry or Sam Feldt, then this one is perfect for you!

 

  • MAGGIE SZABO, “Uh Oh”

Hamilton, Ontario-born Maggie Szabo has been releasing her own music for the last decade or so, with her more recent songs getting increasing acclaim, and “Uh Oh” is one of the best of them. It features a vibrant melody with a vocal that has a sweet soulful edge. The production is sheer shiny pop and comparisons to Taylor Swift or Demi Lovato would not be unreasonable. Maggie’s also been a recognizable voice on dance music releases by the likes of Schiller and BEAUZ, and as a songwriter she recently co-wrote “Slo-mo”, the Spain Eurovision 2022 entry by Chanel which won 3rd place. With all of this quality plus the bounty of songs in her portfolio over the past few years, it’s only a matter of a little more time where you’ll see Maggie Szabo on the charts.

  • JAY  BIRD, “Catch Me Again”

Bay area producer Jay Bird returns and continues to grow with his house music tracks with “Catch Me Again”. The theme of the song is familiar and relatable – needing someone to be there for you at the worst of times – and Jay’s synth work and rhythms keep this one moving smoothly. I must say I particularly enjoy the uncredited male vocal. It’s rough around the edges at times but world-weary, and completely embraces the vibe of the song without making it a desperate plea. “Catch Me Again” will definitely leap to attention in the middle of a house set and is a particularly satisfying listen.

  • GATHERING OF STRANGERS, “Red and Gold”

“Red and Gold” is a rocking new anthem for you to add to your list to check out. Gathering Of Strangers is a new quintet from Manchester who channel bands like U2, The 1975 and The Killers to create a refreshing mix with many familiar elements. What is most notable though about “Red and Gold” is its high octane jubilance, which guarantees instant reaction if played live in concert. The band’s tight instrumentation and versatile vocal instills a sense that they are capable of much more than anthemic rockers, so Gathering Of Strangers is fresh and worth watching.

  • SCOTT MAGNUS, “Wanting You Back”

“Wanting You Back” is a song about what people who are seeking a relationship positively dread – being ghosted, particularly after everything seemed to be going along well. Manchester’s Scott Magnus is back, and as you may recall I featured him three times last year in these blog pages with unique songs that demonstrate huge potential, particularly for an artist who has to face living with ADHD, Autism and Dyspraxia daily. “Wanting You Back” expresses the emotion and confusion that’s left when someone has lied. The urgency in Scott’s vocal drives the song and the low-fi production, complete with background chatter and white noise, represents all those colliding, irritating thoughts in our minds when something like this happens, and suits the song well.

  • HVNNIBVL, “Never Enough”

After writing about three of his singles back in 2020, L.A.-based John Hannibal V, aka HVNNIBVL, returns with what could be his best and most accessible one to date with “Never Enough”. The Buffalo, NY native writes about a past relationship which has caused some reflection, but elects to move on, and thus “Never Enough” is actually set to a driving, upbeat melody. What has improved immensely for HVNNIBVL is the production, which no longer overwhelms, in favour of a crisp, clean backdrop that enhances the melody and arrangement. Pop music wise, fans of many artists from Charlie Puth through to The Chainsmokers will enjoy the radio friendly vibe of  “Never Enough”.

 

  • HOLNE, “November Sky”

Meet Holne, an indie pop singer/songwriter/guitarist who hails from Devon, England, and his gentle track about rekindling a past relationship called “November Sky”. What sets this one apart from others is the infectious and relatable chorus, and Holne’s often slight but precise vocal. I’m not sure if this is meant to be a serious stab at getting someone back or just wishful thinking but you can decide for yourself. “November Sky” is eloquent and sincere, and will appeal to fans of James Bay, James Morrison or Benedict Cork.

Pet Shop Talk, actually.

Note:  This interview took place in July 1987 in Toronto, and was originally published in the defunct national trade magazine ‘Campus Entertainment Report Canada’.

 

Keyboardist Chris Lowe, one half of the U.K. duo Pet Shop Boys, has just got up and changed the TV channel from MuchMusic to “Sesame Street”.  His partner, Neil Tennant, is out of the hotel room, probably grabbing a breather from a morning of phone interviews at midday.

My brief chat with 27 year-old Chris, a former architect, includes topics such as “bonus” songs on CD’s (he doesn’t feel they are necessary), remixes of albums for different countries, and parts of the technical end in making the Boys’ second album actually.  It’s clear he enjoys talking about details because they can affect all or part of his music.

Neil returns and, as you’ll discover, the 32 year-old former editor of the UK magazine Smash Hits loves to talk, and talk, about Pet Shop Boys.  It’s hard to believe that these two bright chaps from London could have so influenced rock-oriented dance music in the two years since their remarkable debut Please, which spawned the worldwide #1, “West End Girls”.

“I think we’ve got a ‘sound”, Neil generalizes, “and I think on actually we’ve got a bit harder.  It’s just that Pet Shop Boys’ attitude is a bit like punk’s in a way.  We’re not hung up on nor interested in musicianship.  We do what we want and sing what we want to sing about.”

Like Please, actually revels in well-weaved syntho-rhythms which simply make you want to dance.  But it takes the music of Please a touch further using complex dance mixes and some unexpected experimentation instead of relying on a streamlined focus.

“We don’t sing patronizing, do-me-good sort of songs,” Neil explains.  “We champion styles of music which have been sneered at, like Hi-NRG and Eurodisco.  They’ve become fashionable partly because of us.  The public loves it, so the UK charts are filled with it – not so much with Pet Shop Boys, but certainly Stock-Aitken-Waterman (producers of Bananarama, Samantha Fox, etc.).  They have great melodies, they’re hard, dry records.”

Chris maintains that there are ‘post’ Pet Shop Boys bands about.  Even a UK commercial for a men’s cologne has used the melody of “West End Girls” to its own advantage.  Suddenly, Neil anticipates my next question about a major name similarity.

“Some people [this writer included] think that New Order’s “True Faith” sounds like us.  I don’t think it sounds like us particularly.  To me it’s New Order.  There’s a slight chord change, but people say to us, “it’s you, it’s your sound”.

Stephen Hague may have produced Please and co-written and co-produced “True Faith”, but the only real aspect that runs through actually as rampantly as Please is the familiar sense of melodrama.

“We do like melodrama,” Neil admits – “Chris has this famous quote, “Tchaikovsky wrote through me and it worked!”  We like music with a lot of strings and dramatic chord changes, and those arrangements go well with a sequencer bass line.”

Neil described “It’s A Sin”, the first hit from actually, publicly as being an ‘over the top’ arrangement, and Chris says the song had to be that way “specifically with its religious angle and gothic slant.  Once you decide to go gothic you can’t hold back.  You’ve got to have bolts of lightning and so on.  We actually went and recorded it at a church to get the ambiance so we could get that scale.”

Similar to, but not inspired by, the film “The Name Of The Rose” (“a film neither of us has seen”, says Chris half-knowingly, half-jokingly), is the video for “It’s A Sin”, for which Neil has a wonderful anecdote.

“When we wrote it four and a half years ago, it was more supposed to be like “Joan Of Arc”.  I was going to be burned at the stake, and in the end Chris was going to light the bonfire.  The video crew later kept saying, of course, “You couldn’t be burned at the stake ‘cause they won’t show it on television”.  We got Derek Jarman, set director on the Ken Russell film “The Devils” and director of “Caravaggio”, to direct.  It’s quite slow paced, full of monks and such, with the right atmosphere.”

Pet Shop Boys seem to want to give a full picture of what their music is all about.  In their short existence, they have had carte blanche over their records, complete control since their first release.  Now you know the many mixes of “West End Girls” and “Opportunities” were their own doing.  This led them to use mix-meisters Julian Mendelsohn and Shep Pettibone as co-producers of some cuts on actually, in addition to two from Stephen Hague.  The Boys simply wanted other input.

“We had just done a remix of “Suburbia” with Julian, so we approached him.  With Shep Pettibone, he had already done a few remixes (“Love Comes Quickly”) for us.”

Many performers would see “WARNING” lights flash at this point, as Chris acknowledges:  “The only danger of doing this is that the album doesn’t hang together”.

From the extended remix of “One More Chance” (an old song of theirs) through the Boys’ match with Dusty Springfield on the Top 5 “What Have I Done To Deserve This” – from first listen, the certifiable hit here, with a fantastic melody structure – to the more offbeat “It Couldn’t Happen Here” (co-written with film score veteran Ennio Morricone), actually does indeed hang together.

“Everyone was worried it wouldn’t!”, Neil exclaims relievedly.  “It was all us.  We knew what we wanted.  We realized people liked what we like, the dance remixes.  We tried to make the dance tracks a lot harder and looser.  (The cuts) are longer and looser than everyday pop songs.”

This will explain why another set of remixes, like their Disco EP of late 1986, will surface soon.  The Boys’ UK #1 cover of Elvis Presley’s “Always On My Mind” will be on that record; it has just been released here as a single, though it’s not on actually.  The new UK single returns to the current album, and it’s the high-powered track “Heart”.

Actually, actually, has gotten Pet Shop Boys over that perpetual sophomore jinx which halts new performers regularly.  It will likely be regarded in future as a significant record which marked progression for both 80’s dance music and Pet Shop Boys.

One last question:  That title, actually – here’s Neil again:

“We decided on the title while working with Shep Pettibone in London.  When Chris and I would walk in and listen, both of us would say “Oh, it sounds quite good, actually”, and he’d get irritated by the faint praise he never got from us.  He said one day, “Is that all you guys say, “quite good, actually”?  We said, “Well gee, actually we’ll name the album that.”  It seems to fit.  Please had a very English title too.  Actually is a lot more pushy, confident.  Like Please, it’s a joke as well.  When you go into a record shop and say “What’s playing?”, the reply could be “It’s Pet Shop Boys, actually”.

#BILLCSTop30 #648 – September 12/22

It’s time for us to bid adieu to our summer favourites to make room for what will become choices songs for the balance of 2022. This summer has offered some of the most memorable music of the year, along with a number of performers playing live at concerts and events either in my city of elsewhere. Yes, it’s finally starting to look a lot what normal looked like pre-pandemic. Since Billboard has not resumed its dance club play chart – and maybe they still might do that once their chart year finishes in November – it’s time for focus to get away from dance music radio airplay, where the music biz has placed it for dance releases, and back into the clubs which has always been where the tastemaking begins.

Make sure you read about my frequently updated ONLINE RADIO AFFILIATES (see details after the post)!

Jessie Ware scores her first #1 on my chart since 2014’s “Say You Love Me” with her killer track “Free Yourself”, which vaults 6-1. Although she’s been playing select dates in North America, including ones opening for Harry Styles, I hope she’ll get a proper tour going early next year. 

Francesco Yates’ “Jimi” also moves up 5-3 as he continues his tour opening for the Backstreet Boys in North America. “Jimi” ties at his #3 highest peak to date with 2020’s naughty “Late Night Love”.

“Ophelia” by Swedish pop/rock trio Louis Pax moves up 11-9 and becomes the group’s second Top 10 this year following the #1 “Bad Things”. Watch for more great things from these talented guys, who have a real flair for capturing 80’s pop vibes and meshing them with today’s sounds.

Also new to the Top 10 is the Fastest Riser of the week, former UK #1 “Afraid To Feel” by Scottish production duo LF System, which soars 19-10.

I don’t think Future would have ever seen his 2012 hit “Turn On The Lights” revived as a festival anthem 10 years later!  UK dance favourite Fred Again.. teams with Swedish House Mafia to put a progressive spin on the song as “Turn On The Lights Again” climbs 18-11.

Moving up within the Top 20 at Top 40 radio in Canada is “Summer Nights” by Orangeville natives DVBBS with Brandyn Burnette, which rises 17-13 on my chart.

NYC’s Robbie Rosen has two songs quickly moving up the chart. “Stained Glass” (above), his collaboration with Germany’s Severman and India’s Arshan Joel, climbs 20-14, while the infectious but short “The Boss” (below), made with French producers Coopex and Charles B, zips into the Top 20, up 26-17.

It will go down as one of the more uncharacteristic hits of 2022, and is currently #2 on the Billboard Hot 100, but “Bad Habit” by R&B/pop singer/songwriter Steve Lacy is one catchy winner of a track, and it rises 24-16.

“Welcome Back Home” is a rollicking but thoughtful house track by Dutch producers Showtek and NYC’s MC Ambush that climbs 25-21.

“Full Force” by Italy’s Luca + Giam and Florida singer/songwriter Sam Merkin is off to a fine start, moving up 28-22.

The Highest Debut belongs to diverse Michigan singer/songwriter Sage Castleberry with “I Kinda Like It”, which bows at #27. This is an instantly likeable track that’s all about being okay with not having a relationship with someone, something that most people will immediately identify with and appreciate.

Next at #28 is Florida singer/songwriter Tonner with “Castles”. Tonner has been behind the scenes as a producer and a member of Tik Tok favourites The 502’s, but “Castles” is a light and respectable pop/dance release, somewhat reminiscent melodically of Marc Cohn’s “Walking In Memphis”, at least to me!

The final new entry at #29 is the fun and anthemic “Timebomb” by L.A. production duo Two Friends along with Minnesota singer and rapper Mod Sun, which I heard first when I saw Two Friends perform in June, the day before its release. Two Friends have visited this chart as remixers and lead artists, but it’s a first time for Mod Sun, whose fiancée happens to be Avril Lavigne.

View the full BILLCS Top 30 right here!  Click on the hyperlink on the song titles to hear the songs or watch the videos!

Listen to the BILLCS Top 30 Songs on Spotify! You can also follow me on Spotify at the following link:  BILLCS Top 30 Songs.

ONLINE RADIO AFFILIATES

You can hear me and many of my blog choices on this growing list of online radio stations and features! 

Radio GTA

Listen to The Big 20 from 10pm to Midnight EST on Wednesdays as “The Musicman” James Rogers and I bring you the latest in new songs.  The show also repeats on Saturday mornings at 10 a.m. EST and Sunday mornings at 2:00 AM EST.

On Saturdays and Sundays from Noon to 6pm EST I bring you “Your Weekend New Music Mix” six hours of commercial-free music from the 2000’s including many song choices from this blog.

Halton Hills Online

“Your Weekend Music Mix” has a second home on Saturday and Sunday evenings from 8pm to Midnight EST! It’s a different mix from Radio GTA’s show, and like that one it is also commercial free. “The Big 20” also airs on this station at 6pm EST Saturdays.

The 3D Variety Show by Planet Radio Canada

I’m featured Tuesdays between 7 and 7:30 pm EST with my New Music Pick of the Week which debuts every week on “The 3D Variety Show” with “The Musicman” James Rogers, and I also join occasionally for looks at music from our past through some live segments.  A repeat of “The 3D Variety Show” airs on Wednesdays at 7pm EST on Radio GTA.  My pick of the week airs 20 times during the week and you can view its schedule by clicking here.

Modern Hype

This is a weekly show hosted by Hunter Wilbur that airs on several online stations but is anchored at Mix88.ca on Sundays beginning at 8pm EST.

For other details about the shows, such as dates and times of broadcasts, go to my home page and scroll down to the bottom right side!

 

 

After a 3 year absence, @SimonCurtis returns with tender anthem “FAIRYBOY”

Simon Curtis, “FAIRYBOY”

He’s back after a three year absence! L.A.-based singer/songwriter Simon Curtis has given his Robot Army the tender anthem they need with “FAIRYBOY”. It’s the third single (following “Ketamine” and “I’m Not Sorry”) from his forthcoming album, which will be his first in 11 years. “FAIRYBOY” takes its jumping off point perhaps from Simon’s earlier “Laser Guns Up”, except that with this song Simon directs his attention to a younger LGBTQ2S+ audience to reassure them that being different is completely okay. It also takes a cue from earlier releases as a touching song in a long quest for love, but this time with a more hopeful slant. Like his earlier songs, “FAIRYBOY” is bold in is intentions, to the point where its title is spelled out every time, the aural equivalent of being in neon (or maybe rainbow) lights. This is the kind of song Simon’s fans have been waiting for, and I think many new ones will love it too, and perhaps discover his previous album R∆ or even the underappreciated classic 8bit Heart (still available for free download at www.simon-curtis.com) in the process.

Toronto-based electronic dance producer @Fambamusic unleashes new rave-up “Forever”

FAMBA, “Forever”

You’ve got to hand it to Famba for staying true to his craft as an electronic dance producer. While he’s had considerable success with Canadian Top 40 pop hits (“Wish You Well”, “Swear To God”) and worldwide dance hits (“Storm”), the Halifax native but Toronto resident’s latest release called “Forever” is created with dance clubs and festivals in mind, now that they are all back in very well-attended business. “Forever” is powered by a fierce uncredited female vocal set to an irresistible trance-influenced deep house rhythm guaranteed to make you bounce. “Forever” should be a no-brainer for club DJ’s, as another catchy, driving dance track to keep the pace of the evening moving along.

Australia-based Singapore singer/songwriter @StHumain delivers compelling “Memento”

ST. HUMAIN, “Memento”

“Memento” is a tightly-woven package of thoughts and rhythms as delivered by Sydney-based Singapore-born singer/songwriter St. Humain. It follows up his infectious single from earlier this year which I wrote about, “Sick Sad Love Song”. In this release, St. Humain encourages you to hang on to good memories as souvenirs of past relationships. While memories do fade, we often miss past lovers at times, and “Memento” helps us keep close to our hearts what we cherish the most.  It’s got bold, Latin-influenced rhythms and continues to showcase St. Humain as an engaging, chameleon-like persona helping to positively represent the Asian community in pop music. “Memento” will entice you with its intrigue and openness all set to an intricate, well-crafted production.