An Adventure of the Soul: Sophomore Album from @BaiyuMusic “Ayahuasca”

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BAIYU, Ayahuasca

The sophomore album from New York singer Baiyu, is somewhat of a turnabout from her debut release, last year’s Hunter.  Ayahuasca (the name of a hallucinogenic herb which is said to have spiritual properties) allows Baiyu to delve inward and project hopes, dreams, and fears into her songs.  She released a song a month for free throughout 2013, leading up to this release, and some of those songs are included on the album.  

The songs in Ayahuasca are mainly alternatives to pop/R&B songs on the radio, with a few short interludes, though like with Hunter, Baiyu’s strength is to gild her pitch-perfect voice to softer songs which have appealing quiet-power.   “Paper” and “Fire” are very different from each other, but likely the two examples of Baiyu at her best.  Musically the record is at its most experimental with the title song, and lyrically with “Sandman”.  On a whole Ayahuasca is an adventure of the soul – moody, romantic, dreamy.  It’s a great example to display the development of an artist, and Baiyu has much, much more to offer.

Download Ayahuasca for free from her website right here and listen to “Paper” below.

Published in: on December 14, 2013 at 10:59 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Summer Indievescence!! featuring Jarell Perry, Baiyu, Vanessa Elisha, Grids, and Dame

Because of technology and social media, there is so much well done indie music out there just dying to be taken to the next level.  That means someone has to generally invest in it so that tours, merch, radio play, etc. etc. all happen.  Unfortunately, in the music industry there is just no middle class, as Jay-Z has so aptly displayed recently!!  So that leaves it to us bloggers and music fans to spread the word because Jay-Z doesn’t need our help… I bring you Indievescence!!

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JARELL PERRY  “4th of July”

Earlier this year, LA-based R&B/pop singer Jarell Perry released his album Simple Things for free download.  It’s one of the best records of 2013 (a bizarre oversight on my part to my last blog post), and he keeps sending high quality freebies our way.  The latest, in time for the US Independence Day holiday, is “4th of July”, which is the scene for a love that has ended, but which the singer still wants to have.  Like many of the songs in Simple Things, “4th of July” is an emotional affair, flawlessly sung and produced.  If a major label does come along and take Jarell out of indieland one of these days, they will have a huge hitmaker on their hands.  Download “4th of July” using the Soundcloud link above.

BAIYU “Fire”

New York singer Baiyu has been releasing one song a month for free since January, and “Fire” is not only one of her most different and haunting songs, but it’s also one of her best.  To me, a song like “Fire” takes the balladeer Baiyu to another level, which was sometimes achieved in last year’s Hunter mixtape.  It’s got a very low key but dirty synth line that carries the imagery through to the obvious theme of playing with fire.  Baiyu can kill a regular ballad with ease, but hearing a song like “Fire” is much more of an adventure.  You can download it for free in the You Tube link above.

VANESSA ELISHA, Don’t Go (EP)

In follow up to her single “Home To Me”, beautiful Australian singer Vanessa Elisha has released a five song pop/R&B EP, Don’t Go, which includes that lush song still playing on repeat on my iPod.  And if you enjoy the music of the aforementioned Baiyu, then Vanessa Elisha’s songs will resonate with you in a similar way in addition to songs by the likes of Anita Baker, Toni Braxton, Jill Scott… a pleasing hybrid of traditional and new.   You can download the entire EP for free using the above Soundcloud link.  Next best to “Home To Me” would be the memorably understated “Waiting”, though the title song probably features Vanessa’s best vocal.  I’d love to hear Baiyu and Vanessa in a duet *hint hint*

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GRIDS, Grids (EP)

Today, Toronto quartet Grids officially released their debut self-titled EP.  What’s most ear-catching about the music of this guitars-bass-drums outfit is a raw, gritty rock sound that you might associate more with the early 90’s onset of grunge – and in Canada that means early sounds of bands like Sloan, The Doughboys, Econoline Crush, and I Mother Earth – all popular when these early 20’s guys were just kids.  You can hear all four of the songs yourself and download them for free through the band’s Bandcamp page.  The song that sticks in my head is the tightly played “Bathroom Tiles”, which somehow manages to combine the rawness of 90’s Seattle sound with the flourish of early 80’s post punk, and bassist Sean McKee’s voice has Bono moments reminiscent of U2’s Boy or October albums.  Download “Bathroom Tiles” right here.  Grids plays Toronto club Double Double Land on Saturday July 13 along with one of my ongoing favourites, fellow Toronto band River Tiber, so if you’re in Toronto it’s a mere $6.00 cover.

DAME, “Holy Moly”

Dame is an L.A. based singer (née Michelle Armstrong) whose voice is just waiting to be heard.  Think of a blend of Kelly Clarkson-meets-Sheryl Crow-meets-Pink-meets-Amy Lee and you can get an idea of the kind of power and range she puts forth in “Holy Moly”, from her EP Preventions Of Heartbreak.  It’s an interesting juxtaposition to feature a slight kind of phrase like holy moly in a serious song where the singer is looking for her would-be beau to commit to her and not take the relationship for granted through lust – and she’s even willing to wait for him to come around, too.  The video (above) through many close-ups brings this across beautifully and the performance pieces show an earnest style which signals that Dame could be well-positioned for some success soon.  I’m looking forward to seeing where Dame’s songs take her next.  “Holy Moly” is a grower and a keeper.  As a side note, Dame is the companion of TV hunk Matt Lauria (Parenthood, Friday Night Lights) 🙂  

Published in: on July 12, 2013 at 10:15 pm  Comments (1)  
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New Pop Alert: Jake Bugg, Bim, Baiyu, Krewella, Parralox featuring Ryan Adamés, Kim Smith, Pip, and Nick

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Jake Bugg “Two Fingers”

Though he’s already had a #1 album in the UK, I’m hoping for big things in North America for 19 year old folk/rock singer Jake Bugg.  He recently performed several showcases at SXSW and his self-titled album will be released here in April.  Ahead of this is a clever lyrics video for “Two Fingers”.  There’s an interesting contrast between the lyrics and the two children in the video, though there is a worthy theme of putting things behind you and moving on to something better that drives the song along.  Jake’s voice stands out in a crowd, his songs are catchy and one-of-a-kind, and I think he should be headlining some club dates in North America during the year.

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Bim “Stop You”

UK duo Bim, one of my 13 Performers To Watch For ’13, continue to be on a roll with the songs that they are releasing in anticipation of a full sophomore album.  The ride hasn’t stopped since last Fall’s Lifelines EP release.  Following their recent astute and different interpretation of Chris de Burgh’s “Lady In Red” comes more gripping and emotional pop that they perform so well with “Stop You”.  Rebecca and Denmark have amazing connection that few other duos possess, which always makes their songs such a treat, even if they sometimes send you on a rollercoaster ride, you come back feeling all the better for it!  “Stop You” will be available as a free download from Bim’s website http://www.bimmusic.com

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Baiyu “Surface”

Another of my 13 Performers to Watch For ’13 is New York chanteuse Baiyu.  She never fails do deliver a quality song, and continues to release something new for free download each month.  “Surface” is aggressive mid-tempo EDM along the lines of the title song of her last mixtape Hunter.  That she continues to mix it up style-wise shows her diversity and desire to appeal beyond a traditional pop audience.  If these top notch recordings continue, they will take Baiyu and her amazing voice to the next level.

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Krewella “Alive” (Pegboard Nerds Remix)

Chicago dance trio Krewella are out to conquer with their latest release as they make their way across North American slaying audiences in concert.  “Alive” is one of the most boisterous rock/EDM songs to come along in 2013 that looks like it will also be a proper pop crossover hit.  The video of this vibrant remix is nothing short of joyful unbridled chaos.  Watch below.

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Parralox featuring Ryan Adamés, “Silent Morning” 

I already wrote about “Silent Morning”, the mid 80s freestyle pop hit by Noel, as covered by Aussie duo Parralox, back in January.  What will now be the official release of the single features handsome L.A. singer Ryan Adamés in a pairing sure to cause intense dancefloor bliss.  In fact you can catch Parralox and Ryan performing in Miami tomorrow night at Twist Sound Beach to launch this sparkling rework.


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Kim Smith “Jealous Out Of My Head” (Midi-D’s Bootleg Mashup)

It’s a brilliant idea – blend New York-based Aussie singer Kim Smith’s pop-savvy “Jealous” with “Can’t Get You Out Of My Head” by fellow Aussie Kylie Minogue.  The Vibe Kings remix is every so deserving of big city club play, but so is this mashup, which will keep heads spinning while feet dance merrily away into the night.

Cue two more inspired cover versions!

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First up, we have season two contestant from The Voice, 20 year old Pip, who has his ear to the radio and provides a beautiful soulful edge to his version of none other than Chris Wallace’s “Remember When (Push Rewind)”.  He and his band mates take a few liberties with some of the choice of instruments they use to support Pip on the song, but the spirit of the song is more than intact.  Good on you, Pip!  Pip’s 6 song EP No Formalities is currently available on iTunes.

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Second, I get to post this the day before the official release of The 20/20 Experience by Justin Timberlake.  There’s no one better suited-and-tied (hence an older pic of him above) to cover “Suit & Tie” than sweet-voiced Nick, in anticipation of his own upcoming project.  I’m actually hoping that JT himself gets to hear this version – even though it sounds a bit rough in spots, Nick’s vocal finesse (including the rap) just nails it and the man himself would be proud of that.

First Out Of The Gate From My 13 For ’13: New Releases from River Tiber and Baiyu

No sooner than the clock struck midnight on New Year’s and two of my 13 Performers to Watch for ’13 are out of the gate with new releases!

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River Tiber, Synapses

I’ve been waiting for River Tiber’s sophomore album to drop once I found out it was coming this past summer.  Once again, singer/producer/musical whiz Tommy Paxton-Beesley has made it available for free download as he has done with his other releases.  While it’s easily recognizable as River Tiber with its unique blend of pop/rock and clear influences from jazz and classical like on the debut From Now On, this time Synapses explores additions of much more electronic experimentation as well as tribal rhythms that sound like they could be African or South American.  Radiohead meets Led Zeppelin meets Peter Gabriel meets Jeff Buckley meets Philip Glass meets M83 meets BT in more dreamy landscapes that are clearly soundtracks to something visual that we can’t yet see.

We’ve already been introduced to “What Are You Afraid Of” in advance of the album, a song that takes a little time to brew but is certainly a grower.  The other standout songs within are “Reverie”, with vocal bursts that Robert Plant would appreciate; “The Ancients”, with a repetitive guitar refrain that sticks like glue underneath the other elements in the song; “The Star Falls”, whose snappy electronic rhythm ticks away under a soaring vocal backdrop; and “Prophets” which draws from as much early 70’s progressive rock as it might from songs in Buckley’s Grace album.  My new favourite might be “The City”, with an almost too-slight, sometimes gradually disembodied, but compelling and haunting vocal set to a slow steady beat.  As forlorn and isolated as the music may sound, the lyrics seem to be about resolution and moving on to something better.

Synapses doesn’t hesitate to mess with sounds, incorporating dialogue and other samples as a part of its inherent musicality.  Sometimes the notes sound deliberately off-key or too sharp or too flat, but they don’t make the music any less melodic.  It takes a lot of talent to pull this off successfully.

Tommy and River Tiber have created an album that will endure throughout 2013 and beyond.  Synapses begs for mini-movies; Tommy has already created and directed the videos you’ll find on River Tiber’s You Tube page, so there will be more on the way.  Tell your friends about River Tiber and Synapses.  River Tiber plays an album release party on Thursday January 3 at The Drake Hotel in Toronto.

Download Synapses right here.

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Baiyu “Again”

One of the first songs you would have found online for free after midnight on New Year’s Day was “Again” by New York delight Baiyu.  This gal knows how to execute a ballad, and you can feel the finality in the heartbreak at the end of a relationship in both the words and the vocal.  Baiyu plans to release something new every month, which is pretty ambitious in a saturated online world, but her talent is unmistakable and each new song is well worth discovering.  

Download “Again” for free right here.

Published in: on January 2, 2013 at 1:05 pm  Comments (1)  
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BILLCS Music Blog’s Top 75 Songs of 2012 – #75 to #61

As in other years, most of my favourite songs of 2012 boiled down to the following criteria:  Music that makes you feel good and want to dance along, and voices/lyrics that just amazed.  There were several new great voices and faces, some returnees, and of course the completely unexpected.  In order to appear on this list, a song must have appeared and peaked on my personal chart between January 2 and December 17 published charts.  If it hadn’t attained its peak position yet, it will appear on my year end chart for 2013.

Click here to view songs #75 to #61  🙂

Three carryovers into 2012 in our first group of #75 through #61 are The Midway State’s “Fire!”,  Lady GaGa’s “Marry The Night”, and “Angel” by Darren Hayes.  Wrapping up their touring on their Paris Or India album, Toronto quartet The Midway State otherwise took a break from music in 2012, and I hope these talented friends will engage us again next year.  You could hear an excerpt of “Fire!” in Bell Canada commercials, and of course their biggest hit “Never Again” is the ringback for Rogers cellular phones.  GaGa was everywhere in 2012, it’s hard to say where The Born This Way Ball didn’t visit!  But a new Ball is on deck as is her forthcoming album ARTPOP, and I’m expecting a new single sometime in early 2013 to promote her touring in North America.  “Angel” by Darren Hayes was a personal choice to carry over.  You couldn’t possibly ask for a more reverent Madonna cover choice – it kept appearing on my iPod Touch shuffle, and as the vinyl flip side to “Talk Talk Talk”, it landed on my chart after the run of another song on this list, “Stupid Mistake”.  Darren’s Secret Codes And Battleships continued to be one of my most played albums into 2012, and one more carryover from that album is ranked higher on this list.  Watch the stunning video for “Stupid Mistake” and listen to Bright Light Bright Light’s percolating remix below as well.

More than ever, my chart contained a cornucopia of worldwide artists appear more than in any other year in recent memory.  Music has no official borders, only those that the music industry continues to put up which hinders availability of recordings and the ability of performers to tour.  Latvia is represented with singer/DJ/model Markus Riva and his dance rave-up “We Dance 4 Reason”, with another song to follow higher up.  “Turn It Up” is the high energy follow up to “Pitiful” for Portugal’s Carlos Nobrega, who is one of my 13 Performers to Watch for ’13 and has another song much later in the countdown.  The worldwide breakout from France this year is M83 whose hook from “Midnight City” (outstanding video below) is imprinted on the year (and an even better cover version appears higher up on the list), which led to sellout shows around the world.  Canadians Marianas Trench had their most successful year ever with last year’s Ever After album and the single “Fallout” among others.  Lead singer Josh Ramsay not only produced that album but is now a Grammy-nominee for co-writing Canadian label mate Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe”.  German DJ/producers Spencer & Hill paired up with the always amazing US vocalist Nadia Ali for “Believe It”, which is your dance song for weekend release after a hard work week.

There are three UK artists in this group.  Keane had a successful year around the world with their Strangeland album, led by the glorious “Silenced By The Night” this past Spring.  “Lights Out” was the second single from duo Bim’s EP of affecting and emotional electropop, Lifelines.  Bim are another of my 13 Performers to Watch for ’13 And a favourite from her Little Belter shows and the subsequent album, Elouise covered “Could It Be Magic” – less like the Barry Manilow version and more like Donna Summer’s – which turned out to be somewhat bittersweet as the song appeared on my chart at the time of the disco legend’s death.  Elouise is off to dazzle Australian audiences with the Little Belter show in early ’13 – the rest of the world will undoubtedly follow.

Three USA performers round out the list.  L.A. quartet Saint Motel released a quirky but very smart album Voyeur this past summer, and toured to support it.  The band’s singer also is responsible for directing the group’s unique videos, so check out the one for “Benny Goodman” below.  Lana Del Rey’s “Born To Die” dominated airwaves and TV video play at the top of the year and solidified her instant presence on the pop music scene (strangely yielding no Grammy nominations).  And the mixtape Hunter by Baiyu, generating the title song on this list, dazzled enough people to land her as a contestant on The CW’s “The Next” and on my 13 Performers To Watch for ’13 list.

13 Performers To Watch for ’13

One of the most popular blog post’s I’ve written – even these past three years, it still receives many views – is 10 Performers to Watch in 2010.  I revived the format of that post for 2013, as there are too many promising performers who should not go without notice.  My criteria for this list is that the performer is releasing songs either for purchase or free download, and did not just issue one song in 2012.  The performer could be releasing a debut or sophomore album, and may already be signed to a major label.

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BAIYU   exquisite vocalist to soar beyond “The Next”

I was absolutely delighted when New York singer Baiyu was set to appear as a contestant on the CW’s talent contest “The Next”.  She also released a high quality mixtape called Hunter, which contained beautiful ballads, such as the duet with American Idol contestant Paul Kim on “Make Believe” (video below), and sinewy uptempo songs such as the title song.  She didn’t win the New York auditions on “The Next” (to me the show compromised the singer’s style with what they wanted to show on TV) but received exposure to-die-for, and recorded a few other viral cover versions including Melanie Fiona’s “4 AM” and even the Jonas Brothers’ “Paranoid” to tantalize Jonas Brothers fans who got to know her through “The Next” (since Joe Jonas was a judge).  I’m not sure what Baiyu has planned for ’13, but I expect it will be well-planned and chosen, and I can’t wait.  Her gorgeous Beyoncé-like voice at times could put her easily in the big leagues.

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CODY BELEW  our likeable multi-talented underdog from “The Voice”  

Nobody, but nobody, captured my attention on this past season of “The Voice” like Cody Belew.  From his initial performance of “Hard To Handle” (which caused coach Cee-Lo Green to turnaround at the last moment) through compelling renditions of “Jolene”, “Somebody To Love”, the deliberately and massively campy “Crazy In Love” (video below, because it’s just so much fun), and especially George Michael’s “One More Try”, it was easy to root for Cody, who just seized every opportunity to win over both coaches and fans alike.  The transition to nation-wide concerts will be easy, but more critical will be what he records.  All eyes and ears on Cody in ’13!

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BIM   UK duo flaunts their emotions

As I predicted last September, Bim’s EP Lifelines has become one of my favourite and most consistent records of 2012, and their second album is on deck for early ’13.  I stand by my earlier statement that every song within Lifelines – particularly “Lights Out”, current single “Burn” (video below), and “Scream” – is full of intense emotion, powerful vocal interaction, and key lyrical moments that resonate long after the song is over.  Rebecca Rosier and Denmark Davis are a dream team, and I for one can’t get enough.

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GENTLEMEN HALL  Boston collective’s fans are its anchor

After catching the sextet’s appearance at Canadian Music Week in March, I found their EP When We All Disappear growing on me throughout the year, and it is one of my most played records.  The multi-layered instrumentation (including glorious flute) and compelling lead vocals from Cobi Mike and Gavin Merlot made each song from the record a rich experience, especially “All Our Love”, “Blush”  (below), and “Take Me Under”.  Gentlemen Hall has a dedicated following, and quite frankly they could be contently touring every club in North America to appease their fans instead of signing their lives away to a record deal.  But I think the right deal will come along in ’13 for Gentlemen Hall that will take them to the next level for which they clearly are more than ready.

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IN MY COMA  Toronto trio brings out the rocker in you

It’s been on release for more than a year now, but Magnets & Miracles, the debut album by Toronto rockers In My Coma, definitely has durability with its contemporary take on 90’s alt.rock styles through songs like “Believe Me” (video below), “Dreamers”, “Hit Them Down Kid”, and “Losing Sleep”.  Part of the reason for the appeal, which seems to be increasing month-by-month, is the band’s ability to connect with fans and pull out the rockers in them which keeps them coming back to their shows, to the point where they won a contest to open for Sum 41 in Toronto in the Fall.  Keeping this strategy in place, the next logical step is a new record of songs, always tough to do when gigs are what bring fans to the table.  Timing will be everything for In My Coma in ’13 to maintain their momentum – but with their determination they can do it!

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MATTHEW KOMA  major pop voice sounds like no other

Regular readers will know that part of the last quarter of 2012 was spent with me raving about Matthew Koma, his collaboration with Zedd on Billboard’s #1 Dance Club Play chart single of the year “Spectrum”, and his diverse EP Parachute.  Matthew is Major Pop 2012, signed to Cherrytree/Interscope, and his distinct voice sounds like no other – in fact you might think on “Spectrum” and other songs that he is a teen instead of a mid-20-something.  Matthew’s finishing off his upcoming album which is a high priority for me to hear in 2013.  That he is also guy-friend to my fellow Canadian Carly Rae Jepsen is pretty sweet, too.

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MATTHEW KURZ  supurb singer/songwriter has it almost in spades

Matthew Kurz has tantalized me throughout the last two years, first with his free mixtape from last year featuring the gripping and emotional “Fix Me”, and then with a series of originals and cover versions that were posted through You Tube.  Though he hasn’t released much for commercial sale or for free this year, 2012 is pointing in all of the right directions for Matthew with “Moving On” (available on iTunes), but most particularly “One Night (Damn!)” (below), and an absolutely stunning rendition of David Guetta & Sia’s “Titanium”.  While the latter wisely does not attempt to replicate Sia’s higher register, Matthew makes the song his own with its raw urgency.  While I believe he has a songwriting publishing deal, Matthew Kurz’s many talents and music should find a wider audience in ’13.

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LAWSON  UK quartet on the bubble for North America

While the year started off with talented UK foursome Lawson opening in North America for The Wanted, the band was also in the process of recording its debut album for Polydor/Universal UK, Chapman Square.  So once that was done they made a retreat to their native UK to promote singles  “When She Was Mine” (video below), “Standing In The Dark”, and “Taking Over Me”, all significant hits in the UK.  Chapman Square was released… but not in North America.  But upcoming club dates over here should draw out the fans who have become familiar enough with this band that writes its own songs and plays its own instruments to divert their attention from One Direction and The Wanted.  Lawson has the goods and 2013 should be a breakout year for them.

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ANDREAS MOE  can sing anything. writes his own songs too.

2012 has been a whirlwind for Swedish singer/songwriter Andreas Moe.  Dance music fans discovered him as a featured vocalist on songs by Avicii (with whom he performed in Japan!) and John De Sohn (“Long Time” is one of the biggest hits of the year in Sweden).  But Andreas wisely used these successes as a springboard for his own solo work, captured beautifully in his EP Collecting Sunlight, and especially on the title song (animated video below), “My Side Of The Bed”, and his acoustic rendition of “Long Time”.  He even posted a sparkling acoustic performance of Justin Bieber’s “Boyfriend” right after its release.  But Andreas has one of those grounded and diverse voices that can sing anything.  I think greater things are in store for him as both a songwriter and a performer in ’13!

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CARLOS NOBREGA  balancing the pop and EDM worlds and more

Like a few other performers this year, I first discovered Portugal’s Carlos Nóbrega through the essential dance compilation This Beat Is… Poptronik Volume One, where his plaintive pop song “Pitiful” was featured.  With the EDM community embracing the singer as a result of this affiliation, Carlos next released “Turn It Up” in June, and the infectious chorus of this song will lift you up and keep you on a high.  Then he collaborated with producer/DJ Sky Santos for the sultry “I Miss You”, which led in nicely to one of the best (and still somewhat undiscovered) dance party songs of the year, “Music Makes You Lose Control”, a record that reached #1 on my personal chart.  Carlos is another performer who can do it all – sing, write, act, dance, and release all of his songs independently.  The sheer quality of his releases and his determination should make heads turn when his album is released in 2013.

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RIVER TIBER  engaging and unique talent not to be missed

The music of Toronto’s River Tiber has been discussed at length in these posts since the Spring, after I became acquainted with their album From Now On, from which three songs landed on my personal chart, with “Someday” at #1 for six weeks and “Symmetry” reaching #2.  Three concert performances later, and the third one, which I wrote about right here a few weeks ago, speaks for itself.  River Tiber releases its next effort Synapses on January 1, and there will be much more influence in this record by experimental electronica than in From Now On.  It is not to be missed.  Let the additional raves begin.  Watch out 2013!

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STONE WALTERS  honest-to-goodness earthy UK soul

One of the first free downloads I heard to make its way up my personal chart in 2012 was “Home” by Stone Walters.  The song has lyrics rooted in values that anyone can relate to – you know the same ones that you feel at the end of “The Wizard Of Oz”.  Stone has one of those silky smooth voices that could be as easily influenced by classic Marvin Gaye, Otis Redding and Stevie Wonder, as it could by more contemporary singers like Terence Trent D’Arby or Jay Kay of Jamiroquai.  Stone also showed that his boundaries stretch beyond soul with the pop tune “World Keeps Turning” and his softened-down version of Bruce Springsteen’s “Dancing In The Dark”.  While he had a taste of some success a few years back, his more recent songs sound more honest-to-goodness.  Stone Walters deserves another shot as he will easily find an audience that will gravitate to his style and music.


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ZAC POOR  no vocal talent contest required

L.A. based singer/songwriter Zac Poor came to my attention a few years back with an initial release of his own songs such as “She’ll Be Breaking Hearts” and “Silver Screens”, which all attracted some significant buzz… and then it went quiet for a bit.  I think Zac has either a songwriting or record deal that has not yet come to fruition.  But two cover songs he released this past year will surely change that.  The first one is his take on Demi Lovato’s “Skyscraper”.  It’s been oft-covered, but never this well, and it totally blows the doors off of the original with a vocal performance that is sheer perfection, and understated production by MdL.  Had it seen proper release, it could have been a hit all on its own!  Next up was an appealing version of Ed Sheeran’s “Lego House”.  All of this bodes very well for something significant to happen for Zac Poor in ’13.

Cool Clever Covers

As many of you know, it is not my first choice to listen to a cover of someone else’s song as the original almost always is better.  But here are some intriguing choices from some reliable performers you know all too well from these blog pages 🙂

Adam Tyler “One Thing”

As a precursor to plenty of new songs to come from the always-busy Adam, the singer/songwriter has delved into current tweendom with a sharp cover of One Direction’s “One Thing”.  It’s a smart diversion from the original, starting with a gruffer vocal but the song moves along to showcase Adam’s range and perfectly captures the sentiment of the song.  It’s a pleasant surprise from a song that’s been covered a lot since its release.  Listen below and check out Adam’s website.

Matthew Kurz “Diamonds”

So many performers are already out of the gate trying to outdo Rihanna’s version of this Sia song.  To me, this is one song that can be improved on immensely, and Matthew Kurz, who is so adept at his own songs, can do just that, as witness to his triumphant version of “Titanium” this past summer.  His vocal on “Diamonds” actually accentuates the lyrics and once again showcases his fine, expressive voice, giving it a totally different feel to the original.  Listen below and check out his You Tube channel for more music.

Charly Mae, “Your Body”

And you might be thinking, oh who can possibly do this song justice so soon after its release?  You may recall UK singer and resident gal-in-pink Charly Mae Tuffen from these pages earlier this year when she introduced herself with a cover of Christina Aguilera’s “Fighter”, followed by an equally punchy original “4 Ya Queen”.  Well since she had already tackled a Christina song, why not another?  With a re-recorded instrumental track, “Your Body” is simply soft putty when set to Charly Mae’s voice.  She has the range to get the job done as if she owned the song.  More new Charly Mae music will be coming soon so stay tuned to her Facebook page.  Watch her perform “Your Body” below.

Kyle Brylin, “Untouched”

Ever prolific Kyle is so often on a roll that I miss the odd song choice and have to backtrack.  So I re-found his rendition of The Veronicas’ smash “Untouched”, and while it doesn’t sound drastically different from the song musically, the lower register of Kyle’s voice is perfectly suited to it and matches the spontaneous-sounding energy level of the original.  Kyle is great at delving full thrust into the heart of many of his cover choices, and you can get this one as a free download right here.

Baiyu, “Paranoid”

Wait, a new cover of the classic Black Sabbath rocker?  Heh heh… No, New York singer Baiyu logically tackles the 2009 hit by the Jonas Brothers to showcase how she can breeze through a straight-forward pop song.  And what better way than by appearing as a contestant on the CW’s “The Next” in front of judge Joe Jonas?  Jonas fans have latched on to her and this is surely a delightful treat for them.  You can download “Paranoid” for free right here – appearing on “The Next” is only the start for this top notch talent so watch her You Tube channel for more news!

BILLCS Chart #387 – September 10/12

I often refer to my bi-weekly chart as a list of my favourite songs of the moment, but it also serves as a recap of what I’ve been listening to over the last few weeks.

Suffice it to say, my last week has been filled with Chris Wallace songs from his solo album Push Rewind, which was released last Monday, and I posted my thoughts about it in the week.  Lead single “Remember When (Push Rewind)” holds on to #1 on my chart quite handily, the first of what I expect will be a few appearances for Chris on the chart in the coming months.  With three songs on the chart, DATABOY is hardly out of the picture, with “Dreams Are Gold” ranking #2 and the fun “Genius” rising to #13.  Both “Spectrum”s on the chart now surround “Go For Gold” by Kyle Patrick, which rises to #4.  Florence & The Machine stay at #3 with the Calvin Harris remix, and Zedd & Matthew Koma soar to #5 (the video is below if you’ve missed it).  Who will succeed Chris Wallace at #1.  Frankly, I just don’t know yet!

Also climbing within the Top 10 is Bright Light Bright Light with “Moves” from Make Me Believe In Hope at #6 – though it’s not the second single from the album (more on that below).  Right below is “Houdini” in a free download Green Children remix by Foster The People.  New to the Top 10 are Baiyu’s “Hunter” at #9 and “We Dance 4 Reason” from Markus Riva at #10.  Baiyu may get a wild card spot on “The Next” TV show in coming episodes due to her strong performance in the New York City round.  Markus has another single up his sleeve, with a video being shot soon for “Chase”.  The video for “Reason” is below.

You can view the full chart using the link under ***BILL’S PERSONAL CHART*** to the right, or you can click right here. You can hear all of the songs on the chart or watch their videos by clicking on the pics on the chart page.  Any free downloads that are identified are sanctioned by the performer.  There’s always a tiny place at the bottom of the blog post with tags and the statement “Leave A Comment” – please feel free to do so :)

Portugal’s Carlos Nóbrega is close to descending on the Top 10 with two songs, “Turn It Up”, which rises to #11, and the big, bouncy anthem “Music Makes Me Lose Control”, which is the fastest riser, vaulting 23-17.  The trance-oriented “Long Time” by Sweden’s John De Sohn featuring Andreas Moe on vocals moves up to #14 (strange but eye-catching video below), Ellie Goulding’s infectious single “Anything Could Happen” from her upcoming Halcyon album rises to 16, “Benny Goodman” by Saint Motel is up to #19, “Lights Out” by UK duo Bim jumps to #22 as a free download, and “Hurricane” by Kyle Brylin is at #25.

Three familiar faces comprise 3/4 of our debuts.  My next favourite song from young Netherlands singer Jeronimo’s album One Kiss after the title track is the jaunty “Unheard” (listen below), which bows at #20 as “One Kiss” spends its last appearance on the chart after a maximum of 10 (20 weeks).  Then, Toronto’s Colin Munroe unleashed his latest mixtape Unsung Hero mid-last week, and I’ll have some detailed words on that in the week.  In the meantime, his free download of the empowering “Over It”, which I wrote about last week, arrives at #23.  The second official single from Bright Light Bright Light’s Make Me Believe In Hope is in fact the tailored-for-clubs “Feel It”, featuring Mykal Kilgore in a shimmering remix below, at #26.  The last debut, if you didn’t guess it from yesterday’s blog post, is “Yesterday’s Tomorrows” by Jane Badler at #28.

BILLCS Chart #386 – August 27/12 – Be Kind, Push Rewind!

The top of my personal chart is tighter than ever, as DATABOY’s “Dreams Are Gold” gives way ever so slightly to “Remember When (Push Rewind)” by Indiana-born Chris Wallace, which advances to #1 just before the release date of his album Push Rewind (album cover art above, reprise of the video below). There’s a lot of the Top 10 that stays the same – with good reason, the songs on this chart are especially strong – but in the midst there is some notable movement.

Kyle Patrick has been to Singapore, the Philippines, and Malaysia these past few weeks. The house that The Click Five built over there is significant, and Kyle’s “Go For Gold” is making great strides on their charts. From his self-titled EP, “Gold” is definitely winning, and climbs to #6 on the chart. Down further there are two new entries to the Top 10. The spry Green Children remix of Foster The People’s “Houdini” works its magic at #9, while fastest riser “Spectrum” by Zedd featuring Matthew Koma is headed for the upper reaches, advancing 21-10.

Mark Thursday, August 30 on your calendar to watch the New York episode of The CW network’s new show “The Next”. The supremely talented Baiyu is one of four contestants – and her competition had better be on their game! Best of luck to Baiyu 🙂 Her song “Hunter” climbs to #11 on my chart. Her coach on the show is none other than Nelly.

Several other upwardly mobile songs continue towards the Top 10. “We Dance 4 Reason” by Latvian dancer, model, DJ/producer, and singer, Poptronik performer Markus Riva vaults 20-14, followed directly by the long-lasting “When She Was Mine” by Lawson at #15.  Watch their video for the UK Top 5 hit “Taking Over Me” below.  The third chart entry for DATABOY, the splendiforous “Genius”, jumps to #16, with “Long Time” by Sweden’s John De Sohn and singer/songwriter Andreas Moe (also still residing at #7 with “Collecting Sunlight” himself) rising to #17. The feel good vibe of L.A.’s Saint Motel continues at #22 with the swinging “Benny Goodman”, while “Emergency” by Audio Playground with Snoop Dogg is up to #24.

All of our new entries are by performers who have already visited the chart, some more recently than others. We’ll start with a couple of doubles, please. The highest new entry at #20 is the instantaneously ear-pleasing pop of Ellie Goulding with her first single from the upcoming Halcyon album (artwork above) with “Anything Could Happen”. While “Lights” took its sweet time getting to the upper reaches of the international charts, the response to “Anything” should be swifter. Ellie’s free download cover of The Weeknd’s “High For This” continues to climb at #19. Then we have the good natured dance floor fun brought to us by Portugal’s Carlos Nóbrega, whose latest song “Music Makes You Lose Control” (#23) will be sure to inspire much dancing at those upcoming Hallowe’en parties.  The anthemic “Turn It Up” is lifted to #12 as well.

After “Scream” from this past Spring, one could see that UK duo Bim are headed in the right direction as they create songs for their upcoming sophomore album. Their latest single, “Lights Out” (video reprise below), is a free download that combines the emotion of the songs from Scatterheart and some wickedly powerful vocals to create a song that is completely captivating and arrives at #27. Their “Head Over Heels” got to #3 on my chart in 2010. Lastly Kyle Brylin is back with some slick electronica featuring catchy melodies and hooks like we heard last year in “Everything I’m Missing” (#5) and “Never Love A DJ” (#8). From his latest 4 song EP comes the emotional house track “Hurricane” at #28.  So that makes Kyle (Patrick), Kyle (Brylin), and Kylie on the chart – a nice triple play 🙂

AND DON’T FORGET:  A year in the making, the Poptronik festival in Sitges, Spain will be a dream come true for electronica fans on September 1 and 2.  Needless to say I’m jealous of all those who can party on the beach to some great performers, including Andy Bell of Erasure, Markus Riva, Adam Tyler, SIRPAUL, Garcon Garcon, and many more.  Best of luck to all involved!

BILLCS Chart #385 – August 13, 2012 – Might Be My Favourite Top 4 of ’12!

Here’s the list of my current Top 30 favourites, published bi-weekly in these pages, but currently subject to a bit of technical difficulty as I move to new software for formatting purposes.  EDIT:  The prettier web version of the chart is available by clicking right here 🙂

01 01 DREAMS ARE GOLD DATABOY
02 02 REMEMBER WHEN (PUSH REWIND) Chris Wallace
07 03 SPECTRUM (Calvin Harris remix) Florence & The Machine
04 04 TIME BOMB Kylie Minogue
06 05 HOLLYWOOD RAC F/ Penguin Prison
08 06 LOTION DATABOY
09 07 COLLECTING SUNLIGHT Andreas Moe
11 08 MOVES Bright Light Bright Light
14 09 GO FOR GOLD Kyle Patrick
03 10 ONE KISS Jeronimo
12 11 ANGEL Darren Hayes
05 12 SECRET FEAR Daniel Bedingfield
15 13 HUNTER Baiyu
19 14 TURN IT UP Carlos Nóbrega
23 15 HOUDINI (Green Children remix) Foster The People
16 16 CHASING THE SUN The Wanted
17 17 TURN UP YOUR RADIO Monti Montañez
10 18 ALL OUR LOVE Gentlemen Hall
20 19 WHEN SHE WAS MINE Lawson
24 20 WE DANCE 4 REASON Markus Riva F/ Ralph (PER)
New 21 SPECTRUM Zedd F/ Matthew Koma
26 22 HIGH FOR THIS Ellie Goulding
New 23 GENIUS DATABOY
New 24 LONG TIME John De Sohn F/ Andreas Moe
New 25 BENNY GOODMAN Saint Motel
28 26 EMERGENCY Audio Playground F/ Snoop Dogg
13 27 THESE ARE CENTURIES River Tiber
18 28 WAITING FOR THE FEELING Bright Light Bright Light
21 29 NOTICE ME Vincent Did It F/ Quigley
25 30 CELEB Tao Hypah

My current Top 4 songs are going to be hard to dislodge.  This could in fact be my favourite Top 4 of ’12, and only a few other songs released earlier in the year – including Rune RK & DATABOY’S “Memorize Me”, Eric Saade & Dev’s “Hotter Than Fire”, and “Someday” by River Tiber – would be in the mix with them!  What’s going to be interesting is to see who gets a turn at #1, which could happen as early as two weeks from now!  Stay tuned 🙂  PS Chris Wallace’s debut album Push Rewind will be out September 4 as “Remember When” starts to crack radio airplay!!

Fleshing out the Top 10 are some joyous tunes by RAC & Penguin Prison, DATABOY (making it two out of three), former #1 Jeronimo, and Andreas “he’s everywhere (including elsewhere on the chart)” Moe, with new Top Tenners not surprisingly from Bright Light Bright Light (currently kicking it in France – so jealous!) and Kyle Patrick (coping with massive Singapore love).

Special mentions outside of the Top 10  must go to Baiyu, with the title song of her Hunter mixtape resting at #13, as she appears on The CW Network’s new show “The Next” starting Thursday.  Best of luck, love 😀  Then there’s the ever-so-busy Carlos Nóbrega, whose powerful dancefloor filler “Turn It Up” climbs to #14 as he releases yet another new song, “Music Makes You Lose Control”.  This one is Carlos at his best, fun and dramatic at the same time!  Listen to the snippet below – you won’t want to miss out on the full song, so get it on iTunes!  

Foster The People’s Green Children remix of “Houdini” magically becomes the fastest riser, leaping 23-15 while singer Mark journeys through India.  Also on the rise are Darren Hayes’ delightful take on Madonna’s “Angel”, “When She Was Mine” by rising UK quartet Lawson, and “We Dance 4 Reason” by Latvian star and radio DJ Markus Riva.  You won’t be able to go anywhere soon without hearing Ellie Goulding’s magnificent new “Anything Could Happen”, as I wrote about on the weekend, but in the meantime her rendition of The Weeknd’s “High For This” is up to #22.

A common theme throughout 2012 has been a series of unique voices.  One such young man, who, like Andreas Moe, is popping up everywhere especially in dance music circles, is Matthew Koma (ab0ve), who hails from Long Island and was once in a group called Bandcamp.  One of the brightest songs of ’12 and a current Top 5 Dance Club Play hit is the second song in the chart called “Spectrum” by German DJ Zedd, featuring Matthew’s ear-catching vocals that sound like nothing this year has had to offer, as well as some dreamy lyrics (“breathing you in when I want you out…”).  He’s also featured in Alesso’s latest club hit “Years”, and will be touring some upcoming dates with Owl City.  You can hear both songs below plus excerpts of Matthew’s EP Parachute, available on iTunes.

The next debut is of course more from DATABOY, whose Dreams Are Gold album is the full length release that is resonating with me most throughout the year.  Its emotional content, smart stories, and of course amazing beats and rhythms put smiles on my face each time I hear it.  I’ve grown a bit attached to opening song “Genius” – it’s simply a fun song to listen to in the car, and it definitely throws people for a loop the first time they hear it.  I humbly suggest you keep in mind the TV show The Big Bang Theory and a certain animated self-proclaimed genius when listening 🙂 But you’ll have to give it a preview on Amazon:  http://www.amazon.com/Genius/dp/B008F9FV7U and buy it there or on iTunes!

At #24 is “Long Time” by John De Sohn, featuring Sweden’s Andreas Moe, and currently in the Billboard Top 25 of the Dance Club Play chart.  I had some comments about it in a recent blog post.  The full length version appears on Tiësto’s Club Life Volume 2: Miami compilation.  You’ll hear a lot more from Andreas before the year is out!

Lastly at #25 is the quirky “Benny Goodman” by L.A.’s Saint Motel, currently touring their album Voyeur, which I wrote about recently.  Below is a video of the band jazzing up the song and swinging along in a studio performance.  They also released an equally quirky video for “1997”, which you can also check out below.  The band has this neat way of making you watch… 😉