With the pandemic and resulting lockdown showing no sign of abating, artists are putting their time to good use, and the number of top-quality singles and videos released on a weekly basis is staggering. Here’s a run-through of some singles hot off the press, from easy-going Americana courtesy of a young American artist who has just teamed up with Dr. Brian May, full-throttle modern rock from the South-East of England, to the monthly delights of our favourite Texan, a fine slice of ’80s inspired rock via Wales, before ending with the latest release from a genuine icon. Just click on the artist’s name in bold and follow the link to their relevant video/social media page.
American guitarist and singer-songwriter Arielle recently announced teaming up with Brian May for the first-ever guitar available from Brian May Guitars which wasn’t based on his famous red design. May obviously thinks the world of Arielle and with the upcoming release of Arielle’s new album ‘Analog Girl In A Digital World’ (May 2021) music fans will be able to discover why the Queen guitarist is in her corner. For now, make do with the lush, easy-going strains of new single ‘Peace Of Mind’. Recorded in one take, it’s a delightful, fun Sheryl Crow-esque track that wraps the listener up in a warm glow, like Ready Brek but without the vomit-inducing texture.
With three guitarists in their ranks, Black Lakes (six guys from South Wales and the South West of England) were always going to pack an almighty punch, and on new single ‘Fragments’ they certainly do just that. A thunderous few minutes which serve as a perfect introduction for anyone unfamiliar with the band. A great mix of modern hard rock and alt-metal which at times sparks hints of latter-day Avenged Sevenfold, or Linkin Park without the electronics. Vocalist Will Preston has a powerful set of lungs, and this performance highlights his full range. ‘Fragments’ is expertly produced by the always-reliable Romesh Dodangoda and leaves the listener wanting more, expect the full-length debut album sometime soon.
Thanks to vocalist Celyn Beynon, there are no hiding places at a Black Tree Vultures gig. Standing at the back nursing that one pint before getting a kebab on the way home – no chance- Beynon sees everything, and before you know it he’s cajoled you out of the darkness and you’re doing the walk of shame down to the front. Take James Hetfield’s swagger, add a dash of Brent Smith’s stagecraft, and mix it with some youthful vim and vigor and you have Celyn Beynon. Brand new Black Tree Vultures EP ‘III’ is out now and ‘Veins’ is the lead track and single. Kicking off with a sweet melodic guitar sound courtesy of Aaron Hammersley, ‘Veins’ soon breaks into a killer uptempo slice of muscular modern rock, which cries out to be blasted out from the darkness of a sweaty rock club. Speaking of sweaty rock clubs, the accompanying video to ‘Veins’ is a painful reminder of how much everyone misses gigs.
At times it’s puzzling, and infuriating, why Empyre are not a bigger name in the current rock scene. One of the most consistent “new” bands out there, Empyre are forever evolving, and delve deeper into their core sound with each release. Updating ‘Stone’ from their recent album ‘Self Aware’, the band has taken inspiration from the dark, intense (and at times, pretty fucked up) TV show ‘True Detective’ and given the track a stunning acoustic arrangement. Lead guitarist Did Coles delivers an incredible performance that oozes Ry Cooder-like authenticity, and in Henrik Steenholdt Empyre has a vocalist of some stature: quiet and explosive in equal measures. Available to download from the band themselves for one measly quid, which is nothing really when you think about it, can’t even get two Freddos for that.
Everyone’s favourite Texan Ryan Hamilton delivers the second of his ‘1221’ tracks (one track a month, for twelve months) in the shape of the ‘Déjà Vu, I Love You’, cunningly released in the run-up to Valentines Day. Classic Weezer-meets-Fountains of Wayne with a sprightly step from the ever-likable Hamilton who seems to thrive with this different approach to releasing music. Great, simple power chords, an infectious chorus, and a lighter-than-light feel that makes the listener yearn for the summer, well, at least what might qualify as a “normal” summer. A new Ryan Hamilton track always brings a high sense of anticipation, simply because no-one quite knows what to expect, and with ‘Déjà Vu, I Love You’, Hamilton delivers once again. Stream here, it’s cheaper than a bunch of forecourt flowers anyway.
With her debut solo album inbound, Welsh songstress Chez Kane is finally beginning to get the recognition and column inches that everyone who caught her in Kane’d knew would eventually come. With her self-titled debut album landing on March 12, 2021, via Frontiers Music Srl, Chez has dropped another track on YouTube. ‘Rocket On The Radio’ is an unashamed love-letter to 80s American Rock, a time when the airwaves were full of acts like Vixen, Lita Ford, and Pat Benatar, to name but three. Kane has come up with the ideal throwback to when times were a little bit simpler and MTV ruled the waves. It’s pretty damn near impossible not to imagine this fun, uptempo, banger on heavy rotation back when MTV meant music.
The American pair of vocalist/guitarist Moriah Formica and drummer Brooke C first appeared on the radar with their incredible rendition of Heart’s ‘Crazy On You’, 1.6 million hits on YouTube, and still going strong. Formica channeled Ann Wilson perfectly as Brooke C nailed what was always a percussion-heavy track. The pair are now part of PLUSH, alongside lead guitarist Bella Perron and bassist Ashley Suppa, and the quartet has just released their debut single ‘Hate’. A strong and heavy piece of music, with the dual-guitar working especially well during Perron’s stunning solo, great energy from the rhythm section, and a vocal performance that makes the neck hairs stand on end. Further proof if required that age ain’t nothing but a number. More of the same, please.
Former Flyleaf frontwoman Lacey Sturm is set to release her long-anticipated solo project later this year, and she has kept fans happy for now with the release of thumping new single ‘State Of Me’. A return to Sturm’s hard-rock roots, ‘State Of Me’ is aggressive in places, bouncing and commercial in others. Played at a thrilling tempo with a pounding drum sound, it marks a welcome return from the platinum-selling, Grammy-nominated performer, and along with the previously released new track ‘The Decree’, means that the new album (due summer 2021) has all the makings of an album that will feature in the end of year best-of polls.
Somehow it’s fitting to end this collection of singles with the latest release from a genuine trailblazer, a bonafide, A-List legendary performer: Ann Wilson. Lest we forget, Ann Wilson did reduce her great friend Robert Plant to tears with Heart’s unforgettable version of ‘Stairway to Heaven’, in front of the Obama’s no less. Ann Wilson could sing you a tax bill and you would thank her, and new single ‘Tender Heart’ is up-to-date proof of why she is so highly revered by both her peers and new up and coming vocalists (see Moriah Formica of PLUSH, above). ‘Tender Heart’ is the musical equivalent of coming in from the cold to find a roaring fire. It’s warm, inviting, and instantly pleasing. It’s a subtle showcase of the wonderfully immersive vocal talents of Ann Wilson, and quite simply: perfect.