Artists are putting their time during lockdown 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 indie blues-rock from a name you might be unfamiliar with, to some sizzling slide guitar from a Chicago-based songstress: from several UK-based bands just starting out on their musical journey to a genuine rock legend with over six decades worth of experience, the quality is incredible. Just click on the artist’s name in bold and follow the link to their relevant video/social media page.
Multi-award-winning, smoky-voiced, genre-crossing chanteuse Elles Bailey is on a roll at the minute with one killer new track after another. The latest being the sweet, sweet strains of new single ‘Love is Gonna Win’, which is yet another example of the growth shown in a short space of time from one of the rising stars in the UK Americana scene. The warm vocals from Elles are guaranteed to cure you of whatever ails ya, and those slide guitar tones are simply gorgeous. Cracking video to boot, with a fantastic feel-good factor, note to other bands thinking of making DIY videos – go big on the doggo factor!
English singer-songwriter and guitarist Nigel Barker has an impressive background in the movie-making industry: an award-winning film-maker, and writer, as well as an experienced film-editor. But it’s his music, especially his sizzling guitar playing, that is now bringing Barker the column inches. Playing an interesting brand of “Indie blues-rock”, Barker is now on solo album number five, simply called ‘FIVE’ from which new single ‘Yeah, I’m Extra Fly’ comes from. “Interesting” as in the sound that Barker produces, which although is steeped in the blues, it comes across as experimental, fresh, and vibrant. His warm vocals seem effortless, and the spoken-word narrative style (Lou Reed-ish?) suits Barker to a T. The incendiary guitar work on this tale of a drug-dealer viewing his turf is larger-than-life and might just leave the listener wondering why Nigel Barker is a new name to them.
Perhaps it’s the joys of one day still blurring into another or the uncertainty of whether or not a trip to the park is going to bring a pile-on from the Facebook police, but despite the “light at the end of the tunnel” there is something wonderfully melancholic about ‘Once Or Twice’, the latest release from Caroline & The Lights. Think Isabella Rosselini in Blue Velvet-meets-Hazel O’Connor over at Tori Amos’s gaff, this is a vocal performance full of grace and wonder, with a sinister vibe lurking in the shadows. The instrumentation from The Lights is incredible, especially the string arrangements which help the track swell, but it’s the powerful vocals from Caroline Francess that linger on for some time afterward. Entirely familiar, but unique at the same time.
After a line-up change last year, West Midlands’ five-piece rock outfit Chaosaroma deliver their first new music of 2021 in the shape of the rather muscular single ‘Doghouse’. Dual-guitarist bands always bring something extra to the party and Chaosaroma has two worthy six-stringers in Ash Nesbitt (lead) and Hal Steadman (rhythm). Along with a stellar engine room team consisting of Jordan Evans (bass) and Jamie Roberts (drums), they do make a beautiful noise. Vocalist Josh Blake has a powerful, varied voice capable of holding those long notes, but it’s his sense of melody that impresses the most. ‘Doghouse’ is a fine slice of modern alt-metal with heaps of soaring, uplifting, moments crying out for audience participation.
Chicago-based slide guitar virtuoso and singer-songwriter, Joanna Connor, has just released her new album ‘4801 South Indiana Avenue’, and new single ‘Destination’ is the perfect introduction to both the album and Ms. Connor. With Joe Bonamassa at the production helm, as well as playing in the incredible backing band, this is blues-rock par excellence, but with heaps of Chicago soul and rhythm and blues thrown in to help stir the musical gumbo. A cover version of a track from The Assassins, it’s a fiery, roadhouse-rocker that kicks in the door and announces its arrival with a slap around the face. The kind of track that once lockdown is lifted and sweaty club gigs return, will fill the floor. That slide-guitar though – ooft!
Edinburgh-based DMS put time during the lockdown hokey-cokey to good use and managed to get into a studio in-between #lockdown19 and #lockdown20, and new single ‘Games We Play’ is the first material from these sessions to see the light of day. The keyboard sound from Jen Bain helps make DMS stand-out from the pack. It’s crucial in creating a smokey, mysterious atmosphere, and her brooding tones run through the entire six-minutes. Kind of Depeche Mode during their darker, less full-on electronic moments, meets John Foxx-era Ultravox, kind of. Although the keyboards are crucial, the subtle guitar work from Mikey Robertson and rich vocals from John Keenan also play an important role throughout this slow-burning gem of a track.
It’s been an eternity in arriving, but finally, the debut album from Scotland’s Mason Hill is almost here. “Long-awaited” doesn’t even cut it. Perhaps “Thank fuck for that” might be a better choice of words? Thankfully the buzz surrounding the band hasn’t lessened through time and there seems to be a genuine sense of anticipation with regards to the album; ‘Against The Wall’. New single ‘Broken Son’ is another step in keeping the momentum going, and further proof that some things are worth the wait. Slower in pace than previous single ‘D.N.A.’, ‘Broken Son’ is perfect material for slowing things down mid-set without losing the attention of the crowd. Influenced by modern American acts such as Alter Bridge, Shinedown, Breaking Benjamin, etc, ‘Broken Son’ would not sound out of place mid-afternoon at one of the many American festivals like ‘Rock on The Range’ or ‘Rocklahoma’.
Got a hankering for some new symphonic metal? Wrap your ears around ‘Maiden of Snow’ the latest single from Finnish/Greek symphonic metallers Scarlet Desire and let the vocals from classically trained soprano Danae Komodromou whisk you away to safety. With orchestrations from Kamelot’s Oliver Palotai and uber-producer Jacob Hansen involved in the mixing and mastering stages, this is pretty damn lush. Thundering drums, huge classical vocals, and fantastic arrangements all make for an interesting five minutes. The more bombastic, symphonic elements of the genre are toned down here, and the end result should please fans of Visions of Atlantis, Nightwish, et al.
Scottish outfit The Dead Night have released their first music since changing name from formerly Bootsie Blue, and with the darker sounding band name comes a darker vibe. As the band explains: Inspired by the quiet hours walking home from the party or laying in bed when it feels like there’s nobody else in the world. These are the times when a lot of our songs are written and it’s with this spirit we’ve changed our name to The Dead Night. Debut single ‘Caramel’ is intriguing, a little bit of a Jim Morrison vibe to the vocals in places (particularly the sudden rise in volume at specific parts), maybe even a hint of Stone Roses through the music (especially the guitar work)? As debut singles go, this little beauty leaves the listener looking for more.
Hotly-tipped UK act The Dust Coda are in full-on promo mode for the forthcoming release of their highly-anticipated new album ‘Mojo Skyline’ (due March 26th), and new single ‘Jimmy 2 Times’ is the latest release to whet the appetites of TDC fans everywhere. Beginning with a rather nifty guitar-filled intro – a great mix of fizzing riffs and Malcolm Young-esque rhythms – the track steadily builds with several, short bursts of explosive music. The Goodfellas-meets-Snatch narrative brings a gritty sense of realism, and with the addition of a brass section dotted throughout the five minutes, there is a ‘Quadrophenia’ feel to ‘Jimmy 2 Times’. Expecting big things from ‘Mojo Skyline’, but right now “I’m gonna go get the papers, get the papers”.
Bolton-based newcomers Unknown Refuge are gearing up for the release of their debut album ‘From The Darkness’ (due March 26th) with the release of the new single ‘Battle Hymn’. Quite an appropriate title really as it’s the sound of a band gearing up for action, especially with the rhythmic drum sound over the opening few moments; a real call-to-arms. On the album version, a full minute of razor-sharp riffage and bludgeoning bass goes by before the vocals from Alex Mancini come in, warm and confident, full of life. The standard of playing is at times staggering, as is the variety on offer; hints of Metallica throughout the riffage, shades of Volbeat when the band turns their groove on during the breakdown about three minutes in.
Legendary vocalist Ann Wilson is in a rich vein of form at the minute, and new single ‘The Hammer’ is the latest in a line of singles released that should have any self-respecting rock fan purring with delight. With Seattle guitarist Tyler Boley alongside her, as well as current Heart bassist Andy Stoller and keyboardist Dan Walker, Wilson has crafted three minutes+ of music that highlights the heavier aspect of her sound. It’s heavy as in Alice In Chains guitar-heavy, and with some killer organ from Dan Walker, you might argue that it’s not that many degrees of separation away from Deep Purple when they decide to show the kids how it’s done. Great guitar work from Boley, and if it wasn’t for the fact that his name appears on the end credits, you might have guessed that it was Jerry Cantrell helping out. Ann Wilson delivers a subtle vocal performance that stays in a lower register, and although she never really floors it, you just know that she has so much more left in the tank. One of those vocal performances that should be used to teach young vocalists about restraint.