Music Review: Dhana – Confessions of Lily Rogue EP

Hi all…

More than a year ago, I reviewed Taxi Doll‘s album Here and Now and loved it. I’ve always had a soft spot for electro-synth-pop and Taxi Doll scratched that itch beautifully. Now lead singer Dhana Taprogge has released a new EP of solo material called Confessions of Lily Rogue. Deeper than Here and Now, Confessions offers a slower, more reflective approach to the music and lyrics.

In this slower, solo context, Dhana’s voice provides a textured, emotive counterpoint to the contagious dance beats of her work with Taxi Doll. Don’t let that statement fool you into thinking there’s no bite here. These songs deal with the fact that relationships aren’t always wine and roses…

Love is funny. Sometimes one person loves another and that causes tension. But what happens when someone you think of as just a friend finds another lover and you find there’s a spark of jealousy there? “Not Enough” focuses on this odd kind of love affair that happens every day. “You had a thing for me, but you faltered…” and “Today, you broke a piece of me, you had to leave me for another…” Smoothly orchestrated with strings, keyboards, and a heartbeat drum beat throughout, it’s Dhana’s voice that connects the threads without being trite or overly dramatic.

The video for “Not Enough” has a trippy, kaleidoscope feel:

“Wanted” moves on with more keyboards and strings, again keeping it slow as Dhana sings of love and loss. “What you wanted / is gone…” and the person left behind is struggling. “Little pieces of broken glass / just a memory, time has passed / tiny puzzle of tears and sorrow / what you gonna do tomorrow…” where “breathing is a painful thing…” Most people I know have had those moments where love has faded away and they’re not ready to let it go. But the chorus speaks of hope – “Probably better this way / you’ve had enough / now go and make the change…”

The next song, “Low”, has a bit faster beat as Dhana sings of someone seeking to lose themselves as a friend wonders “how low / can you go / love how low / can you go…” No matter how far you run, you can’t run away from yourself. This one has another beat and melody that reminded me more of Taxi Doll’s infectious beats.

And “Feel Right” deals with that tough spot in a relationship when you want to be with someone, “but it just don’t don’t feel right.” It’s that moment when the conflicted heart pulls and pushes and your head has to step in – “my head is straight when I’m far away” but “when I’m far away I’m still wanting you / and it just don’t feel right…” But when you’re with that person, for a while you can forget things don’t feel right – eventually though, the regrets and doubts pile up.

Also included is an acoustic version of “Not Enough,” which unwinds a bit of the electronic vibe of the track in favor of a stripped down feel. Dhana’s voice comes through loud and clear and the piano and strings don’t overwhelm her at all. That said, I think I like the version with electronics a bit better with its fuller sound.

I love Taxi Doll, but have to say I was impressed with Dhana’s solo work. The EP takes her voice in different directions focused on a darker side of life than the typically upbeat electronica of her band. I think if you like Taxi Doll, you’ll love hearing Dhana’s solo work with Confessions of Lily Rogue. Though I love the EP, I’m hoping Taxi Doll will releasing great music as an ensemble for many years to come and we hear new music from them soon!

For more about Dhana’s music, visit her website at DhanaMusic.com.

This article first appeared at BlogCritics.org here.

–Fitz

p.s. Also check out Taxi Doll’s release here:

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Music Review: James Maddock – Sunrise on Avenue C

Hi all…

Who knew it was possible to sing cheerfully about heartache? James Maddock has certainly had his share. He had a taste of stardom in 2000 and then hit bottom as he adjusted to life in the States, saw his marriage fail, and had his record label decide to drop him and not release his follow-up album to Songs from Stamford Hill with his band Wood. After that round of bad luck, Maddock disappeared from the limelight. But he didn’t give up during the last 10 years.

In 2009, Maddock came back and is telling stories through the tracks of Sunrise on Avenue C. Each of the twelve songs tells a bit of the story about a relationship beginning, waning, and possibly ending. It’s a rare thing to find an album crafted to be listened to beginning to end. But when you find such an album, I feel you should enjoy it the way it was meant to be heard instead of picking and choosing individual songs.

These songs have a little of everything – strings, guitar, piano – and beautifully constructed melodies and lyrics. It’s obvious he took his time getting this effort “just right” before releasing it to the public.

Among my favorites is the title song “Sunrise on Avenue C” which expresses the doubts in all relationships and the little restarts we go through now and then to keep love alive. Maddock’s breathless voice sings… “We came to make this place our home / you say you’ve had enough you’re movin’ on / … / you say nothing’s quite the way it seems / forget the past, we’ll start our lives again / don’t shake your head ’cause baby I know we can…” I think all lasting relationships have those moments and the rise and fall of the song captures those rises and falls in relationships nicely.

“When You Go Quiet” is another of my favorites. “There’s one thing that you do when you’re not ok / you don’t bang on the walls / you don’t return my calls / when you go quiet… it’s when I know you need to talk… ” Again, Maddock’s captured one of those universal truths in most relationships – those little things we keep an eye out for that indicate something’s not right. And it’s then we need to listen and find out what’s wrong. Tough to pass up a little relationship advice in a song.

All through the album, the music is consistently excellent. From the upbeat piano of “Chance” to the amazing guitar and strings rhythms of “Hollow Love” and the rock/blues guitar of “Straight Lines,” Maddock has put together a relationship album weaving together a tapestry of stories and tunes from beginning to end.

So if you’ve been wondering what happened James Maddock since he hit the airwaves in 2000 and toured with the likes of Paula Cole and Train, look no further… James Maddock is back and in rare form with Sunrise on Avenue C.

Be sure to check out his website for album and tour details at JamesMaddock.net.

–Fitz

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