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  1. Hi, guys! It's time for the new PHF Song of the Week! I know how excited you are! This week I have been thinking about a lot of stuff - mostly reflecting on my life. I've recalled all of the bad things that happened and all the good times. One day I finally realized that I am at a good place right now. But then I started thinking about other people. We read the news every day. Sometimes it's about Korea threatening the USA and sometimes it's about Selena Gomez hitting x number of likes on her new photo on Instagram. One day, I was scrolling down my Facebook feed because I was bored and I bumped into an article about Venezuela. If you aren't familiar with what's going on there right now, let me tell you. There was a so called Venezuelan Constituent Assembly election in which the Venezuelan government chose to take a step closer to dictatorship. What does it mean for poor Venezuelans? The country will become fully communist. The government will have total control of international and national media. Even internet access will be regulated by the government. Furthermore, the new president Nicolás Maduro will stay in control of the country until the day he dies or selects a successor. Finally, the government will take over all private properties. From stores and businesses to people's own homes. It seems like an abstraction for us, inhabitants of civilized, democratic countries. However, that stuff really happens on Earth. Nevertheless, we don't really have to look that far to see examples of a person trying to take control of their nation. Let's not forget who the president of the USA is. Donald Trump has been signaling his authoritarianism for some time now in various ways - ranging from his fear-mongering demagogy on immigration and crime, to the ways in which he praised Putin as a more effective President than Obama. And what about all of the recent terrorist attacks? ISIS tries to spread fear among us when they launch their attacks. They want us to believe that we can't be safe anywhere. That they are stronger and much more powerful than we are. Seeing the ways in which the media speculate about new probable attacks, ISIS continues to achieve their goal. Here comes a question: should we actually fold under the pressure? Should we allow the fear to take over our brains and make us afraid of being shot or persecuted? Considering all these facts and trying to find the answers to these questions, I had one one song in mind. Not even the whole song, but a verse. It goes like this: "Tell me what we're fighting for. I don't wanna fight your war right now." Alexz Johnson in her new song 'Right Now' seems to give us the answers. She strongly opposes the "superiors" who try to rule over us. She says, "I never knew the situation. Didn't think that it was one of those kinds. From a different generation, you can't deny this is a stranger time." Just like me, Alexz seems to be lost somewhere in this world. When I was a child I never paid too much attention to what was going on in the world. The world seemed to be a much more joyful place where I always felt safe. That's why, now that I am older, it strikes me how much cruelty, hatred, and hostility we can encounter on a daily basis. It is no longer Arcadia - the land of luck and happiness. That utopian vision turned into chaos at some point. Later, Alexz mentions an issue which she can personally relate to which is immigration. The singer is a Canadian native who is currently living in the US. She sings: "You think you're safe behind a passport. You were shaking in the airport line. Telling stories you were hearing. You can't deny someone could lose their mind." She gives us a taste of how uncertain an immigrant's life must be in a world that builds up borders. Then, in the chorus, she says she doesn't want to play somebody else's games. She is a human being and not a counter. The song is truly poignant and relatable to the days ahead of us. The song itself perfectly showcases Alexz's soft crooning. Her voice is not filled with anger as we might have expected from an antagonistic song. It is rather melancholic and soulful. What really amazes me in Alexz' music is her astounding ability to express certain emotions through her voice. Whether she sings a powerful break-up song (like 'Skipping Stone') or a broad love song (like 'Back Of The Room'), you don't have to even pay attention to the lyrics to know what emotions she wants to convey. Noteworthy is the fact that she is also a genius songwriter. Her lyricism is something which has touched my heart since the first day I heard any of her songs. Alexz Johnson's new album A Stranger Time is out this Friday! Buy a physical copy in her official store or pick it up on iTunes!
  2. This Friday, Alexz Johnson dropped her long-awaited third studio album A Stranger Time. I hardly ever review albums, but after listening to this one I was inspired to express my inner thoughts on the project and encourage you to buy or stream it to experience its perfection on your own. Like always, you need to create a good atmosphere to enjoy it the fullest! I lit three candles while it was dark outside. I put the candles on the windowsill and played the album through in one uninterrupted listen. Firstly, let me review the album track-by-track, and then I will proceed to my thoughts about the project overall. 1. Breathe I have to admit that there's a cacophony of instrumentation in this song, but after listening to the rest of the album I'd have to think it was done on purpose. What really stands out to me is the climax of this song: it becomes super rocky. What's also noteworthy are the little details in it like the sample of someone breathing. Alexz has posted a short video clip on Instagram of her singing this song with her guitar only, and I have to tell her that I'm gonna need a full acoustic version of 'Breathe' like yesterday. Hopefully, she will post some acoustic videos on her YouTube channel. Overall, 'Breathe' is a fantastic opener. 2. Careless The first thing that came to my mind was, "I love the beat!" - it is truly eargasmic. The song is also amazing lyrically (although so are all the songs on this album). What is funny is that we went from "potatoes in a bowl" (a line from the song 'Nothin' on Me' from Alexz's EP Heart released in 2014) to "ships and postal slips, little poker chips". She is finally done with her not so well-structured food metaphors! There is also a lot of water vibes on this album. In 'Breathe' she literally sings, "Let the rain wash all this sadness out of me/Should I drown in my sorrow?/Tomorrow, underwater I will learn to breathe/I will learn to breathe"; and the intro to 'Careless' brings the association of waves rocking back and forth. I wonder if that was intentional. 3. Aftermath This song is probably my favorite from the whole album. It just needs to become the second single! The production, the vocals, and the lyrics are everything. The reverb in the vocals is crafted perfectly. Moreover, the intro of this song is very similar to 'Swallowed' from Alexz's scrapped debut album Weight. When I listen to it, I keep wanting to sing, "Oh my darling, can we find a way out..." To me, it feels like the sequel to 'Swallowed' which brings back so many amazing memories, and which must be the reason why this song is a fan favourite. For me, these lyrics are also comparable to what I experienced after coming out - confusion, self-hatred, insecurity, and vulnerability. 4. Right Now This song was the first single promoting A Stranger Time. At first, I was a little bit disappointed with it, as I didn't really enjoy the production and the chorus seemed a little too repetitive. However, now that I've had the opportunity to listen to the full album, I'll admit that 'Right Now' makes more sense in the context of the other tracks. At the same time, it's unlike anything else on the record with the additions of the guitar work, some of my favorite instrumentation on the album, and the cascading sounds during the dissonant chorus. That sound plus Alexz's mesmerizing voice echoing in the background signify, in my opinion, all the people trying to impose their opinions on you. Moreover, the way in which the guitar revs up at the end of the second verse and leads into the chorus though is truly remarkable! I am so hyped to see the music video to this song that Alexz has been teasing on her social media. I'm sure that with the visuals, the song will grow on me even more. 5. Never Love Me Back As far as I can tell, this song is most people's second favorite from the album (after 'Aftermath'), and I can see why. This song is probably the only one out of the whole album I can see being played on mainstream radio, as it's really catchy. The song is chill, yet the melody indicates happiness at the beginning. However, when Alexz starts singing, the mood shifts to sadness and the song kind of clicks together. Her vocals are notably excellent here, especially at the end where she adds her characteristic shouting in the background. The lyrics are totally relatable to anyone who has ever been in love when the feeling was not reciprocated. 6. Run For Your Life The first association that came to my mind when I heard the intro was, "Oh! Alexz is giving us those Joanne vibes!". However, when Alexz's voice burst through, I immediately changed my mind as she sounds nothing like Lady Gaga. She doesn't follow the new country trend in pop music either. Instead, this song is more like the cinematic music she was aiming for with her debut album Voodoo but done much better. It sounds like something straight out of an old western film and I am living for it. I can imagine one of these trademark western scenes where two cowboys are standing in front of each other with their guns out waiting for the other to shoot. This one is my third favorite song on the album. 7. Man Like You On first listen, I thought that this song's production was a little too rough - it sounds more like a demo than the master. As far as I know, Alexz has done one-take vocal recordings for sever songs of hers previously, and maybe that this song has been recorded that way to give it a more raw, "demo-y" vibe than what we'd normally hear on a studio track. It's so soft and different from most of Alexz's music, but nevertheless a grower. The strongest aspect of this song is its lyrics. Alexz sings about her love for a man. Could it be about her boyfriend Matti? We can only conjecture, but 'Man Like You' has a Jack Daniels reference like the Matti dedicated 'Cologne' from her previous album Let Em Eat Cake. 8. Dangerous Mind First of all, I need to highlight the instrumental of this song. It's so beautiful! This song is definitely something you've gotta vibe with on the low. It's not poppy like previous Alexz productions and it's not aimed at as much listening attention as her previous releases did. But it does contain great lyrics, beautiful melodies, and a new musical direction. I can't wait to see her perform it live! But who am I fooling (pun intended ) - I want to hear all of these amazing songs live! Come to Europe, Alexz! 9. Say Goodbye This is how you conclude an album. 'Say Goodbye' evokes the end of something but also the beginning of something wonderful. I'm speechless because this song is wonderful and Alexz is definitely changing, evolving into one of the smartest and the most woke artists of our time. 'Say Goodbye' is the song I am most astonished by. Her ability to come up with a completely different type of sound than she's done before is admirable. Shira's voice blends perfectly with Alexz's too. I needed to check the credits of this song just to be sure it wasn't just Alexz using a deeper voice in the background vocals. Can we take a moment to appreciate these harmonies? A Stranger Time is not something I'd clean my house to. It's more like an album you would listen to while driving. I have a feeling that this album was supposed to sound live off the floor and raw. As a long-time fan of hers, this album was something I had to be kind of prepared for purely because it's so different and low-key compared to her other material. We no longer hear the rocky Jude Harrison, or the screaming-her-heart-out, Let Em Eat Cake Alexz Johnson. A Stranger Time's Alexz uses her voice much wiser than she did on Voodoo or on Cake. Here, her voice sounds saccharine and precious, similiar to the way it used to in 2007, but much more mature. This is the material we, her fans, have been waiting for since 'Weight'. I think Alexz has finally found her lane as an independent artist. She has come so far, and this is where she should be. I feel the same way I did with her music in the good (g)olden days. She has re-ignited my passion and support for her music and career with this album. Everything about it is exceptional. It's cohesive. It's lyrically mature. The melodies are perfectly crafted. I love the live feel of the production. This album has a lot of beautiful instrumental intros and outros which I have been missing in her music (we're looking at you, 'I Will Fall in Love'). The standouts for me are definitely 'Aftermath', 'Never Love Me Back', 'Run For Your Life', and 'Say Goodbye'. This is an incredible comeback following Let Em Eat Cake, and I consider this album great. I think the biggest complaint someone can have with this album is, "It's not my style or the genre that I'm into." For me, the album's only major flaw is that it's definitely too short. I have yet to hear the Bob Dylan cover of 'Dreamin' Of You' which is a bonus track on the vinyl version of the album, but I really wish the album had a deluxe edition with at least three bonus tracks. But apart from the fact that the thirty minute long album leaves me longing for more, the record is incredibly cohesive and beautiful. Rating: 9/10 You can buy a digital copy of this album on iTunes or Google Play, a CD or vinyl at Alexz's official store and stream it on Spotify. Support this amazing artist!
  3. Dress Black releases their debut album Future Songs.
  4. Alexz releases her new album, A Stranger Time .
  5. Singer, songwriter, actress, producer, philanthropist: Alexz Johnson has taken on a multitude of roles in the entertainment industry. Starting her career off as Annie Thelen in the Disney Channel original series So Weird, Alexz won the hearts of many and gained international fame from her role as singer-songwriter Jude Harrison on Canadian television series Instant Star. Following her graduation from the show in 2008, she released her debut album Voodoo in 2010 and her second studio album Let 'Em Eat Cake in 2014. Since then she's been involved in several projects including producing her music video for 'Ruthless Love', composing tracks for the independent short film The Dishwasher and, of course, writing new music for her fans to enjoy. Now, with her fans at the peak of anticipation for her upcoming album, Alexz and I have discussed what inspires her to create music and how she has chosen her latest projects. Many of us first discovered you through Instant Star. Looking back on your work over a decade later, how do you view that period in your life? I have so many fond memories from that time...I was young, and was very blessed to be given so much creative freedom to write and grow into the artist I am today. Would you be interested in participating in an Instant Star reunion or reboot? Do you still talk to any of your former co-stars? Sure! Laura Vandervoort (who played my sister Sadie on Instant Star) was actually in my last music video for 'Ruthless Love'. You produced and composed for the short film The Dishwasher and won the Best Short Movie Award at The Modcon London Film Festival. What new challenges did that experience bring? The experience was incredible. I was approached with the script and loved the content and story. Being in an ever changing industry, you learn different skill sets that can prepare you for future projects…Producing and creating a musical soundscape for The Dishwasher felt very natural for me.. Is producing something you plan on doing more of in the future? What about acting - is that something you'd like to do again? I’m open to whatever the universe brings my way! If I’m passionate about something, it sort of creates itself. You have a lot of fans throughout Europe. Are you planning on touring internationally? I would love to do another European tour...Maybe when I get some new music out there! Do you prefer to perform acoustically or with a full band? Full band! It’s just a nice vibe having some backup on stage. Is there anything special you do to prepare yourself for a show? Not really…Vocal warmups, warm water with honey...It's pretty boring, actually. Your brother Brendan has been working with you for the majority of your career. How was it to be behind the scenes directing the 'Weekend' music video for his band Dress Black? It was maybe one of the most hilarious days of my life! That was also a very natural progression...I love the band and their music and I showed them the treatment and they were in! The tricky part about that video was time coding each person’s “play”, as we called them. The bands interactions had to be on point! There have been several songs you've mentioned over the years that were never officially released. Would you ever consider releasing a compilation of outtakes and demos? Brendan and I have released quite a few through our Basement Recordings releases. You can find a lot of our demo material on iTunes. What do you consider to be your best song? What was the inspiration behind it? That’s a tough one.. I’m not sure I can answer that! What’s your favorite? In April, you released the EP Johnson & McAuley. Many fans commented on the differences between this and your past music. Does this EP suggest the direction you're going musically? Sometimes, it’s fun and refreshing to immerse yourself in something different and outside of your usual approach. Johnson & McAuley serves as an experimental collaboration with someone I look up to musically. I wanted to separate the sound from my solo music, and take people on a different journey. The number one question we’ve gotten from your fans involves your next album. When can we expect a release? Are there any plans in place for an upcoming single? That makes me really happy to hear! I am just starting the writing process for the next album as we speak…I have a lot of new experiences to pull from and I’m really excited about this next musical phase. How has working on this album differed from your past albums? I’m taking my time… What are your current inspirations that drive you to further your career? Shining a light in a world that can be so dark. I want to bring an authenticity to the projects I take on. My main goal is to affect people in a positive way and share with them a true part of myself. With directing, composing, producing, and writing, 2016 has been quite a busy year for you. What are some of your favorite moments so far? What plans do you have for the rest of the year? It has been a very exciting year, personally as well! Collaborating with so many talented people has been a highlight...I plan on continuing to do so! Where do you see yourself in five, ten and twenty years? Hopefully existing in a more loving world.. I hope to continue to be blessed in having the ability to create my work and share it.. If people could take one message from your music, what would it be? Honesty. We all appreciate you taking the time to do this interview. Are there any final things you'd like to say to your fans? Thank you for your support! I'm looking forward to playing live and releasing some new tunes in the near future! x Make sure to follow Alexz on her official social media pages!
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