INTERVIEW: Holler my Dear

INTERVIEW:

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Holler my Dear

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IT has been cool speaking with Holler my Dear...

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about their recent album, Steady as She Goes, and its themes. I wanted to know how the band started life and whether they share similar tastes; what Berlin, their base, is like in terms of influence and creative drive – they recommend rising artists to watch.

I discover what they have coming up and if they each have favourite albums; whether there are any gigs coming up and how they relax outside of music – the and choose a song to end the interview with.

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Hi, guys. How are you? How has your week been?

Hey! It’s been an exciting week. We’ve been making a lot of plans and creative decisions. So, yeah, quite a good week altogether! (Smiles).

For those new to your music; can you introduce yourselves, please?

We’re Holler my Dear; an international six-piece from Berlin. We have been described as “Music as antidepressant” (Die Bühne); we call it ‘Disco-Folk’. We are a passionate live band: for us, nothing is better than a sweaty burst of energy while playing one’s heart out.

Steady as She Goes is your latest album. What sort of themes and ideas inspired it?

It’s a political album that signalises confidence, courage and movement. When the shadows in the world grow longer, lamenting doesn’t help but optimistic determination does. No fear. Seeming contradictions are also where the album’s nautical title stems from: Steady as She Goes, a term for 'keeping the ship on course', is less about going in straight lines and more about navigating high tides: finding consistency in fluctuation. Change is part of our life and we are in perpetual motion.

How did Holler my Dear get together? When did you start playing together?

It felt like a blind date when we met for our first session in 2011. Fabian was the first musician I got to know in Berlin and I literally found the others via a combination of recommendation and coincidence. I had a sound in mind and was very lucky that it came off right away and kept going ever since.

Do you share similar tastes? Who are you inspired by?

Our musical tastes are as super-diverse as our musical backgrounds: from Hip-Hop to Turbo-Folk; Neo-Soul to Ambient. This contrast keeps us going. We inspire each other.

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Is Berlin a great home? What is it like to create there?

Oh, yes! We love Berlin! Although gentrification has kicked in massively in the last couple of years, we still feel and love the city’s unique spirit and sense of freedom and space. It seems to attract libertines of all kinds from all across the world. There are so many talented people out there! We find Berlin’s vibrant art scene seriously inspiring.

What do you hope to achieve by the end of 2018?

After the intense period of our third album release and now at the end of various release tours, it’s time for us to get back in 'Schwung' creatively and write new songs. Plus, our video series, the Neon Tearoom Sessions, is in the making - so watch out for massive output from us. Muahaha! You know, autumn and winter are no joke in Berlin, so better to slip off into the creative zone where you can basically achieve anything...

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Do you already have plans for 2019?

We’re about to launch our very first crowdfunding campaign to realise a massive concert at Lido in Berlin next April under the title The More the Merrier (named after a soulful ditty from our latest album). With the help of our fans, we will be putting on a spectacle featuring various special guests, circus performers; a light-show and our very own recipe Holler drink...super-exciting!

Have you got a favourite memory from your time in music so far – the one that sticks in the mind?

Playing an open-air festival in Mexico City in 2016 for 9,000 pogoing music-lovers was an experience beyond words – pure love!

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Which one album means the most to each of you would you say (and why)?

Stephen: Rage Against the Machine – Rage Against the Machine

It switched me on to Rap, showed me that music can have a message, be funky AND angry at the same time and still ecstatically enjoyable...and encouraged my small rebellion and shift toward the counter culture that I hold dear to this day.

Lucas: A Love Surpreme by John Coltrane

This album inspired me to study music.

Laura: Cewbeagappic by Beady Belle

It felt as if somebody was singing directly into my ear and was reading my teenage mind (“When my anger starts to cry”).

Fabian: De-Loused in the Comatorium by The Mars Volta

Its intensity completely blew my mind and changed my way of thinking about Rock music fundamentally.

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Lena: My favourite four albums from Pink Floyd (Wish You Were Here, The Dark Side of the Moon; A Momentary Lapse of Reason and The Division Bell)

Melodies, philosophical lyrics and, of course, Gilmour’s guitar solos.

Valentin: Nevermind by Nirvana

Because it was something completely different than Bach. And, finally, loud.

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If you could support any musician alive today, and choose your own rider, what would that entail?

Well. You know we are foodies, so...catering! Never-ending catering! Never-ending, delicious catering!

What advice would you give to new artists coming through?

Keep going. We strongly believe in langer atem (literally ‘long breathing’; meaning being in it for the long haul and persevering) #forward.

Do you have tour dates coming up? Where can we catch you play?

Have we already mentioned our crowdfunding campaign? (Winks). If the campaigns goes well, we shall Holler in Lido (Berlin) on 04/04/2019.

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 IN THIS PHOTO: Yazzkimo

Are there any new artists you recommend we check out?

We’re lucky to be surrounded by inspirational creative colleagues such as: Ben Barritt, Yazzkimo; Kwena, Kid Be Kid; Tanga Elektra, Jim Kroft; Oko, Zinq; Komfortrauschen, Maria Christina/Federico Casagrande DuoJacky Bastek; Schmieds Puls, Skazka Orchestra; Alright Gandhi, Yusuf Sahili; Teresa Bergman, Friede Merz; Leni & The Boys, Meetin’ Moa; Fräulein Hona, Listen to Leena and many, many more!

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 IN THIS PHOTO: Scmieds Puls/PHOTO CREDIT: Astrid Knie Photography

Do you get much time to chill away from music? How do you unwind?

Nature, food; books, travelling; dancing, meditation; having deep talks and silly laughs with friends and lovers.

Finally, and for being good sports; you can choose a song and I’ll play it here (not any of your music - I will do that).

Moses Sumney - Lonely World

It’s magic.

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Follow Holler my Dear

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INTERVIEW: Hero Fisher

INTERVIEW:

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Hero Fisher

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THE fantastic Hero Fisher...

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has been talking with me about her latest single, Life Through Closed Eyes, and how the song came to be - she talks about her new album, Glue Moon. I was keen to explore how music found her and which artists she is inspired by; what is coming next and a rising artist we need to look out for.

Fisher explains her plans going forward and which three albums mean the most to her; what advice she would give to artists coming through and if there are any tour plans – she ends the interview by selecting a cool song.

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Hi, Hero. How are you? How has your week been?

Hi! So sorry for the late reply. My week has been great, thank you. I just moved to a new neighbourhood and have met lots of interesting and magical people.

For those new to your music; can you introduce yourself, please?

Well. My name is Hero Fisher. I am a singer-songwriter and I’ve just released my second album, Glue Moon. I was born in London to Australian parents and grew up in a small village just outside Paris, France. My father is an artist and illustrator; my mother a potter and writer and my sister is a weaver. All being artists, neither of us actually know how to make money. 

Life Through Closed Eyes is your new single. What is the story behind it?

I think this song speaks to and old friend/lover, calling on shared memories. To me, it feels like an intimate moment of forgiveness, but from a distance. It should give relief, lift a weight off. The song is like a repeated chant, summoning lighter feelings. It should feel nostalgic, forgiving and peaceful.

What was it like putting the video together? Do you like making videos?

The video was shot by my friend and frequent collaborator Julian Broad, who consistently not only understands my visions but also brings them to another level that I could not have possibly imagined. He's a true artist.

We shot the video in the same location as we did the album artwork, by the giant reservoir Caban Coch in the Elan Valley in Wales. The valley used to hold a village before they flooded it in 1893, completing the dam in 1904. The idea of a submerged ghost-town lent perfectly with the general themes of the album.

Glue Moon is your album. Are there particular themes and times from your life that inspired the music?

A lot of the songs on the album are written with a specific place in mind, which I refer to as 'Glue Moon'; now the name of the album. It takes place in the wee hours, in the woods; by a lake, under a big, pale duck egg blue/green moon. While writing it, I was drawn to images of decay and nature taking over manmade structure; ghost-towns and solitary/transient characters.

Did you grow up in a musical family? Which artists did you discover at a young age?

Yes. Music was played all day every day in my home. Regulars were Bob Dylan, Van Morrison; Leonard Cohen and then I fell in love with Billie Holiday as a teenager.

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What do you hope to achieve by the end of 2018?

I hope people buy the album so that I am able to make more music!

Do you already have plans for 2019?

Yes. I hope to be able to tour Glue Moon. I’m already working on a new album and am keen to do more collaborations with other artists.

Have you got a favourite memory from your time in music so far – the one that sticks in the mind?

I love the festivals. I always feel like a new person after them. I also sang a song with Craig Armstrong and the London Contemporary Orchestra at the Union Chapel in London recently which I loved beyond words.

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 PHOTO CREDIT: Brett Walker

Which three albums mean the most to you would you say (and why)?

Bob Dylan’s Blood on the Tracks - because it reminds me of when I was first driven to write music.

PJ Harvey’s White Chalk - because I love everything she does.

Nick Cave and the Bad SeedsSkeleton Tree - because it is so delicate, feathery and moving. I’ve never heard anything like it.

If you could support any musician alive today, and choose your own rider, what would that entail?

I’d love to support Cat Power, PJ Harvey; War on Drugs, Chelsea Wolfe and Nick Cave. I’d probably ask for whiskey and a bowl of pasta… 

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What advice would you give to new artists coming through?

Get a diploma if you can so that you don’t have to work shi*ty part-time pub jobs forever.

Do you have tour dates coming up? Where can we catch you play?

I’ll be playing some shows in the New Year.

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 IN THIS PHOTO: Anna von Hausswolff/PHOTO CREDIT: Gianluca Grasselli

Are there any new artists you recommend we check out?

Anna von Hausswolff. She’s powerful!

Do you get much time to chill away from music? How do you unwind?

Music is a constant back-thought; I’m always ready for a new inspiration, so it’s not easy to switch it off. In down time, I read and cook a lot.

Finally, and for being a good sport; you can choose a song and I’ll play it here (not any of your music - I will do that).

Cat Power’s Maybe Not. One of my all-time favourites!

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Follow Hero Fisher

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FEATURE: The Daisy Age, Huge Growth and Potholes in My Lawn: De La Soul’s 3 Feet High and Rising: Its Place in Hip-Hop’s Golden Era, Sheer Brilliance and Lack of Online Availability

FEATURE:

 

 

The Daisy Age, Huge Growth and Potholes in My Lawn

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IN THIS IMAGE: The cover for De La Soul’s 1989 masterpiece, 3 Feet High and Rising/ALL IMAGES/PHOTOS (unless credited otherwise): Getty Images 

De La Soul’s 3 Feet High and Rising: Its Place in Hip-Hop’s Golden Era, Sheer Brilliance and Lack of Online Availability

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MANY have their opinions regarding Hip-Hop’s ‘golden period’…

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and when it was at its most potent. Every year sees some brilliant Hip-Hop albums and modern stars like Kendrick Lamar are doing brilliant things and pushing the genre to new heights. I am amazed that Hip-Hop continues to produce such majesty and can hit remarkable peaks. Whilst there is a great collective of artists doing their own thing and producing sensational work; I feel the masters really laid down the rules and produced the yardstick back in 1988/1989. There were fantastic Hip-Hop albums prior to 1988. Go back to 1986 and Run-D.M.C.’s Raising Hell arrived in 1986 and it was a bold move for the third record. Run-D.M.C. were on a hot streak already but few could have seen Raising Hell come along. Produced by Rick Rubin and Russell Simmons; it was Rubin’s love of Metal and Rap that created a tougher, tauter and more explosive album. Not only is there a reinvention of Aerosmith’s Walk This Way but the palette of sounds is amazing! There are a tonne of drum loops and heavy beats; so many layers that made it a guide and bar for Hip-Hop albums to follow. Eric B. and Rakim’s Paid in Full arrived the following year and the album was recorded inexpensively and quickly. Again…Russell Simmons of Def Jam Records made a push and signed them to Island Records.

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Rakim wrote the songs in about an hour while listening to the beat; he recorded the lyrics in a booth and read the lyrics from a piece of paper. The duo worked in forty-eight-hour shifts and completed the record in a week. There was no calculation and precision: the duo was putting together sounds that felt right and natural. The reviews and praise that came in for Paid in Full were extraordinary:

Paid in Full was released during what became known as the golden age hip hop era.[44] In The Rolling Stone Album Guide (2004), Sasha Frere-Jones called it "one of hip-hop's perfect records",[38] while Alex Ogg considered it to be the duo's magnum opus in his book The Men Behind Def Jam.[3] Rakim's rapping on the album set a blueprint for future rappers and helped secure East Coast hip hop's reputation for innovative lyrical technique.[13][45] Author William Cobb stated in To the Break of Dawn that his rapping had "stepped outside" of the preceding era of old school hip hop and that while the vocabulary and lyrical dexterity of newer rappers had improved, it was "nowhere near what Rakim introduced to the genre".[44] The New York Times' Dimitri Ehrlich, who described the album as "an artistic and commercial benchmark", credited Rakim for helping "give birth to a musical genre" and leading "a quiet musical revolution, introducing a soft-spoken rapping style".[46] Allmusic's Steve Huey declared Paid in Full one of hip-hop's most influential albums and "essential listening" for those interested in the genre's "basic musical foundations".[20] MTV ranked it at number one in "The Greatest Hip-Hop Albums of All Time", stating it raised the standards of hip-hop "both sonically and poetically" and described it as "captivating, profound, innovative and instantly influential".[15] The album is broken down track-by-track by Rakim in Brian Coleman's book Check the Technique[47]

To me, this album was one of the first seed planted in the minds of De La Soul. 1988 would have a profound impact as, off of the back of the growing tide, Public Enemy, N.W.A. and Eric B. & Rakim produced ground-breaking and seismic records. Eric B. & Rakim released Follow the Leader and, as would be common of the other icons of the year; sampling and splicing sounds helped elevate their potent and powerful messages to new heights. Paid in Full was crammed with great sounds but its follow-up was a slicker, tighter and more consistent album. N.W.A. released the incendiary and explosive Straight Outta Compton that, whilst rallying against corruption, racism and suppression; there were a tonne of samples. It is seen as one of the most important Hip-Hop records regarding pushing the genre forward and opened eyes in 1988. Public Enemy’s It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back, whilst less sweary, was another charged and titanic album whose clever and eclectic use of samples helped to spotlight augment some incredible messages. 1988 was a phenomenal year for Hip-Hop and, with lesser-celebrated albums like He's the DJ, I'm the Rapper (DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince) helping to create an epic and evolving scene, it would inspire those who arrived in 1989. This was the start of a terrific boom for Hip-Hop and the duel pillars of Public Enemy and N.W.A. put out these socially aware and skilful albums that married serious and inspiring lyrics with a kaleidoscope of sounds.

1989 was defined by two especially great Hip-Hop records: Paul’s Boutique and 3 Feet High and Rising. There are rumours that Beastie Boys and De Le Soul were in each other’s company and the former heard the latter’s new album. Beastie Boys, hearing the insane and vast samples on 3 Feet High and Rising, despaired and knew they had to up their game. Beastie Boys were in-exile and suffered mixed reviews after their debut album. They would receive puzzled looks and muted reviews when Paul’s Boutique was released in 1989 – few knew what to expect and how to handle such a complex and ambitious record. Whilst Paul’s Boutique seems to have similar traits to records like Paid in Full and It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back; 3 Feet High and Rising was a different beast and signified a more peaceful and less confrontational style of Hip-Hop. The record was the first of three collaborations between De La Soul and producer Prince Paul and is seen as one of the greatest Hip-Hop albums ever. It has the same depth and variety as previous works of genius but its messages are rooted in peace, fun and something less potent. Completely different, lyrically, to the work of N.W.A. and Public Enemy; it was another bold shift in Hip-Hop and helped spearhead a ‘Flower Power’/’Daisy Age’ style of Hip-Hop.

Again, the spread of positive opinion was amazing to see:

It is listed on Rolling Stones' 200 Essential Rock Records and The Source's 100 Best Rap Albums (both of which are unordered). When Village Voice held its annual Pazz & Jop Critics Poll for 1989, 3 Feet High and Rising was ranked at #1, outdistancing its nearest opponent (Neil Young's Freedom) by 21 votes and 260 points. It was also listed on the Rolling Stone's The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. Released amid the 1989 boom in gangsta rap, which gravitated towards hardcore, confrontational, violent lyrics, De La Soul's uniquely positive style made them an oddity beginning with the first single, "Me, Myself and I". Their positivity meant many observers labeled them a "hippie" group, based on their declaration of the "D.A.I.S.Y. Age" (da inner sound, y'all). Sampling artists as diverse as Johnny CashHall & OatesSteely Dan and The Turtles, 3 Feet High and Rising is often viewed as the stylistic beginning of 1990s alternative hip hop (and especially jazz rap).[23]

"An inevitable development in the class history of rap, [De La Soul is] new wave to Public Enemy's punk," wrote critic Robert Christgau in his Village Voice review of 3 Feet High and Rising: "Their music is maddeningly disjunct, and a few of the 24-cuts-in-67-minutes (too long for vinyl) are self-indulgent, arch. But their music is also radically unlike any rap you or anybody else has ever heard — inspirations include the Jarmels and a learn-it-yourself French record. And for all their kiddie consciousness, junk-culture arcana, and suburban in-jokes, they're in the new tradition — you can dance to them, which counts for plenty when disjunction is your problem."[22]

Rolling Stone magazine gave the album three stars and concluded that it was "(o)ne of the most original rap records ever to come down the pike, the inventive, playful 3 Feet High and Rising stands staid rap conventions on their def ear"[18]

Artists like Macy Gray and James Lavelle have been inspired by the risks, experimentation and sheer wonder of 3 Feet High and Rising. Not to mention, of course, all the Hip-Hop artists who would try and follow De La Soul’s masterpiece!

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 IN THIS PHOTO: De La Soul in 1989

I want to end by bringing in a great piece that sort of ties together some important aspects regarding the album. It looks at 3 Feet High and Rising in the context of those ‘golden years’ (1988/1989 to 1991/1992; that start came in 1986…) and how it managed to transform Hip-Hop. It also mentions one of the biggest issues regarding the record: the fact it is unavailable to stream online. Some say it was De La Soul who screwed up – singing a contract that meant their music would not be available electronic – but it is a shame the only way one can hear this epochal creation is through physical sale. That is no bad thing but its absence online has been noted by the band themselves who regret this. This Pitchfork article looks at 3 Feet High and Rising and how it followed such gems like It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back:

Consider that in the preceding 12 months, It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back, Straight Outta Compton, Critical Beatdown, Lyte As a Rock, and In Full Gear had made a massive impact in hip-hop. All of these records commanded attention, wore their sizable ambitions on their jackets. But while their New School peers stood tall, offering righteousness (Public Enemy), rebellion (N.W.A.), street wisdom (MC Lyte), style-war futurism (Ultramagnetic MC’s) and crowd-pleasing showmanship (Stetsasonic) to hip-hop’s expanding audiences, De La Soul were the quiet kids lingering at the edge of the cipher, withdrawn and a little mysterious, conversing in coded language meant to distance themselves from all the big personalities jockeying for position around them”.

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IN THIS PHOTO: De La Soul on Long Island in 1989/PHOTO CREDIT: Janette Beckman 

One of the biggest differences between the world of West Coast artists who seemed to offer a brand of Hip-Hop that was striking, rallying and had anger at its heart – then there was De La Soul:

But the narrative of the album is still framed by a tired contrast between the rise of N.W.A. and the West Coast gangsta rap and that of De La Soul and the Native Tongues’ ”completely unthreatening” “message of positivity.” De La never asked to be the saviors of hip-hop, much less to answer for all the supposed pathologies that critics wanted to put on Black masculinity and Black popular culture. Instead, De La Soul defined their outsiderness through a weird, wild, and wholly self-referential creativity. Their MC names were “Sounds Op” and “Yogurt” spelled backwards. Their album would be full of inside jokes, invented slang (“A phrase called talk” was their rhyme style, “Public Speaker” was a dope emcee, “Buddy” was a hot body, and “Strictly Dan Stuckie” meant “awesome”), and an odd mix of preoccupations ranging from TV to Aesop’s fables to Luden’s cough drops to, of course, sex”.

It is amusing to think of the stark contrasts between Hip-Hop artists battling police, being put down by politicians and having to experience violence and hatred.

On one of my favourite cuts from 3 Feet High and Rising; De La Soul spoke about a suburban battle that was less to do with gun violence and border disputes and more concerned with neighbourhood disputes – Potholes in My Lawn, one suspects, was a story of De La Soul’s place in Hip-Hop and how their peers viewed them:

The Black suburban imagination of Long Island rappers offered a distinctive kind of street romance and horror. Public Enemy rapped about cruising the boulevards in muscle cars, their adrenaline amping up their politics of provocation. De La Soul’s second single, “Potholes In My Lawn,” was a battle rhyme refracted through the brutal status consciousness of the ‘burbs. De La played the family on the block coming into success, only to be met with the envious rage of the Joneses next door. Trugoy complained, “I don’t ask for a barbed wire fence, B, but my dwellin’ is swellin’.” Meanwhile, imitating wannabes lurked in the bushes. These rhyme-biting rappers took the form of vermin leaving unsightly craters all over the front yard. The crew repatched the potholes with daisies. Individuality trumped suburban conformity”.

During recording, there was this quest to put denser sounds together and throw more ambition into the lyrics. A lot of the songs on 3 Feet High and Rising concerned juvenile topics yet there was no lack of intelligence and originality from De La Soul. Genius tracks like The Magic Number – band philosophy and their personal mantras – captivated and remain hugely popular to this day.

One of the hardest things De La Soul had to face after 3 Feet High and Rising arrived was a backlash. Many threatened physical violence and the band were seen as soft hippies and not as credible and purposeful as their Hip-Hop peers.

If Black complexity had been the meta-message lost in De La’s big crossover, abstraction, abjection, and humor were the winning trifecta of 3 Feet High and Rising. The skits and interludes poked fun at more of their obsessions—funky smells (“A Little Bit of Soap”), fashion trends (“Take It Off”), and porn flicks (“De la Orgee”). The funniest featured hip-hop party-starters veering off script (“Do As De La Does”). The game show skit might have been a transferral of rap’s meritocratic competition into something absurd—no one wins but the audience: Were you not entertained?”...De La Soul were making a point about the power of culture to mobilize people to action or immobilize them with fear. It was an idea they explored more explicitly on their fable, “Tread Water”.

3 Feet High and Rising followed those monumental, sample-heavy records like Straight Outta Compton and Paid in Full but took a more humorous and easy-going nature – whilst not skimping on the genius, scope and skill! One wonders whether we could ever see an album like this again because of sampling clearance and legalities:

Today’s debate over sampling is mostly mind-numbingly narrow, shaped largely by big-money concerns that are ahistorical, anti-cultural, and anti-creative. The current regime rewards the least creative class—lawyers and capitalists—while destroying cultural practices of passing on. Post-hip-hop intellectual property law rests on racialized ideas of originality, and preserves the vampire profits of publishing outfits like Bridgeport Music, that sue sampling producers while preventing artists like George Clinton from sharing their music with next-generation musicians, and large corporations like Warner Brothers that continue to disenfranchise Black genius”.

There have been some big albums that employed samples but nothing, since the turn of the century at least, that have had the same effect and range as 3 Feet High and Rising. You would think it would be easier to sample work and get clearance but it seems there is even more litigious barrier and problems facing those who want to create their own 3 Feet High and Rising. One big tragedy is we might not see 3 Feet High online anytime soon. This article explains why De La Soul’s early work cannot be found on sites such as Spotify:

The influential trio’s 1989 debut 3 Feet High and Rising is widely considered a masterpiece of the rap genre but, along with follow-up De La Soul is Dead, is unable to appear in digital form because of the many samples the band used.

MC Kelvin Mercer, known by his alias Posdnuos, described finding out that the group’s early contracts were for vinyl and cassette only as “really heart-wrenching”.

“It’s an unfortunate place we’ve been put in as a group,” he told the BBC. “Our contracts on those early albums said specifically ‘vinyl and cassette’. The wording wasn’t vague enough to lend itself to music technology”...

 

De La Soul heavily sampled an eclectic range of artists from James Brown and Michael Jackson to Smokey Robinson and Johnny Cash. Their record label got legal permission for most of them back when the band first began but in order to stream or download these songs, new deals must be cut for the albums.

The only hope of hearing them online now rests with Warner Bros, who owns the tapes. Sadly, according to Posdnuos, they “just don’t want to deal with it” due to the time involved in carefully going through each song to check every sample is cleared. The lengthy process has been “draining” and further hindered by staff changes, he said”.

One reason why Hip-Hop masterpieces like It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back and 3 Feet High and Rising are so important is not just because of the messages and the fact it highlights problems affecting the black population in America – there have not been that many similar British Hip-Hop albums or scene – but the way music is spliced together. You get to hear about the struggles and problems that afflict sectors of U.S. society overlooked but, in the process, disparate artists and genres and woven together and this brings that music to new generations. Pitchfork’s article explains:

Pos’s production on “Eye Know” put Steely Dan into conversation with Otis Redding and the Mad Lads, his work on “Say No Go” Hall and Oates with the Detroit Emeralds. The musical chorus of “Potholes in My Lawn” pointed not only to Parliament’s 1970 debut Osmium, but to the African American roots of country and western music...

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IN THIS PHOTO: De La Soul, circa 1990/PHOTO CREDIT: Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Together, the sampled sounds of the Jarmels, the Blackbyrds, the New Birth, and even white artists like Led Zeppelin, Bob Dorough, and Billy Joel, make a strong case that all of American pop is African-American pop, from which everyone has been borrowing. Sampling—De La Soul sampling Parliament, Obama sampling Lincoln, Melania sampling Michelle—is nothing less than the American pastime, the creative reuse of history amid the tension between erasure and emergence that is central to the struggle for the republic. No one can ever do it as big as De La Soul did”.

Hip-Hop has not seen such a golden and productive time since the late-1980s and a lot can be learned from albums like 3 Feet High and Rising. Maybe more modern Hip-Hop artists like Eminem and Dr. Dre helped provide the genre another exciting burst in the late-1990s/early-2000s but nothing like the world saw in the late-1980s. Some might say things started with Run-D.M.C. in 1986 or Eric B. & Rakim’s Paid in Full the year after. It is clear the explosive during 1988 – with Public Enemy and N.W.A. - propelled a sample-heavy reaction from De La Soul. It was a peaceful and colourful alternative to the rather sharp and political albums from some quarters. It garnered some criticism and heat from certain quarters – feeling De La Soul were wet and opposed to Hip-Hop’s ideals – but it was a stunning progression and evolution in Hip-Hop. Even through there is a notable 3 Feet High and Rising-shaped hole in the streaming marketplace few can deny the genius and legacy of this 1989...

WORK of brilliance.

FEATURE: Now That’s What I Call Music! at Thirty-Five: The Compilation Series That Succeeds in a Streaming Age

FEATURE:

 

 

Now That’s What I Call Music! at Thirty-Five

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IN THIS PHOTO: The cover for the first Now That’s What I Call Music(!) (released in the U.K. on 29th November, 1983)/ALL IMAGE/PHOTO CREDIT (unless credited otherwise): Getty Images

The Compilation Series That Succeeds in a Streaming Age

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THERE are times when one is permitted…

to look back fondly and not be accused of nostalgia and being sappy! It is never good being stuck in the past but it is also important to note where our music tastes grew and where we came from. The Now That’s What I Call Music! was born thirty-five years ago (on 28th November). Before I give my memories (you can hear the first compilation here) and argue why the series continues to appeal; here is some historical background from Wikipedia:

The idea for the series was conceived in the office of Virgin Records in Vernon Yard, near Portobello Road, by the head of Licensing and Business Affairs at Virgin Records (1979–1990) – Stephen Navin, and General Manager (1983–1988) – Jon Webster.[2] The concept was taken to Simon Draper (Managing Director at Virgin Records) and then Peter Jamieson (Managing Director of EMI Records (1983–1986)). Jamieson had similar plans to launch such a compilation and he immediately agreed to the partnership. The deal was negotiated and finalised on Richard Branson's boat moored in Little Venice.[3]

The series took its name from a 1920s advertising poster for Danish bacon featuring a pig saying "Now. That's What I Call Music" as it listened to a chicken singing. Richard Branson had bought the poster for his cousin, Simon Draper, to hang behind Draper's desk at the Virgin Records office. Branson wrote "He was notoriously grumpy before breakfast and loved his eggs in the morning, so I bought him the poster, framed it and had it hung behind his desk.".[3] The pig became the mascot for the series', making its last appearance on Now That's What I Call Music 5.[4] It has recently made a reappearance on the cover of Now That's What I Call Music! 100, which was released on 20 July 2018...

The first Now was released on 28 November 1983[5] and featured 30 UK hit singles from that year on a double vinyl LP or cassette. Although the compilation of recent hit songs into a single release was not a new concept (K-tel and Ronco, for example, had been issuing various artists' compilations for some years), this was the first time that two major record labels had collaborated on such a venture. Virgin agreed to a deal with EMI, which allowed a greater number of major hits to be included (the first album in the series included a total of "eleven number ones" on its sleeve). The album went to number one, and soon after, CBS/WEA's The Hits Album, adopted a similar format to Now!. The two series co-existed for the rest of the 1980s, but when Universal joined the collaboration the Now! series was more successful commercially. The Out Now series by MCA and Chrysalis was also established as a rival to the series,[6] but was short lived”.

We have just seen the one-hundredth edition of the series come out (in July) and it is remarkable that the Now (if I can shorten it?!) series has reached such a milestone! I remember the BBC article that took us inside the Now offices as the decisions flew regarding the tracklisting for Now’s huge one-hundredth:

"It's Now day!" declares Jenny Fisher, settling into a sofa in a relaxed, but cramped little room on the second floor of Abbey Road.

Quietly spoken but authoritative, she's here to decide, compile and master the tracklisting for Now That's What I Call Music 100, which is set to be one of the year's biggest-selling CDs...

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The Now series began in 1983 as a way of showcasing the success of Virgin Records which, at the time, was having an unprecedented run of hits with acts like Culture Club, Phil Collins and UB40.

They took the idea to EMI, who were so impressed they linked up with Virgin to release it - the first time that two major labels had collaborated in such a way.

Today, the series is so big (120m sales and counting) that all the record labels get a look-in. But that doesn't mean that compiling the 100th edition will be easy.

"It looks like we won't be able to clear Drake," sighs Steve Pritchard, a 58-year-old motorcycle enthusiast who's been a custodian of the series for more than half his life.

Steve has been working on Now since its 19th edition (side one, track one - The Clash, Should I Stay Or Should I Go) and it's not the first time he's struggled to get permission for a song.

"Historically, a lot of big American artists didn't really understand Now," he explains.

"They saw it - erroneously - as cannibalising their own sales. We were never able to access Madonna, for example."

Still, Drake hasn't been crossed off Steve's master list just yet. Some songs get cleared right at the last moment… and we're only just getting started.

He's joined in the studio by Peter Duckworth, who's been working with him since Now 20 (side one, track one - Vic Reeves and the Wonder Stuff, Dizzy). Jenny is a relative newcomer, having signed up for Now 82 (side one, track one - Fun ft Janelle Monae, We Are Young).

For the 100th anthology, however, disc two is being handed over to classic hits from previous compilations, including Phil Collins (who opened the very first album in 1983) and Robbie Williams (who's appeared more times than anyone else).

That means the mixing session at Abbey Road is over - but the work is far from over.

Jenny scurries off to her office, where she has to write a biography for every artist on the compilation. Her text gets sent to a designer, who works through the night to finish the artwork.

"Then we listen to the CDs all the way through three times looking for any explicit lyrics or audio that doesn't sound right," Jenny says.

"Hopefully by tomorrow night, we'll be completely happy with it, and we can send it to manufacture and start the process on Wednesday morning".

One of the problems that exist with Now is the demographic of genres. Look at any number in the series and you will see more Pop music than anything. When I was growing up and listening to the series – as I shall explore later – there was Dance and Electronic stuff but it was mostly Pop. It seems exceptional and amazing to consider, given we all do our own playlists, we still have an appetite for Now. The fact the latest edition sold well was not to do with history and nostalgia but the fact we want the best of the current crop in an album. There is something wholly unsatisfying about having a digital playlist and listening on a phone. You want to have something physical because, as you grow older, these Now C.D.s are the sound of a particular time.

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Whereas studio albums can sound dated and have potency in the moment; Now seems to age without wrinkles and provides pleasure and nuance whenever you play it. Maybe it is the eclectic selection of songs and the range you get but there is always something to enjoy. I think of the Now series as pick ‘n’ mix. You get so many colours and flavours in there and it is a real treat. Many might say the quality of the music has gone down since the 1980s (or when it was at its peak) but that is another argument. We all have our opinions regarding quality but I feel Pop still plays a big part. It is amazing when you look at any compilation and see entire genres wiped out. Take the 1980s and the brilliant Hip-Hop that was coming out in 1988/1989. Maybe it was Now 16 or 17 around about that time but, I know, there was music by Phil Collins and other Pop acts included. Consider the Hip-Hop genius from De La Soul, Public Enemy; Eric B. & Rakim and Beastie Boys and that didn’t make it on there! In essence, the Now series is about chart music and the mainstream. There is nothing wrong with that but, like these decade-defining compilations; does it truly reflect music in a particular time or is it a very Pop-biased viewpoint?!

Maybe there is a very narrow and particular sound that you get with the series but, for those who want Hip-Hop, Metal and other genres then there are compilations and albums that do the job! I think we have that taste because it, as I said, defines a year and you can look back in years to come and compare how music has evolved. In many ways, Now is a way of charting the changes in the mainstream and the tastes of the public! My first exposure to Now was, as I have mentioned before, 24. This came out in April 1993 and I might have got it for my birthday (9th May). For a then-ten-year-old, it was exciting having this assortment of chart songs in my hand. In fact, the compilation exists in C.D. form at my family’s home but I bought it originally on a double-cassette. The giddy joy of reading the notes and credits on the inserts and popping the tape in the deck...pure bliss! I was blown away you could have Shaggy, k.d. lang and Paul McCartney on the same compilation! Before the Internet and streaming, the only way we could get a compilation was to record (perhaps, illegally) material from the radio. You could put a blank tape in one deck and then hit ‘record’ when the chart show was on. It was horribly crude and awkward but having a lot of top-class material on cassette/C.D. was wonderful. There are articles that poll the Now series and rank the very best. Here is one from Metro and, aside from the omission of my favourite, it is hard to argue against their top choices. There is a general consensus that the majority of the finest Now compilations were released in the 1990s – a few from the 2000s, I guess.

If you are looking for a particular Now compilation then there are details here but a lot of people think Now That’s What I Call Music! 44 as the best. It is the biggest-selling and came out right at the end of the 1990s. Bangers and gems from Lou Bega, Britney Spears and Moloko cannot be sniffed at. I remember, tragically, Mambo No. 5 (A Little Bit of...), being one of the songs I was listening to when I opened my GCSEs in 1999! I think there are a lot of happy memories for those of us who were school-age around that time. Even if you are younger/older; you cannot deny there is a lot of fun and catchy music on there! The music seems to defy age and you can pick up what is on there and instantly get behind it. No matter which one of the series is your favourite, it makes you feel warm and happy listening back to the artists that were popular when you were younger. Every one of the Now compilations has some tragic crap on there but that is the charm – you’ve got to have a little bit of greenery among the sweets! Many of us have our own memories and reasons why Now is very much the sound of the present – but has that important nostalgic feel to it.

This article from The Independent shows what I am on about:

“...And yet Now! got a lot right from the start. An eye-bulging 11 No 1s were present on the first edition, but look again and you’ll find the latent influence of punk through the presence of Malcom McLaren, The Cure and Stiff Records’ definitive version of Kirsty MacColl’s “They Don’t Know” (courtesy of Tracey Ullman).

It was a democratic hallmark of Now! albums that all genres must be represented and soon entire sections of the record would be devoted to different types of music: “dance” sides emerged strongly in the late 1980s/early 1990s just as “indie” sides were a staple through Britpop. In fact, it could be argued that Now! did as much in the pre-digital age to diffuse music’s tribal instinct as Spotify does today.

Elsewhere care was taken – as with artist albums – to ensure that an upbeat opener (in this first instance, the Phil Collins-does-Supremes “You Can’t Hurry Love”) was matched with a closing ballad (Culture Club’s overlooked “Victims”). How much the listener appreciated this book-ending over the course of 30 tracks is open to debate, but it’s a tradition that exists to this day with Calvin Harris & Dua Lipa’s “One Kiss” being complemented by Justin Bieber’s “Love Yourself” for Now 100...

 

Nothing lasts forever and, looking back, the school holiday sound-tracking Now 12 of of 1988 was a personal peak. Within 18 months, myself and Now! would go our separate ways, the age of innocence over for both of us. As a new decade began, Now! moved towards a more straightforward, does-what-it-says-on-the-tin approach, gaining sales but losing some of the charm of earlier collections.

Me? I’d heard The Stone Roses’ debut for the first time and things would never be the same again. The Smash Hits subscription was cancelled and the NME installed in its place. Now! was then: I had the Nineties to be getting on with.

Yet while I was away, the series prospered; 1999’s Now 44 was the most successful to date – selling 2.3 million copies, at the height of the CD market thanks to big hitters such as Britney Spears and Robbie Williams.

 

Yet in the age of personal curation that followed, Now!, perhaps the ultimate curator, would somehow come into its own. At the same time, the idea that the internet would render everything before it obsolete proved false; instead, we were in for an era of co-existence. Things weren’t replaced, simply enjoyed side by side.

Hence Now! CDs continue to be played in cars across the country, hours after their drivers have enjoyed a Spotify-assisted morning run and before they returned home to their Crosley turntables”.

It is great to see how Now affects people in their own way and the memories that have been provided. Again, here is an example where you can feel the passion coming from the page:

Jonathan Isaby has every album in the series. Here he explains how they have formed the soundtrack to his life.

When I was given an old 1950s transistor radio by my grandmother in the summer of 1986, at the age of eight, I tuned it to Radio 1 and immediately got into the pop music of the day.

With artists like Bananarama, Duran Duran and Five Star in their heyday, I was hooked.

And by the time I got a brand new (if highly unsophisticated) radio/cassette player for my tenth birthday in December 1987, I knew I wanted to start creating a music library of my own.

Like most kids of the time, I would try to tape songs off the radio, but was always frustrated by the DJs' ramblings over the beginning and end of tracks, so there was only one thing for it - buy the music for myself.

The Now albums are - quite literally - the soundtrack to my life. I'm quite a nostalgic person and I can pluck any one at random and immediately be transported back to a particular time.

The albums provide a brilliant snapshot of the music I was enjoying at any given moment: Now 28 takes me back to the summer of 1994 after I did my GCSEs and was about to go into sixth form...

Now 34 was what I was listening to during my first term at university in 1996 with tracks like the Spice Girls' debut single Wannabe and Wonderwall by Oasis.

Now 67 was released around the time I met my now wife in 2007 and brings back fond memories (she tolerates the collection by the way)”.

I will continue to keep a look out for new Now compilations but there is a lot of profit to be found if you have kept an older one back. Not that you’d want to part with it but auction sites are selling a lot of the better compilations for a lot of money. It shows the value of Now is ongoing and people are keen to snap up the classics. Whilst other compilation C.D.s might be flagging, we cannot get enough of Now and all the goodness it provides. In ten days’ time, as we tip our caps to a thirty-five-year-old series; I will look back at the best Now had to offer and see where it might head. Given the fact there is a big birthday coming out, dust off – either digitally or physically – your favourite Now compilations and let...

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 PHOTO CREDIT: @oviidaniel/Unsplash

THE good times roll!

FEATURE: To Wit, To Woo: Why Modern Songwriters Can Learn a Lot from the Old Masters

FEATURE:

 

 

To Wit, To Woo

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IMAGE CREDIT: Getty Images 

Why Modern Songwriters Can Learn a Lot from the Old Masters

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MAYBE this is a generational thing…

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IN THIS PHOTO: Jacqui Abbott and Paul Heaton/PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

but I tend to find there are fewer and fewer songwriters who are providing something human and interesting in their lyrics. I know a lot of songwriters are putting their relationships and personal concerns into the mix but how often does one see relationships portrayed in a very real way? By that, I mean the suburban houses and silly arguments; throwing wit into things and having two-hander songs?! It seems there is a distinct formula for artists in regards relationship dramas or songs in general. Before I come to my point; this piece has been inspired by an album of Paul Heaton-penned songs, The Last King of Pop. The Housemartins and Beautiful South lead is currently working/touring with Jacqui Abbott (The Beautiful South) and the former bandmates have released successful albums together. This article gives details regarding the album:

One of the UK’s most prolifically gifted songwriters Paul Heaton will release a career spanning album on 16 November 2018 on the Virgin EMI label.  Entitled The Last King Of Pop it will feature 23 of the finest songs from throughout Paul’s extraordinary music career, including hits from his days in the Housemartins, through his time in the multi-platinum pop co-operative The Beautiful South, his solo years, and up to the present day in his long-standing collaboration with former Beautiful South singer Jacqui Abbott.

From the Housemartins’ glorious 1985 debut single ‘Flag Day’ to the Beautiful South’s chart dominating pop standards ‘Don’t Marry Her’, ‘Rotterdam’ and ‘Perfect 10’ through to last year’s Heaton & Abbott smash hit ‘I Gotta Praise’ they’re all present and correct….and there’s also room for a 2018 re-record by Paul and Jacqui of the Beautiful South classic ‘A Little Time’, and a brand new song, a deliciously infectious ska-pop paean to a lifetime of jukebox dancing and pop music obsession entitled ‘7”Singles’...

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PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images 

To celebrate the release of ‘The Last King of Pop’, Heaton and Abbott will play 3 very special live shows at London’s Royal Albert Hall, Sheffield City Hall and Blackpool Empress Ballroom at the end of November where they will perform the album in full.

The dates are as follows:

24 November: Blackpool, Empress Ballroom
26 November:  Sheffield, City Hall
28 November: London, Royal Albert Hall
”.

The Beautiful South went through different incarnations and saw three different female singers come through. Abbott is, to me, the female voice of The Beautiful South and the perfect foil to Heaton. Someone who can throw back some wit and spike but perfectly blend in harmony when needed. The band was seen, by some, as middle of the road. Not quite as cool as a lot of the best 1990s/2000s bands and never the funkiest outfit, for sure. The fact the band would often appear at gigs in coats and project a rather middle-aged image, from the start, market them as a ‘guilty pleasure’.

I feel this is wrong. Maybe the songs were not as hook-laden and anthemic as a lot of the stuff coming through but, from the first album (Welcome to the Beautiful South, 1989), there was this wit and incredible originality. Look at songs like You Keep It All In and this repressed scene of domestic tension. Song for Whoever is as flippant as the title suggests: Heaton earning money and chart success from the tears of his various lovers – the more they cry, the wetter his pen becomes with ambition. Some critics labelled Heaton and the band as being caustic and grumpy but many could not get their head around the ordinariness and revelation of the lyrics. Every line was real and talked of a world, a working-class one, that was not being projected that much. In 2018, you do not see many songwriters pen the same sort of songs as Paul Heaton. Love songs tend to be quite ordinary and you are not often taken too far away from the predictable scenes. It is not only the lyrics that strikes me but the make-up of The Beautiful South. Three vocalists (Paul Heaton, Dave Hemmingway and Briana Corrigan/Jacqui Abbott/Alison Wheeler) and songs that would literally present a conversation. Heaton never writes about women in a sexist or unknowing way and is unafraid to write songs with arguing lovers or a couple that slyly jab at the other. I am not going to give a complete history of the band but what they stood for – in terms of lyrics and the sort of wit you got – was amazing. It is a shame they split but I am glad Heaton and Abbott are still performing together.

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 IN THIS PHOTO: Prefab Sprout’s Paddy McAloon (1985)/PHOTO CREDIT: © Michael Putland

Look back a bit further and songwriters like Paddy McAloon spring to mind. The leader of Prefab Sprout, the last album was back in 2013 (Crimson/Red). Paddy and his brother Martin are the only remaining members from the original line-up but McAloon, as a songwriter, has few equals. From 1984, with their Swoon debut, the band was being highlighted for their exceptional songwriter and sound. At the heart of the mix were McAloon’s words. Maybe some of the early material features too much juxtaposition and it is a bit stuffed but, in terms of language and wit; nobody in that era seemed to have the same muscle and intelligence as McAloon. Perhaps The Smiths’ Morrissey – the third northern writer I am mentioning – could match that blend of wit, tragedy and florid language but from Two Wheels Good (the U.S.)/Steve McQueen (the rest of the world), critics were taking note of this unique and talented writer. AllMusic, writing retrospectively, provided their thoughts on the album:

Smart, sophisticated and timelessly stylish, Two Wheels Good (titled Steve McQueen throughout the rest of the world) is a minor classic, a shimmering jazz-pop masterpiece sparked by Paddy McAloon'switty and inventive songwriting. McAloon is a wickedly cavalier composer, his songs exploring human weaknesses like regret ("Bonny"), lust ("Appetite") and infidelity ("Horsin' Around") with cynical insight and sarcastic flair; he's also remarkably adaptable, easily switching gears from the faux-country of "Faron" to the stately pop grace of "Moving the River." At times, perhaps, his pretensions get the better of him (as on "Desire As"), while at other times his lyrics are perhaps too trenchant for their own good; at those moments, however, what keeps Two Wheels Good afloat is Thomas Dolby's lush production, which makes even the loftiest and most biting moments as easily palatable as the airiest adult-contemporary confection”.

 

My first taste of Prefab Sprout was The King of Rock ‘n’ Roll. Taken from their third album, From Langley Park to Memphis; it is seen as the band’s biggest track but many critics felt it was too commercial and not as sharp as earlier songs. Cars and Girls is a Bruce Springsteen pastiche (taking away the romance of the road and girls) whilst The King of Rock ‘n’ Roll is about a faded and deluded singer who thinks he is all that. When Jordan: The Comeback arrived in 1992 – following the odd bump in the road – critics raved and this was seen as an album that could break America. Entertainment Weekly, in this review, look at the contrasts and complexities of McAloon’s words:

With few exceptions, highbrow pop music-making is a commercially treacherous occupation. Nonetheless, Newcastle’s Prefab Sprout — something of a British answer to Steely Dan — has done quite nicely, purveying evanescent music and frequently loopy subject matter. With Jordan: The Comeback, the quartet is poised to reach a wide American audience as well.

For all their fascinating intelligence, McAloon’s ironic lyrics can be difficult to pin down. Following the whimsical conception of ”Looking for Atlantis,” the arch iconography of ”Jesse James Symphony,” and the Presleyesque content of the beautiful title song (and others: Elvis is one of the album’s thematic threads), it’s hard to resist searching the sincere sentiments of ”All the World Loves Love” for a subtext that isn’t there”.

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IN THIS PHOTO: Morrissey (1984)/PHOTO CREDIT: Nick Knight for The Face

I have mentioned a couple of songwriter and tipped a nod to Morrissey – and maybe there is a geographical element. The last lyricist to put a new spin on love and regular life was Alex Turner. The Arctic Monkeys’ frontman has been weaving exceptional rhymes and visions since the band’s debut album back in 2006. Like the aforementioned; Turner was looking around everyday life and scenes that he was walking through and putting them into music. Perhaps these northern writers have a very different experience to the predominantly southern/American writers who are dominating the charts now. There are some special and fascinating songwriters who can take life’s ordinary sides and make them shine but, for the most part, they are away from the mainstream. I keep getting review requests from people and, largely, the songs are about heartbreak or some sort of change. The most depressive part is the same synopsis and pitch. All the songs seem to be saying the same thing and said in the same manner. It seems there is this formula and restrictive mind-set from writers; they get caught in a loop and their language can be very narrow. I have mentioned male names but look at female songwriters such as Patti Smith and Joni Mitchell and they have created incredible songs that are so different to anything around them.

It is dangerous replicating songwriters and looking back too much but there are lessons that can be learned. As music is becoming sadder, slower and more repetitive; are we just accepting this format and accepting music that is pretty brief and familiar? Those artists who break habits and producing something stunning are fewer and rare and I feel a lot of wit and freshness has been lost from music. I always love discovering a songwriter who can make me smile or tackles life from a different side. I am not saying every song needs to sparkle with its language and wit but I think we are all starting to get lazy. The quality of my writing, I feel, could be better and too much time on social media and conversing in a very electronic way means we are not as together and fluent as we used to be. I am scaling my interviews right back because of the standard of written response and writing less (from next year) as I am making silly errors. My need to move into the radio/audio side of things is the result and does songwriting have the same problem? My biggest problem with music today is the rather unengaging and unmemorable lyrics. This does not apply to everyone but I feel a lot of artists are more interested in sound and production rather than standout lines.

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 PHOTO CREDIT: @neonbrand/Unsplash

One gets bored hearing the same sort of lyrics and the clichés pour; the hyperbole, strain and unengaging words pounding in the ear. Maybe there were faults and flaws when we look at those songwriters such as Heaton, McAloon and Morrissey – not to forget the likes of Patti Smith – and maybe it is a generational shift. I think their upbringing was more humble than a lot of their peers so their perspective was not the same. Maybe too many modern artists have that comfort and, if they are struggling, anger is replacing the charm and foibles of their setting. It might tie into a piece I wrote recently about the fun escaping music and I think lyrics as a whole are getting more predictable and boring. I would prefer to hear something sarcastic and snide – two lovers poking one another – and see words beautifully crafted and contorted than the usual delivery of routine and predictability. We might have gone past that point where we can encourage this sort of change but I know there are songwriters out there who have not lost that sort of edge. There are plenty out there who are brilliant lyricists who can write in a very interesting way. They are being buried and lost in a rabble of plain and generic artists. Whilst I yearn for something uplifting with a hint of the humorous; a bit of bitterness with a side order of domestic grumbling, let’s hope the current crop can take notes from those whose music...

WE are listening to decades after it first came out.

INTERVIEW: J Lndn

INTERVIEW:

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J Lndn

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I have been speaking with J Lndn...

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about his single, Like Me, and what its story is. I was eager to know what sort of music inspired him and how he got into the business; which albums mean the most and what he has planned coming up.

J Lndn talks about his plans and tells me how he unwinds away from music; if there are any tour dates coming up and if he has a favourite memory from his time in music – J Lndn reveals whether he has anything to achieve by the end of the year.

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Hi, J Lndn. How are you? How has your week been?

Hey. The week’s been pretty stressful, not gonna lie; have a lot of stuff to deal with my university, been cooped up in the studio like every night just working on my new releases; making new ideas and trynna innovate my sound.

For those new to your music; can you introduce yourself, please?

I am nineteen-years-old. I was born in Cali; never lived in the U.S. my whole life till this year. I grew up in three different cities: Moscow, Dubai and London. So, just a year ago I moved out of the U.K. to Boston to pursue my music career here. So, unlike a typical rapper - which reps only one city - I tend to represent all three. I’m currently a student in college and I’m also a boxer. Other hobbies are I enjoy reading about other people’s cultures, history.

 

Like Me is your debut single. What is the story behind the song?

I wouldn’t say there was actually a story behind that song. I was more addressing a statement to the public and others in the Rap game. I felt that my first single should have been a little more self-centered. This song was to establish myself in the industry and portray the message of ‘to look out for someone like’. This was mainly directed to the people who didn’t believe in me or my passion for music and thought that I had nothing in the bag - that soon those who doubted me are the same people that are going to be praising me for my art.

In this song, I’m laying out my ambition, my dedication and I’m shutting down and addressing those who had no hope in my career. This is one of a few songs I would consider ‘selfish’ since it’s all about me. However, most of my music doesn’t evolve around that subject. I wanted my debut to be about self-empowerment. 

Can you give me a sense of the artists you grew up around? When did music come into your life?

As a little kid, I grew up listening to a lot of Jazz, R&B; Funk and Blues as those genres would always be played in my house or the car. I started listening to Rap/Hip-Hop at the age of eleven. It was mainly Jay-Z and Eminem who put me onto this genre. At the age fifteen, I would be freestyling after school with my friends however I never took it seriously; it was more of a joke.

At seventeen, my best friend bought me an e-drum kit and I just started making beats from there. Surprisingly, music production is where my passion for my career roots in. I would always consider myself a producer first and then a rapper. After efforts of experience, I established myself as a producer for other artists but the more I made beats the more I felt the need to flow and rap on them. Hence, why I’m here now in my Rap career.

My biggest influencers are Biggie Smalls, Nirvana; Kanye West, Nina Simone; J. Cole, Eminem; Jay-Z and Kendrick Lamar.

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You were born in California but spent time in London. How important was your time here?

Actually, I have never lived in Cali I was born and then six months later my family moved to Moscow where I spent my childhood there. Then I moved to Dubai (this is where I developed an interest for Rap); then I moved to London, which was one of the most important locations I would say for my music as this is where I really got inspired to start my sh*t.

What do you hope to achieve by the end of 2018?

By the end of 2018, I want to establish myself in venues in my local area. I want to slowly start spreading the word to the public about me.

Do you already have plans for 2019?

Yes, I do. I’m planning to expand my venue capacity release. Two more singles and perhaps release an E.P. or an album. 

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Have you got a favourite memory from your time in music so far – the one that sticks in the mind?

One of my favorite memories was when I was making music in Dubai on my vacation. I started linking up with a lot of local artists there and they have inspired me a lot to make my music. At the time, I was going through a rough phase in my life. Although it was rough, it benefited my music a lot (I made hella dark songs at the time).

Which three albums mean the most to you would you say (and why)?

Yeezus - Kanye West

At first, when I heard this album I HATED it. Like zero interest, man. But, something kept telling me to listen to it again and again and again. Until I started loving this sh*t. This album, by far, resonated with me most. It was an experiential album from Ye as he never made that type of music before. And the courage to experiment really attracted me to this artwork. I’m also very picky with my sound and music so, when I hate something, it’s very rare that I come back and listen to it. This wasn’t the case for this album.

Blonde - Frank Ocean

When this album came out, I was in a dark place of my life and this album helped me out. I went through a phase of about three months where I would only listen to Frank Ocean. Sh*t was crazy. Nevertheless; every time I listen to a song off this album I feel like it takes you into another world and makes me reminisce on some memories that I had and some memories which I never had before. This album is crazy man.

Good Kid, M.A.A.D City. This was just Kendrick’s (Kendrick Lamar) classic album. By far his best piece. Talked about the struggle, ambition and how gang violence doesn’t make you a real person. This album inspired my Rap style and music to this day.

As Christmas is coming up; if you had to ask for one present what would it be?

I don’t really celebrate Christmas due my culture but, for the sake of the question, if I had to choose a present it would be a new pair of boxing gloves. I need to replace mine A.S.A.P.

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If you could support any musician alive today, and choose your own rider, what would that entail?

I feel like, in order to be successful with regards to this, this would require a clear vision for that musician, confidence in yourself and that musician and trusting the work input.

What advice would you give to new artists coming through?

Trust the process. Do not rush anything.

Do you have tour dates coming up? Where can we catch you play?

Unfortunately, not yet. I’m planning to release much more music (like, two more songs) then my team and I will start planning to get up on some venues or perhaps to open up for a big name. We’ll get there don’t worry (winks).

Are there any new artists you recommend we check out?

 Yes. I would suggest you check out El Léon. We got a lot of collab work coming up. And, to be honest, if any upcoming artist has some sh*t on me that’s 100% him. His bars are dope and the delivery is even better. Go check him. 

Do you get much time to chill away from music? How do you unwind?

Yes, I do. For me, in order to shut off from this process I either box, chill with my boys or go out for a dinner (maybe a club here and there; I don’t want this lifestyle to distract me). I also use reading books as a way to detach. It kind of helps my brain to relax and, at the same time, get inspiration for new ideas. I fu*k with museums too.

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Follow J Lndn

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INTERVIEW: Lydia Evangeline

INTERVIEW:

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Lydia Evangeline

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MY first interview of the day...

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is with Lydia Evangeline as she tells me about her new single, Down, and its story; whether she is already looking ahead to next year and more material; the influence of her dad regarding music and which rising artist we need to get behind.

The songwriter chooses a few albums that mean a lot to her and whether there is anything to achieve by the end of the year; who she’d support in tour given the chance and how she relaxes away from music – she selects a great song to end the interview with.

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Hi, Lydia. How are you? How has your week been?

Hey there! I’m great thank you! My week’s been good. I’ve just got back from Leeds where I was part of a Sofar Sounds gig. 

For those new to your music; can you introduce yourself, please?

I’m Lydia Evangeline; twenty-four, based in Brighton. Started writing music at about thirteen/fourteen when I entered a very dreary poem into my school poetry competition and then decided to put it to some even drearier chords and write my first song...and the rest is history. Haha. 

I’ve only recently started releasing music as a solo artist (I’ve put out five singles in 2018) and before that I was in bands. I also play for artist Jake Isaac as his keys/guitar/percussion/backing vocalist (which is SO fun) and has taken me to many countries on many tours, which I’m so grateful for.  

I’m heavily inspired by women in music; I love 'em. At the moment, I’m drawing lots of inspiration from the likes of Jade Bird, Fenne Lily; Dodie, Maggie Rogers; Sigrid and MUNA - oh my gosh, the list is endless. Girls rock! 

Down is your new single. What is the story behind the song?

I started the lyrics for Down about three years ago actually - it’s been on a long old journey. I’d finally pulled myself away from a relationship that looking back just wasn’t great, but I wasn’t strong enough in myself to stay away. I kept being sucked back in and that’s primarily what the songs about. I liken the feeling of loss of control over your willpower to that of drowning and feeling like you’re struggling to resurface from the relationship that’s suffocating you and take a deep breath.

Did you experience a lot of music as a child? Can you recall which artists were in your collection growing up?

I know this is the classic answer, but my dad is my musical hero. He brought all of us up listening to Billy Joel, The Police; Mott the Hoople, The Carpenters etc. He almost daily sends me song recommendations via Spotify and has his own playlist of over two-hundred songs (so tech-savvy!). 

My mum is also from a family of Classical musicians, so that was very much present in our household, which I appreciate so much. I love that I can now just about identify pieces of Classical music when I hear them without being able to Google the lyrics. Haha. 

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Will there be more material next year?

 Oh, heck yeah! Try and stop me! 

 What do you hope to achieve by the end of 2018?

To be honest, I feel like I’ve achieved what I set out to do this year. It’s been a year of development and discovering who I am as a solo artist and, five singles later, I finally think I’ve got there...things will sound and look a little different next year and I’m so excited to show everyone my new material! Also, just a practical aim this year was to have five music videos to go along with each single which we managed to achieve so I’m pleased with that! 

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Do you already have plans for 2019?

Yes! An E.P. coming earlier in the year (I’ve enjoyed doing singles but I’m craving putting out a proper body of work that people can get their teeth into). And a couple of little tour and support tour ideas that are in the pipeline. Watch this space. 

Have you got a favourite memory from your time in music so far – the one that sticks in the mind?

Oh, gosh. I hope this doesn’t come across too braggy..but I mentioned earlier that I play for another artist, Jake Isaac, and last year we went on tour supporting Sir Elton John. Paha! Absolutely bonkers. 

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Which three albums mean the most to you would you say (and why)?

Love this question. Basically, any of the Paramore albums but, if I had to pick, I’d go with the original, All We Know Is Falling. Paramore were my absolute teenage goals and I don’t think I’d be doing music today if it weren’t for my mild (major) obsession with Hayley Williams growing up. 

Shallow Bed by Dry the River is probably my favourite album of all time (BOLD statement). 

Then, finally...Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band by The Beatles. Great album and reminds me of my dad. 

As Christmas is coming up; if you had to ask for one present what would it be?

I feel like this is the moment when I’m meant to say world peace? But, aside from world peace, I’m genuinely not really into ‘stuff’. I like gift experiences, you know what I mean? Like, take me ice skating at Hyde Park’s Winter Wonderland and you’re golden. 

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If you could support any musician alive today, and choose your own rider, what would that entail?

I’d LOVE to support Mumford & Sons. The dream. And puppies for my rider. Not to eat, to play with. They’re so calming. Yes; a green room full of puppies please.  

What advice would you give to new artists coming through?

Well. I’m a new artist myself so don’t have bucket loads of wisdom to impart. But, something I’m quite passionate about is people feeling they can be authentically themselves as an artist. Everyone on this earth is unique, so bringing your uniqueness into your music is so much more exciting than being a carbon copy of someone else.

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 PHOTO CREDIT: Hollie Fernando Photography

Are there any new artists you recommend we check out? 

Fenne Lily. She’s a divine creature. 

Do you get much time to chill away from music? How do you unwind?

I love a good Netflix binge, National Trusts; reading in coffee shops, hanging out with my family and walking along Brighton seafront listening to a good podcast. 

Finally, and for being a good sport; you can choose a song and I’ll play it here (not any of your music - I will do that).

Love that. Pop on Just Us by Cat Burns. It’s my JAAAM at the moment. She’s only sixteen. Mind-blowing

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Follow Lydia Evangeline

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TRACK REVIEW: Beth Macari - Boy

TRACK REVIEW:

 

Beth Macari

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PHOTO CREDIT: @montanalowery 

Boy

 

9.2/10

 

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The track, Boy, is available via:

https://open.spotify.com/track/5mmpb2akzWdtvVsdC50oPo?si=Dq4tqiTHS3amqBU8xWbNgw

GENRES:

Soul; Funk; Pop

ORIGIN:

Newcastle, U.K.

RELEASE DATE:

2nd November, 2018

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IN the New Year…

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PHOTO CREDIT: Lee Dobsob

I am going to move away from reviews and written interviews and focus more on the audio/radio side of things. I am rounding off the last of my submissions for this year and moving away from this type of review. It is not because of a lack of interest but I have found myself drawn more to older music and what came before in terms of fascination; something in the brain that is drawing me more to classic sounds rather than the new. Before I do step aside; I get to look at an artist that brings a few points to mind. Beth Macari is someone who makes me wonder whether there is an upturn and development in terms of Pop; artists who create some sense of mystery and intrigue; major festivals and gigs that can add so much to an artist’s work; varying work between releases and keeping things fresh – I will end by looking at Macari’s work and where she might head next year. I have complained because Pop has become too insular and inward and there is a lack of fun. One of the reasons why I feel older music holds more relevance and interest is because you get that emotional spectrum and strength. It is not the case that all popular artists are moody and write about their heartbreak but I am finding too many (artists) who are being too introspective and emotionally fraught. Beth Macari is someone who writes from the heart and is no stranger to being let down – that sounds bad but her experiences are the same as all of us. I know it is tempting to write from the soul and be honest but if you are sticking with the same thing all the time then it becomes rather boring. When the new breed came through – such as Sigrid and Billie Eilish – we were promised something fascinating, mature and exceptional but, largely, other artists and genres have taken more of a spotlight. I am more drawn to Hip-Hop and other genres at the moment but I feel something will change soon.

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Macari is someone who is not reserved in terms of her sound and can switch between Pop, Soul and other sounds. One of the things I am noticing about modern Pop is the splicing of other genres. It is always impressive seeing artists who can switch and mix their sounds but, more often than not, these experimentations provide little longevity and memorability. It is hard making an impression when there are so many artists around all competing; all trying their own thing and trying to gain ground. Macari is someone who has been in the music business a little while and is keen to do something fresh with every song. What I hope, for 2019, is more follow Macari and what she is doing. You have the more emotional and revealing songs and the spirited, rousing sounds. Rather than do the same thing all the time, you have an artist who can adapt and alternate when the mood calls for it. One of the problems with the mainstream at the moment is you either get too much moodiness, depression and anxiety or there is the more uplifting sounds that have very little substance. If we are going to remember artists years and decades from now, we need to urge something more substantial and detailed. I am hearing a lot of empty songs and predictable moments; something rather ordinary that does not remain in the mind. When you listen to Beth Macari, you notice something more personal, deep and interesting working away. I am not sure whether we will be humming Boy decades from now but, paired against what is happening in the mainstream, there is a lot more colour and memorability. This is important because we are going to remember those who showed a bit more bravery and variation in their music. I have every hope that Macari will keep producing this kind of eclectic and bold music because, it seems, it is really striking a chord.

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PHOTO CREDIT: Rhiannon Banks Photography

I will talk about acclaim and those backing her work but it seems like there is a bit of mystery regarding Macari. Maybe it is brevity in the social media age but there are few artists giving a lot away. I suppose interviews are the way of finding out more but it seems the music is there to do the talking. I have covered this before but it appears very few artists are putting out full biographies. It would be cool to know where they are heading and where they came from. I would like to know where Macari came from in a musical sense and which artists inspired her growing up. If I was going into music, I would have a bit about which musicians are my favourite and albums that compel me. I would add in details and facts; some rare insights and do a bit of a full-on piece. There are some who do this but, largely, social media pages have a few lines of basic information and that is all. Maybe the listener does not need to know too much but journalists need that information so they can get to grips with artists and what they are all about. Perhaps giving a lot of information directs how we view the music and what we take from it but I feel like there is little revelation given by artists. Macari is someone who appeals and has that incredible sound and I am interested to know how her career started. This lack of obvious reveal provides some mystery and, I guess, it focuses our mind on the music alone. Perhaps social media, and the way we use it, is a way of talking about ourselves. Macari reveals what she is up to and her latest news but what about her early life? The seed would have been planted early in life and I am curious which artist or album spiked that interest. I can tell you my story and when music came to me and, when you look at a new artist, it is always handy having a bit of background.

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PHOTO CREDIT: Rhiannon Banks Photography

In the case of Macari; I feel we get a lot of information through the music and maybe holding something in reserve means there is enigma. I have interviewed her before and got a sense of who she is and where she has come from and there will be many out there who want to know more about her. Unless there is a radio or print interview; few of us will ever get a real sense of what an artist is about and what their history is. Maybe, in 2019, as more material comes to light, we will get something fleshed from Macari but it is nice, for now, having a bit of mystique – we need to fill gaps and use the music to paint pictures. It is a bit of a tough thing to call. On the one hand, you can give a lot of information and background and that will give us a distinct image. If you let the music guide our mind then we will get another impression. I am a fan of those who put some biography together but, what I can glean from Macari’s biography is that her music has struck a chord and been backed by Gaby Roslin. Championed on BBC London and BBC Radio 2; you sense a certain vibe and sound from Macari. There is that maturity and depth but that is not to say her music lacks youthfulness and the ‘cool’ that is required from stations like BBC Radio 1. I can get a view of how her music is being taken to heart but what of her influences and favourites? Which musicians compelled her to get into the industry and write her own music? I wonder if that revelation means we think of that artist too keenly and it distorts our viewpoint. Maybe the social media age means we are providing little detail but, given the fact Macari regularly updates her pages, you can forgive the lack of biography.

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Macari has followed her debut single, Clone, with Boy and you can feel a change and evolution. The former was a more emotive and heartbreaking offering whilst Boy has that fizz and determination. Not only are the early offerings turning head and capturing ears; the fact Macari has appeared at major U.K. festivals alongside Melanie C, Jessie Ware and Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds means there is that experience and stage presence. She has learned a lot from the artists she has performed alongside and that will be brought to new music. It is hard getting big tours and prominent stage time so early in your career but Beth Macari has achieved this already. It might be a little while before she headlines but I can see that coming. You can tell from her music that she means business and has the confidence to take her sounds around the world. Right now, she is building her U.K. presence but the Newcastle-born star has accomplished a lot so far and made some impressive moves. I will end by looking at her movements and plans for next year but I am amazed she has had this big exposure already. Maybe that sounds insulting but I have heard of few artists who have supported and played alongside artists as big as Macari has so soon. This means the music is resonating and connecting with people – a guide for those who are coming into the industry. I know every artist wants to tour and attack the big stages but they have to wait a long while for that to be realised. Macari has already had this sort of acclaim and experience and this will work wonders for her future music. If you can get onto a big stage and play alongside some great artists then you can learn directly from them and get a chance to play your material to a large audience. The confidence that comes from those times means the mind will be opened and the songwriting ambitions grow.

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 PHOTO CREDIT: Daniel StarkVicky Hedley

It is always vital to keep changing between releases and not keep rehashing things. I find modern artists, largely, do not have the mobility and eclectic nature one might hope for. Mainstream artists fall into this trap but the very best are able to have their own identity and be able to create a range of different songs and themes. I am one who likes artists who have colour and diversity but I can understand the importance of consistency and focus. Many feel getting too wayward and switching between genres means we will not get a sense of who they are and it is harder for the music to remain in the mind. If you have an artist who is changing and pushing things, is that going to be as memorable as something more consistent and familiar? One of my main issues with modern music is the rather downbeat and samey. There is nothing wrong with being emotional and true but there is a real danger of alienating listeners and bringing the mood down if you keep producing this. Macari is someone who understands this and does not follow a lot of her peers. Rather than accusation, blame and a lot of anxiety; we have a chance to see her in a more positive state and backed by a lot of energy. I am not sure where she will head next but I am excited regarding the possibilities. If you do have variation and a spread of sounds then it means you can appeal to a wider audience and grow a larger fanbase. Maybe the odd song will not engage you but, before you know it, there is one that will get into the mind. I will move on in a minute but I wanted to talk about location and artists who are exploring the North.

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So many artists locate to London because that is where all the business is and a lot of the bigger venues are down here. I find this saturation and busy build-up can make it tough for any new artist that is moving to London. How do they manage to make an impact if there are so many others going for the same prize?! It is a tough industry and I can see the appeal of moving to London. Apart from the expense and crowded streets, there are those venues you can play at and plenty of stations that can play your music. It is understandable artists are attracted to this gold and shine but many are ignoring the pull and appeal of the North. Macari was raised in Newcastle and she plays a lot in that part of the world. Many assume radio and the media will overlook them if they are based in the North but I feel social media allows that connection regardless of where you are based. Maybe a lot of the mainstream press outlets are London-focused and big music awards are given, mostly, to artists down South but that will change. What is great about the North is the growth and stability. A lot of the best-loved venues are remaining open and the streets are less crowded. The friendliness is there and you have a different vibe. I have spent time in Manchester and know how strong the music scene is up there. There is a solid media scene and it is possible to get noticed and have your work shared. The same is true of Liverpool and Newcastle and I do not feel you need to move to London. Social media, as I said, is a way of getting your music to the masses and directly connecting with the world. Beth Macari is someone who does not need to spend a load of time in London and can play in the North and get acclaim down here. I know 2019 will be a big year for her and she will continue to grow.

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PHOTO CREDIT: Rhiannon Banks Photography

Rousing and skipping strings open Boy. There is something almost Classic about the introduction that suggests we might see something symphonic and grand arriving. A lot of modern Pop/Soul tracks tend to have electronics or a predictable start but Beth Macari subverts that and gives us an elegant and spirited start. When she comes to the microphone, there is something romantic and tender in her heart. She wants the hero to hold her closely and whisper in her ear. You get a picture of the two embracing and that need for togetherness. Maybe the bond has broken or they are coming back – or maybe this is an existing and strong relationship that is being celebrated. Before further explanation is given; you lean into this vocal and the musical combination and get drawn in. There are little aspects of singers like Hannah Reid (London Grammar) in Macari and you have that same grand and tremulous sound. It seems the hero has a secret and Macari wants to share it. Rather than push away a sweetheart and be depressed about a broken relationship; you have this more positive and upward-looking song that seems to revel in the purity of a relationship and what it provides. Syncopation replaces something more linear and slowed and the compositional tone transforms from Classical and romantic to more Pop/Electro-based and intense. Few songwriters shift pace and tone in a song but Boy has a definite sense of movement and progression. It seems like we have moved from the night-time and that sensuality to the light and heat of the new day. The heroine is talking about this faith and belief the boy is the one and this could be something solid. When we get to the chorus, there are bubbling beats and chorusing electronics that have this flame and kick. It goes, again, to another plain and there is something club-focused or beach-based. You can definitely feel something more intense coming through – it is a summer-themes and sounding single released in the autumn.

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You cannot accuse Beth Macari or lacking invention and mobility and she is always keen to keep her songs moving and bring the listener along with her. I am not sure who the eponymous hero is but it seems like there has been regret in the past. Perhaps Macari has been let down and disappointed by boyfriends but this seems to be something more special and sustainable. I am one of those people who feels artists get too caught up in romance and something they think is pure and will last. The nature of love songs has changed through the decades and there is less romance and personality. That is not a shot at artists but you get nameless lovers and rushed sentiments rather than something sweeping and focused. Maybe grabbing attention and getting something simple across is what is required but, while you are drawn to the positive vibe and uplift, you are never sure of who the boy is and whether they are serious. The heroine feels like this bond will last but who is this character and is he someone she wants to settle down with? Maybe it is a case of a youthful heart and lust disguising attraction for love but you cannot argue against the belief she has and she is willing to give things a try. Maybe the lyrics are not as deep as you’d imagine but perhaps that anonymity gives the listener the chance to interpret how they feel and get what they need. You are captured by the energy of the song and how it kicks. Our heroine has that passion inside her heart and she wants the hero to stay another night. I am not sure how things ended up and what the outcomes was but these imploring notes and sentiments come from a very real place. Rather than rush or do waste this chance; she wants the man to come over and watch the stars.

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I am not certain whether the two ended up together and if they were happy but this initial stage and seduction catches the eye. Boy is a song that seems primed for the mainstream and could easily sit alongside what is out there at the moment. It might take a few listens for the song to be fully absorbed and settle in the brain but it is exciting hearing the song come to life and explode. By the end, you come back to the beginning and investigate the song again. I am interested to see where Macari heads next and whether her next single will have the same sound and energy as Boy. Even though the weather is chillier and the days are shorter; Macari has summoned something that has a summer-time swing and fizzes from the speakers. Even though the hero of Boy is nameless, I get the sense something real will develop and things can last. Macari is an artist who had made some big strides and is not comfortable repeating the same thing time and time again. This is good to see in a modern artist and it means her next release will have many curious ears trained its way. Boy is a song that can lift you when needed but also score and guide any number of situations. It is not often you discover a song that has that nimbleness and can stick in the head.

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I have spent a lot of time talking about aspects of her work and her new single, Boy. I have heard her two tracks (so far) and it is interesting seeing where she might head. Given the difference between Clone and Boy; where might see step next and what will another single contain? I can imagine Macari stepping into a more Soul-based territory or doing something similar to Amy Winehouse. Perhaps she will provide something inward-looking and emotional but I feel, as the weather will start to warm up, I guess there is going to be that energy and need to provide something hot. I guess there will be an E.P. but I am not sure when that will arrive. Touring is an important thing and Macari has played some big gigs already. Many artists start on humble foundations and have to wait a long time for their shot and it can be frustrating waiting so long to get a break. Something about Beth Macari has led to this popularity and growth. I think next year will be a big one for her and we will see more material. So far, there have been great reviews and praise from big names in radio. I am hearing a lot of new music and different stuff but finding, more and more, artists are not really as eclectic and bold as they could be. It is difficult stepping out of your comfort zone but the only way you will remain in the memory and remain is doing different things and changing it up when needed. I shall leave things be in a minute but I like what Boy says and how it sounds. It can easily fit into the charts or on radio but it is distinctly the work of Beth Macari. It is not a replication of what everyone else is doing and something rather predictable.

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PHOTO CREDIT: Rhiannon Banks Photography

She is an artist that has potential to endure for years and succeed and I am compelled to see where she steps next year. This year has been a busy and successful one and she will bring that into 2019. I have seen many promising artists come out and sound like they could remain but then they lose momentum. Beth Macari is someone who has that spark and strength and I feel she has the width of talent to be able to keep going and stay in the public consciousness. I am not sure how long it will be until she hits the mainstream but we need more of her energy and talent there. I am finding too many rather languid and sad artists making music that is dragged down and easy. There are others who provide something upbeat but it does not linger and there are relatively few that manage to strike a great balance and have genuine class. Macari seems like someone who can join the biggest artists and craft herself as a modern star. Ensure you listen to Boy and get involved with it. It is the end of 2018 now so Macari will wind down and get time to relax but, before then, she has some gigs and is keeping busy. Check out her social media and follow where she heads. She is making a name for herself in the North but there are plenty in London who are backing her work and playing her. It has been an eventful and interesting time for Macari and I am pleased she is providing such quality to the music world. I will keep an eye out for her next year and what she comes out with next. Boy is a sign that suggests Beth Macari is a name you will be reading about...

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PHOTO CREDIT: Rhiannon Banks Photography

YEARS from now.  

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Follow Beth Macari

INTERVIEW: Missyou

INTERVIEW:

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Missyou

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I am ending the day...

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by speaking with Missyou and what the story is behind their new single, Timid & Timbuktu. The E.P., YourBody, is out soon so I ask what themes inspired that; how they all found one another and the sort of music that influences them.

The guys pick albums that mean a lot to them and recommend some rising artists; how they spend time away from music and what they want to achieve next year – they each pick a song to end the interview on.

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Hi, guys. How are you? How has your week been?

Long, but alive. Hope yours was productive.

For those new to your music; can you introduce yourselves, please?

We are Missyou: Blaise – vocals, Pete – bass; Vin – drums and Omer – guitar.

Timid & Timbuktu is your new single. Can you reveal the story behind it?

The title was inspired by Kurt Vonnegut’s short story of a similar name. It’s about time and all the torments it can create.

It is from the upcoming E.P., YourBody. What sort of themes inspired the E.P.?

Life, death; love, sex; intimacy and betrayal. And obsession. 

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How did Missyou get together? When did you start playing together?

We all knew each other from other projects. We came together three years ago and started this with the intent of common ideas. 

Do you share similar tastes? Who are you inspired by?

Yes, very much so. The 1975, The NBHD; Lund, LANY; Nin, Elliott Smith and Brand New.

Is New York an inspiring and vibrant place to record music in? Do you draw a lot of guidance from the sounds and scents of the streets?

Not really.

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What do you hope to achieve by the end of 2018?

To put out the E.P. Prep another E.P. Make more videos.

 Do you already have plans for 2019?

Coming together.

Have you got a favourite memory from your time in music so far – the one that sticks in the mind?

Hopefully, still to come.

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Which one album means the most to each of you would you say (and why)?

I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning by Bright Eyes

Because the lyrics made me want to write.

Synchronicity by The Police

Because it changed everything for me.

Purple by Stone Temple Pilots

Because that song made me want to play.

The Devil and God by Brand New

Because it created atmosphere I had not heard before.

If you could support any musician alive today, and choose your own rider, what would that entail?

Too hard.

What advice would you give to new artists coming through?

Be yourself; be true.

Do you have tour dates coming up? Where can we catch you play?

Not as of yet.

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Are there any new artists you recommend we check out?

6LACK, Chase Atlantic; Milky Chance and Barns Courtney.

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 IN THIS PHOTO: Chase Atlantic

Do you get much time to chill away from music? How do you unwind?

Edit, make films; create, cook.

Finally, and for being good sports; you can each choose a song and I’ll play it here (not any of your music - I will do that).

Love It If We Made ItThe 1975

Free6LACK

Glitter & GoldBarns Courtney

Sleeping on the BlacktopColter Wall

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Follow Missyou

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FEATURE: Starting the Decade in Style: Part I/V: The Finest Albums of 1990

FEATURE:

 

 

Starting the Decade in Style

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 PHOTO CREDIT: @annietheby/Unsplash 

Part I/V: The Finest Albums of 1990

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THE reason I am putting together this feature…

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 PHOTO CREDIT: @dmitrybayer/Unsplash

is to shine a light on the albums that started a decade with a huge deceleration. I feel it is hard to define what a decade is about and how it evolves but the first and last years are crucial – I have already looked at decade-ending albums. I am bringing to life this feature that celebrates albums that opened a decade with a mighty amount of quality and gave inspiration to those who followed - I will cover 1960, 1970; 1980, 1990 and 2000. In this first part, I am focusing on 1990 and the best ten records from the year. The 1990s was a truly biblical decade and some of the very best records from the decade were released right at the start! Have a look at these ten 1990-released albums and I am sure you will agree that the 1990s was a hugely....

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 PHOTO CREDIT: @priscilladupreez/Unsplash

EXCITING time.

ALL ALBUM COVERS: Getty Images

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Sinéad O'ConnorI Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got

Release Date: 20th March, 1990

Labels: Ensign/Chrysalis

Review:

But the album plays like a tour de force in its demonstration of everything O'Connor can do: dramatic orchestral ballads, intimate confessionals, catchy pop/rock, driving guitar rock, and protest folk, not to mention the nearly six-minute a cappella title track. What's consistent throughout is the frighteningly strong emotion O'Connor brings to bear on the material, while remaining sensitive to each piece's individual demands. Aside from being a brilliant album in its own right, I Do Not Want What I Haven't Got foreshadowed the rise of deeply introspective female singer/songwriters like Tori Amos and Sarah McLachlan, who were more traditionally feminine and connected with a wider audience. Which takes nothing away from anyone; if anything, it's evidence that, when on top of her game, O'Connor was a singular talent” – AllMusic

Standout Track: Nothing Compares 2 U

Pixies Bossanova

Release Date: 13th August, 1990

Labels: 4AD/Elektra

Review:

By now most of us have heard 'Velouria'. Not as immediate as 'Gigantic' or 'Monkey Gone To Heaven' as far as singles go, but still a delightfully wiggy window to the world of Black Francis and the maddest thing to have been seen on Top Of the Pops since The Wombles wee Top Ten regulars.

'Ana' and 'All Over The World' would not be out of place on 'Aladdin Sane', with Black Francis doing his best Bowie impersonaton. 'Ana' is a brief repetitive piece, just six lines long. The lyric book shows us the firs letter o each line spells out S-U-R-F-E-R, while on 'All Over The World' Black Francis claims "I am a derangement." And we believe him.

'Stormy weather' flirts with the kind of omnious doom The Jesus and Mary Chain use” – NME

Standout Track: Velouria

Cocteau Twins Heaven or Las Vegas

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Release Date: 17th September, 1990

Label: 4AD

Review:

Yet, a few words do stand out, primarily that title phrase: “Heaven or Las Vegas.” The Cocteau Twins’ music has always sounded otherworldly, and their many fans would certainly describe it—and rightly so—as heavenly.

But Las Vegas? It stands out as an odd, jarring reference. Their fantastical music would seem to brook nothing quite so earthly, so garish, so thisworldly as Sin City, which hauls unlikely baggage into “Heaven or Las Vegas”: gambling, corruption, tacky tourism, and cheesy crooning. But if we forget everything we know about the city and reduce Las Vegas to its atomic elements—millions upon billions of lights—perhaps we might see heaven in the radiance. This is essentially how the Cocteau Twins’ music works: Fraser’s voice doesn’t behave the way a pop singer’s voice typically behaves, nor does Guthrie’s guitar deliver the usual melody or rhythm. Along with bass player/keyboardist Simon Raymonde, whose contributions shouldn’t be discounted, they found new ways to use old instruments in the 1980s, in the process devising a unique and wholly beguiling sound” – Pitchfork

Standout Track: Pitch the Baby                    

Paul Simon The Rhythm of the Saints

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Release Date: 16th October, 1990

Label: Warner Bros.

Review:

Each new cut comes as a surprise. The first song, ”The Obvious Child,” begins with confident drums that resound with special exuberant zing because they were recorded outdoors in a resonant city square in Salvador, Brazil. Then, at the start of the second song, ”Can’t Run But,” there’s a change of emotional weather; the drumming yields to a nervous patter of marimba and percussion. Later tracks are suffused with the liquid melody of African guitar or explode with bursts of soul-music horns, vividly etched against a prancing African beat. One buoyant song, ”Proof,” also has an introspective side, and dissolves into an interlude so high and timid it seems barely able to stand on its own. Yet somehow it does.

Simon’s voice, meanwhile, floats over everything, sounding both calm and earnest, eager and detached. It’s the voice of a man who endures the workaday world of achievement and suffering but longs in his heart for perfect peace” – Entertainment Weekly

Standout Track: The Obvious Child

Sonic Youth Goo

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Release Date: 26th June, 1990 

Label: DGC 

Review:

The answer, of course, is to make the record an elaborate joke on the idea of making a commercial record, a hermetic, album-length parody that's the equivalent of putting those waggling-finger quotation marks around the whole thing.

The songs revolve around catchy, nonsensical choruses--things like "My friend Goo / Just says, 'P.U.' " or "I don't wanna / I don't think so"--that stick with you as insistently as anything ABBA ever came up with. Great swaths of dissonant guitar noise move the way radio hooks are supposed to, and they become radio hooks themselves. There's always a beat to grab on to, sometimes tribal, sometimes poppy, but always danceable, and "Goo" rocks as hard as Mudhoney, while working on about half a dozen more levels. Call "Goo" the "Exile on Main Street" of the snide generation” – Los Angeles Times

Standout Track: Kool Thing

Deee-Lite World Clique

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Release Date: 7th August, 1990

Label: Elektra

Review:

Groove Is in the Heart" defined the summer of 1990 on radio and MTV with its delicious combination of funk, modern dance sheen, and Lady Miss Kier's smart, sharp diva ways. Add in guest vocals and bass from Bootsy Collins (a pity his hilarious video cameo wasn't represented here), brass from the original Horny Horns duo of Fred Wesley and Maceo Parker, and a smooth mid-song rap from A Tribe Called Quest's Q-Tip, and the results sounded good then and now. The rest of World Clique offers variations on the song's theme, with Kier's sweet, light vocals and DJs Dimitri and Towa Tei making it work in various ways. It's still a bit surprising that Kier didn't go on to greater fame on her own, because she definitely has not merely the pipes but the personality to carry something on her own -- compared to the dog-whistle vocal calisthenics of someone like Mariah Carey, there's no contest. Check out her work on songs like "Good Beat" and the amusing sass of such numbers as "Try Me on, I'm Very You." The two musicians come up with a seamless, adept flow throughout, merrily raiding whatever they so choose in the past for their own purposes. Disco is the heart of it all, with everything from hip-hop breaks to bubble-salsa piano -- even early Depeche Mode! -- taking a bow; hints of the future genre-mashing Towa Tei would make his own trademark are already plentiful. Bootsy and the Horny Horns crop up at other points as well, adding just enough classic funk to blend with the crisper electronic pulses and arrangements” – AllMusic

Standout Track: Groove Is in the Heart

Public Enemy Fear of a Black Planet

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Release Date: 10th April, 1990

Labels: Def Jam/Columbia

Review:

Fear of a Black Planet from 1990 made kindling of the previous summer’s anti-Public Enemy sentiment, quoting the group’s biggest critics in interludes and ribbing them in the songs. “Contract on the World Love Jam” weaves negative news reports into a scene-setting intro; later “Incident at 66.6 FM” sets outraged calls from a Chuck D squareoff with New York political radio host Alan Colmes over sedate keys and drums, playing the grumps for squares without even responding to their charges. A late album Terminator X showcase snarkily titled “Leave This Off Your Fuckin Charts” is a tenacious dare. Elsewhere, Fear pulls the camera off P.E. to speak to community issues. “Anti-Nigger Machine” and “Who Stole the Soul?” levied heavy accusations of censorship while “911 Is a Joke” explored black community police mistrust and “Fear of a Black Planet” tackled apprehension about interracial dating. Sourcing Public Enemy’s media struggles back to age-old racial strife was a brash, heavy-handed play, but Fear’s genius trick was coating its righteous rage in music that aimed to groove where earlier songs seemed to want to maim” – Pitchfork

Standout Track: 911 Is a Joke

Eric B. & Rakim Let the Rhythm Hit ’Em

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Release Date: 19th June, 1990

Label: MCA Records

Review:

Eric B. mixes beats and snatches of melody with a be-bop drummer’s sure, steadily swinging hand; he’s the Max Roach of the twin turntables. Listen to how he echoes and comments on Rakim’s lines throughout “Keep ‘Em Eager to Listen” without ever stopping the groove. And on “Untouchables” these two take hip-hop straight to the astral plane. Whether scratching up the late-Sixties sound of freedom jazz or matching a walking acoustic bass and a wailing trumpet to the call of the funky drummer, this bold attempt at cross-generational fusion says more about the Afro-American cultural continuum than a truckload of medallions and dashikis. A lot of rappers talk about “dropping science” these days; Eric B. and Rakim just do it” – Rolling Stone  

Standout Track: Run for Cover

The Breeders Pod

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Release Date: 29th May, 1990

Labels: 4AD, Elektra Records

Review:

Though the album doesn't feature as many of Donelly's contributions as was originally planned -- which was part of the reason she formed Belly a few years later -- songs like "Iris" and "Lime House" blend the best of the Pixies' elliptical punk and the Muses' angular pop. Pod reaffirms what a distinctive songwriter Deal is, and how much the Pixies missed out on by not including more of her material on their albums. With their unusual subjects -- "Hellbound" is about a living abortion -- and quirky-but-direct sound, songs like "Opened" and "When I Was a Painter" could have easily fit on Doolittle or Bossanova. But the spare, sensual "Doe," "Fortunately Gone," and "Only in Threes" are more lighthearted and good-natured than the work of Deal's other band, pointing the way to the sexy, clever alternative pop she'd craft on Last Splash. A vibrantly creative debut, Pod remains the Breeders' most genuine moment” – AllMusic   

Standout Track: Glorious

Depeche Mode Violator

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Release Date: 19th March, 1990

Label: Mute

Review:

Then "Enjoy the Silence," a nothing-else-remains-but-us ballad pumped up into a huge, dramatic romance/dance number, commanding in its mock orchestral/choir scope. Follow-up single "Policy of Truth" did just fine as well, a low-key Motown funk number for the modern day with a sharp love/hate lyric to boot. To top it all off, the album itself scored on song after song, from the shuffling beat of "Sweetest Perfection" (well sung by Gore) and the ethereal "Waiting for the Night" to the guilt-ridden-and-loving-it "Halo" building into a string-swept pounder. "Clean" wraps up Violator on an eerie note, all ominous bass notes and odd atmospherics carrying the song. Goth without ever being stupidly hammy, synth without sounding like the clinical stereotype of synth music, rock without ever sounding like a "rock" band, Depeche here reach astounding heights indeed” – AllMusic

Standout Track: Enjoy the Silence

FEATURE: Quiet Is the New Loud: The ‘Fan’ Who Wasn’t There: Why the Strange Case of Threatin Is Not So Unusual

FEATURE:

 

 

Quiet Is the New Loud

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ALL IMAGES/PHOTOS (unless credited otherwise): Getty Images 

The ‘Fan’ Who Wasn’t There: Why the Strange Case of Threatin Is Not So Unusual

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IT is not often you get something lighthearted to report in music…

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where you can all get together with the same reaction: This is just plain weird, right?! Maybe it is not such a joke for those who have been scammed and mislead but many might be familiar with the rather odd case of Threatin and the fact they – or ‘he’ – has been touring and promising all these fans, sales and big shows. It was, in fact, an illusion and something that makes one wonder why he went to such lengths. Here are the details regarding the story:

With hundreds of ticket sales, legions of social media followers and adoring messages posted online from teenage fans, Californian metal band Threatin appeared more than ready to conquer the UK music scene.

Venue managers liaised with an apparent booking agent and record label, gladly signing them up in the hope of sell-out crowds.

The reality was a rather different story. This band was unknown, they had no fans and no management.

They toured the country playing to completely empty gig venues and as they did so last week,  their story began to unravel.

The band, and in particular the sole permanent member Jered Threatin, has been accused of creating a fake legion of fans in order to land the UK tour.

Rob Moore, singer and guitarist in hardcore punk band Dogsflesh, which supported Threatin in Newcastle to an audience of four people, said: “The effort that he's gone to to portray himself as a big star is quite phenomenal...

"In all the years I've been involved in music I've never known anything like this.”

The band Kamino, which supported Threatin in Bristol, said they began to do their own digging and allege that the entire tour was based on fabrications stemming from paid social media “likes” for each show.

“Having delved deeper we realised the same practices were in place on his YouTube channel, his Facebook page, even on previous US tour dates listed on his website,” they wrote online.

“And when looking more closely at his website - all the industry contacts listed don't exist. Essentially, the entire history of Threatin is a lie”.

It seems Threatin’s figurehead enjoyed playing to near-empty venues and seemed to get some strange kick off of promulgating this ruse and having barely anyone turn up. Looking at the cover designs for his music and the aesthetics and there is something a bit Spinal Tap about it! If it were a fake Popstar or Folk artist, someone who looked the real deal, then it would be more baffling but, looking at the whole Threatin project, and it does seem like this rather comical and weird conceit.  There are tweets and videos going around of this band playing to empty venues and seemingly enjoying themselves. Whilst the saga is over and they cancelled their last couple of dates, one wonders what the impact is on venues.

This is one of those weird-as-crap situations that, like a nuclear disaster, one hopes they do not have to see again! The fact that Threatin successfully managed to dupe venues and purport this rather elaborate hoodwink makes me wonder whether it will start a trend. Maybe the goal was for this grand hoax to generate more publicity and curiosity than the music ever would – which is rather sh*t to be honest – and get some sort of odd ‘curiosity fame’. Like hostages being drawn into this odd and rather interesting situation; one does not hope the band is given any record deals and undue publicity after this. The venues that have been misled have shown anger and relief and, aside from a bit of humour here and there, it has been a bit embarrassing. In cases where the band played in the U.K. and Europe, it seemed like the venues were paid but the fact they reserved an entire evening to this band and had no bar sales and any other revenue means a lot of money has been lost. It seems amusing and bizarre from the outside but it makes me curious as to whether, going forward, venues will need some way of corroborating bands/artists’ stories of fanbases/ticket sales. The vast majority of artists out there are legitimate and do not go to such ridiculous lengths to get gigs but, if there are benefits and profits to be made by Threatin – maybe people will buy their music out of sheer curiosity – then struggling and anonymous bands might try the same thing.

I hope we do not see anything like this again because it looks bad for the venues and they have to lose a night that could have gone to a genuine act. It is embarrassing for the support artists who were hoping for exposure and new fans and the whole charade is a bit mystifying and strange. There was no situation where the band would have got money and positive media attention. They faked ticket sales and fan numbers on social media and there is no way they can come back from it. Threatin are not going to suddenly see those fake numbers replaced by real fans and get gigs off the back of this. Although there has been nothing quite as stupefying and film-worthy as this – maybe that was the plan?! – it is not unusual for artists to exaggerate their worth and popularity. It has been happening for a few years but I wonder why any artist would buy online followers and go to these kinds of lengths. It seems, in the modern market, Facebook and Twitter numbers are more important than the quality of the music. Whereas genuine artists can create great music and get fans that way; there is this whole other world where people are buying followers to boost their numbers; it makes them seem more attractive and huge and, for sites like Spotify that have a bare-minimum membership in terms of followers – this has recently changed – it is a duplicitous and scurvy way of going about things.

It is not just buying followers and that side that bands employ. Some artists publicise hoaxes and use them to gain traction:

Most people only learned of L.A. band Yacht when its members claimed to be revenge porn victims in May 2016. In a fake effort to get ahead of a leaked sex tape (which later turned out to be a dull music video posted on PornHub), Yacht announced it would be selling copies of it for $5. But Jezebel then revealed the hoax for what it was and the band issued an apology”.

Some say buying followers and taking a rather nasty route in is okay. This article argues some positive aspects:

When explaining why I believe purchasing social media followers is a good thing, I always use the analogy of a party.

Nobody wants to go to a party until there are plenty of people there and it’s in full force, right? But if that’s the case, how is one supposed to get a party started? The same can be said for your Twitter or Instagram page. Why would anybody want to click the follow button on an account with 25 followers, even if the content seems to be great upon first glance?

Feel free to invite all of your friends and pre-existing fans to join you in these places, and then do a quick Google search to see about upping those numbers. You don’t need many, and in fact, why purchasing, you should do so intelligently. If you are an artist with only a few songs out and yet you have 50,000 followers on Twitter—we’ve all seen these people—nobody is going to believe you, and your efforts will end up backfiring, making you look like a fool in the process...

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PHOTO CREDIT: @sharonmccutcheon/Unsplash 

Think before you buy.

Will 500 followers make you look appear to be on your way? 1,000? Maybe start with one and eventually spend your way to that second figure? There are many different ways to go about this, but you need to be aware that people are going to quickly glance at your follower counts and judge you instinctively based on them.

Now, you may be thinking that this is all an exercise in vanity, and I’d say you’re right, but only partially. Having a respectable follower count on popular platforms shows that some people have invested in you, if even in some small way (and even if they aren’t real, but that’s just between you and I). It tells those that might be potentially interested in booking you to play a venue, a festival, or even to sign to a label that there are people out there that are interested, and that there might actually be something to the artist in front of them
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 There is this argument – for those who buy followers – that promoters, venues and streaming sites have a minimum number when it comes to followers and fans. It can lead artists to buy these followers and create fake profiles. This article from 2016 brought together Music Consultant and Internet marketing veteran Tony Harris regarding whether musicians should buy followers:

As Twitter’s dominance as a platform reaches its apex, the phenomenon of fake profiles have emerged, and the tens of millions of bot accounts created by marketers are flooding Twitter with spam and noise. Thousands of fake accounts are created weekly, diluting and distorting the effect of this large community. As auditing tools allow more transparency into the authenticity of accounts, it becomes more and more crucial not just to build numbers, but quality followers – the ones that have true value as influencers, brand ambassadors and people who engage and spread awareness of the brand. The illusion of a massive following is often just that, with the reality being that only a fraction of the perceived audience ever sees content tweeted from the account. There’s usually an even larger number of inactive or low-quality followers, that are real users but not likely to see or share or engage in the content. I was quoted in this Associated Press article about the Fake Follower Industry. (You can find that article here)...

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PHOTO CREDIT: @freestocks/Unsplash 

It seems like everywhere you turn these days, you need to have a lot of followers on social media in order to get noticed. It’s not just talent scouts who are looking. If you want to get press coverage, there’s no story unless you have a big following. It’s democratized eyeballs. A periodical will not necessarily even write about an artist unless they know the artist retweeting or sharing that interview will bring them a certain number of eyeballs. Press people and journalists, booking agents, A&R people, talent scouts – all these people now need to see a huge following on social media in order to take interest in an artist”.

There are plenty of articles that argue against paying for followers because, in a tough and competitive market, it is unfair for talented artists who cannot afford to buy fans be overtaken by people who take a quicker route:

To the untrained eye, social media numbers are important. However, if you delve, you'll notice inconsistencies. For example, a band may have a ton of "followers," but few likes on their photos. Alternately, a band may have lots of Soundcloud plays on a particular song, but few comments.

The music market is a brutal one. Any advantage, even an inflated or false one, could result in an opportunity not otherwise had. However, at some point, if you cheat, it will all fall apart for you. Potentially, in a very embarrassing way, like at a gig. Not only is cheating unfair to other bands, but funding endeavours that enable you to cheat causes a complex problem in the music market...

 

I am an advocate of any media that attempts to create a new stream of income for musicians, especially after the destruction of the CD market. Radio-like streaming services such as Spotify, Rdio and so on, hold a lot of promise; they compensate artists per song play. Some argue that they don't compensate artists enough. However, these services represent the promise of a new way for musicians to make money.

My fear is: will schemes that allow people to buy popularity proliferated into other areas of the market? Could they destroy promise of new income streams for musicians?”.

Whilst this is not quite the same as Threatin and what they did; there is all manner of fakery and exaggerated numbers online. You are never too sure whether the Facebook and Twitter numbers are real and whether we are too dependent on numbers. When all is said and done; campaigns, gigs and promotion should be based around genuinely great music that does not need misleading social media numbers and any sort of paid marketing. I often feel like streaming figures and follower numbers is the exact opposite of truth and appeal. The artists with fairly moderate and realistic follower numbers tend to be the best. These mainstream artists with millions of followers seem, on the surface, to be the best and top of music but their actual sounds are average and overly-commercial. It might be naïve of me but I wonder whether music has become too numbers-driven and business-minded. Given the number of people coming into music; is it possible to have a purely talent-based system where quality gets you where you need to be? The case of Threatin seems weird and a one-off but there are plenty of artists buying their fanbase and paying to make themselves more popular than they really are. I think it all needs to stop and there needs to be some system where bands/artists buying followers needs to be stamped out. Let’s hope the pantomime of Threatin does not lead to impersonators and repeat performances but, if you look close enough, there are plenty of other artists out there who are...

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 PHOTO CREDIT: @rawpixel/Unsplash

NOT all they seem.

INTERVIEW: Jana & The Lanterns

INTERVIEW:

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Jana & The Lanterns

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THANKS to Jana of Jana & The Lanterns...

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for telling me the story behind the debut single, Birdhouse, and what its story is. I was keen to know if there is more material coming and which artists Jana got involved with at a young age – she tells me what she wants to achieve going forward.

The songwriter selects some albums important to her and reveals whether there are gigs coming; which rising artists we need to get behind and whether she gets time to unwind away from music – Jana selects a great track to end the interview with.

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Hi, Jana. How are you? How has your week been?

Hi, Sam. I’m ok, thanks. This week has been busy, but good.

For those new to your music; can you introduce yourself, please?

Sure. My name is Jana. I live in London and I’m a musician and singer-songwriter. I started playing with my band about two years ago and named the project ‘Jana & The Lanterns’. It’s essentially Folk-Rock with hints of Pop, Country; maybe a hint of Jazz. I’m having a hard time putting it in the box, actually (smiles).

What is the story behind your new single, Birdhouse?

It started as a poem. I was just lying on a sunbed, writing a poem about birds. There was a birdhouse in the tree nearby and I realised that they only stay there for a while before flying away. It was like a temporary home. Hence, the lyric “Even a wanderer needs a piece of home every now and then…”.

Do you think there will be more material coming next year?

Definitely. We recorded five songs for an E.P. which will be released in 2019.

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Which artists did you discover young and become involved with?

Sting was probably my first big influence when it comes to ‘popular’ music.  

Do you listen to a lot of modern music or do you find you gravitate towards classic artists?

I love listening to time-proven classics but from the newer people I prefer Father John Misty, Chris Stapleton; Lianne La Havas, Florence & the Machine...there is good music around.

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What do you hope to achieve by the end of 2018?

I’d love to spread our band’s name around; introduce our music to as many people as possible. Releasing of the second single is planned too.

Have you got a favourite memory from your time in music so far – the one that sticks in the mind?

Well…there are a few. Playing at a Progressive Rock festival in Miami and meeting Mike Portnoy and Jon Anderson was pretty spectacular.

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Which three albums mean the most to you would you say (and why)?

Mercury Falling by Sting

I found it in my dad’s C.D. collection and was amazed by the impeccable musicianship of the band, imaginative songwriting and arrangements. Never heard anything like it before. You know there’s a direct link between hearing that album and me coming to England (smiles).

Nat King Cole (compilation)

My interest in Jazz started with this.

Blue by Joni Mitchell

It showed me how much of an impact you can make with just a voice and a guitar/piano and that it’s possible to get abstract in expression while remaining very direct to the listener. I suspect it’s only possible with Joni.

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If you could support any musician alive today, and choose your own rider, what would that entail?

Oh; I don’t know. There are so many great people around. It would be cool to support Father John Misty cause he’s one of a few singer songwriters that is REALLY honest and doesn’t make compromises. Good music is obviously the first priority for him.

What advice would you give to new artists coming through?                   

Well. I am a new artist myself. That doesn’t mean I haven’t been making music before - I was fortunate to have a lot of amazing Classical music teachers that taught me discipline, dedication and refining musical taste. So, passing on their advice; listen to a wide spectrum of genres and practice, practice, practice.

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Do you have tour dates coming up? Where can we catch you play?

At the moment, I am playing some solo/duo gigs with my guitarist. A proper tour will follow after the E.P. release. There’s an amazing Folk club in London called The Lantern Society that I play at quite often. Wonderful people and the performers are always great.

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 IN THIS PHOTO: Aksel Undset/PHOTO CREDIT: Annika Derksen

Are there any new artists you recommend we check out?

I’ve seen this Norwegian guy recently, Aksel Undset. Beautiful landscape-like harmonies and melodies; incredible guitar playing too.

Do you get much time to chill away from music? How do you unwind?

Haha. I never really chill away from music: it’s just in me. I’m always writing or just humming or thinking about swapping the melody of the new chorus for the old one as it was better in the end…otherwise I just watch a movie or go out for a walk (smiles).

Finally, and for being a good sport; you can choose a song and I’ll play it here (not any of your music - I will do that).

Joni MitchellHelp Me

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Follow Jana & the Lanterns

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INTERVIEW: Evil Needle

INTERVIEW:

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Evil Needle

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I have been speaking with Evil Needle...

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about his single, Collapse, and what comes next in terms of new material. The French producer tells me about his path into music and albums that mean a lot; whether he has any advice for artists emerging and which rising musicians we need to get behind.

I ask whether he has any plans before the end of the year and how his music has changed through the years; if he has a favourite memory from his time in music – Evil Needle selects a relatively unheard song to end the interview with.

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Hi, Evil Needle. How are you? How has your week been?

I’m doing great, thanks. I hope you’re well?

For those new to your music; can you introduce yourself, please?

My name is Evil Needle. I’m a producer from France.

Collapse is your latest single. What is the story behind it?

Collapse is one of the stages of the E.P. The overall theme is to overcome or beat something, hence the name ‘igida wich’ which means 'to win', 'to defeat' or 'to beat'.

How did music come into your life? What sort of sounds did you grow up around?

I mostly listened to Hip-Hop music growing up and started to learn about beat-making randomly when my friend introduced me to one of the few software programs that were available at that time. I found it entertaining, so I just kept doing it as a hobby and, here I am, still working on my craft.

Do you feel your music has evolved and changed since the start of your career?

Definitely. Over the years, I have been influenced by a number of genres such as Hip-Hop, Rap; Neo-Soul, R&B; Trap and Future-Beats.

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Do you already have plans for 2019?

I’m currently working on an L.P. called Souvenirs 2, which is the final chapter. It consists of tracks from the SoundCloud era that I’ve reworked and added new productions to. I wanted people to enjoy them on all streaming platforms. This should be available at the start of 2019.

Have you got a favourite memory from your time in music so far – the one that sticks in the mind?

The best times were always the times where I got to meet all the ‘internet bros’. It’s really great to see how people really are and sharing a stage or a studio with them was never a let-down – it was a lot of fun.

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Which three albums mean the most to you would you say (and why)?

Wu-Tang Clan - Wu-Tang Clan Forever

Because it’s the soundtrack of my childhood.

J-88 - Best Kept Secret

Because that’s the day I discovered J Dilla’s productions.

Flying Lotus - Los Angeles

Because he opened the path for a lot of us and he’s a big inspiration.

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What do you hope to achieve by the end of 2018?

I don't expect much, but I’d like a good reception from the upcoming E.P.

If you could support any musician alive today, and choose your own rider, what would that entail?

I'd love to support artists such as Bryson Tiller, Jeremih or Anderson .Paak. As far as the rider goes; I'm content with water and some beer; maybe some Pringles for extra fanciness.

Do you have tour dates coming up? Where can we catch you play?

None at the moment.

What advice would you give to new artists coming through?

To add their own flavor to the sauce and not only follow footsteps.

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 IN THIS PHOTO: Blanda

Are there any new artists you recommend we check out?

There’s always some great new stuff I’m discovering. Right now, I’d say that I really feel Blanda, Stanzah! and Nasty C.

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 IN THIS PHOTO: Stanzah!

Do you get much time to chill away from music? How do you unwind?

I can if I want to, but I’m fine with the way it is right now. When I’m not doing music, I like to learn new things such as cameras - which is something I’ve been getting into recently.

Finally, and for being a good sport; you can choose a song and I’ll play it here (not any of your music - I will do that).

allahjordans (whereisalex remix)

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Follow Evil Needle

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FEATURE: The November Playlist: Vol. 3: I’ll Follow the Girl Anywhere…

FEATURE:

 

The November Playlist

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IN THIS PHOTO: The Japanese House/PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

Vol. 3: I’ll Follow the Girl Anywhere…

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THIS week is a reliably busy and eventful one…

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IN THIS PHOTO: Regina Spektor/PHOTO CREDIT: Shervin Lainez

that sees fresh releases from The Japanese House and Regina Spektor. I have been looking at what is out there and have combined Rita Ora, Chris Cornell and The Smashing Pumpkins together with some of the more under-the-radar, underground cuts. It is a great blend of sounds that will get into the head and kick the weekend off in style. Take a look through the best of the new releases and the wonderful variety on offer. Every week brings wonderful treats through and this week is particular special and important. This is, perhaps, the last week we will be able to enjoy regular and traditional music before the dreaded Christmas tracks…

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IN THIS PHOTO: Rita Ora

COME out of the woodwork!

ALL PHOTOS/IMAGES (unless credited otherwise): Getty Images/Artists

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The Japanese HouseFollow My Girl

Regina SpektorBirdsong

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The VaccinesAll My Friends Are Falling in Love

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Noel Gallagher’s High Flying BirdsAlone on the Rope 

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PHOTO CREDIT: Amber Pollack

Sundara Karma One Last Night on Earth

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Rosie CarneyZoey 

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Maggie Lindemann - Would I

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Rita Ora Velvet Rope

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Lewis Bootle Take Me Home

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PHOTO CREDIT: Wolf James Photography

Holly WalkerStraight Line

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PHOTO CREDIT: Julie Rowland

TalosSee Me

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Dawn WallRain God 

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Alessia CaraNot Today

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Papa RoachNot the Only One

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Hozier - Movement 

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Marshmello - Together

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The Chainsmokers Beach House

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The Good, the Bad & the Queen - Merrie Land

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Chris Cornell, SoundgardenFlower

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PHOTO CREDIT: Linda Strawberry

The Smashing Pumpkins Travels

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Jennifer Lopez Limitless

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Ellie Goulding, Diplo and Swae Lee - Close to Me 

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Tallia Storm It’s the GC

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Liv Dawson I Like You

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Lo Moon For Me, It’s You

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Leo Kalyan the edge

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Hannah Jane LewisDo It Without You

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YONAKADeath by Love

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L Devine - Daughter

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Betty Who Between You & Me

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Mumford & Sons - Beloved

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Anderson .Paak6 Summers

TRACK REVIEW: RUEN - What I Need

TRACK REVIEW:

 

RUEN

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What I Need

 

9.6/10

 

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The track, What I Need, is available via:

https://soundcloud.com/iamruen/what-i-need

GENRE:

Alternative-Rock

ORIGIN:

Margate, U.K.

RELEASE DATE:

31st August, 2018

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ON this outing…

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I get to look at a track that has been out there for a little and get to focus on that rarest of musical opportunities: resonance, nuance and time. To be fair, the reason I have only just arrived at the feet of RUEN is a busy diary – this has been in there since August! RUEN is the moniker of Margate-based producer Rhiannon Mair and it brings me to the topic of female producers; artists whose music strikes chords and reveals itself over time; L.G.B.T.Q.I.A. artists and equality in the industry; those who have managed to create a solid foundation and gain respect in the industry; a little about female artists coming through who have the potential for longevity – I will end by looking at RUEN’s future and where she might head next. I am familiar with Rhiannon Mair’s work in the capacity of production and have reviewed a fellow producer, DIDI. DIDI is the professional name of Lauren Deakin Davies and the two of them have worked together in the studio. I covered a few of the same topics when reviewing DIDI but I feel it is worth revisiting on this occasion. RUEN, despite the four-letter, upper-case name, is a different artist to DIDI so there are other areas to explore. Another reason why I have held this review back for a while is to allow What I Need the chance to settle in and do its work. With reviews, you are charged with that immediate reaction and distilling a song in very few words. Artists spend time crafting music and labouring overs its sound. They will go through hours, days and weeks – sometimes longer – of fettling and retuning before they arrive upon something that, to them, sounds just so. It is a hard process getting a song from your head and making it sound perfect on the page. It seems odd that people, whether critics or the public, spend such little time with that end result.

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Maybe they will keep the song in their mind but so many of us give it a quick glance and then, once we have heard it once or twice; the song is then archived in some playlist or it is forgotten about completely. In a way, music is being treated like wet wipes or tissues. There is that sense of the disposable, I mean. You see fewer and fewer people really returning to music and exploring it down the line and that is a shame. In the case of RUEN; I have been following her for a bit but it is only recently that I have given her music a good listen and explored it from different angles. I think we all need to allow music the chance to unfold and seduce without giving it a brief window for impression. If we try to capture its essence in a brief window and are reluctant to let it swim around the head then how are we going to do that artist proud? Is it fair they should spend the time on the song whilst we, for free, pass it by without much of a glance?! I don’t think so. For that reason, it has been good to give What I Need a proper shout and let it work away. I will explore the song in detail later but, before I get there, I wanted to finish on this point of nuance and time. Music is huge and growing; we are seeing more and more artists come through and I do wonder, in the future, how many of the current crop we will remember. It is a shame we are so keen to flick through tracks and get onto the next one – there are so many great sounds that are worthy of fonder investigation. I have been listening to RUEN and, after a little time, you can hear that production experience and intuition come in. A lot of artists self-produce but there is a greater awareness and skillset in the bones of Rhiannon Mair.

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I need to talk about equality a bit because, whilst the music is the most important thing; look at the imbalance in the industry and it does raise questions. I have been campaigning for ages for festivals to think carefully about their booking policies and why so few women are selected as headline acts. I feel festivals like Glastonbury will go down the same path next year as they have through time. We can all rattle off a list of female artists who have made a huge impact on music and are doing so right now. They are visible and out there but, for some reason, overlooked when it comes to those headline spots. It is frustrating but I hope there are positive changes sooner rather than later! In terms of production and women in studios this, too, is an area that is of concern. I know so many female artists who self-produce and then there are producers like Mair who has worked with some exceptional talent. She has worked with Bryde, Laura Marling and Emma McGrath and is one of the hottest producers on the circuit right now. When people talk of producers, invariably, a man’s name is mentioned and we often overlook the fantastic female producers. Maybe the imbalance is due to this feeling the studio is for the boys and there is no space for women. Some studios are like that but I feel there is a lack of exposure and education. If you use people like Rhiannon Mair as examples of fantastic producers who are doing sterling work; how long before we see young women/girls getting into music production? If one simply ignores the problem then there will be no resolution. I know there is a slight shift in terms of men-women as producers but it is quite gradual. Mair is one of those producers who will be around for years and get to work with some wonderful artists. People know about her work but there should be this drive to promote gender equality and emphasise the fantastic female producers around.

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I feel RUEN’s music has this advantage because of the two personas. You have this artist who has a particular sound and vibe and the producer who has worked with fantastic artists. Being able to have that knowledge of the studio and sound is a big advantage. I feel all artists should get some basic background regarding production and learn the skills needed to succeed there. It is okay working with other producers but why wouldn’t you want to give yourself the chance to producer your own material? I think having this option is invaluable and can give your music so much potential. Producers are the unsung champions and pioneers and we need to show greater respect to them. I know there is a lot of love for Mair in the music world and her skills as a producer means the music has that effortless and professional sound. Mair has gained a lot of respect as a producer but, as an artist, it seems like RUEN is turning plenty of heads. BBC Radio 6 Music has got behind her and there is a lot of positivity flying about. This is no surprise but I hope she capitalises on this. Maybe there will be another single soon but, as it stands, it seems like new songs will come next year. One thing I do bring up with artists is the matter of social media and awareness. This is another review where I have to, briefly, concentrate on two common themes: photos and updates. In terms of the former; there are some shots out there – most are used in this review – but there is so much brilliance in the music of RUEN that can be exploited and explored through photography. It is nice for artists, in general, to have some updated snaps and explore with different settings. Most of RUEN’s shots are black-and-white and, whilst this might be part of an artist vision, it does create this somewhat grey wallpaper and visuals alone can put some people off. I am not saying there needs to be a lot of colourful photography but there do need to be some fresher shots out there.

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The same goes for updates. RUEN is a fantastic artist and is making strides but there have been few updates on social media in the past few months. Even if you are between singles or not touring at the moment, touching in with followers is crucial. It does not need to be a ramble or vague comment: letting them know about your plans or sharing your material (so that fresh ears are alerted) is an essential consideration. There have been few updates like this from RUEN and, as we head into 2019, there will be people looking around for artists to follow. Given the fact she is this producer and rising star; it is paramount she puts something out before the end of the year or ensures people are aware of her music/name. I do have this fear, in spite of great music, it will be hard to recruit new fans and radio stations if there is not a more regular promotional drive. Perhaps she has a team behind her doing this but, before we get to 2019, a few more updates and bits of news would be good to see. Those are my only criticisms because, regarding the music, there is not a lot to fault. I have talked about the production side of things and how impressive it is to see artists produce their own work. Whilst there is a distinct sound you get with RUEN; Mair’s work as a producer and the artists she has worked with sort of feeds into her own material. I can hear little bits of others, Laura Marling for sure, in What I Need and that is pleasing to hear. Next year is going to be a busy and exciting one and I know RUEN will have plans regarding new material and movement. Although sexuality is not often explored in music; I wanted to briefly look at the subject and why, again, it is an area we need to focus on.

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Rhiannon Mair is an L.G.B.T.Q.I.A. artist/producer and someone who has not felt stigmatised or excluded because of her sexuality. Although it has not been a big issue for Mair in the industry, I feel few people concentrate on L.G.B.T.Q.I.A. artists and give them as much footing. One might say by highlighting them you are implying they are special or deserve extra footing. What I mean is that there are fewer L.G.B.T.Q.I.A. artists and producers being given a platform. I speak to artists who feel that they are unable to express their sexuality freely through fear of judgement and ignorance. It is a shame that, in 2018, there are some quarters unwilling to embrace sexuality as this natural thing that has no barriers and is the same. Why there is this unacceptance and ignorance regarding sexuality is beyond me but, in music, I am often concerned the mainstream is not set up to accept messages around homosexuality and bisexuality. Throw in asexuality and other preferences and could that really nestle alongside the predominantly heterosexual makeup of the industry?! Whilst RUEN does not hide her sexuality and feel it is a barrier; I wonder whether the music is a muted in terms of what she wants to express. One hears so many artists talk about sex and relationships without much coyness and hesitation. It is not often I listen to the radio and hear love songs and sexual expression through the lens of an L.G.B.T.Q.I.A. artist. A lot of songs have disguised tones and ‘she’ is often replaced by other words. Maybe some are not concerned with response but there are many who feel, if they were true and open in their music, that would cause some repercussion. RUEN has felt, as a producer, there is that need to prove herself but has not felt hindered and ignored because she is a woman. I do wonder whether sexuality is one of those ‘taboos’ that the music industry is not willing to discuss.

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It is okay to write songs of love and sexuality without being too overt and explicit but it is rare one hears sexual variation in the mainstream. We get a lot of heterosexual perspective but, childishly, there is sniggering when we hear songs of two women in a relationship. You either get a juvenile and male reaction – they are aroused or immature – or some feel it is a salacious and attention-grabbing ploy. If a male artist was frank and passionate about a love and put that out into the world; would that get the same airplay and appreciation as a song that talked of a heterosexual relationship? Maybe I am pushing this a bit far but, with the likes of RUEN breaking barriers and showing incredible skill, there needs to be discussion. She herself has said her sexuality and gender is not much of a barrier and she works as she pleases. That is good to see but I have this inkling there is a part of her brain that is being blocked by conventional demands in music – that L.G.B.T.Q.I.A. artists are open but not TOO much. The respect Rhiannon Mair/RUEN has gained in the industry cannot be ignored. CLASH magazine have praised her and there is a lot of love for her music. Having worked alongside the likes of Laura Marling is no minor achievement. RUEN, in her latest song, does put a female energy into the world and talks about sexuality so I feel, to an extent; there is this lack of hesitation. Maybe we will see much more openness and a lack of judgement in music in years to come but there is a distinct determination, sense of expression and confidence one hears on What I Need. I feel she can lead other artists who, before, have felt the need to be reserved regarding songs of lust and pure passion. I know there is a huge amount of respect for RUEN’s music and what she is doing and I know 2019 will be a big and exciting year indeed.

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I have not really mentioned the sound of her songs and voice. There have been comparisons made to PJ Harvey and singers like Karen O. That would be a good place to start and I feel, as I have discussed festival headliners and quality, these women have been trailblazers and icons for change. PJ Harvey, especially, is that endlessly inventive and bold artist who creates music like nobody else. I feel, actually, if you need a Glastonbury headliner then she would be someone to keep in mind. I am not sure what my exact point is but I just needed to throw that in. Actually...I feel that PJ Harvey-like sound is one unexplored in music and has a very pleasing and exciting quality. RUEN has her own voice and dynamic but you can detect that smokiness and sharpness; a raw ability to get into the heart and open up the mind. I have talked about the L.G.B.T.Q.I.A. and a lack of willingness (from others) to allow expression to come through but, on her latest single, RUEN is rather unafraid to talk about hooking up with an ex and that sense of regret – or just getting something off of her chest. Mixing these themes with a voice that has so many different colours and emotions is wonderful. I hope there is a lot more material next year and I feel there are very few out there like RUEN. Make sure you get involved with her latest track and explore her social media. I guess I better get down to reviewing What I Need and its wonder. Before I do, I wanted to implore the industry in general to look at the mainstream and those at the top and the sort of sound being put out. Maybe this is a futile effort but still, in this day and age, we are bowed and obedient to a rather one-dimensional heteronormativity. Most songs are about heterosexual relationships and I feel there are so many L.G.B.T.Q.I.A. artists waiting out there who feel reluctant to be truly honest in music. Look at the imbalance and under-appreciation of female producers and these are things that can be explored and discussed. I shall leave things there but I felt it was needed and vital to talk about some of the problems in music. Let’s turn to the positives and get to grips with RUEN’s new (newish) song, What I Need.

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What pleases me most about What I Need and its opening is the sharpness and sense of clarity that emerges. A lot of songs are either too polished and its gives the vocals a rather unnatural and false quality or the vocals are mixed so far down they are unable to connect. From the very first notes, it is like RUEN is right close to the microphone and we are hearing her sing into our ears. That might sound off-putting but there is a tangible closeness and sense of physicality that comes right through. Eliciting sighs, hums and a smoky wordlessness; the heroine talks about her ex and the fact there is this powerplay. Maybe her lover is not missing her and says that everything is fine since they split. One senses that is a bit of a lie and there is that need to play games and call the shots. RUEN is wise to this call and feels like there is a coyness and sense of seduction. It seems RUEN has power in the relationship and there was equality; there was a definite lust and love when they were together but now, for some reason, denial is coming through. I am not sure what has caused this breakup and sense of push-and-pull but there is that spark still. There is little instrumentation and encroachment in the opening. It is RUEN letting her voice twist and seduce as the words come out. Just as you think you have the song figured out and know where it is heading, it explodes into life and kicks in the groin. There has always been electric guitar strumming but, as we head to the chorus, there is a slam from the drums and the guitar steps up. You get a real burst of electricity and drive and you are stood to attention. It seems there will be some begging and sense of control and you sense too distant lovers who are playing games and not willing to surrender.

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RUEN talks about how things used to be when her girl used to be under her feet and there was that satisfaction. Now, for some reason, things have changed and there is a more combative tone. Maybe this is all part of the tease and gameplay. The composition is bold and rampant and the combination of strings and percussion provides that stamp and swagger. It is a big and meaty sound that is perfectly thrust forward by RUEN’s voice. There is spark, captivation and boldness on her tongue and you can feel the sweat and tease mix in this rather potent and frantic cocktail. I love how crisp and clear the production is and how there seems to be this perfect mix. The instruments do not bury the voice and the vocal is not resigned to the back. Instead, you have this equal footing and equalisation that means the song sounds more fulsome and balanced. RUEN has her regrets and doubts but she has won the right to own this. I love how there is an oblique and teasing nature where you are not told what causes this divide and why there seems to be this new game folding out. There are shades of PJ Harvey, Sheryl Crow and Karen O when we hear the heroine talk of the relationship and how things have changed. Maybe the sex and that lust took precedence over more emotional clarity but I cannot be certain. I am making guesses but it seems like there has been a quarrel and bad time and the two are drifting. Rather than moving on and denying the bond that was there before; there is a sexual flame that is still burning and different stories emerging.

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It seems like the sweetheart has forgotten the heroine and is denying how good things used to be. It is impossible to ignore the strength and physical nature of the song. Whatever has happened before; RUEN is willing to surrender to the tension and, if needed, she can compromise. It might not go as far as begging but there is that definite tease coming from the girl. It is exciting picturing that playfulness and the swagger from RUEN. The big and chunky composition gives the song its sexual flair and kick and you are helpless when it comes to its charm and pull. By the end notes, you have that hunger and thirst that needs to be satisfied – coming back to the song and learning new things. It is an exceptional and confident offering from RUEN. Rhiannon Mair has been producing for years but, as an artist, RUEN is fairly new. There are no nerves and loose edges and you have this song that sound unmatched in the modern scene. I know PJ Harvey is still recording but there are not a lot of other female artists who have that same sound.  I am eager to see where RUEN heads next and what direction she takes. Make sure you are aware of what RUEN is putting out and get involved with What I Need. It is a late contender for my song of the year – from new artists – and I am glad I got around to reviewing it!

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Rhiannon Mair will be winding this year down by chilling a bit and producing but, in musical terms, I wonder what will come next. It is exciting to see whether she is working with any big names in the studio in 2019 and what she has in mind. I would like to see more RUEN music and, maybe, an E.P. I know it is early days for her and she has put out a couple of singles so far (Bad Behaviour is her other one). If she can get a few modern snaps on social media and keep the followers abreast of developments on a more regular basis then that will help keep that intrigue there and mean new people come through. There is so much competition out there and I feel RUEN has natural advantages and edges. Not only is there that production quality but you have a songwriter talking about something genuinely fresh and under-explored. I hope we get to see the exciting, bold and pioneering voice of RUEN explored more in 2019. Being a solo artist is hard and, with so many others out there, putting your stamp into the world can be challenge ring. RUEN has already captured some big ears – I meant prominent radio stations rather than Gary Lineker or Martin Clunes! – and that will carry on next year. What I Need is another confident and compelling work that warrants a lot of love. I am glad I got to review the song a couple of months after its release because it allows all the layers and tones to fully come out and do their work. Make sure you get involved with RUEN and follow what comes next. It is a great time for her and I am pretty excited to see how she follows What I Need. If you are need to of musical direction and a new path then I suggest a brilliant...

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ROAD to RUEN.  

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Follow RUEN

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FEATURE: If the Boots Fit... Is it Fair for People to Criticise Glastonbury for Booking Stormzy as the First Headliner for 2019?

FEATURE:

 

 

If the Boots Fit...

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IN THIS PHOTO: Stormzy/PHOTO CREDIT: © Alex De Mora for CRACK

Is it Fair for People to Criticise Glastonbury for Booking Stormzy as the First Headliner for 2019?

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IT seems you can never please everyone…

and the announcement Stormzy is headlining Glastonbury next year has been met with a mixed reception! If you have not heard the news and not familiar with Stormzy’s work; The Guardian reacted to the booking:

Grime MC Stormzy has been announced as the first headliner of the 2019 Glastonbury festival.

Posters announcing the news appeared in Oxfam stores in Streatham, near Stormzy’s hometown Croydon, and in the town of Glastonbury itself, reading “Stormzy Friday! First Glastonbury headliner revealed” in the festival’s distinctive house font. Stormzy himself then posted the message on Instagram, with the caption: “THE HEADLINE ACT - GLASTONBURY 2019, well lets be fucking having ya then.”

It will be the London rapper’s most prestigious live show yet, and a new high point on a remarkable career trajectory. He broke through in 2015 with the freestyle Shut Up, originally recorded in a London park, and released his debut album Gang Signs & Prayer in 2017, which went to No 1 and earned him two Brit awards. Closing out that Brits ceremony, he delivered an attack on Theresa May for her handling of the Grenfell disaster, and criticised the Daily Mail.

He has since published his first book as part of an ongoing partnership with Penguin Random House to nurture and publish aspiring young writers, and also partnered with Atlantic Records to create his own record label.

It’s still relatively rare that a rapper headlines the festival. Noel Gallagher famously protested the booking of Jay-Z in 2008, who retorted by starting his set with a performance of the Gallagher-penned Wonderwall. Kanye West meanwhile headlined in 2015 to a mixed reception.

Glastonbury’s 2019 festival takes place 26-30 June, following a fallow year in 2018. Around 200,000 tickets for the festival sold out in just 30 minutes when they went on sale in October”.

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 IMAGE CREDIT: Getty Images

Those who are opposed to his booking claim that his only album, Gang Signs & Prayer, is not enough to get him to a headline stage. That record, released last year, was met with huge acclaim and celebration. AllMusic provided their take:

The album continues to shift, gradually at first, with harder tracks alternating with R&B or gospel numbers; by the halfway point, "Cigarettes & Kush," mellow vibes dominate the record. The refusal to pack the track list with bangers is the differentiating factor between Stormzy the grime MC and Stormzythe artist, elegantly showcasing that grime doesn't have to play by the rules, and that artists can express themselves outside of boasting and smack talk, acting as ammo for the argument that diversity and creativity are still prevalent in the scene”.

The Grime scene in the U.K. is growing and inspiring new artists to the spotlight. Long gone are the days when Dizzee Rascal rose to prominence but that absence has been filled by a variety of solid and exciting artists who look set to have a long future. Stormzy is, unofficially, seen as one of the leaders of the scene and is delivering some powerful words. I know he has only released one album but, as many people are pointing out; Oasis headlined Glastonbury in 1995 after only one record – the world-class introduction, Definitely Maybe.

I know there is a huge difference between the situations. Oasis dropped a Britpop-ready masterpiece that was awash with anthems and solid tracks. It was an album ready for stadiums and huge festivals; the chance to see a band elevated to the country’s biggest stage just as their careers were starting. There was a feeling Oasis were voicing something exciting and about to make history. Stormzy’s debut album has a different sound/appeal but, at a time when the nation is falling apart and there is so much grumble and spin from politicians; there is a lot of attention and love for those with a political voice and social conscience. I feel, rather than get a well-known band to take the first headline stage; this seems more like a political statement. I do not feel it matters Stormzy has only released one album: the popularity and potential is already there and he has a strong fanbase. Rather than wait a few albums and capture him at a point where he is taking his music in a new direction; we will see something different and edgy. Stormzy’s live performances are commanding and hugely memorable and I feel he can take to the Glastonbury stage and triumph. The Pyramid Stage saw Radiohead conquer last year so, next year, will we see the same reaction for Stormzy?!

The timing is very interesting. The ongoing Brexit shambles keeps getting more pantomime by the day. The Cabinet is coming undone and divided; it seems a leadership challenge to Theresa May cannot be far away – which slimy and malodorous challenger will succeed?! It is a right mess and nobody knows this like Stormzy. He has taken shots at the P.M. and knows the Conservatives do not speak for the nation. There is a whole sector of people who feel cheated, overlooked and distant. Until there is a Labour leader in power, the voices of millions will be ignored. It seems natural, in that context Stormzy would make the grade. I feel, by the time Glastonbury rolls around in June, we will know whether Brexit is a success and it seems perfect Stormzy will take to the stage and tell it like it is. I wrote yesterday, on social media, the fact there have been so few black artists on the headline stage through the years. Aside from Kanye West, Beyoncé; Jay-Z and Stevie Wonder; not too many names spring to mind! How many black artists did one see headline before the 2000s?! I will come to the subject of gender soon but it is a big step having a black artist top the Glastonbury bill. Many people, myself included, have critisised the lack of variety and diversity at Glastonbury’s peak stage. Maybe there has been a slight evolution in terms of bands/sounds - but there has not been a big shift if you think hard.

There have been many getting annoyed the traditional Rock/Pop/Alternative sound of Glastonbury is being taken in a more Grime and Hip-Hop direction. R&B and Soul artists have taken to Glastonbury’s main stage and it is not unusual to have Stormzy headline. Whether you think one album makes him inexperienced and unable to cope with the pressure begs questions. It will be interesting to see what his set consists of. I guess he has time – between now and next year – to release another album so might have a natural set all ready and waiting. If not, then there might be longer renditions of his songs, covers or rare tracks that did not make it to Gang Signs & Prayer. I am not against a Grime artists headlining Glastonbury and feel, for a festival to evolve and reach new generations, it needs to react to what people are listening to and an artist who can articulate the voices and needs of the people. Rather than book the same old bands and familiar faces; this is a new and interesting move that will be interesting to see. It will be intriguing seeing whether Stormzy can provide a full and unique set – but I know he will handle it and deliver the goods! We are not sure who the other two headliners will be but it could be Madonna or The 1975; maybe it will be Sir Paul McCartney.

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 IN THIS PHOTO: IDLES (the natural next choice as Glastonbury headliners?)/PHOTO CREDIT: Press/Getty Images

I feel, given the booking of Stormzy; maybe another intense and vital act like IDLES might get their shot. They have released two albums and their recent record, Joy as an Act of Resistance, is viewed as one of the best records of this year. I do not think a Glastonbury headliner should be defined by age, class and experience. If they feel right and can bring something special to the festival then that is fair. Many, me again, were annoyed by the headline slots of Foo Fighters and Ed Sheeran last year. The former have played there before and brought little new and original to their set whilst Sheeran’s spotlight seemed a reaction to commercial success – his acoustic and softer approach to music seemed at-odds with the grandeur and immense platform Glastonbury provides. In a big to reverse that and, at the same time, offer diversity – racial and sonically – it is a good move from the organisers (one feels Emily Eavis was most instrumental in the decision). Maybe IDLEs or another band will get one of the other two slots but I feel, as good as Stormzy will be, there needs to be more consideration given to female artists. Not only have there been so few black artists headlining Glastonbury but that is the case with women too. Look back at the past fifteen Glastonbury festivals and only three women have headlined (out of forty-five!). Only four black artists have headlined the past ten festivals (not including next year), so it is clear something needs to be done!

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 IN THIS PHOTO: Beyoncé/PHOTO CREDIT: Tyler Mitchell for Vogue (September 2018)

Beyoncé, I think, is only black woman to headline in the last twenty years and there are so many fantastic female artists who would do a fantastic show. Not only could Beyoncé reign again – she has done a lot since her last headline slot in 2011 – but there is the likes of St. Vincent, Christine and the Queens and  Janelle Monáe who could seriously own it. Throw in Björk and Lana Del Rey; Taylor Swift and legends like Kylie Minogue and there is plenty of choice. I would love to see Beyoncé on the Pyramid Stage and it would be a good accompaniment to Stormzy’s set. My big fear is there will be no female headliner or only the one – even one is not redressing the balance and not an adequate response to the problem. I am pleased Stormzy gets a chance to make some history and take Glastonbury in a new direction...but there will be some groans and discontent still. For those who feel a Rock band or Pop artist should be a headliner – or every slot should be in that mould – then who would you suggest?! We need a headliner who has the power and potency to unite people and bring a great show to Worthy Farm and not too many names come to mind. You need someone new who has not headlined before and something original.

I feel the time is right for Glastonbury to make a change and be bolder when it comes to their headline names. GQ wrote an interesting piece that reacted to the announcement and asked whether Stormzy has enough crossover appeal – can he connect with those who prefer something guitar-based and a bit more ‘traditional’?

“Fail to have a crossover success, though, and the rapper may need to go on a freestyle rant against Theresa May just to stop the vast audience from drifting. Because that’s the risk here. Stormzy is electric live. In 2017, his set on the Other Stage was a weekend highlight. He commands the stage with an energy and poise that makes other acts look flat. However when, say, Arctic Monkeys headlined after two albums in 2007, they had "I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor", "Brianstorm", "Fluorescent Adolescent" and many more. Yes, Stormzy won the two main prizes at the Brits this year, but if his fans can have a concern with him topping the Pyramid Stage in 2019, it’s that it’s a little too early, a little too bold. It took even Ed Sheeran three albums to headline, and he’s a bigger draw than God.

The next eight months are key then, as to what his new songs are like, and who he brings on stage as a guest. The will, frankly, is for him to succeed. Gang Signs & Prayers is excellent. He is a phenomenal person and a perfect live act. He has already annoyed the pillocks. This is way more exciting than Mumford & Sons. But the nagging feeling, until the lights go up after the encore and we see how many people have stayed to see him to the end, will be: was it too soon?

I know he can keep the crowds hooked and involved and produce a truly excellent set. The first headline name seems next year’s Glastonbury will be more promising than last year – if they book a woman, that is! – and many ask whether Stormzy can feel the big shoes required to dominate the Pyramid Stage. As Stormzy says in his hit, Big for Your Boots: “I’ve got my size twelves on my feet...”. The Grime leader is not too big for his boots or too young to step into the shoes of the headliners of old. As the country crumbles and we do not really have a cohesive and popular leader; it seems like music has a potential leader...

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 IN THIS PHOTO: Stormzy/PHOTO CREDIT: © Alex De Mora for CRACK

IN Glastonbury’s first headliner!

INTERVIEW: Fly By Midnight

INTERVIEW:

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Fly By Midnight

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IT has been cool…

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 PHOTO CREDIT: Jonathan Robles/Variance Magazine

speaking with Slavo and Justin of Fly By Midnight about their new album, Rerunning. I ask what themes inspired its birth and whether they have standout cuts; how the group started and the importance of New York regarding creative energy and vibe.

They tell me about their upcoming plans and favourite music; albums that are important and whether they get time to chill away from music – the guys each select a song to end the interview with.

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Hi, guys. How are you? How has your week been?

Slavo: It's been crazier than ever. In the best way possible though (laughs).

Justin: We're just stoked to be releasing more music, so it's been an exciting and nerve-racking past few days. 

For those new to your music; can you introduce yourselves, please?

Justin: My name's Justin and I'm half of Fly By Midnight… 

Slavo: My name's Slavo and I'm the other half. 

Rerunning is your new album. What sort of themes inspired the music?

Justin: The overall theme of the album is romance and the waves that follow it. The highs, the lows; the adrenaline rushes; the exhaustion. It's not about one person, but several people. That's my favorite part.

Slavo: Agreed. When Justin and I decided to call the album Rerunning, we really wanted to establish a recognition of how different, yet similar, some relationships are - almost like a rerun of an episode. Meet, become intrigued; fall in love, watch the love change shapes; sometimes lose the spark and start all over again.

Do you each have a standout/favourite track from the record?

Slavo: Loving Yous a Little Bit Hard Sometimes, for sure.

Justin: Mine's Ain't Got Much to Go.

How did Fly By Midnight get together? When did you find one another?

Slavo: Probably about four/five years ago now. I moved from Florida to N.Y. to pursue production and found myself in the same studio Justin was working out of.

Justin: A few writing sessions in and we decided that a duo project would give a fresh perspective to where we were at creatively. Haven't looked back since.

Do you share similar tastes? Who are you inspired by?

Slavo: Being around each other every day I think we've started to blend our tastes. We're both pretty eclectic with the type of music we enjoy and relate to. A lot of retro inspirations like Billy Joel and Hall & Oates. 

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How important is New York and the people regarding your music and creativity?

Justin: As the Pop side of the music industry has begun its move to the West Coast, we still find N.Y.C. inspiring our sound every day. Our best friends still live here. We still find ourselves out till five A.M. in the Lower East Side. It's a huge part of our process and we don't plan on completely abandoning that anytime soon.

What do you hope to achieve by the end of 2018?

Slavo: In an age of singles being listened to more than albums, we want to be a part of the movement that allows listeners to really get lost in a body of work. We're playing a big show in Soho/N.Y.C. for the album. Really building up the aesthetic to give fans something they've never gotten from us before. We want to just keep evolving.

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Do you already have plans for 2019?

Justin: We do, but I'm sure many more will unfold. We'd like to bring the album back on the road across the States and hopefully international as well. More writing sessions. Stoked to work with a handful of people we already have in the calendar.

Have you got a favourite memory from your time in music so far - the one that sticks in the mind?

Justin: So many...working on the album has been such a rewarding creative experience. Making music with no rules or boundaries is a feeling unlike any other.

Slavo: Completely agree...especially when fans of our project have gravitated towards the most recent releases. Gives us confidence to create freely.

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Which one album means the most to each of you would you say (and why)? 

Justin: I'd say Boys Like GirlBoys Like Girl. It was one of the first complete bodies of work that I listened to front and back on-repeat. It doesn't even have a cohesive story, but that Pop-Punk phase was super-inspiring. In many ways, it led me to becoming a songwriter. 

Slavo: A Day to Remember’s Homesick was filled with a ton of dope songs. Also, being born and raised in Florida and the band being from Ocala; there's a sentimental hometown connection I have to their music. 

Justin: (Laughs). Funny enough, despite both albums being completely different genres from F.B.M.; the songwriting and energetic drive of A.D.T.R. & B.L.G. kind of resonates with the music we make.

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If you could support any musician alive today, and choose your own rider, what would that entail?

Justin: The 1975 or Walk the Moon. Both bands' audiences really find themselves lost in their stage performance. Really quite an experience. 

Slavo: Would be killer to bring our records to life with a large ensemble e.g. Justin Timberlake’s Tennessee Kids vibe.

What advice would you give to new artists coming through?

Slavo: Stay humble and focused. Lot of amazingly talented people who become too distracted.

Justin: My favorite quote: "When you think you're working at something all day, remember a day is made up of twenty-four hours".

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Do you have tour dates coming up? Where can we catch you play?

Justin: Rerunning The Album Show @ City Winery - Soho/N.Y.C. (Ticket link).

Slavo: Going to be dope.

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 IN THIS PHOTO: Jon Bellion/PHOTO CREDIT: Dexter Findley

Are there any new artists you recommend we check out?

Slavo: We're always finding new artists. Lately, we've been diggin' Jon Bellion’s new album. 

Justin: Also super stoked for The 1975's new album. 

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 IN THIS PHOTO: The 1975

Do you get much time to chill away from music? How do you unwind?

Slavo: Like most dudes our age, we like hanging with our friends. Grabbing a beer. 

Justin: Netflix and video games on the lazy days. 

Finally, and for being good sports; you can each choose a song and I’ll play it here (not any of your music - I will do that).

Slavo: BadLennon Stella 

Justin: Know MeThe Band CAMINO

 

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Follow Fly By Midnight

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FEATURE: Sisters in Arms: An All-Female, Autumn-Ready Playlist (Vol. XVIII)

FEATURE:

 

 

Sisters in Arms

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IN THIS PHOTO: Chlöe Howl  

An All-Female, Autumn-Ready Playlist (Vol. XVIII)

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IN this new edition…

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 IN THIS PHOTO: DaniLeigh

I have been searching for songs (there is a LONGER mix in there too) that summon the colours and contrasting emotions of autumn. There are the fizzy and sunny moments where there is rush and excitement; there is also the darker moments and contemplation that provides some calm and reflection. Here is a selection of female-led offerings that will get into the heart and is guaranteed to lift the mood. I hope you find something that strikes a chord and gets under the skin. The weather is a bit changeable so there is no telling what we are in for over the next few days. I am sure things will be fine and we will all be in for some good weather. Make sure, whatever you do, you take these...

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WONDERFUL artists with you.  

ALL PHOTOS (unless stated otherwise): Getty Images/Artists

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Anna Clendening Invisible

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PHOTO CREDIT: Zak Tassler

Rachel OhnsmanThe Sea

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Emily MagpieLast Train

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SaachiRedcoat

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PHOTO CREDIT: Jennifer-Lynn Christie

Claire Ridgely - California

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PHOTO CREDIT: Claire Marie Vogel

Madison CunninghamLocation

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Heather ColeGood at Friends

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Liv DawsonGood Intentions

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Kayla Mickelsen - Try

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Chlöe Howl - 23

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Freya RidingsLost Without You (Instrumental)

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Kwamie LivLast Night

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Nina Schofield My Life

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Evalyn Big Bad City

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Rosie CarneyZoey

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Maya Jane ColesOther Side

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Yazmyn HendrixStay with Me

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Dido Hurricanes

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Hannah Jane LewisDo it Without You

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 PHOTO CREDIT: @shootmejaz

Bee ArnoldDry Your Eyes

LydmorVild

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 PHOTO CREDIT: Natacha Horn Multi Media Artist

Tanita TikaramWonderful Shadow (Acoustic)

Emily JamesForeign Land

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Loren Gray Kick You Out

DaniLeighBlue Chips

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 PHOTO CREDIT: Aronimus Guy

Hazel MarimbaMarimba Haze

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BroodsPeach

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Regina SpektorBirdsong

INTERVIEW: Wyland

INTERVIEW:

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Wyland

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THE guys of Wyland

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 PHOTO CREDIT: Kelsey Ayres

have been speaking about their new track, Nowhere Now, and what inspired it. I was keen to know how they all got together and whether they share musical tastes; whether there are tour dates and which albums are important to them.

Ariella, Ryan and Zach speak about their favourite music memories and how they chill away from music; which rising artists we need to watch and if they have plans afoot for 2019 – they each select a cool song to end things on.

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Hi, guys. How are you? How has your week been?

Fast! The days just fly by. 

For those new to your music; can you introduce yourselves, please?

Ariella: I'm Ariella. I play synth and sing backup. We are an Alternative-Rock band based out of the Meadowlands in NJ. Our sound is a little worn and a little new - like finding an old adventure book tucked away in an attic. Ryan has always pulled inspiration from U2 and Coldplay and you can hear that influence along with some Arcade Fire, Mumford; Kodaline etc. We're a little obsessed with the U.K. and Ireland. 

Ryan: I’m Ryan. I play guitar and piano and sing for Wyland. Everything stated above is true. 

Zach: My name is Zach. I am the tallest member and bassist of the group and I’m currently obsessed with David Byrne and Star Trek.

Chris and Patrick aren’t here but Chris is our drummer and he’s really handsome. Patrick is our guitarist and he is also equally attractive. 

Nowhere Now is your latest single. Is there a tale behind it?

Ariella: Of course. Nowhere Now started as a ‘Frankenstein’ which is what we call it when Ryan takes two separate music ideas and stitches them together. The song has been through many, many lives. We sent a few demos to Philip Magee and he took it where it needed to go. We gave him the body of Nowhere Now; he gave it blood.

Do you think there will be more material next year?

Zach: We have hours of voice memos from all of us that might us busy for the next three years. I would say there is a strong possibility that more songs are coming.

Ryan: Yeah. We’re always working on new music. We’re just extremely picky about what comes out. I feel as though a bar has been raised and we can’t release anything that doesn’t meet that bar.

Ariella: Our goal is to write and release as often as we can though. We recorded a few really beautiful acoustic tracks with our friend Ben of Old Sea Brigade, which we'll release after the singles are out. 

Wyland formed in New Jersey. What brought you together?

Ariella: Time. We've been through a number of lineup changes that could have ended the band but Ryan was patient and just had faith in time. Our drummer Chris was a mutual friend of Ryan’s. They met while Chris was in another band. Our bassist Zach moved to New Jersey from Boston after meeting Ryan at a show in Syracuse and our guitarist Patrick responded to an extremely old ad on Bandmix that Ryan posted maybe four years prior. At some point, magic happened and everything clicked. 

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 PHOTO CREDIT: Kelsey Ayres

Do you share similar tastes? Who are you inspired by?

Ariella: Not at all. We all come from very different backgrounds. Ryan and I share the most similarities when it comes to musical taste. A few of my favorite bands who inspire me are Lord Huron, The Staves; Mumford & Sons, Florence (and the Machine) and The Lone Bellow.

Ryan: I was raised on Boy and The Joshua Tree by U2. I really adore Coldplay’s older catalogue as well as anything Radiohead, Mumford & Sons; Of Monsters and Men, Keane; Elbow, Noel Gallagher…and the list goes on and on.

Zach: I’m very inspired by Classic-Rock. The energy and ability of The Who, the showmanship and creative mastermind that is Peter Gabriel; the epicness and power of U2. That’s where I come from. I appreciate bands like Coldplay and Mumford & Sons because they bring some of that feelgood power that I personally think has been lost with artists and the industry after the mid-'90s.

What do you hope to achieve by the end of 2018?

Ariella: Really just hoping to have a successful release and a lot of love on Spotify. 

Ryan: World domination could be exciting but, yeah, I’d settle with a successful release of Nowhere Now.

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Do you already have plans for 2019?

Ariella: Of course! We're releasing new tunes and writing. Always writing.

Have you got a favourite memory from your time in music so far – the one that sticks in the mind?

Ariella: Making music in Ireland. The whole month we spent there was like a dream.

Ryan: Ireland was definitely a highlight but we had the luxury of playing the Alabama Shakes afterparty at 2015’s Gentlemen of the Road tour in Seaside Heights, New Jersey. I think that was probably one of my favorite memories.

Zach: I think fondly back to when we set out on tour in 2016 in an RV we borrowed from a friend. The transmission went within four hours of the tour and we were stranded in Baltimore. We had to be in Washington, DC that night but we all knew it wasn’t happening. We ended renting a Penske truck, packed it with everything we had and we finished the tour. It was rough but those experiences made us a stronger unit.

Which one album means the most to each of you would you say (and why)?

Ariella: One of our albums? This new one. The energy and the texture in the sound hits just right. Lonesome Dreams by Lord Huron always takes me on a journey. I just love that album. I used to be a big ‘Hardcore’ fan and I would be doing my young self a disservice if I didn't mention Underoath. I know every one of their albums by heart. 

Ryan: Certainly in love with our latest record. I think an album that means a lot of me is really anything Aaron Dessner works on. Frightened Rabbit, Lone Bellow…the man has a magical touch.

Zach: My all-time favorite record is The Who’s Quadrophenia. I love Pete Townshend’s style of writing. He digs up anger, sorrow; love and hope in such a beautiful way. The record helped me fall in love with playing bass and listening to music. It also was a record that made me feel like I was understood. It is about a guy who desperately wants to find his place in the world. I think we feel that way throughout our lives. Not a lot of well-known songs are on it but they pack a punch for me.

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If you could support any musician alive today, and choose your own rider, what would that entail?

Ariella: Florence and the Machine, hands down. We do not deserve her. My rider would be simple: lots of water and chocolate. -

Ryan: I may get some shade for this, but I’d probably tear up if we could open for U2. My rider would be water, wine; chocolate, tortilla chips and guacamole.

Zach: I would love to tour with Coldplay, actually. I know we fit in their world and traveling around with them would be a dream. In my rider, I would only ask for a few things. A culinary dish specific to the area we’re in and a local beer.

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Do you have tour dates coming up? Where can we catch you play?

Yes! We're going on tour with this rad Canadian band, Valley. We're doing a leg in Canada and then headed down the east coast, from 11/24-12/15. (Full details on our website). 

What advice would you give to new artists coming through?

Make the music you want to make. Believe in what you’re doing and keep going, keep releasing. Don't sit and wait for an invitation. 

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 IN THIS PHOTO: Jade Bird/PHOTO CREDIT: Hollie Fernando for RollingStone.com

Are there any new artists you recommend we check out?

Jade Bird, Joni; Old Sea Brigade, MOSSS; TIOGA, Friends at the Falls and Pronoun.

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 IN THIS PHOTO: Old Sea Brigade

Do you get much time to chill away from music? How do you unwind?

Ariella: Ryan and I are filmmakers as well, so we unwind from music by writing scripts or filming (or binge-watching on Netflix). 

Zach: I unwind by listening and playing more music. There’s no escape from music for me. I’ll learn a song that I connect with and try to find room for personal improvement. I like to keep expanding my mind with music.

Finally, and for being good sports; you can each choose a song and I’ll play it here (not any of your music - I will do that).

Ariella: The Staves - Sleeping in a Car

Ryan: Frightened Rabbit - I Wish I Was Sober

Zach: Sad Song Backward - Jake Shears

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Follow Wyland

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INTERVIEW: LIV’n’G

INTERVIEW:

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LIV’n’G

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THE sisters of LIV’n’G have been discussing…

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their new E.P., Shades, and some of the stories that inspire them. Olivia and Georgia tell me how they got started in music and some of their favourite memories; some rising artists we need to watch and where they hope to head.

I ask them about their musical tastes and whether we can see them gig; whether there is a tale behind their latest single, Señorita, and winch artists they’d support on tour given the chance – they end the interview by selecting a couple of great tracks.

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Hi, guys. How are you? How has your week been?

Hey! Were fine thank you. Just been so busy this week!  

We’ve just booked a few firework displays for Metro Radio and TFM at Darlington and Saltwell (Gateshead), where there are crowds of up to 30,000. We ‘popped’ down to London to talk about music with a few people. We’ve been doing song writing sessions in schools for a couple of days and also wrote some original tracks for a choir and other artist.

Oh, yeah, and sorting the video out for Señorita. We love being busy!

For those new to your music; can you introduce yourselves, please?

Our names are Olivia and Georgia and together were LIV’n’G. Olivia gets called ‘Liv’ for short and Georgia gets called ‘G’. So, we just put them together to create our band name! Were a sister singer/songwriter/producing duo from Hartlepool, North East England - yes, where they allegedly hung a monkey as a spy!

Liv: We’ve been writing originals for about eighteen months now; I write the lyrics and sing.

G: I started to learn guitar using YouTube about two years ago then the piano, trumpet and sample pad and that progressed to producing songs. So, I compose and produce out tracks and play the keys, sample pads; backing and control the reverb on the mic, when we perform live.

We have written for other artists, played over two-hundred shows in the last twelve months; recorded in London and had our tracks mastered in London and L.A. We like to think of our music as Tropical Pop/World Pop/R&B and it has been described as “inclusive to all cultures and generations”. We like to use unusual or different instruments from around the world to create hooks; things like an accordion for a Latin track we have.

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How did LiV’n’G form? When did you start playing music together?

We have known each other since birth as we’re sisters; we’re totally different individuals but, when we work together, we’re family. There are a few years age difference between us, but people are shocked when we tell them.

Liv: I’ve been singing from morning till night starting at a very young age.

G: I always found music, melodies and computers interesting and learned trumpet in primary school.

Our grandad bought us an electric piano around three years ago and Georgia taught herself to play. We then started to practice together and everyone seemed to like it. We started to do little local performances and were soon asked to support some local acts at gigs. It just went from there and now we’re performing every weekend!

You have won competitions and gained a lot of success. How does it feel looking back and how important are those honours?!

Were very proud of how far we’ve come in such a short space of time. We’ve entered many competitions and they often result in greater opportunities as well as giving us much-needed unbiased feedback. It’s good to enter local talent competitions with your friends and family watching as it teaches you about stage presence; it teaches you to take feedback and criticism, as well as ‘hardening’ you to the industry.  You may not win every competition, you may not even place sometimes but these are the times when you learn more about yourselves and how resilient you are.

We won a number of competitions from local ones - Beyond the Lights, Upbeat Awards - to regional ones - The Big Audition for TFM Radio (Bauer) - to national ones like Live & Unsigned for performances we have produced and for our original songs. The prizes have given us bigger stages to perform; allowed us to support some great acts and some have been connected to raising money for various charities. Over the past two years, I think we have raised over £25,000 for charity from our music.

G: Being part of these competitions has taught us so much and, for me personally, it has built my confidence up so much, from not wanting to be on stage initially to playing and controlling the full set.

Liv: Competitions make you grow much quicker as an artist. It’s great to get feedback and gives you more focus.

Your E.P., Shades, is out. Are there personal stories or particular experiences that inspire the song?

Yes definitely. Three of the songs on the E.P. are personal stories. Walls and Green Light are about starting a new relationship and the fears that we both have felt and come across, the uncertainty of feelings; the scary feeling of ‘giving up your heart’ and the adrenaline rush that love gives you!

The other personal song is Equal. We originally wrote this song in support of International Women’s Day as were all about equality in all aspects of life including music. We hope our music can be considered empowering as well as bringing a fresh vibe to Pop! The track was played internationally at different I.W.D. events! Which, again, makes us so proud, plus it has a speech by Meghan Markle in it which is amazing. The E.P. comes from a female point of view, but we think it crosses the sexes and generations as its about feelings we may all have had sometimes.

What is the story behind the single, Señorita?

We love upbeat and Spanish or tropical rhythms as, with a lot of our music, it’s about a powerful individual; its fun and wants to make you move and, again, it’s about relationships and jealousy; feelings that everyone will have felt at one time or another. It came from the same place as our other tracks - life and personal situations - and we just try and put it in a way that connects with people. An upbeat Latin fable of a song; strong Spanish rhythms compliment the great vocals and modern, clean urban Rap. You can almost hear the flamenco heels clicking as the ‘femme fatale’ lures her prey in.

I get the sense your music is primed towards making us feel better and projecting sunshine. Do you consciously set to write music that gets the body moving?

Liv: We never intentionally write a song to make people want to get up and dance. We jam, talk about our experiences and basically bring our thoughts to life using music. However, as a family, we love to get on the dancefloor.

G: I have always loved the tracks of Rihanna, and the tropical rhythm that runs through her music, so obviously that has influenced the style of music we compose. I really don’t think it was a conscious choice or decision, it just happened.

However, it really does depend on the story and mood behind the song. Sometimes, it can be just a poem to music (like Walls) where is it about the feeling a song conjures up, about listening to the lyrics. We want to connect with people, to engage with their memories too. We have quite a few ‘bouncy tunes’ ready to go for next year that we hope can transport everyone to warmer climates and get them dancing.

Which artists did you all grow up around? Do you have any personal musical idols?

Liv: I love Beyoncé. Her honest, energetic and powerful performances are amazing and her vocals are so on point, be it a fast dance tune or a ballad.

G: For me, it would be bands like Clean Bandit who have brought the musicianship to the forefront of the music industry.

Our inspirations range from Ella Fitzgerald to Anne-Marie, The Animals to Ed Sheeran - any songwriter that connects with us.

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What do you hope to achieve by the end of 2018?

By the end of 2018, we hope that people enjoy, stream and download our first E.P. release and were hoping to plan to release more songs early next year. Were also looking to release a professional music video to our lead song from the E.P., Señorita, which we are so excited to shoot! We want to play bigger venues and shows; we want to have a tour or tour support organized for 2019 and we want to have been booked for some festivals next year too. We’d love to get on the music industry radar, managers; booking agents or labels. There is a ’wind of change’ blowing to rebalance the music industry and female involvement; we would love to be part of that positive change.

Cheesy, we know, but we want to inspire younger children who we often work with to show them that if they follow their heart, their dreams can come true!

In that same vein; do you have plans for 2019 in terms of what you want to accomplish?

We hope to both ‘be’ Beyoncé; living her lifestyle, producing hits and influencing people…can you sort that for us? (Laughs). We are going to release more original music. We are hopefully going to play more festivals and events next year. Write ‘The Hit’…chart success would be amazing. Collaborate with other artists. Look at arranging a tour or tour support with artists we love.

We may be part of a documentary to be shown on Channel 4 early next year…we will see. We’d love to have management; a label who believes in us and loves our music and to be performing all over the world…just living the dream!

Have you both got a favourite memory from your time in music so far – the one that sticks in the mind?

Liv: I’m so sorry but I must mention this one. When we supported Alexander O’Neal, we were waiting for him to come on stage and we could see him behind the curtain. Then, all of a sudden, he fell back tried to grab the curtain but missed and ended up flat on his bum. It was like it happened in slow motion. I know I shouldn’t laugh but I did (smiles).

G: Mine must be performing at Everton Football Club in aid of the Bradley Lowery Foundation and seeing all of those people there to support him.

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Which one album means the most to each of you would you say (and why)?

G: Mine would have to be PCD by The Pussycat Dolls as it was the first album I ever bought and I could recite the whole album, even today…maybe.

Liv: Mine would have to be Beyoncé’s Lemonade album as I like what she stands for. She is so inspiring and that album made me want to start writing my own music…so I did.

If you could support any musician alive today, and choose your own rider, what would that entail?

G: I would love to support Little Mix. I think they have amazing energy and I love the fact that they are an all-girl ban…hashtag ‘pussypower’. (Laughs)!

Liv: Mine would have to be Beyoncé! (Notice a theme). I’m just a huge fan. I have always been so taken back by her performances and only wish someday to be as successful as she is!

Our rider would have to include parmos, crisps; M&M’s, apple juice; Jaffa Cakes…and Little Mix and Beyoncé! (Scratch that – Mam says we have to have chicken salad and water as Pam at Slimming World wouldn’t be happy).

Can we see you on the road this year at all?

Yes! We are always gigging on a weekend and in our spare time. You can always look on our Facebook page where all our events are listed. If there are no events near you, get in touch with us to request a gig somewhere! We love to travel! We have other gigs around the North East and we’re heading up to Scotland in a few weeks too.

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What advice would you give to new artists coming through?

We would say be true to who you are, personally and musically. Don’t let anyone else try to shape you into something they want you to be! As well as that; practice makes perfect! Any opportunity you get to perform, take it! You don’t know who could be watching, and every performance helps you grow as an artist.  

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IN THIS PHOTO: Courtney Hadwin

Are there any new artists you recommend we check out?

We have a friend who has the most amazing voice. He is called Geoff Mull!  We are also friends with Courtney Hadwin (America’s Got Talent) our brother’s girlfriend is Molly Scott who is on the live shows of the X Factor. We also have a friend who is the biggest diva for her age and the biggest voice we have ever hear for her age! (She is nine) Brooke Burke. She appeared on The Voice Kids last year and we’re sure she’s going to go far.

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 IN THIS PHOTO: Molly Scott

Do you both get much time to chill away from music? How do you unwind?

Were so busy with everything pertaining to music: it’s very rare we get to chill!

G: I like to play FIFA football games on my PlayStation if I get the chance and I’m hoping to go to Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park.

Liv: I love to go horse riding, take the dogs for a walk and chill out!

We both like to ‘veg out’ on the couch in our onesies and watch a box-set; anything with vampires, really. Plus, we do love to eat. So, wherever there is food, we’re probably there. (Don’t tell Pam at Slimming World, though)

Finally, and for being good sports; you can each choose a song and I’ll play it here (not any of your music - I will do that).

Liv: Could you please play Freedom by Beyoncé!

G: Could you please play Hips Don’t Lie by Shakira!

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