FEATURE: Spotlight: Ghetts

FEATURE:

 

 

Spotlight

PHOTO CREDIT: Ashley Verse via PR  

Ghetts

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AFTER listening to the amazing Ghetts

 PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

speaking with Mary Anne Hobbs this week, I have been utterly charmed by the man! Formerly known as Ghetto, Ghetts was a part of a Grime collective, NASTY Crew, abut left because of tensions within the group. He then moved to the collective, The Movement, which included future stars such as Wretch 32 and started to make a name for himself. These modest and encouraging movements, he started putting out impressive and unique releases. 2000 & Life – released in 2005 – contained twenty-four tracks and is a stunning mixtape. It was a big move in Grime and is responsible for pushing the scene forward; giving impetus and inspiration to young artists emerging. Ghetto Gospel arrived in 2007 and, compared to his previous mixtape, was a more mellow, tender and interesting listen. When speaking with Hobbs for BBC Radio 6 Music, Ghetts explained his family and the fact there are a lot of women in it; how he has grown up around women. It is easy to see that when we listen to the subjects broached in Ghetto Gospel: girlfriends, sisters and relationships with women are explored from various angles. Keen to not to be seen as an angry rapper with a lot of aggression, it was a stunning move and a mixtape that, again, pushed Grime forward and opened horizons for other artists. We often associate Grime with a sense of anger and fuel but a lot of modern-day artists such as Stormzy can mix the deep and emotional with the more fired-up.

Ghetto Gospel is Ghetts’ breakthrough release and one can quibble whether it is a mixtape or an album. I guess it is a more conventional album – even though it was labelled a mixtape when it was released. Since that debut album release, Ghetts has been breaking ground and stepping out more on his own. 2008’s Freedom of Speech (mixtape) featured very few producers and it signalled a darker and more aggrieve sound – very different to the tone and vibe on Ghetto Gospel. Full of great one-liners and moments, Ghetto Gospel is viewed by many in the Grime scene and a benchmark and classic. Whether you see Rebel with a Cause as Ghetts’ debut album – one can debate that fact – it was long-awaited and was a huge triumph. Released through the Disrupt label, the album explored many sides to Ghetts’ personality and life. It is a fascinating work and one that was a step in ambition from his previous work. Last year, Ghetts spoke with The Independent about his recent album, Ghetto Gospel: The New Testament. He chatted about that album and what music means to him:

 “Back in 2007, east London MC Ghetts dropped his mixtape Ghetto Gospel, aged 21”.

Back then, I was very outspoken about how I viewed the world,” the musician, born Justin Clarke, tells me in a pub in Shoreditch, around six miles from where he was born in Plaistow. “Today I see it somewhat differently.”

Ghetts has gone onto become one of the UK’s most respected rappers, releasing a number of mixtapes, as well as his 2014 debut album Rebel with a Cause. Now, more than a decade after Ghetto Gospel, he has followed it up with Ghetto Gospel: The New Testament.

“When I make music, it’s therapeutic,” he says, explaining how he walks into the studio with a blank page (literal and metaphorical), with “no hopes other than that people might appreciate it”.

“I’m blessed enough to be able to make my own decisions,” he says. “But a song like ‘Black Rose’ … I did it because it was how I felt. I had my own space. The discussions off the back of it was an amazing surprise to me. Even though I’ve made songs in that realm before, I’ve not led with videos, so maybe in the past the message has been lost.”

Ghetts had a very clear opinion when it came to the question of Grime and whether, with so many new artists coming through, the genre was in danger of dying:

Ghetts scoffs at the mention of news articles asking whether grime is either dead or struggling to survive as the drill and Afrobeats genres grow in popularity.

“I feel that it’s weird that grime MCs even react to it,” Ghetts says, pretending to huff, and leaning back in his chair, arms folded. “I’ve seen people reacting to something that’s not true.”

“I love grime with my heart,” he continues. “I know a lot of people in the culture have love for me, but I’ve always deemed myself more of a tempo specialist. I’m not defined by a genre – a genre cannot define the artist. I respect grime enough to represent it because that’s what made me, that gave me my first listeners, and I will never deny being grime. Grime itself will never die”.

This year, Ghetts is busy and seems to be preparing something. When he spoke to Mary Anne Hobbs, he appeared relaxed but excited for what is to come. The Grime scene has evolved since Ghetts/Ghetto launched onto the scene and one of the reasons for that is the man himself. When speaking to Nite Life in this interview from last year, Ghetts talked about his latest album and what opened his eyes; why artists should not be constricted by form and expectation:

“‘I’m at an age now where some of my friends have sons that are 16. The other day a 14 year old died in Walthamstow and I just remember hearing it on the radio and thinking “wow”. Because I’m not 16 now and I’m not around it, I’m not thinking “that happens all the time, man”. At that age I was desensitised by a lot of things that I was around. So I wanted to write a song where I didn’t judge anybody, because I know what some of these kids are going through and it’s much easier said than done when you’re outside of it.’

‘I really feel like people should just make what they want. As I’ve grown I just feel like there are so many boxes and categories, and it was those same boxes and categories that really stifled me into playing up to a perception. As soon as I was free of those things, I really excelled musically because I didn’t care about how people think something is meant to sound.

‘I always say you can conform both ways. People only really acknowledge if you conform to the mainstream, but what about all the people who conform to the underground?

Ghetts appears humble and modest but there is that determination and belief that makes his work sound so convincing, malleable and exhilarating. When reviewing Ghetto Gospel: New Testament, this review tapped into the essence of Ghetts and what makes his music so fresh.

The real strength of this album is in its adaptability though, as soon as ‘Spiritual Warfare’ fades out we are met with Kenny Allstar’s booming voice on ‘Houdini’ where Suspect delivers some viscerally threatening lyrics on his feature. This is where we see the stage-show Ghetts that shone on 653 EP, assisted by an all-star cast with the likes of Little Simz, President T and Chip, his impeccable and satisfying wordplay come to the fore. ‘Shellington Crescent’ with Chip in particular pits two of grime’s top talents against each other, the chemistry and flow of their back to back bars building to such an intoxicating climax of machismo Ghetts starts boasting about his ambidexterity with guns.

Contrast that with the empathic and deeply considerate manner of song writing shown in ‘Jess song’, written for a friend suffering from cancer, since passed away. Or ‘Window Pain’, dealing with the heartbreaking deaths of young men in London gangs from the perspective of a mother.

The long awaited album is a satisfying, full, and exciting experience for listeners old and new. It’s a testament to both the ingenuity and the longevity of Ghetts’ craft that longtime listeners of over 15 years can enjoy the same songs as the fresh ears that might find their way to this record. Great care is taken with sound design, with the flow of songs from one to the next; there is a sense that this project was a labour of great love from a great artist and his collaborators. Well worth a listen”.

 PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

It seems like everything in right in front of Ghetts! He has already laid down this incredible body of work but one suspects his best days are still ahead. He is an engaging and fascinating interview subject that conveys so much wisdom and depth. I have been listening to the music he put out a few years before his latest album and what he sounds like now. There is definitely an evolution but, with every album/mixtape, you can hear something singular and unchanging. The once-angry young man seems to be in a better headspace – he spent time in prison as a youth – and it seems like music has been a focus and guide that has steered him from trouble and allowed him to express his inner-emotions in this very productive, compelling and beautiful way. Ghetts is an artist who has just spoken out against the prejudice dark-skinned women have been exposed to for centuries. I love what Ghetts is doing: it is scary to think just how far he can go. Check out his Spotify page and social media feeds regarding new music, tour plans and all the latest news. The Grime scene is changing all the time – although it would be unfair to label Ghetts simply as Grime artist – and Ghetts’ music is responsible for pushing it more to the mainstream. The man has been putting out superb music for years now but I think his very finest creations are…

JUST around the corner.

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Follow Ghetts:

FEATURE: If You Have Some Pennies Spare… Albums to Look Forward to in June

FEATURE:

 

 

If You Have Some Pennies Spare…

IN THIS PHOTO: The Raconteurs/PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images 

Albums to Look Forward to in June

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I have just written a piece regarding…

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 IN THIS PHOTO: Madonna/PHOTO CREDIT: @Madonna

my favourite albums of the year so far and, today, I am looking ahead to new month’s best releases. This year has been incredibly rich with challenging, stunning and instantly memorable albums. There is no denying the quality has been sky-high and, as we head into the second half of 2019, it looks like the momentum will stay strong and keep swinging. If you are interested in June’s releases and want to know which albums you should spend your spare cash on, I have compiled a rundown of the essential records you have to get. From a long-awaited return from The Raconteurs to Kate Tempest’s  hot new album, here is what you should be keeping your eyes out for…

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 IN THIS PHOTO: Hot Chip/PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

IN June.

ALL ALBUM COVERS: Getty Images

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AuroraA Different Kind of Human (Step 2)

Release Date: 7th June, 2019

Producers: Various

Labels: Decca/Glassnote

Standout Cuts: Daydreamer/The Seed/The River

Key Cut: Animal

Pre-Order Link: https://aurora.lnk.to/ADKOHStep2WE

The Divine ComedyOffice Politics

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Release Date: 7th June, 2019

Label: DC Records

Standout Cuts: Office Politics/Infernal Machines/I’m a Stranger Here

Key Cut: Norman and Norma

Pre-Order Link: https://thedivinecomedy.tmstor.es/

Kate TempestThe Book of Traps and Lessons

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Release Date: 14th June, 2019

Producer: Rick Rubin

Label: Fiction Records

Standout Cuts: Keep Moving Don’t Move/All Humans Too Late/Lessons

Key Cut: Firesmoke

Release Date: 14th June, 2019

Producer: Ron Aniello

Label: Columbia

Standout Cuts: Western Stars/Chasin’ Wild Horses/Hello Sunshine

Key Cut: There Goes My Miracle

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Release Date: 14th June, 2019

Producers: Madonna/Mirwais/Mike Dean/Diplo/Jason Evigan/Billboard

Label: Interscope

Standout Cuts: Medellín/Dark Ballet/Crave

Key Cut: Future

Pre-Order Link: https://madonna.lnk.to/MadameX

Two Door Cinema ClubFalse Alarm

Release Date: 14th June, 2019

Producer: Jacknife Lee

Label: Glassnote

Standout Cuts: Talk/So Many People/Dirty Air

Key Cut: Satellite

Release Date: 21st June, 2019

Labels: Double Double Whammy/Ivy League/Heavenly Records

Standout Cuts: Her Own Heart/Secret/Kiss the Stars

Key Cut: Stay with Me

Pre-Order Link: https://hatchie.bandcamp.com/album/keepsake

Hot ChipA Bath Full of Ecstasy

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Release Date: 21st June, 2019

Label: Domino Recordings Company

Standout Cuts: Melody of Love/Bath Full of Ecstasy/Clear Blue Skies

Key Cut: Hungry Child

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Release Date: 21st June, 2019

Producers: Various

Label: Sony

Standout Cuts: Late Night Feelings/Don’t Leave Me Lonely/True Blue

Key Cut: Nothing Breaks Like a Heart

Release Date: 21st June, 2019

Producers: The Raconteurs and Joshua V. Smith

Label: Third Man

Standout Cuts: Bored and Razed/Help Me Stranger/Hey Gyp (Dig the Slowness)

Key Cut: Sunday Driver

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Release Date: 28th June, 2019

Producers: The Black Keys

Label: Easy Eye Sound/Nonesuch

Standout Cuts: Eagle Birds/Tell Me Lies/Go

Key Cut: Lo/Hi

FEATURE: On Top of the Vinyl Box: My Ten Favourite Albums of 2019 (So Far)

FEATURE:

 

 

On Top of the Vinyl Box

IN THIS PHOTO: Little Simz/PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images 

My Ten Favourite Albums of 2019 (So Far)

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WE are almost in June…

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 IN THIS PHOTO: Fontaines D.C./PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

and it is sort of the mid-way point of 2019 - where we look forward to albums ahead but look back at the best of the year so far. It has been a fantastic year for music and I think, personally, women have been ruling – general more compelling and varied than the boys! From all over the musical map, we have seen some revelatory and wonderful albums arrive and, right here, I have collected together what are, in my opinion, the ten best albums of the year to date. It is still early days and there is a lot of great music ahead, mind. Everyone will have their own top-ten list - and it will be interesting to see whether you agree with any of my selections. You might be new to some of the albums on this list so, if you have the time, sit back and experience records that have made this year…

 IN THIS PHOTO: Julia Jacklin/PHOTO CREDIT: Gem Harris

AMONG the finest in recent memory.

ALL ALBUM COVERS: Getty Images

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Billie MartenFeeding Seahorses by Hand

Release Date: 26th April, 2019

Producer: Ethan John

Label: RCA

Key Cuts: Cartoon People/Blood Is Blue/Boxes

Standout Track: Toulouse

Review:

This collection of softly sung songs forms nothing short of a gentle and reserved masterpiece. It would have been easy for Marten to have made this record with the same restricted tool set she used on her debut, however she opted for a riskier route that has certainly paid off. Throughout the album Marten refuses to place restrictions on herself, but manages to never go too far, and add more to a track than it needs.

On Feeding Seahorses, Marten has managed to skilfully navigate a true artistic tightrope by developing and building on the sounds of her minimalistic debut, without losing any of its original essence. Nothing is lost, only gained” – The Line of Best Fit

Little Simz GREY AREA

Release Date: 1st March, 2019

Producers: Inflo/Sigurd/Astronote

Label: Age 101

Key Cuts: Offence/Selfish/101 FM

Standout Track: Venom

Review:

Grey Area would feel one-note, if Simz’s only mode was conviction: elsewhere, she contemplates her demons, admonishes her ambitions (“People are dying / Who gives a fuck about making hits?”) and grapples with the concept of seeing a therapist. Yet even as she’s mining her doubts, her bold delivery and precise, revelled-in flow underpin her growing self-belief. The features – Michael Kiwanuka, Cleo Sol singing the tender refrain of Selfish, among others – are sweet embellishments that complement Simz’s harder tones, as does the production from her old friend Inflo, who pairs fuzzy guitars and orchestral flourishes with pared-back, boom-bap soul. At once soft and hard, fiery and vulnerable, Grey Area finds Little Simz thriving in her multi-facetedness” – The Guardian

Dave PSYCHODRAMA

Release Date: 8th March, 2019

Producers: Various

Label: Neighbourhood Recordings

Key Cuts: Streatham/Screwface Capital/Voices

Standout Track: Black

Review:

It is a microcosm of Psychodrama’s refusal to contain itself as a work of art, instead reaching for emotional intimacy and therapeutic resonance. By its end, “Lesley” becomes a passionate call-to-action; as Dave puts it, “a message to a woman with a toxic man” who he is “begging… to get support if you’re lost or trapped.” In a world craving artists who use their influence for good, Dave offers a road map for inspired musicians and inquisitive listeners alike.

“Lesley” closes on the disembodied voice of Dave’s fictional therapist, who expresses relief as his client nears the end of the album’s psychodramatic course. “I’m just happy you’re at a place now where you feel you understand your emotions, and are in control,” he says. A different kind of hero’s journey through the musical mind, Psychodrama feels less like a platform for clout than a starting point for self-help and paradigmatic change” – Pitchfork

Julia Jacklin Crushing

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Release Date: 22nd February, 2019

Producer: Burke Reid

Labels: Polyvinyl/Transgressive/Liberation

Key Cuts: Head Alone/Good Guy/Turn Me Down

Standout Track: Pressure to Party

Review:

Crushing is riveting right from the spare, noir-tinged opening track, "Body," which remembers the moment Jacklin decided to leave the relationship after her partner got them thrown off a flight. The humiliating scene is punctuated by her wondering if he might use a nude photograph he once took of her against her; she describes the aftermath as "heading to the city to get my body back." The album is full of similarly soft-spoken, candid, and seemingly timely narratives involving female autonomy ("I don't want to be touched all the time/I raised my body up to be mine"). Fragile, acoustic solo songs like "When the Family Flies In" and "Convention" are contrasted by full-band arrangements, including the defiant, alt-country-tinged "You Were Right" and the rollicking but highly stressed "Pressure to Party."

The final song, "Comfort," is a solo acoustic guitar tune that has Jacklin's quivering voice delivering a stream of affirmations beginning with "You'll be okay/You'll be all right/You'll get well soon/Sleep through the night…" before she reassures herself that her ex will be okay, too. It's this type of devastating emotional honesty -- one that admits both strength and weakness -- that, along with the performances, sets this record apart from others in its heavy-hearted category” – AllMusic

Billie Eilish - WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO?

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Release Date: 29th March, 2019

Producer: Finneas

Labels: Darkroom/Interscope

Key Cuts: bad guy/when the party’s over/bury a friend

Standout Track: all the good girls go to hell

Review:

There’s little to plausibly fault on the record. Previous singles are included sparingly (2018’s ‘When The Party’s Over’ and ‘You Should See Me In A Crown’), and there’s a real level of intrigue waiting on every song, partly as only two new songs (‘Bury A Friend’, ‘Wish You Were Gay’) got a pre-release. It’s an album that moves with purpose and knows when to hold the listener tight, or grab them by the scruff of the neck and drag them into her world. That said, one nitpick is the pacing towards the end, with the final three songs – ‘Listen Before I Go’, ‘I Love You’ and ‘Goodbye’ – providing an melancholy end close to an otherwise thrilling album” – NME

Lizzo Cuz I Love You

Release Date: 19th April, 2019

Producers: Various

Labels: Nice Life/Atlantic

Key Cuts: Juice/Crybaby/Heaven Help Me

Standout Track: Cuz I Love You

Review:

Lizzo whoops and chortles through these beats with unnatural ease. Keeping up is like beating back the wind, like Jon Snow getting whipped through stony Winterfell peaks trying to ride a dragon. Gucci Mane can barely keep up on “Exactly How I Feel.” Lizzo is a joy, and Cuz I Love You is an impressive portfolio, showcasing the chops of a singer who nails all the notes, a rapper with alchemical control over words, and a songwriter holding nothing back. She can make lounging around in underwear sound revelatory. She can make masturbation seem like a political act. If you’re having a rough week watching the rule of law crumble, let Cuz I Love You rebuild your mettle” – VULTURE

Fontaines D.C. Dogrel

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Release Date: 12th April, 2019

Producer: Dan Carey

Label: Partisan

Key Cuts: Big/Too Real/Chequeless Reckless

Standout Track: Boys in the Better Land

Review:

Whether on the softer, plaintive lament of ‘Roy’s Tune’ or the excitable, grinding riff of ‘Chequeless Reckless’, Fontaines DC are masters of when to pull back and when to let go. If it sounds like a basic comment to suggest that the music perfectly serves the words - building up the intensity and then cutting back to let Grian’s lyrics land with their fullest force - then trust us, it isn’t. In many ways, like a lot of good punk music, these are tracks that are fairly simple - a few notes, a lot of repetition - but there’s nothing plug-in-and-play about this lot, they’ve simply stripped things back for maximum impact. ‘Sha Sha Sha’ shuffles along like a pissed-off ‘Lovecats’ on the dole; ‘Liberty Belle’ is like the smartest, sharpest football chant in town, while old favourite ‘Boys In The Better Land’ still barrels along with the same excitement it did on first listen” – DIY

Jamila Woods LEGACY! LEGACY!

Release Date: 10th May, 2019                            

Producers: Various

Label: Jagjaguwar

Key Cuts: BETTY/FRIDA/MILES

Standout Track: ZORA

Review:

In his landmark 1903 essay “The Talented Tenth,” W.E.B. DuBois argued that the liberation of all black people would come from cultivating a handful of exceptional blacks through higher education. Over a century later, black artists and activists, poets and politicians continue to thrive across a spectrum of different mediums. Almost every predecessor conjured in and in-between Woods’ lyrics balanced their craft alongside an unending fight for total equality, whether they wanted to or not: “All the women in me are tired” becomes a running motif throughout the album. With LEGACY! LEGACY!, Jamila Woods positions herself to join the battle, bridging the gap, once and for all, between our unresolved past and the promise that awaits us all on the horizon” – Pitchfork

Loyle Carner Not Waving, But Drowning

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Release Date: 19th April, 2019

Producers: Various

Label: AMF/Virgin EMI

Key Cuts: Angel/Ottolenghi/Dear Ben

Standout Track: Loose Ends

Review:

Carner is intrinsically aware of his personal paradoxes, and also those of the country in which he lives. On “Looking Back” he thinks about his two fathers – a black man who shares his DNA but to whom he feels little connection, and his late step-father, a white man – and how “my great grandfather could’ve owned my other one…Above all, he is conscious of what family means to him, and so bookends the album with a poem from him to his mother Jean, and one from his mother to him. Carner would be the first to admit that he might not be completely “there” yet – wherever that is. However, Not Waving, But Drowning has an emotional intelligence that shows just how strong Carner is when he’s at his most vulnerable” – The Independent

Weyes Blood Titanic Rising

Release Date: 5th April, 2019

Producers: Natalie Mering/Jonathan Rado

Label: Sub Pop

Key Cuts: Something to Believe/Titanic Rising/Picture Me Better

Standout Track: Andromeda

Review:

Co-production from Foxygen member Jonathan Rado might explain the brightly blooming chamber pop arrangements, merging Mering's soaring vocals with orchestral strings and drum fills borrowed directly from the Beatles. This optimistic throwback arrangement is in full force on the infectiously bubbly "Everyday," with lyrics inspecting a confusing relationship over a track as bouncy as a rubber ball. Mering effortlessly switches gears throughout the album, slipping between the synthy melodrama of "Movies" and the cold coffee blues piano ballad "Something to Believe," as well as making space for acoustic folk numbers, ambient interludes, and chamber pop diversions.

Easily her most clear-headed set of songs to date, there's a directness here that sometimes got lost in the layers of earlier albums. She sounds driven and confident, asserting an intense control of the emotional flow of her songs without ever rushing things or letting some of the anxiety she sings about seep into the feel of the album. While all of Weyes Blood's albums leading up to Titanic Rising were good, even great, there's something that sets this one apart. Fantastic songs, meticulously detailed production, and a certain, hard-to-name spark of connection all gel into the near-perfect statement that every part of Mering's strange journey before this led up to” – AllMusic

 

FEATURE: Spotlight: Squid

FEATURE:

 

 

Spotlight

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Squid

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THERE is a lot of buzz and excitement regarding…

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the awesome Squid right now – and quite right, too! My first exposure to them was through a common and trusty source: the cool waves of BBC Radio 6 Music. I know their new single, Houseplants, has been played all over the place but it sounds just right at home on BBC Radio 6 Music. In this article from The Line of Best Fit, they featured Houseplants and gave it a little write-up:

Their new single "Houseplants" is a prime example of that statement - erratic and playful, and delivers a relatable message. Vocalist and drummer Ollie Judge says the track is about "being able to afford a house and not having to have beans on toast for the week leading up to payday. Pessimistically, I don’t see that future happening, but I still catch myself every now and again thinking it could."

It is an excellent single and one that blows away the cobwebs and leaves a smile at the same time! It is rare that, in these times, you can find a song that delivers that dichotomy. Not only do they blow you away with this raw and uncensored clatter but there is nuance and variation – a song that twists and has various little stages. That sort of confidence and ability does not come easily: the fact Squid have not been around that long as a band makes their modern endeavours that much more impressive and standout! So, where did the band come from? When they spoke to Wonderland last year, we got to learn more about them: where they came from and, indeed, how they met one another:

Formed in Brighton, Squid – made up of Ollie Judge, Louis Borlase, Arthur Leadbetter, Laurie Nankivell and Anton Pearson – have already been making a name for themselves as one of the most exciting new acts on the scene.

Currently gearing up for their show tomorrow at The Great Escape’s First Fifty at The Macbeth tomorrow (more info on that here), we caught up with them over curry in North London to find out all there is to know.

How did you guys all first meet?

So it was a stormy night in Brighton…[Laughs]

Basically we wanted to make music together and we all had different influences, so we had an idea about creating something that just brought everything together, and it just had this transforming nature to it. That never really settled for like a good year or two, and it’s still quite unsettled in quite a beautiful way. That’s how we met really, making music.

We’d been doing lots of funny, silly electronic music in our bedrooms. House music that just still felt silly. We were making a lot of music individually, but obviously all of us were thinking that the idea of making a band would be really, really great, but none of us had really sat down and hung out.

You only need to read one of their interviews to understand that these guys are all about fun and have no ego. They are funny, brotherly and do not hold back when it comes to gold – in terms of their music and what they say in interviews. There are some really interesting bands playing at the moment and, with recent festivals such as Brighton’s The Great Escape, a lot of them have been turning heads. Brighton, in fact, is producing a perfect base for new artists: the sea air and warm vibes together with that proximity to London.

I can understand why artists favour Brighton - and it seems like the music coming from there is among the strongest coming through. To be fair, the boys are all over the place and one gets that impression of a band taking each day as it comes and not stressing over things. I love what they are doing right now and you should keep an eye out to see where they are heading. Catch them on the road if you can and experience this terrific band who are definitely on the rise. In terms of the artists who influence Squid, it is hard to drawn direct comparisons. In this interview with DIY , they gave some insight:

Who were some artists that inspired you when you were just starting out (and why)?

Anton: When we were first collaborating we all in love with a lot of German bands like NEU!, Can etc. I remember us listening to a lot of Esbjorn Svensson and ECM type stuff along with a bunch of ‘ambient’ and post-rock artists, really just a load of instrumental stuff too.

Louis: Unintentionally I think, we started taking more from the current music around us and putting it into our own writing. This seemed to give our set a much higher energy which felt really good - or maybe it’s just that we started standing up on stage. Right now we’re especially loving Baxter Dury, Black Midi, DUDS, Tirzah.

That is a pretty unexpected and impressive list of influences! I am not sure what their plans are regarding an album but many out there are priming their eyes the way of Squid to see what the band do next. There is a lot of buzz around them and they are picking up a lot of love along the way. I was bowled over by Houseplants and I cannot wait to see what is brewing in camp. There are few bands like them that provide such simple and effective music. Although there is usually a serious message behind their songs, you do learn from them but you also get this sense of relief and energy that is so important! The chaps are funny and self-deprecating and they have this amazing connection. I wouldn’t be shocked if I saw them getting to the top of festival bills very soon.  I have been a bit down on bands over the past couple of years – declaring solo artists as the best around – but there are some great groups emerging lately – making me feel that the tide is turning and we will see a return of guitar-based bands. I shall leave you with an exert from an interview the band did with NME earlier in the year. It seems to sum up their humour and how they view music:    

What’s your karaoke song?

Anton: Elton John – ‘Tiny Dancer’
Laurie: Elton John and Tupac – ‘Ghetto Gospel’
Ollie: ABBA – ‘SOS’
Louis: Sean Paul – ‘Breathe’
Arthur: Bach – ‘Prelude’ ft David Guetta

Scenario: We’ve given you a shit load of money to make a big budget video – what do you do with it?

“We’ll write a one man show for Jeff Goldblum meanwhile throughout the show Mark Kermode gives it a scathing review, but as a voiceover. If there’s anything left over we’ll take it out in cash, go to a island and burn it. £100,000?

If you don’t fall in love with Squid and embrace what they do; if you do not digest and adore what they are putting out right now then you might very well need…

YOUR head checked!

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Follow Squid:

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INTERVIEW: Exiled

INTERVIEW:

Exiled

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IN my first interview of this week...

I have been speaking with Exiled about their new song, Lita’s Place, and what it is all about. I wanted to find out how they found one another and which artists they count as influences – they select some albums that mean a lot to them.

I ask whether there are tour dates booked; which rising artists we need to look out for and who they’d support on the road if they could; how they spend their time away from music – the chaps each pick a pretty good song to end the interview with.

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

Hiya! It’s been really exciting. Cheers for asking!

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

Hey, guys. We’re Exiled and we’re a four-piece Indie-Rock band based in Sheffield.

Lita’s Place is your new single. What is the inspiration behind it?

Lita’s Place pays homage to our local pub in which we spend far too much time in our younger years. Our generation spends a lot of time worrying about the future, listening to drab news headlines and doom-and-gloom news reports. Being up the pub is a time when we forget all that stuff and just enjoy being together.

Guess it’s also about girls too, though.

Can you recall when Exiled found one another and how life started for you guys?

Me (Max), Henry and Ethan met at secondary-school. The band was formed during an R.E. lesson via paper aeroplanes - we never enjoyed R.E. much. Six years later, we met Jack during freshers’ week. He joined up after sessioning for us on tour last summer to make us who we are today.

Which artists do you count as influences? 

Catfish and The Bottlemen have a big influence on us. We were all captivated by their sound when they released The Balcony. I (Max) have a love for Surf-Rock and think that comes across in our tunes sometimes. Historically, we’ve enjoyed so many artists from The Smiths to Dire Straits. It’s a mixed bag to be honest. I’m (Max) personally a big fan of The Strokes, Jack loves The Killers. 

Is there going to be more material coming from you down the line?

Yes. 100%. There’s so much of it ready and waiting.

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

Think it would have to be our first sold out show on a Scruff of the Neck bill. That show was nuts. Either that or playing at this year Great Escape in Brighton; that was really special.

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

Max: The StrokesIs This It

That’d be my desert island album. I can burn a day listening to that on-repeat.

Jack: Feeder - The Singles

The first album I ever owned and still one of my all-time favourites.

Henry: Catfish and The Bottlemen - The Balcony

Bangers throughout!

Ethan: Bon Iver - Bon Iver

I love putting that album on and just completely chilling out. Some awesome tracks on there.

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

Catfish and The Bottlemen, for sure. And it’d have to be Percy Pigs and Long Island ice teas.

As you are called Exiled, if you could exile anyone from Britain/another nation, who would that be?

Oof. Not sure how to deal with that much power! Maybe we'll exile Max to The Bahamas so we have an excuse to visit him.

What advice would you give to new artists coming through?

Keep doing what you’re doing; say ‘yes’ to everything and, if it doesn’t work out, see it as a learning curve. Get your music on Spotify; get into your local BBC Introducing and have fun with it. If it ain’t fun, don’t bother.

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

We play at Cafe Totem in Sheffield on 14th June. We open the Main Stage at Nibley Festival on Saturday, 6th July and there will be more exciting announcements down the line.

Is touring something you all love doing?

Love it! So great seeing new places and faces. There’s a real sense of pride in touring and we can’t wait to head out again sometime.

 IN THIS PHOTO: Hockey Dad/PHOTO CREDIT: Alex Wall

Are there any new artists you recommend we check out?

You should check out Hockey Dad and a band called The Reytons. The First is a sick Australian Surf band and the latter are Indie-Rock; kind of early-Arctics vibe to them, which is really nice to hear.

IN THIS PHOTO: The Reytons

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

Oddly, I actually find writing a very relaxing thing to do. Nice getting lost in spacey sounds and coming up with lyrics and licks. We're all big fans of being outdoors; getting the fire pit lit up and draining a few beers. That and food. Food is our passion.

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).

Max: The Strokes - Under Cover Of Darkness

Jack: The Night Café - Endless Lovers

Henry: Dance a la Plage2 2 2

 

Ethan: Cassia - Small Spaces

Thanks for the opportunity!

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Follow Exiled

FEATURE: Vinyl Corner: Beastie Boys – Licensed to Ill

FEATURE:

 

 

Vinyl Corner

COVER ART: World B. Omes (David Gambale)

Beastie Boys – Licensed to Ill

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IN future weeks...

 IN THIS PHOTO: The Beastie Boys/PHOTO CREDIT: Lynn Goldsmith/Getty Images

I am eager to feature other Hip-Hop classics in this feature. I have already included Beastie Boys before but I have not dissected Licensed to Ill. It might have been more appropriate to include Paul’s Boutique here as, in July, it turns thirty. I have featured that album a few times so I thought it was a good idea to concentrate on another album that sounds great on vinyl. Make sure you buy a vinyl copy and let the magic take over you! Many prefer the expanse, sheer audacity and legacy of Paul’s Boutique because, as albums go, it did not fare that well at the start - and many did not expect the Beastie Boys to release a second. I recall listening to Licensed to Ill as a child because it had these great raps, fun songs and memorable lines. I was aware of other great Hip-Hop albums as a child but nothing quite like Beastie Boys’ debut. Depending on where you feel Hip-Hop’s golden age begun, you have to include Licensed to Ill in the beginning. I think 1986 was the start of things and, alongside Raising Hell by Run-D.M.C., there was something in the air – it would take another couple of years before Hip-Hop reached its true peak. The world was not quite prepared for these cocky and funny guys who were mixing juvenile humour with some of the slickest and most cutting lines around.

The boys’ experimental tendencies and crate-digging allure would materialise more explicitly on Paul’s Boutique but there were samples a-plenty of Licensed to Ill! There are so many great moments of the Beastie Boys’ debut. Kerry King (of Slayer) shreds it on No Sleep Till Brooklyn which, in itself; is a monster song. I think it is the best song on the record and sort of defines what Beastie Boys were all about. The trio released seven singles from Licensed to Ill and you can understand why they did that. Paul Revere has ‘single’ written all over it and how can one refute the allure of The New Style?! We also were treated to (You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (to Party) and its cool video; the exceptional Brass Monkey and the aforementioned No Sleep Till Brooklyn. I will come to look at reviews and the legacy of Licensed to Ill but, when you think about each song and how packed they are, it sort of takes the breath! The opening track, Rhymin & Stealin creates a conversation among Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath and The Clash – When the Levee Breaks (Led Zeppelin) and I Fought the Law (The Clash) would sound unnatural spliced by other bands but the Beastie Boys made it work wonderfully! The New Style brings in Trouble Funk whilst one can hear Fat Larry’s Band and Steve Miller Band on Slow Ride; some delicious Matronix on Paul Revere and everyone from Creedence Clearwater Revival, Joan Jett & The Blackhearts and Kool & The Gang on the closer, Time to Get Ill.

One of the reasons why I love sampling so much is because you get the original song but they are augmented and made fascinating by hearing other artists’ voices on them. Look back at all the classic Hip-Hop albums and (the creators) dug deep into the crates and fused disparate voices to create something explosive, eclectic and sense-altering. I love how these pioneers preserved forgotten artists and reintroduced older sounds to new listeners through their visor. It not only means we get to hear unconnected artists/sounds spliced naturally and to great effect but it means you discover artists you might not have otherwise of heard. Beastie Boys ran into a bit of strife regarding copyright and clearance when they released Paul’s Boutique – overloaded as it is with sample – but that was an inherent danger when it came to sampling. A few Hip-Hop groups got into trouble for not getting clearance but one can forgive them because of the results and their intentions: not to rip anyone off but make this incredible music that sounds like nothing else. There are few more confident debuts than Licensed to Ill. One is blown away by the energy, confidence and sheer talent of the Beastie Boys right from the start on 15th November, 1986. There was not a lot of similar music around and, aside from Run-D.M.C. and Eric B. & Rakim – whose landmark debut, Paid in Full, arrived the year after – Beastie Boys were in a league of their own.

 PHOTO CREDIT: Laura Levine/Getty Images

Some might write off a lot of the songs because they are quite juvenile and lack the sort of authority they would hone on their next album. Whilst the original title pitched for Licensed to Ill was scrapped because of its homophobic connotations – I shall not print it here – the band knew that was a mistake and they did sort themselves out soon enough. I think it is unfair to dismiss the debut album from the Beastie Boys as being a bit immature and slight: in actuality, it is a fantastic album that sounds more impressive and nuanced now than it did back in 1986. Contemporary reviews are largely positive and, as AllMusic wrote in 2011, there is a lot to love about Licensed to Ill:

There hasn't been a funnier, more infectious record in pop music than this, and it's not because the group is mocking rappers (in all honesty, the truly twisted barbs are hurled at frat boys and lager lads), but because they've already created their own universe and points of reference, where it's as funny to spit out absurdist rhymes and pound out "Fight for Your Right (To Party)" as it is to send up street corner doo wop with "Girls." Then, there is the overpowering loudness of the record -- operating from the axis of where metal, punk, and rap meet, there never has been a record this heavy and nimble, drunk on its own power yet giddy with what they're getting away with...

Pitchfork approached things from a slightly different direction when reviewing the album:

Okay, so it isn't the music or all the rhymes that translate beyond the scene of the crime. What, then? Probably just that the Beasties didn't give a fuck-- AND AMERICA DESPERATELY NEEDED TO BE SHOWN HOW NOT TO GIVE A FUCK. And it sort of still does. Licensed to Ill demonstrated that you could be "groundbreaking" and "important," and still have no goals beyond getting drunk before 6th period. Think about that. It meant that you could live life as one giant inside joke, speaking in tongues and making hilarious references to Chef Boyardee with no one outside your circle of jerks the wiser. Sorry ma, forgot to take out the trash, but that's okay because I drink Brass Monkey and I rock well. "What?" "Nothing".

I love the sheer brashness of the album and the sense that this self-confidence won over the public. There was a strange irony that Rap and Hip-Hop was pushed more into the mainstream by a trio of white guys – many at the time criticised the genres for being too black to be considered mainstream.

In this excellent feature from 2016, Medium celebrated Licensed to Ill and its many merits. They did, as it goes on to say, condemn the sexist language and homophobia that the Beastie Boys would later apologise for:

There is a sense of genuine discovery, of creating new music, that remains years later, after countless plays, countless misinterpretations, countless rip-off acts, even countless apologies from the Beasties, who seemed guilty by how intoxicating the sound of it is, how it makes beer-soaked hedonism sound like the apogee of human experience. And maybe it is, maybe it isn't, but in either case, Licensed to Ill reigns tall among the greatest records of its time”.

This seems obvious, but it’s important to not underestimate that this is still one of the best selling rap albums of all time, even 30 years later. Considering that so many naysayers in 1986 dismissed hip-hop as a novelty genre, this is incredible.

Hip-hop had been constantly increasing in popularity since its humble beginnings in the mid-70s, but it was Licensed to Ill that really shook up the culture and catapulted rap music to new levels of acceptance. It’s easy to group the Beastie Boys in with the rest of the closely-knit, Def Jam and Rush-affiliated artists like LL Cool J and Run-DMC. But at the time, Licensed to Ill stood out completely from the rest of rap music as a cultural phenomenon in itself.

With regards the frat-like behaviour of Michael ‘Mike D’ Diamond (vocals, drums), Adam ‘MCA’ Yauch (vocals, bass) and Adam ‘Ad-Rock’ Horovitz (vocals, guitar) back in the 1980s: Should we excuse them as being a product of their time and knowing no better?

Of course, this was the 1980s and there’s always going to be a debate around how much we should excuse antiquated attitudes for being a product of a different time. This is especially true of the Beastie Boys, who for the rest of their career made it a priority to apologize for their offensive lyrics during this period. The most notable instance of this was MCA’s now legendary verse on “Sure Shot,” where he publicly repented for the group’s earlier sexism:

“I want to say a little something that’s long overdue,
The disrespect to women has to got to be through,
To all the mothers and sisters and the wives and friends,
I want to offer my love and respect till the end.”

But if we look beyond the surface, Licensed to Ill was actually a really innovative album — only a few hip-hop artists like Doug E. Fresh and Mantronix were making such experimental hip-hop at the time. There’s the amazing “Hold it Now, Hit It,” one of the strangest hip-hop singles of the period; “Paul Revere,” a fake western origin story propelled by a backwards sampled loop; and “Rhymin’ and Stealin,’” which contains the legendary, yet super-random bridge that has the group screaming “Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves” over and over. This is by no means a normal hip-hop album.

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images 

Licensed to Ill doesn’t get looked at as a creative breakthrough because it’s unfairly judged against the rest of the band’s catalogue and not appreciated on its own terms. Of course, Paul’s Boutique was creatively groundbreaking, but that doesn’t mean that what preceded it is therefore generic. Both albums were extremely progressive in their own ways, but because hip-hop as a whole progressed by leaps and bounds between 1986 and 1989, Licensed to Ill looks basic in comparison. But they didn’t simply go from immature idiots to musical geniuses by the time Paul’s Boutique came out, like many would have you believe”.

Whilst this retrospective article from 2016 suggests that better things would come from Beastie Boys and a lot of the songs lack clout, they did have some positive things to say:

The Beastie Boys, at first, were just dumb fun. But they were about to become important—musically at least—by having the brilliance to, say, mix the soundtracks of Psycho and Jaws on Paul’s Boutique. Would Paul’s Boutique have been as astonishing if it hadn’t risen out of the bratty antics of the earlier record? Like you guys point out, sometimes it doesn’t even sound like the same band, but I don’t think they stumbled into their place in history “drunk and ass-backwards,” or that they were forced to evolve, Sean. I’m guessing a 1986 platinum record would ensure that the “Beastie Boys always on vacation” lifestyle would persevere for quite a while…

Still, they went back to the studio and amped everything up a notch in 1989, expanding on Ill’s prescient cuts like “She’s Crafty” and “Hold It Now, Hit It,” and continued to do so throughout their career. On the Beasties’ debut, if you listen to how excited they are, how cheeky, how out-and-out full of themselves, it’s almost like they knew what was coming”.

I have a lot of love for Licensed to Ill and, whilst it does not captivate in the same way as Paul’s Boutique, its importance and the way it acted as a catalyst cannot be diminished. It was lucky we got a second album from them because, as is stated here, there was great tension in the camp by 1987:

 “The Licensed to Ill-era came to a sticky end in 1987, with all three of the Beasties unhappy and barely speaking to one another,” Sawyer notes, pulling from the memoir. Reportedly, Def Jam Records co-founder Russell Simmons gave the Beastie Boys an ultimatum to receive their royalties. The surviving members of the band do not address the reasons for not speaking in the interview. However, they do discuss the business at play with their label. “Russell [Simmons] was like, if you don’t go in the studio, then I’m not paying you,” Mike D reveals. “His calculation was that we would all be like, ‘Oh we want our millions. OK, Russell, we’re going to do it.’ But we were all immediately, ‘F*ck you’”.

It is a remarkable work that, yes, has some flaws – some of the lyrical content is hard to excuse and love – and they would make bigger statements but you cannot deny Licensed to Ill is fun, compelling and provided a sense of relief and fun at a time when Americans really needed it – look at what was happening in 1986 to get a sense of why music was a perfect distraction! If you want to see where the Beastie Boys started out and how they announced their arrival in music, snap up a copy of Licensed to Ill and let it do its work. It is not a perfect album (is there such a thing?!) but it is immensely fun and the samples are awesome; the raps and lines are, for the most part, funny and great and the guys put something into the world that helped get Hip-Hop and Rap to the masses. For those reasons alone, I feel Licensed to Ill deserves a lot of respect and has fought for its right…

 PHOTO CREDIT: Paul Natkin/WireImage

TO party.

FEATURE: The Food of Love: Is Music a Way of Rekindling Britain’s Waning Sex Life?

FEATURE:

 

 

The Food of Love

PHOTO CREDIT: @tallierobinson/Unsplash 

Is Music a Way of Rekindling Britain’s Waning Sex Life?

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MAYBE it is not a shock to discover...

 PHOTO CREDIT: @nemanjao1/Unsplash

that there is a proportion of people in Britain not having a lot of sex. Perhaps it is shocking British people have sex at all: the rest of the world sees us as reserved, stiff of upper lip (and nothing else) and closed-off. Although we are not as ‘prolific’ as other nations and are more private regarding our personal lives and sexual habits, it seems like the pace of modern life is getting in the way. The Internet and social media are taking over and we spend so much time on laptops or on our phones. When we are not working, how many of us have the energy to go out and socialise, let alone engage in anything else?! Maybe the statistics do not apply to teens and the middle-aged but it seems like there is a sector of British life that is ignoring sex…or simply does not have the time. This revelation made the news earlier this month and, as The Independent reports, maybe our stressed lives and busy working hours is curtailing how much sex we are having:

 “British people are having less sex than in previous years, with scientists blaming the decline on the internet and the ”busyness” of modern life.

According to new data, fewer than half of Britons have sex at least once a week, and rates are dwindling.

The steepest declines were among people over the age of 25 and those who were married or living together, said researchers from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

They analysed data for more than 34,000 men and women aged 16 to 44 who completed the National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles in 1991 (Natsal-1), 2001 (Natsal-2) and 2012 (Natsal-3). 

The data showed a general decline in sexual activity in Britain between 2001 and 2012, with the steepest declines among the over-25s and those who were married or living together.

PHOTO CREDIT: @jaredsluyter/Unsplash

Overall, the proportion reporting no sex in the past month fell between the first and second surveys (from 28.5 per cent to 23 per cent in women and from 30.9 per cent to 26 per cent in men) but increased significantly in the final 2012 survey (to 29.3 per cent in women and 29.2 per cent in men).

The proportion reporting sex 10 times or more in the past month increased between the first two surveys (from 18.4 per cent to 20.6 per cent in women and from 19.9 per cent to 20.2 per cent in men), but fell in the final survey to 13.2 per cent in woman and 14.4 per cent in men.

Overall, 41 per cent of men and women had sex once a week or more in the last month, the most recent survey showed.

Writing in the British Medical Journal (BMJ), the authors said: “Our data show that sexual frequency fell in Britain between Natsal-2 and Natsal-3.

“The most recent Natsal data show that fewer than half of men and women aged 16 to 44 have sex at least once a week”.

That is a lot of data to digest and it is always hard reading statistics and seeing whether it is flawed or reliable. From what we have seen, it seems like there is a correlation between the pressure of our lives and how much sex we are having.

 PHOTO CREDIT: @freestocks/Unsplash

We are all busier nowadays and it seems like, when we do get some free time, it is spent binging on T.V. or on the Internet. Whilst the lack of sex might be good for controlling population rates, does this mean that we unhappier and more stressed? Not that this article is a bawdy and explicit need to talk about sex but, seriously, the signs are not good: we are becoming more depressed, tense and, really, less relaxed. This is all bad and I do think that there is a serious side to all of this. Not only are relationships – among those of a certain age – less physical, there is also this danger that many are not actually engaging with one another at all. If we are all too tired or preoccupied then are the figures above going to get any worse?! One might say substituting one form of entertainment for another – T.V. for music – is not helping the problem or providing a solution. I do think there is a social aspect to T.V. but, for the most part, people veg-out and then go to bed. We may discuss T.V. shows or what we are streaming on Netflix but maybe that type of distraction is not what we need. Stick with me on this one but it is clear that we are all working too hard and definitely need to unwind.

If you spend your days toiling with work and commuting; come home, stick on some T.V. or spend all evening online, what does the rest of the night hold? You are not more relaxed and, if anything, your brain does not have chance to switch off and decompress. Sex is a way of releasing endorphins and providing release but, in terms of relationships, it is a key component. If couples are more distant and not as physical then does that have long-term effects? It is no coincidence that, since the advent and proliferation of streaming services like Netflix, we are spending less time socialising or having a sex life. It is not an epidemic but there is this bleak picture: couples not really talking or acting more like friends that lovers. The research conducted is not signalling a pacifism or abstinence from young couples but there is this indication that we lack the necessary energy and requisite desire that there was as recently as a few years ago. Where does music come into this, then? People are saying they would like to have more sex and, when it comes to the drop in figures, it is not people keeping their virginity: it is once-active people have less sex. Fears and anxieties around the world are adding to the pressure and, as we escape more into social media and fantasy, we are neglecting our sex lives.

One of the great things about music – if you do not take into consideration music videos – is that there is not the visual distraction of the Internet or T.V. Unless you are drooling over some great cover art (and why not!) it is this sonic experience; one can use music as a direct stimulus or have it on in the background. It seems like a more immersive experience and more sociable. I am not suggesting people go to bars, listen to music and have sex there but, when at home, it seems like two bird can be killed with one stone – or The Rolling Stones, perhaps! Music is a way to de-stress and unwind and there is this huge emotional relief. Music can make us feel less anxious and it can provide us motivation and energy. I often get sapped from a tiring day at work and, when getting back, I put on some great music and it makes me feel lighter, more optimistic and recharges the batteries. Music alone cannot take us from drained to hyperactive that easily – I think all of us are more tired generally than we used to be – but there is something beyond mere science and biology regarding music. I have heard many stories from couples about how they met and what makes them so connected. More than any film, T.V. show or anything else, it is music that provides that unity and sense of passion.

 PHOTO CREDIT: @horizonchurch/Unsplash

Whether it is their love of a particular album or going to gigs, they fell in love because of their shared tastes in music. Many other couples find it can be quite intimidating or staid initiating any sexual congress in silence or in any other situation. Music unites the masses and it is its own language; it provokes tears and laughter and, for many, represents fond memories and happier times. I think a lot of our modern anxiety is linked to the possible future and how bleak everyone says everything is. Not only can great music, past or present, provide some escapism or needed optimism but the value of nostalgia can unlock a part of our brain that is currently obsessing over climate change, political strife and the strains of work. Not only are we are busier but we are more stressed and depressed than we used to be. The modern world is a tough place and there is a clear attraction to music. Music itself is a powerful aphrodisiac – as Shakespeare famously wrote – and it can be a real source of attraction between couples/lovers. There have been numerous studies through the years that state how music makes us more active and a shared love of certain bands/albums can create that missing spark. Obscure Sound went into more detail in this feature from 2015:

“…Adding weight to all of that is the other McGill University study that reveals that listening to music can also lead to arousal, among other feelings. So you’re not only feeling increased levels of pleasure but also arousal while listening to music and taking part in some activity (like, um, sex). If the bit about being aroused by music sounds kind of strange, you’re not alone. However, if you are actually aroused when listening to music, you’re also not alone—not by a long shot. 

PHOTO CREDIT: @matheusferrero/Unsplash 

Adam and Eve revealed in a new infographic on sex, drugs, and music that 40 percent of the people they surveyed are more turned on by music than their partner’s touch. So, there’s your proof, doubters; people can get more out of music than someone holding their hand or rubbing their shoulders.

Now that there’s some science to it, what about the music these people listen to that is inspiring such feelings? Music streaming service Spotify revealed some of their own findings in this regard, and it appears that there’s a pretty wide variety of preference out there when it comes to “in the bedroom” music”.

Not only can music help reignite passion in an existing relationship but, as we know, a person’s taste in music can compensate for ‘shortcomings’ when it comes to their looks and personality. A man does not have to look like Tom Hardy to attract women/men. The sheer attractiveness of someone who shares the same musical tastes and speaks the same language can, in itself, be incredibly potent.

I was reading an article from Elite Daily, as one does, and they talked about couples who listen to music and how they have more sex than couples who do not.

According to a study done by Sonos, the smart speaker system, 67 percent of couples that listen to music out loud together report having more sex than couples who don't listen to music together. The reason is that when you listen to music out loud, your neurons (nerve cells that transmit information throughout the body) begin operating at the same rate as your partner's, which releases oxytocin (the love hormone). Oxytocin is also responsible for feelings of trust so, naturally, things become more intimate between you and your partner when there's music on in the bedroom.

Turns out, 18 percent of people also admit to dropping the L-bomb because of a song they heard. This number is even higher for people who claim to listen to music out loud on a regular basis. TBH, I'd be lying if I said I've never considered proposing to the first person I see when an Ed Sheeran song comes on. Unsurprisingly, there's another chemical reaction going on when this happens. The combination of oxytocin (the love hormone) as a result of being with your partner and serotonin (the happiness hormone) as a result of listening to your favorite song means good vibes all around.

Literally. Neurochemistry aside, of the 30,000 households surveyed, 18 percent of couples say that music makes sex better. For them, the benefit of listening to music during sex is the rhythmic coordination it allows for. They explain that it provides the perfect soundtrack for getting busy, just like in the movies. It's no surprise, then, that you can (and you should) craft a sex playlist inspired by your favorite celebrities.

It's worth pointing out that 39 percent of people also say they enjoy listening to music more than having sex. Yikes! So, if you feel like something's missing from your love life, it might just be a Grammy-nominated soundtrack... for sex, of course. I'd suggest getting started on your playlist ASAP. Have you ever heard "Ride" by Chase Rice?

Literally. Neurochemistry aside, of the 30,000 households surveyed, 18 percent of couples say that music makes sex better. For them, the benefit of listening to music during sex is the rhythmic coordination it allows for. They explain that it provides the perfect soundtrack for getting busy, just like in the movies. It's no surprise, then, that you can (and you should) craft a sex playlist inspired by your favorite celebrities”.

Obviously, sexy and sensual music itself is designed to increase libido but it is not as simple as turning on some music and every problem being resolved. One does not simply lose their inhabitations and burdens when they put on music.

 PHOTO CREDIT: @marksolarski/Unsplash

The ‘sex problem’ facing many young people/couples will not go anywhere soon but music definitely has a way of bringing us together and creating this incredible charge of attraction. Not only can shared tastes and similar musical loves renew bonds between couples and speak louder than anything else, there is that social element. Again, I am not proposing people have sex at gigs – that would violate health and safety and public decency – but, whether you are single or in a relationship, going out and seeing artists perform bonds us. Not only do we get the release of being in a lively environment and letting music coarse through our bodies but, for those single and looking for like-minded souls, gigs are a great source of guidance. It might be easy saying all of this and I do know that venues are closing and a lot of us do not have the energy to go out or the money to do so. I am suggesting we spend a few hours a week going out and seeing live music or, if not that, putting away devices and staying off the Internet. Music can provoke conversation and fond memories; we all can recall how music came into our lives and, when we hear music that stimulates various regions of the brain, the chemical reaction is instant and powerful. The sheer act of talking about music and having that common connection is a powerful aphrodisiac and it is something we do not necessarily get with T.V. or social media.

I am not sure whether the over-twenty-fives – the group seeing a steep decline in sex – are just finding responsibilities and the balance of life a bit too taxing and draining. Whist social media and T.V. can provide some escape and relaxation at the end of a day, music is more sociable and I think it can a solution, however temporary, to a very real problem. Not having sex is okay but it is a shame there is a noticeable decline and I wonder what affect it is having on our emotional, physical and psychological well-being. I think anything that can make us happier and more refreshed as people should be encourage and something as fundamental as sex should not be left on the shelf. Music should not just be about us listening through headphone or on our phones when we commute. I do worry that, whereas we used to listen to music together and share it in a physical form, now we are more used to going to gigs on our own or listening to music online. Maybe it is time to spend a bit of time off of the Internet and let our ears and minds be seduced. As I said, it is a case of killing two birds with one stone: we get to listen to music (with our other halves or when we are starting a relationship) and there is that chemistry and release we find when music plays; when we find someone whose musical mind ticks the same of us and, on a base level, when a fantastic song makes us feel relaxed, happy and…well, you can do the rest. Music is not a permanent or long-term solution when it comes to reversing the figures (and our sex drives) but it can help rekindle a flame, passion and physicality that have been sapped by the workaday life and the Internet. If we compel to make some small changes realise just how powerful and important music is, future reports regarding the sex life of the British public could be…         

 PHOTO CREDIT: @heftiba/Unsplash

VERY different indeed!

FEATURE: All My Loving: The Genius of Paul McCartney: The Ultimate Playlist

FEATURE:

 

 

All My Loving

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PHOTO CREDIT: Collier Schorr 

The Genius of Paul McCartney: The Ultimate Playlist

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ALTHOUGH this feature is not directly related to...

 PHOTO CREDIT: @PaulMcCartney

any release from The Beatles or anniversary, I have been reading All The Songs: The Story Behind Every Beatles Release and look at each of The Beatles’ songs deconstructed and examined. Although George Harrison wrote some of The Beatles best tracks – including Something and Here Comes the Sun -, the main force behind the band was John Lennon and Paul McCartney. Whilst the duo wrote some of their biggest hits together, quite often it was either Lennon or McCartney that took the lead. Whether you are more in the Lennon or McCartney camp regarding the best tracks, one cannot deny that, between them, they are responsible for some of the best songs ever written. One can examine a songwriter like Paul McCartney from different angles and see how he evolved. From the man who wrote gorgeous love songs and some of the catchiest Pop of the 1960s, he then developed into this more mature and ambitious songwriter. You look at the earliest Beatles albums and there are some incredible song but it was by the time of Revolver (1966) when McCartney really started to spread his wings and splice other genres together. I love how all of his songs sound fresh and unique yet you can understand them all. Lennon often teased McCartney because of his ‘granny songs’ – those he felt were a bit soft and comedic. It is true that, compared to Lennon, McCartney was more varied regarding emotions and would show his sensitivity; talk about characters and engage more with the whimsical.

 IMAGE CREDIT: Peter Blake

By the time The Beatles hit the studio for 1967’s Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, he had assumed the role of leader of the band and was responsible for some of the best songs on that record – including She’s Leaving Home and Fixing a Hole. I love that album but I think there was greater genius and range from McCartney by 1968’s The Beatles. Consider the fact that the man wrote Helter Skelter and Blackbird in the same time period! It is amazing to think that, during a tough time for the band – cracks were starting to appear and there were tense moments in the studio – such rich and complete songs were produced. Although a lot of the recording period in 1968 was frostier than the early Beatles days, there were great moments of collaboration and support. The Beatles split by 1970 but, between Magical Mystery Tour (1967), Abbey Road (1969) and Let It Be (1970), McCartney did not let his genius dent: creating songs such as The Fool on the Hill, Get Back and Let It Be; let us not forget the stunning Hey Jude and Penny Lane! I have skimmed through the great Beatles moments from Paul McCartney but, as a solo artist and part of Wings, he reminded the world why he is one of the greatest songwriters ever.

Last year’s Egypt Station was received well by critics and contained some cracking moments. There have been some underwhelming albums from McCartney but Ram (1971), Flowers in the Dirt (1989) and 1997’s Flaming Pie are classics. Think about Wings’ albums like Band on the Run and Venus and Mars and, again, McCartney crafting these original and distinct songs. He proved he could work solo and in a number of guises and not lose his golden touch. Despite some of the mishaps and weaker records, McCartney still remains this genius who does not look set to retire anytime soon. He is touring the world and captivating audiences over six decades since he started out in music. Maybe his Beatles best outstrips the rest but I do love a lot of his solo albums and the stuff he did with Wings. I hope there are more albums left in McCartney and we need to treasure these iconic songwriters who have given the world so much. Whether drawing from his emotional breakups and romantic strife or detaching and writing about these wonderful characters…there has not been another songwriter like Paul McCartney in the world! The man away from the music is an activist and passionate human who campaigns and uses his voice for good. He is a long-time vegetarian and someone who strikes the heart and mind as well as the soul. I have never met the man but I can imagine McCartney is an amazing interviewee who can craft some wonderful stories.

To end this piece, I have collated together what, I think, are the best Paul McCartney songs ever – whether created alone or he had the majority share (writing with John Lennon or Linda McCartney). It is a testament to his legacy, talent and range that there is wide variety of songs to be found. You just know McCartney loves the process of songwriting and it is a way of touching the world. He is someone who wants to reach the masses and inspire them. From a young boy to where he is now, music is all he has ever wanted to do and that gift was instilled in him very early. There are countless artists who owe a debt to McCartney and what he has given the world – and what he continues to do. There is nobody like McCartney and it is clear we will never see anyone else like him again. Even in his mid-seventies, the man is travelling the world and putting on a hell of a show! I hope McCartney continues to rock into his eighties and there is a lot more fantastic music left in him. Whether you were a fan of The Beatles and experienced them the first time around or are younger and found them more recently, we all have those favourite songs and moments. To me, it is a close thing between John Lennon and Paul McCartney but McCartney just edges it when it comes to the classics! Keep abreast of where the legend is heading and what is happening because he keeps pretty active on social media. I love the fact that McCartney is still this huge force in the world of music. We have a lot to look forward to from him but, when you think about all he has given the world, it seems hardly believable one man…

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 IN THIS PHOTO: The Beatles in 1967/PHOTO CREDIT: Express Newspapers via AP Images

COULD be responsible for that!

FEATURE: One for Every Mood: The Power of Playlists

FEATURE:

 

 

One for Every Mood

PHOTO CREDIT: @belart84/Unsplash 

The Power of Playlists

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I will include a few Spotify playlists here...

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 PHOTO CREDIT: @fimpli/Unsplash

but I urge people to seek out as many playlists as they can. There are a couple of reasons why I want to mention playlists and discuss them here. I think we all get into the habit of playing the music we are used to and that which can make us feel better. There are people who are adventurous and constantly investigate what is coming through and what is buried. How many of us get turned on to new styles of music and artists every day? It is great we live in an age where there is so much music available and we can get pretty much anything that has ever been recorded. In terms of new artists, we can get a lot of recommendations from Spotify but I do think that can only go a certain distance. I have struggled to find some great artists and feel there are a lot that get overlooked and underexposed. It is impossible to include everything and get behind every artist but I feel that playlists can go further. One of the great pleasures is looking on a site like Spotify and seeing all these great playlists. From playlists collecting together women in Blues and songs that are summer-ready, you can get a nice spread of sounds and discover fresh sounds. We get the weekly playlists from Spotify that bring together their view of the hottest artists around. There is a subjective aspect when we look at the power of playlists.

A lot of times, the artists on these prominent playlists are commercial or they have chart potential. If you like that sort of thing then that is great but I tend to avoid the ‘hottest artists’ and songs list because they tend to be very Pop-orientated and similar. The reason why I love playlists is because they have so many uses and strengths. If you need a boost and sunshine then you can find playlists that collate all the brightest and happiest songs together. Similarly, if you need to reflect and find songs that convey a certain tone, one can find playlists to fit that mood. A lot of modern artists rely on playlists because they can boost streaming figures and elevate a career. Having your song on a promoted and big playlist means you can draw in new fans and grow as an artist. That is one side to playlists but my thrill comes from discovery and enriching the mind. There are some silly playlists out there that are for fun and do not have much depth but one cannot underestimate those playlists that genuinely open the mind and soul. A lot of people seek out energy-boosting playlists when they are training and preparing for marathons. If you need to get into the groove and get motivated, one can find these curated playlists that have perfect songs that give you drive.

For me, I love listening to entire periods and genres. Whether it is finding all the classic House hits or the best of the 1980s, you can find an extensive playlist that caters to your needs. It can be really difficult finding appropriate playlists or one that fits your mood. Luckily, people can create their own playlists on platforms like Spotify so you can get a lot of variation and choice. For me, the biggest asset of a playlist is the ability to stretch the listener’s imagination and bring new music to their lives. I have discovered artists I did not know and fallen in love with entire genres because of playlists. I think radio discovery is great but you cannot listen to radio all the time and it is not the same as having these complete and eclectic playlists. I do think we all get stuck in a cycle where we have the same songs primed and we do not often go beyond what is familiar. If you want to check out some great modern Hip-Hop then you have enough options. Also, if you love music of the 1990s then there are playlists that bring together some of the biggest hits. You might hear artists and songs you have not discovered up until then or you might rediscover a song that was a big part of your childhood. Not only is it great finding all these bespoke playlists but there is something wonderful about creating your own.

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 PHOTO CREDIT: @briankost/Unsplash

The days of the mixtape have gone so there is a relief when one can create a digital equivalent. You can put all your favourite songs on these playlists and then, through time, sites like Spotify can send recommendations and similar playlists. Some argue one of the downsides of playlists is that they miss entire genres and are too narrow. If you get personalised playlists on Spotify, does that inherently limit your discovery and mean that you will ignore everything else out there? I do think that one needs to do their own digging and not just rely on playlists but I would be lost without them. Not only do I rely on them for the best songs of the week – when I do my weekly playlist pieces – but I also browse various playlists when I need a certain sense of relief. If I want to discover great new women in Country music then I am sorted. If I want some old-school jams then I can get what I need and, if I want an essential collection of Steely Dan songs then there is a playlist waiting to go. Playlists are useful when you are on the go and need that nice collection of songs. I also think it a nice way of organising music and not losing touch. I have playlists collating my favourite songs from childhood and some that are more specific. I can dip into those when I fancy and it means that I am always remaining broad. If I relied on radio alone, there would be countless songs and artists that would slip my mind. Sometimes personalised playlists can be a bit flawed and restricted but I actually think they can give us great recommendations and have a good knowledge of what we’d like to listen to.

I would say to people not to rely on personalised playlists too much. They are great and make you feel like someone out there knows you but one cannot beat the personal touch and human curation. Going into the archives and putting together your own playlist is, like I said, like a mixtape from back in the day. Whatever you feel about playlists, they are definitely taking over and very important to new artists. Back in 2017, WIRED wrote an article about playlists and how useful they are for labels and artists:

"Spotify playlists, and Spotify charts, and Spotify plays, have become the number one tool that labels and artists and managers are using in order to break artists and measure success," says industry analyst Mark Mulligan. Facebook has more users, YouTube has more views, but Spotify represents more important real estate. "If you get things working on Spotify," Mulligan says, "that’s going to crank the wheel."

Listeners now spend about half their time on Spotify listening to playlists, either of their own creation or curated by Spotify's editors and other tastemakers. As a result, every artist wants a spot on the high-traffic playlists like Today's Top Hits or Rap Caviar. There's an official pitch process, a form anyone can fill out with details about their track and their hopes and dreams for world-beating success, but a little inside knowledge helps. "Every team on the editorial side has their own way of working," says James Walsh, business development manager at Ditto Music, which helps artists placetheir music in online stores. You can't guarantee entry, but you can at least try putting your stuff in front of the right people.

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PHOTO CREDIT: @austindistel/Unsplash  

At the same time, Spotify is investing more in personalized playlists, like the algorithmically generated Discover Weekly and Daily Mix. Over time, Mulligan says, even things like Today’s Top Hits or New Music Friday could be tuned to each user’s particular taste. “The idea of any playlist being the same thing to any person is going to become less and less as time goes on,” he says. Not to mention, as it learns more about what listeners like to listen to and when, the company could start to make tailored content—just as Netflix began making its own shows after discovering people really love Adam Sandler. What does the recording biz do then?

I can understand how playlists take away a lot of natural discovery and mean that a lot of artists miss out but I do think there is an opportunity for companies like Spotify to do something great. I love all the genre and mood-specific playlists because it bunches together songs that I want to hear and saves me the trouble of endless scrolling and thought. The weekly playlists that bring together fresh cuts are great because, otherwise, you’d need to do a tonne of searching to find what you need – playlists like this are invaluable to journalists like me.

Maybe that is where the divide comes: the practicality it provides journalists and the freedom listeners want. If you are someone like me who does often need specific songs and playlists, they have a great power and usefulness. If you are someone who wants to keep broad and experimental, maybe playlists strip some of that endeavour and liberty. Do a lot of new artists get overlooked because people are putting too much stock into playlists? This is where I think Spotify, TIDAL and YouTube can improve on. I do feel personal playlists are a little synthetic and tend to make us lazy but there are countless new artists in all genres that are being overlooked. What about putting together playlists of under-the-wire artists or making them genre-specific? I get sent a lot of requests but there are many artists out there that pass me by and I always hate that. Given the power of streaming services, there should be more playlists that support underground artists in addition to foisting older music to the new generation. How many young listeners are going back and checking out classic Folk and music from the past? How many of us go beyond what we hear on our favourite stations and experience the full breadth of new music? One cannot realistically hear everything and have the time to go that deep but I do think radio can only do so much. I do feel like a lot of approaching artists feel streaming services are more set up for bigger artists – they miss out and get fewer streams because they are not promoted.

I do think there should be playlists that take into consideration newer acts and those that are not in the mainstream. I know so many younger listeners who missing out on great music from the past because they are listening to what is considered modern, cool and fresh. This is okay to an extent but there is a whole world of music they are missing out on. Now that few people share music and there is less physical music-sharing, we do have to rely on radio and digital sources. I do believe there should be playlists and recommendations that help bring classic sounds to those who might otherwise miss out. Music has a tremendous power and place and experiencing as much as it as you can is essential. There are natural flaws to playlists and one should not rely on them but I think there are so useful and eye-opening. If you are in a particular mood, playlists can score that or make you feel better; you can compile your own for prosperity or you can seek out great new acts in a variety of genres. They can enrich you and lead you to places you never knew existed before. You can share playlists with people and, for people like me, it is a chance to share my tastes and discoveries with others. So long as you think outside of the box and do not solely use playlists for music discovery then that is good. One needs to do their own research but, in a growing and chaotic music scene, there is this organisation and discipline with playlists that makes discovery a lot easier. If streaming sites can put less preference on personalised playlists and help rising artists get attention; unearth older sounds and icons to the young generation then I genuinely think that will make us all more rounded, informed…

 PHOTO CREDIT: @juanparodriguez/Unsplash

AND enriched.

TRACK REVIEW: Lauren Ray - Moment

TRACK REVIEW:

 

Lauren Ray

Moment

 

9.4/10

 

The track, Moment, is available via:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gAIrr5gzueY

GENRES:

Pop/Singer-Songwriter

ORIGIN:

London, U.K.

RELEASE DATE:

14th April, 2019

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THIS is my very last review request...

that I am taking. From now on, every review I publish is going to be artists I am going after or those in the mainstream. I have been doing the review thing for over seven years and think that, in terms of new artists, I have got all I can from it; there are too many that sound the same and have a very familiar story – or those who do not really have a story at all. Before I head into a different direction and line up some big reviews, I am ending this phase of reviewing with Lauren Ray. I have encountered her music before and, when thinking about her latest single, a few things come to mind. I will write about those who have a familiar story regarding song inspiration but are able to add something; a voice that can stand out and gets inside the mind; artists who develop and grow through time and looking at the types of sounds that will define 2019; why women are in a stronger position in terms of material and where Lauren Ray can go next. Apologies to revisit ground but, with regards upcoming artists, it is often the way one will sort of cover the same thing. In terms of Lauren Ray’s latest single, Moment, there are a lot of threads that I have seen in other songs. Don’t get me wrong, that is all fine and good. In terms of the lyrical themes, there is about the fragility of our lives and the importance of living for the moment. It is nice that there is something more positive coming out in music because, more often than not, I am encountering stuff that is quite gloomy. I think one of the reasons I have transferred from the underground artists to the bigger acts is because, when I reviewed JARV IS… yesterday, there was a song about evolving and being stubborn in a modern world.

Newer artists tend to concentrate more on themes like love and personal struggle and it can be harder to find unique spin and ambition. I have faced a lot of songs where the theme is the same and the artist’s backstory is identical – that can make it hard to fill the page and come up with something fresh. Luckily, as I bow out, Lauren Ray has managed to provide a song that adds new perspective to a familiar subject. I do like the fact she is talking about positivity and the support of others in music. Too many songs I have encountered tend to look more at the struggle in life and how bleak things are. There is an earnestness in her latest release that provides thanks to those who have helped her and knows that she gives love to her family because they have backed her all of the way. What differentiates Lauren Ray from the rest of the herd is the fact she has a very distinct voice and her lyrics come from a very personal place. In that sense, she is not trying to fit in with the rest of music and follow the mainstream. So many artists copy what is out there because they feel that is the way to be popular and get attention. Ray is someone who can address something that is common to many of us and provide a fresh angle and voice. It is exciting to hear the song unfold because you know she is putting her all into it and every word means a lot to her. I do hate when artists write something that means nothing to them or seems to be an attempt to get radio attention. You can tell when there is insincerity but, in the case of Ray, she writes from the heart and, to her, music is a way of getting out her feelings and expressing herself. I shall move on but, as this is my last review of a particular kind, there is something I need to cover. I have talked about voices before but there is something unique to Lauren Ray.

Many will say that voices can never be truly standout and unique because there is always someone who sounds a little bit like someone else. When you listen to Lauren Ray, there are little bits of others; her music idols and those she grew up around. You listen carefully and you can tell that Ray is not trying to copy anyone else out there. As Moment unwinds and you get more involved with the music, you can detect all these colours and shades that you did not notice before. It is wonderful listening to a song and hearing all these various aspects unfolding and coming to the light. I am not sure whether Ray tackled Moment in a number of ways before getting the final take but that brings me to another thought. I have not really covered takes and the studio process but it comes to mind when thinking about Ray. The final vocal we have for her single sounds great and, with such a range and power, I do wonder whether the song went through various different iterations. Such is the emotion being carried and the depth of feeling, one thinks that it must have been a case of trying out various vocal styles out and seeing which one fit. Maybe she did have a vocal in mind from the start but you listen to Moment and I wonder whether there were earlier versions that are very different to the song we hear. However the song came to life and evolved, you listen to the vocal on it and are amazed. There is clearly a lot of power and commitment and many have highlighted a huskiness and raw element. You get that coming through but there is sweetness and passion mixing together. Ray is an artist who has always been able to provide beauty and power in her song but I do think she is getting stronger and more confident as a singer and writer. In a world of music where there are so many sound-alike singers, it is nice to discover someone who does things her own way.

Another thing that impresses me regarding Lauren Ray’s voice is that she seems to make us all feel better about ourselves. I have listened to some of her older songs and you get a real emotional hit and potency that gets into the bones. Even though Moment is quite emotional and personal, you do hear it and there is a certain weight lifted from the shoulders. Maybe it is the meaning of the words and how they can apply to all of us but, in a deeper sense, it is what Ray does with her voice and how she brings the words to life that gets to me. So many artists tend to go through the motions and you can tell their hearts are not really in it. That is not true with Lauren Ray. She has written this song that is a way of paying thanks and looking at what she has been through but, in a wider sense, she is writing for other people who know how fragile life is. I am not normally a fan of anxiety and darker elements of life conveyed through music – it seems to dominate now and a lot of fun has disappeared – but, if you can deliver a song like that and make the listener feel better, then there is something to be said. I return to Lauren Ray’s voice and how intriguing it is. I have seen it expand and strengthen since her earlier work and she is able to provide so many nuances. I do wonder where the songwriter will go next and what she has in store for the future. It seems that, with every song, something new is added and her confidence levels increase. When thinking about how strong she sounds now, one must go back a bit and see where Ray has come from; how her music has developed through time and why she has made those changes. Moment signifies a bit of a change of direction from the lauded artist.

Now, on Moment, Lauren Ray is heading more into a Pop direction. It is not that she is aiming for chart glory or anything like that but there is a different tone coming into her word. At heart, she is still an artist that writes from the soul but there is more kick and colour in her music than ever before. With production from Julian Emery (who has worked with Lissie) and mixing by Cenzo Townsend (who has worked with U2), you can hear Ray moving in a slightly new way. That distinct and exceptional voice is still there but one gets more of a Pop vibe. I do like the fact that, despite tackling something a bit tough and personal, you do not feel gloomy or oppressed by layers of production and processing. So many Pop artists provide a fake and rather grating sound but Lauren Ray always sounds natural and ensures her songs make the listener feel richer and better. Her 2016 album, We Will Need Courage, contained some great songs but there was more of an Adult Contemporary/Singer-Songwriter vibe. Now, a few years down the line, Ray has added a different production sound and taking her music somewhere new. It is hard to signify what caused this change but I feel like, in the past, Ray was inspired by certain sounds and motives and now things are different. She has entered a new phase of her career and there is that need to attempt something new. I like Moment because you know instantly it is a Lauren Ray song but there is a difference that stands out. Her music sounds bigger and her voice has more depth than ever before. I have already mentioned her vocal brilliance and I think touring and the passing of time has really strengthened it. If anything, Ray sounds at her most natural and comfortable right now. I wonder where she will head from here and whether her next album will be more of a Pop affair.

I will end by talking about why Ray can go a long way and why this year will be an exciting one for her. Right now, I want to look at women in music and why they warrant more attention. I have talked about this a lot and I think it deserves another outing. I keep talking about how strong women are in music and why they do not get the attention that is earned. It seems amazing that there is so little progress and respect considering the quality of the artists out there. The best artists of this year are women and the finest albums released have also been from women. It is no shock that this should happen because I think there is a determination to get the respect they deserve and people to take note. In terms of sheer variety and impact, women are leading the field right now. This is true of genres like Pop and Singer-Songwriter. Look at Lauren Ray and the music she is putting out right now is far more exciting and intelligent than a lot of her male peers. In any case, I do feel that women warrant a lot more acclaim and opportunity than they are getting. I think they are much more stirring and accomplished when it comes to talking about bigger themes and more emotional subjects. By that, they can talk about struggles and the capriciousness of life better than men; articulate a sense of hope and strength against the tide like nobody else. Maybe that is a generalisation but I do think the music being made by women is a lot more exciting and stronger than that from the men. Does this mean that we will get equality in the coming years? With artists like Lauren Ray putting out great work, I feel like the industry does need to wake up and take note. Festivals are still dreadfully unbalanced and there are very few female headliners being featured.

It paints a very bad picture and one might think this reality is because male artists are a lot better than women. I think women are in a great position to make a charge and show why festival organisers are lacking foresight. Maybe it will take a while for practices to change but I do hope that the great female artists of the moment are given chances and we can see equality soon. I am always on the lookout for future stars and artists who will be around for a very long time. Music is so packed and competitive that it can be very hard to see who will make it and those that will only be around for a little bit. In the case of Lauren Ray, she is someone who will endure and be making music for a long time yet. She is moving more in a Pop direction and I think that is a sound that is very popular this year. That may sound silly as Pop is always popular but there is a new, more natural sound of Pop that is coming through. We still have artists who are processed and sound machine-fed but there are some terrific Pop artists who are letting their voice shine naturally and writing songs with a lot more feeling and personal relevance. Rather than listen to very commercial music with no heart, I do think people could do well to embrace artists like Lauren Ray. I think she is a lot more compelling and real than a lot of artists out there and her music stays in the head a lot longer. I think there will be a lot of people discovering Ray now who might have missed what she produced a few years back. I would suggest that people go back and check out her older work and then come to the present. You can feel the changes and, whilst she was stunning at the start, there is even more quality and passion in her music now. This rate of progression means that she will grow stronger and, who knows, maybe make it to the mainstream before too long. I shall move on to review Moment now because I have talked a lot about Lauren Ray and, I hope, covered most of the bases needed. It is great to hear new music from her and every song paints a different picture. Moment is an especially strong song that will appeal to her existing fans and bring new ones on board.

Moment starts with a sense of calm and control. Rather than race in with beats and electronics, there is a grace and gentle touch that allows Lauren Ray to enter with tenderness and focus. She talks about someone who used to say that lives are so fragile that they can float away. It seems that, now or in the past, there was a lot of trouble swirling or the heroine was in a more fragile mindset. Perhaps she is referring to life in general and something we all encounter. As the song goes on, I get the impression Ray is talking about her family and what they have said to her. They are saying that life will be okay and things will get better. Perhaps the heroine was in a bad place and experienced heartache but, after support and guiding words, she has redressed the balance and reassessed life. When the chorus comes in, we do get a taut and tight beat that adds punch and kick to the song. Ray gives thanks to those who have helped her and provided these encouraging words. When things are bad and when we feel awful, there is someone there who can help us through and make us see the positives. The heroine gives thanks and praise to those who have helped her through tough times and made her feel better. I can hear a difference in Moment that is a more Pop-orientated sound. Perhaps fresher and more energetic than her previous work, Ray seems comfortable in this new direction. Rather than load her new song with production layers and needless sounds, you still get the voice coming to the front and there is plenty of room for manoeuvre. One can interpret Moment in a variety of ways. There is the one impression gets regarding family and the fact Ray has seen some bleak times and has been helped through. One can also interpret the song as a paen to affirmation and how Ray has given the love back to those who have guided her.

You spin through Moment a few times and pick up fresh things every time. On the first listen, it is a bright and sparking song that has a definite smile but, the more you listen, new emotions and aspects come through. The catchiness of Moment is instant but, deeper than that, Lauren Ray delivers one of her best vocals to date. This is Lauren Ray looking for love and want to feel better. She provides wordless vocals that gives the song new strength and, when listening to the composition, the players help augment the words and provide their own emotions. It is a song that seems simple on the surface but is actually more complex than that. A classic Pop sound comes through that reminds one of the 1980s and 1990s. The heroine is not trying to made us sad and produce something that is anguished and pained: instead, she has penned this song that gets you in a better frame of mind and definitely sticks around in the brain. All great Pop songs should have substance and life but they also need to be pretty accessible and catchy. It is a hard balance to pull off but Lauren Ray has managed it. You will listen back a few times because it provides release and sounds great. Maybe one can compare her to a few artists in the mainstream but I think Ray’s voice is more soulful and interesting than a lot of artists of the moment. It has Blues and Country aspects that makes the music a lot stronger. So many singers are limited regarding range and emotions but Lauren Ray has a great range. She is masterful when it comes to penning songs that everyone can relate to but have that distinctly personal aspect. I know there is an album arriving and I wonder, when Woman in the Arena comes, we will see more songs like this. I do think that the music industry needs artists who can bring some fun and energy back to the fore. This does not mean they should abandon more serious subjects and personal matters but, as Lauren Ray has shown, you can balance the two without having to compromise at all. I can see how she has come on as an artist and I am excited to see just how far she can go. If you need to be cheered and want a great song that bounces around the brain then check out Moment. It is a marvellous song and one that proves Lauren Ray is among the most alluring and strong new artists around. I do think she can take music by storm and has a very bright future ahead indeed.

This is the last review, as I say, that I am taking from other people – I will be going my own way from now on but it has been good helping rising artists and digging their music. One reason I took this review was that it would coincide with Ray’s album, Woman in the Arena. I was told that the album was out this month but it seems like it has been pushed back a bit. I am not sure what happened and what date the record will be released but make sure you keep an eye out for it. Another reason why I am moving on in terms of reviews is because, quite often, I get approached with songs that have been out for a while and one prefers to review stuff that is fresh. When it comes to Lauren Ray, I actually think the fact there is an album coming down the tracks means it is okay to review Moment – which has been in the world for a few weeks now. It is a great song and one that marks her out as a very big talent. Apologies if I have covered old ground and repeated myself but, as I said, it can be hard adding something hefty to a review when artists are new and you do not know them as well as bigger artists. I would recommend people check out Lauren Ray and see what she is about. I love her music and cannot wait to hear her forthcoming album. Check out her social media pages and keep abreast of where is going. Already, Ray has supported the likes of Rebecca Ferguson and Lucy Spraggan and she has been on the road with Paul Carrack. She plays at Cornbury Festival 2019 on 5th, 6th and 7th July and she is at Penn Fest on 19th July. There is a lot going on at the moment so do make sure you follow Ray and go and see her if you can.

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Moment is a terrific song and many will be looking forward to seeing what is happening regarding Woman in the Arena. It has been a few years since her last albums and she has many new stories to tell. The fact Ray has performed a lot and done some big gigs means that confidence will come into the album and the performances, I feel, will be more assured and confident. You get that valuable experience from the stage and can then bring that into the studio. I shall leave this review by saying thanks to those I have reviewed through the years and, whilst I will still review slightly smaller artists, I am mainly focusing on those who are either in the mainstream or close to it; some that are starting out but I am being very selective. I am stopping interviews in a couple of weeks and, again, going after bigger artists. The reason I can do that and get my work out to people is because of artists approaching and those that are in the earlier stages. Without them, I would not be able to get anywhere at all and would struggle to get my work seen. I have a lot to thank them for and it has been great featuring some great artists since 2011. I will continue on but leave behind a certain sector of music that, I’m sure, will be fine without me. My last review of this sort is with Lauren Ray and I would recommend you keep an eye out as I know she will go pretty far. There is a realness and honesty about her music and there are few voices as appealing and resonant than hers. She is an artist that is a complete package and will appeal to those who love their music with more heart and wisdom than frothy and juvenile. Moment is a terrific song that announces a new sonic direction and it works really well. I have seen Lauren Ray grow and step on as an artist and, when you see how far she has come, you get the feeling that here is someone who can…

GO very far in the industry.

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Follow Lauren Ray

INTERVIEW: Psyence

INTERVIEW:

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Psyence

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MY weekend interview...

sees me talking with the chaps of Psyence about their recent single, Cold Blooded Killer, and whether there is a story behind it; what they can tell me about their upcoming album and how the boys found each another – I ask which albums are most important to each of them.

I was keen to know whether there are tour dates coming and what advice they’d give to artists coming through; how they relax away from music and which artists they count as influences – they each pick a great song to end the interview with.

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

Our weeks have been busy. Everybody’s working hard behind-the-scenes constantly, preparing for the album release. Gonzo’s been busy pursuing his side hobby as an adult film star. 

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

We are Psyence. Consisting of Wedge, The Colonel; Gonzo, Carty and Piglet. 

How did Psyence form? What is the meaning behind the name?

We formed in a pub over eighty-four pints, a bag of scampi fries and a share-bag of pork scratching.

The single, Cold Blooded Killer, is out at the moment. Is there a story behind it?

The colonel (Jay) is on bail so I can’t comment as it could potentially jeopardise his current case and chance of a Netflix special.

I understand an album is available later in the year. What can you tell me about it?

Yes, finally! We’re really happy with how it turned out. It’s an intense chemical reaction of face-melting riffs and groove-laden tunes. It's been created from us spending many years toiling away in backroom venues and countless hours in vans, working on our songs and our sound. It's a working man’s release.

Which artists do you count as influences?

Led Zeppelin and The Stone Roses.

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What is the best aspect of being in a band? Is there a brotherhood within the ranks?

Yeah. It’s f*cking banging, especially when we have sleepovers and pillow fights.

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

Played in Paris, dropped some acid - and the rest we can’t discuss.

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

Steve: Lonerism - Tame Impala

It just f*cking blows my mind every time I listen to it.

Jay: Revolver - The Beatles

It’s the best Beatles album I.M.O.

Pig: Plastic BeachGorillaz

It’s got a song about jellyfish. HOW AMAZING

Gonzo: Second Coming The Stone Roses              

Cuz Reni is a don.

Carty: T. Rex - Electric Warrior

Cuz I like dinosaurs.

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

The Stone Roses…and a framed picture of Ainsley Harriot from his Ready Steady Cook days wearing the green peppers apron.

What advice would you give to new artists coming through?

Be prepared to let everything else in your life suffer for it. It’s worth it, though.

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

Yeah. All major cities across the U.K. Keep yer eyes peeled on our socials.

Is touring something you all love doing?

Yeah. It’s the best part of it. None of us get holidays cuz of the band so Scunthorpe away is a class day out. You get free chili there, too.

Are there any new artists you recommend we check out?

Yeah: PSYENCE.

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

Olives and a relaxing bowl of crack.

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).

ScenicOverflow

Viagra BoysDown in the Basement

The ProdigyNeed Some1

UnderworldBorn Slippy

The AnimalsHouse of the Rising Sun

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Follow Psyence

FEATURE: Female Icons: Part Three: Madonna

FEATURE:

 

 

Female Icons

IN THIS PHOTO: Madonna in 2019/PHOTO CREDIT: @Madonna  

Part Three: Madonna

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THIS is going to be a bit briefer than...

 PHOTO CREDIT: @Madonna  

a lot of my Madonna-related posts but, when thinking about female icons through the ages, can we ignore her?! She is due to perform at Eurovision tonight and there is a lot of talk regarding what she will deliver – as this reports suggests. There was controversy and condemnation as Madonna is performing in Israel: a nation divided and blighted by political tensions and divide. She has come out and stated she is heartbroken regarding the situation in Israel but, as some articles claim, her appearance and presence there tonight will do nothing to further progress and improvement. I actual back Madonna and do not think she is sending a bad message out at all: in fact, the worst you can say is she will offend some people. Her being in Israel will make matters no worse and she is there to deliver music to people. Let us leave this aside - but I think Madonna’s latest move shows she is still bold and splitting opinion after all of these years! My first encounter with Madonna’s music must have been, oooh, about 1989/1990 or so. That was when she released the career-defining album, Like a Prayer. The album garnered a lot of talk regarding the title track and its rather edgy video. Not only Madonna kiss a black preacher but she appeared behind burning crosses.

Naturally, religious sorts and those who raised their eyebrows missed the point and misconstrued the video entirely! The album itself is a bold and astonishing work from an artist who transitioned to become the Queen of Pop. This is a crown she holds still and, despite being sixty and younger rivals circling her throne, there is nobody who can replace Madonna! I love Like a Prayer and feel it is one of the best albums of her career. There is a definite an upping of accomplishment and scope on Like a Prayer when you consider what she was producing three years earlier for True Blue. In fact, despite tremendous songs like Like a Prayer, Express Yourself and Cherish, this is not the album that first struck me….

It was the video for Material Girl, actually, that was the first taste. Maybe the song is a bit camp and frothy compared to the work she would go on to release but, when she released Like a Virgin in 1984 – where the song was taken from –, it definitely separated her from the pack. If her eponymous debut album of 1983 was a little overlooked and seen as a minor footnote – it is actually one of the most ground-breaking and important albums in Pop – Like a Virgin was a step up. I love the video for Material Girl because of the scenes and the glamour. As a straight boy, maybe the song did not affect me the same way as other people but I was hooked by this very confident and sexy artist. Maybe it would take a few more years before Madonna was able assume more business and creative guidance over her career but one could tell, back in 1984, she knew where she wanted to head and what she wanted to accomplish!

Some people think Madonna’s pre-Like a Prayer work is a little light and lacks that punch. Think about it this way: she was talking about sex in a very open way before then and doing things other artists were not: the way she tackled sex and (was encouraging women to show their confidence. Every Madonna album brought evolution and a new skin. I love the work she did post-Like a Prayer and, after the troubled Erotica, there was a definite shift. That album was marred with some critical backlash because of its overt sexuality and the fact Madonna, in the guise of ‘Mistress Dtta’, was daubed in sweat, leather and the look of someone who was not afraid to hold back. The same year, 1992, she released her Sex book and made it clear that she wanted to bring sexual confidence into the open. Erotica is wrongly written off as a cold and overly-provocative album whereas it actually inspired Pop artists to be bolder regarding their bodies and sex; the songs stand up and it was a huge revelation back in 1992. The album sounds great but one heard a more mature tone on 1994’s Bedtime Stories – even if a song such as Human Nature poked fun at prudes who judged Madonna for talking about sex. The elegance and simple beauty of songs like Take a Bow and Secret showed Madonna could write gorgeous, swooning songs that captured the heart as well as the genitals!

IN THIS PHOTO: Madonna captured in 1982/ PHOTO CREDIT: Deborah Feingold

One can see a definite development from 1983-1989 (where albums such as True Blue, in 1986, marked her as a name to watch) and what happened from the 1990s onwards. I have ended this feature with a playlist and I hope people seek out Madonna’s albums and realise what a chameleon she is! I just mentioned True Blue and that is an album that I rank among my favourites – check it out if you can! Bedtime Stories was a turning point and statement that showed Madonna was not all about sex and was a very accomplished songwriter. One of the things that defines Madonna is the fact she can overcome criticism and trusts her gut. She could have quit or slowed down after Erotica but, only two years on, she delivered Bedtime Stories. Of course, a sense of controversy was part of Madonna’s camp since the start of her career. She talked about young pregnancy on True Blue’s Papa Don’t Preach and, whilst not controversial to right-minded people, she celebrated the L.G.B.T.Q.I.A. community and brought the AIDS epidemic to the forefront. Not only was Madonna breaking ground regarding innovation in music but she was more than an artist: she was, and is still, a spokesperson who rallies against injustice and gives a voice to those who are ignored. I will return to her sense of social justice and activation, but think about the way Madonna transformed and grew from 1983 to 1998’s Ray of Light.

Early on, she was reinventing Pop and shining but she soon came on leaps and bounds. 1986’s True Blue was a big step in terms of lyrical themes and that continued into 1989 – where her voice grew and she became a more confident singer. Bedtime Stories introduced a more sensitive side to Madonna and, tracking back to 1992’s Erotica, she was putting House and Dance elements into her mix. Think about perhaps her most-famous song, Vogue, and the combination of sonic innovation and putting gay culture into the spotlight. Every album, whether openly talking about sex or venturing into different territory, has inspired artists and has its own legacy. The current crop of Pop artists owe a lot to Madonna and, since her introduction into music, you can hear others emulating her and taking something from her music.

If one wants to talk about sonic explosions than look at 1998’s Ray of Light. She was a new mother and spirituality was playing a big role in her music – her mysticism and beliefs divided some and caused a lot of press sources to mock her. Again, Madonna was being herself and giving her music another new side. One can hear some of the energised and youthful Madonna in Ray of Light and the more serious muse in Frozen; with William Orbit producing, there was new layer added to her sound. Stunning songs like The Power of Good-Bye and Nothing Really Matters rank alongside the best work she has ever produced – fifteen years on from her debut album, the Queen of Pop was not willing to crank down the quality! It is amazing to think of the sheer leap Madonna took on Ray of Light and how she embraced music of the time and helped bring Electronic sounds to the mainstream - always the pioneer and innovator!

 IN THIS PHOTO: Madonna is snapped by Peggy Sirota for Rolling Stone in 1997

From then, there was the underrated Music (2000): Madonna as the cowgirl and giving a bit of Country kick to her Electronic/Pop template. When she got political on 2003’s American Life, there was a sense that the anger she felt – inspired by the terrorists attacks in America in 2001 and how the nation was falling apart – was insincere and unusual; some critics were not buying it and it was the first album of hers that really received mixed reviews. There are some great songs on the album (such as Love Profusion) but, in typical style, she reinvented herself again with Confessions on a Dance Floor in 2005. Bringing herself back to the Disco, Hung Up (with a famous ABBA sample to boot) got her back in the critical good books. It showed that, at nearing fifty, there was nobody like her in music. Many artists her age feel the need to slow or make music that is more ‘appropriate’ – this usually involves calming things and providing something a bit easier on the ears. Madonna, even now, is providing sensational raw and contemporary music. Her albums since 2005 have not received the biggest reaction, though. There has been some praise and great moments but the upcoming Madame X (out on 14th June) looks like it will be a return-to-form release. Although she has hooked up with other singers, the songs we have heard so far show Madonna is still the star! Like she did on Erotica, there is a personna on the new album.

Her Madame X alter ego is an all-rounder who is a teacher, a spy and a writer: a bit of a superhero for everyone. It is another assured transformation and sign that, at sixty, Madonna still has the power to surprise and subvert predictions. In fact, Madonna has been vocal about ageism in music and asked for change. She and other artists are often relegated and ignored when they reach a certain age and she wants this to stop. Even though a couple of her recent singles have been played by the likes of BBC Radio 1, many stations do not play her music because they only go for younger artists – although the quality is up there, age is still this sticking factor! I have skimmed through her back catalogue but I would urge people to look at her music videos and get books like Madonna: An Intimate Biography of an Icon at Sixty, Madonna: Album by Album and Madonna: Like an Icon to get a clearer impression of where Madonna came from and how her career has evolved. What else makes Madonna an icon, then? I have covered her music and, whilst her videos are always inventive and arresting, it is her live shows that have captivated fans.

She always puts her all into every live performance and tour and you know she has a say in every aspect. From the dancers and sets through to routines and lightning, you know Madonna does not leave anything to chance. There are documentaries such as this that give you access to her behind-the-scenes and actual footage of her performing – including this from her Blond Ambition Tour of 1990. I urge people to do as much YouTube research as they can regarding her tours, videos and interviews because you get different sides to Madonna and it paints a complete picture. Her Madame X Tour will be a more intimate affair but you know there will be some great sets and some classic songs delivered to the fans. Madonna is one of those people who is a complete artist. She is this awesome live performer and artist but, whether battling sexism or being honoured by GLADD and talking about equal rights, she is a leader and someone who is inspired the next generation. Who knows what the future holds for Madonna but I hope there are many more years from her. Madonna and The Breakfast Club has been released and is a docu-drama about Madonna. I am not sure whether there will be a biopic or other documentaries but one feels something is due considering all the work Madonna has done since the documentaries of the 1990s and last decade.

Everyone has their own opinions regarding the best Madonna albums, songs and videos. In my view, her best three albums are Ray of Light, Like a Prayer and Madonna and I think her greatest song is Take a Bow. I have a fond spot for the Material Girl video but cannot overlook the iconic status of Vogue. That is the great thing about an artist like Madonna: with such an eclectic and impressive catalogue, there are so many fantastic moments and revolutionary moments. She is a deserved icon and someone who not only has transformed music and inspired countless artists but Madonna has, and always will, spoken about big themes other artists ignore. Whether that is equal rights and gender equality or musical subjects like sex and pregnancy, you cannot ignore the brilliance and boldness of Madonna. She will always divide people and have her critics but Madonna has given the world so much - and we all have our favourite songs of hers. I have not even mentioned all her film roles and how she has managed to make her impression on the screen - from 1985’s Desperately Seeking Susan to 1992’s A League of Their Own to her standout (eponymous) role in 1996’s Evita. Madonna was capable of seducing and illuminating on the big screen as well as through the speakers.

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 IN THIS PHOTO: Madonna in 1986/PHOTO CREDIT: Herb Ritts

Long may she continue to speak out, speak up and bring the world great music! A few songs from Madame X have been released but it will be interesting receiving the album and seeing what sort of direction she is taking. I shall leave people to check out her music and great interviews – such as this one and this. One can argue Madonna is busier now than she has ever been and, with her, things are never boring! Pop has changed a lot since the 1980s but many can thank Madonna for a lot of the positive changes and great artists who have arrived since her. I have been a fan of hers since I was young and seen the way her music has changed and diversified. She is this ever-changing and always-relevant artist who cannot be predicted or equalled. When it comes to Madonna and what direction she will take next it is clear that…

NOTHING is off the table.

FEATURE: Alabama Shakes: Audemus Jura Nostra Defendere: Why Musicians Should Get Involved Regarding the Abortion Ban

FEATURE:

 

 

Alabama Shakes: Audemus Jura Nostra Defendere

IN THIS PHOTO: The 1975’s Matty Healy recently spoke out against the abortion ban in Alabama during a gig/PHOTO CREDIT: Louise Haywood-Schiefer for The Big Issue   

Why Musicians Should Get Involved Regarding the Abortion Ban

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BEFORE getting started regarding Alabama...

PHOTO CREDIT: @daiga_ellaby/Unsplash 

it is worth noting that, when it comes to abortion laws and a lack of progressiveness, the Deep South state is not the only offender. In Northern Ireland, for instance, there is pressure forming because of the abortion laws in the U.S. state of Alabama. It is a controversial subject to get involved with in terms of music but, in society and online, there is a lot of outrage and pressure. The abortion law passed in Alabama is primitive and highly disgusting. Not only does it mean women will have to give birth to unwanted lives but those who have a victim of rape and incest have to live with that experience without the ability to terminate a pregnancy. Vox have reacted to the news regarding the Alabama abortion law:

The anti-abortion statute signed by the governor of Alabama this week is shocking partly because it aims to outlaw all abortions, including those for unwanted pregnancies that are the result of rape and incest. The Alabama law (and other similar laws in Missouri, Ohio, Kentucky, and Georgia, with more on the way) is even more broadly shocking because Roe v. Wade has been the law of the land for nearly a half-century, supporting women’s efforts to achieve the status of full citizenship. The new Alabama law endorses the end of this project.

Some members of the Alabama legislature have admitted that the criminalization of abortions as a response to rape and incest amounts to a grandstand play, a tactic to hasten judicial review and the demise of Roe. This may or may not prove to be a sound strategy. It is definitely an innovation, if a logical culmination of decades of an anti-abortion position that degrades pregnant individuals in the interests of the “unborn child” or the “fetal person”.

 PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

There has been this outpouring of disgust and anger online regarding the Stone Age laws and how they infringe on women’s freedom and rights. It is not like Alabama is the only part of the civilised world where abortion is illegal: look closer to home and you will find that Northern Ireland still has a long way to go until there is actually common sense and human rights. It might be religion and insane logic getting in the way; people who feel that any form of life is precious – and that terminating it is a sin. The Guardian reacted to the situation in Northern Ireland and how their neighbours, EIRE, sort of promised progress and change – that has not been mirrored in Norther Ireland:

It feels like a lifetime ago since 25 May 2018. In many ways it was, because that day – when the Republic of Ireland voted to repeal the eighth amendment of its constitution, which outlawed abortion in virtually every circumstance – was a unique step forward for abortion rights in a world where they are rapidly being dismantled.

While the legislation brought in after the Irish referendum is imperfect, the overall success of the repeal movement against so many obstacles gave campaigners across the world an incredible sense of hope. But one year on, global abortion rights are under increasing threat, and that moment in May 2018 feels like an exception, instead of a promise of what was to come.

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

Abortion is freedom. It is the freedom to get an education and a job to try to lift yourself and your family out of poverty, the freedom to parent the children you already have in financial security and to the best of your ability, and the freedom to make the choices that are best for your body and your life. For many people, an abortion is the foundation of the rest of their lives. Reproductive rights are liberation – and anti-abortionists know it – because without these rights, entire communities are further marginalised and impoverished. Women in Ireland know this, having spent generations under a regime of coercive control of which lack of abortion rights was just one part. The same people attacking abortion rights are also blocking access to comprehensive sex education and contraception – in the UK, it is the same people who removed Northern Ireland from the domestic violence bill making its way through Westminster”.

We live in a world where two incredibly powerful nations are denying women a say regarding their bodies and lives. It is not as though, in Northern Ireland and Alabama, the women are breaking laws we have in other parts of the U.K. regarding abortion – and when the cut-off point is regarding its legality. If they were doing that then one could understand why laws have come in. The fact that, in these parts of the world, there is such stubbornness is appalling.

 PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

There is this religious and sanctimonious righteousness that means a few in government have decided all abortion is illegal – unless there is a danger to life to the mother. This means that women have to take huge risks and travel to other parts of the world to have an abortion. I think we forget – away from all the furore regarding Alabama – that there are women closer to us here that are being stripped of their dignity and freedom. The fact Alabama has outlawed abortions has raised a lot of debate and unity. There is almost widespread condemnation and confusion from people who feel that, rightly, it is a woman’s choice whether she has an abortion. Nobody takes that decision lightly and, in all cases, it causes a huge emotional impact. I do think there is this genuine belief that, in Alabama, women are getting pregnant for the sake of it and then having abortions to annoy people! What happens to those women who have been raped or are pregnant and want to change their minds? They are being burdened and then, when their child is born, they either have to raise them or give them away. How is that more humane that abortion?! There is this blind ignorance that means there are unwanted pregnancies and women living with one of the worst moments of their lives. Abortion is not pleasant but it is a lot better to terminate an unwanted pregnancy than giving birth and facing the heartbreak of putting a child up for adoption.

 PHOTO CREDIT: @heathermount/Unsplash

One fears this insane sense of control will spread to other parts of the U.S. It is, perhaps, not shocking that Alabama, a state not known for its tolerance and understanding, should impose such a law. It is religion and ignorance ruling and there are a lot of men in power who are making these decisions. This BBC article asks the question: Should men get involved and have a say regarding the abortion laws in Alabama?

Alabama's abortion ban - one of several in a Trump-era surge in anti-abortion legislation - has reignited the debate around another key question: Should men be involved in this battle at all?

Internet forums like Reddit and social platforms like Twitter and Facebook are saturated with arguments for both sides. Yes - these laws affect everyone, including men. No - only women get pregnant, so why should we let men decide?

But Mr Jackson would not offer his own opinion on abortion, exactly, saying instead he prefers to stay silent on the specifics since "women are the only experts when it comes to their bodies".

"When it comes to the abortion debate, I think men should say it is a woman's right to choose," he explains.

"That is their body, that is their choice, and that is their business. No man whatsoever has a right to tell a woman what's right for their body."

PHOTO CREDIT: Christopher Aluka Berry/Reuters

Jordan Kizer is against abortion but says he thinks Mr Jackson's decision is "honourable", and that men should "share their privilege".

"Believe women, trust women. If they're telling you they feel a certain way or that this is their experience, you [as a man] don't get to say no, it's not," he says.

Mr Kizer is a part of the New Wave Feminists group in Austin, Texas, that seeks to promote women's rights as a means of making abortion eventually "unthinkable and unnecessary".

"I think a woman should absolutely have a say over her body, I just draw the line between her body and this different body that's inside of her body," he says. "I know that's kind of a tricky distinction to make for some."

Men are fathers and so, in many ways, they should have a say. Should men in power and those who are not directly affected be able to dictate wider society and decide that abortion is immoral and should be outlawed?! I do not think so. It is shocking that, in 2019, there are areas like Alabama and Northern Ireland where there is such idiocy and cruelty. Alabama’s state motto is audemus jura nostra defendere. It means “we dare defend our rights”. It seems ironic that a state that boasts about rights and protection and defying the rights of every woman are leaving them vulnerable and isolated. I could circle back to my idiot argument but, rather than state the obvious, let’s tackle another complexity: musicians and them having a say.

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 IMAGE CREDIT: Amnesty International UK

I think I posed the question when reacting to EIRE repealing age-old abortion laws and what this meant. It was a stressful time and I asked whether, given the climate at the time, musicians should have a say and help the right decision come about. With Northern Ireland in the news following Alabama’s poor decision, is it time for artists around the world to put abortion in the spotlight? If Alabama is keen to ban abortion and not having it discussed as a positive – in the sense that women can terminate unwanted pregnancies – then musicians could raise their voices and talk about it. The 1975’s Matty Healy recently spoke out at a gig and let his voice be heard. He was incensed by the removal of women’s rights in Alabama and how they are being pushed aside. There is anger everywhere but it is rare for artists to talk so openly and passionately. Healy is someone who has always placed women’s rights close to his heart. When collecting a prize at this year’s BRIT Awards, he used the opportunity to talk about sexual abuse and sexism in music; how something needed to be done and why artists should speak up. Again, his anger and fire has got people talking and raised that question regarding musicians doing more.

 PHOTO CREDIT: @clemono2/Unsplash

One sees award shows and gigs and there are few times when artists actually use that moment to discuss subjects like women’s rights. Among the inane and predictable moments of interaction with their audience, where are the important messages and powerful statements?! It would not be a downer if someone, for once, understand how influential their words can be. Some say there is a danger regarding artists getting involved in politics and social issues. If a U.S. artist was to speak about a Democrat candidate or speak out against gun laws, would that create a bad impression and be a bit dangerous? I know there is common sense and good but the nature of being ‘right’ is subjective. We would condemn those who backed guns and voted Republican so why would people allow the opposite to exist? The same goes for abortion: if someone spoke at a gig and said they supported Alabama then they would be tarred and attacked. I think it is commendable artists like The 1975 are taking this course and not standing by. It is not like they are trying to sell a product or using their platform to do something stupid and commercial: instead, they are doing something politicians and public figures here are not really doing: blasting Alabama and making sure that this sort of insane law does not happen in other parts of the U.S. There is nothing to say other states will remain idle. We might experience the likes of Georgia and Texas following suit but one hopes there is too much democracy and rationale to let that happen.

I can see Matt Healy is trending on Twitter and, for the most part, people have supported what he is saying and where he is coming from. Why should only women be outraged and speak out? I do think that everyone needs to get involved and heap pressure on places like Alabama and Northern Ireland. Music is a huge platform and has the power to affect real change in the world. More and more, artists are discussing mental-health freely and exposing their inner-pains. This might sound bleak but, think back, and have we had a time when there has been this sort of openness and discussion? I feel like now is a moment when music is more than the commercial and love-based: so many songs are taking the stigma from mental illness. One can say that artists could go further and talk about sexism – the men for the most part – and the rights of the L.G.B.T.Q.I.A. community. I do feel that artists needs to campaign more and have their voices heard. There is a feeling among bigger artists that having a clear opinion might reflect badly when it comes to their fans and following. That might be true regarding political affiliation but what about abortion? Think about the demographic of many big stars and, for the most part, they are girls and young women. How many of them are going to be offended if a big artist rallied against Alabama’s laws and discussed the situation?

 PHOTO CREDIT: @arstyy/Unsplash

Maybe it would be a bit heavy but it would inspire young women and actually create a force in music more unified and powerful than those who lead our nations. I doubt President Trump’s government are going to attack Alabama and, in fact, one feels like he supports what they are doing. I do think we have a problem in music where very few men are speaking out regarding women’s rights and the fact we need to do more. Women in music are much bolder but, in the case of abortion, does the uncomfortableness affect both genders? Indeed, should men even talk about it seeing as they are not the ones who are directly impacted? I think men can appreciate how insane things are in Alabama and Northern Ireland, and so, this needs to be translated to music. Not that this alone will affect change and reversal but I do feel that music has a big role to play. Matt Healy has shown that giving a brief-yet-powerful speech can do a lot and create something very potent. He has got social media talking and I think music as a whole could actually do a lot. Every rational-minded human knows abortion is unpleasant but it is not something that women particularly like. It is a last resort in many cases and, when women are raped and fall pregnant, abortion is the right decision.

 PHOTO CREDIT: @adroman/Unsplash

We can get into moral arguments regarding a foetus being a life and all lives being sacred but I think there is a much more pressing debate: whether women in Alabama are being heard and their feelings taken into consideration? There will be a lot of heartache and unwanted pregnancies in the state and this is upsetting to consider. I do think artists can affect change and it all starts with that motivation and common spirit. Both genders in music can come together regarding abortion and, whether it is the subject being addressed on stage or gigs or whether it is tackled through song…yeah, we do need to see this happen. At the end of the day, we are talking about women’s rights and the fact that they are being denied. Politicians in Alabama have decreed women who go against the laws set out will face time in prison. How savage and insane the state is and, considering that, why would artists stand aside and let that happen? Let’s hope that when Trump’s presidency is over, a sane politician can overturn the ruling in Alabama and realise that a pro-choice agenda is much fairer! It is a strange time for the world and, in many ways, we are going backwards and getting closer to the swamp than the birds. If we are making progress in some areas, abortion laws and women’s rights are being abused.

 PHOTO CREDIT: @henrimeilhac/Unsplash

Every woman should be able to decide what happens with their bodies. One doubts anyone who helped criminalise abortion in Alabama realises how painful it is to have to make that decision whether to have an abortion or not. Why is it down to those politicians to say what is right for all women and what is moral?! Music is a wonderful thing and there are some that say it should be left uncontroversial and free from politics. There are plenty of artists out there who are playing it safe and keeping people happy. I applaud that but I do think big subjects like abortion and mental-health need to be out in the open and challenged. It not only helps people and makes them feel less alone but it can wake up politicians and help them realise there is no stigma attached to these subjects. There needs to be more education and cooperation across the board and I do think Alabama, like Northern Ireland, needs a kick up the arse! Who knows how many women – in Alabama and Northern Ireland – will risk their liberties and safety to have an abortion? It is sickening when you realise there are women who will have to live with an unwanted pregnancy for nine months – and then have to decide whether to keep the child or put them up for adoption. The impact on their mental-health is clear and makes me wonder whether more harm is being done (than good) regarding banning abortions. Everyone is entitled to have their say and I do not think music can afford to be on the fence and passive. It only takes a few doing what The 1975’s Matt Healy has done and shout about how insane things are right now. Women’s rights are hugely important and, if music can help regarding equality and repealing stupid laws, I think that is a good thing. Rather than having this pregnant pause of fear, let artists around the world realise that there are some subjects…

 PHOTO CREDIT: @royaannmiller/Unsplash

YOU cannot be silent about.

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

FEATURE:

 

 

Sisters in Arms

IN THIS PHOTO: Nadia Tehran 

An All-Female, Spring-Ready Playlist (Vol. XII)

__________

IT is that time of the weekend...

where I put together some great music from some exceptional women. There is a lot happening right now and it is exciting hearing all this wonderful music come through. I have collected together some new songs – one or two are from a few weeks ago – that show what talent there is around. Take a gander at these songs and I’m sure you’ll concur: the new generation is ripe and underground artists are really mixing it with the best of the mainstream! I am glad there are platforms where we can hear music from all corners of the music world but, whilst there is a lot of exposure for male artists, how much of that is also aimed at women? It is 2019 and there is still imbalance on the books. I hope this changes sooner rather than later but, right now, there is a wealth of female talent out there we should get behind. Take a listen to the latest instalment of my weekend playlist and there will be something in here that…

IN THIS PHOTO: YONAKA

TURNS the head.

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

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JUJHollywood

ElinaWild Enough

CARTAEYou Care

I Am BoleynLimit of Love

NADINEFool for Love

Taylor GreyIntentionally

Kit Philippa - You

Leanne TennantCherry Cola

RuthAnneSuperman

PHOTO CREDIT: Aodhagán O'Flaherty

Saint SisterIs It Too Early? (Kilmainham)

Georgia Hurd - Limits

Coming Up RosesFall

YONAKADon’t Wait ‘Til Tomorrow

Be CharlotteBrighter Without You

Nadia TehranAlcoholic Waves

Phoebe RyanA Thousand Ways

PHOTO CREDIT: Sophie Hur

HatchieObsessed

IDER Wu Baby

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Nadia Nair (ft. Mwuana) See Things

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Ingrid Andress - Both

Eat Your Heart Out Spinning

PHOTO CREDIT: Emma Freemantle

Amy May Ellis - Lines

GRAACE Have Fun at Your Party

Cat Mahatta Hymn to Dudes

Madison Beer Dear Society

Loren Grey (ft. Saweetie) Can’t Do It

FEATURE: The May Playlist: Vol. 3: If the Nightmare Is Too Much, the Future Looks Bright

FEATURE:

 

The May Playlist

IN THIS PHOTO: Carly Rae Jepsen/PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images 

Vol. 3: If the Nightmare Is Too Much, the Future Looks Bright

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I bemoaned the music that arrived last week (silly me)…

 IN THIS PHOTO: Halsey/PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

as there were not that many big names in the pack! This week is the complete reverse: there are so many huge names to listen to that it is hard fitting them all in! Not only are there big singles from Halsey, Carly Rae Jepsen and Madonna (with Quavo) but there is material from The National, Slipknot; The Divine Comedy and The Black Keys. Toss into the blender Shakespears Sister and JARV IS… and you have a mighty army of music! It is a fantastic week and there is such a diverse blend of sounds! With music from Thea Gilmore and The Raconteurs, pretty much every taste and fancy is catered for! Make sure you start your weekend with all these great artists and a banquet of tremendous music! Even though the weather is not great and there are clouds around, there is enough sunshine in this feature to lift you up! Sit back, buckle up and discover why this week’s collection of new releases is among the…

 IN THIS PHOTO: The National/PHOTO CREDIT: Graham Macindoe

BEST of 2019.  

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

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Carly Rae Jepsen Too Much

Halsey Nightmare

Madonna, Quavo Future

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Lana Del ReyDoin Time

Bruce Springsteen There Goes My Miracle

PHOTO CREDIT: William Aubrey Reynolds

The Black Keys Go

Shakespears SisterAll the Queen’s Horses

Charli XCX (ft. Lizzo) - Blame It on Your Love

The Raconteurs Help Me Stranger

Slipknot - Unsainted

JARV IS… MUST I EVOLVE?

Lewis Capaldi Forever

The National Rylan

Thea Gilmore - Blowback

Slowthai (ft. Skepta)Inglorious

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Feeder Youth

PHOTO CREDIT: Phill McDonald

Foals In Degrees

Interpol The Weekend

DREAMERSDie Happy

IN THIS PHOTO: Ghostface Killah

Wu-Tang Clan (ft. Ghostface Killah and RZA)On That Sht Again

Ward Thomas One More Goodbye

Kojey Radical Can’t Go Back

Adam LambertNew Eyes

Biffy ClyroBalance, Not Symmetry 

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The Divine ComedyNorman and Norma

Madison BeerDear Society

PHOTO CREDIT: Caitlin Mogridge

The Modern StrangersMagic Hour

Molly RainfordForever and a Day

The Amazons 25

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IN THIS PHOTO: Chance The Rapper

Chance The Rapper (ft. TisaKorean & Murda Beatz) - GRoCERIES

NADINEFool for Love

Taylor GreyIntentionally

Black PeachesSpice Route

Mattiel - Je Ne Me Connais Pas

Lady AntebellumWhat If I Never Get Over You

TRACK REVIEW: JARV IS… - MUST I EVOLVE?

TRACK REVIEW:

 

JARV IS…

IN THIS PHOTO: Jarvis Cocker/PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

MUST I EVOLVE?

 

9.8/10

 

The track, MUST I EVOLVE?, is available via:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U720Rz_jz_A

GENRES:

Alternative/Art-Rock

ORIGIN:

London, U.K.

RELEASE DATE:

15th May, 2019

LABEL:

Rough Trade Records Ltd.

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MAYBE the idea sprang from a realisation that...

 PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

Jarvis Cocker’s name can sort of split into two – well, his foreman at least! JARV IS… is, essentially, Jarvis Cocker with musicians Serafina Steer, Emma Smith; Andrew McKinney, Jason Buckle and Adam Betts. I will come to look at Cocker’s latest movement and offering soon but, before getting there, I wanted to address those in music we need to keep around and make it more interesting; those artists who have developed and are still on the scene after all these years; the dangers of launching a sort of ‘concept’ and how, when it is done right, it can be really great; bringing some humour and something light into music; where JARVIS IS… could go – and whether Jarvis Cocker himself will be touring and where he could go. I will start by looking at music itself and the fact that we do not really have that many standout personalities. Think about all the icons of the past and how they seemed to project this aura and confidence. There is, right now, a biopic/fantasy musical of Sir Elton John, Rocketman, that is receiving some mixed reviews. We know John is a charismatic and flamboyant human whose music has captivated and set alight the world for decades. The biopic, it seems, is a little more dull and routine than one would hope. That is a shame because, when we think of John, there is this rather colourful and fascinating person – the film does not reflect that. Look about music today and there are very few that we are in awe of and carry that gravitas. Maybe the industry has become more about routine, process and not straying far from the true and tested. Back when musicians could be a bit more individual and expressive, we got some fantastic music with it. Now, although there are great albums being produced every week, the people responsible for them are not exactly that memorable – there are exceptions but they are in the minority. I understand that it is hard to make an impression and standout – given there is so much competition and pressure – but it is a bit of a boring time for music. Look at somebody like Jarvis Cocker and you can never accuse the man of lacking panache and charisma!

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 PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

I am making an exception with this review because, not only are there very few good photos online of Jarvis Cocker – sort it out, Jarv! – but he does not have a Twitter account (my golden rule regarding artists who feature on my site is that they need to be on there!). I will let this slide because I was eager to feature this project/new outing because Cocker is someone who continues to amaze. I, like many, have been following him since the 1990s when Pulp made some of the best music of the decade. The man behind Common People, Babies and Disco 2000 opened eyes and amazed us all with his incredible words, lanky figure and this striking demeanour – almost like a model or poet rather than a conventional musician. The way Cocker moved and how he spoke in interviews; nobody quite like him existing back then and, in a more sterile landscape now, this is still the case! With JARV IS… the man is back and he is in rude form! I have heard a few interviews he has given and it is another solid-gold Cocker creation. When I come to review the single, I will allude more to the charm and quirk you get with it. Look through the archives of music history and there has definitely been deterioration when it comes to the colourfulness and memorability of our artists. I am glad that, as Cocker grows older, he has not lost his acerbic wit, intelligence and that ingredient that makes him stand out: a true personality that is not beholden to cliché and marketing expectation. I shall move on but I love the fact that, when it comes to Cocker, you never know what to expect. He is always amusing and moves in his own way. I feel artists coming through should study Cocker as an example of someone who captures the heart and is not the sort of forgettable and average artists that one (largely) finds now.

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

I do not want to look back too much but, when it comes to an icon like Jarvis Cocker, one cannot help but go back to their start and see where they have come. There are musicians who have been around for decades and have sort of declined in terms of quality and ambition. Look back at early Pulp albums such as It and Freaks in the 1980s and they definitely evolved and stepped on pretty quickly. The earliest records from them are not that great but they did show promise. Pulp really hit their stride when they released His ‘n’ Hers in 1994; the follow-ups Different Class in 1996 and This Is Hardcore in 1998. We Love Life, co-produced by Scott Walker, was the final album from Pulp in 2001 and saw the band change their sound slightly. It is a more mature and one that is more reflective. Rather than relive the days of their anthems and the 1990s’ buzz, Pulp produced something that was arty but had a more settled and contemplative skin. 2006’s Jarvis – the debut solo album from Cocker – looked at dread and more emotional subjects but did not break entirely from the energy and fun of Pulp. It is more stripped-down and controlled but it has so many different layers and covers a lot of ground. The sense of craft and commitment one found through the album resonated with critics. Those expecting Pulp-like anthems would have been disappointed but those who love Cocker and what he is about would have appreciated that album. It is a remarkable release and showed that, through the decades, Cocker has not lost his spark and sense of wonder. 2009’s “Further Complications” took off from where Jarvis left off and 2017’s Room 29 was another new step. The man has managed to keep his spirit and unique voice but expand his palette through the years. The latter album was made with Chilly Gonzales and it (the album) was a sixteen-song concept/cycle that gained huge critical love.

 PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

I do fear that, as we all become more obsessed with technology and reliant on it, we will overlook the pioneers and the true greats who have survived all this time and, more than that, continue to make music of the highest order. Maybe the music Cocker has been making since 2006 is very different to the Pulp golden days but that is to be expected: it would be somewhat crass and a bit tragic if the older statesman was still writing about discos, meeting girls in supermarkets and the perils of youth. Rather than completely abandon that side of himself and dress his lyrics in a cardigan, Cocker keeps the wit and sharp lyrics but has applied them to different sides of life. His new moniker definitely has plenty of humour and character but it is another angle that one did not see coming. Jarvis Cocker is a master who never stands still and, time and time again, produces music of the very highest order. I have so much respect for the trailblazers and heroes who have been around for decades and continue to inspire. We all owe them so much and there is a part of us that hopes they can keep on making music for many more years – it seems there is no danger of Cocker slowing down anytime soon! In the new song, MUST I EVOLVE?, the ageing Cocker (he is not old but no longer than twenty-something that enthralled back then) asks whether he needs to change his ways and evolve – he is met by a resounding ‘yes’ from a female voice (a chorus of female voices, indeed). I do not know whether JARV IS… have an album in them but one suspects the group/Cocker have planned ahead and we will be getting more material pretty soon. It is great to have more music from the man and, as I explained, every new project and venture seems to reveal something fresh. This is another aspect of Cocker that should strike the minds of artists coming through: his chameleon-like genius and the way the man can still make us chuckle after all of these years!

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 PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

I looked at JARV IS… and what they are about and a part of me sort of tensed a bit. This is not really a conventional band but more of a concept. The ellipsis and missing question mark suggests that Cocker is in a place where he is not sure who he is and where he needs to head; maybe there are multiple sides to the man and he is this polymath. It is for the listener to decide but, on paper, this is Jarvis Cocker 2.0. It is more a concept than a group and that could leave many wondering whether this is more art and pretence than actual music and solidity. I agree that music that suggests concept and art can be a bit risky. I should qualify that. Art and music have a natural relationship but the most important side is the music. Designs, mysteries and concepts are all good and well but one wants the songs to be terrific and get a sense of what a band/artist is all about. In many ways, Cocker’s new endeavour is about a man who is struggling to get to grips with modern culture and stay afloat of what is happening. In the single, he talks about Frankie Knuckles and the fact he is dragging his knuckles listening to him. Cocker, in a way, knows he is middle-aged and the world is very different now to what it was like back in the 1980s and 1990s. The songs he was writing at the peak of Pulp’s powers are iconic, for sure, but show a very different world to the one in which we all live. Maybe that is not a bad thing – although I think it is – but is relatable and commendable hearing Cocker stay where he is and wondering whether he needs to evolve. There are lots of questions to unpack and different lines to chew over. I shall do that when I get to the song but, rather than have this sort of new persona and personality, Cocker is simply using this new opportunity to take his music in another new direction.

 ART CREDIT: Federica Masini

Maybe, because of the striking moniker he has adopted, there will be question-only songs. Maybe we will get this fully-fledged character and something more akin to what Madonna is doing now – her Madame X alter ego is this multi-talented and adaptable human who is a teacher, a fighter and a spy – and several dozen other things by the looks of her Instagram and Twitter teasers! If Madonna is this superhero(heroine) and Swiss army knife of a person in 2019, who is Jarvis Cocker? In many ways, he is the opposite: a man who is asking more questions than making statements; someone who seems willing to stand where he is and is confused by the world spinning around and how it has changed – whereas the older Madonna seems to be evolving, engaging with some of her earlier sounds and is always moving forward. Perhaps it is a bit harsh and short-sighted to call JARV IS… a concept or one-off thing. Who knows how far the band can go but it does seem like a group effort rather than a Cocker solo album. I like the fact there are other musicians and voices in the mix. Cocker seems to be in a more collaborative mindset than he was back in 2006 and, although Pulp have split, Cocker has not isolated himself and is still working alongside others to create this fulsome and handsome sound. Many have noted that, in MUST I EVOLVE?, there is a question as to whether Cocker needs to get with the kids and adapt to the modern world. Cocker is cast as this older gentleman who is not over the hill and dead yet but he definitely does not want to absorb everything new and hip – this lack of fashion sense and coolness, in a way, is cooler than those who are very tech-savvy and embrace new music. I do hope there is a lot more from the JARV IS… project because there is nothing like it in music at the moment. We do need Cocker now more than ever!

 PHOTO CREDIT: Andrew Cotterill Photography

I say this because there is a real lack of humour and comedic catharsis in the industry at the moment. I have mentioned this a few times but it warrants repetition. There is endless endeavour and brilliance to be found – I am listening to Rosie Lowe as I type this – but, whilst you are impressed and stunned by the sounds, one does not necessarily feel lighter, happier and better as a person. I feel that, in a world that is pretty black and unsettled right now, we need some escape and relief. That is not to say artists should abandon what they do and make bangers all of the time. Certainly, with MUST I EVOLVE? there is not this club rave and old-school Pulp gem: instead, we have a song that makes you smile and definitely provides some humour. The fact the band/moniker and song are written in capital letters means there is a sense of declaration, exclamation and urgency that is never to serious and po-faced – one gets a lot of wit and warmth from Cocker and that is to be commended. It would be unfair to label all music today as bleak and lost but I am not naive enough to think that music back in my youth was all cheery and brilliant. There were hard times in the 1980s and 1990s and we had to deal with similar struggles and challenges as we do now. Rather than reflect this feeling of anxiety through music, artists provided energy and escapism that we all needed. These songs – from the 1980s and 1990s – remain and many of us (myself included) still listen to them today. I am looking out for musicians who are willing to produce something fun and that which makes us smile. There is not enough of it right now and I do think that music would be richer if there were changes. We are living in a time when music is not providing much escape and relief from the hardships of life. Jarvis Cocker is here and, with his merry band of men (and women), he has crafted something that definitely puts you in a better space – even if there are some introspective moments and the feeling that the older Cocker is struggling in the modern world.

 PHOTO CREDIT: Andy Fallon/NME

In a way, there is something about MUST I EVOLVE? that reminds me of The Divine Comedy. Chronically, off the top of my head, I am not sure who came first or whether Neil Hannon (The Divine Comedy) started out before Jarvis Cocker. Both men have a sort of breathy and dramatic way of singing (almost talk-singing in a sense) that sort of takes the breath. Juxtaposed against the elegant and slightly weary questions from Cocker – must he evolve and develop? – there is the youthful, energised and very insistent affirmation that, indeed, he does need to get with it! He asks whether he needs to grow old (yes) and whether he needs to do what he is told (yes) – that sense that he does need to be the opposite of who is now is resounding and consistent throughout the song. After the early round of questions and this sort of defence from Cocker – like a man on trial and asking whether he needs to reform -, we get another phase. MUST I EVOLVE? sort of has hallmarks of classic Pulp numbers: the song twists and turns and blends spoken segments with different elements and conventional delivery. Here, the song starts with this accelerated and question-posing start and then moves, literally, back in time. Cocker ponders the Big Bang and how life started. Rather than being this universe-creating explosion, Cocker sees it more as a bang…a pop…well, a sort of minor tremor that was not all of that. Maybe this is symbolic of a man who has a world-weariness and scepticism. Perhaps he feels that, if the start of the known universe was a bit of a nothing, why should he make these leaps and personal changes. With Jarvis Cocker, songs are never simple and easily predictable. This is good because, instead, we are witness to something much more intelligent, informative and deep. He talks about creation and what happened at the very start. There are hand-claps and Cocker, almost William Shatner-like, narrates the course of time.

  PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

Nobody knows where we are going and where the world is headed. The song kicks up a gear when that chorus comes back in. The most pressing question is when Cocker asks whether he should stay the same (the echoed and repeated ‘nos’ show that he needs to move along). I love how there are little breaths and sighs as Cocker whizzes through evolution and time. The song is breathless as the hero says that we/he is looking for shelter and trouble. Cocker discovered fire and, as is said, “even giants started small”. One gets a load of images and scenes racing by so, in many ways, this is a song you need to listen to a few times to get a full impression. I think that, when he talks of giants and the universe being modest at the start, he is defending his slow rate of development. If all these grand things took ages and ions to get to where they are, why should one expect Cocker to be this grand and modern human being when he can offer such wisdom? There is an underlying stubbornness and confidence that makes the song so engaging and resonant. We can all understand that feeling of being a bit tired or not knowing why others want us to change. That clash between the spoken verses and this view of the world before and how we have progressed and the chorus regarding personal growth and whether maturity is really needed is a great thing. I do think the female voices and this clash of the slightly forlorn and inspiringly fresh works brilliantly together. When Cocker asks questions regarding his lack of movement, he is met with stern-yet-fun responses. I have mentioned how there was a bit of The Divine Comedy at the start but, oddly, I can detect some of Leonard Cohen’s First We Take Manhattan (from 1988’s I’m Your Man) in the song.

  IMAGE CREDIT: Getty Images

The way Cocker’s voice goes low and there are these angelic and uplifting voices in the chorus – one feels there is a link, however slight, between the songs. If Cohen was talking about storming cities and colonisation, Cocker seems more comfortable hording the past and wiling away the time with one eye on the past. The infamous lines from the song – Cocker dragging his knuckles to Frankie Knuckles – comes during a new cycle/suite. If this song is a modern-day opera that has one of its eyes lodged in the past (Modern Life Is TRULY Rubbish?!) then we sort of reach a climax by the time that aforementioned lyric emerges. Backed by a bellicose, almost-tribal drum, Cocker slows his voice down and it is almost like we are listening to the caveman from the cave. Not only does Cocker’s words manage to take us back to the start of time and to the present day but there is that sense of scope and time travelling in the music – one moment, the composition is almost savage and sparse and, the next, it fizzes and bursts with modern-day knowing. Just after Cocker talks about someone, somewhere wearing hot pants – truly, you need to listen to the song a few times as it packs so much in and covers all of time it seems! – we get the much-needed chorus to provide some kick and glee. I love how there is the balance of the serious and witty choruses and that catchy chorus. It will take a few spins for MUST I EVOLVE? to truly embed and soak into the consciousness but you can appreciate it and understands its point of view upon the first listen. The more you hear the song, the better it gets. In fact, without exaggeration, MUST I EVOLVE? is one of the best singles of the year and one overloaded with musical brilliance, wit and some of Cocker’s sharpest and most interesting thoughts. Let’s hope there is a lot more coming from JARV IS… because, even though the debut single is all about a lack of movement and questions whether the hero needs to evolve, JARV IS… themselves are pushing music to places they have not been for a very long time – maybe that was the point of the song all along?!

  PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

I shall leave things here but I do think that it is great to have new music from Jarvis Cocker. I do not know where JARV IS… will head next but, judging but the constantly unanswered question that is posed, there will be other iterations and revelations. One would hope an album is forthcoming and we get more delight. I do feel that music needs to keep taking notes from Cocker regarding what we need and why he is so revered. The man has been writing these incredible and life-affirming songs since the 1990s and he is not one of these artists who completely changes and loses spark after all these years. If anything, the passing years and the experience he has means the music is more nuanced and layered. That might be a bold claim but I feel the Jarvis Cocker of now is a little stronger and wiser than he was back in the heyday of Pulp. If the debut single from JARV IS… suggests someone who is stuck in his ways and understands that others around him are evolving, the music itself is much more advanced and relevant than what is being made by anyone else. That irony of Cocker asking whether he needs to grow and step into the modern world and, at the same time, giving us music that is completely fresh and needed. There is nobody like him in the music business and I cannot wait to see where he heads next. Every solo album that Cocker has released saw singles and exposure so there will be more to come from JARV IS… Mouths are already salivating guessing when an album might arrive and whether Cocker will head on the road. Many fans around the globe are keen to see the man perform and I am sure that will be in the mind of Cocker. He is a true individual and innovator whose wit, unusual cool and keen intellect still sounds completely daring and unique decades after he came onto the scene. It is amazing to see how long Cocker has been going and (the fact) he still produces these songs that we can all get behind and understand.

IN THIS PHOTO: Dana Distortion

Maybe the man of Common People has gone and he has had to grow but, in a way, there is part of Cocker’s psyche that is frozen in the 1990s forever – the young man in stasis and cryogenically preserved for all of time. Let us finish up now and let you go about your day. I have had a lot of fun investigating Jarvis Cocker and his band; a fantastic song that has brightened up the week and left us with some questions. Cocker poses an important one in MUST I EVOLVE? (namely, whether he needs to stop dragging his knuckles to Frankie Knuckles and embrace modernity) but the listener will have many follow-ups. Will we get an album by the summer? Is there going to be gigs from JARV IS… and will there be announcements soon? Although JARV IS… and Cocker are not on Twitter and there are not many good modern photos to be found, one can forgive them/him. The man is this demi-god who you must obey and are always enthralled by so, even though there are some minor flaws and demands, it is easy to forgive someone who has given so much to music and continues to do so…

 PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

TO this very day.

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Follow JARV IS…

FEATURE: Blueberries for Breakfast: Why Record Listener Figures at BBC Radio 6 Music Shows There Is an Appetite for the Personal Touch

FEATURE:

 

 

Blueberries for Breakfast

PHOTO CREDIT: @brookelark/Unsplash 

Why Record Listener Figures at BBC Radio 6 Music Shows There Is an Appetite for the Personal Touch

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ONE can forgive me treading over old ground...

because, for one thing, there is great news regarding my favourite radio station. In fact, stations across the BBC have benefited from the publication of the RAJAR figures – collating trends and listener figures from the first quarter of this year. I have penned articles regarding various BBC Radio 6 Music presenters and talent but, as there is a bubbling sense of pride in the camp, I thought it would be good to add my say. It seems that there is a great hunger for the breakfast shows of some seriously great BBC Radio 6 Music talent: Lauren Laverne (weekdays) and RadMac (Mark Radcliffe and Stuart Maconie, weekends) have 1.28 million listeners and 761,000 respectively. Before I reveal why I am excited BBC Radio 6 Music breakfast show hosts are finding new fans, here is an article from the BBC that lays out the facts:

Rajar data shows schedule changes on BBC Radio 2 and BBC Radio 6 Music have been really well received by audiences, with Zoe Ball hosting the most listened to breakfast show in the UK (9.05m weekly listeners) and a record for Lauren Laverne’s new breakfast show on 6 Music with 1.28m listeners (up 197,000 since last quarter and 161,000 on last year).

·         Latest Rajar data shows a great start for The Zoe Ball Breakfast Show with a steady audience of over 9m tuning in to the UK’s most listened to breakfast show

·         A record 1.28m listeners to Lauren Laverne’s breakfast show on 6 Music, and a record for Radcliffe and Maconie's weekend breakfast show with a weekly reach of 761,000

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 ILLUSTRATION CREDIT: Francis

·         Continuing the good news for our female breakfast hosts, there has been a record 441,000 (10+) listeners to The 1Xtra Breakfast Show With Dotty

·         The latest quarterly figures also show an increase in listeners for Radio 4 to over 11m, BBC Radio 3 to over 2m and BBC Radio 5 live to 5.4m, all up compared to previous quarter and last year

·         The proportion of BBC radio listening on digital platforms has increased to its highest share: 53.9% from 50% in the same quarter last year

Radcliffe and Maconie's weekend breakfast show had a record 761,000 listeners, up 95,000 on quarter and 107,000 on year. Both stations have seen increases overall since last quarter: Radio 2 has 15.36m weekly listeners and 6 Music has 2.52m.

James Purnell, Director of BBC Radio and Education, says: “The refreshed line up on Radio 2 and 6 Music breakfast shows has proved hugely popular with audiences and it’s brilliant to see some record listener numbers too. It’s been an incredible team effort with our talented presenters and their production teams hitting the ground running and bringing joy to millions of listeners in the morning. It shows yet again the importance of BBC radio in the daily lives of the 34 million people who tune in each week.

"This quarter we’ve also seen the highest proportion of people listening to radio on digital platforms, including online and on apps, as well as increased numbers in the UK listening to podcasts each week, and I’m delighted listeners are discovering our much loved content however suits them.”

All BBC radio’s weekly reach over the period was 34.44m (33.97m last quarter and 35.01m last year) and a share of 51.4% (50.9% last quarter and 51.9% last year)”.

 PHOTO CREDIT: Chris ‘The Hawk’ Hawkins/PHOTO CREDIT: @BBC6Music  

I think it is great that there seems to be this rise in listeners across the board. I am a fan of D.J.s like Zoe Ball - and I feel they do terrific work. I am a huge fan of BBC Radio 6 Music and do all I can to promote it to people and spread the word. To be fair, I do not need to do much to get the station to new lands! The sheer passion, talent and commitment from the presents, producers and everyone at the station makes it a must-listen. Mary Anne Hobbs – who presents mid-mornings during the week – and Chris Hawkins (who has the early shift during the week and the weekends; the man never stops!) have seen a rise in listeners and they are providing something genuinely wonderful. What is the reason behind a rise in figures that, I hope, means pay rises might be in order! I love D.J.s like Hobbs and Hawkins and, in fact, everyone at BBC Radio 6 Music has a dedicated following and, throughout 2019, will keep their listeners and bring in new ones. It is the warmth and passion for music, old and new, that means we – the serious music lovers – are make sure BBC Radio 6 Music follows us through the day. It would be unfair of me to just say that the breakfast show hosts are putting the station on the map: everyone who we hear at BBC Radio 6 Music makes the station such a brilliant and unique proposition!

Big congratulations to all on the station that have experienced a boost in listener figures but, again, I nod to Lauren Laverne and RadMac. These presenters have the unenviable and difficult task of not only making themselves appear awake and focused at that early hour but ensure we are all taken care of. It is near-impossible finding the enthusiasm to get to work and being energised. During the weeks, at 07:30, we can tune in to Laverne and her team and know that we are in safe hands! I have been looking at some tweets she posted after the news broke and there is one thing that stands out: the fact radio seems to be in very rude health a century after it arrived in the world. One would think the days of streaming and the Internet means we are either too distracted or impatient to embrace radio and embrace curiosity. I think, as BBC Radio 6 Music is a digital station, it means that it appeals to those on the go and listening from their phones. There are also those who have digital radios and love to listen from the comfort of their homes. It would be amazing to think just how big and popular the station could be if it was not digital-only! I have been following Lauren Laverne’s breakfast show since the start (this January) and she has taken to the new role with aplomb and natural grace. Not only does she give us a great kick and smile to brighten the day but she plays fantastic music and has tremendous features.

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 IN THIS PHOTO: Lauren Laverne/PHOTO CREDIT: Music for Dementia 2020

She is one of the best D.J.s on radio and seems to get stronger by the week! Not only is she helming Desert Island Discs on BBC Radio 4 but she is also the Ambassador for Music for Dementia 2020 but she was recently named Broadcaster of the Year at the Broadcasting Press Guild Awards. She and her team also won an award and it seems like this a huge purple patch for Laverne. Only just in her forties, it is scary to think how much she can do on radio and what she can accomplish! Not only does she have a young family but she also gives talks and, well, is this motivational force that never seems to tire! I love her breakfast show during the week and am not surprised the listener figures are strong and rising. With terrific features – including House Music and Cloudbusting; Social Recall and The Maths of Life with Dr. Hannah Peel – there is this personal and eclectic show that beautifully laces these features around the best music you’ll hear. Laverne is dedicated to supporting rising artists and you just know that, away from work, she lives and breathes music. Long may her reign continue and, as I say, there seems to be limits where she can go and what she can do!

 IN THIS PHOTO: Mark Radcliffe (left) and Stuart Maconie (right) with Joy Division’s Stephen Morris/PHOTO CREDIT: @BBC6Music

The other breakfast show hosts, RadMac moved from their loved and popular afternoon slot this year and I was among the hordes of people who were confused why they had been moved. They were a bit miffed when they were moved but, in fact, they have taken to weekend breakfasts instantly and they are the perfect way to get us rising and pumping. Their natural chemistry and incredible humour means that new listeners are tuning in at the weekends and turning on to radio. I do love T.V. but I think radio provides something you cannot get from T.V. – a more personal touch and a connection that seems pure and physical. Like Lauren Laverne, Mark Radcliffe and Stuart Maconie have a great passion for all sorts of music and they are brilliant at starting our days with a bang! We all love the weekend and it is a massive testament to the powers of RadMac that they have pulled such an audience! RadMac have seen most of their afternoon supporters follow them to breakfast and, in the process, struck the ears of new discoverers. Again, like Laverne, there are great features – The (long-running) Chain and Sampled Underfoot are excellent and a reason to tune into their weekend show. The Chain means listeners can talk with RadMac and offer a song suggestion. I suggest you tune into the show to get a full sense of what they are about and why you should tune in! There were fears that the duo would split given their move or there was tension among them. In fact, they have never sounded stronger and the listeners can feel that.

Lauren Laverne, as I say, has crafted these great features and she seems like a fish in water at breakfast. She has a great team behind her but the verve and excitement she puts out every morning in infectious. Maybe RadMac are a little lower in terms of energy but their witty and knowledgeable style of presenting definitely sticks in the mind. I think BBC Radio 6 Music has found a perfect blend and has terrific breakfast shows. We all have a great reason to love radio and, with every passing week, more and more people are either abandoning their phones to listen or are making it a regular part of their lives. This is all exciting and, whilst all the other BBC shows that have seen their ratings rise should be congratulated, it is BBC Radio 6 Music that goes from strength-to-strength and is shaping up to be this alternative icon. It was only a few years ago the station was faced with closure and, since then, they have grown bigger and more secure. Let’s hope that the station is secure and they continue to improve. There are some great women I could think of that would be great at the station; some occasional hosts that should be moved full-time and show ideas that would give BBC Radio 6 Music ground in new lands and territories. Right now, they do not need my advice – or ever – and I am delighted the RAJAR figures that have just come out prove there is an appetite for radio.

 PHOTO CREDIT: @BBC6Music

From the brilliant Shaun Keaveny and Gilles Peterson to the aforementioned Chris Hawkins and Mary Anne Hobbs, there is a wealth of talent at BBC Radio 6 Music that is proving to be irresistible to those who love great music – who might be bored of the commercial options and know just what BBC Radio 6 Music can provide. That breakfast zest and nourishment that we get, during the week, from Lauren Laverne and RadMac (at the weekends) is essential and shows no signs of leaving us. I think both shows – and all other shows on the station – will improve and expand through the year…and there is this new army that are discovering radio and its power. So long after its invention, we still love the radio and, I don’t know, I think there is something strangely addictive and comforting. It is hard to put into words but who cares really! Huge kudos to all those who have felt the benefit of the new RAJAR figures and, if we have learned anything from the announcement, it is that radio is in no danger of declining. If you have not listened to Lauren Laverne and RadMac’s breakfast shows – and all the other great shows on the station – they get involved because I know you’ll love it! There is something about radio that gets into the blood and makes us feel better. We might never speak to or meet these wonderful D.J.s but they feel like friends; part of the furniture and family that we could not do without. As some pretty bold and impressive listener figures prove, great radio is…

 PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

DEFINITELY on the rise.

FEATURE: God Only Knows What We’d Be Without You: The Endless Beauty and Relevance of The Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds

FEATURE:

 

 

God Only Knows What We’d Be Without You

COVER PHOTO: George Jerman  

The Endless Beauty and Relevance of The Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds

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I know one does not need to mark every big album’s...

IN THIS PHOTO: The Beach Boys during Pet Sounds’ photo-shoot in February 1966/PHOTO CREDIT: George Jerman

birthday with a feature or piece of writing. It can be a bit tiring seeing every slightly decent album being celebrated and pushed like it is the best thing ever! I know this but, with certain albums, you need to mention them; bring them to fresh ears and open new eyes! In the case of The Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds, how could only let its anniversary slip by without tipping the hat and investigating its best moments?! On 16th May, 1966, The Beach Boys released the staggering and hugely iconic album, Pet Sounds. The year before, The Beatles released Rubber Soul – an album Brian Wilson adored and, to this day, maintains it’s his all-time favourite. I love that Beatles classic and I can see where he was coming from regarding the follow-on from Rubber Soul. That album (from The Beatles) was a mix of gorgeous romance and self-examination, some deeper themes and true emotion. It was a bit of a revelation in 1965 and a big shift in assuredness and quality from The Beatles. Beach Boys’ Party! arrived in 1965 and one can see how The Beach Boys wanted to change their sound and move in a new direction. Pet Sounds’ arrival was a distinct movement away from the beach-themed, party-sounding scent and an embrace of something new. It is hard to describe how big a leap the band took and how wonderful Pet Sounds is.

It is not a shock Brian Wilson (music) and Tony Asher (who co-wrote eight of the album’s thirteen songs) could create such masterpieces. They had always promised it: Pet Sounds was the summation of biblical revelation that transformed music in the 1960s and would go on to influence countless artists. Pet Sounds blew minds because it was blending sounds and instruments one would not find with any other Pop group. Not that The Beach Boys were ‘Pop’, per se, but a ‘popular act’, I guess. The heavenly orchestrations and mix of unusual blends – Coca-Cola cans and flutes among them! – was highly inventive and unexpected; the scope and ambition of the album a wonderful thing. Inspired by a Wall of Sound-style production (pioneered by Phil Spector), this was The Beach Boys in a new light. There is simplicity and accessibility through Pet Sounds but one can hear a move from the tighter and breezier songs before and the ornate, layered and intricate songs that were born on their eighth album. Brian Wilson and Tony Asher would discuss women are their experiences and, whilst Asher maintains his musical contributions were minimal, it was clear he provided Wilson with huge inspiration and guidance. I will talk about Pet Sounds’ legacy and brilliance (more) later but, when framing The Beach Boys in 1966, one must consider tensions that were bubbling. In some ways, Pet Sounds is more a Brian Wilson solo album that full band production.

The touring lifestyle and demands were putting a strain on the group and Wilson’s new songs caused some splits. A big move from their earlier direction, there was in-fighting and near-insurrection. Although Pet Sounds has gone down as this legendary and masterful work, it was a bit of a risk and ambitious pitch back in 1966. Like The Beatles growing and becoming more ambitious by 1965 – that was heightened in 1966 and 1967 –, The Beach Boys’ leader, Wilson, felt the group needed to bolden their approach and move on. The rest of the band were not too sure and, before a single song was recorded, there were splits and strains. It is remarkable to witness such beauty and grace considering this once-brotherly band was starting to fall apart. If the rest of The Beach Boys were miffed by some of the lyrics and complex arrangements, Wilson was not going to compromise and be talked down! It is a shame there was disharmony in the band because Pet Sounds is a natural move from a band who covered pretty much everything beach and party-related. I can understand their desire to stick with that formula but Pet Sounds’ tenderness, human spirit and collective autobiography was far more powerful and nuanced than anything they had ever written. Wilson was heading to new heights but he knew people/their label wanted something commercial – lest the band be condemned to falter and be isolated by their fans.

 IN THIS PHOTO: The Beach Boys on tour in 1966/PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

Maybe the scores and arrangements were a bit different but the themes were not: universal statements of broken lovers, yearning and the power of hope. In some ways, The Beach Boys’ early innocence, youth and lack of responsibility was replaced by new realisation, responsibilities and soul. Even if Pet Sound was recorded and released when Psychedelic music was relevant and popular, too many people have read too much into a lot of the songs’ lyrics (Sloop John B’s “This is the worst trip I’ve ever been on” has been linked to acid culture and the scene at the time. Reviews in 1966 were hugely positive – although some were shocked by The Beach Boys’ changed sound and took time to adjust! – and retrospective reviews have done what some contemporaries failed to do: give the album time and appreciate its true genius! This review from AllMusic praises Pet Sounds’ beauty:

The spiritual quality of the material is enhanced by some of the most gorgeous upper-register male vocals (especially by Brian and Carl Wilson) ever heard on a rock record. "Wouldn't It Be Nice," "God Only Knows," "Caroline No," and "Sloop John B" (the last of which wasn't originally intended to go on the album) are the well-known hits, but equally worthy are such cuts as "You Still Believe in Me," "Don't Talk," "I Know There's an Answer," and "I Just Wasn't Made for These Times." It's often said that this is more of a Brian Wilson album than a Beach Boys recording (session musicians played most of the parts), but it should be noted that the harmonies are pure Beach Boys (and some of their best). Massively influential upon its release (although it was a relatively low seller compared to their previous LPs), it immediately vaulted the band into the top level of rock innovators among the intelligentsia, especially in Britain, where it was a much bigger hit”.

 

SLANT, in this review talked about the label, Capitol, showing resistance (in addition to the band themselves) and Brian Wilson’s determined visions:

“…Still, even with stiff resistance from his bandmates, his record label, and potentially even his fans, Brian soldiered on, pulling these pet sounds from his head and painstakingly putting them to tape. And we’re a much better world for it. Imagine a world without Carl Wilson’s sublime, gentle reading of “God Only Knows” (the first song to include the word “God” in the title, according to folklore). A world without the impossibly gorgeous vocal harmonies stacked sky-high in the closing of “You Still Believe in Me.” A world without the giddy, heart-bursting optimism of “Wouldn’t It Be Nice,” or the silly musical mischief of “Sloop John B.” I can’t imagine living in such a world, and thank God (and Brian Wilson) we don’t have to”.

It was great to see this friendly – maybe subconscious – competition between The Beatles and The Beach Boys. 1966’s Revolver almost took a lot of attention from Pet Sounds. Many people, when that album arrived, forgot how impotent Pet Sounds was and why Brian Wilson wanted to do something different.  It would take a while for the most stubborn fans to come around but, with the passing of time, few can deny the gravitas and power of Pet Sounds! The sheer sophistication of the album helped push genres likes Pop, Punk and Jazz; the unusual directions and blends of Pet Sounds compelled other bands at the time and gave them food for thought!

Articles like this give you some cool facts about Pet Sounds but, when we think about the impact of Pet Sounds upon its release and how it has translated and inspired since then, it takes your breath. This piece from udiscovermusic examined the way Pet Sounds influenced and moved The Beatles and why it (Pet Sounds) is such a sonic work of art:

On Monday, 16 May 1966, the day of Pet Sounds’ US release, Bruce Johnston arrived at London’s Heathrow Airport carrying a copy of the album. The following day, in his suite at the Waldorf Hotel, Bruce played the album in its entirety for John Lennon and Paul McCartney – not once, but twice. After the two Beatles left the Waldorf they went straight back to Paul’s house and there, inspired by Brian’s incredible music, they worked on the introduction to their song ‘Here, There And Everywhere’, which later appeared on Revolver.

“Pet Sounds blew me out of the water,” Paul recalled in 2003. “First of all, it was Brian’s writing. I love the album so much. I’ve just bought my kids each a copy of it for their education in life – I figure no one is educated musically ’til they’ve heard this album.”

Just what is it that makes Pet Sounds so amazing? The vocals include Brian’s most poignant ever performance, on the sublime ‘Caroline No’; Mike Love shines on ‘Here Today’; and Carl Wilson turns in a heart-stopping tour de force, ‘God Only Knows’. If you get a chance, listen to the a cappella mixes of the songs included on the most recent box set reissue of the album

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IN THIS PHOTO: Brian Wilson in the studio during Pet Sounds’ recording/PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images 

The complexity of the arrangements are staggering, and yet the band were all so young. Brian himself was still only 23; Mike, the oldest member of the group, had turned 25 during its recording; Carl Wilson was still only 19, Dennis Wilson was 21 years old; and Bruce Johnston and Al Jardine were also both 23.

On ‘God Only Knows’ it is just Carl, Brian and Bruce singing. When they finish their vocal on the a cappella version, a voice asks, “How was that? Was that cool?” It’s Bruce Johnston speaking, and it is the perfect coda for not just the song, but also the album itself.

Pet Sounds is arguably the coolest record of all time. The kind of record that makes life worth living, reaffirming the notion that pop music is the most admired art form in the world.

And Pet Sounds is art”.

There are countless remarkable moments on Pet Sounds. How many better opening tracks are there than Wouldn’t It Be Nice?! The song announces the evolution of The Beach Boys in one two-and-a-bit-minutes song; a brief but spectacular symphony that sticks in the mind with its catchiness but remains there forever because of the musical sophistication and purity of the vocals. There is a perfect balance between the more spirited and hopeful songs and those that call for open arms and understanding. Don’t Talk (Put Your Head on My Shoulder) – track four – is an emotional and stunning song that contains little of the fanfare and sunshine of (some of The Beach Boys’) songs and shows a more mature and sensitive soul.

Sloop John B is a definite standout and, together with songs like Wouldn’t It Be Nice, there is enough of the ‘old Beach Boys’ to please their fans. If I’m Waiting for the Day and Let’s Go Away for a While are not as immediate and memorable as some of the other tracks on Pet Sounds, they reveal new sides and colours the more you listen. Everything fits purely together and, whereas there is not a clear concept on Pet Sounds, all the songs, in a way, document different sides of love and relationships. It would do The Beach Boys a disservice to compare it to Rubber Soul in the sense of being a fraternal ally. In many ways, Pet Sounds provided greater inspiration to The Beatles post-1966 than Rubber Soul did to The Beach Boys from 1965 to 1966. Some prefer albums like 1967’s Smiley Smile – containing, as it does, Good Vibrations – but there are few greater albums from The Beach Boys, or any artist, than Pet Sounds. As it turns fifty-three today, it will provide a new opportunity for young ears to discover an album that, whilst hugely influential, still occupies its own universe after all this time! I still haven’t talked about the jewel in the crown of Pet Sounds: God Only Knows. It comes two-thirds of the way through the album and is flanked by Sloop John B and I Know There’s An Answer. It is, perhaps, the band’s most-famous song and one that sort of defines the album.

After the brightness and uplift of Sloop John B, we have this gorgeous, hymnal and truly stunning song. With Tony Asher’s lyrics elevating The Beach Boys’ sound to new heights, it is perfect blend of insightful, incredible lyrics, sublime vocals (Carl Wilson on lead) and that peerless composition (from Brian Wilson). God Only Knows is as affirmative as anything on the album. That rawness and honesty regarding the importance of love and how the hero would fare without his girl – even if, as one of their finest lines explains, he might not always love her. From those incredible notes and movements in the introduction – the horns sway elephantic in their grace; there is an elegance hard to disguise – through to the indelible chorus, it is a song to behold! I do worry whether, without classic album series and music T.V., future generations will discover albums like Pet Sounds in a less productive and explorative way; stumbling upon them or not finding them at all. Radio stations play songs from Pet Sounds but how often does one hear the album in its entirety?! I’d like to think there are young fans picking up the record and listening to it the whole way through. It is fine listening to the odd song or two - but you need the full effect of the thirteen tracks to get the big hit. From Wouldn’t It Be Nice leading us in with the familiar-yet-evolving to the brilliant Caroline, No at the end…Pet Sounds is a true masterpiece that warrants acclaim and love for the rest of time! Maybe celebrating Pet Sounds three years after its fiftieth anniversary is a bit lame and redundant but, as I said at the top, every pioneering record like this benefits from a bit of exposure every year; to remind people of its greatness and, yeah, give people like me a chance to give thanks. Go listen to the album (in full) when you can and I am sure you will agree that, in the pantheon of music, there are few creations that match…

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 IN THIS PHOTO: An outtake from The Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds photoshoot/PHOTO CREDIT: George Jerman

THE dreamy and wondrous Pet Sounds.

FEATURE: Sonic Proof: Volume V: The Midweek Delight: Fantastic Artists to Watch

FEATURE:

 

 

Sonic Proof: Volume V

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IN THIS PHOTO: Dylan Cartlidge/PHOTO CREDIT: Dylan Cartlidge 

The Midweek Delight: Fantastic Artists to Watch

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WE are inching towards the middle of the week...

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 IN THIS PHOTO: Lots Holloway/PHOTO CREDIT: Lots Holloway

so it is just as well there is some great music swirling around! I have been interested seeing all the hungry and colourful rising artists emerging. It is a fantastic time for music and one that keeps on breeding some serious quality. If you need to know which artists to follow through the rest of 2019, here is the fifth part of my ‘ones to watch’ feature. Take a look through the selection and I know there will be something in there that grabs your fancy! It is sometimes hard to predict who will make it and where to head for the best of the newcomers. I hope this playlist gives you some guidance and, as I say, I know there will be some tracks in the mix that…

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 IN THIS PHOTO: Roses Gabor/PHOTO CREDIT: Roses Gabor

WILL turn the head!

INTERVIEW: Maya Killtron

INTERVIEW:

Maya Killtron

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AS we move into the new week...

I have been speaking with Maya Killtron about her recent album, Never Dance Alone, and how it began life. I ask whether she has a standout cut from the record and what comes next - she highlights some rising artists we need to get behind.

The songwriter tells me about her favourite memory from her career and which albums she holds dearest; whether there are gigs coming along and what she does when not making music – she selects a classic anthem to end the interview with.

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

Hi, there! It’s been a busy week but good. It’s finally spring in Toronto!

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

My name is Maya Killtron. I’m singer, songwriter; violinist and D.J. based out of Toronto, Canada. My music is Funk, Boogie; R&B - but more easily described as fun, dancey music about break-ups.

Never Dance Alone is your new album. What inspired its creation? Was there a particular moment that provided catalyst?

The album started with the title single. The producer and myself were just writing and trying things and that some just happened in a day - and we went with it 100%.

Is there a song from the album you count as a favourite?

I’m not sure if I have a favourite. That’s like asking a mom who here favourite child is. I guess there’s always a favourite though, isn’t there? I’d have to say Red Dress is a favourite to perform live. It always gets people dancing and that is the greatest achievement for a live show in my opinion.

Has music always been a big part of your life? Were you encouraged to take it up as a child?

I’m adopted and my adoptive parents knew my birth-mother was a violinist. They made sure the violin was a part of my education from age five. Even though I’ve never met her, I get to carry that part of her with me forever.

The fact you are a multi-instrumentalist and D.J. gives your music a certain confidence, breadth and conviction. Does this talent give you more variety and choice a songwriter?

It certainly gives me a unique perspective. As a club D.J., your main objective is to keep people dancing and to keep the party going. I took the same approach with this album. I wanted to keep people dancing, feeling good and smiling from end to end. No slow jams.

What plans do you have for the rest of 2019?

More music in the works already and, now that the album is out, I want to tour it as much as possible. It’s great being in the studio, in your little cave; in sweatpants, many snacks; take after take, working out every detail…but I love performing the music to an audience. Seeing their reaction, partying with them out under the lights. That’s where I want to be for the rest of 2019.

Do you have a standout memory from your time in music so far?

I’ve been fortunate enough to have had a great career as a musician from performing my own music to recording, writing and touring with other great artists. I’ve had a lot of great moments just being a back-up singer. If I had to pick one, it was the first time I sang my own music and the audience sang the lyrics back to me. I’ll never forget that. It also happened to be my birthday so you can’t beat that as a birthday present.

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

Purple RainPrince

It’s all the fun, dance, sex and camp you could ever want crammed into one album. And he had strings; bonus. He is perfection.

Voodoo - D’Angelo

A disciple of Prince but entirely unique. D. is a genius and every note of that album is pure effervescence. Nobody sings harmonies like him.

Mariah CareyDaydream

An unmatched voice of my generation. I wore my cassette out and had to buy it twice.

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

Chaka Khan or Chromeo. Very different but the same Funk family. Both are currently touring and I love them so much. After taking care of my band and crew with some sweet rider food, drink and accom., my only request would be to share a song on stage together every night. I think, if I actually got to sing a song with Chaka Khan, I might burst into flames.

What are your other plans regarding gigs/touring?

Right now, the plan is to tour close to home. Get back on the road locally and then aim for my first solo push overseas this fall and early-2020.

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Is the stage somewhere you feel at your most alive?

Yes, absolutely. I’m no different than many other performers. I’m mostly an introvert in day to day life but on stage I can do anything and be the dream version of myself. Confident, daring; brave, magnetic. It’s never not fun. Even if a crowd isn’t really engaging at first, I love the challenge of first getting them to smile, then move; then all out dance, eyes closed with hands in the air. There is nothing better than sharing that.

Is there any advice you’d give to upcoming artists?

Nothing can ever replace good old-fashioned hard work. Sometimes, there are shortcuts but most of time there aren’t. All of those ‘overnight’ success stories were actually years of hard work, planning; trial and error. Work hard, harder than everyone around you. Nobody can ever take that away from you.

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Are there any new artists you recommend we check out?

Tanika Charles is about to release an amazing new album. Maylee Todd is not only an innovator; she’s a community leader, educator and has probably the most creative approach to music I’ve ever seen. Aphrose is working on her first album after the successful release of great singles and videos. Bywater Call is an amazing Canadian Blues act set to tour the E.U. in early-2020. And the enigmatic James Baley - voice, vogue and fashion. He will be the next Gaga but better.

 IN THIS PHOTO: Bywater Call

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

I don’t get a lot of time to chill but, right now, I’m on that GoT (Game of Thrones) bandwagon. I got sucked right in and it’s near-obsession. I think with all the Night King scenes…I wouldn’t call it ‘unwinding’ but it’s definitely not working on music.

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).

The Best - Tina Turner. No explanation needed…

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