FEATURE: Vinyl Corner: The Beach Boys – Pet Sounds

FEATURE:

 

 

Vinyl Corner

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IMAGE CREDIT: Spotify 

The Beach Boys – Pet Sounds

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THIS is the feature that...

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 IN THIS PHOTO: The Beach Boys’ (left to right) Bruce Johnston, Brian Wilson; Al Jardine and Dennis Wilson recording Pet Sounds/PHOTO CREDIT: Capitol Photo Archives

spotlights particular albums that sound mighty fine on vinyl! They are great however you play them but truly come to life when you pop them on the record player and drift away. I have been meaning to feature The Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds for a while now. The reason I am bringing it up today is the fact the band went into the studio on this day in 1966 to start recording Wouldn’t It Be Nice – it would open Pet Sounds and is one of The Beach Boys’ most iconic numbers. One cannot think of the 1960s and the best albums of all time without mentioning Pet Sounds. I was heavily into The Beach Boys as a child and my first exposure to them was their surf music. I adored classics like Surfin’ U.S.A. and something about these songs struck me. They were tight, upbeat and sunny and, where I was living, I could only imagine what it was like to surf in California and see what The Beach Boys were seeing. Things changed on 16th May, 1966 when Pet Sounds came along. Only the year before, the band put out Beach Boys’ Party! and that, as the title implies, was sort of a continuation of the more upbeat and surf-sounding songs that had come before. The eleventh album from The Beach Boys was, strangely, met with lukewarm attention when it was released!

It is hard to think of another album that gained so much more positive attention retrospectively – maybe Beastie Boys’ Paul’s Boutique came close! The album did make the top-ten but it was a relative disappointment for the band. I guess, in 1966, bands like The Beatles and The Byrds were ruling; there was a lot of Psychedelic influence and iconic songwriters like Bob Dylan were entering new creative phases. Perhaps Pet Sounds was a bit unusual in the context of 1966’s music but, I suspect, few were ready for the new creative phase of The Beach Boys. When we become familiar with an artist and their style, it can be hard adapting and accepting something different. The fact it is seen as one of the most progressive Pop albums ever drills down to the issue: critics and fans were not ready for something so forward-looking and advanced. The new partnership of Brian Wilson and Tony Asher hit its peak and, whereas Wilson took charge of all the arrangements and compositions, Asher was responsible for creating these stirring and timeless lyrics – most evocatively on the album’s standout, God Only Knows. Wilson had quit touring with the band the year before to focus on writing and, between January and April 1966, one of the world’s greatest albums was laid down. It is nice to think there was this sort of one-upmanship between The Beach Boys and The Beatles.

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 IN THIS IMAGE: The Beatles’ Rubber Soul (1965) inspired Brian Wilson whilst making Pet Sounds/IMAGE CREDIT: Spotify

Wilson confessed his love of The Beatles’ Rubber Soul (1965) and he wanted to make the greatest Rock record ever. In some ways, Wilson had The Beatles in mind when composing The Beach Boys’ masterpiece – I often wonder whether The Beatles’ Revolver (5th August) was a response to The Beach Boys’ wonder-work?! One reason why Pet Sounds is perfect for vinyl is all the unusual elements and sounds that one can discover. There are French horns, Coca-Cola cans and bells (among many other things) that go into the variegated mix! Unified by A Phil Spector-style Wall of Sound production, the album is, literally, a combination of Brian Wilson’s ‘pet sounds’. It is debatable whether the mono or stereo version of the album is truest and most spectacular but I guess, if listening on vinyl, one has to go stereo – I have included the mono version at the end because it sounds pretty good when heard through headphones. The Beach Boys had laid rest to their beach-themed music by summer of 1964 and were starting to look for a new direction – All Summer Long marked the end of an era in many ways. Various factors contributed to The Beach Boys’ sonic change. Brian Wilson had retreated from live performance – compounded by a panic attack he suffered on a flight – and he was experimenting with psychedelic drugs. The band’s horizons were opening and, when Wilson met Asher in 1965, it was a wonderful unity – Asher was working as a jingle writer at the time and few realised what lyrical gifts lurked within him!

Wilson and Asher began swapping ideas and working on this new venture. Wilson loved Asher’s coolness and intellect and was intrigued by the lyrics he was coming up with. The two had this instant connection and would talk long about their lives and experiences in love. In many ways – and as Asher himself stated – Wilson was the guide of the lyrics; Asher was an interpreter and creator. It was a fantastic partnership that spawned this genius album. The two worked together for a few weeks where they would trade ideas and come up with these incredible songs. Many see Pet Sounds as a concept album because of its uniformity and musical brilliance – less to do with lyrical themes and story. Wilson’s then-wife did, to a degree, inspire songs such as You Still Believe in Me and Caroline, No, but can one call love a concept?! Wilson loved the fact The Beatles created Rubber Soul and did not include any filler tracks. That record is a complete and extraordinary statement so, in that vein, Wilson wanted to produce his version. Wilson was deeply influenced by Phil Spector and learned of his production style through taking sessions with him. Pet Sounds contains a lot of Spector’s hallmarks and that distinct production style. Many saw Pet Sounds as a Brian Wilson solo album because of the decrease in harmonies – something that defined The Beach Boys in the early days.

The band was still united but one can hear more of Wilson’s direction and life on the page than before. The fact that a lot of their previous work was more general and throwaway – in the sense the songs were pretty short and the lyrics did not dig as deep – led many to believe that, when presented with this personal and emotional record, it was Wilson’s true self coming out! The band (minus Wilson) were touring whilst Wilson was putting down ideas and, by the time they returned, a large proportion of the album had been created/realised. If the music on Pet Sounds sounds tight, flawless and natural, that was not always the case. The rest of the band wanted something simple and commercial whereas Wilson knew the band had to grow and try something fresh. This led to conflict and disagreements and there was a notable tension in the studio. The rest of the band were not sure what the words were about and what meaning they held. A lot of their surfing songs were about girls, fun and good times but, when presented with romantic odes, passionate pleas and these complex songs...they were befuddled and they seemed completely foreign. The Beach Boys had I introduced similar themes (to Pet Sounds) on 1965’s Today! (that included the classic, Help Me, Ronda) but their new album was on a different plain.

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 IN THIS PHOTO: The Beach Boys relax away from recording Pet Sounds to hang with a giraffe/PHOTO CREDIT: Capitol Photo Archives

If the band were on different pages regarding Pet Sounds’ themes and complexities then they had to reconcile quickly. Some of the songs were simply updates and step-ups from previous Beach Boys songs. Wouldn’t It Be Nice has shades of We’ll Run Away but, as many critics noted, these newer tracks were more symphonic, personal and stirring. It is clear the period around Pet Sounds’ release was hugely productive and revolutionary. Many overlooked the album because The Beatles’ Revolver arrived very soon after. They, of course, had a bigger following and many overlooked the fact Brian Wilson’s production was as special and important as The Beatles. If Pet Sounds did not captivate all critics when it was released, its retrospective acclaim and legacy had made up for that. It is rightfully seen as one of the most important albums of all time and songs like Sloop John B and Wouldn’t It Be Nice are ranked alongside the best Beach Boys songs ever. I shall come to God Only Knows in time but, when thinking about the reviews that Pet Sounds has accrued, it is amazing to think anyone would not understand and connect with the sheer beauty. AllMusic had this to say:

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”.

Rolling Stone, writing in 2001, noted the evolution of The Beach Boys and Brian Wilson’s development as a composer:

Recorded and released in 1966, not long after the sunny, textural experiments of "California Girls", "Pet Sounds", aside from its importance as Brian Wilson's evolutionary compositional master piece, was the first rock record that can be considered a "concept album"; from first cut to last we were treated to an intense, linear personal vision of the vagaries of a love affair and the painful, introverted anxieties that are the wrenching precipitates of the unstable chemistry of any love relationship. This trenchant cycle of love songs has the emotional impact of a shatteringly evocative novel, and by God if this little record didn't change only the course of popular music, but the course of a few lives in the bargain. It sure as hell changed its creator, Brian, who by 1966 had been cruising along at the forefront of American popular music for four years, doling out a constant river of hit songs and producing that tough yet mellifluouis sound that was the only intelligent innovation in pop music between Chuck Berry and the Beatles”.

I honestly think Pet Sounds could be considered if it contained God Only Knows and some inferior songs. The fact there are so many other genius offerings makes it an embarrassment of riches. There is a lot of affection for songs like Wouldn’t It Be Nice but one cannot deny God Only Knows is the leader of the pack!

There are thirteen songs on the first side of Pet Sounds and, as you put the needle down, you’ll experience the likes of Wouldn’t It Be Nice and Don’t Talk (Put Your Head on My Shoulder). The second side has Pet Sounds and Caroline, No in the mix but it opens perfectly: the majestic and unbeatable God Only Knows. There is that great mix of older Beach Boys elements – great harmonies and plenty of upbeat – but God Only Knows showcases the more emotionally rich and tender side to The Beach Boys. Fuelled by Tony Asher’s incredible lyrics, it is one of the greatest love songs ever penned. Because the song mentioned the word ‘God’, it caused some confusion. It was rare for a Pop song to do that and people were over-interpreting. The song could be addressed to any higher force as it is more about moving on after loss rather than praising a deity. Whereas the song was produced by Brian Wilson and he composed it, it was Carl, his younger brother, who sung the lead vocal. Backed by, among other things, French horns, violas and accordions, it is a complex song that many have studied ever since. The fact there are perpetual rounds in the coda and it has a definite signature means it was vastly different to anything that came out at the time – one can argue nothing since then has made such an impact.

Brian Wilson has said no one woman was the inspiration for the song: it was a vision he and Asher had about being blinded that hard. Its emotional directness and incredible composition make it a standout from an album overloaded with brilliance. The song was lauded by none other than Paul McCartney. He cites it as his favourite song ever and, I am sure, that will never change. God Only Knows often tops the ‘greatest songs ever’ lists and its sheer grace and heavenly tones cannot be disputed. Listen to the song on vinyl and you get this incredible rush and impact. The entire album is a perfect vinyl choice and, after one listen, you are hooked and invested. You do not need me to point that out but there are people out there who have not heard the whole album and would have missed some of its gems.

IN THIS PHOTO: The Beach Boys attract the attention of some goats during the promotional shots for Pet Sounds/PHOTO CREDIT: Capitol Photo Archives

Pet Sounds is great electronic but you do not get the same magic as you do hearing it on vinyl. On 16th May, Pet Sounds turns fifty-three and, I hope, will be discovered by a new generation. It is amazing to think that, fifty-three years ago today, The Beach Boys stepped into the studio to record Wouldn’t It Be Nice. I wonder whether the band knew that, in just a few short months, one of the best albums ever would be completed – I guess that was Brian Wilson’s intention all along! I am not shocked the album has inspired so many people and it is still being talked about today. Such is the complexity of the music and the directness of the lyrics that they stimulate your heart, soul and mind. I am struggling to think of another Pop album that is so rich and unique. It is a testament to Brian Wilson’s ambition and Tony Asher’s lyrics that Pet Sounds is revered as this titanic musical creation.

Every great album warrants focus and celebration but, after all this time, Pet Sounds is still inspiring musicians around the world. It is hard to say exactly how many current artists owe a debt to The Beach Boys’ 1966 masterpiece. Every complex Pop arrangement and harmony-laden beauty...I think of The Beach Boys and Pet Sounds. Alongside Rubber Soul and Revolver; Pet Sounds inspired post-1965 Rock music. Many groups in Britain responded by pushing the studio and being more experimental. One can argue The Beatles’ exceptional curiosity and work on Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967) can be traced back to Pet Sounds. Alongside The Beatles, The Beach Boys helped bring more harmony and instrumentation into music – replacing dancing music into more intellectual and emotional cuts. In many ways, Brian Wilson is a leader for Indie musicians who were compelled by his melodic sensibilities. One can hear shades of Pet Sounds in albums like Pinkerton (Weezer) and Transatlanticism (Death Cab for Cutie). Maybe a lot of Hip-Hop artists in the 1980s and 1990s ridiculed The Beach Boys but, like critics in 1966, they were naïve and not yet mature enough to understand the album’s brilliance – that would change and, soon enough, some Pet Sounds-esque tones were being picked up by black artists. If you have not discovered Pet Sounds or are yet to buy the vinyl, make sure you rectify this and let it all sink in. Many in 1966 were not fans of the album but, very soon, many would (rightly) recognise The Beach Boys’ eleventh studio album as one of...

THE finest in all of music’s history.

INTERVIEW: Emmi

INTERVIEW:

Emmi

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IT has been a while since I have included Emmi...

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on my site but it is always a great experience! She has achieved a lot since I last featured her so I was keen to ask about her recent E.P., Lovers, and the music that will follow; what life is like now she is based in New York and whether she has any particular albums that mean a lot to her.

Emmi discusses her plans going forward and how she would sum up last year; whether there is a routine regarding her songwriting and which rising artists we need to get behind – she ends with a recent song that is new to my ears.

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

Hey, Sam! My week has been grand, thanks. Just got back to New York from a little time with my family in Oz. Did my taxes. Bought a new keyboard. Life is good.

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

Sure! My name is Emmi. I make music. I used to only do that for other people until a few years ago when a (wine-infused) conversation with my mum woke me up to the realisation that I had an itch to be an artist in my own right. Once I was aware of the itch, I realised it wouldn’t go away until I, well…scratched it. So, I started releasing tunes from my bedroom.

And, because the Internet is a brilliant surprising beast, great stuff happened: a tweet from Taylor Swift; a role in a movie; features in Europe. So much cool stuff. So, I figured I maybe had a place at the table of music and went away a while to come up with a big plan and get a team. And now I’m back…with said plan.

I understand you have recently moved to New York. What prompted that decision and how is life there at the moment?!

It was half a personal circumstance and half a career choice. I really connect with music makers in the U.S. And I realised I was spending months in London gathering inspiration (it’s genuinely my favourite city in the world) only to return to L.A. like a coiled spring and write a hundred songs at once. And I’ve always wondered what kind of damage I could do if I spent some actual time in the U.S. – and I didn’t have to leave every time things got exciting.

So, here I am. But, living in New York and commuting to L.A. makes more sense of my character. I’m a story teller. And perhaps it’s a form of masochism but I need the cold streets and the rude people; mad people, lovely people and the full complement of human beings and all the struggles and victories that go along with that to draw on.

I want to feel I’m living on the ground, if that makes sense. You get that in London. And you get that in New York. It’s fuel to me. But, I find after six weeks in L.A., the quinoa and palm trees and perpetual sun and air-punching and “You go girl!”s  start homogenising my style. So, I got to get back to reality and get some frost back in my bones, you know?

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Lovers is your latest E.P. I like the fact the songs seem to tell a story. Did a particular relationship inspire the songs or was it something you had been planning a while?

Not any one relationship, no. (Sorry not to be saucy and give you gossip). It tells the story of a relationship from start to finish, but the fictional story it tells is made up of my experiences across a couple of relationships in my past so it’s totally honest in that sense. And specifically those moments in relationships I went through that felt confusing or scary to me at the time, but that are pockets of relationships and love I don’t think get enough air time in Pop music. The awkward meeting (instead of the ‘I’m hot, you’re hot: let’s get together’ script we are so often sold in Pop culture)…

The ‘making it official’ conversation. The fear of allowing yourself to love again or, God forbid, be happy after you’ve been hurt. The question of monogamy and the boredom of long-term relationships. All of it. I always run on the belief that, if I’ve felt it, I’m more than likely not the only one. So just write it.

Do you have a personal favourite song from Lovers that strikes you hardest?

I think the most honest ones for me were Scared Stupid and The Way We Used To…

Scared Stupid is the closest to talking about my anxiety I have ever come. About my inability to fully enjoy any pleasure or joy in my life because of how quickly I play out the worst possible scenario in my head and talk myself out of the present. So, although that tune is a bit tongue in cheek and melodramatic, it’s a fairly honest monologue.

The Way We Used To was a song I’d been trying to write for a while. We don’t talk about long-term relationships in Pop. (Perhaps because it’s not sexy?). But I wanted to change that given I would say half of the world’s population are in one. It’s about the war between loving someone deeply with a long history but simultaneously wishing to be ‘new’ to someone. It’s human nature to want to be exciting. To want that rush. That’s why people throw themselves out of planes or go on rollercoasters. To feel ‘alive’. And being faithful to someone is the decision to fight that desire with the wisdom that all that sh*t is fleeting and love doesn’t get a second chance. I wanted to write a love song from the perspective of someone who has those instincts but doesn’t act on them. Making it a little sadder, when the lover she is singing to perhaps does act on their own similar instincts later in the story.

But, honestly, Stay Awake the last track on the album is like a child to me. I wrote it six years ago. On the floor of a studio in Hamburg. I can’t explain it. But, it’s special. So special.  Live, you really feel that. We wrote it about two stories at once. One: A young couple, newly in love, not wanting to say goodnight because they just want to spend every waking minute with each other. Two: An old couple at the end of their lives together, not wanting to say goodbye. I guess the point is, when it comes to love goodbye, will always be too soon. That one felt it dropped out the sky and wasn’t from me at all. The best ones always do. And I’m just so glad it’s out.

Might we see any more similar playlists/E.P.s? What can we expect in 2019?

Yes, sir! I announced a trilogy in September: Lovers. Players. Dreamers. One/three, Lovers, is out now – so, you got two more coming! And they all have a different concept. A different visual world. Different characters, almost. (Perhaps a throwback to my past as an actress). I don’t like to make promises, but I’d say you can expect playlist-two, Players, this year, if not three. And you can expect a full-length album this time. Each playlist gets bigger and bigger. Both in size and grandeur of concept and overall ambition. So, sit tight…

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Last year was a busy one for you! How do you feel about 2018 looking back?

I see it as a little more of a personal development year than anything. There was a lot of me running around London in a super hero cape with mates and a handy-cam acting a dork. It was an indie, fun and exploratory kind of year. Perhaps that doesn’t sound like personal discovery to most…but it was a part of a new era I’m entering that I like to call the ‘fu*k it’ era. To be totally unashamedly myself and just create music; get it out and stop taking myself so damn seriously. We did it with practically zero budget and this release was almost a dialogue between me and my fans. No grand push or promo. Just a quiet release, like…’Hey I’m back. Thank you for being here! Here’s some music. And a promise I’m not going anywhere’.

And it’s been really fun getting to know them all personally; overcoming my fear of the Internet and myself and just generally getting this thing started. Good to be back. 2019 will be the year things grow…

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Every songwriter is different. How do songs come to you? Do you set time aside to write?

I tend to write in sessions, which normally means a song in a day (fully produced etc.). Such is the world of Pop! But it’s good for me. I can agonise on a piano for months on my own. I’m terrible at making decisions. But, perhaps it’s because I’m such a social creature or perhaps it’s the pressure of the moment: songs just come easier to me in the studio.  And they generally come from the music. I carry a notepad around with me…and I write little thoughts and words down all the time. So, when I walk into a session I normally have a phrase or a story to tell on those pages. (Or several).

And it’s about gauging my mood and the mood of the room to see what the right direction is. Talking it through will often give the producer the heartbeat of what we are about to create before we begin. The emotional colour, perhaps. But, sometimes, I walk in with an empty notebook and I say…“I have nothing! Zilch!” And they can pull up a sound or a beat or just be noodling on the guitar while we catch up and there it is! A story hidden in the space between the notes of a piano…or in a word someone says. No one day is the same…

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

I have a song with Norwegian D.J. Sonny Alven called Our Youth. I wrote it in about half an hour over Skype once; recorded it, sent it off…and didn’t give it another thought. Suddenly it was going out with my voice on it, which was great! And I was aware it was going well over there…but didn’t truly understand what that meant until I actually flew out to Norway to perform it live. That was really special. I was at a music festival and people were lining up outside to get into our tent. I had to do a line check before we started and I sang the first line of the song and gave a thumbs up to the sound engineer and started to leave the stage.

But, as I walked off the stage, I heard singing. So, I took out my in-ears and the crowd there (thousands of them) were singing the rest of the song back to me! Word for word! And, I was like…Oh my God. These are my words. They are singing my tune and my words. That’s the first time that had ever happened to me. That was special. We did the song on T.V. in front of 60,000 people too. That was a trip!

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

Too many to count but, if you twist my arm…

Alicia Keys - Songs in A Minor

This was the first album I was bought that was ‘Pop’. I was obsessed with The Beach Boys and Jazz music - and music of my own generation just wasn’t of interest to me. But Mum bought me Alicia in an attempt to get me down with the kids and it was my awakening. I learnt the entire album by ear that summer. And suddenly Pop wasn’t such a dirty word anymore: it was a joyful umbrella that could mean whatever you wanted it to. The next album I bought was Craig David’s Born to Do It, so I’d say that was a drastic about-turn.

Tapestry - Carole King

This one requires no explanation: superb songs, sung honestly.

The Beach Boys - Pet Sounds

A little after I obsessed myself with Jazz, I discovered The Beach Boys. And it was a world of all American vibes that had nothing to do with my existence but I wanted to be a part of. The harmonies I’m sure play a lot into how I make music now. (These guys, The Seekers; ABBA, the Bee Gees and The Supremes). They were my summer obsession for five months when I was about thirteen.

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

Oh, my goodness. Tough call. I love Bruno Mars. I’d love to support him. And my rider would be to be allowed to watch side of stage every night. I aspire to that kind of performance level and mastery. P!nk. For similar reasons. Alicia. Obviously. Ellie Goulding. I love her...

What advice would you give to new artists coming through?

Get a great lawyer. Learn to say ‘no’. Don’t try to please people. Figure out your WHY as an artist and reference it in EVERYTHING you do. Expect nothing. Entitlement will ruin you. Just make you happy. And write your legacy. My manager once told me to plan “how I’d like to fail” and I think that’s the soundest advice I ever got. Failure will happen. Even if you win. But, ask yourself: Would you like to fail as you or as someone else? What could you make your peace with easier when all is said and done? Authenticity is very difficult to regret.

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

I’m hoping to announce some U.K./U.S. dates soon. But nothing in stone yet.

Are there any new artists you recommend we check out?

I’m a big new fan of Hobo Johnson. A Rap artist with a mind that I can’t get enough of. College-style band just got slick! Also, check out Radiant Children. Caught their show in L.A. recently and they are fire. Loving new Bhad Bhabie. Billie Eilish. King Princess. Lots of great stuff coming through right now…

It’s an exciting time for music.

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 IN THIS PHOTO: Bhad Bhabie

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

I love going to Jazz nights. I swing by little bars or Birdland here in N.Y.C. whenever I can because that escape does my soul wonders. I draw. I watch old movies. Also I love video games. So, I try to game wherever I can. But I can’t own an Xbox of my own, because literally I’d get nothing done…then there’s whiskey.

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).

Thanks for your time, Sam! This is new and gorgeous…

Let Me Down Slowly - Alec Benjamin (ft. Alessia Cara)

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Follow Emmi

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FEATURE: Smiles, Energy and Motivation: The Blue Monday Playlist

FEATURE:

 

 

Smiles, Energy and Motivation

PHOTO CREDIT: @priscilladupreez  

The Blue Monday Playlist

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IT is that dreaded day of the year...

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 PHOTO CREDIT: @whoislimos

where we are all supposed to be a bit more miserable and things are pretty bleak! In fact, Blue Monday is pretty apt. It is the time of year when Christmas is a forgotten memory and the weather is pretty awful. It still takes a while for the weather to get going and the mornings are awful – it remains dark for quite a bit! On top of that, there is nothing on the horizon to look forward to. It is very much all back to work and what does the rest of January offer?! This Monday is a pretty sucky one and, as many have been showcasing some Blue Monday playlists, I thought it would be good to offer mine. It is almost the end of the day but there will be many who will still need a cheer and kick to get them through. If you have the blues still and require a bit of a boost, I have compiled some sure-fire winners that will get you in a better mood. I know tomorrow will be a better day but the awful Blue Monday is one we all struggle with. Take a listen to these huge tunes and, if you are not feeling better by the end, then I...

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 PHOTO CREDIT: @eyeforebony

WILL eat my hat (disclaimer: I do not own one nor will I eat one!)

FEATURE: Dialing It Back: Is Chris Evans’ New Virgin Breakfast Show’s Approach to Advertising a Sign of Things to Come?

FEATURE:

 

 

Dialing It Back

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IMAGE CREDIT: @VirginRadioUK  

Is Chris Evans’ New Virgin Breakfast Show’s Approach to Advertising a Sign of Things to Come?

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THERE were a lot of people tuning into Virgin Radio...

 

this morning to catch Chris Evans’ debut breakfast show. It is no surprise to report that it was a smooth and pretty reliable introduction! The man knows breakfast like the back of his hand and he worked on Virgin Radio – actually called Virgin Radio UK – before. There are some reviews coming through but they are all saying Evans’ new show is a very similar to his BBC Radio 2 show. The team are all there – including Vassos on sport – and it is pretty much a move straight from his old stall into the new one. There have been promotional billboards around and Evans posted some posts on social media promoting his new show – a cute interaction with his young son; his son ‘grilling’ him about the show and what it will include. There have been some positive reviews coming in already. The Times assessed his opening show thus:

He’s at the wheel of a much smaller car as well. Virgin Radio — part of the Wireless Group owned by News UK, the publisher of The Times — is a digital-only station with an audience of about 400,000. In terms of horsepower, it is a little like watching a Ford Capri take on a Formula 1 Ferrari. To Evans’s fans, though, that is all part of the fun. And given that Ball got off to such a frantically overheated start last week, she could be forgiven for casting anxious glances in the rear-view mirror.

First impressions suggest that it is the ginger one who will be setting the pace. If you are allergic to his brand of chatter, you won’t be converted, but there must be an awful lot of Radio 2 listeners who find Ball’s style so uneven that they will be working out how to retune their radios”.

The fact that the first song he played on his show was not a studio recording set the tone – he invited Richard Ashcroft into the studio to play. Ashcroft stuck around and he and Evans chatted about music. It was an interesting beginning to his new breakfast tenure and there are, as I shall explore, new elements that interested me. Evans’ strong suit is experience and slickness: some are saying Zoë Ball’s first week on the new BBC Radio 2 breakfast slot was a bit rushed and frantic. It will take a while for the show to form and have its own voice but, at the moment, it is quite an exciting and fast-paced show. Many might found that a bit much in the mornings which, of course, means Evans can scoop up some of those deserters. Whilst the presenting and delivery was great and Evans’ reliably warm and witty voice seemed settled and natural at Virgin, the music itself had more in common with other London radio stations. I feel the largely ‘white’ acts played do not add the diversity of BBC Radio 2 and BBC Radio 6 Music; there is a leaning on Indie, Rock and Pop and, at times, the homogenised tone starts to drag. I guess Virgin Radio UK have their own ethos and sound so one cannot deviate too much from the expected.

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 IN THIS PHOTO: Zoë Ball took over from Chris Evans on the breakfast slot on BBC Radio 2/PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

There is no way I will be abandoning BBC Radio 6 Music and going to Virgin in the mornings but I am pleased Chris Evans is still on radio and back at a station he knows very well. I am not sure how long he will remain where he is but it seems like his breakfast show is off to a flyer! I know BBC Radio 2 will get more listeners – and Ball will do brilliantly and bring in new listeners – but there are some interesting dynamics to Evans’ show. I do not know about you but the reason I came to the BBC for my radio fix was because of the incessant and, let’s face it, irritating adverts we are used to on commercial stations! God knows why I used to listen to Absolute Radio but I did. Not only is the music even more narrow and predictable than at Virgin – men in Rock bands and, what seems like, the same songs repeated each day- but you are bombarded with horrible adverts. I know radio stations need them for revenue and cannot rely on the license fee like the BBC. The bonus of the BBC is that they can stick with the music and, aside from the odd self-promotional trailer, there are no unwanted interruptions and annoyances. I think a lot of radio stations are too reliant on adverts and they can get very grating. Most stations do have the policy of using advertising but I, for one, find it a bit too much.

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 PHOTO CREDIT: @fancycrave

It is great that Chris Evans’ breakfast show is free from adverts but, in exchange, he promotes shows on Sky (there are a few mentions about Sky away from the interviews ) – they are sponsoring his show. The BBC talked about that and guests that appeared this morning:

Other guests appearing on Evans's first Virgin show included actors Fay Ripley and Paul Whitehouse.

In what could be a sign of things to come, comedians Romesh Ranganathan and Rob Beckett were also on to promote their Sky One show.

Sky are sponsoring Evans's show, which means it will not feature adverts - a first for a commercial radio breakfast show”.

Some might say that this is swapping one annoying thing for another but, in some ways, it is replacing adverts with interviews. A lot of stations interview guests regarding their new film or T.V. show and Virgin are doing this in a way that means they can skip adverts. Whether you watch Sky or not, I guess these interviews are extended trailers. You can learn about shows and what is happening and choose to tune in or not. Evans can still advertise his breakfast show on social media but we do not have to endure all the adverts that we will not pay attention to. I guess advertising keeps radio alive but Evans’ show has shown an alternative. I wonder whether the idea could catch on and influence other radio stations.

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 IMAGE CREDIT: @VirginRadioUK

From a listener’s perspective, it is much more pleasing and less disruptive hearing interviews regarding a Sky show than it is for the endless advert breaks we are used to. In the case of Virgin, Sky get exclusive rights and no other network is promoted. It does create a monopoly but I feel more listeners will come in. Not only do you get to avoid all the adverts and not have to deal with them but you might be pointed in the direction of a new show. In any case, it adds a conversational element to the show and you get well-known figures popping up. Evans ensured there was live music on his first breakfast show and now we have these Sky-related interviews coming in. I said I would not leave BBC Radio 6 Music but I know Virgin will get a lot of people in just because of this nice touch. Many hate having to hear adverts and that can damage a radio station. The fact here is a show that does not shove them down your throat is a good thing. I am curious whether there is a way to translate this to other stations. Maybe it would not be possible for a T.V. channel to sponsor a show in the same way but what about record labels or bigger artists? I do feel there is a chance to move away from the adverts and offer a more pleasing alternative.

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 IMAGE CREDIT: Getty Images

It would not be too much of a stretch to think another T.V. station could sponsor a show/station and, rather than have them pushing their name endlessly, you would get these interviews peppered throughout. Maybe there would be audio adverts that, whilst still adverts, at least are more tolerable and pleasing than the usual fare. I know having a record label sponsoring a show would seem a bit odd considering artists can be interviewed for free but I think there are other ways we can approach radio and advertising. Sponsorship brings in good money and there are opportunities in the music industry to benefit. Maybe a streaming service or technology company could offer sponsorship money in exchange for some spots on a station. As I said, T.V. channels might be able to do this and, at the very least, we would have a new type of radio station. If a giant like Apple or Spotify were to offer sponsorship then their platform could be promoted – either through bespoke commercials or interviews – but it would also be a good way of bringing playlists and new music to the listeners. I do think radio should be subsidised and adverts are a quick and common way of doing that – are we all getting a bit fed up of them?! Think about the T.V. and how many of stick around for the adverts between shows.

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PHOTO CREDIT: @f7photo  

One has to ask how much custom and new business is being generated by these companies. I think there is a definite market out there and there are a lot of T.V. and radio shows that are sponsored by companies. I do think this is a good way of transitioning from the advert-heavy sound of radio today and a less abrasive approach. Many will point out that, regardless, this is advertising or there is branding at play. It is impossible to completely dispense with promotion and sponsorship – unless you are the BBC! – and money need to come from somewhere. I would not mind seeing a record label, tech company or brand like Sky getting their products boosted if it was done tastefully. In Chris Evans’ case, he is on board but it is not like he is name-checking Sky all of the time and turning into a corporate shill. Instead, we have these shows being promoted and, whilst Sky is mentioned, it is more about the guests being interviewed. I like this approach and feel a lot of radio stations could benefit. It would be hard to roll out straight away but one of the reasons why I listen to the BBC is that absence of adverts. I know a lot of other people are with them for the same reason and, actually, many are flocking from otherwise-good stations because they get annoyed by adverts.

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 IN THIS PHOTO: Chris Evans arrives at the Virgin Radio studios before his debut show/PHOTO CREDIT: PA

It is something to think about I definitely think it would attract more people to the radio in general. As for the rest of Chris Evans’ debut breakfast show on Virgin; it was a blend of new features – Gobsmackers, Golden Oldie and Big Screen Belters (where listeners pick a song from a film soundtrack) - and familiar music. Whereas BBC Radio 6 Music plays from the cooler side of the dial, Virgin are more about the well-known hits and, yes, it is a little homogenous. That is the way the station operates so it would be futile urging them to broaden their playlists. Evans has a new dog it seems and no longer has a Smartphone. He has said (many times) there is no rivalry with Zoë Ball and it seems like all the new breakfast shows are out there and settling in. I wish Evans a lot of luck and I know he has the experience and confidence to make a real success of his time at Virgin. I keeping thinking about that no-adverts policy and it is definitely worth exploring. Radio needs to be funded and supported but are adverts the only option? I do think stations can follow the example of Virgin/Sky and come up with some sort of partnership. It means the listener gets to avoid adverts for insurance companies and comparison websites and, in return, they might be switched on to a new T.V. show, product or album. There is room for change and discussion and I think, in an odd way, Chris Evans’ breakfast show...

IS pretty pioneering!

INTERVIEW: Sun K

INTERVIEW:

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Sun K

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I have been speaking with Kristian of Sun K...

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about the band’s new single, High in the City, and its background; how the band got together and whether the band are influenced by any particular artists – Kristian selects an album that is especially important and meaningful and ends the interview with a great track.

I ask whether Sun K will be touring and what defines the Canadian music scene; which rising acts we need to get behind and, away from the music, there is any chance to chill out and kick back a little bit.

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

Heyo! It's just Kristian here answering this. I’m doing pretty good. The week has been great. We're really excited to have the music video for High in the City out with our new tour dates. Plus, the Leafs and the Raptors both won last night, so, ya know...

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

We're Sun K and we're a Toronto-based Rock 'n' Roll band.

Where did the name, ‘Sun K’, come from and how did the band get together?

Sun K started as a moniker for myself (Kristian) when I was doing solo stuff. It's meant to be a shout-out to the true forefathers of Rock ‘n’ Roll - the Blues and Jazz gods that inspired music of the '60s/'70s and beyond. When I was really digging into the history of music in the twentieth century, I kept coming back to artists like Robert Johnson, Son House; Sun Ra, Bessie Smith...

High in the City is your latest track. Is there a backstory behind this one at all?

This track has actually been kicking around in my demo box for years. I had a Samba version at one point; a lo-fi bedroom Psych-Pop version... I was doing some co-writing with Colin MacDonald from The Trews for this record and, when I showed him this tune, he told me it was a hit and I had to put it on the new album. Lyrically, it's about falling in love with your city and also about...err, how do I say this tactfully (?) - enhancing your mood with some of Canada’s perfectly legal and delectable Jazz-cabbage.

Do you feel there might be an album later in the year?

We'll have new content to share soon but I don't see a full album coming until 2020. 

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Are there any particular artists that inspire Sun K’s sound would you say?

Our first record was a bit more Folk-driven with influences like Neil Young, Wilco and Lou Reed. This record is more rockin’ with more Psych influences - we were listening to bands like The War on Drugs, Tame Impala; Ty Segall and Kurt Vile. I've been pretty into artists like Tyler, the Creator and Post Malone lately, so who knows what L.P. three will sound like.

What would you say are the best qualities of the Canadian music industry?

It's so small that everybody knows everybody. Usually, it's a good thing...

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

Meeting Cone for the first time when he ‘discovered’ me playing to a completely empty bar is pretty high up there. Also, opening for The Sheepdogs to ten-thousand people on N.Y.E. was pretty rad. Opening for Houndmouth last year as well was definitely a big highlight. Looking forward to making more memories!

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

Shuggie Otis - Inspiration Information. It was the soundtrack to my wife and me falling in love.

What advice would you give to new artists coming through?

Make sure you want to do it. Have as much fun as you can but keep your head on straight. Make as many connections as you can and take every piece of advice with a grain of salt. Most importantly, don't get distracted by all the other BS - keep creating, keep writing; keep perfecting what you do. The rest will fall into place. And, if you don't want to do it, cut your hair and get a real job.

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

Tame Impala. My rider would have socks...always need fresh socks on tour. And a portal into Kevin Parker's mind.

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

We've got the High in Your City tour comin’ up in Feb/Mar that spans Ontario, Quebec and the East Coast of Canada.

Might you come and play in the U.K. later in 2019?

We would love to! Know any English bands that would take us on the road?

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 IN THIS PHOTO: Jade Bird/PHOTO CREDIT: Francesca Allen

Are there any new artists you recommend we check out?

Jade Bird is spectacular. So is boygenius. Steve Lacy from The Internet is a new find for me as well.

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 IN THIS PHOTO: boygenius/PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

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

Nahhhhh, not really. Even when I'm doing other stuff I'm still listening to music. I've been getting really into plants hahah and have a sweet little indoor garden that really helps me chill out. My unwinding situation is a little bit like what goes down in our new music video, less biking though..

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).

Aht Uh Mi Head by Shuggie Otis please and thank you

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Follow Sun K

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FEATURE: Remembering Chris Cornell: Will We Hear a Voice Like His Again?

FEATURE:

 

 

Remembering Chris Cornell

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IN THIS PHOTO: The album cover for the 2018 release, Chris Cornell (Deluxe Edition)/IMAGE CREDIT: Spotify

Will We Hear a Voice Like His Again?

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ALTHOUGH the two-year anniversary...

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IMAGE CREDIT: @chriscornell  

of Chris Cornell’s death is on 18th May, I wanted to react to the tribute concert that has just been held in the U.S. There will be a lot of memories shared about Cornell when the anniversary is marked but it seems strange to think that has been gone almost two years. I casually assume he is still around and preparing to releases music! Just before learning of his death, I was wondering when there would be a new Soundgarden album – the last album from the band, King Animal, came out in 2012. I have been a fan of Soundgarden since the 1990s and remembering falling for their grungy sound and incredible power. I sort of connected with their Badmotorfinger (1991)/Superunknown (1994) period but there is a lot of gold to discover from their first two albums too. I remember Badmotorfinger being released: this was the same year as Nirvana’s Nevermind came out and it was an incredible time for U.S. music – this genre, Grunge, was new to me and I was instantly spellbound. I am a huge fan of Nirvana and feel their power was the result of the trio coming together and turning the volume up. To me, Soundgarden’s primary explosion was from Chris Cornell. I grew up listening to a lot Rock bands and Pop artists but nothing as primal and animalistic had arrived into my ears.

I do admire all Soundgarden albums but Superunknown is the standout to me. Badmotorfinger has classics like Rusty Cage and Jesus Christ Pose but Superunknown’s standout, Black Hole Sun, was this strange and dark song that, to an eleven-year-old, was like nothing else! I recall watching the song’s video for the first time on a family holiday and my eyes and mind were blown! Later in life, the album rose to become one of my favourites and, although a lot of the songs deal with depression, anxiety and dark themes, the band are incredible throughout and the central force, Chris Cornell, shines as a lyricist and performer. Maybe Superunknown is not as raw and rough as Badmotorfinger and their earliest work but there are plenty of iconic moments! The record is a seventeen-track, seventy-minute work that, in lesser hands, would be sloppy and pretentious. It is a masterpiece to me because of the endless power and gravitas of Chris Cornell. If he is talking about personal pain or striking out, he is utterly compelling and brings you in – never too heavy or depressing to spark the imagination and get into the heart. In a classic year for music (1994), it would be forgivable for critics to be distracted and overlook Superunknown. Pitchfork reviewed Superunknown’s reissue edition, some twenty years after its release – and they made some interesting observations regarding some of the new recordings and unheard tracks:

You also get a glimpse of the band’s future course with a beautifully spare acoustic treatment of “Like Suicide” that points the way to 1996’s more temperate Down on the Upside, the album that effectively triggered Soundgarden’s subsequent 13-year break-up...

 

But then the go-for-broke, peak-conquering triumphalism of Superunknown was itself a harbinger that the writing was on the wall for this band at the time. When Cornell sings, “Alive in the superunknown” on the album’s acid-swirled title track, it’s both a valorous testament to Soundgarden’s last-gang-in-town fortitude and a telling prophecy of the uncertainty to come, with grunge’s early ’90s stranglehold on alt-rock radio soon to be loosened by the emergence of pop-punk, Britpop, electronica, and nu-metal. But amid a musical landscape now splintered into infinite subgenres, Superunknown remains the very definition of no-qualifiers-required rock—a tombstone for a once-dominant aesthetic, perhaps, but also a solid, immovable mass that endures no matter how dramatically its surroundings have changed”.

Soundgarden would produce two more albums – 1996’s Down on the Upside – but their place in music history was already confirmed. A lot of band leaders often focus on the one project and do not have the time and talent to work in other configurations. Whilst Audioslave and Temple of the Dog did not reach the same popularity of Soundgarden, they were augmented and defined by the epic voice of Chris Cornell. Audioslave released three albums and, whilst they gained mix reviews throughout, Tom Morello, Tim Commerford; Brad Wilk and Chris Cornell reached a new audience – when you have a supergroup that included members of Rage Against the Machine it is unlikely to fail!

Temple of the Dog released only one album – their 1991 eponymous album marked a busy year for Cornell! – but it is stronger and more focused than Audioslave’s efforts. It might be the year it arrived, 1991, but I think the songwriting is stronger and, crucially, the material is better suited to Cornell’s voice. Songs like Say Hello 2 Heaven and Hunger Strike are classics and sort of introduce the sadness and sound that would define Seattle music in the 1990s – showing there was huge depth and sensitivity to be found among the force and shadows. I have whipped through the back catalogue of Chris Cornell and I will end with his solo material. I wanted to talk about his music and life before the two-year anniversary of his death because of the tribute concert that has just been held. Consequence of Sound provided details of the concert that happened last week:

Members of SoundgardenTemple of the Dog, and Audioslave, as well as Foo FightersMetallicaJosh HommeFiona Apple, and Brandi Carlile were all on hand to pay tribute to Chris Cornell as part of an all-star tribute concert held in Los Angeles on Wednesday night. Organized by Cornell’s wife, Vicky, “I Am the Highway: A Tribute to Chris Cornell” featured 42 distinct performances and a multitude of surprises guests, making for an unforgettable evening spanning nearly five hours in length.

The concert began with the Melvins, who performed a six-song set that ended with a cover of Soundgarden’s “Spoonman”...

A little later, Foo Fighters took the stage to cover Soundgarden’s “No Attention”, along with Devo’s “Girl U Want” and Cheech and Chong’s “Earache My Eye”. Dave Grohl then stuck around to perform a solo rendition of Foo Fighters’ signature song, “Everlong.”

The members of Audioslave, minus bassist Tim Commerford, played five songs with five different singers: “Cochise” (with Jane’s Addiction’s Perry Farrell); “Be Yourself” (with Juliette Lewis); “Set It Off” (with Rise Against’s Tim McIlrath); “Like a Stone” (with Brandi Carlile); and “Show Me How to Live” (with Dave Grohl). Black Sabbath’s Geezer Butler and Metallica’s Robert Trujillo were among the bassists who filled in for Commerford.

Metallica rocked four songs, including covers of Soundgarden’s “All Your Lies” and “Head Injury” plus their own “For Whom the Bell Tolls” and “Master of Puppets”. Their set was preceded by Jack Black and James Hetfield performing a brief but playful impromptu rendition of “One”.

Ryan Adams sang two songs, Soundgarden’s “Fell on Black Days” and Cornell’s “Dead Wishes”, while a number of artists performed one song each throughout the night: Queens of the Stone Age’s Josh Homme (“Rusty Cage”); Miley Cyrus (“As Hope and Promise Fade”); Rita Wilson (“The Promise”); Alain Johannes (“Disappearing One”); Chris Stapleton (“The Keeper”); and Adam Levine (“Seasons”), who was accompanied by Pearl Jam’s Stone Gossard.

Cornell’s 14-year-old daughter, Toni, provided one of the night’s tearjerking moments when she sang Bob Marley’s “Redemption Song” with assistance from Ziggy Marley...

IN THIS PHOTO: I Am The Highway: A Tribute to Chris Cornell tribute show at The Forum in Los Angeles/PHOTO CREDIT: @soundgarden/Getty Images  

To close out the night, Soundgarden’s Kim ThayilBen Shepherd, and Matt Cameronshared the stage together for the first time since Cornell’s passing. Taylor Momsen sang lead on three songs, including “Rusty Cage”, “Drawing Flies”, and “Loud Love”. Foo Fighters’ Taylor Hawkins fronted the band for “I Awake” and “The Day I Tried to Live” alongside Melvins’ Buzz Osbourne. For the final performance of the evening, Soundgarden performed “Black Hole Sun” with Brandie Carlile and Peter Frampton.

Jimmy Kimmel served as the master of ceremonies, and many of Cornell’s friends appeared on stage over the course of the evening, including Brad Pitt and Josh Brolin.

Faith No More’s Mike Patton had been added to the bill last week, but unfortunately had to bow out as he was still under the weather after canceling his national anthem performance at an NFL playoff game over the weekend”.

It seems like a random and strange collection of musicians to perform Cornell’s material but the performances are exceptional and touching. One of the highlights was Miley Cyrus singing Chris Cornell’s track, Two Drink Minimum, and Temple of the Dog’s Say Hello 2 Heaven. She puts so much emotion into the song and the fact she is a mainstream, young Pop artist shows how far Cornell’s messages and beauty spread. Iconic figures such as Dave Grohl were there but it was good to see newer artists paying tribute and proving what a cross-generational appeal the late Soundgarden lead had.

It was a justifiably emotional and wonderful way to honour the memory of Cornell and it made me wonder whether we will ever see anyone like him. I recall learning about his death a couple of years back and being stunned. I was at work and actually made a lame excuse so I could get a half-day and go home. When there, I took to the laptop and frantically shared my memories of Cornell. I was stunned to learn he has committed suicide but, rather than drag that up and wonder what was I his mind before he hanged himself, it is best to remember his music. I guess his death opened a lot of eyes: people not aware he was so depressed and wondering whether his anti-anxiety medication contributed somehow. It was a dark day but I have listened a lot to Chris Cornell’s solo work since 2016 – I was mainly hooked on Soundgarden and Audioslave. Cornell released five solo albums and, aside from the terrible Scream (2009), he gained a lot of admiration from critics – impressed he had so many guises and could set out solo. 1999’s Euphoria Morning was a promising debut and it was reviewed retrospectively by AllMusic:

It's a mature album without being overly somber. It could be argued that it sounds a little too mature and possibly a little self-conscious, but that just emphasizes the real craft behind Euphoria MorningCornell knew exactly where he wanted to go as a solo artist, and he's achieved it. If it doesn't satisfy some dyed-in-the-wool Soundgarden fans, that's too bad, since it will undoubtedly win the affections of open-minded listeners who haven't before considered him a serious songwriter or musician”.

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 IMAGE CREDIT: Spotify

2007’s Carry On features the excellent No Such Thing but Scream was a bit of a detour. It tried to mix Electronica and Pop into Cornell’s repertoire and, from the cover of him destroying his guitar to the substandard material, I would advise people avoid the album. 2011’s Songbook is a live album and a truly exceptional demonstration of Cornell’s toned down. You still get the grit and growl from him but, in an acoustic setting, one can hear more sensitivity and range. The record features songs performed during his Songbook Tour and the idea of having this raw animal of a singer embarking on an acoustic solo tour was intriguing – it gained huge reviews and demonstrated what a vast and eclectic talent Cornell was. 2015’s Higher Truth was the final album the world got from Chris Cornell. It is sad to think what would have come next in terms of Soundgarden and solo albums. There is a mellowness and intimacy to the album and ended a phase of his career where he was projecting this more tender, softer and acoustic artist. I love the Soundgarden, Audioslave and Temple of the Dog albums but it was fascinating hearing Cornell in a more intimate and different setting. The album split the critics but I really love it. I think Cornell’s voice is more rounded and nuanced on this album and it hints at a potentially exceptional new direction – one that was sadly cut short only two years later.

Any excuse to play Chris Cornell’s incredible back catalogue is great but it is slightly bittersweet now. I am sad to realise he is gone but I have fond memories of discovering Soundgarden and following this rare and wonderful human. In interviews, Cornell was compassionate, funny and friendly and was always a bit of a dream. He would talk about depression and his past but he was always looking forward and excited regarding the next steps. It was his optimism and tireless work ethic that made him a rare artist. At a time when a lot of legends were slowing down and releasing few albums; Cornell was keeping busy and touring as much as possible. If he were alive today then you know he would have been out there around the world and preparing for a new album. I think Cornell’s is one of those musicians that comes along once in a lifetime. In terms of his voice, literally and lyrically, he is a unique force. The power of his voice is titanic but there are a range of emotions working away in every song. He was never this aimless singer who screamed as loud as he could. Cornell was a much more intelligent, skilled and memorable voice and one, I feel, we will never see equalled! His lyrics were personal and frank but he always seemed to be speaking to people and not pushing them away.

You get the sense Cornell was hiding through his lyrics. He wanted to share them with the world and make connections with others. Even when he was at his most angered and charged, you sort of felt bonded to the song. It is hard to explain but he had this special gift. I hope lots of musicians and fans come together on 18th May and share their Chris Cornell memories. He was this wonderful artists who, even though he is not with us, will continue to inspire and influence generations. I can hear elements of Cornell in new Rock/Alternative bands but there is nobody who can reach the same sort of fever and electricity as the Seattle-born legend. If you are a new discoverer of Cornell then I suggest you start with the early Soundgarden albums and work your way out to his Audioslave work – ending with his solo material. I wanted to end with an interview snippet and found this one from The Guardian in 2009. Cornell was talking about his album, Scream, and his musical background:

The Soundgarden song Rusty Cage addressed Cornell’s refusal to be imprisoned by convention; some things haven’t changed. Although grunge is showing signs of coming back, one of its prime movers is unlikely to reform. “When you start your first band and it has an impact on the rest of the world you go through a lot with those guys and you become very protective of that legacy,” he says of Soundgarden. “For us to do anything else would risk tarnishing that legacy, which is partly why we stopped. As a performer, I’m able to do what I want, and what I’m doing now feels good”.

Cornell was never about convention and was keen not to tarnish the legacy of bands like Soundgarden. Even though Soundgarden would release King Animal in 2012, it is clear Cornell loved music and was keen to keep it as pure and strong as possible. There are one or two so-so albums in his cannon but when he was at his very best – the glory days of Soundgarden, for instance – he was simply unstoppable. It has been almost two years since his death and there is no way the brilliance of his work will ever rust and lose its genius. Artists will come and go but, no matter how many arrive, it is clear there will be never be...

PHOTO CREDIT: Casey Curry/Invision/AP

ANOTHER gem like Chris Cornell.

FEATURE: Stayin’ Alive: When the Saturday Night Fever Soundtrack Ruled the Charts

FEATURE:

 

 

Stayin’ Alive

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IMAGE CREDIT: Spotify 

When the Saturday Night Fever Soundtrack Ruled the Charts

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TOMORROW is a bit of a big anniversary...

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IN THIS PHOTO: John Travolta (Anthony ‘Tony’ Manero) in a still from Saturday Night Fever (1977)/PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images 

because it remembers the start of an incredible chart run! The soundtrack of Saturday Night Fever started a twenty-four week spell at the top of the U.S. album charts - and would go on to sell over thirty millions copies! Those sales figures would make it the top-selling soundtrack ever and it is amazing to think how ageless it sounds. Many might argue the fact it is Disco-heavy and belongs to the 1970s means it holds no relevance today. I feel Disco has never really died and many artists today incorporate Disco elements into their music. It was inevitable Disco would be phased out and replaced by movements like Punk but I have never subscribed to the notion that it was a cheesy and rather ridiculous style of music. You do not really need to know much about the John Travolta-starring film to fall for the soundtrack and the incredible music throughout. The film was released in December of 1977 and the soundtrack came out the following month. The fact the soundtrack is over forty years old is shocking to me. I love the music throughout and feel, at a time when albums are maybe less important to some people, we went nuts for Saturday Night Fever! John Badham directed the film and it sees a working-class man, Tony Manero (John Travolta), spend his free time dancing at a Brooklyn disco.

Karen Lynn Gorney played Stephanie Mangano, his dance partner, and they would (in the film) fall in love. It centres on the club/disco and the amazing arc of the lead. Manero’s friends and allies support him as he has to cope with a dead-end job and his unsupportive parents; racial tensions in the community and a general feeling of restlessness (the story is based upon a 1976 New York Magazine article by British writer Nik Cohn, Tribal Rites of the New Saturday Night).  If we’re talking about classic Travolta films of the 1970s then I’d plump for Grease (1978). It was clear that 1977-1978 period was lucrative and stunning for Travolta. He was able to shine in these two roles but, to many, Saturday Night Fever is a bit coarse, lewd and controversial. Its sexual content and free will regarding bad language did cause some controversy but the central story and the fantastic soundtrack won hearts around the world. The film became a big success and continues to win new fans but I feel its soundtrack is even stronger! It is said the producers, when thinking of the music, wanted to use Boz Scaggs’ Lowdown in the scene where we see Manero and Mangano rehearse in the dance studio. The label, Columbia Records, did not give permission to use the song and it fell to composer David Shire to fill in the gaps and come to the rescue. Many people have their favourite scenes from Saturday Night Fever but I cannot help think of the film and those iconic soundtrack songs.

The Bee Gees did not get involved until post-production and, when you see various scenes, other songs were played whilst filming. Producer Robert Stigwood approached the Bee Gees to write music for the soundtrack and the band was a bit wary. They were recording in France on a new album and were told about this new film that needed music. There is debate regarding Saturday Night Fever’s completeness and when the Bee Gees came in. It is evident the film was underway before they were contacted and the brothers wrote the songs practically in a single weekend. When they presented songs like More Than a Woman and If I Can’t Have You, the producers liked the songs but wanted something more Disco-heavy and upbeat. The Gibb brothers set to write a song called Saturday but, knowing there were a lot of songs with that title, changed it to Stayin’ Alive. If the music came after the film started to roll, it is hard to think of Saturday Night Fever and have all the classics dancing in the head! The impact of the soundtrack was immediate in the U.S. The Bee Gees were not aware that songs such as Night Fever and How Deep Is Your Love would appear on the soundtrack as they thought they were just recording a regular Bee Gees record! There are some other previously released Disco songs on the record but it the Bee Gees’ cuts that stand out hardest.

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 IN THIS PHOTO: The Bee Gees/PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

It was no surprise to see the soundtrack win a Grammy Award for Album of the Year in 1978 and was the first Disco record to win that award! Because it sounds so much like a Bee Gees album – and there are not vocal snippets throughout like a soundtrack – it has gained huge acceptance and acclaim and is ranked alongside ‘traditional’ studio albums by critics. The soundtrack for Saturday Night Fever is often viewed as one of the finest albums ever and helped keep Disco alive – it gave it a new lease and introduced the genre/movement to a new generation. When reviewing the soundtrack retrospectively, AllMusic had this to say:

Every so often, a piece of music comes along that defines a moment in popular culture history: Johann Strauss' operetta Die Fledermaus did this in Vienna in the 1870s; Jerome Kern's Show Boat did it for Broadway musicals of the 1920s, and the BeatlesSgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band album served this purpose for the era of psychedelic music in the 1960s. Saturday Night Fever, although hardly as prodigious an artistic achievement as those precursors, was precisely that kind of musical phenomenon for the second half of the '70s. Ironically, before its release, the disco boom had seemingly run its course, primarily in Europe, and was confined mostly to black culture and the gay underground in America. Saturday Night Fever, as a movie and an album, plus a brace of hit singles off of it, suddenly made disco explode into mainstream, working- and middle-class America with a new immediacy and urgency, increasing its audience ten-fold overnight”.

 

They share my views regarding the breakdown of songs and the fact that, in essence, it is a Bee Gees record:

Despite the presence of other artists, Saturday Night Fever is virtually indispensable as a Bee Gees album, not just for the presence of an array of songs that were hits in their own right -- and which became the de facto soundtrack to a half-decade of pop culture history -- but because it offered the Gibb Brothers as composers as well as artists, with their work recorded by Yvonne Elliman ("If I Can't Have You"), and Tavares ("More Than a Woman"), and it placed their music alongside the work of Kool & the Gang and MFSB. In essence, the layout of the soundtrack was the culmination of everything they'd been moving toward since the Mr. Natural album. Even the presence of David Shire's "Night on Disco Mountain" and "Salsation," and Walter Murphy's "A Fifth of Beethoven," don't hurt, because these set a mood and a surrounding ambience for the Bee Gees' material that makes it work even better”.

Pitchfork, in 2012 – spoke about the album’s highlights but also cautioned listeners that it is not an album that perfectly documents Disco – more an accompaniment and something that has a few gaps:

With its snaking instrumental melody and sneaking beat, opener "Stayin' Alive" is all cocksure strut, even separated from Travolta's stroll through the credits, and "Night Fever" and "You Should Be Dancin'" have an urgency that makes dancin' seem like a life-or-death imperative. Their portion of the soundtrack forms a condensed hits package that few bands of the era can rival...

Ultimately, Saturday Night Fever doesn't disregard disco's underground origins so much as it simply sublimates them to the mainstream white experience. As a soundtrack, it works perfectly well, immersing listeners in the music (and therefore the spirit) of the film while selling more tickets. But as a pop-cultural document, it is significantly flawed, not only linked to a midlevel movie but also unable to fully capture the movement with which it has been so strongly identified. Thirty years later, after the ugly DISCO SUCKS trend and countless revivals both sincere and ironic, the appeal of Saturday Night Fever seems squarely nostalgic, but whatever its impact then or now, there is some amazing music on here-- and even more beyond”.

If you do not see Saturday Night Fever’s incredible soundtrack as the ultimate Disco compilation then you will be fine. Sure, there are compilations out there that are more authoritative, authentic and diverse but the beauty of this world-straddling soundtrack is not whether it defined Disco and made it immortal: the wonderful songs and the way it connected with people is what we need to remember. The songs throughout the album are tremendous. I am a big fan of Stayin’ Alive and think it is one of the best Disco songs ever. I also have a lot of time for the slower numbers such as If I Can’t Have You and it goes to show Disco was not just about boogie and big flares – there was sensitivity and maturity to be found.

Maybe the stellar soundtrack of Saturday Night Fever was not strong enough to save Disco and keep it burning but I think it a great introduction to those new to the genre. It is accessible and fronted by a band most of us know. The songs are all instant and fantastic and some of the lesser-known cuts – such as Kool & the Gang performing Open Sesame – are well worth listening to. I am not surprised the soundtrack stayed high in the U.S. charts for weeks and weeks because it is so catchy and it pays tribute to the legendary Disco scene. For those who attacked Disco and felt it was a bad time need to get their ears around the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack and ask whether anything like this exists today. Maybe there are some artists who take bits of the music and make it their own but there is a big hole in the industry that is crying out for Disco. Maybe we do not need to see a return of the big hair, huge shows and some of the tensions of that time but the essence, the fun and infectiousness, needs to make a return. I realise Saturday Night Fever did highlight issues such as racism and it gained a lot of negative press due to its language, sex and violence but one cannot deny the soundtrack is a magnificent thing that has remained dear since 1978. I hear people talking about it today and that amazes me. Many classic albums are not talked about over four decades since their release so it makes Saturday Night Fever’s soundtrack all the more extraordinary!

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IMAGE CREDIT: Getty Images 

I will end things in a bit but I have been thinking about other classic film soundtracks – including those from Grease, Pulp Fiction and Purple Rain – and wonder whether any have taken on a life of their own the same way Saturday Night Fever’s (soundtrack) did. Even though it is forty-one-year-old, I can play the tracks on there and they do not necessarily seem rooted to a distinct and rigid time and place. You do not need to be a Disco expert to understand what is going down and, in many ways, the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack will compel listeners to investigate Disco deeper and get involved with many of the definitive and essential compilations. Saturday Night Fever’s soundtrack has been added to the National Recording Registry in the Library of Congress for being culturally significant. Disco would die out from 1979 so, in many ways, this year marks forty years since its demise. Thanks to the Bee Gees, a year before its execration, Disco was provided this fine and legendary soundtrack that accompanied a pretty remarkable film. I play the soundtrack if I need a boost and cannot help but jive and jig to its infectious grooves, arms-aloft giddiness and the sheer vitality of the music! If you want to mark forty-one years since the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack began its rule in the U.S. charts then put it on, put the headphones on and get lost...

IN a simply wonderful album.

INTERVIEW: Natalie Shay

INTERVIEW:

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Natalie Shay

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MY final interview of the weekend is with Natalie Shay...

who has been talking about her new single, Yesterday. I ask how the song started life and whether she might release more material later this year; how she got started in music and whether there are particular albums that are important to her.

Shay recommends a rising artist to look out for and reveals where we can see her play; what her favourite period from her career has been and the advice she would offer artists emerging right now – she ends the interview by selecting a pretty cool song.

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

Hey! I’m well. This week has been crazy, but in a good way!

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

I’m Natalie Shay. I’m twenty and from London. I play guitar and the music I make is kinda Indie-Pop/Rock. 

Can you reveal the story behind your new single, Yesterday?

Yesterday is about being in a one sided relationship. The song is written from the point of view of when you’re finally realising that this is a waste of time; nothing is ever going to happen and that you can do better. 

It has already been received well and featured on Spotify playlists. How humbling and important is it knowing that?

The song got featured on nine New Music Friday playlists, including the U.K. It also just hit 50,000 streams! I never expected any of this because, as an unsigned artist, there’s a certain level of uncertainty when releasing a song. This has been such a brilliant response and has made all the work worthwhile. 

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

Definitely more material this year. Not sure what or when but watch this space. 

Have you got a plan of attack for this year? What do you want to achieve by the end of the year?

This year, I plan to play more festivals; write and release more music. But, most of all, work with a lot of new people. 

How do you think you have grown and changed as an artist since your early days?

When I started music, I wore a flower headband and played Country songs that were six minutes long. I wouldn’t say I’ve really ‘progressed’, as I’m doing something completely different now, but I’ve definitely grown up and think that my music has matured with me. 

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Was there a particular moment you knew you wanted to be a songwriter? Did you grow up around a lot of music?

My dad’s a huge music fan but not a musician. He got me classical guitar lessons from the age of five so I’ve always been playing music and doing musical theatre. I think, after I got accepted into the BRIT School, I finally believed in myself doing music as a career.  

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

This is the honest truth: this whole week has been the best part of my entire career. 

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

Little Comets - Life Is Elsewhere

Because they are the best songwriters in the world and I cannot fault a single song they’ve released. 

Taylor Swift Fearless

The album that made me start writing songs. 

Kate Nash - Made of Bricks

The first ‘big girls’ album I ever got - even though my mum wouldn’t let me listen to any of the songs with swear words in until many years later. 

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

I would support Little Comets. Best band ever. They inspire me so much and they’re so humble and good people. As a rider, I’d choose twenty bags of Mini Eggs and a pint of milk. 

What advice would you give to new artists coming through?

Advice: stay true to yourself. Only make the music you enjoy making because - then it’s far more rewarding when it does well.  

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

My first headline show is on 2nd February in London at Thousand Island. There are still a few tickets left so grab one fast. Ticket link on my website or just search ‘Natalie Shay tickets’. 

 IN THIS PHOTO: Jade Bird

Are there any new artists you recommend we check out?

I would recommend checking out Jade Bird. She went to school with me and she’s incredible and doing so well. 

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

I hardly ever unwind. Music is so time-consuming (but I love it). When I do unwind, it’s just by hanging out with friends. 

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).

Little Comets - M62

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Follow Natalie Shay

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TRACK REVIEW: Violet Skies - Is She Gonna Be There?

TRACK REVIEW:

 

Violet Skies

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Is She Gonna Be There?

 

9.3/10

 

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The track, Is She Gonna Be There?, is available via:

https://open.spotify.com/track/08smskvqoahjcKhbUqZDME?si=SSX4U-qYTpCMj7bzNOvDxQ

ORIGIN:

South Wales, U.K.

GENRES:

Pop/Alternative/Electro

RELEASE DATE:

18th January, 2019

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THIS review finds me picking up on a great artist...

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PHOTO CREDIT: @IAmVioletSkies

but I also have to raise a few issues to start with. This might sound more and more like a broken record – and everything else I write will be glowing – but I am coming back to information and images. The latter is not a huge issue if I have autonomy but, many times, a P.R. agency/management will impose limits on photos used for reviews and what is available. That is okay if there are quite a few but, in the case of Violet Skies, there are two publicity images relating to her latest single, Is She Gonna be There? The song’s images are phone-themed and there is a distinct style but, if there are a couple of images, it means the reviews will be quite short. I appreciate there are many out there who pen short reviews and two images is enough but for me, I require a few more because I like to go deep. Having a limit does stifle somewhat and, whilst every single/album is entitled to a theme, maybe having more options in terms of the number of photos is wise. This is not something dictated by Violet Skies herself. In fact, it is an issue I am finding with a lot of P.R. companies: going to an artist direct usually yields more images and a bit more flexibility. Maybe it is all part of the marketing and music machine – the teaser clips, the images; the lyric video before the actual video; the way the song is promoted and the words used – but I like to just tear apart a song and actually get right in there. This means my pieces are longer and I do require a bit more imagery. I know how photogenic Violet Skies is and she is someone who shines on camera. I know she has a few images on her social media feeds but a few more images would be good and it would allow journalists like me more of an option and give pieces more illustration.

 PHOTO CREDIT: @IAmVioletSkies

The same can be applied to biography and personal information. I mentioned this yesterday – and most reviews – but so many artists have a couple of lines on their social media and it does not say where they came from; what music infuses them and inspires their mind; how they plan on evolving and where they are headed. I do not require much but a little paragraph that gives me something to work from. I did approach Violet Skies’ management for photos and information but there were only two images available (that were never sent) and I am still waiting for the biography/info. I have had to work from what is available on social media and go from there. Again, this is not artist-specific but Violet Skies is an illuminating and great new artists who is starting to turn heads. The music can capture minds and reaction but you need the information and detail to go alongside. I do hope there will be new shoots and some detail regarding her past, present and influences because I would not bother to get too worried if I thought she could not make it – the fact she is so promising means many want to know more about her and who she is. I shall leave aside the constructive bits and look to the positive when it comes to her music. I have mentioned images and looks – not in any seedy way – and how some artists can just stand out from the crowd. Violet Skies has clear star quality and I feel she is one of those artists who will inspire in years to come. It is hard to put my finger on but the songwriter has a distinct style and image that captivates and hooks you in. She connects well with her fans on social media and, before I move to look at her latest song, I will address a few things.

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 PHOTO CREDIT: @IAmVioletSkies

It is hard to explore newer artists because they have less in the tank and it is easier to discuss established musicians. When thinking of Violet Skies, the first thing that comes to mind is her nationality. The Welsh songwriter is proud of being from the country – and why wouldn’t you?! – but I do not often get to look at a Welsh musician. It is strange to think but the media does not really focus on much music outside of England and the U.S. That may sound all-sweeping but it has been a very long time since I read a paper or looked online and there was much coverage of Welsh acts. I suppose Boy Azooga and Gruff Rhys have been talked about; Gwenno is an exciting artists but, apart from them, I cannot name too many that make the music pages. It is sad to see countries ignored because, as anyone will tell you, Wales has always provided great music. You do not need me to tell you the fantastic artists who hail from there but there is this assumption the new breed migrate and do not stick around. That is so far from the truth! There is plenty of native wonder and so much interesting music. I think South Wales, where Violet Skies is from, is the most productive and eclectic but that would be too restrictive. Investigate the whole nation and you will find richness and interesting sounds wherever you go. There are so many promising newcomers (like Adwaith) but there is not that link between the press in London and Wales. By that, I mean the biggest music publications and sites are not looking to Wales and picking out what is being recommended. Does this mean artists have to leave Wales and come to England?

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That may sound drastic but I am finding those great Welsh acts are actually remaining put. Violet Skies is someone who loves where she is – I hope – and is getting attention because she puts stuff out online. I do wonder whether the fact people like me are finding her is because of a certain intuition and luck. Her music is fantastic and, although she is quite new, her stable is more developed and refined than a lot of artists who are getting a bigger shout. I can only think that is because of the location of Violet Skies. Events like the Welsh Music Prize celebrate the best Welsh albums every year and last year saw the prize go to Boy Azooga for 1,2, Kung Fu! I love that album but there were other artists on the shortlist – including Bryde and Seazoo – who deserved a nod. I know these artists will be successful but I do worry it takes award ceremonies and big events to get people talking about them. I am a big lover of Welsh music and dread this divide that has always been in place. I think most of the national award shows here do tend to be bias towards London and it is annoying when entire nations are missed out of things. One reason why Welsh acts remain where they are is because there is a warmth and connection among artists. Labels and bands are supporting each other; there are great stations that are keen to back and spotlight great new music and there is no shortage of unity. We need to redress the imbalance at the moment and make sure countries like Wales are not overlooked. Violet Skies, like many Welsh acts, is hard to pin down and she goes beyond the expected. Maybe that is the defining characteristic of a Welsh artist: they have an original aspect and tone but their music can easily slot into the brain. I think that is a good moment to break from this subject and discuss Violet Skies’ sound.

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In the modern time, it is hard to be THAT different and unique. The market is set up and there is a demand for a particular sound. By this, a lot of artists are presenting the same sort of thing and presenting their own stamp on it. A lot of times it is Electronic and Pop blends and a particular lyrical style – I do wonder whether we will get anything radical and rebellious in modern music. Violet Skies could easily have copied a peer or looked on Spotify playlists and written a song based around what is trending there. So many new artists seem to write their songs to specific designs and many are writing for playlists and popularity rather than what is meaningful to them. Violet Skies knows that, today, artists do need to be aware of what is popular but she allows plenty of her own inspiration and tastes to come into the music. Looking at the list of influences on Violet Skies’ Facebook page and I can see everyone from Joni Mitchell to Fatboy Slim. Is She Gonna Be There?, at this stage, is a song to get her to the next level and nestle among her contemporaries. If she were too bold and diverse with her music then it might alienate her and mean she is confined to the boundaries. I love her latest single and will talk more about it but I can see her breaking from the expected road and blending some of her idols into her upcoming sounds. It is important artists have an identity and their own mould but that does not mean they need to be narrow and rigid with style. I have been following Violet Skies for a bit and she is someone who changes and evolves between releases. I can see her, if there is more music coming this year, looking at different genres and areas of music. What might we get from her if she does splice other sounds?

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I love the fact Violet Skies is compelled by a broad range of sounds and she does not keep her record collection limited. I would love to see this blossom and explode in future songs because I genuinely think she is someone who has that desire and wants to experiment. Her existing songs are fantastic and interesting but, for upcoming releases, might she be thinking in other directions and seeing where her music can go? The industry is busy and it is hard to stand out considering what a flood of newness comes out way every week. Many have accused modern music of lacking flair and anything fun and I do feel like there is a bit of a fatigue and over-familiarity when you encounter new acts. Maybe it is the lyrics being plodding and inconsequential or the vocal not having much emotion or colour. Sometimes, it is the song itself that does not strike and impress or maybe it is the production. In any case, it is very easy to forget a lot of new acts. I listen to Violet Skies and there is that combination of assured and different current sounds together with that future potential. Right now, her music walks that line between Spotify/playlist-ready and personal. By that, I mean she knows what the industry wants but that does not mean she is compromising and playing it safe. There is so much to love about Is There Gonna Be There? I listen to the song and my mind is taking in different directions. The subject matter is quite broad – lies and dislocation in love; a lack of faith and seeing questions – but it would be easy to just repeat what is already out there. The song’s title itself is intriguing and is not the usual cliché-ridden/boring ones we usually get. I will talk about the song in detail when I get there but I like the compositional shifts and the lyrical direction of the track.

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 PHOTO CREDIT: @IAmVioletSkies

The heroine looks at the hero in his sleep and there is almost a film-like projection. Rather than write rather uninspired lines and lack imagination, Violet Skies has this way with words that amazes me. She has seen her share of heartache and could easily have put anger and a lot of lazy words together. It is clear she’s a songwriter that takes her time and comes at things from a different angle. We get a track that could only really come from her. The genre/market she is in – Pop and Electro – is the most competitive and full out there and it is so hard to stand out. Whilst I yearn for some Beastie Boys-like acts to come along or something that is foreign to everything out, I know there is a lot to be said of what is already around. I have been tracking Violet Skies’ career and she always seems to approach songwriting with consideration and intelligence. If the lack of biography means I have to work a bit harder it does at least mean I focus on the music and find guidance there. I can get a sense of who Violet Skies is from her songs and what drives her. When talking about love, there is a maturity and fortitude that bellies her years. If her story of doubt and romantic confusion does sound common to many, the way she sings and how the song comes together might speak more to her roots. I am interested to see whether there is any connection between a song’s/artist’s musical angle and where they come from. Many living in the city, when they talk about love, seem to be more harried, strained and urgent than those that come from smaller areas. This might be a generalisation but I am seeing a pattern emerge. I review a lot of artists from London and, although the music is great, you can detect a lyrical pattern. So many songs that talk of love put their heart out there and there is less subtlety than I would like.

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Again, maybe this is me coming up with my own theory but I find artists from small towns or less populous parts of the world are free to breathe, think and come at the subject in a new way. Violet Skies asks questions and she ponders. She watches the boy sleep and, rather than attack and play the victim, she is showing a dignity and sort of telling him what he is missing. The song is complex and you can come up with your own viewpoint. To me, the heroine is fighting against claims of jealousy and trying to get through to the sweetheart. He is someone who is with another but cannot see what is good for him. I do think many people will be able to understand Is She Gonna Be There? but there is that mystery lingering. By the end of the song, you do sort of wonder whether she found satisfaction and why the song came to be. Is it based on a true romance or has she watched this happen to someone else? If you ask these sorts of questions by the end of a song then it shows you have been listening and paying attention. So many tracks fly by and you do not connect because they lack that sense of story and personality. I should move on to the song itself and get down to it but I wanted to cover a few points that are relevant to Violet Skies. I hope more details do come to her social media pages because she is a fascinating woman and someone who is stronger and more determined than most artists out there. I know she will be success and I hope the mainstream media look her way and shine a light on the great music emerging from Wales. Let’s get to the business of Is She Gonna Be There? It is a confident and nuanced track that, one hopes, will find a mate later in the year – might we see a Violet Skies E.P. very soon?

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 PHOTO CREDIT: @IAmVioletSkies

There is both definitive declaration and ambiguity in the opening lines of Is She Gonna Be There? The hero says things are over and it is through but our heroine is not sure. So many Pop songs throw big compositions into your face and start songs with a real burst. This means you are smothered by volume and it can be hard to connect right away. Here, we get the vocal with very little intrusion and it allows this rather interesting contradiction to emerge. You think, at once, here are two lovers who share history and are just going through a bad time. It is not obvious whether the man has strayed but I get the feeling they are both tired and need some time to recharge their batteries. Violet Skies tells us about this other girl that her man is hiding. She, apparently, is quite cool and someone that seems very similar to the heroine. It appears, therefore, the man has dated someone similar to Violet Skies and it does not seem to make sense. The duo is together but it seems like they are strangers when together. There are insecurities and questions circling in her mind and it is interesting asking why the relationship has taken this turn. It is when the chorus comes through, and that question is asked, and this sensual and tender vocal emerges. It is soft and teeming with emotion. This new girl seems like a temporary high and it is doubtful whether she has the same sense of loyalty and commitment as Violet Skies. When asking whether the new love will be there, you almost feel like the heroine is stifling anger and this confusion. It is not jealousy we hear here: this is a genuine surprise and loss that is being presented with maturity, rationality and patience.

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The heroine does not want to keep the man at home – she is not a bitch and controlling, as she says – but all of this is making her feel a bit sick. It is stressful watching this possible/new relationship come together. Rather than go on the offensive and attack the other women, our heroine needs some time away and is definitely not willing to beg. In many ways, Is She Gonna Be There? can be compared to a lot of modern Pop artists; it has a definite comforting familiarity but it is the lyrics that set things apart. I love the way the story unfolds and how Violet Skies narrates. You get this balance of heartache and stress combined with a need to move on and get some space. That is not to say Violet Skies is forgetting her man and moving on quickly. She cannot get too involved and stressed because it is a rather tricky threesome and there are these unanswered questions regarding the breakdown and why things are going this way. She narrated us through these dates and happenings and, why things seem safe and secure on the surface, there are these tensions. The heroine is wondering about the other girl and what she is offering him. In many ways, we get a rather classic story. It is that age-old mystery as to why some relationships break down and why they go after people who seem, in the flesh, to be inferior and less reliable. That is the feeling I got here and, with every line, that urgent questions is underlined and emphasised. The composition remains fairly light and does not get too high up the mix. There are beats and electronic elements but they are fairly uncluttered. What this does is provide some physicality and direction but the vocal remains the most important aspect. You get this strong and impassioned performance that is trying to make sense of things and cannot find any logic behind it all. As things continue, I wonder how involved the man and this other woman are.

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PHOTO CREDIT: @IAmVioletSkies

Her name is being mentioned a lot – and this makes the heroine edgy and concerned – but it is never said whether there is an affair happening or the other woman is too much in the picture. Perhaps there is this friendship happening that has the potential to translate into a relationship. I guess it is up to your own imagination how involved they are and whether it is a case of them getting too close or there being something to it. I get the feeling the man is playing around and not being that honest. Violet Skies certainly feels there is reason to be wary and she is not being paranoid. I started to sympathise with her because it seems like she is getting the short end of the stick! The biggest takeaway I got from the song was that mystery and how things resolved. Violet Skies has the answer to that but, in many ways, the listener is free to speculate and wonder how things worked out. It is sad to see the cracks formed already but maybe there was a resolution. It seems, alas, things did take a turn for the worse and this other woman has become too much of a permanent fixture. The man seems naïve and rather insensitive throughout and I was wondering whether he was being deliberately brash – flaunting her whilst dating Violet Skies – or felt he was he was not crossing any lines. He may feel it is only friendship and it is okay to get that close with another woman. I do feel like there is this moral and ethical line crossed and there is no just cause for the break-up. Perhaps they have had their troubles before but has something come between them that could justify what is happening?! That is the beauty regarding Is She Gonna Be There? and its message: one wonders what started all of this and, actually, if Violet Skies found some peace and answers. It is obvious we have a strong song that has the potential to translate across multiple radio stations. It is cool and ‘young’ enough to spike the interests of BBC Radio 1 but has that BBC Radio 6 Music quality; a universal quality that could see it played on BBC Radio 2 and, in fact, there are no real limits! It is exciting to see just how far Is She Gonna Be There? can go and how many people it reaches.

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PHOTO CREDIT: @IAmVioletSkies

I have chatted about Violet Skies and tried to drill down to who she is but I think the music itself is the only real way we can find out things. Violet Skies has a great bond with her fans on social media and she keeps her pages updated and informed. She is one of these artists who likes to have that relationship and knows what is needed. I guess, with more material, we will see the images multiply and get new sides to the Welsh songwriter. I love what she is doing and know, with or without that, she will get where she needs to go. It might be early days but let’s not rule out a possibly huge year right now. It is evident she has a real determination and passion for what she does and this needs to be teamed with great music. Luckily, we have someone who can provide an accessible and modern sound but she has her own brand. As I mooted earlier, I think some of those influences could come in to future recordings. Think about Violet Skies going acoustic and Folk; some bigger beats and some Jazz tones. She has a love for great singers and songwriters and I feel, when she becomes more established, it will free her up to broaden and bring new genres together. I think she is someone who can be multifarious and brave without losing fans and, instead, winning new hearts. It is always a gamble when modern music has such a way of working. So many artists are tied by marketing campaigns and release schedules. Many labels and playlists only like a particular type of music and I wonder how many new artists feel reserved about kicking out and trying something new. Violet Skies is an exceptional songwriter and I do not feel like I paid enough attention to her voice. A lot of times, I can compare someone to someone else and you hear that similarity. When it comes to Violet Skies, it is hard to link her with another artist. Switching from soulful and tender to more angered and intense – here is a singer who has the arsenal and range in her pocket to take her music all over the shop! I shall leave things here but recommend people listen to Is She Gonna Be There? as there will be plenty more from Violet Skies. Her current offering is, perhaps, her finest and most assured work and that points at a very bright future. If she keeps on this path and puts out music as strong as this then it will not be long until...

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 PHOTO CREDIT: @IAmVioletSkies

HER gig schedule is very busy indeed.

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Follow Violet Skies

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FEATURE: Survival and Human Nature: Is 2019 the Most Important Year Yet for Madonna?

FEATURE:

 

 

Survival and Human Nature

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IN THIS PHOTO: Madonna in a promotional shot for her 1994 album, Bedtime Stories/PHOTO CREDIT: Patrick Demarchelier

Is 2019 the Most Important Year Yet for Madonna?

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I might have to impose a bit of a limit...

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  IMAGE CREDIT: Spotify 

when it comes to mentioning certain artists om my site! I said the same about Kate Bush but I feel it is only right to mention a big event or anniversary – you never know what is happening with her so never know how many times you’ll be compelled to take to the laptop! The same can be said of Madonna. Given the fact she turned sixty last year, I had cause to look back at her career and investigate her legacy from different angles. A couple of her albums celebrated big anniversaries (the thirty-fifth of her debut and twenty years of Ray of Light) and I went a bit Mads-mad at times! This year, in fact, might be busier still. I will come to look at her new endeavours and changes but I think 2019 is a year when Madonna’s past work gets seen in a new light. There are several albums that are marking some big anniversaries. Like a Prayer is often considered her strongest album and was a moment where she ascended from the ranks of Pop-queen-in-waiting to a full-out Queen of Pop. The way she managed to rise from this traditional-if-special Popstar to someone who took music to a new level...that all happened in 1989. The title cut from the album – and its video – caused a bit of a stir but, to those who value music over making a fuss, we were presented with this mature, accomplished and stunning artist who had made the transformation from a commercial act to somebody who had genuine edge and a design plan…

Things would change and go in a different direction by 1992 but 1989 marked a crucial time in Madonna’s life: she ended the decade with a genius record and confirmed her place as the leader of the Pop market. Madonna’s fourth album talked about her Catholicism and family and found Madonna taking a much bigger role regarding co-writing. On 21st March, we mark thirty years of Like a Prayer and recall a moment when Madonna got a long-awaited wave of critical affection. Another reason why I feel Madonna’s albums will pick up extra acclaim this year is because of the state of modern Pop. There is accusation it is bland and lacks any real punch at a time when the world is divided – should musicians not be talking about something much more substantial and deep in these times? If you want to go for the commercial pound then why not make something more upbeat and addictive? Look at Like a Prayer and we switch between affecting and personal – Like a Prayer and Oh Father – to the Pop fun and brilliance of Cherish and Express Yourself. One can learn so much from the album and I think modern Pop artists – and those in other genres – need to take it to heart and realise why it is such a revelation. Even though it nearly thirty, it sounds ageless and works as a textbook for mainstream leaders and new artists alike.

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  IMAGE CREDIT: Spotify

Two more albums mean Madonna will be celebrated and explored. Maybe Like a Prayer is the biggest anniversary but what about Bedtime Stories (1994) and Like a Virgin (1984)? We have to wait until 12th November to mark thirty-five years of Like a Virgin but it will be a nice way to end the year! Recorded at Power Station Studios; Madonna had to follow her promising debut album with something that took her music to the next level. She has dismissed her debut as something akin to aerobic music and a bit too twee – all bounce but not as edgy as she would want. It would take another album or two before she shed her cleaner and more commercial skin but Like a Virgin is an important and influential album. We usually mark albums from artists like Madonna with songs on the radio or brief articles but I feel 2019 is a time when her work will be picked up by new listeners and will grow in stature. I am not suggesting music’s mainstream is in crisis but it lacks direction. Who are the Pop leaders and the icons of the next generation? Fake fur Madonnas like Lady Gaga – an exceptional artist but stronger being herself rather than follow Madonna – are promising and great but there is nobody out there who is making those timeless Pop gems and songs that stay in the mind. Perhaps it is the times in which we live but there is a yearning for classic Pop and an artist who can go from the same progression as Madonna.

The Queen of Pop was becoming more confident and direct with her image/music. Unlike the sweet and innocent cover of MadonnaLike a Virgin is a sexier and more memorable cover! Madonna debuted her Like a Virgin single at the MTV Video Music Awards on 14th September, 1984 in a wedding dress! How many artists today would appear at a music video award show in that attire?! It is another lesson to learn from Madonna and proof that, by 1984, she was standing out on her own. Tracks like Material Girl, Like a Virgin; Dress You Up and Pretender showed greater range coming into Madonna’s work and she gained great reviews. She proved she was no one-hit wonder and had this unassailable knack for performing instant Pop gems. In November, when we mark Like a Virgin’s birthday, it is a chance to look back at the sophomore Madonna album and will give guidance to Pop artists who are in a similar position – at a rather stagnant time, Madonna’s first breakthrough helped transform the Pop scene and brought new elements in. Maybe it is a minor footnote when we compare Like a Virgin to her bigger albums but few can overlook how important it was and the fact there were insatiable gems throughout. If you want a third album that can be instructional to artists around then look at 1994’s Bedtime Stories. I have written about this a lot but it was the follow-up to her exceptional, if controversial, 1992 release, Erotica.

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 IMAGE CREDIT: Spotify

The reason this anniversary is important is because of the way a huge Pop artist managed to come back from a controversial time in her life – a lot of sexual content was being judged by the media and many wondered whether she was trying to be provocative and shock too much – and turn things arrive. Bedtime Stories is an underrated album because, in many ways, it was about recovery rather than a huge leap and this media-courting record. Human Nature is a single that addressed the ‘scandal’ from her Sex book and Erotica – cheekily asking whether musicians could talk about sex – and proved Madonna was not a neutered house cat. It is the sheer class, maturity and grace that can be found on Bedtime Stories that arrests me. I am thinking about Take a Bow: a track that, when released as a single on 6th December, 1994, showed Madonna in a new light. It is an accomplished and revealing track that shows the heroine’s scars (a song about being teased and having love taken from her) and allowed Madonna to explore new sides to her voice. The album did receive some mixed reviews and did not get the same reception as her bigger releases; in any case, it was a huge release and, with Madonna co-writing most of the album’s tracks, allowed her to have her say and make a very big statement. Many consider Bedtime Stories her best and most important work as she had to do something different after 1992.

25th October is the twenty-fifth anniversary of Bedtime Stories so, again, we have a bit of a wait! I do think this anniversary will be important because it showed how an artist as huge as Madonna could come back from possible defeat and not only create a great record but firmly confirm her position as the Queen of Pop. Many people look at other albums and times as the moment Madonna sat on the throne but 1994 was the most important year in her career. She showed, again, another side to her voice and creativity and there was nobody that could equal her. The three albums that are celebrating important-numbered anniversaries all arrived at important times in Madonna’s life and each made a serious impression. It will be great for new fans to discover these records but it acts as guidance to the modern scene and why Madonna is so revered. There is this gap between the March anniversary of Like a Prayer and October. I know Madonna will get behind these albums and her legions of fans will too and this is not the only reason why 2019 is a big year for her. Consider new offerings and avenues that will put her firmly in the spotlight. It is not only new music that will excite fans: Madonna is sporting shorter, brunette hair and a slight return to an earlier stage of her career.

Maybe turning sixty has inspired Madonna to make some personal changes – even if a new hair style is not that huge – and we all know there is an album coming along. I predict it will be released by March but you have to wonder whether that will clash with Like a Prayer’s thirtieth. It might be ambitious to think it would fill a nice gap in around May or June – maybe later – but I think Madonna will get the record out fairly soon. I am not 100% sure what it is called either. There have been #magic hastags that have been interpreted as the album’s name but I am not sure whether she has confirmed it will be named Magic – surely something more striking or mysterious would be better you’d think?! I think a new Madonna album not is crucial because it arrives at a very divided time. It is four years since she put out Rebel Heart and the longest gap between albums since the Bedtime Stories-Ray of Light crossover. Even that pause saw Madonna pop in an epic film turn – as the lead in 1996’s Evita – so there has been a bit of a wilderness in her camp over the past five years! Whereas what followed Bedtime Stories marked Madonna’s biggest transformation yet, I do think whatever she provides will be less radical and head-spinning. One other reason why I say this is an important year is because of everything happening in the world: from the sexism and sexual abuse scandals to President Trump and all manner of climate problems.

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 PHOTO CREDIT: @Madonna

Will Madonna produce an angry and society/political-addressing record like she did with 2003’s American Life? That album scored the least impressive reviews of her career to that point so I do have to wonder whether she will return to that well. I would like to see a combination of the political edge of that record teamed with some personal updates. That is not to say we need her to put her heart out and, if anything, her life is happier than it was in 2015 – she was reflecting on changes in her world and coming back from a couple of albums (MDNA in 2012 and Hard Candy in 2008) that did not fare overly-well. Rebel Heart was a more successful and lauded album and I feel turning sixty has suited Madonna well. Her Twitter and Instagram feeds are filled with snapshots into her life and her hanging out with her children. She has changed her hair and she is living in Lisbon, Portugal. Maybe there are heartache happening but so far as I know she is a single woman. Does this mean her next album will be a more liberated, single-woman-kicking-arse type of deal?! We often chart albums and their tones based on the artist’s personal lives and relationships. I think her fourteenth studio album will be important because it is impossible to predict and many will wonder what she has been working on.

There are so few Pop icons around still and it means the decades-reigning Queen of Pop will have a lot of people guessing and hooked. There is, too, ageism in music and Madonna has had to fight against this. I wonder whether we will get some edgy and Hip-Hop-scented or a bit of a return to her 1980s work. It is obvious Madonna is leaping into 2019 and she is excited to bring the world new work. If all of that was not enough reason 2019 is a huge one for Madonna, there is a very rare thing coming to our screens. Most of the documentaries and films regarding Madonna have been focused on her and I cannot think of a time when we have seen another person portray Madonna. The docu-drama Madonna and the Breakfast Club. We do not have to wait too long for it to come out way and Billboard provide an overview:

The film starts with Madonna during her early days as a drummer, guitarist, keyboard player, and songwriter for the Breakfast Club. She had formed the group in 1979 with Dan Gilroy, who she had been dating at the time. As the film progresses, Madonna gets more involved with the band’s music, and begins to develop her own identity as an artist.

The docudrama will be split between reenacted scenes from Madonna’s time with the band, alongside recent interviews with Gilroy, his brother Ed, and bandmate Gary Burke scattered throughout the film. The film was produced by Guy Guido and Paul Castro Jr., and stars Jamie Auld as Madonna. Auld’s uncanny resemblance to the pop icon is incredibly realistic, and is sure to intrigue longtime fans of the singer...

“We filmed in the same locations Madonna once walked and performed in, incorporating the exact instruments she played, including the real guitar she used to write her first songs,” Guido said. “It was surreal to capture Jamie in the drama that would eventually lead to Madonna pursuing her solo career.”

While Madonna left the Breakfast Club well before even their first single was released in 1984, the band would go on to some Billboard chart success with the release of their self-titled debut LP in 1987, which peaked at No. 43 on the Billboard 200 albums chart. That set featured the group's biggest hit, "Right on Track," which hit No. 7 in March 1987.

The film is set to release across digital and video on-demand platforms by The Orchard on March 12”.

It is very rare to see anyone play Madonna and have something that documents a very particular part of her life. In the past, there have been attempts to make biopics but nothing has really come to the screen. This mixes a more traditional documentary with re-enactments of her life and an opportunity for people to get an understanding of what was happening with her before recording her debut album. It will be interesting to see and there has been a lot of positive buzz around Madonna and the Breakfast Club (starring Jamie Auld as Madonna).

It is not rare to find a year when we have a Madonna-themed project on the screen and a new album out. I cannot think of a year when this has happened but we have three of her albums marking anniversaries – big ones at that! Throw into the mix Madonna will tour her new album and she has all that going on! She has not been this busy for years and I do not think her work, past and present, has carried such weight. Music Pop scene is rather inferior and slight and it is an important year to look at Madonna’s fantastic albums and learn from them. This Pop icon prepares to release fresh work but the stature and significance of her older albums is clear. She has experienced bigger years in terms of an album and the position of her career but this is the first time her new and past work will gain so much interest. All we need now is Madonna to appear in a film herself and she we will have a complete set! Maybe that will not happen but 2019 is a massive year for Madonna fans and the woman herself. I am excited to see how it all unfolds but am stunned that, over thirty-five years since her debut album, there has been nobody like her. We have seen some great Pop artists come and go but nobody who matches her longevity and popularity. We know when the trio of anniversaries occurs and when the docu-drama is out but we all come to the question of the new album. There has been tease and rumours of what it will sound like but, when it finally lands, it will answer questions many have been asking...

 IMAGE CREDIT: Spotify

SINCE she released Rebel Heart.

INTERVIEW: Tarantola

INTERVIEW:

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Tarantola

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IT is not often I get to interview...

a six-piece band that plays Gypsy music and is influenced by the circus. That is the case today as I talk with Tarantola about their single, Rogue Rouge Circus; they discuss their future musical plans and what is coming up; how they found one another and which rising acts we need to follow.

I ask if there are tour dates coming up; the albums the band are inspired by; what advice they would give to musicians coming through and whether they get any time to relax away from music – they each select some great music to end the interview with.

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

Hi, everyone! We are good and feeling very exited for the upcoming release! Our week was amazing...also very busy as we are preparing next Saturday’s show! Plus other projects we are working on for the future releases.

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

Hailing straight from the boot of Italy…Tarantola is a London-based Folk-Rock/Gypsy band that brings ‘Taranta’, the traditional music of Salento, to the British music scene. 

We are six energetic musicians who come from different corners of the world including Italy, Spain; England and Brazil who share their diverse musical influences with captivating circus performances exclusive for their upcoming album entitled Rogue Rouge Circus - containing four singles that will be released one by one monthly from next Friday, 18th January, 2019.

Each song is an episode of an intriguing and provocative story about all the mysteries, relationships and adventures behind the circus curtains, which you can watch and follow in the next live shows . 

Rogue Rouge Circus is your debut single. Is there a story behind it? How did it come to be?

Rogue Rouge Circus is the first episode of four. It talks about the circus as a metaphor for the routine of life; for the limits that we create by ourselves in life and the wrong belief we don’t deserve anything better; getting stuck with the same job, the same relationship; the same place and the same environment. As for all the other songs, it comes from an idea of Mauro, our singer and songwriter, who had this vision about the circus and its meaning.

Are you already planning more material? Might we see an E.P. soon?

We already planned more releases during this year. Rogue Rouge Circus is an album (CONCEPT) entirely dedicated to circus and a live show related to this, both visually and sonically entertaining. We will release one song each month. All of them are connected together to form at the end an E.P., formed by four singles.

We also have many other songs we are already performing live that will be officially released later on this year, perhaps in autumn/winter. They are slightly different from these ones being released in the next couple of months. They have a different approach to songwriting and content and we are very excited about them!

Do you already have plans for 2019? What can we expect from you guys this year?

We will keep exploring new genre and themes. We love to try out new musical territories and make our sound even bigger and more powerful. We intend to perform in many countries such as Italy, England; Spain, Greece and Portugal etc. We are looking forward to perform more in the U.K. out of London, especially festivals. Step by step, we will get to that point. We work really hard to prepare everything and to make sure we are 100% ready to take on bigger challenges. We want to make the show always more entertaining and exciting and reach big stages and big festivals!

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How did Tarantola form? Were you all bonded by similar musical tastes and ambitions?

Tarantola was born from an idea of Mauro while he was in his homeland Salento in Italy. Once he got back to London, he met Paolo and after a year they started this adventure. Tarantola was meant to be the connection between our Italian home and London and a strong need to expand and carry in another reality the legends, the story and the culture and music of South Italy. One year later, Edoardo joined the band and, after with new members arriving and a few leaving, we have finally reached the perfect formation that you can see today. All the musicians have a different music background - as we came from different parts of the world – but with the same ambitions and desire to express our music!

The reason why we chose a very multicultural band is to give first of all a clear message that we love intercultural connection and also because we wanna expand the limits of our music by being inspired by different cultures - and the only way to do so is by playing with people who come from different backgrounds.

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Could you describe your sound and aesthetic to anyone new to your work?

Our sound is authentic tambourine rhythms grooving with enchanting whistles, sax and violins…reminiscent of the circus, the sea; the tradition, the legend and the mysticism belonging to "brown skin people" of the Mediterranean lands. We also have a strong Hard-Rock input and all this blends together creating an explosion of energy on stage that you simply cannot resist to!

We have circus performers in our show which is very important in order to create a feeling of wonder in the audience during our show…even though we want to promote equality, make our audience sing along and dance with no rest; make sure that perfect strangers become your best friends, sharing a laughter; a cheering, a cry and a shout; deep feelings of love, hope; of wonder and joy altogether in the same place.

There is not a lot of colour and festivity in Pop right now. Is it time, do you think, that the scene embraced sounds like yours?!

We believe that Gypsy is the new Pop! We love colours and emotivity even though we chose to be represented mainly with red and black. The red stands for passion, love; sex and friendship mixed with the black that stands for depression, routine; alcohol, orgy; violence and bad habits inside the circus. Our stage costumes are mainly red and black to give more intention and significant to the metaphoric sense of this colours. Our songs are energetic and uplifting but there is always a deep contrast with the lyrical meaning as they carry important social, moral and cultural messages.

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

Surely the summer of 2017 when we toured Central and South Italy on a full D.I.Y. tour, organised in the previous months just ourselves - thanks to our contacts, friends and families. It has been an amazing experience that taught us a lot in terms of living together as a family-band, playing to big crowd of hundreds of people and facing last-minute issues on the road.

Also, I have to mention the slot we have been offered at the KOKO in London in May 2017: performing in such a legendary venue was a great! I believe that finally recording these singles (May - August 2018) for the Rogue Rouge Circus E.P. has been an important accomplishment for us all and we are really excited for you to be able to listen to them very soon!

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

This is a tough question to be honest! But certainly our most important influences are artists such as Gogol Bordello, Manu Chao, Dubioza Kolektiv; Ska-P, La Pegatina; Goran Bregovic, Che Sudaka; the Italian Kalascima and Sud Sound System. But, as mentioned before, we all come from different musical background. I would say here records such as Crash and The Central Park Concert (Dave Matthews Band); Gypsy Punks: Underdog World Strike (Gogol Bordello); Happy Machine (Dubioza Kolektiv); Baïonarena (Manu Chao); Eureka! (La Pegatina); El Vals del Obrero and ¡¡Que Corra La Voz!!  (Ska-P).

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

Supporting Dubioza Kolektiv would be just fantastic for us at this stage. I think  playing together in the same bill with a great upcoming act such as the Rock’n’Roll band The Second Sons would be interesting!

What advice would you give to new artists coming through?

Always believe it! Even though it is difficult, believe it and make step by step accomplishments. Surely, aim high; work hard, have a strong belief in what you do every day; choose the right people to work with in your (any) project and make sure you sharpen your skills. Oh, and, as everyone in the music industry says, make contacts and be kind!

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

We are playing the Hootananny in Brixton, London on Saturday, 19th January. We are headlining The Monarch in Camden Town, London on Saturday, 23rd February.

On top of these two gigs, we are working on confirming some more in the near-future! Stay tuned for that!

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 IN THIS PHOTO: Kate Lomas/PHOTO CREDIT: Tiposilvijah

Are there any new artists you recommend we check out?

Surely The Second Sons. Then, emerging artists we personally know such as Maike, Hide Your Mother; Killit, Twiceful Minds; Kate Lomas, Begut; Rival Karma, Cristina Hart; Marianna Zappi, Big Peyote and Romances.  There are many more, though: London is bursting with talented musicians and interesting original acts. I might be forgetting some here.

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IN THIS PHOTO: Cristina Hart

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

Ah! Not much! Well, we are a band of six pieces so there’s always one of us working for the band sake. We all have different ways to unwind, actually. Some of meditate and do relaxation; some of us have different projects going on...we are a hard-working band, especially at this stage! Though, we of course love to hang out ‘outside the band mindset’ for a pint or to watch football matches or to go to gigs.

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).

Edoardo: Roots and Culture - Mikey Dread

Mauro: Maché bécifDub Inc.

Paolo: Don’t Leave I Lonely - Mellow Mood

Kimberly: Tigancusa esti frumoasa  - The Gypsy Queen

Bruno: No Rain - Blind Melon

Serena: Stop It - FISHER

Nacho: The Rhythm Changes - Kamasi Washington

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Follow Tarantola

FEATURE: The January Playlist: Vol. 3: For Dolores

FEATURE:

 

The January Playlist

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IMAGE CREDIT: Spotify 

Vol. 3: For Dolores

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I did predict…

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IN THIS PHOTO: Loyle Carner/PHOTO CREDIT: British GQ

things would start to take off and we would see a real rise in the number of great songs! Not only is there new music from Loyle Carner and Sigrid but we have Fat White Family, The Cranberries and James Blake. We have some Little Simz and Jade Bird and some great tunes from Maggie Rogers, Sharon Van Etten and Mabel. I could go on and on and list the terrific sounds that are out now but I shall let you do the work! It is a wonderful collection of fresh songs that shows artists are pumping up and ready to get into action. If you need a kick to start your weekend off right then you would do good to wrap your ears around…

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IN THIS PHOTO: Sigrid

THIS top-notch playlist!

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

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The CranberriesAll Over Now

Loyle Carner, Rebel Kleff and Kiko Bun - You Don't Know

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Panda BearToken

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DrengeNever See the Signs

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SigridDon’t Feel Like Crying

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The KillersLand of the Free

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PHOTO CREDIT: Kelia Anne

Ella VosTemporary

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IMAGE CREDIT: Spotify 

James BlakeLullaby for My Insomniac

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IMAGE CREDIT: Spotify 

Little Simz (ft. Cleo Sol)Selfish

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Maggie RogersSay It

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Fat White Family Feet

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Jade Bird - I Get No Joy 

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Wild NothingsBlue Wings

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PHOTO CREDIT: Jody Rogac for The New York Times

Sharon Van Etten Memorial Day

AJ Tracey Psych Out!

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Ariana Grande7 rings

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Bryan AdamsShine a Light

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IN THIS PHOTO: Sofi Tukker

Sofi Tukker, ZHU Mi Rumba

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Becky GLBD

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MabelDon’t Call Me Up      

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Call Me Loop Silly Boy

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Hannah GraceWith You

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HozierAlmost (Sweet Music) 

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Steve MasonRocket

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IMAGE CREDIT: Spotify 

Maren MorrisGIRL

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The Japanese HouseMaybe You’re the Reason

IN THIS PHOTO: Karen O

Karen O, Dangermouse Woman

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PUP Kids

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James Morrison (ft. Joss Stone)My Lover Goes Down

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Mike Posner Noah’s Ark

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Tyga Floss in the Bank

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Papa Roach Come Around

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YUNGBLUD Loner

Methyl EthelTrip the Mains

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PHOTO CREDIT: Sara Laufer

Daisy the Great Dips

TRACK REVIEW: Dermot Kennedy - For Island Fires and Family

TRACK REVIEW:

 

Dermot Kennedy

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For Island Fires and Family

 

9.5/10

 

 

The track, For Island Fires and Family, is available via:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8EfE4W60VoA

ORIGIN:

Dublin, E.I.R.E.

GENRES:

Indie/Singer-Songwriter

VIDEO RELEASE DATE:

10th January, 2019

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The album, Dermot Kennedy, is available via:

https://open.spotify.com/album/0JF97yTibdYQh25AaFuioF?si=zSiUpFYyTXaq_lHrQXrlqA

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ON this outing...

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there are a few things that I am bringing back up that I have mentioned a lot recently – to aid a musician and make them more illuminating to the public. I will talk about information and painting a picture of the artist; a look at the ones to watch in 2019 and which artists are really worth investigating; heading out of London and looking at a Dublin-raised artist; being a complete package and formed in a busy market; how things might change in 2019 – I will end by looking at Dermot Kennedy and what his year has in store. This year is about change for me. I am getting a load of emails every day from agencies/artists that are all asking for reviews and interviews. These are the same sort of people I have dealt with in the past few years but, now that I have been doing this for seven years, one cannot keep doing the same thing and focusing on the very small acts – it might be a boost for them but if you are a journalist that is not being ambitious and writing about what you want to then others will overtake you. I am very aware of the music I want to feature and the status of the artist I want to spotlight – closer to the mainstream and with a larger number of fans at their feet. It is getting to the point where I am not interested in the tinier acts who are coming through and do yearn for the more substantial and interesting. This is why I was attracted to Dermot Kennedy’s new music and wanted to follow him. I will look at his new release in a minute but the man is being tipped for greatness by a lot of different people out there. One can attribute so many positives to the man and he has a lot going for him. There is one thing I want to bring to the fore.

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 PHOTO CREDIT: Lucy Foster

So many artists are being backed for success but I wonder how much we know about them. This is a common complaint I have but, for a meaty review, I need to know quite a bit. On record, Kennedy is a lot different to many out there and shines but there is not a lot on paper. I know a bit about his latest single but what about the man himself?! So many artists leave a lot left aside and you do struggle to pen some words. I wanted to write about Kennedy as he is an interesting artist but I do wonder which acts he is inspired by and more about him. I do sort of want to know what his early life was like and the music he was raised on; how he approaches songwriting and more about what drives him. It is great to write about him but I do sort of need that U.S.P. and some other angles I can work from that differentiates him from everyone else. The music is great but I know Kennedy has conducted interviews. Bringing that into his social media and having them all easily available would be an advantage. So many acts just have a social media page and no biographical information. So many potential fans are going to skip by because there is not a lot of information to go from. I might navigate his way but then there is that need to find out more and dig deeper. As I said, so many are doing it and I wonder whether artists need to be more personal and revealing. I am not suggesting they give it all away but some words about who they are and where they are heading would be beneficial. Can we get all the information needed from the music and have out questions answered? I think Kennedy is a great songwriter but I am still curious as to his music and how he provides this unique edge.

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This year is fairly fresh and we are looking out at the artists who might make waves. I think the predictions from sources such as the BBC are strong and we are getting an impression of what to expect through 2019. There is always a bit of scepticism regarding these lists and whether all the artists mentioned ae actually worth sticking with. I do feel music is broad and you cannot narrow down to a few names when it comes to defining the sound of a particular year. One reason why I think Dermot Kennedy is worth the kudos and energy is because he has a natural gift for songwriting. There are many artists out there splicing genres and throwing in these unusual sounds but there is simplicity to Kennedy that resonates. This is not to say he lacks complexity but his music does not need to rely on tricks and too much activity to get into the heart. I think the songwriters who will make a mark this year are the ones who can get into the mind with ease but have a sense of hope. You can talk about love and loss all you want but it seems to be the stock for a lot of artists. This can be quite depressing and we do need musicians to bring some cheer. Kennedy is someone who can balance the introspective and outward and has this great sound. It is hard to distil what makes the music shine but it is the charisma, confidence and intuitive spirit of the songwriter. He knows how to write a solid song and puts his personality into every line. I think Dermot Kennedy is someone who defines what we need in 2019: a solid and interesting songwriter who has a varied sound and a big personality. It is hard to sustain the public interest and keep ears hungry right the way through the year.

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  PHOTO CREDIT: Lucy Foster

Many artists sort of intrigue at first and then that appeal can wane as time goes on. I do feel there is this trend in the media to rave about an artist because they are a little different and edgy and that aspect can sort of grate. I am not pointing the finger at any artist tipped this year but I am not entirely sure all of the names recommended by the media will remain and surprise. Dermot Kennedy is a solid bet because he is a classic songwriter and someone who continues to evolve. I have been following his music for a little bit now and can see how he has grown and what he is bringing into the mix. His confidence is rising and every song seems to see him get stronger. I am confident the Irish songwriter will continue to bloom and take his music in new directions. One does not require anything too explosive or radical from Kennedy but, from each song, you notice the growth and something special. For Island Fires and Family is a song from his back catalogue and you can tell how much it means to him. I do hear there might be a debut album later in the year and it will be interesting to see what songs make up the collection. The popularity and the support Kennedy is getting from all around the world makes it clear he is a rising star and someone who can endure for many years to come. I am glad I get to support an artist who started life outside of the U.K. That might sound like an odd declaration but I have spent a lot of time featuring London artists and think it is time to get out and focus on acts from different parts of the world.

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  PHOTO CREDIT: Lucy Foster

I am focusing on a Welsh artist tomorrow and it is good to look at a great Irish musician. I am not certain whether Kennedy is planning on moving and whether he will base himself in the U.S. or U.K. soon but I get the chance to look at Dublin and a city that continues to spawn great musicians. Through the years, Dublin has produced some cracking acts like U2 and My Bloody Valentine but its reputation and influence is not consigned to history. It does not get the same sort of attention as London and the music scene might not be as busy but that is not to say we should ignore Dublin. It is a complex, rich and colourful city that has always provoked fantastic creativity. I do think the media overlooks the city and assumes all the great sounds are coming from the U.K. In fact, even Scotland does not get the same focus and here is another part of the world overflowing with terrific music. I think Dublin’s people and character leads to this flavoursome and colourful music. Maybe it has always been this way but I notice something in Dublin you do not get from anywhere else. It is a sense of grace and beauty that seems natural; a way of songwriting and performance that sets Dublin aside. It is tricky explaining but I know the people of Dublin are very warm and witty and that sort of feeds into the music. The city mixes the modern and historic and you get a great clash. It has a sense of calm to it but, like every capital city, it is busy and has plenty of tourists. I think we should all spend more time looking at Dublin music because there are some great local artists emerging. It is hard to get big attention because the media often looks at other areas. I think, in order for music to be broad and fair, we need to concentrate on cities like Dublin and what is coming from there.

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  PHOTO CREDIT: Lucy Foster

I will move on to new areas in a second but I want to stick with that idea of area and location. I feel Kennedy might relocate when he becomes even bigger but I think his Dublin roots serve him well. Maybe it is me reaching a bit but I think he has a spark and way of working that is very particular to where he comes from and the people he grew up around. I love what he is throwing out into the world and here is an artist who can go a long way. What happens when he does explode and there is even more celebration? I feel Dublin is a wonderful city to play in but can you sustain a long career and get all the attention you need if you remain there? I do feel Kennedy is someone who might move to the U.S. in years to come. This might seem random but I am seeing a lot of musicians move from the U.K. and base themselves in cities like Los Angeles and New York. Not only do you get a bigger crowd and more focus but there are a lot more musicians/sounds around you to draw from. It is clear Kennedy is one of the most promising artists of this year and his name continues to rise. I will end by looking at his gig schedule and popularity and soon enough he will have to think about the long-term. I love Dublin and its music and feel Kennedy can owe a lot of his success to where he comes from and the people around him. The need to spread wings and go somewhere bigger might creep into his mind. The music he is releasing is fantastic and I feel it suited for a huge market. Maybe he is happy where is for now but this is an artist who will become a big star and I can imagine him moving on and settling in another country. Dublin, mind, is a glorious part of him and he is helping raise awareness for the fantastic musicians who are playing there. I do still feel the media needs to give more support to Irish artists so they do not have to relocate and struggle to gain traction.

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Your man Kennedy seems to be this complete artist who ticks all the boxes. I have discussed how I would like to see more information about him and that all holds true – I can imagine his early life was filled with music and I would like to know how he got into the industry. That being said, it is clear Kennedy is not your average artist who is learning as he goes along. He is not quite at his peak yet but the man has this sense of self and confidence that comes through in the music. He is an interesting character in interviews and his stage performances have been lauded. I encounter so many artists who lack something and do not really spark. Maybe their songwriting is a bit predictable or they are not the most captivating performer. Kennedy’s popularity is no fluke and he is someone who can go on and on. His music has a personal touch and comes from his heart but it is accessible and universal enough to speak to the world and make a mark. He is a great live performer who can produce this big show and connect with his crowd. That sense of completeness and quality goes into music videos, too. The shoot for his new single, For Island Fires and Family, was shot on location Inis Mór - one of the famous Aran Islands off the west coast of Ireland. This is the very same location Kennedy refers to in the track’s title. This place is very important to Kennedy and he was keen to film the video there. I have sort of omiited the fact Kennedy has released his debut album, Dermot Kennedy, and that is out in the ether. That came out on 4th January and picked up some positive reviews. It is rare for artists to release albums in January – many wait until the weather gets warmer – but Kennedy was not wasting any time! I wanted to feature the single so I can into depth more but I recommend you check his album out!

 PHOTO CREDIT: Lucy Foster

There are a lot of reasons to listen to For Island Fires and Family. It is a song that gets to you right from the off. It is a passionate song and, whilst Kennedy has produced more energised examples, this one comes right from the soul. He imagines what it might be like to be a bird, flying over the sea with nations underneath him. You get an instant sense of movement and that flight. The words are delivered with a sense of gravitas and intensity; there is a weight behind the voice that makes you tremble and definitely stops you still. It is a potent voice and, whilst some might compare it to singers like George Ezra, I think Kennedy is more soulful and has more in common with artists of the past – I think we all too often make lazy comparisons. There is little accompaniment and this allows the voice to stretch, campaign and seduce. It is a powerful performance for sure. We get backing vocals arranged in a choral style – that remind me a bit of James Blake – and the sheer potency of Kennedy’s voice makes the words striking and huge. He has a rawness that powers through and it seems like there is this love that has gone wrong. One of my aims for this year is to focus on music that is more positive and strays away from love but I am making an exception today. It seems the hero has made some apologies and concessions but the girl is not giving him time. Perhaps they have been together a long time but things have taken a turn. It is hard to get beyond the sheer weight and power of the delivery and how it gets into the mind. We have many great singers in music but few of them can match the muscle, soul and gravel of Dermot Kennedy. I do like how the background is quite sparse and there is that concentration on the foreground and this very evocative delivery.

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  PHOTO CREDIT: Lucy Foster

Maybe my viewpoint regarding a sour love was a bit premature. Kennedy talks of someone bringing the moon and stars and these great people in his life. It is not long before the delivery is more conversational and you get Kennedy’s accent coming through. The song becomes much more fulsome and interesting than it would if it were delivered in a rather plain American or English accent! Kennedy talks about the secret and sacred and the desire to walk on the rooftops and be free. The hero casts back to summertime and being in a full room; the girl the only one he smiles at and that connection being made. I wonder whether they have gone off the tracks but it is evident Kennedy has fond recollection of the time they met and that very meaningful time. Kennedy uses very personal and simple language to ensure the song gets into the head and we can all understand it. His potent delivery and use of language ensures For Island Fires and Family swims in the blood and hooks you in. I was walking in the song and seeing what was going down. It does seem the love was brief and it is not revealed why things went wrong. Kennedy switched between fondness and times good – when they were bonded and talked about everything – and the rather harsh nature of love. The vocal does change from the faster-paced and energised to a more gravelled and intense belt. It provides these two sides to the song and gives things mobility and emotion. I was wondering how things went wrong and whether they still talk. It is clear the hero is affected and does not want things to end but I do guess and conspire.

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IMAGE CREDIT: Spotify

Maybe it was only meant to be brief? The lyrics, actually, show much more originality and personality than what you get in the mainstream. Kennedy talks about the feeling of the heart bursting out the shirt and how it has happened before – it is happening more with this girl. It is a nice angle to approach heartache from and I do love the strong Irish accent giving a sense of beauty and power few songwriters can match. By the end of things, you feel for the hero and wonder whether reconciliation can be affected. He seems reigned to his lot and what the lovers had seemed very special. We have witnessed this very powerful and visual song – watch the video alongside if you can – and it sort of takes the breath away. I came back a few times to see if I could piece things together and speculate as to why the relationship fell apart. It does not seem to be a particularly awful and painful breakup in many ways but this loss has left a gap in his heart. I love Kennedy’s voice throughout and the fact it does switch between this immediate and urgent soulfulness to a more chatty, light and faster pace. It is not something you hear much in modern music and another reason why Kennedy stands aside. For Island Fires and Family stands out in its own right and tells a story but sounds different in the context of the album. Listen to Dermot Kennedy and you can hear what else he has to offer but, if you want an introduction to the man, then this is a great place to start. There are more popular songs in his cannon – Power Over Me is one – but I have a soft spot for this track. It is a glorious, touching and brave song from someone who is getting a serious amount of respect. If he continues to write music like this then he could well find himself running shoulders with the biggest names in modern music.

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  PHOTO CREDIT: Lucy Foster

Dermot Kennedy has had quite a hectic and exciting past year. He has managed to come under the radar and gain all this new applause. People are predicting he will define 2019 and many know he will go a very long way. Kennedy announced a tour for May 2019 and it has already sold out. He goes to Dublin, London and Manchester and the tickets have been snapped up. Kennedy keeps on getting bigger and there are no signs to suggest he will slow down. I have speculated what he might do regarding material later in the year. He has introduced his eponymous album and, as I said, it has won a lot of praise. The fact critics are invested and can see this special artist is great. Maybe touring will get in the way and occupy his time but many will ask whether there are going to be more songs later in 2019. It is clear there will be no be a lot of moments to breathe between gigs so I have to wonder when we might see that new step. Digest and get involved with the debut album – as it is terrific – but I am already pumped to see where Kennedy might head and what he can follow it with. This might sound impatient and reckless but he has so many different sides to his songwriting and it will be interesting watching that blossom. I will end things soon but I am just excited to focus on a bigger name. I am not certain how the rest of my year will play out. It is clear I am not doing things the same way I have been and the idea of interviewing smaller acts no longer holds any excitement for me – there is a lot of frustration and, at the end of the day, it is not the music I want to include anymore. I am getting more ambitious and feel I am ready to highlight those artists who are more acclaimed and have more support behind them.

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  PHOTO CREDIT: Lucy Foster

Dermot Kennedy is one of the names I have been looking to include for a while now and I am glad I have found the moment. For Island Fires and Family, despite its unusual title, is a great song and one that is distinctly Dermot Kennedy. It can be hard pushing above the crowd and getting noticed by Kennedy has managed to do that. It is that combination of natural talent and passion combined with hitting on a very desirable sound. You get a lot of the personal and revealing from Kennedy but he has a sense of mystery and intrigue that hooks you in and makes you wonder. The music switches from tender to powerful and the fact he has so many different scents and flavours working away makes him a more complete artist. The touring and big gigs mean he can hone and sharpen and he will learn a lot of skills on the road. I feel like he will grow even more in terms of confidence and it is only a matter of time before he adds new elements to his music. The future is in front of him and he has an opportunity to become one of the biggest artists around. I love what he is doing and many others agree. Make sure you check out his eponymous album and get involved with all of the tracks. I wanted to focus on For Island Fires and Family because it has a video out and it is a song that warrants a lot of love. I will wrap things up now and move onto something else but it has been great to feature Dermot Kennedy. He does not need my backing and thumbs-up but I am, as I say, keen to feature the bigger names this year. He is definitely one of them and it is interesting seeing where he will be by the end of this year – as his music continues to grow in stature and he performs around the world. Ensure you align yourself with this fantastic artist and, if he does announce more dates later this year, you might be fortunate enough...

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  PHOTO CREDIT: Lucy Foster

TO catch him on the road.

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Follow Dermot Kennedy

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FEATURE: I Want to Hold Your Hand: The Start of Beatlemania in the U.S.A. Fifty-Five Years of The Beatles’ Milestone Chart Entry

FEATURE:

 

 

I Want to Hold Your Hand: The Start of Beatlemania in the U.S.A.

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IMAGE CREDIT: Getty Images 

Fifty-Five Years of The Beatles’ Milestone Chart Entry

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THERE will be people out there who will debate...

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IN THIS PHOTO: Paul McCartney is mobbed by fans in Teddington on 11th July, 1964/PHOTO CREDIT: Sunday People/Mirrorpix/Mirrorpix via Getty Images  

when ‘Beatlemania’ truly began and sparked in the U.S. In this country, we can chart it to late-1963 but it might have begun a little before then. The boys has already released their debut album, Please Please Me, in March 1963 and they also released With the Beatles in November of the same year. With two albums down, fans here could not get enough and it was clear this exciting new band were taking over the world! Unlike their debut album, there was a lot more original work from John Lennon and Paul McCartney. The debut had some cracking cuts but With the Beatles offered some of the best work from the band so far – including All My Loving. It was a busy and exciting time for the band and, in fact, second album was released in Canada with the augmented title Beatlemania! With the Beatles. That was on 25th November, 1963 and the magic of The Beatles was starting to spread. The boys had been releasing music for a little bit until that point but they were still fresh and new. The fact their music seemed to offer something exciting and embracing meant this fever and desire would heighten and explode. A lot of the music of the time (1963-1964) was quite safe and soft whereas The Beatles provided this rather intense and catchy Pop that was exhilarating. These four lads were breaking hearts and it would not be long until they stormed the U.S.

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 IMAGE CREDIT: Spotty

With the Beatles went on to sell by the case-load and people could not get enough of them! An important song that brought them to the attention of the American market was I Want to Hold Your Hand. The single entered the U.S. chart at number-forty-five just ten days after its release! It was the U.S. chart debut and the song became the fastest-breaking and fastest-selling in the history of Capitol Records! Many might say the fact the song started so low in the charts means one cannot truly call that the start of Beatlemania but it was a record-breaking disc and one that spent seven weeks at the top of the charts. The boys sort of went from promising and talked-about to these new icons. Many say their subsequent T.V. appearances in the U.S. – including appearing on The Ed Sullivan Show in February 1964 – was more important and meant they reached a larger audience. The Sullivan shows were vital but it was that chart entry and the fact I Want to Hold Your Hand rocketed that fuelled the passion. By The Beatles’ standard, it is not the most complex or audacious track. They would soon go to produce these complex and studio-stretching masterpieces but this was early days and they were trading in the radio-friendly, tight Pop songs that had an innocent message but were far more exciting than anything around.

It would be weird to see a band explode in America based on a song revolving around hand-holding a simple request for connection. The Beatles were more than simple Pop songs and catchy choruses. The boys’ electric performances and harmonies thrilled; they were handsome and clean-cut but had these exotic accents and they had a streak of cheekiness. The song was like nothing floating around the U.S. charts and it was a revelation to young ears. People were responding to this rare and wondrous force and it would not be long until The Beatles’ lives were transformed. The band had already scored hits in the U.K. and were taken to heart at an early stage. Breaking America, as is now and as was then, is the biggest thing a band can do but many have minor success and that is about it. Maybe they will get some big gigs but, in the case of The Beatles, it was like a political and social revolution. The fact they were getting T.V. requests in the country helped bring their music to a wider audience and showed what tight and insatiable performers they were. This illuminating article talks of the start of Beatlemania in the U.S. and the success of I Want to Hold Your Hand:

Armed with a gig on “The Ed Sullivan Show,” The Beatles finally gained traction in the United States. Capitol Records agreed to back their upcoming record, and CBS News anchor Walter Cronkite reported on the Beatlemania phenomenon in England. In early December, a 15-year-old Maryland girl named Marsha Albert saw the group on the news and wrote her local radio station asking, “Why can’t we have music like that here in America?” When a DJ tracked down a copy of their still-unreleased single “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” the song became a massive hit. Capitol Records had to scramble to get the single onto record store shelves, and it went on to sell 1 million copies in a matter of days...

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IN THIS PHOTO: The Beatles spend a bit of time enjoying their fame in Miami, Florida in February 1964/PHOTO CREDIT: Daily Express/Archive Photos/Getty Images  

By all accounts, The Beatles still had no idea what was in store for them on February 7, 1964, when they took off from London bound for American shores. Lennon remembered thinking, “Oh, we won’t make it,” while Starr recalled feeling “a bit sick” with anticipation. But when they touched down in New York, the group found themselves greeted by a flock of 3,000 ecstatic, screaming fans—many of them teens playing hooky from school. The band was stunned. “Seeing thousands of kids there to meet us made us realize just how popular we were there,” Harrison later said. In their first press conference, The Beatles appeared relaxed and upbeat. Clad in matching suits, the band fired back at the sea of reporters with cheeky quips that the New York Times later called the “Beatle wit.” “We have a message,” McCartney declared in between questions about the band’s name and their mop-top haircuts, “buy more Beatles records!

The band would manage to escape the wild fans and find some time to sight-see. They would be able to find some time to unwind but it would not be long until the boys were playing for Ed Sullivan and being introduced to the nation. By the middle of February, the band were playing U.S. gigs and Beatles wigs were being sold to adoring fans. The band had become a brand; they were almost God-like in such a short time and it can all be traced from the charting of their song, I Want to Hold Your Hand. The T.V. ratings following The Beatles’ appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show on 9th February, 1964 were off the chart – as the articles continues and makes apparent:

Television ratings for the appearance proved astronomical. According to the Nielsen Company, a record-breaking 73 million viewers tuned in to watch The Beatles on “Ed Sullivan”—nearly 40 percent of the U.S. population at the time. Some newspapers still tried to dismiss the British hit-makers as a passing fad, but the numbers didn’t lie: Beatlemania had taken the United States by storm”.

Fans and new converts could not get enough of this new track and a band who were like nothing else around! They would film their second live T.V. slot on 16th February and over seventy-million gathered around their sets. Even though the band would be able to do regular stuff – such as surfing in Miami – fans were hot on their heels.

There were cases of fans cutting Ringo Starr’s hair and others who would launch themselves at the band’s vehicles. It was, in many cases, like it was a zoo but this was almost unprecedented. I can only think of artists such as Elvis Presley who created a storm but even he did not whip up such a typhoon of popularity so quickly! When the band arrived back in London, there was a crowd of thousands to greet them. The Beatles’ invasion of America was a success and it would lead to five Beatles songs entering the Billboard Hot 100. The T.V. appearances had broken records and it was a remarkable transformation – they came to America as a bit of a British curiosity but left on 22nd February as enormous superstars. We can chart the rise and biblical success back to I Want to Hold Your Hand entering the U.S. charts fifty-five years ago. Few could predict the song would take on a life of its own and it would see The Beatles become stars in the U.S. The track itself was to be bested pretty quickly and they would become more accomplished as songwriters – the sheer simplicity, rush and thrill of the track is the secret of its success! If they’d have launched in the U.S. with Hey Jude or A Day in the Life then I do not think that many people would be invested.

The Beatles transformed the strong if slightly predictable Pop scene and provided this new lease. They were mop-haired and scamps; they were like brothers and were pretty playful. Consider the sort of artists that were around in 1964 and they were somewhat stale and anonymous. The Beatles offered a real kick and revolution and people responded in force! Beatlemania would only intensify and it got to the stage where, only a couple of years later, the band were feeling the strain and retired from touring – unable to hear themselves over screaming girls and the sheer volume! The album, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967), was their escaping from the stage and spending proper time in the studio. At a time when social media and homogenisation in music makes it hard to foster anyone like The Beatles, it makes that 1964 transformation seem almost like a benchmark. Will any band be able to generate the same popularity ever again?! I cannot recall any artist before The Beatles striking America so hard and being clasped to the chest so firmly. The adoration and raw focus the boys got from fans was insane and they were being met at airports by hordes of screaming! I Want to Hold Your Hand might sound quaint and inconsequential to new listeners and those unaware of their history but, on 18th January, 1964, The Beatles made their U.S. chart debut and their lives would be changed forever. It is amazing to think critics at the time – some, not all – dismissed the song and were tired of it being played on the radio all the time. Bob Dylan was on board and loved the band but felt, because of the unconventional chords and lush harmonies, the band were on weed – he was surprised to find they weren’t when he met them! The Beatles achieved a lot in their career and would enjoy continued success but few are more important than...

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 IN THIS PHOTO: A fan cannot contain her excitement during Beatlemania in 1964/PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

THE start of Beatlemania in America!

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

FEATURE:

 

 

Sisters in Arms

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IN THIS PHOTO: Dreezy/PHOTO CREDIT: Ed Cañas

An All-Female, Winter-Ready Playlist (Vol. V)

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I think we can definitely say...

IN THIS PHOTO: Maren Morris

that things are a bit wintery out there and it is a pretty cold day! Although the sun is coming out, there will be a chill in the air so I think we need something to lift that gloom and bite! Instead of getting out there for the sake of it, why not listen to these female-led tracks that are guaranteed to offer some warmth and guide you through the day but get in the head and stay with you. I hope you do find something in the pack that turns the head as there are some cool tracks in there. It is not only about bringing the heat in this selection. There are songs that have a distinct calm and will project images of tenderness and beauty. Whatever your tastes, you are more than accommodated for in this...

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 IN THIS PHOTO: Jade Bird/PHOTO CREDIT: The New York Times/Getty Images

EPIC selection.  

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

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Hockeysmith Lonely Loving Me

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PHOTO CREDIT: Ellie Smith Photography

Big JoanieWay Out

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Charlotte Black - Los Angeles

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Maggie Rogers Say It

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PHOTO CREDIT: @shervinfoto 

Alice MertonTrouble in Paradise

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Emotional Oranges Hold You Back

Ruth Willow Memories of You

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Jessica Gerhardt Be My Hands

Becky G LBD

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Charlotte AdigéryHigh Lights

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PHOTO CREDIT: Nick Suchak Anabasis Media

Milk Teeth Stain

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Weyes Blood Andromeda

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PHOTO CREDIT: Jeff Bierk

For Esme To Love

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The Japanese House Maybe You’re the Reason

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Lauren Aquilina If Looks Could Kill

Dreezy RIP Aretha

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MabelDon’t Call Me Up

Maren MorrisGIRL

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Rozi PlainSymmetrical

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Violet SkiesIs She Gonna Be There?

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Hannah GraceWith You

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Lily AhlbergBody to Body

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dodieShe

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Jade BirdI Get No Joy

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PHOTO CREDIT: Rob Blackham

Saint AgnesWelcome to Silvertown

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Ålesund - Shift & Flux

INTERVIEW: Teri Eloise

INTERVIEW:

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Teri Eloise

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MY last interview of the week is with Teri Eloise...

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who has been talking with me about her recent single, Lose Myself, and how that came together. I ask her about her Trinidadian heritage and how that affects her music; which albums she holds dearest and what she has planned for this year.

The songwriter recommends some approaching artists to look out for and looks back at a busy 2018; how she chills away from music and which artists she’d support on tour if she could – she ends the interview by selecting a new track.

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Hi, Teri Eloise. How are you? How has your week been?

Hi. I’m great. Thanks for asking. My week has been pretty busy. I’ve been working on a lot of music and planning some new stuff for the near future!

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

Yes, of course. My name is Teri Eloise. I’m twenty-one-years-old, born in the U.K. and raised in Trinidad and Tobago. I’m a singer, songwriter; producer and a visual artist. Basically, all I do is create!

How did Lose Myself come together? Is it based on personal experiences?

When I started writing Lose Myself, I wasn’t really planning on writing what would be my next single. At the time, I was quite lost, trying to figure out myself and my future and I was dealing with some conflicted feelings. I remember one night there was so much going on in my head, so I thought why not write down some of these thoughts and feelings to help get some clarity and ease my mind? I played a chord progression that I was working on and the words started pouring out along with a melody.

The song pretty much wrote itself. I didn’t really know what I wanted Lose Myself to sound like either; I just started playing around on the keys and layering it with instruments and sounds that I thought sounded good. It’s one of the first songs in which I took such a big role in producing, so it’s something I'm very proud of and it’s always going to be an extremely special song to me.

Do you already have plans for 2019?

Definitely. I’m working on a lot of new music right now. I’ve also got a couple collaborations that might be happening and then, of course, once I have more music out I’m going to start doing some live shows. It’s all really exciting!

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How do songs form and come to mind? Do you spend time specifically writing or wait for inspiration to hit?

It really depends on my mood or the weight of my emotions - or if I’m extremely under pressure! Usually, lyrics would pop up in my head at the most random times and I’d have to jot them down in my phone so I don’t forget. With that, I’d have some lyrics or a concept to expand on. A lot of times, I’d work on the music first and then start writing. Whatever comes naturally.

Do you feel your Trinidadian heritage is important regarding your sound and how you approach music?

Absolutely. Growing up, I was surrounded by so many different kinds of music - I listened to everything from Calypso, Soca; Reggae to my dad’s old Heavy-Metal L.P.s, to my mum’s old-school R&B C.D.s - and the list goes on. The music and culture of Trinidad & Tobago is so vibrant and rich; it’s influenced my artistry a lot but not to the point where I’d limit myself to one sort of sound.

I think, growing up, listening to so many different genres...t real- ly helped expand my musical knowledge to the point where I just love incorporating elements of different genres into my music.

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When you were growing up, which artists guided and compelled you to get into the business?

Growing up, I really admired artists like Bob Marley, Michael Jackson; John Lennon and many more but I chose those three names because not only did they have incredible music; they had a message of peace and love. It taught me at a young age how much good you can do with music. That heavily inspired me to get into the business and take music more seriously.

2018 has just ended. How do you think it went and what was the most important lesson you learned?

2018, for me personally, was the year of taking a step back and just healing. I spent a lot of time on my own; sort of learning to enjoy my own company and learning how to love myself more… and the outcome was great because I released two songs that represent my growth!

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

Working in the studio and bringing my music to life. Those are always the most special musical moments for me. Ten.

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

The first one would be Michael Jackson’s Thriller. I remember getting the 25th Anniversary Edition when I was ten-years-old and listening to it every single day. It’s definitely influenced my style and it’s an album that inspires me to this day.

Chapter II by Ashanti and Dangerously in Love by Beyoncé were two other really special albums to me. My granddad actually got them as a present for my sister and I which makes it even more special. Those were two albums that were always on-repeat when I was younger and inspired me a lot musically and vocally.

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

It would be so cool supporting someone like Rihanna. My rider would probably be really simple and boring like water, some food; maybe a humidifier, some peppermint tea…I have no idea!

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

Yes. It is being discussed! Right now, I’m so focused on the creative side of things like writing and recording more music. So, when I have a few more songs out this year, live shows are definitely going to happen.

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 IN THIS IMAGE: IAMDDB

Are there any new artists you recommend we check out?

IAMDDB and Nina Nesbitt.

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 IN THIS PHOTO: Nina Nesbitt

What advice would you give to new artists coming through?

Stay true to yourself and to be honest in your music. Don’t compare yourself to others because this is your journey. Also, just have fun and remember why you started! It’s a lot of work but, if it’s your passion, it definitely won’t feel like it.

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

I’m always making music these days so it’s a hard one to answer, but recently I’ve been enjoying cooking a lot…I love learning new things, acquiring new skills. I also love spending my time with the family, having drinks with friends; just trying to stay calm and enjoy my youth!

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).

I’d love it if you played Dancing with a Stranger by Sam Smith and Normani!

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Follow Teri Eloise

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FEATURE: In for the Kill: The Return of the Riot Grrrl Pioneers

FEATURE:

 

 

In for the Kill

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IMAGE CREDIT: @theebikinikill  

The Return of the Riot Grrrl Pioneers

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HOW much has the music industry changed...

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IMAGE CREDIT: Spotify 

since 1997?! That is the year when Bikini Kill disbanded and I remember it like it was yesterday. This was the year we saw epic albums from Radiohead, The Chemical Brothers; Missy Elliott and Blur. It was an incredible time for music and so many inspiring records came out in that year. It was a bit of a strange years where Britpop has sort of waned in the U.K. and Grunge was a diminished force in the U.S. A lot of great female artists were releasing music but I feel like there wasn’t the same balance as we would see in future years. Bikini Kill are pioneers who helped shape music but, by 1997, that run was over and they headed their separate ways. It seemed like, more and more, the media were misrepresenting the Riot Grrrls movement and Bikini Kill were being vilified by so many people. They were being attacked and abused and, after their final album in 1996 (Reject All American), it seemed like they had no choice. Reject All American is just under thirty minutes but it is relentless Punk and a great way to end their career. Although the band released only three albums, they helped put Riot Grrrl music to the mainstream. The movement was an underground feminist Punk scene that began in the early-1990s in Washington state and combined feminist consciousness alongside Punk politics. Its musical roots sort of came from Indie-Rock and came around at a time when movements like Grunge were taking hold.

That movement was male-dominated and a lot of the mainstream music being favoured in the early-1990s was male-driven. Riot Grrrl was a response to that and allowed female artists the chance to have their voices heard and talk about something more important than what was being said – a lot of the male bands of the time were recycling cliché lines and not adding anything substantial to the world. Although darker and controversial subjects were talked about by Riot Grrrl acts – including rape, domestic abuse and racism – Bikini and bands like Heavens to Betsy and Sleater-Kinney (who are back with a new album this year) were adding something radical to music. It was a new eave of Punk that, unlike the first movement, put women first. The Riot Grrrl movement has an underground subculture of D.I.Y. ethics, zines; art, political activism and action. Led by Kathleen Hanna (vocals), Bikini Kill would soon epitomise Riot Grrrl and published their own fanzine, Bikini Kill, for their debut tour of 1991. Bikini Kill would urge women to come to the front of the stage at gigs and they would present them with lyric sheets. Tickets were cheap so the audiences picked up as their name spread. At a time when the popularity and focus was going the way of male bands, Bikini Kill would see protest and abuse at their gigs – a lot of male concertgoers would abuse and attack Bikini Kill.

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 IMAGE CREDIT: Spotify

The band’s first recordings were quite minor and D.I.Y. They released the Bikini Kill E.P. on the Indie label Kill Rock Stars that has Ian MacKaye (Minor Threat, Fugazi). The debut L.P., Pussy Whipped, was out in 1993 and cemented their reputation and fanbase. The debut album was packed with intensity and great songs but the anthem, Rebel Girl, soon exploded. It was performed as early as 1991 at concerts and all four band members wrote the gem. Hanna wrote the lyrics and (the lyrics) override and attack the male tropes that they hated. The song’s narrative gives light to a lesbian perspective and is a frank song; a love song for another woman and an anthem of the Riot Grrrl movement. Rebel Girl became this anthem and the most identifiable expression of what Riot Grrrl was. Reviews for Pussy Whipped were positive and this one, from Entertainment Weekly in 1994, made some interesting observations:

Take ”Rebel Girl,” a highlight of their first full-length album, Pussy Whipped (Kill Rock Stars). In some ways the song is utterly conventional, from its introductory kickoff drumming to its punky bass line and lead singer Kathleen Hanna’s exclamation that her friend is ”the queen of the neighborhood!” We’ve heard all these elements before, in rock songs too numerous to mention. Yet it has been a long time since an all-woman rock band sounded this unaffected-in other words, Bikini Kill simply, to spout another cliche, rocks out. (The band does include one male member, guitarist Billy Karren.)...

 

When it swings into the chorus, Hanna sings ”Rebel girl/You are the queen of mah world!!” with one of the most impassioned wails in recent years. With the possible exception of L7’s more commercial ”Pretend We’re Dead,” ”Rebel Girl” may be the first riot-grrrl anthem. Pussy Whipped, the first great riot-grrrl album, has plenty of moments like that. As with many of its peers, Bikini Kill sticks to throbbing bass lines, breakneck-speed drumming, crude production, and songs that, in true punk tradition, average about two minutes each. Unlike other grrrls, though, they know something about tight song structures, and Hanna doesn’t just scream. She can taunt, mock, and blare with the best of them (”These are my ruby red lips/The better to suck you dry”). At other moments, though, she can sound as girl-group poppy as a younger, angrier Belinda Carlisle”.

After the demo album, Revolution Girl Style Now, of 1991, the band was hitting new heights and their music was inspiring women around the world. If they were on top of the world in 1993, it would not be long until the negative attention and objections formed cracks in Bikini Kill. One can credit Bikini Kill for crediting the term ‘girl power’ – they got their before the Spice Girls! – but not everyone loved what they were doing. Men would bring chains to their shows and lob them at them; threaten to stab them in the hearts and kill them.

The fact Kathleen Hanna talked about sexual abuse she suffered connected with female fans and she would join fans to the band. Fans would come up to her and share their experience; breaking down barriers and giving these women/girls common and accessible idols. Bikini Kill also made gigs a safer space for women at a time when there was a lot of sexual abuse and sexism. They made sure women could dance and come to the pit – rather than hanging at the sides and fearful of being attacked. The influence of Bikini Kill spread to both men and women and even inspired some big bands. Everyone from Sleater-Kinney to Kim Gordon hail Bikini Kill as an influence and the fact the band fought oppression and took risks – Hanna would often perform in just her bra; men were shirtless so, as she said, it was only fair! – meant they picked up a passionate and huge following. One can look at modern Punk and feminist bands of today and hear Bikini Kill in their D.N.A. The history of Bikini Kill is quite brief but definitely huge and vitally important. It was wonderful when they announced they’d return to the stage for some U.S. gigs. Pitchfork provide some details:

Feminist punk pioneers Bikini Kill will reunite for three shows this spring in New York and L.A. Kathleen Hanna, Tobi Vail, and Kathi Wilcox will be joined by guitarist Erica Dawn Lyle for the shows, replacing guitarist Billy Karren. These will be Bikini Kill's first full shows since the band broke up in 1997. (In late 2017, Hanna, Vail, and Wilcox played one song together at the Kitchen in New York City, during an event celebrating the release of the 33 1/3 book about the Raincoats by Pitchfork Contributing Editor Jenn Pelly.)...

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IMAGE CREDIT: @theebikinikill  

No further information was made available about new music or more touring.

Bikini Kill were the most prominent figureheads of the 1990s riot grrrl movement, inspiring a generation of women to pick up guitars, form bands, publish zines, and get involved in politics. After the band called it quits, frontwoman Kathleen Hanna went on to form Le Tigre and the Julie Ruin. Last year, Bikini Kill’s discography was added to streaming services. Their 1998 compilation The Singles was also reissued in 2018.

Bikini Kill:

04-25 Los Angeles, CA - Hollywood Palladium
05-31 Brooklyn, NY - Brooklyn Steel
06-01 New York, NY - Terminal
5”.

I asked, at the top, how much the industry has changed since 1997. Definitely, in terms of sounds and genres, things are a bit different. The mainstream is not quite as solid as it was back then but, in many ways, more female bands and artists are leading the way. One can definitely credit Bikini Kill with breaking barriers and making it easier for women to speak about their experiences and talk openly about abuse. In many ways, things have not changed. I doubt many female bands are getting the same threats and violence as Bikini Kill did back in the 1990s! In terms of the way women feel at gigs and how safe they are...have we actually gone backwards?!

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 PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

Look at the allegations of sexual abuse at gigs and big artists like R. Kelly being uncovered as this predatory and unseemly figure. There is still so much perversion and danger in music and, whilst Bikini Kill did help bring about changes and dialogue, a lot of male artists are tarnishing that legacy. We have corrupt and unpopular politicians like Donald trump out there and sexism is still rife! There are small changes coming in different areas of music but in terms of pay and equality at gigs, can we really say there has been as much progression as you’d expect?! I feel there is still a preference for male bands and, whilst there are great female groups everywhere, festivals still go after the men. We do need to proffer those bands who stand against authority and, in a bleak time, can make gigs a safe and secure place for women. Riot Grrrl burned bright and captured a spirit that was desperate to be free and understood. That seems to have fallen away and we need to rekindle that spark! I am not sure whether the new Bikini Kill gigs will translate into fresh material – let’s hope it is not merely nostalgia and a way of revisiting their past work. It seems like there is a good spirit in the band and they feel like it is a good time for them to come back. There are a load of great female artists and bands who are speaking out and talking about subjects like abuse (including Halsey) but there is nobody quite like Bikini Kill.

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 PHOTO CREDIT: @theebikinikill/Getty Images

I do feel like they can inspire a new generation and bring about some fresh movement. Even though there are minor evolutions regarding festivals – slower than one had hoped – and improvements here and there, what better way to provoke awareness and protest than a new wave of Bikini Kill magic?! They still have that impetus and reputation and are coming back into an industry that will be more accepting of their music. They will not face the same threats and disgusting behaviour as they did in the 1990s and I feel their voices are sorely needed. Things are black and troubled in many ways and I do think many female artists and fans do not feel comfortable talking about certain subjects or fear being persecuted. Eyes are open but very few minds seem to be. I do fear the sexual abuse claims we are seeing now will only intensify and more and more artists will find themselves being named. It is the unflinching sexism and comparative lack of opportunities for female artists that should spur new Bikini Kill work. Maybe they cannot come up with something as revolutionary and genius as Rebel Girl but there will be so many people looking their way to see what they can come up with! There are some changes afoot but there is a long way to go. With the promise of new Bikini Kill shows, it seems like the Riot Grrrl pioneers are back to...

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 IN THIS PHOTO: Bikini Kill performs during Rock for Choice 1993 at The Palladium in Hollywood/PHOTO CREDIT: Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic

KICK some serious arse!

FEATURE: Everything in a Different Light: The Amazing Susanna Hoffs at Sixty

FEATURE:

 

 

Everything in a Different Light

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IN THIS PHOTO: Susanna Hoffs in the 1980s/PHOTO CREDIT: @SusannaHoffs/Getty Images 

The Amazing Susanna Hoffs at Sixty

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THIS feature will end with a Susanna Hoffs playlist...

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IN THIS PHOTO: The Bangles on a ‘Champs Elysees' T.V. broadcast in 1987/PHOTO CREDIT: Bertrand Rindoff Petroff/Getty Images

but I wanted to mark her sixtieth birthday and recall the first time I came across her music. I guess, like so many, it was The Bangles. The Californian band formed in 1981 and would go on to have huge success and release five albums (so far). It is a testament to their closeness and popularity that their most recent effort, Sweetheart of the Sun, was released in 2011. That album has a great 1960s feel to it and combines the previous work of The Bangles with a jangly, pleasing uplift; a mix of stunning songwriting and incredible vocals. Susanna Hoffs said of the album that it was a reaction to the fact the group are all working mums and have to juggle the responsibilities of home and music – as The Bangles, they were sort of married to one another and life was very different. Even though Sweetheart of the Sun arrived twenty-seven years after their debut, they did not miss a beat and proved they are an incredible force. The tight-knit sound and memorable songs leads me to believe there will be another album from them soon. The Bangles’ debut, All Over the Place, gave me my first taste of Susanna Hoffs. Even though I was born in 1983, this 1984-released record was part of my early life and I recall hearing the hits on the radio. The title might suggest unfocused sounds and ambition but I think it is more to do with rushing around and being frantic.

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 IMAGE CREDIT: Spotify

Nothing really underlines that more than Manic Monday – written, of course, by Prince. The album was not a huge success but it provided enough momentum for them to perform with Cyndi Lauper and Huey Lewis and the News; this brought them to the attention of Prince, who wrote that hit. That would come in 1986 but, on All Over the Place, there was a smattering of promise. Whilst Debbi Petersen (drums, vocals), Michael Steele (bass, vocals) and Vicki Petersen (lead guitar, vocals) make up the group, I think Hoffs’ vocals and songwriting stands out most. She, to me, seems to be the secret weapon of The Bangles – even though they are a democratic trio now - a quartet then - and there are no leaders. Although Vicki Peterson was the ‘lead’ songwriter of the band – she co-write or solo wrote most of the songs – Hoffs co-wrote songs like Hero Takes a Fall, Dover Beach and Restless. Her lead vocals on Dover Beach and He’s Got a Secret are amazing and get into the head. The Bangles’ albums would divide critics after the debut but All Over the Place received some fond praise. AllMusic had this to say in a retrospective review:

All Over the Place is also the Bangles' most unified full-length album; Susanna Hoffs hadn't yet been singled out as the star of the show, and the round-robin lead vocals, stellar harmonies, and tight, concise arrangements make them sound like a real-deal rock band, and the set's gentle but insistent sway from British Invasion-styled rock and West Coast pop feels natural, unforced, and effective. And when drummer Debbie Peterson and bassist Michael Steele feel like rocking out, the Bangles generate a lot more heat than they're usually given credit for, most notably on "Silent Treatment." The Bangles' second full album, Different Light, would sell a lot more copies, but All Over the Place is easily their best and most satisfying LP”.

A lot of the lead vocals on A Different Light are from Michael Steele or Vicki Peterson but Hoffs, as a songwriter and vocalist, gets a lot of the biggest slots. Vicki Peterson, Steele and Hoffs sing together on the band’s huge hit, Walk Like an Egyptian, but Hoffs takes the lead on two of the biggest songs from the album – Manic Monday and Waking Down Your Street. She managed to project a combination of fatigue and hope on the former; something soulful, alluring and nuanced on the later...a performer like no other and someone who was able to transcend these songs to the heavens! Seven of the twelve songs from the album have Hoffs as a co-writer and she was starting to come more into her own. Critics were a little less warm to Different Light and felt the 1960s-inspired songs of the debut were their strong suit. That would be redressed but, to me, it is the breathy and unique voice of Hoffs that made Different Light so captivating. It was rumoured – or quite clear! – that Prince was infatuated with Hoffs and that is why he agreed to write for them. Everything is where I really bonded with The Bangles and discovered the full power and beauty of Susanna Hoffs. I feel the best moments from the record had Hoffs on lead vocal.

In Your Room was one of the strongest songs from the band to that point and returns to the well of the 1960s. You can hear bits of The Beatles and Petula Clark in the song – Hoffs was a fan of these artists. Written with Tom Kelly and Billy Steinberg, Hoffs showed her songwriting prowess on the track and it hit the top-five in the U.S. charts. I’ll Set You Free and Waiting for You had Hoffs lead – the former was another successful single – but the defining hit, Eternal Flame, is why I love her so. Written with the same pair she penned In Your Room with, the song was an instant success and a bit of a tonal change for The Bangles – a rare ballad among more driven, up-tempo songs. Hoffs was talking about The Bangles visiting Elvis Presley’s Graceland and being inspired by that. Steinberg used that story and paired it with memories of a synagogue in the town where he grew up, Palm Springs (California), and those two visions became the ‘eternal flames’. Hoffs was tricked into recording the vocals naked because it was told Olivia Newton-John had done the same – producer Davitt Sigerson said that but it was a prank! To many, earlier hits are more memorable and typical of The Bangles’ strengths but I adore Eternal Flame! This is Susanna Hoffs at her strongest and most captivating.

Her lead vocal is sensational and she imbues so much tenderness, haunt and wonder. It is such a commanding and compelling vocal that means the song is impossible to forget. The song was released in 1989 and, aged five, I recall seeing the video through the bannisters of my old house. It was on VH1 and, whilst it was just the band on the beach, it seemed to open my eyes and has stayed with me since. I wracked my brain wondering why that was but it was that vocal from Hoffs that drew me close. I had never heard anything like it and was determined to dig deeper into The Bangles’ back catalogue. Of course, being five, that consisted or listening to the radio but I remember that song and video being ingrained – it still is to this day! 2003’s Doll Revolution was the first album from the band since their 1998 hiatus. The album gained some healthy reviews but it notable because all three of its singles had Hoffs as the lead. The songs were all co-written by the band (apart from the Elvis Costello cover that opened things) but Something That You Said, Tear Off Your Own Head (It’s a Doll Revolution) – the Costello song – and I Will Take Care of You had Hoffs guide the songs forward.

 IMAGE CREDIT: Spotify

Sweetheart of the Sun would arrive in 2011 and saw Michael Steele leave the group - I am not sure why she did but it meant The Bangles had to adapt (I think Steele’s family commitments were taking up a lot of time). It was a new dynamic and feel but, whilst there were a few co-writers to add to the music, it was the trio who did most of the writing and updated their 1960s sound. Sweetheart of the Sun is fresher and more mature than their earliest work but retains the sunshine, passion and catchy moments! The entire band turn in some great vocals but, as AllMusic say in this review, the bulk are handled by Susanna Hoffs:

They all sound miraculously ageless when singing in harmony but when singing alone they tend to push their voices past their natural limits and end up hitting some duff, craggy notes. Especially Hoffs, who takes the bulk of the leads. It’s too bad Sweet didn’t clamp down and reign in this small but noticeable problem, as it makes for some jagged moments. Still, Sweetheart of the Sun is a remarkably good record that comes long after anyone may have expected the Bangles to do anything much at all. Credit Sweet's production, but also the trio’s dedication and renewed skills and energy. Hopefully it won’t take another quarter-decade to follow this one up”.

I hope the trio get back into the studio to record another album and, as much as I love The Bangles as a trio, I cannot get enough of Hoffs’ voice!

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 IMAGE CREDIT: Spotify

Hoffs has recorded for various bands – including Ming Tea (a faux-1960s group she was/is in with Matthew Sweet and Mike Myers) – but she has enjoyed a great solo career. 1991’s WHEN YOU’RE A BOY did not receive great praise but there were some great moments in the record – including My Side of the Bed. Susanna Hoffs’ eponymous 1996 album helped bring critics back and showcased strongest songs and stronger vocals. It is a more personal album and discusses abusive relations, insecurities and, oddly, John Lennon’s assassination. Many thought Hoffs was past her prime but that was not the case: her second solo album is incredibly catchy, assured and confident. In 2006, with Matthew Sweet, she would release her first Under the Covers album – as the title implies, some of her favourite songs from other songwriters. Her third instalment came in 2012 and it is interesting seeing her approach different songs and adding her own stamp. Her 2012 album, Someday, saw her evolve once more and hit new peaks as a songwriter and singer. She worked alongside Nashville musicians Andrew Brassell and producer Mitchell Froom. The album is sweet and tender and does not really stick closely with The Bangles’ jangly Pop. American Songwriter said this of the album:

The majority of Someday was co-written by Hoffs along with Nashville indie-artist Andrew Brassell, and helmed by veteran producer Mitchell Froom (Elvis Costello, Bonnie Raitt). The 10-track song cycle is a sentimental, but compelling musical billet-doux to sixties-style melodies and emotive lyrics. The picturesque prose and folk-like sound of the infectious “November Sun” and the playful bounce of “One Day” instantly reel you away and find you yearning for simpler times...

 

Someday is the perfect soundtrack for a summertime rainy day that doesn’t overreach or become self-indulgent, but fulfills its goal of a delightfully enjoyable pop record. Here, Hoffs at long last mends her musical fences by making up for her promising but disjointed previous solo efforts (1991’s uneven When You’re A Boy and the forgettable banality of 1996’s Susanna Hoffs). This is easily and undeniably Hoffs’ most definitive musical statement to date”.

I do wonder when we will next hear some music from Susanna Hoffs. Some incredible female icons have turned sixty in the past year – including Madonna and Kate Bush – but Susanna Hoffs holds a special place in my heart. The fact that she always seems to be working and writing means we might not have a huge wait before new material – whether that is a solo record or another Bangles collection. As she celebrates turning sixty, I am reminded of all the incredible songs she has helped bring to the masses. When it comes to writing and performing, there is nobody out there like her. That voice, especially, is a huge weapon: it can go from youthful and sparkling to velvet-smooth and gorgeous without much notice. I will listen to some classic Hoffs/Bangles music but, to mark her sixtieth, I have ended this piece with...

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 PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

AN essential Susanna Hoffs playlist.

INTERVIEW: Ryan Gibeau

INTERVIEW:

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Ryan Gibeau

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I have been speaking with Ryan Gibeau...

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about his single, Flying Away, and his new album, Quiet Fall. He discusses the inspirations behind this single and album and reveals what comes next; where he will be touring and whether he will come to the U.K. and play – the American songwriter selects some rising artists to check out.

I ask Gibeau if he has any advice for emerging musicians and which albums are most important to him; what the scene is like in Brooklyn right now and whether there is more music coming later this year – he ends the interview by selecting a pretty good track.

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

Hi. My week has been eventful, thank you! My pre-sale for Quiet Fall was a great success and now I am shipping out hundreds of packages to some awesome early listeners!

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

Hi. My name is Ryan Gibeau (G-Bo) and I am a Brooklyn based singer/songwriter. I love everything under the entertainment umbrella and do my best to contribute! 

Flying Away is your new single. Is there a story behind it?

There is a story behind Flying Away - and it was a very surprising one in two ways...

As a songwriter, lyrics and story are hard for me to get right and call done. Also, I usually record my sessions to remember progress. In this instance, I was leaving the East Coast to try out L.A. - which meant leaving an on-again-off-again relationship for good. It was emotionally very difficult and, on that flight, I had the urge to write about it. In moments the story was written out and, as I was writing it, I was imagining a melody but had no way to record it and no instrument to help me figure out the chord progression...so I just guessed the chords and continued humming the melody to make sure it wasn't lost.

As soon as I landed, I got to my friends home and borrowed his guitar. To my absolute shock, the song was whole. The chords worked, the melody was as I imagined and the story was told. Flying Away was birthed on a flight to L.A. and still gives me goosebumps as I remember the process and shock to see it all work.

Your album, Quiet Fall, was released at the end of last year. What sort of things inspired the songs? Is it quite a personal album?

Quiet Fall is a very personal album. It chronicles the breakdown of a relationship and how I fell and got back up. I have love and respect for her but we didn't work and it was hurting us both. I wanted to delve into that for a very specific purpose - I want people to see who I am and what I went through. I write about what hurts me and why and how I play a role in that.

I'm not the type that tries to portray a perfect life - the catharsis of making music actually helps me learn and grow. As a result of my honest approach, a lot of people have shared stories about how my music has helped them or emotionally affected them and it creates real dialogue - because there is no shame and there are no barriers. Vulnerable is the hardest thing to be and because I explore this space. I believe other people feel ok to do it too. 

Might we see more music coming later in the year?

My goal is to create more! I am working on new music and also working with other artists - so there will be some knowns and unknowns ahead as I explore post-debut album. Following my social channels is a great way to see progress as I always share the work we make!

When you were growing up, which artists guided and compelled you to get into the business?

I'm glad you asked because I've never shared this before, but I think it’s really important - 'get into the business' is not a term I connect with, truth be told. I am a career filmmaker and music has been a hobby that may, ideally, one day take over. Getting into the business would be amazing but one thing I learned through filmmaking is that the art takes a very big hit when the business angle becomes important.

I make music for entertainment sake and I share - that's my objective. If there's a demand, if it becomes profitable and I can make a living entertaining, that's when I'll accept help getting into the business but, for now, and forever, I'm ideally making my art authentically and organically for art's sake.

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You reside in Brooklyn. Are you inspired by the people and music around you?

Always. When asked who my heroes are, the answer is: the people around me doing it. Making, playing and sharing - it’s all very hard. In the city, there are a lot of people here talking about trying to make it but, when you see people actually making it as they try to make it, you can't help but feel driven in their company. These small venues are full of people taking risks and that is where real passion and creativity comes from. I'll see a show and love the energy of the track.

I'll ask myself why I loved it and figure out how to work those important elements into my show. That research helps me grow and helps my friends and fans enjoy new experiences each time. Big shout and thank you to all N.Y.C. artists!

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

In New York, every show is a hustle to play and get fans out to - and once your show is over the crowd almost completely rotates out for the new band. Seldom does a crowd stay in one place for a night of music here - except my favorite night of music ever. Webster Hall Studio a couple years ago. I had a great crowd of about seventy-five people join me as I opened the night for two other awesome acts. Mid-show, their fans all started pouring in and, rather than talk over the music, they listened. More and more showed.

By the time my show was over, we had about one-hundred-and-seventy-five in the room and they were super-fun! When my show was over, my fans and I stayed for the next act and the room was incredibly electric. The night was all about appreciating the music and supporting the artists and it’s a feeling I hope to experience again and again as I continue to play.

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

Queen - Greatest Hits (1981)

This is the first album I obsessed over and listened to as a kid until I knew all track titles, order; lyrics, melodies and harmonies. Yes, I could also blast all guitar solos with my sweet vocal guitar sound fx. Freddie Mercury, as a performer, only became more relevant when I was older and started performing - only then did I realize his genius beyond the old C.D. I used to play on repeat

Regina Spektor - Begin to Hope (2006)

My introduction to Spektor was actually through Us from Soviet Kitsch in 2005 but shortly after when Begin to Hope came out I realized how into this artist I was. Her voice was such a unique and diverse instrument I wanted to study her and understand how she was able to be so creative, yet also so accessible. Paired with her genius visual style and music video work - I knew this was a special moment in my musical journey.

Bon Iver - 22, A Million (2016)

If you have a heart and a soul you have been crushed by Justin's journey and exploration into music in this album. I was also very lucky to be living here in N.Y.C. as Bon Iver played eight straight shows. Some small at Pioneer Works and then some huge at Kings Theatre. It made the album release so much more special. To not only listen to the music but to watch it live and breathe and change at the same time, I was becoming familiar with the record. 

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

Easy. Sigur Rós. After listing my favorite albums I left out one of my favorite artists, so I'm glad I have a chance to bring it full circle to people who use their voices as a unique instrument and story-tell with melody so beautifully. It would be my mission to learn in real-time how to utilize some of the musical stylings of Sigur Rós to create more huge soundscapes and blend it organically with my sound. Second tour I'd support Muse. Similar reasoning, different genre.

Regarding a rider, I'm not too fussy presently. Just get me on a stage with awesome and reliable sound. I'll hit you back with more particulars after I've been touring and learning why riders exist!

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What advice would you give to new artists coming through?

Do it for love of the game first. Make music because you love making music. Remember that feeling of excitement, power and confidence you get from sharing your gift and never stray too far from it. You will make right and wrong moves in the process of making music – but, if you make decisions with your heart and your gut, you'll likely not regret a mistake.

Coming from experience, I didn't believe in one of my marketing ideas and, in the end, it cost me money and I failed in an effort to strengthen myself as a musician and a brand. Also, when you do make a mistake, understand what the mistake was and why/how you made it and don't repeat. Learn and grow always - and never stray too far from the love of why you started in the first place.

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

I'm organizing a New England tour which is, unfortunately, far from an England tour. You can catch me in Boston, N.Y.C.; New Hampshire, Connecticut and Vermont and, while out for music work on the West Coast, I'll make an appearance in Los Angeles too! 

Might you come to the U.K. and play at some point?

I would love to come out and play for you all! We have had several European requests...so I do believe we will be looking at some dates in the near-future, though; sorry to say nothing is in the books right now! 

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IN THIS PHOTO: Coyle Girelli

Are there any new artists you recommend we check out?

I like this question. Check out a favorite (and U.K.-born artist) Coyle Girelli. He just released his debut solo album, Love Kills, and he and I are playing shows together in N.Y.C. this winter. Also, look into Chris Garneau who has contributed wonderful art over the years including his recent album release, Yours

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IN THIS PHOTO: Chris Garneau

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

Music is what I do in my chill time! In N.Y.C., I run a creative production company called ROCK*iT FiLMS and we spend a lot of time coming up with meaningful content for established and emerging brands as well as working with local musicians to help them with killer content. Apart from all that, I play intramural sports and dive into occasional video games and movies. I'm human like the rest of y'all (smiles).

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

Baby's Romance by Chris Garneau. This is a wonderfully powerful song from Garneau's debut album, Music for Tourists. Amazing

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Follow Ryan Gibeau

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FEATURE: February Song: Incredible Albums to Own Next Month

FEATURE:

 

 

February Song

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PHOTO CREDIT: @all_who_wander/Unsplash 

Incredible Albums to Own Next Month

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I was a little doubtful we’d get many great albums...

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PHOTO CREDIT: @rawpixel/Unsplash 

until March or later but it seems, in 2019, artist are keen to get cracking! This month has not been short of great music but I think next month is where it steps up and we will see a lot more excellent records. It is a cold and wet day so it is a good excuse to stay in and prepare some serious pre-ordering! I am already deciding which albums to get and whether I can afford them all – probably not but you have to put some money aside for great music! I am sure there are a few albums in this collection that will strike you and will be making their way into your collection. I feel, as the months go by, we will see more and more terrific albums out but February is a really great one. Have a browse through the very best of next month and be sure to put some pennies a jar and...

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 PHOTO CREDIT: @marcvcci/Unsplash

GRAB your favourite albums.

ALL ALBUM COVERS: Getty Images/Artists

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Beirut Gallipoli

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Release Date: 1st February, 2019

Label: 4AD

Genres: Balkan-Folk/World/Folk

Follow: https://twitter.com/bandBeirut

Pre-Order: https://www.roughtrade.com/gb/music/beirut-gallipoli

Girlpool What Chaos Is Imaginary

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Release Date: 1st February, 2019

Label: ANTI-

Genres: Alternative/Indie

Follow: https://twitter.com/girlpool

Pre-Order: https://www.recordstore.co.uk/recordstore/Coming-Soon/What-Chaos-Is-Imaginary/60SS0E3I000

The Specials Encore

Release Date: 1st February, 2019

Label: UMC

Genres: New-Wave/Post-Punk/Ska

Follow: https://twitter.com/thespecials

Pre-Order: https://www.roughtrade.com/gb/music/the-specials-encore

Cherry Glazerr Stuffed & Ready

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Release Date: 1st February, 2019

Label: Secretly Canadian

Genres: Noise-Pop/Garage-Rock

Follow: https://twitter.com/cherryglazerr

Pre-Order: https://www.roughtrade.com/gb/music/cherry-glazerr-stuffed-and-ready

Cass McCombs Tip of the Sphere

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Release Date: 8th February, 2019

Label: ANTI-

Genres: Rock/Folk

Follow: https://twitter.com/cassmccombs

Pre-Order: https://uk.kingsroadmerch.com/anti-records/artist/?id=676

Mercury Rev Bobbie Gentry’s The Delta Sweete Revisited

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Release Date: 8th February, 2019

Label: Bella Union

Genres: New-Wave/Post-Punk/Ska

Follow: https://twitter.com/mercuryrevvd

Pre-Order: https://www.normanrecords.com/records/173870-mercury-rev-bobbie-gentrys-the-delta-sweete

YAK Pursuit of Momentary Happiness

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Release Date: 8th February, 2019

Label: Third Man Records

Genres: Alternative/Rock/Indie

Follow: https://twitter.com/yak_band

Pre-Order: https://www.roughtrade.com/gb/music/yak-pursuit-of-mommentary-happiness

Ladytron Ladytron

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Release Date: 15th February, 2019

Label: !K7

Genres: Synth-Pop/Electro-Pop

Follow: https://twitter.com/LadytronMusic

Pre-Order: https://driftrecords.com/products/ladytron-ladytron

Methyl Ethel Triage

Release Date: 15th February, 2019

Label: 4AD

Genres: Art-Rock/Indie-Rock

Follow: https://twitter.com/MethylEthel

Pre-Order: https://driftrecords.com/products/methyl-ethel-triage

Drenge Strange Creatures

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Release Date: 22nd February, 2019

Label: Infectious Music

Genres: Garage-Rock/Grunge

Follow: https://twitter.com/drenge

Pre-Order: https://www.roughtrade.com/gb/music/drenge-strange-creatures

James Yorkston The Route to the Harmonium

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Release Date: 22nd February, 2019

Label: Domino Recording Company

Genres: Folk/Singer-Songwriter

Follow: https://twitter.com/jamesyorkston

Pre-Order: https://www.dominomusic.com/releases/james-yorkston/the-route-to-the-harmonium-lp-mart-exclusive

Julia Jacklin Crushing

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Release Date: 22nd February, 2019

Label: Liberation Records

Genres: Art-Pop/Indie-Folk

Follow: https://twitter.com/JuliaJacklin

Pre-Order: http://smarturl.it/crushing