INTERVIEW: SUMif

INTERVIEW:

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SUMif

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THE fantastic SUMif has been telling me about...

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her latest single, Obvious, and what its tale is. I wanted to discover which artists she grew up around and whether we might see more material coming along – SUMif reveals when music became her life and what life is like in San Francisco.

The U.S. songwriter chooses a few albums that are important to her; whether she will come to the U.K. and play; the artist she’d support given the chance and some rising musicians we need to follow – she chooses a cool track to end the interview with.

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

Fabulous! I just got back from a week skiing in Japan actually!

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

Sure thing. I’m SUMif. I’m based in San Francisco, California and I make Electro-Pop music. My main goal is to make you dance, or bob your head...or move at least a little. 

Obvious is your new track. What is the story behind the song?

Obvious is about the moment when I met someone who opened my eyes, who allowed me to see my truth clearly. At the time, I had been avoiding the reality of a certain situation but, all of a sudden, the answer was sitting in front of me in plain sight.  

Is there going to be more material coming along this year?

Always and forever will you be getting new material from me! But, yes, I have a little E.P. coming out very soon followed by many new singles and another E.P. 

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Do you recall which artists you were listening to growing up?

Yes! Lots of The Beatles, Sheryl Crow and Mary Chapin Carpenter. Those are the distinct names I can remember my parents loving, so they were often plated at home or in the car. 

Was there a moment when you realised songwriting and music was your calling?

I wrote a song my senior year of high-school about a boy (lolz) I met who lived across the country. We met at a pre-college summer camp of sorts. I was crazy about him and wrote this poppy little song on my acoustic guitar and sang it for my school talent show.

Someway, somehow, my song ended up getting voted our class graduation song  the song they play when you throw your hats up in the air…in front of the three-thousand-plus people in the audience…usually a song like Green Day’s Good Riddance (Time of Your Life) or Vitamin C’s Graduation would win.

It was the first time in my life that others saw my art and especially my songwriting as something worth paying attention to. I used this song to audition to the music program at NYU and, when I got in, it further led me to believe in myself as a songwriter. 

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You have become a San Francisco staple. How important is the area and the people?

S.F. is truly home. I could gush about the beauty of the Bay area for ages. I arrived in S.F. six years ago knowing essentially no one. I built a life there, one that I am so, so proud of. I am surrounded by the most fun brilliant excellent supportive people I could imagine there - they’re my family.

On top of that, I’ve able to build up my music project there and am a big fish in a little pond. In the Bay, they play me on the radio and I’m a go-to support act for smaller Pop acts that come through town. These are things that wouldn’t happen to me in L.A. where there are so many people trying to do exactly what I am.   

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

So, so many but, in this moment, I would say playing Pride on the main stage last summer. It was beyond my wildest hopes for the performance. The sun was shining; it was hot (very rare for S.F.) and there were somewhere between five-hundred and one-thousand people watching me but they weren’t just watching; they were jumping and singing and...it was everything. Playing at Pride and waving around a rainbow flag was really a true symbol of freedom for me and my journey with coming out and coming to terms with being gay. 

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

Odesza - In Return

Cinematic-Pop that makes me jump and pretend to bang on drums no matter where I am or what I’m doing. I’ve seen Odesza live over ten times – they truly embody my goal of making people want to move with my music. 

Tove Lo - Lady Wood

Tove Lo is an incredible songwriter, performer and artist. She is one of my biggest inspirations.   

Jack’s Mannequin - Everything in Transit

This album came out right around the time I got my first car, where it held a permanent position in the C.D. player. Each track was and still is Pop-Rock perfection in my book.     

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

Tove Lo. My rider would definitely have a ton of Harmless Harvest Coconut Water and RX bars. 

What advice would you give to new artists coming through?

Be authentic, be unapologetically yourself and don’t give up when it gets frustrating or hard - because it will be frustrating or hard most of the time. 

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Do you think there are going to any tour dates coming up?

I sure hope so. Right now, just S.F. on March 1st for Noise Pop Festival.

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

Dying to! Help me make it happen?

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 IN THIS PHOTO: Dagny/PHOTO CREDIT: Jonathan Vivaas Kise

Are there any new artists you recommend we check out?

I’m a HUGE Scandinavian Pop fanatic…and my faves right now are Dagny, Sigrid; LÉON and ALMA.

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 IN THIS PHOTO: Sigrid

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

I travel quite a bit, so I essentially save up my ‘chill time’ and my spend time away from music while seeing new places. My greatest passion aside from music is exploring new places but, when I’m at home and living a normal week, I tell myself that, if I have time to watch T.V. or a movie, then I have time to work on music.

So, I try not to do many ‘wind down’ activates. I am working on reading more though! I am learning French and, while it’s not really unwinding, it is something completely different that I do enjoy. 

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).

Hmmm. SO hard to pick just one song. But, right now, let’s go with Flight FacilitiesClair de Lune. Thanks so much!

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Follow SUMif

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INTERVIEW: Rasha Jay

INTERVIEW:

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Rasha Jay

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I am a little late putting this online...

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PHOTO CREDIT: Jordan Tempro 

but I have been speaking with Rasha Jay about her new single, Red Coat. I ask what it concerns and what we can expect from her upcoming E.P., High Dive – Rasha Jay talks about breaking down boundaries and when music came into her life.

The songwriter discusses a few albums important to her; whether she has plans for this year and what it is like stepping into Blues – a genre dominated by men – and whether there are challenges – she picks a great song to end the interview with.

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Hi, Rasha Jay. How are you? How has your week been?

I am well, thank you. My week has been great!

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

I am Rasha Jay; a singer and songwriter from the U.S. in the Alternative/Blues genre, mostly. Blues, mainly, because of how my voice comes across, I suppose, and Alternative in how I write my songs.

Can you tell me when you got into music? Were there particular records or artists that inspired that passion?

My family tells me that I’ve been singing since I was two or three; a relative would teach me Gospel songs on the front porch. I don’t recall it but seems about right! I was deeply drawn to music early on, hearing melodies and singing all of the time. Prince’s Sign o’ the Times album sticks out for me - I think it was mainly a black cover. I recall opening the album and reading the lyrics and being fascinated with the grooves.  

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 PHOTO CREDIT: @sayjor

You play in a Blues-Rock/Alt-Blues mould. It is traditionally populated by white men. Were there any hesitations stepping into that world?

No hesitations at all! It’s about storytelling and standing firm, singing your song. I have a song to sing and I rest on great shoulders; those unbridled voices I admire so much. I want to push it forward. I want to expand the story.

Do you think it is important that artists break down walls and barriers in order to bring about progression and evolution?

Yes, absolutely! I love the classic songs like everyone else but they’ve been done before. (And again and again as they should be). But, I’m more curious about what’s around the corner; what’s going to be a part of that lexicon that we can look back on in years to come? And, personally, am I pushing myself to seek new ways to convey my thoughts in song?

Red Coat is your new single. Is there a story behind it at all?

Red Coat is a song that I wrote, in part, years ago but it didn’t make my first E.P. It was something that always lingered around my mind, though. I sang the guitar riff all the time - it wouldn’t leave me. The song is about the murky, thick part of knowing yourself and how love can be abrasive. It’s also about how other’s behaviour can keep you from giving all that you have. To keep a part of yourself wrapped up is, I feel, perfectly fine and it happens within every relationship.

Can you reveal any details about your upcoming E.P., High Dive, and the sort of themes explored?

High Dive is a short journey about exploring different emotions, those that are conflicting and those that are tough. And, purposely, the songs have questions posed within the songs. They are questions that people ask of you and you ask of yourself.

Do you already have plans for 2019?

Yes. I can’t wait to release this single and its video! I’m also going to give listeners an inside view about how Red Coat was made in the studio with my co-producer, Katmaz. I can’t wait to go home to Maryland and sing these new songs live for my hometown and I’m planning my E.P. release show.

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 PHOTO CREDIT: Jordan Tempro 

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

My favorite time so far...that is tough!

But, I will say that playing live is my favorite thing to do and I am fortunate to know some talented musicians. One sticks out: my first show at The Twisted Elm in New Jersey a few years back. I’m playing with a new guitarist, Mike, and when my set was done they yelled “One more!” I was so shocked and humbled. Mike and I didn’t plan anything.

I looked to him and said “Plush by Stone Temple Pilots?” He nodded ‘yes’ and hit the chords. I had no idea if he knew it. I ended up doing two more encores that night. He knows every song. I keep him close to this day!

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

Michael Jackson - Thriller

For every reason imaginable; all the reasons. I used to close my eyes and wish that P.Y.T. was written for me. And, I was like, six-years-old! 

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Anita Baker - Rapture

My aunt and grandmother had her poster on their walls! She was my earliest female representation of a Rock star. I hadn’t heard a voice like that and I watched everyone who heard her songs have so many different responses. Some would get quiet and sway, others would jump up and sing out. That is real power.

Janet Jackson - Control

I danced and danced to this album as a kid. I knew every move she did on the videos; I was Janet in my mind. I thought I wanted to be both dancer and singer. I still dance but it’s reduced itself to jumping around and hip-swaying.

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

The Arctic Monkeys! My rider would just be a huge fan and some water. The fan and water to help me not faint at the thought of opening for them.  

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PHOTO CREDIT: Jordan Tempro

What advice would you give to new artists coming through?

I would say that whatever you are creating, know that everyone won’t be on board and you’ll have to ride alone. And that’s alright. Keep going.

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

I’m working on that, I promise! I played in the U.K. previously. Looking to head back there as well.

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 IN THIS PHOTO: Katmaz

Are there any new artists you recommend we check out?

My producer, Katmaz. His music is brooding and bubbling all at once. He gets me and my dark style and Red Coat couldn’t have sounded the way it does without our sync.

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

I unwind by listening to more music - I don’t want to get away from it. Late at night, I’m always looking for shows such as Rick and Morty and The Great British Bake Off.

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).

In true encore fashion, Plush by Stone Temple Pilots

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Follow Rasha Jay

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FEATURE: Edge of Seventeen: BBC Radio 6 Music: The Progression, the Power and Prime Cuts – and Why the Station Remains the Ultimate Ambition for Folk Like Me

FEATURE:

 

 

Edge of Seventeen

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IMAGE CREDIT: BBC/@BBC6Music  

BBC Radio 6 Music: The Progression, the Power and Prime Cuts – and Why the Station Remains the Ultimate Ambition for Folk Like Me

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YOU’LL excuse (I hope) the long title...

but I have another cold – does anyone stay healthy living in London?! – and germs seem to be invading every crevice, crease and psychic corner of my mind, body and temperament. I am hoping it clears through but, as I battle the Game of Thrones-like violence of a dreaded cold, I have been thinking about a big anniversary that is coming up: the seventeenth birthday of BBC Radio 6 Music. 11th March marks the official seventeenth anniversary and I think it is a mighty big one! Apart from all the seventeen-named songs they could play (I have included Stevie Nicks’ finest at the very top), it is testament to the station’s brand, loyalty and quality that means it is still on the air. BBC Radio 6 Music is a digital station and, back in 2002, survival and popularity was not a guarantee. In July 2010, there were plans to close BBC Radio 6 Music to allow its commercial superiors the room to breathe and focus. Figures such as Lauren Laverne voiced their concern and, with vociferous and passionate campaign, the station was saved. It seems ludicrous to imagine the airwaves without such a big and alternative station. The figures show that, by 2018, BBC Radio 6 was the most-listened-to digital station around with over two-and-a-half-million listeners. I will talk more about the changes, movements and personal reasons why the station remains so close to my heart but, at its core, is this very loyal and dedicated group of people.

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 IN THIS PHOTO: BBC Radio 6 Music’s new breakfast show host, Lauren Laverne/PHOTO CREDIT: Chris McAndrew for The Times

From the producers to social media guys; the small and big cogs that make BBC Radio 6 Music the must-listen-to option for those who want their music fresh, quality-huge and eclectic…they all deserve to, as Madonna said, take a bow. In terms of staff retention, BBC Radio 6 Music must rank as one of the most unchanged and impressive! I am not sure how many regular fixtures have moved since the launch but there has not been a great deal of movement through the years. Many argue there is a need for some new blood and changes – more women and black faces – but BBC Radio 6 Music, like its Wogan House-sharing colleagues at BBC Radio 2, have made some big steps. The fact Lauren Laverne hosts the breakfast show – she has naturally settled into the spot Shaun Keaveny used to fill – and we have Mary Anne Hobbs doing mornings means two of the station’s most-prominent and popular slots are occupied by women...women of the North, no less! There are, perhaps, fewer women at the station that one might hope but there is some great talent coming through. Katie Puckrik is a fabulous voice that many feel should be a permanent part of the station’s rotation; Cerys Matthew has her own show and Liz Kershaw is another big name at the station. Amy Lamé is also at BBC Radio 6 Music and there are quite a few female producers...

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 IN THIS PHOTO: Amy Lamé/PHOTO CREDIT: Matt Writtle

I feel, as the station grows and more listeners flood in, there will be a remit and budget to transfer more talent in – maybe in the form of making temporary female D.J.s permanent or scouting Internet stations and local players like Soho Radio. Georgie Rogers is a voice I have been lobbying to hear more of as, not only has she got one of the most beautiful radio voice possible; she knows her stuff and is an energetic, popular and knowledgeable presenter. I am not sure whether the structure will remain the same but there are other presenters, such as the excellent Jon Hillcock, who deserves their own permanent show. Rogers has her own Sunday show on Soho Radio and I think she could create her niche at BBC Radio 6 Music with some late-evening vibes and some seriously big tunes. Hillcock is another fantastic presenter and I think a weekend evening show, every week, would be his sort of fit. Not to put words and suggestions in the box at the BBC Radio 6 Music door but there are voices on social media that are passionate about these people and would love to hear more from them. There is, naturally, finite room at the station and the intense loyalty from its long-serving riders mean job opportunities are hard to come by.

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 IN THIS PHOTO: Miranda Sawyer/PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

I will look more closely at the station’s ethos and D.N.A. structure in a bit but, in a recent post, I was a little cold when it came to giving non-music peeps their own show. The excellent Miranda Sawyer has her Sound and Vision show that talks with popular figures from the screen and reveals their musical tastes. The Leisure Society with Gemma Cairney looks at the arts and steps outside a purely musical sphere. These incredible women present shows that are very different to anything else at BBC Radio 6 Music and it is good we get that cross-pollination of disciplines, fields of the arts and options. The fact Cillian Murphy has his own show is, yeah, a good thing (he is only stepping in temporarily but I think he might get his own long-term option)! Props to the man and I know he is already proving a popular selection – he takes over Guy Garvey’s Sunday show. I was a bit ambivalent regarding actors getting their own radio slots – bitter grapes overflowing in my wine glass! – but I think it is good. Murphy can bring his own perspective to the slot and I know he will be a very entertaining, informative and calming voice for those who want some quality tunes and relaxation on a Sunday. Aside from the need to get a few more women onto the station, it is great there are new features and shows cropping up. One cannot doubt BBC Radio 6 Music is moving and shaking in the right direction!

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 IN THIS PHOTO: Actor Cillian Murphy is temporarily taking over Guy Garvey’s Sunday show as the Elbow frontman works on a new album/PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

I have mentioned a few of the presenters on the station but, at the moment, the weekday schedule has the reliable start from Chris Hawkins. He must be the hardest-working human on Earth and seems to be the go-to-guy when a show needs a substitute or there is some last-minute saving to be done! He is the King of Early Mornings and is responsible for waking us up with his patented blend of world-class musical knowledge, warmth and affection towards his listeners (we love him too)…and his smooth professionalism. Hawkins is one of those people you do not want to see leave the station and he keeps things warm until Lauren Laverne gets into the chair at Wogan House – Hawkins presents from MediaCity in the city of Salford. Laverne is a wonderful radio host and the fact she is also chairing (for the time being) Desert Island Discs means she is one of the most potent and powerful women on radio right now. I loved her mid-morning show but she has adapted to breakfast like a champ and has introduced some new features that have recruited fresh listeners. Hawkins has kept his core and continues to be a big pull for BBC Radio 6 Music. Laverne is one of the most knowledgeable names on the show and I always marvel how her and her production team manage to bring so many great sounds to us (is that a split infinitive?!).

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 IN THIS PHOTO: Shaun Keaveny/PHOTO CREDIT: BBC/Getty Images

I love Laverne’s show and her features – including Monday’s Cloudbusting and her Desert Island Disco – are fantastic. She has brought her listener from mid-morning but I think she is also bringing in a new demographic to breakfast. Shaun Keaveny is on afternoons now and moved from breakfast. He is a fantastic D.J. (and person) and has, like Laverne, kept his followers and brought in some new people. His musical outlay is slightly different to Lauren Laverne’s show – each show has its own tattoos and flavour – and there are some different features. Keaveny seems more refreshed in the afternoons and is producing excellent shows. He is another name that is essential to the station’s survival and growth - and you always get that great mixture of humour, anything-could-go-wrong-at-any-moment and faux-moaning from the man. I was worried when he moved from his slot but Lauren Laverne is smashing the breakfast show and Keaveny is doing a wonderful job on afternoons. He is joined by Matt Everitt on music news and their bond is a key element to the afternoon show’s feel. Everitt – formerly of Menswear and The Montrose Avenue (drummer) – knows his beans and he brings us a daily dose of music news! I do like the interplay between Keaveny and Everitt and it is this sort of long-standing friendship and warmth that makes BBC Radio 6 Music feel so familial and wonderful.

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 IN THIS PHOTO: Mary Anne Hobbs/PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

Mary Anne Hobbs – who was poorly last week with flu – is doing Laverne’s old slot and bringing her unique talents to the mid-morning gig! The soothing and warm voice of Hobbs is a perfect way to keep the momentum going and ensure the working week is as captivating and interesting as possible. Like Lauren Laverne, I am glad Hobbs was ‘promoted’ and, coming from MediaCity, there is this nice sandwich (albeit a four-layered one!) between the London-based and those in Salford. Hobbs’ sheer passion, experience and knowledge means she is bringing us rare treasures, unheard-of treats and some of the best artists around. She is as much a curator and discoverer as she is a D.J. Every show is eye-opening and you know how much music means to Hobbs – as it does every single human who works there! I like the different tones of the weekday shows and how someone like Mary Anne Hobbs can inhibit their own world. You never get two same-sounding shows and there is always something fascinating on BBC Radio 6 Music. Through weekdays and weekends, BBC Radio 6 Music boasts these incredible and highly addictive shows. Tom Robinson is one of those D.J.s who has a long history in the music industry and he brings his expertise and sheer verve to every broadcast. Don ‘The Rebel Dread’ Letts has his awesome style and show (check out his page on the BBC Radio 6 Music website) - and who can imagine weekdays without Steve Lamacq and Marc Riley?!

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 IN THIS PHOTO: Marc Riley/PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

I love Gideon Coe’s show and what he provides; Tom Ravenscroft – another name that should be permanent on a daily basis (have his own show each day) – is someone who naturally seems at home on BBC Radio 6 Music (…and is the son of the late John Peel). Gilles Peterson, Nemone; Huey Morgan and Craig Charles are entertaining, hugely popular and essential ingredients in the BBC Radio 6 Music cuisine! Doing weekend breakfast is Stuart Maconie and Mark Radcliffe and I was a bit worried when they were taken from their weekday afternoons and moved to weekend breakfast! That said…they have made weekend breakfasts their own and they are doing wonderfully. I love the fact that these icons of radio remain together and that is what I mean regarding togetherness and loyalty – I could not imagine Radcliffe or Maconie being without on e other! Their morning show is fantastic and they have the let’s-hope-never-ending The Chain and Tea Time Theme Time. The presenters are fantastic and one mustn’t forget all the people behind the scenes that make it all run smoothly. There have been few big changes regarding personnel and shows through the years but I like the fact the D.J.s feel happy where they are and always bringing something new to their shows. BBC Radio 6 Music is never stale and predictable: every year, there are these revolutions, changes and new aspects.

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 IN THIS PHOTO: Craig Charles/PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

Not only is the love the presenters have for the station the reason why BBC Radio 6 Music recruits new listeners – and existing ones are not upset when their favourite names leaves! – but you have these familiar and fabulous voices that seem like family. They follow us when we head to work in the dark and they keep us company, secretly, when we sneak a listen in the office. We get to hear them when we are commuting home and, when we need something electric, eclectic and  fun at the weekend, they are there to provide a box-full of cool vinyl, fresh cuts and engaging chat! I have written about the station multiple times – and will continue to do so – but there are multiple reasons why I am a die-hard fan. For a start, the music played is definitely a lot cooler and more ambitious than many stations. Tune the dial to any of the big and small names and you get varying quality. This might be subjective bias but BBC Radio 1 is too chart-based and, aside from people like Annie Mac…not many of the D.J.s are playing top-quality stuff as often as they should. BBC Radio 2 can stray into the slightly chart-cheese/calm realm and, whilst they play a lot of the classic hits, they are not so up regarding the newest underground acts. Each station around has its own remit and demographic but I worry whether there are these divides between stations like BBC Radio 1 and 2 – the former for the younger and the latter for those who prefer some softer chart music and the older tracks. I guess that is the way it needs be but I feel BBC Radio 6 Music is a natural peacemaker and can unite the classic and new without much effort.

Although they do not play a lot of BBC Radio 1’s worst moments (the processed Pop and inane Electronic music), there are some common threads between the stations. BBC Radio 6 Music will dip into the cauldron of BBC Radio 2 without playing a lot of the slightly sterile and faceless chart songs that favour those of a slightly more mature frame. In acting as an intersect on the Venn diagram, we have this divining rod that is wide-ranging and speaks to those who like their music without barriers, restrictions and guidelines! It is the freewheelin’ and unpredictable nature of the station that pricks the ears of the curious and keeps its loyal core happy and safe. One would not be shocked to hear BBC Radio 6 Music play something from Del Shannon alongside The Prodigy or Stevie Nicks! They do not tend to play much commercial chart stuff or certain genres but, with few limitations, the sky is open and theirs for the taking! That is the main reason BBC Radio 6 Music succeeds and appeals to the genuine music lover: the huge breadth of their playlist and how they can introduce us to great new acts and remind us of some of the legends and classics songs we forgot about! I do love the fact they give a home to unsigned and upcoming artists; so many I know have been given a boost by the station.

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 IN THIS PHOTO: Matt Everitt with The Rolling Stones’ Ronnie Wood (who he interviewed for his The First Time with… show)/PHOTO CREDIT: BBC/@matteveritt 

Not only is the variety of music played amazing but the features and shows we see on BBC Radio 6 Music is insane! There are one-off broadcasts that cover everything from album anniversaries through to women in music and, as they have been doing lately, Berlin has come under the spotlight. It is not the case, as you get with many stations, they are very rigid and do not deviate much from the format. I like the documentaries on the station and the regular features like Matt Everitt’s The First Time with... and The Leisure Society. The station marks albums’ anniversaries and they celebrate icons who have big birthdays. One of the hardest things they had to do was react when Prince and David Bowie died in 2016. Instead of panicking or ignoring the fact, they dedicated the station to them and seamlessly altered their playlists so that their music was played. The list of assets and wonderful facets (of BBC Radio 6 Music) is endless and BBC Radio 6 Music is always responding to its listeners and what they want. I guess the BBC Radio 6 Music Festival will be back this year - they didn’t run it in 2018 - and it will be interesting to see who they book for their stages. I predict Self Esteem (Rebecca LucyTaylor) will play a big role but there will be this great mix of established artists and the new breed.

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 PHOTO CREDIT: @BBC6Music

I have talked a lot about a possible BBC Radio 6 Music awards – that would be better and more equal than the Grammys and BRIT Awards – and would cure some of the downfalls regarding the Mercury Prize and how it chooses its shortlist. The station has been going for nearly seventeen years and it has adapted to changes in music and technology. Looking at the BBC Radio 6 Music Twitter feed and there is this constant communication between the station and fans – getting the listeners involved and responding to their voices. I have only really scratched the surface of what makes BBC Radio 6 Music great but I know, when it hits seventeen, there will be much cheer and celebration.

The fact it was threatened with extinction only eight years into its run makes it extra-special the ship continues to sail and conquer new lands! I do wonder if there will be any personnel changes in 2019 – aside from Cillian Murphy’s appointment – but, if it ain’t broke, then why fix it?! Seventeen is quite a milestone and, rather than mark this stroppy and hormone-laden teenager, we will party tribute to this dignified and cool-as-hell student – if BBC Radio 2 is the parent that asks the kids to keep the volume down; BBC Radio 1 is the drink-laden revelers turning up the volume then BBC Radio 6 Music is the smiling teen that sits in an empty bath and listens to a Talking Heads record on a turntable and peruses a biography of Madonna!

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 PHOTO CREDIT: @heftiba/Unsplash

One of the big reasons why people like me – music journalists and impassioned folk – love the station so is because it seems like our natural home! Whilst there is a long list of people who want their own show there, I hope I do live to see the day when I can hear my own show back – even if is only a one-off. I adore the fact there is this scope for one-offs and once a week slots; a chance for autonomy and something fresh. Cillian Murphy has his show coming up very soon but my desire has been to have this show– maybe once a week – that is a few hours long and I can mix in these new songs (those that might not be familiar with BBC Radio 6 Music) and the songs/artists who have moulded me. I would dedicate the second hour of each show to my own segments and ideas. Every week would feature a documentary that would focus on anything from albums celebrating anniversaries to sexism in the music industry; a look at movements like the birth of Hip-Hop or talk about sampling in music. There would also be a music interview with various figures – from D.J.s and actors through to celebrities – that would allow them, almost Desert Island Discs-like, the chance to pick songs important to them - and we could shoot the breeze along the way.

I am currently pitching a Kate Bush documentary idea to radio producers and feel like BBC Radio 6 Music would allow a D.J. to bring that to the station or something similar – I am also thinking about a Madonna documentary that would be pretty cool too. There are numerous reasons why musicians and ordinary folk alike see BBC Radio 6 Music as the best station around. Not only are there these amazing presenters and names that have such passion and love but there is this consistently great music! I have discovered so much new and older music through the station and continue to do so. I love how each show has its own skin and sound and there are these presenters who sound effortlessly assured and completely dedicated to what they do. BBC Radio 6 Music provides an alternative spirit - but it never alienates and excludes. Instead, it is a warm and welcoming inn for those who want to stray away from the samey and commercial-heavy streets and discover something evocative, memorable and hugely picturesque. The station is the natural haven for those who put quality of the music above ‘popularity’ and a rather flawed notion of what is cool and relevant. If you are unware of BBC Radio 6 Music then make sure you get it on your DAB radio or Smartphone (or laptop) and listen as much as you can.

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 PHOTO CREDIT: @rawpixel/Unsplash

I listen during the week and weekends but you can dip in and out and discover all these great shows. It is almost like this incredible banquet filled with colours and varied scents: everyone will be able to find something that suites their tastes and come away fulfilled and happy. So many of us have been enriched and made better by BBC Radio 6 Music and given fresh perspective. I, personally, have been given this ambition to get there myself and present my own show. The station has made me more informed and ambitious as a music listener and journalist and I have this always-reliable and wonderful station full of friendly voices that can keep me protected against the vicissitudes of daily life and hard decisions. It would be folly to suggest the station can remain active for decades to come but I see no reason why not! The BBC chiefs realised, back in 2002, the station was a great idea and, when it was threatened with closure, they listened to those who felt aggrieved and angry. Now, as BBC Radio 6 Music grows each year and remains this titan, there is no way the ball will not keep rolling. There will be thousands of listeners out there whose lives have been changed – significantly or in a minor way- simply because of the station and what it does to us. I do not get the time to listen as much as I used to but I listen on BBC Sounds and ensure I catch up every day!

Who knows how much more growing the station can do and what BBC Radio 6 Music will look like in, say, a couple of years. I hope the established presenters are still there but I would like to see some new talent come in and get their own shows. The great and growing BBC Radio 6 Music has already asked its parents for presents and I am sure, like every seventeen-year-old, it will want a party with its mates! I hope the station does have a shindig on 11th March. I mentioned how BBC Radio 6 Music is the cool kid who shuns the noise and hangs out in the bathtub so, whilst there might be some Blur pounding on the living-room stereo, I’d like the think the seventeen-year-old station will keep its cool and sobriety and listen to Remain in Light (Talking Heads) with a smile on its face – although one would forgive it if a sneaky beer were to make its way in (even the most sensible teenagers let themselves go once in a while)! I have so much to thank BBC Radio 6 Music for and I have so much love and appreciation for all the remarkable people who make the station run. From the controllers and bosses to the producers, runners and presenters – all of them are essential and are the reason why, in 2019, BBC Radio 6 Music is the most-listened-to, digital-only station. Let’s hope the BBC Radio 6 Music Festival is back in 2019 and I cannot wait to see what shows and broadcasts come. Some big albums turn thirty this year (including De La Soul’s 3 Feet High and Rising on 3rd March and Madonna’s Like a Prayer on 21st March) and The Beatles’ Abbey Road is fifty in September. It is going to be a big year for BBC Radio 6 Music and, after switching their weekday line-up (four shows, at least), the station is growing and bringing in new ears. As BBC Radio 6 Music will mark its seventeenth birthday with a big cheer, I will be sure to slip a card and a cool vinyl...

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 IN THIS PHOTO: Chris Hawkins (back, centre) with The Lottery Winners/PHOTO CREDIT: @ChrisHawkinsUK/BBC

THROUGH the post!

INTERVIEW: Glass Peaks

INTERVIEW:

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PHOTO CREDIT: Ant Adams

Glass Peaks

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THANKS to the guys of Glass Peaks...

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for talking with me about their new single, Misery, and how it came together. I was keen to learn how long they have known one another and whether they have plans for more material – they reveal some approaching artists worth looking out for.

I discover what sort of music the guys vibe to and how they spend their free time; which albums mean the most to them and how they are coping with the slightly cold weather – they each select a great song to end things with.

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

Alf: Great, thanks! This week has been manic. We just put out our latest single, Misery, so we’ve been busy spreading it far and wide! 

Jake: It's been pretty beautiful, thank you. Releasing new music into the world is always satisfying.

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

Alf: Sure! We’re Glass Peaks; a three piece based in Kent/London. We write songs: some are really aggressively loud and intense, others are a lot more intricate with softer tones - we have a diverse musical palette. There’s a strong sense of the ’80s that seems to always find its way back into our music. 

Jake: Three idiots who try to write music…

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PHOTO CREDIT: Ant Adams

Are you managing to stay warm in the winter weather?! Does it inspire musical ideas?

Alf: Yes. I have a new scarf that I love loads. I think I’m going to wear it in July, that’s how much I love it. For me, it actually has the opposite effect. I get really bummed out by the U.K. climate in the winter. I feel far more creative in the summer months, generally. But, you never know! Ideas for music can just hit you randomly out of nowhere!

Jake: I'm ALWAYS boiling so the winter is great for me. We've just had a wood cabin built at the back of my garden which is lovely to write in over the winter months.

Grant: I really hate the sun so this winter weather is perfect for me. I feel winter is a much more inspiration season than most.

Misery is your latest track. What is the tale behind the song?

Alf: It’s loosely based on Stephen King’s novel, Misery. It’s real dark story that was adapted into a terrifying film starring Cathy Bates. I wrote the lyrics after watching that movie one weekend accompanied by the worst hangover I’ve ever had. It was of those tunes that just fell out of me. The whole track is a commentary on addictive personalities and the idea of craving something. 

There is a new label, Close-Up. Is that Glass Peaks’ label?

Alf: No, it’s not our label but I believe we’re the first band to sign to it! The Close-Up team are our booking agents and they decided to team up with a Modern Sky and start their own label. When they approached us to sign Misery to it we were absolutely thrilled. We’ve been working with Close-Up for years so it felt very logical and natural. 

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What is coming next for you guys in terms of material?

Alf: We have the next three (potentially four) tracks almost ready to go so we’re just planning those releases now. There’s so much work that goes into each release so we just want to make sure we get it right! We’re also putting out a video for Misery shortly, so do be sure to check that out!

Jake: In 2019, I would like to release as much music as we can. Show the world what we have in our back pocket.

Grant: A diverse spectrum I feel is what's on the horizon. Some of the new songs are a little different to what we've done before.

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How did the band form? Do you recall when you all met?

Alf: I’ve known Jake for years. We used to work with one another at a terrible music exhibition - but it enabled us to pretty much play the guitar all day which was amazing. Jake went travelling to the States for a year and, when he returned, he started Glass Peaks with Grant. I got involved a little later down the line. 

Jake: We grew from the ground, like an oak tree.

Grant: Yeah. Me and Jake were in a band before Glass Peaks and, as Alfie said, when he returned from the U.S. we started something new and fresh. Oh...and asked Alf to tag along.

In terms of music, do you share tastes? Would one find similar albums in your collections?

Alf: We do generally, yeah! I think you’d find a lot of crossover. We all share a love of Radiohead, Foals; Peter Gabriel etc. I’m really into the whole Shoegaze sound i.e. My Bloody Valentine, Ringo Deathstarr etc. I’m listening to loads of Beach House and The Phoenix Foundation at the moment. Grant has the best music taste of anybody I know though. It’s so unbelievably diverse; he’s always pulling corkers out of the bag when we’re driving around on tour. 

Jake: If we're ever a bit down, I'll just stick on a bit of George Michael and instantly the mood is lifted. We all love good music, no matter what genre.

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PHOTO CREDIT: Ant Adams

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

Alf: We played the Isle of Wight Festival in 2018 which was pretty amazing. That definitely sticks in my mind as one to remember. I have some great memories of being in the studio in the summer and just really enjoying that intensely creative time with the guys. They’re always really great memories. 

Jake: Oh, man, we could do a separate article about all the stupid sh*t we've got up to over the years. So many memories. I absolutely love these boys and the memories we've made.

Grant: I'll give you a bizarre one. Us three walking around Newcastle with a big group of lads. Led by a man holding a roman legionnaire sword asking who's in his gang.

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 PHOTO CREDIT: Ant Adams

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

Alf: There are so many but Amnesiac by Radiohead stands out. I really like the fact that, despite it being recorded in the same sessions as Kid A, they decided to create another entire album that follows almost an entirely different narrative. It has some of my favourite tracks on it. Knives Out being a personal favourite. 

Jake: I would have to say Foals - Antidote.  It was an album that changed the way I played guitar forever. 

Grant: So many for different reasons but here is one - Silent Alarm by Bloc Party. It was the album that really sucked me into music and playing.

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

Alf: You know what; I’d love to get on the Wolf Alice support slot. I’m a huge fan of their early work as well as Visions of a Life and I think, sonically, it would work really well. The rider would be made up of largely beers, beers and more beers. I think I can speak on behalf of the whole band in regard to that. Haha.

Jake: I would like to support The 1975. The fans are mad. Beers, hummus; crisps, beers; Nandos and puppies.

Grant: If they got back together The Maccabees. I miss them so much and our sounds would work together I think. Alf's already got the rider sorted.

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PHOTO CREDIT: Jordan Logan

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

Alf: We certainly do! We’re playing in Bristol at the Hy-Brasil Music Club on 20th Feb and we’re in London on the 22nd Feb at Hoxton Square Bar & Kitchen. Both shows are with the lovely lads in Bedroom Boredom. We’ve just confirmed a few festival shows that we’re super-stoked about - we’ll be announcing those in due course. 

What advice would you give to new artists coming through?

Alf: I’d say just make sure you’re one-hundred percent up for it. You can’t make a real go of it unless you have more than one-hundred percent commitment and energy. You need to learn to take constructive criticism well (and also accept that some people will just straight up hate your music for no real reason). 

Be prepared for knock-backs, setbacks; disappointments and more. If you can get through all of that with your chin up, good things will start to happen and it makes them all the more worth it. 

Jake: Save money now. You'll need it.

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 IN THIS PHOTO: Shanghai Blues

Are there any new artists you recommend we check out?

Alf: Hot Dreams are an amazing new artist who you should definitely check out. They recently posted the most gorgeous live performance video I’ve ever seen. Really stunning stuff. Submariner are another band to keep your eyes and ears open for; great lads with a great sound. Our roster pals Shanghai Blues and Hows Harry are all doing bits as well. There’s a lot of really great music out there right now. 

Jake: Another Sky and Calva Louise.

Grant: Sarpa Salpa are definitely a band you need to check out! Also, I don't know if these are now considered NEW, but Indoor Pets. Get on Teriyaki.

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 IN THIS PHOTO: Indoor Pets

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

Alf: Not really, no! Haha. But I wouldn’t have it any other way. When we do get downtime, I just like catching up with my mates. Spending time with the people you love is very important. 

Jake: I'm a barber and that's something I absolutely love and makes me feel very calm. Apart from working and making music, I enjoy talking to my dog like she's a human.

Grant: Playing Football Manger till ungodly hours of the morning. Stress-preventing.

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).

Alf: What a treat! Can you please play Chillers by Another Sky? I’m absolutely obsessed with that band at the moment and the track is just perfect poetry

Jake: Spice Girls - 2 Become 1

Grant: Amazing! Could you conjure The Distance by Cake

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Follow Glass Peaks

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TRACK REVIEW: Gold Complex - Homegirl

TRACK REVIEW:

 

Gold Complex

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Homegirl

 

9.5/10

 

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The track, Homegirl, is available via:

https://open.spotify.com/track/44I3RJr477lVCsXilT1Iat?si=xvMbs_zATgeuoZ0XCyrzZQ

ORIGIN:

Toronto, Canada

GENRES:

Pop/R&B/Rock/Soul

RELEASE DATE:

8th February, 2019

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THE way I am doing things with reviews now...

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is that I am focusing on one popular/well-known artist to start with at the weekend and then looking at someone new the next time around, on Sunday. The reason I am doing that is because, to be truthful, there is not a lot of distinction between the requests I get. I get ones like this that are distinct and give me new angles to explore but too many are very samey and there is nothing much to be said. Having to repeat myself every week can get very boring and frustrating so I find it is easier if I go after a bigger artist who I know will provide me with some fresh aspects. Today, as I look around, I get to look at Gold Complex. To be fair, I will be repeating myself a bit with regards some of the topics raised but they have some elements that are different from everything else I have featured lately. I will talk about recommendations for the band and strengthening their social media core; a bit about Canada and Toronto when it comes to music; fusing different worlds and getting something exceptional at the end; vocal harmony groups and larger acts – I will end by looking at Gold Complex and where they might head. I have featured the band before – back in 2016 – but can’t recall what I said and whether it was an interview or not. It was a long time ago so I am not being too harsh on myself but there has been quite a bit of time since then for the guys to build and put new stuff into the world. They have been very busy and developing their sound as they go. I think they are in a really strong position right now and they will only continue to grow bigger and more confident. The guys have a great sound and sensation and they are doing their very best to promote that and ensure they keep the material coming – and that it is of a very good quality.

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I think they could definitely have a few more shots out there. I say this with every act – or most of them – but there is this scope for visual expansion. Gold Complex is an octet and, as such, they have various different angles they can take regarding photos. If they want to do all group shots then that is cool but they can split into smaller groups and try some concepts. I think they have some very good photos out there but a few extra ones on their pages – with different concepts – would be great. The reason I say this is because, when you have groups, they tend to do very similar photos and it can be a bit samey. The boys have a great bond so having some individual shots or some different concepts would be good. They are popular in Canada but I think there is a big market waiting for them in the U.K. Maybe it is hard to get the music heard here unless there are regular performances but hitting up the U.K.’s best stations and putting their music this way would get new fans their way. I know they have fans in the U.K. but I think there are a lot of new ears waiting to discover them. If they can get some radio stations here to play their music then they can get some gigs here and I think there would be big demand. Maybe they have a bit of a base here but there is a big opportunity here. I will move on to a new subject but I know Gold Complex take good care of their social media and always trying to get their music to fresh faces. I am not surprised they have such an interesting sound because, when I think about invention and originality, I am taken back to Canada. It has been a while since I ventured there and got to review a great Canadian act. Toronto, especially, is an area that always seems to produce results.

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Most of my recent investigations have concerned U.K. and U.S. artists so I am glad I get to go back to Canada and have another look. Most of my Canadian-based reviews seem to focus on Toronto but I have looked at Montréal and Quebec. I think many of us overlook Canada when it comes to music and assume it will be inferior compared to America. I think there are vast differences between the nations. There seems to be more commercial pressure in the U.S. and fewer underground artists taking risks. That might sound incorrect but I think there is more boldness and bravery when it comes to Canadian music. Canada does have its mainstream and Pop core cut I think its new artists are fusing sounds more and providing something fresher and more exciting. Toronto has produced great bands such as Broken Social Scene and Crystal Castles and there are no signs the city is slowing down at all. When I interview people from Toronto, they always tell me there is a friendliness and sense of community that musicians are drawn to. There are great venues to be found and plenty of opportunities for artists to see different acts and get inspired. Having a core and solid live scene means local artists can cut their teeth and get that recognition. From there, they have the chance to move up and attract ears from other parts of Canada. Many Toronto natives are being retained and feeling no need to live anywhere else. Maybe it is the community and togetherness that keeps musicians where they are. I think it is the combination of history, great live venues and eclectic music that makes it such a fantastic place to be. As more people are looking away from London and seeking out other cities to inhabit, I think Toronto is a possibility for many – if you do not mind especially chilly winters! I do think Canada, as a whole, gets overlooked and has to fight too hard for focus.

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Maybe that will change in time but, if you look at cities like Toronto, there is ample gold. I have not been there myself but I know there is a hugely eclectic scene forming. Canadian acts, unlike some other big nations, are still very keen on older technologies like cassettes – with many artists releasing music on this format and keeping it alive. What I do find (regarding Canada) is that there is this genuine sense of ambition and dare that means the music is rarely boring and formulaic. Toronto is at the forefront of this inventive streak but Canada is definitely a nation to watch! I am not sure why this is but Canadian artists are bolder regarding splicing sounds and adding new ingredients to the pot. Look at previous Gold Complex songs like Driver – the song I was going to review but, as time has passed, I felt it better to review their newest track – and you can hear it is not like anything else really. This is not unusual at all: Canadian artists are known for their skill and intelligence when it comes to original expressions. Sure, there are some mainstream and Pop-heavy acts that do not stray far from the norm but I think Canada boasts so many interesting and curious souls. It does make me wonder whether there is a channel whereby journalists in the U.K. and U.S. can connect easily. I think we tend to concentrate too much on the U.S. and U.K. and Canada does not get as much of a look in. I love the way Canadian artists work and think the rest of the world needs to take notice! I shall move on and talk about something else but do some research and see what tremendous diversity there is in the country. Canada, I feel, is right at the forefront and should be respected accordingly. Let’s think about Gold Complex and how they approach their music; mixing together sounds and ideas that create this harmonious and evocative whole.

Every one of the songs from Gold Complex has a sense of funk and drive. You always get energy and a degree of freedom that gets you moving and makes you smile. Even when the guys are thinking about something more emotional and personal, that does not mean the music has to suffer. That is what I am talking about when it comes to their music: even when they are getting serious, they like to have fun and create something quite alluring. In terms of their music, you get this horn parts and blasts of sound; you have the harmonies that run riot and an immense amount of power. Gold Complex mix genres but, largely, one experiences a bit of Funk, Soul and R&B. Maybe there is some Pop in the mixture but I think Gold Complex are stronger than that. They have been seen, by some, as similar to Red Hot Chili Peppers in the way they melt these genres and the energy they project. Think about harmony-rich bands of the past like All-4-One and Boyz II Men and it has been a long time since we have seen anything like that. Whilst Gold Complex are slightly different to those American bands, the vocal strengths are very similar. I was thinking about larger bands and why they do not really exist right now. Bands as a whole are becoming less popular so the days of having these larger bands must seem strange. I do remember, back in the 1980s and 1990s, enjoying the all-male/all-female crews who could have so many members and had so much vocal firepower at their disposal. I would like to see this come back because, when you think of bands, the voice is not top of the agenda. In fact, when it comes to the sounds being produced, there are still more Rock and Alternative bands around than anything else. Gold Complex intrigue me because they have this tight bond but they can go in any direction they please.

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I love what they are throwing out right now. It is so different to anything else and it is the way they can splice genres together that gives them such a fulsome and rich blend. Maybe I am being nostalgic but I loved the days of Boyz II Men and the fact bands did not necessarily need to focus on instruments to elicit response. I hope Gold Complex keep playing together in the way they are because there are few groups like them right now. It makes me wonder how the eight members of Gold Complex got together and started life. It is interesting to envisage how eight guys all started recording and when they realised they sounded great together. There is a danger, when it comes to male bands like this, they can descend into cheese territory and be a bit like a boyband. I have nothing against that type of group but it is not something I am interested in. Gold Complex are more like the respected and quality groups you had decades ago that could combine this many bodies and not seem unwieldy at all. Have a listen to the vocals on display when Gold Complex get going. Look at the genres they put together and how they sound. It is hard to compare them with anyone else and think of any like-minded groups. There must be others out there but is rare to see an eight-piece group playing and making music like this. I think, in time, there will be more bands like Gold Complex coming along. Think about the effect the vocals have and what the music does to you. This inspiring and colourful blend definitely makes you feel better and there is that clash of the modern and classic. One gets touches of the older-days male groups but you get something very much of this time. It is probably worth moving on and thinking about the latest track from Gold Complex, Homegirl. It is another exceptional and assured cut from the Canadian troupe.

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Homegirl sort of comes up in two different stages. To start, we have this slightly Jazz-like calm that provides gentle percussive elements. There is this kind of sensual and calming mood that draws the listener in and gives you a distinct viewpoint. There is romance to be found and this rather calming aura. I was imagining a passionate scene or a quiet room. They may sound unconnected but one definitely gets a feeling of relax and release, even though the opening moments are quite calm and undramatic. Then there is a kick as the percussion steps up and the horns come through. It is not an explosion but more of a rousing little rise that takes the song up a gear and changes your mindset. I do like the way the introduction sort of builds and the fact you cannot really predict where it might head next. Underpinning the song is this sophisticated and smooth composition that jigs and jumps. One feels a definite energy and kick but the focus is on a sexiness and caramel smooth. It is a gorgeous sound and one that, to me, fuses Jazz and R&B. I like the horns and the way they add to the mood. When the hero comes to the microphone, he talks about this new girl being interesting and bold. She is not like anyone he has met before and, within a few weeks of their courtship, she is calling him ‘baby’. The vocal has a soulful and passionate tone and it is a great accompaniment to the composition. In many ways, there is this fusion of the older R&B groups and something modern-day. The track never gets into the modern boyband situation where the lyrics are quite cliché and the song holds little weight. Instead, the chorus has this accessible nature and sound but one definitely gets vibes of the better days – when you had these vocal groups that produced luscious and scintillating songs.

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The chorus talks about this new girl sort of being converted. Maybe the lovers are tentative at first but, soon enough, they are fused and a lot closer. The hero wants her to be his homegirl and hang with him. Maybe there has been past relationships that have not worked out too well but here, it seems, there is more hope. I feel this girl is someone who naturally clicks with the hero and there is this excitement. The chorus flecks and sparks with a serious bounce. You find yourself nodding along to its alacrity and catchiness. Although I have mentioned other sounds and eras, I do not think it is easy to compare Gold Complex with anyone else. There is almost a Michael Jackson-like feel (his Off the Wall period) to the song that is pleasing. I have been looking around for songs that have that 1980s Pop and Soul but have modern production values. Gold Complex are always great when it comes to big choruses and this is no different. I do love the constant sense of movement and delight that the song offers. I am thinking about the heroine and wondering what she looks like. The entire group add their elements and create this fulsome and vibrant mood. One might say an eight-piece band would struggle to remain focused and provide any real depth. How many people will sing and how many will be playing instruments? In the case of this track, there is a focused lead vocal but some great backing; the composition allows new light and elements to come in and Homegirl is this nuanced and fascinating song. The lead vocal looks at this girl and how chilled she is. There is no need for any sort of probation period and seeing how things go. It seems, right away, she is on the same level and someone that is perfect. The guys are paying testament to her and I wonder whether this woman is less a romantic fixture or someone who is just hanging with the guys.  Maybe, strangely, there is a bit of a Fall Out Boy tone in the lead vocal but I love the different tones and flavours the group provide.

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I love the track and how it keeps on stepping and jumping. There are not many songs that have a constant energy and make you feel a lot better. The horns are great and they give this idea of vibing and chemistry. If the foreground and vocal suggests something more Pop-based, the composition and lyrics hint at R&B and Rock. It is a nice blend and concoction that rewards repeated listens. I have heard the song a few times and get something new from each experience. The chorus remains this huge and catchy thing but I was thinking about the central figure and who she is. On one level, I think there is a slight romantic yearning and desire. She seems to be pretty cool and someone that is naturally in step with the guys/hero. On the other hand, she seems like a really interesting person that Gold Complex feel is similar to them. Many will have their own interpretation of what the song is about but few can resist the intensity and pleasure of the mood. I am keen to experience music that makes me feel better and, in the modern scene, that is becoming harder. Homegirl is a fantastic song that bodes well for the album. I wonder where it will sit in the pack and whether many of the other songs will have the same sort of flair. I do hope so and, knowing Gold Complex’s work, they are unlikely to put too many piano ballads in there! If you have not heard Gold Complex before then this is a great song to begin with. It is easy to appreciate but there is so much going on that will intrigue. I do wonder who the lead figure is and whether she is based on someone real. It appears there are some deep feelings going on and this heroine seems too good to be true. Homegirl is an original spin and take on romance and friendship. It is another fantastic offering from Gold Complex – a group that continues to evolve and strengthen with everything they do. The chorus has that classic sense of giddiness and memorability and I am a big fan of songs that work this way. Because of that, you will want to return and experience that joy over and over. I shall end the review section here but I have been blown away by the energy and instant appeal of Homegirl. It is an incredible cut and makes great use of all the members of Gold Complex. There are few groups that can create such a sensation and feel but Gold Complex are assured and astonishing in everything they do. Homegirl is a perfect song to bring the heat and sun; brilliantly smooth and romantic or, if you just need to dance and unwind, then this is the track for you! I have very high hopes for the Canadian group and feel they are a lot stronger than most of their peers right now...

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Gold Complex are going to be pretty busy in the coming months. They have the new single out and, on 22nd February, they release their debut album, New Soul. The guys released an E.P. back in 2015 and, since then, have unveiled a couple of singles. In fact, the group were a little quiet between 2015 and 2018 and I did wonder whether they would release anything else. Perhaps they needed more time to get the songs right but it is a relief Gold Complex have come back and they have been working on that album. There is a lot of pressure for artists to release music all of the time and remain visible. I know, given the complexities and layers you hear on a Gold Complex song, there needs to be focus and patience. They are naturally harmonised and bonded but one does not experience something simple and throwaway with Gold Complex. Instead, there is this music that gets into the brain and makes all the senses tingle. The vocals are exceptional but the compositions are equally fabulous. It takes a while to make sure that is right so one can forgive a slight gap between releases. Keep an eye on the social media channels of Gold Complex and make sure you snap up their debut record. The group have been around a while now and have made a name for themselves in Canada. There is still a long way to go and new areas to conquer. I do wonder whether they will get to the U.K. and we will hear them over here. Given the fact they are turning heads in Canada, it cannot be that long until we get to see them over here. I am not sure what their plans are regarding an international tour but they might be focusing on Canada at the moment. That would be understandable but, if they do get the chance to travel, there are people and venues over here that would be very interested.

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I will end the review very soon but I wanted to recommend people check out Gold Complex. It has been a while since I’ve been able to talk about a new act in a different way. I get a lot of similar requests and it can be tricky finding fresh words to say – and the sounds do not always stay in the mind. The band has those incredible vocals and harmonies but I do love the fact they switch between R&B, Rock and Pop. Some might say they have a commercial sound but that would suggest they are mainstream and chart-bound. I think Gold Complex are stronger than that and they remind me more of the classic R&B bands of the 1990s. However you view them, it is clear this year will be a successful one for the group. I intimated they might want to get a few more photos online. I think they have a great chemistry and visual side. It would be good to see that displayed more perhaps. If you have not experienced Gold Complex then Homegirl is a good place to start. It is one of their strongest offerings yet and shows, with every release, they are strengthening and discovering new levels. I wonder how the band will grow and where they head next. There will be Canadian dates and demands and I am sure there will be requests from the U.S. too. I shall not get too ahead off myself but it would be good to think Gold Complex will come over this way. There are so many groups out there and there is definitely something different about Gold Complex. I love the sounds they put together and the effect their music has. Let me end things here but I am pleased Gold Complex have new music out and I look forward to seeing where they go now. I am always excited when a genuinely inventive and original proposition comes my way and I just know the Canadian eight-piece will go a very long way. Congratulations to the guys on a brilliant single and the best of luck for the future. The New Soul L.P. will do great business and see their stock rise. If you get a chance to see the group live and up-close, make sure you do. That is likely to be an experience...

FEW people will forget.

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Follow Gold Complex

FEATURE: The Mid-Life Crisis? Ten Classic Albums Turning Forty-Five in 2019

FEATURE:

 

 

The Mid-Life Crisis?

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IN THIS PHOTO: Queen’s Freddie Mercury in 1974/PHOTO CREDIT: Mick Rock 

Ten Classic Albums Turning Forty-Five in 2019

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MAYBE 1974 does not have as many giant albums...

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 IN THIS PHOTO: LaBelle photoed in New York in 1974/PHOTO CREDIT: Bob Gruen

as other years but there are definite gems that turn forty-five this year! It is a great year for music and there are some records from that time that are still making an impression today. I have looked at the list of 1974-released albums and collated ten that are worthy of closer inspection. Do make sure you have a look and investigate them. I think those anniversaries that end in a ‘0’ or ‘5’ warrant attention and we need to keep the albums alive that have endured. Take a good listen to these ten albums that turn forty-five this year and, back when they were released, either made a big impression and succeeded or have grown in stature since their release. I am sure you will discover some albums in the assembled that will...

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 IN THIS PHOTO: Stevie Wonder pictured in Detroit, MI in 1974/PHOTO CREDIT: Bob Gruen

PEAK your interest.

ALL ALBUM COVERS: Spotify

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Jackson BrowneLate for the Sky

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Release Date: 13th September, 1974

Label: Asylum

Producers: Jackson Browne/Al Schmitt

Review:

Another difference between "Pet Sounds" and "Late For The Sky" is - while "Pet Sounds" is made (officially) by the group but it is estimated that it's a work of Brian Wilson and guest stars, "Late For The Sky" is officially Jackson Browne album but many key ingredients were added by his backing band, most importantly David Lindley. So maybe it would be fair to say that "Late For The Sky" is Jackson Browne Band album. David Lindley's guitar parts are piercing through the air, check out intros of "Late For The Sky" and "Farther On", as well as backing vocals adding more colors and depth to already great picture. This is one of records you hear the air trembling between instruments, making silence audible and meaningful. In terms of completeness and perfection this is album at very top. Although all of the stuff are pure masterpiece, there are three songs which touch me every time I hear them: "Late For The Sky", "For A Dancer" and "Before The Deluge". 

Browne was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2004. In his induction speech, Bruce Springsteen noted that while the Eagles got to the Hall first, "You (Browne) wrote the songs they wished they had written". Amen to that, all the evidence is on "Late For The Sky
" – Sputnikmusic

Standout Cut: Late for the Sky

Stream/Download: Farther On/The Road and the Sky/Walking Slow

Roxy MusicCountry Life

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Release Date: 15th November, 1974

Labels: Island/Polydor (U.K.)

Producers: Chris Thomas/John Punter/Roxy Music

Review:

Continuing with the stylistic developments of StrandedCountry Life finds Roxy Music at the peak of their powers, alternating between majestic, unsettling art rock and glamorous, elegant pop/rock. At their best, Roxy combine these two extremes, like on the exhilarating opener "The Thrill of It All," but Country Life benefits considerably from the ebb and flow of the group's two extremes, since it showcases their deft instrumental execution and their textured, enthralling songwriting. And, in many ways, Country Lifeoffers the greatest and most consistent set of Roxy Music songs, illustrating their startling depth. From the sleek rock of "All I Want Is You" and "Prairie Rose" to the elegant, string-laced pop of "A Really Good Time," Country Life is filled with thrilling songs, and Roxy Music rarely sounded as invigorating as they do here" – AllMusic

Standout Cut: Out of the Blue

Stream/Download: The Thrill of It All/Bitter Sweet/Casanova

QueenSheer Heart Attack

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Release Date: 8th November, 1974

Labels: EMI/Elektra

Producers: Roy Thomas Baker/Roxy Music

Review:

One of the great strengths of the album is how all four members find their voices as songwriters, penning hooks that are big, bold, and insistent and crafting them in songs that work as cohesive entities instead of flourishes of ideas. This is evident not just in "Killer Queen" -- the first, best flourishing of Freddie Mercury's vaudevillian camp -- but also on the pummeling "Stone Cold Crazy," a frenzied piece of jagged metal that's all the more exciting because it has a real melodic hook. Those hooks are threaded throughout the record, on both the ballads and the other rockers, but it isn't just that this is poppier, it's that they're able to execute their drama with flair and style. There are still references to mystical worlds ("Lily of the Valley," "In the Lap of Gods") but the fantasy does not overwhelm as it did on the first two records; the theatricality is now wielded on everyday affairs, which ironically makes them sound larger than life. And this sense of scale, combined with the heavy guitars, pop hooks, and theatrical style, marks the true unveiling of Queen, making Sheer Heart Attack as the moment where they truly came into their own" – AllMusic

Standout Cut: Killer Queen

Stream/Download: Brighton Rock/Lily of the Valley/In the Lap of the Gods

Randy NewmanGood Old Boys

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Release Date: 10th September, 1974

Label: Reprise

Producers: Lenny Waronker/Russ Titelman

Review:

Perhaps, in another universe, he might have remained more at the center of the pop songwriting world, whether or not he was singing on the records (his voice had always been a hard one to sell). But his compulsions forced him elsewhere. “I like to know what makes people tick, what their mothers and father were,” Newman told journalist Paul Zollo. “Why they talk the way they do, using this sort of word or that sort of word. What it all means.” Randy Newman, in that search for meaning, became the king of the unreliable narrator in American popular music, and one of rock’s greatest lyricists full-stop. But part of earning the distinction involved venturing into dark corners, and inhabiting them for a while; in his Good Old Boys review for Rolling Stone, Stephen Davis would use this logic to diagnose Newman as deeply “troubled.” It was a dirty job, and certainly, no one had to do it. It was usually thankless and almost always alienating. But it also yielded one of the best singer-songwriter albums of the 1970s, which remains as shocking, pristine, and regrettably relevant as the day it was released" – Pitchfork  

Standout Cut: Birmingham

Stream/Download: Rednecks/Guilty/Naked Man

Steely DanPretzel Logic

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Release Date: 20th February, 1974

Labels: ABC/Probe

Producer: Gary Katz

Review:

Dense with harmonics, countermelodies, and bop phrasing, Pretzel Logic is vibrant with unpredictable musical juxtapositions and snide, but very funny, wordplay. Listen to how the album's hit single, "Rikki Don't Lose That Number," opens with a syncopated piano line that evolves into a graceful pop melody, or how the title track winds from a blues to a jazzy chorus -- Becker and Fagen's craft has become seamless while remaining idiosyncratic and thrillingly accessible. Since the songs are now paramount, it makes sense that Pretzel Logic is less of a band-oriented album than Countdown to Ecstasy, yet it is the richest album in their catalog, one where the backhanded Dylan tribute "Barrytown" can sit comfortably next to the gorgeous "Any Major Dude Will Tell You." Steely Dan made more accomplished albums than Pretzel Logic, but they never made a better one" – AllMusic   

Standout Cut: Rikki Don’t Lose That Number

Stream/Download: Night by Night/Any Major Dude Will Tell You/Pretzel Logic

Stevie WonderFulfillingness’ First Finale

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Release Date: 22nd July, 1974

Label: Tamla

Producers: Stevie Wonder/Robert Margouleff/Malcolm Cecil

Review:

As before, Fulfillingness' First Finale is mostly the work of a single man; Stevie invited over just a bare few musicians, and most of those were background vocalists (though of the finest caliber: Minnie Riperton, Paul Anka, Deniece Williams, and the Jackson 5). Also as before, the appearances are perfectly chosen; "Too Shy to Say" can only benefit from the acoustic bass of Motown institution James Jamerson and the heavenly steel guitar of Sneaky Pete Kleinow, while the Jackson 5 provide some righteous amens to Stevie's preaching on "You Haven't Done Nothin'." It's also very refreshing to hear more songs devoted to the many and varied stages of romance, among them "It Ain't No Use," "Too Shy to Say," "Please Don't Go." The only element lacking here, in comparison to the rest of his string of brilliant early-'70s records, is a clear focus; Fulfillingness' First Finale is more a collection of excellent songs than an excellent album" – AllMusic    

Standout Cut: You Haven’t Done Nothin’

Stream/Download: Too Shy to Say/It Ain’t No Use/Please Don’t Go

Eric Clapton461 Ocean Boulevard

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Release Date: July, 1974

Label: RSO

Producer: Tom Dowd

Review:

The Clapton original “Let It Grow” may be the true highlight of the album, featuring a mixture of acoustic and electric guitars under more very somber vocals, perhaps the quietest Clapton sings on this quiet album. This base hippie folk song about “planting love” builds in tenacity and mood with acoustic, electric, piano, organ, ever so creeping to prominence. A short but potent slide guitar leads to an intense outro with a picked electric pattern and subtle, swelling keyboards by Dick Sims. “Steady Rollin’ Man” is a piano and clavichord driven rendition of a Robert Johnson Tune with good bass by Radle. The ending song “Mainline Florida” was written by Terry and feels like the most rock-oriented song on the album, featuring a great seventies rock guitar riff and a wild lead over the vocals later in the song.

461 Ocean Boulevard topped the charts in the USA and Canada and reached the top ten in several other countries. While this was his only album in four years, Clapton got much more prolific and released four studio albums over the next four years, all of which pretty much follow the same style patterns as this one" – Classic Rock      

Standout Cut: Motherless Children

Stream/Download: Get Ready/I Shot the Sheriff/Let It Grow

Leonard CohenNew Skin for the Old Ceremony

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Release Date: 11th August, 1974

Label: Columbia

Producers: Leonard Cohen/John Lissauer

Review:

The fact that Cohen does more real singing on this album can be seen as both a blessing and a curse -- while his voice sounds more strained, the songs are delivered with more passion than usual. Furthermore, he has background vocalists including Janis Ian that add significantly to create a fuller sound. It is no surprise, however, that he generally uses simple song structures to draw attention to the words ("Who By Fire"). The lyrics are filled with abstract yet vivid images, and the album primarily uses the metaphor of love and relationships as battlegrounds ("There Is a War," "Field Commander Cohen"). Cohen is clearly singing from the heart, and he chronicles his relationship with Janis Joplin in "Chelsea Hotel No. 2." This is one of his best albums, although new listeners should start with Songs of Leonard Cohen" – AllMusic    

Standout Cut: Chelsea Hotel #2

Stream/Download: Is This What You Wanted/Field Commander Cohen/A Singer Must Die

New York DollsToo Much Too Soon

Release Date: 10th May, 1974

Label: Mercury

Producer: Shadow Morton

Review:

To help bestow a modicum of spiritual contentment on those born too late to have seen their original incarnation, the New York Dolls released two perfect albums in August 1973 and May 1974. The second ranks second because the greatest David Johansen originals are on the debut--only the climactic "Human Being" achieves the philosophical weight of "Personality Crisis" or "Trash." But if any band today shopped hooks as sure and lyrics as smart as those of "Who Are the Mystery Girls?" "Puss 'n' Boots" or guitarist Johnny Thunders' "Chatterbox," the Strokes would buy a boutique and retire. And the covers are magnificent: a Sonny Boy Williamson song that turns the Chicago blues master into a campy scold, and two R&B novelties whose theatrical potential was barely noticed until the Dolls penetrated their holy essence" – Blender

Standout Cut: Stranded in the Jungle                                                

Stream/Download: Babylon/It’s Too Late/Bad Detective

LaBelleNightbirds

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Release Date: 13th September, 1974

Label: Epic

Producer: Allan Toussaint

Review:

The band broke loose from the decorous girl-group tradition on Nightbirds and redefined sexual relations using the terms of R&B and its debt to gospel as metaphors for a larger cultural move. “Somebody Somewhere” confronts female indecision, hints that God might be the answer, but finds salvation in the arrangement — blaring horns and a New Orleans strut. “Are You Lonely?” is nouveau urban funk made stately by Toussaint’s marching piano and gritty by impatient bass arabesques. When claiming empowerment — cultural, sexual and spiritual — the band is fiercely engaged, responding in kind to the raucous percussion of “What Can I Do for You?” and forgoing its gospel unison to swoosh in sisterly harmony on the repetitive, hymnlike “It Took a Long Time.” Toussaint’s compositions bristle with suggestiveness: “Don’t Bring Me Down” is sly, stop-start R&B, showcasing Patti at her sassiest and most elastic. The poignant “All Girl Band” stumps along cheerily, pretending it’s not about the quotidian struggle of being young, female and relentlessly hopeful. By 1974, black had been beautiful for almost a decade; the astrofunk goddesses of Labelle made it chic" – Rolling Stone

Standout Cut: Lady Marmalade                                                          

Stream/Download: Are You Lonely?/It Took a Long Time/Nightbird

FEATURE: Bartering Lines: The Fall from Grace of Ryan Adams

FEATURE:

 

 

Bartering Lines

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IN THIS PHOTO: Ryan Adams photoed in New York on 17th September 2015/PHOTO CREDIT: Dan Hallman/Invision/AP file  

The Fall from Grace of Ryan Adams

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I would like to say 2019 will unveil fewer...

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 IMAGE CREDIT: Spotify

cases where male artists are in the news for the wrong reason. The problem only exists with male artists and I am talking about them taking things too far; being accused of sexual misconduct, inappropriateness and bad behaviour. In so many cases the allegations are so serious you have to wonder why they are still allowed to continue making music. There have been high-profile cases of artists being accused – including R. Kelly – and it is always harrowing and upsetting to see. The latest musician who has coming under fire is Ryan Adams. I know his music fairly well and love his albums such as Gold and Heartbreaker. His talent is undeniable and his consistency is strong. His previous record, Prisoner, was released in 2017 but there has been other material brewing – most of his plans in that regard have now been cancelled. Few outside of Adams’ circle would have expected to hear the news that is circulating regarding his actions. To make things clearer, Vox reported the story on Thursday:

Musician Ryan Adams is the latest powerful man to be accused of sexual misconduct in the #MeToo eraIn a new New York Times report, multiple women — including Adams’s ex-wife, the singer and actress Mandy Moore — say that Adams dangled professional opportunities in front of them and then used those opportunities to manipulate them into sex. In the relationships that ensued, these women say, Adams would become controlling and emotionally abusive. “Music was a point of control for him,” says Moore.

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IN THIS PHOTO: Mandy Moore/PHOTO CREDIT: Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic/Getty Images  

In a Twitter thread, Adams characterized the accusations against him as “upsettingly inaccurate,” saying, “Some of its details are misrepresented; some are exaggerated; some are outright false.”

According to the Times article, Adams follows a pattern. He reportedly approaches aspiring young musicians and “love bombs” them, telling them they are brilliant and talented and that he would like to work with them. Usually, the women are at the beginning of their careers, and often they are very young; one woman whom the Times identifies as Ava says she was 14 when Adams first approached her online. “I was really alone,” Ava told the Times, “and he was really friendly and cool”.

I have seen a few reports relating to various male artists and it always gives me an uneasy feeling. I do wonder why they feel they can behave this way and whether this impression remains: the big star with all the power feeling they can act any way they want with a woman because they are famous. I think there is still a small sector (of male artists) who abuse their power and think, just because they are popular and move people with their music, there are no rules in everyday life. We have to ask, with yet another high-profile musician in the spotlight, whether something needs to be done. The repercussions for Adams will be severe. The backlash has already started.

This article responds to reports Adams’ forthcoming album, Big Colors, has been held back following investigation by the FBI into his actions:

The release of Ryan Adams’s new album Big Colors has been shelved following accusations that the singer behaved abusively towards an underage girl.

According to the New York Times, the FBI is now investigating claims that he sent more than 3,000 text messages to the girl over a nine-month period starting in late 2014, when she was 15.

The 44-year-old singer-songwriter from North Carolina had planned to release three albums this year, with Big Colors due on April 19th.

Variety reports that Universal Music Group, which distributes Adams’ releases, has pulled the album from its schedule, and the website for Adams’ own label, Pax-Am, has deleted the pre-order pages for the new album”.

I think the effects and snowball will continue to remove Adams from the market. One wonders, like R. Kelly, whether fans will buy his music or whether he will be allowed to release an album. We have heard a score of albums from Adams and few were interpreting them in any other way bar an innocent sense. Now, amid these allegations, people will scrutinise and wonder whether there was ulterior meaning and intent. Any new record will be poured over and picked apart; people looking to see whether messages of sexual desire are aimed at the women/girls described in testimonies and reports.

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PHOTO CREDIT: Jason LaVeris/Getty  

There is, as I intimated, this idea that male stars with a big following feel they are entitled to act as they please and have this insulation of protection and fame. Laura Snapes, in The Guardian provided her experiences and related a dark truth: the case of Ryan Adams is the tip of a fairly large iceberg:

The concept of male genius insulates against all manner of sin. Bad behaviour can be blamed on his prerequisite troubled past. His trademark sensitivity offers plausible deniability when he is accused of less-than-sensitive behaviour. His complexity underpins his so-called genius. As I wrote for this paper in 2015: “Male misogynist acts are examined for nuance and defended as traits of ‘difficult’ artists, [while] women and those who call them out are treated as hysterics who don’t understand art.” This was after, in response to an interview request, Sun Kil Moon’s Mark Kozelek told a crowd that I was a “bitch” who wanted to have his babies. Note, too, how many female geniuses are dismissed as divas, their art depicted as a symptom of disorder, their responses to mistreatment and calls for respect characterised as proof of an irrational nature”.

There are those who have met Adams and claim that there were suspicions; there were signs that he was abusing his power and acting inappropriately towards women. The New York Times talked about women coming forward relating their experiences; how Adams operated and how he managed to use his lure and status to take advantage of women:

Some now say that Adams’s rock-star patronage masked a darker reality. In interviews, seven women and more than a dozen associates described a pattern of manipulative behavior in which Adams dangled career opportunities while simultaneously pursuing female artists for sex...

 

In some cases, they said, he would turn domineering and vengeful, jerking away his offers of support when spurned, and subjecting women to emotional and verbal abuse, and harassment in texts and on social media. The accounts have been corroborated by family members or friends who were present at the time, as well as by correspondence from Adams reviewed by The New York Times.

The music world, in which a culture of late nights and boundary-pushing behavior has been normalized, hasn’t been as roiled by the #MeToo movement as other sectors of media and entertainment. But many in the business say that harassment and inequitable treatment of women is pervasive and that the “sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll” ethos has shielded men from being held to account.

Other women in music said they, too, were subjected to Adams’s intense flattery and a bait and switch in which professional opportunities would be commingled with sexual come-ons.

The musician Phoebe Bridgers was 20 when Adams invited her to the Pax-Am studio one night in fall 2014. “There was a mythology around him,” she said. “It seemed like he had the power to propel people forward”.

I do hope we do not see other incidences of men in music being called up because of their behaviour towards women. I am shocked by what I am reading about Ryan Adams and there are likely to be more details in the coming days. You do wonder what will become of his recording career.

The once-celebrated songwriter has inspired scores of new artists but you wonder whether Adams will be able to record again and release his material. Nobody can stop him doing that but there has been a definite fall from grace. It is hard to know whether his music should remain on streaming sites or removed. Certainly, the future is clear: the American artist will not enjoy the opportunities and (positive) attention he once did. Many will still stream and buy his records but many will turn away and banish his music. I have heard many of his albums and there is this uneasy aftertaste now. Pitchfork published a piece that highlighted a good point regarding men in music.

Every time another headline pops up about how women are underrepresented on the charts or in music production or missing from festival lineups, we should think about the countless gatekeepers who, instead of helping women, used their positions for sexual gain at the expense of their targets. This casual abuse of power is the norm in music, a grey area unlikely to be dealt with by a male-dominated industry still just wading into #MeToo. But the Ryan Adams account is a necessary reminder that this is what many women deal with, at one point or another, in pursuit their dreams. The more often these difficult stories are told, the less abusers can hide behind feigned ignorance and weak, deflective apologies”.

There are a lot of discussions to be had following the Ryan Adams revelations. I think there needs to be some sort of moderation to ensure we do not continue to see big male artists exposed and accused. Maybe there is this never-ending myth regarding the male artist and this sort of lurid fantasy – that they could get away with anything and do what they please. The artists accused can defend themselves and make excuses but I do not think there is anywhere to hide or any excuse they can make. It is 2019 and we cannot continue to see women/girls controlled and abused by male musicians. What happens next regarding Ryan Adams? I think his music career will continue but he will definitely not be afforded the platforms and radioplay he is used to. I am not sure how many accusations come through but I am pretty sure we have not seen the end of them. Let’s hope Adams’ predicament sends a message to other male artists out there. Maybe we will never see the end of the darker and more sworded side of the industry but let’s hope there will not be another case where an established artist does what Ryan Adams has done (or been accused of). Adams’ career will suffer but the real victims are the women who have been hurt by him. They are the ones whose voices need to be heard to ensure we do not see anything as troubling...

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 PHOTO CREDIT: Reuters

AS this again.

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

FEATURE:

 

 

Sisters in Arms

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IN THIS PHOTO: SASAMI/PHOTO CREDIT: @abaxley  

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

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AS things start to warm up a bit...

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

many are thinking of spring and wondering how long it will be until we get constant daily temperatures in double digits. I have assembled some new songs together that will get the temperature rising and creates that balance between winter and spring. Here are some great female-led songs that have incredible life, depth and colour. It is always wonderful unearthing the best female artists from the underground and seeing what is about. From Pop solo artists to female-led bands, this is a fantastic playlist that you should keep with you. Have a good listen to these tracks and discover what quality there is out there right now. If you are starting your weekend and are in need of a boost and some motivation, I have the tracks that will...

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 IN THIS PHOTO: Cat Clyde

SURELY do the job.

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

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Kelsey BulkinKareem

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SzjerdeneRestart

Ehlie LunaDon’t

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PHOTO CREDIT: @abaxley

SASAMIJealousy

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YONAKABad Company

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Roses GaborTurkish Delight

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PHOTO CREDIT: @sophie.kutay.photography 

Polina GracePure Fire

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Molly MarrsAll of Me

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The RegrettesPumpkin

Jasmine Thompsonloyal

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PHOTO CREDIT: Charlie Woodward

Saltwater Sun - Blood

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Girl Crush - Baby Steps

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Hannah Jane LewisLast Night Every Night

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Eve Belle (ft. Isaiah Dreads) - CutThroat

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Grace AcladnaWhen I Saw You

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LUENAWorth It

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ALMASummer

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Sharna BassThis View         

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Cherry PicklesIt Will All End in Tears

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Fever HighJust a Ghost

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Cat ClydeAll the Black

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SADSUNControl

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Mags on EarthComeback

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PHOTO CREDIT: Paul Hunt 

Manu GraceSaturday Night

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Leah NobelSteps

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Ariela JacobsMissing You

FEATURE: The February Playlist: Vol. 3: I Adore You Cuz I Love You

FEATURE:

 

The February Playlist

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IN THIS PHOTO: Jessie Ware 

Vol. 3: I Adore You Cuz I Love You

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THIS is one of those weeks where there is…

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 IN THIS PHOTO: Alicia Keys

so much greatness to be found it is hard to take it all in! Not only are there new tracks from Jessie Ware and Lizzo but there is material from Alicia Keys, Kacey Musgraves; Julia Jacklin and Weezer. Throw into the blend some songs from Anteros, John Legend and St. Vincent and there is more than enough to get stuck into! The weather is getting better and brighter and I think these tracks are really great to kickstart things and get you into the groove. I am excited to see what comes next week and whether we can top this selection! It is another titanic and high-quality variety of songs from some of the biggest artists around. Make sure you have a good listen to the tracks and make your weekend a winner. It is a brilliant week for music and one that shows 2019 is definitely going to be…

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 IN THIS PHOTO: Julia Jacklin

FULL of gold!  

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

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Jessie WareAdore You

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LizzoCuz I Love You

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Julia JacklinComfort

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IN THIS PHOTO: Avril Lavigne

Avril Lavigne (ft. Nicki Minaj)Dumb Blonde

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PHOTO CREDIT: David McClister

Kacey MusgravesRainbow

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Alicia KeysRaise a Man

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WeezerTake on Me

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Cloud Nothings So Right So Clean

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PHOTO CREDIT: Phil Smithies for CLASH

Sea GirlsOpen Up Your Head

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Sundara Karma Higher States

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AnterosDrive On

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Kodak BlackTransgression

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St. VincentMasseducation

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CiaraGreatest Love

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ALMASummer

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Bebe RexhaLast Hurrah

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Cardi B & Bruno Mars Please Me

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John LegendPreach

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Kehlani Butterfly

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Maisie PetersStay Young

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Crystal Fighters Wild Ones

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FoalsOn the Luna

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HozierDinner & Diatribes

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SG LewisBlue

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Betty WhoMarry Me

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Ladytron The Animals

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Catfish and the BottlemenFluctuate

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Rex Orange CountyNew House

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Bryan AdamsThat’s How Strong Our Love Is

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Jenny LewisHeads Gonna Roll

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YONAKABad Company

The Cinematic OrchestraA Promise

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Mae MullerLeave It Out

TRACK REVIEW: Lizzo - Cuz I Love You

TRACK REVIEW:

 

Lizzo

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Cuz I Love You

 

9.7/10

 

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The track, Cuz I Love You, is available via:

https://open.spotify.com/track/1R1NwL3p27XZC9n5xpP8LE?si=68_EDDV8QIS2q9OxcEJB2Q

ORIGIN:

Minnesota, U.S.A.

GENRE:

Pop

RELEASE DATE:

14th February, 2019

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THE reason I have selected Lizzo...

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and not gone for someone less-well-known is because, well, the requests I am getting are all very similar and there is not a lot to differentiate the artists. That might sound cruel but there is more variation and choice outside of the underground. I can pick a track I really want to go after and know there is a lot of new stuff to talk about. In the case of Lizzo, I want to talk about female artists who have spark and can be considered headline, leading acts; those that raise important issues and powerful messages through their songwriting; adding a sense of fun and vitality back into Pop music; whether newer acts like Lizzo can complete and equal the icons of the past – I will end with a little but about why Lizzo stands aside and how she is unique. For now, I wanted to chat about Lizzo because she is someone who always gives her all to the music! Look through her previous albums and you can hear someone who has come a long way but, right from the start, she was producing these bangers that got into the head and made the body pop. She is one of these artists who wants to have fun and show some sass but deliver a potent message at the same time. Lizzobangers arrived in 2013 and instantly set out her stall: a record packed with big songs that had confidence and her special D.N.A. I love that album and instantly bonded with it. I think we look out at the mainstream and assume artists there must be good and memorable because they have made it that far. What I find is that there is this division between those who are genuinely great and worthy and many who have an overly-commercial and tired sound – appealing because their audience do not really have the imagination to look elsewhere. It is necessary to look through those at the top of music and listen closely.

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 PHOTO CREDIT: @gaytimesmag

Lizzo is an artist who has been playing for a little while now but is growing and adding new elements to her sound. I think she is special when it comes to the fizzing and body-moving jams that have ounces of confidence and energy. There are not that many artists in Pop who have positivity in their bones and continue to stamp out these classics. The past few months has seen Lizzo cut these great gems that are instantly addictive and exciting. I think music needs more artists like Lizzo and we need to embrace this type of music. Listen to everything else out there and can one truly say there is anyone else like Lizzo around? Cuz I Love You is not as fiery as some of her other songs but it has so much working away and is a brilliant thing. I only discovered Lizzo a few years after her debut in 2013 and am glad I did. I wanted to highlight her today because, whilst she is popular and known, there are some who do not know her music. If you are unfamiliar with Lizzo and wonder whether she is worth exploration then I would say her main assets are the energy, the big hooks and the lyrics. She has a fantastic voice but her words stand out and truly shine. I wonder whether many consider Lizzo too new to be a festival headliner. She has been going a little bit now so I am not sure why festivals are not lining up. You want these artists who can get people moving and have some great songs in their locker. Lizzo fits the criteria and I can easily see her on a headline stage getting the crowds whipped up and singing along. Lizzo’s songs have that anthemic quality and will endure for many years to come. I think, maybe next year, we will see Lizzo headlining and it is about time really – as she already has proven herself and should be getting those bookings.

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I think it is rare to see artists around that have genuine spark and physicality. So much modern Pop is quite muted and does not have the same spirit as it did back in the 1980s and 1990s. I mention this point a lot but I see no reason why Pop has sort of turned in on itself and gone a bit soft. It is still good but does not have the same attack as the classics. Lizzo is part of the new generation who knows how important it is to have movement and something fun in the music. I wanted to talk about Lizzo because of her energy and memorability but I love what she talks about and how she approaches things. In the press, she has chatted about body confidence and how proud she is of her curves. I feel there is a bit of hesitancy from some quarters to raise these kinds of issues but Lizzo is proud of her body and it is brought into her music. I do love how Lizzo speaks her mind and she is not afraid to be bold and controversial. She is a very real person and talks about sex and love in a fresh way. Songs like Juice are filled with great lines and expressions that you would not get from any other artist. Lizzo has brought body issues and confidence into her music and discussed gender inequality; she has spoken about big themes and is not afraid to tackle them. We need more artists who are actually using music and the press as a way of getting big messages out there and doing something different. Think about most of the popular artists around and do they honestly have something about them that stands aside?! Maybe they have a slight edge but Lizzo seems to be in her own field. One discovers this very fine and accomplished artist but the woman behind the songs is remarkably open, funny and interesting. This all leads to a complete package and, going back to my headliner point...why isn’t Lizzo on top of festival bills?!

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I am not saying others neglect important topics when they write songs but Lizzo, regarding body and sex appeal, is shining a light and, as a larger woman, is inspiring many others. There is this notion and ideal that female artists need to be super-slim to be seen as popular, attractive and commercial. If they were to stray from this mould then that could see them outcast and they are not exactly what you want to see on the cover of magazines. I feel this mindset has eased through the years but there is still, on magazines and in videos, this desired type and look that has always been in music. Maybe female artists will always be marketed based on their looks but I’d like to think artists such as Lizzo are making changes and helping to turn the tide. I think so many people are afraid of getting into music because they feel they are not the right size or look. Most mainstream female artists are of a certain size and shape and I think many have been denied an access to the top because they do not conform. Lizzo is someone who is never going to change – and why should she! – and, instead, is delivering these big songs that show all her curves and truths. In the media, Lizzo is keen to break misconceptions and tackle those who think women should look a certain way. She has spoken about sexism and L.G.B.T.Q.I.A. concerns and, at various moments, addressed sex and love in a very fresh and personal way. There are few out there who have as much personality and appeal as Lizzo. I wanted to focus on her because of how inspiring she is and how that will continue. I will move to another subject now but think about all the big artists around and can you say there is anyone as standout and grand as Lizzo? It is hard to think of anyone and, for that reason, she deserves all the attention and acclaim in the world.

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I have already mentioned it before but I think Pop music has somewhat got gloomy and a bit ordinary. That is not common to everyone but most of the scene has changed radically through the decades. There are some great Pop artists who have proper swagger and big tunes but most modern stuff is quite personal, unmemorable and safe. I do wonder why artists are not really spreading their wings and why there has to be this sound. By that, can you really compare the best Pop music of the 1960s-1990s and feel this is still being done today? It is not hard to produce great music that has energy and catchiness but most are choosing not to play this way. I hope there is a shift and we get to see Pop music return to its roots. At the very least, I think other artists should look at Lizzo and see the affect she is having. Her songs get into the blood and they are so much fun! That is what we need right now and, more and more, artists are choosing to be too personal and lack that killer punch. It might just be a phase but I think the mainstream has been in a bit of a state for the past decade at the very least. We do not have the same quality as we did in the 2000s and it does concern me. I will raise this point later this weekend but I have not lost hope Pop will bring some of the fun back! Lizzo is definitely having a great time in music and not willing to change who she is to fit in. I do feel there is a lot of pressure for artists to sound the same or not wander too far from the garden path. It is quite sad this is the case but I feel there will be an evolution. Lizzo is a remarkable case of an artist bringing something fresh to the table and providing incredible album after the next.

I will end this piece by talking about her upcoming album but I love how consistent Lizzo is and what she has already produced. There is more to Lizzo than fun and energy but that is a big part of what makes her stand aside. I do love how much energy and force there is in when you listen to her music but Lizzo has a way with words that gets into the brain. There are few tropes and clichés when you hear a Lizzo song! Whether it is the wit and humour or the way Lizzo can fuse unique phrases and create something very alluring...nobody else is doing what Lizzo is. I feel she is someone who will provoke change and shows what can be when you tear up the rules. It makes me wonder, more and more, why there is not more volume in Pop right now. I mean, there are some fantastic tracks and artists but I think so much more could be done. It all comes back to fun and bringing a sense of movement into the mainstream. Maybe it is me being all hung up on the past but I am excited by Lizzo and think she has a real light. Everything she produces sounds amazing and it cannot be long before she is headlining Glastonbury and playing the biggest festivals around. There is a real opportunity right now for musicians to help make a change and inspire the masses. I am seeing more and more acts talk about deeper issues such as political divide and mental-health – this is very positive and encouraging to see. I think this has been long overdue but I feel you can discuss something weighty and potent and still have fun whilst doing so. Lizzo does and I do think this can be reciprocated by her peers. Can this fine American artist, in years to come, reach the giddy heights of ‘icon’ status?!

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 PHOTO CREDIT: Linda Nylind for The Guardian

I have talked about the fading icons and why there are not many in modern music right now. By this term, I mean those who reinvent themselves and endure for decades; they have these changing looks and go through changes. I think Lizzo’s career is too young for me to make those sort of bold predictions but I do feel she has the ammunition to become an icon.  If you look at how she has consistently produced great songs that stick in the head and stood you to attention. Lizzo has always been real and true to herself and never compromised what makes her her. She is an inspiring role model and someone who has the same sort of integrity, sass and confidence as Madonna. Maybe Lizzo’s stylistic reinventions are not that big and expressive but she ticks so many boxes. I look around music now and there are some artists who might be around and compelling listeners in decades to come. It is harder to stand out now than it was back then and so much music is disposal and samey. I think, more and more, the days of the icon are numbered and we will never see someone like Prince or Michael Jackson again. That is not to say we will not see someone remain for years and make a big impact on the next generation. Perhaps the terminology has changed and the definition (of an idol) is narrower. To me, Lizzo has all the hallmarks of a future-legend and she has already proven herself. Everything seems to be falling into place and it is only a matter of time before Lizzo is considered a modern-day icon. I am not sure whether that is a contradiction in terms but I think Lizzo stands away from everyone else and is a very promising artist. Maybe I should move onto her latest track, Cuz I Love You, as it sort of brings all of my points together and shows what I am talking about.

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There is something almost classic about Lizzo’s latest track. The last thing I – and many other people – heard from her was Juice. That has a very distinct sound and sort of captures you with its colour, catchy chorus and swagger. Listen to Cuz I Love You and the start has Lizzo singing unaccompanied. She is belting out this rather romantic and powerful lyric and then, without much notice, we get this very impassioned and bold compositional explosion. There are horns, percussion and strings that crash like waves and take you by surprise. I love the way the song starts somewhat calm and uncluttered and allows Lizzo to announce the song. It is a great way to kick it off and the heroine talks about being in love. Maybe it has not happened before and, as she attests, it is quite a feeling. I spoke about Lizzo’s songs being very different and it is hard to compare this one with any others. So many artists repeat what they do but here is something that is unlike any other Lizzo song! The words, like all of her songs, have a unique aspect and paint a picture. Here, as the biggest blast calms and she is accompanied by a skipping piano, Lizzo talks about, once, visiting the liquor store and drinking. Maybe there were reckless and wild days and she was in a different place. She seems to have found love now but, before, life was a bit different and she was rolling with a different crowd. This is Lizzo still having a blast and fun but showing a more sensitive and revealing side. The song almost sounds like a classical Soul or Jazz offering. Produced by X Ambassadors, there is this nice shift between the huge and spirited composition – that acts like a heartbeat and provides drama – and Lizzo’s voice. It is not often Lizzo gets to have her voice standout out front and being so emotional.

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What one discovers is how strong her voice is. This has always been the case but this latest offering allows her to go in a different direction. There is so much power and emotion when she talks about crying over her love and being affected. Maybe the lyrics are not as distinct as some of her other songs but, when you are talking about the strength of relationships and a new passion, there is a sense of limitation I guess. Cuz I Love You switches between the Jazz-like belt and the faster-paced and more characterful expressions. Lizzo talks about standing in the rain and getting her hair all wet; maybe having to wait for the man and doing all of this. I do love how Lizzo cuts and strikes some moments and can turn into this hugely soulful singer the next. It seems like the heroine has found this new lease but has had to make some changes in her life. It seems like this romance has been blossoming but not always smooth. Lizzo talks about this person being hidden away and on the down-low but now, after some realisation, she wants to put them on a plane and take them to her shows. I am not sure whether there was some friction before or whether her sweetheart was a bit troublesome. In any case, things have got to this stage and Lizzo is realising she has feelings. She did not know she cared so much and, when the chorus comes back, she lets all the feelings out. I do love, as I keep saying, how the song switches and the potency of the chorus. You try and compare it to another song – the chorus does have that classic sound – and fall in love with the vocals. In many Lizzo songs, she is singing quite fast-paced and you never get to hear her singing in a more direct and impassioned manner.

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The addition of the horns and percussion gives plenty of stamp and rouse and perfectly backs her vocal. The heroine has struggled to make a connection before and not found it easy to be in love. There are moments when Lizzo hits really high notes and extends her range all over the place! When belting out and really letting her voice open, you get hints of Aretha Franklin and some of the most powerful singers ever. Cuz I Love You is such a hugely powerful record and you wonder whether it could extend for another minute or so. One gets hooked on that switch between the fast and edgier verses and this very different chorus. One will listen to the song the first time and it is quite hard to take everything in and get to grips. You are amazed and blown away so go back and listen a few more times. There are a few writers on this track – including Maroon 5’s Adam Levine – but it is Lizzo’s amazing and towering central performance that makes the song so masterful. It is impossible to listen to the song and not be moved and amazed. I believe the title cut is the opening track for Cuz I Love You – although don’t quote me on that! – and, if that is true, it will be one of the most impressive lead-off tracks in recent memory! The fact Lizzo, between this song and Juice, has shown so much variety and quality means very few will be able to refute her brilliance. Ensure you dive into he brilliant waters of Cuz I Love You and discover this wonderful song. You will need a few listens for the track to truly sink in and work its magic because, as I found, the first listen is so intense and you are not prepared for what comes! Lizzo has shown she is one of the most flexible, impressive and original artists around and this is why I think she will be around for many decades more.

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Cuz I Love You is out on 19th April and is the third studio album from Lizzo. It is her first album in four years and the singles released so far are amazing. There is a bit of speculation regarding the tracks that will appear on the album and what it will sound like. Juice gave us a taste of what we might expect and now, with the title offering in the world, there is another piece of the puzzle. I am excited to see what is coming and what Cuz I Love You will sound like. There are various writers and producers who work with Lizzo but I do not think that gets in the way of her music and personality. You can be a great artist and leader and have others working on the music. Lizzo has always worked this way and, at the end of the day, it is her voice that stands out. She is the most important and dynamic part of the mix and the person who makes the music come alive! Maybe it is too reductive and simplistic calling Lizzo’s music ‘Pop’. It has so many different aspects to it and is very different to everything else around. I do love how Lizzo keeps her social media updated and she is always communication with fans and letting us into her world. It gives a great impression of who she is and what makes her tick. There are a lot of big artists who are quite reserved and insular and, whilst that is cool, you never get a real sense of who they are. Maybe music is meant to provide the real commentary but Lizzo knows, in this day and age, you need to be more active on social media and that fan relationship is very important. I will end things pretty soon but I have been looking around music and asking whether people performing today will be remembered in decades to come.

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It is very hard to tell but you can think of a few who definitely will be. I think Lizzo will continue to produce albums and she will headline festivals before long. Like powerful female artists such as Beyoncé, Alicia Keys and Aretha Franklin – that might sound random but they have some shared aspects – Lizzo has a unique sound and personality that goes into everything she does; a real confidence and need to be true in interviews; an urge to change music and make a difference in the world. With Lizzo, you have someone who is a bit cheeky and fun and that adds to the sense of wonder and infectiousness. It has been great breaking from my unusual routine and writing about a bigger artist. I do miss that side of things but the main reason I wanted to do this was to bring Lizzo to more people. She has big fan numbers but so many of her followers are female. I do not think her music is reserved to women and, in fact, it is much more eclectic, broad and open than anything out there. When all is said and done, Lizzo wants to bring fun to the party and she likes to shake it! Keep an ear out when it comes to tour dates and see if she is heading your way. I know there will be promotion around the release of her upcoming album and a chance to catch her very soon. Cuz I Love You is a wonderful track and brings new elements into Lizzo’s music. She is always growing and getting more confident as a performer. I think this will continue and, before too long, she will be one of the biggest artists on the planet. It is the way Lizzo brings all her energy and life to every song that makes them stick in the brain and remain in the heart. If you have not experienced the wonder and vitality of Lizzo then make sure you rectify this. Cuz I Love You is a brilliant track to start with and lays out all of Lizzo’s assets and qualities. It has been great reviewing the song and, when the album comes out in April, I will be...

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PHOTO CREDIT: Atlantic Records

REVIEWING that too!

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INTERVIEW: Rivah Jordan

INTERVIEW:

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PHOTO CREDIT: Roxanne Haynes

Rivah Jordan

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THE captivating and charismatic Rivah Jordan...

has been telling me about his musical tastes and his particular sound; what the story behind his new track, Shoebox, is; whether there is going to be more coming from him and what sort of influences go into his arsenal.

Rivah Jordan talks about the challenges he has faced in life and his philosophy; what sort of music captured him young; whether there are any rising artists to look out for – he picks a great song to end the interview with.

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

Oh, man. Today, I’m trying to bend with the breeze like a tree, for my week has been character building to say the least. I like to think I’m dealing with it well. Thanks for having me, I appreciate it.

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

I’m the guy that effortlessly goes from Sean Paul to Skepta in six seconds...Rivah Jordan, the big artist with the big label in London, Sound Killaz Music. I’m a bit of an advocate for mental-health awareness and financial education. I write my own songs, make my own music; mix and master, will do my own artwork and shoot my own video if necessary and can and will do those things for other people. I’m a handsome, tall; light-skinned guy with dreadlocks and streaks of grey. I’m an entrepreneur and an educator. I’ll give you food. What more can I say?

Shoebox is your new track. Is there a background to the track?          

There most certainly is. It’s like the background music to my life. Call my line-up when you’re tripping, please don’t do that…I have to set boundaries every day; manage expectations, keep my business running which allows me to continue to live and grow; make music and stack the pinky in the shoebox. It’s a delicate balance.

I have to count up my blessings when unexpected expenses jump up on me as I can now afford them mostly. I can drop a rack (£1000) or stack some money, it’s kinda calm now. That hasn’t always been my position: I remember it taking me almost three years to save £1000. Nipsey Hussle said “That’s why they follow me, they think I know the way”.

I can feel a lot of people gravitating towards my energy. I really want to share something of value with them. I think Shoebox is the beginning, the first lesson; ALWAYS PAY YOURSELF FIRST. You pay the bills, the bank; the car loan, everybody else. Start loving yourself, start paying yourself; start saving. You’re worth it, you deserve it. I LOVE YOU!

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Might we see more material coming out this year?

I have a single called P.I.C. (Partner in Crime) ready. The song is finished. I have a remix or two; artwork is ready. I just need to finalise a mix and master. I’m late for Valentine’s, I’ve accepted it. I’m still coming with it, though. I have ten-twenty songs and am still creating so I want to finish up an album for this year. I have singles I produced by Prezident Brown and Cookie the Herbalist.

I recently mastered an E.P. for my brother Matthew Radics. I have an album of Dubs or Instrumental Reggae versions of original songs. I’m ambitious. I’m trying to get busy. I’d be really disappointed with myself if you didn’t see more material this year, let’s put it that way.

When did music come into your life? Did you have favourite artists as a child?

My father is Jack Radics (Google Twist and Shout (Jack Radics with Chaka Demus & Pliers - it’s fun!). With him being a musician, I think it’s appropriate for me to carry on the tradition. I was in studios, just being fascinated by the equipment and the lights from before I had any idea of the relevance of those experiences. I grew up in Jamaica so, as a child, it was popular artists in the dancehall from the late-'80s and early-'90s such as Bounty Killa, Shabba; Buju Banton and Beenie Man. Moving to the U.K. and getting into Hip Hop, I was a massive 2Pac fan.

I think it was 2Pac lyrics my friend heard me reciting that got him excited about me rapping. He was convinced I’d be great at it: I had no idea what he was talking about at the time.

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I love your style and the way you bring Trap music to new heights. Does that blend of Trap and Reggae come very naturally?

Thank you (smiles). I think it does come quite naturally. I often compare music with cooking and it’s about a meeting of styles and flavours. The dynamic of the population and the motto of Jamaica is ‘out of many, one people’. The cultural explosion coming from that place is the result of the diversity. We like it, we take it; we make it our own. We turn our hands and make fashion. We continue to compile all that has come before us and is around us into new and original stuff be it from Reggae, to toasting; to rapping, to Hip-Hop; to Dub, to Jungle; to EDM and beyond and then a little bit further.

Trap is just one of the things I blend with Reggae but I think my superpower is turning everything into Reggae. Hahaha. First, I like to understand rules; then it’s about bending them and pushing their limits with a view of creating a place and sound of my own. I think that’s always my aim.

You have seen troubles and faced challenges in life. Do you think that has impacted your ambitions and why you bonded to music?

That is 100% how it goes. I recently recorded a rapper diagnosed with diabetes. He dropped a line, which was something along the lines of: “I used to think of success as having the newest reg (car registration plate). Now success is about having the use of two of my legs”. Them bars hit me hard. As much as I advocate financial education and financial freedom, they are in my mind; an aspect of mental-health. There are people who have mental-health problems from suffering financial abuse - many people reading this may be unaware something like this exists….

I had no idea it existed either at a time or that I was being subjected to that kind of abuse. I once thought abuse was only really physical and maybe verbal, just a little. I now understand the scope for being abused is much broader than that...you could be emotionally or psychologically abused - and there is more that I don’t need to get into.

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PHOTO CREDIT: Roxanne Haynes

Drill music captivates the frustration of an entire generation and, if you listen to it, it’s really sad; really afraid and really angry. Millennials are trapping out the bando. When I listen to popular radio stations, they aren’t really playing a bunch of new bands like Oasis or Blur like when I moved to the U.K. The fact that the music is changing and the ways in which it’s changing says a lot. Different experiences are being shared; different problems are being solved and addressed.

I think the realignment of your ambitions is natural. I like music with a message, I like music with powerful feelings and emotions but try never to discredit music which I may not perceive as being powerful as it can be a different medicine for a different ailment, from which I do not suffer.

Sometimes, mindless music can be good as it works your mind less and gives it time to rest - that’s valuable too. I remember just wanting to sell drugs and be rich like Dipset. Given the money I actually bought studio equipment though, not chains or clothes. Now, I still want chains and clothes but I’m getting a better understanding of the values I have as a person and the values I want to bring across as a musician. I want to help people, I want to help myself; I want to heal people, I want to heal myself.

I want the platform to show people what they can be, to help people to become more; I want the Bentley for inspirational purposes and the Rolex for motivational use only. Hahaha. I want to help people identify with issues, find solutions and work through them. So, where some aims remain the same, some are completely different.

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

Probably headlining the Montenegro Sun Reggae Festival in 2015. How rotten drunk I got the next night and how I have not arrived at that level of intoxication again since. EXIT Fest in Serbia is always a blast, though and the West Coast of America is crazy.

I have a few…

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

Rivah Jordan - Jah Works (2012, Sound Killaz Music)

My first self-produced and self-released E.P. on my own label. This was really the beginning for Rivah Jordan.

Rivah Jordan - Hustlers World (2015, Sound Killaz Music)

My first self-produced and self-released full-length album on my own label.

Fido Guido - Realtà e Cultura (distributed by Sound Killaz Music)

I think this may be the single-highest-grossing product I have released. I worked on one song and licenced the product for distribution on my label. Eye-opening experience.

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

I’d love to open for the Migos. That’s a show I’d enjoy watching every night.

My rider needs would be water, weed; fruits, nuts and probably something strong/warm to drink if the vocals need warming up. I don’t think we need to talk about per diems, meals; transport, accommodation and all that mandatory stuff.

Right now, I think for a professional it’s all pretty routine.

What advice would you give to new artists coming through?

My Instagram: @RivahJordan. D.M. me, innit (laughs).

If that’s long, just be confident and remember: the music business is 10% music and 90% business. If your music is doing bits, just focus on improving your business. If your music isn’t doing bits, just focus on improving your business. D.M. me, tho, for real. It’s love.

Do you think there are going to be any tour dates coming up?

I think there are going to be loads because promoters are going to be all in my D.M.s offering me money to sing and I’ll be more than willing to do business. They may email soundkillaz@gmail.com to book me. I’ll put my own shows on too when the time is right.

How important is it being on stage and performing to the people?

I don’t know if there are words to quantify how important live performances are. So, let’s just say it’s of the utmost importance. Imagine asking a footballer how important is it to go out and play games? It’s about the number of appearances, how you well you performed and statistics. Seeing people react to your music or hearing about their reactions is completely different from being in their presence while they are reacting. Crowds let you know what you’re doing wrong or right, where and how to improve.

It’s super-important.

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 IN THIS PHOTO: Pharoah

Are there any new artists you recommend we check out?

My brother Matthew Radics, TALAPATON; SABE and Pharoah. That’s pretty much the gang…all on IG. I love Lil Baby, Gunna; Moneybagg Yo and Jacquees and they are some of the artists you’ll catch me listening to.

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 IN THIS PHOTO: Lil Baby

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

Getting human contact and interaction, hanging out with friends; socialising. Getting in contact with nature. I love walks and driving down country lanes when I get the chance. I play basketball. I like video games. I read. I run a property management business, an independent label and I’m pursuing a career in music. Sometimes, I just want to sit in silence, smoke a joint and contemplate. Hot baths are great, too.

Downtime is essential though and being self-employed and self-motivated, a lot of the time I need to remind myself downtime is needed; it’s healthy and that it’s ok to have it. I like to embrace downtime when it presents itself.

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).

Play Future - Crushed Up...no, no, no: Meek Mill - Respect the Game or, hold on...try Frostbite (Remix) with Offset and Rich the Kid...or one of them. I don’t know. Thanks for having me. All the best!

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INTERVIEW: Roman Harris

INTERVIEW:

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Roman Harris

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THE fantastic Roman Harris...

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has been telling me about his new track, The Smell of Heather, and its unique inspiration; what it was like putting together the video and whether there is more material coming along – he recommends some rising artists to look out for.

I ask how music came to him and whether he has three favourite albums; how he spends time away from music and the advice he would give to emerging artists right now – Harris selects a cool song to end the interview with.

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

Heya. I’m alive, I’m well; I’m grateful to be here, so all is good. It has been a very demanding week but really exciting too - releasing new music is always exciting.

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

Well. I’d have to start with a ‘hello and nice to meet you’. Now that we’ve got that out the way...I’m that fusion of Indie, Folk and R&B that you didn’t know existed but will be truly happy you found.

The Smell of Heather is your latest track. Is there a story attached to the song?

I think many of the best songs ever written have a story attached to them - and The Smell of Heather is no different. I came across a book of poetry called Heather’s Book, written by the poet Vivian Anglin. It was an honest, compassionate and raunchy collection of poetry that told the story of the relationship between a man who wanted to see a woman beat her addiction and a woman whose addiction was forever pulling her away. The first poem in the book was entitled The Smell of Heather and it was this poem that inspired the song. The poem starts:

“The smell of Heather still lingers in my room/She came in a hurry and left too soon”

It’s these lines that form the idea for the chorus of the song. I would definitely encourage people to read this book as much as I would encourage them to listen to the song.

Its video is out. How involved did you get regarding the concept?

Yes, indeed! The video is out now and available to the world on YouTube. The concept was more or less already there, since the song tells a story but the director, Ngadi Vandy, was responsible for bringing it all together and Olucreates was the man behind the camera. They were a great team.

I must also tip my hat to Yana Penrose, Pete Hardingham and Kaid Hussain who were the actors in the video. They were all so fantastic to work with. I gave some artistic guidance here and there but, for the most part, I let the creatives do their thing and they did great

Might there be more material coming later in the year?

I’m glad you asked...

The Smell of Heather is just the start for 2019. I’ll be releasing more material throughout the year with my next single, Get Me Got Me, coming soon. But, for now, it’s all about The Smell of Heather and getting as many ears onto this song as possible.

The Smell of Heather is your debut song. How long were you writing music and experimenting before then?

Oh, wow! I’ve been writing for years now, mostly for other artists. My first break came with a song called Falling produced by Snakehips featuring Malika and released through Sony Music Entertainment. This song opened up a number of doors for me and was followed up by my first featured release entitled Moving Again produced by Cr3on and Marcus and released through PM Recordings in the Netherlands. Although I love writing for other people, it was a burning desire to make a mark with my own music and my own sound. That’s what has led me to where I am now.

You are from Brixton in South London. Do you draw any inspiration from the people and sounds around you?

Brixton is a fantastic part of London. The streets of Brixton are filled with stories and inspiration but I’d be lying if I said it was only Brixton that I drew inspiration from. That area is a major part of my life, my upbringing and my creative world. However, I was also raised for many years in Georgetown, Guyana and have travelled to other parts of the world, including Africa, Australia; America, the Caribbean. The list goes on, so I draw inspiration from everywhere I go; every experience I have and every person that I meet.

When did music come into your life? Did you have favourite artists as a child?

Music was in my life from as early as I can remember. I would love looking through my parents’ record collection. The artwork was so captivating and there was something so special about vinyl that a whole generation may sadly never understand. Growing up Prince, Guns N’ Roses, Snoop Doggy Dog; Jimi Hendrix, even Alice Cooper were played in my house. But, as far as a favourite artist, that’s easy and for every child I’m sure it was the same…Phil Collins!

Ahhhh, I’m just kidding. Although Phil is a legend, it was Michael Jackson! Thriller! Bad! Come on! I remember the Bad album cover. I would dress all in black and stick clothes pegs on myself to try and recreate the look of the jacket he was wearing.

Oh, the shame!

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

There’s been some really amazing moments thus far but I think my favourite memory in music has been watching a crowd of people vibe to a song that I wrote. Looking at their faces and the joy that they were feeling from hearing it while they were also totally oblivious to the fact that I had anything to do with creating it. Some may say that’s strange but it was that feeling of being on the outside and seeing people genuinely enjoy something, not because they know I had something to do with it but simply because they really love it that much.

That was priceless.

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

8701Usher

This album was the soundtrack to my first serious relationship. I was fifteen-years-old and every time I listen to this album it takes me back to those early years of relationship innocence and those feelings surface all over again. It makes me smile.

ParachutesColdplay

What a beautiful album. Parachutes was my introduction to Coldplay and there was just something so honest and warm about those songs and the songwriting that I instantly fell in love with their work. It also timestamps a very pivotal period in my life when I’d returned to the U.K. from Guyana and was about embark on a whole new life direction. The title of the album almost fits in with the sentiment. It’s almost as though they were my parachute easing me to a safe landing.

The Battle of Los AngelesRage Against the Machine

Sometimes, you meet people and they open up your musical world. I was in a three-piece band once upon a time and the bass player introduced me to R.A.T.M. and this album. Mind Blowing! These guys were amazing; knew how to rock and had such a strong message. One of the best albums ever!

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

I’d absolutely love to support Foy Vance. The guy just makes it all look so effortless, his songs are crafted so beautifully and he holds an audience with such charisma. There’s a lot to learn from a man like that, not to mention he’s Irish and the Irish are amongst my favourite people.

Now, to my rider. This is not going to be very Rock and Roll and also far from diva-ish. I do like healthy eating so loads of water, fruit; salads, red wine and my guilty pleasure: mince pies with double cream.

What advice would you give to new artists coming through?

I’d give this advice to new artists, old artists and those somewhere in-between. Firstly, ‘it’s always too early to quit’. Keeping that dream alive for just one more day may be all you need to see it come to fruition. Secondly, do not let social media rule you. These days nothing can break your will faster than spending ages looking at the lives of others. Thirdly and finally, love to create.

Fall in love over and over again with the buzz of creating something new and try your best to remember why you do this. We’re privileged to be able to make something from nothing. Never forget that and never take it for granted.

Do you think there are going to be any tour dates coming up?

Watch this space. The best way to do that is to follow me online - for social media it’s @iamromanharris - or keep an eye on my website.

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 IN THIS PHOTO: Max Cyrus

Are there any new artists you recommend we check out?

Yes, indeed! Max Cyrus, Mia Pearl; DeeRiginal and MALIKA. I am a genuine fan of all of their work; do give them a follow and keep an eye out for their music in 2019!

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 IN THIS PHOTO: MALIKA

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

I think it’s so important to find ways to relax and unwind. It’s the only way that we can come back and bring the best so I always make time for me. Whether that be going to the gym, movies; travelling or just lying in bed all day watching re-runs of The Fresh Prince. I find a way to relax but I always find my way back to doing what I love. Making sweet music.

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

The song I’d like to choose is called Untitiled by Rodney P featuring Lanre Sulola and produced by Max Cyrus Music. It’s a really great and powerful song and different to a lot of what you hear at the moment

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Follow Roman Harris

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FEATURE: Carry That Weight: 26th September, 2019: The Beatles’ Abbey Road at Fifty: Why It Is the Most Important Album Anniversary Ever

FEATURE:

 

 

Carry That Weight: 26th September, 2019: The Beatles’ Abbey Road at Fifty

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IMAGE CREDIT: Spotify 

Why It Is the Most Important Album Anniversary Ever

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IT is a fair few months away...

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 IN THIS PHOTO: The Beatles captured in their final photoshoot on 22nd September, 1969 in the grounds of Tittenhurst Park/PHOTO CREDIT: Ethan Russell and Monte Fresco

but I think the bunting needs to come out of the storage cupboards and we need to get ourselves ready for a very special Beatles anniversary! There are a lot of albums celebrating big anniversaries this year but there is something about a fiftieth that is truly epic and unbeatable. Maybe it is the length of time elapsed or the fact it just seems so unlikely – those legendary albums come up for their fiftieth and it allows the generations to come together. I was not born when The Beatles’ Abbey Road turned fitly on 26th September, 1969 but it is a record that was a big part of my childhood! My mum always highlights that medley that forms most of the album’s second side. In 1969, it was rare to have a medley of songs on an album, whether it was from a huge artist or someone unknown. In fact, in 2019 we do not have that many medleys – or single tracks composed or various different vignettes! That is masterful and wonderfully handled by the band but there are so many other treats through the album. I feel the fiftieth anniversary of Abbey Road will be the most important milestone of my lifetime. In terms of albums from iconic artists, can you name any more important?! Many consider other Beatles albums finer but the critical and fan opinion seems to have swung the way of Abbey Road – even if, for a time, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band has taken the top spot before.

Many will argue Revolver is a better record but for its sheer significance then you cannot top Abbey Road! Remember, the band had already recorded 1970’s Let It Be before they set to work on Abbey Road: it is their finale and the last time the band would record together in the studio on a full album. The experience of Let It Be was quite tense and unhappy and, when that album turns fifty next year, I wonder whether it will get the same impact as Abbey Road – I really do not think it will. The band went into recording Abbey Road with an aim: as it was their final album, they would get rid of the tension and try and get back to where they were before. To be fair, there were some tough times during recording and a bit of that friction remaining in the air! George Martin had to be asked back as producer by Paul McCartney after the tension of The Beatles (1968) and the fact Phil Spector produced Let It Be. The fact everyone was back in the same studio was a relief and produced some of the best music of The Beatles’ career. I will come to my argument regarding the importance of this anniversary but, after the fraught electricity that produced Let It Be, Abbey Road began life on 22nd February, 1969.

Billy Preston accompanied the band on Hammond organ and the final album came together on 20th August. That was the date is memorable because it was the last time every Beatle was in the studio together – I think a separate celebration/anniversary should be held for that! Paul McCartney and John Lennon had enjoyed working on the non-album single, The Ballad of John and Yoko, and that bonhomie carried on in the sessions of Abbey Road. Although the experience of recording this time around was better than the last, there was tension and arguments between the entire band at some point! There are exaggerations as to how much of a role Yoko Ono played in these fall-outs but it was clear, by 1969, the band as they once were had disappeared. Lennon and Ono were together a lot and there was still a sense of McCartney trying to keep it together and guide things. It is the two halves of Abbey Road that fascinate me. The first has more conventional numbers and traditional Beatles songs and the second is dominated by that suite. If Lennon was still digging at McCartney because some of his (McCartney’s) songs were for grannies, then the band as a whole had a point when McCartney presented the odd Maxwell’s Silver Hammer – endless takes and hours were spent putting it together to the point the rest of the group had had enough!

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 IMAGE CREDIT: Claire Huntley

There are truly remarkable tracks throughout Abbey Road. George Harrison’s Something is viewed by many as the finest track on the album – and one of the band’s best – and Here Comes the Sun is an incredible track. Harrison was really coming into his own as a songwriter on the final album and it makes me wonder how strong The Beatles would have been if they recorded more records – knowing they had three world-class songwriters penning the tracks! Come Together is a stunning opening and Lennon’s I Want You (She’s So Heavy) is unlike anything The Beatles ever produced. The band was taking their music, as usual, in all sorts of directions and this near-eight-minutes-long-wonder-piece just suddenly stops...and with it the first half of the album. The second side has the relief of George Harrison’s Here Comes the Sun welcoming people back in before we start to enter that medley. I think the fact that suite of songs was so unheard of an inventive deserves accolade all by itself. It would have been a huge gamble for any band but for The Beatles, regardless of their strength and situation, it was a massive deal. They were always pioneering but they had never tried another like that song-cycle on the second side. The End ends things (well, the hidden track, Her Majesty, does!) and you are left breathless and try and take everything in.

Many argue about The Beatles’ discs and which one comes where. Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and Revolver have competed for top place but Abbey Road has always been up there. I think, the more time that elapses, the more Abbey Road will be seen as their most important album. There are several reasons why The Beatles final-recorded album’s fiftieth anniversary is vastly important. This will be the last truly big anniversary of any titanic Beatles album (fifty, seventy-five etc.) with any surviving members. The songs are wonderful and, after a brief blip, see the world’s greatest-ever band returning to their daring best. A few iffy tracks here and there (Octopus’s’ Garden and Maxwell’s Silver Hammer) add to the charm and mood and I cannot find anything to fault. The production is fabulous and I love the fact there is this distinct tale of two halves. The fact there was a hidden track was a bit of a first. I cannot think of any big Pop/Rock band before 1969 doing that and, since then, artists from all corners have been popping in hidden tracks. Remember this was the last time The Beatles recorded together and it was the end of an era makes Abbey Road’s fiftieth anniversary bittersweet. I have not even mentioned Abbey Road’s iconic cover – The Beatles were no strangers when it came to creating these immaculate and brilliant covers!

The shot of the band on a zebra crossing was based on sketches by McCartney and shows him out of step with the other members. It was taken on 8th August, 1969 outside EMI Studios on Abbey Road. The band had only ten minutes whilst traffic was being held. Photographer Iain Macmillan was up a step-ladder and captured this unique image – much-parodied through the decades – in a real flash. It is said six images were taken before McCartney examined them and decided which was best as the cover. Many fans have mimicked and copied the cover and, when Abbey Road turns fifty, you can bet a whole new generation will produce their own version of that cover! There are so many aspects of the album that deserve a spotlight and that is why I think Abbey Road at fifty will be something special. There are not that many Beatles albums that have gained one school of thought upon release and then opinion changes through time. Abbey Road received some mixed acclaim upon release as many were unhappy with the production and sound – many were looking for something more live-sounding. You do not need me to tell you – but I will... – that contemporary reviews have been a lot kinder and more unified. AllMusic had this to say:

The last Beatles album to be recorded (although Let It Be was the last to be released), Abbey Roadwas a fitting swan song for the group, echoing some of the faux-conceptual forms of Sgt. Pepper, but featuring stronger compositions and more rock-oriented ensemble work...

 

The group was still pushing forward in all facets of its art, whether devising some of the greatest harmonies to be heard on any rock record (especially on "Because"), constructing a medley of songs/vignettes that covered much of side two, adding subtle touches of Moog synthesizer, or crafting furious guitar-heavy rock ("The End," "I Want You (She's So Heavy)," "Come Together"). George Harrison also blossomed into a major songwriter, contributing the buoyant "Here Comes the Sun" and the supremely melodic ballad "Something," the latter of which became the first Harrison-penned Beatles hit. Whether Abbey Road is the Beatles' best work is debatable, but it's certainly the most immaculately produced (with the possible exception of Sgt. Pepper) and most tightly constructed”.

It is sad to think that, after we mark Abbey Road’s fiftieth, the next major anniversary is a long way away – maybe sirs Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr will not be with us! We have those emotional reasons and the quality of the songs; the inventive aspects of Abbey Road and the iconic cover; the fact it was the final time The Beatles recorded and album and the record has endured for so long. It is a long way away but I do wonder whether there are plans coming for something unforgettable. Last year, there were celebrations regarding The Beatles (‘The White Album’) and that was great to see. That album is fantastic and the fact it is so sprawling and eclectic made it ripe for dissection and fresh investigation.

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  IN THIS PHOTO: The Beatles captured in their final photoshoot on 22nd September, 1969 in the grounds of Tittenhurst Park/PHOTO CREDIT: Ethan Russell and Monte Fresco

Abbey Road is comparatively simple but its weight, majesty and sheer important means it is even more worthy of a proper celebration. I know there will be the odd bit on radio stations around the world but I wonder whether there are plans to do a full-on night that talks about the album, gets people to play renditions of songs – popular artists providing their take – and contributions from musical names and maybe those involved with Abbey Road. Giles Martin (George Martin’s son) was present when there was a YouTube stream commemorating The Beatles at fifty – featuring Matt Everitt, Georgie Rogers (both of BBC Radio 6 Music) and esteemed music names – so I think it would be possible to work something up in the next few months. The fact Martin was there was because he remastered the album and provided rare cuts and demos to go on a fiftieth anniversary collection. One assumes Abbey Road will get a Martin makeover and there must be stuff in the vaults we have not heard. I believe Abbey Road hitting fifty is the most important album anniversary of this generation because of everything happening with The Beatles at the time – and the fact this was their glorious finale. I would love to see a proper shindig and party for this remarkable and hugely influential record. It was revolutionary and bold in 1969 and its beauty and meaning has only grown deeper in the following years. The Beatles sang, on The End: “The love you take/Is equal to the love you make”. They provided us with something truly spellbinding and unrivalled with Abbey Road and it is only right, on 26th September, we throw as much love as we can back and...

COME together!

FEATURE: Golden Hour? Did the Grammys Get Everything Right This Year?

FEATURE:

 

 

Golden Hour?

IN THIS PHOTO: Kacey Musgraves was a big winner at this year’s Grammys/PHOTO CREDIT: Eric Ray Davidson for GQ

Did the Grammys Get Everything Right This Year?

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TOMORROW will be good as I wanted to raise something...

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 IN THIS PHOTO: Kacey Musgraves delivering an acceptance speech at this year’s Grammys/PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

very interesting and, in fact, this topic is one that has been on my mind. Last night was the Grammys in the U.S. and it is definitely a step forward in terms of gender and genre. One of the biggest issues with the award ceremony, in past years, has been the male domination and a commercial leaning. In fact, when Bruno Mars swept the board in 2018 for his album, 24K Magic, there were some raised eyebrows. That album is not especially strong and it definitely has that chart-pandering sound. There is nothing particular challenging to be found and it was another year for men taking most of the big awards. There was call for change and it meant, when the nominations were announced for this year’s ceremony, there was some relief. Although female artists like Cardi B and Kacey Musgraves were announced, that was not a guarantee there would be recognised and actually win an award! I was a bit nervous I’d turn on the news yesterday morning to see it was the same old selection and issues. Luckily, when it came to handing out awards, female talent was being honoured! The award show gave prizes to H.E.R. (Best R&B Album for H.E.R.), Kacey Musgraves (Best Country Album for Golden Hour) and Best New Artist to Dua Lipa. Cardi B won Best Rap album for Invasion of Privacy and it was good to see a lot of talented women getting what they deserve.

Not only were women walking away with awards but there was greater inclusion regarding black women. Although there were some award categories that could have gone a different way, few had any complaints when the likes of Cardi B and Ariana Grande (she won the Best Pop Vocal for Sweetener) walked away with prizes. There was no sense of the Grammys making concessions and fitting women in just to silence people: they were genuinely making an effort and there has been some big steps. I was thrilled there was greater balance and I hope this continues next year. The BRIT Awards are very soon and it will be a chance to see if the biggest award show in the British calendar can match the Americans. The Grammys have always been slighted because of the narrow focus and the fact they tend to favour mainstream stuff and do not really consider women. There was no way they could have repeated previous years and allowed things to go on as they have for so long! Has everything been solved, though?! Many might say it is only a music award show and who really cares if it ticks all the boxes and is perfect? The Grammys will never be flawless but I think it has made some big improvements since last year. It is good to see big artists like Cardi B not being overshadowed and Kacey Musgraves’ win was a big nod.

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 IN THIS PHOTO: Although Drake did not perform at the Grammys, he collected the award for Best Rap Song (for God’s Plan)/PHOTO CREDIT: Trace TV

Country music has been attacked because it does not play as many women on the radio as men – the fact Musgraves won Album of the Year and Best Country Album should, I hope, open a conversation in music regarding the way women in Country are treated. It was a good night regarding female inclusion and recognising genres like Country but, in some ways, there were needless issues. USA Today observed that there were problems when it came to interrupting speeches but, despite everything, they were on the up:

 “The most jarring slash was to Drake's speech. For the Grammys, Drake's presence was a major win, his first appearance at the awards since 2013, after years of criticizing the show's decision to not air most of its rap awards on TV.

And yet, when the rapper made a surprise appearance to accept the Grammy for best rap song ("God's Plan"), the show went to commercial in the middle of his speech, just as the rapper could be heard starting another sentence.

And the Grammys were also missing another major name, Ariana Grande, after a PR nightmare in which the show's producer Ken Ehrlich implied in an interview that Grande couldn't pull her act together fast enough to perform. Cue Grande claiming Ehrlich was "lying" and that the Grammys wouldn't let her perform the songs she wanted, which, if true, is quite a bad look for a show trying to do right by its female nominees this year.

And yet, beyond the failures of the telecast, the 2019 Grammys were actually a major improvement from last year's controversial ceremony, with female artists seeming to dominate the microphone as the night's performers and winners -- 31 women won across 38 categories, a sizable uptick from 2018, in which only 17 of the 86 prizes were won by female artist -- and with Glover, despite his absence, making history for hip-hop artists with his wins”.

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 IN THIS PHOTO: Ariana Grande was a notable omission at the Grammys/PHOTO CREDIT: Craig McDean for Vogue

It is rather jarring seeing an artist make a speech and, when they have not been talking for that long, have it interrupted and washed over. The Guardian took up the baton and dissected Drake’s acceptance speech – what there was of it!

And then Drake made his acceptance speech for best rap song. His initial point was that big musical awards ceremonies such as the Grammys are essentially meaningless, because there’s a weekly musical awards ceremony, voted for by the public, called the charts. This is not totally accurate: in awarding album of the year to Musgraves’ Golden Hour, which triumphed over commercial behemoths including Post Malone’s Beerbongs & Bentleys and Drake’s own middling Scorpion, the Grammys performed one of the few genuinely useful functions a musical award ceremony can perform, shining the spotlight on an artistically brilliant album that has thus far underperformed commercially”.

You can, as the article explained, talk about Kacey Musgraves and the fact her album, Golden Hour, matches genres together and is an exceptional work yet, in commercial terms, did not shift as many copies as some of her Pop peers. Maybe that is a problem with the American Country radio network and how little airplay they are giving to female artists.

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 IN THIS PHOTO: Alicia Keys hosted the 2019 Grammys and was hugely impressive/PHOTO CREDIT: Jaclyn Martinez/Courtesy of AK Worldwide, Inc

One can dispute some of what Drake said above but, regarding another point he made, there can be few disputes:

But Drake’s second point, about the Grammys’ attitude to artists of colour, was more difficult to dispute. The last 12 months have seen hip-hop continue a commercial domination of music that began in 2017 when Nielsen Soundscan figures from the US suggested eight of the 10 most listened to artists in the world were rappers. But you only had to look at the Grammy awards to realise that hip-hop artists have largely given up on the prospect of seeing themselves properly represented at the ceremony: Jay-Z and Beyoncé didn’t bother to turn up to collect their award; Childish Gambino was absent; Kendrick Lamar and Drake both turned down an invitation to perform. It looked suspiciously as if some of the biggest stars in the world were boycotting what’s supposed to be the biggest award ceremony in its field”.

There does seem to be this problem, still, with race and it is rather worrying. Sure, Cardi B was a big winner at the Grammys but the fact Drake and Kendrick Lamar both failed to perform suggests there are concerns. Hip-Hop dominates and has overtaken Pop but Rap is almost on the backbench. Some of its biggest names forfeited performing and there are a lot of things the Grammys needs to work on. This article counts all the slightly embarrassing moments at the Grammys.  

Ariana Grande did not attend because of a dispute regarding her performance; there was this feeling that, whilst many women won awards on the night, it was all a bit too little and too late. Big names bowing out and not performing cast a shadow and it seems like the Grammys has taken two steps forward and one back. I am relieved there is a move towards gender equality and recognising genres like Hip-Hop. I am not saying Pop should not be overlooked but it is nice to see this development and change. The fact speeches were cut and there were these niggles cannot be overlooked. I do think music ceremonies are important because they celebrate great work and can actually boost the profile of artists. Think about the new fans that will flock Kacey Musgraves’ way and the fact radio stations will need to retune their dials! Maybe the show was not essential viewing – it was very long and few awards were handed out on T.V. – but there were definite positives.

I feel the Grammys still holds weight and needs to exist. The same can be said for the BRIT Awards and the Mercury Prize. If the Grammys can address the issues this year and ensure that 2020’s ceremony has greater sight and gives more time to Rap – creating few disputes regarding performances – then it can grow and be seen as worthy. There are many who think it has never really been a guide regarding good music and a bit of an indulgent addition to the year. I would argue against this and go back to my point regarding the winners and the fact awareness will be raised – their sales will climb and it is a good chance for people to discover their music. There were some drawbacks and downfalls at this year’s Grammys but, compared to 2018, there were...

SOME enormous leaps.

INTERVIEW: Marie Dahlstrøm

INTERVIEW:

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Marie Dahlstrøm

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IT has been great speaking with Marie Dahlstrøm...

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about her new single, Mood, and working with Secaina. I ask what sort of music influences her and whether she has three favourite albums; if there will be tour dates and if there is a rising artist we need to look out for.

Dahlstrøm gives some useful advice for artists coming through and tells me how she relaxes when she has time; when she got into music and whether we might see more material coming along – she picks a great song to end the interview with.

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

Hey! I am good; had a nice week. Just got back from playing a show in Rome.

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

I am Danish. I sing, write; play and produce. Mostly. And I’m also studying a PhD at the moment. I live in London.

Mood is your latest track. Can you tell us when that was written and its inspiration?

Actually, Secaina and I were put in the same session last summer whilst at a female writing camp called She Writes. We did a song with another girl which included the bridge-section from Mood...half a year later we got together and both had a connection to that bridge. From that we created the rest of Mood one evening in my flat. It’s inspired by real life, mostly. A story of love. 

The visuals for the video are interesting. How did that all come together?

Over the last few years, I’ve been receiving so many nice videos from dancers around the world creating routines to my songs. I guess I wanted to create a music video which included dance for that reason. So, I put a request for dancers on my IG story and Sally and Douglas (dancing in the Mood video) sent me a video with their routine for the video.

Is there going to be more material coming from you this year?

Yes. I am currently working on my album. So, hopefully this will be ready in time.

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Do you recall when you got into music? Did you always know it was what you wanted to do?

I’ve been into music since I was little but I didn’t know this was what I wanted to do until I actually started releasing music.

Would you say there are artists you are inspired by and emulate?

Hmm. I could not say emulate. Definitely inspired by. I think especially the music that I started listen to in later teenage years have inspired me a lot.

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You hail from Rockslide, Denmark. What is the music vibe like there? Is there a lot of great music?

Roskilde is known from their massive music festival and it’s a very creative city with great music opportunities for kids. But I don’t know many artists from Roskilde.  

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

Hmmm. There have been many good ones! I think every single experience since I released my project, NINE, have been amazing. The last two years have brought me so much good energy- everything from going to Corsica to write Kanel; to recording and releasing Her Songs in Los Angeles and playing a sold out show at my favourite venue in Copenhagen, Montmartre!

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

Musiq SoulchildSoulstar

I think Musiq Souldchild is just one of my favourite artists ever (laughs).

Lizz WrightSalt

So much integrity and purpose in her lyrics and delivery. I’ve learned a lot from her music.

Jill ScottExperience: Jill Scott 826+

The live album I have rinsed the most! A definite classic. And inspiration to band leading.

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

I’d probably ask for a pop-up steam room, only organic foods; red wine and green tea; water in glass bottles – and have everything recyclable!

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What advice would you give to new artists coming through?

Try and remain true to yourself, your sound. Know who you are. Trust your intuition.

Do you think there are going to be any tour dates coming up?

Yes! Working on it.

Is the stage somewhere you love to be? Can you describe the feeling when you are up there?

I didn’t use to love the stage, when I was younger. I always made excuses for not going on stage, but now I love it. I love it, mostly because of the communitive vibe me and my band create on stage. It’s such a nice bond and atmosphere.

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 IN THIS PHOTO: The Naked Eye/PHOTO CREDIT: @create_often

Are there any new artists you recommend we check out?

The Naked Eye! She’s about to release the most amazing project.

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

Not really but, when I do, I go for runs quite a lot, play tennis and see my family back in Denmark.

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 would say Lucy PearlTrippin’! Such a vibe!

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Follow Marie Dahlstrøm

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FEATURE: Spotlight: Jorja Smith

FEATURE:

 

 

Spotlight

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IN THIS PHOTO: Jorja Smith/PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images 

Jorja Smith

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I have featured Jorja Smith before...

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 PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

but, as her stock rises, I feel it is worth mentioning her again. In fact, right now, she will be in America and it getting ready for this year’s Grammys. She is nominated Best New Artist category and many are predicting her to walk away with the prize. This year’s ceremony has already had its share of issues and controversy. A number of key artists are rumoured not to be playing – Kendrick Lamar is among them. There is no reason given why that is the case but, in a year when diversity is coming to the fore, it is disappointing to hear. Ariana Grande has been in the press and it is rumoured she was not allowed to perform the song she wanted - the organised have given a different reason and said she is the one to blame. There is always a lot of talk around every Grammys show and this year is no exception. At least this year is making more space for females and black artists. There is not total equality but there are more women being nominated for big awards. I hope there are female winners tonight and we see this change come in permanently. Many have called for the Grammys to be more equal and varied. Among the nominations this year is Jorja Smith for the new artist slot. Dua Lipa is another British female artist who could win the award but there is tough competition from Bebe Rexha and Luke Combs.

Many are predicting Greta Van Fleet to win (God help us!) but I think Smith should win the award. It is a shame Smith only gets the odd nod because her debut album, Lost & Found, is terrific. There has been endless comparisons to Amy Winehouse – a similar smokiness and vocal power – but Smith is her own artists and writes in a very different way. It is great to see how far Smith has come in the past year or so and many would not have expected her to develop so fast. Lost & Found gained impressive reviews but the success is warranted. The Midlands-born artist moved to London in 2015 and she began honing in her music aspirations when there. She released the incredible single, Blue Lights, on SoundCloud and, with its Dizzee Rascal/Sirens inspiration, it became a big hit. A lot of big names and tastemakers were attracted to the song and could detect this very rare and promising voice. Smith was put on Drake’s playlist, More Life, in 2017 and that followed Smith’s debut E.P., Project 11 in 2016. It is amazing to think Smith, who has worked and recorded in the U.S., was a barista in Starbucks only a few years ago. She lived in London and, although she had the music world around her and so many opportunities, she felt lost. She was lost but, in many ways, she had found her niche and home – hence the name of her debut album.

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 IMAGE CREDIT: Getty Images

The songs on Lost & Found were written before she headed in the studio so it allowed her the chance to work on the songs and perfect them. A lot of artists create new songs in the studio but Smith’s care and attention meant she was focusing on her written songs and getting them right. Instead of writing new songs, she was adding new elements and nuances to her familiar tracks. Although there is an element of Amy Winehouse and classic Jazz performers through Lost & Found, it is clear the material is from this unique and passionate young artist – someone who does follow others and has put her everything into every note. CLASH gave their thoughts when Lost & Found was released:

Any artist of note will tell you they’re influenced by all kinds of different musical genres, and Jorja Smith is no exception. On ‘Lost & Found’, the hook on ‘Teenage Fantasy’ is straight out of an early ‘00s R&B cut. Jazz exerts a force right from the album’s title track (and indeed throughout) and, needless to say, Dizzee Rascal interpolation ‘Blue Lights’ nods to her affinity with rap, a discipline in which she regrettably dabbles on freestyle ‘Lifeboats’. The moments at which Smith manages to distill any of these genres into something entirely her own are truly special.

It’s the first full length album from a young creative brimming with ideas and promise. While ‘Lost & Found’ doesn’t feel like Jorja Smith’s magnum opus, it’s a brilliant first draft”.

The Line of Best Fit added their words to the mix:

Her debut is skilfully arranged so that most music fans will be able to unearth some element that they can relate to. Smith’s debut may cast the net wide, but she is an artist with ambition, who doesn’t want to be limited to one specific market. A multifaceted performer, her music reflects her personality.

Sometimes it is easy to forget that Lost & Found is Smith’s first LP. The sureness and creativity that exudes from each and every song disguises what some would call a lack of experience. But isn’t this when artists are at their most exciting? Stepping out into the unknown, crafting a sound and energy that is sincerely theirs. As Smith says herself as the final notes of “February 3rd” dissipate, “I’ve been lost, I’ve been lost again, and I’ve been found / Then I found myself… but I’m constantly finding myself”.

The album is tremendous and it was nominated for a Mercury last year. It faced stiff competition from Nadine Shah and the winners, Wolf Alice, but not many artists get such a buzz from their debut album. The stock of Jorja Smith is rising and here is someone who is very planted and level-headed but has this extraordinary ability and sound. A lot of new artists are noted because of their voice or lyrics but Smith ticks all the boxes.

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 PHOTO CREDIT: Jon Gorrigan for The Guardian

She is busy heading to the Grammys and, even if she does not win the award she is nominated for, she has already scooped prizes and got a lot of kudos since she came onto the scene. In an interview with The Guardian, Smith was asked how she celebrated being nominated for a Grammy:

 “Literally the day before I was talking to my boyfriend [producer Joel Compass] because he makes music and he wanted to come out to LA around that time just to work with some people,” she says. “And I was like: ‘Oh, I reckon I’ll do the same, but maybe next year…’ Then the day after I get a message from his manager: ‘Congratulations!’ I was like, ‘What for?’ And then I saw. I didn’t even know.”

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PHOTO CREDIT: Findlay Macdonald

So how did Smith celebrate? She looks a bit confused, like it’s a trick question. “Hugged my boyfriend,” she replies. “And that was it.”

Given her mature voice and accomplished songs, many would be forgiven for thinking she is an artist in her late-twenties or early-thirties: Smith is only twenty-one. This point was raised in the interview where, during the interview, Smith’s ordinary life and youth came to the fore:

Such attention could, and should, be head-spinning. There is a moment, when we are bombing down the A4, where she pops a brace into her mouth and it’s genuinely shocking to realise – to be reminded really – that’s she’s only 21. Three years ago she was sitting her A-levels. When Drake was heaping praise on her, she’d not long given up a job as a barista in Starbucks. She starts our conversation warily, but quickly warms up. There’s a preternatural assurance here, one that explains how a young woman from the West Midlands, growing up with no connections in the industry, finds herself in LA tonight waiting to find out if she’s won another life-changing award”.

Smith talked about her solo work but, to many, she is still known for her work with Drake and Kendrick Lamar:

“It was never part of my plan to work with Kendrick or Drake or Kali, but they just added to everything,” says Smith now. “Because then I got opened up to a whole new Drake world, a whole new Kendrick world and a Kali world. So I got new fans from it and maybe they were waiting for me to put a project out and then they liked that, hopefully.”

Given the success of Lost & Found and the award nominations that have come Smith’s way, many would expect her to be snapped by a big label and have them guide her career. Smith’s rationalisation is simple and impressive: she does not like being told what to do.

Smith’s success is all the more astonishing for the detail that she isn’t backed by a major label. There’s a simple reason for that: she doesn’t much like being told what to do. That clear-headedness could be seen at the Observer’s photo shoot. “If I don’t like something, I won’t wear it,” says Smith, who has now changed into her travelling outfit of a Mondrian-ish Nike tracksuit, with her hair scraped back into a tight bun. She giggles: “I have a lot of control, yeah.

As for what’s next, Smith just wants to get back to writing. “Or else I’ll never put out another album. And this year I will write more stuff.”

 

I like the fact Smith is forging her own path and she is not selling out quickly. A label would probably push her in a more Pop direction or get her to do all sorts of photoshoots. Maybe there would be more money and gigs (with a label) but Smith’s talent is doing the pulling and she can call the shots. She is looking ahead to her second album but there are tours and, I am sure, festival appearances. It will be a busy year where all the nominations and praise translates into gigs and a busy diary. She has not felt the need for a major label to do her bidding and who can blame her: she has already managed to achieve so much and it looks like all the attention is not going to fade away anytime soon!

When speaking with GQ last year, Smith was asked about the awards she has won and how she reacted:

All this, plus Smith became the first unsigned artist to win the Critics’ Choice Award at the 2018 Brit Awards, released the most talked-about debut album this side of the Atlantic (Lost & Found charted at No3 in June and was nominated for the Mercury Prize in July) and is now GQ’s Vero Breakthrough Solo Artist Of The Year.

“It’s mad,” she says of the award, “but I’m very happy to be recognised for what I’m doing.” Smith’s sound incorporates left-field soul, jazz, R&B and hip hop, with the odd powerhouse ballad thrown in for good measure. Think Amy Winehouse meets Lauryn Hill. Where “Blue Lights” samples Dizzee Rascal, the classically trained singer has also borrowed from the likes of Henry Purcell”.

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 PHOTO CREDIT: GQ

I wonder whether Smith will get a chance to breathe before the year is out and whether you will be heading into the studio to record new material in the coming months. She can afford to take her time and I wonder whether the writing experience will be different this time around. Rather than rush back into the studio, she has the opportunity to set time aside and write – maybe on the road – and bring a set of new songs with her when she starts the sophomore album. It has been an incredible last few years for Jorja Smith and I know things will get bigger and better. I hope she does not succumb to the lure of a big label and keeps her career in her own hands. I can picture her waking up and getting ready to go to the Grammys tonight; a first-time thing as she has surrounded by some of music’s biggest names. After tonight, it will be a chance for her to take stock and plan her next moves. There will be tour dates and openings; new possibilities and, maybe soon, more material. I have not seen an artist like Jorja Smith. She has this amazing talent and incredible maturity but there is a reality and accessibility to her. She is a real and very relatable person and her music is not just about her experiences and struggles – anyone can connect with it and take something away. Despite all of the acclaim and pressure, Smith is keeping her head and not getting stressed. That is rare to see and it is another reason why Jorja Smith is one of the finest...

BRITISH artists of the moment.

FEATURE: A New Master with a Masterplan: What Next for HMV?

FEATURE:

 

 

A New Master with a Masterplan

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IN THIS PHOTO: The original logo/design for HMV (His Master’s Voice)/PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images  

What Next for HMV?

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EVERY time a big company or chain...

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 IN THIS PHOTO: Doug Putman has taken over 127 HMV stores in the U.K/PHOTO CREDIT: Sarah Lee/The Guardian

is threatened with closure, it causes my blood to run cold. I get this impression of multiple shops closing and hundreds of jobs going. There has been talk of chains like House of Fraser closing many of its stores and it seems like, although most are still open, there might be some problems ahead. We can say the same of Marks & Spencer, Debenhams and other chains. Supermarkets like Tesco are cutting people and it seems like the high-street is fading before our eyes. I walk around various towns and villages and you see all these shops boarded up. It is sad to see this happen and you know, as soon as another business fills the space, their time is limited and uncertain. I cannot imagine a high-street vista without HMV being in it. HMV has been a part of my life since I was a child and it was great, in the 1990s, having a choice of record shops. I recall growing up somewhere that had an HMV and an Our Price and one could brose both shops and ensure they got what they needed. This was back at a time when cassettes, C.D.s and vinyl were big; when there was a big appetite for physical music and we did not have streaming services. Now that the landscape has changed and we are all digested music/film online, HMV has been threatened and struggled to keep up with the competition.

One of the biggest problems with the company is the fact that its model and look is very similar to how it was years ago. Services like Spotify and Netflix have led to a decline in the popularity of DVDs and C.D.s. More of us are streaming T.V. shows and films so there is less of an appetite for physical purchases. Although C.D.s still exist; many of us are streaming our music and it means fewer of us are walking through the doors of HMV. It saddened me to see HMV threatened and the fact is this: many of its stores are going to disappear and leave a black mark on the high-street. Not only do shops like HMV invite casual browsing and curiosity but it is often the only source of music (physical) for many people. A lot of us do not go to independent record shops and HMV is that all-under-one-roof emporium where you can get all your music needs and a whole lot more. Every popular shop that gets shut leaves a gap and it is sad we are so reliant on the Internet. Not only does one get to interact with knowledge staff members at somewhere like HMV but there is that chance to browse and actually look at products in the flesh. The Internet is fine but there is no social aspect and it can be a little boring scrolling through pages and not actually looking for music in a real shop.

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 IN THIS PHOTO: The flagship HMV store on London’s Oxford Street was opened on 20th July, 1921 and was presided over by composer Sir Edward Elgar (it was opened by the Gramophone Company at 363 Oxford Street)/PHOTO CREDIT: Mark Thomas/REX/Shutterstock

Although there was a fear all HMV shops would be closed, its new owner has come in and is intent on preserving every single shop. Doug Putman has big plans and he is the boss of Canada’s Sunrise Records. He gave an interview with The Guardian and was asked about whether all the stores will be closed:

The new owner of HMV is hoping to reopen the chain’s flagship store on Oxford Street, and is in talks with landlords on the rest of the 27 outlets which closed down earlier this week.

Doug Putman, the 34-year-old boss of Canada’s Sunrise Records, rescued 100 HMV stores from administration, beating off a bid from Sports Direct’s Mike Ashley. But branches such as Oxford Street, with higher rents, were not included in the deal.

Speaking to the Guardian, Putman said he was optimistic that these outlets could be reopened: “Where certain stores have closed, our public have really rallied around and I credit that with some of the landlords coming back to us,” he said. “They can see how much support we are getting

That flagship store on Oxford Street is an institution and essential for London. There are not many big HMV stores in the capital and it is in a perfect location. It is set on three floors and has a whole range of C.D.s, DVDs; T-shirts, merchandise and vinyl. I hope Putman and his team can find the money to keep this store alive and make sure the rest (threatened with closure) are saved.

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 PHOTO CREDIT: Matthew Horwood/Getty Images

There is one problem with Oxford Street’s store: the cost of rent and ensuring it can remain open:

But the site is expensive – rent on the Oxford Street store is £3.2m a year, and the rates bill is £1.4m, according to HMV’s former owner, Hilco.

Putman said if he could not cut a deal with the landlord, he would look for another central London flagship with a more affordable rent.

He is investing more than £10m into HMV as he revamps the website, ensures the latest releases are in stock and gives store managers more freedom to buy what their local customers want.

“We are getting away from the corporate mentality where every store is set up the same – we have to move away from that and let each store have its own personality,” he said. “I want to unlock the passion and creativity,” Putman says.

The stores will “double down” on vinyl, not just because he is now a self-confessed vinyl nut – he owns four record players – but because it’s what shoppers are asking for”.

One of the big criticisms that came out of the news HMV might cease trading was the slightly generic and old-fashioned look. Many people walk into HMV and they are greeted with DVDs rather than music. I can understand people love DVDs and there is that demand but HMV was set up because of the music – the logo sports a dog listening to a record on a gramophone!

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 PHOTO CREDIT: @_sharon_garcia/Unsplash

HMV diversified and expanded to cater for technologies like DVDs but, as the Internet starts to take away the market and a bigger share of the profit, it is a good idea to let each store monitor what they sell most of us and promote accordingly – rather than be beholden a general and indiscriminate HMV model. I do like the fact a chain might be able to adopt this flexible approach so the head office and managers can interact and set up their stall how they like it. The demands are different in smaller towns as they are in the city. Many people who do not have access to a lot of record shops and options prefer an HMV that has a general spread and looks as it does now. Many in larger cities have streaming passes and subscriptions so they are not reliant on stuff like DVDs and prefer vinyl. Putting records back in the forefront – as they were at the very beginning – is a really interesting idea and one that might not have seemed possible a few years ago. Vinyl sales have been tracking upwards but one wonders, when CDs were more popular, whether there could have been this record-heavy look. Putman, as he explained in this interview is keen to put records front-and-centre:

Crucial to Putman's plans will be sales of vinyl records. They offer, he says, a 'huge opportunity'. Vinyl record sales in the UK fell to just over 200,000 in the middle of the last decade but by last year had hit 4.4 million – back to early 1990s' levels...

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PHOTO CREDIT: @priscilladupreez

'Customers are saying very loudly, 'Hey, we want more vinyl, give it to us.' And I try never to turn down someone's money.'

He wants to move vinyl records racks to the front of shops – as in his Sunrise stores in Canada.

Can he raise vinyl sales which are estimated to be less than 10 per cent of HMV's turnover? 'I think we can get vinyl to close to 30 per cent,' he says”.

Putman’s aims seem to be three-fold. He wants to keep all stores open and protect jobs; he wants to keep DVDs and merchandise but put vinyl at the front. He also wants to ensure the chain is making a profit by the end of the year. He has plenty of passion and ambition; a lot of money to get the chain back on its feet and almost start from scratch. HMV is in a rare position where it is almost alone in regards the bigger music chains. It can organise itself so the bulk of the stores have vinyl at the very core. When you walk in, you see all these organised and categorised shelves of vinyl and, at the sides, you can get your DVDs, C.D.s and other bits. I think there are some great independent record shops that are definitely worth a visit but many of them are quite small and crowded.

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 PHOTO CREDIT: @fstop64/Unsplash

You can get a few records you want but the choice is not always there. I have seen HMV increase its stock of records but there remains an issue: the high prices and the lack of cheaper options. Maybe it is fair enough paying twenty-five quid for a double-album or slightly less for a new album but can we be expected to shell out twenty pounds for a single album that is a few years old?! I know vinyl production is expensive but there is a way to cap prices and provide greater value and still be in profit. Even if most records were fifteen quid then that would entice more people in. I think a lot of people are put off buying records because they are more expensive than streaming services. I wonder whether Putman has a pricing strategy and whether his profit forecast takes in the current price of vinyl. If HMV were stoked with a huge range of vinyl and they provided this complete experience – ensuring people did not need to go online to find what they want – then there could be this huge boom. Keeping the prices lower and more accessible means younger listeners would be tempted to browse and you’d get these impulse purchases. Maybe there should be loyalty schemes where members could get discounts or there could be a promotional deal where you could get three records for, say, forty pounds.

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 PHOTO CREDIT: @samueldixon/Unsplash

Most of us dream of owning a record shop and we often have idea of what the place will look like and the range of records that will be included. I hope Putman is true to his word and looks at some of the most successful independent shops, like Resident in Brighton, and sees how they do things. I think you can bring the charm and familial aspect of an independent to a chain. The reason I love Resident is the fact it lists its vinyl by category and has C.D.s too; there are music books and you can get more obscure records and singles. That might be racing ahead but I think HMV, now that it seems safer, has a chance to not only get into profit but actually re-establish its crown as the king of the high-street. We need a stable chain that can exist in various towns and cities so, if people want, they can get out and buy music. The Internet is important but it cannot be everything – we still need shops to exist. I am glad there is this music-loving owner who is putting music above profit and his own ends. Putman will look out for the consumer and staff members; he knows how important it is for HMV to exist and I am pleased he is fighting to keep all stores open.

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 IMAGE CREDIT: Getty Images

2019 has only just started but it seems like HMV, by the end of the year, can find itself on solid ground and start to grow. I am interested to see whether this records-first approach will extent to all stores and how far it will go. I have been reliant on HMV since childhood and I hope to visit stores until I am old. We all want HMV to thrive and be a part of the high-street tapestry and, with Doug Putman dropping the needle and choosing the records, a revival and evolution is in the air. Putman, in this interview, talked about the generational split and how many technology-focused youngsters are seeing people buying records and reacting:

'The younger people are seeing the older ones buy it so it's cool, it's hip. When we grew up we had cards, we had vinyl, there was lots to collect. I think you are seeing a generation that never really collected anything, but want to'”.

It is a changeable time and the future is a less unclear. I think Putman will steer HMV where it needs to go and I cannot wait to see the day when my local store has records at the very heart of what it is about. I have a romantic vision that HMV, when we do our Christmas shopping this year, is thriving and there are masses of people flicking through record racks and buying music gifts for their friends and family. If this can happen then I think it will make the high-street, and people who love their music, so much happier...

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 PHOTO CREDIT: John Rennison/The Hamilton Spectator

AND better off.

FEATURE: Remembering an Icon: The Essential Whitney Houston Playlist

FEATURE:

 

 

Remembering an Icon

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IN THIS PHOTO: Whitney Houston My Love Is Your Love World Tour Book (Photo 1)/PHOTO CREDIT: Warwick Saint/whitneyhouston.com

The Essential Whitney Houston Playlist

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TOMORROW marks seven years...

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 IN THIS IMAGE: The album cover for 1985’s Whitney Houston/IMAGE CREDIT: Spotify

the world lost Whitney Houston. Whether you are a fan or not, nobody can deny the impact she made and how influential she is. Houston is one of the best-selling musicians of all time and has sold over two-million records worldwide. Houston was one of those artists keen to break barriers and fuse genres together. Her blend of R&B, Pop and Soul made her stand out and you can debate Houston videos appearing on MTV inspired other black American women to follow in her footsteps. She was someone who wanted to bring music to as many people as possible and she definitely helped bring about changes. Houston’s passion for music began when she started singing in church as a child. One can hear those Gospel elements in her voice and that spiritual aspect. She signed to Arista Records at the age of nineteen and her first two albums, Whitney Houston (1985) and Whitney (1987) reached number-one on the Billboard 200 in the U.S. Her debut album made a slow start in commercial terms but began to grow by the summer of 1985. Saving All My Love for You and Greatest Love of All are, perhaps, the two best-known tracks on the debut but the record as a whole is full of great moments. Although Whitney took fifty-five weeks to reach the top spot, it spent a long time on the charts and introduced the world to this rare talent.

There was controversy when Houston missed out on a Grammy nomination in 1986. She was not named in the Best New Artist category and, given the fact her debut did so well, there was a bit of confusion. The disqualification was explained due to the fact Houston appeared on a Jermaine Jackson song and, as she had been heard then, she would not be considered ‘new’ on her debut album. That did ruffle feathers and there was no real excuse to deny Houston Grammy glory. It might have been this ignorance that spurred her to create a bigger and better album with Whitney. The 1987-released album exceeded expectations and took Houston to a new level.

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IN THIS PHOTO: Whitney Houston in a recording studio early in her career/PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images/whitneyhouston.com

The album stayed at the top of the charts for eleven consecutive weeks and the fact Houston, by the time, had spent twenty-five weeks at the top (cumulatively) was a record. Whitney’s four singles, I Wanna Dance with Somebody (Who Loves Me), Didn’t We Almost Have It All; So Emotional and Where Do Broken Hearts Go were played all over the radio and each single peaked at number-one.  Whitney Houston was breaking records all over the place – this was only her second album! By the time the 1988s Grammys came along, she was nominated for three awards and won the Best Pop Vocal Performance, Female for I Wanna Dance with Somebody (Who Loves Me). Although Whitney Houston’s second album gained huge commercial following and chart success, some critics were less passionate.

The New York Times had this to say in 1987:

Predictably, ''Whitney'' is an album of love songs, and once again they honor pop formulas instead of shaping themselves to the singer's voice (unlike 1986's major black pop success, Anita Baker, whose material is utterly personalized). There's been a slight shift of image: Where ''Whitney Houston'' presented the singer as shy but irresistibly tempted by lust, she now acts more experienced and more physical about her affections. She even declares ''Love Is a Contact Sport.'' At the same time, she maintains her good-girl persona, sticking to songs about long-term, monogamous romance or about missing an absent lover.

Putting across a pop love song, especially on recordings that will be heard repeatedly, a singer has to stay attentive to individual words and lines while building a dramatic shape for the song as a whole - caressing some words, stretching others, rushing or hesitating or lingering. On ''Whitney,'' however, Ms. Houston's delivery makes her love songs curiously distanced”.

1990’s I’m Your Baby Tonight did not fare as well as her previous two albums but it did take her music in a new direction. This time, Houston was picking the material – rather than the label selecting songs – more and getting a bigger say. Working alongside producers like Babyface and Michael Masser, her third album was a different beast. There is less reliance on pure Pop and those who felt Houston did not evolve between her first two albums could have had few arguments here. There were fewer standout hits on I’m Your Baby Tonight but Houston was bringing in more Dance-driven music and Funk this time around.

Many consider 1998’s My Love Is Your Love to be Houston’s finest work. Maybe film exposure and performing in The Bodyguard (1992) created greater strength and helped bring new elements to her music. This was Houston’s first album in eight years and you get a nice blend of mid-tempo R&B and Hip-Hop. In fact, My Love Is Your Love is packed with genres and different sounds; Houston moving in new directions and keen not to repeat herself. Houston’s greater use of Hip-Hop added a new edge to her music and helped bring her to new audiences. The record sold less in the U.S. compared to her previous work but it did sell ten-million copies worldwide. It’s Not Right, But It’s Okay, My Love Is Your Love and If I Told You That are classic Houston cuts are fit in very well with what was happening in the late-1990s. Again, every single released from My Love Is Your Love was a success – each of the five tracks doing really well. Reviews were largely glowing and it was clear that, by 1998, Houston had reached new peaks and combined all her tastes and talents into this record. AllMusic, in a retrospective review, had this to say:

Never before has Houston tried so many different sounds or tried so hard to be hip. It's one thing to work with Babyface, the standard-bearer of smooth soul in the '90s, but it's quite another to hire Wyclef JeanLauren HillMissy "Misdemeanor" Elliott, and Q-Tip -- all cutting-edge artists (albeit on the accessible side of the cutting edge), the kind who never would have been associated with Houston in the late '80s. The gambit works. There is still a fair share of David Foster-produced adult contemporary ballads, but the true news is on the up-tempo and mid-tempo dance numbers..

 

In fact, the songs that feel the stiffest are the big production numbers; tellingly, they're the songs that are the most reminiscent of old-school Houston. That's not to say she can no longer belt out ballads convincingly -- in fact, the best ballads are where she restrains herself, delivering them with considerable nuance. Houston has never been quite so subtle before, nor has she ever shown this desire to branch out musically. That alone would be reason enough to rank My Love Is Your Love among her more interesting albums, but the fact that it works more often than not pushes it into the top rank of her recorded work”.

Houston would record three more studio albums (including a Christmas one) before her death but they did not match the brilliance of her 1998 gem – although there are fine moments to be heard on every album. Some felt 2002’s Just Whitney... was not as punchy and memorable as her previous albums and the songs were a way of diffusing rumours about her in the press. 2009’s I Look to You was seen as a return-to-form and won her some great reviews. It is clear that Houston had been through a lot since 2002. She told press she was getting used to being a single mother and riding the ups and downs. There is a lot of passion and determination on I Look to You and some great writers/producers help bring the best from Houston’s voice.

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 IMAGE CREDIT: Spotify

It is clear Whitney Houston made a giant impact on music and, whether you like her music or prefer other artists, the legacy she has left behind is clear. Alongside Michael Jackson, Houston helped bring more black faces to MTV and she helped bring about a hybrid Pop sound – maybe not as radical as Madonna and Michael Jackson. Many claim Houston cannot be seen as an icon because she released fewer albums that many of her peers. The fact that her incredible voice was the central instrument meant it was important to get the material right. She also struggled with press intrusion and personal issues but was able to come back and create great material.

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IN THIS PHOTO: Whitney Houston in a promotional shot for her final studio album, I Look to You (2009)/PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images/whitneyhouston.com

Whereas Pop icons like Michael Jackson might be remembered more for their moves and albums, Houston’s voice sent waves through music and set the bar for future R&B. You can hear her influence in so many modern artists and Houston is regarded as a singer’s singer. Everyone from Lady Gaga, Toni Braxton; Mariah Carey, Destiny’s Child and Alicia Keys count her as an influence and the list goes on and on. Houston opened the door for so many artists and she spawned so many imitators – although there was only ever one Whitney Houston! Everyone, male and female, can connect with Whitney Houston’s songs and her finest moments have not dated at all. It is seven years since she died but, in that time, new artists have emerged that count Houston as a role model. That is a great legacy and I feel, as the years tick on, we will see many more artists...

WITH Whitney Houston in their blood.

TRACK REVIEW: Swears - Subliminal

TRACK REVIEW:

 

Swears

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PHOTO CREDIT: Izak Jackson 

Subliminal

 

9.3/10

 

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The track, Subliminal, is available via:

https://open.spotify.com/track/0pfo9NlC7qcOgWQngKVaiD?si=hYbj3KG0RbOyPsQetFankw

ORIGIN:

Middlesbrough, U.K.

GENRES:

Indie-Punk/Grunge

RELEASE DATE:

8th February, 2019

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I am going to have to repeat myself here a bit...

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because, whilst it is not a slight on Swears themselves, they have a lot in common with other bands I have featured from the North East. Whilst the sound is sort of the same and there is not really a unique angle – in terms of their story and  how they got together; what their music combines etc. – that is inevitable in a market that is growing and very busy right now. I shall get to the good bits in a second but it occurs, looking at them, that they take good images. There are some cool photos on their social media right now but I would suggest the boys gets a few more included. They have some great live shots that have been taken at various shows but not too many of them together in a portrait. It would be good to see them come through because, whilst their images suggest they are a great live act, a few composed shots might add a new dynamic to their personality. The guys keep their social media updated and informed so, as a fan, you are always being kept in the loop regarding what is going on and how they are moving. That is important in this market because I get so many requests from people who are either not on Twitter – an essential platform for every act – or they do not update it very often. It is hard enough to stand aside from the pack so you’d think people would take advantage of every option out there. For a band or artist, social media offers fans around the world and I never get the logical behind people forsaking Twitter. Even if you do not use it that often and it does not bring too many people in, it is useful to have and there are ways to attract more followers. Swears are organised and, when it comes to their social media platforms, they are visible and passionate.

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This might sound like a small point but, as I have said numerous times, it is vital. Music is as much about the visual aspect of things as it is the music. If the guys can supplement their online spread with some more photos then it would stand them out even more. I would also like to know what sort of music they are attracted to. As I say, I have reviewed a few bands from the same part of the world and, given this review is so extensive, need some special angles to come from. You listen to their music and know that there is a lot of depth and work that goes into it. The band is tight and you can feel that, behind the scenes, they have a great relationship. Bringing something of that to the page would be awesome and give them another layer. I am not too bothered when it comes to biography because most people will look away from that and go straight for the songs. I guess that is the most important part of the process and, so long as you get the music right, then the rest will sort of take care of itself. This is true but Swears have a great sound and I think they could give themselves an easy boost. I should park that on the side for now but, as I said, I might need to repeat myself because of the situation and location of the band. When it comes to me reviewing Subliminal, I will be able to give a unique expression but, right now, I will need to move onto another subject. Before I do, it is worth exploring Swears’ social media and information because they definitely want to reach as many people as possible and stand out. Joel Clayton, Craig Hughes and brothers George and Stephanos Louca have been going since 2017 and made some big steps since then. I love the singles they have already released and they seem to be growing stronger with each one.

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I will talk about the new track soon enough but I wanted to cover the North East and why it is often overlooked. I have, as I said, talked about music from Newcastle and Middlesbrough and why these are areas we need to talk about more. I think London does get a bit too much attention but how many bands do you get from there? I feel London is better when it comes to solo artists but other parts of the nation seem to do the band thing better. I think the North has always been stronger when it comes to bands and we need to embrace them more. There are a lot of great solo acts around but I can feel bands starting to make more of an impression. When it comes to bands, I find myself attracted to those playing in areas like Brighton and Manchester. Swears are up in Middlesbrough and, whilst it is not as busy as other cities, there are some great venues around. I have assessed a few bands from that way and I am always left satisfied and educated. I find bands like Swears are less concerned with copying other bands or producing sounds they think will fill stadiums or get into the charts. I will discuss the sound Swears make because, with every band that comes through, it is hard to stand apart. There has always been that North-South divide when it comes to music. Things are getting better but I do worry many artists are relocating down this way because they cannot get the same attention where they are. Swears have a great local reputation and I feel like they have ambitions to perform as far and wide as possible. They are clearly happy where they are but how much of the national music media casts their eyes as far as the North? It is a bit of a concern and I think it is something that needs to be challenged and solved.

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PHOTO CREDIT: Piron Aston Music Photography

Swears have been around for a bit now and they know the business pretty well. Their great live sets and solid songs have won them praise and attention but this is a very competitive industry. It may seem like a cliché but I feel you get more personality and energy from bands in the North of England. Look back at the bands from this area that have endured and inspired – such as Oasis and Arctic Monkeys – and there is something about them that lasts in the memory. So many of the new bands from the North are carrying on this mantle and setting themselves aside. Swears instantly seem to jump from the speakers and their music remains in the mind. I am not sure whether there is a direct connection between location and music but I think there is something in it. If Swears were based in London, I feel their music might sound a bit generic or they would change what they do. Where they are now, they have a bit more freedom and are writing in a way that is true to them. I do feel like there is little focus given further north of London and there is so much treasure to be discovered. I think there are more and more bands coming out at the moment so it can be tricky having that unique selling point or distinct flavour. Swears, in terms of sound, are similar to a few bands but it is the combination of qualities and the way they write that gives them a little boost. I do wonder whether the general sound bands are producing has changed through the decades. Look back from the 1960s and the Pop that dominated; the fact Punk came out in the late-1970s and we had Britpop and Alternative by the 1990s. Every decade fostered its own movement and, a lot of the time, there was an emphasis on energy and spirit. I am not suggesting bands have lost that now but there are fewer out there who are producing something quite intense and rousing. Many bands now are sort of mixing genres and there is something lacking. There are some mighty bands around but so many of them come off as quite routing and uninspired. It is a hard balance to get right.

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PHOTO CREDIT: Izak Jackson 

The guys of Swears seem more prepared and, as I said earlier, I would be eager to know which acts inspired them. I do not feel like it gives too much away mentioning that and, for people like me, it is interesting seeing where they came from and who they grew up around. I shall mention their sound when I come to the song review but, in a general sense, there has been something missing from the industry. There was a time when you got a lot of fuzzy bands who produced something quite lo-fi and snarling. Maybe it was more prevalent when Grunge ruled but I have seen it continue. I think the band market has less pull than it did and so many new options are stepping far away from that gritty and gravelled sound. It is a shame because, when done right, it can be electric and hugely memorable. A lot of bands have tried their own version of Grunge and Alternative and it can fall flat. There is something about the connection between the Swears members that makes their music pop and explode. Maybe it is their influences and the music they love but I think they have detected a gap in the market and are primed for success. I would love to see more bands follow their lead. We all have plenty of choice when it comes to sounds and genres but there are not that many bands that are doing what Swears are. Maybe it is a thing of the North but that is another reason why critics and people need to train their eyes that way. One of the reasons there might have been a dip regarding fuzzier sounds is because it is not that commercial. The market has shifted and it has changed a lot. The most popular sounds in the mainstream are sort of Pop-based and you would struggle to name that many bands that are getting as much attention as the best solo artists.

PHOTO CREDIT: Izak Jackson 

In sonic terms, there seems to be this leaning towards Pop but I feel that will start to change in a few years. If you look at how things have changed through the past few decades, I feel we are about to see a break away from the Pop rulers and a bit more eclectic landscape. I am not suggesting hard and hitting bands like Swears will instantly conquer and replace the current order but there is a yearning in the air that is calling for movement. I feel people want to discover music that has depth a sense of heart. There are Pop artists who have soul and can provide something real but there are too many that are quite shallow and commercial. Maybe Swears felt this pining when they started life but I feel they will start to grow and become more popular as there is this drive for evolution. It would be strange to think Swears will just remain where they are and play the local circuit. They are an ambitious band and their music is getting some serious heat. It is the sheer force of their movements and how they suck you into songs that gets to me. So many bands make you work hard and they are not always as appealing as you’d hope. The second you start to play Swears, you are in their world and are moved. That is not an easy thing to pull off so kudos to them. I think it is their sound and chemistry that sets them apart because, as I intimated, they have very similar aspects to other bands out there. The reason they stand above so many other groups is the way they play and how instant their music is. Even though more artists are looking at gnarling sounds and something fuzzy, Swears have this additional magic and level that gets into the brain and stays there for a while.

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 PHOTO CREDIT: Andy Lochrie

I think live sets and a reputation on the circuit is a good way of spreading the message. Streaming numbers are important but there is nothing like seeing an artist play and then sharing the good word. Swears have been played on BBC radio and they have gained a lot of praise because of their incredible sets. It is clear Swears are one of the best bands on the Teesside circuit and that is not something to be taking lightly! There are some great bands up there all bustling for attention and looking for fans. I think Swears’ ability and natural strength on the stage is another reason why they get into the mind. I find so many artists are impressive in the studio but they do not translate that well onto the stage. Maybe that is a reason why some live venues are closing. If there are not that many great artists pulling people in then venues can struggle. The Teesside scene is thriving at the moment and that is because there are so many tremendous local acts. Swears’ new single, Subliminal, was recorded at Prospect Studios but it does have that live sound.  I do hope the media shows more love for Swears and they get the chance to have their music played on bigger stations down here. I am not sure whether they have been included on BBC Radio 6 Music before but it seems like they’d pick up a lot of new fans there. This might be territory for them to explore but Swears are clearly on the rise. I will end by looking at their 2019 and what might come next but, when thinking of their new single, the title sort of tells the tale. Subliminal is about the media and how their negativity can infiltrate our minds. It is about their pervasive negativity and sense of propaganda that can skew our thoughts and do damage. It seems like an appropriate and always-timely thing to write about. The way the messages are projected and delivered means every words stands out and you find yourself coming back for more.

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There is something Punk-like and anthemic as Subliminal opens up. There is that meaty riff and gravelled sound but I love the chanted vocals that sort of mix the Punk of the 1970s and 1980s with something modern. It is a great start to the song and you are already invested. There is a sense that the chanting and vocals represents the chatter of the media and its inanity. The hero talks about carrying out wishes and not being able to put up with this. Maybe it is a reaction to the way the press project these views and try to poison the people. The composition is great but I feel like it does crowd the vocal at times. Maybe it is the way the lines are delivered but some lyrics do sort of fade down or they are not as decipherable as they should be. Most are clear but there are occasions when you miss a few of the words and the music gets a bit too heavy. That is not a big problem because, to be fair, look at Punk and Grunge of the past and that was a common problem. One gets the sense the hero is fed up with the way the press is campaigning on their own terms and they are spreading lies. I feel like there is a more general look at the media and the way there is not a lot of truth. This might extend to social media but I get the sense the printed press are under the boot. What I like is the sheer force and commitment of the band. Things never get too loud and aggressive but one cannot say Subliminal is a soft and calm thing! Maybe there is a little nod to the Foo Fighters at times – which is not a bad thing – but Swears very  much do their own thing. They talk about different layers to the dayshift and that sense of fatigue comes back through. A lot of the lyrics are clearly a shot against the media and the way they operate but there are some oblique elements that make me wonder.

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Everyone will have their own visions regarding some lines but you detect a definite anger and need for change. When the chorus swings back in, you are ready to sing along because it has that instant and huge sound. Subliminal is under two-and-a-half minutes and it is impressive to see a band do that. A lot of artists like to take a bit more time but Swears manage to pack so much into that time. Their short and sharp mandate is a rally against the press and the way we are all sort of being brainwashed. One detects personal dissatisfaction and a desire for improvement. The band is very tight throughout and you can tell they have worked very hard on the song. It has that great live sensation so I can imagine it will go down very well with the crowds. You have that catchy chorus – so people will be singing along – but the verses pack a big punch. I do feel there are very few bands who can produce something economical and focused that lingers in the mind, Swears have achieved this and they leave a lot of questions unanswered. I get the aspects regarding subversion and subliminal messages but I get the feeling there are other aspects at work and other concerns. Maybe that is me reaching but one feels like the lyrics are not only attacking the media but looking inwards. Every listener will go in their own direction but I definitely wondered whether the lead had some concerns and personal struggles he was trying to get out in the song. In any case, Subliminal is a song that will last in the memory and make its impression. I will wrap things up in a bit but I hope more people listen to the song and get something from it. Swears have grown between releases and they seem to get bigger with every track. This is promising as they look ahead and think about new material.

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I do wonder whether they have an E.P. in mind as Subliminal could perfectly open it. I mentioned how bands like IDLES and Foals are making an impact because of what they are talking about and you can add Swears to that list. I maintain there is something special about bands in the North and the way they perform. Maybe it is something to do with their local environment and sounds around them or it might just be a natural thing. In any case, this song shows we all need to spend a bit more time investigating folk like Swears. I love how each band member gets a chance to shine on the song. The percussion is able to strut and stand out whereas you get a moment when the grumbling and groaning bass takes the lead. It is not just about the frontman and making sure his voice is the dominant force. The song is about connection and chemistry and, essentially, being different. It is refreshing hearing a band that allows the music to shine and gives each musician a moment in the sun. The lyrics will remain long after the song has ended and I think their importance will not diminish anytime soon – which is sort of tragic. I have talked for long enough – so I shall move on – but congratulations to Swears who have created an instant and incredible song that proves they are one of the most exciting new bands coming through in the North of England. I look forward to seeing where they head next and whether subsequent material follows the same path as Subliminal. A raw and incredible song from a band that are in a league of their own. Do yourself a favour and follow this fantastic Middlesbrough band.

 PHOTO CREDIT: Izak Jackson

I have talked about a lot about general aspects around Swears and how they fit into the market. I think they will have a very successful 2019 and continue to pick up plaudits. They will have gigs in the Teesside area and check out their social media feeds for all the latest news. I wonder whether they will play in the southern counties and if they have plans to perform in London. I would like to see them play but I feel like there is a whole world for them down here. I maintain they need to remain where they are and should not feel the need to relocate. Their reputation is building and that will only continue as they put out more music. If they can add a bit more to their social media pages and maybe put up a few live videos onto their accounts then that might give people an impression of who they are as a band. Swears have featured on Amazon Prime so there is footage out there of them playing. I wonder whether they might produce an E.P. this year and launch that into the world. I am excited to see where they can go and what they can achieve. There are more bands coming along but I think solo acts still take most of the acclaim. Maybe it will take a bit longer for the balance to shift but I feel more and more bands are making their voices heard.

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What strikes me is how few can project that fuzzy and intense sound and make it stick. There are a lot of people trying it and I genuinely feel that there is another Grunge-like movement in the offing. Swears are definitely one of the more assured and talented bands around. They have this exceptional bond and energy. This all comes through in their music but they are so much more than force and aimless riffs. There are bands that trade in the hollow but Swears have a lot of depth and they are joining bands like Foals and IDLES regarding subject matter and its importance. There is an appetite for truth in music and I feel, as the political situation in this country shows no signs of shifting, it means Swears can keep on growing and getting more acclaim. I will leave things there but I would recommend people do investigation regarding Swears and start from the beginning. If you can see them live then make sure you do but it cannot be too long until the guys are playing around the country. There is a hunger to see them in the flesh and I hope that is realised. I shall leave things here and it has been great listening to Subliminal. I hope I have done the band justice but, as I mentioned, there are a lot of aspects that are similar to other bands I have encountered – including where they are based and the fact they are an all-male band playing on the heavier side. That said, there is plenty to separate Swears from everyone else and that all can be found in the music. Get your ears around their latest gem and discover why they are picking up so many great reviews. I know Swears are local and growing at the moment but it will not be long until...

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 PHOTO CREDIT: Piron Aston Music Photography

THEIR name is better known.

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Follow Swears

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FEATURE: You’re So Great: Blur’s Eponymous Album at Twenty-Two

FEATURE:

 

 

You’re So Great

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IMAGE CREDIT: Spotify 

Blur’s Eponymous Album at Twenty-Two

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I recall the Britpop years and a time when...

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 IMAGE CREDIT: Spotify 

Blur and Oasis battled it out for chart supremacy! Between 1994 and 1997, it was like the two bands were releasing albums close to one another on purpose. Although Blur released Parklife in April of 1994 – Oasis released their debut, Definitely Maybe, in August – it was a spectacular year for two mighty British bands. Blur had been releasing material since the early-1990s (perhaps a bit before) and they made a big impact with Parklife. In a year that saw so many genius albums, Parklife is seen as one of the very best. It is a masterful record filled with Pop gems that range from the simple and catchy to the slightly quirky and odd. The title offering inspired endless singalongs and is one of the defining anthems of the Britpop time; emotional tracks such as This Is a Low proved Blur had depth alongside the cheekiness and energy. Oasis were not be undone and outshone. They were not directly in competition with Blur then but their debut arrived and singled them out as a northern, working-class alternative. Definitely Maybe is packed with anthems and arena-ready gems that saw the band ascend from the unknown to the mega-big. The album was an instant commercial and critical success whilst songs such as Live Forever and Slide Away ingrained themselves into the minds of the masses! There was this battle between the bands that intensified by 1995. There was the Britpop chart battle between Blur’s Country House and Oasis’ Roll with It and, whilst neither was the best work of either, Blur won the day.

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  IMAGE CREDIT: Spotify 

Both bands followed up career-defining albums the year after. Oasis kept the pace going with the excellent (What’s the Story) Morning Glory? whereas Blur brought us The Great Escape. Oasis’ sophomore record provided the world Wonderwall and Some Might Say – many felt the album was even stronger than their debut! Oasis continued their hot streak and did not vary their template too much. Blur stayed fairly close to Parklife’s sound but there were many who felt Oasis were ahead in 1995. Reviewers were kind to Blur but not as ecstatic as they were the year before. Something similar would happen to Oasis in 1997 but, soon after the acclaim came in for The Great Escape, many critics started to wander away. It is clear there are some great songs on The Great Escape. Stereotypes, Charmless Man and The Universal are among the best Blur songs released and match the funny and interesting with the brave and bold. Although Oasis and Blur both produced epic albums, many critics and journalists felt Oasis were cooler and could sell more magazines. Some reviewers realised Oasis were stronger in 1995 and issues retractions regarding five-star reviews. Some felt The Great Escape lacked the breadth and commercial appeal of Parklife and, because of that, Oasis edged ahead. That media hype and swift retraction would blight Oasis by 1997.

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 IMAGE CREDIT: Spotify 

Both bands, again, released albums in the same year. Blur were to undergo a massive change and evolution whereas Oasis put their foot more on the gas and came up with the bloated, overlong and unfocused Be Here Now. They did not release that album until August – Blur’s revived masterpiece had been out in the world over six months before Oasis could respond. It was not as though both bands were recording material to best the other but there was a sense that, by 1997, these Britpop titans had to adapt to changes. There was no longer this huge Pop core and British dominance: American guitars and bands were being promoted and there was a yearning for something a bit difference. Maybe the romance of Britpop had died and it was clear bands had to adapt. Oasis’ third album has some great moments (Stand by Me among them) but the record wanders and there is a lack of anthems. They gave themselves a hard task following up two world-class albums and, as such, Be Here Now seemed like a disappointment. Critics raved about the album but it was because of hype and build-up; the same sort Blur received in 1995. Whereas Blur’s shock would see them produce a great retort, Oasis did not really recover and it was clear they had already peaked. What is amazing about Blur’s eponymous album is the fact it sounds distinctly like them but incorporates American influences and moves with the time.

The band’s guitarist, Graham Coxon, suggested a stylistic change for Blur. Bands like Pavement were being mooted and, alongside producer Stephen Street, Blur set about recording an album that was theirs but sounded like nothing they had produced before. There were Pop jewels to be found on Blur but the record is a grittier, more experimental recording than their previous efforts. The band feared their new direction might alienate their fanbase and the label but, with singles like Beetlebum doing well and storming the charts, there was no worry of that! Beetlebum, according to Blur’s lead Damon Albarn, was a song about heroine and the drug experiences of his then-girlfriend Justine Frischmann (of Elastica). The song is sleepy and catchy and, whilst one can believe Albarn’s story, the Beatles-nodding sound might be a dig at Oasis and their dependence on the Liverpool band for inspiration! There were tensions between members of Blur before they started recording and there was a fear they would dissolve before another record. Coxon was battling drinking problems and the abandonment of their Britpop sound did not bode too well with the other band members at first. The band wanted to scare people again and wanted something more stripped-down. Albarn came around to Coxon’s love of lo-fi American music and it was the harmony that came which led to such a brilliant album.

Whereas Oasis’ ego and sense of fame led them to lose clarity and a sense of focus, Blur were on the point of split and regrouped; concentrated on a new direction and taking their music to another level. Recording was split between London and Iceland and, after recording at Mayfair Studios in London, the remainder of the album was laid down in Reykjavik. Vocals for tracks such as Beetlebum and On Your Own were recorded there. The band wanted to head away from the Britpop scene and see whether this new and strange environment could work its wonders. Blur had moved from this band with commercial pressures who were writing big hits to people who were more concerned with texture and taking their time. The band started to jam together and there seemed to be more relaxation and cooperation in the ranks. They had recovered from this strained unit to a Blur that was willing to try something new. The music on Blur, like every other album from the band, was eclectic and took in a number of different genres. If anything, the eponymous album was more varied and interesting than anything they had ever recorded. Death of a Party – my favourite song from the album – had a sense of creep and unnerving; the band taking the lights down and being darker.

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IN THIS PHOTO: Blur (circa mid-1990s)/PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images 

Chinese Bombs is a straight rave and burst that is all Punk and teeth; Country Sad Ballad Man is lo-fi Psychedelia and On Your Own is a classic slice of youthful Blur – big choruses and a terrific vocal from Damon Albarn. You’re So Great (a rare lead vocal from Graham Coxon) is the biggest nod to America and Blur is that perfect unity of American guitar music and the Pop they were leaving behind. Look Inside America is another gem and one of the most interesting songs the band ever recorded. The boys had the songs and a new lease of life but there was still a worry that they were committing some form of commercial suicide. Blur were used to playing to teenage fans – a lot of female admirers – and had this perception in the press. Blur was them shedding that skin and making music more primed to older boys; maybe those who were less enamoured of Pop and keener on American Indie. Tracks like Song 2 – not even two minutes but, within a few seconds, it was always likely to be a classic – and Beetlebum kept Blur in the mainstream and, if anything, gained them a new core of fans. Their eponymous record was a big success and hit the top of the charts around the world. It took a little while for all critics in the U.K. to get behind the record. American critics were keen and impressed – maybe thinking this was an American band! – whereas journalists here were adjusting to this 2.0 Blur.

Retrospective reviews are kinder and, before long, critics started to get behind Blur. Whereas Blur would see critics rave over The Great Escape and then withdraw some praise later, it seemed like the reverse was true here – Oasis would suffer their version of The Great Escape later in 1997. This review from Rolling Stone showed the sort of love that was coming from the American press in 1997:

So you get terrific things like “Beetlebum,” a rare Beatles tribute in that it remembers to include the Fab Four’s sex appeal, and the otherworldly street ballad “Strange News From Another Star,” which luxuriates in lots of melancholy and infinite sadness. You get classic English gesturing in “Death of a Party” (imagine Noel Coward in a band), and you get elastic rockers (“I’m Just a Killer for Your Love”), witty celebrity profiles (“Country Sad Ballad Man”) and one dashing old-style dramatic piece (“Essex Dogs”). “M.O.R.” is a roaring homage to Mott the Hoople.

But most of Blur remains fascinated with the U.S., as in the classic ’90s road ballad “Look Inside America.” In the song, the band is just up from last night’s show, swigging Pepsi to find the energy to do a local TV show. Blur’s single has been added to KROQ. “Look inside America,” Blur sing. “She’s all right; she’s all right.” Blur might just see the compliment returned”.

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PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images 

There were some positive British reviews at the time but this one, from NME, tried to reconcile the ‘new Blur’ with the old:

Old Blur was about strings finely plucked, about attention to detail, about rendering beautiful the substance of other people's lives. New Blur is about confusion, about what they feel and so it is about scuffed edges, new influences; the same incredible talent for songwriting but twisted into uncomfortable shapes. It's just that where once (Piers! Suits! Clacton!) these influences were wildly out there, now (Tortoise! Beastie Boys! Er, guitars!) they're already so widely available, this abrupt change of sound can't help but sound like a purely cosmetic calculation. That's Damon Albarn. The only man who could get uptight about not appearing slack enough.

It's an American thing, and one of the most disquieting about 'Blur': the idea that sounding untutored - like whacking a hardcore punk song like 'Chinese Bombs' next to a masterful hymn to inertia like 'Death Of A Party' - is in some way a genuinely truthful expression. Through Blur's previous three albums, it has been the sensitivity of the arrangements - the spectre of self-doubt lurking in 'Country House' - that has elevated their songs into the realm of the masterpiece. Missing the point a bit, Blur seem to be attempting to unlearn their craft to appear more 'real’

I think most of the mediocre reviews Blur received from the British press was based on what they (the press) expected and how they would continue their Britpop plight. Many expected them to produce a similar album to what had come before and unaware the band wanted to evolve and do something different.

I feel critics were overlooking the quality of the songs and how much variety there was. Critics soon opened their minds and eyes and Blur’s eponymous record is seen as one of their finest. They had, as I mentioned, retained their sound and identity but there was a move away from British Pop and more American influence guiding them. I love how they moved from short and intense songs such as Chinese Bombs and could give us something expansive and extensive like Essex Dogs. Consider Song 2 and its sound and match it with Look Inside America. There are no weak tracks on the album (in my view) and I can tell how inspired the band sound. Blur are still going (I think) but they helped introduce American sounds to Britain and, whilst people were aware of new American sounds, Blur made a big impression. Blur would continue to record albums after 1997 but I do not think they matched the heights and depths of Blur. It is a record that sounds exceptional still and keeps revealing new pearls and favourites. Many go after the big hits like Song 2 and On Your Own but I love Death of a Party and Look Inside America – others like the rarer oddities like Essex Dogs and Theme from Retro. 1997 was a year when Britain’s two biggest bands, Blur and Oasis, were priming new albums and both were in different places. Oasis could do no wrong and many felt their third album would topple everything that came before. Blur hit gold with 1994’s Parklife but The Great Escape found them elevated and then brought down to earth – it was a strange time and it seemed like their commercial pull was on the slide. Blur came along on 10th February, 1997 and took them to new heights. It might have taken the British press a while to warm to the wonders of the album but now, twenty-two years later, Blur is considered a...

TRULY stunning record.