INTERVIEW: Victory Chimes

INTERVIEW:

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Victory Chimes

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MY final interview of the day…

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is a talk with Jeff (Keys and Vox) of Victory Chimes who tells me about the new single, Halos. I ask him what sort of themes are addressed on the forthcoming album, Spinning Wheel, and if there are particular albums that are especially important to him – I discover how the Victory Chimes lead spends time away from music.

Jeff recommends a rising artist to have a look out for and reveals what tour dates are coming up; which artist he’d support given the chance; how the music has evolved since the early days and whether there are any goals to achieve before the year is through.

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Hi, Victory Chimes. How are you? How has your week been?

Doing great, thanks! Busy rolling out this record.

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

After playing in a long list of bands in Montréal, I started Victory Chimes in 2008. It’s my outlet for some more creative and experimental ideas in songwriting. It’s been my platform to investigate long-forms, synth soundscape texture; new vocal styles, drones and general hypnosis.

Halos is out. Can you reveal how it came together and what its background is?

The seed of the song, the original inspiration and core can come from different places. A lyric, a bassline; a drum loop etc. In Halos; it started with a piano bassline. It was eventually replaced by two sub bass synth lines working against and with each other. This part became the hook of the tune as it came to represent the message of the song which developed later when lyrics were written.

The song is about the daily contradictions we live by, changing hats and wearing different faces to get by and get ahead. The interesting thing is that, through the tension of these contradictions, something new, unique and beautiful can be created. These two battling subs are literally playing out this phenomena during the song.

Spinning Wheel is your new album. What sort of themes and experiences inspired the music on the record?

There is a general theme on this record of growing up and getting yourself together. Hopefully, rising out of some of the confusion of youth and coming to a deeper understanding of the self and learning how to express that honestly. Still craving a good time, though - for better or worse.

How do you think your music has evolved and changed since the early days?

I think I’m getting closer to finding my sound and voice. In the early days, I was determined to be original and may have even written some inaccessible music in my efforts to get there. I’ve learned that true originality rather comes from a lot of self-investigating, experimenting and practicing.

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Can you tell me what sort of music you grew up around? Which artists struck your ear?

I grew up listening to a bit of everything. I learned about sonic textures from Radiohead, groove from Led Zeppelin and beats from Beastie Boys.

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

We just want to get this album to as many people as possible and get on the road and bring the live show everywhere we can.

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

I remember hearing OK Computer by Radiohead for the first time when I was hitchhiking around Australia in ‘97. Heard sounds I had never heard before and had no idea where they came from. Really opened my ears up. Turns out most of the sounds were made by electric guitars. 

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

The Beatles‘The White Album’

For pushing the limits of songwriting.

Radiohead - OK Computer 

For sonic textures and production.

Nick Cave - Push the Sky Away

For vibe and space. He’s a dark preacher; no one can do his thing.

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

That last couple Nick Cave shows I’ve been to have been insane. He gets such a vibe at his shows and his audiences are total pyschos. I was asked to move four times in a standing room venue because I was obstructing people’s view of Nick. Would be fun to be a part of that as the opening act for sure.

For rider…just natural orange wine.

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What advice would you give to new artists coming through?

Being an artist is like being an athlete: you have to work at it every day. You have to build your creative muscles. You have to enjoy this as well because like a lot things it’s really about the journey rather than the end goal.

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

Next show is the album launch at the Bar De Ritz PDB in Montréal. We’re working of a Toronto and N.Y.C. release shows now.

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

Would love to. No set plans yet but we are talking to European bookers.

Are there any new artists you recommend we check out?

Check out Parker Shper. He’s the other synth player in the band and he’s doing a solo synth instrumental project that’s pretty cool.

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

Not really. I play Jazz piano in clubs every night of the week to pay the bills. Love it, though. I run to unwind. We live near the Jacque Cartiers Bridge in Montréal, so I run over that and around parc Jean-Drapeau every other day. Good for body and mind.

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).

How about Get Real Paid (on Midnite Vultures) by Beck. It’s pretty awesome, right!?

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INTERVIEW: Ivy Mairi

INTERVIEW:

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Ivy Mairi

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THIS interview finds me talking with Ivy Mairi

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about her latest song, Strange Love, and what its background is. I learn what we can expect from her upcoming E.P., Polarity, and what else she has coming up; if there are particular albums that mean a lot to her and which approaching artist we need to look out for.

The songwriter tells me about her musical progression and why Pop appeals to her; if there are tour dates coming up and if she has any words of advice for new musicians – she selects a great song to end the interview with.

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

It’s been a good one. I’ve been enjoying all the lovely words coming in about Strange Love - it’s always a good feeling to put out new music.

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

I’m a singer and songwriter based in Toronto, Canada. Born and raised here, too. I’ve been singing professionally for ten years as a Folk singer and a backup singer in Indie-Rock bands but this is my first real dive into Pop music. Feels good so far!

Is there a story behind your latest track, Strange Love? How did it come to life?

Songs tend to come to me in pieces - and once the foundational piece is there, the rest gets built around it. The chorus to Strange Love came to me during a bike ride (I ride my bike everywhere and use the idle time to tinker with songs in my head!). I thought it was a great hook but that it was way too Pop for me, so it seemed like something I should pitch to someone else to sing. But, as the song came together, I just liked it so much that I decided I had to sing it myself.

Your forthcoming E.P., Polarity, sounds exciting. What might we expect in terms of themes and song ideas?

I am very excited to share the full E.P. It is a collection of five songs that explore the highs and lows of love and personal growth - and getting older and seeing life as the complex thing that it is. Over the period that I wrote these songs, I went through some really incredible times and also some very hard ones. The songs reflect both.

Do you recall your earliest musical memory? Which artist or song first struck your mind?

I have many early musical memories. My mother is a musician and was always playing instruments and singing with me and my sister. As a kid, I was fairly Type-A and I was really good at memorizing song lyrics - it used to annoy me when my friends and I would try to re-enact a Spice Girls or Alanis Morrisette music video at school and I would be the only one who actually knew the lyrics. I taught myself how to harmonize in middle-school by singing along with the radio and just harmonizing every note.

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It seems Pop music and the freedom it offers is important. Would that be fair to say?

I think Pop music is free in the sense that it allows people to be unabashedly enthusiastic or sassy - to take up space and be yourself, unapologetically. As a songwriter, though, I enjoy the constraints of Pop music as opposed to the freedom. Pop song-forms are very specific - and writing a good Pop song is all about figuring out ways that you can make your song weird and different, while still working within the Pop boundaries. 

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

To build some good momentum in the lead-up to the release of Polarity in early-2019. And to put together an amazing live show to celebrate the release.

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

There are so many; it would be hard to pick. Mostly, I am just grateful for all the amazing people I’ve been able to collaborate with over the years. One of the best things about making music is getting to create and have fun with people you love and respect.

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

I’ve never been much for having ‘favourites’ when it comes to music - there is always so much to discover and also so much to return to. That being said, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill was a very important album for me as a young person. It is such an amazing mix of styles and such a singular piece. The last couple of years, I have really connected with Hejira by Joni Mitchell as well. It gives a beautiful look into the mind of a woman entering her thirties. And, in terms of Pop music that I love right now, I am a huge fan of Charli XCX.

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What advice would you give to new artists coming through?

It takes a long time to find your voice and get your chops! I am always learning new things by exploring other music and watching other singers - I am always working to get better. Also, just being out in the world and in your community of peers is so important - a chance run-in can lead to a meaningful collaboration or an important opportunity.

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

I am planning a big release show for my E.P. in Toronto in the New Year. Until then, I’m laying low!

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 IN THIS PHOTO: IDER/PHOTO CREDIT: Lottie Turner

Are there any new artists you recommend we check out?

They are definitely already on the rise but I love the new music that IDER is putting out. I’m excited to hear what comes next from them.

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

I love time spent in nature. I go out on canoe trips and hikes; long bike rides. I love the movement through each Canadian season.

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 Messages (Garden Edition) by my good friend Isla Craig has been buoying me up during moments of doubt the last little while. That’s my choice!

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INTERVIEW: Jerrica Alyssa

INTERVIEW:

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Jerrica Alyssa

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I am starting the day by speaking with Jerrica Alyssa

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as she tells me about her track, Those Cherry Lips, and what inspired it. I ask when music came into her life and who she is inspired by; whether there might be more material arriving down the line; if the Nashville-based artist has plans to come to the U.K. at all – she reveals three albums that mean a lot to her.

Alyssa tells me about the scene in her home of Vancouver and explains when music arrived in her life; which rising artists we need to get involved with; if there are going to be any gigs coming along – she ends the interview by selecting a rather good song.

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

Awesome. My new single dropped today!

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

I’m Jerrica Alyssa; born and raised Vancouver, B.C. I just moved to Nashville! I must admit, the musical community here totally feels like home!

Three things you might find interesting about me: I started as a Polynesian touring dancer at a very young age; I’m a conservatory-trained pianist and as a singer/songwriter I feel most comfortable straddling the worlds of Pop/R&B/Soul.

Can you reveal the story behind your latest single, Those Cherry Lips?

The story behind Those Cherry Lips is about the beautiful, gentle and sensuous connection between two lovers. More than a love song, it comes from a feminine sensitivity about two lovers meeting with passion. The lush color of those cherry lips describes the mesmerizing nature of someone’s beautiful lips when they speak and kiss. 

Do you think there will be more material coming next year? Are you always working on new ideas?

Absolutely! I’m so excited to share many of my new songs - the next one drops in November.  We are also putting the finishing touches on a new live performance video and a lyric video for Those Cherry Lips coming in the next two weeks.    

Can you recall when music arrived in your life? Were there particular artists who inspired you?

As a young child, I remember my home being filled with music playing all the time. When my parents would play classic Pop & R&B records by legends like Michael Jackson, I’d always put on a show to sing and dance for my family. This was the beginning of my musical journey: exhausting my family with my singing, piano and dance. Music has always been the center of my life, now expressed through my own music. 

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Some of my biggest inspirations include my musical idols Alicia Keys and Lady Gaga. In my eyes, they are fierce, passionate and dedicated. I’ve grown up listening to their powerful music and watched them take on the world non-apologetically and with purpose. As an artist, I am in awe of their achievements in songwriting; playing the keys, singing and performing. Their work has inspired me from a young age to work my ass off; to push myself to better my craft every day. They give me confidence and love to strive to be the best version of myself as a woman. 

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As a Vancouver native; how do the people inspire you? Is there a strong scene there at the moment?

I still intend to travel back and forth doing co-writes with my musical friends there. I already miss the seafood and the ocean of my hometown

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

I hope my next few songs and videos help people to get to know me better!

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

This last year, my first recording session in a Nashville studio with incredible players blew my mind!

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

Songs in A Minor by Alicia Keys

Off the Wall by Michael Jackson

Raise! by Earth, Wind & Fire

Each one of these albums represents a turning point for me, as a kid, in my musical journey.

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

I can’t lie: I support artists that write, live and breathe their own music. 

What advice would you give to new artists coming through?

Just get out of your own way and do you. With love and confidence, be exactly who you need to be. Always remember your self-worth. 

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

Right now; I’m finishing my new songs so I will be not be touring the rest of 2018. However, before year’s end, I will be playing a few dates in Nashville to test new songs. I’ll keep you posted. 

Do you think you’ll come to the U.K. and play next year?

I would love to! 

How important is it being on the stage and playing your music to the people?

I live to perform. I’ve been a performer since I was a kid. The interaction with the audience means everything to me. The thing is; I’m so excited because I will now get to connect with the audience with my own music. 

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 IN THIS PHOTO: The New Respects

Are there any new artists you recommend we check out?

The New Respects. I’ve just recently found their music and really love it! And, Sampha - are you guys a fan?

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IN THIS PHOTO: Sampha

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

You’ll find me in dance class getting physical! 

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).

(No One Knows Me) Like the Piano by Sampha

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INTERVIEW: The High Points

INTERVIEW:

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The High Points

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I have been speaking with Ethan and Matt of The High Points

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who discuss the latest track, Need Your Love, and what we can expect from their upcoming E.P. I ask how The High Points formed and they reveal which artists they grew up around; whether there is any rising talent we need to get behind – I was keen to know whether the guys are on the road soon and whether we can catch them play.

The Norwich-formed group are making strides to I ask what they hope to achieve before the end of the year; what advice they would give to artists coming through; if they get chance to unwind away from music – Matt and Ethan each pick a song to end the interview with.

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

Matt: Hey! We’re great, thanks! The sun's been shining and this week has been fine and dandy.

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

We sure can! We’re The High Points; an Indie-Funk trio from Norwich blending the sweet sounds of the '70s with more modern-sounding Indie; formed by songwriters Ethan Keens-Soper and Matt Cranswick

 

Need Your Love is your latest single. What is the story behind it?

So. Need Your Love is a track about someone instantly falling for someone else in a second and them both having no regrets. It’s a true, upbeat and happy song which we hope warms people's hearts when they hear it.

Your E.P. is coming up. Can you reveal the stories and themes behind the E.P. at all?

We can give you an insight...

The theme of the E.P., Instant Love, is all about times when you’re certain of something and want to seize it straight away (instantly, if you will). The tracks all tell a story and have themes of summer, happiness; love and also times of struggle and sadness. It’s definitely something we’re very proud of and hearing it together really tells you a story.

Do you each have a favourite song from the E.P.?

Definitely. I, myself, absolutely love the track Summer's Day. For me, it’s the perfect blend of our sound. It’s got a constant groove showing off our more funky side but also has this amazingly clean tone and feel to the song. It’s so happy and it’s one of them tracks that just sound great to drive to on a lovely day.

Ethan: For myself; although I agree with Matt’s choice, I would have to choose Coast to Coast; purely for the lyrical content and the dynamics within the music and between the instruments.

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I believe The High Points emerged from Norwich last year. How did you connect with each other and realised you shared the same tastes in music?

Matt: So. Myself and Ethan have actually known each other since we were seventeen. We met at 6th form and actually formed our previous and first band back then. We never did anything Funk or Indie-based in that band though which was something we both realised that we loved doing. So. After stopping the first band, we formed The High Points and started writing completely different things to what we had done before.

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

We’re both lucky enough to have been brought up with musical families, so we both have a huge selection of bands and artists that we were introduced to at a young age. I was always hearing my dad’s records such as Queen and ELO, as well as music from my brother and my mum like Green Day, the Red Hot Chili Peppers; CHIC and other Disco tracks.  The blend of these, for me, was perfect when I was first learning bass. A personal idol for me and Ethan would definitely be Nile Rodgers.

Ethan: For my musical inspiration, as a young guitarist, it was most definitely Jimmy Hendrix. I just couldn’t get enough of his unique style. I then got heavily into John Mayer, which started my love and Interest in singing but then I found myself being a true Kings of Leon fan and idolised the lead singer Caleb a lot. I learnt to admire the licks and melodies of Nile Rodgers at later age with Matt.

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

Matt: We hope to achieve a bigger status - we’re still relatively small in the huge pool of bands so we’d like to grow our fan base and have more people enjoying our music.

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

One that sticks in our mind a lot is actually the first time we played a gig back in 6th form. We’d both never done a live gig before so it was really one of them moments where we were either going to absolutely love it or be too nervous and end up hating it! Thankfully, we both loved the buzz of playing live in front of an audience. Although it wasn’t a huge gig, it’s always meant a lot to both of us because it gave us confirmation that is what we want to do.

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

This is a hard one…

So many albums mean a lot to each of us. For myself; I would say Rubber Soul by The Beatles (means a lot to me). It’s just got that perfect blend of everything I love and there isn’t a single song on that album that I don’t love.

Ethan: For myself; I quickly fell in love with Aha Shake Heartbreak by the Kings of Leon. It was an album which helped me out a lot in a tricky part of my life and love It. I still have it playing in my favourite playlist.

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

We both would jump at the chance of supporting the great Nile Rodgers. Not just because we love him but also feel like we would be a great warm-up and support as we like to bring the funk to all of our live shows.

We definitely wouldn’t be picky when it came to our rider. Maybe a candlelit McDonald’s on arrival - a bit of comfort food always breaks the ice.

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

You sure can! We’re doing a tour in November and the dates will be available via our Facebook page and on our Spotify gig list!

What advice would you give to new artists coming through?

Try be unique as possible; have your own image and your own style both online and in person. It really goes a long way if you’ve got something special about you that makes it clear to your fans that there’s only one of you and not several bands or artists that sound and look the same. Also, it’s a bit obvious, but always be nice to everyone: try not to have an attitude as being friendly will always get you further and you’ll make new contacts etc. much easier.

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 IN THIS PHOTO: The Renadeans

Are there any new artists you recommend we check out?

There’s a great band in our area called The Renadeans. Like us, they’re a three-piece band with a Punk/Rock sound but they’re absolutely fantastic when they play live. They really give a good show and their music is brilliant and unique for that genre!

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

Yeah. We both like spending times with our girlfriends and we’ve got a great group of friends as well, so we always manage to spend time to go out for a drink or even just play on some games online to relax.

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).

Matt: Girl - The Beatles

Ethan: Peg - Steely Dan

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FEATURE: Embrace/Retune: BBC Radio 6 Music in 2018: The Future Is Very Bright

FEATURE:

 

 

Embrace/Retune

IMAGE CREDIT: BBC/Getty Images 

BBC Radio 6 Music in 2018: The Future Is Very Bright

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ONE of my prurient distractions (that I constantly need to itch)…

is listening to BBC Radio 6 Music! I tend to write a couple of pieces about the station a year because, as much as anything, I hope it gets shared and new listeners turn on! I will be covering some older ground but I wanted to revisit the station because, as we head to the New Year; I have been looking back at the station and how important it is to me, personally. It has been a turbulent and eventful year for the station. One of my favourite D.J.s, Mark Radcliffe, is currently on a ‘sabbatical’/sick leave dealing with cancer and I will be very excited hearing him back on the airwaves next year. Radcliffe presents the afternoon show during the week with Stuart Maconie and their repartee/banter is one of the reasons why I love BBC Radio 6 Music so. They have been, as part of a New Year shuffle, moved to the weekends (during the morning) and that decision garnered its fair share of indignation! I was among those who protested – in the form of mild grumble – and asked why that decision was made. It is sad to see two stalwarts of radio taken from a slot they seem so comfortable and content in – Stuart Maconie and Mark Radcliffe have both said they have a good working relationship and no desires to go their separate ways. With Radcliffe battling cancer; it seems sad his return to radio will be in a reduced role...

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 IN THIS PHOTO: Shaun Keaveny with Jodie Whittaker/PHOTO CREDIT: BBC

In any case; among the negativity and unwelcomed change are some new appointments. Shaun Keaveny has moved from the breakfast show to afternoon and, whilst I will miss him sorely in his usual slot; he has been breaking rocks and entertaining those weary-eyed risers for over a decade and, well…it is time the Leigh-born D.J. gets a bit of a kip in the morning! Mary Anne Hobbs is becoming a regular weekday D.J. and, alongside Lauren Laverne taking over the breakfast show; I am glad female D.J.s are getting bigger recognition and there is that move. Whilst I am going to take a while to adjust to someone more positive taking over breakfast – that 7 A.M. grumble and gripe is something I will miss, man! – I am glad Keaveny gets a chance to bed into a new slot. I love his partnership with Matt Everitt and it is good to see them travel together. I get a lot of my music news and discoveries from Everitt and his work is a big influence on me (from his music news to his in-depth and compelling interviews with big names). I wonder whether his regular features will go with him (Small Claims Court and his usual morning routine…) and whether, in that early slot, Laverne will be able to bring her much-loved features along – Desert Island Disco, Memory Tapes and Biorhythms are great fixtures and I always discover new music listening to them. She is a great interviewer and hosts live sessions and one would imagine, when that shift happens, Mary Anne Hobbs would take live sessions on?! I am a huge fan of Chris Hawkins too and, whilst he is on before Keavney - and a bit too early for me! - I catch him on the iPlayer. Hawkins’ hard work and endless commitment takes my breath. An exceptional D.J. and pivitol figure on BBC Radio 6 Music!

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 IN THIS PHOTO: Lauren Laverne with John Grant/PHOTO CREDIT: BBC

I was slightly aggrieved at Laura Snapes’ reaction to the BBC Radio 6 Music ‘cabinet reshuffle’. Writing in The Guardian; she was pleased women were/are getting more exposure but felt, aside from that, it was same-old-same-old at the station:

“…Otherwise, it’s a classic 6 Music cabinet reshuffle. It speaks to the station’s core contradiction: its remit is to “celebrate the alternative spirit in popular music from the 1960s to the present day” yet its presenters are all firmly establishment. The average age of its 22 DJs is 52. Only one is under 40 – Tom Ravenscroft, at 38. For all its praiseworthy emphasis on new music (apparently a key doubling-down of the reshuffle), 6 Music struggles to introduce new presenters because it relies on stable brands – largely pegged to the very white history of British indie culture – rather than minting new stars.

There’s no shortage of potential 6 Music DJs: Jon Hillcock has been filling in on the station for years with one of the most inclusive and inquisitive new music shows going, yet has never progressed to a regular slot. A DJ like 1Xtra’s omnivorous Jamz Supernova would fit well, as would NTS’s Bullion, and they could do more with Huw Stephens than Radio 1 make of him. I’m surprised they’ve not poached the fairly new but eminently adept Matt Wilkinson from Beats 1, nor opened up their cohort of musicians to younger performers: off the top of my head, Lily Allen, Dev Hynes, MIA, Metronomy’s Joe Mount and Bat for Lashes’ Natasha Khan would all create exciting radio...

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IN THIS PHOTO: Mary Anne Hobbs/PHOTO CREDIT: BBC 

Yet the station’s complacency makes a certain sort of sense: the lack of room for new talent indicates the success of 6 Music’s well-established brands. Note that Steve Lamacq, the station’s most popular broadcaster outside of the breakfast show, is the only untouched daytime slot. Rajar figures released in May show that 6 Music now attracts a record 2.53 million weekly listeners aged 15 and over (from 2.34 million in the previous quarter and 2.35 million last year), with all of the daytime shows reaching more than a million listeners weekly for the first time. Why fix what isn’t broken – especially when listeners baulk at change? Who can forget the horror at George Lamb’s short-lived show? Attempts at GLR-style quirk (Natasha Desborough on weekend breakfast, Jon Holmes at the weekend) were similarly brief”.

I can abide by a couple of points. There is a pool of talent who do occasional shows on BBC Radio 6 Music, like Jon Hillcock, who I would like to see moved to a more permanent slot! I will come onto this a bit later but, your honour, I must get to my point! Like a lawyer making a case who has suddenly been distracted by a squirrel frolicking by a tree outside the courthouse; I need to regain some focus and clarity! I wanted to write this piece to state why BBC Radio 6 Music has been especially important to me this year – a look at where I think it could go in 2019...

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 PHOTO CREDIT: @josephbalzanodev/Unsplash

The past few weeks have seen me locate to London in search of work, dreams and all of that and I, to be honest, have found it very hard going. The phone is not ringing as much as I’d like; the Tube is being delayed more than I’d imagine and the bank balance is becoming ever-more malnourished and sickly! I am a bit concerned about that aspect but, if anything, BBC Radio 6 has been a trusted and forgiving companion. It does not scoff at my rather lacklustre riches nor snort in derision when looking at my plans for any given week! Instead, I have turned to the station like a mute confessional box and have let the music/D.J.s balm and soothe me. I am looking forward to changes and evolution next year but I have been blown away by the quality and brilliance of the station. It is getting stronger each year and that, in no small part, is because of the loyalty of the staff and the passion they exude! Say what you want about changes at BBC Radio 1 and 2 – some high-profile names going elsewhere – but BBC Radio 6 Music, to me, is a station that warrants a lot more love (more on that anon). I love the holy trio of Shaun Keaveny, Lauren Laverne and RadMac (Radcliffe and Maconie) and have discovered so much new music from them.

The enthusiasm, humour and passion you get from these D.J.s is infectious and (they have) buoyed me at a time when I need it most. Some people talking about mental illness like two pigeons fighting over a discarded condom in an alleyway – or something less revolting! – and turn their noses up. I, as a journalist, am not alone when it comes to mental-health. I suffer from depression and anxiety and ‘conventional’ medicines/talk have not made a dent through the years. Listening to these familiar and reliable voices each day, in an odd way, provides me with more spirit, determination and hope than nearly anything else. It may seem strange – as I have not met any of them – but I have become a more ambitious writer and a stronger-willed person because of them! I am tuning into Steve Lamacq during the afternoons and discovering what he is all about. I have always been aware of ‘Lammo’ but am spending more time with his show. He, aside from Tom Ravenscroft, Lauren Laverne and Mary Anne Hobbs, is one of the most ardent truffle hounds of new music. His nose is pressed to crates and his ears never more than a few feet from some sweaty, beer-scented and explosive gig; his mind never far from projecting florid and delighted words about some band we need to hear. The same is true of Marc Riley - who provides live sessions and is one of the most passionate and committed D.J.s at the station.

That sort of passion and love is, again, what makes BBC Radio 6 Music such a perennial banquet of delight! D.J.s on the station give a voice to new artists and so many musicians I interview have been featured on the station. It means so much to them and puts their music into new hands; it boosts their career and is an invaluable asset! I am listening more to Craig Charles, Tom Ravenscroft and Huw Stephens (a new name to the BBC Radio 6 Music roster) and dipping in to Cerys Matthews and Gilles Peterson – that sounds a bit wrong but you know (I hope) what I mean – and becoming less reliant on three or four D.J.s to satisfy my thirst. The quality and variation I have discovered by spending more time with the station is mind-blowing! I am discovering new things and qualities about BBC Radio 6 Music - and the station provides an alternative for those who want to escape the commercial rivals and discover D.J.s who are genuinely excited about music – so many smaller stations hire D.J.s for comedy/entertainment rather than a love of music. If you are new to the station and want to find that hard balance of excellent music and D.J.s who are likable and know what they are on about…you need to tune in to BBC Radio 6 Music. The station marked National Album Day and is always involved in every aspect of music. The documentaries they put on – like Martin Freeman, last Sunday, paying tribute to The Beatles’ eponymous album turning fifty – are fantastic and you get so much more than the same old shows week in, week out.

From shining a light on a special album to opening our eyes to issues around gender and race; BBC Radio 6 Music has a social conscious that is refreshing and inspiring to see! I disagree with something Snapes said in that Guardian piece:

“…It trades in comfort and familiarity, new versions of old sounds, rather than pursuing a genuine cultural “alternative spirit”. The “alternative” it celebrates is the mainstream – look no further than David Cameron’s festival selfies for proof. In essence, 6 is the old Radio 1 evening slot writ large for people who, due to jobs and kids, can no longer listen to the radio between 7pm and midnight. Sloughing off older presenters would force listeners of a certain age to reckon with their identity – and mortality – and the fact that what was once their youthful alternative now simply … isn’t”.

I think a reason why BBC Radio 6 Music continues to snap, crackle and pop the underwear of curiosity and slake the perversity of the musical imagination is (because of) the way it remains fresh and does not stick with rigid guidelines. I feel the fact there are slightly older D.J.s at the station is not a sign of mortality or a depressing thing: you have years’ experience and are not reliant on the usual plethora of overly-cheerful yoofs (sic) who are all about the ‘coolest’ and most commercial sounds. It seems, despite some dimples on the motorway; BBC Radio 6 Music is looking in fine shape as we head into 2019…

 

Aside from thanking BBC Radio 6 Music and recommending people tune in; I feel there are exciting possibilities that can be explored in 2019! I am not sure whether it is possible to bring a digital station - which BBC Radio 6 Music is - to the normal airwaves and turn it F.M. BBC Radio 2 and 1 have such a big audience, among other reasons, because they are not digital-only and, as such, it is easier to find them and stay with them. I know BBC Radio 6 Music has this cool and slightly exclusive edge but one of the reasons a lot of people I know have not discovered the station is because it is digital. Maybe it is not possible to do that but I feel like there is this chance for BBC Radio 6 Music to go a bit more mainstream and I think it could recruit a lot of listeners from BBC Radio 2 and 1 – they would find much to love and discover and it could create a new army for BBC Radio 6 Music. I am pleased Lauren Laverne and Mary Anne Hobbs are moving to new slots and there is a conscious effort to promote women and make changes. I still feel like there is an opportunity to bring more women into the station and tip the balance. There are more men at the station than women – this is true of most bigger options – and I feel like BBC Radio 6 Music could be one of the first station to bring about parity in terms of gender.

I mentioned how part-time BBC Radio 6 Music faces like Jon Hillcock could be promoted and new blood brought in. There is great loyalty at the station but there are chances for new shows a slight shake-up. I wonder how the breakfast and afternoon shows will change; who the music news presenter will be in the morning and whether all the much-loved and familiar features will find a new home. I am confident everything will settle and it will be great but I know there is that chance to bring the brand to a bigger audience. The station does that itself but there are many more (uninitiated) out there who could benefit from the warm and chocolatey tones of BBC Radio 6 Music. In my last BBC Radio 6 Music-related piece; I mooted the possibility of an award show that can be run by the station. With the Mercury Prize gaining negative scrutiny and other options like the BRITs designed for a rather commercial market; I feel like BBC Radio 6 Music could provide that essential and sought-after award that genuinely reflects tastes, variety and geography – with the Mercury Prize being very London-centric. Whereas The Cardigans, back in the 1990s, urged us to Erase/Rewind; I think BBC Radio 6 Music should be embraced but, in terms of personnel and bringing it further to the masses, a slight retune could be in order. I have a lot to thank them (everyone at the station) for what they have produced this year and I am sure so many people out there have been enriched and harnessed by the station. It continues to resonate, grow and shine and I think next year will be a huge one for the station. As I look back and encapsulate what the station has provided me (and so many others) this past year; I look forward and seeing how, with changes and shifts, it can move forward and who it can reach. If you are unaware of BBC Radio 6 Music and the loyal army – from the D.J.s and producers through to music news presenters and everyone who makes the machine work – then make sure tuning in is one of your…

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 PHOTO CREDIT: @piensaenpixel/Unsplash

NEW Year’s Resolutions!

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Follow BBC Radio 6 Music

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IN THIS PHOTO: Héloïse Letissier (Christine and the Queens) alongside Lauren Laverne/PHOTO CREDIT: BBC 

Official:

https://www.bbc.co.uk/6music

Twitter:

https://twitter.com/BBC6Music

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/BBCRadio6Music/

Instagram:

https://www.instagram.com/bbc6music/

YouTube:

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCqV-eYI6gwAYxQowEWosBkA

INTERVIEW: Novul

INTERVIEW:

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Novul

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MY last interview of the day…

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is with Novul as she talks to me about her single, Boys Like You, and the story behind it. I ask her whether more material is coming and ask why she moved from Canada to L.A. – she talks about that relocation, the music she is inspired by and a rising artist we need to get behind and spend some time with.

Novul discusses her plans going forward and how important it is getting attention from press and radio; what she does when she is not making music; what advice she would give to musicians coming through – she ends the interview by selecting a great song.

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

Hi. Thanks so much for having me! My week has been amazing. I released my new single as well as my music video for Boys Like You.

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

I’m Novul - check out my story. 

Boys Like You is your new single. What is the story behind it?

The story behind it is basically asking yourself ‘Why do girls like me love boys like you?’ (Bad boys).

Do you recall when music came into your life? Was there a moment you knew it was the career for you?

I always knew I wanted to do music. I remember walking home from elementary-school and I would always come up with these melodies and freestyle lyrics singing to myself. Haha! I then started dancing, doing musical theater and vocal lessons. From my first live television performance at age ten, for Gloria Lorin, I knew I wanted to do this as my career.

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You started life in Canada but moved to L.A. Did you always know you wanted to move to the U.S.? How quickly did you settle in?!

I didn’t always want to move to the U.S. but, in high-school, I realized that’s where I had to be to do this. I started flying to L.A. once a month for vocal training. After high-school graduation, I officially moved. I settled in pretty quick and easy. People would always tell me that I never looked like I belonged in a small farm town. Looking back, I would have to agree!

Which artists do you consider to be role models and inspirations?

Lady Gaga is my role model, 100%. She’s so talented and smart! Also, Cher is a big influence on me. 

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Your music has gained a lot of support from radio and the press. How important and motivational is that support?!

So important! Getting support from radio and press just makes it clear to me that I’m doing the right thing, especially being independent. It confirms that I am connecting with people and I can be that voice. 

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

I’m going to be releasing another single and video in November, so I will end the year with that. My end goal for this year is to be performing locally in L.A.

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

I would say one of my performances that I have done in L.A. because will.i.am came to support me!

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

That’s so hard because it depends on my mood and my feelings. They all touch me in a special way! 

What advice would you give to new artists coming through?

Never change your artistry. Stay true to yourself because that’s what makes you different. 

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 IN THIS PHOTO: NF

Are there any new artists you recommend we check out?

I would have to say this upcoming rapper named NF. His art is amazing and he spits the truth. I love that about him. My dream would be to collaborate with him. Shout-out NF!

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

At the moment, I’m pretty good at balancing myself. Every morning, I take my dog Diana to the beach. That alone time really grounds me. By the way, Diana is in my music video for Boys Like You and she was featured in Rich the Kids’ music video for Dead Friends

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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).

Everything Is Embarrassing - Sky Ferreira 

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Follow Novul

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FEATURE: Llais Hyfryd: The 2018 Welsh Music Prize: The Nominees

FEATURE:

 

 


Llais Hyfryd

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IN THIS PHOTO: A shot of Llanberis, Wales/PHOTO CREDIT: @fotios_photos/Unsplash

The 2018 Welsh Music Prize: The Nominees

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SO much energy was expended earlier this year…

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 IN THIS PHOTO: The flag of Wales/IMAGE CREDIT: Getty Images

when the nominations for the Mercury Prize were announced that we forget there are nation-specific awards for Scotland and Wales. It is great the nations get to mark the best of their indigenous talent and I feel the Welsh Music Prize does not get the coverage it warrants. That said; I have been hearing a couple of radio stations mention it and a few of the music magazines/websites have listed the runners and riders! Wolf Alice won this year’s Mercury and, again, it was a year with some notable omissions and a London winner! Many have become aghast at the predictable let-down and slight annoyance you get with the Mercury whilst others feel it has a lot of potential and is giving a platform for artists who really need the exposure. I flip-flop but was irritated a few great albums were omitted from the shortlist this year – among them was Gwenno’s Le Kov and Boy Azooga’s 1,2, Kung Fu! Both of those records are Mercury-worthy but I guess you need to draw a line somewhere! Each of the nominated albums for the Welsh Music Prize are fantastic and I think there is greater depth and strength in this award than there was for the Mercury. It seems like Wales (and Scotland) are leading the way when it comes to running a balanced and quality-packed award!

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 IN THIS PHOTO: A shot of Borth, Wales/PHOTO CREDIT: @xientce /Unsplash

Before I present the nominees and a little bit about each record; it is probably worth letting DORK give you some information about this year’s Welsh Music Prize:

The nominees have been revealed for this year's Welsh Music Prize.

With a ceremony planned for Cardiff's Coal Exchange on 7th November, artists up for the gong include former winners Gwenno and Gruff Rhys, Manic Street Preachers, Boy Azooga and Astroid Boys.

There are also nods for Alex Dingley, Bryde, Eugene Capper & Rhodri Brooks, Catrin Finsh & Seckou Keita, Mellt, Seazoo and Toby Hay.

Co-founder of the award Hew Stephens explains: "It’s another eclectic and electrifying nominations list that the jurors have put forward. The judges will now listen to the twelve excellent albums and decide on a winner. These albums have found audiences worldwide, the musicians are incredible talented ambassadors for Wales and this year’s Welsh Music Prize proves that creativity in music from Wales is at an all time high”.

It is a rich and exciting time for Welsh music and, as many of the mainstream music sites ignore stuff outside of Wales; this list of juicy albums shows what colour, talent and nuance is coming from the proud and noble nation! I have had the pleasure of reviewing some of the albums below – and interviewed artists associated with them – and can attest to their power and hard work. Take a look and listen through the nominated twelve and, to all of the artists nominated, all the very…

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 PHOTO CREDIT: @florenciaviadana/Unsplash

BEST of luck!

ALL ALBUM COVERS: Getty Images/Artists

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Astroid BoysBroke

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Release Date: 29th September, 2017

Label: Sony Music Entertainment Inc.

Standout Track: Dirt

Review:

But ultimately – as has been said numerous times in this review alone – Broke isn’t a rock album, rather a grime album proactively brought forward to try and give rock its swagger and edge back. And if, off the back of this, Astroid Boys do continue to be embraced within those circles, that’s only a good thing, as Broke is the sort of incendiary, crucially modern project that’s well and truly needed. Whether Astroid Boys will be the ones to unite the two camps for good remains to be seen, but for what has been a long time coming, an album has crossed over into the rock world with the firepower to potentially make some huge changes down the line” – The Sound Board

Boy Azooga1,2, Kung Fu!

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Release Date: 8th June, 2018

Label: Heavenly

Standout Track: Jerry

Review:

The sense that (Davey) Newington has poured everything into this significant debut ensures an emotional resonance at the heart of songs like ‘Waitin’, with the spiralling repetition of its weary chorus set to cause all kinds of borderline obscene tingles within festival-goers over the coming months.

The love for his craft that Newington clearly possesses is writ large across these eleven songs and the bloated Sabbath crescendo of closer ‘Sitting On The First Rock From The Sun’ is a bizarrely fitting finale. It feels like a release, entirely lacking cynicism, simply the right thing for that moment in the song. It’s a philosophy that Boy Azooga lives by on ‘1, 2 Kung Fu’ to often giddying effect” – CLASH

Bryde - Like an Island

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Release Date: 13th April, 2018

Label: Bryde

Standout Track: Fast Awake

Review:

Bryde’s tone and voice inflections in Transparent are so elegantly captivating, and drastically differs from the nostalgically grungy tunes that precede it, with more of an organic feel that accentuates the angelic facet of her voice. If Alanis Morissette and Jewel wrote a lullaby together, it may sound something like this.

The delicacy of Bryde’s vocals works perfectly in accordance with minimal instrumentals or heavy electric guitars, and first time listeners will be enamoured with her sound straight away, whether she is in a whisper or singing angstily. The singer-songwriter has a newfound attitude that shines brightly in this solo project, and it’s always refreshing to see the rise of a strong indie female artist” – Thank Folk for That

Eugene Capper & Rhodri Brooks - Pontvane

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Release Date: 29th September, 2017

Label: Bubblewrap Records

Standout Track: Yonderer

Review:

The majority of the tracks lilt along in an acoustic or semi-acoustic reverie. ‘That’s Who’ is full of pain and understanding. The addition of the harmonica reinforces the impression of being alone on the plains of Wales, enhanced by a pensive instrumental outro. There are clear Americana references such as on ‘Yonderer’. In contrast, on ‘Sophie’s Song’ the slide guitar makes it sound more like it’s on a land-locked Hawaii. In this sparse track, ‘cigarettes don’t calm me down’ is half-sung, half-narrated over a waltz rhythm. On ‘Please Do’, the slide guitar glides like a slow dance at a wedding. It is a South Pacific lullaby. Sing this to your loved one by a campfire or even a gasfire. It’s about taking off your boots and staying in.

Pontvane has a number of additional collaborators all which contribute to its quality. Of special note is ‘Scary Shoes’ which features Girl Ray. Psych-lite, it is a bit of toe-tapping deliciousness, ‘my heart doesn’t beat like it used to’. ‘Kingsland Road’ also benefits from the addition of a female vocal. What should be the prettiest of songs, though, is disturbed by the disorder of a radio interruption midway” – God Is in the TV

Alex Dingley - Beat the Babble

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Release Date: 2nd December, 2016

Label: Birth Records

Standout Track: Butterfly Corpses

Review:

There are highlights in the ten tracks - the rolling piano and mix of yearning and regret that defines Between the Sheets, the affecting simplicity of If I Asked You to Dance, the melancholy of Lovely Life to Leave - but the overall impression whilst listening from start to finish is of being somewhere else entirely, spirited away from the humdrum into someone else's imagination. The music flows and dances by like an extended hypnagogic dream.

The reason for this is straightforward. The record (it is still available at the time of writing on blue vinyl) lives and breathes in a space bound on one side by the intuition of The Velvet Underground, another by the music The Cure appear to be making in the claustrophobic wardrobe in Tim Pope's film for their classic single Close to Me, and on a third by the liminal magic of an Edwardian fairground at dusk.

This is Beat the Babble's first UK issue - but it is Dingley's third LP and was originally released three years ago in the US. The last time I owned an album as singular and individual as this was Clash cohort Tymon Dogg's Relentless, and I wore the brilliant music out of the grooves of it. Where Relentless was often angry and political, Beat the Babble is intensely personal, but just as essential; this is one of 2018's albums of the year, and of any other year you might care to pick” – From the Margins

Catrin Finch & Seckou KeitaSOAR

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Release Date: 27th April, 2018  

Label: bendigedig

Standout Track: Clarach

Review:

The exultation of flight is captured on opener Clarach, kora and harp cascading around each other intricately, while the enforced migration of slavery is addressed in 1677, a darker, bluesier piece referring to the infamous slave station of Goree – though even here the playing is gloriously airborne. Bach to Baïsso begins as an extract from Bach’s Goldberg Variations before flipping into an antique Senegalese tune with griot chants; a daring but successful leap. The pair take turns to supply an underlying riff or play lead, but the interplay between their instruments is seamless, and testimony to their years working together. Hypnotic and ethereal, Soar is a unique marriage of cultures” – The Guardian  

Gwenno - Le Kov

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Release Date: 2nd March, 2018  

Label: Heavenly

Standout Track: Eus Keus?

Review:

Gwenno effortlessly glides between styles on ‘Le Kov’ – the seamless transitions between forlorn piano and frosted beats (Aphex Twin was an inspiration) to pristine drums and discordant brass evoke a Cornwall that’s as easily accessible as it is steeped in tradition and folklore…

Like her debut, ‘Y Dydd Olaf’, delivered in her native welsh (the Cornish comes from her parents, it was spoken around the house, and her father is a Cornish poet), the fact that the majority of people won’t understand the lyrics matters not. ‘Le Kov’ would be a wonderful album even if it were sung in Gallifreyan” – Loud and Quiet

Toby Hay - The Longest Day

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Release Date: 21st June, 2018   

Label: The state51 Conspiracy

Standout Track: Leaving Chicago

Review:

This is music that proves powerfully potent at evoking crystal-clear images of the places and moments that may have inspired it. Both parts of the string-enhanced, majestically swirling “Curlew” bring to mind a more spontaneous take on the luxuriously orchestrated epics on sometime musical partner Jim Ghedi’s recent gem A Hymn for Ancient Land. The pull of Hay’s music is not reliant on ornamentation, however. The contemplative closer “At The Bright Hem of God” features little beyond Hay’s guitar but proves the most moving moment on an album not exactly short of highlights, a deeply resonant, beautifully built piece worthy of comparison to Michael Chapman’s greatest guitar compositions” – The Line of Best Fit

Manic Street Preachers - Resistance Is Futile

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Release Date: 13th April, 2018    

Label: Columbia Records

Standout Track: International Blue  

Review:

The true character of this 13th album probably lies on ‘Distant Colours’ and ‘Broken Algorithms’ – lamenting how transient culture has become, how social media and fake news have diluted knowledge in the echo chamber of digital hiss and zeroes and ones. The band who once told you to know your enemy now realise that the enemy is omnipresent, yet also invisible and unknowable. Still, the Manics are kicking against the pricks just as hard as ever. In their existence alone they continue to fight the good fight – but the sheer scale, pop-pomp and balls on show here render their survival an absolute victory. Resistance may be futile, but the Manics continue to advance” – NME

Mellt - Mae’n Hawdd Pan Ti’n Ifanc

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Release Date: 20th April, 2018    

Label: Recordiau JigCal Records

Standout Track: Tex  

Review:

Since ‘Cysgod Cyfarwydd’ appeared on their first EP back in 2014, Mellt have been rated as one of the best chorus writers around, and they seem keen to remind us of that ability on songs such as ‘Rebel’ and ‘Tex’. However, their strikingly humorous and healthy lyrical ode to being young threatens to steal the show as the album’s main attraction. Both of those features help to create an album where an unashamed pop sensibility doesn’t necessarily lead to a compromise in edginess and authenticity.

Stylistically, the Mellt formula is somewhat stretched in the steadier wails of ‘Gwên Werth Mwy na Bwled’, and in the Blur-meets-Libertines bed to guest vocalist Garmon’s classic old school Welsh alt-rock rants. However, as last track ‘Glan Llyn’ halts towards the chorus, the band’s use of the album’s title reminds us all of why we’re here in the first place, and how we’ve listened to a well-constructed half hour of pure indie hookiness” – Let It Happen

Gruff Rhys Babelsberg

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Release Date: 8th June, 2018    

Label: Rough Trade Records

Standout Track: Frontier Man  

Review:

Babelsberg, you soon realise, is a kind of primer of those pleasingly eccentric, non-youth-oriented mainstream pop styles that flourished in the States from the late 1960s to the early 1970s, somewhere between Glen Campbell’s first flush of success and AOR’s first incursions, via MOR’s heyday. ‘Limited Edition Heart’ has a lovely, smooth Carpenters swirl and depth to it. There is more than a touch of early Steely Dan to ‘Take That Call’. ‘Architecture of Amnesia’ might have Father John Misty checking his wallet, but Rhys has been craftily plundering the same sources for a good while now. A duet with Lily Cole, ‘Selfies In The Sunset’, makes a poignant coda, as though Nancy and Lee replaced their archness and menace with a meditative, wistful air of acceptance.

Throughout it – as throughout his career, with others and solo – flows Rhys’s gift for melody, which seems to rise from him as easily, naturally and endlessly as water from a spring. In the end, you can’t beat a good tune or ten. And when they carry this much imagination with them, it becomes a form of gentle wizardry. Any enchantment is bound to fall on deaf ears, at times; mine remain tuned in to Rhys, and I’m glad of it” – The Quietus

SeazooTrunks

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Release Date: 2nd February, 2018     

Label: Seazoo

Standout Track: Dig  

Review:

Recorded in bedrooms and the aforementioned bunker above, Trunks is the debut album from this up-and-coming act. Having previously received love from BBC’s Huw Stephens, Lauren Laverne, Steve Lamacq, Mark Radcliffe, as well as a handful of notable online tastemakers, this handful of charming numbers is sure to expand on the impressive reach this young band has already made.

Without digging too far into these cats, you’ll quickly see the outlined comparisons to the long-standing indie rock legends, Yo La Tengo. And, those associations are pretty spot on. The playful and carefree nature easily brings you fully into that frame, and it’s something that you don’t see too often. There are wonderfully poppy moments throughout — catchy hooks, unique vocal cadences, and grin-inducing harmonies — but it never feels forced, or overdone. It comes off with a nonchalant air that’s simply intoxicating and downright addicting” – The Music Ninja

INTERVIEW: Chloëbeth

INTERVIEW:

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Chloëbeth

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THE wonderful Chloëbeth

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has been chatting about her new song, Take Control, and what its story is. I ask whether we will see any new material next year and if there are tour plans ahead. Chloëbeth discusses her favourite music and albums that hit her hardest – she recommends a rising artist we need to follow closely.

I was eager to learn whether her Classical training/background aids her current music and what she wants to accomplish by the end of the year; how she spends her time away from music and the advice she would give to artists coming through – she ends the interview by selecting a great current track.

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

Helloooo. I'm not bad, thanks. Ups and downs ya know - how it goes! Hope you're all good.

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

Yeah. Well. I'm Chloëbeth - a singer and songwriter from West Yorkshire. If you've never listened to my music before, I guess you can expect relatable lyrics and catchy melodies…with deep meaning behind the sometimes 'mainstream' sound. But, all my songs differ quite a lot in the genre. I'm full of surprises.

 

Take Control is your new track. What is the tale behind it?

The tale behind my new track Take Control is about certain lads who feel threatened by a girl's independence, confidence or success. The message is about being yourself and not letting a lad use and abuse you or put you down.

I mean; I'm not particularly a mad feminist at all: I'm a laid-back gal but just seeing some guys in the club or on Instagram stood there posing made me wanna write a song about how pathetic some guys are (as well as some girls of course!). It's not a bitter song, though. It's just about embracing your true self and beauty inside and out and not letting anyone put ya down!

Might we see more material in 2019? How far ahead are you looking?

Oh, yeah. Definitely more stuff coming in 2018, never mind 2019! This is just the beginning.

Can you reveal what sort of music you grew up around? Who did you idolise?

I grew up around all sorts. I remember, as a proper-young kid, my dad used to listen to dance and Trance in the car...and The Clash - whereas my mum was into musicals. But, like; I sang on my first bassline song when I was sixteen. I used to like chavvy music too as a young teen - when I was fourteen – but, at the same time, I loved Rock music! Pretty, juxtaposing genres floated my boat to be honest. As well as chavvy beats, I was also really into Nirvana as a young kid. I loved them.

Also; I idolised Mariah Carey as a kid. Her voice is outstanding. I used to look on her website all the time at high-school instead of doing work. Haha.

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How did your Classical training prepare you? Do you incorporate any of that teaching into your current work?

My Classical training has prepared me in so many good ways as it trains your voice to really reach new heights: I can sing any genre well now and can sing in seven different languages as, during my Classical training, a lot of the Classical songs I was practicing and singing in competitions and exams etc. were in Italian, Latin; German, Spanish etc. I think my Classical training has helped me have the range/purity of vocals and control that I have today.

Yeah. I guess you'll hear glimpses of my Classical high voice in the odd note here and there. Kind of like the tone in Hannah Reid’s voice (lead singer of London Grammar).

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

By the end of 2018, I hope to achieve recognition as a singer and songwriter on a much larger scale.

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

Being invited in to do a Live Lounge to premiere a couple of my songs for BBC Radio is a good memory. Also; I love the way I can just sit down unexpectedly when I’m all alone and write a song so effortlessly that I feel could really make it.

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

Visions of a Life by Wolf Alice

Amazing album. A few songs on there really touch me deeply when I listen to them - to the point where this sensation comes over my mind and body like, just, pure dept. I don’t know how to describe it but I feel like I’m different and I go into this numb sort of state where I feel that something is going to happen in my life that’s going to be really unique.

Blink-182Blink-182

That will always mean a lot to me as I grew up listening to that on my C.D. Walkman (Discman) and it just reminds me of being so young and boys at the time. (Just) nearly every song on there touches me massively.

Nevermind by Nirvana

Love that album too.

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

I’d love to support The xx and my rider would be, hmmmmm. I was gonna say a big ass bottle of apple-flavoured vodka but I’m in recovery sooo that, probs, wouldn’t be a good idea. Haha. A more sensible rider would be loadsa fruity Haribo sweets and Chinese food. Ha.

What advice would you give to new artists coming through?

Advice to new artists coming through would be: stay true to yourself; don’t copy anyone; have faith and keep going! Try not to give too many f***s about what people think of you.

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

No tour as of yet but, hopefully, someday soon!

How important is it being on the stage and playing your music to the people?

It’s very important being on stage and playing my music to people as, if people connect with the songs I’ve written, it’s just that feeling of like, yeah man, they’re diggin’ this! I just want people to connect and enjoy the words and music that enters their ears - and make them relate or, like I said, feel connected and good/opened up about sh*t.

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Are there any new artists you recommend we check out?

Yeah. I recommend you check out Kennedy Power. She’s my good friend and an amazing songwriter.

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

Yeah. I do get time to chill. I used to unwind by getting absolutely off my head far too much and dangerously but that ain’t healthy for my mental state and never progressed me in any way shape or form. In fact; it strips me of everything good in my life. Sooo…I’m trying to avoid that if I can. I love watching cooking programmes (haha) and spending time going on scenic walks outside embracing nature - or spending time with animals like dogs.

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).

A song. Hmmmm. Play Silk by Wolf Alice. The beginning guitar and opening verse gets me every time, wow! Thank you xxx

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Follow Chloëbeth

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INTERVIEW: Machine Age

INTERVIEW:

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Machine Age

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IT has been good to chat with Adrian from Machine Age

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IN THIS PHOTO: Adrian with SLUMBERJACK

about their collaboration with SLUMBERJACK. I ask how the song, Daggers, came together and whether the two artists are working together again. Adrian discusses his musical upbringing and whether he has a favourite memory from his time in music – he recommends an approaching artist we need to get behind and support.

Adrian talks about plans going forward and which artist, given the chance, he would support; whether he gets chance to chill outside of music; what he and Machine Age want to accomplish by the end of 2018 – he ends the interview by selecting a cool song.

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

Hello, there. Super-well. It’s been a great couple of days - having dropped the new tune on Friday.

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

Adrian here from Machine Age. We’re based in Brisbane, Australia

How did the unity of Machine Age and SLUMBERJACK happen?! Have you known each other for a while?

I’ve been a big fan of SLUMBERJACK for a while. A great friend introduced us and we got together the day before they played Splendour in the Grass (Australia’s Glastonbury).

Daggers is your collaboration. What is the story behind the song? Can you describe how the song came together? Who came in with the idea?

At the time of our first writing session, the boys were living somewhere between Perth and L.A. and we only had a small window of time before they had to prep for their massive Splendour set. So, rather than working on a song from scratch I showed them a super-rough piano demo of Daggers as something we could work on.

They loved it and we got the bones of the track together that day. The rest of the production was a lot of back and forth sharing parts and arrangements ideas as they toured overseas until it was done.

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Will there be more work between you guys?

I’d love to work with them again one day for sure. It would be great to play Daggers live together.

Did you grow up around a lot of music? Which artists do you count as influences?

I’m the youngest of four boys and inherited my music taste from my three older brothers. One was into ’60s/’70s Psych-Rock; another Blues and Jazz and the other (into) Pop and Electronica. It wasn’t till I was fifteen or so that I started to distil that down into my own influences.

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

We have a stack of shows planed in the coming months around Australia and are planning to hit the U.K. and Europe early next year. But, before we get there, we’re also finishing a bunch of new material for our upcoming debut.

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

The first song I ever released a couple of years back got a spin and five-star review by the head of Australia’s national radio station, triple J. It’s pretty hard to go past that feeling.

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

That’s a super-tough question...

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

I would happily accept a solitary beer if I could support Radiohead. Maybe two beers.

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

Yep. In Oz. We’re aiming to hit the U.K. next year.

What advice would you give to new artists coming through?

Make the music you want to listen to.

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 IN THIS PHOTO: Willaris. K

Are there any new artists you recommend we check out?

Willaris. K

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

When I’m home, I love walking my dogs and listening to music or podcasts.

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).

Ólafur Arnalds - re:member

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Follow Machine Age

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INTERVIEW: The Higher Planes

INTERVIEW:

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The Higher Planes

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I have been speaking with Adam and Jon…

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of The Higher Planes about their double A-side, Keep Your Lamplight Burning Low/You Know, and what the stories behind the songs are. They discuss how the band found one another and what music they are inspired by; what their plans are going forward and whether they each have favourite albums.

I discover how the band’s music gels and whether they get chance to chill away from music; what they hope to achieve before the end of this year; which rising artists we need to get behind and whether there are treasured musical memories that stick in the mind.

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

Adam: Hello. This week has been good; although I’ve spent a lot more time tragically hungover than I would have liked. We did meet an interesting new producer, though.

Jon: Pretty uneventful. We had the launch gig for the release last Friday and normal life is always waiting round the corner.

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

Adam: The Higher Planes are a kind of ramshackle Soul band: the kind you might have heard in the golden era. We are shameless revivalists with loads of hair, angelic singing voices; a no-synth policy and an ever-expanding line-up which now includes George ‘The Major Seventh’ Dimension on the trumpet and Richard ‘Suspended’ Forthe on the public saxophone. They might have real names, I don’t know. You could ask them.

I think our aim is to create a warm, dancy and soulful experience for the people in attendance. My concern is a lot of people seem to be on the slow slide to weary cynicism, losing all feeling in their feet. The way I see it, what we do is try to top the good feeling back up; let that joy and abandon grow back like leaves after winter - I mean for us as much as anyone listening.

Jon: We're The Higher Planes; a (mostly) six-piece....Garage-Soul band?! We used to say ‘folky’ but we've been doing our live shows on the principle it's gotta be super -groovy and deeper rhythms are a bit easier to get into.

 

Tell me about the double A-side release, Keep Your Lamplight Burning Low/You Know. What is the story behind each track?

Adam: Keep Your Lamplight Burning Low is for all the people creaking under the cascade of worrying information that’s taking a grim toll on our heads today; seemingly more invasively than ever (although, let’s face it; it ain’t exactly World War II right now). Or, maybe, it is for some people, in their minds Anyhow; I think it’s saying ‘Take it steady, try not to fret; all is unfolding exactly as it should be in the great cosmic comedy…’ 

You Know is an odd one. It’s an upbeat Soul banger that’s also a story about being burned alive in a giant psychedelic tribal ceremony - a bit like the remake of The Wicker Man with Nicholas Cage. Not the bees! What’s on me?

Jon: I guess the first one is about how to not get crazy and how not to fall asleep in these dark and murky times. A lot of the songs we do have contain a lot of apocalyptic lyrics and such and this one, I think, came about as trying to write a more positive kind of song, which only half-worked before it got derailed by mystical visions – but, basically, it's about keeping your eyes open.

You Know is just a bit of a fever-dream about being the guy in The Wicker Man + symbolism, irrational ideas; things like that.

 

What was the reason for releasing a double A-side? Will there be more material next year?

Adam: The shady characters at Super King Records who pull the strings said their projections were a few percent better doing it that way. Who am I to argue against the cold, hard data?

And, yes, there will be more soon, friend. We’re heading back into the studio in December to whip up some more metaphysically, nutritious soul stew. Probably another two tracks, given the time we have. Big room, recording live (ish); more feeling; more fuzz more of the time.

Jon: We're just trying to record when we can. There's quite a few of us and we're pretty busy, so two tracks were what we got out of our session, especially because they've got quite a few parts and we couldn't, on that occasion, just play them all live and have it done. It's probably gonna be a while before we've got an album of tracks done to a good enough standard.

Maybe we'll get an E.P. done before too long. Otherwise, I think we just thought they're both pretty cool and double A-side sounds fancy. And there's no one to tell us how releases are meant to go, so we just called it a double A-side.

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You have brought a horn section into your music and are working with Jazz drummer Angus Bishop. What was the reason for this employment and how do you think it is has altered your sound?

Adam: Brother Jon has always been trying to move in the souliest (sic) possible direction. The horns were a natural progression to the dream set up of a Wilson Pickett-type act. We’re just missing keys…and Wilson Pickett…

Angus Bishop is a long-time friend and collaborator of JJ Stillwell, player of the bass. They call him ‘The Bishop’ because he only moves diagonally. He was playing with us for a while some years back, but then left for some kind of mystic drum odyssey for some months. When he came back, he said he was up for it so we nabbed him. I should mention it’s not him on the recordings (that’s the inimitable Ginger Drage From A Previous Age) - you’ll have to wait for the new year to hear Angus’ particular brand of stick magic. He’s like the Rembrandt of drums. And he’s added gears and dynamics we didn’t know we were capable of before.

Jon: I think it's always made sense and been a bit of an ambition to put horns onto lots of our songs. Those two tracks were pretty down-the-line-Rock-‘n’-Soul rhythms so it was a no-brainer. First, the Soul influences and I know the sound in my head always has devastating horn blasts all over the bloody place. Some of it is just about having more options – having organs, pianos and theremins and all of that and go with whatever suits the songs.

With Angus, he and JJ studied music together and play together in other projects, so they know each other and each other's playing really well and there's something about Jazz players that make for great Rock ‘n’ Roll players – especially when we want a psychy feeling which we haven't yet done that much of. It's all a bit more technicolour.

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How did The Higher Planes get together? When did the band form?

Adam: Jon and I; we are brothers. So, we’ve spent most of a lifetime terrorising the neighbours with our raucous musical endeavours. I think we were playing as a three-piece a couple of years ago with a drummer (and having to switch between guitar and bass constantly) until we met JJ (the boyfriend of a friend of my ex-girlfriend). He took care of low notes. We roped our spectacular women in with promises of fame and glory - and the fact they didn’t really have to carry anything cumbersome or heavy…apart from us at the end of a particularly powerful show.

Jon: Me and Adam have been playing for ages and were just doing acoustic gigs around the place when we got together with Sarah, Deci and JJ to make a bigger sound. For a long time, we played with Ginger Drage, a drummer based around Brentford, and now with Angus. We've played gigs around London for the past few years with a few jaunts around the country.

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

Adam: We were both mad on The Beatles and The Stones and learned to harmonise sat at Maggie the Piano blasting out Not Fade Away and Hey Bulldog. Musical idols would be many of the people on the Woodstock roster and also classic English Folk acts like Pentangle. I could go on. And I will. We’ve played with some pretty excellent bands lately. More on that later…

Jon: When I got to sixteen, I started getting into the Blues at the same time as San Francisco bands and just followed all the rabbit holes that opened up after. That's what remained, but we listened to most stuff really.

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

Adam: In the next three months? Not getting hit by a car or a fast bicycle; fulfilling everyone’s Christmas wishes; maybe even making a video for one or both of these songs.

Jon: We're trying to find a bit more studio time, so maybe one or two new songs down. After that, I think we've gotta think about 2019: getting a good E.P., properly done, and going round the country a bit.

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

Adam: Touring with Hurray for the Riff Raff last year. Eye-opening.

Jon: Well. Seeing as it's pretty fresh in the memory; I'd say our recent launch gig at Paper Dress Vintage. The first we've had with horns and some of the moments that we got to put in there were very cool. Playing the Joiner's Arms in Camberwell is always good times. And some of the recent practices where the whole arrangement comes together for the first time.

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

Adam: Oooh. Exile on Main Street by The Rolling Stones

Pure magic. And, also, I would quite like to swan off to Nice to live in a mansion, eat bread; drink wine and create music for the rest of my life.

Jon: Couldn't really say it's my favourite ever, because I don't think there is one, but Country Joe and the FishI-Feel-Like-I'm-Fixin'-to-Die is cool because it's not that complicated; just a band being really organic sounding.

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

Adam: Alabama Shakes. Or Queens of the Stone Age… ah shucks, go on…The Stones! On the rider; 1 x giant pile of old-fashioned, 100%-proof medical chang. Nah; scratch that. 1 x largest possible bag of Twiglets. And two beers, cold.

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

Adam: This year, as in 2018? No. You’ll find us in the usual haunts, probably a few shows around South London. We’ll figure something out further afield in the summertime. I want to go back to the North.

What advice would you give to new artists coming through?

Adam: Hahah! We are not qualified to give any. Apart from stay away from leechy ‘promoters’ who do nothing for anyone but themselves. Find the good venues and talk to them directly. If no one feeds the leeches, they might do us all a favour and go extinct.

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 IN THIS PHOTO: Wax Machine/PHOTO CREDIT: Abigail Polaine

Are there any new artists you recommend we check out?

Adam: Check out Jouis and Wax Machine. They’re two acts from Brighton I think and they’re both very good in very different ways. I don’t know if they’re fully fledged idols yet, but I respect what they’re doing. Also; ESE & the Vooduu People are pretty gnarly. And there’s a Scottish blues band called The Rising Souls that we’re big fans of. They’re like a Glasgow Audioslave! Come to London, lads! We’ll put on a show.

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IN THIS PHOTO: ESE & the Vooduu People

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

Adam: I relax in between rehearsals and gigs by being a full-time school teacher. Therapeutic as hell it is, trying to teach loads of children how to make graphs and read good, all the while knowing that, by the time they hit eighteen, they’re going straight into the Matrix to power robot Tory octopuses.

Jon: We have bags of time away from music as I think all of us have day jobs. We unwind by playing music. Maybe one day it'll be the other way around - and we can unwind with part-time office or factory jobs.

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).

Adam: Please Crawl Out Your Window (the Jimi Hendrix version). Thank you.

Jon: Nearer My God to TheeSam Cooke & the Soul Stirrers (the live eight-plus minute version - Great Shrine Concert, 1955)

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Follow The Higher Planes

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FEATURE: Three Dreaded Words? The Concept Album: Ten Fine Examples

FEATURE:

 

 

Three Dreaded Words?

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PHOTO CREDIT: @elijahsad/Unsplash 

The Concept Album: Ten Fine Examples

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WHEN artists release concept albums…

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 PHOTO CREDIT: @sunnystate/Unsplash

there is that sharp intake of breath and people cower for shelter! Look back at some of the bloated Prog-Rock efforts and it is all wild solos and pretentious songs. The concept album has not died and, in fact, it is providing modern artists the chance to tell a complete story. Musicians like Janelle Monáe are embracing the concept album with aplomb and finding they can write about affecting and challenging subjects and tie it to a narrative/story. A lot of modern concept albums do not have to involve a straight run of songs that are blend into one another and do not give artists the chance to explore and expand. Maybe that view of the concept album being pretentious and boring stems from older days when artists would talk about something rather weird, random and daft. I don’t know…

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PHOTO CREDIT: @verstuyftj/Unsplash

Maybe there is that narrow-minded approach to the concept album but, with BBC Radio 6 Music dedicating a show to the modern-day concept album; it seems like we are more willing to embrace it - contemporary artists are able to remain true to themselves and write an album that has a unifying theme. There have been some great modern concept albums but I was interested looking back at the all-time finest and showing, when artists got it right, the concept album could be a glorious and memorable thing! Have a look of the rundown of wonderful examples and I am sure you will agree with me when I say rank alongside any other album you can name! What I love about concept albums is there is that arc and narrative that keeps you hooked; a theme/suggestion that sucks you in and takes you along with the ride. The concept album is far from dead and is being evolved and updated for new audience and proves that, what was once a rather dirty and embarrassing thing, is actually…

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 PHOTO CREDIT: @almosbech/Unsplash

PRETTY damn beautiful.

ALL ALBUM COVERS: Getty Images

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Pink FloydThe Dark Side of the Moon

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Release Date: 1st March, 1973

Concept:

The Dark Side of the Moon built upon experiments Pink Floyd had attempted in their previous live shows and recordings, but lacks the extended instrumental excursions which, according to critic David Fricke, had become characteristic of the band after founding member Syd Barrett left in 1968. Gilmour, Barrett's replacement, later referred to those instrumentals as "that psychedelic noodling stuff", and with Waters cited 1971's Meddle as a turning-point towards what would be realised on the album. The Dark Side of the Moon's lyrical themes include conflict, greed, the passage of time, death, and insanity, the latter inspired in part by Barrett's deteriorating mental state.[7] The album contains musique concrète on several tracks.[3]

Each side of the album is a continuous piece of music. The five tracks on each side reflect various stages of human life, beginning and ending with a heartbeat, exploring the nature of the human experience, and (according to Waters) "empathy".[7] "Speak to Me" and "Breathe" together stress the mundane and futile elements of life that accompany the ever-present threat of madness, and the importance of living one's own life – "Don't be afraid to care".[22] By shifting the scene to an airport, the synthesizer-driven instrumental "On the Run" evokes the stress and anxiety of modern travel, in particular Wright's fear of flying.[23] "Time" examines the manner in which its passage can control one's life and offers a stark warning to those who remain focused on mundane aspects; it is followed by a retreat into solitude and withdrawal in "Breathe (Reprise)". The first side of the album ends with Wright and vocalist Clare Torry's soulful metaphor for death, "The Great Gig in the Sky".[3] Opening with the sound of cash registers and loose change, the first track on side two, "Money", mocks greed and consumerism using tongue-in-cheek lyrics and cash-related sound effects (ironically, "Money" has been the most commercially successful track from the album, with several cover versions produced by other bands).[24] "Us and Them" addresses the isolation of the depressed with the symbolism of conflict and the use of simple dichotomies to describe personal relationships. "Any Colour You Like" concerns the lack of choice one has in a human society. "Brain Damage" looks at a mental illness resulting from the elevation of fame and success above the needs of the self; in particular, the line "and if the band you're in starts playing different tunes" reflects the mental breakdown of former bandmate Syd Barrett. The album ends with "Eclipse", which espouses the concepts of alterity and unity, while forcing the listener to recognise the common traits shared by humanity[25][26]” - Wikipedia

Label: Harvest

Review:

By condensing the sonic explorations of Meddle to actual songs and adding a lush, immaculate production to their trippiest instrumental sections, Pink Floyd inadvertently designed their commercial breakthrough with Dark Side of the Moon. The primary revelation of Dark Side of the Moon is what a little focus does for the band. Roger Waters wrote a series of songs about mundane, everyday details which aren't that impressive by themselves, but when given the sonic backdrop of Floyd's slow, atmospheric soundscapes and carefully placed sound effects, they achieve an emotional resonance. But what gives the album true power is the subtly textured music, which evolves from ponderous, neo-psychedelic art rock to jazz fusion and blues-rock before turning back to psychedelia. It's dense with detail, but leisurely paced, creating its own dark, haunting world. Pink Floyd may have better albums than Dark Side of the Moon, but no other record defines them quite as well as this one” – AllMusic

Bon IverFor Emma, Forever Ago

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Release Date: 8th July, 2007

Concept:

There may be no more mythic origin story in all of indie rock than the tale of Justin Vernon decamping to his father’s hunting cabin in the dead of winter and emerging with For Emma, Forever Ago. You probably know it by heart, but for posterity’s sake: Aching from the end of a romantic relationship and a band breakup that he believed to mark the death of his music career, Vernon holed up in remote northwestern Wisconsin for three months and spent his days hunting game and strumming an acoustic guitar. As inspiration struck, he traded the straightforward alt-country sounds of his previous project, DeYarmond Edison, for a more elemental yet sophisticated take on folk music — spare, trembling, otherworldly — ultimately coming away with a set of songs that crackled and glowed like a wood stove in the midst of a snowstorm” - Stereogum  

Labels: Jagjaguwar/4AD

Review:

As the second half of its title implies, the album is a ruminative collection of songs full of natural imagery and acoustic strums-- the sound of a man left alone with his memories and a guitar. Bon Iver will likely bear comparisons to Iron & Wine for its quiet folk and hushed intimacy, but in fact, Vernon, adopting a falsetto that is worlds away from his work with DeYarmond Edison, sounds more like TV on the Radio's Tunde Adebimpe, not just in his vocal timbre, but in the way his voice grows grainier as it gets louder.

Vernon gives a soulful performance full of intuitive swells and fades, his phrasing and pronunciation making his voice as much a purely sonic instrument as his guitar. In the discursive coda of "Creature Fear" he whittles the song down to a single repeated syllable-- "fa." Rarely does folk-- indie or otherwise-- give so much over to ambience: Quivering guitar strings, mic'ed closely, lend opener "Flume" its eerily interiorized sound, which matches his unsettling similes” – Pitchfork

 

Green DayAmerican Idiot

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Release Date: 20th September, 2004

Concept:

concept album dubbed a "punk rock opera" by the band members, American Idiot follows the story of Jesus of Suburbia, a lower-middle-class American adolescent anti-hero. Through its plot, the album expresses the disillusionment and dissent of a generation that came of age in a period shaped by many tumultuous events like the Iraq War. The album was inspired by several musicals and the work of The Who. Recording of American Idiot was split between two California studios between 2003 and 2004. Its album art depicts a heart-shaped hand grenade” – Wikipedia

Label: Reprise

Review:

“…But Green Day — namely, frontman Billie Joe Armstrong — make the journey entertaining enough. At various times, American Idiot evokes football-game chants, ’50s greaser rock, military marches, classic rock (hints of ”Strawberry Fields Forever” and ”All the Young Dudes”), and the band’s own past (”Wake Me Up When September Ends,” an elegiac bookend to their own ”Good Riddance [Time of Your Life]”). As often happens with concept albums, the disc tends to rely on lyrics over music, so some of the songs are forgettable. But Green Day are now slinging mud not at their audience but at America’s pumped-up military-industrial complex — where ”a flag [is] wrapped around a score of men” and war rages ”from Anaheim to the Middle East” — without losing their bratty humor or power chords” – Entertainment Weekly

The Streets A Grand Don’t Come for Free

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Release Date: 17th May, 2004

Concept:

In the story, the protagonist loses £1,000, or a "grand" in slang terms, and strives to recoup the money.

In his book The Story of the Streets Skinner explained his decision to create a story that ran through the album:

"The reason I decided to write A Grand Don't Come for Free as episodes from a single unfolding narrative was because I'd got so into my songwriting manuals and books by Hollywood screen-writing gurus – not just Robert McKee but Syd Fieldand John Truby as well – and I wanted to try and put what I'd learnt from them into practice. Every song needs a drama at the centre of it, and once you have the drama, the song writes itself – that's what I firmly believed, and still do believe. I'm not alone in this convicition, either. It's something pretty much all rappers seem to be sure about."[2]

In the first track on the album, "It Was Supposed to Be So Easy", Skinner attempts several tasks during a day but they do not go according to plan. When he comes home he cannot find the thousand pounds he has saved and his television is broken. In the process of trying to recover the money he:

·         Starts seeing a girl called Simone who works in JD Sports with his friend Dan. ("Could Well Be In")

·         Tries to recover the thousand pounds by gambling on football. After a series of wins he frustratingly cannot get to the bookmaker's in time to make a big gamble. Fortuitously, the prediction is wrong — it is his lucky day. ("Not Addicted")

·         Is stood up at a nightclub by Simone, but passes the time drinking alcohol and taking ecstasy. He thinks he sees Simone kissing Dan but the drug induced high distracts him before he can think about it properly. ("Blinded By the Lights")

·         Moves into Simone's house and finds himself comfortable smoking marijuana there, rather than drinking with his friends at the pub. ("Wouldn't Have It Any Other Way")

·         Argues with Simone and she kicks him out of her house. ("Get Out of My House")

·         Poses to impress a girl ("Fit But You Know It") in a take away restaurant during a heavy night drinking on holiday.

·         Flies back from the holiday and remorsefully reviews the events of the previous night during a phone call to a friend, realising he still wants to be with Simone. ("Such a Twat")

·         Suspects his mate Scott of stealing his coat, money, and girlfriend but discovers that Simone is actually having an affair with Dan. ("What is He Thinking?")

·         Tries to cope with his girlfriend breaking up with him. ("Dry Your Eyes")

·         Deals with the events of his life in one of two ways; the final track, "Empty Cans", features two endings to the plot, a bitter ending and a happy ending (the former where he and a TV repairman get into a fight over the repairman's fee, and the latter in which he reconciles with his mates and finds the thousand pounds had fallen down the back of the TV, making it malfunction)” – Wikipedia

Label: 679 Artists

Review:

The whole album is so lyrically skilful and emotionally endearing that it allows Skinner to get away with murder at the finale. The much-vaunted plot "twist" stretches your credulity to the limit: suffice to say that in order to believe it, you would also have to believe that Skinner is woefully unobservant. Given that he has just spent the best part of an hour demonstrating that he is the most observant man in pop music, that's a preposterously tall order” – The Guardian

 Pink FloydThe Wall

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Release Date: 30th November, 1979

Concept:

The Wall is a rock opera[27] that explores abandonment and isolation, symbolised by a wall. The songs create an approximate storyline of events in the life of the protagonist, Pink (who is introduced in the songs "In the Flesh?" and "The Thin Ice"), a character based on Syd Barrett[28] as well as Roger Waters,[29] whose father was killed during the Second World War. Pink's father also dies in a war ("Another Brick in the Wall (Part 1)"), which is where Pink starts to build a metaphorical "wall" around him. Pink is oppressed by his overprotective mother ("Mother") and tormented at school by tyrannical, abusive teachers ("The Happiest Days of Our Lives"). All of these traumas become metaphorical "bricks in the wall" ("Another Brick in the Wall (Part 2)"). The protagonist eventually becomes a rock star, his relationships marred by infidelity, drug use, and outbursts of violence. He finally becomes married and is about to complete his "wall" ("Empty Spaces"). While touring in America, he brings a groupie home after learning of his wife's infidelity. Ruminating on his failed marriage, he trashes his room and scares the groupie away in a violent fit of rage. ("One of My Turns"). As his marriage crumbles ("Don't Leave Me Now"), he dismisses everyone he's known as "just bricks in the wall" ("Another Brick in the Wall (Part 3)") and finishes building his wall ("Goodbye Cruel World"), completing his isolation from human contact.[24][30]

Hidden behind his wall, Pink becomes severely depressed ("Hey You") and starts to lose all faith ("Vera"). In order to get him to perform, a doctor medicates him ("Comfortably Numb"). This results in a hallucinatory on-stage performance where he believes that he is a fascist dictator performing at concerts similar to Neo-Nazi rallies ("The Show Must Go On"), at which he sets brownshirts-like men on fans he considers unworthy ("In the Flesh" and "Run Like Hell").[30] Upon realizing the horror of what he has done ("Waiting for the Worms"), Pink becomes overwhelmed and wishes for everything around him to cease ("Stop"). Showing human emotion, he is tormented with guilt and places himself on trial ("The Trial"), his inner judge ordering him to "tear down the wall", opening Pink to the outside world ("Outside the Wall"). The album turns full circle with its closing words "Isn't this where ...", the first words of the phrase that begins the album, "... we came in?", with a continuation of the melody of the last song hinting at the cyclical nature of Waters' theme.[31]

The album includes several references to former band member Syd Barrett, including "Nobody Home", which hints at his condition during Pink Floyd's abortive US tour of 1967, with lyrics such as "wild, staring eyes", "the obligatory Hendrix perm" and "elastic bands keeping my shoes on". "Comfortably Numb" was inspired by Waters' injection with a muscle relaxant to combat the effects of hepatitis during the In the Flesh Tour, while in Philadelphia[32]” – Wikipedia

Labels: Harvest/Columbia

Review:

This was the last great album by Pink Floyd, and any fan of the band should own a copy , as it displays the band's most remarkable album, and one that contains all the hallmarks that made them great; ethereal, haunting at times, uplifting at others music, lyrical genius, and instrumental work, particularly from Dave Gilmour, that makes the ideas reality. The band's best album" Probably not. However, there's a definite case for saying that it may be the one that people are most interested in, and with very good reason. Although some people will disagree, this gets 5/5 from me” – Sputnikmusic

 

The WhoTommy

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Release Date: 23rd May, 1969 

Concept:

British Army Captain Walker goes missing during an expedition and is believed dead ("Overture"). His widow, Mrs. Walker, gives birth to their son, Tommy ("It's a Boy"). Years later, Captain Walker returns home and discovers that his wife has found a new lover. They murder the Captain in an altercation as Tommy watches. Tommy's mother convinces him that he did not see or hear the incident and must never tell anyone about it; as a result, he becomes deaf, dumb, and blind to the outside world ("1921"). Tommy now relies on his sense of touch and imagination, developing a fascinating inner psyche ("Amazing Journey/Sparks").[2]

quack claims his wife can cure Tommy ("The Hawker"), while Tommy's parents are increasingly frustrated that he will never find religion in the midst of his isolation ("Christmas"). They begin to neglect him, leaving him to be tortured by his sadistic "Cousin Kevin" and molested by his uncle Ernie ("Fiddle About"). The Hawker's drug addicted wife, "The Acid Queen", gives Tommy a dose of LSD, causing a hallucinogenic experience that is expressed musically ("Underture").[2]

As Tommy grows older, he discovers that he can feel vibrations sufficiently well to become an expert pinball player ("Pinball Wizard"). His parents take him to a respected doctor ("There's a Doctor"), who determines that the boy's disabilities are psychosomatic rather than physical. Tommy is told by the Doctor to "Go to the Mirror!", and his parents notice he can stare at his reflection. After seeing Tommy spend extended periods staring at a mirror in the house, his mother smashes it out of frustration ("Smash the Mirror"). This removes Tommy's mental block, and he recovers his senses, realising he can become a powerful leader ("Sensation"). He starts a religious movement ("I'm Free"), which generates fervor among its adherents ("Sally Simpson") and expands into a holiday camp ("Welcome" / "Tommy's Holiday Camp"). However, Tommy's followers ultimately reject his teachings and leave the camp ("We're Not Gonna Take It"). Tommy retreats inward again ("See Me, Feel Me") with his "continuing statement of wonder at that which encompasses him[2]” - Wikipedia

Labels: Decca/MCA

Review:

The full-blown rock opera about a deaf, dumb, and blind boy that launched the band to international superstardom, written almost entirely by Pete Townshend. Hailed as a breakthrough upon its release, its critical standing has diminished somewhat in the ensuing decades because of the occasional pretensions of the concept and because of the insubstantial nature of some of the songs that functioned as little more than devices to advance the rather sketchy plot. Nonetheless, the double album has many excellent songs, including "I'm Free," "Pinball Wizard," "Sensation," "Christmas," "We're Not Gonna Take It," and the dramatic ten-minute instrumental "Underture." Though the album was slightly flawed, Townshend's ability to construct a lengthy conceptual narrative brought new possibilities to rock music. Despite the complexity of the project, he and the Who never lost sight of solid pop melodies, harmonies, and forceful instrumentation, imbuing the material with a suitably powerful grace” – AllMusic

The Beach BoysPet Sounds

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Release Date: 16th May, 1966  

Concept:

Commentators and historians frequently cite Pet Sounds as a concept album, and sometimes as the first concept album in the history of rock music.[32] Academic Carys Wyn Jones attribute this to the album's "uniform excellence" rather than a lyrical theme or musical motif.[33] Even though Pet Sounds has a somewhat unified theme in its emotional content, there was not a predetermined narrative.[34] Asher said that there were no conversations between him and Wilson that pertained to any specific album "concept", however, "that's not to say that he didn't have the capacity to steer it in that direction, even unconsciously".[18] Wilson stated: "If you take the Pet Sounds album as a collection of art pieces, each designed to stand alone, yet which belong together, you'll see what I was aiming at. ... It wasn't really a song concept album, or lyrically a concept album; it was really a production concept album."[35] He added that the album may be considered an "interpretation" of Phil Spector's Wall of Sound recording methods.[36]

For Pet Sounds, Wilson desired to make "a complete statement", similar to what he believed the Beatles had done with their newest album Rubber Soul, released in December 1965.[33][nb 8] Wilson was immediately enamored with the album, given the impression that it had no filler tracks, a feature that was mostly unheard of at a time when 45 rpm singles were considered more noteworthy than full-length LPs.[39][40]Many albums up until the mid-1960s lacked a cohesive artistic goal and were largely used to sell singles at a higher price point.[39][nb 9]Wilson found that Rubber Soul subverted this by having a wholly consistent thread of music.[39][40][nb 10] Inspired, he rushed to his wife and proclaimed, "Marilyn, I'm gonna make the greatest album! The greatest rock album ever made!"[43] He would say of his reaction to Rubber Soul: "I liked the way it all went together, the way it was all one thing. It was a challenge to me ... It didn't make me want to copy them but to be as good as them. I didn't want to do the same kind of music, but on the same level"[44][nb 11]” - Wikipedia 

Label: Capitol

Review:

Forty years after release, then, while the album's initially disappointing (at least to Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys) chart showing has been vindicated by a perpetual reservoir of new fans and adoring critics - not to mention still being commercially viable enough to support recent live productions and similarly perpetual ways of reissuing the music-- talking about the music, or how the music makes you feel isn't much easier than it was in 1966. Very famous people waste no time in offering testimonials to Pet Sounds' greatness, but (probably wisely) stick to short statements about how important the record was to them as artists and musicians, or just how beautiful its music is” – Pitchfork

 

David BowieThe Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars

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Release Date: 16th June, 1972

Concept:

The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and The Spiders from Mars is about a bisexual alien rock superstar, called Ziggy Stardust.[18][19] Ziggy Stardust was not conceived as a concept album and much of the story was written after the album was recorded.[20][21] The characters were androgynousMick "Woody" Woodmansey, drummer for the Spiders from Mars, said the clothes they had worn had "femininity and sheer outrageousness", and that the characters' looks "definitely appealed to our rebellious artistic instincts".[22] Nenad Georgievski of All About Jazz said the record was presented with "high-heeled boots, multicolored dresses, extravagant makeup and outrageous sexuality".[23] Bowie had already developed an androgynous appearance, which was approved by critics, but received mixed reactions from audiences.[24] His love of acting led his total immersion in the characters he created for his music. After acting the same role over an extended period, it became impossible for him to separate Ziggy Stardust from his own offstage character. Bowie said that Ziggy "wouldn't leave me alone for years. That was when it all started to go sour ... My whole personality was affected. It became very dangerous. I really did have doubts about my sanity."[25] Fearing that Ziggy would define his career, Bowie quickly developed the persona of Aladdin Sane in his subsequent album. Unlike Ziggy Stardust, Aladdin Sane was far less optimistic, instead engaging in aggressive sexual activities and heavy drugs[26]” - Wikpedia  

Label: RCA

Review:

It was mostly recorded before Hunky Dory was released; it purports to be a concept album, but doesn't actually have a coherent concept. ("Starman", "Suffragette City" and "Rock 'n' Roll Suicide" were all late additions to its running order.) It is, nonetheless, a fantastic set of songs, overflowing with huge riffs and huger personae. "Five Years" opens the album with Bowie's grandest sci-fi apocalypse yet, Mick Ronson shreds his way to the guitar pantheon, and the band's flamboyant performance of "Starman" on Top of the Pops famously gave the next generation of British pop musicians a bunch of funny tingling sensations. The whole album, in fact, is as erotically charged as an orgone accumulator: Bowie was probably the only person who could have remained sexually ambiguous after declaring "I'm gay, and always have been” – Pitchfork  

 

The BeatlesSgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band

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Release Date: 26th May, 1967

Concept:

In November 1966, during a return flight to London from Kenya, where he had been on holiday with Beatles tour manager Mal Evans, McCartney had an idea for a song that eventually formed the impetus of the Sgt. Pepper concept.[16] His idea involved an Edwardian-era military band, for which Evans invented a name in the style of contemporary San Francisco-based groups such as Big Brother and the Holding Company and Quicksilver Messenger Service.[22][nb 2] In February 1967, McCartney suggested that the Beatles should record an entire album that would represent a performance by the fictional band.[25] This alter ego group would give them the freedom to experiment musically. He explained: "I thought, let's not be ourselves. Let's develop alter egos."[26] Martin remembered:

"Sergeant Pepper" itself didn't appear until halfway through making the album. It was Paul's song, just an ordinary rock number ... but when we had finished it, Paul said, "Why don't we make the album as though the Pepper band really existed, as though Sergeant Pepper was making the record? We'll dub in effects and things." I loved the idea, and from that moment on it was as though Pepper had a life of its own[27] ”- Wikipedia

Label: Parlophone (U.K.)

Review:

It is where the Beatles really exploit the studio as the instrument, forgoing live playing for sonic adventure. It is impossible to overstate its impact: from a contemporary Sixties perspective it was utterly mind-blowing and original. Looking back from a point when its sonic innovations have been integrated into the mainstream, it remains a wonky, colourful and wildly improbable pop classic, although a little slighter and less cohesive than it may have seemed at the time.

Some songs, such as Lovely Rita, When I’m 64, Good Morning, Good Morning, Being For the Benefit of Mr Kite and Harrison’s dour, droning Within You Without You, seem undernourished excuses on which to hang florid ideas. But the title track is an improbable scorcher, Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds a glittering gem, Fixing a Hole and She’s Leaving Home lovely chamber pieces, and the concluding A Day in the Life one of the strangest and most beautiful recordings ever, an inner-space odyssey juxtaposing Lennon’s ethereal surrealism with McCartney’s prosaic energy and wrapping it all up in an apocalyptic orchestral climax” – The Telegraph

 

Kendrick Lamargood kidm.A.A.D city

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Release Date: 22nd October, 2012

Concept:

In an interview for XXL, Lamar said that the album would not sound like Section.80, but will return to his Compton roots: "I couldn't tell you what type of sound or where I [will] be in the next five years as far as music... Back to the neighbourhood and [going] back in that same space where we used to be, got [me] inspired. So this album won't sound like Section.80."[5]

Lamar also said that the album will showcase the influence of his hometown: "The kid that's trying to escape that influence, trying his best to escape that influence, has always been pulled back in because of circumstances that be".[4] Before the album's title was officially revealed, fans had already been calling Lamar's major label debut Good Kid, Mad City or Good Kid in a Mad City, as it was a nickname Lamar had given himself. The album's title mainly refers to Lamar's childhood innocence, and how Compton affected his life. After keeping the album title's acronym concealed, Lamar later revealed M.A.A.D is an acronym with two meanings: "My Angry Adolescence Divided" and "My Angels on Angel Dust", with Lamar stating: "That was me, [and it's] the reason why I don't smoke. It was just me getting my hands on the wrong thing at the wrong time [and] being oblivious to it [6]”- Wikipedia

Labels: Aftermath/Interscope/Top Dawg

Review:

Lamar second-guesses himself, introduces a host of characters and rakes through internal conflicts – but it's all in the service of a neat whole, complete with cornily redemptive closing curtain. Perhaps Lamar's greatest gift is his ability to pull the listener inside the action while retaining an alienated detachment, most arrestingly evident on the album's double centrepiece, the eerie Good Kid ("Me jumping off the roof/ Is me just playing it safe") and the urgent M.A.A.D City. Still, the album isn't quite a classic: Lamar's depiction of downtrodden women is unnecessarily prurient and unconvincing. Oddly, two of the strongest moments are bonus tracks: Black Boy Fly's thoughtful examination of aspiration and jealousy, and Collect Calls, with its gut-punch of a final twist” - The Guardian

FEATURE: A Star Is Reborn: The Glory and Gamble of the Music Biopic

FEATURE:

 

 

A Star Is Reborn

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IN THIS PHOTO: Amy Winehouse (the late star will have her life/career turned into a forthcoming biopic)/PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

The Glory and Gamble of the Music Biopic

__________

I was going to pencil this one in for tomorrow…

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 PHOTO CREDIT: Charles Moriarty

but I have been compelled by a news report that states Amy Winehouse will be brought back to life - or have her life brought to the cinema - in the form of a biopic. It comes hot off the heels (of the news) Winehouse will be resurrected and going on tour in the form of a hologram. It is clear Winehouse’s family want her music to live on and reach new audiences but the idea of her going around the country as this sort of ghost-like project…it sort of creeps me out a bit. It is not the first time this has been done. Roy Orbison, recently, was turned into a hologram and performed, I think, with an orchestra. You wonder how far it will go and it is strange to think an artist can make money from touring – or their estate can – after they have died! In any case; it seems like new Winehouse projects are springing up. The Guardian has reported the news of the as-yet-unnamed biopic:

The family of Amy Winehouse has signed a deal to make a biopic about the late singer. Monumental Pictures’ Alison Owen – mother to Lily and Alfie Allen – and Debra Hayward will produce the film. Winehouse’s life story will be adapted by Kinky Boots writer Geoff Deane, and shooting is due to start in 2019.

The Winehouse family will act as executive producers. Proceeds from the film will benefit the Amy Winehouse Foundation. Winehouse’s father Mitch said the family had been repeatedly approached regarding a biopic but previously felt “the time was not right”.

“We now feel able to celebrate Amy’s extraordinary life and talent,” he said in a statement. “And we know through the Amy Winehouse Foundation that the true story of her illness can help so many others who might be experiencing similar issues.”

Owen and Hayward affirmed their commitment to telling the stories of “amazing women, both real and fictional”, such as Queen Elizabeth I, Bridget Jones, Jane Eyre and Mary Poppins author PL Travers. “We’re proud that Mitch Winehouse has entrusted us with the story of amazing Amy, an icon whose songs have provided the soundtrack to a generation,” they said in a statement.

Mitch Winehouse denied suggestions that Lady Gagaacclaimed for her performance in the new remake of A Star Is Born, would play his daughter. “I wouldn’t mind betting it would be an unknown, young, English – London, cockney – actress who looks a bit like Amy,” he said.

He told the Sun: “What we want is somebody to portray Amy in the way that she was … the funny, brilliant, charming and horrible person that she was. There’s no point really me making the film because I’m her dad. But to get the right people to do it, that’s very important, and we will.”

The news comes days after the Winehouse family unveiled plans for a hologram of the singer to tour the world in 2019. Her father said the tour will raise money and awareness for the foundation in the late singer’s name”.

There is that moral and ethically debate when it comes to a biopic. I am sure, if Winehouse were alive, she would be reluctant to have anyone play her. Following the acclaimed and revered Amy Winehouse documentary, Amy, back in 2015; it is understandable, given the bittersweet nature of the film, we would want to see more of Amy. New photos and songs are still being uncovered but this would be a way of presenting Winehouse’s rise to stardom in a very honest and filmic way. I am a bit torn regarding the news. Although Winehouse would probably object to the project; the fact she is no longer with us means it can go ahead and her family’s involvements means, at least, there can be honesty and some personal control. My problem lies when it comes to emotional revelation and how much is given away. I read a recent article that bemoaned biopics because, more often than not, we get a lot of the music but nothing personal or scandalous. Consider the upcoming Elton John biopic which has been described as a fantastical look at John’s career – his low moments and darker side, I guess, will not be explored:

It is “based on a true fantasy”, which is already a hint that it’s not going to be an unflinching study of the troubadour’s darkest extremes (“Freddie Mercury could out-party me, which is saying something,” Elton once said). Another hint is that it is co-produced by Elton and his husband David Furnish. The trailer alludes to moments of crisis – 70s Elton daytime-drinking in his dressing gown, winding up in hospital – but, as its star Taron Egerton has explained, Rocketman is more fanciful musical than conventional biopic, with “his songs used to express important beats in his life”.

That is not to say we demand to see our music icons at their most debauched, merely that the involvement of band or close family can mean skeletons remain in the closet. It happened with NWA’s Straight Outta Compton, which counted Dr Dre, Ice Cube and Eazy E’s widow, Tomica Woods-Wright, among its producers. The movie was great, but you would never guess that NWA often had less-than-progressive views about gay people, or a history of assaulting women”.

Biopics can be great because they tell more than interviews and, in the case of the best ones – which  I shall end with – they can be eye-opening and bring new life to artists. The fact biopics skip stuff like assault, criminality and drug abuse might be to preserve the artist’s name and reputation – even if we know about it; do you want to see that on the screen?! It is all very well hankering after some Elton John drug-taking and one of his legendary strops being brought to life but the biopic is a chance to celebrate the music and the person who made it. Would ‘honesty’, in that sense, sour the name and leave a bitter taste by the end?! Maybe there is the feeling that (that artist) will be subject to backlash if all was known or we might be less inclined to listen to their music. It will be interesting to see what they do with the Elton John biopic – when it arrives – because he is an icon and there is a lot of story to tell!

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 IN THIS PHOTO: Sir Elton John/PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

There are subjects I feel will follow – David Bowie, surely, must be primed for a biopic soon?! – and Elton John is a fantastic artist whose music has endured for decades. One of the reasons why I am itchy about the Amy Winehouse documentary is the way some things will be held back. The fact her family are having a hand in means Winehouse’s drug and alcohol abuse, her torrent relationships and tabloid scrutiny will probably be omitted. How much are we going to see of the Winehouse who would often come to gigs inebriated or would be hounded by the press?! It is hard to see that on the screen but a biopic should be a true, warts-and-all study of an artist. One of the reasons why Sacha Baron Cohen withdrew from the Freddie Mercury biopic, Bohemian Rhapsody, is because Mercury’s life is not being explored in that much depth. Rami Malek has taken the role of the icon but it seems like Mercury’s hedonism and somewhat ‘free-spirited’ side is not being given an outing. How much will the film going into Mercury’s death and his sexual life?! It seems like the film highlights Mercury’s genius and peerless voice but there is not a lot of attention paid to his personal life and how he spent time away from the stage. This article – sorry to keep quoting The Guardian but they seem to be across it all! – talked to the new star of the project and revealed why Baron Cohen departed:

A couple of years ago, after he’d left this production, Sacha Baron Cohen gave an interview in which he explained that it was the chance to explore Mercury’s darker side that made the idea of a biopic appealing. “There are amazing stories,” Baron Cohen told Howard Stern in 2016, “the guy was wild… There are stories of little people with plates of cocaine on their heads walking around a party.” Baron Cohen’s suggestion was that he left the film because of his unease at the pricklier stuff being left out. He went on to tell a cruel story about how the surviving members of the band did not believe that any movie about Queen should culminate at the point of Mercury’s death, in 1991; instead they thought a better movie would carry on to show how the surviving members went on to grow the band without him”.

Malek chooses his words carefully here, but he does not shy at all from addressing the subject. “It’s an arduous thing to tell someone’s life in just two hours,” he says. “What’s the nature of celebrating a life? Definitely not avoiding his death in any way, or what caused his death, which is the Aids virus. But I think if you don’t celebrate his life, and his struggles, and how complicated he was, and how transformative he was – and wallow instead in the sadness of what he endured and his ultimate death – then that could be a disservice to the profound, vibrant, radiant nature of such an indelible human being”.

It is interesting there are three biopic coming out – Freddie Mercury now; Amy Winehouse and Elton John fairly soon – where the stars had vivid personal lives!

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IN THIS PHOTO: Rami Malek (who stars as Freddie Mercury in Bohemian Rhapsody)/PHOTO CREDIT: Mario Sorrenti (styled by Edward Enninful) for W Magazine

Drugs and drink, to an extent, is a common link but one can see a certain controversy and darker side with all three artists. I want to end on a positive note and celebrate music biopics that have worked and revered but, if you do not set the right tone or pick the right lead actor; it can go down in history as a  turkey – that artist, then, loses some of their credibility and people become less interested. Some of the less successful and acclaimed biopics – 1991’s The Doors and 2004’s Beyond the Sea (where Kevin Spacey plays Bobby Darin) – have been written off and showed that the music biopic can be a risky and flawed concept. Whilst it would be good to see the likes of David Bowie, Prince and others brought to the big screen; it is tricky to avoid pitfalls and obstacles along the way.

This Washington Post article is packed with information and really opened my eyes when it came to biopics that ‘miss’ and those more successful:

The musical biopic has become such a cliche-riddled genre that it’s already been suitably parodied, in the 2007 comedy “Walk Hard,” in which John C. Reilly plays Dewey Cox, a singer who falls prey to the usual rock-star depredations of drugs, fame and petulant self-indulgence. “Walk Hard” goes broad in its comedy, but it aptly calls out what has become the audience’s morbid fascination with watching talent and promise being summarily extinguished: In “I Saw the Light,” Tom Hiddleston’s able portrayal of country singer Hank Williams is all but swamped in a drab, “Behind the Music”-like rehash of Williams’s history of alcoholism, drug abuse and marriage troubles. Viewers may leave the film impressed with Hiddleston’s physical resemblance to Williams, but with no deeper perception of what made his writing and singing so achingly powerful.

But when an actor plays a familiar cultural figure, some degree of impersonation isn’t just necessary — it’s welcome. For viewers to become immersed in the reality being portrayed on screen, the actor must deliver a carefully calibrated collection of externals — how the person they’re playing looks, walks and talks — and psychological internals, a subtle mix of playacting and psychic merging. The result, at its best, is not only an uncanny depiction of someone audience members instantly recognize and accept as the person in question, but also represents a new creation, a third character born of the actor’s own emotional truth and transparency. When a performance is constructed merely of externals, however accomplished, it becomes an exercise in camp: Rather than new or meaningful insight into the person being portrayed, the audience gets the relatively cheap pleasure of novelty and technical achievement — the “trick” of the portrayal itself”.

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 IN THIS PHOTO: Tom Hiddleston as Hank Williams in I Saw the Light/PHOTO CREDIT: Sam Emerson/Sony Pictures Classics

When it comes to our most cherished icons, oblique is better than straight on. Characterization surpasses caricature. Interpretation transcends impersonation. The more abstract the aesthetic choices — the more the audience is encouraged to acknowledge rather than ignore the gap between performer and subject — the better the chances that a movie will avoid Wiki-ready narratives and “Walk Hard”-worthy cliches and become a thoughtful, densely layered, vividly specific portrait. After all, the artists these biopics celebrate were never content with on-the-nose homages to their influences”.

Whether a music biopic is an interpretation of any artist or a straight-on study of a musician; there is so much to take in and remember. Rolling Stone put together their essential guide to the very best music biopics and, among the top-ten, was 8 Mile (2002):

Loosely inspired by Marshall Mathers' life as a struggling rapper in Detroit, 8 Mile is a 21st-century Rocky, with the man who dubbed himself Eminem bobbing and weaving through his first starring role. But there's no point worrying over the biographical details: What matters is that Em's naturalistic performance as the scrappy, blue-collar Rabbit embodied the same raw vulnerability and edgy candor that powered his music”.

Straight Outta Compton (2015) was highlighted and praised for its storytelling and how it mixed truth and hard-hitting with something less controversial:

Produced by the surviving members of N.W.A., Straight Outta Compton is the authorized biography of the hip-hop trailblazers, and the worst thing that could be said about it is that Dr. Dre and Ice Cube have made a glossy monument to their own importance. But that's the best thing about it too: For inner-city black men forced to work with powerful white gatekeepers in the music industry — and getting ripped off most of the time — it's a triumph that they'd be the ones to print the legend nearly three decades later”.

 

Sid and Nancy (1986) is a lauded biopic that deals with a lot of excess, recklessness and tragedy but, rather than dedicate the film to something deeply unpleasant or skip the details altogether; it is a beloved film because it strikes the balance and does not obfuscate and disguise:

Alex Cox's account of ex–Sex Pistol Sid Vicious' descent into drug addiction, culminating with the murder of his girlfriend, Nancy Spungen, and his fatal heroin overdose, now looks less like punk than prog: It's a movie of grand, orchestrated gestures rather than guttural immediacy. (See the slow-motion shot of Vicious and Spungen kissing against a dumpster while trash rains from the sky above them.) But Gary Oldman's incarnation of Vicious' self-abnegating charisma is so magnetic than even the Pistols' John Lydon, who told Cox after seeing the film that he ought to be shot, was moved to praise the performance. And Chloe Webb's glass-shattering Nancy is the perfect soul-sucking Bonnie to his malignant Clyde”.

Perhaps the best of recent times – I’m Not There from 2007 – is a study of one of music’s most complex, fascinating and influential figures: the genius that is Bob Dylan:

How do you possibly try to encapsulate the life of Bob Dylan — one of the rock era's greatest shape-shifters — in a single film? If you're Carol director Todd Haynes, by splitting that life into different eras and influences, casting everyone from Cate Blanchett to Richard Gere to Heath Ledger to Christian Bale to portray separate shards in Dylan's rich, confounding mosaic. I'm Not There is both thrilling and inquisitive, staying away from chronology and straight biography to grasp, in a larger sense, how Dylan remade the world while constantly reinventing himself over the years”.

Write a fantasy list of those artists you’d like to see on the big screen and I am sure their lives involved some upheaval or excess. From Oasis and Janet Joplin through to Chris Cornell and Michael Jackson – you cannot truly represent these artists without delving into their private lives and getting a complete picture. I am not sure how Bohemian Rhapsody will be perceived but I have my fingers crossed. I have yet to come round to the idea of Amy Winehouse’s live being brought to the screen but I hope it does not glaze over the hard times or paint people in a false light! The same can be said of Elton John: Will he be painted as this pure and God-like figure or will it be a semi-factual fantasy?! It is tempting to make a film about an artist/band because we love the music and their lives are fascinating but there are so many gambles and problems to navigate. If everyone can consult and ensure Amy Winehouse is treated with respect then it could work. I think the best music biopics have not shied away from those darker moments but they have not focused too heavily on them. Getting the tone right is important you need to ensure your lead actor/actors are right and fit the bill – there is a rumour someone like Lady Gaga could be lined up to play Winehouse.

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 IN THIS PHOTO: Lady Gaga (who is one name being suggested to play Amy Winehouse in a forthcoming biopic)/PHOTO CREDIT: Inez and Vinoodh for Vogue

I, personally, love a biopic and think it is a worthy endeavour but there have been some mishaps through the years. Given the fact there is a clear demand and appetite to see loved artists on the screen is great and it is a fantastic way of preserving the music and making it reach new audiences. I think Amy Winehouse and Queen will get renewed interest and fresh fans following their biopics and both, in their own way, will be successful. If you get the biopic wrong then it can take something away from the music and we have seen enough examples of subpar and derivative attempts. If they are perfected and you can strike the right emotional, visual and intellectual tones then the results can be spellbinding. I do not think any artist is too precious to have their stories told but it is that key consideration – how MUCH do we go into their personal lives and revealing demons?! – that needs to be handled, managed and explored.

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PHOTO CREDIT: Charles Moriarty

Whilst I am sceptical, at this early juncture, about an Amy Winehouse biopic (Frank for the title, do you think?!); I look back at the very best music biopics – artists like Sid Vicious and Bob Dylan given a very good film – and feel there is that potential to create something wondrous. The Freddie Mercury biopic has had its problems and delays and I hope those issues do not blight the Winehouse biopic. If they are both successes then that could open the doors for other artists, gone or still with us, to have their lives explored on screen. If it brings their music to new audiences and is done in the right way then who can complain?! It is always risky when embarking on a music biopic but, if you nail everything and that perfect balance is struck, then it can lead to something…

TRULY epic.

FEATURE: Learn How to See Me: Racism in the Music Industry and the Influence of Black Artists: Black History Month: The Playlist

FEATURE:

 

 

Learn How to See Me: Racism in the Music Industry and the Influence of Black Artists

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

Black History Month: The Playlist

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YOU do not need me to tell you…

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 IN THIS PHOTO: Prince/PHOTO CREDIT: Steve Parke

that there has been racism in music for decades - black artists being overlooked and given less attention than anyone else! We are midway through Black History Month and I have been thinking about black artists who have changed music…and continue to do so. I am not able to include all the fantastic black artists working today – most of my playlist is of established artists – but I know for a fact there are so many terrific examples working in the underground. Cover most genres and showing immense talent; I wonder whether their path to the mainstream will be fraught. I know things have improved over the past few years in terms of award show nominations and visibility but we only need go back to the 1980s to realise how black artists like Michael Jackson struggled to get on music T.V. It was okay for black musicians to have their music heard but when it came to having their faces on the screen…that was a different matter!  I wonder how far things have come and whether there has been any genuine movement. Back in 2015, when the VMA nominations were announced; Nicki Minaj was omitted. There was a lot of talk, Minaj among them, of a racial bias regarding nominees:

When the VMA 2015 nominations were announced on Tuesday 21 July, we figured we already knew the results. Sure, Taylor Swift would need to accessorise her designer dress with one of those shopping bags on wheels to cart about all of her awards, and of course Ed Sheeran would rack up two or three (or four, or five, or six) nominations for himself, too. And obviously Nicki Minaj – whose video for Anaconda broke the VEVO record for the most views in 24 hours when 19.6 million people watched it in the space of a day – was a dead cert too”.

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IN THIS PHOTO: Nicki Minaj/PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images 

But despite the video’s undeniable impact, Anaconda was only nominated for two awards – Best Female Video and Best Hip Hop Video – missing out on the Best Music Video of the Year category. And Nicki’s collaboration with Beyonce, Feeling Myself, didn’t make the cut at all.

Of course, this is the 21st century, so Nicki took to Twitter to question MTV’s judging process. ‘Hey guys @MTV thank you for my nominations. Did Feeling Myself miss the deadline or…?,’ she tweeted, before adding: ‘If I was a different “kind” of artist, Anaconda would be nominated for best choreo and vid of the year as well…If your video celebrates women with very slim bodies, you will be nominated for vid of the year.’

And the depressing thing is, she’s not wrong. She’s not being a sore loser, and she’s not making a fuss about nothing. Because whatever you think of Nicki, or of her music videos, there’s no denying the fact that racism is still rife within the music industry (and the rest of society).

To put it simply: When Britney Spears got naked and covered herself in sequins for Toxic, she was nominated for Best Music Video. When Emily Ratajkowski got naked next to Robin Thicke in Blurred Lines, he was nominated for Best Music Video. When Miley Cyrus stripped off and broke a million health and safety rules by riding a piece of construction equipment, she wasn’t just nominated for Best Music Video of the Year – she won it. All of the above videos have been controversial, but they were acknowledged by the industry for their impact nevertheless”.

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 IN THIS PHOTO: Rihanna/PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

That news story generated a lot of talk regarding racism in music and whether black artists are being overlooked. A lot of the heavy press and debate occurred in 2015 and there followerd black power/rights anthems from the likes of Kendrick Lamar (which I shall talk about). Another artist who was speaking about racism in the industry (in 2015) was Rihanna. Like Minaj and many of her peers; she had to (and still does) fight against racism and getting less attention than her white peers:

I have to bear in mind that people are judging you because you’re packaged a certain way – they’ve been programmed to think a black man in a hoodie means grab your purse a little tighter,” said Rihanna. “For me, it comes down to smaller issues, scenarios in which people can assume something of me without knowing me, just by my packaging.”

With regards to the music industry, the ‘Umbrella’ performer claimed the racism “never ends”.

“When I started to experience the difference – or even have my race be highlighted – it was mostly when I would do business deals… That never ends, by the way. It’s still a thing. And it’s the thing that makes me want to prove people wrong. It almost excites me; I know what they’re expecting and I can’t wait to show them that I’m here to exceed those expectations”.

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 IN THIS PHOTO: Kendrick Lamar/PHOTO CREDIT: Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

Given these stories that came up in the press; a lot of protest and anger came from black artists who felt they were being snubbed and put down. In fact; one can look back earlier than 2015 in regards that vocalisation and anger. This article in The Guardian highlighted artists like Kendrick Lamar and how they responded to race issues in music – and racism in wider society in the U.S. It is an illuminating read:

The sound of Kendrick Lamar’s Alright rang out like a clarion call this year, from clubs, cars and house parties to police harassment protests. With prevalent, uncompromising lyrics like “Nigga, and we hate po-po/Wanna kill us dead in the street fo sho,” the standout moment of To Pimp a Butterfly was quickly established as the year’s definitive political anthem.

In the months following Killer Mike’s impassioned pre-show speech that went viral after the Ferguson grand jury decision in 2014, discussion of US race relations in popular culture has amplified, with many artists politicising their music with renewed urgency. To Pimp a Butterfly was a visceral outpouring of this pain, which, in some cases, provided the language in which to fight back. It’s an album that uses nuance to deal with complex emotion , and its humour rewrites the mono-narrative of the NWA-era angry black male. That the hip-hop group’s biopic Straight Outta Compton came out in August affirmed the timelessness of these issues.

It was, however, D’Angelo’s release of Black Messiah at the end of 2014 that ignited an explosion of musically charged revolts. The album carefully moves between uncontrolled rage and considered production; a political shift for the artist, who wrote many of its tracks as a reaction to watching the Ferguson protests. His first album in 14 years touched on themes of systemic racism (1,000 deaths) and structural power (The Charade) through country funk, silky R&B and metronomic basslines”.

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 IN THIS PHOTO: Aretha Franklin/PHOTO CREDIT: RB/Redferns

I think there have been some minor changes and steps but I feel like there is still a long way to go. I grew up around so many great black artists. Everyone from Stevie Wonder and Aretha Franklin to Michael Jackson and Prince made their way into my ears. Now, I listen to a lot of Hip-Hop and Rap and fantastic R&B; brilliant black Pop artists and, in truth, I never see skin colour as an issue. It is stilly to have to say that but I cannot understand why there are these prejudices and stereotypes when it comes to black artists! I cannot get to grips with all the brilliant black artists who are pushing boundaries, changing the scene and breaking ground. I will end with a playlist but, as this article shows, black artists are evolving music and subverting expectations – from the surprise album drop through to mixtapes; they are among the most compelling, original and inspiring artists around:

Black musicians today continue to experiment. New subgenres of music, such as drill, footwork, and trap, have made gains in the hip-hop and electronic music world. Last year’s Billboard charts featured both black and white artists making trap or trap-influenced music. Derived in the late 1990s and early aughts from Southern black hip-hop artists, trap has proven to have immense staying power, with artists in such disparate genres as pop (Miley Cyrus), R&B (Jeremih), and EDM (Diplo, Hudson Mohawke) experimenting with its sonic textures.

The most consistent change to the music distribution model is the surprise album drop. First popularized by Beyoncé, the practice gained traction in the early to middle part of the current decade through artists like D’Angelo, Erykah Badu, and Kendrick Lamar. Artists establish themselves in the consciousness of music listeners, simultaneously surprising and delighting”.

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IN THIS PHOTO: Erykah Badu/PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

“I didn’t want to release my music the way I’ve done it,” Beyoncé told Vogue on the day her self-titled fifth album dropped. “I am bored with that.” In the online documentary Self-Titled: Part 1—The Visual Album, the singer expresses frustration over the current release-hype structure that prioritizes singles over complete albums. It would take a performer with a keen visionary sense to attempt to redirect the conversation surrounding album releases, and someone like Beyoncé, newly liberated from previous management and revered enough by a consistent and loyal fan base to take a risk with something new, would have be the one to do it. 

Like their rejection of structured release cycles, many black artists are now bypassing labels entirely. Frank Ocean released his visual album, Endless, which technically fulfilled his contractual obligation with Def Jam Recordings, one day before he self-released Blonde, his second proper studio album, to critical and commercial acclaim. “While the credits at the end of Endless name Def Jam, the metadata on Blonde simply credits ‘Boys Don’t Cry,’ which is also the title of Ocean’s new magazine,” wrote Pitchfork about the release. Since then, Ocean has rejected other musical institutions, namely the Grammys, which he claimed in an interview with the New York Times’ Jon Caramanica, “just doesn’t seem to be representing very well for people who come from where I come from and hold down what I hold down”.

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PHOTO CREDIT: @chrisbair/Unsplash 

Can black musicians remain revolutionaries? From the creation of music genres such as blues, jazz, and rock and roll to the utilization of the mixtape for creative experimentation, black musicians are not afraid to experiment stylistically, sonically, or structurally to express themselves. History and our very understanding of American music and pop culture have proven the success of black musicians as genre creators and genre breakers. From capitalizing on the surprise album drop to rejecting music labels altogether, black musicians prove they have as much room for creative freedom as ever — as long as they pursue it. The future of music was black. The future of music will always be black”.

You only need look back through the years – and the fantastic artists in music now! – to understand how pivotal black music is. Many assume it is a genre but there are genius black artists playing in nearly every genre. Maybe it will take a while longer before there is equality and stereotypes are replaced with respect; award shows and festivals take a look at their racial breakdowns and greater respect is provide to black artists. As it is Black History Month; I have compiled a playlist contained inspiring and fantastic black artists. Spanning decades, genres and tastes; it is a playlist that, to be fair, only scratches the surface. There are so many brilliant black artists making music today and it is rather dizzying. My biggest hope, following Black History Month, is those in the music industry look at how black artists are perceived and celebrated – less fervently than white acts – and they make changes…

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IMAGE CREDIT: Getty Images 

SOON enough.

INTERVIEW: Ruby Randall

INTERVIEW:

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Ruby Randall

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THANKS to Ruby Randall

for talking about her single, The City, and what the story behind the track is. I ask which albums are most important to her and whether she has any goals to achieve before this year is through – she talks about a brief move from Canada to Spain and why she has relocated.

I ask Randall which aspiring musicians we need to follow closely and whether there are any gigs booked; if she has any advice for artists coming through; whether there is a special musical memory that sticks in her mind – she ends the interview by picking a cool track.

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Hi Ruby. How are you? How has your week been?

My week has been a bit wild. I’ve just moved from my home in Canada to Almeria, Spain. I’m here for nine months teaching English to high school-age kids and learning Spanish. I also really wanted to slow my life down and take some time to do the things that I’m always longing to do while in the city - making music being one of them! I’m a social worker back home in Toronto, so don’t get as much time as I’d like to make music. 

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

For those of you who are new to my music, my name is Ruby Randall. I’ve just recently released two new tracks - The City and Loaded Man - under my own name. I played in a band called beau for a long time in Toronto and this is my first solo release since the band’s split.   

The City is your latest release. What is the story behind the song?

The inspiration behind The City actually has a lot to do with my current move to Spain: I was feeling a bit resistant to Toronto’s pace of life. I was always feeling like I wanted to move more slowly and that I was only scratching the surface of things because I felt pulled in so many directions.

I was also really aware of how easy it was to keep myself distracted in a big city and how this sense of distraction kept me from being fully present, or landing on the depth that I so often crave from life. Since moving to Spain, my life has been substantially slower. I live by the sea. Nature just moves more slowly and gives you the opportunity to do the same. 

What sort of music did you grow up around? Did you have a varied upbringing?

I grew up around a lot of Canadian-made Folk music, perhaps unsurprisingly. My parents played a lot of music made by their friends. My mom also loved Emmylou Harris and Lucinda Williams. Every time I hear these women, I’m reminded of my mom cooking in the kitchen and the house being calm. My dad loves Bluegrass and played in a Bluegrass band. I still remember the words to most of the songs that his band would play. 

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What do you hope to achieve by the end of this year?

By the end of 2018, I hope to begin to learn how to produce my own music. This is a big task! A lot of my pals who are really good at producing their own music have been at it for the past decade. I don’t expect to be a master by the time I’m done in Spain, but I’d like to have a handle on the process so that I can at least make demos with fully-realized ideas to take with me into the studio.  

Is there a special musical memory that sticks in the mind?

The last show that my band beau played was really special. Perhaps, because we knew it was our last. We had a full house and my family and all my pals were there. We played a great show and the energy in the room was just really wonderful. It felt really good to be ending our time together as a band on such a high note. It actually felt a little bit like something was just beginning and, interestingly, it was the ending!

If you had to choose three albums that mean the most to you, which would they be (and why)?

I always find these questions really hard to answer! The three albums that mean the most to me... mmm….

Perhaps Land of Talk’s Applause Cheer Boo Hiss. Although, honestly, I love each of their albums. This album was just the first one that I fell in love with. Liz Powell, the frontwoman of Land of Talk, is a really good guitar player and I’ve always admired female artists who are both incredible singers and really good at their instruments.

Emmylou HarrisWrecking Ball; because it was played in my house for my entire childhood and immediately makes me feel at ease.

I still know all of the words to Destiny’s Child’s The Writing’s on the Wall, so this is my third choice. This album reminds me of how good I felt in my skin when I was twelve. 

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

If I could support any musician alive right now, I might choose Sharon Van Etten. I love her music a lot; it’s so painfully beautiful. Or Land of Talk or Feist. I also might choose someone like Maggie Rogers, because her music is so much fun and I feel like we could be pals. Haha.

My rider would just be full of yummy snacks. Cheese and crackers, olives; salami, fresh fruit and mango juice. Yum.  

What advice would you give to artists coming through at the moment?

My advice to any new musician would be to do your best to be kind to yourself. Putting what you have made out into the world can be hard - it makes you really vulnerable. Do your best not to compare yourself to others! This can be especially hard with social media. Stay connected to own relationship with your creativity - why you love to create things and what feels good about sharing what you make with others. 

Can we catch you on the road very soon? Where are you heading?

I have no tour dates coming up. I’m going to spend the winter writing music in Spain and working on some recordings I made in Toronto before leaving. 

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IN THIS PHOTO: Noname

Which new/rising artists do you recommend we check out?

New artists that I recommend you check out: Noname. She has a new album out called Room 25, but I especially love her older album Telefone. Also; La Force just put out a self-titled album that is so good. TBT, Lucky One and Mama Papa are my favourite songs off of La Force’s new album. Merival and Anna Wiebe are two of my good pals from Canada who make beautiful music and sing with me on many of the tunes on my upcoming E.P. Check them out!

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 IN THIS PHOTO: Le Force

Do you get time to unwind away from music?

I have recently set up my life so I get a lot of time to make music. Prior to coming to Spain, I didn’t have a lot of time outside of my day job to even make music, so this feels like a special treat to myself. Music is not my full time gig, although I would feel lucky if it was! Currently, I unwind by swimming in the salty sea, cooking, and spending time with one of my best pals, Maya, who lives in Spain with me. She’s magic. 

Finally, and for being a good sport; you can choose any song (not one of yours) and I will play it here.

Can you play TBT by La Force? I can’t get it out of my head! 

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Follow Ruby Randall

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INTERVIEW: Bertie Scott

INTERVIEW:

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Bertie Scott

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I am starting off this week…

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by interviewing Bertie Scott and asking him about his new track, Feel Alive. I ask Scott whether there is more material coming down the line and which artists he grew up around; if there are rising artists we need to get behind – I ask if we can see the songwriter tour at all.

Scott highlights a few albums that mean a lot to him and tells me what the scene is like where he is in Southend-on-Sea; how he unwinds and relaxes away from music; what he hopes to achieve by the end of this year – he ends the interview by selecting a great modern track.

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

Hi, Sam! I’m all good, thanks. Been a busy week getting everything all prepped and ready - new music out tomorrow; first track I’ve dropped in a while and there’s always last-minute things to rush and get sorted. It’s always the way. Haha.

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

So. My name is Bertie Scott. I’m a songwriter from Southend-on-Sea, Essex (just outside of London). Doing the Pop/Alt-Pop thing.

Feel Alive is your latest single. Is there a story behind the song at all?

So. The main chorus idea for Feel Alive actually came about when I was driving my car. I pulled over straight away and recorded a voice note on my phone – sometimes, when you get random ideas you’ve gotta get them down as soon as possible or they’ll disappear from your mind forever. It’s happened too many times and you always think you’ll remember…but 80% of the time they’re gone by the time you get back to your house. I was actually doing a co-writing session with Jack and Rob from a band called Holloway Road the next week. When we met up, I showed them and the rest of the pieces just fell into place.

The concept behind the song is literally about being alive. Most of the time, we’re so drawn in and programmed by society to do the same thing every day; work 9-5, get back; sit down, watch T.V.; same thing day in day out. It’s so stale. But, sometimes, you just wanna get that buzz from life and really feel something.

Might see more material in 2019? How far ahead are you looking?

Absolutely. I took some time out from releasing music recently and focused on writing. As a consequence, I’ve got a whole backlog of songs recorded up and ready to go. I should be good for the next six months and, at the same time, I’ll be writing and recording even more! I wanna put out as much music as possible. The next track for release is just around the corner as well.

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Can you give me a sense of the artists you grew up around? Who do you count as idols?

Michael Jackson - King of Pop. My mum used to play his stuff all the time when we were younger and still does. When I really got into music, though, I remember being fascinated by all the local bands in the area. Me and my friend used to go religiously every Friday to the local venues and watch/listen to music. It was wicked. Some of the bands were so good and I used to buy their C.D.s and go home and learn how to play the tracks and jam out to them on my own for hours.

You are based in Southend-on-Sea. Is there a strong music scene there at the moment?

Absolutely. It’s getting stronger all the time. Some great bands have come from this area. The Horrors went to my school; some of the Nothing But Thieves boys were in my class; Charley from Rixton is from Southend. There are some wicked under-the-radar acts here right now - it’s just a matter of time before some someone crosses over that line again.

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

More music released, more songs written. Honestly, I just wanna get the new tracks out as soon as possible. My favourite song I’ve written so far is still to come - we play it live in the set at the minute but the recorded version is even better. I can’t wait for everyone to hear it.

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

I played at Pride Festival in Southend this year and it’s the first time I’ve really heard people sing the words back at me when I was on stage. It was amazing and they were so loud as well. I could hear them over the music! It was only a short set, but so good.

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

Dangerous - Michael Jackson

It’s the first L.P. I remember seeing at home and the way it kicks into the first track is just so good. I always remember seeing it around at home when I was little. The artwork on the front is so cool too. It’s such a nostalgia thing and it takes me right back to when I was younger.

Avenged SevenfoldAvenged Sevenfold

Seems like an odd choice but, honestly, the first concert I ever went to and still one of the best. My sister got tickets for her birthday and we all went to Brixton Academy to see them play. I didn’t know any of the songs and wasn’t really into Rock music back then…but I literally had that record on repeat for weeks and weeks after we got back from London that night.

So difficult to choose: there’s so many I wanna pick. I’m gonna go with 1989 - Taylor Swift

It made me believe in Pop music again.

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

Probably Taylor Swift. I ended up getting last-minute tickets to her London gig recently and it was the biggest live show I’ve ever seen. So good. The energy in that stadium was insane. I’d love to be a part of that. Or play with Sia. I haven’t seen her before but I reckon she kills it…

Rider-wise; if anyone can slip in some avocado Maki…I’m in.

What advice would you give to new artists coming through?

I would say the songwriting is even more important than ever. There was a point when playing live and getting out there was more important, but I think it’s switched round again - especially in the age where social media seems to be ruling. The songs really have to come first and have to be really tight. And, also, don’t be afraid to collaborate!

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

Absolutely. I’m playing at Medicine at Royal Holloway University on 9th November; O2 Islington Academy on 29th November and Zetland in Huddersfield on 30th November. I’m doing some Xmas lights switch-ons as well in November/December. Type in ‘Bertie Scott Tour Dates’ into Google and follow me on Bandsintown for the full list.

How important is it being on the stage and playing your music to the people?

Very important. It keeps me going. I can’t imagine not having any shows to look forward to. Writing music and being in the studio is great too. I love both sides – but playing it live is very different (even if the music is exactly the same).

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 IN THIS PHOTO: Emma McGrath/PHOTO CREDIT: CK Goldiing

Are there any new artists you recommend we check out?

If you haven’t already; check out Emma McGrath. We played a show together recently up in London and she’s killing the game. Her songwriting is so good and she’s got one of those voices you could listen to for hours. If you haven’t heard of her yet, you will soon.

Also; TS Graye. I came across her as she worked with a producer I know but her voice is wicked too and I’ve got her latest track basically on-repeat at home.

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 IN THIS PHOTO: TS Graye

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

Sometimes. But, I if spend too much time away, I get an itch to crack on with stuff. Doing music is a 24/7, 365 thing. Once you’ve got the bug, it doesn’t stop. And, if it does, that’s the time to quit. Although, I have definitely learned you need to take a break sometimes as it’s good to reset your brain. My parents have got a little place up in Norfolk we sometimes go up to and, if you go out-of-season, there’s literally no one there in the town. It’s so good to rest and unwind there.

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).

Sucker Punch by Sigrid. Literally just came out the other day and it’s such a tune. Another track I’ve got on constant repeat on my Spotify playlist

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Follow Bertie Scott

FEATURE: The Class of '68: The Other Albums Which Were Delighting Fans and Critics the Year ‘The White Album’ Was Released

FEATURE:

The Class of '68

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IN THIS IMAGE: Jimi Hendrix/IMAGE CREDIT: enricovarrasso 

The Other Albums Which Were Delighting Fans and Critics the Year ‘The White Album’ Was Released

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IN a series that looks at The Beatles’…

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eponymous album - and why it is being heavily promoted and celebrated -; I am breaking away from the album itself and looking at the other albums released in 1968. It is clear The Beatles was a hard album to top in that year but, look at what else was released, and you can see a wealth of brilliance – some genius album that are hugely loved to this very day. 1968 was a year that saw the first on-screen interracial (in Star Trek); the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy; two black U.S. athletes taking a stand against racism and discrimination at the Olympics - Apollo 8 was the first manned spacecraft to orbit the moon. I have collected together the ten biggest albums from 1968 that helped define a wonderful year for music. Maybe you will disagree with my rundown or you might be unfamiliar with some of them. In any case; there is a lot of brilliance among the list and it is clear The Beatles was in good company! Have a look at these ten huge albums and realise what a tremendous year for music…

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 PHOTO CREDIT: @pear/Unsplash

1968 was.

ALL ALBUM COVERS: Getty Images

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The Jimi Hendrix ExperienceElectric Ladyland

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Date of Release: 16th October, 1968

Producer: The Jimi Hendrix Experience

Standout Cut: Voodoo Chile

Simon & Garfunkel - Bookends

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Date of Release: 3rd April, 1968

Producers: Simon & Garfunkel/Roy Halee

Standout Cut: Mrs. Robinson  

Otis ReddingThe Dock of the Bay

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Date of Release: 23rd February, 1968

Producer: Steve Cropper

Standout Cut: (Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay

Van MorrisonAstral Weeks

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Date of Release: 29th November, 1968

Producer: Lewis Merenstein

Standout Cut: Cyprus Avenue

Aretha FranklinLady Soul

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 Date of Release: 22nd January, 1968

Producer: Jerry Wexler

Standout Cut: (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman

Small FacesOgdens’ Nut Gone Flake

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Date of Release: 24th May, 1968

Producers: Steve Marriott/Ronnie Lane

Standout Cut: Lazy Sunday

The Rolling StonesBeggars Banquet

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Date of Release: December 1968

Producer: Jimmy Miller

Standout Cut: Sympathy for the Devil

The KinksThe Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society

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Date of Release: 22nd November, 1968

Producer: Ray Davies

Standout Cut: Picture Book

Johnny CashAt Folsom Prison

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Date of Release: May 1968

Producer: Bob Johnston

Standout Cut: Folsom Prison Blues

The BandMusic from Big Pink

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Date of Release: 1st July, 1968

Producer: John Simon

Standout Cut: The Weight

FEATURE: Hard Work Needed in the Volunteer State: Why Are Country Music Stations Ignoring Women?

FEATURE:

 

 

Hard Work Needed in the Volunteer State

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IN THIS PHOTO: Kacey Musgraves/PHOTO CREDIT: Eric Ray Davidson for GQ 

Why Are Country Music Stations Ignoring Women?

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MY eye has been caught be an article that…

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 IN THIS PHOTO: A shot of Nashville, Tennessee (the centre for Country music in the U.S.)/PHOTO CREDIT: @theexplorerdad/Unsplash

is being shared on social media. It was written by Jessica Hooper (for ELLE) and looked at female artists in Nashville standing up against a blatant ignorance of Country artists. The piece centres around a ‘Song Suffragettes’ event that collates Nashville’s premier and preeminent weekly showcase for female songwriters. The reason why this event is gaining traction and attention is because of shocking statistics regarding the male-female ratios on Country music stations. The piece brings us into that world and the event. Candi Carpenter and four other women take to the stage and sing each other’s choruses; there is that connection and the night is explained clearly – getting women in Nashville heard and ensuring there is an equal grounding. There are so many great female artists coming out of Nashville but Country music is, perhaps, the biggest genre celebrated there. Tennessee music tends to focus on Nashville and at the centre of the centre is Country. The genre gets a bit of a kicking from music snobs but it has evolved over the years and incorporates so many others sounds. It is not about the plaintive strumming and drawling vocals; the same old heartbreak and something rather cheesy. Modern Country steps in various directions and is a whole lot more accessible, varied and appealing than you might think.

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 IMAGE CREDIT: Getty Images

I do not need to defend the genre – because it is great – but the issue relates to women being overlooked. The reason I chose Kacey Musgraves as the ‘cover star’ of the article is that her acclaimed album, Golden Hour, debuted at number-one with very little support from Country radio! Listen to the album and you get so many different sounds and angles coming in. There is heartbreak and contemplation but a whole lot of fun and captivation. It is a record that sees Musgraves co-write every track and in control throughout. She shines and bursts and shows what an immense talent she is. Musgraves impressed with her previous studio album, 2015’s Pageant Material, but Golden Hour is s step-up and a bigger statement. Musgraves co-produced the album alongside Daniel Tashian and Ian Fitchuk and ensures it is a much bigger and more eclectic record. It is the sound of a wonderful female artists remaining in the Country genre but putting in Blues-Rock, Pop and other genres. A lot of the lyrics and themes are familiar to those who like their Country pure and uncomplicated but the performances and compositions are incredibly detailed, huge and impassioned. In essence; it is a fantastic album that should go down as one of this year’s very best! It was released in Marc but has gained its acclaim and chart positions through the label and Musgraves, I guess. Transitional Country radio, who should support Musgraves, gave it relatively little support and affection!

It is a shame that this occurred but listen to Country radio, especially in Nashville, and it is not a shock. I guess radio in this country should do more to promote female artists and I do not feel there is a fifty-fifty balance at all. Male artists are always favoured but the issue is especially pronounced in the U.S. Nashville is a hub where so many tremendous female artists are out there playing at local gigs and trying to get their music to the masses. I have been following the music coming out of the so-called ‘Volunteer State’ for a while and know how many fantastic female songwriters are striking my mind. Artists like Jess Williamson, Lacy Cavalier and Tenille Townes are among the new breed of Country/Country-tinged artists who, one suspects, has to fight a lot harder than their male peers. I hear from people there is a rule where they space-out the gap between male and female artists on Country stations. You would be hard-pushed hearing two female songs together. I am not sure whether there is this assumption female artists are inferior and do not have that commercial appeal – maybe they are not what traditional Country fans want to hear – but it seems completely idiotic. I look at the ELLE article and the facts speak for themselves:

In the past few years, the number of female artists on country radio has been steadily declining. According to trade publication Country Aircheck, in 2016 female artists made up 13 percent of radio play; by 2017, that figure was down to a meager 10.4 percent. The country radio programmer quota–cum–excuse that fuels this inequity is that “one woman an hour” is plenty. In response, labels have grown reluctant to sign female talent, knowing that radio won’t support them. Festival and tour promoters excuse the dearth of female country acts on lineups by pointing fingers at radio and labels, insisting that there are not enough bankable female artists to draw from—just superstar headliners like Miranda Lambert and Carrie Underwood”.

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 IN THIS PHOTO: Tim McGraw/PHOTO CREDIT: BMLG

Women are being systematically locked out of the scene and having to graft and grind to get their music heard. That assumption that they (the female artists) are not bankable and lack that real star quality is rubbish! Listen to artists like Kacey Musgraves and what she is putting out and you will find a lot of similar, if inferior, artists who are taking Country to new heights. I have followed the genre for years and always hear about the successful male artists. From my childhood being fed Garth Brooks to the slightly new acts like Tim McGraw, Florida Georgia Line and Keith Urban. There are female-fronted Country acts like Lady Antebellum but, considering the solo artists, and it is the men who get the most attention. Ashley Monroe, Ashley McBryde and Brandi Carlile are among the new breed offering scintillating work but there is that heavy focus on the men.

The issue has been in plain sight in Nashville for years, though efforts to address gender inequity are more recent. Change the Conversation, an organization founded by CMT executive Leslie Fram, industry stalwart Tracy Gershon, and journalist Beverly Keel, began holding meetings with industry leaders in 2015 to raise awareness and advocate for change. The organization—and also Shorr’s career-launching anthem “Fight Like a Girl”—gained momentum in the wake of “SaladGate,” a 2015 incident in which radio consultant Keith Hill told Country Aircheck that female artists are the tomatoes, and not the lettuce, of the country music salad, and should be programmed sparingly. His evidence: In 1997, spotting a downward trend of listenership on 35-plus country stations, Hill theorized the issue was too many female artists. He tested the hypothesis with four stations, who he says saw a ratings boost after cutting the number of spins of female stars”.

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 IN THIS PHOTO: Carrie Underwood/PHOTO CREDIT: Mike Coppola/Getty Images

Kacey Musgraves resists the assertion female Country artists are not popular and women do not like hearing other women sing. There have been some who say female Country stars are best played sparingly because it is better on the ears and rating stay higher. The male voice, it seems, is more varied and palatable and female artists can be sprinkled in to add to the pot. Musgraves is among those calling out stations and asking whether this years-lasting discrimination is based on any fact or sensible explanation. It all comes back to that false claim: women do not like hearing female Country artists perform. Maybe they assume they’ll sound like Dolly Parton or Patsy Cline. Maybe that was okay years ago but now, when Pop/R&B artists are more soothing on the ears, do we want to embrace female Country artists who will be slightly atonal and grating?! That is not my view and I think there is that falsehood being perpetuated. I keep coming back to Hooper’s findings and wonder why great artists like Carrie Underwood have to fight so hard – considering she is a huge success and has an enormous fanbase:

Carrie Underwood, whose total global sales of 65 million records have made her the biggest artist in the history of country music, agrees with Musgraves’s assessment. “I think it’s really great that there’s fan advocacy and social media support around women in country music, because there are so many incredible female artists who, for some reason, are not being given a chance,” she says. “We are told time and time again that the women listeners who make up the majority of country music radio listeners don’t want to hear other women on the radio, which I think is not true. Growing up, it was incredibly important to hear strong, amazing, talented women on the radio. It let me know that I could do that, too”.

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IN THIS PHOTO: Members of the Song Suffragettes backstage before a performance/PHOTO CREDIT: Paul McGee

One of the positive movements that has been born from this discrimination and exclusion is WOMAN. That stands for The Nashville Women of Music Action Network and this comes in the wake of #MeToo and Time’s Up. Whilst other genes have seen campaign and action; Country has been lacking and nothing has come up to speak for female artists. Women, in Country, are not seen as leaders in the same way someone like Beyoncé might be seen in R&B. If you look across all of music and how often do you see the media and radio promulgating female artists and heralding them as leaders?! You see plenty of attention for male bands and Popstars but rarely will you find journalists highlighting women as leaders. Maybe female journalists will do their part – I have seen great articles about Christine and the Queens and Neneh Cherry where they are spoken about as goddesses – but it is a rarity.  Country music is a genre with so many incredible female examples who are being overlooked for no reason. It seems like WOMAN is much-needed and determined to make change:

Nashville WOMAN’s tactics are a strategic pivot from the way Change the Conversation and others have been operating so far; the group is public-facing in its presentation of solutions. They tweet screenshots of what Hot Country weekly playlists would look like without male artists, often highlighting a lone female artist in rotation—naming and shaming dozens of stations directly. They’ve had some success with request campaigns and have offered research to Country Radio Seminar and advocated for Time’s Up messaging at the Country Music Association Awards. What has gotten the most notice, though, is Carrie Underwood’s Cry Pretty Tour 360, specifically, her decision to bring an all-female lineup—Maddie & Tae and Runaway June—on the road with her. Underwood says her choice was based on her desire to give young talent a boost, adding, “It’s really wonderful to see female artists supporting each other. That is one amazing thing that has come out of the lack of females being supported in country music: We are all rallying together”.

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IN THIS PHOTO: One of Country music’s rising names, Jess Williamson/PHOTO CREDIT: Chantal Anderson

Spaces and systems like Hot Country have excluded women for a while and modern musicians like Kacey Musgraves and Carrie Underwood are rebelling and taking matters into their own hands. They might have to work harder than you’d expect but they are pushing hard to get their music heard and prove, when it gets huge acclaim, that the ‘rules’ and cultures in Country is denying the world of so many great musicians. There are great events and nights in Nashville where women are taking to the stage and showing what unity and talent there is.

A growing number of female artists have begun taking matters into their own hands. For Brandi Carlile, whose By the Way, I Forgive You debuted at number five on Billboard in February with negligible support from Hot Country radio, this means being the change. In July, she announced Girls Just Wanna Weekend, a destination festival with an all-female, country-leaning lineup co-headlined by Carlile and insurgent hitmakers Maren Morris, Margo Price, and the Indigo Girls, scheduled to take place in January in Riviera Maya, Mexico. Carlile’s inspiration for the festival comes from Lilith Fair, founded in 1996 by Sarah McLachlan to refute radio programmers’ refusal to play female artists back to back. That touring festival grossed over $60 million in its initial three-year run, and Carlile seeks to create a similar space of inclusion for her fans. “We want to be in the conversation—to see the pendulum swing in our direction. We want to be in the headlining slots on festivals because we’ve earned it, and to be played on radio, not as a niche or a novelty, you know?” Carlile says. “We don’t want to hear, ‘Well, we’ve got our woman on this festival lineup’ or ‘We’ve already played a woman in this hour.’ We’re not a genre. We’re half the world”.

Every genre and area of music can do more to promote women and I feel, as feminist movements come through, we can no longer avoid the nonsensical guidelines and exclusions that mean men get most of the exposure. Country is a genre that can only exist, thrive and diversify with female artists and look at modern artists like Musgraves, Underwood and their peers and you can hear what talent is there! God knows how many rising female artists there who are playing in bars around Tennessee – and states like Texas – that want to get their music played on Country radio! In this country, we have stalwarts like Bob Harris who gives a fair airing to female Country stars and is passionate about promoting equality and talent-based exposure. He, in fact, has provided a platform for a number of female artists through the years and is someone who never considers gender when it comes to picking songs – so long as it sounds great then it has its place. It seems U.S. radio needs to take this approach and have champions like Harris in control of playlists and shows! Modern Country playlists in the U.S. are not based on talent and quality: it seems men, whatever they are putting out, will get the most focus. This bent and broken system is so bowed to the desires of big labels and the sexist practices that need to be eroded. Some good work is being done from the ground in Nashville but I wonder how far the problem spreads. There are great Country artists around the U.S. – and in the U.K. who also want their music played here – and the Country stations like WSIX-FM and WSM are largely beholden to male artists. I was not fully aware how severe the situation is and how hard big Country artists like Kacey Musgraves have had to work to get on some sort of equal footing. I think the problem extends beyond Nashville itself but the heart of Country seems to be there so it is the most pronounced example. Country, as a whole, has a countrywide illness that needs curing. A lot of work needs to be done but, as the likes of WOMAN and Song Suffragettes are showing; there is a huge problem and stations/labels are not helping. It is a huge shame to see female Country artists ignored and pushed away but let’s hope, very soon, some positive changes…

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 PHOTO CREDIT: @daniel_von_appen/Unsplash

ARE made!

FEATURE: Long, Long, Long: The Beatles’ Eponymous Masterpiece at Fifty: An Album That Continues to Reveal Magic and Mystery

FEATURE:

 

 

Long, Long, Long

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IN THIS PHOTO: The Beatles during the summer of 1968/PHOTO CREDIT: Don McCullin

The Beatles’ Eponymous Masterpiece at Fifty: An Album That Continues to Reveal Magic and Mystery

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THERE is a lot of celebration and anticipation…

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 IMAGE CREDIT: Getty Images

regarding the fiftieth anniversary of The Beatles’ eponymous album. With its iconic white cover – hence its nickname – and four sides (when it came out on vinyl); it is a record that continues to amaze people and compel discussion. I am listening to a three-hour investigation of the album by Martin Freeman on BBC Radio 6 – studying the songs and speaking to high-profile figures about the record and the impact it made on them. It is a fascinating thing and it is good to see an album – a double-album, I know – get such a thorough going-over. Every Beatles album deserves that sort of acclaim and given the fact we are talking about their work this far down the line shows how much they mean to us! 22nd November is the official fiftieth anniversary of the album but it is good to get in there and get the party started. Billboard have outlined what we can expect and, to promote the remastered version of The Beatles that is coming up, spoke with Giles Martin (Beatles producer George Martin’s son) about the work and some interesting facts:

The Beatles’ longest, strangest work is about to get a new look. Ahead of its 50th anniversary (Nov. 22), a greatly expanded edition of 1968’s The Beatles (widely known as The White Album) -- helmed by producer Giles Martin, son of Beatles producer George Martin -- will see release on Nov. 9.

The set contains revealing mixes of the original double LP, refreshed versions of its acoustic demos, and unreleased recordings from George Harrison’s bungalow in Esher, London, fresh from the band’s fabled Rishikesh trip.

According to Martin, The White Album sessions weren’t exactly the volatile trip that has been fossilized into Beatle lore. Sure, there were spats, including Starr leaving the group in a huff and heading to Sardinia on Peter Sellers’ yacht, or George Harrison recording over 100 takes of a song allegedly about McCartney’s controlling, repressive effect on him”.

I am going to get the remastered version but there will be vinyl versions and DVDs released. Keep an eye out in the coming weeks and make sure you treat yourself to a real bumper package! Looking at the Billboard interview and it was the question as to why Giles Martin (and co.) decided to look through the vaults and bring the album back to life:

This isn’t the first repackaging of The White Album, and the story of its making — drama, discord and Maharishi — has long been codified into myth. Of course, the reality of it was more complex. Did you still feel there are undiscovered corners of this album and its legend that could still beguile longtime listeners?

In all honesty, I think what beguiles listeners is the songs themselves. The story behind the record is what people write about, but at the end of it, you don’t listen to a song thinking about that. For me, what was surprising about The White Album was how cohesive it is as an album, as far as its creation. My dad was never a fan of it because he had such a tough time making it. He went on a holiday halfway through because he was just sitting in the studio listening to the band jamming for hours on end”.

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IMAGE CREDIT: Getty Images 

I am amazed the album managed to get recorded and The Beatles actually have it out in the world! Things started quite positively and normally but it started to go wrong and cracks appeared. There were tensions and personal disputes but the music stands out. I will talk about the songs themselves in a bit but it is quite funny Paul McCartney was drumming on songs for The Beatles. Ringo Starr drummed on most of the songs but there was a bit of a bust-up and Starr left – he would return to find his drum kit adorned in flowers with a sweet message from his bandmates. It seemed McCartney had drumming ambitions in 1968:

Did Paul have drummer dreams in 1968?

I think lots of bands’ members have drummer dreams. Steven Tyler joined Aerosmith because Joe Perry liked his drumming. The drummer on “Walk This Way” was Steven Tyler, originally. So, that really annoys drummers. Ringo left, not because the Beatles were breaking up, but because he was pretty pissed off. But then when he went, they realized they weren’t the Beatles. There were four of them, and then he was gone. And when he came back, they filled the studio with flowers.

So much is written about things. I mean, even when I hear Yoko on the recordings, she sounds sweet, and they’re having a laugh; it’s not just her with John. I know it became difficult; it became difficult at Abbey Road as well. There was a bust-up because she ate George’s biscuits -- just a stupid thing. But it gets written about, and written about, and it becomes this big thing”.

 

When we get the remastered songs and demos; it will bring together dialogue snippets and bring The Beatles to life. This article gives more life and colour – as to what we can expect – and I know many people who are keen to explore and investigate the hidden depths of the fabulous ‘White Album’. I am going to get involved because I am compelled to find out whether there was this myth regarding the stresses in the studio. I have read about the arguments and how each Beatle recorded some of their material alone. It is clear they were not the focused and together band that arrived years before – did the introduction of Yoko Ono and her larger role in the camp play a decisive role?! A fascinating article from LOUDER took a look at the album and how things were faring at the time. It was a rather fraught road into the studio:

Bound together by the captivity of fame, The Beatles came to resent their essential closeness. And by 1968, as they set about recording their eponymous double White Album, they were pretty much sick of the sight of each other. Just as telepathic harmony between the four Beatles had facilitated the creation of perfect pop, so growing disharmony bred the raw, discordant fury of rock”.

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IN THIS PHOTO: John Lennon and Yoko Ono during the recording of The Beatles/PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Imges

Personal problems and romantic splits were playing a role in the lives of The Beatles. Lennon, especially, was suffering a lot and in need of someone he could feel safe with and adore:

Trapped in a loveless marriage, obsessed with thoughts of Yoko and unable to sleep (an insomnia diarised in the White Album’s I’m So Tired), he wrote Yer Blues. Reminiscent of Fleetwood Mac and the other blues boomers, the song was indicative of the fact that Lennon was far from happy. “When I wrote ‘I’m so lonely, I want to die’,” he admitted, “I’m not kidding. That’s how I felt, up there, trying to reach God and feeling suicidal.”

Having travelled to India in search of direction and wise counsel from a parental figure, Lennon found only disillusionment. He left Rishikesh in a huff, accusing the Maharishi (falsely, as it turned out) of making a pass at Mia Farrow, an incident chronicled in the accusatory Sexy Sadie. “I was rough on him,” he said. “I always expect too much. I’m always expecting my mother and I don’t get her. That’s what it is.”

Within a month John and Cynthia’s marriage had ended and he was in a relationship with Yoko”.

Even if marriages and changes in their lives was making the business of making music tough; it seems each Beatle wanted to work individually and create, essentially, four different solo albums:

When the four Beatles finally took their individual songs into Abbey Road Studios in May 1968, they worked more autonomously than ever before. Abandoning the meticulous crafting that had served them so well on Sgt. Pepper, they jammed out a few backing tracks collectively, but generally worked individually.

The majority of the White Album was recorded as if four solo albums were being made simultaneously. McCartney was no longer editing Lennon and vice versa, Harrison was left to his own devices, and Ringo spent entire days twiddling his sticks in the studio’s reception; each songwriter took care of his own overdubs separately. A frustrated George Martin eventually abandoned production duties to go on holiday. His position as omnipresent fifth Beatle had been usurped”.

You should read the entire article but it is clear there was a point when The Beatles, as a functioning band, went past the point of no return. They would finally split a couple of years later but there were regrets and unhappiness present in 1968. In an interview long after The Beatles was released; John Lennon talked about his experiences:

I was too scared to break away from The Beatles, which I’d been looking to do since we stopped touring [in ’66],” Lennon revealed in 1980. “I was vaguely looking for somewhere to go, but didn’t have the nerve - so I hung around. And then I met Yoko and fell in love: ‘This is more than a hit record. It’s more than everything…’”

Lennon was hypersensitive to any negative reaction to his newly attached Siamese twin. The indignation of his fellow Beatles was at least understandable, but the negative press and public reaction to Yoko was not. It was this undue criticism (partly born of racism) that particularly rankled. A dormant hard-man persona came to the fore in Lennon. The moptop-era puppy fat was gone forever, now replaced with a lean, mean demeanour: Lennon the Peace Yob. It was the template for Liam Gallagher 25 years later, and a role Lennon himself would inhabit for the remainder of the decade.

Angry John was easily mistaken for Political John. Resentful that nobody liked his new girlfriend, he started ranting about peace, furiously planting acorns and shouting at journalists from bed. In so doing he inadvertently supplied the blueprint for Bono and every other rock star who assumes that just because they can sing in tune they’re Mahatma Gandhi, Winston Churchill and Jesus Christ rolled into one.

There is a lot to unpack there but I feel, like Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours, one could make a film about the album and how it was made – given the fact there was a cyclone of drugs, struggles and band members warring. It is a fascinating snapshot into a band who were fresh-faced and brothers in 1962/1963 but, a few years later, they were starting to fray and that love was missing. They did manage to make peace and create more cohesive work but what is astonishing is how GOOD the music on The Beatles is! The final snippet of that fascinating article I want to bring in seems to sum up the album perfectly and what was achieved:

The Beatles were a leviathan, a cultural colossus whose influence on their musical contemporaries was wholly unprecedented and remains unsurpassed. They were the first four-piece guitar band to smoulder moodily in leather jackets and shades; the first to grow their hair, to fly their freak flag, to tune in, turn on and flaunt it in the tabloids; the first to India; the first to soundtrack a Revolution; and the first to fall out over the first – and still the very best – Yoko.

With the White Album, The Beatles delivered all the necessary components for what we now know as classic rock, but the disharmony that facilitated its birth proved fatal. As John Lennon himself acknowledged: “The break-up of The Beatles can be heard on that album”.

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PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images 

All of the tensions and sarcastic remarks being made at various recording sessions could give the impression the band were not bothered about music and wanted to get through quickly. The reason why we are still enticed and addicted to The Beatles is because of the passion exuded in every note! The fact the band decided to release a thirty-song album – almost unheard of at the time and something risky in today’s culture! – is a bold and extraordinary move. If they were out of love with music itself then they would dash off a short album but, as it was, there was influence and inspiration working through the blood of each band member. Maybe their sojourn in India had sparked endeavour and genius but, whatever the catalyst was, the boys were keen to record these varied and brilliant songs. Although George Harrison and Ringo Starr were writing and part of the process; the main songwriters were Lennon and McCartney! There is this feeling that McCartney was the slightly cheesy one who was writing disposal ditties whilst Lennon was the strict and tempestuous rival who was penning more serious music. McCartney had written a couple of sillier songs on 1967’s Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club BandLovely Rita and When I’m Sixty Four, for example – so it was no surprise that he would have a few on The Beatles – Maxwell Silver Hammer (for Abbey Road) would show he was not willing to drop that line of enquiry after the 1968 drama.

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 IN THIS PHOTO: The Beatles during the summer of 1968/PHOTO CREDIT: Don McCullin

Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da is not one of the most serious and memorable songs from McCartney but Lennon provided the equally-silly The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill and, to be fair, both of these titans created a lot of hugely important work. From McCartney’s Blackbird, Helter Skelter and Back in the U.S.S.R. to Lennon’s Sexy Sadie, Happiness Is a Warm Gun and Glass Onion – some of the best work either songwriter had come up with was on this album. It is the sheer variety and consistency of the work that amazes me. Maybe Lennon was being inspired by Yoko Ono and his creative attitude was being inspired by hard changes and new discovery: McCartney, maybe, was funnelling tensions and a sense of dislocation into new adventures. Whilst those songs I have mentioned are the best from both; they had a load more songs on the album and it is a great window into their mindset and world. Maybe Lennon just shades it in terms of quality and those memorable cuts but The Beatles allowed Lennon and McCartney to go wild and come up with material that, for any other album, might have been questioned or nixed. As a child, when I discovered the album; songs like The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill and Wild Honey Pie were keener to my ear but, as I cry older, I understood the layers of Glass Onion and the hidden delights of Long, Long, Long – a song that gets some criticism but I actually like! Scrappy, less-memorable songs like Piggies (Harrison) and Why Don’t We Do It in the Road? (McCartney) all make sense of are part of an important documentation. Nothing is expendable and you are hooked by the incompleteness and wackiness of some moments!

I love the charm of Martha My Dear and Harrison’s epic, While My Guitar Gently Weeps. The Beatles is a scattershot statement of intent from a band who, for much of the recording, were tense and divided. At a time when we are straying away from albums as a format; the likes of The Beatles are essential and engrossing artefacts. I hope, on 22nd November, everyone spins the album and unravels all the quirky asides, intense songs and incredible moments. If you can get the remastered and re-released spread – with its demos and rarities – that will give you a much more complete and interesting look at The Beatles. Even if you do not like every track on the (double) album; you have to concede that there is so much to take away and treasure! One can only imagine the daily reality of making such a challenging piece of work but, if it was a disaster in terms of quality, we might have reduced ‘The White Album’ to the level of an interesting footnote. As it stands; fifty years from its release, we are still engrossed and moved by this incredible and nuanced slice of wonder from The Beatles. It may be fifty years since the record arrived in the world but, I wonder, can you think of another record as intriguing, sprawling and fantastic…

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 IMAGE CREDIT: Getty Images

AS The Beatles’ eponymous work of genius?!

INTERVIEW: Maggie Szabo

INTERVIEW:

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Maggie Szabo

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THE wonderful Maggie Szabo

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has been telling me about her single, Don’t Give Up (she has just released the song, Wide Awake, alongside No Class), and how it came together. I ask her what we can expect from her upcoming E.P., Worthy, and which musicians are important to her; which three albums are important to her and how she got involved writing for other artists and T.V. placements.

Szabo talks about her plans going forward and how important it is being on the stage; what she does when she is not making music; the rising artists we need to check out and get behind – she picks a classic song to end the interview with.

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

Hey there! My week has been great! I literally just landed in Amsterdam and am writing this at my friend’s dining room table at their home close to Vondelpark.

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

My name is Maggie Szabo and I’m a recording artist and songwriter from a small town in Ontario, Canada but currently live in Los Angeles.

Can you reveal the story behind your single, Don’t Give Up? How did that come to be?

I was inspired by the lyric idea ‘don’t give up on love,’ and that’s where the song started. It’s a feeling we’ve all felt before and the lyrics and melody came very naturally. I wanted the lyrics to be really honest, which is where the first line of the verse came from: “Everyone knows this world isn’t perfect”. Once I finished recording the song, I knew that the video had to stand for something and I wanted it to stand for something I truly felt for.

I decided I wanted to make a video that shed light on transgender issues particularly trans kids. So many trans kids are being discarded by their family and are forced to live on the streets. I wanted the spirit of the video to genuinely portray the story of a teenager struggling with their gender identity.

It is from the E.P., Worthy. What sort of themes defines the E.P.?

I named it Worthy because I wanted the E.P. to feel empowering. I want it to be a reminder that everyone is worthy.

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Which musicians do you count as idols? When did music come into your life?

There are too many idols to name! Music came into my life at an early. Some of the first artists that I fell in love with were Carole King and Tracy Chapman. I really look up to them because they are such amazing songwriters and artists as well. Their lyrics feel really honest to me, so I think they had a huge influence on my writing growing up. I also sang in a Jazz band when I was a kid so Etta James definitely made an impact on me. I also love Justin Timberlake, Sia and John Mayer.

You have written for other artists and for T.V. placements. Was there a moment that you knew you needed to concentrate on your own material?

My own music has always been a priority for me but I have always loved writing for other projects. Songwriting makes me happy, no matter what it is for. It’s a very different feeling having someone else sing my material other than me because it’s such a great compliment and I truly feel honoured when someone else wants to use my music for their own. I try and balance both equally because some of my best material wasn’t necessarily written with myself in mind; it was more about just writing a great song.

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

I have some collaborations coming out with some amazing D.J.s and I will also be releasing a Christmas song! I will also start planning ideas for a tour next year.

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

I thought about this for a good few minutes…and I honestly can’t say I have one specific memory that is my favourite. Performances, being in the studio and landing in L.A. when I first moved here are all memories that will stick with me forever.

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

Tapestry by Carole King; Continuum by John Mayer and Justified by Justin Timberlake mean a lot to me because they all contain some of my favourite material from my favourite artists. Nowadays, I don’t listen to full albums as much because now the music industry is more focused on singles - but I definitely spent a lot of time listening to those albums.

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

Definitely Justin Timberlake would be someone I would love to support! If I could support him, I don’t care what my rider would be (smiles).

What advice would you give to new artists coming through?

If you want to pursue a career in music, be willing to sacrifice everything you have for it.

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

I am playing on October 18th in Amsterdam as part of ADE and, on Nov. 4th, at the Palm Springs Pride!

How important is it being on the stage and playing your music to the people?

So important! I love feeling the energy of the audience in the room - it’s so inspiring. It’s also a great way for me to see what material people react to and that helps inspire my new music.

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Are there any new artists you recommend we check out?

I’m sure you already know him, because he is mega-successful, but I have been listening to all of Chris Stapleton’s music. I work a lot in the EDM world, so some of the D.J.s and producers I work with in Europe aren’t super-familiar with his music, but I definitely recommend everyone listen to Stapleton’s songwriting; there is so much to be learned.

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

I love health and fitness as it keeps me feeling good and it helps me to stay mentally focused on my goals. When I’m not in the studio, you can often find me in the gym or running outside listening to 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).

It's Too Late - Carole King!

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INTERVIEW: Jay Miners

INTERVIEW:

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Jay Miners

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I have been speaking with Jay Miners

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about her latest track, Something Alive, and the story behind it. The song’s video has just been released so I was keen to talk about the song and see where she is heading next. Miners discusses her path into music and which artists are important; how crucial N.Y.C. is a base and which rising artists we need to get behind.

Miners tells me about her upcoming E.P. and what she wants to accomplish by the end of the year; if there are any gigs coming up and which albums have influenced her most – I ask whether she is coming to the U.K. and how she spends time outside of music.

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

Hey, Sam! My week has been great, thanks! Working a lot and I’m adjusting to this weird fall transition happening in N.Y.C.

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

Sure! I’m Jay and I am what I like to say a songwriter singing her own songs. I grew up playing Classical piano, but fell in love with writing songs when I was about fourteen. It took me a while, but I started performing these songs on stage and found it exhilarating sharing them. Now, writing and performing music is my main work. I’ve just wrapped up recording an E.P., dropped the first single off of it and am gearing up to play some more shows.

Something Alive is your new single. Can you reveal the story behind the song?

I wrote Something Alive about a year ago and it’s inspired by the book I’m working on now. The story itself is about a young Asian-American woman who is both inspired and haunted by her mother, who was a renowned journalist and has presumably died. The book frames as a murder mystery, but it aims to explore the main character’s identity as an Asian-American woman today, very much trying to figure out who she is. It’s still in the works but its themes, as well as my own experience, definitely influenced this song and music video!

I understand an E.P. is coming along. What sort of themes and ideas influenced it?

Yes! The E.P. audio is done and we’re rolling it out with a few singles and some video/visuals - and the full thing will be released in January 2019. The record is very much centered around the theme of making, creating and art. These songs were written during a period of pretty big change in my life - I was in my first really committed relationship; I left a full-time job to focus on music and I was spending a lot of time alone just trying to write songs and stories.

I came to many realizations about my own work; like what inspires me and how to keep productive. That process - which is messy and uncertain and constantly changing but so, so fulfilling - definitely bled into these songs. 

Which artists do you consider to be role models and inspirations?

My parents’ C.D. collection definitely inspired me growing up; I gravitated towards classic singer/songwriters like Simon & Garfunkel, Joni Mitchell and Elton John. Vienna Teng had a great influence on me when I was a teenager - it was one of those things when you see someone who looks like you - doing the thing that you love to do, which was writing songs - and you think: ‘Hey, I could actually do this’. You don’t realize how much of an impact someone like that has on you until you start pursuing it, either.

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How important is New York regarding your style, songwriting and passion? Do you get driven by the people around you?

New York definitely plays a part in my songwriting. When I was a teenager, all I wanted to do was write songs about New York, which is honestly what fuelled my entire first E.P. I love living in New York: there’s a way it makes you feel both lost and inspired at the same time. There’s also this hustling feeling you get from living here,where you feel like you always need to be doing something more. It keeps you on your toes, for sure.

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

Release two more singles off of the E.P., each accompanied by visuals (both art and video) that really enhance the meaning of the songs. Play more shows and connect with listeners and other artists. Write new music. And, hopefully, take a really long nap in between all that.  

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

My first show at Rockwood Music Hall in April 2017. One of the most heart-warming feelings I’ve ever had on stage was when I played the last song, Sunlight in Your Eyes, and at the end. I directed the audience to sing “oohs” with me. And they were all singing, and I was singing, and the room just filled up. There’s a video on YouTube of this. I’ll probably hold that memory close for a long while.  

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

Tough question! It changes every other day. For now; these are my most beloved:

Rumours (1975) by Fleetwood Mac

Legendary album. Taught me good melody lines and harmonies. Every track on this album is strong. I play it pretty often and I’m never sick of it. There isn’t a favourite track off this, but right now I’m really feeling You Make Lovin’ Fun.

Inland Territory (2009) by Vienna Teng

When this album came out, I was sixteen and I remember, one evening, I was lying on my bedroom floor with headphones on and just had this album on replay. I gravitate back to this album often. Each song is intricate, well-thought-out and has something to say. St. Stephen’s Cross and Stray Italian Greyhound are my top off the album – although, this rotates often. 

Dearest Everybody (2018) by Inara George

This has been a recent favourite. Inara’s voice is heavenly and each song is sweet and interesting. Crazy is my go-to off this album – so beautifully crafted, lyrically and musically. 

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

Probably Joni Mitchell - and I’ll ask her questions about songwriting all day. Lots of tea and the occasional birthday cake - even when it’s no one’s birthday.  

What advice would you give to new artists coming through?

I’m still a new artist myself and I’m still learning something new about the work and about myself every day. Two things I’ve learned that have really helped me stay on the ground are:

1) Keep working on your craft. I really had the opportunity earlier this year to focus on songwriting - I challenged myself to write a song every week for about three months (and I did). Most of those songs were thrown away (the good ones landed on the new E.P.). Scheduling myself to produce work continually was new, frustrating and exciting and it really gave me a chance to realize that there are so many ways for me to foster growth as a musician and writer.   

2) Have confidence in your work and don’t put anyone on a pedestal. Getting rejected is part of the game and getting a little discouraged by it is, too. But, get back up; move on to the next and keep fighting for your art…because you are your biggest advocate and you know you’ve made something worthwhile.

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

I’m planning to play a few N.Y.C. shows before the end of the year. All my show dates are available on my website at jayminersmusic.com/shows.

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

I’d love to! That would be a dream. It probably won’t happen in the very near-future but I see it happening soon for sure.

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 IN THIS PHOTO: Treya Lam

Are there any new artists you recommend we check out?

Treya Lam’s album Good News is great. Joy Williams is dropping a new album soon. Artists that I’ve crossed paths with that are really great – Samantha Rise and Sarah Kang. Also; Alex Wong, who is working on his second album right now, is one I’m excited about that. 

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 IN THIS PHOTO: Joy Williams/PHOTO CREDIT: Andy Barron 

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

When I step away from music, I usually spend time with my family. If I get an evening alone to myself, I’ll snuggle on the couch and fall asleep watching Grey’s Anatomy. That’s the best.

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).

Geyser by Mitski. My recent obsession

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