FEATURE: Sounds Alright to Me! BBC’s Sound of 2019: Diverse Sounds and Female Dominance  

FEATURE:

 

 

Sounds Alright to Me!

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IN THIS PHOTO: Ella Mai/PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images 

BBC’s Sound of 2019: Diverse Sounds and Female Dominance  

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ONE can struggle to take in all the polls and lists that...

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 IN THIS PHOTO: Octavian/PHOTO CREDIT: Ollie Adegboye

recommend us to watch very artists next year. There are a lot of lists out right now - myself included – and it can be tough honing down to a few names that are truly marked for success. It is time for the BBC to present the runners/long-list for their Sound of 2019. It is an interesting selection that has more female artists included than men. Sexism and gender inequality still rules in music but, with the BBC making their picks of 2019 female-heavy; it is a big step and an important one. There is a good spread of genres and sounds and, in terms of sonic diversity, we have quite a lot of interesting directions and choices. The Guardian have proved details of the nominees and figures for the latest BBC recommendations:

Women dominate the BBC’s list of rising artists tipped for success in its annual tastemaker poll. Flamenco star Rosalía, south London rapper Flohio and British R&B success Ella Mai appear on the BBC Sound of 2019 longlist.

Six of the 10 nominees are female. London songwriter Grace Carter is signed to the same management company as Dua Lipa and Lana Del Rey. King Princess, AKA Mikaela Straus, is a 19-year-old queer pop songwriter from New York City with a fan in Harry Styles.

Irish singer-songwriter Dermot Kennedy has been compared to Rag’n’Bone Man, while all-male London four-piece Sea Girls are the only band on the list...

The top five artists will be revealed from 7 January, with the winner revealed on 11 January. The 10-strong long list has shrunk from 15 in previous years.

The prize celebrates musicians who have not been the lead artist on a UK Top 10 single or album by 22 October 2018. Artists who have appeared on TV talent shows within the last three years are also ineligible”.

It is a good cross-section of artists and I like the fact that there are more women in the list than men. Pop has not got much of a shout and it seems, in terms of BBC and their tastes, they are going in new directions. Because we have a few more weeks until we know who will be crowned BBC’s ‘Sound of 2019’; I have included all the artists and their social media channels; a sample of their material and, in the words of the BBC, what they are like/what their sound is. Have a look and listen at the prestigious ten because it seems, between them, these artists are going to make 2019’s music scene...

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IN THIS PHOTO: King Princess/PHOTO CREDIT: Adam Benn/Mushroom Promotions  

A very interesting place.

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Grace Carter

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PHOTO CREDIT: Next Management 

Bio:Searingly personal, piano-led pop

Location: London

Twitter: https://twitter.com/itsgracecarter

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/itsgracecarter/

Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/artist/2LuHL7im4aCEmfOlD4rxBC?si=t9tD0xaKRGSJl_yscjJ-Kw

Standout Cut: Saving Grace

Flohio

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PHOTO CREDIT: Hanna Moon for DAZED 

Bio:Raw, punchy, poetic rap

Location: London

Twitter: https://twitter.com/flohio16

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/flohio/

Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/artist/7qffELscxpltKCso3ByH67?si=BGAJY1uHS5KmD0KdtlHXTQ

Standout Cut: 10 More Rounds

 

Dermot Kennedy

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PHOTO CREDIT: Christian Tierney

Bio:Folk roots with a hip-hop influence

Location: Dublin

Twitter: https://twitter.com/DermotKennedy

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/dermotkennedymusic/

Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/artist/5KNNVgR6LBIABRIomyCwKJ?si=EoqKpw9FRpyf4aI9rMO3dw

Standout Cut: Power Over Me

 

King Princess

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PHOTO CREDIT: Ryan McGinley for Interview 

Bio:Queer pop queen-in-waiting

Location: N.Y.C./L.A.

Twitter: https://twitter.com/KingPrincess69

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/KingPrincess69/

Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/artist/6beUvFUlKliUYJdLOXNj9C?si=DJH8XS0OQkO9L08mqo4RNw

Standout Cut: 1950

 

Mahalia

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PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images 

Bio:Casual, effortless soul anthems

Location: Leicestershire/Birmingham

Twitter: https://twitter.com/mahalia

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/mahaliamusic/

Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/artist/16rCzZOMQX7P8Kmn5YKexI?si=H3hyoBK7S56jIjyhQj8DdA

Standout Cut: Surprise Me

Ella Mai

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PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images 

Bio:Platinum-certified retro R&B

Location: London

Twitter: https://twitter.com/ellamai

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ellamai/

Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/artist/7HkdQ0gt53LP4zmHsL0nap?si=iK5xRg3uRvqH3GNKu7vbFw

Standout Cut: Trip

 

Octavian

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PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images  

Bio:Genre-defying London MC

Location: London

Twitter: https://twitter.com/OctavianEssie

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Octavianog22/

Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/artist/5zfEatKLDdRkgbw6sdLBAQ?si=Au6ov0pUQk-4rG8I6nSXMA

Standout Cut: Little

 

Rosalía

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PHOTO CREDIT: Pablo Cuadra/Getty Images  

Bio:Catalan star who's revitalising flamenco

Location: Barcelona

Twitter: https://twitter.com/rosaliavt

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/musicarosaliabarcelona/

Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/artist/7ltDVBr6mKbRvohxheJ9h1?si=gSjpYPExTPuG7MBxBC2Now

Standout Cut: BAGDAD (Cap. 7: Liturgia)

 

Sea Girls

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PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images   

Bio:Fired-up indie anthems

Location:  Lincolnshire/Rutland/Leicestershire/Kent

Twitter: https://twitter.com/sonicseagirls

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/sonicseagirls/

Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/artist/45FqwUG4hTT6d39r2HUsUe?si=DNM1Xf1KQVm137U8few7DQ

Standout Cut: Lost

 

slowthai

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PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images   

Bio:Truth-telling outsider rap

Location:  Northampton

Twitter: https://twitter.com/slowthai

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/nospacenocaps/

Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/artist/3r1XkJ7vCs8kHBSzGvPLdP?si=OHw-U8_ETt2TLt5AxH8l2A

Standout Cut: Rainbow

FEATURE: I Can’t Get No (Satisfaction): The Most Underrated and Overlooked Albums of 2018

FEATURE:

 

 

I Can’t Get No (Satisfaction)

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IN THIS PHOTO: The Lemon Twigs/PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images 

The Most Underrated and Overlooked Albums of 2018

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IT is important to clarify...

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 IN THIS PHOTO: Goat Girl/PHOTO CREDIT: Phil Smithies for DIY

that by ‘underrated’ and ‘overlooked’; I am referring to the end-of-year lists that have their top-tens and top-twenties. I have seen a lot of polls that have the same albums riding high but, in many cases, I feel there are some notable omissions that need to be redressed. Maybe it is my personal taste but there have been a lot of stellar albums released this year – many have not gained the same sort of celebration and attention as others. It is hard to celebrate all the really good albums and critics are likely to have very similar opinions. It is good to have a look at the polls and see what is making the cut. Make sure you check out the recommended albums but here, as an alternative top-twelve (why not?!), are albums that either didn’t feature in all the year’s-best polls or missed out entirely. These records warrant more focus and exposure so, without further ado, here are twelve albums that helped make 2018...

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 IN THIS PHOTO: Superorgamism/PHOTO CREDIT: Max Hirschberger for Interview

A wonderful time for music.

ALL ALBUM COVERS: Getty Images

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Unknown Mortal OrchestraSex & Food

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Release Date: 6th April, 2018

Label: Jagjaguwar

Producer: Ruban Nielson

Review:

Unknown Mortal Orchestra majordomo Ruban Nielson took a global approach to his band’s fourth full-length, Sex & Food: He recorded the album in Seoul, Hanoi, Reykjavik, Mexico City, Auckland, and Portland. Accordingly, the music is a colorful pastiche of eras and approaches, including gooey psychedelic rock with grimy guitars (“Major League Chemicals”), gleaming Steely Dan homages (the falsetto-driven “Hunnybee”), zoned-out stoner-pop sprawls (“Ministry Of Alienation”), and blurry blues-rock (“American Guilt”). Although Sex & Food’s heavy-lidded moments can occasionally meander too far afield into somnolence, the record’s sharp observations about life, politics, and society are focused. On the poignant “If You’re Going To Break Yourself,” which seems to address the painful experience of losing a friend group after getting clean, Nielson sings wearily about missing “the secret loser language” and says, “You blocked my number just because I stayed alive” – The AV Club

Download/Stream: Hunnybee; Everyone Acts Crazy Nowadays; How Many Zeros

Stream here: https://open.spotify.com/album/7c2Xfq7aQKzs0KdSI3K7Rc?si=Paa9N-N2RgeGsn_5mqFdrg

Standout Track: American Guilt

Kali UchisIsolation

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Release Date: 6th April, 2018

Labels: Rinse/Virgin/Universal

Producers: Various

Review:

Tyler and Bootsy add sympathetic humor to the drifting BadBadNotGood groove "After the Storm," while GorillazDamon Albarn lays out some festive Suicide synth pop for "In My Dreams." Elsewhere, numerous West Coast associates -- SounwaveLarrance DopsonDJ DahiOm'Mas Keith, and Thundercat among them -- add to the set's prevailing dazed, dreamlike feel. Uchisis never obscured by the productions, coolly expressive while casually threading clever imagery from song to song. Her writing is most vivid in one of the delightfully bent retro-soul numbers, "Feel Like a Fool": "My heart went through a shredder the day I learned about your baby mothers/'Cause you're a grown-ass man, now you should know better/But I still run all my errands in your sweater." For all its entertaining art-pop feats, Isolation is just as remarkable for serious moments like "Killer," in which Uchis reaches a high degree of anguish that only real-life experience can arouse” – AllMusic

Download/Stream: Miami; Just a Stranger; Tyrant  

Stream here: https://open.spotify.com/album/4EPQtdq6vvwxuYeQTrwDVY?si=D2MfHNwUTtS-_CClYX55Rw

Standout Track: After the Storm

RobynHoney

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Release Date: 26th October, 2018 

Labels: Konichiwa/Interscope

Producers: Joseph Mount; Mr. Tophat; Adam Bainbridge; Robyn; Klas Åhlund

Review:

Honey’s centrepiece may be Because It’s in the Music, a track that feels like the inverse image of Dancing on My Own, in which music offers no sense of escape or release: “I’m right back in that moment and it makes me want to cry,” she sings. The melody has the potential to feel anthemic, but it doesn’t, because the sound is weirdly fractured. The signifiers of euphoria – disco strings, tingle-inducing electronic shimmers, a lovely synth motif not a million miles removed from Ryuichi Sakamoto’s Forbidden Colours – never quite connect with each other: they’re scattered throughout the track and feel oddly lonely” – The Guardian

Download/Stream: Missing U; Baby Forgive Me; Between the Lines  

Stream here: https://open.spotify.com/album/0CQ68SLY0B5e6L1rn8jfkc?si=ZiGp5eXxRA-ZGhjwg8mlbg

Standout Track: Honey

The Lemon TwigsGo to School

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Release Date: 24th August, 2018 

Label: 4AD

Review:

Go to School is an artistic statement on a grand scale, and it cements their reputation as world-class songwriters. It’s a once-in-a-generation epic that, unfortunately, The Lemon Twigs will never be able to do again, owing to the purity of concept and execution here.

A legend once said that if you gave an infinite number of chimpanzees an infinite number of typewriters, they’d eventually reproduce the works of Shakespeare. If you gave an infinite number of chimpanzees an infinite number of guitars, would they eventually write Go to School? Probably not” – The Line of Best Fit

Download/Stream: Rock Dreams; Small Victories; Go to School  

Stream here: https://open.spotify.com/album/5c42OLUNIZldeqhSSOER8d?si=_vnlDDPJQzymh7qDjTqxYQ

Standout Track: Never in My Arms, Always in My Heart

Kamasi WashingtonHeaven & Earth

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Release Date: 22nd June, 2018

Label: Young Turks

Producer: Kamasi Washington

Review:

The album hits its full, glorious stride during its last several tracks. “The Psalmnist,” a taut, unassailable post-bop theme by trombonist Ryan Porter, sparks one of the sharpest Washington solos on the album, before a virtuoso battle royal between drummers Tony Austin and Ronald Bruner, Jr. The next tune, “Show Us the Way,” opens with a modal crush of piano chords that recalls “Change of the Guard,” from The Epic. It culminates, after a rafters-raising Washington solo, in a refrain by the choir: “Dear Lord,” they sing, invoking John Coltrane, “Show us the way.”

The power of that moment, which carries through the final track, “Will You Sing,” lies in a vibrational parallel to the black church, and all the momentous weight that comes with it. Washington is flagrant in aligning his music with a tradition of transcendent struggle. The feeling he’s chasing is the feeling of someone who’s been to the mountaintop and come back with an urgent story to tell” – Pitchfork

Download/Stream: Testify; The Psalmist; Will You Sing  

Stream here: https://open.spotify.com/album/5mG7tl4EW2xrTy5rI8BgGL?si=PU6gdsCITTCmgghLjVf_5g

Standout Track: Fists of Fury

Soccer MommyClean

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Release Date: 3rd March, 2018

Label: Fat Possum Records

Producer: Gabe Wax

Review:

And the plaintive ‘Scorpio Rising’ - taking its name from either astronomy, or a 1969 film about gay Nazi bikers (we’re guessing it’s the former, tbh) - starts out hushed but grows and grows by stealth; a fearsome shadow extinguishing the streetlights. And ‘Cool’ meanwhile is privy to her wittiest writing to date as she warns somebody off a girl named Mary in cutting verses: “Mary has a heart of coal / She’ll break you down and eat you whole / I saw her do it after school / She’s an animal.”

In typical Soccer Mommy fashion, there’s little flashy footwork to be found here; only expertly-shaped understated songs that give more with every listen. Stepping beyond the groundwork of her debut collection, and sounding all the more confident for it, Sophie Allison shoots, and she scores” – DIY

Download/Stream: Still Clean; Last Girl; Scorpion Rising

Stream here: https://open.spotify.com/album/36NLDBi2kX7XRHnyLzLOS8?si=F9CafaEhQNquus3Nk220mQ

Standout Track: Your Dog

Goat GirlGoat Girl

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Release Date: 6th April, 2018

Label: Rough Trade Records

Review:

If you’re thinking, though, that the naturally bucolic nature of country music doesn’t quite fit in with the hustle and bustle of lights-out London, then you’d be very wrong indeed. Goat Girl’s gritty take makes their message even more potent. ‘Creep’ relays a tale that most can relate to; that of a public transport pervert who won’t let up or put his dick away. Pogues-worthy strings add an odd wistfulness to the sound of Clottie singing about how she’d like to smash the head in of a man who’s filming her on the train. We know how you feel, Clottie.

Things get murkier with ‘The Man’, which recalls fellow south London reprobates Fat White Family thanks to eager kick drum, hollered lyrics and their rowdy, everyone-in-the-back-room-of-the-pub-singing-along delivery. A cover of Bugsy Malone ballad ‘Tomorrow’ closes Goat Girl’s debut with a sultry torch-song feeling – proof that these guys are far from a one-trick pony. Or goat, for that matter” – NME

Download/Stream: Viper Fish; Cracker Drool; Lay Down

Stream here: https://open.spotify.com/album/3jDJ8KuleRVdhS2DJKFEW2?si=RdzI0Zt2SLmX8lCyKomARw

Standout Track: The Man

The InternetHive Mind

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Release Date: 20th July, 2018

Label: Columbia Records

Producers: The Internet

Review:

On “Look What You Started” Syd’s voice is simultaneously threatening and dismissive, singing: “You blame it on your problems but it’s no excuse/You can’t keep playing innocent – I know the truth.” “Bravo” misleads with its basic stomp beat on the intro before the bass kicks in on a different beat to the vocals. Alternatively, the infectious groove of the bass on “Burbank Funk” is tight as anything, as Lacy instructs the listener: “Listen to your heart/What’s it saying?”

And where Ego Death seemed led by Syd and Lacy, Hive Mind feels much more collaborative, put together in studios and homes the band rented around the world. It’s undoubtedly one of their best works: the band have a synergy that draws the listener in, allowing you to revel in their irresistible confidence, and hope they might invite you to join the party” – The Independent

Download/Stream: Come Together; Look What U Started; Beat Goes On

Stream here: https://open.spotify.com/album/27ThgFMUAx3MXLQ297DzWF?si=YhpQEJLVTTyaUGtWm_Aryw

Standout Track: Roll (Burbank Funk)

Tommy GenesisTommy Genesis

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Release Date: 9th November, 2018

Label: Downtown

Producers: Various

Review:

Genesis has clearly grown into her strengths, though, dialing in a murmuring flow perfectly suited to bass-heavy beats and a brash persona unafraid of boasts. Tommy Genesis is a fun, wisely brief ride. You can now imagine Genesis landing one well-placed feature on a big-ticket song and tipping over into the mainstream. More concerned with the here and now, that’s not what she seems to want. Her invitation on the breezy, poppy closer “Miami” renders that mission plainly: “I’m living my best life/Come inside” – Pitchfork

Download/Stream: Bad Boy; 100 Bad; Daddy

Stream here: https://open.spotify.com/album/2OuXxjcDzScqRIWvtR3j5a?si=3d7udzr8QNCLkq97yhIzqw

Standout Track: Tommy

GengahrWhere Wildness Grows

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Release Date: 9th March, 2018

Label: Gengahr

Review:

The first half of Where Wildness Grows is packed with panoramic indie-psych rock toned to perfection. “Is This How You Love” showcases Gengahr’s trademark love for melody and distortion and is followed by another highlight in the shape of “I’ll Be Waiting”. The track evokes choppy early Maccabees-esque guitars, sealed with the unmistakable sound of frontman Felix Bushe’s vocals lamenting lost love: “Still in love with you, that’s alright I’ll be waiting / Nothing I won’t do’. This tenderness and honesty continues throughout, whether lyrically on “Blind Truth” or in the atmosphere of “Left in Space”. Artistic in every sense, each track adds a splodge of paint or a sweeping stroke to the blank Where Wildness Grows canvas.

Despite coming back refreshed, one thing is for certain; Gengahr haven’t lost the soluble quality of their sound, every intricacy has the ability to melt right in. Elegant and artful to its core, Where Wildness Grows is an impressive step forward from a band who seemingly have more to prove to themselves than anyone else” – The Line of Best Fit

Download/Stream: Before Sunrise; Where Wildness Grows; Left in Space

Stream here: https://open.spotify.com/album/4mJUfanUtn0ymiMLuFZyNV?si=XxxRdQDSQIalu1FH2duhoA

Standout Track: Carrion

SuperorganismSuperorganism

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Release Date: 2nd March, 2018  

Label: Domino

Producers: Superorganism

Review:

The band can do shiny pop ("It's All Good," which has a crazy slowed-down Tony Robbins sample), introspective dream pop ("Reflections on the Screen"), slowly strutting Beck-like hip-hop ("SPRORGNSM"), and melancholy ballads ("Nai's March"), all with equal aplomb. When they kick into second gear, they make modern pop that equals the best around. "Everybody Wants to Be Famous" is a rollicking takedown of D-list culture complete with ringing cash-register percussion and a melt-in-your-mouth sweet vocal by Orono; "Something for Your M.I.N.D." is warped pop gold with subaquatic bass, a naggingly catchy vocal sample, and Orono's second most off-kilter lyrics (after "The Prawn Song"). Despite the somewhat cluttered and freewheeling exterior, it's clear that Superorganism know exactly what they are doing at all times, slicing and dicing like master chefs, then reassembling the bits and bobs of pop ephemera into a concoction that has a sugary kick sweeter and fizzier than an ice-cold cola” – AllMusic  

Download/Stream: Everybody Wants to Be Famous; Nobody Cares; The Prawn Song

Stream here: https://open.spotify.com/album/15TFB6uLZlb3gnCysRrLix?si=rXX-ZXp8QSOj3bIA0-c1fQ

Standout Track: Something for Your M.I.N.D.

Natalie PrassThe Future and the Past

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Release Date: 1st June, 2018

Label: ATO Records

Review:

If every song here is exceptionally well-written – the songs that address the Trump presidency do so pretty deftly, with only Sisters feeling close to rote tub-thumping – the lengthy Ship Go Down and Hot for the Mountain are the most exploratory, off-beam tracks Prass has written to date, slackening the usual verse-chorus structure. The former shifts from eeriness to a gently insistent defiance – “we can take you on,” it repeats, again and again – while the latter starts out jazzy, and slowly builds into a stunning, cathartic final two minutes, as Prass’s wordless vocal wail swims through a woozy, distorted groove that audibly bears the influence of tropicalia, the Brazilian take on psychedelia that’s another of Spacebomb’s touchstones. It’s magnificent, as is the rest of The Future and the Past. Proof that you can be a member of a loose musical collective and out on your own at the same time” – The Guardian  

Download/Stream: Short Court Style; Lost; Far from You

Stream here: https://open.spotify.com/album/4eaB4Z7pCzLfvgvdbq2mVO?si=eseErzPyQEep0za2iHi3-g

Standout Track: Oh My

FEATURE: Spotlight: Sam Fender

FEATURE:

 

 

Spotlight

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IN THIS PHOTO: Sam Fender/PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

Sam Fender

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ONE of the themes of 2018 music is...

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 PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

artists who are stepping away from the parable of love and concentrating on something that is much more political and less personal. Whether talking about the government and its role today or the perils and struggles of the working-class existence; artists such as Shame, IDLES and Anna Calvi have covered feminism, discrimination and modern-day masculinity in a very striking and fresh way. I am not sure whether I have seen a year with so many explosive, eye-opening and long-lasting records. A lot of stuff that looks at love and relationships sounds subjective and does not really linger in the mind. I think this year has been a lot stronger than last regarding these important and observational albums – something we all needed to see. Among the artists who are turning heads with their raw and observational work is Sam Fender. His name was new to me earlier this year and, given the attention he has garnered and the rise he has enjoyed; we will be hearing a lot more from him in 2019. Fender has just won the Brits Critics’ Choice Award and it caps a rather busy year! Previous winners have varied in terms of their longevity and popularity – Rag ‘n’ Bone Man and Jack Garratt have fared less well than Florence + the Machine – but Fender looks like an artist who has a lot more about him. The issue with the less-celebrated artists I have mentioned is the fact there is not a lot about them.

Maybe Rag ‘n’ Bone Man’s voice is good but his lyrics and music lack originality and widespread appeal; Jack Garratt is a fantastic composer but that is about it. Sam Fender has a striking voice, a great and deep set of lyrics that are smart and primed for the times. Here is how the BBC documented his award:

 “Sam Fender has been announced as the winner of the Brits critics’ choice award, the industry-voted prize previously won by Adele, Sam Smith and Ellie Goulding.

The prize is presented ahead of the Brit awards on 20 February. Figures in the media and music industry are asked to nominate artists they believe will enjoy future success but who haven’t yet scored a UK Top 40 album. Fender was nominated on a shortlist alongside R&B singer Mahalia and singer-songwriter Lewis Capaldi.

Fender specialises in energetic, glossy garage-rock topped with his soulful vocals, the lyrics tending towards social commentary about masculinity, depression and vice; songs such as Poundshop Kardashians and Millennial lament the lack of options for Britain’s youth.

He has built a sizeable fanbase already through a string of nine singles in 2017 and 2018, along with a heavy touring schedule. He said he was “truly humbled” to win, adding: “We’ve played literally hundreds of shows this year, and we’re going to go even harder in 2019 … To everyone who’s taken a punt on me so far, thank you”.

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IMAGE CREDIT: Getty Images 

It might seem like a Brits Critics Choice Award might be a poisoned chalice but that is not the fault of the committee. I think the last couple of years have not been as strong as 2018 and, considering the talent that has come through; it is especially honourable to get such a nod. Many might say Fender will lose relevance and force if the political landscape changes and things improve. Things are not going to improve for us anytime soon (if at all) and subjects he is writing about right now – such as celebrities and government surveillance – are always around and always providing inspiration. His Dead Boys EP was released last month and received a lot of praise. Not as many people came out to review the E.P. as you’d hope – maybe there is that sense of reservation and elitism when it comes to new artists – but here is what When the Horn Blows wrote:

After is ‘That Sound’, the most recent single released, a song about how music was always his escape; despite ‘loaded vampires... sniff[ing] up residue’, and ‘green eyed beasts’, that sound — ie. music — kept him afloat. Music “pulls me out of the shit every time”, he says; it keeps him in line and focussed. If that’s the reason he is able to keep releasing new music, long may it last. The song starts slowly, with a thirty second instrumental intro, before Sam’s voice joins the fray...

The chorus of ‘That Sound’ is probably the most aggressive musically and the most anthemic lyrically; ‘it’s the only thing that keeps me grounded’ transitioning into a somehow endearing cacophony of instruments which is wholeheartedly made for live performances.

Finally, ‘Leave Fast’. Different to the already released version, this version is thirty-seven seconds longer, yet retains the intimately acoustic nature of the single version. It comes across as an almost love song to his hometown of North Shields, a place that he obviously cares about, but the song acknowledges the ‘mass of filth and rubbish’, the empty ‘shells of old nightclubs’ and ‘watching people die in the cold’. The lyrics bring the hometown to life and, despite using his music to escape, which resulted in “butchered A-levels”, as he puts it, the song reflects a sense of nostalgia, revisiting the town that he once felt “trapped” in, yet loved nonetheless.

The song, for the most part features his vocals over a guitar: live, it’s played without the band, and is the perfect song to show off his powerful, soulful voice, which are usually overshadowed by the overarching music. The extra thirty-odd seconds comes in the form of an almost contemplative strumming of an electric guitar, which only adds to the overall nostalgia of the piece and seems to round it off perfectly, both the song and the EP as a whole.

Overall, a genuinely tremendous body of work”.

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PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images/Press 

There might be cynics who feel there is a sense of bandwagon-jumping talking about male suicide, toxic masculinity and the Government – given the fact quite a few bands are covering similar ground. I feel issues like male suicide have always been important and in everyone’s mind but few artists have been bold enough to articulate the subject. Given the rise in suicide rates and the fraction within the country right now; modern artists need to realise a responsibility and document what is happening. I am not saying every single musicians needs to cover every angle in terms of modern life and politics but, as Fender has shown, there is great potency and pride to be summoned from opening the eyes and providing a very personal and charged account of things that are important. How often do we hear that and how many other artists will follow Fender’s example?! We cannot ignore what is going on in the world and I do think music has a clear responsibility and duty to provide some take.

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PHOTO CREDIT: Jack Whitefield

In terms of the man behind the music; we have this very real and working-class lad that sort of reminds me of Liam and Noel Gallagher. That is not to suggest Fender swaggers around and takes shots at Damon Albarn: our manis not one to hold back regarding the ‘competition’ and how he perceives the world. That is quite rare in an industry that is becoming more calculated and ‘safe’. We have few artists who are bold and show a very candid spirit. His background and upbringing, as this interview shows, is vitally important:

North Shields, the fishing port where the 23-year-old still lives on a council estate with his mother, boasts a great beach, decent surfing and a characterful pub, the Low Lights Tavern, where he was working and occasionally performing when Brit Award-winning singer-songwriter Ben Howard’s manager happened to walk in and ask for his number. He’s clearly proud of the town, though you might not know it from his songs...

 

Leave Fast tells of broken fridges, torn-up sofas and boy racers, and urges escape over a mournful guitar strum. Friday Fighting has the kind of thumping beat and chugging guitars that tends to excite packs of lads at chucking-out time, but you can tell Fender disapproves from his use of the phrase “toxic masculinity” in the lyrics. Dead Boys, which looks like his breakthrough hit, having been performed on Later… With Jools Holland last month and named Radio 1 DJ Annie Mac’s Hottest Record in the World, is a howl of disbelief at the spread of suicide among young men. It was prompted by the deaths of two of his friends, and its intense video won’t be forgotten quickly.

“It’s getting bigger, which is exciting and terrifying in equal measure,” he says. Asked what he was hoping for when he first started playing in bands at the age of 16, he replies: “Somewhere along the lines of what’s going on now — the ability to live a life doing this as my sole job, which I now do.”

Bruce Springsteen is his idol, which you can hear in his strident guitar work and ability to distill small-town grit and make poetry. The last time he saw The Boss in concert, he cried. It’s too early for him to envisage himself as an arena filler too, but the current day job certainly beats the alternatives”.

In this BBC interview; Fender talks about the modern cult of self-obsession and a certain musician he is not too keen on:

“...And don't get him started on Ed Sheeran.

"I admire what he's done - the fact that he's sold out Wembley with acoustic guitars. I just find his music incredibly beige.

"I don't trust songs that can be played at a kid's party and a club at the same time. I just don't think it's right," the North Shields songwriter says, getting into his stride.

"There's something reptilian about that."

"We're stuck on Instagram, and everyone's guilty of it. Everyone's completely obsessed with themselves," he says, clarifying that he includes himself in that bracket.

"I'm hopelessly addicted to Instagram," he says candidly. "To the dopamine hits of when one post gets more likes than the others. I'm aware of it, so try and make a conscious effort to cut down."

To little avail, it would seem, since after a year touring and appearing on the festival circuit his profile is on the rise - meaning his habit of personally answering messages from fans is starting to get out of hand.

"I'm going to have to stop answering fans eventually, because it's just getting too much," he says. "It used to only be a little bit of time a day, but now it's taking up the whole day. It's nuts".

I know there is a lot of pressure that comes with getting any industry nod and people, naturally, will have their notepads and callipers out next year; making sure this young prodigy lives up to all the hypes and his next steps are something akin to The Beatles’ debut! Whilst I think there is too much of the unrealistic expectation; many artists that have been tipped for success have lacked that spark and real drive – something you cannot say about Sam Fender. It has been a packed and busy music year but, as I said, artists discussing mental-health and politics is on the rise. I feel it is important to have the balance of important and personal in order to evolve the industry and inspire the next generation. If we are flooded with the same wishy-washy stories of rejection and lust then that is not going to resonate. Artists who are getting the biggest critical pat on the back are those who talk honestly and bravely about issues that are important and not often covered in music. It is early days for Fender but there are assets and aspects that work in his favour. He is not your usual guarded and soft artist who needs to please everyone and there is a definite spark about him. The music is varied and interesting – so that offers mobility when it comes to a debut album. He has a working-class background so can easily articulate the struggles faced and, in a mainstream that is still largely middle-class; his voice is much-needed and fresh. Given the success of acts like IDLES; Fender can gain vicarious and associated fandom and I feel he will make a charge as we look towards a fresh year. It has been a successful and hectic one for Fender – he says he has performed hundreds of time this year – and, with new plaudit and focus at his feet, 2019 is going to be a massive one...

FOR the North Shields lad!

INTERVIEW: Crimson Calamity

INTERVIEW:

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Crimson Calamity

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IT has been great speaking with Crimson Calamity...

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about their new single, First Snow, and why they decided to write something wintry. I discover how Crimson Calamity got together and whether there will be more material next year; what sort of music they are driven by and which rising artists we need to get behind.

Lauren and Mallory share favourite memories from their career and tell me what tour dates are coming up; the artists they’d support on the road if they had the chance – they select some cracking tracks to end things with.

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

Hey there! We are well. Thanks for asking. Just super-excited for the release of this single and the Holiday season!

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

Absolutely! We are Lauren and Mallory, a Roots-Rock/Americana duo called Crimson Calamity, living in Nashville.

First Snow is your new single. Was there a particular moment that inspired it - or did you want to create something with a winter/Christmas vibe?

We had wanted to write a Christmas song for some time and, when we finally sat down to do it, this idea of a loved one waiting for a soldier to come home developed. We wanted to make it somewhat timeless and not from one particular person’s perspective because love comes in many forms and so many people can relate. The Holidays can be such a wonderful happy time, but they can also leave people with a yearning or melancholy and we wanted to write something for the ones who wait.

Do you think there will be more material next year?

Absolutely! We are currently writing for our next E.P. and we will be back in the studio March 2019.

How did Crimson Calamity start? What brought you together?

We met in college and did a lot of collaborating over the years. We decided to form our band in 2014 when we were participating in a monthly songwriting challenge that led to us writing two songs inspired by Calamity Jane. They would give us different themes to write about. One particular month’s theme was to write about a historical event or person. The songs sparked the idea for the band so we decided to use her as our namesake in tribute.

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In terms of music; which artists are you drawn to?

We are both drawn to artists in many different genres but as an influence on our band we are drawn to old-school stuff: Fleetwood Mac, Dolly Parton and Johnny Cash. However, there are also artists in our generation that we love: Brandi Carlile, The Civil Wars; The Lone Bellow, Jamestown Revival; Grace Potter, Jason Isbell and Cam - artists who are telling stories and creating unapologetic, organic and timeless music.

As Christmas is coming; what one present would you each like if you could have anything?

Lauren: If I could have anything?! I think I would ask for a new car...probably a Tesla SUV. Is that selfish? Should I have asked for world peace?

Mallory: Teslas ARE really nice! I think, for me, a gift card to Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods - large enough for me to buy healthy food from for a few months. I’ve been naughty lately. Too much sugar.

Do you already have plans for 2019?

We do! We have a show at The Hotel Cafe in Los Angeles on 1/22 at 7 P.M. and then we are headed to the Sundance Film Festival. We are going to be touring, writing and recording the new record in March.

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

Recording our last record was a pretty special memory. We had original band members out from the West Coast and we recorded for the first time at The Sound Emporium here in Nashville. Everything came together in such a special way and we were just pinching ourselves because we felt so lucky.

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

Lauren: I feel like I have had different albums mean the most to me at different times in my life but one that sticks out would have to be Mumford & Sons’ first record, Sigh No More. The lyrics on that record just hit me like a ton of bricks and really resonated with me. That time in my life wasn’t the easiest and it helped me through. One of my favorite lyrics of all time is “There will come a time you’ll see, with no more tears/and love will not break your heart, but dismiss your fears/Get over the hill and see what you find there with grace in your heart and flowers in your hair”.

Mallory: This is such a hard question! There are so many albums I love top to bottom. I’m not sure I can pick just one...I think it might be a tie between Aerosmith’s Nine Lives because it’s a symphony of Rock and Roll and I love Steven Tyler…and I still think Sheryl Crow’s self-titled album is a masterpiece. Every single song is absolutely killer. Redhead by Bleu and the ’90s Romeo + Juliet soundtrack are honorable mentions.

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

It’d be so fun to open for an artist like Harry Styles or Chris Stapleton. They’re both amazing writers and vocalists. We also are huge into supporting the ladies so someone like Cam, Kacey Musgraves or Grace Potter would also be amazing. As far as a rider goes, please have whiskey, wine or both. Neat and red respectively.

What advice would you give to new artists coming through?

Calamity Jane has a quote: “If a girl wants to be a legend, she should just go ahead and be one”. That really resonates with us because being a woman in the entertainment business isn’t always a walk in the park and we oftentimes have to fight twice as hard to even get heard. It’s so important to hone your craft and know your business. Don’t let anyone try to tone down your voice and don’t be afraid to take up space in this industry.

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

We do! We will be at Knoxville’s Blue Plate Special WDVX on Dec 15th. We are also playing a show in Franklin, TN that night at The Pond. At Truck & Tap in Alpharetta, GA on Jan 13th and, again, you can catch us at The Hotel Cafe in L.A. on 1/22 plus more to come! The best way to keep up with our shows is to follow us on Facebook and Instagram (@crimsoncmusic).

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 IN THIS PHOTO: Lennon Stella

Are there any new artists you recommend we check out?

Lauren: I am loving Lennon Stella’s new music. She is so talented and I can’t wait to see where she goes.

Mallory: Totally agree. Lennon Stella’s new record is fantastic. Also, local Nashville band The Foxies. They totally rock. Look out for them.

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 IN THIS PHOTO: The Foxies

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

Fortunately, we are both obsessed with music so we don’t need much chill time away, but I’d say we both like to hang with our significant others and our dogs. We love to go see shows and go out for dinner and drinks too. Taking time for self-care is something we are both trying to be better at. We’re definitely guilty of energizer bunny mode.

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).

Lauren: Mockingbird by Ruston Kelly

 

Mallory: Horns by Bryce Fox

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Follow Crimson Calamity

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FEATURE: An Unstoppable Force: The Brilliance and Rare Genius of the Supergroup

FEATURE:

 

 

An Unstoppable Force

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IN THIS IMAGE: The cover of the Traveling Wilburys’ debut album, Traveling Wilburys Vol. 1 (1988)/IMAGE CREDIT: Getty Images 

The Brilliance and Rare Genius of the Supergroup

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A lot of things have disappeared from music as time...

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 IN THIS PHOTO: boygenius (Lucy Dacus, Julien Baker and Phoebe Bridgers)/PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

has marched on and technology has played a bigger role. In fact, I think general music tastes have shifted so much that once-loved configurations and aspects have died. I have talked about the girl group and how, in 2018, we can really say they are a force. There are some around – include Little Mix and Four of Diamonds – but look back to the 1980s and 1990s (when the likes of TLC and En Vogue ruled) and that seems so far in the past. I would love to see the return of a time when girl groups were very much ruling but I think the best of the best have ended and it seems hard to recapture that spirits and wave. Maybe music will turn once more and girl groups will come back in fore but I fear their best days ended in the 1990s. One aspect of music that still exists and provides a mighty punch is the supergroup. Today, we have boygenius: the combination of Julien Baker, Phoebe Bridgers and Lucy Dacus. It might not pack the same sort of earthquake as the finest of all time but I love when artists from different genres can get together and create this incredible attack. Boygenius’ eponymous E.P. gained a lot of great reviews and showed that, even though the trio had never worked together before, they blended in perfect harmony.

They are not the only ones from recent memory who have united with swift and brilliant results. LUMP is the brainchild of Laura Marling and Mike Lindsay and, again, their eponymous release was celebrated. I am a huge fan of Laura Marling but was not too aware of Lindsay. Both musicians do not depart too far from their regular, better-known lives but the chemistry is undeniably strong and electric. Many might say it is an unfair advantage putting big musicians together – a rather stellar and monster-like unit that is stronger and more experienced than most other groups around. Neko Cae, k.d. lang and Laura Veirs created case/lang/veirs and these three legends produced a stellar eponymous album in 2016 (I wonder whether there is a rule modern supergroup need to make everything self-titled?!). I love that album and fuses the songwriting brilliance and distinct voices of three artists who, throughout the years, have changed music and produced some phenomenal albums. Each artist gets a spotlight regarding lead vocals and songs and it is a democratic band that benefits from a unity and togetherness that is stronger than most other groups. It can be risky putting a group of disparate and untested artists together in a group – the results are not always wonderful. Look at two titanic, Chris Cornell-led supergroups and there has been some mixed results.

Audioslave consisted Soundgarden’s Cornell and Rage Against the Machine members Tom Morello, Tim Commerford and Brad Wilk. Their 2002 debut album, Audioslave, featured the biblical song Cochise, but many critics noticed a rather limp and patchy album. Each member shone in their original band but the combination of vocal and music was a little mismatched and not as harmonious as you’d like. The band recorded a few albums and, aside from Out of Exile (2005), they were given lukewarm critical reception. Those Rage members have gone on to work in other projects – including the Chuck D-led supergroup Prophets of Rage – whereas Cornell, as lead of Temple of the Dog, released only one album. The 1991 eponymous debut/album gave us incredible tracks like Hunger Strike but the project did not last long. It depends on who you put together but it was a shame the two bands did not last longer and shine brighter. Temple of the Dog featured brilliant musicians like Jeff Ament (Mother Love Bone) and Matt Cameron (Soundgarden) but was a brief venture. The best supergroups are those that instantly click and there are no tensions in the ranks. It can be the case that egos get in the way but, even looking at the most successful and potent supergroups, and there have been some cases of tensions and disputes.

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 IN THIS PHOTO: Cream/PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

It depends on your musical preferences and which supergroup tops your list. Cream combined Eric Clapton, Ginger Baker and Jack Bruce and, whilst there was some fire and bristle at times, Cream are considered one of the first true supergroups. They were platinum-selling (1968’s Wheels of Fire) and they blended Psychedelic-Rock and Blues in an orgy of brilliance. If bands like Temple of the Dog encapsulated all of the Seattle Sonic boom and kept the spirit of Grunge alive; Cream was a dizzying mixture of 1960s bliss and the roots of Blues. There have been modern supergroups that have united the sounds of its members seamlessly and sprinkled in something fresh. Look at The Dead Weather and the unlike-yet-explosive mixture of Jack White and Alison Mosshart; the physical might and combined legacy of Dave Grohl (Nirvana, Foo Fighters), John Paul Jones (Led Zeppelin) and Josh Homme (Queens of the Stone Age, Kyuss) of Them Crooked Vultures and on-off-on-again treasures like The Breeders (the line-up has changed but sisters Kelley and Kim Deal are the central force). There have been a few short-lived and halfhearted attempts at supergroups and, whilst many of them only exist for a few albums; hearing these amazing musicians in the same studio, all pulling in the same direction is truly stunning. There are two that stand above everyone else.

To many, there is no finer and more influential supergroup than Crosby, Stills and Nash & Young. Consequence of Sound talk about the formation of the band; the way they clicked and what they provided the world:

“ David Crosby had been kicked out of The Byrds, and Stephen Stills, following the demise of Buffalo Springfield, was a man without a band when the two began working together. Shortly after, Graham Nash of The Hollies, a friend of Crosby’s, sang harmonies with the two at a party hosted by Joni Mitchell, and the three realized they were a unique fit together. They opted to use their surnames as a band name, basically so they couldn’t get fucked over like they felt they had in previous bands. Neil Young came aboard a couple years later in 1970, despite the fact that he and Stills had not always gotten along as bandmates in Buffalo Springfield. It was decided early on that Young would be free to carry on his solo career and work with Crazy Horse. Ladies and gentlemen: Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. Heaven help us all”.

“CSN and CSNY tick all the boxes when you think about what a rock and roll outfit can achieve, endure, and get tangled up in. In their earliest days as a four-piece, they were at Woodstock and will forever be associated with the spirit and politics of the late ’60s. On their best days as a band, their songwriting and performances, particularly their vocal harmonies, are on par with the greatest to ever hit the studio or the stage. On their lesser days, there was more sex, drugs, infighting, and prison time than there was “teaching your children well.” But through it all, the four have survived and for many have become a can’t-miss touring institution. Should Nash and Crosby bury their latest hatchet — preferably not in each other’s backs — it’s possible the book hasn’t closed just yet on CSNY”.

The 1969 debut, without Neil Young, has such tracks as Marrakesh Express, whereas Déjà Vu (1970) has all four...and the combined songwriting powers produced Our House, Teach Your Children and Helpless. The supergroup alternated between CSN and CSNY and their last studio album was 1999’s Looking Forward. I have heard interviews David Crosby has given recently and it seems like there are too many strained relationships within the ranks to overcome. It seems there is a big tension between Crosby and Graham Nash and, whilst it is possible the band might reform down the line, I think it is unlikely we will see them come back with another record. Look at the solo work of Neil Young, Graham Nash; Stephen Stills and David Crosby and there is enough genius there to keep anyone satisfied! It might have been a big risk putting them together but the unity worked wonderfully. The fact one of their main weapons was the beautiful harmonies means the music easily resonates and sinks in. I am a fan of each musician but feel they were at their strongest when combined. Many musical historians will see Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young as the best supergroup ever but, to me, the best is the Traveling Wilburys.

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 IN THIS PHOTO: Traveling Wilburys/PHOTO CREDIT: Neal Preston

Their debut, Traveling Wilburys Vol. 1, turned forty on 17th October and it is amazing to think there was a time when George Harrison, Roy Orbison; Tom Petty, Jeff Lynne and Bob Dylan were on the same record! Here is a quick bit of background from Wikipedia:

In early April 1988, George Harrison was in Los Angeles and needed to record a B-side for a European 12-inch single. Jeff Lynne was also in Los Angeles writing and producing some tracks for Roy Orbison on his album Mystery Girl (released posthumously), as well as Tom Petty’s first solo album, Full Moon Fever. While having dinner with Lynne and Orbison, Harrison related how he needed to record a new track and wanted to do it the next day. Harrison asked if Lynne would help, and Orbison offered his old friend his hand as well, seeing how fun it would be. Needing a studio at short notice, Harrison called Bob Dylan, who agreed to let them use his garage studio. After dinner, Harrison stopped by Petty’s house to pick up a guitar he had left there, and invited Petty along too. Gathering at Dylan’s Malibu home the following day, Harrison, Lynne, Orbison and Petty worked on a song that Harrison had started writing for the occasion, "Handle with Care". At first, Dylan's role was that of a host, maintaining a barbecue to feed the musicians; at Harrison's invitation, Dylan then joined them in writing lyrics for the song. The ensemble taped the track on Dylan's Ampex recording equipment, with all five sharing the vocals.[3]

"Handle with Care" was considered too good to be used as a B-side, so Harrison decided to form a band and record another nine songs for an album. The group got together again for nine days in May, recording the basic tracks and vocals at Dave Stewart’s home studio in Los Angeles. Overdubs and mixing were carried out in England at Harrison’s home studio, FPSHOT (short for Friar Park Studio, Henley-on-Thames).

Masquerading as the Wilbury brothers, the participants would be known as Nelson (Harrison), Otis (Lynne), Lucky (Dylan), Lefty (Orbison), and Charlie T. Jr. (Petty) Wilbury, with drummer Jim Keltner credited as Buster Sidebury. Harrison was no stranger to the use of alternate identities, as he had adopted them with Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Bandand with his plethora of pseudonyms as a session musician, including L'Angelo Misterioso, George O'Hara and Hari Georgeson. During the Beatles' first tour of Scotland, in 1960, he had used the pseudonym "Carl Harrison", in reference to one of his favourite musicians, Carl Perkins.[4] With the Traveling Wilburys, this concept was taken a step further, since the participants' real names do not appear anywhere on the album, liner notes, or the songwriting credits”.

Their ten-track debut album saw each of the five artists take a spotlight and everyone except Roy Orbison had songwriting credits.

Handle with Care seems like classic Harrison whereas the memorable Last Nite sees a Petty-penned song lifted by a quivering Orbison contribution. Not Alone Anymore is pure Orbison showing why he is one of the best singers ever whereas Tweeter and the Monkey Man is a Bruce Springsteen pastiche written and sung by Bob Dylan – a brilliant song from him at a period in his career where his solo work was not at its best. The reason why I feel the Traveling Wilburys are the finest supergroup is because of the friendships and warmth you get with the music. Each musician enjoyed huge success before the band started but I feel none of them were producing their best solo material in 1988. Suddenly, when all together, they created this album that brought new light and brilliance from each of them. The sheer stature of each member (remember, there is a Beatle and Bob Dylan together!) makes them mightier than any other supergroup! The only reason the project was short-lived was because of Orbison’s premature death late in 1988 from a heart attack – not long after the album was recorded and released. In fact, Thursday just gone marked the thirtieth anniversary of Orbison’s death and, while the remaining members created 1990’s Traveling Wilbury’s Vol. 3; it was not a patch on the original and was lacking that Orbison firepower! You might think it is rather naïve to celebrate such a band who only recorded one brilliant album but the combination of stellar musicians and incredibly evocative songwriting makes them my favourite.

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 IMAGE CREDIT: Getty Images

I came across the Traveling Wilburys not long after their debut and, as a young child, it was an eye opening experience. I was brought up on The Beatles and, of course, knew about Tom Petty, Jeff Lynne and Roy Orbison. I was a big fan of Bob Dylan and did not ever think the day would come when these music legends would join forces. There was no ego in the ranks and, on their debut album, you can tell each of the voices and who wrote what – even though the musicians were using pseudonyms -; the fun they were having was infectious and obvious and the results speak for themselves! The album is timeless and the songs balance humour and fun with exceptional craft and tightness. In a retrospective review; AllMusic talked about the rare success of the album and how the music world had never seen such huge artists combine:

Looking back via The Traveling Wilburys, the group's success seems all the more remarkable because the first album is surely, even proudly, not a major statement. Even under the direction of Lynne, who seems incapable of not polishing a record till it gleams, it's loose and funny, even goofy. It's clearly a lark, which makes the offhanded, casual virtuosity of some of the songs all the more affecting, particularly the two big hits, which are sunny and warm, partially because they wryly acknowledge the mileage on these rock & roll veterans. "Handle With Care" and "End of the Line" are the two masterworks here, although Roy's showcase, "Not Alone Anymore" -- more grand and moving than anything on the Lynne-produced Mystery Girl -- comes close in the stature, but its stylized melodrama is a ringer here: it, along with Dylan's offhand heartbreak tune "Congratulations," is the only slow thing here, and the rest of the album just overspills with good vibes, whether it's Tom Petty's lite reggae of "Last Night," Jeff Lynne's excellent Jerry Lee Lewis update "Rattled," or Dylan's very funny "Dirty World," which is only slightly overshadowed by his very, very funny Springsteen swipe "Tweeter and the Monkey Man."

The Traveling Wilburys built upon Harrison's comeback with Cloud Nine and helped revitalize everybody else's career, setting the stage for Dylan's 1989 comeback with Oh MercyPetty's first solo album, Full Moon Fever, produced by Lynne (sounding and feeling strikingly similar to this lark), and Orbison's Mystery Girl, which was released posthumously. Given the success of this record and how it boosted the creativity of the rest of the five, it's somewhat a shock that the second effort falls a little flat.

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IN THIS PHOTO: Beyoncé (who is already in The Carters with Jay-Z but could easily spearhead a modern-day supergroup to beat them all)/PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images 

We have some emerging supergroups and those we left behind but I think there is an opportunity for modern musicians to join together! Just imagine the people we could put together and what could arise! I have spoken about the bygone girl groups but what if we saw Beyoncé (Destiny’s Child) join with former members of TLC, En Vogue and Salt-N-Pepa?! Maybe combining the biggest Pop artists of the mainstream or having a few legends together in a new venture could yield wonderful results. Unlike girl groups; I think there is more life and potential to be drawn from supergroups and there are countless combinations that could ignite the music world. Everyone will have their favourite and, since the 1960s/1970s, we have seen these big ventures and tremendous albums! I will always treasure the Traveling Wilburys but know a lot of people prefer Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. Children of Grunge like the excitement of Audioslave whereas newcomers like boygenius are giving critics a lot to shout about. Music’s history has been heighten with these superhero alliances and I know we will see many more supergroups spring up in years to come. I have been remembering Traveling Wilburys Vol. 1 thirty years after its arrival and am still struck by the genius of the music. Some of the older supergroups did not work out long-term but, as the Traveling Wilburys showed; even if you are together for a short time it is possible to create something that...

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 IMAGE CREDIT: Pinterest

LASTS for decades to come.

FEATURE: When the Music Stops: Pete Shelley and the Loss of the Icons

FEATURE:

 

 

When the Music Stops

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IN THIS PHOTO: Pete Shelley (who died on 6th December, 2018 in Estonia aged sixty-three) of Buzzcocks photographed in London in 1977/PHOTO CREDIT: Andre Csillag/REX/Shutterstock

Pete Shelley and the Loss of the Icons

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EVERY time a hugely popular musician dies...

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 IN THIS PHOTO: The Buzzcocks in 1978 (John Maher, Steve Garvey; Pete Shelley and Steve Diggle)/PHOTO CREDIT: Chris Gabrin/Redferns.

it is always sad and brings us all together. One can never tell how the music landscape will alter and what affects will be felt but we all learned about the death of the Buzzcocks’ singer Pete Shelley earlier in the week. Nobody knew he was ill and, aged only sixty-three; he was taken away from us too soon! I do often wonder whether these huge artists who leave us sooner than we’d like; whether we preserve their memory adequately.  Shelley died of a heart attack and, as soon as the news was shared, grief poured from every corner of social media and people were shaping memories of the Buzzcocks and why his unique pen changed music. Whilst a lot of his Punk peers were writing something more aggressive and anti-establishment in the 1970s; Shelley’s songs were a more gentle affair. That is not to say it lacked bite but, whether writing about love or the pressures of life, he put in more musicianship, songcraft and lyrical genius than anyone around him. I will look at another couple of music legends that will be remembered and recalled next month but, right now, it is worth thinking about Shelley and how his death has legacy is being remembered. To me, the music of the Buzzcocks was about regret and a teenage feeling of longing and unrequited lust. In 1978, when the band came onto the scene, we had the likes of Kate Bush and Blondie making huge statements…

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 IMAGE CREDIT: Getty Images

This fiery yet sensitive band led by a poet with a huge heart was not what many were expecting. Another Music in a Different Kitchen is seen as one of the best debut albums of the 1970s and hits such as I Don’t Mind influenced subsequent Pop-Punk bands. Their sophomore album, released in the same year, boasted the epic Ever Fallen in Love (With Someone You Shouldn’t’ve) and is the song many associated with the Buzzcocks and Pete Shelley. The album is an essential offering from the Punk era but the band would continue to make albums as recently as 2014 (the so-so The Way is not essential but still has flashes of brilliance). Since 1978, nine studio albums arrived from the band and, at a time when they were competing against the Sex Pistols and The Clash; the Buzzcocks were Punk giants but offered a different approach and different aesthetic. There were more lurid and saucy moments (Orgasm Addict) but Shelley shone brightest when documenting the struggles of the heart and the sort of emotional tensions many of the Buzzcocks’ fans would have felt. I have ended this piece with a Buzzcocks playlist but, before expanding on my point, here are a couple of articles that pay tribute to Shelley and his music. Vulture wrote a fantastic article:

Forming Buzzcocks in 1975 with Howard Devoto (after Devoto left to form Magazine, Steve Diggle would be the only other consistent member), Pete Shelley invented a lovelorn and conversational poetry driven by slashing guitar music as unshakably catching as any of cupid’s arrows ever were. If Richard Hell was Baudelaire and Patti Smith was, well, Patti Smith, then Pete Shelley was Frank O’Hara, always in love with love, a sophisticate in his underwear, plus treble. And if maybe some of Shelley’s [cough] descendants took “all those stains on your jeans” from Buzzcocks’ first single, 1977’s “Orgasm Addict,” a bit too much as a career lyrical template, what’s more tragic/romantic than unintended consequence...

It’s pretty much canon that Singles Going Steady is the “best” Buzzcocks album the same way that a singles collection of the Temptations or the Supremes would be those groups’ “best.” Singles Going Steady gets youth and desire exactly right. It’s a perfect album from a band that never fetishized perfection.

To remember Pete Shelley’s songs is to feel the pain of nostalgia, like visiting your hometown when every shuttered deli and graveyard is a monument to some youthful humiliation. Here’s where you took an hour to tell a boy exactly how you felt, only to have him ask about a better-looking friend before you could get the words out. Here’s where you tried to feel up a social better and got shot down in a way that shakes you even now. Here’s where you did something cruel, only to realize just how cruel you were years later”.

Pitchfork talked about Shelley’s sensitivity and a unique way of mixing Punk and Pop; a gender-neutral poet who was not anyone who came before. In a genre that was dominated by a sense of crude, overtly-masculine spit and aggression; it was refreshing to see this tenderer songwriter who was penning anthem after anthem. Pitchfork shared their impressions and memories:

Whenever I listen to Buzzcocks’ music, what always strikes me is how modern it still sounds. But that is actually how it works with true innovation. No matter how much time passes—decades during which a breakthrough is assimilated and worn out by repetition, whether by others or by the artist repeating themselves—something of that initial shock of the new rings out and cuts through. And if you think about it, nearly everything handed down to us as “classic” was, in its own time, a break with tradition...

Although they were in the original core cluster of groups that invented UK punk, Buzzcocks would always be an anomaly within that movement—misfits among the misfits. There had never been words, a voice, a personality, like this in rock before. Shelley sang love songs when every other major punk vocalist rejected them as trivial next to political themes, or—if they did deal with desire and heartbreak—laced the words with spite and hostility. The aggression in Buzzcocks was all in the sound; the animating spirit was sensitive, open-hearted, vulnerable.

But there was more to Shelley than just perfect power pop. The second side of Singles Going Steady, dedicated to the group’s B-sides, grew steadily less straightforward, culminating in “Why Can’t I Touch It,” nearly seven minutes of loping almost-funk and stereo-separated guitar-slashes, and “Something’s Gone Wrong Again,” which resembles suspended-animation Stooges, glistening with a coat of frost. The entire second side of A Different Kind of Tension was a Shelley mini-concept album, permeated with existential doubts and askew with a disassociated feeling influenced by LSD. And 1980’s “Are Everything,” one of the first-phase Buzzcocks’ last singles, was even more psychedelic: Shelley took acid for every stage of the process, from recording to mixing, hoping for the rush of revelation to overcome him”.

A lot has been written about Pete Shelley: his different sides and his massive heart. The way he changed music and has inspired legions of modern musicians cannot be understated.

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 IN THIS PHOTO: Prince (the music icon died in 2016)/PHOTO CREDIT: Ebet Roberts/Getty Images

A lot of time will pass and we will pay tribute to Shelley every year. There will be the usual playlists with his best songs and there will be archive interviews from Shelley. We will remember and sadly look back to his death and how the world lost a giant. Over the past few years, we have lost music greats such as George Michael, Prince and David Bowie. George Michael died on Christmas Day in 2016 – the same year that saw both David Bowie (10th January) and Prince (21st April) leave us. We still hear their music around but I wonder if their memories are being preserved in the right way. I love the fact we will recall the brilliance of Pete Shelley and Prince but, in years to come, there will be a legion of artists and fans that will only be drip-fed the music of these lost icons. I am not suggesting we build shrines to these musicians but there should be some avenue or exhibition that means, even though they have gone, people will be able to look back and discover their music every day. I do worry artists like George Michael and Prince will start to slowly fade out of the consciousness – or their music will not be played as much as we’d like.

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 IN THIS PHOTO: George Michael (who died on 25th December, 2016)/PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

Christmas is a happy time but we have lost Pete Shelley and, as I said, mark the two-year anniversaries regarding the deaths of George Michael, David Bowie and Prince. Look back even further and there are so many musicians who are no longer with us – taken way too soon and no longer releasing music. We all have a bond to them in some way and it makes me a bit sad to think these titans are not played as much as years previous. I know there are lots of articles out there (and the music never dies) but I feel there should be some permanent memorial that recognises the music greats and brings their music to new generations. Think about Shelley and his wonderful songs and you want these to compel and drive the next generation of songwriters. They can discover the Buzzcocks online but there is so much brilliance and Shelley gold that needs to be collated, combined and there for all to see. I think this of all the great artists who are gone and wonder whether there is some way, once the dust has settled, we can create a monument to Shelley. Maybe it would be maudlin having a museum of departed stars but from older departed such as John Lennon to more modern losses such as Amy Winehouse; these innovators deserve more than streaming immortality. Pete Shelley and his impact cannot be undersold and many people will be experiencing his music for the first time now. I have no doubt many new bands and songwriters will learn from the Buzzcocks lead and one hopes this great is not easily forgotten. Maybe there is a solution but I think it is easy to let artists fade out mind once they have gone – streaming is very much about the here and now and older acts are overlooked in some ways. We must think about some permanent conservation and promotion but, in a difficult week, Pete Shelley is very much in the mind. The Punk pioneer might have left us but, with his generations-lasting music out there...

HE will never be forgotten.

INTERVIEW: The Fame

INTERVIEW:

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PHOTO CREDIT: Avalon Mohns 

The Fame

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I have been speaking with The Fame...

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about their debut single, Wide Awake, and what its story is. They tell me how the band formed and what we can expect from their approaching E.P. – the guys reveal albums important to them and rising artists that are worth a shout.

I was keen to discover which artists influence them and whether there are upcoming tour dates; what they would like for Christmas and which artists they’d support given the chance – they select some cool tracks to end the interview with.

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

Really busy. We just released our debut single - and we’ve been swamped with lots of things that need to get done. But, other than that, it’s been good.

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

Yes. We are a four-piece Indie-Rock band from Toronto, Canada. We have been around for about two years, and we all come from different backgrounds and walks of life.

Wide Awake is your debut single. Is there a story behind it?

Not really. It’s just a song about how people perceive themselves and the world around them. The happenings of everyday life; walking around in your own shoes...especially during hard times or the periods in your life when you feel like you have nothing good or redeeming to grasp onto.

I know an E.P. is coming next year. Can you reveal any themes or ideas behind the songs?

The songs are just about real things. Real emotions, real feelings and real thoughts; stuff everybody goes through. Besides that, there isn’t really a theme behind the E.P.

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What was it like working with Brian Moncarz on the E.P.?

It was a great experience. Brian saved us as a band. We had tried recording about seven or eight times before working with him and it was going nowhere until we sent him our demo tapes - and he loved them. He gave us a new perspective and did an amazing job with this E.P. He’s experienced, and knows what he’s doing. Can’t say enough good things about him.

When did The Fame get together? How did you find one another?

We were four best friends in high-school who grew up on the same street together and decided to form a ba…nah. Our story is far from that. I, Brandon answered an ad on Craigslist looking for a rhythm guitarist for a new band and, in that band, I met Yu, who was the lead guitarist. We became friends and, when that band was falling apart we decided to leave and start our own band. We put ads up online looking for a bassist and, through one of the people who answered the ad, we met Andrew who joined the band full-time after subbing in on bass for our first show.

After trying out a succession of drummers, we met Rodrigo who had just moved from Chile to Canada and became roommates with Yu in the same house. He was a music educator in Chile. Our current drummer at the time quit and the rest, as they say, is history…

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In terms of music; which artists are you drawn to?

We all have our own preferences and influences but, as a band, we’re most drawn to artists like: The Beatles, Velvet Underground; Neil Young, Nirvana; Oasis, White Stripes; Strokes, Arctic Monkeys; Smashing Pumpkins and Red Hot Chili Peppers.

As Christmas is coming; what one present would you each like if you could have anything?

I think we would all like some new amps and some Long & McQuade gift cards. Haha.

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Do you already have plans for 2019?

Yeah. We’ve got two more singles to drop in the New Year and then the full E.P. which we are expecting to release around March/April. We’re also starting to line up a bunch of shows for the New Year as well.

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

Touring is always the most fun but also anytime we’ve got to play at the Horseshoe in Toronto is great. Especially the time it was nearly sold out; that was incredible.

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

There are SO many albums we could name but, for the sake of this interview, four albums that are important to each of us are: The Beatles - The Beatles (White Album); Oasis - Definitely Maybe; Nirvana - In Utero and Red Hot Chili Peppers - Blood Sugar Sex Magik.

Each of these albums has its own distinctive identity - and that’s part of the reason why they are so important to us. Each has inspired us as composers and as musicians. There are so many more we wish we could mention like The Strokes, Velvet Underground; Arctic Monkeys, Smashing Pumpkins; Sonic Youth, White Stripes etc., but we’ll save those for the next interview sometime down the road.

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

Paul McCartney or Neil Young, for sure. Who knows how much longer they will be touring, so we couldn’t pass up an opportunity to open up for one of them. They are both huge inspirations for us. Oh...and definitely NO brown M&M’s.

What advice would you give to new artists coming through?

Write lots of songs and play as many shows as you can.

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

Nothing we can announce yet, but lots of dates in the works. We are just coming off a sold-out show at the Cameron House in Toronto.

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Are there any new artists you recommend we check out?

We’ve been listening to The Beaches, Dirty Nil; MIGHTY, DIIV; Ready the Prince and Crown Lands recently. All very good.

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 IN THIS PHOTO: Crown Lands/PHOTO CREDIT: Kurt Cuffy

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

We each have our own ways of unwinding. But, mostly, just hanging with friends or family. Going to shows or concerts; taking in the art/film scene in Toronto. Music is an important part of each of us, so we never really get away from it.

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).

Sounds good! Here’s what were all feeling today:

The Strokes - Automatic Stop

Red Hot Chili Peppers - My Lovely Man

The Beatles - I Want You (She’s So Heavy)

Black Sabbath - Hole in the Sky

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Follow The Fame

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INTERVIEW: The Yacht Club

INTERVIEW:

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The Yacht Club

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THE guys of The Yacht Club...

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have been revealing how they found one another and what we can expect from their upcoming album, The Last Words That You Said to Me Have Kept Me Here and Safe. They discuss the emotional and personal story behind their single, Heigham Park, and what it was like putting together its video.

The chaps highlighttheir favourite albums and the music that matters most; which rising artists we need to get behind and whether there are any gigs approaching – they each pick a great song to end the interview with.

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

Jack: Stressful but good! Some friends of ours opened a new recording studio on Saturday (@thebookhousestudio on Instagram) and I spent a lot of last week helping them get the space sorted for the opening day.

Marcus: Very busy, very tiring! I had a lovely chat to the Such Great Heights podcast about all things musical which should be out in a couple of weeks. I’ve also been rehearsing with another band I play in (Employed to Serve) for our upcoming tour.

Alex: Good, thanks! Been getting some artwork ready for the band’s Japanese release.

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

Jack: I’m Jack and I play guitar and sing.

Marcus: I’m Marcus and I also play guitar and sing!

Alex: Hey, I’m Alex - I play drums live and also do keys on our recordings.

How did The Yacht Club form? What attracted you to one another?

Jack: I actually only joined the band two years ago, but I went to school with Alex and know the rest of the guys through him. I covered bass duties whilst Alex was away on another tour, so when our old guitarists left, I guess I was an obvious choice for the others.

Marcus: T.Y.C. was a way of writing songs for myself and not for anyone else. I had spent a few years doing the session musician thing in London and had really been neglecting my own artistic expression. I just wanted to make music like all my favourite bands and I think my own words to Tom (who has recorded all of our music to date) were “I wanna be just like Pennines!” I met Ali (Alex who plays drums) on a music course we were doing and played in a band together briefly, so when T.Y.C. came around it was a perfect fit.

Whilst I say it was a solo project, Ali has been there for every recording; played drums and keys on it all and been there since pretty much the very start.  I lived with Alex (bass) when I was at uni and met Jack through him! Whilst the line-up has had people come and go, this one feels very natural.

Alex: Myself and Marcus met at ICMP in 2011 for a Live Event Management project. We’ve been writing music together ever since! Marcus got me on-board for drums on ‘A’ in late 2012 (initially a solo project). Also, Marcus looks more like my brother than my actual brother. P.M. us for proof.

Heigham Park is out. What is the story behind it? What was it like putting the video together?

Marcus: Heigham Park was written about dealing with losing one of my closest friends, Blythe, to suicide. The park itself is somewhere we would go after school and during the summer. There are a lot of special memories associated with that place and now there’s a bench there in his memory. It’s one of the most honest and upfront songs I think I have ever written, let alone one that appears on the record. The idea and demo for the song has existed for about three years in its most basic form. It went through a few stylistic changes before arriving at its current form! I’ve had the second half of the chorus and the first verse since the start though.

The video was fun to do! The live shots were taken in this really cool space we hired out off of Brick Lane. However, the drums were far too loud so we could only get two takes! The woodland area was the same day as another video shoot our director (Andy Curd - Kamaji Studios) was involved with the same day! It was a tight squeeze to fit it in with our schedules but I’m really happy with how it has turned out.

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PHOTO CREDIT: Alfredo Guzman

The Last Words That You Said to Me Have Kept Me Here and Safe is out in January. What sort of themes and ideas inspired the record?

Marcus: The whole album was written over a period of immense grief and sadness following Blythe’s death. He was the only one of my friends who I could talk so openly about mental-health and the problems we shared and, when he went, it was like that lifeline was severed. Towards the end of the writing process, I also lost my father very suddenly too and this made its way into a few last-minute lyrics and musical ideas. Not only do you start questioning your own mortality when losing someone so suddenly, but it brings every life choice you have made so far into question.

So, naturally, my writing reflects this. It’s an album of recovery and realising you do have people there for you, even if the ones you thought would stand by you didn’t - and making your way through to the other side.

In terms of music; which artists are you drawn to?

Jack: I grew up listening to a lot of Metal and Hardcore, which is something I’m still very much into, but I guess my main interests musically are Punk/Emo bands and singer-songwriters. Death Cab for Cutie are a massive influence on all of us and I really love bands like Joyce Manor and Charly Bliss. In terms of singer songwriters, boygenius and each of the members’ solo projects are huge sources of inspiration for me.

Marcus: I will always and forever go back to City and Colour. Dallas Green really shaped my songwriting and singing from a young age. I like a lot of bands that can instil emotion and have clever production such as Death Cab For Cutie, Jimmy Eat World and a lot of Owen records. But, then again, I’m a big fan of that noodly guitar playing! Into It Over It do this so well whilst maintaining excellent choruses and not being over the top with it.

Alex: For me, Jimmy Eat World was the first band that I got obsessed with. The first song I heard was Sweetness when I was twelve. I used to be into far more ‘technical-for-the-sake-of-it’ music; now, I’m more drawn to creatively-simple artists. A teacher once said “The simplicity on the other side of complexity”.

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 PHOTO CREDIT: Simon Treasure

As Christmas is coming; what one present would you each like if you could have anything?

Jack: If money (and space) weren’t a problem I’d have a Fender Quad Reverb.

Marcus: I’m a boring adult; so really valuing good kitchen equipment these days...

Alex: I really want to get back into drawing, so a new drawing pad and a set of pencils. That or a cast iron pan.

Do you already have plans for 2019?

Jack: We absolutely do! We’re looking to play a load more shows once the album is out and are all really desperate to get on the festival circuit!

Marcus: Touring and playing a whole lot more. I just want to get this record out to as many people as I can! Already a few demos deep into the next release, so I’m excited to get that started.

Alex: We’ve been working on some piano versions of the tracks, so potentially a cheeky acoustic release could be in the works in between albums.

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

Jack: Recording gang vocals for the last track on the album. We did a lot of overnight sessions with our friend, Tom Hill, and the (sometimes-stressful) late nights made things quite difficult, as well as the distance between us whilst we were recording. It was the first time we’d all been together in such a long time and there was such a sense that everything had come together and had clicked.

Marcus: Sounds cliché and obvious but listening back to the first bounces we received from the album. Recording this album was such a landmark moment not only for the band, but for ourselves as well. With an unsteady line-up, we had not really been a band on the outside world for the best part of a year. I had recently moved to Norwich after my father passed whilst everyone else was back in London so recording and writing was plagued with delays due to distance and me touring heavily with a band called Ducking Punches. But we did it. I’m super-proud of everyone for making this the best thing we’ve ever done.

Alex: Tracking drums for this album at Holy Mountain Studios in Hoxton last August. Four days of drum production geekery and storming off saying “I hate this track”; forgetting I was on my own in public wearing my favourite Chuckle Brothers T-shirt.

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 PHOTO CREDIT: Alfredo Guzman

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

Jack: For me, probably Casually Dressed & Deep in Conversation by Funeral for a Friend. That was the first album that I was ever super-into and it got me into a load of music that I still really love today. Their farewell shows in London were the same weekend as my birthday and being at those shows with my brother are really special memories to me.

Marcus: Bring Me Your Love by City and Colour. This was the album that really pushed me into writing and singing and really shaped my musical tastes. It was the album that taught me it’s ok to not be ok and I am so thankful for that.

Alex: Always a tough one. Easy answer would be Clarity by Jimmy Eat World because I was at the right point in my life to be listening to that album. De-Loused at the Comatorium by The Mars Volta opened my mind as to what was possible with drumming and also music.

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

Jack: Julien Baker. Both her albums are incredible and she puts on an amazing show. I’d also love to know what her live setup is!

Marcus: Jimmy Eat World, for sure. They’ve had such an impact on all of us and it’d be a truly bucket-list moment. For the rider, I’d have a crate of Vego bars and Temple of Seitan burgers.

Alex: Been loving what Lianne La Havas does for a while - pure talent; otherworldly.

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 PHOTO CREDIT: Alfredo Guzman

What advice would you give to new artists coming through?

Marcus: Have fun, be positive and keep an open mind through the whole process. You might start making music in one genre and decide another one is more to your liking! Listen to as much music as you can, and be respectful to everyone.

Alex: Cliché, but have fun! That’s why we all started loving music, keep it that way. Keep curious and actually listen to music, not just background noise.

Jack: Say ‘yes’ to as much as you can - you never know where an opportunity will take you; be willing to compromise with other musicians you work with and have fun!

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

Marcus: We have a couple of launch shows for the album coming up! 26th January at the Sebright Arms in London and 2nd February at The Steam Packet in Norwich. We’ve also got an intimate acoustic show on the 14th January which you’ll hear about soon.

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 IN THIS PHOTO: Dryjacket/PHOTO CREDIT: @walk.into.the.light

Are there any new artists you recommend we check out?

Jack: No Stranger, Dryjacket and Don’t Worry.

Alex: Christof van der Ven.

Marcus: Spanish Love Songs, Marigolds and Shadowboxer.

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 IN THIS PHOTO: Marigolds/PHOTO CREDIT: Tom Seago

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

Marus: Music is my full-time job, so it really does take over all parts of my life! If I have some time to unplug, nothing beats lasting an afternoon playing Skyrim with multiple cups of tea.

Alex: Loads! I unwind with a casual run around parks in N.W. London. That or lose myself in a book at a new café I’ve discovered on a random walk.

Jack: I don’t really do much else, honestly. I left my job last year to go back to university and study music and also to give me more time to focus on making music. Unwinding for me is usually putting something relaxing on and hanging out with my dog - City and Colour’s most-recent live album is a current favourite for this

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)

Jack: Great Grey Towers by No Stranger

Marcus: Friends in Theory by Tommy Boys

Alex: London by Third Eye Blind

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Follow The Yacht Club

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TRACK REVIEW: Bugeye - Disco Dancer

TRACK REVIEW:

 

Bugeye

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Disco Dancer

 

9.5/10

 

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The track, Disco Dancer, is available via:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a7_noIe6OAI&feature=youtu.be

GENRES:

Post-Punk Punk; Rock; Pop

ORIGIN:

Croydon, U.K.

LABEL:

31% Wool Recordings

RELEASE DATE:

7th December, 2018

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I am making changes next year and responding to a sense...

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of fatigue and sameness. I am discovering too much of the same music coming through and the same problem with musicians. In terms of sounds, there are so many bands that are performing the same sort of thing and solo artists that are barely distinguishable. It is understandable there is some repetition and predictability but it is getting too common now. I wonder whether we will see any big breakthroughs in underground music in terms of genre and whether there will be more colour and surprise. I am also discovering many new artists are lacking basic things like high-resolution photos and a Twitter account. These might sound minor but, in a busy and competitive industry, they are invaluable. You need photos online because music is visual and it will attract people – and, when it comes to the modern day, you can take some great photos very inexpensively and without issue. I get a lot of people giving me excuses why they cannot get together high-resolution photos and it annoys me. The same goes for Twitter – it is the most potent and important tool for any new artist and to avoid it is a foolish and inexcusable thing. This does not apply to Bugeye but, if I were to suggest anything to the band as they head into 2019 is to get together a few new snaps. They have had a personnel shift and going through a new phase but, as they have some great shots out there already, a few more would be great and attract new followers. I have had to omit a few of the new ones because they are in landscape rather than portrait and I cannot use them on the blog. I have talked a lot about what I am looking for next year but I think, as a starting place, looking at the whole package is a good thing.

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I will come on to look at Punk and embracing new genres; female voices in music and why next year will be different; splicing different sounds and coming up with a rare and exciting brew; the need to mention politics and document what is happening in the country – I will look at where the band might head in 2019 and what is in store for them. I will keep on the issue of lack and why a lot of musicians are going to miss out because of things other than music. I am attracted to Bugeye because of the fire and originality you get with the music and, compared to a lot of the other music I am hearing, they stand out. I am not sure whether artists are too afraid to be bold and stretch things but it is hard to tell the difference between so many acts. A lot of it sounds so routine and, whilst it is important to back and promote musicians, I am not remembering a lot of it because there is that repetition. The same really goes for social media. Too many do not really put too much time into social media and they leave big gaps between updates. So many do not have adequate and good-quality photos and the excuses are all the same. They either claim getting photos done is too expensive – one single shoot does not cost that much and you can get some great images done on your phone – and they are only putting out a few snaps for each campaign - it is unwise to limit yourself in terms of campaigns and a lot of good journalists are looking for more than two or three photos. It is a bugbear of mine but, into 2019, I am going to be a lot stricter and reject artists who are not capable of putting together excellent photos, a decent and updated social media outlay and can diversify in terms of their own music. Bugeye appeal to me because they have a strong Twitter following and are keeping it updated; there are some good shots in the mix (a few more would be great) and their sound is excellent.

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The Croydon-based band is in my mind because, right now, an urgency and sense of anger is what we need in music. It is no coincidence that the best album of the year, according to most, is IDLES’ Joy as an Act of Resistance. It is a record that bursts with life and energy and, above all, has a relevance and key voice. The band has resonated because they are talking about subjects that are not often explored in music. They have explored mental-health and politics; masculinity and perceptions and what the future holds. The performances are kinetic and dynamic and you get so much physicality from every offering. Bugeye are the same and, as I shall explore, they are looking at important topics and concerned with what is happening. I think the mainstream media is still too beholden to Pop but, with Punk waves and great Hip-Hop artists showing their teeth and producing incredible albums; it has been a great year for those who want us to open our eyes and are telling the truth. I feel there is too much subjectivity when it comes to music and artists are too keen to talk about what is on their mind and not go beyond that. I understand why artists want to talk about love but the world is so divided and chaotic – music should be providing escape but it also needs to document what is occurring and having that perceptiveness. IDLES have struck a chord because they are providing reality and not lying like politicians. It is risky chatting about deep and hard subjects in music but Punk seems to be at the forefront. I have heard some great new Punk bands but Bugeye seem to be at the forefront. Things are not getting that much better so their voice is going to be crucial!

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I have seen some great music this year and it seems slightly dismissive when I ignore other genres. I have mentioned the way so many sound alike and it is getting a bit weary not being able to bond with something fresh, genuinely long-lasting and interesting. I am not expecting a new Beastie Boys or DJ Shadow but I would like to see new artist go beyond the ordinary and commercial and be bold. Bugeye are standing out because they have the fire and energy of the best Punk bands; they are scoring their songs with messages about politics and stuff that is current and relevant and, in terms of the sounds, they mix the old and new. The staple and foundation is Punk but the band is inspired by the likes of Gossip and Talking Heads. Their sounds are not as intense as, say, IDLES and they bring something catchy and almost melodic to their music. I feel the new breed of Punk artists are putting together the guts and rawness you got from the likes of Sex Pistols and Ramones and they are putting that with something more arty, uplifting and accessible. Given the recent death of the Buzzcocks’ lead singer, Pete Shelley, we are seeing the Punk icons pass by and leave the world – this is sad but it should inspire musicians to take an example from them. Many are paying tribute to Shelley and his unique brand of songwriting. I think, as legends die, many will look back at their music and be inspired to do something similar. Maybe Bugeye rank Buzzcocks as influences but, when listening to a song like Disco Dancer, I get shades of the great man. There are elements of Ramones and newer artists like Goat Girl and Shame but it is a heady and fantastic mixture. In any case, I feel modern Punk is among the most promising music and I do feel, given the situation around the world, people are finding undiluted and straight-talking facts that politicians are not giving us.

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They say there is change coming in and some form of gender equality and, whilst Primavera has announced Christine and the Queens as a headliner (the first big festival to do so), that is not being mirrored in the U.K. (that festival is based in Spain/Portugal). I am not holding much promise Glastonbury will book a female headliner and, although festivals are committed to a gender balance by 2022, that is a long way away and many could do it now. A lot of the best albums this year have been made by women: from Anna Calvi and Robyn through to Christine and the Queens and Kacey Musgraves. There is ample talent out there to headline festivals and it seems sexism is rife and not letting up anytime soon. Not only are there great female solo artists but there are bands like Goat Girl, Hinds and Wolf Alice (female-led) who could easily get the crowds in! It is worrying to see this really slow progress and I do wonder what the fate is of female acts right now. Many are showing their brilliance but getting less focus than their male counterparts. Bugeye will get the attention they deserve but I think they will have to wait longer than a lot of their male peers – even though their music (Bugeye) is stronger and has more nuance. Females are not being represented as fairly as they should and that needs to change next year! I am not sure whether a festival balance will help move against sexism or whether we will ever solve the quandary. I am discovering a lot of female gold and, although blogs and journalists are talking about them, it needs to companionship of festival bookings and radio-play. Bugeye are a newly-configured quartet and there is great strength in the ranks right now. I am sure there will be change but it might be slower than hoped.

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2019 needs to be a year where we look at imbalances and problems and make a concerted effort to rectify it. I am a bit concerned there is not a great deal of actual effort coming from those who can make these changes and affect improvement – this is damaging music and holding a lot of great female sounds back. Consider a band like Bugeye and where they are right now. They are, in many ways, part of the zeitgeist and they have an awful lot to say. The music matches the muscle of the best Punk out there but there is a lot of depth and variation within. I feel festivals should be booking bands like Bugeye – their time will not come for a few years yet – and female artists in general are putting out better work than the men. Music should be about quality and not making concessions but one cannot realistically say the festival headliners are there because they are the best. Time and time again, we are seeing the same bands being hired and that needs to change. I would like to see a big effort come in next year that tackles inequality and recognises great female artists. I will move on from this subject but it has got me a bit riled! Music is at its strongest when it is diverse and equal and, in terms of sounds, can anyone honestly say the likes of Bugeye are inferior?! I have mentioned how Punk is very much the genre of choice now and here we have a great band that are kicking arse and deserve more attention. They have had a great 2018 and made some moves but I think next year will be an awesome one for them. Who knows how far they can go but I have every hope they will be challenging alongside the very finest around.

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I will end with a look at where the band will head next year but I have touched on politics and splicing sounds together. There is a bit of Talking Heads in the music of Bugeye but you get a nice slab of Punk and Alternative. Bugeye lot at sexism and politics on their latest track, Disco Dancer, and you get a nice melting of sounds. It can be a bit heavy listening to songs about politics and the problems of modern life but so many musicians are sticking with love and not showing a lot of variety. I understand the impulse to discuss what is personal but the world is splitting and cracking and artists need to be more observational. Bugeye have been taking a good look around and are documenting areas that are very current and need to be exposed. They mix politics and Pop and you get a nice slab of glory. It is wonderful seeing this band strengthen and produce music that gets inside the head and can talk about something important whilst doing so. So much of what is out there today lacks eclectic spirit and themes can stray too close to the familiar. Those who are bolder with their themes and words are to be commended and are a lot more distinct than most. Bugeye, led by Angela Martin, are influenced by 1970s New York Post-Punk and there is a bit of Grunge grit in there. Previous singles such as Is This Love and Never Let This Go have been well-received by radio and the group are very much in demand. The only way you are going to remember a new artist, I feel, is if their palette is broad and they do not concentrate on the same thing every time. Bugeye have spoken about relationships and heartache but they realise they need to keep moving and not be slaves to one particular themes. Let us consider what is happening around the world and the role music plays.

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This country is seeing an ongoing Brexit fiasco and it is no closer to being resolved. I do wonder what will happen next year and if we are going to be in this same mess by Christmas 2019. It is hard to know what is going to occur but, look further afield, and there are other problems rising. We have sexism in music and there is an ongoing concern regarding sexual assault. Few of us have the power to actual change these things but artists need to be aware of how important these problems are and provide their own spin. There is no reason to suggest tackling these areas will be dark and foreboding and, as Bugeye show, they can easily get political and ensure the music is fun and catchy. I will not stick too rigidly to subject matter and diversity but I think the best of next year will continue alongside the lines of this year in terms of importance and weighty themes. It is no coincidence that some of the best albums of this year have tackled the big issues and many artists need to keep that going into 2019. I know it can be tough getting ahead of the crowd and staying in the memory but Bugeye are showing what can happen and a good way of making an impact. I was compelled to look at Disco Dancer because it is the sound of the revitalised and galvanised band and talks about things not a lot of other acts are. The song burrows into the brain and you will find yourself revisiting it but, not only does the sound strike, but the themes and words will bounce around the brain. It is a great time for the band and I know next year will be even bigger. Let us get down to things and take a look at Disco Dancer. It has already received kudos and attention and that is going to continue over the coming days and weeks.

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For anyone wanting a casual introduction and some time to consider will be in for a shock when Disco Dancer unfurls. You get plenty of punch and growl as the song races away. The riffs are beefy but there is economy; the percussion and bass leads the song and you have this complete and chunky track. One hears embers of the best Punk acts but, to be fair, the song marries Pop and Alternative together. The title might put your mind in one direction but, as the song unfolds, you start to consider other avenues. The introduction continues unabated and get the feet tapping. When the lead comes to the vocal there is a nice blend of Courtney Love and Kirsty MacCool. That might be my sleep-deprived brain leaping to conclusions but I can hear some eclectic and wide-ranging influences in the vocal. The song tells of a man, a disco dancer, who seems to be optimal and desired and as the heroine asks for her name to be called; I get the feeling gender imbalance is underneath the words. Maybe there is a passion and sense of lust towards the hero but I get the sense of a bit of imbalance and anger. One can certainly detect the bones of 1970s New York in the attack and tones and it is a heady brew. Repetition forms part of the early song and it is designed to get people invested and ensure the song sinks in fast. Soon enough, a queen of Disco arrives and she is the ruler of the floor. Contrasting with the male dancer, it seems like she boasts bigger moves and a lot more depth. It appears the song’s heroine is racing around and taking a bow. Maybe she is throwing herself out there because it takes little effort for the man to be seen. I get the scene of a dancefloor and crowds flocking but that image acts more as a metaphor for the music industry and how there is a division.

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One of the reasons why I love the song is because it has spirit and spit and there is a great blend of the older and contemporary. The production is polished but allows for a lot of dirty and murkiness to create this fantastic explosion. The band is united and tight throughout and I was hooked from start to finish. Perhaps I am jumping to conclusions when I look at sexism in music and how there is imbalance but there might be other possibilities. Disco Dancer is a great song that gets into the head and creates an instant memory. You will find yourself returning and discovering new stuff time and time again. The lead elongates and punctuates her words after an explosive burst from the band. We witness something jumping and canine and, as we expect the song to continue down that road, a great offering emerges. She asks how the man dances and asks to be shown. I get the feeling that is an observation regarding the way men are perceived in music and the lack of female attention. Maybe it is more simple and there is this calling across the floor; a male dancer throwing out these moves and there is that sense of attraction. I tend to find the latter is a metaphor for the former and an investigating regarding the state of modern music. I like how Bugeye manage to unite the calmer and more teasing with the inflamed and dynamite. You never feel too suffocated by the song and it is always grips you and offers something exciting. I was motivated to return to the song after the first listen and that is quite rare.

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I hope the band creates more songs like this and Disco Dancer is spread far and wide. The dancer on the floor is lost in a war and they have to compete against the odds. Whether you perceive the song to be about the battle of sexes or there is something more romantic at work; it is a masterful track that will not shift from the head. I was compelled to explore different angles upon each new spin and was coming away with different impressions. However you see it – and whatever the real truth is – one cannot deny that Disco Dancer makes a late big for one of the brightest and finest underground Punk offerings. I shall wrap up the review section in a bit but wanted to congratulate Bugeye on a great song that will get many more people looking their way. They have had a busy and changeable year and they could easily have left things quietly. Instead, we get this incredible song that declares war and raises some very important points. If you have not discovered what they are about and dug deep into their music then have a listen to Disco Dancer and work your way back. The band will have their sights set on a successful 2019 and I see no reason why they cannot nestle alongside the finest of the rising breed. If they keep putting our records as attractive and appealing as Disco Dancer then things are going to very bright and smooth. Spread the message and make sure you get the Croydon band’s music as far as possible. It is a tough industry but the group have negotiated so many hurdles and are a lot more equipped and ready than so many of their peers. I predict they will make some big waves in 2019 and, when it comes to the polls this time next year, their name will be in some pretty big publications.

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Bugeye have won the ear of respected D.J.s such as Steve Lamacq and they have got under the radar of some pretty influential sites. This is no fluke. Their music is striking and passionate but you get plenty of song craft, memorability and measure. They can show their teeth and attack but they also take things down and can provide plenty of rhythm. The band has played some big gigs, so keep your eyes on their social media as we head into 2019. You will want to catch them perform live and see what they are all about. I am not sure whether they have more material brewing and what their plans are regarding future releases. There is nothing to suggest they will be underground for long and, given the rise of Punk and artists trending now, it is a great time for Bugeye. I think there will be an E.P. or album and many more gigs where they can continue to hone and reach new audience. This is a moment in music when certain genres are fading out and others are coming through. I feel Punk is a dominant force and it will continue to grow. Bugeye should be proud considering how far they have come this year – it has been a stellar time for the Croydon band. I am pumped to see where they go and whether new material is afoot. Disco Dancer is a perfect representation of where they are now and what they are all about. The track looks at sexism and imbalance but you are hooked by more than the words. It is a bursting and lively song that gets into the bloodstream and remains in the memory for a long time. There are not many bands who have the same combination of skills as Bugeye and I think more should follow suit. If you want an arresting and interesting group that mix relevance with fun and intelligence then you will get a lot of satisfaction from Bugeye. They have accomplished a lot so far but next year is a different matter. I feel 2019 will be a year where the band transform from underground whisper and vibe and take a big step...

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TOWARDS the biggest leagues in music.   

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Follow Bugeye

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FEATURE: A Genre and Gender Revolution? The Grammys 2019: Steps Forward, Omissions and a Category-Spanning Playlist

FEATURE:

 

 

A Genre and Gender Revolution?

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IN THIS PHOTO: Rap artist Cardi B has been nominated for five Grammys, including Album of the Year for Invasion of Privacy/PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images 

The Grammys 2019: Steps Forward, Omissions and a Category-Spanning Playlist

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IN years past...

many have accused the Grammys of lacking diversity and being too focused on Pop/the mainstream. It has taken a long time for there to be the parity and balance many have called for but, for next year, it seems like we may nearer than ever. The nominations are out and it is a big year for artists like Cardi B, Kendrick Lamar and Drake. Last year saw very few women nominated in big categories and many accused the decision makers of sexism. The full nominations are out and it is a lot more impressive and balanced. Hip-Hop has played a big role in this year’s nominations but artists from Country, such as Kacey Musgraves, are also nominated. It is a big step forward and, to me, 2019 is going to be a much more relevant and equal year than this one – where many questioned the validity and worth of the Grammys. The BBC have noticed one of the problems regarding the Grammys: the sheer weight of categories! It is almost like the Academy Awards when it comes to covering all bases and not leaving anyone out:

The Grammys aren't exactly known for their brevity; and this year's list of nominees runs to 84 categories across a rainforest-destroying 55 pages.

Matters haven't been helped by the decision to expand the marquee categories - album of the year, record of the year, song of the year and best new artist - to eight nominees, instead of the traditional five...

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IN THIS IMAGE: The cover of The Carters’ album, EVERYTHING IS LOVE (which was expected to feature heavily but missed out on the top categories)/IMAGE CREDIT: Getty Images

Although there have been some leaps in terms of the genres highlighted and giving women more of a voice, some have noticed the absence of Beyoncé and Jay-Z on the nominations. Jay-Z was denied this year – many thought his album, 4:44, should have scoped big prizes – and, alongside Beyoncé, he created The Carters. The album, EVERYTHING IS LOVE, received great reviews and there is no real reason why they have been omitted:

“...This year, though, it got worse: The couple's joint album Everything Is Love failed to secure a nomination in any of the big four categories.

Maybe Jay-Z's attack on the Recording Academy made voters uncomfortable ("please inform the Grammys that the 0-for-8 situation is unacceptable," he says, in slightly more colourful language, on the single Apes***).

The record still gets a couple nods in the urban and video categories - but that raises the question of whether the couple, who've historically been a front-row fixture at the ceremony, will see fit to boycott the event?

The biggest change, despite some notable slips, is the gender balance – whilst not as equal as we’d hope, it has improved and there are a lot more women being recognised. The Guardian reacted to the nominations:

After controversy about the Grammys’ failure to recognise women’s achievements at the 2018 ceremony, female artists dominate key categories in the nominations for the 2019 awards. Country stars Maren Morris and Kacey Musgraves, rapper Cardi B, pop futurist Janelle Monáe and Lady Gaga could all take home major awards at the 61st Grammy award ceremony in Los Angeles next February...

IN THIS PHOTO: Kendrick Lamar (who leads the Grammy nominations with eight nods)/PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images/Press

Elsewhere, Kendrick Lamar and Drake dominate proceedings, with eight and seven nominations respectively. Along with Childish Gambino, AKA Donald Glover, they could rectify the other dispute that emerged from this year’s awards – namely the Recording Academy nominating but not awarding major hip-hop artists.

Recording Academy president Neil Portnow said in a statement that “reflection, re-evaluation and implementation” drove recent changes to the Grammys’ processes and nominations”.

The awards are less mainstream and obvious than last year – when Bruno Mars walked away with heaps of gongs – and it is nice to see artists such as Kacey Musgraves being given a nod! One of the biggest talking points relates to the lack of Pop artists making the cut. The Guardian had some thoughts:

Many of pop’s biggest acts will be disappointed. Taylor Swift, who received seven Grammy nominations for her previous album, 1989, received just one for Reputation, and in best pop album, a minor category. The Carters, AKA Beyoncé and Jay-Z, as well as Ariana Grande and Travis Scott, were also left out of major categories, receiving nods in genre categories. Kanye West received one nomination as producer of the year…

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IN THIS PHOTO: Dua Lipa is one of few British artists who received Grammy nominations (two)/PHOTO CREDIT: @DUALIPA

It is a mediocre year for British acts. R&B newcomer Ella Mai has found greater success in the US than her home country, and received two nominations for her breakout single, Boo’d Up. Dua Lipa and Jorja Smith are nominated for best new artist. Seal is nominated for best traditional pop vocal album, and Arctic Monkeys for best rock performance and best alternative music album. Jon Hopkins and SOPHIE were recognised in best dance/electronic album. Recent sales suggest the UK’s ability to produce global pop superstars has dwindled”.

It is a shame there is not more British talent among the nominees but the fact Pop, for now, has relinquished its dominance and grip is a good thing. It is all very well nominating artists like Kendrick Lamar but, like this year, will he be left empty-handed and cause many to ask whether Hip-Hop is getting the credit it deserves! I am hopeful, when the winners are announced on 10th February in Los Angeles. Before I put the playlist out, the BBC article points out some interesting facts and firsts:

Guns N' Roses could win their first ever Grammy for the deluxe edition of 1987's Appetite for Destruction - an album which didn't receive a single nomination the year it was released.

Post Malone was barred from competing in the rap field because his album doesn't contain enough rapping. He was also ruled out of the best new artist category for being too popular!

Kanye West - one of hip-hop's most innovative and respected producers - receives his first ever nomination in the producer of the year category for the sequence of five albums he worked on this year - including Pusha T's Daytona, Teyana Taylor's KTSE and his own record, Ye.

Drake is back! After withholding his More Life mixtape from consideration last year, he's all over the 2019 nominations list with his attention-sapping double album Scorpion.

Dua Lipa and Jorja Smith are the first British stars to be nominated for Best New Artist since James Bay in 2016”.

Although many will grumble at the lack of Pop in the nominations; it is good to see some positive changes and steps forward. Let’s hope, come 10th February, we will see more women and Hip-Hop/Rap artists...

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 IN THIS PHOTO: Kacey Musgraves (who has received four Grammy nominations and has helped raise the profile of women in Country music)/PHOTO CREDIT: Eric Ray Davidson for GQ

WALK away with some gold.

FEATURE: Groovelines: The Beatles – Paperback Writer

FEATURE:

 

 

Groovelines

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IMAGE CREDIT: Getty Images 

The Beatles – Paperback Writer

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THIS is a ‘sort of’ well-timed mention of The Beatles...

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 IN THIS PHOTO: John Lennon/PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images/Press

as today, in 1980, the world lost the great John Lennon. Although The Beatles’ Paperback Writer was mostly penned by Paul McCartney; I had to mention Lennon and, as this is my favourite song from The Beatles, this will have to be my tribute! The first time I really experienced the song in all its brief and brilliant glory was when I received The Beatles’ number-ones collection, 1, for Christmas back in 2000. It was a treasured Christmas gift from my sister and I remember rushing into my room, even though I was seventeen at the time, and playing all the songs through. The album is still in my car and I feel, for any huge Beatles fan or new acolytes alike; you cannot go wrong by buying 1. The album is a chronological account of all of The Beatles’ number-ones and Paperback Writer sits between We Can Work It Out and Yellow Submarine – not only a trippy, head-spinning trio of songs but proof the band were as eclectic and broad you can get! One of the things that strikes me about The Beatles’ popularity is the fact we still celebrate a band whose hits, largely, were done with over two or three minutes. Now, so many artists are stretching tracks all over the place and we rarely see the tight and sharp Pop attacks that say so much and leave you wanting more.

That is the case with Paperback Writer. The track was a non-album single released in 1966 – with Rain as its B-side – and was the last new song from the band to be included on their last-ever tour. Rarely do you get artists releasing singles not on albums but, since the start of their career, The Beatles were released between-album songs that kept the pace going. 1966 was the year The Beatles released Revolver and was the start of a period that, to many, was their golden time. Even though their touring days were almost through – due to the noise and sheer rapture from their fans – the band were still coming up with great ideas and, when Paul McCartney had that opening line “Dear Sir or Madame...” it was the start of a remarkable track. Paperback Writer is a little over two minutes and is this intense, thrilling and memorable song that, as it goes, is about an aspiring writer who has written a novel – more or less one-thousand pages – and is keen to get his break. There is no shock the song went to number-one following its release on 30th May, 1966 and, with a B-side as strong as Rain; it was a meteoric and titanic time from the world’s greatest band! I will provide my thoughts on the song and why it resonates but I want to bring in an authoritative Beatles article that takes apart the song and charts its history.

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IN THIS PHOTO: The Beatles protected from the rain in 1966/PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images/Press

Drugs always played a part in The Beatles’ creative process and, following the marijuana-infused inspiration behind 1965’s Rubber Soul; a year later, Eastern mysticism and L.S.D. was playing more or a role – almost like their choice of drugs was as changeable and bold as the music itself. Say what you want about their excess and creative juices but it was clear, after the success of the single, We Can Work It Out, in December of 1965; there was this gap that needed to be filled before the boys embarked on a huge tour. In today’s music, we would just let the artist rest and people would not be too worried: given the fame of The Beatles, there was demand for another single to go out into the world! Although John Lennon claimed Paperback Writer was not one of their best songs – possibly because the lion’s share was from his writing partner – fans would challenge that and, as a huge fan of The Beatles, Paperback Writer is the embodiment of their focused and instantly memorable brand of Pop that would, as they started to experiment more, change and be replaced with bolder and more sense-altering sounds. The vast majority of Pop songs at the time – including those from The Beatles – were about love and, since that was what the market was used to and what teenagers wanted to hear, it was a surprise to see something a little different come into the fold:

The fourth song they set to record, however, was more quickly recorded and was deemed suitable for a quick release as a single.  While it did have many of the usual hallmarks of a hit pop record of the time, such as the catchy melody line and a melodic guitar riff, the lyrical content was very much out in left field for 1966.  Instead of romance, the only mention of a relationship was of “a dirtyman” whose “clinging wife doesn’t understand.”  Nonetheless, “Paperback Writer” was rushed out as their next single, topping the charts internationally”.

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IN THIS PHOTO: The Beatles in 1966/PHOTO CREDIT: Robert Whittaker for Mojo Magazine

Although the creative influence was not a huge break from the standard Pop fare, the fact it was not another love song was quite a bold departure from The Beatles. The start of the song arrived from a very traditional and familiar combination: Lennon and McCartney getting together to have a cup of tea and write a major hit:

With these ideas implanted in his mind, Paul travelled out to John’s Kenwood home for a songwriting session.  “You knew, the minute you got there,” Paul relates, “cup of tea and you’d sit and write, so it was always good if you had a theme.  I’d had a thought for a song and somehow it was to do with the Daily Mail so there might have been an article in the Mail that morning about people writing paperbacks.  Penquin paperbacks was what I really thought of, the archetypal paperback”.

The fact that the band were being urged to bring out a single – at a rather hot and pivotal time in their career – did not seem to faze them too much. McCartney’s song about an aspiring writer who was desperate for positive feedback and this start of a new career came together in the humbleness and comfort of his car:

I would often start thinking away and writing on my way out, and I developed the whole idea in the car,” McCartney remembered, “I came in, had my bowl of cornflakes and said, ‘How’s about if we write a letter:  ‘Dear Sir or Madam,’ next line, next paragraph, etc?”  In his book “Many Years From Now,” he explains further:  “I arrived at Weybridge and told John I had this idea of trying to write off to a publishers to become a paperback writer, and I said, ‘I think it should be written like a letter’... 

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PHOTO CREDIT: @dhudson_creative/Unsplash 

 I took a bit of paper out and I said it should be something like, ‘Dear Sir or Madam, as the case may be…’ and I proceeded to write it just like a letter in front of him, occasionally rhyming it.  And John, as I recall, just sat there and said, ‘Oh, that’s it,’  ‘Uhuh,’  ‘Yeah.’  I remember him, his amused smile, saying, ‘Yes, that’s it, that’ll do.’  Quite a nice moment:  ‘Hmm, I’ve done right!  I’ve done well!’  And then we went upstairs and put the melody to it.  John and I sat down and finished it all up, but it was tilted towards me, the original idea was mine.  I had no music, but it’s just a little bluesy song, not a lot of melody”.

McCartney had the basic idea for the song and, whilst the end result of Paperback Writer was a way away, it was clear the band had a hit and it was going to take their career to a new phase. 1966 was a great time for The Beatles and it was at a time when they were still writing together and there was harmony in the ranks. They would start to fray and argue by 1968/1969 but, understandably, there was this friendly competition between John Lennon and Paul McCartney when it came to penning their next big hit! I guess there is a bit of irony about this struggling writer trying to create himself a break when the song’s author was at the peak of his powers and seemed to have Paperback Writer firmly in his grasp.

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 IN THIS IMAGE: Paul McCartney/IMAGE CREDIT: Helen Green

The recording sessions and initial meetings were filled with a lot of confidence – especially from the main writer, McCartney:

The primary engineer for this session, the equally young Geoff Emerick, recalls much specific details regarding this session in his book “Here, There And Everywhere.”  Emerick relates:  “Paul strolled into the studio, marched straight over to the piano and confidently proclaimed, ‘Gather round, lads, and have a listen to our next single.’  John gave Paul a sideways glance of disapproval – he never liked losing – but nevertheless joined Ringo and the two Georges for a private concert.  Paul pounded out a catchy melody, instantly hummable, filled with memorable hooks.  I couldn’t make out the lyric entirely, but it seemed to involve book writing.  Each time he would come to the chorus, Paul would stop playing and gesture to John and George Harrison, pointing out the high harmony part he planned on assigning each.  By the time he finished the first run-through, it was obvious to everyone in the room that this was an instant hit...

Emerick continues, "Fortunately, as Paul and John turned to George Harrison and began showing him the chords to ‘Paperback Writer,’ inspiration struck.  It occurred to me that since microphones are in fact simply loudspeakers wired in reverse…why not try using a loudspeaker as a microphone?  Logically, it seemed that whatever can push bass signal out can also take it in – and that a large loudspeaker should be able to respond to low frequencies better than a small microphone.  The more I thought about it, the more it made sense.”  However, as other data indicates, this experiment was left off for the next day”.

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 PHOTO CREDIT: @freestocks/Unsplash

Whilst the story seemed clear and the narrative was taking shape; there was this need to create something fully-packed and meaty. The boys noticed a lot of the U.S. R&B/Pop songs had a louder sound and crackled with greater energy. The Beatles, not to be outdone and denied, were keen to replicate that same chunkiness and firepower. Ideas were being pitched out and it just needed that spark and breakthrough:

Now was the appropriate time to experiment with creating the beefier bass guitar sound Paul asked for the previous day.  “I broached my plan, gingerly, to Phil McDonald,” remembers Geoff Emerick,  “His response was somewhat predictable:  ‘You’re daft; you’ve completely gone around the twist.’  Ignoring him, I took a walk down the hall and talked it over with Ken Townsend, our maintenance engineer.  He thought my idea had some merit.  ‘Sounds plausible,’ he said.  ‘Let’s wire a speaker up that way and try it”.

Like all great and innovative Beatles recordings; there was a bit of trial-and-error and getting things from the studios nobody else had. We have so much technology now that it is easy to get any sound and effect we want. Back in the 1960s, there was not that luxury and, with fine hands like George Martin boldly conspiring and testing, you got these great revelations and discoveries. The story carries on:

Over the next few hours, while the boys rehearsed with George Martin, Ken and I conducted a few experiments.  To my delight, the idea of using a speaker as a microphone seemed to work pretty well.  Even though it didn’t deliver a lot of signal and was kind of muffled, I was able to achieve a good bass sound by placing it up against the grille of a bass amplifier, speaker to speaker, and then routing the signal through a complicated setup of compressors and filters – including one huge experimental unit that I secretly borrowed from the office of Mr. Cook, the manager of the maintenance department”.

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 PHOTO CREDIT: @brandi1/Unsplash

Once the lyrics had come together and that punchy and bold sound had been created; it was a case of putting it all together and getting the best mix! There were some downsides and disadvantages regarding the song’s stereo mix:

This stereo mix was made on October 31st, 1966 in the control room of EMI Studio One by the same team of Martin, Emerick and McDonald.  They intended to mix this song along with “I Want To Hold Your Hand” and “She Loves You” in stereo for the first time but, since “Paperback Writer” took two hours to do, they left the other two for another day.  “Unfortunately, the stereo mix…does the song no justice,” Emerick admits.  “It’s completely disjointed, and it isn’t at all the balance that we intended.  To me, the mono mix is much more exciting”.

I love the eccentricities of the song. The “Frère Jacques” backing vocals are a delight and a nice contrast to the foreground.  The song has that restless energy but breaks after the verses to allow a crackle of percussion of some mighty riffs. Although it sounds flawless and seamless Beatles in the final mix; it took a lot of time to get things together:

The second harmony from John and George consist of the “paperback writer” phrase starting on the second measure when Paul sings the word “writer” and then those harmonies holding out the word “writer” from the third measure throughout the fourth measure (actually mistakenly stopping a little short each time the chorus is heard).  The third harmony overdub consists of John and George layering on another falsetto “paperback writer” phrase that stretches out between the third and fourth measure.  Although it’s hard to tell, Paul’s voice may very well have been included in these harmony overdubs.  Nonetheless, much time and work was needed to put all this detail together”.

Some have claimed the backing vocals are lazy and almost mocking but, in fact, the band were on the same page and liked the song. Paperback Writer would be weaker and barer without the backing and there is this almost childlike melody and singalong that propels this song of a writer who wants to make some big money. We go from the first verse about the plea to get his work read – this book being based “on a novel by a man named Leer” – and needing a job. The opening verse is the idea being pitched and this rather basic introduction. McCartney goes on to explain the premise of his grand work – about a “dirty man” whose son works for The Daily Mail – that seems to be rooted in reality. McCartney, as the man who writes for the newspaper (a steady and okay job) and wants to step into a more serious and prosperous realm is imploring and asking for some luck. Although you have this passion and optimism by the middle of the song; things start to become a little more defeatist as McCartney accepts that his manuscript might be returned – he even says he can make it shorter or longer and change the style around if the publishers are not keen! Our hero knows he can make a million overnight and just needs that break.

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 PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images/Press

It was a fresh subject back then in Pop and, to be fair, not something we hear much of nowadays. The tightness of the band and the sparkling energy that comes from every quarter brings urgency to Paperback Writer:

The song’s conclusion comprises a vamping on the G chord from the rhythm track that includes a simple repeating guitar phrase from Paul.  Vocal wise, two sets of intertwined harmonies are repeated until the song fades away, the first being a staggered repeat of the title phrase sung in falsetto that stretches out to two measures in imitation of the lead voice in the chorus.  Just as this ends another set of harmonies enter with a quick repeat of the song’s title.  With some adlib fluctuations of the first phrase setting in on their fourth repeat (“wri-i-i-ter”) and some interesting gurglings from John’s rhythm guitar occurring in places, the song fades off into the sunset.  Yet another Beatles timeless classic is born!

Although it was a classic Lennon-McCartney cut; it is the latter whose lyrics and lead vocal sets the song alight. Lennon would have more say and control later in the band’s life – many says the group’s 1968 eponymous record is defined by Lennon’s genius – but McCartney, at this point, knew what the market needed and how to craft a catchy and memorable Pop tune:

Paul again is center stage, understandably because of this being primarily his creation.  His top-notch vocals, bass and lead guitar is extremely fitting for the occasion, Paul knowing full well how to continue the aura and allure of the group on the radio airwaves.  John’s songwriting inventiveness of the period, as incredible as it was, was somewhat less commercial due to his infatuation with his chemical mind-expanding activities of the time”.

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 IN THIS PHOTO: The Beatles in 1966/PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

There was no stopping The Beatles in 1966 – or at any point in their career! – and, whilst Paperback Writer fared better in the U.S. (compared to the U.K.), it was a big hit that saw them grow even larger and more dominating:

Capitol Records couldn’t wait until June 10th, 1966 to release the latest Beatles single as Britain did, so they rushed it out eleven days earlier on May 30th of that year.  While “Paperback Writer” was the least selling Beatles single in their home country since 1962’s “Love Me Do,” it became a million seller in the US and, according to “The Billboard Book Of Number One Hits,” the single “made the second largest leap to number one of the rock era.  It debuted on the Hot 100 at number 28 during the week of June 11th, 1966, moved to 15 and then broad-jumped to number one on June 25th, becoming The Beatles’ 12th chart-topper in America”.

The group promoted the single with cover art that saw them draped with joints of meat and baby dolls being there. It was a misjudged and peculiar approach to artwork and, quite rightly, was not approved and taken to heart when it was released. The original image is still available but other covers were used because the rather upsetting composition did not sit well with many fans, critics and parents.

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  IN THIS PHOTO: The Beatles going in a darker direction in 1966/PHOTO CREDIT: Robert Whitaker

There is a school of thought that suggests Paperback Writer paved the way for The Beatles’ biggest album, Revolver. They were experimenting more and pushing the studio; new elements were coming into the mix and confidence was growing. This article from Rolling Stone looks at the impact of Paperback Writer and how it helped open some doors on Revolver:

“Revolver would be the full flowering of the Beatles’ next phase; but first, there was “Paperback Writer,” the cheeky tease of a song that cajoled you away from the world of Rubber Soul, and into a new galaxy.

Right from the get-go, there is something otherworldly about “Paperback Writer,” even though this is in essence a sonic short story about a would-be writer. Paul McCartney’s voice starts the song, before John Lennon and George Harrison add to a rich counterpoint, the title words cleaving into Cubist sound fragments. Harrison’s distorted guitar then kicks off a hot, scuzzy riff as some spartan bass drum thumps from Ringo Starr follow below, all of it further energized by five, rapid tumbling McCartney bass notes, and away we go into the verse”...

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IMAGE CREDIT: Getty Images

It was a bridge between their simpler and more accessible work and something more ambitious and experimental. A few months after Paperback Writer was released, Revolver was unleashed into the world (5th August, 1966).

There’s a lot going on here, and yet, it all blends perfectly. With “Paperback Writer,” the Beatles almost seemed to beckon the listener out of the galaxy. Or at least beyond anything quotidian. It was time to start looking way up. And they even had the sense to put the invite in epistolary form for you”.

Wherever you rank Paperback Writer in the cannon of Beatles classics – it often cracks the top-twenty – its influence and magic cannot be denied. It is thirty-eight years since John Lennon died and, although he was not overly-hot when it was released; one suspects he had this begrudging respect for McCartney’s gem and knew it was a great thing. Some fifty-two years after its release, there is no denting the appeal and brilliance of Paperback Writer. You can pop it on and, like all good Pop songs, have it lodged in the mind – something you will be singing for ages! Many Pop artists have penned songs that have endured for years but none make the same sort of impression as...

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 IN THIS PHOTO: The Beatles filming the video for Paperback Writer/PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

THE majestic and monumental Paperback Writer!

INTERVIEW: RØMANS

INTERVIEW:

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RØMANS

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I have been chatting with RØMANS...

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about his current single, Oxygen, and how it started life. He shares a precious music memory and tells me what he has in store for next year; a few approaching acts we need to look out for and the albums that have inspired him.

RØMANS tells me how he spends time away from music and how he feels he has developed since the start of his career; what advice he would give to new musicians coming through and the artist he would like to support on tour – he ends the interview by selecting a great track.

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

Hi, there. It’s been a great week so far (1:45 P.M. on a Monday).

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

Sure. I’m Romans; a songwriter, producer and singer. I’m from London but spend most of my time in L.A. writing and producing for other people. I can’t really put a label on the music I make for myself: it’s just an output for my personal taste; I don’t really have a specific genre that I make. I just love music and try to do whatever I’m feeling like at the time. 

Oxygen is your latest single. It is a slightly softer sound. What is the inspiration behind it?

To add some light to dark. I try and avoid repeating sounds so the piano ballad is always a good option to mix things up a bit. I wanted to play around with old sounds, hence the Mellotron. I was listening to I Don’t Believe in Miracles by Colin Blunstone that day.

Will there be an album or E.P. next year?

The music I’m putting out at the moment is an album; I’m just putting it out separately. I feel like no one has the time for a body of work anymore. I’m working on a new album that will come out in some format next year too.

How do you think your work has developed and evolved since the start of your career?

I think I’ve just owned being androgynous with my sound. I was always concerned with being considered a confused artist and then I remembered I literally don’t give a f*ck.

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Can you give me an idea of the artists, older and new, who inspire you and compel your own sound?

Absolutely. There are so many. From Rachmaninov and Chopin to The Beatles and Dylan to Stevie and Donny Hathaway; to Kanye and Childish Gambino. There’s not really a great deal of music I don’t like and get inspired by. 

Do you already have plans for 2019?

I do indeed. It consists of writing for some great artists, developing some newer ones and finishing my next album. 

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

Sitting at the piano with Elton John and writing a song will probably never be topped. 

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

The BeatlesThe Beatles (‘The White Album’)

This was probably my awakening as an ‘artist’. It’s the first time I ever looked at songs as more than just melodies I liked. 

Stevie Wonder - Songs in the Key of Life

Offensively-brilliant album. Every song is a work of art. One of the greatest artists in history in his absolute prime.

Kanye West - The College Dropout

Played it until the C.D. warped. Mind-blowing album. Possibly the greatest debut album ever.

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

Great question. I want the Back to the Future sneakers. The original ones.

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IN THIS PHOTO: RØMANS alongside Lewis Capaldi (left) and Ghosted (centre)/PHOTO CREDIT: @RØMANS

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

I want to support Susan Boyle. My rider is as follows: three cans of Appletiser - cans not bottles. Hummus (avec crudités). A PlayStation V.R. headset (I will provide the PlayStation). A golden retriever puppy. An ornamental bullfighting statue. Four blunts. A Funfax organiser. A Chicken Salad sandwich from M&S.

What advice would you give to new artists coming through?

Do whatever you want. Only listen to your gut and pray to God that you have good taste.

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

Not currently...

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IN THIS PHOTO: Aj Mitchell

Are there any new artists you recommend we check out?

Aj Mitchell, Maisie Peters; L Devine and Eyelar

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IN THIS PHOTO: Maisie Peters  

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

Not a lot of time - because it’s my job and hobby. I do eventually get burnt-out and take a forced holiday which I always end up enjoying. 

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).

Thank you! I choose Dunes by Alabama Shakes

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Follow RØMANS

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INTERVIEW: Alex Parvenu

INTERVIEW:

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Alex Parvenu

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THE excellent Alex Parvenu...

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has been telling me about his new single, It Wasn’t Me, and what its story is. I ask which artists and albums have made an impact on him; which rising musicians we need to watch out for – he reveals plans and ambitions for 2019.

Parvenu talks about his approaching E.P., Blue Summer, and tells me which artist he’d support on tour given the chance; the advice he would give to artists emerging and how he relaxes away from music – he ends the interview by selecting a great song.  

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

Hey. I’m good, not too bad thanks. My week has been alright; I mean, I’m trying to live my life like it’s golden but, right now, it’s sort of bronze, so you know...but I’m alive; that’s the most important part.

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

Sure thing! I’m Alex, the parvenu; also known as ‘Alex Parvenu’; also known as ‘Mr. Contemporary Soul’, A.K.A. ‘MC Aleco’; A.K.A. ‘Roots, Rock, Reggae’; ‘Mr. in Slow Motion’; also known as the ‘Black Bohemian’ and sometimes referred to as ‘Mr. It Wasn’t Me’.

It Wasn’t Me is your latest track. I assume it wasn’t inspired by the Shaggy track?! What is the tale behind your song?

I love the Shaggy and Rikrok record but, no, my ‘It Wasn’t Me’ tells a completely different tale. Musically, it was inspired by Motown classics - most notably My Girl by The Temptations. Lyrically, it’s about falling in love with somebody, but their family; their parents, particularly their father, doesn’t approve of you or your perceived influence on their kin.

Blue Summer is out next year. What might we expect from the E.P.?

Yes it is - and I’m excited to finally put out a body of work. You can expect some contemporary Soul; some Roots-Reggae; a little Hip-Hop and a young, black man from London wearing his heart on his sleeve. And, while I’m definitely excited about putting out Blue Summer, I’m even more excited about the body of work that’s coming out after that and new collaborators I’m working with.

Can you give me an idea of the artists, older and new, who inspire you and compel your own sound?

I grew up listening to whatever my dad was playing...so, Paul Simon, Fela Kuti; Bob Marley, Aretha Franklin; Peter Tosh, James Brown – all great artist, playing with live bands. Being a kid in the '90s, meant that I was exposed to the biggest records and artist of the day: TLC, Spice Girls; Fugees, Lauryn Hill; Tupac, Big; Michael Jackson and OutKast. I’ll say their work is all interwoven somewhere in my musical D.N.A. In my late-teens, I was listening to Amy Winehouse, Kanye; Mos Def; Talib Kweli and John Legend.

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I guess I also revisited more vintage records made by The Temptations, Curtis Mayfield; Donny Hathaway, Chaka Khan etc. Contemporary artist I’m excited about are Solange, CeeLo Green; André 3000, Raphael Saadiq; Leon Bridges and Jah9. If I had to narrow the list of musical influences down, I would probably go with Lauryn Hill, the Fugees; Paul Simon, Bob Marley and the Temptations.

Did your family encourage your musical talents? When did you get into music?

Unfortunately, I can’t say they did...although my love for music was definitely inspired by dad’s taste in music and the fact he was an aspiring pianist. Both my mum and dad pushed academia; they did this with love, so I’m not mad at them. I can’t help but wonder sometimes, if I had their support behind my musical endeavours, how much of a difference this would have made. This is something that can’t be changed, so I’m not holding a grudge but it will be important for me when I have my own kids to ensure I encourage the things they are passionate about.

Obviously, one must exercise tact and discretion here, but if you’re able to support your children’s dreams, goals and aspirations, they grow up with a confidence and a self-absurdness that is unparalleled. I’ve been into music and around music for as long as I can remember. My parents tease me all the time about how obsessed I was with Paul Simon’s Graceland album, which I guess my dad was playing a lot when I was a kid.

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Do you already have plans for 2019?

It Wasn’t Me has two more versions which we’re putting out…

Essentially, they’re remixes but, because they’ve been produced by solid producers I like to call them Part II and Part III. Chevi JReid produced Part II. He’s best known for producing Chun-Li and Barbie Tingz for Nicki Minaj and Rory Stone Love, from legendary Jamaican sound system Stone Love, produced Part III. I’m going to be doing more work with these guys in 2019 so I’m hyped about that.

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

Oh, so many but, right now, the first thing that comes to mind is the first time I connected with Tom Elmhirst. This was before he moved to N.Y., so he was working out of Metropolis Studios in London. He had heard one of my demo records and invited me down to Metropolis and asked me to bring more of my music. I remember being in awe as he took a break from mixing a Florence and the Machine record to listen to my stuff; seeing him rock back and forth to my music playing through the studio monitors was a magical moment for me.

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

Paul Simon’s Graceland

Because this is the first music I remember hearing; I don’t remember life without this album. My parents say, as a baby, I wouldn’t get in the car unless they had the tape playing.

Secondly would have to be Lauryn Hill’s The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill

Because this was a defining moment for me as a kid. All my friends were listening to Craig David or Another Level...or whatever else we young kids were listening to at the time. But I, for whatever reason, took a liking to Lauryn Hill and used my pocket money to buy The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill. It was the first record I ever bought. And it became the soundtrack to my growing up. I never understood the lyrics then as I do now, as an adult, but that record is a true celebration and amalgamation of genres I love: Soul, Hip-Hop; Reggae...all fused together with stellar musicianship and great lyricism.

As for number-three; I can’t choose a third as there are too many other albums to choose from that I love - but Graceland and The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill definitely left their unparalleled mark on me.

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

I think now, as an adult, if I wanted something (a gift), I’d just go and buy it myself. The best part about receiving presents is definitely the spontaneity of it all and the thought that goes behind a gift. However, if I had to make one Christmas wish, I would wish I could feel how I felt last Christmas: being in love during Christmas is magic to the nth-degree.

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

Well. Lauryn Hill is always touring. I think it would be dope to support her and the Jay-Z and Beyoncé tour, OTR II, looks incredible.

As for my rider; I’m pretty easy-going. Loads of fresh fruit and veg, healthy snacks and a kettle and a teapot. I’d try and keep all other tempting beverages and stuff away as ‘moderation’ isn’t a word in my dictionary.

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

Keep an eye on my website and my social media (@alexparvenu). 2019 dates will be published on there.

What advice would you give to new artists coming through?

Focus on making incredible music. expect nothing and appreciate everything.

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 IN THIS PHOTO: Tara Harrison

Are there any new artists you recommend we check out?

Yea. Check out Tara Harrison. I’m loving her vibe.

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

Absolutely. Music is just one facet of my creativity; I’m writing a children’s book and a memoir, so those pieces are keeping pretty busy. I also enjoy long walks; sometimes I do up to ten miles a day – walking definitely helps to clear my 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).

Thanks, okay. So, I’m going to select Bob Marley & The Wailers(Baby We’ve Got a Date) Rock It Baby, because it has special meaning to me and reminds me of somebody who was special to me

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Follow Alex Parvenu

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FEATURE: The December Playlist - Vol. 2: Now That the Christmas Trees Are TRULY Up…

FEATURE:

 

The December Playlist

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Vol. 2: Now That the Christmas Trees Are TRULY Up…

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I did say there would be Christmas songs…

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and, to be fair, the mixture is pretty strong! There is a classic cover from Blossoms and a great original from The Staves; some top tracks from Little Simz, Cat Power and Robyn – quite a variation and stuffed banquet of wonder. Have a listen through all the great tracks and the nice fusion of Christmas-flavoured and traditional…and I am sure there will be a lot in there that catches your eyes. It is a great time for music and, before we say hello to 2019; there is still a lot of this month to go and, as the songs from this week’s rundown shows, artists are still capable of producing…

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IN THIS PHOTO: Cat Power

GENUINE gold.

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

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The Staves Home Alone, Too

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Little Simz101FM

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Jorja SmithThe One

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Cat Power What the World Needs Now      

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IMAGE CREDIT: Ana Kraš

Blood OrangeDagenham Dream

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VC Pines Garden of the Year

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White Lies Finish Line

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Robyn - Honey

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DeerhunterElement

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PHOTO CREDIT: Nick Suchak/Anabasis Media

Milk Teeth Stain

 
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AnterosFool Moon

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Natti Natasha - Me Gusta 

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Lindsey Stirling - Santa Baby

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PHOTO CREDIT: Juliane Spaete

FIL BO RIVA L’over

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ROSALÍA - BAGDAD

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ZAYNGood Years

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PHOTO CREDIT: Nicole Mago

SHAEDTrampoline

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The 1975It’s Not Living (If It’s Not with You)

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Marshmello, Roddy Ricch Project Dreams

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Broken BellsShelter

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Kodak BlackTestimony

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BlossomsWonderful Christmastime

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Hardwell (ft. Conor Maynard & Snoop Dogg)How You Love Me

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Astrid S Closer

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PHOTO CREDIT: Danny Womders

Maleek Berry Doing U

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PHOTO CREDIT: Jim Smeal/REX/Shutterstock

Natalie Portman, Raffey Cassidy Wrapped Up

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Lil Mosey K for Christmas

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Tina DeCara - Solo

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Amy Baker The Christmas Song 

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Luke Sital-SinghLove Is Hard Enough Without the Winter

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Gabrielle Aplin (ft. Hannah Grace) - December

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Moonchild Get to Know It

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Fleurie Love Has No Limits

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Ice CubeThat New Funkadelic

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TS Graye Honestly

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Sinead Harnett - Lessons

TRACK REVIEW: Harry Pane - Heart’s Rhythm

TRACK REVIEW:

 

Harry Pane

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Heart’s Rhythm

 

9.5/10

 

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The track, Heart’s Rhythm, is available via:

https://open.spotify.com/track/5FdyNPGIuXkw4A61SaYUWc?si=msR6QGfwTHeqBfYRe_VINA

GENRES:

Folk; Singer-Songwriter

ORIGIN:

London, U.K.

RELEASE DATE:

16th November, 2018

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ON this occasion...

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I get to look back at songwriters who have had a rather interesting and familial start – in the sense they have been raised around music and had that connection. I also wanted to talk about standards from new artists and why I’ll be making changes next year; what we might expect from the music world in 2019; whether artists who gain a certain popularity on streaming sites need to be elevated; styles of music that are still being overlooked by the mainstream – I will end by looking at Harry Pane and where he might be heading next year. It is always interesting discovering where a musician started life and what their early experiences were. For me, I was not taught an instrument – although I tried to learn a lot – but I did have exposure to all sorts of sounds; from all different time periods and artists. It was a rich experience that compelled me to follow music more closely. I am not sure whether I would be as determined and music-focused as I am now were it not for the upbringing I had. Similarly, musicians are moulded and directed depending on how they grew up. It is fascinating to see how their sounds evolve and cement and how much they take from their past. In the case of Harry Pane, he was raised in a farmhouse in Northampton but his dad and developed his distinct finger-picking style. I can imagine the bond that was forged then and the sort of effort he put in to developing his craft. What strikes me is that rather rustic settling and how idyllic it sounds. I guess the reality was a little different but one can imagine the two Panes bonding over music and that connection being passed along. I can hear the influence of legendary Folk artists in Pane’s work but there is a distinction and originality that has come from experimentation and a sense of determination. I feel there is a danger mimicking others and being too but Pane mixes in the past and his own direction with ease and accomplishment.

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There is nothing to suggest he will be under the radar and away from the mainstream for too long. I know it is challenging and hard to ascend from the underground level and get to the big leagues. Things are challenging and it is difficult to know what people want. I feel Harry Pane has had that sense of self and passion instilled into him at a young age and that has made the difference. I am not suggesting the best musicians are the ones who have had a strong music attachment and education as children but there seems to be some correlation. Pane has grown up and forged his skills on the guitar with his father’s encouragement and tutelage. It is a great scene to imagine and I can tell the earliest experiences of Pane were filled with new discoveries and practice. One can hear so many different textures and ideas in Harry Pane’s music and I can trace that back to his childhood exposure. I shall move on from this subject but I am worried more and more modern musicians are not having the same sort of strong musical upbringing that those of the past did. Pane is an exception but so many are listening to modern music and not learning an instrument. That is not a bad thing but so many are not bonding with music directly and ignoring so many of the older artists. I feel the richest and most accomplished artists of the future will be those who have a broad musical upbringing and learn an instrument. Harry Pane is a great example of what can be achieved when you have that sort of start. I am not certain whether it was his dad who spiked that love of music but that family connection and the way he was raised has directly influenced his music and ambition. I need to look forward and see what the scene is looking for in 2019.

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 PHOTO CREDIT: James Boardman

This year has been filled with sensational albums and some big achievements and I expect that to continue next year. The most potent and exceptional albums have looked at politics, social issues and been very ambitious. Look at the best of the British releases – from the likes of IDLES and The 1975 – and that rings true. American releases have walked a similar course and there has been a great mixture of genres. I see Hip-Hop is gaining more traction and, whilst Pop is still a dominant force; other styles and tastes are coming through and we are seeing a more varied mainstream. This is true of the top of music but, when it comes to the layers underneath, there is even more width and variation. I think those who are going to translate from the underground to the mainstream are those who can understand the need to be broad and ambitious. There have been years past where we have seen homogenisation and narrowness but that is not the case now. Harry Pane is an artist I can see succeeding in years to come and he has a solid sound but one that is flexible and varied. A lot of Singer-Songwriter/Folk acts are a bit predictable and one-dimensional and it can be difficult to promote these artists. They will succeed in their own genres and with a smaller fanbase but you can play in these genres and still incorporate other sounds and textures. I am seeing some great Pop in the underground but more and more, some great acoustic tones are being revealed. I feel Folk and Singer-Songwriter has always been pushed to the side but we will see a slight change next year. It will not completely immerse itself in the foreground but I think there is going to be that desire for something a little deeper and more contemplative. Harry Pane can pen songs that make you think but they have a definite energy.

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This year has seen great artists talk about the world around them and do so with energy and exceptional potency. I think an urgency and a sense of anger has been demanded because of what is happening in politics but next year, as we see (hopefully) a bit more calm and order, there will be other tastes and sounds emerging. I think Folk will take more of a stand and I welcome that. Harry Pane will be an artist to look out for next year and study. I am excited to see where he goes and what he can come up with. The reason I have made these predictions regarding sonic evolution is the way the world is transforming. I feel what is popular and demanded is as impacted by external forces and political dramas as much as anything else. This year has been a tangled and strained one and, accordingly, artists have reacted and provided music that documents that but also makes true sense of what is happening. There have been plenty of more traditional albums – personal insights, love etc. – but it is the more charged and deep-thinking records that have resonated. I feel next year will be a calmer year and, as such, artists like Pane will have more of a say. It is clear the songwriter is looking ahead and wants to get his music to even more people. As one of the most adaptable and strong new artists around; Pane can easily navigate music’s changing tides and make his music fit. He does not need to compromise his ethics and true sound but he has a sense of flexibility that other artists can learn from. It is hard to move from the undergrowth and get to the mainstream without considering a lot of different things. I know Harry Pane will want to get to a stage where his music can inspire the larger world and, as I look around new music, there are things that need to be considered.

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One of the things I have had to do as a journalist is be a lot tougher on people regarding their sound and images. This is something I mention a lot and is always on my mind. Imagery and visual outlay is crucial and artists need to realise that the visual aesthetic is as important as the sounds they are making. If musicians have a great sound but then neglect photos and how their social media pages look then that will alienate some. You have to think about every side and putting together a complete portfolio. Pane is someone who has thought of this and, whilst it would be good to see more snaps in 2019; there is a professionalism and sense of consideration that others can learn from. I see so many artists who have a sketchy and scrappy social media layout and you are not really that confident. There are few things more off-putting than an amateur look and that can be more damaging than bad/unspectacular music. Harry Pane not only had some great shots but he has personal information that lets you know where he started, where he has headed and, to an extent, where he hopes to go. Every new artist needs to put this amount of effort into their online pages and it is a great way of enticing listeners in. Pane also has good coverage across social media and, as such, a great following has arrived. His music has done a lot of the lifting but so many musicians are ignoring platforms like Twitter and it makes me a bit annoyed. I can understand if musician were not able to get a hold off all the pages and options out there but too many are ignoring sites like Twitter completely or they are not bothering to think about the visual side of what they do. Can one play by their own rules or pick and choose and expect to get as far as those who are more proactive?

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I think there is too much ignorance and casualness from new artists and, given the fact the industry is tough and competitive; nobody can afford to take those risks and expect to be promoted. I have turned so many people away because they have poor/few photos or they are not on Twitter. Artists like Harry Pane are ticking all the boxes and always looking to get the work as far and wide as possible. I am not suggesting social media and visuals are the most important factor when it comes to promotion and exposure but it is essential this is not ignored. The way to get into the mind and stay in the memory is to ensure the music is strong and original but have that full visual/social media asset. Pane strikes when you hear what he is playing and, if you want to follow him and keep updated then he makes sure his fans are kept abreast. Too many do not update their pages and, as I said, their photos are pretty poor and limited. I know Pane will continue to strengthen next year and, alongside a new shoot or two, there will be more material. I will come to his latest single very soon but, until I get there, there are other things that I want to investigate. This is the time of year where artists are looking ahead to what 2019 holds but, as Spotify is so influential, they are presenting their stats and following. Artists can see how many people have streamed their music and how many nations they have reached. It is a way of boosting confidence and showing how well the music has performed. There is a danger putting too much stock in statistics and data like this – they are not true markers of quality and potential – but it is a way of seeing how many people are responding and showing the hard work is paying off.

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What I am concerned about is great artists in the underground who have these impressive Spotify figures and have had to fight hard to achieve that. A lot of the stats I am seeing are from mainstream artists who have had that promotion from the site and been backed by a label. It is an unfair advantage and I feel Spotify places too much importance on Pop artists and the biggest chart acts. They can boast big figures due to that promotion and, regardless of what their music sounds like, they can be assured of great coverage. I am not accusing them of being pampered and relying on handouts but I do not feel statistics, in that sense, are about quality and what is needed in music. So much of what they are boasting is sites such as Spotify promoting them above everything else and seeing them as trendy and cool. Newer artists have a tougher time of things and have to rely on never-ending work and pushing their own music as much as they can. Does Spotify do enough to ensure new acts like Harry Pane are as prominent and exposed as possible? It is hard to keep a hold off all the new acts but there is still too much focus put onto the mainstream artists and those who are commercial. I am aware (that these artists) have a market and deserve promotion but so many rising acts are not getting the credit and push they deserve. In any case; it is good to see the new breed boast how well they have done and it is testament to their determination and passion that they can do this. I wonder whether music has become too focused on number and whether we need to judge music on the basis of quality rather than streaming figures. Can we truly say someone like Drake is better than Harry Pane?! He is more popular and has a larger following but stack their music together and, even objectively, the gap is a lot narrower than Spotify figures would suggest.

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A lot occurs within the first few seconds of Heart’s Rhythm. There is something in the background, yearning from strings, that gives some ache and longing whilst Pane enters with a tumbling and fast-flowing acoustic tone. That distinct and strong finger-picking style lifts the song and brings in more colour. It is a great blend of sounds and ensures you are invested right from the off. It would be easy to stuff too much energy and movement into the introduction but Pane strikes a great balance. It is a gorgeous sound that reminds one of the great Folk artists and how they could command before a single note is sung. The guitar imbues so much atmosphere and visual magic as the notes bounce and the sound changes. Pane goes from the rousing and high-pitches tumble to the more grumbled and low-note swoon that mingles together superbly. It is amazing to hear his dexterity and how evocative he is without singing. I was stunned by the sound and how it made me feel. You get a real sense of a heart beating and changing emotions; a real story being unveiled and so much life crammed in. There is a low thud of percussion that gives another layer to the song and, before you become completely immersed in the winding and sweeping guitar, the hero comes to the microphone. It seems love is being assessed and uncovered but done so in a different way to most artists. There are thorns and walls; a sense of the physical and natural world that is used to describe the unpredictable nature of passion. Maybe things have changed for Pane and the heroine but it seems like there has been a disruption of change of fortune that brings him to now. Although there have been some pains and harder times; the feeling coming through is a man who wants to hold her tight. The two have matching colours and the passion that comes from Pane is pure.

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The love he is receiving courses through the veins and it is intoxicating. You cannot overlook the strength of that affection and how it has affected him. The two have faced challenges and hurdles but the connection they have is strong. From the early sound where we had the guitar placed at the front and was taken somewhere wonderful; Pane is not at the forefront with his voice and creating the same sort of impact as he did with the guitar. The hero wants to hold the girl as their hearts beat and not really let her go. The composition continues to drive the song and there is a great mix of Folk and, oddly, a bit of Country. One hears a distinct twang that evokes the U.S. South. The lyrics speak about connecting heartbeats and synchronicity and there is simplicity in the language that means the words stick and you remember them after the song has ended. The composition never seems simple and straight. It has so many different aspects and angles that delight the senses and perfectly compliment the foreground. The heart is a complex and delicate thing and, as such, Pane is up to the task. It is a wonderful brew that mixes the classic and modern. For those who are new to Singer-Songwriter and Folk; you have a great song here that evokes memories of Nick Drake and other legends but seems very modern and new. There is graveness in the voice that mixes with the feather-light and delicate. This might be a risky combination in lesser hands – Pane masters it and creates a song that is masterful and stunning. I was constantly amazed by Heart’s Rhythm and the guitar tones fused together. It is hard to keep up with all the diversions, twists and sounds that create such a fantastic backdrop and sensation.

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The lyrics are as striking and I am pleased to see a positive long song emerge. So many artists are negative and dour and it is unusual to find someone speaking hopefully. Pane and his love have faced brier and harsh winds but it seems their connection and relationship is stronger than the ill fates and storms that crop up. The hero would live a lonely life, as he says, without the heroine by his side and it is that faith and declaration that gets under the skin. I like the way the song swoops and goes from quiet to loud. It has a definite movement and energy that keeps you involved and hooked until the very end. I was stunned by the end of the track and went back to listen again. Not only does one experience that epic and incredible guitar but you get to experience lyrics that everyone can relate to and have a definite sense of positivity to them. Pane balances the optimism of the song with something more shadowy and moonlit. Heart’s Rhythm is a fantastic track that takes you away and really makes an impact. I am predicting great things for Harry Pane and think he will accomplish a huge amount next year. Maybe we do overlook Folk quite a bit but I feel that is not to do with a lack of quality and limited mobility. There are so many great artists in the genre who warrant bigger focus but are being overlooked by the mainstream. This has to change and I feel the likes of Harry Pane can lead that charge. He has crafted a gem of a song and, as 2018 comes to an end, many eyes and ears will be trained his way! Congratulations to a terrific young songwriter who I can see getting to the mainstream a lot sooner than most of his peers. In a competitive, changing and charged music world, that is no mean feat. Do not pass by Harry Pane’s latest revelation!

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 PHOTO CREDIT: James Boardman

Harry Pane is someone who has gained praise from some big names and, throughout his career, has collaborated and evolved what he does. He has appeared in the U.S. at SXSW and one cannot overlook how far he has come. I opened by talking about family and that early spark. Pane would be the first to look back in amazement at how far he has come. Could he have ever imagined, in that family farmhouse years ago, that he would be where he is now? Maybe there was that dream and hope but could have envisaged what direction his career would take? It is amazing to think about that start and look at where he is right now. There is a lot more to do and the songwriter will have plenty of ambitions and aims for 2019. He has accomplished a lot this year and, with singles like Heart’s Rhythm, got to new lands and recruited fresh followers. I think music will change next year and we will see certain genres gain more of a foothold. It will be interesting to see what unfolds but I feel Pane will gain a new following and traction. I know he is busy planning gigs and already has dates lined up – look at his social media pages and keep informed. It is the way he has managed his social media page; the bond he has with fans and that exceptional music that has created this demand and means that he will head into the New Year with a determination and sense of pride. That is humbling and heartening to see and I hope Pane gets requests for gigs internationally. He has a great following in the U.K. but I know there will be many around the world who wants to see him perform.

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The U.S. would be a great country to do a mini-tour and I am not sure whether he already has dates there. Wherever he heads next year, he has done a great deal in 2018 and it has been a very successful time for him. If you have not discovered Harry Pane and feel that his music will not be for you then give him a try and do not jump to conclusions. I think many of us get a rather limited impression of what a genre is about or assume we will not like an artist because they play Folk or Rap. I feel we all need to be a bit bolder with our tastes and would certainly recommend Harry Pane as a must-hear right now. He has proved himself strong and original and there is a lot more to come from him. With precious gig experience and fond regard on both sides of the Atlantic; I feel 2019 will be his biggest year yet. I shall wrap things up but I wanted to bring Pane to new eyes and it is great to see him grow and strike. So many great Folk sounds have been provided this year and I feel they are second fiddle to other genres. I mentioned how music will change next year and I think this gives underground/rising musicians like Harry Pane a change to forge forward and gain new ground. I know he will continue to stride and dream and why wouldn’t he? What he is putting out into the world is exceptional and definitely has its own identity. That is quite rare and, alongside that, we have a rounded and complete musician who has a definite star quality about him. Give him some backing, check out his latest single and get to grips with his impressive back catalogue. Harry Pane has achieved a lot already but I feel, as we look ahead to 2019, he can go even further and establish himself as one of the...

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STRONGEST rising acts around.   

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Follow Harry Pane

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FEATURE: Feel It: How to Be Invisible: The Magic, Beauty and Strangeness of Kate Bush’s Stunning Poetry

FEATURE:

 

 

Feel It

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IN THIS IMAGE: Kate Bush/IMAGE CREDIT: Baiba Auria 

How to Be Invisible: The Magic, Beauty and Strangeness of Kate Bush’s Stunning Poetry

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MAYBE I said there would be no more Kate Bush articles...

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 IMAGE CREDIT: Faber & Faber

until next year but, given the fact she has released quite a lot recently (she has remastered and re-released her back catalogue), I feel it is right to end the year with one more feature (make sure you check out the Kate Bush pop-up shop in London’s King’s Cross before it closed Sunday at 8 P.M.). How to Be Invisible, a selected collection of her lyrics, has been released and you can grab a copy here and dive into her brilliant and beguiling world. What I do know from the book is there are some more obvious songs picked for exposure – Moving, Rubberband Girl and Breathing – but, in actuality, there are so many others that many might not even be aware of! I am holding off getting my copy until Christmas and will not succumb to the temptation to see in a local bookshop and thumb through the pages! It is strange putting out a book of lyrics and not many artists are afforded that opportunity. For so many, there are only a selection of elite musicians whose words are worthy of literary hubris. Bush, as a prodigious and always-captivating artist is not showing off or getting stuck in the past. This book is a chance for fans and new converts the chance to see her brilliant work and delve into a sea of eye-catching words, expressions and dizzying stories! I will bring in some articles in a minute (that look at her lyrics) but, to me, there are a couple of songs that stick in my mind when we think of Kate Bush’s finest lyrics. I have one of the songs, Moving, tattooed on my left arm. In fact, it is not the entire song but a couple of lines. That track is the opening number of Bush’s debut album, The Kick Inside

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 IMAGE CREDIT: Getty Images

It is dedicated to the late Lindsay Kemp who, among others, taught Kate Bush dance. He also worked with David Bowie and Bush would not be such an incredible dancer and alluring figure were it not for Kemp and what he taught her. It is not only the passion and expression of the song that gets to me but it is the way she delivers the words. The then-teenager (the album was released in 1978) proved, even at the start, she was masterful at emphasis, elongation and mood contortion. She never delivers words straight: every song has a character and nimbleness that captivates with its drama, intimacy and sense of freedom. Moving, to me, is an accomplished song that married poetry and dance and has the best Kate Bush opening – “Moving, stranger/does it really matter?/As long as you’re not afraid to feel”. I love how intriguing and mysterious some of the words are; how universal it seems and, without being a dancer, can identify and take something from the moment. It is a gorgeous song that, essentially, announces Bush to the world. I could put together a top-ten of my favourite Kate Bush lyrics/songs but, to me, the defining moment is her debut single: Wuthering Heights.

I could spend hours talking about the messages and images of Army Dreamers or the oddness of 50 Words for Snow’s eponymous track and, how in every album, there are these peculiar and exceptional lyrics that make you think and dream. There is no other artist, I feel, that has the same prowess when it comes to the English language and how her voice manages to elevate already-brilliant lyrics to heavenly heights. Whereas some bands toss off words like they mean nothing; Kate Bush has such an affinity and lust for words and can get under the skin with such ease. Her debut single, released in 1978, set the charts alight and people were slack-jawed – nothing like it had been released to the world! A song about Wuthering Heights and its doomed lovers ‘conversing’ on a cold night is not something one would hear in 2018, let alone forty years back! The song is set, as the opening line goes, on a winding and windy moor; Kate Bush (‘Catherine’) projects herself as another Cathy – albeit, one who is a ghost that is calling to Heathcliffe and asking to be let through his window. It is such an original and strange idea that is masterfully realised and presented. Such a mature, vivid and wild song was not coming from anyone twice Kate Bush’s age. The fact she wrote it whilst still school-age on a moonlit night in not very much time at all shows you how scarily-talented she is!

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 IN THIS PHOTO: Author David Mitchell (who has provided an introduction/foreword for Kate Bush’s new book of lyrics)/PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images/Press

It is the way Wuthering Heights, as a known and loved novel, was brought to the mainstream and, to many, this was their first exposure. The fact Bush’s voice is this untamed and dancing spirit takes the song to a whole new level. I will come back to my favourites (and why How to Be Invisible is an essential gift) but, given the fact the book’s foreword writer David Mitchell has written a piece in The Guardian; I wanted to let him share his experience:

You don’t learn much about Kate Bush from her songs. She’s fond of masks and costumes – lyrically and literally – and of yarns, fabulations and atypical narrative viewpoints. Yet, these fiercely singular pieces, which nobody else could have authored, are also maps of the heart, the psyche, the imagination. In other words, art”.

Nobody in my home-taping circle owned either of Kate’s first two albums, The Kick Inside and 1978’s follow-up Lionheart. I heard, and loved, Kate’s precocious teen-dream “The Man with the Child in His Eyes”, but had no means to hear it again. It haunted me for years. I was luckier with “England My Lionheart”. One night I was listening to DJ Annie Nightingale under the blankets when Kate’s unmistakable voice came on: I fumbled over to my shoebox-sized cassette recorder, pressed PLAY and RECORD and, by holding the radio’s speaker against the built-in mic, managed to capture about two thirds of the song”.

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IN THIS PHOTO: Kate Bush doing the washing at her family’s home in East Wickham, London on 26th September, 1978/PHOTO CREDIT: Chris Moorhouse/Evening Standard/Hulton Archive/Getty Images  

The Man with the Child in His Eyes, actually, is another remarkably mature song (she wrote aged thirteen) that, today, would raise eyebrows but, as Bush said in interviews, is about praising men and them having that child-like quality and innocence. Bush was a spellbinding narrator on The Kick Inside but it was 1982’s The Dreaming that solidified her as one of this country’s finest artists – even if the album was met with a little caution by her label at the time, EMI:

Far from resting on Never for Ever’s laurels, Kate rewove those laurels into her first masterpiece: 1982’s majestic, haywire and widdershins The Dreaming. The first track, “Sat in Your Lap”, is a statement of intent and serves as a stylistic overture: a polyrhythmic glory whose meaning – about truth’s ultimate slipperiness – is itself slippery. It requires repeated plays for its beauty to emerge, and it’s as far from “Wuthering Heights” as it could be, while still being Kate Bush. The album is never painterly, like Never for Ever frequently is. Orchestration is absent. The songs are tense, headlong and overlain and sometimes filtered through accents. They lull and startle with wild dynamic swings”.

Kate Bush, as her career took off and the pressure became more intense, did not weaken or move in a very unadvisable direction. Whether she was talking about aboriginals on The Dreaming or, by 1985’s Hounds of Love, clouds, cloudbusting machines and writing in an ambitious and epic way, people were still hooked and amazed at her evolution.

I guess it is the consistency and evolutions that mean her words are always fresh and different but uniquely Kate. Hounds of Love, to many, is Kate Bush’s magnum opus (I feel The Kick Inside is…) but the wordplay and incredible songs cannot be denied. The ‘conventional’ side-one of the album has huge hits like Running Up That Hill (A Deal with God) and Cloudbusting that, between them, ask “Do you wanna feel how it feels?” (the former) and provide us with the thought, “You’re like my yo-yo/that glowed in the dark” (the latter). The fact that, post-The Red Shoes (1993) there was a bit of silence and decline in quality did not stop many wondering what would come next. Bush was starting a family and there was a twelve-year pause until her next album, Aerial, that showed she had lost none of her step! Many consider that album one of her genius records – age and changing domestic circumstances would not diminish or tarnish her brilliance. David Mitchell, again, takes up the story:

“...By now my wife and I had a small child of our own whose toothy grin was for us, too, “The most truly fantastic smile / I’ve ever seen”. “Mrs Bartolozzi”, surely the only song by a major artist whose lyrics include washing machine onomatopoeia, portrays a housekeeper of a certain age. The drudgery of her life smothers her own memories and desires, and puts me in mind of a 21st-century Miss Kenton from Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Remains of the Day. The song “How to Be Invisible” contains a Macbeth-esque recipe for invisibility that is, Kate-ishly, both quotidian and magical: “Eye of Braille / Hem of Anorak / Stem of Wallflower / Hair of Doormat.” Disc one’s last song is my desert island Kate song: “A Coral Room”. Musically, this ballad for piano and vocal is one of her sparsest. Lyrically, it’s one of her richest, describing an underwater city, dreamy and abandoned and swaying and recalling Debussy’s prelude La Cathédrale Engloutie”.

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IMAGE CREDIT: Getty Images 

Her later work, in fact, contains some of her most astonishing and vivid expressions. If Bush’s 1978-1993 was lauded because of its imagination, peculiar charm and incredible charm then her 2005-2011 output is no slouch! 50 Words for Snow, released in 2011, is her last/latest album and one that wowed critics. Its title offering is Bush listing synonyms (imagined by her) for snow whereas the wintry theme unites lovers separated by history and ill-fortune (Snowed in at Wheeler Street alongside Sir Elton John) and takes us to wonderful and jaw-dropping spaces! To David Mitchell, it seems he connects with an album that shows Bush, even in her mid-fifties (as she was then) could still entice and stagger as she did as a teen:

A mere six years later, 50 Words for Snow was released. It is Kate’s fourth masterpiece. The songs are expansive, loose-fitting and jazzier than the rest of the oeuvre, thanks to her lower register and huskier vocal cords, plus veteran session drummer Steve Gadd whose percussive lexicon shifts from spacious to flurrying to ominous to trip-hoppy, according to each song’s slant. Lyrically, it is themed around winter. The album opens with “Snowflake”, a slow and shimmering duet between a falling flake “born in a cloud” and a person destined to catch it. Because the snowflake is voiced and sung by Kate’s son and the person by Kate; or maybe because of the small-ish children then in my life, I think of the song also as a duet between a soul before conception (one of multitudes of multitudes) and that soul’s new body’s future mother. Its lyrics are both primordial (“I am ice and dust and light / I am sky and here”) and intimate (“I think I can see you / There’s your long, white neck”). “Lake Tahoe” is a ghost story of sorts, featuring a drowned woman in Victorian dress “tumbling like a cloud that has drowned in the lake” calling for her dog, Snowflake; and that same, now-elderly dog’s dream, in which his drowned owner is still alive”.

There is talk when another Kate Bush album will come along and whether it will be different to her previous output. Her son, Bertie, is all grown up so one is curious whether she will concentrate on family or provide something akin to her work around Hounds of Love. I am hopeful there will be something out next year and, given she has re-released her back catalogue and remastered it, I feel that is her getting everything out there in order whilst she prepares for the next phase. There is, as Mitchell explains, this never-ending hunger and appreciate for Kate Bush – even if people want her to produce the sort of material she did at the start of her career:

Fans want more of what we loved the first time, yet we complain if things feel repetitive. Kate is a mighty exception to all this, as rare as a yeti. Her fidelity to her ever-curious, ever-morphing muse has won her a body of fans who hold her songs as treasured possessions to be carried through life. By dint of never having been in fashion, she has never fallen out of fashion. By taking bold artistic risks that she navigates with ingenuity and wisely chosen collaborators, the albums Kate made in her late 40s and 50s equal and surpass the songs recorded in her teens and 20s that made her famous. To any artist in any field, her example is a hope-instilling exhortation to evolve, to reinvent, to reimagine what we do”.

 IN THIS PHOTO: Kate Bush photographed in 2005/PHOTO CREDIT: Trevor Leighton/National Portrait Gallery, London

I will wrap things up soon but, although I have shared my favourite lyrics of Bush and Mitchell’s; there are others who have a deep love of her words and peerless quality. This article looks at Bush’s exceptional calibre and how was a revelation and revolution:

She represents for many a force of uninhibited originality and feminine energy that somehow cut through the marketing machine of pop music to set and break her own rules as her creative whims saw fit, retaining ownership of her output across the writing and production process in a way that remains impressive by contemporary standards. In particular, her talent for songwriting sets her apart. She began aged 11 and topped the charts with her first single, the Brontë-inspired “Wuthering Heights”, when she was 19. She has since had 25 UK Top 40 singles, from “Babooshka” to “Running Up That Hill”, and 10 UK Top 10 studio albums, including Never for Ever (1980) and Hounds of Love (1985). In 2002, she won the Ivor Novello Award for Outstanding Contribution to British Music...

Her songs, each with their own story to tell, their own characters, their own unique soundscape have seeped into our consciousness and form important touchstones in the lives of those who come into contact with them. I cannot fail to be moved by the lines, “I know you’ve got a little life in you yet/I know you’ve got a lot of strength left,” on 1989’s “This Woman’s Work”, when life all seems too much. There are few gatherings with my female friends that don’t end with a mime-infused interpretative dance-off to the refrain, “Heathcliff, it’s me, I’m Cathy/I’ve come home, I’m so cold/Let me in through your window
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The article talks with a few songwriters and, before I conclude, I want to bring two of their opinions in that show how Kate Bush has inspired the new generation. Freya Ridings shared her favourite Kate Bush moments and lyric:

Kate Bush is a revolutionary force of nature, from writing songs completely on her own to her iconic performances. The thing that sets her apart is her wild creativity and emotional freedom that shines through her melodies and lyrics. She writes in a way that still stops people in their tracks. They embody a timeless quality that is endlessly inspiring for so many emerging writers and performers.

“Ohh there is thunder in our hearts” from “Running Up That Hill”  is a lyric that’s always had a resonance with me. Not just because the song has simple timeless beauty but because it highlights the hidden emotional storms that aren’t always easy to communicate with someone you love”.

Rae Morris also gave her thoughts:

There’s a magic in Kate Bush’s music that I can’t find anywhere else. The characters in the stories she tells are old friends you can turn to, familiar and warm, but never boring. The music she’s made over the years sounds just as fresh and relevant now as it ever did.
I first listened to “Aerial”, which may be a strange place to start.

My favourite lyrics are: “The day writes the words right across the sky/They go all the way up to the top of the night” from “Sunset”. And “My mother and her little brown jug/It held her milk/And now it holds our memories/I can hear her singing…” from A Coral Room. I’ve attached it to an image of my own mum singing in the kitchen. That’s the genius of Kate. She makes you reflect on your own life”.

I know there will be more material from Kate Bush and you can never predict what she will do next and where she will head. Her career is always impossible to pin and, in terms of albums and what they will sound like, they are always different and completely incredible. I think music, in some ways, is less about the language and more about its immediacy and compositional tones. I cannot name many modern songwriters whose tracks leap out because of the wordplay and language. Certainly, there is nobody like Kate Bush and her work is a benchmark I do not feel we will see troubled. Everyone has their own memories and favourite songs of Kate Bush but, to me, her whole career has yielded gold and legacy. I think Wuthering Heights and Moving are brilliant staring places and, if curious, take the time out to investigate her entire catalogue. I would urge anyone with even a passing interest in music and lyrics to get How to Be Invisible as it is a beautiful thing that collects together songs from right across Kate Bush’s career – including some rarer tracks and her big numbers. I cannot wait to get the book and digest every single page but, looking forward there will be curiosity hoe Kate Bush, now sixty, will follow 50 Words for Snow and what is on her creative mind. As has been shown in this piece, from 1978’s startling introduction, The Kick Inside, through to 1985’s Hounds of Love and 2011’s 50 Words for Snow; she has lost none of her linguistic genius and ability to stun the collective. As we look back on her brilliant legacy and gift, let us hope...

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 IN THIS PHOTO: Kate Bush captured during filming for The Line, The Cross and the Curve in 1993/PHOTO CREDIT: Guido Harari

THERE is much more to come!

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

FEATURE:

 

 

Sisters in Arms

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IN THIS PHOTO: Riva Taylor 

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

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I feel it is appropriate to call this ‘winter’…

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 IN THIS PHOTO: Hussy/PHOTO CREDIT: Poppy Marriott

as the weather is definitely getting more tempestuous and there is a distinct chill in the air! Given Christmas is a few weeks away; it is time to embrace the winter but that does not mean we need to hide away and submit until the weather hots back up. As it is a bit grotty out there; I have collated some female-led gems that are guaranteed to warm up the cockles and, if needed, create a calming and touching mood. It is a contrasting and busy playlist that gets into the head and makes sure the body is moving. Have a look at the latest rundown and there might be some artists in there that are new to you – those you want to stick with and seek out further. Sit back, spin some great new tunes and, before long, the damp and cold outside will be replaced by some...

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IN THIS PHOTO: Alicai Harley 

SERIOUSLY hot tunes!  

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

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MUNNYCAT Check It

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Vera BlueAll the Pretty Girls

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E.PARKER Godspeed

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Reykjavíkurdætur - Dugleg

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Alicai HarleyProper Paper

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Jade Marie PatekGood One

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VALERAS - Intentions

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PHOTO CREDIT: Poppy Marriott

HussyForever         

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Sinead Harnett - Lessons

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Riva TaylorO Holy Night (Live at RAK Studios)

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Brooke LawSee Ya Later

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Tiny RuinsSchool of Design

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Ella VosOcean

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Kelsy KarterCatch Me If You Can

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SodyLet You Know

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PHOTO CREDIT: Rosie Marks

Paige Bea - After All

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Feel Better

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Charlotte GainsbourgSuch a Remarkable Day

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Caoilfhionn RoseUnravellled

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Caitlyn Scarlett (ft. Segal)Nightmares

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PHOTO CREDIT: Liz Ornitz

FoxanneSo Excited

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PHOTO CREDIT: Shervin Lainez

Rachel EckrothCollecting Bruises

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Mae MullerRead

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CAGGIEIt Will Never Be Over

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Poppy AjudhaWhen You Watch Me

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Hayleau That’s Life

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Sophie HungerI Opened a Bar

INTERVIEW: Mauwe

INTERVIEW:

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Mauwe

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IT has been cool speaking with Portia and Jay of Mauwe...

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about their new single, Balcony Dreams, and what its story is. They tell me how Mauwe came to be and what sort of music they are influenced by; the rising artists we need to follow and whether they have anything lined up for 2019.

The guys select albums important to them and tell me about how they chill away from music; what advice they would give to any musicians coming through and what they would each like for Christmas.

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

Portia: Great, thank you! Just recovering after a couple of shows this week and looking forward to continuing with writing in a few days. 

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

Jay: Sure. We're Jay and Portia, A.K.A. 'Mauwe', and we make something between Electronica and Indie-pop. We released our first E.P. earlier this year and just released our newest single, Balcony Dreams, in November. 

How did Mauwe get together? When did you start making music?

Portia: Haha. Well, we'd known of each other for years - having both grown up in the same town in the Midlands. We played a couple of the same shows with separate projects, worked at the same restaurant for a little while and I think maybe even did the same course at college but never really talked about music or writing.

Then, we ended up in Bristol separately about two years ago and decided to just jam together for the first time. We recorded a cover of Elvis' Can't Help Falling In Love for fun that first day and decided we should see what we could come up with. I think we wrote our first song, Smoked a Pack, about two weeks later. 

Balcony Dreams sounds like a positive song! What inspired it and does it relate to personal experience?

Jay: Yeah, definitely. We naturally tend to write mostly from experience, like, things we're going through at the time. This one's about chasing that dream, whatever it might be, and having the strength to defy anyone who says you should 'get a safe job' because it might not work out. I based the production around that recording of the London Underground and we kind of grew the lyrics around that. 

Do you think there will be more material next year?

Portia: 100%. We've got a few new tracks that we can't wait to share as well as some that we're currently working on. Definitely feeling pretty inspired at the moment.

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In terms of music; which artists are you drawn to?

Portia: It's quite eclectic; especially combining both our tastes. But we love Jon Bellion, Vallis Alps and Louis the Child to name a few. Definitely going through a massive Nao phase - I never caught on when she first burst on the scene.

How important is Bristol and a base and its music scene?

Jay: Love it here. It's always got something going on but there's also space to chill and be yourself/clear your head, which I think is pretty important for creativity. So many great artists come through here too and it's got its history of introducing really good music to the world. Generally, a really inspiring place. 

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As Christmas is coming; what one present would you each like if you could have anything?

Jay: Haha, I don't know. Is a tour bus too much?

Portia: I keep getting bullied by various friends saying I'm a musician who doesn't have a Hi-Fi in their room, so I'm planning on changing this once and for all!

Do you already have plans for 2019?

Jay: Yes! As we mentioned, we've got some new music on the way, as well as a couple of music videos. We're also in the midst of expanding our live set-up, which we can't wait to show off in the New Year.

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

Portia: I think our show at Sixty Million Postcards in Bournemouth was pretty spectacular. Some people had travelled for several hours to get there and it was the first time we really saw how the music had actually connected with real people. It's one thing to see plays on Spotify and YouTube or whatever, but it's obviously amazing seeing real people singing our songs back at us.

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

Portia: That is such a hard question. I'd say probably either the first or second 1975 album. When I first learnt to drive and I was going through a break up, I would only listen to those two albums on-repeat and I feel like they saw me through exciting times (peaceful times) and also gut-wrenchingly sad times. They were both the soundtrack to freedom for me in so many senses. 

Jay: This is impossible to answer, but if I have to choose it's probably Jack Garratt's Phase. It's got such a good balance of energy and great song writing, and most importantly I'm still yet to get bored of it. 

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

Portia: Oooh. Jon Bellion? And rider would include hummus at the very least. Probably some honey J.D.; a couple of meal deals and definitely some chocolate. Maybe some pain au chocolate for the morning? (Jay's obsessed).

What advice would you give to new artists coming through?

Jay: Don't sit around and wait for inspiration to hit you. Those moments do come and they're magical but so many great things have happened when we've just sat down and started creating or writing. Sometimes, nothing comes of it but at the very least it keeps your head in that space and keeps you practicing your craft. 

Portia: Believe, believe, believe in yourself and focus on your own journey.

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

Jay: Until we've finished creating our new set-up, everything live is on-pause, but we've got some great plans for the New Year!

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 IN THIS PHOTO: Another Sky

Are there any new artists you recommend we check out?

Jay: Another Sky are making waves at the moment; their songwriting and production is great. FARR also have some smooth tunes that deserve a lot more attention. 

Portia: Pinegrove. They're not particularly new but I don't think enough people know about them. 

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IN THIS PHOTO: Pinegrove

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

Jay: I kind of feel like music IS unwinding. There's a whole lot that is connected to it that requires what could be considered 'work', but crafting, creating and writing...that's all stuff that I feel most relaxed and at home doing. 

Portia: We both love books and films too. There's a lot of inspiration to be found in escapism as well as real life. 

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).

Portia: Haha, thanks - and thanks for having us! California by The Lagoons

Jay: Stephen - Fly Down

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Follow Mauwe

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INTERVIEW: Chloe Foy

INTERVIEW:

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Chloe Foy

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BECAUSE we are inching closer to Christmas...

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it is a good time to speak with Chloe Foy about her cover of In the Bleak Midwinter. I was eager to know why she chose that song to cover and whether she is influenced by carols; which artists and albums are important to her and whether there are some great rising artists to look out for.

Foy tells me what gigs are coming up and whether she has a favourite musical memory; if she gets time to chill away from music and what plans are in place for 2019 – Foy picks a great song to end things with.

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

Hi! I’m okay, thank you. My week has been good - I’m trying to fight the desire to hibernate as it gets darker and damper in Manchester.

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

I’m Chloe Foy; a singer-songwriter from Gloucestershire, based in Manchester. I write songs with my guitar and have a weakness for strings and lots of beautiful vocal harmonies.

You have released a cover of In the Bleak Midwinter. Was there a reason behind covering that song?

It’s one of my favourite Christmas songs. I’m not religious but there’s a certain nostalgia that comes with Christmas carols and some of them carry beautiful tunes. It’s a setting of a Christina Rossetti poem - and some of the imagery used is very beautiful.

I am surprised more artists are not inspired by Christmas carols when writing their music – in terms of tone and sound. Do you find songs like that inspire you?

Yes. I have a classical background and often sang in choirs as a kid and I think I can’t help but be influenced in my writing by the melodic and harmonic inflections contained within choral music. I think it’s probably why I’m such a sucker for vocal harmonies.

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Might we see material next year? What are you working on?

I’m currently working on lots of new material to be released next year and I’m excited to get in the studio and record it. Watch this space… 

Can you give me an idea of the artists, older and new, who inspire you and compel your own sound?

This has been said a lot but I love both Laura Marling and Sharon Van Etten and think my sound lies somewhere between the two. I’m constantly inspired by female artists who are out there writing beautiful music and making a living from it, for example Jesca Hoop; Maggie Rogers, This Is the Kit. I grew up listening to The Beatles, Dylan and Neil Young so there’s definitely some influence there too. Mainly I just listen out for a good melody.

Do you already have plans for 2019?

Yep. The aforementioned release of new music, plus touring the U.K. and hopefully some gigs further afield.

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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’ve had a great year this year what with going to SXSW and supporting Jesca Hoop, so it’s hard to pick. But, recently, on a little tour of the U.K., I took a full band to London to play Paper Dress Vintage in Hackney and I think it’s one of the best shows I’ve ever played. Everything just came together and the crowd had a really good vibe too. There was something quite magical about it.

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

Revolver by The Beatles. Because it was played so much when I was small. It evokes a lot of happy memories.

Laura Marling’s Once I Was an Eagle. Because it taught me what an album could really be.

Fleetwood Mac - Rumours…just because.

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

No Brexit please.

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

I’d support Paul McCartney…because how else am I going to meet him? And being used to a few beers on a rider, it’s hard to imagine what I could ask for…three-course meal? Champagne? Guitar tech? Full orchestra? That’s a good start.

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

I have a show in Manchester on 9th December at the Kings Arms in Salford and another in Sheffield on 21st December. They’re my last for the year but I’ll be back on the road in the spring.

What advice would you give to new artists coming through?

The usual. Don’t give up, don’t forget what’s at the heart of what you’re doing and don’t compare yourself to others.

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 IN THIS PHOTO: Katie Mac

Are there any new artists you recommend we check out?

Katie Mac is a new artist from Liverpool with an incredible voice and Caoilfhionn Rose is based here in Manchester and has just released her debut album. They’re both pretty special.

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 IN THIS PHOTO: Caoilfhionn Rose

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

Usually, I unwind by playing guitar and writing a song - it is my therapy. But, I also like a bit of yoga now and again and long walks. And, to contrast with this wholesome picture, I also enjoy terrible T.V. - like, really terrible.

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).

Raven’s Song by Aaron Embry

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Follow Chloe Foy

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FEATURE: An Imperfect Figure: Spotify Wrapped 2018: Is It Possible to Get on Top of the Sheer Weight of Music and Ensure the Newcomers and Classic Acts Find a Fair Audience in the Spotify Age?

FEATURE:

 

 

An Imperfect Figure

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IN THIS PHOTO: Ariana Grande (who was declared the top-streamed female artist on Spotify for 2018)/PHOTO CREDIT: Craig McDean for VOGUE 

Spotify Wrapped 2018: Is It Possible to Get on Top of the Sheer Weight of Music and Ensure the Newcomers and Classic Acts Find a Fair Audience in the Spotify Age?

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I am beholden to Spotify as much as the next person...

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 IN THIS IMAGE: Spotify Wrapped 2018/IMAGE CREDIT: Spotify

and would be a much poorer and more stressed journalist if it were not in my life! That might sound tragic but I love how one can get any new album instantly and, if needed, cherry-pick a track from it for their delectation. It is wonderful to have such variety, accessibility and flexibility with our music. Once was the time, pre-streaming/Spotify/YouTube, where one had to rely on traditional methods (buying albums and singles) and a few select websites to get the best new music around. Now, we have a wealth of sites where one can access pretty much any song from anywhere in the world. It is one of the best things about the technological takeover and, as many will know, the popularity and exposure of new artists can be linked to sites like Spotify. I am not saying it is the only tool and way to get discovered but one cannot overlook its impact and role in today’s culture. I use it quite a lot and have found so much new material using it. It is the time of year when all the streaming sites and social media bodies are giving us our statistics from 2018. If it is Facebook then we are told about our most popular posts and all those ‘best moments’.

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 IMAGE CREDIT: @KristianKostov_

Spotify is doing the same and providing users with the songs and artists they connected with most this year. It is a good way to find out what was rocking our world and we can have breakdowns of the type of sounds that filled our hearts. Whist it is good to have a statistical analysis of our tastes and discover where our preferences lie; I wonder whether this approach to popularity and user tastes is actually misleading and lead to some worrying realisations. I have seen various contacts on social media publish this results and it does give props to certain new acts. For me, I think there is a big weighting towards older artists and a very limited scope. I have downloaded countless tracks as part of my reviews and interviews – which provides a huge spread of genres and locations – but, in terms of the artists I came back to time and time again; it is a case of the old and established. I sort of suspected that would be the case but it makes me wonder whether one of the two things has led to that inevitability. One might argue a narrow funnelling of older tastes is a result of sites like Spotify not really uncovering the older acts and songs – they are too trend-focused and are more keen to emphasise the new and rising.

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 IMAGE CREDIT: @elsbdm

I can see why new artists are top of the agenda: we need to highlight and promote the current generation and ensure we are not just relying on the old and familiar. I accept that but how often does one see a good balance of the older and new – surely, the most economical and sage use of a platform as wide-ranging and powerful as Spotify?! The other debate revolves around the scope of new music and whether it is truly possible to discover ALL of the best and brightest. I am lucky in my position as I get sent requests and songs many people will not have found – or might discover a while after release date. I think I am on the front-line of the wave of new music and can pick what I want to promote and who I want on my blog. I am always sad and have that feeling of guilt when I reject someone because I want to include everyone and do worry, in a competitive market, they will struggle to get a foothold. That is not arrogance on my part but the realisation every artist needs as much promotion and attention as possible in order to compete. Not only are a lot of bygone albums/artists being relegated to happenstance and luck but so much of what is being put onto Spotify is being overlooked. I stated how it is impossible to hear everything good and promising but I do wonder whether more needs to be done so that there is parity and less chance of narrow focus and homogenisation. I realise Spotify have introduced ‘Tastebreakers’; a personalised playlist featuring artists you might like based on search results - is it thorough and accurate enough and does it go deep enough?

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IN THIS IMAGE: Drake (he is the top-streamed male artists on Spotify for 2018)/IMAGE CREDIT: @Drake

I think the very fact popularity and place is measured in numbers, streaming figures and graphs is very business-like, empty and worrying. Having seen people receive the results of their listening tastes; what strikes me is how the vast majority are listening (mostly) to artists who are either being included on weekly Spotify playlists or else are fresh and contemporary. I can understand why most people would focus on the approaching breed but is the absence of older artists a sign that we are putting too much emphasis on the new? Also, I know of so many musicians who have their music on Spotify and it can be so hard to compete with the bigger acts. I have speculated before but I think the nature of Spotify means we are naturally drawn to artists they feel are cool and worthy. Naturally, radio exposure and social media brings music to our minds and we then go to Spotify to hear that track/act but does that mean we are lacking in exploration – or is music so hefty and vast that we cannot get a handle on things?! Before I go on, and if you want to know how to see your most-streamed music of 2018; this article - gives a step-by-step explanation.

The most popular artists have been revealed and the results do not really surprise me. As the Evening Standard’s article continues; it seems the most-streamed are the very new and those who are trending:

Drake tops the list for the most streamed artist in 2018 with 8.2 billion streams this year. This has also earned the Canadian rapper the crown for the most-streamed artist of all time.

Thank u, Next star Ariana Grande is recognised for being the most-streamed female artist, and her hit post-breakup song has had more than 220 million streams by itself already, despite only being release in November”.

I do think it is good to have a read-out of the music that we streamed this year but I am concerned there is too much spotlighting of the biggest chart acts and a very one-sided market. Think about so many of the smaller acts who warrant a lot of focus and they are not being afforded the same oxygen and celebration. The same can be said of older music and making sure the current generation have that mixture of the finest new cuts and the best of the past. How do we go about ensuring Spotify and the end-of-year statistics are not too predictable and each subscriber is given a proper opportunity to broaden their horizons?

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 IMAGE CREDIT: @cy_halling

One might say the results of each user is appropriate to their own mind and not directed by playlists/promoted artists but you only need to look at the most-streamed artists from various genres to see a correlation between popularity and the fact they have received the most marketing – either because they are trendy or doing well in the mainstream charts. I recognise the artists rising high on big radio stations would have that mirrored attention on Spotify but, when you go to the site, how do you go beyond that and discover artists lower down the pecking order? So much of the trending suggestions concentrate on a very particular type of artist and there needs to be more menus and compartmentalisation. I am keen to know what is popular on Spotify but, when I am there, I am eager to uncover some rising artists that might not be that commercial but are producing something truly exciting. If we had drop-down menus by genre, location (country/city) and could provide lesser-heard/less-mainstream artists a better chance of being discovered then it would provide a more rounded listening experience and make it easy to get to grips with the sheer volume of new music. By the same token, how about doing weekly playlists by genre and focus on a bit more on artists who could truly benefit from Spotify promotion. It is vital for mainstream acts to get a big say but I think they are less reliant on Spotify than many of the underground artists who are years away from getting the same radio and chart exposure as the big guns.

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 PHOTO CREDIT: @nadineshaabana/Unsplash

I asked whether it is actual reasonable to create an equal balance and not be drowned by the weight of music out there. The Spotify end-of-year breakdown (or ‘Spotify Wrapped 2018’ as it is known) is a useful thing to have but I think time should be spend organising things a bit more. I concede it is too much to ask that every artist finds its way to every subscriber. It is not possible to hear everything you’d like and things will slip through the net. The thing is, I am discovering so much great music by luck – it is shared by a follower of a follower on Twitter or some such – and it has been on Spotify for ages. I would like a more organised site that keeps a track of all the new upload and can tailor suggestions to what I like and want to hear. At the moment, there is a rather meagre version of that and I feel some retuning and development could make Spotify this all-conquering site where we could still keep the cool and mainstream hot in the timeline but would mean people are able to use a bespoke search engine to narrow things down and use the menus to more easily discover new and existing artists that fit their tastes. I think you can easily have a few different playlists and options that means your experience is more varied and less directed.

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 IN THIS PHOTO: Talking Heads (a classic band who are not as widely promoted as modern mainstream artists - meaning many young listeners are missing out)/PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

The problem with older music is that it is not new and has been played endlessly. I feel too many sites consider classic artists second to the new wave and feel people should mostly listen to what is fresh and forward-thinking. I disagree and feel, for people to become more rounded and knowledgeable about music in general, more emphasis needs to be placed on musicians who have come before. I listen to a lot of older sounds on Spotify but so many are going there and instantly gravitating towards the new. Unless they have heard a particular artist from the past on the radio and have been compelled to stream their work; is there any mechanism in place to ensure discovery is not only about trending and what is deemed ‘relevant’?! Like a menu for new artists; having dropdowns for years/genres etc. would make it easy for anyone to access songs they have never heard or those that slipped the mind. Maybe playlists by year/decade would ensure a better of old and new and make these end-of-year breakdowns less predictable and narrow. Perhaps those suggestions would cost a lot and take a lot of time but I think, the more we go to Spotify, the less we are broadening our tastes. Most of my non-commercial discoveries have arrived via radio and social media rather than a platform like Spotify.

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 IMAGE CREDIT: @valeriebuvat

I do not think this is right and, when I got my Spotify Wrapped 2018, it proved two things. For a start, it was not as eclectic in terms of older music as I’d liked (as there is not the device in place to point my in various directions) and most of the newer artists I streamed were as a result of P.R. companies or artists coming directly to me – I would not have discovered these wonderful rising musicians were it not for people not related to Spotify. I know it is harmless fun seeing who we all streamed in 2018 and, in fact, promoting the results not only give a nod to artists and boost their fanbase but it is an interesting social experiment. What I am finding from those who are sharing their 2018 is how similar the results are and how many are listening to same thing. Maybe that is coincidence but I think too many of us are being directed and influenced by very narrow playlists and very few of us are venturing too far beyond the popular, exposed and trending. Music is a vast and wondrous ocean and, whilst it is easy to get buried and staggered by its size, I think all of us can boost our musical horizons and make new discoveries if such big and powerful outlets like Spotify make a few tweaks so there is more parity, broadness and age-balance (between the new and old). It has been a great 2018 for music and I hope, as a resolution for next year, Spotify introduces some new touches and innovations that mean the rising, mainstream and older...

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IMAGE CREDIT: @lauranhibberd 

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