9.7/10 & 9.5/10
Electro swing queen delivers knockout blows, on this superb, defiant double-A side.
Availability: Tracks available now via https://itunes.apple.com/gb/album/shut-up/id576530246?i=576530835
If you like your music edgy, exciting and shapeshifting; then you need to hear...
Little Violet. She came to my attention fairly recently, via online music website, The Girls Are. They are the unequivocal brand-leaders for promoting great female talent in the music industry, and I also was made aware of fellow allumnae Nadine Shah, and her single 'Dreary Town'. I was blown away by that song;s unabated consistency and its ethereal langurouness. I was surprised I had not heard about Shah before, and it was with a similar awe, that precipitated my discovery of Little Violet. The act, consists of male backing; dapperly dressed multi-talented musical wing-men, reminiscent of the sort of musicians who would accompany Ella Fitzgerald or a swing idol of the '40s. They have a similar intellectual integrity. In the spotlight, providing the voice is a young Northern lady with a hell of a curious aesthete. She has an undeniably remarkable beauty. Jaw-dropping yet with a vulnerability or shyness about her, she has a Siren's allure. Unlike her equivocal beauty paragon, Cheryl Cole, Little Violet is a very different kettle of fish. From reading interviews and watching video clips, she is much more accessible. She told The Girls Are that she can be shy and sensitive, and she speaks with a smile; banters and jokes, unafflicted by the need to pander to anyone's expectations. She adores music and expressing herself through this medium. She is incredibly cerebral and immensely likeable. She explains that she hails from a family with a musical background. Her childhood home was awash with sounds of the greats such as Sinatra; but there was a great range of genres heard emanating from the homestead, from doo-wop, to glam rock, and almost everything between and beyond. It is with a fervent admiration of the authentic jazz swing age, that Little Violet tries to reflect in their songs. There is a tangible sense of authenticity ensconced within the tracks. It is above everything, fun, lively and unexpected.
The first thing I would mention about the song 'Don't Stop' is the video. It has quite an authentic mise en scène, with our heroine, battling against the tide, trying to catch her man's attention. He is more concerned with an advert for burlesque dancers and sets off to catch the show, unaware that his wife has similar lasciviousness intent. It is a comical and fun video, and 'fun' is an adjective that best sums up the mood of the song. As soon as the scat introduction trumpets forth, your mind is immediately transported to the swing jazz age, and your toes tap and you want to get up to dance. The vocal is passionate and strong, and lyrics like: "Take control of what you're worth" emit a steadfast refusal to be subjugated; with "Take it easy/just one step at a time", imploring some ambition restraint. The theme of the song concerns not being content to stand still and taking the step to break the mould. "Keep on moving/Don't stop" is the motivational mantra of the track. Special kudos goes to the band, who genuinely emit an appreciation and understanding of the jazz and swing greats, and yet add a retro, updated sparkle and kick to the sound, fusing a little bit of modern jazz to its supreme bodywork. The sound is tight and mesmeric throughout, and does what any great song should do: not only want to make you smile and dance, but dive into the jazz swing annals, and hear the original purveyors as well. On a positive note, the vocal as well has pleasing shades of Fitzgerald, Peggy Lee, as well as a little touch of Paloma Faith. In a way too, one can cross reference Little Violet with Caro Emerald. She too has a great talent and passion for a bygone, better age, but is similarly capable of modernizing the sound and making its appeal devoid of boundaries and labelling. It is such a fresh and lively drag, and blows a multitude of mental cobwebs away as you listen. It has no hidden agenda or skeletons in its closet. It wants you to jive, dance and get happy; employing a demonstrative edge to it. It grabs you by the hand and implores you to become involved. Reinterpreting the vocal again, I was impressed by the skilled improvisation throughout: there is sexy, pouting scatting, cohabiting with elongated notes, syncopated delivery and a sense of adventure. The heart and soul of the vocal, mind, is authenticity. Whilst it pays homage to its idols, it has an electioneering spirit and proves what an exceptional voice is on display. It is sweet, zesty, bonhomous, and bloody sexy, as well. There is an austerity to the cocktail as well (Remember how you made it here/A game of truth or dare), advising you to "keep your eye on the prize". Although the path to Greenwich Mean Time has been fractious and risk-laden, as you are where you are now, take it easy, be true to yourself and you'll be fine. It is a simple and inspirational mandate, and one that has a personal relocatability, and universal in its efficacy. One suspects that there is a personal relevance to the lyrics for Little Violet's front-woman, who you can tell, loves telling this story and suspect that if she weren't, her life would be listless by comparison. The trumpets percolate, the mood is indigo, and the words"If you can find that leap of faith/Then let the games begin" whisper in your ear. Before you can allow yourself to become seduced the chorus beats back in, rides the waves and keeps the Cheshire Cat grin where it should be. Back in the video, our protagonist- at once Grecian and Amazonian in equal measures, is back in the kitchen of their home, and rebuffs her houndog husband, before coyly turning and flashes a huge, alluring grin. It is a great metaphor for the song itself, and completes an exhilarating listen. But I have rambled too long, I will sum-up later.
Okay, then; next up is the flip of the double-A side. It is a more flagellatory animal. The sequin-adorned chanteuse Jekyl has, by the moon's pearly light, transformed into a leather clad vixenous Hyde, in a missed heartbeat. Thematically, of course. From a cursory viewing of the video to 'Shut Up', the sequins and sparkle are in fashion, but where as before there was a sense of open palms, here the claws are out. The song slithers confidently forth, with the words: "He finds it easy to critise", its in utero mindset, the babe born forth has a pugnacious cry. Its father was a no-good; not appreciating what was right in front of him; in his lover's own words: "You're too late/And you finished last". The chorus wears its sleeve on its heart. The man has blown it, and his friends, and former paramour does not want to hear any excuses; all she wants to hear is "ssshhhhh!". If I can break from the cautionary-tale and speak of the track's D.N.A. Firstly it is quite a juxtaposition of 'Don't Stop'. Instantly the band have shown that there is more than fun and dance to their demurrage. The sound is slowed down, and smoother, allowing the vocals and lyrics to resonate appropriately. The band are tight and stunning throughout. As the chorus fades I can hear echos of Miles Davis's 'Kind of Blue' (particularly the track 'Blue in Green'). The band turn Lyrebird in their range of sounds. Davis can be seen, also shades of 'Life in a Glasshouse' by Radiohead can be detected; a little of Glenn Miller's 'In The Mood'; a smidge of Fletcher Henderson and Cab Calloway show up in the blood count. The band do not try to parody or replicate them. The sounds, spirits and perfumes are poured together and stirred to give a heady blend. It updates the genres and revitalizes them for the '00s. The vocal does not suffocate or feel forced. At its most demure, it evocates Carmen McRae and modern singers such as Adele. When the tempo rises, Amy Winehouse, Sarah Vaughan and Nelly Furtado. It is a smoky and gutsy performance and has incredible soul and veracity to it. Our single lady talks about how (her former beau), had "a temper, which could break a heart"; who'd: "babble at you/Make you want to scream". The chorus is deployed effectively between the heartbreak tableau vivants; the entire track is a bloodstained parable telling the story of a woman who is less Moll Flanders and more gangster's moll. In the video, the heroine is fed up and looking for vengeance. She looks undeniably resplendent as she head into a smoky alleyway, as the disgraced hero drops his cigarette, and subsequently, drops to the floor, as she walks away.
My earliest musical memory was around about aged 6. I had a red co-kart my late grandfather built. Myself and a couple of my friends would speed along with racing pretensions listening to a red cassette player. If it wasn't T-Rex being played it was an old compilation called; 'Jive Bunny and the Mastermixers: The Album'. It was a novelty act that would fuse swing and jive classics from the likes of Glenn Miller and Chubby Checker. I loved it and was fascinated by the sounds and fell in love with swing and jazz before any other form of music. For a number of reasons, the music has a personal relatability. I love the snatches and snapshots of sounds and moods the band collate to produce a visceral and chemical reaction amongst the listener. For a genre of music that was once roaring, it is somewhat of an underground niche. There is no need for a reappropriation; more of as revilalisation, and Little Violet are going to make big strides to achives this. The mix of brass, drum, upright bass and piano, delivers authenticism and a passionate love letter to the past swing and jazz era. The combination of band and singer works wonderfully. No one is too high in the mix; each are given equal weight to tell their tale, and both tracks are diverse and brilliantly impressive. The music is positively Newtonian. The band want you to be inspired and to smile and to get as much pleasure out, as they put in. They can close caption a relatable malaise in 'Shut Up', a track, one suspects will resonate more strongly with a female audience. In 'Don't Stop' acts as a premiate; it gives you self-belief and implores you to get up and be inspired. I would advise you to listen to the tracks with the videos as well, as the films are brilliant shot, projecting a very noir feel to them. They are miniature tapestries and tell the stories perfectly. Although both tracks have been available since November of last year, there is new music afoot; and I for one, cannot wait. I have been so depressed and uninspired by a lot of new music and hunted for something fresh and invigorating to sleep soundly in my brain. I have found it, and has inspired me to write and experiment with my own music.
Little Violet deserves huge success and plaudits. She gives a great appraisal and recognition to her cohorts and comes across as thoroughly cultured and intelligent and thoroughly likeable. She is fun and upbeat and, whilst following her Twitter and Facebook feeds she is good to her fans, and has an accessibility and savviness to her. Complete with a maturity and worldliness that belies her 20-something years, she is someone who understands the importance of saluting her musical heroes, whilst updating their sound; in order to allow for cross-border popularity; thus drawing in new listeners and not betraying the roots of the core sound. Combine this with a voice that can melt hearts and inspire minds, and a beauty that is genuinely staggering, success and popularity will not be hard to achieve. Not to gush, but the songs I have heard today, are amongst some of the best tracks I have heard this year. Little Violet explains that she has a constant stream of lyrics and melodies building towers and planting seeds inj every corner. She explains that the only way to block these out and get to sleep is, curiously, by using the sound of a hairdryer to create a white noise affect. This is something I can sympathise with. I have been writing lyrics for 15 years and still not peaked. I find myself drifting off with a couplet in my head, and have envelopes filled with vaguely decipherable lines of various songs on them. My main passion is vocals and often have various vocal lines and key changes struggling to get out. I have not perfected a method to stop me seeming like a madman and singing to myself all day. I will have to try a hoover or hairdryer! In the meantime, I am going to fall in love with YouTube all over again and revisit my passion for blues, swing, jazz and the all-time greats. Little Violet is the flag-bearers of a new wave of exciting and inspiring music. Listen to their songs now, and wait with baited breathe, because...
... something truly special awaits.
Key Track: 'Don't Stop'.
The Girls Are: