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!

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

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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.

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!

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

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
”.

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

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 

HAVE an equal say.

FEATURE: Vinyl Corner: Manic Street Preachers - This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours

FEATURE:

 

 

Vinyl Corner

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IMAGE CREDIT: Getty Images 

Manic Street Preachers - This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours

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IT has been on my mind for a while...

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 IN THIS PHOTO: Manic Street Preachers in 2018/PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images/Press

but I have been looking back at the albums from 1998 and wondering whether they have remained relevant and as memorable now as back then. It is always hard to create a record that can be passed down the ages and, even in a year as productive and exceptional as 1998, there were many that have been lost and nobody listens to. The Manic Street Preachers launched This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours the same year as we saw blockbusters from Madonna (Ray of Light), Beck (Mutations); Garbage (Version 2.0) and the Beastie Boys (Hello Nasty) – you can throw Lauryn Hill (The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill) and Massive Attack (Mezzanine) in there! I have talked a lot about the 1990s and which years (of the decade) were best but you cannot ignore how transforming and inspiring 1998 was. We had seen the best of Britpop and movements past; there was a gap for a new revolution and a fresh wave. What we saw was Electronic music and Trip-Hop coming more into the forefront and the mainstream as busy and exceptional as ever. Such was the quality and vibrancy of 1998, it is no surprise we are recalling the best albums from the year and comparing them with today’s crop. The Manic Street Preachers have not long released an album, Resistance Is Futile, and, although it is good, there is little of the same genius that defined their 1998 milestone.

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 IMAGE CREDIT: Getty Images

1996’s Everything Must Go was the first album with their brother, Richey Edwards, and it was a tough time for them. A few of Edwards’ lyrics and songs would make that record – and unearthed writings were used on future Manics albums – but it was a band facing a new future and a very harsh reality. It is a shock the final record is so cohesive and memorable – you’d forgive the band for being distracted and too emotional to write something cohesive! The success of Everything Must Go pushed them forward and, whilst 1998’s response was less intense than some of the songs on Everything Must Go; This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours is overflowing with emotion, texture and quality. Whereas Everything Must Go was released at the height of Britpop – although it was not as chirpy and Pop-orientated as a lot of Britpop sounds –; 1998 was a different year and the British mainstream was embracing something different. This was the first Manics album with lyrics entirely by Nicky Wire and, as such, it was different in tone and unlike any other release. James Dean Bradfield and Sean Moore tackled the music and, together they released something far less accelerated and Hard-Rock-inspired than we were used to. There were glacial elements and more instruments; softer elements and angles in some songs and a more rounded and experimental affair.

I will talk about an anniversary release of the record (out tomorrow) and a Manic Street Preachers tour but, for me and many, 1998 was a terrific year for music where we were seeing many of our best-loved bands either change or dip in popularity. Britpop heroes like Oasis and Blur were heading in different directions (Oasis less successful than their rivals at this point) and other genres were coming in – there was more influence from American artists and genres like Hip-Hop, Trip-Hop and Electro. The Manic Street preachers, like a lot of their peers, were succeeding when it came to exploring new ground and able to produce the big anthems. If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next – they were pretty keen on long titles back then! – was inspired by the Spanish Civil War and the Welsh volunteers who joined the left-wing International Brigades. You Stole the Sun from My Heart was Nicky Wire’s fatigue at touring and a desire for rest. The band was talking about tension, fears and exhaustion on Everything Must Go (Australia looked at getting far away and escaping the chaos in the U.K. and their ranks) and one could see some comparisons with the previous offering. This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours boasted thirteen songs and only one of them (the epic hit, Tsunami) was under four minutes.

Lesser bands were have put bloated songs with needless solos together but the lengthy 1998 gem from the Manic Street Preachers was them confident and taking their sound to new heights! Every song sounds focused, inventive and original and it showed what a strong unit the Welsh band were (and continue to be). In this review, Pitchfork drilled down to the truth and beauty of an incredible record:

Supporting Wire's powerful lyrics, the Manic Street Preachers play with virtuosity and conviction. James Dean Bradfield's voice has never sounded better-- he's evolved into one of the best rock singers around. The band's music is also the most far- ranging of their career, incorporating a broader instrumentation that includes non- typical rock instruments like the sitar, melodica, omnichords, and organ. For example, "Ready For Drowning" possesses a moody, almost classical- sounding organ with some of the most intriguing harmonic shifts ever penned by a rock musician.

The Manic Street Preachers are also one of the few groups capable of integrating orchestral instruments in a way that still produces great rock music (check out the cello in "My Little Empire"), always avoiding the schmaltzy elevator music that can result when some rock musos get a hold of an orchestra. Meanwhile, they manage to infuse some quite dour lyrics with some of the most haunting melodies in rock this side of Radiohead. Bradfield and Moore seldom choose the obvious chords, arrangements and melodies, resulting in music that is heads- and- tails above almost any band on the planet. I'd say it's my album of the year so far, but I picked it number one last year. (It actually came out in the U.K. last fall)”.

There is something timeless and ever-intriguing about This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours as it is not an ultra-Britpop smash or something that was of a particular scene. I was at school when the album came out (I was fourteen) and I was wondering what would follow the epicness and influence. I had been aware of the Manic Street Preachers and loved albums like Everything Must Go and The Holy Bible (1994). I was drawn by their raw sound and huge tracks and was excited to get my hands on their fifth album. The thing I was struck by was the shift in sound and how easy songs like You Stole the Sun from My Heart became anthems of the year. You had the catchy choruses and distinct Manics sound but there was new light to be discovered. Unlike today, there was a giddiness and excitement in the ear in September when the album arrived on the shelves. CLASH, in their recent celebration piece, talked about the rush of expectation that was in the air and why the album resonated:

As the clock struck midnight on September 13th 1998 thousands of Manic Street Preachers fans were queuing, some for up to 13 hours, outside Cardiff’s Virgin Megastores to be among the first to buy 'This is My Truth Tell Me Yours' and have their copy signed by the band, James Dean Bradfield, Nicky Wire and Sean Moore...

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IMAGE CREDIT: Manic Street Preachers/Getty Images

As Britpop ate its self in a haze of cocaine in Camden and Champagne at Number 10, newly occupied by Labour’s Tony Blair, it was left to the Manics to give the country a new soundtrack. They had always stood apart from Britpop and it had been obvious they would live through other phases once that era ended.

As an album it stands the test of time better than any of the pop bands that dominated that year. It’s personal while remaining relatable and political while remaining authentic. The new re-issue captures its weary urgency perfectly and some of its messages seem even more important now than they were 20 years ago”.

There are, as of tomorrow, Collectors’ Editions of the album to mark its twentieth anniversary. Although the official anniversary was a few months back; these C.D. and vinyl bundles are must-haves for people like me who were hit by This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours when it arrived back in 1998. We get to hear new selections and there are demos and rehearsal recordings. It gives new light and exposure to a treasure of an album that, to me, was the last time the Manic Street Preachers created real genius. That might seem harsh but I think they hit a peak in 1998 and what we saw was a combination of new formation and responsibility – Nicky Wire as the lyricist – and the band facing a new time in British music…

Of course, being Vinyl Corner, I would urge people to get their hands on the two-L.P. version of the record (from tomorrow) and play it in its full glory. The Manic Street Preachers went on to evolve their sound and create more fantastic albums but, in many ways, they were unable to eclipse the wonder and revelation of This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours. Listen to the album with a record player and quiet room and you get to hear all the nuances and notes that make This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours such a rare treat. It is the sound of a band venturing in a slightly new direction but pulling off an incredible feat They could have stumbled and weakened after the intensity and exhaustion of Everything Must Go but, instead, they seemed refreshed and captivating. Whilst it is hard to name other albums that sound like This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours; I know so many bands who were inspired to get into music because of the 1998 smash. Many were following the band before then but had their eyes and minds opened following their fifth album. If you can get the twentieth anniversary releases (either one or all three) tomorrow then I urge you to but, if not, pick up the original album on vinyl and set some time aside to drink it all in! In 1998, many were raving about Air’s Moon Safari and Hole’s Celebrity Skin but one cannot mention a glorious year without mention the Manic Street Preachers’ wondrous...

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 IMAGE CREDIT: Manic Street Preachers/Getty Images

THIS Is My Truth Tell Me Yours.

FEATURE: More Tea and Biscuits Than Beer and Cigarettes: Where Have All the Hell-Raisers and Envelope Pushers Gone?

FEATURE:

 

 

More Tea and Biscuits Than Beer and Cigarettes

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IN THIS PHOTO: Johnny Rotten (John Lydon) of the Sex Pistols and Public Image Limited captured by GQ in 2016/PHOTO CREDIT: Martin Schoeller

Where Have All the Hell-Raisers and Envelope Pushers Gone?

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THIS is not a feature condoning those artists who...

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 PHOTO CREDIT: @diesektion/Unsplash

are caught in controversy because of sexual assault allegations or applauding those who are criminal and perverse. I am keen to distinguish between the classic idea of the hell-raising, hotel-trashing Rock icon and those who, in the modern day, are grabbing headlines because of a different form of destruction. This piece does not only apply to the male icons of the past: there have been plenty of female artists who have carried this incredible reputation, cool and, at times, notoriety. I am not suggesting we have absolutely no standout, edgy artists at the moment but the culture has changed so that this kind of attitude is being reduced. I remember, as recently as the late-1990s and early part of the last decade seeing these cocky and cool artists with a definite swagger and the tension that surrounds them – you are never quite sure whether they’d light up a cigarette in an interview or drive a motorcycle into a swimming pool! Maybe it would be unwise to embrace a new generation of Keith Moons and Jim Morrisons and, in an age of #MeToo and suspect morals, I feel their breed would be extinct within a matter of days. What I miss if that sense of excess and chaos that used to come from music. Certain quarters were renowned for their sense of chaos, disquiet and rebellion. I have written before about the lack of rebels in music and how everything seems so mannered and soft.

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 PHOTO CREDIT: @sarahlouisekinsella/Unsplash

There are some great Punk and Rock bands out there and, whilst they are happy to create a rowdy and sweaty gig; that behaviour does not seem to extend beyond that. I love a gig that has a bit of unpredictability and rabble but, when you head away from the stage, are we too afraid to promote a certain fashion that might seem gaudy and provocative today?! Music tastes have shifted and we are seeing technology drive our choices more but I would have thought that, away from this, we’d get some modern artists who had a bit of personality about them. We have some fascinating and loveable artists but I am seeing older stars like Patti Smith, Madonna; Paul Weller, Noel Gallagher and John Lydon (Johnny Rotten) who, back in the day, were responsible for plenty of tabloid column issues and raised eyebrows! Perhaps movements like Punk and Britpop came with a certain flexibility and need to project a bit of flair. Chart back to the 1960s when we had these big and bold figures such as Keith Moon, Mick Jagger and bands such as Led Zeppelin and maybe there is no return. One of the rather unpleasant aspect of this old-time icon/hell-raiser is the sexual component. That old image of the band being inundated with groupies is a rather unseemly and horrible side that, I hope, has been vanquished. You never know whether it still happens but I’d like to think it is a practice that has moved with the times.

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 IN THIS PHOTO: Oasis caught in cheeky mood in 1995/PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images/Press

What seems to bother me is how mannered and controlled music has become. Even independent artists exercise too much self-control and I do think it is possible to be controversial, brash and have a swagger without stepping into a rather dodgy and black area. I do a lot of interviews and, whilst some artists have an attitude and can be spiky; you never get anything that rivals the rockers and punks of the past. The rebels and hell-raisers of the past and not genre-specific either: every corner of the industry, at some point, boasted its own poster-boy/girl of non-conformity and rebellion. I am hearing some attitude in music itself but one rarely sees these standout figures that play by their own rules and imbue that flame of trouble. In order to clean up music in terms of sexual allegation; have we sanitised it to such a degree where we are ensuring every musician plays nice and does not say the right thing?! Social media ensures we can all connect with one another but has this revolution meant freedom of speech has been compromised somewhat? One of the reasons why I am draw to artists such as Madonna and, say Oasis, is because you had real and bold personalities coming through. They didn’t need to be endlessly rude but there was a confidence and sense of the provocative that seems to have gone away.

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 IN THIS PHOTO: Madonna in 1992/PHOTO CREDIT: Steven Meisel

The Gallagher brothers, Liam and Noel, still have a bit of a cocky side but they are different to the chart-ruling gods there were back in the 1990s. Potent and inspiring female artists like Chrissie Hynde and Madonna, say, should have inspired others to push the envelope and project but, more and more, modern artists are too safe and bland. Perhaps one could not promote a sexually-vivacious and near-scandalous artist but what has happened to bands that, once in a while, raise some eyebrows; interviews filled with political anger and spit; an artist/band that opens the eyes and you think, right away, they differ from everyone else out there. I remember growing up around the Britpop age and seeing these larger-than-life bands really light up interviews and, even off stage, had something special about them. I think we gravitate towards certain artists because there is something thrilling, raw and unpredictable about them. Not that the scene has been neutered but it has been a long time since we have seen someone come along that does not court tabloid attention for bad reasons but definitely peaks interest and seems to be on their own path. It is important we set a good example to the young generation but I think that should revolve around the more criminal and sexual side of things – you can draw a line and not compromise a sense of freedom and controversy. The fact social media is so powerful and prevalent means, inevitably, any action someone feels is ‘inappropriate’ or ‘flammable’ and they will be scolded and flogged.

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 PHOTO CREDIT: @anete_lusina/Unsplash

I do worry that, in order to stop music going down a very dark hole, it has made artists afraid to be themselves. You might say the reason we are not seeing modern-day Gallaghers, Morrisons; Madonnas and Rottens is because of the times. Post-Punk is very different to the first wave of Punk and Pop is not as it was in the 1980s and 1990s. You could argue some of the boundary-pushing artists from the past were vying for MTV attention and trying to get ahead of their peers. Now, with social media, streaming and a particular way of working emerging; maybe artists risk losing support, money and following if they step outside of accepted boundaries. I know some artists have tarnished music but have we adopted this policy where we are scared stiff of artists with any sort of confidence and bold personality doing something regrettable? I am, as I said, not condoning the groupie-collecting bands and drug-taking, for example, but it is easy enough to avoid that and still get people talking. It seems there was a distinct cut-off point when we lost the icons, the rebels and the hell-raisers. Some might say the end of Oasis’ career signalled a decline but I think we can go a bit later. Maybe the early-2000s was the last time there were these sort of figures in music.

 IN THIS PHOTO: The Doors’ Jim Morrison is captured in 1967/PHOTO CREDIT: Guy Webster

It is tricky distinguishing between recklessness and rebellion; between the gone-too-far and the genuinely thrilling artists in some cases. Perhaps we need to let it be known that, of course, any artists who guilty or accused of sexual assault or go too far should be punished and suffer the consequences but it is possible to allow some free reign and not need to be so stuffy. I hope we do see a musical shift where there are these brash and potent stars; the big Pop artists who push the envelope and mark themselves out; the rare spirits unafraid to speak out and cause a bit of commotion. Rarely do we see music papers filled with the sort of battles we saw during Britpop; those artists trashing hotel rooms or the queens and kings of various genres showing why they are head and shoulders above their rivals. It is not that music is boring but I think there is too much fear and this feeling that too much could go wrong if we loosened the lead and let them run free. I hear plenty of potential and some charged songs but that rarely spills out into the open. I do not want to promote yobbishness or blur boundaries but there is a real need and yearning for something a bit more thrilling and rebellious in music. There is nothing wrong with a nice cup of tea and biscuit after a long day but you’d like to think, soon enough, we will start to see some artists out there who put one in mind...

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 PHOTO CREDIT: @veeterzy/Unsplash

OF the decades-lasting hell-raisers of the past!

FEATURE: Brilliant by Design: 2018’s Fifteen Best Albums Covers

FEATURE:

 

 

Brilliant by Design

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PHOTO CREDIT: @guustimutant/Unsplash 

2018’s Fifteen Best Albums Covers

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WE often think about the best songs and albums...

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 PHOTO CREDIT: @anko_/Unsplash

this time of year but do we really think about design and videos? The visual side of music is paramount and you cannot discount it. Maybe we do not put as much stock in album covers now that vinyl is not as common as decades past. I feel a great importance should be placed on album covers as they are your introduction to that particular work and an iconic example can endure for many years. So many artists get lazy with the cover and either do a rather uninspired portrait or some lazy design. It can be depressing to see it happen but I guess not every musician is design-minded and has that same flair. Now that we have seen most of the best albums arrive; here are fifteen incredible examples of album covers that catch the eye – almost more intense, colourful and intriguing than the music in the album itself! Have a look at these sense-catching, wonderful designs and you’ll agree there have been some rather fantastic covers...

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 PHOTO CREDIT: @sahuaromedia/Unsplash

THIS year.

ALL ALBUM COVERS: Getty Images

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Arctic MonkeysTranquility Base Hotel & Casino

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Release Date: 11th May, 2018

Label: Domino

Producers: James Ford/Alex Turner

Stream: https://open.spotify.com/album/7v6FNgLDS8KmaWA1amUtqe?si=TqOe6m7-SNSDsjMwOe23Hw

 

Beach House7

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Release Date: 11th May, 2018

Label: Sub Pop

Producers: Beach House/Sonic Boom

Stream: https://open.spotify.com/album/1xg88pe0CUD6UeE3fEnEkD?si=b_l7DSuZRLCatvdG_qaRlA

Christine and the QueensChris

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Release Date: 21st September, 2018

Label: Because

Producers: Christine and the Queens/Cole M.G.N.

Stream: https://open.spotify.com/album/08LcAgUEeFV4tM3WPPpbYh?si=JVTGx6HmQPKpTk0Mx9I6sw

Editors - Violence

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Release Date: 9th March, 2018

Label: PIAS

Producers: Leo Abrahams/Editors

Stream: https://open.spotify.com/album/6sA3KrkfzaNnbrrbry7vvH?si=BmsrPSnUTXuFos14z-0w9g

John GrantLove Is Magic

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Release Date: 12th October, 2018

Label: Bella Union

Stream: https://open.spotify.com/album/52txSNOPrQRdZqSICTz705?si=Tcw6uvYRTFqwUfdMZCb8fw

Brandi Carlile By the Way, I Forgive You

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Release Date: 16th February, 2018

Labels: Low Country Sound/Elektra

Producers: Dave Cobb/Shooter Jennings

Stream: https://open.spotify.com/album/2wDKBKgco7u3V1IWEK5V8l?si=fSKVcvaFTJu2M8EyZkVznw

Jake Shears Jake Shears

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Release Date: 10th August, 2018

Label: Freida Jean Records (Absolute UK)

Producers: Jake Shears/Kevin Ratterman/John Hume (co-production)

Stream: https://open.spotify.com/album/3hozs5UEKdbBvKk9SRVe9g?si=EmOUJtHCTlyzZRakjHYHyw

Mr. FingersCerebral Hemispheres

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Release Date: 13th April, 2018

Label: Alleviated Records

Stream: https://open.spotify.com/album/46sews77v3EoXe6PzYmYdD?si=aYzdK45KRrmJWmsCf7S84w

Sandra Kerr & John FaulknerThe Music from Bagpuss

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Release Date: 16th November

Label: Earth Records

Stream: https://open.spotify.com/album/5RmL5jpUh4vpqaLBYcjOPY?si=SLKnldNuQvqg-ndAUGSapg

JamesLiving in Extraordinary Times

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Release Date: 3rd August, 2018

Label: Infectious Music

Stream: https://open.spotify.com/album/7naQYNSUpzEPPXoqUBv6HU?si=_zwXfMk0QSaGNukts-7Emw

Maribou StateKingdoms in Colour

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Release Date: 7th September

Label: Counter Records

Stream: https://open.spotify.com/album/70FGsJuLXPQHYdKmEZZFq9?si=KQhW9qC6QL2CqWDJ7bDwWw

Georgia Anne Muldrow - Overload

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Release Date: 26th October, 2018

Label: Brainfeeder

Stream: https://open.spotify.com/album/7y38i89ZhdCh0k9qsvamz8?si=Q6DRgOohTYGNJlwFYrzJTw

CHVRCHESLove Is Dead

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Release Date: 25th May, 2018

Label: Glassnote Records

Producers: Greg Kurstin/CHVRCHES/Steve Mac

Stream: https://open.spotify.com/album/2hshVOA4ULsMGHPDiUaDbJ?si=o25orlOQRCqxWeKpLIrXkA

Tracey Thorn - Record

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Release Date: 2nd March, 2018

Label: Merge Records

Producer: Ewan Pearson

Stream: https://open.spotify.com/album/4rb4OC3d46iZld05PU927t?si=fg1auDuxRaOcQ3ue6YtUXA

Let’s Eat GrandmaI’m All Ears

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Release Date: 29th June, 2018

Label: Transgressive Records

Producers: David Wrench/Sophie Hunter/Faris Badwan

Stream: https://open.spotify.com/album/5Bnhkya5cGltQFTrnC0grx?si=qW1McNDCTJ-9h-jfdU-w5A

FEATURE: A Change in the Wind? Why We Need to See More Equality and Tougher Intervention in 2019

FEATURE:

 

 

A Change in the Wind?

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IMAGE CREDIT: Getty Images 

Why We Need to See More Equality and Tougher Intervention in 2019

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HARDLY a day goes by without...

some form of sexism or misogyny making its way into the news! The story below caught my eye and worried me. Although it does not involve music directly; it is another case of a woman being embarrassed, objectified or exposed to sexism. Here are the details:

French DJ and musician Martin Solveig apologized on Monday after asking Norwegian soccer star Ada Hegerberg if she knew how to twerk, just minutes after she won the inaugural Ballon d'Or award as the world's best women's player.

After accepting her trophy, Hegerberg interacted with Solveig as part of the awards ceremony in Paris and promptly responded "no" when asked in French about the suggestive dance.

The two shared a brief dance as the ceremony moved forward, but Solveig's question led to widespread criticism online and he said after the show that he was sorry for causing offense”.

One would hope that we’d see an end to this sort of thing but, worryingly, many men feel it is natural to do something so stupid and ill-advised. Maybe it was a misjudged attempt at comedy and celebration but, given the gravity and seriousness of the setting, it has gone down like a led balloon. It seems that the music industry is no stranger to sexism and a glaring lack of equality.

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 IN THIS PHOTO: Foo Fighters (who have been confirmed as headliners for next year’s Reading and Leeds Festivals)/PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images/Press

Many might clam this year has seen big albums by female artists emerge. From Robyn to Cardi B and Anna Calvi; it has been a great year for female artists – not only solo artists but bands. That is nothing to do with the industry but the talent out there. It is the women responsible for these records that have done the hard lifting and it makes me wonder whether this excellence will be rewarded with festival headline spots? More and more, it seems festivals are being set up for men. Although I know there will be ample female artists stocking next year’s festivals; headliners announced for Glastonbury and the Reading and Leeds Festivals have all been men! I am trying to think whether any corner of the industry has changed and improved in the last few years. In terms of festivals and who they are booking, there is that desire for blokes with guitars. I was looking at Maggie Rogers’ Twitter feed and, as a musician, she was aghast at the line-up announced for next year’s Mad Cool Festival. NME have given us the details:

 “Mad Cool Festival have announced a stellar line-up for their 2019 edition, as well as various improvements to the site and organisation.

After winning the NME Festival Award for Best Line-up, last year’s acclaimed event featured the likes of Arctic Monkeys, Queens Of The Stone Age, Jack White, Nine Inch Nails, Dua Lipa, Depeche Mode, Pearl Jam and many more...

Now, the 2019 edition of the Madrid bash is set to welcome the likes of The Cure, Bon Iver, Noel  Gallagher, Smashing Pumpkins, Vampire Weekend,  The National, Wolfmother, Greta Van Fleet, Mogwai, Teenage Fanclub, The Twilight Sad and The 1975 – with plenty more acts to be announced in the months ahead.

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IN THIS PHOTO: The National/PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images/Press

After coming under fire from a number of acts last year, Mad Cool 2019 will be getting rid of the VIP areas in front of all stages. Other improvements include reducing the number of stages from seven to six, and decreasing the capacity by 5,000 per day. They also plan to have more toilets on site, as well as increasing the size and staffing of all bars.

“Mad cool is working closely with a prestigious and renowned company in order to ensure the adequate functioning of the technical network,” a spokesman said. “In addition to this, wristbands bought online will be delivered anywhere in the world”.

A lot of people will not be shocked by the line-up and the fact that it is male-dominated. I have spoken a lot about gender inequality and why, given the huge locker of female talent, we are still seeing men headline festivals – the same, boring ones that always seem to make the bill. It is not only the inequality in festivals that worries me - but a general sexism and misogyny that has been coming in lately!

Not only do we have to take to task those who book festival headliners but there have been a few musicians accused of sexual assault. One band, Hookworms, have split because of an allegation and other male artists have been accused. It is not just musicians we need to punish if they are subject to these types of allegations but festivals need to be policed more. There is a growing number of women harassed at festivals and, as festivities and alcohol takes effect, more and more are finding themselves inappropriately touched and bothered by men. It is another aspect of the industry that shocks and makes me wonder whether more needs to be done. This article shows that

Nearly half of female festival goers (43%) under 40 say they have faced unwanted sexual behaviour at a music festival, a new survey suggests.

Overall, 22% of all festival goers have faced assault or harassment, rising to 30% of women overall.

The most common forms were unwelcome and forceful dancing and verbal sexualised harassment.

YouGov surveyed 1,188 festival goers. The poll also suggested only 2% of such incidents were reported to police.

Earlier this year, separate data released in the Crime Survey for England and Wales in February showed more than 80% of victims of sexual assault did not report it to police.

Those statistics also revealed that one in five women had experienced some form of sexual assault since they turned 16...

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PHOTO CREDIT: @aranxa_esteve/Unsplash 

The festivals YouGov survey, which was commissioned by the Press Association, also found that only 1% of women reported sexual assault or harassment to a member of festival staff, either before or after the event, although 19% of men did report their experience to staff.

Tracey Wise, founder of campaign group Safe Gigs For Women (SGFW), said: "We have struggled to find anyone with any definite statistics on this before now.

"It gives us something to show to festival organisers so we can say 'you need to take this on board'." 

Jen Calleja, a co-director of the Good Night Out Campaign, called the research "shocking but not surprising", saying it "helps prove what we already know through anecdotal evidence".

She added: "We know that the vast amount of harassment and sexual assault is not reported and we know this comes down to stigma, fear of not being believed and a minimisation of what harassment is.

"The idea we want to put forward is that harassment is everybody's problem, it's not just the person who is being assaulted," Calleja said.

The poll also found that 70% of those who experienced sexual assault or harassment at a festival said the perpetrator was a stranger.

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IN THIS PHOTO: Jen Calleja 

It seems like some of the festivals are willing to make changes and firm up their security – an alarming amount of festivals are not taking action and responding appropriately:

The Press Association contacted 21 of the UK's biggest festivals to discuss the new research on sexual assault and harassment at UK music festivals and ask about provisions and policy at their events.

Only five responded - Glastonbury, Reading and Leeds, Creamfields, Latitude, RiZE and Wireless were among those that declined to comment.

Somerset Police recorded two incidents of sexual assault, two incidents of rape and one incident of indecent exposure at last year's Glastonbury Festival.

A spokesperson for The Green Man festival said: "Stewards are positioned throughout the festival and are trained to report any harassment, or violence, to security to be investigated. Crew and service staff are also trained or advised on ways to report minor harassment, or violent behaviour or violence".

I cannot think of any aspect of music – that was prone to sexism – that has improved lately. Maybe radio D.J.s and shows is one exception. Big broadcasters like the BBC have promoted female talent and are making steps but it is still not going far enough. Most D.J.s on the big stations are men and this statistics goes into studios, record labels and festivals.

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 PHOTO CREDIT: @andrewtneel/Unsplash

I think there are some improvements in smaller areas of music. I am seeing a lot of female journalists getting noticed and the fact digital journalism is growing means the female voice is being exposed and there are few limitations. There are always problems in journalism but I am seeing some growth and changes there. Perhaps there are steps being taken elsewhere but I cannot help monitor the music news and wonder whether anything positive is occurring. It seems sexual assault, festival sexism and issues regarding women being played on radio – there is a sense of ageism that precludes some established artists making playlists – are still rife and there is no end to be seen. Are listeners and those who are responsible for augmenting the profile of certain male artists to blame? We are the ones who make them popular and share their music so, if there are cases of men being called out regarding sexual assault then should we, as consumers, take action?! The same can be applied to festivals and whether we need to protest more. This article asks the same sort of questions and whether more can be done: 

Cardi B, rapper and sole savior of "Finesse," starred on the cover of Cosmopolitan's March Issue. Instead of using every precious second of her feature to discuss her blossoming career or the small things that make her one of the most lovable musicians on the scene, Cardi took time to address sexism in the industry.

When asked about #MeToo, she said she was excited about the strides being made against sexual assault in Hollywood. But she also expressed doubt that the movement would translate to music. Why? Women have been speaking out about harassment and assault in hip-hop for years and no one has listened to them.

She told Cosmo, "A lot of video vixens have spoke about this and nobody gives a fuck. When I was trying to be a vixen, people were like, ‘You want to be on the cover of this magazine?’ Then they pull their dicks out"...

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IN THIS PHOTO: Rapper Cardi B onstage during the 2018 Global Citizen Concert at Central Park, Great Lawn on 29th September, 2018 in New York City/PHOTO CREDIT: Michael Kovac/FilmMagic

But assault and harassment aren't just an issue in hip-hop or among girls trying to make it into a music video. It's a systemic issue that hasn't been answered with it's own Time's Up-type movement. It affects even recognizable women — women with multiple record deals, millions of dollars, and world tours.

There's such a lack of accountability for abusive producers, directors, executives, and other men at the top that they're willing and able to abuse a bright young woman with fan clubs and world tours. What are they doing to girls you'll never hear of, who will never be able to become a Cardi B or a Kesha?

We can't be shocked that this is happening. And we can't pretend it isn't our fault. We’re constantly celebrating abusive artists. We choose to love absolutely horrible people. Why would an unnamed producer be too nervous to hurt someone when Chris Brown punched one of our most beloved pop stars in the face and still has a successful career?

It is hard to take action and get angry; there is that sense of denial and, if the problem does not face and impact us directly, then what is the personal gain in taking such a risk? I feel, if we are ignorant and passive, it will see the rise in sexism and sexual harassment/assault continue unabated! Are we making the problem worse by putting our heads in the sand?

But if we aren't willing to do something about the abusers we know and understand as abusers, why should faceless higher-ups at record labels be scared of us? They won't be. They'll pretend to be woke, like Cardi B says they do, for love. But they know when push comes to shove, we won't believe the women they hurt. And if we do believe them, we don't do shit about it. No one takes action. No one stops listening. No one tells people on Twitter tweeting about Lil Dicky and Chris Brown to shut the fuck up. And no one demands change from people who make such an influential part of our culture. That's how systemic sexism persists in the industry”.

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 IMAGE CREDIT: @OfficialRandL

We have focused a lot on all the positives and great music that has come out this year. It has been a fantastic 2018 in many ways but, running alongside all of this, there is a clear divide and ill that has not been eradicated. It would be naïve to think we could stamp everything out by this time next year but 2019 needs to be a year where those higher-ups take proper action and those with power and influence need to make it count. From festivals tightening security and banning those who are lewd and sexually provocative to the way headliners are booked – and why women are constantly overlooked. I know there are many men in music who are determined to help bring out improvement but I can see very little difference between what music was like last year and how it is now. Perhaps there have been some evolutions here and there but, considering the proliferation of sexism and sexual assault rearing its ugly head; have we really got anywhere at all?! Maybe a more structured and governmental style of leadership needs to come into music – a point I shall explore later this week – but it is clear stricter messages and punishments need to be dished out. I have not even mentioned songwriting credits and award ceremonies – again, we are seeing these gaps and divides.

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 PHOTO CREDIT: @foulsterr/Unsplash

The New York Times, earlier this year, looked at the statistics:

In an analysis of the top 600 songs from 2012 to 2017 — defined by Billboard’s year-end Hot 100 chart for each of those six years — the study found that of 1,239 performing artists, 22.4 percent of them were women.

The numbers are much lower among people behind the scenes. Of the 2,767 songwriters credited on those songs, 12.3 percent were women. Female producers — the people most responsible for the sound of pop music — are even rarer, at just 2 percent in a subset of 300 songs across this same period, the study found.

While women’s difficulties breaking into the music business are well documented, the starkness of the study’s findings is surprising. At the Grammy Awards, for example, the success of stars like Beyoncé, Taylor Swift and Adele may grab headlines. But a vast majority of awards go to men.

Of the 899 individuals who have been nominated for the last six Grammy ceremonies, 90.7 percent were men and 9.3 percent were women. The study found that women were most likely to appear in the best new artist category. (This year, three of the five best new artist nominees are women: Alessia Cara, Julia Michaels and SZA. The only woman up for album of the year is Lorde)”.

We can all see what is happening and how bad it is...the first change is accepting the fact that change needs to happen. We are seeing too many all-male festival headliners and a desired ‘type’ being celebrated and romanticised at every turn. Minor festivals are headlining women but none of the biggest festivals. The fact smaller festivals around Europe are booking female headliners should act as guidance to the bigger festivals – proving how there are great female artists who are equipped to handle a headline slot. These small movements are promising but, if we want to see a richer and more equal industry next year, these minor (yet positive) movements need to translate into...

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PHOTO CREDIT: @rossf/Unsplash 

SOMETHING consistent and large.

FEATURE: Encore Une Fois: Even MORE Specials: Celebrating The Return of the Ska Legends – The Ultimate Playlist

FEATURE:

 

 

Encore Une Fois: Even MORE Specials

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IN THIS PHOTO: The Specials/PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images/Press 

Celebrating The Return of the Ska Legends – The Ultimate Playlist

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FEW of us were expecting any material from The Specials...

anytime soon but, as a Christmas treat, they have brought us a right old gem! Vote for Me is out there and, as the title implies, it a song that reflects on modern politics and whether we should trust and believe or leaders. Whether aimed at our P.M. or the U.S. President; it carried weight and can be applied directly to so many world leaders. I notice little nods to their most-famous song, Ghost Town, in bits of the compositions. The 2 Tone/Ska band, since their debut album (The Specials) in 1979. Although a lot of the recording sessions were fraught with tension and division, the band would be the first to admit that the results, in spite of that, are pretty awesome. It is great they are back together because, as much as anything, there are very few in the mainstream who sound like them. The political music we have received this year have been from the likes of IDLES and artists with snarl and a distinct sound. I feel a blend of pertinent and observational lyrics, coupled with rousing and colourful sounds, brings the messages to life and makes the music more accessible. There is an album, Encore, due for 1st February and, if Vote for Me is anything to go by, it is clear the same Specials are present and correct – they have not dropped a step since their last album, Conquering Ruler (2001).

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  IMAGE CREDIT: Getty Images

It seems like every album from them documents the times in which we all live and speaks much more truthfully and loudly than any politician. Having listened to an interview Horace Panter (bass) gave to BBC Radio 6 Music’s Georgie Rogers; it seems like everyone is facing in the same direction – his words… – and there is a lot more harmony in the ranks. The years away have not dented their magic and unity and you can just tell the approaching album, already, will be one of 2019’s very best. Everyone has their own favourite song from The Specials but, to me, Ghost Town will always be the one. I cannot get over the chills and scariness from the song; the catchiness of the chorus and the message being conveyed. Documenting violence and rage in London; it seems like there is even more truth and relevance to be found now – given the capital’s spate of knife-related murders and gang troubles. The Specials, back in 1981, were keen to document the troubles happening around them and what a state the country was in. One would like to think the nation has strengthened and cleaned itself up in the ensuing thirty-seven years but, alas, we are in a right old state! It is great to have the old masters back and, maybe, they can help make sense of things.

I will end this piece with an ultimate Specials playlist that collates all their best songs together but, before then, I return to my point about a great return. I have spoken about artists who get back onto the stage and record new music after such a long time and wonder whether it always pays off. This year has seen The Streets, Dido and The Zutons either release new material or tour dates following quite a hefty gap. The results so far have been a bit mixed and it can always be a bit sad preserving this memory of a much-loved artist and having that shattered when you hear their new work. Even though there has been one single from The Specials, you can hear they are in top form and have not disappointed. It is not a case of a band reforming for nostalgia or to relaunch a big song like Gangsters or Too Much Too Young. Their 1979 debut ranks alongside the very finest albums of the decade and, with songs like A Message to You Rudy sitting alongside originals such as Nite Klub; it is an exceptional offering that has stood the test of time. Maybe it is hard to integrate 2 Tone or Ska into the mainstream but I wonder why we do not hear more of it. Bands, when they are being political or serious, tend to match them with the music.

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 IMAGE CREDIT: Getty Images

Is there a fear a rather jolly and dance-worthy composition would undermine the nature of the song?! I feel a contrast like that actually strengthens a song and, as The Specials have proven, the music lasts and is a lot more enduring. So many artists have avoided politics and social concerns in a year when we are as divided and strained as any time of this generation. Things are going to the wall and the trust we put in politicians is dwindling. Even though The Specials have a few grey hairs and line; they are proving they can match the might and memorability of the modern-day politically-minded artists and that makes me relieved. I was worried a return might see them weaken or produce something sub-par but any fears have been allayed. Vote for Me is a proper stomper and cutting song that has the trademark tones of The Specials. Let us end things there and rejoice in the knowledge that the boys are back. I hope it is a permanent return and they continue to make more albums. Keep your eyes out for Encore in 2019 and let’s see what else they have up their sleeves! Often, one is disappointed by legends making a return to music but the first signs of The Specials 2.0 are very positive indeed! We need them more than ever right now – in this muddy and divided country – and, with moods starting to drop and people losing a lot of hope; here is a united and spectacular force that...

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IMAGE CREDIT: The Specials/Getty Images 

ARE bringing back the bliss.

FEATURE: Prime Cuts: 2018’s Ten Finest Tracks

FEATURE:

 

 

Prime Cuts

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IN THIS PHOTO: Kendrick Lamar and SZA (who collaborated on one of this year’s biggest tracks, All the Stars)/PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

2018’s Ten Finest Tracks

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BECAUSE we are almost at the end of 2018...

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IN THIS PHOTO: Christine and the Queens’ (Héloïse Letissier) stunning single, Girlfriend (ft. Dâm-Funk), is a typically excellent offering from her acclaimed album, Chris/PHOTO CREDIT: Jamie Morgan  

it is the time when many are collating their favourite albums and singles. There is a lot of activity and, whilst there is some consensus, there are some surprises to be found - and it shows what a variety has been provided this year. I have already decided my favourite albums of 2018 but the tracks side of things has been harder! Whilst I agree with a lot of articles regarding the best tracks of the year; there are a couple that have not been included that warrant fonder appreciation. I have kept it to a lean ten as to focus down and not get too carried away – and it was really hard to hone my selections down. Here are some truly awesome songs that show what 2018 has been all about: its variation, passion and strength. I wonder, given the brilliant songs that have arrived this year, whether next year...

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IN THIS PHOTO: IDLES (whose year-defining album, Joy as an Act of Resistance, boasts such fierce treasures as Danny Nedelko)/PHOTO CREDIT: Heather McCutcheon for Loud and Quiet  

CAN match its fantastic example.

ALL OTHER IMAGES/PHOTOS: Getty Images

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Childish GambinoThis Is America

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Release Date: 5th May, 2018

Labels: mcDJ; RCA

Writers: Donald Glover and Ludwig Göransson 

Genres: Trap/Afrobeat

Robyn Honey

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Release Date: 26th September, 2018

Label: Konichiwa

Writers: Robyn, Klas Åhlund and Markus Jägerstedt

Genre: Pop

IDLESDanny Nedelko

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Release Date: 5th June, 2018

Label: Partisan  

Writer: Joe Talbot

Genre: Post-Punk

Let’s Eat Grandma Hot Pink

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Release Date: 30th January, 2018

Label: Transgressive Records

Writers: Jenny Hollingworth, Rosa Walton; SOPHIE and Faris Badwan

Genres: Avant-Pop/Synth-Pop

Kacey MusgravesHigh Horse

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Release Date: 25th June, 2018

Label: MCA Nashville

Writers: Kacey Musgraves, Trent Dabbs and Tommy English

Genre: Country-Pop

Arctic MonkeysTranquility Base Hotel & Casino

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Release Date: 23rd July, 2018

Label: Domino

Writer:  Alex Turner

Genres: Lounge-Pop/Space-Pop

Christine and the Queens (ft. Dâm-Funk) - Girlfriend

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Release Date: 17th May, 2018

Label: Because

Writers:  Héloïse Letissier (Christine and the Queens) and Dâm-Funk

Genres: Pop-Funk/Pop

Billie MartenMice

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Release Date: 9th September, 2018

Labels: Chess Club; RCA Victor

Writer: Billie Marten

Genres: Folk/Singer-Songwriter

Kendrick Lamar & SZA - All the Stars

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Release Date: 4th January, 2018

Labels: Top Dawg; Aftermath; Interscope

Writers:  Kendrick Duckworth, Mark Spears; Al Shuckburgh, Solána Rowe and Anthony Tiffith

Genres: Hip-Hop/Rap

Janelle Monáe Make Me Feel

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Release Date: 22nd February, 2018

Labels: Wondaland; Bad Boy; Atlantic

Writers:  Janelle Monáe, Mattias Larsson; Robin Fredriksson, Justin Tranter and Julia Michaels

Genres: Pop/Hip-Hop/Funk

FEATURE: A Change Will Do You Good: BBC Radio 6 Music: Changes, Progress and a Christmas Celebration to Remember

FEATURE:

 

 

A Change Will Do You Good

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IN THIS IMAGE: BBC Radio 6 Music presenters united (Top Row: Iggy Pop and Huey Morgan; Middle Row: Chris Hawkins, Mary Anne Hobbs; Craig Charles, Marc Riley and Tom Ravenscroft; Bottom Row: Shaun Keaveny, Lauren Laverne; Mark Radcliffe, Stuart Maconie and Steve Lamacq)/IMAGE CREDIT: Kind permission granted by Steve Paul Myers (his work is also available through Paper Voice)

BBC Radio 6 Music: Changes, Progress and a Christmas Celebration to Remember

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I am trying to find the right phrase or words...

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IN THIS PHOTO: Shaun Keaveny (who leaves the breakfast show on BBC Radio 6 Music after eleven years to take charge of the new early-to-mid-afternoon show in January)/PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images/PBJ Management 

to describe BBC Radio 6 Music’s changes and what will happen in 2019! It might seem strange that we are going to see much-loved D.J.s in new slots but, at the end of the day, we are not losing anyone! It is almost like a family: having that bond and safe set of voices that guides you through life. If one/more of them has to move away or our comfortable routine is disturbed then that is hard to get the head around. I was a bit shocked when it was announced a few of the station’s D.J.s were going to new timeslots. I have written about it before but it is worth repeating. Shaun Keaveny  - who is currently doing the breakfast show and has been for eleven years – will be replaced by Lauren Laverne; Keaveny will take the afternoon slot currently occupied by Stuart Maconie and Mark Radcliffe (who is on sabbatical/medical leave as he is getting treatment for cancer). It is a simple change and, to be fair, lasting eleven years in a breakfast slot is impressive going! It is the oddity of not hearing familiar links and jokes that time of the morning. Laverne will bring a lot to the new show and it will be great but both D.J.s’ strong suits might have to be cut of revised. Is a more refreshed Keaveny going to be a lot less moany (if it is a word?!) and angered?

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 IN THIS PHOTO: Lauren Laverne (who will move from her 10 A.M.-1 P.M. slot to the new 7:30-10:30 A.M. breakfast show as part of the station’s line-up change)/PHOTO CREDIT: Boden Diaries

There is something wonderful hearing him have a bit of a go in the morning and, whilst we might lose some of his links/beds; it will provide a chance for new features to come through and a different show. I always tune into Lauren Laverne’s show because of the audience-led segments: Desert Island Disco, Memory Tapes and Biorhythms are wonderful intriguing and it is good to be involved with the show. I guess that cannot continue on breakfast – as people would have to get up earlier and would the tone be suitable? – but I hope not too much is lost. I am interesting seeing what new changes come into the breakfast and afternoon shows and, with Laverne taking a bow and moving from the ten-one slot; it provides a chance for Mary Anne Hobbs to fill that position. Chris Hawkins (whose show I love), who is before Shaun Keaveny in the morning, gets an extra half an hour and, apart from that, there are not a lot of changes – Radcliffe and Maconie, in a controversial move, are on weekends during the morning (I was shocked such a decision was made by the BBC!). No radio station can last with the same format and line-up for so long and the fact there is such retention and loyalty at the station is testament to the dedication and love each D.J.s has for BBC Radio 6 Music.

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 IN THIS PHOTO: Mary Anne Hobbs (who takes over Lauren Laverne’s mid-morning/early-afternoon time slot next year)/PHOTO CREDIT: Jessica van der Weert

A rested Keaveny can add something different to the afternoon slot and I think it is great to see two female D.J.s side by side. It is the first time the station has had a female breakfast host and, with BBC Radio 2 employing Zoë Ball to replace Chris Evans, it is a positive change that many did not see coming. Sara Cox is doing her own drivetime show – the first woman on the station to do that for I don’t know how long – and Jo Whiley will also get a chance to step out and present a show. It is good to see changes because, as much as anything, there is more gender equality and a chance for D.J.s to try new slots. If you have the same thing every day, yes, it is comfortable and familiar but there is never anything new and progressive. Maybe it will be a while before all at BBC Radio 6 Music (those affected) adjust to their new roles but, before you know it, it is like nothing has happened. I think Justin Moorhouse said it best when speaking with Shaun Keaveny earlier this morning. The personal shift is like moving furniture around the house. It looks new and fresh but, essentially, it allows for more room and benefits everyone.

There will be, however, a bit of a tear in the eye when we see the ‘final’ shows from Shaun Keaveny, Lauren Laverne and RadMac in a matter of days. I shall come onto the special celebration that is happening but how will we see the breakfast show bow out? Is Keaveny going to get emotional or will it go out with a bang?! (It sounds like I am pensioning them off!). I know Lauren Laverne will keep it strong and together (or maybe not?) but her faithful following are used to her delighting us before lunch and it seems strange that she will no longer be there. It is great, as I have said, Mary Anne Hobbs gets more airtime – she is currently in the position RadMac will occupy next year – and, whilst there are some small movements, it adds to a big change. Many BBC Radio 6 Music listeners have voiced their concern and sadness things will change but it is a positive move that will benefit the station. You only need to look at the listening figures to know BBC Radio 6 Music gets stronger by the year and, as we move towards 2019, that will continue without compromise. I feel, even though no new D.J.s are coming in, many new listeners will come through and discover the station. I feel 2019 is a year when BBC Radio 6 Music should draft in some new talent; either promoting smaller-league D.J.s who cover and do the odd show or scout like-minded stations and nab someone there (maybe a full-time slot for Huw Stevens at the weekend and a more regular run for the excellent Jon Hilcock!).

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 IN THIS PHOTO: Mark Radcliffe and Stuart Maconie (RadMac) will leave their afternoon show and host the weekend breakfast show from next year/PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images/BBC

It is sad to see the end of an era and a configuration alteration but this year has been a huge one for the station. I have failed to mention all the other people who have made it such a bumper year. From D.J.s like Steve Lamacq, Marc Riley; Craig Charles, Liz Kershaw, Nemone and Cerys Matthews through the music news presenters (Georgie Rogers, Matt Everitt; Claire Crane and Elizabeth Alker); to the producers and assistants that make every drop and note of the station’s output as strong and memorable as possible! I have left some people out but, in truth, every one there is essential and it is the variation of BBC Radio 6 Music that makes it what it is. So many radio stations are rigid or beholden to a very particular style of music. Whether mainstream Pop or the less adventurous and cool; there is nothing that comes up to the standard and eclecticism of BBC Radio 6 Music. There were fears and concerns, when the station launched in 2002, that they were too aimed towards blokes, guitar music and not a lot else. That position seems to be occupied by Radio X (or ‘Lads F.M.’, as it should be branded!) but you cannot accuse BBC Radio 6 Music of being only about Alternative sounds. So much of the music I have discovered this year is because of the station and it is impossible to switch over.

From the early morning uplift and humour through to the different tones of the later day; it is a pleasure to hear different voices provide endless pleasure and new music. That blend of classics sounds the best of the underground is what makes it such a strong station. I have featured so many artists who have been played by BBC Radio 6 Music and they always get such a boost and buzz from that. Special guests (from comedians and actors to public figures) offer something different and the live sessions and immense. So many of the bigger artists emerging have BBC Radio 6 Music to thank for getting them where they are! I have to thank every one of the people who works at the station for giving me such a boost and sense of guidance in a difficult year and, as ever, the ultimate ambition is to have my own show (or a one-off) playing some cool music and being sat in a very special and sought-after space. I am confident all the changes will lead to a refreshed and ever-moving station and it will be interesting to see what everything sounds like in 2019. There is not a lot more I can add to that side of things – I have written about the station a bit this year – but I know everything will be awesome and, whilst change is sad and strange, we will all love what is coming up.

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PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images/BBC

I am in two minds whether to apply for tickets to go to the station’s Christmas party on Friday 14th. It is the last shows of the year for D.J.s like Keaveny and Laverne and it is a handover show where all the D.J.s that are moving (not including Mark Radcliffe, I do not think) will be under the same roof and get to say working alongside one another. Rather than having a sad and teary goodbye (there will be some, I guess…) it is going to be like the last day in the office – everyone bringing food and having a laugh before heading off for Christmas. I would love to be there but not sure whether I can wangle the day off and where I will be. I shall make the pitch and see how things go but I know there is an awful lot of competition to be in (the legendary) Maida Vale – it will be one of the last time the iconic studios are going to be used before they are closed and no longer part of the modern tapestry. I know a few of the D.J.s have had a rather tricky time this year for personal reasons and it seems the entire BBC Radio 6 Music family have pulled together...and that includes the listeners. It is that shared love and support that not only makes the station such a tight-knit and compelling compulsion but it will mean, a week from Friday, the fans and D.J.s will be able to get together and celebrate the end of a wonderful year!

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 IMAGE CREDIT: Getty Images/BBC

I am not sure what is planned regarding surprises and guests -but it will be great hearing everyone together and in such good spirit. There will be shows between 14th and next year but it will be the last time we will see the classic, established line-up in their familiar places. Head over to the BBC Radio 6 Music page and you can get a chance to attend the all-day party (I think you need to email each individual show for tickets). I know Mary Anne Hobbs is doing a live Desert Island Disco on Laverne’s show and Keaveny has some treats in store; Maconie will be there and it will be good to hear what he has to say. It will be a festival and great day that you will not want to miss out. Send an email in and state your claim to a couple of golden tickets – to a great party that ends a fabulous year for BBC Radio 6 Music! I will wrap things up…but there are loads of reasons to follow BBC Radio 6 Music into the New Year and discover what they have in store. It might be weird for someone to write so extensively about a radio station but, like many, radio is an essential portal that allows escape, connection and eye-opening discovery. Although I have only met Matt Everitt from the station; I feel like I know everyone there and it is like being part of this rather large and broad family! Let’s not be sad that there are changes and things will be different: celebrate the end of a big year for BBC Radio 6 Music and make sure you tune in and listen to the new shows next year. Things are changing but, y’know, staying the same. It will be odd to hear something familiar yet not quite as we remember and, soon enough, we will all get used to it. I know many people have to thank BBC Radio 6 Music for so many reasons – I am very much included in that. It is only left to say a big thanks, happy Christmas and here’s to...

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PHOTO CREDIT: @rawpixel/Unsplash

A wonderful New Year!

FEATURE: The Very Best of The Superlatives: Eleven Incredible Greatest Hits Collections

FEATURE:

 

 

The Very Best of The Superlatives

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PHOTO CREDIT: @all_who_wander/Unsplash 

Eleven Incredible Greatest Hits Collections

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IT is around this time of year...

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PHOTO CREDIT: @dmitrybayer/Unsplash 

we are flooded with adverts that promise us particular products are the ‘perfect Christmas gifts’. It can be applied to anything from toiletries to music through to books. It is quite random and vague marketing and, alongside that, we have various albums that are billed as ideal Christmas stocking fillers – despite their being nothing Christmas-related about them. More often than not, these promoted albums are a bit cheesy and most people would not otherwise bother too much with them! It is inevitable that the greatest hits collections are dusted off, shone and put back onto screens as that must-have Christmas collection. One of my happiest Christmas memories was receiving The Beatles’ greatest hits collection, 1. It is all their number-one hits and, as a youngster who grew up around the band, it was/is a C.D. I have played to death! I actually think that the ‘best ofs’ and greatest hits collections are great gifts as it can introduce someone to an artist and is a good, accessible start. As there are a couple more weeks to get your get your Christmas shopping sorted; here are eleven must-own greatest hits collections that would make for superb listening. Maybe you might not be able to afford all – and this is quite a subjective list – but there is so much in the rundown that will delight and stay in the mind. Have a listen to the fantastic albums and, if you are short of a gift idea or two...

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 PHOTO CREDIT: @karishea/Unsplash

I have some suggestions!

ALL ALBUM COVERS: Getty Images

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MadonnaThe Immaculate Collection

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Release Date: 9th November, 1990

Period Covered: 1983-1990

Number of Songs: 17 (Standard Edition)

Label: Sire

Length: 73:32

Download/Stream: Material Girl; Papa Don’t Preach; Express Yourself

Stream: https://open.spotify.com/album/5MzwGwnO9gkh0z6Nl4FF8h?si=V0yw9ZZRTYK4IGt8MVEYQA

Buy: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Immaculate-Collection-VINYL-Madonna/dp/B07CF6X8QT/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1543826263&sr=8-2&keywords=the+immaculate+collection

Alternative Madonna Greatest Hits: Celebration (two-disc version)

The Best of the Best: Vogue

The Beatles1

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Release Date: 13th November, 2000

Period Covered: 1962-1970

Number of Songs: 27 (Original Release)

Labels: Apple/Parlophone; Capitol

Length: 78:39

Download/Stream: She Loves You; Day Tripper; Penny Lane

Stream: https://open.spotify.com/album/7vEJAtP3KgKSpOHVgwm3Eh?si=m-49akTESAKw3iBlQ4ZCZw

Buy: https://www.amazon.co.uk/1-VINYL-Beatles/dp/B015P76FM4/ref=tmm_vnl_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1543826827&sr=8-2

Alternative Beatles Greatest Hits: The Beatles/1962-1966 (The Red Album)

The Best of the Best: Hey Jude

 

ABBAGold: Greatest Hits

Release Date: 21st September, 1992 (Original Release Date)

Period Covered: 1973-1981

Number of Songs: 19 (Worldwide Edition)

Labels: Polygram; Universal

Length: 77:10

Download/Stream: Dancing Queen; Take a Chance on Me; Waterloo

Stream: https://open.spotify.com/album/2cKZfaz7GiGtZEeQNj1RyR?si=JKO-IbPmSsa6pOlrUlvaow

Buy: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Abba-Gold-Greatest-Hits-ABBA/dp/B001KEB1NU/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1543827029&sr=8-1&keywords=abba+gold

Alternative ABBA Greatest Hits: More ABBA Gold

The Best of the Best: Super Trouper

 

Michael JacksonThe Essential Michael Jackson

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Release Date: 19th July, 2005

Period Covered: 1969-2001

Number of Songs: 38 (European and International Version)

Labels: Epic; Legacy; Sony BMG

Length: 145:06

Download/Stream: Rock with You; Off the Wall; Smooth Criminal

Stream: https://open.spotify.com/album/77dNyQA0z8dV33M4so4eRY?si=DklCG6H5T4673nz96oPPJQ

Buy: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Essential-Michael-Jackson/dp/B006I5O3M2/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1543827602&sr=8-1&keywords=the+essential+michael+jackson

Alternative Michael Jackson Greatest Hits: King of Pop

The Best of the Best: Billie Jean

 

Kate BushThe Whole Story

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Release Date: 10th November, 1986

Period Covered: 1975-1986

Number of Songs: 12

Label: EMI

Length: 48:53

Download/Stream: Wuthering Heights (New Vocal); Cloudbusting; Babooshka

Stream: https://open.spotify.com/album/0o7IgUEAoOGzsolQgLpnTK?si=DyXF80IkRm2IWAZuSk1Iew

Buy: https://www.amazon.co.uk/s/ref=nb_sb_ss_c_1_16?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=kate+bush+the+whole+story+cd&sprefix=kate+bush+the+wh%2Caps%2C-1&crid=15VK9JMES3HGN

The Best of the Best: Running Up That Hill (A Deal with God)

RadioheadThe Best Of

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Release Date: 2nd June, 2008

Period Covered: 1993-2005

Number of Songs: 17

Labels: Parlophone; Capitol

Length: 75:30

Download/Stream: Paranoid Android; Creep; Street Spirit (Fade Out)

Buy: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Best-Radiohead/dp/B00172MANK/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1543828224&sr=8-1&keywords=radiohead+best+of

Alternative Radiohead Greatest Hits: The Best Of (two C.D.)

The Best of the Best: Just

Elton John1970-2002

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Release Date: 11th November, 2002

Period Covered: 1970-2002

Number of Songs: 34 (European Release)

Label: UTV

Length: 156:46

Download/Stream: Your Song; Crocodile Rock; I’m Still Standing

Buy: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Greatest-Hits-1970-2002-Elton-John/dp/B000071WET/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1543828474&sr=8-1&keywords=elton+john+Greatest+Hits+1970%E2%80%932002

Alternative Elton John Greatest Hits: Diamonds

The Best of the Best: Tiny Dancer

 

EaglesTheir Greatest Hits (1971-1975)

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Release Date: 17th February, 1976

Period Covered: 1971-1975

Number of Songs: 10

Label: Asylum

Length: 43:08

Download/Stream: Take It Easy; Desperado; One of These Nights

Stream: https://open.spotify.com/album/2Lgsa7jbu86SK5zJVFCh3S?si=EUxcnIvTRoWjhenyrHiVXQ

Buy: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Their-Greatest-Hits-1971-1975-Remastered/dp/B00DAP2D2A/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1543828791&sr=8-2&keywords=eagles+their+greatest+hits

Alternative Eagles Greatest Hits: The Complete Greatest Hits

The Best of the Best: Lyin’ Eyes

 

BlurThe Best Of

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Release Date: 30th October, 2000

Period Covered: 1990-2000

Number of Songs: 18

Labels: Food; Virgin; Parlophone

Length: 77:08 (Original Release)

Download/Stream: Beetlebum; Coffee & TV; Charmless Man

Stream: https://open.spotify.com/album/1bgkxe4t0HNeLn9rhrx79x?si=DDqRDeQzSaeJKROLIDDZQA

Buy: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Blur-Best/dp/B001J5H4NG/ref=ice_ac_b_dpb?ie=UTF8&qid=1543829104&sr=8-1&keywords=blur+best+of

The Best of the Best: Parklife

 

PrinceThe Hits/B-Sides

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Release Date: 10th September, 1993

Period Covered: 1976-1993

Number of Songs: 56

Labels: Paisley Park; Warner Bros.

Length: 225:53

Download/Stream: When Doves Cry; 1999; 7

Stream: https://open.spotify.com/album/3o0o5WPnqfGOeyx3UMJgvO?si=vNpW9rPIQKWCP-s7SxsfgQ

Buy: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Hits-B-Sides-Explicit-Prince/dp/B002CAEYU8/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1543829370&sr=8-1&keywords=prince+the+hits

Alternative Prince Greatest Hits: The Very Best of Prince

The Best of the Best: Purple Rain

 

David BowieBest of Bowie

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Release Date: 22nd October, 2002

Period Covered: 1969-2002

Number of Songs: 39

Labels: EMI; Virgin.

Length: 156:20 (U.K. Version)

Download/Stream: Changes; Starman; Rebel Rebel

Stream: https://open.spotify.com/album/2PEAajl89bIS4eWMk7zlbV?si=_Q4lvn2zT7uph0lUFx-tOw

Buy: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Best-Bowie-David/dp/B00006J3KT/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1543829672&sr=8-1&keywords=david+bowie+greatest+hits+cd

Alternative David Bowie Greatest Hits: Legacy (The Very Best of David Bowie)

The Best of the Best: Heroes

FEATURE: 1520 Sedgwick Avenue (...or Something Less Iconic): Making Room for an All-for-One Music Haven in Britain

FEATURE:

 

 

1520 Sedgwick Avenue (...or Something Less Iconic)

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PHOTO CREDIT: @heftiba/Unsplash 

Making Room for an All-for-One Music Haven in Britain

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IN case you were wondering the relevance of ‘1520 Sedgwick Avenue’...

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IMAGE CREDIT: Andreas Luchini 

it has been accepted as the birthplace of Hip-Hop (a ‘Back to School Jam’ was held on 11th August, 1973 by DJ Kool Herc) – it is now the site of a one-hundred-and-two-apartment block in The Bronx, New York. I have been thinking about musical origins and birthplaces like this and wondering whether we give enough thanks and attention these iconic spaces. I have also been thinking about sociability in the music industry and whether we all spend enough time interacting and relaxing. I have pitched the idea before but I wonder whether we have an all-for-one, café/bar that is dedicated to music. We have venues and music-themed locations but what about a café/bar that is committed to music through the years? There is the Hard Rock Cafe and that has been around a long time – maybe it is seen as old-fashioned and not that cool. It would take a large, vacant space and I think a city like London, Manchester or Bristol could house it. The idea is to have a cool café that houses small live gigs but is a one-stop shop for music-lovers; where you can go in and enjoy the traditional pleasures of a café – coffees and foods – with a specialised menu. It would be similar to a themed restaurant and have special drinks/foods names after musicians/albums.

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 PHOTO CREDIT: @kellysikkema/Unsplash

Rather than just being a café; one could go into the location – I am not sure of the name yet – and experience the full spectrum of music. There would be jukeboxes (either electronic or traditional) where you could access pretty much any song. It would be an eclectic and democratic way for people to hear music but there would be a chance for new music and artists to get their sounds heard. The jukeboxes would act like Spotify and streaming services where you could have access to new music from around the world but, if you wanted specific older sounds, then that would be catered for. There would be menu systems where you could locate a specific track/sound – if you wanted some 1980s U.S. Pop, for example – and people would be allocated one song pre order/coffee (so that someone could not monopolise the jukeboxes). There would be a live stage so there could be special gigs in the evenings – from upcoming artists and bigger acts – and a lot of music history would sit alongside. I would like there to be an educational aspect where screens would be set up (with headphones) where documentaries and clips would be played; showing everything from a look at the start of Hip-Hop to playing the best music videos ever. You would have book shelves and magazine racks where they’d be stocked music books/annuals and magazines (from today and years past) so that you could get a real clash of the modern and classic.

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 IN THIS PHOTO: Jack White’s Third Man Records in Detroit/PHOTO CREDIT: Kelley ONeill

There would be aspects of a place like Hard Rock Cafe but the idea is to have scenic paintings/depictions on the wall – like iconic Hip-Hop scenes and classic images – and a chance to really experience music’s brilliant past and vast future. The sociable and communicative aspect is key and there would be comfy seating areas but the design would be key as to allow the sound to not drown conversation (or the other way around). That would all happen on the ground level and it would be a great space to hear fantastic music and see music videos but there would be that educational and informative side – where you could learn about music’s past and get a real interactive mixture. There would be an upper level that I am keen to explore. I am not sure whether it would be best to have a small studio/radio stations (where records and podcasts can be made alike) or so something similar to Third Man Records. In Jack White enterprise; there is a Third Man Records store that has the company’s colours (lots of yellow) and black and records from the label’s artist. It is a great space in Nashville (there is another in Detroit) and we have nothing like that here. I mooted the possibility of having a place like that here and the big attraction of Jack White’s business is there is a record-making plant where you can record a track, live, and see it pressed and then have it sent to you. It is really the life-cycle of a song and the physical; process of making music.

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 PHOTO CREDIT: @natanaelvieir/Unsplash

It would be cool to have something like that in Britain or a reduced version at the very least. I think having this attractive and unique space in a big city here would create a harmonious and busy environment and help people discover new music – from new artists and older alike. It may take a bit of planning but I feel there is nothing like this in the U.K. aside from music venues. They can be noisy and there is not a lot of chance to relax. Bars and pubs that put up artists are not the same and it makes me wonder whether there would be a great demand. I think there is too much separation and loneliness when it comes to music listening. Most of us do it in the comfort of our homes or on the go and we rarely unite and talk about music. It would be cool for the café to have a cassette vending machine or there, on the upper tier, to be an old-school music shop where you could get vinyl but also make your own mix-tapes; get cassettes of classic albums and great merchandise – in addition to classic memorabilia etc. London or Manchester would be a good spot for the venture and I feel, yeah, it would take off. It would expensive to do but, after a bit, more and more people would come. As much as anything; it is a space for stranger and friends to meet and hear some fantastic music. An affordable and all-inclusive location where you could get your music fix and learn a lot at the same time; that, to me, seems to be a perfect blend. The only question revolves around the name but, the more I think of it, I quite like...

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 PHOTO CREDIT: @anthonydelanoix/Unsplash

1520 Sedgwick Avenue.