TRACK REVIEW: Bugeye - Disco Dancer

TRACK REVIEW:

 

Bugeye

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Disco Dancer

 

9.5/10

 

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The track, Disco Dancer, is available via:

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

GENRES:

Post-Punk Punk; Rock; Pop

ORIGIN:

Croydon, U.K.

LABEL:

31% Wool Recordings

RELEASE DATE:

7th December, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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TOWARDS the biggest leagues in music.   

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Follow Bugeye

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TRACK REVIEW: Harry Pane - Heart’s Rhythm

TRACK REVIEW:

 

Harry Pane

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Heart’s Rhythm

 

9.5/10

 

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

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

GENRES:

Folk; Singer-Songwriter

ORIGIN:

London, U.K.

RELEASE DATE:

16th November, 2018

_________

ON this occasion...

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

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

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 PHOTO CREDIT: James Boardman

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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 PHOTO CREDIT: James Boardman

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

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

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STRONGEST rising acts around.   

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Follow Harry Pane

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TRACK REVIEW: Naomi Banks - Enough

TRACK REVIEW:

 

Naomi Banks

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Enough

 

9.4/10

 

 

The track, Enough, is available via:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=edt0oRrw3T8

GENRES:

Neo-Soul; Future-Soul; Jazz

ORIGIN:

London, U.K.

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The E.P., Deja Vu, is available via:

https://open.spotify.com/album/5zmf883zGFlcWKrb5XGd3e?si=eHOGMLE9Ty2b7I9pJ5Fd0g

RELEASE DATE:

30th November, 2018

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THIS time around...

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I am looking at an artist who is making music that is true to her and soothing for the soul. I will talk about a track from Naomi Banks that has struck my ear but, with the release of the Deja Vu E.P., it has provided an opportunity to look at someone who is making waves and creating stunning sounds. I will look at the song in a minute but I want to look at Neo-Soul and Jazz and why they are genres we need to see more of; female artists who are standing out for the familiar and why we need to change our views; writing with different musicians and recording processes that bring something new to music; originality and finding those stars of tomorrow – I will end by seeing where Banks will head next year. To start with, I am minded to investigate Neo-Soul and Jazz. These are genres we do not hear a lot of and I guess the last great star from these areas was Amy Winehouse. She brought in other sounds but her fusion of Soul and Jazz exhilarated and excited the world. The reason why I am excited to see Naomi Banks bringing some of Winehouse’s magic back is because of the elements and emotions you get. I get to hear so much Pop and Alternative and it does not provide me the chance to get away and look at something different. Another reason why I am excited is to hear something different from the music. So much of today’s music is stuffed with electronics and there is something unnatural coming from the speakers. It is okay to add the odd electronic element here and there but so many artists overload their music with this and it can be a bit annoying. There is some electronics in Naomi Banks’ music but you get much more grace and natural sounds. I think a lot of artists assume Soul and Jazz are redundant and they are not worth exploring.

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The assumption physicality and soulfulness will not come through is wrong. I will not keep mentioning Amy Winehouse but look at the way she managed to provide such deep and memorable music and I am surprised the mainstream is not encouraging more of what she was about. Perhaps it is hard to find artists like her but, in Naomi Banks, you have someone who has a little of her but brings her own colours to the party. Think of the classic Neo-Soul artists like Erykah Badu and Lauryn Hill; what D’Angelo was doing and you have legendary, enduring music. Unlike mainstream Pop and so many other genres, you have this seduction and enticing beauty that gets under the skin. One gets a real flavour of old-school Jazz and Soul with some modern production and genuine fizz. If you put all of that together and I think music needs to adopt and embrace those artists who play in these genres – rather than the usual Pop fare. It is hard to decide which artists are worth sticking with and who will make breaks but I hear Naomi Banks and there is something special and exciting. Her music has a nice modern and accessible flavour but you get a sense of history and classic with what she is doing. I am not sure what she has planned going forward but, right now, we have this artist who is taking from her life and providing these rounded, stunning and alluring stories. I think 2019 will be a big year for her and I am excited to see where she heads next. Let’s have a look at female artists and why, yet again, I am focusing on this subject in a review. It might seem a bit predictable and samey that I go to this well but it needs to be brought up and I have to highlight something.

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I have talked about the festival announcements and how female artists are being shunted. Look at the headliners already announced and they are all men. I am not holding my breath regarding the remaining headliners and whether there will be gender parity. We have not come a long way regarding equality and I do struggle to fathom why festival organisers keep on ignoring female talent. Look at the depth and variety of artists, legendary and new, and you have plenty to choose from. I would like to see a couple of female artists headline Glastonbury next year but, with the likes of IDLES and The 1975 trending; how likely are we to see that happen? It is alarming seeing the same issues occur time and time again and I am worried it will continue for years. What bothers me most is the sheer ignorance of those charged with making decisions. I am seeing so many great female artists emerge who could easily headline the biggest festivals. This year has been disappointing and I think next year might go down the same road. I am not saying Naomi Banks is ready to headline yet but, in years to come, I know there will be many clambering to get someone like her on the headline stage. If we are to see progress in music then we need to stop overlooking female artists and assuming they cannot carry the weight of a headline set. Naomi Banks’ music is stunning and there is so much to love about it. I know she will grow and her music will spread around the world and I wonder, when she does make it big, how likely she is to get that headline call? Her sounds have such a sense of physicality and passion and they would be perfect for a headline occasion. At the moment, we are spoiled for choice when it comes to female artists who can create sensational headline shows at the biggest festivals.

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I will move onto a new subject soon but it angers me we have to raise these arguments and talk about things like this. I would love to think things will improve in the next couple of years and we will see balance but I am not so sure. Naomi Banks is part of the new breed and making music her own way. You get an artist that can get into the heart and soul and the music remains in the memory. I have heard her E.P., Deja Vu, and the tracks and incredible. It is one of those works that you can listen to over and over and discover new things. Going forward and there will be more material and she will continue to make strides. I feel she will be ready to headline in a few years and, if the mainstream allows her exposure and opportunity, then there is no stopping her. If she does get to that stage then will the festivals open their eyes and realise there is a great artist read to strike?! Maybe I am looking at a lost cause – female headliners very soon – but I hold hope there will be a change at some point. For now, we have to encourage the newcomers and promising female artists and ensure people are aware of them. That sounds patronising but there are so many great artists around and they are not getting the acclaim they deserve. Maybe I should move on and cover something else but it angers me we have this wonderful industry with so much choice and strength and, in one area, it is so one-sided. If we keep on booking male headliners and denying female artists then we are sending out a very bad message. With incredible artists like Naomi Banks taking strides and showing she has something different; I feel she will turn more heads next year and move her way towards the mainstream. I am compelled to see what happens when she gets there – one can see an artist with promise who can inspire many others.

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A lot of people assume modern music is about technology and there is no real soul about it. Many assume artists write very lazily or they put everything on their phone. The old image of musicians penning at a desk or swapping lines has died for the most part but that is not to say the modern creative process lacks process and romance. I have been reading about Naomi Banks and how she put together her E.P. She wrote the bulk of the E.P. on her house boat in Essex and that alone brings to mind something very romantic and touching. Rather than writing songs in a studio or exchanging ideas via email; there is this solemn yet imaginative vision of an artist alone with her thoughts and able to create these great songs backed by incredible views. I can imagine her on the boat and the quiet and stillness of the world passing her by. The fact the songs are so electric and memorable, in part, is because of that very different and scenic setting. I wonder whether there is a correlation between creative setting and the overall sound. Maybe it is not practical to have every artist write somewhere like a house boat or somewhere like that but I think getting away from laptops and rooms is advisable. Too many of us hunker somewhere a little closed-off and we are not embracing the creative promise of the world around us. A lot of what Naomi Banks has written about concerns events from the past few years and there is definite emotion in there. I feel, if she was writing in a house or somewhere a little lonely, then the music would be more tense and gloomy. The fact she has this sense of openness and freedom means the songs pop and have a definite sense of drive. I feel all musicians need to get out of routine and predictable spaces and open the creative mind. The house boat is a natural environment for Banks and it seems like her surroundings compel beautiful and evocative music.

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Not only has Naomi Banks recorded and written in some great spaces but she has worked with some fantastic musicians. Producer Dieter Gickel produced Deja Vu and Banks wrote and worked on the songs between her house boat and Essex. In her past, she has worked with Laura Mvula, ELO and Gareth Malone. I listen to the songs on her E.P. and can hear those eclectic artists in her own work. I know she has other influences but the fact she has had the chance to work with a variety of artists has made a positive impact on her sounds. I think, going forward, all of that past experience will drive her forward and get her looking at other artists. Her E.P. has a singular quality but I know Banks has a curiosity and determination and I would not be shocked to see her move on and collaborate with some big names. I will not labour the point too much but I love how she has worked alongside some big names and I wonder why she is not more popular. The fact she isn’t bigger is not her fault and it brings me back to the way music seems to favour male artists. Deja Vu will make an impact in regards her future success but the experience she already has should be acknowledged. I have talked about where she writes and creating something homely and unique. Pair this together with a rich experience of varied artists and some impressive experiences and you have this star-in-the-making. I know these are early day for Naomi Banks but I think many can take guidance from her. I still think too many artists have a very limited outlook or they write in a very stilted way. Every aspect of Naomi Banks’ music shines and bursts with adventure. Maybe it is because of how she writes and where she lives but I think her background and influences play a part. I have already covered a few Neo-Soul artists but, as Naomi Banks says herself, the music she creates is its own genre: ‘Neon Soul’.

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I have been listening to some good music this year but there are so many similar and tired sounds; they never really get into the head and it can be very dull. I have encountered a few other artists who will resonate and remain for years to come and they seem to be in a minority. I am not suggesting most of what is out there today lacks imagination and potential but too many musicians are doing what everyone else is doing. It seems like the songs on her current E.P. are inspired by someone close to her. I am not sure whether romance and passion are at the heart of what the songs say but maybe there is a more familial connection and something rooted closer to home. In any case, you have this artist who is making original and impressive music. I have tipped my hat in the direction of a potential headline spot and I know Banks could fulfil that potential. What strikes me is the way she can mix a powerful yet intimate voice with sounds that say so much. You have this rich and sumptuous bouquet that gets into the senses and lingers in the brain. Maybe it will be a lot longer before she can get headline slots but there is something about her music that differs from what is around and I know people will love to hear it on the bigger stages. I wonder whether the Deja Vu E.P. is about circumstances of love or whether there is something about family embedded in the roots. I have listened to all the tracks on the E.P. and get a real sense of the exhilarating and personal. It is a candid and extraordinary mix that a lot of artists cannot pull off. I think Naomi Banks can go a long way in the industry and she is already avoiding pitfalls others are not. She has forged her own sound and identity and one gets blasts of Neo-Soul and Jazz wrapped around something fresh and modern. Banks has taken a long time to make sure her material is as strong and potent as can be and, because of that, you have an E.P. that stands out from most of what has been produced this year.

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The opening moments of Enough get right into the heart and provoke all manner of images. There are casual and delayed beats together with an electronic fizz. It is a smooth and sumptuous blend that has a definite acidity and tang. One feels the soul of Neo-Soul and the layers of Jazz sensuality but you have a fresh and modern production style that updates those sounds and crosses barriers. Before a word is spoken, I was thinking about what the song is about and, before you get to the vocal, there is so much to digest. The sounds are never too busy or full-on and you can sink it all into the mind. It is a perfect fusion of the old and new. The heroine steps to the microphone and you get little elements of classic Neo-Soul artists like Erykah Badu. Not quite as intense as Badu; Banks has a smoothness and whisper that blends with caramel tones to investigate a strange affair. It seems like there has been cheating or something duplicitous taking place. I was wondering whether a man has cheated with another and the consequences of that. There is a girl at home, upstairs, and she has given enough. Perhaps there is this aspect of a relationship where a girl has been let down but I get an impression of a broken family and the younger child being let down and overlooked. Maybe I am looking at this from the wrong angle but there is tension in the air; a man who needs to watch his step and has been given a second chance. Banks is laying down the lay and telling it like it is – she does not want the same things to happen again. The composition has a nice sensuality and flow to it and, apart from a trope that gets into a lot of music – chipmunk-like vocals have been used for years and they always sound jarring and too grating – it is a satisfying and flavoursome blend.

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Banks is commanding and strong and is telling a story that makes you think and gets into the imagination. The more Enough goes on, the more I get behind it and start to imagine how it started life. The more things unwind, the more the truth comes to mind. The processed and high-pitched backing vocals do get in the way a bit and could have been substituted by something that conveys the same impact – it is not a big drawback and problem given the strength of the music. There is a heroine who has been overlooked and ignored; the man is not paying attention and, when she comes through, he is not doing his part. The song gets into a groove and you are carried away by the beats. Banks is a singer who can mix it up and change pace without losing her integrity and focus. Instead of anger and accusation, there is a sense of calm and patience and she just wants the right thing to be done. I wonder whether the song is taken from her own life and experiences or whether she has seen a friend being let down. I have heard the song a few times and, with every visit, there is something new that comes to mind. The man needs to watch what he says and she has given enough. It seems like a tense situation but Banks does not deal with clichés and ordinary terms. Her story is different and there is a lot more detail and life than you get from most songwriters. The chorus is the most satisfying part of the song as it has a more pleasing musical tones with few sharp edges but carries plenty of panache.

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One senses some soulful slink and funkiness but that does not get in the way of the song’s message. Banks is keen for the villain to hear her words and make sure he does not keep screwing up. Everyone will have a different take on Enough and what it is all about. It is a song that hits you first time around and makes its mark but new elements come to mind when you play it again. I have not heard too many songs like it this year and it definitely stands out. What is most astonishing is how natural and easy it sounds. Banks is an artist who can produce these deep and complex tales that have an easy-going vibe and do not weigh you down. So much of modern music is about stress and anxiety and you do not get this with her. Enough is a fantastic song that is part of a wonderful E.P. Ensure you listen to everything on there but, to me, nothing shouts quite as long as Enough. It is proof Naomi Banks is a great and unexpected talent who has a lot of ammunition and has a lot more to say. I expect her to explode and grow over the next year or so and there are many others who are excited about what she is producing. Ensure you follow her and keep an eye out regarding what she is doing. I cannot find much fault with Enough – aside from the vocal processing and effect that drains some of the naturalness – and it is a fantastic offering.

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I have talked a lot about Naomi Banks and what makes her special. There are plans afoot and she will be keeping busy but make sure you keep abreast of her social media pages and follow what she is doing right now. People are talking about her E.P. and paying tribute to her fantastic sounds. I have read reviews and people are wondering why she is not bigger. Banks has done everything she can and worked hard but I feel the industry needs to pay more attention and give her more credit. It might take a few years before she hits the bigger leagues but the progression is impressive. She has shown she is a talented and incredible songwriter and the songs throughout Deja Vu will stay in the head for a long time. I shall wrap things up pretty soon but I wanted to explore every aspect of Naomi Banks’ music and what she is all about. Here is an artist that has such a fantastic style and background and she brings all of this into the music. I am compelled to see what her E.P. documents and whether relationships are a big part of it. You can sense some personal loss and pains in some of the tracks but maybe I am being too literal. Most songwriters pen songs about life and love in a very ordinary way but Banks has a different take and provides something fresh. I started by mentioning genres like Neo-Soul and Jazz and how rare they are.

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Maybe artists like Jorja Smith are bringing it back but there are very few like her. Listen to what she is putting out into the world and it makes me wonder why people are not following suit. Rather than the rather empty and predictable Pop; one gets something a lot deeper and more mature. Perhaps that will put people off but, with Neo-Soul, you get something familiar that has a definite spark and nuance. I can argue all I want but the music is proof of everything I say. You only need to listen to the notes unfold and the words to connect and know here is an artist who can go a very long way. Let’s hope the industry provides her with the accommodation and platform to do her best work and allow her magic to spread. I am thrilled seeing what comes next and know she is a very special artist. I shall leave things here but (I would) advise people to check out Deja Vu. It is a fantastic work that gets right into the brain and will leave impressions long after you have listened. I wanted to focus on Enough because it made the biggest impact on me but Daydream, Anything; Smile and Hourglass are all terrific tracks. Check out Naomi Banks and, if you can, go and see her live. She is one of the strongest voices coming through right now and a great British talent. If you do not believe me then spin her music and let it...

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TAKE you away.   

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Follow Naomi Banks

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TRACK REVIEW: Cocoa Futures - Recovery

TRACK REVIEW:

 

Cocoa Futures

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Recovery

 

9.4/10

 

The track, Recovery, is available via:

https://soundcloud.com/cocoafutures/recovery

GENRE:

Pop

ORIGIN:

London, U.K.

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The E.P., Recovery, is available via:

https://open.spotify.com/album/4XOmhqv3uOD65cLc7jrN2b?si=BMZ98YsuTX2cTFP4zgaxDw

RELEASE DATE:

23rd November, 2018

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WHEN thinking about Cocoa Futures...

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I get to turn my mind to a few different things. I will look at his track, Recovery, and the E.P. of the same name but I want to investigate this year’s offerings and whether mainstream acts/albums have taken too much attention away from the newcomers; songs that have a sense of humour and a big of swagger to them; how artists develop and ways to keep fresh in the industry; looking ahead to 2019 and the sounds that could take acclaim; a bit about influences and artists who we need to hear more of – I will end by speaking about Cocoa Futures’ future and what we might see going forward. I will start out by talking about albums this year and whether rising artists have been given enough acclaim. It might sound like an odd place to start but I have just read the reviews for the album, A Brief Inquiry into Online Relationships, and what people are saying. Many are comparing it to Radiohead’s 1997 work, OK Computer, and I wonder whether that is an unrealistic comparison. I guess there are similarities in regards the sort of themes that are explored and the fact that, on one song, there is an equivalent to Fitter Happier – instead of a computerised voice; The 1975 use a more modern computerised voice that will be familiar to us all. I have listening to the record and there are some great songs; a terrific spread of sounds and barely a wasted note. It is a terrific achievement, no doubt, but many are calling it a generation-defining album and one that will stand the test of time. I know it would be ignorant to say no album from today could ever match the classics but I am not affected by The 1975’s latest the same way as I am by Radiohead’s masterpiece. Maybe time will change that but I think some critics get carried away and we need to calm a bit.

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I think a lot of albums this year have got the right amount of praise and one cannot fault the likes of IDLES and Christine and the Queens when it comes to those big marks. I think there have been so many interesting offerings from the underground, in terms of E.P.s and albums, that are not been given the same leverage. It is great bands like The 1975 are being given props but I think many critics ignore the strength of artists emerging and the fact, in many cases, they are producing material that is more daring and engaging. That might sound like a bold claim but I am hearing so many great works and artists that will take years to get big acclaim. Do we often put too much focus on the hyped bands/albums and ignore what is being made by the newcomers – through a sense of ignorance or assumption they cannot scale the same heights?! I do not know but I think there is a case of some artists being overrated and too much spotlight coming their way. This means, a lot of the time, we are not really looking at artists who warrant more praise. There are a tonne of artists who are worthy of a bigger hand but Cocoa Futures is someone I have been following for a while. It would be rash to say that the band are worthy of as much speculation and scrutiny as The 1975 but I feel there is this division between the mainstream and the underground. Do we instantly feel, unless an artist is visible at the forefront, they cannot produce something that sticks in the mind? Even though I am changing things around next year and focusing on bigger artists for my site – not mainstream as such but those a lot closer than artists I am featuring now – I still think more time needs to be dedicated to reviewing and spotlighting those who are a bit further down the rung. I do wonder whether albums as lauded and pressured as A Brief Inquiry into Online Relationships will stand the test of time – I feel we will not be talking about the record in twenty-one years’ time the same way we do as Radiohead’s OK Computer. That might sound like an excuse to put the boot into The 1975 a bit but I do wonder whether we are too obsessed and beholden to the so-called big guns and ignore the next generation of artists who are making genuinely big steps.

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I do not have the time of the finger strength to review every song on Cocoa Futures’ E.P., Recovery, but I did want to feature the eponymous cut. One of the reasons I have selected it is because of the sense of humour and fun. One of my biggest gripes about modern music is the fact the fun has evaporated. I have written about this area recently but I do look around and, when it comes to the best and best-reviewed albums, one thing is common: they seriously lack fun and a sense of uplift! Look at the hottest records this year and, whilst there is a a bit of flair here and there, most are very serious and do not have the same bounce and infectiousness as music past. As I type this, I am listening to Madonna from back in 1985. It is amazing how far music has come in an ironic sense. The mainstream Pop market could never challenge those heady days when we had icons and anthems that stick in the mind. Fun and memorability has been replaced by something quite plastic and samey. Look at most popular music and anxiety has replaced any sort of positive spirit. There are many new artists who are capable of bringing back a sense of smile but their numbers are starting to shrink. It is worrying that the likes of Cocoa Futures is in a minority. I say his music is humorous but there is a serious message that underlines songs like Recovery. It is about drink and the perils of excess but there is a lighter side to it. He can put together an E.P. that deals with both sides of alcoholic excess. That might sound like a pretty weighty subject to explore through music and many might say there is no difference to what we are hearing now – too many artists forgetting how to bring light into music and being far too serious. In the case of Cocoa Futures, you get a nice blend of the concerned and ribald.

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 PHOTO CREDIT: Sara Amroussi-Gilisse

I listen to a track like Recovery and, although the title has been done a million times – including Eminem – there is something distinct about it. You get something a little muscular and seductive; there is a blend of emotions but, as much as anything, you are involved in the song and come away feeling better. It is always hard when you write about something like alcohol. Greg Sanderson (the lead of Cocoa Futures) knows that alcohol is a messy and complicated thing that can produce some wonderful times but it can also lead you down a dark road. He has felt the sting of a hangover and all the regrets that carries but has witnessed genuine freedom, a lack of inhibitions and something pure. I look out at music now and, for the most part, artists are not really being that inventive and letting something funny into the mix. Maybe I am a bit rash when it comes to the fun-killing vibes and accusations but compare the mainstream/underground of today with the music of the 1980s and 1990s and you have to wonder what happened to us. Have we all become paralysed by stress and fear that music has to be this monument to gloom and our own personal concerns?! In order for sounds of today to resonate and remain through the years, there needs to be something that catches you and, yes, makes you feel better. The reason we remember and gravitate towards older music, by and large, is the way it makes us feel and the fact it can make us feel better. I sound like an old man ranting against modern music and how, in my day, it was much better (it’s true but enough of that!). I am glad an act like Cocoa Futures can take a seemingly complex subject like alcohol ‘enjoyment’ and cut away most of the expected gloom. It is a song that will get into the mind and, as I shall investigate later, one that is a lot brighter than most of the stuff out there right now.

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PHOTO CREDIT: Rou Gilissen

I have heard previous Cocoa Futures singles like Sink in the Water and Circus and those tracks are great. It would be easy for a repeat or something that walks along the same lines but that is not what you get with Cocoa Futures. In every movement, there is this development and sense of the fresh. I have heard too many acts stay on the same path and they never feel the need to break into new ground. It is nice hearing artists that can keep moving and do not have that stale quality. In terms of songwriting, it can be hard distancing from the personal and relationship-based. I think that is one reason why modern music has that appearance of gloom and doom. You have too many that are speaking about their torment or looking out at the modern world and saying it like it is – which is needed and honest but is awfully depressing! In many ways, an E.P./song like Recovery is the antidote to that malaise. Booze is what we head to when we want to forget the stress; it is what we bond over and it is that social lubricant. It can elevate the darkest days to something manageable and, if we are too full-on and lack wisdom; it can be that regret we wake up to! It is part of modern fabric and something we can all identify with. I have not heard anything like this from Cocoa Futures and it proves there is that need to keep the topic areas fresh and not get bogged down like so many. It makes me wonder what might come next year and the sort of things that will be covered. I urge people to investigate the E.P., Recovery, because there is a lot of wonder to behold. Previous singles like Sink in the Water and Circus are in there and they nestle with lesser-heard offerings. I will move onto a new area but, before I do, I wonder why more artists do not follow the lead of Cocoa Futures.

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 PHOTO CREDIT: Sara Amroussi-Gilisse

There are a few areas for improvement in the camp. One of my biggest groans and sources of annoyance comes with photos. There are some fine snaps in this review but I have had to mix older shots with the new ones. So many artists limit themselves to specific photos and do a few for each new campaign. That is okay if you want to write a few lines about a song/E.P. but, if you want to go deeper, your options are limited. There is a lot of potential, photographically, for Cocoa Futures and it would be good to see some more shots for 2019 – a couple of new shoots that are done not for a campaign or release but are a nice visual accompaniment to the music. That might be my problem but, as there is such a great force from the audio side of things, matching that with more photos would attract new listeners and journalists. I have wandered from my point regarding development and evolution and I think it is great there is freshness about Cocoa Futures. I am pumped to see what arrives next year and I think more musicians should think about broadening their scope and not writing about the same things. The listener might be able to relate to what is being said but, once you have heard it a few times, do you want to keep hearing it?! I feel there is that stubbornness to try something new and widen the horizon. It is important to have a look into next year and think about the sort of sounds the mainstream might demand. I will come back to sounds and developments when I review Recovery but I am interested looking into next year and what we might all witness. This is the time of year that many journalists, myself included, predict who will make a big break in 2019 and what sort of sounds will define the year.

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I think it is going to be a little while longer before Cocoa Futures courts the same sort of press as the biggest acts of today but I think they have taken big steps. Look at what is being put out and the sounds hit you instantly. I think this year has been defined by more openness in the mainstream and variation. Grime and other genres have played a bigger role and the Pop ‘elite’ are broader and more mature than years past. I still think there has been too much personal revelations and not enough fun. Maybe that is a sign of our times and we have come too far – will we ever see a return to those glory days?! What I have noticed is the relevance of lyrics and a general move away from cliché themes. Maybe this does not apply to most Pop but look at this year’s biggest records and they have talked about areas like online relationships, sexual inequality and gender; toxic masculinity and the state of the nation. That might sound a bit heavy and serious but most have managed to sprinkle something accessible and light among those tough subjects. I think we will continue to look for artists that can assess what is happening and the things we are concerned with but bring different genres into the pot. I think we will see Grime make a bigger stride towards the centre but I feel Dance and sounds inspired by the 1990s will come back in a bolder way. This is not to say we will see a return to that decade – the modern crop is not nearly strong enough – but there will be a slight break from the gloom and a bit more colour coming through. This is my prediction and I hope I am not proven wrong! I have spoken about Cocoa Futures and how the song I am going to review imbues some fun. At its heart, mind, Recovery weighs up the consequences of drinking and asks how we can look forward and rebuild if we are always recovering. Maybe that is a metaphor for politics and the state of the country but there is a personal aspect – a need for more calm and control. There is lightness in the song but, again, it follows alongside the biggest artists who are taking a serious approach. I do respect that stance but I hope, sincerely, people are able to lighten up and bring genuine joy back into music!

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You want to talk about joy in music – it is almost extinct these days! – and you look back at those great icons. David Bowie is in my mind because his legendary Glastonbury performance from 2000 will be shown very soon. Until now, we have only seen a fraction of what went down but now, very soon, the full thing will come out. It is amazing to think he has been gone almost three years and there is that definite vacuum. I mention Bowie because I know Cocoa Futures source guidance from the legends like David Bowie and Roxy Music. You get – with Cocoa Futures – a swagger and that 1970s sound; a blend of the strict and fun and something that takes its sonic cues from that golden time. What one experiences – with Sanderson as the lead and guide – is a trance and beguiling mixture. You are captured in this world like a butterfly in a jar. The material – recorded in Manchester’s Low Four Studios – tends to take my mind back to the Low-era David Bowie and what he was throwing out. Cocoa Futures will be the first to say their Speed of Life and Sound and Vision (from Low) are years away but you can detect a flavour of the album! This might seem like a bold claim but Cocoa Futures’ sound brings in bits of David Bowie and Roxy; there is a sprinkle of St. Vincent and modern innovators. The reason why the E.P., Recovery, strikes a chord is because you get whimsy and something light alongside a more serious side. The lyrics are broad and the music has such depth and detail. So many artists get stuck in one gear and they do not often expend too much effort when it comes to the sonics. Pure and rounded musicians can tackle every angle and make sure their music is as thorough, impressive and impactful as it can be.

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Perhaps it would be rash to insinuate and suggest Cocoa Futures have Bowie in the blood but you know what I mean when it comes to endeavour. They are mixing in funky sides and catchy kicks with some electronics and darker tones. It is an appealing and arresting brew that will get under the skin and stays in the mind. I think that issue of memorability is a big problem. It might be to do with the sheer volume of music or the way we digest it but how many artists and moments from today will we recall and mention alongside the classic albums? I think many of us, in decades to come, will still talk about classics albums and very few modern offerings will be mentioned. That might sound cruel but there are aspects from older music that are not being taken to heart. We do not necessarily laud the big albums from decades ago because they hold fond memories: to many, there is that thrill, depth and positivity you do not get from modern music. Even if the music is more emotive and unhappy; something about it hits us and stays in the soul. 2019 will be a big year and I feel artists will start to change things up. Whether we get those generations-lasting records I am not sure but I think there will be some fine moments. Cocoa Futures will be among the best of the rising pack and I think many can learn a lesson from the London-based outfit. I love the way the music and lyrics have such variation and there is that desire to come back and get that satisfying hit. Let me move on and look at Recovery’s title-track as I have been keen to get to grips and learn a bit more about it. It is my favourite offering from the E.P. and a song that, as you’d expect, seems to define what Cocoa Futures are trying to say.

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One might think something rambunctious and stirring would open Recovery – given that it is about excess and the consequences of it. I was buckling myself for something a bit spiky and intense but, instead, you get electronic noodling and something a bit cosmic. I have already mentioned Low-era David Bowie and that is not far off of the mark. It is a spacey and head-spinning introduction that opens the mind and you wonder where the song is heading. Although the composition bubbles and has a colourful flow; the lyrics have an air of the oblique. I know alcohol and addiction are part of the song and the hero is looking at its two sides. We hear about tears in the sea and a distance between his door and hers. Maybe there is a relationship that is being squandered because of drinking or it might be the case life in general is a bit blurred and murky. The delivery from Sanderson has a lightness and flexibility that reminds me of David Byrne (Talking Heads) and David Bowie. There is a bit of Bryan Ferry (Roxy Music) and other artists and I like the way he makes his voice skip and strut without compromising the seriousness of what is being sung. The backdrop burbles and pops as the hero talks about being further away from the good times. One feels the need for recovery and things have taken a rather bleak turn. You know there have been mistakes made but you never feel like the song is too dour and black. Every second seems to skip and dance and you have that great blend of the uplifted and grounded. The chorus has a nice rush to it that reminds me of Pop of the old – not as intoxicating and strong – and you get something instantly memorable. I detected elements of Field Music, too – sorry to keep comparing! – and there is a nice mixture of elements. The next stage of the song looks at Friday drinking and the need to blow off steam.

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We have talked about relationships and darker sides of drinking and now a more common and lighter side emerges. The hero is drinking with those close to him – whether that means friends or people physically closer to him – and there is a cycle of discovery and recovery. That is almost like a mantra. As soon as we drink and find out new things (or let ourselves go) then we are thinking about recovery and rebuilding. I am not sure whether the song is inspired by real-life excess and making mistakes but many will be able to relate that what is being said. Rather than make the song too pained and po-faced; there is that endless sense of energy and momentum from the vocals and composition. I think the chorus is the most memorable aspect of the song and it definitely burrows in the head. It is short and sharp and has a distinct punch. By the time you get to the end of Recovery, one wonders whether there is a lot of personal background in there. I know many will be able to engage with something that affects many and think more deeply about the way they use alcohol and what it is doing to them. I have mentioned artists like David Bowie and possible inspirations but one experiences something modern and original with the song. It has a great mix of the classic and now and that will allow it to stay in the heart for longer than most songs. It is a fresh and bright offering that perfectly defines and explains the Recovery E.P. The production is polished and slick but does not drain the emotion and physicality from the song. Every aspect has been considered and, as such, one gets a heady and nuanced song. I hope there will be more material from Cocoa Futures in 2019 because there is a definite hot streak emerging in the ranks.

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It is almost the end of the year now so we will not see too much more from Cocoa Futures. There is that need for promotion and exposure but that is going to take the form of social media posts and some low-level bits. I think next year will be a big one and it will see some great gigs for Cocoa Futures. I feel 2019 is when we will see Recovery brought to a bigger stage and more material come. I am not sure what is planned but I know there will be fresh inspiration. I have loved featuring Cocoa Futures and it is a nice way to start the weekend. In as much as anything, I have been able to make predictions about next year and highlight a great act. It is wonderful hearing all the diversity and surprise you get from underground music.  I am not sure what we will get in 2019 with great confidence but I know critics needs to start focusing more on the newer artists. Perhaps they are right regarding the stature and longevity of The 1975’s latest album but there is this rather worrying thing where certain albums are given these unrealistic tags and proclamations. Look at what is coming from the underground and there are artists there who have a hell of a lot to say. I do wonder how easy it is for the rising acts to get a shout and whether they will have to campaign for many years so they can get the same sort of attention as the biggest artists around. Anyway. It is an exciting time for   Cocoa Futures and make sure you listen to Recovery and set some time aside! It is a brilliant chapter from someone I have been following for a long time now. Get involved with everything coming out of their camp and, in a short time, I think we will see a lot of love and big acclaim come the way of Cocoa Futures. If you have not heard Recovery then you are missing out on...

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 PHOTO CREDIT: Sara Amroussi-Gilisse

SOMETHING wonderful.   

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Follow Cocoa Futures

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TRACK REVIEW: Jeremy Tuplin - Bad Lover

TRACK REVIEW:

 

Jeremy Tuplin

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Bad Lover

 

9.5/10

 

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The track, Bad Lover, is available via:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0Q3l2grbY0g

GENRE:

Indie

ORIGIN:

London, U.K.

RELEASE DATE:

23rd November, 2018

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BEFORE I get to the positive…

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and music-based aspects of Jeremy Tuplin; I need to look at a sense of anonymity that has creeped into music. It is not a slight against anyone or a criticism but, more and more, an identity has been lost from new music. Maybe it was like that before but, with mainstream acts, you have these interviews and longer biographies that give you a sense of who they are, what music influences them and where they are heading. You can watch YouTube videos and read articles that give you insight and explanation; a fuller picture that builds a sense of who we are dealing with and what we can expect. A lot of rising artists do interviews but most prefer to go for reviews as a sense of publicity. The issue with a lack of interviews, especially video interviews, is the mystery behind the artist. Only the music remains so we have to piece together what we can from what we hear. That is okay in a sense but music is much like a business and attraction. Before you get to the music itself, you have the social media pages. You need something that attracts you and hooks the mind; a bit of background and story that gets you invested and gives a sense of explanation. If there is a few lines – or fewer – then you never really know where that artist came from and who they are. Jeremy Tuplin has a lot of great aspects and qualities – as I shall investigate – but many will experience his social media pages before the music. Maybe they will be struck by the music itself but, once heard, there is that desire to discover more about the man. I am not suggesting every artist has video interviews and a spread up but few have a fuller biography. For someone like me, who writes 4,000-word reviews, you need some personal details, unique aspects and points to work off; explain who the artist is and where they have come from – before you get down to the music.

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 PHOTO CREDIT: Holly Whittaker

It is happening a lot, and not a shot at musicians, but there is a lot of good in Tuplin’s work and locker that you want to see it on the page. I want to know where he comes from and how music struck him; what his songs are about and what separates him from the pack. Many feel giving a lot away means people will not listen to the music or it will not leave mystery but there is a danger that too little will be revealed and someone will move along. You need to attract labels and venues; get festival organisers and radio stations onto your pages and they need to know a little bit about the artist. It does not need to be a story and long explanation but something in the way of background and ambitions is a way of making it easier for the listener and potential fan. Tuplin is an interesting and rounded music and, in these competitive times, putting some background into the mix, I feel, would give him an edge. The legends and icons of music endured and influenced because we heard them being interviewed and we understood what drove them and got to match that with the music they were putting out. In a steaming age where we are exposed to so much choice and colour; how are we going to decide what is best and whether we should stop and investigate? Photos and information are important as the music themselves but, at the end of the day, a strong sound is what people stick around for. The most important parts of Tuplin is his music and its sense of personality. When you listen to the man sing and get involved with his music, you start to get an impression of who inspires him and what makes him tick. Maybe allowing the music to work hard and the imagination to stretch is a good way of challenging listeners but I still would like to know more about the man and his personality.

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 PHOTO CREDIT: Holly Whittaker

Listening to a song like Bad Lover and you get a real indication of an artist who can go a long way. I will talk about conscientiousness and a different angle in music; what sort of sounds can shape 2019 and the challenges facing new musicians – I will end by thinking where Tuplin can go and what his future holds. I am drawn to voices and a sense of the original. You do not often get that and it can be hard to find in the mainstream. Look at artists at the top of the game and it can be a bit hard deciphering whether a band/artist is worth some time. Their sounds might be a bit samey or uninspired and the songs talk about the same things. Pop relies a lot on diary-entry confessions and heartbreak. This can get a bit weighty and haunting; the vocals can stand out but I am still finding a lot of repetition on the whole. Other genres of music provide some eclectic nature but I am still seeing more boldness and promise coming from the underground. Someone like Jeremy Tuplin is unshackled by a big label and is not having to conform to what is deemed popular and trendy. When one hears him sing and the music flow; you get a hint of artists like Scott Walker and Nick Cave. There is a combination between classic croon and something darker and more coffee-rich. The more I hear his voice, the more I want to know about the young Tuplin and how it came to him. The lyrics and music resonate and absorb into the skin but it is the voice that makes that huge impact. It is hard to link it to another artist too strongly because there are a lot of different shades and sounds combining.

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It has that depth and alluring quality but there is maturity and wisdom. Many people overlook the voice and what it holds and go straight to other angles. I am always looking for artists whose voices stand out and remain. With the slew of talent shows and the factory-processed artists coming along; do we really value a special and standout singer? Jeremy Tuplin has a presence and sense of captivation that will keep you by his side. You can learn a lot about someone from their voice and the way they project. On his latest single, there is vulnerability but there is playfulness. Some people have remarked he has a humour and playfulness one would not imagine hearing his voice and that is what makes him so complex. Reviews and commentators have noted how there is this natural link between the oddity of someone like David Bowie and the gravity of Leonard Cohen. Tuplin’s upcoming album, Pink Mirror, suggests Nick Drake (in its title) and previous work has seen astronauts and space come into play. Tuplin’s voice might be grounded and have that deeper quality but the lyrics take you all over the place and into other worlds. You get something unconventional and conversational in the music. Many artists push the listener away and do not really bring them in. Tuplin talks about something personal and real but he is willing to let you in and allow you to become part of the music. One of the best aspects about his songs is the accessibility. One can understand what he is writing about and what makes him tick. The reality and conversation in the music makes it real and brings much more life to play. So many songs are one-sided and too personal and you never get a sense of progression, story and adventure. Tuplin’s songs are more like plays or novels in a sense. Rather than have something insular and detached, you have a writer who can pen these stunning and imaginative songs. I Dreamt I Was an Astronaut was released earlier this year and Pink Mirror will be out in March. It will be interesting to see how Tuplin has developed and grown between albums.

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Tuplin’s last single, Long Hot Summer, raised money for Friends of the Earth and was designed to get people thinking about the planet and what is happening to it. The fact the wildfires in California have devastated homes and claimed lives shows how brutal and frightening climate change is. Global warming is costing us so much already and the forecasts are bleak. It is told more and more lives will be lost and money spent to help protect the planet from the worst effects of global warming. It is great Tuplin took this approach and did something good. You get the feeling he is a conscious writer who thinks more deeply about the world. If Long Hot Summer’s proceeds went to charity and there was that desire to raise awareness then what he is producing now takes your mind elsewhere. The reason I mentioned his previous single and its merits is because you have a musician who is not just here to make music and that is it. You feel like he wants to change the world and make a real impression. You do not get many who go out of their way to raise awareness, make things better and get people thinking more strongly about the world around them. Tuplin’s lyrics and sense of story demonstrate a keen and flexible mind that links him to classic songwriters. I have mentioned Nick Cave and Nick Drake; two songwriters whose music takes you someone special and grabs you by the lapel. You have the strength of the voice but, when you listen to what is being sung, you are brought into this fantastic world. Rather than sing about broken hearts and get people to sympathise with him; Tuplin projects these sweeping stories, glorious worlds and tackles conventional topics with a fresh perspective. It is rare finding a songwriter who does that and can make the music so honest and open – whilst still leaving some mystery and room for interpretation.

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 PHOTO CREDIT: Richie Phillips

We are moving into the new calendar year and that will get people wondering what sounds will dominate. The ‘sounds of 2019’ have not been published yet – they happen in December and January – so I am not 100% certain what is being demanded. I feel Pop will play a large role but Grime and Rap are making more of an impact. YouTube have presented their ones to watch for next year and there is a great blend of Rap, Pop and Grime. There is a bit of Rock and Alternative on the fringes but it is more varied than last year – where one got the sense the new Pop breed were what critics were looking forward to. Pop is always going to be at the forefront but people are seeking something a bit more potent, charged and, maybe, less personal. Given the times we are living in right now; there is a split demand between escapist music and artists who are addressing something more relevant and important. Tuplin fits between those two camps. His music has that escape and fantasy but it is much more stirring and long-lasting than mere love songs. His voice, lyrical style and mystical blends will spike a few ears and fit in with what 2019 promises. It might be a few years before he gets on these big lists but I feel, right now, he is readymade for 2019 and what the public needs. Rather than the sugary Pop artists or processed sounds; we still want something energised and interesting but imbued with more personality, strength and importance. How one defines ‘importance’ is personal but something that goes beyond cliché heartache and anxiety is a nice change of pace. I do not feel a lot of the 2018 tips have paid off and I feel next year will be a bigger one for music. I shall stay on this topic because there is a lot to unpack before we get to next year.

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Jeremy Tuplin will fit into the pack because he has already won hearts and gathered kind words. Critics have noted his strengths and unique flair and highlighted him for big things. What strikes me is how varied his work is. There is a distinct sound with Tuplin but he allows his music to breathe and vary between releases. Next year is a big one because we have been through so much political stress and division and it is hard to know exactly what sort of music will comfort us. I do not feel the Pop mainstream is sufficient enough but we do not want to embrace artists too soft and vague; those that are slight or writing in a very predictable way. I have spoken about personality and how it is important to get a sense of the artist and what makes them write. Embracing complete and original artists is, I think, what people are going to look for next year. Tuplin has a terrific sound and it definitely lingers in the brain. I am excited to see where he might head and what 2019 holds. I know there will be an album and many journalists and radio stations will get a hold of it. Many might claim the sound appeals more to a ‘mature’ audience – those who experienced legends like Nick Cave back in the day – but, really, Tuplin appeals to all demographics. Many artists have a narrow sound that only markets to a certain audience but Tuplin’s music goes a lot further. I will end this section of the review because, before I get to his new single, I want to look at challenges that face artists next year. It is exciting as we head into 2019 but there are some considerations that need to be addressed.

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 PHOTO CREDIT: Richie Phillips

Jeremy Tuplin, like his peers, is gearing up for an album release and has ambitions. He will have goals regarding gigs, festivals and success and I am sure he is looking to boost his fanbase. I will end by looking at Tuplin and how he can grow next year but he already has a lot of quality and love his way. His social media numbers have risen and there are some glowing reviews that he has received. More and more artists coming onto the scene means there is going to be that competition and need to distinguish yourself. It is all very well for talented artists to come along and put out material but is that focus and hard work enough? The most important deciding factor between the promising and successful is those who can match an original sound with that hard work. I see so many artists put out music and promote themselves heavily but you never really return that often. So many repeat what is out there or feel they need to be close in sound to the masses – that is the mark of popularity and what will get them fans. I know it is hard to be special and standout with so many people around but many artists are so narrow regarding their compositions and lyrical templates. You have to wade strong and long so you can get into crystal waters and discover those who have their own vibe and do not closely stick to what is already out there. The challenges, therefore, is being able to have that distinction and letting people know about it. Tuplin has already proven himself but will be pitching himself all over again as he readies another album. At the start of every year, critics and fans are looking around for new heroes and  they will want to see who is making the biggest moves. Tuplin has a solid and appealing sound but I would also suggest a bit of an introduction. Maybe a small video or an interview would be a good accompaniment to his incredible sounds and make for a perfect pitch to those recommending artists to watch in 2019.

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The start of any song is vital and important. People are going to be sold in the first few seconds and, if you present something a bit wooden or wandering then they will go elsewhere. Bad Lover starts quiet and then there is a brief moment when you can feel a transition happening. Spirited and racing electric strings have a light feel but there is urgency there as well. Wordless vocals, male and female, sound almost tribal and it is an uplifting and alluring tonic. I got some hints of Nick Cave and the way he can use harmonies but also a bit of Paul Simon in his Graceland period. It is unusual to start a song with harmonies and something melodic because most artists go in with lyrics or they let the music hover in the ether – leaving the harmonies and moments like this to the chorus. Tuplin makes sure he grips people from the outset and you are always wondering where the song is headed. Tuplin’s delivery, when he comes to the microscope, has a quick and matter-of-fact sound and barely pauses for breath. It seems like Tuplin could be broken-hearted and twist what is inside him out and spit venom; he could complain and blame someone else and he is contemplating how to progress. You sense a slight wink and commentary regarding songs and how there is always this need to accuse and find fault with the other party. Maybe Tuplin is predicting how people will react to the song – he is blaming the girl and what she has done – and the opening lines subvert expectations and, instead, ponder and show a little bit of humour. The voice has that deep quality that gives the words seriousness, but the composition has an airiness and playful, tactile nature that balances the mood. If we are naming names - I know that is an easy thing to do – then I can hear bit of The Divine Comedy and The National.

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  PHOTO CREDIT: Richie Phillips

The vocal and deep tones remind me of the U.S. band but it is Neil Hannon that comes through. That sense of wit and intelligence; his accent and way with words, I feel, has made an impression on Tuplin. It seems like there is this devil inside him and something that keeps coming out. Whatever has happened in the past is happening again. Maybe he is in a new relationship and Tuplin can see patterns emerging. Rather than accuse her of being a mess and screwing him around; I get the feeling the man is looking inside himself and unable to resist the urge to be a bit mean. The chorus harmonies give the song its relief and, in a way, causal humour – after such strong and personal words, we get this rather cute sound – that makes it so rich. I know there is some blame regarding his lovers but Tuplin is looking at himself and wondering whether he should keep some emotions and temptations locked away. The hero talks about the cosmos and altering lives and feels, rightly, it is personal decisions and what we know for sure that affects our actions rather than the heavens. The girl seems to be patient and knows what she is in for but Tuplin seems to be more solid and secure on his own. Perhaps that is a harsh conclusion but the ease of compatibility has not come to his door. I get the sense there are these moments when things got serious and he is unable to invest himself. All the great songwriters that Tuplin might be drawn to – from Nick Cave and Tom Waits to Neil Hannon – have found happy love but they have worked hard and long to find that security. I am not sure whether Tuplin is in a long-term relationship or whether he is finding himself going through the motions time and time again.

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The contrast between the fast-flowing and deep-voiced lines sit nicely against those flowing and harmonious vocals. One feels the hero is looking for a sense of comfort and satisfaction but might not be seeking something permanent right now. Even though he is quite open with his thoughts; I was left wondering whether the blame – regarding the temporary status of his affections – lies with the woman or with himself. There is culpability on both sides but it appears Tuplin knows he has flaws and does not seem to be too cut up about his fate. Bad Lover is a delirious, serious and humorous song that has these contrasts and these voices working and blending together. Although the track seems to whisk by quickly and delivers its message without much pause; you will come back and listen to it time and time again. Tuplin has a couple more tour dates and you will get a chance to see him in his element. I love Bad Lover and feel it has that classic edge to it. I have only mentioned songwriters like Nick Cave because Tuplin can match them and leave you wanting more. He is so different to what is out there at the moment and makes you wonder what comes next. I cannot wait for his new movements and see how he follows Bad Lover. Listen back, too, to Tuplin’s previous work and see all the wonderful stories and strands that play alongside one another.

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I have talked a lot about Tuplin’s various qualities but there has been some constructive feedback. I do not usually bother doing that with artists I do not feel have longevity and potential for growth. It is clear Tuplin will continue to evolve and make his way to the top but I feel a quicker way to get into the collective consciousness is a bit more detail. His photos are great but maybe another shoot will come the closer we get to the release of his album. The visual side is great – rare to find among current artists – and the sound is incredible. Having a few interviews or putting something out that would accompany what is already available would strengthen his foundations and be attractive to new fans. It is hard to know how much to give away and what to say in this streaming age but I feel it is easy to strike a balance between too much and too little. The music from Tuplin is turning heads and, in years to come, what people remember and listen to. There are so many musicians who will fade away but I know Tuplin will continue to work. You can mention artists like Nick Drake, Nick Cave and David Bowie when thinking about his sound but Tuplin is his own man – but he does have qualities of these great icons. I have not encountered too many new artists who have so many appealing and interesting facets. I know many new followers will come the way of Jeremy Tuplin next year and Bad Lover is a great examples of why people are raving. Maybe I have been a bit hard in places but it is only because I am invested. I have met so many similar and predictable artists this year and most of them will evaporate from the mind and not be remembered. Tuplin is someone who continues to impress and strike and I feel he has an opportunity to make some huge steps. Bad Lover might seem like a negative title and something that will drag you down but, even after one listen, it is clear we are dealing with a very...

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 PHOTO CREDIT: Holly Whittaker

PROMISING artist.   

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Follow Jeremy Tuplin

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TRACK REVIEW: The Wild Things - I Think You Can Do Better

TRACK REVIEW:

 

The Wild Things

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PHOTO CREDIT: Marcus Maschwitz 

I Think You Can Do Better

 

9.6/10

 

 

The track, I Think You Can Do Better, is available via:

https://open.spotify.com/track/4oPcy277XcBR7ZfE06SPpm?si=bEhTCwcZR0S0EfR_RUj5pQ

GENRES:

Rock; Alternative

ORIGIN:

London, U.K.

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The album, You’re Really Something, is available via:

https://open.spotify.com/album/6gneTPou4zH5gJvmeIXNz9?si=tE2_WQw-QXi9mKUvCiB9xw

RELEASE DATE:

23rd November, 2018

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WE are coming to the end of the year…

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and there are some late charges for the ‘album of the year’ title. Most artists bring out their records during the spring or summer, if they want to make a big impact, but you do get some good ones later in the year. I will talk about release dates but, when thinking about The Wild Things, I will cover sounds and the variety that others lack; female-fronted bands and, again, the talent that is out there and not being represented; a bit about fun and adventure in music that elevates it from the stale and ordinary – I will end by assessing The Wild Things and why they have so much potential. It is interesting looking at albums and when an artist releases them. It makes sense to release them in the warmer months because, psychologically, we are in a better mood and temperament and that can have an effect. For mainstream artists, they sometimes time their releases around award ceremonies or so they do not clash with another big act. A lot of times it is about scheduling and when albums are ready to go but, if you look at the best/best-received albums of this year; most of them pre-date, say, the start of this month. The last couple of months of the year do sometimes see great releases but most tend to come before the late stages. I am not sure whether one can track this through every year of music but, largely, artists are putting out their records before the weather gets too savage. The reason I mention this is because it is always good to have something to look forward to, musically, that isn’t Christmas-themed. I have digested all the brilliant albums that have arrived this year – from IDLES, Christine and the Queens and the like – and you have only the inevitable slew of Christmas-themed songs and carols to ‘look forward to’. I like the classics like anyone else but do wonder why musicians tend to go quiet at this time of the year – whether they feel people are not in the frame of mind to give them full attention.

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The Wild Things, happily, have brought us some late-November treats. Rather than have to suffer some Christmas album by a celebrity; the world gets to experience a fresh and original album that has the bones and front to challenge some of the established order. I know the guys have been concocting and formulating their material for a long time and this was the right time to release the material. A lot of the songs that appear on You’re Really Something have a vibe that would not sound out of place in the summer climbs. There is energy and vibrancy to be found and I think it is a masterful stroke releasing the record now. We get to experience something genuinely warming and uplifting and, at the same time, witness an L.P. that makes a late bid in terms of the best from the underground. One of my biggest gripes, when it comes to albums of the year and the best out there, why unsigned and lesser-heard artists are not included in the remit. I know I am wandering a little off topic – I shall find my map and wander back onto the path soon! – but this year has seen some fantastic albums from smaller artists that can ably challenge the higher order. The Wild Things’ album is the result of Syd, Cam; Rob and Pete working their bottoms off and putting their everything into the final result. The sensations one absorbs whilst listening to the music is hard to describe and it is a masterful work – as I shall explain a bit later. They have made a great decision releasing the album now because we have this brilliant and bold album to enjoy and it puts them clearly in the mind as we look to 2019. Because the album is box-fresh; one excitedly wonders where The Wild Things are going and where we can catch them on the road. Look at their videos and you get so much imagination and brilliance. One will have their favourite cuts from You’re Really Something and wonder if these songs will be released as singles. In essence, you have this band who are ending the year with a bang and, in doing so, getting many lips wet with anticipation. Festival organisers will be looking and I predict next year will be the biggest for the London-based foursome.

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 PHOTO CREDIT: Marcus Maschwitz 

Like Piglet leading Winne the Pooh home after he’s had one too many dips in the honey jar – it’s early so you’ll allow me some odd deviation! – I have talked a lot about that one subject but it was interesting to me so it is something to consider. Let us, instead, investigation variation and soundscapes in albums. This is something I get obsessed with and wonder whether there is an argument for artists taking a closer look at someone like The Wild Things. You get albums from artists big and smaller that have an identity and original voice but, a lot of the time, the music sounds rather one-dimensional and unadventurous. The tracks have different lyrics, of course, but the sonic impression is very samey. If it is a Folk album then you might get a lot of the same calm; Rock albums with the same riffs and speed and Pop records that are either relentlessly introspective and anxious or imbued with empty cheer and sugar-sweet sentiment. One wants to discover artists that can push things and show a bit more diversity. It is not betraying your vision and voice by mixing emotions and providing the listener with something broader. What has ruined a lot of potentially potent albums this year is the absence of colour and spark. If one looks at a song like I Think You Can Do Better – or the album itself – then you can detect a band who have a real ear for sound and mood; they can keep things fresh and enticing. Flesh & Bones is a different beast to Loaded Gun; Devil’s Witness and Where Flowers Grew protrude from different soil. Each song is incredible and full but you do not get the same aesthetic and mood with each. Lesser acts would simply alter their riffs or add in little details and not really expand their horizons. Whilst You’re Really Something is not as bat-sh*t-mad as The Beatles’ eponymous album in terms of its sonic leaps and variety; there is plenty of range and wonderful moments that keep things thrilling and fresh. More musicians should take note!

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 PHOTO CREDIT: Marcus Maschwitz 

This sense of adventure and confidence, so early in a career, could come off as ambitious and ill-conceived if the band did not have the fortitude and chemistry to back things up. It is the closeness and communication within the band that means they can take these big steps and have great ambition. Beside the fact Cam and Syd are siblings; you have a tight and democratic band that have a lot of affection for one another. Too often, one person’s vision dictates things and you can get a rather one-sided and samey sound that is being directed by a single voice. There is fun and friendship within The Wild Things’ camp and that translates into their music. Syd might be the lead voice but the guys each have a say and there is a lot of trust to be found. Because of this, you have songs that sound organic and thrilling; each player puts their all into it and the band has that common objective. They want to create music that is distinctly them but does not stand still on the same spot. The Wild Things can mix softer and more emotional moments together with bigger, bold tracks that show their teeth and rip your knickers off. They can also stretch out instrumental moments and toss in some big riffs; a few nice little kicks here and there to bring us heady, colourful and unpredictable music. I have not got the time to give the album a proper review and do it justice but, having listened to every song, I can attest to the fact it is one of this year’s best records and wins you over from the first listen! The guys have played sold-out shows and big venues like Islington Academy and that experience and reception they have gained means it goes into the music – unafraid and confident to put their vision and true selves into the music. The fans have given them love and passion and the group have grown in confidence as writers.

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 PHOTO CREDIT: Barney McCann

I will talk more about the exceptional sounds and originality of The Wild Things but their biggest asset, I feel, is having Sydney Rae White as their lead. That might sound insulting to the lads but, with her acting experience and range – dramas and comedies like Uncle mean she can bring that into the music – you get this in every song. A fantastic and natural actor; White has that advantage with regards story and plot in tracks; she has a naturally wide range and brings physicality to every track. A lot of musicians are able to act but, as an actor, White brings something extra to the party. Not only does she have a full emotional and sonic locker but her personality shines through. I find a lot of all-male bands rather charisma-free and you often do not get a lot of interesting vibes at all. White stands out because of her humour and charm. She is engaging and funny on social media; has a girl-next-door look but, actually, there is proper spunk and toughness in her heart. It is a wonderful blend that is not faked or put on for effect – this is a real star and someone whose personality and easy appeal is not the only bonus. Listen to the way she sings and how she emotes; the sheer confidence and passion put into every line and how she makes you feel. A talented musician who can write stories like no other...someone who leads the band with grace and fire. The rest of the group, of course, are no second fiddle but the fact they have a female voice at the front is their biggest strength. Look at the recent announcement regarding Leeds and Reading’s headliners for next year and there are four male acts! Not only is the quality rather dubious but there are no women to be seen. I fear Glastonbury will make the same mistakes and I wonder why, time and time again, there is that reluctance to hire female headliners.

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There is no rational reason behind the decision so it seems ‘tradition’ is the only answer. We have great female-fronted bands like Wolf Alice but there are a slew of great female solo artists – from Pop acts like Lorde and Dua Lipa to Beyoncé and St. Vincent – who could do a wonderful headline set! I feel, personally, women are leading music and producing the best albums. This quality and talented is not being rewarded with a chance to play the biggest stages. The Wild Things have ‘headline slot’ written all over them and, whilst it is too soon for them now, there will be the time when they are primed and I wonder if festivals will respond. I am seeing so many brilliant female artists coming through and I do have the concern that they will not be taken seriously. Syd White is someone who can own a stage and has as strong a voice as any man in music! Maybe The Wild Things will get a Glastonbury call in a couple of years but the band have the potency and talent, soon enough, to be considered for the headline slot. I feel someone like White has a much more appealing and intriguing personality than most out there – I have just thought of another diversion, if you will allow me a few moments?! I will finish this section here but, on the subject of female performers and potential, there is that star quality around Syd. I have been musing why there has never been a biopic made about Madonna. I am not sure whether White is a fan but, in terms of looks, she has a Madonna vibe. White’s personality does not have the spikier nature of Madonna – perhaps that is why something has not been brought to the screen! – but there is that same sort of stature and interest. I look at her and you have someone who gets into the heart. Similar to Mads; Syd has that ability to switch genres and guises easily; there is a fashion edge – an artist who can adopt different looks and rock them all – and a natural human who can win you over because they are so much more than all over musicians out there – they have, as I said, that star quality. As much as I’d like to see White as a Madonna film version – whether she is even a fan of her music – my point is you have someone can own the stage, win over minds and warrants headline attention. Alongside the band, we have a wonderful, complex and easily loveable artist who can pave the way for other women in the industry.

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 PHOTO CREDIT: Martin Allen

The cascading and flowing guitar notes that open I Think You Can Do Better remind me of the great acts of the 1990s. There is something a little Britpop about the opening notes; a sense of classic and familiar that is put through The Wild Things’ prism. Rather than race in with something too intense and fulsome; they guide us with this evocative and cool sound. Just as you feel the song will carry on the same lines and explore the guitar sound more; White comes in with the song’s title. There is a bit of American accent with the delivery and it is almost like a Californian teen telling her friend she could do better. That mixture of 1990s Britain and Californian-American gives the song these two sides that work together really well. In fact, when the band step out and the song bursts into life, you get these two sides combining into something really strong and intoxicating. The strings and beats stagger bite and snarl and you, again, get a lot American influence. The riffs are intense and the entire band combines in this thrilling and addictive sound. Before the vocal comes in, you have been captured by this exhilarating and thrill-ride smash that will move the body and get the head nodding. There is a heroine that is skipping down as a form of redemption. Things that make her scream are, according to White, better drowned and ended – so that she is clean and renewed. The use of language and imagery makes me wonder what the story is. Maybe there has been a bad relationship and this toxic bond and, rather than confront it, the heroine is fleeing and feels she needs to get away. No names are mentioned but I get this instant feeling something destructive has played its hand. Lyrics of burning houses and salting the earth builds on that destruction and loss but I wonder if it is purely about a relationship. One can interpret the words as a heroine getting away from a bad guy and ensuring that rotten flower does not re-bloom but I wonder whether there are wider considerations.

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 PHOTO CREDIT: Marcus Maschwitz 

In these tense and uncertain political times; you can look at the lyrics and the song’s title and feel like it is a shot against those who hold power. Maybe there is an aspect of the destruction leaders cause and how they are leaving everyone high and dry. This might be me over-reaching but I got visions of our P.M. and Donald Trump and how they have sort of screwed everyone. Going back to the relationship side of things and, although there is a lot of bad mojo and poison memories to expunge; White performs her vocal with great consideration for story and impact. She is never too heavy-handed and intense; she has plenty of rawness but you can feel some sympathy in the mix. I love the physicality and energy of the track and how the band manages to keep things sparkling, hot and kicking. The idea of doing better, at first, seemed to apply to a bad boy and someone destructive and, next time around, seems to look at an inexperienced suitor and someone who is not as confident as the type of men the heroine is used to. At every stage, it appears the heroine is making mistakes and not doing herself justice. White brings in some cackles and laughs that add yet more colours and personalities into the song. She manages to mix straight delivery and seriousness with humour, oddity and layers. The song has a distinct story and sense of drama – many songwriters write in a flat way and would perform a similar song with very few original ideas (like The Wild Things do). The chorus – burning houses and salting the ground – seems to be this mantra and addictive coda. It is quite intense but has a singalong quality and melody. More and more, the political side comes to my mind and I do wonder whether The Wild Things are assessing leaders and what they are doing to the world.

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Take what makes you scream...” is one of the standout lines of the album and has this catchy and classic vibe. I mentioned embers of the 1990s before but there is something vintage – in a good way – when you hear The Wild Things. One gets that classic and brilliant sound that seems to be lacking from a lot of music. Everyone will have their own vantage point and view of the song but I feel I Think You Can Do Better is a shot against leaders and those who make decisions but has its roots in a bad relationship. Maybe it is taken from personal experience but the openness/oblique nature of the words means everyone can make their own mind up. On first listen, you are caught by the addictiveness of the song and what the lyrics mean. You go back to experience that hypnotic chorus – and see if there is any fresh revelation – and you will keep spinning it to get to the bottom of things. I was caught by the sheer quality of the song. That might sound insulting but I mean it sort of pops and settles right away. It is one of those complete songs that could have been taken from any classic album of the past. The authority and confidence the band put out is amazing and there are plenty of other examples on You’re Really Something that have the same sort of beauty and brilliance. I wonder whether others will take away the same impressions and feelings as myself or interpret the song in other ways. I went straight back in and was minded to think more fully about the political and social aspect of the song. Perhaps there is this concern regarding the state of play right now and how we need to rise up. Certainty, few can say those in power are speaking for us or doing a great job and I do wonder whether, in fact, there needs to be this people’s movement. There is a lot to take in and weight up and that is the beauty about a Wild Things song. I Think You Can Do Better is a fantastic cut from a remarkable record.

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I have talked a lot about various aspects of The Wild Things and the only reason I highlighted I Think You Can Do Better for special consideration is because it’s my favourite choice. Tell Me Why and Better Off Alone is great but, true, every one of the dozen tracks is great. It is hard to pick favourites because of that consistency and natural brilliance and I know how hard the band has worked on the record. You’re Really Something is an epic record that is one of this year’s best and I am fascinated to see where the band go next. I have been following their singles and looking at how much hard work they put in and I do hope as many people as possible listen to their album. Going forward, I think next year will see big festivals and gigs come their way. It is a great time for them and, with the album the band has laid down this incredible declaration. I have heard some brilliant mainstream albums this year but not so many from newer acts. That is not a slight against them but there has been little that can rival the best from the big guns. The Wild Things, in November, have put out this wonderful album that can proudly sit alongside treasures from the heftiest names! I shall wrap things up in a second but wanted to end by congratulating the band on their development. I came across The Wild Things a couple of years back and knew, then, there was something about them. It is always hard knowing if a band will go on to great things that early and last but I had an inkling. A number of factors have been behind this longevity and evolution. You have this very tight band of friends who have been with each other for a long time and there are no egos in the ranks. The fact they are all so close and have endless respect for each other means the music is a lot more engaging, appealing and nuanced. I think The Wild Things will go on to some very big things and I hope a headline slot awaits them! There are problems with the industry and it needs to be addressed. If you need a great record to end the year with an explosion then you need to get involved with You’re Really Something.

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 PHOTO CREDIT: Marcus Maschwitz 

FILL in later.  

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Follow The Wild Things

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TRACK REVIEW: Beth Macari - Boy

TRACK REVIEW:

 

Beth Macari

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PHOTO CREDIT: @montanalowery 

Boy

 

9.2/10

 

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The track, Boy, is available via:

https://open.spotify.com/track/5mmpb2akzWdtvVsdC50oPo?si=Dq4tqiTHS3amqBU8xWbNgw

GENRES:

Soul; Funk; Pop

ORIGIN:

Newcastle, U.K.

RELEASE DATE:

2nd November, 2018

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IN the New Year…

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PHOTO CREDIT: Lee Dobsob

I am going to move away from reviews and written interviews and focus more on the audio/radio side of things. I am rounding off the last of my submissions for this year and moving away from this type of review. It is not because of a lack of interest but I have found myself drawn more to older music and what came before in terms of fascination; something in the brain that is drawing me more to classic sounds rather than the new. Before I do step aside; I get to look at an artist that brings a few points to mind. Beth Macari is someone who makes me wonder whether there is an upturn and development in terms of Pop; artists who create some sense of mystery and intrigue; major festivals and gigs that can add so much to an artist’s work; varying work between releases and keeping things fresh – I will end by looking at Macari’s work and where she might head next year. I have complained because Pop has become too insular and inward and there is a lack of fun. One of the reasons why I feel older music holds more relevance and interest is because you get that emotional spectrum and strength. It is not the case that all popular artists are moody and write about their heartbreak but I am finding too many (artists) who are being too introspective and emotionally fraught. Beth Macari is someone who writes from the heart and is no stranger to being let down – that sounds bad but her experiences are the same as all of us. I know it is tempting to write from the soul and be honest but if you are sticking with the same thing all the time then it becomes rather boring. When the new breed came through – such as Sigrid and Billie Eilish – we were promised something fascinating, mature and exceptional but, largely, other artists and genres have taken more of a spotlight. I am more drawn to Hip-Hop and other genres at the moment but I feel something will change soon.

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Macari is someone who is not reserved in terms of her sound and can switch between Pop, Soul and other sounds. One of the things I am noticing about modern Pop is the splicing of other genres. It is always impressive seeing artists who can switch and mix their sounds but, more often than not, these experimentations provide little longevity and memorability. It is hard making an impression when there are so many artists around all competing; all trying their own thing and trying to gain ground. Macari is someone who has been in the music business a little while and is keen to do something fresh with every song. What I hope, for 2019, is more follow Macari and what she is doing. You have the more emotional and revealing songs and the spirited, rousing sounds. Rather than do the same thing all the time, you have an artist who can adapt and alternate when the mood calls for it. One of the problems with the mainstream at the moment is you either get too much moodiness, depression and anxiety or there is the more uplifting sounds that have very little substance. If we are going to remember artists years and decades from now, we need to urge something more substantial and detailed. I am hearing a lot of empty songs and predictable moments; something rather ordinary that does not remain in the mind. When you listen to Beth Macari, you notice something more personal, deep and interesting working away. I am not sure whether we will be humming Boy decades from now but, paired against what is happening in the mainstream, there is a lot more colour and memorability. This is important because we are going to remember those who showed a bit more bravery and variation in their music. I have every hope that Macari will keep producing this kind of eclectic and bold music because, it seems, it is really striking a chord.

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PHOTO CREDIT: Rhiannon Banks Photography

I will talk about acclaim and those backing her work but it seems like there is a bit of mystery regarding Macari. Maybe it is brevity in the social media age but there are few artists giving a lot away. I suppose interviews are the way of finding out more but it seems the music is there to do the talking. I have covered this before but it appears very few artists are putting out full biographies. It would be cool to know where they are heading and where they came from. I would like to know where Macari came from in a musical sense and which artists inspired her growing up. If I was going into music, I would have a bit about which musicians are my favourite and albums that compel me. I would add in details and facts; some rare insights and do a bit of a full-on piece. There are some who do this but, largely, social media pages have a few lines of basic information and that is all. Maybe the listener does not need to know too much but journalists need that information so they can get to grips with artists and what they are all about. Perhaps giving a lot of information directs how we view the music and what we take from it but I feel like there is little revelation given by artists. Macari is someone who appeals and has that incredible sound and I am interested to know how her career started. This lack of obvious reveal provides some mystery and, I guess, it focuses our mind on the music alone. Perhaps social media, and the way we use it, is a way of talking about ourselves. Macari reveals what she is up to and her latest news but what about her early life? The seed would have been planted early in life and I am curious which artist or album spiked that interest. I can tell you my story and when music came to me and, when you look at a new artist, it is always handy having a bit of background.

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PHOTO CREDIT: Rhiannon Banks Photography

In the case of Macari; I feel we get a lot of information through the music and maybe holding something in reserve means there is enigma. I have interviewed her before and got a sense of who she is and where she has come from and there will be many out there who want to know more about her. Unless there is a radio or print interview; few of us will ever get a real sense of what an artist is about and what their history is. Maybe, in 2019, as more material comes to light, we will get something fleshed from Macari but it is nice, for now, having a bit of mystique – we need to fill gaps and use the music to paint pictures. It is a bit of a tough thing to call. On the one hand, you can give a lot of information and background and that will give us a distinct image. If you let the music guide our mind then we will get another impression. I am a fan of those who put some biography together but, what I can glean from Macari’s biography is that her music has struck a chord and been backed by Gaby Roslin. Championed on BBC London and BBC Radio 2; you sense a certain vibe and sound from Macari. There is that maturity and depth but that is not to say her music lacks youthfulness and the ‘cool’ that is required from stations like BBC Radio 1. I can get a view of how her music is being taken to heart but what of her influences and favourites? Which musicians compelled her to get into the industry and write her own music? I wonder if that revelation means we think of that artist too keenly and it distorts our viewpoint. Maybe the social media age means we are providing little detail but, given the fact Macari regularly updates her pages, you can forgive the lack of biography.

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Macari has followed her debut single, Clone, with Boy and you can feel a change and evolution. The former was a more emotive and heartbreaking offering whilst Boy has that fizz and determination. Not only are the early offerings turning head and capturing ears; the fact Macari has appeared at major U.K. festivals alongside Melanie C, Jessie Ware and Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds means there is that experience and stage presence. She has learned a lot from the artists she has performed alongside and that will be brought to new music. It is hard getting big tours and prominent stage time so early in your career but Beth Macari has achieved this already. It might be a little while before she headlines but I can see that coming. You can tell from her music that she means business and has the confidence to take her sounds around the world. Right now, she is building her U.K. presence but the Newcastle-born star has accomplished a lot so far and made some impressive moves. I will end by looking at her movements and plans for next year but I am amazed she has had this big exposure already. Maybe that sounds insulting but I have heard of few artists who have supported and played alongside artists as big as Macari has so soon. This means the music is resonating and connecting with people – a guide for those who are coming into the industry. I know every artist wants to tour and attack the big stages but they have to wait a long while for that to be realised. Macari has already had this sort of acclaim and experience and this will work wonders for her future music. If you can get onto a big stage and play alongside some great artists then you can learn directly from them and get a chance to play your material to a large audience. The confidence that comes from those times means the mind will be opened and the songwriting ambitions grow.

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 PHOTO CREDIT: Daniel StarkVicky Hedley

It is always vital to keep changing between releases and not keep rehashing things. I find modern artists, largely, do not have the mobility and eclectic nature one might hope for. Mainstream artists fall into this trap but the very best are able to have their own identity and be able to create a range of different songs and themes. I am one who likes artists who have colour and diversity but I can understand the importance of consistency and focus. Many feel getting too wayward and switching between genres means we will not get a sense of who they are and it is harder for the music to remain in the mind. If you have an artist who is changing and pushing things, is that going to be as memorable as something more consistent and familiar? One of my main issues with modern music is the rather downbeat and samey. There is nothing wrong with being emotional and true but there is a real danger of alienating listeners and bringing the mood down if you keep producing this. Macari is someone who understands this and does not follow a lot of her peers. Rather than accusation, blame and a lot of anxiety; we have a chance to see her in a more positive state and backed by a lot of energy. I am not sure where she will head next but I am excited regarding the possibilities. If you do have variation and a spread of sounds then it means you can appeal to a wider audience and grow a larger fanbase. Maybe the odd song will not engage you but, before you know it, there is one that will get into the mind. I will move on in a minute but I wanted to talk about location and artists who are exploring the North.

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So many artists locate to London because that is where all the business is and a lot of the bigger venues are down here. I find this saturation and busy build-up can make it tough for any new artist that is moving to London. How do they manage to make an impact if there are so many others going for the same prize?! It is a tough industry and I can see the appeal of moving to London. Apart from the expense and crowded streets, there are those venues you can play at and plenty of stations that can play your music. It is understandable artists are attracted to this gold and shine but many are ignoring the pull and appeal of the North. Macari was raised in Newcastle and she plays a lot in that part of the world. Many assume radio and the media will overlook them if they are based in the North but I feel social media allows that connection regardless of where you are based. Maybe a lot of the mainstream press outlets are London-focused and big music awards are given, mostly, to artists down South but that will change. What is great about the North is the growth and stability. A lot of the best-loved venues are remaining open and the streets are less crowded. The friendliness is there and you have a different vibe. I have spent time in Manchester and know how strong the music scene is up there. There is a solid media scene and it is possible to get noticed and have your work shared. The same is true of Liverpool and Newcastle and I do not feel you need to move to London. Social media, as I said, is a way of getting your music to the masses and directly connecting with the world. Beth Macari is someone who does not need to spend a load of time in London and can play in the North and get acclaim down here. I know 2019 will be a big year for her and she will continue to grow.

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PHOTO CREDIT: Rhiannon Banks Photography

Rousing and skipping strings open Boy. There is something almost Classic about the introduction that suggests we might see something symphonic and grand arriving. A lot of modern Pop/Soul tracks tend to have electronics or a predictable start but Beth Macari subverts that and gives us an elegant and spirited start. When she comes to the microphone, there is something romantic and tender in her heart. She wants the hero to hold her closely and whisper in her ear. You get a picture of the two embracing and that need for togetherness. Maybe the bond has broken or they are coming back – or maybe this is an existing and strong relationship that is being celebrated. Before further explanation is given; you lean into this vocal and the musical combination and get drawn in. There are little aspects of singers like Hannah Reid (London Grammar) in Macari and you have that same grand and tremulous sound. It seems the hero has a secret and Macari wants to share it. Rather than push away a sweetheart and be depressed about a broken relationship; you have this more positive and upward-looking song that seems to revel in the purity of a relationship and what it provides. Syncopation replaces something more linear and slowed and the compositional tone transforms from Classical and romantic to more Pop/Electro-based and intense. Few songwriters shift pace and tone in a song but Boy has a definite sense of movement and progression. It seems like we have moved from the night-time and that sensuality to the light and heat of the new day. The heroine is talking about this faith and belief the boy is the one and this could be something solid. When we get to the chorus, there are bubbling beats and chorusing electronics that have this flame and kick. It goes, again, to another plain and there is something club-focused or beach-based. You can definitely feel something more intense coming through – it is a summer-themes and sounding single released in the autumn.

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You cannot accuse Beth Macari or lacking invention and mobility and she is always keen to keep her songs moving and bring the listener along with her. I am not sure who the eponymous hero is but it seems like there has been regret in the past. Perhaps Macari has been let down and disappointed by boyfriends but this seems to be something more special and sustainable. I am one of those people who feels artists get too caught up in romance and something they think is pure and will last. The nature of love songs has changed through the decades and there is less romance and personality. That is not a shot at artists but you get nameless lovers and rushed sentiments rather than something sweeping and focused. Maybe grabbing attention and getting something simple across is what is required but, while you are drawn to the positive vibe and uplift, you are never sure of who the boy is and whether they are serious. The heroine feels like this bond will last but who is this character and is he someone she wants to settle down with? Maybe it is a case of a youthful heart and lust disguising attraction for love but you cannot argue against the belief she has and she is willing to give things a try. Maybe the lyrics are not as deep as you’d imagine but perhaps that anonymity gives the listener the chance to interpret how they feel and get what they need. You are captured by the energy of the song and how it kicks. Our heroine has that passion inside her heart and she wants the hero to stay another night. I am not sure how things ended up and what the outcomes was but these imploring notes and sentiments come from a very real place. Rather than rush or do waste this chance; she wants the man to come over and watch the stars.

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I am not certain whether the two ended up together and if they were happy but this initial stage and seduction catches the eye. Boy is a song that seems primed for the mainstream and could easily sit alongside what is out there at the moment. It might take a few listens for the song to be fully absorbed and settle in the brain but it is exciting hearing the song come to life and explode. By the end, you come back to the beginning and investigate the song again. I am interested to see where Macari heads next and whether her next single will have the same sound and energy as Boy. Even though the weather is chillier and the days are shorter; Macari has summoned something that has a summer-time swing and fizzes from the speakers. Even though the hero of Boy is nameless, I get the sense something real will develop and things can last. Macari is an artist who had made some big strides and is not comfortable repeating the same thing time and time again. This is good to see in a modern artist and it means her next release will have many curious ears trained its way. Boy is a song that can lift you when needed but also score and guide any number of situations. It is not often you discover a song that has that nimbleness and can stick in the head.

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I have spent a lot of time talking about aspects of her work and her new single, Boy. I have heard her two tracks (so far) and it is interesting seeing where she might head. Given the difference between Clone and Boy; where might see step next and what will another single contain? I can imagine Macari stepping into a more Soul-based territory or doing something similar to Amy Winehouse. Perhaps she will provide something inward-looking and emotional but I feel, as the weather will start to warm up, I guess there is going to be that energy and need to provide something hot. I guess there will be an E.P. but I am not sure when that will arrive. Touring is an important thing and Macari has played some big gigs already. Many artists start on humble foundations and have to wait a long time for their shot and it can be frustrating waiting so long to get a break. Something about Beth Macari has led to this popularity and growth. I think next year will be a big one for her and we will see more material. So far, there have been great reviews and praise from big names in radio. I am hearing a lot of new music and different stuff but finding, more and more, artists are not really as eclectic and bold as they could be. It is difficult stepping out of your comfort zone but the only way you will remain in the memory and remain is doing different things and changing it up when needed. I shall leave things be in a minute but I like what Boy says and how it sounds. It can easily fit into the charts or on radio but it is distinctly the work of Beth Macari. It is not a replication of what everyone else is doing and something rather predictable.

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PHOTO CREDIT: Rhiannon Banks Photography

She is an artist that has potential to endure for years and succeed and I am compelled to see where she steps next year. This year has been a busy and successful one and she will bring that into 2019. I have seen many promising artists come out and sound like they could remain but then they lose momentum. Beth Macari is someone who has that spark and strength and I feel she has the width of talent to be able to keep going and stay in the public consciousness. I am not sure how long it will be until she hits the mainstream but we need more of her energy and talent there. I am finding too many rather languid and sad artists making music that is dragged down and easy. There are others who provide something upbeat but it does not linger and there are relatively few that manage to strike a great balance and have genuine class. Macari seems like someone who can join the biggest artists and craft herself as a modern star. Ensure you listen to Boy and get involved with it. It is the end of 2018 now so Macari will wind down and get time to relax but, before then, she has some gigs and is keeping busy. Check out her social media and follow where she heads. She is making a name for herself in the North but there are plenty in London who are backing her work and playing her. It has been an eventful and interesting time for Macari and I am pleased she is providing such quality to the music world. I will keep an eye out for her next year and what she comes out with next. Boy is a sign that suggests Beth Macari is a name you will be reading about...

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PHOTO CREDIT: Rhiannon Banks Photography

YEARS from now.  

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Follow Beth Macari

TRACK REVIEW: RUEN - What I Need

TRACK REVIEW:

 

RUEN

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What I Need

 

9.6/10

 

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The track, What I Need, is available via:

https://soundcloud.com/iamruen/what-i-need

GENRE:

Alternative-Rock

ORIGIN:

Margate, U.K.

RELEASE DATE:

31st August, 2018

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ON this outing…

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I get to look at a track that has been out there for a little and get to focus on that rarest of musical opportunities: resonance, nuance and time. To be fair, the reason I have only just arrived at the feet of RUEN is a busy diary – this has been in there since August! RUEN is the moniker of Margate-based producer Rhiannon Mair and it brings me to the topic of female producers; artists whose music strikes chords and reveals itself over time; L.G.B.T.Q.I.A. artists and equality in the industry; those who have managed to create a solid foundation and gain respect in the industry; a little about female artists coming through who have the potential for longevity – I will end by looking at RUEN’s future and where she might head next. I am familiar with Rhiannon Mair’s work in the capacity of production and have reviewed a fellow producer, DIDI. DIDI is the professional name of Lauren Deakin Davies and the two of them have worked together in the studio. I covered a few of the same topics when reviewing DIDI but I feel it is worth revisiting on this occasion. RUEN, despite the four-letter, upper-case name, is a different artist to DIDI so there are other areas to explore. Another reason why I have held this review back for a while is to allow What I Need the chance to settle in and do its work. With reviews, you are charged with that immediate reaction and distilling a song in very few words. Artists spend time crafting music and labouring overs its sound. They will go through hours, days and weeks – sometimes longer – of fettling and retuning before they arrive upon something that, to them, sounds just so. It is a hard process getting a song from your head and making it sound perfect on the page. It seems odd that people, whether critics or the public, spend such little time with that end result.

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Maybe they will keep the song in their mind but so many of us give it a quick glance and then, once we have heard it once or twice; the song is then archived in some playlist or it is forgotten about completely. In a way, music is being treated like wet wipes or tissues. There is that sense of the disposable, I mean. You see fewer and fewer people really returning to music and exploring it down the line and that is a shame. In the case of RUEN; I have been following her for a bit but it is only recently that I have given her music a good listen and explored it from different angles. I think we all need to allow music the chance to unfold and seduce without giving it a brief window for impression. If we try to capture its essence in a brief window and are reluctant to let it swim around the head then how are we going to do that artist proud? Is it fair they should spend the time on the song whilst we, for free, pass it by without much of a glance?! I don’t think so. For that reason, it has been good to give What I Need a proper shout and let it work away. I will explore the song in detail later but, before I get there, I wanted to finish on this point of nuance and time. Music is huge and growing; we are seeing more and more artists come through and I do wonder, in the future, how many of the current crop we will remember. It is a shame we are so keen to flick through tracks and get onto the next one – there are so many great sounds that are worthy of fonder investigation. I have been listening to RUEN and, after a little time, you can hear that production experience and intuition come in. A lot of artists self-produce but there is a greater awareness and skillset in the bones of Rhiannon Mair.

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I need to talk about equality a bit because, whilst the music is the most important thing; look at the imbalance in the industry and it does raise questions. I have been campaigning for ages for festivals to think carefully about their booking policies and why so few women are selected as headline acts. I feel festivals like Glastonbury will go down the same path next year as they have through time. We can all rattle off a list of female artists who have made a huge impact on music and are doing so right now. They are visible and out there but, for some reason, overlooked when it comes to those headline spots. It is frustrating but I hope there are positive changes sooner rather than later! In terms of production and women in studios this, too, is an area that is of concern. I know so many female artists who self-produce and then there are producers like Mair who has worked with some exceptional talent. She has worked with Bryde, Laura Marling and Emma McGrath and is one of the hottest producers on the circuit right now. When people talk of producers, invariably, a man’s name is mentioned and we often overlook the fantastic female producers. Maybe the imbalance is due to this feeling the studio is for the boys and there is no space for women. Some studios are like that but I feel there is a lack of exposure and education. If you use people like Rhiannon Mair as examples of fantastic producers who are doing sterling work; how long before we see young women/girls getting into music production? If one simply ignores the problem then there will be no resolution. I know there is a slight shift in terms of men-women as producers but it is quite gradual. Mair is one of those producers who will be around for years and get to work with some wonderful artists. People know about her work but there should be this drive to promote gender equality and emphasise the fantastic female producers around.

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I feel RUEN’s music has this advantage because of the two personas. You have this artist who has a particular sound and vibe and the producer who has worked with fantastic artists. Being able to have that knowledge of the studio and sound is a big advantage. I feel all artists should get some basic background regarding production and learn the skills needed to succeed there. It is okay working with other producers but why wouldn’t you want to give yourself the chance to producer your own material? I think having this option is invaluable and can give your music so much potential. Producers are the unsung champions and pioneers and we need to show greater respect to them. I know there is a lot of love for Mair in the music world and her skills as a producer means the music has that effortless and professional sound. Mair has gained a lot of respect as a producer but, as an artist, it seems like RUEN is turning plenty of heads. BBC Radio 6 Music has got behind her and there is a lot of positivity flying about. This is no surprise but I hope she capitalises on this. Maybe there will be another single soon but, as it stands, it seems like new songs will come next year. One thing I do bring up with artists is the matter of social media and awareness. This is another review where I have to, briefly, concentrate on two common themes: photos and updates. In terms of the former; there are some shots out there – most are used in this review – but there is so much brilliance in the music of RUEN that can be exploited and explored through photography. It is nice for artists, in general, to have some updated snaps and explore with different settings. Most of RUEN’s shots are black-and-white and, whilst this might be part of an artist vision, it does create this somewhat grey wallpaper and visuals alone can put some people off. I am not saying there needs to be a lot of colourful photography but there do need to be some fresher shots out there.

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The same goes for updates. RUEN is a fantastic artist and is making strides but there have been few updates on social media in the past few months. Even if you are between singles or not touring at the moment, touching in with followers is crucial. It does not need to be a ramble or vague comment: letting them know about your plans or sharing your material (so that fresh ears are alerted) is an essential consideration. There have been few updates like this from RUEN and, as we head into 2019, there will be people looking around for artists to follow. Given the fact she is this producer and rising star; it is paramount she puts something out before the end of the year or ensures people are aware of her music/name. I do have this fear, in spite of great music, it will be hard to recruit new fans and radio stations if there is not a more regular promotional drive. Perhaps she has a team behind her doing this but, before we get to 2019, a few more updates and bits of news would be good to see. Those are my only criticisms because, regarding the music, there is not a lot to fault. I have talked about the production side of things and how impressive it is to see artists produce their own work. Whilst there is a distinct sound you get with RUEN; Mair’s work as a producer and the artists she has worked with sort of feeds into her own material. I can hear little bits of others, Laura Marling for sure, in What I Need and that is pleasing to hear. Next year is going to be a busy and exciting one and I know RUEN will have plans regarding new material and movement. Although sexuality is not often explored in music; I wanted to briefly look at the subject and why, again, it is an area we need to focus on.

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Rhiannon Mair is an L.G.B.T.Q.I.A. artist/producer and someone who has not felt stigmatised or excluded because of her sexuality. Although it has not been a big issue for Mair in the industry, I feel few people concentrate on L.G.B.T.Q.I.A. artists and give them as much footing. One might say by highlighting them you are implying they are special or deserve extra footing. What I mean is that there are fewer L.G.B.T.Q.I.A. artists and producers being given a platform. I speak to artists who feel that they are unable to express their sexuality freely through fear of judgement and ignorance. It is a shame that, in 2018, there are some quarters unwilling to embrace sexuality as this natural thing that has no barriers and is the same. Why there is this unacceptance and ignorance regarding sexuality is beyond me but, in music, I am often concerned the mainstream is not set up to accept messages around homosexuality and bisexuality. Throw in asexuality and other preferences and could that really nestle alongside the predominantly heterosexual makeup of the industry?! Whilst RUEN does not hide her sexuality and feel it is a barrier; I wonder whether the music is a muted in terms of what she wants to express. One hears so many artists talk about sex and relationships without much coyness and hesitation. It is not often I listen to the radio and hear love songs and sexual expression through the lens of an L.G.B.T.Q.I.A. artist. A lot of songs have disguised tones and ‘she’ is often replaced by other words. Maybe some are not concerned with response but there are many who feel, if they were true and open in their music, that would cause some repercussion. RUEN has felt, as a producer, there is that need to prove herself but has not felt hindered and ignored because she is a woman. I do wonder whether sexuality is one of those ‘taboos’ that the music industry is not willing to discuss.

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It is okay to write songs of love and sexuality without being too overt and explicit but it is rare one hears sexual variation in the mainstream. We get a lot of heterosexual perspective but, childishly, there is sniggering when we hear songs of two women in a relationship. You either get a juvenile and male reaction – they are aroused or immature – or some feel it is a salacious and attention-grabbing ploy. If a male artist was frank and passionate about a love and put that out into the world; would that get the same airplay and appreciation as a song that talked of a heterosexual relationship? Maybe I am pushing this a bit far but, with the likes of RUEN breaking barriers and showing incredible skill, there needs to be discussion. She herself has said her sexuality and gender is not much of a barrier and she works as she pleases. That is good to see but I have this inkling there is a part of her brain that is being blocked by conventional demands in music – that L.G.B.T.Q.I.A. artists are open but not TOO much. The respect Rhiannon Mair/RUEN has gained in the industry cannot be ignored. CLASH magazine have praised her and there is a lot of love for her music. Having worked alongside the likes of Laura Marling is no minor achievement. RUEN, in her latest song, does put a female energy into the world and talks about sexuality so I feel, to an extent; there is this lack of hesitation. Maybe we will see much more openness and a lack of judgement in music in years to come but there is a distinct determination, sense of expression and confidence one hears on What I Need. I feel she can lead other artists who, before, have felt the need to be reserved regarding songs of lust and pure passion. I know there is a huge amount of respect for RUEN’s music and what she is doing and I know 2019 will be a big and exciting year indeed.

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I have not really mentioned the sound of her songs and voice. There have been comparisons made to PJ Harvey and singers like Karen O. That would be a good place to start and I feel, as I have discussed festival headliners and quality, these women have been trailblazers and icons for change. PJ Harvey, especially, is that endlessly inventive and bold artist who creates music like nobody else. I feel, actually, if you need a Glastonbury headliner then she would be someone to keep in mind. I am not sure what my exact point is but I just needed to throw that in. Actually...I feel that PJ Harvey-like sound is one unexplored in music and has a very pleasing and exciting quality. RUEN has her own voice and dynamic but you can detect that smokiness and sharpness; a raw ability to get into the heart and open up the mind. I have talked about the L.G.B.T.Q.I.A. and a lack of willingness (from others) to allow expression to come through but, on her latest single, RUEN is rather unafraid to talk about hooking up with an ex and that sense of regret – or just getting something off of her chest. Mixing these themes with a voice that has so many different colours and emotions is wonderful. I hope there is a lot more material next year and I feel there are very few out there like RUEN. Make sure you get involved with her latest track and explore her social media. I guess I better get down to reviewing What I Need and its wonder. Before I do, I wanted to implore the industry in general to look at the mainstream and those at the top and the sort of sound being put out. Maybe this is a futile effort but still, in this day and age, we are bowed and obedient to a rather one-dimensional heteronormativity. Most songs are about heterosexual relationships and I feel there are so many L.G.B.T.Q.I.A. artists waiting out there who feel reluctant to be truly honest in music. Look at the imbalance and under-appreciation of female producers and these are things that can be explored and discussed. I shall leave things there but I felt it was needed and vital to talk about some of the problems in music. Let’s turn to the positives and get to grips with RUEN’s new (newish) song, What I Need.

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What pleases me most about What I Need and its opening is the sharpness and sense of clarity that emerges. A lot of songs are either too polished and its gives the vocals a rather unnatural and false quality or the vocals are mixed so far down they are unable to connect. From the very first notes, it is like RUEN is right close to the microphone and we are hearing her sing into our ears. That might sound off-putting but there is a tangible closeness and sense of physicality that comes right through. Eliciting sighs, hums and a smoky wordlessness; the heroine talks about her ex and the fact there is this powerplay. Maybe her lover is not missing her and says that everything is fine since they split. One senses that is a bit of a lie and there is that need to play games and call the shots. RUEN is wise to this call and feels like there is a coyness and sense of seduction. It seems RUEN has power in the relationship and there was equality; there was a definite lust and love when they were together but now, for some reason, denial is coming through. I am not sure what has caused this breakup and sense of push-and-pull but there is that spark still. There is little instrumentation and encroachment in the opening. It is RUEN letting her voice twist and seduce as the words come out. Just as you think you have the song figured out and know where it is heading, it explodes into life and kicks in the groin. There has always been electric guitar strumming but, as we head to the chorus, there is a slam from the drums and the guitar steps up. You get a real burst of electricity and drive and you are stood to attention. It seems there will be some begging and sense of control and you sense too distant lovers who are playing games and not willing to surrender.

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RUEN talks about how things used to be when her girl used to be under her feet and there was that satisfaction. Now, for some reason, things have changed and there is a more combative tone. Maybe this is all part of the tease and gameplay. The composition is bold and rampant and the combination of strings and percussion provides that stamp and swagger. It is a big and meaty sound that is perfectly thrust forward by RUEN’s voice. There is spark, captivation and boldness on her tongue and you can feel the sweat and tease mix in this rather potent and frantic cocktail. I love how crisp and clear the production is and how there seems to be this perfect mix. The instruments do not bury the voice and the vocal is not resigned to the back. Instead, you have this equal footing and equalisation that means the song sounds more fulsome and balanced. RUEN has her regrets and doubts but she has won the right to own this. I love how there is an oblique and teasing nature where you are not told what causes this divide and why there seems to be this new game folding out. There are shades of PJ Harvey, Sheryl Crow and Karen O when we hear the heroine talk of the relationship and how things have changed. Maybe the sex and that lust took precedence over more emotional clarity but I cannot be certain. I am making guesses but it seems like there has been a quarrel and bad time and the two are drifting. Rather than moving on and denying the bond that was there before; there is a sexual flame that is still burning and different stories emerging.

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It seems like the sweetheart has forgotten the heroine and is denying how good things used to be. It is impossible to ignore the strength and physical nature of the song. Whatever has happened before; RUEN is willing to surrender to the tension and, if needed, she can compromise. It might not go as far as begging but there is that definite tease coming from the girl. It is exciting picturing that playfulness and the swagger from RUEN. The big and chunky composition gives the song its sexual flair and kick and you are helpless when it comes to its charm and pull. By the end notes, you have that hunger and thirst that needs to be satisfied – coming back to the song and learning new things. It is an exceptional and confident offering from RUEN. Rhiannon Mair has been producing for years but, as an artist, RUEN is fairly new. There are no nerves and loose edges and you have this song that sound unmatched in the modern scene. I know PJ Harvey is still recording but there are not a lot of other female artists who have that same sound.  I am eager to see where RUEN heads next and what direction she takes. Make sure you are aware of what RUEN is putting out and get involved with What I Need. It is a late contender for my song of the year – from new artists – and I am glad I got around to reviewing it!

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Rhiannon Mair will be winding this year down by chilling a bit and producing but, in musical terms, I wonder what will come next. It is exciting to see whether she is working with any big names in the studio in 2019 and what she has in mind. I would like to see more RUEN music and, maybe, an E.P. I know it is early days for her and she has put out a couple of singles so far (Bad Behaviour is her other one). If she can get a few modern snaps on social media and keep the followers abreast of developments on a more regular basis then that will help keep that intrigue there and mean new people come through. There is so much competition out there and I feel RUEN has natural advantages and edges. Not only is there that production quality but you have a songwriter talking about something genuinely fresh and under-explored. I hope we get to see the exciting, bold and pioneering voice of RUEN explored more in 2019. Being a solo artist is hard and, with so many others out there, putting your stamp into the world can be challenge ring. RUEN has already captured some big ears – I meant prominent radio stations rather than Gary Lineker or Martin Clunes! – and that will carry on next year. What I Need is another confident and compelling work that warrants a lot of love. I am glad I got to review the song a couple of months after its release because it allows all the layers and tones to fully come out and do their work. Make sure you get involved with RUEN and follow what comes next. It is a great time for her and I am pretty excited to see how she follows What I Need. If you are need to of musical direction and a new path then I suggest a brilliant...

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ROAD to RUEN.  

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Follow RUEN

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TRACK REVIEW: Jessie Munro - On My Own

TRACK REVIEW:

 

Jessie Munro

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On My Own

 

9.4/10

 

 

The track, On My Own, is available via:

https://soundcloud.com/jessie-leith-munro/04-on-my-own

GENRES:

Electro-Pop; R&B; Soul

ORIGIN:

Los Angeles, U.S.A.

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The E.P., On My Own, is available via:

https://open.spotify.com/album/5JPnOkhObOdg84w3WqCBAO?si=VD3Vs6mdRHWKGPpjBqaeBA

RELEASE DATE:

28th September, 2018

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THIS time around…

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I will talk about the climate of modern Pop and Electro and look at Jessie Munro in the context of Los Angeles. I will discuss suggestions for her to strengthen her position in the scene and talk about a maturity coming through in music and taking a different angle on a very common subject; those who start with a Classical mindset and can add that into the music; a little about songs that remain in the mind and what 2019 might hold for Munro. I wanted to start off by talking about modern Pop and Electro and a problem that has formed at the moment. Whilst Munro does not fall into this trap – and hope she does not – I am worried there is an environment around her that is not good to see. I will look at this later in more depth but it is not only the mainstream that can accused of a rather sad and fatigued sound. You do not have to strain your ears too much to discover something pretty down and insular. It is happening more and more: artists pouring out a pain and leaving any sort of fun at the door. Music has been turning that way for a while and it is happening a lot in terms of underground artists. I am not sure whether it is a case of people seeing that as a popular and natural sound but I do wonder where the energy and interest has gone. I hear too many artists who tend to pitch their tent on a particular sound and vibe and it is hard to shake that off. I understand the need to document your feelings and truth but that is coming at the expense of any positivity and fun. I am not saying music needs to be a constant carnival but it would be nice to see some more cheer and hope emerging right now. Jessie Munro has to talk about love and breakup, as I shall get onto, but there is something more vibrant and fulsome.

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You get a full-bodied and eclectic sound with her and, whilst the themes can be quite challenging at times, the mood is never brought down and you feel like she wants the listener to take something positive away. There are times, naturally, when she has to dip the lights and get a bit emotional but the sensation is never too heavy and moody. Instead, you get an artist who can talk about post-breakup considerations and discuss love without getting into clichés and that rather dour sound. As I said; I will talk about this later in the day but I am concerned by the modern scene. It is not all genres that are culpable: Hip-Hop and Rap are, as always, not interested in wallowing and try and add as much fun and energy into proceedings. One might say there is anger and aggression in a lot of songs but that is part of the culture. The fierceness and confidence of the artists is what makes the music so exciting and compelling. So many new artists are falling into the Pop/Electro mould and, with it, you tend to have this particular sound. The same, to an extent, is true of Folk and Indie. All of the different genres grab more attention (than Hip-Hop) and, as such, there is that samey and rather gloomy outlook. Munro is someone who wants to remain personal and accessible but does not want to get too caught up on being too depressing and revealing. I can appreciate why artists want to pour themselves out on the page but, if you compare the mainstream not to, say, 1993 and you can hear vast emotional and dynamic differences. Time and technology should not have changed the emotional spectrum of modern music as much as it has but, here we are, listening to artists who have forgotten how to look up and get away from the personal. The reason why I wanted to look at Munro’s music is because there is something working away that strikes the mind and lifts the mood. It is the way she injects soulfulness into the mix and brings those interesting compositions together – someone who is showing plenty of spirit and hope.

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Los Angeles is an area of California that has experienced bush fires and loss over the past few days. We have all seen the news regarding the devastation and how things have turned there. It is horrifying to think of the loss and destruction – and the man in power who is doing very little to change things. Whilst there is geographical and personal loss in the state; the musicians of Los Angeles are as strong and eclectic as ever. I hope they are not affected too much by recent events because, as I have said time and time again, it is a fantastic area for music. Maybe there is that leaning more towards Electro and Pop whereas, in New York, I tend to find more Rock and Alternative bands; not to mention Hip-Hop and Rap artists. There is a natural sunniness and warmth in L.A. that is going to affect the music. It is one of the downsides, I guess, regarding the warm weather and sunshine – events like the bushfires will happen. In music terms, there is a lot to be recommended right now. Every time I interview an artist from Los Angeles, they say there is that support among musicians and there are great venues to play. Whilst we are suffering losses in the U.K. and many venues are shutting their doors; Los Angeles’ vastness and comparative wealth means a lot of their best venues are remaining open and encouraging musicians. The economy there is better and that is providing hope and comfort for the new breed. In terms of the sound and sensations coming from L.A. and California; I am amazed by the sheer endeavour and ambition of artists. Even when they are in the Pop/Electro headspace, you get this sense of individuality and boldness. A lot of British acts can be quite samey and plain but, in L.A., that extra fizz and layer of brilliance comes through. Maybe it is coincidental but I know there is a community and sense of freedom in L.A. that you do not really get anywhere else.

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I have talked about the area many times before so I cannot bring fresh angles to the party. What I will say is that every time I get to assess an artist from the city/state, I am blown away by the sound that comes through. The range and sheer breadth one finds somewhere like Los Angeles is amazing. In a music world where the negative sounds outweigh the positive; it seems like Los Angeles’ artists are trying to do something a bit different and provide some strength. It is interesting see the new generation come through and what they are offering the world. I wonder how this will grow and change in years to come. What I like about Los Angeles artists is their willingness to go off the track and not copy what everyone else is doing. Although Jessie Munro was born in Canada, she is taking to the L.A. way of working and producing something great. I have taken a while to get around to this review – her E.P., On My Own, has been out for a while now – but that sort of works in my favour. In terms of sounds, everything starts to come to the fore and reveal itself after a set amount of time. I am finding new revelations and positives emerge; sounds pop and show themselves that were hidden before. I am not sure whether that is the direct influence of L.A. or it is something Jessie Munro has taken from her own life. Whatever the reason behind the nuance and build, I am glad I got to review Jessie Munro and investigate her current sounds. Before I come to look at her sounds and why she is standing out, there are a few things that could be adapted and added to ensure her music and online profile is spread as far and wide as possible.

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I have been getting tough on people requesting interviews because, a lot of the time, the standard of responses is lax and poor; the time taken to get the written responses to me is huge and the images I am being sent are sub-par. What I say to everyone is to look at what they are putting out there and how they approach interviews and ask whether it is the right way of doing things. Most of Munro’s online portfolio is great but, in order to exert even more influence and strength, there are a few points to note. Images and updated shots are always on my mind and it is the biggest flaw for a lot of artists. Some have reacted angrily when I have pointed this out in reviews – which is fair enough – but it is for their good and not a criticism. What I look for when doing pieces like this are sharp images and having a choice when it comes to shots. You will see some good shots in this review but I had to collate quite a few of them from Google – a lot were not included on Facebook and Twitter. Munro is someone who pops on camera and is extremely photogenic and there are so many different possibilities that could be explored regarding photos. She has a few current shots online but a lot of her photos are from a little while back. People like me are going to be drawn to images before the music itself. More will go out of their way to do these big pieces on artists where there are photographic choices. It is not too expensive getting a shoot organised and I wonder whether artists need to address this more. One of the most important things they can do is to get regular images online and make sure they are as sharp and focused as possible. Music is so much about images nowadays and taking care of that visual side. You can have brilliant music but if you do not consider photos and getting a range online then that will have a damaging impact.

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Everything about Munro’s music is fine and great but there is that need to know what she is up to and how things are going. I know her E.P. is out and she promoted it when it arrived but there are new fans and followers who can be recruited. Putting out regular updates and sharing tracks from the E.P. would hook new listeners in and encourage her current fans to share the love. I am familiar with her music but there are many out there who have not heard it. Getting in contact with radio stations around the U.K. would give her a good footing here and, whilst she does have a team behind her, the artist needs to take this on board and keep active. Even if it is a case of posting something on Instagram or updating fans regarding tour movements, it is essential to keep busy. Her Twitter feed has not been updated for a little while and, to causal observers, that looks like something is wrong or she is quiet. I am sure there are tour dates and plans coming; there is a great E.P. out there and this music people can hear. You do not need to post something every day but this is a whole world to connect with and modern artists need to be keeping their social media feeds fresh and updated. I will not labour these points too much but they are more constructive than critiques. I know how tough it is in the business and the competition that is out there. The way to keep ahead and not fall behind it to concentrate on all areas and, when it comes to journalists and fans, the more information and options they have in front of them (regarding an artist) the more appealing that is. I shall moves things on and get to talking about Jessie Munro and why her music has a maturity and sense of depth.

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I have talked about a certain slump in music and how emotions and negativity seems to be infiltrating every crack and avenue right now. There are exceptions and positives to be heard but, in terms of the mainstream, there is either a vapid air or a sense of depression. Munro could have easily followed that path but, even as she talks about splits and being alone, the music never drags you down. One can attribute this to a maturity and sense of musicianship that allows for an emotional balance and a sense of abiding hope. Maybe she has had her heart broken but the songwriter is looking at better days and aiming for something uplifting. That is rare to see and, whilst I like what she is talking about and how she approaches music, it is the feeling one gets when listening that is most impressive. All of the strongest artists are able to deliver something fresh and familiar at the same time. You can listen to a song like On My Own and, from the title alone, know what it is going to be about. The more the song plays, the more you know you are listening to something new and personal. Munro can present a song that provides that familiar air but she adds in her own blends and touches. She has seduced audiences around the world and one of the reasons for that is because her music has that great balance. One can dive into her songs and find comfort but there are layers and elements that strike you and take you by surprise. I am impressed how she has developed as an artist and how far her music has come on. A lot of the stuff I am hearing right now is somewhat petulant or lacks maturity: Munro is someone who can talk about bitter times and cragged roads and do so with more dignity and intelligence. Many might say a maturity and sense of dignity equates to a boring and rather insipid song. That might be some people’s impression but that is not the case here.

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Munro splices together R&B and Soul and there is that integration of Electro and Pop. All these different sounds could easily have been divided and clumsily mixed but, in her hands, they are perfectly blended and you get this rich cocktail. I said I would mention Classic music earlier and it seems like more and more artists start off in that genre. Maybe it is the natural avenue for many children. When you have an interest in music, you will be guided to the piano and instruments like that. A few might know what they want to do in terms of future music endeavours but the piano and the world of Classical is a good way in and gives you that taste. I think, in many ways, a lot of the disciplines and traits required in the Classical world can be translated and brought into other genres. In the case of Jessie Munro; she got into Classical and musical theatre at a young age and even attended Berklee College of Music. All of this experience has gone into her music and why there is such maturity. You listen to her new E.P. and every song has its own skin and voice. One gets a real sense of adventure and complexity in the music and you can trace a line back to her training and education. I think everything she has learned and absorbed since childhood has made her the artist she is now and means her music stands out. There is nothing to suggest Munro cannot go on and be a big name in the mainstream one day. The competition is fierce and never-ending but she has so many assets and positives working in her favour. I feel she avoids easy traps regarding lyrical themes and sounds and can provide this alluring and deep blend that gets into the heart and under the skin. Munro is inspired by a lot of the songwriting greats and you can hear their inspiration working away.

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I feel a lot of modern songwriters are following the mainstream too closely and getting hooked on what is happening there. We have this very contemporary and fresh sound in 2018 and, whilst there are some great artists to be found, I wonder how many look back and take guidance from those musical greats? Every artist is inspired by the past and the music they grew up around but very few are wearing that on their sleeves. In terms of influences for Jessie Munro, you get the feeling someone like Carole King made a big impact. The way her music gets into the soul and can talk about love and breakup like nobody else...this is something we do not see enough of in modern music. Munro can take some elements of King and her artistry and splice that with modern R&B and Pop. It is an intoxicating and decades-hopping combination that provides her music that depth and strength. I shall move on to looking at a song I was keen to focus on but, before then, it is worth looking at her locker. I can hear Daniel Caesar and Carole King collide; Charlotte Day Wilson and a bit of Laura Marling; there is a nice unity of the old-school legends and the new breed making their mark. I feel it is always the temptation to ape your icons and follow what they did. It is tempting but, if you are too obvious then that can be a danger. Munro avoids this and, instead, seamlessly creates something new. You get these details and little touches in every line but are never too firmly reminded of anyone else. There are few songwriters who have the attributes and personality traits of Jessie Munro. I hope more learn from her and we can see the scene change a little bit.  

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One might expect On My Own to start quite quietly or either race out of the blocks with something quite urgent. Instead, there is a build and tease that takes you by surprise. Rather than do what is expected or what we are guessing; Munro laces in a few gentle electric guitar strums and layers in this rather interesting mood. You get invested and interested and are settled to see what arrives next. The words are delivered with passion and intent and you have this rather soothing sound. Munro’s voice hits you with all its soulful passion and depth. You swim inside the vocal and its beauty. The heroine has faced a lot of heartache and change recently and she is not willing to let all the pain in quite yet. It seems she does not want to forget the good times and the memory of her sweetheart but has to acknowledge things have changed and life is not as she imagined. One might think a rather calm and slow delivery lacks the same impact as a faster and firmer one. The full effect of the emotions come through when things are unveiled with greater care and consideration. You are allowed time to absorb the words and picture the scenes. You get sensations of classic Soul and R&B when hearing the silky and water-flow notes cascade and trickle. I investigate my thoughts and wonder whether the breakup has happened or whether there is still that spark. It seems like Munro still cannot forget the passion and relationship and she might be kidding herself to an extent. Maybe she is unwilling to let it go and fade away. During the day she is pretending but, by midnight, she is letting herself slip. The chorus arrives and you get a rush of vocals and instruments. The composition has that warmth and passion and you get this incredible rush. There is this big declaration from Munro, that she is on her own, but it is never delivered with sadness.

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One feels this determination and strength but there is the acceptance things are not as they were. You are involved in the song and get the feeling she has been going back to her sweetheart and trying to rekindle the flame but things are not as they were. I am wondering whether this is a long-term relationship or something that has just started but, whatever the truth, it has made an impact and the heroine is feeling the force. You get this wonderful blast of Soul that makes you shiver and sigh and the firmness and potency of an Electro backbone. It is hard to put into words but the mix of sounds and sensations is brilliant. The heroine gives time for the music to speak and breathe and you get a lot of story and progression through the notes. There is piano/keys and some subtle beats that provides a smoothness and tender touch. The more the song goes on, the more images flood and you start to present your own interpretation. I was backing the heroine and hoping things would work out but it seems things have gone wrong and there is no coming back from it. Munro is being distracted by something/someone and going through the motions. Maybe she is dating others and engaging in something easy and fast in order to compensate for this loss. It is easy to assume there is this rather reckless behaviour but I feel Munro is trying to resist the temptation to come back to her lover. On My Own is a great offering that you will want to listen to again and again. It forms an important part if the On My Own E.P. story but stands up on its own. I have provided my interpretation of events but maybe the truth is somewhat different. However you envisage the story; one cannot deny the strength and beauty of the song.

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There are a few update happening here and there on her social media but I feel the next few months will be quiet for Munro. She has been busy working on her E.P. and put that out so, naturally, there will be gigs and she will look ahead to more material. For those outside of L.A., it might be a while before we see her play around our way but keep your eyes focused on social media and let’s hope there is news of international dates. She is cementing her name locally and keen to get the music to the people there. I am excited to see how far she has come and what her music stands for. It is a big blend of the old and new, the emotional and positive – how often do we get to say that?! If you have not heard her sounds then check out the On My Own E.P. and all it is about. There is that story of breakup and the stage of discovering that loss and having to deal with it. It would have been easy to write something bathed in misery and anger but, instead, the natural strength and maturity of Munro means the songs keep their head but do not lose their heart. Her six-track E.P. is crammed with life, possibilities and wonderful takeaways. I am curious where she will step next and whether there will be more touring. The demand is out there and, here in the U.K., her name is not as well-known as in the U.S. I think that could change in 2019 and we will hear more from her. As I said in the opening paragraphs; we need to have that social media updating and keeping fans in the loop. It has been a busy time for her but many will be eager to catch her live and find out where she is heading next year. I have enjoyed listening to Munro and her track, On My Own, and can thoroughly recommend the entire E.P. Make sure you get invested and discover what she is all about. There are many artists out there you can choose from but there are few...

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QUITE like Jessie Munro.  

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Follow Jessie Munro

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TRACK REVIEW: Billie Marten - Blue Sea, Red Sea

TRACK REVIEW:

 

Billie Marten

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Blue Sea, Red Sea

 

9.6/10

 

 

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The track, Blue Sea, Red Sea, is available via:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZWgwXocHh1w

GENRES:

Folk; Singer-Songwriter

ORIGIN:

Yorkshire, U.K.

RELEASE DATE:

6th November, 2018

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IT has been a while since I last reviewed Billie Marten

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with a deep and curious pen! Isabella Tweddle (Billie Marten) is back with new material and, ahead of her second album, it gives me the chance to compare and contrast. The last time I gave her a proper investigation was about a year ago and, in her world, a lot has changed. I will talk about development and maturity; the nature of the sound she produces; how colours seem to be pivotal in terms of emotional expression; Folk and how she still leads young singer-songwriters; how emotional revelation and honesty can bond songwriter with performer; a bit about Marten’s future and how her style of music is a beautiful contrast to what is out there. One will forgive any sloppy errors in this review as I am currently suffering from sore muscles...or something like that. My rib cage is aching and it is hard to bend at the moment; like I have been given a good beating but have, in fact, been sitting down a lot. I cannot blame old age (…as I am thirty-five) or anything ‘naughty’. It is a bit of a mystery but, luckily, Billie Marten’s music is providing balm and comfort. There is a lot of great music out there in the world and, more and more, artists are competing against a packed environment; doing everything they can to get ahead and get their music noticed. There are many things to love about Billie Marten – I shall bring more of them in later. I was one of the first to get to Writing of Blues and Yellows (I make it sound like I was the first cop on the scene of an R.T.C.) and marvel at its profound beauty and maturity. The then-school-age Marten had released this album into the world without trumpeting, the carnival of modern promotion and any sort of ego. This was a strikingly talented, if modest and shy, young artist who had collected together original songs (bar one cover right at the end) and, yeah, that was it. Such a lack of fuss and hoopla might have been a dangerous move in 2016 but, wonderfully, it harked back to what music should be about: an artist going in with a proper album of brilliant music without the need to rinse it through the digital wringer!

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What I loved about the album – and was keen to highlight in my review – was the sheer grace and beauty of Marten’s voice. One could hear little elements of other singers but, largely, it was the Yorkshire-based songwriter being pure to who she was. Tracks like Emily and Heavy Weather are, remarkably, still in my head and I cannot get over the rousing beats of Green; the images one provokes when listening to Teeth (Marten, one suspects, pouring her heart out on the piano in a quiet room) and the fabulous little oddities about the album – I think, at one stage, one can hear her dad mowing the lawn in the background! Marten’s music, like my writing to an extent, rewards those with patience and the desire to listen to music without skipping and being distracted. I was appalled critics did not place Writing of Blues and Yellows in their end-of-year top-fifty countdown. Some pretty crap albums made some lists – whatever tat Robbie Williams had that year broke The Sun’s top-fifty! – but I did not see Marten’s name come up! It was a shame and I wonder why that is (she did not make the lists). She was, I think, sixteen at the time so maybe the naivety of youth was a consideration; the songs did not explode and pop the same way Beyoncé did on Lemonade. She was not a mainstream artist and there was not these endless promotional spots on T.V. and radio. What one got, instead, was a pure Folk/Singer-Songwriter album in the spirit of Nick Drake’s Bryter Later, John Martyn’s Solid Air or Joni Mitchell’s Blue. Marten, after the album was released, toured around the world and allowed the songs to resonate and romance. What has happened in the distance between the debut revelation and this modern day?! Well, in terms of sound, as I shall explore, there have been minor additions but that reliable Marten gold remains pure and bountiful as it did back in 2016. The biggest change, oddly, is the lack of radical change. I half-suspected a lack of widespread critical bosom would lead Marten into a dark corner: reinventing herself as an Electronic artist or producing the same sort commercial Pop one would get from Rita Ora or Dua Lipa or going a bit mental.

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Typical of a woman who keeps her roots, family and musical ethics close to her soul and warm; her first ‘new’ single, Mice, arrived a few weeks back and, as I drew breath worrying she might have gone a bit Ora-ble and Pop-y; Marten, wonderfully, was the same girl we’d always known (a White Stripes pun/switch), albeit it one with a more matured voice and a new story to tell. Now, on Blue Sea, Red Sea, Marten has delivered another gem from the as-yet-untitled sophomore L.P. The teenager is someone whose music puts one in mind of classic songwriters and you can imagine her, in this digital age, writing music/lyrics on paper, reading an assortment of her favourite books and composing music, largely, the same way my idols like Kate Bush and Jeff Buckley would have done back in the day: some crutches of the studio but, true to them, the analogue warmth and something simpler. I would not have minded were Marten to go a bit Electronic – I think she could produce something akin to James Blake and be able to pull that off – but we might get something like that in her album. The most striking aspect of Marten, in 2018, is her artwork and looks. Writing of Blues and Yellows (and covers for singles from the album) were art pieces; beautifully designed images that had a romance, Parisian edge (strange, but I always think Marten would be happiest in a Paris apartment with art on the wall and a record player in the corner) and something striking. Promotional images of the songwriter saw that long blonde hair hang and a slightly shy, if intrigue, look present. It was a homely, modest and élégant teen who stuck out against many of her peers – who were flouting flesh, pouting and trying to thrust their image down the throat. The hair is still long and blonde but, with a little lick of rebellion, I notice a nose ring. The young woman we fell for on Bird (Writing of Blues and Yellows) seems different, physically, to the one we hear now. Not that Marten has gone full-bold and tattooed herself and shaved her head but it is a nice touch to show she is still the same person but there is something new. Similarly, promotional images for her singles Mice and Blue Sea, Red Sea, see water play a role. Mice’s cover is Marten in a lake with wet hair and a focused look; images around her latest cut see insects on her face and this rather alluring/haunted look (it truly does combine the two). Whilst we are not hearing a reinvention akin to David Bowie in the 1970s or Madonna in the 1990s; Marten has evolved in some areas and is, as you’d expect, reflecting who she is as a woman.

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This visual and physical evolution does not, as I say, mean the music has compromised its ethnicity and dynamic. One listens to Blue Sea, Red Sea and trace a line to the debut-era Marten. What is most obvious about the music is the lack of change. That might sound contradictory but attention, a couple of years and an altered lifestyle/routine has not lead Marten down a wrong path. She is, as I imagined, a woman who still writes in her bedroom and loves curling in with a good book when the rain lashes against the window but there are touches here and there. For instance, as I shall explore more; the lyrics have kept the same narrative voice (in the sense that they are personal songs on a common theme) but her linguistic mindset has changed. It is hard to explain but there is something more striking and urgent about the words. On Writing of Blues and Yellows, there were tales of doomed heroines and something tragic but there was the poetry of weather and a lightness that suggested, when all the excrement hits the fan, the heroine could get out into the Yorkshire air and find sanctuary. Maybe she could be warmed by her mother’s embrace or, after all the emotion has come out, she could find some light. Not that there is fatalism in the modern work of Marten but the passing of time has not provided much relief and release for Marten. One might feel a raising profile and the relief of a well-received debut would have afforded her some happiness – and I know she is grounded and satisfied in life – but the writer is as raw and open as she was a couple of years ago. Water and other images make their way into the music more; there are slightly starker lines here and there but the same woman – slightly older but the same Billie Marten we love – is here.  

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The biggest regret would have been for Marten to change who she is, musically, or let any sense of personal struggle affect her progression. I mention how her music is as honest as ever but she has added new elements into the work. I associate Writing of Blues and Yellows with the homemade sound, a sparseness; a combination of piano, guitar and voice with a few other elements thrown in (some strings here and there with some percussion). There were some backing vocals (by Marten) but, largely, it was a Folk-based album that framed the vocals more than anything. I think now, more than anything, the lyrics are in the spotlight more and the music/vocal side of things has evolved. Maybe Marten wants the power of the words hit more than the beauty of her voice because, when I listen to Blue Sea, Red Sea, the images and personal poetry stand out most. There are new sonic touches (new instruments and the production sounds is slightly bolder; backing vocals more striking) and it was important for Marten not to repeat herself but keep her core intact. Colour is important when it comes to Billie Marten’s music. Her debut album, obviously, has yellow and blue in the title and, to me, that seemed to represent fear/sunshine and unhappiness/the open sky. Other songs seemed to have that pastoral and riparian colour scheme. You could smell the Yorkshire countryside and its bloom but, when the lights were dimmed, the colours of Billie Marten were splayed onto the page. That might sound wanky/psychotic but she writes as an artist thinks. By ‘artist’, I mean one who paints. Rather than define her music in thematic and emotional terms; colour and visions seem to guide her mind; much in the same way visionaries such as David Bowie used to think. Not only were colours overtly references on her debut but her latest single talks of a red and blue sea. I will talk more of interpretation and symbolism then but, instantly, Marten is using colours to make one think and project. I think the ‘red’ could refer to blood or stillness and the blue to escape or depression. Rather than give us long titles (no song she has put out into the world has employed more than four words); she is keeping them brief (cryptic and oblique too) and letting the colours themselves do the talking.

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 PHOTO CREDIT: Liz Seabrook

One thing that stunned me when listening to Billie Marten back in 2016 was how honest and lacking in pretence she was. Given the fact she was (and is) a teen could have meant an avalanche of modern slang, technology and lyrics that focused on sex. Maybe we might get some more salacious on her new album – a new/old/same boy in the scene; the growing woman exploring her physical side more – but it was the charm and earnestness that got to me. You wanted to give Marten a hug and a cup of tea and talk with her; tell her it was all going to be okay and listen to records with her. That sound odd but, without meeting her, I felt like I knew who she was and what makes her tick. I think we share musical obsessions (I actually bought John Martyn and Jeff Buckley vinyl I was going to send her but never did…) in terms of those classic singer-songwriters. We both have various psychological barriers – I am older but, as creatives, our minds are wired the same – and Marten’s quirkiness and humour is something that seems to set her aside from the copy-and-paste, rank-and-file artists that are being rolled out. Although colour and texture are prominent features in her music, the true personality of the songwriter is not disguised. Marten makes references (on Blue Sea, Red Sea) to wishing her mum could come and pick her up. Mice was influenced by a rainy and horrible day where she sat on a bench (in a graveyard, I believe?) and let everything out. Whilst Isabella Tweddle the daughter/student/northern star goes through depression and has struggles; at the end of it, can giggle with delight when seeing an alpaca (she has a love of those) and get excited by the emergence of Christmas; that is not filtered and dressed in fake clothing. The woman away from the microphone is not different to the one behind it. Marten is as raw and revealing in her music as anyone I have heard. You can tell she thinks deeply and has to wrestle demons but she does no use subterfuge and ambiguity when expressing these feelings.

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There are more and more songwriters coming out talking about their emotions and issues – once was the day when it was considered taboo. Marten is frank regarding her struggles but she mixes it together with romance, literature and the comfort of home. Back in 2016, I had never heard anyone like Billie Marten. There were/are young female singer-songwriters like Lucy Rose and Julia Jacklin but the unique scent of Billie Marten is impossible to match. I have seen, in the ensuing two years, a lot of artists trying to get together their own version of tender, spellbinding and emotionally true music. Some have made a gallant effort but, again, there is nothing out there like Billie Marten! This is wonderful to see but I think it is that reflective and un-distilled revelation that makes her such a stunning artist. Even though her second album is not out and the songwriter is tender in years; she has come on leaps and bounds and proven herself to be one of the best young artists in the world. Look at what is out there at the moment and you get nothing quite like Billie Marten. I am hooked on Muse’s new album, Simulation Theory, and it is light years away from Marten. Although songs like Pressure are funkier than out of date milk in Nile Rodgers’ fridge; it does not have the same impact and emotional effect of Marten’s music. I can hear a lot of solo Pop/Folk artists who open their hearts and minds but they lack the same combination and chemistry as Marten. That immediate beauty and distinct accent; the sophistication and accessibility of her lyrical palette and the way her compositions act like characters and voices in a novel are to be applauded. No other songwriter, in my view, can combine those aspects as consistently and effectively as Billie Marten.

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I have mentioned how depression and anxiety are coming into music more...and I will not dwell for too much longer. It would be easy for Marten to write about the rush of passion or the cheating liars who have broken her heart and appeal to the commercial mindset – but that is not who she is. Maybe she has experienced that recently (I hope not) but her songs are largely about her. Writing of Blues and Yellows dealt with third-person narratives in some songs but, in every moment, I felt like these characters and scenes were projections and sides of Marten herself. Maybe the biggest change from her debut is the greater personalisation of her music. Maybe songs – on the debut album – like Bird, La Lune and Emily talked of other bodies but, listening hard, and I feel it is a way for Marten to talk about herself without being too obvious and personal. It seems the two songs we have heard from her upcoming album have stripped away those layers and provided something clearly personal and direct – much in the same way Teeth did on her debut. This year has been a busy and eventful one in music and I feel the biggest impression has been made by female artists. Aside from stunning albums from the likes of IDLES – I feel Joy as an Act of Resistance will top everyone’s end-of-year polls – it has been a year for female artists to shine and strike. From Christine and the Queens to Anna Calvi and Cardi B to Kacey Musgraves; it is all about the strength and personality of the best female artists around. Marten’s debut was overlooked by some back in 2016 but I feel her unflinching honesty and artistic brilliance cannot be overlooked now. Many have already expressed their love and affection for Mice and reviews are coming through for Blue Sea, Red Sea. It would be a foolish reviewer who went in to reviewing her second album with preconceptions, naivety and any sort of negative comments.

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Things start a lot more quickly and urgently than many might be used to. With some bass and a spirited acoustic strum; Blue Sea, Red Sea has that sense of weight and momentum without much flirtation. One actually gets a sense of the waves tumbling and the water churning as Marten, against the grumble and speed of the strings, provides some gravity and comfort. It is amazing to hear her pure and smoky voice contrasted against the composition. It is impossible to deny the sheer wonder of the voice but one can never ignore the lyrics! I have studied her work for a while and the way she employs language and presents images is exceptionally impressive. Here, somewhat unexpectedly, she plugs herself into someone else’s eyes; walks in their shoes and sees the world through their eyes. She likes what she sees and, at once, you get the sense Marten is at sea and lost. Maybe she has gone through a bit of a funk and cannot regain that spirit but she wants to recharge and come back. The heroine is a content fish in a blue sea and swimming along merrily. Rather than sympathise and wish she could get this release and happiness; Marten does not want anyone to love her and feel sorry. Gorgeously backed by (her own) vocals – to create this wave-like beauty and serenity – you feel like the heroine is comfortable in her skin but she needs her distance and time alone. The chorus employs wordless vocals (a series of “la la las”) and there is a delicious combination of strings and bass. My musical anatomical dissection is a little lax but you can hear a nice grumble splice with the skip of acoustic guitar. One can imagine Marten floating in the sea and there is no harm in sight. Maybe it is a rather casual and detached way to a feeling of stress and unhappiness but the heroine is by herself and dealing with her issues the way she wants to.

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After the interjection of wordlessness; we see snow falling heavy and the need for her mum to come and get her. You can imagine Marten covered in snow and looking unhappy; waiting for familiar headlights to hove into view and rescue her. Whereas she talked about a blue sea and the warmth and solitude of moving in her own way; she wants the tranquillity and stillness of a red sea (maybe the Red Sea itself?) so she can feel that weightlessness and not sink. In an instant, you get a clear view: the blue sea is her underwater and feeling submerged whereas a red sea allows her that safety and she will never sink. Maybe I have jumped the gun but that is how it came together in my mind. Marten, still, does not want people picking on her with their sympathies and concerns. I love the backing vocals and how they heighten the song; the echoing and twanging strings and how she has introduced subtle new elements into the work. It is hard to suggest any improvements in the composition – I yearn for the piano – but there are lovely little sounds that come through as the song evolved. Marten wants to make friends with the angels and, whilst it sound fatalistic; there is that desire to be on her own plain and get away from all the crap the world is delivering her. Above all, that need to feel secure and not bombarded is most striking. As she did on so many songs on Writing of Blues and Yellows – including Bird, Heavy Weather; Hello Sunshine and It’s a Fine Day – weather and the sensations of nature are impinging her mood. On her debut album; you got the sense the Yorkshire countryside acted as safe space for her to wander and breathe. She has always used the weather and nature to act as symbols and characters. Few songwriters are as influenced by their surroundings as Billie Marten. She can be honest and revealing through her music but, at every stage, the natural world and its power plays a big part. It is another remarkable offering from Billie Marten that shows she has updated and pushed her sound forward but will not alienate people. The core elements remain but there are new instruments and little touches into the blend; a familiar lyrical bent but told in a fresh way. The extra exposure and attention she has been afforded after the success of Writing of Blues and Yellows could have changed her but, luckily, the young artist is keeping it real and very much her.

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I have taken up a lot of your time so, before it gets dark and chilly; I will wrap things up and get down to it. Check out Billie Marten’s social media pages – all the links are at the foot of this review – and you can see she will be on the road. She is on BBC Radio 6 Music next week (performing for Lauren Laverne, I think) and she will be gigging in the capital (I am keen to see/meet her). The best thing about where she is now is the opportunities she has in front of her. She is supporting Isaac Gracie and Villagers and radio stations such as BBC Radio 1, 2 and 6 Music have spun her music. Marten is not an artist who appeals to a narrow sector: her universal lyrics and connection with the listener transcends age and language barriers and, as such, it seems like 2019 will be busy. I am not sure when her album is due – I suspect it is early-2019 – but there will be more gig demands and possibilities. Marten’s song, Live (as in ‘to live’ rather than ‘play live on the stage’) might have confused some with its homonymic brevity but the heroine wanted to break free and travel across Europe; take some time out and chill. The two years between the release of her debut and the new material has not been idle. She has travelled and performed and spent a lot of time reflecting on her life and trying to make music that pushes her work forward but remains honest to whom she is. That is a hard act to balance and kudos to Marten for achieving that. I am not certain whether Blue Sea, Red Sea and Mice are clear indicators of her sophomore sound but it will be interesting to see. I can envisage Marten playing in the U.S. – she would go down a storm on the West and East coasts – and more of Europe. I am not sure what she is like with long-haul flights but I can also see her conquer Melbourne and Sydney; taking her sounds around the world and seeing new faces. Maybe some would say the emotional rawness and sense of vulnerability in Billie Marten’s would put off some and appear a bit jarring. In fact, we are drawn to her more and can find something familiar and inspiring in her words (an artist being so honest with us); a songwriter who is not willing to compromise and wants to connect with the listener on a very deep and meaningful level. Although Billie Marten has changed slightly – the nose ring and a slightly different look on single covers – it is the same warm and charming woman we have grown to know and love! I am not sure when another single will come but we have the brilliant Blue Sea, Red Sea. Away from the evil of Donald Trump and environmental strain; the divisions in the country and all the horror we have seen in the news; above all of this madness and unhappiness, it is good to have Billie Marten...

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MAKING it all seem better.  

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Follow Billie Marten

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TRACK REVIEW: Mark Harrison - House Full of Children

TRACK REVIEW:

 

Mark Harrison

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House Full of Children

 

9.4/10

 

 

The track, House Full of Children, is available via:

https://open.spotify.com/track/5wZGhzk6PjTEi0FdQufg15?si=1OswB_2xQ1OI5B1jAONBXw

GENRES:

Folk; Blues; Roots

ORIGIN:

London, U.K.

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The album, The Panoramic View, is available via:

https://open.spotify.com/album/7rByyiwKQNsWdP3WTzuNTQ?si=RdUPBF2rSa6zdmYkoLs0jQ

RELEASE DATE:

7th September, 2018

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THIS time around…

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I get to step away from Pop and Electronic music and investigate an artist who has been gathering a lot of acclaim. Mark Harrison is gaining huge applause - and has been for a long time - and makes me consider whether more songwriters need to take from his lead. I want to discuss Blues and Folk combinations and why more people need to give it focus; storytelling and those who can take the ordinary and transform it into something amazing; albums that are packed with great tales and huge adventure; festival appearances and getting a lot of respect from big stations; how older, more experienced artists need more respect and investigation – I will end by speaking about Mark Harrison and where he might head. I spend a lot of time looking at Pop and Electronic artists and you get into a sort of rut. I have been listening to very familiar music for a long time now and it can be a bit samey. It has been great studying them and seeing what is on offer but it is nice to step away from that and look at an artist whose sound is completely different. Harrison is one of the most-respected artists in the U.K. and his music has drawn huge plaudits. Whether he is with a band or playing solo; he is seen as one of the best songwriters around.  I want to talk about his music and why it shines but I am drawn to the genres of Folk and Blues. I guess Harrison is a Blues artist strictly but there is that Folk element. There are great Blues artists who are electric and can summon some passion but Mark Harrison is mostly acoustic-based. His sounds have a gentleness to them but there is plenty of passion and intrigue. I feel most of us assume Blues and Folk will be quite calm and not really register in the mind. We all get into that mindset and do not really venture too far.

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I feel Blues gets that tag more than Folk. Listen back to the classic Blues artists of the 1930s and 1940s and we sort of feel that is what is around today. That is not the case. From Cedric Burnside, who I recently interviewed, who is on the more electric side of the spectrum to artists like Mark Harrison; the genre is flourishing and bright. You have that variation and, at its heart, are fascinating stories and stunning rhythms. I love Blues but feel it does not get the exposure it warrants. There is that dominance of Pop and I wonder whether Blues will ever get the focus it warrants. What is amazing about Harrison is the way he can unite the history and roots of Blues and provide an updated Folk/Blues blend. He reminds one of the classics from decades past but there is a modernity and freshness that brings things right up to date. Maybe it will take a while before Blues music gets into the mainstream but I think we all need to be a bit more open and expressive. If we are too reliant on certain genres and do not expand our horizons then we will miss out on so much. One of the reasons why I think Blues should be given more love is because of the variety available in the genre and the way artists tell stories. I feel Pop is too inward-looking and personal and with Folk/Blues artists like Harrison; you get something amazing and candid. He is a songwriter who can paint pictures and combine vivid imaginations with some incredible sounds. I guess, in a way, we assume Blues might be quite downbeat and too narrow and go elsewhere. Maybe that was the case at one point but the modern breed is unifying all types of emotions and ideas into their music. I shall move on to another theme but would recommend people get involved with the Blues and artists like Mark Harrison.

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Harrison is a fresh and respected songwriter who can tell great tales and amazing stories. One of the reasons his music has managed to spread and gather critical lust is the way he can open up the mind and take us somewhere special. I feel one reason why I am becoming a little cold regarding Pop and Indie artists is because of their subject matter. So many are not getting past their own lives and walls and expanding their songwriting. You want the personal touch and something meaningful but that is not all one looks for. The lyrics have to be broader and, if you stick too closely with your own life; that is going to exclude quite a few. I wonder whether a lot of music has become too depressive and anxious. Rather than present something inward and depressed; Mark Harrison is a bright and resolute talent who can give immense detail and tell tales like nobody else. Even if he is addressing something relatively mundane and domestic; he can add a new spin and do something amazing. I feel one of the reasons why music endures and is passed through time is the words and how they impact us. I worry most of what is being put out now will make a connection in years down the line – so much of it is disposable and can be readily forgotten. Blues artists like Harrison need more of a platform because the music being put out is so much more vivid, inspiring and deep. You can listen to one of his songs and all these visions come to life. That is testament to him as a writer but the vocals are incredible too. One gets the complete package and can hear a songwriter at the top of his game. One can class his music as Blues or Folk but you can call it Roots as well.

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However you see it and whichever genre it fits in; nobody can deny its power and appeal. I have this concern there are genres that will always struggle because of the stubbornness and unyielding rigidity of the mainstream. Consider what is riding high in the charts and on the biggest radio stations and you can see a pattern emerge. The sounds might be quite big and easy to digest but the whole experience can be a little cold and hollow. Are we manufacturing music to appeal to those who want something quick and uncomplicated?! I am seeing artists like Harrison covering genres and making amazing music and they are restricted to relatively narrow artists. He has a big fanbase, for sure, but it one feels that could be even larger were there more tolerance and knowledge of genres like Blues and Roots. It is quite maddening when you contemplate the realities and how the industry is structured. In any instance; listening to a Mark Harrison song is an experience one will not forget. I love how he can weave lines together and the vocabulary employed. There are annunciations and slight accents; words combined one would not think of and a real grasp for story and characterisation. The Panoramic View, his new album, is stuffed full of brilliant tales and seems like a collection of short stories more than anything. The fifteen songs on the record make you smile, think and wonder. There are some great musicians who appear on the album – including Charles Benfield on double bass and Paddy Milner on piano – and one gets this engrossing and arresting creation. The title, I guess, suggests something filmic and story-like but there is that aspect of a wider view – someone not confined and only considering what pains emanate from the heart. One does get some more emotional moments (on the album) but there is a real air of positivity and hopefulness. These commodities are becoming rarer in music and it is nice they are being preserved through the lens of Mark Harrison.

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It would be unfair to say Harrison is a master of transforming the ordinary into the spectacular. The stories he tells are, in fact, quite interesting and there are some wonderful characters to be found. I guess there is a sense of the rooted and traditional in the music. You get these studies and people who one might find in their local village, for instance. He is someone who can tackle the smaller world and expand it into the horizons. Rather than plainly and flatly talk about domestic strife and routine interactions with little thought; like songwriters such as Paul Heaton (The Housemartins, The Beautiful South); he adds wit, heart and intelligence into everything. I look around for those songwriters who can inject humour and fascination into music and, by and large, they are of a certain age. This might sound like I am describing a beloved family dog that is getting a bit odorous and needs a final trip to the vets – I do not mean to sound disrespectful or blunt. What I mean is that the established and mature songwriters are the ones who have grown up around more music, different music, and are at that stage in life where they are not talking about cheap love and the anxieties of youth. Okay; maybe that does sound a bit cavalier and cheap but I have the utmost respect for songwriters who wander off the safe and structured grid of convention and treat their songwriting to something a lot more vivacious and fulsome. One gets history, grandeur; intimacy, charm and routine with Harrison. There are myriad emotions, scenes and voices that play out over the course of fifteen tracks. Having that amount of tracks might be a gamble for an artist but, as he proves, Harrison can keep you invested from the first notes of One Small Suitcase (the opening track) until the close of Hooker’s Song (the closing song – I will let you listen so you can hear whether it is a rugby player, ‘lady of the night’ or something else!).

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Songs like What Son House Said and Don’t Die Till You’re Dead beckon you in because of the intrigue behind the title. Join the Chinaman is interesting and what, exactly, is that about? It is not a surprise Harrison is respected and has gained respected reviews and play from the likes of BBC Radio 2. He is someone who knows how to get into the heart and make his music strike. I will talk about age, respectfully, in a bit but listen to an album like The Panoramic View and you have these diverse tales that all hang together. The broadness of the scope and geography – he is taking us all around the world and to different lands – is amazing but there is something safe and comforting in every movement. You never feel exposed to the elements of left to face the harsh winds – Harrison takes you everywhere and keeps you warm; he makes sure you are directed but are allowed time to play and explore. That is the mark of a songwriter who prides emotion and resonance over catchiness and commercialism. These qualities should be promoted and augmented so that other songwriters can learn. I am not saying the mainstream needs a complete overhaul but it can benefit from a little refreshment and renovation. Right now, I am seeing too many of the same themes and artists gain gaudy popularity; people flocking to them for no real reason or nothing that suggest real originality and durability. I said how I have struggled to categorise the music of Mark Harrison. Some commentators have called it Folk and others Blues; some say it is Roots music. I feel it is a blend of the three and it would be remiss of me to label it so easily. If you have not investigated all the great songs that are on The Panoramic View than get involved and see what Mark Harrison is all about!

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Things are definitely getting better and bigger and, with every release, Harrison is gaining more ground. I said how I’d allude to the subject of age and why that is important. It seems, when you get to a certain age, only particular radio stations will play your stuff. I have raised this a few times before but you can definitely sense a certain cut-off-point where musicians are only destined for BBC Radio 1 if they are in their teens or twenties; BBC Radio 2 if they are over forty, let’s say, and maybe there will be some leeway here and there. Because of that, there is this division and compartmentalisation that is threatening music. I feel Harrison should be played on as many stations as possible and his music heard by younger audiences. I know he has younger fans but there is nothing in his music that is age-specific and restrictive. Legendary artists such as Kylie Minogue and Madonna have come out and attacked those who are ageist and feel like they should not be played if they are getting older. The sheer experience, wisdom and intelligence one gets from an artist like Mark Harrison means people NEED to hear what he is saying. He has that life experience and, with the touring he has done, the skills and chops to be able to make his music as sharp and tight as possible. Image and ‘coolness’ seem to be more important yardsticks than quality and songwriting ability and nuance. Look at Harrison and you know the man has travelled a lot and gone through some fascinating times. He has met countless people and can translate all of this into music that is startling and bold. Maybe we judge before listening or assume artists are only relevant if they are under-forty (or younger). I gravitate towards those with a few more years on the clock because they have been in the industry a long time and know what people want.

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They can write in a more interesting way and their motives are different. New artists coming through are looking at streaming figures and reaching certain targets. They might be pitching to radio stations and they have numbers/markets on their mind. Harrison, one feels, is a traditional songwriter who want has a solid fanbase and knows he has a great body of work. He still has to think about streaming sites but wants people to take away his album and listen to it in full. Rather than look at the Spotify figures and worry about that; he is concerned with the quality of his material and how it makes people feel. Because of this, the reviews that have come his way – not just for The Panoramic View but his previous work – are amazing. He is seen as one of the biggest and best songwriters in the country and has a great reputation. The festivals he has appeared at – including Bearded Theory and Lakefest – means he has had the opportunity to hone his material and get that direct feedback. Harrison is all about people and tales and is not someone you will hear writing in a formulaic or commercial way. This means his audience will be narrower and less than a big Popstar but the respect he warrants means more. It is all well looking to these big artists who court millions of views on YouTube but how much of the popularity and appeal is down to the quality of the music?! That, when all is said and done, is the thing that matters and is the foundation of the artist. Celebrity, cool and image are nothing to do with that is being put out there and what music is about. I mentioned Madonna earlier and could dismiss her legacy if all people cared about was what she looked like. She courted scandal and tabloids all her career (and still does) but she could back up this obsession with her wardrobe and sex life with fantastic and legendary tracks. Now, you feel there is that compensation. Maybe we all see a genre and assume it will not be for us but we never really go further than that. Listen to these esteemed and established artists like Mark Harrison and you will be surprised and convinced without much cajoling.

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When the opening notes come springing from the speakers like a gleeful train departing the station; you are instantly involved and hooked in the song. That rush and sense of curiosity matches the song’s title and you can physically detect and imagine the children running around. Maybe one should not take it literally but there is that sense something energetic and chaotic is about to come in. Brassy, swaggering and elephantic horns mix with riparian, delicate strings to create this sense of rambunctiousness and rush. The hero comes to the microphone and, unexplained at this point, has a house full of children. They are running around everywhere and, whilst the music seems to score the sounds and visions around him; the central performance is fairly ordered and he is making sense of it all. There are, as it is said, some grown-up children who think the hero is a fool; smaller ones who do not share that opinion – it seems like there are all ages in this house, mingling and conspiring. Great songs should bring you in and involve you with the story but not necessarily dictate what you imagine. The Blues man cannot sing the Blues because of this house full of children (if we are going with genre-based puns then his ‘Roots’ have been laid because of these sweet ‘Folk’ – or I’ll stop there…) and the joy being provided. That sense of pride and content might seem corny to some but it is a brash antidote to the miasma and unhappiness one can hear in many songs. The composition blends those spirited and rushing acoustic strings with punctuation marks of horns. His second wife is better than his first one – the first one has a long face and is out of the way – and you get that smile as the songwriter brushes aside a rather moody and dour former wife. Things might have been a bit tense and unhappy once before but now they are more settled and positive.

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The simplicity of the song hides the nuances of the composition and the visions one detects. You hear about a man in a house surrounded by children, of various ages, and how his life has taken a turn. I wonder whether there is that desire to go somewhere a little quieter. He is happy the children are around but it seems like the hero wants to get away with his wife and go somewhere a little more reflective. He is telling us about his life at the moment and what he has achieved. It has been an eventful and contrasting life but one he would not trade for anything. The players back Harrison with this composition that seems to summon all the emotions and sounds one would associate with the house. The passion and sway of the guitars mix with the energy and vibrations of the horns; there are little notes and details that summon pattering feet, moody sulks and gleeful abandon. This sort of rich cuisine could only come from a songwriter who has that experience, intuitive ear and confidence. As the song winds down, you can still feel that brightness and contemplation. The songwriter would not change a anything but one feels, as time goes on, he would like to have a bit of a quieter house! I love the little dashes of humour – bigger kids not giving him respect and the miserable ex-wife – and how that balances against pure content and thanks. It is hard to compare Mark Harrison to any other songwriter. There are few who have the same skillset and can write a song that makes the same impression. Whilst it seems rather simple a song; House Full of Children has so much energy, (many) layers and a playfulness that some might overlook. The lyrics are hugely effecting and tell the story brilliantly; the composition adds new layers and visions whilst the vocal takes you in all sort of direction. By the end, I was keen to have another spin and see what new ideas came to mind. The Panoramic View is a busy and eclectic album and you need to listen to all of the songs. I chose House Full of Children because it is a perfect taste and introduction of a songwriter who is able to involve the listener in a song and make them feel better about themselves. That is not a quality to be balked at and, as such, we should all spend some time around Mark Harrison and the fantastic music he is putting out. I hope many will reassess their views regarding genres like Blues, Folk and Roots and become broader consumers.

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I have talked about Mark Harrison and his various aspects and I haven’t had time to review the whole album. There is a general theme to The Panoramic View – in so much as it is a view of the world as a whole – but there are so many different stories and figures that are represented through fifteen tracks! Songs like High John and Mess Everywhere make you smile and think but, to be fair, all of the songs make an impact and do something! I chose House Full of Children because it got into my head quickest and is one of those songs where you keep playing out visions and notes long after it has finished. Keep abreast of Harrison’s social media channels for tour dates and news and do not miss out. He is a musician who keeps his fans informed and is always keen to bring his music to new faces. I hope, in time, we start to break walls down in music and give overlooked genres like Blues, Folk and Roots a proper airing. Same goes for Jazz, too, and I worry we exclude certain styles of music because we have these wrong and ignorant impressions. It is fair enough if you do not like a genre after giving it a good going-over but how many of us do that?! I can write off Thrash-Metal because I have heard a lot of it and have done so for years. I do not listen to one song from one band and turn my nose up like a posh dowager who has been offered a biscuit from Tesco – insolently throwing it across the room with an imperious scowl because it is cheap and nasty! If you appreciate true songwriting, deep thoughts and fun then you need to get behind Mark Harrison. There is that wit and humour that reminds me of songwriters like Paul Heaton and Paddy McAloon (Prefab Sprout). Ensure you listen to the whole of The Panoramic View and go through it song-by-song. It is an album that rewards patience and that complete experience. You will find yourself closing your eyes and drifting into the world Harrison has crafted and painted. The warmth and gravitas of his voice couples with lyrics that are as evocative as they are charming; music that is rich and sumptuous and songs that, once you hear them, will stay in the head for ages. The author has taken a wide and open-minded view of the world. If only the music world in which he reliant on…

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CAN take the same approach!  

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Follow Mark Harrison

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TRACK REVIEW: Louis Centioni - Here I Go Again

TRACK REVIEW:

 

Louis Centioni

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Here I Go Again

 

9.3/10

 

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The track, Here I Go Again, is available via:

https://soundcloud.com/louiscentioni/here-i-go-again

GENRE:

Electronic

ORIGIN:

London, U.K.

RELEASE DATE:

18th October, 2018

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MANY might say that there is…

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a lot of variety and choice in modern music but, to me, I do not feel there is as much as there should be. I can accept there are a lot of genres and different artists working away but if you take a genre like Pop and Rock and, really, how much spread and difference does one encounter? Music is less about personalities and people than it is sound; because of that; it is about what is being put out. I feel like there are some standout artists but so much of what is coming out today is playing along the same lines. I think about Louis Centioni and there is something there to recommend. I will talk about variation and personality in musical terms and then move on to songs that have common themes but a distinct mind; Jazz and a genre that is being reinvented and inspiring new artists; nostalgia in terms of sounds and people and, to end, I will look at Centioni and where he might head. Maybe I am being hard on the new crop but I miss the days when you could encounter someone like the Beastie Boys or Nirvana and you’d have a completely different and fascinating proposition. In terms of what is about now; there are some mainstream artists that provoke that sort of intensity and intrigue as them but it is harder for the unsigned and underground. What with the sheer volume of artists and how difficult it is to stand out; I tend to find, on paper, many come across as very familiar and limited – you have heard it all before and it can be quite deflating. This will happen a lot and it is one of the worst things about what I do. I often wonder whether it is worth carry along this road and what fascination will come. Luckily, with Centioni; there is something in the locker that stands out in the mind.

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Whilst I have not found a Beastie Boys or Nirvana in new music – and need to broaden my scope so I take in the likes of Rap, Hip-Hop; Jazz and other genres – I think the songwriter has a lot of potential and seems to embody promise. What appeals to me, in his case, is the blend of components and lines that go onto the page and how they translate into the music. I will talk about his latest track in a because, when it opens up; you really get a sense of an artist who wants to stand out and who does not follow the pack. I think South London and T.V., strangely, seem to come together in Here I Go Again. Maybe different inspirations infuse his other songs but, on his new cut, you can get a sense of what is happening in the capital and splice that with something dramatic. Again, like new artists; I am always wondering whether there is something samey about London and its sound. I live here but I feel the media pays far too much attention on it and one gets the sense that nobody can look past it – as though the centre of the universe is in the capital. Whilst, historically, London has pulled its weight; I think we all need to look to the North and realise the U.K. as a whole is as important as London. That being said; I think there are some artists that make me look at London from a different angle and dig deeper. The Mercury Prize, for two years, has been given to London artists and it seems, to me, South London is the most promising and appealing area. From Florence + the Machine and Loyle Carner through to Kate Tempest (although she was born in Westminster); there is that intensity, innovation and curious mindset emerging from artists here. Another thing that strikes me about South London and its artists is that curiosity regarding sound; some nostalgia but a lot of what comes from the streets.

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Louis Centioni seems to be in the same sort of headspace as the likes of Loyle Carner – even if his own music has a different taste. I am interested, in the very least, at the different sides to London and how you get different music from each part. I have discussed artists who seem very samey and how the modern seen can be rather bland but, with Centioni, you have this songwriter who has half a mind in the present but is always looking back. You know he lives a very honest life and integrates sounds and memories from the streets on which he lives and walks into his blend. You get a real sense of authenticity and purity in the music and the story of his latest song, whilst common and not completely out of left-field seems to stem from something relatively unexplored and under-exposed. If you want to break away from the rather predictable and common sludge of underground music – how you can get the same thing from the same artists – then you need to investigate artists like Louis Centioni. I can get a real sense of where he walks and his daily life but you also get that combination of his favourite childhood music and sounds emerging from the modern-day scene. This is an interesting splicing and combination that makes the music weighty, impassioned and colourful. There is a lot to unpick and get involved with and you do not feel like Centioni is making music to fit into holes and follow anyone else. I mentioned how I would mention songs and there themes. I love what Centioni is putting out and would be quite hard on him if his music sounded like anyone else. One of the reason I have mentioned bands like Beastie Boys – and older artists – is because you got original stories, wit and a sense of fun in their music. Modern music has lost that adventure, smile and sense of diversity and it is one of the most depressing things.

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Artists have become more insular and personal and, for the most part, songs seem to be about heartbreak and break-up. Not all artists focus on this but it seems the majority do – and we have very few innovators and acts that remind one of the classics and have any sort of fun. For a lot of artists, this is a bad thing and they can be rather lumpen and clichéd. I mention this topic because I understand why Centioni writes like this. I know his talent and innate drive can lead him to areas that project fun, incredible stories and something off the grid but he is reflecting what he is about and what he is experiencing. You can understand the need to write about what is meaningful and happening in life but I sense a mind that wants to break free and wander into other lyrical areas. In any case; you might look at Here I Go Again and what it is about – the break-up of a solid relationship and that sense that there is a pattern forming – and feel like nothing new or special will emerge. I would say the vast majority of modern artists are talking about love for the majority of the time and many of them repeat what is already out there. It sounds like I am preparing to boot Centioni’s bottom but, in fact, I am impressed he has written something accessible and relatable but brought it to life in a new and challenging way. Not only is the music a lot bolder and more eclectic than the modern palette – artists tending to match a rather dour mood with a similar compositional state – but the lyrics have a sense of personality and identity that does not make one feel like we have heard it all before! I feel other artists can learn from this and should take guidance as to how to break from routine. There are two distinct musical styles clashing in Louis Centioni’s current track.

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Here I Go Again has a distinct Electronic vibe that seems to borrow from the London streets and has a distinct ambition. The sounds are intense and they shift course; there is a flavour of modern Electronica but you can hear Jazz elements coming through. Whilst many artists with a fondness for Jazz are a little hesitant about penning a classic Jazz standard – think of Miles Davis and John Coltrane – they are bringing the colours and ethics of the genre into their sounds. The backbone and blood of Louis Centioni’s current jam is Electronic and is primed for the mainstream but there is experimentation and shifts that can only come from a love of Jazz. The reason I want to mention the genre is because, through time, it has been maligned and overlooked. We always get this view Jazz is rather stuffy and serious and can be quite boring – endless trumpet solos or pondering songs that really do not say much. I think it is the lack of vocals that scare people and means you have to use a different part of your brain; you need to focus more and it can be hard transitioning. Modern Jazz-inspired artists like Thundercat and Kamasi Washington are hugely important and, in fact, there is a band of British Jazz artists who are taking the foundation of the genre and adding fire, intensity and something exciting to the party. Centioni took to the piano young but it was his grandfather’s collection if Jazz and Italian records, that he was exposed to at the age of four, that made the difference. That innate and tender connection with a passionate and strange world filtered into his blood and directed where his music would head. The songwriter has taken singing lessons and is inspired by Classical music. It is the Jazz love that gets to me. Listen to his latest track and you can tell there are different Jazz artists working away. You get the accomplishment and stature of early icons like Miles Davis but, with the electronic notes and intensity, there is an experimental aspect that reminds me of the modern-day Jazz players.

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One gets world colliding and colours uniting through music that has a common and accessible heartbeat. Centioni attending the BRIT School and that created a sense of discipline and gravity. This combination of the Jazz romance and special world, blending with London and a musical school has led to this wonderful concoction. I feel a lot of modern artists look too closely to what is around them and you feel they are aiming to replicate and simulate a familiar sound. Rather than take from their personal lives and take risks; so much of what is out there today is dictated by commercial needs. Maybe that is a bit all-sweeping but I am discovering few songwriters who take gambles. Louis Centioni has an eye on the mainstream and knows what is needed to gain an ear but he is much more indebted to his grandfather and the music he grew up around. Mixing more modern influences together with that early exposure to Jazz; one gets a real hit and sensation. I am often wary of people who go to music schools and institutions that stamp out a particular artists. Whilst the likes of Amy Winehouse managed to stand alone and not do what is ‘expected’ – being overly commercial and following what is in the charts –; alumni like Adele – whilst her voice is powerful – lack any sort of flair, intrigue and real promise. So much of what is coming from these schools is dictated to by commercial gain and fitting into the charts; being too accessible and, let’s face it, a bit boring. Those who can take the good aspects from their teaching and not abandon their roots are to be commended. Centioni is someone who has learned a lot but does not want to compromise his passion and tastes in order to follow blindly. Away from the rather predictable storylines of heartbreak and disappointment; it is the ethics and background from Centioni that appeals the most. There is one danger that could have been exploited but, luckily, has been avoided.

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I am one of those people who looks back on music and recalls the stuff I grew up around. The dreaded curse of nostalgia can make us all a bit restrictive and means we do not wholly accept modern music. Maybe we romanticise the past and feel like there is much quality now. Whilst I will always contest decades like the 1990s will destroy anything that is around now and ever will be; there are so many artists coming along that have the promise to remain and create for years to come. Louis Centioni could easily have replicated what he grew up around and not added anything new to the pot. I know he buzzes from the records he discovered at a young age and some influences are on his sleeves. One gets a distinct whiff or the classic and past in his music but, at all times, the man is looking forward and inspired by what is at his feet. Rather than dip back and try to repeat what has come before; he is looking forward and not falling into that trap. This is impressive to see and I know we will get a lot more from Centioni. It sounds like I have been a bit strict with my investigation and assessment but there are so many artists around that seem cloned, common and faceless. Maybe it is unavoidable but I do get weary and wonder, cruelly, whether limitations and standards should be set – only those most promising and profitable can cross borders and reside in modern music. In order for future generations to follow the music of now; there needs to be that sense of promise and longevity. As it is now; there is a lot out there and I wonder how much of it we can retain. I forget so much of what I listen to because there is something missing and it is not as sharp and dynamic as the music I was raised on. Artists like Centioni understand this and, as such, have taken care to make their music as bold and busy as possible.

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Listen to a song like Here I Go Again and you have so much working away in there! I think, oddly, T.V. and drama has made that happen. It seems like a strange point to raise but many artists are not recognising the potential when it comes to film and T.V. By that; I mean bringing dramatic and comedic elements into the music. There has always been that bond between T.V. and music – songs being played as soundtrack – but few modern artists take a more dramatic and T.V.-minded approach to their songwriting. They might pen songs that can end up on dramas but do not take guidance from those shows and incorporate that into the fold. I know Louis Centioni is a fan of the Netflix series Stranger Things and you can hear that extraterrestrial theme coming through in his music. I have talked about his grandfather’s influence and one would think that rather charming and romantic vision would not fit alongside a darker and different world like that of Stranger Things. Rather than wrote a song that could appear on the show and be discovered by chance; the songwriter has been directly inspired by the strangeness, spacey elements and drama that the show puts out. As such; you get this song that starts from different foundations and takes a different course. Consider how most songs are written. Artists might get a melody or lyric in their mind but this is often compelled by music itself or what is happening around them. Few will sit down and think about a T.V. drama and write from that perspective. Maybe that is way of adding interest, fun and something much more memorable into music? As Centioni shows with his current single; there is a world of inspiration out there that is not being mined! I hope he continues to write like this and add something cinematic and dramatic into his music. I have talked long enough about the man behind the music so it is best I reverse that and discuss the music inside the man.

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The hero begins Here I Go Again by talking about something he cannot reclaim and gather. Maybe he has been through the motions too often and knows full well this current situation is inhospitable. The words are not delivered in a rather average and straight way. Soulful and deep; there is a brief flow and then a pause; the true emotion is brought through and Centioni approaches delivery much like an actor would – speaking like a human going through pain as opposed a songwriter presenting their emotions. Because of this, the song makes an instant impact and you wonder whether the composition will rise and explode. The start is fairly calm and there is little intrusion from the background. You listen to the delivery of the words and it is the way they come through that get to you. Centioni stop-starts and you get this very physical and evocative sensation. I jumped into the song and followed the hero as he walked us along. Centioni has this way of singing almost like a Jazz musician would play. The background has this Electronic and modern force but the man at the centre is interpreting and telling his story like an icon. That might seem a strange conclusion but this is a resonance and element that comes from the voice that gets under the skin and hits you. It seems like the hero has been told of the dangers of giving his heart and it seems like those words have fallen on deaf ears. I guess everyone experiences bad love and heartache but they assume the same will not happen again. I suppose a new person promises different fortune but maybe people like Louis Centioni are attracted to a certain type and enter a bond with faith and promise. The chorus layers Centioni’s voice and there are percussive clicks; the composition broods and injects whilst there is a warmth that floods through the speakers.

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You support the hero because he has given so much and, again, seems to have come out as the loser. Maybe there is a sense of mistrust or his sweetheart has let him down – that is not revealed at this point. I have mentioned Jazz and the influence on Centioni for a number of reasons. Not only does one sense a certain discipline and sound that reminds me of Jazz greats but the composition seems to have a certain vibe. It is hard to put into words but Centioni has managed to bring a lot of Jazz’s colours and elements into a largely Electronic background. When the chorus hits and you hear the vocals layer; there is that freedom, lust and atmosphere that you get from great Jazz songs. Our man has been bruised and seems accepting of his fate but keen to cure this miasma. Centioni drops his words in and allows them to hit like rain before moving on. You get, because of this, a more emphatic and impactful hit because you are allowed time to absorb the words and let them hit. Maybe there is blame on both sides and that mystique regarding the reason behind the breakdown makes me wonder. How have things gone wrong and why have the lovers been split?! The hero is not blaming anyone but it seems like people have predicted the end and given these warning messages. Rather than blame and create a depressive mood; Centioni is picking up from the rubble and looking inwards as to why this keeps happening time and again.

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One gets rushes of legendary R&B and 1990s songs but there is that modern production and Jazz undertones that makes Here I Go Again spike and sparkle. Centioni is in this mire and seems to be unable to release himself. The sweetheart does not care about him and, backed by bold and exciting electronics, he is having his say. Maybe there is that emotional detachment but both have climbed high and there have been some good times. Above all of this; the heroine has only looked out for herself and seemed cruel to the touch of the hero. Centioni does not incorporate too many of the worst traits of modern Electronic music – processed and high-pitched vocals; although there is a bit of it – and allows his own voice to have the biggest say. His previous track, Unsure, is a very different beast to Here I Go Again and you can hear the changes and new confidence come out. I wonder whether more material is coming next year and whether Centioni will put together an E.P. that tells a story – it seems like his latest track, in a way, is a continuation of his previous offering. I love Here I Go Again and it could easily have fallen victim to the traits of some artists: being too depressive and introspective and not adding anything exciting or physical to the music. Instead; you get this rousing and passionate song that manages to talk about a breakup and let-down but does not let the angriness and sadness dictate – a rarity that should be followed by more artists!

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Louis Centioni is an impressive performer that has honed his craft through the years. He has played at venues like Ronnie Scott’s and the 100 Club. Some of his current favourite artists include Billie Eilish and Alicia Keys; Khalid and Jon Hopkins but you sense a passion for artists like Nina Simone and Jazz icons. Working with accomplished producers such as O Mer (on his latest track) and playing at some stunning locations; he has learned a lot and brought that all into the music. He is currently playing as part of the Coffee House Sessions and will be doing that until 9th November. Centioni has a headline show at Ronnie Scott’s on 4th December and it seems like things are heading in the right direction! If you have not encountered the spirited and intrepid Centioni then I suggest you correct that and get behind it. I started the review by being slightly critical and giving a smackdown to the current scene. Whilst some of my words might have been hasty; I stand by the assertion that there is not enough wit, fun and surprise in music. You lose that smile, originality and durability in favour of something much more inward, common and personal – I wonder whether that reflects modern society and if artists feel they cannot break from that. Maybe this will have problems in years to come – people skipping a generation and still playing music from past years – but I feel there are artists trying to redress this curse and do something special. Centioni writes about breakup and heartache – I can forgive him that because it is truthful and means a lot to him – but here is someone you can imagine shifting from that common mountain and traversing somewhere much more colourful and bright. I envisage songs that tell stories and have an element of fantasy; those that take risks and remind one of the best music from the past. Given his love of dramas like Stranger Things; maybe a fantastical or darker edge might creep into his future material? Whatever he has planned; ensure you follow his social media and keep updated because here is someone who inhabits his own space and seems primed for big things. I love the tones and layers of Here I Go Again and it is a song that stands out in a climate that needs that kick and vibrancy. Maybe there are artists like Centioni who can provide something engaging and thrilling but, more and more, these kind of musicians…

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ARE getting harder to find.  

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Follow Louis Centioni

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TRACK REVIEW: Kate Kelly - The Garden

TRACK REVIEW:

 

Kate Kelly

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The Garden

 

9.6/10

 

 

The track, The Garden, is available via:

https://soundcloud.com/katekellymusic/the-garden

GENRES:

Folk; Singer-Songwriter; Jazz

ORIGIN:

Nashville, U.S.A.

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The album, The Wonder of It All, is available via:

https://soundcloud.com/katekellymusic/sets/the-wonder-of-it-all

RELEASE DATE:

26th October, 2018

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WHEN I think about Kate Kelly

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a few things spring to mind. I wanted to talk about songwriters who can weave genres together and create that multi-genre palette; singers whose voices have sunshine and power that creates positivity and uplift; recording in charming and perfect locations; Nashville and its endless addiction; recording and writing music that reflects on hard situations and tough life obstacles – I will end by having a look at where Kate Kelly can go and what she can achieve. It is interesting encountering Kelly and what her music stands for. I have featured a lot of different songwriters over the past few weeks and, whilst the music is good, you do not get that much of a spread regarding genre and sound. I have always been of the onion musicians are at their strongest when they mix genres together and stretch things. It is great if you can cement a particular vibe and hone it but I am drawn to those who splice together various elements and colours. Kelly is someone who weaves threads of Jazz, piano; Folk and Pop together into something elegant and enticing. You are drawn into this world and compelled to follow her ever note. I suspect this accomplishment and sense of confidence comes from a varied musical upbringing and a curious mind. Most songwriters want to bring their influences together through their own material but they are not always capable of bringing it all together in a personal and fresh way. I am not sure which artists Kelly grew up around and who she responds to now but you can sense all the different musicians and styles that her ears responded to at a young age. I can imagine Folk legends and 1960s Pop; some great Soul and Singer-Songwriter icons and some of the best modern artists. I am not sure whether Kate Kelly listens to a lot of mainstream artists but there might be a few modern Pop artists in the blend.

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Music is a wonderful thing and should be explored to its fullest. Kate Kelly, one imagines, is obsessed by the power of music and how different sounds can strike different chords. There is so much emotion and variety in her music and that is one of the reasons why people are attracted to it. There is that sunshine and endless skip but you get revealing lyrics and pure emotion coming out. She is not someone who compromises her real feelings and hides them in clichés nor is she someone who pours everything out and makes for a challenging listen. There is nothing wrong with songwriters who put their pains onto the page and let their heart bleed but Kelly can balance true revelation with something hopeful and inspiring. She is hard to pin down and define as a musician. There is a lot working away and each of her songs has so much working away and going on. The Wonder of It All is an appropriate title for an album that opens its arm and travels far. You get different impressions and stories and it is as full and rounded a record as I have heard in a very long time. Another reason why I love Kelly’s fusing of genres and multifarious approach is because it remains in the mind longer. If her album were pure Folk or Pop then there would not be as much depth and nuance as you’d like. It is hard cohesively putting different sounds together so they remain focused but Kelly does that. Her record, as I shall explore, is very deep and emotional – you might think the sunny mood hides all of that. I like how the balance is created and how nothing is compromised. One gets to experience the true pains that Kelly experiences and the music provides more relief and warmth. The fact Kelly brings a lot to the party means her music will resonate and appeal to a large demographic and you do not have to work hard to jump inside and be affected by everything she sings.

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I shall come back to the music and its variety when focusing on a song from the album but, right now, I want to move to the voice and what affect that has. Think about what Kate Kelly has had to endure and put onto the page – painful struggles and hardships – and it would be easy to score those feelings with a rather downbeat and dour vocal. There are some moments on The Wonder of It All where you can feel that emotion shine and pervade but optimism and hope is the abiding theme. I feel the voice is the most arresting and important part of the music process. It is hard to think of any music that is not really defined and emphasised by the voice. You can be drawn to a lyric or composition but the vocal is what brings it to life and gets it to the ears. I have witnessed a lot of different vocal styles and you get something new from each. Most of what I am reviewing at the moment is either quite hard-hitting (spiked) or have something moody working away. I feel a lot of artists avoid being too cheery and bright with regards their vocals because they feel it compromises the music or sounds a bit too cheery. Maybe that is something they want to avoid; if they are too bright and sunny then will you concentrate on what they are saying?! The sensation and bliss of hearing an artist pour something rousing and cheery into the mix is unexpected and always a pleasure. I am not suggesting all artists go out there and sing about their personal hurt in a cheerful way but there is a lot to be said (of the) emotional and intellectual impact one gets from a bigger vocal. Ballads and emotive performances are great but I think we are seeing less and less positive performances coming through. Music is becoming more introspective and personal and, with that, so much of what we hear has quite a depressive edge.

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Before I go on to look at a new subject; I will stay with the vocal and artists that can create joy. Kate Kelly studied Music Therapy and, when she was studying, understood how powerful music could be and the need to celebrate the joys in life. I have been thinking about music as therapy and how potent songs can be to people. Music can touch those with physical disabilities as a means of recovery and fast progression; those with memory issues who can help regain function and focus; others who are depressed and can be helped when they hear music. There are so many different sides to music and it has a huge therapeutic role. Kate Kelly has learned about the different ways music can assist and that need to heal and uplift. Kelly’s music does not lack substance and compromise that for something endlessly positive and spirited. She is able to talk about her path and how her life has shaped and not had to compromise anything. It is fascinating hearing about a songwriter who has gone through a lot but, as her album title suggests, seen the sunshine and pleasures that can come at the other end. She is not going to let things bury her and you feel all of that hope and potential in the voice. A rich and engaging instrument that helps soothe you and nourish the spirit; few songwriters out there have the same prowess and abilities as Kelly. I will follow her career closely but there has been transition and developments since her E.P., New Heartbeat (2016), and today. The Wonder of It All, was written last year and ties together everything that has happened since the E.P. Kelly has changed a lot since then but has not lost the ability to raise the spirits and take music to a more positive place. I am not sure I would be able to keep a lid on my emotions if I wrote my own stuff; it is impressive and commendable Kelly can talk about life frankly and not bring pure negativity to things.

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Kelly, before writing her album, saw a lot of negativity circling and realised how music was stepping into a darker and more depressive place. There were and are a lot of artists who are positive and bright but there are so many more that seem to be unable to find a way out of a dark place. That is easily forgiven but Kelly wanted to take a different approach and not follow the pack. You can hear something instantly gratifying and fulfilling when listening to her albums and one of the reasons why I wanted to look at The Garden as a standout is because it seems to define everything about her and bring together all her talents. One reason why we get such evocative and scenic music is because of the locations Kelly wrote the music in. Kelly reflected on a hugely challenging year in 2017 and wanted the earth and her surroundings to bring joy to the record. Rather than write this paen to misery and have a very moody record; Kelly has penned something that inhibits different spaces and locations. One knows where The Garden would have been written and how a particular beautiful space could have inspired that track. From dusty corners to gardens and open spaces; Kelly collated her songs whilst situated in these different spaces –you get so many different scenes, senses and stories. Rather than write in a studio or spend all of her time at home; she has been to these spaces and channelled what was around her. It is fascinating getting into those different locations and bringing the different elements into the songs. Parks, greenhouses and cosy rooms were all used for inspiration and situation. One feels their sounds and secrets through the record and it brings a much more interesting and detailed dynamic to the album. The Wonder of It All is a pure and honest album that opens its arms to the world but does not hide its truths and heart.

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Kate Kelly feels the best way to listen to her new album is to curl up with a kitty and a cup of chamomile tea. Unfortunately, my current situation is less romantic so I have had to settle for a cup of coffee and a view of a litter-strewn street…can’t always get what we want! I can close my eyes and envisage what Kelly means and why the tea-kitten combination is the optimal setting. She wants people to step into a dreamlike state and escape from the pains of life. There is a lot going on in everyone’s lives and it can be hard to find time to step away from that and experience something more kind-hearted and pleasurable. So much modern music is steeped in something downbeat and harsh and you need that moment to get away from it and find something nice. Kelly is a songwriter who has a positive approach and can lift the mood of every listener. It is hard reflecting on something tragic or strained and keeping you head level. Kelly does not abandon the seriousness of her past and what she has gone through but feels the best way of presenting this through music is to be a more optimistic songwriter. The vocals hold a lot of the power but the whole experience is one of joy and positivity. How many of us have gone through heartache and depressive moments and been able to keep our head high and smile through it. It is difficult to get that perspective and find the positives in a negative situation. Kate Kelly wants people to find something positive in her music and feel more enlivened and lifted. I have talked a lot about her subject matter and her positive nature so it is about time I end this section by talking about Nashville and how The Wonder of It All was put together.

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Nashville is a place that appeals to a lot of musicians and grabs you with its delight and beauty. Not only is it a Mecca for Country artists but there are so many styles and genres being played in the city. I have never been myself but I know what a strong economy there is there. You do not have to be beholden to a certain genre but there is a rich Country music scene. Certainty, if you want to find great Rock and Pop artists then you’ll have choices there but there is something incredibly powerful about Nashville that brings musicians together. Kelly and a group of talented musicians decamped to Iron Oak Recording Studio and started the magic. With Andrew Conner (Iron Oak) producing and backed by musicians such as Andy Cata and Scooter Spicer; it is a group effort but you definitely have the heroine’s voice shining and her leading the way. I am drawn to the music of Kate Kelly because you can hear so much working away and so much musicianship in what she does. On The Wonder of It All; you get so many different scents and sensations projected by the band and you can almost smell Nashville coming through in every note. I wonder, in years to come, where the city will go and how it will grow. I know there is a lot of Country music in the city but so many other styles and being celebrated and featured. There is a community and togetherness that means musicians can easily collaborate and the rich history of Nashville inspires new generations. Kelly hails from Alabama so it is a lot different being in Nashville and experiencing that world. It seems like Nashville is a natural home for Kate Kelly and it is helping her realise her dreams. I feel she can go a very long way and there is a lot more music coming from her. I want to move on to reviewing The Garden but, before then, I would urge people to look back at where Kate Kelly has come from and what she has planned.

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There are many treasures on Kate Kelly’s The Wonder of It All but The Garden is a song that stands out. The first few notes have a child-like skip to them and you get impressions of people frolicking in the garden or wildlife in full bloom. It has some funkiness and trip and you are instantly wondering what the song is all about and where it goes from here. The introduction is fantastically evocative and has sensuality to it. There are little flourishes of strings and teasing beats that melt alongside a skipping bass-like sound. The track gets underway with a definite sense of intention and Kelly’s voice perfectly fits into the agenda. The heroine has been wandering and looking for answers. I am not sure whether there is a distinct story but one feels the setting of the garden is a place of reflection and realisation. Many people need a place to think and unwind and you feel like Kelly has come out to the open to find some solace and direction. The music backs her skip and step but you can feel that need to get away from a tense and hard situation. Maybe there is a heavy heart at work but the heroine wants things to improve and lighten. The troubles are being taken out to dry and (the heroine) is wiping her eyes. One gets elements of Soul and R&B in the music. There is something classical and modern that clashes together and gets into the brain. A new, healthier life is ahead and the garden is the place where Kelly goes so she can find some sense of peace. It is great she has that place to go and she can release her tensions. One of the things that create mystery is the secrets regarding the personal troubles. Maybe there are general stresses and problems that have motivated the songs but one feels the daily grind has made its mark. Kelly is someone who can deal with her troubles and make sense of them but still needs that retreat and calm.

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I love how the music keeps this uplifting and child-like wonder and gives The Garden a true spirit. Although Kate Kelly’s vocals are not overly-bright and spirited; there is that energy and power that gets into the blood. Our heroine wants to take people to her garden and let them experience what she is seeing. There are few who get to view that sensational scenery and the innate peacefulness; it is a location that can melt all the problems in the mind and make you realise there is brightness out there. Kelly is always about finding the positive and she has found this corner of the land she can call her own and realise her worth. The band back Kelly with a delicate yet powerful composition. It seems the song relates to someone else being down and having troubles. It is interesting but Kelly seems to refer to someone else but, in a way, she might be talking about herself. Kelly is reflecting on the garden and looking at a troubled time for someone – the past year has been quite tense and tough. You know things have been bad but, again, I wonder whether it is less directed at someone else and aimed at her own soul – the lyrics talk about someone going through the motions and trying to find their way. You can hear a horn coming in and giving the song another kick and style. Little details are thrown in that seem to represent all the scents and flowers that bloom in the garden. The call of nature and the interaction of birds seem to be represented in the music; the warmth of the sun and all the colours that come bursting through. Every line seems to reveal a new truth and you get more of the story.

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It seems the subject – whether Kelly or a friend – that has this secret and it is quite hard to reveal. This sacred and spiritual garden has a great open gate that leads down a restful and quaint spot. There is no need for a map, as it is said, and the heroine will be waiting there. As the bass steps and there are little flourishes in the background; the heroine calms the song and asks (the subject) to come to the garden. One gets impressions of Jazz and a more romantic and studied performance. There is looseness and playfulness but so many wonderfully tight and exceptional notes. It is a busy and intriguing composition that is allowed to wander and play to the very end. We get to imagine and reflect as the final notes come through. The song has given up some secrets but leaves some others close to the chest. Everyone will get their own impression of the garden – its size and where it is located – but everyone will share that sense of pleasure and hope. The Garden is a tender yet emotive song that hints at some darker times and struggles and you are never sure whether it is the heroine speaking about herself or someone else who could benefit from time in this secret garden. I keep listening to the song and it is great to play it when you need that lift and energy. There are many other great tracks on The Wonder of It All and The Garden is a perfect starting place if you need an introduction to the colourful and varied tapestry that Kate Kelly weaves. It will not take long until you fall for Kate Kelly and are carried away by the sheer vitality, warmth and beauty of her music.

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It has been an eventful and hard year for Kate Kelly and a lot of what you hear on The Wonder of It All makes sense of all of that and projects a more optimistic sound. I have talked about the different locations Kelly wrote in and how she wanted to present music that was optimistic and embraced the world. You can definitely feel inspired and lifted hearing her music but look deeper and the lyrics point at something more challenging and hard. I know the album will go a long way and hit a lot of people. The U.S. songwriter has achieved a lot in her career so far and I feel there is a lot more to come. Right now; Kelly will be touring and promoting the record as much as she can and getting it out there. I am confident she will get more fans in the U.K. and it would be great to see her over here. Kelly is making a name for herself in the U.S. and she is marking herself out as one of the best young songwriters coming through. What strikes my mind is how effecting the music is and how you want to keep exploring it time and time again. How many songwriters stay in the mind and linger long after you have heard it? Things are getting bigger and brighter for Kelly and I know The Wonder of It All will help a lot of people out. Projecting forward, and I feel 2019 will be a big year for Kate Kelly and she will go far. I wonder whether she will tour overseas and what is coming along. I know there will be inspiration for more material and she will be reacting to the aftermath of her latest album.

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I am a new fan of hers and there are many more out there who need to get behind Kelly and what she is all about. I love the way she approaches music and what she brings to her songs. The positivity and sense of peace you find in the vocals is incredible but the lyrics are personal and do not hide their pains. I have heard few songwriters like Kelly and I feel we all need to spend some more time with her. It has been a great year for music and I am seeing some brilliant new artists emerge. Each one of them has their own stories but none that are like Kate Kelly. I hope Kelly keeps writing and has been motivated to pen something new. Not to rush her but there will be an appetite for future gems and this is a songwriter that music needs right now. Explore all the avenues and stories throughout The Wonder of It All and you will feel stronger, better and uplifted afterwards. Not many records can do that and I feel songwriters could learn a lot from her. The Garden is a track I was compelled to investigate because of its setting and how potent the vocal is. I have listened to The Wonder of It All a few times around and am picking up something new with each exploration. The eight-track record is a deeply personal and inspiring thing that you can play in any mood and any time and feel better when it is over. I will end things now and wrap it up but want people to get involved with Kate Kelly and what she is all about. I love what she does and how she approaches things and how you feel when you listen to her songs. I started the morning a bit sleepy and with a slight headache but after listening to Kate Kelly and The Garden, I am in a much more positive…

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FRAME of mind.

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Follow Kate Kelly

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TRACK REVIEW: DIDI - Fickle Friends

TRACK REVIEW:

 

DIDI

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Fickle Friends

 

9.4/10

 

 

The track, Fickle Friends, is available via:

https://open.spotify.com/track/7sI6sqNWI7Tf9QvSVk3JiO?si=mJ2pzNoKSTO9yWyjC5W8rA

GENRES:

Indie; Pop-Punk

ORIGIN:

Hertfordshire, U.K.

RELEASE DATE:

1st October, 2018

PRODUCER:

Rhiannon Mair

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The Green EP is available from 1st November. Pre-order here:

https://iamdidimusic.bandcamp.com/album/green-ep-limited-edition

PRODUCERS:

Rhiannon Mair & Lauren Deakin Davies

MASTERING ENGINEER:

Katie Tavini

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IT has been a little while since I last looked at DIDI

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so it is time to come back and see what she is up to. I want to look at artists who are producers or, more accurately, those who produce their own work; female producers and why they are gathering more pace; E.P.s and albums that chart a distinct story arc and personal narrative; Pop-Punk and sounds that need to be heralded more in this time; award-winners and artists who are building steam; joining with a band and putting together that fuller sound – I will end by seeing where DIDI will go. Fickle Friends is the latest single from DIDI and there will be the Green EP coming along. I will keep you alerted as to developments and the E.P. as a whole but, right now, I wanted to look at production and how important that is. There are many artists who self-produce and can take care of their own material. Fickle Friends was produced by Rhiannon Mair, who also drums on the recording. The reason I wanted to talk about production is because of artists who are still lending out there songs to others. I do wonder whether modern musicians lack the skills to produce their own material or if they prefer another person’s direction. It can be understandable why an artist like, say, David Bowie used producers such as Tony Visconti. Building up a great working relationship can last for years and lead to some terrific work. If you have someone you trust and can offer fresh perspective; it can take the work in different directions or add something you had not expected. The best producers are patient and will listen to the artist but will not sit back and allow them to have all the say. Compromise and input is important and the producer can bring your work to life. Some might say an artist producing their own work might be too subjective and rigid but I do not believe this.

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Producers are among music’s unsung and they do not get the credit they deserve. Lauren Deakin Davies, as I shall explore, is a fantastic producer who is among music’s fastest-rising and most prominent producers and, as such, has the expertise and talent to know where to take her work. Not only can an artist – who learns to produce – have more of a say regarding their own work but they can work with others and bring that back to their stables. I am reminded of the case of Kate Bush on her earliest albums and how she was frustrated (she was) unable to produce. She feels, then and now, her voice was being directed by others and only achieved true comfort and contemplation several albums down the line. Maybe new artists are not as hard on themselves but learning basic production skills is a great thing to have in your locker. It might not have to be as in-depth as knowing every inch of the studio and being that advanced but I do worried whether hired producers have the understanding and knowledge of the artist’s work to really do it justice. DIDI (alongside Mair) has that experience and can ensure her work is produced and cemented as she feels fit. I, if I were a musician, would learn basic producing and engineering skills because, whilst I feel having others in the studio is important; being able to have your own say and offer some comeback is crucial. I am fascinated by producers and what they give to a song because many of us do not really take the time to think about what they do and how they enhance music. I am not suggesting every artist needs to rebuff outside producers but having some basic understanding will help enormously. Not only will that understanding aid your own work but it will, as mentioned, allow you to work with other artists and add to your C.V. From there, an artist can learn more about the studio and bring that back to their own music.

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I know Rhiannon Mair (DIDI’s drummer) and her talents as a producer but Lauren Deakin Davies, as DIDI, has this duel-personality and split that is interesting to look at. I will talk more about her sound and artistry soon but I am really interested looking at the producer behind the music. Deakin Davies has a long career and has worked alongside the likes of Laura Marling. She is one of the most respected and lauded producers coming through right now and is one to watch. DIDI’s E.P. comes out on 1st November and you will get to see all her (Deakin Davies’) different sides and production talents come to the fore. She won the Producer of the Year award at the NMG Awards (she has won that two years in a row!) and I can see her picking up more silverware down the tracks. You can follow her work and search who she has produced but I feel there are few female producers who get the attention and spotlight they deserve. The likes of Lauren Deakin Davies and Catherine Marks are doing so much for music and show as much talent and force as any male peer. I am delighted Deakin Davies has been awarded and seen her talents acknowledged and I cannot wait to see who she produces for in 2019. Alongside Mair; you have this artist who knows what sound is needed and can bring it to life. We all know there are far fewer female producers and engineers in the music industry and I feel the likes of Deakin Davies will help with recruitment. I am not sure whether the studio is seen as a boys’ club and the environment is unwelcoming to women. I know female producers who are warmly welcomed but there are some who feel they are going into a male-dominated area. It is hard to know for sure but there is still a lack of education and awareness at school-level. The likes of Lauren Deakin Davies are showing women can gain acceptance and attention as producers and there are so many more out there who can add to her voice.

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I feel the music industry is still too male-heavy and we need to shift the vote. I know there are producers like Deakin Davies and Mair who are having their say and campaigning; striking out and proving there is nothing to suggest female producer should be in the minority. Maybe there is that historic impression of the male studio or the fact labels and bigger artists want male producers. I have mentioned how artists can self-produce and some of the biggest names in modern music, if not solo, ensure they have a production credit. In terms of female producers being behind some of the biggest albums around; I think more awareness needs to be raised and more women need to be encouraged into the studio. It is a complex problem to solve but, gradually, we are seeing some great female producers emerge. I am one of those people who wants there to be true equality in music and I wonder how long it will take until we see that. It is hard to say how we can go from where we are now to having an industry where half of the producers around are women. Talented and growing producers like Deakin Davies are helping regarding awareness and ensuring other female producers are given kudos but I feel more needs to be done by men in the industry. We know there are fewer music lessons being taught in schools and many cannot afford to study music at colleges/universities. I will come back to the production side of things when I look at Fickle Friends but it is an interesting angle I wanted to explore. I have talked about these sides and considerations when I last reviewed DIDI but, as it has been a little while; it is worth coming back and seeing how far we have come. It is only a few days until the E.P. is around and I have heard most of the songs that will appear on it.

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Although I am not reviewing the E.P. itself – I only ever look at singles/tracks – it is well worth getting involved with it and buying it when it arrives. Listen to the sound of DIDI and that has developed since the earliest days. The likes of BBC Radio 6 Music have backed her work and radio stations around the country are throwing their support behind her. DIDI used to play solo but, through gigging and the passage of time; she has now got a band behind her and it has allowed a fuller sound to come through. The tracks that will appear on the Green EP were written at the start of the artist’s birth (early last year) and it is interesting hearing those slightly early songs being given a rich and emphatic support by her band. I think, at the start, DIDI wanted something quite spiked and Pop-Punk and, although that genre remains now, we have a fuller and more colourful sound that brings the songs to life. The past eighteen months have been interesting and busy for DIDI and she has been very busy in the studio. Busy producing E.P.s for other artists; Deakin Davies has had to approach her own work slightly differently. It is hard to tackle your own material the same way you would with other artists because it (your own stuff) is more personal and you are more invested in it. The production is exceptional and having Mair offer input and her voice means the work is not too subjective. I will return to the production side of things but the E.P. charts the story of DIDI and various different stories. Artists such as Muse, Arctic Monkeys and Paramore have influenced the sounds on the E.P. but the tracks all sound tight and focused because the band have worked hard on them. Although the songs started life earlier last year; the fact the band have gigged together a long time and have that trust brings new light and layers to the music.

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You get some relatable and common themes coming through on the Green EP. All the songs, bar GO!, have been released as singles and we sort of know what to expect. This is the first full body of work for DIDI and has been a bit of a nervous time. She is excited to get the work out there but, as she has been around for a little while now, there is that expectation and build. Big radio stations have celebrated her work and it has been a fascinating progression. I want to investigate themes on Fickle Friends but GO! Investigates stark emotions felt when you go through a break-up; Fast and Furious is an out-and-out pure love song with a slightly, as DIDI admits, ‘soppy’ edge to it. Back Off and Awkward have more social-political and deeper origins. The former is about a drunken guy who was shouting at a girl – who had got off a train – and a sense of immediate intimidation. The latter is more about entitlement and the feeling DIDI, and her female peers, have felt when heading into the studio. It is good there is that balance between personal/commercial and the more intense. You have common themes and something everyone can relate to. Whether looking at love as a fractured and troubled thing or a pure spirit; there are songs we can all connect with and have some experience of. So many artists get obsessed with love and relationships and that is all they focus on! It is fine when you do a few songs about relationships but one looks for something fresh and more from artists. DIDI has examined relationships from different perspectives and ensured one does not become too familiar and knows what is coming. As a female producer, feminist and advocate for equality; it is understandable she addressed gender issues and experiences she and her female peers have faced. Recalling personal stories and experiences on the road gives the E.P. movement and different shades. It also means she can get away from her own heart and explore different senses. The E.P. would be too one-sided or introspective if it were all relations: pushing away and looking at other concerns gives the work a more rounded and multifaceted aspect.

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Lauren Deakin Davies, as DIDI, has this musician-producer head that has to make some tough decisions before recording has begun. A lot of artists can take their work to a producer and that consultation begins. They might run through some demos or do some trial-and-error before a final sound is realised. The producer will get a lot of say but there is that democracy between artist and producer. Deakin Davies has experience of working with others but she also knows her own music well. Does she employ some elements of other artists (she has worked with) or does she take from her musical background? By that, I mean what she grew up around and the artists who have compelled her. In the case of songs like Fickle Friends; one senses little bits of Muse, Paramore and the Pop-Punk of the 1990/2000s. I recall when Green Day released their album, Warning, back in 2000 and, at the time, I was in college and listening to them and bands like Blink-182. After living through Grunge and then seeing Britpop come and go; the U.S.-led Pop-Punk explosion was another great shift. Although DIDI is (a lot) younger than me; she loved those periods and you can hear bits of Britpop in some E.P. moments and influences of Punk. What I sense, when listening to her work, is someone who wants to put across an intensity and spirit but does not want to lose melody and something a little warmer. There are female artists/bands who are quite sharp and full-on but DIDI is that link between pure-out Punk bands and those Pop artists who could, in many ways, add a bit more spike to their work. There are some great female-led bands out there (such as YONAKA and False Advertising) who can fuse various genres/time periods and keep it quite modern but DIDI, to me, seems to go that one step further. The music you hear is so busy but it is so personal. Too many artists, I think, skew their sounds to the desires of radio and the mainstream and you never know whether authenticity is being blurred by that desire to be heralded and following the pack.

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 IMAGE CREDIT: Freya Freeman Taylor

The fact Lauren Deakin Davies has awards for her production ensures that professionalism and passion comes through in the music. She has joined with a band and it seems there is a great team working away. When she started out on her own – and was almost taking care of everything – you could sense that promise but the feeling the music could be a bit fuller and bolder. As much as anything; having a band (she worked all out all the parts and performed them on the recordings (other than drums) but has a band who perform with her - Penny Churchill on bass; it's now Keyleigh Cheer on drums (as Rhiannon became SO busy, also as her solo artist RUEN moniker) and Emily Aldrich on lead guitar) gives options and the chance to bolster the music’s promise. It also means there are other players who can offer suggestion and have their say. I think there will be a lot more work from DIDI and I am interested to see where her and the band will head. It is the chemistry and companionship she has with the band that really makes the music Pop. DIDI reflects on past days and older music but there is that contemporary freshness and modernity that fuses it all together. I see artists who try and balance the older and new and it can often fail. DIDI, as the artist, has a great knowledge of modern and older sounds and teases these together in her own way. As a producer; Deakin Davies does not do what she has done with other artists nor does she mimic anyone else. She could easily fall into that trap of trying to make a DIDI song/E.P. sound like one she has already produced and know is a success. That is what I was saying about tough decisions and having a clear head. Instead, you get a work that does not copy anything else and is very personal. Any DIDI work is personal and unique but so many modern artists sound too much like someone else and it is hard to detach from that. Although one can sense colours of Muse and hints of Paramore and Green Day; they are not obvious and you have an artist who merely nods to them – never copying and sticking too closely with what they have done. I like how DIDI is not beholden to her own relationships and heart and brings in other observations.

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 PHOTO CREDIT: James Gallant

Fickle Friends swings in with a big and bold loop that has this brilliant blend of Arctic Monkeys and The Jam. As the opening track of the Green EP; it is a big and immediate song that gets under the skin right away and makes it presence known. I know DIDI/Deakin Davies is a fan of the early work of the Arctic Monkeys and it is interesting the band themselves do not have that sound anymore. It is a sound I have been hankering after and it is great seeing that same swagger and sensation come back into music. The introduction sort of sets the scene and you are already picturing that the song is about and who is being portrayed. From the rushing and flowing swirl of the opening; the song changes dynamic and gets into a more syncopated zone. DIDI comes to the microphone and her voice stutters, staggers and spits; much like a fighter in the ring, sizing up their opponent. One might have expected some yelled or calm but you get an unexpended delivery that gives the words more emotion, boldness and character. It seems the friends, DIDI and her other, have been using one another or, more accurately, the heroine herself has been used. It appears the other person has been mean and they are using the heroine and not showing that respect. The first impression I got of the song was something personal that also looks out at the wider world. We all know occasions when people have not pulled their weight and there is an imbalance in the friendship. I guess DIDI has given her all to this friend and, for some reason; they are taking that for granted and showing her a lack of kindness. The heroine does not let the emotions get on top of her but there is definite anger and accusation. The production is superb (as you’d expect) and it allows for this great balance of rawness and polish.

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  PHOTO CREDIT: James Gallant

You can hear every word clearly – so many producers and mixers drown the vocals and bury them – and there is a distinct shine to things. That bring said; the grittiness and spiked tongue one hears means authentic Pop-Punk attitude pervades and resonates. I mentioned Arctic Monkeys at the start but, if anything, bands like Paramore become more evident as the song progresses. That is not to say DIDI is too influenced by anyone else but you can tell who her influences are and what she wants to achieve through Fickle Friends. I love how all the instruments have their say and play their role. The bass is liquid and slithering whilst guitar and drum combine and create something heady, heavy and brooding. DIDI recounts how the ‘friend’ took from her and the imbalance in the friendship. You can sense that build up and the tension growing. The chorus is a big and gutsy blast that finds the heroine pushing away the other and wondering why she was taking advantage of. Our heroine used to have confidence – whether that friendship gave her that ability and comfort – but now that is all lost. What strikes the mind is the sheer vitality and energy of the vocal. DIDI never lets things get too accusatory and angered but you can definitely sense the electricity and aggression come to the surface. It is clear Pop-Punk and U.S. artists are an influence and it the story engrosses you. It is not explained why the bond has been broken but a definite lack of respect from the other party has led to this. The band weaves colours and threads together that bring the story to life and take it in new directions. Rather than a repetitive and predictable composition; the musicians shine and you get so many interesting notes and lines emerging. They brilliantly propel DIDI and she, in turn, keeps them level and directed. It is a clear and solid relationship that makes the song sound completely focused and pure. As things progress and they turn towards the end; the bitterness and sense of disappointment remains and one wonders whether there is any way back. Fickle Friends is an exceptional song and one that shows DIDI is among the most promising new artists around. Make sure you get hold of the Green EP and back this wonderful talent.

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 PHOTO CREDIT: Tony Birch

What strikes me about DIDI is how she has progressed and developed over the last eighteen months or so. The songs we will witness on the Green EP started life back then but you can tell how much the band has added. The music never sounds like it is too rooted in one period. All of DIDI’s songs have their own skin and sound as fresh and urgent now as they did months ago. I am looking ahead and wondering whether DIDI will head. I know Deakin Davies will be producing other artists and busy in the studio but there is this whole other life that will be explored. I think DIDI will get a lot more airplay and attention from radio stations such as BBC Radio 6 Music. Maybe there will be gigs around the country but I feel DIDI can travel the globe and get some attention over in the U.S. I feel her sound naturally fits there and she could get some gigs around L.A. and New York. I am not sure what her fan numbers are like over there but, when more music comes out, she will get that demand and her numbers will grow. I wanted to study Fickle Friends for a number of reasons. Not only is it her latest release and the last single before the E.P. comes out but, to me, is her most fired and memorable tracks so far. I have followed DIDI’s work since the start and can see how far she has come. I wonder whether she is already looking to other singles and E.P.s and what 2019 holds. It will be a packed year ahead and one filled with adventure. I am seeing more female artists/fronted bands being heralded but there is a long way to go before there is equality. I have talked about female producers and I know the likes of Lauren Deakin Davies (and Rhiannon Mair) and doing a lot to get the ball rolling and discussion happening. You can see the work Deakin Davies has done and it makes you wonder whether there are female producers like her who have been restricted or felt like they would not be supported – they have a champion in the industry and someone who shows there is that potential for recognition. I shall not discuss the issue more but I suggest everyone follow DIDI and get behind her E.P. Fickle Friends is a great track that stands in the mind and compels you to investigate it again and again – no mean feat considering how many songs (not that many) from the current day provoke that reaction. The future is very bright and 2019 will be a big one for DIDI. Growing from that solo endeavour to the tight and bold band there is now; it has been a wonderful progression and I know DIDI will keep the pace going. One is spoiled for choice when it comes to great new music but I feel a playlist/collection would be weaker if it did not have…

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DIDI in it!

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Follow DIDI

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TRACK REVIEW: After London - You’re So Cold

TRACK REVIEW:

 

After London

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PHOTO CREDIT: @kramerdoingbits

You’re So Cold

 

9.4/10

 

 

The track, You’re So Cold, is available via:

https://open.spotify.com/track/6mksUb1V7ocgnGOYp0Muqh?si=BBMG9OgMSr2cNUg2rfcLdA

GENRES:

Alternative-Rock; Punk; Alternative

ORIGIN:

London, U.K.

RELEASE DATE:

12th October, 2018

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WHEN thinking about After London

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PHOTO CREDIT: @kramerdoingbits

I get to look at bands and those working in the U.K. right now; how artists can change sound and keep on developing; competing in a heavy market and standing out; songs that mix in Punk and Psychedelic sounds; female-led bands and why I am particularly involved; getting all your social media considerations sorted and cemented; a little about how bands can translate live – I will end by looking at After London and how they can progress. I wanted to start by addressing bands that can start out with one frame of mind and then change to another. I am a fairly new convert to After London and what they are all about. The sounds they are putting out right now have plenty of energy and biting moments and there is something a little weird and tripping to be discovered. After London started as an acoustic band a few years back and they decided to ditch the acoustic guitars and crank up the volume. It is interesting seeing how artists can develop and evolve through the years. It would be interesting to hear some of the early After London recordings and the leap they have taken. I don’t think any band/artist comes into music with a set sound and has it all sorted out! They mould and develop; they keep pressing and pushing and they always look to see how far they can go. Most of these changes are not that radical but, in terms of After London, they have made quite a step in regards their tones. From acoustic sounds and something a little calmer, they have harnessed their inner-beasts and taken a sharp turn. That decision came a few years back and it seems like they have settled into what they do. I am always interested seeing how bands change things and whether they stick with what sounds right. By that, I mean artists often feel like they have the ‘right’ sound and are unwilling to bend and try something new.

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PHOTO CREDIT: @kramerdoingbits

After London are always moving and change between songs and they are not willing to stand still. The guys want to keep their songs fresh and original so that means taking risks and experimenting. I am a fan of what they are putting out now but feel, in a little while, they will be trying yet another direction and seeing what they are capable of. What is brilliant is how confident and assured the band sound. There is that connection and chemistry in the ranks and, with that, comes a large amount of trust. I am not sure whether songs are written by the whole band or their lead, Francesca, pens the songs. There is a democracy and definite bond in the band and you can hear how comfortable they feel around one another. If you have that respect and are on the same page; it is easier to mutate your work and push things forward. My overall point is how difficult it can be for some artists to alter what they do because they fear commercial failure or something will go wrong. I have heard a lot of bands, between songs or albums, try new stuff and genres and it can sound a little clumsy. After London are a comfortable and assured band who seem effortless and natural when they are writing meaty riffs or evoking something dizzying, acidic or romantic. You get so much love and life in the music of After London and I am impressed how far they have come and how accomplished they sound – I expect this to continue through the years and it will not be long until they are getting some huge gigs. There are so many bands out there and I can always detect the ones who will reign and shine for years to come; those who sound lacklustre and tired are often unwilling to amend their music and step into new territory.  

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 PHOTO CREDIT: @kramerdoingbits

After London stand out because they have great songs and, as I have said, they tweak what they do and they have changed quite a bit since their inception. You cannot just come into the market with good songs and expect to survive and be taken to heart. You need to provide more and consider every single angle. I feel a lot of artists do not realise how much work is required and what it takes to endure and resonate. After London have an understanding of the market and they make sure they take care of every single thing. Their sound is complete and original but you can hear shades of modern and classic artists in what they do. Little bits of artists like Anna Calvi come into the vocals/guitars and there are Punk shades; a few elements of other acts but, essentially, it is a band who are knowing of what they want to achieve and have forged their own identity. Getting their music and sound solid and focused is a hard thing to do and I wonder what discussions went on behind the scenes. I hear so many bands who change things up a lot and are still looking for their footing. It is tricky having something perfect and appealing right from the off and many artists take years to hit their peak. I feel like After London will move and continue to explore but they seem like they have hit gold. Apart from sounds and dynamics; you also have to consider your live performance and other factors. The band’s name, for one, strikes me and holds interest. I discover so many artists who have a forgettable name or something that is pretty ordinary. A lot of times, bands have rather silly names and it can be hard to connect with them. ‘After London’ is a great name and it makes you wonder where that came from. It may sound like a minor factor, but getting your name right and song titles standing out is vital. Alongside everything else, the band have a great social media outlet – as I shall explore in a bit.

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Another reason why I wanted to look at After London is the fact they have plenty of nuance and personal appeal. You listen to their songs and new things are revealed through time. Layers emerge and you spot stuff that was missed the first time around. I am not sure whether that is because they hone and practice a lot before hitting the studio or whether live performance have given them new edge and abilities. In any case; what you get is a band who keep coming to mind the more you play them. I look at publicity photos of them and you feel like there is a lot of cheer and love among them. I have not met them personally but I can tell they are a fun and hungry band. I love the photos they have out there right now but wonder if there are more shoots coming. The band shine from the page and you are attracted to their style and sense of pull. Maybe that is something that comes naturally to them but, when you mix it with everything else they do, you get the complete package. There is so much to consider and ask yourself when you come into music. It is a really challenging industry so you need to make sure you have everything figured and accounted for. After London have the ammunition to succeed and thrive and they tick all of the boxes. I am not sure what they have planned for the coming years and how they want to move forward but the guys are rock-solid and they have so much love for what they do. This all shows when you see them live or hear one of their songs. Everything pops and you are beckoned in by a band who wants to go a long way and have a lot more to say. The sounds they make, and how they mix genres, is a reason why I like what they do.

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I am hearing a lot of bands with Punk snarl but a lot of it sounds rather insincere and vague. Not that After London are all about Punk and that is their only genre; they have that in their locker and make their songs explode and shine. Listen to Ceremony Waits and You’re So Cold and you can sense that energy and spit coming from the front. One gets melody and colour with the band but it is the way they come out of the traps and the physicality they display that really gets to me. I feel Punk is a genre that is coming back a lot more and something that is grabbing the critical ear. We are living in a time when things are fractured and the people are divided. I am not sure whether things will get better and where we are headed but many artists are responding by creating something angrier and more electric. After London are concentrated more on personal endeavours and concerns but I wonder whether they will take in more political and social concerns for their future material. After London have a bit of attack and lunge in regards a Punk dynamic but they lace in something Psychedelic and fuse that with other genres. This is a combination that works really well and I would like to see more bands follow in their footsteps. I guess bands like The Wytches and a few others do this but it is quite rare. If the lyrics and vocals were quite unfocused and average then the sound would not count for much. As it stands; every facet and angle is great and the band has this brilliant foundation. They can talk about cold hearts and unwanted attentions and do so in a fresh and unexpected way. I wonder why Punk is making a comeback and whether political considerations are bringing this out of artists. After London bring their own blend and version to the party.

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PHOTO CREDIT: @kramerdoingbits

Before I move on to another theme; I want to stay with Punk and what it is capable of. It is an interesting and bold genre that has room for manoeuvre and you can get a lot from it. After London seem to tip their hat 1970s Punk and something raw but they mix that with a more modern version. It has some softness around the edges but you get that fizzy and busting sound coming from the centre. It is hard to put into word but you get an unexpected combination with After London. It is amazing how they have changed from this acoustic band that was very different to how they are now and how settled they appear now. The full force of their Punk movements comes to life in their live performances and this is another area where they succeed. I do not get to too many live gigs – for one reason or the other – but I am hearing great things about After London and what they can do on the stage. The band can create a storm from the stage and have been lauded because of their connection, powerful performances and sense of bond with the audience. It is clear they love what they do and they feel very natural on the stage. What you get from After London is a potent and varied live set and a memorable experience. The guys are tight and complete and they can replicate what they do in the studio to the stage. Rather than lazily copy that studio sound; they inject something different into their live show and provide the people with something a little different. It is amazing seeing how a band can sound different on the stage and how that varies to how they sound on record. I am trying to cover every angle regarding After London and what they are about. I must consider the makeup of the band and why that is important.

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 PHOTO CREDIT: @kramerdoingbits

Maybe it is not wise to highlight a band because they have a female member but the fact they are female-led means there is a different aspect to them. You either get all-male or all-female bands but those who mix genders tend to hit my hardest. I know there are quite a few female-led bands out there and each of them provides their own take and magic. The reason why I raise this point is you get something different in the composition compared to the vocal. It is hard to put into words but there is a different story and physicality coming from the back as there is the front. This gels really well and you get two-layered songs that stand in the mind. I am always on the look-out for female-led bands and female artists and do not feel like they get the credit they warrant. A female voice, to me, holds more potency and potential than a male one. Maybe it is something emotional or instinctual but I am a bigger fan of the female sound. Francesca does not follow others or feel the need to replicate male artists. She has own sound and blends perfectly with Bryon, Will; Jake and Alex. The entire band fuses brilliantly but it is the vocal and how they resonate that gets to me. More and more; I am hearing female-led Punk bands emerge and it is a very popular combination. I still think the industry pays too much attention to men and does not really consider women as much as they should. I have talked a lot about Punk and what After London do but I feel one of the reasons why they are so popular – no offence to the rest of the band! – is that female lead. I wonder how long it will take until bands like After London get Glastonbury headline spots and can succeed the men. It is a shame there is still this sexism and the music industry is still not as evolved and conscientious as it should be.

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I am keen to move onto a song but, before I arrive, I should explore that female tone and why mixed-gender bands are exciting. You get different emotions and sounds coming from the songs when you have men and women in the group. I am not saying there is a distinct ‘male’ or ‘female’ sound when you listen to music but I can detect a discernible shift between all-male and all-female bands. The writing, to me, seems to be more developed and intriguing when you consider someone like After London. The performance and sound is more varied and there is a lot more to get involved with. I do tend to find, especially with all-male bands, there is a lot of rivalry in the ranks and relationships can turn sour. I am not suggesting a mixed-gender band is more secure but there tends to be more harmony and diplomacy between them. After London sound pretty comfortable and happy around one another and their music has strengths and contours I have not found with other bands. I should stop talking about various sides to what they do and come to the music itself. They have released a double A-side single but I have decided to pick You’re So ColdCeremony Waits is the other side of the record. The band has been working hard and both songs sound incredible. They have different tones and stories and both have been played on the live stage. The reason I chose You’re So Cold is because it is a live favourite and I was interested seeing how it sounds when recorded in the studio. It makes me wonder where they go from here and what they have planned for next year. I shall explore their future and what is coming up in the conclusion but it is the right time to get involved with a great new song from After London.  

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PHOTO CREDIT: @kramerdoingbits

I wanted to concentrate on You’re So Cold (as opposed Ceremony Waits) because, to me, it leaps from the gate quicker and seem to have an edge. Punchy and bold drums get the track springing forth and, curiously, there is a little bit of the 1980s in the sound! Maybe I am thinking about the similarities between the first seconds of You’re So Cold and My Sharona! That may sound little a jab but it is actually quite cool! Soon enough, the song goes in another direction and, actually, there are still bits of other decades. When the heroine comes to the microphone, combined with squally guitars and cool shred; I detect a little bit of influence of 1990s Alternative and some older-days Punk. The lead talks about a subject who is cold and she seems to take pleasure in informing them of the fact. You are not aware, from the off, whether it is a man or a woman but there is a definite sense of edginess and mistrust. The band whips up a combination of Pop king and Punk grit as the track warps, hovers and vibrates into the stratosphere. Our heroine’s voice is alive and unleashed as she stretches words and makes other explode like a bomb. It is never too intense and violent but it also never lacks vibrancy and stun. The opening moments of the song are about that mantra: letting the anti-hero(heroine) know they are cold and ensuring that gets into their head. Before a verse has come; the band get you dancing and motivated with a scintillating and tripped-out composition. It is a catchy and springing sound that gets under the skin and pricks the imagination. The bass comes through and guides as the heroine asks their subject whether they are on her stage. I can hear the influence of Dream Wife and songs like Hey Heartbreaker in the way the words are projected and enunciated. There is a little bit of classic Punk and bands like Blondie; a bit of the great Psychedelic bands and some shades from the modern-day cannon.

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 PHOTO CREDIT: @kramerdoingbits

One can name artists that are influential to After London but it is their own skin and sound that defines what they are about. You’re So Cold is a song that gets in your head because it comes from them and nobody else could come up with it. So many bands go in with clichés and predictable formations. After London have something different in their locker and it is that fresh and original perspective that shines. The heroine asks whether they are fools (her and her lover) and whether they can provide what they promise. Maybe it is a straight-up look at a relationship that is going sour but I wonder whether something wider and more general is being presented. The vocal is constantly exceptional and changing as each line has a different sound and, before you know it, there is a violent scream or an exclamation you did not see coming. The song is always winding and twisting and that is down to the way the band combines. The composition remains fairly unobtrusive in the early phases but it brilliantly backs the heroine who is keen to get her words out and have her say. It appears things have gone wrong with someone she knows and that fall-out has been severe. After a rather physical and direct vocal; you get this zither/theremin-inspired guitar sound and it gives the track a spaced and cosmic aspect. What gets to me is how the two different worlds and sounds can fuse and sound natural alongside one another. The band never sound forced and everything hangs together perfectly. It seems like there used to be a bond and sense of connection between the two but now things have gone wrong. The villain has been cruel and burnt any chance of love; left the heroine feeling foolish and taken too many liberties.

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Inside of all of this; there is a hope things might last – she can be a horror and her lover can be a freak – but maybe that is clinging on to old memories. It is the way the words are presented and how the story comes to life that really gets to me. Always energised, emotive and stylish; it is a compelling and memorable performance that brings the song to life and ensures it stays in the brain long after you have heard it. When you hear the chorus and that sentiment of the other being cold; you wonder how things went wrong and what happened. I am interested unpicking the song and is roots but it seems like After London will not disclose all of their secrets. You’re So Cold is a brilliant song that sounds very modern and relatable but definitely has some of its D.N.A. in the past. The band are consistently solid and inspired and, backed by an incredible central vocal, you are compelled by every note of You’re So Cold. Maybe the Dream Wife comparisons are a little strong in some places but that need not be a bad thing. After London are a very different proposition and do things in their own way. If you want to discover a great new band that will stay with you and have the potential to go a long way then you’d do right to get behind After London. I am excited to see where they go next and whether there is more material in the pipeline.

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 PHOTO CREDIT: @kramerdoingbits

With a couple of new songs out, I am excited to see where After London can go and what they planning next. The new material they have out is amazing and it is already gathering airplay and positive reviews. I am not certain whether they have an E.P. or album arriving next year but there will be more material I am sure. It is great seeing them develop and how far they have come. Keep abreast of their social media pages for gigs and what they have arriving but I would recommend you catch them if you can. What strikes me about After London is how committed and determined they are. Their social media pages are great and it would be good to see yet more images and photoshoots from them. They are always keen to keep people updated and connected and I know they will continue that. They have a fantastic sound and clear bond and that is a reason why their music sounds complete and solid. That pace and energy will carry into 2019 and I feel they will continue to make steps and improvements. Bigger gigs will come and they will keep on building on what they do. I can see the big steps they have made and how their music has changed since the very start. If you have the opportunity to see After London on the stage then I would recommend that. They are getting gigs in London and around the South but I think they will get bigger gigs and have the chance to travel around the country. The band seem like they would be great in other continents and 2019 might provide that platform. Let’s consider where they are now and how good songs like You’re So Cold sound. You can detect how confident they are and how much love they have for what they do. This is great to hear and next year is going to be a huge one for them. Take a listen to what After London are putting out and get behind their next moves. I am a fan of their work and will be behind them as they move forward. Maybe they are in the underground right now but it cannot be long until they…

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 PHOTO CREDIT: @kramerdoingbits

ASCEND to the big leagues.

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Follow After London

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TRACK REVIEW: Anna Pancaldi - Peace

TRACK REVIEW:

 

Anna Pancaldi

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Peace

 

9.5/10

 

 

The track, Peace, is available via:

https://open.spotify.com/track/6X0GG8hBMOimNSq5a0CnjA?si=IFxhdMTNQ32e_w38DZBsqA

GENRES:

Pop/Indie

ORIGIN:

London, U.K.

RELEASE DATE:

19th October, 2018

_________

THIS time around…

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there are a few things I want to cover and explore. Anna Pancaldi is an artist I have been watching for a while and I have seen her career develop. I want to talk about musicians who develop and sounds that are varied; those who can get attention from a variety of sources and have that width; getting your music played in the U.S. and on T.V. shows; those who can go a long way and succeed in a tough industry; where Pancaldi might go and what she can achieve. It has been an exciting last year or two for Anna Pancaldi. I have watched her bloom and blossom and she is establishing herself as one of the best young talents around. You get artists who stick with the same sound and can be quite rigid. That is good if you have a golden sound and have established yourself in that niche. What strikes me about some is that they cannot see any reason to push what they do and evolve. Pancaldi started strongly and came into the industry with a bold and accomplished sense of herself but she has grown and developed since then. She is someone who has gained backing and fan support but is keen to investigate new areas and she how she can go. Soulful and heartfelt songs like Brother and Keep on Keeping On set the bar and showed us what Pancaldi was capable of. What I’ve Become was and is a bolder song that takes things in an Indie-Rock direction. Peace is another step and development that incorporates the more Rock-inspired vibes of her recent work and adds in Soul and Pop. It is a complex brew that keeps her core and foundations strong but brings in new elements. I love songwriters who take risks and do not stick with the same sounds. Changing things up and widening your horizons is a great way of winning new fans and keeping your material fresh.

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The reason why Anna Pancaldi is evolving and looking at new areas of sound is because she is a curious artist. What amazes me is how she can go between genres and switch sounds and keep her personality intact. You know every song is from her and it has that distinct stamp. I see this soulful and spirited dynamic come into the music and it means Pancaldi is steps above many of her peers. A lot of the new music I get sent tends to be quite calm and unadventurous. You know a songwriter is trying to be passionate and personal but the music is somewhat unengaging and unambitious. Pancaldi gets off the blocks but always ensures every note and suggestion is meaningful. She takes care to bring her words to life and write sensational compositions. The way you grow your fanbase and get under the skin is because you keep taking risks and pushing things. Maybe ‘risks’ is not the word for it: perhaps ‘evolution’ is a better one. Every songwriter starts out with an impression of what they want to create and how they want to sound. They are inspired by artists they grow up around and love and then, you’d hope, they stretch and expand. They might retain some of that older sound but then they get out of that mindset and put their personality down. Too many artists are unwilling to step forward and do what is required. Maybe it is a fear of losing fans or not being able to fit into the mainstream. I do not know what it is but I am always drawn to those who keep things moving and change between songs. Pancaldi started out with a distinct and impressive sound and now, a little way down the line, she has grown and introduced new colours. I wonder where she will go next and how things will change. Every move she makes and every song she writes has its own look and you can sense this songwriter unwilling to stand still and repeat what came before.

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I am also draw to those whose music seems to attract different radio stations. I am a big fan of BBC Radio 6 Music but feel it is hard for artists to get attention from a different variety of sources. Many artists can get play from BBC Radio 6 Music but it can be difficult getting that same focus from BBC Radio 2. There are some who can take that even further and get focus from BBC Radio 1. Anna Pancaldi has been played by some of the biggest stations out there and it is not a pitch for commercial success. I can tell some artists deliberately write a way so they can appeal to these stations but, for Pancaldi, this is natural. She is not an artist who is Pop-obsessed and pitches to a certain demographic. Whatever she puts onto the page has that wide-ranging appeal and variation. She can attract and entice those who want a more mature and emotive song but also get into the minds of the cooler and more youthful audience. Now, with Peace, she can take that even further and attract even more stations. I do think radio focus is important and is the most effective way of getting your music to a large audience. Social media is great but there is nothing like the radio for hearing that new favourite artist and having that immediate impact. It is the decades-lasting form of marketing that can bring the artist directly to the fan. Anna Pancaldi works hard and promotes what she does but her natural talent seems to resonate with a huge audience. As we step into 2019; I feel she will keep on the same lines, sound-wise, as she is right now; retaining that mixture of pressing with the more soulful. There are so many songwriters out there and it is a very challenging business. Pancaldi has already negotiated that tricky step: getting her music heard on national radio and gathering that impassioned fanbase.

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Before I talk about T.V. and how music can translate there; I will stay with radio and how impactful it is. I listen to radio every day and do not limit myself to one option. You can discover artists you will not find on social media by listening to radio and, unlike social media, you hear their sounds and there is something much more natural and effecting. I can understand why Anna Pancaldi has grown into this popular and loved artist and how her music has got into the national mindset. She is still in the early stages of her career and can see her popularity grow. What moves me is how she continues to diversify and push herself, even though her music is established and popular. Many songwriters, once they get the love of radio and have that set sound, do not really make efforts to do anything more and can keep going down the same line. I can understand how artists would merge and form their sounds based on the demands of radio stations and how they can get a bigger audience. Pancaldi has always been natural and led by instincts. The relationship she has formed with radio stations has formed in a more personal and less commercial way and that is a reason why I am a fan of her. I will end the review by speaking about Pancaldi’s future and where she might go; how she will develop and where her career can take her. There are many who can get their music onto national radio but fewer who get their material played on T.V. It is a great time for her and so many eyes are cast her way. Radio stations have already jumped onto her music and love what she does but she has also managed to reach international T.V. sources. If you can broaden your horizons and get onto T.V. then that opens your music up to new possibilities.

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Pancaldi is a British artist but she has got a lot of kudos from the U.S. She made her live T.V. debut on CBS and her music has been featured on the U.S. show, Famous in Love. Pancaldi penned a song for Levi as part of their Lot 700 jeans collection and got her music played on the accompanied advert. Pancaldi, oddly, has her own brand of gin and seems to have that business mindset. Not one to stick with one theme and limit herself in creative terms; she has got her foot in different waters and is always looking for that next project. I love the fact Pancaldi has her own gin and she wants to broaden her horizons. I am not sure whether that move was because she is a gin fan – in a non-drunken way – or she is always curious what she can do and achieve. Her music, as I have shown, has won the heart of national radio stations and it cannot be too long before film directors and producers come her way! I feel like Pancaldi’s music has the ability to score a big drama or a cool Indie film; get under the skin of those watching a cinematic treasure – who knows how far she can go! Getting your music on T.V. shows might seem like a minor accomplishment but I think it is a big step. There are very few who can boast that and there is a whole new world waiting for you. It is strange to consider but the same song can have a different impact when played on the screen (as compared the radio). If it is played at the right moment then it can be hugely effecting. I am not sure whether Pancaldi has had her music played on British T.V. but I can see that coming. I do not know how she managed to get her music played in the U.S. but I am sure it is her determination, talent and constant hard work that made that happen. The U.S. market is a huge one and I hope that success continues to rise.

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All I have mentioned before explains why Anna Pancaldi has got success and foundations. She is a rising artist who has worked on her material and always considers how she can make it stronger. Since working alongside Matt Ingram (Florence + the Machine, Laura Marling); her music has grown and there is fresh confidence in there. Pancaldi has evolved and, as I said, is not someone who sticks with the same sound and dynamic – even if she is popular and her music is connecting with people. Electric guitar and something more thrilling is covered on her latest track, Peace. I will look at its themes and story but it is interesting to see how her sound has grown and how Pancaldi keeps plugging and experimenting. I have been talking about her T.V. success and I feel her latest revelation will get some more focus. I can imagine Peace being played on a U.S. show or a British drama. It is an exciting and busy time for Pancaldi and I know she will continue to work and share her music. There are not many who have the same work ethic as her and have that attitude. Not only is the music from her exciting and exceptional but the person behind the songs is thrilling. So few songwriters have that intriguing personality and seem to draw you in. Many times, I listen to a song and never really get curious about the artist who penned it. Maybe that is my problem but I want to feel connected with the songwriter and feel like they are writing music for me. Pancaldi is someone who is strong and resilient in her songs but you can sense a sensitivity and a complexity. She always wants to involve the listener in her sounds and take them along with her. Rather than write about something that means something to her and does not translate; the music is designed to connect with everyone and bring fresh faces in.

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There are a load of artists out there and you are spoiled for choice. I have been in music for a long time and seen so many great artists come through but there are those who stay in the mind a bit and then disappear. Few really remain for years to come but that is not their fault – the industry is busy and hectic and it can be tough retaining the sounds. Anna Pancaldi draws me in because she has an incredible style and sound; her lyrics seem to speak to the masses and you are involved and hooked by every note! Maybe this is one reason why radio and T.V. have come her way. I look back and can see what a great 2018 she has had. There have been great songs and revelations; Pancaldi is looking ahead and seeing what comes next. Given the fact she has taken her sound in a new direction and exploring fresh territory; it seem next year will be a very exciting one. I am not sure whether new material is coming soon – I shall explore this in the conclusion – but I know the songwriter will look in new directions. Peace is a sign of where she is now and where her creative mind is. I wonder whether she will continue down this road or make another sonic step. In any case; you need to be involved with what Anna Pancaldi is all about and where she is going. Her music seems to resonate and connect; it goes deep and people love what she is doing. I think next year will be a huge one for her and things will get even better. Look at where she has come and how her music has been celebrated and you can see this bright songwriter shaping up to a be a future star! Even though music is packed and competitive; I can see quite a clear and golden path for Pancaldi.

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It seems there is a hero/heroine that has that confidence and inner-peace Pancaldi lacks. The song opens and makes its presence known right away. There is not a big introduction and build-up and you hear the heroine come straight in. The vocal makes an impact and its feelings known and you hear this soulful and emotive tone. The production allows the vocal to come top of the mix and there is little other sound pushing it back. You get the first sign of those electric strings but Pancaldi’s tremulous and passionate voice is the most prominent instrument at first. Maybe Peace is a reaction to things that have happened before and a bit of turmoil that has plagued her. I get the sense Pancaldi has experienced some hurt and storm and she is on a better footing. Perhaps someone in her life has that calm and inner-peace and the heroine envies that. She knows things will get better and be okay when you have that peace. Maybe it has been love or a sense of accomplishment that has got her to where she is. A lot of songwriters would use love and relationships as a drive and source of inspiration. They would spill their guts about the bond and how enriched they feel. Pancaldi is more concerned with general feeling and connecting with everyone. I am not sure what has compelled Pancaldi to feel like she needs that boost but I guess life has taken its toll and there have been stresses forming. Something has arrived that has given Pancaldi this calm and settled her nerves. Perhaps there is new romantic involvement but I feel her natural fortitude and strength has seen improvement. The heroine knows things can be good and she can live in peace for a long time. She refers to ‘we’ but I wonder whether this references a lover or a friend. Maybe things have been bad and there have been obstacles but the heroine has the desire to keep positive.

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The composition does not get too heavy and, aside from a sturdy beat and strings; it is Pancaldi’s voice that steals the show and does the loudest talking. Her musicians add a lot of flair and emotion but it is the lead that sells the words and brings that expressive voice to the fore. Rather than idly and lazily sing the words; she twists sentences and syllables to give them more emotion and gravitas. I get the sense of a woman who has been heartbroken and disappointment. She has gone through a lot and faced some pretty big challenges. Rather than accuse people or wallow in that state; she wants to break through and find some sense of grounding. There is nothing to fear when you have peace and things can be a lot better. It is a wonderful expression and mandate that will inspire a lot of people. It is hard to compare Pancaldi to any other artist because her voice has that special and personal sound. There is soulfulness and Blues touches that remind me of Stevie Nicks and a bit of k.d. lang but there is so much more working away. It is an immediate and dynamic voice that has so many different colours and emotions at heart. She is one of the best voices in modern music and someone who can elevate any song to rare heights. Peace is a track that makes full use of Pancaldi’s talents and will see her get into the mind of new fans. The production allows her voice to weave and dominate but there is plenty of space for the composition. Our heroine knows that, if we stand a little taller than before, things can be better and that peace can come. It would be easy to write clichés and present rather ordinary lyrics but Pancaldi never falls victim to that. I am amazed by her spirit and the way her words can get into the soul.

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She is an amazing songwriter who has always impressed but it seems like she has hit new peaks here. I am curious what inspired the new track and whether a particular figure has been responsible for this revival. I am a big fan of everything she puts out because it comes from a very real place and is designed to make everyone feel better. Whether that is a pleasing composition or lyrics that are directed at the listener; you always feel involved and part of the song. I feel like there has been some struggle and hardship ahead of her but Pancaldi has negotiated them and is keen to move through. Finding calm and stability can be hard in these challenging times and finding the determination to stand tough is difficult. Pancaldi is presenting this message and sentiment of hope to the people. I think things have got better in her life and changes are going to come. There is a figure in the song that seems to imbibe this newfound lust and betterment and she is taking inspiration from them. Pancaldi’s voice swoons and swoops before rising to those dizzying heights. I always love hearing her sing and what she can bring to a song but Peace seems to be one of her most complete and inspiring tracks yet. Not that Pancaldi only writes about what she is going through but here, especially, you know she is speaking to everyone and sending that positive message out there. We all go through tough times and changes but you need that belief you can get through and the storms will pass. I am impressed by Peace and have listened to it a few times. It reveals new layers and impressions each visit and stays in the mind. There are few songwriters who can write a song that has that impact and it makes me wonder where Anna Pancaldi goes from here. She is a great artist always looking to evolve and impress and you can hear that come to the fore on her latest single. I hope everyone backs her and the song reaches even more people than it already has.

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Anna Pancaldi is touring at the moment and you keep updated on her movements through her social media. With Peace out there and already capturing the imagination; people are keen to see her on the road and hear the song played up-close. The intrepid songwriter is reaching new audiences and it seems like that hunger to impress and captivate is huge. I have listened to how Pancaldi has grown and where her music is taking her. Every new release brings fresh confidence and she is not one who sticks with the same formula and repeats herself. It is going to be a busy and exciting end to 2018 but she will be looking to next year and how far she can go. Maybe there will be some U.S. dates and more success regarding T.V. and film. Radio stations here are behind her and it seems like that acclaim is going to grow. I wonder whether an E.P. will come in 2019 and what form it will take. It is a crucial and big time for Pancaldi and I am keen to see where she heads next. Maybe there will be more singles in the coming months but Pancaldi is eager to spread the music on the road and promote Peace as much as possible. There is a long way to go until mainstream success comes but you cannot rule that out completely. Anna Pancaldi has an edgy and cool sound that is beyond what you’d get from the mainstream but there is that definite populist appeal.

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You can bond with a song naturally and easily but the notes remain in the mind. I would love to see her on the road but, alas, things are a bit busy this side. I know she has a loyal and passionate fanbase and her live sets are incredible. Given the fact there is quite a bit of material under her belt; her shows have that full and eclectic sound. Next year will give her a chance to bring out new material and take that next step. I love what Peace is all about and there is a more fired and exciting flair. Get behind what she does and see this brilliant young talent rise and shine. I have been looking at her music for a while and can see how much she has grown. It is brilliant discovering a songwriter and having them lodge in the head. Things are getting bigger and brighter for Anna Pancaldi and I am excited to see where she goes. There are those songwriters that make an impression and then sort of fizzle out: few remain through the years and have that evolving and always-impressive style. Peace is proof there is a war of ambition and colour burning in her heart; that desire to get her music across the world and win new fans. There are not many who have the same attributes and talents as her. I have been playing her latest song for a bit and there is new wonder and secrets revealing themselves each time. Given her rate of progression and how much she puts into music; I think 2019 is going to be Pancaldi’s biggest year and will see gain new acclaim. Make sure you get behind Peace and give it a good listen. If you can; follow Pancaldi on social media and see her on tour. She is a fantastic songwriter and someone we all need to get involved with. She has achieved a lot in her career so far but I think Peace might be her…

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BIGGEST statement yet.

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Follow Anna Pancaldi

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TRACK REVIEW: FloodHounds - Take It Too Far

TRACK REVIEW:

 

FloodHounds

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Take It Too Far

 

9.4/10

 

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The track, Take It Too Far, is available via:

https://open.spotify.com/track/3y9kppFghlgJz8O7J6Jf7L?si=bBWfS-azSuivPeESzG4C6Q

GENRE:

Alternative-Rock

ORIGIN:

Sheffield, U.K.

OFFICIAL RELEASE DATE:

20th October, 2018

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THIS time around…

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I want to look at a great band that is back in my view and I want to pay some new attention to. I want to address, before I get to them, Sheffield and the Yorkshire scene in general; the conflict between bands and solo artists and how the balance is starting to tip; lyrics that paint an optimistic picture; developing as a group and making changes – I will end by looking at how FloodHounds will develop and what their future has in store. This is not the first time I have come across the band and it is nice to be back with them. I am pleased to see them again and I wonder whether their new song, Take It Too Far, is the start of something full. It is always nice reviewing and interviewing artists from all areas of the world but I am back in Yorkshire. It is a county that keeps cranking out fantastic acts and I am pleased to put FloodHounds alongside the very best. Yorkshire is a vast and colourful county that is teeming with sounds and brilliant artists. I am not sure whether there is something in the water – I think there must be! – but you tend to get a lot more variation and strength in Yorkshire. What strikes me about Sheffield is the consistency and the history the city has. Look at bands like Pulp and Arctic Monkeys and you have two of the best bands of the last thirty years. Maybe they differ in terms of style but you can tell there is a distinct local sound that comes into their music. The city is still firing out brilliant artists and wonderful venues like The Leadmill mean there are places for artists to play. I don’t know really. Maybe one finds more cooperation and unity in Sheffield but it is a part of the world that should not be overlooked.

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You can investigate the classic artists from here but I know there is a new breed working hard and keeping the city burning. FloodHounds are in no rush to move away and have a great fanbase there. The trio have been playing for a long while now and there is a great connection within the ranks. I am a huge fan of the work they do and I feel it is where they are based that means they are solid and together. It can be hard surviving and growing somewhere like London but it is easier and less stressful when you are away from there. I have nothing against music in London but it is difficult tackling the daily grind and making a name in a very packed area. Sheffield is away from the capital – so critics might not come here first – but I feel there is less tension and more room to breathe for artists. What impresses me is how diverse the city is and the variety on display. I know FloodHounds have been playing a long time but I have seen them add new elements into their music. Other acts in Sheffield have taken inspiration from FloodHounds and incorporated that into what they do. I feel local sources and national websites need to be more invested in Sheffield and realise it is a city that has always provided us brilliant music. We get too fixated on other parts of the world and forget there are places like Sheffield that are bursting with life and activity. I will move onto a new subject in a bit but I am fascinated by local differences and the various scents one gets when you move around. Yorkshire is a county that, I feel, is producing the best music around and we all need to get more invested. Sheffield is an industrious and steely city that is proud and hard-working. Make sure you spend a little more time that way and unearth all the brilliant new acts that are emerging right now.

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It has been a while since a publication did a rundown of Sheffield artists to watch but, right now, FloodHounds should be top of your list. I have looked a lot at solo artists the past few weeks and am always extolling their virtues. I feel it is a ripe and productive time for them and it has been a long time since bands ruled the scene. Arctic Monkeys were one of the last bands to properly have mainstream attention and apart from some modern acts like IDLES; how long has it been since a band has been right in the centre of music?! I feel there will be a shift happening in the next few years. Music goes through cycles and different trends dictate what we hear in the mainstream. Right now, solo music seems to be reigning and it is a period where brilliant young names are creating work that will resonate and remain for years. I wonder why bands have taken a backseat in the mainstream – I feel it might have something to do with the sounds they produce and whether they can mix it with solo artists. There have not been THAT many exciting bands come through in the big leagues for a bit so I am looking to the underground to inspire. Look at the legendary bands like Pulp and Radiohead and they were coming into music at a time when bands were more common and, between them, they were providing personal and unique sounds. Right now; it is harder to be distinct and the popular demand seems to be aimed at solo artists. It means new bands have a harder time of things and it may take longer to transcend and get recognition. FloodHounds are part of a culture that can provide hard and grumbling sounds with lyrics that go deeper than the commercial and cliché. I feel a lot of bands (in the mainstream) either have softer sounds or are quite predictable or they are repeating what has already come before. The best of the newcomers are showing their stripes but it might take a while for a real shift to occur.

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A reason why I feel FloodHounds will remain and inspire is because they have that bond and chemistry – which I shall talk about later – and the music being produced is fantastic and consistent. You can hear a FloodHounds song and take away messages that are compelling, encouraging and interesting and the sound is always urgent and bright. The band has gone through some changes but I feel like the brilliant music they are providing is the main asset. It may take a little while longer for bands to get properly into the mainstream but we need more bands like FloodHounds. They have a wonderful live show and connection and there is a magic and explosion that gets into the head and stays with you. I am not sure what their plans are for next year but I am sure it will not be long until FloodHounds will get their acclaim. I feel it only takes a few bands to get the spark lit and, from there, they can inspire a movement and revolution. Maybe IDLES and groups like Wolf Alice need a bit of backing but I can see other bands starting to make their way through. It is a great time for music and, whilst solo artists are making big headway and taking biggest attention; I can see a slight shift and I have every faith more balance will come in soon enough. FloodHounds are an ambitious and hungry band that are based in a brilliant county. They have a lot of support around them and have gained acclaim for journalists and radio. There are  a few reasons why bands are slightly struggling against solo artists but maybe the lyrical content and variation of the compositions are a factor. I think solo artists have more room to manoeuvre and they are less bound to commercial demands and particular sounds. Perhaps I am wrong but bands, over the past few years, have been a bit constrained. I can hear little changes emerging and the underground best are providing something original, fresh and interesting.

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One reason why bands have taken a slight backseat is the lyrics they are producing. I do not want to say solo artists have more appeal in that regard but it has been a while since I heard a band whose words stuck in my mind. FloodHounds, on their latest cut, have an optimistic mindset and are producing words that we all need to abide by. These times are stressful and demanding and it is great artists see that and are releasing music that provides that kick of life and redemption. There is nothing to suggest love-based, less optimistic lyrics are dying out but I am more prone to artists that can talk about something encouraging and reflect the times in which we live. It is a challenging period in history and things are getting rather dark. I am hearing solo artists who are urging something upbeat and urging us to keep strong but, more and more, personal concerns dominate lyrics. That is understandable to an extent but I want to hear more bands/artists thinking outside of their own lives and give us something more profound. FloodHounds mix something general and accessible with inspiring messages and encouraging tones. They want us to know we can all make it through the worst times – not always the case but largely true – and that is something that is unusual in music. Maybe it is a commercial risk straying away from love and broken hearts but I am seeing more and more artists observe the modern world and dig a lot deeper. In terms of their music; FloodHounds have progressed and made some alterations but they have always broken away from the obvious and routine – their music has that flair of individuality and has actual substance. I shall move on now but I wanted to display my views regarding lyrics and how important it is to go beyond the rather easy and tackle bigger themes. It seems, then, that FloodHounds have all the components and contours figured and they might well be one of the first bands to break into the mainstream. I am excited to see how they progress and what comes next for them.

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I have been following them for a long time now and not a lot has managed to faze them. Jack Flynn and Lauren Greaves are the consistent link in the band and they have brought in a new bass player, Joel Hughes. I am not sure why the change has happened but Hughes seems to be settling in well. He made his live debut when FloodHounds supported The Blinders in Derby and FloodHounds are embarking on their next phase. It can be difficult losing a member and having to make changes and, in a lot of cases, it can be the end of the band. If there was another loss then it might be too much but FloodHounds have quickly adapted and strengthened. I like their new addition and it has not changed their sound too much. Things are starting to get big for the band so they need to remain strong and productive. Their latest song has some Blues harmonica thrown in and a Psychedelic bridge section – complete with flutes and all sort of magic! Most bands, like FloodHounds, stick to what they know and are reluctant to break away from something tried and tested. It can be tempting sticking with something familiar and safe and you might not feel easy doing something new and experimenting. FloodHounds have that core sound but feel they are willing to shift and try new things. This is a reason why I feel bands can make their way into the mainstream and the new breed are showing great strength. FloodHounds have a great live sound and have been playing a long time so it is no shock to see them cemented and solid. Rather than continue to play the same sort of thing and keep to that basic drum-bass-guitar routine; they want to expand their horizons and keep things interesting. I know how the local scene is embracing FloodHounds but I can hear people from further afield welcome the band and start to embrace their music. FloodHounds have a Punk edge they, on Take It Too Far, inject Blues and Indie together.

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Before I get down to the song in question; it is worth seeing where the band can go and why I feel they will be big news next year. It has been a little while since we saw new music from FloodHounds and it good to have them back in the mix. Whatever happens in new and mainstream music next year; I am sure we will see a change happening and bands like FloodHounds will make headway. I shall end by speaking about the future of the Sheffield band but I can see them grow and get more intriguing by the release. Few bands have made as big a leap as FloodHounds and they are one of the most solid acts around. Even though they have changed a member and that could have split them; there is that friendship and solidity in the ranks and they all want to continue and make wonderful music. Life for bands can be hard when you have several members and keeping that harmony can be tough. I have a renewed interest in bands and have spent a long time investigating solo artists. Whilst I am a big fan of the solo artist and have been exposed to some incredible sounds; I am excited to adjust my radar and start bringing bands into the mix. Maybe the balance will come in a few years – and will not be instant – but I feel the underground is producing bands with much more substance and intelligence than recent years. Many are discussing important themes and not just sticking with the same subjects time and time again. I hope I have contextualised FloodHounds and what they do but the bottom line is this: they are on a sterling and golden path that will, soon enough, see them rub shoulders alongside the big guns.

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A spirited and hardcore blitz reminds me of Arctic Monkeys and Queens of the Stone Age – and a song I heard on Spaced that doesn’t come to mind right now! – and it is an instant blast. You are right in the song and FloodHounds are wasting no time getting into the mind.  There are wordless vocals that have a slightly distorted edge and the to-and-fro between the players gets your head rocking and the body moving. I was moved from the very off and impressed by the physicality of the song. The riffs are chunky, the bass guiding and the beats firm. That combination gives a real fizz and electricity to proceedings and, before a word is sung, you are invested and interested to see where the song heads. I mentioned how bands such as FloodHounds stray away from obvious lyrical themes – heartache and romance splits – but they manage to weave a little bit of that into the fold. You get some familiarity and understanding but there is something more widespread and optimistic working away. Whilst the band wants us to be strong and determined; they are talking about something harsh and poisonous. Maybe it is impossible to completely detach away from love and relationships and you always need to put that into music. I don’t know but you can take a few things away from Take It Too Far. There is a lot of hatred and struggle and it seems, even when the first round is done, there is more where that came from! No names are mentioned – and it is not completely clear whether heartache is being assessed – but you might get a bit of political whiff. Perhaps the trio are talking about Government strife and how they are leading us down a bad road. You get a bit of romantic hurt and deceit but you can apply the words to wider concerns and what is happening in the country. Our hero knows we will get there some way and, whether that alludes to harmony in the country or personal satisfaction; I feel like his hurt is shedding and optimism is on the horizon.

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The spirit and influence of Arctic Monkeys is clear but it does not dominate what FloodHounds do. I have seen the trio mutate and grow since the start and they are becoming their own boss more and more. It is nice to hear elements of Arctic Monkeys in the background but the forefront is very much that of the trio. I hear words that talk of hope and improvement and my mind is divided between the personal and political. The clever thing about the song is how you are never completely sure where the story emanates from and what the origin is. The damage has been done and the lead wants to know whether this pattern is coming to an end. Maybe there is a bit of personal problem that has been brought to the forefront. He is tired of the same occurrences and being hurt; having his life altered and affected like this. I, at every stage, am drawn to the idea of political tensions and how the country is moving. You can interpret the song how you want but, at its heart, is that message of improvement and change. It may seem like things are bad now and they will not brighten but that is not true. The trio unite perfectly and provide a composition that is always snaking, teasing and strong. The verbal hit-and-run and this constant crap is getting to the hero but he is resolute. One of the biggest strengths of Take It Too Far is learning from the past and not willing to make the same mistakes. By not revealing names and whether it is about heartbreak, a friendship souring or political upheaval; you can bring your own conclusions to mind and take the song where you feel fit. I always think about the political side of things and how FloodHounds might be thinking about recent events. However you view the song; you cannot get away from the bursting and enflamed composition and the strong lead vocal.

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Greaves comes in with backing vocals and there is a brilliant burst of Blues harmonica. You do not expect it from the song and it provides another angle. More and more, as time goes on, things shift to the personal and you wonder whether they are talking about individual romantic strife or something more general. I was caught by the left-turn the song took and how it shifted from the familiar. Take It Too Far is a song you can play time and time again and get that hit from it. I have been hankering for a song that provides a real release but projects a great message. The more I listen to the song, the more I am divided where it stems from and how it came to FloodHounds. The trio provide an exceptional performance and the production brings every note and sinew to life. The song’s villain is fighting with themselves and it seems like they are digging their own grave. I was thinking about our Government and what a mess they are making but maybe FloodHounds has a common enemy that has inspired their latest single. You need to listen to Take It Too Far a few times for everything to sink in and all the shades hang. It is a fantastic song that gets into the blood and stays with you. I hope FloodHounds continue to make music and we will hear more from them next year. It has been a great and productive career so far but I feel they are hitting a new stride and things are getting stronger. I am thrilled they are back and they have not disappointed with Take It Too Far. A brilliant song that takes you by surprise and gets into the head; I feel it will do wonders on the stage and people will respond to it in a very physical and real way. Make sure you wrap your head around the track and spread the message far and wide.

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The band is playing in London on Friday and then they are back up in Sheffield. The guys have that appeal in the capital but it is the local venues/crowds that are providing the biggest support. Their new single is officially released on 20th October and the gigs they have coming up is to promote it. Right now, we are lucky enough to have it on Spotify and give it a listen before it is officially released to the wider world. I know the band has experienced some change recently but that has not dented their armoury. They will continue to grow and play and I love what they are putting out into the world right now. Take It Too Far is a brilliant song that, I hope, will lead to an E.P. or album. It is clear there is renewed ambition and I am looking forward to see what that translates into. Next year will be a great one for them and I feel there will be big gigs. I am not sure whether the band has plans for international date but I would not be surprised to see FloodHounds take on the world! They have a sound that would do well in America and other parts of the world. I am seeing some great bands come through and it is interesting seeing all the different variations around. The solo artist holds a lot of clout but there has been this huge majority that (I feel) needs to change. Moving forward; 2019 will be a good year for FloodHounds and I know more material will come. Led by Jack Flynn; the Sheffield band will look to add to what they have out there now and I predict some huge gigs will arrive. What impresses me is how FloodHounds keep solid and never drop a step. One might see a slight change in terms of composition and the tones they are bringing into the blend but there is that distinct ‘FloodHounds sound’ that keeps coming through. The trio are among the most solid and fascinating around and you would do well to follow what they do. Everyone needs to show some support for the Sheffield three-piece and get involved with what they are up to. I would like to see them do a few more gigs down London way and Brighton is not too far away. Rather than race ahead and plan a list of gigs; I know they will be promoting their new single and thinking about where they head next. I am sure more material is brewing and they have an idea of what they want to do next. I am compelled to see what that is and how they move. Take a listen to Take It Too Far and let it get into the bones. It is another memorable and strong single from FloodHounds and I am glad they are putting new stuff out there. It has been a busy and eventful last couple of years for the trio but I feel they are strong and rock-solid right now. Maybe they have faced challenges and the odd slip lately but there is no stopping them right now. The FloodHounds juggernaut is strong and determined and you would do good to…

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JUMP on board.

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Follow FloodHounds

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TRACK REVIEW: Fiona Harte - White Picket Fence

TRACK REVIEW:

 

Fiona Harte

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White Picket Fence

 

9.5/10

 

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The track, White Picket Fence, is available via:

https://open.spotify.com/track/3R55JILwSML3YrB1kC4WJb?si=JGD4OTpmTpCxSI1zRWjUDQ

GENRES:

Folk; Singer-Songwriter

ORIGIN:

Co. Tyrone, Northern Ireland/New York, U.S.A.

RELEASE DATE:

10th September, 2018

_________

ON this trip out…

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I get to talk about Fiona Harte and what she is up to right now. I will look at her debut single but, before then, I will investigate songs that take something common and add new elements to it. I will look at influences and where some artists take guidance from; artists who move and take a chance somewhere big and new; those who can get into the heart and have that star quality; competing in a challenging business that is seeing a lot of turnover – I want to talk about Harte and where she might head next year. I have looked at Fiona Harte before and have featured her music on my site. It is good to do a proper review of her debut single and what she is doing right now. She is a songwriter that has worked hard to get where she is and it seems like her potential is boundless. What strikes me is how determined she is and what natural talent she possesses. It is quite hard differentiating between songwriters because many of them are talking about the same things and there is not a lot of distance between them. The impulse to talk about love is common and understandable but it seems like every songwriter out there is doing it. I normally would think twice about looking at songwriters who talk about love because it seems to be all anyone talks about. I know it is key to us all but I long for artists who tell stories and break away from the mould; go a bit further and study something more original. This might seem like a slight against Harte but there are a couple of reasons why her subject matter is needed. She is writing a debut single and has it out there now. You cannot really go into the market with something odd and unexpected as you need to bring audiences in and, essentially, write about what you know. Her music switches between Folk and Pop and these genres rely upon those artists who write from the heart and we can connect with. I know she is an intriguing and talented songwriter who will break away from love in future releases but now, on White Picket Fence, she is keeping it safe.

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Again; there is nothing against that because you want to embrace artists who can strike a familiar chord and you can easily bond with. Look back at all the legends and they started their careers looking at relationships and matters of the soul. Harte is among the songwriting tradition but, rather than copy everyone else and create something dull and generic; she has penned a song with a more interesting bent and dynamic. The twenty-four-year-old has had her share of heartache and disappointment and wants to put this down onto the page - she does so in a colourful and intelligent way. One of the most shoulder-shrugging things would be if Fiona Harte were like much of the mainstream and wrote about love in a very stale and formulaic way. She, instead, has decided to use that song title as a sort of dream and curious enigma. Maybe it is that ideal of a white picket fence and settling down; perhaps it relates to something cliché and boring in love – being too settled or boring and not showing enough ambition. In any case, I shall look more into that when I come to the song but it is an interesting number indeed. Harte has written a song about someone who controls the mind and actions by doing very little and it can be rather unsettling. She has the hope new love will come along and there will be something good on the horizon. It is an interesting angle and one not many songwriters explore. I guess, as long as a musician can engage on a different level and do something new, love and its much-trodden themes are safe and fertile ground. Harte is not someone who can ever be caught writing in a very ordinary way or presenting what has already come before. I like her writing because you never know whether she is writing about her own life or taking it from a more fictional space. Her debut single leaves you wondering and the rich language throughout paints pictures and causes interpretation. I will move on now but allude to this point more in the conclusion.

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It is always hard coming into the market and trying to carve out your own territory. I have encountered many songwriters who have come and not really burned that brightly. It is really tough getting attention and setting yourself aside with the first song. Maybe you compromise and do what everyone else is doing and risk taking a long time to get genuine credibility or you can release something fresh and run the risk of people not really getting it. Harte has penned something original and unexpected but there is that familiarity of love and trouble in relationships. It is a nice mix but her influences and sounds gets to me. Harte has been inspired by great artists like Joni Mitchell and Carole King and you can hear that coming through. They might seem like lofty names but so many new artists do not look that far back. It might be snobbish but I worry when young songwriters do not have a musical knowledge past this decade and list all their favourite albums as very recent ones. It is okay being inspired by the likes of Lady Gaga and Taylor Swift but there are so many young artists who only know new music and that is all that matters to them. They have not got that wider knowledge and all of their icons are from today. It is so limited and, as such, you have so many who sound alike and do not retain those icons and what they did. Harte is a more mature songwriter who has grown up around some great music and that has captured her heart. Whilst she does not take too heavily from King and Mitchell; you cannot help but to hear elements of them in her work. I love both of these artists but they have different styles. Mitchell is a more challenging artist in terms of her themes and can often be quite gritty, dark and emotive. She is someone who has enflamed imaginations with these bold stories and incredible albums.

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It is hard to explain but Joni Mitchell is maybe harder to love in terms of her voice – it is quite divisive – but her lyrics are phenomenal. Carole King is a more appealing and popular vocalist and her songs are more traditionally romantic and accessible. The two are legends and have changed music but they are very different in many ways. I am interested to know where Harte came from and how she discovered these artists – you get to hear shades of each in her songs and it is a really interesting brew. I feel influences and idols are as important as anything. It is hard to be unique and every artist has taken from someone else. It is a hard thing to come into music and be completely alien and not be compared with anyone. Influences are important because they give you that guidance and root and it means you can start there and build outwards. Although one does not hear too much of Joni Mitchell and Carole King too heavily; I feel that style of music is most important and Harte prefers the more poetic, deep and classic style. Rather than do something mainstream and too ordinary; you get that clash of relatable heartache and poetic flourishes. Her songwriting has already caught minds and captured people and I think that is going to increase. I do wonder whether there is more material next year but now, with White Picket Fence, we have a song that marks a big talent who has a lot of potential. It is a brilliant and memorable introduction that sets the scene and will leave many people wanting more very soon. She is a Northern Irish artist but is based in New York right now. Some people might say that leap is quite big and scary but it seems like it is working very well for her.

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One might say that is a bit of a strange move. Maybe the scene is not that great where she is from in Co. Tyrone but it is a bit of a trek to get somewhere where her music will resonate. I have never been to Northern Ireland but I wonder whether there is much of a scene beyond Belfast. I know there are a few good spots for music there but it is not a nation as active and well-known as the U.S. America is a nation that has always produced wonderful music and that dream of getting to somewhere like New York and making it big is still there. Songwriters want to settle in and make it soon; they want to get that attention and play alongside the biggest artists around. It is brave stepping outside of your home and safe territory and going somewhere daunting. I cannot imagine how unusual it was going there for the first time and how long it took for Harte to feel truly settled. It is impressive seeing her take this leap right from the start and knowing where she wants to go. You can detect an artist who wants to be a big success and not take years to get there. Her songwriting is already assured and brilliant and it might take years to flourish and be discovered in Northern Ireland. Harte wants to take her music to the masses and it seems New York is a perfect place for her. It is a packed and competitive area but it is possible to find collaborators and plenty of people to make the music shine and spread. More and more, artists are moving to cities and not finding opportunities in smaller towns. As more and more musicians come into the world; it is hard to set yourself aside and a lot of venues are closing. What worries me is how stressful the city can be and how expensive it is for musicians. Harte has gone to a part of the world that has its struggles and problems but, in terms of music, it is a hotbed of variation, innovation and wonder.

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I have moved myself to get my work further and it is a tricky thing to master. You take that time to settle in and, once you have, you have to keep your ears and eyes open for any chance that comes along. It is different in terms of journalism but songwriters have the same issues. Fiona Harte is a young woman who knows what she wants but will still have to tackle the size and width of New York. I know she is making moves and turning heads but I feel next year will be a very big one for her. After bringing out White Picket Fence; the question is whether there will be more material and what happens next. New York is a perfect place to get fresh inspiration and collaborate; work with some top talent and get the music to a load of people. I am excited for her and know she will be a big success very soon. What impresses me is how hard she is working and how determined she is. The songwriter has moved away – I am not sure if it is a permanent thing or a temporary move – and shifted into a whole new world. Rather than feel overwhelmed and buckled by that task; Harte has taken to it very quickly and knuckled down. She is hard promoting her debut track and wants her name to get out there. Already, there are a lot of sources spreading the news and falling for what she does and it is all very positive. Harte is a songwriter that, as I said, is writing about something quite familiar and known but does so in a new way. Not only is she talking about heartache and relationship problems in an innovative manner but she is able to get into the head very quickly. It is hard to get your songs heard above everyone else and resonate but she has done that right away. I feel it is a mix of her personality and influences that make her music so strong.

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Fiona Harte is someone who has put her heart on the line and committed herself but been messed around. She has given her all and faith and been let down. Rather than get too despondent and defeatist; she knows something good will come along and there is hope on the horizon. The worst thing a new artist can do is to take something as obvious as love and write in a very unengaging and simple way. She knows this but also knows relationship issues are a commodity we can all understand. It is the manner of her words and the way her voice elevates sentiments that gets under the skin and stays with you. As a songwriter; Harte mixes poetry and striking images with common strands and the result is a bold and brilliant bouquet. She is in an industry that is as brutal and unpredictable as anything and it can be easy to have hope and then be buried. That has happened with many different songwriters. They come into the business and have big ambitions but, unless they do their own thing and take risks, their music will never remain and people will go elsewhere. Fiona Harte is someone who has been looking around music and what is being put out. She is a fan of Pop I am sure but her music is much more indebted to classic Folk artists and iconic singer-songwriters. That is a breath of fresh air in an industry that is still putting too much focus on mainstream Pop and that kind of thing. There is so much turnover and choice in music and it can be startling covering great artists and those who have the potential to remain. It is great to hear Harte emerge and I have every hope she will remain for a very long time and there is a lot more material to come from her. Given the fact White Picket Fence is out there; it is probably wise I get down to it and offer my thoughts.

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One gets relatable and classical tones from the opening strings. The acoustic guitar flows like water and tumbles. It is a fast and exciting rush that is pastoral but emotional. You get a little bit of Joni Mitchell at her finest and shades of modern artists like Billie Marten. I was engrossed from the off and compelled to imagine and conspire. Before Harte comes to the microphone and any words come forth; you are already struck and buckled by the beautiful tones. The guitar adds so much and you already start to get impressions of a relationship going through storms. The heroine approaches and asks to be wound up so someone can watch her choke. The calm manner in which she delivers the words makes them stand out and seem more shocking. Luscious, smoky and delicate; the vocal is delightful and potent and has so many different shades. It is a beautiful and divine sound but one that seems to carry hurt and burden around with it. You get feathers and smoke and there are all sort of vivid images being projected. Maybe we are seeing someone being pulled apart by the black horses of love and being torn to the wind. It is clear there has been some hard background and things are not going well. Perhaps Harte is stuck in a relationship where she is being controlled and hurt and there is that need to remain strong and deal with that comes her way. The hero looks at Harte and expresses more than words can; he is holding her and taking her breath. One wonders whether there is pure love coming through or whether those looks hold something a little unsettling and insincere. Maybe there is that coercive nature and something deceiving lingering. Harte has cracks on her back and it seems she has been carrying a lot of pain around for a while. The man is the reason she has left and if she wants her than she will be gone. Maybe he has been given too many chances and there is no more room left for him. Harte delivers her words with such clarity and beauty and you actually hear little tones of singers like Eva Cassidy. I am not deliberately trying to compare Harte to anyone else but you can picture her record collection and upbringing by the way she sings and how her voice mutates. White Picket Fence is an emotional and heartaching song that is honest, affecting but has that redemptive hope. One needs a few listens to get to grips with the song and really consider its meanings. You can have your views and interpretations but White Picket Fence is more complex than that. It is a marvellous and accomplished debut single from a songwriter, on this evidence, who has a long future ahead of her.

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Perhaps there was affection and safety before but the tide has turned and there is that desire to find something purer and less strained. The song looks at brighter horizons and how things can get better but it is clear how much has already been taken from her. I was following the words and painting all sorts of scenes! Harte’s voice is that ever-striking thing that has immense beauty and variations. You get sweetness and seductiveness but gravitas and command come through. It is a colourful and complex sound that makes the words resonate and gives them so much potency. She is not willing to be controlled and does not want the aggression in her life. I am not sure what has caused this split and why things have turned this way but the heroine is keeping her head. As opposed wallow and document a break-up in a very staid and comfortable way; Harte uses language as a way of writing this fascinating and poetic drama. One feels the force of images and metaphors; a songwriter who is challenging tough days into something beautiful and wise. You want things to work out for the best but you cannot get away from the struggles and chains that are haunting her. Harte wants to be the one who “got away” and you wonder whether that relates to her escaping his clutches or a pure sweetheart who the man did not realise – someone who was special and he messed things up. The building backing vocals produces this choral affect and, alongside the persistent tumble of acoustic guitar, it is a highly charged and gorgeous thing. I detect a nod to artists like Laura Veirs and Neko Case – check out the album case/lang/veirs and songs like Behind the Armory – and it is a very pleasing mix. Harte still sees white picket fences and green grass growing; she has that romantic ideal and feels that potential. I wonder whether that image is a romantic dream or a symbol of safety and somewhere calm. Again; Harte splits the mind and you wonder what the real truth is. In any case…you cannot get away from that desire to break from a rather troubled space and find something idyllic and comforting. She also knows new love will come through or things can improve.

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I have talked a lot about Harte and what she is writing about. The Northern Ireland-born artist has grown up around some wonderful musicians and has been struck by their genius. You can hear shades and spirits of Joni Mitchell and Carole King but it would be unfair to solely mention them. Above all else, Harte is her own writer and takes from her own experiences. She is a wonderful writer who can pen poetic expressions but there is so much working away. A wonderful artist who seems to tick all the boxes; I wonder where her music will go and what she has coming in 2019. Today is National Album Day and it is a chance for us all to reminisce and talk about our favourite albums. Not only that but we get to underline the relevance of albums today and argue, against some people’s opinions, that albums are dead. I feel they are burning bright and people still have an appetite for them. I am not sure whether Fiona Harte, today, will be listening to something like Blue (Joni Mitchell) or Tapestry (Carole King) – and whether she is aware of the day – but I know she loves albums and all they offer. The reason I bring this topic to mind is the way Harte writes and where she wants to head. One feels White Picket Fence is the start of a story that could continue and blossom very soon. I know there will be more material coming and I feel an E.P. or album might not be that far away! There is so much she can talk about given the fact she has moved to the U.S. and changed her life quite a bit. It would be easy to fall back on relationships and exploring them every way possible. Rather than repeat herself and be too predictable; Harte, I assume, will be talking about all manner of things and having that mix of personal and poetic.

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She is a writer who can take from the heart but has the ability to transcend that and step into other worlds. I cannot wait to see where she steps next and I imagine there will be tour dates soon enough. Having moved to New York; things will take a little longer to truly settle and she is getting to grips with everything there. Maybe it will take a while before she can command a big tour but I know there will be U.S. demands and people back here will want to see her play. Make sure you throw your support behind her and do not let her music pass you by. It is hard to survive in modern music and, unless you have all the bases covered, you can get swallowed and overlooked. Fiona Harte will have no such issues and I feel she has a lot to say. Her debut single is a brilliant moment that is as strong as anything out there and does a hard thing: looks at love and common subjects but does something new and exciting. I was drawn to the lyrics and they sort of took me by surprise. Her voice is gorgeous and the composition, whilst quite simple, is highly engaging, affecting and emotional. Here is a rounded and complete songwriter who has a natural charm, sense of the mysterious but is relatable and easily likeable. Harte will round the year off by getting White Picket Fence out there and planning her next moves. Maybe there will be a few smaller gigs or she may already be percolating with ideas for others songs. Whatever is in her mind; let’s hope she gets time to rest and reflect on how far she has come. The striking and stunning songwriter will have a lot of demand come her way and it could be easy to take that all on and burn out. Rather than run too fast, she will want to carefully consider what is coming and what she wants to achieve with her music. The future is hers and I feel she can go anywhere she wants. Ensure you support Fiona Harte and listen to White Picket Fence; follow her next steps and watch a talented and bright songwriter…

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SLOWLY seduce the world.

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Follow Fiona Harte

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TRACK REVIEW: Cedric Burnside - We Made It

TRACK REVIEW:

 

Cedric Burnside

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We Made It

 

9.8/10

 

 

The track, We Made It, is available via:

https://open.spotify.com/track/7oMfprCkncaMYeT88o9FVR?si=WcjxCm-vT9C5lCtsogNW8A

GENRE:

Electric-Blues

ORIGIN:

Mississippi, U.S.A.

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The album, Benton County Relic, is available via:

https://open.spotify.com/album/4T2zPWhLYVCjambuNxVbhd?si=mJSKxMI2Q4eQeoSRl2yakQ

 RELEASE DATE:

14th September, 2018

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THE last couple of days…

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have allowed me the chance to look in other directions for music and break away from what I usually do. This time around, I am investigating Cedric Burnside and a few points relevant to him. Burnside is the grandson of the legendary R.L. Burnside and you get embers of the great man himself. I want to talk about the Blues and how that has evolved; Mississippi and how Burnside still resides there; the upbringing he had and why his background affects his music; how he recorded his album, Benton County Relic, quickly and why we need to spend time around an artist like Burnside. You might have heard that surname but Cedric Burnside does not copycat his grandfather – he has the same sense of passion but tackles Blues in a slightly different manner. I am a new convert to Cedric Burnside and have been diving into his music. I have not followed the Blues for a while and I think we all get the impression the genre is going to be rather old and predictable. Think of the Blues legends like Blind Lemon Jefferson, Son House and Blind Willie McTell and you definitely get a sense of what the Blues was about in the 1920s and 1930s. I dip in time and again but it is quite hard to get into a head-space where I can sit and listen to the Blues. Maybe there is not enough going on or there is something lacking in the production. Whatever it is, I feel many of us avoid the genre because it lacks spark, magic and physicality. I am interested tracing the Blues back seven or eight decades because, in many ways, those artists are the forefathers of what we hear now. Listen to what is in the mainstream right now and, to some degree, you can trace it back to the Blues. It is a vital genre that holds so much power and is very influential – even if you are not a fan of the original source.

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My favourite sort of Blues is when it is sprinkled with Rock and Garage. I am a big fan of The White Stripes and The Black Keys and love what they did. Maybe we do not hear so much Blues-inspired music in the mainstream but that is a shame. Not only can you provide gritty and confessional lyrics but the music has that urgency, kick and electricity. Cedric Burnside is someone who has not betrayed and modernised the lyrical roots of the Blues. He has managed to put his own life and stories into the pot but has updated the Blues. There are acoustic moments and something that reminds one of players like Son House but the electricity has been cranked up and it is a lot more fresh and exciting. I know the Burnside legacy and realise what pressure there is to produce work that is true and loyal to the lineage. I feel Burnside is someone who can convert people to the Blues and has plenty going on in his music. Many wonder whether Rock and Alternative are dead because you do not get enough captivating and memorable bands out there. Maybe that is exaggerated – listen to the likes of Wolf Alice – but there is less wonder and popularity than there was decades ago. What strikes me about Burnside is the way he can provide exhilarating and rich compositions but address themes that are personal and deep. A lot of artists concentrate on love and generic themes but Burnside goes further and brings you into his world. I will talk about that in a second but, before I move on, it is worth bending your ears to the music of Cedric Burnside and seeing where he came from. Many artists do not interest me in terms of their family and background but the Burnside name is one that has excited and influenced music for generations. You are compelled to look at where Cedric Burnside came from and how he has impacted music. It warrants a big screen adaptation because, when you look closely, there is so much we can teach other musicians and those interested in the Blues.

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Cedric Burnside still resides in Holly Springs, Mississippi and is not one of those artists who has abandoned his roots. It may not seem like the most interesting and scenic part of the U.S. to live but it somewhere that means a lot to him and he holds it very dear. Burnside was raised on the Hill County variant of the Blues and the unorthodox version one might hear. That is why his sound strays away from the more traditional and honed variety – there is something almost spiritual and enflamed about his interpretation and it is one that, I feel, is much more relevant and substantial than the old-school Blues. Burnside grew up around the likes of Otha Turner, and T-Model Ford; he listened to a lot of modern music but it was the Blues pioneers that inspired him. There are some great Soul and R&B singers emerging from Holly Springs but it is not renowned for its overflow of great music. It is less productive in terms of music but it is a space where Burnside feels most comfortable and pure. Mississippi is one of the most deprived and neglected parts of America and I bet there are a million stories one can hear from the people. Most would associate Mississippi with legends like Howlin’ Wolf and B.B. King but there are modern musicians in the state who cover a range of genres. Mississippi has its French Quarter and there are so many cultures running through the state. Many might forgive him for living in New York or L.A. – so he can get that exposure and explore somewhere huge – but he has no reason to leave where he is from and what made him. If anything, the state is more important regarding his music than it is his personal growth and happiness. By that, I mean you can hear the history and heart of Mississippi come through in the music and everything he does. It gives his Blues authenticity and a flavour many of us are foreign to.

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Burnside was born to play the Blues and has been surrounded by that music his entire life. He is a black artist who, like many of his peers, has had to struggle for attention and been overlooked by the Government. Many African-Americans have had to fight for their rights and to be heard. That is not news but the fact it happens in 2018 is shocking. Music is a great way of ensuring we are all aware and conscious of the plight. I guess Rap and R&B are genres that provide a platform for black Americans to discuss what they are going through and how their ancestors have had to struggle. It is a way for them to sing loud and have their voice but that seems like scant consolation. The U.S. Government should be doing more but, look back through history, and the fate of the black citizen has been hard and ignored. The reason why Burnside is so passionate and determined is so he can tell his story and document the way his people have struggled. There are great Rap and R&B artists out there but Blues, for decades, was the way for black Americans to vocalise their fight and talk about the reality of their situation. Blues is a genre that is not as popular as it once was but, with the likes of Burnside established and popular, I would like to see the genre rise. Benton County Relic is an album that is Burnside’s story; a way of scoring his situation and background; talking about social themes and touching on political concerns. It is a fascinating album that inspired me to review a cut from it. One might argue his music would be less potent and memorable if he hailed from somewhere like New York. Mississippi is a state that has been synonymous with Blues masters but, in the current time, it is still compelling musicians.

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Mississippi is a fantastic state but its poverty and deprivation do affect how people perceive it. Look closely and there is a rich musical seam running throughout. Burnside recorded his album in only two days and performed it alongside drummer/slide guitarist Brian Jay in the latter’s Brooklyn home studio. Whilst the album was recorded in New York; it is Mississippi and the bones of Burnside that run through the songs. One gets that blend of old-style Blues and traditional sounds and a more immediate flair. It is not the Blues sound of the 1930s one can hear in Cedric Burnside’s music. Artists like Led Zeppelin and The White Stripes spring to mind when hearing Burnside’s Blues and it means there is a much more commercial and accessible aspect to it. I am excited to see if he produces more music next year but, right now, he is talking about where he came from and the heartache he has endured. From growing up in a poverty-stricken house where there was no T.V. and entertainment to suffering the loss of his parents, uncle and brother in quick succession…it has been a long road and one that has been paved with tragedy. It is fascinating seeing him talk about hard times and how he managed to grow from those foundations. I am sure his words will inspire other artists to come through and talk about their story but you listen to Burnside sing and you get this distinct impression of how he grew up and why the Blues is so important to him. It might be hard for Burnside to remain cool and composed given the fact he has come from such hard times and is seeing so many black Americans struggle and live in such squalor. The music he is creating right now cuts much deeper than his previous work and is the most urgent record he has put his name to. Cedric Burnside is one of the most important musicians around right now and you need to hear how he sings and the electricity coming from him to know how much it all means.

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Burnside was Grammy-nominated in 2015 for Best Blues Album (for the Cedric Burnside Project’s Descendants of Hill Country) and he is a coveted musicians. Burnside is trying to update the Blues and make it more accessible to young generations. Maybe his previous work has been more traditional in terms of his sound but the 2018-Burnside is a more fired-up and rocking sort. I hear elements of The White Stripes in his work but, to be fair, it sound completely new. What amazes me is how Burnside talks about themes such as losing loved ones and growing up in a poor state whilst making the music resonate and connect. It is a brilliant brew that seems to unify R.L. Burnside and old Blues masters and nods to modern-day Rock and Garage bands. I feel it is the perfect combination and something we should all be paying attention to. So much of modern music is about cliché themes and relationship talk that it becomes stale and annoying. You do get artists that go beyond the ordinary but they are few and far between. The commercial dollar still holds clout but I am drawn to artists who are much more intriguing and deep. Burnside is not one who is going to sell his values and talk about love and boring themes – even if there is a bit of romance and heartbreak in what he does. Instead, you get family values and bold confessions; exposure regarding his early life and how he became the man is today. I would love to see this continue and thrive on future albums because I feel it is artists like Burnside saying so much more than anyone else. Many of us are unaware of the struggle out there and how many artists started their lives. Few of us are aware of the realities and how people like Burnside got into music. Blues is a genre that many ignore and feel it is going to be the same as it was decades ago.

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We Made It opens Benton County Relic and starts with a lot of fascination. You get a few flecks of guitar and some grumbling electronics. It teases you in and there is that feeling something will explode and something great is going to occur. One feels some tension and anticipation but things get chugging and moving pretty quickly. Without Burnside speaking a word; you get this nice duel between the guitars and drum. It is propulsive and catchy and provokes an image of a train moving along. There is that old-school Blues grumble combined with the electricity and modernity of music today. The production is never too crowded or polished: it allows the rawness to come through and ensures there is that live-sounding feeling. It is impossible to get beyond that hooky and mesmeric composition that scratches, struts and strums. The flair and colour one feels from the song is wonderful. You are helpless but to groove along and let the potent rhythms get under the skin. Boogying, bouncing and kicking along, you are cast under Burnside’s spell. The hero keeps his hair and head straight even when he is down and low and, as the chorus attests, he has made it. He is also speaking to another party; maybe his family or a sweetheart who has gone through the same things. I get the feeling Burnside is talking about his past and how he grew up in tough times. There is that hurt and struggle but the defiance and determination is primal. Burnside never explodes or gets carried away: he has sass and cool but there is a lot of emotion and physicality behind his performance. I am always drawn to the way his voice is backed and what a funky, compelling sound one hears. If you are new to the Blues or think you have it figured then you need to hear Cedric Burnside.

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From the very first moments of We Made It, you are transformed and drawn into this mystical world. Even though there was no running water in the house – or hot water at the very least – you have to imagine his childhood was intense. The hero talks about that struggle and poverty but the chorus keeps coming back: he made it out and made it through. It is always as though Burnside is speaking about other people and those he knows – whether the family he grew up around or the people of Mississippi. The locomotive and propulsive guitar-and-drums combination gives you shivers and smiles; the vocal has a rumbling depth that reminds me of Howlin’ Wolf but has plenty of Burnside’s D.N.A. Rather than throw too many words into the song and reveal too much; Burnside allows the music to do some talking and strut. It is a fantastic swirl of notes that has ample kick and wonder. It grumbles in the blood and blends into the marrow; seeps into the soul and gets the feet moving. I always picture his growing up and living in a house where he and his family had to struggle. He had grown and survived those days but is not willing to ignore where he came from. The Blues is about your roots and laying down the truth. Burnside is not going to ignore an important part of his life and what he has had to come through. The hero comes back into the fray and keen to deliver that mandate. He has seen the worst of times unfold and never thought he would make it. The lyrics on the song are not complex and there are few individual lines but it is the focus of his message and the way he delivers his lines that makes We Made It stand out. Cedric Burnside fuses with the backing brilliantly and there is that steam that builds and explodes. I was helpless but to surrender to the song and how it carries you along.

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There are great songs on Benton County Relic but few are as interesting and swivelling as We Made It. A perfect opener to the album and a true assessment of who Cedric Burnside is and what he is all about. The song is a perfect introduction to a brilliant artist. Ensure you get back and listen to what other material he has produced and see how he has grown. Burnside is masterful in everything to do and sounds at his most confident and rich right now. I know there are other Blues artists out there but none who have the same spritz, magic and brilliance as him. We Made It reveals more layers and truths the more you listen to it and gives you goosebumps. I am one of those people who can immerse themselves in a genre and is not willing to simply pick here and there. The Blues has been out of my mind for a while and I have not really seen anything that turns my head. Burnside’s updating of the form has got me reinvested and makes me realise what a fantastic style of music it is. You get the gravitas of the Blues masters and the sounds of old but he makes everything sound contemporary and new. Get your ears around Cedric Burnside and his brilliant. Not only does it move the body and mind but it gets the heart pumping and makes you come back time and time again. Not many artists have that addictiveness and sense of purpose – reasons why we should celebrate Cedric Burnside and promote him far and wide.

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Benton County Relic is a fantastic album that has many great songs and ear-catching lyrics. You do not need to listen too hard to know how inspired Burnside sounds and how much the music means. The guitars are fantastic and you get big riffs and pumping sounds. It is a hot and spicy brew of sounds and that, combined with the hard-hitting and personal lyrics means you get a record that is much more immediate and enduring than anything out there. I have not heard an L.P. that cuts as deep and sounds so fresh. The songs never sound crowded and too rehearsed. The fact it was recorded in a couple of days means it has that live-sounding quality and reminds one The White Stripes. You never feel like you are listening to anyone else but there are those memories and flecks running through. A bold and colourful sound that gets into the brain and bones; everything from the record gets into the head and makes you smile. That is not to say the lyrics lack emotion and you pass them by – Benton County Relic is a profound and affecting documentation of a talented artist who has gone through a lot and has the Blues running through his veins. Listening to Cedric Burnside makes me look back at the Blues and his relatives; how the genre has evolved and grown and why we need to listen to what he says. I wonder what more is coming from Burnside and how he will develop over the next few years. There is a lot going on in the U.S. and one feels political situations and developments are affecting him. Mississippi is still with him – as he resides there – and he still lives around struggle. I would love to see Burnside play in the U.K. and bring his music to the people here. The man is a compelling and engaging artist and I feel it is only a matter of time before he is a big name here.

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I am pumped to see where he heads and how his music will evolve. I feel we still rely too much on Pop music and what is promoted in the mainstream – it means we are missing out on so much and do not really get the chance to explore in more depth. Cedric Burnside is an artist who is revitalising the Blues and has a serious talent. His music cuts deep and he is able to unify the old and new. For those who love the foundations of Blues and what it stands for will not be disappointed; anyone who wants something more intense and body-moving will gravitate towards Benton County Relic. If you have not heard the album then it is worth getting stuck into and spending a lot of time around. Every song has its place and tells its own story. I am someone who is familiar with the Blues and what it is all about. It is not viable to possess the same Blues sound as was present in the 1930s but that does not mean it should be overlooked and written off. I am one of those people who feels a few tweaks and modifications can enliven and revitalise a genre. Cedric Burnside is bringing the Blues to new ears and not willing to let it rest. Make sure you follow Cedric Burnside and what is happening in his life right now. There will be tour dates and new developments and I feel 2019 will be an important year for him. Things are going really well and his music is hitting hard and teaching us all lessons. I get a real sense of where he is from and why music means so much to him. It is hard to explain but artists like Burnside stay in the mind for a lot longer and makes a genuine impression. Get behind Burnside and what is contained within Benton County Relic. It is a brilliant album and I was eager to review We Made It. It is a fantastic song that seems to define the record and shows how exciting Burnside is. If you have not heard of him now, make sure you correct that and…

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GET lost in his world!

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Follow Cedric Burnside

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TRACK REVIEW: the Village - Always on My Mind

TRACK REVIEW:

 

the Village

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Always on My Mind

 

9.2/10

 

 

The track, Always on My Mind, is available via:

https://thevillage2.bandcamp.com/track/always-on-my-mind

GENRES:

Folk; Alternative; Indie

ORIGIN:

Derby, U.K.

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The album, Carnival of Fools, is available via:

https://thevillage2.bandcamp.com/album/carnival-of-fools

 RELEASE DATE:

8th September, 2017

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ON this occasion…

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I am taking my mind in different directions and looking at an artist who compels new lines of investigation. I am changing pace and looking at an artist, Phil Matthews, and a musical project that is growing and creating delight. The Village (or ‘thevillage’) is the moniker of Matthews and one that I have discovered quite recently. Before I review a song from his latest album, I wanted to look at records that grow and develop over time; music that is Folk-based and looks at something quite pastoral, quaint and calming; a look at artists who are building their reputation and growing a steady fanbase; a nod to musicians who cannot be easily predicted and are surprising when you hear them – I will look at where the Village might head and what comes next. My review schedule has been thrown into a loop and I have had to chop-and-change things recently. Even though I was going to review the Village’s album in a few weeks; it is a year old and a record that has been out there in the public long enough. I do not review albums but I was interested to review Matthews and his music. We are often told the album, as a concept, is dying and should be ignored. I have been thinking about that proposition and how we are starting to ignore albums in-full. Matthews, as the Village, prides himself on creating records that are complete, immersive and every song shines – he is one of those old-school artists who loves the album and creating something whole. The reason why I am not too bothered coming to Carnival of Fools late is because the songs shine and reveal themselves through time. Even through the pace, for the most part, is quite enticing and settled; there are nuances and revelations that do not instantly come to the fore. It is wonderful discovering an album that does that: it flourishes and blooms so long down the line and stays firmly in the head.

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Songs on the record bubble and still have that charm whilst ones you might have overlooked are firmly golden and presenting fresh avenues. I have always loved the album and do not feel it is endangered and warrants any talk of extinction. It is brilliant finding artists who are more concerned with musicians who want to produce albums and give the listeners something solid and personal. Listen to the Village’s new (or most-recent) record and you will find yourself coming back to the thing time and time again! It is, as I shall investigate later, an album that has softness and pleasure but there is ample invention and interesting lyrics. I do not usually review artists with few high-resolution photos – although Matthews has a few – and relatively little information. I always look for artists who can produce great images – a selection of them – and some deep and stunning information. It gives me something to build on and I can go from there. It is not a big problem here (and a lot of artists are struggling to piece that together) because the album itself is rich and I struggled for a while to select a single track that represents Carnival of Fools. The album, as I have stated, is bursting with ideas and I feel one needs to investigate it in its entirety to get the biggest impact. Although I have singled a song out and wanted to focus on Always on My Mind; I suggest you all pick up the L.P. and spin it right the way through. I do not feel albums are dying and there is any risk they are going to slip away at all. What gets to me is how little patience people give to records and the fact many jut pass them by and focus on singles. Artists need their albums to be heard and do not want people to simply skim through and select the odd track. There is a National Album Day coming up in a week and it will provide a chance for us to celebrate the album and all bond with those that have defined our lives.

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It has been a while since I last reviewed a Folk album. Although the Village is not purely Folk; that is the basis – although there is Pop and Psychedelic touches here and there. The Village, as Matthews claims, is a place for oddballs and outsiders; it is a space where they can feel safe and understood. Maybe th