TRACK REVIEW: Clare Bowen - Let It Rain

TRACK REVIEW:

 

Clare Bowen

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Let It Rain

 

9.5/10

 

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The track, Let It Rain, is available via:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=146DT8ShGHY

GENRE:

Country

ORIGIN:

Nashville, U.S.A.

RELEASE DATE:

4th May, 2018

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THERE is quite a lot to cover…

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in this review, so I better get down to things. Before I look at Clare Bowen and her latest track; I wanted to speak about a few things. I will talk about Country music and its variation (including a bit about Bob Harris); female icons and artists who stand in the mind; a start in music that deserves time on the screen; a mix of acting and music (and how that can aid songwriting); activism and artists who take a greater stand outside of what they record; a little bit about Nashville and why that made an impact on Bowen – I will end by speaking about her career and where she might head. One has a lot to unpack with regards Clare Bowen and what she is all about. I am a fan of Country music and know it gets a bad rap with many people. There have been accusations the genre is not as diverse as it should be, in terms of race, but the music itself is among the most compelling out there. Whether pure Country or a mixture Pop and Country – listen to artists like Kacey Musgraves... – and you have plenty of diversity and colour. I grew up around artists like Hank Williams, Dolly Parton and Glen Campbell and listened to what they were offering the world. I have not dipped into modern Country too much but I do know there is a U.S./U.K. divide. Here, it is a growing genre but we do not have the stars and artists like Florida Georgia Line, Carrie Underworld and Jess Williamson. There is a hot breed coming through and you have cities like Nashville, which I will come to later, that continues to produce these wonders. In Britain, we do not really have the same degree of artists but there is a bubbling Country scene emerging – we do not have the scenery and cities that are set up to accommodate the genre.

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I listen to Clare Bowen and she seems to define new Country music: you can hear the roots showing but there is a blend of other genres and sounds working away. We get it into our heads that Country is all about a certain wardrobe – the big hats, boots and spurs – and the songs are going to be all twanging guitars and something a little cheesy. There is Country music like that but most of it, especially now, is a lot more engaging, appealing and nuanced than you’d realise. Bowen is an artist who has been on the scene for a little bit and has grown in stature. Her voice has that mix of lustrous and vivacious; there are so many different emotions working away and you feel a real connection with her. The music is indelible and incredible and, with an album due at the end of this month, Bowen will gain a lot of new requests and interests. I will nod to the album in the conclusion but I wanted to highlight Bowen as someone who is keeping the bones of Country alive but is modernising its sounds and reaching new audiences. One of the reasons why Country music is getting acclaim and recognition in this country is because of Bob Harris. He is a fan of Clare Bowen and has featured her music on his Bob Harris Country show – lauding her talents and recommending we keep a watch out for her. Harris is a champion of the best new Country music from the U.S. and U.K. I have listened to his show and his warmth and affection – that legendary voice makes everything sound essential! – and get to witness so many eclectic Country artists speak and perform. It is illuminating hearing them discuss their career and background and what goes into their music. I discovered Clare Bowen through that show and, after that, was compelled to find out more. Harris’ patronage of the genre and bringing it to the masses means, in the U.K., there is a lot more visibility and attention given to Country.

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Every time I review a female artist; I get a chance to talk about the scene and how female artists are being perceived. I have just witnessed a documentary, last night, on Aretha Franklin and, whilst I have mentioned her a lot the past few days, it is worth bringing her back to the fold. One reason why that documentary fascinated me – it was a reaction to her death and a narrative of her story – is because of the footage of Franklin performing and the goosebumps elicited; the way she campaigned for civil rights development and gave a voice to so many who didn’t have one. At a time when we all need some guidance and answers; Franklin’s voice and soul – in many ways and definitions – will be a comforting and inspiring tool. She gave a greater voice for female artists and broke down a lot of barriers. Now, in an industry that is open and competitive as ever; I wonder whether people are spending time around an artist and truly getting to know them. I am spotlighting Clare Bowen because she is one of those strong female artists who has that multifaceted appeal and dynamic. She is an activist and has a kind soul; a story and progression into music that compels imagery and imagination; sounds that are exciting yet deep; a rise and popularity that can only see her ascend to the mainstream unchallenged – so many different reasons why she will go a very long way. We have a lot of songwriters out there who are interesting and strong but there are few genuine artists who you want to cherish and follow. Bowen is a performer whose live shows have stunned audiences and gained praise; her recorded music sits in the heart and stays in the mind for a long time after you hear it. She is very striking to behold and has a sense of style and confidence that fuses with unique songwriting and a staggering voice.

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Maybe she will not reach the heights of Aretha Franklin but I can recognise a true star that has a lot to say and can influence a lot of people. There is something about the female voice and the music being made that ensures and resonates harder and longer than that of the men. Maybe it is a natural compassion or a different lyrical approach – a more stirring and distinguished music that is not getting the passion and kudos it warrants. Clare Bowen is a standout among a busy Country scene because she has a sound that is not easy to define and categorise. Inspired by artists like Loretta Lynn and Johnny Cash; the young songwriter grew up around icons and splices Country and Folk together. The Australian-born, American-based artist releases her much-anticipated debut album on 31st August and the single, Let It Rain, was debuted on Bob Harris’ show to incredible reaction – so many people getting in touch and saying how much it touched them! You can always tell when an artist is primed for great things and the fact they have that natural and easy ability. Bowen is born to an artist and seems to channel her every being and iota of emotion into every sinew and note. That is what struck me about the Aretha Franklin documentary: she was described, by commentators and fans, as someone who brought the church and religion into every single song. The slightly shy woman became an icon and powerhouse when she came to the stage. I get a feeling that Bowen has a similar attachment to music and its meaning. It is not merely a career to her but a calling and addiction she has been working towards for her entire life. Listen to her music and watch her play and you can sense that desire for connection with the audience and the need to be heard. You, as a result, shiver and sigh at the music and all the power it holds.

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PHOTO CREDIT: @clarembee

The story of Clare Bowen is one that is destined for some sort of T.V. drama. She was struck by music and Country when listening to the Grand Old Opry on the wireless in her grandad’s kitchen. Maybe it was that show that did it but there was a Country lilt to the artist and a curious soul who felt an affinity with a certain voice and type of music. Clearly, right there, she had that love of music that possessed a beguiling beauty and human touch. Her voice coach noted that Country intonation and encouraged it to come through. It was a little while before she worked with heavyweights such as T Bone Burnett and Buddy Miller; a tour of the U.S. and a big role on the American T.V. show, Nashville. I will look at her acting career in a bit but it is those early experiences and the love she felt for older Country stars that drew her to Nashville and what it stands for. The city is a community that recognises its history and is, quite rightly, considered to be the centre of music in the country. It is ironic, talking about Aretha Franklin, that I speak of Nashville and its starring role. Detroit, where Franklin hailed from, was always seen as the epicentre of musical innovation – Motown and Soul through to Garage-Rock that arrived in the 1980s and 1990s. That crown shifted and now, in 2018, one needs to head to Nashville if they want to discover all the best music in the U.S. Residents of New York and Los Angeles might argue against that assumption but Bowen felt a sense of belonging there and has negotiated scary and hard times to get where she is. It has been an interesting life with ups and downs that, according to Bowen, she would not change for the world. It seems like she has found her home and everything is slotting into place. Looking at the way she has come into music and blossomed compels visions of a big T.V. show and biopic.

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I am always fascinated by artists who come from quite ordinary and humble backgrounds and take big leaps. It is brave and scary following your heart and taking on a challenge that could go wrong. Bowen, since those early experiences to Country, has evolved and grown into a true star. It is the acting work and what that has done for her acting career that gets to me. Bowen gained acclaimed for her role in the controversial Australian film, The Combination, and as the lead role in the Sydney Theatre Company’s musical production of Spring Awakening. Around this time, Bowen took the advice of Cate Blanchett and bought a one-way ticket to L.A. In 2012, with a few roles under her belt, she arrived in America and took a bus – not right away – to audition for Nashville. Bowen won the role of a poet-turned-songwriter and found her calling. Bowen struggled with cancer at the age of four and it is a disease that impacted her hugely and the role in Nashville, in many ways, hit home – the relief and delight at getting a role in that show must have been a memorable and evocative time for the songwriter. Playing Scarlet O’Connor in the show, she was required to sing hundreds of songs and play countless instruments. Bowen overcame her fear of microphones and bloomed as a performer. She was once asked if she could play the banjo – ‘probably’ was her response – and drew from her childhood when writing. There are musicians who act as well and I always find they are disciplines that weave inside one another. In the case of Clare Bowen; the once-shy artist gained that role and strengthened as an artist. She has played in the U.K. with her Nashville co-stars and sold out the Royal Albert Hall wowed crowds up and down the country. Bowen has been in Nashville for six years and has stepped away from the role to record her album and ensure it is as good as possible.

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I have reviewed artists who combine performing with acting and feel you can learn so much from acting and bring it to music. Bowen learned disciplines and performance skills she has brought to the live setting and grown in confidence. The fact she has performed hundreds of songs has brought so many emotions from her voice and solidified her foundations. That instrumental talent means the music Bowen plays has more variety and depth than most. She can bring different elements to what she plays and that voice has benefited from acting. The two are natural companions and she can also bring experiences on the road to her acting work. Bowen plays shows between shoots and tours the U.S. with her fellow Nashville actor Charles Esten and her singer-songwriter husband, Brandon Robert Young. I feel the reason Nashville has impacted Bowen’s music is because of the sense of characterisation and narrative. Bowen brings that drama, story and characterisation into the music. She can not only write about herself in new ways – having grown since appearing on the screen and blossoming – but write about other people and characters. The protagonist, whether personal or fictional, has more body, life and meaning. She has learned a lot from her acting roles and sprinkles those skills and memories into the music. In turn, she can bring all the touring experience back to acting and take on new roles. I wonder whether Bowen will embark on more acting and balance the two careers. It is a busy time for her so I can forgive the need to concentrate on music but it seems she will do both. The fact she came to America to pursue acting means one will see her on the screen for a while to come. She was living in rural Australia a year before she came to America and those worlds clashing must have been startling.

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To transition from the detached and quiet lifestyle in Australia and arrived somewhere bustling, busy and moving must have taken its toll. It seems Bowen has embraced the possibilities and opportunities of the U.S. and seems like she has found her place in life. Bowen’s activism and kind spirit is another facet that intrigues me. She is an advocate for kindness and better understanding in the world. Bowen has said she cannot solve all problems and change the world alone but she is determined to take a stand and bring love to the people. That desire for kindness is an impressive and fantastic plaudit that stands her out from her peers. In 2015, she cut her hair and adopted a new image to encourage people to look past the physical. Although Bowen is a stunningly beautiful woman; she wants people to focus on the music and what comes from inside. That act of cutting her hair went viral and gained an enormous reaction. Bowen was startled by it and could hardly get down from the ceiling – an unexpected reaction and moment that has given her so much joy and fresh impetus. There is so much to love about Clare Bowen and so many interesting shades. She is that actor who has enjoyed a varied and successful career. Bowen has performed countless times and toured around the world; she is an activist and natural star that wants to make the world better – an icon that we can hold up at a time when so many artists are bland and ordinary. I am looking forward to seeing the reaction to Bowen’s debut album (it is self-titled) and how it fares. I am sure critics will love it and there will be a lot of interest from fans here – I expect Bob Harris to play a couple of cuts. It is a great time for Bowen and seems like everything in life has been leading to this moment.

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Let It Rain starts with a clap of percussive thunder and a definite sense of meaning. The percussion rolls and claps whilst the heroine comes in with a voice that is sweet and alarming. You have this alluring, sensual and incredibly crystal voice that juxtaposes the hardness of the background and environment. The composition acts as weather and that sense of wet and windy. Our heroine is going to let it rain and see the tears fall down her face. I wonder, at once, what has compelled the emotion and where the story has stemmed from. There is heartache and pain in her heart and it seems like something has impacted her soul. Maybe a relationship has ended and there have been some cross words but the state of the world, and all the pains and horrors we see, have got to her. Look at the song’s video and you’ll see the heroine in the outdoors, curled up and fighting the tears. She heads to a bar and solemnly orders a drink and is letting the emotion wash over her. The percussion gets calmer and employs great rhythm; it accompanies her as she assesses the scenes and tries to piece things together. You get beautiful Country twangs but there is that core of Folk that balances a stern and determined spirit with something more emotive and open. Bowen is going to let those tears come and not fight things. It seems like life in general has poured too much on her lap. She knows things are in a bad place but holding it all back and bottling things is not healthy. The heroine cradles a drink (in the video) and wonders where she heads now. At this stage, I have already drunk in so much and projected my own impressions. I get the feeling there is a romance in her heart; one that has ended and those memories keep coming back to haunt her.

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PHOTO CREDIT: TGMoments

One gets philosophy and pragmatic determination from Bowen. She knows you cannot experience highs without the lows; the levee needs to break and Bowen has got to a point where the pains and bad times have made her a stronger person. Rather than let them get her down, we see someone who is moving on and determined to embrace fresh horizons. Even though the heroine is strong and moving on; there is that pain working away and eliciting some serious revelation. It is rare to see a songwriter so open and positive given what she is facing. The initial percussive storm has mutated into a different beast that mixes with guitars and tenderly supports the heroine. It is firm and strident sound but one that holds a lot of compassion and love. Bowen, in the song’s video, is watching people play poker and is in the bar. She is emotional but watching people express their own emotions and pains. Compassion and positivity come out of everything. In the video, we see the bar’s tip jar is full of dollars – a woman who was playing poker has given her winnings and that, in turn, brings joy to the proprietors. It seems like that moment of light and kindness can make everything different. We see people comfort one another and the more downbeat and teary mood changes to something positive. Bowen takes from those around her and is keen to transition from the heartache and find a more peaceful plateau. Our heroine is not afraid anymore and is letting the rain and water wash over her. She will embrace it and knows there is light and hope ahead of her. Let It Rain is a mandate that projects strength against the tide. It is for anyone who has felt the pressure of life build up and not been able to see a way through. Many of us can relate to what is being sung and where Bowen is coming from. The heroine’s immaculate and emotive performance ensures the song gets into the mind and compels you to keep coming back. There is a distinct Country sound to the song but more of the modern breed – not the stereotyped view we have of Country and what it incorporates. There are few songwriters as strong and engaging as Clare Bowen. She seems to speak for everyone out there and can make the listener feel more positive and hopeful with songs like Let It Rain. If the track is an indication of what the album, Clare Bowen, will sound like; I know there will be a lot of new ears and fans heading her way.

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PHOTO CREDIT: Maarten De Boer for Hulu

From a challenging childhood to embarking on a trip to America and settling into a role in Nashville; it has been a whirlwind of a life that is getting better and better. The Australian-born artist is bringing Country music to new people and making it more accessible. That sounds rather dismissive but there are some who are uninitiated and ignorant to the pleasures of the genre. Bowen mixes Folk into the palette and has gained a lot of skills as an actor. That physicality, discipline and sense of fiction add a beautiful aspect to her music. The fact Bowen has grown in confidence and come out of herself means the writing is a lot more emotive and bold; her stories are much more vivid and deep. You get involved with the music and not only listen to the words and picture what is happening but think of Clare Bowen and how her life has changed. I know there are a lot of great artists out there but Bowen has managed to achieve so much and create such heat – someone who stands aside and is much more fascinating than most of the artists out there. From battling cancer and moving from Australia to being a big T.V. star and launching her eponymous debut; it has been a time of strength, realisation and success. Bowen brings love to people and wants us all to be kinder. She looks out at the world and knows we have a long way to go before there is harmony and grace. Her music, personality and words are helping make things better and getting into many hearts. I am a new convert and am stunned by everything I learn about her. Make sure you get Bowen’s album when it arrives and follow her career. Nashville has given so much to her and seems like somewhere she is drawn to. Maybe those memories of listening to her granddad’s wireless and experiencing those stars booming out – it sparked something inside her and compelled her to follow in their footsteps. Already a big name in the U.S.; I know she has a huge fanbase in the U.K. and will be back here soon. Follow her social media for all the dates but I know Bowen is playing back in Australia and will be there very soon – getting back home and bringing her fresh material to the people. If you have not experienced Clare Bowen and all she holds, make sure you check her out and fall in love…

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WITH a spectacular human.

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Follow Clare Bowen

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TRACK REVIEW: D.A.N - Think About Me

TRACK REVIEW:

 

D.A.N

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Think About Me

 

9.3/10

 

 

The track, Think About Me, is available via:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FFDRgTRhVt8

GENRE:

Electronic

ORIGIN:

Derry, Northern Ireland/London, U.K.

RELEASE DATE:

27th July, 2018

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IN this outing…

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I will look at icons in music and how we need to breed personalities and those that stand out. I will get on to songs about love and relationships and putting a new spin on the format; artists from Northern Ireland why it is a part of the world we should investigate more; getting songs played on the radio and having that widespread and national acclaim; putting something new into the fold and creating compositions that get into the heart; a look at where D.A.N might go and what his future holds. It has been a complex and interesting week for music where we have seen the death of a music icon and the birthday of another one. A lot of mixed emotions have been swirling around and I wonder whether we are going to see a week in music where we have felt that contrast. I am looking at the modern industry and searching around for something that fills the gap or gives guidance. It would be unfair to place all that pressure on D.A.N and ask him to be this big icon and create a legacy right now – that might happen but it is a long way off! I am listening to all the music swirling around and asking if we will see any legends and big names from the current breed. It may seem like an odd point to start on but I wanted to look at music now and how it has changed since decades past. D.A.N is one of those people who brings a lot of emotion and personality to his music. I think there has been something lacking in music lately and I do ask where that next breed of standouts is going to come from. D.A.N is someone who injects so much colour and depth into his sounds. I am not suggesting artists like him will match the heady icons we have noted this week but he is part of a revival and wave of new artists are standing aside.

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It can be rather boring listening to artists who stay the same and have very little innovation. I get into that mindset of hearing the same sort of thing rattling around and it can get a bit weary. Although I maintain modern music can never reach the levels of the older stuff and the artists who have come; there are so many interesting and promising musicians who are spiking my imagination. One of the reasons I am drawn to D.A.N is because he brings the listener into the music and it is a completely immersive experience. Too many tracks are quite cold and sterile and you never feel like you are part of the process. The songwriter has gravitas and passion and you can hear that in every note. Whether he is singing about something heartbreaking or not; you never feel like you are being pushed away and left out. D.A.N is a different force and really gets under the skin. His songs about relationships come from his heart but you never feel like there is cliché and the ordinary coming through. I am a bit weary of those relationship songs that deal with tropes and copy everything out there. D.A.N’s new one, Think About Me, is a hopeful song that looks at the dislocation of a relationship but has positive results. The hero is trying to make himself stronger and find independence after having his heart broken. A lot of love songs work with the negative and you can feel a bit buried and suffocated by what is being said. I like those songs that provide something spirited and stronger when they are being performed. Rather than get sorrowful and down; a track that has that lifted heart and finds something hopeful is a lot better. What you get from Think About Me is a story of facing disappointment and change but using it as an opportunity for betterment and reflection. It is inspiring hearing his latest track and the fact he is not going to let the end of a relationship get the better of him.

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Having that positive approach and being a bit more optimistic given the end of love is a rarity in modern music. I hope D.A.N, following his latest track, finds a new bond and can rebuild from it. It is strange how love forms so much of the creative mindset and how important it is to music. Some of the greatest songs ever written have been about relationships but, for the most part, it is the failure and bleak that forms the majority – how often do we hear about something more rousing and redemptive when it comes to splits?! I will move on now but come back to relationships a bit later down the line. D.A.N is based in London now but is from Derry. It seems odd to focus on Northern Ireland but I feel we overlook parts of the world and often assume everything great comes from the capital. Although I am always keen to champion London music; I am much more interested focusing on other parts of the world and what is happening there. Northern Ireland has been part of the musical landscape for decades now. The Undertones are from Derry and there are a lot of interesting new artists coming from that part of Northern Ireland. I know Hannah Peel has moved to Northern Ireland and it seems there is something about the nation that is attracting artists. London is still a big draw for musicians and provides endless opportunities but, as things get more expensive and city living is not affordable; people are moving away and finding something beneficial elsewhere. Derry is a great part of a nation that has some fantastic venues and local acts. You have The Glassworks and Never Centre and there is a lot of love about the city. Northern Ireland is a fantastic country for music and you cannot ignore what is coming from there. I feel D.A.N moved because he wants to get bigger acclaim and see his music spread but I am interested to see where he comes from.

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Do we spend time looking at music away from London and big cities and find what sort of variety there is available? I have been compelled to investigate Derry but there are other parts of Northern Ireland, including Belfast, with a great scene. Maybe E.I.R.E is a bit more active regarding music but Northern Ireland has so many great artists and venues to investigate. I hope more and more of us take the initiative and look at music from all around the world. As part of my daily activity; I get to discover music from all over the world but I seem to see a pattern emerging. A lot of submissions still come from obvious places and I wonder whether artists from smaller cities and towns get a look in. If D.A.N gets some love for Derry and makes me look over there; I am curious how many other artists there are that are not getting acclaim because the media is obsessed with bigger areas. I will come to a new subject in a second but I would urge everyone to take some time out and investigate the world of music – rather than what is happening in London or obvious places. That may seem like an impossible task but a bit more open-minded approach and study will broaden our horizons and make us all richer. I have seen D.A.N progress from the turmoil of insomnia and emotional worry on 0300 (Human) and arrive at a new avenue. The songwriter progresses with each release and I am excited to see where he goes from here. Think About Me is a much brighter and more vivacious song that sees him work with producer Dave Okumu and mixer Dan Parry. Between them, they have worked with the likes of Jessie Ware and Loyle Carner. That sort of pedigree is nothing to be sniffed at. It shows how much D.A.N’s music is resonating – he can attract that sort of talent and make his songs stronger for it.

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Another good reason why the songwriter is important is because of the acclaim he gets from radio. A lot of artists get airplay on big stations and it is something to be proud of. There is limited space and chance for artists to get their music exposed so, if you can, make something of it. I am one of those people who is keen to get artists publicised and see if I can get them to radio stations. It is a big step if you can get to national radio and the possibilities are endless. If you can have your music featured on local radio then that is important and is a great first step. I am always listening to stations like BBC Radio 1 and BBC Radio 6 Music and seeing what is coming through. D.A.N is an artist who has struck the imagination of radio producers and, as such, his music has spread far and wide. There is nothing to say, years from now, he cannot get to big stations in the U.S. and get a lot of tour dates over there. You have to have those ambitions and the fact he has managed to get onto big British radio stations is a huge step. I am excited to see how far he can go and what comes next. I know D.A.N is working on new material and there will be new releases very soon. I am going to keep an eye out and see what happens but I expect more and more radio stations to turn his way and play the music. If you can get your music played on radio and get reaction from it; that is a good way of getting gigs booked and having venue take note. I have heard so many artists get bookings directly from promoters and venue owners hearing their songs on the radio. D.A.N’s latest track has that summertime sound and, whilst it might be too late to have festivals lined up and get involved with that side; I am sure more gigs will come and people will be reacting to his music.

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I am looking ahead for D.A.N myself and wonder whether his music has been put in the hands of American producers and radio stations. I feel his music has such a great sound and would resonate there. Radio is a hugely powerful medium and cannot be underestimated. T.V. is a potent force but how many music shows have we got right now? It is rather sad there is nothing specifically set up for modern musicians. Many have to perform on cooking shows and non-music outlets and radio, in so many ways, is the only place to hear artists. I wonder whether we will see a music T.V. show come through and whether anything will change in that regard. My point is how important radio is and its power. I am pleased D.A.N’s music has struck the ear of stations and he is gaining a lot of new fans. He has seen his music played on T.V. shows like Made in Chelsea and BBC Radio 1 and BBC Radio 6 Music have spun his material. It is great seeing the Northern Ireland artist getting acclaim on T.V. and radio. Where does he go from here in terms of ambition? I will speak more about that in the conclusion but I feel D.A.N can go a very long way. Not only does the songwriter have a popularity and base on radio but his evolution marks him out as an artist with endurance. I have been speaking about icons and how few modern artists can match their brilliance but the industry is so much harder now. Artists like D.A.N have exceptional qualities and I feel he is someone who will remain for many years to come. I keep mentioning icons and classic music is because of the shifts in music and how we view it. I love modern music but so many artists are not putting effort in regarding composition and depth. D.A.N expends so much of himself into every track and you get a window into a unique musician who wants to inspire the next generation.

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It would be easy for D.A.N to repeat himself and not stretch his ambitions between releases. I have seen many artists discover a popular sound and then not expand from there. What we get is a rather samey and predictable career where you cannot really distinguish songs from one another. D.A.N can talk about love and its complexities but is always engaging and new. I loved when he sung about insomnia and emotional turmoil – not in a cruel way – because he managed to splice a striking core with a beautiful and soulful sound. Now, when recounting a break-up and coming out the other side more positive and bright; he injects something a lot more rousing and sparkling into the mix. It is a leap from 0300 (Human) but still sounds like him. What I am noticing from his music is how much confidence is coming in. I am not saying his early sounds and timid but it seems, with every new release, that spirit is raising and he is getting bolder. I mentioned how he is working on other material and I am excited to see what form that takes. Whether there is an album or E.P. arriving; whether he has summery tunes or a mix of emotions…it is going to be interesting discovering what comes from him. Not many artists are able to achieve such leaps and evolutions between releases and keep their identity intact. The songwriter is vibing from the attention and acclaim and providing the music world with some brilliant sounds. Let me look at Think About Me and a current release that is already turning heads and getting some big love.

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The hero starts the song by looking at the same old streets and investigating those old haunts. There is a patter of drums and something brooding working away. The composition is quite minimal and things are fairly tense to start with. The hero is looking at the immediate split and is walking through a street of memories. He gave the heroine space and time and it seems, regardless of how open he was, things were not going to last. I am already in the corner of D.A.N and wondering whether he will recover quickly. The early stages see the hero look at the old sights and places he used to visit with her. It has been a touch split and it is inevitable he would go back to where the two of them used to visit. You get vivid scenes and sights come through in his vocals. The composition is fairly light and that minimal approach allows the listener to paint their own thoughts. You are in the song itself and walking alongside D.A.N. Although there is that initial sense of remembrance and looking back; he is pining forward and what is coming next. The hero knows the girl is thinking of him and is still searching for answers. It would be unhealthy transitioning from a relationship and not wanting to know where things went wrong. As opposed those who wallow and let break-up eat them and haunt their mind; this is a more productive and pragmatic reaction to a bond that had been showing cracks for a bit. You get words where the author is talking to his heroine – she must think of him and knows there is something in her heart – but the music elevates and shines. The beats get brighter and lighter and electronics fuse in. It is a galloping and summery jam that gets into the heart and makes it beat faster.

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PHOTO CREDITCora Hamilton

Even if the early moments are a bit more downbeat and mournful; that soon changes to a more dynamic and spirited thing. Think About You is a feeling the spark is still there and everything is not lost. You can imagine the two of them going their own way and still holding on to the great times. I am not sure what caused them to end but it seems like everything is not lost. The hero is not yearning or begging for another chance: his mind is looking to rebuild and look at life in the future. Getting catchier and picking up rhythm; you are immersed in the song and captured by its hooks and flair. I wonder whether the song is taken from two sides of the conversation. It is obvious our hero is still fascinated by the heroine and does not want to completely lose sight of her. Those good times are in his mind and it is vital he keeps hold of them. You do not get the sense the songwriter is holding onto a raft and looking for salvation. He is determined to move through and find something positive on the other side. It is impossible to forget about the song and get it out of the head. You are stunned by the sunny notes and big chorus; the way the hero projects a positive outlook and is not letting things getting him down. In the midst of everything; I am thinking about the way he is holding onto the relationship and those memories. Maybe it is hard to completely forget and relinquish that grasp. You feel for him and wonder whether there is any chance of reconciliation. Rather than try and repair something that is struggling; I feel the hero is moving on and looking to find something on the other side.

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Many songwriters want to move on after love ends and that can be a really hard thing. The hero has accepted the best times are done but there seem to be no regrets and blame. It is easy to bond with a song like Think About Me because it puts you in a better frame of mind and gets your body moving. I predict it will be a big hit for him and prove popular with T.V. producers and radio stations. Many people are reacting to it already and there is every evidence to suggest he will have a big smash on his hands. You do not get many songwriters who can create very different songs and keep their own identity solid and clear. D.A.N does not want to repeat himself and be seen as a formulaic artist. He is making big waves and pushing himself with every track. I am excited to see other material and get a sense of where he is now. It is hard to get a real sense of which songwriters are worth a shout and who can remain the course. Such is the mass of artists available online, it is hard working through them all and making predictions. I am sure D.A.N will last for many more years and continue to do great things. The Derry artist is on a hot streak right now and seems to have his sights firmly set. Make sure you hear Think About Me and get involved with a brilliant creative revelation. There are not many artists out there like D.A.N. He gets into every part of the body and mind and makes you think and feel more deeply. In an age where there is so much meagre and predictable music; it is nice finding artists who go much further and have much more substance.

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I have investigated D.A.N before and am always blown away by his talent and instinct. He is an artist that seems to speak for everyone but does not have any likeminded peers. He can address love and its perils but add something hopeful and positive to the plate. I think he has a bright future and can go on to create a lot more great songs. I have been talking about icons and modern music vs. the past for a while – there is a point behind it. Whilst it is true it is near-impossible to see any of the new breed rise to iconic levels and stay in our hearts for decades; the climate has changed and things are very different. Competition is fierce and, rather than look for idols and icons; I feel applauding those who can survive and continue to find focus is much more helpful. D.A.N is a modern artist who can rank alongside the most promising of the mainstream. He is a multi-talented writer and musician and seems get stronger with everything he brings out. I am not sure when further material is out but you will have to keep an eye out for his social media channels. He will keep fans abreast and it will be excited where he heads next. There is nothing to suggest D.A.N cannot release a series of albums that will get into the critical mind and inspire new musicians. He stands aside from what is out there and wants to endure and remain. One gets something deep, engrossing and fascinating with Think About Me. The track, on paper, seems like an average and everyday workout regarding moving on from broken love and finding hope. When you hear the song come alive; there is so much working away that you are taken somewhere special. I have been a bit down regarding new artists and what they are about but there are some fantastic musicians who are showing great endeavour. D.A.N’s new music makes me think of Derry and Northern Ireland as a whole. It is a fabulous nation that is housing some remarkable new talent. Although the artist has located to London and is finding chances here; I hear his home running through the musical blood and it makes me want to investigate the music of Northern Ireland a lot more. If you have not discovered D.A.N and feel he is going to be your normal and predictable songwriter then give his sounds a spin and discover something wonderful. I shall end this here but I want people to investigate the rising star and find out why so many radio stations and media sources are promoting his music. Even if a bad relationship has influenced his latest track; it is the positives and possibilities that come from that fuelling his mind. The young artist is not getting down and letting things get on top of him. I am sure there are many more years (maybe decades) in the tank for D.A.N. He has that desire and heart that many songwriters do not possess. Follow the fantastic songwriter and see where he heads next. 2018 has been a great year for him but I feel next year will…

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TAKE him to a new level.

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Follow D.A.N

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TRACK REVIEW: 10 O’Clock Chemical - We Are Digital

TRACK REVIEW:

 

10 O’Clock Chemical

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We Are Digital

 

9.5/10

 

 

The track, We Are Digital, is available via:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dbh8w-VI4WA

GENRE:

Gritpop

ORIGIN:

Stoke-on-Trent, U.K.

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The E.P., Favours for the Wicked, is available via:

https://open.spotify.com/album/7mvFxS1IXr0XoeYKePn8CX

RELEASE DATE:

22nd June, 2018

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WHEN approaching the guys of 10 O’Clock Chemical

I have a lot to unpack. The guys have lost a member recently – since I last featured them – but that has not dampened their music or taken away from their strength and ability. I will come to that later but I wanted to investigate bands who can create their own genre and mix Rock, something cosmic with electronic; themes that look at social media, isolation and mass consumerism; a sound that is accessible and tangible (never too heavy or unforgiving); artists from Stoke-on-Trent and areas that do not get a lot of coverage – I will end by looking at the band and where they might head. I will look at their track, We Are Digital, in a bit but there is something oddly refreshing about 10 O’Clock Chemical. I hear a lot of acts that have a good sound and seem to differ from what is out there. One of the reasons why I have been a bit cold on bands is because of the rather ordinary and predictable sounds. You get too many acts who have lacking imaginations and seem to follow the pack. Maybe solo artists still hold more sway but there are groups that are coming back and showing some variation. I am drawn to 10 O’Clock Chemical because they have a genre all of their own: Gritpop. Maybe there are other groups who have their own sub-genre but the sounds fused by the boys are rather interesting. They take a bit of Britpop, in terms of a lightness and energy, but they bring together oddly cosmic science fiction and the Electronic genre. The hybrid of more accessible and traditional Pop/Rock is married with their own world that brings the listener in and exposes them to something peculiar and wonderful. There are so many artists out there who lack any real motivation and are willing to put out a sound that is a bit lazy and routine. What strikes me about the band is how they take a risk and explore sonic territory that others are not.

I like the term ‘Gritpop’. It explores the older days of British music and a time when we were all together and one – maybe there is an irony regarding that period and what it stood for. The band look at isolation and how social media is having a damaging effect on all of us – Britpop was about joining with one another and being much more involved in society.  Maybe I am not explaining their sound well but my point remains about bands/artists that do their own thing. You hear little bits of Muse and their sense of identity – a bit odd and explorative but mesmeric – and Dance-Pop. It is a fantastic brew that gets into the ears and spikes the imagination. It would be rather hard-going if the band talked about isolation and stress in modern society and put together a sound that was closed-off, edgy and too dark. You would feel a bit too maligned and saddened; put off by the shadowy and harsh tones. Instead, 10 O’Clock Chemical explore ideas that reflect the realities of modern society but they produce music that has a lightness and sense of the fun. You can dance and move to their songs but you get to think at the same time. Those who prefer their music more throwaway and unchallenging might not bond with the band but I feel the guys are worth proper exploration and time. What gets to me is how the chaps have some clear influences but they never wear them too clearly on their sleeves. However you define Gritpop and what it is all about; it is hard unpicking it and comparing it with other artists – a unique brew that will stay with you and, for artists, will compel them to change the game. Those who take the time to go away from the mainstream and the oft-heard are to be congratulated. It is hard creating something original and being taken to heart.

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The band, in my opinion, is among the most relevant out there. I hear so many artists that talk about love and relationships but I wonder how much you can really learn. It is great hearing about personal themes and hearing people reveal their souls and troubles. Whilst it can be hard to understand their precise viewpoint; you can relate to heartbreak and where their head is. The reason I love artists that go away from that is the lessons you learn and the depth explored. In the case of 10 O’Clock Chemical; they look at the modern day and ways in which society has changed. Looking at the grip of social media and isolation might not sound too cheery – it isn’t really – but it is relevant to all of us and does provide some inspiration. We are all, in some way, a bit too beholden to social media and what is being put out there. Maybe we measure ourselves in terms of other people’s success and what we are supposed to be – never really sure of who we are and thinking for ourselves. I am someone who spends a lot of time on social media and it can be very unforgiving. You get this false sense of friendship and understanding that is never human and physical. Maybe we find it easy to speak with those online but I wonder whether that is a substitute for real-life contact and interaction. Every moment of the day, we hear other people’s woes, success and experiences; every minutes and movement of the day is revealed and it can be suffocating for the average consumer. I wonder how healthy it is being online and living in a world more and more dependent on social media. Alongside social media, we have mass consumerism and marketing where we have adverts and products on the screen. Every page we visit seems to promote something or other and we are all vulnerable to the attack and obsessive campaigning or advertisers.

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I grow weary of all the adverts and demands put upon me. More and more, it is getting harder to get some freedom and you can feel very vulnerable being online. Your identity and personal details are out there so you never know who is using your information and how safe you are. Maybe security is tighter now than past years but the more addicted we become to social media the weaker we become. I think we all need to break away from the daily routine of being on social media and living our lives there. 10 O’Clock Chemical investigate how social media and the Internet are controlling what we do and how much time we are spending on there. There is social isolation and endless advertising; we are all being monitored and watched wherever we go and censorship is tightening. I wonder whether we are free to express ourselves and be a human in this day and age. We live through others and there is this rather inward-looking approach to life where we do not really have our own identities and minds. In a way, we are becoming more insular and anxious, even though the planet is growing and more and more people are coming through. Are we able to break away from the screen, go outside and feel like we are safe and able to communicate with others freely?! It is an odd time of our lives when consumer culture and social media plays a bigger role than anything else. There are some of us that are not beholden to the screen but the addictiveness of the format gets us all in the end. It is good hearing artists explore all of this and provide a balance of wit and judgement. They are never accusatory or harsh: the lyrics provide observation and humour but there is anger and a sense of exasperation emerging. I hope they continue to uncover elements of the modern time that musicians do not really cover. Their E.P., Favours for the Wicked, looks deeply at modern life and how things are changing.

I will come back to themes examined by 10 O’Clock Chemical and why they are a band to watch. I love what they do because they seem to splice the unusual and familiar. I have met Muse but you get bits of Daft Punk, Foo Fighters and The Prodigy. That might seem like an impossible blend but it all works and the band make it pop. The guys have been celebrated around Staffordshire and the Midlands but their success and popularity extend around the country. I have been following them for a while and know they will continue to grow and build their fanbase. They have their own label, Gritpop (maybe it is in upper-case lettering), and that sound they have honed means a lot to them. Every listener will have their own interpretation of what Gritpop is and what it is all about. It is a spikier and more evocative sense of music that, oddly, is meant to unite us all. If Britpop acts like Blur and Pulp aimed to get us all singing and thinking through uplifting and light music; Gritpop seems to reflect the modern-day version of Britpop. By that, how society is changing and what bonds us all. If Oasis were speaking about living forever and embracing youth; now, we are living through our screens and living in a rather synthetic, closed society. Rather than spotlight this rather hard-hitting and upsetting area of life, the band bring a sense of energy and experimentation to these words. Their music has a sense of dance and invigoration to the party and never puts you in a bad mood. I like how the band have their own label and style and have found their niche. Many artists are looking for their own path but latch onto someone else and never really show originality. It is exciting discovering a group that invents a style of music that is so instant, relatable and interesting. I love the various sounds and influences they throw into the pot and how tight they sound now.

Before I move onto a new subject; it is worth looking at sound and how important it is. Although the band’s lyrics are incredible and thought-provoking; they put together compositions that compel different parts of the body. It is essential you marry sound and words together and have that balance. They could easily squander their narratives and observations with a rather lacklustre and insipid sound. They throw Kasabian into the inspiration pot but, thankfully, do not take too heavily from them. I am not a fan of the band and feel they are pretty overrated and past it. Maybe their earlier work was okay but they have turned into plodding and boring players who have no grit and purpose. Our guys, instead, have much more power and potential in their ranks. I hear a combination of Muse and Funk that gets the body motivated and the spirit swaggering. They do provide some darker times but there is a degree of relief and openness that gets under the skin. Like I said before; if they had matched rather heavy lyrics with a haunted sound and something tense then that would drain you and put off the listener. It is the way they balance things and create something focused and nuanced that gets to me. I mentioned, too, how the band has made changes in the ranks but I do not feel that has damaged them too much. It remains to be seen how future gigs and recordings sound with the new line-up but I feel they are as strong and promising as ever. I am not sure what the circumstances are behind the change but every band experiences some loss and alteration at points in their careers. The guys have been playing for a while but revealed their debut single back in February. Babylon Is Fallen was released through their GRITPOP label and met with great acclaim. Since then, the band have been playing locally and garnering plaudits from radio and the media. How often do we look at artists outside of London these days?!

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10 O’Clock Chemical are based out of Stoke-on-Trent – not an area we usually associate with a productive music scene and innovation. I know Slash used to live there and I think Robbie Williams is from Stoke. If you did an Internet search of all the great artists to come from Stoke, Staffordshire and that side of the country then it is going to be a rather depressing comeback. There are great local acts but, in terms of the mighty, nothing really pops to the ears. Music venues like The Underground and Band on the Wall mean there are spaces for Stoke-on-Trent artists to play in; there is great local radio and artists emerging who will get into the public mindset in years to come. I admire the band for remaining where they are (for now) and vibing from the local scene. I feel there is a lack of highlight regarding areas outside of London because many assume there is not a lot of treasure elsewhere. 10 O’Clock Chemical are a band who warrant more acclaim and revelation. They have gained success where they are and are being tipped as one of the best acts in the Midlands. I feel they might progress to the bigger cities in years to come but their connection and sound is being felt and appreciated around Stoke-on-Trent. I wonder why we get obsessed with the cities and what is coming from the capital. I know a lot of the media is based in London so it is understandable they focus on what is local and in their vision. It can be harder getting a grip on the full spectrum of music with social media being as it is. We often see the bigger acts promoted but, unless you follow the right people, how are you to know which artists (outside of London) are worth following? It is rather upsetting to see some great musicians overlooked and fight hard because of where they are based.

I will come to look at We Are Digital in a minute but I wanted to see where the band is going and what they have in store. They have released their E.P. and it is collecting praise and press. I know the guys will want to hit the road and take their music as far as possible. For the Wicked was produced by Matt Johnson and mixed by Adrian Bushby. Between them, they have won awards and worked with some terrific artists. I can hear the quality throughout and know that the boys will get a lot of love and respect. They will, as said, want to tour widely and reach as many people as they can. Their local reputation is clear but I fancy they’ll want to come to other parts of the U.K. and see some great places. I feel they could be a big hit in areas like Glasgow and London and there is a big market out there for them. I am excited to see how far they can go and where their music will take them. I feel, given what they talk about, fans around the world will bond with the music. Maybe there is a possibility of dates in the U.S. and Canada. I mention those nations because I am hearing similar artists coming from there – who can bet against 10 O’Clock Chemical getting kudos over there? I am looking ahead but I know the band are ambitious and want to get as much coverage for their music as possible. Even though there have been alterations in their ranks; they will continue to go on and, maybe, recruit a new member in time. I have not seen them live but I know they have gathered great reviews from the stage and are well worth checking out! I will come to looking at We Are Digital and a song, I feel, defines For the Wicked. The boys have created a cracking and compelling song that seems to offer caution and concern.

A rising, grumbling electronic coda opens We Are Digital. In many ways, you are expecting the Doctor Who theme to crack out. It has that same spacey sound and gallop but, rather than breaking out the theremin and getting all weird; the song continues down a darker road for a bit. Before long, the song cracks out some funk and the direction changes. Our hero comes to microphone and looks at a chromium queen and computer addiction that seems to have taken hold. The band gets us dancing and moving right away and you hear bubbles of Muse and The Prodigy mixed alongside one another. The lyrics have the nature of a love song and personal confession but look at digital means and vicarious experiences. You get brilliant, high-pitched backing vocals and it is impossible not to be drawn into the song and its sense of style. You get an instant hit and are intoxicated by the smoothness, sexiness and effusive sense of wiggle. The smooth and seductive tones, as I said, could be scoring a love song and a rapturous coming together. In many ways, We Are Digital is a bit of a flirtation – one where the hero is not going to be sucked in and controlled. In many ways, the song is a sort of ersatz passion where he (the hero) has more attachment to other people he does not know and digital messages. He sees how people are reacting and interacting and seems troubled by the trend. We are becoming lonelier and more isolated and that is something we need to be aware of. I love the sound the band whip up when the lyrics are being projected. You can hear funkiness and soulful strut and there are grittier guitars and stabs. It is a brilliant blend of older sounds and fresh ideas; brilliantly produced and mixed so that all the sounds and elements unite perfectly. The vocal stands out but is never too dominant: the band get their say and create a wonderful harmony and sense of support.

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It seems like our man is fighting against the urges of being sucked into the machine and going down the same road as everyone else. The Devil is coming, as it is said, and we are all becoming slaves to the hold and lure of the digital. The choruses have a sexiness and seriousness and you are in a distinct headspace. One follows the lyrics and imagines someone at a computer and the sort of addiction they have. Our man is seeing people live their lives through others and not having that human connection. The chorus is one of the biggest and brightest I have heard in a long time. I was moved, literally, by the addictiveness and catchiness of the chorus. One hears a bit of Prince when the band breaks out the funkiness and move their hips. The hero talks about everyone being digital and drawn to something rather isolated and detached. We are all moving far apart and it is amazing how we have got to this point in time. They mean we are all too hooked on something that doesn’t exist and not really in touch with our fellow human. Although the lyrics are quite tense and foreboding; the music and vocals are fizzing, dynamic and colourful. You are compelled to move your body and sing along with the song. It never goes into mainstream Pop territory and always retains its sense of cool. The chorus changes course and moves; there are little guitar bits here and there; some strange electronic breakdowns and a great beat. The eclectic potion the band stirs get into the nose and you will be hooked before you know it! If anything, I hear touches of the 1980s in the song. We Are Digital has that classic sound and catchiness but never gets cheesy. The band have managed to create something that lodges in the heart but is distinctly their own. You get excited when the chorus comes around the second time and are prepared for the rush! I went away from the song compelled to listen to the Favours for the Wicked E.P. and dig into the band’s story. I can imagine the music sound exceptional on the stage and I would love to see how they translate from the studio to the live setting. I have heard We Are Digital a few times and get a different hit and impression each time around. Make sure you investigate 10 O’Clock Chemical’s smash and experience a band that are among the freshest and most exciting around. They have a very alluring and seductive call that you would be foolish to resist. As much as anything, you take lessons away and (I hope) are compelled to think harder about the way you live and the role technology plays in your life – that is a hard trick to pull off in music.

It has been an extraordinary and successful year for 10 O’Clock Chemical. I interviewed them earlier in the year and wanted to know what sort of music they are inspired by and where they are headed. What struck me, when conducting the interview, was how passionate they were and the effort they put into the music. You can hear all the passion and intelligence put into their sound; the E.P. they have released goes beyond what we’d expect from a band and seems more like a modern political statement. The band looks at modern society and what we have become. Although I do not have time to review the whole E.P.; I have highlighted a song that means a lot to me. Social media is becoming more dominant in our lives and we are becoming too dependent on it. I wonder whether we can break away from the lure of the screen and digital communication. Alongside social media, we have advertising bombarding us and we are all being watched. Alongside this, we are more vulnerable and unsafe than ever and it seems like life has changed drastically. I was born in the 1980s so have lived and experienced a time before the Internet and a simplicity that is lacking today. I have seen the Internet and social media come and how different I am as a human. In many ways, we are more connected and have opportunities that were not there before. We can reach new parts of the world and experiences sights and sounds that were impossible before the Internet. In other ways, we are less sociable and seem more addicted to false and electronic outlets. Maybe we have come too far to reverse but I feel each of us can reverse the trend and start to break away from the drug. If we dedicate more time to the outside world and becoming less reliant on computers, we can become richer and more connected. 10 O’Clock Chemical look at the state of the modern world and how we interact and are seen. It is impressive and revealing music that provides a sense of education and guidance. You hear Favours for the Wicked and you are engrossed in the sounds. The guys have penned a remarkable work that gets to the head and heart as much as it does the body and spirit. I think the band are going to go on to big things and, before too long, will be taking their evocative music…

TO the world stage.

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Follow 10 O’Clock Chemical

TRACK REVIEW: Gypsyfingers - Hey Maria

TRACK REVIEW:

 

Gypsyfingers

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PHOTO CREDIT: Deana Lowe

Hey Maria

 

9.5/10

 

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The track, Hey Maria, is available via:

https://open.spotify.com/track/6sKEfavhbgTKXegskGvySG?platform=hootsuite

GENRES:

Cinematic Folk; Pop

ORIGIN:

London, U.K.

RELEASE DATE:

10th August, 2018

_________

ON this outing…

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PHOTO CREDIT: Julien Weber

I get to look at a few different, interesting things. I wanted to look at song derivation and how the most compelling and passionate tracks can stem from something quite humble and romantic. I also want to look at artists whose live performances redefine that experience and make me, and many others, want to go. I will also look at the recording process and the final process – how we often get caught in this assumption all modern music is digital and soulless. I will then finish by looking at Gypsyfingers’ sound and why we need to see more of it in music – a look at the band and where they will head from here. The guys act as a fully-fledged band but the core is, and always has been, Victoria Coghlan and Luke Oldfield. Pat Kenneally and Simon Hedges are new to the ranks and elevate the sound - and help bring magic to the studio and stage. I mentioned the changes in the Gypsyfingers ranks the last time I reviewed them so, on this outing, I will address other themes. We all listen to music and digest it but I wonder whether we truly ask where the story comes from and get an impression of its creation. I review tracks all the time and interview artists so I get a first-hand exposure to where the songs stem – I always ask artists during interviews where the inspiration comes from. Music is growing and always-busy so I feel it is getting harder to stop and absorb a song. We listen to what is out there and, if the artist is engrossing and makes you stop, you might ask where the lyrics and music come from. Most of the time, we listen to music and let it absorb into the skin without realising how it all came to be. In the case of Hey Maria and its beauty; I was interested to know where the lyrics arrived from and what its background in.

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Without going into the full story; it is inspired by Maria, a friend of Coghlan’s, whom she met in Paris. Coghlan was in a taxi, at 3 A.M., and sitting next to Victoria. It came to pass they lived in the same street (in Montmartre) and a long friendship ensued. They spent the summer sunbathing and enjoyed road trips to the South of France. It may seem idyllic and a bit envy-provoking but Hey Maria was written by Coghlan when she was on the beach in Cannes. That, in itself, sounds like the start of a film and I wonder whether the band might expand on that inspiration for their own feature. It seems like the best songs always have some unique and deep beginning. I can imagine Gypsyfingers making a bit of a film around Hey Maria and that friendship: the late-night ride and the long summer in the sun. Even before I heard a note and listened carefully to the song; I was picking apart the story and envisioning what was happening. I have spent years assessing songs and a few of them remain in the mind and keep me coming back. That might sound severe but there is so much music out there it can be hard to get a grip and let it all remain. This song, by Gypsyfingers, is one that has remained in the brain and seeped into my consciousness. I feel, if we look at where songs begin and their stories, it gives us a much deeper and more extraordinary connection. Hey Maria is about friendship and summertime; letting go and moving on. If anything, the song marks a departure and move from the band (a duo, technically, but the band plays live). It is the first proper Pop song from Gypsyfingers and, as I shall explain later, breaks from their established and incredible sound. I feel Hey Maria is the representation of where the guys are heading and what their new sound is all about.

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PHOTO CREDIT: @sallystage

I do not get to see live music that often – I get invited all the time but am busy writing – but, when I do, you always get a different experience. Great artists can embrace and capture you on the page and their recorded music makes you feel one way. When you go and see that live, there is something different that you were not expecting. Some say the best artists can make their live music sound as good as the record but I feel there needs to be a split between the studio and stage. I have not seen Gypsyfingers take to the stage but I have watched videos of them perform live and seen plenty of reviews. Their recorded material is exceptional but it is the harmonies and layers you get on the stage that blow you away. The fact that they have formed into a live band – brought in more instruments and fleshed out their dynamic – makes the experience a little different but it is still exceptional. If anything, there is more adventure and strength than before. Although the full band has an incredible connection; it is the partnership and understanding between Coghlan and Oldfield that makes their live shows so beautiful. The two are in a relationship – so that makes things more convincing and stronger – but that does not always mean the music will be committed and strong. Listen to the two on stage and there is an understanding and sense of the mesmeric that is hard to shift. People have celebrated the Gypsyfingers live show and noted how memorable it is. You get brilliant and heart-breaking acoustics and Coghlan’s voice shimmering, shivering and buckling the knees. There is the incredible musicianship and the band all in-line and on the same page. It is atmospheric and dramatic; it is scintillating and swims in the brain. Although I do not get out and see artists play; I am compelled to see Gypsyfingers play and see what they are all about.

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I will move to a different subject but I feel we often undervalue live performances and do not really place huge importance on them. Maybe we are all too busy to get out there and see gigs but you only get one side of the coin when it comes to recorded material. In the case of Hey Maria; it is a song that has a true story and sound but will become a new beast when it is translated onto the stage. Music is about the stage and studio – you cannot get a full impression from one side. Artists rely on finance from performances and gigs are a crucial aspect of modern music. I feel we all need to get out there a lot more and enjoy the fantastic musicians that are playing. Gypsyfingers are among the best live acts out there because of the experience and expertise you get from the friends. There may be new members in ranks but they have settled into the fold and you get a real sense of belonging and togetherness. Maybe it is that core of Coghlan and Oldfield that makes the sparks fly. Their older music and new sounds blend beautifully and you get an evocative and sensual night that stays in the memory for a long time. I often get a bit sceptical about gigs and whether they can equal expectations. In the case of Gypsyfingers, they have a great reputation and are a definite must-not-miss! I am excited to see where the band goes and where they can bring their music. So far, they have performed around the U.K. and Europe but I feel there is a lot more to come. There is great potential to explore the U.S. and put together a road movie. The guys could bring their songs to life in a visual sense and, perhaps, do little introduction films to each – that would then transition to the live performance. There is great romance and strength in what they do and I would love to see that travel the globe. Maybe Asia and Australia await them. I feel next year is one where they can spread their name far and wide and amass even more fans.

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PHOTO CREDIT: Sally Low

I have looked at the inspiration for songs and the stage: I have missed out the middle bit and the actual recording process. The reason I am taking a forensic and mechanical approach to their songwriting and music is that of the detail that goes into it. We often look at music and feel there is a slightly overproduced and soulless quality to it. I am not often compelled to look at music derivation and the stage performance; how it comes to life in the studio and the equipment used. I know Luke because he is a skilled producer and has worked with some fantastic artists. His old man is Mike Oldfield so there is that history and musical genius in the family. The Hammond organ and techniques used to record the song have a retro feel. The guys have a love of the 1960s and 1970s and bring a flavour of that to the recording. The drum and bass lines were recorded live to tape with a guide vocal and guitar lone. The song’s sound reflects a get-up-and-go-attitude and the sunshine of France. Coghlan wants the listener to draw their own conclusions from the song but you can definitely hear that distinct story and brilliance of the time. I mentioned how past efforts were recorded by the duo and that was all there was – they have recruited a band and now have a fuller sound. When it comes to Hey Maria; this was a band effort where they recorded live at Tilehouse Studios. Drums by Kenneally and bass from Hedges were complimented by Oldfield’s electric guitar and Coghlan’s acoustic guitar and vocals. The guys did eight takes and they agreed the seventh take was the best. I love the studio and seeing how songs come to be.

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PHOTO CREDIT: Sally Low

Many artists do multiple takes to see if different nuance and life can be detected (on each take). Rarely do you get one-take cuts and that is what we hear on record. I can imagine the four of them running through the song and trying different angles on each take. After the session was complete; Oldfield transferred it to digital by recording the outputs of the tape machine onto ProTools. He edited and they continued recording. The drums were recorded with three microphones (overhead, kick and snare) and you get organic and original takes on Hey Maria. The guide acoustic guitar was re-recorded and classical guitar, percussion and backing vocals were added – Hammond organ (from Kenneally) was injected and gives the song a summery feel. The tape machine at the studio is a two-inch, sixteen-track Studer A800 and is one of the best-sounding analogue tape machines. You get tape compression and the tape gets saturated and the audio gets subtly fattened. That detail and love of recording live means the band are closer and improve and that translate onto the stage. I feel, if we know more about how a song is recorded and its components, that gives us a much better understanding of music and its derivation. It is almost like food: if we know where it comes from then we are more informed and more connected. It sounds strange but I feel knowing about the tape machine and microphones gives the music itself more physicality, soul and picture – it is almost like I am in the studio with them. I am a big fan of analogue and feel music has become too digitised and technology-based. Artists are keen to use fancy equipment and not try and get that live-sounding music to the people. A lot of music is very plastic and lacks any real depth and complexity. Oldfield, as a producer, knows how important it is getting the best from an artist and how to do that. His dual role as producer-musician makes Gypsyfingers gives the band new layers and skills. I love the workings and activities you get from a studio and what happens there. We listen to music and never really picture how the pieces came to be and how many takes were laid.

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I want to look at Hey Maria and describe it as best I can but, before then, a look at the Gypsyfingers sound. I have followed them for years and, on previous efforts, noted how they blend Folk with Pop. In fact, on albums like Circus Life, they bring in Rap, Hip-Hop and all sorts of colours. That album was four years ago – at a time when they were a duo – and I wonder whether next year will see another record. They are working on new stuff all the time and it is exciting seeing where the band is headed. They still have the gorgeous and smooth Folk sounds but their latest cut has more summertime Pop. In fact, I will include Gypsyfingers on an all-female list in the future. That may sound strange (as there are three blokes in the band) but the lead vocal is from Coghlan. She has the ability to transcend place and time and bring the listener into the song. Like all great vocalists; she has exceptional range and nuance; textures and emotional depths few others possess. I am a fan of what she does and feel she has a lot to offer in the future. One of the reasons I have been a fan of the group for years is because of that instant ability to buckle the knees and stop you in your tracks. The band is in a great position and is expanding their sonic locker to take to the road. I love the earlier sounds of Gypsyfingers but feel bringing in Pop and other genres give them a more rounded aesthetic and options when they take to the stage. The guys take great care to ensure each stage of the recording process is given as much passion and attention as possible. The stories behind the songs come from a real place; the recording is detailed but has plenty of looseness and experimentation; the live performance tops all of that off and brings a fresh angle to the music. The complete experience is something many cannot offer and I feel that is why the band has enjoyed big acclaim and celebration. They are in-demand as a live band and they have a glorious future ahead of them!

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PHOTO CREDIT: Sally Low

I am used to hearing the acoustic guitar and pastoral sounds coming from a Gypsyfingers song. Usually, I am in a distinct frame of mind and know what is coming. Hey Maria subverts those views and brings in crackling energy and force. The percussion comes in strong but not too heavy; there is a balance between 1960s Pop and something based in the U.S. You get sunshine breeze and a coolness that makes you smile and imagine. Knowing the song has its heart in France; I was, instead, in the U.S. and down a Californian road. It has that old-time feel and great production that gets the mind working right from the get-go. One gets kicking and funky guitar and genre suggestions ranging from Blues and Country to 1970s Pop and 1960s soulfulness. It is a rich and heady brew that goes into that introduction. The heroine’s voice comes in and talks about lying in the sun with one eye open. Almost squinting against the force and heat of the day; you cannot help but be there with her (in a non-perverted way!) and imagine the sights. I have always loved Coghlan’s voice and it has been compared to Lily Allen and Kate Nash by some. You hear a distinct accent and grounded quality to the voice but, since the earliest days, it has gained more beauty, qualities and emotions. It is a great instrument that ranges from London-tuned to classical. You are stunned by the character and cadence of the vocal and how it holds your hand. The band kick up a smoke of sunshine, glee and romance and your mind is divided between the busy and connected background the vocal that tells the story. The heroine is lying on a beach and enjoying the sun but wants to adventure with Maria and walk with her. In many ways, I get impressions of childhood and innocent friends gambling to the woods and embracing silliness.

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PHOTO CREDIT: Spencer Hudson

Rather than see the song as a French romance (in terms of friendship); there is more of the playfulness of childhood and meeting someone who is the same as you. Not many of us experience such vivid friendships as adults: those childhood memories and times are more precious and long-lasting. Coghlan seems deeply involved with the subject matter and fondly recalls that first blush of new connection. When the chorus comes in, there are backing vocals from Oldfield and new depths. Previous Gypsyfingers songs have been calm and emotive but here, on their latest release, energy and spark. The electric guitar has a breeziness and Blues-like lick that gives the song kick; you have a band kinetic and connected and really committed to the song. Whilst the boys summon the backing and drive the vocals forward; I am always drawn to that centre and the incredible story. Our heroine is glad she met Maria and there is that instant bond. The sheer luck of that meeting has not been lost on the lead. She is grateful for that encounter and knows how special it is. Rather than waste the moment and get too carried away, she is looking ahead and knows this friendship will last for a long time. I know the song’s history but I still keep coming back to something younger and more childlike. Hey Maria is a fantastic cut but not limited to a particular time and place: one can get their own impression and interpretation from the track. I love the composition and how many different phases there are. The organ adds a really great scent and the entire band put in a fantastic performance. Everything fits together supremely but there is a sense of the open and loose. The song is never too tight and studied: the band is free to stretch a bit and you get a few solos here and there. What strikes me is the sunshine and smiles that never seems to abate. So many modern songs have a scowl and there is something sad underneath. No such (bad) luck here! Hey Maria is a winner and enlivened figure from the very start and never loses that alacrity. Until the final notes, the listener is put in a better frame of mind and boosted by the song. I have my viewpoint of the song but I know others will have their opinions. Hey Maria is a song you keep coming back to. The rush is hard to overlook and it is nice to hear a song that is positive and has a happy story. I understand bands who want to project something hard-hitting and emotive but that does not mean you need to be forlorn and depressive – adding something bright and warm can do so much more for the listener! Hey Maria is a fantastic offering from a band who are getting stronger with every release. I am excited to see where they head and what they can achieve in the coming year. Make sure you follow their progress and catch them on the road if you get the chance – and the chance to hear Hey Maria take on a different guise and quality.

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PHOTO CREDIT: Spencer Hudson

I have talked about Gypsyfingers and how they have changed through the years. That core of Victoria Coghlan and Luke Oldfield has always been there and they have that endless and rock-solid connection. Maybe that is because they are in love – I feel they have a lot of similar tastes and want the same things from the music. Each of the players wants to take their sounds around the world and remain in the industry for years to come. That will happen and, in a tough business, they stand out and how the ammunition to inspire and remain a permanent fixture. I mentioned how it would be great to see the band play across the U.S. and I know the nation would take them to heart. They could do great business in Canada and Australian dates would not be out of the question. Maybe finance will limit their ambitions but there is demand and potential out there. I have seen Gypsyfingers evolve and change but the quality has always been there and sky-high. Let me bring this down to a close but I would encourage everyone to follow the band and get behind what they are doing. The British band is a huge force and feel the next year or so will be their very best. I have watched them grow from the duo of Circus Life and lead to where they are now. The quartet is looking ahead and seeing where they can take their music. I have also mentioned how great they are live and the sort of reaction they are accruing. Hey Maria is a fantastic song and one I could not overlook. Coghlan has said she wants everyone to get their own impression and take something new from the recording. I have been given the complete story but others, listening to it without that knowledge, will go in other directions. They might see something fictional or have their mind in a different nation. It is amazing to see what each listener gets from the song.

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The best tracks are those that compel different thoughts and do not reveal their true identity. Although I know where Hey Maria comes from; there is a lot more working away and more besides that taxi ride and ensuing friendship. Now that Coghlan is based back in the U.K., I wonder whether she and Maria live nearby and still keep in touch. They have a friendship but you listen to the song and are (you are) curious how things worked out. Are they still close and see one another a lot? Can we get a literal image of Maria or does she keep private? Is there going to be more material relating to that time in France and that amazing friendship? I am thankful Gypsyfingers are in the world and bringing something fresh to music. They are a band on a mission and are among the strongest out there. Maybe there will be more material before the end of this year - but I do feel next year will be their finest. I would assume an album is being worked on and I cannot wait to see what direction they head in. Maybe there will be more of the Pop direction we hear now and they will break from Folk; they might sprinkle both together and we will get the same sort of eclectic vibe as their debut. Whatever comes from the quartet; I have seen them grow and mutate from the duo and bring in new players – who have sat in the mix and bring new possibilities to the songs. I will end things here and urge people to listen to Hey Maria and get their own story and ideas. It is an incredible offering and one of the strongest from the band. It is proof they are on the rise and determined to get as far as humanly possible. If they keep on writing songs like this and putting their all into it; I feel Gypsyfingers will be a mainstream act…

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PHOTO CREDIT: Julien Weber

IN next to no time!

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Follow Gypsyfingers

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TRACK REVIEW: Martha Bean - Slippers to a Wedding

TRACK REVIEW:

 

Martha Bean

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Slippers to a Wedding

 

9.6/10

 

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The track, Slippers to a Wedding, is available via:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KBOy1JzjmYo

GENRES:

Acoustic; Folk

ORIGIN:

Leicester, U.K.

RELEASE DATE:

27th July, 2018

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WHEN I think about…

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Martha Bean and her music, I am compelled to look at a few different things. I will talk about music self-produced and homemade; artists who get acclaim and stand aside from the pack; acoustic influences and modern artists who invoke the spirit of the greats; songs that make you feel comforted and give you guidance; artists who deserve to be big news and make changes in the industry. There are a lot of artists who record at home and get that very natural and intimate sound. I do not mind those who record in a studio but I always note something tender and evocative when you hear that homemade music. Martha Bean is an artist I have featured before and, every time I witness something new from her, I get the sense of an artist who wants to bring you into her world. A lot of modern artists write material that has a personal edge but it is harder to relate and connect when you note the studio-made nature. There is something lacking and synthetic coming from the speakers. Another reason why artists are doing the D.I.Y. route is that it is cheaper and easier. Studio rates are high and it can be difficult bonding with an unknown team/producers. It is the warmth and closeness I can feel from those home-produced recordings that the artist wants to bring you into their world and into their space. You get more involved with the music and the effect is a lot more physical. I hope I am explaining myself but, what I mean is, artists who record quite honest and uncomplicated music -a few elements but none of the polish of the studio – can make the notes and lyrics really strike. Polished production and the gadgetry of the studio can elevate music and bring new life to it but many of us want to hear new music that sounds close to a live recording. Bean, on her latest track, provides huge grace and passion; there is a lot at work and you get a real sense of who she is and what she is about.

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I am not saying there is a big distinction between studio sounds and home recordings but there is a lot to recommend about the D.I.Y. method. Martha Bean has self-released her music this time around and seems to be taking a more independent route. I really love artists that take charge and have the confidence to take care of their own music. One of the reasons why I wanted to look at the independent route is the amount of creative control you have. There have been some big artists who have pulled away from labels and the demands of the studios and decided to record in their own way. Many new artists, when they get a certain amount of respect and attention, feel the need to get into the big studios and sign with a label. Others take a different approach and take that risk. In the case of Martha Bean; she has a lot of kudos – I shall get onto that later – and feels the best way to get her music to the next level is, in a sense, stripping it back. She has produced a song that has spoken to many and seems to resonate. Slippers to a Wedding is one of those moments that you drink in and are compelled to come back to time and time again. I have heard a lot of songs this year but few of them have managed to make a big an impact as Martha Bean. I will move onto a new topic soon but, before I get there, I will tip to social media and photos. This is a subject I look at now and then but I feel the visual side of music is quite important. Bean’s music is fantastic and she has gained a lot of respect from the media. The sounds are connecting but I am intrigued, too, by the aesthetic and visual side. She has some great photos out there but her musical dynamic lends to a rather captivating and eye-catching photoshoot. There need not be that many new snaps: a few that show her in different settings and add an extra dynamic to her portfolio. It is hard getting a lot of photos together – cost and the logistics – but Martha Bean is an artist who will be gracing magazine covers and interview pages for years to come.

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Let me move on to another side of music and talk about respect. Many artists get into a position where they have the critical ear and the promise to go all the way. I always look at other reviews and how people take to certain musicians. What interests me is artists who tend to tick all the boxes. BBC Radio 6 Music have played Bean’s music and her album, When Shadows Return to the Sea, received four-star reviews. A lot of publications have hailed her as a voice to watch and a genuine talent. It is hard, at any stage of music, to get that sort of attention and praise. It is still early days for the songwriter and, already, she has won the ear of some big publications. It is impressive seeing artists get acclaim and it is something they can wear with pride. So many artists quit and retreat when the going gets tough; many take years to get great reviews and make it onto big radio stations. Martha Bean has worked hard but, more than anything, there is a natural voice and talent that takes the breath and stands aside. Distinguishing yourself from the crowd can be really difficult to do in this age. There are so many sound-alike artists and many are following others. It is difficult coming up with new sounds because there is less chance for mobility in the market. We have heard so much music and coming up with something original can be really tough. Bean has some notable influences but she puts her own voice and D.N.A. onto the page. She does not, like many, stay too close to their idols and provides something fresh and inspiring. One of the reasons why we often skip past artists and get a little jaded is because of the similar sounds. So many remind you of someone else – it is understandable they get overlooked and passed by. Modern music is a really tough industry and the competition is fierce.

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Martha Bean has been plugging and playing for a long time but she has done her homework. She blends classic acoustic sounds with legendary Folk; puts in her own values and stirs it around. The critics have reacted to her fantastic music and many compare (Bean) to Nick Drake. That might sound like a bleak comparison – many are not saying she is grave and depressive. The Drake comparisons come when you hear the voice and lyrics. The former that can mix feather-light with something affected and shadowed; the latter that portrays poetic visuals and incredible language. Bean mixes personal sentiments with looks at the wider world. Her vocals are astonishing and there is so much range to be found. The comparisons the critics have made provide an opportunity for Bean to strike and grow. I have been looking around for artists who have the stamina and talent to endure for years and compel the generations. I am hearing a lot of great, acoustic-led artists who remind me of the greats. Bean has elements of Nick Drake but there are elements of Laura Veirs and Jeff Buckley. It is a fantastic and heady brew that gets into the blood and infuses the soul. I have been worried about modern music and how little focus is paid to artists away from Pop. You get all the spotlight and fuss regarding Pop mainstream and the big bands. How often do we look at music websites and the radio and find those honest and acoustic artists getting celebration?! They may perform softer, less dramatic sounds but that does not mean they are worth less. If anything, they are deeper and more substantial. Maybe we still look at the glamour and commercial side of music more than anything. I hope the tide turns and we start to place emphasis on solid songwriting and promise rather than fashion and familiarity. Many media sources have heaped praise on Martha Bean – I wonder how long before her music gets to a worldwide audience and she ascends to the heady steps of the mainstream.

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I will come to another subject soon but I want to remain on this subject for a bit. Martha Bean does not limit her scope and subject matter. We all get into the position where we think artists of s certain sound will be limited and predictable. The acoustic-based artists, to them, are a little worn and there is not much variation. I think we often pigeonhole musicians and do not really listen to music as hard as we should. Listen to someone like Martha Bean and what she is singing about. I will investigate her latest single but, looking back, her songs have ranged from razor-sharp and witty to enigmatic and sobering. You get personal weight and clout alongside something light, humorous and open. That sort of width and range means the listener is treated to the full spectrum of her talent. It is important to be diverse and not limit yourself to the same subjects. Martha Bean takes influence from the likes of Radiohead and Debussy. She has been in the industry for a while but has not sold out and taken an easy route. She writes music that is true to her and, in turn, will always sound natural and pure. You get artists who are following trends and trying to please the critics. Bean has won the critical heart and is writing from a very genuine place. I have been revisiting strong female artists like Joni Mitchell and seeing how they managed to make such an impression on music. In fact, later today I will look at artists like Mitchell and how they created such a run of fantastic albums – look at her work post-Clouds (1969) and there is some of the finest music of her generation. I am keen to focus on great female artists but, more than anything, those who have something real to say and get under the skin. Consistency and longevity are not properties easy to perfect and sustain in today’s climate. Artists often change their sounds and adapt in order to stay relevant and find new light. If you are lucky enough to find a style that is solid and flexible from the off, that should not be overlooked.

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My circumstances have changed over the past day or two. Yesterday, when writing a review, I was in the position of having a flat sorted in Manchester and, I thought, my life sorted. Not that I am floundering in the wilderness: it would have been a relief to be in a city where I want to live and the fact I do not have to search around too much. Things have changed dramatically and, after some lesson-teaching fraud, I have to look all over again. I am going back up to Manchester in a week or two but it is frustrating that things have changed and slipped so quickly. Music, yesterday, gave me the guidance needed to see through my plans and realise the choice I am making is the right one. Today, mind, I am looking for music that provides another round and encouragement and provides that support. It is difficult relocating – especially when you live far away – and very expensive too. That is all scary and challenging but a sense of resolve and focus needs to come in. Music is an important tool and aid when it comes to facing these hurdles. I am embarking on new challenges and need sounds that can keep me safe and open my eyes. Martha Bean’s latest cut has given me the relaxation and soothe I need to clear the head; the fascination and colour to ensure this review is as full as possible; a sense she is going to go a long way – which means I will spend time looking around current music and anyone who can match her sense of songwriting skill and passion. There is a long way to go for Martha Bean but she has laid down her marker and gained that critical heart. What interests me about her is the instant quality and beauty you get. I have not explored the nature of the voice and what a fantastic example can do to the listener. Martha Bean has one of those voices that conveys and carries so many different emotions.

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You get the sense the songwriter, as a girl, searching through crates and record shops curiously looking at album covers and the delicious treat inside. I know music played a big part of her early life and she grew up around a variety of artists. Classical artists were part of the agenda; 1990s bands (still going today) like Radiohead were a big part – Bean also looked at Folk artists and legends who have pushed the industry forward. You listen to her voice and wonder where it comes from. Maybe there are flecks of other artists but you never get a big sense of anyone else coming to the fore. A powerful and potent voice has the ability to elevate music and ensure it lodges in the brain. I feel the voice is the most powerful part of the musical process. Great lyrics and music are important but the vocal element seems to have a lot more depth and sentient ability. It can touch you in ways composition can’t; it can say more than the words themselves and has the potential to change lives. Bean is an artist who has a rich and detailed voice that strikes hard and stands out from her contemporaries. I think she has the ammunition to remain a long time in the industry and transcend to the big leagues. She is masterful when it comes to crafting brilliant tracks and letting that incredible, gorgeous voice swim in the blood. I shall move on to look at Slippers to a Wedding and why I think it is a brilliant song. The songwriter is wetting the senses and asking many to ask what comes next for her. Each new release she brings into the world lingers in the mind and doesn’t fade from view – like so many of today’s songs do. I am a big fan of hers and am always amazed at what she can bring to music. Let’s get down to business and have a look at Martha Bean’s current single.

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You get these songs that are perfect without visuals: some songs sound better, oddly, with visuals and little emphasis on the sound. Martha Bean, with Slippers to a Wedding, allows you to get two different impressions. The audio alone lets you cast one impression and viewpoint. Look at the video and you get another interpretation. Many artists feel music videos direct the listener too firmly in one direction and do not allow for personal interpretation. What we get on Bean’s latest single is a perfect accompaniment and companion to the song. The video brilliantly conveys the scenes and ideas inherent in the song. The opening moments of Slippers to a Wedding provide such beauty and imagination. The acoustic notes skip and ripple like a pond. You get impressions of a riparian vista or a casual stroll in the countryside. You can, fairly, hear elements of Nick Drake and you are instantly involved in the song. The playing is gorgeous and so much gold and brilliance arrives without a word being sung. When Bean starts to sing; the lyrics get the mind working. She talks about a newsreader falling asleep on the air whilst the world is listening – the weather report comes but he is dreaming. The video shows a moustached man with an orange jacket that puts you in mind of the 1970s/1980s. It is an illuminating and eye-catching way of presenting the lyrics and adding light to the story. I wonder if there is a literal meaning to the words. The news report and weather can mean important announcements in life. The ‘news’ might be guidance where that person needs to go in life; the ‘weather’, the predictions and how things will fare in the future. Rather than be awake and attuned to what is happening and where things will go; the heroine is looking at herself and a certain malaise. Perhaps she is using the newscaster as a metaphor for personal doubts and changing times. Rather than overtly open her soul; you get a parallel story of a snoozing televisual personality. Bean lets her voice weave and flies like a bird.

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The words are given so much gravitas and personality. Each line and sentiment is projected with maximum acuity and resonance. Bean is able to go from crystal-like to deeper and more gravelled. Look at the video and we see a frog in a crown; avoiding a raincloud and surrounded by trippy forests and a sense of dreaming – nothing quite real and everything muddled. By that, I felt the heroine was talking about needing a secret kiss (when the frog kisses the princess and becomes real again – changing the gender to fit the story). Maybe our heroine is searching for a sense of clarity and someone who will be able to keep her safe. She says, in the song, we lose perspective and turn up to a wedding in slippers – again, maybe that is a sleepless mind getting tangled or an interpretation of someone being in the wrong place at the wrong time. I get the sense (the heroine) is entering a grand and regal world in her own clothes and life. Maybe things are not fitting together and where she is, emotionally, is different from the world around her – perhaps I am misinterpretation and quick to conclude. The songwriter, in the next scene, is locked out of the house as it starts to snow. She has seven hours to kill – a very precise estimation – and builds a fire. Maybe her knight in shining armour will arrive. I was looking at that period of time and got to thinking about employment and the ‘normal day’. It is a bit shorter than the working day but, again, being somewhere that is not ideal and making the best of it. Look back at the wedding paradigm and I sense a woman who is in an industry promoting glitz and a certain finery – she is more humble and homely but has so much potential and talent. Go back forward to the locked-out scene and you feel her yearning for a hero to whisk her away. I know Bean is in a happy relationship so, maybe, this desire is for a bigger and better life. She says, at the end, we often feel life slip away and lose its grasp when not looking. One of the great things about Slippers to a Wedding is how you get a very direct and emotional delivery but some oblique tapestry. We start with one person (newscaster) and then move to the heroine herself. I have given my interpretation but one can judge what the song is about. The composition-and-vocal unity is brilliant and so beguiling. You need a few spins for everything to seep in and register. A brilliant song that keeps you arrested, interested and invested; it is the strongest statement Martha Bean has created. This means, going forward, many will look to see what comes next – might we get more material that feels as good as this?!

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The Leicester-based artist has spoken about new material and where she heads from here. I think, as she says, it is more likely an E.P. (rather than an album) will come along. I do not get to review many artists from that side of the country. It is good to get away from London and talk about somewhere that does not get a lot of attention. Bean has a great band behind her – including Joel Evans and John Bean. The combination of the players and her leading hand means you have a musician who has the potential to go wherever she pleases. She has that great backing and it means the live show is a lot fuller and more appealing. Many solo artists play acoustic and that only provides so much richness and energy. Bean can provide a rounded and varied live set that brings in new faces and brings her music to life. I have talked about her home-made nature and how her songs bring you into a cosy place. Bean is an artist who can balance close and still with the impassioned and grand. There is a lot of love coming from local BBC sources and the media is reacting to her latest effort. I can see Bean embarking on a tour of the U.K. There are some great acoustic artists out there who are getting tongues wagging. As opposed bands and some solo artists; people like Martha Bean have the malleability to play in churches/cathedrals and conventional venues. I am keen to see her play and know she would prove a very popular live fixture across the world. She has played around the U.K. but I feel there are audiences waiting in America and Australia. Maybe the financial side of things will limit touring ambitions but Bean should definitely look ahead. There are a lot of great musicians out there and I hope each of them gets the chance to go a very long way.

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I am growing a little weary of the mainstream and what is being heralded as the best. Too many artists who do not ‘fit’ into what is deemed popular and on-trend are getting overlooked. Investigate and listen to someone like Martha Bean and you get a lot more wonder and talent. I will end the review soon but I want to end by rounding things off and hinting where Bean can go. Slippers to a Wedding, and its video, seem to encapsulate all the sides of the young songwriter. There are those lyrics that make you smile and have variation. At once, you might feel a little confused and uncomfortable (in a good way); you might then find something heart-warming and cute; something funny and earnest. It is a heady and eclectic song that definitely gets you coming back. The animated video (by Adam Aiken) reminds me of classic cartoons and something vintage. Listen to the lyrics of the song and you sense someone wrestling with their life and looking for a sense of purpose. The track looks at fictional figures but you always sense there is a lot of personal impetus. Bean has a great way with words and bringing in enticing characters and visions. The way she delivers her messages gets the heart skipping and makes you stay with her. I have heard very few songwriters who have the same skillset and sound as her. She brilliantly weaves together scenes and ideas without being too wordy; never too full-on with her vocals but always putting in her everything. I know there will be more material coming down the line and many more ears will turn her way. Listen to Slippers to a Wedding and look back at what Bean has created. The songwriter is getting better and more ambitious with every song she brings out. I am glad I have returned to her shores and uncovered a song that shows what an immense talent…

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SHE truly is.

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Follow Martha Bean

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TRACK REVIEW: Austel - Lost at Home

TRACK REVIEW:

 

Austel

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Lost at Home

 

9.4/10

 

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 The track, Lost at Home, is available via:

https://open.spotify.com/album/4PCVJTLPOZ2yeRxy6JMiSJ

GENRE:

Alternative

ORIGIN:

Devon, U.K.

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

https://open.spotify.com/album/16dJFeSLTV8TACV4fjwrXB

RELEASE DATE:

20th July, 2018

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THIS time around…

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I will look at some sides of music I have not touched on before. I want to look at music that documents leaving safe places and going somewhere unknown; E.P.s/albums and why the format needs to be celebrated more; being able to find solace and a sense of identity in music; artists who can take life events and common themes and turn them into something fantastic – I will end by looking at Austel and where she might head in the next few years. The reason I am keen to look at Austel is because of the subjects she brings into her new E.P., Unfold. I am in the position of moving from home and going up to the city (Manchester). It is hard making a shift and leaving something behind that seems comfortable and going somewhere new. The challenge (is having) to deal with leaving one form of life and moving to another. It can be quite hard leaving things behind and adapting to a very new way of life. I have got to the point because I need the opportunity of the city and the variety of people – going somewhere that offers a lot more life and a different way of life. There is always something a bit scary about the unknown and embracing something unfamiliar. What I am finding nervous is stepping somewhere that is new and I have not been that often. One needs guidance and words to say that things will be okay and it will all work out. It will work out, of course, but it is tough uprooting – even if you are very unhappy – and going somewhere new. Austel investigates leaving home and going to the city. One of the reasons why she has been in such productive mood is changes and having to enter a new phase of life. She investigates heartache and coming out of a long-term relationship; facing the world on her own and knowing, in the end, that there are positives and the change is good.

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A lot of music doesn’t really touch on areas that are relevant to people like you and me. There is still too much reliance on relationships alone and something that is quite insular and personal. You can get something from music about broken love but, if you are not in the same position and have not been through the same thing, it is difficult relating and the music only does so much. I like artists that think outside of their own box and look at a wider world. Austel has, as she says, been looking to move to the city and desires that buzz. I think every artist gets into the position, if they are outside the city, where they need that community and rush. If you are in a quiet place or somewhere where you feel alienated; you are always going to pine for something that is different and wonderful. I am not sure whether she has found a good place in the city – I assume so – but that decision to break from the familiar and safe and get somewhere else has rooted in me. My situation is different but the circumstances are the same: wanting to be in a place that is more ‘me’ and thriving. Austel’s new music, especially Lost At Home, gives that sort of strength and insight that I can relate to. When I talked about artists who speak of love and the pains of it; I was being a little harsh. It is good to hear musicians being personal but there is something great when you listen to songs that look at other aspects. Austel has dealt with a lot and going through transformations. Going into the unknown is always risky and scary but, when you get there, you’ll find there is support and people who think like you. I have never really spent a lot of time living on my own away from home but it is a time when I need to take a chance and go somewhere I feel enriched and motivated. There is always the gamble of things not working out and having to come back – the city is busy with chances and work, so one can get their footing easily enough.

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I wanted to look at the whole of Unfold but, as my rules are rules, I can only do the one song. I will look at Lost at Home later and what it means to me but, before then, I will look at the E.P./album and something fuller. We have a national day celebrating the album coming up very soon. I think we all get into the assumption music, now, is digital and disposable. Most of us like to access a lot of music but how often do we drink in an entire album and take time to digest it?! I wonder whether we allow ourselves enough time to listen to music in a real way with all the choice in front of us. We are bombarded with music and options so, naturally, it is hard to absorb what we have and let it linger in the mind. I have been following music since I was a child and have seen a change – going from someone who used to listen to albums all the time to someone who listens to singles more. I want to listen to albums more and spend time really getting into music. I think there is a lot of benefit assessing the complete statement of an artist and taking the time to study their work. You only get a slight impression of who they are by picking the odd song (from an album). Austel has released a great E.P. that tells a whole story. It might be ironic that I am mentioning this point – given the fact I am reviewing one song – but the Unfold E.P. is a complete view of where Austel is and how things are working out. There are doubts and strained relationships but that outcome: things will work out and there is light and revelation at the end. If you listen to a couple of songs; you get a rather distorted and unbalanced view of the E.P. I am not sure whether she is bringing out an album sometime but I am interested seeing how her life pans out and what comes next.

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What strikes me is how emphatic and confident Austel sounds. One would not get the impression she was wrestling with doubts and trying to work life out. I think, having listened to the E.P., she has faced some tough questions and challenges but transitioned well. The heroine knows where she wants to go and has found rebirth by taking a big step. You can get that impression speaking to her but, as most of us do not have access to Austel, the music is the only way we can find out what she is about. Music is the personality and conversation from the artist. If we are only half-listening or skipping over parts; how are we to get a rounded and full vision of who they are? The artist puts a lot of time and money into recording E.P.s. If you make an album, for instance, you want people to listen to every song and not just handpick the odd song. It is difficult committing a lot of time to an individual work. I feel the reason why music has come a long way and managed to inspire the masses is because of the generation who listened to whole albums. The best bands and artists from all time would not be in our minds if we only listened to singles or the odd scrap. Modern music has a lot of positives but I feel, unless we allow more time to listen to music properly, we are not going to remember artists and stick with older sounds. Maybe we are all busier than before but something else is going on. My point is, when you allow time to listen to a full work; you get a much more vivid impression of an artist and understand what they are about. That is what one gets when you hear Austel and her new E.P. She is one of those artists who compels one to listen carefully and dive into the E.P. You hear the varied songs and all the different emotions fusing and contorting.

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I have mentioned relating to music and artists like Austel – how her situation and realisations can provide guidance to me. One of the other reasons why I wanted to look at Austel and her talent is the way I can find a sense of identity. She has, as I have said, decided to relocate to the city and has faced heartache. I have not been in the position where I have faced heartbreak – not too good-looking and popular; merely a bit pathetic – but I am going through that change. What strikes me is how heavy and complicated it can be to move. Shifting your life and fitting in somewhere else can be desirable and much-needed but, when you are planning it, there is a lot to sort out. They say moving house is one of the most stressful things one can do – if you do that alone then it can be even worse. I have not come across many people who have gone through the same situation so it is hard to see how it will work out and what the future holds. Music, in a compositional sense, can provide some uplift and sense of meaning. You can take some direction from songs that generally look at making changes and extrapolate from that. Songs that directly talk about what you are going through are much more powerful. Look at Austel and where she is now and there are those who can relate and root for her. In many ways, hearing her sing and seeing those words come to life makes me feel less alone and provides some direction. I can identify with what she is going through and I can connect on a deeper level. It is rather wonderful being able to understand an artist and what their life is about when you have never met them. How many of us listen to music now and can get a real sense of togetherness and identity? By that, I mean listen to an artist and we feel like we’re one of the same.

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I will move onto new things in a bit I wanted to encourage people to listen to the Unfold E.P. and drink it all its notes. There is a story arc and a real sense of development from the first notes to the last. Many of you, if you give it time and dedication, will find familiarity and be able to connect with the music. Maybe you will not get a profound a reaction as me but there is every chance you will feel less confused or alone – more enlightened and educated at the very least. Austel has combined her background is Jazz and Indie and created something heady and detailed. The musicianship and nuance you get in every song is remarkable. What hit me hardest was the exceptional lyrics and how Austel’s voice highlights and emphasises every note. She has worked on various projects and had a good range of live experiences. Recorded during stolen weekends and evenings in Peckham; the E.P. sounds like it is a young woman embarking on new challenges and rooted in the city. I have been a little worried about my choices but feel refreshed and safer when listening to Austel. She has a brought future ahead and has made the right decision. There are a lot of people dealing with heartache and changes in life – how many of them actually document them in a fresh and inspired way? I feel Austel take a new angle and combines catharsis and fear without being too heavy-handed. You get revelation and honesty but there is intrigue and enigma to be found. The young artist has asked some serious questions and is ready to tackle the next stage of her life. Given the ambition she has and the music she puts out; it is understandable she would want to be in the city and have that opportunity to properly flourish. I shall move on and look at one of Unfold’s songs that warrant wider explanation and investigation.

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Lost at Home starts life with echo, entice and beauty. There is far-away vocals and an atmosphere that beckons you in. It is a rather moody and smoke-filled beginning that projects images of classical literature. That seems odd but there is a definite sense of an ill-fated heroine and a dramatic scene. I got the view of a fireplace and a darkened room; windy conditions outside and the smell of dust in the air. When Austel comes to the microphone; her voice, at once, buckles the knees and possesses that immense beauty. She is someone in the shadows and trying to move on from where she is. You get a real sense there is emotional weight and questions heavy on her shoulders. She is tired of the darkness and someone who yearns for the flames. I got the sense, at once, that darkness and sense of unhappiness were in relation to where she is now. She is at home and is not really reacting to what is around her. Maybe life is boring or she feels alien around people she is familiar with. There is not a lot of life and action here and there’s that desire to get into the city and the light. One hears real emotion and a fatigue coming from the heroine. She is retreating from touch and wants someone to open the door and let her get out. That need for escape and embrace is evident. You listen to the song and the way the words are delivered and you can hear the emotion. The song is never too heavy and foreboding at any stage. You do not feel suffocated or unhappy listening to the track. Instead, there is that feeling you are with someone who is reaching out and trying to bring you into their world. Knowing the song is about moving and rooting from home; it is understandable there is a sense of fear and unhappiness. The heroine has spent a long time here and it is time to move on.

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Our heroine feels overruled and silent when she is at home. Maybe there is a sense of feeling smaller and not really being happy. Perhaps there is little opportunity and vibrancy that has dampened her mood and made her yearn for the city. Beats come in to accompany piano and soothing vocals. I want to know more about Austel and where she is heading and, in Lost at Home, you get a vivid and descriptive sense of what is making her tick. That feeling of being suffocated and overlooked is forcing changes and big decisions. Many others have noted how powerful and stunning Austel’s voice is. She manages to make her words both sensitive and strident without too much effort. A natural and instinctive performer who can bring the listener into her world; you are drawn into the scene and follow Austel. She has been struggling with doubts and looking to the wider world for a long time now. It is time to get out and go somewhere she feels freer and understood. The rooms she lives in are not her own and the bad mood she is in is causing problems. The chorus stretches the vocals and brings the biggest emotional hit. Austel is explaining her situation and why she needs to get away. With excellent production and a wonderful composition; the listener is treated to a song that gets into the heart and ears. You keep coming back to Lost at Home and discovering new sides. The lyrics stick out because there are no clichés and disguised sentiments. Austel is honest and open with her language and does not talk down to the listener. She never pushes anyone away at any stage: the music brings you right in; the words reach out and get into the soul. I am fascinated by the song and have taken a lot from it. She does not want to feel safe and honed. The heroine wants to stop feeling crap – she is slowly shrinking and wasting – and rotting away. There are dramatic words and descriptions that highlight how tormented and lost she is right now. Given the emotion and situation she is in; I can understand why she wants to get away and embark on a trek to the city. By the end of the song, you feel enriched but drained. That is not a slight at all. Lost at Home is a very personal song but there is something in there anyone can understand. I felt some semblance of relatability and common sense. It is an extraordinary effort from Austel and proof she is among the very best young artists out there. The songwriter has hit new peaks and created a song (and E.P.) that stands out and remains in the mind. Make sure you hear the song and spend time listening to the Unfold E.P. I keep coming back to Lost at Home and all the different strands. The swelling and luscious composition; the brilliant production and incredible vocals; combine with the vivid and memorable lyrics and you have a song that ticks all the boxes.

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PHOTO CREDITMagda Wrzeszcz Photography

I think Austel will have a very busy and active next few years. Right now, she has moved from home and is embarking on a rather scary (but good) change. She has thought long and hard about her choices and has decided to take the step. One gets tales of ruined love and questioning but, in the end, there is that sense of light and change. It is wonderful to see Austel in a happier place and letting her wings unfold. I know there will be gigs coming up and chances to see Austel play live. Look at her social media channels and find out where she is heading. I am looking at the reviews coming in for Unfold and it seems like people are reacting to it really strong. That is great to see but does not surprise me at all. We are all seeing music change and it becoming a lot more disposable. I worry we are overlooking artists and not giving them a proper appreciation. Maybe streaming and digital music mean there is too much choice and it is impossible dedicating proper time to an E.P./album. Austel is one of those artists who encourages listeners to look at her entire work and not hurry past. You can listen to a song and appreciate it but, if you move to another artist (without looking at what else she has done) then you are missing out. There are many reasons why you all need to listen to Unfold and not be too hurried – there are lessons and insights we can all learn from. The young songwriter seems perfect for London and what is coming out of the city. I think working and recording in an area like Peckham is really sound. South London is really flourishing and it seems some of the best artists in modern music and based there. It is a fascinating and vibrant corner of the world with a mix of nationalities, vistas and sounds.

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Austel has vibed from all the activity and variation there and created something immense. I know she will love the city and find a natural home there. One of the good things about being based in London is all the like-minded humans who can help you out. She has the chance to bond with other musicians and hone her talents. She can get some performance experience and play a range of different venues. As much as anything, she has a lot of opportunity at her feet and will never be bored. It is exciting watching her enter a new stage of life and attack it head-on. I think next year will be one where big gigs arrive and the best days of her career come. She has come a long way and evolved as an artist since the early days. It is a great and productive time for her right now. I feel she will draw in a lot more fans and get some big gigs in a few months. Lots of new people who are discovering her music are spreading the world and there is some heat heading her way. I shall end the review now but it has been great listening to Austel and Lost at Home. That song seemed most relevant to me and delivers a lot of truths. It is a fantastic offering from an E.P. that is so full of activity and life. Make sure you listen to Unfold and see where Austel is right now. She is a brilliant young artist who is going to be in the music industry for many years to come. I have been seeking some comfort and guidance this week and, with Austel, that has arrived. I am compelled to follow her career and where is going to step next. If you want to find a musician who goes deeper and further than most out there; have a listen to the brilliant Austel and you will find an artist that…

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SPEAKS for you and has your back.

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Follow Austel

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TRACK REVIEW: Robert O’Connor - No Second Chances

TRACK REVIEW:

 

Robert O’Connor

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No Second Chances

 

9.3/10

 

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The track, No Second Chances, is available via:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3I00RqZy_RM

GENRES:

Country; Singer-Songwriter

ORIGIN:

Dublin, E.I.R.E.

RELEASE DATE:

18th August, 2018

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THIS review gives me the chance…

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to look at a few sides of the music industry. I will talk about Robert O’Connor in a bit but I wanted to look at the music industry in general and how being independent can take your music in a more personal and less stressful direction. I want to investigate Nashville-influenced sounds and blending Country and Singer-Songwriter sounds; transitioning from non-musical jobs into music; recording music to phone and being struck by inspiration on-to-go – I will finish by looking at O’Connor and where he is going to head. One of the things that strike me about Robert O’Connor is the fact he has had a bit of a varied and interesting time the past few years. That actually does a disservice to the hurdles he has overcome and what he has faced. Only this year, O’Connor returned to music after a five-year hiatus. I am not sure the exact circumstances behind the split and why O’Connor went away and came back to music. It seems like dealing with major labels and dodgy deals meant the music was going in a direction he felt unhappy with. The effect of having to deal with a lot of shady characters and being told what to write meant he stepped away and needed time to reflect. It is always assumed signing with a big label and having an A&R body behind you means everything will be taken care of and you will be fine. I know artists get to have their own say in any situation but it feels like there is so much mobility and flexibility being independent and guiding your own career. That is not to say O’Connor had all bad times when he was dealing with labels but it seems like he was being put in a hole that did not suit him. Maybe his music was being sold as commercial or it was going to be pointed more towards Pop and that avenue of music.

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There is always a risk you take when you sign with a label or have to deal with outside forces. I feel there is that divide between going alone and signing with someone who will listen and allow some form of creative expression. In O’Connor’s case; he took a few years out of music and wanted to rebuild after having a bad time. He has returned and is answering to nobody. Now, after a couple of singles, you can hear the differences – between what he is producing now and before – and there is a lot more ease and pleasure coming from the speaker. He has teamed with producer Stuart Gray and Steve Hogan. O’Connor needed a team he felt comfortable around and was not going to go down the same road as before. After assembling the small team; two singles were produced and recording went down in Country Meath. O’Connor, after that, hustled and has been getting his music out to the people. Maybe it takes more effort and personal commitment now – the songwriter is calling his own shots and has recorded songs that he wants to. I shall come to the sound of the music and where O’Connor might head but it is good to see him continuing and not soured by the experiences he had before. Previous single, You Found Me, was launched on radio across Europe, the U.K. and Ireland; many compared the song to the likes of R.E.M. and Fleetwood Max – it was a hit and showed the gamble had paid off. The single I am reviewing, No Second Chances, was written four years ago and produced at Jealoustown. Things are on the rise and it seems like he has found his path. It is not to say signing a record deal will lead to trouble but one must be prepared for a certain amount of negotiation, compromise and balance. The labels sign you because they have a vision of your music – this may not sit with your impressions and what you want to do. Being independent can be a lot of hard days but it means you have the chance to take your music where you want and not be constrained regards genre/sound.

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O’Connor is making plans to remodel his back catalogue and shape it how he wants to. Rather than keep things how it is and have a split between his new sounds and what came before; he wants to do a bit of a Paul Simon and take the songs back into the studio. A lot of artists rework their songs and feel they need to be seen in a new light – Kate Bush has done it – and I can understand why O’Connor wants to do this. Right now; he is pushing his songs into a more Nashville area. He calls his latest single ‘Nearly Nashville’ and it is a flavour of the U.S. that is for sure. I am seeing more and more artists inspired by what is coming from the Tennessee city. You get some British strands with No Second Chances but there is a twang of the Nashville. It is great to see how O’Connor has changed and evolved since his early days. I am glad he is taking this direction more than a mainstream Pop one. I do not mind some of the artists going down that route but there are big Pop names that rely on the easiest course and produced music devoid of soul, appeal and originality. That would be an easy way to go and I am glad he is taking a more sophisticated and fulsome approach. I wonder whether O’Connor will keep down this path and continue to write Nashville-inspired songs. The reason I wanted to talk about this side of music is how American Country is spreading quite a lot in the U.K. We are always told the British Country scene is a bit embarrassing and nothing to get excited about. Whilst we do not have a base like Nashville or an industry that has a tonne of great Country acts; we have some brilliant homegrown artists who are taking in U.S. sounds and blending it with something individual. I feel the Country scene will build here and become more authoritative. We do not quite have the weather and scenery of Nashville but I can understand why people are leaning towards that side of the world.

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A lot of Country artists talk about love but do so in a very emotive way. That may sound like a cliché of the genre but modern artists are not as wracked and dramatic as all that. Look at modern Country-Pop artists like Kacey Musgraves and you can see and hear plenty of life in the music. There is a sense of polish and energy that matches lyrics packing punch and personal pride. The songwriter is one of the finest examples out there of what can happen when you mix Pop and Country together. Robert O’Connor’s sound is slightly different but he could move in that sort of direction. I would love to see whether he goes in a more Folk-based place or he integrates Pop inside of Country. I really like the Country scene and feel there is a split between the U.K. and U.S. I can also imagine O’Connor spending some time in Nashville and recording over there. I know he is mega-busy right now but it might be worth spending a few weeks over that way and soaking in all the flavours and vibes happening over there.

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The idea O’Connor has now is to create timeless classics and not a quick-hit sort of song. He does not want to be seen as a disposable artist and have his music digested and then forgotten about. Maybe that was the problem he had before thing: he was writing stuff that appealed to commercial radio stations and intended not to challenge the imagination that much. A lot of artists do that in order to get popularity and tick boxes. It is understandable why they do that – so they get a big fanbase and can do well on streaming sites – but there is more value and worth to be found when you take a bit more time and write music that is meaningful to you. O’Connor took that break away from music and returned with a desire to do things how he wanted and record music that has that timeless quality. The media has been responding to his new work and the Irish songwriter looks set to get his music to new lands and territories. One can hear leaps and changes with every single but it feels like a Nashville sound suits him. In terms of themes, his latest single is more complex than sheer heartbreak and split. A lot of Country/Singer-Songwriters create something quite simple and predictable and it can be quite draining listening to that type of song. In the case of O’Connor; he has penned a song that goes through stages – the heroine not feeling the love and wanting to walk and him wanted her back near the end. The fact she offers no second chances mean he is walking on thin ice but, when he thinks about things, he feels he can be different and better. It is commendable he wants to produce material that is more substantial and remains longer. He does not want to have his songs heard and then forgotten about like so many artists do. Instead, he is penning tracks that have a lot of depth and you can hear the hard work and determination in every note.

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Before I look ahead and how O’Connor is writing now; it is worth looking at how he has transitioned and got into music. A lot of people might think, if you are in a non-musical job, it is hard to get into the business and succeeding. O’Connor used to work as a journalist but, one day, got a call and was told they (employers) could no longer pay him. He was faced with the challenge of transitioning from one career and trying to get back on his feet. That brings me to the lack of money in music journalist but, right now, I shall stay focused and concentrate on that side of things another day. After that, he became a security guard and, as he said, that enriched his songwriting skillset. He met all sorts of characters and people who he had never met before. A lot of excesses and some trouble; all walks of life and a variety of humans came his way and, because of that, he was given plenty to write about. I am not saying doing jobs like that are perfect if you want to spark a new songwriting fuse but it is a good way of broadening your horizons. A lot of songwriters do full-time jobs and it is tough balancing working full-time and concentrating on music. In O’Connor’s case; he moved between jobs – becoming an estate agent after that – and thought he would never be back in music again. O’Connor sells houses part-time and mixes two very different worlds. It is strange to think of the man in a suit and formal during the day and then with a guitar during the evening and performing songs to the crowds. Anyone who feels they cannot succeed in music and make impressions if they are working in other areas should take heart. O’Connor, himself, admits his C.V. is pretty varied and full. It looks like he has been restless and impulsive but, in truth, he was trying to adapt after being disappointed by dodgy music deals and being let down.

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I wonder whether O’Connor will continue working part-time – one hopes his career takes off and he does not need to. It interests me how occupations and different industries can actually be inspiring for songwriters. I have been working in various office jobs – all crap – but your mind is free to work and conspire when doing those jobs. They are never too challenging, always boring, but you get to meet all types of people and it massages various areas of the imagination. Regarding O’Connor and his plight; he has worked in eclectic areas of the working world and that sort of feeds into his material. I can understand why he has jumped a bit and was not sure what he wanted to do after his music career sort of hit a bad patch. Now, as he is back and looking ahead, I think he will have to dedicate more time to his career and, let’s hope, he is afforded the chance to play without needing to work. It can be hard balancing work and music but I feel O’Connor has a bright future. I think he will be able to spend time in the U.S. and, who knows, maybe relocate there in time. His new sounds are gathering a lot of pace and popularity so it cannot be long until big gigs are coming in and he is on a roll. Right now, he is getting back on tracks and guiding his music career in his own vision. I am excited for him and, already, he has lived quite an interesting life! His story should give guidance to those who are struggling with A&R teams and bad record labels. It is possible to walk away from music and return with new impetus and spirit. I feel Robert O’Connor will continue to build as an artist and produce a lot more material. I am backing the man to go all the way and impressed how far he has come. The spirit he has shown and the belief he has in himself is inspiring, that is for certain. Where he goes not is up to him.

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There is a lot of modesty when it comes to O’Connor and how he writes. Like U.S. Popstars such as Charlie Puth; he lays down ideas in voice memos on his phone. Rather than get into the studio and set time aside to write; he will put sketches and little ideas down and work on them later. Whilst I am against technology a lot and how we get hooked on our phones; they are really useful when it comes to capturing ideas and preserving imaginative ideas. A lot of songwriters do not write stuff down and they lose potentially huge hits. It is vital that any idea, whether good or bad, is kept and it can turn into something fantastic. The latest track from O’Connor, No Second Chances, sees the hero ready to walk out of a relationship and reaching the end of the road. He then, by the chorus, remembers the heroine saying she gives no second chances (or was it him?!) and he ends up asking her to take him back. It is a complex and vivid song – as I shall explore – that sounds like it came together in various stages. Maybe it is based on previous relationships but it has a story-like arc that is unexpected and unpredictable. You do not know where the song is going and it takes the senses away. I can imagine O’Connor jotted down some voice notes at various times and pieced it together after that. I wonder whether he could have created the song from scratch and without his phone. It is interesting to see how a lot of artists write and how technology can aid them. O’Connor found the note for his latest song from 2014 and sort of picked it back up. It is great we can preserve songs and ideas – it might have been lost without his phone and that could have been a big loss.

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I was keen to explore No Second Chances and what it is all about. O’Connor was not wrong when he said he was going in a more Country direction. It is great you get some reliable and familiar sounds come through and strike the heart. There is that Country-fried yearning and straining of the instruments. You get twang and the sounds of the American South come through. We are instantly transported to the U.S. and following our man down the road. When O’Connor comes to the microphone, he talks about his situation and how things should be different. It is great to see O’Connor’s voice blend against the high-pitched and sun-kissed guitars. He has a low and commanding voice that nicely contrasts and you get the heat of the background and a nice clash. The deep and impressive vocal talks about having his heart lent out and being in the girl’s hands. Things should be changing but it seems like they are the same. Maybe they have been together a while and it was hoped things would bloom and grow. Maybe a more serious commitment and a feeling they were heading somewhere. I get the sense there is a rough patch where they are going through the motions right now. What gets to me, early, is the sense of regret and how things seem defeated. He is never deflated but O’Connor seems like he reached the end and wants something new. That said; when he talks about his heart being played with, you get the sense he has invested a lot and trying to work out where things can be improved. The production is warm and polished but that does not bleed the soul from the song. Instead, you get a professional and lush arrangement that has cinematic grandeur and bristling emotion. The songwriter sings about walking away and not being able to unknow the heroine. Our man says it is too hard to be apart and wonders whether they can come back.

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He asks whether there is another chance – she said there would never be – and it seems like he has not given up completely. The verse sees the hero ready to quit and start afresh but the chorus hopes reconciliation and improvement will come about. It is nice seeing the heart come through in the chorus and him having that determination. I wonder what provoked the break-up and how they have got to this stage. It is quite sad seeing things fall apart and break. I guess they had a great thing going but something has happened to throw a spanner in the works. I am interested in songs that look at relationships and how they break up. Although O’Connor does not reveal the exact circumstances; he wants to recapture that spark and knows not all is lost. You are caught in the swell and spirit of the song and hope things will come back together. His heart holds on to hope and is unable to move past what he is. He sits at home alone at night and dims the light; he puts his favourite songs on wonders what happened. He wants to get back on track and begin again – regretting what has happened and knowing things are through. Electric guitar strains and aches as the hero rushes the words and gets out his plea. You can imagine him in the dark and trying to find wisdom in music. He is trying to put the story back in a good light but it seems like the best days are gone. That desire to keep anything alive and find some compromise is impressive. The impassioned vocal keeps you invested and the composition is tight yet expressive. There are Country elements alongside Blues licks and excellent production. It is a focused and nuanced song that hits you right away and will keep you coming back. I am not sure how things worked out between the sweethearts but there is a sense of friction that has hit the hero pretty hard. There are some great instrumental breaks and plenty of movement in the song. It goes through cycles and stages and you are compelled at every avenue. I rooted for the hero and I feel like things have been a bit strained. Maybe he is to blame in some form but he is trying to get everything started again and repaired. Whether that happens is yet to be seen. Let’s hope they reached some form of agreement and there is hope for the relationship.

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I am pleased Robert O’Connor is back on the rise and entering a new phase of his career. The man has had a tough time and the last few years have been defined by transition and changes. He is looking ahead and I think there will more singles and E.P.s coming down the tracks. Things are getting better and O’Connor is making music how he feels fit. Maybe his time with labels and dodgy dealers has soured him but, as I intimated, he is re-recording some of his older stuff. I am looking forward to that and I cannot wait to see where he goes next. His material has always been exciting so I am curious whether he will stick with a Country sort of sound or whether there will be more Folk and Pop elements mixed into the blend. Let’s look ahead and where the songwriter might head. I feel there will be some great gigs coming up and he could definitely do well in London. No Second Chances is a fantastic cut from the songwriter and proof he is on fantastic form right now. I am looking ahead for him and wonder whether he has plans to go to the U.S. I feel the American market would be a great fit for him and he could pick up lots of influence when it comes to Nashville. I know he will continue to work hard and get his music to the people. O’Connor is great when it comes to promotion and never rests. Radio stations and websites are reacting to what he is putting out and it is an exciting time for him. He is active on social media and keen to update the fans. That is quite rare to see with modern artists. A lot of people let things go and it can be hard to see what an artist is up to and what they are about. Even some mainstream stars like Bat for Lashes (Natasha Khan) have been off Twitter for a long time – that sounds random but I wonder what has happened to her! The songwriter is busy getting his music far and wide and I know next year will be his biggest yet. O’Connor has battled with the worst of the industry but he is back now and in great form. No Second Chances is a sign of where he is now and an artist doing things his own way. Long may this continue and I hope big demands come his way. Surely that cannot be too far away and I predict, by this time next year, the Irish songwriter will be…

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ON the edge of something phenomenal.

___________

Follow Robert O’Connor

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TRACK REVIEW: Seaker - Dreaming

TRACK REVIEW:

 

Seaker

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Dreaming

 

9.4/10

 

 

The track, Dreaming, is available via:

https://open.spotify.com/track/6iFvYq8gQvQ6gmn0F2s6l4?si=dPaGGABZTtGr37B5RqGSbQ

GENRE:

Alt-Pop

ORIGIN:

London, U.K.

RELEASE DATE:

20th July, 2018

_________

WHEN looking at Seaker

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there are a few things that come to mind. I wanted to investigate this year’s Mercury Music Prize – stick with me on that one! –; artists from the North and music made in London; songs inspired by night-time unrest and realisation; a look at human psychology and how that can impact songwriting; a look at where Seaker will head and what her future holds. I wanted to begin with the Mercury because there has been a lot of chatter and consternation regarding this year’s list. It is always hard pleasing everyone regarding a shortlist – as I wrote in a piece after the nominations – so there are going to be eyebrows raised and people unhappy. There is, in the dozen selected, too much commercial interest and emphasis on mainstream acts. Many have noted how artists like Noel Gallagher and Lily Allen, who are bigger names, have made the cut – newer, riskier artists have not been nominated and that has angered quite a few. I am quite happy with the list as it stands. There are some omissions and oversights – where are Let’s Eat Grandma and Shame, for instance?! – and it seems we need to look at how the Mercury Music Prize is run and what it stands for. My point is, bringing it back, the best of British music should be that takes some risks and goes a lot deeper than that we are familiar with and expect to do well. Artists who have been in the public eye for a while have won acclaim and made it to the big leagues. There are fantastic artists emerging, making great music that is not being recognised. Seaker is one of those talents, in future, one would hope to be nominated for such a prize. I say this because the music, musically, is stunning and the sounds take from different areas/genres. Her material, as I will investigate, looks at the human condition and is more original than most of what is out there.

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You listen to it and are transported to an evocative and memorable place. This is the same music we should be highlighting and giving recognition to. I am pleased, this year, Nadine Shah has been nominated for her album Holiday Destination. It is a primal and important record that looks at everything from immigration and xenophobia to personal struggles. The reason I mention Shah’s album is that of the importance of the material and how accomplished the music sounds. You know she has put so much effort into every track and the material actually departs from the predictable and conveys important messages. The newcomers and those unsigned are working hard to get to the mainstream/wider audience and are doing so in a much more inventive and honest way. I am hearing artists who have the potential to make a big name of themselves and make changes in the music industry. What interests me about Seaker is the way she subverts the obvious and cliché areas many investigate and make you think. The music is never too distant and hard to understand. You learn something new and are given a fresh perspective on the human psyche – I will look at that in a little bit. What I wanted to say is how we should be recommending this sort of music to the public. It is great Pop artists and those in the mainstream are being recognised but I wonder how enduring and inspiring it is to those emerging. The Mercury Music Prize should be about British sounds that have appeal and are excellent but take a bit more of a gamble and provoke a reaction. Seaker is the sort of artists who is going to make a name for herself and progress – worthy of award recognition and wider acclaim. I will move on from this point but it is interesting looking at award ceremonies and how judges decide what is seen as eligible and necessary. People have been unhappy with our most prestigious award and wondering whether it holds weight and value.

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Sticking, actually, with the Mercury theme and there was another argument: the fact there are still so many London-based artists on the list. I started looking at that argument and wondering whether we need to start looking at other areas of the U.K. and what is coming from there. Seaker started life up in Teeside and is now down in London. Nadine Shah, from the North East, is one of few names from the elected dozen who comes from the North. There is an abundance of London artists on the longlist this year and that has garnered a lot of criticism. I agree we should judge music in terms of merit – rather than geography – but there are a lot of things to unpack. It might sound like an odd subject to bring in but I have to wonder why London is attracting artists and why so much popular music is coming from there. I know there is a great scene in places like Manchester and Glasgow but it seems like the capital inspires something that leads to popular music. Look at the artists nominated for the Mercury this year and a lot of (the material) is about personal areas and love. Lily Allen’s No Shame documents transitioning in life post-divorce; Florence + the Machine’s High As Hope nods to the capital and personal reflections (including the end of a needy love and her grandmother’s suicide). Wolf Alice, too, have taken from various areas of the human condition for their album, Visions of a Life. I find artists from outside London (nominated) like Arctic Monkeys, Nadine Shah and Jorja Smith have taken a different approach to their subject matter. London artists, as opposed to those away from the area, tend to be more personal and a little hard-hitting regarding the music. That might sound like a generalisation but, when looking at the London-based artists on the Mercury list; I see more emotional bleeding, vulnerability and need for reflection.

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One can attribute that to the pace of life in London and how it is hard to get a balance. Those based outside of London, it seems, write in a different way to those in the capital. Whatever the reason is; it seems that sort of exposure and lifestyle leads to fantastic music. We have a connection with records that seem to expose their wounds and are unafraid to reveal their scars. Although Seaker is based here and feels the same pinch as artists on this year’s longlist; the way she writes is slightly different. There is the same sort of intensity and emotional exposure but, rather than look at love and relationship struggle, there is a more general look at the human psyche and introspection. Maybe that is the biggest split: London artists are more inward-looking whereas those away from here are more willing to look outward at wider themes. There is nothing wrong with either stance but it is interesting looking at the divides. The reason I like Seaker’s music is because it could easily fall into the same traps as the most predictable artists – looking at their heartbreak and own relationships. What interests me about the creation of Dreaming is how it reflects hidden thoughts and something harder; its inception came about when Seaker went to the countryside. The countryside, for the most part, is pretty crap. It’s dull, populated by rather boring humans and is a place most people go to get grey and die. What it is good for is clearing away all the debris and stress of the city and getting you in a more reflective zone. Seaker was, until now, afraid of exposing some of the lines and thoughts in her latest track. Although the song has a sense of the intense and thought-provoking; it is designed to soothe and settle the mind. In many ways, Seaker has unified the North and South – in terms of material and lyrical inspiration – and created something fantastic. I will abandon the Mercury line of inquisition and look at Dreaming’s heartbeat.

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Dreaming, as Seaker talks about, is looking at yourself in a new light and unearthing things that were buried. She has become unfrozen and sees herself in a new light. Kiran (Seaker) spent that time in the countryside to unearth something in the back of her mind that needed to be unlocked. I am interested seeing how artists progress and explore in a very data-rich time. We are all overloaded with information and spend most of our time bombarded by data and stuff we don’t need to see. We are obsessive and spend a lot of our lives on social media. It is a very bad time in terms of our mental-health and happiness. There are dark and intense thoughts buried low; the heroine is a bit frozen and unable to move to the next stage of life. Dreaming’s creation arrived during a plateau and a time when suppression was ruling the unconscious mind. I am not sure whether the song is a reaction to the way we are buried under data and strained – maybe Seaker was a little stuck in life and going through some hard times. Whatever caused this repression and burying of emotions; she realised there was light underneath the layers and the ability to move forward. It is interesting speculating as to what caused a degree of stagnation and upset. The countryside air and bravery to unearth something constrained has led to personal growth and revelation. This is something we do not often see in music. It fits into the London-model I was looking at earlier – artists who are more exposing and look more inside themselves. If anything, Seaker has taken what was growing inside of her – in terms of festination and struggle – and applied it to a wider field. She is interested in the human condition and a psychological state where things can get pretty heavy and seem to be getting on top of us. If we are unable, consciously or not, to work our way through and unburden the soul; that can lead to a fresh paradigm and much lighter shoulders.

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The clarity Seaker found happened in the wee hours of the morning and seemed like the moment she was looking for. Taking a psychology approach, rather than purely personal, has led to more colour and depth. If Dreaming was purely concerned with her own struggle and trying to rationalise a sense of anxiety, I would not be so attached. I mentioned how many artists are still too concerned with their own problems and unwilling to provide guidance and connection with those listening. It is okay hearing artists expose their troubles and show that honesty – what one wants is guidance and a feeling the songwriter is thinking of them. Seaker will release more material, one suspects, that goes as deep - but she is eager to look at the human mind and how we are unable to click the light on. By that, we get cowed and weighed down by the pace of life and how we go about our business. We can get caught in a spider’s web of anxiety, doubts and fatigue. It is hard breaking out of that mould and finding some form of evolution and relaxation. Discovering how to get from the undesirable state to somewhere free is a hard thing to reason. Seaker mixed night-time realisation with a country retreat. It is important, when looking at the song, we realise it is possible to get unstuck and get past that frozen state. There are messages and lessons within the song we can all take from. This circles back to my initial point when it comes to the music we want to hear celebrated. Not only does a song like Dreamer reveal a great new talent but there is daring, difference and something much more original working away. I am pleased Seaker is making leaps and producing incredible music. I hope she gets the recognition and exposure, in time, she is worthy of. Radio stations like BBC Radio 6 Music (and Guy Garvey) have noted her promise and are behind her.

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I wanted to end this section by looking at young songwriters like Seaker and how far they can go. Although bands, to an extent, are making a comeback (in terms of popularity), I still think it is a solo market. The lone artist is more popular and has greater flexibility. There is a great opportunity for artists like Seaker to ascend to the mainstream and add their own dynamic to it. It is tough getting from the realms of promising to the top of the market. Perseverance and consistent good work go a long way – she is already showing all the promise and stamina needed to make it in the industry. I look at artists who quit and call time and wonder whether they need to show more determination and belief. It is tricky cracking the market right away but you need to have that belief that things are going to work out for the best. Making original and interesting music is another way to take big steps; thinking outside the box and connecting with the listener; producing something evocative yet personal is another important consideration. Seaker is one of those artists who ticks all the boxes and is producing some terrific music. I am seeing some solo artists like her gain merit and progress between releases. I am excited to see how the industry will shape in the next few years and what changes will come in. I feel there will be a replacement of mainstream acts who do not show much invention – they will be substituted by a fresher and more engaging breed who take bigger risks with their music. Seaker seems to have a game-plan and it will be great to see how she executes it. Recording (Dreaming) between her North London home-studio and Pink Bird Studios (Wanstead); it is a busy and exciting time for her. I wonder she will head and what her next single will document, Right now, Dreaming is out there and creating quite a bit of excitement.

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You get a sense of wooziness and the night from the first few notes of Dreaming. There are synths and piano (electronic) suggestions that mix serenity with tumultuous thought. It is almost like the heroine is asleep and grappling with the confusions of the day. You get a real scent of the night and something quite dark. It is dreamy and floating but one gets a real sense of intent and focus. When she comes to the microphone, our heroine feels him (maybe the hero or a general sense of realisation) float over her. Given the fact the song is about unlocking secluded realisation and unfreezing; I get the impression there is this spiritual sense of realisation and rationalisation entering her sleeping mind. Militaristic drums give the song a new sense of urgency and movement as Seaker talks about this feeling being in her veins. She has been enveloped and dominated by something quite powerful and intoxicating. In some ways, oddly, I get sentiments and suggestions of the aforementioned Florence Welch. In terms of the vocal power and the beguiling spirit of the music – one is reminded of the London-based star. In any case; I was picturing the heroine asleep and having this spectral inspiration fill her blood. I love how the song mutates and develops as it goes along. Rather than stick with rather bland and samey notes; the music is fluid and keeps you engaged. Every line and moment seems to register a new reaction and you are invested in what is being said. Seaker talks about being asleep for “too long” – making me wonder what is being represented. Maybe she has been living a way of life that has not been conducive to personal growth and comfort. It is clear she has this realisation and need to change. She wants to be woken and escape a miasma that has been tormenting her for a while. She mentions the word ‘you’ in various passages but, rather than referring to a lover or figure; I get the impression she is looking at herself and sense of freedom.

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The music constantly provokes movement and imagination. You cannot listen to the song and step back and causally investigate. You leap in and close your eyes; see what is being sung and come to your own conclusions. In my view; I feel there is a sense of living a life for other people – she has been sacrificing a lot and not spending enough time on herself. Maybe Seaker has been overloaded with information and living in a very data-obsessed and electronic age. Rather than step away and give herself some breathing space; I feel she has been stuck in a bit of a rut and unable to move past. Now, whether through a vivid dream or a moment of clarity, she has come to a point where things are turning. The child-like way she was living – heavy hearts and open eyes – led her to the fire and a sense of danger. I keep coming back to this ‘I’ and ‘you’ dynamic in the song. I wonder whether there is, at the back of the mind, someone (rather than something) that has been important. I still think Seaker is looking at life and herself in this sense but I also wonder whether a past relationship or figure in her life has created some tension. The chorus, the next time around, sounds emancipated and flying. The heroine seems to have few regrets regarding the way things were but relieved to have awoken herself and have clearer sight. The voice is always entrancing and potent. It carries emotional heaviness and pain but there is that determination to find safety and some comfortable space. It is a complex and rich brew that gives the song so many layers and interesting spots. Dreaming is a fulsome and fascinating song that has this charged and mystical energy that gets into the body. You are witnessing someone having a transformation and sort of rebirth. It might not be as profound as starting life afresh but you are seeing Seaker throw off the bad times and look to a more positive outlook. Dreaming is a fantastic track that builds on her past work and, if anything, is her strongest statement yet. If you have not heard Seaker’s latest offering and give n yourself to its power and wonder; make sure you submit some time and surrender to it. You will need a few different spins before all of its colours and lyrics sink in. A deep, busy and intelligent song that has personal relevance but looks at the human mind and how we can realise hidden truths and unlock our minds when sleeping. Seaker’s soul has been awoken and she has found a sense of clarity. I am not sure where she goes from here but it is clear she is in inspired form.

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Kiran Hungin grew up in the North East and was exposed to great music at a young age. Her father was (maybe is) an avid collector and the family lived in the house they did for a reason. There was a gap between them and the neighbours because he wanted to play music as loud as possible – no complaints from the neighbours and that freedom. That volume and passion seeped into the mind of Hungin and she went on to create Seaker. Artists like Leonard Cohen would be played very loud and her father would chill listening to his gravelled and authoritative tones. It seems odd, almost in this day, you’d be raised in a household that cool and interesting. Seaker has the same approach to her own music. She wants people to unwind by playing her music loud – keeping the neighbours a bit at bay – and relaxing. There is the same gravitas and intelligence in her music as the likes of Leonard Cohen. Your mind imagines and looks deeper inside the self; you are engaged with the music and completely immersed. She is now in London and living a different type of life. Rather than get swallowed by the rush and the hectic pace of life; Seaker is able to imagine and write music in a way that seems quite free and calm. Dreaming is a moment of clarity and unlock that many of us can take to heart. Seaker has that attachment to Leonard Cohen and the way he writes. She has a poetic and intelligent approach to music; exploring the human condition and passionate about words. You follow Dreaming and it paints pictures and gets you involved with every movement. Seaker has admitted she is a daydreaming and often can be found with her head in the clouds. Her heartbeat rules her feet to an extent but one imagines the young songwriter relies on her mind and imagination – rather than the pains of broken love and stresses of the city.

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I am excited to see what happens next and how far her music can go. She is getting a lot of press and people are turning onto her music. We have a unique songwriter who has a fascinating backstory and a lot more to say than most artists. I am not sure where she is touring next but keep your eyes on her social media channels and keep abreast of where she is headed. You do not want to miss an artist who is growing and gaining huge kudos. One of the reasons I wanted to look at Dreaming is to help with my own situation - being a bit stuck and unable to move past festination and uncertainty. The song is in my head and, I hope, unlocks something that helps me move to the next stage. I am in need of some emotional guidance and, as such, Dreaming is playing a very important role right now. Seaker will do a lot of good in the industry and inspire many. We need to promote musicians who go further and write songs that do something different. Going back to the point I made about the Mercury Prize and why it has been a divisive year. There are many unhappy about the nominations what it says about the ‘best’ of British music. There are some great mainstream acts but, maybe, we need to take more risks and acknowledge those artists who are doing something more original and engaging – not mentioning the albums I think should have been nominated this time around. Dreaming is an intriguing and incredible song that gets into the brain and continues to cause reflection long after it has finished. Make sure you take it in and explore its wonder as much as you can. Seaker has moved past a time when she felt frozen and stuck. With her mind and psyche free and ready to explore the next phase; it is going to be a fascinating and busy time…

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FOR a fantastic young artist.  

___________

Follow Seaker

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TRACK REVIEW: WILDFIRES - Stuff

TRACK REVIEW:

 

WILDFIRES

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Stuff

 

9.5/10

 

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The track, Stuff, is available via:

https://soundcloud.com/wildfiresofficial/stuff

GENRE:

Pop

ORIGIN:

Manchester, U.K.

RELEASE DATE:

1st July, 2018

_________

ON this outing…

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I am looking at a band that has got my mind thinking about things I have not investigated for a while. I will cover Manchester and the North in a minute; a little but about bands in general and how their sounds have evolved; female-led groups and how a greater diversity in the ranks adds something extra to music – a look at where WILDFIRES will head and what their future holds. I wanted to start off by looking at songs that relieve tensions and get the head swimming. I get to listen to a lot of sounds and you get a different sensation from each of them. Music has that ability to get under the skin and help you when you need it; it can ease tensions or raise the spirits. It is strange how deep music can go and what emotions it can summon. I listen to WILDFIRES’ latest cut, Stuff, and it filters into the blood and takes my mind somewhere else. I am looking, at the moment, for something that can offer a sense of direction and calm my soul. Things are a little tense and busy right now – with moving to Manchester and juggling work and personal life – and music is a way of trying to make sense of everything and provide stimulus. I have arrived at the feet of WILDFIRES and there is plenty in their music that offers guidance and calm. That said, listen to the vocal and its raw edges and there is excitement and exhilaration. I am one of those people who listen to music to feel better and nourish the mind. I can listen to songs in a casual way but I feel, for the most part, music is only meaningful if it can do something and provoke some emotion. WILDFIRES do that and, right now, they are playing quite an important part in my life. It is compelling how deep music can go and the joys it brings.

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I will move onto another subject that I am keen to investigate but, looking at the Manchester-based band and there is something in their ranks that fascinates me. I am hearing a load of bands and solo artists emerge and play and every one of them does something unique. As someone who does not write music; it is wonderful listening to such quality come through right now. I used to write songs but have no musical ability myself. I always stand aghast with shock listening to the new breed and the sort of talent they possess. It is harder now, as opposed times past, to stand out and create something promising and purposeful. There are endless options and sounds – it is easy enough to fall into a familiar trap and mimic something on the market. WILDFIRES have their own flair and brew and are full of virtues and strengths. I mentioned how I seek out something from music to raise the energy and help me get through hard times. I am not sure how it happens but bands like WILDFIRES have that innate ability to make things better and, at other times, get the body moving and the heart pumping. Music, at its elemental best, has that power to speak profoundly or, at the very least, provide a beautiful distraction. I am searching harder now, more than ever, for music that provides real depth and meaning. There are so many artists out there who seem to follow the pack and are a little derivative. I understand how tricky it is providing original content but there are too many people out there, bands especially, unable to provide their own flavour. That is never the case with WILDFIRES. They wear a couple of influences on their sleeves but never show it too visibly. You only need to listen to a few notes from the guys to bond with the music and realise it emanates from somewhere new and fantastic. Stuff is a fantastic single that hints at future glory and shows what the band are made of.

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I’ll come back to bands in a minute but I wanted to look at the North. I have talked about it a lot before and how there is a definite split between the South and North. In terms of exposure; you never really see as much fascination levied at the North as you will down here. I have been following music since I was a child and I have seen the changing face of the industry and the splits forming. The North has always been at the top and forefront of the business. I have name-checked the likes of Oasis and Pulp before – so shall not go down that path again – but it is amazing to look at a time when there were relatable, working-class bands who could speak about life’s realities and how things were for the average person. You do not have that too much and I feel a lot of that has to do with the dominance of the South. There are artists working away who have that common and accessible edge that reminds you of the better days. Right now, there is more music available than ever and it is hard to see where it might head. I feel there are so many great northern artists around but we still tend to stare too hard at the capital and music coming from the South. There are journalists in the North who are promoting local talent but the mainstream media still has a long way to go. I am not suggesting we dedicate features to artists in the North but there should be more balance and exposure. With groups like The Orielles coming through and showing what promise there is in the North; can we really avoid artists from areas like Manchester and Yorkshire and keep focusing on the same old stuff? I understand why London gets a lot of love but I know how many great artists there are in the North. Going back to my point about relatable and working-class music and you tend to get a lot more of that up North.

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At a time when the nation is splitting apart and we are not sure what the Brexit deal is; it seems we have a long way to go before salvation and repair comes about. I worry we are heading somewhere frightening and those in power – the posh and middle-class – are sending the nation into a hole we might not be able to climb out of. I am looking back at interviews conducted with various figures in the media and they ask whether Brexit and the turmoil we have now is a result of a lack of support in music. By that, I mean there are not enough voices who document the realities of Britain and what it is like for regular people. Not that WILDFIRES produce political commentary or music like Pulp’s but they have a sound and brilliance that shows what is happening up North and how good it is. If we hear more of it – and the media puts it into the fore – then people investigate the wider landscape and what is happening in that part of the U.K. In any case; we need to get out of this headspace that states everything from the South is brilliant and there is not a lot up in the North. Yorkshire, Manchester and Liverpool are full of great artists; throw some love up to Scotland and you have some great musicians coming out of Lancashire. You do not need to look too hard and I feel, if we did that and the media were more ambitious, we would get a more balanced industry and a far stronger one. I shall move on from this point but I wanted to urge those in a position of strength to realise we need to look at the past – and what happened in the 1990s – and encourage a more balanced and level music industry. There are artists out there speaking about politics and social concerns; those who have an honesty and special magic – they have to fight harder than artists closer to the capital or those nearer the mainstream.

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I am moving up to Manchester and know how strong the music scene is up there. The locals are very supportive of the artists coming through and there is so much for people to see. With a range of great venues and a community spirit that backs brilliant music and culture; WILDFIRES are in a great place and a perfect spot to see their music get some serious love. I wonder whether they will play down in London a lot – I will mention that later – and get their music up and down the country. I have been following WILDFIRES for a bit and, although they have only released a few singles, I can see how they have come on the new aspects thrown into the mix. Stuff shows them at their most determined and complete. I am excited to see how they will progress and evolve and what comes from them. The very best artists are those who have a closeness and sense of understand but are willing to experiment and venture into new ground. WILDFIRES have that sound that reminds me of Pop-Punk bands of the 1990s (a little bit of Kenickie spring to mind) and that brew of seriousness and fun. You get the fresh and exhilarating vocals and solid band performance. I have seen WILDFIRES launch themselves in the world and grow ever-stronger with every release. I often look at the band market and wonder whether there is going to be any growth and change. Solo artists are stealing a lot of the focus and it seems like their dominance is not going anywhere any time soon. Bands are making a bit of a resurgence but I feel too many of them are either going for generic stadium sounds or there is too much electronic input. There are some great bands like The Orielles, Superorganism and Hookworms but they are in a minority. It is a shame because, with those bands I have mentioned; you get so much depth, beauty and songwriting excellence.

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It is hard standing aside and getting into the mind. I feel solo artists have a better time and it is easier for them to be nimble and expansive. Bands are often confined to a certain sound and each member has to be happy with the direction and what is being produced. WILDFIRES have a unity and closeness in their ranks that means every decision and song gets a majority vote and there is not that split. They have all been raised on great music and do not aimlessly and lazily follow what is already out there. The guys take from local sounds and look back at their childhood tastes; they write about what is happening in their lives and create a heady and exciting concoction. I am getting more and more excited about bands and keen to get them to the forefront. I have grown a bit weary of Alternative and Indie bands because a lot of them go for maximum volume and stadium-sized sounds – it often blends into one and lacks necessary intelligence and memory. Pop can have that same effect but there are some bands coming through that splice in various decades, elements and sub-genres. I feel WILDFIRES have that ambition to take their music around the world and inspire the next generation coming through. You can sense they have a desire to play big venues and arenas but they are not going to compromise their individuality and ethics and go all Rock or mainstream. One thing that amazes me about the songwriting is how you recall some epic bands of past but it is fresh and new at the same time. That is a hard balance to perfect and something WILDFIRES do very well. I understand most bands are all-male but, in terms of vocal sound and the overall feel, you are very limited and often yearn for something different and more varied. This is another reason why WILDFIRES get to me and why their music communicates something quite special and wonderful.

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The Orielles mix male and female vocals and, though I have mentioned them a lot, there are many other bands that have female vocals at the front. From False Advertising and YONAKA through to Goat Girl (all-female) and Superorganism. The all-male bands are great but there is something special about the female voice that goes a bit further and does a lot more. Pop-Punk is a genre that has never really lost its spark and I feel it is at its strongest when you have a female lead. Look back at the riot grrrl movement and the artists that came around in the period. Although they were more Garage-Punk; you had great bands like Bikini Kill who provided spark and explosion but had Pop edges and plenty of melody. I feel that is the secret to creating unifying and properly special music: a strong female lead and a band that have a balance of granite and Pop. I mentioned how we had a great band movement back in the 1990s that inspired a generation and actually spoke about what was happening in the nation. I feel we need that same sort of revolt and uprising in modern music that can make sense of what is happening and get people together. I am not saying WILDFIRES alone can do that but there are fantastic artists out there who seem a lot more grounded and tangible than those in the mainstream. I shall not labour that point further but it is interesting to ponder. I am attracted to bands that have male and female members because you get different perspectives and a more rounded sound. Let us consider the current bands market and the imbalance between all-male examples and those with female members. You have the option of sweetness and spark you will not get with men alone. In order for music to expand and progress, we need to encourage greater diversity and showcase bands that go beyond the obvious. We are still stuck in this mindset the all-male band that turns up the amp and cranks out the guitar is the popular dollar. Whilst they may fill stadiums and provide a short-term blast; those bands that linger longest and have more about them provide a lot more than riffs and familiar choruses.

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It is interesting to note how many all-male bands there are and how the band market is experiencing a slump. I am not suggesting that is the only correlation causing the problem but there is a definite link. Too many bands are playing the same sort of music and not really pushing the envelope in a way the public demands. WILDFIRES have enough fire, magic and mystery to go very far in the industry and provide fresh music that blows away the cobwebs. When looking at the band scene and where the new breed of brilliance will come from; I feel Pop and Punk will overtake Rock and Alternative and start a new movement. I have argued about the North and how we need to concentrate more of our time out there. I hope I have covered enough ground and explored WILDFIRES in great depth – I have every hope they will go on to great things. My point is we all need to look harder at music and get beyond the capital and what is coming from there. It has been a long time since I got excited about band-made music but things have changed the last year or so. With great Punk bands like Cabbage and IDLES flexing their muscles; the mass of brilliant Pop-Punk mixing it up and getting their music out there; I feel we are seeing a bit of a recovery and, in a few years, bands will be back on a par with solo artists. WILDFIRES get me excited and their music stays in the brain. You can sing along with them and get up and move. That is not to suggest they are throwaway and too Pop-minded. The spunk and physicality they bring to the plate is what keeps me invested and hooked. I have talked a lot about the band and where they are from; what they are all about and the brilliance they bring. I better get on to WILDFIRES and their latest single, Stuff.

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There is plenty of energy and spinning when you hear the opening notes of WILDFIRES. Guitars weave in and out of one another and you have a definite spring in the step. There is light and sunshine but something more spiked and rousing working alongside. In the first few moments, you have so much to get behind, dive inside and fall for. The notes twinkle and dance. You feel yourself swinging your arms to the side and strutting down the street. There is a definite smile on the face and an openness that invites the listener in and keeps them safe. That might suggest there is not enough punch and grunt to get everyone involved. The strength of the song is to provide something quite breezy and calming but there is plenty of physical oomph and kick to unite those who love Pop and those who prefer something a bit different. The introduction is wonderful and you project all sorts of images and place your mind in a particular place. Nathan, Si and Ste step up the musical intrigue as Poppy-Jo comes to the microphone. The heroine has a breathy and seductive voice that reminds me a bit of Hope Sandoval. There is a bit of Nina Persson (The Cardigans) in there too but you get local accent and something more street-wise. It is a blend of sexy and strong that fuses with sly and winking. By that, I mean the heroine has a very down-to-earth nature but there is cheekiness to be found. She hopes and wishes to be the richest girl in the world and give everything to her other. Maybe it is the first moments of a relationship but it seems, as the title suggests, she only has some stuff and various bits and bobs. It is an interesting and new angle to explore and one I was not expecting. So many artists look at love and relationships in a very staid, cliché and boring way.

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WILDFIRES seem much more grounded, earnest and unique when it comes to their approach. It is like you are in the heroine’s bedroom and seeing what is strewn about the place. Maybe there are some older guitars or some vinyl; a few trinkets and souvenirs here and there. One gets some male companionship in the vocal department – acting as a two-hander in a sense – and there is a stock check of all the things the heroine has. She has clothing with holes and tears here and there; footwear with scuffs and nothing seems complete and new. You get a vivid and colourful sense of what is in her flat and what she has to offer. Maybe it is an honest revelation to a lover or a general observation of what she has in her life and how humble the setting is. You get some cigarette-scented huskiness and whiskey-soaked sensuality sits alongside a soulfulness and sensitivity that gets into the heart. The heroine wants to give the world but is offering her kingdom of scuff to the hero. She lives a very normal life and there are few riches to be found. It is interesting interpreting the words and it juxtaposes a lot of Pop music that highlights wealth, a desirable life and something many of us cannot understand. You can get behind Stuff and what is being said. The closest comparison to WILDFIRES, I guess, would be The Sundays. Their 1990 album, Reading, Writing and Arithmetic is seen as one of the finest records of the decade and is a perfect blend of Pop and a strong backbeat. WILDFIRES provide a similar unification of dreamy and spirited vocals and great percussion. They throw in keys and synths alongside guiding, strong bass and their proprietary perfume. It is a heady and extraordinary scent that fascinates the eyes and ears and makes you come back. The catchy chorus is, essentially, that list of incomplete clothes and imperfect threads. By the final notes, you come back to the song and try and get to the bottom of it. The modest heroine is being honest about her possessions and what she has to offer. You are behind her and feel sympathy but that is not the point of the song: it is that juxtaposition of the glamorous and bling-laden songs you get and that ‘idealistic’ love song. It is like two teenagers at school starting a courtship and visiting each other’s rooms – not in a sexual way but a more innocent sense. You get that combination of serious and sensual with the child-like and simplistic. It is a great offering from the Manchester band and proof they are among the very best groups in the North. Ensure you give it a good listening and dive into the beautiful and intriguing song. Stuff is a mouth-watering offering that will provoke questions whether more is coming and where the band is heading.

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I will reinvestigate WILDFIRES later in the year perhaps but I think the guys have a busy and active time ahead of them. There is a lot to suggest they have a long future and will be touring around the world. They have local gigs coming up and will be busy this summer getting Stuff out to the people and getting as much love as possible. I am stunned by their latest work and how effortless it gets into the head. I hope the band get a chance to come down to London and play some gigs here. I feel they have international potential and can get a lot of attention through Europe and America. I am excited for them and wonder whether an E.P. might come before the year is out. A lot of new ears will train their way and there is evidence to suggest WILDFIRES will bring about some changes in the music industry. Looking to 2019 and I feel WILDFIRES will head to some festivals and get some bigger gigs. I know they are a great live proposition and one of the best young bands working today. Maybe the secret is to mix Pop, Punk and other genres together and provide a personal aspect. It is hard to decipher what makes a ‘perfect sound’ but I feel you need to balance the upbeat and serious; have some Pop edges and crank up the intensity when the moment calls. There is a fantastic bond in the band and you can hear the closeness in every note. The WILDFIRES guys are a democracy and you can hear how much music means to them and how important this is to them. I know they will last a long time and there is going to be more material arriving. I hope I have covered enough ground and explained and explored WILDFIRES sufficiently. I recommend people get involved with their music and listen to Stuff. The Manchester-based band has a great local following but it cannot be long before the capital’s taste-makers prick up their ears and…

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THROW love the way of WILDFIRES.  

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Follow WILDFIRES

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TRACK REVIEW: Fil Bo Riva - Time Is Your Gun

TRACK REVIEW:

 

Fil Bo Riva

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Time Is Your Gun

 

9.3/10

 

 

The track, Time Is Your Gun, is available via:

https://soundcloud.com/fil-bo-riva/fil-bo-riva-time-is-your-gun

GENRE:

Alternative

ORIGIN:

Berlin, Germany

RELEASE DATE:

6th July, 2018

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WHEN looking at Fil Bo Riva

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PHOTO CREDIT: Juliane Spaete

I wanted to look at a few different things. I will speak about solo artists who, although they work with other musicians, have a split between isolation and being buried in the world – how the solo male artist is making a comeback and we need to see those idols come through. I’ll also address those artists with a more romantic and cinematic mind; musicians who travel and spend time in different nations; revealing a bit more on the page and showing the listener where they came from – I will talk a bit about bridging gaps between E.P.s and albums and how artists find their inspiration for songs. I am reviewing a lot of solo artists but, for the most part, they tend to be female artists. I am assessing men in music but it is harder for them to stand out on the band. In fact, more than ever, the solo artist needs to stand out and register in the mind. It is possible to stand out and stay in the brain but, in a packed and hectic scene, that is becoming more difficult by the day. Bands are fuller and they tend to hold more potential in the eyes of many – bigger sounds and more emphatic. I have always held a lot of affection for solo artists because they have to shoulder all the burdens and tasks of their career without anyone else’s help. Fil Bo Riva has a lot of lure when it comes to attracting new fans – which I shall address soon – but the young man has the ammunition to succeed. Many of us have to go through life and make sense of the bad experiences and the good. The way I see it is the solo musician can channel those times into great songs and stories. Fil Bo Riva collects together his time on the road and personal encounters and filters it into rich and stimulating music. The reason why I feel the band struggles against the promise of the solo artist is what the market expects from them.

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Bands are often primed to have that festival-ready sound or they need to produce something big and bombastic. I know there are bands that can succeed by writing intelligent, softer songs but it is becoming harder and harder to separate yourself from the pack. Bands also have the challenge of creating harmony and balance in the ranks. They have members who might be on a different page and it can be quite hard compromising and finding common ground. Solo artists can create as they wish and do not have the issue of disagreement. They can also bring in other musicians, as Fil Bo Riva has, and make something fulsome and colourful. One of the reasons I wanted to mention this topic is male solo artists have to, at the moment, fight against that Ed Sheeran-like impression. Any songwriter with sensitivity and a guitar is, to many, compared to Sheeran. There are other mainstream artists culpable but the male singer-songwriter is much more interesting than an acoustic guitar and love songs. Fil Bo Riva brings in fantastic instrumentations and lyric ideas to create something heady and scenic. I feel we get it into our heads the male solo artist is going to be quite limited and not have the same clout as a band. Maybe the acoustic artists and hollow Pop artists of the mainstream have blurred our senses. Look out at the scene and there are many riches to be discovered. We are in a position where artists have more at their disposal and they have a history of music to pick from. I maintain the female solo artist is more interesting and fulsome: the male songwriter is on the rise and there are some fantastic examples on the market right now. One of the reasons Fil Bo Riva strikes my ear is a unique and personal sense of songwriting. He does not write to please labels or fit into some sort of niche. He is a pure and instinct-driven musician who fuses dynamic and dreamy guitars with diverse vocals.

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PHOTO CREDIT: Mario Simic

Time Is Your Gun is the third single from the songwriter’s upcoming album. There are a lot of exciting times ahead for Fil Bo Riva and he has a lot of the world to see. One of the contrasts you get with a solo artist is being isolated and alone and having the world at your feet. With Fil Bo Riva; he gets the time to hunker in the studio and dedicate some time there. The musician loves being in the studio and seeing songs come to life. With a select bunch of musicians and other bodies; he can work on songs and build them gradually. Fil Bo Riva is someone who loves being in the studio and seeing the music come to life. Music leaves everything else at the door and focuses on the task at hand. The young man loves music and everything one can get from it. He gives his all to it and, in return, provides the listener with something incredibly direct, moving and engaging. I mentioned the contrasts and how solo artists have the chance to explore the world. Although Fil Bo Riva is a solo artist – many might be confused by other bodies in photographs – he works with other musicians on stage and allows his varied and kaleidoscopic sounds to expand and flourish. It can be quite lonely and hard for a solo artist and it is a lot of hard work succeeding and getting your career off the ground. Many find it too challenging and hard to keep pace or suffer from disenchantment. That passion and focus has to shine through and one must not lose sight of why they are doing this. Fil Bo Riva is someone who loves making music but he connects with the people and, I suspect, loves nothing more than being on stage and getting his music to big audiences. It is a heady and vivid experience being a musician today.

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PHOTO CREDIT: Juliane Spaete

It can, by contrast, be suffocating being on stage and having that huge reaction from the crowd. Fil Bo Riva takes his experiences and stories from the stage and takes them into music. Fil Bo Riva was born in Rome but spent time in Berlin and Dublin – I will talk about that in a bit. It is the curiosity of the world and the need to take the music far and wide that makes Fil Bo Riva such a fantastic proposition. I stated how it is hard for a solo artist because we have an impression of who they are what they should be about. It is easy to get the impression they will all be quite dull or sound the same. That is true with many: in the case of Fil Bo Riva; he provides the strength and passion of a band and puts his entire personality and mind into the music. There is so much working away and there for the uninitiated listener. There is nothing to suggest Fil Bo Riva cannot claim big glory and become a mainstream artist. I say that because of the energy he has and how he puts his all into creating. The world of music is a vast and bustling one – you need to be steely and defiant to survive and get to the top. Fil Bo Riva balances being in the studio and crafting songs and being on stage and seducing audiences. The solo artist, I feel, will make a comeback and get the same respect as bands. A lot of the solo artists who get big respect and critical attention at the moment are from the world of R&B and Pop. Fil Bo Riva is more Alternative and Indie. Those styles have some great players but they are taking on the might of Pop, R&B and Hip-Hop. Rather than pummel us with energy and electricity; Fil Bo Riva goes deeper and wins your heart with a blend of urgent vocals and enticing compositions. The songs are very personal and real. You feel that direct connection with the songwriter – he provides a glimpse of the world you would not otherwise get.

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PHOTO CREDIT: Juliane Spaete

With an album due; times are exciting for Fil Bo Riva. He has released the singles, Head Sonata (Love Control) and Blindmaker. Both of those songs had their own skin and sensation. Time Is Your Gun recalls the sounds of his debut E.P. but departs in a way. It does not sound like his other material and wets the appetite for the upcoming album. Even though he tries to steer away from the words; there is a romantic and cinematic sensation to the music. In fact, he embraces the word ‘cinematic’ and wants the music to project a rather grand and engrossing sound. In a way, his previous works have been snapshots or photos; impressions of a scene and a stable image – we can use our imaginations to predict the scenes before and after that photo was taken. In many ways, he has moved and creates more fluid, moving and widescreen music. Each song is like a story; one has a fuller and more stimulating type of music that brings more elements into the fold and has a rich and fulsome nature. I have been thinking about artists like Matt Corby and Jeff Buckley and how their best music is romantic and tender. They are musicians who won fans with spellbinding, passionate songs. It is difficult talking about love and life without coming across cliché or personal. The likes of Buckley and Corby managed to (Matt Corby is still recording) to win legions by writing from their heart but not being too insular and isolated. Fil Bo Riva has a romantic heart and, whilst not obsessed with love songs and his experiences, illuminates the page with a tenderness and colour that makes the heart skip a beat. Everything he does comes from his own heart and there is a lot of revelation and soul. Maybe I am losing my thread but it is nice to see an artist write songs that mean a lot to him. Fil Bo Riva is not chasing a market trend or writing material that has a commercial edge.

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PHOTO CREDIT: Juliane Spaete

There is a lot of anticipation surrounding the upcoming album. The songwriter loves the album format and knows it is a very different world to the single and E.P. Whilst you can write unconnected songs or an E.P. that has loose ties; with an album, you have a much bigger task at hand. We are becoming less interested in the album and are moving to streaming and that quick fix. People skip through songs and d not often sit down and listen to an album in its entirety. Most of the records I listen to fully tend to be from years past. I love a lot of the albums released this year but do not often come back to them. It is harder for artists to attract and keep people hooked. Rather than pen an album of disconnected songs that could have come with anyone; Fil Bo Riva knows the importance of hooking all the tracks together and creating a real experience. I mentioned films and how Fil Bo Riva’s music has that moving and scenic sensation. Rather than write music that fades from view and does not provoke imagination; he writes songs that inspire you to close your eyes and picture what is happening. It is harder to leave an album and move quickly on if you are engrossed and distracted by what is being sung. It is more and more difficult producing albums where one sits down and keeps outside forces at bay. Fil Bo Riva has travelled the world and gained a lot from his time on the road. He brings all of that knowledge to the studio and writes music that takes the listener somewhere special. I will move on from this point – I was keen to explain how you’ll want to get involved with Fil Bo Riva’s album. I am excited to see what comes from Fil Bo Riva and how his album takes shape. Listen to the singles he has released and you get the sense something special is going to come through.

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PHOTO CREDIT: Zlexander Aielasko

Fil Bo Riva started life in Rome but has spent time in Berlin and Dublin. In fact; Fil Bo Riva spent his school years in Dublin and decamped to Berlin in 2012. He has had different experiences of Europe and taken a lot from each nation. That experience of travelling and seeing different people makes the music so much stronger. What amazes me is the difference between artists who do not really travel much and those who go around the world. I feel the latter has an advantage and can create more varied and interesting sounds. Fil Bo Riva seems to have found his home in Berlin and is based in a city become more and more popular. So many others are locating there and drinking in the cultures and various nationalities there. It is the touring and that side of the coin that stands out to me. Fil Bo Riva has supported Matt Corby and Aurora and shown his muscle to those at large festivals and intimate gigs. The debut E.P., If You’re Right, It’s Alright, was released in 2016 and amazed critics and fans. Guitarist Felix A. Remm was added to the mix and that early solo sound mutated into an on-stage duo. The current project has four members: Fil Bo Riva writes on his own, I believe, but the recorded material is played by a quartet. Whilst he travels the world and spends time in other cities; it is the draw of Berlin that keeps him coming back. It seems like that mixture of international adventure and homely love makes the music shine and resonate. I feel, if you are more isolated and do not travel far; the music only has limited potential and it can be quite samey. The young artist has matured and grown over the past couple of years. The young man has the promise and energy to last a long time in music and inspire the masses. I feel the music he is making at the moment is his very best – it will be interesting seeing where he goes from here and how his music changes.

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PHOTO CREDIT: Juliane Spaete

The singles we have seen so far have given one a taste of what the album is all about and the sort of images/sounds that we will witness. Fil Bo Riva has taken his music to various nations and drawn all of his life experiences into the fold. I wonder whether the young songwriter could go even further and act as a guide to new songwriters emerging. The musician has a lot of social media presence and keeps people informed of where he is going. He is across all the sites and options one might need and expect – you can get your fill, as it were. It is easy keeping in touch and knowing what goes on. I wonder whether more could be expended in regards to personal biography. At the moment, we can learn a lot about the music and how it has transitioned through the years. I would like to see a bit more about the man himself and the artists he grew up around. I understand why many want to avoid talking about that. It can be difficult revealing your influences because people hone in on that. You will listen to the music and, I guess, assume the artists Fil Bo Riva name-checks are what goes into his music. Rather than create that confusion and lazy journalism; he keeps stuff held back and allows people to make their own impressions. I would like to learn where he came from and what he is driven by, mind. I assume he was captivated by artists at a young age and it would be nice to see when he came into music. That is a minor slight and concern – most of what is put out there and known fills gaps and lets you know what Fil Bo Riva is all about. I shall move on and talk about his latest single, Time Is Your Gun.

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One experiences some far-off and spectral notes from the off. The mood is quite moonlit and sparse. Rather than rush in with strings and needless rush; you get a more considered and haunted backdrop. Slight plinks and embers flicker and crackle as the hero comes to the microphone. When Fil Bo Riva sings, you have the impression of a young man who has experienced some heartache and disappointment. “Heaven’s beautiful in your head” is a line delivered with as much gravitas and potency as I have ever heard. You can detect the emotion and strain comes through. Maybe he is referring to himself and unable to distinguish between idealism and reality. He may have given his heart to someone who seemed perfect but, in fact, is not. Maybe neither is true and he is casting blame on someone else. The song starts quite slow and has that aching, echoing quality. It seems the heroine has lied – which makes the hero cry – and there is definite tension to be found. Rather than look at the song from the outside; the listener jumps in and follows the lyrics. That minimalist composition works wonders when it comes to emotional resonance. The vocal shines through and is what you are focusing on. You hear the passion and emotion in the voice and wonder what has provoked the split and unhappiness. Most relationships break up for limited reasons. There is no guarantee things will last, no matter how good they seem at the start. That might sound bleak but I mean it is hard to predict how a relationship will go and how long it will last. It seems things were good to start but have taken a turn for the worse. I am jumping to the relationship assumption without doing some proper investigation. The hero is in pain and is feeling the weight of the situation. The chorus comes in and, with that, the song takes a turn and becomes more energetic.

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PHOTO CREDIT: Juliane Spaete

Percussion comes in and adds more drive and energy; there is more accusation and revelation. It seems the heroine messes the hero around and has been playing about. It seems like she is cheating or, at the very least, being dishonest and impure. Our man is unhappy and at his most angered. The girl wears a crown – he does not know why – and there is a palpable sense of release. Guitar and drum ramp up a bit and there is a definite wave of movement. It is the striking and slightly gravelled voice that gives the words such impetus, meaning and gravitas. You follow the song through and imagine the scenes taking place. The song’s title gets into the mind and you wonder what meaning it holds. In my mind, I was imagining a lover who shoots (metaphorically) at our hero and keeps on hurting him. Maybe she dredges up past memories and is not moving on; she might be able to reveal truth and plays with his heart. It is interesting reading that title and predicting what significance it holds. Time Is Your Gun keeps on brewing and raising the tension. You are never uncomfortable with the anxiety and anger coming through. You feel for the hero and wonder what has caused the tension. It is always hard to predict how a relationship will unfold but it seems Fil Bo Riva has hopes and wanted things to last. Whilst the duo is not separated and past the point of no return; there are signs to suggest things might not ensure too much longer. I guess the heroine has been cheating and leading our hero astray. Even though the song deals with some tough subjects; the music has a more upbeat and energised nature. You get little waves of guitar and drums before the song dips into acoustic territory. The hero wonders whether he will be remembered and respected; he is fighting against anonymity and is struggling to hold. This might sound gloomy and lost but, in many ways, there is beauty and hope to be found. Time Is Your Gun is a multi-part and fantastic song that keeps you guessing and provides endless beauty, soul and potency. You immerse yourself in the music and hold out hope things will work for the best. Although the hero is being overlooked and needs to be heard, I get the feeling things will work out for the best and he will be okay. He has a determination and desire to fight the waves and come out the other side. Time Is Your Gun will resound in many people’s hearts and strike a chord. It is a dramatic and fantastic sound that will get many people excited about the upcoming album and what it possesses. Another fantastic and memorable song from Fil Bo Riva.

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PHOTO CREDIT: Juliane Spaete

It is an exciting and adventurous time for the Berlin-based artist. Not only is he putting an album together but he is getting more acclaim and attention. Many people in the U.K. and responding to his music and the demand around the world means a busy touring schedule awaits. The young artist has changed from that lone writer to someone who, although a solo act, has a more collaborative mind. He works with Felix and, if anything, that unity has produced stronger material. Songs like Time Is Your Gun started as scraps of paper and ideas. It is how they transformed from those notes and slight impressions to a fully-fledged song that amazes me. The studio seems like a natural place for Fil Bo Riva. He loves seeing songs come to life and building them step by step. I know there will be a lot of excited people out there ready for the album and what it holds. I feel it will be his most realised and exciting work yet. Fil Bo Riva has some dates in Germany – he is in the U.K. in October – and is taking the music to the people. It is busy and exciting and, in the next few months, he will bring his songs to new audiences. I wonder how far he can go and what success he can accrue. It has been a thrilling and wonderful last couple of years for Fil Bo Riva: the next couple of years will be big and promising. His material, as I say, is getting better and there is a new appetite for solo artists who go against the grain and produce something deeper and more mature. You get romantic and cinematic clashes and something direct; colour and light together with more shadowed and intimate moments. It is a fulsome and nourishing cocktail that is hard to resist. Make sure you listen to Time Is Your Gun and follow the story of Fil Bo Riva. He is a brilliant young talent who is making moves and standing out. Also, when his album arrives, ensure you grab a copy and listen to it the whole way through. We are digesting fewer albums and not as in love with the format as before. With Fil Bo Riva, I feel that tendency and lazy habit…

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WILL change.  

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Follow Fil Bo Riva

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TRACK REVIEW: Ay Wing - Ice Cream Dream

TRACK REVIEW:

 

Ay Wing

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PHOTO CREDITSara Herrlander

  Ice Cream Dream

 

9.3/10

 

 

The track, Ice Cream Dream, is available via:

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

GENRE:

Pop

ORIGIN:

Berlin, Germany

RELEASE DATE:

27th June, 2018

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THIS time around…

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PHOTO CREDITSara Herrlander

I have a few things I want to look at. Ay Wing is someone I am familiar with and I always love what she produces. I will talk about artists who can consistently produce smart and professional songs – together with great videos – and summer-ready tracks that summon the sun and actually stay in the head. I will also look at artists who want to get the audience involved and create a complete musical experience; those based in Berlin and what the scene is like there at the moment – finishing by talking a bit about Ay Wing and where she is heading. It has been a little while since I approached Ay Wing and what she is doing. I love her music and how she has progressed but, over the past few months, she has made some big steps and produced, what I think, is her finest work. I am looking out at music and seeing all varieties of Pop and Alternative come through. It is interesting watching artists come through and what is available in the market. I have talked about Pop a lot and can see it is split between the more commercial brand: that which is radio-friendly and does not necessarily challenge the mind too much. That sort of music aims itself at a pre-teen/teen market and can produce some great tracks. There is another camp that produces deeper and more serious Pop – this can be quite introverted but aims itself at a broader demographic. If one looks at Ay Wing, you can see she falls between the two camps. Her music has a sense of fun and energy but its lyrics and mood are a lot more intelligent and nuanced. It is possible to produce great Pop music but not have to dumb it down or pander to a particular audience. Look at a song like Ice Cream Dream and you get a classy and sparkling song that has lots to recommend. I will speak about the song in more depth but, when listening, you have a real sense of quality and professionalism comes through.

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PHOTO CREDITSara Herrlander

Ay Wing has always been known for her whip-smart songs and incredible delivery. I feel Pop music struggles to unite the masses and projects a particular image. We tend to associate the genre with the more commercial and throwaway – has that always been the way? I listen to what is coming through the mainstream and popular radio and there are a few good tracks but, largely, the music does not really stay in the mind. The artists who go a bit deeper and take Pop in a new direction and the ones I am really backing. It is a hard trick to produce something fun and light whilst ensuring it gets under the skin and stays in the mind. Ay Wing is one of those artists who manages to keep her trademark sound but produce something incredibly different every time. That might sound like a contradiction but you only need to look at how songs like Strange and Ice Cream Dream differ. She is a fantastic artist who knows what the people want and delivers every time. I have nothing against those who like their Pop music with the maximum fun and little substance but, for me, there is a lot more to cling onto when you have to think and are properly motivated. There is so much music out there right now – one cannot afford to produce cheap and lacklustre songs. AY Wing makes the listener bond with the song. Her lyrics mix sassiness and humour with emotion and revelation. Her compositions are delightfully multifarious and candid; the production is always sharp and wonderful – you get an incredible experience with every song released. It is not only the smart lyrics one is drawn to with Ay Wing; she pokes fun at fads and trends and can make us think and laugh at the same time. Ice Cream Dream looks at fitness fads and how seriously we take our leisure time. She is just the sort of artist we need to embrace and keep close to our chest.

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PHOTO CREDITSara Herrlander

I love how Ay Wing manages to produce great videos for each of her songs. Again, in Pop, you do get a few great promotional videos but many of them lack any real imagination and humour. Maybe that goes back to the song itself: if the lyrics are cliché and routine then that is not going to provoke something imaginative and incredible. I feel modern Pop, and videos, is defined by wastefulness and missed opportunities. There is a new breed coming along that is taking the genre in a new direction and adding their own touch to Pop. Ay Wing, on her latest track, has ticked every box and produced something hugely enjoyable. Ice Cream Dream is summer-ready and makes you get up and dance. Maybe that is quite ironic in a way. The song looks at our obsession with the gym and fitness; how it lacks any real looseness and we can get very po-faced about everything. The lyrics and videos, instead, make you smile and urge the listeners to get up and move their body. It is summer and, with the sun showing no sign of abating; we need those songs that keep the mood high and makes the senses fizz and spark. That is another thing that has struck my mind. In terms of positivity and energy; how many songs have you heard lately that have a genuine sense of fun and put you in a better frame of mind? I feel songs either go for fun and exciting but come off as empty and unspectacular. You do get artists who rival Ay Wing and her style of music but, to me, there are not enough. When the weather is like this, we need to hear songs that keep us all positive and join us all together. I will move on to another subject but it is worth noting how few Pop artists there are out there who manage to balance intelligent and observational with the rousing and joyful. If we can encourage more artists to take this approach – and take their songwriting in a new direction – then it will create a stronger and more inspiring mainstream.

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PHOTO CREDITSara Herrlander

Another impressive facet of Ay Wing is the way she involves people in the music and makes it an immersive thing. I bond with music in different ways but am always more moved by artists that want to engage and drag you into the song. Too many artists are either very serious or produce music that falls a bit flat and pushes you away. This is a discussion in itself but my point remains: if you hear a song and am physically and emotionally moved then that is most of the work done. Ay Wing has these bouncy synths and big beats. You have that physical experience and are compelled by everything going on. Her summer-ready jams and indelible songs are designed to linger in the mind and connect the listener with artist. I am not suggesting other artists are more concerned with profit and quick delivery but I love those who take time and craft songs that infiltrate the brain and really activates the senses. It is hard to describe but, with Ay Wing, there is so much going on. From her changeable colours and consistent quality through to her fully-worked and stunning videos – there is a complete and ready artist waiting to strike. She might be away from the mainstream right now but you have to think, in time, she will get to the big leagues and be able to influence. Right now, her fanbase is growing and there is a loyal core that backs everything she does. That is a sign of an artist who never lets the quality dip and knows what people want. The songwriter puts so much detail into the music and spends a great deal of time crafting songs that demand repeated listens. I am one of those people who consume a lot of music and, most of the time, it can be hard to recall and retain the sounds. Some artists provoke remembrance but it is tricky in this day and age to pen something that stays in the consciousness.

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Ay Wing is different in that respect. She wants people to sing her songs and, when performed live, chant and perform with her. I feel we need to create artists who are a complete package and do not only create songs for quick commercial gain. That is an interesting line to draw. I can identify some great mainstream acts who will run and run but, as things get more competitive and busy; artists coming through need to think about more than the music. If you can pen songs that have incredible compositions, memorable lyrics and wonderful lead performances then that is an accomplishment in itself. It is hard to deliver all three but, if you can, then that is something to be proud of. Music is about visuals and creating projects. Recording fantastic videos that add something new and stand aside from the pack is another thing new artists need to consider. Another point to bear in mind is following up songs and keeping intrigue high. I mean, rather than produce songs after song and not think about longevity; artists need to create a personality and characteristics. Ay Wing puts her all into music and you can tell, from the first few notes of any track, that it is her work. That is what I mean by characteristics and personality. Too many artists produce songs but they do not link together and it is hard to separate them from their peers. Ay Wing can write about different subjects and broaden her horizons but you know it is one of her songs because there is a common link and distinct D.N.A. I hope my words – rambling at times though they can be! – show why Ay Wing is an artist with a big future. Pop is a challenging and demanding genre; it is tricky to succeed and do something genuinely original. I wanted to look at Berlin and why it is producing great artists.

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VIDEO STILLJean-Christophe Dupasquier

Berlin is a city that is attracting more and more people right now. Every city has its own blend and brew but, to me, Berlin is one of the most stunning and appealing areas to create. I am seeing so many artists move there because it offers everything they want. London is still fashionable and desired but more and more people are flocking there. It is a city where you can find success but there is not a lot of room and chance for breath. Maybe eyes are shifting elsewhere but, as rents get more expensive and cities here become busier, people are looking abroad and other parts of the world. Berlin is a city that has always pulled great musicians in and been the source of inspiration – the likes of Iggy Pop and David Bowie have created some of their best work whilst there. One gets a cosmopolitan and diverse vibe but things are a little less hustled and expensive. You can move around and make your way without being jostled and compacted. If you want to rent an apartment or stay for a while, it is not going to break the bank and leave you poor. It is the mix of languages and cultures that stand out to me. People are excited by the music coming through and the creative spirit in the air. I have never been to Berlin myself but I know the music scene is incredible and expanding. People in Berlin are friendly – for the most part – and venues are sprouting up all over the place. From Junction Bar to Quasimodo through to Monarch and SO36 – new artists have choices and can get their music heard. Radio stations are supportive and it is not as hard as you’d imagine moving to Berlin and climbing up the ladder. One of the biggest reactions people get from Berlin is the openness and sense of relaxation. For a city that is popular and modern, that might seem like an impossible thing.

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VIDEO STILLJean-Christophe Dupasquier

Musicians can go to the German capital and not get overly-stressed and fatigued. Many like-minded souls can be found there and it is a great place to be. I can understand why Ay Wing located there and moved from Switzerland. She performs with a live band but, as a songwriter, her mind is free to wander and project in Berlin. Inspired by the sights and people around her; one wonders whether her music would sound the same if she lived in New York or London. I am not too sure whether Berlin Pop is as popular and different to that in London but I know for a fact there are so many wonderful musicians in the city. More supportive and communal than London, perhaps; it is understandable why Berlin is a go-to dream-spot for musicians. I am not going to move there myself but might go and visit in the next few years. I am attracted to various cities and how the music scene differs depending on where you can go. New York, London and Los Angeles have their own vibe and you get a real sense of what the artists are about. Berlin seems a lot more diverse and challenging than a lot of cities around. Listen to Ay Wing’s E.P., Ice Cream Dream, and you can hear the humour, fun and vibrancy the German capital is associated with. That might sound odd given impressions of Germany – not being that funny and fun – but we would be wrong. It is the colour and artistry of the music that sticks in my mind. Ay Wing is a modern artist who is not concerned with black-and-white and shades of grey. She is a vivacious and captivating soul that mixes the underground clubs and sweaty bars with the vivacious and delightful overground. I feel more people will want to go to Berlin and set up shop there when they hear artists like Ay Wing come through. She has embraced the city and its culture and integrated it into her music.  

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If you look at the video of Ice Cream Dream (I suggest you do) you will see toned and good-looking people working out and alluringly looking at the camera. There is a funky and finger-clicking bass that suggests a Disco freakout is about to ensue. I was hooked by the very first notes and invested in the song. Whilst the bass is consistent and has a polished sound; the vocal sounds far-off and has a rather sparse quality. There is a nice clash between the bass working away and the heroine – who seems like she is recording the vocal a little way from the microphone. She talks about fads and how we all do the same thing. Whether we are down the gym or meditating; doing yoga or embarking on some boring and soulless regime. What we are trying to achieve is rather pointless in a way. Maybe one wants to keep the weight off or sculpt their body into a ‘perfect’ shape. Maybe there are chemicals firing in the brain and the release of endorphins. It is amazing why we go through all the trouble of sweating and hurting our bodies to achieve very little. Some of us need to lose weight and genuinely need to be in the gym but most of seem to be chasing some weird ideal. There is that boring and machine-like quality of the gym-goers. Others do less strenuous activities but it is all for the same reason: trying to achieve some form of physical and spiritual wellbeing. How much do we actually accomplish by doing all of this? We get dressed up in ridiculous clothes and are so serious about everything! Rather than walk in the park and have a stroll through the city; why do we insist on being part of the get fit cult?! It seems rather extreme and unnecessary. The video shows a cast of characters who show what I mean. From the muscular gym-goer to the man in shorts doing blanks and pointless exercises.

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VIDEO STILLSJean-Christophe Dupasquier

The heroine has seen them all and, in her mind, there is that desire for calories and sweetness. Maybe those who exercise and go to the gym have that need. They want the taste of ice cream but feel they need to deny themselves for no real reason. They feel eating something tasty and naughty might pull the ripcord of their physique. As the song progresses; the commentary of the modern fitness fanatic unravels. She looks at this pursuit and how we all get sucked into the latest fad. Why are we spending so much of our time doing this?! The chorus lays out what we all want: various flavours of ice cream and the chance to not follow the rules. One of the only issues with the song, like a few I have heard, is the way the lyrics sometimes struggle for true clarity. It can be difficult understanding what is being said at times. Maybe that is because of the production – the vocals are a little far-off – or the pronunciation but one has to fill in some blanks themselves. It is not a big concern because there are words and lines that stand out and you can piece the story together yourself. The chorus is the clearest part of the song and delivers the biggest hit. What amazes me about the song, and Ay Wing, is the way funky and fun is mixed with a sense of judgment and seriousness. The song itself is funny and uplifting but the heroine is casting her finger at those go to all this trouble and embark on such strain. There are great wordless vocals and beats that come through; the song gets hotter and fuller when the chorus swings in. The listener is definitely engaged and, in an ironic way, working out to the song. One feels the best way to burn calories and get a blast of fun is to dance to the song – rather than go to the gym and sweat it out with countless others!

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VIDEO STILLJean-Christophe Dupasquier

Even the first time you hear Ice Cream Dream, you understand what it is all about and it will make its mark. There is a great 1980s quality to the song. You can imagine it fitting with the best Pop of the day and one gets memories of the decade in Ay Wing’s performance. The heroine talks about demons and shadows on the subway; the way we are inundated with messages and slogans – maybe brainwashed by advertising and what we should look like. That dream of ice cream is always there and that is what we should be doing. Rather than get hung-up on shaping our bodies and driving ourselves into the ground taking a more relaxed approach is much more advisable. The heroine is a powerful voice and it is hard to refute her advice. Lyrics become clearer in the second verse and you can definitely hear a sharpness come in. That taut and sexy bass continues and perfectly fuses with crackling beats and strident vocals. There is so much life and allure coming from Ay Wing’s voice. Even though the performance is not rapturous and ultra-hyped; you get a sense of fun and physicality that gets you off your seat and involved. Ice Cream Dream is a Pop song for the modern age. It is catchy and engaging but never cheap and shallow. You have plenty of lyrical depth and intelligence working throughout; humour and memorable lines – all topped off with a fantastic central performance. Make sure you check the song out and listen to the video that accompanies it. Both show what a creative and ambitious artist Ay Wing is. She keeps getting stronger and better and one suspects, before long, she will be mixing it up with the biggest artists out there.

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ILLUSTRATION CREDITPhilipp Basler 

Things are getting hotter and better for Ay Wing. I have been following her for a while and can see how she has developed. Her E.P. was released in the spring and its title cut is out in the world. The songwriter has been busy promoting and taking her music across Europe. I am not sure whether she is coming to the U.K. to perform soon but it would be great to see her. Ay Wing has been thrilling crowds and is amazing people with her latest track. Ice Cream Dream is an amazing song that has that wonderful video that makes you smile and remains long in the brain. Everything about the songwriter amazes and I know she will go a long way in the industry. I hope there are U.S. opportunities and the Berlin-based songwriter gets the chance to travel far and wide. Maybe there will be more material this year but I feel Ay Wing will want to get her music around Europe and reach new audiences. The talented and extraordinary musician is out there on her own and has very few like-minded peers. It is because of her I have become more involved and invested in Pop. She shows what is capable in the genre and how it is possible to write intelligent and challenging music but throw in plenty of fun and colour. It is the brightness and explosions she brings to music that makes you follow her and want her to succeed. We shall end things here but make sure you get involved with Ice Cream Dream and listen to the whole E.P. The title-track is a stunning work that looks at fitness and our obsession with getting trim but adds plenty of humour in there. We are so serious when it comes to our bodies and the staying fit – something that should be fun and not that intense at all. Artists that can make you laugh and raise smiles are few are far between and, because of that, we need to keep Ay Wing close. The songwriter has come up with a real gem and proved herself to be one of the most original new voices around. As the sun shines and the heat continues to rise; we are all having ice cream dreams. Rather than labour in the gym and tire yourself on a treadmill; spin the latest track from Ay Wing and get fit and smile…

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AT the same time.  

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Follow Ay Wing

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TRACK REVIEW: Swine Tax - Never Ending

TRACK REVIEW:

 

Swine Tax

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 PHOTO CREDITChris Crowder   

Never Ending

 

9.4/10

 

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The track, Never Ending, is available via:

https://soundcloud.com/swinetax/swinetaxneverending

GENRE:

Indie-Rock

ORIGIN:

Newcastle upon Tyne

RELEASE DATE:

13th July, 2018

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STEPPING out and looking at a talented young band…

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 PHOTO CREDITChris Crowder   

gives me a chance to discuss some interesting areas of music. I have reviewed Swine Tax before and had the opportunity to witness their blend of music. I will speak about music from the North and whether we are still throwing as much love that way as possible; intensity and bands who have the ability to invoke the spirit music is missing; bringing that energy and directness to the stage; connections within the ranks that makes the music that much stronger – I will end by looking at Swine Tax’s future and how they will progress. I feel we are still ignoring the North of England and what is coming from there. If we look at any new musician and laud them; it seems we are not casting a net far beyond the capital. I have talked about this a lot and approached it from different angles. There is nothing to suggest the future of music is situated in London. The media is based here, and so, that is where people tend to look. You balance the sounds of the South with those of the North and there are some marked differences. I feel there is more honesty, wit and originality coming from northern bands at the moment. I am not suggesting the South lacks any bite and potential – the North is offering something a lot more intriguing and fresh. The Swine Tax boys have been playing for a little while and, so far, have managed to accrue a loyal fanbase and some great local attention. I have looked at the music of Manchester but, looking at Swine Tax and the Newcastle area, I am interested to see whether there are differences. There are some fantastic venues and artists where Swine Tax are - and a great support network. There is always that temptation, when artists get bigger and need focus, they move to areas like London. I hope the guys manage to stay where they are and do not feel the need to up sticks.

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So far, they are vibing from what’s around them and seem comfortable where they are. There are, as I said, great venues around and chances to get the music to the people. It is the local support and sense of taste that makes northern music so long-lasting and impactful. There is a loyalty and passion you do not get from any other part of the country. Because of all of this; why are we still spending so much time in London and the music coming from there? I know there is an incredible scene here and wonderful movements: the North is producing epic music and should be given more love. One of the reasons why I feel this way is the band market and how the focus is still on solo artists. Again, this is another topic I have covered and investigated before – I shall not go too much into the topic again. There have been some great albums released this year but, to me, IDLES will produce the biggest statement of the year. I will talk about the band more in a later section but the solo material I have heard this year has been great. I am looking for an album that produces that extra bit of heat, force and oomph. Solo artists can do that but it has always been down to the bands of the world to bring something extra-special and intense. Swine Tax are a band with plenty of intelligence and depth – they have a raw edginess and electricity that takes their music to another plain. Tory Water, their previous single, looked at the local music industry with a sardonic nod. It has the College-Rock sounds but brought in plenty of punch and observations of the local scene. Although there are, as they observe, issues in the North that need remedy and support; the impression one gets from the song is of a band with a big future ahead. The sheer depth, story and colour they bring to the music makes you want to support them and see them do well. I feel we have ignored bands to an extent and assumed they cannot compete with solo artists. Historically, some of the finest music has been made by groups – why are we spending so much time with solo musicians?! Swine Tax have that unbeatable blend of local knowledge and focus with musical swings that stretch all the way to America. It means (they) have the ears of those in the Newcastle area but there is potential to get gigs in the U.S.

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IN THIS PHOTO: Lewis Egg Dodds

One of the things that occur to me is how bands like Swine Tax can use their keen lyrical insight, established strengths and focus on the current Government. Tory Water nods its head the way of our leader but there is new opportunity to sink the teeth in. I love how Swine Tax can bring humour and accessibility alongside riotous instrumentation and ample punch. We are living in a very odd time where the nation is splitting apart and politicians are messing everything up. Whilst solo artists would be able to project something meaningful and anthemic; I feel bands like Swine Tax have more ammunition and promise. Vince Lisle, Tom Kelly and Charlie Radford take hints from bands like Sonic Youth and Pavement and splice that with embers from the local scene. They look around them and talk about how politics affects their lives; stories of lust and ambition are thrown in – quite a heady and exciting brew! The band have been picking up fans at a rate of knots since their inception and thrilling those lucky enough to see them. I have seen some great bands form but few have the same intoxicating passion and attitude as Swine Tax. I do love what is coming from music but I feel something is missing: an authority and explosion that has disappeared slightly. The mainstream media are spending a lot of time on solo artists and feel, to me, there isn’t the same sort of promise in bands there was years ago. Maybe that short-sighted assumption reflects a geographical laziness. If they did some more exploration then you could see more attention given to the likes of Swine Tax. I have been hankering for a band who can get the blood boiling and the body moving. I have mentioned IDLES already: a band that has the sound of The Clash and mix it together with modern Punk and Alternative motions. Although Swine Tax source from the U.S. (more than British sounds) and a different era; they have the same sort of majesty and can produce a truly stunning live show.

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 PHOTO CREDITChris Crowder   

The nation is looking for artists who can articulate what is happening and how their lives are being impacted. It is good to hear melody and calm in music but, at times like these, there is a desire for release and fire. My assessment paints the picture of Swine Tax as a brutish Punk band who is throwing stuff around and want anarchy. In actual truth, they can fuse spiked and spit-laden with real songcraft, lyrical acuity and exceptional musicianship. Their music is far more compelling than straight-ahead guts-and-shout. It is exciting watching Swine Tax rise and growing with every release. Their live set is extraordinary and the studio music we hear from them is like nothing else. It makes me hanker for more passion towards the North and greater exposure of the best young bands coming through. Maybe the secret ingredient (for success) is assessing what is happening in the country and reaching people in a way our politicians cannot. Their music does have a political edgy but wraps it around character studies and local commentary. I have watched music change skin the past few decades and I am seeing things drop away and not re-growing. I have lived through the tail-end of U.S. College-Rock bands and British Punk idols. I have seen movements die and be replaced by something altogether safer and less risky. We need to revoke the lost Punk and Rock spirit that excited generations and started a fire. Swine Tax have the potential to burn bright in the local scene, as they already have, and lay down a marker. The boys continue to grow bigger and more ambitious every time they put material out there. Whether you are familiar with the music coming from the North and how it varies from that of the South; it is obvious to see how small a roll Rock and Punk is playing in modern music. We can throw various arguments into the mix – changing tastes and times; few great artists to keep the flame alight; critical ignorance – but I can sense something happening and shaking.

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 PHOTO CREDITChris Crowder   

Another reason I feel Swine Tax and their ilk are able to stage a coup and gain a passage to the forefront is what they bring to the stage. You can argue a soulful performance from a Pop artist can hold the same magic and power as that of a snarling Rock band. I contend that the most impactful and hard-hitting performance comes from bands that crank the wattage and get bodies jumping. Swine Tax bring their own brand of explosion to the stage but do, as I have said, have plenty of variety and melody. They are a rounded and nourishing band that are gathering huge acclaim because of what they take to the stage. Never Ending – one of two singles they have just released – will sound, I can imagine, amazing on the stage. The guys have a great reputation in the North East and showcase established band there – showing a support and sense of comradeship you do not often witness. They have supported the likes The Orielles and Jeffrey Lewis; they mix the D.I.Y. ethic they have always possessed and bring in new-found skills and strengths. The guys will never sell-out and feel the need to get into a bright and expensive studio. They have an authenticity and accessibility we are looking out for right now. The connection and chemistry the band has is another reason why their local reputation is solid and building. There are some bands where you watch them play and they might stay in the mind for a little bit. Something is missing from their set. Maybe there isn’t the connection you’d expect or the music is too similar to their studio-made sounds – not bringing anything new and unexpected into their repertoire.

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PHOTO CREDIT: Graeme J. Baty

Before reviewing one of the band’s latest singles; I want to finish on this theme and highlight the solidity in the ranks. Swine Tax’s success, so far, can be attributed to the fact the guys are on the same page and have that respect. Writing and performance is democratic and there is no muscling for leadership. They have the same goals and want to see their music go as far as possible. I am seeing some bands suffer splits because everyone wants different things and communication is lacking. The friendships present within Swine Tax makes their recorded material such a treat to listen to. They have dropped the double A-side Thorns/Never Ending and will perform at Think Tank? (in Newcastle) tonight. The single(s) have been met with big acclaim and reviews are coming in. The confidence the guys will get from the early praise will translate to the stage. They have gigs coming up but I feel, when their new material gets further out there and resonates; more dates will arrive and there could be some big dates. The guys are playing alongside like-minded, local talent and they are keen to integrate themselves with some fantastic artists. The material they have out there right now acts as a guide for potential venues and bookers. I am not sure whether Swine Tax will release an album next year or continue to bring out singles but they have this energy and focus that is impressive. I would love to see them ascend to the mainstream and influence fully. It is all very exciting and full-on for Swine Tax right now. They are picking up local support and lots of new ears are turning their way. It makes me wonder whether they can take it all the way and embark on a national tour.

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 PHOTO CREDITChris Crowder   

I hear there is more material coming from the band later in the year and, in October, they are back in the studio. It makes me wonder what form that will take. Maybe it will be another single or they are going to put a five/sic-track E.P. together. What excites me is how the band has grown from their earliest days. Maybe it is the experience they have gained or the passing of time – it is getting better and brighter for the band. I am not sure whether they have ambitions to tour around the world but I feel next year will be their time. Swine Tax have already cemented their name in the local realm and are ready to face the responsibilities of international touring. One needs stamina and extra fortitude when venturing between cities and nations. It takes more energy and discipline but I feel Swine Tax have that in their locker. I can easily see the northern band head to the U.S. and get some acclaim there. The guys have that reputation as live performers and they have thrilled fans for a long time now. I know the boys could handle the demands of a worldwide tour and what it encompasses. There are people around the world who would eat up Swine Tax and what they are all about. I have been hankering for a band to come along that can stay in the mind and get me excited about the future. I do not often go to live gigs because I feel there is little excitement and it will not be worth a trip out. Swine Tax’s reviews and reputation makes me want to see them and catch them as soon as I can. The boys are on a rise and cementing themselves as one of the finest young bands out there right now. They have already made a great name for themselves in the North – it is time for them to shift and take their music down the nation.

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The opening notes put me in mind of bands like Pavement and Pixies. You get that rush of the 1990s (and 1980s) and what was coming out of American then. I guess that is what Swine Tax have always been about but, if anything, there are new elements in their music. The lyrics talk about framing the moment and breaking open an unspecified thing – placing the hero under house arrest. Our man is aching, but not stressed, and one wonders what he is referring to. The early, softer guitar opening mutates to a more squalled and rain-lashed sound that mixes with the rest of the fold. The guys come together expertly and provide instance evocation. Percussion sounds add weight and drive but are never too heavy; there is that bassline that keeps things together and leads; it stays disciplined, level-headed and focused. One of the only problems at the early stages is vocal decipherability. At times, it is hard to understand what is being sung and the mix does push the vocals a bit too low down. I imagine that is less a mistake from production and more an emotive and sonic decision. You have that murkiness and effect that adds conviction to the song. What I mean is this: you get a bigger emotional hit and feel like the hero is singing from under a rock or pillow. There is tension and a slight disconnect that pulls you in and speculate. Lyrics never really allude to a single event or person and the listener is free to interpret what the song is about. Whilst other songs in their cannon have looked at political and local areas; here, we see something that is rooted in the personal and romantic. The hero looks to be casting out to a heroine who has left him stressed and tense but lingers in the mind. It seems her scent and looks are in the brain; her eyes (wild, bright flowers) are burning holes in the soul and one gets a definite longing.

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The chorus comes in, when our man is holding back at the moment, and the band really swell and explode. The guitars rapture and the percussion raises its game. All the boys turn the volume up and there is that evocative rush. You get the smell of 1990s College-Rock but there is that distinct Swine Tax skin. The rousing and bristling chorus gets the hairs standing and the mind racing. I was fully involved with the song at this point and could not get enough of it. The guys bring a real sense of thrill to the track that comes from nowhere. You could always feel things building but it is the way they switch from contemplative and open to intense that gets me – a real pleasure and something that gives the song a movement and agility. Few can deny the song lacks passion and professionalism but it is the D.I.Y. aspect of the song that makes its mark. One gets proper intelligence and songcraft but I am drawn to the sparse and honest sound that gives the song its stripes. It sounds like the band is playing from their living rooms: there is no polish that can wash the life from a song; it is a fantastic sound that gives the number much more allure and appeal. The performances are consistently brilliant and so much is thrown into the mix. Backing vocals and layers keep building; the percussion and bass work alongside one another and the chorus explodes back in when you need that hit. Our hero keeps his energy up and is committed to every single moment. Maybe my impressions of lust are wrong but it seems like there is someone in mind that is causing all sorts of problems. His head is swimming and there is a distinct sense of desire and need. Swine Tax keep the composition changing and evolving. Unexpected vocal touches and little bass lines fuse with big, anthemic rushes that delight and thrill. It is when the guys combine in vocals and there is that chanting, brotherly togetherness that you get the biggest hit. The headiness and brilliance of the song continue right until the end and you are compelled to listen to the song over and over. The performance is tight and stunning but you never get the sense things are too rigid and practised. Swine Tax leave room for breath and provide that fantastic, live-sounding feel. I have heard Never Ending a few times and discover new things upon every spin. There is guts, glory and passion running right the way through veins. I know the band will continue to record great music through their career but, right now, they are in top form and really inspired. I can only imagine what sort of reception and reaction songs like Never Ending will get when played tonight. Swine Tax show they are varied regarding their lyrics: they can go from political and local to observing something more universal and love-based. However you see their new song, and what you think it is about, it is a fantastic cut from the boys and proof they are one of the best and brightest talents out there.

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Never Ending and Thorns are fantastic singles – part of a double A-side – that show how Swine Tax has progressed and what they are all about right now. I loved Tory Water, their previous offering, and its mix of local observations and political shots. They have continued that pace and brought it to a duo of gems. I wanted to look at Never Ending because it is my favourite but, in reality, both the new tracks are worthy of fond examination. I started my looking at bands and wondering whether the market is starting to turn. We have often ignored groups and are focusing a lot on solo artists. Tastes have changed and the scene is looking for something different right now. Maybe there have been few bands who can get the critics raving and people excited. The likes of Swine Tax show there is plenty of fuel in the tank of the band car. They are hungry and want to get their name out there. It is challenging keeping a band together and remaining strong, let alone getting excellent material out there time and time again. That is full credited to a trio who have that mutual respect and want the best for each other. I will leave things in a second but wanted to offer congratulations to a band that have a bright future ahead of them. Maybe the balance will not tip so there is a Punk/Rock revolution but one would not bet against big changes happening next year. I love the sort of College-Rock sounds bring put out by Swine Tax and how they interpret them. It is a fantastic brew that stays in the mind and compels further investigation. The guys have come a long way and have an ambition that will see them go a long way. Where do Swine Tax go from here? They have that local gig tonight and then, from there, they will want to get their latest material out to the people. They have studio time later in the year but they will want to tour as much as possible and visit new lands. I feel there is that demand out there and it is not long before the boys are doing headline shows down in London. International gigs approach and I feel there is a fanbase out there already. A U.S. date would be perfect and I would love to guys to get some time in, say, New York or Boston. They’d love it there and I think they’d get a lot of love. I have loved getting to grips with Never Ending – listen to Thorns, too – and what it all about. The Newcastle upon Tyne group have a rosy time ahead and cannot wait for them to clean up and conquer. If you have not heard their music and know what they are all about; get involved with their double A-side and make sure you hear every note. Swine Tax might have a great local reputation but, before too long, they will be a big name…

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IN the wider world.  

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Follow Swine Tax

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TRACK REVIEW: Noralyn - New Tricks

TRACK REVIEW:

 

Noralyn

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New Tricks

 

9.5/10

 

 

The track, New Tricks, is available via:

https://soundcloud.com/noralynmusic/03-new-tricks-1

GENRE:

Pop

ORIGIN:

Brisbane, Australia

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The E.P., Lucid Dreaming, is available via:

https://open.spotify.com/album/20DRz2PnbS9TlZsQA7YdxE

RELEASE DATE:

15th June, 2018

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WHEN speaking about Noralyn

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I get the chance to look at very interesting sides of music. I will address Brisbane and the music coming from Australia; artists who have that ethereal, captivating sound; lyrics that conspire and compel incredible scenes and visions; bringing international artists over to the U.K. – revealing a bit more on social media pages. I will start by looking at Australia – a nation I do not get to talk about too much when it comes to music. The past few months have been full of great artists and sounds: I cannot recall whether an Australian artist has been among the included. I feel it is a part of the world that gets overlooked and we do not really assimilate into our daily lives. It is a bit annoying to think the media has their limit and boundaries; unwilling to look beyond the U.K. and U.S. when it comes to great artists. I am one of those people who wants to get out of an easy headspace and comfort zone. I have spent a lot of time looking at British and American artists and have not really got round to Australia. I hope that changes and I get to uncover a lot of great Australian acts because, when you look at Noralyn; she has an amazing sound and differs from anything out there. We look at Australia and most of us tend to stick with Melbourne or Sydney. Although Melbourne is my favourite part of the nation; I realise there is a rich seam of music running through the country. Look at Hobart and Victoria; have a listen to what is happening just outside the big cities and you will find some amazing and memorable artists. From The Go-Betweens, Savage Garden and The Veronicas; there have been some great artists to emerge from Brisbane. Cub Sport and Dune Rats are two of the more recent acts to come from that area – look closely and you will see plenty of fantastic acts from that part of the nation.

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Babaganouj, Future Haunts and Sweater Curse are a few local, upcoming acts that are worth investigating if you want to see what is coming from Brisbane. I am not surprised Noralyn has a great sound and is allowed to flourish. She is working in an area with a vibrant and varied scene; some great venues such as The Zoo and Brooklyn Standard. It is an interesting part of the world and, like all great cities, there is no one particular sound: there is a wide variety of artists that add so much colour and variation. I am drawn to Noralyn because she defines what Brisbane is all about. I am excited to see what happens next and where she heads. She is taking from the local scene and vibing from all the sounds around her. My point is we need to look at nations like Australia and how much great music is emerging from here. We get too hooked on obvious parts of the world and forget there are places like Australia – producing music that rivals the very best out there. I love Brisbane because it does not have the hustle and crowds of Sydney/Melbourne but there is a growing and intriguing music culture. Noralyn is one of the best artists coming from Brisbane but I feel, in time, she might move to a larger area in order to progress her music. It is a pivotal and busy time for the young songwriter; a new E.P. is out and there will be ambitions that see her travel the world and take in new sights. As wonderful as Brisbane is for talent and opportunities; I feel it is a great starting point and education for artists who want to progress and get their name out there. I wonder whether Noralyn will go to, say, Melbourne or to the U.S. in time. She seems happy where she is and is reacting to all the sensational talent and people around her.

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I listen to Noralyn and you get sensations of Tori Amos and Kate Bush. These artists are defined by a sense of flight and fantasy. Their vocals and mannerisms are not conventional; the songwriting is more fantastical and inventive – not your average and predictable love songs, for instance. Those legends have made their name by producing music that takes you to amazing places and gets you thinking. The songs are imaginative and dreamy; the performances striking and mesmeric. With Noralyn, she employs some of Amos’ power and emotional weight but brings in her own blends. Listen to the songs on Lucid Dreaming and the title says it all: there is a lot of fantasy and dreaminess that I miss from modern music. So many artists, these days, go for direct and uncomplicated. Songs, whether love songs or not, tend to be simpler and do not push boundaries regarding language. There are exceptions but there is a need for musicians to connect fully with the audience – people want something accessible and straight. Maybe that is an over-simplification but I am seeing few artists who use inventive language and take risks. It is good to see Noralyn come through and challenge the listener a bit more. I guess, in a way, we have Florence + the Machine: someone who picks from artists like Kate Bush and Tori Amos but adds her owns spin. She seems like an outcast when you look at the very conventional and straight-laced music coming from the mainstream. I am hearing some brilliant artists who rival her mannerisms and potent songwriting. The trouble is, like all innovative and pioneering artists; it takes that much longer to get to the top and pierce the public mindset. I am not sure what the music scene is like in Brisbane/Australia but I guess the mainstream still has the same limitations. Noralyn is operating in a part of the country that encourages artists to be expressive and reveal who they really are.

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As much as I love bands that are punchy and get to the point; I like to mix that up with musicians who employ language in a different way and have that incredible depth. I can imagine Noralyn’s early life saw her rifle through vinyl and prick her ear to the beguiling sounds coming from the radio. I have mentioned artists like Tori Amos and Kate Bush; put in Regina Spektor and Alicia Keys and you can see where Noralyn’s skin and identity has come from. Like I said; she uses these artists as a guide and adds her own spin on their work. Classical music and film scores also compelled the young artist; faith and God made an impact (and still do) and, when you stir this all together, you have a colourful and heady brew. I think influences are really important when trying to define an artist. If you spend your time listening to Punk and Pop then, likely, your own music is going to lean heavily on those sounds. Noralyn takes guidance from local artists and national tastes but bonds with artists who made an impression on her when she was young. The women I have mentioned – like Spektor and Bush – are strong and determined figures who have carved their own path and never played it safe. They have made their own way through music and, as such, been free to create as they feel fit. More and more, I see conventional and restricted artists come through who are trying to fit in with a particular scene. Maybe they are looking for streaming records or want to please the charts; they might want that all-important radio-play or follow what is already out there. Where are the risk-taking acts and those who make something natural to them? Noralyn is someone who can appeal to a wide audience but realises it vital being who you are and making music that feels right and natural – something a lot of other artists can learn from.

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I have mentioned the sound and idols behind Noralyn’s sound: lyrics and language are a big part of what the Australian artist does. Look at the songs that appear on Lucid Dreaming and they are almost novel-like in their power and descriptiveness. One is presented with brilliant stories and images that get into the head and make you think. That is not to say it is hard to understand what is being said: the songs definitely resonate and it is great discovering an artist who can connect with the audience and make their voice known. I have not had time to review the whole E.P. but I have listened to the songs and engrossed myself in the wild, wonderful and beautiful scenes. You listen to Noralyn sing and those words come to life in such an extraordinary and intense way. I have followed her career for a few years now and can see where she has come from. Her songwriting has become more ambitious and she has raised her game. The music she was putting out there a few years ago was fantastic but I think, in the past year or so, she has incorporated new elements and sounds into her locker. What amazes me is how Noralyn creates her own world and can present stories of love and self-determination in such an impactful way. I guess her E.P., and its lucid dreaming and visions, is meant to step away from the ordinary and present something that peaks the imagination. Maybe one can draw back to those songwriters like Tori Amos and Kate Bush who, between them, have used the English language in wonderful ways. They are capable of being direct and stark; they discuss love and pride together with loss and longing – they have never been ones for doing things simply and like everyone else. Those songwriters have built a legacy from being candid but stepping from the boring and precise. Their music has inspired those who think differently and want to express themselves in a more profound and imaginative way.

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I have alluded to Noralyn’s faith and how important that is to her. Whilst it is always hard to draw a line between music and religion; you can see parallels with Noralyn. She has a very deep and committed faith and I wonder whether that drives what she writes about and how she approaches music. Rather than be spiked and accusatory with her music – throwing in grenades and being harsh – there is a lot more patience and compassion that comes through. You do get moments of heartbreak and anger but, for the most part, the music has a faithful and logical heart that keeps things rational and inspiring. Too many songwriters, when speaking of love and themselves, are too anxious, angered and vengeful. You can bond with what they are saying but only because the language is quite negative and tense. Maybe I am going down a blind alley but I feel there is a connection between faith and religion and Noralyn’s outlook. She goes through the same pains and struggles as all of us but never makes one feel unease or depressed. The music is always positive and the heroine wants to make things better. She is not looking for punishment and does not want others to suffer. Too many modern artists are either too inward-looking and suffocated or they talk about love in very spiteful and sorrowful terms – they might speak of lust and do so in an explicit and unsophisticated way. Noralyn is a different proposition indeed. What we get is a songwriter who has that intelligence and compassion; her heart beats the same as us but she is a more sophisticated, loving and forgiving woman. Maybe I am painting her as being submissive and passive but that is not my aim at all. What I am trying to say is all of the things we know about her – that faith and attachment to iconic women; the area she lives in and her determination – defines what she writes about and how her lyrics leap from the page. You get different sensations and emotions from someone who wants to make big moves in music and make real changes.

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I wanted to talk about international artists because, for the most part, they are kept at arm’s length. You hear them on the radio but, in this day and age, how realistic is it for all of them to tour and come over here? It is expensive to travel and it can be difficult for artists to come to countries like the U.S. and U.K. to play. There are some brilliant American artists I want to see over here that cannot afford to tour. It is challenging getting the support and then, when you have it, getting a budget together so you can play. It is even harder for artists out of Australia to make those long trips. Noralyn is someone who would find loving hearts and ears over in the U.K. and, in fact, could go on and so well in Europe and the U.S. I hark back to my point about Australia and why we do not focus on musicians from here. Maybe we discover artists through gigs and airplay; that is harder to come by when the artist is so far away. Australia is a great nation that constantly produces music that stands alongside the very best. There is a lot of ground to cover in Australia, so one knows artists there have plenty of opportunities. I feel a country’s music scene is richer and more alluring if we sprinkle in foreign artists. Most of the acts we have touring in the U.K. come from here and, whilst that is natural; I would like to see talent from all around the world perform near me. Maybe finance and logic mean we are going to see fewer international artists come here and perform. I review and interview a lot of international musicians and always ask them whether they are coming to the U.K. Some say they are coming soon but many need to build up their fanbase and have not got the money to play here.

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Noralyn is a great talent that will turn heads for sure. I am not certain what her plans are but I know there are very few like her where we are. The U.K. and U.S. can benefit from someone like her that tackles myriad themes and does so in a very special and beautiful way. Social media is great for bringing artists to the international fore but it is only effective if people share music and takes the time to push things out there. Maybe a 2019 gig here will be on the cards for Noralyn. I think she has the potential and promise to do very well here and established a great base. The U.S. is another nation that would take her to heart and give her plenty of new fans. I often feel sorry for Australian artists because they are so far away from countries like America and England. Even if they do have a following over here, it is not always possible to tour and spend a lot of time enjoying the local sounds. My wish is Noralyn’s music is given a proper push here and, in time, she is afforded the opportunity to play some gigs here. Every musical nation is made strong when you add international artists into the pot. We do have foreign talent playing here but they tend to be from the U.S. or Europe. I will move on soon but I wanted to highlight Noralyn’s international promise and the fact she could do very well here. Lucid Dreaming has been out a little while and has won some great reviews and plenty of praise. It will get her gigs in Australia and see her stock rise there. She has already launched the E.P. and it was met with a passionate and willing crowd. There are many people over here that want to see the E.P. up-close and in the flesh – I wonder whether Noralyn will come to Britain next year/later this year and play to us. There are radio stations and venues that would love to have her and could give her some support.

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Noralyn has a great social media spread and keeps her images, videos and news updated. You can follow what she is doing and she never leaves too big a gap when it comes to her news. We know what is going on and what her plans are for the future. Whilst it is good to know her movements and know when new material is approaching; I am interested in knowing more about the artist and where she came from. A lot of artists keep themselves a bit guarded when it comes to biography because they feel that clouds your views on the music and creates too much bias. I can understand why artists would want to give little in that sense and let the music do all the talking. I know giving too much away is unnecessary but it would be cool to discover which artists Noralyn grew up around and when music came into her life. I know some of her idols but I would be interested to know other musicians that compelled her and how her career has developed. To bond with an artist; knowing where they have come from and how they have moved gives you more information and can help when it comes to bonding. Noralyn, as I said, has a great official website and her social media pages are full and updated. I am interested to know what she thinks of the Brisbane scene and what tour dates are coming up; when her first gig was and where she draws songwriting inspiration from. All of these little pieces add to the jigsaw and gives you a more rounded impression of the songwriter. What we have now is great – and know who Noralyn is – but I am compelled to discover about her early years and what lit the fuse for the fantastic artist. In any case; we know there is a new E.P. out and things are going well for the Brisbane resident. Let us, then, get to the music itself and see why so many people are throwing their love in the direction of Noralyn.

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There are some songs on Lucid Dreaming that look at moving forward and have a positive view. New Tricks, if anything, has a bit of tension beating in the heart. It is a song that promotes positivity and steadiness but there are nerves and a sense of unrest working away. The song begins with tender keys and the heroine’s tremulous, beautiful voice. She comes in strong and striking; imploring someone to remain steady and not lose what they have – do not say the first thing that comes to mind. The voice jumps, twists and dances as the heroine talks about bombs, bullets and hurricanes of emotion. Maybe she is in a relationship where there have been good times but, at the moment, there is a bit of stress and uncertainty. Perhaps there have been needless arguments or the two have been saying things and regretting it later. There is love and togetherness but that compassion and trust is being threatened by unstable conversations and petulant thoughts. It is hard to know whether the heroine herself has been culpable of letting her emotions rule the heart. I guess she has said things she regrets but, largely, it seems like the man is the one who is letting things get to him. I said how Noralyn writes songs that keep positive and inspiring – not as anxious and spiteful as many – and there is definitely a sense of keeping a level head and not casting blame. The beat continues to punch and there is underlying shimmers and shivers. The composition remains light but has an imperious and potent drive. The voice is allowed to abide and reign; it is top of the mix and, importantly, not drowned out or lost. Our heroine presents her words with so much physicality, movement and expression. It is an amazing experience and one that makes you imagine and dream. I was looking at the lovers talk and what was happening in the song. There is that passion and connection but things have gone a little sour.

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The heroine does not want things to crumble and knows there is a lot invested in the relationship. She knows neither of them are saints and they make mistakes like everyone else. These common and obvious realisations seem to be spoiling something that has endured and survived for a long time. As the instruments rise and the vocals layer – more spirited and ecstatic – the heroine wants to learn new tricks to handle this moment better. Both are working to improve the situation but it seems, unless changes are made; they might lose what they have and it could lead to heartbreak. As those vocals explode and things get more bellicose; you are drawn to the intensity and rushing waves. Compromise and understanding are at the heart of everything unfolding. The heroine wants to step over to the hero’s side and figure out what is happening. Rather than name-call and walk away from something good; she is taking a mature and reasoned approach that is more productive than you’d imagine. Many would hide away and wallow in misery and hurt: Noralyn is willing to take measures and steps to keep the love alive and not see it break. Piano flourishes and there are electronic buzzes; percussion beats and the song gets hotter and fuller. The blood runs hot and the eyes widen as the heroine’s voice flies and the words trickle out. Neither of them is perfect and she knows having a mirror – an emotional one – makes it all clearer. She loves him and they both want a better life. By reasoning and compromising; there is far less destructiveness and, it seems, they can salvage what they have. New Tricks is an inspiring song that will give heart and guidance to those in a similar situation. You will listen to New Tricks once and be struck by its electricity, passion and light. The lyrics will stay in the mind and the music will bounce around the heart; the song will keep coming back to you during the day and you’ll want to return and unpick the track.

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Noralyn has been busy the last few weeks promoting her music and getting her E.P. to the people. Lucid Dreaming has been talked about and the excitement has been building. I wonder where she is going in terms of touring. I imagine there will be Brisbane gigs but, looking ahead, more Australian dates will surely follow. Maybe a U.K. date is not a reality this year but I know many will want to see Noralyn here next year. Lucid Dreaming is an E.P. you need in your life and, while I have focused on New Tricks; every track on the E.P. is brilliant and sticks in the mind. There are very few out there like Noralyn: we should look out at music and encourage new talent to follow her lead and think more deeply. I know there are musicians who take risks and are more inventive with their lyrics. Noralyn does not chase trends and write in very basic and simple ways. She challenges the listeners and paints vivid, imaginative portraits that fascinate and stun. There are very few artists who take this approach – I wonder whether there are too many risks or few think they will fit in the mainstream. It has been a busy and exciting year for Noralyn. She has released a fantastic new work and brought her music to new faces. The summer is here so there will be gig opportunities and chances to get her E.P. to fresh sources. I hope more people follow her music and, in time, she is given the chance to play internationally. Unique artists are hard to find, and so, when you do discover those with more to say; stick by them and ensure they get as far and wide as possible. Allow yourself some time to get involved with Lucid Dreaming and what it is all about. It is a perfect E.P. to fall inside and let it take you away. The music is amazingly varied and captivating; the songs will come to mind when you least expect and you will surely fall for Noralyn with ease. Lucid Dreaming is a fantastic release that proves long-term success and glory…

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IS a definite reality.  

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Follow Noralyn

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TRACK REVIEW: Stephanie O - Woman Oh

TRACK REVIEW:

 

Stephanie O

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Woman Oh

 

9.5/10

 

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The track, Woman Oh, is available via:

https://open.spotify.com/album/59WFmQWItP7d4MuaI2sAOu

GENRES:

Pop; Jazz

ORIGIN:

Paris, France/London, U.K.

RELEASE DATE:

21st June, 2018

_________

ON this occasion…

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PHOTO CREDIT: Sam Copeland

I am talking about Stephanie O and her beautiful music. Before I get to her latest single, Woman Oh; I want to address a few things. There is a lot to investigate but I want to study female artists and, again, why I think we need to pay more attention and create some parity. I will look at vintage strands and those who look at the past. I’ll go on to talk about artists with curiosity and an ambition that brings colour and texture into things; Paris and, in fact relocation – ending by speaking a little regarding Stephanie O’s future and possibilities. There are a lot of Pop artists out there and people who produce emotive and revealing work. I am looking around the mainstream and I rarely find myself dipping in and out that often. That goes through waves: sometimes, I am engrossed by an artist but, right now, there are few I am interested in. Maybe it is the Pop core that leaves me a little bored. Those established, quality-laden artists are the ones I am more interested in. I feel we need to shake things up a bit – as I always say – and an artist like Stephanie O provides a new angle. I am always concerned we are not putting enough emphasis on female artists and, whilst this is not a fight that needs to be championed on this occasion; I feel the disparity and the scales shifting towards male artists. The rumour mill for Glastonbury is cranking and there is speculation the likes of Paul McCartney and Madonna could be featured – maybe Fleetwood Mac and Taylor Swift. Whilst the headliners might, finally, mix male and female; I wonder whether festivals, really, are starting to equalise (in terms of gender). The reason I bring up the gender subject is the sense of passion and depth you get with female artists. Maybe it is the way they approach music or a different set of emotions they unleash. In any case; I tend to get something more engaging and long-lasting when I hear a female artist play.

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PHOTO CREDITLily Rault

In terms of Stephanie O’s music; she digs deep into the soul and projects something quite fantastic. You get heart and spirit; there is urgency but time for gentleness and a softer touch. A mixture of sounds and sensations goes into her music. I am not suggesting male artists could not create this impression – a lot of them do – but I feel inadequate credit is being given to female artists. That will all change, in time, and I know artists like Stephanie O will get their just reward. The songwriter has worked hard and achieved quite a lot in a short time. She has performed alongside names such as Carole King and Cindy Lauper; there is that love of strong and pioneering heroines who have paved the way and opened doors for the next generations. One of the things that bug me about the modern industry is a real unwillingness to look beyond the commercial and radio-friendly Pop music that seems to ‘tick all the boxes’. More diversity is coming onto the scene but there is still that reliance on the easy and uncomplicated. Maybe I have spoken about this too much but I get annoyed by the lack of real progress. Look at artists like Stephanie O and you are getting something different and more intriguing. I will talk about the flexibility of her music but, when listening to Woman Oh; it is a song that deserves a lot of praise and focus. I know there will be moves to create a more ‘equal’ music industry but I think there are a lot of problems that could be fixed quite quickly. Rather than labour over gender and inequality; let’s turn our attention to a fantastic young artist who is producing incredible music. Stephanie O is a perfect example of the modern artists and someone who is turning heads – an exceptional talent who has her sights set and is concocting an original and compelling sound.

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One of the pre-requisites regarding my blog is, for interviews, having a fair few images free. Many artists have particular images for various campaigns whereas some have very few available. In the case of Stephanie O; she has some great shots available right now. To my mind, she is someone who has the potential to really shine and stun. She has the looks and demeanour of a classic star and Hollywood idol; a sophistication and strength that radiates. Her love of the vintage and romantic could lead to some great new shoots. Maybe a Paris-set photoshoot or something that engages with a vintage setting. There are possibilities but I think, if she were to hook with a trusted and brilliant photographer; the two of them could work some magic and come up with some awesome snaps. I am not sure if that is around the corner but, from what we can see; you get an impression of who Stephanie O is by looking at her photos. That love of the vintage and classic seems to dictate how she goes about things. Her music mixes the new and vintage – thus, creating something original – but it is great hearing someone inject modern Pop with bygone Swing and Jazz. I know Stephanie O established her own Swing group, The Puppini Sisters, and has affection for Doris Day and Peggy Lee. When you listen to an artist, and try to figure their sound out, you ask them about influences. I have interviewed hundreds and you start to see some common names. To be honest; I have heard of very few who go that far back in music and have the same influences of Stephanie O. Rather than crib from modern artists and what is being played on, say, BBC Radio 1; Stephanie O looks back and sources from a more alluring and sophisticated treasure chest. It is fascinating hearing that blend of the older-days and modern production.

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Vintage and classic sounds/looks are always good to see in music. I feel there is too much emphasis on the modern and ultra-fast. We are moving at such a pace and it seems there is little time to move and breathe. Whilst some artists throw in some classic threads into their own music; there are relatively few who have that true appreciation and knowledge of music from far back. I feel too many modern artists name-check legends and older music but rarely source from it. If they do, then you get rather obvious and over-used names. Listen to Stephanie O and you get that sensuous Jazz edge combined with something rather unexpected. She has brewed her own sound and takes you directly into the song. Listening to Woman Oh is like sitting alongside her as she creates music. When you do hear the voice/music play; one instantly gets images of a dreamy and filmic-looking Parisian flat; the heroine in her chic and vintage clothing – the world going by and the sun beaming through the windows. The songwriter has that immersive and physical quality that arrests the senses and makes you conspire. I fear a lot of modern music is soulless because (the artists) feel people want something instant and uncomplicated. Rather than write something meaningful to them that has sophistication; they would much rather provide rather simple and samey music. It is great seeing an artist who goes against the predictable and commercial sounds of the mainstream and, instead, creates music that has a unique and smoky sound. You listen to Stephanie O perform and can hear how much music means to her. You know it means everything to her and she is not just in the business for quick success – she wants to remain and inspire generations to come. There is a long way to go but I can tell, even now, there will be a lot more coming from her.

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Another thing that strikes me about Stephanie O is the colour and vivacity she brings to the music. Rather than release something rather plain and unengaging; you get music that brings you into the moment and compels the mind. It is like, as I said, walking in the song and being there with the writer. Maybe that ability comes from the likes of Day and Lee – those who could do the same thing to their audience – but I think it is the way Stephanie O writes and imagines. Rather than take lyrics from cliché and diary pages; her process is a lot more interesting and detailed. You get a sense of where the track was written and the sounds (and sights) outside her window. I will come to look at Paris in a bit but, in a way, there is a little bit of the city running through the veins. I am looking for music that goes beyond the routine and actually moves you. I listen to Woman Oh and can speculate what inspired it and what was happening when it came together. I imagine the songwriter sat in a rather calm setting, watching the world go by and a sense of tranquillity wash over her. With embers of legends in her mind and personal memories in mind; it is a fantastic thing to hear the song and watch it unfold. I guess every songwriter has their own method and writes their own way: Stephanie O brings a lot more to the plate and does a lot more. The artist does not want music to be simply sounds that get into the head and do something in the short-term. Stephanie O wants the listener to get involved with the song and it remains in the head for a long time. She wants the words and melodies to keep coming back and the embers of the track to remain in the eyes for as long as possible. She is not someone who writes quickly to fill the market and so something temporary.

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PHOTO CREDIT: Sam Copeland

Stephanie O originally hails from London and she formed the Swing-Pop harmony group, The Puppini Sisters, before leaving to strike out on her own. Moving to Pairs, in a way, was when things started. The artist was inspired by the world outside the dressing room and curious about the world at large. She was not willing to simply do the same thing over and over – the desire to do more and embrace the world was always in her heart. I have talked about the colours and emotions one gets from Stephanie O’s music. What amazes me is the clash of geography and scenery. I know Woman Oh is not about Paris but, when you listen, you do get images of the city come through. That may sound strange and it might be something to do with the elegance, passion and prowess one hears in the song. It is an extraordinary thing that has its body and feet in the U.K. but has a heart, soul and spirit in Paris. I have never been to the French capital myself but it is somewhere I will need to visit before too long. I can understand that urge to move and experience somewhere new. Paris is not too far from London – so Stephanie O has that easy access – and you have a different way of life there. Rather than get buried in the rush of London and experience the music we have here; Paris has a different vibe and is a whole new world. There is similar music to that of London but Paris offers its own dynamic and depth. You have Jazz clubs and great Blues artists; there is that retained history and the ghost of legends past. I can imagine walking through Paris does all sorts of magical things to the mind. The scenery and chatter; the shops and busy cafes – that is enough to get the hands twitching, excited by the prospect of a new song.

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Splitting her time between Paris and London; Stephanie O is busy and, working with producer Peter Lyons, she is looking ahead and what can be. I hope the songwriter spends more time in Paris and does not feel the need to settle her feet in London. That may sound odd but I feel songwriters need to take chances and open their minds to new places. Travel broadens the mind, as we know, so it can do wonders for an artist. If you live somewhere as entrancing and stunning as Paris; I can only imagine what words come to mind and how the imagination works. I am seeing a lot of artists relocate and take chances. Maybe it is the stagnation of where they are and the need to find fresh impetus. I, myself, am moving and there are many others who need to take that leap. I am not saying a move to another city will lead to songwriting revelation but it is a great way of changing style and getting something fresh in the mind. Stephanie O has not abandoned her early sounds – Swing and Jazz – but she has mixed it together with Pop and more-modern elements. I feel many are moving because they want to find new opportunities and get their music to new audiences. I know there is a very strong live scene in Paris and the French crowds are very receptive and attentive. There might not be the same breadth and variation as in London but it is (Paris) a great city to play in. I feel like Stephanie O has found new lease and love by moving where she is. You get a less-harried and stressed style of music; a soothe and sense of movement one would not experience in London. Radio personalities like Gaby Roslin have already paid tribute to the beautiful music; others are noting how the time is not and how (Stephanie O) is primed for something big.

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PHOTO CREDIT: Sam Copeland

One gets a rather rousing and soft entrance from Stephanie O on Woman Oh. There is a sense of jump and delight that gets the feet tapping and smiles broadening. Acoustic guitar races and skips as the heroine comes to the microphone and lets her voice play and tease. You get that instant beauty and gratification from her tones – a pleasing and alluring sound that casts the mind back to the 1950s and 1960s and the musical heroines of old. I love the production sound and that sense of the vintage. It sounds like the song was recorded using an older microphone as it has a slight echo and sound that is wonderfully raw and classical. Rather than polish the production and evaporate any soul from it; you have a very real and live-sounding song that puts the vocal right at the top. You are under Stephanie O’s spell and following her as she dances and wonders. The syncopated, restless words look at the heroine hop a train to Paris and meet with a love. They got “drunk and dizzy” and spent hours on the streets; helpless in their abandon and surrendering to the beauty of their surroundings. Whether this relates to a physical relationship or a friendship (at first); you can tell how meaningful and instrumental these moments have been. I love the instrumentation and how it complements the vocal. The guitar work is almost Country-like whilst the percussion patters and has that Jazz inspiration. It is amazing discovering a song that steps away from the ultra-modern Pop and has that pleasing, vintage smile. The pace and flow of the words is the biggest selling point. That addictive and insatiable dance gets the listener singing along and moving their body. The enraptured duo has no money but, as the heroine says, there are free things in life they can abandon. You get a sense of two sweethearts who are from a different time. One can imagine the heroine in a fashionable dress – maybe striped or hopped – and the hero unfamiliar and charmed by a new city.

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PHOTO CREDITLily Rault

They are moving through Paris and looking for adventures. They have little coinage to show but their hearts are full and they are open-eyed to the wonder around them. Romance and tenderness is part of the deal (free, of course), but the sheer delights and eye-catching splendour of the city itself is keeping them amused and hooked. Our heroine is, as she says, the man’s woman; he, in turn, is her sweetheart and that bond is established. She wants to be held and caressed under the yellow sky and feel the intimacy of the moment. Rather than tease the words and build the mood; Stephanie O has that immediacy and rush at her feet. She is never resting and affected by the urgency of the bond. It is almost child-like in its excitement and wonder. You can hear her smile and I can imagine, when writing the song, she was reflecting on a glorious time when anything was possible and there was the fresh bloom of love. The chorus – where our heroine declares her affection and realises something special is here – sticks in the heart and will make you come back to the song. The song becomes instrumental at the half-way stage and allows the listener to imagine what is happening and how the lovers are moving. You jump into the city and wander alongside the dancing lovers. The simplicity of the composition is one of the biggest strength. The guitar-and-percussion combination skips, scratches and hops and never becomes too heavy and intrusive. Stephanie O unleashes some wordless vocals and hums; she breezes and lets her voice sway. The song goes from a racing and rampant thing and dies down; it comes back up and a new lease of life is found. That unexpected (and brief) fade down-fade up shows how nimble and unpredictable the song is. The final words see the heroine in Jazz/Soul territory and singing in a more romantic and softer way. It is a final kiss that perfectly brings the song down. Woman Oh is a track that will keep you coming back and gets into the brain. It is catchy and instantly memorable but has so much nuance and depth. A fantastic offering that will keep people interested and wonder where Stephanie O goes from here. I am excited by the prospect of future material and whether Paris will be in the mind; whether the style will be the same (as Woman Oh) and what we will get.

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Going forward, and I feel there are real opportunities before the songwriter. She is splitting her time between London and Paris and is busy working on a new release. We will see an E.P. later in the year and that will be, I am sure, accompanied by performances. I hope, when she does progress and release more material, we see some cool new snaps come through. With Paris at her feet; a classic/1950s-style shoot or something that sees Stephanie O surrounded by splendour and beauty would add something to her social media profiles. There are a lot of possible fans waiting on Twitter and new markets she could conquer. Woman Oh is a cracking song that has gained plaudits and brought in new fans. I am not sure whether there is a Twitter profile for Stephanie O but I feel this is a market she could exploit and do well in. There are loads of radio stations and venues that would love to support her music; other artists she could hook up with and fresh possibilities. I am excited to see where she can go and what the future holds for Stephanie O. I have been following her music for a little while and know how far she has come. It is always hard finding unique and original artists who do something you have not heard before. Stephanie O goes beyond the usual Pop fare and fuses Jazz and Soul sounds together to provide a fresh and fantastic thing. Looking ahead and I feel like London could come back into her mind. There are some great venues here and it would be great to see the songwriter embark on a tour. I know many people would love to see her perform and it is only a matter of time before her music gets to the masses. Festivals are coming up and, whilst it may be too late to hit the big ones now; next year is a real possibility that could see her take to some prominent stages.

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IN THIS PHOTO: Sam Copeland

I opened by talking about female artists and how little attention, compared to men, they get. It is sad to think we still live in a time where there is inequality and an imbalance. I am seeing small changes but that sense of evolution is not happening fast enough. Rather than dwell on the problems and divisions; celebrating artists who have something important to say is much more rewarding. I know Stephanie O has been working hard and dedicating a lot of time to fresh music. I am not sure what form her upcoming E.P. will take but I am sure there will be other gems like Woman Oh on it. The market is so busy and varied right now. It can be hard deciding which artists are going a long way and those who are going to be around for a short time. It is early days for Stephanie O but I know she will be around for a lot longer and progress as an artist. Her love of artists we do not really talk about much these days – like Peggy Lee – sets her apart from the crowd. Influences are important and they can have a big say regarding your own music. The talented artist takes a lot from the present-day but it is the music she grew up around that gives her that extra edge. Let’s hope a lot more eyes turn the way of Stephanie O. She is a wonderful and hungry artist who knows what it takes to succeed and is determined to get as far as possible. If you are unfamiliar with the beauty of Woman Oh and have not given it a proper listen; get your ears around it and make sure you share it on social media. I have heard many artists this year and all sorts of music. Many will stay in the mind for a bit and disappear: a select few bounce around the brain and keep me curious for longer than expected. Stephanie O is definitely one of those artists who get into the head and, when you least expect it, come back and…

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SPRINKLE magic in the ears.  

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Follow Stephanie O

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TRACK REVIEW: Elias - Tearing Down the Walls

TRACK REVIEW:

 

Elias

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Tearing Down the Walls

 

9.4/10

 

 

The track, Tearing Down the Walls, is available via:

https://open.spotify.com/album/58EPKD5JrMQ70PJD9ndDWq

GENRES:

Pop; R&B; Alternative

ORIGIN:

Stockholm, Sweden

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The album, Entwined, is available via:

https://open.spotify.com/album/0ysbz1S6Ml5PdyN4qqsj94

RELEASE DATE:

15th June, 2018

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EACH artist I encounter…

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has a lot to offer and can provide an interesting angle into the world of music. You never know what you are going to get and it can be fascinating seeing what they come through with. Before I get to Elias; I wanted to look at a few different aspects worth exploring. I will investigate inspirational stories and those who overcome adversity to conquer and strive; music that gets to the point and goes right into the heart; voices that seem to convey so many messages and possibilities; writing that goes deeper and seems to capture the complexities of human existence – a bit about solo artists and those who will continue to do great work and succeed. It is interesting looking at Elias and where he has come from. The Stockholm-raised musician has battled hard to become the artist he is today and faced enough obstacles along the way. I wanted to concentrate on something that you do not hear in a lot of articles and reviews: musicians who have dyslexia. It is not often concentrated on but, in reality, there are so many who suffer from dyslexia. It can be quite mild or, for some, it is very severe and can affect their lives in a very profound way. One of the reasons I have not interviewed Elias is because his dyslexia is very bad. For anyone, this kind of disability can be troubling: for a musician who tries to convey themselves in a written form; that is quite a burden. I say ‘burden’ but it might not be the case with Elias. He handles his condition but it does make some aspects of his life quite difficult. Written interviews are out of the question and the way he must present his music and prepare it differs. A lot of musicians will write music/lyrics and then rewrite/shape them. It is a traditional process and is the way you get from conception to realisation. If you are unable to write – or write easily and proficiently – then what do you do?!

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I suffered difficulty as a child when it came to writing and reading. I was late to the game and struggled to convey myself effectively. It was a frustrating and troubling time that got under my skin and made me very unhappy. I can only imagine how hard it is for someone like Elias. Many might say dyslexia is a hindrance that makes songwriting impossible: if anything, the way he articulates himself is a much more direct and human thing. Rather than display his songs in a written and intangible thing; he puts it out there directly and verbally. I am not sure of the exact process but I can imagine it is a mixture of voice processing/recording and some basic jottings. In any case, the way Elias writes his songs is different to many other people out there. My heart goes out to him but one of the other reasons I am so interested in his movements is how direct and captivating his sounds are. We often overlook artists who go through struggles, whether that is an illness or disability, or have some sort of impediment. It is not spotlighted but I wonder whether there are ways to combat that and provide assistance. I am sure Elias manages well but it must be hard, when he has an idea, to get it down straight and have it formed as easily as others. Rather than highlight dyslexia and let it define him; I wanted to congratulate the artist and look at what he is writing right now. It is amazing hearing his music come through and what it does to the senses. There are a lot of artists who write similar music/themes but nothing as stirring and majestic as Elias. You hear so many songwriters out there and it can be hard getting a grip on what is good and what succeeds. In a very hectic and packed world; how do you decide which artists are worth long-term fascination?! I feel Elias is one of those people who sticks around and remains in the brain because his music is so soulful and emotional.

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The directness and instancy of Elias is something that defines his music. You listen to a song like Tearing Down the Walls and get a real sense of openness and revelation. He does not hide behind metaphors and disguises his language in meaningless ways. Maybe the way he gets his music onto the page – or recorder – means he is not fettling and endlessly tampering with words to get them right. I have been listening to his new album, Entwined, and each song has a different skin and personality. The common denominator is the way the tracks leap from the speakers and sit in the heart. It is a very special experience listening to Elias and what he is coming up with right now. I am drawn to his spirit and what he has to say. I will look at song derivation and why some artists go that little bit deeper but, before then, it might be worth looking at the state of the industry and how many artists are out there. I think about the issue a lot: the sheer size and breadth of music and how it can daunt the consumer. You have so many options and available avenues; it can be like a blitz or attack. Every week, there are new idols and options for the restless mind. We consume music differently to how we did, say, a decade ago. Now, we are much more about singles and tracks: albums, in their entirety, are less important and featured. I still love to listen to music right the way through but, when it comes to the newer acts; sometimes it is hard listening to everyone’s albums all the way through – there is so much more out there that needs to be investigated! That is not the fault of anyone but it interests me how far we have come in some respects; we have gone backwards in others. I am not sure what will happen to the music industry but it seems now, more than ever, it is tougher to get people to sit down and listen to your work all the way through and keep their minds hooked.

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This may seem doom-laden and negative but my point is that there are those out there that sort off stop you in your tracks. It is hard looking out at music and picking those who are going to remain and succeed. You can never make that absolute prediction but there are some you know will remain and continue to do amazing things. Elias’ delivery and songwriting chemistry is different from anything else and makes quite an impression! His voice is soulful, as I said, but it is what he puts out there that compels. His way with words and what he does with subject matter stuns me. It is hard to pinpoint and define in words but you have to listen to the young man and how he does things. It is amazing hearing an Elias song and letting all the notes sink in. Some songs, like the one I am going to review, look at breaking down walls and boundaries. There seems to be an intergenerational divide and clash that affects us all. We all grew up listening to our parents’ experiences and how different it is to today. Even though he is based out of Sweden; the experiences of his parents are going to be similar to us here. My parents went through tough times and grew up in very humble and difficult circumstances. Now, I have the chance to make a better life and have more opportunity. That boundary-breaking spirit is not confined to life experience and domestic situation. What Elias is doing is tearing down the barriers in music and homes. There are no real splits between the music of now – Dance or Pop – and what was out there in the 1970s and 1980s. The same can be said for dancing, living or emotions. Whatever we feel is different now to back then – when our parents were young – it is really not at all. Maybe the economy and state of the world have changed but the roots and building blocks that make us who we are have not altered. Consider what your parents were dancing to or what made them special: that is the same for us and we have more in common than you’d think. These arbitrary and needless walls are placed and we often feel the needs to isolate ourselves from our ancestors. Elias is taking away this division and realises these (walls) is foolish and misguided.

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Alongside the themes and stories of togetherness and unity is that central voice that digs very deep and unleashes a wave of emotions. Elias writes about his life and all its strands: the ugly and dirty aspects and the beautiful, bright moments. He understands what his parents felt/feel and knows there is that common link. The words and sentiments put out into the world can be understood by everyone and we all can learn a lot. I have listened to Elias’ album and learnt quite a lot about myself and other people. Maybe that is the way the Swedish songwriter puts his work out; perhaps that voice is what sparks it to life and gets it into the mind. There are singers who can articulate themselves in a potent and extraordinary manner. There is a deep sound but lightness and sensitivity working away. It is a fantastic brew and holds so many colours and diversions. Maybe it is the music he grew up listening to or how he has to adapt to dyslexia and its effect – the way the young man gets his voice out there is extraordinary. There are a few people lucky enough to hold that sort of power and nuance: if you have a talent like Elias; hold onto it and do whatever you can to bring it to the people. The combination of abilities and talented means you will stick with Elias and listen to everything he puts out. Whereas there are one or two songs on Entwined that are not as good as the best; there are no weak moments and you feel like the album, as a whole, is a very worthy and challenging treat. I have been listening back for a few days now and learning quite a lot. It is wonderful hearing Elias sing and what music means to him. The same way he is breaking down walls and keen to join generations through their common experiences; he wants people to bond over his music and learn more about themselves and the world around them.

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Maybe I am waffling a bit – but that is what great artists do to you, I guess! What gets to me is how long Elias has spent in the studio and the work he puts in. He has logged thousands of hours and you can hear the progress made on his album. One can see the leaps he has made and how he has improved since his debut single (Revolution). All of his career and progress is on Entwined and you can hear how that time in the studio has strengthened what he is about. As a debut album; that voice scores so many different subjects and colours. Many artists produce an introduction that looks at love, life and things close to them. They say you need to write about what you know, as so, many will talk about their relationships and how they feel. That is all very well but it can be difficult making statements that are any different to your average songwriter. Love and relationships are not as complex as all that and it is easy to feel a little bored by the same words and expressions. Elias talks about human rights, the outside world and something far bigger than what is in his heart. Of course, he feels pains of broken love and the rush of lust but is not all about that. It can be quite bristling and egregious listening to someone pour their heart out for an album and not really changing things up. I understand the intention – to show the listener what makes them tick and defines them – but the world is a huge and complex place. Taking your listeners out of a comfort zone and opening their eyes to something more is much more credible and impressive. It is hard to decipher which artists can offer you that, as there is so much music, but I am always looking for acts who open your eyes and horizons.

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Before I move onto a particular song that has caught my attention; I wanted to look at solo artists and a bit about Stockholm. I feel bands are starting to make a comeback and gaining more focus than they did years ago. The tide turned towards solo artists and it has been hard unearthing great bands that have the ammunition to go on and be a success. Maybe that was a phase but now, in 2018, there are some terrific groups who are starting to crack and turn opinion. Maybe it is the fact there are so many solo artists out there is can be challenging to separate them and stick firm. I get sent loads of music from solo artists and I always find something interesting. I can never sit still and spent too much time with someone and, whilst that is a problem for bands too, it is something that affects solo artists. The industry is packed and how long does one realistically have to listen to the music and let it all sink in?! Again, this might sound harsh but there are a few that demand more time and energy. Music is a fickle industry and a tough nut to crack; if you can do that and stand aside from the competition then you are doing something right. Elias has some common threads and movements – the way he sings and the accessibility of his compositions – but he goes out of his way to impress. You get a lot of interesting lines and hooks; some great clashes of upbeat and introverted. He has a bold and passionate soul but is capable of taking things down and being emotional. The same can be said when it comes to the songs and their themes. There is variation and stimulation working throughout. That, coupled with his determination and work ethic means he will be around for a long time and settle in the public consciousness.

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Sweden and Stockholm and not areas we often look to but I feel we should all be more aware. I love the nation and wonder whether we spend too much of our time in the U.S. and U.K. There are great European artists emerging and parts of the world we do not focus too much on. Sweden has always produced brilliant artists and has a particular knack when it comes to Pop and Electronic music. The modern breed emerging is keeping the ethics of past masters but mixing so much colour and energy in. I feel the music we witness in the U.K. and U.S. can be a bit samey and commercial. Sweden has the same public demands and charts but the new artists from here seem less concerned with fitting into holes and compromising. The sounds are more free and expressive; they take in more sounds and fabrics and provide more fascination. There is a lot to recommend and, thinking of Elias, he seems to define what Sweden is about and how good its artists are. Look at where music is heading in terms of Pop and Alternative sounds and I wonder whether Sweden will get more attention. By that, I mean the artists coming from here are providing something more emphatic, energised and deep. Not that the music from Britain lacks those qualities: Swedish artists have that extra magic and seem to possess something artists here do not. I feel Pop music is shaping and shifting; it is getting more colourful and holding more emotional weight. You still get commercial stuff and cliché acts but the best of the newcomers are going further and doing something wonderful. I feel the nation deserves more acclaim and focus than it does right now. I am not sure whether Elias is in Stockholm full-time – or based in the U.K. some of the time – but he is doing the country proud and will get more ears and eyes turning the way of Sweden. I have talked enough about Elias and what he is about; looked at various angles and how I feel the young man will develop. I shall come onto a song from Entwined, I feel, defines the album: the celebrated and extraordinary Tearing Down the Walls.

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Tearing Down the Walls starts with chanted and echoed vocals. It is a declaration and call that hints at what is to come. The hero steps to the microphone and wonders what would happen if we all ran together and joined forces. I feel, right from the off, there is that need to stop putting boundaries between us and thinking we are all different. We need to face things together and join with one another. Right at the start, you do not know whether the song refers to troubles in the world or it is something more personal. We will run together, it is said, but not be divided. There is that determination to fuse generations and people so we can all face things as one. You cannot listen to the song and feel like modern politics and social divisions are being overlooked. Given the way the world is splitting and how far apart we are drifting; rather than shut people away and feel we need to look out for ourselves; we need to attack and push through as a unit and take away these walls. It is a stirring and powerful message from the songwriter. You get the sense there is a bit of personal mandate in there. Maybe Elias has sat back and looked at how people push away others and feel they need to be independent. We are not that different from previous generations and we all think, broadly, the same way. We dance to the same beat as our parents and the way the world is spitting is not that distinct from decades ago. I wonder whether we learn from the past and are too willing to make mistakes and not take any lessons away. Whether referring to politics or how the young do not look to the past and their parents’ voices; these separations are dangerous and not how we should be going forward.  What I sense, more than anything, is walls being broken down in terms of dance and movement.

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You hear the big chorus and words and it seems like it’s a proclamation to get together through music and set things alight. Against all the struggle and turmoil that is happening; we all dance and react to music so that is what we need to do – a way through and a chance to set aside all our differences. The chorus has that big and proud sound that throws everything into the mix and creates spark and colour. I was fascinated by the energy and bold sound coming through. From a more contemplative and cautious verse; the song changes direction and urges everyone to get together and strike. The world might be burning, literally and metaphorically, but we can change things and make a difference. The track starts off with a deep look at what is happening around us and how we place blocks before us. After the first chorus; the mood changes and it seems like a breakthrough has been made. Elias is keen for Tearing Down the Walls to strike a chord and resonate. What we discover is a song that asks why we stands separate and do not willingly join together; how we all seem to look out for ourselves and why we need to change. You have that epic message of togetherness and surrendering to the dance. That is my interpretation and I realise, when you listen, you’ll get something different. However you view the song; it will remain in the mind and compel further listening. I was invested the first time around but have come back and discovered something fresh and unexpected further down the tracks. That is the mark of a great song: it hits you right away but keeps revealing magic and mystery after new spins. Tearing Down the Walls is a standout cut from Entwined and proof the Stockholm artist has a lot more to say in the future. Make sure you spend time with Elias and let the music absorb into the skin and influence the mind.

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It has been a very busy year for Elias and his music. The debut album is out in the world and things are starting to hot up. Elias has released E.P.s and singles before but this is his full-length offering and something that will get his music to the wider world. We are becoming less interested in the album as a whole but there are musicians who compel greater concentration and intrigue. You cannot really casually dip into Entwined and sit back: it is a fascinating and fulsome album that requires proper investigation and passion. Because of that, I have not only listened to Tearing Down the Walls and left things there. I recommend everyone get behind the album and spends some proper time investigating, studying and listening. It is a fantastic work that collates all of Elias’ past works and shows what he is about right now. A career-spanning set of tracks that shows how compelling his music is; a brilliant and confident work from someone we will hear a lot of through the years. I am not sure what touring plans he has in mind but I know there will be some gigs here and there. Keep abreast of all his happenings through social media and, if he appears in a town near you; get out there and see what all the fuss is about. Critics have been given love to Entwined and it seems there is an appetite for what is putting out there. I am excited to see what happens next and where the young musician can go. I have written about Elias’ dyslexia and what he has to face; the sort of challenges behind his work and how hard it must be. It seems he copes and finds a way to articulate his music in a very raw and connecting way. I shall leave things here but I have loved discovering Elias and finding out what makes him tick. I hope he comes to the U.K. and plays over here; gets his music out to the world and keeps pushing forward. There are a lot of great solo artists around but there are very few that leave a big a mark…

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AS Elias!  

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Follow Elias

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TRACK REVIEW: Justin Nozuka - No Place in Mind  

TRACK REVIEW:

 

Justin Nozuka

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 No Place in Mind

 

9.5/10

 

 

The track, No Place in Mind, is available via:

https://open.spotify.com/track/6BYb8RVAVC8bAOx6H74CtK

GENRES:

Alternative; Folk

ORIGIN:

Toronto, Canada/Devon, U.K.

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The album, Run to Waters, is available via:

https://open.spotify.com/album/1mI50yWLjr9U0nxktpWrNs

RELEASE DATE:

18th May, 2018

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ON this occasion…

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I wanted to look at a few different aspects of an incredible songwriter. Before I come to look at Justin Nozuka’s latest track; I will explore Alternative and Folk movements that dissipate stresses and remind one of the greats; the Canadian market and why the nation warrants more focus and promotion; albums that mean the world to artists and get big support from fans; finding the right producer that can harness your sound and bring out the best – I will end seeing where Justin Nozuka can go. I have written about Folk and Alternative sounds before and, in every case, there is something different you can take away. It is hard to categorise Nozuka’s music because it has rougher edges that remind one of the stadium artists but there are gentler movements that have that acoustic bliss. What gets into the mind regarding Nozuka’s music is the fact it can take you to another world and transport one. I have heard a lot of gentler and calmer sounds that are fine on the paper but they do not really linger in the mind for too long. It can be difficult taking the volume down and making sure you grab a person’s ears. I often look out and think about the variety and what sort of music is around. I am more and more determined to embrace the artists who perform something soothing and calm the mind. Whilst there is some real entrance and beauty in Nozuka’s music; you get real emotional depth and lyrics that make you project and conspire. I have been listening a lot to artists like Nick Drake and Joni Mitchell: two of the Folk greats who, between them, managed to change and progress music. I feel there is still too much emphasis on Pop and the bigger sounds that are commercial and sound huge on the radio. There is nothing wrong with that but I wonder whether we do not commit enough of our time and energy to artists who have something real to say.

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You cannot say there is a lack of wonder out there but I think we all place too much prominence on commercial sounds and Pop artists. I will stop my bashing of the genre and move on – my real point relates to music that does more to the heart and soul. Whilst there are a lot of artists who can take the mood down and get the listener dreaming and drifting; Nozuka is someone who can bring real passion to the party. I will talk more about Run to Waters and the track, No Place in Mind, but there is a lot to unravel regarding his personality and ethos. I am trying to unpick and define his music because of the beauty and evocative spirit one gets from it. I have mentioned some Folk greats but, look around the scene right now and there are some great musicians who provide sensationally scenic and passionate music. None of them, to me, have the same blend of qualities as Justin Nozuka. As he progresses and makes his next steps; you look back and see how far he has come. I listen to the earliest cuts he released and it seems, where he is now, holds real meaning and importance. I will talk about his album and why it means so much to him but you listen to the songs and so much of his self and soul go into things. Listeners want to relate to a songwriter and understand who they are but they want to find music that makes them feel better and removes anxieties. You can find a common mind and someone like us (in the music) and when you hear the sounds unfurl; you are drawn into the picture and everything else seems to fade away. That medicinal and curative quality keeps you coming back and hooked on his music. Were he to throw in loads of electric guitars and drums then the impact might not be the same. It is the fact he has this seductive and calming quality that leaves the music in the memory for a long time to come.

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Although Nozuka is an American-Canadian artist; he is based in Toronto and takes my mind to the nation. I have written a lot about Canadian music and, whilst I have taken a small break, I am back there and looking at what is coming from the country. I feel we often get gripped with the American and British sounds but never really look elsewhere. Australia is a great country for music and we do not really look there a lot. It is a full and varied nation but, I guess, it is not quite as popular and exposed as it should be. Maybe we should spend more time there and see how many fantastic musicians are playing there right now. The same is true of Canada and there is no real reason why we should overlook the country. Australia is a long way away and there are not as prominent Australian musicians as there are Canadian. What gets me is the fact there is this clear wonder and variety around but we do not spend enough time with it. Toronto is a fantastic area for new music but, to be fair, the whole of Canada is capable of genius. I have been looking around the nation for a few years and, every artist I encounter, I get something unique and fantastic. The Canadians do things differently and put more into their music – compared to the U.K. and U.S. I am not sure whether it is something in the air but there is something wonderful about Canadian music. Justin Nozuka is one of those artists who take from the sights and sounds around him and differs from anything out there. Look at the music coming from Run to Waters and there is that balance of the personal and universal. There is a lot to deconstruct but you find a lot to relate to and take away. It is not a surprise to see another Canadian artist emerge and create music that remains lodged in the heart.

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PHOTO CREDIT: @culturefrenzy

I will move onto new aspects in a minute but I wanted to stay in Canada and see what is happening there. You can say the music landscape is the same and artists are, broadly, of the same mind. That is not true and, if you look at Canada, there is an identity and national spirit that is not like anything else. Artists tend to look at the past and uncover aspects others have not thought of. They are more impassioned and keen to connect with the listener; they are more innovative and are keen to touch people and make them feel involved with what is going on. Maybe other nations have those qualities but I am always drawn to Canada and what is coming from there. I feel we should all be more aware of what is happening and the terrific music emerging. Rather than solely stick with the U.S. and U.K., we need to be more broad-minded and discover all the terrific music available out in the world. Canada is a terrific country that constantly surprises me. Justin Nozuka is a terrific musician who has a big future – he will consider whether he wants to remain in Canada, I guess. I think the media pays a little attention to Canada but do they get as much exposure as the U.S.?! I am not suggesting he packs his bags but his music deserves big love and a wider stage. Nozuka has worked tirelessly to get his songs to the masses and making opportunities for himself. It is wonderful watching him grow and seeing how much music means to him. I hope the latest L.P. from him draws people to Canada and gets them looking at the nation’s wide and fascinating music scene. The reprieve of stresses and anxieties (in his music) makes you fall hard and stick with him. Nozuka is among an army of Canadian-based artists who are making changes in music and showing themselves to be future-ready stars.

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I will look at a song from Run to Waters that stands out to me but, before then, let’s look at the album and how it came together. 2014’s Ulysees was the last album from Nozuka and, since then, he has put two E.P.s to the world: High Tide and Low Tide. We have seen music from the album appear on both E.P.s and it has bridged the gap nicely. It has been a long creative process and there have been some developments and changes in his style since then. The 2014-released record was a success and showed what Nozuka was all about. I feel Run to Waters is a bigger and more ambitious work that explores new ground and sounds stronger. Nozuka has always been incredible and ambitious but he has crafted something that integrates all his past work and current curiosities into the blend. Nozuka created the album over a period of two years (and a few months) and was apologetic to the fans for the silence. Not a lot had been heard, in terms of albums, since 2014 and many thought he was dormant. What was actually occurring was that creative swell and process – putting out ideas and making sure they were as good as they could be. Nozuka thanked his fans for their patience and explained how he had the privilege to work with producer Chris Bond. Run to Waters was recording between Canada and England and seems to take from both nations. You have the landscapes of both nations working away. Canada is a nation we associate with snow and icier conditions; mountains and a vast vista. There is that coming out in the music but you get the cities and personalities of Canada working alongside things. The English part of the album relates to the pastoral beauty and the gentle countryside; the quaintness one gets and the bubbling streams. Getting these two worlds combining in one album is an extraordinary thing to hear, indeed!

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I am not surprised Nozuka took that long to record the album and ensure it was as good as it could be. Chris Bond has worked closely with Nozuka and ensured all of his talent and visions are realised as effectively as possible. The songwriter has been dreaming of the record for a long time and wanted to be sure it was worth the wait and would thrill the crowds. I can see where all that focus and attention has gone. You listen to the music and know how much energy and determination has been expended. I feel artists get pressured to release quickly and ensure their name is out there in the ether. You get this expectation upon the shoulders and feel a little strange. The market is hot and busy and so it can be daunting creating something quickly that means you remain relevant and fresh. Rather than rush-release an album and follow 2014’s L.P. with something that was not satisfying; Nozuka, instead, crafted a beautiful record that made sense to him and felt natural. You can look at the album every way you want and examine Run to Waters from various different angles. One can be forensic and dissect the songs but, when it all comes down to it, the music comes from the heart and has that instant, unforgettable quality. You are, as I said, calmed and hugged by the sounds but there is so much intrigue and colour running right through. I can imagine the creative process was gradual – experimentation and false-starts – but all the wait and time has been worth it! The fact Nozuka reached out to his fans and explained why there was a gap in release shows how much they mean to him – and how much music means to him, too. Finding the right producer can be difficult these days. There are so many options and it can be a gamble working with someone you are not familiar with.

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Maybe there is a long history between Chris Bond and Justin Nozuka but you get the feeling their association is fairly recent and there was that instant and mutual affection. Looking at Chris Bond’s website and, actually, he worked on both of Nozuka’s between-albums E.P.s. There is, then, that familiarity and understanding of what he is about. Rather than radically change the sound of his 2014 and create something too commercial and strange; Bond has brought new angles and ideas from Nozuka and strengthened his work. He has produced for Eliza Shadadd and Tom Speight. His record is pretty impressive and he has had the experience of working with a broad range of artists and learning a lot from them. Whilst there are differences between what Eliza Shadadd and Justin Nozuka are throwing out there; the common denomination is their authority, passion and quality. Chris Bond has worked tirelessly on Nozuka’s latest album and the two have created this understanding and friendship. I hope they work together in the future because you can detect a respect for one another that means the music is neither compromised nor one-sided. Both have equal say and there is a terrific balance. The music is fresh and has polish but not enough so the soulfulness and beauty is washed away. I am not a big authority when it comes to producers – and why certain ones stand out from the pack – but I am familiar with Chris Bond’s work and what he is all about. The man has years’ experience and has been with Justin Nozuka for a little while. Many artists are self-producing and guiding themselves but I feel there is a lot to be said about researching and working with a producer that can bring in some objectivity and outside guidance. You only need listen to the first few seconds of No Place in Mind to know the record has been worth the wait. I am reminded of Folk greats and the best of the current market.

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I will look at the record, and standout track, soon but I wanted to look at where Nozuka can head and what he is capable of. The artist is reaching out to fans and, as the album has been out for a few weeks, he is touring and promoting heavily. Once the dust has settled and the record has done its work; you wonder where he is going from there and whether there will be other songs. I guess he will record again next year and spend the remainder of 2018 touring and reaching new people. I often see artists who have early promise and lose their spark a little way down the line. It is disappointing seeing musicians lose that edge and fade away a bit. Justin Nozuka has a strong start to life and has evolved and strengthened over the past few years. His latest album is his strongest work yet and shows he wants to remain on the scene for a long time to come. There is a lot to love about his music and there are elements that other songwriters do not bring into their work. I feel Nozuka could succeed if he remained in Canada but I wonder whether he will move to the U.K. or U.S. I am not trying to dictate but the music he is putting out there deserves a wide an audience as possible. Let us see where he goes and how the next year plays out, shall we? I am keen to watch him grow and determined to stick with his music. You get so much glory and beauty coming from the music; there is an entrancing and addictive quality that means you come back and keep listening. I have seen and discovered a lot of musicians but there is something about Justin Nozuka that leads me to believe he can be around for many more years to come. Let us get down to business and look at a cut from his latest album: the terrific No Place in Mind.

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Listening to the finger-picking and bouncing strings and one is reminded of Nick Drake. I get little elements and suggestions of Pink Moon (Drake’s third and final studio album) – with a bit more lightness and breeze coming through. The notes conspire and tangle; the mind looks out into the natural world at fields and streams – you have that physical and instant sense of exploration. When the hero comes to the microphone; his voice has that combination of feather-light and grave. You have a stern sense of caution but there is a wistfulness and desire to wander the land. He is heading off with no place in mind and gets some air. Maybe there has been some hard times and stress before him: he is looking to erode that friction and discover a calmer climb. The vocals are instantly graceful and stunning; you are buckled by the softness and nuance that emanates from every breath and word. The delicate and velvet-soft voice leads the listener through the song and you feel as though you are walking alongside Nozuka. The guitar remains gentle and unobtrusive but adds a lot of direction and emotional candour. The hero has no destination in his mind but he has a pack on his back and is strolling down by the river. Maybe there is no crisis and turmoil that needs to be combatted. You never feel like Nozuka is stretched and looking for a salvation. He is determined to clear the head but, rather than escaping demons and denying the truth; the man is looking for inspiration and needs to breathe. I guess every musician feels pressure at some point and needs that space to get perspective. Rather than project woe and bring the listener down; Nozuka is inviting them in as he observes trees hanging and recalling fond memories. There are embers of Classical strings and something elegant working in the background; Nozuka’s vocals are layered when the song rises and the song grows and blossoms like a flower.

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What strikes me is how calm and controlled Nozuka sounds. He is painting these scenes and explaining how trees and sights along the way make him think about old summers and times past. At every stage, you are imagining and wondering where the song will head next. Nozuka’s vocal can go from touching and gentle but is capable of projecting real punch and rush. The man skips rocks in the river and jumps into the inviting waters. Drums come in and create occasional waves; there is that mirroring of the lyrics and the physicality of the song is impressive indeed. The beauty of nature and the banquet of colour keep those dark days at bay and carries the hero through the rubble. I mentioned how there is not that anxiety and need to escape in the song: maybe there are ghosts that have not left and these wandering adventures are here to banish the blues. The more the song goes on, the more you escape and submit to its beauty and teasing touch. Justin Nozuka is one of these singers who can lull you in and affect your soul but carries emotional weight and has so many contours engrained. The entire experience is fascinating and enriching. Although, in my mind, No Place in Mind, is the best track from Run to Waters; it sets up the album and tells you what is to come. I have listened to the song a few times over and there are new revelations that come through every time. For me, personally, I found a lot of relevance in the song. You can approach a track like No Place in Mind as a pure form of release – nothing personal but the beauty and entice can unburden you – or take something away from it. Whatever you do with it; I suggest you listen a few times and see how various lines and notes unfurl and sprout through time. Justin Nozuka has crafted a terrific song that warms like the sun but tempts you into a cooling dip by the river. The scents, sights and sounds of nature come through and it is impossible to listen to the song and not be taken away and affected.

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Justin Nozuka has seen his music played on T.V. shows in the U.K. and has a solid fanbase over here. No Place in Mind is a track that has been out a while and gained a lot of traction on streaming sites. I have been following his work for a little bit but there are so many years ahead of him and I would urge everyone to jump onto the wagon of Justin Nozuka and follow where he goes. It is a great time for him and, with a new album out, there are new eyes coming his way. The Toronto-based musician has worked hard on Run to Waters and it has been the result of hard labour and a lot of love. Working with Chris Bond; the talented musicians has put his all into the music and wants people to connect very strongly. You listen to other tracks on the album like Hourglass and Heavy Stone and you can take something away with you. Although the eleven songs are from Nozuka’s heart and have personal relevance to him; each listener can interpret the songs and find something familiarity in there. I have connected with the songs and really found something to bond with. That is the mark of a truly great songwriter: someone who can be honest and open through music but ensure every listener is involved and part of the process. I will leave things here but hope everyone gets out there and catches Justin Nozuka’s music. I am not sure what his tour plans are – and whether he will come to the U.K. – but keep an eye on his social media pages and keep abreast of the latest happenings. There is so much going on – and much to love – and I know Nozuka will be a permanent fixture in the music industry. Run to Waters might have taken a while to get to the people but, when you listen to the songs unfold and remain in the mind, you know all of that time and focus has been worth it. Sit back, open your eyes (and mind) and watch Justin Nozuka…

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STEP out into the world.  

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Follow Justin Nozuka

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TRACK REVIEW: Elena Ramona - Electric Love

TRACK REVIEW:

 

Elena Ramona

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Electric Love

 

9.4/10

 

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The track, Electric Love, is available via:

https://soundcloud.com/elenaramonaofficial/electric-love

GENRES:

Pop; Alternative

ORIGIN:

Surrey/London, U.K.

RELEASE DATE:

14th June, 2018

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I realise…

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PHOTO CREDIT: @MichaelSweeney

one of the pledges I made for my blog was to look only to new artists. By that, I mean those I have not featured before: many might recognise Elena Ramona and the fact she has featured here a few times. I am making very few exceptions but, when it comes to her music, she acts as an example of someone who continues to seek new excitement and explore new territory. I will come to her new song, Electric Love, very soon but, before then, I want to address music that makes its way beyond the speakers and laptops; artists who have come a long way and continue to expand their horizons; 1980s and the sounds of the decade coming back into modern music; a need to move into a wider market and broaden views; Pop and why it is shifting and split at the moment – those who have the passion and dedication to go all the way in the business. I will look, first, at Elena Ramona and how she has come a long way. I have heard her music played on T.V. shows like This Morning and now, with Electric Love, it is being heard in Superdrug stores. That might sound like a minor achievement but it is one few songwriters can claim. Not only do many thousands of people know her music and have heard it played; up and down the country, we will hear her new song filling our ears. In a competitive and busy industry; there are so few slots and chances for artists to get ahead and earn that sense of wonder. Elena Ramona has that rare honour and is being taken to heart by those in T.V. Couple that with retail backing and you have a nice spread and diverse portfolio. The reason I wanted to raise the point was to examine how much has become a little insular and anonymous in some ways.

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PHOTO CREDIT: @MichaelSweeney

We all listen to what we love and, unless we interact at gigs, how often do we bond over music outside of social media? I feel we are conversing less and the act of discussing music is less physical and social. It is strange we have come to this but I know there is a way through it. Getting music played in shops and on the screen means viewers and consumers can directly interact and share their feelings; we see music reach that wide remit and it is taking songs away from streaming sites and out into the open. It shows artists like Elena Ramona have an adaptable and eclectic quality that is appealing to radio stations, producers and fans alike. I feel a spot on a daytime show or being played in a national store is a great way of transitioning to films and bigger T.V. shows. Who is to say, a few months from now, a big producer and company will not be overlooking Elena Ramona: they will knock on her door and ask if her latest cut can be used on their show. I can see that happening and know it is only a matter of time before she gets right across the nation. I have heard many people getting their music played on shows like Made in Chelsea – that may not be her cup of tea… - but it is another layer of exposure and big kudos. I feel film and entertainment is where the songwriter’s work will sound best. I can see her songs backing some great independent film or accompanying a comedic moment, perhaps. I have followed Elena Ramona since the start and her music keeps on changing and building. She is able to write something stirring and emotional and, on her next release, it will be a funky and danceable jam. She is determined to get her music beyond the comforts of home and touch as many humans as is possible. That is an impressive and ambition feat from an artist who has man more years ahead of her.

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One reason why she has managed to endure and set her horizons is the variability of the music itself. I will examine Electric Love and its motions but, look back, and you see the different colours she has worn. The first few songs Elena Ramona released were fantastic and dealt with personal subjects. Whether tackling a lying boyfriend or paying tribute to her father; these songs were from her heart and showed a songwriter who was willing to change her game and not produce the same song every time. I have seen her stride out and incorporate fresh elements with every release. Look at where she is now and there is that natural confidence and intuition. The music is more positive, lyrically, and it seems her heart and head are in a happier space. Of course, there will be bad days and normal heartaches – of romance and personal realms – but the young talent is projecting summer tunes and feelgood vibes right now. In any case; we are seeing such ability and strength come from the music. Elena Ramona was never nervous and unsure but I am noticing leaps and bounds come from her. She is still in her twenties and, as she moves through her career, I wonder where her music will take her. Right now, there is that mix of Pop and Soul but I wonder whether other genres and sounds will come to play when she gets further down the line. That will be interesting to see and I know people will love whatever she offers up. I am seeing a few artists quit and limit their scope; they are retreating or playing it safe with music. Many feel the way to remain is to copy others or play in a very commercial/unambitious wheelhouse. That might seem logical to some but, to me, those who succeed and endure are the ones who take risks and transform.

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Every new Elena Ramona song has her blend of qualities and D.N.A. in them – there is a distinct stamp and sound one can associate with her. What one gets is fresh endeavour and motivation from someone who is able to step into any territory she feels fit to explore. Not only does Elena Ramona have a voice that could belt out a big Pop song or seduce when singing tenderly; she loves to write about a number of different subjects and does not want to be pinned and honed. It is easy to see why people are falling for her music and why it is getting into some very important hands. Music, being busy and competitive, means each artist needs to think big and how they can make a success of their careers. It is all very well having big dreams and striking high but you need to be able to execute it and create something original. People can see through artists who mimic and feel it wrong to show individuality. I know there will be more material from Elena Ramona and one wonders what she will create on her next offering. She is more alive and desiring than she has ever been. One wonders how long it will be until she is standing on some big stages and getting her music to some huge crowds. The reason I make this declaration – or ask the question – is the sensation one gets from the songs. You are part of the process and have something physical and immediate. The songwriter wants people to get together and talk about her music; those who do not move and feel connected to Electric Love need to get themselves checked over! All of the energy and physicality one gets from her latest single is part of a plan from someone who wants to play a bigger role in the industry. She is setting her sights on success and reaching as many people as is possible. I know that achievement will take a while but she is making all the right moves and creating some incredible movements right now.

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I will chat about Pop and why there are dangers and joys in the sector but the 1980s, oddly, comes to mind. A lot of artists are putting the decade’s music into their own – many might claim that has been the way for a very long time! Some see the 1980s as a jokey and minor time that offered little beyond big hair and commercial Pop. We forget all the brilliance that was around there and, with artists putting the 1980s into the modern day, there is new appreciation and fascination. Not everything from the 1980s is great: there was some rather dodgy Pop and some movements (like New Romantics) had some bad moments. What was great about the 1980s was the variety we had then and some of those terrific and fun Pop-makers. Look at icons like Madonna and Kylie Minogue – and those around them – and we have artists who have endured for decades. I feel we are bonding with 1980s-inspired sound is the fun and sense of nostalgia that we get. There is a beguiling quality and strange energy that we feel and, just short of getting the mullets back out; we have that link to the past and a, well…something that is lacking in many songs. By that, I mean (the 1980s-inspired songs) take us back to the decade but updates the sound. Those artists who are borrowing from the 1980s are not lazily repeating and not adding their own touch; they are presenting their own version and taking it in a new direction. It is not only the more commercial Pop artists of the decade the likes of Elena Ramona are inspired by. Look at the decade as a whole and what was happening then. You had the division of chart Pop and bigger bands who were less concerned with commercial success. We had so much happening and a variety of tastes and sounds playing alongside one another in the decade. More and more, artists are taking guidance from the 1980s and marrying it with modern production.

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PHOTO CREDIT: @MichaelSweeney

I will move onto a new consideration in a minute but I am compelled to look at the 1980s and why we are hooked on it. The 1990s, of course, plays a bigger role in modern music but I am glad we are not overlooking its predecessor decade. It can be risky taking from that time and making it fit into our times. There was some real cheese back then and I am not sure many would be willing to hear something like that now – there is a reason it is dated and unable to exist now. Listen to Electric Love and there is not an overt and explicit take on the 1980s: what we get are suggestions of the Pop from back then and the sort of joy and giddiness that defined the biggest hits. I wonder whether people are looking around modern music and considering whether optimism and uplift are being removed. Many bigger artists are introverted and creating songs more personal and emotive. It is great to write like that but, when you get that in spades, it can be quite exhausting and samey. I am always on the look out for music that provides scintillation and energy without seeming shallow and predictable. That is a tough challenge but, when it does happen, it gets you in a better frame of mind and does something wonderful. In another sense, there is a new generation coming through who are not being raised on music from the 1980s. They are being brought up listening to modern stuff and might be unaware of what came before. New artists are bringing the 1980s back to the fore and ensuring the best of the decade is kept alive! In the case of Elena Ramona; she is exploring new ground and showing how adaptable she really is. There are Pop artists who are willing to do that and continue to seek: others are less capable and that is causing some troubles in music.

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IMAGE CREDIT: Ben Couzens

There is a new album out that is causing divisions among critics. I shall not name it – it is from an American Pop artist – but her latest work has been given some four-star reviews and some rather poor ones, too. Some claim the music is vacuous and filled with trite observations and songs that have no soul and depth. Others claim there are anthems and modern Pop numbers that stand the test and get into the brain. It is weird seeing how different people can have such diverse and polemic views. It shows that Pop is not immune to interpretation and demands. I think there are a lot of modern artists who try to write something catchy and nuanced and, rather than do that, come up with something hollow and misguided. It is tough making something that gets into the head and brings something new to the game. Pop is a genre that has its critics and always struggled to find widespread acclaim. There are so many artists who produce trite and sugary music that does nothing to the head or heart. Rather than be troubled and feel we need to do something about it; it is best to celebrate those who are giving the genre a good name and providing their own take. British Pop, I feel, has a different flavour from that of the U.S. The nations have their natural stars and they have their own style. Look at Elena Ramona and I get the impression she takes a little from U.S. Pop/R&B and some shades from British Pop. It is a nice balance and cuisine that reminds one of the 1980s but keeps your head right in the present. The music she is writing walks that tense line of familiar and personal. Rather than write lyrics that are cliché and ill-defined; she is penning words that get into the brain and conspire repetition but have depth and edge to them.

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PHOTO CREDIT: @MichaelSweeney

Her sounds are quite sharp and sassy and she tops that off with big vocals and plenty of heart. With Elena Ramona, you get the sweetness and vanilla-cool vibes; plenty of tease and allure with plenty of body and tang. It is a heady and exciting brew that makes for fulsome and long-lasting music. Elena Ramona has kept her ear to the ground and gauged what people want and who people are responding to. There are some bad Pop artists and those who make music for charts and those who do not really have deep and excellent tastes. Instead of go for something simple and commercial, her latest gem is a more ambitious and personal song that challenges the head – it moves the body and mind at the same time. I wonder whether there is a new romance, or old dream, that compelled the music to come alive. We can all relate to the views and lines that are laid out in the song. Not only can we bond and understand the song but there are so many different elements fizzing and working away to intrigue future listening. I wonder whether Elena Ramona will go into R&B/U.S. territory for her next song or look to the 1990s for inspiration – maybe something E.D.M.-inspired, perhaps?! The world is hers and you can sense a young woman who does not want to settle and conform. Those who venture and look around them are always going to reach a wider remit. You have those who want to remain limited and not stray too far from what they know. That is all well and good but I wonder how much artistic satisfaction you get. Elena Ramona wants her music to get as far as possible and reach new people every day. I feel there is something to discuss when it comes to her future and where she might head.

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PHOTO CREDIT: @MichaelSweeney

The songwriter is based in the South and has an official website out right now. She is building her arsenal and planning more music. I can see the sparkle in her eyes and hear how much music means to her. Local radio performances and chats have come out and she has built a great name for herself. What I would like to see if the songwriter gets around the country and take her music further. Being based where she is; there is not a hugely varied and successful music scene. There are a few Pop artists and good bands but it is pretty quiet and unspectacular when you think about it. Look to London (rather than Surrey) and you have much more choice and choice coming from the place – much cooler, credible and successful. The people are nicer and more ambitious there and a bigger platform for musicians to play. I know Elena Ramona has played London dates but I feel that is where she needs to set her views. Even if she does not move there – I would advise she does in the future; to get the opportunities she needs – the sheer scope of venues and crowds means she cannot deny the draw. Many financial constraints limit touring but she is someone whose music can be taken to heart by those in other nations and continents. Getting out of the local mindset and thinking bigger is crucial. Every new song gets her stock rising and shows she is in this for the long haul. Her arresting voice and original songs are making their way up the country but I would like to see the artist look more to London and the bigger cities. International touring is a future possibility and, to get there, that London acclaim needs to arrive. She has the ammunition and talent to carve out some territory in the capital. I wonder whether she might consider some more dates up there by the end of the year.

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It is all well playing locally but, if the country/town has a limited scene and does not produce many big artists – and has very few good venues – then that can cause an issue. I can see Elena Ramona get to bigger cities and tour in places like the U.S. Her music has that accessible and familiar quality that can translate and cross borders pretty naturally. I want to see her get her body out there and attack these cities. She has done a lot in her local area but there is a big world waiting for her. Eclectic Love is a song that warrants a big platform and could thrill a willing crowd pretty much anywhere. She has a collection of great songs under her belt and would be able to produce a great set for the fans. Consider areas like London and Brighton; Manchester and Glasgow and she could enjoy a great reception and find good success. She is one of the most promising acts out there at the moment and I know how hard she works to get her music heard. Right now, as she has a fond following and great sound; taking things that bit further and thinking bigger is essential. I can envisage Elena Ramona being a national artist who will tackle big festivals. 2018 has been a busy year for her and, looking ahead, the doors are opening before her. The fact so many stations and people are reacting to her music means she is striking a chord and doing something right! She is business-minded and very smart; there is that willingness to adapt and bend; she has knowledge of the industry and passion to succeed and remain. All of these ingredients and chemistry means she could create a huge bang and do something sensational. 2019 will be a vital year and one where we might see an album (I feel she is ready) and the young artist travel around the country and get her music to the masses – maybe some foreign dates would be involved.

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Elena Ramona’s latest track comes out of the traps with chatter, vivaciousness and plenty of light. You hear some voices mixed and fast; there is a great sense of confidence and electronic strobing that fuses into the skin and excites you. I was hooked from the off and followed the song closely. The heroine is seduced by a smile and seems to have fallen for someone. Maybe it has been a rather hard road to lust and love but there is someone in her mind that she cannot forget. She is hypnotised and it seems this love is forever – I wonder whether it is a man being looked at or someone from the past; a friend maybe. As you decipher whether romantic passion or loyalty are being looked at; you are attracted to the bass and electronics; you get a mixture of Pop and Disco; some little shades of Rock and Soul melting into one another. Maybe the vocal, at times, is a little low down in the mix – the composition getting more attention than the voice; it can drown some of the words – but it is the way the vocal plays with the music and leads it that is fascinating to see. Elena Ramona can work in any genre and is able to create truly fantastic music. She has that affinity and knowledge that means she can step into 1980s-inspired Pop and make it sound completely natural. Electric Love is that simple celebration of something pure and unadulterated. You get impressions of the weather – a thunder that remains under her beating heart – and a joy from the heroine. Rather than look at love and affection in a small and ordinary way; there is this heightened and dramatic tone that builds images and big visions. You get the sense this romance is heating up and there are some issues lurking underneath. Maybe it has been challenging getting to this point or some obstacles along the way.

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PHOTO CREDIT: @MichaelSweeney

What is obvious is the sense of desire that is working away and how fulfilling this love is. The chorus has that big 1980s hit that pumps and vibrates; it pushes and dances with wide arms and a huge smile. You are caught by the chorus and are taking back in time as you do. The heroine cannot get enough of this electric feeling and does not want to escape the feeling. The listener is sucked into the song and cannot help but move their feet in time to the music. The sunny vibes and energy that comes from the track mean many festival-goers would love to hear it. Electric Love has that outside sensation and openness that could get the crowds singing and bouncing together. There is a whoop and changing electronics; the song mutates and goes through stages as we follow the story. At every interval, there is that fascination and joy that keeps smiles on the faces and the body motivated. It seems like the hero has been on her mind for a long time and this moment is the coming together. Never salacious and explicit; there are tease and tension that creates a palatable rawness. The heroine desires that touch and satisfaction that seems to have been missing from her life. You listen to the song and see that balance of simplicity and complex. The chorus has that charm and catchiness that lodges in the head: the verses explore the story and provide more language and possibilities. When they are brought together, you get a full and intriguing song that we can all take something from. As the weather is hotting and things are getting sweatier; the sunshine and seductiveness you get from Electric Love seem like a perfect soundtrack! It is another accomplished and confident offering from a songwriter who is determined to change the music industry and nestle herself among the very best out there.

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Electric Love is a fantastic offering from a songwriter who continues to evolve and impress. I have mooted the possibility of touring and national recognition. You have to wonder how long it will be until Elena Ramona is being called to the big festivals and has the chance to reach the world. Her music continues to grow and, with every release, she is reaching more people and standing out. I am so pleased for her and know what hard work and commitment she offers music. I am not sure whether an E.P. is due before the end of this year but I am sure there is big demand for more music from her. Let’s continue to back Elena Ramon and share her music as much as we can. I am a big fan of her work and cannot wait to see where she goes next. What strikes me is how varied and changing her music is. She does not stay in one genre and keep things limited. You get a wide and challenging sound that continues to shift and subvert expectations - that is a quality few possess and I feel will get her all the acclaim and success she deserves. The songwriter will keep her head strong and have her visions set on future glory. Electric Love shows she is ready to battle and has all the components to remain for many years to come. A fantastic song that gets right into the brain and stays with you for ages; Electric Love is a stunning thing that one will hear played in Superdrug stores. I am excited for Elena Ramona and wonder what her next move is. Only she knows that but it is true when I say I am not the only one…

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WHO will be watching with great interest!

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Follow Elena Ramona

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TRACK REVIEW: Dan Rawle - Matter of Opinion

TRACK REVIEW:

 

Dan Rawle

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Matter of Opinion

 

9.2/10

 

 

The track, Matter of Opinion, is available via:

https://open.spotify.com/album/6yyiEccw7G3s52xhNBQpaU

GENRES:

Folk; Singer-Songwriter

ORIGIN:

Oxford, U.K.

RELEASE DATE:

3rd June, 2018

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WHEN I look at Dan Rawle

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I get a sense of optimism and revelation I have not experienced in a while. I will talk about his latest track in a moment but, right now, I wanted to address a few things about his music. I want to address emotional subjects in music and pouring your heart out on the page. I will also look back at Folk and Acoustic music and what beauty can be unearthed from the form. I will chat about consistent songwriting and artists who manage to provide warm spirit; a look at overhauling the mainstream and what Rawle can achieve in the future. Let us look at the first point and discuss emotion and how that is brought into songwriting. Dan Rawle is known for a slightly sunnier and upbeat aspect to his songs but now, on Matter of Opinion, there is something a little more inward-looking and emotive at the heart. If we look around music; there are plenty of artists who put their soul onto the page but, in many cases, it comes across as dishonest and forced. I am a bit miffed why some would go to lengths to record songs with such urgency and emotions without showing any authenticity and depth. Rawle is a man who has experienced the same as all of us – lost love and disappointment; wasted days and the need to achieve dreams – but he manages to distinguish himself by showing that honesty and realness. It can be quite hard listening to songs that are open and hard-hitting. Whilst Matter of Opinion looks at experiencing loss and having that spirit and love remaining – trying to keep someone’s memory alive – it has plenty of range and colour that will keep you invested. I hear songwriters who talk about lost relatives or broken love but their words are quite trite and clichéd. With Dan Rawle, he mixes intelligent and thoughtful words with beautiful composition notes and brilliant production.

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One of the reasons I have been featuring more female artists in my review section is a need to step away from a sense of weariness and sameness. I find a lot of male artists are replicating what is out there or they are producing music that does not linger in the mind. I feel we have reached a point where female artists have stepped out in front – and not been given the recognition they deserve – and are providing music that is more interesting. The more compelling male artists of the mainstream are away from Pop and playing in genres like Jazz, R&B and Hip-Hop. There are some unique acts in Pop and Rock but most of them are outside this realm. Female artists tend to have a more adventurous style of music and wide-ranging voice; a passion and soul the men do not. This might sound like a shot at Dan Rawle but it is the opposite: he is one of those songwriters that show there is grace and plenty of style to be found in male artists. Although the mainstream needs to a shake – I will come to this a bit later – Rawle is among the more interesting and personality-rich that is capable of keeping you hooked. I feel a lot of male solo artists suffer is because they are too concerned with heartache and being as explicit as they can. Maybe I have generalised things but I see a definite split that is spilling into the mainstream. Newer artists fare better and they are producing sounds that have a lot more lyrical variation and nuance. Dan Rawle is a songwriter inspired by the likes of The Beatles and Passenger but does not step into commercial territory. I have a very sceptical and wary sense of adventure when it comes to mainstream Pop/Folk and how credible the music is. Rawle is much more credible and strong than most artists out there because he can write about his life and experiences without causing depression and seeming false.

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I will come back to that subject a bit in the conclusion but will move on to Folk and Acoustic music. Yesterday, when assessing IAKO, I looked at an artist in the same genre as Dan Rawle. His sound was closer in tone and flavour to James Blake – it has Electronic elements and was more energised and choral. Now, with Rawle, we have someone who takes from the roots of Folk. His music mixes in Pop sunniness but there is that acoustic guitar-based sound that reminds one of older artists. I have been investing a lot more time in Folk because of a need for music that seems to understand me and what I am going through. That sounds strange but I am at a point where I need to bond with emotional sounds and bare-naked songs; a chance to feel a little vulnerable but bond with sounds that I can relate to. I have been listening to a lot of Joni Mitchell’s Blue and wondering why we have seen very few similar albums since 1971. A lot of modern artists write about the ups and downs of life but I have heard nothing as striking as Blue. If modern-day artists like This Is the Kit and Laura Marling have the same vocal elements as Mitchell; their music is different in terms of its poetry and potency. Although Dan Rawle writes about different areas of life (to Mitchell); I get the sense he included her in his rotation and takes guidance from her. I have been yearning for a modern-day Blue that exposes scars and is as stunning and revelatory as that record. Whilst Rawle might not have gone through the same experienced as Joni Mitchell did in the late-1960s/early-1970s; I feel he has encountered hard times and broken love that would lend itself to Mitchell-esque music. I feel he has the potential to be a fine a lyricist and wants to connect with the listener in a profound way. His music is exceptional and memorable and will stand the test of time.

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What I am seeing with modern music is a proffering of genres like Pop and not a lot of attention paid to Folk artists. I wonder whether we still look for artists that have endless energy and can make us dance; those who can bring fizz and slam. Maybe the days of Folk’s dominance has passed but I wonder why have such a restricted view when it comes to the genre. Maybe tastes are changing or the average listener wants music that moves the body or they do not have to think too heavily about. It is a shame there is a lack of respect for various styles of music but, with artists like Dan Rawle splicing in Pop tones, there is a chance Folk and Acoustic sounds can make a bigger impact in the mainstream. Rawle is someone who writes about what he is going through and has that vocal prowess. I feel a lot of modern artists lack any real power and prowess when it comes to the voice. Rawle’s vocals bring the music to life and show so much wonder and brilliance. You get soul and passion together with tenderness and emotion. It is a complicated blend that pricks the ears and gets the heart involved. Couple this with lyrics that are in turns touching and original and you have an artist that stands away from easy labelling and prediction. Matter of Opinion deals with some tough and sad avenues but it is not delivered in a manner that would make you feel cold and overwrought. There is, as I said, always a lightness and sense of the accessible when it comes to Rawle. All of these ingredients mixed together makes for an artist that has the tools for success and longevity. There are other reasons why Dan Rawle can go a long way and make an impact in the scene. Every new release we hear from him seems to improve on the last and show new aspects of his songwriting.

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It is that consistent that gets to me. It’ll All Come One Day, his E.P. released last year, was met with positive reception and won Rawle a lot of fresh fans. Whilst the core of his music has not shifted and there is that reliable central sound; you get something new and unexpected with Matter of Opinion. A lot of artists tend to make radical shifts between releases and lose what made them special in the first place. Others do well for a couple of albums and fade when it comes to further material. It is good finding an artist who can appeal and hook you to start but then, down the line, that magic can fade. Although Rawle is still pretty new; I hear that consistency that will not disappear anytime soon. He is a solid songwriter who has happened upon a great sound and will not abandon that at all. Rawle has been playing for years and honed his skills. The Oxford-based songwriter has worked the local scene and gained reaction and feedback from the stage. Growing up around artists like The Beatles and tuning his ears to what is happening in modern music; he has stirred all of this together and come up with something that is distinctly him. The reason why his songs are constantly engaging and strong is the passion and determination he has to succeed. Rawle want to take his music to the masses and has found his calling. Many songwriters are trying to be commercial or too afraid to attempt anything new and striking. You get, with Rawle, someone who can keep solid and dependable but add and layer his music. Right now, you get that acoustic bliss coupled with personal lyrics and a pleasing aura. I mentioned Joni Mitchell as a guide, I feel, most songwriters should adhere to. Her music is the template of what Folk music should be and I think it resonates in Rawle’s eyes.

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Some would say that, if Rawle wanted to get Blue, then that would involve a bit more cloud and rain. The songwriter is known for getting the spirits elevated and bringing us music that shines and glistens. His latest cut has some darker and sadder aspects but still manages to keep its smile and movement. Maybe that is the best thing about Dan Rawle: he is able to give us songs that can connect with everyone but does not have to get too heavy-handed and teary. A lot of musicians I encounter feel pressured by big labels or what they think people want. Because of that, they are caught in two minds between doing what feels real and natural and what the market desires. It is hard for modern musicians but that does not mean you will alienate listeners if you release music that means a lot to you. This is what we get with Dan Rawle. There are a lot of modern songwriters who have talent and can go quite far in the industry. I think Rawle has the promise and variation to do a lot of good in music and make his way to the top. We need to embrace artists that have something real to say and can keep your mind invested. I like modern Pop and Rock bands but there is not enough variation at the top for my liking. Let us move onto a new subject but it is great investigating all the sides to Rawle’s music and what he is all about. I wonder what he will come up with next and whether there will be another E.P. – I will investigate that in the conclusion. I have alluded to what is happening at the very top of music and why we need to change things up a bit. There is a staleness coming through and a lot of the best artists are not receiving their due.

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One could easily look at Acoustic and Folk and think of Ed Sheeran. He has his fanbase and crowd but, to me, there are too many new songwriters trying to be him. That is understandable if you want to follow his path but I feel there are few merits that come to mind. There are some great Pop/Acoustic artists but there are far too many out there who lack a sense of interest and personality – too eager to follow in Sheeran’s footsteps and get to play big stadiums. That may sound like a shot at Sheeran but I feel we are highlighting and elevating artists who can sell venues out and bring in the streaming figures – rather than those who can genuinely shape music and inspire future generations. The mainstream is, or should, be there to promote the finest artists around. I feel things are getting more and more about appealing to a narrow demographic and emphasising the wrong elements. Rather than encourage the most daring and brave to come through; we have this scene that is quite timid and commercial. Maybe that has always been the way but I’d like to think we can do better and make some real improvements. Dan Rawle is someone I would like to see higher up the ladder and has more substance and appeal than a lot of artists who are turning heads right now. It is difficult deciding which musicians are worthy and those who can make lasting impressions. Look at songs like Matter of Opinion and you have a sound that could easily capture those who love what the mainstream is putting out: those who like their music more credible and original will find much to love and react to it. That is what I mean when I say we need to retune the mainstream: artists being given the biggest props are not really remaining in the memory and doing anything spectacular.

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Perhaps I am sounding bitter and not really given people a chance. It is a strange time for music and I believe we still need to make some changes and push things forward. I know Dan Rawle can remain for many years and it will be good to see what direction he takes. There is a great support behind him and he has captured something great in his music. You get an artist who has grown up around some terrific music and assimilated that into what he does. I know he has played hard and put his music out to the locals. He has gone further afield and is determined to get to as much of the nation as he can. All of this experience and exposure will elevate his standing and get his music to more ears. He is working hard on social media and perhaps there are other avenues that could be explored. I am not sure if there is an official Twitter account but I know there are a lot of potential contacts and fans there. It would be a great way to get to radio stations quickly and have your tunes spun by the very biggest influencers out there. By the same token; maybe a more regular video series or a look into his songwriting process would push the music into new directions. I am not sure whether Matter of Opinion will get an official video but I feel that is a good way of teasing in new people and showing a visual side to his music. Rawle has the promise and songwriting talent to go as far as he needs and is building his foundations as we speak. There are enough great songwriters out there but I think the more commercial – those who appeal to a teenage demographic – are getting undue prominence. Let us break this mould and look at musicians who are able to deliver solid gold and more interesting music.

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Whilst the weather is a little mixed and today will not be an overly-sunny one; I am listening to music and looking for an escape. The opening notes of Matter of Opinion are gentle and soothing. If you did not see the single’s cover art – it shows a young Rawle on the shoulders of, what looks like his dad (I could not find a good-sized image to include here – then you might think the track had romantic and love-based origins. I guess the song can be taken that way but it seems, as the lyrics unfold, someone special has been lost and memories have been treasured. Our man walks along and is incorporating aspects of the departed in what he does. I am cheating a bit because I have interviewed Dan Rawle and know the song is about his dad who he lost to cancer when he was five – that was twenty-five years ago. He did not want to be too soppy about the subject but wanted to write a song that paid tribute to the man and how much he means. Today is an especially emotional day as it is Father’s Day and he will be thinking about his dad. Rawle was young when his dad died but he would have learnt a lot from him and has him in his blood. Those lessons he taught and the interaction they had was special and pure. The fact he is not around anymore does not matter: his dad is with him everywhere and his legacy remains strong. The song’s chorus/title relates to the opinion as to whether he is gone or not. His dad is not physically with us but that does not mean to say he has been forgotten. The hero remembers what he has been taught and is the embodiment of his dad. Because of the emotion coming through in the song; I was expecting something quite depressed and closed-off. Instead, we have a song that lets the listener in and casts images of Rawle’s dad.

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Maybe an early strings section might have heightened the mood and given the song extra emotion and potency – perhaps some piano would have also helped. I feel Rawle would have considered this but wanted to keep things quite sparse and basic. Rather than crowd the song and take away from the vocal; Matter of Opinion is more of a sermon and conversation between Dan Rawle and his dad. You do not want too many elements in there that can distract the mind from the core and root of the song. Rawle’s voice remains solid and unbroken throughout – which is a hard feat – and you get a lot of dignity and respect coming out. Those stings do come in but, when they do, never intrude or come in too hard. What we get is a brilliant combination of that vocal and some delicate, stirring string. I was involved in the song from beginning to end and picturing scenes of Rawle and his father. I am not sure whether there will be more songs from Rawle concerning his dad but I feel his memory and impact goes into everything he does. Rawle believes his dad is still here and everywhere around him. So long as he keeps his memory alive and thinks about him; can we ever say someone has truly left us?! It is an impactful song and one that means a lot to the hero. Matter of Opinion will get people moved and make them think about loved ones they have lost. It would be easy to be overly-saccharine or teary but that is never the case here. Rawle always keeps his nerve and does not sonically weep. He has dealt with the loss and is not looking for sympathy from the listener. What we are hearing is a loving tribute to a great father and someone who has made a big impression in Rawle’s life – even though he has been gone for a long time. Matter of Opinion is a fantastic song that will take a few listeners to sink in. It is a song that has that emotional weight and quite difficult to absorb the first time around. You might need a few swings around but, when you give it time and more attention; all of the strands and aspects come together and sink in the head. It is a great offering from Dan Rawle and proof he is a songwriter that deserves more acclaim and opportunity. The more material he puts out, the more ears will come his way. I know he will travel far in the music industry and it cannot be too long before he is playing some rather prominent festivals. Matter of Opinion is a song that can resonate with the masses but has that credibility and sense of depth that seems to be missing from a lot of modern music. Let us hope radio stations and labels get behind Daw Rawle and get behind his music.

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I have spoken a lot about Dan Rawle and various dimensions of his craft. There is a long way to go but I can hear the consistency and how strong his music is. He played Woodstock Social Club (Oxford) on Friday and is planning more gigs this year. Festivals are coming up and, whilst the competition is hot; we have someone who can easily pack the people in and deliver a great set. Rawle is playing a lot of gigs around Oxford but I feel there is a broad market that would love to see his music come their way. I wonder whether there are any London gigs or he is travelling further to the north. I guess demand comes when you push your music and people start responding. Matter of Opinion is getting a lot of heat and it cannot be too long before the talented young songwriter is getting his rewards. Maybe it will take another E.P. before he gets huge gigs but you feel it has to happen. I have not asked whether the new single will lead to an E.P. but one feels there is something just around the corner. Keep your eyes on his social media camp and discover what is going on right now. I predict some good things for him and, before you know it, he will transcended beyond the Folk clubs and local joints to play bigger venues around the nation. I think we often put Folk and Acoustic artists in boxes and assume they can only play venues set up for them. Rawle shows there is a lot more to his music than meets the eye and it is capable of capturing the wider imagination. He brings a lot of emotion and personal experience to his music but pairs it with a sunniness and energy that keeps the listener involved and smiling. That is a hard act to pull off and respect to him for doing that. I will leave things now but wanted to recommend people give Rawle a good listen and, if the music appeals, put it out there and spread the word. These are good times for Rawle and, if anything, the next year will be even stronger than the one he has just gone through. The man has solid material under his belt and a great local standing. Looking ahead, I feel he can move and shake with the best out there and prove himself to be a terrific future star. Matter of Opinion is a song that is striking a chord and, in my opinion (sorry!), there is no denying the clout and potential…

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OF Dan Rawle.  

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Follow Dan Rawle

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TRACK REVIEW: IAKO - Paint

TRACK REVIEW:

 

IAKO

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Paint

 

9.6/10

 

The track, Paint, is available via:

https://soundcloud.com/iakomusic/paint-1

GENRES:

Folk; Singer-Songwriter

ORIGIN:

London, U.K.

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The E.P., Queen of Balance, is available via:

https://open.spotify.com/album/2apqA5PlUkepn0frmALnNk

RELEASE DATE:

25th May, 2018

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I have been given the chance….

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to explore an artist who has stuck in my mind and made my heart race and conspire. I will talk about the solo songwriter and how new revelation and light continues to be explored. When it comes to IAKO; I wanted to look at the soundscapes one can produce and balancing quiet and loud; lyrical themes that are melodramatic but realistic. There are contrasts to look out for – so I will address them. I will look at unique life experiences and how they explore music; deconstructing works to get to the root of them; artists who have more to offer than simple songwriting and the cliché – I will end by looking at cross-pollinating cultures and music that has a gentleness to it. Looking at IAKO and he seems like the sort of man who might produce something Electronic and Pop-based. That sounds judgmental and stereotyping but there is something about the young man’s appearance that suggests that sort of music. That might be me getting all narrow and seeing too much – people who look like IAKO who play that sort of music – but it is pleasing discovering an artist who goes deeper and delivers so much more. I will talk about Folk edges and something softer later but, right now, let’s look at the way the British-based artist looks at dynamics. IAKO mixes the frantic and frenetic pace of life in London, where he is now, and the space and beauty of Venice (where he is from). The production is stunning whereby you get an interaction between the quiet and loud. He paints soundscapes and has a canny ear for balance and texture. Not only does IAKO write the songs and present to the people; the composition and production are so detailed and create their own little universe. What gets to me is the constant movement and how everything is physical and engrossing. You get a real view into the songs and are involved in each and every step. The artist knows a simple and uneducated production would not give the music the same depth and wonder it deserves.

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What we get, indeed, is music that draws those close and tender aspects of life with the city-exploring and vast. Every note is put together supremely and this is a really personal and inspiring form of music. I want to talk about the songwriter’s transition – you get a great sense of where he came from and what he is all about. The man explores those gaps between notes and the huge divisions in music. A lot of artists are good at producing raw and energised songs: others are better when it comes to the serene and quiet. IAKO is someone who can interlock and weave those polemics into a song and not have things lose control. What I also love is the way the songs sound unique and new. A lot of artists sound like someone else and it is rather hard to distinguish from the pack. IAKO does not want to copy the pack and creates his own style and sense of personality. You get that care and attention regarding composition and sound; there are detailed and interesting stories that get into the heart and provoke thought. Paint, which I shall come to, looks at relationships and a sort of ‘end of the world’ as we know it. The song’s title is fitting: the songwriter has his canvas out there and paints brushstrokes of vivid colour and expression. That might all sound a bit pretentious and silly but there is something to be said for the sounds one gets through and how brilliantly everything is realised. I will move on from this topic but it is interesting looking at the young man work and how his music comes together. He works hard to get everything right and ensure the sounds are as spellbinding and addicting as possible. If you have not encountered his music and dived into his world of sound; ensure you get involved with the Queen of Balance E.P. and realise why so many people are so excited. I am a bit late to the reviewing party but I was keen to investigate IAKO’s work and what it is all about.

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I listen to Paint – and songs on the E.P. – and there is that fusion of realistic and exaggerated. The song investigates a relationship after the end of the world. That could mean the ‘world’ as the personal and romantic. It could mean a literal ending and extinction. The song is never too hot and accelerated: the vocals are whispered and you are sucked into a brilliant story that gets into the brain and stays in the head. IAKO is like many songwriters; the need to explore the personal and romantic and resonate with the general public. If you write songs that are too oblique and strange then you are not going to get people involved. I have been looking around for musicians who write from a common perspective but can integrate new and unusual elements into the work. I am a big fan of those who are able to strike a familiar note but offer the listener so much more. IAKO has studied the market and, rather than conform with expectations and demographics; he realises what the listener wants from music and puts his personal spin on it. Someone who has such a grip on sonics and sound textures; a man who can balance extremes and make them work – this all comes through in his music. The lyrics are sharp and interesting and, as I said, look at something personal. There is nothing to suggest IAKO cannot go onto great things and make some changes in music. There are similar-minded artists like him out there who are getting some serious love and creating big waves. What I do expect to see if more material from the songwriter and further investigation of sound and lyrical possibilities. I have seen so many songwriters whose lyrics are full of tropes and really do not go beyond the average. It is a shame so many artists are being timid and unadventurous when it comes to words.

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The reason IAKO sticks in my memory is down to his way with words and how they tangle with sound. Rather than compose a song and have the words sit separate, you get music that pulls everything tenderly together and leads to something wonderful. Those words relate and connect with everyone but there are phrases and expressions that are new and unexpected. It is a real listening experience and everyone is touched in a different way. I have not heard a lot of IAKO’s previous music but am compelled to check him out and follow his plight. There are a lot of songwriters out there but he seems to stand out and is venturing into fresh territory. Those contrasts and extremes are what makes his music so engrossing. I will use these words – ‘extreme’ and ‘engrossing’ – but that seems to hit the mark. You are sucked into a wonderful world that carries you a long and gets you thinking. If he were to write in rather average terms – looking at love and life like everyone else – then you would not be too moved and involved. I will shift to another subject but it is interesting seeing where IAKO has come from and what he is writing about. There were occasions, when he was growing up in Venice, where he had to be rescued from canals by his mother. There are plenty of them around so one can forgive the odd slip and fall. It seems there was a fascination to water and the beauty of the city. The young IAKO would go exploring and wanted to get closer to his surroundings. That tangible connection was, perhaps, a little too much but his mother was there to save him. The young man has retained that intrigue when it comes to canals and the natural world. There is more to IAKO than a few childhood experiences and being saved from the brink.

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Literature and philosophy come into his work. Greek and Roman works are important and the talented artist borrows semblance and words from the masters. He has that interest when it comes to old-world figures and how life was back then. As such, one gets a new songwriter whose mind and spirit is bonded by what came before. I am not suggesting he lives back then and is trying to cast himself as a Roman writer. You do get a sophistication and classical mind in the music, though. I love how IAKO can mix the urgent and modern with something from long ago. He is great at those world fusions and drawing disparate plains into a whole. IAKO is still young but he has experienced movement and change. All of these details and colours come through in the music. It has been a life lived well and one that relies on a curious mind and determination. IAKO did not find a viable route into music until the age of nineteen – he has been making up for it since! You feel music was always part of his life and engaged his brain from childhood. I was struck by music around the age of six or seven and have followed it ever since. I am one of those people who remembers when and how music arrived and the sort of artists I fell for back then. I assume IAKO is the same when it comes to those early memories. I can imagine there was a blend of local and national artists together with the best of the U.K. and U.S. Given his love of literature and culture; you have that sophisticated edge – that is paired with an accessible and relatable sound that we will all be familiar with. Folk artists such as Lisa Hannigan and James Vincent McMorrow come through; you get touches of Erik Satie and Yann Tiersen in there. Mixing the modern wonders with established icons is a hard balance to pull off. The man is all about balance and has made a career out of unifying disconnection and creating a fresh and extraordinary world.

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Before I come to look at the music itself; I want to address a couple more things. I am interested in music that is made up of so many different strands and ideas. Yesterday, on BBC Four, I was watching a classic album series that featured Graceland as its subject. This documentary was filmed in 1987 and interviewed Paul Simon and the artists involved in that record. It was fascinating seeing Simon play various parts of songs and explaining his lyrics. Tracks like Graceland and The Boy in the Bubble were taken apart and explained. He was in the studio and fading various tracks down. He would isolate the bass or a drum part; he would chat about Ladysmith Black Mambazo and how they managed to add their magic to the album. Various members of the group explained their role and it was great seeing how the songs came together. The reason I mention this is down to IAKO and how he approaches recording. You get the sense he puts as much of himself into the music as Paul Simon did back then. Rather than farm his songs to someone else to control them and add their print; the songwriter is curious to know how various elements can sound better and what the song means. Simon, in the documentary, looked at songs changing form and slaved over details to get a sound that was perfect. Modern songwriting is something we associate with quick turnaround and speed. We do not consider artists locked in a studio and spending a lot of time over the material. That might be true in some quarters but there are plenty who put effort and serious time into their work. IAKO has that tactile fascination with the natural world and history; he loves to explore and is interested in the human condition and psychology. One would expect a man, who has all this on his side, to be involved with every process and angle of recording.

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IAKO does not sit back and provide minimal interaction. The man knows what his music will sound like and, whilst not as busy and layered as stuff on Graceland; you do get real attention to detail and phenomenal results. It would be good to see IAKO pull apart tracks and explain how the music came together. It is the lyrics that get to me and I wonder how they started life. We do not often question and study music these days – because there is so much rushing to the mind – but there are occasions where songs and artists warrant more time and focus. It is a great experience watching an IAKO song form and how it gets into the senses. I can imagine he would sit at home and gradually build a work. Starting with a germ of an idea; that would then grow and mutate as we go along. Whether inspired by an observation or favourite literary work…from there, we see the song flourish and get stronger. I want to go back to the start, with artists, and discover where songs come from. When I interview people, I always ask what the story is behind their material. IAKO is one of those people who has already led a vivid and rich life – he is entering a new phase and about to step into a whole new world. His fan numbers are growing and it seems more and more traction is being created. I am a new fan but can see how he has grown and the evolution visible. If you feel IAKO is rather ordinary and easy to understand then you are not listening to the music closely enough! He brings together his young life in Italy and what he saw around him with the bustle of London and how things have changed.

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I will tip my hat to Italy and how he manages to retain some of home and that world with the modern-day sound of London. A lot of artists try to stretch their music and put as much detail into the work as they can. They may have lived in various countries and want to bring that in through the music. It is good to see that happen but many of them fail to create anything long-lasting and new. With IAKO, you have this man who has grown up around culture and taken it all in. He has had these close-call experiences (in canals) but involved himself with art and great works of literature. Then, when music became a big part of his life, he has come to the U.K. and followed that passion. I am sure there were times when he was doubting his career choice and did not think he would make it. You get a man who is always pushing boundaries and keen to step into new ground. Because he has had these experiences and learned a lot through time; he has managed to bring this to the music and explain to the listener where he has come from and where he is headed. The ambition comes through and one can hear how much music means to IAKO. It is not about sounding like everyone else and going into music because there is nothing better to do. You get real passion and defiance in every track. Even if the music is whispered and low-sung; you can hear and feel the intensity and meaning of the songs. I am a fan of Folk and the new artists coming out right now. We often overlook singer-songwriters and what they are all about. Assuming it will be rather bland and stale; we move past and go elsewhere. That is wrong because, as IAKO shows, there is a lot to be taken away and adored. So much emotion, richness and life come through in the music. You get depth and nuances we would not see in other forms of music. Let us leave it there – I hope I have covered enough ground – and look at the fantastic single, Paint.

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Paint is a song that has been out a little bit and collected some passionate reviews and words. The song comes up lightly and there is a tender and sunlit mood that comes in. Projecting images of passion and touching realisations; the opening moments are gentle and get under the skin. There are touches of Bon Iver when you hear the vocal comes in. That same way of expressing words and projecting mood – you get that coming through with IAKO. The lovers, it seems, found room on a flame. There has been some confrontation and heat coming into the scene; they have struggled to find common understanding and it seems the sweetheart need some space. Our hero looks around and wonders what has happened. The words are teased out and you get such passion and tenderness emerging. I mention Bon Iver, not as an easy name and an insult, but as a genuine compliment. IAKO does not copy the U.S. songwriter but, instead, incorporates some of his vocal sound and songwriter into his world. I am a fan of those artists who can take time and let a song breathe. Although there is tension and something fractured coming along; there is immense beauty and sense of understanding. There are few angers and recriminations coming out in the lyrics. The songwriter keeps his language tight and interesting throughout. There are relatable strands and expressions that are new and stunning. IAKO has a way with words and ensures the maximum amount of wonder and brilliance is uncovered. You can hear how much heartache has come in and how things have worked out. There are no colours anymore, it seems, and one can feel the sadness come through. IAKO has a beautiful voice and create something sumptuous and graceful in Paint. You are involved every stage of the world and feel sympathy for the man. The vocals flow and soothe; the composition remains light but manages to elicit serenity, hardship and moonlight in equal measures. We do not know who the other party is but assume there is no way back and things have reached the end.

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As Paint continues and goes through stages; you wonder whether things can be salvaged and there is time for things to heal. The composition rises and then falls. The heroine is painting scenes as she wishes but the heart of our man belongs to her. Things go forward and percussion and piano gallop. Grey butterflies are in the sky and there is that need for the heroine to close her eyes and have faith. The rain beats down and there is that sense that there are two people on different plains. All the colours they used to see have dried and has been replaced by something empty and faded. It is a heart-aching song that instantly gets into the mind and inspired thoughts. You swim in the song and see everything that is happening. I was stunned by the professionalism and immediacy of the song. It is a luscious, full and emphatic work that has so many different layers building and working alongside one another. The composition is wondrous and dexterous. The lyrics look at faith being given by the hero but the heroine not willing to reciprocate. The emotion and sense of strain that comes towards the end leaves one believing things might not see the light of day. They have had their moment and maybe it is best leaving it as things are. You are hooked by the full and changeable composition that projects so many scenes and emotions. What I was saying earlier, about quiet-loud and mixing polar worlds, seems to come to life right through Paint. The song begins softly and then builds into a rapturous and grand thing! The lyrics are stunning and you wonder whether our man is able to get over what has happened. I am one who believes songwriting is cathartic and you can move on. Whatever inspired Paint and its movements mean a lot and still shows its scars. You can relate to what is being said in the song but realise the words come from a man who has seen a lot and given his all.

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Let us look at Queen of Balance and the reception it is getting right now. Many sources are excited by this work and celebrating IAKO. I have not had time to review all of the tracks but I would urge people to get behind them all and dive into this extraordinary collection. It seems odd to think there are some who would not give IAKO much time and feel the music lacks any heart. What you get, and what people are saying, is the emotion and textures that go into the music. It is a hugely impressive work and one that resonates with everyone. You cannot listen to songs on Queen of Balance and be unmoved. I realise how much attention and energy was expended by the young songwriter. He wanted to create a work that touched lives and explained where he came from and what he is all about – that has been achieved and the results are fantastic. I wonder whether there will be touring dates and new movements from IAKO. Keep an eye on his social media pages and keep updated with all of his movements. You can guarantee there will be a lot more to come from him and serious love thrown his way. People are responding to his latest E.P. and the music is making its way around the world. The London-based artist is hungry and excited to get his music out to people. Rather than remain passive and let people do the heavy lifting; he is promoting hard and ready for the next stage. IAKO has a lot more to come and is keen to explore the full spectrum of music. He has come a long way in a short time and created his own little world. I am keen to see where IAKO can go and what he comes up with next. Paint is a great song and one that announced a promising and unique songwriter into the world. Surrender to IAKO and let yourself into his sea of music. It is warm and enticing water and, when you are in, you will be reluctant to get out anytime soon! 2018 has been a busy and good year for him but, looking to 2019, and I predict…

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EVEN bigger and brighter things!

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Follow IAKO

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TRACK REVIEW: SIIGHTS - GOT IT

TRACK REVIEW:

 

SIIGHTS

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GOT IT

 

9.5/10

 

 

The track, GOT IT, is available via:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rfVaqgn6Xko&feature=youtu.be

RELEASE DATE:

8th June, 2018

GENRES:

Pop; Funk; Alternative

ORIGIN:

U.K., EIRE

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THIS time around...

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I have been looking at the new single from SIIGHTS. This is not the first time I have assessed the fantastic duo – it is great to be with them again and see how they have progressed. Mia Fitz is from Ireland and Toni Etherson is from Scotland. They are based in the U.K. but spend time in the U.S. I wanted to talk about internationality and spending creative time in the U.S. I will also look at female duos and why, I feel, they have the chance to make huge changes; creating a sound that is indelible and announces the summer; having a chemistry and connection that translates into the music/studio; a bit about fanbase and gaining acclaim – I will end by looking at the future for SIIGHTS and where they might head. First of all, I want to look at the U.S. and why it is a draw for many musicians. SIIGHTS have spent time recording and playing in America and, for my money, incorporate some of that U.S. sound into their own music. Although there is Irish and Scottish blood in the duo; when you look at the music, there is a nod to what is happening in America right now. I have only been to the country once but I know there is a different scene there and Pop/Alternative music has a different sound. What strikes me about SIIGHTS is how they have that British base and grounding but splice in some elements of Los Angeles and the energy coming from there. Fitz and Etherson are talented songwriters who have grown up around a lot of varied and interesting sounds. They pick guidance from all sorts of areas and, in terms of the overall effect, it is exciting and deep. I mention the U.S. because the girls have performed there and spent time writing among some great people. I think they have a definite future there.

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I am not suggesting the duo move over there and remain but there is a definite chance they will succeed and find long-term love in America. There is a lot of affection here, as I will explain, but America is a market many struggle to create. I listen to the duo’s new single, GOT IT, and can hear that beautiful mix of sunny climate and a tough, solid sensation. I will reveal more but, before I address a new theme, it is worth looking at America and why it is such a draw. I have seen artists go to the country in order to find new opportunities and speak with record labels/venues there. It does not indicate a struggle here but, if you are an ambitious musician, it is only natural America would come calling. For SIIGHTS, they seem to have a connection with the nation and able to easily blend in there. If L.A. seems like a natural residence for them; look over to New York and the East Coast and what is happening there. I feel SIIGHTS could get a great reception here and grow their fanbase even more. It is hard breaking America and there is so much competition wherever you go. Whilst they might take a few years to get onto the biggest stages; there are some great, similar-minded duos playing in the U.S. that could offer them support slots. Whatever they have planned, I know they will be back in America and exploring what is going down. I hear the vibrancy and sweat of Los Angeles but there is a lot more working away in GOT IT. Fitz and Etherson are a tight and mesmeric force that is determined to get their songs heard right around the world. I have high hopes they will succeed and get some big international acclaim. Let us move on and explore a new subject.

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The issue of sexism and gender imbalance always comes up and deserves debate. I am someone who takes the time to view music as a spectrum and equal market. There is nothing to suggest we cannot get parity and equality very soon – right now, female artists are struggling to get the same attention as men. That is, as I always say, the fault of men themselves. Maybe it is the same people in high positions being ignorant but, to me, there is that reliance and obsession with the band market – a corner of music that is nowhere near as strong and commercial as it once was. Duos have always been in music but, if you had to name your favourite five, would you be able to do that?! Most of us grew up around bands and solo artists but, lately, different configurations have played a bigger role. Duos are starting to take some of the weight away from bands and show how powerful they are. SIIGHTS intrigue me as they are a female duo that differs to anything out there. I have reviewed a few female duos, including REWS, and there is a lot to suggest they will take on the music industry and become a huge success. Whilst I feel the balance of men and women will take a bit to redress; female duos are a fascinating dynamic that, I feel, will be headlining the biggest festivals before too long. SIIGHTS are not the same as REWS, for instance: they are more concerned with heavier Rock and sound a little like Royal Blood. SIIGHTS have jagged edges but they are a more Pop-influenced and melodic proposition. In any case, one cannot easily define the female duo and what they are all about. I think bands are struggling for momentum and not as quality-driven and original as once was. Look back at the 1990s, for instance, and it was a time when bands ruled the land and were saying what needed to be said.

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We are in a time where political and social divisions are rife and that need for commentary and guidance is high. Bands are struggling to do this – or the ones who are important are not given enough chance to shine in the mainstream – but there is something to be said of duos like SIIGHTS who are providing inspiration and a sense of relief. I am seeing so much vague and empty Pop music that packs a punch but does not really resonate and remain. In the case of Mia Fitz and Toni Etherson; they manage to provide sensational music with lyrics that strike the mind. There isn’t the needless wastage you get with bands – too many players or people fighting for leadership – and there something you do not get from the solo artists. I like male duos coming through but I think their female counterparts are far stronger. I say this because, in terms of sounds and style, there is a lot more on offer. It is the chemistry and closeness you get with SIIGHTS, I will look at soon, and the fact they share a love of the same music that means what they produce is so natural and long-lasting. You get all the personality and commercial draw you’d get with a great Pop solo artist but there is the attack, passion and force one might find in a band. I feel the issue of gender split will be a complex and tough one to resolve anytime soon: the fact we are seeing so many great female artists means people cannot ignore what is happening and why we need to see equality very soon. Let us consider how SIIGHTS came together and why they are such a tight and compelling unit. You only need to look at their latest track to realise they are going on to big things and ready to shake up the music scene.

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You only need to look at the music of SIIGHTS to realise they are committed to what they do and keen to explore what Pop offers. Although their music is not solely Pop-based; you do get that vivacious and uplifting sound one associates with the genre. There are Alternative and Indie strikes that makes their sounds so illuminating and complex. It is no surprise Etherson and Fitz have that knowledge and confidence in their music as they spent a lot of time in the Hollywood Hills writing songs for other artists. The duo formed in 2016 and that is how they spent their early life: writing tunes for other musicians and getting a feel about the scene. That might not sound ideal and all that good but, when you look at the complexities and variations in their music; that sort of ambition can only come from writers who have had that start – discovering other artists’ music and what the scene is looking for. Take all that aside and it is the chemistry and friendship of the pair that makes their music addictive. Maybe male duos have a different bond but, for female duos, it is much more sisterly and soulful. I see it in REWS – Shauna Tohill and Collette Williams are so close and connected – and one can pick that up in SIIGHTS. Both Etherson and Fitz have that desire to make great music and they are on the same page. There is no natural standout, in terms of a leader of the duo, and they have that respect for one another. A true love and understanding of one another is hard to find in music: SIIGHTS have this and pour it into every song they create. I feel one of the reasons the best artists remain together is friendship and a trust in one another. Even when times get tough and there are those disagreements; they are willing to spend time apart and reflect; come back together even stronger than before.

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I know SIIGHTS will be successful because their two members have a rock-solid fusion and they have so much respect for each other. It is great to see in music and is why duos are so appealing to me. You can exist in a band and have members that dislike one another. We have solo artists but it is quite lonely and can be a struggle. Duos are tighter and cannot exist if the members do not get along. Great music comes from connection and a passion for what you do. If there are tensions and cracks in the foundations then that will show in the music. SIIGHTS are pushing on and always keen to explore new ground. Not only is there no end in sight but there is that desire to conquer and play some of the biggest stages in the world. It is hard launching a single, regardless of talent, and getting it spread and shared. The duo writes all the songs and play instruments in the studio. They are keen not to farm out duties to too many others and want to have their say. That control and sense of identity comes through in GOT IT and, I know, will go on to be a big stormer. It has a readymade sound for the summer and proof SIIGHTS are to be taken very seriously. I have spoken about duos and why they are a great unit; I have looked at Fitz and Etherson of SIIGHTS and why they are so connected. Another reason why SIIGHTS are engaging is because they create music that sounds unlike anything out there. There are, sure, some Pop edges and something that might remind you of someone else – for the most part, you get unique and original intent. I have speculated how SIIGHTS’ sound summons summer and has that sweat-inducing quality.

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The weather is, I guess, improving, and we are all want the heat and sunshine to come. It is almost here and, with that, artists are stretching and limbering to attack festivals. I think most of them are already booked but, in the case of SIIGHTS, there will be plenty of opportunities for them. They have that instant and popular sound people want to see in the open. I have listened to GOT IT a lot and, whilst there is emotion and a seriousness working away; you hear the composition and vocals and it gets the body moving and spirits flowing. I love music that goes deep and has a personal sense of emotion but long for music that can form some sense of escape and frivolity. What SIIGHTS have done is produce a song that has a universal message and can be understood by everyone but has a sense of fun that means it will prove popular in the live setting. I am excited to see where SIIGHTS head and what their next move is. The confidence and quality of their latest single sound so effortless. I know the duo works hard but they have been songwriting for years and know what they are doing. To me, GOT IT is the most urgent and alluring song they have ever created. They are in a different phase of their career and have transcended from the local stages and want to take on the world. Because of that, they need to produce a song that can survive in the world and cross language barriers. Listen to the power coming from their single and how it gets into the blood and you know it will get a lot of love from radio stations and fans across the globe. Maybe summer festivals have been overlooked – organisers have a full diary – but SIIGHTS will be tackling venues and spaces and taking their music to the masses. I have seen many artists attempt to write something summer-ready and anthemic – some succeed but there are plenty of weak attempts. SIIGHTS have created a gem that is stronger than most of the material out there and marks them out for great things.

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Before I review GOT IT, I will look at how Mia Fitz and Toni Etherson have grown and been taken to the critical bosom. Tastemakers such as Greg James (BBC Radio 1) have backed their music and radio stations have played their music. Working in the U.S., they have plenty of support and visibility there – this combination and transatlantic appeal means they are in a much better position than most of their peers. The fact they have a big backing and on the rise suggests their talent and hunger is in no end of drying up. The duo is always keen to get to new fans and put their all into the music. The music of SIIGHTS has garnered a lot of love in Ireland and has done brilliantly in Scotland; the streaming figures speak for themselves and it seems that life in the SIIGHTS camp is very promising. I know the duo are in the same position as everyone else out there – they have to fight hard and success is not going to come overnight – but the combination of original sounds, experience and close connection makes me feel they will not have to wait too long. Stations like BBC Radio 1 have already backed their music and so, when it comes to new release, they do not have to create awareness. There are other stations out there that, perhaps, have not yet played SIIGHTS’ music. It is exciting to see how far they can go and which markets are yet to own. Fitz and Etherson will be busy getting the single out there and ensuring as many people as possible hear the song. GOT IT has that instant sense of hook and impact so it is quite possible it will rank alongside the best songs of the summer. I am not sure whether BBC Radio 1 has played the single yet but there is every chance it is on their radar. They could get some play on BBC Radio 2 and I am sure there are stations in America that would love to feature the track.

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There is Funk and wah-wah cool that comes from the opening notes of GOT IT. Loose and catchy strings and a clicking beat get the kick going and elicit sunshine. The funkiness reigns and compels the listener to get up and get involved. Sexiness and seductiveness weaves and pops from the speakers as the lyrics look at a figure that is enticing from their head to their toes. Whether it is a sweetheart or new acquaintance; there is that sense of attraction and flirtation that comes through. Even before the first line has been delivered, you are captured by the song and involved in everything. The music is polished and pure; it has dirt in it but has enough sheen to get it to the masses. It is a complex production brew but all the notes and sounds hold together sweetly and get into the brain. It seems there is imminent connection and the heroine wants to feel the guy’s head when they kiss – experience that physicality and instant reaction. It is a rather heated and sweltering coming-together that promises something intense. You can feel that desire come through in the vocal: the composition provides plenty of energy and engagement; keeping the listener involved and the body active. Whereas the verse gets the momentum building and paints some vivid and sexy scenes; the chorus delivers the biggest hit and reaction. The words urge for swing and swagger; paen to someone who has that confidence and attractiveness that needs to be exposed. If anything, one can read the lyrics as an expression of self-confidence and pride. Whatever the reason and interpretation of the chorus’ lyrics; you are helpless but resist the electricity and passion that comes through. There have been some big choruses in music this year but SIIGHTS have crafted one of the best in GOT IT. From their name to the single’s title; everything is in bold-type and declared proudly.

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There is a blend of simplicity and complexity that occurs in the second verse. The lyrics can be extrapolated and understood by everyone that listens to it. Speaking about missing the beau and not wanting to lose that affection; we can all get behind that and know where the heroine is coming from. The music and vocal connection between Mia Fitz and Toni Etherson is immediate and incredibly direct. Whereas Fitz takes on more of the production/musical duties; Etherson, to me, holds that vocal prowess that covers more emotional ground. Together, they fuse supremely and provide an intricate and multifarious sound. The composition throws bass and keys in different direction. There are flecks and twangs that delight the senses; a blend of Pop and Funk that is very pleasing to hear. Although GOT IT has a very modern sound and will register with fans out there; I hear elements of the 1980s in the music. The Pop legends of the decade, from Kylie Minogue (if not insulting to them) and Madonna, come through and it is a wonderful brew of the nostalgic and modern. Intensity and physicality keeps coming through and the duo are never willing to take the sound down too much. They want to put the song out there and know every note is being heard and danced to. You get a little rhythmic and melodic similarity to Cathy Dennis’ Touch Me (All Night Long). It has that sense of fun and instant memorability that made that song such a hit! Although GOT IT is a sub-three-minute track, a lot of ground is covered and you are compelled to listen to the song again and again. You get an idea of the intentions and story: the heroine has this lust and longing that needs to be satisfied and, when it is taken away, feels the void.

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Rather than see departure and loss as a bad thing; she urges the hero to show what they have and there is that sense of togetherness and hope. I feel like the spotlight is turned on the heroine and a sense of sexual confidence. She is not submissive and playing a minor role: the two are on the same level and there is that inner-strength that comes through. Both Mia Fitz and Toni Etherson turn in incredible performances and fill the song with such vivacity and boldness. It percolates and booms; it is a big track that never feels cheap and commercial. It will appeal to all demographics and, unless some big injustice happens, will get a lot of airplay around the U.K. It is clear SIIGHTS are in a great place and making the best music of their careers. It is only a matter of time before they ascend to the mainstream – with tunes like GOT IT, that realisation and reality cannot be argued against. I was engrossed in the song and, not normally one to indulge Pop and get hooked, was affected and moved (literally) by the mood. There is Funk and Alternative sounds coming into play; it is a heady and sensational mixture of sounds that swims around the mind and stays with you for a long time. In a period where durability and memorability are hard to achieve, there is no issue with SIIGHTS’ current jam. They have concocted something that defines the summer and what we need to hear right now. I would be surprised if an E.P. was not forthcoming, considering what sort of material they are producing right now. A fantastic and nuanced effort from SIIGHTS. It is impossible to shift the song once you hear it the first time. It is one of those things that gets into the head and will not shift which is, given the slightly moody weather, exactly what we all need!

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I am a big fan of SIIGHTS and love everything they do. Mia Fitz and Toni Etherson are great friends and have that sisterly bond. They are eager and determined songwriters that have made big leaps and are among the most able and varied out there. Lots of stations have already got behind GOT IT and that will lead to increased demand and bookings. I am not sure whether they have U.S. dates sorted but they could get a lot of gigs around the U.K. Having Scottish and Irish roots; there is already that knowledge of the local scene and where is good to play. The duo divide their time between the U.K. and U.S. but they have a lot of support in London. Having spent time in America, there is every likelihood they will get some gigs over there and, before long, they will get more international dates. I am eager to see whether there is more material coming. Perhaps there will be another single in 2018 but I feel SIIGHTS are ready to drop an E.P. They have the momentum and desire so it is only natural that should lead to a three/four-track release. Their brand of music is what we need right now and people will want to see other examples of what they are all about. GOT IT will satisfy the senses and get people talking but, when the song has done its work, there is going to be a hunger for something new. SIIGHTS are always working and striving to be as good as they can be. Each new release sees them take a big step and cover new ground. With a stunning video out and GOT IT picking up celebration and coverage; the remainder of this year will be a big one for the duo. There are some great duos out there but very few who do what SIIGHTS are producing. GOT IT is proof SIIGHTS are among the best forces in the U.K. and will, very soon, get their music to new lands. I feel they could get focus in Australia and that might be a good country to take their music. It is expensive travelling there but there are so many cities and areas that would flock to see them. Whatever SIIGHTS have in mind, I know they will continue to grow bigger and stronger. GOT IT is the sound of the here and now; what we need right now – proof Mia Fitz and Toni Etherson’s SIIGHTS are very much…

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TRAINED to the horizon.

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