TRACK REVIEW: Matt Corby, Tash Sultana - Talk It Out

TRACK REVIEW:

 

Matt Corby, Tash Sultana

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 Talk It Out

 

9.5/10

 

The track, Talk It Out, is available via:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C8FAAUTfRNg

GENRES:

Blues/Alternative/Neo-Soul

ORIGIN:

Australia

RELEASE DATE:

10th July, 2019

LABEL:

Communion Group Ltd

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I am going slightly off the usual track…

and am looking at two artists rather than the one – the amazing Matt Corby and Tash Sultana. Before I come to their song, Talk It Out, I wanted to look at collaborations and why there are too many right now but, inside all of the collaborations, there are some really good and well-judged ones. I will discuss songs that sort of define the summer and whether singles still have the same clout as singles; multi-instrumentalists and artists that go beyond songwriting and expectations; Australian artists and, again, why we need to look that way; how music can elevate the mood and stick in the mind – I will end by seeing where Corby and Sultana will go now. I will talk about collaborations more later on but, at the moment, I will briefly talk about it. It seems like there are endless hook-ups and you get these songs crammed with guests. It seems like every week there are dozens of these songs that are loaded with people but do not really focus and have any sort of purpose. I guess including any more than one other artist to your song can get complex and I do wonder whether there is much of a point. Think about the best songs of this year so far and can you say that any of them have featured other artists? Look back through history and the best collaborations seem to be duets. It is that perfect measure where you can play off of someone else without crowding a song. It is a problem of the modern age where artists rely on Spotify playlists and streaming figures; collaborating with various artists can boost their figures and there is more marketing than there is actually quality. I get tired of these songs that have three or four (or more) names on them and you wonder who these artists are and what they are actually contributing to the blend. I am not saying every collaboration is unwieldy but I do gravitate more towards songs that are a little leaner and have that one voice leading.

PHOTO CREDIT: Matt Johnson/LNWY

Saying that, when you get a partnership that is just right, it can be a wonderful thing. Think  of all the great duets through time and you just stay in the mind and memory – from Elton John and Kiki Dee (Don’t Go Breaking My Heart) through to David Bowie and Queen (Under Pressure). I think a great duet relies on an understanding and friendship. If you have artists included that are just there for the ride, it can be a bit obvious and it sounds pretty unnatural. In my opinion, Matt Corby and Tash Sultana’s partnership seems like a very natural and solid one. The two are friends and they have a mutual respect. Both, as I shall explore, are talented musicians and great Australian stars of the future. It is a shame that there are not more duets and this sort of thing in music because the scene is still dominated by pointless collaborations. Even when it is a solo artist and they have one other person in the mix, you often wonder what the point is and how much stronger the song would have been if they had left that person out – I am thinking about Eve’s new single and how Konshens (whoever he is) doesn’t add much and, indeed, Eve could have made the song better with only her voice on it. It is a shame many artists feel they need to pack so much in and bring lots of other voices to their music. If you have this well-judged collaboration then it transcends music itself and has an almost spiritual quality; almost like lovers conversing. Matt Corby and Tash Sultana are different musicians away from this new track but, when together, it just sounds right and assured. You know both of them are giving it their all and there are no extraneous bodies in the mix. So much sound and colour is projected between the two of them and I hope they both work together in the future.

PHOTO CREDIT: Dara Munnis

Every year seems to be defined by albums and, when we think of singles, not as many stand out in the mind. By that, I mean the press give more attention to albums and I am a bigger fan of the album compared to singles. If you get a great track, it is a wonderful experience but I will forget about it soon enough. Compare that to a solid and varied album and that sensation lasts a lot longer. I do love the fact that we still have singles in the modern age and that will never go away. I am listening to Michael Kiwanuka and Tom Misch’s Money (another great duet) that is a perfect summer single. It has a nice Disco flavour to it and is a brilliant standalone track. I wonder whether the two will record more songs for an album or whether each artist has a new album coming up. This one-off single provides intrigue and tantalisation and, with Corby and Sultana, we have a terrific song that makes me wonder whether both are gearing up for new albums. Although we do not have physical singles anymore, I feel like they are vital to music and we need to review the way the charts are set up. I do feel like there is too much dominance of Pop and we do not hear a lot from those artists who produce singles that have little commercial zeal. Artists like Matt Corby and Tash Sultana, in my view, are stronger artists than the type you see high up the charts and it seems unfair that a great single like Talk It Out gains comparatively little focus. I know one can buy singles on vinyl but I am disappointed we do not have that chance to go to record shops and buy tracks anymore because, not only would it generate more money for artists, but it is nice having that physical product. I do feel like albums are overlooked in this time and many people are more reliant on singles.

Radio stations play artists’ singles and there is not a lot of time spent exploring album tracks. The market still is reliant on promoting these singles and, when it comes to the full album; do we still have that same love? That might sound bleak for the album but I do not think so. Sales are still pretty healthy and a fantastic album is a hard thing to beat. There have been so many singles out this year and, across radio and streaming platforms, certain ones have stood out. As I said a bit earlier, most singles I hear stay in the brain for a bit then disappear but, when it comes to the bond of Matt Corby and Tash Sultana, that will be harder to get rid of. It all goes back to what I was saying about collaborations and how a real pure one creates that chemistry. If both artists were to lazily get into the studio and go through the motions, the song would suffer. As it is, we have this wonderful song that is a strong and extraordinary thing in its own right. I do love singles but when you get a cracker like Talk It Out it makes me curious whether an album will follow. The partnership between Corby and Sultana is rock-solid so I would definitely like to see the two of them record more songs together. I like when artists step away from their solo work and work with another artist; sort of like when David Byrne and St. Vincent worked on an album together, Love This Giant. I shall move on now but I wonder whether Corby and Sultana have plans to work on more material and whether they can replicate what they have created on Talk It Out. The single was a track that Corby has originally penned for his album, Rainbow Valley, but he felt that it was unfinished and needs someone else’s touch on it. Corby plays every instrument on the song except for the guitar chops, which are provided by Sultana.

I will talk more about Matt Corby in a bit but, before then, I wanted to discuss Tash Sultana. Many people might not be aware of her work but the stunning Australian is one of the most impressive artists around right now. She is a musical wonder who can master any instrument you throw at her. This article from early in the year talks about Sultana’s musical expertise and how she has battled problems to get where she is right now:

Fluent in over a dozen different instruments, Tash has mastered the saxophone, bass, guitar, flute, and trumpet—and those are just a few! They take these diverse musical sounds and delicately ropes and intertwines into their music. This creates a distinct, layered and full sound. They now are a twenty-one-year-old sensation, touring their sophomore album, Flow State, worldwide.

At the meek age of seventeen, Tash fell into the claws of drug psychosis, in which they could not pull them self from a psychotic state back into reality. This psychosis lasted for nine months; nine months of not being able to understand if they were living in real life, dead, or trapped in some sort of illusion.

“I lost the complete purpose of life,” Tash said.

Music was the only thing that finally put Tash’s mind to rest and jolted them awake from the state of psychosis. When they would play and write music, all the induced chaos in their head melted away as seamlessly as the notes that fluttered off their guitar strings.

Tash has also been honest about mental illness, opening up about the exhaust that came with touring. Dark thoughts would enter their head while on the road, latch on, and could not be shaken. Tash admits that this frightened them, however they rested on the fact that the shadows in their mind would only be temporary. Tash remains an advocate for mental illness, encouraging those affected to speak out and not be afraid to seek help.

PHOTO CREDIT: Dara Munnis

Tash’s new album Flow State consists of thirteen songs. This work indulges in a cocktail of psychedelic pop with reggae undertones. They often lead with a slightly distorted electric guitar melody, layering that with drums, bass, vocal harmonies, and even the occasional beatboxing. During live performances, Tash is the only person to inhabit the stage, lighting it up with a full sound resembling that of a whole band. They do this by looping their sounds using various pedals. Ultimately, Tash has complete control of their sound, standing as a one-person band, fully captivating crowds consisting of thousands of people”.

She is a wonderful artists and someone who has evolved and seems to get stronger by the album. I love the fact Sultana is this artist who can play so many instruments and this gives her music such breadth and variation. We do not often see artists as broad and talented as Tash Sultana and, when they come around, you need to hold onto them. Although Sultana is a fine musician and has immense talent, it is Corby who takes the instrumental lead on Talk It Out. Both artists have incredible skills and they can pretty much go anywhere musically. I look at solo artists and bands and it is very rare seeing someone who can play a few instruments. So many solo artists are reliant on others and it does depress slightly. I am not saying every artist needs to learn several instruments but it would be nice to see more artists spread their wings and pick up instruments. I have been a fan of Corby for a while and been following his music closely. His early material gained comparisons with Jeff Buckley but I think Corby has expanded and broadened since then. He is a wonderful artist whose lyrics and music is as strong as his playing. He is a complete talent who, like Sultana, is someone we need to follow closely. I do think we need to encourage more artists to pick up instruments rather than rely on technology or limit themselves.

 PHOTO CREDIT: Aaron Crossman

Before I come on to my point regarding Australia and music in general, it seems that both artists are pretty busy right now. I believe Matt Corby was due to perform at the Citadel Festival today in London but has had to pull out because of ill health. It is a shame but Corby is an artist always in-demand and he will be back on the trail as soon as he is better. The same is true of Sultana who, as this recent piece explains, is right in the middle of some dates:

 “Tash is in the middle of a busy summer that includes a flurry of European festival dates and a few weeks back home in Australia, before they embark on a US tour. And in the midst of all this all they’ve still managed to find the time to release new music, in the form of Matt Corby collaboration, ‘Talk It Out’.

“He just sent me this song that he didn’t put on his album, and gave it to me to fill in the spaces. And I thought he was fucking crazy for not putting that song on his album, as I thought that was the best song that I’d heard,” Tash explains.

Writing ‘Talk It Out’ was a fairly smooth process, as the two artists worked so well together. “We collaborate very well together because we’re very very similar as people, different as artists, but similar as people,” Tash said. “I’ve done some other collabs with different people that are a little bit more challenging. Especially as I don’t have a producer, and if you work with another artist who has a producer, then it’s a really odd change – which is normal, and a good thing.”

And it came at exactly the write time, as Tash had been struggling to write new material. “I needed it because I had full on writer’s block, and I wasn’t writing shit and I was hating the stuff I’d written. I was hating the show I was playing as I was stuck. But now I’m fucking loving it! I’m loving all the shows I’m playing, I’m loving all the stuff that I’m writing, I’m loving the song we did, and I’m proud of it”.

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I should really move on to Talk It Out and get down to some reviewing but I want to talk about Australia and how it is a nation still overlooked. I have been amazed by the rise of Melbourne-based Sampa the Great and, whilst she was not born in Australia, she is based in Melbourne and it is clear the city runs through her blood. I just spoke with Gabriella Cilmi, who was born in Melbourne, and she explained how there are so many great Australian acts that we do not really look at and explore. I guess the media is still pretty focused on the U.K. and U.S. and, in fact, when it comes to Irish, Welsh and Scottish artists, they are not given as much focus as acts from England. This needs to change and I think this is especially true when it comes to Australia. The country is vast and, from Hobart and Adelaide through to Sydney, there are so many wonderful musicians. Corby hails from Sydney whereas Sultana comes from Melbourne. These two huge cities have spawned a load of legends through the years and it seems like Australia is a real hotbed for new talent. Although Corby and Sultana travel a lot and tour the world, both call Australia home and they would be the first to argue for Australia and its artists. I recommend people explore Australian music more and have a look at the terrific acts around at the moment. The bliss and quality of Matt Corby and Tash Sultana is just the tip of the iceberg and I think Australian artists deserve as much coverage as artists from the U.S. and U.K. I will look at Talk It Out in a second but I want to end by explaining how a song like this can elevate the mood. I do think music has the power to change emotions and lift moods; it can take you somewhere special and do something quite extraordinary.

I feel like a particularly great song can stay with you for a long time and release its spirit into the mind when needed – whether you need something happy, sad or a bit angry. In the case of Matt Corby and Tash Sultana’s new track, it is a pearl that explodes with colour and emotions and it will definitely remain with you. If you need to feel better or want a song you can dive into, you need to listen to Talk It Out. Wonderful music is all around us but I think there are relatively few songs that endure and have that multidimensional effect. Maybe it is the musicianship of Corby and Sultana or the chemistry between the two but I guarantee you will want to listen to Talk It Out again and again. We all need music to make us feel better and give us a sense of comfort. One definitely gets that here and it sort of renews my appreciation of music. It does make me wonder, again, whether the two will work together on anything else because they are a natural duo. I shall get to the song itself because, away from all the talk and words, you really need to experience Talk It Out. It boasts two of Australia’s most popular and exceptional young artists.

PHOTO CREDIT: Dara Munnis

Talk It Out wastes no time in getting off to the races. There are horns working in the background and this electronic fizz and chorus that give the song such boldness and energy. It is a sunny and bold opening that welcomes in sunshine and energy and, when Corby comes to the microphone, he talks about him and his lover have this space between them and there seems to be this distance. They keep so much under the covers and the bed acts as the setting for the opening scene. I am not sure what compelled the song and whether it was based on a personal relationship Corby experienced. Although his voice is not stressed and angry, there is a detectable note of regret and longing that comes through. It seems like he and his sweetheart are on different pages and they just need to talk out their differences. As Corby sings about separation and this need to recalibrate things, the music gives this sumptuous cool and blast that summons soon and something delightful. The horns are an inspired touch and there is so much going on in the background. Corby’s soulful voice talks of complicating the matter and making things worse. They need to talk things out and, when Sultana comes into the mix, she adds her tones with wonder and confidence. The two voices blend together really nicely and Sultana, although her instrumental duties are lighter than usual, gives this great vocal that explains how the two were in love and could not see things clearly. It almost makes me wonder if, actually, Corby and Sultana are talking about different relationships or they are referring to the same one. She talks about giving her all and (the lover) not having to beg, steal or borrow. Talk It Out gives Corby a verse and then Sultana; Corby then comes back in. It acts like a conversation where both are explaining their stances and do not need to talk over one another.

 PHOTO CREDIT: Matt Johnson/LNWY

The two never argue and lob insults at one another. Instead, there is this open and frank discussion when they reveal how things have been hard and it seems like they need to sit down and have a chat. It is rare to get a song that deals with division that allows compromise and the two parties to get everything out into the open. As the song progresses, you get this beautiful sense of harmony and the fact that they might reconcile. I do love the combination of voices and the fact Sultana and Corby add something different. They both have exceptional voices but I think they are at their strongest when they sort of weave in and out of one another. They unite in the chorus and you get this very real rush that makes the hairs stand on end. You get this brilliant Neo-Soul/Jazz sound that lets the instruments strike and utter but you get something separate from the vocals. There is so much life and personality on offer that you need a couple of spins before the song resonates and sinks in. I have listened to the tracks a few times now and every spin gives me something new. I think Matt Corby and Tash Sultana is an inspired combination and they are beautiful together. Talk It Out will reflect in the hearts of anyone who has gone through a relationship drama or just needs to re-establish communication. It is a very stirring song but one where there is ample passion and understanding. That is what makes it so strong and appealing. Rather than tear stripes off of one another, the two are on the same level and want to work through things. The beats crackle, the guitar adds strut and energy and the brass gives the song a caramel-smooth taste that is hard to ignore. It is a wonderful song and I do hope that both artists work together again very soon.

I think Matt Corby is getting some much-needed rest right now but his Rainbow Valley touring schedule will continue and I think that actually takes him into 2020. If you have not heard his Rainbow Valley album then do so - and the same goes for Tash Sultana’s Flow State. I love both artists and, after releasing these great albums, they are busy touring and bringing their music to the world. I do hope they get to share a stage together and perform Talk It Out but, given the popularity of both, they might be busy with other gigs in various parts of the world. I do feel Australia is expert when it comes to giving us these unique and multi-talented artists. Maybe it is something to do with the culture there or the people; maybe it is something in the air but one cannot overlook all the brilliant music coming from Australia. I have explored Tash Sultana a lot but I know full well how brilliant Matt Corby is and why you need to seek him out. Before wrapping up, then, I want to bring in an interview Matt Corby gave earlier in the year with London in Stereo. I have highlighted a couple of questions that stood out.

Was there a specific moment when you knew that you wanted to become a musician?

I always knew from 5 years old, everyone was always asking me to sing when I was growing up. I remember when I was in year 2 and my music teacher asked everyone to clap in rhythm, and I was seeing some kids and they just couldn’t grasp basic rhythm, so I go up to my music teacher and say that I could sing and stuff, and she takes me straight away to the Principals office, and I sang for the principal.

This is a day that I’ll always remember because the principal stitched me up hardcore, so we have assembly that day and I just remember the Principal saying we have someone who is going to sing for us today, and I was thinking surely this isn’t me. But it was at that point, where I really had no fear, I got up and sang in front of the whole school- and from then I was known as the ‘Singer Kid’ and I was just right there branded with it I was kind of doomed.

So, you previously spent a lot of time in London?

I used to spend a lot of time going back and forth, doing a few month stints here and I met a lot of the crew from Communion (Record Label), when they were first starting up and met Matt Haggardy the guy from Matthew and the Atlas, they asked us to be the first signing. It was nice to immerse myself in a new little scene and have no preconceived ideas following me around and playing to neutral scene…like jeez London fuck me, London crowds are tough. You really have to work for it, and you really have to earn your stripes here”.

It is clear that, when it comes to earning his stripes over here, Matt Corby has our ear and he has a huge fanbase around the world. The same is true of Tash Sultana: both artists are incredible and you can expect them to record music for many more years to come. On their collaboration, they have crafted something different to their solo work. Talk It Out is one of the best singles of the year and, having gained such positive feedback, it makes me wonder when Matt Corby and Tash Sultana…

WILL work together again.

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Follow Matt Corby

TRACK REVIEW: Beyoncé - Spirit (From Disney's The Lion King)

TRACK REVIEW:

 

Beyoncé

PHOTO CREDIT: Walt Disney 

Spirit (From Disney's The Lion King)

 

9.6/10

 

 

The track, Spirit (From Disney's The Lion King), is available via:

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

GENRES:

R&B/Gospel

ORIGIN:

U.S.A.

RELEASE DATE:

9th July, 2019

LABEL:

Walt Disney Records

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I do not get the chance to review Beyoncé

often but, with a new track out, I could not pass on the opportunity! Beyoncé appears in the new version of The Lion King as Nala - Simba's childhood best friend – and the film has been gathering some positive reviews. I have not seen it myself but I have heard a lot of people rave about Beyoncé’s performance and, as she sings on the soundtrack, it provided me a chance to review her in a different light. Before coming to the song, Spirit, which was written by Ilya Salmanzadeh, Labrinth and Beyoncé, I will talk about Beyoncé and how she remains this musical role model; the different sides to her art and why I think a new, almost-Gospel direction would suit her; the trailblazing women this year and why a full return for Beyoncé is needed right now; artists appearing in films and how that will provide inspiration to people and the legacy Beyoncé has already created; a little on her future and where she might be headed over the next few months. Let’s get down to business because, with Beyoncé, there is a lot to unpack and investigate. There are these modern artists that are able to project a strong message and act as a role model to people out there. There are articles explaining why Beyoncé is a role model and, in this one from Her Campus, it is obvious Beyoncé is keen to support others:

She supports other women.

After the infamous MTV Video Music Awards in 2009 when Kanye West interrupted Taylor Swift’s speech after she received the award for Best Video of the Year, Beyoncé called Taylor on stage to finish her speech and allowed her to have her moment.

She is unapologetically black.

“I like my baby hair, with baby hair and afros,” she sings in her song “Formation.” The music video for “Formation” features significant events for African Americans, such as the emancipation of enslaved people, Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans and the Black Lives Matter movement.

She promotes positive body image.

Beyoncé has always been proud of her curves , but in her music video “Pretty Hurts” she explores negative body image issues that girls and young women struggle with, such as eating disorders and addiction to plastic surgery. “Perfection is a disease of a nation,” she sings.

PHOTO CREDIT: Kevin Mazur/Getty Images 

She supports the LGBTQ community.

She supported the Supreme Court’s ruling for gay marriage by creating a remake of her 711 video, #LoveWins.

She has an amazing relationship with her daughter, Blue Ivy.

Her song “Blue” is dedicated to the love has she for Blue Ivy. Beyoncé’s Instagram is full of adorable videos and pictures of her and Blue.

She’s charitable.

Her organization, BeyGood, provides school supplies for underfunded schools an supports gender equality and environmental awareness”.

There has been some debate as to whether Beyoncé is a positive role model and whether she sets a good example – especially to young girls. The division has come when it comes to her music and money. Her songs, sure, have other writers on them and Beyoncé’s messages of empowerment have been highlighted when it comes to her own material and whether there is irony there. The fact that Beyoncé is wealthy has been highlighted – does this make her inaccessible and is she slightly submissive regarding her husband, Jay-Z? Some criticised her feminist stance after her 2016 album, Lemonade, came out and wondered whether it was all a bit of an act. She has had to face this sort of criticism a lot and it is perplexing. She does vocalise her love for her husband in her music and I think many expect her to be more independent and write the sort of material she was performing with Destiny’s Child back in the 1990s and early part of the last decade – the strong single woman who did not need anyone and could make her own way in life. I do think Beyoncé is a great role model, not just when it comes to feminism and body image but music as well. She is a strong lead for girls out there; someone who is an advocate for L.G.B.T.Q.I.A.+ rights; support black rights and really ensuring those who do not have a voice have one. Beyoncé will always face criticism and attacks but one cannot deny the fact she has inspired many and continues to do so.

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 PHOTO CREDIT: Tyler Mitchell for Vogue

Her music, through the years, is especially powerful and influential. When she was performing with Destiny’s Child, we got these tracks of strength and independence and that inflamed and united women around the world. This strong and beautiful role model was definitely emerging and that continued as Beyoncé went solo. If a sense of subservience has been highlighted, that is because Beyoncé is a mother and wife; someone who has settled down but has definitely not betrayed her principles nor take any sh*t; she does not rely on Jay-Z or take her wealth for granted either. She has worked hard for what she has earned and cannot be accused or selling out or being a different person. It is the music that has thrilled and compelled the masses for decades. To me, it is the way Beyoncé changes and the fact her music is not rigid; someone who keeps moving forward and explores new territory. Her R&B smashes with Destiny’s Child were great but it is when Beyoncé struck out alone that her music broadened and she matched the fiery anthems with something more sensitive and pure. I do feel like Beyoncé, as she has matured, has not settled and slowed. That might be understandable as she is in her thirties but a lot of artists, when they have been in the industry for so long, tend to compromise or go in a whole other direction. With THE CARTERS (the moniker of her and Jay-Z), again, we got another direction and layer. Lemonade was a seismic album because of its political edges and powerful messages; the way she talked about infidelity and betrayal but also wore her heart on her sleeve. The role model Beyoncé was formed from this Destiny’s Child notion: the young black woman who was still making it but showing that she was a future star. A lot of the division regarding Beyoncé as a genuine role model has shaped up as her solo career has progressed. I think her music has grown a lot and she is much more interesting and layered than she was back in the beginning.

Take what she is doing now and the fact that, once more, she cannot be predicted and labelled. Spirit is less an aggressive statement and anthem but, instead, it has more heart and passion to it. There are Gospel touches but it retains a bit of R&B. It is an interesting song and, whilst it forms part of a soundtrack, it does make me wonder whether Beyoncé’s next phase of music will see her tackle Gospel or do something different. She is someone who never stops and is always exploring new realms. Any artist out there who feels you need to be pretty static and commercial with your work in order to succeed should look at Beyoncé and what she is doing. I know she has a lot of writers and producers who help craft her tracks but one has to consider the fact that, at the centre and calling the shots is Beyoncé. She is not an artist, like we see so often, who is a cog in the machine and just blindly follows what is put before her. Instead, we have a genuine and tireless role model who campaigns outside of her music and, when it comes to her art, there is nobody like her! I have talked about evolution and how Beyoncé moves into new areas and, to me, that is the secret to her success – or one of them at the very least. If she continued to make Destiny’s Child-like music after she left the group (or they disbanded), then that would grow tired and it would not reflect her life and how she has changed as a woman. Those who wanted Beyoncé to keep writing about being independent, shrugging off cheats and lying men and rallying the troops need to remember that she has a family and is not going to be writing about that still – even though it is important and she is still a spokesperson for strong and sassy women around the globe. I do think that Beyoncé is an icon and has the promise to be a legend; someone that is spoken about for decades to come.

One only needs to recall her performance from Coachella back in 2018 – I shall actually nod to that a bit later – to see why one cannot dismiss her. I will chat about Gospel first and the fact that there are touches of that on Spirit. Tomorrow, I am investigating Aretha Franklin as an icon; someone who has changed music and was vitally important. In terms of inspirations, one can tell Franklin means a lot to Beyoncé. I am not saying Franklin inspired Beyoncé’s latest track but I wonder whether we will see Beyoncé become a bit more Aretha Franklin on her next album. I think Beyoncé is at a stage right now where she is content with her family and life but sees so much divisionism and struggle around her. I know she is stable and comfortable regarding finance and her lot but that does not mean she turns a blind eye to those around her.

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From the poorer black communities to the L.G.B.T.Q.I.A.+ community being marginalised and alienated, Beyoncé wants to raise awareness and lend her support. In terms of music, she has always been this inspiration (I think) and her words cannot help but resonate. I do feel like, when we see another Beyoncé album, it will have Gospel and Soul flavours. This is not to say this will be a new, permanent direction for her but it all comes back to evolution and the fact Beyoncé is not one to be pigeon-holed. Her music is always fresh and unpredictable so I am excited to see where she goes next. Spirit is a fantastic track that works in the context of The Lion King but also stands alone. I do hope we get another album from her very soon because, since 2016, there has definitely been a gap. Beyoncé has been busy but there will be many who wonder where her music will go next and what we might get. I do think politics and the state of the world right now will be on her mind. She will not want to ignore that and, rather than attack it with both barrels, she might go in a more soulful direction.

In any case, I do think that we need someone like Beyoncé in music. This year has been defined by strong and talented women and, from Lizzo (who reminds me a lot of Beyoncé) to Sharon Van Etten and Little Simz, there is so much to get excited about right now. I cannot say for certain how many female artists now take a lead from Beyoncé but one cannot deny her influence and how performers like Lizzo and Janelle Monáe do take the lead from Beyoncé to an extent. I mentioned her performance at Coachella last year and, to me, that set was one of the most powerful I have seen in many years. It is, perhaps, one of the best we have seen in a generation and make sure you get the album. It was Beyoncé running through a selection of her hits and showing why she is one of the most captivating artists in the world. The reviews for the performance and the live album that followed (earlier this year) speak for themselves. This is how Pitchfork judged the HOMECOMING album:

The album sounds communal, like a revival meeting in a small, sweaty tent that leaves you lifted and fortified. It’s as much about Beyoncé as it is about the people who made her and the people who sustain her. As I was listening, my upstairs neighbors, two young black women, were also listening at full volume. My friend in Miami was texting me hot takes, while my sister, who’d attended the show on the second weekend, was tweeting about how much the white people in the audience seemed to just not get it. Every Beyoncé event is a gospel you want to tell somebody about, but this one doubles down on this feeling of communion. She’s singing songs you already know, and connecting them to other songs you remember, too. She’s drawing on her past, looking back, but also looking squarely back at us.

Black women and rock’n’roll pioneers like Memphis Minnie, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, and Etta James, and contemporary queens of rhythmic music like Janet Jackson and Missy Elliott have not received sufficient credit for their innovations. Beyoncé, famously, was the first black woman headliner of the nearly 20-year-old festival. In a space where she was not obviously welcome, she made an enduring impression. A home. Then she made it about something other than herself. She brought an entire lineage into the room”.

Beyoncé is still in her thirties so it is slightly scary imagining how far she can go and what more she can achieve. Her legacy already is clear, both as a role model and an artist. She is one of modern music’s true stars and, years from now, a legion of new artists will pick up her words and music and take them to heart. Not only is Beyoncé inspiration to women and girls around the world but she is someone who compels everyone; an artist who is fascinating to watch and is a very strong and undeniable role model. One can debate the merits of Beyoncé and whether she is as honest and genuine as her music suggests but, to me, one needs to stop assuming and judging. It is a bit maddening seeing these articles that question Beyoncé’s integrity and whether she is a good role model for girls out there. Anyway, I shall put that to bed for a minute. Now that Beyoncé has appeared in The Lion King, I do think other artists will follow her. There is nothing new about musicians getting into film and, as Lady Gaga recently proved in A Star Is Born, one cannot assume artists are not strong actors – she proved people wrong and delivered a knockout performance. In Beyoncé’s case, I actually feel she has a long acting career ahead. I think she has appeared in bits and pieces here and there but one thinks of Beyoncé and wonders why she has not done more film and T.V.

 PHOTO CREDIT: Tyler Mitchell for Vogue

I think she is a naturally talented actor and could inhabit so many personas. Beyoncé is a strong artist and businesswoman; she has her own brands and is a very busy person. I think she is inspiring people in different areas and different ways but, when it comes to an area relatively unexplored, I do think film and T.V. is somewhere she could clean up. Whether it is producing documentaries about black lives or strong women or appearing in front of the camera in a gritty drama or a comedy, I think Beyoncé could be a real success. Look at her acting credits and you can see most of her work has been in music videos. Look at artists like Lady Gaga and Eminem (in 8 Mile) who won plaudits for their honest portrayals and I do think Beyoncé could follow them. Maybe that is something she has planned but I can imagine her easily stepping into film and T.V. and succeeding. Not that Beyoncé has anything to prove but lending her voice to stunning dramas and putting something inspiring on the screen could see her reach and touch new lives; conquer new areas and cement her reputation as an icon.

I think her performance in The Lion King is great and it will have provided pleasure and wonder to many children. I like the fact she did it and, whether it was to please her own children or something she really wanted to do, other artists will see what she has done and go into film. I keep coming back to the idea of Beyoncé as an icon and how many areas she has conquered. We can leave aside the ethical debates and whether she is the real deal because, to me, there are few that have such passion for change and equality. I think Beyoncé could bring this to the screen away from music. We live through a time when the L.G.B.T.Q.I.A.+ community are not as respected as they should be and there is needless poverty and division. Beyoncé alone cannot cure these problems but I do think she has a chance to bring her talents to the screen. I could imagine her fronting a powerful drama where she is a mother in a tough neighbourhood and has to face prejudice. Maybe a film where she is an aspiring politician but is put down and overlooked could make for a compelling piece. I am spit-balling here but one could easily picture these possibilities.

 IMAGE CREDIT: Walt Disney

There are African vocals that lead in Spirit and give it a very evocative and stirring start. One would expect it in terms of The Lion King and the context but, as a standalone song, it adopts this new meaning and nuance. One can check out the song here and see the credits regarding background vocals but, when Beyoncé comes to the microphone, her voice is settled yet hugely arresting. She talks about the wind talking for the very first time. After that potent and rousing beginning, one sees the song develop and takes the word ‘spirit’ to mean a number of different things. To me, one can apply it to The Lion King and a sense of pride and fortitude but, in a larger sense, there is this nature of freedom and growth. I pictured scenes of a figure growing and battling the elements; letting their spirit roar and not being tied down. Beyoncé’s voice is graceful and soulful throughout and she delivers these powerful messages with composure. The messages in the song are strong and moving without descending into cliché and the obvious. Many artists would approach a song like Spirit and make it too saccharine and formulaic. Instead, one gets a real sense of personal meaning in the song. Beyoncé definitely pours her heart out and her always-stunning voice bring the words to life. In the chorus, she talks about this spirit and the heavens opening (and whether we can hear it calling). Again, one might frame the song in terms of The Lion King and her character’s arc but, to me, I was intrigued by wider implications and possibilities. There is a defiance and power that extends beyond film and actually can be applied to so many situations. One can extrapolate guidance and fortitude from a song that asks (us) to keep heads above the waves and fight the water; to see the stars gathering by your side and know that there is a sense of hope out there.

 PHOTO CREDIT: Shutterstock

Many songs, as I say have and could have descended into treacle and not resonated but Spirit captivates because of Beyoncé’s voice and the fact that the track has so much depth. The earlier vocal introduction gets the listener engaged but there are tribal beats and the chorus is typically defiant and affecting. Beyoncé’s voice has grown and strengthened through the years and I think it holds more weight and depth than it did on her earliest solo albums. Beyoncé talks about the light shining and having your heart lifted; your destiny coming close and, against the struggle, standing tall and proud. If the song were too Lion King-centric regarding its lyrics and sound then I would probably not have reviewed it but, as I keep explaining, Spirit is a song that can be taken away from the soundtrack and interpreted in so many ways. That sense of defiance and keeping strong cannot help but register and stir the blood. I have listened to Spirit and a few times and am always moved by its power and meaning. I do not think Beyoncé has sounded as engrossed in a song for so long and, whilst that might sound a little dismissive, I mean this track really means something to her. I have talked about the modern world and how Beyoncé acts a role model to various communities; those who struggle and have to fight for their rights. Spirit is a call to those who are feeling the pain and are alone to see that there is a hope in front of them and a path that leads to better things. Many talk about Beyoncé in terms of her moves and anthems but, in pure vocal terms, I do not think her voice gets as much credit as it should. It would be premature of me to rank her alongside the great Soul singers like Aretha Franklin but that sheer power that comes from Beyoncé cannot be ignored; the way she can convey a range of emotions and put her everything into every song. It is emotional hearing a voice so strong break through and get into the heart. I shall leave things there because I think people need to check out Spirit and let it do its work. It is an amazing song and one that, I hope, leads to some more Beyoncé material soon enough.

 PHOTO CREDIT: Tyler Mitchell for Vogue

I shall wrap things up in a bit because I know we are all busy! I have covered a number of different subjects when it comes to Beyoncé and, if you want to experience more, keep your eyes open. It has been three years since her last solo album and, even though she released EVERYTHING IS LOVE with The Carters last year, there are going to be people out there hankering for more Beyoncé material. As a live performer, she is always in demand and I do feel like there is something imminent. Beyoncé is a mother and wife but, living in modern America, I do think she will have a lot of fuel for a new record. One cannot help but notice how President Trump has affected the U.S. and what he is doing. He is one of the most maligned leaders of the U.S. ever and I do think artists like Beyoncé will want to express that. There are no album announcements or plans in the fire right now but keep your eyes peeled and watch her social media feeds for more details. Spirit is a great song and one that, as I said, stands alone and does not need to be reviewed in the context of The Lion King. I am intrigued by the sound of the song and the fact that she can conquer and succeed in genres like Soul and Gospel.

PHOTO CREDIT: Robyn Beck

Beyoncé has blossomed as an artist since the 1990s and she has plenty more years left. I am excited to see where Beyoncé goes next and what her future holds. I shall bring things to a close now but, when it came to this Saturday’s review, I could not pass up the chance to assess Beyoncé’s latest track. It is a stunning thing and very different to what she has done in the past. It projects powerful messages and it is a song that stands up to repeated assaults. I really love it and can imagine Beyoncé keeping that type of sound close to her chest on a future album. It goes to show that, when it comes to predicting Beyoncé, few can keep up and define her. She is, despite what some people say, a genuine role model and guide for so many out there and, with so much trouble in the world now, there are few artists who can make as big an impact…

AS the amazing Beyoncé.

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Follow Beyoncé

TRACK REVIEW: Skunk Anansie - What You Do for Love

TRACK REVIEW:

 

Skunk Anansie

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PHOTO CREDIT: Tom Barnes

What You Do for Love

 

9.2/10

 

The track, What You Do for Love, is available via:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kvg88K6JshI

GENRE:

Alternative-Rock

ORIGIN:

London, U.K.

RELEASE DATE:

5th July, 2019

LABEL:

100% Records

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I have not got a lot on today…

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and, rather than put out a lot of work, I thought it would be good to consider a few great artists and things happening in music right now. That might sound pretty vague but I mean I want to take a bit of time to ponder the new single from Skunk Anansie. There is a lot to cover when we think of the band because they have been on the scene for so long. I want to discuss their legacy and why they are a favourite band of mine; why Skin is a particularly inspiring figure and why she is a role model to many; why bands like Skunk Anansie will remain in the heart and how they are compelling newcomers – a bit where they might head next and what is in their future. I have been checking out Skunk Anansie and their movements recently and, sort of coming between their gig plans and excitement is a story involving them and Stormzy. We all know Stormzy was the first black rapper to headline Glastonbury – and he did so last weekend in true style! There was a lot of anticipation when Stormzy was announced as the headliner and many wondered whether he would be able to pull off such a huge gig. By all accounts, he smashed it and the dust has just about settled. There was a bit of an error on his part when he claimed he was the first black British artist to headline Glastonbury. Sky explains more:

Ahead of his history-making Glastonbury set, Stormzy was understandably proud to share its significance with the world.

However, while he is the first black British male solo performer and rapper to headline the festival's famous Pyramid Stage, he actually got it wrong when he said he was the first black British artist - as Skin, the frontwoman of 1990s rock band Skunk Anansie, has pointed out.

Skunk Anansie, famous for hits including Weak, Hedonism (Just Because You Feel Good) and Brazen (Weep), were Glastonbury headliners in 1999, along with REM and Manic Street Preachers.

After realising his error, Croydon-born Stormzy, real name Michael Omari, has now apologised to the singer for his mistake.

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He tweeted: "Skin from the band Skunk Anansie was actually the first black artist to headline glasto she done it with her band in 1999 no disrespect intended and MASSIVE salute to you - my apologies! @skinskinny."

She wrote: "Sorry Stormzy but we beat you to it in 1999! 20 years ago! And while we're on topic, I was the first black Woman too! @beyonce Wishing you an awesome nite tho, Kill it! You're amazing and we're all very proud. ps. Real question is why it took 20 years!"

It is only write Skin corrected him and, as the lead of Skunk Anansie, she was the first black British headliner – the first black woman to do so, too. I think things between Stormzy and Skunk Anansie are okay and, to be fair, it was an honest mistake. It is great that Stormzy made history but one wonders whether festivals like Glastonbury are doing enough to put black artists higher up the bill. Certainly, strong black artists like Lizzo, Janelle Monáe; Dave, Stormzy and Janet Jackson provided these incredible sets and newcomers like Grace Carter showed they were definitely worthy of greater exposure. I guess there is still a problem in music regarding race and whether black artists are given the credit they deserve. Modern icons such as Beyoncé have helped pave the way but there is still so much to do. I looked at that Twitter interaction between Stormzy and Skin and it sort of struck me how few black artists have headlined festivals. Skin was the first black woman to headline back in 1999 but, apart from Beyoncé a few years back, there has been a surfeit of black women appearing as a headliner. The same can be said for the men. Both Skin and Stormzy are pioneers, in a way, because they have helped raise awareness and open eyes. I have mentioned a few brilliant black artists but, to be fair, there are so many more who could headline a major festival.

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Next year is Glastonbury’s fiftieth and I do wonder we will see another black artist headline the Pyramid Stage. Maybe Beyoncé will return or we will see Stevie Wonder play; perhaps Lizzo will be promoted and get to headline or there might be a new act that gets the same sort of platform as Stormzy. In any case, there is a real issue I think regarding black artists and a relative lack of support. This is something I want to cover in more detail at a later date but I think it is interesting to see Stormzy and Skin, without knowing it, discuss race and how rare it is to see a black artist headline. I will talk more about it in time but I do think more needs to be done to facility greater racial balance. Before I come to look at Skunk Anansie’s  latest track, I want to raise a few other points. I have been following Skunk Anansie since they started out in 1994 and, right now, they are touring Europe to celebrate twenty-five years together. Albums such as Paranoid & Surnburnt (1995), Stoosh (1996) and Post Orgasmic Chill (1999) followed me through my school years and I was awakened to this wonderful band. I especially love Post Orgasmic Chill because tracks such as Charlie Big Potato and Lately were huge tracks. Listen to the early work of Skunk Anansie and it still sounds so fresh and exciting. I think the band were a bit of a revelation in the 1990s because, when they arrived, Britpop was still raging. They offered something alternative and harder-hitting for those who wanted to experience a more thrilling and visceral form of music. Of course, emotion and vulnerability was always part of Skunk Anansie’s make-up and they have continued that to this day. I was especially captivated by Skunk Anansie because they were mixing Alternative sounds of America with British Pop and making it sound so natural and effortless. With a strong, black female leading the band, one could not help but notice this band that were inspiring others and captivating a generation.

Some might say that is a strong statement but there was so much love out there for Skunk Anansie. There is still that affection and, the fact they are embarking on this anniversary tour shows there is so much love out there for them still. I think, when Skunk Anansie arrived in the 1990s, they helped bring Britrock more to the fore and gave guidance to a lot of bands coming through at the time. Now, we listen back and there is such a rich catalogue of material that, as I said, sounds completely wonderful and original. I can listen to albums like Stoosh now and I am taken back to a great time but I also listen to music now and wonder whether there is anyone quite like Skunk Anansie. For sure, there are many bands who have been inspired by Skunk Anansie and have followed them closely but, at a time when there is still too much Pop and not enough proper Rock around, I feel Skunk Anansie play an important role. We are in a difficult time right now and, whilst great Post-Punk bands such as IDLES and Fontaines D.C. are providing some release and guidance, I do think there is a place for bands like Skunk Anansie – those who can provide political anger but also emotional outpouring. There is a definite gap in the market and the fact that we have the original band still putting out music will, I feel, compel bands in the underground to come through. Skunk Anansie are Skin (lead vocals, guitar), Cass (bass, guitar and backing vocals); Ace (guitar, backing vocals) and Mark Richardson (drums and percussion) but, to me, Skin is the standout member. That is no disrespect to the rest of the band but I find Skin utterly engrossing and fascinating. At a time when there are not that many black women at the forefront, she is someone who is still talking about imbalance and the need for change.

I do feel things need to change in the industry as a whole and it is great we have artists like Skin opening up and laying it down. I will bring in an interview she conducted this year with VICE where she discussed her sexuality, twenty-five years of Skunk Anansie and her relationship with anger through music:

Skin – and her signature rasp, as blared out of many a CD player – is punk not only through her words, but in her very presence. As an openly queer black woman heading a band that thrived in the whiteness of the 90s English rock scene, she stirred up a cocktail of vulnerability, anger and a refusal to conform that spoke to her fans across age groups and time zones.

When you look back at 25 years of Skunk Anansie, which challenges are you most proud of overcoming as a band?

I think that the most challenging thing about being in a band, a rock band in particular, is maintaining it. There are moments when you’re having hit singles, but then when you don’t have an album out you almost disappear to people, you know?

If I stop and think about the most successful thing we’ve done, it would be able to maintain success over a 25-year period, even though we, for eight years, weren’t even on tour. We’re still here! And very few bands from the 90s are still relevant, making music, still liked and all those kind of things. Most British bands that came out in the 90s don’t exist anymore. Or if they do, they exist in a way that I find really cheesy and nostalgic.

There’s been a lot of different labels given to your sexuality over the years. How do you identify?

It moves. Sexuality really moves. At one point I was very bisexual: one minute I was with a guy, the other minute I was with a girl. Now I feel much more lesbian, because I’ve been in a relationship with a woman for two years. But guys are still cute; I still fancy them. I see myself as queer, because I think sexuality is much more fluid. I feel like I don’t need to sexually identify with one thing or the other anymore. The term ‘queer’ is much more honest and gives me some space to manoeuvre. If I say I’m bisexual then that’s me defined. if I’m say I’m a lesbian then, “what are you doing snogging that guy?” I feel like I’m not entrapping myself if I just say I’m queer.

What’s your relationship with anger in your music?

Anger is very good for you, it’s a very powerful thing. Aggression isn’t. You can be angry and it can be quite forceful, because we’re living in a world that needs anger to get things done. You need to rile people up and get them angry to get things done. That’s the intellectual use of passion. But when people just get aggressive and violent, I feel like you’ve lost.

I’ve always tried to use anger as a positive force – it gives you a bit of a shiver up your spine when you read certain things and think, ‘That’s not right.’ I never go, ‘That’s not right, I’m going to write a song about it’ – that’s not really how I roll. Things just come out spontaneously, and as a consequence, they come out in your voice, in the right way. When you are truly angry about something and a song comes out of it, it’s really powerful and useful”.

I think Skunk Anansie have changed through the years and some can say that their modern material is a little calmer and not quite as fired as their earlier work. That is a natural progression I think but there is still plenty of grit and emotion at the heart. Skin has not changed a lot (thankfully) and I am so glad Skunk Anansie are still playing together. So many bands who have been playing for so long split up or they take long breaks but, whilst they did take time out between 1999 and 2010, it seems like the band are solid and continuing on. They are such an important part of my early listening experiences and I think the band will carry on motivating the new generation and inspiring those coming through. I shall move on to reviewing What You Do for Love in a minute but I amazed there is so much love out there for Skin and the guys. It is not surprising but, often, when a band has been performing together for years, the attention fades after a while. Skunk Anansie have retained followers who were with them in the 1990s but they are picking up new fans and have this great mix of generations at their gigs.

Skunk Anansie are a great band who helped change the landscape in the 1990s and, twenty-five years since their formation, I can hear their essence in others. Skunk Anansie are touring with Allusinlove and this is a band who takes guidance from Skunk Anansie. There are many more bands around who take inspiration from Skunk Anansie and that is humbling to see. I think Skunk Anansie have many more years left in them and, although they are slightly different to the band we knew back in the 1990s, their core principles and sounds remain true. If they were to change too much then they would risk alienating fans but I do think the band have kept a lot of that rawness but are bringing in new maturity and themes. It has been a little while since we saw any album action. 2016’s Anarchytecture was the last album from them and I do wonder whether they have plans for a new album. I believe there are plans to release an album to mark twenty-five years of Skunk Anansie but, going forward, has that provided them fresh impetus? I am excited to see where they head and what their future holds. Right now, What You Do for Love is out and people are it is a pretty great track. It took me a few listens to adjust because, recently, I have been looking back and checking out the early albums from Skunk Anansie. There is that unmistakable Skin-led energy and physicality but there are new shades and colours, as I said, in their current work. That is a good thing because it shows the band are moving forward and not willing to trade on their past glories. It is about time I got down to reviewing their latest track because it is corking and shows that there is still nobody in music quite like them.

I have mentioned how the latest Skunk Anansie slice is less feral and wild than their classic work but, to be fair to them, the opening stages are pretty intense. The guitars squall and the percussion charges and it is clear that the band mean business. In terms of sound, there is actually a little bit of the Pixies and a sort of Grunge tone; a slight reworking of their Britrock/Alternative sound. When Skin comes to the microphone, she talks about someone in her life that, perhaps, is causing a bit of trouble. She asks them to step into her life; a life where they hold nothing but fire. It seems like the heroine has fire and rage in her heart and something has caused a bit of a rift. Her face is unfazed and there is no blame on Skin’s shoulders but there is still a sense of aggression and upset inside of her. It is interesting unpicking the words and trying to decode the background to the song. There is a sense of desperation biting and it appears this love is struggling. Whether it is based on personal experiences or comes from a slight sense of detachment, one cannot deny the conviction in Skin’s voice. She is presenting all these troubled visions and emotions and it looks like she is going through something quite rough right now. The chorus refers to this person and what they are doing for love. It seems like the two are on different pages and have different interpretations of what love is. There is a lack of trust and breakdown in communications. As the song progresses, Skin talks about someone trying to see the world from different sides; see things from his and her perspective. It got me wondering whether Skunk Anansie are talking less about a personal relationship and more about something wider. The band have always had a political mind and been conscious of the world around me – it got me thinking whether What You Do for Love is more an observation of the world right now and how change needs to happen.

The lyrics, to start, sort of steer you towards something personal and isolated; a sort of tension in a relationship that is threatening to bubble to the surface. As things move on, I sort of feel like something bigger is in focus. Maybe Skin is talking about love in general and how we all need to be more cooperative and sensitive. Maybe she is referring to the anger out in the world and how people in power have the chance to alter the world for good – and they are doing things to serve themselves and not the people. Everyone will have their own interpretations regarding the lyrical meaning but, to me, there is a mix of personal struggle and a call for action. It seems like the heroine is facing a bit of a challenging relationship and there are clichés flying all over the place. Rather than take time away and cool things down, she is asking for communication and wants things to be different. The band is still pretty impressive after all of these years and, whilst that sounds a bit harsh, bands that have been playing for as long as Skunk Anansie often soften and change their sound. It is a relief to hear plenty of force and meat in the bones of Skunk Anansie. This bodes well for the future and, if they have more material coming, I wonder whether it will sound similar to What You Do for Love. The chorus has a great heat and catchiness and the band are tight and focused throughout. I love how Skin’s voice has got a little huskier through the years and she sounds incredible. The driving force behind the band, she puts so much life and passion into the performance. The more you listen to What You Do for Love, the more you uncover. My interpretation changed from the first listen to the second and my perceptions changed. I shall end the review there but I would urge people to check out the new Skunk Anansie track. Those who are expecting something like Hedonism (Just Because You Feel Good) might be disappointed but, in truth, the band has not altered that radically. At a time when we do need a bit of anger in music, it is pleasing to see Skunk Anansie have not reined things in and have gone all acoustic! The band are touring and gathering great reviews and I do hope there is more material coming from them in time. After twenty-five years on the scene, the band are still going strong and have that closeness that comes through in the music.

Skunk Anansie are in Europe at the moment and, with fans across the continent flocking to see them, it seems like there is so much passion and love available for the band. They have so many loyal supporters but fresh faces are discovering their music and are keen to see the band in the flesh. I know that there are a few more dates on the tour and you can keep updated if you head to Skunk Anansie’s social media pages. It seems like, from the photos and tweets, the band are having a great time and they are vibing off the crowds. The band still sounds tight and potent and it makes me wonder where they head from here. They are celebrating twenty-five years together and there are a lot of fans who are seeing them because of their past material. It is evident there is a lot of affection within the band and I have been wondering whether more studio albums will arrive. I mentioned earlier how there are few bands like Skunk Anansie and the band are very much a source of influence for many. They were a huge part of my teenage years and it was a revelation hearing their music for the first time. Their 1995 debut was an awakening to me and I was hooked by their incredible songs; they dug into the skin and stayed in the head. Naturally, the music scene has evolved and changed a lot since they were first around but I still think there is a general absence of bands who sound like Skunk Anansie. We do have Post-Punk bands and some great Pop-Punk acts but what about the sort of sound Skunk Anansie put out into the world? Maybe the band are true originals and it is never a good idea to speculate.

I have spoken a lot about the band but, as a role model, Skin is still hugely important. Apart from commenting on Stormzy’s tweet and bringing race at musical festivals to the fore, she is this incredibly strong and compelling lead that has inspired so many artists. I should leave things there and let you get about your day but, if you can, check out What You Do for Love and follow Skunk Anansie closely. I know the band are busy with touring at the moment but, when they are off the road, that will give them chance to plot their next move and decide what they want to do. Many will want another album but, actually, re-releasing some of their big albums on vinyl might be a good idea. It is definitely a fertile time for Skunk Anansie and I wish them all the very best. They are a terrific band who, twenty-five years after they came onto the scene, are still exciting and utterly wonderful. If you can see them perform live then do so but, as there is new material out, have a listen but also check back on their older material. It makes for terrific listening and will definitely open your eyes. I shall leave it there but, as I have shown in this review, Skunk Anansie are a very special musical force. They have been going for twenty-five years now and, let’s hope they will keep powering on…

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FOR many more years yet.

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Follow Skunk Anansie

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TRACK REVIEWS: ROSALÍA - F*cking Money Man (Milionària + Dio$ No$ Libre Del Dinero)

TRACK REVIEWS:

 

ROSALÍA

F*cking Money Man (Milionària + Dio$ No$ Libre Del Dinero)

 

9.6/10

 

 

The tracks, F*cking Money Man (Milionària + Dio$ No$ Libre Del Dinero), are available via:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eQCpjOBJ5UQ

GENRES:

Flamenco-Pop/Art-Pop

ORIGIN:

Barcelona, Spain

RELEASE DATE:

3rd July, 2019

LABEL:

Columbia Records

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THIS is a bit of an unusual…

review for me because I am tackling two different songs. To be fair, both are pretty short and they form a sort of concept. ROSALÍA is a fantastic artist who has just dropped a double-video for a project entitled F*cking Money Man. The visuals are accompanied by two songs and, whilst I could not split them up, it does bring me to a few interesting subjects. I want to talk about ROSALÍA in the context of daring artists and female artists who are really starting to strike; the different flavours of Pop and why we should not instantly write the genre off; those fighting for equality and the artists who bravely pioneer; a bit about last weekend’s Glastonbury and why ROSALÍA is a potential headliner – I will end by seeing where the Spanish-born artists might head next. It is actually quite unusual to see a Spanish artist near the mainstream and being talked about a lot. That is no disrespect to Spain and its musical output but I do feel like, maybe, Spain still fosters U.S. and U.K. sounds and there is no quite the same proliferation of artists we have here. Perhaps it is because more traditional Spanish sounds are not as integrated into the mainstream as they should be – perhaps it is something else. I do think we look at nations outside of the U.K. and U.S. and feel they lack the same promise and scope. I recently wrote a review where I expounded the brilliant Australian artists around and I think there are more great artists in Spain that are waiting to come through – the likes of ROSALÍA will act as a guide and inspiration. It is no surprise we are a bit blind to other nations because I think, even in 20019, we are still too reliant on the same sort of music and sources. Maybe we get it into our head that Spanish music is going to be World music: we are not aware of the fact there is Pop, Rock and other genres in the country being represented by some great artists.

I think the industry does need to incorporate some new flavours and tones in order to make it more exciting and promising. I have strayed a little from what I was going to say but, when it comes to ROSALÍA, there is so much to investigate and unpack. She is an artist who, like her boldest peers, is turning heads right now. I do feel like there are so many artists around right now that lack the necessary drive and punch to really settle in the mind. I hear so much generic Pop and lacklustre music; it does start to get boring and you yearn for someone who has that passion and sense of independence. I still feel the mainstream is too generic and the less soulful and meaningful Pop music holds too much power. Consider what those artists offer to the world. A lot of the lyrics on display are pretty formulaic and staid; many of the compositions are plastic and processed and the vocals lack soul and requisite appeal. It is a shame that a more commercial and easy-going Pop vibe is still ruling over everything else. I am seeing some changes come through. The fact that we have artists like ROSALÍA making waves and coming though means, I hope, the scene will break up and diversify very soon. I will mention Glastonbury in a bit but, when watching the coverage from last weekend, it was defined by strong female artists who, before, had not been given the credit they deserve. I loved what Miley Cyrus was doing and Billie Eilish had the crowd spellbound. It was a festival defined by strong and bold women emerging and captivating. I do feel like, in future years, we will see this trend continues and, in terms of the sound of the mainstream, artists like ROSALÍA are ready to shake it up. I am going to bring in a couple of interviews she has given because, when you read the extracts, you get a sense of someone who does not follow guidelines and really wants her music to stand out.

 PHOTO CREDIT: Roger Kisby for Rolling Stone

Just look at her new piece: Is F*cking Money Man (Milionària + Dio$ No$ Libre Del Dinero) a suite of songs or a double A-side? Is it a political statement or personal revelation? I do feel like there is much formula and marketing with modern music. Artists are too keen to stick to a pattern and not break from that. Looking at ROSALÍA’s latest tracks and we have someone who is certainly doing her own thing! I think the most interesting and exciting music being made right now is coming from female artists. I confess there are some great male acts doing their thing but when I consider all the best new sounds around, they are emanating from women. Look at what ROSALÍA is doing with Pop music right now. I mentioned Spain and, as ROSALÍA is Catalan-born, it is inevitable that sounds and flavours of her upbringing and home are going to show themselves in the music. That is not to say that there is a cliché vision of Spain in her work. Mixing in Flamenco and other genres, we have this original blend that is both cool and fresh but it has definite heat and intensity. Consider, too, what I was saying about modern Pop and the fact it is quite stale and machine-like. I hear so many songs that sound exactly the same and it seems rather pointless when you consider it. There is nothing wrong with commercial Pop but, if artists are not bringing something new to the table, the mind is going to look elsewhere. ROSALÍA has that blend of her native Spain but there are so many different colours and tones working through her music. What we get is something both daringly strident and accessible. Like Billie Eilish, ROSALÍA is remarkably accomplished and confident for someone so young. There is not this feeling (with ROSALÍA) that she needs to write about love and the same themes to attract attention and get acclaim. Sure, she has experienced heartache but that is not what drives her consciousness. Her new project is about money and the different sides of it; the greed and corruption that come with it and a sense of extravagance.

I do feel like we all get this idea of modern Pop and what it is all about. I have said how we should not dismiss it and associate it with negative impressions. The commercial artists who seem unable to project any personality and talent onto the page are the ones who are keeping this stereotype alive. Listen to ROSALÍA and Billie Eilish; take a listen to Lizzo too. Whilst these artists bring other genres together, they are very much at the forefront and gaining universal acclaim. These artists are talking about serious and less commercial ideas; they are splicing sounds together and delivering incredibly powerful music. Pop has been in a dire state for a few years now and it has been a while since there was this incredibly rich and promising mainstream. I do feel like there is a revival happening. Being led by brilliant artists like ROSALÍA, there is a lot to get optimistic about! What I love about modern Pop is the fact there is variation coming in. There are many reasons to love ROSALÍA’s work but one has to admire the boldness of her sounds and themes. F*cking Money Man (Milionària + Dio$ No$ Libre Del Dinero) captures you because it is slinky and cool but there is this cutting edge that keeps the song brash and alert. One can lose themselves in the song and does not need to speak Spanish to appreciate the brilliance of the music. In fact, she is actually singing in Catalan on the songs. How many modern artists do we hear that are singing in Catalan? Definitely, in Spain there are many but do we have this fear that, if a song is in a foreign language, it will not resonate and remain in the mind? I will explain the songs in more details soon but it is clear ROSALÍA is doing things differently and is a step ahead of her peers.

There is a lot to love about ROSALÍA but I especially admire her determination and independence. I want to bring in an interview from THE FADER that sort of underlines what I mean:

Rosalía doesn’t like not being able to do something — and if anyone has said “no” to her in the last two years, it’s hard to tell. During that time, the 26-year-old has evolved from a budding flamenco vocalist in her native Spain into an international pop star and genre rebel, one who’s collaborated with James Blake, appeared on Kourtney Kardashian’s Instagram, taught Alicia Keys Spanish, and hung out with Dua Lipa at awards shows.

“I understand that a lot of people can’t connect with my music, because it’s a radical proposal and a personal proposal,” Rosalía says of her hybrid of flamenco elements and sparse electronics. “There will be people who can connect with it, and many that can’t. I understand the risk I take in making these decisions with my music.”

It wasn’t until Rosalía was 13 that the arrow of flamenco pierced her. It happened one day when she was hanging out by her school and heard a nearby car blasting a song with melismatic vocal runs and rhythmic palmas hand-clapping. “From the beginning, I knew,” she says, resolute and staring directly into my eyes. “I realized, This is my path.”

Rosalía knew very little about flamenco, a style of music and dance born out of the intermingling of Castilians, Moors, Sephardi Jews, and the Romani community in Southern Spain and codified in 19th-century Andalusia. She didn’t know about the sentimental howls of flamenco’s cante jondo style or its frantic zapateado footwork. But that didn’t matter. “It’s something I felt was important to my journey,” she says”.

There is no denying ROSALÍA is taking a few risks, I guess, in regards the personal aspect of her music and the fact that Catalan features. I feel she is being a bit hard on herself because, the more you listen, the more striking it becomes. Yes, the songs are quite challenging and new but it is quite easy bonding with them and admiring what ROSALÍA is doing.

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ROSALÍA is someone who fights for equality and does not want to rest until there is balance in the industry. This year has been defined by female artists and the music they are producing. I think there is still a way to go before there is equality but, in studios and behind the scenes, there is this disparity that needs correcting. I want to bring in another interview where ROSALÍA discussed her start in music and then talked about gender disparity in the industry:

How did you first get into making music?

Rosalía: Since I was a young girl, I have always felt a strong connection to music, in a natural way, without hesitation. I remember myself as a little girl dancing and singing around the house most of the time. When I was around ten, I decided I would devote myself and my life to music.

Barcelona is an open and multicultural city. It’s brimming with a very special creative energy. If you pay attention, you may be easily inspired by the places and people living there. I met my flamenco singing teacher in this city. He suggested I started a degree in music, and I had the opportunity to study and share eight years of my life with him in this city. El Raval, Poble Nou, or Gràcia have been essential spots where I have developed my music career.

For me, your music is about independence, especially from men. Is that how you see it?

Rosalía: The way I make music reflects the way I think. I’ll never get tired of fighting until I see equal numbers of men and women in a recording session, you know? In the studio, on the stage to companies. I’ll fight until all those women are given the same value as naturally as it is given to men”.

I do feel like 2019 is a year where female artists are speaking out more and looking to change things very quickly. In terms of music, the likes of ROSALÍA are pioneering and asking for improvement in music.

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ROSALÍA will act as a role model, not only for women in music right now but for the new generation who are looking around and wonder whether women will be on equal footing with men. I do think men in the industry are not doing enough to make changes and ensure there is balance in studios and in the forefront. Maybe this will change but it is women in music doing more of the heavy lifting compared to the men. I will come to the songs in question in a bit but, before moving along, it is worth tracking back to last weekend’s Glastonbury and the fact ROSALÍA performed a blinding set. You can listen to an example of her Glastonbury set here - and you can see the impression her music had on the audience. She was mixing Catalan with English and her set was a nice balance of the sensuous and the stirring. It was a physical performance but there was this accessibility that provides sunshine, coolness and something very alluring. The songs connected instantly and, in terms of performance, ROSALÍA proves she is fully able to handle the big stages. I do think she is a possible Glastonbury headliner. Some might say she is a bit new and it will not work out so quickly but consider the likes of Stormzy – who headlined the Friday at Glastonbury – and he pulled off a remarkable set. In any case, ROSALÍA is a fantastic proposition and there is a lot to unpack when it comes to F*cking Money Man (Milionària + Dio$ No$ Libre Del Dinero). Rather than release a conventional single, there is this pairing of songs that investigations money and greed. From investigating gameshows and that frantic grab for money the poisonous aspect of cash, these songs are very timely and highly-charged. One feels like she is taking a shot at the U.S. and the greed of Donald Trump but ROSALÍA is looking at the wider world and how money rules everything.

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From the first notes of Milionària, you are hooked and realise this is a very different artist to what is out there at the moment! ROSALÍA comes to the microphone and there is this instantly sense of authority and coolness. There is this big beat behind her and slinky electronics that gives the song a brilliant shake and rhythm! You are helpless to resist the fire and intoxicating sounds emerging but, it is ROSALÍA’s voice that resonates most. Before the chorus kicks in, ROSALÍA casts herself as this millionaire; someone who is traveling from Mumbai to Malta and, it seems, money is no object. She wants a couple of different Bentleys and there is this aspiration to be rich and not have to worry about things – she cannot have this until she gets a windfall. One might look at the song and feel like it is a young Pop artist yearning for fame and chasing something glamorous but, in reality, this is a look at vacant figures and the wealthy that do not see the struggle around and do not understand the true value of money. We hear plenty of songs where money is idolised and seen as this great thing but one senses ROSALÍA growing weary of those types who post snaps on Instagram and boast about their wealth. There are dollar signs in her mind and, whereas many of us are content with what we have, the heroine wants more and more riches. Every day, it seems, is her birthday and she can have leopards running through her garden; she can buy fine art and go wherever she pleases.

Whereas some artists might write about money in a very cliché and vacant way, there is a lot of nuance in Milionària. The coda of “F*cking money man” makes you wonder whether she means that in a rather casual and boastful way (put a comma after the ‘money’ and it has a more laidback vibe) or whether it is angered and bold – like she sees all this wealth and how it is corrupting people. That idea of chasing cash and having all this stuff you do not need builds very vivid images. Among the list of dreams/acquisitions – a yacht and star in her name; employing a kid to open her Christmas presents – there are so many big prizes and dreams that many people have. You feel that Milionària wags its finger at those who chase something empty and use their money to suit themselves and not change the world. In the song, ROSALÍA casts herself as the spoiled and money-chaser but one can tell that this life is something that she fears and hates. In terms of who the song is aimed at, maybe it is aimed at celebrities and those who so many people hanker after but, to me, it is a look at the world in general and how there is so much greed and wasted wealth. It is a truly fascinating song and one anyone can get behind. The fact the song is sung in Catalan should not put people off because, not only are there translations to the lyrics online, but the sound of ROSALÍA singing in her native song gives the song a romance and quality it would not have were it sung in English.

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After Milionària and its talk of big-money spenders and those who chase after needless purchases, Dio$ No$ Libre Del Dinero is a more cautious and fearful song. The former song is about greed and people chasing dollars but, on the accompanying cut, the singer is asking God to free her and the world from the grip of money and how it corrupts people. Not only do we get two different sides to money but the tone is very different between the tracks. The former is a more spirited and fired-up song where Dio$ No$ Libre Del Dinero has more sadness and emotion on its breath. The track is gorgeous and imploring and, whilst it is hard to source English lyrics online, one enjoys the performance and the sheer potency of ROSALÍA’s voice. It is such a mesmeric instrument that gets into the head and provokes images. No$ Libre Del Dinero is ROSALÍA at her peak, I feel. It is a very short song that lasts less than two minutes but it packs so much in. The vocal weave and sound is incredible and you are spellbound by this very graceful and beautiful sound. The lyrics, as I understand, are much more cautious and wary than the vocal would have us believe. ROSALÍA is concerned about money and how it seems to dominate people; how it can corrupt nations and lead people astray. I do feel like Pop music is too beholden to formula and tradition and few artists are breaking away from that.

In the space of two songs, we have two very different stories around money. One can listen to both songs at the same time – both are part of this F*cking Money Man theme/concept. I do love both tracks and feel like they are powerful, incredible moving and memorable works. ROSALÍA shows she is one of the finest and most promising artists in music right now. Even if you not behind the lyrics and following them, the music and vocals will definitely connect. From the sunnier and more rousing spirit of Milionària to calmer and more cautious sound of Dio$ No$ Libre Del Dinero, ROSALÍA covers all the bases. I cannot wait to see where she goes next and whether we will get more releases like this in the future. It is clear that, the more she performs, the more confidence she accrues. It is scary to think how far along she will be this time next year considering the progress she has made in the last couple of years. If you have not listened to ROSALÍA’s previous work then do go back as well and discover so many wonderful, instantly memorable songs that will be in your mind for a long time to come!

I love the fact ROSALÍA can write a song where there are dangerous spiders, dangers and weird gameshow obstacles in the way! So many modern songs are predictable and concentrate on love and relationships. ROSALÍA has presented something a lot busier, more exciting and deeper than all of that. We see money every second of the day on screens and advertising billboards. I do feel like the importance of money is causing a lot of misery and divisions around the world. We all want more money but we look at big celebrities and figures that have a lot and aspire to be just like them. In many aspects, ROSALÍA is sending a message to those who aspire to that sort of life. That desperation to be famous and rich; the money dominates is put in the spotlight. Whether directly attacking politicians and businessmen or taking a shot at money and greed in general, ROSALÍA has created a very impressive feat with F*cking Money Man (Milionària + Dio$ No$ Libre Del Dinero). There is a sense of exasperation and anger in her voice but, this being ROSALÍA, she is trying to change the world and raise awareness. I shall leave things alone soon but I recommend people go and see ROSALÍA is they can. Check out her social media channels and, if she is playing near you, go and catch her! ROSALÍA is a stunning live performer and her songs are amazing. Her 2018 album, el mal querer, was lauded because of its freshness and memorability.

I am not sure whether there are plans for more music soon but make sure you check out what ROSALÍA has produced so far. She is an artist who will go very far and has many years ahead. I am captivated by everything she does and think that, in a few years, she might well headline Glastonbury. ROSALÍA is a role model and an artist that is not following the pack. Her songs are so addictive and powerful that it is hard to turn away and pass them by. Not that you’d want to because, after one listen of a track like Milionària and you want to go back for more. My next review will return to the single song but, as I could not separate Milionària + Dio$ No$ Libre Del Dinero – and they are part of F*cking Money Man -, that is the way things have to be today. The fact ROSALÍA has released two videos and not just been beholden to a traditional single shows that she is always pushing ahead and doing what she feels is right. Check the video(s) and you can see how much the visual nature of music means to ROSALÍA. This is a complete artist and someone who is going to go a very long way. Do not pass her by and, with new cuts out in the world, ROSALÍA is going to be on many…

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PEOPLE’S lips.

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Follow ROSALÍA

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TRACK REVIEW: Brittany Howard - History Repeats

TRACK REVIEW:

 

Brittany Howard

PHOTO CREDIT: David McClister 

History Repeats

 

9.5/10

 

 

The track, History Repeats, is available via:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RwD9S4onuQ0

GENRES:

Indie/Blues-Rock

ORIGIN:

Alabama, U.S.A.

RELEASE DATE:

27th June, 2019

LABEL:

Sony Music Entertainment UK Limited

The album, Jaime, is available from 20th September. Pre-order here:

https://store.brittanyhoward.com/

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I will talk about Glastonbury later…

 PHOTO CREDIT: Brantley Gutierrez

and, as part of that discussion, I wanted to look at the female artists who have played this year. It has been a busy and exciting festival and there have been so many highlights. In terms of the gender balance at the festival, yes, there is a little way to go but it seems Glastonbury is far ahead of most British festivals. I think a lot of the hesitation and holdback comes from the perception regarding women and whether they are headline-worthy. There is this feeling that women, for the most part, cannot play as hard and well as men and, with some big bands headlining Glastonbury this year, will policies change so that women are giving a better shot? There are some great female bands but, mostly, it is female solo artists that stand out. There is a lot to unpack regarding Glastonbury but I do think they have to make some big changes in the next couple of years. Whether we want to talk about roots and encourage more women to go into professions like engineering and producing – thus, female artists having fellow women in studios – or push the talented female artists emerging to the front, I am not too sure. I do think that there is this perception that women cannot perform as energetically and emphatically as men; maybe they are more Pop-based or less anthemic. This comes down to a subject that interests me: women who can shred it! We have the likes of St. Vincent and Anna Calvi and bands like Goat Girl but, if you look further, there are many more. Brittany Howard is an artist many of us might not know by name but, if you like Alabama Shakes, you will recognise her for sure! I will talk about other aspects of her music/personality - but I think her affinity for the guitar is key. Look at most photos of her online and you will see her holding a guitar! She is one of these role models who will help encourage more girls/women to pick up the instrument.

 PHOTO CREDIT: Billboard

There is a lot more to Howard than the guitar but I do like the fact that, at a time when many assume women can’t/do not play, Howard shows otherwise. In fact, Howard is a skilled musician and exceptionally varied songwriter. One cannot easily label a gender and this idea of limitation in women is eroding. More great female artists are coming through which means, more and more, we will see steps towards equality. I am fascinated by the gender split regarding guitar and, how recently, there is a lot more equality. It seems that role models and certain artists are compelling young women to play and I hope, in years to come, this will help bring about some greater balance regarding festival line-ups. There are so many strong and original female artists in music right now and Brittany Howard ranks alongside the strongest. I have been following Alabama Shakes for a while and I do love the band aesthetic but, to me, it is the power and brilliance of Howard that allures me. Her voice is magnetic and sensational and her playing exceptional. She is a complete musician and hugely interesting writer who goes beyond the ordinary and sticks in the mind. I will talk more about Howard and other sides to her but, as a lead and figure in music, I know she will be inspiring so many other artists. I have written a lot about gender imbalance in the industry but, with artists like Howard shining and exploding, I know we will see correction and improvement very soon. Not only has this year been synonymous with women powering through but black artists have been right at the top of the tree. I do think that, still, music is too homogenised but 2019 has been a far more eclectic and broad year regarding gender and race. Maybe I am wrong but I do think there are movements in the right direction and music is far richer than it was a few years ago.

The reason I say this is because some of the very best albums of the year have been made by black artists. We have just seen Stormzy nail his Glastonbury headline set and, whilst he has not released an album this year, he is the first black British artist to headline Glastonbury. In terms of the albums, big releases from Lizzo, Jamila Woods; Little Simz, Dave and Solange have all won big critical love. I am not suggesting that there is equality regarding race in music – that is another issue to unpack too – but this year, to me, has been noticeable because of these strong black voice emerging. Maybe it is the fact that artists like Dave and Little Simz have been talking explicitly about the state of the country and the reality of where they live; a certain authenticity that is not often fostered by the industry. I do sense this determination from black artists to get the respect they deserve and, like women, stop being pigeon-holed and labelled. Maybe it will take a while longer for black artists to get equality on festival bills like women but I can sense change and a slight shift occurring. Brittany Howard, again, is an inspiring role model for women but especially for black women who might feel that their voice will not be taken seriously. I have bonded with some incredible artists this year in terms of their stories but, when it comes to Brittany Howard, her background is especially stirring. If you want to talk about a fascinating story and one that seems almost impossible, then study Brittany Howard. This article talks about Howard’s childhood and when she first picked up the guitar:

Brittany’s dad, K.J. Howard, repaired and sold used cars. The family ran a junkyard, and their home, a little trailer, was set in the middle of it. “[M]y mom was really good at making our home—no matter what our situation was—always felt like a home, always felt really nice,” Brittany told NPR in 2016

PHOTO CREDIT: Alysse Gafkjen 

“We had a lot of different kinds of animals. . . . I grew up on a farm, in a sense.” It was a carefree time, but when Brittany was nine, things changed. Her older sister, Jaime, suffered from retinoblastoma, a rare cancer of the eye, and although Brittany adjusted—“Being a kid, it’s just how life is”—Jaime became blind and eventually died from the disease. (Brittany also was born with retinoblastoma, but as she explains, “They caught mine in time ’cause it was years later.” She’s lost most of the vision in one eye but wears glasses and is, she reports cheerfully, “fine.”) Shortly after Jaime’s death, K.J. and Brittany’s mom, Christi Carter Howard, split up. “[I]t’s hard to stay together when everybody’s grieving,” Brittany told NPR. “So they split, and I went to live with my mom. We moved to the city. In Madison [Alabama], we lived in a little apartment.”

That’s when Brittany really started playing guitar. Her mom was working, and music was something to figure out, something to do. Jaime had taught her little sister how to write poetry and play the piano, but Brittany had to figure out the rest on her own. She dug out Jaime’s old guitar: “I took it to my music teacher at school, she tuned it for me,” Brittany told CBS News. “And then I just took it home and wrote my own songs”.

I do think music has been missing these role models leading from the front who will inspire the next generation. Sure, we have the odd one popping up now and then but this year has been especially strong. From Howard to Stormzy; to Simz and Woods, some of the finest artists of this year are going beyond the familiar and actually writing music that matters. I have so much respect for artists like Brittany Howard because she is a pioneer and someone who will give strength to those similar to her; those who have a similar upbringing, that is.

 PHOTO CREDIT: Alysse Gafkjen

Let us move on because there are a couple more subjects I want to bring in. I want to talk about artists who move from bands and step out alone. It is interesting because yesterday saw me review Liam Gallagher’s new track and, with an album out on 20th September (like Howard), both emerge from very successful bands. Granted, Gallagher’s Oasis broke up years ago and they were a bit bigger than Alabama Shakes but my point is about adapting and being taken seriously as a solo artist. When I was reviewing Liam Gallagher, I sort of wondered whether there is this chance Oasis will play together again and how critics, when they approach his music, always mention the band. The same happens with Howard and, whilst Alabama Shakes are not over, Howard is stepping out on her own. Alabama Shakes are a great band with their own sound but Howard’s single, History Repeats, is a different thing altogether. She has been keen to imprint her own voice into the mix and not repeat what she has done with Alabama Shakes. I guess there is always something scary about moving from a band and launching a solo career. Through the decades, countless artists have done it – some with more success than others. I do feel like Howard has brought a lot of lessons and elements from Alabama Shakes and injected that into her solo work. Rather than show any nerves and sound a bit out of her element, she is completely assured and wonderful. Everything is building up to the release of her album, Jaime. I have talked about the background of Murphy and her musical affinity but, when it comes to her solo album, there is a personal tragedy/relevance. If one looks at her official website then you can see why Howard wanted to put Jaime out into the world:

I wrote this record as a process of healing. 

Every song, I confront something within me or beyond me. Things that are hard or impossible to change, words and music to describe what I’m not good at conveying to those I love, or a name that hurts to be said: Jaime.

I dedicated the title of this record to my sister who passed away as a teenager. She was a musician too. I did this so her name would no longer bring me memories of sadness and as a way to thank her for passing on to me everything she loved: music, art, creativity.

But, the record is not about her. It’s about me.

It’s not as veiled as work I have done before.

I’m pretty candid about myself and who I am and what I believe. Which, is why I needed to do it on my own.

I wrote and arranged a lot of these songs on my laptop using Logic. Shawn Everett helped me make them worthy of listening to and players like Nate Smith, Robert Glasper, Zac Cockrell, Lloyd Buchanan, Lavinia Meijer, Paul Horton, Rob Moose and Larry Goldings provided the musicianship that was needed to share them with you.

Some songs on this record are years old that were just sitting on my laptop, forgotten, waiting to come to life. Some of them I wrote in a tiny green house in Topanga, CA during a heatwave.

I was inspired by traveling across the United States. I saw many beautiful things and many heartbreaking things: poverty, loneliness, discouraged people, empty and poor towns. And of course the great swathes of natural, untouched lands. Huge pink mountains, seemingly endless lakes, soaring redwoods and yellow plains that stretch for thousands of acres. There were these long moments of silence in the car when I could sit and reflect. I wondered what it was I wanted for myself next. I suppose all I want is to help others feel a bit better about being. All I can offer are my own stories in hopes of not only being seen and understood, but also to learn to love my own self as if it were an act of resistance”.

That is a lot to absorb but I do love the fact that there is this family connection with the title but, actually, Jaime is deeper than that. Self-love is very much what Howard is about and she has this great social conscience. 2019 has been a year where some very bold and aware albums have come out in terms of social poverty, politics and connection. Howard has travelled around the U.S. and seen so many varied sights. Her album is a testament to those visions and I cannot wait to hear it!

Before I move on, I want to bring in an article from Rolling Stone that talks about the album’s namesake, Jaime, and the relevance to Brittany Howard:

One of those belongs to her older sister Jaime, the album’s namesake. “She taught me how to write a song, taught me how to draw, taught me about art,” Howard says of her sister, who died at 13 from a form of eye cancer. “I’ve always been connected to her spirit. This [album] was kind of my way of doing something together.” Howard thought about her sister’s tape collection, where Elvis stood next to the Supremes. Howard also listened to Brazilian artist Jorge Ben, who makes music “where there’s literally, like, 18 different things happening in the song.”

Throughout the album, Howard sounds relieved at the chance to speak her truth. “If people like the record, that’s amazing,” she says. “I’m just proud that I made the record.” She plans to tour with the people who helped her make it, including keyboardist Paul Horton (who has toured with the Shakes) and Shakes bassist Zac Cockrell, “because to me he’s, like, the best bass player.”

As for the band that made her famous, even Howard isn’t sure what its future is. “We’re a family,” she says. “Those are my bro-bros for life. But right now they’re just letting me do my thing. If I did the same songs and the same everything, I’d be so miserable. I’d be so bored. I wouldn’t care about heaps of cash, swimming in a cash swimming pool. It does not matter to me”.

I do think it is important to contextualise albums and learn a bit about the background. So many artists give very little away and it can lead to a very frustrating listening experience. Rather than give a few lines of information, Howard has told this story and it gives Jaime a much greater depth and weight, I feel. I think it is important to move on and get to the song in question. History Repeats is a fantastic track and one that will impress Alabama Shakes fans but also draw in those who are not aware of the band.

 PHOTO CREDIT: Alysse Gafkjen

Anyone who worries whether Brittany Howard going solo would take away some of Alabama Shakes’ percussive strut and physicality should not worry. On her single, History Repeats, things get off to a pretty physical and bold start. The percussion slams and rolls and, before she has even sung a word, you get this real sense of impending mood and force. It is a wonderful introduction and already gets you standing to attention. There is a real sense of scurry and busyness when one hears the vocals. Rather than it being a single layer, Howard layers her voice and sort of creates this conversation. There is percussion and guitar and all of this adds to the mix. After a building introduction, the heroine talks about a certain place and not wanting to go back there. Rather than pack too many words in and build a huge story, there are a few lines that show great economy; there are mantras repeated and this feeling that, if the words are said enough, they will stick. Howard’s lead vocal has this odd effect where it seems a bit lower down the mix and has this great quality to it. It is hard to describe and explain but I love what Howard does. The guitars mix between Blues and Funk and you get this nice little kick and guide coming from the strings. Howard talks about this ‘place’ constantly and she has already been. She has washed her hands and does not want to return that. Whether this is an emotional state and not wanting to return there or something else, I am not sure to start. Keeping a sense of mystery means listeners can make their own decisions and tell their own story. I get the feeling there is this struggle and Howard is seeing her country change. Having been raised with a certain degree of struggle, she is seeing so much poverty and inequality around her. Rather than change happening and people getting back on their feet, they are being put down. She has seen a degree of poverty and you know she does not want to go back to that place.

History Repeats, in many ways, is like a prayer or sermon. Rather than it having a traditional structure and form, it seems more freestyle’ and spontaneous. I mentioned how certain lines are repeated and I think that is what gives the song its power. Rather than forgetting the lyrics, lines will stick in the mind and you will find yourself repeating them over and over. I guess that is the point of the song: Howard wants people to take her words to heart and learn from them. Howard talks about history repeating itself and how we are defeating ourselves. Maybe this is a shot at politicians who are making the same mistakes and not helping those in need but it might be a wider call to the world. It is an intriguing thought and one that remained with me for a while. Whereas some Alabama Shakes songs put the guitar right at the front, although it is still prominent in the mix, the percussive element is the driving force. Maybe it is that need to summon avalanche and describe something hard-hitting – the drumming throughout is extraordinary. Howard’s licks and guitar work is, as always, essential and the entire composition is beautifully weaved and detailed. I do think you will need to check out History Repeats a few times because it is a pretty big song that will take a while to digest. This year has been a mighty one for music and, with Brittany Howard putting new material into the world, it has got even better! I am not making predictions just yet but I do feel Jaime will be regarded as one of the best albums of 2019. I have always loved Howard’s work but I think she has added something new to her work as she has stepped out solo. History Repeats is one of the strongest singles of the year and it bodes really well for Jaime. I shall end the review there but I have been amazed by Howard’s new single and it is one I cannot stop listening to at the moment. Make sure you investigate the track and let it get into the brain because, after a single spin, it will do its work and will open your mind.

Brittany Howard is playing across the U.S. in the coming weeks and months and will be preparing to release her album on 20th September. It will be one of the most anticipated albums of the year and I cannot wait to hear what other songs are going to be included. I have mentioned how it is tricky stepping away from a popular band and going out alone. I do not think Howard has any problems because, not only are Alabama Shakes resting at the moment, but going solo allows her to try something new and put more of herself into the music. I think the rest of this year will be very busy for her and it must be exciting embarking on this big tour and having an album on the horizon. Ensure you get Jaime when it comes out in September because I think it will be among the best records of 2019. I shall wrap things up pretty soon but I wanted to return to my points regarding strong role models and why artists like Brittany Howard are to be investigated. She is an amazing talent who has already put so much great music into the world but there is plenty more to come. As a guitarist, Howard will compel so many young women (and men) to play and I think that is really important. She has this incredible history and rise that is motivating and really inspiring to see. The music she is putting out into the world is immensely powerful and I cannot compare her to anyone else. 2019 has already seen so many great role models put albums out and here comes another one. The sensational Brittany Howard is hitting the road and make sure you go and see her. I wonder whether she has plans regarding U.K. dates and will be back with her.

She recently spoke with BBC Radio 6 Music and Lauren Laverne and I do think Howard is coming this way soon enough. There are plenty of people here who will want to hear her perform and see those incredible songs come to life. I am a big fan of what she does and I cannot wait to see where she goes next. An amazing band leader has stepped into the solo realm and, as History Repeats shows, she is a natural! Effortlessly transitioning from Alabama Shakes into her own light, who knows how far she can go. I also talked about festival bills and imbalance and I do think Howard is a natural headliner-in-waiting. Let’s hope she does have that opportunity soon because, now more than ever, strong women are showing festival organisers what they are missing. Let’s leave it there because I feel I have covered all I can but, as to end, I want to urge people to check out History Repeats and make sure you put in your order for Jaime.  It is a remarkable album and one that has so many different stories running through it. I have already, I think, decided what the best album of 2019 (so far) is but, with great artists like Brittany Howard still to come…one cannot predict the finest albums of 2019…

JUST yet.

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Follow Brittany Howard

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TRACK REVIEW: Liam Gallagher - The River

TRACK REVIEW:

 

Liam Gallagher

The River

 

9.4/10

 

 

The track, The River, is available via:

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

GENRES:

Rock/Alternative

ORIGIN:

Manchester, U.K.

RELEASE DATE:

27th June, 2019

LABEL:

Warner Music UK Ltd.

The album, Why Me? Why Not, is available from 20th September. Pre-order here:

https://liamgallagher.com/whymewhynot/

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AS the excitement of Glastonbury…

 PHOTO CREDIT: Amy Sussman

continues to bubble and explode, there are countless highlight ahead. Yesterday’s performances were terrific and everyone will have their own favourites. Somewhere among the rabble, there would have been these sets that will live on: IDLES, Stormzy and Sheryl Crow are all getting huge reception from their turns. I will talk more about Glastonbury later but, when talking about Liam Gallagher (who is also at Glastonbury this year), I am compelled to remark on natural festival acts and showmen(women); idols and rebels in music and why the likes of Gallagher are both inspiring and rare; why Gallagher’s music is improving and how, as he is calming slightly, it brings out new sides; whether Rock can ever be truly seen as ‘dead’ – I will talk a bit about where Gallagher might head next. I think the best sets from festivals are those where there is a bit of energy and performance. I am not saying the slightly quieter sets are lacking but there is something about those big and bombastic sets that really get into the mind. Think about what Stormzy delivered yesterday and the reaction he is getting. He sort of tore up the stage and proved his headline status. It is remarkable seeing how artists step up when it comes to Glastonbury and how they deliver these remarkable performances. Liam Gallagher, as part of Oasis, is no stranger to the big stage. He, to me, is one of the most natural festival performers in the world. He has this natural way that can whip up the crowd; his singing is incredible and he always brings the swagger. As he has (slightly) aged, that physicality and showmanship has hardly alluded him. We do not have as many natural leaders and showmen in the music world as years before (I feel), but there are a few coming through. I do think a lot of the new breed takes their lead from the likes of Gallagher. Not only has the Mancunian artist created some of the best music of our generation but, in terms of the live performances, Gallagher has given us a lot of joy.

There is that argument as to whether Gallagher goes a bit too far at time – recent newspaper reports regarding possible domestic abuse cannot be ignored and written off as part of being a Rock star. When it comes to the music and the thrill of live performance, there are few as electric and scintillating as Liam Gallagher. He has this in-built energy and cheekiness that means the songs come alive. He can own the stage and, in his traditional pose – arms behind the bag, head forward and that masterful, fixed position – there are very few who have the same gravitas as him. Although the recorded music is key, I do love those artists who can take that material to new heights. We all love albums and singles but the live performance takes that material somewhere else. It connects with the audience and gives it an edge you cannot get from the original version. Liam Gallagher has been talking about past performances and, it seems, this year allows him to set the record straight. This article from NME finds Gallagher talking about his love of Glastonbury and how there was one aspect of performance that riled him a bit:

 “Gallagher told BBC 6 Music’s Matt Everitt: “I’ve always enjoyed Glastonbury. There’s only one that I didn’t and that was when I wore a white jacket. I didn’t enjoy that because that was when I’d first started using in ears [monitors to hear the music] and it’s spun me out for 15 years. I’ve only finally took them out so I’m kind of getting back to normal. I hated that gig, man.”

Gallagher added: “I started putting in-ears in as our kid wanted to go Slash, you know what I mean, and turn everything up. So I put them in for the sake of the band and my voice and all that, but I couldn’t get my head round it and then I carried on using them just because, apparently, they’re good for your voice and saves your voice. But I’m off them now, weaned myself off them, they’re horrible.

“You know what it is, with those in ear things you just feel like you’re in the studio, and you can’t have that. You need the interaction, you need the vibe, so yeah it was horrible, I didn’t like it. I mean I enjoyed myself after it because you soon put it to bed, you get off your head and all that and I enjoyed the vibe. But the gig, nah, wasn’t for me”.

 PHOTO CREDIT: Tom Jamieson

Linking into the subject of showmen(women) and why they are a rare breed, how many real idols and rebels do we have right now!? I guess IDLES, in a way, have a bit of Liam Gallagher to them. I can trace so many modern bands/artists to Oasis and what Liam Gallagher has given the music world. Back in the 1990s, Oasis lit up music and gave us some of the finest anthems of their day. Liam Gallagher was a superstar and someone who inspired the masses. Even now, Gallagher is this outspoken and always-cheeky artist who tells it like it is. He has been talking about knife violence in London and how he fears for his children living there. Gallagher knows politicians need to do more and, rather than hide his opinions away, he is always willing to share them and speak out. Some might say that lack of filter can lead to trouble but, as Gallagher has aged, he has become wiser and he is actually reformed in many ways. One of the worst aspects of Gallagher back in the day was the fighting and drinking; times when he took the Rock ‘n’ Roll idol thing too far and caused more destruction than positivity. Maybe that was part of the lifestyle but he has settled a bit – that is not to say his edge has evaded him! In fact, Gallagher is this always-ready idol who is compelling other artists in terms of their opinions, live performances and attitudes. I do think music is still pretty safe and soft, and so, seeing artists like Gallagher add a bit of spice into the mix is very satisfying. Whether rallying against politicians or taking a shot at his brother Noel, Gallagher is a refreshing breeze that needs to remain for as long as possible. Maybe his solo material is not quite as raw as some of Oasis’ biggest tunes but he has not done what a lot of his peers have done and softened his touch.

 PHOTO CREDIT: Q magazine

There is no doubt Liam Gallagher is an idol who has roused musicians into the industry; to take a stand and give us something thrilling and exhilarating. Being rebellious sounds like a bit of a hassle and, as I said, so many artists do not have that necessary swagger. I guess you need to be careful what you say and not cause too much trouble but, as bands like IDLES are showing, letting it all go and truly connecting with the crowd is awe-inspiring. Maybe they have not taken directly from Liam Gallagher but there is a link between them. The former Oasis man was never afraid to hold back and giving the music that unpredictable nature is bewitching. Now, as the established legend he is, he continues to make the news and turn heads. Rather than make the news constantly for getting into trouble – there was a period during Oasis’ heyday where that was a daily reality – Gallagher has grown a lot and knows that he needs to calm his head a bit. There is a new documentary out focusing on Liam Gallagher and, as the article below highlights, there is a vulnerable, sensitive side to Gallagher:

The viewer senses that the final missing piece in this tale of redemption is Noel. When Liam visits the Gallagher family home in Burnage, Manchester, he looks round the room he shared with his brother, happily explaining how their feud really began (he urinated on Noel’s stereo). When Liam is asked what he would do if they met after ten years of estrangement, he says he is unsure—that he might give Noel a “love bite”. Liam’s social-media provocations (“To all you [Noel Gallagher] fanboys I can and will sing any song he wrote bigger better than him even if I was kicked in the bollox by a wood pigeon”) and invitations (“...I forgive you now let’s get the BIG O back together and stop f***ing about the drinks are on me LG x”) are considered by the film’s talking-heads as child-like manifestations of love. He misses his brother, and, as explained by those closest to him, he wonders what Noel thinks when he releases new music. Indeed, Noel’s mark on the film goes beyond mere sentiment. After watching the film ahead of its premiere, he refused to allow any Oasis songs to feature”.

Before coming on to that age-old question as to whether Rock music is dead or not, I do feel like we need to address Gallagher’s musical development. His 2017 debut album, As You Were, got some great reviews and, although there was a lot of expectation regarding his capabilities as a solo artist, he turned in a great album. I actually reviewed the album when it came out and, although I liked some of the songs, I felt it lacked the best of him. Maybe it was the songwriting and lyrics or perhaps it was the production. There was something missing and it did trouble me a bit. There is no denying Gallagher’s talents as a performer and singer but, when it comes to the songwriting, has the secret ingredient been Noel Gallagher?  Maybe the fact Oasis seemed to capture a spirit of the times back in the 1990s was what made Gallagher pop. I was asking myself whether Gallagher would record another album and, with Why Me? Why Not out in the autumn, I can see improvements coming in. With the track, Shockwave, already out, he has brought us a new cut in the form of The River. In some ways, it is business as usual for the northern star. He has not strayed too far from his vocal style and patterns but, in terms of the songs themselves, there is a big step forward. The lyrics seem more original and they connect more freely. The compositions are deeper and more interesting and I think Gallagher’s voice has strengthened in the past couple of years. I still think the production is a bit too polished but, as I shall explore when reviewing his new single, Gallagher is at his most strident and striking when there is a bit of polish in the production. It is really challenging stepping away from a big band because everyone always associates you with them. Proving your worth in any other context takes time and some people are always going to have these huge expectations.

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 PHOTO CREDIT: Neale Haynes

Liam Gallagher is a natural solo artist and shows he does not need Oasis to make him relevant. His solo album did get some great reviews and I think his sophomore album will fare even better. There is a bit more maturity this time around and the songwriting is sharper. Maybe it is the fact the world has moved on since 2017 in terms of politics and his personal situation. Things were pretty tense and shaky back in 2017 but the world has got even less sure since then and, in Gallagher’s life, there have been some changes and challenges. He seems to put all of this down on the page and his voice carries a certain hue. That said, the man has not lost his sense of light and energy and he manages to turn songs like The River into real gems. Gallagher is a stunning singer and I do not think he gets the credit he deserves. I love the fact that he is still making music decades after Oasis broke and I do hope he continues to craft great songs for many more years to come. I will conclude by indicating where Gallagher is heading next but it seems like he has the same love of music he did when he was in Oasis. Some artists phone it in a bit and you can tell they have lost some of that spark. That is not the case with Gallagher who is as invested and passionate as he always was! One only needs to listen to a few moments of The River and you can tell how much he loves what he does. I do feel there has been an improvement in terms of Gallagher’s material and he is a lot sharper and more nuanced than before. As You Were was a good album but I worry there was something lacking. Maybe it was the people writing the songs or something else but I felt more could have come through. Gallagher has definitely responded and he seems a lot stronger this time around.

I will review his latest track very soon but I want to respond to something I read in The Guardian where Vampire Weekend’s Ezra Koenig claimed Rock is dead. He was talking about a lot of different things – including Glastonbury – but his observation definitely drew some criticism. Maybe we do not have the same bands as we did back in the 1990s or last decade but that is not to say Rock is dead. We always get this debate rising up regarding Rock and whether it has functionality in the modern day. Perhaps people are comparing today with the best of decades past but to say Rock is dead is quite short-sighted. I have already mentioned IDLES and there are other bands (such as black midi) that are showing Rock is developing and alive. Maybe Rock has changed through the years and we do not have the same raft of bands we once did. The solo artist has taken over to an extent but that is not to say bands lack clout. With some terrific acts coming through, I don’t think anyone can really say Rock is dead. It is not as loud as it once was but that is just a sign of the times. Music evolves and new tastes emerge but, as has been the case for decades and decades, Rock continues to appeal, influence and shout. Liam Gallagher should know because, back in the 1990s, he was surrounded by so many great Rock bands. He would claim they were inferior to Oasis (most of them were) but he exists in a world where Rock is still vital. Rather than retreat and adopt a new style, Gallagher continues to swagger, stride and generally give a bit of a finger to the establishment. Maybe he has some opinions on the modern breed but even he cannot say modern music lacks intensity and edge. I do wonder what compels the constant discussion around Rock and whether it has life anymore. Perhaps we all do get into this mindset that looks back rather than forward.

I am one of those people who loves the classics from the 1960s, 1970s and, especially, the 1990s but that does not mean I think modern music is irrelevant in comparison. Other genres have come onto the scene that are mixing alongside Rock. We have Post-Punk bands like IDLES and there are great new acts like Amyl and The Sniffers who are giving the world their own style of spit and attack. I would urge anyone who feels Rock is lame to have a look around and see what is shaping up at the moment. Yes, we will never see the wealth of Rock bands we had back in the 1960s and 1970s but that is because the times have changed. Music is a vast and open market and Rock still has a very big part to play. At a time when the world is divided and we are not too sure what is happening regarding international affairs, climate change and the like, I feel Rock is more relevant and needed than ever. I have nothing against other types of music but there is a collective tension and sense of anger that needs articulating in music. Artists are responding to this and I do believe there are a lot of underground artists ready to shine and emerge to the surface. Maybe the argument regarding Rock and its lifespan comes down to taste and whether people like Ezra Koenig feel the current crop is as strong as the older order. That is a personal thing but I do not think one can write off Rock and say that it is dead. Liam Gallagher, I am sure, would argue against the notion Rock is fading away because he is still rocking pretty hard. As a definite role model for so many modern artists, Gallagher continues to lead the way. He is an unfiltered, uncontrolled and natural rebel with a big heart; a man that has as much spirit as he did back in the 1990s and living proof that Rock has plenty of spark left in it!

The River kicks off with a definitely sense of purpose and grit. I remarked how Gallagher’s debut album was a little too polished and, on this track, there are not as many production layers. One can detect this vintage sound that harks back to the 1960s and 1970s. This means that, before a word is sung, you have this very welcomed sound that gives the music more atmosphere and oomph. The lyrics themselves, I feel, are sharper and more interesting than a lot of what was on his debut. In terms of the first verse, Gallagher talks about people going weak the knees; those afraid of the “thought police”. There is a sense of naivety and ignorance; maybe people writing off his/our generation and saying that we are forsaken. Gallagher acts as this preacher (albeit a calm one) who is asking for people to open their eyes and get this heads out of the “clouds of weed”; out of the “time machines” and to actually make a noise. It is clear that Gallagher wants change and knows that it is coming. Maybe he is striking against the Government and their ineptitude but he is calling for action. Maybe there are those who live in the past and live in a haze; those that are not standing up and, as the song goes, Gallagher is waiting down by the river and wants the water to fall. The imagery he projects is pretty epic and you get this nice mix of grand scenes and intimate details. There is plenty of tension and tautness in The River. Gallagher’s voice is both pressing and collected. He balances this angry-yet-considered approach where he knows things need to change but he is not going to lose his head. Against a lot of modern artists who are projecting intensity and outright anger, Gallagher has that same anger but he is not as overt and in-your-face as many. I think that is good because we have this contrast and, if Gallagher were to shout and scream his words, the song might lose some of its meaning.

I love the composition on The River and the fact that it has a life of its own – I did feel a lot of the compositions on As You Were were a bit samey and did not resonate. Here, I think things have changed and Gallagher is taking his music in new directions. We do not have the same guitar chops as Noel Gallagher on display but Liam Gallagher’s band is pretty tight and sound. As the second verse of The River comes into flow, the hero talks about the walls closing in and people’s eyes getting sore. Gallagher does not want people to believe celebrities and politicians: people whose motives are not straight and they will feed you all sorts of lies. Essentially, he is telling us to take action and believe the truth. It is hard to do that in a world filled with lies but we have reached a point where things have got bad. The people know there needs to be positive change and politicians are letting us down. Not only are The River’s lyrics relevant and memorable but there is room for the band to stand out. I love how you get as much imagery and impression from the composition as you do from Gallagher and the words. The River is a complete song that warrants a few spins. It is pretty catchy and strong when you first hear it but I do not think it loses anything if you give it a serious work-out! I also loved Shockwave and it seems that Gallagher is more interested in the wider world and the state of affairs rather than what is happening in his own life. I have complained that artists are still too fixated on their own hearts and do not spend enough time talking about the issues in the world. It is good to see Gallagher addressing this and I think The River is an effective and affecting song that will open eyes but can also be adapted by live crowds. The song has a definite sing-along quality and natural Gallagher spark that sets it apart from so many songs of the moment. Check it out if you can because, like me, you will definitely want to get hold of Why Me? Why Not when it comes out. Gallagher is in very fine and rude form.

Right now, Liam Gallagher is preparing for his turn on the Pyramid Stage (today) – in fact, he tweeted just over an hour ago. He has been playing some warm-up gigs to ready himself for a sweltering set and it will be wonderful seeing the masses come out and support Gallagher. Songs like The River will be in the set but I know there will be some Oasis classics in the mix – people would mutiny otherwise! Why Me? Why Not is Gallagher’s new Twitter sign-off (As You Were was the previous sign-off) and the legend is preparing to release his album in September. If you do not get to see him later at Glastonbury, you can watch it on the BBC and there will be highlights shown. Gallagher has had a bit of a love-hate relationship with Glastonbury and I feel he has not been 100% happy with all the performances he has given there. As a solo artist, he has all that pressure on his shoulders but I do not think that will hinder him at all. Gallagher is a supremely confident performer who has so many hits in his pocket. He connects with the crowd and can get people whipped up pretty easily! I am sure he will have a few choice things to say regarding politics and modern Britain. To be honest, we would be disappointed if Gallagher was to calm it and become a bit of a neutered house cat. The always-reliable Gallagher definitely has his cool and swagger - and that is never going to go away. It is going to be a busy year for him and, after Glastonbury ends, there is the business of getting his album out there. When it is released, I guess there will be more gigs until the end of the year. If his debut solo album indicated a sense of calm and acknowledgment - getting something off his chest before ordering people to carry on – this time around we have a Gallagher who is raising questions. Why Me? Why Not. What does that mean exactly? It is intriguing and I guess we will have to wait until September before all the puzzle pieces come together. Gallagher has famously signed off his tweets with ‘As You Were/As You Were x’ for a while now and, as he enters a new phase of his career, there are many of us who want him to remain…

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PHOTO CREDIT: RANKIN 

AS he is!

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Follow Liam Gallagher

TRACK REVIEW: Robyn - Ever Again

TRACK REVIEW:

 

Robyn

PHOTO CREDIT: Heji Shin

Ever Again

 

9.5/10

 

 

The track, Ever Again, is available via:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GfK88LsB0fg

GENRES:

Electro-Pop/Synth-Pop

ORIGIN:

Stockholm, Sweden

RELEASE DATE:

17th June, 2019

LABEL:

Konichiwa Records

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FOR this Sunday review…

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 PHOTO CREDIT: Mark Peckmezian

I am featuring an artist I have meant to include for a long time now. I shall come to Robyn and her latest track in a bit but, at the moment, I am compelled to talk about Pop survivors and those who grow and inspire through the years; why the likes of Robyn provide a lot more depth and inspiration than many of her peers; artists who talk about their personal struggles and how helpful that can be to people in a similar position; the European influence on the music scene, then and now, and the effect seriously great and intelligent music can have on you – I will talk a bit about where Robyn might head next. To start things off, I think one needs to look at someone like Robyn in terms of stamina and appeal. There are so many Pop artists who sort of arrive and then fade away after a few years. Aside from some mainstays such as Taylor Swift and Katy Perry, there are a fair few artists in the mainstream who have not been around that long. I do think that modern Pop artists understand that, in order to remain and retain popularity, they need to be a bit bolder and original with their sounds. The ones that sort of disappear tend to stick too rigidly to the commercial line; get stuck in a mindset that offers little in the way of interest and depth. Robyn has been in the industry for her while but her 1995 debut, Robyn Is Here, was received well. In 1995, she was a pleasing alternative to the more conventional and sanitised Pop artists on the scene. For those who wanted something a little less routine and manufactured, Robyn was this necessary tonic and relief. Since then, she has continued to evolve and make her mark on music. Her latest album, 2018’s Honey, was another blockbuster and an album that gained a lot of love. By being herself and not following what everyone else is doing, Robyn has remained relevant and hugely popular.

This is encouraging to see because, as I said, there are not that many artists in the mainstream who have the same attitude as her. In fact, the reason there are some long-lasting artists in Pop is because of the likes of Robyn and their mark. If everyone writes about the same thing and follows the commercial, you never have any sense of survival and artists will naturally fade away. I have a lot of respect for artists who can weather the decades and adapt accordingly. What bothers me about modern music is the fact there are so many of these short-term artists that seem to say the same thing. Robyn has been around since the 1990s and she has not doggedly stuck with the same sound and hoped that works. Instead, she has worked with different people and changed accordingly. Her music has that nice mixture of the personal and revealing teamed with something a bit more, well, fun and less serious. That might not be the best description but I do not like artists who are always so serious and open; similarly, those who stray away from their own lives entirely can grow a bit weary. I love Robyn because her music is always compelling and fresh but she manages to put her heart and soul onto the page. Robyn is forty now and, as I will explain, there is this issue of ageism that has hung around music for decades. There is no sign of Robyn slowing and I do hope she continues to make music for decades more. Those who remain and continue to make music should be respected because I think the industry is a lot tougher now than it was a decade or two ago. Pop is a genre that is pretty broad and ever-changing but, in the modern scene, there is a big split between the more commercial artists and those who go deeper. Robyn is definitely someone who surpasses her peers and has inspired so many artists today.

 PHOTO CREDIT: Max Vitali

I will bring in an interview she gave to The Evening Standard where she talks about how she fought against issues and spent some time away from the industry. It is a very brave and honest interview and one that proves Robyn is a survivor and inspiring soul. I think that is one area of appeal that many people overlook. Since her debut album, Robyn has been through some tough times and doubts and, with every album, she amazes and drops jaws. I think it is that sense of honesty she puts into the music and the fact that, with everything she does, you feel this sense of wonder and reveal. By that, Robyn packs in so many different ideas and layers. So many of her peers stick with flat beats and processed compositions. Their lyrics are often pretty stilted and samey and you never get this sense they are attempting to be different and stand out. Robyn, instead, brings magic and textures to every song. Whether it is an outright banger or a track that has more emotional candour, she never stands still and is always looking to tackle new ground. So many artists do stand still and they continue to churn out songs that will get into the charts and are pretty simple. We are seeing Pop artists emerge that are Robyn-like in terms of their qualities and sense of adventure. Still, there is this mass in the mainstream that keeps on talking about love and heartache in a pretty ordinary and predictable way. You never feel like you’re hearing something different or there is any real intent to captivate the listener. With Robyn, one can imagine every album is a chance to improve on the last. With Honey, she provided something warm, forward-thinking and satisfying. Look back at 2010’s Body Talk and that was a slightly chillier record in terms of its themes and sounds. Maybe, as I will investigate, personal circumstances and changes meant there was this gap between records; a shift in sound that was quite necessary.

 PHOTO CREDIT: Heji Shin

Every review you see for a Robyn album seems to highlight her forward-thinking attitude and approach. Rather than copy everyone else and stick what is perceived as ‘needed’, she changes between records and gives the world something fresh. I feel those who make these switches between albums will remain in music longer than artists who simply trot out the same thing. I have a lot of respect for Pop artists in general and the variety available but I do think few are capable of evolving and trying something different with albums. It is hard putting your own stamp on the industry and being this pioneer but, as Robyn shows, when you keep moving then all these wonderful possibilities come to light. I shall move on from this subject in a minute but I am keen to exploit Robyn’s gifts and how she has remained at the top of the tree for decades. Honey gained such warmth and applause because it is an album that gets into the head and does make you feel warmer. It is not always joyful and positive but, for the most part, it is a sensational album that brings together some of her previous aspects but has this whole new perspective running through.

Maybe, having taken a bit of a break and addressed some personal issues, the response to that was an attack of positivity. At a time when so many artists are reflecting something negative and haunted, artists like Robyn are very much needed. I am not saying everyone writes only upbeat songs but, if you look around, there is so much struggle and anxiety coming out. I do think we need that balance. Robyn is this leading light who always surprises us but, at a time when we need something quite positive and energised, she is here to comply. Robyn’s continued lust and pioneering spirit is deeply impressive and so many of her contemporaries could learn from her. Robyn has influenced so many artists performing now and, with no signs of her slowing, she will do this for many more years.

 PHOTO CREDIT: Steve Huynh

We often hear artists’ struggles and personal problems through their music but we do not really get much from them in interviews. Maybe artists are reluctant to interview or they do so many that the answers all sound the same. How often does one hear a genuinely compelling artist who speaks openly and really makes you stand to attention? I cannot name many but, with regards that need, Robyn is a different case altogether. When she spoke with The Evening Standard whilst promoting Honey last year, she talked about this sense of rebirth and revival. The interview is worth checking out in full but I have selected a couple of passages that sort of prove what I mean about Robyn. She is very candid and open regarding her state of mind previously and how she coped with challenging times:

But for a long time, Robyn didn’t want to engage with music or the world at large. She stayed home in her Stockholm apartment watching TV (“Game of Thrones!”) in her pyjamas. She also spent a lot of time in LA, saw friends, went clubbing, read a lot of books. “And I went to therapy three times a week.”

No medication, or self-medication? Robyn shakes her head. “Well, I think psychedelic drugs are definitely useful,” she clarifies, “in those periods of your life.” Does she mean microdosing?

It was all about rediscovering her purpose. Or, the purpose of her music. “I thought: ‘What is so special about me that I have to take up all this space in people’s consciousness and tell them about my feelings? What can I offer them?’

“Maybe that’s why I like people like David Bowie and Prince. I seriously feel like Bowie was an astronaut who went into space and experienced things and brought back these... treasures,” she says, beaming”.

It is wonderful reading interviews with Robyn because she is very engaging and revealing. I like the fact Robyn has regained her spark and is putting that into music.

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Another interview I wanted to bring in, with The Guardian, talks about the building anticipation and excitement; how she has remained relevant and popular these years and how her personal life has never been a major factor regarding her appeal:

The anticipation around Robyn’s new work couldn’t be greater, but in 2018, at 39 years old, she feels she has nothing to prove – especially not to an ageist industry that, despite being imprinted with her image, may not continue to accommodate her. Two days after the party at Pikes, I met Robyn at the villa she was renting at the top of a slalom-like path through the densely wooded Ibiza hills. As we talked, overlooking the pool and a raked gravel garden, friends emerged from their rave cocoons to receive a plate of eggs from her confidante and collaborator Adam Bainbridge (AKA British producer Kindness). The air smelled like hot cedar. Despite the 31C heat, and having spent the past week clubbing and working, Robyn, wearing a white smock over a complicated white swimsuit, looked unfairly like an embodiment of the surrounding calm.

Unlike most female pop stars subject to mass idolatry, Robyn’s personal life has never been part of her appeal. (She shrugged off a question about the band on her ring finger.) Instead, her songs function as talismans affirming the nobility of heartbreak and the importance of standing by your convictions without needing to know anything about hers. “Even when she’s being vulnerable, you feel safe being taken on the journey with her,” says comedian and fan Andy Samberg. In a Robyn song, you have the right to desolate heartbreak and the perfectly valid urge to stalk your ex to make triple-sure it is over. This connection is how Robyn always wanted fans to relate to her music, as she did with Kate Bush in the 1980s. But her new album necessitated personal revelations.

Emulating Robyn’s sound is possible; maintaining her creative control is harder. Long after she had proved herself, the micromanagement from industry executives could still reach absurd lows. “When I did the video for Handle Me [in 2007],” she said, “I had quite strong eyebrows, which now isn’t a weird thing at all – everybody has eyebrows – but back then it was, like, considered being super unsexy, and I remember my American label wanting me to redo the video.” (She refused.)

PHOTO CREDIT: Liz Collins 

Selling an attitude of independence has been crucial to the allure of most major female pop stars since Madonna, but there is a chasm between the carefully curated appearance of sovereignty – a mainstay of branded feminism – and actually running your business. “Getting that control takes a lot of stamina, and a lot of drilling, drilling, drilling,” said Robyn. Daring to ask questions and revealing your lack of knowledge makes you insecure, even vulnerable. “It’s not a sexy process, although the result is, of course, something that’s very desirable for people. I think getting there has been something that I’m admired for by the industry, but people that have been very close to it, they haven’t been very impressed”.

I have dropped in a lot of other people’s words there but it helps to illustrate where Robyn has come from and what she has had to endure. Honey was one of last year’s best records and we are excited to see where Robyn ventures next. Ever Again is the final track from Honey and, whilst the album has been out a while, I was keen to cover this latest single because it is sort of the end of a chapter. Robyn will be looking ahead and seeing what comes next. I will go on to talk about European influence in music but, from an intellectual stance, Robyn’s music surpasses most of what is out there. Not only is she a very wise and compelling interviewee - but you can hear that intelligence in her music. Her melodies and choruses have a warm heart and are definitely catchy but there is nuance in there so that you come back time and time again. Rather than spew out the same lyrics as everyone else and limit her imagination, Robyn is much freer with the pen and takes you something unique. That is a hard thing to do in modern music and yet Robyn has been doing it for years. It is testament to her talent and determination that this Pop leader is striking and surprising nearly twenty-five years after her debut album.

 PHOTO CREDIT: Mark Peckmezian

I am keen to review Robyn’s new single in a minute but the fact she was born in Sweden makes me think about European music. Back in the 1980s and 1990s, European artists made a huge impact on Dance and Pop music. In fact, I do feel they were on a level par with the artists of the U.K. and U.S. Their naturally upbeat disposition gave the music scene this spark and colour that has not quite been rekindled. From great Pop bands to Dance innovators, there was this period of great joy and togetherness and, right near the front, European artists were there and adding their weight. I do think Sweden has always been vital and I associate the nation’s artists with a sense of upbeat you do not get anywhere else. Maybe that is a reflection of the quality of life one experiences in Sweden or the fact the people are more optimistic. Whatever the reason, one cannot deny that Swedish artists have given music so much. Look at Norway, too, and new artists like Sigrid are producing seriously intoxicating Pop. Like Robyn, she can create very intelligent and long-lasting songs that have big waves and thoughts. Sigrid can write in a very personal way but she does not weigh her music down with gloom and anxiety. I think, as the U.K. heads out of the E.U., we are becoming disconnected but we cannot ignore the relevance of European artists. I am not sure whether Robyn is actually still based in Sweden but she definitely has this natural way with choruses and words that reminds me of that great Pop and Dance from the 1980s/1990s. I shall move on to reviewing territory now because, I hope, I have explained enough about Robyn’s charm, wonder and unique edge. Ever Again is a fantastic song and one, I feel, that did not get singled out enough when people were reviewing Honey. I guess the next step from her will be another album but, right now, I am keen to assess this wonderful dollop of Honey.

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 PHOTO CREDIT: Björn Borg

From the opening beats and drive of Ever Again, it seems Robyn is not messing around. Her voice remains composed and disciplined as she takes a lover to task. Rather than scorn and put a lot of hatred out there, she is keen to get things out in the open. Maybe the two had an old rhythm that has been lost and it seems like the heroine does not want the same old s*it to dominate the relationship. Robyn is in control and she switches between tender and tense. There is a sense that things have sort of taken a turn for the worse in a relationship but Robyn is looking to embrace positivity rather than turn in on herself. It seems that Ever Again is this declaration of intent: Robyn is not going to be brokenhearted again and, instead, she will embrace love and wants to feel happy. It is almost an alien message at a time when so many artists are heading in a different direction. I am not sure whether the sweethearts are on the same page because, whilst it is clear there are issues, Robyn does not want to feel sad and broken down. She is making her feelings known and ensuring that all of that crap does not ruin things. As the song continues, Robyn explains that there is that possibility things can go wrong and, if they do not communicate, the relationship will break. She wants things out in the open and that passage of conversation to open. The sound of Ever Again will be familiar to fans of Robyn. There is that stunning beat and physicality but a vocal that mixes sweetness and determination. The electronics/synths are warm and bubbling and one listens to the song first time around and, after a while, it keeps coming back and you find yourself addicted. There are not that many different lyrics on Ever Again. Instead, there is more of a mantra that runs through the song.

Robyn wants this love to remain and endure because it is a very good thing. She knows there are issues and problems underneath the surface but they are quite minor and should not compromise what they have. Robyn wants her lover to be who they are and not hide things away. It is inspiring hearing a song where the artist wants their lover to be open and not change who they are. Rather than embrace and fixate on all the small things and the issues that could burst to the surface, Robyn wants them to tackle this ahead of time and have a more open and stress-free relationship. We do not hear this type of song often and the positivity that comes from every line is to be admired. Ever Again is a peach of a song that ends a rather fantastic album. I think it is the singularity of the album and the fact there are very few collaborations that gives it such focus. Rather than stuff too many people in the mix, Robyn comes from a much more personal place. The music, as always, is exhilarating and you cannot help but feel lifted listening to Robyn. If you have not discovered Honey then make sure you go out and get the album. It is full of positivity and warmth and comes from an artist who has made changes in her life. I am not sure whether she is in a relationship right now but this sense of openness and freedom is very pleasing.

The fact she approaches love with a very open-minded and mature stance means the songs, I think, make you feel better. That sense of joy is more powerful than catharsis or unhappy release. There are few artists in music that are as consistent and wonderful as Robyn. She is always amazing and keeps on making these albums that surpass everything out there. It does make one wonder where she will head next and, given she is in a more positive space, there is a lot of cracking music to come. If you need a jam that will get you moving and put a smile on your face, make sure you check out Ever Again. Although the Honey album was released last year, Ever Again’s video is fresh and warrants a lot of praise. Robyn is one of my favourite artists in music and I think there is nobody like her. Long may she reign and compel.

 PHOTO CREDIT: Jonas Unger

Robyn is busy touring at the moment and has recently played in the U.K. This review from The Guardian shows why Robyn is one of the most celebrated live performer out there regarding how she makes people feel and what she puts into a show:

Tonight, she makes the 10,000-strong heaving mass wait. In fact, for the first 90 seconds of the gently pulsating Send to Robin Immediately [sic], she isn’t even on stage. She appears only as the beat starts to throb, and even then she stands stock-still as gauzy, white fabric billows around a giant statue of caressing hands. The tension doesn’t snap until the third song, Indestructible, initiated by an expertly timed clap. From that moment on, the crowd are in the palm of her hands, as each song bleeds into the next like an immaculately crafted DJ set aimed at puncturing and then suturing the heart. The coiled frustration of Be Mine, during which Robyn yanks down a sheet that had acted as the final barrier between her and her sweaty disciples, rubs shoulders with the upbeat Ever Again, while the disco-tinged Because It’s in the Music (“and it makes me want to cry”) is healed by the groove-lead balm of Between the Lines”.

It seems like Robyn is loving music right now and is excited to be on the road. I think she is revitalised and you can tell she is entering a new phase of life. There will be some in the industry that say, as she is forty, her music is going to be relegated to certain stations and is lacking necessary cool. The fact that she continues to make some of the best music around proves that age is irrelevant. I do think that ageism is an horrible thing and is a reason why so many great artists are overlooked when it comes to airplay and festival bookings. Robyn has been changing the game for many years and we owe her a lot of respect. If you can catch her on the road, make sure you check her out. In any case, go and get Honey and experience her wonderful music. She has been making music for a very long time and I know she will carry on for many more years. There are few artists who continuously stun the sense and subvert expectations. For that reason, Robyn is someone we need to hold dearly because she absolutely is…

 PHOTO CREDIT: Mark Peckmezian

A true original.

 

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Follow Robyn

TRACK REVIEW: Fontaines D.C. - Sha Sha Sha

TRACK REVIEW:

 

Fontaines D.C.

PHOTO CREDIT: Daniel Topete 

Sha Sha Sha

 

9.6/10

 

 

The track, Sha Sha Sha, is available via:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IayA-pUG22k

GENRE:

Post-Punk

ORIGIN:

Dublin, E.I.R.E.

RELEASE DATE:

19th June, 2019

LABEL:

Partisan Records

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The album, Dogrel, is available here:

https://open.spotify.com/album/1i9PDv6BO8c8Y5lxMG6Lej?si=zTYw6XiFSdeR2k6-mTzV_A

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THIS year has been an action-packed one…

for music and, in the midst of all this excitement, there have been some truly staggering album. I have written (many times) how women are leading the way and, to me, they are right at the top of the tree. That is not to say the guys are lacking clout and quality: in fact, Fontaines D.C. have produced a real masterpiece with their latest album, Dogrel. I will look at the latest single from that album soon but, before I get there, I wanted to talk about bands and the state of affairs there; this year’s collection of sounds; Irish music and creating more balance in the industry; deeper themes being tackled in music and genres like Post-Punk – I shall end by seeing where Fontaines D.C. are heading and what their future holds. One might look at that plan and feel that I have covered a few of these themes before. That is true but, to be fair, I have not examined Fontaines D.C. and this year has evolved and shifted so quickly that, inevitably, themes do reoccur and I can add new light to an older topic. Whilst the band market is no way as strong and popular as it was years ago, there is this feeling that it is making a comeback. Perhaps there is not the dominance in the mainstream as there once was. I am tracking my mind back and trying to figure the last time bands were ahead of solo artists in terms of popularity. Maybe we have to visit the 1990s to discover all those rich and iconic bands who were uniting us all and providing this sensational music. Certainty now, there is this proliferation of solo artists and, whilst it is not a bad thing, one feels that bands warrant a bit more focus. With exciting acts such as Squid and IDLES providing something kicking, raw and fresh, there are bands out there to get excited about. Perhaps, when we think about bands now, certain genres come to mind: gone are the days when the great Rock and sophisticated Pop bands had a real place in the industry.

 PHOTO CREDIT: Daniel Topete

That said, this week has seen new releases from Two Door Cinema Club and Hot Chip. There are sensational groups playing but, in terms of the wider landscape, the solo artist rules. That dominance was more pronounced a couple of years back and, fortunately, there has been a revival recently. Although Fontaines D.C. have been kicking around a little while now, they have made a real stand with Dogrel.  I, for one, do miss the days when bands used to headline festivals and the mainstream. I know The Cure and The Killers are headlining Glastonbury but I mean newer bands. In a couple of years, one might imagine IDLES and Fontaines D.C. topping bills. Both bands have played on the same bill as one another and they both have this electricity that is hard to resist. I love what solo artists are putting down but, in order for a good mixture to form, we do need bands to exist. I feel Fontaines D.C. are one of the strongest around and provide that great blend of directness and energy combined with a grace and accessibility that means you do not need to be a Post-Punk fan to get what they are about – more on that a bit later. I shall move on in a second but, first, think about Fontaines D.C. and how they make you feel. There is something about the vocal accent; the way the play and how their songs make you feel that gets into the blood and stays in the head. They are one of the most exciting groups of the past few years and, with Dogrel getting smash reviews, the boys should prepare themselves for a very busy and prosperous future. What with so much music bubbling around, it is always going to be the case that there is an imbalance between bands and solo artists but, at a time when solo artists are really striking out, I do like the fact there are bands challenging; some big players that prove the industry is not reliant on solo artists foe gold.

I have talked about bands and why Fontaines D.C. excite me but, looking further, and you can see all the sounds and genres popping. I do not think I have lived through a year where so many ideas have been spliced together. Even as a Post-Punk band, there are so many lyrics themes, nuanced and compositional touches injected into Fontaines D.C.’s locker. The mainstream Pop scene might not have progressed as much as one would have hoped but, away from that, one can find so much eclectic brilliance and sonic invention. I have been struck by the female artists of 2019 and the music being made. From the great Folk of Billie Marten to the Neo-Soul of Jamila Woods; the great Hip-Hop of Little Simz and the exciting Pop of Self Esteem – 2019’s very best is a lot stronger and more compelling than previous years. I am not sure what has accounted for this real rise in quality but I think, with women biting harder and showing how strong they are, the scene is much more assured and bold. That is not taking anything away from men but, alongside these multifarious female artists, great bands like Fontaines D.C. are making their mark. With the political scene being in a state, I do feel solo artists and bands are addressing that through their music. I will discuss Fontaines D.C. and their political bent but, when one investigates the spread of music this year, it is mind-blowing. It has been a huge year for music and I cannot get my head around everything. Not only are artists documenting what is happening in the wider world and the nature of politics right now but, when it comes to splicing sounds together, artists are making a huge leap in 2019. Maybe this subject is appropriate of nothing but I think Fontaines D.C. are defining 2019 and what artists are made of. The reason I wanted to bring up this point is because, in previous years, the scene has been a bit limited and narrow.

It is only June now and, when you consider what has come already, it is remarkable. I am bracing myself for the storm and it will be amazing. All of this diverse music will act as inspiration to artists emerging. Maybe that is why bands sort of took a back seat: the fact there were a few that sounded the same and it did not give music the depth and variety it was shouting out for. Now, bands are broadening a bit but I do still think that the most challenging and genre-hopping music is being made by solo artists. The real strength of Fontaines D.C. is their words and how they mix the political, social and personal. I am a big fan of escapism and something not overly-serious but, in a year that has been blighted with upheaval and division, we do need artists to document that. I will talk about Fontaines D.C. and some of the issues they address in their music, but it is thrilling hearing them perform and the power they provide. It is clear that 2019 (so far) has been epic and I expect that to carry on unabated. I think another thing that marks 2019 out for special consideration is that sense of boldness artists are showing. So many are stepping away from convention and giving their music all sorts of possibilities and angles. It is remarkable watching it unfold and, in terms of what Fontaines D.C. are doing, they are a band that have taken the rulebook and ripped it up. They can give us these big choruses that get the people singing but they use their platform to speak about something important; making you think and getting into the head. They mix fun and the serious and they are an exceptional live act. I shall move on but I wanted to discuss 2019 and why, to me, it is a year that is going to be hard to beat.

 PHOTO CREDIT: Andrea Gonar

Most of the music I have covered this year has been from British or American acts. I think, as is common, most people tend to focus on these two areas. Although Fontaines D.C. are performing all around and travelling far, there are based in Dublin and I think the city is teeming with terrific music. I feel there is a part of us that still assumes the only great music is in the U.K. or U.S. In fact, if you listen to what is happening in Australia, you are spoiled for choice regarding terrific music. Sweden is always ripe and brilliant and I love what one can find in Canada. The world is not limited to the U.K. and U.S. but I think the media doesn’t spend enough time with other areas of the world. Dublin is a wonderful city that has not been shy regarding legendary acts. Girl Band and Fontaines D.C. are the two best contemporary bands from Dublin but, if you look back, there is a wealth of talent to be found. I do think Dublin’s music has a distinct tone and flair. Maybe there is a rawness and physicality in the air but I always associate the city with genres like Punk and Rock. Can one link that to a music history in Dublin or a personal preference? Whatever the reason, Dublin should not be overlooked regarding the new wave of artists to watch. The nation has splendid people and there are some truly great venues to be found. This great feature from 2017 highlighted some great Dublin acts to watch and many of them are storming it right now. I am not sure whether there is a more updated article but, looking at the feature above, and you can see the variety of music coming from the city. The feature sort of disproves my theory that Dublin is heavy with heavier sounds: there is some wonderful Pop and Folk to be found. I shall keep the theme going in the conclusion but, right now, I wanted to look at Fontaines D.C. and an interview that struck my mind.

When speaking with The Guardian, Fontaines D.C. discussed why there is something liberating in Irish music; why gentrification is robbing cities like Dublin of their identity and how Brexit is creating splits between Ireland and the U.K.

 “There’s a natural rebelliousness to Irish trad music,” says Deegan, the band’s bassist. “That combined with punk feels really natural. I think singing in an Irish accent on top of punk, it just doubles down on that sense.”

Chatten’s rugged vocals are key in defining the Fontaines DC sound. In person, he spins the streetwise wisdom of a beatnik balladeer, his conversation delivered in a gripping drawl through a sleepy exterior. This classic frontman allure has helped make Dogrel the most hyped Irish rock debut in years – a quick ascent for a group of twentysomethings whose initial desire was to form a kind of “punk Beatles”.

This very Irish album arrives at a time when Anglo-Irish relations are as strained as they have been in years, with Brexit negotiations pitting the nations in opposite corners. “The only thing that concerns me about that is the state of Northern Ireland,” says Deegan. “I don’t really care what Britain does. That’s kind of the whole point of forming a republic in the first place.”

The album ends with Dublin City Sky, a lament to the end of a toxic relationship and the fracturing of the city’s bohemian character under the weight of capitalism and gentrification. “It feels very important to explore the dying culture that’s being murdered by gentrification,” Chatten says. “It’s casting a shadow on what we love about the city and that gives us the impetus to write about what’s in that shadow”.

That is just a few quotes from the interview – I urge you to read the whole piece – and it shows that, like I said, the band is eager to tell it like it is. In terms of an Irish sound, there is definitely a liberation and rebelliousness that is lacking elsewhere.

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From the wilder and more charging acts like Fontaines D.C. to the arresting sounds of Wyvern Lingo, there is plenty happening in Dublin. I love what the city is giving the world and the sheer character running rampant in the music. It is clear E.I.R.E. (and Northern Ireland) warrants greater affection and coverage. The other parts of that interview – concerning gentrification and political struggles – stood out. If you have never been to Dublin, you might not know how the landscape is changing and what is happening there. It is clear capitalism and gentrification is changing cities like London but one might have this romantic image of Dublin in their minds. It is clear there is history and tradition still standing but, more and more, money is changing things and tearing down tradition. It is sad to see and, for artists, that must cause pain and upset. Raising this point in music gives us all an insight into cities like Dublin and what is going on. Also, regarding gentrification in general, does a more generic skyline lead to a diminished quality in music? It is the personality and history of a city that stirs something in the blood. If that is eroded then, in my view, you lose that spark and influence. Gentrification is not often discussed in music and I am glad Fontaines D.C. have covered it. Their tackling of Anglo-Irish relationships right now hits the hardest. The ongoing border issues with Ireland mean that there is a definite strain right now and we are unsure whether both E.I.R.E. and Northern Ireland will be trading with the rest of the U.K. post-Brexit. It is a sorry situation and I hope there is some resolution soon enough. Dogrel is an album that holds a lot of truth and opens eyes. You do not need to know about Ireland and the politics of the country to be able to identify with the songs. The guys are laying things out on the table and are giving us some of the most striking and memorable songs of the past few years. Let us move on as it is time to review the latest single from Fontaines D.C., Sha Sha Sha.

 PHOTO CREDIT: Molly Keane

There is a percussive pummel and build-up that, oddly reminds me of Guillemots’ Trains to Brazil – a little heavier but still in that same vein. Anyway, the song does have that strict and exciting heartbeat that suggests something quite intense is brewing. With a gorgeous kick and some strutting riffs, we transform from this somewhat close and brooding beat to a song that opens out and seemingly dances. It is almost like someone dancing in the rain; merriment mixed with this real sort of grit and defiance. When the lyrics come through, there are pictures and instant images projected. Our hero talks about (his subject) being “so real” – he is a “show reel”. I love that wordplay and contrast that suggests the heroine is someone – I assume, in the early phases we are talking about a relationship – who is grounded and a bit too real whereas our man is a bit of a dreamer. She, it is told, works hard but steals; she is someone who runs wild whereas the hero feels a bit like an “old tattoo”. I get the feeling of racing hearts and hidden desires. In terms of placing the song, it has a sort of homely feel whereas the band is documenting scenes around them and the realities of their daily lives. Like any Fontaines D.C., it is not long until there is some humour thrown into the blender. The first verse, to me, is about a sense of lust between these two very different people. The girl seems a bit like a freewheelin’ sort who takes risk and is bringing the best from the hero – and some of the worst elements, too. When the song progresses, we are introduced to a cabbie who pees over his steering wheel; heads are hitting the pavement and there is this feeling of chaos and drunkenness. Sha Sha Sha is under three minutes and has that sense of economy and tightness. There is little time for soloing and excursion as the guys have something important to get out.

I do like how Fontaines D.C. can pack a lot into a pretty short song. I am not sure whether there is a linguistic important to the ‘sha’ of the song or whether it is the name of the girl – maybe a shortened version of Charlotte. Whatever the origin of the title, the word is repeated just before the verse about cabbies losing control of their penises and unrest in the streets. There are men pumping up tyres, dimly lit and there is always this sense of un-rule and spool. Maybe it is a look at the Dublin nightlife or it might be another location. We can all relate to that rather vivid and illuminating aspect of the city and what it hides when the lights go down. Despite the fact there are good things happening, there is always going to be that contrasting sense of dirt and reality. Juxtaposed against these romantic ideals and passionate thoughts, one can almost smell the oil and pee that threatens to take the beauty out of everything. Fontaines D.C. are brilliant when it comes to descriptions and painting these very real scenes. They do not disguise their words or use clichés: everything they put onto the page comes from their own experiences and, to ensure the songs hit hard, they do not feel the need to disguise and hold back. The fact that there is a clear Irish accent at the forefront – rather than something Americanised – gives Sha Sha Sha its authenticity, beauty and grit. It is one of the more underrated songs from Dogrel and one you will keep coming back to time and time again. That triumphant and dogged beats gives the song an endless thrill and toughness that guides the vocal and gives it extra clout. The band is terrific and always in-step. Every song Fontaines D.C. touches turns to gold and their songs have such variety. I use that word (variety) a lot and, with the Irish band, that comes in spades. They keep their identity strong but they can take these Post-Punk songs and add so many different shades and colours. Sha Sha Sha is a fantastic song from one of 2019’s very best year – the mighty and all-conquering Dogrel.  

 PHOTO CREDIT: Kevin W Condon

Fontaines D.C. have come a long way in their careers. Recently, they supported IDLES on the road but, with Dogrel scoring high, the boys are causing a storm all on their own. I guess that exposure with IDLES helped regarding international gigs and, right now, the lads are planning U.S. dates. In fact, they head to Seattle in September and there is all sorts of things happening up until that point. They are a fantastic live acts and, like their IDLES buddies, Fontaines D.C. have this vibrancy and passion that scores songs with a real sense of purpose and importance. I do think, considering Fontaines D.C., we need to look closer at Irish acts and actually investigate bands in more depth. There is still that reliance on solo acts and, whilst this is good, many terrific bands are not getting the focus they deserve. I do feel like there is this rising and wave right now that is worth getting excited about. Maybe we will not quite see the same sort of wonder we did back in the 1990s but there is nothing to say that, in a few years, solo artists will be the go-to when it comes to brilliant music. I have mentioned a few bands in this review but there are many more emerging. It is a great time for new music and I cannot wait to see what the rest of 2019 holds! We have seen some remarkable albums thus far and I do think Dogrel is right near the top of the stack. I shall end things in a minute but I just wanted to stand back and take it all in. I do think Fontaines D.C. are one of the finest bands right now and a mighty force in music. They are a sensational live act so go and see them perform if they are near you. Go get Dogrel and discover an album that is just what modern-day Britain needs.

The Dublin-based band is showing how politicians in our country are impacting them and, in a wider sense, there are huge problems bubbling. I do not think we should ignore what is happening and bury it. Music is this terrific forum where artists can speak the truth and ask for change. From gentrification to border issues, Fontaines D.C. are definitely speaking more truth than many of the politicians out there. That seems to be the thing with music right now: so much uncluttered and direct messages; nothing like you’d hear our Government spewing! I shall wrap things up in a bit but I wanted to talk about this incredible band and the awesome music they are producing. 2019 has been synonymous with variation and bravery from all corners. This sheer variety is a really good thing and will impact the next year of music and, in fact, the next generation of artists. Although my favourite albums of the year (so far) have been made by women, I do love Fontaines D.C. and what they are doing. They are a wonderful act that we need and, in terms of the music, they are setting the scene alight. Their gigs are legendary and I do think we will see them headline festivals soon enough. I do not say that lightly and I am sure many music journalists will agree with me. Dogrel is a masterful work and the newest cut, Sha Sha Sha, is a mighty thing. Let us take things down there. I want to end by quoting (again) from that Guardian interview; some interesting points that were raised:

If there’s any justice, Fontaines DC’s debut album Dogrel will enter the canon of classic dramatic depictions of Dublin. The city is unalterably embedded in the record’s DNA – it is as quintessentially Dublin as the work of James Joyce was a century ago. “I think a lot of our music sounds, to me, like buses and trains and just hordes of people on particular streets in Dublin,” says frontman Grian Chatten, who is sitting opposite me in the Clarence hotel, flanked by his bandmates Conor Deegan III, Conor Curley, Carlos O’Connell and Tom Coll.

The band’s punk licks and brogue-heavy narration present an unvarnished but undeniably romantic version of the city: this is music that sounds like Dublin feels. Chatten’s heavily accented vocals play a part; there are references to specific areas, pubs and landmarks, plus a cast of characters who populate the songs. But there is something more than just portraits. The rough production and rickety rhythms conjure familiar Dublin moods: bustling markets, rain-streaked cobblestones and the rumbling of cold early-morning commerce. “I think of Dublin and our music as one and the same, because it was written by people who were intensely absorbed by the city,” says Chatten. “We were just really consumed by it; it influenced us in just the way street corners looked and how people spoke, and absolutely every aspect of it filtered through”.

Dogrel, to be truthful, is a masterpiece and one that is so rich with meaning, visions and life. I would be shocked if it was not named in the best albums of this year in December. Make sure you embrace these guys and follow their career very closely. They might have started life on modest foundations but, with exposure and tremendous music under their belt, these boys are about…

TO conquer the world.

___________

Follow Fontaines D.C.

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TRACK REVIEW: Miles Davis (ft. Ledisi) - Rubberband of Life

TRACK REVIEW:

 

Miles Davis (ft. Ledisi)

Rubberband of Life

 

9.5/10

 

 

The track, Rubberband of Life, is available via:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ayx93w3dyrI

GENRES:

Jazz/Neo-Soul/R&B

ORIGIN:

U.S.A.

LABEL:

Rhino Entertainment Company

The album, Rubberband, will be released on 6th September. Pre-order the album here:

https://rhino.lnk.to/Rubberband19

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IT is not often that I get to look at…

a Jazz artist - no less an icon who has helped redefine and revolutionise the genre. Before I talk more about Miles Davis and why this posthumous project is exciting, it is worth talking about a few other subjects. I wanted to look at Jazz in general and how, for years, it has been a maligned genre – and one that is coming back and has plenty of potential. I also wanted to address posthumous releases in general and an artist’s life after they have departed; a general look at broader music tastes and widening horizons; a sense of where Jazz can go in years from now and music that contrasts the mainstream with something much more satisfying and rich – I will look at ahead to the Miles Davis album, Rubberband, and what it might contain. It is worth looking at Jazz legends and how they have inspired the genre but, right now, let’s investigate Jazz. I do think many of us get into our heads this impression of Jazz that is quite old and limited. I have raised this subject when reviewing Jazz in the past but I think we all associate the genre with something quite stuffy, dry and long-winded. Rather than the exciting and varied style we have today, many still link Jazz with noodling, a certain impression and something they will not like. To be fair, there are still some corners of the Jazz world where improvisation rules and it can be quite hard to digest. Other Jazz artists tend to be quite plain and do not really allow much imagination to come out. For the most part, Jazz today is broadening and there are some terrific artists emerging. In Britain, there are some fantastic Jazz players coming out of London and, when you think about how Jazz is integrated into other styles of music, one can appreciate the genre in some form or other. I think the likes of Miles Davis represent an old order that, whilst inspiring, are part of the past.

The newly-charged and evolved Jazz we hear now is a different beast altogether. I am not a huge fan of Jazz that goes off on tangents and consists of wild freestyling but, if you look hard enough, there are plenty of options. It is a shame that, to many, Jazz is this limited genre that is for the outsiders and cannot integrate into the mainstream. Maybe people feel that, like Classical, Jazz is vocal-less and not something that is easy to get to grips with. True, a lot of Jazz is instrumental but there are Jazz artists who have singers and, with modern artists like Kamasi Washington mixing instrumentals with singer-fronted pieces, Jazz is a lot more eclectic than you’d think. I love how Jazz has changed and always had time for the genre. I do like the more composed and calm pieces that are pretty easy to appreciate but I like how artists such as Miles Davis took Jazz in new directions with longer, more psychedelic experimentations. There are modern Jazz artists who are mixing in other styles like Pop and Hip-Hop; some that are merging cooler Jazz with something more fired and exciting. I do not think we can easily define any genre but Jazz always gets this bad reputation. It is hard to convert everyone to Jazz but have a listen to what is coming out now and you will love something, that is for sure. Consider Sons of Kemet and The Comet Is Coming, They are splicing together different genres and providing this very tangible-yet-oblique music that paints pictures without words. It is Jazz that thrills the blood and hooks you but, rather than rely too much on traditional Jazz instruments, there is a fusion of genres. One might say that modern Jazz, then, is not that pure and is having to assimilate other styles of music to become credible. I think there is some truth in this but, like every genre, Jazz has developed and changed through the years. At the core, there is still this very traditional sound but, with so many different kinds of music available to the world, it is only natural that modern Jazz artists would sprinkle that into the pot.

I am going to be talking about Amy Winehouse later and, when considering her, there are all sorts of plans regarding her material and touring – despite the fact that she has been dead for years. It is understandable fans want to hear more material from artists after they have departed but where do you draw the line? In the case of Winehouse, there has been posthumous material released and there are plans for her to go on tour – in the form of a hologram. It is a bit ghoulish and weird considering that and I do think there needs to be lines drawn. Prince is another artist who has been gone for years but there is new stuff coming out regularly. In his case, there is this archive of material he recorded that will satisfy fans for many years to come. Some say there is almost a century’s worth of music that is available. That is quite an impressive haul but you have to ask how much is going to be relevant and whether you release everything or stop at some point. It is the case with any big artist that has gone. Do you mine every inch of their archives to see what can be sold or do you simply accept that, now that they have gone, that is the end of their recording life? It is a hard balance and situation but I do feel like only the most worthy and quality-driven material should be released. In the case of Miles Davis, Rubberband of Life has already been put out into the world but it is a first taster of what is to come; an album called Rubberband that he started recording back in 1985. Here, Pitchfork explain the situation:

 “In 1985, Miles Davis began recording an album called Rubberband, which was set to be his first album for Warner Bros. Records following his departure from longtime label Columbia. That record was ultimately shelved; his first album for Warner would be 1986’s Tutu. Last year saw the title track to Davis’ album, “Rubberband,” released on an EP of the same name.

Today, it’s been announced that Rubberband will now be released in its entirety, completed by the original producers—Randy Hall and Zane Giles—alongside Davis’ nephew, Vince Wilburn, Jr., who performed on the original album sessions. It arrives September 6 via Rhino. Find a tracklist below.

Featured on the album are Lalah Hathaway and the R&B/jazz singer Ledisi, who guests on an alternate version of the title track, “Rubberband of Life,” which appeared on last year’s EP. Find that below as well. In April, it was announced that Davis’ full recordingsfrom his sessions around Birth of the Cool would be coming to vinyl”.

It is great that we have this new release coming because I don’t think Davis is one of those artists who has a lot of scrappy stuff lying around that could be released just to cash in. Maybe I am wrong but, with some deceased artists, there are half-baked songs and demos that estates put out just because it is there. It can somewhat distil the legacy of an artist and is a shame to see. I can appreciate why people want to keep an artist alive but there has to be this point where you have to weight things up and consider whether the unfinished material is really worth putting out. Mile Davis always intended this full album and, for various reasons, it is only seeing the light of day now. It is interesting that we get to hear contemporary singers front Miles Davis songs. In his lifetime, he released few albums where there were singers on. For the most part, his music was instrumental so it is quite refreshing seeing these arrangements with singers on. Rubberband is the realisation of Davis’ work from the 1980s but it has that modern twist to it. With Ledisi scoring the current single from the album, there is that mixture of generations and, as I explained before, Jazz and other genres melting together – in the case of Rubberband of Life, there is some Soul and R&B in the mix.

One cannot listen to artists like Miles Davis, Sons of Kemet and Jazz artists such as Nilüfer Yanya and say that there is limitation. Jazz is always changing and moving in fresh directions so, if you do not like one form of Jazz, have a look around and there will be something out there for you. I feel we underestimate how important Jazz is and how, in terms of moving Hip-Hop on, it is essential. So many of the classic Rap and Hip-Hop artists cite Jazz as key; their albums incorporating Jazz in a very primal and affectionate way. Maybe pure, un-distilled Jazz is still resigned to specialist radio stations but so many modern artists are bringing in touches of Jazz to heighten their own music. Without realising it, most of us are listening to Jazz on a daily basis and actually enjoying it! It is easy to get into a habit where you only listen to stuff you grew up around or stick with a particular genre. Sometimes, we let our tastes widen but so many of us do not take leaps and experience something different. I think a music consumer is richer and happier when they listen to as much as they can. I do feel like it is impossible to like everything and embrace all music but I myself have started to investigate genres that I ignored until now. It can be very boring listening to the same music so, when you can, have a listen to something else and I am sure you will enjoy it. Maybe some of what is coming from the Jazz will not strike your mind but I am willing to bet that there is something from the world of Jazz you will like. I know it is hard to sort of break from a listening pattern and bring something new into the fold. Many of us, as mentioned, do stick with what we know and feel that anything we do not listen to isn’t worth the time.

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 PHOTO CREDIT: Chris Cameron Photography

I have started to listen to a lot of modern Country and Folk – something I have neglected for some time. I have also checked out a few Drill artists and, whilst it is not a genre I can see myself truly getting behind, there are some interesting sounds coming through. Before long, this natural sense of investigation reveals some fresh treasure and your music collection will be broader. I feel like the more aware we are of music’s spectrum and full extent, the more enriched and educated we are. Not all music is great and worth the trouble but few of us actually step out of our comfort zones and discover something fresh. Maybe this has to change and I am not sure what is responsible for this trend. Perhaps it goes back decades but I do feel modern playlists and streaming sites do not do quite enough to bring classic sounds to new listeners; a lot of genre-specific playlists are not broad enough or they are too concerned with promoting new music and neglect older sounds altogether. We do need to change practices and ensure that as many people as possible are exposed to more music. What bothers me is how people dismiss genres without ever listening to it and knowing what it is about. Jazz is one of those genres that gets a brunt of ignorance with people turning up their noses. It is not the only genre that gets a sniffy response but I feel like, if we all spend a bit more time expanding our tastes, then we will all be better for it. I shall move on now because I am aware there are other things to talk about. It just perturbs me that, with so much music out there, so many are unwilling to embrace this wave with any real interest and determination. One of the greatest joys imaginable is stumbling on a terrific song or artist that you were not aware of; discovering a genre that was foreign before and having this new obsession.

I have already mentioned Jazz and the fact that it sort of gets this rather cold reaction. Away from the true fans and aficionados, trying to dispel the myth that Jazz is pretty boring is a hard job. Aside from exciting British talent, there is a lot of variation and choice for those who are new to Jazz. I do feel like the world of Jazz that Miles Davis inhabited is a lot different to the one now. Back when he was reigning, there wasn’t the same scope and variation we have now. Maybe he was a pioneer in the sense he opened up Jazz and took it to new places. Look at an album like Bitches Brew and it has hallmarks of Prog-Rock. The way songs (on that album) went in all directions and were longer than traditional Jazz pieces; one can draw a line from Miles Davis’ more experimental songs and Prog-Rock. I do love Jazz in general but I admit that, back in the 1940s/1950s/1960s it was a little restrictive. Geniuses like Davis shook Jazz up and, with it, inspired generations of musicians in all genres. I do love the fact there is this new album coming; something that will introduce Jazz to new listeners and shows that, yes, Jazz is not as one-dimensional as you thought. I think the mid-1980s was a period where, to be fair, he was not producing his best work but there was still that determination and passion there. Davis died in 1991 but one cannot understate his impact and influence on the Jazz scene. He was at the forefront of stylistic changes in Jazz and, like all the best influencers, ensured that Jazz still has a voice today. If it were not for the likes of Miles Davis, maybe Jazz would have been relegated to the side and not have been taken to heart but so many Hip-Hop leaders.

They, in turn, have made Jazz accessible to the new generation who are bringing other genres into Jazz. All of the time, Jazz is changing its chemistry and shape but, at its heart, it remains true. Jazz is a genre that will never die and, in fact, with modern broadening things out, I feel like Jazz will become much more integrated into the mainstream. It may sound a little compromising but, the more accessible Jazz is, the more likely it is to be employed by modern artists. By that, I mean splicing other genres together with Jazz creates this more arresting and popular sound and it means people can experience Jazz in a new way. Direct, unfiltered Jazz still has its place but I do worry a lot of people are unwilling to accept it and spend the time listening. Instead, there is this strand of modern Jazz that is captivating, physical and deeply impressive. This will continue for many years and, as new sub-genres spring up, Jazz will integrate them and compel the next generation. Jazz is a genre that is moving forward all of the time and is a part of the fabric. One might say that, the more Jazz steps away from its roots, the more it betrays the original pioneers. Look at any genre and one can see how it has changed through the years. Modern Folk and Country is a lot different to what was being produced in the 1960s. Modern Punk is a different thing to the original movement in the 1970s; Pop today is completely different to what was out there decades ago. Music is always changing and that is a good thing. It might be hard convincing everyone that Jazz warrants your energy and time but we need to dispel these myths regarding its limitations and past. Even if you are a little unmoved by the older Jazz from the likes of John Coltrane, the modern breed is a lot different. Miles Davis has been responsible for Jazz’s continued appeal and place; the way it has changed and how it has helped reshape music in general.

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IN THIS PHOTO: Ledisi

It is harder to review a track that relies more on instrumentation than vocals. That said, there is plenty of life in Rubberband of Life. Opening with Davis repeating the word ‘rubberband’, there is a rumble of percussion and the sound of traffic. In terms of Davis’ playing, there is more in common with Kind of Blue and Birth of the Cool, I guess, compared with his more experimental work. The trumpet work has a definitely spiciness and heat but it is tempered compared with what we saw on his more groundbreaking albums. In a way, that style suits the song a lot better. One detects suaveness and cool emanating from the song. You hear the drums roll and this sass filter through the speakers and are transported somewhere special. When Ledisi comes to the microphone, she talks about making sacrifices if you want to make a life. Looking at the song’s title, you get impression of flexibility or being this rubberband – stretching in different directions and being subjected to the unpredictable forces of life. Ledisi’s voice is gorgeous but holds a lot of power and strike. Backed by insatiable horns and this strange groove, Ledisi offers this gravity and seamlessly blends into the brew. Her cool and uplifting vocal is almost like a mantra. One has their own impression regarding the lyrics and will paint their own scenes. It seems that struggle is part of the agenda; the way we all have to battle in order to make a successful life for ourselves. I mentioned how Jazz, great Jazz, is not restrictive and is not solely for certain people. We have the backbone of Miles Davis and his brilliance but we get the sensational and vibrant vocals of Ledisi. I am not sure how the partnership of Ledisi and Davis came about but there is this perfect partnership. Of course, that decision was not made by Davis himself but the chemistry between them is wonderful.

 PHOTO CREDIT: @rontyoungphotography

There is a fire burning inside, it is said, and it is wonderful how the Neo-Soul and R&B of Ledisi creates this warm wave against the hotter and more forceful tones coming from the back. Redemptive, inspiring and resolute, Rubberband of Life is a call of strength and fortitude against the rocks. The heroine talks about burning in the soul and how you want to make a life? If you do, then you need to show that determination and realise that there is greatness inside of you. Although the combination of Ledisi and Davis was not intended back in 1985, this new recording is incredible. We hear snippets of Davis and, of course, his incredible playing drives the song forward. It is often difficult pairing two different worlds in music but, on Rubberband of Life, the combination is successful. You are hooked by the smooth and sensuous rush of the foreground and attracted to the blasts and elements from the back. It all blends together marvellously and it is impossible to hear the song and not be moved. In many ways, I feel Rubberband of Life has a lot in common with the great R&B/Neo-Soul songs of the 1990s and early part of the last decade. That is no bad thing and, actually, one gets this blast of nostalgia and old-school vibes. I have listened to Rubberband of Life several times and, each time, new stuff is revealed. The inspiring spirit of the track will lift you up and brightens your mood. The song does calm a bit past the half-way mark; where there is a bit more chance for the composition to breathe and for the images to sink in. The heroine sings about letting it go and, maybe, she is referring to the tension of a rubberband and how we need to let that go. Whether you are familiar with the work of Ledisi and Miles Davis or not, this is a song that has its own spirit and brilliance. Originally released on the Rubberband EP, it will feature on the Rubberband album, as the opening tracks, and is an interesting combination of new vocals and Davis’ older input. I love the track and have heard many positive comments regarding it. Have a listen to it and feel all the stress and strain of life fade away.

  PHOTO CREDIT: @rontyoungphotography

Rubberband is out on 6th September so make sure you pre-order it. The album features these Miles Davis sketches with some great modern singers on them. Ledisi fronts the amazing Rubberband of Life but there are other terrific tracks (on the album) that will stick in the mind. It is weird to think that there is new material coming from Davis, almost thirty years after he died. I guess, like Prince, there was a certain amount of material left in the vaults when he died. It is intriguing to consider there might be other Davis works that are begging for release. Maybe there are fewer songs in the Davis vault compared to Prince but I would be interested to see more Miles Davis music. It goes back to my line regarding posthumous albums and whether there is a line one needs to draw. If you release everything and do not consider the quality then it is a disservice to the artist. I do feel uncomfortable that certain artists – such as Amy Winehouse – are being talked about in regards new material and touring…despite the fact that she has no say in any of it. I guess fans will always demand new work but there is a point where you have to say enough is enough. Miles Davis is a different case altogether. He has been dead for a long time and there has not been a huge amount of posthumous work. Now, a new generation can discover the master and see that fusion of modern artists with slightly older blueprints. This is the point of a review when I look ahead and see where the artist is going. Obviously, we cannot do the same with Miles Davis but I do urge people to listen to his work and see how amazing it is. From the peerless Kind of Blue and Birth of the Cool through to Sketches of Spain and In a Silent Way. There is so much to enjoy and, when it comes to styles, you cannot pin the man down. He was genuinely at the forefront and one of those people who wanted to take Jazz to new worlds. Because of that, if you are a bit picky when it comes to Jazz, Davis is a perfect artist. There are raw and exhilarating moments and those more cool and collected. Even though his songs are, largely, instrumental, there is so much imagery and texture projected. I shall leave things here but I want people to give Jazz a bit more time and affection and, if you can, get a copy of Rubberband – it is a fantastic album and will provide much delight. It is not often I get to review Miles Davis but, along with Ledisi, we have this Jazz treasure that shows what an exciting genre (Jazz is); how amazing it can truly be and what power…

IT holds.

___________

Follow Miles Davis

TRACK REVIEW: Sampa the Great - Final Form

TRACK REVIEW:

 

Sampa the Great

Final Form

 

10/10

 

 

The track, Final Form, is available via:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H2lvgKDpiSA

GENRES:

Hip-Hop/Pop/Soul

ORIGIN:

Melbourne, Australia

RELEASE DATE:

5th June, 2019

LABEL:

Ninja Tune

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THIS is an exciting weekend...

for reviewing because I get to look at, tomorrow, an old Jazz legend who has a new song out – Miles Davis is, it seems, still producing great songs long after his death! It is an interesting project and revival ad one I shall expand upon in more detail when I get there. Today, I am with Sampa the Great. I want to talk about a few things before I get to her latest single, Final Form. I wanted to talk about sound fusions and mixing genrews together to huge effect; Melbourne and the reasons why we need to look outside areas like London; potential singles of the year and what is defining this year’s music; more optimism and drive in music and the memorability inherent in that; a bit about upbringing and music coming into your life early – I will end by seeing where Sampa the Great is heading and what might be next for her. One listens to the opening bars of Final Form and you know it is going to be a great song. There is something about it that gets you moving and involved. I love the song because it gets you grooving and there is so much working away. What I love is how Sampa the Great has managed to fuse 1960s Soul and Pop with some modern Hip-Hop and global strands. I do think there are some artists mixing different sounds together and doing so in an effective way. I do think that music, too, can be a bit too simplistic and doesn’t rouse the spirits like it should. By that, I mean there needs to be a bit more boldness and experimentation regarding genres. Listen to Sampa the Great and she is s daring and original. Her songs seem to hop boundaries and borders and you are instantly intrigued by what she puts out. On Final Form, there is this incredible blitz that fuses with something more soulful and chocolate-rich. I do think that artists, for some reasons, are not putting together disparate and interesting sounds together.

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 PHOTO CREDIT: Ying Ang

Maybe it is difficult to realise something quite ambitious or it comes down to sampling. Listen to Sampa the Great and you imagine you are hearing this song with loads of samples running through. I recognise that there are artists who take big steps and can integrate genres but what Sampa the Great is doing is amazing. I love her work and do thing that others should take a lead from her. I think it is important artists combine different genres and decades but it means listeners will be curious and go back to the original source, as it were. From Final Form, I was compelled to have a listen to Soul records and try and see where Sampa the Great was coming from. I think her eclectic nature and fusions result in an itinerant musical upbringing and living in an area of the world where there was this freshness, excitement and colour coming from music. I will look at optimism in music soon but, before then, listen to all the beats and rhythms that are in Final Form and one can only imagine the kind of music Sampa the Great grew up around. You listen to the song and are transported to a new world; a place that is full of life and adventure. Music’s physical power is amazing and Sampa the Great is one of those artists who can move people and get reaction. I do feel that certain areas of music, especially the mainstream, are becoming a bit stale and there is not quite the life and ambition you’d hope for. Away from the Pop core and the radio-friendly artists, you get a lot more fire and chemistry. Listen back to Sampa the Great’s catalogue and she has always had this sense of wonder and dare. A lot of artists might mix together genres and sounds and it would come off reckless and lazy. Sampa the Great has a great knowledge and passion and, in every song, she is in control and wonderful. From an artist so young, it is amazing to hear such ambition and quality.

That might sound a little bit patronising but I am always blown away by artists who sound complete and on top of their game so early on. In any case, Sampa the Great is based in Melbourne and, when it comes to musical areas of the world, do we look at Australia? I think that, still, London and New York are favoured when it comes to the best music around. Kylie Minogue, The Avalanches and Courtney Barnett are all from Melbourne and, dig deeper, and there is this wave of new talent emerging. It is understandable why there would be so many great musicians working in Melbourne. The city mixes art and history together but it has a contemporary vibe. That effortless assimilation of the classical and new inspires the mind and the mixture of people provides different accents, languages and movements. Great music venues such as The Tote are around and, if you walk around, there are brilliant spots to watch gigs and all sorts of music coming through. Maybe Melbourne is not quite on the same level as London when it comes to options and big venues but it is a city that has a huge quality of life and it is keeping native artists there. I do feel that too many concentrate on the U.S. and U.K. and forget that there is music coming from all areas of Australia. From Darwin and Hobart through to Sydney and Perth, there is so much to see and hear! Melbourne is a wonderful area of Australia and a naturally inspiring place in which to write and create. Sampa the Great was not born in Melbourne but she has adopted it as her new home. I do feel people get an impression that there is not the same sort of eclectic spirit in Australia; that the music is more narrow and predictable. You only need do a bit of research to understand that Melbourne is this happening and rich city that is among the most exciting in the world.

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 PHOTO CREDIT: Koury Angelo

I am desperate to get to Melbourne because it is a place that calls to you; it gets into the mind and you cannot forget it. In musical terms, there are brilliant acts emerging but I feel like people need to be a bit bolder regarding their music tastes. We do get too fixed on what is coming from the U.S. and U.K. and this can limit our horizons. Aside from artists like Courtney Barnett and Kylie Minogue, we are not spending enough time with Australian artists. It is hard for musicians in Australia to get credit and recognition in the U.S. and U.K. because, obviously, travelling here to perform is not always possible. They have to rely on radio play and, a lot of times, there are few eyes trained their way. It is a shame that cities such as Melbourne do not get the credit and attention they deserve because, as I said, there is a rich seam running through the place. The artists here are strong and passionate and I do feel like they warrant more time. Sampa the Great definitely helps regarding putting new Melbourne music on the map. I think she brings together her childhood and musical upbringing with what is happening in Melbourne right now. Instead of following the mainstream pack or copying everyone else, she is trusting her gut and pushing boundaries. It is thrilling to see and I’d be willing to bet, if you spend some good time in Melbourne, you’ll hear other artists like Sampa the Great working away. Let’s move on in a bit because I am eager to talk about this year in music and what is going on. If you do get a chance to check out some Melbourne-based music, make sure you do – it is definitely rewarding and you might discover some new favourites. It seems that, with every week that passes, a potential ‘single of the year’ is born and blows me away.

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 PHOTO CREDIT: Ying Ang

This year has been especially strong for music and I am damned to figure out why. I guess you can never predict what is going to happen or who might come through but, in sheer quality terms, 2019 has been a blockbuster. You only need look back at all the singles released so far and you are not short of quality and brilliance. I think Final Form is making a bid for the best single of the year so far and, to be fair, it might be hard to shift! I feel that women are leading the pack this year and showing why the industry needs to pay more attention to them. What amazes me is how varied female-led music is and how we often assume women will be quite limited. The music industry has never been too receptive regarding women and giving them a proper place but 2019 is a year where the finest female artists are stepping up and showing why they warrant proper respect. There are other reasons why 2019 has been a big one for music. I do feel like the new artists around are naturally building on what came before and trying to be different. If you repeat what has come before then it creates a stale scene but, in terms of the best and brightest, they are taking more risks and looking away from the tried and tested. Conventional mainstream music has its place but I am always attracted to artists that have a rare scent and special way of working; that ability to transcend the ordinary and go deeper. In terms of themes, artists are addressing what is happening in the world and the chaos around us. It is a tough time for us all and, more and more, musicians are bringing that stark reality into the fold. The striking and eye-opening nature of their work is resonating and people are discovering something potent and stirring. Also, there is a lot of the opposite: artists who want to provide some catharsis and distract us from the turmoil swirling around.

This blend and clash means that we have very evocative and real music that is getting into the head but we have the relief of release. I am not saying that disconnection and stress seems to breed quality but there is something in it. As the country and world is splitting and becoming less united, there is this force in the music industry that is bringing us together. Artists are speaking louder than politicians ever could and they are ensuring that the power of their work makes us feel better, more clearly or, at the very least, just makes us think. I do wonder where the rest of 2019 will take us and what we have to come. In terms of the genres that are ruling, it is hard to pin it down. Listen to Sampa the Great against the music of Fontaines D.C., Little Simz and others and there is difference. It depends what you like and go after but I just think there is an amazing vibe and electricity running through music. I will move on again but I have been bowled over by all the brilliant sounds that 2019 has produced. I do feel like Final Form can mix it up with the very best and will be challenging for the best single of the year. This rate of progression – and explosion of quality – leads me to believe that next year might be stronger still. I am not putting down last year and what has come before but 2019 is particularly awe-inspiring and memorable. It is rewarding to hear so much terrific music around of all shapes and genres. I will return to Sampa the Great and her fusions but, when I think of the best tracks of the year so far, I am drawn to the textures and sonic weaves as opposed the lyrics and anything else. I wanted to nod to Sampa the Great and where she started life but, on the theme of quality music and what defines it for me, a sense of optimism and fun must come into the fore.

Last week, I was reviewing The Divine Comedy and, whereas the Office Politics album looks at the workaday world and the annoyances we all have to encounter, there was so much brilliance and fun to be discovered. It is no surprise where you realise how great a songwriter Neil Hannon is but, in every track, there was something to turn the head and heart. Sampa the Great, right from the opening notes on Final Form, gets the head spinning and the body moving. One of my biggest complaints regarding music is how fun seems to be on the back-burner. Maybe things are changing this year but, in years past, there has been too much seriousness and not enough excitement. I do think we need to address what is happening in the world but there is a definite need for something escapist and thrilling. We all need to feel better and adopt a more positive outlook and I think music has that power. Sampa the Great, again, does focus on some bigger themes but the composition and vocal delivery has so much energy and spirit that you cannot help be intoxicated and drawn into it. I love that and I do feel more in the industry need to follow her. As an example of what can happen when you fuse sounds and go for something positive, the effects are spellbinding. Final Form, for that reason, is a song that stays in the mind for ages and, as I suggested, is one of the best singles of the year so far. Again, maybe it is Sampa the Great’s early years and roots that naturally grew into this positive outlook. If you are brought up around music that has a definite verve then that is going to inspire you and impact what you write yourself. If you do need to be lifted and discover your smile, may I suggest you investigate Sampa the Great and all she has to offer? It is a perfect tonic and blast of sunshine that will get you motivated and refreshed.

I do need to crack on with reviewing itself and the song in question but, before I do, it is worth mentioning that Sampa the Great was born in Zambia. She was raised in Botswana and she discovered Hip-Hop at an early age. Like she does on her recent cut, her earliest work was defined by heavier themes given a lighter touch. She moved to Australia where she has found acclaim and love but, listen back to her music and how she approaches things, and one can definitely hear her African roots running right through. I think it is that love of Hip-Hop and its naturally powerful, eclectic and fantastic nature that has influenced her the most. In this interview with HUCK, Sampa the Great was asked about Hip-Hop and when it came into her life; living in different areas and whether, truly, she feels like she has deserved the applause she has garnered:

 “Do you remember your first introduction to hip hop?

I went upstairs to my cousin’s bedroom and he was playing ‘Changes’ by Tupac. Everything stopped. It sounded like poetry and music together. Then ‘Until The End Of Time’ played and I was like, ‘Woah… what is this?’

Why do you think it resonated so much?

It was different but familiar as well. I guess I saw the similarities with music that I listened to, where it sounded like people were speaking on top of a song, rather than singing. That is what rap is to me: poetry spoken over beats. I was hooked.

You’ve travelled and lived in a number of different places. How has hip hop played a role in those moves and transitions?

I think the one thing I found within these culture shocks was that laughter and music were universal languages. Everybody knows how to speak them. Hip hop crosses all these borders and boundaries – it’s this language already.

I remember reading a past interview in which you spoke of “imposter syndrome”. How did you overcome that?

At the beginning there were times when I struggled with imposter syndrome. I don’t get those feelings anymore. You overcome that fear by taking stock of the work you’ve put in. Just because you didn’t do it professionally, or it wasn’t in the public view, doesn’t mean the skills were’t being refined. Knowing you actually did the work is enough”.

 IMAGE CREDIT: Beats 1

The head is mixed and shaken right off the bat with Final Form. There is, what sounds like samples working away (but they might be original cuts) and there is this phat beat that gives the song plenty of swagger and boost. The horns work away and there is this combination of Hip-Hop, Soul and Jazz that gives the introduction such weight and authority. You are hypnotised and moved by the incredible flair and panache of the introduction; the way it makes you feel and the body move. It is an incredible opening that brings to mind the classic Hip-Hop records. When Sampa the Great comes to the microphone, the lyrics definitely make you wonder. “The lace lady/Travel with grace baby/I can’t afford to cover the costs of course maybe/Settle that one in court ‘cos/Judging by the basics/Y’all already comfortable stuck up in the matrix”. One gets that mix of oblique and direct with Sampa the Great so you might know what she is trying to say but there is always that doubt. Her worldplay is great and I like the fact there is a bit of mystery. Rather than convey something personal and overly-clear, there is this room for interpretation and configuration. One is amazed by the flow of the song and the way Sampa the Great seamlessly blends in and guides the song forward. Part of your mind is hooked on the foreground and what Sampa the Great is laying down whereas another part of the brain is focused on the electricity and joy from the back. The video is shot in Zambia and there is colourful cast of dancers who all look splendid. Production by SILENT JAY and mixing by Jonwayne, it is amazing song that manages to unite the very modern and traditional with Sampa the Great’s heritage. The sheer confidence of her voice and the way she can make every line pop and crackle…that is the sign of a truly great artist! There does seem to be this insecurity and lack of confidence from the artist; maybe she feels like she has tried to find her place in the world but, in terms of sheer conviction, she is laying down a new classic.

 PHOTO CREDIT: Ying Ang

That slight feeling of being lost is replaced by a sense of purpose and ambition that is hard to ignore. Never boastful or showing ego, you are behind Sampa the Great as she strides forward and lays it all out there. One does not need to be a huge fan of Hip-Hop or know where Sampa the Great is coming from to appreciate the song. There is vocal scratching and samples (I am not sure whether the voice you hear in the background are from old records or created in the studio) that gives Final Form that vintage edge; spliced with the very raw and modern sound coming from the vocal and beats, it is a dizzying revelation that gets every sense fired and flamed. The beat is superb; the backing vocal (a bit Prince-like) adds shiver and rush whilst the sounds deployed makes Final Form a real cracker. At the front is Sampa the Great and, if you watch the video, you can see her own and rule. Sampa the Great talks about black power and the hope that Africa will replace America in terms of ethics, passion and kindness; black artists and voices getting more of say, perhaps. She also nods to Zion and Bob Marley and, again, one hears the combination of classic roots and leaders and what is happening in the world now. Whether you are thrilled by the chorus or generally stunned by the song as a whole, I would be very shocked if Final Form was not named the best track of 2019. It hits you instantly and will stay with you for a very long time! Blending classic Hip-Hop and epic beats with a patented blend from Sampa the Great, this is a titanic song that cannot be ignored. Instantly, it makes me curious whether there is more material coming and whether it will sound anything like Final Form. It is obvious Sampa the Great is in inspired form and there is no stopping her – who would want to, frankly! An amazing song that will put you in a better frame of mind and bring to your thoughts this incredible artist, Final Form is a masterpiece.

 PHOTO CREDIT: Maya Adjeley

It seems that Sampa the Great is always moving and it is her sense of transit that makes her songs so feel alive and exciting. Even though she is in Melbourne right now, what is to say she will remain there? Maybe she will live in New York and bring her unique blends to the scene there. Maybe she’ll come to London for a bit or she might favour a stay in Berlin. I do like the fact Sampa the Great has this energy that makes her music so wonderful and memorable. Final Form is her latest gem and one hopes that there is more music coming very soon. Keep abreast of all her happenings via social media and I am sure there will be more music coming along. I do really love the way Sampa the Great works and how far she has come. In a music world where it can be hard to stand aside and find footing, here is an original that has very few equals. It might be too early to call the single of the year so far but I do think Final Form is definitely in with a shout! What comes next is down to her. I know there will be people around the world who want to see her perform and get to witness the music up-close. This special artist is definitely hitting a peak right now and it is thrilling hearing these incredibly vibrant and vivacious songs. I am sure Final Form will be in my head for many more weeks and, to be fair, I do not want it shifted anytime soon! Let me wrap things up now but, after you have done reading and listening, make sure you do keep informed regarding what Sampa the Great is doing and where she steps next. Many people are new to her work so it is important to look back and get involved. There are very few as great and powerful as Sampa the Great and I do hope that many, as I keep saying, realise that the strongest music right now is being made by women – let’s hope this translates to greater recognition and equality. On a sunny Saturday, Final Form sounds like the perfect accompaniment as you head into the day. I keep saying how it is early to predict the singles that will grab the critical headliners but, when it comes to pure brilliance that rides high, Final Form, right now, is very much…

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PHOTO CREDIT: @Theol_Home

THE song to beat.

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Follow Sampa the Great

TRACK REVIEW: The Divine Comedy - Infernal Machines

TRACK REVIEW:

 

The Divine Comedy

Infernal Machines

 

9.6/10

 

The track, Infernal Machines, is available via:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=95B31Xpd88Y

GENRE:

Chamber-Pop

ORIGIN:

London, U.K.

The album, Office Politics, is available via:

https://open.spotify.com/album/4pnX8RkztAQj5EgyKKPHyL?si=Rp5Sa4bNRlGpy_2UG8CYAQ

RELEASE DATE:

7th June, 2019

LABEL:

Divine Comedy Records

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EVERY time I think about The Divine Comedy...

I get into this sort of warm headspace full of charming characters and wit. Neil Hannon’s band, in a sense, represents a type of music that doesn’t really exist anymore. Before looking at a great song from The Divine Comedy’s new album, Office Politics, I want to discuss humour and wit in music; characters and building stories away from love; concept albums and how there has always been a bad impression of them; Neil Hannon as a figure we should all look up to and adore; a little on the world around us and why we could do with more of The Divine Comedy – I shall end the review by seeing where Neil Hannon is heading this year. I will start off by talking about music and why, right now, there is not a lot to smile about. That sounds rather dismissive and harsh but I think we can all see that music is pretty serious and does not provide the catharsis we need. I do not want musicians to forget about what is important and stray away from serious subjects but, as we all need something to smile about, music does not really offer that. It is nice to have music that gets to the root of things and can make you think but, if one wants a bit of humour or something lighter, where do they go? That is not to say that Office Politics lacks seriousness and any sort of clout: there is a lot of depth and teeth when required. What I mean is Neil Hannon has always been able to write these songs that make you grin and have this comical edge. Often, he deals with characters that are quite mundane and have the common touch. In this recent interview, he explained how, actually, he does not have the common touch – there is something distinctly him when it comes to songwriting:

I don’t have the common touch, as everything I do is for me,” he confesses. “I never take the general public into account at all, which is half the reason I’m still here. If people like my stuff, they really like my stuff… [which] is sort of idiosyncratic or idiotic. It does mean that I’ll never be a world-beating person, because I just don’t please enough people.”

It seemed to free him up lyrically, allowing his wild imagination free rein.
“Part of the reason for making this a double album is to keep some of the weirdness,” he says. “Quite often with structured, 12-song albums, you end up weeding out the stuff that is not quite honed and in recent years I’ve been trying to keep more of the oddball stuff, because I think it’s equally useful.”

“Contemporary pop music is in a bit of a state,” he adds. “There is an awful lot of music that seems completely surplus to requirements. There’s the caveat that we said that about 80s pop music as well, and some of that was really good. It was very tribal at the time – ‘Well, the girls like Wham! so we can’t possibly’ – but I really like some Wham! and Duran Duran as well…

I shall come to the double album and why it is a brave move from Hannon but, I guess, he is one of those writers that loves to let his imagination go and does things his own way. As he states in that interview, the modern Pop scene is not too sharp and there does seem to be a lot of repetition. There are very few writers that have a distinct personality and capture you. Right from the earliest days of The Divine Comedy, Neil Hannon has written these wonderful songs that switch from the mundane and routine to the fantastical. The reason I love his music so much is because, even when he is writing about something quite straight, there is a little wink and bit of cheekiness that can balance things out. I do think that modern music could do with a bit of a shake-up and rethink. The fact that Hannon made that comment regarding expendability leads me to believe there are few modern Pop artists that have their own skin and voice. Not only does Hannon bring in something witty and imaginative into his music but he has a great grasp of characters and real people.

I love the fact that Neil Hannon can write music that has an absurd edge but there is this realness at the heart. A recent single, Norman and Norma, Hannon addressed this couple that grew older together and, just as you think their lives were going to head into tragedy, they were given this reprise; Hannon had this reinactment of the Battle of Hastings and a rather whimsical turn. He can talk about these real-life characters but add that special twist. Maybe I am getting a bit carried away but I do think that Neil Hannon is a rare writer who many should be looking up to. In another interview, Hannon talked about why he uses humour in his songs – but there is more to his music that gags and witticisms:

 “Hannon has gained a reputation for inflecting humour into his songs over the course of his career and it's fair to label him one of the wittiest songwriters of his generation; something songs like Something For The Weekend, Becoming More Like Alfie and the joyous National Express will attest to.

When I ask about the comic streak in his songs, he says: “I have that reputation because that’s the kind of song I like to write. I can’t really change that.

“I think my songs have a range, but even the ones that are about rather dark, serious subjects have moronic flippancy. I think that’s just my way to dealing with those subjects,” he continues.

Speaking about his approach, Hannon went on to say: “I don’t there are gags in a lot of songs, but there are maybe witticisms and turns of phrase. They’re all designed to try and point you in the direction of what I’m trying to say. They’re not there just for a laugh".

From the mixed variations and relatable characters on the hit, The National Express, through to the people he dissects on Office Politics, The Divine Comedy’s work has always captured the eye and the mind. So many songwriters discuss themselves or write about people you cannot relate to. Hannon is masterful when it comes to these average-yet-extraordinary people. It means the songs connect more easily and they stay with you longer. I will talk more about his characterisation and skill but, right now, I wanted to look at why Office Politics excites me.

There is still this reliance when it comes to love and personal relationships. Most artists put their own lives onto the page and concentrate on relationships. That is not too bad but I feel, when you hear it so much, you want something a bit different. I look out at music now and there is very little that interests me in terms of subject matter. I do feel it is important to document personal issues and something deeper but, when you want that leap of imagination or something that has original edge, you are a bit stuck for choice. Love is this over-used commodity that tends to get a bit boring after a while. Hannon puts in a few relationship-type songs on Office Politics but there is an emphasis on the workaday lives and focusing on other subjects. Through this concept – which I shall talk about very soon – we get these vivid and tangible characters talking about things you and me think about. One of the problems with an over-reliance on love is the fact that is can be pretty personal and it does not always mean people can relate and understand what is being said; a little separate to the conversation that is happening. With an album like Office Politics, the frustrations, tests and ordinariness of everyday life is uncovered and presented in this very colourful, fascinating and human way. To some degree, we have all interacted with the images on the album and the types of situations played out. I do feel that music lacks a certain reality and relevance at the moment. There are a lot of artists talking about deep and challenging issues but one yearns for something a bit more run-of-the-mill. That might sound strange but I do think songwriters are afraid of revealing the routine and normal because they feel it is, maybe, a bit boring or hard to make interesting at the very least. Neil Hannon shows just how interesting and eye-opening music can be when you actually look at the people around you and put that onto the page. Songwriters used to do it a lot more years ago but we have lost a lot of those acts. I am glad we have Neil Hannon in the world; a man who puts the ‘extra’ in ‘ordinary’.

PHOTO CREDIT: Martyn Goodacre

Office Politics is an album that is built around a concept. A lot of the songs, as you can imagine, are based on office politics, machines and technology; the commute and the stresses we all go through. The double album is not beholden too strictly to the ins and outs of the office day but there is this arc that takes us through the traverses and tribulations we all face; a bit about general politics and other songs that deal with relationships and interesting people. I guess, rather than a strict concept regarding office politics, it is a representation of a working week and the experiences we all go through. Hannon takes us into different office and through different windows. He leads us into stern scenarios and then backs us out with something quite ribald and unexpected. One might look at the words ‘concept album’ and get the wrong impression. I think I have covered this before but many of us think about the concept album as a rather pretentious and long-winded thing. I think this all harks back to the Prog-Rock bands that would bring out these concept albums that were quite ridiculous and interminable. We would listen as there were endless guitar solos and songs about the most insane thing. It is hard to write a great concept album because the music is built around a theme and has to have that focused narrative. It is hard to write a concept and keep the listener’s attention I think. I do think, with short attention spans, maybe people will get a bit bored or want something different. I love concept albums because it tells a story and you get something cinematic and theatrical unfolding. There is this sniffiness because of the older days; where bands would take forever to reach their point and it would be quite ponderous. Through recent years, there have been some great concept albums. From The Streets’ A Grand Don’t Come for Free – about Mike Skinner losing a grand and then it (the money) bring found at the end – through to Green Day’s political album, American Idiot.

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 PHOTO CREDIT: Alain Bibal

There have not been that many over the past decade but I do feel like The Divine Comedy can inspire others. Journalists will turn their noses up at concept albums but I do feel that, if the balance is right and you strike the right tone, they can be fantastic. In this case, Neil Hannon is looking at the machinations of office politics and the challenges of daily life. Although there are deviations and some left turns here and there, there is this abiding theme and concept. I do think the world is pretty strained and divided at the moment so we all need something that offers a bit of relief and fascination. Modern music has its moments but there is something wonderful about Office Politics that lifts the imagination and makes you smile. Does this mean that other artists will follow The Divine Comedy and write a concept album? I do think that, soon enough, we will see more artists stray from the conventional and write in a slightly different way. There is this sort of saturation point where we have pretty much heard everything about love and, when looking at artists like The Divine Comedy, there is this wonderful alternative. I shall move on to a different theme in a second but I think we all need to put aside our reservations and impressions regarding the concept album. We get a bit hung up on what it will sound like and the sort of thing we will get. Modern artists – such as The Streets and The Divine Comedy – have that common aspect (even though Hannon argues against this) where they can bring the routine and familiar into the light; do so in a very exciting and unique way. I have been listening to recent interviews Neil Hannon has given and, more and more, he strikes me as one of these people we should all be looking up to. That combination of wit and accessibility makes him this very inspiring and wonderful figure.

 PHOTO CREDIT: David Conachy

I love listening to Neil Hannon speak because he has this warm and wonderful tone that he projects. You get great anecdotes and insights form a man who can really speak with people. By that, he comes across as very grounded and ordinary. So many artists have this aura of being quite distant and hard to relate to. Maybe it is a perception of who they should be and how they should act but I do feel like a lot of artists are difficult to appreciate and understand. With Neil Hannon, you feel this like-minded soul that is writing about us and for us. His music has this quality where you can appreciate every word and know exactly where he is coming from. Hannon’s humour and way with words is legendary and he strikes me as a songwriter that does not get the credit he fully deserves. There are very few out there like him and, at a time when there are so many lookalikes and artists that follow the pack, we need to use the likes of Hannon as examples of what could be. Lots of people know about The Divine Comedy and what they have produced and it would be great to think that, in a few decades from now, the music is still being played and examined. I do think a lot of the modern day ‘best’ will fade because it does not really stand out. It does not have a lot to say and, largely, we will pass it by. Neil Hannon is a writer who wants to make the music last and you see and hear every ounce of his being in the music. That is a rare quality to find and I think, because of that, The Divine Comedy will endure and influence other artists. I shall stop prattling on now because there is a song, Infernal Machines, that I must get around to. It is a brilliant number and a prime example of the quality that can be found throughout Office Politics.

  PHOTO CREDIT: Alain Bibal

Infernal Machines opens with some crackle and far-off noise. It sounds like machinery or rubbish being dispensed. It is hard to identity the exact sound but there is something rumbling in the distance. Just then, we get a bugle playing that seems to summon the upcoming army; a mood change that does hit rather unexpectedly. One thing I was not expecting was a rumble from the drums and some epic riffs. In a way, it is almost like The Divine Comedy sounding a bit like Kasabian! That is no bad thing and, in fact, it takes you completely unprepared. I guess I am used to hearing something more calmed and composed and, when you hear this rawness and Rock, it takes a while to settle. There is no predicting what The Divine Comedy will do and you are always kept on your toes. I guess, considering the song is about machines taking over, you need something a bit gritty and intense. Hannon comes in and talks about machines asking us to do this and that; us being ordered around and being led by technology. Instantly, I was thinking about computers and the work routine; the way we are reliant on machines and their orders. There is a nice groove to the vocals as, backed by the guttural guitar, Hannon lists all the things that machines can do. They are in our schools and shops and can do the things we cannot. They can make our lives better and easier but they also dominate and distract. Listening to the song, you are caught in this hypnotic pull that sort of drags you in to another world. I do love the fact that the sound of Infernal Machines is a mile away from a song like Norman and Norma. In the space of a few songs, Hannon has changed directions radically. It makes for a much more varied listen and it is staggering to see the sheer range and boldness on display. Infernal Machines is this wonderful song that has a rude beat that gets you swaggering - and you are helpless to resist.

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PHOTO CREDIT: @simonlittle

As the song goes on, there are yet more and more uses for machinery. Not all of them are good but, as time elapses, we understand just how many different types of technology are used and how we sort of lean on machines. There are machines up and above; machines making love and making toast. One can say that a song like Infernal Machines would have been relevant decades ago considering how omnipresent they have been but, in recent years, they are completely taking over. Technology in general is more rampant than ever and we cannot discount the fact that, for every demand and possibility, there is a machine that can do the job. In a way, Hannon is talking about the technological takeover and how it is impacting our jobs. People are losing their jobs because they are being replaced by machines. We think less and are being spoiled with machines that are doing things that human beings should be doing. There are machines – as the list continues – that know right from wrong and have all these different sounds. Infernal Machines precedes a track called You’ll Never Work in This Town Again and it sort of explores the way people are outsourced and made less essential by technology. I have not really heard The Divine Comedy use guitars and drums in such a way. Infernal Machines is never too intense: instead, it has a funkiness and odd wiggle that has a catchiness and coolness. You listen to the song again and again just because of the composition and its physicality. We get some piano and other sounds but it is the central force that gives the song an appropriate menace and chug. The track changes direction and, after the propulsive and grumbling centre, we get a little bit of piano and deviation. We are told there are machines that will take over the world and machines for boys and girls.

You hear Hannon recite all the different types of machines but there is a deeper meaning. It is not merely an idle list of machines but there are deeper meanings. He talks about gender and jobs being lost; the fixation we have with technology and how companies are exploiting people. As the song comes to its end, the instrumentation rides out and we get some cogs, bubbles and noises that reminds me of The Beatles’ Yellow Submarine. It is impossible to forget the riff of Internal Machines and the incredible vocal from Hannon. You might need a few listens to take in all the different images and use of machines Hannon brings in. I was not expecting anything like Infernal Machines to come from The Divine Comedy but, with Office Politics, this is them/Hannon broadening their scope. It is a fantastic song and one I was very keen to review. Make sure you check out the whole album because it is a masterful work and, in my view, one of the best albums of this year. Infernal Machines has serious messages but there is a lot of fun to be found. With The Divine Comedy, there is always this cheeky grin and wit that keeps things fresh and light. I do hope we never lose the magic and mystique of Neil Hannon from music.

 PHOTO CREDIT: @BBC6Music

Office Politics is receiving rave reviews right now and I think it is one of the best-received albums from The Divine Comedy in quite a while. Maybe it is the nature of the songs and the fact there is this concept that has resonated. We can all relate to what is being said through the album and we it is easy to dive into the songs and appreciate their messages. The Divine Comedy always produce sensational music but I think Neil Hannon has really struck a chord here. There are tour dates coming up and The Divine Comedy will be busy through the rest of the year. There are dates around the U.K. and Europe and it will be exciting seeing the music reach new people. With another big album under the belt, make sure you go and catch them play and see this incredible central figure, Neil Hannon, seduce and amaze. I do think there will be changes in music regarding themes artists explore and what is discussed. I am getting a little bored with hearing the same thing and I think Office Politics should act as a hand guide to others. Every now and then, we need to explore something different and stretch the imagination a bit. Neil Hannon has always done this and it would be good to see more artists follow from him. I am not sure whether there is more material bubbling away but I suspect we will see another album come through in the next couple of years. Right now, Hannon and crew are busy with promotion and preparing for some big tour dates. If you are new to The Divine Comedy, Office Politics is a great place to start but I suggest you trek back and investigate all the albums. I am not sure whether, on a future album, Hannon will do something similar to Office Politics - but you never know with him! He is this masterful and unpredictable songwriter who has a voice we should all cherish. I do not think there is another songwriter out there like him; one who can make us smile and think in quite the same way! Long may he continue to put out music of the highest order because, right now, the world needs him. I will leave things here but I encourage people to check out Office Politics and let it swim in the blood. I chose Infernal Machines for consideration but, in truth, the (double) album is packed with gems. At a time of consternation, uncertainty and fear, we definitely need to embrace the wonderful music of The Divine Comedy. It does not shy away from the realities of the modern world but there is humour, ordinariness and wonder to be found. Step into the world of The Divine Comedy and everything seems more settled and better. If more artists could do what Neil Hannon is doing right now and I think it would be a much more interesting and happy…

MUSIC industry.

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Follow The Divine Comedy

TRACK REVIEW: Róisín Murphy - Incapable

TRACK REVIEW:

 

Róisín Murphy

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PHOTO CREDIT: Fraser Taylor 

Incapable

 

9.7/10

 

The track, Incapable, is available via:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9-nI_z4ZHUY

GENRES:

Electro-Pop/Dance-Pop/Art-Pop

ORIGIN:

London, U.K.

RELEASE DATE:

5th June, 2019

LABELS:

Mickey Murphy’s Daughter Limited/Loaded Records Limited

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IN this review...

I get to talk to someone who I have admired for a very long time and not reviewed for a long time. I think the last time I featured Róisín Murphy was when I featured her album, Take Her Up to Monto, for a publication I used to work for. I gave the album four stars and, on Twitter, she wondered what it would take to get a five-star review – given that I gave the album such a glowing and effusive review. To be fair, she had a point: I was honest and generous and it should have been full marks but, as instructed by my editor, five stars are given out for rare occasions. This time around, I have (to some degree) corrected that when assessing her latest single, Incapable. I want to talk about a few things before I get there. First, I will describe the new Murphy’s Law; the way the songwriter has this consistency and is showing other artists how to do things; the showstopper Murphy who, I feel, warrants some British headline attention; the reason we need Murphy to keep producing music; those with true personality in the industry and what comes next for her. The ‘normal’ Murphy’s Law states that, if something can go wrong, then it probably will. That seems to apply to everything our Government is doing right now. In terms of music, there is someone who is getting everything right. Róisín Murphy, I feel, has not dropped a step as a solo artist and always seems to hit these rare heights. I think that, when it comes to producing original and stunning material, there is nobody like Murphy around. She is this incredible creator who ensures everything that she puts out is of the highest standard. Although I have employed some wordplay and there is, so far as I know, no Róisín Murphy’s Law, I think there should be. She is one of the best artists around right now and I cannot think of anyone on her level.

The reason I brought up this subject is because, in music, you do not get this sort of consistency that often. There are some artists who have a good run but, in terms of pushing to new levels and stretching the imagination, Murphy is a rare example. I will move on in a second but look at her previous albums, Take Her Up to Monto (2016) and Hairless Toys (2015). Although I didn’t give the former the full respect it deserves, the album resonated with critics and was a big success. I do wonder whether there will be another album from Murphy coming very soon but one only needs to look at Murphy’s solo career and work with Moloko to see what a body of work she has produced. At a time when there are few big smashes and artists that capture the imagination, Murphy is this ball of fire that keeps releasing these staggering songs. I do think that we need something uplifting in music because, the more you think about it, the more it makes me wonder whether music has become too glum. Thankfully, there is Róisín Murphy who always gives the world these stone-cold smashes. Maybe it is me being dewy-eyed but I do really love what she is doing and it is amazing to see the leaps she takes. There are very few other artists around who can release a series of singles that all have their own personality and voice. That is worth noting when we look at Incapable. Right now, Murphy is putting out singles and, so far as I know, there is no album title revealed yet. One suspects there will be a release very soon but, rather than bow to convention and the usual cycle, we get these great singles from Murphy. There have been a few put out but, up until now, Jacuzzi Rollercoaster was my favourite. Now, with Incapable doing the rounds, I get to cherish another slice of gold.

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I was mentioning how, between singles, Murphy changes sound and evolves – and this is highlighted on her latest track. Very few can draw a straight line from the likes of Jacuzzi Rollercoaster and get to Incapable. You know the songs are from the same artists but, in terms of themes and sounds, there is a bit of a leap. Not only that but you have these classics songs that stand in their own right and do not need to be part of an album. I do feel other artists need to look at Róisín Murphy because she is not someone who follows the pack and does what is expected. I was watching a Top of the Pops special yesterday night that took us back to 1988. I noticed a couple of things from the programme. Not only was the music – Pop/House and Rap – pretty fun and funky but there was this sense of unpredictability and energy. I do feel there are a few songs bubbling about that have a sense of fun but there are not that many. Also, one feels that singles and albums are laboured and there is little sense of mystery. If out Róisín Murphy’s Law dictates that, if things can go right and upbeat then they will; maybe we should also throw in another codification: She will not be prone to the weary promotional cycle and will be able to express herself in a unique way. By that, I mean the songs are not being teased endlessly on social media and they do not have that key ‘impact date’ – the ‘perfect’ moment a song is released so that it makes the biggest mark. No. Murphy seems to take us back to a time when singles were a very important part of the musical landscape and, indeed, there was an element of surprise and joy. Not that music has lost all of that but I do like the fact there are artists who just release singles and want to make these separate works – not necessarily leading to an album or part of some big campaign.

Perhaps this is just me showing my age but I am so glad we have pioneering voices like Murphy’s in the music business. Not only is Róisín Murphy a terrific songwriter who keeps producing these epic hits but, when you see her live, she sort of takes the breath. I have seen photos circulating of her killing Primavera Sound. This is a festival that is very important because of its diversity and sense of equality (more on that later). Murphy was part of this eclectic and wonderful line-up and was a definite standout. In fact, look at her profile page from the Primavera Sound webpage and it sort of describes what you get from her shows:

Róisín Murphy is a painting. Róisín Murphy is a sculpture. Róisín Murphy is a loud outfit. Róisín is (of course) a song that surprises, disrupts and moves. Róisín is… Art. Pop art, of course. She could limit herself to filling studios with her voice, but she has always wanted to assault our senses in a three dimensional way. The control on all the aspects that makes music an audio-visual artefact has led her to being an icon dressed in cubist fashion, to rolling up her sleeves, and getting behind the camera to direct all her videos from Hairless Toys to the string of new models of disco music that she has released in single format during 2018”.

I am yet to see the great Murphy in the flesh of the live arena but I have seen video footage and read enough reviews to know Murphy is a very special performer. Not only does one get a range of outfits and fashion choices – Murphy does like her clothing and to explore the boundaries – and you always get this arresting visual aspect. Although there is a lot of drama, spritz and the theatrical, at the heart of things, Murphy wants to connect with the audience and get to their hearts. It is clear that she does this and, for that, we are all very thankful. I do feel that songs such as Incapable will sound great performed live – it might have already gotten an outing – and it will be cool seeing it paired with her Moloko work.

Let’s, before, I go on, add a third bullet-point to Róisín Murphy’s Law: we shall have f*ckinhg fun and everyone will join together. Maybe I should put these laws/rules in quotation marks (?) but I do think that, as a performer, Murphy places togetherness and interaction above all else. I have been following Murphy since the early days of Moloko and I have seen this artist grow and expand. I do wonder whether, with performers like her around, she will get that all-important headline slot. Think about all the great work Murphy has put out into the world and how great she is right now. I suspect there is an album coming along soon enough but there is ample material around to justify a Róisín Murphy headline slot. I have long-complained about the lack of women booked when it comes to headlining and, whilst I shall not repeat myself now, look at Murphy and what she has given the world. In a way, getting to a headline stage is like receiving an honour; an acknowledgment that you are at the top of your field. Although Róisín Murphy has yet to step onto the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury in the prime slot, I do think that she has warranted that respect. Look at the songs she has under her belt and think about the electricity one gets from her shows. I am sure The Killers and The Cure will put on something pretty good at Glastonbury but I do wonder why she has not been asked to headline. Maybe it is just me getting all angry but I do worry we are ignoring great female artists in place of the same old, boring male acts. If you do get a chance to see Róisín Murphy play, make sure you do. I hold a lot of genuine affection for Murphy because she is one of the hardest-working and nicest people in music. Maybe it is her Irish roots but you get no bulls*it with her: just this open and bright woman who puts her heart on the page and gives the world this magnificent music.

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 PHOTO CREDIT: @Annadaki

I want to quote from an interview she recently gave with London in Stereo where (the interviewer) mentioned the financial struggle in the industry years ago; how that affected the likes of Murphy and how she has adapted:

Of course, the industry has changed since that initial release 12 years ago. Reflecting on what happened in the following years after Overpowered’s release, Roisin touches on the financial crash of 2007 and how it had an impact on the industry, as well as herself. “EMI actually fell apart straight away after we put the record out, the whole thing ended,” she says. “Now everything has become compartmentalised. For an artist like me, there’s more options in terms of staying independent, and being able to just sort of do deals for specific projects in mind. I’ve done that for a little while and that’s been quite good in a way. Certainly creatively very good because whatever I want to do, I just go ahead and do it.”

This artistic freedom and sheer drive that Roisin exudes is something that’s helped her stay on top form throughout the years. “I don’t think there’s a secret to longevity, but I think my secret is just the people I work with, the fact that I can just change everything on every project by changing who I collaborate with.” She says, “The music is always the beginning of everything, while I’m a very visual artist and I make the videos and concept the art, deep, deep, deep, the music remains the very centre of it all. It’s the seed of everything.”

Driven by her love of music, and constantly evolving through her collaborations, Roisin is a force within the industry, but her adaptability, endurance and humility make her a true icon. As we wrap up, she says, “I love making the music, love the visuals and I love performing. I’m delighted to be able to do this job, I’m so blessed it’s stupid”.

 PHOTO CREDIT: Andy Parsons

Adding a penultimate addition to the Róisín Murphy Law and I want to include this: “The personality and spark is not fake: this is the real deal, you see?!”. That sounds like an odd sentence construct – and it might not be proper English – but there is an awful lot of bullsh*t and fakery in music. That might be axiomatic but we still get these fake artists who seem to be all talk and, look under the skin and you get someone very different. Not only is Murphy a consummate and stunning performer and songwriter but she is someone who dazzles and seduces in interviews. I have yet to meet Murphy – I really do need to get out there! – but she is someone who is frank and honest. Instead of practiced answers and this sense of caution, you get an open and engaging artist who gets under the skin. I will leave things there – because I want to review Incapable – but I do recommend that everyone gets behind Róisín Murphy and follows her music. She is a wonderful artist who keeps on surprising and producing music of the highest quality. I expect this to continue for a long time but, before then, she has put out a single that is very different to everything that has come before. Maybe that shouldn’t come as a shock when we look at Murphy’s past but, the more you listen, the more this wonderful number gets into the head. There is so much to love and cherish about Róisín Murphy and I do think that Incapable ranks alongside the best she has put out there. I am not sure what the exact inspiration behind the track is – whether it is culled from real-life experiences – but Incapable is a song that will strike a chord with many people out there. On a very wet and overcast day, it is that burst of energy and sunshine that we could all do with!

I am reviewing the edited version of Incapable – check out the eight-plus-minute version – because, the way I write, you would need a few days spare to get through it all! The opening notes of Incapable gives us this smooth and tense beat with a combination of Disco and Pop. The beat pushes the song forward and there is a catchiness that gets right into the head. It is hard to describe the sensation one gets from the introduction but, as you bed-in, the music makes its way through the veins. Murphy talks about the weather being a bit crap and one senses it is more a metaphor. Maybe things were sunny and hopeful but, in this moment, the conditions have changed and the atmosphere has grown a little cold. It seems like there was this chance for unity and passion but it has been lost. I do think there is this balance of strength and vulnerability in the song. We have someone who knows that love was very close – she talks about this inevitability and natural connection that has somehow been denied – but there is this incapacity. Murphy seems confident on the surface and can tolerate the storm but she does wonder why love misses her shore. I am not sure how the man was who is in her mind (and whether it is fictionalised) but one feels like they are meant to be together. Murphy’s vocals start breathy and slow as she is backed by handclaps and this propulsive groove. Soon enough – by the time the pre-chorus arrives – the energy kicks up and there is this sense of denial. She might never have had a heart broken and been lost because, in some ways, she has never given her heart fully. I don’t know. If she is not involved that deeply and in love then does that mean her heart is protected and she will never feel this pain? Murphy wants to connect and give her heart; get over this blasé sense of detachment and actually give her all.

Whereas a lot of artists would talk about personal limitations and deep questions with dour resignation and moody music, Murphy manages to elicit a genuine sense of hope. She does ponder some big questions – whether she is incapable of loving someone – but there is this need to find answers rather than wallow in a sense of defeat. Backed by the always-present and ready composition behind her (that seems to get more intoxicating and influential as time goes on), Murphy is looking inside herself and probing. I am not certain whether this time around there was a near-miss and a few nights of passion but, when it comes to transitioning from lust to a full-blown commitment, there is something holding her back. Maybe we have all been there but, rather than move on and chalk it down to one of these things, Murphy sees a pattern emerging. Is she someone who does not want to be too open with another and feels unworthy? Maybe. I do think there is this final straw where she does not want to make the same mistakes or, at the very least, discover direction and a reason behind her lack of commitment. One of the most interesting lyrical clashes is where Murphy says how she has never had a broken heart but, at same time, never been available and committed. Is the fear of getting her heart broken the real reason she does not want to dedicate herself to a deep relationship? One can feel real gravity and meaning in the words (even though, I believe, Murphy is in a committed and happy relationship right now); a need to stop this cycle that is bringing her down. Murphy has balanced a very hard-hitting and personal foreground with a background that keeps the mood buoyant but never cheapens the seriousness of the words. Look at the cover art of Incapable and, aside from some truly awesome hair, I get the impression of a heroine from the 1980s who has been on the town and looking for connection.

She has this confidence and sass but, when it comes to connection and longevity, she runs away. Maybe Murphy has been hurt by love before so feels that things will go sour if she gives her heart. I t is easy to be swept away by the giddiness of the beats and claps; the rush of the electronics and the way Murphy’s voice opens and flies. If you listen carefully, you can detect so many different emotions working away in the song. I have listened to Incapable several times through and pick up fresh things every time. On the surface, one might think it is simply about being scared to love but I think Murphy has something deeper working away. True, she is not giving her heart truly but I do think there are many reasons why commitment is so difficult. Maybe there has been this hurt before and men letting her down. I think she wants to have a sense of freedom that a relationship doesn’t offer and there is that need for a bit of control and separation. Perhaps being too open and deep is scary and getting too heavy with someone threatens a degree of stability. One has their theories and reasons but I do feel Incapable is a song that means different things to different people. Not only are the lyrics engaging and fascinating but you cannot help move to the alluring and wonderful composition. It is this wonderfully rich and motivating thing that gets the body moving and will put a smile on the lips. The version I have been reviewing (the edited, radio version) is great but one gets fresh experiences with the longer edition. In any case, Incapable is another solid-gold offering from the always-wonderful Róisín Murphy. I am always in awe of her music and do not feel there is anyone out there who can compete. We definitely need to see and hear more from her – I do wonder whether an album is not too far away. The weather might be bad today but one blast of Incapable eradicates the clouds and raises the temperature. I do hope Murphy has received the answers she needs and has managed to find some happiness and peace.

I am not sure whether Róisín Murphy is releasing another single soon but, as we can add a final line to Róisín Murphy’s Law – you never know what you are going to get – I do think there will be a lot bubbling up. Incapable is the sound of a woman who is hitting a new peak and exploring fresh directions. Keep your eyes on her social media pages because I am sure there will be some movement very soon. I do really love what she does (if I haven’t said that enough?!) and it is great to have her in music. I do know that Murphy is busy with gigs and promotion right now and I wonder whether, when all this cools down, we will get a record. My eagerness is a reaction to what is out in the industry at the moment and how there is a Róisín Murphy-shaped hole. She has this balance of sounds that nobody else can provide; a sense of bang and spark that cannot fail to impress and a charm that is all hers alone. Let us end this review because, one suspects, I have gone on for a bit long. I do hope that I have covered as much ground as possible and, if you are new to Róisín Murphy, then you have a bit more information. When you have done listening to Incapable (again and again), make sure you dig back through the archives and unearth as much of Murphy’s gold as you can. From the earliest seeds of Moloko through to the alluring magic of Incapable, it is clear there is nobody like Róisín Murphy around. So many people have thrown love her way over the past couple of weeks because of her new track and the magic summoned at Primavera Sound. I do feel that a Róisín Murphy headline slot at Glastonbury is overdue and, if there are plans for an album, it will definitely be hotly-anticipated. Long may her reign continue because, in a changing and tense world, Murphy does give us something special and cathartic. She is this artist that does not follow templates and lets her own voice sing loud. I do hope she will forgive me for short-changing her regarding Take Her Up to Monto but, when it comes to Incapable, I think I have redressed the balance. If you want to hold dear a songwriter who can lift the mood, make you think and get in the bones then look no further than the epic Róisín Murphy. She is a truly amazing artist and someone, I hope, who will be around for many more years to come. As I close this review, Incapable is still bouncing around my head and, in fact, there is a longer version available online that I recommend people listen to as well. I am off to spin Incapable one more time but, as today is pretty crap in terms of the weather, why don’t you do yourself a favour and play a song that is guaranteed to…

PUT you in a better mood.

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Follow Róisín Murphy

TRACK REVIEW: YONAKA - Wake Up

TRACK REVIEW:

 

YONAKA

Wake Up

 

9.5/10

 

 

The track, Wake Up, is available via:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hbLptuA9XQo

GENRES:

Alternative/Pop

ORIGIN:

Brighton, U.K.

The album, Don’t Wait ‘Til Tomorrow, is available via:

https://open.spotify.com/album/20XIFoAtLYdFGnDoqNwnbf?si=tenVP1fFQFeYYJQVWIX9MA

RELEASE DATE:

31st May, 2019

LABEL:

Asylum Records UK

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THIS time around...

 PHOTO CREDIT: Rory Barnes

I want to talk about bands and artists coming out of Brighton, addressing subjects like toxic relationships in music; mixes of Pop and Alternative in music; female-fronted bands and why festivals/the industry needs to take more notice; a bit about underground artists are their future in the industry – I will end by speaking about YONAKA and where they might head. It is interesting addressing YONAKA because I have been following them for a little while now and have seen them grow as a band. Their album, Don’t Wait ‘Til Tomorrow, is out and it is the culmination of years of grafting and hard work. The guys have a really tight connection and great sound that they have forged through live gigs and regular play. It is testament to their chemistry and abilities that they have released an album that is gathering great reviews and going down a storm with the fans. They have got a lot of exposure in London but I think it is their roots in Brighton that has helped them to stand aside from the pack. I live in London but I know full well that there is more room and time to breathe in Brighton. It is a part of the country that inspires the senses and allows one to recharge. There is far less bustle and stress than in London and the people are fantastic – there are nice people in London but nearly as many as in Brighton. It seems like, despite one or two venues closing, there is a really strong live scene and some great artists bursting through. There is a lot of emphasis on London – because this is where most of the big venues and labels is – but one cannot discount the appeal and strength of Brighton. It has a fantastic mix of people and great venues like The Green Door Store give space for artists to cut their teeth and hone their craft. More than that, there is this feeling of community and support that one does not get from other parts of the world – there is also the convenience of being quite close to London in terms of commuting to gigs.

 PHOTO CREDIT: Ryan Saradjola

I wonder whether a lot of people are aware of Brighton and why bands like YONAKA are thriving. You only need to go down to Brighton and spend some time there to understand there is something in the air; a sense of wonder and relaxation that gets into the bones. The variety of music on offer down in Brighton is also impressive. You can find all sorts of genres and styles to suit your tastes; this real blend of colours and textures to amaze and dazzle. Great record stores like Resident provide a chance for in-stores and inspiration; festivals such as The Great Escape display a banquet of artists and give local groups the chance to ply their trade and impress the crowds. This year has seen Brighton in the spotlight. I think The Great Escape – where YONAKA featured – is more balanced (in terms of gender and genre) than most festivals and brings a lot of new followers and faces to Brighton. There is so much emphasis on London and what is happening there but I feel so many people are heading there and it is getting harder and harder to stand out. I think, in terms of YONAKA’s sound, they sort of take from the scenes and sights around them but they possess a sense of innovation and brightness I do not think they’d have if they were in London. That might sound strange but I think they are influenced by their surroundings and the people of Brighton. It might be the case that they relocate to London so they can find more opportunities but, as Brighton is so close in terms of a commute, I do hope that they remain put for a while because, as their new album takes hold and gets buzz, they will get a lot of gig requests and love from Brighton. I shall move on but I think it is interesting in Brighton right now. I went down there a few months ago and saw pubs and venues boasting live music; a general vibe that is hard to ignore and a happiness that one does not get from London. Maybe the reality is different but one goes to Brighton and they are instantly lifted; their troubles melted and their mind opened.

It is interesting addressing YONAKA because I have been following them for a little while now and have seen them grow as a band. Theresa Jarvis, the lead of YONAKA, brings a lot to the party on the band’s album. Don’t Wait ‘Til Tomorrow’s title suggests taking the bull by the horns and seizing the day. There is that need for urgency and getting out of bad situations; not putting things off and taking chances when they come your way. I will quote an interview from YONAKA in a bit but, when looking at themes on the record, it seems that toxic relationships play a big role. I am not sure whether Jarvis has been on the receiving end of bad love and mistrust but it seems like she is taking from her own experiences. Everyone can relate to situations where one person in a relationship is controlling or is exerting a lot of pressure. Getting away from that and moving on can be hard but YONAKA’s lead feels that it is possible – taking those steps and realising you do not need to be with that person if they are bringing you down. There is more to YONAKA’s album than relationships alone. The band address mental-health (on the album) but manage to fuse serious messages with songs that have a distinct bubble and pop to them. Look at this interview YONAKA gave NME earlier in the year and they explain what inspired their recent material:

I want them to feel strong,” starts Theresa Jarvis of what she wants people to get from Yonaka’s debut album. “I want them to feel empowered. I want them to feel like they can kick the door down and go get what they want.”

It’s a strutting, confident message from a band who’ve spent the past few years growing in strength; collecting their power and kicking down whatever doors have been stupid enough to stand in their way. The end result is ‘Don’t Wait ‘Til Tomorrow’, a record that captures all that growth and, alongside a blossoming belief, twists it into a celebration of everything that the band stands for…

“I definitely do think what we’re doing is important. When we get offstage, all these young girls come and speak to me saying we’ve given them confidence to do this or ‘thank you for talking about this, you’ve made me feel better’. If young girls are saying that, that’s fucking amazing. It’s definitely important,” beams Theresa. “We were getting the album together at that point as well, which helped solidify it,” continues George.
“It’s saying reach out to someone, change something or do something about it. Don’t leave it too late. I was going through some really bad anxiety myself. I couldn’t sleep properly and I was feeling really shit. I started reading Matt Haig and his writing captured exactly how I felt, but couldn’t explain. That was really important.”

She continues: “Sometimes you feel really lonely, like ‘It’s just me, I’m going to die’. To know someone else feels the same way I do, that helped me when I wasn’t feeling good. I’ve got family and friends who suffer with depression and it really gets heavy on people. People’s brains, they can take over and put you in this horrible place. ‘Don’t Wait ‘Til Tomorrow’ is a message to let you know you’re not alone. Other people are going through the same stuff and you can reach out and talk to someone”.

It is great that YONAKA have managed to inspire young girls when it comes to big subjects; stuff that is not necessarily being broached by their friends and at school. YONAKA put mental-health at the front and, when it comes to loneliness, they know that there is someone out there who feels the same – Don’t Wait ‘Til Tomorrow is that realisation that we can all find someone to relate to and we need to discuss these sort of themes. Whereas a lot of artists are still concentrating on their own struggles and very narrow themes, YONAKA are a part of a new wave who are going deeper and being more inclusive with their sounds.

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 PHOTO CREDIT: Elina Lin

It is hard to describe the sound of YONAKA but they seem to mix Pop, Punk and Alternative together. I look the Pop edge because it gives their music a sense of colour and lightness. When they address themes like toxic relationships and loneliness, it is important the messages resonate and strike but, in terms of memorability, they have made the palette a bit less stressful and tense; it allows the songs to convey something important but make people move at the same time. I do think modern music lacks a sense of smile and fun and, even though YONAKA are dealing with some serious stuff on Don’t Wait ‘Til Tomorrow, they are able to write some big choruses and lace in something charming. Led by Jarvis’ excellent vocals and intoxicating spirit, the band come together wonderful and have this busy and exciting sound. I guess there are artists putting together Alternative and Pop but I do feel it is a style of music that should be more popular and exposed. There are too many downbeat songs around right now so it is a relief to discover YONAKA. They can make you think and highlight something pretty raw but, at the same time, they want people to move and feel free. This is a potent combination and something that makes their album a real hit. The band give us big hooks and you are never in short supply of rush and energy. Their music definitely awakens the senses and this is music you can sing along to. Whereas some artists are quite closed-off and can be pretty dour, YONAKA are bursting with life and their music gets people together. Those who have seen them live – I should do next time I am down Brighton way – state how friendly YONAKA are and how they always have time for their fans. Their live performances are excellent and you can feel some of this energy in the album. Rather than produce something polished and fake, the band have kept close to their roots and have released and album that will please existing fans and bring in new support.

 PHOTO CREDIT: Rory Barnes

Going forward, I hope YONAKA will keep their sound true and not feel the need to change too much. I love the fact that YONAKA have these great choruses and can put hooks in the mix but there is this rawness that makes you want to get into a mosh-pit and let everything fly loose. YONAKA have strengthened as a unit and I am sure they will say their new material is more meaningful and nuanced than their earliest days. I know Jarvis has looked back at some of the early songs and wonders what she was saying. It seems the band is riding a high now and, with industry backing and a growing fanbase, they seem ready to take the next step. I do think they have an important role to play in music. There is some great Pop and Alternative around but nothing that has the same sound as YONAKA. They bring together some shades of the 1980s and 1990s – always good when you want to cross the generations – so that is something that speaks to me. They are always in the present day but, as they do straddle time and moods, their music has this variety and width that means everyone can take something from it.

Everyone who sees them live tends to say the same thing: they are one of those bands that you cannot forget and you want to see again. It is obvious YONAKA are among the most exciting groups coming through right now and they back that live reputation with incredible songs that stay in the brain. I find so many modern tracks have a sort of doomy skin and it can be a bit depressing. I yearn to uncover great artists who can talk about something serious but have a fun time whilst doing so. YONAKA is what we need in music at the moment and I cannot wait to see where they head next. Let’s move onto something else because I am keen to look at YONAKA as a possible future-headliner.

I have been very feminist-minded the last few days and, whereas I am continuing today, I do feel that so many great female artists are being overlooked. YONAKA might be underground and rising right now but that is not to say they will be quiet for too long. They have this great local reputation but are starting to get a lot of attention from further afield. I look at festival line-ups this year and there is a lack of female headliners. There are not even female-fronted bands at the top and that worries me. Considering there are so many great women around right now, I do wonder what is holding festivals back. Look at European festivals like Primavera Sound and they have the likes of Robyn and Solange rocking the crowds. They have shown that a fifty-fifty gender balance is possible at festivals. I wonder why we here are not able to match Primavera Sound because they have shown how easy it is! As this BBC article shows – when putting Primavera Sound in the spotlight – there are a lot of great female artists and bands out there:

Charli XCX, Lizzo, FKA Twigs, Christine and the Queens, Robyn and Sigrid are just a few of the names on the bill. And when headliner Cardi B pulled out Primavera managed to replace her with another big name - Miley Cyrus.

"We love music and if you love music in 2019 it's quite obvious that it's done both by men and women the same way," says Primavera's Marta Pallares Olivares.

She says it was only when last year's festival ended that they decided to try and achieve an equal gender balance this year - something they're calling the "new normal".

"It's not difficult once your mind is set - when you decide that you want to do this, you start looking for female bands and see that you have been listening to them during the last month," she tells Radio 1 Newsbeat.

"I will say to all those people who say there are not enough female acts out there - because I've heard that - that it's simply a lie. They are out there - because they're here".

 PHOTO CREDIT: Rory Barnes

We do need to address festival imbalance and show that an equal gender split is what should be happening every year. Great female-led bands like YONAKA might look at festival line-ups and feel that they could never headline because they are fronted by a woman. Look at Wolf Alice – a band who won the Mercury Prize – and one wonders why they were not chosen to headline any festival this year. I can name so many great female/female-fronted bands that are capable of producing a great headline set – one wonders if they are even considered and part of the conversation. It is sad to see but it makes me wonder what festival organisers are looking for in headliners. I think YONAKA tick a lot of boxes. They have these immediate songs that are memorable and get the crowd pumped. Their live sets are fantastic and they are getting stronger with every new release. I do think that, when they have another album or two under their belts, they can own a headline stage. I do wonder if, by that time, festivals will be more attuned to the variety of music and how many great women there are. In any case, we need to change where we are now and stop holding women back. I do actually think that female/female-led bands provide that perfect mix. I prefer a female voice up front with a band because I think there is more depth and emotion in the voice. Having men and women in a band, I feel, gives the music more variety and different voices. There is a chemistry in the ranks that leads to terrific music and that translates readily to the stage. Who knows where music will head in years to come but I do think that bands like YONAKA warrant the chance to headline. They are underground right now but, as I said when talking about Brighton, there are some really good bands emerging that you need to look out for.

There are distinct themes that run through Don’t Wait ‘Til Tomorrow. You only need to look at the song titles to realise escape, movement and defiance are all high on the list. The opening to Wake Up is one of the most compelling (introductions) on the album. The band are masterful when it comes to providing these great introductions and giving each song a real sense of character and voice. We get some great percussion leading from the back and a mix of tripping strings and warped electronics. It provides this contrast of buzz and nimbleness that drags the mind and senses in different directions. When Jarvis comes to the microphone, she talks about, when she closes her eyes, she makes some sort of compromise. Before I continue, I wanted to say that, apart from a couple of songs on the album, the band have brought new material to the plate on their album – whereas a lot of other bands tend to cram albums full of old songs. Also, every song on the album is between three and four minutes long: none last any shorter or longer, if you see what I mean. One can hear hints of YONAKA’s earliest material but there is freshness on songs such as Wake Up. That sense of being allowed to wander – without being too long-winded – means the tracks breathe and expand. Jarvis, when talking about closing her eyes, knows that this is not real life. I do wonder what she was referring to when she said she was compromising – maybe having dreams of love and being stuck in a bad situation. Maybe she goes to sleep and pictures horrible scenes from a relationship and knows that, as this is a dream, she has control in real life, maybe? It is an intriguing line of thought and Jarvis continues with lines about kissing people she does not like and experiencing all these bad moments. Things seem a bit rough when she lets her imagination take control but, as she keeps telling us, this is just a dream and she can wake up.

I love the sounds YONAKA put together; this blend of strong but sweet vocals – in the sense there is light and colour but plenty of teeth – and an incredible composition. In a way, there are similar threads one can find in bands such as black midi (who portray a similar blend of tones in their music) and it is great to hear. As I follow Wake Up, I had to ask myself whether what we are hearing is in the heroine’s past. Is the heroine still going to sleep and trying to escape these bad memories and visions? It appears that, whilst she can wake up and take control, maybe the ghosts of a bad relationship continue to weight her down. It seems like her boyfriend is with another girl and things have not been too great for the heroine. When she goes to sleep, she runs with gorillas in the moonlight and seems to fall into this rabbit hole – maybe the natural result of her building anxieties manifesting into something quite divorced and weird. When she does wake up, it is a chance to run away from the bad dreams but it seems like real life is not so straight-forward. Sure, Jarvis can take some control and get away from a toxic relationship but she still has to cope with a lot of heartache. Even if the heroine talks about s*it getting real and things being a bit strained, the way the song is delivered definitely gets the voice ringing.

PHOTO CREDIT: Rory Barnes

In a way, the words become more memorable and indelible when there is a sense of positive and pop in the delivery. There are definite nods to 1980s Pop when you hear the chorus burst into life. I am not surprised YONAKA have a big live following because I can imagine songs like Wake Up get people chorusing together and in a great mood. That is not to ignore the song’s message and the fact Jarvis is dealing with something pretty rough. That contrast between dreams and a lack of escape and being able to tackle things when awake is pretty vivid. I do wonder whether, in the song, she has someone with her offering support and backing. Maybe her boyfriend is not as reliable and supportive as he should be and one gets the sense the heroine is finding the power and strength to get through some choppy waters. Wake Up is an incredible song that has this breeziness and big heart but there are deep messages that many people can relate to. If you like Wake Up and want to hear more of this sort of track, investigate Don’t Wait ‘Til Tomorrow because YONAKA have produced a dazzling album full of gold.

I shall end things here because, I hope, I have talked about YONAKA enough and drilled down to their core. I am a big fan of theirs and think that Theresa Jarvis is one of the most compelling and extraordinary leads in British music. She is an intoxicating presence and someone who is leading a mighty band right now. YONAKA were at The Great Escape Festival and they seem to have a really solid and supportive home in Brighton. They are a lot of fun and they always provide great interviews; their live shows are exceptional and the music is wonderful. I think they have all the components to succeed and endure for many years to come. Keep an eye on their social media channels because they are busy gigging and, if you can, make sure you get and see them. I wonder whether they have had an in-store at their local record store, Resident, because that would be pretty cool to see – I would definitely come down and see them if that was the case. Their album, Don’t Wait ‘Til Tomorrow, is out and the band will want to focus on that and make sure it is promoted far and wide. I have seen some reviews for the record and there is a lot of love for YONAKA. It is hard to ignore them and I do really believe they will be big in the future.

I love what they are doing and they will definitely inspire other bands emerging. I have talked about Brighton and mixing Pop and Alternative together. I do think that, if you need your creative batteries recharged, Brighton is a great place to head. There is so much happening down there and you only need walk around for a couple of hours to realise how relaxed things are. It is so easy to get the juices flowing and be influenced by what happens around you. This is more or less the start for YONAKA but I know they will be setting their sights on the future and where they will head next. I feel there will be international dates and I feel like they can do a lot of good in the U.S. With an album out, they have this bargaining chip and way in; a great set of songs that would sound amazing in the live arena. Congratulations to the band on Don’t Wait ‘Til Tomorrow and, if you are not familiar with their work, then make sure you spend some time…

FALLING in love with them.

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Follow YONAKA

TRACK REVIEW: Kate Tempest - Holy Elixir

TRACK REVIEW:

 

Kate Tempest

Holy Elixir

 

9.5/10

 

 

The track, Holy Elixir, is available via:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cOo8m8GaL-U

GENRES:

Hip-Hop/Spoken Word

ORIGIN:

London, U.K.

RELEASE DATE:

30th May, 2019

The album, The Book of Traps and Lessons, is available from 14th June, 2019. Pre-order here:

https://www.roughtrade.com/gb/music/kate-tempest-the-book-of-traps-and-lessons

LABEL:

Fiction

__________

NOW that I have sort of branched out...

on my own regarding reviews, it has given me the chance to sweep the genres and artists who are near to the mainstream. To be fair, I should be outside in the sunshine – I will get there later – but I have been compelled by Kate Tempest’s latest track. Her new album, The Book of Traps and Lessons, is out in a couple of weeks and it looks set to be a belter! I will talk about Tempest’s latest single in a bit but, before then, I will address the songwriters/thinkers we need in music right now; a bit on the evolution of songcraft and how artists like Tempest have evolved; wordplay and the importance of building imagery; the consistency of artists who continue to dazzle and amaze – I will look at Tempest’s future and where she might go from here. Let us think about the state of music right now and what artists are addressing. There is still the mainstream and, by and large, artists are not straying too far from the tried and tested: they are discussing love and all its machinations. That is all well and good but (many artists) do so in a very ordinary and unimaginative way. There are other songwriters tackling the big issues of the day and what is happening in the wider world. Kate Tempest is someone who has always been aware of the struggles around us and, in her poetic and striking way, she has managed to articulate our thoughts. Now, on her latest album, there is some of that but there is more of the personal. Her last single, Firesmoke, was a gorgeous and beguiling track to her girlfriend. It was tender and impassioned; a beautiful and intelligent paen to their love and commitment. I have not heard a track as beautiful and direct for some time and, compared to her previous work, it was a chance to see under the skin and in the soul. Tempest’s 2016 album, Let Them Eat Chaos, was, as you’d imagine, about the sense of dislocation and madness around us.

Not that she has abandoned that path but, in 2019, it seems her heart and desires are playing an important role. The reason I mentioned how Tempest is an artist we really need right now is because of the way she can describe that sensation of desire. She not only talks about love in a very striking way but her poetry and delivery is sublime. On her forthcoming album, we will get a mixture of the personal and political. I tend to find artists are either divided between the familiar and safer – writing about love and their own lives – and those who address politics and something a bit bigger. Kate Tempest investigates both camps and she can mix up the intensity and urgency of modern dilemma and beautifully compose a song that comes straight from the heart. I do not think there is an artist as varied and accomplished as her; one that can easily and naturally step into both camps and come off as such a complete writer. Tempest is keen to address what is happening in this country but she is in love and wants to put that onto the page! One can admire that and I feel Tempest is that ‘ultimate artist’ who can provide endless quality but, at the same time, endless depth and intrigue. You only need listen to her in interviews to realise there is no ego and, in fact, there are very few as real and relatable as her. Many artists have this chip on their shoulder or they come across as inaccessible and dethatched. With Tempest, here is a woman who has that common touch and her music, as such, is much more powerful and popular. I love her sound and style and how she can switch it up between releases. Let me move onto another topic and something else that has struck me about Kate Tempest. It seems that the young songwriter has evolved and changed quite a bit; made a few changes and has moved to a new stage in life.

 PHOTO CREDIT: Alex Lake for The Observer

That might sound vague but, as I said, I was struck by her visions of love and dedication on Firesmoke. I wanted to bring in a couple of interview snippets from a couple of years back. Not only (do these clippings) express Tempest’s mindset and view at the time but they sort of prove what has changed since then. When speaking with The Guardian, Tempest talked about when she wrote and the conditions conducive to composure; how the state of the nation weighs on her mind:

 “When Tempest is awake at that hour, she finds it peaceful. “There is something really magic about the couple of hours before dawn,” she says. “You’re recharged, the day before is gone, but there are no requirements. You don’t belong to anybody, to anything. That time lends itself to lyricism because of the repetitive nature of insomniac thoughts.”

She talks about her creativity as something exhilarating and powerful, but also very fragile, liable to damage if she doesn’t handle it with care. “You work your whole life to build up integrity and you lose that in seconds if you allow yourself to do the done thing, or not listen to an instinct because someone in the industry has got an idea about who you might be for them. You’re defined by your choices so you have to be aware of that.”

“I’m not interested,” she says. “We’re in a terrible situation in this country and I don’t think any of us are quite prepared for what the next few years might bring. I think that the artist’s role is to be observant at all times and do their best to create and feed back. In terms of party politics, I feel like we’ve gone too far now for I’m right and you’re wrong. And I think if you align yourself too closely with a system that you find completely flawed then you’ll probably end up living to regret it”.

 PHOTO CREDIT: Neil Gavin

In a separate interview, she expanded on that idea of living in the city and how the pace of life can impact you:

 “If you live in a big city, the impact that will have on you is pretty relentless,” Tempest says, to the soundtrack of blaring traffic and buzzing market stalls. “I understand the kind of toll it takes on people to be so surrounded by life. And obviously the coping mechanism is to exclude as much as you can from your field of vision, so you can focus on the things that you’ve got to do. But I think it’s making people pretty unwell. Just look again. Remember that all of these people are human beings, they’ve been through a hell of a lot that day, that week, that month, that year. Reinvest yourself with a sense of empathy that extends beyond your exhaustion, your particular panic.”

For Tempest, the downside to capturing so much anger and frustration in this kind of vivid detail is having to explain it further in interviews. The way she describes making music, it sounds like a primal process, something that just happens. Looking back on these songs, tracing steps and delving deeper is far from her idea of fun, to say the least. A couple of times, when pressed to explain the meaning behind one thought or the other, she seizes up. “It’s so useless me even talking about this,” she quips, midway through describing people’s reaction to the Syrian refugee crisis. It’s not that she’s being hostile, more that she’s pointedly aware of how broad statements could be taken out of context.

“People – especially journalists – seem to be hankering after a political statement or stance. But if you’ve just made a whole album that expresses some quite nuanced views on a given situation, the last thing you want to do is sum that up in a couple of sentences that will come nowhere near to expressing the scope and the complexities of how things feel at the minute”.

This painted a picture of someone who, in 2016/2017, was quite on the edge or aware of how anxious modern life is. The Book of Traps and Lessons does not stray away from the pains and challenges of modern-day Britain but, at a time when we are at our most stressed, Tempest seems to be in a different place. You can tell how much her girlfriend means and I get the sense of someone who, whilst not entirely calm, seems to be in a better place right now.

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 PHOTO CREDIT: Perry Curties

It is clear that Tempest has developed and added something new to her music in 2019. We listen to her previous work and there is an edge and physicality that is hard to ignore. The soothed and devoted Tempest that presented herself on Firesmoke adds welcomed dynamics and colours to her palette. I urge people to buy her upcoming album because, as you will see, there is a unity of her past sound and something different; fresh and tender strands that are divine and wonderful. Kate Tempest is a sensational artist because, when it comes to language and how she paints, there is nobody like her! Able to cut to the core with a straight and no-nonsense line or buckle the knees with a couplet borrowed from the heavens; here is someone who has devoted her life to literature, words and the pursuit of language – to embrace it in all its forms and see just what is possible when you open your mind. Tempest is someone so in love with language and words and you can hear that in her songs. I am not suggesting other songwriters are lazy or average when it comes to lyrics but there is something extra-terrestrial about Tempest and her skills – not quite on the same plain as those who, at certain points, can turn the head. Look back at albums such as Let Them Eat Chaos and Tempest beautifully takes us inside the walls of flats and through streets. It is a narration of modern Britain and all is various sides. Earlier on, on 2014’s Everybody Down, there were stories of workaday folks and the variety of emotions and scenes one could see on an average day in London – albeit told with such authority, passion and dazzle. Tempest is a poet and playwright (and author) so she keeps her pen sharp and wet. I do wonder how she spends time away from music and, when not hanging with her girl, one suspects a pile of great books are never too far away!

 PHOTO CREDIT: Karen Robinson for The Observer

The rich, scent-filled and near-mystical words she puts onto the page can move the senses and enflame the soul. I tend to find that a lot of modern songwriters are too obsessed with love and, whilst that is okay, the way they document their passion is quite cliché and, a lot of times, downbeat. Tempest realises how her life has sort of fallen into place and how things are working out. She expresses that thanks and sense of comfort but the artist is aware of what is happening in the world right now and is unwilling to abandon that. Listen back to Tempest’s past work and just immerse yourself in her songs. There is so much detail and wit; conversations and clashes that are amazing and take you by surprise! There are very few artists in the modern world who have the intellect and range of Kate Tempest. That linguistic talent is matched in the back. Her compositions are as diverse and fascinating as the words she sings. Her music is so complete and stunning and, for that reason, I feel she warrants a lot more respect and attention. For sure, Tempest has her fans and loyal crew – in music and in the literary and theatrical worlds – but I feel like there is a whole world waiting. Maybe radio stations do not know such a good thing when they hear it – I think Tempest is one of the finest songwriters in the world and is an inspiring human. I will talk more about that in the conclusion but I am always stunned by Tempest’s work and what it does to the senses. I keep mentioning the soul and senses because Tempest’s work goes deep and strikes hard. I am keen to address Tempest’s current single, Holy Elixir, but I wanted to finish off this section but thinking about the sheer consistency and workrate of Tempest. It is staggering thinking about Tempest and what she achieved in her life so far.

The thirty-three-year-old is an award-winning writer and she has released two huge solo albums so far – the third is a matter of days away. Her collections of poetry – such as 2013’s Brand New Ancients and 2018’s Running Upon the Wires – are sensational and you need to check out her 2016 novel, The Bricks That Built the Houses. Tempest’s plays – such as 2013’s Wasted and 2014’s Glasshouse – are hugely popular and it goes to show what an exceptional and broad talent Tempest is. She stunned years back but has kept that quality high since then. I find a lot of artists start out strong and then dim a few years down the line. Maybe they get stronger over time but it can be quite a tenuous start. In the case of Kate Tempest, she came out of the blocks charged and ready and there seems to be no signs of her slowing or losing that magic. There is something inherently familiar and wonderful about Tempest’s work. She can write fantasy and detach herself but it is the reality she portrays and the innate way she can speak for us that makes her so amazing. Even if her background is different to some of her fans, we can all extrapolate some truth and wisdom from her words. That mix of imagination and grounded reality makes her one of the most important and relatable writers in the world. She is only in her thirties so I wonder where she can go and just how good she can get. With a new album just around the corner, Tempest will be busy – but I hope there is another novel or a collection of poems in her sightline. I hold so much love and respect for what Tempest is doing and how busy she is. Not only has she penned these great poems, plays and songs but Tempest has curated festivals and given talks. She is this modern-day polymath and genius that holds endless ability and brilliance but is able to resonate. She is just the same as us and never pushes people away. The fact we can all connect with Tempest and understand her words so clearly means she will always be popular and loved.

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 PHOTO CREDIT: Neil Gavin

Whereas Firesmoke – her previous single – started with a tenderness and did not stray too far from the delicate and sensual; here, we have a song that begins with more intensity and mood. Holy Elixir begins with curious words and thoughts. Tempest casts herself almost like a Creator-type figure; animating “tree gods” and giving life to animals. Given the song’s title, it is unsurprising that religious imagery should present itself but, such a stark departure from Firesmoke, we go from the intimate and deeply devoted to something that, literally, takes us back to the beginning of time – well, technically, God doesn’t exist so that is wrong; I just mean we are talking about creation and all life rather than a tender and personal love story. Tempest, it seems, is taking us through the development of man and time as she discussing (us) catching food and scrawling on caves. In the back of my mind, I sort of know where she is heading from the early stages – I think I do, anyway! I get the sense that, when talking about the primitive nature of life at the start, she is sort of mirroring that to the modern day. One gets the sense that, covertly or openly, Tempest is making comparisons to the savagery and simplicity of the earliest humans to where we are as people now – maybe I am reading too much into it; Tempest can forgive my curious and wandering imagination! I love how, like so many of her songs, the composition is a constant yet it never intrudes. Rather than throwing so much into the mix, there is a simplicity and consistency that gives Holy Elixir a strange groove and hypnotic focus. If Tempest’s previous albums were more intense and packed, now it seems Tempest is more restrained in terms of energy but that has also allowed her words to breathe more. With all Tempest songs, language is at the fore and she packs so many words together.

 PHOTO CREDIT: Jenna Foxton

The narrator discussing us setting fire to lands and reducing things to ashes; the way we have burned and burnished beautiful things and conquered worlds. She never explicitly alludes to modern politics but one feels, as she guides us closer to the modern time, there is a comparison between our earliest ancestors and the supposedly more evolved people of today. As the song continues, you are left dizzy by the pulsing electricity of the composition and the words Tempest delivers. Her wordplay is amazing and, whilst her vocal is quite tender and soft, the potency of the words is incredible. Tempest casts herself in this image and talks of a girl that walks over her. Tempest is this holy elixir and, as she offers prophecy and truth, there is that unity of the biblical past and the modern times. There is, as Tempest says, scripture now but just a modern equivalent. The switch between the development of mankind and religious rules transform into the codification, guidelines and treaties of our time; the ridiculousness of modern politics and how our elected are unwilling to bend and accept any derision. This is where I felt the song was heading and, when it does arrive, the effect is stunning. Tempest never gets too angry and loses control but you can feel the anger and disgust bubbling and festering. Keeping control but still able to get her words out loud and strong, Tempest talks about someone/the people keeping their heads down and exhaling fumes; this constant repetition and sense of anger working in the skin. The composition never intrudes and, as the song goes on, it seems to gain more traction and weight – even though the sound and pace has not changed at all! Tempest talks about, I think, leaders and how the soul is a “closed system”; wisdom has been vanquished and, what they hold in their fists, is all that there is. These words are oblique but direct at the same time.

Each listener will imagine their own story and cinema but I get the impression that, with every heartbeat, Tempest is talking about politics today and the intentions of politicians. Holy Elixir goes much deeper than that and it takes a few listens before everything sort of unfurls and comes into the light – the sign of a truly rewarding and intelligent track. “Your loneliness is the symptom/not the sickness” Tempest decrees; her voice firm and resolute and, as those words are delivered, they conspire all kinds of images and thoughts. I have loved everything Tempest has put on record but I think she is at her most powerful and impressive here. One will find plenty of charge and force on her new album but there is a more level head and sense of composure, even though her words are still as powerful and potent. In many ways, this means her words can cut deeper and have more time to explore and expand. Lyrics are Tempest’s strong suit and you find yourself engrossed by her incredible wordplay. Maybe that is a dismissive terms for what she is about: ‘poetry’ is much more apt and respectful! As Holy Elixir comes to its end, Tempest takes us to the garden (whether Eden or more of a Joni Mitchell/Woodstock sense); she has led us here and notices that the soil is bare and blind – that we need to start sowing and planting seeds. In some ways, this is a literal image of degradation and neglect but, in a wider sense, it is a commentary regarding the poverty around us and how the planet is faring – whether that is political impotence or the all-too-real climate apocalypse that awaits us! Tempest is always firm and controlled whilst never preaching and attacking. She can portray so much wonder and powerful without yelling and getting aggro: instead, the beauty of her words create these fertile scenes that will be ingrained in the psyche for many weeks to come. If the rest of The Book of Traps and Lessons is as wondrous and memorable as Holy Elixir (and Firesmoke) then there is no doubt Kate Tempest is the artist to beat in 2019!

 PHOTO CREDIT: Alex Lake for The Observer

Sorry if I have rambled on and repeated myself. I find artists like Kate Tempest are so impressive and amazing that it is hard to get everything down in words; to summon up the right words and get to the heart of the matter. I hope Tempest continues to reign and shine in music as we definitely need her around. Tempest releases her new album, The Book of Traps and Lessons, on 14th June and it will be good to see what sort of reception it gets. I have only heard bits of the album but it is amazing. There is a mark of Tempest’s older and familiar sound but, as I said earlier, there is more of the passionate and personal this time around. Maybe this indicates that Tempest is in a happier place and is able to feel calmer and anchored because of a strong relationship and sense of safety. I encourage people to get The Book of Traps and Lessons when it arrives and play it in full. Tempest has signings and in-stores coming up this month so make sure you keep your eyes peeled and, if you can, get down to where Tempest is appearing and throw her some love. Holy Elixir is a fantastic track that is so nuanced and deep that it has taken me a few spins to really get to the bottom of it.

To be honest, Tempest is someone whose songs are stirring when you first encounter them but, like flowers blooming, everything sort of unfolds and stretches the more time goes on. It is an amazing thing and another reason why she is so loved and respected. The U.K. is in a pretty sorry place right now and I do think that it is hard to make sense of all the crap and division around us. Tempest has not shied away from this on her latest album but I do like the fact that the importance of love and her feelings are being expressed. Like many of her peers, one can find sweetness, hope and deep affection: so many are eager to express pain and unhappiness without providing any light and relief. Let’s leave things here and I’ll let you spin Holy Elixir one more time. I cannot for The Book of Traps and Lessons and I am already predicting it will be one of 2019’s best and brightest albums. Make sure you dedicated some time to investigate Kate Tempest and, as I said, if you can get down to one of her signings, make sure you do. She is simply wonderful and, in a music world where there are so many similar and familiar faces, she is someone who…

IMAGE CREDIT: @residentmusic

STANDS in a league of her own.

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Follow Kate Tempest

TRACK REVIEW: Hayden Thorpe - In My Name

TRACK REVIEW:

 

Hayden Thorpe

In My Name

 

9.7/10

 

 

The track, In My Name, is available via:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5wUwaffYLMw

GENRES:

Indie/Alternative

ORIGIN:

London, U.K.

The album, Diviner, is available via:

https://music.apple.com/fr/album/diviner/1456813144?l=en&ign-mpt=uo%3D2

RELEASE DATE:

24th May, 2019

LABEL:

Domino Recording Co.

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NOW that I have transferred over to reviewing...

 PHOTO CREDIT: Matthew Parri Thomas

the bigger artists, it gives me a bit more depth and reach regarding subject matter. I have been a fan of Hayden Thorpe since his days with Wild Beasts – one must nod to them. Before I come to his solo work and a song from his debut album that I wanted to address, I feel it is only right to talk about moving from bands to life as a solo artist; debut albums that are very different from past work and take you by surprise; artists who strike you with their personality and intelligence; putting something deeper, lyrics-wise, into albums; where Thorpe might go and what (to me) makes him pop – I will end by looking at a very special song and predicting the next few months for Thorpe. One cannot help but mention Wild Beasts in the context of Hayden Thorpe. He was their lead and chief songwriter and someone who struck the imagination from their debut album. I remember listening to the imaginatively-titled Limbo, Panto and revelling in the strangeness and originality of the songs. All helmed and propelled by Thorpe’s gymnastic and resonant voice, the Wild Beasts’ sound was unlike anything I had heard before. It seemed like the Kendall-formed band had this great connection and, in terms of their music, they evolved from album to album. I do love how (Wild Beasts) changed from this somewhat eccentric-at-times band who were quite theatrical and high-spirited to a more mature, romantic and nuanced group. I love their debut album – don’t get me wrong – but I feel Wild Beasts really sort of honed their craft as time elapses. Thorpe was at the centre of everything they did and blew people away with his incredible voice and his stunning lyrics. He seemed to articulate love and desire in a way no other writer was doing – almost like a poet compared to the more conventional and formulaic songwriters around him. Things are quite different for him now that he has stepped out alone.

I am not sure what the reason was behind Wild Beasts’ split – it seemed like they had done everything they could – but the sound of the band was, for the most part, quite racy and intense. Thorpe spent years in this group, writing a certain way and having his musical brothers around him. There was a comfort in that, for sure, but I feel like Thorpe was always straining to go solo and have more of a say. The Wild Beasts template was solid and exciting but, when you are in a band, there has to be a sense of diplomacy and I guess you have to write in a certain way. Once the band had put out their debut and established themselves, they could not jump in too many different direction or stray that far from the mould. Now that Thorpe is doing his own thing, he could sort of rewrite the rulebook and break away from the Wild Beasts sound. It must be very strange adapting from the comfort of a band and that routine and going solo and having to shoulder a lot of the responsibility. To be fair, Thorpe has people around him and he is not completely alone. There are differences in terms of texture and tone when you compare Thorpe’s new work and the band material. I think Thorpe is a lot more ambitious, varied and comfortable when on his own than with Wild Beasts. Maybe that is strange to say but I think Diviner, his debut album, has that sense of comfortable and freedom that was perhaps missing from the Wild Beasts days. A lot of former band members have struggled to go alone and they have not really been able to match the giddy heights of their former glories – I am thinking of Liam Gallagher (Oasis) as a perfect example. In any case, the man is out in front and he has released an album scooping kudos and great critical affection. It does seem that there will be (I hope) much more from Hayden Thorpe and he has managed to transition from Wild Beasts to his own material without too many problems.

Before I look at the way Thorpe’s solo music is different to the work of Wild Beasts, I wanted to bring in an interview from NME, where Thorpe talked about going solo and what it is like being out in front:

So much of your life and identity has been wrapped up in being creative. Is it nice to have that element of yourself back out there?

“Yeah, totally. I often think musicians are kind of like tennis players, in that they become so hyper-specialised at that one very specific thing, they’re actually ultimately very useless at other ways of being. I kind of feel either hyper-specialised, or completely maladjusted – or maybe both at the same time. The thing is, once you’re used to crafting beauty and the cadence of your life is towards trying to create beauty, that becomes the compulsion, and nothing else matches that. That is everything.”

Had you always intended to go it alone, once the band came to an end?

“I had no idea what I wanted to do, because I had always relied on music as a compulsion. And you can’t rely on compulsion – it’s either there or it’s not. To start to make plans upon a compulsion, it’s a bit like navigating by the stars, it’s trial-and-error. I didn’t want to bank on it, and I had no expectation that anyone would want to listen to my [solo] music. There was no sensation of inheritance or righteousness to this position. All-in-all, what happened felt so right – the alignment and the perfection of the ending of the band, and how much closure and peace it gave meant that there was a massive forward propulsion from that. Which I hadn’t expected.

One of the great things about Thorpe going solo is that he does not have to follow the last Wild Beasts album (Boy King came out in 2016) and have that pressure. Diviner is less aerobatic and saucy as a lot of the Wild Beasts material and I think the sound is more cerebral and soulful. Thorpe discuses and dissects his passage and progress and is very candid. Where Wild Beasts’ songs had their sensitive moments and were pretty frank, I think Thorpe is even more revealing and honest with his lyrics.

 PHOTO CREDIT: Phil Smithies

There is never a sense of gloom or oppression coming through but, instead, there are all these mixtures and contrasts. He can go from revealing and tender to this quivering and insatiable lead. One might say that this is similar to Wild Beasts but listen to Diviner and its general feel and you can detect something very different indeed. I think Thorpe is placing lyrics and the power of his words above, perhaps, the flexibility of his voice or the compositions. That is the impression I got as the lyrics definitely dig deeper and linger the longest. On the subject of his voice, it has always been his calling card and something that has provided excitement and wonder. I am not suggesting Thorpe’s voice is more restrained on his debut album but I think it has calmed a little and is more graceful; less wild than his former self but, if anything, more varied and interesting. Perhaps it is impossible to define the differences between Thorpe as the Wild Beasts lead and what he is doing now. One can find similarities between the two ventures but there are big differences, too. Following the band’s split in 2017, Thorpe set about crafting an album that was his own vision. Recorded over the course of 2018 with his long-time collaborator, Leo Abrahams, this was a strange period for Thorpe. No longer with his bandmates, other artists might have felt unsure and struggled to move forward. Instead, Thorpe took to the task of recording a new album and has transitioned wonderfully. It is great that Hayden Thorpe is carrying on post-Beasts and he seems to have entered a new creative phase. Is it just the music of Thorpe that strikes the heart and seduces the senses? Alas, there is a lot more to the man and I do think he is one of these artists that can captivate and intrigue away from the studio.

Let us consider his interviews and how he comes across. Ever since the Wild Beasts days, Thorpe has provided these very intelligent, rich and unique interviews. I love the way he talks and how he describes things. His imagery and use of language is superb and he comes across as this very witty, intellectual and interesting human. Maybe you think that is pretty normal and of little note but consider all the artists out there and how many of them actually get under the skin. I would say there are very few that resonate and connect in a power and long-lasting way. Perhaps I just need to do more research but Thorpe is far more interesting than a lot of his peers. You can hear that intelligence bleed into his songs and, when he talks to journalists, he comes across as very warm and engaged. Rather than provide the same answers (to a lot of the same questions) one gets something different and fresh every time. That is rare in the modern landscape and it is an attractive quality. It is not a slight on musicians but many of them tend to provide very ordinary interviews and do not really hook you with their personalities. Sam Fender is another great artist who has that blend of intelligence and humour – there are a few other artists that have that similar level of colour and excitement. I don’t know. Maybe there is too much music out there and it is harder to find those who are going to stand in the mind. Hayden Thorpe compels with his music but he also makes you stand to attention when he speaks. I do think that this helps when you listen to the music. If you have an artist that appears dry and not especially striking during interviews then it creates this sort of odd tone in the music. I listen to Thorpe speak and how he comes across and I get more from the music because of it; it makes me want to listen to what he is saying and the music remains for longer.

 PHOTO CREDIT: Matthew Parri Thomas

Perhaps that is just me but I am always looking for artists that have that attractive personality or something about them. The depth and wisdom Thorpe conveys during interviews comes across in his songs. I have mentioned how Diviner is different to his Wild Beasts output. Perhaps more honest and stirring, this (the album) is the sound of a man who has experienced a lot of change the last couple of years and can finally let these feelings and stories come to the surface. There is no telling how far Thorpe can go and what comes next but I love his debut solo album and feel that there will be huge demands. I will nod to touring and the future in the conclusion but, if you have not experienced Diviner yet, make sure you listen to it. For those who loved Wild Beasts and their more exuberant moments, you will find something to love on Thorpe’s album. Before I move to review my favourite song from Thorpe’s debut album, I will bring in another interview where Thorpe explains his move to solo work and what the main differences were (from Wild Beasts’ sound); what motivated him and what defines Diviner:

Although ending the group left him unmoored at first, he didn’t find working alone daunting, largely because he sees Diviner as a record made on intuition: the title reflects his belief that songs are “foot-soldiers of the subconscious”, and that this album was already there, just waiting for him to write it. There are differences, though. “In society now, the individual is king,” he says. “The individual success is absolutely placed at your door, and therefore the failure is absolutely at your door, so the scrutiny, self-interrogation and attention on yourself to make a record on your own is something to behold.”

PHOTO CREDIT: DIY/Phil Smithies

Most of its songs search for clarity and catharsis after confusion and chaos. Every morning before writing, he says, he would watch YouTube videos from philosopher Alain de Botton’s The School of Life. “You be my diviner / Show me where to go,” he sings over the title track’s shimmering pianos; “A world is waiting for us outside / No more hiding in plain sight,” he promises on the dreamy Impossible Object. Thorpe describes it as an album about breaking up with his idea of who he was, which isn’t as fraught as it sounds. “If people go through a struggle, they have a breakdown,” he says. “But why can’t you break up? When people go through these phases, are they not going through some necessary reincarnation?”

I ask if the record’s penchant for spiritual sensuality, instead of the wordy sauciness of songs past, means he has changed in other ways. Thorpe agrees it’s “less Viz”, but says there is still sexuality in the record, and he never got tired of people harping on about Wild Beasts’ fondness for sex. “I revelled in it!” he hoots. But, he says, “there’s a limit to how sexy things can get when you spend a lot of time on your own”, and that he does feel less cocksure nowadays. “Don’t things get more wondrous and confusing as we go on?” he asks. “It’s more of a mystery now, in a beautiful way.” Out of the blue, the automated voice on his phone interrupts to ask if he wants to open an app. “Tinder!” he says in a stage-whisper.

You can see what I mean about giving good value in interviews! There is the sexuality and sensual searching from the Wild Beasts days but, from that fire, a renewed and different man has risen from the flames. There is a lot of wisdom and truth on Diviner; some common threads and songs that everyone can relate to. Out of the ten tracks, I was spoiled for choice regarding a song to assess - but I plumped for the excellent In My Name.

 PHOTO CREDIT: Matthew Parri Thomas

If one is expecting Diviner’s songs to leap around and have the same sort of growl as Wild Beasts, songs like In My Name take you in a very different direction. Piano-led, it starts with this very elegant and romantic sound. You are immersed in the beauty of the piano and where it will lead us. I think songs that go in too hard sort of put you off or sap the energy. Appropriately relaxed and intrigued, Thorpe steps to the microphone and provides some curious expressions. He is, it seems, tired of shaking these hands and can smell their perfume. He has slept in their room and knelt in the dirt. There are these powerful images and scenes unfolding and, when it comes to the chorus, a bit more light is revealed. He asks (the unnamed subject), if they must crusade and do what they are doing then not to do so in his name. One can apply that sort of proclamation to political avenues. It is hard not to think about things happening in British politics right now and people doing our bidding. Given the sights of Thorpe fighting demons and kneeling in the dirt, one can also speculate about romantic endeavours and how, maybe, there is a split occurring. Rather than overtly and explicitly reveal the truth behind the song, one can come to their own conclusion and build their own story. I do love the sheer majesty of the piano and how it is joined by strings. Wild Beasts did employ a statelier and romantic sound in their later work but Thorpe has taken that up a notch. The endless beauty and grace of the music perfectly accompanies the lyrics; always arresting and vivid. You can see Thorpe in this wind of turmoil and pleading to someone – the anonymous villain – not to sully his name and use him/people as a pawn in a game. You can hear a bit of Kate Bush in the sound of In My Name.

The building and brooding composition reminds me of Aerial and 50 Words for Snow; the way Bush could build these soundscapes and unite them to a stunning and passionate vocal. Maybe I have been looking too deeply at political themes: maybe the past life of Hayden Thorpe is under the microscope on this song. In Wild Beasts, there would have been these demands and impressions; journalists reading too much into what he did and misconstruing the words. Perhaps there is this feeling that, now he is solo, this is a chance to be truthful and set the record straight. In My Name is, as I say, a song that can be interpreted in a number of different ways from different angles. I adore how the song sweeps and swoons; it flies like a bird and has this haunted quality. Thorpe, his voice delicate and determined, does not want people flying “that flag” is his name. When thinking about the image of a flag being waved, I am back to political avenues but, being too literal, it might be other people speaking for him or getting the wrong impression. Thorpe seems to be battling against false ideologies and lies; a sense that other people are talking for him and causing huge strain. Although Thorpe’s voice never explodes or loses control, you can hear this sense of tension underneath everything. The composition is this beautiful thing that brings the best from Thorpe’s voice and takes the song in new directions. I have mentioned Kate Bush but there are elements of Tori Amos’ early work and what she was doing on albums like Under the Pink. You are stunned by the stillness and beauty of In my Name but fascinated by the lyrics and the pictures they paint. I had to listen to song a few times to really get to the bottom of it and, to be fair, even after that much time, there are mysteries and questions lingering. That is the mark of a great song: one that can get under the skin but still leaves you itching a bit. Maybe Hayden Thorpe is addressing his past life or what is happening in the U.K. right now. There is no real telling but I like the fact there is a sense of the ambiguous and mysterious. I love In My Name and it seems to join all the aspects of Diviner. From the gorgeous, kiss-like vocals with tremor and passion through to the stunning compositions and the compelling lyrics. It is a marvellous song from a truly remarkable debut album. Hayden Thorpe has always been a wonderful songwriter but I think he has really progressed and come on leaps since the days of Wild Beasts. Make sure you get Diviner and check out stunning songs such as In My Name.

PHOTO CREDIT: Phil Sharp

It is always hard accepting an artist on their own terms when they step solo. I was a big Oasis fan but have different opinions regarding Liam and Noel Gallagher’s solo work. Any big artist that leaves a band and goes alone will always be compared to their former days and have this pressure on their shoulders. That is fair enough but I do think we need to judge every album on its own merits and not expect the same thing to come through. Rather than duplicate the work of Wild Beasts and feel the need to please the critics in that sense, Hayden Thorpe has produced an album that contains remnants of his band work but is a lot more personal and different that all of that. I think Thorpe sounds freer and more natural here. More of a reincarnation than evolution, I love all the different sides to Thorpe that were not necessarily exploited during the Wild Beasts days. I have a huge affection for the band and really liked everything they put out. I am not sure, as I say, why things ended for them but it must have been tough for Thorpe to adapt and realise that he had to go solo. Some artists would be overwhelmed by that but Thorpe has shouldered all of this and seems to be in a really good place. What comes next for him? Now that Diviner is out, it is unlikely there will be too many other singles but there will be tour dates. Not only does Thorpe have his fans from Wild Beasts but he will appeal to a whole new set of people. Thorpe has a couple more in-stores to come and will get a chance to meet fans and get their reaction. The critical response to Diviner has been positive and that must give him heart and energy. I know there will be people around the world who want to see him play and get a chance to hear the songs unfurled in the live arena.

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 PHOTO CREDIT: DIY/Phil Smithies

It has been a strange and wonderful past few years for Hayden Thorpe. Think about the music he has been responsible for and how he has had to go from this band leader to the solo artist. I think his debut solo album is incredible and there will be, I am sure, ideas in his mind regarding material for a second album. I hope to catch Thorpe perform live – he was in London yesterday so I missed the opportunity – because he is a fantastic performer and someone who has a natural bond with the crowd. Let’s end things here but I am really chuffed Diviner is out in the world. I wanted to single out a track, In My Name, because is struck me harder and I feel it only fair to delve into a song with depth and passion – giving a few words about each track seems a bit causal and ineffective. I urge everyone to get the album and experience all the different moods and subjects explored. It is a very rich work that gets stronger and more compelling the more you listen to it. You can tell how much heart and soul has gone into the music and how personal the music is. That being said, everyone can relate to what Thorpe is saying and he definitely involves the listener in the album. I will keep my eyes on Thorpe and see where he heads off to next. After his gigs and plans this summer, there will be that period where he can evaluate and think where he steps next. Will there be another album or will there be a few more dates later in the year? It is a great time for Hayden Thorpe and I wish him the best of luck as he pushes forward. With Wild Beasts, he was this unique and vibrant lead who amassed a huge following. Now, as he steps out alone, he has even more sides to him and I feel like he can accrue a whole new audience. It is a great time for the man and many eyes will be trained his way. Make sure you follow Hayden Thorpe’s next moves and keep abreast of all his happenings. Diviner is a truly wonderful album that is among the year’s best but I do think there is a lot more to come from…

THIS beautiful former Beast.

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Follow Hayden Thorpe

TRACK REVIEW: Cate Le Bon - Miami

TRACK REVIEW:

 

Cate Le Bon

Miami

 

9.6/10

 

 

The track, Miami, is available via:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vLfoGZTgt5o

GENRES:

Folk/Singer-Songwriter

ORIGIN:

Wales, U.K.

lllk.jpg

The album, Reward, is available via:

https://catelebon.bandcamp.com/album/reward

RELEASE DATE:

24th May, 2019

LABEL:

Mexican Summer

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I have a bit to cover when thinking about...

Cate Le Bon so, in that regard, I shall get to my points. With her new album, Reward, out now, it is an aptly-titled work that has been celebrated and commended by critics. I have chosen a track from it to review but, before I get to Miami, I wanted to discuss inspiration for albums and why Reward came from a very difficult period for Le Bon. I will also talk about warmth (in records) and alums that invite you in; strange inspirations and focuses that artists have and want to fulfill; how artists like Le Bon can inspire others; why this year is particular strong regarding sounds and competition – a hint to where Le Bon might go and where she will head next. Before getting down to reviewing the song I have chosen from Reward, I wanted to look at Le Bon as someone who has created something genuinely warm and inviting. That might sound simplistic but many reviewers are noting how tender and open Le Bon’s new album is. I do think there is a lack of real warmth and colour in music right now and we have entered a new period where a certain anger and darkness is taking over. Maybe there is an understandable reason why this is happening: if things are tense in the country, that is going to be reflected in what is being put out. I know that there is light to be found in the modern scene but there is too much darkness and oppression. This can create a very heavy and bleak landscape that is hard to embrace and get behind. Cate Le Bon’s latest album does have some moments of spike and darkness but, for the most part, it is a very nourishing and wonderful thing. I will talk more about why this is and how it can inspire other artists. Cate Le Bon composed material for Reward on the piano whereas she usually composes on guitar. That working practice, perhaps, has led to this slightly different sound. Le Bon sounds at her most composed and fascinating on Reward.

There are personal songs and, to be honest, this is possibly Le Bon’s most personal record to date. A lot of other artists have produced very personal albums this year but Le Bon has this sense of ambiguity that means you do not get hit by a darkness and weight that other artists throw around. Does this mean that the lyrics fail to penetrate and people misinterpret? I do think that there is a hard balance to strike. On the one hand, you do have to guess and interpret some of the impressions yourself but there is never this feeling that things are too obvious. I like to listen to music and have my own impression when it comes to the music. Le Bon, I feel, has written in this very stream-of-consciousness way that means her words might have one take on the first listen and then, when you get more into it, there are other revelations and threads that come into the light. I must complete my take on warmth in albums and the fact that one gets a distinct feeling of sunshine and embrace in many moments. I do think there is this thing in music where artists are being very gloomy and there is a tendency to avoid the nourishing. I did mention how Le Bon has put some deeper and more challenging sounds into Reward but there is this pervading sense of overcoming the darkness and finding a sense of hope. Maybe that is me misinterpreting things but I listened (to the album) and was instantly transported and uplifted. It is a gorgeous and interesting work that does put personal matters at the fore but does not leave you feeling isolated and overwhelmed. Maybe it was the recording process and how the album came together that means one gets that feeling of embrace and the horizon opening up. How does one spend time away from music and, indeed, if there is a moment of burn-out, is it possible to come back and make music?

For Cate Le Bon, she was feeling a bit lost and exhausted by the early part of 2017. She was caught in a wave of touring and commitments and it seemed like the demands of the road were taking a toll. She was playing shows for her fourth solo L.P., Crab Day, and there was this feeling that a recharge was in order. It does happen with a lot of artists when they get into this cycle that is hard to break from. In terms of recovery and getting back on track, there was a rather strange muse that Le Bon embraced: furniture. Not just furniture itself but constructing furniture and actually making a finished product from scratch. Apart from Jack White, I cannot think of another artist who has been involved with upholstery and furniture-making. Many musicians do gardening or yoga but, for Le Bon, she was caught by this article that was written by someone who attended a three-year furniture school in London. That person was already interested in furniture and decided that this was a logical step. Le Bon herself was interested in design, and so, she wanted to do something similar. Already captivated by modernists such as Frank Lloyd Wright and Lina Bo Bardi, Le Bon knew she couldn’t take three years away from music and make furniture. Instead, she enrolled in a smaller woodworking programme in the Lake District. This sounds pretty ideal and it seemed like it was a perfect thing for Le Bon. Many might think that something like a woodwork course would distract from music and would not lead to a creative resurgence. Rather than isolate herself from creative pursuits, Le Bon had this sense of focus and discipline that sort of rebooted her or, at the very least, was a welcomed counteraction to the sense of fatigue and depression she felt. I do wonder whether other artists who are in a similar position might be motivated to pursue something like woodworking or furniture-making in order to regain a sense of clarity and energy.

 PHOTO CREDIT: Jason Evans

In any case, there was this need to sort of get away and re-examine things. When speaking with Huck, Le Bon explained why she took up furniture-making and whether it was a challenge being solitary for so long:

Before you recorded this album you took a year out to live alone in the Lake District, specifically to enrol in a furniture-making school. Why did you feel the need to get away?
I’d been fantasising about a chance to learn how to build furniture for a long time. Often with those things, you’re waiting for someone else to grant you some kind of permission to do it.

I guess I’ve been in a cycle of recording, touring, making records as DRINKS with Tim Presley. It’s been four or five years in that cycle and I think it’s good to stop and re-prioritise; to make sure you’re doing it for the right reasons, and not because you’re just going through the motions.

But a year in solitary? That’s a lot.
People came and went but when I was there alone, I was really alone. I felt like I may have lost my mind a little bit at times – genuinely. I was living in an old cottage by a river and it couldn’t have been more idyllic, but there were times when I really felt the presence of the house.

I made a lot of decisions that completely changed the architecture of life. With a year of making furniture in the Lake District, you can concentrate on the montage of all the good bits and the romantic parts. It lets you do a lot of soul-searching. It was the perfect place for a reckoning of things.

You realise a lot of things; you dissect a lot of things when you spend an extended period by yourself. Self-pity can be quite delicious when you’re by yourself. You can allow yourself that self-pity because you’re not really burdening anybody else with it”.

That impression sounds like Bon Iver recording an album in a log cabin and being detached from the modern world. Whilst there would have been moments where Le Bon was etching close to breakdown, for the most part her time furniture-making was a rewarding one that allowed her to get some perspective.

The fact that the country is sort of falling apart means that a time in isolation was a good thing. Le Bon knows that things are pretty bad and there is a lack of direction. Emerging back into the world after time in isolation was hard but I think it means what we hear on Reward is less impacted by the political strains and fall-out and more focused on Le Bon and her mind. One might think that Le Bon’s quest and new adventure might have reflected in the album. By that, whilst she was off creating furniture and putting together something wonderful, the album would be quite sparse and acoustic. Is there a connection between physical pursuits such as furniture-making and an artist’s sonic outlook? If one was expected an acoustic guitar-led record that was quite humble and predictable then they need to think again. Instead, Reward has strings, saxophone and all sorts of sounds melting together. I will come to Miami in a minute and why it kick-starts the album in such brilliant fashion but, if you listen to the whole record, you will find so many different textures and avenues. I believe, when recording in L.A., things did not start too well. There was a lot of interruption in the studio and it seemed like things would not get done. Le Bon and producer Samur Khouja decamped to Joshua Tree in California and it seemed like things were on a better footing. Other artists have been inspired by Joshua Tree and it seemed like the time in the desert stopped time and calmed Le Bon. You can hear a sense of calm in her album but, when recording, there was that vista and the beautiful sunsets. I think Le Bon’s tale and progress will inspire other artists and add something new to their work. It might sound a bit excessive going to California and taking up furniture-making but I did say how much darkness and tension there is in music.

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I do think that artists need to take a different approach as there is a lot of strain right now. I do feel like the state of the nation is impacting music and we are provided little escape and sunlight in all of this. I can only imagine how much stress is in the bones of modern artists and what their creative processes are like. Maybe Le Bon’s furniture pursuit – where, as you can see here, she came up with something beautiful - is a metaphor for what she was feeling before she took this course. Life was a bit rough and uncertain but, with patience and discipline, she managed to turn out something very striking and wonderful. The same can be said for Reward and how it sounds very different to what she has produced. Not only is the piano the guiding light this time around – creating a different anchor and meaning the songs have a different tone – but Le Bon seems to be in a different headspace. Life has moved and changed and I think she sounds a lot more comfortable in her own skin than she did a couple of years back. Maybe I am wrong but it does appear Le Bon has been refreshed and re-inspired by her decisions and recording process. I do love what is being produced this year but, as I keep mentioning, there is a feeling that darkness and personal revelation is taking more of a stand. I understand why artists want to be personal and lay everything out but, inside all of this exposure and honesty, there is not a huge amount of relief and light. Cate Le Bon has produced an album that transports you somewhere warm and safe. There are these extraordinary musical interjections and moments that catch you by surprise and, the more you listen to Reward, the more layers reveal themselves. This year has been a very exciting and bold one for music. It has been led by incredible female artists.

I do think this year, more than any others, has been defined by female artists. I am not sure what has turned the tide but I do feel like there is this determination (from women) not to be overlooked. It is still the case there is imbalance and inequality and, with that being the case, female artists are coming through strong and, we hope, this will lead to greater opportunities for them. Le Bon’s music fits nicely into 2019 and the other sterling work put out by women. I am not dismissing the men at all but, when thinking of the best albums of this year, women do dominate. Le Bon’s experience and sound is a lot different to other artists around. I have mentioned how there is a lot of light in her work but there are moments of isolation and melancholy that sort of reflect something different. Away from all the adventure and warmth, you do get a sense of someone who is looking for answers and struggling with something. Composed on a second-hand piano, you do get an impression of Le Bon and what she was feeling during Reward’s creation. Given that view, one cannot fail to detect a sense of loneliness and sparseness but, in many songs, there is something lush and expansive. Her native Welsh brogue remains but, unlike her other work, there are few angular riffs and characteristics that made her name. Instead, after such a time of transition, there is a sense of new beginnings and her shedding her old skin. Le Bon is excited to be back. It is good to have her back because, when you look back at her previous work, you can tell this is an artist that will be an icon one day. She has this ambition and talent that is stronger than anything else out there and recalls some of the most innovative musicians ever. That declaration might sound vague but it is hard to put into words the skill and sound Cate Le Bon has.

Miami is a great way to start Reward. You might expect something quite subtle and obvious but, instead, there is a nice burble from the electronics and this sort of spacey sound that reminds one of David Bowie. The introduction has so much going on but it never sounds too packed and physical. Instead, you have this lovely sense of soothe and soulfulness where darting electronic bubbles pop alongside horns and other instruments. There is this stride and step that makes the song instantly connective and appealing. I love how horns sort of naturally mix alongside acoustic strings and hypnotic electronics. One is helpless to resist the sense of wonder and intrigue that you get from these opening moments. With Le Bon’s voice, I have always picked up aspects of singers like Nico and Joni Mitchell and, whereas those artists have slightly rough edges (that might sound insulting: there is a definite edge that other singers do not possess), Le Bon is a lot more soothing and accessible. She has a very special sound to her voice but it is one easy to love and understand. Le Bon talks about decorating your own discord and never being the same again. The city of Miami is name-checked in the first line and I wonder whether she is literally referencing Miami or it is more of a symbol for something or someone else. Like a lot of Le Bon’s best moments, there are lyrics that one needs to untangle and investigate. “Falling skies that people uphold, move with me” is a thought that takes some guessing and exploring. I love how she can paint these pictures with slightly abstract expressions but, the more you listen, you definitely get an impression of what she is trying to say. There are very few words on Miami itself: instead, it is more about mood and this song that takes you into Le Bon’s world. The gentle and determined chant of ‘Miami’ is more like a coda or prayer than it is a declaration.

One does wonder whether Le Bon has been inspired by the city or whether that place represents a particular escape and fantasy. Whereas artists would cram words into a song and it would make things too busy and confusing, Le Bon sprinkles in a few choice words and then uses the song to explore her voice and the composition. Opening Reward, you get this song that is beautifully lush and rich with life. There seems to be little stress and haunt in its soul. Indeed, you have all these sun-kissed horns and little notes that bring a smile and make you feel lighter. I went back time and time again trying to get to the bottom of the lyrics and, sparse as they are, everyone will have their own interpretation of what is being said. I love the track and it definitely takes away pressures and stress. The composition provokes images of expanses and a sense of freedom. The horns are never too intrusive and bold but they definitely have a vim and vigour that gets into the blood. Le Bon’s voice is always soothing and delightful but there are so many different sides that arrest and captivate. She is one of the most nuanced and skillful artists when it comes to baring her emotions and opening the imagination. There are many wonderful moments on Reward but I particularly love Miami because it has all these different sides and moods. Most of the time is spent allowing the vocals – many of them wordless – unfold and this incredible composition…it just does magical things! It is a triumphant song from Le Bon and one that you will return to over and over again. What is it about? It is hard to say where the inspiration came from but I do think there is personal biography. Le Bon experienced some stress and unhappiness before taking some time out and taking up furniture-making. Maybe it is about her sense of revival and how she had to beat a retreat. Perhaps it is more about fantasy and disconnection but I can hear something deeply personal in the vocals. Cate Le Bon is an artist that provides these unique and interesting words and it is down to the listeners to come to their own conclusion. I like this as too many songs are obvious and give everything away. Miami could mean something different to someone else but I think it is this moment where Le Bon returns to the world and is starting again. Maybe I am wrong but, in any case, the song is majestic and the perfect way to start a remarkable album. Make sure you go and buy Reward and spend some time with it. It is great having a new record from Le Bon: one of music’s most interesting and spellbinding artists. I do hope we get a lot more from her in the future because she provides something other artists do not. It is hard to pinpoint but, when listening to a song like Miami, you realise you are in the presence of someone truly special.  

I have spoken a lot about Cate Le Bon and her song, Miami. I could not review the whole album – as it would be somewhat brief and not do justice to each song – but I hope people investigate Reward and get everything they can from it. Le Bon has been touring recently but, with a new album out, most of her focus has been on that and getting it into the world. Look at her social media feeds and you can tell how excited she is and how proud of the record she is. That is understandable because, on the first listen, you are hit by all these different sounds and stories. There are shifts in moods and lovely little musical asides and angles that take you somewhere sublime. The more you listen, the more layers come through and the more songs start to focus. I have loved reviewing Le Bon and will follow her closely. I am a fan of her previous work but I think she has created something unique and unexpected with Reward. It is her most personal record and, debatably, it is her very finest. That might be a big claim but one need only look at reviews flooding in to see that sentiment reflected by other journalists. I shall leave things in a second but make sure you keep an eye out for Le Bon and where she is heading. I am not sure what her diary is looking like but she has a new album out and people will want to see it performed live. There will be U.S. demands and people around the world are eager to see this wonderful new album exposed and explored on the stage. It is amazing to imagine these songs being performed to thousands considering Le Bon spent a large chunk of time (more-or-less) on her own and making furniture.

 PHOTO CREDIT: Fabienne Cresens

Now, with this terrific album out, she will be in front of the adoring masses. It is quite a radical shift but I do think Le Bon’s career will go to a whole new level. What does the future holds for her, then? I do feel like there will be more albums but, with such turmoil and political division around, will her material start to reflect that more? I do hope that we get something like Reward – rather than the more tense and unsettled albums being put out now – because it is an album that provides soothe and gentleness when you need it. There is not a lot of that around now and that is why Cate Le Bon should be taken to heart and followed. She is a fantastic artists and someone who gets stronger as time passes. I am not sure where she is heading in the next few months but I know there will be demands and her life is going to be very busy. I do wonder, thinking about that, whether there is this vicious cycle. Le Bon needed to take time off following burn-out in 2017 and, with a new album out, does the same possibility await her? So many big artists are put under pressure and it gets to the point where they struggle to cope with what is expected. I do hope that the experience this time around is more pleasant and Le Bon gets time to chill and have time for herself. That can be hard for any musicians but I do feel Le Bon is in a good place right now and it would be a shame if things changed. Make sure you get Reward and experience this stunning album! I shall leave things there but, if you want to follow an artist who does things differently to anyone else yet has that accessibility, you need to get Cate Le Bon into your life. She is a fascinating artist and one who (I hope) will be around for many years to come. I have loved examining Miami (and Reward) and, as the notes and images bounce around my mind, I feel like they will be with me…

FOR a very long time to come.

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