FEATURE: Strictly for the Diehards: Thirteen Underwhelming Albums by Great Artists

FEATURE:

 

 

Strictly for the Diehards

PHOTO CREDIT: @gabriellehenderson  

Thirteen Underwhelming Albums by Great Artists

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IT is inevitable that every iconic and brilliant...

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 PHOTO CREDIT: @romankraft/Unsplash

artist releases a less-than-thrilling album if they put out enough work. If they are especially pioneering and popular, it can be quite a shock seeing something a little half-baked or unspectacular come into the market and change our perceptions. A lot of times, this rogue album does not derail momentum but, instead, provides an interesting anomaly. From The Beatles and David Bowie to Joni Mitchell and Arcade Fire, I have united thirteen artists who added a black spot to their otherwise (largely) incredible consistency. Rather than revel and highlight imperfection, I wanted to show that some of the best artists of all-time have had a misstep; they have not always come up to their golden level but, in the end, they always bounce back. You might have your own perception and choices but here, for your delectation, are thirteen occasions when huge artists…

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 PHOTO CREDIT: @luzfc/Unsplash

FAILED to meet their high standard. 

ALL ALBUM COVERS: Spotify/Getty Images

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Guns N’ RosesChinese Democracy

Release Date: 23rd November, 2008

Labels: Geffin/Black Frog

Producer: Axl Rose/Caram Costanzo

Redemption Song: Chinese Democracy

The Artist’s Album Masterpiece: Appetite for Destruction (1987)

Review:

In an April Fools' review of Chinese Democracy written two years ago, Chuck Klosterman suggested that if it wasn't the greatest album ever released, it would be seen as a complete failure. Chinese Democracy needed to be a spectacle-- something that either validated its tortuous birthing process or a Hindenberg so horribly panned it would somehow validate Rose as a misunderstood genius. Instead, it's simply a prosaic letdown, constructed by a revolving cast of misfits ultimately led astray by a control freak with unlimited funding and no clear purpose, who even now remains more myth than artist”- Pitchfork

Led ZeppelinIn Through the Out Door

Release Date: 15th August, 1979

Label: Swan Song

Producer: Jimmy Page

Redemption Song: In the Evening

The Artist’s Album Masterpiece: Led Zeppelin IV (1971)

Review:

A bit of a mess, really. As the Seventies drew to a grim end, guitarist Jimmy Page and John Bonham were increasingly debilitated by substance and alcohol abuse, forcing vocalist Robert Plant and multi-instrumentalist John Paul Jones to assume control of the sinking balloon. Muddy production, perky synths, jaunty pop rhythms and an orchestral ballad make these songs barely recognisable as the heaviest band in history”- The Daily Telegraph

MadonnaMDNA

Release Date: 23rd March, 2012

Label: Interscope

Producers: Various

Redemption Song: Turn Up the Radio

The Artist’s Album Masterpiece: Ray of Light (1998)

Review:

We all know that Madonna is an extremely intelligent woman-- even if she's never been known for penning great lyrics, it's easier to take the mesmerizingly dumb lyrics of tracks like "Superstar" and "B-Day Song" as spiteful trolling rather than vapid pandering. It doesn't really matter whether or not this drivel is insulting to Madonna's audience-- the most loyal fans seem to embrace being submissive to her domineering persona-- but it is disheartening when one of the most influential pop artists of the 20th century is tossing out the world's umpteen-millionth "Mickey" retread as a lead single. She's the one who deserves better”- Pitchfork

David BowieNever Let Me Down

Release Date: 20th April, 1987

Label: EMI America

Producers: David Bowie/David Richards

Redemption Song: Day-In Day Out

The Artist’s Album Masterpiece: The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars (1972)

Review:

David Bowie broke away from the mainstream pop of Tonight with 1987's Never Let Me Down, turning out a jumbled mix of loud guitar rockers and art rock experiments like the failed "Glass Spider." While it's not as consistent as Tonight, it's far more interesting, with the John Lennon homage of the title track being one of his most underrated songs”- AllMusic

Bob DylanSelf Portrait

Release Date: 8th June, 1970                          

Label: Columbia

Producer: Bob Johnson

Redemption Song: All the Tired Horses

The Artist’s Album Masterpiece: Blonde on Blonde (1966)

Review:

It may not be worth the effort, either, since this isn't a matter of deciphering cryptic lyrics or interpreting lyrics, it's all about discerning intent, figuring out what the hell Dylan was thinking when he was recording -- not trying to decode a song. There are times where it's quite clearly played for a laugh -- if his shambling version of "The Boxer" isn't a pointed parody of Paul Simon, there was no reason to cut it -- but he's poker-faced elsewhere, and the songs (apart from such earthed gems as "Mighty Quinn," which aren't presented in their best versions) are simply not worth much consideration. But, in a strange way, Self Portrait is, because decades have passed and it still doesn't make much sense, even for Dylanphiles. That doesn't necessarily mean that it's worth the time to figure it out -- you're not going to find an answer, anyway -- but it's sort of fascinating all the same”- AllMusic

PrinceCome

Release Date: 16th August, 1994                                    

Label: Warner Bros.

Producer: Prince

Redemption Song: Space

The Artist’s Album Masterpiece: Purple Rain (1984)

Review:

Prince-philes will already be aware of the Clinton (“Hollywood”) and Staples (“You Will Be Moved”) tracks, which appear on their most recent albums. There’s a rousing performance by the Steeles (“Color”), the return of the instrumental funk terrorists Madhouse (“17”) and “Love Sign,” a duet between (The Symbol) and Nona Gaye that is appropriately twitchy. The biggest surprise comes from Minneapolis native Margie Cox, whose “Standing at the Altar” is a buoyant single that finds (The Symbol) paying affectionate homage to the Motown hit machine….Still, no big meaning on this set. Maybe it’s a mistake to expect such things from an artist whose focus is drifting from his art and who is increasingly settling on semantic games about what he should be called. Maybe someone who has contributed so much, whose ideas have broadened the very canvas on which everyone else works, deserves to trash everything while waiting for the next inspiration to arrive. That doesn’t mean we have to suffer patiently beside him”- Rolling Stone

OasisHeathen Chemistry

Release Date: 1st July, 2002

Labels: Big Brother/Epic

Producers: Oasis

Redemption Song: Stop Crying Your Heart Out

The Artist’s Album Masterpiece: Definitely Maybe (1994)

Review:

The more cynical among you may suggest that things have gone desperately awry when the best song Oasis can come up with bears comparison not to I Am the Resurrection but a track from the Stone Roses' rubbish second album. The more cynical among you would be right. There is a finality about Heathen Chemistry, the band's third hopeless attempt in a row. The last time Oasis released a decent album, John Major was PM, Nick Leeson was bringing down Barings Bank and Robson and Jerome were number one. Oasis got to the top and, with Heathen Chemistry, they have finally got down. As it plays, however, you can't help thinking: there has to be a more dignified route than this”- The Guardian

Janet Jackson20 Y.O.

Release Date: 26th September, 2006                           

Label: Virgin

Producers: Various

Redemption Song: So Excited

The Artist’s Album Masterpiece: The Velvet Rope (1997)

Review:

Well, it beats Damita Jo. The dirty talk that helped sink that 2004 Janet Jackson disc is dialed down from 11 to 8 on the raunch meter. And co-producer/beau Jermaine Dupri’s electro-crunk, which dominates 20 Y.O.‘s first half, nicely complements the quiet storminess favored by her old standby producers, Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, in the second. But sharp production can’t mask the absence of any standouts likely to be remembered 20 months from now — a big minus when the title intends to remind you how well her ’86 break-out, Control, has held up after 20 years”- Entertainment Weekly

The BeatlesYellow Submarine

Release Date: 13th January, 1969                                  

Label: Apple

Producer: George Martin

Redemption Song: All You Need Is Love

The Artist’s Album Masterpiece: Revolver (1966)

Review:

Naysayers have their own reasons to why Yellow Submarine is a weak Beatles effort, and in some ways they might be right — after all, The Beatles only contributed six of 13 songs (two having been previously released). However, as a whole, Yellow Submarine is a delightful album, even if it’s still a less-than-acceptable inclusion in the Beatles canon. In its defense, every single Beatles track is solid and encompasses the listener with joy and chaos, quantity notwithstanding. If this were a review of solely the Beatles EP portion, four and a half stars could gloriously stud the page, which is what should matter. However, the soundtrack as a whole stands on a weighted three and a half, bogged down by a wonderful yet overbearing score that, with all due respect to Martin, should have been sold separately.

Yellow Submarine is not the red-headed stepchild; it just never had the disc space and necessary LSD to display its true colors. Our guess is that all went wasted toward the filming of Sgt. Pepper’s (perhaps the walrus ate it all)”- Consequence of Sound

Arcade FireEverything Now

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Release Date: 28th July, 2017                                          

Labels: Sonovox/Columbia

Producers: Arcade Fire/Thomas Bangalter/Steve Mackey

Redemption Song: Everything Now

The Artist’s Album Masterpiece: Funeral (2004)

Review:

On “Creature Comfort,” Butler sings about someone attempting suicide while listening to Funeral. In the world of Everything Now, it works as this shocking, bemused moment of interconnectivity. The way he sings it—almost in passing—fits with the dazed and dead tone Butler conveys through his lyrics. But in the world outside the record, it’s callous and obnoxious, unpacked without grace or taste by a band who are historically committed to helping out those in need. Is this who they fear they’ll become, or is this who they have become? It’s a question the album fails to answer”- Pitchfork

Bruce SpringsteenHuman Touch

Release Date: 31st March, 1992                                     

Label: Columbia

Producers: Bruce Springsteen/Jon Landau/Chuck Plotkin/Roy Bittan

Redemption Song: Human Touch

The Artist’s Album Masterpiece: Born to Run (1975)

Review:

The reaction was exacerbated by the drawn-out release schedule that by 1992 had become common to superstars: this simply wasn't the record Springsteen fans had waited four and a half years to hear. Though at nearly 59 minutes it was the longest single-disc album of his career (which is not even counting the fact that a second whole album was released simultaneously), and though it contained several songs that could have been big hits -- the "Tunnel of Love" sound-alike title track, which actually made the Top 40, "Roll of the Dice," an AOR radio favorite, "Man's Job," and even "Soul Driver," which belonged on the next Southside album -- Human Touch was an uninspired Bruce Springsteen album, his first that didn't at least aspire to greatness. Springsteen may have put out the more substantial Lucky Town at the same time in recognition of the relatively slight nature of the material here”- AllMusic

Joni MitchellDog Eat Dog

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Release Date: October 1985                                           

Label: Geffen

Producers: Joni Mitchell/Larry Klein/Thomas Dolby/Mike Shipley

Redemption Song: Good Friends

The Artist’s Album Masterpiece: Blue (1971)

Review:

Joni Mitchell here turned to guests like Michael McDonaldThomas DolbyDon HenleyJames Taylor, and Wayne Shorter, continuing to straddle the worlds of California folk/pop and jazz fusion. Musically, it worked, although as a lyricist, Mitchell again took off after abstractions (one song railed against "The three great stimulants of the exhausted ones/Artifice, brutality and innocence"), such that, even when you could figure out what she was talking about, you didn't care”- AllMusic

Michael JacksonInvincible

Release Date: 30th October, 2001                                 

Label: Epic

Producers: Various

Redemption Song: You Rock My World

The Artist’s Album Masterpiece: Off the Wall (1979)

Review:

Ultimately, it is Invincible's quest for regularity that is its undoing. Jerkins's contributions aside, it expresses its normality through utterly anodyne music. Jackson emerges as strange and sinister as ever; this time, he sounds like a strange, sinister man who has made a boring and very long album. Tedious ballad after tedious ballad pile up over 16 tracks. Jackson strains away (on Speechless he even feigns tears), Carlos Santana pops up for a guest appearance, but the songs are unmemorable, not a Scream or Billie Jean among them. After 76 unremitting minutes, you're left in no doubt: like its creator, Invincible has simply gone too far”- The Guardian

FEATURE: You’re the Man: Marvin Gaye at Eighty

FEATURE:

 

 

You’re the Man

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IN THIS PHOTO: Marvin Gaye/PHOTO CREDIT: Gems/Redferns/Getty 

Marvin Gaye at Eighty

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ONE would struggle to put down into words...

 IN THIS PHOTO: Stevie Wonder and Marvin Gaye/PHOTO CREDIT: Gilles Petard/Redferns

what Marvin Gaye gave to the music industry but, thirty-five years after his death, the man is still inspiring and influencing musicians. We all know huge hits like I Heard It Through the Grapevine, Sexual Healing and What’s Going On – proof there were so many sides to Gaye. Whether he was in political mindset and rallying against injustice or laying down an utterly seductive entice, the sheer power, passion and soul from his voice could buckle the knees! Some see him as The Prince of Soul - others as The Prince of Motown - and that is a pretty fair label. Huge, decade-defining albums like What’s Going On and Let’s Get It On (1970s) are hugely inspiring today and one can hear elements of his legacy in artists today. Gaye was tragically shot by his father on 1st April, 1984 during an argument.

Who knows what the icon could have gone on to create and how far he could have gone. Whether he was singing solo or duetting with artists like Diana Ross – the two released a duet album, Marvin and Diana, in 1973 –, Tammi Terrell (Ain’t No Mountain High Enough) or Kim Weston (It Takes Two) he was an electrifying, versatile and peerless performer. Able to convey such intense emotions whilst retaining a common touch is rare but it is something Marvin Gaye achieved. 1982’s Midnight Love received superb and passionate reviews and was sadly the final studio album he released. There have been posthumous releases and collections and it seems, so long after his death, we cannot get enough of him! There is a lot of treasure still being unearthed and introduced to new generations.

 IMAGE CREDIT: James Hendin

Throughout his career, Gaye transformed music but, perhaps, it is 1971’s What’s Going On that remains his finest moment. In this Mic article, the album is explored: how it inspired artists today and why it was so impactful when it was released. It was clear that, by the late-1960s, Gaye was changing music directions:

In 1969 or 1970, I began to re-evaluate my whole concept of what I wanted my music to say," Gaye said, according to Rolling Stone. "I was very much affected by letters my brother was sending me from Vietnam, as well as the social situation here at home. I realized that I had to put my own fantasies behind me if I wanted to write songs that would reach the souls of people. I wanted them to take a look at what was happening in the world".

Not even Gaye himself would have expected the acclaim What’s Going On received and how it was perceived by the press upon its release:

"Gaye has designed his album as one many-faceted statement on conditions in the world today, made nearly seamless by careful transitions between the cuts," Rolling Stone wrote in its original 1971 review. He showed that all these issues are related — they're tied to one another, they're tied to each of us, and they're tied to pop music”.

Many do not realise how important the record is and how many artists are utilising its spirit and messages in today’s music:

This is Gaye's and his album's most important legacy: a template for modern popular protest music. Some of the best protest artists today — D'Angelo, Kendrick Lamar, Alicia Keys, John Legend, Common, Lauryn Hill — owe enormous debt to Gaye. "It was more than just a piece of music," Legend said when he performed the entire What's Going On album at the Hollywood Bowl in 2014. "It was a landmark of social commentary".

As we remember his eightieth birthday tomorrow, make sure you listen back at the incredible breadth and scope of Gaye’s catalogue. From the social campaigner and voice to the rapturous, smooth-as-caramel Soul singer…there was no limit to the man’s talent. It would be good to have him in the world today because he would have a thing or two to say about the world in which we all live. Albums like What’s Going On, in a weird way, hold bigger meaning and are (sadly) as important today as back in the 1970s. The multi award-winning artist was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987 and it is undeniable how important he was regarding the Soul and Motown scenes. There has been nobody like him since but, as I say, one can hear elements of Gaye in so many artists today. It is that kind of influence that makes you realise what a special force he was and how sad it was his life was cut tragically short. Rather than lament and wonder what could have been, let’s listen to the wonderful music of Marvin Gaye to mark his eightieth birthday. He departed the world in 1984 but, in so many ways, he still walks…

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 PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images/Press

AMONG us all.

FEATURE: An Arizona-Shaped Hole in the Lizard’s Shadow: Taking Risks and Pushing the Album in New Directions

FEATURE:

 

 

An Arizona-Shaped Hole in the Lizard’s Shadow

Taking Risks and Pushing the Album in New Directions

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THIS is a period where I am revisiting aspects and ideas...

 PHOTO CREDIT: @suryavu

that I have included before. I am a big admirer of the album as an artform and think, even if you do not reinvent the structure and form of an album, you can create some big waves. By that, I mean you can add samples or make songs differ; have a range of genres working alongside one another in a bold and eclectic record. Think about how long the album has been around and, through the decades, how many artists have pushed the envelope and really done something unexpected?! We have had many classic albums, sure, but a lot of them are more conventional and straightforward. When The Beatles’ threw in a hidden track – Her Majesty – at the end of Abbey Road in 1969, that was quite a big step forward. They also had a song-cycle on the same album: tracks that flow into one another to create this single story. Abbey Road, in many ways, changed the game but even before The Beatles, artists were putting concepts and surprises in their music. I have used King Gizzard and The Lizard Wizard as the sort of ‘cover stars’ as they have, through their career, taken the album in new directions. I know there are some that throw in these twists through an album or play with our preconceptions. Maybe these shifts and differences are quite slight but, with the Melbourne band, you get these vastly different and radical records.

Not only are the guys pretty prolific – they put out five albums in 2017 alone! – but they do like to see what they can do with an album’s structure and limited. Their 2015 release, Quarters!, contained just four songs, all of them running in at 10:10. Their music melts the mind and introduces myriad scenes of mystery and magic but, confined to four songs, many bands would fail to release something that justified the concept. Quarters! is a  more laidback album that previous releases from King Gizzard and The Lizard Wizard; taking in more Jazz and Acid-Rock moments. Paper Mâché Dream Balloon was released in 2015 too – the band never rest or slack off! – and it was recorded with acoustic instruments only. That might not sound extreme but, for a group with such range and imaginations, it forced them to write a different type of song; work without a safety net in many ways. The band would go on to release Flying Microtonal Banana: recorded in quarter-tone tuning, where an octave is divided into twenty-four equal-distanced quarter-tones. The band used instruments modified for microtonal tunings and, again, they stepped in a new direction. Many might say that King Gizzard and The Lizard Wizard are a band who do not truly have a set sound so they do not have that commercial expectation – free to wander and do what they want regarding sound and content.

 PHOTO CREDIT: @iamjohnhult/Unsplash

A few artists put out concept albums but I wonder whether too many are unimaginative when it comes to records. We get the ten/eleven/twelve tracks and, aside from a mix of genres, do we get anything that reinvents the musical wheel? Maybe, in a bit to remain focused and tackle the competition, artists need to remain fairly accessible and not take too many risks. It is not only King Gizzard and The Lizard Wizard who are releasing this wonderful, weird and completely different albums all of the time. It is the 2016 album, Nonagon Infinity that defines King Gizzard and The Lizard Wizard at their experimental and brilliant best. Their eighth album, released in 2016, is designed to be played in an infinite loop: the record can be played back-to-front-to-back-to-front and the sound will not break. Like The Beatles having a song suite where different tracks fuse into a flowing whole, this album creates this single listening experience where the end of the last song matches the start of the opening song so that, in effect, you can listen to the album forever and it would not break. Imagine one of the mainstream acts doing that and there would be some raised eyebrows! I love when artists do something bold like this. It would not have to be something weird and out-there but changing our perceptions of an album and what can be achieved is what we need more of in modern music.

 IN THIS PHOTO: King Gizzard and The Wizard Lizard/PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images/Press

When King Gizzard and The Lizard Wizard released their inventive album in 2016, critical reaction was impassioned. AllMusic had this to say:

The energy level is mainly set to search and destroy throughout as the drums thunder, the lightning-fast guitars slash and burn, and the spacy vocals often break out into ecstatic shouts. The band has added some supercharged Sabbathy metal to its sound, and it works very well. The opening suite of songs punches fast and hard, like someone is slapping you repeatedly with a copy of a Saxon album. It's way more blown-out and weird than that, but you can hear a lot of late-'70s no-frills metal in the sound. The rest of the record is a little more varied, with moments of calm proggy respite, jazz-rock dreaminess, and blown-out psych-pop to balanced the frantic, sustained attack. The way the album is put together is an impressive feat, but almost beside the point since each song within the loop is worthy of standing alone. King Gizzard's inventive sound, giant hooks, and hard-as-titanium playing make Nonagon Infinity not only their best album yet, but maybe the best psych-metal-jazz-prog album ever. That can be debated, but at the very least artists like the Flaming LipsTy Segall, and others who think they are doing something cool and weird should check it out and take a few notes”.

It might be mind-boggling having a blank page that you need to fill songs with, let alone turning things on their head and coming up with an original concept. I do wonder whether the album form is becoming a bit too predictable and limited and, as such, many people are choosing songs and handpicking what they like.

You can release an album where the songs are pretty conventional but still have a sense of ingenuity and fun. Whether it is a case of stopping an album at the half-way point and then creating something truly unique for the second section; following in the footsteps of artists like King Gizzard and The Lizard Wizard and having these sense-altering and refreshing angles that are explored time and time again. Artists need not do something completely radical every time but once in a while, it would be good to see something that takes you by surprise. A bolder approach to form and narrative might also help get vinyl sales up, too. Maybe you only release an album on cassette or there are layers of sound that somehow reveal themselves after multiple listens; this would be suited to physical forms and, as such, we could see a resurgence in sales and interest. I like idea of releasing an album that would be suited to physical formats and manage to take them in new directions. Maybe there are these wonderful concepts and epiphanies that are yet to be realised because the album has not really taken many risks through the years. When we had concept albums in the 1960s and bands such as The Beatles took the alum to new realms…that was seen as radical and surprising.

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 PHOTO CREDIT: @davidclode/Unsplash

Now, in 2019, have we evolved the album itself or are we resigned to the fact that people want their music right now and are not too bothered when it comes to throwing in these strange techniques and concepts? I would like to think that, a) we still love the album and listen to all the songs and, b) there are artists out there not too concerned with following the herd; experimenting with sound, tunings and logic and, in the process, taking music to wonderful new places. In the case of the much-mentioned King Gizzard and The Lizard Wizard, they keep shapeshifting and massaging the imagination. It would be good to see others follow them but, as I say, are we too worried by change and are artists too busy with the sound of songs – and making them distinct – to focus on the nucleus and spine; reshaping the album itself and challenging our perceptions. I’ll end things there but I do worry that music/albums have become too rigid and there is this sense of safety. There are so many directions we can take music and sound in so I do think that artists, once in a while, need to make that step. The experiment might fail but I applaud those who roll the dice and think of music in different ways. When the concept and experiment truly works then it not only stands out as different and original but it changes how we perceive…

 PHOTO CREDIT: @nahlimusic/Unsplash

MUSIC and sound.    

FEATURE: Strike a Pose: The Power of a Truly Fantastic Album Cover

FEATURE:

 

 

Strike a Pose

THIS COVER: Slowthai - Nothing Great About Britain/MAIN IMAGE CREDIT: Crowns & Owls/ALL OTHER IMAGES/COVERS: Getty Images/Spotify

The Power of a Truly Fantastic Album Cover

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THE image that I have used for...

 THIS COVER: The Beatles - Abbey Road

the top of this article is from the cover of Slowthai’s upcoming album, Nothing Great About Britain. Who knows what one will expect from the record but I feel like, obviously, there is dissatisfaction with the state of the nation: the political divides and how we are all sort of drifting away at the moment. It sounds bleak but, at times like this, artists are reflecting what is happening. Rather than portray an image that is quite bleak or overly-serious, the cover catches the eye. Consider the stocks at the front and the cheeky grin on the face of Slowthai. Look back at the flats and the Union flags hanging from the bannisters. It seems to say so much without giving too much away. I like the fact that Slowthai could have gone for a rather straight and boring cover but, given the title of his record, he has been thinking and created something that intrigues you. I am not suggesting a cover is powerful enough to make you buy the album but it is definitely an important factor. Look at the classic album covers from history and the affect they have now. Whether it is the simple-yet-iconic image on The Dark Side of the Moon by Pink Floyd; the underwater baby of Nevermind or The Beatles’ triple-masterpiece designs on Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, The Beatles and Abbey Road. There are some rather poor albums that have great covers and, conversely, some top records that boast some rather woeful covers.

 THIS COVER: Billie Eilish - WHEN WE ALL FALL SLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO?

It is always satisfying when you pick up a classic that has that aesthetic genius and this is backed up by a stunning and imaginative cover. This is a subject I have covered before but I keep saying how important it is to create a great album cover. Even though the music industry is more digital and Internet-based, that is not to say the visual side of things should be ignored. I do feel that artists need to concentrate on the visual element because it holds that potency and importance. Even if we are getting music from Spotify, there is an image associated with a song or album. Those who still love their vinyl do adore a great cover/sleeve so artists have the opportunity to create something truly staggering! Every year, I love to look at the best album covers and see if there is a correlation between the music we hear and the image on the front. Look at recent albums such as Billie Eilish’s WHEN WE ALL FALL ALSLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO? and its ghoulish, rather scary image. It is the young Eilish with those piercing white eyes; a sort of demonic figure that is stalking someone’s dreams. There are questions one asks and considers: Is she awake or is this a dream? What does the image say and what are we to take away? What has struck me most about the best albums of this year so far is, actually, how casual the artwork has been.

 THIS COVER: Julia Jacklin - Crushing

I will talk about some of last year’s best but, in terms of 2019, Slowthai is setting an example! Apart from the charm and cuteness of Julia Jacklin’s Crushing – where one smiles at the image and it sort of juxtaposes an album that is emotionally raw and fraught at times – some of the biggest records go for a trope: the artist in profile; a simple portrait that holds no true intrigue and nuance. From James Blake’s Assume Form and Sleaford Mods’ Eton Alive; Little Simz’s GREY Area to Sigrid’s Sucker Punch and Solange Knowles’ When I Get Home. I look at those covers and, whilst the music within is great, I wonder whether a more arresting and striking album cover could have been created! It is a missed opportunity when you put out an album. Although we do not have the same culture regarding C.D.s, cassettes and vinyl; I do think a great album cover is important and says a lot about the music/artist. Even though I have not yet listened to Foals’ Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost, Pt. 1 - not a fan of that title! – it has a brilliant cover and you are definitely struck by it. Whereas Slowthai has gone for something cheeky and political, Foals have gorgeous image that looks like a film still – an apartment and plant that clashes black-and-white against pink. I am not sure where the shot was taken and what the plant is but it is an image that draws you in and, for me at least, I do wonder what inspired them to use that shot.

 THIS COVER: Foals - Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost, Pt. 1

The difference between a truly inspiring album cover and a boring one can make a big difference. Whilst there is no doubt about the majesty of Little Simz and Solange Knowles, I do wonder whether their album covers’ looks were correct; whether they missed out on creating a wondrous and jaw-dropping images. Consider some of the more pleasing and standout images from this year’s albums. From the slightly disturbing and busy image on Dave’s PSYCHODRAMA to the cluttered floor and childhood scenery of Sharon Van Etten’s Remind Me Tomorrow – a cover that holds clues and raises questions; one where you get a sense of the music/themes within. Even if you have this image that catches you by surprise because of its intensity or oddness, this is what you want from a cover! I love the visual style of The Twilight Sad’s IT WON/T BE LIKE THIS ALL THE TIME and would not normally have checked out their music. I did and, after a cursory listen, I was invested in the album and will keep listening. From the mix of sexual/alluring and confident from Jenny Lewis (On the Line) to Self Esteem (Compliments Please), I do like the fact that there are artists taking time to consider album covers and not only what that says about them but how it guides the music. There is something mesmeric – not in a sexual way – about the shot from Jenny Lewis’ On the Line or the slightly busier and bolder statement from Self Esteem.

I am not usually a fan of portraits or the artist appearing on the cover with nothing else but one album that did win me in that sense is Lucy Rose’s No Words Left. This is a black-and-white shot where the artist’s face is covered by her hair and there is something mysterious about that. You ask whether that image represents a need to be hidden or certain facelessness. I think you can get people talking and wondering without having a very busy and chaotic image. Last year boasted its share of great album covers. I am a bit ho-hum regarding Ariana Grande’s covers but her signature flipped image has become a staple. For Sweetener, we had this beautiful shot of her and, whilst not complex or challenging, it is definitely recognisable and associated with Grande. ASTROWORLD by Travis Scott is this strange sort of theme park where there is this prevalence of darkness and fire. Consider a simpler shot that could be seen as rather lazy or lacking any imagination. Whilst I content this year’s efforts from Sleaford Mods and James Blake are wasted chances at great images, last year saw Teyana Taylor release K.T.S.E. This album’s cover shows her lying on a bed and it reflects the album’s personal, intimate and revealing songs. The cinematic/filmic colour palette and composition is striking and one is definitely intrigued looking in; curious regarding the music and what the artist is about.

 THIS COVER: Teyana Taylor - K.T.S.E.

Also, Missy Higgins’ Solastalgia is about climate change and the impact that is having on all us. The colour palette, again, is perfect and you get this simple-yet-deceptive image that certainly marks it out! Continuing with covers with the artist in focus and the cover image reflecting what the album is about, Hayley Kiyoko’s Expectations is her looking at this nude model and, in a sense, symbolising the fact she takes control of her art and her direction. In essence, it says that Kiyoko is the one who guides her sound and progress. Last year definitely boasted a lot of great album covers. We had the gorgeous painting/image from Madeline Kenney’s, Perfect Shapes and the compelling cover from Triathalon’s album, Online. A lot of artists do favour a portrait or something simple but something a bit more out-there and unusual can work well. Think about the strange and oddly compelling figure from Young Fathers’ Cocoa Sugar or the fantastic composition from U.S. Girls’ In a Poem Unlimited. Editors gave us Violence and, with it, twisted bodies on the cover; Gaz Coombes juxtaposed his World’s Strongest Man boast with an image of her lazing by a pool without any strength needed; Low’s Double Negative relied on a minimalist image that definitely resonated harder than, say, something a bit busier and more packed. It is interesting seeing what strikes us and the covers that stand out. Many artists do go for a simple shot of them but I think that is quite a gamble. Unless you can create something as iconic as The Beatles’ Abbey Road then it can be tricky hooking the imagination that easily.

 THIS COVER: Low - Double Negative

I do admit that some of music’s best-ever covers stay with you because there is that singular, straightforward image that says what the music is going to be about and does not need a thousand words. Consider the saucy and slightly sleazy cover for The Rolling Stones’ Sticky Fingers or Sex Pistols’ Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols: two iconic covers that definitely tell you what you expect when you drop the needle on the record! The beautiful artwork on Miles Davis’ Bitches Brew and Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours stands alongside something completely different...such as The Clash’s timeless London Calling. However you do it, I do think artists need to give thought to their covers. I am not sure which covers from the past decade or two can compete with the best – how many can rival Nirvana and The Beatles when it comes to those classic images?! Slowthai started me on this train of thought and I think it is interesting thinking about what defines a great album cover and whether artists today – with all the technology in front of them – are producing better ones than musicians of the past. It is an interesting debate but I do think many artists are missing out and not taking a chance. The very best of this year might still be ahead but there are already signs we are going to see some pretty memorable and awesome examples. Say what you want about the importance of an album cover in a digital age but, to me, a well-composed and stirring image can say as much as…

THE music itself.

FEATURE: Dreams Against the Landslide: Stevie Nicks and Janet Jackson Are Calling for More Women to Be Inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame...the Industry Needs to Listen and React

FEATURE:

 

 

Dreams Against the Landslide

IN THIS PHOTO: Stevie Nicks has been inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame twice but has called for greater recognition regarding women/PHOTO CREDIT: Peggy Sirota  

Stevie Nicks and Janet Jackson Are Calling for More Women to Be Inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame...the Industry Needs to Listen and React

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ONLY yesterday...

 IN THIS PHOTO: Philip Selway and Ed O'Brien of Radiohead with David Byrne at the 2019 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony/PHOTO CREDIT: Theo Wargo/Getty Images

I was taking about the continued lack of female headliners in music and why those in a position of power need to address their ways and do something about it. I shall not repeat that subject for a bit but, just as I have been writing about festivals’ imbalance, two of music’s biggest artists have been speaking about the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and how few women have been included. As Janet Jackson and Stevie Nicks were inducted into the prestigious annals, they were standing alongside five all-male bands who were receiving the same honour. One might say that there are fewer classic female artists than me but consider those who have not been included into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. There is always talk about those who should be in and those who have been omitted. Janet Stevie Nicks has already been inducted but this time was her second occasion – not many artists can boast that. There has been long-talk about Janet Jackson being inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame but, finally, she has got her reward. This article talks about Friday’s event and why there are calls for action:

The bands inducted at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn on Friday night were the Cure, Def Leppard, Radiohead, Roxy Music and the Zombies. Neither Jackson or Nicks were around at the end of the evening when another Briton, Ian Hunter, led an all-star jam to All the Young Dudes. The Bangles’ Susanna Hoffs was the only woman onstage.

Jackson issued her challenge earlier.

“Rock and Roll Hall of Fame,” she said, “in 2020, induct more women.”

Nicks was already a member of the hall with Fleetwood Mac but became the first woman to join 22 men, including all four Beatles, in being honoured twice. From the stage, she told of her trepidation in first recording a solo album.

She encouraged Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, producers of her breakthrough Control album and most of her vast catalogue, to stand for recognition, as well as Questlove, who inducted her. She also thanked Dick Clark of American Bandstand and Don Cornelius of Soul Train, and choreographers including Paula Abdul”.

It is clear that the gender imbalance is not to do with quality, legacy and promise. Some say that, in order to get into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, there should be some form of Rock in the music. Is it dishonest and wrong to include an artist who is in genres like Folk and Pop? Billboard have written an article who claim artists such as Kate Bush, Dolly Parton and Kim Gordon (Sonic Youth) should be inducted. Lauryn Hill and Missy Elliott will be eligible for inclusion in years to come so one wonders whether their names will be selected. It is odd to think that so many great artists have been overlooked – Billboard talked about those who should be in by now:

The lack of gender balance was conspicuous enough that upon being inducted in 2016, Steve Miller -- one of the five all-male acts being honored -- openly called out the museum's governing body for the disparity, pointedly encouraging them to "keep expanding your vision, to be more inclusive of women.” The returns for 2017 have hardly been overwhelming: Folk legend Joan Baez will be inducted this Friday (Apr. 6), but Janet Jackson and Chaka Khan -- both having been nominated for the second time -- will not be.

IN THIS PHOTO: Björk/PHOTO CREDIT: Santiago Felipe  

Carole King. It seems near-impossible that Carole King, one of the most influential recording artists of the '70s and the woman behind Tapestry, one of the decade's most critically and commercially undeniable blockbuster LPs, could have escaped induction by now. But while the iconic singer-songwriter has been honored for the "songwriter" half of her double-billing, having been inducted along with her Brill Building teammate Gerry Goffin back in 1990, her performing career has gone unrecognized. Yes, Tapestry towers over the rest of her catalogue, but it's not like most post-Baby Boomers could name a James Taylor album not called Sweet Baby James either, and that guy got in 17 years ago.

Bjork. "But didn't Debut come out in 1993?" you might wonder. True, but despite that breakthrough album's title, Bjork's proper debut came back in 1977, when she released a self-titled album in Iceland as an 11-year-old -- making her Hall-eligible for well over a decade already. Though Bjork's artistic achievements have never resulted in world-beating sales, and her symphonic pop compositions are not easily classifiable as rock (or as anything else), her singular artistry, universal acclaim and enduring influence on the ensuing generation's best and brightest musicians should certainly have earned her a nomination by now”.

Kate Bush and Whitney Houston have not been included. Again, one can argue that, genre-wise, these artists might have done less to progress Rock than people like Radiohead and The Cure.

 IN THIS PHOTO: Whitney Houston (a big artist who warrants inclusion into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame)/PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

That is true, I guess, but one must not be rigid and too unyielding regarding sound and being narrow. I do think that Kate Bush, as a mercurial and unique artist, is perfect for induction and the same goes for Whitney Houston. Even if someone like Bush has not broken the U.S., one cannot deny her influence and impact. There are other names one can throw into the mix but, every year, the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame is very male-heavy. The fact that there are these omissions makes me wonder what the selection criteria is and whether white dudes in music not only make the decisions but include white dudes into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Others might say that it is not the be-all-and-end-all when it comes to music but it is an important organisation. In years to come, we will look at all the names included and will we bemoan the lack of women?! The likes of Janet Jackson and Stevie Nicks know there is a problem that needs to be addressed. I am not one of those people who feels something called the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame should only be for Rock artists. Some disagree. This article from Odyssey has a distinct viewpoint:

Bands like Public Enemy and Run D.M.C shouldn't be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame because they are not in the rock genre (though they may get a pass for collaborating with metal group Anthrax and rock group Aerosmith, respectively). If you were to go onto iTunes and look for these artists, it wouldn't be under the rock section, would it?

IN THIS IMAGE: Run-D.M.C./IMAGE CREDIT: Richard Day 

This is the inherent problem of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame: Bands like Deep Purple, whose song "Smoke on the Water" is the first song everyone learns on guitar, are only just being nominated this year even though they have been eligible for induction almost since the beginning of the institution. To be eligible, you need to have released your first single 25 years before the nomination. This is basically the only rule in being inducted, and bands that are crucial to the evolution of the genre, such as Judas Priest and Iron Maiden, have been ignored for the introduction of newer bands such as Green Day.

That's not to say that the bands inducted don't deserve the honor. Far from it; most of the bands that have been inducted definitely have contributed significantly to music. The problem is that the nominees for the Hall are chosen by just a few individuals who may or may not have a vendetta against certain groups or artists, thus preventing them from being inducted”.

 Is it a case of rebranding the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame or having several offshoots that include other genres?! That might be extreme and many wonder whether there is any relevance or point having a Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. I feel we should keep it but not be so beholden to which styles/artists we include. In any case, the lack of women is troubling and one cannot claim there is a lack of women at the heavier end of the music spectrum.

Until there is a body that recognises more genres and styles of music, should we continue to see the male dominance continue? I think many criticise the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame because it is very male-heavy and white. There are dangers when it comes to opening the borders and being relaxed regarding inclusion criteria but I do think Nicks and Jackson have a point. It is clear that there is a gender problem across music and, in every corner, the middle-aged white men are heavy and wield too much power. I do think there are few excuses for ignoring great women like Kate Bush and Whitney Houston. This article - reacting to Patti Smith’s induction in 2007 - is interesting. There are albums like Horses that have inspired Rock acts and, knowingly or not, changed a genre. Look at all the women working in other genres who have had a massive impact on Rock. I do not think we should be strict regarding eligibility into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and there are so many influential women who have not received their reward. I do hope next year is fairer and some of the big names who have not been inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame get there. I wonder which other bands/names (men and women) have been denied and are due some fresh investigation. I get excited seeing big artists getting acclaim for their contribution to music but, so often, it is the men who get the biggest props – this needs to change and there needs to be greater balance. This time next year, let’s hope that some of the great women still waiting for their moment in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame finally have...

IN THIS PHOTO: Kate Bush/PHOTO CREDIT: John Carder Bush

THEIR hard work recognised...

FEATURE: An Endless Tease: Is the Modern Promotional Cycle Draining the Suspense and Excitement from Music?

FEATURE:

 

 

An Endless Tease

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PHOTO CREDIT: @marvelous/Unsplash 

Is the Modern Promotional Cycle Draining the Suspense and Excitement from Music?

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I realise that there is nothing new about artists...

 PHOTO CREDIT: @kmuza/Unsplash

drip-feeding material and teasing work but the issue has become more pronounced over the past couple of decades. I feel that the more the Internet takes over and the more we become initiated with social media, the more that takes over. I think a modern artist cannot do without social media but I do wonder whether, in many ways, many promote in a very structured and business-like way. I get a lot of requests and, although I have covered this subject before, you find that everything is meticulous and timed. Artists have impact dates for their singles and, before an album comes out, there are teasers in video form. We might get a few singles and posts; there will be endless little bits of information parcelled out before the actual product comes along. Every time a big album celebrates an anniversary, I am keen to study it. I find that, compared to music and the industry now, there was less in the way of the machine and the business side. Look at records from the 1970s and 1980s and, of course, there was the act of bringing out singles and doing the whole promotional circuit. Now, because the competition is hot and all over the place, there is this need to up the game and utilise technology. Even if music itself has not become over-processed and technological, the act of promoting music definitely lack a lot of naturalness and spontaneity.

I understand that, whether you are a rising artist or someone big, you need to have some form of organisation and plan when it comes to your material. I am interested seeing how artists unite with P.R. agencies and the fact there is so much happening behind the scenes. So much of my daily social media viewing involves singles being teased and artists ladling out photos, videos and information regarding their latest campaign. I guess it adds to the anticipation and gets people ready for what is to come. It is also nice to see artists excited about music and not willing to give everything away right at the top. Would it be too much of a risk for artists to just put an album out and not expend too much effort? By that, I mean giving short announcement and catching people off their guard. Maybe the risk would be too great for newer acts that rely on engaging all their Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to get their music heard. Is the greater sacrifice of the social media age the lack of human contact and the effort needed to succeed? With every album/song release, there are radio interviews and media attention; there is the expectation and build coupled with the hard work needed to get the material heard and shared. I think the problem exists when we talk about the bigger acts; those that are getting onto the popular radio stations and a bit further up the ladder.

 PHOTO CREDIT: @black_onion/Unsplash

I listen to stations and you tend to hear someone’s single over and over again. Then you get the same thing with the next one or two singles. By the time you have experienced all those songs, the album is not yet out and there is a wait. I do wonder whether the fact we become so aware of a few singles from an album distorts our perception as albums as a whole. Do we gravitate towards those tracks or skip them because they are firmly in our heads? There is a certain romance linked to just having an album ready and, with a few announcements and cool promotionals, putting it out there. Maybe there would be the one single a few days before or some cryptic posts that get us excited. Then, with little warning, the album arrives and we have to experience it all at once – without all the business, endless tease and the wait. Some might say that putting an album out without warning and suspense means that artists are creating gimmicks. There have been a few cases of big artists putting out material without all the circus and festival of the modern promotional vibe. Beyoncé’s eponymous album of 2013 was one occasion of an artist getting tired of doing things the same way. This Guardian article tells the story:

Beyoncé has released her fifth solo album, with no warning, straight to iTunes. The album – called Beyoncé – was announced on the morning of Friday 13 December, along with the news that it was already available.

 

"I didn't want to release my music the way I've done it," the singer said. "I am bored with that. I feel like I am able to speak directly to my fans. There's so much that gets between the music, the artist and the fans. I felt like I didn't want anybody to give the message when my record is coming out. I just want this to come out when it's ready and from me to my fans."

In the statement announcing the album's release, some bold claims were made: that this was "an unprecedented strategic move", and that this was music "stripped of gimmicks, teasers and marketing campaigns". In fact, the surprise release of music has become in recent years the gimmick of choice of pop's superstar class. In 2007, Radiohead gave just 10 days' warning of the release of their album In Rainbows, for which fans could pay what they wanted. The following year, Jack White's Raconteurs project announced their second album, Consolers of the Lonely, with just a week's notice. And this year has seen surprise releases from David Bowie – who premiered a new single to the complete shock of the music world, following it with the album The Next Day – and My Bloody Valentine”.

Not only have artists like Beyoncé and Radiohead stepped away from the process and usual manner of promotion but, at the same time, offered something unique regarding purchasing. Maybe, again, one walks close to gimmick territory by doing a pay-as-you-like scheme or releasing a visual album. For smaller artists, this might not be possible but I do feel people need to shake it up.

I do think it is a problem that approaching artists need to spend so much time engaging in promotion and spending so much time online. With every song, there is this plan and point-by-point agenda; the singles all come and then there is the need to ensure there is adequate tease and mystery. I do like as bit of build-up and, to be fair, an artist like Madonna is the master when it comes to the slow campaign. She has been putting out cryptic Instagram photos, messages and everything else all building to this as-yet-untitled album – although many say it is going to be called Magic. Maybe it is not possible for her to just bring an album to us out of the blue but I do wonder whether an album is more impactful and bold if there is no real warning. I know that so much of modern music is about numbers and popularity. If you have millions of Instagram followers then posting sporadic photos and clues will get more attention and following than a single message that announces an album. The same goes for other platforms. Many of us are experiencing these singles and having them put in our face and, by the time an album comes about, are we bothering with the other songs? I tend to find that the less revealed – within reason and logic – means we are more likely to explore an entire record.

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 PHOTO CREDIT: @pawelkadysz/Unsplash

Maybe I am being a bit old and crusty but I do sort of miss the days where albums used to be promoted by T.V. adverts and there was the odd bit on the radio. There was not the same explosion and mass of images and messages and, as such, there was intrigue and genuine excitement. I do think that social media has helped bring music to new corners of the world and helped give careers to those who, years ago, would not have had that opportunity. The flip-side to this vast world of information is the fact music has become more about business and numbers than anything else. I mentioned Madonna just now but, actually, I kind of want the album out. There is also the expectation that comes with tease and gradual revelation. Can the finished product ever match perception and excitement? I think that, in many ways, the more overt and revealing artists are the less substance an album has. It is hard to explain but I feel the power and place of the album will increase when we take the foot off of the gas. That is not to say we need to ignore promotional campaigns and all go rogue but it would be nice to see a bit of change and surprise. Maybe artists releasing albums with little fanfare would create a bigger impact than this bit-by-bit campaign. I would be much keener to explore an album by someone like Jack White or Madonna if there was little notice and hardly any information out there. It is a big risk but I think it can pay off big. I do think we are all getting overloaded by information and the act of promoting an album/single is exhausting. Maybe, if we give the listener more suspense and less information it will rekindle something in the music industry that has been lost or compromised to an extent. Perhaps it is a gamble but I would like to see artists take this leap...

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 PHOTO CREDIT: @jan_strecha/Unsplash

ONCE in a while.

FEATURE: Her’s and Ours: Remembering a Band Who Set a Shining Example

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Her’s and Ours

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IN THIS PHOTO: Her’s/PHOTO CREDIT: Ryan Jafarzadeh

Remembering a Band Who Set a Shining Example

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THIS week has not been a great one for music...

PHOTO CREDIT: Neelam Khan Vela  

and we have seen too much loss! Not only did Scott Walker die earlier in the week but we lost a very promising and exciting band, Her’s. In fact, they are a duo but, semantics aside, many were shocked by their premature deaths. It is always shocking when we experience tragedy in music but this week has been especially tough. Audun Laading and Stephen Fitzpatrick were hit by a wrong-way driver in Arizona on Wednesday. The news was confirmed on Thursday and fans of the band were devastated. I am fairly new to Her’s but know what an impact they made in their short time. Here, in this article from The Guardian, the news was reported:

There’s a sense of shock within the Liverpool music community today, as people come to terms with the tragic death of two of its rising stars. Audun Laading and Stephen Fitzpatrick, who made up the band Her’s, were travelling to a gig in California with their tour manager Trevor Engelbrektson on Wednesday night when all three were killed in a traffic accident. The news was confirmed by the band’s record label, Heist or Hit, on Thursday evening.

Liverpool may be fiercely proud of its own, but gladly embraces those who wish to lay down roots in the city and contribute to its cultural life. Fitzpatrick and Laading were prime examples of that. They became recognisable faces from the bars, venues and streets of Liverpool: they belonged. Jez Wing, a music teacher, keyboard player with Echo and the Bunnymen, and fan of Her’s has fond memories of chatting to the pair while walking down Bold Street, “talking about how brilliant I thought their music was and how brilliant I thought they were. They were really fired up for the tour. The loveliest lads you can imagine – it’s a huge loss to the Liverpool music scene. Horrible.”

Liam Brown is a labelmate of Her’s under his Pizzagirl moniker, and toured with the band last year. As with everyone else who came into contact with the pair, he speaks of Fitzpatrick and Laading with the highest regard. “What’s really sad is that we’re not going to hear any more music from them. They were such great people – really warm and funny – but also more than that. They’ll get so many new fans to their music now, but in the most tragic circumstances.”

These two young artists lived with great vigour and happiness. Tonight, their music is a salve for those still reeling from their deaths. It is ringing out in the bars and venues in Liverpool they frequented, and their impact will ring out for longer, and further”.

We have seen artists die suddenly before but there was something extremely unfair about Her’s’ demise. They were travelling to a gig in California and one feels the mood would have been excitable. They would have been in their vehicle and, although tired, pumped to go to a new location. The fact they were struck so suddenly and brutally has denied the music world of a band who were on the cusp of something great. It is sad to see young men die so young – but we do have their music in the world.

Many people have provided their impressions of Her’s and why they were so loved. Liverpool took them to heart and the respect between the band and city is clear. Liverpool will never forget them and let’s hope that people keep the music of Her’s alive. Not only is the music of Her’s bright and indelible but the chaps themselves burned themselves into the hearts of their fans. I urge people to listen to their album, Invitation to Her’s as it is filled with jangly music that lifts the spirit but, behind it all, there is a sophistication and depth that strikes you. I have heard few bands that create music as interesting and arresting as Her’s. Songs of Her’s (2017) showed they had immense promise but their sophomore album, released last year, took them up another level. Their music is tight and light but it has a real drive and intelligent that means it attracts everyone. Their live gigs were lauded because of how the music translated and how Laading and Fitzpatrick connected with the audience. They always had a smile and, whilst this feature might be a bit late paying tribute to them, I feel a lot of other artists should follow their lead. Just listen to their music and hear how it makes you feel! There is so much negativity and emotional drain in music and it can be hard finding cheer and energy. Her’s dealt with serious subjects but they always wanted to make the listener feel better and in a warmer place. They definitely did that and, because of this, we give them thanks.

PHOTO CREDIT: DIY 

One can never know how far Her’s will go and what could have been. Their U.S. tour was cut tragically short and it is a huge loss to the fans that were waiting to see them and never got the chance. I suspect Her’s could have been Glastonbury headliners and a worldwide success. It is clear their music had a solid fanbase and I hope, following their death, many people share Her’s to the world and their wonderful messages. Perhaps more extraordinary than the music itself is the personalities of Laading and Fitzpatrick. I do feel there is a lack of standout personalities in the industry and it can be hard bonding with an artist. In the case of Her’s we had two lads who were full of smiles and laughter and made everyone feel better. At their gigs, they would banter and chat; they had bright smiles and made sure everyone was having a great time. They did this in their music too which makes it heartbreaking we have lost them. Her’s will live on but I do feel like the music industry can learn a lot from them. Whether it is the way the band made their audiences come alive or the sheer addictiveness of the songs, there is so much we can take away. I have been listening to Her’s’ albums since Thursday and, having experienced a few of their songs before, discovered new gems and diamonds.

Perhaps Low Beam (Invitation to Her’s) is my favourite songs of theirs but, in truth, everything they have put out is wonderful! If you are starting a band or lost for direction, have a look and listen to Her’s and you will find guidance. Look at their videos and interviews around and you will see these genuine guys who, alongside their tour manager, were cruelly taken from us. I think we could all take guidance from Her’s regarding their attitude and charm. There are great interviews out there but, from one they gave to DORK last year when promoting Initiation to Her’s (technically their debut album: Songs of Her’s is more of a collection of previous single), you can see how they approached their album and their shock when it comes to gigs and how the fans respond to them:

I feel like people thought we were wussing out a bit with the collection thing. When we announced this one they were like, ‘Isn’t this the second album really?’ We got cold feet for the debut though so I guess we couldn’t put it off much longer, but I feel like we approached this one more confidently,” Stephen explains.

Some of the ideas behind the album had been fermenting a while, with fragments of songs laying around the cutting room floor for up to two years before being called up to the front line.

Stephen continues: “It seemed very clear what needed to be on 'Songs of Her’s'. It was basically what we were playing actively live at the time, which is why it felt not scattered, but we were dipping our feet in a lot of different sounds at that point.”

PHOTO CREDIT: Neelam Khan Vela  

“It’s crazy; they know the lyrics and everything - probably better than I do,” Auden begins. “I thought the Waiting Room like the first London headline show we did - obviously it’s not the biggest, a 120 cap, but it was packed out and everybody was there to have the best time, and they all knew the lyrics. That was a proper intimate moment”.

Their infectious humour and closeness is what made them a dream to see live, listen to and interview. In another interview they gave last year, they spoke about their own game they developed:

“What do you do in your spare time between travelling and playing shows, do you have any games to battle the boredom?

Yeah, we’ve actually gotten to the point of developing our own game! Our high calibre, medium intensity, hat throwing game, Bobbin’! It revolves around spinning caps on each other’s head from a distance. It’s become our main way to pass time when there’s a little moment to kill on the road!

There is so much to miss about Her’s but, rather than be sad, we can remember them for all they gave to the music world in their short careers. There is that body of stunning work, the live memories and, in years to come, one will hear other artists taking a lead from Her’s. They will be sorely missed but I feel like many artists should be more Her’s. Whether that is adding more fun and excitement to music or being more interactive at gigs...here was a band who ticked every box and were primed for big things. We mourn their passing but we also thank this incredible band who gave the world...

SO much love and brilliance.

FEATURE: Labelled with Love: Rough Trade Records

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Labelled with Love

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IMAGE CREDIT: Rough Trade Records

Rough Trade Records

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MAYBE this will not flourish into a proper series...

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 PHOTO CREDIT: Rough Trade Records/Getty Images

but it occurs that we listen to great music and celebrate the artists without recognising the labels behind them. There are lots of cogs in the music machine but the label itself is essential. Right around the world, there are so many great labels springing up. It is possible to set up your own one and create your own ethos and, with some planning and pragmatism, you can enter the market. I know a few people who want to set up a label because they perceive a gap in the market and are keen to have their own roster of artists. It is exciting that there are boutique labels and the giants working alongside one another. In other editions, I might include giants like Island Records but, in this opening part, I was keen to celebrate Rough Trade Records. I shall come to the new breed they represent and some more established acts with the label but, looking at how they started and how they have grown, it is clear that Rough Trade Records has made a huge impact to the music world. I shall let them tell the story:

Rough Trade Records is a legendary independent record label and a benchmark and inspiration to many in the field. Rough Trade was at the epicentre of the punk explosion right at the start and since then has gone on to release a catalogue that almost defines the genre of independent music itself. Seminal releases litter the back catalogue, from early punk classics to era defining releases by The Smiths and The Strokes. Over the years Rough Trade Records has released an undeniable stream of quality releases by some of the most talented, gifted and unique musicians of our generation.

The label grew out of the Rough Trade Record Shop which opened in February 1976 in Ladbroke Grove, which was inspired by the City Lights Bookstore in San Francisco, where visitors were encouraged to hang out in the store as much as buy books. Within a year the Rough Trade Shop had become a hub for the burgeoning DIY and punk culture and was the point of contact for a whole host of groups and labels. Releases by The Fall, Scritti Politti, Robert Wyatt, Aztec Camera, Augustus Pablo, early electronic music pioneers such as Cabaret Voltaire as well as The Raincoats, Swell Maps, Go Betweens and The Smiths, amongst many many more followed. In fact, the past 38 years has seen Rough Trade Records become synonymous with high quality, imaginative, musically diverse and innovative independent music.

In 1999, a few years after the collapse of an ambitious Rough Trade distribution arm, Geoff Travis resurrected the label in partnership with Jeannette Lee with whom he'd worked since 1987. Seminal releases by The Strokes, The Libertines, Sufjan Stevens, Antony & The Johnsons, The Hold Steady, Arcade Fire, The Decemberists and British Sea Power to name but a few quickly followed.

Still based in the Ladbroke Grove area of West London where it all started, Rough Trade Records now has offices in London and New York and Geoff and Jeannette continue to work towards helping the music they love get the exposure they think it deserves and to facilitate the artists' growth. With releases by Alabama Shakes, Anohni, Warpaint, Goat Girl, Josienne Clarke & Ben Walker, Sleaford Mods, Parquet Courts, Emiliana Torrini, and Dean Blunt either out now or on the near horizon, the future continues to look exciting, and to push musical boundaries at Rough Trade”.

 IN THIS PHOTO: Scritti Politti/PHOTO CREDIT: Rough Trade Records/Getty Images

I definitely recommend you check out their online store because there are some great records and merchandise to be found. Through the years, artists on the Rough Trade Records roster have included The Fall, Arcade Fire and Mazzy Star. The label has such a huge reputation and it continues to grow and evolve. With the new blood including the likes of Honey Hahs and SOAK, it seems like the label is in very good hands. Rough Trade Records has always been diverse and not restricted when it comes to sounds and feel. Look at the long list of past artists who have passed through their doors and the contrast of now: Princess Nokia and Scritti Politti alongside Goat Girl and ANOHNI. It is an insane and quality-driven label that appeals to those who loves music’s variety and depth. Look at some of the bigger labels and they are full of chart acts and Pop artists but not here. Rough Trade Records has that quality and wonderful foundation that attracts the finest names. Based on 66 Goldborne Rd., W10, Rough Trade Records continues to thrive and inspire. I love artists such as Amyl and The Sniffers and you can catch where various Rough Trade Records acts are playing around the world. I love the fact that, despite Rough Trade Records being represented around the world, it still has a base in West London.

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 IN THIS PHOTO: Honey Hahs/PHOTO CREDIT: Rough Trade Records/Getty Images

The survival and terrific music from the label means that this fact will not change and who knows where they can head in the coming years?! For over forty years, the label has been changing music as we know it. Back in 2006, The Independent, when celebrating Rough Trade’s thirtieth anniversary, showed how it grew from its humble beginnings:

Rough Trade, the record label, grew out of the retail and distribution operation, but it was quickly hived off. Under the management of (Geoff)Travis, it became a completely separate business entity, albeit trading rather confusingly under the same name.

Among the label's early releases were landmark records by the likes of Scritti Politti, Robert Wyatt, The Fall, Pere Ubu, The Raincoats and Stiff Little Fingers. Travis discovered and nurtured The Smiths, whom he signed for the princely sum of £4,000, and the label has continued to break the musical mould and achieve commercial success in the 21st century with left-field acts such as The Libertines, The Strokes, and Antony and the Johnsons, who won the Nationwide Mercury Prize in 2005.

In an extraordinary closing of the circle, the new album by Scritti Politti, White Bread Black Beer, finds the group led by Green Gartside and back in the Rough Trade fold after an absence of some 23 years. Not only that, but the album was shortlisted for this year's Mercury Prize, and Travis was at the Mercury reception earlier this week with his business partner, Jeannette Lee, who has shared the running of the Rough Trade label with Travis since 1987.

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IN THIS PHOTO: Rough Trade Records founder Geoff Travis/PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images 

Sitting on the floor in a VIP reception area, drinking champagne, the pair reflected on a career that has combined unpredictable highs with some daunting lows.

"It's hard to be a maverick independent and to survive, let alone to do so for this long," Travis says. "We didn't have any professional knowledge of the business, and that was the beauty of it. We just wanted to do things our own way. We won an award in 1984/85 for the best marketing campaign of the year for The Smiths. But we didn't even know what the word 'marketing' meant. So obviously we were doing something right”.

Not only has Rough Trade Records grown and continues to reflect the best of modern music, it has stores around the world. Back in 2013, The Guardian reflected on the growth and how one can see the Rough Trade name around the globe:              

Rough Trade operated a second branch in Covent Garden for almost 20 years but branches in Tokyo, San Francisco and Paris all closed. The failure of the Paris outlet a decade ago brought the whole company within days of collapse before new backers saved the business and funded the second store's move to a converted brewery on Brick Lane.

Rough Trade East's launch six years ago sounded a rare note of optimism at a time when rising rents, declining demand for most physical formats and competition from online retailers had left many British towns without a single independent record shop. HMV, which survived by the skin of its teeth this year, is the last of the high street chains.

Rough Trade accepted it couldn't compete with online retailers on price and chose to emphasise the social aspect of record-shopping, from in-store performances to expert recommendations. Unlike the big chains, each branch is free to experiment and take risks. "There are people who would rather go to Rough Trade on a Saturday and spend £10.99 instead of £8.99 on Amazon," says Nigel House. "It's fun going shopping. I just want a record shop I'd be happy in."

Pundits have been predicting the death of the record shop for years, yet many of the best endure and, in the case of Rough Trade, even expand, helped by the resurgence in vinyl sales and international events such as the annual Record Store Day, which celebrates the independent sector. Even though the internet means music fans no longer need to visit a shop, it seems many still want to.

Thirty years after cutting his ties with the shop, Geoff Travis has rejoined the business as a shareholder in the Brooklyn branch. "I'm convinced people don't want to spend all their lives in front of the computer," he says. "It's important to walk in off the street and take the plunge and discover a new world. Record-buying people can be very antisocial so I think it's good for them to find themselves in a social space sometimes".

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IN THIS PHOTO: Benjamin Booker/PHOTO CREDIT: Rough Trade Records/Getty Images

I will end with a playlist that collates and unites all the artists currently on Rough Trade Records. I predict that, in decades from now, we will still be celebrating this musical giant: a label with a great ethos and a brilliant reputation. I find a lot of the biggest labels so soulless and vast that it is hard to see whether the artists are seen as numbers of individuals. You know, despite its growth, there is this familial aspect to Rough Trade Records that continues to attract the best artists around. They have been through some ups and downs but it seems like everything is on the rise for Rough Trade Records. Let’s all cross out fingers and hope that this...

CONTINUES for a very long time to come.

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Follow Rough Trade Records:

FEATURE: Fighting Against the Old Order: What Is Holding Back the Rise of Female Headliners?

FEATURE:

 

 

Fighting Against the Old Order

IN THIS PHOTO: Janet Jackson (who is one of the names who will play this year’s Glastonbury Festival, but not as a headliner)/PHOTO CREDIT: Live Nation 

What Is Holding Back the Rise of Female Headliners?

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EVERY time a big festival like Glastonbury announces...

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 IMAGE CREDIT: @GlastoFest

its headliners, there is the sad inevitability that they will be dominated by men. Many have said that, because a few festivals have booked one woman/female act to headline, that is a sign of progress and understanding. Given the fact that the vast majority of festival headliners are men means there is no progress at all. There is this pledge to get festivals gender-equal by 2022 and, as I have stated in other pieces, that seems impossible. Maybe the festival bill is a bit more varied and equal but, even when you inspect all festivals’ posters, there are not many who are fifty-fifty. That seems insane because we are not even talking about headliners – how hard is it making sure that, below the headliners, you are gender-balanced?! It would not even be pandering and ticking boxes because of all the insane female talent around. I keep saying how the best music of the year is being made by women. Lucy Rose and Billie Eilish have just put out incredible albums and they sit alongside Julia Jacklin and Self Esteem when it comes to the titanic hits of 2019. Compare that to the men and I think there is a positive imbalance in favour of the women. A lot of the most promising acts around are either female or female-led. Whether it is an Indie/Post-Punk band or a great solo act, the variety and intention is definitely out there.

 IN THIS PHOTO: Glastonbury co-organiser Emily Eavis/PHOTO CREDIT: Jason Bryant

Emily Eavis has spoken about her frustration regarding male headliners and how she has pushed to get more women on the bill. As this article in The Independent shows, Eavis is fighting and keen to make changes but there seems to be this resistance:

 “The organiser of Glastonbury Festival, Emily Eavis, has described the male-dominated booking culture at the event as "impenetrable".

Eavis, daughter of festival founder Michael Eavis, said she faced an "old guard" of men in charge of booking artists for the festival.

Speaking to BBC Radio 1 host Annie Mac, Eavis revealed how some colleagues had labelled her a "real hassle", but she remained determined to promote female artists, book female headliners and introduce more women into the team.

"It's so annoying. But if you want to make progress you just have to do it, and you have to be up for being a bit of an annoyance.

"Unfortunately, you have to make a massive jump the other way to make the tiniest bit of progress.

"That means me being really pushy with these people. It's the tiniest bit of progress. We are nowhere near where we need to be.

"We're making slow progress but there's a long way to go".

Although she wields a lot of power and can make some changes, it seems like she is facing a lot of ignorance. Glastonbury’s three headliners – Stormzy, The Killers and The Cure – are not the most exciting and I feel that The Killers could easily have been replaced by someone else. Consider the fact Janet Jackson cheekily promoted herself to a headline slot in a mocked-up Glastonbury images and that makes me wonder why she was not considered for headliner?!

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 IN THIS PHOTO: The Killers are one of the three headline acts for this year’s Glastonbury/PHOTO CREDIT: Ed Miles/NME

Is it the case that Eavis was butting up against those who wanted an all-male band and something reliable? Jackson would make a perfect headliner but there is very little faith in the great women around. There was more coverage of Eavis’ angers in this BBC piece:

Although Adele and Beyonce have both headlined the festival in recent years, this year's main acts are all male - Stormzy, The Killers and The Cure.

Eavis said she wanted to put a woman at the top of the bill, "but the pool isn't big enough".

"It's time to nurture female talent. Everyone wants it, everyone's hungry for women, but they're just not there."

There is also a shortage of new male headliners coming through the ranks, she added.

"It's that final jump. It's hard to make the leap to that level."

More than 60 acts have been announced for this year's Glastonbury - with Kylie Minogue, Janet Jackson, Miley Cyrus, Billie Eilish and Lauryn Hill among the high-profiled female artists.

The festival is expected to announce the rest of the bill shortly before it opens its gates in June.

Eavis, who co-organises Glastonbury with her father, Michael, was speaking at an event staged by BBC Radio 1's Annie Mac in London.

With husband Nick Dewey, Eavis is responsible for booking all of the festival's main stages”.

With the likes of Lauryn Hill and Janet Jackson among the most exciting festival names this year, they both could have made for mouth-watering headliners. I wonder whether they were approached and whether it was felt they were not strong enough.

 IN THIS PHOTO: Kylie Minogue will play Glastonbury’s ‘legends’ stage but she is an example of a female artist who is worthy of headline status/PHOTO CREDIT: Kylie Minogue

Eavis has stated how there is not a deep enough pool when it comes to headline-worthy females; a lack of new artists who would make headliners and this dominance by men. Although Glastonbury has almost created a fifty-fifty gender split, I do think that one female headliner was in order. There is no shortage of talent in the poor when it comes to established acts. Beyoncé has headlined before and I keep name-checking St. Vincent. There is an exciting new breed of Pop artists who are ready to step up but the fact that big names like Janet Jackson and Kylie Minogue have been overlooked in favour of The Killers and Stormzy shows there is a problem with sexism and ignorance rather than quality. I argue that there is a lack of talent who can bring the crowds in because other festivals have booked women as headliners – why is Glastonbury not able to secure one?! It is the biggest festival in the country and anyone can rattle off a dozen classic artists who could do the job. Look at the best and most exciting albums of 2018 and 2019 and there are plenty of women making modern music so exciting. I know Emily Eavis is doing her best to secure female artists at the top but one feels like the calls are not going to the right people. How many women were approached to headline? You would not get a ‘no’ from all of them so it makes me wonder whether there was any consideration regarding equality when it came to the shortlist this year.

 IN THIS PHOTO: Fleetwood Mac/PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images/Press

Fleetwood Mac were mooted as headliners and, whilst the majority of the members are men, there are two female voices in the band – Christine McVie and Stevie Nicks. Events like the 6 Music Festival have booked names like Anna Calvi and Julia Jacklin on their bill. Maybe these artists are not quite big enough to headline Glastonbury yet but Emily Eavis intimated there were not enough new women coming through who could headline – bot the names I have just mentioned are very close to being headline-ready. Look at other festivals around the world and we can see big names like Solange (Primavera Sound) being booked to headline. She would have been great at Glastonbury and you could toss established names like Lady Gaga, Diana Ross or Annie Lennox. How about Björk?! All of those names are more exciting than The Killers so I do not feel like Glastonbury has any excuse when it comes to a lack of pull and talent. There are women, classic and new, who could beef out the bill and make it a lot more balanced. Any line of defense that asks to buy into the notion there are relatively few women ready to headline is ridiculous. I think, more likely, it is people like Emily Eavis getting less say and decision-making lure than the men. I suspected Glastonbury would disappoint regarding its headliners and gender but it is wrong to say there are few women ready to take to the Pyramid Stage and wow.

 IMAGE CREDIT: @BBC6Music

I keep mentioning St. Vincent and others like Florence + The Machine and it is strange that they were overlooked. The fact is that I, and many others, have listed a whole host of great female artists who should be winning headline slots but are being ignored. I do hope Emily Eavis is able to permeate the ignorance around her and, at next year’s Glastonbury ensure that there is at least one female headliner – there is a vast list of names that discredit the idea that there is a lack of great female action in the pool of music. Eavis made a point regarding the men in music; the bosses and organisers who are responsible for bringing together the festival headliners. The notion of the middle-aged man playing golf and turning their noses up at women is, sadly, still evident. There are younger festival organisers emerging but most of the larger festivals still have the slightly older gent making the decisions. It is not just Glastonbury who are behind and have no excuses to hide behind. Look at all the festivals in the U.K. and none of them are doing enough. It is not only the fact they are booking men as headliners and completely overlooking all the ready and established women who can storm it. It is the boredom factor and the lack of excitement that gets to me. Whether it is Reading and Leeds or the Isle of Wight Fest, there is really not a lot to get excited about!

 IMAGE CREDIT: @OfficialRandL

I know there is a huge wave of great women in music that are defining the best of modern music so, in a few years, there really is no reason why they should be ignored. I am uncomfortable when it comes to that statement regarding a lack of women out there to headline. The fact is that it is the men who can make the change are refusing to budge and are going for the same, tired names. There is a problem with gender imbalance at U.S. festivals and there are articles like this that show the problem is not new: we have been ignoring women for years now. The demographic is shifting and it is no longer true that men rule the mainstream – maybe that was true back in the 1980s and 1990s. I think, in terms of control, there is more balance than ever and, as this feature outlines, there are so many great women who are not getting the attention they deserve. For years and years, people have been debating why there is this male dominance and when things are going to change. There are very few women who are responsible for booking festival names so maybe it is hard to fight against the men. Emily Eavis has the chance to change the system from within but it seems like she has to combat the old guard and an unwillingness to bend. The music industry, right now, has so many fantastic women in all genres and there are countless icons and established artists who would make perfect headliners at festivals like Glastonbury. There are no excuses and reasons to avoid the problem at hand. There is this promise we will see true balance by 2022 but the fact is that we need it...

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 PHOTO CREDIT: @dannyhowe/Unsplash

MUCH sooner than that.

FEATURE: The March Playlist: Vol. 5: A Dark Lullaby for a bad guy

FEATURE:

 

The March Playlist

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IN THIS PHOTO: Sky Ferreira/PHOTO CREDIT: Cass Bird for New York Magazine 

Vol. 5: A Dark Lullaby for a bad guy

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THIS is one of those weeks noticeable…

 IN THIS PHOTO: Slaves/PHOTO CREDIT: Jenn Five/NME

for a few big songs/artists and a bit of a smattering elsewhere. It is not a huge week by any means but, with new music from Sky Ferreira and Billie Eilish out there, it is definitely interesting. It is curious seeing how Pop has changed and how artists like Eilish are changing things. Alongside them, there is music from Slaves, The Veronicas; Edwyn Collins and Izzy Bizu. I have been keeping my ears out and there is some big music coming along soon. As we see the temperature rise and spring truly settle, I am hearing a lot more great music come along – not sure whether there is a link between the conditions and the sounds coming out! Anyway…have a listen to this week’s fresh releases and I am sure there is something in there that will turn the head. Despite it being relatively quiet for new releases there is still enough in the pack…

IN THIS PHOTO: The Veronicas

TO kick the weekend off in fine style!  

ALL PHOTOS/IMAGES (unless credited otherwise): Getty Images/Artists

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Sky FerreiraDownhill Lullaby

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Billie Eilishbad guy

Edwyn CollinsGlasgow to London

The VeronicasThink of Me

Slaves Bugs

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Floating Points (ft. Lauren Laverne) Ah! Why, Because the Floating Sun

Izzy BizuLights On

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PHOTO CREDIT: WDZIEKONSKI

King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard - Boogieman Sam

PHOTO CREDIT: Neil Krug

Cage the Elephant, Beck - Night Running

FeederFear of Flying

Ciara Thinkin Bout You

White DenimSo Emotional

Diplo Bubble Up

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YONAKALose Our Heads

Amber-SimoneWorkin’

P!nkHustle

Gabrielle AplinNothing Really Matters

Saweetie My Type

ROSALÍA, J BalvinCon Altura

Suzi QuatroBass Line

Kelly Clarkson - Broken & Beautiful (from the film UglyDolls) 

Georgia About Work the Dancefloor

LAOISE Mad

Ben PlattOlder

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Rhys LewisEnd Like This

Brooke CandyHappy

Emotional OrangesBuilt That Way

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Nicole Atkins & Jim Sclavunos - A Man Like Me

PHOTO CREDIT: Rob Blackham

Saint AgnesMove Like a Ghost

Modest MousePoison the Well

Russ - AINT GOIN BACK

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Emeli Sandé - Sparrow 

Olivia O’Brien - Just Friends

FEATURE: Sisters in Arms: An All-Female, Spring-Ready Playlist (Vol. V)

FEATURE:

 

 

Sisters in Arms

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IN THIS PHOTO: Izzy Bizu 

An All-Female, Spring-Ready Playlist (Vol. V)

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NOW that the weather is a lot warmer...

 IN THIS PHOTO: anaïs

we know spring is here and it puts us in a better mood. The quality of music out there is pretty ace and there are so many great artists emerging. I have been listening to the best female-led sounds around and seeing what’s what. I am always amazed by the sheer scope and quality around and, every week, we get this new batch of songs that catches you by surprise. Because of that, enjoy the current spring-themed playlist that should add some step and, when the darkness comes tonight, provide some gentle touch and comfort. It is another varied and exciting collection of songs that will definitely stay with you. Have a listen to the tracks here and I hope they accompany a very bright...

IN THIS PHOTO: Sahara Beck/PHOTO CREDIT: Jeff Andersen Jnr.

AND warm spring day.

ALL PHOTOS (unless credited otherwise): Getty Images/Artists

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Aimée – Don’t Bother

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PHOTO CREDIT: Mark Hill Photography & Media

SiveDo It All the Time

PHOTO CREDIT: Jeff Andersen Jnr.

Sahara BeckI Haven’t Done a Thing Today

SLOTemporary Madness

Izzy BizuLights On

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PHOTO CREDIT: Heather Koepp Photography

Haley ReinhartBroken Record

Folly RaeFull Stop

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PHOTO CREDIT: Sara Carpentieri

Phoebe GreenDreaming Of

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Rachel FannanFever Pitch

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PHOTO CREDIT: Jac Meddings/@house.mum 

Lupa JThe Crash

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PHOTO CREDIT: Chiara Ceccaioni: Photo + Design

Heavy HeartDowsabel

PHOTO CREDIT: Glenn Harvey

Tokyo Tea RoomForever Out of Time

anaïs – lost my faith

Jana KramerBeautiful Lies

Kelsey LuBlood

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April KryIf Girls Ruled the World

Gabrielle AplinNothing Really Matters

PHOTO CREDIT: Chip Skingley

Freya Roy22 Movements

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PHOTO CREDIT: Emily Scarlett Romain

Sonia SteinParty

Bianca JadeOn and On

Maddie & TaeTourists in This Town

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PHOTO CREDIT: Helen Moga

TacocatsGrains of Salt

Ibibio Sound MachineGuess We Found a Way

LAOISE Seriously?

PHOTO CREDIT: John Clark

Filthy FriendsNovember Man

PHOTO CREDIT: Sarah Cresswell

MesadormWhen She’s in That Mood

TwinnieType of Girl

FEATURE: Spotlight: Anteros

FEATURE:

 

 

Spotlight

PHOTO CREDIT: Anteros/Getty Images

Anteros

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I have been speaking about the lack...

 IN THIS PHOTO: Anteros keeping warm in 2018/PHOTO CREDIT: Emma Swann for DIY

of fun and pop in music and, more and more, people are starting to sound the same. That sound is not especially uplifting or optimistic: instead, it is somewhat downbeat and really does lack a real sense of kick. There are some Pop artists around that can bring energy but in terms of depth, perhaps it is not the most affecting. We have not really got any movements that sort of promote positivity and something rousing because, more and more, the music industry is lacking any focus. That is understandable as there are so many artists around but one has to dig hard to discover anything  that puts you in a better mood. I admit that artists like Lizzo can bring the funkiness and sass to the party but, away from her, where does one go? Maybe the style of Anteros is different to someone like Lizzo but they definitely know how to craft an immediate and catchy song! The band formed back in 2014 and comprises Laura Hayden, Joshua Rumble; Jackson Couzens and Harry Balazs. Beginning life as a duo – Hayden and Rumble started Anteros – the numbers have grown and, with it, the musical palette. One does not even need to listen to the band to know that colour and a certain vibrancy are at their heart. In some ways, they seem like a 1980s band such as Blondie – I know they started life in the 1970s but I associate them with the following decade.

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 IMAGE CREDIT: Getty Images/Anteros

You have this female lead that has this very cool aesthetic and swagger; a brilliant voice and a confidence that makes every song shine. Behind her, the tight band who can bring plenty of groove, energy and confidence. I love that, even looking at photos, you can tell they are going to be interesting and different from everyone out there. The band has just released their long-awaited debut album, When We Land, and the album is filled with big tunes and plenty of jangle. I love songs such as Afterglow and Wrong Side but, in actuality, every song shines and has its place! There are not many out there who are doing the same thing as Anteros. Although some of the songs address a certain tension and unhappiness, the band never drag the mood down: instead, they have this sense of motivation and spirit that elevates the tracks and gets them into the blood. The reviews for When We Land have been largely positive. I have seen the odd myopic review that bemoans the clean production and the fact songs, to them, lack any real depth and memorability. The production sounds great and it needs that polish to make it pop and resonate; the lyrics are actually perfect for the type of Pop that the band are putting out – walking that line between catchy and fun and diverse and challenging. They do not, as many of their peers have already done, created something that is quite tense and heartbroken. Rather than do that, they are keen to make sure everything puts you in a better mood.

This is lacking in music and, as such, reviews have been pretty warm. DIY were keen to have their say and give their thoughts:

Even before releasing an album, a reputation for glamorous, retro pop trailed Anteros on the back of sold-out shows and irresistibly catchy singles. On debut LP ‘When We Land’ they expand these ideas, moulding vintage influences to their strand of social commentary. 
The woozy ‘Drive On’ exemplifies this approach; it’s immediately captivating, with faraway guitar riffs that bring to mind a sun-bleached West Coast captured in a Polaroid picture. Lyrically, however, it describes a garbage-strewn wasteland as it’s ignored by passers-by.

Nodding towards the drama and contrast that Anteros bring to their music, it’s easy to imagine the album as a soundtrack to a movie, tackling topical issues with a flair for the dramatic. ‘Ordinary Girl’ is pared-back and anthemic at once, and ‘Wrong Side’ is the most straight-up pop cut from the record, tailor-made for a night on the dancefloor.

With a decent whack of expectation behind the band since the early success of ‘Breakfast’ and the swaggering slow burn of ‘Drunk’, it would have been easy for Anteros to lose their footing. But on ‘Where We Land’ the band sound firmly grounded and ready to take on the future”.

In another review, The Line of Best Fit provided their take when it came to the evocative and catchy music of Anteros:

What ties it all together is the dreamlike synths, Hayden’s diverse and unique vocals, and the coupling of thought-provoking lyrics with impossibly catchy choruses. The tempo of the chorus to “Honey” inspires dancing, whilst its words explore a toxic relationship, feeling trapped and incapable of walking away. It is only in “Let It Out” that the tempo drops momentarily, and a soaring vulnerability is revealed. It is the emotional core of the album, Hayden singing “let it out, I don’t need to pretend” as imploring as she is affirming of herself – until the very end of the song when she gains strength and conviction...

The eponymous track, “Anteros”, makes a fitting closer for the band’s debut album. “Could this be the first part of the last start?” is repeated over and over, but it’s hopeful rather than unsure. They sound like a band who already know the answer”.

In the final review I will source, Gigwise explained how Anteros have an alternative to combatting tough times – whereas so many others are quite po-faced and depressing:

When We Land is loaded with air-punching dance anthems and toe-tapping tunes that you can sing your heart out to. While most bands have been preoccupied with delivering weighty records to navigate the current chaos, Anteros opted for a more fun-filled approach to surviving these trying times. Although we will always need music which stands against all the ills and calls out the injustices in the world, there is still a place for bands to lighten the mood, make us smile and give us a much-needed timeout from thinking about our shitstorm of a society - Anteros seem to gladly step up to the plate and fulfill that need with When We Land”.

For those who feel Anteros lack a sense of depth and seriousness, try looking out at the current climate and asking whether, in such testing times, we need that?! There are so many who are talking about depression, anger and hate and, whilst that can be good and constructive, too much of it does drag you down. Instead, with some shiny production, catchy choruses and a sense of the bright, the band bring something more encouraging, enriching and escapist to the party – whilst still able to write about subjects that are quite personal and raise their eyebrows when needed. Not long before the album came out, Laura Hayden and Harry Balazs spoke with Dork about When We Land and what defines their music:

“...This is how an evening out with Anteros goes. There’s a palpable energy that jumps out from being in their company, a band bustling with ideas, creative outlets, hilarious stories but also an understanding and perspective of what they want to be and what they want to mean in 2019 - it’s a ride that captures a band on the cusp of a thrilling journey.

IN THIS PHOTO: Laura Hayden/PHOTO CREDIT: Phoebe Fox for DORK

“Right now, we’re in a blissful in-between spot,” notes Laura, “because the album isn’t out yet but it is finished so I’m just really making the most of this moment because whatever happens when the album comes out, I feel like we’re proud of what we’ve made. We didn’t want to follow any trends; we wanted to stick to the music that we wanted to make and not try to go, well, what are we? Are we this or that? We were more like, if we want to chuck in weird fucking sounds, then we’re going to do that. Since the beginning, we’ve wanted to make music that’s not going to sit in an algorithm.”

From the very beginning, there was one philosophy that stood at the core of Anteros. A mission statement if you will. “There are no limits. That was the only goal, that there wouldn’t be any limits,” explains Laura. “We said the sky’s the limit, the longer we can do this for the better - and that it’s also okay to say that you want to do this for a long time.”

Joined by guitarist Jackson Couzens and bassist Joshua Rumble, that desire and standing as people that can’t be categorised into one lane has been a permanent one that’s risen from a young age.

“From a young age, you’re meant to know where you belong, and people project what they want for you, onto you,” recalls Laura. “If you dare try to get out of that it’s like, woah - wildcard! I didn’t fit into one type of person”.

In fact, those who feel that the fun tones and energy is backed by something quite throwaway and juvenile, some have labelled Anteros as being, at times, bitter and heartaching. It is clear that, since the very start, they have been keen to share their experiences but, even back in this 2018 interview there was a need to rebel against the darkness. Again, Laura Hayden explains why Anteros’ vision needed to be like it is:

In a time where everything seems quite dark,” Laura begins - a vocalist with clear visions of the world she lives in, and how her band fits into it - “you wanna make people think. Not in a way that’s gonna make them cry, but it in a way that’s gonna make them stronger. It’s the natural thing for us to do, because that’s how we use music ourselves as people. ‘Drunk’, for example,” she continues, citing the band’s 2017 single, a track that comes complete with an invincible, funk-inspired strut”.

The band has grown in confidence and scope over the past few years and they continue to look ahead. There are loads of positive reviews out there for When We Land so ensure you grab a copy of the album and give it a good spin! The guys are heading up and down the county over the next few weeks so make sure you catch them and see what they are all about. Their live sets are always crackling and memorable so there will be many thrilled fans that will get to see their new album brought to the stage. It is exciting times for Anteros and, after a bit of a wait, it is good they have an album out. They will build from here and I think they occupy a very rare space. There are not that many bands who have the same balance and blend of sounds. When we are all feeling tense and unsure, Anteros provide us with some fist-pumping anthems and songs that will definitely bring a smile to the lips! I will continue to follow them because I feel they are a headline act of the future. This year’s festival headliners are, largely, not that exciting and fun so we need to foster bands like Anteros: bringing that determination, uplift and colour. They keep saying how they want to be different and, if there is an unusual sound that pricks their ears, they’ll chuck it in! This is a commendable attitude and something that will see Anteros remain and succeed. I will leave things there but I wanted to recommend the group because they are definitely someone you should seek out. Maybe you are unsure their music will suit you but fear not: one dip into their warm, vivacious and enticing water and you will be converted...

 PHOTO CREDIT: Anteros/Getty Images

RATHER quickly indeed.

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Follow Anteros

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FEATURE: How to ‘Disappear’ Completely: Do We Put Too Much Pressure on Artists When It Comes to Album Releases?

FEATURE:

 

 

How to ‘Disappear’ Completely

IN THIS PHOTO: Sky Ferreira at Deadline Studio Portraits during Sundance in Park City, Utah on 22nd January, 2018/PHOTO CREDIT: Michael Buckner/Deadline/REX/Shutterstock

Do We Put Too Much Pressure on Artists When It Comes to Album Releases?

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ALTHOUGH the ‘cover artist’ is Sky Ferreira...

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 IN THIS IMAGE: The cover for Sky Ferreira’s debut album, Night Time, My Time (2013)/ALBUM PHOTO: Gaspar Noé

my point relates to a wider field. I must admit that I do not listen to her music much but there has been a lot of talk because she is returning with a new album. The fact that my article – and many others out there – use words like ‘disappear’ when referencing her shows what attitude we have when it comes to artists who take time to ruminate and spend time on their work. Downhill Lullaby is a new single from her and, whilst she has not put out an album since 2013’s Night Time, My Time, she is someone who refuses to put out anything that is untrue and has little meaning. Her new song is, as you can see, pretty atmospheric and intense. It is not what one would expect from a Pop act today and, rather than conforming to a commercial sound and replicating what is already out there, she  is treading her own path and unwilling to be rushed. When speaking with Pitchfork she explained the pressure that has been put on her and how she approaches work:

Released in October 2013, Night Time, My Time was a rare major-label triumph of craft over product, a purposeful barrage of seething recriminations coated with ’90s-grunge textures and ’80-pop incandescence. It sounded like “My So-Called Life”’s Angela Chase mainlining John Hughes films and channeling her existential anguish into a record—except Night Time was the vision of a 2010s 21-year-old, and the truths were all hers.

Naturally, all of this—the anticipation, the unfulfilled promises, the time lapsed since her last release—is adding to the pressure she puts on herself. She feels like she has to explain. “It wasn’t by choice.” It wasn’t creative paralysis, nor was it a creative hiatus. “I wasn’t just taking time for myself the last five years.” During that time, she landed a half dozen movie roles, but she says she didn’t decide to focus on acting instead. “I never stepped away from music.” She alludes to vague external hindrances: “I’ve been at the mercy of people the last few years”; “gatekeepers”; “the rug pulled out under me”; a “someone at my label” who undid the generous arrangement she had to work with Kanye West musical director Mike Dean; and the very real issue of a young woman telling men what she wants and not settling for less.

“I don’t have a back-up plan,” Sky says. “I never have. I don’t have an education. I don’t know how to, like, play music in the [traditional] sense. I’m socially awkward and stuff—I couldn’t really do a lot of other jobs either,” she says. “Literally, there’s no other option for me. So this has to work”.

It is clear that Ferreira has had a lot on her shoulders and, rather than rush something out or be pressed when it comes to deadlines. NME reacted to the news that her new album has arrived after six years and, when you think about it, it is not a huge gap at all:

Admittedly ‘Masochism’ does feel like it has taken forever. After all, we now live in an age where the tiniest scraps of information are available instantly. With a few taps on a touch screen it’s possible to find out what shoes Harry Styles wore two weeks ago on Monday, whether St Vincent prefers tacos or burritos, and which Top 40 singers suffer from hayfever.

It’s a modern phenomenon that Sky Ferreira understands well, too – every time she opens her mouth, it seems, her remarks are plastered all over the internet five minutes later. A post from 2017, which discussed at length various logistical issues and the importance of sticking to her guns – “I didn’t wait this long to put out the bare minimum” she wrote – was turned into a single snappy headline. Sky Ferreira is“ Putting out Something Soon”.

Let’s be real, here – six years isn’t a lifetime. By resisting the pressure to squeeze out a mediocre EP to tide everyone over – by knowing when to step away – Sky’s set herself up for a blinder. Her debut remains one of the most exciting alt-pop releases of the noughties, and from this point on, it’s all in ‘Masochism’s hands”. 

PHOTO CREDIT: @danedeaner/Unsplash 

It is definitely worth checking out the interview she gave with Pitchfork because it gives more depth and background regarding Ferreira’s work and process. She is an example of someone who released a promising and interesting debut and, invariably, there were all these questions regarding the next album and when she would grace us with more music. There have been occasions when artists have left a big gap between releases and, whilst it can seem like it commercial risk, it is actually a way of recharging and making music without that pressure. Many are calling Sky Ferreira’s new work a ‘return’ but, when you think about it, she has not left or been quiet – just working on different stuff but never leaving the music industry. Now that she has music out there, it is going to be digested and the reviews will come through. I wonder, after a six-year gap, whether people will ask whether we have to wait this long again for another album. We get into the habit of excepting records from artists every year or two and, if they take some time out and work on other stuff, then people start speculating and feeling they have retreated. Every corner of the industry, I feel, does have these expectations and, in a high-paced world, we all get impatient and expect stuff to happen right away. It might be fair enough to get a second album from a shining artist after a few years and, whilst taking longer might threaten momentum, we cannot rush people. There is so much anxiety in music and so many young artists are suffering because of it.

 IN THIS PHOTO: Rita Ora took six years to follow her debut album, Ora (2012), but, like many artists, the gap paid dividends and meant she could create something that was a development and move forward/PHOTO CREDIT: Rex

In many cases, spending longer away and really working on an album can give new life and be worth it. Other big artists, like Rita Ora, have taken six years to follow from a debut (last year’s Phoenix followed Ora), but they are rare cases. Even if there is a few years between albums, I do not think we need to be so tough and feel artists feel small. In many cases, touring takes up a chunk of time and many need time to address their personal lives and unwind. I think we overlook how intense the music industry is and what the daily cycle is. It can take a long time making sure an album is good and will be a success and, after that, you tour it; there is that need to create something after that which is different but sounds like you – it is quite daunting these days! This idea of an artist ‘disappearing’ is quite troubling. I understand fans might get restless and curious but we tend to ignore the wishes of an artist and why they might need some more time. I do feel, more and more, we are less album-orientated and just tend to pick singles – so why pressurise artists to create an album when we do not listen to the whole thing?! Maybe it is not easy to correct but there is a bit of a mental-health crisis happening. In music, there is so much competition and choice that it can have a really damaging effect on an artist.

 PHOTO CREDIT: @simon_m1/Unsplash

If a label or the public expects new music at a regular interval then that can lead to poor quality and pressure. Rather than rattle out albums every couple of years and compromise evolution for commercial satisfaction, it is worth asking whether we should encourage more acts to take some time out and, for the sake of some wagging tongues, focus on themselves. I think quality and personal satisfaction far outweighs streaming figures and other factors. It can be quite hard for fans to have to wait a while for material from their favourite acts but we need to be a bit more patient, I guess. I am the same as everyone and often check anxiously if a few years have passed and there is not another album out. Do not assume that an artist has gone away and retired if we do not hear a whisper for a bit. It makes Sky Ferreira’s new music so interesting. It is clear she has spent her time wisely and used it to make music that holds great quality and depth rather than rushing it and regretting her decision. I respect those who can risk gossip and a dent in their fortunes if it means they look after themselves and spend some time to create the music they want to. It is risky, yes, but the alternative is worse: you will burn out and that anxiety can cost more than a record deal and some streaming figures. Rather than judge artists who take a while to release albums and figure they have just dropped away, respect that some do need a bit more time to percolate and create. There is this pull between keeping relevant and staying in the public focus and making work that feels true and is not too rushed. Get it wrong then that can be disastrous so, for that reason, we need to encourage all artists to work at a speed that...

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PHOTO CREDIT: @paullywooten/Unsplash

SUITS them best.

FEATURE: The Rise of Punk, David Bowie Gold and a Sense of Revolution: The Best Albums of 1977

FEATURE:

 

 

The Rise of Punk, David Bowie Gold and a Sense of Revolution

IN THIS PHOTO: David Bowie posing in 1977/PHOTO CREDIT: Masayoshi Sukita 

The Best Albums of 1977

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WHEN I was thinking about my favourite song and...

 IN THIS PHOTO: Sex Pistols captured in a cheeky shot from 1977/PHOTO CREDIT: Bob Gruen

album of all time yesterday, it struck me that both can be limited to a very narrow frame in time: 1977 and 1978. My favourite album, The Kick Inside, was released in 1978 and saw Kate Bush producing a breath of fresh air against the Punk movement. My favourite song, Deacon Blues, is from Aja – a Steely Dan masterpiece released in 1977. That year boasts so many terrific albums and there must have been something in the air back then! I wonder why I gravitate towards this year but, as you will see from this collection of 1977-released albums, there was something magical happening. It was a tragic year for musician losses – including Elvis Presley and Marc Bolan of T. Rex – but, in terms of the music being produced, it helped lift the gloom and provided huge inspiration for artists coming through. Took a look at these enormous albums from a year that, aside from 1994 and a couple of years in the 1990s, is almost...

 IN THIS PHOTO: Talking Heads photographed in Amsterdam in June 1977/PHOTO CREDIT: Gijsbert Hanekroot/Redferns

IMPOSSIBLE to beat.

ALL ALBUM COVERS: Getty Images/Spotify

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The JamIn the City

Release Date: 20th May, 1977

Producers: Vic Coppersmith-Heaven/Chris Parry

Label: Polydor

Standout Tracks: Art School/I Got By in Time/Time for Truth

Review:

On their debut, the Jam offered a good balance between the forward-looking, "destroy everything" aggression of punk with a certain reverence for '60s beat and R&B. In an era that preached attitude over musicianship, the Jam bettered the competition with good pop sense, strong melodies, and plenty of hooks that compromised none of punk's ideals or energy, plus youth culture themes and an abrasive, ferocious attack. Even though the band would improve exponentially over the next couple of years, In the City is a remarkable debut and stands as one of the landmark punk albums” – AllMusic

Key Cut: In the City

Fleetwood MacRumours

Release Date: 4th February, 1977

Producers: Fleetwood Mac/Ken Caillat/Richard Dashut

Label: Warner Bros.

Standout Tracks: Dreams/Don‘t Stop/Go Your Own Way

Review:

Setting aside the weight of history, listening to Rumours is an easy pleasure. Records with singles that never go away tend to evoke nostalgia for the time when the music soundtracked your life; in this case, you could've never owned a copy of it and still know almost every song. When you make an album this big, your craft is, by default, accessibility. But this wasn't generic pabulum. It was personal. Anyone could find a piece of themselves within these songs of love and loss” – Pitchfork

Key Cut: The Chain

TelevisionMarquee Moon

Release Date: 8th February, 1977

Producers: Andy Johns/Tom Verlaine

Label: Elektra

Standout Tracks: Venus/Elevation/Prove It

Review:

Marquee Moon is comprised entirely of tense garage rockers that spiral into heady intellectual territory, which is achieved through the group's long, interweaving instrumental sections, not through Verlaine's words. That alone made Marquee Moon a trailblazing album -- it's impossible to imagine post-punk soundscapes without it. Of course, it wouldn't have had such an impact if Verlaine hadn't written an excellent set of songs that conveyed a fractured urban mythology unlike any of his contemporaries. From the nervy opener, "See No Evil," to the majestic title track, there is simply not a bad song on the entire record. And what has kept Marquee Moon fresh over the years is how Television flesh out Verlaine's poetry into sweeping sonic epics” – AllMusic  

Key Cut: Marquee Moon

Sex PistolsNever Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols

Release Date: 28th October, 1977

Producers: Chris Thomas/Bill Price

Label: Virgin

Standout Tracks: Holidays in the Sun/God Save the Queen/Anarchy in the U.K

Review:

Musically, Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols is just about the most exciting rock & roll record of the Seventies. It’s all speed, not nuance — drums like the My Lai massacre, bass throbbing like a diseased heart fifty beats past bursting point, guitars wielded by Jack the Ripper-and the songs all hit like amphetamines or the plague, depending on your point of view. Rotten’s jabbing, gabbing vocals won’t leave you alone. They either race like crazed, badly wounded soldiers through fields of fire so thick you can’t tell the blood from the barrage, or they just stand there in front of you, like amputees in a veterans’ hospital, asking where you keep the fresh piles of arms and legs” – Rolling Stone   

Key Cut: Pretty Vacant

David BowieLow

Release Date: 14th January, 1977

Producers: David Bowie/Tony Visconti

Label: RCA

Standout Tracks: Breaking Glass/Warszawa/Art Decade

Review:

Speed of Life opens the album with a jolt thanks to Ricky Gardiner's sharp guitar. The more lengthy and suspense-filled Warszawa, was used to open the 1978 and 2002 tours. It made sure that the audience were on tenterhooks until Bowie took to the stage.

With its texturing, layering and juxtaposing of random sounds and instruments, including an eventide harmonizer, Low is certainly an ambitious album and one that wasn't well-received by critics at the time. It does, however, show a Bowie who was had turned 30: a man growing up, coming into his own.

Without Low we’d have no Joy Division, no Human League, no Cabaret Voltaire, and I bet, no Arcade Fire. The legacy of Low lives on” – BBC

Key Cut: Sound and Vision

RamonesRocket to Russia

Release Date: 4th November, 1977

Producers: Tony Bongiovi/Tommy Ramone

Labels: Sire (U.S. and U.K.)/Philips (Europe)

Standout Tracks: Rockaway Beach/Teenage Lobotomy/Do You Wanna Dance?

Review:

Forty years on, punk is now twice as distant from us as the birth of rock n’ roll was from it; one wonders if a contemporary teenager would even “get” the Ramones now that punk has been splintered and scattered into tiny fractions of its aesthetic and ethos reflected in everyone from Julien Baker to Lil Uzi Vert. Contemporary teenagers, in any case, aren’t the target market for this reissue. This is strictly for those of us old enough to remember when loud guitars could still sound new and fresh and dangerous (and, frankly, for those of us wealthy enough to blow 65 bucks on a deluxe box set).

As a document of those final days of the relevance of punk rock proper—before the endless mutations that gave us the last 40 years of “alternative” music, before ur-punks like the Ramones gave in to commercialization, self-parody, and diminishing returns—it’s a vibrant and refreshing listen. Punk is dead, and has been since before most people knew it was alive, but for a few hours, at least, this set may help convince you otherwise” – SLANT

Key Cut: Sheena Is a Punk Rocker

Steely DanAja

Release Date: 23rd September, 1977

Producer: Gary Katz

Label: ABC

Standout Tracks: Black Cow/Peg/Josie

Review:

Considering the final count of musicians who appear on ‘Aja’ eventually clocked in at a mammoth thirty, a result of the constantly interchanging studio personnel, the album is brilliantly cohesive. As on most Dan records, it is Fagen the reluctant singer who binds the different elements together with his languid vocal delivery.

On ‘Black Cow’, impeccable Jazz-funk instrumentation is partially disguised, book-ended by pop-music melodies to create genuinely groundbreaking textures. Lyrics sparkle with wit and cynicism throughout, betraying a sense of humour so oblique it is easy to overlook completely (“My back to the wall/A victim of laughing chance/This is for me/The essence of true romance”).

To many, Steely Dan epitomise all that is bad about high-brow rock snobbery. With their oh-so-clever literary references and muso-tendencies, they are the total opposite of the debauched rock ‘n’ roll primates that preceded and followed them.

But to defy Aja’s majesty would be to commit an act of snobbishness equal to any that its creators may be guilty of. Nearly 25 years on, it remains a benchmark for complex, polished, intelligent music. Not that Walter Becker and Donald Fagen would ever have settled for anything less” – Drowned in Sound

Key Cut: Deacon Blues

KraftwerkTrans-Europe Express

Release Date: March 1977

Producers: Ralf Hütter/Florian Schneider

Label: Kling Klang

Standout Tracks: Europe Endless (Europa Endless)/The Hall of Mirrors (Spiegelsaal)/Franz Schubert

Review:

There is an impressive composition paying homage to "Franz Schubert," but the real meat of this approach is contained in the opening love letter, "Europe Endless," and the epic title track, which shares themes and lyrics with the following track, "Metal on Metal." The song "Trans-Europe Express" is similar in concept to "Autobahn," as it mimics the swaying motion and insistent drive of a cross-continent train trip. What ultimately holds the album together, though, is the music, which is more consistently memorable even than that on Autobahn. Overall, Trans-Europe Express offers the best blend of minimalism, mechanized rhythms, and crafted, catchy melodies in the group's catalog; henceforth, their music would take on more danceable qualities only hinted at here (although the title cut provided the basis for Afrika Bambaataa's enormously important dancefloor smash "Planet Rock")” – AllMusic

Key Cut: Trans-Europe Express (Trans Europa Express)

Talking HeadsTalking Heads: 77

Release Date: 16th September, 1977

Producers: Tony Bongiovi/Lance Quinn/Talking Heads

Label: Sire

Standout Tracks: Uh-Oh, Love Comes to Town/Tentative Decisions/The Book I Read

Review:

This is the band that had its early critics talking about minimalism and, like Jonathan Richman, Talking Heads do indeed triumph by the economy of their sound. But where the ingenuous Richman is dangerously precious, there is no nonsense about Talking Heads. Byrne’s spare guitar patterns, Jerry Harrison’s modest keyboard fills, Martina Weymouth’s understated bass and Chris Frantz’ efficiently Spartan drumming convey a taut earnestness that’s bursting with energy.

“The Book I Read,” like so many of their songs, burbles with excitement, a feeling of expansion overcoming restraint. “Pulled Up” is the real champ, though, a fiercely exhilarating rush of aural amyl nitrate.

Vocally, Byrne’s live-wired personality vibrates his precise musical framework like a caged tiger rattling its bars. (That he sings in a stiff, reedy, “bad” voice, grasping for higher notes like a drowning man lunging for air, only heightens the drama.) Exploring the logic and disorientation of love, decision making, ambition and the need for selfishness, he gropes for articulation like a metaphysician having difficulty computing emotions” – Rolling Stone

Key Cut: Psycho Killer                                                        

The ClashThe Clash

Release Date: 8th April, 1977

Producer: Mickey Foote

Label: CBS

Standout Tracks: Janie Jones/I’m So Bored with the U.S.A./Career Opportunities

Review:

Even at this early stage, the Clash were experimenting with reggae, most notably on the Junior Murvin cover "Police & Thieves" and the extraordinary "(White Man) In Hammersmith Palais," which was one of five tracks added to the American edition of The Clash. "Deny," "Protex Blue," "Cheat," and "48 Hours" were removed from the British edition and replaced for the U.S. release with the British-only singles "Complete Control," "(White Man) In Hammersmith Palais," "Clash City Rockers," "I Fought the Law," and "Jail Guitar Doors," all of which were stronger than the items they replaced. Though the sequencing and selection were slightly different, the core of the album remained the same, and each song retained its power individually. Few punk songs expressed anger quite as bracingly as "White Riot," "I'm So Bored with the U.S.A.," "Career Opportunities," and "London's Burning," and their power is all the more incredible today. Rock & roll is rarely as edgy, invigorating, and sonically revolutionary as The Clash. [In 2000, Columbia/Legacy reissued and remastered the album to include the U.K. songs]” – AllMusic

Key Cut: White Riot                                                            

Bob Marley & The WailersExodus

Release Date: 3rd June, 1977

Producers: Bob Marley & The Wailers

Label: Island

Standout Tracks: Exodus/Jamming/Waiting in Vain

Review:

1977's Exodus-- recorded in London exile after a failed attempt on his life-- turned out to be Marley's biggest-selling studio album. Recently, Time magazine tapped it as the greatest LP of the 20th century. Other Marley discs had bigger hits and still others had better album tracks, but the balance Marley strikes between politics, religion, and romance on Exodus-- compare and contrast the urgent title track and the laid-back "Jamming"-- shows a pop star at the peak of his powers.

For better or worse, it's Marley's mellower side that sets the tone of Exodus. It may have come off nuts at the time, but Robert Christgau's comparison of late era Bob Marley to Steely Dan isn't totally off base. Songs like "Waiting in Vain" and "Turn Your Lights Down Low" are first and foremost smoooooooth, and if chants like "The Heathen" and "Guiltiness" hint at a certain call to action, the presentation trumps the message. "Exodus" may make you want to rise up and fight on the side of Jah, but the message you take from the album as a whole is the one delivered in "One Love" and "Three Little Birds": "Don't worry about a thing/ Cause every little thing gonna be all right," goes the latter; "Let's get together and feel all right," Marley says in the former” – Pitchfork 

Key Cut: Three Little Birds                                                

David Bowie“Heroes”

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Release Date: 14th October, 1977

Producers: David Bowie/Tony Visconti

Label: RCA

Standout Tracks: Joe the Lion/Blackout/The Secret Life of Arabia

Review:

“‘Neukoln’ drops us off in one hell of a bad neighborhood.  Stark and haunted by the looming ruins of an industrial past. Superficially, this may come off as glum self-indulgence to some. But this is truly an existential cry of pain. Another example of this album wearing its raw emotions on its sleeve. Bowie’s sax wailing away among the gloom and doom. I suppose here the case could be made for this being Low II.  Then all too suddenly, we're tossed into the disco. Here the album ends on an almost schizophrenic note with the coyly oblique, ‘Secret Life of Arabia’. Suddenly it’s time to dance, with Bowie crooning, “You must see the movie, the sand in my eyes, I walk through a desert song when the heroine dies.” Its here you realize Bowie’s backing band consists of some truly formidable R & B musicians. Namely, Carlos Alomar, George Murray and Dennis Davis. Believe it or not, the same band that played on Low. And this is part of Bowie’s genius. To put himself and others in unfamiliar territory and see what happens. 

Did I say genius? Yes, I think Bowie was a genius. Part of being a genius is knowing what’s important and what’s not. And Bowie had that. Obtuse, weird and disjointed as it all is, ‘Heroes’ shouldn’t work but does. Bowie was a keen practitioner of William S. Burroughs’ cut-up technique and more than any Bowie album, ‘Heroes’ feels like it was cut up and pasted together. Yet, somehow the glue holds. Here Bowie revels in the seedy underbelly and decadent nightlife of a haunted city, teetering on the brink. As he sings in ‘Sons of the Silent Age’ this record truly does sound like, “listening to tracks by Sam Therapy and King Dice”. If Low was the sound of breaking up, ‘Heroes’ is the sound of breaking free
” – Soundblab 

Key Cut: “Heroes”                                                               

FEATURE: A Needle into the Veins: Celebrating the Album-Dissecting Podcast

FEATURE:

 

 

A Needle into the Veins

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PHOTO CREDIT: @skylarfaithfilm/Unsplash 

Celebrating the Album-Dissecting Podcast

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I have just finished listening to a great podcast...

 ALBUM PHOTO: Robert Freeman

that brings together well-known people who talk about the records of The Beatles – and the solo albums from the four members. It is called I am the EggPod and, in the most-recent episode, Matt Everitt (drummer with Menswear (and others) and BBC broadcaster) chatted with the host, Chris Shaw about Rubber Soul. It was a great investigation and passionate study of an album that, to me, is the finest thing from The Beatles – Everitt clearly agreed and, for different people, Rubber Soul is the finest moment. I love that album because I remember being played it as a child and staring at the great cover – the four guys dressed in suede, looking cool with their famous haircuts. On the I am the EggPod episode, Shaw and Everitt went through each track and gave their impressions. I know an awful lot about The Beatles’ 1965 album but, throughout, I was learning stuff that was new to me! There were elements that were revealing – Rubber Soul being this percussion-heavy record – and great stories/facts relating to the band and song inspiration. I was captivated throughout and, knowing which song was coming next, I was excited to see what details would be revealed and how everything came together. Check out the podcast – because it is dope as hell – and there are quite a few episodes up already that study Beatles albums and great releases from the lads.

There are more to come and, when you discover a podcast/series that takes the care to dissect albums, it speaks to the true music lover. I think, in a streaming time where we all are busy and do not necessarily listen to albums all the way through, it is rare to hear forensic shows that take apart records and go through them song-by-song. Consider all the classic albums that have been released and the sort of facts and tales we are not aware of. There used to be the classic album series on stations like VH1 where we’d see producers and artists involved in records such as Graceland (Paul Simon). It might have appealed more to the adults but, as a child, I loved seeing these documentaries where time was spent going through a record and discussion inspiration and creation. Long ago, we all used to be much more attached to the album as a concept and thing but, through time, I think we have become more trained towards singles and pick-and-mix sort of listening. Now that music T.V. is not really a big thing, how often do we see series that look at the great albums and look at the songs in such detail? We have moved to the Internet and podcasts and, luckily, there are people who still keep this passion alive. You can check out great music podcasts and specialised podcasts that investigate some big albums and talk about them in real detail.

 PHOTO CREDIT: @neilgodding/Unsplash

The problem today, I think, is the dizzying array of options out in the market and how we get to grips with it all. If you are interested in The Beatles’ catalogue or you have a fondness for Classic Rock gems, how simple is it get all the related podcasts together so you do not miss a beat? Search engines help out but it can be hard typing in the right words; some might be missed off of searches so, oddly, podcasts that dissect music and really go into detail might be overlooked or lost completely. I do like the fact that, even in a digital age, those who are setting up their podcasts realise how vital albums are and the fact these classics have remained because we all listened to them in depth – rather than picking out a few tracks and skipping all the rest. There might be options out there – I am a bit too nervous to look – but I was inspired by the I am the EggPod series and think it would be great to do a similar series. I am fascinated by Kate Bush so either doing a like-minded one about her or having a podcast that dedicated a series to particular artists. The first might be about Kate Bush and then Madonna; moving onto Radiohead and then onto Queens of the Stone. I guess, in some form, all of these artists have had an episode dedicated to them and their albums.

 IN THIS PHOTO: Queens of the Stone Age (who have a rich body of work that would surely make for a great podcast series)/PHOTO CREDIT: Zoe McConnell

There are some great music podcasts around but I have a special fondness for those that focus on an album and unravel it; getting to the heart of the songs and providing context. Maybe it is more impactful when we talk about classic albums but there are records from the past few years that could benefit from a throughout look. Are we still as invested in the album as an artform or do we prefer the odd song and leave it at that? It is hard to say but I do worry that some great albums of this decade will, in years to come, not resonate that hard because we stream them and handpick songs as opposed listening from start to finish. Everyone who loves music loves an album and we all have out top-ten/twenty records. I have not done proper research but I wonder whether there are podcasts that look at great records by Radiohead, Steely Dan and Björk?! Maybe a series that, like I said, looks at one artist and their work and then moves onto another. That would be cool but, I guess, when it has been done once then it is hard to repeat it and add new light. It is ironic that we are less album-orientated now than ever but there are endless choices when it comes to album studies – more than there was when VH1 and MTV ruled. Maybe it is a rebellion against the culture and our fondness for those classic examples.

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 IMAGE CREDIT: MTV

I think, when we know more about an album, the greater attached we become and it actually provides new insight – I am going to listen to Rubber Soul soon and pick up on stuff that was covered in the I am the EggPod episode. I listen to that album as a purely sonic experience and, to me, it is mostly about the band interplay and harmonies. Now I have heard Matt Everitt talk about Rubber Soul, I am drawn to percussion details and know more about the songs and their origin. It is great, so many years down the line, to learn new things about an album you think you had figured. It makes me excited to hear what else is out there and, indeed, if some of the ideas I have lobbed out have already been covered – I hope one or two are still free! I do worry we are losing that passion for albums and do not really hold the same fondness. Where will we be in a couple of decades and how many of the albums from the time will be picked apart and celebrated as much as the all-time greats?! If anything, these album-dissecting podcasts rekindle our love of albums and make us realise why we love them in the first place. I am off to listen to Rubber Soul and, after I am done, I am minded to see if I can formulate my own podcast/series and take apart an artist’s treasured catalogue. It is wonderful hearing people speak passionately about their favourite albums and addressing every song. At a time when we are all rushing around and skipping through tracks, it is nice to be able to hear these podcasts, take a step back; relax and hear these big albums...

 PHOTO CREDIT: @jonathanvez/Unsplash

GIVEN proper respect.

FEATURE: Vinyl Corner: Radiohead – The Bends

FEATURE:

 

Vinyl Corner

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IMAGE CREDIT: Stanley Donwood 

Radiohead – The Bends

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THIS might not seem like it is directly related to...

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 IMAGE CREDIT: Icon/Lisa Bunny Jones

Scott Walker but, when paying tribute to him yesterday, I saw a tweet from Radiohead’s Thom Yorke - the Radiohead frontman expressed his sadness and stated how important Scott Walker was to him. It is clear that Walker influenced the band and, especially, Yorke. In some ways, when Thom Yorke belts out a tune and has that operatic tone, I often think of Scott Walker. In any case, that got me to thinking of Radiohead and an album I have not featured for a while. The Bends is my second—favourite album ever – behind Kate Bush’s The Kick Inside – and one that changed Indie-Rock in the 1990s. It was released on 13th March, 1995 and, in terms of progression, it was a huge leap for the band. Their debut, Pablo Honey, was met with muted applause and, aside from the epic Creep, there was not that much on the album that turned heads. Few expected something as rounded, confident and consistent as The Bends only a couple of years after their debut. There was a sense that Radiohead would not really survive that long and appeal much. They had some commercial successful but a lot of critics were writing them off after their first album. Produced by John Leckie and engineered by Nigel Godrich (who would go on to produce their albums hereafter, including The Bends’ follow-up, OK Computer), The Bends moved from the Grunge-sounding debut and incorporated greater range. There were more abrasive guitar sounds but greater melody, experimentation and stronger lyrics – perhaps more cryptic and developed than what we heard on Pablo Honey.

 IN THIS PHOTO: Radiohead (circa 1994)/PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images/Press

Look back at the sort of T.V. focus Creep was receiving in 1993 and, since its release the year before, Radiohead were synonymous with this one hit. Many wrote off Radiohead because of the Grunge tones and felt that, in many ways, they were a British version of Nirvana. It is easy to compare Creep with Nirvana but, in many ways, Pablo Honey was ignored because many lazily linked Radiohead and Nirvana. The sudden rise and success got to the band and there were occasions when the pressure almost broke them up. Creep became this all-conquering monster and there were tensions in the band. Maybe it was the attention Creep was getting but there was this feeling that, unless changes were made and the band moved somewhere new, they would not survive at all. Armed with a batch of new songs and keen to follow up their debut, Radiohead began recording at RAK Studio and had a deadline of October 1994 to get the album recorded and released. The fact that it was only a year since Pablo Honey, it felt rushed and there was this pressure for Radiohead to follow up their debut with something superior. EMI were eager for the band to release their next step and they wanted a lead single out. Not sure which one that was going to be, Sulk, The Bends; Just and (Nice Dream) were all worked on.

The band was determined to make something different to Pablo Honey but the early stages were frustrating and tense. They were not sure which single to focus on and, in terms of getting a new sound, they were not sure what that would be. Their lead guitarist Jonny Greenwood grabbed some rented guitars and amps and tried out something a bit different. The band were trying all this different stuff but, when it came to progress, there was a bit of a stall. Yorke especially was getting tense and frustrated by the lack of development. John Leckie urged Yorke to record some songs on his own, on guitar, and see what came about. Throw into the mix the band had a tour scheduled for the summer of 1994 and it was clear that The Bends would not hit the shelf that October as planned. Whereas there was tension and uncertainty at RAK, the band then moved to the Oxfordshire studio complex The Manor and were making more progress. Recording ended at Abbey Road Studios and, after a long time of getting things together and making that next step, it looked like Radiohead were heading in the right direction. The Bends, again, has an American-influenced sound but it is not a Grunge-heavy album. Beautiful acoustic numbers like Fake Plastic Trees and haunting tracks such as Street Spirit (Fade Out) represent the leaps the band took whilst the more experimental and unique guitar sounds heard on The Bends and Just signalled they had entered a new phase.

There was a bit of Britpop flavour – tracks like High and Dry, I guess – but, away from the heavy celebration of Britpop, Radiohead were sort of outsiders. Their sound owed more to what was happening in America and, at a time when there was nothing quite like The Bends out there, Radiohead helped inspire bands with their mature and instantly affecting tracks. Yorke’s lyrics had a bit of the personal but there were more cryptic numbers and a wider look at the world. Interested in more than matters of the heart, Fake Plastic Trees addressed commercial developments and high-rises whilst Sulk tackled the Hungerford massacre – hardly the cheery jubilance of their Britpop peers! It was impressive to see a band, only on their second album, writing about non-commercial sides of life and producing this more mature, challenging and nuanced album. On My Iron Lung, there were signs that Thom Yorke’s depression – which would become more public – was starting to affect his songwriting. He still felt the pressure on the band and the fatigue of the last couple of years. That sense of weight would continue for a while – as the band became huge and there was pressure to tour – but, in terms of songwriting, The Bends represented a seismic leap! When it was released on 13th March, 1995 there were some who were very unkind and unimpressed! Some saw Radiohead these game-changers who created an identity after their debut; a band who were whipping something rawer and original into a Britpop-heavy scene.

 IN THIS PHOTO: Radiohead (circa 1994)/PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images/Press

Others felt the album lacked depth and (The Bends) was overblown – most of the negative press arrived from America. Maybe, here in Britain, there was a need for something more American or harder: a sound that created a bit of excitement and changed the Indie-Rock scene. The different sound in the U.S. meant that, when The Bends arrived there, some were more tepid. This is how SPIN documented The Bends upon its release:

The Bends is never “Creep”-like enough, but “My Iron Lung” (a late Beatles pastiche with surprise noise) and “Just” (which seems to swipe powerchords from “Smells Like Nirvana” by “Weird Al” Yankovic)come close. There’s more nice guitar gush (e.g. the sub-Tom-Scholz anthemic stairclimb of “Black Star”), but the rest of the album mostly reminds me of Suede trying to rock like Sparks but coming out like U2, or (more often) that hissy little pissant in Smashing Pumpkins passive-aggressively inspiring me to clobber him with my copy of The Grand Illusion by Styx. Too much nodded-out nonsense mumble, not enough concrete emotion”.

The Oxford-based band could have felt discouraged by some mixed reviews and, tucked away where they were, there was not an awareness of the true popularity of The Bends. Radiohead rose in popularity and, soon enough, The Bends began inspiring other bands. Against the more bombastic Rock of Oasis, the sweeping falsetto of Yorke – partly inspired by Jeff Buckley and Grace – changed minds and, with his Scott Walker-like beauty, this new idol was born.

Bands and artists were experimenting more with high-pitched vocals and more emotive songwriting – one can trace the birth and popularity of Coldplay to The Bends. It is remarkable to me that The Bends received anything of less than impassioned praise when it came out in 1995. It appeared there was this divide between the U.S. and U.K. and how Radiohead’s second album fitted in. A tonne of retrospective acclaim has helped push the album to more people. AllMusic, writing in 2011, gave their thoughts on The Bends:

Pablo Honey in no way was adequate preparation for its epic, sprawling follow-up, The Bends. Building from the sweeping, three-guitar attack that punctuated the best moments of Pablo HoneyRadioheadcreate a grand and forceful sound that nevertheless resonates with anguish and despair -- it's cerebral anthemic rock. Occasionally, the album displays its influences, whether it's U2Pink FloydR.E.M., or the Pixies, but Radiohead turn clichés inside out, making each song sound bracingly fresh. Thom Yorke's tortured lyrics give the album a melancholy undercurrent, as does the surging, textured music. But what makes The Bends so remarkable is that it marries such ambitious, and often challenging, instrumental soundscapes to songs that are at their cores hauntingly melodic and accessible. It makes the record compelling upon first listen, but it reveals new details with each listen, and soon it becomes apparent that with The BendsRadiohead have reinvented anthemic rock”.

 IMAGE CREDIT: Stanley Donwood

Whilst many prefer what Radiohead would create with OK Computer (1997) and Kid A (2000), I prefer The Bends because of the leaps from Pablo Honey and the fact that it hits me harder. OK Computer would bring more electronics and darker tones in but I love the fact that, in 1995, there was nothing like this in British music! Critics were fully on board by 1995 (in this country at least) and Radiohead gained fresh confidence. As this article from Popmatters shows, The Bends was the start of this immense and always-evolving rise:

During the 20 years that followed the 1995 release of the Oxfordshire group's sophomore album, Radiohead didn't just become a highly acclaimed and popular band. Both of those descriptions are accurate, but they're also huge understatements for a band of this stature. With LPs like 1997's OK Computer and particularly 2000's Kid A, Radiohead became icons, rock gods to whom a sea of groups would aspire to. Kid A is often called the definitive record of the '00s; OK Computer regularly dukes it out with works like My Bloody Valentine's Loveless for the same title in the '90s.

This 1995 gem, while representative of Radiohead in a more nascent stage, is still chock full of the things we have come to love about this British quintet: clever guitar riffs, Thom Yorke's high tenor, and lyrics that capture the social isolation so common in a modern technological society”.

Part of the charm of The Bends is the mystery and the cryptic edges. There are so many subjects addressed but is there an overriding truth and theme? Diffuser asked the same questions:

Peel away the levels and layers of ‘The Bends,’ and you’d still have a hard time uncovering the heart of the record. Its elusiveness is part of its appeal. ‘Creep’ was easily digestible within the post-‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ / ‘Loser’ landscape; the songs on ‘The Bends’ less so. They take some work and determination to penetrate their purpose and meaning. Even if you’re not sure what ‘Fake Plastic Trees,’ ‘Just’ and ‘My Iron Lung’ are about, their gorgeously rendered surroundings will pull you in. It’s challenging music but undeniably perceptive”.

The leaps and progression between Pablo Honey and The Bends was immense. Many did not expect such strength from the band. As Consequence of Sound said back in 2015 there was this sense of immense progression and self-discovery:

So what do Radiohead’s undisputed craftsmanship and self-projection add up to here? After all, the one great theme of this work is that it’s thrilling because it’s just so unassuming. An acoustic-sounding guitar, bass, drums, and striking synth harmonically open up lyricism that creates new possibilities for improv. At the time, no one would have dreamed there was anything lyrical or lean coming from a band who two years prior wrote a song called “Anyone Can Play Guitar”. Yorke’s best lines sound less like they’ve been written with force and more like they’ve just seeped from a conversation or personal thought. “You can force it, but it will not come/ You can taste it, but it will not form,” he murmurs on “Planet Telex”. And later, “Everything is broken/ Everyone is broken” finds him flippant without apology, cerebral without warning. “All your insides fall to pieces,” goes the line from “High and Dry”; returning seconds later with a hurt soaked in passive bitterness, he sings: “You will be the one screaming out”.

Radiohead would create grander and more ambitious works but, considering they were on the verge of splitting after their debut album, it is amazing that they managed to produce something as complete and game-changing as The Bends! Aside from the opener, Planet Telex – which I maintain is a poor opener -, the programming is perfect. The Bends is neither top nor bottom-heavy and, instead, you get a great mix. From the title cut coming in second, through to the gentler and more emotive High and Dry and Fake Plastic Trees. Bones arrives and then, almost in the centre, comes another move back to the more tender and soft with (Nice Dream). In the opening half, there are those switches between raucous and intense to the gentler. Two huge hits are covered in the top half – The Bends and Fake Plastic Trees – and (Nice Dream) is kicked away by the mighty Just. My Iron Lung, keeping the quality razor-sharp then follows and, after two intense tracks, Bullet Proof ... I Wish I Was offers something introspective, sobering and heartbreaking. Before that can fully settle in, Black Star and Sulk crank the volume back up and, as we started with something uplifting and electric, there is a more spectral and devastating end: the gorgeous and brilliant Street Spirit (Fade Out).  A brilliant album should start with one of the strongest tracks and, logically, end on the strongest.

Radiohead would have achieved that if they put The Bends as the opening number but one cannot deny it is impossible to follow Street Spirit (Fade Out)! It is a song that takes the breath and sort of drains you – in a very good way. So much ground is covered in eleven tracks and all of them are sequenced so that we get this nice balance of moods and textures. I bet Radiohead never thought, back in 1994, they would be able to create something as enduring and spectacular as The Bends. If you can grab a vinyl copy then do so. It is a wonderful album and, just over twenty-four years after its release, I do wonder whether another band has taken such a leap and, indeed, whether an album as good as it has been released. Many argue Radiohead themselves bettered The Bends but, away from them, I cannot think of anyone who can make such a claim. Listen now and it sounds fresh and inspiring. The beauty and range of Thom Yorke’s voice amazes whilst the band’s huge sonic variety and experimentation adds a huge amount of weight and story to each song. The guitars are unlike anything I had heard at that point and The Bends as a whole was a revelation in British music. It continues to influence musicians and that will be the case for decades to come. If you are new or familiar with 1995’s The Bends, go grab a copy of the album on vinyl, then you can hear the blood, sweat and fears…

IN THIS PHOTO: Radiohead in New York in 1995/PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images/Press

IN a perfect, eye-opening way.

FEATURE: The Peerless and Unique Scott Walker: His Five Best Solo Studio Albums

FEATURE:

 

The Peerless and Unique Scott Walker

IN THIS PHOTO: Scott Walker (circa early-1970s)/PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images/Press 

His Five Best Solo Studio Albums

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MANY great articles have emerged today...

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PHOTO CREDIT: Jamie Hawksworth

that remember and pay tribute to the peerless Scott Walker. His death, at the age of seventy-six, came as a huge shock - and we are not sure of all the details yet. As a musician and human, he was so different to anyone out there and he truly captivated. His wonderful music will continue to inspire and I do hope that many new fans pick up his records and discover this wonderful musician. The voice, to me, is the thing that stands out. Its range, depth and authority made every song – whether with The Walker Brothers or solo - stand out and resonate. It is sad that we have to say goodbye but, in his life, Walker managed to achieve so much and provide incredible songs – they will live through the ages and we will never forget him. There are so many wonderful records from Scott Walker (I recommend you own them all) but, if you want to come down to the top-five solo studio efforts then I have been having a think. Here, in my view, are the definitive solo Scott Walker records that ever fan and new follower...

 PHOTO CREDIT: Steve Pyke

SHOULD seek out.

ALL ALBUM COVERS: Getty Images

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Scott 2

Release Date: March 1968 (U.K.)/July 1968 (U.S.)

Producer: John Franz

Labels: Philips/Smash (U.S.)/Fontana

Key Cuts: Black Sheep Boy/The Girls from the Streets/Windows of the World

Review:

And his own songwriting efforts hold their own in this esteemed company. "The Girls From the Streets" and "Plastic Palace People" show an uncommonly ambitious lyricist cloaked behind the over-the-top, schmaltzy orchestral arrangements, one more interested in examining the seamy underside of glamour and romance than celebrating its glitter. The Brel tune "Next" must have lifted a few teenage mums' eyebrows with its not-so-hidden hints of homosexuality and abuse. Another Brel tune, "The Girl and the Dogs," is less controversial, but hardly less nasty in its jaded view of romance. Some of the material is not nearly as memorable, however, and the over the top show ballad production can get overbearing. The album included his first Top 20 U.K. hit, "Jackie"AllMusic

Standout Track: Jackie

Scott 3

Release Date: March 1969

Producer: John Franz

Labels: Philips/Fontana

Key Cuts: Rosemary/30 Century Man/If You Go Away

Review:

It's not just admirable to see him exploring new musical approaches, but also a reward for us fans to not hear yet another replica of Scott 1. Making the gentle and dreary sound of Scott 3 a welcomed breath of fresh air. Its ominous atmosphere and haunting sounds exude a rather spellbinding effect on the listener, alluring us deeper and deeper into a world of inescapable darkness. But there is a mild sense of optimism that glimmers behind all of the sorrow. One of the techniques that recurs throughout the album is the combination of melancholic orchestrations with Scott Walker's usage of a soothing vocal tone, adding a sense of hope to all of this emotional anguish. Scott 3 may not offer the accessibility of its predecessors, but it does prove that Scott Walker can go beyond the capabilities of the average pop artist. As we find him shifting his venturous instincts into different and utterly dashing shapes"Sputnik Music  

Standout Track: Copenhagen

Scott 4

Release Date: November 1969

Producer: John Franz

Labels: Philips/Fontana

Key Cuts: The World’s Strongest Man/Duchess/Get Behind Me

Review:

Scott 4 contains, for the first time, all original material and was released under the name Noel Scott Engel. The short, breathtaking album displays his full range as a songwriter and performer. The orchestrated arrangements are scaled back, with newly prominent guitars; elements of jazz, folk, country, rock, soul and even choral music add diversity. Some of the lyrical topics are new as well: totalitarianism on "The Old Man's Back Again (Dedicated to the Neo-Stalinist Regime)" and militarism on the sprightly but cynical "Hero of the War." Other highlights include the gloriously melodramatic spaghetti western-style homage to Bergman ("The Seventh Seal"), the rousing "Get Behind Me" and the understated country twang of "Duchess" and "Rhymes of Goodbye." That said, there's not really a weak link among these ten tracks. Unfortunately, what should have been Walker's finest hour heralded the start of a decline as, mysteriously, the album flopped and was soon deleted"Trouser Press   

Standout Track: The Seventh Seal

Tilt

Release Date: 8th May, 1995

Producers: Scott Walker/Peter Walsh

Label: Fontana

Key Cuts: The Cockfighter/Face of Breast/Patriot (A Single)

Review:

"The Cockfighter" is underpinned by an intensity that is almost industrial in its range and raucousness, while "Bouncer See Bouncer" would have quite a catchy chorus if anybody else had gotten their hands on it. Here, however, it is highlighted by an Eno-esque esotericism and the chatter of tiny locusts. The crowning irony, however, is "The Patriot (A Single)," seven minutes of unrelenting funeral dirge over which Walker infuses even the most innocuous lyric ("I brought nylons from New York") with indescribable pain and suffering. Tilt is not an easy album to love; it's not even that easy to listen to. First impressions place it on a plateau somewhere between Nico's Marble Index and Lou Reed's Metal Machine Music -- before long, familiarity and the elitist chattering of so many well-heeled admirers rendered both albums mere forerunners to some future shift in mainstream taste. And maybe that is the fate awaiting Tilt, although one does wonder precisely what monsters could rise from soil so belligerently barren. Even Metal Machine Music could be whistled, after all"AllMusic   

Standout Track: Tilt

Soused (with Sunn O))))

Release Date: 21st October, 2014

Producers: Scott Walker/Peter Walsh

Label: 4AD

Key Cuts: Brando/Bull/Fetish

Review:

Yet Soused is surprisingly melodic, Sunn O))) provide a menacing but rich backdrop to Walker’s distinctive baritone. The sound palette may have changed, but Walker’s lyrics address familiar themes: totalitarian states (a mother hiding her babies from “the goon from the Stasi” in Herod 2014); humankind’s brutality (a crucifixion in Bull); and the movies (the sadomasochistic Brando, with its references to Marlon). And the loneliness of the long-distance pop singer is spelled out on Lullaby, a 1999 Walker song first recorded by Ute Lemper: “The most intimate personal choices and requests central to your personal dignity will be sung” – The Guardian    

Standout Track: Lullaby                        

FEATURE: Another Icon Leaves Us: The Great Scott Walker

FEATURE:

 

Another Icon Leaves Us

IN THIS PHOTO: Scott Walker/ALL PHOTOS/IMAGES: Getty Images/Press

The Great Scott Walker

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IN the last few moments...

news has broken regarding the death of Scott Walker. It is not long since we said goodbye to Dick Dale and Keith Flint and it seems like another icon has left us. I saw the news reported by 4AD and it has been shared on social media. They report the following:

It is with great sadness that we announce the death of Scott Walker.  Scott was 76 years old and is survived by his daughter, Lee, his granddaughter, Emmi-Lee, and his partner Beverly.

For half a century, the genius of the man born Noel Scott Engel has enriched the lives of thousands, first as one third of The Walker Brothers, and later as a solo artist, producer and composer of uncompromising originality. 

Scott Walker has been a unique and challenging titan at the forefront of British music: audacious and questioning, he has produced works that dare to explore human vulnerability and the godless darkness encircling it. 

Noel Scott Engel was born in 1943, the son of an Ohio geologist.  He began his career as a session bassist, changing his name when he joined The Walker Brothers.  The 1960s trio enjoyed a meteoric rise, especially in Britain, where hits like 'The Sun Ain't Gonna Shine Anymore’ attracted a following to rival that of The Beatles.

But the superstar lifestyle and fame was not for Scott.  As an only child, he had grown up in the kind of rich, slow solitude in which imagination could flourish, and he retreated from the limelight, returning as a solo artist to release a string of critically acclaimed albums, Scott, Scott 2, Scott 3 and Scott 4.  He disappeared until the late 1970’s, when The Walker Brothers re-joined for their last album together and then a solo album in the 80’s.

Another long silence and Scott then re-emerged in the 90’s and onwards with lyric-driven works that deconstructed music into elemental soundscapes.  Drawing on politics, war, plague, torture, and industrial harshness, Scott’s apocalyptic epics used silence as well as real-world effects and pared-back vocals to articulate the void.  Sometimes gothic and eerie, often sweepingly cinematic, always strikingly visual, his works reached for the inexpressible, emerging from space as yearnings in texture and dissonance. 

From teen idol to cultural icon, Scott leaves to future generations a legacy of extraordinary music; a brilliant lyricist with a haunting singing voice, he has been one of the most revered innovators at the sharp end of creative music, whose influence on many artists has been freely acknowledged.  The scope and dynamism of his vision have added dimension to both film and dance, and he has stunned audiences with music whose composition transcends genre, and whose sheer originality defies pigeonholing. 

In her foreword to Sundog, the 2017 volume of Scott’s lyrics, novelist Eimear McBride had this to say of the musician’s remarkable contribution:

“Walker’s work, as Joyce’s before it, is a complex synaesthesia of thought, feeling, the doings of the physical world and the weight of foreign objects slowly ground together down into diamond.  It is Pinter-esque in its menace but never shies from naked emotion... This is work that does not speak of danger, it feels like it.” 

In 2017, the BBC paid tribute to Scott with a Proms concert at London’s Royal Albert Hall.

We are honoured to have worked with Scott for the last 15 years of his life”.

It is another bleak day for music and, as we have just gotten through the horror of losing a couple of huge names, we have to do the same again. Few of us realised Walker was ill so this news has come out of the blue. To me, his voice and music is like nothing else and, in a world where there are few unique artists, his death leaves a very big hole. To me, Scott 2, is his best album and that 1968 treasure defines who Walker is as an artist. The sheer passion and gravitas in his voice; the way he articulates and the passion he brings to every performance – will we ever see his like again? The man was definitely a character and, whether he was disguising himself so he could watch a gig unrecognised or on the stage and singing to adoring masses, there was nobody like him, that is for sure. It is sad we have to pay tribute to another artist but, if you have not heard of Walker, make sure you do check him out. His music has inspired scores of other artists and it is impossible to say just how far his legacy and name spreads. Details will come through but it is another black day for music and one where we have to see a legend pass. It is a good time to revisit Walker’s rich catalogue and remind ourselves why he is regarded as one of the finest voices ever. Many will pay tribute to him today but, if you can, play the great man’s music and his incredible voice will take you…

SOMEWHERE wonderful…

FEATURE: Bringing It into Focus: Crediting the Great Photographers Who Make Artists Look Great

FEATURE:

 

Bringing It into Focus

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PHOTO CREDIT: @kit96/Unsplash

Crediting the Great Photographers Who Make Artists Look Great

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THERE have been a few occasions over...

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 PHOTO CREDIT: @zaccastravels/Unsplash

the past few weeks where photography and accreditation has been thrust into my world. A couple of weeks back, rather randomly, I was approached via email by someone who stated I used his photograph for an article. To be fair, I did, and it was years ago. I shall not name him or the article but it was a shot of a band I found on Google that I needed to fill a space. I was looking around to see who took the photo and, although the shot appeared on a few different pages/blogs I could not find the name of the credited photographer. Of course, like every shot I use, I always try and find a name that I can credit and make sure that I do not let that slip. On this occasion, it was difficult to do so I just labelled it, I think, ‘Getty Images’ – it seemed like a press shot and, if I could find a name later, I would add it in. I had been warned by some that photographers are pretty protective and many can get quite angry when it comes to this sort of thing. Suffice to say, the email(s) I received were not that warm and, actually, legal action was threatened – the man, as he said, decided not to do that as he was a nice guy (that slipped me by!). I could appreciate his point regarding his work: if you use someone’s photo then you need to ask or pay for it.

 PHOTO CREDIT: @charleypangus/Unsplash

He kept going on about me stealing from him and it was like I was taking cash from his wallet. The fact I do not earn money from anything I publish means I would not have been making money and, if I asked for permissions for a non-commercial publication, it would be unfair to charge me to pay for a single photo like that. That particular arse-wipe was a bit of an anomaly when it comes to photographers. Another time, last week, I was sitting in a coffee shop right next to BBC’s Broadcasting House and I heard a group of photographers talk about companies like British Airways using their photos without permission. This one bloke was particularly vocal about the matter and how they did not approach him regarding commercial release; he would have provided a fee estimate and worked that out. He was pretty passionate about his corner and I could agree with him. If you have a big organisation that is using photos for big campaigns and making money from it then it seems unfair that they would take it for free. I do not know how that issue was resolved but I think there was some sort of challenge. Most of the interactions I have had with photographers has been pretty positive. In a lot of cases, they will email me a link to their website and ask that it be added.

 PHOTO CREDIT: @glennvandewiel/Unsplash

I always look for this but, on some occasions, I just include the name of a photographer without linking through to their website – that is my bad. They are happy for a shot to be used because it gives them more exposure and brings people their way. It is heartwarming when they are pretty tolerant and nice and, in fact, we all just want to make great work and give credit where it is due. I would be a bit annoyed if someone used my words to sell a product and made money but, if there was any other situation, that would be okay. Unless it was libellous or offensive, it would be great to see my words used elsewhere. The angry photographer, when emailing, suggested – in a rather snarky way – that I take my own photos and I would not run into situations. It is impossible for journalists to publish pieces and take their own photos. We rely on these professional shots for our work and, of course, cannot afford to do it ourselves – nor do we have the skills or time to go photo every artist we interview (in many cases, a lot of photos are about older acts and it is impossible to snap them). I can understand the fervour and anger when photos are used either uncredited or unpaid but most people do not do it deliberately – I always endeavour to give credit and make sure I am not ripping people off.

PHOTO CREDIT: @freestocks/Unsplash 

I have an enormous amount of respect for music photographers because they are the unsung heroes of the industry. Look at all the great shots out there and it is amazing to see how many timeless and eye-opening examples there are. Whether capturing a unique live moment or creating these ornate and cool portraits, the photographer is an essential cog in the music machine. Were it not for them then music would be so much duller and many artists would not get as far as they have. I see so many big websites not credited photographers and, whilst it is wrong of them, it makes me think about my situation. It is unreasonable and impossible for me to pay for every photo I use – as I use hundreds every month – but making sure that, where possible, photographers are credited is key. If I worked in a business where we profited from these images then I would make sure, in every case, photographers were being paid: it is not feasible for smaller blogs and people like me to stump that up and do this. I do agree, to a degree, with the angry photographers who are doing this hard work and then not getting credit. Think about the other side and journalists who never get paid and are trying to make this great work. They are never willingly looking to fleece anyone but, at the same time, everyone needs to respect that representation and credit is required. To be fair, I have only ever faced a few photographers in the last seven years and most are very nice.

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 PHOTO CREDIT: @hannynaibaho/Unsplash

As I said, most are looking to have their work spread and they want more people to see what they do – having their images on other sites allows people to do that. I do think that we overlook photographers and assume that they are inessential in these times of Instagram. Everyone can take their own shots and, every day, we see an ocean of images uploaded to social media. There is a big difference between those amateur snappers who can put a filter on something and call it a photo and those who have dedicated their careers to capturing the finest shots around. Whether they are a newcomer photographer or work for a big publication, I am always stunned by the quality I see. I think, the more we can take photos easily, the less they are valued. So many people think that photographers are not required but look at the quality and imagination they bring and tell me that! Whether it is a booked shoot or someone takes photos at a gig, the process and expense is obvious. The photographer has their great gear – that costs many and is not cheap – and then they need to pay for travel and, a lot of times, tickets for the gig. They need to then take a few shots to get that perfect one and, after that, edit and post it online.

 PHOTO CREDIT:@yulokchan/Unsplash

It is a long process and one that costs them money – I do wonder how much profit there is when it comes to being a photographer. Consider all the realities then one can understand why there is frustration when someone sort of pinches their images. It is a hard situation because, on the one hand, you do not want to deny anyone credit and money but, again, there is an absolute need to use images and journalists cannot be without them. More often than not, when I have emailed a photographer asking for permission, they never respond. Once or twice, I contact them on Twitter and might get a response but it is often very hard. Most photographer are very gracious and nice so, if you are unsure, contact them and say what you are doing and whether it is okay to use an image – they are very warm and just want their work credited. I always look to hunt down the source and ensure that I give credit. The music industry is in a bad place and, with venues closing and everyone being able to take photos, one wonders how easy it is for photographers to thrive. I do not make any money from my work and wonder, with so little money available via advertising, how it is possible to sustain and be ambitious.

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 PHOTO CREDIT: @5tep5/Unsplash

I have nothing but respect and solidarity for all the great photographers who make musicians come alive and reveal new sides. There are great articles that explore the relationship between photography and art; how some are professional and, to others, music photography is a hobby. In any case, we must ensure that all the fine work is given credit and, going forward, bring into focus how easy it is to use images. I am always uncomfortable when I cannot find a credit but, knowing how good the shot is, feel compelled to use it. It does bother me but there are endless sites and portals where one can get the same image and it seems like a bit of an impossible situation. I am not suggesting we go as far as making sure every image posted online is posted via a website where it gives credit and provides contact details of the photographer – you need to either credit them or contact them first. I have seen some pretty big sites not provide adequate credit so I feel like some system needs to come in.

 PHOTO CREDIT: @jan_strecha/Unsplash

If in doubt – and there is no credit – then track down the photographer and send them a quick email. Most do not charge and, for the most part as I said, they are all very nice. I endeavour to be as ethical and responsible as I possibly can and I know full well how hard it is to succeed and profit in an industry when so much is being given away. I feel that pinch so, if the boot were on the other foot, then I would be displeased. If you need a great photo for free then there are sites like Unsplash - https://unsplash.com/ - where you can grab them. This is the site I have used for the images for this piece and alongside each image there is a credit (making it nice and easy). If you have read this and feel that photography is a challenge and a harsh career then do not fear. It is a great medium and such a rewarding path. It is hard to make money at first but I know so many photographers who started on humble ground and are now taking images for some huge musicians. It is a great profession and one where you can reveal new sides to an artist. That sense of achievement is immense and you can make a good living from it. These are difficult times for everyone so I can appreciate frustration that comes from photographers when their images are used and we do not name-check them.

 PHOTO CREDIT: @danedeaner/Unsplash

I am minded to be more conscientious and aware but, going forward, what happens when there is a perfect image and I cannot find a name for?! The smart thing to do is to leave it but it worries me that there are so many shots being shared and, at no point, is anyone credited. I have seen the same happen for articles and features: someone will quote from someone else and not say who; hog the credit themselves and lift someone’s words. At the end of things, photographers are as important as anyone in music and they do sterling work. I love seeing all the hot new photographers emerging and how brilliant their work is. Without them, journalism would be poorer and we need to start respecting that. The odd brutal and unpleasant communication from a photographer seems like a small hit if it makes people like me more aware of what their lives are like. Similarly, nobody is trying to steal and be sneaky: we are all putting out work and doing our best to make sure we do not under-cut and steal. My features and interviews would not be the same were it not for the fantastic photographers who provide these rare and extraordinary snaps! They do brilliant work so let’s make sure we give them credit where it’s due. Think about all the great photos out there of established, iconic and newcomer artists and wonder where the music industry would be...

 PHOTO CREDIT: @photified/Unsplash

WITHOUT photographers.

FEATURE: Darkness on the Edge of Town: Can Other Musicians Follow Bruce Springsteen's Broadway Hit?

FEATURE:

 

Darkness on the Edge of Town

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IN THIS PHOTO: Bruce Springsteen/PHOTO CREDIT: Danny Clinch for Variety  

Can Other Musicians Follow Bruce Springsteen’s Broadway Hit?

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ALTHOUGH the acclaimed Springsteen on Broadway...

 PHOTO CREDIT: Larry Busacca/Getty Images for NARAS

finished its run on 15th December – held at the Walter Kerr Theatre in New York – it is on my mind and I am still seeing article relating to its impact and reception. The residency consisted of Bruce Springsteen performing five shows per week from Tuesday though to Saturday. Previews began back in October 2017 and the ticket demand was so high that the show ran through 2018. There was talk, on 16th June, 2017, that Springsteen would be performing this small run of shows that brought his work to the stage. He stated that, during the residency, he wanted to achieve something intimate and personal; a show that was perfect for a beautiful and established theatre. There would be none of the usual glitz and atmosphere of a big arena: instead, Springsteen would cut a slightly modest figure performing his music in a rather modest and humble space. The show sort of divides between spoken word and singing. It is sort of a mix between a play and regular gig; something that is not often attempted. One associates Springsteen with these epic shows that pack in thousands; him belting out hits and receiving the sort of rapture that is reserved for a select few. Not that Springsteen on Broadway is the man in a book shop reading quietly where people casually listen. It is, in any case, a rare type of show for someone so established.

Over the past few years, Springsteen has spoken about his battles with depression and struggles. There are books detailing the stories behind his songs and one can read the man talk about his life in a very honest and open fashion. In essence, Springsteen on Broadway is the master sort of mixing his catalogue with revelations and stories. Many saw the show and many, including The Guardian enjoyed it thoroughly:

Springsteen, famous for changing his set lists every night, has stayed on script. He stays in control of exactly how much he reveals, but does lift the veil, describing his whole career as “my magic trick” as he admits the artifice of his persona – the working guy who has never set foot in a factory, the rebel who was born to run, but lives 10 minutes from the town where he grew up.

At first, it is a simple run through his life story, interspersed with solo versions of career-spanning songs, Bruce alone at the piano, or centre stage with a battered acoustic guitar.

But as he moves from the narrow view of childhood, parents and hometown, his scope widens to take in America as he makes the case for the seriousness of the job he set himself, trying to both capture and account for his country. Born in the USA, once hijacked as a nationalistic rallying cry on the presidential trail by Ronald Reagan, is played as the raw protest song it was always intended to be.

People who have seen the show more than once say it has evolved as Springsteen relaxed into the material, becoming funnier and more topical”.

There was, after the show and its acclaim, a film on Netflix that captured his show/performance. Billboard talked in detail about it and what one could expect:

The film follows the structure and song sequence of the Broadway show. But that sequence shifted slightly, late in the Broadway run, as Springsteen added “Long Time Comin’” to his performance. In the Netflix film, Springsteen’s rendition of the song follows a description of a late-life reconciliation with his beloved but troubled father, on the eve of the birth of his own first child—a story which has the singer wiping away tears.

If “Born To Run” is the inevitable closer for Springsteen On Broadway, that song also contains a lyric that truly sums up the quest of Springsteen and his fans most fundamentally: “I want to know if love is real.” As the song concludes, the singer slowly, rhythmically taps the body of his black acoustic guitar, creating a heartbeat, as the stage fades to black.

What’s remarkable is that, in the age of streaming, this keenly personal document will be instantly available to a potential audience of 130 million in 190 countries, according to Netflix. When you consider that Springsteen’s 14-month tour of arenas and stadiums between January 2016 and February 2017 reached some 2.5 million fans, the promise of the Netflix platform is clear”.

There is a new Bruce Springsteen film coming and it seems like things are pretty active in his camp. I wanted to concentrate on Springsteen appearing on Broadway because it is unusual but, as reviews and audiences have shown, very popular.

 IN THIS PHOTO: Bruce Springsteen onstage during a special performance of Springsteen on Broadway at the Walter Kerr Theatre on 14th March, 2018 in New York City/PHOTO CREDIT: Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for SiriusXM

Springsteen is often judged on his songs and people try and get a sense of who he is from them. We can get a sense of who is through his great numbers but interviews give a better impression of what he is about. It can be hard collating it all and, unless you read his autobiography, you might miss out. Even then, it might be difficult to bring things to life and unite his great music with his story. The remarkable revelation of Springsteen opening up on stage and creating this intimate-yet-powerful stage-show is inspiring. It has not happened that often but, given its success, one wonders whether more artists should try this. It is not as intimidating and impersonal as a gig but there is more story and life than a regular play/discussion. There are so many icons in the music world and very few have brought their stories to the stage. I have talked a lot about Madonna recently – regarding Like a Prayer turning thirty – and it seems like Springsteen-style show would really suit her music/story. How about Paul McCartney taking all his music to Broadway and sprinkling in anecdotes?! I think these two artists would be a huge smash and, whilst they are busy right now, a little way down the line might be a possibility. We are in a time when technology plays a big role and we have to accept rather ghoulish phenomenon like musical holograms – Roy Orbison has been brought to life that way; Amy Winehouse, sadly, might be on stage as a hologram/holographic image very soon.

The intimacy and simplicity of a great musician uniting theatre and live performance seems rare in this time. In a way, we get to reveal layers and to the heart of someone who, through songs and fame, can seem somewhat mysterious and oblique. One can write their own top-five lists of artists who could succeed in a similar environment and follow The Boss to the stage. Bob Dylan seems like an obvious name to include and I would love to hear Joni Mitchell talk about her early life and experience recording her album, Blue. It is thrilling imagining the legendary musicians who could appear on stage in the U.S./U.K. and what their show would look like. Bruce Springsteen is not the first artist to melt music and storytelling on the stage but, as I said, it is not that common in these times. I often think we digest music at such a rate and, even if we have such a passion for someone, do we take time to consider the songs or think about what the words mean? Past that, do we wonder where the artist came from and what drives them? Springsteen’s Broadway show attracted those who were not even huge fans of The Boss – curious to know more about a man who has helped change music. I have mentioned a few artists that would be great for a Springsteen-type show and, as we head through the year, surely others will be thinking about it.

 IN THIS PHOTO: Joni Mitchell photoed for New York Magazine in 2015/PHOTO CREDIT: Norman Jean Roy

The reason why Bruce Springsteen’s hit captured the imagination is because we got to see a more personal and intimate side of an artist known for a certain bombast, passion and energy. So many gigs, even from huge artists, do not have a lot of chat between songs and you do not really get a sense of how tracks came to be and who the artist is away from the stage. There are artists who do a Las Vegas residency – such as Elton John and Lady Gaga – but that is going in the other direction: a much more theatrical and glitzy show. Stripping away the layers and lights; having this different setting brings something new from artists we have not seen before. I love Bruce Springsteen’s work and wish I could have been in the Broadway audience. Now that the show has been performed and broadcast, many have a new fondness for Springsteen and he has recruited many new fans. I cannot wait to see where the ripples head and which other artists step in the same direction as the legendary Springsteen. We all know him from huge hits such as Born in the U.S.A., Born to Run and Dancing in the Dark but how much do we understand of the man behind the classics? If you can see Springsteen on Broadway then do as it is a magnificent thing and revelatory show! It seems like The Boss himself loved the experience and I hub it rubs off...

ON other artists.