Braver than Fiction
King of Crows
Three of King of Crows tracks are available from:
King of Crows (Live)- 9.3/10
Candle-blind (Live)- 9.4
Mr. Jones (Fear of Falling) (Live)- 9.5
Once Bitten, Twice Shy (Live)- 9.6
Once Bitten, Twice Shy (Live)
Yellow Arch Studios, Sheffield
ALL SONGS BY:
Braver than Fiction
Folk, Blues-Rock, Alternative, Soul
Limited editions of their E.P.s are selling like very hot cakes. It not hard to see why Braver than Fiction are in such demand: King of Crows is a phenomenal work from one of the steel city’s most startling new bands. This is music designed to amaze and seduce- why deny yourself the pleasure?
MY featured band impressed me hugely…
when I got in touch with them a week ago. I need to bring up a music-related point, but will address one key issue: online representation. It is a debate point I have flung around like a tattered feather bower: this will not be the last time I will be raising it- so many bands are culpable of a sin of omission. The best way to promote your music; get the fans into your tent; ensure you are shared and adored- is to get your online pages sorted and cemented. By this, I mean having a full and thorough visibility. Too many new bands- being a little naive and ill-equipped- tend to come onto the scene with a basic Facebook page: perhaps a few social media sites are covered- as a whole- there is scant to see and witness. Most people- reading this- may feel that it is no big deal: who cares if the media output is sparse- so long as the music is top quality? In addition to the music not always being that good, you need to make sure people can find you- there is no point in being fantastic if you are borderline-anonymous. Too much compartmentalisation and self-regard mandates and defines Facebook- few people share bands and music beyond their own borders. With this in mind, bands need to utilise the Internet fully- get their name spread across it as far and wide. Braver than Fiction understand this vital component: their official site is one of the most impressive I have seen; detailed and eye-catching it gives you everything you could possibly desire- offering a lot more outside of this. They have Facebook, Twitter, SoundCloud and Bandcamp pages- meaning their music is available in multiple destinations- plus plenty of other sites. If you need to be kept abreast of tours dates; new goings-on- then you have no chance of missing out. Music is a hugely competitive and cut-throat business: if you show signs of weakness or effortlessness, then you will be crushed and spat out. Our band show some keen sight and clear ambition: their music is even more startling than their online portfolio. Hailing from Yorkshire- I swear I’ll stop reviewing the county some day- it is not a shock that another gem has been thrown up- most of the U.K.’s finest acts come from these parts. Before I raise my final point, let me introduce the band to you:
“We choose not to haemorrhage every note we conceive across the wonderful world of social media but, we do have an insatiable predilection for playing live, at every possible opportunity. In search of a faithful echo to reflect this passion, we challenged ourselves to record all four tracks for our first EP live, on the same day. If you are looking for a recording that has been picked apart and scoured to death in production you are going to be disappointed. Aside from some minimal but entirely necessary tweaks, this is an authentic portrayal of how Braver than Fiction actually sound – up close and personal. We hope that you enjoy it and that you will be encouraged to venture out to one of our gigs and support the live scene!
“So who is this sturdy-legged bunch of troubadours from the damp, industrial north of England? Braver than Fiction formed as a studio (that really means living room) project in the summer of 2013 and quickly recorded their debut track, “Your Little Fantasy” which they duly uploaded to t’interwebs and wandered off to have a pie. Until Paul’s arrival, Adam had enjoyed the lofty position of ‘tallest band member’ which actually meant that he was the one who’s oxygen levels usually returned to normal the fastest after hiking his bass and amp’ up eight flights of steps to Braver than Fiction’s rehearsal room. To be fair, he could take on more than one step at a time though. Maybe it’s because he’s so tall and his bass is so far away from his face that has made Adam so dexterously brilliant a musician (honestly, he’s got music degrees and everything); it’s a long way down to check what your fingers are doing so it’s best to make sure you are really, really good – then you don’t have to try to keep looking at your hands. What is more, Adam’s just as good on guitar as well as bass. So is Paul and…guess what? So is Braver than Fiction’s keyboard player, Jason (who is also of an adequately, manly physique and thus, does not have to struggle to change a light bulb). In fact, all of the band can play more than one instrument with varying degrees of skill but nevertheless, competently enough. It’s not a circus though (well, not all of the time) and most of the band stick with playing just one instrument at a time – even the multi-talented Jason, the ‘Rick Wakeman of Barnsley’ (he works in Barnsley – it’s a long story) and who is not only not from Sheffield but is from deep, down in the mysterious south-west of England. Nevertheless, the band still needs a guitarist and that’s where Martin, the newest victim arrival to Braver than Fiction’s line-up, comes in! Having recently satisfied the band’s ‘unofficial’ multi-instrumentalist and height criteria, Martin (who is also a professional measurer-upper) quickly fitted in with the rest of the Braver than Fiction members, augmenting their sound with both his electric and acoustic guitar savoir-faire. He’s another interloper though – Sheffield-based now, Martin has spent a good deal of his life in Hull but has not absorbed the accent and annunciates his H’s perfectly. As the principal songwriter and lead vocalist with the band, Mel’s passionate and sometimes downright disconcerting lyrics coupled with her distinctive, husky delivery are unquestionably a significant component of Braver than Fiction’s instantly recognisable sound. Even though she is a classically-trained musician, as Mel is dyslexic, dyscalculic and synesthetic she favours a more abstract approach to her craft. She can often be found waving her arms around, illustrating musical concepts in terms of kaleidoscopic, cross-sensory metaphors to the rest of Braver than Fiction; they deal with it. So as different as they all are, this mad mix should probably not work but nevertheless, does work and it is obviously working bloody well. Braver than Fiction’s swift inclusion onto the playlists of radio and venue DJs worldwide, strong social media following and clear love of live music have given them a great start and 2014 is looking to be a phenomenal year for this outstanding band. The unholy fusion of Braver than Fiction’s members’ diverse industry backgrounds, individual creative influences and musical styles is undoubtedly the fuel that fires their unique sound and has everybody who hears them talking! Together, they enjoy a wealth of experience and Mel’s collection of hats has been known to cause a stir, as well. However, the way that this collective works on any of their compositions, each according to their singular flair but simultaneously in synch, reveals a fascinatingly organic process. Comparisons have been drawn with the grotesque glamour of Tom Waits and the dysfunctional ‘family’ of Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours incarnation but, Braver than Fiction are still evolving. Although ‘alternative rock’ seems to be the closest genre fit, this extraordinary band continues to resist being pressed into any kind of predictable musical mould – for now…”
Braver than Fiction are a fascinating band indeed. Lovers of live music, Beatles vinyl, Japanese horror films and pasty-eating- they are a group with ounces of personality and appeal. Having a universal charm and huge sense of ambition, they have already won over quite a few hearts. The release of King of Crows is likely to see the band rise to prominence and get their names fully out there- it is a collection that is packed with marvellous sounds and lyrics. The title itself beckons images of darker themes and evocative images: with the likes of Tom Waits, Soundgarden and The Libertines counting as idols (and inspiration), the music they provide is a tantalising mix of ’70s Folk, U.S. Blues-Rock and British Indie. Idols and influences are an important factor- when it comes to forging your own sound- and can go a long way to determining its overall quality: the best artists and bands that have ever come have been inspired by the greatest names before them. I shall go into more depth about the subject below- detailing Braver than Fiction’s sources of inspiration- but I find that few new acts are taking the trouble to delve back into music- taking their minds back in time and explore something unexpected and unique. A lot of new artists lazily comb around the current scene- whatever artists are making waves, that tends to enforce their drive and direction. Braver than Fiction have a clear love for some of the most tantalising music of the past: melting rare and beautiful combinations, their sounds are among the most unexpected and golden around- few bands project such an originality and sense of intrigue. You do not have to replicate other acts and artists- in order to distinguish yourself- but there is so much that has come before- expand your horizons and allow music’s true wonder to hit you. Before I move on, I will finish up on this point. Too few new musicians tend to go the extra mile: ensure that every part of their name and music is as compelling and possible. It may sound a little unfair; we are still seeing loads of new bands and solo acts come through- sounding very much like others that came before. This year- above all else- has stuck in my mind because of the quality new musicians are providing- it is a shame that there are still quite a few artists that fall short. The only way you are going to thrive and inspire is to impress from the off- not leave anything to chance or circumstance. Braver than Fiction understand the essentialness of this point: the passion and purpose that their music promotes is enough to win over the most cold-hearted and resilient. It is probably apt that I get down to business..
Your Little Fantasy is the band’s previous song- a number they are very proud of indeed. Released back in October of last year, it is a confident and compelling insight (into Mel Lampro’s songwriting mind). It is a very different-sounding beast- to the work they are producing now- which makes their development that much more impressive. Here, we begin with Folk-tinged and rushing strings. Kicking up a hell of a jam, Led Zeppelin III‘s Folk moments blend with an impressively tight and compelling band performance. Lampro’s vocal is direct and determined. It has a consistency and drive- matching the dimension of the composition- that brings her words to life. Shades of The Bends-era Radiohead see punchy and taut percussive notes back some vivid and distinct oupoutings. Lampro’s huge talent for words stands out along the track. The lyrics are sharp and evocative: looking at the song’s heroine, she hides her sting behind her “honey mouth.” Whilst she wears a new colour and shade (every day)- trapping men into her web- she “hides razors in her hair.” The song looks at a two-faced woman who has her fun; gets her way- before backstabbing and double-crossing. Most modern songwriters would fill similar songs with less eye for detail: Lampro’s words bring scenes to life; her choice of topics and images are mesmerising and heady- it is an emphatic and impressive cut from the band. It is perhaps the lyrics that stand out most- on Your Little Fantasy. The biggest development one can see- on their newest work- is a fuller and more nourished sound. The lyrics are perhaps even more impressive- if you can believe it. Lampro incorporates more vulnerability and tenderness here- the anxiety and fear is projected inwards on King of Crows. Once Bitten, Twice Shy sees the vocals more powerful and full- imbued with soulful regalness, they are incredibly captivating and urgent. Few would have expected quite a transformation and evolution from our heroine- her lungs open; her pipes seduce in a riot of beauty and sensuality. The song looks at a breaking relationship; the duo fight to get along- the track sees Blues-Rock notes mingle with Soul, Folk and Jazz cores- it is one of the band’s most impressively alluring and memorable numbers. The great live feeling of the E.P. brings the songs to life: their modern music has a greater sense of atmosphere and directness- you would swear you are right there in the studio as the tracks are being laid down. With Candle-blind’s impressive, byzantine (and mysterious words) burrowing into your brain, another sexy and seductive diamond is discovered. My Jones (Fear of Falling) has harder edges and hurried vocals: the projection is more flowing and rushed- a certain feeling of lust throughout. Euphemism and licking-lipped lines see our heroine direct to Mr. Jones: wanting to have him three times a day, he is what the doctor ordered. The band have come on leaps and bounds since last year- it may be unfair to say as Your Little Fantasy is just one song. As impressive and wonderful as their beginnings were, King of Crows sees the five-piece step up their game and really come into their own. I adore the sound that they have cemented and perfected: songs are more rounded and captivating; your mind is transported somewhere special and safe. The band is very much coming into their own in 2014- I wonder just what they have in store for the coming year. You can hear the confidence and assuredeness in their tracks; the performances are incredibly detailed and tight- the words cannot be compared to any others out there; special and distinct as they are.
This is usually the juncture where I compare a band (or artist to other acts)- today it is going to be very hard to that. Fewer more original acts have come to my attentions; the band manage to summon up their very particular blend of music. Commentators have pointed to the music’s timelessness; the ageless and wordly beauty of the messages poured forth- the incredible performances and nuanced compositions. In that sense, Braver than Fiction cannot really be linked with anyone else. In their newer work- throughout the E.P.- there is a great amount of soulfulness and heart to be found. The first comparison I would levy is towards Aretha Franklin. It may sound like a peculiar name (to mention)- when assessing an Indie-Rock/Blues-Rock bands (with Folk edges). The lush and sensual vocals- tied to powerful and blood rush sonics- put me in mind of the Soul queen. The way Lampro’s voice captivates and powers through the songs- a definite essence of Franklin’s voice comes in. Our heroine has adapted it and instilled her particular stamp; providing a more raw and sensual sense of atmopshere- it is one of the most distinct and striking facets the band have at their disposal. It is noit just the vocals- that put me in mind of Franklin- the lyrics have a similar emotive and open nature. Aretha Franklin’s early-’70s cuts- Call Me, Don’t Play That Song (You Lied), Day Dreaming etc.- come to my thoughts: the shivering and entranced feeling one gets- when hearing the tracks- takes your breath away. Franklin is a mistress of dreaminess, reflection and Funk-ladden emotion. When she brought our her pen- to testament her struggles and feelings- some of her most empowered and vulnerable sentiments poured forth. Lampro’s talent for elegance, poetry and evocative songwriting can be compared to Franklin’s early work- our heroine has the potential to be a huge future Soul icon. Franklin infused groove and Funk-inspired touches to her music: giving it a fuller body and sense of momentum, her intoxicating compositions captivated a generation of listeners. Braver than Fiction has an affection for Funk and grooving jams: although their songs look at romance and feelings of upheaval, they ensure that their music is as developed, layered and energised as they can- swelling your heart and making your body move in the process. Some people have compared the band with Tom Waits; his glamour and grotesque blend- cementing his reputation as one of the world’s greatest songwriters- can certainly be seen in Braver than Fiction’s work. It would be a stretch to compare Waits’ gravelled and whiskey-gargling pipes with that of the Sheffield band- that WOULD take a hell of a talent- yet the lyrics and music contain some of Waits’ magic. His early albums like Blue Valentine signalled a stylistic shift- previous albums were compounded by a focused and rigid personality. Blue Valentine introduced a Blues-orientated feel; expounding barroom philosophy, Waits looked at the crawling underbelly of the city- examining the crawlers and creeps; he also looks at love and fracturing. Gorgeously tender moments mixed with swampy, down-low zings- Braver than Fiction has a similarly packed and impressive audio palette. Our heroine’s songbook draws in a range of odd avenues and disreputable types- wrapped up in her stunning and unwavering voice. When Waits presented Swordfishtrombones (in 1983), he infused more horns and brass sections. Whilst Braver than Fiction do not inject as many Jazz and symphonic touches into their music, Waits’ mid-career gem saw surreal and byzantine stories pervade- taking the listener to some unexpected and peculiar climbs. Like Waits, Braver than Fiction can trade dirty blues tirade (and vivid lyrics) with ravaged vocals and gorgeous melodies- throw in some unexpected time signatures and uniquely quirky instrumental touches, and you can hear 1983 Waits in Braver than Fiction (throughout the tracks of King of Crows). I am a huge fan of Waits’ current work- Bad as Me- that showcases a more turbocharged and poisoned tongue- themes of war and governmental screw-jobs define the disc. Game-changing, focused and badass, the album is raucous and ragged- it would be fascinating to see whether future B.T.F. become more gin-soaked and disaffected. Such is the mobility and evolution of their music, I wouldn’t put it past them. British influence arrives in the form of Fleetwood Mac (I know they are part-American; hang semantics). Reviewers have noted how the discontented ‘marriage’ of Fleetwood shines; their civil war one-upmanship spats come through in Braver’s music. Although our band are solid and immovable, they ellict some of Rumour’s magic. That album employed tattered and anxious love songs; splendidly honest and uninhibited proffering- the quality of the music was never surpassed by the band. King of Crows showcases that unbeatable combination of dysfunction and unity- music that looks at fragmentation and on-the-rocks endings; beautiful and brotherly uplift. The band Acoustic-Folk-cum-Alternative sounds have inspired Braver than Fiction: with a gift for full and evocative compositions, the Sheffield troupe are masters of enthralling and deep soundscapes- that demand repeated listens and a dedicated ear. When Lampro allows her voice to combine sweetness and rawer sexuality, she evokes the spirits of Stevie Nicks and Christine McVie- the former’s feline and intoxicating prowess; the latter’s more sensual and delicate projections (are embodied in Lampro’s wide and ranging pipes). She can summon up blues majesty and triumph; distill Fleetwood Mac’s most memorable moments- whilst presenting them in a very special and unexpected way. Led Zeppelin can be detected in the band’s music. That timelessness is something that defines Zeppelin’s body of work- they are a band that will never go without fans and adoring followers. Robert Plant’s soulfulness and lion-roared vocals made albums like Led Zeppelin III such works of genius- mixing Folk with Blues-Rock, I can detect some of this in Braver than Fiction. When they allow the guitar to wail and swagger, you detect hints of Tangerine, Celebration Day and Gallows Pole. Plant’s knack of mixing baroque, surreal and mystical themes- into cohesive and inspiring songs- is updated by Braver than Fiction. Their songs are as capable of expounding the virtues of love and loyalty; comfortable when stepping into mysterious realms and scenes- encapsulated in a riot of staggering sounds. The final trio of names I will introduce is Laura Marling, Leonard Cohen and Joni Mitchell. Notable for their lyrical genius, these three artists cover a wide spectrum of genres, decades and moods. Marling’s poetic and intelligent themes have anger and accusation at heart; a sense of loneliness and longing- the way she employs her words (and shows her feelings) is her most impressive weapon. Cohen’s darker intellect scored scenes of depression, death and ageing- that distinctive croon made every one of his words urgent and unforgettable. Mitchell’s intoxicating and wonderous wordplay (and lyrical genius) marked her out as one of the most impressive singer-songwriters of all-time- her legacy has not dimmed or diminished. Braver than Fiction’s songs marry intellectual and well-considered tales; vibrant and stark moments; phenomenal scenes and stand-out lines. The band is evolving (and hard to pigeon-hole): their music is near-impossible to compare with too many others. Such is their sense of individuation and emancipation, that you catch the most fleeting whiffs of others. That said, the above are a pretty good overview and guide- if you have any of these acts in your record collection, then add Braver than Fiction to it.
The title track is the first taste of King of Crows. With a ghostly and cackling crow cry, there is an atmospheric and eerie opening few seconds- you are transported to a desolate and haunting scene; just you and the beady-eyed stare of the feathered enemies. After a male voice interjects “I’ve got the king of crows“- in a stirring and emphatic belt- the song tumbles underway: soulful and jazzy keys flirt and roll; the introduction has a merriment and uplifting dance to it- the listener is offered solace and relief after frightening beginnings. Changing the song’s course- in a few seconds- it is a fantastic twist that subverts expectation and peaks your fascination. Backed by a tomahawk percussive slam, the delirious coda gets into your mind- before our heroine steps to the mic. Her voice is dead-ahead and determined- there is anxiety on her mind and she has some burden to unload. Stating that there are troubles on her mind; issues and problems weighing her down like “stones in my pocket“, you get an instant sense that our young lead has had to tolerate and balance quite a lot- her mind is wracked and fatigued by demands and emotions. Dragged down to a paranoia ocean, I got the impression that maybe love was being looked at: perhaps her man has caused her to doubt his loyalty and honesty- this in turn has caused our heroine to question and turn-over events. The angst and strain of the opening exchanges is made lighter by the lustful and excited composition- it acts as a ballast and makes things sound oddly chipper. Everything that was held firm; all beliefs and convictions are now “dead in the water“- torpedoed and sunk without a trace. Our lead keeps her cards close to chest: not revealing whether romantic heartache is at the fore- or general woes- the listener is left to imagine and theorise. I get the feeling that a key event has triggered this wave of outpouring- it has compelled words that point towards an unsure and confused mind. The emotion and crack- there is a brief second where you could swear she gets a catch in her throat- starts to permeate towards the 1:00 marker. Back in the kitchen with another glass of wine- the sound effect of a dropped glass is a nice touch- provides evocative detail: whatever problems are being tackled, this is not the first time that they have occurred. If you examine it physiologically or detached, you come to the same conclusion: our heroine has encountered her share of sorrow and pain. Wondering how long it is going to last “this time“, the rousing pace- the vocal keeps firm and fast-paced- lends an air of desperation to proceedings. Not content to play games- with her suitor- she has nothing to lose. It seems that her boy has been toying with her brain; filling it with lies and woe, it has come to a climax- there is no way she is going to walk in “dead man’s shoes.” Having already relegated her man from her thoughts, our heroine is upping and leaving- walking away from a situation that is creating nothing but grief. There is no need for a messiah or divine light: the “mystic mojo” she possess is all hers- and has never steered her wrong. Whether an intuition or sexual weapon, she needs no help or guidance- her mind is made and she has plans afoot. With the king of crows by her, she can do no wrong. Whether a literal crow- or a euphemism for a better man- I am not too sure. The ball park-themed organ dizziness is superseded by a rampant and strung-out electric guitar parable: weaving, contorting and baying for flesh, it introduces some Blues-Rock and Alternative energy into proceedings- seeing the song change course once more. Captured by the spirited and authoritative line, the listener is stood to attention- wondering just what the song will be offering next. When back at the mic., our heroine seems more firm and resilient- her cryptic words paint some vivid possibilities. Seeing her man’s hand, we are in the poker realm: bluffing and trying to keep a straight face, her honey can “walk away a winner.” It is the singer that will be crowned the winner: her disreputable and no-good man has destroyed too much; reduced her kingdom to a dust- the mighty edifice has been dissolved into a state of disrepair. Seeking answers at the bottom of the bottle, our heroine is washing her hands- keen to eradicate the memory of her sweetheart. The infectiousness of the chorus- that distinct organ line tied with some chorused vocals- gives the song a redemptive and infused ending- by the final notes you feel that things will work out just fine. With the king of crows on her side, a better life awaits. Candle-blind comes up next- it intrigues right from the off. Building from a few seconds of silence; finger-clicking sway welcomes the song in. Laid-back and Jazz-influenced, the opening moments mingle smooth and luxurious organ seductions with astute and disciplined percussive beats- joined with tender guitar notes. Our heroine is more serene and teasing here: her voice is relaxed but smoky; captivating and emotive- bringing her words fully to life. Showing her flair and talent for striking words, Lampro’s fingers are “stained like old tattoos/Of every word I scored for you.” Not only incredible opening words; there is a sense of mystery and obliqueness to the lines- you wonder just what is being referred to. The sense of wonder and grand emotion never desist; when words such as “Bright of eye and dark of wing” are unfurled, that repressed and shadowy feel come over; mystique and ambiguity presents itself- you are left to imagine the truth behind the words. I felt that love was being looked at again: maybe a man is not quite as fascinating and impressive as once thought- causing words that look at pain and deathly hallows. The beauty of the lyrics- on this track- are their lack of directness- the likes of Cohen and Dylan would be proud of the poetic nature of Candle-blind. Guitar and organ are back in the agenda: the former stands out front and rallies with intention- manful and enforcing, it fires a rifle-load of concrete and Blues-edged grit into the track. A gorgeous reminder of Stevie Nicks (and even Janis Joplin) come into play: when singing “Faking for a living thing/Shadows of my carrion king“, a gravelled and musty (cigarette-ravaged) sound projects- far sexier and more Teutonic than you would imagine. Quite a rare and beautiful sound, the smoky and desirable vocal sound draws you closer- as you investigate the story unfolding. With her tones lighter, our heroine has her screaming bones picked; wanting someone to “Clean this criminal debris“- an ocean of images flood to mind. Whether enraptured in the gravity of a sorrowful situation; conquered by the unforgiving situation of life; a shadow of herself, you are enticed and seduced by the weight of the words- our heroine ensures that each listener comes away with different impressions and ideals. As the next verse dawns, those mesmerising tones come back to play: crackling, purring and growling, a myriad of colour and power is thrown in- the authoritative delivery makes sure that full focus is with her. Advising the man to stare- “I won’t even look behind“- he seems to be obsessing on something: whether infatuated in love or unable to drop an issue, you imagine the latter is more likely. Perhaps relations have hit the rocks; the ship has been sunk- it is clear that an untenable state has been reached. The man is defining and characterising; being cruel and judgemental- our heroine is “finer than the world you’re dying in.” When lyrics are too defined and simplistic, the mystery and beauty of a song can be robbed: here there is room for manoeuver; so many different avenues that every line has a distinction and sense of purpose. When parping and rousing organs join with elocutionary guitar, that passion and tension augments- it is a foolish and senseless man who crosses and displeases Lampro. Past the half-way mark, Mr. Jones (Fear of Falling) arrives. A terrifically curious and teasing Blues-Rock ember sparks the song: beginning with funky and grooving guitar notes, the organ soon comes to play- adding in some playfulness, it is a perfect lead-in for the vocal. Our heroine is the “devotee of Newton’s Theory“- wondering how her subject could get to her. Perhaps gripped by something headier and more impassioned, you get a feeling of coquettishness and reservation- the relationship is moving too fast and intensely. Keen to keep her feelings “pinned to terra firma“, our heroine is reserved (about jumping in with) both feet: the fear of falling and seeing things break is not a prospect she wants realised. The romantic tussle and dazed atmosphere comes out in the voice- with hot-bloodied passion and tantalised aches, is a terrific and vibrant performance. Lampro’s voice is (perhaps) at its strongest in this number: whipping up such a beautiful sound, there are touches of the greats of Soul- our heroine has a more youthful quality to her voice, but lacks none of the punch and panache. Delirious in the throngs of potential, she flees outside; the air is cool and a dance is ellicited- with the stars as a compass, an unexpected southern mist blows in. When Lampro wants to summon romantic and picturesque, she does it better than most- you can see every scene; smell and see everything with crystal clarity. In the heady brew of the night’s mystery, Mr. Jones has caused quite a furor: with the peppermint-tasting mist in her lips, the heroine sees her heart float “fifty feet above the ground” (quite a charmer and stunner, the hero is causing some girlish glee). Keen to not break the pendulous swing, the next verse comes up: our heroine is in the atmosphere and hanging upside down- floating in the clouds, “it’s a beautiful view.” Contrasting the tension and unhappiness of previous songs, it is great to see some positivity and paen come through- her man moves through the clouds in a way no-one else does. In spite of the seeming bliss and contentment, there is a feeling of unnerve and hesitancy. Afraid of the heights of emotion, perhaps our heroine has never been this high before- the mesmerising love is something new and strange. She cannot be left alone; Mr. Jones has taken her to the heavens- if he were to let her fall, she may not recover. A supportive and guiding hand is sought; the conviction and passionate beauty of Lampro’s vocal- tied to her unique delivery and projection- lodges the song in your mind- at points I catch glimpses of singers like Bonnie Tyler, Jacqui Abbot, Stevie Nicks and Eva Cassidy. The band make sure proceedings are funky; mixing jazzy dance with soulful swing; Blues-Rock jamming nudges in too- a veritable buffet of tantalising sounds gives the song a hugely memorable and colourful- skin. Taking things into sweaty and sexual realms, the two adjourn to home: desiring her man thrice-daily, there is no need for sweetener- our heroine has a very clear motive on her mind. Sticking with medical themes- her love is a medical enigma it is said- she does not need water to swallow; her man can be hooked straight to her veins. With head swimming- and unsure if she is breathing or drowning- there is little room for doubt- you know that this one is going to have a very happy ending indeed. After the spellbound luster of the previous number, Once Bitten, Twice Shy provides comparative demure and introspectiveness. A gorgeous and elliptical piano introduction gives the track some early romance- this will lead to warnings and detachment. Sporting the finest intro. on the set; the combination of spiraling piano, proud and firm percussion is awe-inspiring- it is an incredible fusion of Jazz-Rock, Blues, Soul and Pop. Keen to keep the music going, our heroine’s wordless belt enters the spotlight- her voice is at its most convincing and imploring here. Her man has left her and walked away from the relationship: if he ever changes his mind, our heroine’s heart will not be so “easy to fall.” Fed up of being messed-around and duped, a barrier is put up: the rules are being laid out and clear rules set in place. Imbued with such a force and incredible power, the vocal is a thing of wonder- you are trapped under its spell. Our heroine’s man is a cheater and lacks any ethics and morals- keen to not be fooled and led astray, the song pushes against her boy’s come-ons (and seductive missives). Joining Janis Joplin, Aretha Franklin and Stevie Nicks- into the back of her voice- the song is backed by a splendid range of tones and emotions- nothing but utter conviction and intention comes through. Perhaps the two have a complex history: trapped in the relationship, the issue of trust is never going to go away. Set-up by an evocative and slinking Blues-Rock guitar whisper, our heroine becomes more entrenched in doubt- it seems that “nothing is right/When nothing is wrong“. Displaying a Dylan-esque eye for striking and unforgettable couplets, following in its wake is: “So why do we fight/Just to get along?” The way Lampro rolls her words; repeats syllables; stutters and paces her words is incredibly intoxicating and effective: the lines are distinguish, highlighted and coated in layers of emotions- you cannot escape their immense potency. Where as previous songs have been bolstered by organ and guitar; here piano takes the lead- arriving near the mid-way point to elicit an entrancing and divine punctuation. The band’s epic, the track is 6:30 of exorcism and honesty- the vividity and stirring soul never lets go. Doing a deal with the devil at the crossroads; our heroine will drive her man “round the bend“- not wanting him to come back ever again- the clear emotion ringing in the vocal. With the sort of grandeur and epic proportions- befitting of a movie soundtrack or score to an intense emotional scene- the song is a stunning and vote-stealing epic. The band is by no means left in the shadows: percussion gives shivers and drive; the bass keeps proceedings controlled and in check- the guitar is a snarling and rampant sound that adds electrification and fire into the song. When all these elements combine- around that stunning vocal- it is a perfect moment- few other songs gave me quite the same chill as Once Bitten, Twice Shy. As it comes to an end, earlier words are repeated: our heroine wants her man to look her in the eye; try to rustle up some pure honesty- knowing that he will never change his ways. There is a certain sadness and defeat to be found: if things had been different then it could have been wonderful; the lying lover has wrecked a potentially golden love. A sweeping and indelible swan-song, it brings the E.P. to a close- leaving you quite in awe of things. With notes and lines still turning in your mind, part of you wants to hear more- that sense of desire lingers after the final notes.
I shall get to the band themselves- handing out recommendations, plaudits and praise. The public have the opportunity to hear King of Crow‘s quartet of beauties- an E.P. that is incredibly impressive and assured. A record that gets better as the songs progress, it is the work of a band that are getting stronger with each release- their confidence and effect grows larger and more emphatic with every track they unveil. The production on the disc is phenomenally appropriate and evocative: sounding like a bona fide live recording, it mixes the professionalism and comfort of the studio with the atmosphere and unique energy of the stage. Intimate and embracing, the songs make you feel as though the band are performing in your bedroom- I was listening on an iPad, so definitely need to hear the songs through proper speakers. Given that my listening experience was via a laptop, who knows how immense and emotive it will sound through the majesty of stereo speakers? What I do know is that one of this year’s most unexpected treats has been offered. I discovered Braver than Fiction via a music writing contact (on Twitter): lucky to be in the right place at the right time, I was compelled to investigate the band. Having fallen in love with Your Little Fantasy, I was expecting an E.P. that followed the same sort of lines: what one actually witnesses is something different and hugely surprising. I do not mean the word in a negative sense- quite the opposite. The band have defied expectations and created a four-track release that can rank alongside the most compelling of 2014. The quintet clearly have plans for the future; ammunition and creative fertility is all there- one suspects new material will not be too far away. Having conducted social media straw polls, the initial early feedback is universally positive: people are falling in love with the grace, power and intelligence of Braver than Fiction’s latest progeny. Not contented to narrow focus or stick with one subject, the four tracks go from anger and accusation to longing and inflamed passion- right along to deceit and cheating. Before I wrap up my summary, let me congratulate the band themselves. Bass work from Adam gives the tracks a tight backbone and sense of direction. His notes enforce the power of each track; add a host of mixed emotions and shades- keeping the atmosphere compelling and unpredictable (from start to finish). Jason’s keyboard work adds beauty and passion in spades. When on organ, a churlish and infantile glee mixes with hypnotic and feet-moving joy- adding positivity and immense rush into proceedings. The piano offerings do the opposite: tenderness and still beauty are presented: adding romantic and tender stillness, his contributions are stellar and consistently incredible. Martin’s guitars provide shout, shots and raw, ashen emotion- roaring and contorted at once; restrained and calming the next, his influence is essential and emphatic. When solo-ing and allowing the guitar to pervade, some of the E.P.’s most startling and stand-out moments occur. Paul takes on drumming duties: his stick work is the heartbeat that makes sure the music does not die or wane; it keeps the soul in tact and resolute. Never needlessly overpowering or incensed, it makes sure (our heroine) is supported and suitably backed up- offering security, assurance and weight- the percussion adds spark and punch to King of Crows. It is Mel Lampro that stole my heart: her performance and contributions make sure every song on the E.P. grips you fully. The band- as a whole- are tremendous and tight; the leadership and central gravity is immense and unforgettable. As a songwriter, the lyrics compel and fascinate: when oblique your mind races for possible answers and detail; when direct they take you aback; when cooing and romantic they make you sigh. A songwriter clearly inspired my the greats of music, Lampro shows a huge range and emotional colour chart: always instilling intelligence, wit and conviction into her songs, there are no wasted words or lazy afterthoughts- few writers have such an accuracy and impressive strike rate. The compositions are full, stunning and cinematic- filled with wonderful details and moments, the songs show new insights with every listen. It is the vocal performances that resonate in my mind. Possessed of a huge and soulful power, the emotion and stirring passion that is presented takes the breath away. Youthful and honest; aged and ravaged- at times- Lampro’s multifarious and stunning pipes make each song sound utterly insistent and urgent- the listener is pinned and seduced with ample ease. The band themselves are able to master Folk, Alternative, Soul, Blues-Rock and Indie themes; each player adapts and camouflages themselves when called for- the vocal is able to shift from delicious and seductive realms to a whiskey-soaked growl- sometimes in the space of a few notes. Especially impressive on Once Bitten, Twice Shy, Lampro has the potential to be one of the country’s ‘voices to watch.’ In age of reality talent shows and depressingly slender singers, I am glad that genuine and epically-proportioned vocalists still can be found- I hope that our heroine has many years in the music industry. If you have not snapped up King of Crows, you have to do so: it is a quartet of songs designed for every type of person- those in love; those in the midst of a break-up; the casual observer is tempted in. With so much emotion, movement and colour coming under the band’s microscope, King of Crows is the amplification and polarisation of their hard work- a collection of tracks that highlight what a firm and tight unit they are. Let’s just hope the quintet come and entrance some London venues before this year is through.
I know I have rabbited for quite a while- I always err towards loquaciousness when an act is as terrific (as Braver than Fiction). Not content to be as good as everyone else, they are one of this country’s most fertile and imposing acts. Their sounds look back at the likes of Tom Waits, Fleetwood Mac and Led Zeppelin; instill some essence and urgency of the modern music scene- stir it in with their distinct blend of heart, guts, boldness and fascination. King of Crows is a sterling work that showcases just how potent a force they are- I recommend that everyone snap the E.P. up. In love with the finest that music has provided the world, the Sheffield band instill a whisper of their essence into their palette. Their patented blend of Blues-Rock and Folk touches is compelling and gripping- filled with beauty and passion into the bargain. With such incredible performances throughout, they are a group that are in no danger of tiring or going separate ways. Clearly music means a hell of a lot to them- I hope that the release of the E.P. sees them in huge demand. At the moment, the band are ready for the release of King of Crows; having seen 100 limited edition (of the E.P.) pressed- each band member personally signed them. Such a fastidious and astute eye for detail and attention shows just how much music resonate and hits them- you will not find many other bands that have such a passion and admiration for the form. These are the early days for a group that have a lot of potential: it will be great to see how they blossom and flourish. The band’s local fans are snapping up the limited edition release of the E.P.: enthralled and seduced by the wondrous music provided, legions are keen to clasp Braver than Fiction to their bosom. This bodes well for the future months: the confidence and support they are gaining is sure to see their creative mind let is juices flow- possibly an album or new E.P. will arrive in 2015? Before I conclude my review, I will finish off my looking at the band market in general. Having seen everyone- over the last few weeks- from the likes of Allusondrugs, The 48K’s and Broken 3 Ways; I am amazed by the diversity and sheer quality that is being provided. Everything from Indie to Punk-Ska- through to Grunge- is seeing some bold and striking acts amaze listening ears- it bodes well for the future of music. There are plenty of effete and minor acts out there- not adding much to the musical landscape- but with acts such as Braver than Fiction coming through, there is no need to have any doubts: the quintet have plenty of years ahead of them. The band sector is the most in-demand and hotly-contested aspect of music: the next few years will demonstrate which of them have the legs and pace to make it into the mainstream. The key to ensuring success and continued demand is to provide interest and something deeper- differentiate your motifs from your contemporaries. Braver than Fiction certainly have few like-minded and similar competitors; they have a flair and energy that I cannot link to anyone else; a songbook that is distinctly theirs- instilled with deeply personal touches; drawing in sonic embers of some wonderful past musicians. The bold and brave Sheffield band will see their E.P. fall into the hands of a range of different music fans and supporters. Their music has compelled me to get in touch with other reviewers; see if they can focus King of Crows in their blogs/pages (and contact Lampro directly)- get the word out and spread the joy. The darndest thing happens when I take my mind to Yorkshire: each experience brings something new and wonderfully impressive. Keen to detox for a little while- and not be spoiled by riches- it will be fascinating to see what the county offers in the coming months. With the likes of Braver than Fiction doing their bidding, they are writing a stunning and ambitious chapter…
ONE that is well worth reading.
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