Second Hand Poet- Little Sun- Track Review

 

Track Review:

 

 

Second Hand Poet-

 

 

 

 

 

Little Sun

 

 

 

9.0/10

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Surrey-based Bedroom Acoustics troubadour, presents songs of rare affirmation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Availability:

Little Sun is available via:

http://secondhandpoet.bandcamp.com/track/little-sun

Bedroom Acoustics vol. 1 available at:

http://secondhandpoet.bandcamp.com/album/bedroom-acoustics

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THE solo acoustic ‘genre’/market is one that is safe from entropy…

 

and liquidation. It is simultaneously the most common form of modern music, as well as the hardest to crack. If you are armed with an acoustic guitar and little more, then there is instantly a high workload; and the results still need to reflect mandation. When thinking of bands, if you have a four or five-piece group (as well as more or less), then duties are shared; responsibility becomes a fraction, and there is creative and human support that eases the burden. Of course ‘the more is merrier’, or ‘strength in numbers’ can be seen as a false equivalency or an overstatement. The band involved have to have the quality and ambition for that to be true, otherwise larger quantities can have a detrimental effect. For the solo market, there are benefits and drawbacks. In terms of positives, there is creative freedom. You do not need to negotiate with a fellow writer, nor do you need to pass your ideas through a committee or voting process. Greater freedom, as well as augmented potential output are rewards. You can blend sounds, genres, styles, moods; without suffering vitriolic band feedback or any trade restrictions. If the results hit home, and there is adulation and success, then the feelings of self-worth and resolve, make for a great sensation. Of course, there are a greater number of hardships, hindrances and stumbling blocks. Parallel to life itself, music has inherent autosomal dominant issues for the lone ranger. There are no sounding boards to say if an idea has no validity or value; 100% of creative output derives from one person; fatigue and over self-assessment can lead to decay, as well as there been an ever-present danger of relegation and sublimation. The solo market is one that is ever-expanding and crowded. There are no quotas or controls, so the numbers rise, unabated. It makes perfect sense: it does not rely on hiring band members, thus making it easier to make personal and easily-accessible music. Issues arise, when trying to separate the good from the bad and the ugly. For all your legends: Bob Dylan, James Taylor, Neil Young etc., and your modern-day icons: Bon Iver, P.J. Harvey, Laura Marling etc. there is a disproportionately high number of superficial and plain awful examples of the breed. This is a point that bothers me most. For all the commendations that should be levied at the sole artist, it is not simply enough to record songs and hope for the best. The rules of the game apply equally, and unless you have a singular voice, set of lyrics, sound scape or collection of songs, then it is not worth turning up at all.

 

Duality and dichotomy of quality and quantity are inscrutably harsh mistresses: subject to fickle public minds, changing demands, and undefined limits. Getting a clear head and knowing what you have to achieve borders on the impossible, so the best thing to do (for the worthy and talented artist) is to believe in what you write, and make it the best you can. Hailing from Surrey, a much-underrated and underexposed county, Jamie, A.K.A. Second Hand Poet, is a brand new artist, with fledgling wings and hungry sights. His name, ambition and potential is built up from the aggregation of a steely ambition, modesty and charming back-story. His online presence is limited at the moment, consisting mainly of BandCamp, Facebook and Twitter coverage, but given the nature of his recordings and his infant steps, it is hardly surprising. The man behind the Poet has an air of mystery to him. Aside from his forename, and a few minor details being known, his biography is scarce and skeletal. As with my featured act yesterday (Surrey’s Nylon Sky), there is little indication as to the influences and idols of our protagonist; nor any signs of what is contained within the songs. The surprise and summations arrive when the tracks are unveiled, and reveal themselves. The title of the 5-track ‘mini album’/E.P.- Bedroom Acoustics vol. 1- has obvious derivations. The sounds you hear come courtesy of the four walls, floor and door of Jamie’s bedroom. It is not fair to call it ‘lo-fi’ or ‘outsider'; it is more accurate and concise to describe it thus: personal. Honest, personable and relatable. The likes of Morrissey, Nick Drake and their modern ilk, started out in the bedroom. It is the natural first step for all artists; and Second Hand Poet’s sounds make you feel as though you are there with him. It will be fascinating to see if he graduates and moves to the studio as adulation and appreciation arrives; or whether the sounds will be safely ensconced within four walls in Surrey.

 

The second track from E.P., Little Sun, has evocations- in the early stages- of authoritative sources. There are indie edges, lighter Britpop hints, and above all, a keen and sharp ear for melody and mood-setting. The acoustic scenes and lines, swoon and endeavour with riparian flavours. At once the atmosphere is light and sensual; there is a sense that the authour is trying to convey scenes filled with sun, Summer, and peace. The string-picking is impressively accomplished and solid, and displays a sharp and bright talent. So few solo artists, especially those whom purvey acoustic numbers, are not particularly notable for their guitar skills. Second Hand Poet has a clear passion, as well as a skilled hand, and is able to mix sounds and sensations over the course of a couple of seconds, making the introduction propulsive, as well as taut and emblazoning. The 23 seconds or so that it is present, is enough to build up speculation and intrigue, so when the vocal arrives, expectations are high. The vocal is strong and emotive. The fact that the song was recorded within a bedroom does not detract from the quality of the recording. The guitar is clean and clear, and the vocal has a clarity that shines through, but also a slight far-off quality that adds weight to what is being sung. With regards to the nature of the voice itself, there are certainly modern tones and influences within the flavour notes: comparisons can be drawn with some contemporary colleagues. Emphasis is largely on the timbre and weight of the voice, rather than the diversity of it. Lyrically, there is honesty and openness: “I’m not perfect”and “My whole melody is wrong”, point towards a young man with anxiety and unresolved tension. If the scenes and settings of the intro. hinted at lighter and brighter parables, the ensuing words and heaviness of soul, point towards doubt and uncertainty. The song has ambitions to linger within your mind, and it does through a number of ways. Aside from the vocal being rooted within 2013, and the subject being something everyone can relate to, the way that the words and intentions are expressed is impressive. Many artists would tell their tales, with little consideration lent towards projection and resonance. Second Hand Poet mixes diffidence with angry protestation: some lines are punctuated sternly, before being countered by an emotionally overwhelmed riposte or rejoinder. This unique hybrid is a key focal point, and something that adds gravity to the song. The chorus has an air of mystery and open interpretation: “Hey Little Sun/Look what you’ve done”; emotions run high and there is a suggestive shrug elicited. If some of the themes of personal dislocation and uncertainty are prevalent: “Feeling lost/And/Stuck on a cross”, for example, then the way in which they are presented does not bring you down. The voice does not wallow too much nor hide its scars beneath thin-veiled deceit; the guitar remains strong and focused: hints of Noel Gallagher can be detected in lighter-edged (What’s the Story) Morning Glory. Towards the latter stages of the track, the Little Sun is turned upon, put onto the stand, and given accusatory regard: “Burned away/Chosen day”, is delivered with an emphatic guilt-trip and disregard. The tension that mounts is temporised, slightly, by the ensuing guitar passage: it picks and strums with delicate touches, before being swallowed and replaced with the final vocal touches.

 

I hope that in the future Second Hand Poet gains wider appreciation. He has a voice and sound that is almost tailor-made for the live scene, and will win over local patrons and those further afield, alike. The title of the E.P. suggests that further volumes will be unveiled in coming months, and will be curious to see what moves are made next. Whether there will be a move to the studio, and an incorporation of percussion and strings; or the format and structure will remain in tact, is yet to be seen. In the initial stages, the decision to present bedroom sounds and summations is brave and smart. It shows that the authour is comfortable with his surroundings, and knows the vitality and importance of authenticity and narrative. The songs within Bedroom Acoustics paint the portrait of a talent whom could supersede the local scene, and make his way to festivals and larger venues. It is a very of-the-moment release, and one that does not suffer from the weaknesses of many within the solo scene and the associative flaws. The proficiency and striking acoustic playing is a highlight, and the lyrics are capturing and sharp. It is always interesting to hear where future talent may originate from, and what their core values and themes will be. Second Hand Poet is the sound of a heavy-heart, curious mind and endeavouring sound; above all it is a mandate filled with…

 

PLENTY of potential.

___________________________________________________________________________

Twitter: 

https://twitter.com/SecondHandPoet

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Second-Hand-Poet/417534431620189?directed_target_id=0

BandCamp: 

http://secondhandpoet.bandcamp.com/

Nylon Sky- Tell Me (They)- Track Review

 

Track Review:

 

 

 

Nylon Sky-

 

 

 

 

 

Tell Me (They)

 

 

 

9.2/10

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Little Things, Bigger Picture band create epic sounds, with more than small wonder.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Availability:

Tell Me (They) is available at:

http://soundcloud.com/nylonskyofficial/tell-me-they-1

Little Things, Bigger Picture, is available at:

https://itunes.apple.com/gb/album/little-things-bigger-picture/id622632492

 

___________________________________________________________________________

LOCAL talent is always something particularly relevant…

 

to upcoming musicians, and home fans alike. From my perspective, it is always interesting to hear what sounds are being favoured, and- as a songwriter- what potential competition and supporters there are. I have focused my attention on a fair few acts and artists from the A.C.M. in Guildford, a town from where Nylon Sky hail. Historically Guildford has had a few notable bands make their mark, but not too many though. The Jam were formed just up the road, but The Stranglers aside, there has been previous little proffered from this old town. Plenty of history still exists within the town, and I have been baffled why this part of Surrey has not spawned more talent than it has. Surrey in general, in terms of producing the all-time great acts is a bit like a British Eurovision entry: never even close to the top 10, and producing acts of rather variable quality. Given the proximity to London, Surrey should do more, but is hoped with the likes of the A.C.M., there will be a lot of strong representation in years to come. It is probably that very music school (The Academy of Contemporary Music) that will foster our most likely local stars. I have displayed some ambivalence in the past towards music schools and academies due to the nature of the graduates. Historically, well, none of the all-time great voices have gone through this route, and in terms of the very best bands, they have always done things differently. It is very much a modern thing, and although there are some truly dreadful examples being brought forth (that accounts for a pretty high percentage), there are some genuine talents to be found, several of whom I have the pleasure of reviewing their work. For bands, I feel that the local scenes- pubs, venues etc.- will play a bigger role, and if there is going to be a modern-day The Jam equivalency, then they are likely to be cultivated and reared on the local circuit. In terms of the sounds of the bands I am aware of from Guildford, they tend to stray towards the heavier end of the spectrum. There is a lot of heavier Grunge-type sounds, as well as Metal and Punk. Never entirely sure why this is, as the solo talent sure as hell tend to be as far from that as possible. Bands of a certain age- late teens/early-mid 20s- were listening to the old masters such as Nirvana and Grunge in the early-’90s, and strangely detoured slightly towards the mid-’90s to incorporate Britpop and indie sounds. It is this collective memory and D.N.A. that enforces a lot of the band motifs: heavier and darker middles, with less menacing, and more melodic edges. It is an understandable phenomenon: every artist has influences and idols, and most will incorporate them into their own music. Trouble is, I have heard a lot of bands from the north- Manchester, Liverpool etc- that have been so close to an existing (or defunct) band, that it has sounded like a third-rate tribute band.

 

Through stellar fanbase, and a reputable and solid name on the live scene of Surrey and beyond, the four-piece: Tony, Tom, Stuart and Nai-ik, have a large and dedicated online following, and have surmounted a greater and more exhaustive fanbase than a lot of better-known acts. I am going to have to clutch at straws again, when it comes to band biography, as I know very little of them. In the same as my subject yesterday, Story Books, have little online biography, Nylon Sky have even less. I know they have been playing for a long time now, and have a legendary name and repute amongst the A.C.M. crowd and independents alike. Again the music has to do all of the talking, but would be nice to know more about the band: what their influences are, a few sentences on the members, as well as a few reviews here and there. In the very modern age of Facebook, Twitter and the like, the boys will gain new fans and catch the eyes of festival organises and venue managers with a few additions: promotional videos, a more in-depth official site, as well as some quotes/quips, etc. I can provide no further information, so will get down to the business of the music itself.

 

Their album Little Things, Bigger Picture (impressive title aside) boasts some striking artwork, in addition to 13 tracks; all with intriguing and curious titles. Track 4, Tell Me (They) wastes precious little time, in making an impression and cementing its desires. The opening strings have early-mid ’90s flavours: In Utero Nirvana/Superunknown Soundgarden, as well as something more soulful and sensuous (one could, at one point, picture Chris Isaak’s voice following the initial stages of the intro.). Following a brief percussive interjection, the vocals open the song up. The voice has some U.S. evocations, yet is not whiskey-soaked and tormented, nor lightweight and wandering: there are evocations of Anthony Kiedis, curiously. Following that parable, there are hints of Californian breeziness that The Red Hot Chilli Peppers have hallmarked. The initial strings and percussion have that same laconic but intentional authority. The lyrics, however- with a little Blood Sugar Sex Magik- have a painful past and present: “I’ve been born/I’ve been wasted”. Unlike the ageing U.S. band, Nylon Sky have a youthful energy and vigour that is tireless and infectious. The sound builds upon the quiet-loud dynamic: the initial four dozen or so seconds are calmed, and building, before an explosion is presented. There is passion and strength in our protagonists voice as he implores: “And they tell me not to worry”, is delivered with tremulous anxiety, as well as defiance. The drums slam like a storm, and guitar and bass whip up an electrical wind. Vocals are held, stuttered and elongated to create maximum emotional effect- there is an impressive power and capacity to the vocals during the chorus. The overall themes and lyrical subjects, mixed with the adventurous and engaging musical breaks, pulls any minds away from Californian wells. There is a uniquely sharp and focused sound; the band are tight and supported by some brilliant production values. A lot of tracks seem to have their structure and signatures established, by rarely wander. The vocal lines are predictably symmetrical, as are the instrumentations and verse-chorus-verse formation. Nylon Sky keep a restless energy and unpredictability at the forefront: vocals change presentation and lines; tics, raps and syncopation is blended in, for instance. From 1:42 there is a more light-hearted change. The words are rapped and trip along; there are ‘whoop whoops!'; subjects such as death and proclivity are given a blase and humorous disregard. After the chorus explodes once more, another twist comes into view. Unleashed is a wave of guitar arpeggios and excitement; wordless but ecstatic. It is hard to compare the sound and passage to anything else. There is the ’60s and ’70s spirit; Van Halen edges, and Hard Rock/Psychedelic underpinnings. It rides a crest and bides its time for a little while, before the vocal returns to the fold. In a battle to win the mood, and stay alive to the end, the words “Worry is all I do” is proffered: delivered intensely and with full-bloodied passion. Another side to the story has been told, and a further snaking turn has unfolded. When the track ends, it takes a little while to absorb the different sounds and sensations, and unearth what the track wants to say.

 

There is personal doubt and clear anxiety: not only about life, but about love and issues. Most bands put the vocal and lyrics far down in the mix, and it is often indecipherable and unintelligible. The vocals are clear so that you can hear what is being sung. The guitar, bass and percussion does not impose and drown the voice out; similarly out front-man does not drawl or slur: everything is enunciated finely so you get the best of all worlds. On that note, the band themselves are tight, focused and professional and it is clear that they have been working on their sound for a while, and, coupled with smooth and focused production, results in a great track. Having delved into the other tracks from the album, there is a lot of that same quality and ambition. The tracks do not follow the exact same path; there is movement, surprises and an overall feeling of brilliance and originality. Nylon Sky have splashes of other influences, from ’90s West Coast U.S., through to Home Counties Indie/Rock. They will be doing a great service to new music as well as Surrey; putting the county firmly back on the map, whilst making great waves much farther afield. In the current climate, there are few new bands whom can provide original and fresh sounds, whilst displaying a conviction for softer, more sensitive edges, as well as hard and dominant highs. In a scene, where the vast majority of exciting and superlative new music derives from north and Scotland, it is a relief to hear of a southern band, whom are capable of toppling them all. Seek out their album and Tell Me (They)…

 

BIG things are shortly ahead.

___________________________________________________________________________

Twitter: 

https://twitter.com/nylonsky

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/#!/nylonskyofficial

SoundCloud:

http://soundcloud.com/nylonskyofficial

YouTube:

http://www.youtube.com/nylonskyofficial

Story Books- Knot- Track Review

Track Review:

 

 

 

Story Books-

 

 

 

 

 

Knot

 

Story Books, band

 

9.3/10

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It is hard to hear the song beyond the pages of iTunes and The Guardian; luckily the band have a wealth of wonderful novelistic visuals, and stunning sounds.

 

 

 

 

 

Availability:

Knot is available at:

http://soundcloud.com/storybooksband/story-books_knot-master/s-1OTQ8

Their E.P., Too Much a Hunter, is available at:

https://itunes.apple.com/gb/album/too-much-a-hunter-ep/id627529476

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KENT is the featured county today; and a new angle is apparent…

 

I have been subjecting any tired minds that will take note, that the south of England, and the Home Counties, have been a little slack and remiss, when coming to offering up new music stars. London and the south coast have been making tiny little movements: the odd band or act here and there, but by and large, activity has been hottest elsewhere. I suppose, historically-speaking of course, the southern counties have played host to a great deal of wonderful talent: Blur, Radiohead, The Jam etc; there has been no shortage when it comes to offering up and proffering forth curious smells, sounds and sensations. Each of those bands had a very particular identity and talent: ranging from Britpop, through to New Wave. It has been a concern of mine, that there is not enough diversity within groups. If you hear of a four or five-piece band, chance are they met when they were young, or live close to one another. Bands like HighFields are axiomatically atypical when it comes to predictability: multi-nationality, inter-gender and open-armed. In the U.K. especially, there is not a lot of mixing or multicultural blending. Various parts of the U.K., as well as being quite lax when it comes to pulling their weight, have other issues. It is important that have some local flavours in your group: pulling in relevance local noises, as well as looking further afield. Most new bands suffer issues of homogenisation. The band members tend to be of a similar creed, age and locality: there is scant range. I precursor to a new wave of invigorating groups, will be a willingness to in other and unexpected parts, with regards to recruiting members. At the moment, there is too much of a willingness to rest on laurels and be unadventurous. This is something I will allude to more later. Individuality is a more glaring and important concern, initially. I have heard many bands; ranging from northern rock acts, to southern pop acts, that do suffer a tendency to stick closely to other groups. It is a recurring thesis, but one that becomes no less relevant with each passing day. If you are a northern rock or indie band there is a reluctance to stray too far away from Arctic Monkeys and Oasis; if you are southern, then many will gravitate towards our best and brightest bands here. It is a tricky situation for a new band, or a group that has established a reputation, with regards to being achieve a high quality, and remaining original. Scotland are doing a better job of achieving this, than anywhere else in the U.K.; but there are a group of southern acts, that promise something that supersedes any expectations.

 

Story Books came to my attention via a feature piece in The Guardian. For all the publication’s weaknesses when it comes to reviewing new music, they at least are pretty potent when it comes to introducing great new acts. The London/Kent five-piece: consisting Kristofer, Robert, Joseph, Andrew and Jack, have an air of mystery with regarding to band history and biography. They have an impressive on-line representation (including a particular detailed official site), but say little about whom they each are, or where their influces arrive from. Whether this is designed to focus your mind solely on the music- effectively not having any preconceived expectations in your mind- or intended as a talking point, it is hard to say. It would be nice to know more about the guys; not any needless mindless tidbits, but where they came from, and what they want people to take away from the experience. Luckily, the music itself speaks volumes, and compensates largely. The band’s E.P., Too Much A Hunter, shows that the boys mean business, and this is enforced by the fact that they are soon to support The Rolling Stones at Hyde Park. The Guardian asks that they be filed next to Coldplay, Keane and Snow Patrol, which in itself will scare a lot of people. I am not sure why they have been lumped with these bands as their sound is entirely different and more impressive: I suppose that they have a comparable popular appeal. Paul Lester’s radar and summations have always been contentious and intoxicated, so I shall do a better job at arriving at noteworthy and accurate conclusions. The group are photographed a lot in black-and-white; they have a downcast projection, but no need to fear: there is not an ounce of any sort of monotonous drag in the music; everything is kept fascinating and integral to their qualitative ambitions.

 

Knot, is a difficult song to get hold of. It forms part of their E.P., but is featured- from what I can see- on iTunes and The Guardian alone. Simple Kids is the song getting most coverage and plays, but Knot has more intrigue, to me. It is hard to escape the intensity and rush of the song, as there is an immediate electric slam, that takes you be surprised. There is no build-up of suspense or a little acoustic or bass work: it is straight down to business. There is a little of the ’60s and ’70s in the sound: mid-career The Rolling Stones, mixes a little with The Kinks. It is a refreshing change to see some exceptional, older influences in the mix, rather than pick away and include only more recent reverence. There are just skeletal, basic tones that suggest any similarity- there is a distinct and original sound that pushes through. The intro itself mixes passionate and thumping drums with hard-strung electric guitar. Emphasis is put squarely on the shoulders of excitement and intensity. It is with a great rock spirit and flair, combined with a softer and more melodic guitar line, that creates a fascinating and unique intro. In one part of the scene there is a fight: bustling gangs square off against one another; in a separate scene there is a regarded calm: semblance of order and melodic discipline is unveiled. It is where the two combine that the greatest reaction is elicited. Very few bands would be able to pull off or even attempt this; choosing maybe to separate the two or stick with a single theme, and see it through. At the 0:22 mark, the electric sparks are calmed slightly. The guitar becomes calmer and more studies, whilst the drum still has a hard heartbeat. When the voice comes through, it is restrained and passionate. There is plenty of raw rock spirit lurking beneath, but there is something calmer at the start: “From the start/She’d never be pure enough”; are the first words, and an insight into our authour’s mind. Clearly there is a tortured back-story and past, and there is a weight in the vocals to suggest that there is lingering doubt and pain. The band support our protagonist sturdily and professionally. The bass, guitar and drum combination keep the overall tone light enough, whilst injecting some Wild Beasts-esque passion and innovation into proceedings. There is perhaps some relatable notes in the vocal; but the way that it remains essential and swimming draws you in, and- combined with a delicate and powerful composition- pushes the song on and on. Evocations and memories of a past love or paramour, points at some bad decisions “She chose a crooked path”; the words clear and concisely delivered, bolster the emotional edge. Our front-man is imploring that the future of his subject is kept safe, and secure: there is tenderness and thoughtfulness in the midst. With tints of Mumford and Sons- although only in spirit rather than sound- there is a musical rush and surge: guitars stab and flail; the percussion batters, and there is a storming distorted symphony elicited. It is introduced to signal difference between the two: separate lives and paths, as well as intentions, and the internalised anger that has been hiding in our hero’s mind and body. When it is sung: “Don’t expose her to the emptiness”, there is a pause in the vocals; the music fills in and creates an emotive response, before the lyrics return once more. The way that the mood is brought down, calmed- and a sermon is spoken- before being contrasted by a rapture and heady rush, is a selling point that few bands or acts have perfected. I guess- although I am as far from a fan of theirs as you get- there is some definite Mumford influences in the later stages; there is just a familiar sense. Not that it is a bad thing. The sharpness and openness of the lyrics, combined with an earnest vocal turn, are a winning formulae, no matter whose hands they are in.

 

The band achieve a rare feat of ticking a lot of boxes, with comparatively little being known about them. By achieving the honour of support The Stones, they will be heard by a huge number of new- and potential fans- people. Their sound is very much of the moment. If you factor out any lazy comparisons with Mumford, Coldplay, Keane, and so forth, and judge them with a cleansed palette, the effect is more striking. It is very much a band performance- the vocal does not steal focus. Every member is tight and focused, and expertly supports one another. When the words are suing they are clear and recognisable. So many acts seem content to have their lead mumble and splutter words beneath a fuzzy and under-produced racket, that you can not understand a single thing sung. It is becoming frustratingly acceptable and common and sure as hell needs to stop. Story Books make sure that their mandates and tales are understandable and tangible in equal measure. The themes of love-gone-wrong, dislocation, doubt, and anxiety have been worn well for decades now. If they are kept fresh and personal then there is a huge market. The voice is strong and universal; you cannot fault the geniality of the emotions and conviction, and convincing with your words is half of the battle won. The indie flavours, combined with a heavy and hard intro that suggests ’60s legends, blends wonderfully, to create a track that few could turn their noses up to. All you need to know about Story Books is that their E.P. promises inspiration and rewards, and stands up to repeated listens. A string of high-profile festivals and dates is sure to follow, and the guys clearly have a great deal of respect and understanding of one another’s roles and skills. This friendship and strong bond shows through in the music, and is a formula that yields surprisingly positive results. Before they head to Hyde Park, and after the dust has settled…

 

MAKE sure they are still in your mind.

_________________________________________________________________________

Official:

http://www.storybooksband.com/

Twitter:

https://twitter.com/storybooksband

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/StoryBooksBand

YouTube:

http://www.youtube.com/user/storybooksband

SoundCloud: 

http://soundcloud.com/storybooksband/sets/story-books-player

Just Handshakes- London Bound- Track Review

 

Track Review:

 

 

Just Handshakes-

 

 

 

London Bound

 

 

 

9.1/10

 

 

 

 

A psedonym that hints at only a stiff upper lip; a monkier that reverbirates in their jocund sounds. From Leeds-via-the ’90s: and all the way to London.

 

 

 

 

 

Availability:

London Bound is available at:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NQiMYZB2OfU

Their album Say It available via

http://justhandshakeswerebritish.bandcamp.com/album/say-it-2

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IT is back to Yorkshire, and back to musical versatility…

 

that occupies mind-space and desire today. I have broken away, slightly, from Yorkshire, over the past week or so: in search of endeavouring bands from other parts of the U.K. Yorkshire is a county, that maybe historically, is not in many people’s minds, when considering the all-time greats. There have been some varied bands that have hailed from here- The Housemartins, Arctic Monkeys, Alt-J, The Music, Shed Seven etc. It is really over the last few years, that there has been a real surge of new talent from these parts. I have been studying closely, the goings-on in Leeds, Bradford and in-between. There are fevered dreams and strange avenues being explored: more than you would imagine. In a great deal of the U.K. there is a tendency to stick closely to your influences: play it safe and not stray too far from familiar soil. In Yorkshire, there seems to be a greater independence and pioneer. Many of the acts and new musicians seem far happier to go deeper, and produce unexpected moves. It would be dyscalculia, to assume that there is not similar mobility and motivation elsewhere: Scotland is particular hot when it comes to originality; so too is the West Coast of the U.S. The thing that separates Yorkshire from the rest of the U.K., is the range of sounds and styles from the musical patrons. The greatest natural resource the county possesses is its history- industry, coalmines, landscape and natural beauty. It is a county that has a fascinating- and sometimes difficult- history. This has been noted, and recognised by modern music acts. In the way that acts from large cities, feel constrained and subjugated- there is less of this strain further north. When there is more physical and emotional room to manoeuvre; as well as a more diverse and variegated history: this produces the most striking moves. I have heard some rather baroque styling from four and five-piece bands; Jazz/Swing sensations from a Leeds record label; Blues Rock sounds reminiscent of Detroit from Wakefield, and all manner of cross pollination. There are fewer closed circles and homogeneous clans to be found: a sense of identity and uniqueness are bywords that are adhered to closely. Personality and verisimilitude rules the hearts and souls of the local talent, and there is a much more professional and dedicated passion too. It is the sheer scale and range that sets Yorkshire aside, and to my mind, will see this part of the U.K. hosting the most celebrated and popular acts of next year.

 

Hailing from Leeds, Just Handshakes do nothing to discourage my plaudits, nor spoil the quality ratio. BBC 6 Music, Drowned In Sound and Rough Trade East have already paid tribute to the band, and noted their ambition and incredible sound. One notices that there is a little mystery with regards to the group themselves. They have an impressive online coverage, and an array of glowing reviews, but their biography and background is fairly anemic and bare: they have a need to let their music take focus, rather than the band members. Just Handshakes would suggest a rather British sensibility. There is not an inkling of knowledge of the links of “Discussing Uganda” and “Slipping my moorings”. A sense of cheeky candidness and sexual anomie lurks beneath the surface. I think, in the past their band name contained open bracket-We’re British- closed bracket. A rather wry and tongue-in-cheek smile is present, and the group are not your moody The xx-esque bunch: there is a joy and passion in the music, and Just Handshakes have been heralded by reviewers and fans: many of whom note that they have hints of the ’80s and ’90s in their sound. As well as having an impressive back catalogue of songs and scenes, they have been fortunate enough to have played with Mystery Jets and Veronica Falls.

 

The song that has been garnering the most attention, is their new album’s lead-off song, London Bound. It is an appropriate opening track to any album, as it invigorates and makes its presence known, straight away. Beginning life as an elliptical portrait of sound: electronic hold, reminiscent of Dance music, but promising far, far more. It is a deceptive side-step, and in your mind, you are predicting heavier and more forbidding sounds: there is an element of Kid A Radiohead, as well as Portishead to the ambition. It is when the soundscape supersedes to percussion, bass and guitar rumbling- soft, but with plenty of energy- that your thoughts are taken elsewhere. The presence of electronics persevere in the background, but the foreground has an Indie tone to it: sort of like Wild Beasts-cum-Alt-J. In the way that I have decried the XX for their down-turned moodiness, Just Handshakes can invoke a similarly understated epicness to their compositions. The strings and percussion- combined with the introduction of a new guitar line- result in a euphoric rush, that promises ensuing tales of curious regard. The introduction does its very best to build momentum, and draw you in and under. The bass and percussive line are filled with sparks and bounces: a gravity is developed, and draws all the sounds and sight into a central core, before the vocal arrives. When Clara’s voice arrives there is a delicacy and playfulness behind it. Instantly it seems belonging to a past time. Her tones remind me of a song that for the life of me, I can’t remember. There are hints of the singer to that song, and it will come to me no doubt, in a few hours of so. In any case, there is evocations of the ’80s and early ’90s: singers like Liz Fraser. The proscenium backing elevates her flavour notes, so that a distinct charm and curiosity is elicited. There is melody, and sounds of mature longings and revocations. I have heard many people say that during previous releases, the music has bustled for attention, and each band member were sort of on a level plain, with regards to adulation and attention. It is hard to argue against the relentless dance and sway of the music: the bass and strings that bounce and pop; the drum that keeps the mood in check, and surveys the scene. The voice is the star; and something that I was eager to hear even higher up the mix. It stands in the spotlight and coquettishly plays with its hair and smiles. There are audible swings and skips: the voice elongates and holds notes; wrestling with them and contorting them into beautiful shapes. If the nature of the voice, and the enthusiastic warmth of the music suggests a harmonious whole. If you studied the lyrics: “I don’t want to be on my own” for instance, suggests deeper loneliness and uncertainty. It is not clear if the title ‘London Bound’ refers to a preferred destination for our heroine, or whether there is a less literal relevance and ambition behind it. The lyrics go on to explain that our heroine’s friends: “They leave without making a sound” on their way to London. Whether there is longing to be with them; a regret that friends are flying the nest; or there is greater anxiety at heart, is hard to say. You would be forgiven for getting lost in the voice and musical concoctions: they distract you enough so you do not become too sad at our heroine’s plight; but are inclusive and intoxicating in the sense that you will be picturing what the lyrics are saying. There are questions: “Does it have to be this way?”; emphasising the dislocation and depersonalisation. Towards the 1:20 mark, there are drum rumblings that have ’80s indie jangle to them: evocations of The Smiths in the guitar work as well. With a triumphant and lifting rush similar to that pioneered by The Cure, London Bound has a very real mechanical rush and propulsion. When the rush and mini-chaos is temporised and calmed, the hopping bass has ’90s credentials: there is modern-day relevance but it has its heart rooted in the Britpop scufflings of ’94-’95. The drum fills gallop and pop their hips; the guitar signals are subtle, but sprinkle little touches on the shoulder, that supports the emotion, but shows a dignified personality too. When the line “Can we walk the long way home” is sung just before 3:00, there is a tangible pain in the voice and desperation: it is a plea to be in company, and not to left alone. It is the sort of line and subject Morrissey would write about, circa Viva Hate. If there is a sound of ’80s/’90s Manchester in some of the lines and notes; this is bolstered around 3:11; little bits of Joy Division (’70s if we’re being precise); tiny smatterings of Happy Monday’s (transposed touched of Step On), and a fond affection for the past masters. The final minute spends time making sure the chorus is embedded into your mind: it is a centre-point and the key mandate. That sense of our central figure wanting to take her time, so she does not have to go to an empty home (whether the “long way” refers to going home via London, may be lurking in the subconscious). The bold uniqueness of the song, with all its qualities; combined with tiny The Cure/The Smiths touches here and there, make for an authoritative and memorable song. It is the perfect lead-off for an album that promises much treasure and reward. London Bound opens brilliantly and builds up the atmosphere, and ends with a more meditative and calmer vocal plea.

 

If you are not a fan of any of the music, examples of influences I have mentioned here, then you should not abandon the shores of Just Handshakes. There is an incredibly modern and fresh feel to the entire effect. If anything it is more modern than anything out there at the moment. A lot of bands tend to not produce music with such a carefree and wistful energy; and combine that with lyrics that are imploring, yet not too dark. Emphasis today is put on heavy-handedness and a tendency to be a little moribund; unless you are a top-notch lyricist, there is always the temptation to become too insular. Just Handshakes are all-inclusive and open-armed in their loneliness. The voice is so warm and charming- with only slight emphemarability- that it is impossible not to be won over, and sympathetic all at the same time. The album Say It has- over its 12 tracks- a mixture of wanting to be near the bright city lights, as well as a fond love for home and for Yorkshire. There is a lot of personal stuff, as well as romantic strife and aching. On the basis of the evidence here, and having listened to the rest of the album, it is safe to say that the band will cement a wide appeal and gain many new fans. I hope that they rationalise and figure out their definition of home and belonging. There will be a temptation- outside of London Bound- to want to stray from Yorkshire, and move to the capital. London is where the money and record labels are based, by and large, and it is understandable. I have found, from reviewing bands from Leeds and Bradford, that that is where the creative juices flow, and where much inspiration is to be found. What 2013/2014 holds for Just Handshakes is evident: success and demand; it is what moves they make next, that will be interesting. Take a listen to the single, and to the album as a whole; because there are never straight interpretations to be drawn. Just Handshakes make music that is simply universal, but whose messages…

 

CAN strike and effect everyone for very different reasons.

____________________________________________________________________________
Official:

http://justhandshakeswerebritish.tumblr.com/

Twitter:

https://twitter.com/justhandshakes

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/justhandshakes

BandCamp: 

http://justhandshakeswerebritish.bandcamp.com/

 

SanguinDrake- Currency- Track Review

 

Track Review:

 

 

SanguinDrake-

 

 

Currency

 

 

 

9.8/10

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hollywood history and looks, co-mingle with L.A. dreaminess: reborn again, since 2010.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Availability:

Currency is available at

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fwO3jnGMsgk

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MIXING acting with music has been a fascination of mine…

 

for quite a while. It is something that, in this country, leads to grimacing and hesitation amongst many. I guess if you go from the studio to the stage, the reluctance is less intense. It is when actors attempt music, that faces are contorted in a rictus of stunned silence. Critics line up, shining their boots, ready to take the first swing, and the public in general tend to pass them by. In the U.K. the phenomenon has been present for many decades now. It is only over the last 10 years or so, that we have seen more and more actors turning their abilities to music. It is something I will explain more, when explaining the featured band; but for now, is a short history of thespian mis-steps and triumphs. For all the actors, whom have made successful transitions from the stage to the recording studio, there has been a mass of embarrassing failures. Hugh Laurie is the best British example; he has a natural blues voice, and has been displaying his music and vocal chops since his early acting career: Jeeves and Wooster springs to mind. In the U.K. I guess there have been a lot more failures than you’d expect, as I am loathed to highlight another actor, whom has managed to be held in fund regard as a musician. In the U..S, the likes of Juliette Lewis and even William Shatner have had mixed fortunes. Russell Crowe and Robert Downey Jr. have infested their horrid tones on the world; and Jared Leto is a somewhat overrated second-rate singer and musical talent. There are few U.S. examples whom have managed to stay credible. Zoeey Deschanel began brightly as part of She & Him, but their latest album Volume 3 attests, their charm and ideas are running low. If you factor Will Smith out of the equation (whom I suspect began singing before acting), then you have murky waters indeed- but more on it later. In the U.S. there is a small wave of new bands and acts, making their way across the Atlantic. Most of the time, there is an overzealous focus on homegrown talent, with a rather narrow and restrictive foreign policy. I have been privy to hearing superb acts from Australia, Europe, as well as the U.S., and one thing always strikes me hard: why have I not encountered them before now? There seems to be a balkanisation within the music media, or a par with political agendas and evils: giving other countries a leg-up seems to be a no-no in general. Occasionally publications here, such as The Girls Are, The Guardian and The Fly point you in directions unexpected, but by and large, the attention span reaches as far as London, or, if you’re lucky, Manchester. The U.S.A. has produced some of the finest ever music, and it seems that there are not more passionate links between us and them, with regards to promoting one another’s sonic talent.

 

Step up, SanguinDrake. Back in the Spring of 2010, amongst the bustle of the West Coast of America, was produced, an amalgamation of Sarah Sanguin Carter and David Drake. Sanguin Carter hailed from Canada; Drake from Michigan. One would not imagine that a man from Detroit: home to Motown, The Eagles, The White Stripes and Aaliyah, would blend so harmoniously with a girl from Canada: native land of Joni Mitchell, Leonard Cohen and Neil Young. The two had produced solo albums before they met one another, and had received plaudits and credibility. They met, as they state, by chance, and had no prior connection or link: they shared a love of shared music and influences. It is the shared chemistry and harmonious musical talents, that has galvanised their partnership, and kept them focused far into the future. I was first made aware of Sarah, through CSI: New York and Falling Skies. She is possessed of an astonishing beauty, that is quite unnerving, but also portrays a natural passion and warmth through her acting roles, that translates effectively through the songs. David has Hollywood idol looks as well, and a keen sense of style: the combination of aesthetes, as well as fascinating back-stories and ‘other lives’, welds together to create an impressive duo. The band/duo has an impressive online following; their Twitter and Facebook pages are a mass of positive feedback, activity and impassioned feedback. Their official site is painted in pleasing and dynamic pastels; awash with unique and quirky photographs, and detailed and insightful. Drawing from their diverse hometowns, and different musical backgrounds, the duo have concocted a tight and mannered partnership, which has been wowing L.A.- their new residency. They do not go into too much depth about whom their influences and idols are: they let their music do the explaining. On their official website, it is said that Sanguin Carter has “ethereal and edgier artistic tendencies”; whilst Drake possesses a “sincere, masculine vocal quality”. The duo’s humour, as well as shared affection, results in a “hauntingly balanced blend of paradoxes”.

 

To put that publicity to the test, I set my sights and ears to Currency. The video itself is awash with black-and-white mystique, as well as Pop Art diversions: there is a filmic quality to the promotion. The video itself lays in old style P.B.S. graphics, and gives itself a ’70s stylistic: there is a retro appeal straight away, as well as a charming playfulness to proceedings. Opening the track is percussive thud and pump; it is like the momentum is Strawberry Fields Forever (before it fades right down, before coming back up). When that intense punch is married with a dreamy and hazy guitar line, it is a harmonious blend, and creates some romantic mystery to proceedings. It is nary impossible to consider another song, when listening to Currency. There are perhaps elements of early-career The Cardigans, as well as the folky edges of Dylan, Young and Cohen, but I am grasping a little at straws: SanguinDrake known the relevance of communication; discarding the hyperinflation tendencies of most bands (fall in love with a band(s), and copy them repeatedly), and infusing their songs with a distinct stamp of originality. It is a refreshing sea change from a lot of newer music, and Currency manifests a breezy, intriguing and pervasive intro. In the video our hero and heroine wander the streets; Sanguin Carter looking a little like Dusty Springfield or Edie Sedgwick- there are swathes of ’60s cool, quirky fashion, and striking hairstyle. When the vocal arrives, the sound is more modernised and fresh. When it is sung: “Nothing in life is free/Gems are gems if we make them so”, there is a clarity in the vocals that means that the words hit home. Our heroine has a shading of Lana Del Rey: in the way that she can elicit smoky and sensuous vocals that wash over you, but there is something more captivating at work. The tones are clearer and more emotive; there is less emphasis or capturing some sort of Nancy Sinatra-esque sound, instead the voice is sweeter and more personable: shades of Country, mix with soulful edges and smooth middles. The video’s portrayal and replication of Factory Girl is a charming and unexpected move. I guess, if you were listening to the song sans video; you may well picture similar scenes and sensations. Th lyrics are intelligent and poetic: “A diamonds cost is a life lost”, is a striking example. The musical background is simple and percussive-heavy, providing an audible heartbeat and blood flow; but the vocals are given best consideration: Sanguin Carter’s silky tongue is allowed to seduce and captivate. When the duo combine vocally, the effect is pleasing and natural: they compliment one another brilliantly, and the masculine-ethereal blend adds weight to the words. The two state that “Generosity is a Currency”; the coda emphasises that love is a two-way street and someone is always in someone else’s debt, to some degree. When the chorus capitulates, and a new verse arrives, the words: “Side by seed in our need/Side by side in our greed”, begin tales of a burgeoning love, filled with possibilities, vulnerabilities and tender promise. In the video, our heroine- at this point- is painted in black-and-white; pouting, a sex kitten; photographed and lusted after. It is the voice that keeps enticing: a little bit The Divinyls-cum-’60s siren. There is a lingering hint of a known vocalist in the tones, but for the life of me, I can’t remember who. It is the power and seductive quality that Sanguin Carter has: draws you in and leaves you a little dazed. Our video visuals are a little ’60s chic/Strawberry Alarm Clock, but the sonic evocations are focused and engaging. You can imagine the song scoring something modern and underground: a charming, intellectual indie film, or mainstream romantic movie- it has that utilitarian prowess. The chorus is one of the most effecting and effective components. It is powerfully sung, and words such as “My love, nothing in life is free”, have a wise and burden-heavy regard upon their shoulders: one gets the impression that both of the guys have seen and experienced a great deal of emotional revocation. The percussion and guitar sounds keep the mood alive and balanced but do not hustle for focus: they let the words and voice stand out. The voice from our heroine does not just dreamily survey and proffer; there are skips and little sparks of energy. When the line “I can’t stand still when I hear that”, it is has ’60s and modern-day pop evocations and in the video, Sanguin Carter combines hair-tousling siren (think Kylie Minogue-cum-rock chic), with the central motif of Sedgwick: saddened and downcast, as our hero (in black-and-white) sits in front of a projector, and watches her below. Just after the 2/3 mark, a noticeable quickening of energy is unveiled, as the percussive sounds grab your attention most. In the video, our central idol, totters away and out of shot; beguiled and starkly affected. The song ends with the chorus repeated and you are left with a strange feeling: a great track has been lodged, and has lodged in your mind, but there are questions. You wonder how events ended up- such is the potency of the words one cannot help but picture every scene. Also, you become curious about how you have not heard of the band before, given the impressiveness of their music.

 

There is no hyperbole or over-expression in the words above. I only encountered the band through chance. It is ironic, that for a duo whom met amidst serendipity and chance occurrence, that I arrived at their feet by similar fluke. It underpins my argument about the compartmentalisation and balkanisation within the music industry, and associative media. Many may see the duo and become fixated by their combined beauty and sex appeal. Sanguin Carter has an incredibly striking and alluring beauty, and in the music business, that is often used as a pretence to detract an artist, and focus upon superficial aspects. If you factor out the birth rights, and delve into the music, many prescient realisations become clear. The sound itself is a rarity and golden touch. Many new acts, and especially duos can have something of a curate’s egg about them. There may be reservations when you hear that one of the group’s members is an actor, and a much sought-after focus on the Hollywood scene. Like Deschanel, Sanguin Carter has an affinity and passion for music, that transcends any preconceptions and expectations. The differences, though are many. Sarah’s voice is more varied and engaging: there are flavours of ’60s legends such as Springfield, as well as modern tones, too. The range is impressive, and she has a very strong and powerful voice. She is at her best when seducing and trying to draw you in (which she does with aplomb). David, is a brilliant singer and counterpart; he is an accomplished and brilliant musician, and his voice is similarly strong and captivating. Where SanguinDrake stand apart, is the compositions and lyrics. I urge you to seek out their other songs as well, but on Currency, there is a clear sense of authority, passion and musical history. The composition is solid, tight and evolutionary: the percussion, guitar and sounds act to eek out maximum emotional fortitude. The key is in simplicity, and unearthing effectiveness through as few diversions as possible. There are haunting and dark smoky edges, as well as defiant stalwartness. The lyrics appeal to me hugely. They go beyond the expected norm: boy-meets-girl-has-issues-hearts-broken-emotions-unfold-no-way-back. The words are intelligent, pointed and thought-provoking; and the theme of ‘Currency’ is represented originally and brilliantly. Overall, you become an instant fan, as the music exceeds any prefabricated notions, and what is left in your mind, is a duo whom are producing fabulous music that has its mind and body in 2013, but its heart, soul and lust in the ’60s and ’70s: eliciting a similarly genre and era-straddling charm and quality. The media, as well as social media, needs to do better to promote worthy bands, and enforce their appeal and longevity. If I hadn’t happened upon SanguinDrake when I did, who knows when- if at all- I would? There is no fate, destiny or karma- life’s randomness and lack of predeterminism does not gift the good with due rewards: you have to go and earn your own luck and richness. I am not sure how far my gold standard thumbs-up with go, towards affording the duo with new and wide-ranging fans and followers; I hope it at least gets them noticed here in the U.K. In spite of my recommendations and patronage, the Drake-Sanguin Carter coefficient will earn plaudits and plenty of currency, beyond their L.A. and U.S. fans, and will (hopefully) soon, be playing festivals and locations around Europe. Listen to what they have produced, and imagine what is coming next; because one thing is certain:

 

THEY will be a permanent fixture before too long.

_______________________________________________________________________
Official:

http://sanguindrake.com

Twitter:

https://twitter.com/SanguinDrake

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/sanguindrake

YouTube:

http://www.youtube.com/optimisticduck

Universal Thee- All Is Love- Track Review

 

Track Review:

 

 

Universal Thee-

 

 

All Is Love

 

Universal Thee

 

9.4/10

 

 

 

 

‘Indie/Slack Rock’ 5-piece, have vocal stream-of-consciousness, and a strong ear for melody. The Saltire is being strengthened by some prophetic wind and wonderful melody.

 

 

 

Availability:

All Is Love is available at:

http://soundcloud.com/lisalrussell/all-is-love

___________________________________________________________________________

THIS week I have featured a fair deal of talent from Scotland…

 

I shall not go into too much depth again, with regards to Scotland, but it is interesting how different regions, seem, not only to foster a certain level of quality, but types of music too. The north tends to have a lot of acoustic acts and band; but a fair few of Arctic Monkey-esque bands too: heavier and more intense. Yorkshire is a little more diverse with regards to genre: there are swing acts, as well as U.S. Blues Rock acts and talent, here. This is where we may see the majority of future stars. Down south, and towards the coasts, there is a tendency and fashion for breezier and warmer acts: a lot of acoustic sounds, but there are indie acts to be heard. In-between there are patches and flashes of occasional brilliance, but to my mind, the most exciting movements, are taking place in Scotland. Up until a month or two ago, I had not heard a lot of new music from here. I have speculated and hypothesised, that the reason is for the (almost) sudden spurt of Scottish talent coming through- as well as why there is such a high strike rate. It is the diversity and range of sounds, that has impressed me most. I have heard new acts (Steve Heron, Ded Rabbit); through to older bands (Camera Obscura), and was always struck by the same sensation: where have these acts been hiding? I suppose that the narrow focus of the media, as well as a geographical dislocation, of sorts, is affecting concentration and potential attention. But that is going to have to be another conundrum, for another day. Harder and more menacing electric tones, are a comparative rarity in new music. There is a greater emphasis and evidence of acoustic music and softer voices. I guess to an extent, there is greater safety and security in this genre. There is a greater personalisation when you employ an acoustic guitar, and it seems to be what is sought after in today’s scene. Of course, it is a genre- acoustic/folk/pop- dedicated and reserved for the solo artist. For bands, there are more options with regards to sound, but also there are greater risks. For your lone star, most of the material is personal and related to romance and the pitfalls of love. The sounds can be limited and predictable, but the rewards waiting for those whom are different: genuinely unique voice; tight, focused lyrics; winning personality etc. The band game is a less busy market, but there is a security in numbers. The singer is not necessarily the focus, and there is a greater potential for credibility, due to the greater numbers. The pitfalls for bands is a lack of originality. Less I moan incessantly like a middle-aged man, gutted that there are no modern-day Rolling Stones or Beatles, there is some validity in this discourse. I have found that a great deal of new acts are trying to hard to be someone else: be an existing band. This is pointless and irritating, as this distills any potential, and is a black mark for new talent. Thankfully; there is a small amount- about 10%- of new bands, whom are motivated to try something, that is distinctly them.

 

Universal Thee- cool band name aside- are James, Lisa, Robin, Sean and Kevin, and are a ceremonial band of brothers (and sister), whom have an interesting range of influences. Ash, Weezer, Pixies and Pavement are in there: a lot of ’80s and ’90s influences, as well as late-’90s-modern-day folk such as Queens of the Stone Age. It is an odd pleasure when there is a lack of Arctic Monkeys, Biffy Clyro and The Rolling Stones listed: I have seen these names too often, and consequently been able to pinpoint their influence all too clearly. The band have gained a reputable following, and through a string of local gigs, have built up a native regard.. For nearly three years, they have been pioneering a loud-quiet dynamic: Pixie-esque, as well as crafting sharp melodies: Ash spring to mind. It is the band’s skill for blending these facets, together with a stream-of-consciousness vocal ambition, that creates a variable and striking business plan. As well as melody, there is a great deal of exciting noise; this combination, combined with male and female (lead) vocals, elicits an almost-Grunge/Punk splendor: rarely attempted in the 21st century. Aside from their gold credentials and strong war-chest of heroes and influences, the group are staunch tourers: bringing their songs as far and wide as possible. Their on-line following is growing, and attention is starting to mount. In a country, where there are comparatively few new acts making their presence known as far south as London, Universal Thee are part of a small crop that should be on the lips of NME and The Guardian alike. The future success and growth of music depends upon cultural and geographical mixing: not just drawing in foreign influences and music into England, but focusing on Welsh, Scottish and (Northern) Irish talent primarily. It is the nations of the U.K. whom promise greatest promise. The U.S., Europe, Australia and varying nations have their share of fascination, but there is a wealth of untapped wealth to be found within the British Isles. It is bands like Universal Thee: little-known to many in London, whom are examples of what the U.K. has to offer, in the way of diverse, and unique music.

 

The group has amassed a great deal of songs in their short life, but it is All Is Love that catches my ear hardest. The intro., to me, suggests pure fun and sunshine. The opening notes have shades of early R.E.M., curiously, as well as light-edged Radiohead. Maybe there is some Jack White to be heard- circa White Blood Cells. It is an unexpected beginning, that for all the suggested influences, has a charm and individuality that is theirs alone. If I had to pick a song that rings bells, I would say Near Wild Heaven, by the aforementioned (sadly defunct) band from Georgia, U.S.A. There is a similar Out of Time adventurous joy and strong melody. The quintet have been celebrated for their gift with a melody, and it is the way that a little of Radiohead’s Street Spirit (Fade Out) arpeggio; mixed with Jack White’s Never Far Away; with whisper of Shiny Happy People R.E.M and the dark edges of Pixie’s Debaser, that creates a fairytale/balletic skip and step: not an intro that many acts are capable of developing. It is an interesting point: even acoustic bands and solo artists never compose melodies that are as evocative and Spring-like; preferring to opt for monotonous strum or- if you are a ‘heavier’ band- something that is all teeth and spit. The duet vocal-play between Lisa and James, matches the mood set by the intro. There is some of Sixpence None the Richer’s charm (think Kiss Me), but with none of the Christian Pop/Rock nonsense. Lisa’s vocals are warm and sensuous: little honeyed edges of cherry country and folk, melting with a some U.S. indie edges too. The result is soothing and sexy. Similarly, the masculine edges from James’s voice compliment perfectly, and when “I see it/More now than ever” is sung, the resultant chemical reaction is a vocal Sodium Acetate Super Saturation against a musical Briggs-Rauscher Reaction. The track is underpinned by a steady acoustic blood-flow, supported by bass and drum; everything is keep tight and engaging. The vocal byplay variates to employ more sprightly edges (at stages it sounds, curiously, like The Beautiful South circa-Gaze; but in a very good way). The chorus is elongated, with quasi-syncopation: the vocal hangs and glides, before hitting/kissing the ground. Perhaps giving the band’s near-legendary live performances, it is unsurprising that the song has a ‘live feel’ to it: the production is impressive but not cluttered or overly-polished- like you are listening to a live version of the song. It is this commendation, tied with the nature of the song: something that employs tinges of influences, yet has a sound that can be seen as L.A. sunshine as well as ’90s-modern-day indie. The tales on love, and machinations of the gentler side of things, charm and win you over. There is positivism and personal perspectives: “That’s not all I see”, married with open-hearted declarations: “You are all/All is Love”. What is traditional with love songs, or any story of boy-and-girl-meet-and-beat-the-world, is that there is some negativity or sour tongue, somewhere along the line. The effusive nature of the melodies and composition, means that the band could be singing of kicking a puppy through an electric ceiling fan, and you’d still sing along: lost as you are amidst the sea of technicolour bliss. As the words stop, and the infectious and lilting coda is presented, the song is wrapped up and completed with a designated hitter enthusiasm. The overall effect one takes away from the track is new perspective. A lot of what I have been reviewing lately has had negative edges, or cynicism at its core. All Is Love, rather appropriately, lives up to its title.

 

I hope Universal Thee get a lot more future credit. There are few bands whom have an authoritative gentle side to their nature; the default setting is to lean towards heavier and spikier sounds. Their music is imbued with warmer colours, and although they have got enough kick and spark in other songs, it is refreshing that they do not disguise or supplement sensitivity and warmth, with something less sincere. Scotland is home to a parliament of diverse and fascinating players, all of whom- from my experience- have likeable and great personalities too: no pretencion, only modesty and a great appreciation with regards to having their sounds promoted. What 2014 holds, is going to be hard to say. Whether the focus- of the media and the charts- moves away from London and England, and is more incorporating and encompassing, is hard to predict. It should, as there is a tendency to relegate any band with genuine talent and individuality to the nether-regions of the underground, and separate charts. This means that a lot of people miss out. As there is an urgent need to beat as many dents of sub-par pop dross out of public consciousness, and replace it with more solid and reliable sounds such as this, it seems action needs taking. It needs to be done with diplomacy and tact, and as social media is burgeoning and inescapable, it needs to be utilised more effectively so bands such as Universal Thee get due credit, and can amass fans from all of the U.K. as well as Europe and the U.S. That is a battle for a future war; but for now, one thing is certain:

 

A positive musical mindset leads to greater inspiration: take note future up-comers!_______________________________________________________________________

Twitter:

https://twitter.com/doctorjims

Facebook: 

https://www.facebook.com/?ref=logo#!/universalthee

SoundCloud: 

http://soundcloud.com/lisalrussell

Reverb Nation:

http://www.reverbnation.com/universalthee

Ded Rabbit- Catch 22- Track Review

 

Track Review:

 

 

Ded Rabbit-

 

 

Catch 22

 

                          
 
 

9.2/10

 

 

 

When a band marries indie-pop with “some uniquely funky sax beats”, one of two things can occur: it confuses, or completely wins you. Definitely a case of the latter.

 

 

 

 

Availability:

Catch 22 is available at

http://soundcloud.com/ded-rabbit/ded-rabbit-catch-22

____________________________________________________________________________
DIVERSITY can be as divisive as it is commendable…

 

When you think back to psychedelic experimentation in music, in the mid-late ’60s, the result heralded a huge change in the musical landscape. It was a bold and exciting sound, that was to be used hugely be a lot of bands. The Beatles began to heavily experiment within Revolver; other pop acts incorporated psychedelia into their template, and this continued well into the ’70s. It was a wave and transformation that changed music indefinitely, and inspired a great deal of bands in the ’80s and ’90s, including The Stone Roses. You can hear in a great deal of today’s music, and is an example of a genre/style of music that is potent and majestic; if used correctly and not too frequently. It would amaze you at the number and range of acts and artists whom have used psychedelic shades in their songs. Certain styles and stages of music, are of their time. Hair metal and many fads and phenomenons that gladly died in the ’80s, reflect the mood and ambition of the artists at the time; Britpop has not been used too inclusively and fervently since the cessation and decline of bands such as Blur, Oasis, Pulp, Supergrass and Suede. Although Suede (and to a degree Pulp) are still operational, their sound has mutated to something more mature, with flecks of hard edges and dark energy. Whether a particular sound is designed to capture the zeitgeist, or inspire future generations to foster and parent it passionately, varies. It has been a source of much perturbation and disgruntlement in my mind, that seldom few bands are willing to be diverse. I don’t mean that they have to employ five or six different genres in one song, but it wouldn’t hurt is more artists were willing to expand their palette: incorporate something unexpected; mix things up a little bit. It is not a coincidence that the greatest bands of our time- from Blur to Radiohead, through to Queens of the Stone Age and Arcade Fire, regularly would, and do, blend differing sounds and influences into their music. It keeps the intrigue fresh and mobile, and also means that new fans and followers are attracted to your music. Given the vast chasm of music that has been left, and is being produced, one would imagine that this art-form should be popular and ever-expanding: you’d be surprised. Many acts- new artists especially- are too concerned with developing their own sound, that they are too nervous or limited, with regards to expanding their grasp. It is ironical that so many new acts sound like an existing one, that encompassing some obtuse angles into their cauldron, would help take focus away from accusations of mimicry and plagiarism. Over the past 20 years or so, there has been experimentation with jazz and blues notes. Even during the glory dances of dance music- when Massive Attack burst forth with Blue Lines, diversification was expanded in new directions. They were adept at weaving sounds and sample into one harmonious blend: a move that saw the likes of Moby, The Avalanches, Gorillaz and such, delve into annals past, and blend some unexpected compounds together.

 

The aspect of conjoining sax and jazz influences into a modern indie/rock template, has not been attempted too often. Bands have done it sporadically: Radiohead during Kid A and Amnesiac; QOTSA during Rated R, and I am hard-pressed to think of many groups or acts that experiment this way, aside from Sufjan Stevens. Perhaps I am missing out, but it may be the case that the spate of new acts and music is burying somewhat, the exciting artists, whom are doing something different. Ded (sic.) Rabbit, are a Scottish outfit; created in Yorkshire and migrated to Edinburgh, whom have volunteered a lot of time to studying past masters such as The Beatles and Hendrix, and splicing influential little spices into their sound. The band consist of Eoin, Donal, Fergus and Eugene. From the pages of social media, through to the music newspapers, the band have gained massive positive feedback: bolstered and aided by festival appearances and a tireless work motif. The boys have an impressive and bullet-proof list of influences, and have pulled away from the tendency many have of being narrow and rigid, by infusing their tracks with ’60s passion, as well as jazz/sax. wonder. Their is a wild abandon, as well as a playful swing to their music, and their song titles: ranging from Andromeda’s Milkshake through to Navajo, have a familiar and appropriate psychedelic/jazz-cum-’60s bliss oddity to them. They seem like cuts from a lost Captain Beefheart album, and certainly are befitting, considering the contents of the tracks themselves. For over 2 years the band have been laying down and honing their sound; with very little comparable bands or artists troubling them at all. It seems unusual: if you think abstractly, and are open-minded in your talent mounting, then songs come more freely, and are alive with greater possibilities and stunning colours. For all the guitar/indie bands out there, most of whom are too similar to an existing act, it is a relief that there are artists that are willing to be different and brave. I have stated (in previous reviews), that the most fascinating footsteps take place the further north you travel. I have been bowled over and seduced by some wonderful acts from Bradford, Leeds, Manchester and Liverpool, and through my association with Steve Heron, have been made aware of a great raft of bright young things in Scotland. In fact Heron himself has a restless energy and is someone always looking to do something new and different- nary compromising his integrity or core values. It is perhaps indicative of a potential shift in 2014, that London-centric media types, will need to refocus their energies to Scotland, when looking for the best and most prodigious: it seems that the south is struggling by comparison. In spite of the band’s reputation, as well as their imperial vigour, underneath there is a more tangible and humanised whole: four lads, all of whom are personable and face the same sort of mundane daily torments, as you and I.

 

In continuation of the thematic detailing of everyday horror, it was not a shock to find that their track, Catch 22, was motivated by getting grief from people on the bus; much undeserved and highly annoying. Whether this is a fictionalised parable, or drawn from the band’s collective biography, is a curious question. The song rattles, seduces, bends over, fights and annihilates in 2:08; managing to cover as much ground in 128 seconds, as a lot of bands do over an entire E.P. The track wastes no time in ratcheting the fireworks: guitar, bass and percussive joints fuse, and destroy one another; jazzy sounds are splattered onto the canvas with Abstract intention. There is no time to breathe or absorb what is being proffered: instead you are carried away by the wave. It terms of emotive adjectives, I guess ‘fun’ would sum it up, as good as any. It is a light-hearted and Calypso dance, that has hidden aces and joker cards up its sleeve. From 0:20, the pattern changes to a woozier guitar swagger: elements of Kaiser Chiefs as well as a little fusion of The Mars Volta and Sonic Youth. It is not dark and brooding, more utilitarian and populist. When it seems like we may be about to witness a Muse-style space opera (think Knights of Cydonia-cum-Take a Bow), the spontaneity continues unabated, as the vocal arrives. The voice is dynamic, but also is embalmed with an innate punk energy, as well as jazzier edges: the resultant hybrid of Ian Dury and Jamie Cullum. When it is sung: “Can’t listen to it anymore”, Eugene has a delivery that, to my mind, has hints of Carl Barat and Billie Joe Armstrong. There is a relentless pace and drive, but always a purpose and control, too. When the jerking and punching guitar line, transposes to a fuzzier beast, there is QOTSA Lullabies’ druid rock-cum-psychedelic fizz. The rise that follows is more celebratory and jazz-tinged, with an acid underscore; there is a comparable scrummage and chaos that Ian Dury and the Blockheads employed. Radiohead elicited pure f****** chaos on The National Anthem and Life in a Glasshouse; QOTSA went similarly nuts on I Think I Lost My Headache; here the disorder is much more amiable and impish. The guitar sways and moves have the appearance of bridging the two halves of the song: they prepare you for what is arriving next. When the next verse arrives, our omnibus drama develops in the second act; our hero is asked what he is sorry for; he explains he was “trying to be polite”. There is a simmering tension underneath; the music has a Libertines-by-Squeeze journeyman quality, if the words are more purposeful: “Surely out of mind/And out of sight”. The track finishes with a sax. flurry and a final dance, and everything is wrapped up and completed.

 

If there was any trepidation about the band and their oeuvre: the bold mission statements, the potential for disarray etc. it will come as a soothing remedy that nothing malodorous or unnerving lurks within. At times the vocals are hard to decipher: buried a little too far down the mix and slightly unintelligible, but it is a minor quibble. It is true that Scotland have a vast chest of diverse and amiable talent. Away from the homogenised major cities, it is a breath of fresh air that something different and genuinely exciting can be heard here. What happens next is down to the band. I hope that an album and touring will ensue, not only later this year, but into 2014- and beyond. The guys are young and enthusiastic, and have a key understanding about what the market wants: something that goes beyond the monotony and predictability of a lot of the modern crop. There are guitars, bass and drums; but they are used and fostered with a firmer hand and wiser mouth. In future years, I hope that new acts will break away the tendency to ape existing acts or be too safe and timid when it comes to experimentation and diversity. The likes of Ded Rabbit have shown that it can be done very effectively. Take note, future wannabe musicians:

 

YOU can learn a lot from these chaps.

____________________________________________________________________________
Official:

http://www.dedrabbit.co.uk/

Twitter:

https://twitter.com/ded_rabbit

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/DedRabbit

SoundCloud:

http://www.youtube.com/user/dedrabbitmusic

YouTube:

http://www.youtube.com/user/dedrabbitmusic

 

 

Gigs:

17th May – Electric Circus, Edinburgh

26th May – 20 Rocks, Dundee

31st May – Snafu, Aberdeen

1st June – PJ Molloys, Dunfermline

22nd June – Mickey 9s fest, Glasgow

29th June – Art School, Glasgow

25th August – Feast/ELjam, Musselburgh

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kayla L’ayton- Don’t Let Me Go- Track Review

 

Track Review:

 

 

Kayla L’ayton-

 

 

 

 

 

Don’t Let Me Go

 

 

 

9.3/10

 

 

 

The ‘Uninhibited’ siren has an allure, rare beauty, dynamism and credibility that will garner, not only an inter-gender, but multi-genre klatch.

 

 

 

Availability:

Don’t Let Me Go is available via:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VIgDw0ESmtI&feature=player_embedded#

The Uninhibited EP is out now, available at:

https://itunes.apple.com/gb/album/uninhibited-ep/id641656766
Tracklist & snippet preview:
https://soundcloud.com/kaylalayton/sets/kayla-layton-uninhibited-ep/

 

Cash Money
Don’t Let Me Go
Inside Out
Love Drunk
Had Enough
Release Me

____________________________________________________________________________
THERE is a great deal of sketchy logic dictating how artists…

 

perceive their success. It is an issue a lot with the female market: a great deal of post hoc ergo propter hoc rationalisation is attributed to their victories. It is impossible to navigate anywhere within the musical waters, without hitting a frustrating iceberg of stubbornness. If we clear up a few things, before moving on. The issue of religion and proof of God is not something to be argued against: I find it illogical and strange, but do not try to take that faith away from someone. Real problems exist, when associative quasi-philosophy and Straw Man arguments are applied. I, for one, find it aneurysm-inducing, every time I hear of a musician (or actor) describe their career as a ‘journey’. It is a nauseating summation. Musical trajectories have no geographical relation or merit, and less still, are not similar to- or worthy of- any larger or more important imagery. It is a horrid buzz-word I would like to stump out, with a flaming kick. As an extension to my point, and when looking at similar reductio ad absurdum phenomenum, I have always loathed such expressions as ‘everything happens for a reason’, and ‘it’s destiny’. The former is contingent on their being a God: things literally happen for a reason, as in everything can be explained. There is no greater purpose or ‘master-plan’ being orchestrated by God: if there is, then I am getting a royal screw-job. I hate every time this phrase is spoken, and is done far too much in music. Similarly, there is no such thing as fate or destiny. No human has a predetermined objective or destination; it is a lazy and naive way of explaining life’s events. At worst, it is indicative of a lack of logic, intelligence and a basic thought process. Too many new acts and artist explain and rationalise their success because of these things; as well as using it to explain any set-back or stutter. For new acts that are genuinely ambitious and talented, it takes credit and worthiness out of their hands, and apportions it to some unreal and intangible hokum. For those whom gain success and followers down to positive media focus, and through galvanised social media interaction; it unfairly neglects people whom spend a lot of time and effort promoting the associative acts. I guess a lot of my reticence and anger comes from personal experience: especially with regards to the latter point. I have chosen this subject to focus on, as there are too many musicians and acts, that rather arrogantly put their ‘fate’ into ‘the hands of the gods’ assuming that they are going to be on the scene for years to come. Success in the current climate relies on having a relevant sound and a great talent: sales and fans do not arrive just for the hell of it; you have to work hard to be remembered and to inspire. Too many skate by on faulty syllogisms and consequently put in the bare-minimum work effort, with regards to output and publicity. My featured artist today is the epitome of an act whom understand the vital need to back up an incredible talent, by making her presence know. I shall explain more, in good time.

 

The ‘female solo artist’ sector is a variable, but oddly immobile and stolid market. It is a similar issue with the male sector, but for all the vast numbers and differing objectives, the resultant sounds are largely variations on a (narrow) theme. Whether this homogeneous myopic hell is due to the fact that it is a harder life being solo, when compared to being in a band; or down to the fact that there is a lack of ambition or talent to be found, can fairly be argued both ways. The issue is more prevalent when you see 20-something talents, with acoustic guitars, each of whom says the same thing, has the same voice, and writes predictably uninspiring lyrics. There is some variation and mobility when referencing the voice: some can elicit some divisive emotion or range, but by and large, there are little surprises to be found. In terms of black females, there are more fascinating moves being made. The likes of Alicia Keys and collegial soul and R ‘n’ B contemporaries employ more style and passion: stylish and brilliant piano lines, as well as enraptured and captivating vocal turns. At a different avenue of the spectrum, current crop such as Lianne La Havas, mix in a myriad of sounds and beats into the mix, to bolster her songs, and produce something much more fascinating and electrifying. Singers such as Brittany Howard, are recapturing the magic of the soul queens such as Aretha Franklin and Nina Simone, and mixing in a little Janis Joplin: providing inspiration and invigoration to a rather stale scene. For the likes of me- a 30-year-old white songwriter from the Home Counties- there is greater appeal here, to my mind. It is a minority sector, but one that is growing and provides fascination to a wide range of races, sectors and classes in society. For the young black artist, whom is up-and-coming, there is cultural relevance; for rock, metal and indie acts, there are new and unexpected sounds and shades that can be employed into their music: thus improving it greatly. The young black men and women are at the forefront of a vanguard of quality and diversification that has been lacking in music for many years. Of course, there are artists such as Azealia Banks, whom are torpedoing the rest, by possessing a rather repellent personality, and being too forthright and controversial: thus alienating music-lovers and creating a sour taste in many people’s mouths. She is a rare exception, and thankfully, is not representative of her peers. Kayla L’ayton, is a young woman is a hard-working, talented and gorgeous young woman, whom can be ranked alongside the likes of Keys, La Havas and Howard. She knows the importance of making things happen, and does not relying solely on her great talent, looks and personality do the talking. She began performing music at a tender age, and the London-born star has worked with a lot of different D.J.’s, grime and garage artists, and has honed her talents and skills, since her 2012 E.P. debut ‘This Is Me’. She is a star-in-the-making: possessive of stunning looks, a likeable and affable personality; a fond consideration and love of her fans, and a bold inventiveness and ambition. She is a graduated of the BRIT School, she should have her name associated with the likes of Adele and Leona Lewis, and certainly not Jessie J. It is the intelligence, humour and down-to-Earth nature that comes through strongest on her social media sites, and the music that she is producing is deserving of a lot more attention.

 

Her 6-track E.P., Uninhibited is available, and showcases a range of sounds and themes, as well as tableuxs of love-gone-wrong and personal need for space. Song titles such as Had Enough, Release Me and Love Drunk, may hint at a young woman, whom wants to escape and has seen her fair share of pain, where as Cash Money and Inside Out vary their prophecies and ambitions; it is hard to escape the fact that there is great value for money. At 6 tracks long, it is a full and tight E.P., and its 2nd track, Don’t Let Me Go, is out in the ether. It is the assimilation of her past history, perseverance and attention to detail that makes the song stand out, and capture so. Beginning with a wordless chorus of emotion and sex appeal,, the initial moments have their heart rooted in soul, as well as modern pop as well. There is a little of Christina Aguilera’s tones in the sound, but the weight and timbre can be closer associated with Leona Lewis and Alicia Keys: there is that authoritative sense of passion and conviction. The vocal structure continues, but is accompanied by- at first a soft piano line- a rumbling drum coda. If you watch the official video to the song, it depicts our heroine, saddened and- at times- shackled. There is loneliness, emptiness, constriction and sadness initially apparent from both song, and visuals. The musical backbones keeps strong and propulsive- sprinkling in ethereal twinkling, here and there. Stories of “Reaching for the heavens” portray a woman, whom wants to “break free”. One would imagine figuratively-speaking (although in the video she is literally tied up) L’ayton is imprisoned and bound: unable to break away; as she is in a battle for control “over (my) mind”. There is tension and stress: she is running short of time, and whether the song is inspired by a relationship she wishes to extricate herself from, or pressures of her life; are open for initial interpretation. The vocalisations should appeal beyond fans of Keys, Aguilera, Lewis and even Mariah Carey. There are elements of their range, power and purpose, but has more soulful and softer edges: there are fewer needless screams, rises, over-indulgences and ululation- it is pure and measured. The lyrics, too, are a step away from what you may expect: personal heartache-cum-man-done-wrong-hate; with too many phrases reminding you of ‘motivational photos’ on Facebook. L’ayton has a sharper pen, and manages to deviate away from lyrical Dead Sea; mixing typical emotional imagery and metaphors, with something harder and more edgy. This is evidences clearly when her vocal rises (around 1:26). The lungs open, the voice rises and backing it up is the sound of something more carnivorous and indebted to the street- this is augmented during the chorus, where sharper beats and slams inject the mood. Following the chorus’s invocation that our heroin is not let go, and held onto, imagery- both lyrical and visual- projects her state of mind: burdened by tears and her entire soul is close to being submerged and nullified. There are plenty of words that will appeal to the teen and 20-something female: resilience in the face of heartache, as well as an inner motivation. The lyrics employ imagery of webs, water, broken spirits and a soul in need of fixing. The chorus, to my ear, has a flavour of En Vogue as well; something that pleased me. There is a band that could appeal to all ages, genders, sectors and societies: there was universal appeal; L’ayton has the same lift and resonance throughout a lot of the song, but especially in the choruses. In the way that the song combines heavier and epic voice-and-music combinations are similar to contemporaries such as Beyonce. Perhaps she is a more relatable companion: there is a similar edge of softer-side I Am…Sasha Fierce. It is the combination of Beyonce, En Vogue, as well as Lewis, that infuses the remainder of the song. The protagonist breaks her shackles (in the video), and is running for freedom, and the repetition of the song title through to the end of the song, reinforces her need for safety and security.

 

I do hope that the Uninhibited E.P. does solid business. The solo market is a vast and crowded one, and there are too few genuine talents, whom are able to vary their sound and keep fresh: choosing to be motionless, creatively. L’ayton has the pedigree to separate herself from a lot of her contemporaries, whom may share the same heartache, and write similar songs. In Don’t Let Me Go, and the E.P. as a whole, there is a range and genre-spanning appeal, that can win undecided voters and a wide audience. If you keep going as she has done: innovating her creativity; experimenting with sound, as well as employing hints of influences and other voices (just a little bit), then she will acquire a foothold near the summit of an expanding mountain. She is restless and ever-changing, and in a climate where many solo female tend to be of a certain class, background, culture- with little diversity in terms of sound or ethnicity, L’ayton is going about business the same way as the likes of La Havas and- to a degree- Emile Sande: creating music that can unite those whom would not usually be huge fans, by being fresh, innovative and bold. She knows that she has to work hard and keep going strong in order to obtain glory: not simply believing the universe will put things in order for her. She has a personality and dedication to fans that adds an additional layer of appeal to her core; and her themes, words, mandate and independence will appeal, not only to the young black woman, but every woman. The musical diversity and range will draw in plenty of male attention (taking obvious beauty and sex appeal out of the equation); and the songs on her E.P. (as well as her debut), will ignite excitement those whom would not usually listen to this type of music. When it comes down to it, success and longevity impinges on three main facets: a relevant sound that is indelible; a talent that is not static, but growing; and a winning personality and creative and business intelligence that understands what people need…

 

THREE out of three ain’t bad.

____________________________________________________________________________

Official:

http://www.kaylalayton.com/

Twitter:

https://twitter.com/kaylalaytonuk

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/kaylalaytonuk

SoundCloud:

http://soundcloud.com/kaylalayton

YouTube:

http://www.youtube.com/officialkaylalive

 

 

 

Benny Monteux- Let’s Be Friends- Track Review

Track Review:

 

 

Benny Monteux-

 

Let’s Be Friends

 

Hold Tight EP cover art

 

9.2/10

 

 

Edinburgh troubadour has motifs of unity, ‘togetherness’ and humanisation; folk-tinged and coalescing; bit with a sly wink underneath.

 

Availability:

Let’s Be Friends is available via

http://bennymonteux.bandcamp.com/track/lets-be-friends

The E.P. Hold Tight is available at

http://bennymonteux.bandcamp.com/

___________________________________________________________________________

STYLE, personability and imagery, plays a controvertible and vital…

 

role in music; in the way the public perceives you and your potentiality. I guess this is especially prescient and vital if you are a solo artist. Bands as a whole tend to not spend a great deal of consideration on their projection. As a consequence, it can be a lot harder, on the surface, to differentiate or distinguish them. You often have to listen a great deal to a good few songs, or trawl through interviews, to arrive at conclusions regarding their candescence. Solo artists have a harder life, in all respects. For a start, they are alone; and have to invoke the a comparable impact, but with three or four (or more) fewer people, assisting them. In terms of imagery, there is a lot more focus on personality. With bands, there is less consideration- unless you are a big ticket item. When thinking about your lone star, a far greater relevance is given to this side of them. They have to do all of the talking; have a great scrutiny on their shoulders, and a multitude of media and public eyes, firmly set on their every move. I have somewhat been, um, underwhelmed, shall we say, by the sheer lack of any sort of intrigue, regarding the solo market. There are a lot of popular solo artists on the scene, but very few have any thing worth saying (outside of music), and a greater proportion always have a distinct flaw, that makes them less likeable than you’d hoped. It is understandable I guess, as there is a huge diversity of people in the music industry, and their personality does not differ or improve, when they enter the music business: they are who they are. It just seems that there is so little flamboyance, mystery or star quality, in the modern age. Back in the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s, there was a greater number of artists, whom grabbed your attention. Bob Dylan had his image and mythological fascination; Roy Orbinson was a man of mystery and incredible passion; Morrissey was- and is- a controversial but empathetic idol for the lonely hearts of the world. What do we have now? With the proliferation of social media, and the depersonalisation of music, many of your solo stars are very bland and cloying. Worse still; those characterless names, often have little creative and design intelligence. Any social network page, official website, E.P./album cover and song name, are often predictably homogeneous and unspectacular. To my mind, it is a mandatory primary concern. For all the honing of material and sound, the aspects regarding to packaging are given no credence. I almost bleed from my ears every time I faced with a new solo artist. Their E.P. covers are boring self portraits; their song titles are cliched and drab; their back-story and personality is anodyne and yawning, and it is not a coincidence, that artists whom are guilty of all of these, rarely stick around, and fewer still are remembered. Great male examples, such as Bon Iver show how it should be done- if you are a little introverted and private. His photos, song titles, and interviews are always intriguing, and as a natural consequence, he received a greater adoration, than, say, the likes of Justin Biebers (although he is an entirely different kettle of moronic, cretinous fish). For the girls, I would say Laura Marling strikes a perfect balance. She is alluring in her detachment; gorgeous in her unconventional way, and has a stunning intelligence and savvy business plan. In interviews she comes across as quirky, likeable and gives just the right amount of personal honesty, away. Her tracks, albums, and covers always strike a chord, and even her methods of touring are different and idiosyncratic. These two leaders of their genders, are both very different, but no less vital and electioneering. No one has to lie about themselves, or think too hard to make a comparable impact: you just have to stop doing what every- dull- artist does. When you get this side of things spot-on, subsequently, your music and ambition galvanises, and an appropriate amount of attention and passion comes your way.

 

I protest and go on for two reasons. One, is that Benny Monteux has all the hallmarks and potential, to be a contemporary curiosity. The other is, that at this stage, little is know about him: cards very much are being clutched to chest. I was made aware of his presence, by his countryman and friend Steve Heron, whom I have featured twice before. Heron has won my over, not just by his music, but by his personality and image. He understands the importance of diversification, originality, and projection of image. His song titles and designs are always fresh, and he comes across as popular, bold and an everyman. He is still in the formative years, but clearly has a concentric quality/quantity coefficient. Having nailed down all the foundations down, he is building upon it, and will not suffer a fall from grace at all: creative and populist mitosis awaits. Similarly, Monteux, is making strides to take a similar road. I’m not sure if it’s a Scottish quality, but I am impressed by the finer details and deeper recesses. From communicating with him, he comes across as friendly and relatable, and even in the very years of his career, he has figured that a little thought goes a long way. With regards to his E.P. Hold Tight, the three tracks employ a range of thematic and emotional possibilities, with simple, but effective titles. The E.P. cover is striking and original: great designs, superb colour choices and a staunch and impressive logo, that interests and draws you in, before you hear a single note. As for the man behind the music: I am going by the scents of social media. Twitter states that he is a 21-year-old from Edinburgh; who likes to ‘live, laugh, love’. He is a handsome fella, with down-to-Earth looks and fashion. Facebook strips down to the core: a nice stable job, a pleasing- and correct- political and religious affiliation; and an annoyingly gorgeous girlfriend. Is Californian by birth, and resides in the Scottish capital. It is this mixture and cocktail of spirits and essences, that results in an artist whom has all the indelible primary colours painted and dried: expect a steady trajectory, that, through 2013-2014, could see some high-profile bookings and prophecy.

 

To the music itself then. For a talent whom prefers that his songs tell you all you need to know, they are impressively strong and mature, for someone barely in their 20s. The other two tracks on the set- Hold Tight, and Shackles- provide moods, well-plotted stories and cohabitation unity: the result of which is a cohesive, brief and tantalising slice of folk-tinged pop music. The E.P.’s centre-piece, in terms of location and quality, is Let’s Be Friends. Its title creates images of child-like innocence and harmony; there- in my mind- is a reference to a line in a White Stripes song (Let’s Shake Hands): although it is less rampant and forceful (especially considering the live approximation borders on the plain creepy). There are loose and sprightly stings of guitar to be heard, at first. Before I continue, it is not just Monteux in the mix. Like Jeff Buckley and Patrick Watson there is a band behind the man. Calum Craig, Craig Coutts and Marc Zwetsloot, provide bass, guitars and drums, accordingly. They provide amplification and emotional reverberation: crackles and strums that whips up an acoustic bow wave. The intro provides some counter-intuitive punches: You would expect an intro. similar to that of Hold Tight, to be heard here too. It is an original and unique parable; maybe an essence of The Housemartins and The Smiths and ’80s indie glory: in the best possible sense. Many bands and solo acts tend to go for linear strum and unemotive lines; Monteux manifests amplitude and augmentation with simplicity; when the rest of the band join the fray, and the intro. transmogrifies into a headier rush. The wind-swept and summery electric strings, elicit a springing step, before the vocal enters. Monteux has a unparalleled and incomparable vocal tone: there is a clear native accent in his voice; and mixed with a slight U.S. West Coast edge, results in an interesting sound. There are scenes of intoxication and uncertainty in the streets: “It’s not a crime/Not to think”, it is said, on a “night like this”. The way that the band playful intersect and converse reminds me a bit of They Might Be Giants and REM: there is that same sort of Georgia-via-New York-by-Massachusetts sonic itinerary. As well, there are hints of Scotland: a Proclaimers-style acoustic harmony and unencumbered vocal ellict; Deacon Blue-esque talent for melody and memorability, as well as a Steve Heron-cum-Biffy Clyro elementary mix of modern-life reality and distilled novellas on love, and its instability. When Monteux sings: “Honestly my darling/I have no fear”; there is a curious sound of the ’90s. In the way that bands such as Dodgy, Cast, The Auteurs and The Levellers infused fun and mystique into common themes, Monteux has the reverence and qualitative passion of those bands, yet able to (through wordless vocals and elongation and unique annotation) avoid any comparisons with regards to his voice. The band have a loose sense of fun, yet are a tight-knit group, whom bolster our protagonist and elevate a great energy, yet are never imposing or wandering. The chorus, which contains “Let’s be friends/Until the morning”; has a lasciviousness and lack of innocence to its tail. The jollity and refreshing breeze and passion of the music, is juxtaposed by the themes and words, which recall one-night stands and machismo alike. It is an unusual and effective blend: your mind is caught up, trying to catch up with the smile on your face, before your brain realises what is being sung; when you do picture what our hero is talking about, your conscience and liberal mindsets negate and nullify this. But before you can decide upon an appropriate response, the boys unleash outpourings of uplifting melody; with our front-man telling tales of a boy knocking on his door; neglecting the fact that “(But) the joke’s on him/’cause he’s never been here before”. Whether there are ambitions for long-term romance, behind the chorus’ protestations, is unsure: I suspect that there are more temporary intentions. It is the way that the light-hearted composition and spirited vocals (with its modern pop aesthete), plays off of the slightly grittier and sharper edges, gives the song a unique appeal. The likes of Arctic Monkeys write plenty of songs, with scenes of ill-fated romantic entanglement; unusual characters, and less-than-sincere messages: but there is a caustic and acid-tongued lashing, and musical savagery in most of the notes. Monteux and the gang marry varying shades, to achieve a more endeavouring whole.

 

Monteux has ideals of romance and passion, yet has a wit and human edge, that does not wrap everything up in bubblegum and purity: he is a romantic at heart, but writes songs filled with modern relevance and relatability, and ties them with compositions that are varying, contrasting and positive. It is this combination, as well as the key components regarding imagery, personality and originality, that will ensure a firm foothold in the future. As it stands- in 2013- there are few solo artists or bands as a whole, whom are doing a hell of a lot different at the moment. Many are lesser approximations of existing acts; quite a few are only semi-interesting, and a great deal are vague and undefined. It is the likes of Monteux, Heron and a lot of the northern clutch of artists, that are redefining pages of music, that are in danger of being relegated to obscurity. As there is an exhaustive and unregulated mass of musical participants, burgeoning onto the scene, it is vitally important, as the days go on, that something unique and diverse is created: far too many suffer from a naivety and self-importance that condemns them to a short creative life. Whether there is an album imminent from Monteux, I am not sure. On the evidence of the 3-track E.P., and the feedback from social media followers, and fans alike, I am sure there is a salivating demand. If he holds his creative nerve, and carries along the same paths; introducing new avenues and themes into the mix, he is sure to hit gold. Scotland is producing a small number of rather fascinating artists, and I am sure far more similarly-ambitious bands and acts are waiting to be unearthed. With the lack of unexpectedness in a lot of music genres, and predictable transitoriness, I hope that Monteux is prepared to settle in for a long stay. Because very few…

 

HAVE the gravity for longevity that he possess.

___________________________________________________________________________

Twitter:

https://twitter.com/BennyMonteux

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/#!/bennymonteuxmusic?fref=ts

SoundCloud:

http://soundcloud.com/benny-monteux

YouTube:

http://www.youtube.com/user/bennymonteuxmusic?feature=watch

 

 

 

 

Audio Suspect- Wake Up- Track Review

 

Audio Suspect-

 

 

Track Review:

 

 

Rise EP cover art

 

 

 Wake Up

 

 

9.3/10

 

 

 

 

With a stellar list of influences, and a hotly-anticipated E.P. completed, the band deliver a tantalising taste of a bright future.

 

 

 

Availability:

Wake Up is available via

http://audiosuspect.bandcamp.com/track/wake-up

 

The E.P. Rise is available at

http://audiosuspect.bandcamp.com/

_________________________________________________________________________

THE nature and subject of diversification in music today, is…

 

an ineffable sticking point, that is ever-relevant, and never resolved. There is less of an issue, when pertaining to established bands. Many are able to mobilise their ambitions and force, in all sorts of directions, without losing focus or credibility. It is almost a right of passage, that a band- once they have concentrated their intent and identity- dust themselves off, smile, and see what they can come up with next. For new acts, there is an inherent and genetic nervousness, that sees them instantly restricted. What with the sheer number of acts on the scene today, and the associative alacrity of critics, waiting to undermine and cut an act down to size, it is understandable. Unless you have a solid and memorable sound, right from the start of your career, then you have to be prepared to adopt flexibility. I recently reviewed Laura Marling; a young artist whom had an unflinching quality and ambition, right from the start. She is one of the best lyricists in the world, and, combined with a concentration and focused mandate that few contemporaries posses, it was hardly surprising that she has captivated critics and fans alike; right from day 1. She is a rare exception. It is especially true in the solo market, that there is too much much of a muchness. There is the depressing cliche: man/woman armed with acoustic/electric guitar; have a bland-not-too-bad voice; write songs about love/heartbreak/betrayal; repeat 10-11 times; touring-taxes-death. It is despairing, when you consider the comparative downfalls, to rebelling against complacency. It is admirable that musicians can write their own songs, etc; but unless you are Nick Drake/Marling/Bob Dylan, you’re hardly likely to capture hearts and minds, are you? I appreciate that music is fickle, and it is important to have a ‘sound’, but if that sound is an approximation of a whining boredom merchant, why bother?! This is where diversification comes into play. If you begin a career; not only pervading something intriguing and different, but are willing to supplement your core sound, with differing shades and tones, then you have an historic edge. It is 2013; we have witnessed Britpop, ’60s psychedelia, Beatle Mania, the birth of punk: so why not mix things up a bit? Bygone music is not merely a testament to days gone by: they are there to be inspired by, and to incorporate into songs; in order to excite and inspire fellow artists, and up-and-coming acts, alike.

 

This brings me- more succinctly than you’d imagine- to the feet of Audio Suspect, a band for whom this theory and lifestyle is sacrament. They remind me, in a way to The White Stripes. Jack White knew, as early as the debut White Stripes album, that it is was possible to mix big riffs and blues wonder, with acoustic numbers and tenderness; thus maximising the band’s appeal. It was White Blood Cells, where this ideology and ambition- in my mind- was struck sweetest. Containing only one weak track (This Protector), the 16-track masterpiece was awash with diversions, turns, genres and sounds; yet was honed and immensely tight (in spite of the lo-fi charm and 8-track home-recording process). There was Hotel Yorba’s charming narrative and sing-along smile; Fell in Love with a Girl’s atomic blast of youthful transgression; through to I Think I Smell a Rat’s snarling spit, and the under-appreciated jewel in the crown: I Can Learn. The 26-year-old White was acutely aware of how crucially and important it was to be restless, and spread his creative wings. It makes the ensuing albums, and subsequent regency of The White Stripes, not only more potent, but possible. If you are not talented enough, or intelligent enough to have a similar ambition and range, then you will be shot, buried and forgotten about forever. Quite right, too. Music is not for any yahoo or pub band, to merely ‘have a go'; it is there to foster and premiere new talent, to inspire and carry, a most prestigious torch. I have been in touch with Audio Suspect on and off, for a little while. A band whom know that creative and personal incommunicado is a risky stratagem. They have spent a great while craving a set of stunning tracks, and ensuring that their E.P. Rise, does full justice to their ambition and dedication. I have listened to the four tracks, and there is curiosity abound. In a musical Many Worlds Theory sense, there will be, somewhere an Audio Suspect, whom are still honing and second-guessing. In none of those universe’s is there an Audio Suspect, that are lacking ambition and intuit. I only mention The White Stripes, as there is a similar mobility between the tracks, and a comparatively sounding and different 1-2. The band are, Tomos, Sean, David and Rory, and hail from Wales. I was bemoaning- as recently as yesterday- the lack of new Welsh bands on the scene and on the tip of tongues, and suspect that the reasons for this, is a native meticulousness, when it comes to songwriting: making sure that whatever the public hears, is as a result of serious craft. The group been electrifying since January 2012, and have an impressive list of influence: Muse, Nirvana and Radiohead, count amongst them.

 

The opening notes, to the opening track Wake Up, are perhaps axiomatically stirring- and appropriately alarming. There is a semblance of White-esque blues rocketing within the guitar tones: there is the sound of De Stijl-period White Stripes, nestling astride a fighter jet. There are Grunge-era scratchings: think Nirvana-cum-eponymous Soundgarden; as well as modern-day influences, such as Foo Fighters and Biffy Clyro. It is the early stages of the intro, that invigorate, so. It is a fiery and bouncy intro; parts Why Can’t You Be Nicer To Me?; parts Origins’-era Muse. Audio Suspect have a keen early eye for detail, as well as impact. They manage to appropriate the quality of the aforementioned artists; only the key components are theirs, and theirs alone. When the drum rumbles, and collaborates, the track strides and is cock of the walk. There is attitude and authority, as well as a northern swagger the likes of Oasis and The Arctic Monkeys have consecrated. Few bands neglect the importance and purpose of the intro.; preferring to skip foreplay and dive right in. Before a vocal note is elicited, you are already hooked and energised. When Tomos sings, the sound is a causal link that meats out growled and ravaged cries, and a more restrained strum. It is difficult to think of other singers, when trying to think of resemblances: which is a pleasing and rare thing in itself. At times the words may be a little indecipherable, but it is the nature and manner of a lot of modern music, that the vocals are a little down in the mix, forced to compete too hard with the sound. In spite of the band being Welsh, there is little national remembrance in the vocals; there is more of Manchester and Liverpool, to my ear. Bits of Gallagher, Noel, and early Lennon are present. When the words: “Come with me/And set you free”, there is some of that Definitely Maybe anthemic force. Audio Suspect are able to parlay any influence into little corners of their landscape; and up front, in the mix inject personalities and tales that are fresh and revitalised. The chorus arrives on a levelled playing field; there is not a noticeable rise in energy or change in signature, too much.; instead it is more a continuation of the verses. This is quite a rarity; where most bands would modulate or wander, Audio Suspect keep the focus tighter, and create a more linear plot-line. Sean, David and Rory are capable of stealing the limelight, as they are able to weave patterns and sparks into the mix; the guitar work is particularly noteworthy. The way that the lyrics are repeated and slogans such as “Let your mind run free”, is a shrewd political mood. The band are aiming for memorability, and carefully choose words that will remain in your head, and are subsequently likely to be chorused from festival-goers, too. If you infuse a song with too many words, too few turns and an aimless simplicity, attention will be diffuse. Wake Up keeps its body mass lean and mean; its blood clean and it’s this rude health and vitality, that gives the song its keen edge. In the way that the middle eight/break strikes, two-thirds in, unveils a sound and structure that marries Britpop with modern indie/alternative rock. There is a fond evocation of times past, but a bedrock of the here and now; there are little passages of heavier metal edges, as well as 1995/6 Britpop sunshine. “I won’t break down” begins a final full-bloodied swing, that is accompanied by endeavouring percussion, guitar and bass. Overall the track is a cross between a mini-epic and anthem-in-waiting. It clocks in a little under 3:30, and is muscular and nebulised. Aside from occasional issues with vocal decipherability, the song is a fantastic start, to a brilliant E.P., which promises many different sides to a curious band.

 

2013 is a year, which started off a little bit slow, with regards to memorable music. The Spring months always seem to herald the arrival of refreshment. I am excited that I now have a Welsh band to mention in my daily (and sometimes bi-daily) reviews: so much of my attention has been focused farther north. In a country where fastidiousness and perfectionism, have in the past lead to rather mixed results with regards to music (how many great bands and acts from the last 10 years, have originated from here?), I hope that Audio Suspect are at the spearhead of a flying artillery of future Welsh talent. There is plenty of gorgeous country and fresh air to inspire the soul, as well as some great local bands, so I am sure I will be reviewing more Welsh talent, soon. Audio Suspect have taken their time, to get their rhymes and music, just as they should be- memorable and ambitious. It is circular to my original thesis: regarding range and complexity, that the E.P. from the band has so many different patterns and shifts. The group have nailed a sound and thematics that are particular to them, yet have not been remiss in strangulating and distilling their essence too much; they are aware of how important it is to explore and surprise. And for a new band, whom have numerous contemporaries (most of whom, who are less diverse):

 

THE next few years, will be very interesting and prosperous indeed.

____________________________________________________________________________

Twitter:

https://twitter.com/AudioSuspect

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/audiosuspect

SoundCloud:

http://soundcloud.com/audiosuspect-1

YouTube:

http://www.youtube.com/user/AudioSuspect1?feature=watch