TRACK REVIEW: Greer- Deal with the Devil

TRACK REVIEW:

 

Greer 

 

 

Deal with the Devil

 

9.5/10

 

 

Deal with the Devil is available at:

https://soundcloud.com/greer-wilson/deal-with-the-devil

RELEASED:
13th July 2016

GENRES:

Pop; R&B

ORIGIN:

Boston, U.S.A.

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IT is great to discover a solo artist that comes…

out of nowhere really. I feel this year is going to be defined by bands and their music. In terms of the underground, there is a remarkable blend of solo singers: each with their own course and sense of style. In relation to the mainstream; the balance is different: the bands are stealing focus and producing some of the best music around. Before I come to my featured artist; I wanted to look at musicians from Boston (where he hails); the young solo artists breaking through; looking at the elements that are overlooked when it comes to music. In the U.S., we often get distracted by New York or Californian- a point I have raised before- and obsess ourselves with what’s coming from there. It is understandable; as both areas are bound with great music and a busy, cosmopolitan scene. Push your imagination further, and America provides so much more. I have had the pleasure of going to various states (online) and discovering some terrific music. Boston is a city that has always produced solid and inspiring artists. From Pixies and Aerosmith; The Dresden Dolls to Blake Babies: Boston is a vibrant and captivating musical arena. In terms of modern Boston acts; Palehound are worth investigating further. Ellen Kempner’s project; the music provided is gentle and finger-picked; a dreamy and emotional sound that has resonated with critics. The Ballroom Thieves and Dutch ReBelle are two diverse, and stunning, acts that are putting Boston on the map. ReBelle’s Hip-Hop, beat-laden jams are getting recognition from the likes of M.T.V. The Drax and Funeral Advantage (all acts picked up by Boston.com) tell you how much quality and passion is coming from the city.

Animal Talk, Bent Shapes, and Bearstronaut, between them, provide clean, uplifting and intriguing songs: a trio of groups that have the potential to transcend into the mainstream and reach across the world. My point is how variegated and applaud-worthy the Boston scene is. That is just the tip of the iceberg really. I know there are local bars and venues that play host to some truly awesome musicians- those that never reach the consciousness of the media. The British press is a little lackluster when it comes to exposing the best America has to offer. I am never entirely sure whether there is a reason behind this: perhaps it is too daunting getting to grips with everything in the U.S. I have always mooted the idea of a music site that compartmentalises musicians by region and genre. Everyone would be able to hone in on a city/country and go even deeper- discover all the artists that play in a particular city.  That way, if you wanted to find all the acts coming from Boston, you would click and have a comprehensive list. Having heard Greer Wilson: I am keen to dig deeper and see more of what Boston has to offer up. Greer is a 19-year-old musician that has seemingly exploded onto the scene with a bang. In spite of the fact he has a few songs to his name; there are signs to suggest he might be one of the big-hitters in years to come. What marks him out is the freshness and unexpectedness of his music. Not replicating other bands and artists: he is a unique talent that is already getting attention from the local press. Greer’s looks will likely get teenage girls swooning and incapacitated: his music will get everyone similarly entranced. Having sung since the age of eight; that passion and commitment feeds into the songs. Greer is a young man that has his sights set and is making big strides. Love Me Less and Deal with the Devil are twin tracks that are being shared and celebrated on social media. Each track has its distinct influence and make-up but both prove the same thing: the Boston artist is someone with a very special talent.

We in the media place a lot of emphasise the importance of age when considering brand-new talent. The young the artist, the more vacillating and sweating the reviewer becomes. I feel too much pressure is placed on shoulders right from the off. Yes, there is something impressive about someone so young getting into music; releasing music and achieving a degree of recognition and acclaim. If we are too pressurising and expect too much; there is that fear (that artist) will burn-out and not be able to live up to the hype. In the mainstream (in the U.K.) everyone from Billie Marten and Dua Lipa have overcome the hurdles of youth. Marten is barely in her teens- think she is 16 still- and balances school work with music. Her majestic voice and ethereal, soul-baring songs suggest she is going to be a huge star very soon- already, the nation’s biggest radio stations are proffering her music. Dua Lipa, whose music is sexier and more Pop-based, is filled with confidence and sassiness. She takes influence from the likes of Rhianna but is very much her own woman- an incredible artist and down-to-Earth human. My general point is we should celebrate the great young artists but not put too much on their shoulders. It is scary getting into music and especially so for those in their teens/early-20s. Greer is in his teens still but shows a lot of maturity and direction from the off. Not your average Pop star who sings shallow songs and lyrics written by a host of producers: a proper singer who is unique and exceptional.

What hits me about Greer is the unique D.N.A. that springs from his music. Fresh, compelling beats; sweet, Soul-tinged vocals and thoughtful lyrics mean the music really leaps out at you. Too many artists distort their vocals or bury it in the composition. Others copycat others or seem somewhat generic. Greer lets the vocal take charge and is tricky to compete with other singers. Sure, he would have grown up around a variety of musicians- from his parents’ collection perhaps- but is not content to duplicate them. His songs dig deep into the heart and come from a very real place; love and relations are put under the microscope but given a new spin. Not resigned to let the vocal and lyrics say everything: so much colour, emotion and physicality is put into the music. The entire effect is quite amazing. You get drawn into this wonderful world and brought directly into Greer’s world. Deal with the Devil is a song that is garnering attention in the U.S. but could well make its way to the U.K. I know stations and fans here would love getting to grips with a singular, exceptional track like this.

The past few months have been very busy for Greer Wilson. He has released three songs- Blow Your Mind; Deal with the Devil; Love Me Less– and there is a lot of variation between the tracks. Blow Your Mind has racing, juddering electronics and an urgent vocal. It is a song as intense and powerful as the title suggests. It is very much a song that has its eyes on the Pop charts and mainstream radio. Confident, committed vocals back a perfect summer song that stays inside the head. It is fresh and vibrant; sizzling and upbeat: the perfect Pop number for new followers of Greer. Love Me Less (like Deal with the Devil) are harder, tougher songs that bring in new elements. Less Pop-based with more R&B/Soul elements: the composition is more varied and prescient. Blow Your Mind focused on the lyrics and the sheer energy of the song. The new singles place more emphasis on the complete package. The vocal is given more chance to breathe and grow; the composition brings in beats, lovely little details whilst the lyrics are a dichotomy. Blow Your Mind was a perfect introduction and way to gain instant recognition. Keen not to repeat himself; Greer has shown a more adult, bold approach now. Love Me Less is a song that urgencies a certain lack of commitment. Wanting to vibe and connect with a girl, if not commit to a relationship, there is a casualness and looseness to the song. Yeah, we can have a good time but that does not mean we need to be joined at the hip.

There is nothing callous or shallow. The song is a paen to good times and just having a blast. You can sense that mood in the track and it sweeps you up and creates smiles and memorability. Deal with the Devil was a track I was motivated to investigate due to its layers and depths. The composition alone is so busy whilst the vocal is the most direct and pure of Greer’s career. Even over the course of three tracks, you can hear a development and evolution from the young American. A couple of years ago; the E.P., The Sounds introduced Greer to the world. More in coming with Blow Your Mind (than his two new songs); it ensured tongues were wagging and attentions were captured. Again, the songs were more Pop-focused and chart-seeking. The production values were strong but feel they have improved now- more polished and complete. Greer has grown as a singer and seems distinct and soulful: he has more variation and moods; greater nuance too. This rate of change will surely see a new record reveal itself in the coming months? Greer has a range of songs at his disposal and I know the creative juices will keep flowing. Being 19 still: there is a lot of years ahead; you can see him getting bigger and better. As it stands, he is one of the most complete and hungry young artists around.

It has been a matter of days since Deal with the Devil dropped and already there has been heat and love put its way. The title leaves you in little doubt as to the emotions and story that influenced its creation. Clearly not emanating from a happy place: it recalls a rather duplicitous and deceitful sweetheart; someone who has been dishonest and hurtful. The Americans social media numbers are quite modest at the moment but that is going to change. When Deal with the Devil gains plaudit and attention: he will find himself adored around the globe. The opening notes of the track have sighing, edgy electronics creating a very unsettled mood. At once, you are planted in a tense and dangerous scenario. Those electronic warps and pulses get the hairs on end and the listener curious. Many might expect something direct and heavy from the off: Greer ensures there is a build-up and instancy blend; so many emotions in the first seconds. Our hero starts out giving some backstory and setting the scene. His subject has her heart set and is getting ready; there is something in the air and the night is just getting started. Maybe trusting his instincts and hopeful: the initial lyrics suggest a date is starting and the two have high hopes at least. Wilson’s vocal has deepness to it but remains composed and restrained. He does not explode out the gates or come across too insincerely. Letting the electronics and finger clicks create a perfect backdrop: Deal with the Devil seems to be a narrative from the girl’s point of view. Maybe recalling a personal relationship; perhaps one a friend had: the song starts to get hotter and more accusatory. Mind erasing and a sense of recklessness are portrayed. The duo is stepping into the night with different objectives. The heroine has no angels by her side: she is leading the hero astray and setting him up for a fall.

Greer’s voice raises the stakes and has a degree of anxiety lingering- ensuring the song’s words are given appropriate weight. As the song progresses; I find myself feeling sympathetic towards Greer. It is impossible to hear Deal with the Devil and not think about personal issues: this song must have emanated from an experience in his life. The chorus comes in big and those beats come up front. Tribal and bellicose; sexy and hip-snaking: a sound that projects images of the girl in your mind. You can see the smirk on her face; the red dress gleaming in the night; drink in hand- a femme fatale that has led many men to the rocks. Few artists put as much attention and thought into the chorus as Greer. Most Pop stars would simply throw everything into the mix and assume numbers and volume compensate for emotion and intelligence. Deal with the Devil’s beats tumble and patter: a wonderful sound that has its own gravity and appeal. Look away from the composition and the lyrics keep resounding. The song’s heroine has few morals and is contented to play games and throw men aside- our hero is the latest victim. “I’ve got you sinning now” the girl exclaims: following a bad path and dancing to his tune. Maybe (Greer) was reluctant to become involved but seemed helpless to her charms. Being taken down to the underground; going deep into the fires- the deal has been signed and there is no turning back. Each new utterance makes me wonder just who inspired the song and whether Greer is the affected party. He could be working from a point of fiction but the sheer conviction of the vocal suggests otherwise. Still scarred and affected by the relationship: it has made a deep impact in his soul.

The final minute finds the chorus swinging back in to reinforce the messages and underlying feelings, Every time the chorus comes in its gains new significance and quotability. While you will sing along with it; you know there is a hurt and anger being revealed. Greer is not just speaking from a personal viewpoint: this is a message to anyone who finds themselves in a similar situation. It is hard to listen to Deal with the Devil and not take something away from it. On the surface, it might seem like a pretty regular Pop-cum-R&B numbers. Look closely, and it is a lot more detailed and complex than that. Greer Wilson may be young but he has been making music for a while now. Every element of the song seems inconsistent with expectation. Maybe it is the maturity- perhaps the subversion of Pop tropes- but the song has a richness and depth to it. That might just be my interpretation but you need to listen to the song. It has summery vibes but at its heart looks at alluring girls who deceive men and toy with their hearts. This is a subject that has been portrayed in music a lot but Greer gives it his own edge and brings new life to the theme. The Boston musician is lauded in his hometown and is likely to be a bigger name in years to come. I am always sceptical when approaching musicians and the acclaim they get- some reviewers do get carried away. When it comes to Greer Wilson; the celebration and attention is more than justified.

Greer is among a sea of young artists that are all vying for critical acclaim and progression. So many seem to crumble under the weight of things and find it hard to compete. It is sad discovering a musician only to find they are daunted and buried in the music scene. Challenging to promote and safeguard every great artist that comes through- we must make the scene less pressurised and safer. I am not sure how we would go about it but too much talent is being wasted and quitting too soon. Maybe it is the sheer numbers that make that solution impossible. I am uncertain but do know a great artist when I see one. He is a young Bostonian that is making waves in the city and is someone who could crack the U.S. in general. He has the smouldering looks and grown-up, authoritative music to back it all up. If you look past the looks; a very credible and distinguished musician can be found. His subject matter might tread familiar, well-worn ground- the issues of bad love and self-discovery- but the subjects are covered with fresh insight and different angles. That is part of the challenge I guess. Love and relations are always going to be a commodity musicians stick with: how do you go about giving a fresh lick of paint to that milieu? It is a challenge but fortunately Greer straddles that hurdle and sticks in the imagination. From the first notes (of his tracks) he engages the listener and ensures they are hooked. I opened by looking at the great acts coming from Boston; the brilliant young artists that are emerging and the vitality of original music. Greer Wilson is in a city that has a great reputation and solid legacy. The press and musical community is supportive and big; there are plenty of venues and areas he could gig- chance for his songs to be heard by all sorts of people. I know Greer has a lot of love for Massachusetts but can see him emigrating to California in the future. He seems like a young man that would be enticed by the sea, sun and busy cities; his music sounds Californian, in an odd way. I think of Boston and look at harder, more Rock-based sounds. Greer’s smoother, more Pop/Soul-focused songs have a sunshine vibe to them but a rich emotional core and sensitivity.

Greer has only released a handful of singles- Blow Your Mind was a confident early step- and seems like there is a lot more work left in him. I can see his songs going together in an E.P. Each of his songs has a consistency and thread running through them. Maybe an E.P. would be out before the end of the year? There is a lot of food for thought from someone who is getting exposure and spotlight placed on him. Like I mentioned up-top; there is no need to put strain and too much weight on the young artists emerging. I like Greer’s way of working and the music he has created. There is modesty to him and a maturity. At the moment, he is content to get the music out and let the audience feedback; get his face out there and ensure (his songs) are heard far and wide. In the U.S., Greer is gathering steam and is liable to be a big star there very soon. Little is known about him in the U.K. but that will all change. We have many, similar artists like him here and there is a definite demand. London is an obvious place he could come play. There are so many different venues that would house him and put him on. Maybe he has other views and wants to stay homebound for now. Tracks like Deal with the Devil have radio appeal but more credibility than that. Sure, they could rule the airwaves and speak with the Pop-hungry core (young girls and teenagers) but there is enough depth to connect with older listeners and those who prefer their music edgier and less predictable. I have suggested an E.P. might be forthcoming but in reality, Greer has a golden opportunity ahead of him. His music is garnering a lot of traction and that leave various roads ahead. Maybe he goes touring and takes in the U.S. as much as possible. Perhaps he capitalises on the focus and does more promotion or interviews. He might be looking back at the studio and eager to lay down some more songs. Whichever route he takes, it will be exciting to see. Few young musicians are so instant and loveable as Greer Wilson.

I urge those reading to study Greer and listen to the music out there. This year keeps getting stronger and better for music. Every day seems to reveal a stunning new album or piece of news. In the next month, albums from Dinosaur Jr., Wild Beasts, and Blossoms are emerging. In September, Jamie T. unveils his new one. De La Soul are back as are DJ Shadow and The Avalanches. Such a strange and busy year already: the same can be applied for new musicians in the underground. Last year, there were some definite highlights but not enough. Conversely, 2016 has been much more prosperous and quality-laden. Greer is working tirelessly to ensure he is a young man you do not forget in a hurry. That will be difficult after you immerse yourself in Deal with the Devil.

NOT regret it.

 

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Follow Greer 

 

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Music

https://soundcloud.com/greer-wilson/

 

INTERVIEW: Nick J. Townsend of WEAK13

INTERVIEW:

 

 

Nick J. Townsend of WEAK13

 

 

WEAK13 were founded in 1999 from the shared consensus of…

making a real impact on the scene. Adrift from the predictable, songs-by-numbers approach of many Metal contemporaries: the Kidderminster-based three-man crew is a Grunge-Metal-cum-Industrial-Punk outfit caused fevered chatting and hugely impressive reviews. Hardly surprising when you hear the music and the ethos the band abides by. There is a truthfulness and reality to their music not hidden behind rhetoric and fakery: they are a trio that gives it to you straight; insure their music gets right into the bones. Their album They Live showcased what immense talents we have in our midst. With low-tuned guitars and unorthodox performances; intelligent lyrics and insatiable, brother-bound performances: these guys will be headlining major festivals in no time to come. Fascinated to learn more about the bands lead vocalist and guitarist Nick J. Townsend set-aside some time to chat further…

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Hi. For those unfamiliar with your music; can you introduce yourselves, please?

Nick J. Townsend: To put it simply; WEAK13 are three men from the birthplace of Heavy Metal attempting to repair the damage in the music scene; remove the greedy talentless elitist artists; expose the blatant brainwashing and corruption displayed in modern mainstream media; prevent the dumbing down of the population encouraged by the entertainment industry and write the best Rock tunes. My name is Nick J. Townsend; I am the vocalist and guitarist; Wesley Smith plays bass and Neel Parmar is the drummer.

You chaps are based out of Kidderminster. The Black Country and West Midlands has always had a reputation for great Metal bands. What is the scene like these days up there?

The band began in a 13-letter town called Kidderminster; I was born there. Now WEAK13 is based in and around the home of Metal and the nerve centre of the creative county. In our opinion; the best original bands and songwriters are located here. The mainstream music industry, which is currently content with manufacturing and promoting watered-down versions of talented artists and real songs, is trying it’s hardest to pretend the area doesn’t even exist. The scene here is full of strong underground bands; the majority is self-governed and growing in popularity despite the wall imposed by the national and international music press that is heavily influenced by elitist control. Music journalists are programmed to ignore artists and bands, not from The Capital; dismiss artists from poorer areas in order to protect the fragile reputations of the over publicised mainstream artists whose roles appear to (be to) dumb down the population with mundane mediocre drivel. I believe that more than answers your question.

The band has undergone some shifts and changes over the years. Do you think the line-up you have now is the most solid and satisfied WEAK13 have been?

Yes for sure. The past few years have been the most important too. We spent three years writing and recording the first professional WEAK13 studio album They Live with engineer John Stewart from Birmingham band Eight Great Fears; he taught us how to home in on our strengths and we’ve become much better musicians and songwriters. The three of us have shown the fans how committed we are to the music; we’ve always tried to be ourselves; Neel and Wesley are two of the best musicians I’ve worked with and they take their craft very serious. I think all bands have to go through shifts and changes; we’ve just tried to adapt to whatever comes our direction. The They Live album is getting so many good reviews; a lot of folks notice one particular change and that’s that the overall sound of the band live and on record is more professional than ever before; songs such as Closure and Here Come the Drones have opened up a lot of critics’ eyes.

What types of bands and albums were influential to the band members growing up?

Speaking personally, I’d have to credit bands like Mudhoney; Nirvana, The Kinks; Gruntruck, Alice In Chains and Soundgarden- but the three of us all have very different music tastes. The Jimi Hendrix live album Hendrix in the West is one of the most powerful performances ever captured on a record

Your songs look at deep subjects- passing away and survival- whilst your guitars employ dark, low tunings. What were the reasons behind these dynamics?

In the early 1990s, there was a revival for unusual guitar tunings: lyrics were deep, music became less predictable and the songwriter was reborn. Before that we had the ‘80s Glam, Shred-Cock-Rock years filled with bands whose guitarists seemed to be just worn out technical players coated in make-up; selling guitar tuition videos despite having little or in some cases no actual ability to write songs that kids could relate to or identify with. When the Seattle scene exploded the music industry completely changed overnight; I remember it well. At the time, I was a bored teenager watching M.T.V.; it was obvious that the only music reaching out to my generation came from these strange looking new bands with meaningful lyrics; songs which didn’t insult your intelligence and imagery that opened your mind to new possibilities. This wave of new bands also had some characteristics that mirrored the iconic music heroes of the late-‘60s and the early-1970s. WEAK13 is pretty much a modern-day equivalent of that school of thought: there are traces of influence from the greats of the early 1990s encoded in our music; we’re not part of the current fairy tale state-controlled music scene; we’re writing about dark subjects that make a lot more sense right now to teenagers and adults. Unlike the majority of mainstream artists; we’re not writing songs about whoever’s got the biggest bottom.

 

 

I know you guys are hunting for label management at the moment? To any labels reading: what defines and distinguishes you guys from the pack?

That’s not entirely correct: I wouldn’t call it a hunt. Since the band has self-financed its own professional debut studio album with the help of loved ones and slaving all hours of the day; we’ve not actually spent much time searching for a label. We’ve instead just concentrated on our fans and further spreading the name of the band in new territories. We are still open to considering offers for sure but about four years ago we didn’t have much faith in the idea of some magical handout from a big label saving the day. Instead, we’ve worked hard ourselves with support from our good friends; made a seriously good album; created our own music videos; concentrated on the music and made sure we had a lot of fun during the process too. What distinguishes WEAK13 from the pack I’d say is that we aren’t lazy. The They Live album demonstrates what the band is capable of musically and we’ve even been told that it intimidates a lot of bands. Everyone that’s bought the They Live album seems very impressed. Songs like Ashes in Autumn have really surprised the critics as we’ve shown how versatile we can be as a band and also how we can handle delicate subjects too in a tasteful manner.

 

 

Tracks like Joke are defined by their political edges and humour. Given what is happening in the world right now, from terrorism to political upheaval, how does that resonate with the group? Is it inspiring new material?

Yes; it is inspiring to an extent but rather than us jump on any sugar-coated narrative, created by the mainstream news media. We conduct our own research first and attempt to send out an informative message of hope via the hard truths in our song lyrics. We tend to use satire rather than fearmongering. Currently, we’re writing and recording a lot of new material and investigating the subject of crisis actors; a disturbing topic and visible in abundance during mainstream news stories. There’s a lot of dark humour in the WEAK13 music video Joke and it’s a pretty sarcastic look at the world of politics; in it, we explore and make fun of political sex scandals, media sensationalism, the selfie culture and the illusion of democracy. I got the idea for the music video after watching a T.V. news channel feed which showed a reporter explaining how heads of state were using Nelson Mandela’s funeral as a photo opportunity; it was a ridiculous, disrespectful and selfish opportunity to generate media attention from the funeral of a public figure and overshadow it with the ‘Selfie’ buzz-word. I thought to myself: “If someone assassinated a president then those around would probably be more concerned with a selfie opportunity rather than care about what was taking place”. I then contacted some filmmakers close to my heart (Fifty Seven Studios in England) and we began working on producing the music video to Joke.

On that front: can we expect any E.P./album before 2016 is through?

Probably not. We spent three years making a strong 11-track record and I think it would be a rushed effort if we attempted to release another record before the end of 2016. What is more likely is the band producing and releasing a series of music videos that represent some of the tunes from the They Live album- whilst we work on recording the follow-up. We expect to make the next album bigger in scope. It’ll take as long as it takes to complete. The material we’ve got all ready for the next album in our opinion is very intense and has the potential to wake a lot of people up.

I see you are launching a new behind-the-scenes reality show. Is it going to be a Keeping Up with the Kardashians-type thing or a bit more raucous?

I have never watched an episode of the Kardashians’ fake reality T.V. exploits; maybe if they changed the show title to A Day in the Life of Some C**ts it would be more representational? No, ours is likely to be a polar opposite in regards to content; I’m assuming that the show about this self-appointed Royal Family of America documents their staged lives integrated with all the predictable farces which occur within the media that people have been programmed to believe are factual events. We’re just producing a small and simple series about three underdog musicians making music the hard way; without the support of the mainstream music industry. This is purely for the fans and supporters of WEAK13 but if anyone else enjoys it then that’s a bonus.

For being good interview sports; choose any song you like (apart from one of yours; I’ll feature one in the interview) and I’ll play it here.

Well; we are big supporters of underground music and independent artists so I’ll choose the song Kamikaze by the Dudley-based band, Buzzard. Their music video is on YouTube and it’s kinda like hearing a young version of Motörhead- I’m looking forward to seeing this band grow.

 

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FEATURE: The July Round-Up

The debut from Manchester-born, London-based Shura (her mother is Russian; Shura trailed for Manchester City as a youth) is a record of self-discovery and examination. After record labels came calling in 2014, her music was wetting the appetites of executives listening to her songs on YouTube, Shura suffered a panic attack. The resultant hospitalisation and fear (she was dying) has compelled the creation of Nothing’s Real. The album cover sees the heroine staring meaningfully: half her face is beautiful and natural; the other, black-and-white and metaphysical. These contrasts and dichotomy; that mix of outwardly confident and inwardly reserved define the album.

Nothing’s Real title cut crackles; introducing child-like echoes and a cacophony of sounds (and distortions). Frenzied and hypnotic; a disturbed, psychotropic dream that is oddly soothing. Happy to stay in the moment and let it envelop you: the song fades with whistles and a distant cry. Without warning, it knocks the cobwebs away with synthesisers and ‘80s Pop blasts- the likes of Madonna come to mind. Shura unleashes a stone-cold gem: her voice is commanding an alluring; the words intriguing and rich. Everything is fake and intangible; the heroine is unable to connect with herself; there are nerves around the chest and anxiety lurking. Nothing’s Real is one of those tracks that paints dark shades whilst wrapped around bright, punchy compositions and graceful vocals. An addictive song that sees its author at her most confused and open.

What’s It Gonna Be? documents two lovers separated by the miles (“I don’t want to be that girl”): the nature of commitment and jealousy come to the fore. Not willing to give her man up; make a big deal of this: an ultimatum is thrown down. A sassy and energetic song that rushes and dances; Shura opens her heart in technicolour, glorious fashion. If the title track recalled a hard encountered with a doctor- there was no medical basis in Shura’s panic attacks; idiopathic or imagined?- Touch’s longing and so-near-yet-so-far imagining is equally affecting and hard-hitting. If Kidz ‘n’ Stuff exposes Shura at her most downbeat (“Maybe I knew right from the start and that’s exactly how I broke us down”); her sublime delivery keeps the song engaging and utterly fascinating. The naivety of adult relationships is prescient- Shura wearing a cap backwards; riding the last train with shrapnel in her pocket. Indecision, by contrast, is a proud, woman-like declaration: “You’ve got my love, boy”.

Holding on to the good and looking back at a relationship that should have lasted the distance: What Happened to Us? is another revelatory and soul-baring song- “I’m no child but I don’t feel grown up” is among the album’s most mature lines. Before Tongue Tied we get a little interstitial: a child voice that bridges the album’s half-way point (a similar one opened the L.P.). Tongue Tied is lustrous, kitten-like and in-control: ghosts of Like A Prayer-era Madonna come out here. 2Shy bravely blends fragility and hesitation whilst swansong White Light is a delirious and screw-the-world anthem that shows Shura at her absolute apogee.

Whether a young girl walking through London streets and piecing together broken hearts; longing for passion or introverted; she is always fascinating, unique and beguiling.  Shura co-produced most of the album and shows more fortitude, talent and depth than most of her peers. Nothing’s Real not only introduces a wonderful young artist the scene: it ranks among 2016’s most memorable albums.

 

London’s Michael Kiwanuka took breaths away when he arrived in music in 2012. His debut, Home Again, contained vintage Soul and a sense of naturalness and ease- he was not trying to fit into moulds or please marketing men. Combining artists like Bill Withers, Otis Redding and Marvin Gaye: the album was lauded for its warmth, contrasts and wisdom. Perhaps some urgency and direction were lacking. That album was produced by Paul Butler (of Indie-Rock band The Bees in his Isle of Wight basement studio) and gained Kiwanuka plaudits and fans.

Four years can do a lot for a musician. Rethinking, adaption, and consideration go into Love & Hate. If its title seems vague and well-worn; the same cannot be said of its content. Maybe Kiwanuka seemed slight and scattershot on his debut, not really sure who he was and what he wanted to say, but there is intention and urgency on the follow-up. Gone is the nervous and hesitant artist: in his stead is a leader and bold voice; a musician that knows what he wants to say and does it magnificently. Most musicians that open an album with a just-over-twelve-minute track would open themselves up for ridicule and raised eyebrows. Such is the assuredness and instinct of our hero that he turns in a transcendent and otherworldly opener- replete with wordless vocals; Progressive-Rock build and symphonic gracefulness.

Never pretentious or boring: Kiwanuka sets the scene and introduces us to a brave, bold new world: an album that is astonishing from the first track. “I can’t stand myself” is a proclamation backed by squalling guitars and gospel choir; the song reigns itself in and unveils an astonishing, confessional vocal. Black Man in a White World turns that recrimination outwards. Assessing discrimination and imbalance in our modern world: not only does the song address social issues; it draws people in with its hypnotising chorus and determined vocal performance.

I get the feeling something is wrong” is languidly (and with elongation) portrayed in Place I Belong. Kiwanuka looks around him and the people leaving: his voice deep, expressive and majestic. One of the most focused and intense songs on the album; you cannot help but fall for the chocolate-rich vocals and choral builds; soul and passion drips from the speakers in a sermon of lost relations and identity. The title track scores wordless, mellifluous vocal chorusing with a Marvin Gaye-nodding number that hopes for no more “pain” ,”shame and misery”. Transcendent, ethereal and awe-inspiring- our hero will not be taken down and defeated. One More Night finds our hero finding and improving himself; no more lies and indiscretions- it is a call-for-action and self-improvement. A lot of the album addresses faith and spirituality and does so with startling beauty and profoundness. Searching for “miles and miles”; someone to walk with him: the guitars crunch, the keys are simple and direct- the vocal could cause jealous sighs from Otis Redding; such is its power and prowess.

Michael Kiwanuka has expanded his lyrical and thematic grasp and in the process, created a near-masterpiece. Love & Hate is a huge leap from his debut; few musicians have produced such a turnaround. Not that Home Again was a meagre or average thing. Here is a musician that seems reborn and simply unstoppable. In a year that has produced some transformative and life-affirming albums: Kiwanuka might have just unveiled one to best them all.

 

Formed in New York in 2011; the Anglo-American band’s eponymous album was greeted with muted reviews. Part of the issue (with their debut) was a calculated move towards being cool and mainstream. Vocals that sat uneasily between The Libertines and The Strokes; songs that strayed close to the aforementioned (The Smiths register too): the lack of personality was a concern.

With the mixed reception in mind; the band has retooled and taken stock. Opener Troublemaker explodes from the speakers in a riot of riffs, beats, and sweat- a conscious move to bring the noise early and hard. Some debut-era issues remain; the vocals are struggling for identity whilst the choruses are too generic to define them as Drowners originals. That said- and with the opening track in mind- there is plenty of fun, swagger, and confidence to compensate. Human Remains nods to ‘80s Pop and ranks among the album’s finest offerings. Light and breezy from the start: it is impossible not to sway and be moved (literally) by the song. Disco ball reflections fall on a freckled face; a brief romance is unfolding; lead singer Matthew Hitt watches his girl from across the room- his words and expressions are heartfelt and vulnerable.

Songs like Trust the Tension are the clearest expressions of Drowners’ improvement. Here, they manage to be sensitive and thought-provoking whilst retaining cool, credibility and, most importantly, their own sound. Tight performances and anthemic choruses rule the album: On Desire is designed for the festival crowds and sunny evenings- arms aloft and beers in hand. Another Go is all chugging guitars and primeval drive; evocations of Is This It ‘Strokes come to mind- a summer jam that is guaranteed to fill the airwaves in the coming months.

Yes, the boys have created a much-improved sophomore album. True, they need to dispense with The Libertines-cum-The Strokes desires as it could well be another critical sticking point. Don’t Be Like That (the album’s closer) could have come further up the pack: the track order is not as considered and balanced as it should be- the record is a little too bottom-heavy if anything. These niggles aside and you have a worthy album from a band continuing to grow, learn and evolve. On Desire provides plenty of joy, quality, and nuance: what more could you want? Let’s hope, by album three, the rough edges have been smoothed. If that is the case; they could establish themselves as one of the finest guitar bands around.

Following the recent release of their highly anticipated sophomore album On Desire; Drowners are in the midst of an exciting year.  The quartet will kick off their string of shows on 10th October in Glasgow; taking their electrifying set through Manchester, Leicester; Liverpool, Newcastle; Leeds, Birmingham, and London- culminating in a show in Cardiff’s S.W.N. Festival on 22nd October. Following that, they move on to Europe for a selection of dates. Having toured with Arctic Monkeys and Foals; played festivals such as Coachella: the quartet’s imitable show has been finely crafted and is always unmissable.

Photo credit: Amanda Demme

The score to Captain Fantastic features all-new compositions by American composer, musician, and producer Alex Somers- who first rose to prominence in 2009 via his highly acclaimed ambient album collaboration Riceboy Sleeps. Somers has since gone on to tour with Jónsi and produced his debut album Go, with further production work for Julianna Barwick, Sin Fang, and the last two Sigur Rós records, Valtari and Kveikur.  Jónsi is featured on several tracks and the music sounds like seminal Sigur Rós, sweeping, lush orchestral soundscapes.  The film itself stars Viggo Mortensen and premiered at Sundance to great reviews.

Part of the film’s acclaim/success must come down to its soundtrack. A New Beginning, the current single from Captain Fantastic, is awash with lush strings and evocative soundscapes. The song bristles, yawns and awakens the senses. An instrumental that puts you in mind of a beautiful dawn: the perfect way to set the scene. Church is a stately and tender song consisting of sporadic notes and echo: a spectral number that puts the listener somewhere safe, empty and inspiring- the imagination cannot help run wild. Campfire and Funeral Pyre continue the themes of gentility and beauty- the former is especially stirring and evocative- whilst Funeral Pyre contains distorted vocals and a ghostly wail; a song that could easily sit on a Sigur Rós album.

In fact, it is the influence of Sigur Rós and Jónsi that makes the soundtrack so familiar and instance. Tracks like She Slit Her Wrists– whilst the title is alarming- juxtaposes gracefulness and danger; juddering electronics and heart-rending strings. At times, the album does lose a bit of individuality and nuance; especially towards the middle: songs like Dream remind you how much wonder and reflection can be discovered.

Keepsakes is, perhaps, the soundtrack’s pivotal score: an orchestral, emotional moment that takes the breath away. Little details and shades entwine; so primal on the one hand; gorgeous and child-like on the other. Anyone who hears the song and does not become affected and changed is clearly not listening hard enough. There are some numbers (Goodbye and Disappear especially) that are too slight and homogenised to really stand out in their own right. Those niggles aside and you have a soundtrack that gets inside the head and takes the listener somewhere magical.

You do not need to be a fan of Alex Sommers, Jónsi or Sigur Rós to appreciate the myriad themes, ideas, and emotions contained within the album. In a hectic time filled with danger and unpredictability: we need to embrace something warm, nourishing and escapist. For that reason, Captain Fantastic’s score is the perfect answer. Switch off the nerves and clasp something colourful and breath-taking to the bosom. Alex Somers, who is the boyfriend of Jónsi; he lives in Iceland, has marked himself out as one of the film world’s most accomplished and unique composers. Let’s hope we hear much more from him very soon!

Guilty was recorded in January 2015 during her month-long residency at Somerset House, Recording in Progress, in which audiences were given the opportunity to see Harvey at work with her band and producers in a purpose-built studio. The Hope Six Demolition Project (her ninth studio album) has picked up emphatic reviews and proves the 46-year-old, Dorset-born musician has lost none of her step and power.

Guilty was released on Wednesday and was not included on the album. Producer Flood explained how the song felt outside of (the rest of the material). Harvey, Flood and John Parish (co—producer) decided to omit it. The track is propelled by bellicose percussion and a determined vocal. “What’s he doing with that stick?” is a mantra that gets into the brain.

Which one is guilty?” is the rejoinder that gets the listener curious. Whether looking at global inequality or the nature of justice- drone strikes by the U.S. compelled the song- the imagery is unforgettable.

Performed in a lower register to previous albums/songs: Guilty is a haunting and powerful song that is a perfect companion to The Hope Six’. If “Power to the predator/The Grim Reaper/Grainy little suspects running for shelter” leaves little doubt: the same could be said for PJ Harvey- an artist who is still capable of inspiring others and remaining essential. A rare talent who can write political songs (take note, Muse!) and sound credible and compelling.

PJ Harvey tours Europe in October; she plays in the U.K. at the end of the month: a chance to hear her in the natural environment; up-close and personal. For those who adored The Hope Six Demolition Project: Guilty is an essential and potent mandate- from one of the most fascinating musicians of our generation.

 

It seems like Australian songwriter Courtney Barnett came out of nowhere. The music world was not expecting anything as urgent, unique and invigorating as Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit (her debut; released in March 2015). Of course, Barnett has been making music for years. From performing in Rapid Transit- between 2010-’11- to appearing on various works- including How to Carve a Carrot Into a Rose (a combined package of her first and second E.P.s)- it was not a surprise, perhaps.

Sometimes I Sit and Think’ was the culmination of a year’s writing- Barnett presented the songs to her band a week before recording; in order to capture the live feel- the vocals for the album are the first time Barnett sang them out loud. Surreal and funny one moment; down-to-earth the next: her debut captured the hearts (and attentions) of the world’s press.

The video for Elevator Operator (directed by Sunny Leunig)- the album’s opener- has just been released and shows all her skills in one place. Thudding percussion and prehensile drive soundtrack a song of everyday simplicity and relatability. Its hero, Oliver Paul, drops Vegemite down his shirt; he dreads work- “Feeling sick at the sight of his computer“- and represents the modern-day, consumer dread- those who live to work; no fun to be had.

Descriptive, evocative lyrics- “A tortoise shell necklace between her breasts”; garnishing a lady looking Oliver up and down with a “Botox frown“- create smiles and sighs. A wonderfully rich songwriter: the track is part-anthemic singalong; part-suburban poetry. Barnett’s catchy coda- “Don’t jump little boy/don’t jump off that roof”- is sympathetic and earnest- to a man simply idling; on the roof to get perspective.

Elevator Operator encapsulates Courtney Barnett at her finest. That loveable, unfettered voice; a tight band performance: lyrics that build pictures, mini-dramas, and witty vignettes. Barnett visits London next week- playing Somerset House on Thursday; Lattitude two days later- make sure you see her. For anyone claiming Rock music is dead (or dying): listen to Exhibit A and think again!

Los Angeles’ Jillian Rose Banks (A.K.A. Banks) released her debut album Goddess back in 2014. Upon arrival, the positive reviews stacked up; impressed by her take on Fiona Apple-esque raw revelations and FKA twigs-like minimalist R&B (albeit more restrained and grounded). Although her shots at ballads were largely forgettable: the diverse range of sounds and moods across Goddess saw the album climb to number 12 in the U.S. charts.

If the confessional style of Lorde and Lykke Li bleed into the lyrics; the likes of Lauryn Hill and Erykah Badu could be detected in the vocals- an inimitable fusion of vulnerable and empowered. Maybe a little formulaic and generic at times: the dramatic, emphatic Beggin for Thread; Brain’s cut-and-putdown; the long-distance relationship stress of Waiting Game– plenty of promise and personality.

Banks’ sophomore album is released later this year and its title cut, Fuck With Myself, shows a different side to the 28-year-old. Instead of mimicking the times and fitting into the vanguard: the opening seconds to the song are instantly memorable. Nervy, glitchy electronics and tense beats see the heroine in confident mood (“I got two diamonds and a feather/Gimme three reasons why we ain’t together”). Banks’ voice switches between barely-there purr and bespoke vocal intonations- recalling Kate Bush during her Never for Ever peak. The song’s anti-hero has caused hurt and seems to be plunging the depths (“I caught you fishing through the fodder”); Banks is giving him an imperious dressing-down.

More dramatic, individual and compelling than anything on Goddess: Fuck With Myself still recalls shades of Aaliyah and FKA twigs at times. Instead of replicating these influences, they are employed as a point d’appui. An enchanting glimpse into her sophomore album: the young American’s sighs, whispers and proclamations are as sensual as they are alarming. The song’s accompanying video, in its twisted, Chris Cunningham-meets-Bjork dark quirk, perfectly backs the track’s marriage of coarse confessionals and empowered mandates. Banks is back and she is a woman on a mission!

 

 

 

 

E.P. REVIEW: Chapter and Verse- The Wolves Back Home

E.P. REVIEW:

 

Chapter and Verse

 

 

The Wolves Back Home

 

9.5/10

 

The Wolves Back Home Cover.jpg

The Wolves Back Home can be purchased here:

https://itunes.apple.com/gb/album/the-wolves-back-home-ep/id1112714327

TRACK LISTING:

The New Breed9.5

Tunnels9.5

Shelf Life– 9.5

Electric Tongues– 9.5

Slave– 9.6

DOWNLOAD:

 Tunnels; Electric Tongues; Slave

STANDOUT TRACK:

Slave

RELEASE DATE:

13th July 2016

__________________________

AS dependable as turmoil and unease is in the modern world…

so too is the rise of a great London band. I will dip into the London band market- something I have done a lot- and look at Post-Hardcore bands and the day-to-day experiences of being in a band. Every publication and journalist have their tips and recommendations for bands this year. The Amazons, Baby Strange, and Estrons, between them, Punk/Rock vibes; Pretty Vicious are young upstarts that are worth your attention. Extend it outwards and The Bohicas and The Carnabys employ enough soul-searching and ‘60s-sounding Post-Punk magic to seduce critics. It is quite subjective when you think about it. There are so many great bands in London; it is hard taking it all in. Depending on your tastes and preferences, you are pretty much covered. I tend to find too many bands are proffered without just cause and rationale. Critics are too keen to promote bands who have a vague spark about them: it leads me to wonder what their criteria are and how low their expectations are. There are some journalists that have their ear to the ground and seek out the most original and striking groups. Bands like Pumarosa are at the higher end of the spectrum. The five-piece fuses spacey, psychedelic and Dance music strands together into a heady and feet-buckling cocktail. The future looks bright for them; a great band that has a very unique and special sound. London has so many corners, avenues, and neighbourhoods. Even if you spent your life in East London, you would be spoiled for bands and wonderful music. Big cities have that creative vibe and cosmopolitan blend. London, especially, is a great place to make music and absorb creativity. Whilst the capital is strangulating slightly; getting too packed and expensive: it is not putting everyone off. In spite of the expense, compaction, and rush: it is the natural place for those who want to create stunning music.

Chapter and Verse hail from East London and are clearly finding a lot of motivation and inspiration from the area. It is, to my mind, the best part of the capital for new music. The quartet has burst onto the scene and is one of the most explosive and hungry bands you’ll hear this year. Before I continue my point- and raise a couple more- it is worth meeting Chapter and Verse:

Josh Carter: Lead Vocals

Darren Gosling: Guitar

Jonny Hopwood: Bass/Backing Vocals

Ash Morton: Drums/Backing Vocals

CHAPTER AND VERSE might seem like fresh faces to the scene, but with their explosive debut EP ‘The Wolves Back Home’ these East London boys are hitting the UK like they’re veterans. With a raw, energetic twist on the alt-rock genre, Chapter and Verse released their debut single ‘Shelf Life’ in March 2016 and sold out their first ever show in less than a few weeks. Now with a relentless tour ethic, the quartet are quickly becoming one of the bands to watch this year.

Formed in early 2015, the four boys came together with an immensely diverse taste but a unified vision of creating honest, passionate and hard-hitting tunes. The result is a cocktail of noisy alt-rock that has been likened to the sound of Circa Survive, Crooks UK and Saosin.

‘The Wolves Back Home’ will be self released by the band through all usual outlets and supported with an extensive touring schedule – all handled by the band themselves.

It would be nice to see the boys get a label deal and find someone who can help handle their affairs. I have affection for groups that have a D.I.Y., autonomous approach to their music. So many modern acts (mainstream mainly) have legions of producers, agents and support crew handling everything they do. At times, you wonder whether said band have any control or say in their careers at all. One of the great things about a take-everything-on tactic is you get to make music you want to make; tour where you want and plan your diary. There is a flip-side that means things can get overwhelming and too hectic. Most fledgling bands have to cope with everything themselves until they gain a reputation and catch the ear of management. Chapter and Verse and expertly handling their music at the moment but one suspect they would benefit from a few pairs of hands. The boys are so busy right now; a bit of pressure release would give them breathing space and a chance for relaxation. That something to ponder, but for now, it is worth investigating the Post-Hardcore bands in the U.K. Scanning the mainstream/established scene and everyone from A Day to Remember and Alexisonfire are making a mark. Add Pierce the Veil and La Dispute and you have a variation there. Post-Hardcore is becoming very popular right now.

Not that it has suddenly exploded and come from nowhere. Maybe a reaction to world affairs or a frustration at modern music: the genre is attracting a lot of bands. Orlando’s Sleeping with Sirens; Kentucky’s Emarosa and our very own Oceans Eat Alaska are among the finest of the breed. Punk is always going to be a popular genre and new bands are finding fresh ways of reinterpreting its grit, passion, and raw edges. I feel there is a rallying against the stilted, committee-led Pop stars and beyond-dull raft of Folk artists around. Of course, there are plenty of great acts in these types of music: my general feeling is (Hardcore/Post-Hardcore bands) are tiring of colourless, soft music: keen to inject vitality, atmospheric and drama into the boiling pot. Many will have cliché views of Post-Hardcore: a lot of screaming and noise with no real nuance or composure. Since the ‘80s- when the genre started to take a hold- it has been growing and expanding. The San Diego scene rose in the early-to-mid-1990s and led to a Post-Hardcore movement under the Gravity Records label. Since then, the genre has incorporated more sub-genres and become more detailed and wide-ranging. Not just taking Punk/Grunge as its basis; modern-day examples lace Power-Pop, Sludge-Metal and Krautrock to unleash something cross-pollinating and beautiful. The Frankenstein’s monster approach to music-making is not as reckless and undisciplined as it seems on paper. Current Post-Hardcore bands not only want to appeal to a wide range of listeners; they are pushing boundaries and ensuring their music is as deep and varied as possible. Even if you are not a fan of ‘traditional’ Post-Hardcore; Chapter and Verse are guys that make it accessible and tangible; they do not blow you away with force and alienate.

The E.P. The Wolves Back Home announces them as a huge proposition and a band to clutch to the chest. I know the chaps have a busy and itinerant next few months ahead of them. So far, the gang has taken in Rebellion (Manchester) and Mother’s Ruin in Bristol. To launch their E.P. they rocked The Old Blue Last in London. Yesterday they were up in Glasgow ensuring Nice ‘N’ Sleazy was appropriately sweaty, dirty and aghast. After travelling hundreds of miles in the last few days- from London to Doncaster to Glasgow- the four-piece will want a second to decompress and recharge. Many underestimate the rigmarole and strains of music today. It is not as idealistic and simple as you would conceive. As Chapter and Verses have shown; there is a lot of graft and grind required. They love performing to the people but the toll it takes and the work they have to put it- it is enough to take it out of the best of us. I have seen so many great bands burn out and crumble under the pressure that is put before them. When it comes to Chapter and Verse; you know they will straddle the reality checks and tiring days. Not only does their music ensure they have a solid and loyal fanbase: their attitude, determination, and discipline means they will remain and grow. Touring duties are done for a little bit; they will be heading back from Glasgow and assessing their future. The reception and love The Wolves Back Home has garnered mean they will not have a lot of time to rest.

The New Breed kicks things off with a rude awakening.  The song brings oceanic and water-themed metaphor to the surface. Prophesising sailors and guardians of the ocean are trying to lead our heroes astray. “Waves won’t collapse” it is said if you follow the light; instead of what’s in your head. A sinewy, dark figure waves you (the hero) from the harbor with a “warm smile”; turning his back and asking us to mourn for “your lost soul”. Following a rictus and riot of strings and beats; a heavy, wave-crashing slam that gets the head spinning- the band keep is calm and fascinating in the early stages. The song’s lyrics are a lot deeper and more intelligent than the majority of acts out there. Story-like and scenic; literary and mythical: each listener has their own visions and interpretation of events. “You’re not the one we need” is chanted with intensity and anger; turning against preachers, false idols and lying voices; the fascination levels reach the ceiling. Maybe rebelling against impure friends and those that lie- there are so many options for interpretation and truth. A great band that delivers urgency and obliqueness; one cannot help but draw conclusions and paint their own story. Words of madness and stupidity are swirling; we have to (as the chorus documents) have faith “in the new breed”. Maybe musicians of the latest generation are being attested. Stop proclaiming and heralding those who are fake, shallow and sort-lasting. Perhaps critics and labels pay too much attention to those underserving. Whatever the real truth behind the song; its teeth-baring drive and slamming chorus cannot be ignored. Guitars spiral and dive; the percussion and smashes through boulders; the bass guides and brings the layers together. Our hero’s voice is strong and intense to the last; passionate and forceful. Disbelievers said the storm “could never bring you home”; vessels struggle and vivid imagery is unfolded. Kudos must be given to the band performance which is tight and magnetic to the end. A dramatic and bold opening number that perfectly introduces the band to us.

After that riot of scenery and impassioned delivery comes Tunnels. Grungy, low-down guitar slam fades up into a head-banging riff for the masses. Electrifying and rollercoaster right away: every listener will be immersed and drawn into the song. Our hero feels it is hard not to look back and to better times perhaps. Claiming there is “nothing to show” from current endeavours; there is a light in the tunnel and a hope. A song that looks at insecurity and a sense of anxiety: there is, as the song says, a comfort knowing others feel “lost in their own skin”. From the oblique and novel-like intrigue of the opener: here is something more emotional, personal and direct. Crisp and clear production means the vocals are decipherable and intelligible; ensuring the lyrics register and everyone can appreciate them. The “soothing rush of comfort” that comes with the realisation (we are not alone) seems like a mantra Chapter and Verse live by. We all feel alone and unsure at the best of times. Knowing others feel the same can be a comfort and compensation. “We’re no longer alone in our own homes” is a line that could have a variety of meanings. Perhaps being under surveillance and control; feeling suffocated in the mass of people; not having time to ourselves.

Walking and Smiling!.jpg

It was a sentiment that stood out to me and seems to define the song. Modern life and its insecurities mean few of us feel completely relaxed, safe and secure. Given recent political and world events: Tunnels is a song that sums up general consensuses but provides a suggestion of unity and fight-against-the-oppressors. Not just reserved to lyrical intelligence and passionate vocals: when the instruments stand alone; you see another side to the band. Beats tease and slam; the guitars are vibrant and louche; the bass swells and bounces- a perfect punctuation and parable that ties the song’s chapters together. Sceptics and critics poke at the hero; there is that sense of repression and exhaustion throughout the track. One eye “on the backdoor” adds more nerves and unsettled drama to the song. The lead runs on empty for miles and is buried under the weight of things: a chorus that gets in the head and can get the crowds united in song. The words tumble and the song gets hotter and harder: the vocal more animalistic and angered as everything starts to sink in. It is perhaps worse getting what you want sometimes as the hero explains. By the end, you sit back and try and take it all in. Such is the primal urge and anger of the song; the mixture of emotions and feelings. Another stunning song that shows just how accomplished the band is.

Shelf Life is the middle child that is not awkward or second-nature in any sense. The lead is in a cold sweat and has a burden on his shoulders. A selfish heroine is making the same digs and digging a grave for the hero. Perhaps a relationship that has restarted and ended: two people who have a history and unable to break a pattern. Promising never to do this again; our boy is being cheated and punished once more. Like The New Breed: here, we get a song that could have several meanings and comes equipped with provocative possibilities. On the face of things, you assume a relationship is being focused upon. Never using clichés and obvious lines: the band is masters when it comes to story and original sentiments.  Selling out his friends for lifetimes; his hands are sore and his head is aching. Not a child anymore; these ideas and lines start to reveal more of the truth. Perhaps an immature and dangerous love is being documented. A relationship that is inherently damaged and deceitful; our front-man is betraying friends and focusing on the wrong people. Backed by his brothers-in-arms; the composition swells and strikes with appropriate fever and focus. Ensuring the E.P.’s momentum and consistency remains sharp and intact; Shelf Life is a song that has radio-play potential. I have mooted the possibility of Post-Hardcore transcending beyond cobweb-strewn cells into the mainstream’s regard. Shelf Life is a track that is accessible to the masses but pleasing to the archetypes of the genre- bona fide fans who appreciate the heritage, edginess, and cool-ness of the music.

N I C E / N / S L E A Z Y 
Tonight in Glasgow for @pshiftband's EP launch! Get down and show us you Scots do it!
📷 - @jaywennington 
#chapterandverse #thewolvesbackhome #nicensleazy #glasgow #london #uk #paradigmshift #live #newnoise #newmusic #newband #neweverything #ffo #circasurvive #saosin #emarosa #letlive #malloryknox #bmth #giglife

The best acts are those who can make music that has mass appeal but never feels sold-out, watered-down or untrue to their ethos. “I thought this was going to be everything” the hero screams- as though he is directing it at his girl. The E.P.’s cover features a blurry-faced hero doing up his shirt whilst his wolf-headed girl points a gun to the back of his head. You feel Shelf Life is the sonic apparition and representation of the cover art. Perhaps the defining chapter from Chapter and Verse: mistakes have been made and incongruous bonds formed; mistakes and lamentable decisions that are breaking our man in two. A sorry state of affairs has unraveled and a relationship (that seemed long-lasting on paper) has dissipated and crumbled. Again, the instrumentation adds contour and flavor to the song. The bass stands out with its grumble and rumble. In fact, the entire band is on top form and gives the song a tight-knit sound. Selling out his heart “with punchlines”; our man flees west and packs his cases. After the ruins of the night before have been stepped over: the recrimination and accusations come through sharply. The girl has been a lifeline that was once an anchor; now she is a Siren that has caused irrevocable damage. Unable to put emotions onto paper: the composition goes a long way to defining the pain and confusion. If the hero seems expendable and lost; there are signs he can rebuild and find clarity again. As the song wraps up; I wonder whether it is strictly relationships being looked at or the nature of friendships. Clearly, deceit and mistrust are being looked at but one wonders how far that extends.  Another song that gets the brain working; you need a few listens to understand the truths being laid out. Benefiting the body, soul, and blood: Shelf Life is another jewel from a shining crown.

L O U N G E / 4 1 
Workington tonight with @veragraceband and @thedistantnorth ! 
#chapterandverse #thewolvesbackhome #lounge41 #workington #veragrace #thedistantnorth #newmusic #newnoise #newband #neweverything #london #uk #love #ffo #saosin #biffyclyro #donbroco #malloryknox #letlive #giglife

Electric Tongues is the penultimate gambit and opens rather unexpectedly. Soft and romantic pianos greet the song and beckon a soothing and tender vocal. Keeping his hands by his side and remaining steady; it seems like a particular girl is being sung about. Walling to cherish her (if only for the night) you can feel that sense of longing and affection. On that note, the combination of guitar strings- which grow headier through the opening maneuver- let you know something harder and heavier is waiting around the corner. The percussion rolls and dives; the piano continues to seduce whilst the guitar threads a tapestry and gives the song fluidity and movement. Together, the band creates something huge by being sparse and minimalist. Well-chosen, intelligent compositional notes give Electric Tongues a grandeur and sense of occasion without resorting to ecstatic vocals and primeval performance. “You’re better than I” and “I can’t dance” are sentiments that put my thoughts back in relationship arenas. Previous tracks across the E.P. have been blame-shifting and self-assessing; acid and vitriol have been common ghosts. Here, we have something more refined, uplifting and affirmative. Our hero wants to spend the night with the girl; embrace the moment and not ruin his chance. There are no rose-tinted glasses; just a man who is laying his heart on the line. Chapter and Verse show they can be sensitive and open without seeming out of their depth.

The Wolves Back Home benefits from this richness and variety: Electric Tongues is one of the most vital cuts on the record. Past the half-way mark, when ideas of recklessness and youthful abandon are suggested, the song tightens and becomes more inflamed- perhaps in tandem with the heated sexuality and bedroom eyes the song is laying out there. The band steps out and deliver an aural assault on the senses. Combining like a decades-old band that has conquered the world: that confidence and instinct makes the song sound enthralling and spectacular. When our hero comes back to the microphone, there are some regrets and doubts. His bleary eyes are clearing; he tries not to wake the sleeping girl. Perhaps too forward or ill-advised in his conquest: the morning after is a severe hangover. Given the song’s title; I was thinking about social media flirtation and how we create false expectations/relationships on Facebook, for instance. Chapter and Verse are wonderful when it comes to second-guessing and subverting expectations. Electric tongues are “just for the ride”- a myriad of images and possibilities come to fruition- and there are deep-seated regrets for sure- the girl should never have been by his side. Starting as a romantic and hopeful song has twisted into something rotten and devilled.

Ending proceedings is Slave. Sparing no expense when it comes to setting the mood: the song gets underway instantly; keen to deliver its messages. Our hero proclaims: “You don’t know me at all”. Maybe directed at an ally or friend; an acquaintance who thinks he has him sussed. Salt is being tossed in the wounds and a lot of pain comes out. Making sure The Wolves Back Home ends with a bang: Slave is the most intense, concentrated and memorable track from the collection. The chorus, in particular, is quite vivid and quotable. “Slave/You got what you came for” gets the imagination working overtime. The lead urges him/her to think slowly: this might be the last chance they get. Oblique but endlessly fascinating; what do those lyrics refer to? It is a tough one but a conundrum one is willing to challenge. It is in this song where all the band’s merits and components are galvanised. The composition is the most compelling of the E.P. Sounding like a Bond theme; it has espionage danger and an anthemic quality to it. Perhaps Chapter and Verse would be available to score the next Bond film? The guitars are at the most viper-like and biting; the percussion boulder-like and meaty; the bass precise and melodic. The lead’s vocal is at its most passionate and nuanced here. His words talk of endurance and evolution: a need to move on and grow perhaps? Each new revelation pushes the story on but causes me to question my motives and interpretation. Slave’s anatomy brings respite, river-side contemplation and watery graves together. A dark and unsettled song that finds the hero wrestling with consciousness and his conscience- he is betraying the ones he loves, it seems. The band have been storing up some special fireworks are ready to release them. That compositional quality keeps glistening. Basslines remind me of Rage Against the Machine’s eponymous debut, and for that matter, does the song itself. The lead speaks candidly and directs his words to the subject. They do not know him and are playing him for the fool. Again, one wonders whether a sweetheart or friend (former maybe) is causing this upset and anger.

Mixing Post-Hardcore bands with R.A.T.M. and Muse (to an extent) and you have a song that signs the E.P. off with aplomb. Another track that could get the crowds heaving and voices shouting clear. It never rushes or seems too eager to please. The composition takes care to work its magic; lacing in emotions, shades and ideas while the vocal is restrained for the most part. Even when our hero is casting aspersions; there is never histrionics or any wild-limbed tantrum- just a controlled man keeping his emotions in-check. That said, there is a natural explosion point that sees everything become a little too much. Hoping he can stay sane; all that tension is released and the song kicks up another gear. The chorus proclaims this is the last chance to evolve; the slaves got what they came for. I keep wondering what that alludes to and the true origins of those thoughts. The gift and wonder of Chapter and Verse is they leave absolute clarity to their own pens; each listener is free to take the song’s lyrics where they may. Compositions and vocals and more direct and obvious but always imbued with complexity and originality. I have mentioned Rage Against the Machine who are synonymous with their intelligence, innovation and kinetic bond. Chapter and Verse seem like a British, Post-Hardcore equivalent: perfectly explained and realised on Slave.

I have looked at the rise of Post-Hardcore and how conducive London is to creative inspiration. These twin charges will continue unabated. Our capital is leading the race with regards innovative and exceptional music. Other cities (Manchester especially) are always going to be crucial but London is going from strength to strength. As the city becomes more cosmopolitan, variegated and busy; it is having a positive effect on musician. Vibing from the mixture of faces, races and places: the new wave of artists is hardly struggling for inspiration. When it comes to subject matter, if you are based in boring towns and villages, you are a bit stifled and stuck. Big, busy cities have plenty of life and action; it spikes the imagination and is just what a musician needs. On that thought, venues and opportunities to perform are wide ranging and vast. Fellow bands/artists help to promote their city-mates and these aspects together has scene London’s music is among the world’s finest. I have over-simplified it but perhaps it needs no further explanation and insight. I love the best Rock/Indie and Alternative bands out there but often feel like there is something missing. Maybe not as bold, adventurous and memorable as they could be- the spirit yearns for something a little different and more explosive. Step up Chapter and Verse who come ready with a suitcase-load of fireworks, dynamite and fire. If you are nervous approaching the shores of Post-Hardcore then have no fear. The London clan is not people who want to appeal to their cliché and followers- exclude others and be seen as a niche act. Splicing a variety of genres into their Post-Hardcore base: a stadium-sized band that are capable of becoming mainstream artists of the future. It is lamentable certain genres have not gained full recognition and have to struggle beneath the surface. Chapter and Verse’s The Wolves Back Home is a professional and immediate E.P. that hits you upon first listen. Across the five tracks, you are enthralled, compelled and overcome by the power, quality and performances from the London band. Few acts have registered as hard to me as Chapter and Verse. It does not matter if you’re a Post-Hardcore fan; Chapter and Verse are a band for the people. Their touring log has been full and it will get fuller as time goes on. It may be the debut E.P. but The Wolves Back Home sounds like a creation from an established, long-standing band. There aren’t many that can release an E.P. that appeals to every sense and part of the body. Unusually, you see weak links and lesser numbers. When it comes to ticking all the boxes and touching every listener; Chapter and Verse…

DO that perfectly.

 

____________________________________

Follow Chapter and Verse

 The Wolves Back Home Cover.jpg

Official:

http://www.chapterandverseuk.com/

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/chapterandverseuk

Twitter:

https://twitter.com/ChapterandVer5e

Instagram:

https://www.instagram.com/chapterandverseuk/

 

TRACK REVIEW: Laura Roy- Don’t Chase

TRACK REVIEW:

 

Laura Roy

 

 

Don’t Chase

 

9.3/10

 

Don’t Chase is available at:

https://soundcloud.com/lauraeroymusic/dont-chase-the-feeling-2

RELEASED:
February 2016

GENRE:
Pop; R&B

COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:

Vancouver, Canada

The E.P. Laura Roy is available via:

https://itunes.apple.com/gb/album/laura-roy-ep/id1111711933

TRACK LISTING:

Don’t Chase

Looking the Other Way

Bright Lights

Full Moon

Take Me Down

Plastic

________________________________________

ANOTHER week has passed and we find ourselves in the midst of yet…

more unsettlement and terrorism. It is almost ‘expected’ that we will wake to hear devastating news somewhere around the world. It seems like an odd thing to open a review with: music is that sanctuary that allows us a place to hide and reflect. It is not often I get to investigate a Canadian artist- I used to a lot but have not done lately- so it is great to discover another tremendous Canadian musician. Before I come to her, it is worth looking at the best Canadian acts around; the strength of current artists emerging- finishing by looking at the importance of starting the musical education young. In terms of the country’s legendary acts: everyone from Rush and Arcade Fire have called Canada home. I have said it in previous reviews but is remains true: a nation that continues to promulgate and create some of music’s very best. Of course, we could look at the historic acts and what they have brought to the world. In terms of the modern acts emanating from here: we should keep our eyes out for a few prime examples. The Franklin Electric are based out of Montreal and have been tipped as one of Canada’s most exciting young acts. A hook-laden sound that mixes Indie and Folk together has seen the ensemble collect rave reviews. Reuben and the Dark and Brave Shores are worth spending more time with. The latter, in particular, are renowned for their insanely catchy songs and brother-sister connection. HIGHS have been growing in stature since touring with Twin Forks and Cold War Kids last year.

The Toronto band are another example of just what is lurking within Canada. I use the word ‘lurking’ because it seems almost conspiratorial. I have been lamenting the fact certain nations are overlooked by the British media. We are keen to proffer homegrown examples but rarely expand into foreign territory. Sure, the U.S. is featured heavily but why not Canada? Laura Roy is based out of Nova Scotia, which is a area many of us would not normally think of (when it comes to great music). Hillsburn are one of those bands that blow you away live. Not an opinion reserved to the locals: powerful visuals and contagious vocals; pummeling energy and a kinetic band bond mean their shows are the stuff of legends. The Stanfields are stalwarts of the European and Canadian scene: having been performing for years; they are a native group that provides sweat, memorability and a raucous night. The Town Heroes have picked up awards in Nova Scotia and it is not hard to see why. The guys rock hard and are among the most consistent and engaging acts in Canada. The Jimmy Swift Band, The Trews, and Gypsophilia are a trio of Nova Scotia acts, but in truth, it is the tip of the iceberg. Unless you are in close proximity or well-connected across social media, how do you ever hear about these acts?

It might be a debate for another day but the factor remains: Canada is a nation that should be put in the spotlight; their musicians are among the finest in the world. Laura Roy hardly does much to dissuade my opinions. Canada has quite a few hot Pop-cum-R&B stars: many of them will not linger long in the mind. The last few years have been productive and busy for Roy. Battling to make a name for herself; there seems to be no stopping her right now. One of those musicians that connects with producers and gets herself out there: small wonder she has resonated and caught the eye of some big names. Before I carry on my points; let me introduce Laura Roy to you:

Laura Roy is a singer/songwriter based in Halifax, Nova Scotia. A captivating songwriter, vocalist and college music graduate, Laura has shared the stage with the likes of Canadian RnB sensation Jully Black, JRDN, Ludacris, Rakim and Freddy Gibbs. Voted “Best R&B Artist” by the Coast Magazine, she is known for her powerhouse pop-RnB vocals. Laura is also a four-year attendee of the prestigious Gordie Sampson Songcamp, put on by the Grammy-winning writer in Nova Scotia every summer, and was invited to participate in songwriting camps via The Songwriter’s Association of Canada in Montreal and Toronto in 2015.

During these camps, Laura had the opportunity to write and connect with producers and writers like Rob Wells (Justin Bieber, Ariana Grande), Alex Greggs (N’Sync, Lady Gaga, Mad Decent), Caitlyn Smith (Meghan Trainor, John Legend, Rascal Flatts, Lady Antebellum and Garth Brooks, Cassadee Pope), and Gordie Sampson himself (Keith Urban, Carrie Underwood, Faith Hill). Needless to say, Laura has come a long way since selling her first EP out of her backpack at the age of 16 on school lunch breaks. The project contains 6 songs infused with synth-pop, 90’s r&b vibes with soulful melodies and catchy hooks, she adds “I’ve been working on the EP for the last year and a half. I’ve tried to make sure the music represents my experiences in a way that feels true to who I am as an artist right now”. Written and recorded in Toronto and New York City with producers Adam King, Joel Stouffer (Dragonette) and Ari Leff (Epique), Laura Roy’s debut EP is now available on iTunes, Spotify and Apple Music. 

I have waxed lyrical about 2016’s best albums. Every month seems to unveil treasure and surprise. Shura is the latest artist who has really caught my ear. Her debut album, Nothing is Real, is primed to ride high in the charts this weekend. A singer that gets into the heart and distinguishes herself from the raft of Pop/mainstream acts. Languid and introverted on the one hand; theatricality and presence on the other. The East London star is someone that has hit the ground running seemingly. Inspired by Janet Jackson and Madonna: her music hits the heart and puts you in mind of the greats of Pop. Away from her, there is ample evidence to suggest this year will be a good one. The past few years have seen determinable and varied quality. This year, something remarkable has happened. I am not sure what has motivated it- perhaps this is the sign of things to come? – but wonderful albums keep tumbling forth. Laura Roy is working hard to ensure she ranks among the mainstream’s finest.  Like Shura; Roy avoids clichés and makes old subjects feel new and revitalised. A mix of confidence, playfulness and fragility remain; a blend that feeds into the music. It is Roy’s personality and drive that comes to the surface with intensity. Many artists start music quite late (or develop a passion for it late) and seem rather inexperienced and uncertain. Growing up around a wide range of artists and sounds: Roy’s early life and childhood compelled her to write her own songs. I myself became obsessed with music from a young age. I feel that everyone should involve themselves during childhood: there is no excuse to overlook and ignore wonderful music these days. The love and connection Roy experienced through music can be heard in her latest offerings. Her eponymous E.P. has already picked up some lucrative and praise-heavy reviews. From the U.K. to Australia: journalists and fans have been queuing up to lend their opinions. We get that blend of familiar and unique with Roy.

When it comes to assessing Roy’s current endeavours; it is worth looking back and seeing where she started. Older tracks like Tonight and Getting Back to Loving Me have a lot in common with Laura Roy material. The vocal and sound is quite similar and no radical reinvention was required. The subject matter stays close to issues of love and commitment; embracing what you have and honesty in general. The biggest difference from the older material and current offerings is the conviction and confidence that emanates through. I say this about a lot of artists but it rings true here. You can detect that step-up and leap forward. More assured and convincing: Laura Roy is the moment the heroine announces herself as a true artist and future star. Maybe it is the subject matter or production; the time that has passed but you can definitely detect a change and growth. Her E.P. brims with wonderful songs and instant smashes. No filler material to be found; it is a record that is not designated only to Pop and R&B lovers. The coming years will be interesting to see. Whether Roy keeps with her sound and expands it somewhat, we can only guess. A lot of the song themes have familiarity and predictability to them but never presented in a tired and obvious way. Over time, it may be hard breathing new life and invention into topics of love, heartache and the like. I, for one, will be excited to see how Laura Roy evolves and changes as an artist. For now, we have an extraordinary talent who is starting to hit her peak form. Laura Roy is an E.P. that can perfectly soundtrack any day and season. It has an evergreen nature that extends beyond setting and time. The themes, subjects, and sounds will resonate with many and do not push anybody away. Some musicians are too niche and insular; never truly welcoming everyone in. No such qualms when it comes to Laura Roy.

The finger clicks and distorted vocals swing in heavy and hard. The initial moments see shuddering electronics and solid beats (again electronic) provide plenty of drama and emotion. It is an out-the-gates song that does not get too heavy early on. Instead, you have a subtle, sexy song that is keen to shake its hips and elicit a smooth groove. Roy’s voice is high, proud and determined. Balancing Pop accessibility with something a little raw and R&B- a performance that brings to light the song’s tease and mystique. Our heroine has to stop chasing something- whether a boy or an ideal- and seems frustrated. Maybe being kept awake and tormented: it is right there “in front of me”; teasing and heartbreaking all at once. Most will instantly jump to ideas of love and satisfaction. Perhaps a particular man is in her thoughts: someone who is causing trituration and desire; she is unable to release that frustration and get what she needs. That instinct to chase and push too hard- our heroine wants a little taste- is palpable. Your mind starts thinking of other possibilities and potential.

Maybe not reserved to passion and affairs of the heart. Perhaps the song relates to ambitions and fulfilling dreams; a desire that stems from the soul rather than the heart. “Tell me when it’s going down” gives the lyrics a sense of tangibility (for a teenage audience) but something deeper. On paper, you would think Roy to be your average Pop star. When you start decoding and listening to the lyrics; you discover someone a lot richer and more developed than her peers. We never deal with tropes and stereotypes. The lines marry simplicity and complex without either losing identity or confounding the listener. Before the chorus arrives; ideas of a drugs fix get introduced. So strong and eager is this need: it is hard to shake off; causing shivers and anxiety. When the chorus finally does arrive- the momentum had been building for some time- it is a joyous and instant Pop hook; a confident and impassioned vocal that is celebratory and cautious. There is a part of the heroine that offers sage advice (not chasing something that will come to you) but a determination and recklessness- keep pushing and hoping no matter what. The beats explode and the electronics swell: everything gets bigger, brighter and more intense. Few will be immune to the impact and instancy of that chorus: one that is delivered perfectly. The heroine implores economy and patience. If you chase it- whether a dream or another human- then you risk losing everything. It is no good being too eager and thinking it will never happen. If you work hard and have belief: what you crave and dream of will find you. While an individual and unique voice: there are little shades of R&B contemporaries to be found.

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Embers of Rhianna come out in the sexier, more luxuriant deliveries. That tone and intonation slip into some of the phrasing, which gives the song a sense of familiarity. Laura Roy is a singer that does not hang onto the coattails of others: she is her own boss and brings some influences into the palette without seeming replicate. Don’t Chase is a song that is relevant to all listeners. Not confined to teenage audiences and young women: everybody can find guidance and wisdom here. We all aim and have that urge to get something; we pine and desire things we feel are out of reach. Given what we know about Roy; it is likely music and success are in her sights. The beauty of Don’t Chase is the fact it is never too obvious and direct. You never take the lyrics at face value: each lyric can apply to different possibilities and scenarios. Our heroine’s heart races and palpitates; she wants it that bad: there is never exaggeration when she sings; you know how much it means. Plaudits must be given to the vocals but the composition too. Don’t Chase is built around a largely electronic foundation: it gives the song a fizz, panache, and ready-for-the-club vibe. A song that could get the beach-dwelling jumping; cause sweat and celebration in nightclubs- plenty of utilitarian potential and impact. Better than that; the track is radio-friendly and accessible. Stations across the globe will want to spin it and revel in its delights and layers. By the closing stages, you are desperate for the song to continue. After an exhilarating and wave-riding ride: the listener will want more; our heroine teases a little but does so perfectly. Too many musicians needlessly fill songs and provide extended instrumentals. That can cause a loss of focus and seem rather tacked-on. Roy ensures there is economy and concession in her music. Don’t Chase would be pretty ironic if it were to wander and linger too long. By keeping things short and to-the-point: the song will be repeated and revisited many times over. Few Pop-cum-R&B acts get me excited and stick in the mind. I feel there are too few that sound distinct and have their own way of working. Laura Roy is an artist who has grown up listening to legends but never duplicates what they have said. The highlight from her eponymous E.P.: Don’t Chase is a sunny, passionate song that is guaranteed to see Roy cross oceans and get into the heads of international ears.

Laura Roy is fairly fresh to the scene but already has proved she is up to the demands. So many young artists arrive without having thought things through. They will replicate others are write songs that are too familiar. Don’t Chase explodes right from the off and lets you know this is music from someone unlike anyone else. It is not an apportion when it comes to her E.P. If you thought Don’t Chase was an obvious highlight that makes everything else seem pale, then think again. Looking the Other Way is tumbling, busy and calm. The vocal has a smoothness and soulfulness to them. Our heroine is checking herself and trying not to say anything stupid. Supported by colourful electronics and a calming influence: there is that need for correct choices and well-chosen words. Maybe speaking with her boyfriend: there is a history and past that is coming to the surface; one wrong word and things could explode. Whether argument or something else has caused this situation; you are invested and interested to see where it goes. The beats snap and crackle; punch and pound: the vocal swings and swaggers but has vulnerability under the skin. Once more, we get a huge and vivacious chorus. “You can say it a million times” is a mantra that has some cold truths- the boy has screwed up and had his chance. Seeming pushy- the boy feels she is being unreasonable- he is playing the victim it seems. A perfect compassion piece to Don’t Chase: it is almost a juxtaposition in a lot of senses. The opening track is upbeat and restrained yet has a positivity and wise head on its shoulders. Looking the Other Way is nervier and angered. Roy is trying to keep things together and not lose her head.

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Bright Lights comes in and provides some comfort and calm. Swimming in a sea that is “open wide” we get a story of Roy’s current light. Perhaps used to a more subtle and homely existence: the recent months/years have seen her embrace late nights and bright lights. Perhaps a metaphor for stardom and popularity: she is never losing focus and keeping the spirits high. People will try and drag you (our heroine) down but will never succeed. In the song, you get a sense of pining and longing. Perhaps a boy is at home and being missed but you would never know it. Our heroine is in the moment and in the whirlwind of the city. Living for the moment and embracing all life has to offer: a song that never loses its huge energy and force. The focus is on Roy’s voice which grows in eagerness and strength as the song progresses. Following a fraught and unsettled predecessor; Bright Lights provides some joy and distraction. Full Moon and Take Me Down show different sides to Roy. The former is a smooth and R&B-heavy song- one that puts me in mind of Aaliyah. Taking the lights down; it is the E.P.’s most reflective and heartfelt track. Setting her heart out there; once more, love comes back into the spotlights. Even when the sky pulls “us apart”; the love they have is a full moon. You cannot ignore the conviction and range in Laura Roy’s voice. Someone capable of switching moods and styles over the course of an E.P.; she is one of the most amenable and flexible singers in Pop. Take Me Down is a song that gets to business straight away. Determined, suave and sexualised: the heroine provides an alluring and enticing vocal. Her boy is causing quite a reaction in her. Fighting against the pull and allure: she is helpless and not willing to fight the feeling. Putting the song in the bedroom; it is one of the most ‘adult’ and risqué songs from the Canadian. Pushing against ideals and expectations- being for teenagers or just a girl- this proves Roy is a woman with urges and not willing to hide them. Catchy vocals (“Every time we do this” is delivered with twirl and accent; instantly repeatable) whilst the composition remains fairly composed and demurring.

Plastic closes proceedings with a huge punch and ceremony. The hardest-edged and gritty song on the album: Roy is strong and fighting throughout. Pushing her chest out and with fists aloft: this is a declaration from a woman that is not taking any crap. Plastic hearts cannot love or feel; her subject is getting a dressing-down. Comparisons to Arianne Grande, Rhianna, and their peers might come to mind. The song could ride high on the R&B charts and something a young Beyoncé would have killed for. It goes to show how versatile and unpredictable Roy is- whilst being consistent and focused. Previous numbers have shown a mix of fragility, exoticness, and hopefulness: a mixture of emotions and dynamics that give songs nuance and variation. Plastic is a track that signs her E.P. off with a huge impact. Almost the highlight- not quite able to steal the crown from Don’t Chase– your hat goes off to Laura Roy. She manages to evoke memories of R&B queens without ever stepping into their territory. What we get is a young artist with her own skin and her own stories. Every song is short and memorable- she never outstays her welcome or elongates unnecessarily. It means you get quite a few tracks but the E.P. never overruns. Too many provide a three/four-track E.P. that lasts for twenty minutes. Not only do they not provide enough contrast and content (in sheer numbers) but they need lack the necessary editing and honing.

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Laura Roy has shown she is going to be on the scene for years and is an incredible artist. It was wonderful investigating her eponymous E.P. and you know more material will arrive. Whether the next year will see another E.P. or album; that will be exciting to see. As I mentioned; Roy has already gained reviews and press from various continents. Not just a hometown hero: the future is very bright for Roy. I would love to see her come to London and bring her music here. There is a clear market and plenty of stations/venues would love to host her. Before I get ahead of myself, it is worth pointing out the strengths and pluses she possesses. Don’t Chase is a stunning song that rattles around the head and will get everyone singing. Not just a shallow and vague song: lots of great advice and layers can be discovered; a song that keeps revealing joy and potential after dozens of listens. Those who like their music intelligent, instant and colourful; make sure you dive into Laura Roy and…

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HAVE a smile put on your face.

 

_________________________________________

Follow Laura Roy

 

Official:

http://www.lauraroy.ca/

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/Lauraroymusic/?fref=ts

Twitter:

https://twitter.com/lauraroymusic

SoundCloud:

https://soundcloud.com/lauraeroymusic

Instagram:

https://www.instagram.com/lauraroymusic/

 

INTERVIEW: Carina Round

INTERVIEW:

 

 

 

Carina Round

 

 

DERANGED to Divine is perhaps the starkest and most beautiful…

album names I have ever heard. It pretty much sums up the work of Carina Round. Based in L.A. now: the British-born musician has collaborated with some of music’s heavyweights- from Dave Stewart to Ryan Adams. Deranged to Divine– available to pre-order https://itunes.apple.com/gb/album/deranged-to-divine-itunes/id1119504638- is out shortly and unifies and combines the multifarious, spellbinding work of a stunning musician. Having achieved and experienced more than most artists: it is all hands on the deck for Round. In August, she returns to the U.K. for some promotional dates. Taking in the likes of London (The Lexington on 5th) and Brighton (The Green Door Store on 11th) it is an exciting summer, for sure. There is perpetuity and an evergreen quality to Round’s work: her music gets inside the soul and evokes something unexplainable. Taking all this into consideration, I was keen (with respect and nerves) to press Round. We discuss her childhood and musical icons; the juxtapositions between L.A. and Wolverhampton (her hometown) and plans for new material…

________________________________

Hey Carina. How are you? How has your week been? For those new to your music: can you introduce yourself, please?

I’m great. I’m just off the back of a U.S. and a European tour with Puscifer for our latest album which went really well. I’m currently preparing to for some shows with Tears For Fears and my U.K. solo tour in August- in support of my record Deranged to Divine which is a self-curated retrospective spanning the last 15 years of my career.

You are based in L.A.  What is it about Los Angeles that is so attractive to musicians?

Well, the entertainment industry is based here. Also, before you reach a certain level of success as an artist- unless you come from money- it can be quite difficult to live comfortably. There’s a certain quality of life here just because of the nature of the location:Ocean, Mountains, Weather; that it’s hard to get in many other big cities, yet it offers the same amount of potential. And then, after reaching a certain level, I find many artists move over here from N.Y.C. They can still do what they need to but have a much less stressful life: bigger house, large working space, a pool; maybe they start families.

The legacy afforded to California as a hub in the ‘60s and ‘70s by the Laurel Canyon Scene (Byrds, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young; Joni Mitchell, Mamas & Papas, James Taylor; Linda Ronstadt, Jackson Browne etc.) or music from the Wrecking Crew sessions had enough longevity to carry over a romantic ideal too. I think even (though) that is long gone.

In reality, though, it can be very isolating- many hours alone in cars. A few simple tasks can take a whole day. No walking anywhere. No real central energy.  A lot of the time this can be pleasurable and conducive to creativity. For me, I need to inject myself into a nucleus of overwhelming human energy every now and then. Like charging a battery.

 

 

Your music clearly resounds with listeners around the world; your voice and confidence are outstanding. Did you grow up in a musical background? Were your parents influential with regards your musical ambitions?

Music was always a part of my life from as long as I can remember. I grew up in Wolverhampton with a single mother and listening to music and dancing was a big part of our household. Then at around 6, I moved in with my grandparents and it was a huge part of that household too. My grandfather had a terrific voice. He would be singing more often than not singing and I just adored him for it. It became a big part of my physical expression as a child to go about my day singing my face off. Both pre-existing songs and stuff I made up in them moment.

I began writing poetry before I was a teenager. I picked up a guitar and began crafting songs around the age of 15. At this point, my attendance at school dropped off a lot but my self-education began to bloom. I really began to find my voice. That’s what I was going to do. While my single mother couldn’t really get behind the idea of allowing me to flunk she didn’t really have much choice. Once she realised that she was nothing but supportive.

On that front: which artists and singers were particularly important to you growing up?

Growing up – Led Zeppelin, Roxy Music, and David Bowie played a big part in inspiring me to express myself through music. Japan and the voice of David Sylvian. I discovered Can very young. Bob Dylan, Neil young; Nick Cave is a constant. Kate Bush of course. The honesty and warmth with which Patti Smith writes poetry and the rawness with which she performs is an ongoing inspiration. The Bulgarian Women’s Choir excited me vocally a lot. The recording of Chess Records and Northern Soul music were a big presence in my youth. As well as whatever was on the radio at the time.

When it comes to writing a new song: what motivates you to put pen to paper? Is it scenes from day-to-day life or the realities of love (or a mixture of both)?

For the most part, I draw from my own experiences. I’m a very emotional writer so it’s difficult for me to say read a synopsis and make up a song for it. Unless I have an emotional response to someone else experiences, then I can draw from that and arrange a song based on emotional reaction. That’s where the initial inspiration comes from; then once that’s in place I can approach it more cerebrally and elaborate with technique. The exact relaying of an experience is not really what matters to me in terms of inspiration. It’s more the feeling I get from what’s being said.

You tour and perform with a large band (of guys no less). What is the atmosphere like on the road? What is it like having to tour and live with a bunch of guys?

For some people, a bus full of people is problematic regardless of the sex. I’ve grown pretty adaptable to that situation and everyone keeps to themselves when necessary and mingles when it’s appropriate.

There were 4 women on our bus. It’s actually pretty well-balanced.

Deranged to Divine is out on 29th July; taking material from your career between 2001 and 2015. What compelled you to release the album?

I released the album partly because I knew I was going to be traveling through Europe with Puscifer this summer – the tour had sold out and the response to the album is very positive. It’s garnered a much bigger fan-base and I wanted to release something that would be a cohesive yet eclectic; experimental and very personal introduction to my solo work (for people who have never heard it before).

Can we expect to see any new material from you in the coming months?

Yes. I will be touring until the end of the year and I would like to spend next year making, releasing and touring a new solo record.

Looking into Deranged to Divine: you have collaborated with some extraordinary musicians over the years. Which artists have been particularly great to work with?

My relationship to all of these people and artists are different and the work and time spent was unique to each. I learned a lot from each of them. You know, I worked with Ryan (Adams) off and on over a few years. My work with Dave (Stewart) spanned over a decade and I spent a few hours in the studio with Billy (Corgan) – but each experience had a lot of utility for me as an artist, as well as providing moments of outright joy. They are all very memorable for different reasons.

From August; you are embarking on a mini-tour of the U.K. Does it feel good to have home on the horizons? Do you miss the West Midlands and Britain?

Yes, I miss my family and friends of course. The friends that remain over long distance are usually the ones worth missing. I never really miss living there. I have developed some strong and important family in Los Angeles over the last decade. I do, though, miss the seasons and the weather in the U.K. strangely enough. I long for cold damp air for painfully extended periods of time. Then after a fortnight of visiting I’m ready to go leave.

A lot of singers and musicians will be inspired to follow you into music. What advice would you offer them

If you’re anything like me you won’t be ready to listen anyone’s advice until you learn something the hard way. That being said, I think the most important thing that I learned, the hard way of course (and continue to learn) is that in any collaborations or relationships in general, it’s always good to remember that, no matter who it is telling you otherwise- and how many years of experience they have- it’s ok to say no to something that you don’t feel is an authentic move for you as an artist. The flip side of that, of course, is to learn to make the distinction between a ‘no’ that is safeguarding you from future regrets of inauthenticity and a ‘no’ that is just from fear of being pulled out of your comfort zone.

Finally- and for being a good egg- you can name any song you like; I’ll play it here…

It’s Raining Today – Scott Walker.

 

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INTERVIEW: Brothers Rasputin

INTERVIEW:

 

 

Brothers Rasputin

 

 

THERE are few bands that have the personality, sound and magic of…

London’s Experimental/Soul-Surf clan, Brothers Rasputin. Frontman Mitch gave up his time and was keen to chat about the band. I was eager to learn about their origins and sound- who influences it and how their creative process comes together. The guys have just got back from a tour of Eastern Europe and are in no mood to rest yet. New single Been Meaning to Say is entwined with ‘Britpop’ vibes: it investigates the turmoil and bustle of London; how easy it is to get lost among the rabble. With all this in mind- a new E.P. will follow this year- I was excited to hear what Mitch had to say; what the band had in mind for the remainder of 2016…

________________________________

Hey. How has your week been? What are you up to at the moment? 

Great thanks. Just got back from our Eastern Europe tour: great people, great weather and dirt-cheap booze. A recipe for success!

For those unfamiliar with Brothers Rasputin; can you tell us how you guys came together?

I was a solo artist, a child Rasputin: using loops and I met Rommy when I got in his face during a performance. Obviously, he was instantly hooked. Rommy started drumming with me, but we found that using only loops was a bit constricting. Nick is a sound engineer in a studio, and a bass player (and my brother) so was the obvious choice. From there we were able to take the live looping, but open it out into more complex songs.

Your music is a blend of Funk and Soul; you have been described (affectionately) as “London’s favourite Funk-Soul sociopaths”. Is this a fair description? Which bands or albums have influenced your sound?

Well, it may seem like we’re sociopaths on stage, and I certainly have some kind of pathology, but there’s no lack of conscience. I just (always) loved bands and performers who react to the crowd and get people involved in the show. I think there’s a duty to entertain if you’re on a stage so it seems natural to get with the people and cajole them into a reaction. Plus, it’s a hell of a lot of fun.

Music-wise, I’m a huge Prince fan (gutted when I heard; even though he hadn’t made a good record in over 25 years. The world’s a sadder place) and definitely take inspiration from his stage antics. We all have a love of old classic Funk: Bootsy, Sly, Clinton; but I also come from an American guitar background, so love Janes Addiction and the Butthole Surfers. Hopefully, this motley mix comes together as a ramshackle whole somehow.

The vocals of Brother Rapsutin are full of richness; high-pitched and beautiful. Which singers have been inspirations; did that vocal came naturally?

As I said, Prince is huge for me: the most expressive singer, with no boundaries of what’s acceptable. But also, Mike Patton (Faith No More, Mr. Bungle) has been a big influence- particularly his solo stuff. He uses the voice as an instrument, and can make the most unlikely noises; just amazing. There’s a cartoon quality to his stuff that I love. I love all the sound effects on the old Warner Brothers cartoons, and that comes into what we do, I think.

 

 

Been Meaning to Say looks at the rush and turbulence of the city: being chewed and spat out; buried under the stress. Being based in London; did anything particular compel the song? What is life like (in London) for a modern-day band?

Well, there’s no use complaining, as we love making music, so will do it whether or not we get monetary compensation- but it is tough, especially a city like London; a bit pricey to say the least. Saying that, though; London’s buzzing with bands and venues and, though it gets a bit saturated, there isn’t a better place for getting gigs and going to discover new bands. I’ve lived in Paris and there’s definitely not the music scene there is here- which is reflected in the amount of good music that comes out of England. (Saw some great bands in Paris too, though-Catholic Spray and The Idiots to name a couple)

London has so many positives for musicians. What are the best things about living in the city? Any particular venues or spots you guys are especially fond of?

One of my favourite places at the moment is Cafe Oto in Stoke Newington. I’ve seen some great shows there- Sun Araw, Neil Hagerty; Thurston Moore. It’s a real intimate place with a community vibe. I much prefer smaller venues as you really get to feel part of the show. Seen some great stuff at the Old Blue Last too. White Denim were mind-blowing there.

That’s the great thing about London: it’s 24/7 every day; the weekend, and there’s always something going on. You know if someone you like is touring that they’ll be playing in London. Have to give my favourite restaurant Tayyabs a shout-out too. The food is great in Paris, but you can’t get a good curry. The chops at ‘abs are unbeatable.

The single melts ‘Britpop’-sounding anthemics and rousing Hammond organ. Was it important to give the song a positive vibe; keep it from being too tense?

We’re positive people. I like to sing about dark stuff, but you have to laugh at it too. There’s obviously a place for brooding introspective stuff but I think joy is a harder emotion to channel than melancholy. The world’s a dark place these days, but there’s always humour to be found. Brighten up!

You guys have a new E.P. out this year. What can you tell us about that?

We never really stop recording, so E.P.s seem the best format as you can just get them out and move on. After releasing the Get Over It E.P. last year we just carried on recording. We are lucky enough to have (a kind of) fourth member in Mike McEvoy: a real legend and great keys player; funky as hell. He has a rich history and managed to hook us up with some of the horn players from The Mingus Big Band. Lucky for us they had a few gigs at Ronnie Scott’s’ while we were recording, so came in and recorded on a couple of tracks (which Mike scored). A great experience and so good to hear a great horn section on our tracks.

Having Mike onboard really fills things out, so we were able to cut the other tracks live which give the E.P. a great feel. So, we’re currently finishing up mixes with that and the whole thing has come out with a real live, party feel to it.

After that (the E.P. release) the band heads to Eastern Europe. Are you looking forward to that? Will it be your first time over there?

We just got back! But, no, we went a couple of years ago too. Rommy is from Slovakia (used to drum in legendary Slovak Punk band Konflict) and we hooked up with some great people who asked us back. Life’s harder over there- so people party even harder- and are just really responsive-give them a good show and they give back!

I am always keen to see which artists are most important to a musician. Which acts/albums were influential to you growing up?

Yeah, we’ve all been obsessed with music from an early age. For me, I could choose any Prince album between ‘81 and ’88. But, if I had to choose, it’d be The Black Album; it was huge for me. Locust Abortion Technician by the Buttholes, Ritual by Janes Addiction; Check Your Head by the Beasties. I’m also a Harco Pront fanatic: his album Jibberish is amazing. I’ve been trying to track him down for the last ten years; he totally disappeared. The last few years I’ve been hooked on Bootsy: Player of the Year is the cream.

Are there any current acts- either mainstream or niche- that you would recommend to people?

Like I said; I saw Sun Araw at ‘Oto; also caught him at Corsica Studios in Elephant’- great little venue, and he totally blew me away. Like a lot of people, I was awestruck with Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly album; through that, I discovered Thundercat and Flying Lotus. Right now I’ve got Flying Lotus’ You’re Dead on repeat: beautiful and a great mix of the organic and electronic. Also liking the L.A. Priest album. I’d never heard of his band Late of the Pier but I found the track Oino online and got hooked from there.

For those who do not know much about you; could you tell us a secret- something nobody knows about you?

Me and Nick are distantly related to Andy Taylor from Duran Duran. My nan met him at a family wedding but unfortunately we haven’t collaborated. Yet.

As a band; what has been your career highlights so far?

The Mingus Big Band horn session was a definite highlight. Working with musicians of that calibre is humbling but amazing, really pushes you to work harder. We love playing live so just playing shows; especially with Mike (is just good times). Rockscape in Slovakia was brilliant: it’s great to go somewhere you’re playing to just strangers. Jam Cafe in Notts. was a real pleasant surprise and a great party.

Do you have any advice for any musicians coming through; those who are not sure if they have what it takes?

Well, what does it take? Seriously, you have to have a genuine and forceful passion for it. You have to make a lot of sacrifices along the way. But, if you love what you’re doing, you’ll do it regardless. So, my advice really is: if you don’t fundamentally love it, at some point, you’ll run out of steam. If you do, then it doesn’t matter how known or unknown you are; it’s just a buzz doing it. If it feels right, it generally is. The process is the point, not necessarily the result.

Finally- and for being a good sport- you can select any song (and I’ll include it here) – why is it special to you?

The Big Ship by Brian Eno. Very different to all the stuff I’ve listed in this interview, but just beautiful- and I can’t listen to it without getting a lump in my throat. So, introspective and melancholy- I’m totally contradicting myself here! Hopefully, that’s what you get with Brothers Rasputin- a laugh, a cry; a panic attack…and a good night out!

 

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