INTERVIEW: Ailbhe Reddy



Image may contain: 1 person, playing a musical instrument and guitar  PHOTO CREDIT: @keithoreillly


Ailbhe Reddy


ANOTHER one of my musical ambitions, aside from seeking artists…

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outside of the U.K. has been to discover a true Irish gem: specifically someone from the great city of Dublin. I am familiar with the music there but have few requests from bands/acts. When I heard Ailbhe Reddy’s current single, Relent, I was compelled to get in touch. She has been compared, without any exaggeration, to the likes of Hannah Reid (London Grammar) and Daughter. Reddy plays Servant Jazz Quarters on 15th February: a chance for British audiences to see one E.I.R.E.’s most promising singer-songwriters amaze and seduce. I will (hopefully) get to that gig. Regardless, Reddy has a busy and exciting year ahead. She talks about her upcoming plans; her favourite memory from 2016 and the musicians that inspired her growing up.


Hi Ailbhe. How are you? How has your week been?

I’m well, I’m good! I’ve had a great week. I spent my weekend between the studio recording new material and filming a music video for Relent.

For those new to your music can you introduce yourself, please?

I’m a singer-songwriter from Dublin, Ireland. My music has been described as a variety of different genres: mainly Folk, Alternative/Indie-Pop.

Relent is your latest single. Can you tell us a bit about it and what compelled the song?

The song was inspired from the natural retrospection that results from a break-up. I had gone through a break up a few months before and not really processed it until much later.

When I finally looked back on it I felt an immense sense of guilt and loss – because I hadn’t even tried to maintain something important to me. I think songs can often only come from the perspective of the person writing – who sees themselves as blameless. I really wanted to put something forward that was more honest. I’m trying to portray the guilt of my own failings within the song.

The vocals on the track are especially arresting and beautiful. You have been compared with some real musical heavyweights. Do you have to work on your voice a lot of has it come rather naturally?

Thanks so much. I’m delighted with the comparisons to Daughter and London Grammar.  My voice has matured and improved a lot over the last two/three years of gigging and recording so I’m hoping to continue that. I work on it a lot, especially improving my range, so that I can sing a song like Relent – which is quite powerful and challenging to sing.

You are based in Dublin (not many of us think of the city regarding music). What is the scene like in the city?

I would have thought that Dublin was thought of as a hub for music. There’s a really vibrant music scene here and a brilliant community of performers and promoters that work together. I find myself inspired and impressed every time I go to a gig here. It’s also a great place to start your career as it’s a tight-knit community where people support each other.

Your early singles, like Flesh & Blood and Cover Me, gained impassioned reviews and were celebrated by many. How do you think you’ve progressed as an artist and do you ever look back on your early days?

I definitely think I’ve progressed. My music now is more lush, instrumentally, and more honest and clear, lyrically.

Lyrics have always been central to whatever I write so I take real pride in people being able to relate to them.

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2016 was a busy year for many of us. What would you say was your proudest memory from the year?

I played a lot of brilliant festivals to great crowds last year. My highlight was playing at Other Voices – which is a prestigious festival in Dingle which happens every year (and recorded for the television programme of the same name). It’s something I grew up watching and being part of it was a dream come true. The crowds there were so appreciative and engaged; I couldn’t have asked for a better opportunity.

With Relent out, can we expect an album or E.P. this year?

I’m recording new material as much as I can in hopes of releasing a few things before 2017 is out.

You’re playing Servant Jazz Quarters on 15th February. Is this your first time at the venue and do you get to play in London a lot?

This is my first time playing in London so I’m really excited about it. I’m hoping to be back over in the U.K. a lot this year.

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PHOTO CREDIT: @chazlottee

With your music finding a lot of fans across social media and music-sharing platforms; how important are these outlets for a new musician promoting their work? Do you get quite overwhelmed knowing a song like Relent has amassed thousands of Spotify plays?

Spotify has been huge for me. I think the curated playlists are amazing for new independent artists like myself. I can be heard among established artists like Ben Howard, Hozier and Daughter within a playlist.

Relent was played over twelve-thousand times during its first day on Spotify so that was really incredible for me to see. There is no feeling that I can compare to knowing that people are listening and relating to your music. It’s amazing.

Who were the musicians and artists you grew up listening to?

I listened to a mix of whatever my older sisters were listening to – Jeff Buckley, Coldplay; Radiohead, Red Hot Chili Peppers – and whatever my mum was listening to – Queen, David Bowie; Simon & Garfunkel and Don McLean.  I think this really informed my taste growing up.

Are there any artists coming through you would recommend we check out?

There’s definitely a lot of incredible musicians coming up in Dublin: Maria Kelly (who is supporting me on the 15th), Farah Elle; Barq and Rosa Nutty are all artists I see going really far who are from Dublin.

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PHOTO CREDIT: @webloompresents

What advice would you offer any young songwriting starting out?

Keep writing; write every day.

Be honest and take risks even though they might feel terrifying – people appreciate it.

Finally, and for being a good sport, you can choose any song you like (not yours as I’ll do that) and I’ll play it here.

Hundred Waters – Cavity.  I can’t stop listening to this track this week.


Follow Ailbhe Reddy

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PHOTO CREDIT: @olgakuzmenko_photography







TRACK REVIEW: Charlie Straw – St. Ives



Charlie Straw


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St. Ives





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St. Ives is available at:


Folk; Singer-Songwriter


September 2016


St. Ives/London, U.K.


IT has already been a busy year for (great) new music and…

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Charlie Straw looks set to add to the tally. Before I come to him – and raise some positives – I wanted to point at some improvement. It is true Straw has enormous talent and a rich sound. He has fans behind him and gigs lining up – social media is a little bare. What I mean is there is little known about the man beside his music. Were it not for the fact I was sent some P.R. material about Charlie Straw; it would have been hard to learn more about him and what makes him tick. I understand the reticence filling social media with lots of paragraphs and endless revelation. What we have, in Straw’s case, is some fantastic music and all his social media links available online – all on Facebook in fact. It might seem like a gripe but it is one artists need to learn from. It is the early days for him but I am confident he’ll go on to greatness – one of those musicians who can go all the way. When it comes to new musicians, one of the main considerations is getting your name out there and being as visible and open as you can. That is not suggesting every bit of information is online: fans and new followers like to get a sense of where (the artist) came from and the artists that inspired them. What I have noticed, something that occurs with a lot of acts, is they have a few links on their Facebook page but do not really give too much other information. With no interviews and biographies, it can be like arriving at a dating profile with no words (maybe a perfunctory ‘contact me to find out more’). In an age where most people have pretty short attention spans; it is vital those first steps are considered and adhered to. It may seem shallow but there are musicians with full and frank social media pages. They have an official site and lots of cool photos. That may be aesthetic by and large but you’d be amazed how effective that can be. If I, as a journalist have lots of information and a well-laid-out set f photos and social media links then I am going to be likely to keep an eye on that artist and follow them closely. Again, it is a slight minor but one that I bring up for good reason: Charlie Straw has a huge backing behind him and being tipped as a man to watch. Before I continue, let me introduce him to you:

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Charlie Straw is thrilled to unveil his debut single St. Ives alongside ‘The Road To St. Ives’ – a mini documentary showcasing a month-long trip from Edinburgh to St. Ives, as Charlie sofa-surfs his way through the UK to play 30 live dates in 30 days. 

In addition to the documentary, Charlie is pleased to announce details of a UK headline tour for April, including a show at Dalston Boys Club on the 18th April.

Listen to St. Ives:

St. Ives has very quickly amassed over 350,000 streams (+ a top 5 placement on Spotify’s UK viral chart), and is a fascinatingly assured introduction to this young artist. Its delicacy and sense of slow-building atmosphere is matched with a stirring, fragile vocal. It sits comfortably along the homespun wooziness of For Emma, Forever Ago era Bon Iver, coupled with that Ben Howard or James Vincent McMorrow lulling sense of emotion and intimacy.

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From that biography, you can tell his debut single is being promoted heavily and is being compared with some great names. I have included that snippet of information because it gives you an insight into the man and where he is headed; a little about who floats his musical boat. In time, I would love to interview him and really dig down to the core – unravel his layers and get a glimpse into the young musician. Before I go on and get down to his music I wanted to raise two points: the variation and quality of young Folk artists and making an impact from the debut single (talking a bit about mood and evocation in songs). Last year, and I have been released from my embargo because it is 2017, I talked a lot about Folk and artists like Billie Marten. She produced, in my learned and unbiased opinion, the finest album of 2017 but it was, in terms of the end-of-year polls, largely overlooked. Sure, she is a teenager making her debut moves and not performing across festivals. It seems like age, modesty and lack of festival run-out has cost her some serious applause. In fact, that is completely unfair on her. She has a great team promoting her work and is, as you can hear, a phenomenal songwriter with a gorgeous voice. I understand the temptation to focus – in terms of the best albums of 2016 – on Beyoncé, Solange and artists who have made huge statements – records that look at politics, society and struggle have a vital role to play in music. Likewise, there have been some fantastic albums made by bands and new solo artists. The thing is: how come albums like Marten’s (Writing of Blues and Yellows) did not crack the lists of any of the music magazines/sites?

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The same could be said when you look at Angel Olsen and Ed Harcourt. Both have Folk as a basis, and whilst not being as pure and ‘traditional’ as Marten’s Folk, deserved higher placings in the rankings of music’s elite. I raise this because I still think Folk, compared with other genres, does not get less attention than it should. If you look at someone like Bon Iver (mentioned above) you hear an artist who has not only evolved as a writer but is one of the most consistent musicians in the world. Since his spellbinding, intimate album (like a man coming from a log cabin in the wilderness), For Emma, Forever Ago, he has produced some of the most memorable and timeless music of this generation. His latest record, 22, A Million, has shades of his debut but is bolder and more hypnotic: there are twisted, distorted fragmentations and dizzying compositions; some of his most oblique lyrics – a masterpiece when you think of it. I know that album did well in some polls but, again, it missed out on other lists. As Charlie Straw proves, he is someone who can take that debut-era Bon Iver sound and makes it his own. Like fellow Folkies Billie Marten and Laura Marling (more on her soon), there is real excitement in music – a sense the new wave of Folk artists can make a real impression. Whilst I have mentioned some great U.S. talent (Bon Iver), our very own Laura Marling looks set to make a huge impact with her latest album, Semper Femina. I am already tipping it to be the best album of 2017 and adore her work. She, like Marten, has a barer and more ‘70s-influenced sound both she, like Marten too, has mature and intelligent lyrics and wonderfully commanding vocal performances. I could put Charlie Straw alongside her: he has that same ambition and effectiveness. Even from the debut single, you know he is hungry to achieve and get his name out there.

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You cannot predict Folk and assume it is a single genre. As the likes of Bon Iver have shown; it can be expanded and stretched; tied with other sounds to create something new and unexpected. I feel there is stuffiness among many critics and an unwillingness to fully embrace a genre that is still seen as quite niche and specialised. In the way there is imbalance in terms of gender and race in music: there is a certain prejudice with regards certain genres. If proof were needed the Folk/Alternative dynamic was arresting and world-class then you only need look at Charlie Straw. His debut single, St. Ives, instantly transplants images in the head and gives you an idea of what the song is about. I shall characterise and interpret the song later, but for the moment, I wanted to look at the debut single and making that impact. Straw knows getting out there and making an impression is the way to keep you in critics’ minds. He has already amassed a loyal following but knows his work is not done. You cannot rely on charm and promise in order to secure fans and momentum. Charlie Straw knows this and is launching his assault. I would understand creating a debut song that fitted into the mainstream and followed its broad rules. Traditionally, you’d pen a song about love and something that has all the dynamics and components the public needed – without really offering too much personality and originality. That might sound like me overreacting but few artists come in that strong: we still see so many young Pop stars squander the chance to make an impact right from the off; slaves to the demands of record labels and expectations. Charlie Straw has gone in with a unique and personal song that has familiar edges but is the sound of a young man and his story. You hear shades of Bon Iver – he has listed the American’s debut album as a guide – but the similarities are emotive and thematic rather than carbon copies of his work. St. Ives is a wonderful track that seduces the heart and makes you want to hear a lot more. A masterful, accomplished single from a young musician making his very first steps.

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The reason why I am so excited about Straw, and why the likes of Laura Marling and Billie Marten are favourites of mine, is the moods and emotions they bring into music. Whether looking at Hampshire icon or the newcomer from Ripon; the two women bring something special, emotive and entrancing into their work. Marling’s latest album will look at femininity and womanhood in many different forms – looking at love and personal issues too – whereas Marten’s debut looked at anxieties, the need to grow and courage (among other themes). Both artists bring in so much candour, beauty and honesty into their music armed with little more than guitars and strings. Maybe Bon Iver’s latest album contained more instruments and electronics but his debut was a sparse and acoustic-heavy record that owed more to the ‘70s Folk legends like Joni Mitchell and Nick Drake (maybe some Neil Young in there). Maybe that is what critics are overlooking: Folk that has its heart in a past time and concentrates on something pure and gentle. Maybe they are looking for something more rousing and spirited? If that is so then they are denying themselves a world of sensational music that gets into the soul and speaks to us all. It is a turbulent and unsure future in terms of politics and where we belong. Things are quite scary so we all need a common ally and cause. Music, in addition to human spirit and protest, is what brings us together. This year will see musicians react to changes and these desires; music that comforts and calms the spirits, I feel, will be favoured over anything else. For that reason, Charlie Straw has a perfect opportunity to grow and get his name on the lips of many. His wonderfully rich and seductive sounds have already been celebrated. He knows how to pen an instant and nuanced song and I expect that to evolve in the form of an E.P. or album. What he has in mind, with regards a record this year, is up to him.

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It is at this point I usually look at an artist’s background and see how far they have progressed. With Straw, we do not look back but only forward. Although St. Ives was streamed a few months ago, it is a song that suggests more is afoot – maybe an album or E.P. this year. Straw has performed cover versions and reinterpreted other songs. He shows himself to be a great interpreter and someone who can make any song his own. In that spirit, St. Ives reminds you of some classic Folk but is definitely the product of Charlie Straw. He brings suggestions of Bon Iver and Ben Howard but is very much his own man. No other artist could perform and record the same way as him. St. Ives arrives from a very personal place and is his childhood memory. If we look at the song itself, the opening notes sound completely still and evocative. Straw has performed live gigs like Sofar London and has that experience under his belt. All of this backstory and experience feeds into a song that is professional and gripping from the opening seconds. The song’s video is, essentially, the thirty-day tour Straw completed – taking him from Edinburgh to St. Ives. The first shot sees him start the car and get that tour underway. The lyrics look at a girl/friend being too far away. From those suggestions, it is as though the tour is a concept or pilgrimage. The track looks at someone back home – a childhood friend that is missed – and that need to get them back. It has been too long so it appears Straw is doing something about it. That concept would make an intriguing film. The premise could be a young musician hankering after a friend/love but making his way to them via a series of towns and shows. That holy quest to reclaim a treasured memory would make an evocative and fascinating film.

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I am not sure whether that motivation was in Straw’s mind – touring to St. Ives to see his friend – but it is a neat and clever companion to the single. Maybe future songs will see similarly lofty and ambitious ideas. As you watch the tour clips (Straw in intimate spaces charting with his crowd) you are invested in a song that resonates from a very real place. Many would hear the song and assume its origins lay in relationship quarters. That is understandable as the hero asks if he is remembered – whether he is thought of when she (friend) is with another man. It seems there is complexity and ambiguity in the tale. Romance is “long-dead” is it is said but a friendship is the biggest loss. It makes me wonder whether the two were sweethearts first and how old they were. The storyline suggests children separated but maybe Straw was a young man finding love in the arms of a very meaningful person. It is not the affection missed but that friendship connection. Even in the earliest seconds, you are brought into the song and get images and impressions. Our hero wants to go back to St. Ives where he was kept warm on winter nights. It felt safe there and harps played: it is a romantic and safe space that provokes fond memories. Maybe he is lost in the city or disconnected from the world he grew up in. In psychological terms, Straw is trying to reclaim the past and revert to a warm state of mind. He has grown up/spent his best days in St. Ives and made some wonderful friends. This one particular friend is the embodiment of a good time and better era. The young man misses that life and ease and that haunts the mind. Just how true to life St. Ives is – whether Straw plays from fiction or takes from his own life wholly – I am not certain but you cannot fault the conviction and emotion. It is a sublime and gentle performance that emanates from the heart and causes shivers to form.

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As the story progresses, you get more insight and a different side of things. Tears were shed and it seems the heroine was not always happy. Maybe she was being used or there was some unhappiness at times. Again, I am assuming it started as a romance but you feel things were not always perfect. The two had their drama but always came back to one another. The hero tried not to “read between the lines” and was learning lessons. It is curious discovering what caused these tears and whether there were some indiscretion and deceit creeping in. Whatever caused the two to be separated – the demands of music or two adults naturally drifting apart – you always yearn they will be reunified. The song’s video continues its jaunt down the country: Straw plays at some rather interesting spots and captivating the crowds wherever he goes. I have mentioned how the song/background has filmic lure and that is no lie. As you hear the track unfold, it has all the components of a great story: the bond and friendship with the sense of unease. There is drama and love and that desire to make amends for the past. Perhaps the two had different ideals and wanted different things. The romance might have died but that loyal friendship remains strong and unyielding. In terms of composition, it is quite light and uncomplicated. The fault lies on the side of our hero (as he confesses) and there is that need to relinquish the warmth of St. Ives. When there, they both lived different lives and wanted different things. Maybe Straw yearned for music and the road whereas his companion wanted something more settled and homely. Those polar ambitions might have caused strain on the friendship and led to some foolhardy words. It is hard to listen to the song and not jump to the end: whether the two got back together or it was cut. In a (good) way, the song is infuriatingly teasing and tense. What is holding the hero back from going down to Cornwall and seeing his friend? Maybe there are too many issues or too much time has passed? This thirty-day tour (and documentary) is the man making a stand and making his way back home. You feel that sense of movement in the song: the train whistling by and the wind in hair; the open road and that quest for satisfaction.

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As the video continues, you get more of a sense of Charlie Straw. His infectious personality and the affiliation he has with the audience. The sofa-surfing tour might have taken energy out of him but it is the love of music and the road that keeps him moving. Ultimately, he wants to make amends and reach his final destination. Whilst the electric guitar is light but emotive; the voice reminds me a bit of a number of singers. There is a familiarity to the sound but it is that recognisable burr that ingrains the song in the mind. Unlike most of his peers, Straw has a varied and rich voice that manages to convey so many different emotions without expending huge energy. The final seconds of the song is a chanted chorus (from Straw) and him reaching his final destination. In the video, he makes it home and is cheered and happy having done so. Where he manages to come back to his hometown in the video, you wonder whether the song follows suit. Did he manage to see his friend and say the things he has always wanted to? There is that degree of mystery but you hope things worked out and he did get to her. However you interpret the song/video, at its heart is a song of true affection and reflection. Straw looks back and knows he made mistakes but wants to make things right. He misses St. Ives and the memories and good times he had there. It will be interesting to see if future songs continue along the same lines and whether we hear anything quite like St. Ives. It is a song I could hear across the national radio heavyweight because it is instant and highly memorable. In terms of vocals, there is a blend of Ed Harcourt and Jeff Buckley where Bon Iver and Ben Howard arise in the composition (and vocals). It would be unfair to compare Charlie Straw with anyone too strongly but it is meant as a compliment. The fact so many others are making sure comparisons is quite impressive. Ensure you keep your eyes out for Charlie Straw throughout this year.

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I have taken up a lot of your time so shall lot ramble on too much longer. Before I bring back my original points and look at where Charlie Straw is headed; it is worth seeing where the young man has come from. I always hate artists that go via the talent show route and get ‘plucked from obscurity’. They do things the cheap way and are not set up for the realities and beauty of the music industry. It is no coincidence (those artists) have short and unspectacular careers. Too many get launched into prominence quickly and are ill-equip to arm themselves for the challenges of music. Those who work from the bottom and do things honestly are better prepared and last longer. Charlie Straw, in spite of the fact he has released his debut single, has already performed at some great gigs and got his work out there. Last year, at The Garage in London, he performed alongside French artist JAIN. She is someone I have tipped for success this year and one of the most intriguing new artists around. Getting that kind of honour so soon is richly deserved and shows what an artist Straw is. He has performed gigs around London and recorded in the south west of England. That contrast, playing in the bustling city and recording in the quiet, would disorientate many but not Straw. Obviously, St. Ives has that South West suggestion and evokes images of sea, countryside and serenity. In fact, Straw loves to record D.I.Y. vocals and favours that sort of homemade, naked sound. He is an artist who would be happy recording music at home and making those kinds of rough and raw songs that few are doing these days. Right now, Straw is preparing for his first headline tour. He has already performed thirty shows in thirty days – his mini-documentary and sofa-surfing right-of-passage form the visual arc to St. Ives’ music video.

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The young man went from Scotland to St. Ives: taking his music down the U.K. and made sure as many people as possible heard his music. That headline tour follows the documentary and sees Straw kick-start that in April. He will play Dalston Boys Club on 18th (April) and keep that momentum going. It is clear Straw has no intention of slowing down and has that demand around the U.K. He has performed at some fantastic gigs and collated many fans but 2017 will be a key year. That thirty-day tour was an amazing experience and hugely memorable for all those concerned. After that, you have the headliner tour and a great chance for new fans to be won and hearts conquered. I know his music will start to be picked up by great radio stations. He seems like the kind of artist who would be a mainstay on ‘6 Music and even reach the ears of ‘Radio 2. Given the fact he has tours afoot, one assumes that signals new material. Someone who performs headline shows must have a lot of material under their belt so it would be wonderful to think an album is afoot. Maybe that is a plan but we do not want to put pressure on Charlie Straw. At the moment, he is getting out on the road and promoting his stuff. St. Ives is a beautiful, sumptuous debut single that signifies a rare talent with a magical touch. Those intimate, fragile vocals and stirring compositional notes evoke memories of Folk greats and current U.S. titans (Bon Iver) but the story and delivery could only arise from Straw. This is his heart and soul in the music and nobody can deny him his rightful place in the mainstream. That will come soon enough and, I for one would love to see Straw headline some of the biggest festivals in the country.

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I shall wrap up by going back to my early points and looking at social media awareness. I know Straw has all the music-sharing sites and social media links on Facebook and makes sure he is visible. I have not seen an official website but that is something to consider. He has music under his belt and tour dates coming; there is that demand for his work so it would be good to see a central website that brings this together. I am not sure if that is something in the pipeline but a definite consideration. I would like to know more about Charlie Straw and where he came from. St. Ives is a window into his past and friendship: a song that recalls a treasured acquaintance and someone dearly missed. The kind of musicians that compel Straw; where he wants to head and where he lives (I am not sure if he is based in London or St. Ives) would help get a sense of who he is and (literally) where he is. It is not a major negative but welcoming the listener in and giving them some background is a crucial consideration. I have seen new musicians provide very little information and see attention go to other acts. Of course, the music will do some talking and is the most important thing but needs to be backed up with some personal information and revelation. I opened by talking about Folk and how it gets overlooked by many reviewers. Last year, as I mentioned, Folk albums did not get a huge showing on the end-of-year-lists. I highlighted my outrage at Billie Marten’s exclusion but feel established acts like Bon Iver should have been further up those ‘best of’ lists. Likewise, newcomers like Jenny Hval and Julia Jacklin (Don’t Let the Kids Win was one of the best albums from 2016) were largely overlooked.

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Maybe 2016 was THAT good and there were limited spaces. I feel Folk still has that reputation as being rather cliché and boring. Many do not realise the sense of adventure and nuance the form has. Laura Marling, godmother of Folk, will arrive this year and give critics a boot in the posterior and hopefully that will awaken the senses. For too long, Folk has played second-fiddle to other genres and not given the exposure it warrants. Charlie Straw has the determination and talent to bring his music (and the genre) right into the forefront. I have mentioned how Straw has a great team behind him and will never be in short supply of backing and gig opportunities. Contrary to a lot of reports about the U.K.’s live circuit – fewer opportunities and venues closing down – there are chances for those with a particular sound and personality. Charlie Straw is happy to play support gigs and smaller venues in order to get his name out there. Having backed JAIN already – and gigged at some great London venues – his mini-documentary, The Road to St. Ives,  finds the young musician visiting thirty different venues and meeting a world of new faces. It is that headline tour in April that will be the most memorable. He will be back in London in spring and wetting appetites. Whether an E.P./album announcement will arrive in the meantime I am not sure but one feels something is imminent. In the meantime, enjoy St. Ives and a glimpse into a rather special artist. I feel 2017 will favour musicians that take the volume down and provide something deep and emotive. Maybe I’ll get that wrong, and some fantastic Rock albums will come, yet I know there is a yearning for music with heart and spirituality. Charlie Straw is the man who can bring some settled calm and beauty into the world and is already proving he has star quality. Throw some support behind him and watch…

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THIS rare musician truly shine.


Follow Charlie Straw

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FEATURE: The January Playlist: Vol. 4: Thee Who Cares, Wins



The January Playlist


The January Playlist: Vol. 4: Thee Who Cares, Wins


Vol. 4: Thee Who Cares, Wins


THE Trump suitcases have been unpacked in The White House and…

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IN THIS PHOTO: Julie Byrne

former President Obama is headed home. What he does next is anyone’s guess but I am sure he will continue to provide goodwill and humanity to the wider world. In terms of Trump; there is a lot of fear and uncertainty: just what will the first one-hundred days produce? As we come to terms with a four-year (at the earliest) reality; music has a vital role. In this edition of The January Playlist, I have collected new, politically-motivated songs from Gorillaz, Arcade Fire and others: uplifting and hopeful songs and some great new album tracks/singles from the best of music. In addition, and celebrating sixty years of The Cavern Club, I collect songs from some of the legends who have performed there – Stevie Wonder, The Hollies and The Rolling Stones among them. The Beatles defined the venue so I include a collection of their best songs. ALSO, as D.J. Steve Lamacq focuses on the importance and glory of our small venues; I include five live performances from the venues he features (on his ‘6 Music show) next week. Another full and spirited collection of songs to get your teeth into!


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Gorillaz (ft. Benjamin Clementine)Hallelujah Money

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SpoonHot Thoughts

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Biffy Clyro Flammable

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LIFE Euromillions

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The AmazonsLittle Something

Vinyl Staircase

PHOTO CREDIT: Bryon Chambers

Vinyl StaircaseGerman Wings

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Cage the ElephantCold Cold Cold

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King Gizzard & the Lizard WizardSleep Drifter

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Venture LowsBrenda


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Middle Kids – Never Start

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Diet CigTummy Ache

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Harlea You Don’t Get It

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Ten FéTwist Your Arm

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Dead Pretties Social Experiment

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JP CooperSeptember Song

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of MontrealStag to the Table

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Women’s March Chant (ft. Fiona Apple)Tiny Hands

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MUNA Crying on the Bathroom Floor

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Arizona Oceans Away

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Kacey ChambersAin’t No Little Girl

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Holly ThrosbyAreoplane 

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PHOTO CREDIT: Savvy Creative

The CreasesEverybody Knows

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James Maslow (ft. City Fidelia)Cry

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John MayerMoving On and Getting Over

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PHOTO: Klaus Carson

KLP Back in the Room

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Lady AntebellumYou Look Good

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Cocorosie (ft. Anohni)Smoke ‘em Out

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Louis BerryShe Wants Me

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Snakehips (ft. )Don’t Leave

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Magnus Bechmann Second Chance

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Los Campesinos!5 Flucloxacillin

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Jesca HoopMemories Are Now

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William OnyeaborFantastic Man

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Troye Sivan (ft. Betty Who) HEAVEN

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Maggie Rogers On + Off

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Tinie Tempah (ft. Tinashe)Text from Your Ex

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Maximo Park Risk to Exist

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BANKS Trainwreck

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Arcade Fire (ft. Mavis Staples)I Give You Power

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Dutch UnclesBig Balloon

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Bonobo (ft. Mick Murphy)No Reason

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The Proper OrnamentsBridge by a Tunnel

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Breaking BenjaminNever Again

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Menace BeachSuck It Out

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Loyle CarnerStars & Shards

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FEMME Light Me Up

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Club Drive Overthrown

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Cloud NothingsInternal World

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Courtney Marie Andrews – Irene

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Mallory KnoxBetter Off Without You

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Chloe Martini (feat. Chiara Hunter)Change of Heart

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Rationale Reciprocate

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Cherry GlazerrNurse Ratched

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GulpSearch for Your Love

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As LionsAftermath

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Frank Carter & the RattlesnakesNeon Rust

Julie Byrne Natural Blue

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P.O.S. Lanes

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Pulled Apart By HorsesThe Haze

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TrainPlay That Song

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Sleater-KinneySurface Envy

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Lauren AlainaNext Boyfriend

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PHOTO CREDIT: Matsu Photography @ Johnny Ma Studios – Good Kid Productions

Tired LionsI Don’t Think You Like Me

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The Cavern Club opened on 16th January, 1957; it closed in 1973 before being resurrected in 1984. It has housed some wonderful artists; none bigger than The Beatles – who would perform regular gigs there at the start of their career

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The Beatles – Penny Lane

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The BeatlesWe Can Work It Out

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The BeatlesA Day in the Life

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The BeatlesRevolution

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The BeatlesTwist & Shout (Performed Live on The Ed Sullivan Show)

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The BeatlesEleanor Rigby (From Yellow Submarine)

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The BeatlesWhile My Guitar Gently Weeps

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The Yardbirds For Your Love

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The Hollies Carrie Anne

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Elton John I’m Still Standing

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John Lee Hooker Boom Boom Boom

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The Rolling Stones Paint It Black

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The Who Who Are You?

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The Kinks Lola

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Stevie Wonder Higher Ground

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Queen Who Wants to Live Forever

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Suzi Quatro Can the Can

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Arctic Monkeys  – R U Mine?

Steve Lamacq dedicates his show to independent venues (from Monday 23 to Friday 27 January, 2017). Over the week he visits Essex, Leeds; Oxford, Birmingham and Brighton; he’ll be finding out what makes some of the smallest music venues in the country the most important – whilst raising awareness of the grassroots music scene.

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CitizenThe Night I Drove Alone (Live at Brudenell Social Club, Leeds)

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Dua LipaBe the One (Live at Sunflower Lounge, Birmingham)

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31hours Royal Box (Live at The Jericho Tavern, Oxford)

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Yur Mum(Live at The Bassment, Chelmsford)

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Muncie Girls – Respect / Kasper and Rainbow (Live at Sticky Mike’s Frog Bar)

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It has been an emotional and life-changing week for so many people. The world has changed and there is a lot of anger and protest. Things are unfolding, the likes of which we have never seen – let’s hope we never see it again. Regardless of what is happening in America; music continues to inspire and comfort – in addition to addressing political dissatisfaction and corruption. As we put on a brave face, there is a world of great music that is unconcerned with personal agendas and ignoring the pleas of the majority. It brings everyone in and encourages love and unity.  In that spirit; immerse yourself in this week’s finest songs and embrace something pure and dependable.

TRACK REVIEW: The Molochs – You and Me



The Molochs


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You and Me






You and Me is available at:


Alternative; Pop


Los Angeles, U.S.A.


8th December, 2016

The album, America’s Velvet Glory, is available at:


Ten Thousand

No Control

Charlie’s Lips

That’s the Trouble with You

The One I Love

Little Stars

No More Cryin’

You and Me

New York

I Don’t Love You

You Never Learn


13th January, 2017


ONE of the things I was going to aim for in 2017 was…

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taking myself to new cities – focusing on areas of the world outside the U.K. and U.S. It is, with typical lax discipline and over-ambition I am back in L.A. and concentrating on a rather promising and tremendous duo. I will look at duos/bands once more – before arriving at the boys themselves – but want to look at L.A. promise in 2017 and acts that mix nostalgia and haziness with modern concerns; musicians with a fascinating influence palette and the importance of getting more U.S. artists across to the U.K. (and other parts of the world). I am not disappointed to be back in the warm climate of L.A.: in fact, it is good escaping the bitter cold of the U.K. and looking at what is happening over in California. Whilst the poll-makers have been a little lazy outside of London, L.A. and New York: you can always rely on the Los Angeles music press when it comes to predictions for the year. KCRW Music Blog has collated some of the L.A. bands watch throughout 2017. The duo/band of Electric Guest consists Asa Taccone anMatthew ‘Cornbread’ Compton (Todd and Tory Dahloff play with the band on tour) burst onto the scene with their 20123 debut album, Mondo. The reception the L.P. garnered was quite impressive – perhaps kinder reviews from the U.K. press than the U.S. – and many were struck by the original songwriting. Looking at ethical choices and career considerations: it was a rebellion against love-obsessed albums that offered little diversity. They are a band to look out for in 2017 as there is a demand for a follow-up album – five years is a very long time in music. Elsewhere, and tipped by the same source; Lo Moon are worth a punt and have a long career ahead. Their seven-and-a-bit-minute track Loveless was released last year and impressed many with its sweeping atmosphere and audacious confidence. Ty Segall and Cherry Glazerr are two media-approved acts who are camped out of L.A. – and already are exciting many; tipped as ones to watch his year.

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L.A. Weekly have been busy scouring the local scene for hungry talent worth a damn in 2017. Def Sound, as the reporters defined, is synonymous with his impulsivity. His 2015 album, Kings of Neon, is a personal work with plenty of character, quotable quips and confident, slick raps. “On the other, it’s a showcase of his own omnivorous nature, skipping from manic footwork to worldly R&B to gothic Yeezus rap”. He is someone you will want to familiarise yourself with. Pastel Felt blew many away with their November-released masterwork, Charming Lait. Its lo-fi aggression and big harmonies drowned down-in-the-mix vocals and analog-noise brilliance. It is a blast from the past combined with an atomic bomb of the future. Before I move onto my next point, there are a couple more L.A. acts worth some serious time. Buzz Bands L.A. explained how music is a “two-class system”. If an act is established, has a record deal and money behind them they are ‘ones to watch’ – whether they are much kop or not. On the other hand, the unsigned artists bereft of label patronage will have to fight three times harder to get the same sort of buzz. Moon Honey is an (independent) duo that consists Louisiana native Jessica Ramsey and guitar chap Andrew Marin. Their 2016 was concentrated to making an album but they are, as Buzz Bands L.A. define them, “Kate Bush on swamp gas taking a mystical trip through the bayou”. Moses Sumney and The Regrettes are a contrasting couple of names primed for big things this year. The former is a UCLA alum and has been bossing end-of-year lists for years now – his debut full-length is mooted for release this year. The latter is a Warner Bros.-approved band of girls who are not a ‘girl band’. Do not expect sugary Pop and tales of teenage love dilemmas. Their album is fronted by a sixteen-year-old but (the girls’ album) will carry a parental advisory sticker – expect cursing, suggestive language; scenes of an explicit nature and some f**k*** good music.

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In terms of teen revelation, Billie Eilish surpasses The Regrettes in terms of age (she is still fourteen) and lyrical descriptiveness. The striking L.A. dweller told, on her breakthrough song Ocean Eyes, love is like falling off a cliff – surrounded by napalm skies and apocalyptic gravity. She writes about the perils and uncertainty of love but fills her lyric book with poetry, epic scenery and a frightening amount of talent – far stronger than her older, more experienced contemporaries. Finally, actually four more names from that site that deem inclusion, we have Starcrawler, Alexandra Savior; Lauren Ruth Ward and Phoebe Bridgers. Stracrawler, like Eilish and The Regrettes, are not precocious or patronised because of their tender days – a yellow highlighter strikes their name because of sheer talent rather than their teenage (and unavoidable) years. The boys are another band of back-to-basic Rock purveyors and, although their fashion choices might get them beaten up on the Metro Rail, they are a solid band that are intriguing the beard-stroking journos. of L.A. The conurbation is proudly proffering Alexandra Savior as a 2017 treasure. The Portland (Oregon) songwriter will bring out Belladonna of Sadness – coolest album title of the year so far – on 7th April and has Alex Turner credited on the single Mystery Girl (who co-wrote it with her). Lauren Ruth Ward might have the looks to lure gods from the heavens but her incredible pipes leave jaws hanging lower. Working as a hair stylist; one feels her immense voice and forceful, big personality will mean paychecks this year have more zeroes on the end – another name you should turn your dial towards. Looking at images of Phoebe Bridgers and one can see similarities with London’s very own Laura Marling. Our Berkshire-born treasure shares some D.N.A. with Bridgers but the twenty-one-year-old American employs Rock, Americana and Pop into her music: Conor Oberst, Blake Babies and Julien Baker are names she’s supported and it seems like this experience and hunger will go into an album (speculation rather than fact) very soon.

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There are plenty more L.A. bands/acts ready to impress this year – Warpaint, Dark Waves and Frenship among them – and it is something I will return to in the conclusion. Among the semantically null (journalistic) sentences – many claiming artists to be the ‘next big thing’ when I am loathed to predict who the current big thing is – there is a lot of truth in their clairvoyance and accumulators, tricasts and ante-post bets. Rock Club UK are one of the first (British) sites to tip The Molochs for greatness. Before I go on and investigate this theme more, let me introduce the band (words by Christopher Ziegler):

First, let’s meet Moloch. You remember him, right? The ancient god, the child eater, the demander of sacrifice, the villain in Ginsberg’s Howl(and also real life) and now the personal antagonist of singer and songwriter Lucas Fitzsimons, who named his band the Molochs because he knew he’d have to make sacrifices to get what he needed, and because he always wanted a reminder of the Ginsbergian monster he’d be fighting against. And so this is how you make a record right now: you fight for every piece, and when Moloch takes apart your relationships and career potential and leaves you sleeping on couches or living in terrifying apartments and just about depleted from awful people involving you in their awful decisions, you grab a bottle of wine (and laugh at the cliché) and put together another song. And once you do that eleven hard-won times in total, you get a record like America’s Velvet Glory: honest, urgent, desperate and fearless because of it.

Fitzsimons came to his calling in an appropriately mythic way, born in a historic city not far from Buenos Aires and raised in L.A.’s South Bay—just outside of Inglewood—where he was immersed in the hip-hop hits on local radio. (Westside Connection!) The summer d before he started middle school, a close friend got an electric guitar, and Fitzsimons felt an enirresistible inexplicable power: “I’d go back home and I’d look up guitar chords on the internet—even though I had no guitar—and just imagine how I WOULD play them. I was slowly getting obsessed.” When he was 12, his parents took him back to Argentina, and on the first night, he discovered a long-forgotten almost-broken classical guitar in the basement of his ancestral home: “It sounds made-up, but it’s true,” he says. “I didn’t put the guitar down once that whole trip—took it with me everywhere and played and played. When I got back to L.A., I bought my first guitar practically as the plane was landing.

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This started a long line of bands and a long experience of learning to perform in public, as Fitzsimons honed intentions and ideas and tried to figure out why that guitar seemed so important. After a trip to India in 2012, he returned renewed and ready to start again, scrapping his band to lead something new and uncompromising. This was the true start of the Molochs: “It didn’t make any sense to not do everything exactly the way I wanted to do it,” he says. “I was so shy and introverted that singing publicly sounded like a nightmare come true. But I didn’t have a choice—I heard something inside of me and I needed to be the one to express it.”

The first album Forgetter Blues was released with Fitzsimons’ guitarist/organist and longtime bandmate Ryan Foster in early 2013 on his own label—named after a slightly infamous intersection in their then-home of Long Beach—and was twelve songs of anxious garage-y proto-punk-y folk-y rock, Modern Lovers demos and Velvet Underground arcana as fuel and foundation both. It deserved to go farther than it did, which sadly wasn’t very far. But it sharpened Fitzsimons and his songwriting, and after three pent-up years of creativity, he was ready to burst. So he decided to record a new album in the spirit of the first, and in the spirit of everything that the Molochs made so far: “I wanted to spend less time figuring out HOW we were gonna do something and just actually do it.” The result is America’s Velvet Glory, recorded with engineer Jonny Bell at effortless (says Fitzsimons) sessions at Long Beach’s JazzCats studio. (Also incubator for Molochs’ new labelmates Wall of Death and Hanni El Khatib.) It starts with an anxious electric minor-key melody and ends on a last lonesome unresolved organ riff, and in between comes beauty, doubt, loss, hate and even a moments or two of peace. There are flashes of 60s garage rock—like the Sunset Strip ’66 stormer “No More Cryin’” or the “Little Black Egg”-style heartwarmer-slash-breaker “The One I Love”—but like one of Foster’s and Fitzsimons’ favorites the Jacobites, the Molochs are taking the past apart, not trying to recreate it.

You can hear where songs bend, where voices break, where guitars start to shiver and when strings are about to snap; on “You And Me,” you can almost hear Lou Reed’s ghost call for a solo, and on “I Don’t Love You,” you get that subway-sound guitar and find out what happens when Jonathan Richman’s G-I-R-L-F-R-E-N goes wrong. And of course there’s the charismatic chaos of bootleg basement-tape Dylan—always Dylan, says Fitzsimons—and the locked-room psychedelia of Syd Barrett, especially on “Charlie’s Lips,” Fitzsimons’ ode to—or antidote to—those times when he felt the bleakness completely: “Then a bird lands on a branch nearby, you hear leaves fluttering, you hear a child laughing … all of a sudden things don’t seem so bad anymore.”

So Moloch might still be out there, devouring his sacrifices, but the Molochs are still fighting, too. And that’s why Fitzsimons picked the band name—it’s so he remembers what he’s up against. He’s not celebrating the destroyer of youth and individuality and creativity, he says: “I’m just keeping him in sight so that he doesn’t win.”

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When hearing their name I am reminded of Sex Pistol’s one-and-only album, Never Mind the Bollocks… (only transposing ‘Bollocks’ with ‘The Molochs’). It seems the L.A. chaps have been overlooked by a lot of Los Angeles publications which seems remiss. Maybe there are just so many Los Angeles jewels it is hard bagging them all and giving equal footing. No loss because the duo/band has signed to Innovative Leisure (home of Allah Las and Hanni El Khatib among others) and have been getting some love from The Huffington Post, The 405 and Noisey. I would place The Molochs with any of the (aforementioned) artists because they have a U.S.P. that no other – apologies for the tautology – another good album title? – act possess. Well, not to the same degree anyway! The boys seem like men from another time: happily casting their songs in bygone days through a prism of hazy dreamscapes and retro. fashions. The guys – no huge biography on social media so I am cobbling snippets from their P.R. material – want to perform a bypass of the past – pull the heart out carefully and transplant it with a more modern thing with fast-pumping ventricles – and have no intention of lazily recreating it. Described as a sort of Black Lips-meets- The Byrds type of act; they nod to Velvet Underground, Bob Dylan and Violent Femmes.

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There are few bands out there who take you back to the 1960s/’70s and do so with affection, originality and respectfulness. Many acts are influenced by musicians (of that decade) but it can be quite carelessly and haphazardly done. What I like, and admire about The Molochs, is the way they infuse past sounds into their music with modern ingredients and spices. Their proprietary cocktail sounds fresh and sumptuous without seeming over-familiar and derogatory. In terms of tastes and cocktail-blend their old-school glamour-dreamy concoction mixes a Green Dragon (Woodford Reserve, Buddha’s Finger Liqueur, Pastis, Dragon Fruit, Strawberry Wine, Bamboo Shoots, Honeysuckle, Silver Berries, Fresh Lime) with Picardy Punch No. 2 (Grey Goose, Giffard Berry Liqueurs, Chambord, St Germain, Aronia Berry Juice, Fresh Lime, Rosé Champagne). That might seem a ball-bag of pretentiousness (forgive my fruity, wandering – drinks taken from but you get what I mean. The boys are exotic and colourful but have so many different elements and ideas. Nothing is predictable and everything comes together with ease and command.  When you find acts – who claim to be matchmakers of vintage glories and modern promise – the chemistry is often lacking nuance and explosion. The Molochs have some great influences (Velvet Underground come through strongly) but place local geography together with the past-years wanderlust. You can hear and smell the sights of L.A. but are transported to an easier, more peaceful (compared with Trump’s ideologies and mission statement) time. In doing so, The Molochs create a new sub-genre. Whether it is ‘retro.-Indie’ or ‘modern-vintage’ I could not tell you. So many artists lack the bravery to do what the Los Angeles are providing. We all know how effective repurposing past sounds can be with the, in my mind, queen of the hustle: Lana Del Rey. The sepia-toned, black-and-white films and ‘50s fabrics of her music entwines and contorts its body with the excitement of fast cars and faster boys (in more than one department); cigarette-scented kisses and rough-stumble anti-heroes. The resultant, and riskily-matched throw-down could result in regrettable, blink-and-you’ll-miss-it sex but, instead, you get something harmonious, mind-blowing and hugely satisfying. Del Rey is one of the most remarkable and alluring songwriters in modern music and someone who can combine aspects of 1950s’/’60s’ music/artists with a contemporary aesthetic.

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  PHOTO CREDIT: Jeff Fribourg

Stepping away from the vinyl crackle and Super 8 realms and, before I come to the music of The Molochs, I wanted to place the boys in the context of duos/bands – just how en vogue and in-demand they will be this year. There are some stunning bands and solo artists around but I have always yearned towards duos. I have examined why they are such an irresistible force but I think it comes down to the dynamic, choices and bond. Many would assume a relationship-based duo would be most secure: if you were merely friends there is a risk of that closeness and solitude (no other bodies around) would cause bonds. You could also argue lovers who work together run the risk of that much-alluded-to/misquoted maxim: “Never defecate where you eat”. I feel the band can be ungainly and subject to fragmentation. Some members feel alienated and there is often, a lot more prevalent with male bands compared with female, dissension and creative differences set in. Solo artists have the unenviable task of organising their schedule and keeping themselves amused. It can be quite a confined, solitary and unexciting existence. I am over-simplifying but The Molochs does have that deep and solid central bond but are not limited like many bands – The Molochs are credited as a band but the focus is on the two leads. My British mainstream favourite (duo) are Royal Blood. The Brighton boys create a cataclysm of electric grunt and percussive gut-punch in spite of the fact there is the two of them. They have a new album (it is rumored) out this year and look set to bring serious rawk and swaggering cool into music. My underground favourites are London-based Rews. I have mentioned them a lot but for good reason: the girls create sensational, memorable music and are among the most down-to-earth and charming you’ll hear. Between them, they produce a mule-kick of Rock goodness and loin-enflaming noise. Duos are a lot more varied than one might imagine and are not as defined and pigeon-holed as many bands. Because of that, they are free to mix genres and decades in accordance with their own free will and volition; there is a fairer democracy in the ranks and music that reflects that kinship and trust. It is a brief discussion but I just love the way duos operate/sound. The Molochs perform as a full band on the road – and their latest album – but, in many promotional shots appear as a duo – they have the best of both worlds in a sense. I am tipping the band for success in 2017 and excited to see just how far they can go.

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I see myself, in a number of ways, as a cultural attaché. I hear a lot of U.S. bands and aim to introduce them more widely to the venues and fans of the U.K. (and the wider world). I have listed a few eager and talented L.A. artists but wonder just how readily they will be able to transition to the shores of Britain. I have seen many young and inexperienced musicians thrilled at the chance to play in the U.S. and get their music out there. When they return there is that consensus: it would be great to return there and perform a lot more. In terms of American artists coming over here, it is always difficult coaxing them over and providing an appealing rider. Our weather is moody (U.K.-U.S. translation: sh**) and the beaches not quite as bronzed, buff and beautiful as those around California – in fact, you’re more likely to see elderly people wrapped up in coast than heavenly torsos soaking up the rays. If the billowing and fetid belch of Donald Trump’s inauguration is not reason enough to flee the U.S. then our venues and clubs surely will be. I have a lot of love for our resident musicians but am always excited when an American comes over here and gets settled in.  I hope The Molochs spend more time here (they have a couple of dates in London soon) and do a proper tour of the U.K. We need to encourage more international talent to play here for a few reasons. Many of our small venues are under threat and it is hard keeping them cost-effective and busy. I feel a range of acts from across the pond can add resurgence and renewed purpose to some struggling venues. If anything, having American artists playing around Britain provides some variation and nationality mix that we can all abide by – for a nation determined to keep the rest of the world out music has the common sense to open its borders to (hard-working and passionate) immigrants. I feel music can be compartmentalised: so many of our artists are not alluded to in the U.S. or under anyone’s radar. Subsequently, our national press has a very limited scope when it comes to American artists we should all be watching. We need to forge a closer bond with America – not politically as that would lead to imminent apocalypse – but show the political world why music is a much stronger and safer democracy. It would not only be good for alliance purposes but ensure our best new musicians have opportunities to play in America – and vice versa for that matter.

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You and Me is the song I am focusing on but it is by no means the only tracks by the boys. Get a Job Blues was released as part of the Forgetter Blues E.P. and is a lo-fi track that does what the title suggests. The hero is trying to score employment but feels, in order to do so, needs to hoodwink and chance. The employers, as it is said, need someone honest and who turns up: it is felt our man would not be the most reliable option. Constantly moving and skipping along; Get a Job Blues never relinquishes its energy and has that mid-‘60s charm. You are transported back to the era but you never feel The Molochs are transposing or tampering with that decade – only adding their own take on it. Percussion notes are solid and static but add the necessary punch and energy the song requires – elevating it from weary and despondent to alive and eager. If the vocal has that defeatism and the lyrics paint something quite anxious; you never feel weighed or burdened by the song. It is a hopeful song that recognises the state of affairs – needing work and feeling disconnected from society – and strives to rectify it. Other tracks on the E.P., like Drink the Dirt Like Wine and It’s Only Cause, are sparse and acoustic and very much have that live feel. The E.P. is solid and has a distinct sound but I feel You and Me, and the duo’s new album tracks, are better produced and sharper. The sound is cleaner and it is a lot easier to decipher the words. Whereas their E.P. was lo-fi and uncluttered – it did mean there was an emotional limitation and decipherability was an issue at times – now there is more polish and clarity to be found. That has not sacrificed the purity and overall sound: the guys are afforded more lustre and focus. The words and compositions come more into the forefront and the overall effect is more pleasing. Other tracks across America’s Velvet Glory have that same production sound, and altogether, come off a very professional and solid album. That is not to say, as I have mentioned, character and personality are substituted for gloss and finery. The boys maintain their 1960s-nodding sound and sound at their most essential, inventive and spectacular.

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You and Me, then, is the latest single from the album and follows from No More Cryin’ – another song that defines what America’s Velvet Glory is about and how original The Molochs are. The opening of You and Me, whereas their E.P. tracks were sparse and sounding like a two-piece operation, is full and the sound of a band connected and ready. Reviewers have assessed the band’s work and made those comparisons with mid-‘60s bands and the sort of upbeat, jangly Pop that defined that period – you hear a bit of The Beatles’ mid-career work in the opening bars. The introduction mixes the Mersey Beat of The Beatles and Art-Rock of The Velvet Underground. Quite breezy and sunny; there is a seriousness and sophistication in the way the notes are meshed and combined. Before the lyrics come in, you are imagining black-and-white films and retro. scenery – two lovers racing through a highway scene; talking about their lives and where they are heading. The openings lines suggest (the hero) is in a mess and trying to find solid ground. Lyrica are quite simplistic and emotive: there is a lot of pain inside and you feel a man spinning a bit. Maybe a relationship is suffering strains and the two lovers are on different pages. I have mentioned other bands – but only as a compliment. The Byrds and The Mamas & Papas are two names you hear in the music: that same Pop-cum-Folk-Rock cocktail that is evocative, powerful and transporting. The hero is pushing his girl away – although he only wants to be in a blissful and safe state – and wondering what is happening. The lyrics are quite established and familiar in the sense they are a staple for many musicians. That sense of dislocation and imbalance is nothing new but it is the way The Molochs portray the trope that makes it fascinating. You do not get the usual compositional sound and vocal delivery – they take something potentially stale and routine and transform it into something beautiful.

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I am not sure what has caused the relationship to sour but there is mixed messages and drama wherever the duo step. The girl pledges her allegiance to the hero – he is the only one she loves – but is walking around town with a new man. You do not hear why the relationship broke up but it seems like there are lingering emotions and feelings. I can hear the hero’s pain as he tries to keep it together. Sure, the bond has ended but why is the girl telling him he is the one for her?! She is gambling about with a new guy but hooking our man and giving him false hope. Whilst the foreground provides sentiments of deceit and stress: the composition remains cheerfully optimistic and juxtaposes the seriousness of the lyrics. It keeps the song from being too depressed and exhausted. There is that Californian sun and 1960s Pop core; tied with a straight-to-the-point vocal is a fascinating song. This year, I am embracing songs that are instant and have that memorability and hook to them. You and Me is a song that wins you with its flair and heart; the way it rattles and rolls and its elliptical notation. The foreground appeals to the heart and mind whereas the composition gets into the body and soul. One gets hooked by the eagerness and energy of the composition but cannot ignore the lyrical pain. The hero is confused the way things are unfolding and the contrasting messages his former love is sending. She might be with this man but is she using him as a band-aid? Maybe it is a fling and meaningless bond; a way of eradicating the memory of our hero – not in a bad way; trying to get over him. I know mentioning other acts is folly but The Velvet Underground are a genuine name you can link with The Molochs. Whether seeing the band as a duo – the way they are photographed for the main – or a full band; no matter what their configuration, you hear embers of Lou Reed’s band in the L.A. act.

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At the mid-way point is a pleasing and clean compositional interjection which adds Country-esque strings and patterned beats to provide physicality and evocativeness. You transport yourself in the song and what is happening. In that moment one imagines the Californian sun and the open landscape. It has a sprite and edgy tightness but produces a feeling of openness and atmosphere – the yawning vista and carefree sensation of the summer. After such a fraught and revealing verse; it is nice to receive something warming and nourishing. The band keeps the momentum strong and ensures the song is constantly moving and energised. You never get drawn into dark recesses and have any negative thoughts. Whilst your heart is with the hero; your body is propelled and invigorated by the cheerfulness and magic of the music. If one follows the Super 8 video – its grainy beauty and the 1960s-themed scenery – you get a better sense of the song and the sort of images being portrayed. In a sense, the camera/filming style represents the vision of the hero: a little grainy and unclear; maybe seeing things through rose-tinted glasses. He has pain and recrimination at heart but never lets out his true anger. The vocal is constant in the way it sounds. It is never too full or slight but also never elicits a burst of anger or any real spite. Maybe that is the case to gain a sense of mystery but one feels more overt expression would not go amiss. A lot of the ‘60s bands were similarly unemotive and calm but The Molochs could bring some 2017 anger and modernity into the vocal delivery. Regardless, you are invested in the story and follow its trajectory. The hero sees a light ahead (maybe hope of reconciliation and resolve) but is still enamoured of the girl. They both remember how good it could be and was to start; what they have been through and how strong the love was. It is at this moment you become more curious of the break-up and what caused the rift. Maybe things petered out and the spark was lost but that is never uncovered. Perhaps it is a painful memory and one that cannot be shared. Throughout You and Me there is a split between a man who wants the girl back and cannot move on from her legacy; someone who is pouring out his pain and asking some very pertinent questions. That sense of ‘how could this could be?!’ has that double meaning. Maybe them being back together would be the right thing or perhaps transparency (from the girl) would cause less upset in the hero. Whatever the true meanings and reasoning, You and Me is a stunning track from the album and one that defines where they are and where they are heading. Their strongest material since inception: things will be very bright for the L.A. duo/band. From the first notes you are invested in the guys and what they are doing – few other acts have that potency and instancy.

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I have waffled a bit about The Molochs and where they fit in music – looking at L.A.’s best new acts and the merits of duos. Before I return to those points, highlighting a few other Los Angeles music-makers to follow, I will look at the next few weeks/months for The Molochs. The band play The Shacklewell Arms (London) on 22nd May. The too-cool-for-school Dalston bar will be a great setting for the L.A. visitors to ply their trade and put their music out to the people of East London – from there it will spread like wildfire (sure to be a lot of switched-on music lovers at that date). The next day they head off to the Montague Arms in Nunhead (SE14) to entertain the good people – no doubt sample their guest ales, American hotdogs and spit-roasted chicken. In addition, The Molochs are confirmed for Primavera this year and are going to keep themselves busy. You and Me is the duo’s second single and was taken from the forthcoming album, America’s’ Velvet Glory. Recorded with engineer Jonny Bell at Long Beach’s JazzCats studio – I hate them because they get to make music in such an idyllic part of the world! – the L.P. will arrive on 13th (January) and marks the guys as an act to watch closely. Their album has Sunset Strip ’66 stormers (No More Cryin’) and ‘60s Garage-Rock tableaus; Little Black Egg-style heartwarmer-cum-breaker The One I Love and minor-key melodies; unresolved organ notation into the bargain. It is an aural banquet that alludes to the past, drawing in suggestions of times-past but never tries to do it injustice. The boys have a varied and quality-laden vinyl collection and less plunderphonics: more reinventors. The L.A. band has a fondness for past music and lovingly reinterpret their idols through their own eyes. It is impressive finding artists that manage to do this. All too often you see musicians wearing the past with little modesty and poor judgement – ignoring laws of decency, taste and respect. The music (they play) will be obvious and copycat; not adding anything new and sounding derivative and uninspired. That is never the case with The Molochs who show true affinity and knowledge of the past but never intoxicate it or take advantage. All of this comes through on You and Me (and their debut album).

Before I conclude with a bit about the boys’ 2017, I will return to my opening points of L.A. clippers and where that particular ship is sailing to in the waters of music. According to another wise source; Rebel and a Basketcase are not as anti-social and frightening as their name suggests. The Electro.-Pop duo have been compared with David Bowie and St. Vincent and can go from demon-energised to Sunset Strip-romantic within the space of a single song. There is soul and darkness sequestered in the chinks of light and radiance. In the same feature; Twin Temple are singled-out for greatness this year. The duo has been stirring up excitement for a long time and comprises husband-and-wife duo Alexandra and Zachary James – who entwine their personal and professional personalities in Gothic-Soul brews. They have a six-track E.P. forthcoming and are worthy of close focus. Take a look at Billboard’s recommendations and one will find Hey Violet nestled in the groove. 5 Seconds of Summer are mentors of sorts – Hey Violet their willing protégés – and accompanied them on the summer leg of their 2016 arena tour. If the mere mention of 5 Seconds of Summer makes you want to wretch blood into a bucket of toxic waste – that is the first reaction I have – then fear not: Hey Violet are a lot less breakfast-violating and twee than the aforementioned boyband. In fact, there is enough edge and maturity (in their music) to hook those who prefer actual songs over commercialisation and teenage gratification (sounds mass-produced to appeal to those two young to know any better). Aside from my near-psychotic rants, the selection of L.A. artists I have included in this piece shows what a smorgasbord of talent can be discovered in the city. The Tracks’ debut single, Go Out Tonight, marks the Boyle Heights-based band for great things this year. The group is not new: they have been formulating and solidifying their sound for years and are well-respected and popular. I would expect them to transition to the U.K. and discover their music has reached eager ears here. They are a band I would like to see, in addition to The Molochs, come to Britain and show their mettle.

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I will sign-off by looking at the band and how this year will fare – taking a quick (repeated) peak under the skirt – like a voyeur watching through slitted blinds – of new music and sounds emerging; a bit about The Molochs. In terms of my featured group; they have a busy year ahead and are in the position where they are getting attention from both sides of the Atlantic. When they come to London, albeit a brief jaunt, they will attract a lot of new support. It will raise awareness of their music but do so much more. Fellow L.A. artists will be put under the spotlight – people compelled to check out the local compatriots of The Molochs – and encourage venues like The Shacklewell Arms to scour the haven of Los Angeles music and diversify their stage. It is always good promoting local artists but there is a world of international taken hungry to play the U.K. I have stated how many great venues there are across London (and the nation as a whole); tonnes that would host The Molochs. I hope they do come back here and enjoy a longer stay – surely dozens of places they could perform at and new territory they could claim. Until then, they have touring commitments and will be taking America’s Velvet Glory on the road. I know the people will lap it up, and from what I have heard of the record, it is not to be missed. The songs (across the L.P.) build on You and Me’s jangly ‘60s Pop and paint all manner of scenes. There are Dadaism swathes and Post-Impressionist flecks; Cubist brushstrokes and Fauvism undertones. What you get – a new wave of pretension aside – is a band who can fuse dreaminess and sunshine and create something cohesive, developed and alluring. You never listen to their music and let it play in the background: full attention is demanded; music that appeals to all the senses and remains long in the imagination. The guys are well aware of how competitive and challenging musical success is and taking big steps ensuring they remain and grow. Their album is packed with exceptional songwriting and beautiful, thoughtful songs – never too busy and complex; never too simplistic and one-dimensional.

The three singles/songs that have kick-started and defined this year (so far) are London Grammar’s Rooting for You; Dutch Uncle’s Big Balloon and Maggie Rogers’ On + Off. Between those tracks, there is passion and defiant strength; we have uplifting, big choruses and something laconic, wistful and sepia-toned. I love London Grammar’s ‘comeback’ single; not only because it sees them return from the wilderness but is one of their strongest offerings yet – framing an immaculate lead vocal (from Hannah Reid) and lyrics of hopefulness, loyalty and emotion. It is shimmering, evocative and soulful – a beautiful reminder of why the trio have been much-missed. I might actually need Electroconvulsive therapy in order to remove the song from my hippocampus. With its subtle, but slicing, riffs and sing-along, addictive chorus; the nuance it provides and the smiles it induces – a song that is impossible to ignore. Aside from the Manchester band, I have been enjoying Maggie Rogers’ music for a little while now. Following from stunners like Alaska: her new track, On + Off, is an immersive, hugely impressive track that marks her for fantastic things (she plays London in February if you are around). Thinking about it, Laura Marling’s Wild Fire (the second single to be taken from the forthcoming Semper Femina) has lodged in the brain and is a typically remarkable track. My point is, and putting this train of thought back on the rails, between those tracks we have, in my view, what 2017 will be about. Revelation, tenderness and emotion together with spirit, energy and memorability. This is what music should be about and what our best artists are endeavouring to do – eradicate the tragedy and strange politics of last year and produce something wonderful. The Molochs manage to combine all these elements in songs like You and Me. They encapsulate contrasting emotions and provide something retro. and distrait. Even if the composition and vocals have that vintage, dreamlike quality they are never inferior and slight. So much potency and strength go into the song and you are gripped by every layer and element. Despite being released at the tail-end of last year; it leads the charge of America’s Velvet Glory and one of the most promising albums I have heard in a while (from a new band). I will try and catch the guys in London but would suggest you get your ears…

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AROUND their wonderful music.


Follow The Molochs

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  PHOTO CREDIT: Jeff Fribourg









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Emma McGann


RIGHT now, there are few musicians as hopeful and upbeat as…

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Emma McGann. She has every right to be in all honesty. Not only will this year see new music arrive from her: the Midlands-born artist is nominated in the Social Star Award Category at this year’s iHeartRadio Music Awards and is busy (as recently as an hour ago) with question-and-answer sessions on Facebook. She is a songwriter in-demand and has already won praise from Nancy Sinatra and Kylie Minogue. McGann was kind enough to find some time to talk about her upbringing and how music came to her ears; when we can expect new material and how her YouNow channel, set up after eschewing the allure of record labels and that lifestyle, has seen her connect with a huge audience and brought her music to fans across the world.


Hi Emma. How are you? How has your week been?

I’ve been great thank you! I’ve been working on new music for the past two months. My sleeping schedule is upside-down and there are instruments and lyrics all over my house… so I’m very, very happy right now!

For those new to your music can, you introduce yourself, please?

I’m an independent singer-songwriter based in the West Midlands, U.K. My genre is Electro-Pop, although there are some interesting infusions coming into play on the new album. I write in the hopes that my lyrics and music will make a difference to someone: whether it makes you dance, smile, cry – I wanna give you allllllllll the feels.

Your first album was 2010’s Start the Show. Almost seven years down the line; how does it feel looking back at that record and how have you progressed as a songwriter?

I’ve developed so much as a songwriter in the past seven years… so hearing that album sometimes feels like it could belong to someone else.

I’ve always been proud of Start the Show. It went down so well with my audience back then.

It’s been a healthy progression since as I’ve developed my style into something I can call my own.

Cherry on Top was released in 2014 and gained coverage on BBC Radio 1. What was that like and do you think that was a pivotal moment?

I ploughed my heart and soul into Cherry on Top – the track itself, the lyric video; the promotional campaign – all of it. Before it’s pre-order, I sifted through hundreds of contacts who I felt could lend a hand in getting the track to new audiences. There were many late nights spent on that campaign (as there always is for many independent artists) and all that hard work has paid off since. People still request it at shows which is nice. When it received airplay on BBC Radio 1, I was obviously over the moon. I have the team at BBC Coventry & Warwickshire to thank for all of their support.

Take me back to your childhood. How did you first get interested in music and which kind of artists were early influences?

At first, I think (maybe) my mum regretted asking me to start violin. I kinda flipped it and made her a deal that I’d take up music if I could bring home an electric guitar and a drum kit. To my surprise, she agreed and it developed from there. The weekends were all about scouring the album aisle at HMV for something new each week. CDs I’d bring home stretched from Wheatus, JoJo; Nirvana, Shania Twain… it was a real mish-mash. But what really inspired me were strong female-led bands – the Donnas, Garbage; No Doubt, Heart and Paramore…

You started singing in talent shows and open mic. nights as a teenager after failing to catch the attention of record labels. Was it quite disheartening ‘flying under the radar’ as it was? Was it a tough decision stepping away from live performances?

Open mics at eighteen was where I started out. I did have two small labels approach me some time before we released Start the Show but I gracefully had to say no. I wanted the experience of releasing my album independently. I’m glad I did as I learnt so much. From that came more opportunities at bigger shows. I’ve never given up on live performances and still perform with my music today, usually over the festival season. I’d never step away from performing live – it’s way too much fun.

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Following that, you set a YouTube channel up and performed/perform live gigs to your subscribers. What is it like interacting with the fans and having so many supporters?

I am on YouTube, yes. I have a series of originals, covers and songwriting videos. The site I think you’re referring to is YouNow – a live-streaming platform that I use daily. YouNow is an incredible platform that has allowed me to directly engage with supporters in a way that they were never able to in the past. I host Q&As, perform acoustically and sometimes even stream my live gigs. The platform has propelled me towards a new worldwide audience. They’re so dedicated and really support what I do. I’m really grateful to them.

Would you encourage more songwriters, perhaps disheartened by the lack of record label recognition, to follow the same path as you?

I think more and more artists are becoming savvier with the idea of the independent route – for many, it’s more appealing. If you have the budget, the following and the balls to D.I.Y. – do it.

I feel that’s what a lot of labels are looking for initially anyway. It’s easier to push an artist with an established following than to build someone from the ground up. But even if you do go D.I.Y.; always be open for new opportunities with potential labels.

You Mess Me Up was released in 2015 and charted above George Ezra. That must have been an amazing moment? Are you a fan of Ezra and his music?

I love George’s music so was blown away to hear where You Mess Me Up landed in the iTunes singer-songwriter charts. We hardly expected it to chart in the top-one-hundred, let alone the top-fifteen. Ed Sheeran was just in front but I’m sure we can knock him down a peg next time… well, I’m gonna try. Bring it Ed! Ed’s another one of my faves. Not many people can captivate audiences like him; he’s really something else.

The likes of Nancy Sinatra and Kylie Minogue have recognised your music and said some very nice things. Is it quite daunting hearing such things from musical legends?

It’s dream-like. Completely unreal. Their words have really pushed me forward and have motivated me to keep going to this day.

You are nominated in the Social Star Award Category at this year’s iHeartRadio Music Awards. Can you tell us more about it and how people can vote for you?

The iHeartRadio Music Awards take place each year in L.A. to recognise artists and their achievements. I’ve been nominated in the Social Star Category for sharing my music with fans on YouNow.

Fans in U.S. and Canada can vote daily via the iHeartRadio app or via

Fans outside of the U.S. can vote daily by retweeting and liking my pinned tweet on Twitter or by posting on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram – using the following hashtags: #iHeartAwards #SocialStarAward #EmmaMcGann

You can vote until March 5th (which is the night of the awards; taking place in Los Angeles).

Thank you for voting!

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Can we expect a new album/E.P. from you this year? What can you tell us about 2017?

2017 already feels like a whirlwind.

My new album is due for release in July 2017 and will be available worldwide.

I’ll be meeting fans in Amsterdam for VidCon’s first convention in Europe on April 7th and performing a few shows around Europe. I’ll be writing the second volume of my new book series – for beginner songwriters – later in the year and have some trips to the U.S. planned too.

The last year was successful and busy one for you. In 2017, will you be continuing with YouTube or performing more live gigs? Maybe a mixture of the two?

I’ve always performed live and plan to continue. I will, of course, continue to broadcast on YouNow and will have some new content throughout the year (coming to YouTube also).

If you had to choose only three albums, those that mean most to you, which would they be and why?

The Donnas – Gold Medal

This album will always be special to me as it inspired me to get together my first band.

Linkin Park – Hybrid Theory

I think this album would find its way into a lot of people’s top-three list. If you weren’t listening to this album way back then… then what were you doing?!

Katy Perry – One of the Boys

You know how most couples have a ‘song’? Well, me and my partner have a whole album… and it’s this one. Our first dance is gonna be looooooooonnnnng.

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What advice would you give to any young songwriter coming through?

Keep an open mind and listen to music that is outside your comfort zone.

There’s so many ways to inspire your songwriting muse that you don’t already know about; so experiment a little.

Finally, and for being a good sport, you can name any song you like (not one of yours as I’ll include that) and I’ll play it here.

Jon Bellion – Guillotine


Follow Emma McGann

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TRACK REVIEW: Chess Galea – Beautiful to Me



Chess Galea


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Beautiful to Me






Beautiful to Me is available at:


Pop; Soul; Alternative; R&B


London, U.K.


6th January, 2017

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The album, 1869, is available at: 


I’m Ready (Intro)

Hard to Handle

Ready to Roar


Missing Person

I Am

Because We Can


Beautiful to Me


Right Now

Wherever You Are

No, You Can’t Go

Sold (Reprise)


8th April, 2016


THE past few days have been quite eye-opening for a number of…

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different reasons. In the fleshpots of music; there are roués and profligates that have been suggesting, with a foolish tongue, there is no imbalance in the music scene. I have interviewed many female stars that claim there are equal rights for men and women – and those who take the opposing view – but I cannot help look at the discrepancies in the trade. Before I come to my featured artist, I want to look at female artists and their worth – through the prism of diversity and compositional variation – and those ardently and vehemence putting female-created music on the map; reinventions of Soul and Pop (employing cross-decade influences in modern music) and songs that contain punch, vigour and energy – how vital that end of the spectrum is; how under-represented it is too. I have written recent pieces that look at gender and racial imbalance in music and was quite entrenched. The latter saw I look at recent successes (2016’s finest albums) and how many black artists appear in the end-of-year lists; the struggles they still face to gain equal footing with their white counterparts. The former, a more in-depth study, showed how few women are employed behind studio desks and in management roles – and how many female musicians struggle to get gigs and equal billing to men. There is still a divide and a huge gap between men and women in music. You only need to look at most festival lineups to know where for art I speak. That discourse is for another time but my point is this: female artists are producing music that outranks and outdoes (in my humble view) that of their male colleagues. Last year provided some stunning albums from female musicians – this year looks set to continue that trend. What I love about female artists, as a contrast to the boys, is how varied and accomplished they are across multiple genres. I am not suggesting, dare I incur their wrath, the boys of music are unexceptional and rather limited.

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PHOTO CREDIT: @historiq

There are certain genres – notably Pop, Soul and R&B – I find more appealing and engaging in the hands of the girls. Maybe the boys have more experience of Rock and harder-edged/noised genres (but that may be a generalisation) whereas female musicians are much more authoritative and skilful when providing in the aforementioned genres. In fact, when these genres are performed (female artists) bring in Rock and Alternative edges alongside Rap, Hip-Hop and assorted styles. My point is, and focusing down here, you get more value for your money and bang for your buck with female artists. The fact they have to fight for the same rights as the boys could be the middle-aged-white-boys’-club mentality that pervades and festoons the fabric of music. I know it is a divisive subject but one that demands ackowledgement. Last year, both in the mainstream and underground, I was delighted by how many female-produced albums remained in my mind. That may seem patronising and reductive but it is not intended to be. Across the reliable foothold of Folk; the unpredictable avenues of Pop – the underrated and sensual colours of Soul and R&B – we (as consumers) were treated to some absolutely world-class music. If we aim for anything in 2017 it is to bring about reappropriation and reapportionment: give female artists their due and ensure they have the same opportunities of male musicians. The Soul music went deeper whilst Pop banged harder. Albums from Beyoncé (Lemonade) and Julia Jacklin (Don’t Let the Kids Win) were among my favourite of 2017: brand-new musicians gave me much to think about. It is impossible to name all the once-heard-never-forgotten female artists I encountered but there were some true future legends. That brings me, rather ‘neatly’, to Chess Galea. I have known her for a while – she was one of my first reviews back in 2011 – and have been following her trajectory since that time. 1869 is her debut album (released last year) and showed what a talent she is. Before I continue on, let me introduce her to you:

Known for her exotic looks and her rich voice full of attitude;

Chess is an artist, a songwriter, dancer, and top-line melody writer. Growing up in Malta, she began learning piano and music theory at aged 5 and was surrounded by classical music and Queen records. She has developed a 4 octave vocal range.

The 90’s pop explosion sparked her love for pop music and a little later on, she discovered EDM. Chess studied at the Academy of Contemporary Music in the UK and since then she has solely managed to gain radio airplay in 3 countries including Australia, Malta and the UK. Not forgetting to mention a number 1 in the Maltese radio charts, ‘Stilettos’.

She has also been busy with TV and radio appearances as well as featuring in some influential magazines both printed and online. Some to mention are: Creation 5, After Nyne and Times of Malta.

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Chess also works collaboratively with DJ’s and artists from all over the world, including a Ministry of Sound DJ, Xenia Ghali, and recently well-known DJ Dario Synth. Chess has released 2 EP’s – Babygirl and Tuxedo – and both projects were the result of 2 successful kickstarter campaigns where she received donations from all over the world. Her 2nd EP Tuxedo, managed to get her radio airplay on BBC Introducing, where the single Vanity was described as ‘a cracker of a tune!!!’ by the presenter. Her tracks have also been featured on Best of British Unsigned podcast.

Chess performed these EP’s at the Bedford, Balham and many other significant places in London such as The Luxe and The Old Queens Head, Islington and festivals around the UK. Other big performances include Bay Music Awards, which had an audience of 4,000, and The Farson’s Beer Festival, which had an audience of 2,000“.

Since her earliest work – the E.P.s Babygirl and Tuxedo – I have seen an evolution and maturation of an artist without compromise and limitation. The confidence that runs through 1869 is deeply impressive. Beautiful to Me, which I shall come to very soon, is one of the more reflective and tender albums tracks – it still has an underlying force and passion that is hard to overlook. What I love about Galea is her ability to retain a unique sound but offer something new with each record. Some of the best female-made Pop/Soul of last year – from Beyoncé to Sara and Tegan; across to Noname, Solange and Jenny Hval – had huge adventurousness and did not stick to templates and protocol. Daring, diverse and ambitious: the sort of music that gives the genres huge credit and support. There are those who turn their noises up at Pop: assuming it will be Auto-tune and generic; the ‘musicians’ talent-free and inane. Likewise, Soul and R&B is still seen as fairly niche and reserved for a certain ‘type’. Artists like Chess Galea are making (the genres) more accessible whilst providing music of the highest order. Her previous E.P.s have shown promise and quality (I will concentrate on them in more detail later) but 1869 is her first full-length release. With its intriguing title – a specific and important year? A mix of sexual legality and adventurousness? Something random, maybe? – and a crop-load of exceptional songs, it has provided Galea a whole new audience. She has been busy promoting the album (not just in Britain but the U.S. and Malta) and looks set to have a fantastic 2017. What I admire about her music is three-fold. For starters, there is that exceptional voice. There are shades of her heroes/heroines – Freddie Mercury’s belt and power; Christina Aguilera’s rapture and beauty with some Prince soulfulness and lioness tease – but that arrives from years of study, work and dedication.

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The songwriting across 1869 is consistent, personal and hugely engaging. Compositions/themes switch from sexual and alpha female (Hard to Handle for one) to more introspective, self-examining moments. Piano lines skip and bounce one moment; more elegiac and paradisiac. Percussion slams at once before hissing and calming the next; electronics take inspiration from 1980s Pop and the modern-day charts. If strident mandates such as Ready to Roar and Hard to Handle take guidance from Aguilera, Lady Gaga and, perhaps, Michael Jackson (circa. Dangerous); Beautiful to Me, Missing Person and Wherever You Are takes in other influences. Artists that want to succeed, remain and inspire need to employ a variegated palette whilst not losing their focus and identity. Chess Galea does this professionally and easily. There are no false moves or incongruent mashes – everything she does is HER music; she owns every territory she steps into. You get delightful flecks of Michael Jackson’s finest-there albums (Thriller, Bad and Dangerous) with some of Prince’s mid-career gems. In addition, there are hearty nods to modern Dance and Pop – ramped-up and explosive electronics with phat beats – and some sexual, sweat-dripping sassiness. Being a fan of Soul legends and R&B groups; Galea employs these sounds in her own work. What you get, and evident in 1869, is a bold and multi-talented young woman who wants to succeed and remain. Not only is she a great original writer but someone whose interpretative talents are stunning. Whether covering Pink Floyd (a spot-on and captivating rendition of The Great Gig in the Sky can be found on YouTube) or Etta James: you imagine it is her own song, such is the personal touch she provides the music. Going back to my opening topic – female musicians provided fewer chances than their male peers – Chess Galea is one of those underground, unsigned artists who deserves prominence and attention. In years to come, she could well headline big festivals: it is vital artists like her are given equal and appropriate support in the early days. Her unwavering tenacity and dedication to music will see her succeed but is wonderful hearing the music she is putting out there – so addictive, appealing and borderless.

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Before I come to investigate Beautiful to Me, it is interesting seeing how Galea has progressed as a songwriter. Over the past couple of years (give or take) there has been two original E.P.s.; a covers collection and singles released to the world. Babygirl was my first encounter with the singer-songwriter and a stunning glimpse into her songwriting. Redemptive, spirited numbers like TTT (Things Take Time) and Breathe are born from a source of strength, fortitude and courage. The songs paints positive messages and provide uplifting sentiments. Storm, at that point, was the most evocative and striking song Chess Galea has ever produced and, along with the E.P. companions, a song that remains in the mind and intrigues with its depth and meanings. The production was polished but not too slick whilst the compositions ranged from subtle piano-led snippets to more rousing passages. Tuxedo followed and was, compared with Babygirl, a bolder and more ‘womanly’ offer. If Babygirl was a young woman finding her feet and offering hope: Tuxedo is the woman kicking out and much bolder. Consequently, the production is richer whereas the compositions more varied and brash – employing more Dance, Jazz and Soul elements. The title track is a sing-along swagger with pizazz, strut and attitude. Vanity fleshes this out and looks at general vanity and looks-obsession in society. Whether directed at a certain type or a single figure; the claws are out and we see a new side to Galea. Both E.P.s are hugely impressive and nuanced but the development, in terms of themes, confidence and experimentation, is huge. Proof, if ever it was needed, of a songwriter unwilling to repeat herself and come off predictable. Galea’s Covers collection took in Etta James (At Last) and uncovered her smoky, sensual Jazz tones. A note-perfect rendition of Pink Floyd’s The Great Gig in the Sky sends shivers through the spine (Galea a dead ringer for Clare Torry) whilst All That Jazz could have been a perfunctory, pointless cover: as it is, it is reinvented and full of feistiness and charm. That collection shows how good an interpreter Galea is and the affinity she has for various genres and decades.

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The diversity and genres explored in Covers directly feeds into 1869. A debut L.P. can be daunting yet 1869 is nerve-free and wonderful full. Babygirl’s sweetness and Pop sensibilities can be detected alongside Tuxedo’s top hat kick and black-lipstick-and-sharp-tongue kiss. You get (in 1869) sexuality, passion and intensity with calm, inspiration and personal revelations. The genres explored in Covers sees 1869’s songs exploring new territory and taking risks. You hear bits of Etta James and her contemporaries with Showtune pizazz and theatrics; Natural Woman-esque (that song was included) softness and spellbind – all of her past work has gone into the album. Beautiful to Me could have been penned by Carole King and you sense her spirit, alongside some of Galea’s idols, were watching over her when the song was written. With each record, she becomes a more rounded and ambitious songwriting. That ambition should never be deterred and I am sure she will continue to evolve with each subsequent record. There is not a huge time gap between Babygirl and 1869 but in terms of scope, production sound and compositions, there is a big one. 1869 brings in more styles and genres whilst the lyrics look at everything from love and deceit to self-confidence and ambition. It is Galea’s declaration and mission statement and one that distinguishes her from many of her (inferior) peers. Beautiful to Me is one of the album’s standouts and effortlessly combines allure and sensuousness with wisdom and heart. In an album like 1869 – with so many bangers and upbeat, sing-along anthems – many would struggle to create something contrasting both thematically and sonically. The fact Chess Galea sounds as assured on the song as she does on any other proves what a talented performer she is. I know/hope one or two other singles emerge from the album because, not only because of the stunning, visually arresting videos, there are a few songs that deserve special focus (Missing Person is a number that would benefit a video release).

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If you are listening to Beautiful to Me, I would advise watching the song’s video. It is a romantic and scenic opening – Galea in a number of lush and exotic-looking locations; looking wistful and contemplative. The rumination one sees in the video is felt in the song’s openings notes. The electric guitar chords are quite serious and strident but not too overbearing. There is a sense of delicacy and trepidation (in the guitar) but a definite sense of urgency. Before the first notes have been sung you feel involved in the song and invested in its mood. Our heroine elicits some smooth and sensuous vocals (wordless but pure) that are silky but have a soulfulness running right through them. The lyrics are delivered with care and attention: you feel she is addressing the song to a lover or a friend who has been through the mill. The opening line (“A gentle heart that’s made of glass”) suggests a sensitive soul who feels the weight of the world and all it bears. It is the guitar notes, river-like and pointed, that create an undercurrent of romance and velvet. It is hard to describe but you get caught in the guitar and what it is saying – even though the notion and performance are quite subtle and level-headed. The blend of that and the chocolate-like vocal creates an atmosphere of beauty and seduction. Our heroine is clearly directing her words, as becomes clear at this stage, to someone very previous. They challenge her mind and make her dreams possible: she is not sure why they are so beautiful (to her) but she is caught in a haze. Maybe there are many reasons – or there is no true champion – but a combination of things. Juxtaposing some of the more rousing and sexual songs on the album – where the heroine is in control and at her vixen best – this is the other end of the romance spectrum.

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PHOTO CREDIT: @historiq

There is no prurient interest or impure thoughts: a song that pays tribute to someone who means a lot to her. In that spirit, the vocal is as affecting and intimate as any Galea has put onto tape. It is hard running through the adjectives and descriptions (the voice is like honey or treacle; it has an enticing and entrancing effect) one can apply to the vocals: it is a stunning and intense performance. With every Chess Galea song, you have that authority and layered sound. Her voice is never simple or one-dimensional; always so much detail and emotions go into every performance. Her hero lifts her up and ignites that smile; makes her push and press for things and gives her the motivation to keep going. Many would say, if they were being insulting, the words are insincere and a little corny. There are artists that run through a cliché dictionary of romantic expressions. They will recycle every long song out there and include every trope in the book. That is not the case with Galea who provides a very personal and meaningful take on the love song. She does not run through hyperbole and over-exaggeration – her boy will not move every mountain and she is not reborn – instead, there is that thankfulness and happiness. So many love songs deal with recrimination and petty accusations so it is refreshing and unusual hearing a song that has a very pure and untainted heart. A happy bond and happy woman can be found throughout Beautiful to Me. When you realise there are going to be no negatives, you dive into the song’s waters and immerse yourself in the unfolding story. The song is kept quite light and uncluttered to allow the purity of the emotions to shine. Instead of clutter the song with big beats and fizzing electronics: there is a tremulous string sound that sits with electric guitar. It is gorgeous but never full-on; it backs and augments the vocal whilst adding physicality. I have said this in other reviews but a great composition is one that adds something to the song both physical and emotive without stealing focus or being too slight. Beautiful to Me has a perfectly balanced score. It is consistently passionate and intimate but has a degree of yearning and pining. A celebration of a proper and honest bond; you cannot fault the song’s intentions and convictions. Knowing, or suspecting at least, who is being referred to, it is rewarding finding a woman comfortable in life but never resting on her laurels. She has found love and a true companion but is never settled and resting – always hungry and taking her music as far as she can.

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I have mentioned the song’s video which is lush, beautifully shot and directed. It was made by Anomaly Films and Pineapple Media and the perfect visual representation of the song. Whilst its locations look idyllic and Paradise – not sure where it was shot but there are some beautiful shots and landscapes – the heroine has the look of a 1950s Hollywood goddess in some shots – more modern and casual in others. Our girl’s indecision is emphasised in the chorus: she is trying to decide why her man is so meaningful to her. Of course, I have naturally assumed the song documents love and a special other. Maybe there is a message to friends or relatives that have supported her. I naturally assume it is a love song but the lyrics are general enough they can be tied to a parent or girlfriend. Following the sweetheart line of thought and you can just hear that smile shine from the microphone. Few musicians have sounded as relaxed and confident when delivering a song. Small wonder as Beautiful to Me takes the heart out of the chest and lays it right on the table. There are no sworded details or painful memories; few unhappy sentiments – what you get is praise, thanks and affection. Though Beautiful to Me lacks the energy, killer hooks and stomp of 1869’s opening tracks; it is a song that shows Galea’s true range and histrionics. She is expert when belting out songs like a Soul diva. Few are more comfortable when owning the microphone with their soul bursting from their loins. Beautiful to Me takes things down and shows how much control and discipline Galea has when performing a gentle and dreamy number. Towards the three-minute mark, the guitar and strings become more intense and add more weight and intensity to the vocal. Caught up in the stunning visuals – among the historic monument and beautifully appointed balconies – it is hard not to be envious of Chess Galea. The stunning video accompanies the song wonderfully but gives you a glimpse into a very classical and romantic world – one many of us would like to live in forever.

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The final moments find the song’s mandates being reiterated and underlined. Trying to sift through the embarrassment of riches might seem like boasting but there is never any suggestion of insincerity or braggadocio – a young woman safe and secure and relieved to be with someone who brings the best from her. Some beautiful high notes and breathy runs complete the song and add extra poignancy and beauty to the track. It is a perfect way to conclude things and get Beautiful to Me into your head. The song is wonderfully aided by a video that is less a promotional tool and more a production. The cinematic shots and wonderful views find Galea bonding with the surroundings and enraptured by the hot sun and panoramic vistas. Directed by Fabrizio Fenech (Roger Zammit executive producer) it is a simple story arc but that is just what the song requires. Getting back to the main attraction and Beautiful to Me is Chess Galea at her most positive and happy. There are none of the anxieties and fears of some of her earlier work – when she would be casting her tongue at rather deplorable types – and pains of some of 1869’s tracks. Across the album you get some harsh realisations and hard memories surfacing; brilliantly bold and sassy numbers and club-ready anthems. Here, we see the young musician showing her affection and appreciation for someone who means a lot and has turned her life around. Whether the track is purely for the ears of her man – or can be shared with friends and family – I am not certain. Regardless of interpretation, you have a song that could easily find its way on the playlists of the nation’s most influential radio stations. It will capture and appeal to younger, Pop-driven minds but resonates with people like me – those who prefer non-chart music and older sounds. Sparring vintage with modern is a hard feat (and one few do with satisfaction) but Chess Galea is a songwriter who keeps things simple so her music speaks to as many people as possible.

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Last year was a busy and memorable one for Chess Galea. Not only did she release 1869 but (she) managed to take her new music to the U.S. and Malta (her home nation). Performing across London, an area she has a lot of fans, and Surrey (where she lives) it ensures her music is getting to as many ears as possible. Her music has been played on local radio and there is a real fan-base amassing. She is one of those artists that has worked her way from the bottom and resolutely overcome any obstacles in her way. In terms of strength and passion, there are few musicians quite as single-minded as Galea. She has that instilled love of music and wants to record and produce for as long as possible. I have been following her since her early days and am astonished by her confidence and development. Babygirl was her first E.P. and was solid and impressive. The title (and cover) projects images of a lover, perhaps ingénue, with a very modern aesthetic – messages that implore hope and courage but have a deep and romantic heart. 1869 is the most overt and mature offering from the Maltese musician and blends the innocence and introspection of her debut E.P. with the more candid and impassioned swagger of Tuxedo (the follow-up E.P.). Her songwriting is at its peak but you feel there is a lot more to come. I am not sure whether there is another album in the pipeline but I would not be shocked to find an E.P. coming along. Whether that addresses love or casts its gaze at the wider world, I am not sure. Being Chess Galea, there is likely to be that mix of pumped-up Soul/Pop jams and smoother, silkier Soul numbers. I adore the fiery offerings from 1869 but have a lot of affection for Beautiful to Me. It is a mature and heartfelt song that is not limited to a demographic. Many Pop/Soul artist tend to develop their music to a particular audience.

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Whether that is the young and ‘trendy’ listeners of BBC Radio 1 or slightly older patrons of BBC Radio 2 – you can hear a song/album and know what kind of station will spin it. The thing with Galea is that adaptability and nimbleness. Some songs, the more electric and sexual offerings, speak to the younger listener whilst the more tender songs are able to seduce those of a more sensitive disposition. To be fair, her music is universal and not reserved for narrow tastes. That does not mean 1869 is an album for that lacks identity and cohesion. Every song is the work of a singular artist who wants to be remembered for her own talents as opposed to anyone else’s. Beautiful to Me reflects that and makes you wonder who inspired the song. I have tried to uncover that; it is great hearing an artist sounding so comfortable and self-assured right now. That has come from committed touring and a real hunger for music. I expect this year will find Chess Galea continuing to perform around London and the south-east but her sights will be set further afield. Having already performed in New York and Malta; one feels more international dates will be forthcoming. I am not sure whether Galea is interested in performing abroad but one feels, with management or direction with her, she could score some great gigs. She has that support in Malta but you just know more U.S. dates could come. Having dipped her toe in New York, one imagines dates across the West Coast would be likely (L.A. for example) in addition to dates in other states/areas. Aside from America, there is the potential to do well in Europe. I have seen similar artists fare well in Germany, France and Italy; one must not discount the lure and right-over-the-other-side-of-the-world allure of Australia. I ran a recent piece detailing the great music, old and new, that has arrived from Melbourne. That is a city that has a huge scene and ample opportunities. She (Galea) would find a warm and nurturing environment in Melbourne. Aside from that, there is Sydney and Hobart as possible Australian destinations.

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PHOTO CREDIT: @dk__photos

In fact, a mini worldwide tour could happen at some point in the future. The only restriction will be money and how much disposable income is available for such far-reaching ambitions. Demand is certainly not a restriction as those cities/nations would welcome Chess Galea with open arms.  I am starting to sound like a proxy tour manager a bit here! The music (she makes) mixes popular and familiar strands but provides a glimpse into a very rare and special artist. You hear songs like Beautiful to Me, and many across 1869, and are transported somewhere special. Whether that is down to the rich and seamless production; the incredible compositional concoctions or that direct and commanding lead vocal, I am not sure. Maybe it is a blend of all three because Galea is starting to see her stock rise. There are ample opportunities to perform around the U.K. and, like I have said, London will be vital. Having filmed and recorded big cover numbers (like The Great Gig in the Sky) there is an opportunity to play at larger venues alongside a range of musicians and backing singers. I know of a few very beautiful and atmospheric London venues she should play and would get under the microscope of some big radio stations and industry types. The modern mainstream scene has some great artists playing but there’s that Pop star-shaped hole that needs filling. Sure, there are artists that mix Pop and Soul but few that remain in the mind and last – certainly in this country at least. There is no reason to suggest Chess Galea could not be that person that occupies the vacancy.

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Before ending this I want to first recommend you spend some time with 1869. The album was released last year but is proving popular with fans and new listeners – the reason Beautiful to Me is released as a single months after the album release. The fourteen-track L.P. is bursting with colour, passion and huge hooks. It is the sheer energy and variation on offer that impresses most. The songs do not reserve themselves o particular tastes and will hook those who like their music a bit Jazz-y and snarling. I opened by talking about female artists – how they are still not on a level footing with their male peers – and the effectiveness of splicing decades-old artists/sounds with modern elements. Chess Galea is an artist who admires legends like Prince, Michael Jackson and Etta James with newer acts Christina Aguilera and Lady Gaga. You get a little bit of each in everything she does. Her influences are not worn on the sleeve but you detect their D.N.A. throughout 1869. Beautiful to Me might owe more to U.S. acts Aguilera and Gaga but that is the beauty of her music: each song crosses into new territory. A lot of modern artists, male and female, are so limited with their music. They stick to a certain genre/topic and do not waver throughout their careers – which are often shorter than they should be. Galea does not focus solely on love or female emancipation; she keeps her songbook open and diverse – that extends to her vocalisations and compositions. We know there are fewer opportunities in music for women and they have to shout louder to get their voices heard. This injustice/imbalance can be seen in award voting panels and in studios; at large festivals and right across the board. In terms of quality (female artists) are right up there with the male colleagues, and in a lot of cases, far superior. That is true in genres like Pop and Soul.

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Whether it is a natural affiliation; I am hearing some fantastic female artists across Pop and Soul. That extends into Folk and it is outrageous there is a natural sexism in music. Many would argue there isn’t but the facts speak for themselves: there are far fewer women in musical executive roles and in the studios; far less attention paid to female producers and those working behind the scenes. In terms of musicians, there needs to be more awareness and changes made. The festival line-ups are boy-heavy whilst the best female-made albums often take second-place to those created by men. Chess Galea is not waging a gender war but someone who is showing what she is made of. She does not need to prove her worth and quality (she has already shown how good she is) but when it comes to those big venue bookings and true recognition you have to wonder when that will come. I excited to see where she will head in the next few years as she has that inborn, natural flair and star quality. Being familiar with Galea, no nepotism in this review you understand, I know how much work goes on in order to get the music together. Many of us assume artists just throw something together, perform and then watch the pounds come in. From C.D. covers to booking gigs to radio interviews: so much graft and work go into things. When you consider all that, and the professionalism and quality of 1869, you are willing Chess Galea to succeed. This year is going to be a pivotal and vital one for the young performer. Right after the debut album, there is that increased demand that that first, really big hurdle has been negotiated. Galea is a songwriter always inspired and busy so I know something will appear at some point. She is making big strides; not only because of her natural talent and passion but the music she grew up listening to. Those ‘70s/’80s Soul and Pop giants filled her child ears; the ‘90s/’00s U.S. Pop queens compelled and soundtracked her formative and all goes into a heady, tantalising brew. Given the encouraging reaction Chess Galea received in 2016, this year provides an opportunity for her to rise, shine and conquer. It is a chance…

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SHE will not squander.


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IT is rare I get to interview a musician that is Taylor Swift-approved and has…

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a J.K. Rowling work on their C.V. Blind Pig was included on the soundtrack to Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them and has pushed Emmi’s work to new audiences. Already approved by a certain Miss. Swift and talked-about across the U.S., Australia (Emmi was raised in Perth) and the U.K. – this year will be a fantastic one for the young songwriter. Emmi is optimistic about this year and talks about new work and her influences; how it felt to get a song included on the Fantastic Beasts’ soundtrack (and have to keep it secret for so long) and how life in London differs from that in Perth. Emmi is one of the most striking and accomplished artists I have encountered in a long while so I was excited to find out her influences and how she began in music; what advice she would offer to new musicians coming through. An exciting and frank interview to kick-start 2017…


Hi Emmi. How are you? How has your week been?

Hey Sam. Incredible, thank you. I’m at home in Oz, taking a breather for the first time in I-don’t-know-how-long. I’ve been sitting on my favourite sand dune with a good Chardonnay; looking back on the year gone by and counting my lucky stars basically.

For those new to your music, can you introduce yourself please?

Sure! My name is Emmi. I was a songwriter for others for many years before I got brave and decided to release songs in my own name last summer. I make piano-led Soul pop music. I love a good vocal stack of harmonies and I try to write about stories from that character in the movie no one gets to hear from. I have a confusing accent and a lot of hair that I like to hide in. That’s basically the score of me.

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You grew up in Perth but reside in London. How does the music scene in both cities differ and what motivated the move to England? 

It was actually acting that brought me to London. I scored a film agent there and it was while I was working as an actress that I got the bug for songwriting. It wasn’t a conscious decision to make music in London – so much as I just stayed where the inspiration started and got to work.

Having stayed in London, Europe and the States since; I can’t speak with too much authority on the Australian music scene. I’m told Indie-Rock bands, cool Electro. D.J.s and Dance-Pop artists tend to dominate the homegrown scene while genres like RnB and Soul tend to be imported from overseas. Quite different from the U.K. perhaps: the birthplace of so many soul and songwriter artists of their own (Adele, Amy Winehouse; Ed Sheeran, Jake Bugg etc.)? I’m only retelling what I’ve been told and I’m sure there are plenty of exceptions on both sides but I do often wonder how my sound would have differed if I started making music back at home instead.

I travel all the time so my sound is inspired by the scenes in Europe, the States (and all over really). Berlin really changed me, for example, and opened me up to a whole new layer or creativity.

I’m really excited to finally be bringing that music back to my home country. It’s been really special.

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Australia is producing a lot of great music but often gets overlooked by international media in favour of the U.S. and U.K. Do you think Australia deserves wider attention? 

Australia makes incredible music and the Internet makes it a lot easier for Aussies to cross over these days which is wonderful. So many great artists are cracking the big time internationally (Sia, Lorde; Iggy, Flume and 5 Seconds of Summer to name a few) and if I’m quite frank, I’d say the level of success is impressive and proportionate to the size of the territory. There are only fifty places on the worldwide charts on any given day. London alone has three times the population of Australia in its entirety, and on a larger scale, the same is true for the U.S. So, I’m actually really proud of how many Aussies are killing it right now. The industry is certainly paying attention to what is being made down there.

2016 was a hard year for a lot of reasons. What was it like for you and what were the memories, either good or bad, you take from it? 

On a personal note, it’s been an absolutely unforgettable year. Winning MTV Brand New’ in Oz, performing at the BBC Radio 1 Big Weekend; performing for 60,000 people in Oslo; singing in Fantastic Beasts‘!

Even if I had my voice ripped from my throat tomorrow I could look back on this year alone and be content with what I achieved. It was also the hardest-working and most challenging year of my life, and from the other side, I can see how much I have grown as an artist and a businesswoman and even a human being. I’m very grateful for that. I’m walking into 2017 with a sense of assurance I’ve never had before and an even deeper love for what I do and why I do it.

On a universal level, though, I know this year has not been easy but I hope if nothing else it has left us with a collective determination to be the change we hope to see. I feel a real shift in my generation that I actually think is inspiring and necessary. When you come to understand the ways in which you are powerless, you see more clearly where your power does lie and can decide to make good use of that power (or not). I am hopeful.

Blind Pig was ‘your song’/moment from the Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them soundtrack. Can you remember the moment you heard the news and what was it like hearing it on the soundtrack? Are you a big fan of J.K. Rowling’s work?

It was a secret, even to me, for so long. I recorded a very strange tune in my bedroom but it wasn’t ‘til much later that I understood it was being used for a J.K. Rowling film. Not only that but that I would motion-capture the character myself. Coming from an acting background, it was like everything had come full-circle and I couldn’t believe it.

My generation grew up with J.K. Rowling. She is legendary.

So, to realise not only I would have something to do with the world she has created, but that I was to sing words written by her was unbelievable. I carried that secret around with me like a diamond in my pocket I couldn’t show anyone. I’m still pinching myself.

Couldn’t Care Less was released in November and has gained a lot of love and praise. Can you tell us the meanings behind the song and what inspired its creation?

I’ve had this song for a few years now so it feels so great to share it finally! Contrary to how the title might sound, it’s a love song (which is a rarity for me).

At the beginning of the session, when we wrote it, I started playing these dark, sultry chords on the piano that conjured this image of a chanteuse in a smoky bar singing (in my mind). The song was born from that feeling. I wanted to write from the perspective of someone who loves someone who doesn’t return the feelings but there was no way I was going to be a sop about it. A love like that is unconditional. It waits forever and gets nothing in return and somehow survives anyway (isn’t that beautiful?) So, I wanted to write a proud and rousing anthem for anyone who has loved like that. I know I have. I wanted to celebrate love however it happens to you.

Perfect to Me and My Kinda Swag are previous (2015) videos of yours; I love the visuals/storyline of both. Do you enjoy shooting videos and how involved are you in the process?

Thank you! I love shooting films and I am super-involved. It’s all part of the world I am creating around my music so I’m very particular about it all. For example, I choreographed My Kinda Swag myself based on the movement style of Bob Fosse. Another video (Sleep on It) I created myself on iMovie using still photos. Perfect to Me and another tune (If I Ever Come Home) both feature footage from my real life and were homemade by me too.

When you’re an independent artist you don’t have a big budget to rely on, so sometimes you have to get creative and be hands-on. I wouldn’t change that, even if I had funding.

I just want to be a part of every bit of what I put out so people know when they hear and see me, they are hearing and seeing…well…me.

People and real life are a big influence with regards your songwriting. How important are issues like relationships and love to your music or do you write when the inspiration strikes? What kind of people/subjects compels you to put pen to paper?

As a songwriter, you quickly realise that most songs are about falling in or out of love and I’m certainly not one to break the trend! But I’m also not limited to talking about that. What really inspires me is hearing a story (or imagining one) that hasn’t been told before and then putting myself in the shoes of one of the characters to tell it. It’s almost like acting to me. In one song on the album, I actually narrate an event between two people as if I am a bystander. I like exploring different kinds of relationships other than romantic ones. I have songs from the perspective of an old couple, friends; a parent to a child. If it happens in life, it’s song fodder.

I know Carole King and Amy Winehouse are idols of yours and I hear shades of both in your music. What kind of musicians did you grow up listening to and was music a big force in your household?

Music was always on in my house. For my parents, it was Elton John, Deep Purple and Diana Ross.

For me, as a kid, I was a bit of an odd, introverted (kid) and would go to my room and listen to Classical music. I just loved how it transported me and lifted me higher than the real world, you know?

Then it was Jazz (nothing short of an obsession!) and then I got stuck on the Beach Boys for about two years. It wasn’t until I was fourteen that I started actually listening to music of my own generation and enjoying it. Alicia Keys’ Songs in A Minor was my initiation.

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PHOTO CREDIT: Darren Skene

Now 2017 is here, can we expect to see any E.P. or album coming? If so, what kind of songs/themes might we see explored?

I definitely want to put my first album out this year. I’ve written about four albums-worth in secret now so I’d say it’s well overdue. Every song probably explores love in all its many forms; in ways that people might not expect or even like but it’s a case of in for a penny in for a pound with me. I hope there will be something in it for everyone.

What else do you want to achieve in 2017? Do you draw a list of ‘to-dos’ for the year or just take it month-by-month? 

I’d love to get back out on the live scene this year and really start meeting the people who are supporting me. I also want to set my debut album free (by hook or by crook!). ‘till now I have been playing things month-by-month but this year I am looking ahead and making sure that I create a body of work to call my own. So, I have a six-month plan. I’m excited!

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If you could take only three albums to a desert island – a remote a possibility, as you can imagine – which would they be and why?

Ask me tomorrow: you’ll get another answer, I promise… but

1: Elton John – Yellow Brick Road: this is purely nostalgic but Dad used to play this album every time there was a storm and we would watch the lightning together with it. So it brings good (terrifying) memories back.

2: Carole King – Tapestry: as my friend’s dad says of our Carole: “Every one’s a winner!” – and it’s true.

3: The soundtrack of Love Actually: God Only Knows by the Beach Boys; The Beatles, Joni Mitchell and Eva Cassidy – the list goes on. You have all you need and more.

This year has seen a lot of ‘Ones to Watch’ polls emerge. Which artists are you most excited about at the moment?

I’m excited about 2017 for music all round. So, many of my favourites are coming back (Lorde, Ed Sheeran; London Grammar and more…). Billie Eilish looks set to be a pretty exciting artist all round, so she’d be my ‘one to watch’ vote.

Have you any advice for similar young artists, like yourself, coming through?

I’d say… create and get it out there. I sat on my music for a very long time; afraid to share it in case it wasn’t perfect and waiting for the right moment, the right team, the money.  It wasn’t until I took things into my own hands and just got it out there I started to understand the power of the Internet. The possibilities are endless! Taylor Swift would never have found my song if it hadn’t been out there to be found. That’s a fact.

Don’t be afraid. If you love it and you’re proud of it put it out and see if other people connect. They may not, but even that’s worth finding out! You really can’t make mistakes at the beginning because you’re anonymous.

The Internet will find you if it’s working or forget about you if it isn’t. The only mistake would be to sit on great tunes and not try at all.

Finally, and for being a good sport, you can select any song you like (rather than one of yours as I’ll include that) and I’ll put it here.

Tilted – Christine and the Queens


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PHOTO CREDIT: Darren Skene