INTERVIEW: Mike Liorti of Rosedale

INTERVIEW:

 

  

Mike Liorti of Rosedale 

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KNOWING how hard it can be running a music career is going to seem…

like an insult to Mike Liorti. The man is a one-man wrecking ball who seems to have boundless energy, optimism, and passion for music. Based out of Ontario, Canada: not only is Rosedale a fascinating act in its own right: you are compelled to listen to local contemporaries and investigate Ontario in more depth. I have been intrigued by Liorti and his work ethic; how he keeps going and what new music is afoot.

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

Hey pretty good, thanks. It’s been a long week out here on tour. It’s about at that part of the tour where things just start breaking. Even just little things like pedals and gear housings. It’s been a fix-it kind of week for sure. But that’s how it goes when you have a lot of stuff; eventually, some of it is gonna break. I still can’t think of a better way to spend my summer, though. It’s all worth it.

You started Rosedale in 2004. What was the spark or moment you decided you wanted to get into music?

We were a Pop-Punk band called Uneven Number for a couple years before we changed our name/sound in 2004 to Rosedale. The big spark that made me realize what I needed to do with my life, and also had an influence in our decision to switch to a darker/deeper sound, came from a show at The Kool Haus in Toronto with Boxcar Racer and The Used.

Rosedale is your band but you travel with a lot of musicians and support. What is that experience like? Are you ever tempted to surround yourself with a proper band or does a flexible approach suit you better?

I’d love to have a full-time band. Unfortunately, with how much I tour it’s a lot harder to maintain full-time members. But I gotta tour because, especially these days, I know having fans and creating fans is more important than having a band or members. Fans don’t fall into place and you can’t train them to.

You need to actually go out and give all of yourself to them and the best way for me to do that is to give them a captivating live performance they will never forget. I don’t make music only to get fans, but I definitely need fans if I want to make music everyday as my source of living.

Full-time members that can’t leave their home day-jobs only make me have to go back to needing a home day-job. So, until I find the right musicians who totally understand and support what I am trying to achieve as an artist (or at least enough to work with it on a consistent level of ethics/contribution), I just have to train and take anyone who can learn the parts and take vacation time to tour temporarily. Obviously, nobody’s perfect. But if they’re not willing to try and sacrifice as much as myself then they are only holding me back. Yet I totally understand why any musician wouldn’t devote their lives to my art full-time for all-time. I’ll still always give anyone the chance to, though. Maybe one day I’ll have a band again.

I see you have played a lot of gigs around Texas recently. What was the experience like? There is such a huge music scene there I can imagine it was quite intense? 

From my experiences, East Texas is terrible. There’s a lot of cool people that get it but good luck getting them your music. It’s a tough place for new touring bands.

 Every time I work on booking Texas dates the response rate is, at best, around 1%

The venues I do end up successfully booking usually end up getting double booked “accidentally“, and have tiny corner-stages (which is the biggest “music is the least important thing here” sign a venue can have). The local bands are usually extremely late, or don’t wanna play first or last, or break-up around a week before the show. And getting ‘fans’ to come out to the shows is near-impossible. I love my friends/band-fam in Austin & Houston. But the Punk-Rock/Alternative scenes have really gotta step it up. Fans, venues, bands, and promoters, I challenge you! It seems the more West you go the better. El Paso is cool. Again, only speaking bluntly based on experience.

You hail from Brampton in Ontario. What was life like growing up there as a music lover? Are there a lot of bands and artists or is it quite a quiet scene? 

There has definitely been an insanely high amount if talent that has come from Brampton in the last couple decades. We had such an awesome little scene in the early-2000s. Like many suburban cities; every kid in Brampton and their cousin had a MySpace. So, everyone was checking out new local and touring D.I.Y. bands/shows every day. Consequently, everyone was so into music and influencing each other to grow their talents- whether it was promoting, producing, performing, etc. Music stores and venues were beyond comfortable! It was a really inspiring time for kids and it created some amazing adults and, some now; parents and even celebrities. There was also those local scene WordPress-type websites where people would promote/gossip/heckle every band- big or small. So, the internet really inflated Brampton’s already-blossoming and talented music scene.

 

 

But (also like many suburban cities everywhere) that all slowly diminished to basically nothing as smart-phones/apps./Netflix/Facebook/YouTube/Spotify/E.D.M./Covers0nly -…contemporary entertainment took over. Depressing, but It’s really amazing to look back on and relate our generation to history. The industry is always changing and scenes come and go for reasons unknown until they arrive. I’m glad I was around the Brampton music scene and in that generation. It would be really cool to see an Authentic Original Bands scene start brewing up again in Brampton and cities alike. I definitely wouldn’t take it for granted.

Growing up and starting to get into music, it must have been all analogue and tapes. Now it is largely digital and faceless (to an extent). Is it quite hard transitioning to a more ‘modern’ ethos or are you an artist that still does things in a ‘traditional’ way? 

It’s interesting because C.D.s replaced tapes, but nothing really replaced C.D.s. Even though there’s online digital sales and now streaming, C.D.s are still the go-to physical product to play music. Vinyl and cassette is also making a comeback. It’s weird to say that

I’m behind on the vinyl and cassette trend but it’s true. I’d like to get Rosedale tapes and vinyl. But I probably sell more C.D.s than digital copies because they’re at my merch. table and I’m always on tour. So I guess I am an artist who still does things the traditional way, or at least how I discovered new bands when I was really starting to get addicted to music

I’m not against the digital download world. It’s a great movement. But the artist is getting wayyy too small (piece) of the pie in the streaming world. As much as we need to be on Spotify to be heard, someone has to take a stand and make things right for artists on there.

Canada often gets overlooked when it comes to new music in favour of America and the U.K. Do you think this is unfair? What makes Canadian music stand out to you? 

I don’t really understand the Canadian music scene. It’s very clique-y and political because there’s government grants and things like that for music. So everyone’s very competitive behind the scenes in a really weird dog-eat-dog way. There’s not as much teamwork as the American music scenes. I’ve only toured U.K. once so I can’t say I know much about their scenes yet. But I do know they love a lot of North American bands. I think there’s a fair amount of Canadian bands and artists that become iconic, though. What I find interesting is that lot of listeners don’t realize these iconic Canadian bands are Canadian. Maybe because Canadians don’t even really take pride in their artists until they’ve had success elsewhere. Or because Canada is often just considered another state to a lot of people. We should just get rid of the borders! No more passports/work permits!

What does the rest of this year hold in terms of gigs? Any plans to come over to the U.K. and play? 

I would love to tour the U.K. again. If an opportunity came up that held some promising shows I would definitely take it in a heartbeat.

I love traveling and playing music in new places. And I have a drummer in Germany learning the parts and a guitarist in the U.K. so I’m already building my roster for whenever that opportunity does come.

 

 

Being without a band must give you a lot of freedom. It must be pretty cool going around the world and seeing lots of people. Any cities and countries you dream of playing? 

Yes, there is definitely a lot of freedom to do what I want. And it’s great touring around seeing friends every few months like we just hung out last week. I’d love to play Japan. I feel like they would love Rosedale over there. All of my favourite artists do so well in Japan and they love extravagant productions so I feel like my show would be very appreciated. Spain and Australia would be cool too. I’ve heard a lot of good things.

Can we expect a new Rosedale E.P. or album during 2016? 

The Delux will be coming out in November with the Rosedale documentary. It’s going to be great.

When it comes to writing a new song, what is the process like for you? Do you usually have an idea of the lyrics or does it all begin with a tune?

Every song is completely different. Sometimes, I’ll have just a melody or riff and finish the song with that. Sometimes, I’ll build off just a hook or a chorus. Sometimes, it’s just a song on

Sometimes, I’ll have just a melody or riff and finish the song with that. Sometimes, I’ll build off just a hook or a chorus. Sometimes, it’s just a song on piano or a full-band demo. and I’ll write lyrics. Sometimes, I’ll just write an entire song as just vocals in my head while driving.

Either locally or internationally: are there any bands you would recommend to the readers? 

Briar McKay from Springfield, MO. Time and Distance from Charleston, WV. What Great Fangs from Wheeling, WV. Between California and Summer out of Orange County, CA. The Home Team out of Seattle. Plans out of Indianapolis. Third Place from Montreal. The Bus Tapes from Santa Fe, NM. Birote The Musical from Chino, CA. The Paralytics from Olympia are the nicest kids I’ve ever met and super-talented. I’m forgetting so many; I feel bad now. Just check my tour calendar because I always list the local bands and they’re usually great.

Which bands or musicians did you grow up listening to? 

Blink-182, Radiohead, Boxcar Racer; The Ataris, Newfoundglory, Boys Like Girls; Michael Jackson, Weird Al, Deathcab For Cutie; The Postal Service, The Starting Line and many, many more.

I know sports are a bit love of yours. Do you get time to indulge or does music take up a lot of time? Which sportsmen/women would you regard as your heroes? 

I still play hockey every week or so whenever I’m home. I think I’m gonna start bringing my hockey gear on the road with me. I play some golf when I have time – and snowboard maybe once a year if I’m lucky. I’ll play some basketball every now and the. Michael Jordan has always been a hero because he can’t

I play some golf when I have time – and snowboard maybe once a year if I’m lucky. I’ll play some basketball every now and the. Michael Jordan has always been a hero because he can’t not be everyone’s hero, really.

For being such a great sport you can select any song- not your own; I’ll pick one of those – and I’ll play it here. 

If you could play the theme song to Jurassic Park I’d be stoked.

 

 

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Follow Rosedale

 

Facebook:

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

Official:

http://www.rosedalemusic.net/

Twitter:

https://twitter.com/RosedaleMusic

YouTube:

https://www.youtube.com/user/ROSEDALEexpresstv

SoundCloud:

https://soundcloud.com/rosedale

FEATURE: The Drop Zone – The Art of the Surprise Album Release

FEATURE:

  

The Drop Zone

 

THE DROP ZONE ANDSUCH MUSICMUSINGS the art of the surprise album re...

  

The Art of the Surprise Album Release

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IN this day and age, there is a split occurring right down the middle…

 

of music. Over the last few years, there has been a trend among mainstream artists: releasing albums with little or no warning. It is a way of shaking up convention and keeping fans on their toes; the question that remains is this: is it a sign of things to come? Of course, there are plenty of conventional released but the surprise release is proving to be hugely effective and popular. Frank Ocean’s hotly-anticipated album, Blond, has been dropped and took people by surprise. There has been long talk about when/what/how the album would come out; what it was going to be called (Boys Don’t Cry was the expected title) and whether it would be a natural progression to his debut, Channel Orange. Although Blond has been talked-about for a long time, nobody really knew when it was going to come – Ocean has been delaying it and creating a wave of hype and expectation. To preface the album: Ocean released the ‘visual album’ Endless: a solid and compelling work that left some amazed and others a little perplexed. Now Blond is out, it does make you wonder: is this going to be the norm for all forthcoming albums?

 

 

Frank Ocean’s Channel Orange, in itself, was a surprise drop and sort of blind-sided everyone. It is debatable whether the album would have created such an impact were it released through pre-planned, conventional methods. Beyoncé is another artist who has shunned tradition lately and embraced a more hush-hush method of marketing. In 2013, her self-titled fifth album was dropped with no build-up or knowledge – her own record company did not even know it was going to come out when it did. Not only was Beyoncé a return to form and bold declaration: it has inspired other artists to take the same sort of tact when it comes to bringing out their new albums. This year saw Lemonade released and led some to believe it was her pre-divorce, break-up album. Like Frank Ocean and Endless: Beyoncé released Lemonade as a visual album to start: there was no huge fanfare and its exact release date was subject to mystery and speculation. By ‘surprise’ release I mean one with no real announcement or E.T.A. date. I was taken aback when Lemonade came out and there was not the traditional P.R. assault and pre-release singles. Lemonade not only shows huge confidence, anger and authority from Beyoncé: the way it was brought about and promoted is almost as memorable and notable as the material within. You have to wonder whether mainstream artists will prefer this stratagem with regards their records. You cannot say Ocean’s enigmatic and cryptic what-if way of promotion has done him any harm. By tantilsing the public and unleashing an album without given due notice: you are going to get the sales figures high and people rushing out of sheer intrigue and shock factor. Is it a cynical marketing ploy or a way of shaking the industry up?

 

 

It is fair to say the surprise album release is not a fad of 2016. It has been happening for quite a few years but has become more prevalent and widespread the last year or so. Radiohead are no strangers to this way of working and started that ball rolling in 2007. One of the first bands to employ this tactic: In Rainbows arrived into the world with scant expectation and announcements. Their pay-as-you-like decision was applauded by many and was seen as groundbreaking and revolutionary. The King of Limbs, their 2011 L.P., was brought out without an official release date and the Oxford band showed, once more, they are the masters of catching you by surprise. Perhaps their most relieved and wonderful sneak-round-the-back album drops was this year’s masterpiece, A Moon Shaped Pool. There was Twitter talk and rumours the band was working on a new release. Between interviews, Instagram posts and oblique online messages: it was never certain whether something would come and if so, when that would occur. What Radiohead did this year, as opposed to their last two albums, was take the lights down and blank-out their online portfolio. Wiping everything clean, like the spotlights going out before a play starts, the band built tensions and got people scratching their heads. When first single Burn the Witch was introduced; we knew an album was coming: once more, they had created an inspirational and unexpected way of launching their album. It gets you speculating whether the band will ever release a new album in a traditional way again. It has certainly got people talking and the band seems bored at conventionality and a humdrum, P.R.-driven way of working. By getting people guessing and keeping them on their toes; it means mainstream music is never going to stagnate and be boring.

U2’s Songs of Innocence, Kaiser Chief’s The Future Is Medieval and David Bowie’s The Next Day were all shock and unpublished releases. The former was perhaps an unwelcomed thing (U2 putting their album onto iTunes users’ account against their will; forcing them to delete it or listen to the album) whereas Bowie’s The Next Day was his first record in a decade. In February 2015, Drake released If Youre Reading This Its Too Late, and ensured fans and music lovers clambered to the Internet to hear his music. Nobody knew it was due and the sheer surprise value saw the album accrue huge sales and recognition. It brings me back to the idea of cynicism and financial ploys. By bringing an album to public attention with little warning is a risky move but one that leads to huge aftershocks and attention. If Beyoncé or Radiohead went down the normal routes – release dates and single releases – we’d know when the album was out and it would seem rather normal and anticipated. Even if the music is fantastic, one wonders whether there would be such a media circus and spotlight put on them. Lemonade and A Moon Shaped Pool were introduced with a sense of theatre, showmanship and misdirection. Psychologically, people were hooked and waited with baited breath. When the albums came out, it can be argued that this mix of instant release and eye-catching pre-release added to the downloads and reviews – thus affording the artists more kudos and sales. There is the debate whether it is a way to attract bigger sales or whether it is musicians showing innovation and pushing the boundaries of modern music.

 

My final points look at the other side of the debate: what of the unsigned/new artists that have no choice but to go down the familiar, traditional route? Guerilla releases can be the start of things for artists. As Beyoncé (and many others have shown) it is just the start of a multi-part offensive. The digital/visual album comes out; it is then available to stream on iTunes and Google and paid subscription platforms. It is not a case of just dropping an album and letting people take it all in and make their own minds up. There is so much follow-up and compartmentalisation that gets that finished product out in the rather across all sites, sources and services. David Bowie, once more, released a surprise album very recently: his final creation, Blackstar, was unexpected as his untimely death. If he has announced the album release date and subjects it might have tipped people off about his death – something he wanted to keep a secret. I digress, but there is a rich and fascinating sub-culture happening that is deserving of discussion and debate. It gets me thinking about non-mainstream musicians who do not have these options. Imagine if a new Rock band from Liverpool released their debut E.P. with no announcements or singles? Just put it there and let people do all the legwork. The sort of backfire they would experience would probably ruin their careers. The modern-day musician is entrenched in a daily routine of interviews, promotion and touring. There is not the option to spend thousand on visual albums – most do not have the sort of money Frank Ocean does.

No modern, unsigned act could try anything as audacious, costly and brash. I review and follow bands as part of my journalism and know the tireless work they have to put in. So many have to call time because the rigours and lack of focus is killing their careers. There are so many acts out there and it seems space is a premium – reserved for the luckiest and hardest-working. In a digital age it brings a new problem to mind: how much revenue can a new musician realistically expect to mate? Gigs are the only effective and dependable way to earn a crust in the current scene. Sites like BandCamp, YouTube and SoundCloud make music accessible but, to the detriment of many, free of charge. If an artist does put their record on iTunes (for a small fee) they run the risk of being overlooked and criticised – why would people pay for something when they can get it for free elsewhere? Competitiveness and marketing is such a risky venture. If you make your album/songs available on free platforms so anyone can hear it: will you ever make money from it and last in the long-term? If you do the opposite and risk the paid option: will people go for it and is it liable to explode in your face?

 

 

 

These considerations alone are enough to make the head explode so it must be galling, for new artists looking to the charts, seeing bands and acts surprise the world with a new album – and getting paid handsomely. It is not the duty of the well-established artists to consider their successors and how their actions affect them. It may sound callous but everyone has to look out for themselves and we cannot expect the wealthier, popular artists to take lesser musicians into consideration. To be fair, surprise album releases like Blond, Beyoncé and A Moon Shaped Pool are not hurting new musician directly – it is just a bit deflating seeing those artists breeze through confidently and gets enveloped and drowned by the drools of music critics. Does this circus of celebration propel them to succeed and follow suit or is it putting them off releasing music at all? Could there be a way for a new band/artist to do a surprise release and it actually work? It is hard to say but this debate is getting hotter and more relevant. Who knows which artists will release albums without warning the next few months?  One thing is for sure: the surprise album leak/release is very exciting and does give music a kick and breath of fresh air. The reaction to Frank Ocean’s visual/traditional release Endless/Blond has been met with a lot of coverage but few explosive reviews – many, including myself, thinking it a muted, toned-down version of his best work. I guess the material shouts loudest and the release date/promotion is just a tool: if your songs are not good then it does not make a difference how you release it. I feel the surprise album release is keeping music unpredictable, surprising and genuinely evolving. If you consider this a good or bad thing it is something that is not going to slow down. Musicians like Beyoncé and Radiohead are getting into a roll; Frank Ocean has shown the sort of publicity that can be acquired – other artists find freedom bringing out an album in a new and exciting way. Now Blond is in the ether and gaining (somewhat mixed) feedback, it makes you wonder this…

WHO will be the next artist to tantilise us with the surprise release?

TRACK REVIEW: Victory Kicks – Skyscrapers

TRACK REVIEW:

 

Victory Kicks

 

 

Skyscrapers

 

9.4/10

 

Skyscrapers can be heard via:

http://victorykicks.bandcamp.com/track/skyscrapers

The album, Emily’s Hours, is available at:

http://victorykicks.bandcamp.com/

TRACK LISTING:

Skyscrapers

Emily’s Hours

Wino Lino (Part II)

Battleships

Take It Out

Night Train

Daylight Saving Time

Get Blurred

The Losing Side

We’re Still Running

RELEASE DATE:

August 5th, 2016

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Emily’s Hours is the seventh record to be released by Victory Kicks since its formation in 2013. The band’s fourth LP and its second this year, it consists of ten short, sharp pop songs about work, based around overheard conversations on rush hour trains.

Released August 5, 2016

All songs written by John Sibley except:

Wino Lino (Part II) which includes lyrics and melody by Martyn Piggott. For Wino Lino (Part I) see Sweeney. New album Men of Funk out now at ohsweeney.bandcamp.com.

Night Train is written by Martyn Piggott and originally recorded by Space Team 4: soundcloud.com/spaceteam4

Performed and recorded by Victory Kicks

Produced by John Sibley

Unmanned Aerial Vinyl 2016. UAV-VKLP004

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FOR the second day straight…

I am looking at a solo artist who is a lot more intriguing than you would imagine. It seems like a strange sentence but we get impressions with solo artists and what to expect. By and large, the lone artist is perceived as quite slight and lacking – when compared to a band sound. Not as invigorating, full and layered as the group dynamic – our minds think of something calmer, more stripped-back and restrained. As my review showed yesterday: This Modern Hope, the moniker of Rob Payne, is capable of producing songs of majestic propositions; portraying the sound of a full group and subverting expectations of the solo artist. The same can be applied to my subject today: John Sibley’s Victory Kicks is a fully-fledged band projection. It is weird we assume certain things with a one-piece artist: that they will play a certain way and not have the authority of an average band.  It is something that has irked me and got my wondering. Before I look at D.I.Y., bedroom-made music and unusual influences; I will look a little more at that point. One listen of the aforementioned This Modern Hope brings you into an evocative and beautiful world: all full of graceful, wave-crashing strings and vivid lyrics. Bracing, atmospheric and beautiful: the listener is brought into a new world and moves alongside the music. When a solo artist can do that it is deeply impressive but not rare these days. We all the idea that solo musicians are acoustic guitar-carrying and are Folk/Pop-based. That may account for a certain percentage of musicians but the modern evolution is producing musicians that incorporate more instruments and themes into their songs. Perhaps dictated by influences or fulfilling the changing demands of the marketplace: today’s musician is a lot more varied and accomplished than in previous years. It is not sufficient to merely rock up with a guitar or hollow sound and expect to stand aside from the crowd. Among those type of artists, there are very few that genuinely stick in the mind and compel you to investigate them more. Today, Victory Kicks is a more established band dynamic but it all started with Sibley making music with a few friends kicking in. Victory Kicks wouldn’t have come as far were it not for its leader’s determination and clear vision. Even now, it is Sibley’s characteristics and input that defines the music and distinguishes it from his peers.

I have noticed a sea-change in music that is seeing musicians become more multi-tasking and self-sufficient. As the likes of This Modern Hope has shown: you cannot expect a record deal straight away and must take initiative; get on with music and not hope someone will snap you up. Because of this, the new young musician has no choice than to carry on without record label approval and try and make an impression on their own terms. The music they are providing (by and large) is deeper, richer and more textured sound. John Sibley’s Victory Kicks is the epitome of this and someone who has had to craft music, unsigned. One day that deal will come but Sibley knows it might be a little while down the track. Undeterred and determined: his latest work is among the very best yet; destined to see him scooped up and exposed to a wider audience. Before I come to that, I shall introduce Victory Kicks to you:

Victory Kicks started life in early 2013 as a home recording project for songwriter and guitarist John Sibley. After writing a large number of songs and realizing that waiting around for a record deal would mean that most would inevitably be forgotten, John decided to start piecing a recording studio together at home. Old songs were finished off and new songs were written and often recorded the same day with John handling vocals, guitar, bass and drums as well as production duties and working out how to do the latter as he went. Early EP’s and singles containing short, lo-fi pop songs were recorded and shared amongst friends and family.

Victory Kicks then went from solo project to band with the addition of friends from other London based acts and established its own record label with the release of its first official EP, Rockets for Ghosts in July 2013. Comprising seven home recorded tracks of short, catchy indie rock, Rockets for Ghosts was a success for the band garnering favourable reviews and receiving airplay for the first time on stations in both the UK and the US. Ghosts was followed by the release of three singles, including the song Radio Saves which saw the band make its debut appearance on BBC radio playlists.

Taking the decision to record music at home would allow the band the flexibility to record new songs as and when they were written and since the release of its debut EP in 2013 Victory Kicks has built something of a reputation for prolificacy – 2014 has already seen a full length album called The Decibel Age as well as a seven track EP called Emergency Noise. A third record called The Young Flood will be released on November 17th. Today, Victory Kicks is a four piece band consisting of old friends making home recorded music whenever possible”.

 

I mentioned artists (solo) that have to up their game and become more band-sounding in order to resonate. Music is changing and becoming more challenging and less predictable. It has always been the case artists have had a tough time but the more people that come into the world; the existing musician has to struggle harder for recognition and acclaim. Record deals are near-impossible to come about and financial rewards are reserved for the most established and successful. What is happening more and more, is new musicians turning to D.I.Y. approach. Victory Kicks’ John Sibley started on his own and realised studio costs would be extortionate and unrealistic. Knowing the only way to produce music would be to do it at home: he set up his own studio at his flat and laid down music there. It is becoming more common in today’s climate. I am not sure how much an ‘average’ E.P. would cost to record but I imagine it would be hundreds of pounds. Many of us do not have that sort of money lying around reserved for music. So much of today’s music is free of charge and can be accessed by anyone, anywhere. The profitability of being a musician is scares and unpredictable. I hear so many artists having to quit and change their goals because of this. Sibley started on modest footings but has grown into a more established artist – more musicians and a bit more luxury at his disposal. That said, he is still someone who is not surrounded by lavish studios and expensive producers-for-hire. There is a sense of D.I.Y. rawness and something quite sparse – harking back to the early days of Victory Kicks. Technology and online software is being utilised more and providing an affordable space and option for today’s musicians. If we had to rely on studios for out output: modern music would  be far poorer and more restrained. I feel we have to do more to make music, not cheaper, but less daunting for those coming in. If you have to busk relentlessly and work several jobs in order to make a few songs then something is wrong. It is baffling so many great, ambitious musicians are being priced out; so the question remains large: is the bedroom-made sound the way forward? Perhaps so, but it is not always conducive to original and memorable songs. You have certain limitations in technology – artificial samples and under-produced sounds – and don’t have the same options as studio-set music. Sibley’s London crew have started from sapling roots and grown into a respected and popular group. In spite of the prolific output and exceptional music; the future is still not as certain and solid as it should be. One assumes someone like Sibley would be able to command long studio stays and get gigs wherever he pleases. I shall not go into too much detail only to say there needs to be a two-level approach to music. Not only ensuring studios are more affordable and less pricey; there are greater financial rewards for musicians and a way to finance them without having to rely on crowdfunding, for instance. It is a perplexing quandary but I am sure there is an answer in there.

Before I get down to looking at Victory Kicks’ latest album/songs, I wanted to pay tribute to those who do not employ oblivious and stayed influences. Every musician has their idols and to an extent will integrate these into their music. The same is certainly true of Victory Kicks whose music has definite hints of certain artists. Looking at their biography and seeing who makes them tick, it made me smile a bit. Guided by Voices, Wilco and Yo La Tengo are key. So too is British Sea Power, R.E.M. and Grandaddy. I have never seen all these names together and few of them actually sourced by a musician (as an influence). Perhaps it is an issue among bands but I find so many are inspired by the same type of act. You hear the same bands being name-checked and mentioned; it is understandable in some cases but can be very predictable and shoulder-sagging. Victory Kicks, and their listed influences, breaks away from convention and is a rarity. I know all the bands individually but have never known an artist to put them together. Listening to Victory Kicks’ music and it sort of all makes sense. You get the accessibility of R.E.M.’s mid-later-career accessibility with touches of Murmur (their debut album). Wilco and British Sea Power can be detected in Victory Kicks’ early work and definite nods to Yo Le Tengo. None of those musicians leap from the page – Victory Kicks are unique and original when you think of it – but it is refreshing seeing lesser-mentioned acts sit alongside one another. Not only does it suggest a musician/band that are a bit different and less predictable: you are compelled to listen to those acts and see where Victory Kicks came from. If music is to evolve freely and inspire the future generations then artists need to be less rigid and more flexible with their influences. So many new artists are overlooked older music and taking their inspiration from modern artists. It is going to lead to music being more homogenised, narrow and ‘new’. I hate to think one day musicians and the young will forget about the legendary artists and what they gave to us. Again, this is a theme for another day but something worth considering.

Victory Kicks have had a long and varied career and you need to go back to 2013’s Dead Language Evening Class to discover their earliest sounds. That E.P. was a four-track release that sounded more like a John Sibley solo project. He has help with the record but the abiding takeaway is Sibley and his talent. It was home-recorded and has that lo-fi charm to it. More electric-based and harder-edged than current work: it owes a little nod to ‘90s Rock and Indie bands; an insistent and fast-flowing E.P. that announced a singular talent with a lot of focus. A series of singles were released by the E.P. Emergency Noise was the next full release. Released in 2014, and with seven tracks on board, more acoustic elements were brought into the fray and it remains a more rounded and diverse listen. Again, there was a D.I.Y. aesthetic but the E.P. seems crisper and more defined than the debut. Sibley pushed himself as a songwriter and brought more sonic elements and instruments into the pot. Recorded in Sibley’s flat and benefiting from the creature comforts of his abode: it has an intimacy and deeply personal relevance; a wonderful live sound that makes every song shines and stand out. If it has a polished studio sound it would lose its edge and appear too theatric and insincere. Sibley’s heartfelt and tender voice comes through and he progressed as a singer too – bringing more cadence and sides into his performance.  High Wires was released last year and an album that pushes Victory Kicks up another notch and improves on previous efforts.

With every release, Sibley becomes more intriguing and boundary-pushing as a songwriter and that is evident here. Recorded and produced by Sibley and sounding more band-mate and full; the L.P. owes more in common with the latest album, Emily’s Hours. Every song seems fuller and more polished – not quite as bare and raw as earlier work. It gives the music a more commercial sound but not at the expense of conviction and emotion. Get Blurred takes this theory further and is another step up. Now a more band-themed concept: more elements and voices are brought in; the record is more compelling than one would imagine. Those thinking other components and vocal would take away from Sibley’s established sound but in fact it elevates the music. From the earliest days until here; Victory Kicks have evolved and grown into something extraordinary. The first few efforts were simpler and brought in certain influences; the newer records are more variegated and mix genres and new inspirations into the records. Every new release sees to top the last and that is true with Emily’s Hours. Victory Kicks seem like a full band now but one that have very few equals when it comes to what they are producing. Sounding completely in the zone and assured: it is wonderful hearing the guys bond and combines across truly incredible songs. There is still a rugged and modest production sound but the music is cleaner and has more polish than the earlier material. This rate of progression is impressive and hints at a band that is ready for mainstream recognition. How long before that happens? Surely not that long, one would imagine.

I was keen to review the entire album but wanted to focus on one track especially. Skyscrapers opens Emily’s Hours and does so with a definite sense of purpose. No time for fade-up or building the mood: it goes straight in and gets away with intention and determination. Scratchy, accelerated guitar scuffs open Sibley’s vocals up perfectly. The front-man is keen to lay down his lyrics and get his messages across. As Emily’s Hours documents commuter conversation and the stories we hear unfold on trains: Skyscrapers’ titrle might bring obvious ideas to the mind. The sight of pulling into Waterloo, perhaps, and seeing the tall buildings and London panorama beckon into view. Our hero implores against the workaday life and the humdrum, depressing daily existence. Whether speaking from experience or recalling the tale of someone he encountered: you get a real sense of mundanity of the working day and the stresses we face. The employers will not appreciate you and you will be undervalued and wasted. We all have that job where we feel invisible and anonymous and that comes through here. Those rushing and spiraling strings give ideas of locomotion and trains pulling into the station; the heavy foot traffic at train stations and the general busy nature of the streets. Many musicians have tried to assess the miasma and soul squalor of a Monday morning but few as effectively and vividly as this. You hop into the song and embody yourself the central figure – getting pushed along by London citizens and harried into the workplace; slum into your workstation and prepare for a crushing day ahead. Like Victory Kicks’ modern songs (and a lot of their older ones) we start from subtle, softer beginnings before the song expands and gets hotter. Starting inside a tense and energised delivery about arriving at work and feeling squashed underfoot; Skyscrapers changes tone into the chorus.

The song’s title is never really utilised as a mantra (like previous Victory Kicks songs) but instead it is the composition and vocal that is left to seduce and impress. Other Victory Kicks tracks have repeated chorus lines and song titles to get into the head and register a reaction. On Skyscrapers; the emphasis is put on the overall performance and the shift from acoustic-led drive to a fuller, bolder sound in the chorus. The lead implores us/the subject to open their eyes and see the sense of decay and depression. It is a number that will have different visions in each listener’s mind. I was picturing a lone, solemn commuter moving from train to underground to office; walking the streets and feeling lost among the huge crowds. Never feeling needed or like a human being: you sense that the man is just a cog or ghost lost in society. Perhaps Sibley is looking at consumerism, the modern workplace or the city in general. Always comfortable being a musician in London; one wonders whether the band experience is being documented. Maybe they feel undervalued and aghast at what is unfolding and the state of the music industry in general. It is an interesting point and shows Skyscrapers has many levels and possibilities at heart. One notices an obliqueness to some lines and it can be open to the individual to decide what is being said. Some of the lyrics do get a little buried in the composition and can be hard to decipher but that adds to the overall effect and emotion of the song. The band keeps the score edgy, rushing and moving without outpacing the vocal and making things suffocating. Sibley’s voice sneers at times and has a distinct tone of anger and upset to it. I was imagining the acidic tongue of the working life being twisted and tied but I also thought more generally about modern society. I was looking at R.E.M.’s debut album Murmur yesterday as part of a feature on the 1980s’ best albums. That L.P. was distinguished due to its enigma and austerity; the richness and intelligence that came through. Stipes vocals have a lack of intelligibility at times but that all sort of adds to the song. Michael Stipe’s vocals murmur and mumble but it elevates the song and adds mystery to them. Sibley has a similar quality and while his voice is clearer and faster; there is a loss of clarity at times which, rather than detracting and hurting thw song, seems appropriate and elevate it. The lyrics can be applied to the malaise we face approaching the working week but work deeper than that.

It is a great opener for Emily’s Hours and a bold statement from the band; they get stronger and more fascinating with every album/E.P. Skyscrapers is a perfect opening statement and song that provides rouse and energy but has a deeper message and motivates us to consider what is being said and its wider implications. It is not just Sibley’s vocals and lyrics that get under the skin and hits the listener but the composition provides plenty of splendor and quality. You get caught up in the spirited guitar and sturdy percussion and surrender yourself to its youthfulness and engagement. It is a composition to dance to and sing along to; another track that will get the crowds involved and unified. At the end of things, those lyrics leave you curious and you’ll be listening back to try and dig down to its roots. Emily’s Hours was inspired by train travel and conversations therein so one assumes the opening tracks looks at the morning commute and the experiences of getting into the office. Take it wider, and there are other implications and possibilities to the words. A song that mixes complex and simple without ever confusing or misleading. Such a wonderfully rich and terrific song that opens Emily’s Hours up with a real sense of impact and meaning. I have followed the London band for a while now and know how good they are. Skyscrapers ranks among the finest work to date and shows how much talent and creativity is still on offer: it means the future will be very interesting and I will wait with baited breath.

I am a little late to Emily’s Hours and joining the party. It is amazing to think Victory Kicks have released two albums in the space of a few months. It shows there is huge productivity, creativity and hope in camp. From the early days, the project has started from modest and homemade origins to grow into something more established, assured and full. Sibley is still at the heart of things but Victory Kicks have the sound and nature of a full band – not just a solo artist getting a few mates to contribute to their music. Victory Kicks are keeping their social media pages updated and ensuring fans are kept abreast of the latest happenings. The accounts are very professional, informative and easy for people to discover and follow. If you are not already a fan of the group then make sure you get involved and catch them live. So many great London artists are emerging and there is a lot of hustling and competitiveness. Standing aside from the crowd is incredibly hard and gaining the ear of studio bosses and record labels harder still. I looked at This Modern Hope and how it is, in essence, a one-man band and project of Rob Payne. He is based in London and stands aside from so many of his contemporaries. In the same manner, John Sibley’s Victory Kicks is not your average band/endeavor and goes a lot deeper than many out there. One of the most productive and accomplished acts I have come across: their albums are an exploration into music, emotion and dynamics. All anchored and galvanised by Sibley’s assured voice: the music creates something dream-like and wondrous. To be honest, there are so many shades and sides to Victory Kicks it is hard to narrow it down to one word or sentence.

Previous L.P.s have shown a development and progression: more confidence and sounds coming together; the songwriting stronger and possessed of more nuance. Where they are now is where they need to go: surely not long until international recognition and big-money deals one would imagine? It is always risky tipping a band for success – I have done that and a few have split up; not my fault, to be fair – so I am always hesitant making big statements like that. Victory Kicks deserve a lot greater acclaim and opportunity than they have. I know Sibley will take them across London and promote the latest album but one knows there are huge crowds who would love to see Victory Kicks in their town. The U.S. seems like a likely home and plenty of L.A. opportunities you’d think. Their sound is not cliché or predictable: it has clear personality and brings together wonderful artists like R.E.M. and British Sea Power. Varied, emotive and wonderfully fascinating: every album brings so much to the plate and leaves the listener stunned and deeply impressed. Get Blurred was released in June and has been followed up by this month’s Emily’s Hours. Not a mere copy or continuation of the previous album: the ten-track record is a different beast but still has that distinct Victory Kicks sound. I have been following the group since the debut album and am staggered by how they have grown and come along. Sibley is one of the most assured and talented songwriter in the country and his cohorts give the songs flesh and blood.

The title track drives off the blocks and races away. “Emily’s Hours trying to turn it around” is repeated as a chorus line and one wonders what that relates to. Oblique on the one hand but quite direct on the other: you will have your own ideas and conclusions. Sibley’s vocal is firm and determined and gives the lyrics a sense of urgency and passion. The composition pairs percussion and strings and has simplicity to it. Not needlessly crowding the song out or putting too much into the mix; it is a catchy and compelling song that has instant appeal and is sure to be a live favourite. There are flavours of R.E.M. in the composition but it is very much Victory Kicks in charge: they provide the merest hint and suggestion and employ the U.S. band as a springboard. Missteps, distortion and feedback give the impression the song ends but it comes right back to life: a wonderfully unexpected touch that gives it fresh momentum and a cheeky demeanor. Battleships is a less springy and more tense track whose vocal and composition has plenty of life but more seriousness to it. Perhaps not a crowd singalong: it is a song that makes you reflect and looks the inner-workings of a relationship. The words make you think of two lovers who are on different pages; trying to reach a compromise but perhaps not – again, Sibley’s lyrics are not obvious and give you the chance to interpret yourself. Take It Out is acoustic-led but soon gets harder and heavier without coming on too strong. A typically tight and memorable song from the band: it revolves around trains and new days; the commuter lifestyle and a certain sense of routine. The entire album is built around overheard conversations on trains and the sort of odd and everyday mixes you hear from commuters’ chat. Take It Out looks at the mundane, workaday life – getting the magazine out and head straight; wanting a slow day and no stress – but characterises it with heart and definite romance. You transport yourself into the skin of the song’s subject and feel the emotions, scenes and people that aree being projected.

Night Train takes us into another side of the commuter saga and twilight experiences. Daylight Saving Time has elements of British Sea Power with the composition. The strings have that definite The Decline of British Sea Power vibe while the vocal (a two-hander) is a beautiful fusion of tones and expressions; constantly engaging and brilliant. The Losing Side is another propulsive number that catches you unaware. The percussion is especially impressive and gives the song kick and drive; propels all other components forward. Sibley’s talents as a songwriter are brought to the fore as he turns the everyday ruts and experiences into something transcendent and fresh. He elevates these random conversations into little art pieces and galleries of human oddity. The Losing Side has some memorable lines (a mantra asking why they had to be “stupid fuc****” among them) and it is another concise and addictive jam that is sure to register a big response in the live setting. We’re Still Running is one of the shortest tracks on the album but closes things with a definite bang. Built, like many songs, around the song’s title: one of the finest cuts from the album. Bringing the entire band in more directly: it is a glimpse into another side of modern day life and gets you thinking hard. One is seduced by the gorgeous duel vocals and breezy, heartfelt codas that come forward. Never too anxious or foreboding; never needlessly offensive or vague: another quality cut from Victory Kicks that shows why they are one of the country’s finest unsigned acts. It is hard to define Emily’s Hours and drill it down to a few words.

Across the ten tracks, whilst levied to the theme of commuter discussions, you have so much story and different interactions. From stress-laden morning rushes to the nighttime unpredictability of the city; the sort of lifeforms that we take the train with to more everyday considerations – you need to study the album repeatedly for it all to sink in and get the full benefit. Victory Kicks have created a wonderfully unique album that shows how consistent and tight they are. Every song is defined by wonderful chemistry in the group and Sibley’s songwriting is at its very strongest. Previous albums have been wonderfully engaging and solid but here you get the finest work from the band. There is a lot of excitement and hope in the group and they will have a busy next few months ahead. Following Get Blurred and its release; many would not assume another album would come out so soon. It just proves what a love for music they have and how much the creative juices are flowing. I am not sure we will see another Victory Kicks album in 2016 – you would not put it past them, mind – but they will be getting out to crowds and performing their new music. Take some serious time to discover a band that is likely to be one of our future mainstays. They have already set down an extraordinary benchmark and you know more is coming from them. I, for one…

CANNOT wait to see what they produce next.

 

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FEATURE: 10 Essential Albums from the 1980s

FEATURE:

 

10 Essential albums from the 1980s MUSICMUSINGSANDSUCH

 

10 Essential Albums from the 1980s

 

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ONE of the things that angers me most about musical debate…

is how overlooked and ridiculed the 1980s are. Seen as a ‘joke decade’ with nothing more than hair bands, New Romantic tosh and power ballads – it is only a minor player in a huge, wonderful time for music. You just have to look at the albums and artists that came out of the ‘80s to realise how special it was. Few of the 1990s’ best would have existed were it not for what came before. In fact, modern music as we know it owes so much to the 1980s. It will never get the credit it truly deserved but music lovers who truly know their stuff know better – just how crucial and sensational the ‘80s was. In honour of that spirit and defiance: I have been looking at the albums that emerged from the decade; trying to decide the most important records from the time. There are some omissions but, to me, the 10 albums here are the very best from a truly astonishing decade.

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Beastie BoysPaul’s Boutique

Many do not realise what state of affairs Beastie Boys were in during Paul’s Boutique and its creative inception. The group was away from their native New York and embarking on a rather challenging sophomore album – one that would keep them fresh and relevant but differs from their debut album. When Paul’s Boutique was released, it was received with a sense of tepidness and confusion among critics. Essentially a samples album; there is none of the teenage-themed rebellion, filth-riffs and Punk attitude of their debut. The boys were at a loss how to present and launch themselves. Step up legendary producers Dust Brothers who not only gave Beastie Boys a new direction and inspiration – they are the uncredited heroes of Paul’s Boutique. Critics in 1989 didn’t know how to handle the album but that is their folly. Filled with stunning samples, imagination and astonishing ambitious songs: it stands as one of the most colossus albums of the ‘80s and reinvented and pushed forward Hip-Hop. Sampling, being tricky, costly and reserved for the brave, was not a huge fixture of the late-‘80s. Beastie Boys inspired the likes of Beck (whose album, Odelay seems like a ‘90s Paul’s Boutique) and set a president for every other Hip-Hop act out there. Paul’s Boutique is full of contradictions and variation. Some songs, such as 5-Piece Chicken Dinner and Ask for Janice, last mere seconds: B-Boy Bouillabaisse is the 12-and-a-bit-minute finale and one of the most awe-inspiring, head-melting pieces from Beastie Boys. Packed with humour, bravado, and fiery raps: a marvellously compelling and astonishing recording that could take on any album from any decade – the critics of the ‘80s weren’t the smartest!

 

 

PixiesDoolittle

It is fair to say Pixies are, if not the most, then second-most influential Indie band that have ever lived. Without them there would be Nirvana: without them, there would be no Grunge and, well… music as we know it would be a very different place. 1988’s Surfer Rosa was fed to frenzied critics who found their sleazy, lugubrious riffs inventive and savage; the band interplay exhilarating and defiant – the songs anthemic and wondrous. They weren’t wrong: Doolittle would build on Surfer Rosa’s incredible foundations and be instantly celebrated as one of the ‘80s’ finest records. The 15-track album was not hotly regarded by all critics. Some found the production a little theatric and not fitting of the album’s intentions. Those who were willing to truly listen were blown out their skins and overwhelmed by the explosions they discovered. Short, sharp attacks like Tame – one of the most berserk Black Francis vocals so far – set the tone. Tensions between Francis and bassist Kim Deal were palpable during recordings – placing strains on the rest of the band and delaying the process. This tension and hostility filter into the album which is fraught with tussle, fight, and venom. If the band’s leader and most influential musician were at loggerheads: the same could not be said of the music of Doolittle. Consistent, focused and accessible: it is a far-reaching and ambitious album in terms of lyrics. Black Francis explores environmentalism and crazy ex-roommates; eyeball-slicing and driving cars into the ocean – balking against the tried-and-tested-and-boring clichés of broken hearts and doe-eyed romantics. Musically, the band reacted to Francis’ lyrical dexterity and gave each song its own style and sub-genre. From Western-influenced sounds to dead-eyed psychosis: Doolittle laid the groundwork for ‘90s bands and (Doolittle) stands as one of the most important Alternative-Rock albums in musical history. It is a testament to the importance of Pixies that they are still recording today – about to release their latest album, Head Carrier.

 

 

The SmithsThe Queen Is Dead

You can tussle and argue all you like when it comes to deciding The Smiths’ second-finest album: there can be little debate about the top spot. The Queen Is Dead was the moment the band cemented their legacy and proved they were worth the hype. To be fair; they didn’t need to prove anything to anyone but The Queen Is Dead was a quantum leap from their earlier work. No filler or weak tracks: Johnny Marr’s compositions and Morrissey’s lyrics were at their very apex. Morrissey especially was lauded because of his witty, intelligent and astonishing lyrics. Seemingly a romantic anti-hero who seemed happier being killed by a double-decker than sandwiched in a threesome: the doom-laden fatalism of his songs was a world away from his peers. His performances and vocals swooned and swayed; that voice managing to register so much emotion and effectiveness whatever he was singing. Marr’s always-mesmeric compositions created mini-worlds and straddled genres – marking himself as one of the greatest guitarists of his time. The Boy with the Thorn in His Side and There Is a Light That Never Goes Out stands the test of time and are considered among the greatest songs of all time. Morrissey’s lyrics subvert expectations that he was a depressive, misery guts with no alter ego. The Queen Is Dead’s songs provide tenderness, social commentary and gorgeous poetry – coupled with humour, devastation, and heart. There are not many modern guitar bands that can, if they were honest with themselves, omit The Smiths from their list of influences. Johnny Marr and Morrissey both state Strangeways, Here We Come was their favourite album (not true with the critics): they never made a more celebrated and solid album as this.

 

 

 

Public Enemy It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back

In the same way Paul’s Boutique threw away the Hip-Hop rulebook: Public Enemy’s career-defining sophomore release threw down the gauntlet and was revered as a genius work of social commentary and force. Against the backdrop of Ronald Reagan’s America: Public Enemy had plenty of fuel to stoke the fire. The noble army of The Bomb Squad, Professor Griff; B-Boy and Flavor Flav were joined by renegade mouthpiece Chuck D. His super-smart, pistol-whipping rhymes were given impetus, haulage, and artillery by The Bomb Squad heavy and intense soundscapes. With Flavor Flav adding huge clocks and humour: Public Enemy were a unique force that was much-needed in an America that was falling apart. Black voices felt ignored and subjugated: not represented by politicians and very much a silent minority. Public Enemy saw the chaos around them and funneled this anger and disgust inside an album that brought the nation’s forgotten armies right into the spotlight. The quintessential general and mercurial commentator: Chuck D.’s astonishing lyrics not only documented the reality and truth of life for the urban underclasses – he would inspire a generation of Hip-Hop and Rap acolytes that needed that common hero and guidance. Unlike some of their lesser-minded peers: Public Enemy’s primal and hard-striking lyrics were not sound-tracked by knuckle-dragging, one-dimensional sounds. Jazz, Rock, and Musique Concrète were fused together to bring about something truly astonishing and original. It is hard to think of a Hip-Hop album that has surpassed It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back. It was a staggering revelation and creation back in 1988: its influence, timeliness, and power have not waned in the proceedings 28 years.

 

 

Paul SimonGraceland

Leading up to Graceland’s creation: Paul Simon’s life went through a lot of change and turmoil. Briefly reuniting with Art Garfunkel: the two performed a couple of reunion concerts but nothing past it materialized. Solo album Hearts and Bones arrived in 1983 but was not well-received by critics. That failure led to a period of depression for Simon who retreated to an extent. Finding pleasure in South African township music: that sparked the fuse for Graceland’s conception and recording. The landmark album brought together Zydeco Isicathamiya, Pop, and Rock together with themes of social discontent, apartheid, and political upheaval. The album proved controversial due to the South African musicians that appeared on it – there was a cultural boycott at the time which prohibited such things. Against the impositions, rules and hatred arrived one the 1980s’ best albums. Graceland not only bridged cultures and pushed African music to the public consciousness: it stands, in its own right, as a masterpiece. Zydeco and Conjunto elements fused with traditional western music to give the songs a distinctly unique sensation. Simon moved away from a more straight-ahead narrative to focus on more poetic, character-filled songs. Satiric, cutting and abstract at varying points: it provided Simon a new lease of life and put him back in the critics’ good books. A stark and bold departure from Hearts and Bones: Graceland was a phenomenal leap forward and became one of the most successful albums of the decade. Over 16 million copies of the album have been sold and it continues to beguile and influence modern musicians. At a time when cultures and races (in South Africa especially) were balkanised, divided and fearful: Graceland were a unifying, glorious work that was all-inclusive and celebratory. Graceland is an album you can get lost in and transcends time, origin and location.

 

 

 

R.E.M.Murmur

I guess it is easy to overlook R.E.M. when compiling a list of the 1980s’ best albums. In 1983, when it was released, R.E.M. were a new commodity and some did not know what to make of them. A record that did sort of go unnoticed among many: it registered with critics and scooped enormous acclaim. Deep, moving and enigmatic. Luscious, black-and-white; completely beguiling. Sometimes front-man Michael Stipe hardly sounded like he was singing: slurring his words and lost in the power and potency of the music around him. Talk About the Passion was a hunger song that addressed famine and poverty. Not as successful and celebrated as it should have been: its lyrics suffered from a lack of decipherability and it only gained full acclaim many years after its release. Radio Free Europe is the standout and most memorable song. Other bands, peers of R.E.M., may have played harder and faster than guitarist Peter Buck but few bands could ever hope to achieve what Murmur did. Stipe’s lyrics, often cryptic and unintelligible, defined the album and sparred muscular and feminine sides; plenty of anger and social awareness – the band arrived from nowhere and instantly made a mark. Future R.E.M. albums would have more jangle, joy and energy (especially Out of Time) but Murmur remains a strange and singular album. Some would argue R.E.M. topped their creative efforts with Automatic for the People but nothing ever quite matched Murmur’s sense of entrance and stripped-down genius.

 

 

 

Michael JacksonThriller

If you dislike Michael Jackson as an artist (why would you do that?!) then you cannot argue against Thriller and how important it is. Still the best-selling album of all time: it finally broke Jackson to the world and truly established him as The King of Pop. Up until that time, black artists were not often (if at all) seen on MTV. Thriller’s promotional videos, with Jackson annoyed at the lack of representation, turned into huge events and ensured his face was seen by millions. Released at the end of 1982: Thriller, in its peak period, sold over one million copies per week. It seems baffling and intangible in a time where digital downloads seem to have replaced physical purchasing. Jackson, irritated and angered at Off the Wall’s lack of Grammy wins and acknowledgment, dispensed the boy-like falsetto to bring a tougher and meaner persona to Thriller. This was a young man primed and hungry for success and adulation. As such, Thriller’s songs smash, slam and groove. True enough, there are fillers and weaker moments that could have been left on the cutting room floor – Baby Be Mine is often singled as an especially poor choice. Opener Wanna Be Startin’ Something is sizzling, raw and frenzied. Thriller, Beat It and Billie Jean are the three we all associate with Thriller. Iconic, timeless and utterly irrepressible: the sound of Michael Jackson without equal or peers; creating songs that have endured for decades – and will continue to do so for many more. So much can be traced back to Thriller and its influence. Changing modern music and resonating with artists like R. Kelly and Justin Timberlake; ensuring there was greater equality on music T.V. – the list goes on. For an album that does contain a bit of filler: it is amazing that it remains as popular and addictive as it does. That is the power of Michael Jackson and the sheer confidence and songwriting talent that shone through. He would create more consistent albums but none as unstoppable and important as this.

 

 

 

Prince and the RevolutionPurple Rain

The Purple One may (sadly) no longer be with us but his legacy burns bright. By 1984, Prince was one of the hottest and most exposed musicians on the planet. Purple Rain was his masterpiece (others followed) and his music was everywhere. It is understandable why the album registered as such and struck a nerve. The most emotional and dramatic album of his career: every song possesses huge passion and wonderful delivery. Whether seduced by the catchiness and heartbreak of When Doves Cry; the dance, joy and Rock grit of Let’s Go Crazy – there was a song for everyone. Prince went on to win two Grammys in 1985 for the album (Best Rock Vocal by a Duo or Group; Best Album of Original Score Written for a Motion Picture of TV Special) and elevated Prince to new heights. His songwriting talent, guitar brilliance, and vocal dexterity were never in doubt: everything came together and was at his peak here. Selling 13 million copies in the U.S. alone: Purple Rain has sold over 20 million copies worldwide. Prince aimed at superstardom with Purple Rain: he designed and executed the album with that outcome very much in mind. Superbly crafted and brilliantly executed: the nine-track album did just that; made him a peerless, household icon. So many genres, ideas and colours are thrown together with authority and discipline. If you are not hooked by the majestic, sweeping title track that you probably need your pulse taking. Given the ambition and cross-pollination involved: it would be a risky venture in lesser hands. Prince’s sheer talent and drive turned Purple Rain into an almost religious experience – one whose potency helped turn it into one of the finest albums ever laid down.

 

 

 

Talking HeadsRemain in Light

After the astonishing Fear of Music in 1979: Talking Heads entered the ‘80s with expectation on their shoulders. That album was hugely celebrated and the apex of their career, to that point. Having to not only top themselves but more with the changing demands in music – the band found themselves looking around. Punk was starting to die and change: it was an awkward time for the genre and it was feeling a little tired and predictable. Pop was perhaps too broad for the band so they ensconced themselves in Compass Point Studios, Nassau with a certain Brian Eno in tow. What the band created was an album that integrated African influences and music with heavy percussion leaning and tonnes of rhythm, quirkiness, and idiosyncrasies. Less conventional than their peers: Remain in Light was awash with sparkling, effect-driven strings and bellicose, tribal percussions – all delivered by David Byrne who was in peak creative form. His lyrics were at their weird and wonderful best. Never a literal, predictable songwriter: depth and emotion sit alongside eye-catching characters and surrealism. Once in a Lifetime highlights life’s crossroads and contemplation and hard realisations we all must face; Crosseyed and Painless about a paranoid, urban figure stressed by his surroundings. Byrne wrote a lot of the lyrics in a stream-of-consciousness way; employing free-association. Although the album is the most lyric-heavy and wordy the band has ever created: it is the music and exceptional compositions that stay in the mind the longest. Talking Heads would take three years to follow up Remain in Light: 1983’s Speaking In Tongues would see them embark on a new route and enter a new phase. Remain in Light is not an album reserved for intelligentsia and die-hard Talking Heads fans. It is a ubiquitous, accessible record that has so many nuances it is impossible to ignore or forget it. Decades after its release, the lyrics and themes sound as pertinent and vital as the day they were recorded. Songs that alternately put a smile on your face and see you entrenched in deep thought and reflection: an extraordinary achievement from a truly unique band.

 

 

 

MadonnaTrue Blue

You cannot do any feature on the 1980s without recognising the Queen of Pop, Madonna. In 1984, Madonna released Like a Virgin and it was an album that turned her into a global mega-brand. After the assured but shaky-in-places debut: her sophomore record was a genuine hit and its two most notable songs, Like a Virgin and Material Girl, were on the airwaves for months. Madonna not only inspired girls and young women everywhere but came with a certain air of controversy – the title track was seen as especially risqué and impressionable. True Blue came along in 1984 and contained familiarity and evolution. Topics of fidelity and love were there but True Blue seemed a more mature and conscientious record. Looking at real-world concerns and deeper issues: the girl Madonna was turning into a woman. Plenty of fun remained as did red-bloodied sexuality and a definite playfulness. Madonna herself was hitting her peak as a songwriter, performer, and icon. True Blue showed she was more than a one-hit wonder and that spoke to young women coming through society. Rivaling Michael Jackson and Prince as one of the biggest stars of the ‘80s. Of course, the album was not without its share of condemnation and disapproval. Papa Don’t Preach addressed a girl keeping a baby to spite her father’s brow-beating. What shone through brightest was the cohesiveness and variation throughout. Not confined to pure Pop and one-note songs: Madonna laced Latin rhythms (La Isla Bonita) and Dance (Open Your Heart) with stunning balladry (Live to Tell). Maybe a little committee-designed and aimed for the masses: that cannot dampen or disquiet the sheer audacity, brilliance, and achievements throughout True Blue. Madonna would never hit the dizzying heights of True Blue: the moment she became the biggest and most influential female Pop star in the land.

 

 

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It is hard thinking about the ‘80s and not smile. It was the decade I was born and remains pivotal for me. I can see some of the downsides and criticisms: there was a lot of terrible music and the appalling fashions hardly did much to give credibility to the decade. If you dispense with that and go further, you do not have to dig much to discover just how much wonder and brilliance was created during the 1980s. Make sure you remind yourself (listening to the albums above) at what quality there was – go further and properly investigate a wonderful time for music. So much of today’s music and the best sounds from the ‘80s-present owes a debt to the 1980s. We should give thanks and be truly appreciative.

FEATURE: The August Playlist: Vol 3

FEATURE:

 

The August Playlist: Vol. 3  MUSICMUSINGSANDSUCH  

The August Playlist: Vol. 3

__________________________________

THE talk this weekend will naturally revolve…

around Frank Ocean and his as-yet-untitled-no-idea-when-it-will-drop album. His visual release, Endless, came out yesterday and was met with generally favourable reviews. Muddled and long in places, yet filled with great moments: it provided a real glimmer of light and tantilisation for his new, traditional album. That will be with us shortly, but in the third part of this August feature, let’s have a look at other songs and acts out there. All these tracks are either out or will be out in the form of albums in the coming weeks – a few sneaky peaks into early-September and the musicians who will be unveiling new work then. With a rainy and traditional British day upon us: what better excuse than discovers some great new music…

_______________________

BANKSMind Games

 

 

MousesGreen

 

 

Fat White FamilyBreaking Into Aldi

 

 

PixiesTalent

 

 

Crystal CastlesFleece

 

 

Stormzy Birthday Girl

 

 

John Paul WhiteWhat’s So

 

 

Ed HarcourtDionysus

 

 

The Veils Low Lays the Devil

 

 

Cass McCombs – Opposite House

 

 

Lydia Loveless  Longer

 

 

ScientistsBet Ya Lyin’

 

 

Lisa Hannigan  Fall

 

 

Ages and AgesThey Want More

 

 

BaysidePretty Vacant

 

 

Glass Animals Youth

 

 

Beach BabyU R

 

 

The Divine ComedyCatherine the Great

 

 

Zomby Her

 

 

Helms AleeUntoxicated

 

 

The Album Leaf Between Waves

 

 

Cassius (ft. Cat Power)Feel Like Me

 

 

September promises some bumper releases and who knows what singles will be revealed prior to that? It has been a productive and exceptional last month for music and so many terrific songs have made their way to us. Frank Ocean is creating waves and whatever comes, it is sure to be met with a flurry of fevered praise and excitable proffering. The weather is pretty unpredictable and harsh so it is a great time to close the window and surrender to some of August’s finest new tracks.

 

TRACK REVIEW: This Modern Hope – The Storm

TRACK REVIEW:

 

This Modern Hope

 

  

The Storm

 

9.5/10

 

The Storm is available via:

https://soundcloud.com/thismodernhope/the-storm

ORIGINS:

London, U.K.

GENRES:

Alternative-Rock; Indie; Art-Rock;

RELEASED

August 2016

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THERE are not many musicians that can…

come from a well-respected, established band; see it dissipate and then re-launch themselves as an impressive solo artist. I shall come to my featured artist This Modern Hope but is worth addressing that first point; looking at the art of blending moods/genres; a bit about the understated value of intricacy and beauty in music – and how hard it can be with regards originality and effectiveness. I have mentioned before, but I’ve seen too many great bands consigned to the musical scrapheap. Whether affected by inter-band tensions or a natural end: it is always heartbreaking seeing it happen. In the mainstream, The Maccabees recently called time: one of the most promising and interesting bands Britain has produced the last few years. I guess music is challenging and unpredictable, and hopefully, This Modern Hope’s Rob Payne won’t mind the discussion, but one is curious what causes bands/acts to crumble – maybe finding ways to avoid it perhaps. In the modern climate, there are more and more musicians coming through by the week. The accessibility and easy, D.I.Y. approach to music have made it easier and more cost-effective to produce your own songs. To this extent, the existing artists about are having to work harder and getting less attention. The music industry should be open-doored and impose no borderers and checks: if we discourage artists and people coming in then we are likely to lose a lot of talent and wonderful music. I just fear some bands, who have high hopes and look set to go the distance, are needlessly struggling and having to think of a Plan B. If you expand this theory out; you see a lot of venues and clubs closing too. Even in London, with the money and opportunities available, there is little security and assurances. Maybe it is the way of the world but I’d like to think we see fewer great acts (and music venues) going under for very little reason. If your members are fighting beyond the point of repair or you lose that passion, then that is fair enough. I know, from speaking with former bands, it is issues like finance, gig availability and lack of promotion that is causing them to split. In this time, there seems little excuse for not promoting bands: social media is easy to use and designed for that sort of thing. Perhaps the smaller towns provide few platforms for new musicians but the larger cities should be well-stocked and set-up to accommodate the rising demand. It is, as with many rants/issues I provoke, perhaps best discussed in future. I mention this opening topic because This Modern Hope’s Rob Payne was former member of the band The Bedroom Hour.

That band was hugely praised and respected because of their widescreen songs and wonderfully rich tapestries. A cross of Elbow-cum-Doves Art-Rock and dreamy, cinematic swathes: their break-up sent shock-waves among their fans and some media avenues. Out of the dust of The Bedroom Hour came Rob Payne’s This Modern Hope. Before I carry on; it is time we are introduced to the aforementioned venture:

This Modern Hope, the new solo project from West London musician and producer Rob Payne, is ready for take-off and poised for success. Drawing on influences such as Death Cab For Cutie, Doves and his brother’s record collection, This Modern Hope’s sound is classic yet fresh, switching seamlessly from up-tempo, driving rock to stirring ballads, Rob’s soulful voice floating effortlessly over the melodies as the beats flow. Lyrically deep and with a heady vocal intricacy, the songs come straight from the heart and leave a lasting impression that words can’t describe. With a strong musical pedigree, masses of talent and a little help from some friends, This Modern Hope’s tunes are ready to be heard.

I will not theorise why The Bedroom Hour are no more (we will just mourn their passing) but instead celebrate the success and rise of This Modern Hope. I know, from following the social media feed of Payne, there was some doubts whether new music would be made and whether he’d be able to rekindle that passion. What strikes me about This Modern Hope, and some of the best artists out there is the seamless ability to blend genres (often disparate) and make it sound natural and entrancing. It is quite a risky venture with regards cross-pollinating and it can often be a failed venture. So many artists, in a bid to sound original and fresh, put wide-ranging moods/genres together in a hope it will just hang together. It takes a very special artist to be able to do that so caution should be exercised. One of the most commendable facets of music is when someone can take dreamy, sea-swimming gracefulness and unify that to a harder, more driving element – and create something new and hugely atmospheric. This Modern Hope, while retaining a touch of Elbow and Doves in the mix, conjure something enticing and vivid; symphonic and rousing. Payne’s experience with The Bedroom Hour has prepared him for This Modern Hope: if anything, his new project is even more impressive and commendable. With the help of friends and that determined, singular vision: he can lace reflection inside joy and a light under an ocean of shadows. I hear a lot of promising and hungry Rock acts but feel they do not possess relevant variation and malleability. This Modern Hope shows how things should be done. You get bristling, electric strings but within, there are subtle shades and emotional elements – a much richer and broad palette at work.

Those who see the words ‘beauty’ and ‘passion’ in music will have a few reactions. They may see those words as tropes and overused terminology. Others might have clear views of what they can expect; others will bridle and assume something saccharine, treacly and unappetising. There are musicians that aim for something emotive, spine-tingling and blood-rushing and come up hopelessly short. What This Modern Hope does, and other like-minded colleagues do, is parabond accessibility with rarified. You get appealing, stays-in-the-brain lines but with it, something delicate and balletic – hard to define and very special. Beauty and romance in music is portrayed in all manner of ways and can, depending on the artist, be a success of failure. I am a huge fan of instant, raw songs but always love being washed away by something evocative and poised. This Modern Hope’s urbane, opulent and captivating songs take you to far-off lands are across oceans; they deal with everyday emotions and inner-reflection. Payne is showing how consistent and variegated he is as a writer and musician: let’s hope this productivity and creativity continues for many years. After adapting to a life sans bandmates: the solo endeavor creates its own struggles and obstacles. A lonelier, more autonomous way of existence: This Modern Hope has ridden the waves and shown immense fortitude and ambition. The Storm, having been out for a little while now, proves what a true and unique musician Payne is.

This Modern Hope’s music has always been built on a foundation of beauty and building emotion. If one looks back at The Abyss. Released late last year: the song was one of the very first offerings from This Modern Hope. Squalling, rain-lashed guitars opened it and the driving percussion gave it a definite urgency. The vocal has pain and anxiety but there is a luscious, romantic quality to it. It (the abyss) is here for our hero and there seems to be that air of expectation and acceptance. One hopes, throughout all the song, that there will be redemption and hope – maybe a romance or chink of light that will pull him back. Friends and allies are gone and it is n uncertain and dramatic mood being painted: you get moved by the power of the song and everything going on. Guitar flecks, sparkles and elicits diamonds of fire and a raw, Blues-like quality. Percussion keeps steady and ensures the song has a solid backbone and sense of consistency; different lines, elements, and interactions work around the two – such an evocative and vivid creation. I pictured an empty city and our man walking the streets in search of comfort and answers; ravaged and hit by the conditions and weather – such a bracing and head-spinning song. Few artists come in that confidently and compelling but, with the previous experience under his belt, it is maybe not too unexpected to hear such authority from This Modern Hope.

Ship on the Ocean, like its sister tracks, has that trademark echo and low-fade intrigue from the early stages. Graceful, soulful pianos and subtle electronics fuse to give the song an early gravitas and quality. You instantly go to the ocean and picture a lone vessel traversing the waves. The guitars whip up and skip along with a definite jauntiness – never too racing or aimless; always keeping perspective and balance. More positive and open than The Abyss: it shows a new side to This Modern Hope and takes the listener in a different direction. Embroiled with so many emotions and possibilities: it is hard not to be engaged with the composition and start to envisage various outcomes and scenarios. Away from the ship-based storyline; our hero’s professions of youthful indiscretion change perception. Opening his mouth and saying words with little consideration for recourse and consequence – perhaps a rebel or someone who was not as caring as one would hope. Payne’s has an element of Guy Garvey and you detect Elbow’s frontman in his dramatic and burr; a little bit of Noel Gallagher too. Our hero is a ship on the ocean and seeking stability and reliability. It seems, the song’s subject/heroine, is the only one he can rely on. Perhaps speaking to a sweetheart or a good friend: it appears many have abandoned our man and left him feeling jaded and scarred. Elongated his words and putting so much potency and power into the delivery – one of the most affecting and emotive songs from This Modern Hope. It is a different direction from The Abyss but still has some pain and loneliness at its core. Ship on the Ocean, like other songs in This Modern Hope’s cannon, possesses an exceptional composition and so much going on. With strings, electronics, and percussion; it is almost a film-like presentation: sweeping, haunting and lustful in equal measures.

The Storm progresses from previous songs and is the most confident and stunning creation from This Modern Hope. All the usual components and dynamics are in place – the sweeping composition and assured, soulful vocals – but there is that tiny lift in quality; all the elements are more focused and glistening – the overall effect more profound and nuanced. Like previous numbers: there is that weather-beaten, emotion-drained centre with semi-symphonic composition – ensuring existing fans find familiarity and consistency. For any new followers: so much to discover and a wonderful song in its own right. Let’s hope The Storm leads to more creativity from Payne’s This Modern Hope and an E.P. or album. I could easily see an L.P. emerge and a 10/11-track collection of songs from the London musician. It seems like This Modern Hope has plenty of ideas and motivation and it will be exciting to see what the next few months hold in store. With inspiration bands like Elbow, Doves and Death Cab for Cutie either inactive or on hiatus: there is a definite gap in the market for the kind of music This Modern Hope is putting out there. I notice a vacuum and need for something that provides chills and shivers but gives the soul and heart nourishment and tenderness.

A sentiment of breeze and storm opens the song and is subtle and building. Almost too slight to hear: the song begins to grow and expand as the guitars raise and campaign. Almost like the rain starting to pour down: the strings are never too heavy or fast but have a definite strength and impact to them. Like early songs from This Modern Hope: the vocal never comes in too quickly; apt for the composition to work and create imagery – always compelling but never giving too much away too soon. You become involved and fascinated by the song right from the start and wonder where it is going to lead us. The guitar has subtleness and melody but there is an aching, yearning quality to them. Many songs go in hard and feel the need to throw weight and heaviness in; the hope the listener will be braced and strong-armed into liking a song. This Modern Hope shows more consideration and allow songs to speak for themselves and gentle make their way into the consciousness. The storm has “already begun” and they have to move. Whether talking about a lover or friends trapped by the incoming threat: there is a definite tension and urgency right away. One listens and wonders whether it is as simple and clear-cut as first imagined. Maybe there is a literal storm or maybe it is a metaphor for something else. Perhaps an argument or change of culture; a desire or harsh situation: your mind will think of various possibilities and what is being attested. Payne’s vocal is backed by a sturdy and thumping beat that presents footsteps, rush, and wind; the guitars fade slightly but still keep keen, sharp and imperious. Our hero is a pastor and leader who is giving advice to the people and preparing them for the imminent storm. Hide behind the tables and brace yourself for what is to come. Again, I was thinking about something other than a literal storm and took my imagination elsewhere. That is the beauty and power of any great song: it gets you thinking beyond the literal and conspiring. Payne’s tremulous, firm voice brings the words to life and gives them so much decorum and sobriety. Never rushing or needlessly overpowering; always restrained and mature – it ensures the lyrics are clear to understand and are giving the maximum amount of respect and consideration.

Knowing “we can’t go back” and the situation is too fraught and dangerous: you cast yourself in the song and are affected by its physicality, grandeur, and evocativeness. Almost accepting that life will change and there is no real way to remain, Payne’s vocal is solid but there is weariness to it. Nobody can deny the atmosphere and conviction of The Storm. It is not a song that sits back and lets the listener do all the leg work when it comes to imagining and connecting the dots. Despite the level and typical Payne vocal prowess; here, there is plenty of fresh determination, power, and depth. One of the staples of This Modern Hope is the intricacies, vocal nuance, and layers to that instrument. Payne does not simply replicate what he has done across previous singles, but instead, provides one of his most compelling and affecting performances yet. Just as you become too invested in the lyrics, the composition steps in and provides movement and development in the story. From the desperation and warnings that have been provided; you know have a break where the strings and percussion step in. The sound of the building mood and what is to come: it is a blend of nerviness and strange calm; an underlying uncertainty for sure. It is a short parable but one that bridges the verses perfectly. Never outstaying its welcome or being too concise: you are afforded the chance to direct the story and dictate where the song is headed. When Payne comes back in, there are more cautionary tales and sage advice for those fleeing. The fires are raging and it is best take what you can – leave any other possessions where they are. The Storm is a song that has those stark and apocalyptic lyrics but the compositions remains, by comparison at least, strangely calm and controlled. Other bands, if they were to write a song like this, would throw intense solos and pummeling percussion in and maybe dampen and distill the effect. The Storm is something that always intrigues the senses. Following the lyrics and jumping into the song: it is impossible not to feel a bit of fear as the lyrics grow heavier and more agitated. Repeating that message to leave and flee: Payne’s voice starts to rise and becomes more dramatic; perhaps realising the situation he is in. Again, I was not thinking about literal situations and cast my focus outside the circle. Yes, there is the possibility of a real-life storm and something as simple as that. It is hard not to dig deeper and think about other avenues and digressions. Perhaps there is a nod to a relationship breakdown or a general shift in music culture- subconsciously or not; the song is not as straightforward as you’d imagine. Maybe I am over-thinking and looking down rabbit holes, but This Modern Hope does that to you. Great songwriters are those that can keep their songs relatable and accessible but have more than one direction/explanation.

After the repeated warning and increasing desperation, there is another compositional passage that ensures things do not get too heavy and intense for the listener. Similar to its predecessor, there is lightness and grace but enough unsettle to ensure the story keeps its intensity and anxiety firm. Percussion slams, pitter-patters, and rolls to give the impression of thunder and wind. Those strings keep lashing and giving ideas of rain and gust. Around it, there is a general aura of downpour and gales that is hard to escape. One speculates at this stage what compelled the song and whether there was a particular inspiration. Like I said with regards emotional and romantic possibilities: was there an event from Payne’s life that caused him to put pen to paper and create The Storm? It is another terrific and compelling track from This Modern Hope and a perfect album closer. I hear whispers there might be an album and if that is forthcoming, I could see The Storm being its finale. I say that because the song’s final minute finds the compositions accelerating and becoming more detailed and busy. Everything starts to race and there is a distinct move through the gears. You can feel the storm coming in and there is nowhere to run. Maybe the song’s characters evaded the worst and managed to find a shelter. It is a curious and gripping track that will leave you guessing and get you repeating it in search of conclusion and answers. As The Storm ends, the guitar notes repeat in a mantra-like quality and enforce their sound. Perhaps indicative of the rain or trying to punctuate a particularly stern expression: it a huge effective closing and one that will leave question marks and possibilities. Whatever the true origins of the song and the truth in Payne’s mind; every listener will get something different from it and have their own interpretations. The Storm has a similar feel to tracks like The Abyss but I feel This Modern Hope have created the finest song yet. Perhaps it is the story or the details in the composition but I found myself revisiting the song and trying to get to the heart of the matter. At its face, it is a simple song about outrunning a storm but there is that lingering doubt and potential something else is being assessed.

I dedicate this section of a review not only rounding things up but predicting the artist’s future. Starting with the latter: it is an exciting time for This Modern Hope. An impressive collection of singles under his belt and a (seamlessly) unlimited supply of avenues and stories. Following This Modern Hope’s social media pages; it is clear more music will come but what form will that take? The Storm is a typically assured and impressive piece from This Modern Hope that will surely get people talking and speculating. Perhaps there will be an album coming this year (there are photos to suggest there are), but for now, it is great hearing This Modern Hope in top form. With Payne, as one experienced during The Bedroom Hour’s regency, was his multi-discipline prowess. Every aspect of his musicianship and performance struck you and evoked some sort of emotion. So many musicians are sterile and faceless that it leaves you a little weary and disappointed. Every track Payne puts his name to seem to drip with emotion and has that atmospheric and cinematic blend. London is filling up with so many tremendous musicians and This Modern Hope can rub shoulders with the best of them. I am sure there will be gig opportunities afoot but, knowing Payne’s current schedule, he will want to get his music (and The Storm) to crowds and keep as busy as possible. The capital is a demanding mistress and does not guarantee platform and finance to all musicians who play here. I have witnessed too many undeserving and cliché musicians gain success and huge fondness – those that are worthy of success have toiled and had to fight very hard. This Modern Hope has a loyal and dedicated fanbase that is deserving of augmentation and multiplication. There are not many artists that do things the same way and paint pictures (like This Modern Hope). The Storm might provoke scenarios of violence, disorder and disturbance (which you get to an extent) but so much more is brought to the mix. One struggles to properly define the musical and components incorporated. This Modern Hope has that knack of pairing simplicity and accessibility with complexities and fine details. As such, it is important that This Modern Hope’s music is given wider regard and brought into the public consciousness with greater determination. Payne is doing his very best but it is down to social media followers and new fans to become proactive and engaged.

No matter what plans are afoot, it is clear – from The Storm’s huge force and nuances – that This Modern Hope is poised for future success. Payne has a good network of friends and musicians but it is his sustained vision and singular talent that keeps pushing through. It is, as I suggested up-top, a blend of moods and a nod to beauty that sets him aside from a lot of his peers. In a time where too many go straight for force and momentum (opposed to reflection and restraint) it is commendable This Bedroom Hour subvert the need to explode and whip out needless guitar solos. Those thinking reflection, evocation, and grandeur are uncool and ineffective would do good to spend some time listening to artists like This Modern Hope. To conclude, then. The Storm is a definite beauty that has a very instant and obvious impact but the more you play it, the more you get from it. Various passages, compositional elements and moments stand out (where they were quiet before) and the song gains new light and splendor. Call it nuance or talent: This Modern Hope should be part of your regular playlist; songs that nullify the petty dramas in life and engulf around you – bringing you into song and easing the mind. Keep updated on all the social media goings-on (links below) and ensure artists like Rob Payne’s This Modern Hope…

IS provided plenty of support and love.

 

___________________________

Follow This Modern Hope

 

Official:

http://www.thismodernhope.com/

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/ThisModernHopeMusic

Twitter:

https://twitter.com/thismodernhope

Instagram:

http://instagram.com/thismodernhope

SoundCloud:

https://soundcloud.com/thismodernhope

YouTube:

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCoezfwi011FeoW9kzzAqDaA

FEATURE: “If Music Be the Food of Love…”

FEATURE:

 

 

 

“If Music Be the Food of Love…”

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IT seems prescient to preface this feature with…

 

plenty of caveats and disclaimers. Any ambitions and declarations surrounding following dreams (creative ones, especially) should be taken with caution and a pinch of salt. I admire those who strike against domesticity and ‘normal life’ in order to consecrate themselves to something more fulfilling, impressive and original. The point of this feature is not, as you might think, to simply vent and boast but to raise an interesting point. Too many of us are content to sit in our everyday lives and complain about things: not taking necessary measures to resolve issues and unhappiness. It is hard making real changes and creating a better life – not as simple as many make it out to be. I have seen a lot of people trudge through their daily lives; yearning for something better and more soul-nourishing. From my perspective, things have reached a bit of a plateau: an intractable impasse that has really struck a chord and hit very hard. In past years, I have been dissatisfied with work/life but always comforted myself with the same mantra: you are working towards your ambitions; the dedication will pay off. People say that to me a lot on social media: your loyalty to music and prolificacy will see you get where you need to be. Some say it as a bromide while others genuinely mean it: either way; I feel I am letting myself (and them) down by not being proactive and brave enough. I think many, including myself, have to live with reality to a certain extent.

Many have to work live an undesirable life and do jobs that are a ‘means to an end’. That perfectly articulates where I am at this very moment: eyes are on the horizon but my heart and soul are really not in it. When you are obsessed with music and trying to change the world (through this medium) it can be frustrating and depressing working your way up to it – the need to have everything put into place, right away, can be suffocating and horrible.

My current job (shall not name-check) is, at the end of it, a pay cheque: the chance to facilitate a living; a stepping stone to where I need to get. To be fair, I hate every single second of it – but would never tell my employer that. Without getting into specifics: every component of it is utterly gut-wrenching: I have never been as miserable and bored by any job/workplace than this. I went in with semi-optimistic hopes but that (very quickly indeed) dissipated and has been replaced with resentment and upset. Where I am living, and the town I find myself in, creates the same feelings in me: a pit of hatred and disappointment; people who (not all, but most) make my heart slump and my brain boil – again, we can dispense with details and petty criticisms. It seems baffling why one human would entrench themselves in such a miasma: I have been wondering the same thing. In actual fact, it is a sacrifice I have to make at this very moment: a way to transition from a horrifically undesirable predicament to the ideal precipice. No matter where you want to get in life; it is never as simple as people make out: that brilliant, happy existence only results from grit, determination and a lot of hard work – an element of serendipity goes into the process. So where does music come into this?

 

I admire, as I stated up top, those who live the non-9-5, home-for-the-kids, talk-to-colleagues-about-your-mundane-life apoplexy. Really, it is the definition of modern life and, quite frankly, it bores me rigid. Those who choose that lifestyle and entitled and in the majority but when you’re following the ‘norm’: where do those innovators and leaders come from? Firefighters, nurses and scientists (among others) are deeply impressive and commendable people but the lure of music is so much stronger – I don’t know what it is but it has that inexplicable, sphinx-like allure. Listening to radio and doing my daily journalism tasks (apart from family too) is the only pleasure and satisfactions I get from life – it seems insane not to chase that as a job. Many assume, if you want to get into music as a career, that you’re a musician. I often get asked if I play any instruments and I always have to say, with a slightly embarrassed look, I have no dexterity or instrumental abilities. I am a lyricist and have a decent voice but my real passion and spark come from writing and promoting artists – making the public aware of wonderful acts and terrific sounds. Nothing gives me more pleasure that helping a musician get their songs out there or discovering a genuinely stunning artist. I cannot describe the inner feeling I get when watching a musician succeed and continue to shine: one of the simplest and most understated pleasures one could ever expect. My fascination and obsession is not just resigned to writing and reviewing- the business side of thing really compels me.

A little while ago, as social media followers might be aware, I interviewed London-based D.J./polymath/businesswoman Carly Wilford. I implore you follow her across Facebook and Twitter, but it was an interview that really opened my eyes. Her career arc seems to be transposition of expectation. She began, or spent her early-formative years, ensconced in a cottage and marriage (hope she will not mind me saying) – living out a career that vastly differs from what she does now. Seemingly contented and secure in her life: a spark of epiphany came about and was a definite game-changer. What she was living was not who she wanted to be: it was then she decided to take positive steps and change everything.

Watch the video above, where she explains with greater eloquence and succinctness, but my point is this: she took the leap and followed her musical desires.

It is, as she will profess herself, not something that happens overnight: baby-sized, positive steps is all you need. The hardest thing, like someone with an addiction or illness, is admitting you are unhappy and need to make changes – so many of us go through the motions without every confessing we are unsatisfied and want a different life. Carly’s story arc and reinvention is one of the reasons I got into journalism and love music. Her daily experiences and career transverse is hugely inspirational and the envy of many.

If she is not interviewing a hot, up-and-coming artist or taking her D.J. talents to Barcelona or Glastonbury: she is travelling the world in search of hungry crowds and eager faces – chances to take her energy and skills to international realms. She has not got where she has by luck or by virtue of her youthfulness and beauty: she has slogged and got out there; created platforms and pounded tirelessly to do what she want to do with life. She is someone I am following closely and hope to emulate very soon. I am sure she is tired of me name-checking her but few humans like her exist; those that get up and say “You know what; I am in a life that sucks and need to change that!” It takes a courageous human to walk away from a comfortable, albeit unhappy, rut and aim for something riskier and harder – how many of us have the fortitude and energy to do that? I shall leave Carly alone only to say you should, even if you’re not an aspiring musician/creative, to follow her. SISTER  and I Am Music – again, check those out on social media – are the results of her hard work and dedication.

 

I feel one of the reasons I, and many others I know, want to dispense with a mundane, workaday life is because of the long-term potentiation and fulfillment. Those who are creative by nature often feel subjugated and dispirited by normality and perfunctory living. Instilled with a burning desire and unique brain: we need a way to channel that intensity and individuality. I hear ‘6 Music every day and want to be in that situation: working at a station that is that varied, quality-assured and fascinating. I have mooted other projects and desires; from a London-based music café/bar – https://musicmusingsandsuch.wordpress.com/2013/10/27/psychoacoustics-barcafe/- to a bespoke radio station – https://musicmusingsandsuch.wordpress.com/2016/05/22/feature-radio-adage-from-the-basement-up/ – and will never quit those goals. It is isn’t easy to achieve – God knows, it may never happen – but there are so few people out there doing that kind of thing. London is my Mecca and Medina; my lover and constant Muse: the natural first stop for musicians and creative souls. I live, rather inconveniently, close to London but not there quite yet: I feel it is the key to unlocking so much; where I should be for things to fall into place. Manchester and Melbourne (are cities) I want to live in for a while: set up to flatter and please people like me; stuffed with vibrant social scenes and hugely inspiring musicians. Aside from my business/station ambitions, I have always tossed around the idea of a music website-cum-collective – https://musicmusingsandsuch.wordpress.com/2015/11/28/psychoacoustics-a-new-music-venture/ – that is, not only a way to bring thousands of musicians, businesses and creatives under one roof: a more accessible way to hear all music and discover the best new sounds – programs and software incumbent for people to make and share music. These aspirations and projects are an iron lung to me: something that keeps me hopeful and provides definite career objectives. It is great having the opportunity write and contribute to The Metropolist, this blog and Impakter – a new venture that I am getting settled into at the minute. I hope to parlay this into other opportunities and write for other sources – building the C.V. and a varied portfolio of work. I am happy so many people I know are taking risks and following their music ambitions. Some are heading to auditions whilst others are starting bands or releasing new albums – all to be applauded and supported. Passivity and procrastination is the death of the creative soul: for things to happen; you need to get out there and make it a reality. People like Carly – last mention, promise – succeed because they network and articulate themselves through a hands-on approach. It is not easy simply stepping into a music career and certainly not for me. I am of a ‘certain age’ (*clears throat*) and have, perhaps, missed the boat when it comes to intern. work and entry-level opportunities – normally reserved for college and university leavers. In addition to prolific contributions (to the aforementioned websites) I am trying to get wheels in motion – not only the long-overdue London switch but creating websites and building my own mini-empire.

The reason behind this post was not to moan and whine about my predicament – less I turn into the very people I long to better – but inject a very clear message:

It is possible to make dreams happen. Nobody understands the numerous attractions and simmering seduction of music more than me.

It is more than a hobby or casual thing: it the point of everything and the life I should be leading. It can be hazardous embarking on a career in music: fraught with challenges, lacking opportunities and many frustrating days/weeks. As people around me are proving: taking positive steps is crucial in order to fulfil your goals and aims. It is unclear how the next year will pan out, but one thing is clear: it will be a much more musical, creative, London-centric existence. Where I am currently (and the people I am surrounded by) is as far from where I want to be as is possible – having that sort of clarity is what’s motivating me forward. Music constantly inspires and surprises me. It is not good enough, if you are like me, standing on the sidelines and merely listening to it. I have that delirious desire to embrace it in all its potential and possibility. There are buildings to be occupied and websites to be designed: musicians to be interviewed and cities to see. So much is out there and that feeling of missing out is a crushing anxiety. Anyone, anywhere can achieve what they want to: being deeply unhappy and wasting time is no way to live at all. A career in music might seem an insurmountable obstacle to straddle but it requires discipline, patience, and persistence. I have been going at it for years and feel I am not all the way there – still a lot to learn and things I need to get in place.

If the passion and desire is there then that is all you need. Being like everyone else and ordinary is okay for some, but for those whose hearts beat differently, it not a possibility they are ever willing to entertain.

Many people will not understand your passion or being able to relate, but that is okay: there are people out there that understand implicitly and know just where you are coming from. Music is a huge and exciting market and one that needs performers and creatives; the ideas-people and business-minded. Do not fear and be discouraged by what others are doing or saying – you do not need their recognition or approval. To paraphrase a legendary Bard: “If music be the food of love

PLAY on, and never stop.

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