Lisa Marini: ‘Wonderful’ – Track Review

Wonderful- Track Review





It is music for the masses; simply effective and gripping from beginning to end.



Availability: ‘Wonderful’ is available on the E.P. ‘Let It Live’- both available at:



A multi-definitional song, that lives up to its title …


is not a sentiment I have confidently expressed for some while now. One often has to circumvent their own skin and bones when analysing a song, as not to be too critical or pugnacious. Often artists or bands will boldly make statements about tracks, or give their work undeserved sparkling effusions, and compare themselves to some rather stellar talent. Subsequently, when being faced with their business plan, it can be quite easy to be derisive, when faced with their somewhat haughty profit and loss statements. Happily, I have born witness to a casual influx of rather under-valued virginal talent, each proffering their wares, immodestly. A lot of the acts have hailed from the beautiful north, especially around the Leeds area; a few have been from the home counties, but few have been based in London.


A new name to my mind, Lisa Marini arrives, as quite a curious case study. She is based in London, and has been performing for a little while now. She possess a modern and intoxication charm to her. She has the stunning looks and appeal more usually reserved for A-list Hollywood actresses, yet is down-to-earth and accessible. Lisa has several tattoos, and a perfectly mannered approach to performing. She has just released her E.P. ‘Let It Live’- already receiving positive feedback and plaudits from social media. Anyone expecting either derivative hard rock, or flightless infantialised pop, will be in for a rather pleasant surprise. The music on the E.P. is mature and thought-provoking, sharing some resemblances to the likes of Lana Del Rey, Jessie Ware, and Adele, but has a rather different musical background. Influenced heavily by the blues, this sound comes through in the tracks, and backed by a Latin-blues style trio, the resultant genetic infusion conjures a memorable and unique blend. Unless you are part of a well-informed coffee clatch, or have both ears firmly to ground, hearing about artists such as Marini is a rather serendipitous happening. I have bemoaned the lack of appropriate purveyance, when seeking new music talent. The music industry is unswayed and motionless when running perpendicular to the economic woes. There is always an unending demand and fervency from all people. Subsequently, it should be of the utmost priority to cultivate, and crucially, promote any new acts bursting onto the scene. If you do not hear about who is approaching the musical horizon, it creates confusion. One day someone will money and a modicum of forethought will create a all-encompassing music website that makes it blissfully easy to hear great new talent. But for now, I shall be thankful that I have ‘stumbled’ upon the mercurial gifts of Lisa Marini.


‘Wonderful’ begins its life amidst an atmospheric and brooding stirring of strings, before guitar and percussion sweep in and kick the track to the next gear. Lisa’s vocal is smoky and soothing, containing a beguilling blend of Ware, Del Rey, Sharleen Spiteri, Beth Gibbons and- perhaps- Laura Marling. It is with this polysyllabic multi-generational mixture that provides such initial intrigue. It is easy to be moved and reminiscent at the same time, whilst knowing that the song is in safe hands, and any ambivalence you may have had, will soon by dissipated. The female solo market is one of the most burgeoning and perhaps multi-tonal ones in music. There are a lot of varying styles, wardrobes, faces and figures; but essentially there is a sparsity of individuality: any arsonist intent that suggest that artist will set fire to the competition. The industry may be subjective to spartan conditions and fickle attention spans, but to rise above the bustling shoulders of your contemporaries, there needs to be more than ambition to your synopsis. Lisa is unequivocal in her intentions: to grab you and set herself apart from the over-expansive middle of the road traffic. The way Marini elongates and teases flection from her words, is sensual and ethereal. The way the words, “For you/To stand by…”, are drizzled over a simple guitar backing, is rather pleasing. The song was written a few y ears, as Lisa explains, about “being inspired to a higher place”. Whether this apithany occurred after the break up or formation of a relationship, or whether the muse was more spectral, is perhaps open for ambiguity. I suspect, due to the fact that the lyrics pervade quite a lot of discourse, that the reason for change or the foreshadowing ghost in the works, was a former beau. If you take some of the words at face value: “But all of this chaos in my mind”, you may be thinking that there is a lot of self-doubt in our heroine’s mind. It is explained that all of this disorder and temperamental unease, and pure chaos that ensued “controlled all my possibilities”. There has been tumult in our protagonist’s life, where things have been uncertain; lost; ripped apart and discarded, but there is a glimmer of hope. She feels invigorated and soul-replenished as the chorus calls out to that special paragon: “You inspire me”. The chorus has a simple and emphatic rush to it. It is uplifting and radio-friendly, without ever succumbing to de-intellectualisation or predictability. It will cause many a listener- male and female alike- to chant its coda and feel that there is a lot of personal readability in its message. The deployment of classic strings after the chorus, lends an aura of Hispanic glorious quiescent. Your mind is transported telekinetic to a quaint Spanish taverna on a June night, or a Los Cabos moonlit night. With a re-energised vigour to her tone, Marini expounds her mantra: “There’s more to living/Than just compromise”. Just as at the start, there are recollections of emotional entropy. The mood is electric with absolution and exorcising. Just as your soul is willing to lend an outstretched hand, the windswept mood is abated and our mystery saviour is re-introduced, igniting the chorus once more. The subtle clashes and modulation in the music give a real emotion tangibility to proceedings, and the inclusion of strings elevates the atmosphere.


Overall the track is memorable and cohesive. The lyrics track well, and the story is both universal and deeply personal. It is a song that will resonate with many people, and not just those in the female demographic. The chorus is perfectly placed and tight and adds a delicate mood shift after the verses. The vocal performance is solid and fascinating. I have alluded to perhaps some influences in the delivery and tone, but to my mind I cannot think of any other female artists who sounds like Lisa Marini. She has a dusky and smoky sexiness to her delivery, as well grace and power. She elongates and twists words to provide maximum emotional impaction, giving the impression of a woman who knows all too well of the turmoil she has undergone, and appreciative of the renewed lease of life she has been provided. I admire the musical accompaniment, throughout. It is never imposing nor overwrought; it infuses and teases where it needs to, whilst bolstering where required too. The combination is vote-winning and impressive, and there is great originality and ambition to the song. The production is smooth and focused. The sound is not too polished and over-produced, instead it allows all of the key components to shine and delineate with little fuss or strain. In spite of the fact that the song is over 3 minutes long, it does not feel as such. It implores repeated listening, and will resonate and stick in your mind for a long while to come.


Lisa Marini deserves commendation and subscription, usually reserved for the established elite of music. She is able to reconcile rapprochement in many peoples mind, as to the lack of diverse sounds within the solo market. In a landscape that mostly consists of bleeding hearts, over-earnest protestations and plaintive impact, there is a much-needed demand for quality and quantity, amongst the viscus murk of the current scene. There is talent out there, for sure, but for most it will be subjugated for many years, hinging on financial constraints, prevailing market trends, and personal circumstance. I feel that Marini will not be a secret for too much longer. She has a busy tour schedule ahead which sees her touring London. Her E.P. is but a sapling, and from the other tracks I have heard, proves that ‘Wonderful’ is no anomalous triumph. There is a consistency and innate understanding of the needs of the consumer, through the usage of intelligent and emotional lyricism, cultured and expansive sounds, combined with a alluring and captivating vocal talent. Tie this in with the image of a woman, gifted with incredible beauty and sex appeal, and the ensuing combination is almost mythological. Take a listen to the track, as well as the E.P. as a whole, and judge for yourself. I am a keen singer-songwriter myself, and usually enamoured of rock and heavy metal for the most part. The effusiveness displayed from the review is not hyperbole or over-exaggeration. It is great music, that transcends your mood and musical leanings. Have a listen, and rest-assured…


… you will not be disappointed.




Official site:







Upcoming gigs:


April 1 – The Water Rats @ 7.45pm
Lisa Marini with James Bennett

April 4 – Soul South Arch 635 @ 8.30pm
Lisa Marini with James Bennett & Penny Elkins

April 19th – The Regal Room, Hammersmith
Lisa Marini with James Bennett & Penny Elkins

April 21 – Radio Dacorum @ 5.00pm
Tune in for a live radio performance and interview

April 25 – The Elgin
Lisa Marini with James Bennett

May 3rd – The Aleksander @ 8.00pm
Lisa Marini with James Bennett & Penny Elkins

May 19 – Brooklands Radio @ 7.00pm
Tune in for a live radio performance and interview

July 11 – The Pelton Arms, Greenwich @ 8.00pm
Lisa Marini with James Bennett

August 1 – The Shortlands Tavern, Bromley @ 8.00pm
Lisa Marini with James Bennett





The Whitaker Brothers: ‘Good Love’- Track Review

‘Good Love’–  Track Review





For a duo that can rely a little too much on toilet humour, they do proper rock rather very well.



Availability: ‘Good Love’ is available online at:



They may be a new name, ringing to your ears…


but are well worth checking out. I have been subject to a lot of diverse and serotonin syndrome-espousing acts from all around the country- as well as good old Australia. They have ranged in styles; from dub-step, through jazz, and all the way to blues rock. I have had to maintain a level of objectivity and detach myself enough to give the artists a fair hearing. What I have heard is a collection of incredibly memorable and commendable artists. It has been difficult locating a lot of them, often relying upon word of mouth and chance happenings. The majority of the acts have been in the demographic of 18-30, and have had little long-term, exposure and experience.


The Whitaker Brothers, are Tim and Simon, and blend acoustic guitars with steel drums. To see them would to think they have just completed a round the world tour as part of a heavy metal band of the ’70s. They smile with golden locks, earrings and boast that they can blend deep lyrics with “harmonious rock vocals”. I was made aware of their prescience by an old comrade of mine, who was eager that I check them out. They have toured locally for a long time, but have touring and playing since the late ’70s and divide their time between performing and promoting new acts. Their current album, ‘Animated’ raised my eyebrows. Some reviewers have ignobly compared it to lipid residue; highlighting a couple of choice cuts but being rather sardonic and cut-throat in their extrapolations. Online magazine Sonic Shocks described it (album), as something that “can’t help to feel connected”, adding that the majority of the album was “ego stroking”. Some reviews lauded the inclusion of toilet humour and cheap jokes. Unless you are Spinal Tap, it is generally quite unacceptable to overtly humorise music. It is a risky business, and rarely hits the mark. Parody artists and comedians can do it with aplomb, but for musicians who have an impressive catalogue, it is perhaps unwise. Sifting further there were many rays of lights. Sputnik Music were more praise-worthy, noting that the record is a “good listen”. The trouble with music is that, like most art forms and sectors of entertainment, it is very subjective. Seemingly great albums are met with haughty derision, whilst sub-par nonsense is often elevated aloft a critical pulpit. The most salient tactic, when faced with music, is to remain open-minded and sit sentient. Absorb it, write your thoughts, and be as constructive as possible.


I have heard the song ‘Good Love’ referred to as ‘mainstream’. That word can be a poisoned chalice if not appropriately apportioned. It is hard to describe whether that term is good or not. Bands such as The Strokes have suffered a nadir and downward trajectory in their career, with their latest album suffering from French millennial cusp, indelicate self-flagellation and threadbare algorithms. The band are concerned to be on the nucleus of the mainstream: floating aloft, seemingly too cool and credible to be tattooed with such a derivative and execrable term. Upon experiencing the initial seconds of ‘Good Love’, any misappropriation is laid to rest. Introducing its presence with a brief tambourine shake, and a shit-kicking electronic thud, it is impactful but not too heavy-handed. In the same way that all of the best rock bands of today- Queens of the Stone Age, Arctic Monkeys etc.- are able to grab your attention in a mere few seconds, this song achieves the same neat trick. There are shades of Jack White and his voyeuristic misdemeanour as the duo weave a tapestry of neo-psychedelia and primal lust. There is a memesis of heavy machinery, clattering mechanical zombies hungry for localised flesh. It is primitive and prurient and certain shifts and transposes your organs, as you sway and stagger, mesmerised. There is quite an intention to it. Having a bit of a weird, eidetic ability to detect and incorporate vocal influences, I was curious to hear what the good love vocal would be. Initially there is a wordless tweep and co; soon is tag teams with a wolverine growl. For me it figures high on the Likert Scale, and has pretensions for gut-busting sabre-rattling. There is an expeditious burst of guitar before a cry of ‘good love’, is proclaimed. Perhaps I am analysing the band too retroactively, given their sizeable career. As a newbie, I am detecting classic rock tones in the vocals. Strangely there are vague tones of Lenny Kravitz to the vocals as well, which, co-existing with a workmanlike percussion and sparks of electric guitar, works surprisingly well. The lyrics mix old-fashioned romantic sentiment with a slightly politicised edge: “Who knows the future/When the wind is changing?”. I guess- rather despairingly- ineptitude of political parties is always current and ripe for a criticism, passim or otherwise. Here is it added to the mix sparingly, intended to punctuate rather than antogonise. There are sprinklings of motivational coda, the likes of which mid-career Bon Jovi or Marillion might employ. “Hold your head up high” and “Sing your song out loud”, are perhaps a little cliched and stereotyped: hardly the work of Juvenalis. It hardly matters, mind, as the words are incorporated to invoke fist-raising and chanting; one suspects it will be a live staple, and has a festival-ready charm to it. Just as you are prepared for perhaps another about-face there is guitar stutter, before ‘good love’ is sang, the ‘love’ part elongated and hung in the air for 1-Mississippi, 2-Mississippi; well in fact for a long, long time. It was still going by the time I had come back from town with some shopping. There is a fraction of silence, and some Hendrix-worthy posturing and playfulness is dispatched to ratchet the tension and induce maximum emotional anxiety. There is quite a palpable and re-collective aura of ’60s psychedelia and experimentation, as well as flavours of the heavy metal messiahs of the ’80s and ’90s- Judas Priest, Queensryche, Tool, Guns ‘N Roses, et al. The chugging and spluttering riff has no deciduous quality, instead announcing itself with a omnia vincit amor spirit. It doesn’t need to change tone or direction. It is simple in its power and lust; it is a potent brew! Before you become immersed with the pyrotechnic miasma, the front-man returns to provide some love proclamations of the affirmative kind. There are more inspirational mandates to be heard: “Good love puts you in first place/Doesn’t matter even if you lose the race”. The positive waves continue as the band implore good vibes and an unashamed lack of self-control. It is infectious in its way, and on a base level, it will instill a smile in your heart. With nary a concern for expectations, the song is brought down to Earth, via a metaphase of guitar spanking and jubilant abandon.


Let’s get the negatives and constructive criticisms done with first. I am always baffled when listening to Queen’s ‘Fat Bottomed Girls’. I always strain my ears because during the early stages of the song, Mercury’s vocal is barely decipherable, mixed so low that it is hard to hear. Whether that was intended as a dramatic device or was a whimsical band decision I have never understood why they did it. There are times during ‘Good Love’ where the vocal is buried too low in the mix, amidst the clatter and cacophony of guitar and percussion. With no lyrics sheet online available, I had a mare of a time encrypting some of the semi-audible words. The vocal is clearly defined during the chorus and towards the end of the track, but suffers from some poor production decisions, during its initial third. It is quite an impediment, and quite disappointing for someone such as myself who is obsessed with vocals. I suspect that the band were concerned with projecting a tangible tension and clout with the music, that the vocals were sublimated in order to make way. The group have a reputation for sterling and intelligent lyrics, and there is some clear evidence of this during the song. However, there are times when they seem like they are trying to post ‘motivational’ messages on Facebook. Snatches of some of the lyrics did make me wince slightly, and seemed a little juvenile and frugal. The lyrical tone of love, and rebelling; getting up and fighting, is a little stayed at times, and was a pertinent subject matter during the band’s heyday. It seems like a product of the past and seems to be gridlocked in the mid-80s. There is a semblance of modernity and credibility here and there, but some of the time the band are guilty of being cloying and looks-obsessed.


There are, however, many more positives to recommend. The entire track seems very tight and very blue chip in its business aesthete. The group have been dogs of war and stalwarts of the musical business for a while, and know how to chisel concise chef d’oeuvres. Lesser groups would stray into Prog Rock territory and allow the song to pitch and wallow for 5 or 6 minutes longer. The song is catchy and, in spite of some of its derivations, is left-wing and all conquering in its ubiquity. There is no over-complications; the brothers have managed to inject such fun, energy and overt electioneering spirit within one track that it is impossible not to embrace and take to heart. Perhaps the fact that the song seems to be of a bygone era is a positive. In a current climate where the most credible acts are concerned mostly with introspection and emotion, The Whitaker Brothers have a rebellious disregard for topical and populism, and have written and created a track that speaks to the privileged elite who appreciate the value of good old-fashion song-craft and spirit. It supersedes your mood and lifts you up, guaranteeing a smile on the stoniest of faces. There is a youthful vigor still burning in the loins of the band, and they have not lost too many steps along the way. In spite of their combined years, they have as much right to be on a festival stage with the cream of the modern crop. I was impressed by the concoction of so many different genres and sounds. They is a strong and solid rock skin, that supports organisms of reggae, soul, heavy metal, ’60s pop and island rhythm. Befitting of an act who have been performing together for so many years, they have a low-yield potential. Songs like this will push them beyond the pub rooms of Surrey and the Home Counties, and will guarantee an osmosis of their banner nationally, as well as trans-continental. Finally special commendation should go to the vocal and musical combination. The singing is captivating and pioneering. Many a time I can trace the lineage of a singer’s voice to several other acts or artists. In the case of The Whitaker Brothers, there is a refreshing individuality and niche appeal to them. The guitar playing is exemplary, showing influences of the guitar gods like Hendrix, Page and Clapton, and modern Wunderkinds Jack White and Matt Bellamy.


The reticence that many reviewers displayed towards the duo’s album may be well-founded. Whether you view the group as an esoterica or revivalists may colour your judgment. In the same way that I mentioned music was a subjective sticking point, the same can be true or certain acts and styles of music. I am actually looking forward to hearing their release, and what they have to offer. Based on the strength of this song, I am sure that it is not a fluke or serendipitous happening. I will be sure to catch the lads when they are performing in Surrey, before they get recruited to perform the festival circuit. I would advise that any preconceptions or malaise you have before hand, you set aside, and view the song on its own merits, circular to any reviews or similar acts. What you will find is a genuine feelgood song, with a sensitivity as well as a keen insight and hard backbone. The Whitaker Brothers are new news to me, but am determined that through the remainder of 2013…



… I will spread their gospel further afield.













Molotov Jukebox- Track Reviews

Track Reviews:

‘Tick Tock’ & ‘Laid to Rest’



9.6/10 & 9.4/10



Genre-elusive talents, posses a Siren of a front-woman, and one hell of a sound.



Availability: Tracks available now via



This act have earned their plaudits; and have a busy future ahead of them…


including, rather impressively, a slot at this year’s Glastonbury Festival. There will be some imperious eyebrow-raising from jealous peers, puce with envy, over the band’s successful trajectory. With one of the most evocative and psychotropic names in the music industry, Molotov Jukebox, certainly have an intoxicating sound. Molotov Cocktail, was a name coined by the Finns, during the Winter War. It is, put simply, a bottle filled with gasoline and/or a napalm-like substance, used ostensibly during guerrilla conflicts and protests. They featured prominently during the Spanish Civil War and World War II, and are a highly effective weaponised hatred. You know what a jukebox is. Often the faulty or stuttering kinds were jump-started by a leather-clad Henry Winkler during the ’70s and ’80s. Those are the two playlets that were acted out in my head, when deconstructing the band’s name. Their music, and aesthetic is appropriately variegated and striking.


I was made aware of the band, rather auspiciously by actress Roxanne Mckee, who judging from her unfettered promotion of great new bands, seems to have a keen ear to the ground. I mention it, partly to highlight one of the few upsides to social media. If you are the right place at the right time, you happen upon great things; fascinating people, and terrific new talent. Another point that is rather prescient, would be that being ‘in the right place’ at the ‘right time’, is mathematically and logistically null, and the two are mutually exclusive of one another. I guess, to assuage any anger over this, it is hard to make people aware of every relevant and exciting band in the U.K., but it has inspired me to design and plan an all-encompassing website, in order for it to make chance occurrences a thing of the past. I am glad I have found out about the group, and was intrigued by their design and manifesto. In their own words, they are “genre-dodging”, and imbued with an innate need to make people dance and feel happy. It is a rousing election plea in an era of navel-gazing and hyperbolic introspection in the industry, and a lot of artists are focused too solely on unleashing sensitive emotions and turmoil as interestingly as possible. With a diffuse interest in pure fun, the band are not pure rhetoric; they have the talent to back up their pledges. Flanked and nobly elevated by a tight and mature rhythm section, and possessing a Pandora’s Box of trumpet, violin and accordion, Molotov Jukebox, have a metaphorical arsenal of weaponry, in order to propagate their aspoused theory. Before I get under way reviewing the tracks, I’d like to give a very honourable mention to the group’s front-woman, Natalia Tena. She is a British-born talent, who is best known for her acting work, in, amongst other things, Game of Thrones (where she co-starred with the aforementioned miss Mckee), and Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. Bands fronted by actresses have ranged from the average (Julliete and the Licks); to the curiously under-appreciated (She & Him); to the plain bloody awful (Wicked Wisdom), it can be a either a curate’s egg or a devil’s advocate-in-disguised. Tena has luxurious and tongue-dropping Hispanic looks. She is gorgeous and stunning, and lends an additional cachet to the band. But those thinking that these diverse chemicals co-mingling will create a Briggs-Rasucher Reaction, rather than a Stellar Black Hole, should think again…


Thankfully haven’t nothing in common (but its title) with Ke$ha’s dreadful racket, ‘Tick Tock’ is a whirling dervish of conviviality. It gestates amidst a studied machine gun riffle of percussion and baggy, swaying electric strings it is a veritable Fibbonaci number of sound and intrigue. The vocal that enters has a great uniqueness. There are smidges of a smoother-edged Lily Allen; a whisper of Caro Emerald and Little Violet. The delivery has a lot in common for the former; the words tumble and spark as they are born forth. The metronome delivery and horlogical-themed lyrics are witty and incisive. Our heroine ascribes how: “But he looks with face/What he collects with his hands”, is sharp, and Bob Dylan/Arctic Monkeys-worthy in its intelligence and unexpectedness. The combination of time-addled wit and a sex, sea, sun and sand burst of carnival horns and brass, engages your brain, mobilises your feet and neutralises your stresses all within the first verse. I was hearing influences of Nelly Futardo, circa-‘Woah, Nelly!’ as well as shadings of Allen. As a singer-songwriter myself, I am constantly trying to expand my voice, as well as hone my lyrics, in order to keep pushing myself. I could see little direct comparison with existing artists. The vocals are worldly and vibrant, with little debt owed to any mainstream band or artist. Natalia has a utilitarian warmth and sexiness to her tones, but also has an edge and street savviness to her delivery. The song deals with how time drags our protagonist down, keeps her up, and takes pleasure in “screwing (me) when I’m fucking late”. Through a breathless and syncopated delivery, the vocal has an urgency and harried sweat to it. As the chorus arrives there is a more relaxed and accepting resignation as it is said that: “You just can’t stop it, so/Dance to it just let go”. Natalia’s band-mates are equally impressive, creating a joyous fiesta during the choruses, and are more reserved and reverent during the verses; expertly punctuating appropriate word and phrases. The middle eight is particularly noteworthy. Through the employment of multi-tracked vocals, staccato brass trumpeting and a taupe mood, the song shifts down a few gears. The word ‘wait’ is deployed as a mantra; repeated and echoed to great effect, injected a sense of unnerve into the bloodstream. Before a padre is dispatched to provide moral council and a much-needed diablo arse-kicking, the chorus restores some clemency. The song will bore deep within your pons and will not shift. It is infectious and heart-warming. It doesn’t need to experimental, angular or left-field. It charms and seduces by its combination of astute and thoughtful lyrics, iscocratic and stunning vocals, as well as a tremendously diverse and uplifting sonic aura.


‘Laid to Rest’ has arrived from the street party, glitter and ephemera in hair, wine stains on its dress, and a primordial cock in its walk. The intro is the sound of the tired party girl trying to snatch a few winks. The street lights hum with mellifluous ardour; there is a rain swept rhythm pattering the rooftops, and somewhere down in the street, a mysterious man in black stands by the doorway of the local jazz bar. He looks up as the girl closes the curtains and switches the light off, and stubs out his cigarette, before walking to a telephone box, a deceitful glint in his tired eye. As the intro begins, the phone rings in the girl’s apartment, but is hidden under a pile of clothing, stilettos and old books, and is inaudible. Our shadowy enigma slams the receiver down, and leans against the glass, and pulls out a love letter and starts to read. More on that later… The intro begins with a romantic sweep. It is the sort of sound you would hear emanating from a swing/jazz joint from the ’20s and ’30s. Before you can allow your subconscious to relax and drift to a begotten era, a pulsating drumbeat swagger in. A gypsy dance trips with gleeful en dedans; it has touches of Kirsty MacColl and Shakira (but much more credible and authentic). The vocal that beckons, is again somewhat incomparable, and has a reliable warmth and strength to it. There are influences of swing, jazz and ye-ye in the gene pool, and it is that combination which ignites your inner dark recesses and compels you to be upstanding. The lyrics are again pin-sharp and display a shift of emotional turmoil. There’s a sense of desperation: “Please let me stay, please let me stay”, as well as evocations of a loss of spirit: “I had speeches I had scenes”. Whereas ‘Tick Tock’ had a simultaneous submission and ubiquitous stress to its mandate; ‘Laid to Rest’ has a downtrodden, put-upon frown on its face. Own once hopefully and besotted heroin, and wonders where her dreams went: “One more night inside”. The mood modulates and transposes; at once vigorous and charged, it changes to a swoon and introspective candour within a few seconds. The music beautifully conveys the tortured and fractious story that is being narrated. The music has an emotive quality and conviction, creating a tangible reality. The percussion is solid and blue-collared. The blues and brass perpetuate augmented ninths, flamenco blushes and magnetising semi-tones. Special props go to Tena, whose voice is gloriously anomalous. She has an ability to shift from angelic to seductress with ease and could conjure uhthoff’s phenomenon with a mere whisper. Her beatnik beau has pissed her off. She wonders why her paramour is only a man when he has a drink in his hand. The riot act is well and truly read when she says: “I’m bleeding like a soldier/Into your pint of pride”. It is a clever play on words and paints the image of a woman who has given her heart and sweat to a man who has given nothing in return. To return to our parable, the day has broken, and the emotional and literal hangover hits our leading lady. She puts on her clothes, applies her make up, and grabs a cup of coffee. She hears a knock on the door, and on the mat is a love note. The smell of tobacco and whiskey lingers like a refrain, and she scans it, with tears in her eyes. As she reaches the end she holds it to her chest and smiles, relieved. What was written, is all down to your imagination…


The guys and gal of Molotov Jukebox will not need me endorsement and patronage in order to penetrate public consciousness. With a future consisting of intercontinental tour dates, and a prestigious slot at Glastonbury, the future will be very bright. I hope that more people embrace their sound and doctrine. They are confident, tight, and an extremely talented group. Given as I am to stick quite firmly to bands such as Queens of the Stone Age and Radiohead, I would never normally lend too much credence for the band’s style of music. Upon listening to these tracks, as well as several more in their catalogue, a reappropriation of my music attitudes is needed. The best you can ask for in new music, is that it inspires you. Since listening to their tracks, I have made headway as a writer and written a new song, as well as incorporated new sounds into my palette. As a singer I have been compounded to up my game, and re-evaluate my trajectory. If you are a fan of gypsy or samba, you will find much familiar ground. If you are a supporter of stoner rock or heavy metal, then the band will appeal as well. In the way they are ‘genre-less’, they are have a unwavering universality that will speak to you quite potently. If you are unfamiliar with Molotov Jukebox, then sit down…



… and prepare to be inspired.




Official site:







Upcoming gigs:


May 25th, 2013:

Babylon Soundgarden Festival, Kemer Gold and Country Cluib,

Instanbul, Turkey.

May 26th:

Babylon Soundgarden Festival, ODTU Visnelik,

Ankara, Turkey

June 28th:

Glastonbury Festival,

Somerset, England.


For all future dates and details:





The Jar Family: ‘Machine’& ‘Footsteps’- Track Reviews

‘Machine’&‘Footsteps’- Track Reviews


9.4/10 & 9.4/10



Rag-tag clan of musical curios, create music that has you yearning for the past, and longing for the future.



Availability: ‘Machine’ and ‘Footsteps’ are available at:



They have been going strong for 3 years now…


and in that time, in their own words, have “amassed such a sizeable collection of songs”. I have been reviewing a lot of Northern bands and acts over the past couple of weeks. From the swing/jazz styling of Little Violet to the blues rock sway of JonnytheFirth; through to Rose and the Howling North’s mixture of Nancy Sinatra-esque soul and modern blues-rock fusings, I have been blown away. A lot of media hoopla is centred on existing artists, and old legends like David Bowie returning to the fold. New bands are featured here and there, but seems to be a diffuse attention-span given to their trajectory and raw and unadulterated desire to be classed amongst the pack. They all deserve to, as well. I have been amazed by the range of sounds and styles that are available; the likes of which would likely never be heard, if it weren’t for being ‘in he right place at the right time’. I have had to dig through coal to find gold, and although ultimately satisfying, it should not be so tough to uncover world-class music in a highly utilised and multi-faceted electronic age.


Rant aside, let me inject an aura of sensibility and biography. The Jar Family have been on, or bubbling under the radar since their formation, back in 2010. I was made aware of their attention via The Guardian, and have been described, rather under-appreciatively, as: “what Pete Doherty might sound like busking”. Whether one finds insult in being compared with a veracious crackhead and tabloid enemy, or complimented at being grouped with one of the 21st century’s most accomplished songwriters, is hard to say. It seems like a moot comparable, as the band share only a modicum of Mr. Doherty’s personal or musical D.N.A, and have a less controvertible image and personality. That said, the group have supported Doherty’s sister band, Babyshambles, as well as providing tantalising warm up vibes for the likes of Alabama 3, The Charlatans, and modern Dylan-in-waiting, Jake Bugg. Quite a heady and diverse mixture of acts, and a pertinent indication of the range and clarity of the troupe’s sound. The Jar Family themselves have had a movie-worthy last few years. Formed out of the frustrations and hardships of economic despondency and unpredictability, they have been wowing their native Hartlepool and the North as well as a wider demographic ever since. in August they release their new single ‘Broken Minded’, a song I am sure I will be reviewing nearer the time. The band have already recorded an army of tracks, and release an album later this year. From a cursory reconnaissance of associated acts, The Jar Family stand out. Their attire and aesthetic is highfalutin and reminiscent of Victorian detective agency. You could imagine Holmes and Watson, pacing the floors of Baker Street, searching for clues to solve a grisly murder. Holmes with pipe in hand; Watson glancing out of a candlelit window, as down below their associates roam the streets of London, in search of justice. A perpendicularity can be drawn between the parable and reality. The eight-piece clan do not have a uniformity in their style like The White Stripes; instead each have a different style and eccentric individuality to their look; kooky, but compelling none-the-less. Their sound, too, has hints of the past; parts Dylan, bits of Blue Oyster Cult, and, curiously, Chas and Dave too. It was with a light and agile witted heart that I inked my pen, and prepared to divulge my impressions and first thoughts open hearing their songs.


First up, is going to be the opening track to their forthcoming album. The Guardian described the track, rather preciously, as “anomalous”; a word that would usually be regarded as complimentary, but given the remainder of their summation of the album’s tracks, feels awash with thinly-veiled disregard and disinterest. Having heard the track for the first time, one thing comes straight to mind: de-wax your ears Paul Lester (The Guardian). The song I hear is much more astute and incomparable. I am reminded of the opening line to Samuel Beckett’s 1953 work, ‘The Unnamable’: “Where now? Who now? When now?”. These are the questions that I’d like to answer, rather than becoming bogged down in trite semantics and under-exaggeration, I’ll drill to the bedrock. Beginning with a clattering of a typewritter’s keys, there is a detectable literacy and scene-setting motif provided within a few seconds. From there, we transition to a scuzzy, put-out-on-a-first date riff; reminiscent of Black Rebel Motorcycle Club. A sort of opening Auto-Erotic Suicide She Wrote. The riff is pervasive and evolutionary. It hunts, eats, feeds and grows with a middle finger to Creationists. The byplay between the intergalactic riff and pummeling percussion is oddly insouciant. The resultant sonic cardiac dysrhythmia, is enthralling and dangerous. There are flecks of Jack White and Josh Homme in the fret work, and as the intro chugs along, the machine becomes unslakable. The vocal that enters the stage, has components of Jake Bugg and a young Bob Dylan. It resonates the same way, yet sounds less addled than Dylan, and fresher than Bugg. The hypothetical ‘when now?’ is the ’60s-cum-early 1990s. Although distinctly their own men, The Jar Family have a familiar brace and vibrancy to their attack; sounds of Britpop and The Bluetones, co-mingle with the early punk purveyors. Some of the lyrics can, however, edge towards facetious: “I wanna free you like a heart attack”, is a little detached. There is an urgency and breathlessness to the vocals and when the lines: “Give me a reason/Give me some time” and “Get on the machine”, are delivered, they are done so with dramaturgical conviction, and brings them back on track. The whole aesthetic of the song, and by extension, the band themselves is looseness and playfulness. In the same way that The Beatles did with albums such as Please Please Me, our Victorian urchins have an equal floppy-haired appeal. The chorus is chant-worthy, and the spirit is evocative of a happier, less sybaritic age of music. I guess the ‘who now?’ question has been answered. It is unfair to collate the music of The Jar Family with any other act. They have genetic similarities, but the way they mesh sounds and concecrate joviality together with a hard rock spirit is unlike any band doing the rounds today. Towards the final third, there are meditative guitar lines, and when the line: “I’m not a preacher”, is delivered there is a vague wink of irony. The band are imploring you to ‘get on the machine’ and onto their wave; there is preaching afoot, but it is never ecclesiastical; it is without doctrine or oath. There is merriment, intrigue and, the answer to ‘where now?’, in my opinion, is onwards and upwards. To answer the disingenuous critics and the uninitiated who say that the band are a tributary, rather than sea change, I would say to keep listening to ‘Machine’ as it will lodge in your skull quicker than you realise. If you’re still unsure, I will leave with a quote from Thomas Yorke, circa 2001’s ‘Packt Like Sardines in a Crushd Tin Box’: “I’m a reasonable man/Get off of my case”. That applies to you Mr. Lester!


Perhaps acting as a panacea, to counteract the metallic taste of Machine, Footsteps begins life as a quiet child. There is a fleck of The Eagles’ ‘Lying Eyes’-meets The Coral circa-‘Magic and Medicine’. The baggy, clicking heels intro will lift you and compel you to listen hard. The vocal is an unexpected treat. When anticipating the ensuing tone from hearing the intro, there are parallels with Schrodinger’s Cat. There is a measure of quantum superstition in your attitude. Until you actually hear what is coming, it is impossible to predict or know for sure. The vocal that ends suspense is calm and sensuous. It is like Pete D. has cleaned up, received singing lessons from Noel Gallagher, and has just had his heart broken. The music has a calm and mellifluous charm. The vocal sounds like it is was born on America’s west coast. There are moods of Californian folk/country, as if sped up a few RPMs. The sentiments expressed have an appropriate cachet to them. There is doubt and relationship tension: “Then you come home/Wonder why…” and longing maturity and self-reflection: “I just wanna settle down”. There are semitones of James Blunt in the tremulous vocal performance, but far, far more credible and lovable. It is a softer, more evocative croon. If you close your eyes and follow the song, vivid and sun-filled images come to mind. It takes you inside of the lyrics and you can picture what our protagonist means; every heartfelt word resonating with clarity. When the harmonica is dusted off, and injects some emotional wind into the emotional meteorology, the Dylan comparisons seem appropriate. Although The Jar Family don’t posses the same epoch-defining lyricism of Dylan, they have a romanticism that Dylan didn’t quite achieve until 1975. There is perhaps not the same reverence as contained within the likes of ‘Tangled Up In Blue’, but at the same time there is less mauvaise foi as well. The chaps are wearing hearts on sleeves, and implore you to listen up good. It is quite a bold about-face of ‘Machine’ but no less impressive. Over the course of 2 tight and impressive tracks the band have accomplished and conquered a wide empire of emotional ground, and planted flags in enemy territory.


If you are hearing about this band for the first time, I would suggest three things. Firstly, have a listen to each of these tracks on their own merit, and judge for yourself which is the stronger or more memorable of the two. Secondly, delve back into their extensive catalogue, and explore the range of styles, sounds and emotions this mighty band of men achieve. Lastly, once this is done, brace yourself for their impending album, as it will be something to treasure. The Jar Family have a unique and beguiling uniformity to their image. They already distinguish themselves from the pack on looks alone. Their lyrics are diverse and striking. Some times they lapse into nihility, but most of the time they are mature and incisive. The band are chameleons in the desert landscape; they blend beautiful whether the sand blows a storm, or the sun burns to the core. The vocals are never third-rate to any of the influences or artists I have picked out in this review. There are smooth, soulful tones; jagged rock edges, and an authenticity to every word spoken.


So the beautiful North are creating quite a stir at the moment. In years gone by, it was the cities of London and Oxford that produced the golden talents (except of course for the rush of Mancunian talent from the ’80s-late ’90s), the geographical shift prove that the rich-poor divide is true financially as well as musically. I’m not sure it diminished wealth and fiduciary headaches promote creativity and a unequivocal drive for success, but there does seem to be a coloration. Perhaps an impending triple-dip recession may not be the worst thing in the world, if it spurned similar bands to rise and intoxicate. It has been a good day of music for me today and The Jar Family are already lodged within my brain and soul. They have elements of Britpop, classic ’60s pop and have a very modern drive and mandate, in spite of the neo-Victorian band boutique. If I were to bookmark the review with some literary lines, the most appropriate would be the final lines of ‘Speak Memory’ by Vladimir Nabokov. But I’ll explain more…



… the next time we meet.
















Dead Cassette- ‘Sandcastles’- E.P. Review

‘Sandcastles’- E.P. Review





Surrey-based band, have the charm, innovation and raw mobility to rise well above the rampant competition.



Availability: ‘Sandcastles’ is available via:



The ‘band’ moniker produces a myriad of charitable cogitation, as to what one would have to achieve in order to be near the benchmark…


and reign amidst a swelling rank of bands in the music business. The formula in order to obtain and sculpt a musical Pillars of Hercules is five-fold. The words have to be fresh and engaging; not subject to cliche or rank hyperbole and crass perturbation. The music that bonds the words needs to contain excitement, innovation and a genuine wit; or at the very least, it needs to grip and compel, not merely wander about shyly in the background. The vocals must not be too comparable to existing muses, and have a shade of originality and development. The band have to have an intelligence and forward thinking approach to their aesthete and song/album titles. Finally, the combination of these four statutes, must combined, evoke a tingle and reverent pleasure among the listener. It can be similar to existing music without being a glib facsimile. The band has to be likeable and compel you to listen, and seek them out in the future. As quantity subjugates quality, with every passing month, the commercial and spiritual epiphany is hard to achieve. This is not a criticism. Music is a huge open market, and there is room for anyone and everyone. There are many bands that have far too many similarities to current bands, and come across as third-rate knock-off, deserving of flagellation. I have been more impressed recently about new music, than I have been at any other time in my life. If you look hard enough, and turn over ever cyber carpet and stool, searching for a gleam of gold, it can be found. Mass appeal is contingent on a communal subjectiveness, and a tantilising USP to boot. It is not found or heard of often, but sometimes you are pleasantly surprised.


Sam, Michael, Jordan and Alex, are, collectively, Dead Cassette. I have been aware of them for about a year or so, and they have a faithful, if not Bieber-proportioned following among Twitter and Facebook. But unlike the aforementioned nauseating pop moppet, the band are concerned with the business of producing commendable and authentic music, retaining a loyal band of support, whilst staunchly electioneering to a fresh democratic. They have a wide appeal in the Home Counties and environs, and are poised to take on London and farther afield. The E.P.’s creation was as a result of touring London, writing and rehearsing for 18 months. The elective spirit and blue-collar work ethic has contributed to making ‘Sandcastles’ such a memorable and standard-bearing collection of songs. The tracks gleams with foot-pounds of spark, passion and emotion and the songs will root in your brain. It was with an open-mind and open arms that I brought to my inaugural listening of the complete E.P.


Sporting a catchy and open-interpretive title, ‘El Genius’ swaggers into a dark-lit bar, dirty, used bank notes stuffed into each hand, angrily inquiring who broke the jukebox. Its intro has an ethological mystique and swagger, dusting off its bloodied knuckles, ready for another fight. It has a Hispanic fire and temperament. The guitars stutter and punch, and spit tobacco; the atmosphere ignites and propels from the get-go and has the panache and same burbling contortion that one would find on an early Queens of the Stone Age release. Barely after breathe and semblance have been fettered, the vocal line cuts the mood like a knife. It is spirited and enunciated; a curious shade of Robert Smith lingers. The guitar and percussion propelling the vocal has a bouncy mix of The Libertines, and a beta test amalgamation of Graham Coxon, Johnny Marr, and Jimmy Page. I was impressed by seeming perpetual motion of the music on this track. The percussion faithfully keeps the beat, whilst encouraging new avenues and punk-era reminiscence; the guitars chop and change and figure out daring and unusual positions as the track progresses. It is a fervent and intoxicating blend. The theme seems to pivot around the idea of a loser and deplorable central figure, whom seems to offer nothing but derision and embarrassment. The band punctuate their summations with punch, and a smiling-nod to ‘Prince Charming’, to my ear: “Time is up/Time is up/Criticise your/Criticism”, is an early lyrical snippet. The protagonist was seemingly “misunderstood by the masses”, and “not to be one to be denied attention”, the vivid storytelling paints pictures of tragic tableaux, free from Esotericism; there is a universal theme to the words: we all know someone like this! At times the guitars have a flavour of Arctic Monkeys and Bloc Party, but carry the mildest flavour notes, and never sound bogged down by the sum of its parts. As I mentioned, the music changes directions and sounds with delirious abandon, yet has a propellant urgency and disciplined structure which create an intense and enigmatic mood, and let the lyrics and vocals shine when needed. Past the 2 minute mark the track nature of the beast is candle-lit with black smoke. The vocal delivery is has a woozy syncopated quality, and is simultaneously is inspired by the preceding musical star-burst, and at the same time gets ready to tee up the next. It is another contortion in a twisting, turning, kicking, punching, and finger-pointing number, that is infectious and memorable, and at 3:01, tight and focused too. 9.4


Feedback-drenched electrics and a tempestuous, bolstering percussive thud is what opens ‘Sentiment’. Soon a coordinated dalliance between electric guitar and bass comes to the fore, before the drums roll and patter manfully, teamed with electrics, to create an Omphaloskepsis and delirium-infused indie statement of intent. Again the track has a fleck of Bloc Party. But far from being a similar animal, Dead Cassette have a harder punk edge and credibility, especially to the vocals, which are a fast-paced staccato for a lot of the track. There is urgency and breathlessness throughout with such insights as “no time for commentaries” and “no time for pleasantries”. Just as you are holding your spirit still to try to catch what is being sung, the tension and tightly-wound anxiety gives out to sprightly and fleet-footed musical chorusing. Again the guitar work is superb, changing moods and speeds seamlessly, and infusing the track with a tangible torrent of angst and solicitude. The entire band are tight and studied throughout, but allow a looseness to the composition, and infuse it with sparks and spots of sweat and blood, revealing subtle nuances with each ensuing listen. The vocal is forceful and full-bodied, and in spite of the breathless and machine gun delivery, it never loses its rigidity and composure, marking it out as one of the picks of the E.P. It is an impressive opening brace, and lays out the band’s sound and intentions effectively and spirit-raising efficacy. Importantly the momentum never loses a step, and by track 3, you are begging for a few minutes of acoustic calm, to collect your thoughts and compose your senses. 9.2


If the opening bars of ‘This Town’ are anything to go by, it seems that there is no remission or time to stand still. The band mean business, and are not willing to drop pace. With might and main, the intro is snarling and equipped with gravel-fisted arpeggio and carnivorous desire. After about 15 seconds or so, there is a vague submission of rage, and the riff transmogrifies into another trademark electronic parable; complete with the same sort of inventiveness and authority of Johnny Marr. The angular fret work creates its own osmosis, and there is a power and catchiness to it, that puts a smile on your face. The tale, explains how “the kid who runs this town”, will succumb to the real world, which has intentions to “spit him out”. It is a foreboding and cautionary tale, and complete with oblique and daring musical backing, and stark lyrical snatches, it is another impressive track, and keeps the pace on an energetic high. 9.0


There are far-off sounding guitar echos, interplay. It begins with a brief death metal rumble, and somewhere around the 1o second mark, it transforms into a rebel-rousing, energy-infused number. The guitar sounds range from echoed struts to guttural rumblings fresh from the jaws of the Devil. By co-mingling these diverse flavours, it gives the track a unique and fresh sound, and sounds like a traditional Dead Cassette number. The vocal once more is infused with bluster and command, and has smatters of Robert Smith again. Its heart and soul seems to have a little of Libs’ ‘Up The Bracket’, and has a similar tenement squalor to the fighting musicality and raw and uplifted vocals. It may not be as strong as ‘El Genius’, but will leave quite an impression in your mind. 9.1


The title-track completes the E.P.s progression. There is a rising intrigue and potency to the guitar-driven intro. It builds and kicks and dances itself silly, imploring you to get on board. The music dominates for the most part, creating its own scenes and little pockets of influence. The vocal power is present again and the messages are strong-willed, vivid and inspiring in equal measures. Samples include: “When everything comes crashing down” and “stand up if you still believe”. It is an epic and fitting way to end an adventurous E.P., and leaves you wanting to hear more from these boys! 9.2


I was impressed by the band over the course of the E.P. They have a brilliant professionalism to their sound, and portray the confidence of a band 3 or 4 albums in, rather than one so young. The lyrics have an effective simplicity to them, but are mature and focused. The words do not trip over one another and there are no wasted syllables. They can get their message said quickly and workmanlike, and show a cavalier and daring spirit throughout all five tracks. The vocals have little shades of artists past, but retain a singular individuality to them, and are strong and impassioned from start to finish, never wavering or losing conviction. The band provide spectacular backing and the range of guitar and drum sounds and patterns is to be commended. The band manage to change course and projection over the course of a song, and do so with ease, in no small part because of the players. The songs were memorable and strong, and the quality rarely dipped at all. If you have not heard of Dead Cassette, and are in need of a new sound to inflame and enliven…



… then look no further than ‘Sandcastles’.



Key Track: ‘El Genius’.







YouTube :





Matt Corby- E.P. Review


Matt Corby


E.P. Review:




‘Into the Flame’





Australian honey-voiced artist has overwhelming delicacy of fire and delicate amber to his voice.



Availability: ‘Into the Flame’ is available via:



The solo acoustic market is difficult to master these days…


because there are so many contenders, standing along the road, hoping you’ll slow down and buy their wears. There is a slew of- predominantly male- solo/acoustic ‘troubadours’, many of them saying the exact same thing. It is encouraging that the lure of public appreciation, and the personal satisfaction of recording music, attracts so many people to record. But there should be a modifiable quota. Unless you have an exceptional voice, insightful and thought-provoking lyrics and sound, and a like-able and vote-swinging personality, you shouldn’t be allowed in. It may be a harsh ultimatum, but there, frankly, are too many musicians and artists. People with genuinely prodigious talent, are often subjugated and temporised; rallying hard but never given their due plaudits and appreciation.


Matt Corby is a curious case. For a start he is Australian. It is quite uncommon for Australian talent to be heard of to the U.K. shore. The vast majority of the music we hear, and especially new music, has its origins within our borders, or from those in the U.S. Rarely we get other forms of trans-continental wonder, but I am at a loss to remember the last time I heard a fantastic Australian solo artist. Perhaps not too strange in this day, but noteworthy, none-the-less. Matt is a mere 22-year-old, who, has already released 4 E.P.s since 2010’s debut ‘Song For…’. Over the last year he has been nominated for 2 awards at the Australasian Performing Rights Association Awards, as well as being labelled by many in the music press as ‘The Next Big Thing’. There are not many negative things one can say about Corby. He was the runner-up of Australian Idol back in 2007, and I’d hate to thing that that has anything to do with his ensuing success. I hope not, as I genuinely loathe talent shows, who are concerned with fame and sob stories, rather than finding talent. If you appear on those shows all you want is exposure and fame. Recording music should be done honestly and out of the spotlight, and not in front of four clueless morons, who eat up every pathetic ‘who gives a shit’ story of tragedy you have to offer. I’ll stop the rant, but safe to say my irreligious disregard is backed up by the best acts and musicians in the world. There is a lot to adore about Matt, though. He has a hardy work ethic, and as well as his ferocious output over the past 3 years, he has been touring extensively, and garnering a steady and loyal following in his native land, as well as over here and farther afield. He has quite an incredible set of pipes. I’ll get it out of the way by saying that he is not, as many people have labelled him ‘the next Jeff Buckley’. Buckley is one of the greatest voices in history, and is my music idol. Every man who can sing in a falsetto or has any hint of sensitive to their aesthete are lazily labelled as the king-in-waiting. Buckley may have been a modern pioneer for sensitive male songwriters, but he also had a cataclysmic range that has not been equalled since. He hated to be compared to anyone and if he were alive today, would have hated people being compared to him. He was there first, and cannot be overthrown. Corby is his own man and although not quite in the same league, he has his own spellbinding appeal. If you start being bunged in with other artists you always have to live up to that and lose your own personality. ‘Into the Flame’ shows a huge array of emotion and influence, but combined, shows a fresh young voice, who is eager to create his own legend.


Having attracted the most attention and listens throughout the Internet, is the E.P.’s lead-off track ‘Brother’. It has been covered extensively, and has even won its author awards back in Australia, and has superseded the E.P. itself, creating its own fandom and atmosphere. The E.P. has been on sale for nearly 18 months, but has been gathering a fierce momentum, since. It is in no small parts, due to this track. It begins with a brief falsetto bird call, which heralds a delicate but punchy drum beat. The vocal pattern continues. It is a mixture of high and low chorusing, backed by steady percussion. The atmosphere then calms, to allow Corby’s voice to introduce itself. It is quite a whispered and husky vocal at the beginning, having shades of Patrick Watson, as well as ‘Five Leaves’ Left Nick Drake. It is tremulous and breathy. The arc and interplay of the song’s trajectory is quite appealing. Whilst it begins with a curious blend of whimsy and delight, and then fades to a more incentive and cultured vocal, it does not advance as you would predict. Just as you think we are settling in for a languorous and emotional ballad, the excitement and upbeat carnival of the intro steals back in. There are bits of Hayden Thorpe, circa ‘Two Dancers’, during the rises: a pleasing and ear-catching tenor. I know the comparisons are creeping in to my analogy, but it is hard to not hear snatches of other singers. It is, however, completely faithful and lacking imitation; they are just colours of Corby’s rainbow. The trilling and ululation continues, before a gin-soaked growl enters, and a new phase is uncovered. It is impassioned and afflicted: “Somebody call out to your brother/He’s calling out your name”. There is an old blues sound to his voice, earthy and ravaged at times, that is an impressive counterpart to the high falsetto vocal displays throughout the tracks more rambunctious moments. When he sings: “You cower in the corner”; his voice ramps up and the Joe Cocker-esque tribal growl intensifies and hits the ceiling, as the lyrical meaning and emotion is brought into full focus. The backing piano and percussion acts as a metaphysical gut punch, and just as the tension becomes unbearable, the pressure subsides, and a calmer, more soothing vocal comes to restore order. The words are emotional and scarred: “Acknowledge you were afraid”; and yet again, before your heart and senses can relax, the guttural chorus comes back, swinging and punching, before the track ends. ‘Brother’ is admirable and highly memorable. Through its usage of vocal and musical sharp mood swings, it creates a tangible tension, and evocative atmosphere and has all the hallmarks of a future classic; getting the E.P. off to a terrific start.  9.5


With a blue-tinged intro, it brings to mind the music of legends Robert Johnson, B.B. King and Muddy Walters; albeit it, a more modern, electric rendition. The guitar noodles, and wiggles and dances with baby steps, creating a loose feel that also manages to hold interest and build up the track’s promise and intrigue. The vocal mandate is similar to that of ‘Brother’: a low-pitched blues and soul confessional, punctuated by falsetto bursts, ‘Souls a’Fire’ is awash with nascent emotionality: “…the raging sea beats at your door”. It is an assured performance, and one that will grip you. Corby’s voice sways, swoons, rises and falls and will not rest. The music behind the man is unobtrusive but forceful, summoning up emotion and weight all on its own. It is the kind of track that one could imagine sound-tracking the titles to a gangster film or series. It evokes images of alleyways, dark streets, neon-lit clubs and mystery. There is a pleasingly authority to Corb’y’s rock belt. He has a grit and gravel-stuffed candour and force, and can imagine he could easily tackle a grunge or heavy metal number and infuse it with authenticity and panache. Although not quite as intriguing or as strong as its younger sibling, ‘Souls a’Fire’ demonstrates what a strong and compelling voice Corby has. He doesn’t need histrionics or to pirouettes up and down the octaves all of the time. He can hold attention just fine when he finds his own voice. 9.4


Beginning in a similar vein to that of ‘Brother’, the ambiguous ‘Untitled’, begins with coos, and angelic intent. It is the longest track of the set, but to my mind, probably the best as well. The vocal is still and heart-wrenching. The backing is simple and tender, offering appropriate support. but letting the vocal shine through. The lyrics are intelligent and sweeping: “Pride swallowed me and lead me astray”, and through a series of metaphors, and striking verbal imagery, an epic and tear-tinged tableaux is presented. The vocal keeps you compelled throughout, switching as it does from a soft and shy whisper, through to a throaty bellow. The mood is never downcast or depressive, as the charm and beauty of the voice keeps it engaging and universal and compels repeated listens. In an industry where there are many emotional numbers; many saccharine and plastic soul, Corby has managed to pen a mature and heartfelt track that is restrained and passionate where it needs to be, and punctuated and enthralling when the song so requires. It to my mind is the standout cut from the E.P., and shows Corby is not a songwriter to be pigeon-holed or subject to comparison. He creates a unique and new sound that will capture you and leave you wanting more. 9.7


The final track of ‘Into the Flame’ begins with tinges of country as well as modern soul too. The guitar intro is happy and spirited. The vocal to ‘Big Eyes’ is again a softer beast. There are shades again of Watson in the verses. There is a similar sound to the vocals, but Corby is joined by Bree Tranter, of the Australian band, The Middle East. She has a gorgeous sound to her vocals. It is calming and electrifying, and provides a welcomed alternative to Corby’s voice. The two vocal paths seldom cross, instead taking lines and verses between them. The song is calming and soothing but does not stick in your mind the same way as the previous tracks; but provides a great end, still, to a wonderful E.P. 8.8.


There are a lot of positive and recommendations, I can provide after listening to the E.P. I have been aware of Matt Corby for a little while, and have listened to a lot of his older work as well. He has an incredible vocal range to him, and is not confined in that sense. He has the option to do pretty much anything he wants with it, which means as a songwriter he has more options and a greater range of subject matter. He could easily nestle raw blues numbers, alongside folk numbers. It would be great to find a more upbeat rock sound for a future album. I feel he has the ability to be a terrific rock singer in the mould of Robert Plant, and will be intriguing to see whether there are going to be any harder, more effusive tracks in the near future. The songwriter is mature and studied throughout. They are not prone to cliche or nauseating-hyperbole; instead switching from striking to poetic. It is impressive from a songwriter so young. Similarly the music throughout is varied and interesting. There interesting guitar lines and switches, and the percussion and piano work throughout is especially noteworthy. The fact that Corby has not become a media puppet, and been chasing fame is commendable. He is busy working away and trying to get as many people listening to his music as possible. I know ‘Into the Flame’ has a lot of fans in Australia, but few people have mentioned it to me, here. I think it deserves a much wider demographic, and legion of fans, as acts and artists like this come around very seldom.


If I were to offer suggestions I would like to see a range of sonic diversity. As mentioned there is potential for huge expansion and scope, and the inclusion of strings, guitars and a harder rock sound, would increase his palette and give him exciting options as a songwriter. He has kept a fairly faithful sound for the duration of his career, but if it were to remain so for years to come, it may sound worn and trodden. He has immense talent, and would be great to hear that at work. Finally I would urge him to check out Patrick Watson, the Canadian songwriter who has gained popularity in his home land. Forget the Buckley parable, to my ear he sounds unbelievably similar to Watson at times, and although it is a terrific sound, one is enough. He has the ability to supersede his talent, so needs to stray away from sounding too much like Watson for too long. As well, there are one or two many vocal gymnastics in the early part of the E.P.; switching from falsetto to growl and back again within a few seconds. It is an impressive trick but used too often for my liking and adds no emotional reverence; it sounds a bit like showboating.


Niggles aside I cannot wait for an album from Matt Corby as I loved the E.P. and was stunned by the maturity, range of subjects and sounds within 4 tracks. If you have not heard of him, I would suggest you listen to his music now, and get on boar, because he won’t be a secret for too much longer. He is a talent that…



… will burn into your soul.



Key Track: ‘Untitled’










Last FM:




Jonny the Firth: ‘Broken Bones’ – Album Review


Broken Bones


Album Review





He wants to be make music that makes you want to dance. Jonny B very good!




‘Broken Bones’ is available via



There is not much pure ‘fun’ to be had amongst current music…

and yet Jonny the Firth, is- in his own words- a ‘one man punk blues band’, from Yorkshire. He has a wide aggregation of representation amongst the Internet, and has been creating his unique blend of punk blues for quite a few years now. He stands out amongst the rank-and-file, as is quite atypical a musician. Not what you’d expect from a Yorkshire man: no whippet or cup of tea in hand. He has the flat cap, and he has the accent, amiable demeanour and Northern wit. That is where the, somewhat cliched stereotype ends. He has much more Memphis and Nashville about him. Jonny explained that the band name was a whim he happened upon; an accident, which stuck and has been with him ever since. Investigating the man behind the moniker, his day to life may be considered more sedentary and arable than you’d expect from a punk blues superstar. He is as distinguished and unique as you can find from a Northern musician, yet at his core still revels in the bucolic splendours of Wakefield. Why this style of music, you may ask? Jonny explained that that was the music he grew up listening to, and the music that resonated with him most fervently. It would be semantic null to say that ‘you write what you know’. It is often stifling and sanitising if you ration and limit yourself as songwriter. You need to be inspired by your influences, but not wear that repatriation on your sleeve. Similarly, one needs to make their personality and message unique, but not too diverse or impenetrable. Johnnythefirth show acute understanding of the blues spirit of the southern states of America, yet hone and fuse it together with the punk edict of the ’70s. There are mining community and real life blues scenarios in Yorkshire. There is hardship, camaraderie, communality and a resolute bonhomie; which one can draw parallels with the Deep South and the songs that would be sung by the slaves whilst they worked. It is by linking the two disparate landscapes in a fraternal handshake that the man and his band succeed. Sprinkling a top the mix with a raw but sweet flavour of punk and blues rock, means that what is to be found amidst ‘Broken Bones’, is at once familiar and abound with tradition; yet fresh and daring, ready to mingle and fight with the best of modern music.


Amongst the somnambulism of the quicksand of modern music, nary but a few acts show attrition by creating sparks and electricity within their sound. Queens of the Stone Age have a June release afoot; there’s a couple of post-pubescent indie outfits and lonesome troubadours who, combined, have the ability to set fire to the beige miasma. Released back in May of last year, ‘Broken Bones’ is johnnythefirth’s statement of intent, and one that needs to be heard through a wider audience; as it is as fresh now as is was then, and was, when made by the blues and punk pioneers. It is another act from the ever-expanding and always-impressive Cuckoo Records stall, are producing the new generation of diverse, innovative and mega talented guard. Another day, another Cuckoo sensation…


With a jubilant and energetic piano roll, reminiscent of Rachmaninoff, via Muse’s ‘Butterflies and Hurricanes’, ‘Just the Way I’m Feeling’ is as fun and upbeat a start to any album ever. It’s percussion is studded and stamping; it is a drum dance of fun and flits and jumps with gay abandon. After 13 seconds, the pub doors have been locked, disregard has infested the patrons, and a smoke and beer filled aura possesses the night. There is a bit of ‘Oliver’s Army’ a little ‘Boomtown Rats’; a smidge of Elvis Presley, and a butt-load of fun and festivity. The voice that steps up to rationalise proceedings is blues-infused and warm. It is authentic and authoritative but unlike any voice you’ve probably heard. Having an especially keen ear for voices I can usually detect the genealogy of an artist’s voice, but with jonnythefirth I was stumped. There’s a little bit of Rob Harvey during the chorus but that’s it. It has a pleasing individuality and freshness to it. Brass trumpets with Saturnalian wonder, creating an aural Prozac. As an expected juxtaposition to the music, the lyrics have a traditional blues frown to them. There is self doubt: “I don’t like myself”, but one suspects that the tristesse laid forth has an ironic and knowing wink. There is so much rambunctious revolt that one suspects that the memorable, repeated chorus of “Just the way I’m feeling, baby” portrays a man with a smile, rather than tears in his heart. Whether there is a darker, deeper maudlin beneath the bluster, is unsure; but to keen ears and open hearts, the track is spectacular, delighted and a wonderful opening salvo from an incredible talented songwriter and musician. 9.7


At just a few seconds shy of 2 minutes, ‘William’, is no pithy bon mot, or passing whimsy. It is a homunculus of intrigue and closet secrets. It’s beginning is more controlled and serious than its predecessor, yet seems more bloodthirsty. Its fists have had the beer stained washed off, and are showing claws. It jitters, punches and rumbles like an avalanche. Through the employment of scratchy and meaty guitars, it creates quite an awesome and alpha male atmosphere that one can link to the last of the Detroit blues sensations, The White Stripes. It is a problem lovechild of ‘Elephant’ and ‘Era Vulgaris’-era Queens of the Stone Age. The ensuing vocal is sterner and harder than in ‘Just the Way I’m Feeling’ and has a modicum of early career Jack White, as jonnythefirth recall a tale of faulted love: “You were 26/I was 25”, that lead to his beau wearing his shoes, wearing down his body, and wearing him down “in the pouring rain”. It staggers, jumps and ratchets bullets of intent and blues via Virginia, through Michigan, across the waves and into your brain. With 30 seconds to go, the riotous recollection of events past becomes more contemplative. There is an Alex Turner edge to the vocal tones with fewer than 30 seconds to go, before the atmosphere picks back up and as soon as things have started with a bang, they end with one. Who the William refers to- maybe a childhood friend, an associate, leaves questions unanswered. Perhaps it is a childhood parable after all. The thing about great blues is a simple and effective story told, is not definitively unambiguous. It makes you mind wander and imagine, and wonder what the song refers to. Psychoanalysis aside it is a thumping and salacious slab of Detroit blues rock, and keeps the momentum hard and fast. 9.8


From the album’s shortest track, comes the runner up. With a Hendrix/Slash wailing monolith of an opening lick, there is a tangible relevance and appropriateness to ‘Fly Away’s title. It stomps at first, like a gin bar army, balkanised against a effete stampede of Belibers and One Direction fan-girls. It summons Norse, rouses Poseidon and marches on. Mercifully the dream follows a nightmare, and with a lyrical tenderness: “I don’t want to see you fly away”, and a restrained but firestorm swell of a rhythm, it is a hypnotic and captivating number. When the guitar slows and calms, one can hear influences of blues masters Robert Johnson, Son House and Blind Lemon Jefferson. The lyrics convey a similar tradition and haunted longing: “The Devil wants me/When I’m alone” and implores for romantic salvation. It is another tight and razor-sharp number, but calmer and more akin to the standard ’30s and ’40s blues greats. It calms the mood and lets us know there is soul beneath the tough exterior. 9.5


Imagine Matt Bellamy, at the summation of his creative prowess with Muse (‘Black Holes and Revelations’), having a stab at blues and punk, and you’d be halfway to imagining ‘Wolf Boy Cry’. It gallops intergalactic, pirouettes in stasis, before winking and returning to land. There is a little hint of Arctic Monkeys to the verses. You can detect shades of Turner’s Northern drawl and spit. Similarly there is a familiar lyrical wit and keen observation: “You take the car out/I’ll take the limousine”. The track sways from unhinged theremin-style guitars, to regimented, rhythmic balance. Towards the chorus, there’s yet another unexpected diversion, as the mood becomes more akin to ’70s rock/glam , with an atmospheric vocal backing. Jonnythefirth shows yet more colours in his musical rainbow, displaying keen wit and an admirable mix of restraint and free-spirited ideal. It is perhaps more accessible to those uninitiated to the magic of the blues, but pleasing and memorable to those of us who know who B.B. King is. 9.5


‘Another Number Another Name’s opening acoustic strum hides a secret pain. When our hero steps to the mic to let us know what is on his mind. There is a mixture of vividness: “Breaking glass/On this nowhere train”, and undulated sadness: “Bringing me dead flowers/In the rain”. It has the spirit of ‘Blood on the Tracks’ Bob Dylan– confessional, open and in need of a hug. The vocals and raw and aching, and convey a simple and effective weight to them. The sound is a lot more bare than previous tracks, and it is the man and his acoustic guitar. Here the words and made for talking, and the track is all the more striking and impressive because of it. If there has been too much clutter or sound, the message and directness would have been buried, but due to the sparsity of the music, and the passion in the vocals, the overall effect is brilliant. It is one of the strongest tracks, and shows that johnnythefirth can move in mysterious and multi-directional ways.  9.6.


With a slight arpeggio and a gentle lilt, ‘War Song’, may seem like an ironic misnomer. It has a romantic and soothing sigh to its sound, and there is an edge of folk and Irish music as well to the intro. The ‘war’ is less literal, and more personal. It is a war of poses, and less War of the Roses. The song postulates and professes; it philosophises and ruminates. It has a steam-infused propulsion to it, but is less hard-edged and violent; it is tender and musical. It is the sort of song that Mumford and Sons would record if they had the talent; or the sort Dry The River would sing if they were in a good mood. It has an effectively easy. Again there is a heartbroken diary entry in the year of blues punk. Our protagonist cannot shake off the blues, and whoever hurt him has left a fairly deep wound. Instead of being tormented and wallowing in despair, the music is conscientious and caring. The lyrics are not prone to cliche; instead there are collages of pain and anger: ‘Little white lies/Killed your mind” and Northern soul and romanticism: “Hold me dear/Don’t let go”. It is a prescient blend that tugs at the heartstrings as well as making it ache at the same time. Just as the song reaches its peak of intensity and is rousing and filled with atmosphere, it stops briefly. When it comes back up the gentle strum of the intro returns, and the song ends. It is an inventive and unexpected twist. The war is over and unsure which side has suffered the most causalities. The theme is age-old but the sentiment is not sheer rhetoric; it is a genuine fable of spiritual depanzement, and emotional atomisation. 9.3.


Perhaps with a more fitting name this time around, ‘Dirty Jokes’, arrives with sly grin and perfunctory resolve. The last 2 to 3 songs have been a bit of an emotional response to the pounding hangover of the opening. Now, rested and relaxed and with a lot off of his chest, jonnythefirth is back to his swaggering stride. The intro, again, is jubilant and ready to go, and not hamstrung by formality. It whoops and choruses its intention with a chugging steam train of blues and rock. At its heart is a slingshot paramour: the gravitational pull of the vocal (which has sparks of Mr. White, once more), and the percussion and guitar, which fire furiously forth, creating a building momentum. The words have a repeated mantra: “Dirty jokes/plastic boats/Yes I’m leaving/Leaving you all behind!”. It is the composition as a whole that is most impressive of all. There is a raw and bare-boned feel to the music, which is one of the most authentic slices of blues on the album. The guitars swell and throb; stabs and retreat. The drums clatter and canter furiously, pushing and driving the intensity. It is a real thrill ride, and puts you in mind of driving down a highway, wind in your hair. It is the kind of song that you would crank up to 10, and damned be anyone who tries to stop you. When the guitar scuffs, there is a sage drop of glam rock; whilst within the ice cold fists of steel there is a distinct sound of punk. It is 161 seconds of U-turns, mind bends and mood switches and leaves you, in a sense, nonplussed. Your soul and brain have been given so much information and emotional fervency that it wears you down with a big smile on your face 9.6


With a nimble guitar opening, ‘Reality Bites’ morphs into a Rolling Stones jam, all angular, dissonant, sexual and thrusting. It has a punk mise en scene, albeit one with a post-modern twist. Our frontman’s vocals are again impassioned and primal. The music is a mixture of parping brass and grumbling guitars, and, the abiding message is that you have to face reality, “before it bites ya”. The song itself bites, and has a real sound of The Kinks at its heart, and an overall ’60s rock-meets-punk-cum-Northern soul vibe. Although not one of the strongest of the track, it is a worthy and strong counter narrative to the more sedate and emotional songs, and is short and sweet, never wasting a word or outstaying its welcome. It embeds its message in your brain efficiently, and goes on its way. 8.7


Ramping the tension and elevating the mood, comes a Dylan-influenced intro. It has a great ‘Highway 61 Revisted’ ‘60s electric blues rhythm and gets off to the races. The vocals; a wee bit Turner, a shade Dylan, are confident and sardonic, yet manage to uplift as well. The lyrical snatches: “I wear my grandad’s shoes” and “Don’t be a hero John/sit back down/Before they break your teeth” displays a typical Yorkshire wit and evocative charm. It has a very chant-able feel to most of the song, and could easily be a song you would bellow, whilst negotiating the dangers of the highway, having spent a memorable evening down the local pub. It ends all too quickly, being quick the tease! Although it is another track, like ‘William’ that is memorable and catchy, without having to spread itself out and filling gaps. It is sharp, yet has a loose charm to it and will put a smile on your face, as it is fun and up for a laugh, and implores you to sing along. 9.0.


Being the only song of the 13 on the album to top the 5 minute mark, ‘Damages’ , sets out its stall as a potential vote winner, and pivotal centrepiece to persuade any hearts and minds not completely in love with johnnythefirth, to do so bloody sharpish. With a tender vocal and a sense of universality to the compositional integrity to the song, this is the outfit’s argumentum ad populum. The poetry of the track is pure and undistilled. There is a real urgency to the words: “I’m so young/Why do I feel so old?”, are inflected with a lyrical falsetto, complete with elongation, to add extra emphasis. The chorus is more rousing, employing as it does a crew of backing vocal to help the sentiments resonate. Detached as it is from the mantel of ‘traditional blues and punk’ it is an aching and sensitive child. It has elements of Jeff Buckley and Matt Corby, and there is a great vocal range on display here. Like those worldly fellows, Jonny has an addling, spine curved earnestness to his message: “You are my saviour/My ever-lasting rose”. It has gospel tinges when you hear the backing vocals. It gives those same kind of chills. The track is rousing and epically sweeping in places, acting as an emotional and spiritual pre-pro-peptide, and another notch in the belt of our Yorkshire lad. 9.2


With its wall of feedback and metallic chug, bringing to mind a 50ft robot stalking London, rendering landmark upon landmark to rubble, ‘Pitbull Blues’ tells you all you need to know. It has snarl and teeth, and fetid breathe; our afflicted hero protesting: “Bit by/Bit by a woman/Bit by a pitbull”. The track has a lot in common with the blues legends, mentioned previously. Whilst those men would talking about throwing bricks at their women, and swearing bloody revenge upon their sweethearts, the mood here less misogynistic and more biting in its wit and tongue-in-cheek humour. That tsunami of a swollen riff in the background is lord of the manor, and stands at the gates of hell, chainsaw in hand, daring you to step forward. Our poor protagonist is low on funds and luck but, low and behold, his lady arrives, swings for the fences and wants nothing but his cash. As Jonny attests, in a triple, double negative: “I haven’t got none”. It is another short track that I could well have liked to hear on a release like White Blood Cells or The Von Bondies or Hives. It has a raw and razor wire vocal bark, and a Juggernaut of a backing. 9.6


With perhaps a nod of self-referential onomatopoeia, ‘Boom Bang’ explodes and cracks, beginning as it does with a fuzzy and dizzy guitar riff. Undertones of The White Stripes’ ‘Rag and Bone’ linger within the beast as well, as ‘White Album’-era Beatles. Just as you are slipping into the music, an ear-shattering scream bellows forth. The lyrics are awash with wit and bile, as Jonny recalls spending time: “in the shittest town on Earth”. There is self-assessment, reflective pronouns, and speculative intrigue and wild imagery (“She goes bang/And I go boom”) amidst a rousing cacophony of blues noise and intent. It is another example of jonnythefirth’s ability to produce fresh sounding blues, alive with tension and excitement, yet retain and pervade elements of classic and modern classic blues rock artists, who have a keen eye for a harder punk edge. 9.2


Ending with a more gentle affair, we end our trans-continental blues punk odyssey with ‘Sing for the Miners’. The final track has a gentle folk charm to it, that has some similarities with Crowded House, at their most contemplative and analytical. The chorus ends with: ‘Sing for the miners/They’ll never come back’, and has an inevitable emotion to it that does not surrender easily. It is perhaps a very English or very Yorkshire song, in the sense that a lot of the economy, up until recently, was centered around mining. Now that the sector is all but extinct, it seems like a tale of a sadly bygone age and landscape. There are vivid lyrical snippets: ‘Blood on the grass’, nestling alongside intangible and intriguing phrases: ‘Drinking Earl Grey/Whilst you’re on the moon’. The track is one of the more accomplished and noteworthy ‘slower’ tracks on the album and is a fine way to bring the collection to an end. 8.8


If you have not heard of jonnythefirth, then you really need to. I am a big fan of blues and punk, as well as modern oral historians of the genres, such as The White Stripes. There are a lot of similarities to be heard within ‘Broken Bones’. The guitars are diverse and intriguing. At their most primal and urgent, they are electrifying and awe-inspiring; whilst when toned down they are equally impressive, yet enunciate a more sincere and sensitive side to proceedings. I was impressed from start to finish, and was impressed by the lyrical depth and wit, and were never heavy-handed or immature. There is a real heart and bite to the range of topics and sentiments illustrated. The vocals were constantly intriguing, imbued with an authentic blues timbre throughout, swaying between pugnacious roustabout and tender-hearted Romeo. It is the overall concoction of all these ingredients that makes the album such compelling listening. There are few blues punk bands, no least based in the U.K. at the moment. Amongst the swarm of pop, soul, and 3rd rate rock, it is refreshing and inspiring to hear such a confident and diverse artist who at once can make music sound so fresh, and at the same time so familiar, never succumbing to predictability or pastiche.


I can point at few lows. The songs are predominately tight and focused, and the track order is salient and well structured. I would say there is a minor decrease in quality around the 2/3 mark; where the mood slows, some of the momentum is lost. The songs are great, but perhaps a track such as ‘William’ sandwiched between them, would create an intrigue contradiction, thus creating exhilaration and unpredictability. It is admirable that there are slower, more artful and tender moments to be found amongst the blues Armageddon. ‘Reality Bites’ is a nice little number, but maybe the weakest song, and could have fared a tad better towards the top third of the album. There is a slight front loaded feel as well. Two of the best four tracks of the lot occur within the first stage of the album, and sets an incredible benchmark. The track order is impressive, but perhaps shifting one of the livelier numbers towards the 2/3 mark or as a final track, would have created a pleasing circularity, and ended things on an audible and exciting high. They are minor quibbles and I can find little else to disagree with.


There are a lot of great artists emerging from the stalls of Cuckoo Records, and another gem has been uncovered. Jonnythefirth has been around for a while, and has built up a loyal fan base. I feel that his music should receive a wider-reaching focus and adoration as he has a mix of sheer talent and daring cavalier spirit to his musicianship and diversity. Check out the album, and hear a genrere of music that is much unappreciated in the U.K. and a lot of Europe. I have the feeling, if another album like ‘Broken Bones’ can be unearthed, or if Jonny keeps ploughing on fervently, then…



… the spirit of blues punk will not be confined to the U.S. for too long.




Key tracks: ‘Just the Way I’m Feeling’ ‘William’, ‘Another Number Another Name’ and ‘Pitbull Blues’.










Cuckoo Records:







Dear Reader: ‘Down Under, Mining’- Track Review

‘Down Under, Mining’ Track Review:





South African-born chanteuse has an important political compass that urges you to follow.



Availability: ‘Down Under, Mining’ is available now via:



Gold is to be found, when you dig down deep…


as it is a song that demands repeated listens. It initially will soothe and lull you into a sleep, but builds and expands in all directions, projecting a Bjork-like experimentation and boldness, minus the histrionics or the same malevolent oddness. The voice behind the South African outfit is singer-songwriter, Cherilyn MacNeil, who were formed back in 2006. They changed their name to Dear Reader, from The Younger in 2008, and have been suitably garnered and celebrated in their native land. Looking through the Internet, Dear Reader has an impressive amount of real estate, and music old and young is available widely. I was made aware of their heart-stopping back catalogue via reliable friend The Girls Are. It is a mystery as to why Dear Reader has perhaps a rather muted subscription in the U.K. In the a lot of Europe, especially Germany, Austria, France and Switzerland, Cherilyn will be bringing her unique blend of musical mystery and political assiduity to these nations through most of 2013. Her last album was 2011’s ‘Idealistic Animals’, and struck quite a mixed chord with a lot of the music press. Clash Magazine labelled the release ‘quirky and sincere’, and commended MacNeil’s ‘warm vocals’. Perhaps less effusive was Drowned In Sound, who noted at the album’s loss of cohesion towards the mid-point of the album, suggesting lyrical wandering was in need of some honing; but they did celebrate her bold and experimenting sound and odd, but fascinating time signatures. NME went on to say that her zoological-themed song titles were too niche, and the album’s pervasive themes: loss of religious faith, self doubt, and reflection were going to be too alienating. The point of the album, was to explain why she lost faith in religion; something that initially made her believe she was someone. The machinations within the album were not supposed to deville faith, but give a toned down execration of her changing mindset; explaining to the listening the catharsis and personal ambiguity and fear one goes through when something so meaningful becomes meaningless.


Critics, or as I like to label myself, ‘music lovers’, seek different forms of artists and bands, to keep their mind interested, and being a songwriter myself, I look for talent to inspire me. Adopting new music is scrutiny to personal taste and subjectiveness. Many reviewers and critics are more praise-worthy of artists who best fit their CD collection, and are familiar to them. I am a big fan of female talent, and have been impressed by a huge raft of new artists: Nadine Shah, Fake Club, Emma Stevens, Chess, Little Violet and Rose and the Howling North, who between them cover a large spectrum of sounds and styles. All of them, with little exception are relatively unheard of and maybe not music I would have thought about listening to before I heard them. That is the point when reviewing new music. Whether it is largely po-faced or introverted or fun and frivolous, the idea is to accentuate the positives and look deeper. If you are too margialinsed and unmoving, then you will never accept or love anything new. So long as (new music) stands between at least one of key five pillars: good lyrics, interesting music, interesting sound, great vocals and memorable songs, then reappraisal and repeated listening will be in order. If you are too calumniatory because the music is consistently downbeat or mournful because you don’t wasn’t to think or feel sad, then it is an inexact parallel to what I have described. If none of the five criteria is met, then fair enough. But if many boxes are ticked, then it is rather narrow-minded and uneducated when being too reproachful. To matters at hand, then.


Ahead of the release of new album ‘Rivonia’ (released on April 8th on City Slang) I listened to ‘Down Under, Mining’. The lyrical and thematic shift over the last 2 years has gone from personal examination to political commentary, particularly about Apartheid-era South Africa, which is what this track focuses on. It does not take a huge gasping about the history of South Africa, nor a first-hand recollection of Apartheid, to understand or appreciate the song. It begins with an appropriate immediacy. In the foreground is Dear Reader teasing with a bubbling and springing chorus of ‘uh-uh-ohs’, whilst behind her, is a somewhat reflective, and to my ears, Gregorian hum. When she gets down to cohesive lyrical intent, the first thing that strikes me is her voice. It has a delicacy and playfulness or modern stateswomen, yet has a lot in common with Bjork. There is an equivocal kookiness to her aesthete, a childlike jour de vivre and joyful over-pronunciation. There is a similar tribal feel to the percussion in the song as well, which propels the vocals wonderfully. Whether acting as a sonic evocation of a gang mining sorrowfully, or just intending to emphasise the overall mood, it is very effective. Perhaps suitably, the lyrics have a striking sting in their tail and are quite foreboding. “Mother/My Brother/Is Dead in/The gutter”, is a especially bold and unforgettable lyric, and given extra reverence and chill, due to the brilliant delivery: punchy, studied, making sure you hear and understand every line. The words are intend to resonate, and haunt, and given the sparsity of musical or vocal accompaniment during the 1st half of the song, what is being sung earns an unnerving starkness that will stick with you for a long time. The theme of the song- as you can probably detect from the title- is about mining, and particularly miners dying and suffering whilst digging for coal and treasure for “the white man”. The chorus consists mainly of the song’s title being sung calmly: no hyperbole or exasperation, bolstered by an army of backing vocal and gutter-punch percussion. There is a political bite to the manifesto laid forth, and through vivid lyrical painting: “Your spell is upon us”, and grave foretelling: “Dust chokes above”. It is a gloomy tableaux of choking and dying workers (or borderline-slaves); toiling and in pain, as the greedy and tyrannical white man watches from above. It is quite a short song- well, 3:21– and are it does leave you wanting more. Another verse and chorus perhaps, but in a good way: it makes you seek out more and wonder what the album will produce. Special mention should go to the accompanying video. The video uses shadow puppets, painstakingly crafted by Berlin artist Barbara Steinitz, and follows the songs lyrics faithfully and effectively. It is a gorgeous, breathtaking achievement and grips you to watch it over and over again.


Overall it is a brilliant song. Dear Reader’s voice has touches of modern artists such as Little Boots; it has a sweet and naive tinge to it, but is much more authoritative and impressive. The Bjork comparisons are not foolhardy; there is a very similar tone and majesty to her singing. Lyrically it strays away from the ethology angle and doubts about religion and self, and concentrates on social politics and repression. Whether this is a direct response to lacklustre critical response or reflective of the authour’s interest and mind-space is hard to say. Whilst I did love the tenderness, playfulness and innovation from her ‘Idealistic Animals’, I love the directness and boldness of ‘Down Under, Mining’. All of the key vocal and playful elements are in play, but the lyrical and thematic shift is interesting. It is less downcast and hopefully will strike a universal and respective core amongst music lovers and uneducated core of music critics. The subject matter is still relevant and timeless, and it is a brave shift for any artists to stray from the love/relationship/self-interest plateau that accounts for about 95% of all releases today. I cannot wait to see what other delights are in store when the album is released, as Dear Reader deserves a lot of attention and reinvigorated focus.


There is a new single- ‘Victory’- released on 8th April. It has a gorgeous and spine-tingling vocal chant, of male and female parts, and accompanies a suitably innovative and stunning video. I hope there will be fewer shrugged shoulders and imperious eyebrow-raising from critics in a few weeks. The people that really count: the buying public, know a great artist when they hear one, and have shown support, faith and passion for the music of Dear Reader. I hope she goes forth, boldly, and continues to build on the sheer momentum she has now. In a world where most talent fits neatly into a prefabricated compartment, with little shock, awe, or distinctiveness, it is reviltalising to hear a bold and striking track. ‘Rivonia’ will be a fascinating study, of an artist who is restlessly moving forward and making bold strides. Listen to her music and make up your own mind about her. But promise me one thing, is you are the kind of person who ‘likes what they like’, and turns their nose up at anything out of their wheelhouse. Listen to ‘Down Under, Mining’, and don’t feel guilty…


… when instead of uncovering coal, you find a diamond.









Last FM:







Rose and the Howling North- Cuckoo. Album Review.

Rose and the Howling North

Album Review:







With a ambitious scope and concept, Leeds-based artists delivers a Tarrantino-esque soundtrack wonderpiece.



Album ‘Cuckoo’ is available now from

Single ‘Cuckoo’ is available via



Too much fascinating music, is hidden askance a muddy quagmire…


making it practically impossible to uncover. Through sleight of hand and pure dumb luck, one often stumbles upon some of the most special music they will ever hear. The mainstream, or what is deemed ‘popular’, is prefabricated to fit a distinctly round hole. It is okay if you are a round peg, but, if you even have a modicum of innovation or range, success and mass appeal can be hard to come about. Every Mercury Prize winner or ‘Next Big Thing’, never, initially, grabs the media’a attention, nor that of the general public at large. If you want to reappropriate the wisdom of crowds and perform a coup against the likes of One Direction and Ke$ha, then you need to get the word out to as many people as possible. Social media has been instrumental in helping a few deserving souls, but it shouldn’t be serendipity that one discovers such huge talent.


This is where Rosie Doonan, A.K.A Rose and the Howling North fit in. They are fresh from the prodigious and beautifully stocked stables of Leeds-based record label Cuckoo Records. They are home to a wonderful array of hot young talent. I have been lucky enough to have reviewed Swing/Jazz sensation Little Violet. Also present at the Cuckoo campaign is Swing/Boogie Era sensation Cisse Renwick– who is also Rosie’s sister. Rosie is a more experienced musician, and has been straw-polling and editing her manifesto for a long time now. She is a flame-haired siren with a powerful voice, but don’t expect any comparisons with Florence Welch. Rosie is a more ambitious and fertile musician, as I discovered after listening to the debut album.


It is with a cheeky smile that Better Days presents itself. With what promises to be a musical Redomptorist from the get-go, the track has evocations of Bernard Herrman and his work on the Kill Bill features. The intro will be instantly recognisable, as it has a cocky guitar swagger to its opening seconds. You can imagine Uma Thurman walking out of a dusty, putrid saloon, flanked by bearded recidivists, samurai sword in hand, and blood between her teeth. The album’s cover is presented like a movie poster, our heroine staring you down, straddling astride the footnote credits; which neatly introduces her co-stars. The intro, in a way also has hints of hard-edged country rock as well. Rosie’s vocal enters the scene, and is a smooth, seductive vixen. She has shades of Eva Cassidy to her lower notes, and has mellow hints of jazz and blues legends, such as Billie Holiday. Our opening scene sees Rose back with the Howling North, toothpick between her teeth, walking from prison, meagre possessions in hand. “If I feel cornered/If I feel fooled” is sung with intently assignation and is filled with intent. The song has delicious transversion and epic sweeps. Before soon, the vocals rise and are multiple as “There’s a change around our hearts” is projected as if sung by a choir. There is Aretha Franklin-like soul and force in the vocal and is at once purring, and the next awash with gospel finesse and reverence. She is testifying and imploring the skies to bring her sunshine, as the chorus is repeated to stunning emotional affect as the percussion propels, and a distorted fuzz of electric guitar, creates a metaphorical rain. The song is atmospheric and cinematic, and with hints of Welch to some of the vocals, it has a chart-worthy appeal but supersedes any expectations in its simple effectiveness. Quite a stirring and epic opener. 9.7


There is a mood shift for scene number 2. Things are calmer, and with an intro that has whispers of ‘Apple Blossom’ by The White Stripes, it shakes off any White comparisons with a thudding percussive beat that blends with guitar splendidly. Rose and the Howling North promised something Kill Bill-esque and huge and they have a awe-inspiring knack for creating scenes and images in your head with just a few notes. The narrative is more of a 2nd person, and recalls a tale of a girl that should have been making waves, but “the waves are moving too fast”. From its punchy opening moments, with a Blues Rock feel, transcends into Soul and Blues, with the intro repeated. There is a great call-and-response between the vocal and music during the verses. It has funk, rhythm and a beautiful kick to it. Lyrically, the mood seems to be one of judgement. The song talks about a girl who is never satisfied and “all the things she could have tasted” have passed her by, and her broken soul lays in pieces. Rosie stands over the weeping girl, shaking her head, and walking from the trailer park, and into her muscle car, tyres screeching. Our movie is rolling and our heroine is cutting people down to size and keeps rolling forward. It is a gloriously assured 1-2, and I am amazed at how confident, tight and polished the song is. It is like the band have been playing this number for decades. I adored it, and is could see it cropping up in a big Tarrantino film very soon. Imagine the music video one could come up with; would like to pitch an idea myself! 9.8


Scene 3, and it is the title track, and victim number 2 is going being honed and hunted down. The track opens with a simple strum and has a Nancy Sinatra feel to it. It militates a wealth of mood and is sweat-bleak. It has comparisons with ‘Bang Bang’ , and has a similar crepuscular skin to it. There has been press written about the track, and it has been played on BBC 6 Music and many radio stations, garnering massive positive reviews, and perhaps appropriately, has sent Twitter aflutter over ‘Cuckoo’. Its modus opeandi- set a mood, and take your mind to a far off place, works brilliantly. Its familiar sound and destined-for-soundtracks confidence and quality has you hooked straight away. The credits have started, and the infectious chorus bounces forth as the camera pans across an old bar, tracking our protagonist as she makes her way to a cellar and turns on a light. On a table are photographs of hated enemies, as she puts a cross over 2 photos, and smiles. The chorus has a spring and dance, and onomatopoeic sweep in its feet and the repetition “An old cuckoo/an old cuckoo/(that) fell into my room” is infectious and provocative, and employs Gothic and wind-swept imagery throughout. The idea here is that a former beau arrived like a rarely-seen bird, had a primal and ecumenical effect on her and just departed, never to be seen again, leaving out heroine glum and heartbroken. The camera moves and we pan up through the floorboards to outside the bar, as Rose and the band hit the dirty trail, with intent and revenge in their heart as the sun sets. The vocal becomes electric and ecstatic after the 2/3 mark and has a veracious and powerful prowess, becoming almost strangulated in its passion and intensity. The band are up to the task, and instead of restraining our leading lady, egg her on and support her brilliantly, enveloping the track with a haunted and hypnotic bait and switch, that will put a smile on your face. No drop in quality; this thing is on! 9.7


Now we are aware of the meat of the plot, the apropos ‘Changes’ take us into the first night, as our heroine is pensive and in a reflective mood. There is a great guitar sound to the intro, again recalling Herrman, but with a Western, sand-tinged sound. It twangs and flexes, and sets its own scene: city streets, lovers hand-in-hand and bright lights. Our heroine is thinking of her man and admits: “Oh darling/This bed is made for two/But I’m lonely without you”, but says that she is through with him. There is a cheeky nod to David Bowie’s track of the same name, when, in the chorus, she stutters the ‘c’ to ‘changes’, with a sly wink. It is an infects and memorable track, and there are patterns of Kate Bush to the vocal as well as K.T. Tunstall. The mood is more reserved, but the theme is probably the most personal and sensitive yet. Rose and the Howling North know how to balance an album and keep you hooked. To my ears the band is the star here, and it is the blend of different guitar sounds, and propellant and soul-soothing percussion, that keeps the song compelling throughout. Their concision and talent is displayed wonderfully during the track’s coda, and leaves you wanting more and more from this song. 9.0


The morning rises and a new day begins as ‘Shame on Me’ plays. It has personal touches as well, and is perhaps the most romantic and delicate tracks, our protagonist playing the role of curvaceous chanteuse. The song begins calmly and tear-stained: “Take a measure to the bed/That we won’t lie in”. It is a gorgeous vocal display, reminiscent of Kate Bush, Beth Gibbons and conveys a cut-glass soprano that can melt hearts. Just then a drum thuds- and again. There is a sprinkle of piano that reminds me of Jack White’s ‘Blunderbuss’. The sharp mood change has hallmarks of ‘Third’-era Portishead and a ghostly, howling wind blows in the background; combined, creating a heady and intoxicating sound. The interloper and villain has entered the room, and things could well get very tense. The track was probably made to soundtrack a film, reassembling parts James Bond, part Kill Bill and has pretensions to join the great all-time themes- it is already better than Oscar-winning ‘Skyfall’! The chorus swells; a wild cacophony of emotion and sound; with a mix of double-tracked vocals, electric swells and a percussive crescendo; the halfway mark notes a sea change. The mood intensifies and the vocal emotion ratchets up to a good 8.5. It has picked the mood up from ‘Changes’ and danger, once more lurks. 9.2


With a lilting strum that put my mind back to the early ’90s and Jeff Buckley’s ‘Live at Sin-e’ album, ‘Rest Easy’, sets a fresh scene during a new day for our assassin-in-waiting. Perhaps this talk of bleeding hearts and lost romance has made her reborn, and she is dreaming of a quieter life? The vocal has a slight distorted, which gives it a far-off sound and makes it sound more ghostly than the intro would suggest. The lyrics paint homely images: “Our second-hand bed/Our self-built shed”. Once again, the album has a purely tender heart, and you will imagine yourself in a coffee shop on the Lower East Side of New York, listening to this track, as the rain beats down outside. In our movie schematic, enough wounds have been created so far, and our heroine is resting, thinking about the future. The vocal is a cross between Nancy Sinatra and Buckley in tone and tenderness and shares a lot with Bob Dylan as well: not just the guitar strum and sound (which sounds like a ‘lost’ track from ‘Blood on the Tracks’) but the lyrics as well, share his talent for fusing obliqueness and directness into the same verse. To my mind it is the most beautiful track on the album, and at the half-way mark, provides a resting spot in a romantic shade, and leaves you wondering just what the next track will bring… 9.4


Okay then, we are back in the Corvette, as victim number 3; whom perhaps had ideas of a long happy life, is forced to redress their naive mind and asses their lot. A bit of ‘Stripes, a little ‘Songs for the Deaf’-Queens of the Stone Age there, is how the ambitious ‘Cherry Ride’ begins. The title I guess is appropriate to my analogy thus far, and glad I am on the same page as the band! It is quite a transmogrification, given what had come before, but such is the nature of the beast, nothing can be predicted. It is a huge scorpion with a stinging tale. Before you envisage a storm brewing, the mood is sedates and becomes a tune with a flavour of Boogie and groups like The Andrews Sisters. There are blasts of horns, at once jubilant, the next, composed; sparks of ‘Lullabies to Paralyse’-epoch Queens of the Stone Age; fuzzy and gin-soaked. It is an admirable cohabitation; modern mixing with vintage. The words are simply effective: “Tears fall down these rosy cheeks” and heartfelt: “I need you”, but convey a direct honest and longing. The journey continues and the track has all the atmosphere of a truncated road trip; one of reflection, eventfulness, but also fun. There is trouble afoot, but for the moment, there is a smile and the sun is shining on the open road. 9.1


The lovely little intro is at first Jake Bugg; then The Rolling Stones, with a bit of Led Zeppelin. It manages to pack a lot of intrigue and potential into such a short space. ‘Demands’ has a slight country twang to it, and has a very contemporary and fresh sound to it. Whilst a lot of the album’s tracks share D.N.A with the past, here the song is a 21st century creation. The percussion rolls and the mood is always up and propulsive. It is a short track as well, and leaves you wanting more, but says all it needs to say at the same time. 8.9


‘All These Years’ gets out heroine back on the reflective trail: “These days washed away the pain”. There is still an aching heart beating, and, again, is quite a soft, romantic track. The vocal is soulful and full of conviction. Again it is quite a modern track and shares similarlitys with Emile Sande and Jessie Ware in its lyrical themes and vocal delivery. Towards the end of the track there is a repeated lyric: “The boy don’tlie/Tell me you needed me”. It builds and builds and has a hypnotic sway to it that will grab you. 9.0


Taking us down to land, and ending the movie, plans of a rampage have ended, as real life and praticality have gripped out leading lady. ‘Time to Leave’ is a sad and emotional end. With spatterings of Eva Cassidy again in the vocal; especiaslly ‘Over the Rainbow’, it is a wistful and aching track: “I pushed for your love/And now that we’re through”. Our heroine is looking back and looking on and tells how she has put up with so much. You are hooked into the sublime vocal and simple strummed backing, and it will have quite an affect on you. It is a wonderful end to the album, and who would have guessed that it would end like this. It shows what a range and bag of tricks Rose and the Howling North has. 9.3


The credits are rolling, but our masterpiece has another tale to tell, in the form of bonus track ‘Glory Girl’. It is a spine-tingling and haunting, and fits under the banner of the Kill Bill diatribe and the movie arc. Spirits from the past and memories are flooding back and the vocal is delicate and Sintra-like. There is a pop sensibility, albeit it at the top of its game. It rises and falls and is an emotional number. “Oh Glory Girl/Take me home” is its most repeated message and the atmopshere ends quite upbeat and definat. Bonus tracks can often ressemble a bit of a mess. A tossed off idea or half-finished flyweight in need of a home. ‘Glory Girl’ shows just how many ideas Rose and the Howling North has. It is strong and beautiful and infuses their romantic astehe with energy and diversity. The song is a great way to bring evrything to a conclusion and it will be intriguing to see how this album will be bettered when the sophmore effort is produced. 9.3


So then…what an album! It started with quite a bang and you think that you are in for a Kill Bill thrill ride of blood, guts and action; it mutates into a tense and nervy thriller, before ending with romance and longing. It is a testament to the band, and the range of influences that they have, that they have created such a terrific opus. There are a lot of positives oin display. Rose’s vocal is superlative. She can go from a delicate soprano, to the bellow of a soul queen, right through to a solid rock performance. It is quite a feat and not one that is going to have too mnany equals. The songwriting is mature and intelligent, as well as incensive and varied. There is no clumsy hyperbole or vaugness, and simplicty is blended with mixed metaphors and vivid scene-setting lines. The band as well are close to stealing the show. They bring life to each song and demonstrate a wealth of talkent and innovation, creating an orchestral epic sweep to the first few tracks, and a romantic soulful edge to the latter tracks. The entire album gripped me, and had never heard of Rose and the Howling North until recently. I am proud that they are English and shows what talent this country can produce when you look away from talent show dirge. It is a bold and brave call to say that an album can have filmic proportions, and that you could ever picture scenes to go with the songs, and make it cojent, consistent and gripping. This has been acheived with aplomb and many of the tracks could easily score a huge budget film, and wouldn’t be surprised if many of them did in the future.


If there are negatives, it is constructive. I think the album may be a bit front loaded. Whether this is to make a huge impression early on, or is just a part of a wider plan, I am not sure. I am a bigger fan of the bigger, more energetic numbers, and these are all in the first third of the album. There seems to be a bit of an emotional lull towards the middle of the album. The tracks are spellbinding, but you are so drained after track 3 that you need an energy boost about 3 or 4 tracks on. Perhaps placing the title track further down the mix would acheived that. I would also like to see the band incorporating more symphonic elements. They have a seemingly limitless bag of talent, and a few more strings and larger sound would emphasise sonme of the numbers. Whether this is a plan for a future release I am not sure, but would be nice to hear more strings and orchestra.


If you haven’t seeked out Rose and the Howling North then do so. I am baffled why a band of such magnitude have been kept a secret. The media and public in general need to start looking towards bands and acts like this, because they have the legs to be standing many years from now. I am a fully fledged fan of Rose’ and have been staggered by the quality and originality of their music. They have come from seemingly nowehere…


… and have made one of the best, and certainly the most fascinating album of 2013.


Key Tracks: ‘Better Days’, ‘Broken Souls’, ‘Cuckoo’ & ‘Time to Leave’.



Cuckoo Records (Official):


Twitter (Rosie Doonan):

Myspace (Rosie Doonan):


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House of Hats: ‘House of Hats Compilation’ – E.P. Review


House of Hats Compilation


E.P. Review





4-piece band deliver gorgeous harmonies, sweet dreamy music, that is irresistible.



Availability: E.P. is available via



It is hard to rise to the top of the pool, of an ever-expanding musical swarm…


not that the increase in talent is a bad thing. A implied false equivalency in people’s attitudes to a more is better ideal, is often not dispelled. Music goes through cyclical spells of creative alchemy. To my mind 1994 was the last time, such a wealth of staggering music was on offer. As it is easier now to record music cheaply and simply, often from the comfort of your own bedroom, people from all corners, are declaring their intentions known. A lot of times, the act or band are a facsimile of their idols and influences; many lacking either lyrical and musical innovation, vocal light speed, or market perspicacity. The heart grows heavy, the mind casts shadows, and belief runs dry. I have been smiling a little more as of late; as it seems that there is a consistent core of credible and incredible acts, breaking through. I have been privileged to review a lot of stunning new acts over the last few weeks, everything from metal, to soul, through to jazz, and have been amazed at the quality and convivial ambition of each of them. Today is no exception.


With one of the most distinctive and evocative names in the business, House of Hats are a name to be excited by, for a number of different reasons. The group are based in Brighton, and have been playing together for the past 2 years. Their sound has been described as a conglomeration of Crosby, Stills, Nah and Young as well as Fleetwood Mac. They share the former’s gorgeous harmonies and possess a similarly heavyweight cache of impressive and memorable songs. Like Fleetwood Mac they contain siblings- Alex and Rob; together with Noddy and James. They posses 3 dapper and fine looking gents, and one gorgeous and alluring woman; but expect no Mac-style tempestuousness, drug-fuelled histrionics and sexual upheaval. The band are focused and tight knit close friends, and if they are to achieve an album as genre-breaking as ‘Rumours’, it will be down to their talents and quality, with no close scrutiny and dissection of the song’s origins and the member’s demyelination. The gang are influences by modern paragons such as Bon Iver and Dry The River, as well as the established old guard of the folk genre: Bob Dylan, Neil Young and Johnny Cash.


The likes of Zoe Ball and Maverick Magazine have extolled the virtues of the band’s unique blend of soothing, lilac-scented vocal harmonies and folk aesthetic. The E.P.’s lead-off track is ‘Never Lost’. It is a complication-free, beautiful birth, delivered as it is with gloriously gentle and evocative acoustic strings. There are early hints of Young and Iver in the intro., which never feels subordinate or disingenuous; it is reassuring and a statement of intent. There is already a definite mood set, and the scene is nimbly instigated: calm streams, sunshine smiles and tall grass in empty fields. The inter-gender vocal melt that proceeds it is equally calming and tender. The lyrics are imbued by their fashion choices: neutral colours, mo0desty, but always eye catching and thought-provoking : “The tenderness of home” and “The streets I used to roam”, are picturesque (“The sky is black as coal” is particularly defined) and aching sentiments, delivered with a whispered evocation. The guitar sound, and in a way, the vocal construct and melody has common ground with Kings of Convenience, yet posses a richer flavour and are more captivating. If one is hunting for a companion piece to this song, I would advise The Cinematic Orchetra’s ‘To Build a Home’. That song manifests an unadulterated charm and child-like innocence, as well as a credence concerning the safety and familiarity of home. The vocals swoon and glide across the blue sky and caress your soul. The conscientious gentility and descriptive scenes transcend your mood, and makes you close your eyes and picture all of the things that the band sing of. There are plural possessive nouns, vivid recollections and poetic longing: (“The air as still as stone”) It is a very definitive folk number that fans of Fleetwood Mac’s more langouresness numbers will adore, and its warm heart will find you at your best; calm and at peace with the world. Just before the 3:00 mark there is a sound of harmonica as the chorus is delivered once more. The mood is slightly more intense, as there is an increase in passion and urgency. The message overall is, that however far they are from home, House of Hats will never be lost; the memories stay with them and that will never change. It is one of the most harmonious and spellbinding tracks on the E.P. and a brilliant opening salvo.


Like The Beatles track of the same name, ‘Across The Universe’s intro manifests a similar transient mystique. It shimmers with beauty and its acoustic propagation trickles dlictaerly, its riparian delights flow to and forth before entering the sea. The vocal is by Noddy and glistens magnificently. Her soft caress and otherworldly vocal is reminiscent of Eva Cassidy and is pure and crystalline. It pervades a sense of comfort and stability to its sound as well as its lyrical message. “Seasons may change/But still you always remain” is an early example of the potency of a simple and well delivered message. The vocal elongates, floats and purrs feline, seducing and quivering. At one point the vocal sounds like Kate Bush in her upper reaches, and possesses an impressive range and cupboard of emotional delight throughout the song. The guitar punctuates the mood and has a loyal folk aesthete to it, but within the chorus does have flecks of a more introverted version of psychedelia and ’60s experimentation. The song does not break too far from the theme of longing and wanting what is familiar and reliable. Lyrics such as: “As you’re not nearer/Every darkness is clearer”, convey an air of loneliness and wistfulness. Our heroine longs for the day where she can cross the universe and redress her unbalanced heart that haunts and pulls her down. The song is superbly tight and concentrated, and gets its message out in just over 2:30. The vocal is the type that can send shivers down the hardiest and most unmoving of people, and the Cassidy parable is especially prescient. I am confident the song will be remembered in similarly revered tones and covered extensively by artists from many genres. It is an exceptional performance and to my mind is the strongest song of the E.P. Its universality and romanticism will strike a chord with everyone and is the kind of song one can be cheered by when it is wet, and sing along to when the sun shines.


With its modulating arpeggio, Sewing Machine caresses and intrigues in equal measures within the intro. The vocal duties are once more shared and enter with quite a burst and possesses more of an energy and country-tinge. The folk elements are still predominant, but there are sadder touches here and there. One can sense the spirit of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young as well as Bon Iver in this haunted little number. The themes of the songs range from regret (“Missed out opportunities”) to optimism (“Hope is always close to me”) to lost opportunity (“Somebody stole my sewing machine”). The vocal harmony is brilliant and when they combine at 2:20 and rise into the heavens the effect is amazing. The two leads support and link up perfectly, giving the song particular authenticity. It seems like a lover’s call; a kind of duet that will put you in mind of a romantic movie, the heroine and hero divided by time, geography and circumstance, calling to one another from across the divide. The musical backing is effectively studied and concise. Piano lilts pop up to elevate sentiments, and the guitar varies in pace and signature, giving a sense of movement and storytelling to the track, and also contextualises the lyrics brilliantly. The song has a admirable constancy to it, and mixes metaphor and the literal with great aplomb. Whilst many contemporary acts may tell a similar tale with a needless edge of licentious cynicism, House of Hats are restrained and mature, thus meaning there are no wasted words or breathes. There is quite a modern sound to the track as a whole. Whilst it has a lot in common with the classic folk of the ’60s and ’70s, I was reminded of Dry the River and Laura Marling; the celestial rise that arrives just before 4:00 sounds, however like nothing else. It is the longest track of the quartet, but does not feel forced and plodding.


Conversely, the shortest track completes the journey. I am particularly fond of the band’s handy knack of nailing titles. The brilliantly-titled ‘King of the Average Pace’ hits you immediately. There is no mood lighting or build-up, the song has no time to spare! The harmony again has touches of Crosby’ in its fullness, with the entire group joined and mobilised to uplifting effect. Perhaps it isn’t world-weariness, but maybe taking things at your own speed is the mission statement for the track. In the band’s own words: “Give me time to find my place/I am the King of the Average Pace”. The mood of the song is more upbeat and revitalised. I was thinking that the track would work brilliantly well on a full album. It is quite the tease in its flirtation. I would have happily heard about 3 more minutes of the track, but as the group say: “Give me patience and show my grace”. They have earned and expect to be left to do things at their pace. It is an invigorating number and ends the E.P. with virulent satiation. That said, it provides a tempting glimpse at what could be on the album. The band have shown quite a range of sounds and emotions over 4 tracks.


I was incredibly satisfied and won over by The House of Hats. I have been slightly disheartened by the sect of musicians purporting themselves to be ‘folk’ or ‘acoustic pop’. It is a section of the market that is vastly subscribed and variable when it comes to quality. It is down to the band’s fantastic vocals, concision, grace and talent that means they not only bring a fresh dynamic to a crowded market, but are also pleasingly familiar at the same time. They have a great range of influences and adopt a little one of each, without ever being too heavy handed or in danger of pastiche. They have their own unique style and incorporate their idols seamlessly. The track order and weighting works very well. It is quite shrewd to end the E.P. with the shortest track as it leaves you wanting a lot more, and the numbers are arranged with precision, that means the emotional balance and overall effect is greater than if they had ordered the listing any other way. The entire band are brilliant and incredibly passionate, precise and talented, and for a relatively new band, they have an incredible confidence and maturity to them. It is the vocals and the overall vocal effect that struck the biggest chord with me. When harmonising or isolated, the vocals are gripping and striking and they feel a lot more exciting and porteneuous than their peers. The band are tight and you can feel the closeness of the members; everything and everyone are in perfect time, and they have a great respect for each other and that shines through. They can also balance a fun mood with a more emotional sound, but they never allow themselves to become maudlin or overwhelmed.


Their debut album is released this Spring, and will be interesting to see what direction they take. Whether they are going to remain true to the four tracks here, or expand or alter their sound, will be interesting. It would be great to hear more tracks like ‘Across The Universe’, mingling alongside the more collaborative songs, as shows the full range and palette that the band have. I can point at no negatives at all and was left wanting more and coming away a fan of the group. I hope that they experience resounding success and longevity, as in today’s market, there are few bands or acts that can compel you to be inspired, revisit past acts or influence your own songwriting with a mere few songs. The House of Hats, however, have managed to do this, and whilst not overly-familiar with folk myself, sans Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, I will now be seeking out more new music like this. Make sure you give them a listen and patronage, because they are deserving of the attention they are sure to receive. Listen to the E.P. and put yourself in a good mood…


… because how much music can achieve that with such ease?




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