Bronagh & the Boys-
Belfast-lead and Glasgow-based, the endeavouring six-piece girl and Boys make music with a gentle heart, designed to charm and seduce.
Green is available at:
A Young Heart E.P. is available at:
THE success and appeal of any new band does not solely depend upon…
talent or an aggregation of talent and a collection of strong tracks. A lot of the time, bold movements and ambitions can be realised by fusing together people from different countries; each influenced by different styles of music. I recently focused on HighFields, a group of men and women whose members hailed from areas as disparate as Norway, Canada and Singapore. At their core was a mutual respect and fascination, but it was the collective diversity and scope of various influences, when mixed together, that saw a magnificent sound being made. The music was intriguing and celebratory; the vocals strong and fresh, and a sense of fun and adventure was evident. I was well aware that each member was extremely talented, but got to thinking that it was probably the geographical diversity that enhanced their music. Each artist, wherever they hail from, has separate tastes and interests and lives in different landscapes. A great deal of the new acts that I have reviewed recently, have members whom hail from the same town or county. Most either met at school, or later in life, but the common bond was one of geography. I find that if a band consists of members that live in the same town, the music often has less weight when compared to the music of a band whose participants emanate from different climbs. Songs and sounds can somewhat sound homogeneous or single-minded when you get down to it. There is an over-reliance for particular acts to project the sound of their city or county, and more often than not, they can come off sounding too similar to existing acts or other artists. I have witnesses a few groups such as The 1975, whom have managed to elicit originality, as well as portraying enough flavours of their native soil (Manchester). Too often I have heard bands and solo artists trying to present themselves as ‘The Next…’, without realising that that lack of originality and foresight alienates and divides a lot of people. It is not too much of a coincident that some of the best bands out there at the moment, are those whom have variegated backgrounds, tastes and members. For as long as I have been bemoaning the lack of variation and surprise in current music, I have also been extolling the virtues and wonders of Scotland. Perhaps due to the distance from London, and subsequent dislocation from the U.K. media’s epicentre, this country has been somewhat overlooked with regards to new talent. The diversity and quality that I have witnessed has been impressive for sure: much stronger than the national average. It is going to be a hub for future music generations, and when looking ahead, Scotland is going to be a key focal point.
Bronagh & the Boys’ male members come from Scotland, and it is where the band are based. Adding their names to a growing list of future stars, the 6-piece are fairly new on the scene. The music that they have made so far has been gaining positive press and a lot of admiration. It is not only because of where they are situated, but also because of their influences and inspirations. The band are influenced heavily by soul and the likes of Amy Winehouse. Their front-woman, Bronagh Monahan is from Belfast, and you can sense influences of Northern Ireland as well as Scotland in the songs of the group. One of the heroes for the 6-piece is Fleetwood Mac, which in itself is quite a rarity in 2013. There are a surprising number of people who are not aware of the band’s existence, or capable of naming any of their songs. Bronagh and the Boys also incorporate some of Fleetwood’s magic into the mix as well. You can detect a similar dreamy quality; the ear for melody and emotion also has flavours of the legendary group, but the overall quality and credit is definitely theirs. Monahan herself is only 22 years of age, but since moving from Belfast in 2008, has made a name for herself around Scotland and the U.K. as a whole. Her distinct and incredible voice has earned plaudits from the likes of Radio 1. She has also been featured on the BBC Introducing show: earning herself praise and the fascinated eyes of large sections of the media and population. Having completed a degree in music recently, her sights are set on the future. The Irishwoman, together with her Scottish band of men, are stirring up some fascinating sensations and lines, and it has resulted in their debut E.P. It is early days for the fledgling group, but they are gaining a steady stream of fans and followers via their Facebook and Twitter pages. On Facebook, the group attest to being inspired by the likes of Laura Marling, Queen, The Supremes as well as Norah Jones: quite a mixture of genres, and all top quality and memorable artists. Usually when bands list their icons on websites and social media, it is normally just a checklist for reviewers and fans. As soon as you hit play, one can pick out certain bands and artists from different parts of the song; so by the end you have a long list of very obvious influences: often making the associative act seem like copycats. Recently I have noticed a cessation of this habit. Many new acts are keeping their social media sites sparse, and reducing them to the bare-minimum, afraid of showing their hand or revealing any tell-tale signs of tributing. Bold bands whom have their own style and originality are comfortable in listing their icons: as much as anything it helps people like me to get a sense of who they are and where they come from. If you can do this, and not have your music sound like a composite of those influences, then you have done exactly what is required. With the release of the E.P., Bronagh & the Boys will expand in the market with regards to on-line representation, and draw in a great deal of new fans, all eager to get inside their minds and fall in love. The E.P. A Young Heart is in the market and available for all to hear, and should be studied close. It is a 4-track collection, but each track is detailed and crammed with substance, twists and emotion. The second track from the set is their debut single, and has been garnering a lot of respect and attention from a wide range of sources. It is indicative of the group as a whole and ties together their signature sound, whilst blending seamless flavours from some of their heroes and heroines.
Green is the longest of the quartet of songs on the E.P., but also the most evocative. Beginning with a vocal rush, our front-woman is joined by her band members; the resultant rush of voices swells and emotes. Bronagh’s voice is full-bodied yet romantic, announcing: “Green is the colour that makes me feel hope”. There is a distinct dreamy quality to the vocal project, sort of Fleet Foxes-cum-Fleetwood Mac that is a rarity in 2013, or in fact recent years. I was wondering if the colour of green has an autobiographical or symbolic relevance to the band and Monahan: maybe an Irish connection, and when she sings “And green reminds me of you”, I was curious if there was a man waiting in Belfast for her; or whether green referred to grass; Spring; happier times and climbs: there is a mystery and fascination to begin. Colours have been used before as synonyms; especially blue and black: Amy Winehouse went Back to Black; The Marcels sung of a Blue Moon, and various acts have incorporated colour schemes into their songs. The initial vocal swells: that begin as chorusing calls, before focusing on just Monahan’s tones, are subdued at the 0:24 mark, and replaced by gently-picked strings. Green’s initial stages are a mixture of Californian sunshine and soul, mixed with folk and ’70s pop scenes. The light and luscious guitar sounds are joined by a gorgeous piano coda, that when blended, is genuinely spine-tingling. From the early rush and energy of the vocals; now we are laid down and tenderly rested: the effect is quite startling. Strings of a classical nature enter the scene very shortly, eliciting Irish flavours: the romantic sway and sensation has its heart rooted in parts of Northern Ireland, as well as E.I.R.E. When the next verse is delivered, the tone is more sedate and introspective. Our front-woman’s voice is soft and tender and crystalline in its purity. She speaks of doubts, stating “I’ve made mistakes”; her vocal evocations being subtly backed by the band, who keep the mood fragile and warm. In the way that a lot of band and artist write themes of love-gone-wrong and fill their lines with some bitterness and spikiness, here the sentiments are much more respectful and earnest: “In you I’ve found that love could be restored”. Bronagh’s band: Neil, Andrew, Tony, Allan and Michael let the voice speak clearly and be heard, never trying to crowd it with too many notes or noise; instead their musical polymorphism compliments the voice and lyrics superbly. There is never hint of sadness within Monahan’s voice; everything is delivered strongly with focus: one suspects that any demons that were present are gone, and she is now focusing on her love and what is to come. The chorus is repeated, adding weight and familiarity in equal measures, the true meaning behind its words are no clearer the second time. One suspects that there are links to home and far-away places, but also a lot of hidden meaning behind ‘green’ and “Green in the colour that makes me feel whole”. Throughout the chorus and verses, as well as the musical passages too, there is an abiding sense of youthfulness and child-like innocence. Fairytale sparkle can be heard in the strings and piano, and evocations of beautiful landscapes, verdant valleys and fields are summoned forth. For all the gentle soulful words, that make you think of times and eras past, there are reminders of today as well as more vulnerable moments: “Who knew a drunken moment would make see some sense”. It is when the chorus is introduced for the third time, that the vocal harmonies are reintroduced. Slowly, more meaning and relevance is unveiled from the lines of the chorus, and you get a clearer sense of what our heroine has been through, and where she wants to be. Whomever and wherever her heart belongs, it is anonymous, left to the listener to decide if it is home, a paramour or a particular place she is dreaming of, but you suspect that there is a little of all three. Monahan’s voice has some comparable with some female contemporaries, but the abiding sense is that her quality and tones are more similar to the folk and soul icons of old, as well as influences such as Fleetwood Mac. In the modern climate, female voices- with a few exceptions- go either for raw power and belting (Adele for instance) or are too sickly-sweet or bland. Here, there is more authority, passion and conviction. Sure, a few modern singers have a similar ambition and quality, but they are few and far between, and it is pleasing to hear a voice you can have faith in. Not to demote the band to any sort of background fascination, they add as much as to atmosphere and mood as anything. When the chorus ends, piano, strings and additional vocals are heralded that are swooning, delicate and passionate. “It’s true I’m not blue/When I see green and you know who I mean” becomes a mantra in the song’s final third; musical accompaniment is sparse but effective and the vocals (by Monahan, as well as the rest of the band) create a stirring scene. Percussion is added to the mix, as well as wind instruments, and Monahan adds more power and passion to her voice as well, to match the rising energy. With further revelations from the repeating of the chorus, the song comes to an end. The overall effect is one of a pleasing satisfaction, where a personal message has been delivered, with a little mystery and intrigue at its edge.
It is difficult to compare Bronagh & the Boys to any current act. Perhaps the better-educated of music-lover will disagree, but I found that there was a vital freshness and originality to the sound. Elements of ’60s and ’70s pop and folk mingle alongside modern-day sounds. Green is infused with sunshine, rainswept and has a wind of Ireland, Scotland and gorgeous views. The lyrics are romantic and tender at their heart, and the chorus is particularly memorable and impressive: it has a simplicity and obliqueness mixed together that will be familiar and relatable to a lot of people. All of the musical accompaniments and shades fit the song perfectly, and add passion and tenderness where needed; the entire composition is consistently impressive. Perhaps the most striking and memorable facet is the vocals from Monahan. Her voice is calming and gentle, but also possessed of power and plenty of potency. The band’s maxim is to produce music that speaks to people and inspires. Harmonies, lyrics and songs will lodge in your brain a long time after you hear them, and there are so many different colours and sounds to be experienced within the E.P. as a whole. Green is a gorgeous love song that tells of fond memories filled with soul, and smiles. I’m His has Kate Bush/The Carpenters stillness and haunted beauty, and tells of a relationship that seems one sided: the man seems uncaring and distance when our heroine gives all she has. Young Hearts steps away from a personal narrative, and examines young lovers and is filled with beauty and positive sensations; where as the closer Not My Own hides deeper scars and doubts. No matter what the subject; whether it is first or third person, pain-filled or overwhelmed with joy, it is delivered beautifully by the band; lead by Monahan’s pure voice. Seek out the E.P., as it is filled with texture and layers, and is very much a work of originality. You can hear influences from Scotland, as well as Ireland, with hints of modern and older influences too; fused together to create something that is endearing, captivating and will appeal to lovers of soul, folk, pop as well as devotees of something heavier and more foreboding. In a year where too many new bands are too concerned with heavier and more forceful sounds, and negate the importance of something more sensuous and thought-provoking, Bronagh & the Boys…
ARE showing how good beauty can be.