NoNoNo- Pumpin Blood- Track Review

 

Track Review: 

 

 

 

 

NoNoNo

 

 

 

 

Pumpin Blood

 

 

NONONO

 

 

9.8/10

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Swedish electro-pop/Urban-Indie threesome: two adroit producers; one stunning singer/songwriter; create a scintillating and dizzying slice of (intoxicating) gold: “It’s your heart/It’s alive”…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Availability:

Pumpin Blood is available at:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3j4I0PqNzKE

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FOR today- and hopefully not just today- I am thinking about European…

 

music.  Over the past few weeks, I have presented a veritable nomenclature of U.K. and U.S. act-stating during each review the positives of each-whilst referencing one distinct cousin: Europe.  Most of my attention has been drawn to the home-grown British acts- it seems to be where the media draw your attentions.  Whilst at times I have been ambivalent, I contest that there is a great deal of fascinating and excellent music to be found on these shores.  Music magazines and publications tend to have their particular tastes: NME: Indie; Q: Pop/Rock-orientated etc., they have their own meritocratic regime: proffering the very best, whilst giving little credence to the remainder.  Some of the broadsheets and less-discerning music websites can be more inclusive- taking time to investigate other genres and types of acts.  There are, however, a few issues and roadblocks that one faces (in this country).  Music influences music, which means; should a new act be looking for inspiration, parental guidance comes in the form of existing acts.  If a particular nation is beholden to a certain limitation- in the U.K. a lack of adventurousness- then how to you foster and encourage diversity and fascination?  At the same time, outlets such as the music media (radio stations, magazines etc.) are responsible for leading the way; showing the newcomers what is available: training their ambitions to the skies.  I guess that in a sweaty pub; in a compact garage, or back-alley venue, exciting and truly unique movements and sounds are being created; but the issue really boils down to this: what is happening at the core (the mainstream)?  A lot of my recent focus has been on existing acts- the big-time players- still going strong; turning in the finest albums of their career: The National, Laura Marling and Queens of the Stone Age are my referential Holy Trinity.  Our ‘Father’- The National- is a group of men in their 40s; yet are turning in albums that are filled with youthfulness and impish winking.  They have been on a glowing trajectory (ever since their self-titled debut); turning in L.P. after L.P. chocked filled with lyrical majesty; deep and quote-worthy snippets on the uncertainties of life; maturity, responsibility and depression.  Helmed by Matt Berninger’s chocolate croon and poetic verses, the U.S. band have been enlivening the scene,- simultaneously seducing critics and music-lovers- with persistent aplomb.  In a music scene that has a beguiling (and unhealthy obsession) with age- drooling at teen troubadours and 20-something bands- they are showing that men; grown-up and mature shoulders are turning in some of the most stunning songs of this century.  Similarly, the U.K.’s own ‘Daughter’ (‘Son’ may have been bit cruel) is doing Britain proud (although she currently resides in L.A.).  Marling is another example of a stunning lyricist- imbued with some similar cynicism, yet more ‘upbeat’ on her 4th album.  Marling’s folk-tinged anthems are filled with maturity and potency.  Although she is in her 20s- bear with me here…- she is unconcerned with the issue of age; wanting people to focus on her music and work, and nothing else- she will be producing work for years to come.  The intrepid ‘Holy Ghost(s)’ Queens of the Stone Age- helmed by Josh ‘Ginger Elvis’ Homme- have perhaps turned in their finest work to-date, in the form of the statuesque ‘…Like Clockwork’.  Packed with dark, crawling strangeness; heavy-hitting desert rock; slinky, sexy/scuzzy jams, and glistening gems- it is an album that will top the ‘Best Albums of 2013’ lists.  My point is this: this trio are probably the best music out there at the moment.  Yes, the likes of Arctic Monkeys, Foo Fighters, Daft Punk and Adele are still making music; yet the aforementioned three are the current sound of what music should be- and what the public respond to.  The U.K. and U.S.- between the two nations- are the busiest music-producing clans in the world.  Because the music business is so over-crowded (especially the band market), it is near-impossible to separate the good, from the bad and ugly.  Too many bands in the U.K. are producing Indie stylings; most sounding pretty much the same as several dozen other bands.  It may be what is popular at the moment, but given the potential: the range of genres and sounds one could proffer- why do the same as everyone else?  The media hardly help: highlighting and profiling these bands hugely; sparing little attention on more diverse acts.  The U.S. are less culpable (they are making strides to promote a wealth of diversity), yet my point is well-founded.  I know for a fact that there are electro-swing acts out there; indeed we have doo-wop, blues rock and Grunge bands; but when the hell do you ever hear about them?  We (in the U.K.) are lacking a certain ‘fun’- a bit of sway and kick to the step- and it depresses me.  The likes of Marling and The National are ignored (by new acts): there seems to be less emphasis on sharp and intellectual words; less it be deemed ‘uncool’.  Likewise, the winding and snaking stings of the U.S. ‘s Q.O.T.S.A. are near-unheard of in the larger picture: some bands ‘sound like’ them; yet precious few take their spirit and quality on board.  In spite of financial hardships and fickle media outlets, we here have all the resources, time and influence available; yet it is being passed over; ignored you see, for strange reasons.  Unless there is a pull away from Indie/Rock predictability- and a move towards diversification and ethnic blending- then the music scene seems likely to hit an ice block- that it may not recover from.

 

It seems like a long-winded rant; yet it is a prescient and ever-relevant thesis.  You don’t have to copy the established guard in order to obtain a semblance of their relevance and majesty- simply take little bits and pieces and pepper it into your cooking pot.  Alas, the U.S.A. seems to be cottoning-on to the idea behind progression: having an identity but aiming big with it- as well as not being bogged down into a predictable quagmire.  Ever since I reviewed the band HighField, I have been fascinated by foreign diversity.  Their (large) membership contains Norwegian, Singaporean, British and Canadian D.N.A.  Their songs are infused with high-octane merriment; a myriad of complexities; sharp and bustling colours, and an overall quality that is hard to match.  The words and music on display has a richness and intrigue for sure: the resultant whole is stronger and more authoritative than most music out there.  I think that they are amongst a small number of acts that ‘get’ the idea: having a brilliant identity; mixing fun with introspection, and aiming for the big boys of music.  It is European influences that seem to be making the biggest splashes.  I have surveyed examples from France and Germany a while ago; yet more recently a lot of Swedish influence is making its presence known.  Disco duo Club 8 are making their point well known.  An epitome of summery and sun-kissed swathes of electronica and disco stomp; they are showing that success is much more palatable (and obtainable) if you break away from the norm.- although Sweden and Scandinavia have always done things this way.  Before I present NoNoNo, I want to wrap up my point.  Whilst I have been pecking away at the keyboard- keeping our featured band in the front of my mind- I have been listening to some rather anthemic tracks of the ’90s.  It was a decade synonymous for diversity: the music scene changed seemingly by the month.  The likes of Britpop, Grunge and pop would be up front; yet plenty of acoustic solo brilliance, classic rock and soon-to-be-legends were readily available.  To my mind, that era (as well as the early years of the ’00s) was the last great time for music: an age where quality ruled the land (of course there was quite a few turkeys here and there as well!).  Too few current bands will take heed of the moral of the story: revisit the past; infuse fun and exhilaration; keep the quality/individuality high; gain success.  It is a parable which Sweden’s NoNoNo (they are sometimes represented as NONONO; sometimes nonono- hope I have got it right) have struck upon; rekindling my enthusiasm and longing in equal measures.  Hailing from Stockholm, the three-piece are an electro-pop outfit.  I have always hated the mainstream pop output: if you consider Lady Gaga, Rhianna, Katy Perry and their ilk- they are the low end of the barrel; scarping around with lazy lyrics, trashy imagery and plastic sounds.  Pop in general- electro or otherwise- can produce some great sounds (if you ignore the hyped-up nonsense I have just listed).  Even if some of the trashy and insubstantial pop gibbering is Scandinavian-produced- so too is a lot of the top end as well.  Artists such as Robyn have made us well-aware of Scandinavia (and its limitless potential); as well as the producers and hit-makers   The Guardian have just featured NoNoNo- heaping huge praise on them (a rare positive outpouring from Paul Lester).  As much as he has got it right about the trio: about their quality and potentiality, he has mentioned the likes of Gaga and Rhianna too much; and Capital F.M.  I am going to distance the trio from such horror show.  Capital is okay if you like your sugary and trash pop: the young female demographic makes up practically the entire audience.  NoNoNo are so much better and more worthy than such names; so it is unfair to lump them in with the likes of Jessie J and Ke$sha (unless, God-forbid that is your bag).  I am going to let a particular pet hate of mine slip today; considering that it is a small niggle in an otherwise brilliant whole (I shall mention it when reviewing the track).  Our trio consists of two male producers: Tobias “Astma” Jimson and Michel Rocwell.  They are hirsute, handsome and moody; and the nob-twiddling, electric-infusing brains behind the sound: the guys whom make sure that every note and inflection digs into your hippocampus.  At the front is an alluring and striking Stina Wäppling (whom is actually the songwriter).  Possessed of Swedish beauty, she is a pin-up and girl-next-door idol, yet has a curious double existence.  By night, she is the lead of NoNoNo- the voice behind those infectious and ubiquitous sounds- but by day she is a psychiatric nurse.  Perhaps it is not a shock that a proportion of Wäppling’s lyrics border on the dark and dense- and in fact a lot of Pumpin Blood is steeped in shadows.  Paul Lester labelled Pumpin Blood as “Capital-worthy”; yet the track- and the trio themselves- are much more respectable, universal and savvy; able to strike chords with the likes of me- songwriters more in love with the likes of Dylan, Marling, Cohen, Homme and Mercury; than the Rhianna-Gaga-Beyonce-Jessie J-Ke$sha paradox.  They (NoNoNo) have the dance-able and effusive explosions that can draw in the Capital market: female; 13-20-year-olds (more-or-less); yet are better-suited to the likes of Absolute Radio, BBC Radio 6 and Xfm: the most respectable and unimpeachable stations in the U.K.  The likes of Lykke Li and Annie have proved what Scandinavian princesses can achieve in music: both artists are held in high esteem by most critics and reviewers- so it is with those names where I shall place NoNoNo.  But anyway… let’s get down to the song itself, shall we?

 

The title gives you an insight into the song’s hallmarks: hard hits; rushes of essentiality and heady excitement.  On YouTube, the video has already collected over 103,000 views- with over 1,200 ‘Likes’, and a host of effusive and salivated commentators contributing their thoughts.  The initial moments are made up of an electronic coda: a plinking evocation that brings to mind Snow Patrol’s Chasing Cars.  It is the briefest of passages- a slight and tender foreplay- before an explosion of multi-coloured, whistling sunshine is unveiled.  Backed by subtle but propulsive percussion, the atmosphere is bathed in an infectious electronic glow- sounding like bird song-cum-robot whistling- that makes you smile and sway your head: the part juvenilia evocation; part dizzying kiss captures your attention and heart imminently.  In the video for the song, we see our trio walk towards a huge lake (perhaps it is in Sweden, but I am not sure); as the sun sets.  Thick jumpers, rabbit-stroking (yes, a rabbit) and moodiness are abound; displaying a juxtaposition and healthy dose of good humour.  Before any words have been sung, you are gripped and riveted by an unusual-sounding, and thoroughly stonking introduction.  Our heroine lushly sings of being “on the road again”; where “We’re in a car/On the highway”.  Wäppling’s voice is tender and come-hither; uplifted and steeped in Swedish inflection, sexiness and playfulness.  Before I continue on with the song, I am going to present a slight…’disclaimer’ I suppose.  There are Auto-Tune vocals– the group employ this technique in their tracks.  Whilst normally I would rather have Wolverine give me a prostate exam, than praise an Auto-Tuned vocal; it works perfectly within NoNoNo’s aesthete: the electro-pop sounds welcome and suit an electronically-treated voice.  Wäppling’s breathy coo is seductive and splendid- she could perform acoustic folk or solo pop and take your breath; sans electric treatment.  Pumpin Blood’s roadmap scenes and itinerant themes build images in your mind: the sun is setting; our heroine (and an unnamed beau) are driving along; wind in hair.  Whatever is going through our singer’s mind; one thing is for certain:  “It’s so  magical”.  The electro beat that is laid down by our heroes is reminiscent of the classic electronic acts of the ’80s and ’90s: there is a (for want of a better phrase) an ‘Old Skool/old school’ sound to it- your mind is taken back to better, happier times.  The sensations- which the group themselves call ‘Urban-Indie’- is fresh and bubbling with life; getting under your skin and energising your senses.  As the chorus comes into life, the energy (and underlying tension) reaches a peak; as our heroine announces: “This is your heart/It’s alive/It’s pumping blood”; her voice coquettish and striking all at once (in the video, there is a depiction of two lovers arguing fiercely: material tatters lie on their homestead floor, as- at a table- the woman presents to her boyfriend a rabbit- those wacky Swedes!).  Just when you think the mood is going to become uber-sombre (lesser acts may become needlessly self-reflective at this stage),  NoNoNo ramp up the delight again: that whistling and smile-inducing intro. is re-introduced- it is both fist-pumping and uplifting, and sagaciously dreamy.  When the insatiable coda ends; our heroine is back on the mic., recounting tales and presenting (vivid) scenes: “See the stars won’t take his course” begins a new road trip (previously it has been “See the stars won’t break the bones“); our lead entrances with her seductive tones; she is “Feeling like nothing can go wrong”.  Whilst the Swedish trio does have a dark half to its soul (Like the Wind has a sombre and languid creep to it); Pumpin Blood is a merry, distant-cousin; as that insatiable coda continues to enthral and entice.  Before the chorus comes around, our gorgeous heroine teases: “Hear the sirens, the world/You catching on“.  When that chorus does come back around, the energy is still high; our male half wrack the excitement up to 11- our heroine (in the song’s video) grips the microphone; sways her head, and lets her words (and beautiful voice) seduce.  She is an exulted priestess of joy; and wants to make her words stay in your mind and heart for a long, long while  (“And the whole wide world is whistling“).  Just past the 2:20 mark, a tribal and bare-boned drum beat is elicited: your head will sway and your feet will tap relentlessly.  The final minute of the track returns its soul to the highway, as our alluring front-woman is back on the road: “Hey heart, won’t you run again/On the highway, on the highway”.  Before we are through with Pumpin Blood, that too-catchy-for-comfort chorus is unveiled again (I guess the missing ‘g’ in Pumpin could stand for ‘gravity’- as it is the synonym one readily visualises, when the chorus arrives).  Once the song has finished, you almost have to collect your thoughts- scattered and shot as they are by the track’s relentless majesty.

 

Pumpin Blood is not officially released until September, yet has been garnering some terrific reviews.  If one looks at the ‘Comments’ section for the video on YouTube; it is awash with praise and open-mouthed surprise: no hyperbolic rhetoric or over-exaggeration, considering what has just been heard.  Tobias “Astma” Jimson and Michel Rocwell are sharp and expert producers; deftly able to weave a waterfall of sonic sunshine and electro-pop wonder.  Stina Wäppling’s anthemic track is filled with thought-provoking and simple brilliance: both catchy and intelligent.  It is unsurprising that such lust-filled professions should be levelled at a Swedish outfit- the likes of Likkye Li have proved what a strong music industry the country has.  Historically, Sweden have produced their fair share of inspirational and varied music (from ABBA and The Cardigans; through to Swedish House Mafia); and many of the producers behind some of pop’s most popular songs, are Swedes.  NoNoNo are another name that can seamlessly rank alongside the all-time greats (of the nation).  It may be early days; yet the steps they have made so far (check out Like the Wind to see the contrast that the band are capable of) have been enthralling and faultless: hinting at a rather prosperous and wonderful future.  The unique formation of the group: two male producers and a female singer-songwriter (and employee of a psychiatric hospital for that matter) is something that sets them apart instantly; but it is the quality of the songs themselves that supersede ‘novelty’- making them a serious name to watch out for in 2014.  It is uncertain whether an E.P. or L.P. will be the next move (or whether a few more singles will be preferred).  If they were based in the U.K. (let’s hope one day they are), then they may have had a hard time rising above the huge stock of middle-of-the-road Indie bands- buried under the sheer number of acts we have in Britain.  They are- for us here it seems- a foreign delicacy; an act whom can blow away the electric guitar-based ‘anthems’ that make up the core of our music scene.  NoNoNo have the luxury of time and choice; able to dip into their impressive arsenal- and decide which weapon they will deploy next.  Our Swedish trio have curiosity and mystery in their imagery (the Pumpin Blood video has a rabbit used as a bartering tool; a sweater-clad protagonist dancing on a cliff-top, and our trio spellbound in a gusting storm).  The group have only been in existence for a year; yet are already challenging (musical) orthodoxies.  In a current scene which (aside from some diversity and brilliant sounds) is too reliant on guitar bands (of the Indie variety) and unfocused and uninspired solo acts; we need more (a lot more) examples of NoNoNo’s kind.  The bass-heavy beat and electronic wizardry on Pumpin Blood is unlike anything you will hear this year.  Forget Mr. Lester’s Capital F.M. opinioning: the song is too good to be lumped in with the Rhianna/Jessie J/Rita Ora sub-par woefulness- it will be welcomed- open-armed- by the credible stations such as Xfm and BBC Radio 6.  As much as I have heard some wonderful U.K./U.S.-based acts (as recently as yesterday); it is the European patrons whom are making the boldest and most ethereal sounds.  I started this review by talking of the greatness of certain bands (and certain decades).  With the likes of Queens of the Stone Age and The National showing the new talent how it should be done; it is a huge relief that my faith is being restored (if briefly) in new music’s potential.  The trio describe themselves as “Melancholy yet hopeful“; which goes to show that they have darker and more brooding shades (contrasted with Pumpin Blood’s constant invigoration).  I also mentioned that the ’90s/early-’00s produced the last great swathe of music (Hell, I miss that era!)- it was the last period where the charts seemed actually relevant.  The Scandinavian way of music-making seems to be more enriching and life-affirming than most- and it is a region which will produce a lot more talent to come.  NoNoNo have plenty of ambition and firepower as-yet unexplored; a positivity and energy that is lacking from the U.K. Indie-centric scene: something acts and wannabes here can (and should) take note of!  Anyway… it’s been one hell of a ride, and quite a special and unexpected song.  The band dynamic of NoNoNo works surprisingly well.  With Jimson and Rocwell filling the roles of (as The Guardian ascribed) “Sure-fire hit-makers“; and the alluring Siren Wäppling up front: presenting her songs with a limitless supply of bonhomie, sagaciousness and mystique; it works perfectly.  I suspect that 2013/2014 will continue its trends and promulgations: ’90s/’00s U.S. legends great; new U.K. acts inconsistent; European musicians producing better intention- it is note-worthy that NoNoNo have arrived when they have.  Hopefully, their undistiled blend of electro-pop/Urban-Indie can inspire a resurgence in the overcrowded and lipid scene- we need more fun and fewer narratives of the woe-is-me variety.  Music’s phylogeny has possibly peaked- we need to back-track to the ’90s/early-’00s majesty (not literally; rather recapitulate its hallmarks).  The ontogeny of the fledgling musician is subjected to critical expectation; a preconceived ‘norm’, and inherent blunder: lack of variation and wing-spreading; too much copy-cat music-making.  I for one am tired (and exasperated) by the lack of shock and surprise in the music industry- don’t we all want that sense of excitement and hopefulness?  With the Stockholm trio- although they cannot achieve this single-handed- hope and restoration are possible.  Fingers are crossed; sights are set, and a baited breath is held (imagining what is going to come from this three-piece):

 

GET on board now… and prepare to be excited.

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Crystal Seagulls- Time- Track Review

 

Track Review:

 

 

 

  

 

Crystal Seagulls

 

 

 

 

 

Time

 

Crystal Seagulls

 

9.3/10

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fresh from an illustrious set at the Isle of Wight Festival, the London-based four-piece present a track ready-made for summer.  Let the good times rock.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Availability:

Time is available at:

https://soundcloud.com/crystalseagulls/time

https://itunes.apple.com/gb/album/time-single/id660813206

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I have been banging on about London being a bit slack…

 

when it comes to proffering new and exciting bands.  Just yesterday, I was extolling the virtues of certain counties- Yorkshire specifically- when it comes to producing the best current music.  The band market is a lucrative currency, but the exchange rate varies greatly: depending on which area you are located in.  In extension of my music website/social media idea/rant- there should be an all-inclusive and decent music website out there- it would be interesting to see a map; documenting the different music of the U.K.: highlighting what type of music is played where; and how many bands are playing it- because it would be interesting to find out.  As I stated yesterday (with my review of Newcastle’s Crooked Hands), certain counties do certain music.  Greater Manchester seem to be the U.K.’s leading Indie purveyors.  There are some great solo acts, as well as varied bands; yet it seems that the majority of new bands we hear from here, tend to be very similar-sounding (and a bit predictable); it is probably the busiest county as well- even if it is largely Indie-centric.  Yorkshire is the most agile and diverse when it comes to different sounds and flavours.  Where else in Britain do you hear doo-wop and swing artists mingling with U.S. blues rock and soul?  Cities such as Leeds and Wakefield are especially busy: producing a startling range of artists.  Aside from the big counties and big cities, there is some diversity to be found; yet one thing bothered me: where are London in all of this?  Bands based in the capital have been a little quiet- it is not too often that the media gets excited about a new act from London.  I have theorised the reasons behind this (a lot as it happens), so will not go into it; but suffice it say, a resurgence is needed.  The bustle and chaos of our capital seems to be supressing ambition and intention- a greater space is needed it seems.  Saying this; acts and bands that originate in other parts, before relocating to London, seem to be more successful (than those whom originate here).  One of the problems that a lot of groups have (aside from being too predictable with their sound), is lack of variability within their ranks.  Most groups form out of mutual friendships.  They may have gone to school together, or worked together: forming a bond based on a shared love of music.  The members have similar tastes in music; they grew up in the same area, and the ensuing musical creations are enforced by a combination of local sounds, and shared idols- which is fine, up until a point.  Issues arise when you have too many similar bands in the same areas.  Sounds, songs and sensations mix in and out of one another; they blend and merge into one: causing a homogenised and overfamiliar scene.  Diversification and differences between band members goes to strengthen the overall sound.  A tight sound and kinship can just as well be formed; but because the members come from different parts- and have varying tastes and preferences- the overall sound and ambition is predominantly stronger; and quite different-sounding as well.  I have reviewed some various bands recently, that prove my point.  HighFields are a multi-nationality group (members hail from Norway, Singapore and Jersey, to name a few); whom draw together their different personalities and national sounds into a glorious boiling pot.  Outside of the North West of England, bands from the likes of Scotland, Yorkshire, Brighton and the U.S. are composed of geographical diversity; different music tastes and varying ambitions.  It is not a coincidence that these groups are trying to do things different; insisting on forging a very individual sound.  I feel that at the moment, there is too much insistence and reliance on trying to sound like pre-existing artists.  There is originality to be heard, but predominantly, groups stray too closely to familiar artists: coming off as copycat and uninspired.  The media do not help too much either: they draw instant comparisons and foster the band’s mind-set, rather than offer constructive guidance and caution.  I am not sure whether it is a fear of seeming inferior, or an awareness that the music scene can be fickle- journalists may not like you if you sound too ‘different.  Either way, I have heard too many bands that sound like someone else; too many acts that are trying to be ‘The Next So-And-So’: rather than being themselves, and trying to topple and best their influences and idols.  Those brave bands (or forward-thinking), whom incorporate influence into their sounds; yet do not lean too heavily on it (whilst injecting a heap of intention); are the ones whom have the brightest futures, and are more sought-after and demanded.

 

My different thesis and points dovetail, when examining Crystal Seagulls.  I have reviewed them once before- when their song Yours For As Long As You Keep Me was released- and was impressed by their passion, fortitude and innovation.  It is not an opinion held only by me (far from it!); as the boys have just returned from playing at the Isle of Wight Festival.  They were afforded the opportunity, after winning a prestigious unsigned music competition: beating off scores of other bands, and making them the envy of many an act!  The band consists of Jim Lawton; John Armstrong; Elliot Whitty and Ben Heliczer- our intrepid quartet.  They are a galvanised and gleaming band of men; invigorating the Indie/Rock realm, and making quite a serious name for themselves.  The lads are based in London, yet their four members all hail from different realms.  Like musical Knights of the Round Table, they travelled from London, Birmingham, Cheshire and Hertfordshire; bonded their individual talents, to create the band they are today.  I was impressed by the band’s attention to detail.  Few contemporaries spend a lot of consideration towards online representation and information.  I have encountered too many new acts whom present the bare minimum: a brief Facebook page (with little information); a Twitter and/or SoundCloud page- and precious-little else.  Crystal Seagulls have a full and informative portfolio.  They provide plenty of links to reviews and articles: making it easy for the likes of me to learn about them.  Their music is readily available, and the band have an acute awareness that it is important to give potential fans plenty of information: but not give too much away.  With an original and unique sound, the boys don’t need to worry about being compared to anyone too obvious; but do not list their influences and idols too heavily.  If long lists of influences and heroes are mentioned on a group’s social media site, it can make a band seem too disposable: as well as focusing your thoughts too heavily on those (listed) acts.  The guys are in good spirits following their stay at the Isle of Wight Festival: galvanised and bolstered from the plaudits and praise they received.  They are still in their infancy, yet show signs that they intend to be around for a long while to come.  Having amassed a respectable following on Twitter and Facebook; their online stock is growing, and they are attracting a great deal of media attention: from in-depth articles, through to reviews.  Personally, I am impressed by their entire package.  Their lyrics are sharp and interesting.  They manage to mix haunting and nightmarish imagery (“Saline drip my dreams/Reconstruction from the bleed”- from Yours For As Long As You Keep Me) and pure-hearted tenderness (“Lull me off to sleep”- again from Yours’).  In fact if you one were to survey the contents of Yours For As Long As You Keep Me; it is awash with ripe and attention-worthy snippets and scenes- something that one does not often say about bands.  Contemporaries seem intent on the force of sound and pure projection; sometimes negating the importance of words and themes.  The guys’ band name suggest something both divine and beautiful; yet loud and intimidating.  According to the band themselves, they make music that is “Everything and nothing you’ve heard before”; but produce sounds that are “Sexy Sexy Love Music”.  Our quartet have already had a busy start to their (fledgling) careers.  Since 2012 they have released one single; performed at over 20 gigs; as well as having been played on a multitude of radio stations- including three BBC stations.  New festivals and gigs are imminent; and it is hardly hard to see why!  Whereas you will hear a lot of bands sticking very much to the Arctic Monkeys/Oasis paradigm (if going heavier); the four-piece deftly weave the infectiousness of the ’60s; and helm it together to a ’90s swagger-cum-modern-day urgency: a blend which has won over fans and critics alike.  In the U.K. we have had an uncertain (read: traditional) mix of uncertain weather: never really knowing what season we are in from day-to-day.  Firmly ensconced within summer, ears and eyes are on the search for ‘summery’ sounds: step up Time.  With a breeziness and fresh sound, it is a song that can blow away the cobwebs of wet weather; making you forget about your woes, whilst becoming immersed within the song’s core.

 

The opening of Time is a vocal interjection; the band get straight down to business.  Urgency and first impressions are key; Lawton steps up to the mic., imploring to an unnamed beau: “Don’t tell me to make you stop”.  Our hero (backed by a lightly strummed electric guitar), implores and announces: “I’ve been here waiting all this time”.  Before the atmosphere is bolstered and emphasised, the front-man calls out; he is clearly wracked with affection and longing for a woman-a mysterious heroine-; causing him to ask: “Stay with me tonight”.  Our hero steps away from the mic. (briefly), as the band enter the fray: summoning up a romantic and energised kick.  Guitar and bass produce a weaving; dancing and swaying coda: possessed of pure Indie flavours, but distinctly individualised and personalised because of the group’s energy and authoritative nature.  From an initial jangling guitar line, the sound builds and expands.  A twirling guitar arpeggio tumbles and swaggers: displaying affection for the great sounds of the ’90s, whilst having some hints of ’60s power pop.  In spite of lyrical longing- maybe hiding a lot of secret pain- the smiling atmosphere that is elicited makes you forget about any anxieties.  In the space of a few seconds, the band have added colour and shades of light into the canvas; producing some summer sun and urging you to move your feet (and body).  When the energised dance is brought down (briefly), our front-man arrives back up front.  With a verse that begins with  “Don’t tell me to make you stop”; and “Attention craved/Intent forgot”, further signs of the band’s way with words is displayed.  Lines are thoughts are weaved together; building up a picture in your mind.  Whomever the anonymous woman is, she is causing a stir in our hero; whom repeats his mandate: “I’ve been waiting here all this time”.  As the pleasing and light-hearted composition announces and twirls in the background, up front there are words of apprehension and exhaustion.  It seems that there is a lot of history between the two- many days and scenes have unfolded around this relationship- yet it seems that entropy has put things to a stop: “this time we’ve reached the line”.  There is no dark musical backing, nor matter-of-fact glibness; everything balances out perfectly.  Our hero’s voice is authoritative and intent (yet not overwrought); and the band provide a delicate yet punchy backing: giving the song its great and impressive edge.  Sometimes it is obvious to draw comparisons with a new band and an obvious influence; yet Crystal Seagulls seem intent on producing an original and effusive energy all of their own.  In the way that they have a cross-pollination that draws ’60s and ’90s elements together; you would be hard pressed to liken them to any other acts: there are tiny flecks of other acts, but no large chunks.  It is said (by our hero): “I can’t stop time for you”; his voice rising and powering high; making the words stick in your brain.  Further words of defensiveness, guilt and subversion unfold; the lines and thoughts are syncopated and tumble: running into one another and producing a breathless and frantic rush.  When our front-man is calmed, he puts it out there: “So tell me a different story”.  Where Time is autobiographical (or more fictionalised), it seems that hope is fading, and too much has been seen and done- our hero is at the end of his tether.  Such is the song’s intent and potency, that you second-guess yourself- wondering if your initial interpretations are correct.  Just before the 2:30 mark, a heavier punch is brought in.  A harder-hitting guitar strike is unveiled; which leads into a stormy and persuasive riff.  Bass keeps tight and intently, as percussion clashes and strikes heavily.  A vocal chorus is unleashed; it is both laddish, yet has a heart and tenderness to it as well; as it is championed: “Let’s go if we wanna go”.  The guitar work during this phase is particularly impressive, with edges of U.S. groups such as Green Day and Foo Fighters; together with some ’90s U.K. edges.  Such is the awareness of the band, that they keep the energy and intrigue of the song constant: without losing rigidity and potency.  The track is at once epic-worthy and sing-along: filled with crowd-uniting uplift; and the next it becomes more introverted and mandated.  I guess the guys will keep cards close to chest; yet it is clear that the song’s themes are enforced by personal experience.  The heroine is never named; yet is seems that she is both worthy of admiration and passion; yet is causing some negative feelings in our hero’s mind.  Where as previous efforts from the four-piece have presented oblique and indirect words: fascinating and intelligent as they are; here they are more direct; focusing on the vicissitudes and anxieties of love.  It is not known how the story ended: whether a satisfactory resolution was arrived at- yet with the infectious and uplifting sound it never bothers you; instead it just carries you away. 

 

Fascination is built around the group’s future.  They have a core and cemented sound that marries ’60s and ’90s swathes; tying them together neatly; built around their striking individuality.  If the Isle of Wight Festival is a career-high, they will have a lot more to come.  I have long-said that the band market is the busiest and most hotly-contested sector.  The northern plains of England are probably producing the majority of new bands (Manchester especially), yet it is refreshing that a London-based group; and one that have a keen ear for uniqueness, are doing so well.  The band sector- as opposed to the solo market- is always going to present the best and brightest sounds; and it is perhaps the U.S. that are doing the best at the moment.  Legends such as The National and Queens of the Stone Age have produced possibly the two finest albums this year (Laura Marling is not far behind); and it seems that the new artists there are making strides to have their names etched into history.  It seems that outside of the U.K. there is a commitment to diversification, quality and huge ambition.  In this country, a lot of potential is being squandered because bands try to emulate an existing act.  A huge crush and waves of new acts are being witnesses (by the week it seems), so it is near-imposisble when trying to pick out some genuingly exciting and worthy talent.  As much as I have been featuring some great bands, I have also been stating how difficult it can be to come across them.  The social media channels (and music webistes) are only effective if you are well placed: you often stumble across terrific music by accident.  It is so difficult to easily connect with great sounds and acts.  My desire for a website that takes care of everything is still strong: is all-encompassing; has an exhaustive list of music (seperated by genre and location); connects bands to fans, band-seekers with band members; ties together everything from existing sites and offers a hell of a lot more.  Until the day comes (will it ever?), I am glad that I can experience groups such as Crystal Seagulls.  I was impressed greatly by Yours For As Long As You Keep Me– its intention, qualities and effect- and have been similar inspired by Time.  Our endeavouring quartet have a clear public approval, and have found inspiration in this.  Let’s hope that there is an L.P. imminent: something that will showcase all the ranges and moves that they have to offer.  It is clear that each member brings to the band their own personality and experience.  The group are consistently tight and mannered: able to whip up a great deal of emotion, curiosity and quality.  Jim, John, Elliot and Ben are intent on making their prescence felt- they are here for the long run.  As time goes on, a great many new acts will come onto the scene; yet Crystal Seagull should not worry at all.  Tracks such as Time are a timely-reminder (no pun intended) that if you begin with some great quality, then you are already ahead of the current crowd.  It is not simply good enough to throw together a few guys (or girls); put some so-so songs together, hoping that that will be enough- and then sit back and assume that success will come your way.  Hard work, persistence, an impressive online coverage; as well as diversity, quality and festival time are required: otherwise your lifespan will be limited.  It is still the early days for Crystal Seagulls, yet they have the manner of a band that have no intention of letting quality and ambition slip: future tracks will pay testament to that, I am sure.  I am not certain whether an E.P., L.P. or another single are top of the band’s priorities, but I hope that they are making some big plans.  I said that Time has a summer-ready feel to it; and strangely it does.  Although the strains-and-games-of-love central motif is apparent; the light and breeziness of the composition will have you smiling and kicking your feet: rooting for our hero and following his plight.  Keep abreast, follow their going-ons; and keep your eyes on their social media sites (for song/album news).  A lot of (new) bands will arrive in the coming months- yet few will stick long in the memory.  With the London four-piece that…

 

WILL not be an issue.  Watch them rise on and on.

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Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/CrystalSeagulls

Twitter:

https://twitter.com/CrystalSeagulls

SoundCloud:

https://soundcloud.com/crystalseagulls

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Crooked Hands- The Stream- Track Review

 

Track Review:

 

 

 

  

 

Crooked Hands

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Stream

 

 

Crooked Hands

 

 

9.6/10

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Self-proclaimed as “Newcastle’s shortest band”; the quintet compensate with epic evocation- that will only leave you short of breath.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Availability:

The Stream is available at:

https://soundcloud.com/crookedhands/the-stream-1

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TODAY’s topics of discussion will centre around northern bands, as well…

 

as the male voice.  My eyes have stared towards northern skies, for quite a while now.  I have developed a fascination with the region (as well as Scotland), due simply because of this: some of the best and brightest in music reside there.  I have looked towards Manchester quite fondly, simply because of the rich history the city has.  As well as Liverpool, it is considered a modern-day mecca of busy and ambitious talent: bands and artists whom will be lodged in the collective mind in years to come.  Liverpool has its bands and acts; yet seems a little quiet and muted as of late.  It is Manchester that seems to be producing some of the most excitable and fascinating acts.  As well as being band-heavy, the area is producing a distinct ‘sound’- something that strays between Indie and Alternative.  Whilst it is great to have some choice (and believe me there are masses of Mancunian bands) it seems that the overall sound seems to be stray into familiar territories.  A lot of the front-men are portraying the Liam Gallagher/Alex Turner paradox: slurring and swagger aplenty.  The sounds of the groups- as well as being guitar-focused- are largely heavy-edged, yet not too heavy: flirtations with heavy rock and hardcore are attempted, yet mostly we hear Indie flavours.  Aside from the likes of The 1975- a band whom have supersede expectations and risen to the fore, due to their immense talent- are an exception that prove the rule.  I feel that there are too many similar-sounding acts here: not in terms of the style of music perhaps, more the sound made by guitars and voice.  Whilst it is great to have an Indie surge (it is a genre that produces some incredible acts), there seems to be less mobility and variation; compared to say, Yorkshire.  Bradford are producing great duos like Issimo (Abi Uttley and Marc Ottway); Sheffield have a clasp of rock and indie bands, trying to follow in the footsteps of their idols Arctic Monkeys.  In cities such as Leeds, labels such as Cuckoo Records are taking care of diverse and far-reaching talent.  From swing and doo-wop revivalists such as Cissie Redgwick and Little Violet; gorgeous female solo sounds of Annie Drury; through to U.S. blues rock stylings from Johnnythefirth- the county as a whole seems to be painting its native colours quite brightly.  I have postulated widely and regularly, as to why this sensation is happening: how certain counties vary in terms of quality and range.  I suspect that the harry and density of the larger cities such as Manchester and Liverpool foster talent; all keen to emulate and pay tribute to their local idols.  Considering the talent that has passed through these two cities, from the early ’60s (The Beatles), through to the relatively-modern-day (Oasis); the abiding sound of the new breed, tend to stray fairly closely to past sounds.  The anxiety of modern-life as well influences the type of music made: predominantly busier and pulsating; filled with energy and sharper edges.  Whilst the band markets are Indie-focused and male-dominated, there is a swell and over-proliferation of talent: making it hard to detect and highlight the best of the crop.  Yorkshire has greater arable climbs; a comparative lack of inner-city hostilities and fewer constraints.  The acts here are less compartmentalised, and collaborations and cross-pollination is more common.  Newcastle and the North East is a region that has produced its share of talent.  If you consider Newcastle (as well as the conurbation of Tyneside) AC/DC’s Brian Johnson; Dire Straits; Maximo Park and Bryan Ferry hail from here.  Hell, even Jimi Hendrix spent a lot of the ’60s busking in Newcastle!  Modern up-and-comers such as Nadine Shah are going some way to putting Newcastle ‘on the map’; yet the band market seems quiet at the moment.  Whilst the quality of the city’s current crop is extremely high; the output is not as fervent as that of other parts.  When acts such as Crooked Hands come along, it is always more fascinating: seeing what the sound of the modern-day North East is.  In the same way that geographical diversification has spiked my interest, the nature of the male voice is also a subject of intrigue.  The northern band scene- by-and-large- is synonymous with a rich and enthusiastic sound.  The tones can range from chocolate-coated to slightly-gravelled; tending to be energised and persuasive: a combination that is applicable to the core of northern bands.  I am always fascinated when something unique and unexpected happens.  Namely, when a group can fuse together an exciting and enrapturing sound: tying this sound to a voice that is stunning- and stunningly different.  Whilst the solo artists tend to receive the majority of kudos- with regards to the potency of the voice- bands tend to have to settle for  close-seconds.

 

Dubbing themselves as “Newcastle’s shortest band”, a sense of humour is evident.  They are not exactly homunculus; yet are not Queens of the Stone Age-tall.  For the last few weeks, I have reviewed a surprising amount of bands with the word ‘the’ in their name.  Crooked Hands sense of originality and surprise stretches far behind their choice of band name.  Christopher Brown, Liam Smith, Robbie Houston, Nick Blaszczysyyz (I can imagine how often he has to spell out his surname) and Tom Booth are out endeavouring quintet.  Although the guys play within the Indie/Alternative realm; their reputation seems to have been built on differing pillars.  As well as their true and unflinching sound: encapsulating and memorable; it is their front-man whom has been garnering a lot of praise.  The likes of KYEO.tv and Generator have noted at the exceptional soulfulness and shiver-down-your-spine etherealness of the voice.  Being inspired by the likes of Sigur Rós and Grizzly Bear, it is perhaps not hugely surprising that vocal potency and projection is high up the list.  In the way that the front-man’s has gravelled tones, that can mutate into spectacular soul evocations; it is a weapon and facet that Crooked Hands have utilised- and has got them some seriously impressive reviews.  The other four chaps are certainly not second-fiddle: their talent and contributions are what make the band’s music stand out and stick in the memory.  Many may be unfamiliar with the band: the guys have been quietly honing their sound, and electrifying local audiences; making their presence cemented in the North East.  Whilst the groups of the North West are noted their similar-sounding nature; Crooked Hands are doing the North East proud: at the core of a scene noted for its evocative and spellbinding artists.  I was staggered and stunned by Nadine Shah’s voice and songs not too long ago- a woman whom can produce eerie and haunting songs about the day-to-day.  Shah’s Pakistani-cum-Norwegian heritage; combined with a rich group of influences, has been making some impressive waves: many critics are hailing her as a serious talent to watch.  Crooked Hands are adding their unique flavours into the boiling pot of the North East- Manchester and London take note!  With over 500 Twitter ‘followers’; 842 Facebook ‘Likes’ the group have an impressive (if slightly modest) following: one which is going to burgeon and expand over the coming months.  Cracking the band market; making your way to the top of the pile, and swimming through music’s waves; can be tiring and near-impossible.  With the increasing quantity and compaction of the modern scene; combined with the ease with which music can be shared and downloaded, it is an on-going battle to win ground: pull in fans, and get your music heard far and wide, and remembered appropriately.  I have surveyed many acts whom I have been impressed by, yet know that they have a limited life-span.  In the case of our five-piece, a tenure will be guaranteed: due to their individuality and work ethic.  Their biography sections are sparse and to-the-point: making them accessible yet not too disposable.  Our boys have an impressive online coverage;  having managed to earn fans and stripes from all across the U.K. (and further afield).  With connections to Glasgow and the Scottish music scene, the guys are steeped in quality and conviction; and modest about their achievements.  Recently The Line of Best Fit profiled the boys; highlighting their fist-pumping and supernatural aesthetes.  As well as mentioning their parables of densely-textured alt-rock outpourings; they were filled with praise about the single Under.  The song was featured in the U.S. drama 90210 (and an impressive feat; a below-par show); with the publication heaping praise towards the song’s Bon Iver nature: For Emma, Forever Ago-esque swooping and swooning vocals; guaranteed to shiver the spine.  Whilst it has been ear-marked as a defining sound and song for the band; plenty of attention has been heaped upon The Stream’s banks.  Riparian serenity, wave-rushed energy and cooling sips enforce the track’s core; whilst its power will pull you in; drag you under; and drag you away.  Chris Brown’s men are keen to make big impressions.  The Stream is the first taste of their upcoming E.P., Penitentiary.  It has been slated for early 2014, and in the meantime, its first-born is making its voice heard- loud and very, very clear.

 

When approaching any song(s); having familiarised myself with the band: their codas, ambitions and background, I separate these facts from the music: judging the sound on its own merits.  Newcastle is very much folk-centric at the moment, orientated around a scene that favours softer and tender sounds; so I was expecting something that tied these lines.  Gently mesmeric acoustic guitar arpeggios soundtrack early scenes, offering sights such as: “dirty faces in the mud” and “All of lives/Raised by wolves”.  Our hero’s voice is impassioned and gentle: drawing your mind to the log cabin landscapes of Justin Vernon.  Whilst there are touches of Bon Iver, as well as Jónsi (of Sigur Rós; sans ‘Hopelandic’ oddity); our hero’s voice has touches of the legends of the ’60s and ’70s (Gram Parsons; Crosby, Still and Nash)- although you would not pick up on influences unless you were quite anally-retentive.  Such is the striking originality of the voice, it is near-impossible to compare it to someone else’s.  A fair few modern-day solo troubadours present a sensitive and haunting vocal projection; yet few stick in the memory in the same way.  Whilst you are settled into The Stream’s initial wistful and touching peacefulness; the tide soon changes.  Words expounding “Father’s cruelty…” lead-in a rush that is a startling sea change.  Now, we are cast under the spell of twanging and swelling guitar lines (that could easily fit into Portishead’s Third).  The percussive clashes and crashes, seemingly acting as a metaphor- as do the guitars and bass.  At first the water was calm and safe: we lay on our back in the sun, floating serenely down stream.  Acoustic guitars and a gorgeous voice eased us along stream; navigating turns and twists- promising a memorable and uneventful afternoon.  With little warning, a bow wave washes over; you fight for breath and struggle as the current dares you drag you under.  There is a moodier and darker edge: storm clouds, rain and inner turmoil unleash a forbidding weather- both persistent in its intention, yet measured and rhythmic in its sound.  Before our front-man returns to the mic. (to survey the scene), the rattle and lightning of the guitar and bass-combined with an epic and spiky percussive smash- is a cold splash of water to the face.  When Brown returns to the fold, his voice is reliably convincing and touching: going from a whispered seduce, through to a heady rush.  With the central vocal and the hallmark sounds: guitars that go from arpeggio, to twang; through to metronomic brood; bass and percussion that shivers and shakes, there are flavour notes of Sigur Rós, as well as Two Dancers/Smother-era Wild Beasts.  I particularly love the almost quiet-loud dynamic of the song.  You can never really sense what is around the corner, as the song swings its mood and force so quickly (and unsuspected); it takes you by surprise.  When lines are disseminated (“I loved you/But it was not enough” for example) the vocal rises and falls gracefully, as the band inject an energetic riffling of emotion; mixing percussion, bass, guitar, (and jubilant) piano.  ‘Anthemic’ and ‘epic’ are hardly hyperbolic, when describing the song.  It is the constant energy and shifting, that gives it such a relentless gravity and snowballing effect.  Sharply deployed musical parables are unleashed with nary a warning: lasting a few seconds before retreating.  The vocal can shift from a measured and playful (?) nature; before a word is held- repeated and redeployed to provide maximum emotional resonance.  Mood and the nature of atmosphere seem important to Crooked Hands.  Lesser- and in fact, most- bands would keep with a single line or thought (maybe deviating slightly), yet our quintet constantly keep energy and intrigue at the fore.  One would have the Devil’s time trying to keep up with the shape-shifting and mood-switching evocations.  By 2:44 a gorgeous and romantic guitar coda is presented- with shades of Five Leaves Left-era Nick Drake).  It is a calm-before-the-storm-after-the-storm break; and one which allows our hero to sing; layer his voice and harmonise with himself- creating a mini-choir; a round robin of etherealness.  I may have misheard the line (at times the intelligibility of a line gets lost in the sound); but “Out in my eyes” is repeated mantra-like (the band will forgive me if I have misquoted slightly).  With a brief piano-led bridge, a final swell of emotion and mood is whipped up: a last wave that brings you back to life, and deposit you safely onto the riverbank- where you lie in the sun, stunned at what has happened.  The Stream never really lets up, when it comes to suspense and unexpectedness.  I hate the over-employment of the word ‘epic’; yet is seems very apt and apropos when summarising Crooked Hands’ approach.  The song contains at least five or six distinct sections; blending and existing within one another; mutation and evolving to create strange and wonderful surprises.  Like modern classics such as Paranoid Android, the pace and fascination is planted by the song’s multi-part mood shift.  Our hero drapes his voice around the song’s lyrics; going from a softer and more tender side, to a soulful burst of passion.  It is an instrument and facet that is striking, bold- and above all- distinct.  Homogenisation and over-familiarity are bywords one thinks of, when considering (vocals) from bands of the North West (not that I am on a downer; it is just an observation).  Our front-man’s silky tones and seductive charm give the track a sense of energy and momentum, that is nobly galvanised by the band.  As the song does leap from phase to phase- tenterhooks are indeed baited and dangled in choppy waters- the guys are constantly on top of the situation.  Bursts of sound are stuffed with rampant percussion, stormy guitars, and evocative piano and bass; lighter and darker shades are mixed to elicit a heady brew.  Whilst not in the same mould or league as Radiohead’s 1997 masterpiece, it is a key and worthy comparison; as few bands attempt anything that have the same sort of potency.  The Stream is a tantalising and atmospheric cut, that hints at what their future E.P. will sound like.  Whereas previous singles such as Under are available- and possessed of the same sort of brilliance as The Stream– the quintet are constantly pushing themselves to improve and grow; keep their sound pure, but improve from song-to-song.

 

It is hard to fault the band, or hint at constructive criticisms.  At times it is hard to decipher some of the lyrics (apologies if I have quoted incorrectly): the strength and force of the composition does overwhelm the vocal at times- maybe bringing the voice higher and clearer in the mix would counteract the issue, and keep the potency high.  I have heard only a couple of the band’s tracks; yet am already compelled to dig further; find out more and discover- they could well be one of the best bands of the moment.  As much as kudos and celebration has been levied at Brown’s pipes, the entire band deserve equal credit; as each play an integral and vital role.  I have longed bemoaned about how difficult it is locating great bands (without a lot of luck and help).  Social media as well as music channels and avenues need to tighten and improve, so that it is easier for the likes of me (as well as the general music-lover) to locate bands such as Crooked Hands.  With the disposals there are at hand, and the amount of resources available, there seems no excuse for such issues- we are in 2013, not 1997.  The proliferation and unabated rise of social media is making it easier for stranger to connect (as well as friends), yet there is not a comparative music site.  I have been formulating a website that can take care of all of the needs and necessities not currently offered; and have been stymied and depressed by the lack of appropriate network and social websites for musicians.  Anyway… before I go on an interminable rant, my point is, that too much vanilla and sub-par music is shoved in our faces; where as serendipity and dumb luck are required when happening upon golden nuggets.  For now (and until I can bash some heads together) I am grateful to have ‘come across’ the Newcastle five-piece.  They may joke (I think) about their shortness/hirsute nature; yet what they lack in terms of height, they make up for it in stature.  Newcastle may be renowned still for its folk scene; yet Indie and gothic pop artists such as Nadine Shah and our five-piece are diversifying the scene, and making sure that a wealth of new (and different) talent are noticed.  There is still too much focus on Manchester, Liverpool and (God knows why), London, when looking at new music and acts.  Whilst the likes of Manchester promise enough, the most electrifying and memorable music is found in less-obvious spots.  When Crooked Hands unleash their new E.P., and gather some more reviews and plaudits; they surely will have venue managers and festival owners at their feet.  What with the sheer mass of new music- unregulated and free to roam- it is vital to proffer and raise the great (and bury the bad).  If Crooked Hands’ pace and potential continues like it has, then they will be making some serious impressions in the future.  The Stream is an intent and modern anthem; with sharp and atmospheric lyrics; stunning composition and a memorable central voice.  It is the tight kinship of the five boys, as well as the tight sound, which make their songs seem effortless- as well as infused with sweat, tears and blood.  Alfred Lord Tennyson wrote (in the poem, The Eagle): He clasps the crag with crooked hands/Close to the sun in lonely lands/Ringed with the azure world, he stands”.  The lands (of similarly-proportioned bands) may be lonely; the current scene may seems like an azure world (underwhelming); yet our Newcastle men should fear not:  the sun will not burn or harm…

 

IT will help them grow and flourish; high above the current crowd.

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Official:

http://www.crookedhands.co.uk/

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/crookedhands

Twitter:

https://twitter.com/crookedhands

SoundCloud:

https://soundcloud.com/crookedhands

BandCamp:

http://crookedhands.bandcamp.com/album/crooked-hands

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Radkey- Cat & Mouse- Track Review

 

Track Review:

 

 

 

  

 

Radkey

 

 

 

 

Cat & Mouse

 

 

Radkey

 

 

9.5/10

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

U.S. teens have a Grunge spirit (no puns from me sir!)- and a hard set of teeth, which suggests they could be big business pretty soon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Availability:

Cat & Mouse is available at:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f5K0ZOH-koY

The E.P. Cat & Mouse is available via:

https://itunes.apple.com/gb/album/cat-mouse-ep/id656670636?affId=1930871

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I have been thinking about the issue of age and youthfulness when…

 

it comes to new music.  I have touched on the issue before, and the pitfalls one can experience- where reviewers and fans focus too much on the youthfulness of an act.  I have witnessed many new acts and bands come through and be focused on too wholly because they were young.  Critics often drool over these artists, proffering them as modern-day idols: simply because of their age.  Back in the ’60s, there were a lot of young bands, such as The Beatles, that were very young: yet were very good, right away.  Solo idols such as Bob Dylan were also tender of years; instilled with an instant sense of authority, quality, and- I hate to use the word, but it seems apt- genius.  Throughout the decades there have always been examples of sapling talent coming through: fresh-faced and eager, with a hint of naivety.  Predominantly, the youngest new musicians tend to be in their early-20s: few teenage stars make a big impression early on.  As much as I am impressed by the ambition and focus of musicians so young, I often wonder as to their future.  Here in the U.K. we have Laura Marling: the modern epitome of a tender talent, making mature and epoch-making steps.  Although she has relocated to the U.S. (in order to pursue a new creative lease of life), she is an example of a young talent that has old, wise shoulders, and is an exception that proves my rule.  I tend to find that a majority of young artists- especially solo stars- tend to make underwhelming first steps: releasing some so-so songs; an okay-ish album, before being forgotten about.  I am 30 (almost ashamed to say it) and am still refining and defining my ‘voice’ and style.  It is axiomatic that the best experiences of your life come a little later along the line: thus making the best inspiration for great songs.  Because of a number of factors: a lack of living, a limitation of worldliness, the subjects and thesis of the songs offered by young artists, can be someone homogenised and predictable.  If you are lucky enough to make some small impressions right away- making sure that intrigue levels are high- then you have a chance to improve as you go along- managing to forge a long and prosperous career.  There seems to be a lack of ambition and potency from the young acts and bands: leading to quite a predictable entropy.  What with the music industry being fickle, as well as over-populated, in order for any new act to strive and survive; those initial steps are crucial.  From the perspective of the music-lover and reviewer, a focused and relentless microscope is always pointed in the direction of the new talent: hungrily waiting to see what treasures can be unearthed- if any at all that is.  For all the four and five-piece bands I have encountered; all of the solo artists I have heard, as well as the rest, an apparent factor comes through: age is important.  If the talent coming through is young- teenage/early-20s- then the focus can have negative effects.  Too much pressure is put on the shoulders, and a lack of experience and acquired knowledge can mean that the artist has a limited life-span.  I am not sure how the issue is going to be rectified and counter-acted, given the sheer size and vulnerability of the marketplace.  It is vital to advise caution to a new act: make them aware that some of your best work/ideas can arrive in their late-20s and 30s; experience and getting older can equate to musical supremacy.  Too often too many begin their creative life too young; with too much enthusiasm, only to burn out too soon.  I mention these points, because you arrive at the feet of new talent- whom are very young- that have the potential for long-term regard and glory.  Those artists- whom make big first steps- are the ones that need the most consideration and care: to ensure that they are recording some great music years and decades from now.  I have come across some truly wonderful young stars-in-the-making in the U.K.- Kiran Leonard springs to mind, with his multi-instrumental mandates.  I suspect that now, as well as the near future, critics and fans should cast their eyes across to the U.S.

 

It is imperative that younger artists- that have a genuine and worthy talent- are allowed to flourish and grow in the marketplace.  The U.K.’s press and overall scene needs an overhaul: someone to regulate the current codes of practise, to ensure that positive change is made.  It seems that whatever is being done- or not done- at the moment, is working against new music: not giving a lot of due attention to artists in the long-term.  In the U.S., it seems that young talent are given a fairer shake; a better and more diligent sense of care and support.  There are a lot of (teenage) bands that are plying their trade in the big cities- New York, L.A., Chicago and Miami- that are making big waves, and winning the patronage of the local inhabitants- as well as a wider community.  The cities and towns of the U.S. tend to be less suffocating and subjugation towards creative expression and mobility: musicians are treated more fairly, and given more time to prove themselves.  The streets and localities are also more inviting and inspirational.  Cafes, bars and music venues are more varied and welcoming; meaning that inspiration is easier to come by.  When those artists make their own sounds- buoyed and inspired by the local sounds- their respective work tends to be more quality-assured and convincing: displaying a sharpness and awareness that perhaps a majority of U.K. acts do not.  For as long as I have been saying that it is better to be more experienced- and older- when recording music (making sure that you put your best feet forward straight away), I am keen to promote young talent, whom I see as having a great longevity.  Radkey are a U.S. trio, whom may be foreign and unknown to many here.  Teenage brothers Dee, Isaiah and Solomon are making some great sounds at the moment.  They are a punk band, hailing from St. Joseph, Missouri- a state that does not often spring to lips when thinking of great U.S. talent.  Situated between Iowa and Arkansas, Missouri has historically been the home to terrific jazz and blues acts.  The likes of Scott Joplin put Sedalia on the map; but throughout the ’40s and ’50s, areas like Kansas City were hotspots for the music of the time.  Into the ’80s bands like the Blue Moons put garage and rock into the consciousness; shifting the music demography.  Where as Branson is still an epicentre for country music, St. Louis is fostering a much-needed alternative.  Hardcore bands and rock idols are making their home in the Midwestern climbs; invigorating the young wannabes, and providing inspiration.  Our trio probably can relate to what is happening in St. Louis, as their sound has more in common with the hardcore bands, than it does with the country and blues edges, of other towns.  The brothers grew up listening to the likes of The Ramones and The Who- pulling together English influences as well as American.  The boys have been playing together since 2011- having taught themselves everything they know- and have been playing local gigs; to appreciative and receptive crowds.  In 2013 they have already performed at the SXSW showcase: enlivening and scintillating the festival-goers there.  They are still in their musical infancy, yet are making some impressive headway, given their combined years (the lads are aged between 15 and 19).  Where as home-grown talent such as Strypes (possibly the stupidest band name ever) are recapitulating and rebranding the ’60s R&B and pop; the U.S.’s Radkey are bringing a sense ’80s hardcore to the present-day.  Softer sounds and voices may be in the back of the boys’ minds, but their list of influences leans heavily on the…well, heavier: Nirvana, Iron Maiden. The Ramones, Wolfmother etc.  My reticence and scepticism regarding young talent (and their long-term potential) is taking a bit of a bashing- in a good way you understand.  It seems that youth and inexperience does not always equate to a demarcation and cessation of quality, as Radkey are proving.  Bolstered by an impressive cannon of influences and icons; combined with a welcoming and cosmopolitan local scene, it is not a surprise that the lads have been on the minds of many festival promoters.  They have managed to supersede and break out of Missouri borders, bringing their music to N.Y. as well as SXSW- in fact they have some international dates coming up soon.  The trio have just played dates in England, and it is will not be too long until they are needed back here- well I hope it will not be too long!  In the U.K. we have plenty of new bands- and fewer young bands- yet the U.S. influence seems to be more present here.  As well as providing an insight into another country’s music culture: one which is proving more welcoming of new music; it is important to have as much diversity present as possible- in order to inspire and motivate new groups and acts here.  The Radkey boys have brought Cat & Mouse to our waiting ears- a track that lives up to its chase-and-retreat name; energy and to-and-fro abound.

 

The initial guitar rush and twang may bring to mind some images of Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not-era Arctic Monkeys-cum-Wolfmother.  It is immediate and persistent, driving and striking; dropping missiles of electric strings into the landscape, and infusing the track with an instant indie and punk edge.  As the percussion joins the scene (as well as some Brianstorm-esque evocation), there is a delicious fusion of U.K. indie; U.S. and ’70s punk, as well as hardcore too: all combined to brew up a barn-storming and flailing dance that hooks you in, and implores your feet to do some moving!  The wordless build-up lasts only 16 seconds or so; yet by the time the vocal arrives, a huge amount of intrigue and expectation has been amassed.  Dee’s tones are not menacing or bellowed; there is no metallic thrash or Grunge growling to be heard.  If anything there is a measured calm.  The dark and baritone croon seems more at place in a stoner rock milieus; yet proffering words like:  “He had you in his gate/He let you get away…”- it seems to fit perfectly and seem wonderfully suited.  At times it is hard to decipher the words; intelligibility and clarity take second fiddle to mood and sound: the boys seem to want to project energy and slam first; subjugating other concerns.  It may be a sign of inexperience or an intentional ploy (to draw you more into their sound), but it is the vocal tone, rather than the lyrics; which strike fastest and harder.  The song’s themes stray closely to the song title’s implication.  A game of cat and mouse is afoot, and whether it is with malice-of-forethought; someone is being toyed with.  Whether there is personal relevance and first hand experience, it seems that the protagonist (let the unnamed Mouse) “get away for fun”.  If the compositions tried-and-tested template (with some unique touches thrown in) draws in the band’s influences and heroes, then the vocal is more complex.  The malevolence and dark croon bring to life the song’s words; making sentiments like “He’s coming for you” hit the mark pretty hard.  The Guardian compared the voice to Dave Vanian, but to my mind, the voice is more unique and rarefied: no obvious names jump to mind.  Although the song’s heart has some spiked blood to it; and inspires an anxious and nervy story, the boys still manage to infuse plenty of fun into it.  A hybrid between The Ramones and The Kaiser Chiefs seems to seem through in the chorus- if you can imagine such a love-child!  In spite of the limited years between the boys, they summon up a hell of sound!  The percussion is persistent and dominating; drawing to mind a young Dave Grohl (it will be interesting to see how Solomon’s stick skills develop into his 20s).  Guitar and bass work trips on a razor wire; fuzzy and infectious the one moment; brutalised and pugnacious the next.  Our hero keeps promoting a chilling question: “Are you scared?”; speaking to an anonymous heroine, whom is constantly in fear of a metaphorical mousetrap.  Our Missouri boys keep the mood brooding and menacing: between the Jim Morrison-cum-Iggy Pop vocal lasciviousness and the fractious and infectious sonic technicolour, the energy and intrigue never gives in.  Our hero manages to play the part of the villain (although to be fair he is villainous narrator, rather than perpetrator) expertly- one could see him recording his vocal with a pair of shades and gel in his head; a sly grin on his face.  Protestations including: “You better run” are dolloped out; imploring the song’s Mouse to find solace and shelter- although the intention may not be the most sincere.  Whether the central theme of the song is love-gone-bad or something more violent, the imagery and scenes that the band summon up will get under your skin.  Everything has a shadow following it; there is a constant sense of movement and chase- at times you are sucked inside the song and feel like you’re being perused.  At the 2:00 mark the lyrical menace abates, as a rumbling and bullet-ridden explosion is elicited.  The guitar and bass twangs and slaps, but it is the drums- psychotic, menacing and Grohl good- that make the biggest sound.  As much as Dee is a stirring and memorable vocalist and axe man; and Isaiah a stunning bass player (and vocal support), it is Solomon’s riffled drum work that will be a huge future-prospect.  With some feint heavy metal edges, and a lot of ’80s hardcore; it (drums) is a key component and force.  Just when you think that the middle eight will be defined by the percussive majesty, a bloodthirsty and electrifying guitar arpeggio is pulled out the bag: it is fairly brief but undeniably impressive.  Atmosphere and reinforcement are the bywords that define the track’s final moments.  Wordless chorusing of “Woahs” and “Ohs” are summoned: duplicating and triplicate; rising ever up to create one last menacing grin.  With some feedback and electric hold, we come to the end.

 

Minor niggles aside: the vocal needs to be higher and clearer in the mix for instance, there is little to fault here.  The young brothers have an impressive authority and conviction- given that they are in still in their teens.  From the handful of available songs they have produced, they also have a nimble and surprising range.  Their barometer is dead set on heavy and stormy weather, but it is the way they can move and surprise- within these confines- that marks them out.  Songs and sensations go from the shores of Grunge and metal, through to hardcore and punk: everything is tried and experimented with to present a more memorable and diverse whole.  Few established bands (or solo artists) have such an impressive sound, which makes Radkey’s youthful vigour all the more impressive.  My caution regarding age and inexperience remains to be assuaged.  Too many bands and artists have faded out or had their careers ended by their 20s- simply because they have expended so much energy trying to stay current and relevant in people’s minds.  Wonderful moves and songs can be discovered when you get into your 30s (and 40s upwards).  Think of legends such as Bob Dylan and Queens of the Stone Age.  The former produced Blood on the Tracks in 1975 (when Dylan was 33-years-old).  It is considered a masterpiece of break-up albums; and remains one of its author’s very best and most memorable albums.  The latter’s latest album (…Like Clockwork) may be their strongest yet.  It arrives 15 years into the band’s careers; with the frontman (Josh Homme) now in his 40s.  As much as the debut moves are the most important, longevity and future prospects are almost as vital.  I suspect that the Missouri three-piece will not have to worry too much.  With a sound that is both relevant and a little under-valued, they will be able to fit seamlessly into the marketplace, and ensure future dividends.  In the U.K. we are familiar with some of Radkey’s shades and edges: many bands try to do what they are doing; few are successful.  They will be welcomed warmly here- and are, as they have a lot of fans in the U.K.- and will have a dedicated fan base willing to stand by the guys.  It may be early days, but I predict that the brothers will have a successful and varied future.  Cat & Mouse is just one piece of their puzzle.  Within the space of a few songs, the boys have accosted the attentions of a wide range of music-lovers and sectors.  The Cat & Mouse E.P. is a testament to a band whom are ambitious and striking: its five tracks cover a lot of ground and genres.  Their native U.S. has taken them to heart- a little now, but it will be more fervent into 2014.  The U.K., Australia and Europe will surely follow suit, and future E.P.s and albums will see the boys gain legions more supporters.  Each of the band are deserving of praise.  From the crooning, intoxicating and emotive vocals; through to solid and succulent bass work; via some sensational drum and guitar work, they have a talent and commitment that will be rewarded highly.  Cat & Mouse is an intent and hard-hitting punch, and is a song that will remain in the mind for a while- especially because of its dark and shadowy menace.  There are no subjective tones to my predictions- even if their type of sound falls right into my wheelhouse.  I have witnesses and born testament to many young bands- each proffering a different sound and mandate.  If the trio keep their heads and minds focused; keep the quality rate high, and get out on the road as far and wide as possible, they will be able to relax a little.  Those tentative steps can seem like you are walking a tightrope; yet the debut E.P. is a solid foundation that will ensure deciduous flowering and glory.  They may be unfamiliar to a lot in the U.K. (and farther afield)…

 

BUT that is all going to change soon enough.

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Official:

http://www.radkey.net/

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/radkeyband

Twitter:

https://twitter.com/RadkeyRock

SoundCloud:

https://soundcloud.com/radkey-band

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Elena Ramona- Rise- Track Review

Elena Ramona

Rise

9.4/10

Greek-born Stathaki has a fondness for multiple genres, including dub-step; yet turns in a celestial track of personal relevance and eulogistic regard: guranteed to impress.

Availability:

Rise is available at:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CqJnCrruzjs

The official video for Rise will be released shortly.

Photo taken by Jessamine Cera; whom is also creating the song’s official video.

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NEW female artists and talent, are probably under the microscope…

more than any other type of talent.  First moves and the initial steps of each new talent, are watched and studied carefully- trying to hint at what being offered up.  Over the past few years, there have been various different types of female talent that have come through: each one earning a fair amount of attention- whether it is good or bad.  At the forefront of the folk and acoustic movement, are the likes of Laura Marling.  She defines the pinnacle of what you want from any talent (male or female): sharp and fascinating lyrics; a strong and unique voice, and an ambition and quality that is hard to top, and even harder to fault.  There is not a great deal of genre diversification: little cross-pollination; more of a consistency.  To my mind the likes of Marling, as well as her ilk are the modern-day embodiment of the likes of Bob Dylan and Neil Young: updating their sound and style, and proffering the same degree of (early-career) quality.  It is the consistency of these artists (from album-to-album) that is also impressive- in fact they seem to get stronger as their careers go on.  Away from the fascination and continued quality of this sector and genre, there is the more traditional ‘pop’ core: the likes of Lady GaGa and Rhianna can be seen to be leading the way.  It is never my favourite genre, as there tends to be a less-consistent quality of output from the participants.  An austere critical reception, as well as some balkanisation, means that these artists are never fully beloved and regarded.  It is impressive that they manage to inspire and motivate young talent to record; they have a fairly common sound that it easily replicable, and is an obtainable style of music.  I guess these artists are always going to speak more directly to- and inspire more heavily- women; and young women, due to their messages and themes.  The quality tends to be quite variable with the likes of Beyonce turning in songs that can be quite universal; as well as superseding any preconceptions-Dangerously In Love contains a fair few tracks that will appeal to all music-lovers.  When considering the likes of Lady GaGa and Rhianna (as well as Katy Perry) the quality and strength tends to less evident; songs and albums occasionally get some support and merits, but are largely seen as quite throwaway and insubstantial.  From my perspective there are not enough genuine elements and great songs- it is vital to appeal and win more than the young female vote.  The issue of femininity tends to pervade and dominate this scene- and I have never understood why.  In 2013, there is still a large amount of equality and injustice towards women- especially in the workplace; although it is not an issue in music.  It is an art form (like acting) that is free and open to all.  There is no subjugation or discrimination, and anyone can (and is welcome) record music.  Popularity and pay are not issues (as it is dependant on sales, and not gender-defined) and there are no barriers placed on women in music.  Simply if the music is good enough, then you will get fans; if it isn’t you won’t.  Restrictions and limitations arrive when you make music that is not up to par- when critics are waiting to write you off.  There are the same rules applied to the men as well, and success and failure does not discriminate.  It is understandable that these artists will use their music to try and inspire young women; but with this you are always likely to alienate the male market-essentially half of the voting public.  If the music was fantastic then you would embrace it regardless, yet there are aspects lacking.  Lyrics and ideas tend to be too narrow and unadventurous; some of the lyrics and words can be quite insipid or juvenile and there is not a great deal of depth to them.  Beside which, a lot of the example’s stars tend to be more concerned with image than the music itself- again appealing solely to the female audience.  Another sector of female artistry concerns the remainder.  Within this sector are a great range of artists: those whom are usually willing to be diverse and ambitious.  From soul and endeavouring pop acts, through to rock and indie acts; it is a core that is on the rise.  The likes of Adele and Lianna La Havas are amongst the pack, and are showing that a powerful voice, as well as a talent for stunning song writing, can win support right across the board.  There are always a lot of eyes trained to the new female artist, simply because of this: there are far fewer of them.  If you look at the music magazines and broadsheets (as well as music websites), they are usually filled with male talent: both solo and in terms of bands.  I am not sure why, but I guess the band market is the largest sector, and they tend to be male-only, or male-dominated.  In that respect, there is a lot of ground and support the new female artist can gain: if they make the smartest early moves.  The likes of The Voice are giving a bad message to new musicians.  The participants of those shows are usually fame-chasing wannabes whom do not want to make music the honest way: there is literally no other reason to go on these shows.  A lot of the participants tend to mimic other artists and come off as second-rate.  If you take Leah McFall (runner-up of this year’s The Voice), she goes to prove my point.  She is merely a Christina Aguilera/Adele/Mariah Carey hybrid, and has no individuality or substance.  Proffered and raised on a pedestal (by a fickle and under-educated viewership) she contains no original elements, and will suffer the same outcome as the majority of talent show contestants: make an album with dozens of writers and producers; come off as sound exactly like another artist; have no creative mobility; fade from the scene pretty soon, before being forgotten about.  Hopefully these shows will die a speedy death, as it seems that the shows are inspiring the wrong type of ambition.  My point is, that the new talents whom do things honestly: write their own tracks; make their own way, and work hard on their original voice, are the ones whom are going to last the longest.  Whether they are great lyricists and folk-orientated, or have a wide-ranging ambition in terms of genres and styles, then the market is going to be more receptive and welcoming.

Elena Ramona (or Elena Stathaki, to give her real name) is a 23-year-old artist, whom is amongst a growing band of talent that are bringing their own voice and identity to music.  She is based in Guildford, Surrey and I have known her for a little while now.  Being a local artist, I have charted her progression and- excuse the pun- rise, for some time.  Elena is inspired by the likes of Beyonce and Rhianna, yet has a wide-range of idols; from Maria Callas to Joss Stone.  The diversity of influence is hardly a surprise, given her upbringing and musical training.  Growing up on the island of Skiathos, she wrote and sang songs as a young child; fostering her love for music.  Whilst at boarding school, Elena appeared in many plays; honing her eventual vocal identity.  After moving to England and attending the Academy of Contemporary Music (in Guildford, where she obtained a diploma in Vocals and High Vocals), she gained valuable contacts and friends (many of whom she has kept, ever since she  started at the A.C.M. in 2008); which helped to foster her love of music and desire for the spotlight.  Over the past few months I have reviewed and featured a few other Surrey-based solo talents, including Chess (Fran Galea) and Emma Nadine Stevens.  Between those two artists, a great swathe of folk, pop and soul is covered.  Each has a unique style and set of songs, but there is one constant to be found: they worked hard to get where they are; and have done so by having a unique and individual talent.  Elena is another artist whom is long-overdue some attention and praise.  I noticed her work several months ago, and one thing hit me straight away: her range and diversity.  Not being beholden to recording pop songs and more ‘mainstream’ tracks, her passion for the like of opera, rock, dance (and even dub-step) has meant that she has worked with a host of very different artists.  She collaborated with sub-step artist Backspace on the track Addiction: a track which has amassed over 14,000 YouTube views and a lot of fervent praise.  I know for a fact that Elena has been working on the operatic side to her voice, and is a hungry artist whom is not content to stand still and restrict herself to one genre or style of music.  Her voice has a power and ability that few other’s posses: capable of employing soulful prowess; sweetness and operatic lust.  In the mainstream there are very few solo artists as a whole, whom seem capable of having a long-term and focused career.  Either their voice is too thin and ineffectual, or their songs are far too predictable and limited.  For every new solo talent that comes through each week; very few will survive in the long run.  Elena Ramona seems intent to make big waves and use her talent and abilities to enjoy a lucrative and rewarding career in music.  Her background of classic training, a great music school and exciting and varied collaborations, has put in her good stead: giving her a confidence and step that few others can attest to.  Elena Ramona is not a pop artist that is pure image, and too overly-concerned with being a fashion statement.  There are no Gaga-esque theatrics and shock tactics: she is an honest and down-to-earth woman; one who loves meeting new people and connecting.  Her natural friendlessness and reliability enhances her image as an artist and will draw in a lot of female fans- whom will be inspired by her personality as well as work ethic.  In terms of her sound, she has a diversity and ear for quality and range that will draw in a great deal of male fans.  Myself, I am prone to heavier sounds and experimental music: that which- for want of a better phrase- “pushes the envelope”.  Elena Ramona’s endeavouring and variegated palette draws my ear in, as she has a deft ability to weave different styles of music into her cannon; going from operatic power to delicate seduce within the space of a line.  She has a stunning and quite startling beauty as well (it’ll be those Greek roots) and an incredible and alluring sex appeal that marks her out as a modern-day idol: one whom can win a wide range of hearts.  All of this well-travelled musical background has lead Elena Ramona to the present-day.  She is still in her early-20s, yet our heroine has an ambitious and busy future ahead of her.  There are plans for a future release, and whisperings of future songs to come.  Elena has been in the studio and making some fascinating moves for the last few weeks; and Rise is a track that is both personal relevant and a milestone for her: a piece of work that highlights the young artist at her very best.  She has worked tirelessly and long in order to get her music and visions recorded- I know from talking with her how happy she is with her progress.  I have been lucky enough to survey and a review a wide host of varying and diverse talent: each with their own stamp and style.  Elena is an artist whom marries a huge vocal talent, with a touching and personal set of lyrics: tied around a swelling and evocative sound- with some fantastic production values.  Our young heroine has had a difficult and challenging last few years.  She has had to face the realities of life on a shoestring; working continuously, and bidding her time in order to achieve and realise her dreams.  The story behind her single Rise has an air of tragedy.  Elena’s father died of cancer and the track is dedicated to him- and inspired by him.  It’s themes and lyrics revolve around her father’s influence and passion: it is a remembrance of a great man, and what he meant to her.  It is a bold and brave step from our star, whom has forgone issues of love and issues-of-the-bed, to concentrate on something more original, meaningful and emotional: paying tribute to a hero of hers, and doing him great justice.  It is not often I get to form a personal relationship with an artist- prior to review- but I know how much the song (as well as her music) means to her.  Her touching tribute is not a forlorn or introspective tear-jerker.  It has an upbeat and invigorating warmth and energy to it; one that will seduce as well as provoke: tied around a coda that is tender and heart-warming.  Our young heroine is putting Surrey; the south, and new talent on the map.  Pushing away from the fallowness of the modern scene: employing an ambitious spirit with an original flair and direction, Elena is looking towards a long-term career and regard.  With her great promise, memorable music and jaw-dropping looks; she is a young woman that can effortless fit into the current scene: and with a ready-made and natural openness she is a young artist that will speak to (quite literally) fans of all ages, genders and musical persuasions.  Having overcome personal tragedy, setbacks and obstacles, and doubts and hardships; it is fitting that Elena is poised to make a surge for momentum and memorability: with a track that is filled with conviction and passion.  Our heroine is keen to tease and intrigue as much as possible: there are plans afoot, but no firm details yet- building suspense and intrigue further.  Rise is the opening gambit, in what is sure to be an incredible future prospect.

Before going into depth about the track, it is worth giving kudos and special mention to Martyn Corbet.  He was the co-producer of the track (and also recorded it); and is a major inspiration, according to Elena.  He is someone without whom it may not have happened, and it is his production values and touch that can be heard on Rise.  The two of them met in 2011; Martyn helped Elena gain confidence and ambition- leading her to cover Eagle Eye Cherry’s Save Tonight.  Having written/produced an original dub-step piece together- Addiction– they continued to enjoy working with one another.  Elena- hungry to expand her ambition and move into pop- joined with Corbet to bring Rise to life.  The initial, romantic piano parable is tender and touching: summoning a soft and touching mood ahead of the vocal entry.  When our heroine begins; her voice is passionate and soft- with hints of modern-day U.S. stars such as Rhianna, but imbued with a very natural tongue.  Early words speak of childhood; or how her career and dreams began: “Just a little girl and a tape recorder” flows into ambition and a dedicated persistence: “Keeping my spirit shining bright”.  The emotive and simple piano line augments the words, as well as creates a calm and gentility: one that blends perfectly with Elena’s voice.  On the subject of that voice.  It is hard- not that you would ever particularly want to- to think of obvious comparisons.  Its core has roots within the modern scene- it is a fresh and relevant sound.  Where as the likes of Leona Lewis and many contemporary U.S. solo females may linger in the back of the mind; in the initial stages, it is difficult to invoke a particular name.  The combination of Elena’s native accent, as well as her natural voice, drags you away from any obvious names; instead making you focus on the words themselves.  “Thank you/From the bottom of my soul” is how the chorus begins: a message to her family and father; paying tribute to their support and influence.  Elena’s voice lifts and contains some added sweetness: an audible smile can be detected.  Themes of thanks and consideration make up the majority of the chorus; with a special message paid to her father:  “You taught me how to rise”.  When the words have been delivered, piano is employed; keeping the mood consistent, whilst bringing images to mind: emphasising the lyrics visuals, whilst offering a playful coda.  The following verse builds upon the chorus’s messages; paying homage and due to her father (and family), whom have “kept me on track” and “Rooted me down”. Whereas a majority of modern songs deal with the negativities and cynicism within love (although there are exceptions); Rise proffers from its tender core, and espouses honest thanks and appreciations.  It is hard to see fault with any of the lyrics, either from an emotional or intellectual standpoint.  The balance between quality; quantity and potency is struck well: the words are simple and affective; with a consistency and consideration present throughout.  Elena’s voice is kept tempered and focused: possessed of a U.K./U.S. pop core, but also other facets too.  At times the voice has country-tinged edges; when Elena’s voice quivers during “You saw in me…”, there is an element of blues and soul: there are hints of U.S. idols such as Alicia Keys.  In the way that the song presents its key themes and cores (“You taught me how to rise” is probably the most meaningful) our young heroine makes her feelings and message felt.  No need is there to deviate or to present too many words (thus distilling the song’s essence): the verses are touching and thought-provoking, whilst the chorus has an uplifting and redemptive coda (and a catchiness to it).  From the 2:00 marker, Elena’s voice is replicated: providing wordless chorus and interjection- backing her central performance.  This adds extra potency and atmosphere; and emotional sway.  Towards the closing moments the chorus is introduced once more; a final thanks and praise dedicated to the song’s focal hero.  The overall impression one gets is one of satisfaction and surprise.  Rise is a song which is surprisingly selfless; infused with warmth and genuine sentiment, that you cannot fault its intentions and themes.  With an evocative and impressive composition- both serene and sparse- the main focus on Elena’s voice, which is solid throughout.  Her more operatic and dramatic tones will get an airing very soon; but here the emphasis is on tenderness and passion: making the meaningfulness of the words stand out.  With a tiny sprinkling of the likes of Leona Lewis and Rhianna apparent, Elena’s vocal strengths lie in its originality and dexterity: able to go from a softer and seductive whisper, to a powerful rise (during the chorus).  Martyn Corbet’s production galvanises and shines the sound: making everything crystal-clear and concise.  Each word and note can be heard concisely; with the emphasis placed on the voice- it is placed high in the mix, so that it stands out strongest.  The duo work well together, with Corbet possessing a clear understanding of mood and clarity: he ensures that the track is tight but not too polished.  Overall the track is an intriguing and impressive cut from a young talent whom has plenty more to say.  The music video for the song is forthcoming, and from what I have heard about it; it will be a fitting testimony to the song’s values and spiritedness (a great deal of feathers are involved!).

From Rise‘s evidence, our Greek-born heroine has an undeniable ability to tap into the sound of the modern-day scene.  Her anthem has a utility that can see it nestle alongside her idol’s sounds; yet has a personal and uplifting message that means it defies any conventional barriers or limits.  In a modern scene that concentrates too hard on the vicissitudes of love- something that seems to be the sole theme for some artists- it is unusual and refreshing to hear that Elena’s first solo step is a bold one.  Whereas she could have presented a typical love-gone-wrong tale- in order to fulfil a preconceived demand and predictability- instead a more meaningful and personal song has been created: something will win a lot of impressed nods of approval.  There is some exciting whispers of future release, and it will be interesting to see what directions and sounds Elena Ramona chooses to include.  Knowing that she is similarly at home amongst operatic and pop sounds, as well as dub-step avenues and balladry, it seems that she is not limited for options: and that sense of emotional and creative range is something that is important to her.  Too many new acts will think about a future that involves several similar-sounding songs- normally concerning love and relationships; break-ups and the like-without considering diversification of theme, sound or direction.  Our heroine has been working hard and thinking about her future with a smile and consideration: imaging what could be, and what the next track(s) will sound like.  Although Elena has a passion and fond regard for her idols and influences, the striving for originality (in terms of her songs and sound) are as important anything; so where as new mainstream artists such as Tom Odell are being reprimanded for their lack of emotional depth and range, Elena is going against that; keen to explore as many possibilities as she can: pushing her voice and keeping her identity true.  Rise is a track which lays down the (intriguing) groundwork: the expansive and striking voice; the professional and accomplished production; emotive and subtly composition, and impressively mature and accomplished lyrics.  Given the tough subject matter (paying tribute to her late father), the issue is dealt with, with a great deal of reverence and restraint: no histrionics or over-emoting; just a measured and passionate performance.  With Martyn Corbet’s helming and guidance, a tight and impressive song has been produced: one that has been receiving a hell of a lot of plaudit and appreciation.  Whatever is in the pipeline (our star is keeping cards close to her chest, to build suspense and curiosity), it is sure to be an intent and confident work; whether it follows Rise’s themes, or goes in other directions, is to be revealed.  I had begun by listing the typecasts and categories that female solo talent usually falls into: the mature songwriter; the pop princess; the cross-pollinating genre-crosser.  Our gorgeous Greek has an already-mature and tempered song craft (a rarity for any new artist in their 20s); a girl-next-door-cum-Siren allure, and a potential portfolio that will see many different colours, shades and movements.  She fits into the two brightest and most-prosperous categories, whilst able to elicit influences from her pop heroines.  The first steps are always the most interesting- and most difficult from the artist’s perspective.  Getting it ‘right’- by being utilitarian as well as original and diverse- is an alchemy that is much-required yet seldom-found.  Elena Ramona has created a song that is has already impressed many; will impress many fans-to-be and potential labels alike; and- I am going to go out on a limb here; quite confidently- pays great homage and tribute to the song’s muse: her father.  This year has been a busy and exciting (as well as fraught and challenging at times) for Elena, but one which has served to foster her ambitions and push her further on.  Further consecrations and hallmarks will be met with excited minds and focused eyes: each curious to hear what will arrive next.  Whilst many of her contemporaries use subterfuge to achieve their limited goals; Elena is ambitious and determined to realise her potential: and do so honestly, letting only her talent and voice do the talking.  It is still early days (where twitterpatted plans are made), but I know how much music means to Elena- and how hard she has worked to get where she has gotten to today.  Our heroine has a very steadfast and all-inclusive mantra: ” I want to touch a chord in everyone’s hearts with my lyrics and music”. With a selfless attitude, and bustling talent, she is an artist whom will have…

A very bright future ahead.

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The official video for Rise will be released soon.  For further updates:

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Elena-Ramona/323928237668916?fref=ts

Twitter:

https://twitter.com/elenaramona90

SoundCloud:

https://soundcloud.com/elenaramona90

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The Chase- You- Track Review

 

Track Review:

 

 

 

The Chase

 

 

 

 

 

You

 

 

The Chase

 

 

9.4/10

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The romantically-explosive five-piece bring their blend of classic English majesty and current-day U.S. rock forth.  Prepare to jump right aboard.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Availability:

You is available at:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hsth3NjnMxA&feature=player_embedded

Their latest album, Slings & Arrows,  is available at:

https://itunes.apple.com/gb/album/slings-arrows/id487340544

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TAKING gambles in the music industry can take many different forms…

 

with consideration to bands, and newer acts.  From the off, eyes and ears are focused to your sound, look and projection- a lot of time critics are waiting to pick acts apart.  I have long harped on about originality- or lack thereof within the market- and it is harder now, more than ever, to set yourself apart.  International acts seem to have an easier time of it, when it comes to original sounds and making an impact.  Recently, I have been summarising the potency of new bands from the likes of Sweden, Canada and EIRE.  It is always refreshing and exciting hearing great acts from other nations.  With the media being overly-concerned with the home-grown act; as soon as a foreign sound gets through, it is always fascinating.  European acts and talent from the likes of Sweden are producing intelligent and punchy music; mainly indie and disco/dance-flavoured vibes.  Across Canada and the U.S. there is a bit more of a variation: from rock and indie clout; through summery, simmering pop; and all the way through to folk.  As great as it is to hear some international groups, one suspects that more need to come through.  Not to topple our acts, but to provide influence, support and alliance: creating a more vibrant and diverse market.  In the U.K. there are no barriers with regards to making music.  If you are based in the bedroom; gigging in the garage; or if you are a fully-fledged studio act, there is an outlet and audience waiting.  Problems occur along the way, invariably.  Due to the sheer mass of talent coming through, weaker bands and acts tend to die out or get buried.  Some never really hit their stride, and spent a career in a creative quagmire: always fighting against the tide.  For all of the fly by night groups; all of the second-rate acts, there are some incredible and exciting talent lining up- imperiously waiting for patronage and due respect.  There are some key considerations and formulas that are present, when summating a great band’s appeal.  Lack of constrictions, both in terms of geography and creative movement is one aspect; so too is the particular band’s influences.  For all the horrors and errors that you see with regards to incorporating influence: leaning too heavily towards another band, and sounding too similar; if you add just the right touches to the mix, then the results can be quite something.  To my mind, if you have all other considerations sewn up, and there is just one consideration left; you often leave one question out there: if I am going to mix and incorporate a few different sounds; then what should they be?  It is always wise to include some influences of Australia, as well as Europe: in terms of the great sounds of the ’70s- and yes-’80s; bolstering that to some modern-day shades.  The best mix is, and always will be; combining U.K. and U.S.  Currently the U.S. have the best acts and bands around (The National, Queens of the Stone Age etc.); yet historically it has been the U.K. which has turned out the greatest music.  The U.S.A. are showcasing stoner rock and psychedelic sounds; sharp and fascinating lyricism in terms of the words and sound; as well as terrific movements from new and established bands.  I have my eyes firmly focused on the shores of Q.O.T.S.A, The National, and Laura Marling (honorary American-elect); as well as the new breed such as The Technicolors and The Open Feel.  The nation is producing a wave of exhilarating, inspiring and awesome music.  There is also a huge bank and reserve of phenomenal music, that is distinctly unique: it belongs to us.  As far back as the ’60s where the likes of The Beatles ruled; through to the explosive range and peerless-ness of the ’90s; through to the modern-day clan, our nation has produced the greatest music there has ever been.  This is especially true when considering the band market, and there have been few challengers from the U.S., by comparison.  So it seems that if you are a band whom have your sound worked out; you have your kinship cemented and are confident in your skins; then the final consideration seems axiomatic: mix together older U.K. and new U.S.- in order to put that cherry on the icing.

 

There a few bands out there named The Chase.  One hail from Arkansas; and another is from France- although they may not be, as I don’t speak French (joke, by the way).  Blighty’s example are far better than their namesakes; employing a sound which has been making waves and winning plaudits since 2004.  Like a lot of great bands, the line-up changed a bit; until the final, current formation was cemented in 2010.  The guys consist of guitarist and vocalist Michael Turvey; rhythm guitarist Harry Street; bass player Luke Jerome; Ralph Humby’s percussion, and saxophone, backing vocals and keys from Ben Riley.  It is a galvanised and solid band of brothers, that are not lead by dictatorship or an imposing centre.  Unlike U.S. giants such as Queens of the Stone Age, the intrigue and dominance does not come solely from the front-man; and neither do most of the creative decisions.  The Chase have a greater collaborative spirit, and have shown themselves to be very business-like and wise, with regards to their output and designs.  As well as am impressive official website, which is easy to navigate and very informative, they have a full and dedicated online coverage, that makes it easy to track the guys down.  Together with this eye for detail, they have a terrific ear for blending sounds and influence.  Our boys have a love of the current- and fairly recently defunct- bands such as The White Stripes and Kings of Leon, but also have a passion for the classic English acts such as Small Faces, The Who and The Jam.  As you can probably tell (from the aforementioned) the guys have a penchant for the more electrifying and harder end of the spectrum: they favour more masculine and dominant sounds; choosing heady rush and rock spirit, in order to create their signature sound.  With a large online following, and a great live reputation, it is safe to say that they are definitely on the right course.  They understand how overcrowded and jam-packed the current scene is- and just how many musicians have no place being where they are.  Tying in their level-headed business aesthete: getting out onto social media, and drawing in worldwide support; the band also took their sound as far and wide as they could on the road: exciting and winning over clans of fans from all around the country- as well as the globe.  Combined with a core sound which is at once steeped in history, and fresh and essential; they are fully-deserving of their status and situation.  Their debut album ‘Ever, Never or Now?’ was released back in October of 2010, and saw them met with acclaim and high regard: critics and media were fast to promote the merits of the endeavouring five-piece.  Their follow-up L.P. Slings & Arrows, was launched at a home-coming gig in Southend and met with huge local pride.  Reviews in the media, as well as on iTunes has been rapturous, with listeners impressed with the urgency and authority that lies within; songs that marry the polemics and D.N.A. of U.S. and U.K. young and old; tying it together around lyrics that speak to everyone.  The boys are sharply-dressed and cool, and look very much the part: no awkward band portraits or nervy imagery, just confidence and conviction.  This comes through in their tracks, and it gives the impression that the quintet have been doing this for decades- rather than a few short years.  Plans for the future vary, but resting and relaxing do not count amongst them.  A third album is on its way, and promises treasures aplenty; touring and live dates are also on the calendar, and the quest to recruit as many fans and followers will carry on unabated.  Their summer schedule contains some illustrious and sought-after gigs, and the lads are preparing by playing some more low-key venues at the moment- combining their new tracks with classics from Small Faces.  The weight and potency that was produced by their Slings & Arrows album is still very much present; with the single You, causing quite an excited stir.  On YouTube, the video for the song has amassed over 10,000 views, with 171 ‘Likes’ (and no ‘Dislikes’-quite a mean feat!).  For a website that contains so many contemptuous and sex-starved morons, spilling hate and bile in the ‘Comments’ section to every video; The Chase have received nothing but glowing praise and support.  Having steered clear of the pitfalls and cockroach traps of YouTube, our five lads should be proud (of many things).  They have managed to rise above the parapet of critical disregard and naivety; circumvented the will of the most jealous of new bands, and managed to strike out on their own; calibrating their sound and potency by the month.  Where so many bands have failed: going in too hard with little sense of direction or long-term future; a poor and bare-boned business plan; a derivative and cliché sound; the five-piece from the south of England have; well… done rather bloody well.  As anticipation rises for the third L.P.; it is You’s hallmarks, swathes and subtleties that I have been investigating…

 

The opening salvos and moves that You pervades, is awash with youthful energy and potential. Anyone wanting to hint at initial influence may have their minds taken to the camp of The Stereophonics as well as Arctic Monkeys- but will have a hard time making any solid comparisons with regards to a song or album companion- such is the immediacy and sound of the intro.  A few brief drum beats join with a striking and blazing riff: one that sways and hits, but is not too heavy-handed or distorted- instead refreshing and intriguing.  When our front-man’s voice arrives; it is a slightly easier job when hinting at possible comparable/similarities.  As much as I have been on a quest to tirade against any obvious mimicking; our hero, however has some very distinct personal shades.  Sounds of Liam Gallagher and Alex Turner can be heard; joining a Manchester and Sheffield divide together, to present a vocal that has mid-90s Britpop-cum-modern-day indie/alt.   If your senses and intuition pulls you towards thoughts of a Definitely Maybe/Suck It and See hybrid, the vocal mood and lyrics will drag them clean away.  Whereas the aforementioned may mix cutting cynicism and tales-of-the-modern-street with ’60s-esque pop thesis; our boys have something modern and more relevant; and something that is both upbeat and impassioned.  Our hero speaks of tales from the heart: “I miss your face” and “you’re always on my mind”.  There is a sincerity and earnestness to the sentiment, which when tied to the uplifting and spirited backing, augments the song and unveils a smiling and energised stride.  The unnamed paramour that is alluded to, is causing our hero to ask why a pretence is kept up; why the two are apart and fooling themselves- our hero “see no sense” as to the logic of it.  There is no spite; no diatribe against love and no sense of bitterness (that a vast modern core would project): there is an honesty and tenderness that is at its core, that is hard to ignore.  The sense of longing and belonging is emphasised in the chorus, which is the embodiment of a good-time vibe; a heady rush of a summer-ready anthem.  Our front-man goes to sleep thinking of the anonymous heroine- someone whom is causing more of a stir as the song progresses.  The band performance is tight and emotive throughout, with the bass and guitar providing a controlled and elastic centre; whereas the percussion counterpoints and ballasts with some persistent punch and energy.  In a way the group have more in common with the British groups of the ’60s, displaying the same infectious spirit and heart as the likes of The Beatles- with enough Small Faces in there too.  Thoughts and revelations are kept on the positive and romantic side, as our hero sings:  “I just need to see you smiling”; the themes and verdancy of the song shares more with the ‘Madchester’ and London bands of the early/mid-’90s (crosses between The Bluetones’ Expecting to Fly and  The Charlatans’ The Only One I Know come through).  It is the ear for melody and catchiness (not in a bad way; a very genuine one), that The Chase get their messages across.  When the chorus comes back around, it seems as if the guys are constitutionally incapable of being down; of portraying anything negative.  Our hero is caught up in the sunshine of the mood, proclaiming (to his unknown beau): “You’re the only dream I have”.  The way in which the composition- with its classic ’60s sound-cum-modern-day U.S.-via ’90s Britpop- displays an unbeatable energy and enthusiasm, the vocal does not come off as too doe-eyed or sweet-natured.  The vocal display is authoritative and convincing, but has enough northern England edge to the tones to make it both romantic and harder-edged: giving the song a much more relatable sound.  With some impassioned and empowered guitar work showing its hand towards the closing moments; the momentum and wave of energy gets a new lease of life, to keep you hooked to the end.

 

I have been delving deep into the music archives lately; expanding my palette, and reintroducing my brain to some rather incredible sounds.  Lately the cut-and-paste plunderphonics of Australia’s The Avalanches have stuck in my head.  Their debut (and only album to date) Since I Left You is in need of a long-overdue follow-up, as the tracks and innovative spirit that lies within are in dire need today.  Aside from the title track and Frontier Psychiatrist, there are a wealth of variegated and fascinating cuts, that to my mind, have yet to be topped- in terms of their effect and potency.  Full of summery son, hip hop twists and sound collages, it is a testament to a hungry young group, whom seem to encapsulate the spirit of the time- late ’99-’00.  I mention it because the amount of hard work, dedication and attention to detail that must have gone into that L.P. are apparent in every note.  Even the early-mid ’90s pop and indie pioneers loaded their anthems and albums with such due care, that it is hardly a shock that they were so adored and emulated.  Over the last years- not that music is being ‘phoned-in’- but there is less attention and consideration given to the intricacies, nuances and aftertastes of music: what can be achieved- at that moment and retrospectively- if that extra ounce of effort is put in.  Pushing the envelope is not enough.  You have to stuff it with fireworks and shove it in a bonfire, just to get- a somewhat fickle and homogenised- media to pay attention and keep you in mind.  The Chase’s trump card comes in the form of simplicity.  Where as lesser bands and lesser minds may see simplifying music as a regression; it is the pure-hearted honesty and openness of You, which is near-ineffable.  Attempts are made to recapitulate the glories of ’60s/’70s U.K. and modern-day U.S., yet few successfully do.  In the band market there is still an over-reliance on sound, force and power in every track: little thought is given to subtlety.  It is the hook-laden joy of the track, as well as the earnest openness and romantic heart which gives the song its stripes.  The band are tight and focused throughout, adding layers of richness to the track, and not spooning in various components too liberally: everything is given due consideration for atmosphere.  The southern boys are very much a band of men, yet many would say You is the type of number a boy band would normally attempt.  If the central heart and blood flow suggests similarities it is the projection and quality of the track that steers you away from such sloppy comparisons.  There are no saccharine touches, no cloying lyrics; and a complete lack of naivety: it is simply a great and memorable number.  For too long there have been too few bands from the south of England, whom have caught my ear.  Many of the current best reside in the north as well as Yorkshire (and Scotland) yet London and the south tends to be under-represented.  It is refreshing that The Chase are making waves to putting the southern counties back on the U.K. music map; with their unique brand of song.  With a new L.P. on the horizon, it will be interesting to see which direction the 5-piece take.  Whether they will stick with their tried-and-tested sound; or expand to incorporate heavier underpinnings and a certain swagger, is to be seen.  They should have no fear, as the Slings & Arrows set show that the life they have in them, is fertile and in need of progeny.  The remainder of the year will see the boys tour and bring their current songs to audiences far and wide- as well as ready themselves for their next record.  For the moment take a listen to You, and all it offers, as the band’s trajectory will be an exciting and busy one:

 

AND much-deserved too.

________________________________________________________________________

Official:

http://www.thechase-online.co.uk/The_Chase_Official_Website/Home.html

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/thechaseonline

Twitter:

https://twitter.com/thechaseonline

YouTube:

http://www.youtube.com/thechaseonline

SoundCloud:

https://soundcloud.com/thechaseonline

__________________________________________________________________________________

 

 

 

 

Nancy Elizabeth- The Last Battle- Track Review

 

Track Review:

 

 

 

 

Nancy Elizabeth

 

 

 

 

 

The Last Battle

 

 

Nancy Elizabeth

 

 

9.7/10

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wigan-born Cunliffe summons a riot of beauty, from a track that is Dancing music…straight from her sleepless, thought-provoking nights, to your brain.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Availability:

The Last Battle is available at:

http://nancyelizabeth.bandcamp.com/track/the-last-battle

The album Dancing is available at:

http://nancyelizabeth.bandcamp.com/album/dancing

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IT is the subject and issues around the female voice that once again…

 

comes to mind; today particularly.  I have gone into detail before about the limitation one faces when encountering a solo voice: the build-up and inevitable limitlessness.  The men have a job on their hands trying to supersede and avoid expectation and lazy comparisons; with many being penned in and written off within a few moments of their careers beginning.  For the female artist, there is a similar pressure.  I think in 2013 there has been as little mobility and curiosity given towards the female voice, than there has been ever.  In the last decade, as well as the ’90s, there was always fervency and excitement to be found.  The 1990s especially was a decade that- debatably, but to my mind definitely- produced the last great waves of dance and trance music.  Within the shallow shores of trance and dance, diverse and unique vocalists such as Sophie Ellis Bextor and Sonique, sound-tracked some of the most memorable tracks of the decade.  Established singers such as Elizabeth Fraser (from Cocteau Twins) were lending their hypnotic tones to incredible dance numbers (Fraser provided lead vocal on Massive Attack’s Teardrop).  The dance and trance movement- that hit its peak at around 1998/’99 (and into 2000 too)- was only a small segment of the market.  Away from such idiosyncratic music, there was a burgeoning and inspiring pop and folk scene; in fact there was a lot to get excited about.  It was a decade that saw established legends producing great music alongside brilliant new artists, and to my mind it was the female acts whom were at the pinnacle.  Whilst it was the bands whom were creating the best songs and anthems of the decade, it was the new female voices that caught my attention.  As the years progressed, bands and the band market became more favoured- possibly in reaction to the greats of the ’90s such as Blur, Oasis and Pulp.  Over the last few years there has perhaps been little to shout about, with regards to the solo market.  There has been Laura Marling, Adele, Amy Winehouse and Lianna La Havas: varied and unique in their own way; each proffering a different sound and style.  For all the modern-day icons and influences, there is precious little in the way of future potential- those artists whom you could see being around 10 years from now.  Too often is the tendency for the new artist to underwhelm.  Their words may be personal and concerning the usual themes: love-gone-wrong, determination; ambition and the realities of relationships; yet the sound and vocal tends to be less-than-impressive.  When hitting upon a sound that is both memorable and unique, greater ambition has to be shown.  Many of the female voices at the moment tend to be too sweet-natured: quite cutesy and pleasant, yet lacking in either bite or etherealness.  Likewise the abiding sounds stray within the acoustic/folk/pop mould- little mobility is shown with regards to mixing genres and pushing boundaries.  To my mind, the most impressive female talent tends to be those whom show consideration for every facet.  Laura Marling- I have mentioned many times here- is the epitome of the modern-day female icon: stunning wordsmith; unique and powerful voice, and an electioneering and exciting sound.  A great deal of R ‘n’ B and soul talents display a powerful set of pipes, and marry this to themes that are relevant as well as original.  Outside of the obvious examples, the best female voices are hard to come across.  I have reviewed several recently, including The State of Georgia and Sophia Bastian (and a few others).  I feel that the market and public will always favour the bigger and more powerful voice: that which can elicit immense power and potency, whether it is through sheer force or raw emotion.  When searching for inspiring female talent, the media perhaps is not overly helpful.  Great websites such as The Girls Are promote female artists fervently, yet aside from that there is still a male-dominance apparent.  Although, when one does discover a great voice and talent, it is a rewarding experience indeed.

 

Nancy Elizabeth has a stunning and knee-trembling soprano voice, that has won her many fans.  It was My Brightest Diamond’s Shara Worden- a similarly crystalline vocal idol- whom was one of the last female singers to really invigorate my senses and get me excited.  Nancy Elizabeth (or Nancy Elizabeth Cunliffe, to give her full name) has a voice that is as impressive, yet her sound palette and ambition is even higher and harder than the American’s.  She is a multi-instrumentalist whom has been playing for many years now.  Hailing from Wigan, she has been wowing crowds and capturing supporters since her first E.P., The Wheel Turning King was released (in 2006).  Over the past five years, Nancy Elizabeth has been very busy indeed.  Her first L.P., Battle and Victory was released in 2007, and was well received critically; drawing favourable comparisons with contemporaries such as Joanna Newsom.  The follow-up L.P., Wrought Iron gained even more praise; many pointed towards the sparse sound, layered instrumentation and stunning vocals as hallmarks; promoting the likes of The Guardian to feature and profile our heroine: giving her invigoration and impetus to keep pushing and bringing her music as far and wide as possible.  On her official website, Nancy Elizabeth states that she has been most of her 20s playing pretty much everywhere and anywhere; from a derelict Mexican church, through to a run-down pub in Paris- oh, and a gig at London’s Barbican Theatre.  With great demand and a growing fan base, the pressures and relentlessness of performing became overwhelming, with our heroine retreating to the vicissitudes of home- where she remained ensconced and began work on her current L.P. Dancing.  Having spent so many years recording and performing, it was only natural that rest bite and relaxation was in order.  Nancy Elizabeth spent many sleepless nights listening to music; becoming fascinated by vocal harmonies- perhaps not relaxing then, but certainly inspiring.  Within the walls of her cold and small Manchester flat (her words, not mine); surrounded by guitars, amps and instruments, the young artist become immersed in what was to become Dancing.  The L.P.’s title was inspired by our heroine’s last-night tendencies: awake in the early hours she became acutely aware of time’s passing; a physicality was very present.  Perhaps the album’s epiphany and inspiration came from Nancy Elizabeth’s own personality and desires.  She is a young artist unconcerned with incongruous photos and imagery of herself.  The designs and landscapes contained within the album’s artwork were created by her, and depict scenes and sights that sum up what the album is trying to say- the music is very much the primary concern.  Likewise, whilst the L.P. does contain electronic samples and passages, it is not a traditional dance album; instead it enhances and utilises our heroine’s extraordinary voice, and combines with innovative and exciting compositions and sounds.  Over the course of the 12 tracks that comprises Dancing, a lot of personal relevance, as well as mystery, are presenting in the song titles.  Desire, Early Sleep and Shimming Song seem to project different sides to our heroine; whilst Mexico and Debt have very literal suggestions.  I have been aware of the track Simon Says Dance for a little while, and know that it has gained some huge praise and plaudit from various sources.  It is not a shock that Nancy Elizabeth has been earning impassioned words.  From the hard days (and nights) spent in her flat: solitary and cold; small and familiar, a great deal of inspiration has been found.  The L.P. shows a natural progression in terms of the overall sound, but the album sounds more personal and ambitious than her previous efforts.  The album displays a lot of longing- mainly personal- and Simon Says Dance’s line about “a flame burns inside my belly” goes to show that there is a strengthened and steely resolve in our heroine’s heart.  A great deal of the all-time legends produce some of their greatest work, in relation and as a reaction to separation and heartbreak.  Bob Dylan’s Blood on the Tracks and Joni Mitchell’s Blue display some of the greatest- as well as deeply personal and introspective- work of the lyrical legends; and unsurprisingly these albums are considered to be amongst their best work.

 

“Won’t wait in a cage/’Til someone comes to rescue me” is perhaps one of the most haunting and personal lyrics on the album, and are the first words of the L.P.’s lead-off track The Last Battle.  The song itself begins with a gentle acoustic strum, alongside Nancy Elizabeth’s seductive wordless vocal.  It has the evocations of a medieval battlefield or an Elizabethan feast.  The atmosphere and stillness (the calm before the storm as it were) presents the former; whereas the latter seems appropriate when considering the tranquil sigh one hears.  It is if our heroine is a queen, watching from afar; surveying a battlefield.  Or she could well be the central focus: maybe a Joan of Arc representation?  The sway and intoxication of the intro., with the exquisitely pure vocal and tender guitar, is a smoke that  wafts and envelopes- and one which sets a peaceful and romantic tone.  As the influence of a gorgeously-picked harp is played in; the vocals double and are triplicate: creating a small choir that augments the haunting and gentile aroma and mood-scape.  Up until 45 seconds, one is subjected- or more accurately rewarded- to the sound of the ethereal chorusing; a mesmeric and tender armoury that makes you sigh and smile somewhat.  It is pretty difficult for the casual listener; if they were to grasp for any potential ‘influences’- there is a little of Joanna Newsom’s magic to be detected.  Such is the unique and idiosyncrasy of Nancy Elizabeth’s template, that you really can’t focus too hard on anyone else.  Its harp and soprano coo subsides slightly, to make wave for an energised and upbeat acoustic/electric guitar combination.  The tone has indie/pop edges- there is a The Bends Radiohead-cum-Oasis-cum-The Killers.  In the same way that the operatic and soothing sway brought certain images to mind, it is the second half of the intro. which makes you think of something more modern- the inside of our heroine’s Manchester flat; as she sits alone and imagines.  The vocal that arrives is more measured and composed than the wordlessness of the start: the tone and presentation has a measure of folk; yet Nancy Elizabeth’s voice is sweeter than your average example of the genre.  Our heroine is in a cage; although she says “I’d stay there/But I can’t let myself be weak”; her voice seems determined and matter-of-fact: not overwhelmed or emotional.  Where as the musical backing is enlivened and the vocal is pure and unflinching; the themes and words have a surreal and dream-like nature to them.  Talk of the devil- female no less- are elicited; the succubus has “been pulling the wool over my eyes for all this time”.  The words come, and the intention and message is plain to see.  Where as lesser talent would stick with a single vocal line, and not deviate too far; Nancy Elizabeth weaves other vocal patterns in the mix; sprinkling a weaving and snaking coda in; one which rises and falls, creating a vocal sway that is extremely effective.  Our heroine is “longing for someone to care for”: there is a sense of loneliness and emptiness that you can detect.  Between the Siren vocals and dancing guitar there is a sense of romanticism, yet Nancy Elizabeth’s tones and words suggest a heart that is yet to find peace and satisfaction: there is the suggestion that too much pain has been experienced for too long.  The words themselves are as impressive as anything- even if the voice is the most immediate facet- displaying a maturity and intelligence one hears from the likes of Laura Marling.  Snatches such as: “love is letting you go love/Not tying you by my side” and “Hard to tell it from control/Because they look so alike”; shows an endeavouring originality and voice.  There are no sloppy metaphors or over-used themes of love; no obvious and worn similes or histrionics: the lyrics are intriguing and vivid, making you imagine and project some rather strange and wonderful scenes.  In every song I always wait for a moment that will take you totally by surprise; keep you on the edge of your seat, and quite frankly, knock you back.  In the case of The Last Battle this occurs at the 2:50 mark.  Having completed a sensual and imploring coda of “(I won’t be the devil’s whore) no more, no more”; our heroine’s voice sways and seduces, before a sea change occurs.  Drums play powerful and rhythmically; portraying an army approaching.  Nancy Elizabeth weaves her vocal lines into a tapestry: higher “ahhs” are mixed with lower “ohhs”- presenting a chilling and beautiful blend.  Whereas the intro. had its instantaneous effect and potency, likewise the current passage has its striking charms.  You are captured and pulled under by the gorgeous vocals; carried along by the pulsing and bouncing percussion.  Just as you think we are going into battle; swords and horses; blood and pain, there is a calm unveiled.  Our heroine returns to the theme of “Won’t wait in a cage/’Til someone comes to rescue me”; the voice still possessed of all of its magic and potency; swaying and playfully twisting and turning- and bringing the song to its conclusion.

 

I reviewed Joe McKee yesterday, an Australian solo artist whom has had an illustrious and successful past.  From his roots as a frontman, he moved to London to change scenes (he was born in Brisbane); yet decided to return to the Darling Ranges of his native soil; captivated by its majesty and peace.  He seems like an artist whom prefers tranquillity and does not favour too much bustle and hassle.  His voice (on the track Darling Hills) presents a mesmeric and luscious baritone, that tempts and draws you in; making you acutely aware of your surroundings, as well as those which his song present.  Coincidentally, Nancy Elizabeth has a similar predicament.  From her time spent touring and being caught up in the day-to-day anxiety; she has retreated to a safer and more familiar haven, to produce something quite staggering.  Even if there is little money and a less-than-idyllic backdrop to her predicament, it seems that the four walls she calls home inspire the greatest thoughts and movements.  In the shadow and poison of insomnia, she was able to utilise the time; turning her thoughts to music, and creating an L.P. that is brimmed full of serenity, passion and intensity: a record that does not stand still and does what few others can claim to do.  Nancy Elizabeth’s personality, predicaments, work ethic- and yes her voice- bring to mind the greats such as Kate Bush, Joni Mitchell and Patti Smith: she has drawn comparisons with Joni Mitchell fairly frequently.  The legendary female stars of the ’70s and ’80s found that there seemed to be a causal link between a more secluded life, and musical alchemy.  Where as the likes of Bush, Mitchell and Smith had their romances and highs; their greatest music was enforced by breakups, ghosts (metaphorical of course as ghosts don’t exist) and longing.  In the case of Bush, surreal and dreamy scenes are worked into Nancy Elizabeth’s songs, and it is the ingredients and flavours that are put into the boiling pot, that makes her album such a success.  The lyrics speak of love, love-gone-wrong, dreams, nightmares; mythical predicament, wars and battles and so much more.  A multitude of instruments are worked into the palette to augment and invigorate tracks, giving them a huge ambition and unique sound.  It is our heroine’s voice which is the calling card and golden nugget.  It is an instrument that is pure and crystalline, yet has a power and passion that few can boast.  The likes of The Girls Are have highlighted at just how majestic Dancing is, and The Last Battle is a perfect example of how good she is.  Little consideration is usually paid to intros. yet here it is filled with so much promise, intrigue and potency, that the song instantly makes its mark.  The themes of rising up; shaking off the shackles (cages, the devil in this case) and determination come to the fore: there is an abiding sense of wanting to break free and find space (with some longing and sensitivity present).  It is a gorgeous song filled with striking and atmospheric instrumentation, and that stunning voice ruling the kingdom.  It is a track that you can’t compare to anything else- or any other artist- yet has some lingering qualities of Newsom and Mitchell.  As I write this (the morning of Sunday, 23rd June), the U.K. has witnesses the finale of another series of (the God-awful) The Voice.  It was won by what’s-her-face? (she is blind I know).  The show’s winner was a predictably lamentable and irrelevant sob story- it seems being blind is enough to get you votes in a singing contest.  Such is the sappish and stupefying nature of these shows and its voters, that some woman’s predicament and disability superseded talent and potential.  Apparently it should have been won by some other woman; to my mind sounds like a bag of cats being put through a ceiling fan.  In fact she sounds like a bizarre Christina Aguilera/Leona Lewis/Minnie Ripperton hybrid, and is as deplorably irrelevant as the show’s winner.  My point is that these shows (‘talent’ contests) foster this type of irrelevance.  Even the artist whom apparently ‘should’ have won it, is nothing more than a copycat of other artists.  Her voice is stolen (and hardly appealing or unique); I doubt she could write anything memorable or original if she tried, and she has a personality and projection that means she will be dead and buried in the water within a few months.  The paradox is always the same: artist comes; writes album (with 15 producers and 25 writers); doesn’t play any instruments; has a boring L.P. cover; sounds exactly like existing artists; gets forgotten about all too soon.  It is the stupidity and credulousness of the broadcasters, the public, as well as music fans that these shows are allowed to exist, survive and annoy.  My point is that if you want to find someone genuinely worthy; a talent whom is doing things honestly and inspiring people- and is not a hideous fame-chasing cretin.  Nancy Elizabeth is a hard-working, tireless and ambitious talent, whom is a hugely impressive writer and singer, and one whom is original and captivating.  If you haven’t immersed yourself in the wonders of The Last Battle and Dancing

 

DO so now… it’s one of the best albums you will hear this year.

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Official:

http://nancyelizabeth.co.uk/

BandCamp:

http://nancyelizabeth.bandcamp.com/

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https://www.facebook.com/nancybeep

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https://twitter.com/nancynancybeep

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http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL646361ED72B6F960

SoundCloud:

https://soundcloud.com/nancynancybeep

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