Joe McKee- Darling Hills- Track Review

 

Track Review:

 

 

 

 

Joe McKee

 

 

 

 

 

Darling Hills  (Dot Dash Recordings)

 

 

Joe McKee

 

 

10/10

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Striking Australian brings you the wistful grace of the Darling Ranges; combined with a well-travelled mind; culminating in a song of rare beauty and epoch-defining potentiality and pulchritude.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Availability:

Darling Hills is available at:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1EtS-5_xh48

The album Burning Boy is available at:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B00D66MGY8/ref=as_li_qf_sp_asin_il_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1634&creative=6738&creativeASIN=B00D66MGY8&linkCode=as2&tag=propemusicd05-21

___________________________________________________________________________

THE arrival of a new male voice, can cause a wide range of emotions…

 

from the media and fans alike.  Whether this vocal talent is a brand new talent, fresh on the scene; or one whom has gone from a band leader to a lone wolf; there is always a great deal of consideration and hyperbole provided.  I am always attuned to, and interested in, the prowess of a great voice; and what components and ingredients go into making one.  Historically, there has always been a choice of vocal idols.  Whether you prefer the potency and raw power of Chris Cornell, Axl Rose, Roy Orbison, or the king of them all Freddie Mercury; or if the beauty of Eva Cassidy, Kate Bush and Thom Yorke is more your thing: there is plenty out there to investigate.  One of the biggest problems with this generation, is that there seems to be a lack of interest in the past. Attention spans and focus tends to concentrate around present-day; or if you are really lucky, a couple of years back.  Most are seemingly unaware of the likes of Janis Joplin, Nina Simone or Leonard Cohen- blank faces and haughty derision usually awaits.  This lack of understanding and myopic fandom is responsible for a lot of miasma in the current scene.  A great deal of female solo talent either present themselves as, or are compared with your Aguileras, Careys, Houstons or Winehouses; your boys tend to be ‘the next’ Jeff Buckley or Alex Turner.  There is a little variation, but predominantly one can trace roots to an existing singer: making your listening experience seem second-hand and stifled.  It does not help that the media seem to sweat with hysterical joy at the sounds of a man who can sing in falsetto; or a woman who has a gin-soaked or belting set of pipes.  As much as the over-reaction and false praise is grating; it is also giving wannabes and rising talent a bad message: if you want our praise, throw away an original voice.  Greater reward and accrued success will come more readily and more deservedly, when you strike an original chord.  Naturally sprinkling some influences into the pot does no harm- in fact it can enhance a voice.  It is also okay to be a little endeavouring: defying convention and having a wide-ranging and unfettered voice.  Perhaps reintroduce strands of under-appreciated vocal idols such as Tim Buckley, Bjork or Scott Walker: be a bit more daring?  However it is to be achieved, there needs to be an about-face when it comes to the voice.  In spite of some familiar edges, troubadours such as Matt Corby are reappropriating a genre that is coming under some scrutiny.  For all of the dewy-eyed adulation the likes of Tom Odell and Ed Sheeran get; Corby is more deserving of praise.  With a wide-range and powerful set of lungs; that can go from a gravelled roar, down to a seductive whisper: it is much more of what is needed on the scene.  In fact, it is the likes of Australia, which are producing some of the most diverse and memorable modern talent.  Having given the world some of the greatest music of all time, the nation is also producing some terrific and heavy-sounding bands, brilliant female talent, and worthy male voices.  The U.K. seems to be a little stifled at the moment, with regards to creative diversification.  The mind-set is either firmly planted on fostering below-par solo talent, or generic-sounding bands.  One suspects that a large amount of genuine wonder is being lost; dropped through the cracks; simply due to lack of attention and underwhelming social and media channels.  It a shame, I guess, yet we here can take notes from the likes of the U.S., Europe and Australia.  The latter has an almost stereotypical bonhomie and sense of relaxation: at once endearing, but also business-orientated.  The lack of subjugation and suffocation has allowed indigenous talent to move and gain creative space; yet at the same time the more favourable records label/media source to artist ratio, has allowed for greater and more long-term fostering and consideration.  The likes of Corby have been given the opportunity to flourish and grow; due to the fact that there is less caging-in and repression.  As much as the U.S. and Canada are producing some of the finest bands of the moment, our northern and Scottish climbs, as well as Australia, are bearing forth the most exciting and meritorious talent.

 

Having spent some significant time as part of Snowman, Joe McKee is a name that may be familiar to quite a fair few- he is certainly a beloved name in Australia.  Our hero’s sense of identity and ambition is enforced by the mellifluous majesty of the Darling Ranges.  Sometimes referred to as Darling Scarp, they lie south of Perth; are noted for their tremendous beauty.  It is a low escarpment, and extends to the south of Pemberton.  Dams such as the Wungong Dam and the Canning Dam are to be found; as well as bauxite mines, railways and quarries.  It is probably a quintessential destination for one who wants their mind to be inspired, relaxed and seduced.  For those whom are aware of, and in love with Melbourne, Sydney and Canberra, the likes of this Perth wonder.  Because of the area’s very hot summers, the Darling Scarp has been affected by huge fires as of late.  In early 2011, a massive fire plagued the area for four days: forcing many to evacuate and seek refuge elsewhere.  McKee originated from here- and barring a sojourn in London- has spent most of his days here; nestled within the quixotic and intoxicating beauty that the landscape has to offer.  A long-held belief and tristesse of mine, has concerned the correlation between location and quality.  In areas and countries where there are tightly-packed and busy communities, anxiety and hostility can be experienced- causing a drop in music quality and ambition.  Where there are wider plains; greater distance as well as more inspiring landscapes; the mind is free to wander and imagine: causing a much stronger and free-range creative output.  It is perhaps not a coincidence that McKee has been praised for his music- given where he spends most of his free time.  As well as a productive spell in London, McKee has drawn influences and sights from his native Australia, and injected them into his work.  His work with Snowman was widely praised- especially 2009’s masterpiece The Horse.  The mesmeric sounds and limitless ambition lead the band to London; where they gained fresh inspiration and a chance to record Absense.  After the band went separate ways- some to Europe, some stayed in England- McKee was a lone wolf: one filled by the majesty of London, and remembrances of home.  Having tried to forget about Perth, McKee invariable returned there, where he recorded the 10-track opus Burning Boy.  Under the auspices of his illustrious past and extraordinary talent, McKee has a lot to work with.  Where as his band regency was noted for driving and pulsating rhythm sections; the solo McKee portrays and teases and unexpected and lush baritone- one that is causing a quiver amongst the music press.  Where as your average solo man: think Ed Sheeran for example, turn in 10 or 11 variations on the meditations of love and personal strife, McKee has a golden nugget in his satchel.  Where as a lot of our talent (as well as U.S. solo stars) are too beholden with filling E.P.s and albums with tales of love and wrong-side-of-the-tracks-romance; McKee has more in common with the likes of Bon Iver.  McKee draws from the experiences of his landscape: Open Mine talks of Western Australia’s recent gold rush; where as the title cut has a more vulnerable edge.  The range of themes and the dexterous nature with which McKee presents his songs, shows a talent whom understands keenly how a terrific set of lyrics, and a brilliant voice; will get you noticed and remembered: take note beige middle-of-the-road acoustic core!  Burning Boy was released back in May, yet has lead to a huge swell in social media fans: 855 ‘likes’ on Facebook; 566 followers on Twitter (at the time of this review).  Rolling Stone Australia dubbed the album “A near masterpiece”; whereas The Australian called it an “accomplished debut”.  The Guardian recently included McKee in their (misnomer aside) ‘New band of the day’ segment.  Online music sites such as Beat Magazine and Mess+Noise have heaped praise on the L.P., highlighted McKee’s encapsulating pipes and his superb set of songs.  He has looks ready-made for the market.  He is a handsome chap; where as like Corby he has a liberal amount of facial hair (including an astonishing beard), and a stare that will bore into you, he is the antithesis of the boy band Muppet: all hairless femininity and weak-limbed effete.  He is A Man; recording songs of beauty and stirring resonance: the effect is one that will see him being welcomed back in London- as an inhabitant as well as a touring musician.  One suspects that it will not only be Australia and the U.K. whom will be vying for McKee’s attention: the likes of the U.S. and vast swathes of Europe will soon be attuned to Burning Boy’s nuances and rewarding layers.

 

As well as the title song; Flightless Bird and Blue Valeria; which have struck and captured me with their beauty and variegated plumage, it is Darling Hills which lingers longest in my thoughts.  The album is not available on Amazon until July 1st; yet the songs are available online- or most are.  Blue Valeria’s success and wisdom drew in a lot of new (and existing) fans; and if Darling Hills is shared liberally; many new fans will take McKee to heart too.  For all the press and adulation that the title track has garnered; I was struck by the autobiography and tender passion that is evident in Darling Hills.  As you can tell by its title, it has geographical significance, and a great deal of personal relevance to 29-year-old (maybe 28; he was born in 1984, although I am not sure which month) McKee; whom was given a great investigation by The Guardian.  I am often ambivalent (read: angry) towards Paul Lester (who writes the daily page); he often seems glib and fatuous with regards to the talent he features; sometimes bordering on the hate-filled.  With McKee (whom he praises liberally), he is spot on.  Highlighting his intelligent song craft, which as hallmarks of ’80s greats such as Prefab Sprout and Go-Betweens.  His songs are imbued with sensitivity and orchestral majesty; mixing lick-lipping string sweeps, with spacious piano codas.  To my mind, Darling Hills is the epitome and summation of all of the positive attributes and seductive D.N.A. that Burning Boy promotes.

 

The atmospheric and heady rush arrives immediately.  Cinematic and epic strings; lush and romantic sweep in.  Where as the likes of contemporaries such as Lana Del Rey employ swaying, dark string sections; Darling Hills’ intro. has more in common with the work of The Cinematic Orchestra: it shares the same immediacy and stirring quality.  McKee’s vocal arrives; both tender and striking.  It has a quality of Jim Morrison: there is that weight and potency; with an echoed/reverb effect to the voice.  Our hero appears far away, with the song sounding like it was recorded in a tunnel; or empty valley- such is the sound of the voice.  This gives the track a dreaminess, as well as emotional cadence that emphasises and augments the mood.  Early thoughts and confessions point towards the beauty and majesty of where he is: “Darling Hills/Rolling in the dust”.  Our hero’s voice is backed and supported by a gentle-picked and sighing guitar; tenderly played, summoning up some bare-boned beauty and evocativeness.  McKee’s voice floats in the atmosphere; like the breeze it gently blows; caressing the words and it gives the listener the feeling he is actually in his Brisbane haunt: him and him alone, letting its natural wonders roll over him.  Everything about the song and its projection would suggest a devotional love song- in a way I guess it is- as it seems like McKee is calling out to a lover.  Scenes and thesis mix sensual and vivid imagery with delicate regard (“I dream of your/Burning skin”).  It is the way that McKee brings you into the song, and gets you to appreciate the beauty he sees; that makes the song so captivating.  It seems near-impossible that he recorded the song upright, in a studio, with a microphone; as you would think he was relaxing in the Darling Ranges, surveying the landscape, playfully teasing the grass in which he lays.  As much as I have mentioned the older legends, and referred to Jim Morrison/The Doors; McKee has a Thom Yorke-cum-Jeff Buckley hybrid: not to employ an over-used comparison (as I hate to do so); yet it is that stillness and etherealness that was synonymous with these icons, that can be heard in our hero’s voice.  The emphasis is very much on the word; letting it speak its truth and draw you in.  Musical backing is never too heavy or overwrought- quite the opposite in fact.  Gently plinking piano plays like soft rainfall, where as the articulation of strings is designed to elevate the emotion and tenderness; whilst embodying sunshine, moonlight, romance; joy, wistfulness- it manages to bring all of this to mind.  The mix of the romantic and geographical mix perfectly, blending a heady and drunken kick, that will melt and seduce.  McKee’s talent- amongst many- is to calm your mood and mind; no matter how you are feeling.  The vocal is poured like chocolate, and has that enriching tone to it.  Critics and reviewers may not have alluded to some (possible) influence, but there is a touch of Nick Cave.  In fact there is a little of Matt Berninger from The National.  Like these vocal wonders, McKee’s (voice) has a similar conviction and headiness.  Unlike Berninger, McKee’s vocal is not rooted in sadness or introspection (quite as much); his words are not as oblique, and are more literal and romantic:  “Through the trees/I can hear your voice”.  So hard is it to find any link- direct or not- to any other artist, that you sort of hint at ‘maybes’: hearing a tiny bit of him; a whisper of them- the originality is what gives the song its purity.  In the accompanying video for the track, we see images of the water; the ocean and rivers tumble with riparian smile; our hero lays down, eyes closed: the images are his thoughts and dreams, and a calmed peace seems to be present.  Acoustic guitar and piano melt into one another; the guitar occasionally goes out in front, creating its own gravity and beauty, before dropping back slightly.  In the way that the blues and jazz legends of the ’50s and ’60s could leave you spellbound with the voice and carefully-considered instrumentation; McKee does likewise.  So much attention and hysteria has been paid to his country mate Corby.  Matt Corby’s strengths lay in his power and guttural roars; where as I feel he is lacking when it comes to the more sedate and romantic side of things.  In fact, over the course of Corby’s E.P.s and singles, his voice has not wavered too much from its core- it is great but you get the sense that he will need to expand it if he brings out future albums or E.P.s.  McKee has proven he has a similar power and masculine power; yet he has the stillness and devotional spirit that Corby- as of yet- does not posses.  Similarly the way strings are carefully employed; adding extra layers of intrigue and beauty, are something that Corby has not quite mastered.  I only use the comparison to show that McKee deserves a similar attention and appreciation.  Darling Hills is a paen to the nature of home: where the heart and spirit is.  It would be axiomatic to say that the vocal and lyrics are convincing: this has been noted by everyone whom has heard the song.  The sense of tenderness and stillness is what makes the song stand out.  When you marry the words: part love letter to McKee’s native climb; part romantic calling out; and tie it together with the stirring and gorgeous composition that all of the various parts make a magnificent whole- one that sticks in your mind for a long, long time.

 

I have been a little down on U.K. talent for a while now.  From listening to Darling Hills and Burning Boy, perhaps we suffer an incurable ailment: we just don’t have the scenery to inspire.  Even if you travel to the hills and countryside of Yorkshire or Scotland; nestle in the busy cities, or take a trip through to a quiet environ, one thing will be apparent: it is not quite as majestic as Australia.  I suspect that if a U.K. solo artist were to reside within the Darling Ranges, a similarly touching and beautiful song could have been produced.  McKee has drawn in his influences from London and his time spent here, and brought them into a track that is very much Australian.  It represents and speaks of the beauty of where he calls home; what many of us can only imagine in our minds.  With these thoughts and evocations in our hero’s head, it is perhaps not surprising that a song of this quality and vividness has been made.  Let us not give all of the credit to the landscape and inanimate objects: the lion share of plaudits go to McKee himself.  As a writer his lyrics here- as well as throughout Burning Boy– are striking; able to mix metaphors, literal, tender passion and starkness together.  There are few genuinely great lyricists on the scene at the moment.  For the obvious indie-flavoured examples, the leaning tends to be on negative aspects of love, or a tristesse on modern life: the city streets, dangers and heartaches etc.  McKee instead has taken a different approach and is speaking about what he knows and where he comes from.  Little consideration is given to the negativity of break-ups; there are few examples of resentment in a relationship, and the constant power struggle.  There are few evocations of the harshness of modern life and the horrors and realities of where we live today.  Greater leaning is put onto the shoulders of tenderness, positivity and remembrance: these are key themes that are enforced throughout the L.P.  In that sense there is an air of Patrick Watson: a Canadian artist whom has a majestic voice; and someone whom projects gorgeous and evocative tableaux.  The composition of Darling Hills is measured and tender: strings, piano and guitar don’t force their way in; they simply back up our hero’s central voice.  To that note, it is the vocal turn that is most impressive.  Devoid of any obvious comparison, it is a unique instrument that says more than anything else on the track.  At once relaxing, tender and romantic; the next pure and aching.  That breathy and unforgettable baritone washes over you and pulls you in: such is the potency of the song that you let it, gleefully.  Perhaps my reticence of the U.K. scene will abate in time, but our current crop can learn a lot from McKee.  Over the course of Darling Hills, I have been jotting down notes and lyrics; ideas and thoughts.  For a while I have been attempting to hone and complete a love song: a paen to a particular muse; yet have been unable to locate all of the appropriate words.  I have come a lot closer to satisfying my thirst, and how many songs can you say influence you so immediately?  Darling Hills is certainly no fluke- far from it, as this track is relatively under-reviewed.  Where as the likes of the title track have been garnering most attention, it says a great deal when other tracks on the album hit just as hard.  In fact the consistency of the album goes to show just how strong McKee’s talents are.  Most acts and solo artists turn in an album with at least one or two filler tracks- yet if you survey Burning Boy, there are none to be found at all.  I hope that McKee plays London very soon, as I will have to come and see him and experience Darling Hills live.  It is a track that not only takes you to where McKee speaks; but makes you want to move there and experience the beauty first-hand.  Given what we know of the new music scene…

 

HOW often can you ever say that of a song?

________________________________________________________________________

Official:

http://joemckee.co/Joe_McKee/home.html

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Joe-McKee/179357768741590

Twitter:

https://twitter.com/Joe_McKee

YouTube:

http://www.youtube.com/channel/UCARthoqsLtDncVsGCKrtzHA?feature=watch

__________________________________________________________________________________

 

 

 

 

The State of Georgia- Reaper- Track Review

 

Track Review:

 

 

 

    

The State of Georgia 

 

 

 

 

 

Reaper

 

 

Synesthesia cover art

 

 

9.6/10

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leeds-based majesty, bursting with otherworldly wonder.  Miss Jakubiak’s moniker may suggest weird evocations of The Peach State; with a song title of morbid seduce.  The only certain truth is this: prepare to be mesmerised.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Availability:

Reaper is available at:

http://thestateofgeorgia.bandcamp.com/track/reaper

The album The State of Georgia is available at:

https://itunes.apple.com/gb/album/synesthesia/id591951681

___________________________________________________________________________

TODAY my mind is occupied- once more- with questions of Yorkshire…

 

as well as band formations.  I have alluded to Yorkshire in recent reviews, and my mind keeps coming back to the subject.  Ever since I encountered the likes of Cuckoo Records and its current stable including Little Violet, Annie Drury and Amber States; I have been waxing lyrical about the nature of talent that can be found in the county.  Even between the clan of musicians in the aforementioned label; as well as some great bands and acts like Issimo (based in Bradford), a positive tsunami of potential future-talent is arriving.  It is not just the concentration of quality: it is also the unexpected diversity as well.  Outside of Yorkshire there is not a lot of swing music and doo-wop being produced- aside from established acts such as Caro Emerald.  Between Little Violet and Cissie Redgwick, there are others whom are promising some golden evocations of the ’20s-’40s.  Some fantastic folk and indie bands are making moves around Wakefield and Sheffield, and blues rock; reminiscent of the 1960s/’70s and The White Stripes are being championed.  Of course there is a lot more still: stunning solo pop; jazz and blues solo work, as well as electro pop tunes afoot.  It should perhaps not come as a bit shocker that a lot of range and challenging music is present in Yorkshire.  Between the inspiring and gorgeous landscapes, through to charming towns and cities, there is less hostility and suffocation, than in built-up areas such as London.  I have been trying to find a correlation between music productivity and quality, and location; arriving at the conclusion that where you are based and what is around you, has an affect on your output and inspiration.  It seems that the further north you travel, the best sounds you will hear.  Being based in the south I always try and defend the acts based here; yet feel that there is a bit of a glut and cessation of incredible music: perhaps a mass relocation is required?  Anyway, The State of Georgia are proving my point (about Yorkshire) pretty well; and it is the ‘formation’ and make-up of the band, that gets my thoughts racing.  In the market at the moment, new acts tend to be somewhat unisex.  By this, I mean that the groups are either all-male or all-female (usually the former); where as solo talent tends to be a little underwhelming or predictable.  By and large, if you hear a solo artist; their voice or sound does the talking: rarely both.  If you are faced with a band, their tones are a little predictable; lacking in any ethereal touches.  When I encounter female talent, whether solo, or with backing certain thoughts crop up.  I wonder about the song writing, and whether the themes will be deeply personal and predictable, or whether poetic and surreal elements will be introduced: think of Laura Marling as the current epitome of how this should be done.  Does the talent have the song writing chops of your Marlins, P.J. Harvey, as well as older idols such as Joni Mitchell, or will their lines and thoughts be too twee; too familiar, and composed of little focus or remembrance.  Another thought concerning the overall sound comes to mind- including the vocal performance.  It is too easy to copy the likes of Mariah Carey, Whitney Houston, Amy Winehouse and Adele: going for huge vocals and emotion, supporting lyrics that tend not to be overly quote-worthy.  It is a practise that is being done more and more; and with cockroach traps such as The Voice encouraging this sort of deplorable artistry; finding something captivating is becoming harder.  If you are more folk-influenced; acoustic guitar, twangy/gravelled vocals may be preferred; wrapped around sharp narrations of love and itinerant travelogues, taking in smoky bars, windswept deserts and smoky-eyed harlots.  Away from the compartmentalisation and balkanisations: the ‘cool kids’ competing against the ‘U.S.-wannabes’; my ear and mind’s eye always looks for something more haunting; more cerebral and much more affecting.  Finding such hallowed and rarefied sound is a challenge; but the rewards are so much more satisfying.  With the likes of Anna von Hausswolff turning in haunting epics and Kate Bush-esque anthems, people are turning their attentions and focus to this side of music.  If you are capable of unleashing a staggering voice; tying in U.K. and U.S. influences, and producing a majestic and mythical sound; then a great deal of fascination will be created.  If you are capable of doing this, and are based in Yorkshire; well, it sort of ties my two points together quite succinctly…

 

The State of Georgia consists of Georgia Jakubiak; the Siren-esque and alluring front woman and centre.  Augmenting and supporting her bewitching sounds are Dave Knowlson on  drums; Mark Crossley on guitar and ‘Graingerboy’ on syths.  Our heroine comes out of Leeds, and is a gorgeous and striking young woman; intelligent and likeable.  She is not your overly-cutesy or anodyne pop idol, nor the elusive and overly-shy folk artist.  With a confidence and passion for music, she is instantly relatable and populist; not giving too much away (in terms of biography), yet giving just the right amount away- ensuring that fascination and intrigue are sustained.  Mixing alternative pop sounds with ethereal and haunting movements, Jakubiak and her talented men are embodying a rostrum of new talent, whom understand the importance and relevance of getting a song inside of your head; and not letting it shift!  Like Sweden’s von Hausswollff, whom mixes her Kate Bush-esque voice, alongside sweeping and anthemic organs and funereal moves; The State of Georgia have a similar eye for sweeping and epic songs, as well as more intimate and no-less-fascinating numbers.  Jakubiak counts Bush as one of her influences; putting her alongside Tori Amos, and the U.S.’s Regina Spektor.  Our heroine has a voice that you can compare to the aforementioned legends: she possess the same degree of beauty and otherworldliness.  This year has been a busy one for The State of Georgia, beginning with the release of the 10-track album Synesthesia.  The word ‘synesthesia’ relates to a neurological process, whereby stimulation of one sensory or cognitive pathway leads to automatic, involuntary experiences in a second sensory or cognitive pathway.  Sound-colour synesthesia transforms music and sounds into fireworks, colours and shapes; the individual experiences quite an overwhelming and memorable experience.  It is perhaps an appropriately-prescient name for the album, which covers huge territories over 10 tracks; sweeping and romantic strings (The Beast) mix with balletic piano (I Can’t Help Myself); distorted vocals (Earth Angel) can be heard with Hound of Love-esque grandeur (Hitched).  There is barely room for breath; steps vary in terms of length and direction, and the abiding sensation is one of impressed breathlessness.  From Deaf Dumb & Blind’s scattering and exhilarating opening rush, through to Harmony Song’s multi-layered and haunting vocals, it is a record that is alive with ambition and potency.  Our heroine and her musical comrades do not let predictability become a factor, as each track portrays a different personality and projection; meaning that by the L.P.’s plaintive and captivating final moments, a great deal of longing is left, leaving one thinking: when can I hear more?  Deaf Dumb & Blind was released in December of last year, and has gained a raft of new fans for Jakubiak; whom is collecting a growing swell of fans through social media.  Live performances are being spoken of with sighs of delight, and a solid reputation is forming.  It is no small part due to the attention and passion that has been put into each song; the craft and solid ethic that has made each track memorable and unbreakable.  The State of Georgia have a knack for a memorable title, as well as a talent for an original and striking album cover.  On the cover of Synesthesia, our front-woman is drawn in black-and-white three times.  With one representation covering the mouth; another the eyes, and the third the ears, there is a lot of curious intrigue and mystery contained within.  Aside from red lipstick and red nail polish, the scene is awash with greys, blacks and whites and it is a stirring and intoxicating image; one that leaves you wonder what it means, and what was being said, considering the very studied and carefully-composed tableaux.  It is details like these, which most solo acts and bands negate, that gives Jakubiak and the boys an huge edge.  As I delved further into the nuances and layers of the album, it was the fourth track- Reaper– which compelled me to sit down, and take stock.

 

It is with a creeping, mood-setting arpeggio piano coda, that begins Reaper‘s intentions.  Displaying some of Kate Bush’s sonic influence; in the way that beauty and tension is teased from the piano: notes stutter, flow and stop- creating a strange and striking atmosphere.  The capturing piano suggests a lot of what is to come; as well as building images in your mind.  In the way that the into. builds and seduces; flies and dives, there is somewhat of a romantic evocation- in my mind at least- that is rain-swept and cold; our heroine steps out of the light of a doorway; a perplexed and inscrutable look on her face.  The potency of the mood which the piano creates, summons up filmic scenes; dark and light paradoxes, and epic sweeps, all at once- without a single word having being sung.  It is the combination of 1985 Kate Bush, and the majesty of Tori Amos’ From the Choirgirl Hotel: the seductive charm-cum dark-edged storm that embodies the title; causing an intoxicating aroma.  From the elliptical and tenderness of the piano comes quite a sharp rebuke.  We are presented with a pause; your ears strain, wondering what is coming next; and then it hits: a thundering and tribal drum smash that continues (toned down slightly), enlivening the senses and making you sit upright.  On Portishead’s Third, the band juxtaposed the ukulele-lit track Deep Water, with the menacing and psychotic Machine Gun.  It is a shift that is quite as sharp, but from a calming and mood-setting beginning; the introduction of a pervasive and punching percussive smash is quite a (pleasant) surprise.  The drum and piano pair with one another; moving inside of each other’s sound; augmenting the tension and beauty and keeping you hanging on- wondering just what is going to happen next.  After 1:39 of some masterful build-up that ranges from syncopated diving; a sudden track stop (worthy of Queens of the Stone Age); swaying and seductive breaths, and balletic dance.  You are pulled in all sorts of directions; as a projection shines from your mind.  The rain-addled street and its neon lights causes our heroine to run through the street; in the dead of night, searching for a shelter from the storm.  Reaching upon a charming but under-lit bar, she walks in; wipes the rain from her face, and approaches the barman.  The song has such an evocative sense, that when the opening line approaches: “I don’t do things by halves if given half a chance”; a second scene begins to make its way to the brain.  If the enchanting intro. reminds you of Kate Bush at her very best, the vocal has a different sensation.  There are the breathy lows, yet Jakubiak is more composed; keeping her voice straighter and more serious, in order to make her words stick clear in the mind.  The lyrics switch between ambition and passion: “I play so we can dance”; and unflinching honesty: “I don’t fear the reaper so I definitely don’t fear you“.  There is a strong and steely eye that our heroine possesses; she is someone whom wants to do what she does best, and not let anything get in the way.  Whether the governance of her dissatisfaction is aimed towards a lover (former or current), friend or whether it is purely fictional; a sense of conviction, as well as anger can be heard: the emotions definitely come from a very real place.  As with the rush that was experienced at the end of the song’s intro, another explosion is elicited as our heroine asks: “Who ooooo do you think you are? “.  As firm and impassioned as Jakubiak’s voice is, there is a sweetness and softer edge to it.  Where as Amos and Spektor are influences, our heroine has a similar quality to her voice; yet makes her tones and style very much her own.  The band are army-like in their assault.  Knowlson is consistently powerful and potent; able to keep a relentless pace going through most of the track.  The bass and guitar work is tight and solid; adding flecks of electricity and fire into the mix.  In fact The Cribs’ Ryan Jarman plays guitar on the track, lending his reputable indie edges; adding an extra layer to the song.  When the “Who ooooo” codas are presented; Jakubiak elongates and coos; holding the notes and rising ever up.  It is when the line’s second half (“do you think you are?”) is delivered, that some U.S. inflection and shades come through; its sound and evocativeness has a mixture of the modern-day indie scene, as well as ’70s/’80s female pop.  After the rush and persistence of the previous verse; where our heroine was filled with scorn and accusatory intent, another piano line is upon us; proving a sea change and calm (after the storm).  It is said that our heroine is “possessed by the devil of music”, and she “won’t stop ’til I’m dead”.  The lines are delivered with calm; everything is matter-of-fact and composed, without the need for histrionics or over-emoting.  In the current scene of the female songwriter, there are few whom have a similar ear for conviction and potency.  Too many songs are either overly-twee or sedative: there are too few that actually invigorate and intrigue as much as Reaper.  For the likes of Florence and the Machine and Adele- contemporaries whom mix powerful voices with multi-layered compositions- their lyrics and themes usually stick too closely to love and first-person narratives.  Jakubiak and the boys back up the ghostly, echoed vocal (starting at 3:45) with a propulsive and spirited backing: crepuscular and stormy, with lighter edges.  Just when you think you are settling in for a calming ending, the haunting vocal ramps up to the point of bursting; before the chorus is brought back in; riding to the end of the song.  The overall impression that is left is quite indelible: the feeling that something genuinely memorable has been performed.  Like contemporaries von Hausswolff, The State of Georgia has a talent for building up huge atmosphere and emotion from the very beginning.  Where as the Swedish counterpart employs organ and a Gothic crawl, Jakubiak uses piano; weaving and tempting notes out.  The lyrics are diverse and original; drawing in a sense of rebellion and steadfast.  The chorus- with its acidic finger-pointing- is perhaps the most memorable facet, employing a catchy pop sensibility, yet enlivened with the mystique and flavours of Jakubiak’s idols Regina Spektor and Tori Amos.  The composition is completed with power and strength; tenderness and feather-light which combined and juxtaposed, creates a big impression.

 

Reaper is a track that takes your thoughts to some rather unique places.  My bar/heroine/stormy tale sticks clear- though I am not sure of an ending.  The song’s strengths lie in the way that it can remind you of some of the ’70s and ’80s greats; mix it together with a modern relevance, yet have a very unique and original voice: one that deserves to be heard and heralded widely.  The State of Georgia’s Synesthisia is chocked to the brim with myriad sounds and diversions; packed with nuance and memorability.  Jakubiak is an impressively strong talent, whom mixes intelligent and sharp lyrics, with an educated ear for melody and evocation.  Her voice is striking: lilting and seductive when required; able to rise and belt in the upper reaches, which can be ranked amongst some of the best voices today.  The album will stand up to a lot of repeated listens, and shows a young woman with an ambitious agenda.  Her band are by no means second fiddle.  Each member is tight and professional, able to inject a huge amount of mood and colour into the palette.  I was especially pleased by the percussive work in Reaper; synths and guitars come alive and at the forefront throughout many tracks; and guitar, bass and piano have their moments to shine throughout.  For all the hoopla surrounding current and established talent from Kanye West to Laura Marling; it is nice to see a new act whom are capable of stealing your attention.  The State of Georgia fill a niche in terms of their sound and range, and have turned in an album with no filler: just challenging and great music.  For too long there has been a reliance on giving too much airtime and consideration to the undeserving.  The U.S.-named; Yorkshire-based talent will be busy throughout this year; and I hope that another album is in the back of Jakubiak’s thoughts.  For now, take in the power of Reaper and investigate The State of Georgia further.  It is music that will speak to everyone, yet…

 

BE equalled by few.

________________________________________________________________________

BandCamp:

http://thestateofgeorgia.bandcamp.com/album/synesthesia

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/thestateofgeorgia

Twitter:

https://twitter.com/stateofg

MySpace:

https://myspace.com/thestateofgeorgiamusic

__________________________________________________________________________________

 

 

 

The Technicolors- Sweet Time- Track Review

 

 

Track Review:

 

 

 

The Technicolors 

 

 

 

 

 

Sweet Time

 

 

The Technicolors

 

9.5/10

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sounds awash with musical sophistication and a blend of incisive song writing, and rock swagger- mean the Arizona four-piece will linger long in the memory.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Availability:

Sweet Time is available at:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gz47Fde2AJM

The album Listener (Deluxe Edition) is available at:

https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/listener-deluxe-edition/id571243587

___________________________________________________________________________

SOUNDS and sensations from the U.S.A. are subject to a rigorous…

 

inspection at border control and customs.  For the serious music lover, as well as the casual observer, we in the U.K. need a varied diet, in order to grow and tempt the palette.  The majority of sounds and acts that we are subjected to, tend to be British- with a few exceptions here and there.  Whether it is northern rock and indie; Yorkshire swing and electro pop, or London-based urban grit, most of the focus still errs in favour of home-grown talent.  It is understandable that it is near-impossible to keep an eye on all of the new bands and acts springing up throughout the world; yet emphasis should be placed on quality; and by broadening one’s horizons, a great quality can be found.  It is quite obvious that the U.K. has its share of potential future-stars.  The ambition and intention is all there and in place, but for every act that promises some fascination and closer scrutiny, there are a mass and horde of similar bands and solo artists, whom have very limited appeal and stock.  A big problem that our musicians have, is that ambition and potency are passed over, in favour of force or diversity.  Too many rambunctious and fervent indie acts are present on the scene: we can do with quite a few less in all honest.  A lot of acoustic solo acts are around, and there seems to be an influx of rock/indie bands that tend to sound like one another.  Once you form a band and put out an E.P. or album, or whatever you make as your first move; importantly, you have to do your research.  Being in the position I am in, I am able to draw a Venn Diagram of ‘likeable acts’ and ‘challenging acts’, and tell you which (of the seldom few) names forms the intersect.  I can also tell you which of the new acts, sound like another act.  I tend to find that after a little while, an indie/rock act from Manchester says more-or-less the same as an indie/rock band from Wales.  The songs may have slightly different themes, yet the abiding sound and tones tend to be too close for comfort.  It is those groups whom are willing to be different, and toy with genres; mix sounds and influences; as well as push the creative envelope, whom gain the most impassioned regard.  Over the last few months there have been a fair few acts that have understood this.  From some ’50s doo-wop and swing sounds of Yorkshire, through to stoner rock-cum-psychedelic movements from Scotland, it has been a pleasure when discovering unexpected joys.  The U.K.- as impoverished and struggling as we are- can still pull out all of the stops and inspire the young musician.  We have the proud history and past glories to draw from; inject them into some modern-day motions, and elicit a fascinating and heady brew.  The overall and worrying issue that I can see, if that there are few international and foreign influences to be heard in this country.  Occasionally publications like The Guardian will point to a new European or Australian act; I may happen upon a group from Canada; and be compelled to read more about them; but by-and-large there is little consideration given to acts outside of the U.K.  It seems quite insane when you think about the predicament we are in.  With Twitter and Facebook giving so many people, the chance to connect with so many other people; it seems so easy to do it there.  Yet when it comes to music: connecting the fan to different bands; reviewers to international flavours, and such; here we have the big problem.  It is axiomatic that there are some phenomenal treats to be found throughout Europe, Australia, and beyond, yet how will we ever hear about it?  One day I will figure out a way to galvanise the social media strands, and evaporate the balkanisation that exists; creating a source where bands from all countries can find a willing audience.  It seems simple!  On the website, we have a big map of the world.  If you want to find a band from a particular country or city you would click (the city or country) on the map.  From there you can funnel the results by genre, and find a list of the bands and acts present here.  Or, if you want to do the reverse, and search by genre or acts that are influences by X, Y and Z; you would be able to find out that way; having various sections of the map highlighted accordingly (so you could then narrow down the results yourself).  It seems like such a time-saver and would not only make people like me a lot less anxious and perturbed; but would assist the songwriter- like me- find band members and influential contemporaries.  I sigh and rant of course; yet my point seems to be relevant and of-the-moment.  If I hadn’t come across The Technicolors via Twitter- quite surreptitiously mind you- it is debatable whether I would have come across them so soon- a fact that annoys me greatly.  Anyway, circling back to my mind thesis: we (in the U.K. and beyond) and missing out on a lot of talent, from a fertile and prosperous musical landscape…

 

To my mind, it is the U.S. which holds the most weight, in terms of the best non-U.K. music.  From the Midwestern territories, through to L.A. and Seattle, along to New York and New Jersey; it is a nation that promises even more than our very own.  Over the last 60 years or so, the U.S. has produced some of the greatest music ever.  The best lyricists, most daring acts and most impressive current bands all emanate from America.  With the proliferation of social media, there is no real excuse for ignoring U.S. acts and bringing them to the ears of us here in the U.K.  As much as there is a homogenised scene and stifled ambition at our shores, the Americans seem to have a lot more clout and mobility about them.  The Technicolors are a four-piece whom have struck upon a rare combination.  For all the acts out there that have rock swagger; and all those whom have a sharp ear for classic song writing; there are few that marry the two, to proffer a stronger whole.  Brennan, Michael, Nico and Kevin hail from Phoenix, Arizona: something that may confound many in this country, and bridle them somewhat.  Territories like Nashville are only apparent to many, due to the music scene, and many here will not even know where Arizona lies; and what significance the state has.  Apart from the likes of Authority Zero and Dead Hot Workshop, the state has had its fair share of musical representation.  Towns and cities such as Tuscon have given us a lot of punk and indie music, from The Bled right through to The Deadbolts.  Phoenix, however, is a positive mecca for musical innovation and potential.  From the ’80s hard-core punk scene and the likes of Meat Puppets, through to more modern-day bands like Jimmy Eat world, Phoenix has seen a great many bands rise from the city’s embers, and inflame the music world.  The hard-core punk scene, as well as metal have been prevalent and well-covered: a wide range of genres are represented and given fair assessment; and given Phoenix’s proximity to California and the Western Coast; it is not surprising.  A lot of Hispanic influences are experimented with (as New Mexico is a neighbour), and bars and joints from Albuquerque to Santa Fe are inspiring Phoenix bands.  The Technicolors have an appreciation for the local scenes, and have kept some punk and rock cores; blending that with sharp and intelligent song writing.  Inspired by the likes of George Harrison and Roy Orbison, the band have an appreciation for British influences such as Led Zeppelin too; meaning that they will have a natural second home over here.  The band’s 22-year-old front-man Brennan Smiley produced the band’s album Listener: a concise and authoritative record that shows the bands strengths and ambitions.  Throughout 2011, the boys spent a lot of time playing in Arizona: enthralling the native crowds, and honing their sound.  Bringing their big songs and big sounds to tiny bars, their reputation grew; many were enthralled by the sheer volume and passion of the band, which soon saw them in demand in California.  The young band divide their time between touring and recording: dedicating little time to taking breath; devoted as they are to the art and business of music.  They are aware that you need a relentless work ethic and a tireless energy in order to succeed, and this has contributed towards the respect and adulation many hold for the band.  A wide range of influences go into their song writing: defined by quotable and insightful lyrics and brilliant swagger and beautiful melodies.  Bruce Springsteen, Thin Lizzy and Tom Petty are key idols for the guys, and a sense of anthemic punch and stomp can be drawn between these legends and The Technicolors.  More modern idols such as Oasis are important for the quartet, but a majority of their heroes played in the ’60s and ’70s, and were defined by their brilliant song writing.  The band’s debut album has been described as: “The result is a mature collection of effervescent rock songs that echo late night summer drives as a young vagabond who doesn’t focus on the destination rather choosing to enjoy the journey at hand”.  The track- and single- Sweet Time has been garnering a lot of praise and consideration; being seen as a typical slice of quality from the band, whom seem incapable of putting a foot wrong.  The song goes to highlight the band’s mandates and ambitions: deftly weaving together tiny hints of influences; but very notably bringing their unique and original brand of music- fresh from Phoenix, to you.

 

Sweet Time begins with a rush and swagger, that proves its intentions straight from the off.  With a scintillating and sexy riff, which has some classic blues edges, as well as some early-career Oasis, it is an intro. that is hard and passionate, and will get you standing to attention.  When the percussion joins in on the act, it begins composed and measured; adding some weight, yet not encroaching too much or seeming too intense- it is a blend that shows shades of Led Zeppelin, circa Led Zeppelin IV.  In just over 20 seconds, a lot of ground- both musical and emotional- has been covered; and a solid base has been formed.  When our front-man makes his presence know, his voice is authoritative, yet relaxed: it is has a cool, laconic edge; an original and striking voice that has the delicate wisps of Liam Gallagher and Gaz Coombes, yet does not remind you too much of either.  Initial thoughts show some doubts and implore: “Last night I just about took your hand/I wish I would”.  Certain words are elongated; others given special consideration; bringing the words alive and adding emotion and relevance to certain sentiments (the word “brilliance” in the 3rd line is a particular example).  If you beat and swing of the song portrays a band with some classic roots- where bands would not perhaps have the strongest grip on lyrics- the simplicity and intrigue that The Technicolors summon up, show a band whom can give the best of both worlds.  For all my talk of the song having some classic and bygone roots, Sweet Time is a track that seems very much of-the-moment: fresh and electric, with themes that are as relevant today as they have ever been.  From the initial bursts and rush that the group whip up, they take the pace down, allowing our front-man to show his softer side.  With a delicate and quivering falsetto, it is said:  “It’s alright if you don’t quite believe me/But only if you come a little closer to me”; the words are delivered with conviction and dignified restraint.  In the way that kicking swagger-cum-sensitive edge blend seamlessly; gives the track a ready-made mobility, that could see it scoring a tense, taut T.V. drama, or a U.S. comedy-drama.  The pervasive sense of bidding time (“I’m right here waiting to breathe”), and waiting for the girl to make her moves and mind up; are augmented by dirty and licking riffs, tight and solid bass, and clattering, punchy drum work.  Our front-man’s voice is not limited to the potent single thread of sheer power: it has an impressive high; notes are bent and sparked, and the sense of movement is unerring.  It is unsure who the object of the song’s affections is, yet she is causing quite a stir in our hero’s heart and mind (“So take me if you please/Yeah I think you should“).  It is clear that there is a little hesitation in the heroine’s mind, regarding commitment and making a move.  Our hero is standing firm and waiting for her: the song’s title seems to be delivered with a carefree abandon (although whether sarcasm is intended, I apologise).  The hallmarks of a great band, and a great song, is the ability to mix mystery with directness; marrying hypnotic sounds with delicate and softer touches.  The Technicolors have a knack for blending these facets together effortlessly; the abiding sound is alluring as well as to-the-bone.  If the nature of the vocal confidence, as well as certain elements draw your mind to the shores of Oasis; then it is the barbed riffs that will take your mind away from the Manchester boys.  Whereas Oasis had a habit of ‘borrowing’ heavily from past master such as T-Rex (with regards to riffs), our Phoenix boys have a far stronger originality.  The guitar sounds are rooted in the U.S., and have a combination of ’70s style and modern-day bliss: the result is unexpected as well as exciting.  It is always a difficult and precise job, when it comes to lyrics.  Too many bands use too many words; fewer use too little.  The Technicolors do not employ too many different thoughts, instead repeating lines like “If you hold your breath” and “come a little closer to me”: making these sentiments stick in your head, and project vivid scenes as well.  Sweet Time‘s strengths lie in its structure.  The initial moments of the song are bustling and stuffed with energy.  The song gradually defragments and becomes softer, so by the closing stages the track has more of an indie flair.  In the same way that Elbow’s One Day Like This ends with its infectious coda (“Throw those curtains wide/One day like this a year would see my right“); Sweet Time has a similar epic and stirring finale, anchoring the notions: “If you hold your breath/Then maybe you’d see I’m right here waiting to breathe”.  The delivery is given a considered approach; the boys still keep the mood invigorated, but a touch of romantic longing and heart-tug are to be heard.  Our hero has a voice that aches and implores; strikes and hugs, and that combination of soft and strong gives the song an extra layer of effectiveness.  By the closing stages, the tale has been told, and one wonders whether the situations are resolved.  The anonymous girl is being spoken to, yet one wonders whether the words made their mark; did things work out in the end, or are there lingering questions marks?  Such is the strength of the track, that it leaves you wondering; but you are satisfied with either explanation, as the charm and smile of the track wins you over.

 

Many will reach for Oasis comparisons, declaring the song has a ’90s feel; yet there are bits of Wolfmother in the vocals too.  It has been a comparison that many fans and reviewers have made, yet it is not an overwhelming issue; it is not something that you will keep jumping to.  One of my pet peeves is a lack of originality: bands and acts that tend to just want to copy someone else out there.  The Arizona quartet have a long and varied list of idols; and in the same way that some of Led Zeppelin’s 1970/’71 work can be heard in places (predominantly in the intro.), likewise it is not too heavy-handed or pertinent.  The group have a fond and dedicated passion for music; combining swagger with intelligence and consideration; so it is only natural that some familiar shades will be detectable.  Above all, the sounds and spirit of Sweet Time, have a unique and valuable sound, that shouldn’t be cheapened by too-obvious comparisons.  The Listener album expands upon the bands mandates; stretching their sound and adding all sorts of different colours and moods into the pot.  The guys have a huge following across social media- a regard that is not purely U.S.-born.  Many other nations and sectors are latching onto their appeal, and becoming assimilated with their sharp and memorable songs.  The swaying and potent riffs and compositions will appeal to the modern-day indie/rock fan, as well as champions of ’70s and ’90s greats.  Intelligent and sophisticated lines will strike a chord with those whom favour cerebral edges to their music.  When you join the two- perhaps polemic- strands, then (as well as it being a rarity), a whole wave of fans are won: both young and older.  I naturally assume that the future for the band will see another album(s); as well as a lot of touring.  The boys have a sound that will seem second-nature to the U.K., and I hope that they play a lot more over here.  It is the likes of Australia, South America and Europe that will also clasp the band’s motifs to hear.  The sounds will be familiar to the inhabitants here, and The Technicolors will have a ready-made audience waiting- providing that the media can spread the word effectively, and help give the boys their dues.  It seems that a majority of the U.K.’s new bands are favouring heavier sounds: forgetting about aspects other than potent projection and rock stomp.  In that sense, there is a bit of a stagnation happening; one that is crying out for some international assistance.  The U.S. is probable the largest music market, and is possibly the fastest-growing market too.  It would be great to see The Technicolors ply their trade in the U.K., and bring their blends here.  With so much emphasised put on young bands and acts here, some U.S. talent would ease the burden for our fledgling artists.  The four-piece are going to be around for some time, and it is probably wise…

 

TO grab tight, and let their music take a hold.

________________________________________________________________________

Official:

http://thetechnicolors.com/

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/thetechnicolorsmusic

Twitter:

https://twitter.com/TheTechnicolors

SoundCloud:

https://soundcloud.com/the-technicolors

__________________________________________________________________________________

 

 

 

 

The Castro’s- Cracks- Track Review

 

Track Review:

 

 

 

  

 

The Castro’s

 

 

 

 

 

Cracks

 

 

The Castro's

 

9.1/10

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Liverpool’s four-piece have an energy and excitement, that is almost near-forgotten in today’s sounds; and could pave the way for big future success.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Availability:

Cracks is available at:

https://soundcloud.com/thecastrosuk/cracks

The E.P. Roads is available at:

https://soundcloud.com/thecastrosuk/sets/the-castros-ep

__________________________________________________________________________

LIVERPOOL and the band market at the forefront of my mind today.

 

For a long time now, I have been suggesting/banging on that there are issues with new music- depending on what region that act originate from.  This year, I have seen a resurgence and rise from Scotland; the likes of which has not been seen: it appears that the best and brightest are to be found in Scotland.  The freedom to roam; lack of city constraints, and a blasé attitude of the media, has given the talent here room to move; as well as a desire to impress.  Focus seems to be honed on London: it has been for decades now.  With every passing month, the media waits with baited breath, watching to see what wonderful music the capital will produce- yet it never really seems to materialise.  I shall not riff on my over-worn theme, but it is still noteworthy that there is an obsessive need to put London above every other region.  With an expanding market, that largely consists of bands, in all parts of the U.K.; differing and diverse groups are springing up.  Manchester has produced a great deal of these new acts, but to my mind, the talent there seems to be stuck in a rut: with a lot of the bands hanging onto another group’s influence.  The swathe of Arctic Monkey/Oasis-type bands has left be a little annoyed frankly.  I appreciate the appeal of these bands; and find that they are going to be relevant for many years to come, yet do not see the point of emulating them that closely.  Originality and diversity is as much an issue now as it has ever been.  During the ’90s there was some over-familiarity; yet when you consider the range of music, it is alarming at just how much was on offer.  With the likes of Oasis and Blur doing battle, Britpop’s warning parents were inspiring like-minded acts to strike up their own majesty, with the likes of Suede and Pulp churning out some unbeatable anthems.  Dance and trance music was being cemented and solidified.  Massive Attack were creating dangerous and exhilarating sounds; fusing genres and producing music that will remain timeless.  Those boys paved the way for late-’90s/early-’00s dance and trance artists such as Spiller, Sonique and Groove Armada- as well as a liberal assault of one-hit wonders.  Legends and older idols were still going strong, and pop music in general was in a good state.  Bands were capturing the spirit and fever of the time, and infusing that energy with relevant shades of the past: drawing in some ’60s majesty, as well as ’70s and ’80s touches.  Today, we the public- as well as the aspiring musicians- are faced with a bit of a glut.  It is the more established acts whom are producing the finest sounds, and the new act are faced with daunting challenges.  Because of the comparative lack of excitement, difference and epoch-defining music, the overall scene is stuck somewhat.  There is a diversity; yet not one that contains as many dissociative and unique strands; but worse still, is that the ambition is not there.  With the sheer number of groups (as well as solo acts) forming- seemingly there are several dozen new bands by the week- there are artists out there, whom are capable of instilling a sense of resurgence.  When we look to cities and towns where this may happen, one consideration has to be Liverpool.  Whilst Manchester is lacking behind Yorkshire and Scotland’s diversity and potency, Liverpool is making waves.  From the early-’60s, when the likes of The Beatles called it home, the city has been capable of turning out some gems.  Through The Zutons, The La’s; right across to Cast, Lightning Seeds, as well as Miles Kane and The Coral, Liverpool (as well as The Wirral) has been at the forefront.  As well as producing some of the best acts of the ’90s, and ’00s; the city is playing host to some of the strongest acts of the moment; those whom are capable of bringing about a sea change: dragging music back to the ’90s, when it was genuinely inspiring and exciting to hear what was on offer.  I’m not entirely bereft of compassion for current music- far from it in fact.  It is just baffling, that in a year that is modernised and developed as any we have ever seen; with the resources and retrospect on hand; that so few new acts are making huge impressions.  I have theorised that the sheer quantity of numbers has been responsible for distilling and subjugating a lot of potential, yet it seems that there is still opportunity.  As well as a lack and unfocused media scene, poor and under-used chains in social media; lack of appropriate music sites, and a repressive market; it is a tough chore for sure.  If you hold out long enough, you find some potentiality.

 

The Castro’s intrigued me, by their name alone.  I am never a huge fan of bands that begin with ‘The’: there have been too many past, and too many present.  That said, The Castro’s- with their intriguingly-placed apostrophe- do draw images to mind.  If you Google ‘Castro’s’ you will get some ‘interesting’ search results; and to my mind it sounds like a Cuban bar or curious haunt one would find in the underground of London.  Evocations of dark and smoky doorways, strange-looking patrons, and a red and blue neon lights bring to mind a charming, if volatile location.  Cigars would be on tap; Latin music would be on the jukebox; and bearded barmen would nod as you walked in.  Perhaps I am over-thinking things, but the band’s name, as well as their music (and song titles) draw to mind so many oblique and filmic images, that they create fascination with nary a note being elicited.  Our Liverpool quartet, consisting of Mike, Peter, Daniel and Oliver have the classic formation: each member has their instrument and does their role; keeping a true and rock/indie sound at their core; whilst never over-stuffing their sound with needless wallpaper or trinkets.  Perhaps it is Fidel Castro’s ethics and ethos that has inspired about a comparative musical drive and aggression.  The boys have been heralded by critics, whom state that their sound is ahead of its years; their live performances are tight and energy-packed, and they are a group whom are ear-marked for future fame.  On their Facebook page, the four-piece claim their interests include ‘Music, chicken, drink & girls’.  Maybe my Cuban-themed bar parable is not too far-fetched: the boys seem like they would be right at home there.  The list of influences that the band have, is wide and varied; including the likes of Gary Numan, Kasabian and The White Stripes.  It is the variations and energies that the different influences have, that The Castro’s infuse into their sound.  Over the past few weeks and months, the boys have been busy indeed.  The E.P. Roads, has gained a lot of attention and praise.  A sense of keen design and imagery is important to the guys; their covers are awash with quaint and humorous imagery: Cuban themes, charming scenes, and plenty of appeal.  Their songs too possess such strengths and swathes, and it is these pillars that has seen them build a sturdy foundation.  The E.P. 3 tracks surmount and capture the band’s ambitions and sound perfectly; whilst paving the way for some exciting future moves and potential.  Whatever axiom, aphorism or statement you can levy at the band, the one thing that rings true, above all else is: how tight and alive their music is.  It is a component and facet that is not overly-evident in the current scene; and something that should be noted by any up-and-coming band/act.

 

Roads’ second track Cracks, is a song that spares no time in getting under the skin.  From a frantic and tumbling percussion clatter, it kicks off straight away, sparking with energy and invigoration.  The drum beat has a jerking and dancing energy; and when the guitar joins the scene, the combination provides a big rush of excitement; providing a memorable and striking intro.  With a brief hint of debut album-Arctic Monkeys, the sound has indie roots, and marries the quality of the Sheffield boys, yet contains its own drive and potency: something that a lot of Manchester-based bands have neglected to do.  The guitar rattles and rumbles, rising and braying at intervals; backed by bass and percussion which are solid and foreboding too; with so much relentless force and energy, that a calming vocal influence is needed.  When our front-man comes to the mic., his voice is strong and infused with a natural energy, yet never overwrought.  Themes such as “we’ve got nobody” are unveiled; our hero and an unnamed companion also are not making problems for anyone either.  It is the sheer rush and momentum of the track that grabs you; as the guys keep the mood very much alive throughout.  Our front-man sings with confidence and conviction, and has “nothing to lose”.  I suspect that the theme and intention of the song is to portray a relationship paradigm.  An anonymous beau is present in the song’s themes, standing beside the hero: the two of them fighting against the world and fending for themselves.  Ward’s voice has tones of the U.S.; both present and past, and tying that together with a sonic rush that is very much U.K.-based, the combination is very affective.  His voice has some shades of Eddie Vedder and his Pearl Jam work.  There is a similar sound to the voice as well as a comparative passion and strength.  Ward’s fellows give a sense of urgency and electricity through, providing a rampant and overwhelming roll and rock throughout.  The key themes and mandates about having “nothing to lose”; and having “nobody” are employed throughout, providing a sense of anxiety as well as free-spirit, that at once has you rooting for the front-man and his plight; and at the next wondering where he is going and what will happen.  If there was ever a sense of uncertainty and doubt in some of the lyrics, then the way that they are presented, give the impression that there is little fear or reticence in our hero’s heart.  The Castro’s do not waste words or change course needlessly, keeping true to the song’s core and making sure that the words strike you hard, and stay with you.  The song is a little over 2 minutes, and it leaves you wanting more.  From an intro. that throws so much weight into the pot so early on, the pace and energy never abate; instead the song has elements of Grunge and Detroit blues rock; where artists would never let the momentum drop: think about The White Stripe’s Fell in Love with a Girl.  There is a little bit of eponymous- album- The Libertines, as well as Pearl Jam, yet there are only the faintest of touches.  Above all the song does not stand on anyone else’s coattails; choosing boldness and originality as the key themes.  The track wins you with the tight and focused composition.  Each of the boys are superb and unwavering, and give the track so much muscle and spark; backing up our front-man whose pure tones and gravelled edges add emotional weight into the mix.  If I had one reservation it would be that, at times,  the vocal was hard to understand, and some of the words got lost.  Whether it is a production issue, or the sound around Ward became too imposing I am not sure, but it is a tiny niggle.  The merits and huge strengths of the song, far outweigh any drawbacks at all, and Cracks is a song that, as mentioned, will leave you wanting more of the same.  The band tease the listener by not expanding it out, yet if it were any longer its impressions would not be as large: thus ensuring that the absolute perfect balance has been struck.

 

I am always encouraged by bands that are willing to be different, as well as ambitious.  Too often one or the other are achieved, and the second is neglected.  It seems that Liverpool has a similar ambition to that of Yorkshire and Scotland, with regards to producing the brightest new talent.  There seems to be little restriction or barriers that are being faced, and the bands and acts are showing that it is possible to make great music; without having to compromise, or pretend to be someone else.  The Castro’s reputation is growing, and it is not surprising to see why.  Their live performances are packed with power, energy and authority, and the band are tight and memorable.  Their sound is not one that you will hear a lot.  Indie and rock movements are being made, but it is the way that different sounds and styles are seamlessly fused; creating a stunning whole, that is very much belonging to our four-piece.  A future of stardom and vast popularity awaits, and it would be good to see the guys take on an L.P.  It will be intriguing to see what they would do with 7 or 8 tracks more.  Vedder comparisons are not unjustified, and whether there would be any emotional, yet epic anthems in the boys’ back pockets, is to be seen.  They would be able to enliven the scene, and keep their fans dedicated and excited with such diversions, but of course the choice is all theirs.  The band market is becoming more packed by the week, with each competitor promising much: with very few managing to remain in the mind for too long.  Our boys have laid some impressive groundwork, and will be building on it this year.  Their E.P. is abound with confidence and ideas, and shows that they have plenty of options when it comes to future releases.  I hope that I get to see them as well, as their live reputation has been well documented.  Summer is going to promise meteorological and musical uncertainty; so it is best you do yourself a favour; not be fair-weather, and stick to a group whom will always…

 

GIVE what  the public want.

________________________________________________________________________

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/TheCastrosUK

Twitter:

https://twitter.com/thecastrosuk

SoundCloud:

https://soundcloud.com/TheCastrosUK

YouTube:

http://youtube.com/thecastrosuk

__________________________________________________________________________________

 

 

 

 

Everywhere- Eddie- Track Review

 

Track Review:

 

 

 

Everywhere

 

 

 

 

 

Eddie

 

 

Everywhere

 

 

9.2/10

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Swedish quintet offer up wave-breaking percussion, delicate piano; set to themes about ‘a plan that completely backfired’.  Intrigue and fascination follow.

 

 

 

 

 

Availability:

Eddie is available at:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gKBTtOW7vMQ&feature=youtu.be

___________________________________________________________________________

BEING one that does not subscribe to, or believe in a predetermined…

 

universe, predicting musical trends and sensation is a hard task.  I have always erred on the side of caution and pure science.  As much as I believe that the world is determined by random events, and there is no control over people’s action- there is no fate, destiny, God, or karma- things that happen in the future are impossible to predict, and dictated by human events and interaction, not some predestined structure or path.  There are some that stick to falibilism; some approximation; others agnosticism, but for me, it is insane to think that everything has been worked out in advance.  It is a cosy theory to believe in fate and destiny; thinking that everything that occurs- be it bad or good- was meant to happen, and it will lead to bigger things.  Being one whom has had a lot more bad occur in his life, reality and logic beats those kind of theories clean out of you.  I have no time or consideration for people whom stick to the notion that things happen for a reason, and control is ultimately down to a higher being or force; not human beings.  It is a naive and flawed assumption, and has massive holes that you cannot ignore.  Truth, and to a lesser degree, solipsism are the best courses of belief, as they offer facts and certainty, rather than theories and uncertainty.  If one lives their lives in control of their own future, and does not hold out for some cockamamie idea of a higher power or spiritual force, then things will be a lot better for everyone.  This is a paradigm that can be applied to the music business.  There seems to be an unbinding sense, amongst media, critics and fans, that great new music is the result of a predetermined path; that the current state of music is pulling strings, and causing a wave of new and exciting talent.  Too little consideration and wisdom is being applied to hard work, and a solid work ethic.  Music, as much as any industry, is subject to a great degree of fickleness and volatility.  Fans change their mind and opinions with each blow of the wind; critics can raise a band on a pedestal after hearing their debut; knocking them into a tar pit upon its follow-up.  Unrealistic expectations, ridiculous standards and belligerence seem to dictate the mandates and themes of modern critics; each of whom never seem to be satisfied.  A lot of the problem with current music, is that the first moves are often underwhelming and unambitious.  In 2013, after decades of varied and diverse music, it is not good enough to simply be cautious or even great- thinking that that will get you noticed and highlighted.  Too often I have felt that new musicians thing that the universe will look after them; that because they put effort into their songs, naturally that will see them through.  As will success in life, musical plaudit relies a lot of genetics as well as luck, but above all, imagination, incredible hard graft and determination is needed.  Acts and solo artists will be buried and forgotten about if their sapling moves are not spectacular: how many of the greatest albums of this year were made by brand-new acts?  International air, and a welcoming landscape goes a long way to fostering creative brilliance, and a sense of movement.  I have encountered a lot of U.K.-based acts that have suffered from reduced imagination and potency, because of the stresses and anxieties of the city.  London is not producing a huge host of great music, in part due to the bustling and vulnerability nature of the city.  It is not a coincidence that the best music (in the U.K.) emanated further north; into Scotland, and more arable and less congested climbs.  If a busy city is willing to support musicians and provide them inspiration, then great creativity can be fostered.  New York artists such as Sophia Bastian and Chalk And Numbers are based in New York; enlivened by the huge array of music cafes, bars and venues the city has to offer: this leads to a resurgence of creativity and determination in them.  I feel that London, and even Liverpool and Manchester are not making great strides to inspire inspiration and creative energy; where as other European neighbours are.

 

Sweden is a fascinating country, that is an ideal location for the struggling or new musician.  Aside from the busier locales, the nation has inspiring landscapes and gorgeous scenes, that can invigorate and relax.  Hailing from Stockholm, Everywhere are a band that are proving my points.  Although they emanate from the nation’s capital, there is no sense of anxiety about their ambitious and sound.  They have worked hard and fervently to put their music together, and haven’t relied on existential force and guidance; choosing to knuckle-down and work hard.  The band are noted for their uncompromising desires, and the boys strive to hit hearts and minds hard.  The five-piece are looking to redefine the term ‘indie’; taking it away from its current definition: bands that can portray interesting sounds, yet seem to be lacking punch, imagination and diversity.  The band consists of front-man Max Berga; pianist Filip Severinson; drummer Alexander Heige; Marcel Karlsson on lead guitars, and Mikael Ingegaard on bass.  One gets the sense that a huge amount of time and effort has been spent honing their sounds; and it is perhaps not surprising that recently the group have supported Palma Violets and Django Django.  I have witnessed a great raft of European talent coming through lately, from Everywhere’s countrymates Club 8- with their bright and infectious disco gems- through to some great folk movements coming out of EIRE.  There seems to be a different set of rules and expectations in Europe, as opposed to the U.K.  Here, due to the huge mass of new acts, there tends to be less need to redefine genres and lazy tributing; too many bands and artists that sound exactly like someone else; too few spectacular and epoch-defining sounds; and above all, poor bonds in social media.  Often I have stumbled upon a great act by accident.  In an information age, there is still a great weakness when it comes to connecting bands and fans; reviewers and great music.  There is no one website that offers an extensive and unimpeachable connection between music and fans; and none that offer connections for a new musician, hoping to recruit a band.  It is wholly achievable and feasible, yet has not been achieved in the U.K.- and it really does not to happen soon.  Also here, critics and a lot of band managers provide little long-term care to a group.  Many acts get lost in the cracks, as fickleness and lack of consideration take effect; managers, labels and representatives tend to put initial effort in; yet seem less concerned with taking care of their artist, and ensuring that their every step is watched carefully.  Our Swedish wonders have a terrific label and management behind them, and have not been buried amongst a wave of new acts and artist, each trying to claw their wave to the surface.  This lack of subjugation and pressure has made them focus inwards; concentrating on their sound, and driving themselves to achieve and win over a large fan base.  Reviewers have noted, universally, that their sound is incredibly tight and focused; and that their live performances are spectacular and memorable.  Their tracks tend to be original as well: in terms of theme and sound.  Too many bands paint generic pictures of love-gone-bad-what-shall-I-ever-do? themes; bereft with mundane platitudes and pedestrian lyrics.  Everywhere have a keen eye for sharp lyrics, drawing in personal experiences (that differ from the norm); tying it together with their electrifying sounds and colours, to create something striking and bold.

 

The history of Eddie is an interesting one.  Berga wrote the song, after his girlfriend got sucked into the murky and cut-throat world of fashion; basing the song around her events; where she was (unfortunately) ‘used and abused’; resulting in a ‘plan that completely backfired’.  The track was recorded within the majesties and uncertainties of Los Angeles: a city that is a popular destination for recording artists, in terms of inspiration and incredible recording facilities.  Our song in question begins with some rather pervasive and persistent drums; joined with distorted and ghostly guitars, and taut bass.  I detected some hints of early-career Supergrass: a mixture of I Should Coco and In It for the Money’s adventurous spirit, with a little of Supergrass’ brooding nature.  Where as a lot of bands would begin with clattering, noise and as much punch as is possible, Everywhere sprinkle the mood with subtlety, delicacy and an ever-building weight that gets stronger and stronger.  Atmosphere is summoned and a sense of mid-late ’90s alternative rock, mixed with some modern-day indie styling; mix beautifully.  The intro. provides anticipation and intrigue; you are never sure what is coming next; compelled as you are to hang on to every note.  When the vocal comes in, it is not rushed or overly-urgent- it is begins restrained and brooding.  Our front-man tells of “All this time spent with you”; his voice dripping with conviction and intent, recalling that it has been worthwhile, but also “so frustrating”. The thoughts and evocations are supported by that percussive flair, which works away in the background; unflinching and perseverant, eliciting a solid and weighty strike.  Tension builds in the track, as our hero says: “Show them what you’ve got”; which invariably involves a striking message:  “Take your skirt off”.  As the song is inspired by our front-man’s ex-girlfriend, and her ill-advised foray into fashion and modelling; your mind is taken there: on a studio floor, in front of cameras, a reluctant and nervous woman being ordered to ‘perform’ for the camera.  Berga’s voice has an emotional weight to it, where you are not sure if he feels sympathy for his former love, or a little contempt: there is a matter-of-fact poker-faced quality initially that adds mystery to the words.  Just as you are enveloping your senses in the measured calm and seduction of the music, the chorus explodes into life.  Berga’s voice growls and ignites, proclaiming: “Eddie!/Get out of here!”, his voice trembling slightly; now bursting and bellowing with emotion and foreboding.  The band are up to the task as well, infusing the mood with rumbling percussion, tight and measured bass and guitar, and impassioned piano.  As it is advised that the ill-fated heroine: “Go hide your tears”, the band whip up a sparkling and heady gallop that digs and wallops in equal measures.  Berga has some refreshing influences- intentional or not- in his vocal tones; bit of early-Placebo as well as a hint of Ash, mixed with up-to-the-moment indie evocations.  Whereas Everywhere’s contemporaries are too concerned with force and rabble; Berga gives a more considered approach, quivering and softly prophesising during the verses, whilst unleashing a pained Jim Morrison-esque bellow during the choruses.  It is a blend that lifts the track and keeps it constantly fascinating.  There is no need for histrionics or trying to sound like someone familiar; his tones and projection is his (and the band’s) own, and supersedes any expectations you would have of an indie-style track.  A little bit of Simple Minds/U2 lurks underneath the skin of the sonic sway, which heralds more thought-provoking words: “What could have been/If you had moved/To your hideout” is sung, inflected, twisted and tempted, so that every word hits the mark.  As the song progresses, there is a sense of empathy and sympathy to proceedings.  Whether it was the intention to portray the heroine as a sympathetic character is unsure, but you find yourself rooting for her.  The chorus has a drive and urgency to it, which makes you imagine our hero running in, grabbing her by the hand, and taking her home as soon as possible- whether this is deliberate, once again, is down to Berga.  The chorus is particularly strong musically; as the band employ a tempting and tantalising piano line that adds some light and romance; bolstered by and differentiated from the clashing drums and harsher guitar and bass.  Our front-man seems to be watching events unfold from above, seemingly viewing events as they happen; seeing everything as it unravels.  “If you can’t find your way out of here/Then maybe those flashing lights/May lead you there” sums up the song’s core values and intentions; it invokes the chaos and prurience of the fashion world; marred and dressed in proclivities.  You get the sense that the heroine, throughout, regrets her decisions and is seeking a fast way out; restrained as she is by the seedy figures that try to control her.  It is the urgency and potency with which the band present their words, that gives such vivid life to their tales: bursting with sights, smells and sounds that put you in the mind of our author, as well as Eddie.  There arrives a (albeit) brief rest bite; the mood is calmed and sedated, as Berga composes his thoughts.  “If it ain’t right/If they don’t care” and “What comes to mind/It does seem fair” are sung, hooked to the coda: “Those flashing lights/May lead you there”; suggesting that maybe there is not total sympathy in our hero’s heart- self-fulfilling prophecy and finger-wagging mixes with cautionary tale and incendiary warning bells.  It is the sense of mystery that continues; making you wonder, and asking yourself questions: how much is this is a song of judgement?  How much of it suggests empathy for our heroine?  How does our hero feel about what has happened to her?  At the 2:24 the scene changes; harder-edged and heavier guitars grumble and burst in, rolling like an avalanching snowball; before the striking and clashing percussion joins in, welcoming the arrival of the chorus.

 

As well as the unique subject matter of the song, Everywhere are a band that understand the importance of projection and emotion.  The band are consistently tight throughout, and are able to tempt a great deal of atmosphere and intrigue.  Percussion is dominant and impressive throughout; clattering, rumbling and firing relentlessly, yet able to temporise and seduce when needed.  Similarly piano codas have a driving quality to them, and add colour and light as well as darker shades too.  Bass and guitar are impressively strong as well as impressively understated.  They hold the track firm and give it a solid backbone, yet never become too dominant or overwhelming.  Each of the boys plays their roles perfectly, and never do too much or too little; instead everything is finely balanced and wonderfully composed.  This creates a fresh and original song, that will not have you making comparisons with any other act out there.  Indie bands tend to be too guitar and drum-heavy; rarely able to present compositions that are musically rewarding as well as intelligent; still there is an emphasis towards force and meandering riffs and diversions.  The fact that the track sticks in your memory is part down to the great band performance, but also down to Berga, whom has a strong and enthralling voice.  His tones have the slightest flecks of ’90s U.S. (Placebo) as well as ’80s Scotland (Simple Minds), yet has a strong and native accent that is all its own.  It is an instrument able to almost whisper in the verses; pull you in and calm your sense; yet climb and fire during the choruses.  The lyrics are impressive as well, capable of painting some sharp and- at times- unsavoury scenes, as well as tie that in with a chorus that has both an anthemic sing-along quality, as well as a more emotional and thought-provoking depth.  In my mind, I was following the words; building up scenes in my mind- trying to picture what our heroine looked like, and how she moved.  The sense of flashing lights and chaos is persistent and the key theme; building a sense of fear and uncertainty.  I would like to imagine that the heroine was a likeable woman who made a bad choice, and got a lot worse than she deserved.  At times the lyrics suggest that our hero feels sympathy and sadness for her; yet at intervals there may be some lingering resentment and reticence.  Such is the power of the song writing and performance that one may be over-thinking or throwing red herrings into the mix.  What is clear is that the Swedish five-piece have a clear knack for melody, musicianship and evocation; able to breathe life into a genre that is in danger of mass homogenisation and a drought of inspiration.  The band’s E.P. is due for release later in the year, and the guys will be entering a market that has a lot of players and contenders, all hoping to remain in the public consciousness for as long as possible.  Most will fall and fail of course; whilst many more will have a limited lifespan.  If Stockholm’s Everywhere keep their ethics and morals strong and unpolluted, then they will be able to inhale rarefied air.  First steps are the most important, and if you put a foot wrong, it is incredibly difficult to climb back.  The band are relentless and hard-working; knowing that success is not destined nor will be handed to them: this leads to tracks like Eddie.  It is a track that will appeal to the indie sect, as well as capable of cross-pollinating and drawing in different sectors of music-lovers.  Alive with emotion, intrigue and melody, it will stick in your mind and leave you wanting more from the boys.  But fear not…

 

THEY’LL be more soon, and it will certainly worth the wait.

________________________________________________________________________

Official:

http://everywheretheband.com/

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/everywheretheband

Twitter:

https://twitter.com/Everywhereband

SoundCloud:

https://soundcloud.com/everywheretheband/eddie

YouTube:

http://www.youtube.com/user/EverywherebandTV

__________________________________________________________________________________

 

 

 

 

Sophia Bastian- Breaking- Track Review

Track Review:

 

 

  

Sophia Bastian 

 

 

 

Breaking

 

 

SOPHIA BASTIAN

 

 

9.7/10

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gorgeous New York-based soul wonder has a psychotropic voice that will sway, stagger and leave you on a potent, heady high: Breaking Good.

 

 

 

 

 

Availability:

Breaking is available at:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zu9v7nAG5as

The E.P. Sophia Bastian is available at:

https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/intro-breaking/id408547344?i=408547356&ign-mpt=uo%3D4

___________________________________________________________________________

COBWEBS have been building up in my mind for a while now…

 

in part, due to music; and its nesting instincts.  For the last couple of weeks, Queens of the Stone Age’s latest album has been cemented in my brain and stereo.  It is not a shock why.  The songs keep on revealing nuances and subtleties I had not picked up on upon the fledgling listens.  Being a band that I have been in awe of since the mid-’00s, I have spent a lot of time performing retrospective listening and admiring, and have jumped upon ….Like Clockwork.  For all of the slightly underwhelming music from the current scene, it was frankly a relief that Josh Homme and his men still posses the power to confound and inspire.  As much as that album will be in my thoughts for many months to come, it has raised some deeper questions in my mind.  Having thought about the current climate, I first of all wondered: will the talent show ‘stars’ of this decade, form the basis for future music and sounds?  After giving The Voice (or The Voice U.K. as it is bafflingly called) a fair shake of the dice, my initial reticence and hesitations were all justified.  Aside from the nauseating and repellent judges; will.i.am seems to be from a different planet, and is to music what Mussolini was to international peacekeeping.  Jessie J. is as repellent; self-obsessed and a rather repulsive figure.  The duo form a half of a judging panel, apparently handpicked to decide upon the best and brightest singers of the moment.  Alongside The X Factor, whom I harbour an equal hatred towards, my negativity is part of a larger malaise.  As much as the world needs stunning new talent and voices; they sure as hell aren’t going to come from talent shows.  Aside from the fact that the shows are designed to attract the credulous; those whom are hungry for fame- and not self-respect or influence.  Aside from Rebecca Ferguson, who can be seen as the exception that proves my rule, none of the winners from the shows have ever turned in anything worthy or even palatable.  I hope these shows die a much-needed death, as there is a disturbing trend forming.  Every ‘talent’ that appears on the show is moulded to sound like an existing singer.  For the girls, Mariah Carey, Christina Aguilera and Whitney Houston are still the favoured idols; for the lads, a composite of old soul greats, as well as modern-day rock stars.  Individuality and potential is already beaten out of the participant- yet there is a bigger problem.  It seems that musicianship; writing your own songs, and chiselling a likeable and universal personality are foreign terms, and the resultant projection sees a built-in obsolescence and entropy.  It is a relevant point with regards to Sophia Bastian, an artist whom has a talent and voice that are difficult to top, and yet is capable of appealing to, and drawing in, a legion of diverse music fans and lovers.  Her work ethic and codas are the antithesis of what is favoured in the mainstream; and is why she will find larger and lasting success.  My second issue is concerning range within music.  For all my love of QOTSA and that style of music, it is ensconced within my thoughts so firmly, because quite simply: there is nothing alternative that really appeals.  Still there seems to be a tendency to either promote and herald guitar bands or variations there on; or favour the solo artist, whom usually stray towards acoustic and folk waters.  Of course there are exceptions and differences, but for the most part new bands tend to be predictably unadventurous and not in the lease bit captivating.  Female artists have shown greater mobility and ambition with regards to diversification- yet still there is an over-reliance to project yourself as a sweet-voiced and girl-next-door acoustic solo artist.

 

Sophia Bastian dovetails my two points together quite elegantly.  She is not a talent show winner, nor does she seem to associate with those shows, or display any sort of patronage for them.  Her artistry and focus is based very much around making her own music, on her own terms, and doing so the honest way.  In pictures, she is every inch a modern pin-up.  Both statuesque and sweet, she has a somewhat profound beauty and striking sex appeal, that will inspire new female talent, as it will enflame the male audience.  Bastian is based in New York, yet spent a lot of her youth in Europe.  In interviews she seems to want her music to come across as real and honest.  She favours diversity and substance in her songs, and has a trusting nature to her, that sees her believe in the goodness of people; yet she has a reserve and natural shell that is aware that the music scene contains many fickle and dishonest people in it as well.  As a mixed race artist, she has embraced the music of white and black artists.  In terms of Bastian’s inspirations and influences, the likes of Stevie Wonder, Billie Holiday and Nina Simone are in there; as too are the likes of the U.K.’s very own Portishead.  On paper it may seem like an odd anomaly, given the list of names that have come before.  As much as Bastian admires the works of Ray Charles and James Brown, she attests that the music of Florence and the Machine and Fiona Apple are as important.  The sounds of the school yard, as well as the music of her youth has enforced this diverse mix of idols.  From her travels and time in Europe, Bastian has picked up on the varied mix of music that was present there in the ’90s, and has tied this together with older icons, to form the core of her music.  Clearly soul and the soul legends are huge idols and important people to her, and if you listen to her E.P. Juvenile Blues, this shines through.  The songs within are crammed full of blues and soul touches and styles; displaying as much authority and majesty as the greats of the past, but updating their sounds for the present-day.  Bastian has a fond love for a raft of different genres; something that was honed and instilled in her from an early age; enforced by the fact she lives in New York.  In Interviews she has stated that New York is very much her identity.  It is a city where there is live music every night; ranging from underground clubs, to jazz cafes and charming bars.  It is a busy and bustling metropolis that offers ‘something for everyone’, and is a positive haven for aspiring and established musicians alike.  Bastian’s time in The Big Apple has built a sense of urgency in her.  Songs are written around personal experiences, yet are written with passion and consideration too.  Her love of performing has probably been aided by the myriad of music in New York; live performances for Bastian can sometimes be nerve-shredding but always memorable for her: each gig is a separate and unforgettable moment for her.  There is no homogenised limits to Bastian; and there are no obvious influences that define her sound.  Unlike the talent show puppets, our New York girl has a freewheeling appreciation of multiple genres, and draws this together with her love of soul, blues and reggae, to create songs that are a swirl of intrigue, passion and above all, quality.  The travelling soul has picked up a lot from the road, and the countries she has visited.  A lot of great fans have been met; a great deal of fascinating locations have featured on her itineraries: promoting a fevered passion for song writing and performing that has taken her to the current day.  It was her recent track GloryBoxed, that has gained Bastian a host of praise and adulation.  As may have guessed from the title, it is a tribute to Portishead’s 1995 single, Glory Box.  The nature of Portishead’s song concerned sexuality, and the video for the track saw singer Beth Gibbons in a 1950s jazz club; on stage and being watched by an audience in drag.  The track’s sensuality and mystique was something that Bastian used in GloryBoxed.  She has kept the stirring composition, and brought her own set of lyrics to the party; marrying the two together to create a modern and fresh sounding track that has mid-’90s trip hop and electric elements; tied together with soulful and ethereal wonder.  The aforementioned gem is the swansong to Bastian’s self-titled E.P., and forms one of seven tracks on the record.  The E.P. has warranted huge praise from iTunes reviews, as well as the media: all in love with Bastian’s incredible songwriter and stunning voice.  Sophia Bastian is the summation of a stunning young woman whom has worked hard to get where she is; and that reflects in the tracks.  It is the second track from the E.P., Breaking, that has caught my ear, and is a concise and ambitious cut that shows where Bastian has come from, and where she plans on heading next.

 

“I get so angry/Every time I hear your name” are the words that open Breaking.  It is a mandate that is acapella and striking.  Our heroine delivers the words intensely and intently; infusing the early seconds with some strong emotions.  These pointed words are joined by a subtle but enlivened percussive line; that teams with funky strings, unleashing a dancing and punchy mood that has blues and jazz evocations right from the off.  Bastian carefully considers her words and delivery.  At once a line can be syncopated and jerking; the next smoothly flowing and seductive.  Maximum emotional weight is provided, which means that each sentiment burrows as deep as is possible.  Where as lesser artists may stick to a rigid and unchanging pace and delivery, Bastian keeps her words fresh and invigorating.  Early themes peak of games within love; an anonymous beau is being chided and rebuked; he is willing to be in the relationship, and be loyal; yet predictably when he is needed the most; our heroine states: “You reclaim your distance”.  The man seems to only want it easy and his way, as it is said he only will “take on low resistance”.  At the sapling stages of the track, some notable aspects present themselves.  Bastian has a voice that is at once stunningly original; yet has layers of some of the greats.  Detected in the mix is a little of Amy Winehouse: a similar style of projection is elicited; so too are some of her blues tones.  Adele’s power, as well as Gabrielle Cilmi’s lower, slightly gravelled tones are lurking within too.  As much as there are modern influences within the vocal tones, a little of Billie Holiday’s smoky and haunting shades are present too.  Bastian is able to employ some elements of the all-time greats both modern and past, yet keep the overall sound very much her own.  Her voice is smooth and whispering, with power and force combined; resulting in a heady blend.  Bastian is breaking her heart on this bounder; this reject; this man of disrepute.  As her voice strikes and seduces, the music propels and keeps the mood energised and electric.  Percussive and guitars have a soulful and jazz-tinged jump to them, with the romantic sway of the blues, that augments the words and well as voice.  As much as it is “sad but true”; that so much heartache has been caused, our heroine has a tear in her soul.  In the video for the song, Bastian is bathed in red: red-painted walls and red lighting are employed, whether to denote the heart or blood; or a bleeding heart is unsure, but it gives the video a romantic but urgent sense.  Bastian appears relaxed and stunning; appearing in the shadows with her eyes cast down and her mind occupied by the man she once (or still does) love.  It seems that both parties are playing it cool and trying to not lose their heads.  Bastian lets her words stride and trip, ensuring that each word and line is imbedded into your mind.  As much as a sense of composure and calm is required and sought, our heroine is breaking her heart, and struggling against a tide.  Backed by evocative and stirring brass and the continuing jazz/blues atmosphere, an impassioned soundscape is summoned that adds sadness and power to the song’s cores.  The Adele/Winehouse parables will arrive back into your mind when Bastian’s voice rises and crackles.  There is a bit of the former’s intense power and the latter’s whisky and cigarette-drenched emotion; and a notable consideration to the soul legends of the ’60s and ’70s.  As the chorus is reintroduced and struck, Bastian’s voice rises and falls; enveloping your senses with its potency and heart-breaking intensity.  You get a sense of conviction from the words: lines are delivered that make you think she means every last painful word.  In the way that the ’50s jazz icons as well as the soul greats ably did; our heroine possesses a rare ability to make common themes of love-on-the-line seem both fresh and steeped in history; it goes beyond and above what her contemporaries are attempting.  There is also a sense that there may have been mistakes made in the past.  As much as Bastian’s heart is being broken, she states that it is “my fault that I do”; giving the impression that her man may have caused similar pain once before.  Just before the 2:00 marker, a musical coda is proffered.  Our heroine steps away from the mic., letting her backers strike a pose.  Brass, percussion and strings are subtly and tenderly deployed.  They calm your brow and allow your heartbeat to slow, following on from the intense and powerful protestations that have come before.  When Bastian returns to the stage, she is briefly temporised and reflective.  “Nothing moves me like your caress”, it is said.  Our heroine seductively and fondly teases her words; remembering what it is about her man that causes the intense feelings within her.  Just as Bastian’s voice is kitten-like and dripping with sexiness, it shifts and mutates into a empowered and galvanised.  Her words speak of reluctance and uncertainty: “I don’t have it in me”, she sings; repeating the lines and linking them with wordless quivers that send a shiver down the spine.  In fact, the wordless cries and evocations that follow produce a gravity and effect, that says as much as the words that it follows.  When the chorus is delivered once more, Bastian’s voice is alight with passion and dripping with pain.  The conviction with which the likes of Nina Simone and Ray Charles used to infuse their songs with, is equalled by our heroine, whom carries the song to its conclusion, with a sense of longing and torment.  It is unsure how things worked out: whether the two reconciled or came together; or whether the bonds are broken and irreparable.  Such is the mystique and mystery, we may never know; but it is clear that a weight is on Bastian’s heart.

 

Breaking is the sound and theme from a woman whom has seen her share of pain, and wants to find happiness, but seems like the relationship with the song’s ‘hero’ will never be a smooth one.  Sophia Bastian is a name that will be familiar to most very soon.  Although she is based in L.A., she has an affection for the U.K. and will hopefully be here more often in the future.  Breaking is a memorable and stirring song about one woman’s experiences in love, and will be relatable to everyone.  As much as the words chart Bastian’s feelings and experiences, the themes and sentiments are not too personable that they alienate any listeners.  There is a perfect blend of personal narrative as well as universality, that means the song will be familiar and fascinating all at once.  The musical elements are evocative and tight.  A mixture of jazz and blues sounds, fused with ’60s and modern-day soul, is especially pleasing, but it is Bastian and that voice that are the star of the show.  Many interviewees and media sources have proclaimed at its effect; fans and followers have also noted, making it axiomatically-redundant of me to say: it is wonderful.  As I have mentioned, there are traces of the powerful and emotional tones of Adele, Amy Winehouse, Nina Simone and Billie Holiday, yet its core is very much Bastian’s.  It is not just the nature of the voice: at once sexy and alluring, the next heartbroken and pained; it is what she can do with it.  Certainly lines are smoothly delivered, relaxing you and have a sedating and mesmeric quality.  With nary a warning, that same voice can contort into a burdened beast of an instrument: never too overpowering, possessed with just the right amount of strength and conviction.  Certain notes and wordless vocalisations are bending and held; similar to the work of Woah-Nelly!-era Nelly Furtado.  Youthful innocence mixes with mature and experienced words, making the overall experience impressive indeed.  Bastian is an artist whom will gain cross-pollination and inter-gender appeal.  With stunning and captivating looks, she has a potent sex appeal that will strike a strong chord; she has the strength and determination of spirit that speaks to the young female market; as well as a varied and authoritative power that will spark the imagination of all.  Being a young male whom prefers the heavier side of music, in all its indie/stoner rock/Grunge manifestations, I have been seeking an artists capable of providing a link from the past masters; through to the late-’90s/early-’00s, through to modern day.  The fond affection Bastian has for the greats such as Charles, Simone, Holiday and Brown, as well as modern wonders such as Apple, Portishead, as well as Winehouse and Adele, does just this.  There is a great and balanced mix between classic soul and modern-day sounds; between jazz and blues edges and reggae too.  The Sophia Bastian E.P. is an acute and pragmatic collection of stunning songs, which chart our heroine’s loves, fears and hopes; which blends personal songs with multi-genre moves; creating an ambitious and impressive collection.  Breaking is a stirring and emotive song that can win hearts, minds and souls, and provides an insight into the wonders that the E.P. holds.  It is worth seeking out the N.Y.-based chanteuse, as her stock is on the rise, and people are latching on to just how good she is.  I always end by wondering what the future holds for the artist.  In Bastian’s case I am sure an album or another E.P. is probably on her mind, and following from the success of GloryBoxed, it could be tantalising to say the least.  The combination of soul, reggae, blues and trip hop influences could spell and incredible future prospect.  In the same way that singers such as Martina Topley-Bird have a voice that can score grime and trip-hop tricks, as well as blues and soul numbers, so too does Bastian.  Topley-Bird is one of the most versatile and impressive singers of the modern day, and should Bastian decide to take a similar direction, then the future will be very busy for her.  I hope that she is in the U.K. more, as I am yet to see her live, and would love to experience that first-hand.  So few modern singers have a similar affection for soul, and are capable of penning songs that have the same striking quality.  Whatever is next on the horizon, one thing is certainly crystal-clear:

 

IT will be memorable, indeed.

________________________________________________________________________

Facebook:

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

Twitter:

https://twitter.com/SophiaBastian

SoundCloud: 

https://soundcloud.com/sophiabastian

__________________________________________________________________________________

 

 

Chalk And Numbers- Things You Do- Track Review

 

Track Review:

 

 

 

  

Chalk And Numbers 

 

 

 

 

 

Things You Do

 

 

Chalk And Numbers

 

9.8/10

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Brooklyn indie duo have some similar shades to a well-known current U.S. boy-girl duo; yet supersede them with their glorious sounds of the ’60s.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Availability:

Things You Do is available at:

http://chalkandnumbers.bandcamp.com/track/things-you-do

The E.P. Parade is available at:

http://chalkandnumbers.bandcamp.com/album/parade-ep

_________________________________________________________________________

TODAY there are a few things that have come to mind, when focusing…

 

on boy-girl duo Chalk And Numbers.  The first point concerns the compositional nature of bands.  For a start: duos are a rarity in any era.  If you look back as far back as the ’50s, bands have always consisted of four or more people.  Throughout the ’80s and ’90s two-pieces become a little more common; yet it seems that there is still a reticence amongst new musicians to pile as many members into the pack as possible.  I guess if your music is on the ‘heavier’ side of things: heavy rock, Grunge, even indie, then you may well need extra hands in order to elicit the sounds that you require- although this is not always the case.  If one were to study the like of The White Stripes, a Detroit-based blues rock duo; it was without extraneous bodies and input that they managed to bring their explosive and incredible sounds to the world.  You have to wonder, given the groups that have followed: were they a rare exception?  There is still an over-reliance on the four or five-piece construct, and because of that, the associative sounds tend to be packed and dense.  On the flipside, solo acts may have potential and a true talent, yet their palette may be too sparse or inactivating.  Duos are a pleasing compromise, where you have the potential for bigger sounds and ideas, yet there are no so many members that you fill compelled to pack songs with too much; simultaneously ensuring that there is focus to the music.  I hope that the problem of bands being too restrictive and predictable, is something that lessens in the next few years; as it is when you think differently and are not beholding to unwritten band laws- concerning the number of members in the band- that some wonderful results are presented.  It is something I will return to, but for now, there is another point worth raising: U.S. music.  For those of us in the U.K., there is a slight famine taking place.  We here are raised on a rather stodgy staple diet of home-grown flavours and foods: bands and solo acts that have their hearts in the U.K. (even if their sounds have foreign influences).  Occasionally, if you are lucky enough; you may happen across a new act that emanates from a warmer climate or fascinating landscape.  Over the past months I have featured sounds from Europe (particularly Sweden); Australia, and EIRE; yet it is the acts from the U.S. whom have given me the most food for thought.  Historically, they have always been the main rival to Britain, with regards to the all-time best music.  As much as they have given us some of the greatest legends, their new music is also producing some potential future-greats.  Whether it is the fickleness of the media, or the weakened ties that bind social and music media; it is uncertain.  One thing is clear, mind: us in the U.K. are missing out.  I have bemoaned the nature of finding great new music; how you seem to stumble across these acts by serendipity- rather than having them brought to your attention.  Later on I shall go into more depth about the good ol’ U.S.A., but the final point concerns the 1960s.  Having born some of the greatest ever acts such as Bob Dylan and The Beatles, it is a decade that is talked in admiring tones; yet when it comes to reinterpreting and representing the sounds of that era, few music acts seem to be doing it.  Where as here we have the likes of The Strypes, whom have a certain air of 1963-era The Beatles to them, there are not that many others that are attempting the same kind of sound.  Whereas originality is a key pillar, and it is essential to dissociate yourself with any obvious references, the ’60s was a decade that created psychedelia; power pop and swathes of diverse sounds- that have stood the test of time.  I hear a lot of groups and acts whom employ ’60s threads in their music, yet they seem to do so wistfully and infrequently- scared almost at being too heavy-handed and unoriginal.  To my mind the ’90s was responsible for the best and most diverse music ever: a decade that was awash with polemic sounds, and some of the best music of the modern era.  The ’60s is a close second, and neither decade (really) is re-appropraited and re-examined by modern-day artists.  It is pleasing when an act comes along, whom seem to understand these themes I have raised.

 

The first thing one should say about Chalk and Numbers, is that they have some D.N.A. in common (I think) with a fellow U.S. act: She and Him.  Chalk And Numbers has a tall and cool-dressed, sharp male influence, and a gorgeous and sweet-voiced female member.  The two duos each have a fond affection for the melodies, potency and majesty of the ’60s; and both too have a stellar reputation when it comes to their songs and presentation.  The Zooey Deschanel-led duo have been making albums for a number of years, and have built their name around the pillars of strong song writing, a powerful chemistry as well as a consistency that seems unerring.  The 33-year-old Deschanel is a songwriter whom employs the majesties and influences from the 1960s, and updates the sound for a modern age; wrapping her dulcet tones around the songs, backed and augmented by the guitar work and production of M. Ward.  It is perhaps ironic, then, that my featured duo are Chalk And Numbers, and not chalk and cheese; as numerical similarities are not the only things the two partnerships have in common.  Where as She and Him hail from Oregon: a state in the north-west of the U.S.A., with Portland being seen as the most environmentally-sound and beautiful parts of America (Portland is referred to as ‘Rose City’).  That state is built around busy and modernised city-scapes: sleek towers and business-filled skyscrapers, mingle alongside beautiful towns and pleasant and verdant mountains.  Our Chalk And Numbers duo hail from Brooklyn; perhaps not the most obvious destination one would assume the two-piece to hail from.  For an act whom project gorgeous ’60s styling.  Brooklyn is the most populous of New York’s five boroughs (above Manhattan, The Bronx, Queens and Staten Island).  It is a tight-packed and multi-ethnic community that stands by its motto: “In Unity There Is Strength”.  For those of us whose only exposure to New York comes about from watching CSI: NY, Friends, and U.S. television, there may be an assumption that Brooklyn has a threatening or uncertain air about it.  The population is largely white or black (42.8% for the former; 34.3% the latter, as of 2010’s census figures).  There is a large Asian population too, and the communities of Brooklyn are very loyal and centralised: a majority of those employed work within the borough.  Brooklyn contains Coney Island, the Botanic Garden; Soldiers’ Arch and Park Slope also live here.  Inside of the diverse neighbourhoods; from the large Russian population, through to Chinatown and a gentrification that sees a large Jewish and Pakistani community cohabitating with a large immigrant sector; it is a borough that is the definition of unified.  It should hardly be a shock that a decade where community and harmony were bywords, that it should inspire ’60s influences in Chalk And Numbers.  Tall, bespeckled and dashing Andrew Pierce is our hero; gorgeous and mellifluous-voiced Sable Yong.  The duo have a fond affection for one another, that comes across in the music.  The duo also have a passion for some of the 1960s/’70s greats.  Dusty Springfield, The Zombies and The Beach Boys are idols of the duo; and these influences can be detected in their Parade E.P.  Their song writing is sharp and filled with vivid imagery.  Where as contemporaries such as Lana Del Rey present too much of the girl-meets-boy-removes-red-dress-rides-in-a-fast-casr-needs-to-get-money-fast-because-here-lies-a-broken-girl themes; rock bands of New York tend to be too vague and generic with their ideas; it is perhaps Californian influences that come to mind.  Bands around Burbank, Pasadena and Los Angeles are more adept at portraying True Purple shades; peaceful and uplifting sounds and a cohesive and focused coda.  Songs on the E.P. such as Boy, Pretty Colors (sic.) and So Much For The Bay are part of a 5-track odyssey that marries the Flower Power drips of the 1960s, and galvanises it with a fusing of modernity and sleekness.  It is perhaps apt that the duo’s work has been dubbed “timeless” by Filter; “dollop of wonderfulness” by The Guardian (whom actually manage to get it right for once); and “Delicious” by Irish Times.  Our intrepid heroes spare little time cheapening their social media sites with needless backstory and too much biography.  They are a duo not content with being seen as ‘throwaway’: keeping their websites tight and fascinating, and letting the tunes shout the loudest.  As I drank in the praise that the two have levied, and took the flower out of my (male) hair, I span Things You Do.

 

This track is the swansong of the E.P., and is the shortest track as well (clocking in at 2:38).  The duo believe in uniformity: many of their photos see them in black-and-white/black-and-red clothes- usually striped-and they have a chic-geek-cum-effortless cool vibe about their style and designs.  This sense of consecution as well as free will is evident immediately. Things You Do builds on a foundation of flourishing and delicious electric strings.  It is part debut album-era The Beatles, with hints of psychedelic-era bands such as Strawberry Alarm Clock.  The guitar sways and strikes harp-like, backed by a propulsive and measured percussion.  It sounds like it could soundtrack a kooky indie film; as well as having hallmarks of a epic undertones: a potential Bond theme perhaps?  It is a brief intro. that elicits so much grin and smile, with no strum und drang.  There is a razor-sharp modernity and sleekness to the sound, yet it is bubbling with classic ’60s touches and sounds.  Our heroine Yong has a voice that contains a little of Deschanel’s harder edges; yet has some influence of 1962 Carole King and a dollop of girl groups of the 1960s like The Shangri-Las.  Our heroine has a great way with words.  Lines are not overtly-linear: some are delivered swooping and syncopated; some straight-laced and punchy.  It is a facet and calling card that bring vividly to life the lyric’s themes.  Early evocations about tug-of-wars within love are highlighted.  An unnamed paramour is treating love like a game; it is not one “Although you try to play”.  The words are given consideration and almost onomatopoeic regard (when the line “Consuqneces that tumble on through” is sung, the word ‘tumble’ is tumbled from Yong’s tongue).  The guitar work is striking throughout.  Signs of Hank Marvin’s almost Wild West twangs are fused into the mix: always light and evocative; yet never impinging or imposing in any way.  Likewise, the percussion is considerate as well as bolstering: it keeps the pace and energy very much alive, yet never creeps too far high in the mix.  With there just being one female voice, it is quite stunning that the evocativeness and chorus of a full group is presented.  As much as our heroine elevates lines such as “You can wonder what it means to you” higher than any other singer would; it is Pierce’s words that are equal partners in the success story.  He can mix lighter and feather-light kisses with more cynical and forbidding lines: “You can poison all the others around”.  Where as the themes and mandates talk of love-gone-wrong, with a side order of nerve-shredding mystery, the music does something quite extraordinary.  Where as most writers and musicians would tie some shadowed words with similar sonic evocations, Pierce is a master of the ’60s girl group pop-cum-psychedelic edges; managing to evoke elements of The Shadows, as well as The Zombies.  It is this positive Henry Mancini-esque ability to shift and integrate different style into a cohesive whole, that adds clout to Yong’s silky tones.  It is perhaps the chorus that strikes the hardest chord; having an infectious bounce to it, with our heroine wrapping her tongue around the words, around the music: like an intoxicating slinky-Matryoshka doll hybrid.  It is the byplay and affection between the two players that adds an additional layer of quality to the song.  It is a kinship that has an asexuality: they have the byplay of siblings almost, that adds authority to their sweet-sounding protestations.  If one thinks that the emotional and gender transposition of The White Stripes is the key facet that ‘makes’ the song: think again.  At the 1:26 mark, electric guitar is deployed to slither and snake; twisting and twanging with abandon and adding an extra smile to the lips.  The guitar ramps and swoon; as the rattling percussion gallops behind.  It spends its time creating as much atmosphere as possible, before Yong returns with words of “Don’t you know it’s true”.  An intent and repeated chorus of “Think about the things you do” is unleashed, making the anonymous beau take note, and learn from his (many) mistakes.  In spite of the song talking of a man-done-wrong parable, there is an innocence at its core.  There is no sense of vengeance or bile-filled lines; no cussing or feuding- very much contained of ’60s peace; but with an instructional message throughout.  The chorus is spoken once more before the end, with it being said that all the things that (the man) has done wrong:  “They’ll catch up with you in time”.

 

Things You Do, as well as the Parade E.P., are notable due to the utilitarian and borderless appeal of their sounds.  Whether your patronage is focused towards dub-step or county, there is something for everyone within the songs.  As much as I have belittled bands for not being considerate when it comes to unifying clans of music lovers: trying to get them out of this culture of compartmentalisation; it is refreshing that the Brooklyn duo are making waves in this regard.  Each of their E.P.s five tracks are chocked with influences of classic 1960s song writing.  The duo have said that they record everything in analog and use lo-fi equipment and technique to get an authentic feel to their music.  The songs sound like they could have been recorded in Toe Rag Studios (in Hackney).  The White Stripes recorded Elephant there, and that record is a testament to the benefits of recording music that is not beholden to studio trickery and too much polish and gleam.  Where as Oregon’s She and Him produce records that sound a little too modern-sounding (in terms of the polish and shine that each song is given), Chalk And Numbers revert to past decades, yet never regress.  The song writing and ambition is as much 2013, as it is 1963.  It is well worth seeking them out- the music is free after all!  As much as I have carped on about the ’60s: the girl groups, the legends etc., the music on display only hints at the nature of these components, yet never appropriates them strongly.  Originality, freshness and the idea of a unique voice enforces the music: influences are incorporated in order to variegate the songs.  Song influences range from umbrellas, through to doomed romance.  Pierce manages to vary his themes, and the fact that sunshine pop and country-tinged sound line up alongside moodier and more insular numbers, is a testament to his talents as a songwriter, musician, and producer (Dennis Pierce co-produced).  Yong is a modern pin-up, with girl-next-door beauty and sex appeal, and a voice that has a girlish charm as well as seductive sense of foreplay to it: at once the voice is come-hither; the next coquettish.  A great deal of ground is covered over 5 tracks, and one can tell that a lot of work and effort has been put in, as the E.P. is boundless in its energy, creativity and ambition.  The way that Pierce and Yong combine gives the tracks their gold stars.  Clear affection and understanding negates and invigorates the mood, and gives the already-terrific songs an extra cherry on top.  I hope they can get over to London very soon, as the U.K. (as well as Europe and Australia) will welcome them with open arms and a long-term fan base.  They have 712 ‘likes’ on Facebook, and 139 followers on Twitter.  With the likes of pop cretin Justin Bieber amassing millions of credulous- and one assumes deaf- fans, it is a crying outrage that our New York twosome have a comparatively-meagre base.  I suspect there is a predominant-U.S. core to the current audience, but they should fear not.  Parade is a confident E.P. that is universal in its appeal, and will win them a lot, lot more followers and lovers.  It will be great to see what they do next: another E.P.; an album; a worldwide tour maybe?  They are playing a lot of U.S. dates, and there will be venues such as The Roundhouse and Electric Ballroom (both in Camden) that would be packed to the rafters.  With the likes of The Guardian paying homage to their wonders, it shouldn’t (I hope) be long before the intoxicating aromas, make their way from the East Coast; and waft to the U.K./France/Western Europe; across to Italy and most of Europe, and emanates into Asia and Australia (as well as Africa).  It is because the songs are so strong that they will not have barriers when it comes to finding fans and venues willing to take them on board; so Chalk And Numbers:

 

WHAT do you say?

________________________________________________________________________

Official:

http://chalkandnumbers.bandcamp.com/

Facebook:

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

Twitter:

https://twitter.com/ChalkAndNumbers

SoundCloud:

https://soundcloud.com/chalkandnumbers

__________________________________________________________________________________