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

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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

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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

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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.

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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

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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

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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.

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Facebook:

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

Twitter:

https://twitter.com/SophiaBastian

SoundCloud: 

https://soundcloud.com/sophiabastian

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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

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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?

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Official:

http://chalkandnumbers.bandcamp.com/

Facebook:

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

Twitter:

https://twitter.com/ChalkAndNumbers

SoundCloud:

https://soundcloud.com/chalkandnumbers

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Los and the Deadlines- Watch It Fall- Track Review

 

Track Review:

 

 

 

 

 

Los and The Deadlines 

 

 

 

 

 

Watch It Fall

 

 

Los & The Deadlines

 

 

9.3/10

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

International squadron have had a busy touring schedule and past; hardly surprising given their live reputation and stunning sonic palette.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Availability:

Watch Me Fall is available at:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h66V2k5sqAE&feature=youtu.be

The E.P. Metro Talk is available via:

https://itunes.apple.com/gb/artist/id546248397?affId=1736887

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The comingling and blending of different nationalities within a…

 

band can either be seen as low-yield bonds; a risky experiment, or a bold and daring move.  I have been moaning on- well protesting- about the homogenous nature of bands in today’s scene.  Too often; whether a group is from the north, south or wherever; the members of said groups tend to be from the local area: all too tend to be of similar race, age and background.  I can understand the reticence with regards to mixing foreign cuisines.  Even if the amuse-bouche seems to be a wise concoction, strains can occur over time- if the members are from different walks of life.  It is a myopic mistake that has probably starved the world of some great music and excitement.  Terrific legendary bands have always mixed international sounds into their albums and songs; and a lot of great new bands coming through have struck a golden chord.  Recently I have been privy to reviewing the sounds of HighFields: a band whom has a great mixture of nationalities.  In that illustrious group, members hail from the likes of Norway, Jersey, South Africa, Canada and Singapore.  It is not a coincidence that the music that they are producing is some of the best of the moment.  When you draw in a diverse and wide-ranging influence of sounds into your group whole; the results can be as exciting and diverse as any of the best bands of all time.  Where as the majority of new bands have a set format: meet at school/college/a local bar; gig together and form friendships; cement your band.  This is the bedrock for the band formation paradigm; where groups of friends whom live near one another, form a common bond; and decide to bring their music to the masses.  Great results have been seen from this mould, and the friendships, kinships and close ties that bond the members can enforce a strengthened unit and lead to a harmonious working relationship.  When you consider the task that falls at the feet of the band mixing foreign members: will cultural differences enhance the sounds or cause frictions?  How will relationships go, and will they last?  Will we have similar musical tastes?  If you consider all of this; these types of questions can be stumbling blocks.  Groups such as The Mars Volta have mixed American and Puerto Rican heritages into their sound; I have seen London-based bands mix European and Australian players together; as well I have heard of Irish groups with Scottish members.  The abiding sense I get from these variegated bands is this: the music seems more vital and authoritative.  There is rarely a need to fit into a preconceived local scene; nor play to expectations or parody another band- in the hope that that will equate to success.  Countries, ecosystems, economies and communities always thrive and grow stronger and more assiduous.  A blend of differing histories and experiences can help improve a person’s outlook on life; and teach them a lot that they didn’t know before.  If you apply this approximation to music, then the same is true.  Different genres and band influences are brought to the party; points of views tend to be more unique, and a sense of galvanisation is formed within the group.

 

Los and The Deadlines, cool name aside, that mix eclectic sounds and- as they attest on their official website- bring “ear-soothing” as well as “ear-pounding” sensations to your brain.  The boys; consisting of vocalist and guitarist Alex LoSardo; guitarist Niels Bakx, bass player Agostino Collura; and drummer Alberto Voglino.  Having formed back in 2011, success and demand came about pretty quickly.  The group have played some pretty prestigious venues including The Southbank Centre and the O2 Millennium Dome.  If one were to hint at why the band enjoyed such a steady projection to prominence, one should attend one of their shows.  Noted for their high-energy and lively performances, the group have a stellar reputation in the live arena, bringing their music alive and giving people their money’s worth.  Looking at photos of the band, and you get a sense that they could be a ’90s Grunge band or modern-day U.S. band like The Foo Fighters.  Beards, cool hair and sharp fashion are hallmarks of the four-piece; whom project a breezy and casual vibe- making them more approachable and fascinating.  Little is know about the individual members, in terms of their origins and musical tastes; but the sounds elicited by the quartet have warranted some heady comparisons.  As well as counting them amongst their influences, the boys have been compared to the likes of Queens of the Stone Age, The Mars Volta and Foo Fighters.  James Brown and Rage Against The Machine are also idols for the group- highlighting what diverse tastes they have.  Being a fan of The Mars Volta, I have been surprised at how few new bands are inspired by them, and aim to infuse their sounds with that of the progressive rock legends.  Between all of the influences I have mentioned, an abiding sense of passion, energy and high-octane intrigue are common; each has a way of getting into your brain and unleashing a psychotropic sense of wonder and potency.  Similarly Los and The Deadlines have those objectives.  Drawing all of their various idols together, as well as assembling their different nation’s sounds and styles into the pot; the resultant sound is one that is unique and exhilarating- bursting with flavours and wonderful avenues.  The chaps are based in London and have been bringing their mandates and manifestos to the capital over the last few days and weeks; as well as planning for a busy future.  Last year, the E.P. Metro Talk was release, and met with huge acclaim and adulation.  The five-track release showcased the band’s strengths and ambitions, and has ensured that they have a growing legion of fans.  Over Facebook more than 2,000 people ‘like’ the band; they have over 200 Twitter followers, and an army of supporters from far-flung places and cities alike; all intoxicated by the band’s keen chops and electric kicks.

 

Having achieved a modest amount of views on YouTube, the video for Watch It Fall details a collection of clips from the band’s gigs; fondly looking back on the wonders and achievements of 2012.  If the video has not pulled in too many views (just yet), the song itself has been warmly received; and is not a surprise to see why.  The initial few seconds mix The Mars Volta and Queens of the Stone Age.  There is a great deal of the former’s experimentation and winding electric guitars; as well as the latter’s current-day bold experimentation and brutalisation.  Before the vocal storms in, a frantic firestorm of arpeggio guitar is unwound, and the relentless pace and sense of danger lingers over the track.  With the front-man imploring: “Give ’em more”, backed by twiddling and twirling guitars: part Red Hot Chilli Peppers; part The Mars Volta-cum-Grunge, it is a pulsating sound that keeps the tension high.  This is augmented by bass and percussion, which, when combined, strike and storm with maximum intensity and intention.  Where as certain bands like The Mars Volta and progressive rock bands, tend to employ lyrics that are oblique, Byzantine and surreal; Los and the Deadlines are more direct.  Themes of  the unusual are in there too; but messages such as “Buy it all for a bit of hope” strive for a more emotive punch.  As the players play- mixing brute force with some endeavouring, channelling undertones- a chorusing of  “Right…left…right!” is chanted; with militaristic force and power.  As much as there are touches of the U.S. pioneers in the guitar work, the overall sound and style of the track is more rooted elsewhere; modern-day U.K. as well as Europe.  With some disgruntled and desert-infused tonnes of Josh Homme, our front-man has some Californian notes, but his voice is more forceful and swaggering, with a bolder kick to it.  Where as the QOTSA leader- now at least- is favouring some delicate falsetto as well as filth-ridden/sexy-as-hell vibes, our leader here- and the band as a whole- have punk edges that injects Watch It Fall with sharper teeth.  It is perhaps their riffs, and sonic detours that are most impressive.  The percussion remains forceful and persistent throughout; employed with great power and drive; yet the guitar and bass lines snake, twirl, rush and roll in all sort of ways.  It shows an endeavouring and ambitious creative mind at work, when a band can create a multi-part and highly mobile number, that does not lose its focus or gravity.  When the chorus erupts- probably the most apt word- the band burst at the seams; our hero practically steroidal as a whirlwind of sound augments thoughts such as “You say it’s my fault”.  With some foreboding scenes and some nervy protestations our protagonist yells: “I’ve seen everything”- his pipes awash with gravel, grit, gasoline, gin and barbed wire.  The chanted and punched coda, is a weapon that is deployed again more extensively after the 2:00, providing a sea change that sees a shift to the darker and more hypnotic.  The backing is still bustling and alive with static and sparks; and once the vocal chants have erred, those threads rolls and tumble: guitar, bass and drum build up and down; up and down, hinting at some progressive rock edges.  As a whole the song very much has an anthemic tone.  Certain sections are chant-worthy; whilst the ever-mobile nature of the music keeps you hooked and invested.  I hope that the band get into the studio and release an L.P. soon.  Songs such as Watch It Fall would benefit from some crisper production and polish.  It would nice to hear Alex’s vocals in better clarity, slightly higher and crisper in the mix.  If you listen to an album such as ‘… Like Clockwork’, the incredible songs are boosted and given breath by the terrific production and a bit of polish, and Los and The Deadlines’ tracks would gain a similar majesty, with some of those consideration.  Watch It Fall is a solid and compelling track.  Vocals are domineering and enflamed; as well as being impassioned and potent.  Guitar, bass and percussion are consistently sharp and fascinating.  Each member is tight and powerful; infusing a huge amount of force and wonder into the track.  Lyrics are sharp and interesting and kept focused and literal- for the most part- making the words meaning more tangible and relevant.  As a whole the song trips and fights through various shifts and phases; winding and biting at various intervals, that will surely win over the most stubborn music fan.

 

My point about multi-nationality and variation within a band is proven here.  The various backgrounds and personalities do not juxtapose or devise one another; they blend seamlessly and brilliantly, to create a stronger whole.  Los and The Deadlines are a tight and memorable band, and on the strength of the remaining tracks off of Metro Talk, I am not shocked that they have such a following.  It will be great to see where the boys go from here, as they have a huge arsenal and range to experiment with.  Whether they stick with the stoner rock/prog. rock leanings (with those Grunge and punk edges), or employ some more melodious edges is yet to be seen.  As the likes of Josh Homme’s crew have demonstrated so deftly, is that revisiting the past as well as toying with mood and melody, mingling sweet balladry with sex-laden jams can result in a stunning record.  It would be great to see our boys go the same way; stick to the sound they have cemented, but incorporate some other key elements into the fray; augmenting and emphasising what they are duly capable of.  It is not a band that is dominated by the front-man; it is a democracy that has meritocratic and egalitarian values, where each of the members is equal.  This shared affection and consideration is clear in the music, and it is rare to hear a band that are so confident.  A goldmine will be struck when a group can mine and create the sounds of the likes of Queens of the Stone Age, Foo Fighters, The Mars Volta, and make it sound like their own.  Los and The Deadlines are very close, and if they continue down the path they tread, and grow in confidence, then we could have a band that can stand alongside the U.S. giants; which is sorely needed in a climate that is dictated by mediocrity.  Take a gander at the quartet’s songs and it will give you a sense of a young band that are hungry for longevity and success.  Should the lads keep their head and focus their sights, very much into the distance, then they will be creating some cracking songs for a long while.  Too often great bands have been passed over, in favour of the inconsistency of the mainstream.  It is with the power of social media, and a continued following…

 

THAT the four-piece will be able to prove how good they truly are.

________________________________________________________________________

Official:

http://www.losandthedeadlines.com/

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/losandthedeadlines

Twitter:

https://twitter.com/LosDeadlines

SoundCloud:

https://soundcloud.com/losandthedeadlines

YouTube:

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

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LAC- When I’m Around- Track Review

 

Track Review:

 

 

 

 

 

LAC 

 

 

 

 

 

When I’m Around

 

LAC

 

9.4/10

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Acronymically intriguing; Michael Davies’ LAC alter-ego has a curiosity, which is surpassed only by that of his incarcerating, ignoble punk strut.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Availability:

When I’m Around is available at:

https://soundcloud.com/lacmusic/when-im-around

The E.P. Borstal Boy is available at:

https://itunes.apple.com/gb/album/borstal-boy-ep/id656190644

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THE task for the male solo artist, is one that has Herculean undertones.

 

For the past decade or fifteen years, there has been a little bit of a struggle when searching for stunning solo male acts, or strong frontmen, that you could pin your hopes to.  Since the mid-late ’90s, the job of presenting yourself as truly original and diverse has become a lot harder.  In the sense that so much music has already been sung: so many styles; genres; sensations and anthems have been recorded; by each passing year, the nature of originality and potency becomes difficult to define as well as supersede.  Talent shows do not help: in essence they are the antithesis of originality; with hopeless fame-chasing wannabes being moulded to sound like certain existing artists.  Outside of that, there is a lot of solo movement.  Some can be seen as quite pleasing; shades and tones within a voice or set of lyrics that suggest something promising, but by-and-large, how many artists can we say that about today?  Whilst female solo artists such as Laura Marling are producing great strides and albums, that are filled with maturity, striking themes and an abiding air of quality and conviction; aside from her, there are not many whom promising the same.  For the men, there seems to be no natural leader, setting the bar and showing how it should be done.  It is true that some are rising up now, and are capable of yielding crops years down the line; in the here and now, there is a greater issue: no one in modern music today; in the male solo artist division, is capable of taking your breath away.  I may be missing someone, but having my ear practically cemented to the ground, I know what is out there; and I am aware of Bon Iver, Matt Corby, Jake Bugg and a myriad of differing talent; but I still arrive at the same conclusion: there is no one that truly inspires me in every aspect.  If the lyrics are tremendous; the voice comes off as lacklustre or unspectacular.  If an artist has a great voice, the words are too narrow-minded, and they are there is little true range to their palette and subjects.  It is frustrating, and in all honesty, I am not sure who or how the pandemic is going to be cured- in the female genre as well.  Recently I have featured some great solo artists that I hope will make their way into public consciousness; yet fear that due to the growing market, and the hardships of trying to promote your sound, it may not be fully realised, or they may have to downscale their ambitions.  Still, eyes are trained towards the band market, as a sense of strength in numbers dictates the public consciousness.  This year has seen legendary and established bands making biggest waves, and there seems to be a trend emerging: diverse and innovative bands with a strong frontman/woman tend to draw in the biggest bucks.  I have been downhearted at the amount of new acts, where the sound, singer and lyrics are awash with cliché, sloppy iambic pentameter; vague resulting in esoteric appeal and an inherent (un)planned obsolescence.  For success, immediate impressions and lasting success- aside from terrific and encapsulating song writing- you have to have a captivating and worthy (literal) voice; a sound that is stunning and meritocratic; tied and binding by a collective whole, that is inspiring and capable of historic and of-the-moment prosperity and fascination. U.S. acts such as The National, Queens of the Stone Age- as much as I have mentioned them recently- have these facets, as do the other bands whom are currently making huge impressions in 2013.  Uniqueness and differentiated sounds are as vital as anything too; and were a band to crack this, then their future is almost safe- regardless of prevailing winds and economic outcomes.

 

On paper, Michael Davies, A.K.A. LAC may seem somewhat the anti-hero.  In a recent profile writing by Paul Lester of The Guardian, there seemed to be as much back-handed praise as there did derisive snickering and sarcasm.  The Guardian is a publication I have always had an issue with.  As useful as they are for introducing new talent to my eyes, when I read their profiles and articles about said artists, the majority of the time there seems to be a modicum of insincerity and Trojan Horse venom behind their intentions.  Paul Lester is the man responsible for my umbrage and discourse.  A middle-aged- and one can only assumed- failed musician, he spends his professional days, seemingly searching for new bands and acts; so he can simply employ his own twisted brand of subterfuge.  Lester proclaimed that LAC is unlikely to “Be the daddy”, summating the appeal of LAC: you’ll like it only if “you like shouty bloke punk”.  Aside from Lester being a credulous and musical illiterate buffoon, there is a great malaise at play at the paper.  Their reviewers are subject to more derision and negativity that they put in their reviews; usually a few lines long and going to no lengths to give an overall opinion or anything bordering on insightful.  Factor aside my reticence and hang-ups with The Guardian, my abiding point is, that they have missed the point: LAC is not a band-fronted by a man- whom should be passed over; cast aside, and dispelled- as Lester has done so reverently and confidently.  I shall crib from that aforementioned article, as the facts about Davies’ past are the only factual aspects; so let me tell you about him.  Davies spent some time in a young offenders’ institute at aged 15; a cellmate hanged himself, and it was the Spartan resilience, augmented by painful experiences that inspired Davies to go into music.  Having gown up in an area of south-east England, that, in Davies’ own words: “depressing”.  The music of LAC is intended not to scare or even inspire a raft of musical acolytes and tributes; more represent the reality and harshness of certain sectors of society, and the problems and hostility that is an ever-present threat.  In the way that Plan B and a great deal of Grime artists- as well as rap artists- present the streets and city life in all of its mangled and dystopian glory: like The Divine Comedy-cum-Irvine Welsh.  The three-track E.P. that has been created by LAC, whom are: band leader and vocal laureate Michael Davies; backing vocalist and bass boy Damion Sheppard; and pots and pans man Andrew Mardle.  Situated between Oxford and London, and drawing in collective experiences and day-to-day life, the E.P. Borstal Boy is deeper and more layered than its title would have you think.  Being a man whom is at the mercy of, and reliant on, the (dreaded) Jobcentre: in all of its hell, horror and vileness; themes and songs speak to me as literally as they do figuratively.  It is not an E.P. reserved for punk fanatics; nor working-class bands such as myself.  If you negate Paul Lester’s repressed sneering and insincerity, and listen hard, the music works on so many base foundations: it has huge energy and excitement; it is modern and relevant, as well as being great music.  Whilst LAC may be near Google-proof- and locating all of the social media pages is a task in itself- when you listen to the music; preconceptions and judgementalness (sic.) are gunned down, stomped over, and buried- see what I did there?

 

When I’m Around is- to my ears- the standout from the trio of tracks off of the Borstal Boy E.P.: the title track and Dead Generation make up the other two.  If certain stuffy newspapers compare the songs to being interlopers and encroaches: deflecting any hint of praise, and preferring cynicism; then take it from one whom knows music better and more intimately: it will strike chords.  In fact the initial stages of the intro. will project images of The Libertines’ Up The Bracket: a sort of Time for Heroes-cum-Begging begins its gestation.  At once the mood has touches of the early-’00s punk attitude that the boys in the band popularised; as well as flavour notes from mid-career The Clash.  That pummelling, almost militaristic percussion assault; and the way it mixes- and spars with- a familiar electric strum brings to mind the modern and iconic punk pioneers, and gives the track authority and ambition in the early stages- with just the right amount of remembrance.  As the intro. opens up and stretches its legs, so too do the guitar and bass: sprawling and striking in a move that is simultaneously self-actualising and literal.  You get the impression a prison riot or street brawl is being sound tracked; awash as the song is, in vibrant and spiky riffs.  If you were to compare the sound to another band- and I won’t do liberally to avoid cheapening the band- then there are some early hints at an influence of early-career The Jam; mingling alongside that Libs. vibe.  That coalescence of ’70s punk and modern-day youthful energy marries well- promising no imminent divorce or disagreement.  The energy is too not forbidding or menacing thus far: it is light enough to draw in indie and rock fans, yet has an edge and perseverance that suggests spittoons will soon be needed.  There are also some undertones of The Who to be found.  One can imagine that a great deal of the band’s records, as well as other ’60s and ’70s legends, are to be found in the homes of Davies, as well as his band mates.  A lot of turf has been covered and won by LAC within the brief intro., and when the vocal arrives, you are already on board with their sound and ambitions.  Tales of “me and a mate called Pete”, give you an impression as to the narrative and direction the lyrics will take; and the boys that are running around “smoking cigarettes”, paints a tableaux of lads-on-their-uppers; swaggering around town and- whilst offering no hostility (early on)- classic and reliable themes are presented.  In the same way as The Libertines infused their albums with stories of f*****-up parties, semblances of abnormality and Death on the Stairs; LAC continue the (neo-)punk theme; and like Messrs’ Doherty and Barat, a tangible and explicable sense of fun is present.  The song’s strong efficacy gets you listening sharply, and following our protagonist’s plight.  Our hero talks about the changing times; his voice dripping with intention and clout- suggesting parts Lydon, parts Strummer.  The guitars rumble and spring as the percussion and bass thrash, solidify and stomp.

 

As our hero is “Putting myself on the map”, the pace and energy of that riff, as well as the percussive and bass augmentation keeps the song intent and relentless.  Yes, Mr. Lester, portions of the song may have a punk shoutiness; with Davies and Sheppard duel and swagger their vocals together, summoning a rabble that is not supplementary or a nuisance: instead it is elicited to bolster and emphasise the themes of the track.  Whether there is any regretful missive at its core, our protagonist never shows it; as all that is happening- good or bad- is inevitable “When I’m around”.  As much as the song is designed to display autobiography as well as honest (as well as home) truths; it is also meant to project a fun and lads-about-time swing; it is infectious in its own way.  If you try and compare LAC to The Clash, Sex Pistols or The Jam; they may come up short: the boys are not trying to emulate them.  They fit very much in a post-Libertines mould, and take elements and weapons from their war chest, and add in some explosives and chemicals that are very much their own, and born out of first-hand experience- which creates the potent bang of the track.  The boys yell and ‘nah nah nah’ boisterously; instruments smashing and marching, and concoct a boyish and impish chorus; before the track comes to its end.

 

LAC may not win over too many hardened critics like Lester, not galvanise the compartmentalised groups of music fans whom tend to ‘like what they like’.  For me, whom has never been a fan of ’70s and ’80s punk, and preferred more modern stabs at the genre, it is a song and sound that appeals to me.  The key themes include modern relevance, realities of street life as well as modern life, rather than subjects more cerebral.  In the way that The Libertines combined cigarette-strewn scenes of inhospitable and unsavoury climbs, LAC and Davies anoints When I’m Around with some comparable weight.  It may take a few more E.P.s or albums before our hero matches the dizzying heights of Carl and Pete (and co.); yet Borstal Boy is an E.P. that promises intention and future-potential.  The tracks are crammed with menace as well as fun; the riffs and compositions are always focused yet have a slightly drunken sway to them.  Above all the band are tight and focused.  Percussion is powerful and masculine; the guitars and bass display some familiar movements, as well as originality and potency, and the vocals from Davies are always authoritative and meaningful; contained youthful edges of a young Weller, yet different enough that you wouldn’t even notice it.  In a 2013 landscape where punk is hardly a common theme or thread, LAC fill a niche and market that is crying out for contenders.  Too much indie and generic rock is present.  Some of the bands, and especially new bands show signs of potential and star appeal- The Family Rain come to mind; and blues rock is on the up as well.  In the same way that swing and doo-wop is being updated and revitalised; sounds of the southern states of the U.S. are being experimented with; it seems prescient and vital that an (almost-forgotten) core has been neglected.  Punk was a genre that has influenced most bands today in some form, and there is a need for a more direct approach, when reappraising and reintroducing the genre.  Bands infuse flecks of punk here and there but never delve too deep into sound.  LAC are going to busy working on future songs, and are along the right lines now.  Between the three boys, and Davies especially, there is a wealth of colourful- and often painful- history and backstory, that gives the songs their unique edge.  They have cemented a sound and intention, and just need to expand on this and produce a full-length release.  I hope the likes of The Guardian will not chase away potential buyers; as it seems that the profile piece they completed does injustice to the group.  Yes, there are shouty and chaotic edges; beer-stained highs and cigarette-puffing middles; yet no lows.  It is music that sets out and achieves what it wants to do: recreate punk’s mandates and appeal to a modern crowd.  It does pretend to be anyone it is not.  It will be interesting what moves LAC make next.  Hopefully many new songs will be forthcoming and more people will get on board.  Even if you are unfamiliar with or not hugely in love with punk in general, you will find much to recommend.  In a year where there is precious little diversity or force…

 

OUR endeavouring trio are out on their own.

____________________________________________________________________

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/LACBandUK

Twitter:

https://twitter.com/LACBandUK

SoundCloud:

https://soundcloud.com/lacmusic

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Little Love and The Friendly Vibes- Sunshine- Track Review

 

Track Review:

 

 

 

 

 

 

Little Love and The Friendly Vibes 

 

 

 

 

 

Sunshine

 

 

Fun Pop cover art

 

 

 

 9.2/10

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An Edinburgh band in need of a Twitter account; as their brand of ‘Fun Pop’ could see them gain a lot of attention, as well as hearts.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Availability:

Sunshine is available at:

http://littleloveandthefriendlyvibes.bandcamp.com/track/sunshine

The E.P. Fun Pop is available at:

http://littleloveandthefriendlyvibes.bandcamp.com/

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‘SCOTLAND’ and ‘sunshine’ are diverse terms that can cause polemic…..

 

to-and-fro.  When one thinks of Scotland, perhaps sunnier weather, at least, is not one of the first things that spring to mind.  Amidst cliché, stereotype and preconception, a lot of the U.K.- as well as a large percentage of the world’s population- know very little about Scotland, and what is on offer.  It is true that climate and good weather is subject to unpredictability and entropy: but so is that true everywhere.  It is true that very few music fans and media outlets give enough credence and passion towards Scotland, and the music that it present here.  Recently I have been subjected to revelling in the myriad joys and invigorations within the music of Universal Thee, Steve Heron and Ded Rabbit.  Here are just three examples of a growing wave of great music that is emanating from Scottish climbs.  Commonly, one assumes- quite falsely- that the best new music and most prodigious sounds herald from London- how often have I been mentioning this?  Whilst it it is true (to a degree) that the capital is giving birth to some brilliant new bands and acts, by-and-large, there are very few brilliant artists and worthy songs/albums coming from London.  I have been at a loss to explain this phenomenon, as London has all the right climate conditions: a huge population and huge diversity; a great deal of record labels and studios; the inspiration of the bustling city life.  In the past, I have perhaps hinted that the reason behind the comparative lack of quality in music, can be explained by the stress and anxiety present in London.  With there being little room to move, and large and busy crowds pretty much… well, everywhere; one is often starved of the necessary space and energy needed to create fantastic music.  Historically at least, the best music has arrived from other areas aside from London.  Liverpool, Manchester, Seattle, Minnesota and Oxford have spawned some true legends, and there is evidence to suggest that these areas are more conducive to create wonder.  As much as the busier cities can suffocate creativity, if one travels further north, then something quite different is occurring.  Yorkshire is perhaps the best example of a county that is promoting and fostering huge range and mobility; bearing witness to a great range of music that has ambition as well as a sunny disposition.  If anything, Scotland are producing music that is even more ambitious, and has an even bigger grin about it.  This may shock a lot of those in the rest of the U.K.- although I am not sure why.  The sounds- by and large- tend to be breezier, less anxious, with greater weight and appeal.  In the future months and years, there will be (one hopes) a turning away from the big cities such as London; to Scotland.  The music industry is undergoing suffocation and fatigue, where the majority of new artists and bands seem to be bereft of many new ideas: a lot tend to be too indebted to their idols.  Individuality, mobility and diversity seem to be more prescient bywords for Scottish artists, and it is the music made by them, which is being studied carefully; as the successful artists are making waves all over the U.K. as well as further abroad.

 

In Edinburgh, Little Love and The Friendly Vibes are making their name because of their bright-eyed and cheerful tones; a style of music that has been dubbed- and lead them to name their E.P.- Fun Pop.  Having formed in 2011, there were several line-up changes and substitutions amongst the ranks, in order to cement the final line-up for the band.  The group came about and were consecrated on sturdy pillars: catchy melodies, quirky guitar hooks; as well as a mix of comedy and punk.  The tracks that the group write are light-hearted with a big heart, and are infused with fun and memorable lyrics and imagery.  It is perhaps unsurprising that the band have been labelled as a ‘Fun Pop’ group, considering some of their influences.  U.S. legends The B52s are influences, and The Magic Numbers are also named as icons for the Edinburgh band.  Both of those groups are synonymous with bright, breezy and joyful songs: the former perhaps, are the epitome of the term.  As much as there is heart and tenderness beneath the band’s skin, they have been noted for some of their more raw lyrics and sentiments.  Our group, consisting Euan, Graham and Stephen, are fans of the likes of The Velvet Underground and The Undertones; some evidence of these bands make their way into some of the more cutting and honest themes.  It is the mixture of fun and comedic overtones and a hint of raw honesty that has lead to positive reviews and glowing feedback from many media outlets and fans alike.  It is not surprising that their music has been taken to heart and so positively received.  In a time where there is still an over-reliance on heavier and more cynical sounds; Little Love and The Friendly Vibes are the antithesis of this, and pioneers of a more all-inclusive and positive sound.  The E.P. Fun Pop, is the summation of the band’s sound, talents and (sometimes difficult) development.  Their artwork and websites are awash with bright colours, swirling patterns and egalitarian shades and designs, that you cannot help but to be charmed by.  In the future the band should consider a Twitter account, and an official page too, as they are deserving of drawing in a great deal of fans and supporters.  I have connected with U.S. and Australian bands, whom have connected with others and had their sounds heard a long way from home.  Little Love and The Friendly Vibes have a sound and palette that is as ready-made for the Californian coast, as it is for the clubs of Sydney; as well as European cities.  Such is the utilitarianism and universal tones of their mottos and codas, that it won’t be too long before they are a name on most peoples lips.  With the tendency still erring towards guitar bands, sour undertones and heavier sounds, it is refreshingly and rewarding when discovering groups that are willing to (gleefully) rebel; infusing the music scene with vitamin C: ultimately ensuing that a murky and overly-familiar quagmire is not created.  Fun Pop is four tracks of pop fun, and was released in September of last year.  Featuring Barry George as well as Rheanna Bryson, our trio have been gathering a loyal band of followers and fans; each of whom is keen to promote the good words and sensations that the E.P. offers.  Due to pecuniary constraints, the group’s E.P. has an almost homemade appeal and sound.  The songs were written by Euan, and produced, recorded and mixed by Graham; and the entire band has pitched in and doubled up almost, to ensure that a) the E.P. got made, and b) it was the sound that they wanted and craved.  In the future the group are dreaming of recording an album, and expanding their mandates and stories; in essence fully realising their potential and hoping to draw in new fans and support.  For now their E.P. gives as much an indication of the band’s potential as anything: chocked full of lights and shade; quirky and sedate; harmonious and reflective.

 

It is the E.P.’s second track, and former single, Sunshine, that has been gaining some of the most fervent feedback and exhausted plays.  The song opens with a guitar and drum march.  The electric guitar strides and kicks, before a percussive punch punctuates the line.  It is a coda that is repeated, before the two blend together and rattle and roll with intention and strength.  Within a brief intro., a great deal of anticipation and intrigue has been built up; as one wonders what direction the song will take.  A repetition of “Why love everything about you?” is proffered by our frontman, his voice seemingly swaying and nodding; infused with ‘6os psychedelic-cum-sunshine pop-via-Britpop-era-swagger.  When he asks: “Why love everything that you do?” there is a seeming haughty disregard in Euan’s tones; as it seems that there is a backstory and a bit of history that is being exorcised and exalted within the lines.  It is not sure whom the song’s central figure is: a former love?  A current friend?  Many questions are raised- the song is largely composed of questions in fact- and it is wondered whether things are better now: it is questioned if the status quo is the best thing for the two.  In the way that our frontman asks questions and sets the scene, the band create atmosphere and a relentless pace, which keeps the song upbeat and energetic throughout.  Throughout there is an abiding feel of the ’60s, both in the sound of the production and the nature of the song- a little punk-edge is present, but largely flavours of that era and time can be heard within the track.  As well as there being ’60s evocations, some of the guitar sounds and riffs remind me of ’90s blues rock, as well as mid-’90s Manchester too: there is a heady blend.  It is true that the band have a talent for melody, and when “Why love everything about you?” hits, you cannot help but to realise that it has a festival-ready remembrance: a great sing-along quality that is the staple of a modern anthem.  Whereas other songs on the band’s E.P. may have greater lyrical positivity, Sunshine has a pervading sense of the upbeat.  Any lines or choruses that suggest cynicism or derision are presented with a flair and confidence that win you over; augmented by a tight and measured band performance that adds potency and force, without impeding on the foreground too heavily.  Whether the song has been inspired by a break-up or uncertainty within a relationship, we may never know, but it seems that there are few recriminations in our frontman’s core.  There seems to be few strains within his heart; the message’s evocations and potency is befitting of the song’s title.  As that infectious coda has been unleashed once more, the vocal subsides, before a short outro is unleashed.  Combining some chugging guitar and firm percussion, as well as some solid bass work; it wraps things neatly up, managing to present a small flourish and smile right at the end.

 

Little Love and The Friendly Vibes are a trio whom have big ambitions.  I can tell that they are hungry to record an album very soon, and it is a desire that will be bolstered by public consumption.  It is imperative now, as much as it has ever been, to promote and support bands and acts that ‘differ from the norm’: those that are not concerned with sounding exactly like someone else.  Their E.P.’s four tracks are each fairly short (Typical Teen runs in at 1:56); and they have mastered the art of producing short, sharp and memorable bursts of songs.  Were they afforded the finance and professional studio space to emphasise and polish their sound a bit more; as well as get an album’s worth of material laid down, then they will soon find themselves at the mercy of the festival organisers and venue managers: each keen to get them on the bill.  Each member of the band plays their role superbly.  Vocals are fresh, uplifting and bold one moment; with a little cockiness and spit the next.  The tones are original and varied and you are never left thinking of any other singer.  Guitar, bass and percussion is employed expertly and played solidly; again pervading an original sound that is filled with equal measures of force and sunshine.  For an E.P. that runs in at less than ten minutes, the group’s tracks cover a lot of ground and promise much reward.  Few bands spent much consideration with regards to concentrating their sound, and being concise.  E.P.s are usually a little long and stuffed; acts and bands are too concerned with saying as much as possible, through fear of being forgotten about if not.  Sunshine is a track that sticks in the brain because of the sound, as well as the catchy lyrics.  Like Muse’s Time Is Running Out, it employs relatively few individual words; instead taking its potent chorus, and weaving it into your brain.  As soon as they can get a Twitter account and official website sorted, and reach as many people as possible, then success will not be far away.  Websites such as Kickstarter are bound with musical projects- less impressive- which get funding and allow new acts to get albums recorded.  If that were a route that the Edinburgh clan were to take, then it might see them in the studio laying down an L.P. very soon.  Although there should be no fear.  From looking at their Facebook page, they get plenty of great feedback, and have live dates ahead.  At the time of this review the band are priming themselves in preparation for recording new songs, and figuring out their next moves.  With an arsenal that is as fully-loaded as it is unique, they will be able to carve out their own path; providing that they can get the funds to help them realise this.  Sunshine is a great example of a band that have plenty of potential; a great deal of ambition, and are asking just one thing in return:

 

THEY need you.

________________________________________________________________________

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/littlelove.official

BandCamp:

http://littleloveandthefriendlyvibes.bandcamp.com/

ReverbNation:

http://www.reverbnation.com/littlelove

SoundCloud:

http://littleloveandthefriendlyvibes.bandcamp.com/track/sunshine

__________________________________________________________________________________

 

Track Review:

The Shallow Seas

God of Fire

 

 

 

 

 

 

9.6/10

 

 

 


Canadian band of brothers; “three upstanding gentlemen”, bring their infusing rock wonder to your door.

 

 

Availability:

God of Fire is available at:

http://theshallowseas.bandcamp.com/track/god-of-fire-2

The E.P. Into The Barrow is available at:

http://theshallowseas.bandcamp.com/

___________________________________________________________________________


INTERNATIONAL flavours, and foreign sounds, is a diversity…..

that seems subjugated and mandated heavily, on the shore of the U.K. I have long-suspected that in Britain, the music media concerns themselves too overtly with home-grown talent and influence. It is myopic and frankly stupefying to think that the best new music in the world today solely emanates from the U.K. We have a great deal of hungry and agile artists, each of whom proffer diverse and adventurous steps. A wide range of genres are covered, and the long-forgotten likes of doo-wop and swing are being reinvigorated, and given retro reconsideration. Our northern rock and indie acts blend hard-edged grunge overtones, with some more subtle and sophisticated movements. Towards Scotland, there are blues and pop artists whom are promising greater gleams of gold; purer diamonds with fewer rough edges. In fact, were one to sift through the murky and muddy waters of commercialism; negate their path through the sludge of generic and unwanted musical players, then there is a lot of good waiting to be discovered. The bigger issue is, that there is too much below-par and whelming mediocrity; most of which is being put on a pedestal, and proclaimed as the best thing since…well, you know. In my blog, and one these pages, I have been reviewing artists that have been missed by the media’s glare, and managed to elude the spotlight. It is those artists whom are the ones to watch; as it seems that what is being promoted by the music pages and press, is certainly nothing to get excited about. It is the best and brightest from the last decade that are still able to elicit the biggest headlines, and gain the most ardent approval and ardour. This year, Queens of the Stone Age, The National, Laura Marling and Daft Punk have turned in the most celebrated albums; each one received (and continues to receive) overwhelming praise and adulation; and it makes one wonder: where do the new acts and artists fit in? In 2013 so far, a few brand new talents have managed to make some sort of dent and impact; yet by-and-large there are a lot of sapling steps and fledgling moves, but no real challenge to the established guard. This is understandable I guess: it is hard to be that good right out of the blocks. I suspect that and know for a fact that were one to turn their heads and attention to foreign climbs and over international waters, then a semblance of restoration and reappropriation is tangible. Recently I have been championing many international acts. Multinational composites and Swedish disco-pop outfit have been amongst them, as well as Australian rock warriors and Irish folk joy. It is across the U.S. and Canada that fresher and bolder sounds are being created. L.A. is unveiling some sunshine-infused pop and electronic acts; The Open Feel are amongst them. Even in the short spaces that lie between Burbank and LAX (well, 29 miles), multitudinous range is to be found. In New York and Seattle traditional rock, punk and grunge sounds are still available; yet have been updated and redefined to draw in the 21st century crowd. in-between the divide in the Midwestern region, less anxious and more seditious pleasures are being experimented with: which result in invigorating folk/rock hybrids. Further north, and The Great White North we arrive at Canada.

I have always been a big fan of Canada and their musical heritage. Whilst they are subjected to a lot of ribbing and teasing by the U.S.- America needs to cool it somewhat the Canadians have always had a different approach to music. The heritage and mixed landscape; French quarters mingle alongside vast beautiful plains, enforces the creative mind of the musical participants. Legends such as Neil Young, Leonard Cohen and Joni Mitchell hail from Canada, and are to my mind, three of the best songwriters of all time. Were Bob Dylan to be discovered Canadian and you would have a holy quarter right there. Factor out cosmic farts such as Celine Dion and Michael Buble, then the country has a rich background. If it weren’t for Justin Bieber almost single-handedly threatening to tarnish Canada’s good name, then more ears and eyes would be focused here. It is those legendary ’60s and ’70s solo legends, that have had a big impact on the modern crop of musicians. Young’s folk brilliance, Cohen’s darker and poetic edges, and Mitchell’s lighter but no less potent sounds, have been elongated, de-emphasized and blended into the palettes of the new young elite. The Shallow Seas are a band that are a convivial wrecking ball of intention. Having amounted a modest Facebook following, and a more impressive Twitter support; their online appreciation and fandom is expanding. Jasper, Vincent and Steve are our intrepid trio, and have been on the scene since 2012; bringing their psychedelic/blues rock/garage rock and classic rock blend from their native Toronto, all across Canada and North America. Whilst their online biography remains bare-boned (one suspects they are letting the music paint the words), the group have an impressive online coverage, making their music readily available, as well as ensuring that there is plenty of anticipation for the future. The three-piece’s E.P. Into The Barrow, released in March, is a 5-track opus which deftly distills the band’s essence and influences into a hotchpotch of myriad sounds and electricity; bolstered by a tight and consistent performance throughout. whilst the band have some exciting (fairly local) dates in the pipeline and a busy future lying ahead, they have a sound and ready-made appeal that could and should be passionately embraced by the U.K, Europe and Australia. Their rock blends, with blues, psychedelic and classic tones are present on these shores, yet not too overly-familar or overindulged. Us in the U.K. could certainly do with some Canadian influence; and one suspects that once the media here get a taste; they will then become less fixated on the beige middle-ground, and appreciate outside of the box- which is a long-overdue necessity, trust me!

Into The Barrow’s second track God of Fire, is a track which caught my attention. Whilst Songbird, I Smell Smoke, Bad Feeling and Many Faces display all the merits and colours that the band have spent years honing, it is the rumbles and kicks of God of Fire, which excites the most. It is a track which begins with some slightly fuzzy, hazy and fiery electric guitar strums; evoking reminiscences of ’60s legends such as The Kinks as well as punk icons such as The Clash. A jumping and swaying electric strum is met with a pattering and pounding percussive roll, which has classic rock intentions as well as hinting at the blues rock of the ’90s (think of Detroit’s The White Stripes-cum-The Clash). Energy and pogo strut is favoured in the intro; which is intended to inflame and intoxicate: the effect is one that makes you want to get up and dance for sure. With a razor’s edge as well as more utilitarian swathes, the sound is original and fresh, yet has those components which harks your mind back to past eras and bands. The propellent swathe of sound is slowed down to allow our frontman to enter the fray. His voice is steeped in modern energies and annunciation, yet is not a voice that you can readily compare to anyone elses the band have an authentically original coda. Early words speak thus: “The river runs through your veins”; bristling guitar augments and supports the imagery and emotive vocal, as our hero proffer: “Feel the tingling sensation”. Vivid and bold imagery is projected quite deftly: probably not surprising given the song’s title. The band want to consecrate and realise what they are trying to say, as well as build imagery in your mind. The voice that sermonises and stands above the atmosphere variegated; at once energetic and youthful, the next, more lip-licking and come-hither. The band as a whole show their tightness and intuit, when the verse ends and they whip up some fire. psychedelic brimstone guitars; part Hendrix, part The Stooges marries; at once menacing and intense, the next hypnotic and embracing. The percussion keeps the spine tight and taut, and keeps the mood levelled and restrained, whilst the kicking riff makes its mark. As the next verse arrives, speaking of dragons, mysticism and sensations “For now and evermore”; the energy and potency does not drop- the band keep the fascination high throughout. As our frontman takes a brief pause after his latest thesis, a further wave of sonic clout is unfurled. The low and anomalistic rumblings have heavy rock and punk overtones, whilst the wah-wah riff- a jerkwater berg on fire-has elements of Eddie Vedder, Kim Thayil and Eric Clapton: you can almost hear those gods of the shred pricking their ears to The Shallow Sea’s harbours. The group have a great kinship and galvanised sound, which manages to draw in elements of blues, rock and psychedelia, yet never lose focus. Guitar, bass and percussive work is exemplary; able to burst at the seams one moment, and restrain and linger the next. As I mentioned, the energy and excitement never really let up, and never does the sound appear cluttered at all. Each player plays their part expertly and are able to whip up a potent brew in under two and a half minutes.

It has been a few days since I ‘discovered’ The Shallow Seas, and happened across their Into The Barrow E.P. The guys have a sound oft-promising but seldom-delivered in the music scene. A great deal of bands (and especially new acts) tend to struggle when mixing blues and rock sounds, tending to make their tracks too long or unfocused. The trio from Toronto have a talent for conviction when needed. Although Many Faces runs in at 07:49, and I Smell Smoke is 04:14, the songs never outstay their welcome or become unfocused: everything seems just right in hindsight. It is true that a lot of British acts are doing their utmost to make an impact in an overcrowded and fickle scene; yet of the vast scores that go to war, few make it through alive (as heroes). The media in the U.K. are culpable of being amongst the world’s most fickle; setting unrealistic expectations of new music, whilst simultaneously being quick with the boot at the slightest slip or transgression. Of the new acts I have heard recently, few originate from London: the largest cities seem to have a glut of appropriate talent; dropping the ball somewhat. It is away from the bustle and city life that one finds the best sounds and sensations in the U.K. Until a better and more economic way have been found, to separate the wheat from the chaff, one thing is for clear: look abroad, please. As well as the great European flair, and U.S. strikes, elsewhere there are plenty of great bands and acts whom can win your thoughts. If Canada has not seemed like the best musical holiday destination; then think again. Historically the country has produced some of the greatest songwriters of all time, and in the modern age (aside from the nauseating pop muppets), there is plenty of potential and lustre. The Shallow Seas are, ironically, in deep and dangerous waters: ensconced in a music scene that is awash with venom and hostility. Their sounds and sights supercede expectations and should ensure that they have a long and rewarding regency. For fans of blues rock, ’60s psychedelia, punk, as well as classic rock, there is much to offer here. Their tracks are filled with stark metaphor, striking imagery, and plenty of personable heart and sensitivity. Words, themes and intentions are wrapped around the electric storms that the band summon; meaning that one comes away breathless but pleased. Their music is free, and will probably not shift from your head for quite a while. And in truth:

HOW many bands can you say that about?

________________________________________________________________________

Official:

http://theshallowseas.bandcamp.com/

Twitter:

https://twitter.com/theshallowseas

Facebook:

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

SoundCloud:

YouTube:

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

__________________________________________________________________________________

The Staves- Facing West- Track Review

 

 

Track Review:

 

 

 

 

 

   The Staves  

 

 

 

 

 

Facing West

 

 

The Staves

 

9.8/10

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It would be axiomatic to say that the trio’s voices are stunning.  The Watford girls’ folk rock melodies will leave you spellbound.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Availability:

Facing West is available at:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pFtAz6Xnn5U

The album Dead & Born & Grow is available at:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B008ZVNC2E/?ie=UTF8&camp=1634&creative=6738&creativeASIN=B008ZVNC2E&linkCode=ur2&tag=warnermusicuk-21

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THE art of the voice; vocal blending and eliciting the maximum…..

 

 amount of emotion and evocation, from the voice alone, is extremely difficult.  In today’s music scene atmosphere and mood and conjured up primarily through sound: pure force some moments; paradigm-shifting sometimes.  When considering how to go about grabbing an audience, bands and solo acts are always faced with the same issues.  Originality is a concern: how can you make your music and words be recognised, without being lumped together with too many other artists?  It is an aspect of music that I have provided a lot of derision and anger towards; with regards to a lack of originality.  A second concern, or problematic, lays at the creative feet as well: how to use the talent I/we have, and utilise it to its most potent potential?  For a lot of the bands on the scene at the moment, vocals are given little overall consideration, when considering these issues.  I have been concerned recently that a great deal of band leaders, and singers in bands (as well as solo acts) are treading familiar ground, when deciding on a vocal course.  In the north, and around Manchester and Liverpool, there is still an unnerving tendency for bands to play it too close to their idols.  The number of times I have heard a vocal emanate forth, that was the spitting image of Alex Turner, Liam Gallagher or Ian Brown (for instance), has left me bewildered.  Whilst there is a temptation to employ natural and well-tested weaponry into your arsenal, if it has been heard numerous times before, then how are you going to capture the imagination?  Bands in Scotland and the south of England have been less culpable of this bludgeoning.  I have been invigorated and tantalised by Scottish acts such as Universal Thee, Steve Heron and many of their contemporaries.  Down towards the south- and if fact in Yorkshire- folks such as Rose and the Howling North, Marc and Abi and Annie Drury have been presenting motifs infused with unique strands.  Considerations as a whole, away from the vocal parapet, are given to sonic evocations and presentation: creating energy and wonder with the music itself.  Riffs and heavy percussion is abound in the indie/rock markets; lilting guitars and piano flourishes can be associated heavily with pop/folk; whereas the best of the rest try to marry the two facets into their overall sound.  It seems that vocals are used primarily as a way to get the words across.  I may be missing out of some wonders and stunning singers, but from what I have collated and reviewed, the same old story is told- which gets a little bit depressing.  Vocal harmonies, and folk rock choral are a much-needed and very underrated element.  The likes of Crosby, Stills and Nash; the ’70s legends, showed that by blending their incredible voices together, they could add extra weight to their songs.  Whilst each member has an incredible voice separately; it is when they are infused together that the best results are unveiled.  Of course the trio are still performing today, and contemporaries such as Fleet Foxes are also great examples of the male folk-vocal parable.  Aside from the obvious examples of the breed, one has to dig very, very deep (in today’s scene as well as historically), to find groups that can match the aforementioned legends.

 

Although, with all that said, you get groups that make it through; meaning you do not have to dig all that hard.  The Staves have been in the back of my mind for a while now: flicking to the surface over recent weeks.  I have been a follower for a while, but have only just started to give concentrated study to their songs.  The three piece have been performing together for quite a few years now.  The three girls are all alluring and incredibly striking to behold; especially Jessica, whom is one of the most stunning women anywhere- not just music.  Jessica, Camilla and Emily Staveley-Taylor have been playing local gigs since they were teenagers (today Jessica is 25 years old; Emily 29; Camilla is 23); playing open-mic nights at pubs in their native Watford.  From the fledgling days of performing together, they pricked the ears of money, and caught the attention of record execs. and music-lovers alike.  The Staveley-Taylor household was awash with music, from Bob Dylan to Crosby, Stills and Nash; and, although their parents are not musicians, they clearly instilled a fond love of music into the sisters.  Having grown up in an environment that was bathed in ’60s and ’70s folk magic, it is unsurprising that the girls took their messages to hard and wanted to follow in the footsteps of their musical idols.  In interview they come off as self-depreciating and filled with bawdy and good-natured humour alike (occasionally it has bridled American audiences; not attuned to our English sensibilities).  Their writing process is alternately truncated, unpredictable and tumultuous.  Songs are conceived, written; sometimes reworked and reimagined; before eventually a final product is arrived upon.  It is a process which seems to suit the trio, and yet is something that they are still working on: trying to increase any wrinkles from their work patterns.  The Staves run a democracy as well: whomever writes the lion-share of a track, gets the chance to sing it.  Whilst comparisons have been drawn with the likes of Fleet Foxes, Mumford and Sons and Laura Marling, the girls find being compared to others, somewhat odd.  They- as well as I- share a love of Laura Marling, and are flattered to be mentioned in the same breath.  Whilst, at this present time, they are embarking upon their own U.S. tour, taking in the likes of Seattle and Los Angeles later this month, they feel just at home playing in England.  On their Facebook page they list some of their influences: Ryan Adams, Paul Simon, Joni Mitchell and Martha Wainwright rank amongst them.  As much as they are inspired by them, yet have their own unique sound and style, they quote Jim Jarmusch, whom states: “Nothing is original… originality is non-existent”.  However you assuage any misgiving about the likes of The Staves, and surrender to their charms and heady blends; I guarantee that you will- no matter how hardy and determined you are.  For all the ’60s and ’70s folk groups such as Crosby, Still and Nash and modern-day equivalents, there have certainly not been many that have hailed from the U.K., and the girls are doing us very proud indeed.  They spoke with The Guardian last November, saying that- due to the group being very much leaderless- choosing the likes of track listings and band photos was exhausting and stressful.  In spite of the day-to-day decisions, they have worked tirelessly, and bring their sounds and sensations as far and wide as possible: gaining themselves huge international ardour.  Their sounds may hint at American climbs, and more rural locales; hardly a shock considering their musical background, but something they are keen to state is fictionalised: they have no desire to live in log cabins in Vermont, nor do so now.  Off of the back of a couple of E.P. releases, as well as some high-profile live appearances in the interim, the album Dead & Born & Grow, was released last November.   Tracks such as Mexico, and Wisely & Slow have already gained huge praise; with the girls alternating as the lead singer.  It is the Camilla-fronted track Facing West, that is on a lot of people’s lips and minds right now.

 

On YouTube, the song has already amassed 419,000 reviews (at the time of this review); with most commentators highlighting the track’s ethereal beauty and otherworldly prepossessions.  Building up from some breezy and smiling ukuleles, the track begins with a reverent breeze and wandering soul.  It is a mesmeric proposition which builds from there; as soon as the vocal arrives, you are already relaxed and swimming in the song.  Early evocations of: “A room with a window facing west/Towards the sea” suggests a peace-filled and sedate landscape (Somewhere in the U.K.?  Sunnier, foreign climbs perhaps?), Facing West is possessed of a tender and passion-filled heart.  The vocal is pin sharp and crystalline; certain words are elongated and syncopated, reminding me slightly of Shara Worden of My Brightest Diamond.  Like the U.S. singer, The Staves’ commander-elect has the ability to make you pull your ears towards the speakers; desperate to get closer and nearer to where she is.  Imagery of seaside tranquilly and sunsets fills your thoughts, as you can imagine our heroine sitting by a pier, feet draping over the edge; gazing towards the ocean and letting its tranquillity take her mind.  The way that the girls combine in the chorus, elicits reminiscences of the likes of The Andrews Sisters, Caro Emerald and a plateau of doo-wop, swing and ’40s/’50s vibes.  The Staves update that sound for modern times, yet still have wonderful shades of harmony groups of old, as well as the folk masters of the ’70s.  When the voice blend and weave in and out of one another, the line “I don’t think I can do this anymore” is sung; hinting at some anxieties, fears and doubts perhaps?  Whether the girls have based the themes of the song around personal experience: the nature of home; love-gone-wrong, or something else, the conviction that is behind the line, takes you slightly aback.  For all the diamond shine of the vocal purity, there is heartache and uncertainty underneath, which gives the track broad emotion and a great range of moods.  As well as All Things Will Unwind-era My Brightest Diamond, there is a little of I Speak Because I Can Marling; wrapped around sparks of Deja Vu-esque Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young: one can experience the same shivers you get from hearing Teach Your Children, for example.  Every word is backed by the ukulele and guitar: kept measured and subtle; employed to augment the majesty of the vocal.  Into the second verse, and the sense of longing as well as dislocation, pervades.  An unnamed beau is left to “watch me as I come/Walking through the door”, as our protagonist, and Siren sisters choose to “take the high road that he walked/Once before”.  Throughout everything, there is a lingering sense of mystery and intrigue: are we hearing something akin to a break-up, or is something more contended lurking at heart?  Whistles, wordless vocals and coos are played in after the second verse, adding to the serene and stillness of the track, and helping to add wind to the sails, of the sailboat in your mind (or is that just me then?).  Our heroine, has a final thought: “Show me the path down to the shoreline ‘case/I don’t know if I can do this anymore”; Jessica and Emily back Camilla’s lead exquisitely, really making your hairs stand on end.  I mentioned- half-jokingly- that they had a Siren quality, but is it is not fat-fetched.  The trio’s voices are alluring and sensuous, and can bring boats to the shores that our heroine walks towards.  As the song ends and trails off into the dusk, its beauty has captured you wholly.  Facing West is a mandate from a trio that are assured, confident, tight and incredibly memorable.  For those whom usually would not ‘go for’ this type of music and song; think again: it transcends reticence and pre-conceptions.  As well as being a perfect antidote for any sour disposition or rainy landscape, the song is filled with so much tenderness, gentleness and purity that it is impossible not to be transfixed by its gravity, and transported to warm and pleasant climbs.

 

I have studied the Dead & Born & Grown album, and several things ring true.  The girls have a sharp ear and eye for lyrics; infusing their songs with detailed and evocative scenes (In The Long Run is one of my favourites), whereas, in the case of Tongue Behind My Teeth and Mexico; here are flipsides to love and the issue of trust: the former, a scathing and vengeful track aimed at a wrong-doing man; the latter an honest and open love song filled with tenderness. Songs bursting with changing landscapes and dangers (The Motherlode) mingle alongside tales of moving on and waiting for good to occur (Gone Tomorrow).  Like Marling, The Staves are skilled and applaud able lyricists; where as Marling may err towards the more oblique and detached, The Staves are more direct and honest; yet able to mix metaphors and mystical and historical landmarks (check out the album’s swansong Eagle Song).  The music is delicate the one moment, and emotive and epic the next; yet does not rely on huge electric strings and percussion: guitar and light strings are favoured and liberally integrated.  Overall,  striking and earnest words, combined with gorgeous and touching compositions team to create 12 stunning tracks.  I know the girls ache and have sweated hugely over the track listing, but in the case of the album; they have got it right!  They have managed to arrange the tracks so that a perfect emotional balance is struck, so not too many ‘slower’ songs follow one another; they are arranged so that pace and momentum are just right, and intrigue and attention is held right until the end.  Obviously one cannot- and should not- ignore the voices of all the girls.  Each has their own unique style and timbre, able to give certain songs their own special weight and appeal.  As strong as each of our trio are when acting as soloists, it is when the harmonies are created, that the grandest shivers and smiles are created.  In today’s scene, there are plenty of female singers with soft, gentle and stunning voices; yet most are let down by either pedestrian and predictable songs (take a bow Gabrielle Aplin); or weak lyrics or below-par elements.  This year sees Laura Marling galvanise her sound to its absolute peak, having relocated to the U.S.; K.T. Tunstall has turned in her strongest album yet, and the aftertastes and smoke of Adele still remains strong in most people’s minds.  So few new groups in general (not just female-only) tend to be underwhelming or incapable of remaining in the memory; yet The Staves are a band whom leave indelible marks in your brain: you will be hearing the vocal chills of Facing West for weeks to come!  They have travelled (figuratively and literally) a long way in a few short years, and have won hearts and minds in the U.S., as well as on our shores.  It will be interesting to see what moves are made next.  Whether another album is beckoning; a possible E.P., or whether the girls will take a break; recollect their thoughts; rest their tired bones, and figure out their future plans.  So tempting must it be to ride the current crest of fervour they have amassed, and rush back into the studio (after their tour of course), yet Facing West, as well as its sister album, is a record that stands up to repeated onslaughts and listens, and will reveal new layers each time you listen.  The Staves have few like-minded contemporaries, and certainly no close competition, so it is advisable that you a) investigate thoroughly Dead & Born & Grow, and b) get used to them being around for a long time to come.  In a year and era where new acts are given little short or long-term consideration by record labels, and fans; and where their appeal and sensation is often fleeting, it is refreshing and pleasing that The Staves will be around for many years to come.  Take a note new talent; because as the girls have deftly proved:

 

HITTING the right notes, can ensure a permanent place in your heart.

________________________________________________________________________

Official:

http://www.thestaves.com/

Twitter:

https://twitter.com/thestaves

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/TheStaves

SoundCloud:

https://soundcloud.com/the-staves

YouTube:

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

__________________________________________________________________________________

 

 

 

Alex Hepburn- Under- Track Review

 

Track Review:

 

 

 Alex Hepburn

 

 

  Under

 

 

Alex Hepburn

 

 

9.4/10

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Her life may have begun in the U.K., but Hepburn’s voice drips with ’60s U.S.; her heart seem to belong to France.  You can forgive the travelling soul, when you hear that voice, as it speaks to everyone.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Availability:

Under is available at:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wq8BqYus40A&feature=youtube_gdata_player

Together Alone is available at:

https://itunes.apple.com/fr/album/together-alone/id619184026?affId=2202514

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FEMALE voices that take a break from the parable of the U.S…..

 

shores, circa the 1990s, are a rarity it seems.  In the climate of the reality show fixations- which seem to show no slowing signs- a great deal of focus is still placed on moulding talent to fit around a pre-existing voice.  A lack of certain imagination does seem to exist amongst young talent.  In the way that shades of your voice are enforced by your influences, as well as the records of your parents, there is still a sad predictability.  For us boys, the over-familiar and clichéd evocations of Jeff Buckley seem to be the status quo.  It depresses me that a good 70% of new male artists whom break through, are either compared to, or indebted to, Mr. Buckley.  It is understandable that his voice strikes such a chord amongst this generation.  His voice was a force of nature, infused with angelic beauty and devotional whispers; capable of climbing through the stratosphere and summoning up an immense amount of majesty and power.  The problem is this: he cannot be equalled.  Not even close.  In fact, should one spend an inordinate amount of their life trying to mimic him exactly, they would not equal him, because quite simply: he got their first.  I understand that a great deal of the time it is not a conscious ploy on behalf of the young male singer; a great deal of time the media does seem to be rather rash compare them thus; powdering their reviews with nonsensical and incorrect hyperbole.  The likes of Tom Odell and Matt Corby have been compared to Buckley, yet neither get anyone close.  The former elicits a modicum of Buckley’s stillness and beauty; whilst the latter can produce a swathe of power and guttural roar, that suggests a little bit of our U.S. hero, circa-1994.  Buckley had a (almost female) beauty and pin sharp falsetto that remains unimpeachable and untouchable.  Stepping aside from the plain facts, my point is boils down to two things.  Firstly, it is lazy and futile to try and ‘be’ ‘The Next Jeff Buckley’; the original is better and who would waste money on a tribute act?  A lot of media hoopla and false expectation has emphasised the issue, and a second issue bugs me: there are so many other terrific artists to be inspired by.  As a singer, I am influenced by the likes of Roy Orbinson, Freddie Mercury, Rob Halford, Chris Cornell, Antony Hegarty, Prince, Bjork, Tom Waits… well the list goes on and on.  It would be refreshing and striking to hear a lot more shades of the 1960s and ’70s, as well as deeper tones; more powerful belts; as well as blues tones.  Whether my thesis/ramblings will ever capture anyone’s imagination is to be seen: I doubt it, somehow.  The issue is as prevalent amongst the female market as well.  Seemingly every talent show, music academy or voice coach seems to want to make every female singer Christina Aguilera, Mariah Carey, or, if we’re being really adventurous… Amy Winehouse.  The Aguilera/Carey blend is one that has shifted units, and inspired a myriad of female artists since the ’90s, yet suffers from the Buckley paradigm: we’ve heard it so many times before.  By aping these talents, instantly you begin to distil their essence and show a stunning lack of imagination and talent: anyone can mimic; few can be original.  If you look at what great female artists we have been subjected to: Kate Bush, Nina Simone, Janis Joplin, Eva Cassidy, Billie Holiday, Patsy Cline, Adele even, one has to wonder: why not show more desire towards these icons?  Past decades have been awash with originality; not just in terms of the voice, but as well as the music and thematic as well.  From 2000, there has been a diminishing number of bands and acts whom have managed to take your breath away.  If as a solo artist- or band leader indeed- you want to capture the imagination, then you need to look further back, to the greats of the ’60s-’90s, and listen to what you are missing.  As much as anything, by employing some colours of certain greats, you are providing a missing link to the past; as it seems that a lot of terrific past wonders are being forgotten about, and relegated to dusty boxes in basements.  I am at my most inspired and invigorated, when I hear a voice or band, that manages to instil hope in my bones.  I love hearing the soulful power of a black ’70s artist , in the lungs of a modern-day solo act; as well as detecting hints of swing-era influences in the notes of a young female artist.  This brings me- perhaps inelegantly- to the feet of a young woman, whom I was unfamiliar with, as recently as a week ago.

 

The first thing to note is: Alex Hepburn seems to be deeply in love with France.  In fact, when searching for a link for her album, Together Alone, I could not find a link to a U.K. iTunes page (the French iTunes link was the first I came across); her website is awash with French phrasing and impassioned love notes; and our Francophile seems to be as much at home amidst their shores, as she does in England.  She seems fluent in the language, and was wondering whether she was inspired by the country, from a musical standpoint.  A lot of the jazz and blues artists of the ’50s and ’60s (and the 1940s) spent a lot of time in France, and took great inspiration from the nation, when harnessing and creating their sounds and voices.  I shall return to this point later, but for now, a little biography on the London-based Siren.  The first thing one notices about Hepburn is her looks.  She seems to be possessed of the sex appeal and allure of a rebellious screen icon of the ’40s-cum punk idol.  Strikingly and stunningly beautiful, she is fresh-faced but has a smoky elegance about her- often she appears in photos cigarette in hand.  Navigating away from the prurient- until later- Hepburn has a fascinating backstory.  Born to Scottish parents, she is a soul/rock/blues artist, whom has garnered much praise for her sharp lyrics, cross pollinated sounds, and genre-bending majesty.  Above all it is her powerful and belting voice that has won most praise, and a facet that captured me hard.  Comparisons with Janis Joplin have been levied.  It is true that Hepburn possesses measures of Joplin’s power and range.  She (Hepburn) has a voice that one can usually not earn unless they have smoked 10,000 cigarettes and drunk 400 litres of whiskey.  Her album has been out for a few months, but from listening to the tracks, one can also detect timbres of soul and blues greats such as Etta James.  A lot of U.S. wonder is steeped in Hepburn’s voice, and as powerful as her lungs are, she also has a tenderness and sensitivity that balances it out, and shows a more venerable side.  Her personal website, as well as being bejewelled in French greetings, is an informative and professional page.  Few new artists negate the need to provide information to their fans.  Hepburn’s website is a mix of mint green (or another shade; I am a man after all- green is green), and bold lettering.  There are plenty of candid photos and portraits of our déesse, and the combination of striking fan pages, and her unique sounds have clearly won a sea of fans.  Her Facebook page boasts 37,968 ‘likes (at the time of this review); whilst her Twitter account has 72,987.  As well as travels and pilgrimages to France, Hepburn has a busy 2013 on her hands, what with touring demands and promoting her album.  As much as anything that bothers me in this world (that range from Justin Bieber to the way people pronounce ‘2013’), one thing that is near the top of the list is this: why the hell have the U.K. not latched onto her wonder?  In the way that- yes I am mentioning my idol again- Jeff Buckley was embraced hardest by the French (and us Brits), whilst being largely-ignored by his native American fans, Hepburn’s appeal seems to be- for now- rotted in Europe.  The 26-year-old’s Together Alone peaked at number 2 in Switzerland, as well as hitting number 3 in France.  I have scoured in vain, sifting through Google, trying to grab some titbits from U.K. and U.S. reviews of the album: as well as her sound and previous E.P.  Alas, I was left empty-hearted and in chagrin, as it seems that the British have not clutched Hepburn to their bosom as hard as (the sage and wise) France and Europe.  This is baffling to me, as Hepburn has a voice and talent that is as much ready-made for U.S. markets as it is for the British crowds, as well as Australians (considering the likes of Gabriella Cilmi have managed to find a musical home in the U.K.).  I can guarantee that Hepburn’s magic will go under-valued for only a sojourn.  Historically blues/jazz/U..S rock voices have always been adored in Europe first, before making inroads to the U.K., U.S. and distant climbs, so our heroine should have no fear.  Her single Under, once disseminated and digested widely, will see Hepburn get her just reward.

 

When perusing the track listing from her album, one gets the sense that there is some personal dislocation, as well as rebellion and sexual tension in our heroine’s blood.  Titles such as Miss Misery and Hold Me point towards tenderness and longing, as well as anxiety and anger.  Bad Girl and Reckless have barbed wire and hard-edged punch at their core, and Love to Love You has some softer tints.  The album as a whole points to a young woman who seems very happy in her skin, but at heart has needs, desires and as much inner turmoil and resentment as the rest of us; as she channels it into a 12-track opus that is a tight summation, as well as sprawling adventure; filled with intriguing and innovative movements, memorable and variable lyrics, and at the front- under the spotlight: that voice.  Under is a song which is gaining a great deal of admirable sighs; having amassed close to 7 million views on YouTube, with well over 35,000 ‘like’s; it clearly speaks to a vast audience, and is a great accomplishment from a hungry young artist.  In the video for the song there is a little street noise and near-silence to begin, but the song itself makes its intentions known imminently; with Hepburn’s voice proclaiming: “Don’t bury me/Don’t lay me down”; delivered with ferocity and impassioned undertones.  Backing her is an elliptical and flourishing piano coda, that bristles with romanticism, as well as pop energy.  At the heart of the song is romantic strife and tension.  In a sense the tracking is a paen to the agonies of relations as well as personal fears.  Hepburn addresses an unnamed beau; stating: “Only you can send me under”.  All of the time Hepburn’s voice is etched with a racked torment, but lifted by a fevered and pugnacious power.  In the video, Hepburn appears, rosy-lipped, smoky-eyed, and anxious of countenance.  A distinctive smoked and gravelled kick mandates that forceful vocal, which suggests some edges of the likes of Pink, Gabriella Cilmi as well as the modern pop scene; yet has grander proclamations of ’60s legends such as Joplin and James: her throaty and- I’ll say it- sexy vocal prowess is equivocal to Janis Joplin.  In the track’s beat, sway and composition there are up-to-the-minute and current cores; the production is crystalline and  zambonied; lines such as “I die/Every time you walk away” are pure and undistorted; the voice is right up front, given some augmentation by the piano and percussive strum and drang.  Hepburn is a dexterous seminator of lovelorn and imploring heartache, able to project deathly metaphors and bare-boned sensitivity, within the space of a line.  Evocations of demons, turmoil and multitudinous voices saying “Nothing’s gonna be okay” have added burden to our heroine’s shoulders; yet everything has a composed control to it; no ululation or histrionics, just emotive beauty.  The sonic landscape is abiotic and parental, allowing Hepburn to tell her tale.  If one gets the sense- from the fledgling stages of the song- that our chanteuse is moribund, think again.  Lines that tell of graves, burial and struggling are not intended to be dystopian or Morrissey-esque, instead employed as a tristesse to her paramour; imploring him not to give in, let go, or leave.  Very much is there a sense that a good  thing has been created and consecrated, and seeing it degrade would see reckless and insane.  Hepburn is a writer that can mix the polysemic with literal; infuse them together in order to create maximum resonance.  In spite of some shadow-chasing she is defiant; stating as she does: “I’m still breathing”.  The song is redolent of a lot of the current crop, and contains a familiar weight and sound that will appeal to fans of pop and rock alike; yet supersedes pop’s denizens and progeny, but pistol-whipping such a momentous passion and vocal fortitude, that it will draw in fans of harder sounds, and the likes of me (whom ranks Queens of the Stone Age and Soundgarden amongst my all-time favourites), imbued as it is, with an unquenchable thirst and unslakable ambition.  Where as many contemporaries would festoon their lyrics with cloying cliché and hyperbole, Hepburn keeps feet planted, and mixes a Pink-cum-Beyonce-esque defiance, with soulful sensitivity.  Although the chorus is possibly the tuniest (sic.) and most memorable facet; steeped in Lessons to Be Learned-Cilmi and I’m Not Dead-era Pink; the verses, with all their honesty and earnestness, will dig deeper and stay with you longer.  It is difficult to say whether satisfactory resolution and peace was obtained by our heroine.  In the video, the male subject (a tattoo-laden chap), is aloof and intimidating in equal measures.  As the final moments of the video draw to a close, the ‘hero’ stalks towards Hepburn (who is in the shower), fists clenched and with malice of forethought.  It seems that, to a small degree, the man she loves wants to keep hold of, is perhaps undeserving of such consideration.  This gives you pause for second thoughts: is the song more about a young woman, scared for her safety at the hands of an abusive partner?  Maybe a mixture of the two; lyrics have a retro-ambiguity and oblique mystery, yet at their most direct moments, are crystal-clear.  Turbulence and unrest are certainty evident, and Hepburn seems to want to fight on regardless.

 

Whether you are new ears, or all-too-familiar with Alex Hepburn, there are indisputable and inalienable truths that cannot be disputed.  Her voice is her calling card and most potent blend.  It portrays a great deal of emotion and fortitude.  I mentioned that it is the type of voice that you obtain through smoking and drinking fervently, yet Hepburn has acquired this by birth right.  With its highs that suggest the likes of Janis Joplin at her prime: Cheap Thrills and Pearl regencies; mixed with some ’60s jazz and soul, it is very much an instrument belonging to a glorious bygone era, yet steeped with modern touches that will be embraced by a modern audience.  On the strength of Under, as Together Alone as a whole, Hepburn is a restless and ambitious songwriter, whom is as much at home writing about love’s fraught emotions, as she is when talking about subjects less personal.  In that way, she has a mobility and utilitarianism as a songwriter and artist; nary content to stick to one subject, but project a range of emotions/palettes.  The production and sound on Under is modern and polished, yet not too polished, that gives it a pleasing conviction.  Percussive and classical edges do not impinge on the atmosphere: they play away in the background, adding and bolstering when required; employed to create a mood, and let Hepburn’s voice speak the loudest.  Here is an artists whom will speak to a mass, that is not female-only: she will draw in a lot of male listeners, and undecided voters.  It is hard to tip-toe around or ignore her looks: she is one of the most beautiful and striking women I have seen, yet has such a voice that ‘irrelevant’ subjects take a backseat to her central talent.  Songs on Together Alone have a great deal of pop and 21st century elements, yet marry that with rock, blues and soul vibes that give the record an ambitious and variegated feel.  I hope that Hepburn is able to transcend the language barriers, international borders, and high-walled genres, and reach as many people as possible- certainly in the U.K. there is a market need and audience waiting for her.  In a year where the U.S., Australia as well as northern Europe (and Scotland) have been producing some of the best and most imaginative music, I think that Hepburn (still in her mid-20s) is going to make some headway when putting Britain back on the musical map.  With so much online love, and a seeming second-home of France determined to hear as much from Hepburn as possible, the future will be rosy indeed.  I am confident that the a lot of new attention will come her way, in light of Together Alone’s growing success, and building word-of-mouth.  Whatever 2013/14 holds: a new album; E.P. or touring, one thing is for certain:  Quite a few as-yet uninitiated will be saying….

 

C’est magnifique.

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