Feature- Black Velvet- with a twist of lemon

FEATURE:

Black Velvet- with a twist of lemon

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It is the final day of 2013, and I look back on the year; not with resolutions for the future- more of a clear message for what needs to be done.

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I will keep this short, as we all have places to be- and better things to do…

as we head into 2014.  I have never fully understood the appeal and need to celebrate the new year (and bid farewell to the one just past).  To me the new year is not a re-evolution or rebirth; more a continuation of days.  When we wake up tomorrow morning (with or without a headache), will anything really change?  In so much as we will be saying ‘2014’ instead of ‘2013’ the truth is this: we will all carry on as normal and change nothing.  This is perfectly understandable as this is what should happen, yet it has always confused me what difference it makes that we transcend from year to year.  As well, people go to lengths to make ‘new year’s resolutions’- a cliché and laborious process where one decides what they want to achieve for the year.  No one ever fulfils their list and far fewer actually bother to attempt it.  You would only ever celebrate new year if it was the dawning of possibility and fulfilment- if you knew for certain that great things would happen.  As I said, this never occurs.  We all carry on unabated, without modifying our routine, or altering things for the better.  This got me thinking, and unveiled a real problem I have found with people this year…

I shall start by getting all negative connotations and points out of the way, first.  This year has been a particularly bad one for myself, personally.  The period has seen a lack of personal fulfilment, a few occasions of near self-extinction, and a real fatigue.  The combination and culmination of clinical depression, insomnia, neurological strife and anger has worn my down.  It happens to a lot of people, I know, yet makes living a ‘normal’ life, impossible.  I started 2013 by laying out goals that I wanted to achieve and get crossed-off.  These included recording an album, setting up my own business; finding a girlfriend and finding a new flair- amongst many others.  As I look back now, I wonder why my aspirations were so high.   Life itself has gotten in the way, and the sheer lack of energy I have has suspended any musical desires, and also curtailed any chances of finding any personal satisfaction.  Home life has been a necessity, but one of the top priorities for the coming year is to find a place of my own: and to live alone, with my own space.  This year I have also made connection with some variegated music peeps.  This has brought its own drawbacks.  As touched as I have been by the positive feedback many acts give me (when reviewing their work), there have been notable exceptions.  Quite a few people I have featured keep in touch and are always supportive and appreciative.   There have been some, however, that have giving no feedback at all.  This has infuriated me, and made me less willing to want to help anyone.  Some musical ‘friends’ have received a lot of attention and help from me, yet have offered nothing in return; nothing real: just keen to take without necessary reciprocity.  One of my ideals for 2014 is to cut those people out, and become a lot more wary.  It is a sad situation to arrive at, yet it has been compounded by people being people: you have some that are wonderful and brilliant, yet most that are self-absorbed and selfish.  As I say, I will be making strides to delete (these offenders) from my conciseness (and social media pages).  I love reviewing- as well as writing my own stuff- so will continue to do so, rampantly.  Those whom have been sweethearts- I will mention them more below- will continue to receive my patronage and time; whereas those ‘better off’ will clearly not notice my absence.  As much as it has been the toughest and most depressing year of my life, I feel that I could not have done things differently.  For every moment of desolation and destruction I have not regretted it- and will not when it happened again.  The next year will probably be as tough as the one past, yet I am keen to put the black and stressful moments behind me, as try and cope as best as possible as I can with what is to come.  It may turn out dreadfully, but as I say: new year is just another series of days, nothing more, nothing less.  Being single has been one of the hardest crosses to bear, yet is something that will be a prominent feature of 2014.  I have confessed feelings for some, and have not heard back, and I have resigned myself to not repeating this pattern, as it often leads to heartache and emptiness.  Dating websites are not the solution.  From my experience, embarrassment and an odd equilibrium mandates those sites ‘charms’.  After a while, it becomes an agonising slog, and it makes you doubt your own positives and worthiness.  As you can see, it has been a tough year, and there needs to be some drastic decisions made.  In spite of all of it, I have learnt one thing: I know what I need to do in 2014.

There have been some brighter aspects of this year.  I found employment after an ageing and hellish- year, and although it is not a dream job or my distant future, it is providing me with a purpose and I have some wonderful colleagues around me.  Our company move to Epsom in a couple of months, and the office there is awash with veritable near-supermodel-like women: hey I’m single, I can but dream!  I have money coming in, and I still have the same focuses.  Moving to London is still the goal, as truth be told, I do not like Surrey.  I have always found it so, as it is just filled with people who hate London.  People moan about how overcrowded and polluted it is, and seem happy enough to live their lives stuck in the same routine.  That is fine, if that is what you want to do, but it is the worst possible life I can imagine.  London offers opportunity for the ambitious folk.  I want to record an album, set up a band; design and complete a music café/bar; find love and create a comedy series.  The positive in all of this, is that I know where I want to move to and where I want to be.  I know the people I do not want to give my time and efforts to, and this has freed me up.  I realise that I do not need to help everyone and spend time on the unworthy: simply those whom deserve it.  If I can find a way to manage my problems and illnesses better, then I may be able to find a way to record music.  I am optimistic in that sense, but realistic enough to know that it may never be possible.  I guess the biggest upside to everything is, that I have made some great connections and have some good people in my life.  I will continue to do good, and help as much as possible; and spend as much time as I can trying to help them.

The message I want to put out is this.  Look out for yourself, first and foremost.  It is great to be good to others, but too many do not appreciate it.  It is not selfish to focus on yourself, it is positive.  I am dedicating more effort to try and keep afloat, to move on and try and get to where I want to be.  There is no use in making resolutions, as no one sticks to them and they are utterly pointless.  Instead, aim for some achievable goals and be realistic.  Celebrate new year if you want to, but remember that tomorrow if another day… next year is another year… if you really want to fulfil and justify the merriment that you will experience tonight, then make a real effort to make real change: stop blowing hot air.  As from tomorrow, I am trimming people out (that I do not need); I will be carrying on, but at the very core, continuing as normal.  Balance your time between assisting and making other people’s lives better, but do not forget about yourselves in all of this.  Too many people do, and it makes things so much unhappier than they need to be.  There are ‘friends’ I have and have never met; which I want to change.  There are priorities I have not adhered to, that need to be.  In all of it, there is the most important thing: wake up tomorrow with a clear mind, and not a sore head…

Make it your only true goal for the following year.

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Single Review: Emily Kay- Now or Never

TRACK REVIEW:

Emily Kay

Now or Never

9.3/10.0

Now or Never is available from

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kxrcyl3siko

The E.P. Now or Never is available on 12 January 2014, or available as a pre-order via iTunes:

https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/now-or-never-ep/id756944254

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Ahead of the release of her E.P. (of the same name), comes an intriguing sonic slice.  Many solo artists come, and shortly fade.  Miss. Kay should have no fear, as we head into 2014…

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FOR the final time of this calendar year, I am once again casting my mind….

to the world of the solo artist.  I have spent the past year or so vicariously living through a variety of musicians.  From the band, through to U.S. solo artist, I have spewed crescendos of praise and admiration- and sometimes, hyperbole- all of the time, pitching tent on the same common ground: how difficult the music business is.  The ‘difficulty’ arises when plotting and planning your ambitions.  Whether you have three or four band colleagues watching your back or are by yourself, it is a tough and unpredictable climb.  Leaps of faith have to be taken; compromises arrived at; futurology and telepathy are enflamed lovers.  Overall, there is a labyrinth of obstacles and pitfalls to predict, negotiate and overcome.  When surveying and considering a new talent, I am always filled with a pre-requisite of admiration and respect.  As a semi-licensed songwriter myself, I have spent years (about fourteen in fact), scribbling scenes, dreams and frustrated inner visions, all the while speculating whether these words and ideas would ever reach the studio.  As it stands I am a theoretical singer/songwriter: all the words are written (and an album’s worth of material completed), yet none has been committed to tape.  I have found that the transition step between thought and reality is an oppressive one to realise.  In previous blog posts I have stated how expensive it is to record music.  It may be axiomatic, but even a simple (or uncluttered) acoustic number can cost hundred of pounds to record.  Many of my (musical) friends have completed recording E.P.s and singles, and although most were recorded at home/friends’ studios, the plain  truth is this: the cost is a pivotal demon.  Whether finances are raised through crowd-sourcing or employment, it takes a lot of time, effort and patience to acquire the necessary capital.  I have bridled when faced with the cold hard truth: realising my (wildly ambitious) songs will be a costly- and perhaps impossible- horizon.  No matter, for my personal woes, proclivities and depressions are for another day (and another blog).  Financial constraints are a big barrier for the new songwriter, but there is another- and perhaps larger- problem: the vast competition.  When reviewing new acts, most have left me a little tepid to be fair- there are a rare few that capture my attention fully.  The band market has its own idiosyncrasies and personality quirks, yet it is the solo market which throws forth the most draconian gravity.  All of the creative input, financial considerations and foresight needs to be generated and sustained by just one human.  Few are fortunate enough to acquire a manager or record label off the bat, so the infant years of one’s career can be a lonely and fickle one.  The music industry (and the media especially) gleefully toys with new talent: wrapping them in gold-threaded blankets one week; throwing them off a cliff top the next.  When codifying and solidifying plans of (musical) action, the solo artist often can implode from the stress.  I have always been impressed that the lone star gets as far as the studio- let alone makes it past E.P./album one.  Once you have pressed and distributed your music, it is not a case of sitting back and waiting for kudos.  New released have to be considered; gigs and tours planned; creative chess moves plotted.  Wheels are constantly in motion, and the mind and body are conjoined in perpetual motion.  Throw in the fact that the burgeoning market continues unabated, there is a territory- and no-less-foreboding- concern: overcrowding.  Whether you are a skilled and wonderful songwriter or a plastic pop muppet, there is always going to be dozens (or hundreds) of like-minded musicians on your back.  Whether you’re a northern soul/pop act or a European disco outfit, there is always going to be inevitable competition.  As much as I love the solo artist, I am wholly conscious of the fact that they are amongst the largest sect of musicians there is.  Too many seem to lack the heart and bite necessary to sustain appeal and plaudit, whilst too many subjugate originality and a unique voice, in favour of a homogenised bore.  As I look towards the next year, and pour wine on the embers of the past 360-odd days, I cannot help but wonder what trends will be promoted towards the solo market.  It is clear that a staunch and hearty resilience are tantamount to longevity; a unique talent and sound needs to be moulded; a vote-winning campaign is crucial.  With the likes of Justin Bieber- and I hope, Miley Cyrus- not long for the music world, perhaps 2014 will favour a mature and sophisticated sound: one where instrumentation, range and intelligence are preferred over nauseating platitudes and saccharine ineptitude.  As eyes and ears are primed towards January, it is vital that early- and lethal- shots are fired, in order for the solo star to augment their potential and claim a spot at the dinner table.  This- perhaps ineloquently- bring me to my subject…

Emily Kay is perhaps a name unfamiliar to many.  I was introduced to Kay via record label Brick London Ltd.  A couple of kind contacts I have acquired have been singing her praises; encouraging me to seek out her music and dissect her songs.  When looking into the biography and bibliography of Emily Kay, there is plenty to suggest that she will be a name synonymous to many this time next year.  The first thing one will notice is that is a mesmeric sight.  Beauty and sex appeal are an irrelevant digression when it comes to music, yet one can not help but to be spellbound by Kay’s beauty.  She is a mix of girl-next-door cuteness and raw sex appeal: there is a beguiling mix of reserved class and poster girl potential.  The current market is awash with diminutive and cutesy solo acts.  A few stunning Sirens drop jaws, yet there are fewer now than ever.  It is a minor chord I know, but when inspiring young women or older men, the look and aesthete of the solo artist can be an important factor.  Kay has a loveable and gorgeous smile, and a stylish and elegant wardrobe.  Before one investigates her words and history, you get the impression that here is a role model for the modern age- yet one that has the elegance and bewitching allure of jazz and soul legends such as Billie Holiday and Nina Simone.  Kay is a young, vibrant and hungry talent, and one whom has been making waves and impressions around the U.K.  She is based out of Birmingham, yet has enjoyed residencies in London and various venues throughout the country: bringing her unique voice and sounds to many adoring ears.  Kay’s E.P. is imminent, yet I have cast my attention to her single, Soldier.  This is a striking and mesmeric song; one which perfectly highlight’s our heroine’s golden voice, as well as displaying a mature and imaginative lyrical mind.  Soldier has been garnering a lot of praise and compliments from social media as well as YouTube.  Radio stations and music-lovers alike has been hypnotised by a rare talent.  That single (Solider) was a stand-out from her previous E.P., and is by no means a wonderful aberration.  Kay has been recording and releasing music for a while, and singles such as Hold Me Closely as well as her E.P. Emily Kay Unplugged has won favour from vast sectors, as well as acquiring patronage from stations such as M.T.V.  In many of my reviews, I have emphasised the importance of geographical location; not just in terms of providing a unique reference point, but also giving some historical basis too.  I have seen some wonderful acts from Yorkshire arise triumphantly.  From soulful pop through to electro-swing, it is a county that offers ripe bounty.  Mancunian and Liverpudlain solipsistic bands have engaged and enflamed the senses, whilst London-based solo acts have provided much thoughtfulness.  When it comes to a reconnaissance of the Midlands, there has been little to recommend.  Emily Kay is a proud Midlander, and she mixes the sounds and sights of her native ground; blending in jazz and gospel influences.  When Kay visited New York as a teenager, she become enamoured of jazz: this in turn spurred her to persue a career in music.  As well as some folk-tinged edges, one can hear influences of Billie Holiday and Angie Stone in her mandates.  Kay’s voice is a truly individualised sound, and a stunning instrument that has won her many fans.  Having performed across London- including sets at Camden Lock and Underbelly of Hoxton- she has cast her spells across the capital.  In addition, Kay has won the Unsigned Hyper award; as well as being nominated for ‘Best Female Act’ at the 2012 B.E.F.F.T.A. Awards.  With an illustrious and impressive background, and a high-resolution desire on the present, Kay is sure to evolve rapidly into next year.  As it stands she has a fair few hundred followers and fans across social media- yet not as many as she deserves.  I am confident that her ensuing E.P. will address my concerns and confusion.  I have postulated that the reason so many great acts are overlooked early on, is because of the sheer number of acts available on the market.  It is evident that Kay has received some much-deserved accolade, as well as winning over legions of support; but I feel that there is still a lot more attention required.  Kay is a singer whom focuses on the vicissitudes and vagrancies of love.  Whilst perusing the track list to her E.P., there is evidence to support this.  Amongst the five tracks of Now or Never, one gets the sense that broken hearts and broken promises have enforced the themes within.  Songs such as You Hurt Me and Missing You Like Crazy display flipsides to romantic endeavour: there is regret and blame as well as longing and loneliness.  Now or Never and I’m In Love also wear their hearts on their sleeves, and are stocked with panaceas for mediocrity.  There is imagination and intrigue within each song, and colour and light burst through each note.  Even within tales of sadness and disarray, there is a redemptive spirit: one that would make the likes of Holiday and Stone proud.  Previous songs and releases have proven what a bold and ambitious talent Kay is, and Now or Never continues this consistency.  The next month will see a whole host of new acts vying for attention and fans.  Whilst the solo market can be seen as a packed and competitive arena, Kay should have no fear or trepidations.  Her singular voice will set her aside from her peers.  This, tied to lyrics and sonic layers that are filled with nuance, completes an intoxicating parabond- there is never a sense of anything other than fascination and mystery.  Directness and honesty also come to the fore, and it is clear that our heroine has honed her songs and spent a great deal of consideration ensuring that the maximum emotional resonance is evident throughout.  All of my honeyed words may seem like lip service or empty praise: you only have to hear Kay’s music to know this is not the case.  Now or Never is but a few weeks away, and I would implore everyone to investigate the annals and treasure chest Kay has already produced- before tackling her latest tracks.  Once this has been done, one will get a much greater sense of where Kay is coming from, as well as enhance the overall listening experience.  Now or Never features a selection box of romantic assortment; filled with rich centres and complex flavours.  The title track and lead-off single is a perfect assessment of this metaphor: it is a track that lays out Kay’s intentions and emotions within its chords and words.  Kay has ensured that she says as much as is necessary in order to bring the best out of her E.P.  Whilst most musicians may plump for a three-track E.P., Kay has given consideration to range and fullness: fewer blanks and spaces need to be filled in by the listener.  Of course throughout everything it is the central voice of our heroine that says the most.  The title track is possibly the clearest demonstration of her vocal prowess.  Sit back; relax; press play, and let it wash over you.

The opening few seconds of Now or Never allows a transitory musical moment, before Kay’s rich vocal swoons into view.   At first a wordless coo is elicited, before a romantic plea is enunciated: “So, will you come away with me?”.  Within the space of this brief sentiment, Kay manages to unfurl a true sense of conviction and emotion.  The first thing one notices is the voice itself.  There is perhaps a little of early-career Macy Gray- without the divisiveness or same degree of gravel- and the sweeter edges of Billie Holiday.  In a sense, the voice has a child-like insouciance, coupled with a weighty gravitas.  Kay loves her sweetheart “crazily“; her innermost confessions are backed by a breezy and sensual soundtrack.  In the video for the song, our heroine is bedecked in style.  Her clothing is fashionable and striking; Kay is the antidote the immature over-sexualisation of many young female (and male) stars.  Her music is doing the talking, and there is no need for flashing of the flesh.  Kay conveys dignity and panache enough, and circumvents any preconceptions one would have, when they approach the video.  As the song concerns longing and remembrance, it is perhaps appropriate that there is an semblance of demure.  Backed by a drum beat that is metronomic and punchy, Kay lets her voice pout, pop and slink as she recounts experiences past, as well as home truths (“I know you love me/And I love you“).  Within the initial third of the song, the listener gets a clear sense of things.  We can detect the influence of the strong female role models such as Aretha Franklin and Nina Simone, with a touch of the (perhaps more promiscuous and controversial) ones such as Billie Holiday and Amy Winehouse.  There is the mannerism and restraint of Holiday, as well as the power of Winehouse to be heard.  The vocal sound is a modernised and fresh variation and regeneration of those (idols), but has the uniqueness and distinct personality that is Kay’s alone.  One can also tells that there is fondness and a sense of uplift within the initial lines.  Negativity and recrimination are not at the forefront, as Kay sets out her thesis.  As we head to the chorus, our heroine asks questions of her beau; searching and probing as she lays her heart out.  There is a sense of daring and deadline.  Kay has a sense of ardent longing, as well as coquettish glee to her words and voice, and as the infectious chorus is unveiled, a smile is plastered on her face (as the video demonstrates).  Perhaps the wordless interjections that accompany the coda of “It’s now or never” are a touch extraneous, yet in a way they add sway and ballast to the sentiments being offered forth.  The video helps to accompany and emphasise the necessity of the words.  When the words “It’s now or never” are repeated and spun with perpetual longing, Kay points her finger to a table.  There is a look on her face that suggests she means business, and wants her lover to step up and shape up.  As Kay prepare another verse, a great sense of understanding has been implanted in our minds, and it is clear what the themes and cores of the song are.  As we settle back down, our heroine recalls some fond- if perhaps sexually-charged and evocative- visions: “If the phone rings/We act like we’re not home“.  As elegant and tony as our subject is, she has a sexual and passionate side- there is never a sense of a reserved lover waiting in the shadows.  Kay continues her survey of glorious memories; recalling impassioned clinches and dimly-lit bedroom scenes.  The listener is taking inside (not too graphically, mind) into an intense and concupiscent stage, where two lovers are letting their tongues and desires do the talking.  In that sense, there is as much as a relation to the modern-day soul and pop core, as there is to the more sensualised cuts from the likes of Franklin, Holiday and (Angie) Stone.  The sweat and decibel levels increase as Kay elongates her amorous recollections.  Her lover and she clearly have a unique simpatico.  Within the ecstasy (“We’re going nowhere“), the pair have a mutual longing and affection, which Kay channels through her voice.  As the chorus swings with braggadocio glee, the listener is afforded opportunity to reflect and piece more of the tale together.  As well as the sound of her voice and vocal style, there are stylistic comparisons one can levy towards Now or Never.  A hint of cross pollination and amalgamation from Macy Gray’s On How Life Is-cum-Songs for Distingué Lovers Billie Holiday.  After the sexual exsanguination has abated, Kay reminisces about gilded travelogues, where she took long walks in the park with her sweetheart.  Sun-drenched scenes and holiday memories are recounted:  “On the beach/catching rays/Sipping sweet wine“.  Clearly a vast amount of precious and treasured memories are locked within Kay’s mind, and the clear smile remains on her face (as you can tell, once more, from the video).  Towards the final third of the song, the mood becomes more fractured and sombre.  Kay explains that (if her lover) stays, then she will have to go, “‘Cause my heart/Can take no more“.  In spite of the regret and near-disconsolateness, our heroine still projects power, dignity and panache through her voice.  There is no drop in tempo or emotional resonance: the constant force and engagement that Kay projects does not drag the listener into a storm of sorrow; instead simply state a plain truth.  Knowing what we have just learnt, the reintroduction of the chorus carries a different weight.  Whereas before there was romance, happiness and longing defining “It’s now or never“, it seems that a slightly dislocated and discontent sigh has crept in.  The song ends with questions hanging in the air.  It is unsure if Kay is united once more with her love, or whether the bond is broken beyond repair.  Such is the intrigue and structure of the song, that one has a cliff-hanger left.  It is obvious that the two were in love and has some wonderful times; but there may be no way back for the two.  Within the indigo masquerades and moonlit seductiveness, Kay unleashed romantic firepower and incredible sexiness through her voice and words.  One cannot help but be cast asunder and drawn into her world; her tales and her passion.  There is a glimmering of Erykah Badu in the way that our heroine bears her soul so honestly.  Kay’s single Soldier (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DxZwC7zQVAo) was a more slowed-down, stripped-back and introspective gem; one that crackled with vintage touches (the black-and-white video and crackling on the record) and tender affection.  In that song, her sweetheart was her soldier; brave and noble.  That track has a more conclusive and satisfactory resolution, and was one side to Kay’s emotional coin.  Whether the same man is the centrifuge and subject of Now or Never is unclear, yet it seems like a continuation of the saga.  Kay- over the course of those two tracks- shows her versatility and dexterity as a songwriter, singer and Siren.  Soldier was a swaying and gorgeous paen to a staunch ally; whereas Now or Never has an ambiguous charm and multidirectional lustre.  After repeated plays of Now or Never, I cannot help but be won over and in awe of Kay.  She is clearly a sophisticated and strong woman, but one whom has a tender and sexually-charged side.  She is captivating to watch, and is a stunning and striking human, but one whose voice is the synonymous gem in the chest.  It may not strike you instantly or fully; yet given enough time and consideration it will seep into your veins and swim freely.  I have made comparisons between Kay and other singers; yet it is remiss if I were to see her as a supplementary singer.  She embodies her heroines and heroes; incorporates some of their timbre, majesty and style, but does so as a means of keeping their legacy aflame.  At its epicentre, Now or Never is a lovable and evolved beast of Kay’s own making.  She sparsely sources her words, managing to convey the maximum evocation and force with as few syllables as possible.  Her phrasing, articulation and delivery is individualised, and this, parabond with a bare-naked but potent musical backing kicks up a plentiful and heady brew.

After sitting back and considering Now or Never and Kay as a whole, it is obvious that the next year will be productive, indeed.  I am not sure what styles and sounds are going to be favoured, but I am confident that intelligent, gripping and stunning solo artists will have a place, high up the pecking order.  Kay’s voice may not appeal to everyone, and it may take a few listens to truly appreciate her sound and music; yet it is well worth repeated listens.  There are too many bland and pointless singers on the scene, whom assume that anyone will listen to their music, just for the hell of it.  They seem to labour under the impression that there is an ear for anything they write.  I- as well as countless others- are sick of the lack of ambition, quality and consideration that new artists provide.  If you want to involve yourself in music, then at least have something to say that is worth attention.  Kay is an artist that has the power and determination to succeed and flourish.  The following year will see its predictable flood of candidates- some of whom will be truly worthy of merit; most will not.  The nature of success and patronage is built around a pre-requisite of quality control and personality.  Kay has an engaging appeal and a backstory that is worthy of closer inspection.  I have been affiliated with, and attached to her music, for only a few weeks, yet have done some serious listening and investigation.  Soldier is, and was, a bold statement and perfect distillation of what our heroine is capable of- as well as hinting at what future songs will contain.  Her previous E.P. gained plenty of praise, yet was deserving of more.  Now that more ears and eyes are aware of her music, it is probable that Now or Never will make up for that.  The self-titled single is a great start, and the remainder of the E.P. is chocked full with emotion, romance and vivid imagery.  Truly pioneering artists are those whom not only can win you over with their music, yet inspire fellow songwriters.  I have found much to recommend from the chords and lyrics of Now or Never.  There are musical flourishes and lines that have captured my ear and invigorated me to spin some multi-coloured webs.  Vocal tones and atmospheric touches have caused rejuvenation, and as a consequence, some of my songs have been bolstered and galvanised.  In spite of my words and proclamations, the true test will come down to one thing: the public vote.  As fickle as music journalism is, it is nothing when compared with that- as well as lack of foresight and appreciation- of the public.  Too many have too little knowledge of what came before, and what constitutes great music.  There are children and young adults whom naively subjugate music because it was ‘before their time’; genres and legends collect dust because they are not being shoved directly down their throats.  It is a sad sign of an appalling generation, and a disturbing hint at what the world will become in (short) years to come.  The ‘digital age’ has taken away people’s imaginations, and there is still a strong desire for ‘newness’- fewer older bands are being retained and gaining new fans.  Kay is a talent whom has a fond appreciation and fascination of past masters and mistresses, and soul and jazz greats can be detected in her music.  The ’50s, ’60s and ’70s legends deserve perennial reappraisal and tribute, and the best way to do this- as well as playing their music- is to incorporate their D.N.A. and blood into fresh and vibrant modern sounds.  Anyway, I shall curtail my rant, and leave you with a final thought.  It is crucial and mandatory that there is less derision and imperiousness from the so-called ‘music-lover’.  The only way that great new acts get just-rewards; and past masters are kept within people’s hearts is by being bolder and more patient.  Too many acts and acts are buried and past over because of short-attention spans on behalf of the listener.  If you dig deeper and give music time to grow, then the inherent benefits will be revealed.  Kay is an artist whom may not have been familiar to many, and she may have a sound that seems ‘unusual’ to many.  If you are determined to force yourself to have a ‘new year’s resolution’, then bravery and boldness should be that.  In life, that can begin with taking risks and pushing yourself out of the comfort zone.  When extended to music, that can lead to new discoveries and broadened horizons.  When that has occurred, it means that endorphin ripples happen.  You begin to notice music that you may have not considered before.  This leads to a more variegated music collection.  From there, you expand your mind and maybe, perhaps, pick up pen and paper and start to write yourself.  From there, well… who knows.  The genesis and seed is planted when you take that first step.  This means beholding artists and songs that have been foreign or undiscovered up until now.  As far as first steps go…

EMILY Kay is a sure-footed and safe one to take.

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Follow Emily Kay:

Twitter:

https://twitter.com/msemilykay

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/msemilykay

ReverbNation:

http://www.reverbnation.com/msemilykay

YouTube:

http://www.youtube.com/user/MsEmilykay1?feature=watch

Feature: Music of 2014: Something for Everyone.

 

FEATURE:

 

 

Music of 2014: Something for Everyone.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I have reflected on 2014 and where new music may head; it seems there is an option for all kinds of music-lover.  I focus on a few acts that could be making waves come next year.

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THE last few months have provided me with a lot to think about…

 

With regards to new music.  As I type- and as we speak- I am sitting in my cold-ridden state, thinking back at what I have witnessed this year.  I have been unanimously impressed by the integrity and ambition of all of the new musicians I have reviewed; their goals and sights have been set firmly on greener grass- I hope that it pays off for all concerned.  When looking at the wider sphere- the mainstream for instance- I have been a little less impressed.  Those new acts that are lofted atop a plinth and idolised, have not resonated with me: the media have a habit of acting as a centrifuge to these acts; propelling them in undeserved and fickle gravity.  The reason I have been more impressed with the merits of ‘underground’ new music it is this: they do not have the expectation and weight of the media on their shoulders.  Whether my attentions have been drawn to Bradford or Edinburgh; London or Surrey, I have always found much to recommend.  Many of my musical friends are preparing their calendars for 2014.  Between them, there are E.P. releases; album plans; illustrious gigs afoot; new ventures and steps are being plotted- much to be excited about.  It is always an extremely difficult transition to bridge between aspiration and reality.  A great deal of time and effort needs to be concerted; finances and sufficient funding is paramount, and there are a great deal of stages and peaks one must negotiate before any sounds are committed to tape.  Each time I have reviewed and summated a new act, I always take into consideration the fortitude required to get where they have- before I have even assessed the quality of their music.  It is even more comforting to me when the music I am faced with is of the highest quality.  Few acts manage to get the quality as high as is desired, yet most of the bands and artists I have reviewed have really worked hard to get their songs just right.  As the final musical moments of 2013 have been presented and considered, I am looking into the new year and wondering what is coming next.

 

When looking around for musical inspiration and directionality, there is a little of something for anyone.  If you want the sound of San Francisco streets, via some imperious beats then Huntermoore may provide some food for thought (https://soundcloud.com/huntermoore).  There is memorability and effectiveness in their mandates, and they manage to fuse edge and melody to create a invigorating blend.  I have been alerted to the presence of death metal band Bloodbath as well.  In spite of the fact that they are on a hiatus at the moment, they have rekindled in my a desire for something a bit more primal.  Perhaps their inflammable tongues and savage strut is not for everyone, yet again there is melody and intelligence in their music.  It will be interesting to see if the Swedes will be producing any new music next year; there is certainly room in the market.  From Leeds, Andy Doonan is a possible name to watch.  If you catch the video for Sky on Fire (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kn50Qt8wGYg) the handsome hero has a voice that is rich and encapsulating.  It is going to be interesting to see what is contained within his Sky on Fire E.P.  His voice is original and strong, and his music is filled with tenderness and romanticism.  Hailing from Leeds, musical neighbours City of Lights (https://www.facebook.com/cityoflightsmusic) have big plans for next year as well.  Their music is anthemic as well as ubiquitous and will make a big impact in 2014- a year that will be synonymous with diversity and change.  Completing the trifecta of northern beauties is the stunning Jen Armstrong.  She has a modern and enlivened voice that has scored tales of love, life and tribulation.  From surveying her work on YouTube (http://www.youtube.com/user/JenArmstrongMusic?feature=watch), she comes across as very humble and ambitious.  Her music and voice blends together in a symphonic harmony, and she has a very modern sound.  In spite of the fact that she has- until now- mostly recorded cover versions, there is enough to suggest that her own work will be impressive and mesmeric.  Just from those few names, one can see that there is a range of genres, artists and sounds on offer: whether you like your music raw and carnivorous or soft and soothing, there is much to see.

 

In my recent reviews, I have featured a few names that are likely to be making huge imprints in 2014.  Issimo (https://www.facebook.com/issimomusic) are a band that I have reviewed and evaluated quite a bit recently, and with good reason.  The pairing of Abi Uttley and Marc Otway has caused me to smile a lot.  Their voices blend superbly, and their individual talents add a lot to their music.  Marc is a multi-instrumentalist and striking songwriter, whilst Abi is an alluring heroine with a terrific voice.  The duo have offered up a selection of covers and original songs, and have given me a lot to salivate over.  I am keen to see if an E.P. or album will be in the offering.  I would imagine that whatever is in their minds, will be spectacular indeed.  They are a pairing that have a knack of being able to transcend any genre and style, and making it very much their own.  The following year will be prosperous and bounteous, indeed.  In terms of solo offerings, I have also had a lot to be excited about.  Chess is about to launch her E.P. very shortly, and I am one of the lucky ones who has heard it in its entirety.  You can follow her progress via Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/chessofficial); but it is clear that big things await our heroine.  Her single Vanity is going to be forthcoming and it is a song that is memorable and bold.  Having loved her work in Babygirl, her new E.P. Tuxedo continues the momentum, but offers some edge and punch to the pot.  In the same manner that Michael Jackson offered romance, longing, hopefulness and a little self-doubt during Bad; then evolved to hard-edged and impactful punch on the follow-up Dangerous, Chess is providing to be equally intuitive and progressive.  Surrey-based Elena Ramona has her own ambition and sounds imminent.  Her E.P. Hold On will be the survey and soundtrack of a young woman with a huge desire and hunger.  Her previous single Rise has garnered airplay, adulation and respect from many quarters, and follow-up Ok is gathering plaudits and excitement.  It seems that the E.P. will be a tantalising offering, and will be the start of a busy year for Elena.  In addition to her debut disc, the young star will be looking towards London and destinations far when it comes to performing.  I know that she is keen to get her music heard far and wide, and has been surprised and bowled over by the attention it has already received.  Keep an eye on her portfolio (https://www.facebook.com/pages/Elena-Ramona/323928237668916) and see what is in store for her over the next year.  Another group that are sure for some sure-fire success are Universal Thee.  The Scottish wonders (https://www.facebook.com/universalthee) are showing new acts how it is done.  Recent songs have gone to show how much ambition and focus is at work in their camp.  They mix the quality and sensations of Pixies, and provide modern-day updates of the U.S. legends codas.  Tied to this, they have an original flair and drive that will see them being adored and adorned on the walls of music fans within the U.K.- as well as the U.S. and Europe.  Their sound has the potential to see them as one of the big names to watch in 2014.  I know that the gang are preparing to launch more new music, and it will be a joy to see just how far they can go.

 

I have provided some insight into the worlds of some unique and diverse bands and solo acts.  There is pop, rock, punk, grunge, death metal and soul; there are layers of intrigue, romance and forces of nature.  My overall point is there is a lot to find if you look hard enough.  New music is going to be a specimen that will come under great scrutiny in 2014.  Each of my musical friends will be heading in different directions, with differing plans.  I am wholly confident that each will be sitting atop a loaded treasure chest this time next year.  I have been disappointed with what the mainstream has offered up this year.  Aside from some obvious triumphs and notable albums, the output that has been proffered forth has been somewhat underwhelming.  This lack of quality has lead my to derisively finger-wag at the musician: wonder what the hell has been going on in their head.  I know it is a difficult and cruel industry, yet there is enough scope and wiggle-room to produce something memorable.  I feel that too few bold statements have been made; the acts have not really tried to scale heights as heady as one would hope.  When I look towards the new musicians making their first tentative steps, it provides me with enough ammunition to reappropriate my pessimism.  If we are to purge and overthrow the bland vermin of reality show dirges and tiresome plastic pop idols, then it is these acts that we need to encourage.  The ambition and momentum that I have witnesses from the new, young starlets has provided me with the push required to create my own music.  I have been pushing myself to be a bolder and more confident songwriter.  Artists such as Nightwolf (https://www.facebook.com/nightwolfuk) have shown what results can be produced when splicing and co-mingling genres and sounds.  Within the templates and playlets Ryan Wilcox has offered up, there is nuance and complexity: both of which has encouraged me to incorporate this sense of boldness into my own sounds.  We have a few more days to go in 2013, yet it is clear that the following year will be more exciting and merit-worthy than the one we have just encountered.  It really needs to be too, as I have long-feared that music is de-evolving and collapsing upon itself.  If the quantity of new acts is to burgeon with unabated abandon, then the quality needs to be of the highest order.  I have seen too many acts buried under the wave of pressure that comes with the territory.

 

I am excited myself to see what I can do with my own music, in no small part down to the inspiration that new music is offering up.  It is worth being introspective and self-examining, and asking yourselves what you desire and crave in terms of new music.  Whether it is currently being provided, or whether you are being left unsatisfied, the point is this: there may be redemption and re-evaluation.  Of course there is going to be a lot of sub-par meandering, yet amongst this there is going to be revelation and succinct focus.  I am publishing one more blog before the year is done, yet I hope that each and everyone that reads this will be looking forward to what is to come in 2014.  I am keen for everyone to surmise and evaluate your own musical experiences of this year, and consider whether you have been excited or left cold by what you have heard.  I feel that the secret to fulfilment is to seek diversity and difference.  I have provided some alternate views and directions one can take, and whatever your personal tastes are, it is boldness and bravery that is required- if you get out of your comfort zones, then you will find much to love and inspire.  Take care during the Christmas period, and relax.  If you are a musician or merely a music-lover then look forward to a year that will be busy and bustling indeed.  I am wishing the best to my musical friends, all of whom are preparing to unleash their own sounds and sights.  Follow them as they navigate the stormy and fickle waters, and wish them all the best, as they deserve the support and backing.  We shall meet in these pages very soon; talk and evaluate music of all kinds before you know it.  For now, however we should keep warm and avoid the weather; give ourselves time to reflect and plan, but above all…

 

Look forward at what is to come.

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Feature: Singers- The Voices Behind The Words.

FEATURE:

 

 

SINGERS:

 

 

The Voices Behind The Words.

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WHEN it comes to music, I am focused primarily, and passionately, on the nature…

of the voice.  It is a bit of an obsession for me, as I feel that the voice is at the forefront of all music.  In terms of my own plotting, I structure everything around the vocal performance.  Words and lines are sculpted, shortened and re-written to accommodate a particular frame of mind and desire.  When I look at the current scene, it seems that there is a great emphasis on ‘the voice’.  If you disregard the horror and hatefulness of so-called ‘talent shows’, you can find examples of some great voices.  Under-the-radar artists such as Sam Smith have been tipped for big things in 2014.  Current market leaders such as James Blake as getting just-rewards: his ethos and appeal is largely centred around his vocal prowess.  Elsewhere, there are a few solo artists that are projecting a vocal tone that is very much their own.  Whether it is effective or potent or merely promising, it is vital to possess your own appeal.  There is still an over-reliance for acts- especially new ones- to copycat and replicate an established star.  It seems that every new band that has an Indie or rock feel has an essence of Alex Turner.  A large amount of female solo artists mimic Rhianna or Mariah Carey.  It is due to the poison of talent shows that this is being seen as acceptable.  Those programmes actively encourage their participants to sound like a recognisable star.  The sense of individuality and originality are left at the door, and a real problem is created: we have clones of clones of clones.  We do not need another Mariah Carey or Rhianna- we don’t need the originals to be honest.  Outside of this realm, a great deal of new acts are guilty of this indiscretion.  It is probably the solo artists that are most culpable, and I have heard multiple examples of a fresh artist desperately lacking any identity.  It is not a coincidence that the great albums and songs are made by those with an original voice.  The artists whom seem determined to be a third rate wannabe are eventually buried. It may be the case that being truly unique is difficult- as so many different vocal styles and sounds have already been presented.  You only have to look on my blog pages to find plenty of evidence to the contrary.  The likes of Issimo are particularly inspiring, as both Marc (Otway) and Abi (Uttley) have distinct voices.  You can hear their native accents coming to the fore, and they infuse their songs with personality and distinction.  I have featured many artists from the Cuckoo label, from Cissie Redgwick through to Little Violet.  In these examples we find not only an ambitious and oft unheard-of musical template, but very strong and original vocals being emanated forth.  This all bring me to my main point and thesis for today.  I have been looking back at the past year and shrugging somewhat.  There have been some great artists and albums coming forth, yet there is still a certain spark missing.  I have found that bands generally will be okay, as they have their own market and potential.  The members can support one another, and even if the overall sound (or voice) is not unique, they tend to still be quite profitable.  The life of the solo artist is a little more fraught.  It is one of the largest expanding markets and subsequently the most fickle and precarious.  A lot of times the potential for sonic evocation and projection is limited (as one person is creating the sounds); so it is harder to capture attention and keep it focused.  Of course talent shows are partly to blame, but I feel that there is still myopia prevalent on the scene.  Those whom are original and have a stunning songbook usually come out on top; yet too many artists enter the scene and look for a voice to emulate.  Vicarious ‘success’ is an ignoble and fraudulent way to carve out a career, yet there is a lesson in there.  You don’t need to be completely out there and distinguishable to be considered a unique artist.  Employing a supplemental from column A, and infusing it with a hint of column B can often be an effective measure.  So long as the overall voice is not glaringly plagiarised, then it is quite prudent to employ some of your musical heroes’ essence.  Whether there is fear or a lack of understanding I don’t know, but the point is this: too few of the all-time greats are being aimed for.  A lot of male and female solo artists tend to concentrate on the last few years of music, when seeking for a voice to try and match.  There is an overall naivety and shocking lack of understanding for what has come before, but few are aware of the past masters.  Few  have knowledge of Nina Simone, Prince, Neil Young and other artists; disturbingly claiming that there are “before my time”.  The Battle of Hastings was before my time, but I know about it because I have a brain and can read.  Unless you are deaf or monumentally stupid, there is no reason not to know about artists such as this: as well as blues greats and jazz legends.  I think this lack of appreciation is stifling potential, and it is a crying shame.

I have thought long and hard about the singers that inspire me most.  I have trained my voice to incorporate a slight flavour of each of them: it expands ambitions and makes your overall tones more flexible and diverse.  For music to develop and evolve, and for voices to encapsulate and inspire, there needs to be a greater understanding and knowledge of the greats that have brought us this far.  You don’t have to rip singers off or obsessively listen to them.  Delving into the annals of the past not only broadens your musical mind, but also gives fresh avenues of discovery.  If you stumble upon a terrific voice and artist then it primes your logic to become focused.  It is because of the fact that I listen to so many different types of voices, that I have been able to write a lot of songs; to pen so many different lyrics; and become hugely ambitious when it comes to my own voice.  The voice is one of the most sensual and powerful tools at your disposal.  It is the gateway to every thought, dream, interaction and conversation, and in musical terms it is the most vital component of your arsenal.  I feel it is important to narrow attentions and craft a concentrated and distinct voice, yet there is something primal and exhilarating to see what you can achieve with your own voice.  There is a stigma and fear when it comes to being ‘unusual’ in this sense.  If you are a woman, why not want to sound like Tom Waits, Howling Wolf or Bob Dylan.  It may be physically impossible for some, yet if you are able to achieve this (as well as keep your own tones in place) imagine what you can achieve.  As well as potentially freaking people out, you offer yourself greater potential as a songwriter and artist.  If you are a man, what is wrong with wanting to employ a bit of Kate Bush or soprano oeuvres?  It may be seen as unusual, but who the fuck cares?  Too many people are too concerned with being ‘acceptable’ or ‘traditional’ that they do themselves a disservice.  In thinking of my vocal heroes, each one is distinct and hugely ambitious in their own way.  All of the aforementioned have a unique potency and instrument that has not only enlivened millions of minds, yet tend to find themselves unmatched.  Many have tried to replicate some of the artists, yet in terms of one or two of my examples, no real effort has been made to to to match them.  This baffles me somewhat.  If a voice is planet-straddling and beyond belief, then why just listen to it and assume you cannot equal it?  If you try and fail then fair enough, but most don’t.  As I say, you do not copy the voice pound-for-pound, but follow its example.  Anyway, I shall get on with things and explain why the following five artists have inspired me so, and why we need to find new artists that can equal their ambitious and legacies:

Freddie Mercury: The King of all Voices.

A great deal of people share my view that Freddie Mercury is the greatest voice of all.  In spite of this protestation and claim, few are compared with him or have come within accessible reach.  It is partly true that the legend may be impossible to top, yet I feel again that fear and fear of being branded a ‘copycat’ scares people off.  Mika made- as continues to make- a disastrous attempt at being Mercury-esque.  He has taken the example a bit too far.  He writes songs in the vein of Queen, yet possesses only a morsel of Freddie’s vocal power.  Adam Lambert and others have a bit of a range, yet none of the potency, emotional range and conviction of Mercury.  If there is one idol that should inspire the masses, then Freddie is just that.  It is not only his phenomenal (octave) range that staggers me, but also his emotional one.  If you listen back and hear songs such as Love of My Life, we hear the tender Freddie: pouring his heart out and laying it bare.  His agile and angelic falsetto is broken out, and you hear the man as a sensitive romantic- in this case, penning a paen to his former girlfriend.  Conversely songs such as Don’t Stop Me Now is a testament to gay sex under the influence of cocaine.  It is a song where Freddie is playful and impassioned.  As well as Freddie did tender and romantic, it is not a side of him that too many identify with.  Songs like Love of My Life and Somebody To Love are incredible songs, yet many focus on Mercury’s power and conviction.  It is this facet that overwhelms me truly.  The key to being an idol and inspiration is the conviction in which you deliver your tracks.  Whether singing about late night liaisons or fat-bottomed girls, the moustached god gave it his all.  It cannot be denied that Mercury has an unbelievable pair of lungs.  Listen to songs such as Barcelona, Who Wants To Live Forever and The Show Must Go On, and you can hear what I mean.  The latter is especially impressive, as Freddie was barely able to walk during the record; yet it remains one of the greatest vocal turns ever.  I especially adore Under Pressure, not only because Mercury blows David Bowie clean out of the water, yet runs such a gambit and range of twists and turns.  From high-register whistles, to emotional belting, it is a perfect example of what Freddie Mercury could achieve.  He recorded into his 40s, and his voice never faltered or diminished.  His tones were operatic and awe-inspiring, pin sharp and shy- there is something to admire in all of his songs.  I love Freddie because he is an (honorary) Brit whom I feel will never be equalled.  Alas, there is a lot of room and a great niche that needs filling.  Aside from Lambert and Mika, few people have tried to recapitulate or attempt anything akin to Mercury.  Instead of replicating his exact tones, it is the range and scope of his voice that should be converted.  Queen were able to write such a diverse range of songs due to their frontman’s voice.  Freddie did what he wanted and didn’t gave a damn.  He loved opera as well as music hall; he loved being playful as well as bare-chested.  It was due to this freedom and expressionism that he remains such a phenomenal vocalist.  We need someone who has a rebellion and a sense of freedom; whom can project that power and conviction, yet have such a range that they can tackle anything and make it sound mesmeric.  Mercury was- sadly- mortal and although he may never been trumped, he should influence more to at least try.  Some skirt around the shoes of Mercury, yet few dive head-first.  In an industry where people are crying out for vocal idols, ambition should run this high and far.  If you could hone your skills and create something with the force of Barcelona or Bohemian Rhapsody, then you have the potential to blow the scene away.

Key track:

The Show Must Go On:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-cn-hbYZrFY

Michael Jackson: The Prince of Pop and ubiquitous Man-child.

In recent years, Michael Jackson has been alluded to with regards to his death and the manner in which it happened.  Too much controversy and whispering has occurred, and too little focus on his music has been provided.  Jackson is in my top five because he is the singer I envy the most.  Mercury is the greatest singer ever, yet Jackson remains a huge challenge.  It is the tone and delivery of his voice that means he is practically impossible to replicate.  Just today I was revisiting his album Bad, and marvelling at the wonder of his voice.  It is not just the vocal tics and mannerisms that make Jackson so distinguished, but it is again the range and force of his voice.  Whereas Mercury has that power and gravity, Jackson conveys his brilliance differently.  Jackson is skilled in the upper ranges and has a castrato ability.  His voice was that of a choirboy and he could achieve things that no other man could.  I listened to Dirty Diana and was amazed at the nuances and fascinations contained within.  He could go from a gravel to whimper within a word; scream passionately and tenderly convey within a line.  That track shows just how good Jackson was- and is- as it shows him at full-throttle.  Just listen to the outro. where he screams “C’mon!”.  Try doing that first of all, and tell me who else could.  During the Bad era, Jackson focused a lot on romantic themes and songs.  He told of picking his girlfriend and painting the town.  As the second half of the album unfolded, the themes shifted towards anger and finger-pointing.  Leave Me Alone is self-explanatory, where as Smooth Criminal dealt with seedier and violent themes.  During the Dangerous period, Jackson focused more rigidly on anger and introspection.  It was an angrier and harder album and tracks such as Why You Wanna Trip On Me? and Who Is It? highlight that.  Mingling alongside were sweat-dripping love notes, and in the case of the album’s standout (Remember The Time) a song about remembering fonder times in a relationship.  Perhaps it is the tone of Michael’s voice that means he is beyond compare, but there is a lot that is transferable to any modern-day singer.  For a start there is still a stigma around men singing angelically.  The male falsetto has been given enough light, yet few take that further and extrapolate fonder tenderness from the art.  Like Mercury, one can try and aim for that range and diversity.  Jackson employed a gravelled tenor as well as a high-reaching falsetto to deliver his songs: conveying the maximum amount of potential.  If you leave the individualities and idiosyncrasies of Jackson’s voice to his legacy alone, there is still a lot of land to be conquered.  How many singers have tried to adopt that scope and range- in terms of octaves and emotional ground?  Again, Jackson was a mortal and not beyond comprehension.  Too many people merely are content to listen to the music, rather than try to incorporate Jackson’s lessons into their own voice.  Justin Timberlake is a flyweight example of someone whom has attempted to update Jackson’s sound.  I feel that there is great potential and reward if someone had that ambition and fortitude.  The man was a legend for his voice and song writing abilities: the two are not mutually-exclusive.  If you try and learn lessons from Jackson’s sermons, and marry them into your own cook pot, then great adore will await.

Key Track:

Dirty Diana:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F6Rd7xjrum8

Jeff Buckley: Much More Than Just ‘Hallelujah’.

Mr. Buckley may forever be associated with that one song. A lot of younger- and ignorant- listeners assume it is an original; many more assume that Alexandra Burke did it better.  The fact of the matter is this: Leonard Cohen wrote it; Buckley owns it.  If it weren’t for the majesty of Cohen’s words, which remain some of the greatest ever written, Buckley would not have been able to sing it at all.  That track shows Buckley at his transcendental best: he goes from a whisper to a desperate cry, via sexual longing and religion question.  His version and interpretation was a testament to the power of the orgasm, and there is a raw and sweaty sexuality to his delivery.  As much as his voice sends shivers down the spine, it also thrills and exhausts too.  Buckley sadly recorded only one album, but he shares two common facets with the aforementioned duo of singers: he died tragically and needlessly, and his voice was a paragon of conviction and power.  Mercury and Jackson has a raw and primal power, yet Buckley had a sweeter and more sensitive potency.  If you listen to cuts from Live At Sin-e such as Calling You and Sweet Thing, and you hear that seep through the speakers.  Buckley could hold a note that would go on forever; he could hit notes that most women would envy and could reduce grown men to quivering wrecks.  As exquisite as his falsetto was (just listen to Corpus Christi Carol); he also has a hugely powerful middle range.  Buckley’s tenor was like no other, and his lung capacity beggars belief.  If you listen to Grace‘s title track, his performance defies logic.  Most people would run out of breathe or have their vocal chords stripped clean trying to keep up with it.  Songs such as Last Goodbye and Lover, You Should’ve Come Over have power and romantic longing; Mojo Pin is a trippy dream come true.  Buckley is a singer that has had many people following in his wake.  In the sense that Mercury and Jackson have had no one really attempt to replicate the vocal notes, Buckley has had (all too) many attempt this.  Every male singer invariably is compared with Buckley, and it has always infuriated me.  Buckley was not a synonym for ‘falsetto’ or ‘sensitive’ or ‘sweet’.  No one past or present has matched his grandeur- I’m not sure anyone will.  No singer, be they Matt Corby or Patrick Watson has the same crystalline falsetto; neither has the range; neither could ever get anywhere near Buckley.  Thom Yorke is a singer in my top 10, and is there because of what he owes to Buckley.  If it weren’t for Buckley, The Bends may have sounded entirely different- and Yorke’s voice would have centred around a completely different orbit.  That is the kind of parable that inspires.  Yorke is a unique singer in his own right, yet one can trace lineage and D.N.A. to Buckley (circa 1993-4).  Instead of trying to cover Hallelujah for the 10,000th time (everyone is wasting their bloody time), focus should be paid towards Buckley’s key elements.  Sensitivity was the forefront, for sure, yet there was a lot more at play.  Buckley see-sawed his falsetto and tenor: shifting gears and notes within a line to create the most expeditious sting.  Singers like Matt Bellamy have employed some of this logic into their own voices, yet few of-the-moment singers get that point.  It is not good enough to make an attempt or simply replicating Buckley note-for-note.  Buckley’s voice is something that should be tampered with, yet his range and majesty should be aimed for.

Key Track:

Grace:

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

Chris Cornell: The Most Powerful Growl One Can Imagine.

The last of my male icons is Soundgarden’s Chris Cornell.  I love metal and grunge and admire singers like Kurt Cobain, Rob Halford, Robert Plant and Axl Rose.  Between those singers a whole wealth of raw power and manful chest-beating has been elicited.  To me Chris Cornell is impressive, not only due to his huge power, but also the nature in which he achieves it.  A lot of metal and grunge singers pull out the falsetto wail and banshee scream to achieve their honours, but Cornell favoured- and does- the lower registered scream.  I have listened to songs from Badmotorfinger and Superunknown and drooled.  Listen to the throat-shredding examples Jesus Christ Pose, New Damage and Limo Ride.  It seems to epitomise power itself, and each of those tracks stun and tack you back; forcing you to the floor in submission.  Tracks like Black Hole Sun and Drawing Flies showed what it would sound like to smoke 10,000 cigarettes and drink 1000 litres of whiskey.  Such is the gravel and husk to the vocal edge that I have envied it for years.  To attempt to equal those feats, one would need corrective surgery on their vocal chord- or else lose their voice altogether.  Cornell is a man’s man, but also a man of the people.  An intelligent and witty songwriter, he is no knuckle-dragging meathead.  His themes often deal with depression and suicide, yet he does not croak or whisper in resignation and woe-is-me histrionics.  Cornell rallies against the world and stick a middle finger up.  His defiance and masculine punch strikes his messages hard, and seems to have been overlooked by a large chunk of the market.   A lot of people tend to avoid genres such as grunge, thinking is a throwback to the early-’90s, and should as such remain there.  Others feel that metal is too violent and divisive, lest their ears bleed from listener to it.  This goes to show the largest sphere of ignorance that is prevalent.  A great number of bands within these categories do scream and spit their messages: they are reserved for the predetermined few.  Vocalists such as Chris Cornell have a passion and sensitivity to them, that many miss.  Their voices- like Rob Halford as well- have such a power and potency to them, yet also can drop you in with their vulnerability.  In idolise and include Cornell, because he is a singer that is overlooked when we consider the ‘all-time greats’.  The point I am trying to make is, that we need someone with his power to blow away the cobwebs.  It is true that is still recording, but his better- and most impressive- days may have past.  In order to introduce the joys of grunge and metal into a wider franchise, it is important that new singers keep Cornell’s legacy constant.  Every new singer seems to err towards the softer and more restrained end of the spectrum.  It is not true that heavier and more primeval enunciations should be reserved solely to the band leaders.  If a solo star were to go for the same kind of grasp and power as Cornell, then it could have impressive repercussions.  Messages such as depression and insularity should not be subjugated into the shadows and identified with a bygone era.  They are ever-present and mandatory themes that many can identify with.  Dealing with them in a redemptive and never-give-in manner could inspire not only musicians to highlight these themes, but inspire those whom deal with depression to help deal with it.  Cornell is an inspiration to the music industry in the same way Buckley was: both have their demons, yet they address them with indefatigable resilience and foresight.  In an industry where focus is diffuse and blacker themes are dumbed down, we need someone like good king Chris.

Key Track:

Black Hole Sun:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KfLs9JJ_p7M

Bjork: Iceland’s Queen of The Quirky.

There is possibly nothing more synonymous with Iceland than that of Bjork.  As much as I admire various forms of the male voice, there is none as unique and mesmeric than Bjork.  I find her sexy; I find her endlessly fascinating.  She has a charm, candour and power like no other.  It is the way she projects her songs that is the heart to her appeal.  Bjork elongates words, weaves sentences within one another and offers growls, squalls and screams into the mix.  If you listen to It’s Oh So Quiet, it is a symphony of infant innocence and vivacious jubilation.  Although the themes deal with love and passion, Bjork sings as though her face is on fire.  She infuses the song with so much glee and quirkiness, that one cannot help but smile and sigh.  It is not just the uniqueness of the delivery, but the sound of her voice.  Bjork manages to climb from a gravelly growl to a glass-breaking squeal; going from growls and wails through to appropriate whispers.  Throughout her career, Bjork has displayed this frightening ability.  Listen to Human Behaviour, Play Dead or Army of Me: one can hear that range and bipolar mood shift throughout.  Bjork is also notable for her child-like innocence and coquettishness as well.  A lot of Bjork’s music deals with strange themes, evocative imagery and surreal wonder, so it is fitting that her voice is comparably fascinating.  It is not just her native accent that enforces this ability, but Bjork’s knowledge of the essence of music.  She puts the sound and sensations at the forefront, placing importance towards aural and sonic projection.  By introducing odd time signatures, minor instruments and juxtaposition, she creates a cacophonous joy.  If one were to try to dissect and compartmentalise Bjork’s musical codas, it would take many brains and hours to do so.  Similarly, her voice is as inscrutable.  It contains ferocity and intense power, yet has a sweet and shy cuteness where necessary.  Like Jackson and Mercury, Bjork has a devastating range which enables her to pull off these feats.  In terms of female vocalists, there are none that have tried to sound like Bjork.  Perhaps it is impossible from a linguistics and logical stand-point, yet one does not need to be born in Iceland to be Bjork-esque.  Bjork writes themes of far-away lands, strange love and the physical world.  If more were to take inspiration from her songbooks and thesis, then their voices would naturally adapt.  I would love to hear a singer that has the same sort of mannerisms and quirks as Bjork’s.  There is a huge gap to be exploited, as Bjork is not only an idol for all singers, but also a fearless and pioneering singer and composer.  Too many female singers go for the sweet-natured or bluesy take, bypassing the avenues of Bjork.  Her time is not up- far from it- yet her days of Post and Debut heights has past by.  Bjork is also an idol for women, as she is not concerned with image, attention-seeking or sexual exploitation; she is a role model for musicians who adore music.  You cannot say that of too many alive today, as there is always a tendency for many to introduce personal problems or controversy into their music in some form.  Bjork has always tried to externalise these themes and regenerate them in more detached and storybook terms.  By employ striking imagery and melting them into mouth-watering sonic landscapes, here is an artist that needs some suitably-ambitious acolytes taking the mantle and sticking it up the backsides of the status quo.

Key Track:

Human Behaviour:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6ml8KDumTO0

I should give honorary mention to Nina Simone, whom I consider to be the finest soul voice there is.  Her cigarette and chocolate tones have dropped me to my knees more than once.  Her low and husky voice convey so much passion and conviction that you cannot help but listen.  Similarly Kate Bush fascinates because of her delicate and golden voice.  Bush has a voice that is beyond compare, and she should serve as an inspiration to all young woman.  There are many more such as Thom Yorke, Tom Waits, Otis Reading, Prince and Robert Plant that I can mention and investigate in full.  It is the five names you see above that have inspired me most.  I also think that they are vocal icons that have provided value lessons and give much food for thought.  Next week I shall look into my top 5 albums and how they can translate and resonate today.  My intention was that many starting out (or already established) take heed and note, and readjust their ambition barometers.  A hope it does not take a epidemic blitz of knowledge, where by the preceding core is realised after a tontine, it is just a suggestion that things take a small change; that acts integrate some of their heroes into their voices.  Of course, this already happens, yet it seems that some of the big names are being overlooked.  It is admirable that many acts aim high and push their limits as much as possible.  I dream of the day an artist as monumental as Freddie Mercury or Michael Jackson can arise- an idol for the ’00s- and instil some soothing anointment into the aching joints of music.  I know I tend to protest and moan wholeheartedly, but resolution and rectification is within reach.  As much as anything I was wondering whether anyone else had five favourite singers they feel influences them…

WHAT do you say?

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Track Review- Royal Blood: Out Of The Black.

TRACK REVIEW:

Royal Blood

Out Of The Black.

9.7/10.0

Out Of The Black is available at:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AFnsDgXH-uI

___________________________________________________________________________

These princes of Brighton have noble D.N.A. indeed.  Their heady and exhilarating raw blend serve up a tantalising sound that is hard to resist.

___________________________________________________________________________

IT may have been down to the fact that this year has been a bit inclement…

in terms of new music, or maybe something else.  There has been a malaise and disquiet that has weighed my mind down, and caused me to become somewhat introverted.  Let me qualify for you.  Over the course of 2013 I have witnessed and experienced some exciting and plaudit-worthy new musicians come through the miasmic fog of the music industry.  The colour chart of originality has been dominated by grey and beige shades, and there has not been a whole lot to by inspired by.  Over the courses and pages of my blog, I have examined and celebrated some great new acts, from the likes of Universal Thee, Issimo- as well as some fantastic solo artists.  Each time I have sat down to review a new act, I have always scrutinised them in the context of the current scene: harking back- possibly unfairly- to a ‘better age’ of music, and seeing how they shape up by comparison.  For those inoculated to my brand of high octane drooling, will attest that I have droned on about one particular (musical) decade: the 1990s.  I was a six-year-old when the decade began, yet hade indelible imprints stamped into my mind, thanks to the hypnotic and overwhelming banquet that was being offered up.  I have always felt that that decade (the ’90s) was the last example of when everything perfectly fell into line: the range and quality of genres and artists galvanised public consciousness and offered something mesmeric.  From the extraordinary- but perhaps comparatively innocent- style of dance music, we also witnessed the birth of Britpop.  Great new bands came and played; tugged at the heartstring and campaigned robustly.  The definition of ‘mainstream’ was not seen in cloudy or sybaritic terms: there was something for everyone with little filler along the way.  By the time the new millennium hooved into view, your music lover (as well as casual listener) had been enriched and cultivated by a strange and rare phenomenon:  a musical decade that provided little to loathe.  I am not an embittered and belligerent old man (although I sometimes feel so), but my point has meaning.  I am not saying that we cannot recreate any essence of what the ’90s offered- that would be incongruous.  It is likely that we will never see the sheer explosion and spectrum of quality of those years, yet that is no reason to bridle.  My concern has always been that the talent out there are not looking too firmly into the distance.  Some of the new acts local to me have been campaigning and striking hard to realise their musical dreams, yet I see a wider fatigue in the industry.  Ambition seems to have stifled somewhat, and the past eleven months have offered up some greatness- although not nearly enough.  I don’t know.  I have adored a couple of choice offering from some established acts this year (I won’t bore you with the details)- which has given me inspiration as a song writing.  When I go to delve into the capacious melting pot of new music, I am often left empty-handed.  Social media and a wider network has meant that getting music out is easier than it has ever been.  The flipside is that the sheer quantity has meant that finding quality is harder than ever.  That is my abiding point.  As the years have progressed, the market has filled and swollen: it has meant that some truly great artists have been suffocated amongst the surge.  My reticence and reservation has been firmly set over the last few months or so.  It has been solidified by the rise and unabated evolution of twee and faux music stars such as Miley Cyrus: artists such as her have stolen too many headlines and shifted focus away from the truly worthy.  Sounds and originality have mutually exclusively capitulated transversely; offering brief sparks but essentially imploding.  I can sympathise whole-heartedly with the new musician.  There are many whom want to make a genuine mark and ensure that they provide influence and leadership.  It is still the case that there are still too many acts that are here for the fun: little regard or mind is provided towards doing anything worthwhile.  If you accept that a surging population growth will distil genuine quality and consistency ever more, then the question is this: how do you detect the minority of nebulas and hope-bearers?  I have alluded to social media, yet there is a double-edged sword at work.  The benefits are only evident if you happen to be in the right place at the right time.  If you happen to share the words and work of a particular artist; in turn that is spread further and wide, then you often miss out.  Too many people are reluctant to connect with one another.  This marries to a self-absorption of many to shy away from spreading music beyond their own grasps and ears.  What we are left with is a huge potential network, that is compartmentalised and drip-fed.  The way I have detected and discovered great new music is thus: talking to real people.  It was by talking with like-minded folks that I have discovered some truly terrific new music.  Essentially everything I have reviewed over the last year has come about and originated from discussions with music-loving peers.  That has compelled me to concentrate my time to disseminating the work and wonder of (worthy) new music.  I hope that technological development and focus will find a way of funnelling great music to the collective masses, but for now it seems that you still have to search (too) hard.  Over the past few weeks I have examined some great bands from further north, such as Issimo and Universal Thee.  Southern beauties such as Lydia Baylis, Elena Ramona and Chess have excited my mind.  Great bands such as Crystal Seagulls have been doing great work, and pioneers such as Nightwolf have been enflaming the senses.  In all of my reviews I have focused on three distinct themes: location, value and originality.  It seems that the majority of my focused-upon stars have been based north of London.  The subjects for today’s review have bucked the trend.  I will explain more about our Brighton duo, whom have made strides at putting the south coast on the musical map.  Being a southern boy, I am always keen to promote any local artists, as I feel the north (as well as Scotland) have been making all the best moves (as-of-late).  When we consider value, it is important to look in terms of how memorable a band or song is; how besotted or alive you after hearing them; how long their legacy will last.  I have often highly-praised a new musician, only to become weary or disappointed upon further listens.  Originality has been a big issue for me as well.  Few whom I have had the pleasure to review have been truly original.  Most new music employs some very familiar strands.  A great deal of those I have investigated have reminded me strongly of past (or current) artists.  I feel if the three subjects are expertly dealt with and a balance is perfectly struck, then that is enough to grab your attention- and keep it for a very long time.  When it comes to my subjects, I feel that in them, this has been achieved.  I only encountered their majesty a couple of weeks ago, yet have been compelled to share their music further.  The boys are been hotly tipped for greatness over the next year, and on the evidence of Out Of The Black, they are not false prophets.

They are probably going to unfamiliar to many (if any) reading this.  I will go into more about why this is, but it is the unique nature of social media that has lead to a delay with regards to realisation.  In spite of any ignorance or lack of awareness, it seems that the music media have firmly grabbed onto the two-piece.  Paul Lester in The Guardian featured the band as one of his ones to watch.  Lester was keen to promote how potent the lads are, with just vocals, drums and strings at their disposal.  They are no replicates of Black Keys or Arctic Monkeys: there are echoes of Led Zeppelin as well as some of the gods of ’60s and ’70s music.  Lester went onto say that there are no real limits to what the band can achieve, with regards to their own sound, as well as their festival potential.  Over in The Independent, lofty adjectives has been put their way.  In their summation of the coming year, they have ranked the lads as one of their ‘Ones To Watch’.  This all arrives vicariously from BBC’s poll, and their estimation of who will be storming the music world in the coming year.  I have always found their ‘Sounds of…’ list to be somewhat variable- in terms of the quality and potential.  Over the years the likes of Jessie J. have been included amongst the ranks- who can genuinely say they feel anything but nausea when it comes to her?  However, there have been some genuinely good names on the lists, and it seems that Royal Blood are worthy include-ees.  It has been the case (recently) that stations such as XFM and Absolute Radio have been the bastions of championing guitar bands- it seems that the more mainstream stations have been remiss.  Radio One has been criticised for focusing their minds away from where it needs to be- they have been letting the ball drop as it were.  It is hoped that the new year will see a re-appropriation and rethink amongst the commercial masses.  If the likes of Radio One spin music by Royal Blood, then it will bring them to a new audience, and will go some way to raising awareness of genuinely fantastic music out in the ether.  The two-piece band may be a formula that has been tried, tested and exhausted.  I feel that the four of five-piece configuration is over-used, whereas the old adage of ‘strength in numbers’ seems less relevant when applied to our Brighton heroes.  If the likes of The White Stripes (as well as Brighton folk Blood Red Shoes) have shown, is that two can be as potent as four.  The White Stripes especially demonstrated what focus and concision can do with regards to their output.  The somewhat militaristic approach adopted by leader Jack White compounded and confounded preconceived expectations and stunned the music world in the early ’00s.  Since then there have been a range of garage and rock bands that have plumped for the two-piece structure- finding it beneficial when distilling their essence and reducing membership.  Of course a duo requires a great deal of kinship and friendship.  It seems that there is a fraternal bond between Mike Kerr and Ben Thatcher.  In our paradigm of Detroit husband-and-wife-brother-and-sister paragons, Mike is our Jack: the voice and bass are his.  The drums are Ben’s territory.  Of course it would be short-sighted to instantly compare the Brighton duo to the now-defunct Michigan pair.  There is much more of an equal foothold within the band: each makes an equal mark on surroundings.  The bearded duo as well strike you not only as men you would not mess with, by a ubiquitous duo that have a universal appeal.  They are not bound by uniformity and rigidity: casual clothing and an all-encompassing charm mandate their coda.  The two-piece are adept at instilling a sense of triumph as well as excitement into their music- as well as a raw sexuality as well.  If you are still unfamiliar or lost with regards to our subjects, then let me shed a little light.  The simpatico between the ersatz brothers seems to be a key component to their alchemy.  Each musical component extends and augments the music: listen carefully to what Thatcher does in the background in order to bolster Kerr.  Although a lot of wordplay has been exhausted towards the shores of Jack and Meg, it is also prudent to note that U.S. idols such as Pixies, Guns ‘N Roses and R.A.T.M. are also detectable- as well as home-grown idols such as Arctic Monkeys.  As much as it is important to try to link musicians to a common thread and comparable shoreline, it also quite discrediting too.  Far too many music journalist are keen to tie bands and solo artists to an existing example: determined that that is the only way they are relevant; as thought that is a panacea of self-fulfilment.   Let me think way outside of the box here.  The boys from Brighton have nuances of America and are clearly influenced by the inter-generational and inter-denominational sounds that have emanated from here, yet are very much a band of the U.K.  The boys do not want to be directly lumped in with another band as they are very much their own men.  Their music is direct and primal on the one hand; complex and multi-layered the next.  As I say, the lads have an everyman identity and look to them; they are poster boys for the 21st century music lover: those whom want to negate and dispense with image obsession, yet want to adore musicians they can relate to.  I have been hearing some fond whispers near my way (Surrey): it seems that the vibrations are travelling steady north.  In the same way as Bradford duo Issimo have been sowing their seeds to the south, Royal Blood look dead-set to be residents amongst the London scene (over 2014).  In the sense that they have a transatlantic and international sound, it would be no surprise to hear them taking to the highways of the west coast of the U.S.; the busy cities of the east coast and the charming and curious bars around Sydney and Melbourne.  In an industry where relatability and focus as cachets that are gilded and sought-after, it is only right that their hard work is rewarded.  Before I get on to the song itself, I shall talk about their social media demographic.  Over on Facebook (at the time of this review), they have 6,387 ‘Likes’; as well, they have no sense of vainglorious boasting: their page is a awash with encapsulating imagery and down-to-earth narration.  There are status updates talking of recent interviews with Steve Lamacq- as well as ones promoting a Brighton-based tattoo artist.  On Twitter they have 1,945 ‘Followers’ and have amassed a great deal of loyal support.  I am predicting the next year will see their fan army rise considerably, and it is hoped that they can lay siege to the plastic pop muppetry; raise their swords and slay the ineptitude of a large swathe of the music industry.  If any band are likely to do so, then it is Royal Blood.  Their name literally beckons imagery of variable tableaux: war, prestige, musical illuminate as well as rebellion.  You can hear the influences in their songs, but you can hear the originality and intention: they want to be around for a very, very long time.  As much as I have been excited and in awe of mainstays such as Queens of the Stone Age and The National this year, there have been some new musical expresses that have derailed my cynicism; given my food for thought, and given my a sense of hope.  As a (fellow) songwriter it is always inspiring to be inspired, and Royal Blood provide just that: Out Of The Black is a blissful representation of just how big these boys will become…

There is no room to breathe in the opening gambits of Out Of The Black.  Peppered and pulsating drum beats are thrown up front, electrifying and mood-setting.  The intro. has all the hallmarks of a classic- Back In Black, Smells Like Teen Spirit, Smoke On The Water- as it creates a heightened sense of intrigue and momentum.  There is an electronic shudder and stutter; it moulds and spars with the percussive slam and the combination is a mesmeric one.  One cannot help but be reminded of Killing In The Name by Rage Against The Machine.  There is that same fists aloft, f*** you mentality about it.  It implores you to dig deep and shout loud.  In its exploration and build-up the introduction baits and switches, it punches and retreats and has sonically-speaking is a fighter on tip-toes- bouncing and entering the ring, eyes staring straight.  Once the Ruy Lopez opening has commenced, we settled down into the song.  Initial words paint vivid imagery: “Out Of The Black/It broke your skin…”, our hero crepuscular and tempestuous.  Kerr’s voice is dark but not divisive: it contains a pleasing soothe to it, just has the right amount of menace and conviction.  When the initial parables are delivered, with words like “Every part of you” repeated- ensuring that the message is drilled into the skull and soul.  Before the 0:45 mark, we are back under the wheels of a sonic assault.  Kerr and Thatcher strut and shoulder barge.  Again the twanging gravity of the foreground sucks you in, as the drilled and hailstorm drumbeat completes the seduction.  Before you can settle in and dissect the weight of the composition, Kerr returns to the mic., spitting “You made a fool out of me!”.  Whomever the unnamed sweetheart is that has caused such derision, is being given a stern lecture.  As Kerr rebukes, slams and waxes lyrical, he talks of having his skin taken “off of my back“.  Imagery is very much at the forefront, and the evocativeness of the lyrics twinned with the rolling ball audio spikes your attention.  There are similarities one can draw to California’s R.A.T.M.: a similar vein of quality can be tied to the band’s 1992 debut.  Perturbation swings and wallows as Kerr wraps his tongue around his teeth as he mandates: “Don’t breathe when I’m talking/Because you haven’t been spoken to!”.  Evisceration and exhortation are prescient.  There are demons and anger at the surface which come to the forefront with rambunctious clarity.  I know that Arctic Monkeys are a fan of the band, and perhaps some of Alex Turner’s drawl and croon can be heard in Kerr’s enunciations.  Unlike the Sheffield boys, Royal Blood mix ’90s west coast U.S.A. with smatterings of ’80s and ’90s U.S. grunge and metal.  Our hero has a “gun for a mouth“: evident and apparent as he puts the world to rights.  Thatcher is elementary in creating a force majeure– his drumming not only strong-arms the song’s sway, but also emphasises the vocals and bass.  It is rare for a band with such a heavy (metal) heart to have talent for nuance.  Most similar bands just go for an aural torpedo: throwing as much noise into the atmosphere in the hope of winning you over with violence.  Instead, Royal Blood carefully structure the composition so that each note and line are given maximum weight- and repeated listens pay testament to that statement.  The stockpiled inner tension is restrung and swung as Kerr continues his sermonising.  At around 1:08 he steps back from the mic. again, as another musical rattlesnake is released into the streets.  This time the guitar is more frantic.  It grabs you by the throat and launches a flurry of gut punches; the percussive wingman stands by loyally, ensuring that justice is meated-out.  It is not long before vocals are back in the spotlight, as Kerr re-examines and launches his stinging attack.  The beauty of the track is that no one facet is allowed too much time to fester and stagnate.  Vocal lines are sharp and short: they retreat and allow a sonic whirlwind, before Kerr steps back up.  In this manner the track has a constant gravity as well as disjointing intoxication to it.  Just after the halfway mark, the potency and tattoos of the introduction are in your face again; resetting your emotions and preparing you for another thrill ride.  The boys intertwine and integrate electronic and percussive lines together, bolstering the overall sound and pulling your focus and brain in different directions.  In the twilight stages lyrics are repeated.  The ideas and images that struck hard in the first half are reintroduced: making sure that the message is not forgotten and that brevity is synonymous.  There is no need for wasted words and a lack of economy: Kerr’s words are direct and chiselled.  Whether the inspiration for the track lies in fiction or reality it is hard to know, yet there is clearly a lot of resentment and frustration.  As the remaining 30 seconds tick-and-tock there is a final sonic blast.  Thatcher keeps his muscular slam consistent, as Kerr’s guitar work batters and kicks- with hobnail boots.  With a closing trip, pummel and retreat the song comes to an end, and we are giving the chance to breathe (and reflect).

There is a hell of a lot to recommend about Our Of The Black.  As well as the clever wordplay of the song’s title, the lyrics are memorable and concise.  A lot of bands that pervade and trade blues and metal tend to be lacking in any intelligence or sophistication.  Their lyrics often drag their knuckles and employ profanity- assuming that their average listener wants to be enraged and assaulted.  Royal Blood employ enough conviction and anger, yet it is done so with regard to all strands of the market.  Inventive and original is their sound, and their music begs for repeated listens.  In the way that tracks off of …Like Clockwork had their instant-classics as well as slow burners; here the song has an instantaneous impact, yet reveals its true dynamic after half a dozen listens or so.  I have often criticised bands for lacking any clarity when it comes to vocals.  The kids do like to mutter, stutter and drawl, so that you can’t understand a damn word they say.  In addition under or over-production tends to force sound and guitar noise above the vocal: so that the frontman/woman is buried in the avalanche.  Here Royal Blood consider the listener.  Not only are the twin pillars of the participants passionately spliced- so that equal weight is given- but the vocals are clear and concise.  You can hear what Kerr is saying; impressive as I imagine the studio take would have been epitomised by a ferocious and hard-hitting vocal turn.  The track may not convert those whom prefer their music softer and more subtle, but it will recruit a host of undecided voters and fence-sitters.  In addition, those affiliated with metal, grunge, rock and punk will find much to recommend here.  As well as encompassing some embers of ’80s and ’90s legends such as R.A.T.M. and Pixies, there is a fresh and vibrant buzz to the music, which is contemporary and urgent.  I know, alas, I have somewhat ‘rambled’ with regards to ‘new music’.  I apologise.  Being besotted by the legacy that has gone before, I am intuitively predetermined to seek out golden progeny.  As much as I am convinced that the ’90s will never been revisited- in terms of the quality and sensations that were offered up- I am not completely resigned to pessimism.  I feel that there is just a great deal of music out there.  Of course, this can be a good thing: there is something for everyone essentially.  There are just a couple of problems when it comes to the burgeoning open-door policy.  For one thing you have to work a lot harder in order to identity and detect the best of the bunch.  In addition, social media is rife with self-obsession and the facile.  When it comes to sharing great music and promoting it to the masses, there are many kinks in the chain.  Information is surreptitiously discovered; drip-fed fragments are offered up- there is a sense that most people are not concerned with new music as much as they are themselves.  I may be coming at this from a subjective angle, but if bands like Royal Blood are to gain the market share that they richly deserve, then these ‘trends’ need to change.  Music media is quick enough to idolise and drool with saccharine regard towards any new act that can write their own lyrics: often they are cut down with a fickle disregard shortly after.  The responsibilities that new musicians are charged with is primarily to inspire and influence.  Too  much focus is paid towards retrograde and reminiscence.  If we do not take flavours and colours from the present and integrate them into our consciousness, then there is a fear that music will slowly fade away.  There has been enough on offer over the last year to suggest that the musical beaten track and highway can integrate to form an unbreakable infrastructure.  It is probably apt that some established and recognised acts are getting plaudits and certification: it is the natural order.  I am hoping that the current generation are quick and decisive when making their mark.  Royal Blood have shown that a lack of pretence, ballast to a sturdy work ethic gets you to where you need to be- in an instant.  They have been working hard for a long time, but have seen their stock rise considerably lately.  Out Of The Black is just a morsel of what they can achieve.  Black Mammoth Records have a prestigious band in their stables, and I am hoping that an E.P. or album is in the works.  It is always exciting wondering what a future E.P. or L.P. will sound like, and what will be contained within.  On the basis of the couple of tracks I have heard, I am in no doubt that it will be a triumph.  It is important that Royal Blood take their time and plot their next moves carefully.  They have the momentum and the backing of the music industry and fans alike, so a sense of expectation will be upon them.  In Mike Kerr and Ben Thatcher are two men who have the arsenal and mind-set to be as big as they want to be.  The next year will, consequently, be jam-packed for them: festivals and touring is an imminent proposition.  It is not only noteworthy that a home-grown act have put their town (as well as country) on the map, but they have created a sound and sensation that seems- strangely- foreign this year.  Whilst the likes of Arctic Monkeys and Miles Kane have provided a semblance of hard-hitting flair, there has been a shift towards the more introverted and sensitive songwriter.  Artists such as James Blake (Mercury Prize winner no less) as well as Laura Marling and The National have gained focus; as well as some tender and heartfelt solo artists.  It seems that the likes of Q.O.T.S.A and Arctic Monkeys have been in a minority.  In that respect, Royal Blood have timed it perfectly.  They are coming into an overcrowded market, but are entering with a sound that is sought-after, yet not vulgarly in vogue.  As a- for want of a better term- ‘pissed off’ writer and music-lover, I have been waiting long for a sea change; biting my lip when presenting with another soulless cretin.  Arise Royal Blood, survey the kingdom, and take the throne.  They came, they saw, and they will surely conquer, surprisingly…

SOMEWHAT out of the blue!

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Follow Royal Blood

Official site:

http://www.royalbloodband.com/

Twitter:

https://twitter.com/royalblooduk

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https://www.facebook.com/RoyalBloodUK

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https://soundcloud.com/royalbloodband

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http://www.youtube.com/royalblooduk

Vanity Mirror: The Impossible Song

FEATURE:

Vanity Mirror: The Impossible Song

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A track I have been working on for (almost) five years, I muse on the proclivities of musical ambition; as well as what has driven me to push forwards- in spite of everything.

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OVER the past few weeks I have been extolling excitedly, the virtues and ambitions…

of many of my music friends.  Just yesterday I was grinning proudly as Fran Galea (Chess) unveiled her E.P. (Tuxedo) as a pre-release.  She has been excitedly preparing for its full release (in January), and has been in the midst of recording a music video for its lead-off single, Vanity.  She is one of a few young artists I know, each of whom have their own ambitions and agendas for the coming year.  She (Chess) is a stunning talent whom has worked tirelessly to fulfil her ambitions- the forthcoming E.P. will lay testament to her three-fold talents.  In  addition to Chess, solo artists such as Second Hand Poet, Lydia Baylis and Elena Ramona have been making their marks; whilst bands Universal Thee, Crystal Seagulls and Issimo have been striking hard.  It has been playing on my mind, this thought: how will 2014 shape up for them?  The stunning girls and handsome boys, each with their own sounds and songbooks have a lot of drive and courage: it is not happenstance that they are earmarked for great things in the coming years.  I have seen their embryonic rise; each step and frustration being documented throughout social media- and have been proud of their determination.  The tapestries of determination that are woven by the young elite are equally inspiring as well as unsettling.  Most of the musicians I know are in their 20s- those in their 30s are leaping and bounding at the rate of knots.  I often query my own mind and thoughts, looking for reasons why I have not made similar movements- not even an infant totter.  I have been toying with the idea of something simple: maybe a simple- but ambitious- cover version.  How about a simple ballad or punk anthem?  Hmmm.  There are two main reasons why these answers do not provide answers.  On the one hand, I have no band.  I will go on to (try to) rectify that in the closing remarks, yet I have always gravitated toward being a band leader: part of a four or five-piece crew of blazing ideals.  The life of a solo artist has never appealed as much, because I do not believe I could ever create music that focused and concentrated.  Big sounds and big ideas have always been at the forefront of my hippocampus: that idea of putting something out that is truly mesmeric.  That leads me to my second thesis: the nature of ambition.  I have postulated in a previous post (https://musicmusingsandsuch.wordpress.com/2013/07/07/new-music-the-death-of-grand-ambition/) as to whether we will ever witness another ‘multi-part epic’ such as Bohemian Rhapsody or Stairway to Heaven- or even Paranoid Android.  Bohemian and Stairway were completed in the ’70s- even comparably-diminutive anthems such as Hotel California were from that period.  The last truly great epic was Radiohead’s Paranoid Android.  This track was the epicentre of their 1997 album OK Computer, and stunned the world back then.  In the 16 years that have followed the Oxford chaps mission statement, there have never been any- genuinely- true attempts to replicate and appropriate that track’s majesty.  Before I get to the matter at hand, my point is this: why have musicians- new or established- hesitated when it comes to penning songs as large and complex as Bohemian Rhapsody?  It has confused me greatly, and I can only assume it is down to two reasons.  I feel that people are scared in a sense; concerned that they will fall hopelessly short- or less be guilty of sticking to closely to the shadows of the aforementioned megaliths.  The other reason, I feel, why an updated version of Bohemian Rhapsody has not been attempted is that musical tastes have shifted.  The ’90s was the last decade that truly offered up diversity, transmogrification and originality.  It has been harder to carve a niche in the ensuing 20 years, simply because most styles and genres of music have been thoroughly exhausted.  The current trend errs towards simplicity and single layers- songs can be shape shifting, yet tend to have a sense of domestication about them.  This brings me to my first point…

The Current Predicament.

It is 2013 and- in terms of the mainstream artists- it has been a so-so year.  I have been stunned by the continued genius from the likes of The National and Queens of the Stone Age; barrelled over by the wrecking balls of James Blake and Arctic Monkeys- yet there has been little else to recommend.  New music has been wetting my appetites, yet I feel that there should have been better- and more- on offer.  My favourite songs of this year have predominantly been straight-laced- yet adventurous- rock (and stoner rock) parables.  Ballads and Canadian rock has also featured in my top 5, but I have been tirelessly searching for something…bigger.  I understand that the music industry is a fickle and absent-minded maiden: beckoning at will, and spitting out on a whim.  A lot of bands and solo artists tend to favour concentrated music, through fear of alienating existing fans and scaring potential customers.  Consistency and originality are tantamount to success and renewed profitability, so a lot of time it is not wise to stray too far from safety.  I think a lot of my discourse- as of late- has been aimed towards scepticism.  I have been dubious when it comes to a positive outlook: whether a band or artist could ever achieve the giddy heights of the all-time greatest songs.  I have been befuddled as much as anything but the lack of free spirit dreaming from the current crop.  It is no coincidence that many critics, fans and music-lovers feel that Bohemian Rhapsody and Stairway to Heaven are two of the best songs of all time.  It is nothing to do with the time in which they were created; the albums they were a part of; or any peripheral influence.  The reason is simple: they are songs which drag you in and blow your mind.  I feel it should be mandatory for every band or solo artist to try and aim that high.  If you do not, then how much is really left in the memory- decades on from now?  I realise that writing something as complicated and far-reaching as the classics requires a lot of effort- as well as a hell of a lot of money.  It is perhaps the time needed to write these songs that is putting most people off- whom fear that it is not a productive use of their time.  It is anger, as well as a desperate hole to fill, that has lead me to put pen to paper- not only to craft my own attempt (at a classic), but to write here.

The Background.

I guess my musical output can be compared to epistemic ambivalence.  No one can really be sure if anything has been written or recorded- or whether a whole load of white smoke has been blown.  Mimetic epidemiology has created expectation; personal restraint and mystery has caused some inner anxieties.  I can report that a solid foundation has been laid, and many words have been written.  To date I have written about 12 completed tracks, ranging from rock tracks, through to soul and metal.  I have been pleased with the ideas I have concocted: they have excited me and even the titles themselves have lit my senses.  I have an album title, a band name; photo ideas are fully formed and most of the red tape and paperwork is ready to be processed.  As confident as I am that my hard work will reap rewards, my mind and attention has been sucked by a gravitational force: one that keeps me up and fills many a dream.  I have always been determined that my very first musical impression will be a multi-part epic: something that is vast and compelling- which may not seem like a good idea.  I am fully conscience that the song would cost tens of thousands (of pounds) to complete; weeks and months will need to be earmarked, and stress levels could well push breaking point.  But these obstacles have never really seemed like deal-breakers.  I can get the money some how, whether I have to raise it through Kickstarter, or through selling my organs.  I hope to find three of four ambitious boys (or girls) to complete the band line-up; I feel that I will never bore of wanting to make the song a reality.  It began about five years ago when the idea came to me.  Originally I entitled the song Infamy As Child, and it started out life as a six verse love song.  There were choruses as well as hotspots; rising verses and swooning middles- I have been working on it ever since.  I have removed the choruses and kept quite a few of the lines from that song.  The title has changed by the end goal has not: to have a genuine stab at trying to equal the greats.  At this present stage it appears that most of the lyrics have been written; most of the music has been conceptualised, and the structure set in place.  When it comes to lyrics and ideas I am a little bit of a ‘perfectionist’- never truly satisfied until every line is as a good as I can get it.  The theme of the track has been something that appeals to me most.

The Concept.

In terms of the song itself, it is essentially a love song.  Unlike most love songs, there is a bit more of a twist in the tale.  Each verse charts the projection of a relationship.  We begins with impassioned and tender outpourings- documenting the first flourishes of a romance.  As the verses progress, the passion grows, to the point that doubts and cracks appear.  Towards the middle of the song, resentments set in, and arguments begin- with lines being exchanged between the two warring parties.  The song tells the story from the perspectives of both parties: each of the lovers has a chance to contribute and voice their side of things.  Once the song reaches its central point, the tension reaches fever pitch.  Explosions, fights, doubts and bile is exchanged.  Both of our subjects spiral and descend into bleakness.  The male protagonist hallucinates and dreams: bold and scary images sit alongside honest proclamations.  The heroine considers an affair; caught in a vortex of anxiety and sadness, her mind awash with recriminations and questions.  As the song’s central ideal is unveiled, there is a turnaround.  Fortunes change and once again the relationship starts to get back on track.  Almost as though reversing time, events start to repeat and we work backwards to the starting point.  By the end of the song the love is very much alive, as a delirious and augmented smile is procured.  In spite of a redemptive ending, there are still ambiguity and prescient questions posed.  Cliff-hangers and twists are left in the air, and the listener is left in two minds as to whether things actually worked out for the best.  As a companion and counterpoint to the storyline of the song, there are existential mysteries and conundrums put forth.  As well as being unsure as to whether the two lovers reconciled, the nature of reality is questioned.  It will not be obvious whether the song was a dream, or a hallucination.  In addition, it is not clear whether the song charts two different relationships, or whether events transpired as documented.  Inspired by my favourite all-time film Memento, the song follow’s the film’s idiosyncrasies and originalities.  I was keen to write a song that was not a straight love song, nor an impersonal epic.  I adore Bohemian Rhapsody because it is impossible to equal or replicate.  It is so individual a personality, that if you were attempt to make a song as good, you would end up plagiarising it.  Its lyrics are the blood and butter: damned if I know what they mean or what they were inspired by.  Similarly, Stairway to Heaven seems almost mythical in its oddity: again it is not certain what the song is truly about or influenced by.  Paranoid Android- the final of the Holy Trinity of epics- has its roots set towards the personal.  That track was inspired by Thom Yorke’s experiences of some unsavoury characters.  Cocaine-snorting cretins, Chanel-owning bimbos and “complete and utter fucking chaos” inspired the track: with our hero truly disgusted by some of the things he saw.  I guess it is anger and release that kick-started that track.  I was keen to write something that was perhaps more universal, yet perhaps not quite as individualised.  Love songs account for perhaps 85-90% of all of the music ever written, yet I have never heard of one that aspires to be a track like Stairway to Heaven.  I guess Layla is the closest attempt, and is another track that is considered amongst the all-time greatest songs.  Getting away from the origins of these songs, yet sharing D.N.A. and common blood was of equal importance.

The Ambition.

If anyone is reading, or if anyone has made it this far, there may be one clear-cut derision: it seems quite pretentious!  It is true that the song thinks a lot of itself, and that the concept is a little overly-ambitious, yet that is the point: there are few people out there that are trying to do anything similar.  I love a great song that says its piece simply with the maximum of focus.  Yet the market seems to be swamped by those type of tracks: this is especially true of new artists.  Whether it is financial restraint, fear or simple avoidance, the truth is this: the music world needs more songs like this.  Truly great and legendary bands contain a song like this in their cannon, from The Beatles through to The Beach Boys.  It is all well having an identity and a sense of logic, yet it is that one moment where you throw the rule books out that things get interesting.  The most interesting people have a sense of oddness about them; the greatest love stories are fractious and bipolar; the finest albums and films complex and filled with nuance.  In that similar sense, the best songs have ambition and a hungry desire.  I have been in awe of a great deal of new artists, yet feel that it may be decades- if at all- that a gigantic track comes along that confuses and scares the crap out of people.  It has been many years since the feint genetics of Vanity Mirror were put to paper.  I worked on the song today, and I will work on it tomorrow- as well as right up until the point I am in the studio.  It is because the song is so large and compartmentalised that I have been so besotted by it.  I can hear every segment in my head, and know what it will sound like when it is completed.  I realise that I will have to go to drastic lengths to raise the finance for it.  I realise and accept that a certain sense of nervousness and stage fright has compounded previous attempts to record music.  Personal depressions and anxieties have stifled my output throughout my 20s, and my focus has been somewhat diffuse as-of-late.  In spit of everything present, past- as well as future- the one shining light keeps cracking through the clouds: The Impossible Song.  It is going to take many additional musicians and many weeks to create.  It is not a song that can be completed in a few days or will leave its participants satisfied and relaxed.  This song of a bitch is a constipated monster that will test the patience and loyalties of all whom dare to take it on.  Stress and insomnia will be the mother lodes of tolerance, and the aftershocks will be long-lasting.  It seems like a far-fetched dream to me, yet something that I will not quit on.  I understand that when it is completed that many will hate it; many will be confused by it, yet the abiding fact is this: if it is completed as I hear it in my head, it will make the past 30 years of poor fortune that much more acceptable.  The idea of music is to fulfil and enrich.  For the musician, there is always an ambition to be better than anyone else; to reach as high as possible.  I have spent too long dreaming and speculating, and want to enter the scene with a bang- I feel that this song will be the best way to do it.

The Lyrics.

I will go into more depth with regards to the sound and structure of the song, yet have composed quite a few of the lyrics.  I know what each verse will relate to, and have most of the ‘rough ideas’ formed.  Below are a few of the lyrics of the song- giving a sense of the diversity and mixed emotions the song will contain:

My final words were the very same as my first

Silver nights in satin’s regard, oh how I long for you

My mother tonguie came undone to sing a farewll midnight kiss

In the disatnce between the Jasmine Chrous and the edge of the abyss

As the Angel of Battersea she’d heard every line in the book

But the cover to the rules of love is never judged upon its looks.

You asked me which came first: the chicken or the egg?

Yet I’ve been running scared long before I was ever bred

With your fingers teasing shivers I didn’t have a choice

I was born with the burden of a platinum voice

Love and faith are double-blind, their truths diving rods

When bad point to vengeful man, when good a loving God.

Intention out of pure context should be word enough

Not all the cards I hold to my chest can call the Devil’s bluff

The cat swallows the poison, the dog runs to the bell.

It’s all really just a front/To leave the past behind.

And knowing that you’re never alone

Is the lonliest thing of all

The Woman and the Dictionary’s a classic play on words

We saw it blind the minor fifths, to silence its major thirds

But it doesn’t take a cardiologists to know abandoned ships will rust

Better to fail at acting the punch-line, to succeed at acting the joke

Love songs only say it best if the best is good enough

Not all the cards that I hold to my chest will call the Devil’s bluff

I was sent a Christmas card from the city morgue

Talking of new year’s plans and enquiring about my health

I’m the murderer in the romantic comedy

The mime artist in the film of the great war

The extra in the lavish musical

The hangman in the epic story of the lord

You can laugh at my condition

If you think it makes you tall

Although my scream is never heard

My silence says it all

The third-rate joke; second-chand smoke; first-class bitch

I’ve blown them all to scratch an itch

Well you like chasing ghosts

Because they won’t come back to haunt you

I’m saying goodbye to a God that never believed in me

Because beauty shows no mercy for beauty

Infamy’s Child has found

When the fearless shall be crowned

Alone

Wilderness, broken water and silk are on your side

And I can’t bear to get over you

The kiss upon your hair lyring naked on the floor

Love is not for heroes but for those who win the war

Awake in the arms of the man of my dreams

Because tonight we have too much in common

The sun and moon switched place

The night I saw your face

We’ll pray together to think for ourselves

Hold me like your brothers-in-arms so that we relate

Lost in your eyes because I can’t go on this way

To sink the cedar witnesses and trip the tongue of fate

Eulogised the truth that lies in disguise and rhyme

I’m learning to be older in the balance of all time

When you’re a man who looks like me

It’s not such a gift to see… what you do to me

I bit your lip, cut your thigh to see doves fly the flood of your rags

Felt conquered flat by black language and frozen tall by the rip in your flag

You want the kind of love your mother used to love

A common muse for the chosen few

Alone in a room with life, death and you

And each of them are only thinking of themselves

We both know the love that we make

Will never be equal to the love that we take

Clouds hold only memories from all who’ve ever been

The woman of my dreams wakes in her sleep.

There are another dozen or so lines that I have with.  Some lascivious and sexually-charged; some tender and romantic; others cutting and witty- and there are some which are anger-filled and harsh.  The idea is to have the song be multi-part and diverse, but the lyrics need to be as memorable and wonderful as possible.  Inspired by the likes of Turner, Dylan and Cohen as well as a host of other songwriters, I wanted there to be strange scenes, epic romance and psychotropic images: all of which are as finely-crafted as possible.

The Music and Sound.

The music is going to be diverse and ever-changing.  The intro. begins as a sledgehammer riff: something akin to Smells Like Teen Spirit, Back In Black or Smoke on the Water.

The intro then stops around the 0:17.  This continues for about 8 seconds before restarting.

It then transforms into a sweeping orchestral passage.  Similar to Clair Du Lune or The Cinematic Orchestra, it rises and swells, before setting as the first verse is introduced.

During the first verse the mood is romantic, with a mix of The Cinematic Orchestra.

As the next two verses arrive, the sound is a mix of Queens of the Stone Age, Oasis as well as Led Zeppelin.

At the 3:26 mark, a guitar passage begins.  Inspired by the likes of Sweet Child O’ Mine and Stairway to Heaven, it continues : it rises and mutates, ramping up the tension.

In the middle part of the song, we begin with a spacey and trippy segment.  It is inspired by psychedelic music as well as Paranoid Android, and is filled with strange sounds and interlinking motions.

In the second half of the middle section it changes and becomes amplified.  I will explain about the vocals, but the music will contain a multitude of genres.  Acid jazz, world music, electronic, rock, and pretty much everything else you can imagine.

As that segment ends it becomes harder and more brutal.  It is more akin to Soundgarden, Guns N’ Roses and Judas Priest.  Heavy guitars and pulsating drum work comes into play, and the song- briefly- becomes a grunge and heavy metal affair.

Then comes a drum break.  There is a solo which switches between a multi-layered military march as well as a Zeppelin-esque flail.

Then the drums merge with guitar as a fierce and wailing riff begins.  Influenced by All Along The Watchtower and Sweet Child O’ Mine, the guitar passage from before picks back up, and merges with a psychedelic fury.

A soul verse takes shape next, and this means that parping and ecstatic horns come into light; tied with slinky and sexy piano and guitar duets.

The next verse is Beatle-esque so has a ’60s sounds, that is part-Abbey Road, part-Sgt. Pepper’s.

There is then a brooding and dark orchestral sway, that has elements of Massive Attack.  It is an epic and rising segment that mixes classical styles and leads into the outro…

The outro is aimed at being one of the best parts of the songs.  It is an infectious and delirious segment that mixes instruments and styles to create an intoxicating and overwhelming.  It is a passage that is brief but repeats itself about six times.  It starts up for the seventh time, but suddenly stops dead.

The music entangles within the sound.  The sound itself is intended to push every boundary possible.  Whereas Bohemian Rhapsody was the most ambitious song of its time: it pushed technology to the limit and has never been done before.  Vanity Mirror aims to do likewise, mixing old recording techniques with new; bending sound and fusing sound styles together.  This means that it overwhelms and seduces, creating a psychological effect on the listener: both exhausting and exciting.  The intention is that by the end one has to take a moment to take it all in: not quite sure of what has come before.

The Vocals.

The vocals are intended to match the music, and follow its template.

In the first verse, as it is pin sharp and tender, the vocal style will be falsetto/soprano,  trying to match the likes of Eva Cassidy and Kate Bush.  It will be a tender and cherub vocal that attempts to do justice to the lyrics.

Towards the harder following verses, the vocal style is part-Freddie Mercury part-Robert Plant.  There is backing vocal, by this ties a lower vocal range together, with blends of Roy Orbison and Antony Hegarty.

In the spacey middle section, the primary vocal line is inspired by Thom Yorke and Jeff Buckley, with a falsetto and tenor.  The secondary line mixes operatic belt as well as Tim Buckley-esque gymnastic.  The tertiary layer mixes Bjork-esque ambition, with gravelled tones such as Tom Waits and Howlin’ Wolf.

In the middle of the song there is a multi-layered vocal section.  Each line introduces a new vocal sound, and there are about 1,000 different vocals.  There are two different lines here; the first sung by 500 voices; the second likewise.  The intensity and volume builds like a choir- it hits its peak in the middle before dropping one by one.

The harder, metal verse, will have elements of Rob Halford, Axl Rose, Robert Plant and Chris Cornell; layering one another and blending together.

Soulful verse will have layers, with Prince and Michael Jackson elements, Marvin Gaye, James Brown, Otis Redding, Smokey Robinson and Jeff Buckley elements in the mix.

Towards the final elements, different vocal elements from Bjork and Hayden Thorpe sounds mixing with Lennon and McCartney.

The Point.

The point of the song is to fill a gap, as well as make a point.  It is not a show-off piece or a self-indulgent dirge, but to test a band to the limit.  There have been no attempts to replicate the ideas of Paranoid Android since 1997, and it is long-overdue that an attempt is made.  It may fail spectacularly or it may fall short, but with all the elements (almost) in place, it is almost ready to go.

The Aim.

It is hard to tell what the song will sound like, just from words alone.  It is going to take proof before the pudding can be savoured, but I am excited to go.  It is hoped that it will be the first thing I record, and will form the swansong to a future E.P.  It is also hoped that the song will appeal to potential band members; that like-minded souls will come together to challenge it- spending time and money making it happen and getting it as good as possible.  I want to push myself as much as possible as a songwriter and singer, and make each facet of the song as strong as possible.  The music itself will be the biggest force, and the overall sound will be king.  This will be played by fellow band members, and by mixing so many different segments and genres into one song, it will challenge the listener.

The Future.

The future consists of making concept a reality.  At the moment I am one man with ideas and no others.  I want to get together four other musicians to form a band.  I need two guitarists, a bass player and a drummer, to form the band (whose name I know and want to unveil).  Once that is all in place, the song will be pitched.  As I do not write music, all of it is my  head, so will need a co-conspirator to help compose the score, as well as the melody.  From there, I hope to raise the money for the track so that the song can make its way into the studio.  As I say, it is difficult to do justice through a blog post.  The full effect will not be known until the song is complete, so I am keen to make everything a reality as soon as possible. Lack of finance and confidence are the biggest drawbacks, so I want to rectify these very shortly.  I am unsure how I will find the finances, but will try everything possible.  Once I can recruit a band, it will provide a chance to rehearse and try out some simpler songs as well as cover versions but Vanity Mirror is the first song I want to have my name on.  If all the parts can come together as hoped, the idea is to try and challenge the big hitters and all-time greats: big ambition I know, but you need to go in as hard as possible to really make your mark.

The Outro.

There are fragments, self-flagellation and self-indulgence as well as over-ambition, but do you know what: that is the idea.  The song is designed as a test of what is possible as to be as ambitious and idealistic as possible.  For a long time I have watched others make their names, and restricted myself and resigned myself to merely watching.  Personal factors as well as limitations have penned me in, but in the midst of all this, has been the song itself.  It may seem like an impossible chore and something that can’t be done.  This piece was not designed as self-promotion or as a pitch, but more to highlight what can become.  I am no more talented than anyone else, but have a sense that the most ambitious and epic tracks are a thing of the past.  In a crowded and full industry, there is a niche that needs to be fulfilled.  Whether the song’s title is a self-fulfilling prophecy or an exercise in futility, I am not going to rest trying to make it happen.  If it fails, then at least I tried.  If there are roadblocks: I shall try and overcome them.  Normalising and restraint is important and something you need to as a musician.  By for one song- one fleeting moment- there needs to be a sense of reckless abandon and bold statements.  After all:

Who wants to be normal?

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Feature- Crystal Seagulls

FEATURE:

Crystal Seagulls

 

The high-flying boys whom will be making big impressions over the coming few months. 

The new E.P. by Crystal Seagulls will be available in January.

Toetapper is available through

https://soundcloud.com/crystalseagulls/toetapper

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The unsigned four-piece are ending a year that has seen them play the Isle of Wight.  It will not be long until a label snaps them up.  Based on the evidence here, it is a long time overdue.

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IT is once more back to the diatribe of today’s band market…

It has been a while since I have focused my thoughts on this subject.  It is not one I enjoy revisiting for nefarious reasons; I just find it fascinating how the market seems to evolve and mutate- within the space of a few months.  Just yesterday I featured a host of six different artists- four solo acts, and two very distinct and diverse bands.  I was amazed by the range that the solo acts contained.  From the soulful, sexiness and diversity of Chess, through to the intriguing and pulsating sounds of Nightwolf; there was a captivating anthem from Lydia Baylis and a gorgeous and devotional track from Elena Ramona.  Each of the four acts have either an E.P. or L.P. our, or in the works.  Being acts in their 20s, they are still in their infancy, yet have a hearts and heads filled with huge ambitions and plan-making.  At various times I have reviewed each of the four solo stars, and am always taken aback by how determined and strong they are, with regards to fulfilling their goals.  As a songwriter myself, I have always seem to been overcome by reality and the limitations and roadblocks that are thrown up- and how difficult it is record and write.  The solo stars have to do everything on their own (well the majority of things anyway), yet seem to always make it work.  Songs are recorded, E.P.s finished and live gigs are planned and hypothesised.  I am keen to add my support and promote them as much as possible, as the solo market is one of the most tightly-packed and competitive ones there is.  If you cast your mind to the current ‘mainstream’, there contains a mixture of established and recognisable stars- Lady Gaga, Tom Odell, Rhianna etc.- whom between them have their fans, but have a brevity of quality and guts.  There is another more ‘underground’ sector of solo artists whom have a greater degree of quality and are much more hard-hitting and bold- the likes of Tom Waits and James Blake can be labelled in this food group.  The third- and largest- sect is that of the up-and-coming newbies.  For every nauseating twee-voiced waster you hear on John Lewis adverts (inevitably butchering a well-loved track), you have a large voice that are genuinely worthy of praise and further scrutiny and attention.  It takes a lot of foresight, resolve and bravery to stay faithfully in love with your musical machinations: so many can fall at the first hurdle.  If anything the smallest percentage of legendary and memorable albums are produced by your solo artists- certainly true in the current climate.  I am not sure of the reasons, and whether this is because of the financial hardships, or the lack of collaborative creative input- it could be a number of things.  I am pretty confident that the new lone artists I have recently featured will be huge successes regardless of market forces and limitations- they have the talent to be able to carve out long-running careers.  Eyes and ears always seem to be more primed towards the band market.  In terms of the classic albums of the ’60s and ’70s, it has usually been bands whom have produced the greatest works.  This trend and track record was enforced and cemented during the 1990s, when the likes of Blur, Oasis and Supergrass were amongst a bulk of household names enlivening the music world.  Over the past 15 years or so, there has been a distinct dip in overall quality.  The heady rush of Britpop has long since subsided, and the brand new musical diversity that was fresh in the ’90s, has been recycled and misappropriated in the current day.  There is less room for mobility; fewer opportunities exist to be genuinely pioneering, and most of what can be said (that is original) has already been said.  With this in mind, I have been simultaneously depressed and excited by what I am hearing.  Within my recent feature I concentrated on two bands: Issimo and Universal Thee.  The former are a northern two-piece, containing the inter-gender splendours of Marc Otway and Abi Uttley.  Marc is a multi-instrumental composer, whom has written a large chunk of the band’s material.  His lyrics sway between tender-hearted romance, sharp insight and wit, and universal truths.  I have been impressed and pleased by his songbook, which has shown so much quality and concision.  As well as being a bold and stunning lyricist, his compositional qualities have made a huge impression.  As a vocalist, he has an engaging and authentic croon: a rich tone that is warm and well as witty.  His heroine and cohort is Abi Uttley.  She is a gorgeous and sexy front woman, and someone is as warm and friendly as she is alluring.  She is a modern-day pin-up and has won plaudits, awards and kudos as a musician.  In addition to be a skilled actress, Abi has marked herself out as an original and stunning singer and writer.  Her voice is a diverse mix of cheeky northern humour; captivating soulfulness and sex appeal; stunning power and fortitude; as well as being a versatile weapon.  The duo make a perfect match, and have produced a string of wide-ranging and memorable tracks.  Their song Things About You perfectly exemplified their majesty.  It is a cheeky and humorous two-hander, that tells tales of vanity and a mismatched romance; the two trading barbs and jokes in a soulful and swinging track.  This is a group whom are earmarked for huge things in 2014.  The second band are a Scottish group, fronted by husband and wife team James and Lisa Russell.  The banner of Universal Thee have been stamping modern anthems for a while now, and have been making a name for themselves within the quarters of their native homeland- receiving applause and attention from all across the U.K.  In a sense they have the same sort of potency and thesis of U.S. legends Pixies: there is a similar punch and potency in their track Aranis Natas.  I have not heard a band as immediate as them for many years, and their ear for a great hook has impressed me wildly.  I know from speaking with Lisa, as well as James, that the business means a lot to them, and that success and recognition are vital to them- as well as acting as influential role models for upcoming bands.  Too many critics, reviewers, fans and labels look towards southern climbs for the next ‘up-and-coming’ group: yet Universal Thee have cast eyes and attentions (much) farther north.  The band are tight, focused and ambitious and the coming months will see new releases and gigs abound- which will see them taking their songs across the U.K.  My abiding point is that between these two incredible acts, it has given me enough reason to regain faith in the band market.

Crystal Seagulls are a band in search of a label at the moment, and will not have too long to wait.  It is probably true that this year has been exemplified and personified by great bands making great albums.  To my mind the best and most impressive work has been stamped by established U.S. acts- most notably The National and Queens of the Stone Age.  Those American boys have produced two distinctly stunning L.P.s.  The National boys’ brand of downfall humour and intelligent lyrics have been a dominant facet in the music industry for several years now.  Trouble Will Find Me was a gilded collection of anthems for scorned lovers, downcast dreamers as well as everyone in between.  The Q.O.T.S.A lads album …Like Clockwork catapulted them back into the critical black.  From the rather lukewarm reception to Era Vulgaris (which I maintain had at least five or six classic Queens’ numbers on it), there was a universal vibe of positive that received their current album.  Homme and his crew notched up a remarkable achievement of slow-burning crepuscular gems; a few classic hard-hitting anthems, as well as some soulful and slinky numbers.  It is an album that I have on repeat, and boldly claim to be the best album of this year.  The U.K. has produced a few great albums, yet it has been the U.S. counterparts that have made the biggest noise.  New bands such as Crystal Seagulls are making strides to changing the established order.  In this country, we are producing the bulk of hungry and potentially-giant new bands: all of whom have their unique sound and sensation.  Crystal Seagulls are a quarter of north London boys, whom have been climbing the music ladder with very little ego.  Although members Jim, John, Elz and Ben hail from the landscapes of Birmingham, London, Cheshire and Hertfordshire, it is within the capital that they now reside.  I have given a lot of recent attention to bands located within Scotland as well as the north of England.  There have been few from closer to home that have really spiked my attention and sharpened my thoughts, yet our endeavouring four-piece have made me rethink things.  A couple of singles have been released, and they have played a prestigious set at the Isle of Wight.  In addition, their music has been spun on over 30 different radio stations (at home and abroad), including BBC6.  It seems that a lot of bands of the moment- especially in Manchester and Liverpool- are influenced by current heavyweights such as Arctic Monkeys.  In fact, a great deal of bands seem to counterfeit and mimic these bands, under the impression that a vicarious replication will see residual profitability enforce their own music.  Modern sounds have perhaps overtaken historical genius, when it comes to influencing new bands.  Crystal Seagulls are amongst a small group, still indebted to, and in awe of, the great past masters.  In addition to some modern influence (Oasis), our heroes are inspired by the likes of The Jam and Bob Dylan, and you can hear that mix of anthemic punch and melodic beauty in their back catalogue.  The next year is one that promises some treasure and profitability.  Off of the back of the plaudits of 2013, the quartet are finishing off their new E.P.  There is a bit of mystery and intrigue as to what will be contained within, yet two tracks in the ether will feature on that set.

I have previously reviewed their single Time (https://musicmusingsandsuch.wordpress.com/2013/06/29/crystal-seagulls-time-track-review/).  During that review, I expounded the virtue of the unique motif, stating that that (Time): “As the pleasing and light-hearted composition announces and twirls in the background, up front there are words of apprehension and exhaustion“.  That track impressed me, as the lyrics were sharp and memorable (“Attention craved/Intent forgot”) and displayed a tormented and eventful backstory.  If this is an indicator as to what the E.P. contains, then it will be a splendid set.  The band have a multitude of confidence and vigour, and have shown themselves to be bold contenders for mass public attention.  As well as Time, I have been listening a lot to Toetapper.  This track will feature alongside Time on the E.P.- in addition to two brand-new songs.  The title (Toetapper) certainty seems apt, given the fiery intro. that leads the track off.  With some punk flavours, elements of The Jam as well as smidges of The White Stripes and Supergrass, it is a pogo-bouncing, fist-pumping and smile-inducing beginning.  In the sense that one can identify small threads from other bands, the abiding sensation is of the London streets, and a fresh and vibrant coda from an endeavouring young band.  The song wastes no time in getting off to the races and infuses a sense of intrigue and invigoration into the opening seconds.  The sensualised marriage of late-’90s U.S. garage, paired with mid-late-’90s U.K. rock sends your senses on a wild voyage.  Feet are certainly tapping as you await the song’s initial words.  When the dark guitar rumblings and hard-hitting percussive slam subside, tales to “swell the brain” to “ease the pain” are unfolded by John- there is an immediate sense of atmosphere and vivacity as the band paint some very detailed imagery.  The boys are a tight-knit and focused band, and the track has no gaps or holes: it is a tight and concentrated anthem.  In the midst of the rambunctiousness and sway there is a flavour, perhaps, of early-Arctic Monkeys as well.  Perhaps in the riff and percussive slam detections can be made, yet the vocal is altogether a lot stronger and lighter.  Turner tends to be heavy-voiced with a slight drawl, where as our heroes are a lot clearer and emotive.  Our protagonist has clearly seen a lot and endured some heartache, as he paints pictures of fallout and recrimination, as well as introspection and examination.  The boys have a handy clarity when it comes to their words, and treat listeners with respect.  A lot of bands tend to write too personally; they never let the fans in.  Within Toetapper there is a desire to pull you into the scenes and avenues that the band paint.  The song is constantly moving and exciting and is a tune that the band have performed extensively- including at the Isle of Wight.  It is a track that you could well imagine being a lead-off single as it invites repeated listens- as well as an ambitious music video.  The mark of a great song is one that can compel, intrigue and seduce, yet appeals to the visual thinker: those that formulate multiple music video ideas, inspiring as they are by the words and sounds.  The four-piece play their parts wonderful, injecting as much force and potency into the track.  The percussion is rapid-fire and strong; the bass and guitar infuse danger, heartache and energy into every second, as the vocal sends clear and sharp messages out:  “Well you/What did you say?”.  It is unclear whom the unnamed beau is that has got our hero so enlivened, yet it is clear that notable  impressions and shadows have been left.  Around the 1:30 mark there is a lovely little sustained buzz that reminded me a bit of No One Knows by Queens of the Stone Age.  It arrives after a carnival of emotion and prophesising and acts as a reprieve and rest bite.  The listener is able to draw breath and imagine what is to come next, having absorbed the previous 90 seconds of storytelling.  After a brief drumroll and guitar build-up, the sojourn of rest is over, and our protagonist steps back onto the mic.- presumingly having had enough time to wipe the sweat from his busy brow.  Speaking of a need not the surrender and deceptive sweethearts, our Seagull boys once again ramp up the tension.  Tales of clichés “behind the bikeshed” and final thoughts of past events, our quartet go in for a final fling.  Guitars strike and punch; the percussion continues its pummelling; bass bounces and contains as our frontman’s repetition of “Well you/What did you say?” ramps up the anxiety, finger-pointing and anger.  The subject of the song should probably think again if she were ever to upset or interrupt our hero, as she is laid bare and put to rights.  As an infectious closing coda ends the song, Toetapper is laid to rest, and a great burden weight is lifted and buried.  As they did with Time, Crystal Seagulls have managed to whip up a firestorm of memorable music in a short time frame.  Clocking in at 2:15, Toetapper is a concise and measured track, and one that will burrow into your brain- and not shift for a good long time indeed.  It is unsure if it will be in the first or second half of the (forthcoming) E.P., yet it is likely to be a prominent fixture of future gigs.  As I mentioned, it has featured highly in their sets over the past few months, and is a song that they have a clearly affinity for, and identity with.  The boys will not have to wait too long until a wave of anticipation is build up…

I have had the pleasure of reviewing the chaps twice (Yours For As Long As You Keep Me available at: https://musicmusingsandsuch.wordpress.com/2013/05/27/crystal-seagulls-yours-for-as-long-as-you-keep-me-track-review/).  Both times I have been inspired by their focus and emotional range.  They manage to mix humour and fun with emotional honesty and directness.  I am excited by what might be contained within the E.P., as the band have proven themselves to be a huge force.  I know how important it is for the boys to be influential as well as respected.  They have put a lot of hard graft and time into crafting their sound, and their spot at illustrious gigs is no accident: it is the reward for the effort they have put in.  They are similarly a group that deserve a lot more attention than they have been getting.  At  the time of this review (01/12/’13, 15:00) the lads have 1,724 ‘followers’ on Twitter; a band of 889 ‘likes’ on Facebook- as well as a loyal following outside of social media channels.  I feel that the past few months have been important to the guys, and they have managed to attract new fans with their incredible live performances.  Over the past few days they have been performing in London, and gathering acclaim and adulation.  I suspect that they will be getting requests from venues through the U.K. very soon, as well as international calling.  It has been nice to revisit Crystal Seagulls, and distract my mind.  Life is a funny thing, when it comes to music.  Me?  Well I am probably a compendium of musician-in-waiting clichés: clinical depression with suicidality, anxieties, a  horrid home life; insomnia, possible M.S., unrequited love; loneliness and financial problems: I am seemingly every tormented troubadour there has been from the past 40 years.  As much as the thoughts on my brain and the girl in my thoughts, it is new musicians that are keeping me focused (to an extent).  The likes of Issimo and Universal Thee have been providing me with salivating glimpses into the band market, where as my solo stars have been giving me food for thought.  In spite of everything, be it large or small, I have been burying my head in music and lyrics.  I always look to take something from every act I review- as well as the bands I am fondly in love with.  The main advantage of reviewing and assessing new acts has its big advantages.  I get to hear the splendour and ambitions of the acts- sometimes long before anyone else.  It is always refreshing and interesting to see what each of the acts can come up with, and where they want to be heading.  From speaking with musician friends, I have got a great sense of what the realities of being a musician involve.  Whether you make an E.P. (or album) through crowd-funding or by your own personal finances, it is always a hard and arduous struggle.  I have seen in the pages of social media the plight that the artists face.  It is an unfortunate reality that you have to suffer a depressing day job to fund what you really want to do.  Personal relationships take a back seat, and the strains of modern life are emphasised and duplicate.  There is always a focus and drive amongst the acts, though.  The end goal is to make the E.P./L.P. that they have in mind- whatever toll it takes or what it costs.  I have always been full of admiration as it is frustrating and tiring to be in that situation.  Music has that odd distinction I guess.  You can be in a ‘regular’ job and not have to suffer to get ‘personal fulfilment’; yet something that is more enriching and vital comes with debilitating obstacles.  It is strange that it should be so oppressive, although the open-door policy that the music world promotes can be the explanation behind this.  In an industry where everyone is welcome, it is harder now- in 2013- than at any other time to really make a mark.  Fickleness and changing fashions can bury or elevate a band with nary a thought for consistency or fairness.  I live in hope that we may live to witness the same sort of quality and diversity that arrives between 1988-2001.  The birth of Britpop, the Grunge movements as well as incredible dance music provided the music fan all the tantalisation they could handle.  It seems that it is unlikely that we will ever revisit the giddy heights witnessed then, yet with bands like Crystal Seagulls emerging, there can be a valiant attempt made.  I have reviewed the likes of Second Hand Poet, Issimo, Universal Thee, Nightwolf, Chess, Elena Ramona, Lydia Baylis, as well as scores of international and home-grown acts alike.  It is probably going to take a while for the resurgence to take place, yet I am seeing enough to suggest that a sea change is afoot.  Hopefully the days of cloying boy bands and irritating reality T.V. acts will be short in numbers, and it is encouraging that so much ambition lies within new music.  Our London-based heroes are in their infant stages, yet have all the hunger needed to succeed in a cut-throat and overcrowded market.  Their clinical and tight songs have already captured a fair few fans, and I am sure that their fanbase will rise sharply as they prepare their E.P.  If they are still looking for a label, I hope that they will not have to search for too much longer.  Too many musicians get too much (undeserved) attention and respect, so it would be great to see a deserving act get their just recognition.  The next year will see some great new acts come through the barriers, and I hope that they fight hard to win votes and compete with the established guard.  Toetapper and Time have given a glimpse into what Crystal Seagulls are plotting, and the next few weeks will see the realisation of their fully-fledged ambitions.  Until then, enjoy what the boys are offering and become immersed in their tales of love, life and pretty much anything in-between.  Become initiated and familiar now, as 2014 will see the four-piece transcend from bedroom idols into fully-fledged stars.  If labels are looking for a great group sure to set the scene alight, then look no further…

The lads are primed and ready to dominate!

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Follow Crystal Seagulls:

Official site:

http://crystalseagulls.com/

Twitter:

https://twitter.com/crystalseagulls

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/CrystalSeagulls

SoundCloud:

https://soundcloud.com/crystalseagulls

YouTube:

http://www.youtube.com/user/CrystalSeagulls/videos?flow=grid&view=0

iTunes:

https://itunes.apple.com/gb/artist/crystal-seagulls/id558476976