E.P. Review: Elena Ramona- Hold On.

E.P. REVIEW:

Elena Ramona 

  

Hold On

 

9.6/10.0

Hold On is available from:

https://itunes.apple.com/gb/album/hold-on-single/id814494744

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After the success of the single Rise, comes Elena Ramona’s debut E.P.  It is the summation of months (and years) of hard work, and marks a huge triumph for the 24-year-old, and will see many new fans flock to her door.

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I have reviewed the brilliant Elena Ramona before and featured her stunning single, Rise.  Aware of what she can achieve, and how good her music is I was excited by the arrival of her new E.P., Hold On.  It is released today (Sunday 23rd of February) and is gathering a lot of praise and positive feedback already…

 

The first song from the E.P. is Addiction, and kicks proceedings off wonderfully.  With a gorgeous piano arpeggio and staccato beat, it unleashes a huge romantic energy.  The song talks about love as an addiction; one “without restriction“.  With an impassioned, powerful- yet tender- vocal performance, the track documents our heroine longingly imploring “I’m so lost without you” The song mixes solid and punchy beats with elliptical piano flourishes; augmented by a sleek and solid production throughout. It is a perfect opening gambit that gives the listener a chance to hear Elena Ramona’s gorgeous voice and skillful songwriting.The voice is hers and hers alone, and sets her apart from most of her contemporaries. As Addiction ends- with its proclamations of “don’t ever let me fall down” -there is a cinematic outro.; with shades of Dub-Step in the mix, which succinctly wraps up the song. The title track arrives next and instantly beats a Dub-Step heart.  It slithers, strikes and thumps; reminding me of the likes of Skrilex and Katsuo.

 

Hold On is a bold statement that sees our heroine proclaiming “I’m not letting go“. In spite of a hypnotic beat, the vocal has an impassioned core, yet sees Elena Ramona in defiant mood (striking back at her doubters).  The track is built around an inspirational coda, that urges everyone (as well as herself) to “Keep on believing/Keep holding on“.  Whether referring to her music dreams (or not), our heroine intones (to unnamed subjects) that if they do not know how much it means to her, then she is “better off without“.  The vocal is potent and empowered, but infused with an air of seductive sexiness as well; bolstered and supported by an energised and convincing composition (with great production values once more).

 

Rise is the E.P.’s swansong, and a track I have encountered- and reviewed- before.  It is the first single from E.P., and is a beautiful and honest song; one that offers thanks to her family and friends- whom have supported and believed in her.  One of her most personal songs, it sees our heroine take the pace down; backed by tender piano lines, she offers thanks “from the bottom of (my) soul“.  The chorus is catchy and memorable, and Elena Ramona has a talent for making sure her lyrics stick in the mind with their simplicity and personal relevance.  Once again, it is a track that is hugely memorable; built around a simple and effective repetition (“Thank you“).  As our heroine brings the E.P. to a close, the dust settles, and we come to the end.

 

Having followed Elena Ramona’s career for some months (and having interviewed her too), I know how much music means to her.  She has worked long and hard to ensure that Hold On makes it to your ears- and she should be extremely proud.  Displaying an intuitive talent for multiple genres, she covers  love, defiance, humble thanks and happiness over the course of nine-and-a-half minutes.  It is a precise and bounteous trio of tracks, and a bold and stunning mission statement.  I know that gigs and ambitious future prospects are in her mind, but the music world has so few genuinely talented and diverse young artists, that we need to celebrate the ones we have.  I have witnessed a few new acts that are capable of making huge marks this year, and Elena Ramona is one of them.  She is Surrey-based but will see demand from London and across the U.K. once her E.P. gets the attention it deserves.  It is testament of a beautiful and skilful songwriter with a stunning, emotive and powerful voice; supported by compositions filled with nuance.  Kudos, also, to the production, which is sleek and strong throughout.  I am not sure what our young heroine has in mind for the rest of 2014, but one thing’s for sure:

 

I can’t wait to see what comes next.

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Follow Elena Ramona:

Twitter: https://twitter.com/elenaramona90

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Elena-Ramona/323928237668916

YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/user/TheStathaki1

SoundCloud: https://soundcloud.com/elenaramona90

iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/gb/artist/elena-ramona/id814494788

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Feature: The Words That Paint A Thousand Pictures.

FEATURE:

bob dylan 1966 5

The Words That Paint A Thousand Pictures.

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It is one of the most important aspects of any song, yet there seems to be less importance placed upon the quality control of lyrics.  It is all very well having a great voice; if the words behind them aren’t strong enough, then there is trouble ahead.

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FOR a lot of music-lovers, there are particularly important aspects they seek out…

when it comes to selecting their chosen acts.  If you think back at all of your all-time favourite albums, songs and moments, what is it that defines them so?  Everyone comes from a different background, and grew up listening to different music.  Being born in 1983, my earliest musical memories were quite diffident.  Michael Jackson’s Thriller was topping the charts, yet bands such as Spandau Ballet and Duran Duran were riding a crest.  When it comes to the likes of Michael Jackson, I have always been in awe of his voice.  The music behind it has always been brilliant, yet I find that his vocal tones are more impressive than anything else.  As a songwriter, Jackson is diverse and stunning, yet I never really find myself quoting his lyrics (years on).  Throughout the ’90s, my tastes shifted and I started to take notice of composition and the nature of sound.  Vocals were still pretty key to me, yet it was a song’s atmosphere and sound that compelled me.  The masters of the decade introduced to me a raft of new sensations and genres, and it is what drove me to become more ‘into’ music.  Something happened when I reached my 20s.  The background became quieter, and I started to pick up on words: what the songwriter was saying.  I am not sure if this is what happens when you get to a certain age, yet I became more interested in poetry and lyrics- whereas composition and vocals took a back seat.  Don’t get me wrong, there are few people in the world more obsessed with the voice than me.  I spend hours working on mine, and seeing what I can do with it- trying to be better than any other human alive.  This is an element that will come to fruition in future years, and is working away in the back of my mind.  I find, however, that there is far too much focus on the voice alone.  If you look at all the so-called ‘talent’ shows, this is all they promote.  Contestants sing cover songs (and not originals); they have no personality or any sort of appeal whatsoever- all anyone concentrates upon is the voice.  I have protested against these types of shows many times within my pages, and it is an issue that is not going away.  Talent shows are not necessary; anyone can record music anywhere in the world.  If you want to put your voice to tape, then you do not need much money to make a basic track.  The only reason people appear on shows such as The Voice,  is because they want to be famous.  Musicians should crave respect and set to inspire people.  Fame should never be craved as it is an ugly and pointless thing.  It has nothing to do with music, or acting or anything- it is a way of getting attention and money in exchange for nothing.  Contestants on talent shows do not want to inspire anyone, and make no efforts to write their own material or be individual.  Voices are moulded into something overly-familiar and the whole experience is rather disturbing.  There are the odd exceptions that can write material and have an ok-ish ability, yet it baffles me why they appear on these shows to begin with- it makes them look very needy and disingenuous.  My abiding point is, that when these shows and acts are shoved into the public’s face, then all you are forced to focus on is the singing voice.  It is vital that great and tremendous singers are promoted, as all of the greatest whom have ever lived are either dead or are well into middle-age.  My generation has not produced anyone even remotely close to matching the likes of Freddie Mercury, Michael Jackson, Prince,  Nina Simone and Kate Bush.  It seems strange as there are over seven billion people on earth and all manner of inspiration and archive to assist the process.  As much as that fact is a huge red flag, it is worrying that the young are becoming less interested in words and lyrics.  It seems that attention spans are shorter and disposable aspects are favoured.  You do not have to concentrate too hard to focus on a voice or composition.  When you love words, you have to concentrate and dig deep- they are a facet that reward those whom truly listen.  I have written- briefly- about the importance of lyrics once before (https://musicmusingsandsuch.wordpress.com/2013/08/24/music-lyrics-and-voice-sam-liddicott/).  Songs require words, and I feel that less importance is being placed upon their relevance.  I guess the voice comes a little more naturally.  It is something that the individual possess, yet does not need to constantly modify and change.  Lyrics demand constant thought and the pursuit of perfection and thought.  If the new artists are going to inspire young minds- as well as be remembered decades from now- then they need to make sure that they work harder on lyrics.

In a recent blog, I sighed a huge sigh of relief, as I had finally completed a song.  It was one that I had been working on for years and since day one had been tinkering and amending the words.  I was never truly satisfied with the words to Vanity Mirror.  You can judge for yourself if they are ‘up to scratch’ (https://musicmusingsandsuch.wordpress.com/2014/01/26/feature-putting-the-right-words-in-the-right-order/), and it is a song that I will continue to work on- making sure my vocal performance and the composition are as good as possible.  Not every song I write will cause so much craze and obsession, yet it is vital that the nature of lyrics is not given short-shrift.  I will examine the all-time greats and why lyrics are important to me, but my point is this: you do not have to be Bob Dylan to write something truly wonderful.  Most songs are based in personal experience or revolve around love, and everyone has their own trials and tribulations.  I feel that most people write lyrics too simplistically- there is little in the way of intelligence and nuance.  I guess if you are in a band and your music is heavy in nature, the words may need to match the mood.  Solo artists probably have the best opportunity to showcase their words, as their compositions are sounds tend to be less heavy and raw- giving you a better chance to clearly hear what is being sung.  I just feel that there are going to be a lot of up-and-coming musicians waiting for their chance to make a mark, and it is fundamental that music does not purely become all about the voice.  I am not sure it is a sign of the times, but it is clear that there is still a need- and appreciation- for those whom can truly pen a line.   If you can make sure your songbook is as strong as your voice, then you a lot more likely to win fans and make sure you remain long in the public consciousness.  Before I examine the greatest lyricists and why they should be celebrated, I am looking around the current market.  To mind, the best lyricist we have at the moment is Alex Turner.  Of course a song requires a wonderful composition as well, but when it comes to the business of words, then Turner is leading the way.  I will be quoting one or two of his best lyrics at the end of this feature, but he is someone who should be studied closer.  I mentioned that it is harder for people to focus upon lyrics when the music is heavier, yet Arctic Monkeys have a back catalogue that is predominantly on the brisk side.  There is just something about Turner that means his words really stick and almost supercede the songs themselves.  Turner is a modern-day poet whom mixes tales of city life with aspects of love and dislocated romance- all draped around his distinctive voice.  It is not just the quality of his words that are so impressive, but the sheer range.  If you look at the eatly albums, there was a great focus on dance floor calamities, odd local characters and the seedier sides of city life.  Albums like Humbug became rawer and more sexually-charged and AM can be seen as an album that draws all their previous work into the one L..P.- whilst introducing new elements of Hip Hop and nods to classic Rock and Metal acts of the ’70s and ’80s.  It is no surprise that their latest release has scooped awards and plaudits.  Of course, the overall sound and ambitious range of sounds has counted for a lot, yet it is still Turner’s words that are the biggest focus.  Without them, the band would not be as popular and celebrated they would just be another act, cut and dry.  The group pay huge importance to making sure their sounds are as potent as possible, but the way in which Turner mixes poetry, wit and scorn- sometimes within the same song- is truly breath-taking.  Lyrics are a way of bringing the listener into someone else’s life: giving them a chance to see behind closed doors; inside a writer’s mind, as well as let them experience streets and towns and the characters contained within.  Turner can write about tenderness, but he has also has a charming venom.  The way in which he paints vivid pictures and unleashes Alice In Wonderland-esque scenes within a couple of lines should be applauded.  When new musicians are looking around for inspiration, they should be looking towards lyricists.  If you have an ounce of insight you realise that the voice has to come from you- if you borrow too heavily then you will never get anywhere in music.  Lyrics are harder to make truly special yet there is a lot of scope for glory.  You do not have rip-off Turner to be as good as him.  If elements are taken from his songbook (the witty tales and seedy nature of fame) and mix in other writers, then you can come up with something rather wonderful.  I have mentioned before two other acts: The National and Laura Marling.  Again, here are a duo whom will feature in the conclusion to this piece, but they are again artists whom understand the importance of words.  Marling is a young woman whom has experienced a lot of loneliness and heartache.  She brings that into her music, yet has a lot more to her than that.  Her early albums saw her perhaps as a new Joni Mitchell.  Marling- even at such a tender age- introduced maturity and a stunning eye for detail into her songs.  On songs such as Cross Your Fingers she mixed humour with stark imagery (“hold your toes/We’re all gonna die when the building blows“).  Marling focuses on the problems and stresses of love, yet does so with wit and intelligence.  She introduces nods to classic literature; sprinkling in some accusation and violent proclamation as well as romantic implore.  On her latest album, Once I Was An Eagle, Marling introduces a concept album of sorts; focusing on a central figure whom starts off naively, regains something of herself, before succumbing to naivety once more.  She is an artist whom will have a long future, and being so young- 23- she has plenty of time and experience ahead of her.  The National are the final modern act I will mention.  They share a lot in common with Leonard Cohen, as they look at the nature of love and depression, yet survey it with grace, intellect and humour, too.  The voice and music may not appeal to many, as it can be seen as a little oppressive and mordent, yet one cannot fault the words.  Matt Berninger is one of the greatest lyricists of the moment, as he can casually drop like this into songs: “I am secretly in love with everyone I grew up with” (from Demons).  There is a lot of darkness with The National’s music, but so much that makes you think.  I shall mention The National more in the concluding paragraph, but for now, let me take you back in time…

When we think of gret lyricists, our minds are perhaps trained to Bob Dylan.  For me, he is the epitome of what a songwriter should be.  His music has inspired generations and his voice- whether you love it or not- brilliantly scores his songs.  Dylan is a case of a songwriter whom found his feet and talent young, and is still surprising and satisfying fans today.  Many have tried to top or equal him as a songwriter, yet none have.  It is not because he ‘got their first’; or because of a particular time or age- it is just the innate talent he has.  Inspiration comes in all forms, and throughout the ages.  Dylan wrote about political events and the inequities in society; the atrocity and pointlessness of warfare- but most of all he wrote about love and his personal experiences.  Because we are in 2014- and times have changed- does not mean it is impossible or improbable someone could come along and match Dylan’s flair.  His words are abound with deep insight, strange and bizarre scenes; plenty of pathos and some stunning poetry.  If you look at an individual album- say Highway 61 Revisited– it goes to show the depth and range Dylan possess.  An opening salvo such as Like A Rolling Stone demonstrated the young man’s biting snarl and skillful narrative;   Ballad of a Thin Man looked at an intruder in a bourgeois world; an interloper whom kept mis-stepping in a world of freaks.  The closing masterpiece Desolation Row was a song that looked at fictional and historical characters interacting with one another; strange and beautiful scenes and vivid imagery was planted throughout.  It is a track that makes you try to picture what Dylan saw, as you get lost in his words.  If you are unfamiliar with Dylan’s lesser work- or not listened to him for a while- it is imperative, as his music had been responsible for so many of the great bands and acts we hear today.  His songs were not always flawless, and some albums were underwhelming, yet Dylan is someone whom could make an average album sound incredible and encapsulating.  Songs such as It’s Alright Ma (I’m Only Bleeding) are amongst my favourite, and is filled with alarming and Technicolor visions; tender songs such as I Want You showed a romantic side to the man, whilst Blowin’ In The Wind could be said to be one of the greatest songs of all time.  Around the same time- perhaps a little later- touching souls such as Leonard Cohen and Joni Mitchell played.  Both were synonymous due to their memorable lyrics and quote-worthy lines.  Cohen suffered- and still does- with depression and a lot of his songs address that; yet he was originally a poet.  You can tell, as so many of his songs contain sentiments and thoughts most songwriters could not touch.  Tracks such as Hallelujah are fileld with biblical references, evocative images and incredible emotion.  Mitchell remains one of the greatest female songwriters of all time, and is no lesser Dylan in my mind.  Her music looked a lot at romance and love, but the way in which she portrayed this was incredible.  Cafe scenes and chance encounters; wistful dreams and inner recriminations mingled within the same line, and she is rightful regarded as one of the greatest songwriters of all time.  She is someone whom inspires current songwriters like Laura Marling- and thousands more, I am sure.  Before I sum up, I want to mention two more- diverse- lyrical talents.  Bjork is the first, and perhaps not someone most would imagine when thinking of the great wordsmiths.  To me, she is one of the most original lyricists there’s been.  Perhaps due to her Icelandic upbringing but her music is steeped in native folklore.  She writes about love and anger like us all, yet is adept at weaving fascinating tales of nature, the natural world- and subjects most of us are unfamiliar with.  Tracks like Human Behaviour said how there is “no map to human behaviour“.  It told about how unpredictable and cruel people can be; how good some can be- but how marvellous the experience was.  Her voice is perhaps something that most focus on with regards to her music, but I challenge you to read her words: really study them.  Bjork is someone whom encapsulated the entire human experience; from evolutionary beginnings, through to symphonic crescendos of love and war.  I hope we see her continue to inspire for years to come.  Before I round off my piece, I want to give honourable mention to Morrissey.  Here is a man whom defines most people’s ideas of a bitter loner- not true.  If it were not for Morrissey we would not have some of the best songwriters of the moment, nor his wonderful words.  A lot of his thoughts and ideas are filled with sarcasm; biting wit and northern humour.  I adore his words so much because he is a man affected by loneliness and being misunderstood- yet can turn it into wonderful music.  Songs such as Girlfriend In A Coma are genius nuggets that make you laugh; Last Night I Dreamt That Somebody Loved Me is heartbreaking and ambiguous; I Know It’s Over is haunting and emotional- whereas This Charming Man is a fascinating tale.  In spite of illness and recent setbacks, Morrissey has new material afoot, and some 30 years since he started out, he is still one of the greatest songwriters we have.

Okay, then.  You have heard a lot from me- poor you- but I hope the point is made.  Music is not in total danger of hitting rock bottom- with so much out there it could never die out.  I just feel that the balance of consideration is being paid to vocal duties; the words are being overlooked.  There are many great songwriters out there at the moment, and plenty whom can write lines and songs that take your breath and make you want to write stuff of your own.  Whilst re-listening to songs by Arctic Monkeys and Bob Dylan, I came up with the below:

Mother, sorry for what I said yesterday/And the 30 years before“.

Equal justice and true love are former charges of mine/He left his money to religion/And hers to the home for the blind“.

The ghost of Isaac Newton haunts my dreams/He ties an apple stem with his tongue/And tells secrets that no one understands“.

I am not sure what it means; nor where it came from.  Great lyricists have the ability to be tease words out of all of us.  I always carry around a couple of notebooks to scribble down thoughts.  Some are good; some bad, yet I feel I can always polish a bad lyric, and when you get into a rhythm, entire songs are formed.  Too many bands and solo acts are too concerned with making sure the ‘sound’ is as stunning as possible- often the base and bedrock of their songs get overlooked.  Not every song has to be a Morrissey or Dylan-esque classic- although every once in a while it is great to have a go.  Over the course of ten or eleven songs, so much range and ground can be covered- and wonderful songs unveiled.  If you are a musician- or not- think about what you write at the moment.  If it purely about love or something more detached and oblique; do you feel a little stifled?  A lot of songwriters tend to stick with the same themes and topics, and this can cause stagnation.  If you look at some of the greats-and what they write about- I am sure that new inspiration can be summoned up and implanted in your mind.  When you find new themes to study, and new masters to study, it not gives you fresh inspiration- but can add weight and diversity to your music.  I guess the point of the piece was to reaffirm the vitality of the written word.  It is the common thread in pretty much every song recorded, and something that will never go away.  Too many modern acts negate the business of honing and stretching themselves as lyricists, and I am always searching around for great songwriters to be inspired by.  The likes of The National, Laura Marling and Alex Turner are well-documented and played, by to my mind, under-appreciated.  It is not plagiarism to be influenced by their essence; there is to their work that can extrapolated and redefined.  Our future stars are the ones whom have to carry the torch and inspire generations.  I admire voices that are truly different and bold; composers whom push beyond the preconceived and well-worn paths; yet I search around and wonder where the great lyricists are going to come from.  There are plenty of great writers out there, yet I feel there should be more.  Perhaps it is a lack of education and appreciation (of the past and present greats); a tendency to concentrate on sonic evocation, or something else.  Who am I to criticise anyway?  I just hope that twenty-or-so years from now (when the likes of Dylan are no longer with us) that the best lines ever written are not confined to history- I hope they are being penned by the current crop.  Just from listening back at some great songs by the likes of Bob Dylan and Morrissey I have been inspired to put pen to paper and amend a song that has taken me years to complete…

OH bugger.

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Ten Examples of Brilliant Lyrics:

 

Bob Dylan: In this heat room the pipes just cough/The country music plays so soft/But there’s nothing, really nothing to turn off/Just Louise and her lover so entwined/And these visions of Johanna that conquer my mind“.  (Visions of Johanna, 1966)

Leonard Cohen: Your faith was strong but you needed proof/You saw her bathing on the roof/Her beauty in the moonlight overthrew you“. (Hallelujah, 1984)

Laura Marling: He greets me with kisses when good days deceive him/And sometimes with scorn and some times I believe him“. (My Maniac and I, 2007)

The National: Famous angels never come through England/England gets the ones you never need“. (England, 2010)

Bob Dylan: The kerosene is brought down from the castles/By insurance men who go/Check to see that nobody is escaping/To Desolation Row“.  (Desolation Row, 1965)

Bjork: I tip-tow down to the shore/Stand by the ocean/Make it roar at me/And I roar back“. (Violently Happy, 1993)

Alex Turner: And yeah I’d love to tell you my problem/You’re not from New York City, you’re from Rotherham“. (Fake Tales of San Francisco, 2006)

Joni Mitchell: All romantics meet the same fate someday/Drunk and cynical and boring/Someone in some dark cafe“. (The Last Time I Saw Richard, 1971)

Morrissey: I am the son and heir/Of a shyness that is criminally vulgar“. (How Soon Is Now?, 1985)

Alex Turner: Baby we both know/That the nights were mainly made for saying things that you can’t say tomorrow day“. (Do I Wanna Know?, 2013)

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Track Reviews: Crystal Seagulls- Heart Won’t Beat/Hands Inside The Dark

TRACK REVIEWS:

Crystal Seagulls

Crystal Seagulls - Band

Heart Won’t Beat

9.4/10.0

Hands Inside The Dark

9.6/10.0

Heart Won’t Beat is available from:

https://soundcloud.com/crystalseagulls/heart-wont-beat?in=crystalseagulls/sets/crystal-seagulls-ep-1

Hands Inside The Dark is available from:

https://soundcloud.com/crystalseagulls/hands-inside-the-dark?in=crystalseagulls/sets/crystal-seagulls-ep-1

E.P.-1 is available at:

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

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They have been on a steady trajectory (as-of-late).  It seems that this year will see the London boys transcend from the underground, to the echelons of the big contenders.  Make sure you familiarise yourself now; they will be big news soon.

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IT has been a few days since we had to sit through another round of Brit Awards anemia.

I have always been a bit ambivalent- at best- when it comes to music awards.  Sure, they are necessary, in order to reward the most deserving of musicians.  The trouble is this: they don’t.  I have always thought that the likes of The Grammy Awards was nothing more than showcases for controversy, attention-seeking and celebrity: where the nature and meaning of music becomes distilled amongst a flash of camera bulbs.  Flimsy and pathetic events like The M.T.V. Music Awards are even worse offenders.  If you like your music nauseating, anodyne and pop-based, then they are the awards for you.  The highlights of these events usually consist of some anorexic pop waste of space, cavorting with a moronic male solo artist- not that I am referring to any specifics!  There is plenty on offer if you want to see degraded acts flash their bare cheeks; if you want to see awards doled out to the ridiculous and untalented.  The nature of award shows is misleading and puzzling.  There are too many events which celebrate a certain sector of music: the teenage pop market.  If one wants to see the true musicians and greatest acts fulfilled, then it is slim pickings.  There was a time when music award shows used to focus upon these acts, yet I suspect that the infiltration of boy bands, flimsy solo acts and trite offerings has somewhat buried any gold.  I am perhaps a little biased- being a fan of Rock, Indie and the like- yet feel that I am not displaying ignorance or any form of narrow interest.  Having been raised in the ’80s and ’90s, I have seen a shift and move from New Romantics, through to Mancunian Rock; via Dance and the advent of Britpop.  My formative and infant years were spent awash a myriad of vibrant and exciting sounds.  One day would be spent absorbed in The Smiths or Blur; the next may be dedicated to the likes of The Chemical Brothers or The Stone Roses.  The music was never boring or stagnated.  Even the worst and most mediocre of bands or acts at least gave it the old college try.  My point is not tangential to the main theme, as it shows that times and taste have changed a lot.  Of course you cannot recapture the past or expect a glorious era to continue on and on, yet it seems that there has been a sharp decline.  I am always looking out for something new and exciting.  I love Rock and Metal as much as I enjoy classic Soul and Reggae.  I feel that there is still a subjugation and ignorance when it comes to the most ambitious and promising acts.  Celebrity and scandal are as predominant as ever, and an autosomal dominant trait of mother music.  Headlines are being grabbed for the wrong reason, and it seems that there has been a deflection away from great music- and towards titration and pointless journalism.  I keep harking on about how many great acts I reviewed last year (as well as this year), and my excitement is tinged with anger.  A lot of these acts are starting from the ground level; raising their own money and working their backsides off in order to record just a single song.  They gig endlessly, sweat and toil, in order to achieve a glimmer of the attention that so many ‘mainstream’ acts garner.  It seems strange, and I have been wracking my brain try to figure out why (this is the case).  I shall return to that theme in due course, yet I want to circle back to The Brit Awards.  I watched it, and you know what: I bloody hated it.  Not all of it, to be fair.  It is refreshing that this year saw the celebration of some truly deserving and brilliant acts- a paradigm shift away from recent years.  In algebraic terms, one should expect there to be a mix of great acts rubbing shoulders with plastic nobodies- one cannot dictate the pace and colour scheme of the music industry.  David Bowie is a stalwart and godfather of music, and was rightly acknowledged as such.  Daft Punk picked up an award and I was not too disappointed as a whole.  In terms of pure frivolity and drivel, there was, however, still too much.  The awards are still synonymous with celebrating the underwhelming and I feel some deserving acts walked away with nothing.  Sure Rita Ora looked great, but is an act I do not want to hear at all- for many different reasons.  I have always felt that Ellie Goulding is an endearing and wonderfully down-to-earth figure- and one of the most beautiful women in the world- yet it seemed odd she scooped a gong.  Her last album was out two years ago and hardly caught the attentions and minds of many new fans.  The night also saw perennial soon-to-be-Macdonalds-employees One Direction hoisted onto the stage.  I think they won an award for Best Video- which goes to show that my previous post about music videos raised some genuine concerns.  As much as a fiasco and insult as that was- to video directors and artists- they also gathered attention for their music itself.  I understand that you cannot force-feed good taste into the young, yet the likes of One Direction do nothing to promote the good name of British music.  They are tabloid fodder, and are the most noxious form of music acts.  Just as I was about to vomit a crimson stream of bile towards my flast-screen, and burn myself with a cigarette lighter, up steps one man: Alex Turner.  Technically it was several men, but not let us get caught up in semantics.  The voice and lead anchor of Sheffield’s Arctic Monkeys took to the microphone.  Perhaps the L.A. sun and U.S. air had mutated his northern drawl, yet the man has lost none of his insight and vitriol.  Turner’s speech has gathered a lot of social media attention- both good and bad- and whatever you think of the man, his point and thesis is right on the money.  I am a fan of Arctic Monkeys, and have always found them to be a cut above their contemporaries; interchangeable and mobile over the space of an album, they are adept at keeping their sound fresh and intoxicating.  Turner- for me- is the best lyricist on the block, and seems endlessly talented.  His speech and words were not intended to herald and uphold his personal merits and intentions; it was a ubiquitous and universal point: Rock will always be here and there is nothing you can do about it.  I was desperately hoping that those words would make Harry Styles choke on his Ribena, but alas, no.  It was not the odd single line that did the shouting; it was the entire speech.  There is a genuine fear and consensus that Rock is in danger of being overwhelmed by the spate of Pop and Soft Pop participants.  Turner not only allayed fears, but sent out a mission statement for the coming year…

Amongst the towns and cities of the U.K., there are a wealth of hungry and agile acts whom mean serious business.  I have seen and heard some terrific examples lately, and am constantly surprised by the range and different between the acts,  Last week I reviewed solo artist Alison Levi, whom impressed me not only with her incredible music, but so much more.  Her voice put me in mind of Eva Cassidy as well as other all-time greats, yet it was her personality that really struck me.  She is a humble and witty figure whom enlivens her Twitter feed with humorous and amusing one liners.  As a package she ticks all the boxes, and is a down-to-earth and gorgeous woman.  Her music is focused and filled with nuance and she is someone whom will go very far.  Away from the likes of Levi,there has been some great U.S. electro; brilliant Canadian Rock/Funk- as well as a great deal of homegrown talent.  Rock bands have featured heavily in my iterations, and the likes of Los & The Deadlines have particularly impressed me.  They are a London-based band, yet their members hail from countries and nations far and wide.  With a nod to the likes of Led Zeppelin, the boys are putting the capital back on the map.  Over the past few months I have been worried by the lack of talent and furtive music emanating from London- wondering what exactly was going on.  Most of my features- with regards to U.K. talent- have looked at artists in the north, as well as Scotland, and there has been scant summation of capital bliss.  Crystal Seagulls are a band I have reviewed a couple of times before.  Back in May I reviewed their track Yours For As Long As You Keep Me (https://musicmusingsandsuch.wordpress.com/2013/05/27/crystal-seagulls-yours-for-as-long-as-you-keep-me-track-review/).  I mentioned that track had elements of Britpop explosion.  It bridged and galvanised the divisive camps of 1994/5 Oasis and Blur- tying together their different sounds whilst circumventing any direct comparisons.  I summed up the song’s finale, thus: “The final line reads: “Be here by my side, I’m still here waiting for you”. It is a graceful and romantic coda, that encapsulates the song’s majesty“.  A month later, I got my hands on their track, Time (https://musicmusingsandsuch.wordpress.com/2013/06/29/crystal-seagulls-time-track-review/).  It is a song that features on their new E.P.- which I shall get to- yet I was impressed by many facets of the song.  It was ambitious as well as focused; memorable yet lovable louche and romantic.  I surveyed it proudly, writing:  “There is no dark musical backing, nor matter-of-fact glibness; everything balances out perfectly. Our hero’s voice is authoritative and intent (yet not overwrought)...”.  In fact, I reviewed the boys for a third outing December (https://musicmusingsandsuch.wordpress.com/2013/12/01/feature-crystal-seagulls/).  I may have to go in a brief Crystal Seagulls detox through the spring and summer, yet I always find myself surprised each time I encounter their music.  Today perhaps sees the summation of their recent ambitions, as they unveil their E.P.  It has been on the market for a fe weeks, and already is gaining praise and new fandom.  It is called- appropriately and pithily- E.P.-1, and provides as much mystery as it does honesty.  This is reflected in the songs contained within; over the quartet of numbers, the London men display all of their grit, wit, heart and blood: saying a hell of a lot of the course of twelve or so minutes.  Included in the E.P. is two songs I have reviewed previously: Toetapper and Time.  You can tell- from reviews of those tracks- that I was impressed, not only by the quality of the music, but also by the emotional and sonic range.  The band have their own clear identity and mandate, yet are able to augment their central core in varying directions.  If you are unfamiliar with the Crystal Seagulls boys- shame on you- they are (as described on their Facebook page): “… an unsigned young four-piece indie rock band consisting of Jim (vox/rhythm guitar), John (vox/bass), Elz (backing vox/lead guitar) and Ben (drums/poster boy)“.  Although the band members hail from different counties, their home is London, yet when it comes to sourcing their sounds, there are international touches.  As well as displaying an authoritative knowledge and love of the ’90s masters such as Oasis and The Stone Roses, they have Beatle-esque psychedelic edges; Queens of the Stone Age primal urges, as well as summery jangle and sunshine edges.  The boys have an endeavouring and pioneering spirit with their music, and are restless when it comes to diversity and acuity,  As much as their have flavours of different acts and eras, at their heart is a solid and unique foundation, which is a rarity of the modern age.  A lot of current Rock acts- away from the mainstream- tend to borrow too heavily from colleagues and idols.  I have mentioned Arctic Monkeys, and this is a band whom inspire many facsimiles.  Too many- mainly northern- Rock bands are a little too concerned with trying to replicate Turner’s mob; their sound and sensation- ignorant to the fact that they cannot get to within spitting distance.  It is great when bands inspire others, but in a competitive and crowded market, it is individuality and personality which wins you fans, stripes and album sales.  Crystal Seagulls have been playing and plugging hard over the last year, enjoying some illustrious gigs as well as keen attention.  Their Facebook and Twitter pages are filled with happy memories, photographs and proud declensions.  “The band have performed a fair few gigs all over the country, notably headlining venues such as Barfly, The Water Rats, Proud, The Troubadour, The Notting Hill Arts Club, and their stage at 2012’s sell out Brisfest. Last Year they played The Big Top stage at the Isle of Wight Festival, where their music was used as the soundtrack for the entire weekend“.  Over the first month of this year, the boys have been completing their E.P.  Elz and Jim have been interviewing and promoting hard; the band have played across London, ensuring their music is heard by as many people as possible- the E.P. is result of many months of hard work.  I shall go into more depth about the E.P. in the conclusion, but for now I must alert you to two of the tracks from the release: Heart Won’t Beat and Hands Inside The Dark.

On their Facebook page, the lads describe Heart Won’t Beat as: “A song where groove, pop and rock are married polygamously together in harmony“.  That sense of polygamy and mellifluous cohabitation is evidenced right from the off.  The pulsing and slinking intro. immediately puts your mind to attention.  It has a whiff of Bill Withers’ Lovely Day; a smidge of Another One Bites The Dust– as well a relationship of menace and melody.  The snaking coda certainly has plenty of groove; it has a kiss of funk that you could imagine Prince snapping up.  The lads subtly layer in the audio intrigue.  There is a crackling of electric guitar with a heartbeat of bass.  Building on top of the foundations, the mood and pace becomes a little more enlivened.  Guitar spars with drum and the two merrily dance alongside one another.  It is a pleasing and sun-kissed introduction that borders Reaggae, Funk and Soul, as well as having some modern-day Rock promise too.  Before any words have been uttered, you are already compelled and sucked in.  After a 30-second parable of foreplay, our hero steps to the mic.  Initial implore bids: “Please close the door“.  There is evidently some dislocation or dissatisfaction at the core of the track; an entangled love story is concluding, as- with metronome precision- it is said: “My heart won’t beat for you“.  Whilst our hero prefers to leave the love scenes “for the movies” it is clear that he moving on; picking up his things and heading off.  Right from the early iterations and supplications, the band are tight and taut.  Each note and passage perfectly blends with one another, and a subtle yet potent jam is elicited.  The harmony and intuition between the quartet gives the track an additional shimmer.  Although the track’s themes tell of romance-gone-wrong and incongruity, the words are delivered with an air of bonhomie.  The lines are not spat or drawled; instead perfectly delivered and paced that you are sucked in and rooting for our hero.  Even the most evocative lines (“Just scream for absolution“) seem catchy and calm when backed by the dizzying and solid backing.  As the vocal becomes more impassioned and enraptured the mood is still kept controlled; it creates a sense of drama and light-heartedness that pull your brain and heart in different directions.  Whilst our hero advises his former sweetheart: “Let go/’Cause you’ll never know“, the band strike and pervade; ramping up the momentum and introducing some new and invigorating guitar and bass lines.  As the vocal rises to a falsetto the taut-ness starts to slack, allowing the mellifluous jam to swing and dance.  The song has a danceable quality that is hard to shake off.  Your head and feet with start to sway and nod and the track implores you to get up and move.  You almost forget that at the core some soul-searching and finger-pointing is being dished out- so entrancing is the intoxicating groove.  Our frontman lets his disgraced subject know how he feels; it seems that ever second and hour “decays (my) mind“.  There is perhaps an evocation of Biffy Clyro in the way that the powerful and impassioned vocals- combined with a polygamous sonic line- creates something epic and anthemic.  The boys whip up a final storm; re-introducing the scornful chorus as the song comes to a close.  Just as you feel they are coming back for one more attack, the track is laid to rest with a wordless falsetto coo.  By the final second you are left wanting more, yet still ensconced within the words and images that have been presented.  The four-piece manage to melt Pop, Rock and Funk into every stage of the song; keeping it focused and tight- and constantly intriguing and mobile.  Whomever has earned the disrespect of our Seagulls is being put to rights.  A lot of songs deal with the purveyance of a broken relationship, yet few do it with so much aplomb and energy.  Rather than unleash a track that is too overpowering and negative, the lads seamlessly pair a bright and elliptical sonic score with direct and powerful vocal-and-lyrics combo- the effect is impressive and stunning.  As opening tracks go, they could not have done a better job.  It is one that will capture listeners and strike their mind: it is a perfect opening salvo, yet stands alone in terms of its sound and storyline.  I have already reviewed tracks two and four from the E.P., so we leapfrog from Heart Won’t Beat, along to Hands Inside The Dark.  Whilst Sol Invictus presided over our previous track, Neptune rules over Hands Inside The Dark.  Crystal Seagulls shift through the gears and unveil an interdiction.  The introduction is a lot heavier and harder than Heart‘ and it is apt that the band describe the track as “A rocky, raw and raunchy tale of infidelity with a touch of the psychedelic“.  It is clear that the song takes its belt off and starts to unbutton long before any words have been sung.  Whilst the mood is not entirely oppressive and dark, there is plenty of force and intention offered forth.  It has the feel of classic rock tracks/bands of the ’60s and ’70s, yet has a vibrancy and off-the-moment sound that puts you in mind of the likes of Foo Fighters and Arctic Monkeys.  It is an embryonic scene-setter that strikes and punches; the guitar retreats and fires, twangs and pulverizes; the percussion slams and there is something else: a touch of the Blues.  I detected an evocation of De Stijl-era The White Stripes.  This remembrance is solidified in the vocal line that follows.  In the way that a young Jack White ran riot over a ’00s-circa-’30s Blues jam, our boys update the sound- with an injection of modern-day London.  Initial signs take us, once more, to the shores of romantic recrimination (“How can you love and lie/At the same time?“).  Not all is well in the palace of Crystal Seagulls.  Our man steps to the mic. to tear the flesh from a guilty beau (whether it is the same from Heart Won’t Beat or another, I am not sure).  Although further revelations suggest that flesh is perhaps not being torn; more tempted and teased.  The ‘heroine’ is the queen, whilst our protagonist is “(your) concubine”.  Roses and poetry feature seldom in a tableaux that depicts kingdoms and dungeons: there is clearly some sweat and raw sexuality at the core of the track.  As the track kicks up a notch before the 1:00 mark, there is an energy rush that puts me in mind of early-period Oasis.  There is an air of Cigarettes and Alcohol/Morning Glory Gallagher.  Whereas most of the Definitely Maybe/What’s The Story (Morning Glory) regency examined more heartfelt themes, here there is a bit more fire, spit and lust.  I love the way that there is a stitch-less parabond of U.S. Blues and Britpop-esque Manchester running throughout.  In the verses, the vocal is argumentative and authoritative; the composition is masculine and swaggering.  When our hero steps away from the mic., the boys calm things down- but never let the potent-o-meter drop.  The percussion snakes and slithers, whilst the guitar cooly shakes its hips.  It is a slower and more languid vibe, but one that is crammed-full of cool, cockiness and toothpick-chewing f***-you attitude.  Perhaps my dewy-eyed diversions of love and possible-romance were premature.  The start of the second verse suggests that events are taking a twist: “Your double life is catching up/I saw your friend creep out the closest in the room“.  In this tale, our hero questions and probes his guilty subject.  It seems she has been sneaking about; enraptured in a double life, where she is having her cake- and very much eating it.  When the chorus rides into view, our hero surveys the scene: “With your hands inside the dark/Like strangers in the park“.  The lines are delivered with a gusto and passion that is hard to match (or fault)- again giving a strange and wonderful quality to some less-than-romantic lamentations.  Whereas song such as Heart Won’t Beat has a linear- yet perambulating itinerary, here the pace and sound is shape-shifting and unpredictable.  Just as you have been swept up in the rush and momentum of the previous few seconds, the energy abates.  Sonic picture-painting replaces vocals as the boys summon up a curious coda.  Guitars bait-and-switch; a string of electric guitar bites snake-like; rhythm guitar and bass create a wave- accompanied by heavy-hearted percussion- before the tone and theme changes once more.  At the 2:06 marker, I hear some scents of early Blur.  Rarely can a band marry elements of polar bands such as Oasis and Blur (as well as retaining their original personality and core), yet it is seamlessly achieved, here.  I picked up on some The Great Escape/Blur-era Blur; little flecks of Charmless Man/Country House/Beetlebum/The Universal mingling in the notes.  Hard Rock mutated into epic Rock/Indie; morphs into gleeful Britpop, and comes back to land- all before the 2:15 mark.  Just as the atmosphere lifts into the stratosphere, we are back under the feet of the chorus as our hero comes back to the fore.  The vocal by-play that comes into effect is hugely atmospheric and memorable.  Voices blend and weave inside of one another to create an emotional and effective crescendo.  As the song reaches its embers, the pace and relentless force starts to desist.  You catch your breath, and stand back from the wreckage.  Another sonic gem has been unleashed: one that differs greatly from Heart Won’t Beat– yet contain’s the band’s elementary cores and values.

It may be a fair few months before I get my hands upon any new Crystal Seagulls material.  I feel like I have been watching and writing about them from the start, but in actuality is has been less than a year.  The boys have crammed so much in over the months, that it has been quite dizzying.  The credit and plaudits they have already received is well-deserved and has given them ammunition to create a brilliant E.P.  I have witnessed and reviewed each of the four songs at different stages, and am always amazed by the one constant: the quality.  Each of the four tracks on E.P.-1 is different and offers a new sound and theme.  The boys describe Time as: “A dancey summery jam which brings sunshine to the winter months by evoking reminiscence of the summer months“.  Toetapper is summarises as being, A fast-paced, primal rampage of sex, drugs and rock n roll in its purest form“.  Between those two tracks, one could not imagine any common thread.  Such is the ambition and range of the boys that they can seamlessly master lascivious and primitive rollicking; as well as creating paens to summer in its purest form.  Those two tracks appeal to a wide sector of music-lover, including lovers of the psychedelic bliss of the ’60s; the glorious sunshine Rock of the ’90s- as well as diehards of legends such as AC/DC and Led Zeppelin.  Within Heart Won’t Beat and Hands Inside The Dark are two big- and differing- steps.  There is groove and grime; sex and peace; polygamy and the pusillanimous.  Many newer bands and artists tend to make their E.P.s somewhat safe and androgynous.  As much as anything, the releases tend to be quite restrained and un-challenging.  It is okay to have some songs that sound similar, yet if you have an E.P. with three or four very familiar tracks, then you are going to grab the attention of a small minority.  Crystal Seagulls understand the importance of vitality and range.  As much as I keep harking back on this subject, but one of the greatest musical events of last year was ..Like Clockwork.  The latest L.P. from Queens of the Stone Age is still in my head now.  The album hit me so hard because of the unexpectedness of it all.  They are one of my favourite bands of any, yet I was not sure they had much in the tank after Era Vulgaris.  That album was a little tame when compared with their previous works, and I was concerned that Homme and crew were in danger of early retirement.  When …Like Clockwork was unleashed, it was business as usual- and some.  There was the traditional and mesmeric Rock of My God Is The Sun; the sex-driven groove of Smooth Sailing.  The album’s title track was a beautiful and tender swan-sgong, whereas cuts such as I Appear Missing offered something unexplainable.  It was the range and diversity within the album that was so engaging.  The best albums and tracks from any year will always be judged on their quality, as well as the ground they cover.  Queens of the Stone Age produced the year’s best album, because there as no filler: just a whole bunch of kick-ass glory.  Crystal Seagulls have produced a similar trick- with a slight truncation.  They can blend and melt sun-kissed slingers alongside sweat dripping sexual amor; brutal kicks spar with delirious licks and within four tracks they manage to summon up a multitude of sin and smile.  I’m sure I will be affiliated with Crystal Seagulls again sometime this year, but for now, I will leave you with a few key observations.  Alex Turner was right when he said that rock was always lurking in the mud; always working away in the background and a threat that you cannot deter.  It is something that is elemental and historical; more inspiring and evocative than any other form of music.  Our London boys are going to be a band whom will enjoy a long regency.  Their lyrics, music and vocals are consistently brilliant and skillful, and their songs bursting with electricity and a unique je ne sais quoi.  The crystalline sea-scavengers have been flying high for months now, and their E.P. demonstrates just what a talent they are.  I always recommend that listeners and music-lovers get on board a band (or act) in the embryonic stages- leet they be seen as fair-weather fans.  The future will promise further E.P.s, albums and tours, but for now the boys can comfort themselves with the fact that they will be playing some very key venues very soon.  I have seen lesser talents be adored and applauded across the U.S.; newer acts go on to play some of the best venues across London.  It seems that Crystal Seagulls will be able to take their pick, and the spring and summer will be jam-packed and eventful.  Their Instagram and Facebook feeds show how much fun the lads are having, and how much their music means to people.  They are having a blast making music, and this energy is reciprocated within their music; the alacrity and drive they inject into each song marks them out as major future stars.  If the likes of Alex Turner are telling this generation exactly how things are, then it will not be long until the likes of Crystal Seagulls are doing likewise.  Sadly, there will always be a need to eviscerate and educate naive and impotent minds, yet so long as fantastic acts play hard and loud, then it is a small price to pay.  I am not sure what is the calendars for Crystal Seagulls (with regards to follow-up music), yet they can be certain of one thing:

THEIR lives are about to get a lot busier and more prosperous.

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Follow Crystal Seagulls:

Official:

http://crystalseagulls.com/

Twitter:

https://twitter.com/crystalseagulls

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/CrystalSeagulls

YouTube:

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

SoundCloud:

https://soundcloud.com/crystalseagulls

iTunes:

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

Tour Details:

http://crystalseagulls.com/dates.html

Feature: You Can’t Judge A Song By Its Cover.

FEATURE:

You Can’t Judge A Song By Its Cover.

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The art of tackling an existing song is a tried, tested- and a little tired- form.  It is almost second-nature for new acts to cover established songs, yet few get it right.  When the cover version is ‘just right’, however, it can be very special indeed.

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LAST week I focused upon a wonderful year- for me- in music.

The year was- and is- 1994, and I stipulated that it was just a mesmeric year due to the quality of music being offered forth.  Everyone has their favourite decade for music, and for different reason.  I was curious whether a particular period of music is memorable because of the quality of songs produced, or because you are of a certain age.  I was a six-year-old when 1990 arrived, and am curious whether I love the ’90s because it was at the same time I was really getting into music.  I have thought long and hard and am of the opinion that it was the sheer weight of the music itself that was so memorable- and not because my infant mind received its first taste of new music.  It was a decade that saw the discovery and continuation of some pretty awesome bands and acts, and entire genres were being popularised.  Grunge was in full swing, and was still a potent and mighty force after Kurt Cobain’s death (in 1994).  Britpop saw the likes of Oasis and Blur fighting it out for chart glory, and Dance music was really hitting its stride.  I have looked back fondly, and seen what has come and what was offered up by the participants of the decade.  There was a great deal of original music, and it was a prosperous time for all concerned.  A lot of time has passed, and music tastes have changed somewhat.  New genres and styles of music have been created, and there has been a shift away from the core and credentials of ’90s music, and towards something altogether different.  It is true that there are some great Rock and Pop acts about, yet there seems to be less diversity, fewer memorable albums- as well as a dip in overall quality.  As much as new music and original compositions are essential, and a way of demonstrating the prowess and personality of a musician, there is still a common thread running through music: the cover song.

Like a bad lawyer, making a terrific cover version requires a lot of trial and error.  Before I examine specifics and the ins and outs, there is one point that needs to be made.  I feel that there is a bit of a lazy tendency for new acts to cover music.  On every album or E.P. there seems to be too many cover versions and not enough original material.  It perhaps isn’t a criticism reserved to new music, as acts such as Michael Buble have made their name covering other people’s songs.  During yesterday’s review of Alison Levi I mentioned Eva Cassidy a lot.  Here is an artist whom only recorded a few original tracks; spending most of her (short) career playing other acts tracks.  The thing that separates Cassidy from the subjects of my negative discourse is this: the quality.  There was innovation and originality in every reworking Cassidy produced, and they were all synonymous with one facet: that voice.  Cassidy’s voice could melt hearts from miles away; capable of delicate and hushed soprano whispers, through to full-blooded roars.  Songs such as Fields of Gold, Over The Rainbow and Wade In The Water were transformed, and given a new lease of life.  This is one artist whom could make any and every song her own, and is still celebrated and remembered today- nearly 20 years after her death.  New acts have a right to attempt an existing song, and it takes some of the pressure off of their shoulders- in the sense that they have the words already written for them.  Artists such as Bob Dylan have had their back catalogue stripped and reworked; it seems that it is almost a right of passage for a new artist to cover a Dyan.  The problem with this is that the greatest songwriter whom has ever lived starts to lose some of his godlike status: when others mess up one of his songs.  It is not the case that every attempt at a Dylan number has been a failure- there have been some greats- but there are few genuinely great versions.  The issue with covering a track lies not with whom performed it first, but the lack of innovation put into reworking the song.  It is all very well taking on someone else’s music, but if you are going to do that, it needs to be different.  In my mind the only reason to cover a song is to try to make it better; truly different and something that sounds like your own.  The greatest cover versions of all-time are on the list, not because no-one else thought of covering the track, but because they are worlds apart from the original: and a lot better in many cases.  I shall examine the best and brightest of the art form later, yet for now, I must wag my finger.  If you choose to tackle a particular track and put your own stamp on it, it is like being given a blank canvas.  Of course you have to keep the words in place, but not all of them.  The music can- and should- be very different; the melody can change and the running time expanded or contracted.  A rather limp or lifeless Folk number can be transformed into a multi-part epic.  A song of Bohemian Rhapsody‘s proportions can be rung from an unheard-of 1960s track; romantic and devotional tracks unveiled from dark and spectral Blues numbers.  Stations such as Radio One have their Live Longue a platform for an act to perform a song of their own; but also tackle an existing one.  I have tuned in a few times and never been blown away by the quality of the cover versions.  It is largely due to the fact that the songs being covered are modern-day songs, and the quality is not there to begin with.  I feel, however, that my generation is less innovative and intelligent when it comes to interpreting a song.  Most of the best covers were reworkings of ’60s and ’70s songs, and recorded either a short time after the original, or a little way down the line.  When considering my future music endeavours, I have decided that a debut E.P. should contain five original tracks.  When it comes to subsequent releases, I have two songs in mind: I Fall To Pieces and Joan of Arc.  The former, is a track recorded by Patsy Cline, way back in 1961.  It is a country track recounting painful memories for its heroine.  The song concerns the heartache at seeing a former love with a new lover; the pain and jealousy inherent- and perhaps recrimination and regret at letting them go in the first place.  The lyrics are filled with emotion and heartache; yet the delivery and performance seems a little muted.  Cline is a legend, of course, yet I Fall to Pieces is a song begging for reinterpretation.  I shall mention The White Stripes later, and their renditions of Jolene, but in my mind, I Fall to Pieces needs electric guitar, drum; a wracked and pained vocal; and an epic and head-splitting composition.  It is ambitious, but I feel that the lyrics are so simple and good, that there needs to be something done with it- a version where the intensity and full pain are extracted.  Joan of Arc, is, as the title suggests, about the French folk heroine.  Leonard Cohen wrote the track in 1971 for his album, Songs of Love and Hate.  It has been covered a couple of times before, yet none- to my mind- have brought full life to the lyrics.  The words concern Joan of Arc being burned at the stake, and the track is a dialogue between her and the fire.  Lyrics talk about: “Well then, who are you?” she sternly spoke/To the one beneath the smoke/”Why, I’m, I’m fire,” he replied…“.  In the way that one song can go from a restrained country song, to a heavy-hitting Rock track; the other a Cohenesque rendition which can be given additional shiver and intrigue, that, to me, is the point of a cover.  It is not good enough to just sing a song and put the bare-minimum into it.  Horrid shows such as The Voice and The X Factor gleefully encourage this sin of omission.  As well as being cauldrons for pathetic fame-seekers and appalling sob story merchants, they encourage a lack of creativity.  Every act covers a song- usually the same one that everyone else has- and the renditions are predominantly horrid and pointless.  Even when we get to the end of the horrible series and a winner has been crowned: the resultant album consists of a large amount of insipid and horrible cover versions.  Perhaps this has scared off the core of genuinely great music act- maybe there the T.V. pop muppets have made the cover song a poisoned chalice.

It seems all the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten my songwriting hand.  I feel it is admirable to include one cover version every couple of albums or so- perhaps more.  If you think hard enough and make a great effort of it, then the rewards can be multiple.  If you make the song your own, then it can not only get you a lot of praise, but alert young listeners to past masters.  One of the best reasons to tackle a song is to make people aware of an act or artist whom has gone before- and ensure they are not forgotten.  Tragically, attention spans are getting shorter and shorter, and there are probably some that do not know who The Beatles are; who wrote Waterloo Sunset etc.  Ignorance is bliss, and it seems, something the young are not keen to be rid of.  I have heard so many people ignore music or not know who wrote a song, because ‘it is before my time!’.  Guess what?  I was born in 1983, and I know when The Battle of Hastings took place.  I listened to Swing music of the ’20s when I was a toddler; I am familiar with The Kinks, Sonny Boy Williamson and Neil Young.  Music is more readily available now than it has ever been, so it is pretty pathetic when people overlook music because they are young.  So many great albums, artists and songs are being ignored because people are becoming more stupid and self-obsessed.  If it takes a modern interpretation of Tangled Up In Blue to make someone aware of Blood on the Tracks, then I have no complaints.  It is a new Blues tradition that can take place- taking an old or existing song, giving it is a modicum of polish and making it visible to a new and fresh audience.  It is vital and important that old and past songs are paid fair tribute; that new musicians recognise former glory and pay their respects and give their stamp to that song.  If we lose the art of covering songs, then there is a danger of legends and all-time greats being ignored and relegated to the footnotes of music history.  As long as too many obvious songs are not covered too often; that originality and boldness are key considerations; that diversity and fascination are offered up- then it could encourage others to be more adventurous and brave with their own music.  It is true that there have been some  truly wonderful reinterpretations through the years; yet there have been some truly shocking ones…

It is not hard to completely butcher a song.  Ask the likes of Ronan Keating, who, for some bizarre reason, decided to tackle Fairytale of New York.  The song was pretty near-perfect to begin; in no small part because of the chemistry and vocal interplay of Shane MacGowan and Kirsty MacColl.  I am sure MacGowan would be rolling in his grave; if he were dead.  I hope he at least has a voodoo doll of Keating as I am not sure what possessed the man to urinate all over a classic track.  There was no need for anyone to go anywhere near this song- as the original can not be topped.  When it comes to bad cover versions, there have been a few that are truly eye-watering.  Classic numbers have been taken on but some dismal artists- the resultant chaos is enough to put you off of music for all of time.  M People (remember them?) wrecked Itchycoo Park; Will Young made mockery of Light My Fire, and perhaps most despicably of all, Take That covered Smells Like Teen Spirit.  That track (the orignal) is considered to be one of the finest tracks ever written.  It is celebrated because if the conviction and intention from Nirvana; because it represented a very real feeling at the time, and a genuine dissatisfaction and dislocation from Kurt Cobain.  When put in the hands of a bunch of wet and weedy karaoke band, and the track loses everything.  Luckily the Take That boys cannot completely ruin a song as great, yet should not have gone anywhere near it.  It is when events like this occur, it makes me wonder if people are genuinely trying to lovingly pay tribute to a song- or just come across as a sick and annoying jokes.  Madonna desiccated all over American Pie; Mark Ronson destroyed No One Knows– and Leona Lewis screeching over Stop Crying Your Heart Out.  This is an extended list of feeble and unspectacular acts whose original material is not exactly spellbinding (except maybe Madonna’s early work).  It is perhaps the fault of the writers of the tracks for letting their music be murdered; and I suspect financial gain overrules dignity and common sense.  In the current scene there are too many examples of the atrocities listed above.  It is difficult to make an average song good; maybe it is difficult to make a great song different- it is phenomenally hard to make a great song bad.  It is perhaps testament to the ineptitude of some artists that they can take a wonderful gem of a track, and make it sound like a joke.  I shall not spend too much time dwelling on some huge music failure, but the point is this: if you are going to make a hash of a song, then do not go anywhere near it.  The point of covering a song should be to improve it; make it different in a good way, and above all, get the word out- in a positive way.  There have been some covers I have heard that has compelled me to seek out the original; in turn I have then bought and discovered albums by that artist and become fans of the song’s author.  I guess the mark of an incredible cover version is to both have respect for the original composer as well as the act covering if, and in turn, the necessity to seek out as much music by both as possible.  When the trick is mastered, it can produce some wonderful results indeed…

I will mention three brilliant- and different- cover versions, as well as give an honourable mentioned as well.  It is always going to be hard making a classic out of an average song, or elevating a track to untouchable heights if you stick too closely to the original.  If you are tackling an acoustic number, then make it harder and more electric; if it is an old Blues number, update it and take it in a different direction- and so forth.  The best and boldest cover versions earn their stripes because they take the original track, and completely change it- and improve on it in a lot of cases.  One of the most radical about-face transformations was when Jimi Hendrix took on All Along The Watchtower.  In the way that some musicians can turn a song into a pusillanimous mess; truly innovative artists can make a song utterly memorable.  Of course Dylan is an artist whom will always have a host of people wanting to tackle his music.  He remains the greatest lyricist of all-time and one of the finest songwriters to have walked the planet.  His albums are not always up to his lofty standards, yet there are always great songs in the midst of his most average albums.  In 1967, Dylan has perhaps completed an impossible trick: having created three of the greatest ever albums, in quick succession.  In 1965, Dylan has released Bringing It All Back Home and Highway 61 Revisited.  That year saw him transform from an acoustic guitar-wielding Folk icon, into an electric-guitar sporting Folk god.  The metamorphoses was met with criticism from the Folk elite, yet the year saw Dylan produce some of his finest work.  A year later, Blonde on Blonde was released and a snowballing momentum created.  The young artist was on fire, and not in the mood to slow down.  John Wesley Harding was a celebrated and classic album, but not as good and memorable as his previous three.  There were fewer electrifying moments; less in the way of out-and-out classics: it was more restrained but not exactly impotent.  When the track All Along The Watchtower was witnessed and surmounted, few took a huge amount of notice.  The lyrics were strong and memorable, but there was nothing that jumped out of the vinyl and lodged into the hippocampus.  Stronger songs such as I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight were perhaps more long-lasting, but the album inspired one particular guitar hero.  I am not sure what inspired- or intoxicated- Hendrix, but there was something in All Along The Watchtower that compelled him to pick up guitar and lacerate the track.  The song- in its original song- is a relaxed and calm moment.  Dylan’s version is like many of his songs: effective yet languid and calmly paced.  Hendrix decided that the fine lyrics deserved a thunderbolt of energy and passion, and turned a minor track into a stonewall classic.  It is not just the incredible and psychedelic guitar work that makes it a wonderful cover, but Hendrix’s impassioned vocal.  Hendrix is an underrated singer and does not get credit in that respect, yet his aching and enraged vocal performance almost matches his head-spinning and maniacal axe work.  Dylan has gone on record as saying he prefers Hendrix’s version and subsequently plays the song more in keeping with Hendrix’s reworking- as oppossed to the original sound.  All of the words were kept in tact by Hendrix, but he took the weakest element- the composition and vocal work- and added punch, grit and mesmeric soul.  If you hear the track (Right-click and ‘Open In A New Tab’:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pJV81mdj1ic) you are captured from the first moments to the very last.  It is rightfully considered as one of the greatest cover versions of all-time, yet is not my favourite.  I shall lead to that, yet there is another that grabs my attention.  Former husband and wife duo Jack and Meg White- of the sadly defunct Th White Stripes- burned a bright and bold trail over their career.  The Detroit couple- whilst pretending to be brother and sister- turned out a string of wonderful albums of Blues Rock that borrowed its heart from the Blues legends of the ’20s and ’30s- yet introduced Garage elements and modern sounds to create a primal and intelligent blend.  Jack White is one of the greatest songwriters we have, and dared to be different.  Whilst his contemporaries- in the late-’90s/early-’00s- were copying the Garage and Punk bands of Michigan, White was updating the sounds of artists such as Blind Willie McTell and Son House- heroes that influenced and inspired the young White.  The White Stripes produced original material of the huighest calibre, yet were skilled and impressive masters of the cover version.  If you listen to Dusty Springfield’s I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself; it is not a song you would consider to be angry and overwhelming.  In Jack White’s hands, the track was given a fresh lease of life and transmogrified into a tale of frustration, boredom and aching love.  Every screamed and anguished vocal stabbed into your heart; his brutal guitar work pounded your bones, and Meg White’s solid drum-work bolstered and supported the epic and sweeping mood.  It was when I watched the performance of a particular song on their live D.V.D. Under Blackpool Lights (Right-click and ‘Open In New Tab’: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kS60oTRxh0g) that my jaw dropped.  Swat pouring from White’s brow, and looking exhausted, Jolene was given a thorough going-over.  Dolly Parton’s original was a Country music great, but seemed a bit merry for my liking.  There was pain at its core, yet Parton’s rendition was cheery enough to make you gloss over that.  Step up Jack and Meg who killed the crap out of it.  A wailing and heartbroken vocal performance was accompanied by a spiking and pulverizing guitar tableaux.  With Meg smashing and teasing her kit the duo wowed the Lancashire audience with a performance of raw and unadulterated anger and frustration.  White reversed the gender roles- imagining himself as the man fighting for his man- making the rendition more curious and fascinating.  You can tell from his contorted face and frantic performance that he means every damn word; he took a song that was soaked in Jack Daniels and Nashville rain and took it to Michigan: injected it with a razor blade, packet of cigarettes and a smashed apartment.  Parton may have originated the track, but The White Stripes made it come alive.  It has inspired me to be similarly-ambitious with I Fall To Pieces– these are songs whose lyrics suggest a performance filled with wracked and overwrought annotations.  Before I get to the final- and my favourite- cover versions, I will honourably mention Johnny Cash.  The departed great is considered by many critics to be the singer of the greatest cover versions to ever have been recorded- Hurt.  The track was written by Nine Inch Nails, and appeared on the Goth Rock masters 1994 album, The Downward Spiral.  That album was inspired by ’70s icons such as David Bowie, and the album explored a lot of the same territory that the likes of Bowie and Pink Floyd mastered in that decade.  Hurt was the swan song that completed the album.  In Reznor’s hands it was seen as many to be a musical suicide note; a plea from a depressed and overwhelmed young man- someone whom wanted an escape from the pain.  It may have resonated with some 20 years ago- those whom felt the same- yet alienated some due to its dark themes and pained performance.  It is a wonderful song, yet you get the impression that it is more important to its author than it ever will be to anyone listening.  In 2002, Cash covered it as part of his album American IV: The Man Comes Around.  That album was released just before Cash’s death, and his rendition of Hurt is considered a modern masterpiece.  Whereas N.I.N. focused more on self-harm and depression, Cash took it to be a paen to Christianity and spirituality.  He removed the profanity and gave the song time in rehab.  The ailing Cash gave the song an eerie and emotional core the original did not contain, and it documented a frail legend not long for the world.  The music video- shot in black-and-white- projected images of Cash from his youth to present-day (2002), and was an emotional and striking rendition.  Seek it out on YouTube as it is rightfully hailed as one of the best covers ever, but I shall let you arrive at your own conclusions.  Before I sum up, I will mention my favourite ever cover version.  Leonard Cohen is seen by many to be a minor Bob Dylan- a more depressing and haunted equivalency, minus some of the genius.  Cohen is overlooked when it comes to songwriting, as many are put off by his voice.  It is a dark chocolate tone that means many do not listen hard and long to his music.  It is a shame, as Cohen is one of the finest poetic lyricists of all-time, and no poor man’s Dylan.  Sexually-charged, and with asexual innuendo of a title, Various Positions was a 1984 album that saw a slight dip in quality from the Canadian master.  The album contained some brilliance, for sure.  Dance Me to the End of Love was a brilliant opener, and a tender and romantic opener.  The rest of the L.P. does perhaps not live up to this early promise, yet there was a song in its midst that would go onto receive a wonderful 10th birthday present: Hallelujah.  Cohen spend three years writing the song, and completed dozens of verses.  The studio version contained biblical references throughout; mentioning Samson and Delilah and King David.  Biblical mention was woven into a masterpiece of love, sex and the fractious reality of relations.  Cohen toiled on producing the final version, completing over 80 drafts.  The version which appears on Various Positions is lyrical genius and one of the greatest songs ever, let down by only one thing: Cohen’s performance.  With mawkish and grating ’80s electronics, poor production and a dour and flat vocal performance, the song was overdone and underdone at the same time.  The result was a track which captured you with its poetry but left you sour when hearing it performed.  There have been myriad versions of the song recorded; most of which are totally awful.  The track has been wrongly seen as a funeral march and whored out to T.V. shows such as The O.C.  Dreadful people like Alexndra Burke have helped to nullify its essence, where as credible artists such as Rufus Wainwright and John Cale have tackled it: yet not made any strides to own it.  The man who claims that honour is Jeff Buckley (Right-click and ‘Open In New Tab’: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WIF4_Sm-rgQ).  I mention Buckley quite frequently, mainly in terms of his vocal ability alone.  When it comes to Hallelujah, kudos must be given to his interpretive skills.  Whilst performing at Sin-e cafe in New York, Buckley wowed intimate audiences with his ability to reinvent existing songs.  The likes of Edith Piaf and Van Morrison has their tracks turned into gorgeous gems by Buckley, and many a jaw was left dropping when witnessing the young man do his thing.  Leonard Cohen’s 1984 work was premiered at this time, yet it is when it reached the studio in 1993/4, that its full majesty was revealed.  Buckley could not have written it; Cohen could not have sung it- it was a perfect marriage built on a perfectly equally footing.  The story goers that Buckley tried many takes and performed the song in different manners.  There were angry versions; more ‘manly versions’, as well as faster takes.  The one we hear on 1994’s Grace is the result of fusing several different takes together, and is one of the most startling vocal performances ever.  After Buckley’s death in 1997, many foolishly have used his version of Hallelujah as a maudlin and sappy death march.  Cretinous YouTubers have covered it in their hundreds and pathetically tried to get within touching distance of Buckley’s version.   Jeff himself claimed his rendition was a ‘Hallelujah to the orgasm’, and is filled with sex, sweat and breathless passion.  It is a spine-tingling and ethereal version that does full justice to Cohen’s brilliant words.  Armed with just an electric guitar, the song is 1994 is about Buckley’s glorious voice; which turns a forgotten and overlooked song into a meditation on sex, love, death, religion- and life itself.  It is a beautiful version which says everything music should say.  The words were perfect: the result of years of work and reworking.  The vocal performance was as pure and mind-altering as any in music history; backed by a gorgeous melody and sparse instrumentation.  If Buckley had written the song himself it may not have received such acclaim.  The shock comes when considering how radical it is compared with the original.  It is a song that few would have considered covering in 1984, and fewer still in the ’90s.  Buckley saw the poetic and mesmeric beauty Cohen had put forth, and adopted it as his own.  Spending years himself working on various versions, Grace‘s central song is as perfect a parabond as any there has ever been.  It is a perfect cover version and is my favourite as I find nuance and mystery every time I listen to it.  It sends shivers down my spine and is something that few since have achieved with any song: it makes you want to write something that perfect; sing something so flawlessly: although you know you never will.

Thanks to songs like Hallelujah and All Along The Watchtower, we need to keep covering songs.  It is true that masters such as Dylan, Cohen and their ilk are past their best or departed, but that is not to say that it will be impossible to top the greatest cover versions.  There are so many underrated jewels waiting to be picked and adored, and many more songs crying out for a reinterpreting mind.  It does not take the voice of Buckley, the guitar skills of Hendrix or White, nor the ill fate of Cash to make a song- there is a lot more to it.  An average song can be turned into a work of art with the right amount of work; a great song can be made greater by adding electricity and energy; old songs can be made new and alive with the right amount of consideration.   There are plenty of great voices out there; plenty of new acts and bands coming through, but all that is missing is the perception and pioneering attitude.  There have been a few recent cover versions which are impressive, yet the majority of the greats were created between the ’60s-’90s.  There is more focus than ever for new artists to write original material, as the competition is fierce indeed.  It does not take much for a fickle industry to push an act through the back door, yet premature death will not arrive as the result of a lack of original material: more a lack of talent and determination.  An act or band can gain fresh fans and huge plaudits by taking a risk; taking a particular song and turning it into something truly wonderful.  If you can do it again then you are on to something; keep doing it and it will give a good name to an art form which has been hobbling into a menopausal mess as-of-late.  If you are a songwriter- or not- there will be a song (or songs) that you have always wanted to tackle- there should be no fear.  If is a rare Dylan cut or a modern-day Folk number, then take heed and think hard: how do you want to approach it and how can you make it golden?  Too few artists understand the importance of making sure they do full justice to a song they cover- too many lazily phone it in.  It is all too easy doing the minimum, and pointlessly mimicking the original; yet when you get it right and marry a song with a perfect melody and wonderful vocal; as well as a fascinating and curious composition, then something special can occur.  My top 10 list shows what I mean, and it is not just the original song that will be improved and appeal to a whole new audience.  A perfect cover version can make a band; it can inspire new ideas and thoughts, and breathe life into an act; into the music scene as a whole- and inspire aspiring songwriters to up their game and help- slowly- to change music.  I hope that the next few years will se a genuine attempt at equalling the greatest cover versions ever.  All the ammunition and impetus is there; all it needs now…

IS for a brave artist to step forward.

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My Top 10 Cover Versions of All-Time:

The White Stripes Jack

Jeff Buckley- Hallelujah (Org: Leonard Cohen, 1984).

The Jimi Hendrix Experience- All Along The Watchtower (Org: Bob Dylan, 1967).

Nina Simone- Mr. Bojangles (Org: Jerry Jeff Walker, 1968).

The White Stripes- Jolene (Org: Dolly Parton, 1973).

Marvin Gaye- I Heard It Through The Grapevine (Org: Gladys Knight & the Pips, 1967).

Otis Redding- Try A Little Tenderness (Org: Ray Noble Orchestra, 1932).

Johnny Cash- Hurt (Org: Nine Inch Nails, 1994).

Whitney Houston- I Will Always Love You (Org: Dolly Parton, 1974).

Joe Cocker- With A Little Help From My Friends (Org: The Beatles, 1967).

Kate Bush- Rocket Man (I Think It’s Going To Be A Long, Long Time) (Org: Elton John, 1972).

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Track Review: Alison Levi- Boy You Better Run (live).

TRACK REVIEW:

Alison Levi

Boy You Better Run (live)

9.8/10.0

Boy You Better Run (live) is available from:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hv2l2u6hU-A

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She has the heart-aching beauty to distract the soul; the powerful and seductive voice to lodge inside your brain- and a talent that will reap dividends throughout 2014.  Sit back and buckle yourself: a huge future star is in our midst.

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TODAY I am- for the second week running- focusing on a solo female talent.

Although, unlike Australian Grunge/Surf artist Laura Wilde, today’s subject is worlds apart.  Wilde was born in Melbourne, before emigrating to the shores of California.  Her music is built around attitude-infused anthems to dislocated love and rebellion; her voice and personality have the hallmarks and D.N.A. of a U.S. teen idol, yet her appeal and sound is a lot more worthy and memorable.  I was impressed by the guitar-playing skills of Wilde and her ability (throughout her L.P.) to switch genres and subjects seamlessly- whilst retaining her identity and remaining focused.  It seems that a lot of young artists are fleeing to Los Angeles and California; it seems that the air and atmosphere is much more akin and conducive to a creative day-to-day.  Away from the wet and wind of the U.K., it is clear that the sun-drenched state provided a decadent haven for busy and ambitious talent.  I think that Wilde will be a success in years to come, but may take a while for her charms to bed in.  She pervades and unleashes harder sounds, yet their epicentre and embryonic lustre are rooted in the ’70s and ’80s.  It is a retro sound that is mixed with modern-day smash-and-grab sexiness, that when combined, sounds fresh and vibrant.  Her two-year-old L.P. has gained praise in the U.S.- although not so much in her native Australia- and Britain also has latched onto her potential and talent.  I completed my review by saying that this year will be a big one for the Melbourne wonder; she has a lot of tour dates and demand from various corners of the U.S.  I am always impressed by solo acts whom dare to be different and bold.  In previous posts- several dozen perhaps- I have declared how difficult it is for lone artists to make a name and make their way.  The band market is thriving and evergreen as the overall sounds and sensations seem less anxious.  There are maybe four or five members whom contribute to the creative process.  Each plays their part and the burden and lion share is divided amongst the members.  As a result, the music that is offered seems more organic and relaxed.  It is not always the case that a lack of pressure leads to a greater output of quality- far from it- yet it is still the case that bands have the ear of the critical mind- more so than the solo artist.  I shall go into more depth about this point later, yet my abiding core is that there is room and demand for the solo act.  Scientology misfit, and all-round music genius Beck has a new L.P. out very shortly, and I have been drooling rampantly- anticipating what is to come and how it will hit me.  I have been charting his career since his Odelay days, and have been stunned by the homunculus maverick’s ability to about-face and effortlessly master a multitude of music themes and genres.  Latter albums explored Hispanic seduction, lascivious Blues licks and Siesta-themed mandates to the power of love.  As much as Beck is a chameleon; never stopping or resting in one spot, the biggest applause is reserved to his undiminished quality.  He is going to be leading the charge of a haughty and loyal band of solo artists whom will be showing the bands- and cynics alike- that there is juice and gold to be found within their parables.  If there is some Modern Guilt inherent in the veins of many music lovers, it is perhaps because new acts are not been given the attention they deserve.  The established guard is there for a reason.  They are the parental trailblazers whom have lived the life; seen the sights and have the experience.  I have surveyed many a new act whom I felt was woefully under-appreciated.  It seems that they had been passed over and negated completely- for no logical reason at all.  This year will be one that is synonymous with new music and fresh sounds.  The originals and masters will be hitting hard, yet I feel there will be a sea change towards the celebration of infant movements.  Wilde was one example to assuage any cynicism many have, and fuel the fire for music’s progeny.  As much as I have been impressed by the male solo examples I have examined, I have been a little troubled.  There seems to be an unquenched tendency for the men to, well… be beautiful for an ephemeral spell.  Their voices (literal) have a range and multifarious stretch; yet the abiding themes and topography seems to be narrow.  Most of the songbooks concern the vicissitudes of love; its heartaches and pratfalls- yet there is little desire to pull away from the realms of romantic non-fiction.  It is important and comforting to witness a love song, yet there have been thousands written.  They are treasured for a reason, yet the lack of energy and spark that the boys have infused into them, makes me a little listless.  The sounds of Nick Drake and Crosby, Stills and Nash were done best by the original artists, and the modern appropriations offered hence seem like the result of supplicant copyists.  There is some originality to be heard, yet the overall impression is one of market sect that is begging for an injection of electricity, punch, difference and brain-melting insight.  I have heard glimmers that suggest the sun may poke from behind the clouds, yet I am readying myself for the realisation: this year will see a lot of male acts determined to be the ‘next Jeff Buckley/insert any number of other names’.  The bygone gods of music should have an effect on the sapling devotees, yet not so much so to the point where their back catalogue is lazily repackaged to fit into a familar-looking template.  The females, however, have a manifest destiny and intuition that puts them ahead of their male colleagues.  Over the course of last year I surveyed some weird, wonderful and spellbinding female talent.  Anna von Hausswolff, with her Swedish beauty, mingles haunting and languorous church organs with Kate Bush-esque vocals.  Her songs would often beginning with two minutes worth of build-up- sonic setting stones that made you shiver before a single note was sung.  Perhaps her vocal style holds too closely to Bush’s coattails, yet one cannot argue with the innovation and bravery on show: the wanderlust and ingenuity took pleasure in taking your breath away.  This year I have surveyed Maltese Siren, Chess.  Her bold themes of desire, ersatz frustration tales and redemptive codas made me think that in her, we have one of the brightest talents on offer.  Her voice and style is influenced by the U.S. stars such as Christina Aguilera and Alicia Keys, yet she has an affection for Blues, R ‘n’ B, as well as soulful manoeuvres- the resultant witches brew is heady, intoxicating and endorphin-releasing.  There is multitudinous directionality amongst the female core, and a vast ambition that is impressive indeed.  My featured artist has more-than-enough alchemy in her chest to suggest that she will be amongst the names to watch in 2014.

I came across Alison Levi about a week ago, in somewhat surreptitious circumstances.  Her majesty was brought to her attention by a Twitter ‘follower’ of mine; and I am fortunate to have happened upon her.  I have long-bellied the difficulty one faces when uncovering the best and brightest music talent.  Too many of my review subjects have arrived at my door, due to the fact that I happened to be ‘in the right place at the right time’.  I understand that due to a burgeoning and unregulated scene, combined with a tranquil and audacious attitude to quality control, that is nigh-on impossible to separate wheat from chaff.  Twitter and Facebook exist in a self-serving state; where epistemic ambivalence and money-making desires overrule pure motive.  I have not seen a site dedicated solely to connecting new music to the hungry public.  There are sites which offer new music and a lot of tinsel, yet how many offer this: a portal whereby any music lover (anywhere in the world) can, by the press of a button uncover new music that is particular to them- as well as some that will curry favour and unearth a hidden passion.  I am perhaps representing the sceptical voice of the minority, yet it seems that there should be something in the superhighway that fulfils this need.  If there is, I would love to hear of it, but it seems to me that hollow and needless self-promotion is a monarchy which will not be overthrown any time soon.  My point is- amongst the twirling and crepuscular rant- that I am chancing upon artists whom I feel should be in my consciousness many months previous.  One does not take chances when it comes to love or career.  When you look for a new love, a new job or another home there is a lot of planning and experimentation involved.  There is never a point where you feel you have fallen in love with the right person by mere circumstance or happenstance.  Always there is a degree and semblance of logic and hard work.  I feel that music is equally important, yet I am falling in love with musicians because of luck and false providence- as opposed to science and logic.  I shall- you’ll be thrilled to hear- continue this theme later, yet I want to talk about Alison.  One of the things that struck my initially about Levi was her sheer beauty.  She has a mesmeric and jaw-dropping beauty that can buckle knees.  I was not shocked to learn that she models, yet she has the looks and grace that I have noticed amongst one of my music icons: Eva Cassidy.  Perhaps it is because Valentines Day has just passed, but I find myself in romantic mood.  Levi is perhaps one of the most stunning and beautiful humans I have seen, yet her personality and music are perhaps even more outstanding.  I mentioned Eva Cassidy, and this is a name I will be infusing in various paragraphs throughout the review.  Like Cassidy, Levi has a comparable look.  There is a sense of shyness perhaps at the core as well as a lust for life.  A comparable smile and look in Levi’s eyes reminds me of the departed music goddess, and I am cannot shake the sense that there is a reincarnated spirit within Levi (not literally as that would be beyond stupid).  Cassidy remains one of my all-time favourite artists as she was such a short-lived light.  Having been cruelly taken from her due to cancer, in the brief time she was with us, she produced some spectacular music.  There are some strong women and forceful voices in music today.  The likes of Hannah Reid (of London Grammar) and Adele have the pipes and vocal chords to break granite and seduce hearts, yet I feel that their appeal is perhaps one-dimensional.  Past artists such as Cassidy won you over not just because of their voices, but because they had a personality and core that was not insular or fame-seeking: it was loveable and relatable.  Modern idols will win their places in history by not only ensuring their music stands the test of time, but because their inner-self spoke to people: appealed to, and was familiar with those both bold and introverted.  As a songwriter and aspiring artist I look around for influence and inspiration.  Some bands and solo artist win my over with their music and nothing else; Levi has a hell of a lot more on offer.  I will get more into her trajectory and current movements, but I will finish up on my Cassidy thesis.  It was not just the softness and tenderness of Cassidy’s voice that was so mesmeric.  Here was an artists whom sang mostly cover versions, yet she could strip a song to its core; transform it and leave you speechless.  If you listen to tracks like Autumn Leaves, Over The Rainbow and Fields of Gold; there is no doubt that few other singers could achieve such beauty and wonder.  Cassidy has one of the most stunning and mesmeric voices there’s ever been, yet one that contained power and huge force.  If you hear tracks such as Wayfaring Stranger, Wade In The Water and People Get Ready (from Songbird) there is he evidence right there.  Cassidy was capable of going from a delicate and hushed whisper to an ecstatic and overwhelmed belt within mere seconds- which she did so effortlessly.  Some modern-day singers have an essence of her talent, yet none seem to encapsulate the whole.  I have seen enough in Levi to think that she is worth paying close attention to.  I will explain her music shortly, yet it is her online portfolio and interactions that have struck me as well.  In her Twitter page, Levi comes across as a good-humoured and entertaining figure.  Her posts are often witty and amusing, and it seems that as well as music, humour and bonhomie are crucial ingredients.  Levi is a genuine article and a bona-fide talent whom has the personable appeal to win over undecided voters and fanatics alike; as well as galvanise the fence-sitters.  The abiding impression is one of an ambitious and determined young woman, whom knows what she wants.  Her career is in its infancy, yet Levi has set many tongues a-wagging.  Just two days ago she performed at The Troubadour.  Online ratings and feedback suggest that the gig was a triumph- a perfect musical storm away from a meteorological one.  The next month sees our heroine embark on some illustrious dates.  Kensington Roof Gardens and York and Albany are the first two of several London appearances.  These character-filled and sumptuous venues will see Levi introduce her gorgeous and hypnotic tones to a new audience, as well as get her name disseminated about town.  On March 18, Levi plays Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club– one of the finest venues in the country- and will lead Londoners into a prosperous spring to be excited about.  It is a gig I hope to attend, and my first chance to witness Levi first-hand.  In the long-term I am unsure as to the blonde starlet’s plans, but I am confident that her forthcoming E.P.will be most pressing.  Her original material suggests a talent with a keen ear for a memorable lyrics, and the ability to melt sparse and effective melodies with a striking vocal performance.  Any potential record that Levi has in mind will be met with anticipation and curiosity.  At the moment, Levi is recording and showcasing live tracks- allowing listeners to see her in the studio and on stage- thus unveiling her voice in its purest form.  Levi has recently been scoring and contributing to the soundtrack to a U.S. horror film; revelling at the opportunity to contribute to something atmospheric, haunting and compelling.  For now, the young star is readying the world, and providing tantalising snippets of what is to come.  On the evidence of Boy You Better Run, the future is going to be very bright indeed.

The track was filmed in Sensible Studios, and sees Levi decked in shorts and shirts- a summertime embodiment- guitar in hand, sat a-perch a stool.  It is a casual yet striking look that perfectly mirror’s the intro. to Boy You Better Run.  The keyboard introduction is a rolling and streaming arpeggio that puts me in mind of The Cinematic Orchestra’s Arrival of the Birds, as well as Arabesque by Debussy.  It is a romantic and portentous opening which builds the intrigue-o-meter all the way to 11.  It creates its own movement and energy; it is part summertime sunrise-cum springtime sunset, as well as having a mobile energy that puts me in mind of some of the classic greats.  Before a note has emanated from Levi, your mind and body is relaxed as well as intrigued- you wonder what the vocal openings will sound like.  Before that approaches, Levi introduces a strumming acoustic line, which cojoin and blends beautifully with keyboard.  For 34-or-so seconds, such a mood of delight and seduction has been levied, which is a rarity in the modern market.  A lot of artists subjugate the necessity of a compelling opening salvo, yet Levi has her name in her genes and the genes in her name; an inherent knowledge and knack of being able to augment emotion and fascination, right from the get-go.  The first sung notes offer some alcoholic and curious recollections, our heroine recounts: “Drunk on lilac wine/Lost in my gaze/No feel for time/False sense of delight“.  The words recall hazy memories and love-gone-wrong-milieu.  Levi’s lyrics mix baroque and oblique, with direct and impassioned.  I loved the mention of lilac wine, and my mind was drawn to the shores of James Shelton and Nina Simone.  It is a delicate little touch that appeals to music diehards and poetic minds, as well as parabond-ing glorious songs of old, as well as modern-day tableaux.  Whether the story is based in reality and is a painful past memory for our heroine, I am unsure, the conviction which she delivers the lines if flawless.  Her phrasing is effective and striking; ensuring that each word and line is enunciation to maximum effect: an acuity few posses.  Levi’s voice is soulful and full-bodied, yet sweet with a soprano edge.  The song’s initial moments lay in the mood and ease the listener in.  When matters progress to the second verse, Levi continues her vocal pitch; keeps the mood even and restrained, whilst tempting and intriguing.  Offering seduction, chess metaphor and a wicked game (I move in closer/I take the night/Taste me on your lips“) our heroine builds a mood indigo.  One pictures images of Levi- swathed in a tight-fitting yet elegant red dress- in the twilight and eventide.  A glass of wine in hand, our Siren lures her sweetheart in; whispering promises and tempting him in.  The story goes on: “Darker than shadows on the eclipse/Feel me on your skin/Closer to god than you’ve ever been“.  As the lines are delivered- intentionally or not- there is an air of the spirit of Cassidy in the delivery; a smidge of modern-day U.S. pop idols in the sound, but above all, Levi’s unique tones and flavour.  Whilst listening to the song, your mind wonders.  Beyond the evocative sense of imagery portrayed, you also wonder what it will sound like when given a studio makeover.  I wonder whether horns or strings will be included.  As the song progresses and the intensity and mood shifts, it will be fascinating to see if Levi will include any sonic shifts or instrumental layers.  One’s mind also shifts back into the story; the movie- the soundtrack to the song.  It is clear that things are hotting-up.  The red dress may be getting dangerously close to the floor; the scarlet lipstick considerably faded by now and our ill-fated hero thinking his luck is in.  Levi’s voice intones her words succinctly, and with just a paucity of breath and projection, she manages to summon up a firestorm of vehemence and sexiness.  As we head into the chorus, Levi changes pace, slightly.  As she delivers an ice-cold mandate (“Poison ivy, kiss so deadly“); the words are almost see-sawed; elongated in order to drip feed the message- ensuring her beau understands every word.  Her man soon becomes Buster Keaton in Steamboat Bill Jr. as the reigns down:Boy you better run oh boy you better/Boy you better run oh boy you better/Boy you better run oh boy you better, boy you better run oh boy you better“.  My twin minds both imagine and speculate.  Visually- in the video- our heroine strums intently; looking relaxed yet focused.  Her eyes rarely look up, engrossed as she is within the song.  If a video is ever to be made, I would imagine by the 1:20 mark, the plot is taking another twist.  Having felt and ‘tasted’ our heroine on his lips, and her midnight spell has been cast.  I envisage the protagonist embroiled in a brief row, by which point the hound-dog paramour is headed for the door; shirt in hand, perhaps unable to extricate himself from his lover’s seduce.  The sonic and musical side of me wonders what we may hear.  In the (live) video) it is acoustic guitar and keyboard, switching between elliptical grace and rampant passion; a constant and pugnacious guitar strum put an audible blood rush into proceedings.  Maybe swooning strings (hear The Cinematic Orchestra’s Arrival of the Birds (1:21-1:31): (Open in a new tab: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MqoANESQ4cQ&feature=g-vrec); perhaps some Blues-infused work on a Gretsch Black Mamba 6120 commingling with snare drum- who knows; such is the potency and evocative nature of the song, you cannot help but wonder.  The first rendition of the chorus is the first emotional bookmark: the end of act one, as it were.  The way Levi delivers the lines is almost matra-like: our heroine sings her lines like a waltz, albeit one between two lovers with different moves and different ideas of coordination.  With barely a breath, and keen to keep the mood electric and unabated, Levi segways into the next verse.  Its initial thoughts promise no sense of relief or light for our anti-hero: “My love a work of art/Blood don’t run redder/I leave with your heart/Yeah, I take it apart“.  The pace and mood at the point is in second-gear: Levi takes things down a semitone in order to let the words sink in.  Our heroine’s talent for words is evidenced once more, and the way she builds images and brushstrokes- both striking and Byzantine- is brilliant.  Within the quartet of lines, one pictures a heart being torn from chest, and although the lines may be meant metaphorically, you get the sense that the late-night film noir has taken another logical progression.  Our heroine has her dress re-clasped and strapped and takes another lilac sip of wine.  Her man has been eviscerated and put to rights, and reduced to an un-evolved mess.  When Levi proclaims: “Sell it for cheddar/Then buy your scars/Your cries won’t leave the room/Empty words I now consume“, her voice remains impassioned and sturdy, allowing an elliptical sonic flourish between lines.  There is a sense of retribution, justice as well as recriminations: “Half a man you’ll be/Better alone than drifting with me“.  The chorus homes once more into view, and the song nears its conclusion.  In terms of our mini-movie, our anti-hero has run into the night’s rain; regret and fear in his eyes as he runs into the shadows.  Our heroine looks out of the window, drains the glass of wine, before teasing a crooked smile.  Whether a studio version of the song would contain a pace shift or change of instrumentation is unsure, yet again one’s mind is filled with possibilities and ideas.  Orchestration, however minimalist would elevate Levi’s striking words; the gorgeous and potent keyboard and guitar work in the live video would act as a perfect paramour; perhaps a heavy or rolling drumbeat, sparring with horns and…well you get the idea, right?  It down to the individual listener’s mind, yet when Levi’s voice heightens and intensifies in the final seconds, you sense a palpable crescendo and explosive conclusion.  You are left with lasting impression and indelible images, as the song is brought to rest.  I hope that the track does make it into the studio- it may have already made it there- and that Levi considers it as a lead-off single, as it is a tremendous song.  Just hearing it in a live enviroment suggests of what could become.  Levi’s delivery and performance is stunning; her guitar-playing is consistently compelling, whilst Chris Stones keyboard skills add weight and majesty to the song.  Boy You Better Run has compelled me, to once again, set pen to paper, and  scribble notes and lyrics to incomplete songs.  Having compiled and structured an E.P.’s worth of music (sans band and finance no less), I have been rewriting lesser words; reworking brittle melodies and weaker compositions, upon the initial listen of Levi’s opus.  It is not just the lyrics that influenced me; yet they are a huge standout.  The chorus employs repetition to great effect; employing a gravity and momentum that few contemporaries achieve.  In the verses, the words summon up all kinds of spectral and colourful scenes and images, and there is a tangible sense of story and reality.  Whether the lyrics are influences by a past romance or rooted in fiction I am unsure, but it is clear that something has affected our heroine.  Levi marries direct proclamation with poetic and oblique couplets; when combined create a heady and solid song.  The composition is gorgeous and impressive, too.  The introduction has genuine classic overtones; not just pretension, and reminds me of some lilting and romantic songs (a couple of which I have mentioned).  It is perhaps Levi’s voice that does the loudest talking.  It is no hyperbole to compare her with Cassidy.  I have been listening to videos of Cassidy performing at Blues Alley.  There, the legend made songs such as Cheek to Cheek, Blue Skies and Stormy Monday her own- the guitar and piano/keyboard style and sound is comparable too.  I mentioned that Levi has an air of Cassidy in her beauty, and it is a genuine observation rather than an attempt of flattery.  I am unsure whether Cassidy is a name on Levi’s radar, yet she should be proud.  There is plenty of present-day tones within Levi’s voice; the likes of Dangerously In Love-era Beyonce are detectable, as well as Laura Marling and jazz and soul greats.  Our jaw-dropping chanteuse plays Ronnie Scott’s soon, and it seems axiomatic that the two will finally meet, as Levi seamlessly appropriates and embodies the sound and quality of some of the best acts who would have played that stage.  In an era and scene where nubile and eager talent often have to swim the tide from day one, it is unsurprising that few flourish.  It is not merely enough to show up- with a vague idea of what you want to say- play your songs and expect a long-term turnover.  Levi will be in the public consciousness for years to come because of everything I have mentioned; because she has a solid set of songs already evident, and is getting herself heard and known.  The litmus test will come when her E.P. is released, but the London-based musician will gather a whole host of new fans, as well as public demand.

Stagedoor F.M. has hailed Levi as one of the key talents to watch in 2014, explaining: “Newcomer Alison Levi has featured multiple times over here at Stagedoor FM. The London-based singer/songwriter has impressed us with her strong vocal range shown in her multiple acoustic videos, and we’re intrigued to hear what’s to come over the next 12 months”.  The next 12 months will see transition and forward steps.  The website Musicborn sums up Levi’s forthcoming E.P., thus: “‘Pale to Grey’ is a collection of songs mixing pop and rock with powerful vocals, creating a haunting and captivating EP that naturally fuses genres to make a sound that is hers and hers alone”.  The track Pale to Grey is a delicate and flowing number, with parts Laura Marling and that distinctive acoustic sound.  Tracks such as By Your Side and Holding On showcase Levi’s songwriting talent, as well as emphasise the tremendous voice that she possesses.  I am unsure as to the track listing, and what songs will appear on the E.P., but is it going to be a record that demonstratively proves what an asset Levi is to the music world.  There are no histrionics; bold and false claims or needless filler material: it will be concise, delineated and stunning.  I have mentioned the live dates that are upcoming, and I know from Twitter and Facebook that Levi is excited about the future, appreciative of the love from her fans; as well as excited about the here-and-now. Even though there are tracks afoot that could well form the basis of Pale to Grey, I suspect that there are even more songs in Levi’s mind: those that could be the synopsis for an extremely exciting future.  Levi is a solo star, yet one whom has the musical, lyrical and vocal talent to pioneer in several directions.  There is the vocal belt and power to suggest a natural Blues or Rock talent.  We could witness a smoky and bolstering Blues anthem, or a punchy and riff-heavy Rock jam.  The seductive coo of her softer edge hints as the possibility of Cassidy-esque renditions as well as romantic and heartfelt paens.  That is the mark of a great talent: someone who captures you in the moment, yet invigorates and primes your brain for what is to come.  As a songwriter and itinerant music listener, I am fascinated by what is out there, and any possible influences for me.  Levi’s biography and stock is the answer to the frustrated desires of the modern market.  There is too much disposable talent and short-lived fever dream music.  Too few elicit desires for long-term residency within music- or that appears to be the trend.  Bands and acts often arrive in a maelstrom hailstorm of publicity and pomp and circumstance; are labelled and heralded as the saviours of music- only to dissipate after a couple of albums.  Levi may be finding her feet and feeling her way into the arena of new music, yet she should have no fear: this year will be a busy and memorable one fvor the young talent.  Amongst the 2,000+ Twitter followers she has- as well as Facebook fans- the heralded belief is that things will go from strength to strength.  I will do all I can to spread the good word.  I hope, too, that the social media links, with its weak tensile strength and bloated digestive system, gets its act together.  Too many plastic and generic acts are given too much attention, whilst the genuine articles are often postulated and spoken of in word-of-mouth proportions.  “Oh, it’s so funny to be seeing you after so long, girl“- it has been a bit of good luck that has introduced me to Levi, yet I am glad that I have heard her music.  She is certainly near the top of my list for future collaboration (to be in the same studio as her…), and someone I will be watching with huge interest.  After a night that has introduced wind-strewn chaos: power failure and depleted garden accoutrement, I have started this weekend addled and rattled.  The stress and predictable unpredictability of this winter has turned an upside-down frown all the way down.  Music and its lustre and comfort is as in-demand now as any time, and Levi is a refreshing antidote to current malaise.  If you are a music-lover whom has narrow confines or prefers a certain genre of music, I would advise some reappraisal and leaps of faith.  Many solo acts cause a shudder, as they can be little more than an acoustic guitar, bland voice and unfocused and cliché lyric; yet there are plenty whom demand closer attention and scrutiny.  Levi is tender of age, yet has an incredible maturity and intelligence when it comes to lyrics.  Her songs are compelling and filled with nuance, and her coordinated ambitions suggest a gilded and rewardingly-long career.  Do not let her hypnotic beauty and seductive smile lead you astray: the voice is- in my mind- the pinnacle of her talent.  At once soft and cooing; the next powerful and planet-straddling.  It has already garnered a great deal of praise and comparison, yet Levi is as unique a voice as I have heard for a long time.  Once the E.P. is released and public perception has been tabulated, there will be many options open to Levi.  I am confident that her range and talent is as bespoke for the audiences of the U.S. as it is for Europe and Australia.  She has a voice and artistry that is a hugely transferable and valuable commodity, and there will be a lot of international demand forthcoming.  For now, I am sure Levi is focusing on the next few weeks, which will see some memorable gigs as well as a wave of new fans flocking to see her play.  This year will be one offering plenty of room for new talent, and rich reward up for grabs.  Many will climb and pervade, yet few will achieve longevity.  Levi is an artist whom has the ammunition, intention and ability to win ears years from now; so it is worth getting in on the ground floor, as this is for sure:

ONCE heard; her memorable songs will be very hard to shake (or forget).

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Follow Alison Levi:

Twitter:

https://twitter.com/alisonlevi

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/alisonlevimusic

YouTube:

http://www.youtube.com/alisonlevimusic

SoundCloud:

https://soundcloud.com/alisonlevi

For details about Alison’s tour dates:

https://www.facebook.com/alisonlevimusic/events

Feature: A Love Song to 1994- The Year That Changed Everything

FEATURE:

A Love Song to 1994:

The Year That Changed Everything.

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Many consider the ’60s or ’70s to be the finest decades for music.  To me there is no doubt that the 1990s was the most impressive- and mainly because of this one, magical year.

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AS I type this, I find myself- once more- shackled by British meteorological cruelty.

There is some respite at the moment, yet it seems that the days of overcast with no rain will be short-lived.  I also find myself annoyed once more.  Certain people who claim to be friends are not acting as such; those whom I spend a lot of time, effort and money on are being neglectful and terrible friends.  I also am imitated by yet another artist whom has not taken the time to read- or comment- or a review posted.  Over the past few months I have reviewed a few acts whom have not taken any effort to read what I have written- or say thanks.  Yesterday’s artist is culpable, and it comes a few weeks after another artist’s blind ignorance and refusal to do the bare-minimum.  It makes me not want to really focus on new music or artists; instead focus on times past and those whom might be appreciative.  Anyway, it is another day, another needless and frustrating point of life.  For now, I am taking time to focus on something that is dear to my heart: a terrific decade for music.  I will focus on the birthday girl in question shortly, but for now, I want to focus on the decade as a whole.  The ’90s, to me, was the decade that changed everything for music.  I was born in 1983, so when the decade dawned, I was a bright-eyed 6-year-old.  There are some whom claim the ’60s was the greatest music decade.  They mention the likes of The Beatles and The Rolling Stones, but in essence there is not a great deal to recommend.  There are some terrific and legendary acts that began playing in the ’60s, yet a majority of the music was mediocre or just plain awful.  A lot of innovations occurred and developments made, but to me, here was a decade that could have offered more.  Th 1970s was more prosperous, offering up some great acts and bands.  Rock and heavy rock started to develop; Dylan was still going strong, and a multitude of new genres was bustling through.  The ’80s is always seen as a bit of a joke.  It is true that there were too many Hair Metal bands; too many cheesy pop acts and novelty tracks.  In the midst of a much-maligned decade, there was some quality to be found.  Classic acts such as The Smiths dominated the period, and great northern pop and Indie acts were coming through.  It is fair to say, though, that the ’80s provided little in the way of quality- as a whole.  Something wonderful began to develop around the end of the ’80s.  Towards 1987/1988 an uprising and paradigm shift began to occur.  Club music was developing, and the quality and intensity of music upped its game.  The club music may seem pretty tame by today’s standards, yet the quality was much greater.  Nowadays, there is too much noise; too much innuendo and smut and a huge deal of processed and unspectacular vocals.  The clubs are scenes for drunken idiots and stupidity and are arenas I wouldn’t dawn if my life depended on it.  It doesn’t matter what is being played, as people are too far gone, ignorant and pissed to concentrate anyway.  As a result, the so-called club ‘legends’ are a poor shower of glorified noise-making amateurs.  It is true that the standard of music has declined quite a bit, but club and dance music especially so.  In the late-’80s acts like Snap! were producing anthems that are still being played and remembered today,.  The ensuing decade saw everything change- and improve.  Dance music was predominantly wonderful, and the overall standard of music was exemplary.  It will be incongruous to state that music has not had any worthy moments since the ’90s.  It is obvious that some great bands and albums have been turned out, yet it seems strange that more has not been achieved.  I guess the sheer number of musicians entering the scene has distilled the overall quality.  So many new acts come through each month, that you really have to dig deep to find true greatness.  It is a shame in that sense, but something that will continue unabated.  I feel that too few are looking back to the golden decade, when it comes to inspiration.  A lot of acts borrow from the ’60s and ’70s; many dip into the modern-day treasure chest when seeking inspiration and guidance, yet there is still too little consideration paid to the 1990s.  If you look in-depth at the wide range of genres offered up, there is much to recommend.  Grunge music was in full swing in the early-’90s and acts such as Nirvana and Pearl Jam were ruling the airwaves.  It was a decade that saw the death of Kurt Cobain, but the Grunge genius left behind a phenomenal body of music that not only inspired every other Grunge act in the world, but is inspiring acts and musicians today.  I have mentioned Dance music, and there was plenty to keep a smile on your face.  The likes of Culture Beat, Beats International, Basement Jaxx and Fatboy Slim all contributed, as well as an impressive amount of shorter-lived acts.  By the time the decade ended, there was a huge legacy left, which inspired the new artists of the ’00s.  In fact, the standard of music didn’t dip until 2004/5. and it seems that the afterglow of the ’90s was a long-lived one.  I am not one of the cynical music-lovers whom think that music stagnated at a point and will never be good again.  I believe that we will see some legendary acts come through, and some new wonders; yet it is true that the best and brightest acts of all time have already played.  I love the ’90s so much, because it was a period that not only offered unimpeachable quality, but the range and diversity of music was staggering.  If you consider Dance music and Grunge; Britpop and Indie- how can you possible connect the far-reaching genres?  That is why I love this era, as so much was being offered up.  The best albums and songs of the year still hold up, and are still offering up nuance and joy.  It was not just the range and quality that was so impressive; music seemed more redemptive and joyous.  There is too much introspection, misery and anger with a lot of music- as well as ineptness.  Of course genres such as Grunge were synonymous with depression and anger, yet the majority of music offered up in the ’90s had positivity and inspiration in its core.  I feel that one year was particular wonderful; that epitomised the positive and endeavouring spirit- and provided the world with some of the greatest music there has ever been.

I am not sure what it is about 1994 that hits me hardest, but it seems to be the year that saw the greatest acts of my generation come together and produce their best work.  I was 10 when the year began, and was really starting to get into music.  I grew up indoctrinated to the likes of The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Steely Dan and Bob Dylan, and was more familiar with the music of the ’60s-’80s.  When it came the 1990s, my eyes and ears were opened.  There was something new and different on offer, and the music helped me get through the difficult days of adolescence and school.  I was beginning ‘high school’ in 1994, and it was a hard and scary transition.  A lot of tragedy had befallen my family around this time, and I was looking around for something to ease the burden and distract me.  Having been fascinated by the previous four years of music, it was 1994 that saw a real sea change.  I am not sure what was in the air that year, but music became so focused and pure that I struggle to find any cracks.  A few of my all-time favourite albums were unleashed this year.  Jeff Buckley’s (sadly only L.P.) Grace was unveiled.  Buckley is one of vocals and an absolute music hero of mine.  He had been playing the cafés and bars of New York throughout 1992/3, honing his craft; introducing his magical voice to a select few.  The release of Grace showed what the young artist could achieve.  The album showcases what an incredible music talent Buckley is; the confidence and conviction cannot be assuaged.  Radiohead introduced The Bends.  Here was a band whose debut Pablo Honey was hardly met with huge acclaim.  Aside from the odd great song, it was an album that was largely forgettable.  The follow-up is probably the biggest leap forward in music history.  No one expected an album of such majesty and credibility.  The Bends remains one of my favourite all-time albums, as it set Radiohead on a tremendous course that would see the group go from strength to strength.  I mentioned that Kurt Cobain died in 1994, and in the wave of that devastation, Grunge devotees and colleagues released some of their best work.  Pearl Jam released Vitology; whilst Soundgarden produced one of my favourite albums, Superunknown.  Legends departed- or defunct- such as R.E.M. were still going strong, and Oasis were doing battle with Blur.  As much as Definatey Maybe received huge accolade, I feel that Parklife is the sound of 1994- and Britpop.  The album was choked full of anthems and wonderful tracks.  To be fair there were some truly sub-standard songs, and bizarre decisions and production choices; but you cannot fault the classic moments.  This Is A Low would have been the perfect finale- if some moron had not put the dreadful Lot 105 as the last track.  Girls and Boys was a summer-infused romper, and one of the best songs the band had produced.  Their stories of protandrous hermaphrodites and lasciviousness mingled with tender moments.  Underrated gems such as London Loves and Badhead were highlights, and the band produced an album that saw them to continue their run and grow in confidence.  The Britpop battle was one of the stories of the year, and a war that Blur won.  Dance and trance acts such as Massive Attack and Portishead came through and continued their regency.  The two acts unveiled confident albums and terrific songs, and offered another dimension and sensation to a variegated and bustling scene.  Everything seemed to be more mellifluous and carefree.  Bands such as Supergrass were preparing their first steps, and their bonhomie and youthful energy were ready-made for the scene.  It is hard to pinpoint a key moment or greatest act of the year, as there was so much competition.  To me, Radiohead’s terrific movements were the most memorable, yet Britpop and the new wave of Grunge are a close second.  Away from the mainstream, there were a lot of terrific one-off acts and songs being made.

My Top 10 Albums of 1994:

Grace– Jeff Buckley

The Bends– Radiohead

Superunknown– Soundgarden

Parklife– Blur

Vauxhall and I– Morrissey

Protection– Massive Attack

Dummy– Portishead

III Communication– Beastie Boys

Dookie– Green Day

Definitely Maybe– Oasis

My Top Ten Songs of the Year:

 

Street Spirit (Fade Out)– Radiohead

This Is A Low– Blur

Hallelujah– Jeff Buckley

Girls and Boys– Blur

Sabotage– Beastie Boys

Caught By The Fuzz– Supergrass

Fake Plastic Trees– Radiohead

What’s The Frequency, Kenneth– R.E.M.

Loser– Beck

Live Forever– Oasis

I am optimistic about the future of music.  I think it will not capitulate altogether, but it is important that there is ambition and some renewed focus.  The ’90s and 1994 were not apportions and freak events- they are capable of being topped.  It is the sheer quantity of acts that are making it difficult for such a distillation to occur, but there are some gems coming through.  It would be great to hear other people’s thoughts on the year, and favourite moments.  Maybe you disagree with my conclusions and blog?  It would be great to hear.  To any new bands and acts whom have a similar passion for 1994, and the great decade of the ’90s; ambition is key to success and dominance, so take a good listen at the paster masters and mistresses, and above all…

I hope people take note, and try to do likewise.

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Track Review: Laura Wilde- Sold My Soul

TRACK REVIEW:

Laura Wilde

Sold My Soul

8.7/10.0

Sold My Soul is available from:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L6z2GrhZxDU&list=TLkm3qc2j53mqAyUoUaKourls_joGLiAEh

The album, Sold My Soul is available via:

http://www.amazon.com/Sold-My-Soul-Laura-Wilde/dp/B0073XGIWQ

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This staggering 23-year-old arrives from California (via Australia).  Her Punk palette may not to everyone’s taste, but there is plenty of evidence to suggest a big future talent.  Don’t let her beauty do the talking.  Wilde is a name to watch closely…

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I may have written off mainstream music a little too quickly.

I have stated in previous postings, that the music being produced this year is not going to be too overwhelming.  Most of my focus is trained towards new music, and I have always felt that this realm is going to produce the most exciting prospects.  A lot of great albums are starting to sneak their way to the surface, and I am left in a bit of a quandary.  This month sees the new release from one of my favourite bands, Wild Beasts.  Their latest L.P., Present Tense, is imminent an album I didn’t even know was in-the-works.  I was captivated by their debut album (which left some critics cold), and bowled away by Two Dancers.  After the release of their third album, it seemed that the Yorkshire band had covered so much ground; matured and grown as an act- whilst retaining their mesmeric core.  If you have not heard the band before, I implore you to seek them out.  Their lyrics are intelligent, infused with literary references and tongue-in-cheek lines.  Their lead singer, Hayden Thorpe, has a stunning countertenor (as well as tenor), which was the case of derision amongst some critics when the band released their debut L.P.  The new album will see the stunning pipes put to work, covering a whole host of new ground, and captivating fans and non-fans alike.  This is an album that I will be desperate to hear and cannot wait to hear what the boys have come up with.  Away from the Beast lads, there is also a release due from Beck (both artists release on February 24th).  Beck has been a little quite over the last few years, and he is an artists that has always fascinated me.  Aside from some of his kooky and bizarre personal beliefs (Scientology for one), his music is endlessly brilliant.  I have charted his career since Odelay, and adore the way he fuses genres and sounds.  In the same way as acts like Beastie Boys and Massive Attack mesh and splice sounds and sensations, Beck is a master of cross-pollination and wunderlust.  He suffered a debilitating back injury a while ago, and that put recording duties on the back burner.  Early press indication suggests that his latest album, Morning Phase, and is a down tempo and stunning collection that will rival his best work.  I am still playing his 2008 album Modern Guilt, and am sure the Californian will keep the momentum going.  From the album cover itself, through to the track list, it is an intriguing prospect and will turn a wet and miserable February into something redeemable.  Aside from the two albums I have mentioned, there is other work mooted, and some great albums afoot.  The point I am making is this: great music sneaks up on you.  I had no idea that two of my favourite musical acts were releasing new material, which brings me to another point: why hadn’t I heard?  I know there is a sense of secrecy and subjugation with new music.  Acts do not want to disseminate information too freely, in case anticipation is temporized when their music is released.  It just seems that the music press is a little remiss when it comes to alerting the public of new material.  I follow N.M.E. and The Guardian when it comes to music news, yet it seems that a stronger link needs to be cemented with social media.  Unless you follow a particular band or act, it is hard to hear about their music.  It would be helpful is social media stopped shining and buffing their pages; redesigning and updating- and instead made the service more useful and worthy.  I have bemoaned social media for the fact that it appeals to self-promotion and self-obsession.  It caters for those- me included- whom want the rest of the world to hear their every mundane thought, yet there is little utility when it comes to anything else.  I would love a social media site that made it easier to connect to new music; make people aware of important local events; tied every social search tool and function into one site- as well as tied in all the best aspects of the best sites from the Internet.  It would not be too hard, yet it seems that the public are largely concerned with themselves as opposed to other people.  I have many online friends whom promote worthy causes; output terrific music and are kind-hearted.  There are many more whom are not like this, and it is something that needs to change.  As I say, I follow some music sites when it comes to seeking out new music, and stumble upon some wonderful examples.  A lot of the talent emanates from the U.K., yet once in a while an international act arrives that makes me stand to attention.  Last year I encountered a wide swathe of sounds from across Europe and the U.S., and today I come across a quite unique act.  I shall examine her a little closely soon, yet for now, I want to talk about a particular subject: Australia.  Here is a nation that is a little shy when it comes to music.  I know that there are a lot of great acts from that fine nation, yet few arrive at our shores.  I have reviewed the likes of Matt Corby previously, and know that there is a thriving music scene across the country.  It seems that when it comes to public exposure, it is best to be located in the U.S. or U.K.  Many Australian acts have made their way to these lands, yet it is a shame that a lot of native talent are being overlooked.  When I featured Joe McKee last year, I was amazed I had never heard of him.  He was raised in the Darling Plains, yet had spent time in America and the U.K.  He feels at home at home, and it seems that if you wish to remain in Australia, attention is harder to come about.  I am not sure who- if anyone- is to blame for this sorry state, yet it seems staggering that artists feel the need to emigrate to get themselves heard.  In an age that is as technoclogically-advanced as its ever been; where the Internet connects everyone to everyone; where thousands of acts ply their trade- why is it the case that the lines of connection and publicity are so frayed?

Laura Wilde was a unfamiliar face to me as recently as a few days ago.  Before I get down to some biography and investigation, let’s get the unimportant (and shallow) point out-of-the-way: she is stunning to behold.  Incredible beautiful and drop dead gorgeous, she is a striking talent.  I hope that her looks will not be the focal point of her music, yet it is something that needs to be gotten out-of-the-way.  There are some incredible and talented solo female acts currently making waves, and Wilde is a name that should rank amongst them.  Solo artistry is possibly the hardest nut to crack.  A lot of the time, the voice has to do the talking- as opposed to the overall sound.  With a band, there are multiple members each contributing to the sound.  The singer often takes focus, yet a lot of time it is the overall sound that impresses the most.  It is easier for a group to impress as there are several minds contributing to the sound, and shouldering the burdens.  When it comes to the lone artist, everything has to be covered by the one person.  It is always impressive when a truly unique solo act comes along, yet it seems that the band market still rules the roost.  As I stated, there is a lot of emphasis placed on the voice (when it comes to solo artists), and the sound and template is often overlooked.  Wilde is an artists whom is synonymous with sound, electricity and sensation- yet still has an impressive voice.  She unveils and offers the anticipation of a full band, yet has a unique and personal voice and style- that is her and her alone.  Before I get down to some personal details, let me unleash two terrifying words: Hair Metal.  As disturbing images flood into your mind, let me go on record by stating that Wilde’s music is a lot more credible and memorable than the likes of the Hair Metal acts of the past.  A lot of critics and magazines have labelled Wilde’s music along these lines; others have compared her to the likes of Avril Lavine and teen pop sensations.  It is not an insulting comparable, yet it does not do her music justice.  Her sounds may not be to everyone’s instant liking and tastes, yet it will burrow into your consciousness before too long.  There are few solo female acts that have any real attitude or punch- there is still an emphasis on raw emotion or cuteness.  It is not the case that the 23-year-old is a relic of a bygone age, or a plastic fad: her energy and personality has all the merit of the legends of rock and metal.  Wilde has drawn comparisons with the likes of Vixen, and she has an edge of Suzi Quatro and the female punk bands of the ’70s and ’80s.  In spite of whether this sort of music appeals or not, her passion and conviction cannot be faulted.  She is a blonde and beautiful woman whose life began in Melbourne.  This city has produced some terrific modern talent, and is a location that is sun-drenched and picturesque.  The scenic and sunny climbs inspire creative mind, and the bonhomie of its citizens, combined with the bustling city energy has spiked the attentions of local musicians.  Wilde’s Grunge/Surf/Punk roots are probably inspired by U.S. talent, yet Melbourne (and Australia) has a large swathe of similar acts and sounds.  Her website quotes the following: “Originally from Melbourne Australia, her talent on both guitar and bass quickly made Laura a heavily sought after musician which led to work with a who’s who of Australian artists. She also worked for a time as a presenter on Beat TV as well as being part of the house band of Australia’s Got Talent which brought her much recognition. “That was all great experience,” Laura admits, “but I’m a songwriter and a musician and I wanted to play my own music.  When she was 18 years old, Laura went out on her own 22 show tour, attended university, continued her session work, held down a job at a local guitar store and even played a private acoustic show for the Saudi Arabian royal family.  At 19, she moved to Los Angeles, and began work on her debut album, Sold My Soul, which earned Laura great respect and strong reviews“.  It is clear that the teenage years were filled with eventfulness and prosperity for Wilde, and her rise to prominence has a Hollywood sort of story to it.  I can see the appeal of locating to L.A.- it is now home to the likes of Laura Marling.  In some much as it is sunny and warm most of the year, it has a rich and vibrant music community and is in the glare of the music media- as well as being close to the epicentre of the moviemaking industry.  Wilde has not forgotten her homeland, nor adopted a faux-American accent.  Wilde has toured the U.K. and has a fondness for this wonderful land; yet at the moment she is busy in her new home.  Wilde is a lot more than her stunning beauty; a lot more in fact.  Wilde is an incredible guitar player, and is influenced by the likes of Jimi Hendrix and Jimmy Page.  There are few modern soulless acts amongst Wilde’s cannon of influences- she favours the greats and aspires to replicate their majesty.  She is a guitarist I would kill for in my band (when it happens), and her axe-wielding skills have seen her play some illustrious gigs.  As well as spending a lot of time performing in Las Vegas, she has toured with Ted Nuggent- as well as been playing across the U.S.  It has been nearly two years since her debut album Sold My Soul was released, yet it still warranting praise and adulation.  Wilde has a clear fashion sense and identity, yet is not a prefabricated figurine moulded by a P.R. company (there are plenty of female pop acts that we can all think of).  Wilde is a strong and feisty talent, and is making music that is at once familiar, and at the same time, original.  There has been some derison and haughty snorting, due to the fact that some critics see her as a Hair Metal throwback.  I feel that there is still too much attention put on to solo artists’ shoulders.  Many go into listening to an artist with preconceived notions and narrow-minded cliché.  It seems that many feel that female solo acts should sound like Adele or Amy Winehouse- or else be a cute and meagre folk artist with a sweet-natured voice and not a lot else.  I have reviewed artists such as Lydia Baylis, and found that her incredible voice and songwriting talents were begging for bigger attention.  There are still too many solo acts that sound the same, and sound like everything that goes before.  Unique acts like Baylis, Abi Uttley of Issimo- as well as Little Violet and Annie Drury- are not getting their just rewards.  These are amongst a small band of brave artists breaking from a tired dust-filled mould, and making their own sounds- on their terms.  Wilde will take some time to get her music appreciated widely, yet it is clear that she is going to a huge name to watch.  She does not rely on her voice; her lyrics; her guitar-playing skills: she has so much going for her that it is hard to ignore.  At the moment, Wilde has a heavy period of touring ahead of her, yet it is clear that more music is imminent.  This year will see her play more gigs across the U.S., yet I hope she also stops by London and the U.K.- as there will be renewed and new demand for her music.  In a year where stalwarts such as Beck and Wild Beasts will be keeping me occupied, I am always excited by what new acts can offer.  Over the first few weeks of this new year, I have witnessed diverse and bold sounds.  Wilde is another puzzle piece that is bright and memorable.  Last year was an important one for the punk goddess, and some website snippets give an insight into the day-to-day life of the Australian musician: “… When their hectic touring schedules allow them both the time, she will be writing a song with Geezer Butler from Black Sabbath and is hoping he may even produce a track or two.  Recently Laura received many accolades and rave reviews having just completed over 50 tour dates across America during the summer of 2013. Here fans saw Laura play arenas, theatres and clubs across the USA.  She also recently earned the title of ‘Best New Female Artist’ and was honored at the ‘Vegas Rocks Music Awards 2013′ with the legendary Zakk Wylde and DJ Ashba“.  It is clear that the U.S. is treating her kindly and latching onto her potential, so I hope that this is blown across the oceans back to Australia.

With a guitar swing and burst which- upon first listen- resembles Get It On by T-Rex, there is a certain glam rock punch to proceedings.  With hand-clapping accompaniment, the guitar coda struts and swings its arms defiantly; setting up a huge amount of intrigue, energy and testicular fortitude.  The layers and teeth marks of ’70s glam rock and punk are laced into the intro.  You can hear the affection Wilde has for the era, as one is instantly put in mind of a past era, where the hair was brighter and more striker; leather-clad legends like Quatro were ruling the scene- and the quality of music was a lot more consistent.  After a few seconds a pattering percussive roll is introduced.  It heightens the tension and excitement, and adds an extra layer of weight.  After a tee-up from the drums, Wilde’s vocal enters the scene.  The first verse begins with some itinerant painting.  Our heroine is traversing New Orleans and “Every city in-between“.  The vocal is intense and punchy, with a slight distortion.  It puts me in mind of modern singers such as Alison Mosshart, as well as legends like Joan Jett.  Instantly a sense of punk authority and blues rock swagger in introduced.  The roots and embryonic strands are firmly in the U.S., and the sound of Detroit-via-Los Angeles-via-New York is explored.  Wilde is hitting the tracks, and is doing so with staunch intent:  “Kissed my mumma/Said goodbye/Want look back/To see her cry“.   A semblance of The Kills-cum-Quatro electricty keeps the hairs on end, and Wilde does not let the mood or pace relent, as she continues her travels.  “From Tennessee to Idaho” our heroine doesn’t know where she is going to go, but is keen to get away and get on the road.  The vocal evocations are at the forefront and are clearest, yet Wilde’s guitar skills add venom and fisticuffs.  Throughout the percussion keeps the beat and backbone straight; it is not too intrusive and infuses machismo and authority into the proceedings.  In spite of the fact that our heroine sold her soul “to rock and roll” the initial third of the song is a trip around the states of America.  Our Australian idol has been to some far-off places; been travelling wide, in search of…well, I’m not sure.  Wilde is having a ball, seeing sights, sensations and smells that enliven her senses, and living the life of a Punk/Grunge persuader.  There is a sense of rebellion detectable throughout.  Wilde is certainly not coming home, and whatever has compelled her to hit the tracks, is clearly not something that can easily be undone.  When listening to the track, vivid imagery comes to mind.  One can picture and feel the sticky floors of a bar somewhere out west; dust-strewn roads where our heroine drives down; sunglasses on and wind in her hair.  She travelled to Illinois, where- and conveniently from a poetic sense- “met a boy” (not sure how she’d make it work if she was in Oklahoma).  Wilde’s heart belongs to Texas, and her soul and blood is running down a multitude of roads throughout the U.S.  Her itinerant mind make be something that Kerouac could write about, but she is in pursuit of music and good times: self discovery and philosophical answers perhaps not.  It is not until the 1:30 mark that the swinging pendulum of guitar and percussion abates.  When it does, the vocal is isolated (and more distorted), as Wilde interjects more truths about her travels and pursuits.  With regards to the subject matter of the song, it perhaps has more in common with the Punk and glam rock themes and artists of the ’70s than it does today.  In that sense, Wilde is less the modern-day pop idol and more the leader of disaffected youth.  One may foolishly think of a tattooed, raven-haired chain-smoking singer when they hear the voice; hear the words and let their mind wander.  The fact that our vocalist is a dreamy blonde-haired Siren makes it more impressive- you cannot help but smile.  In spite of the wind and rain, Sold My Soul is infused with sunshine, heat and summer.  In the same way that the Queens of the Stone Age’s My God Is The Sun was an axiomatic paen to the desert roads and sun-drenched highways, one gets the same sense here.  Our heroine moves on to Louisiana, yet still is selling her soul to rock and roll; she encounters a new high (and sensation), before moving to the next state.  It seems that home is far away, and lost to a hurricane of fury: we’re not in Kansas anymore.  The final line says it all “And I’m not going home“.  The girl has become a woman, and is someone not willing to do things according to someone else’s way.  By the end of the track you are somewhat exhausted, and left in no doubt as to Wilde’s intentions.  Afterthoughts on the track?  The guitar work has some elements of Black Rebel Motorcycle Club’s Spread Your Love (as does the percussion); as well as a little bit of Black Holes-era Muse.  Unlike Bellamy and his cohorts, our heroine is punchy and less extravagant with her fretwork.  She unleashes an indelible and ephemeral rift, gathering momentum and pace throughout the track.  The song is instantly and lastingly catchy, and is based on a simplistic and nomadic lyrical theme.  Wilde keeps the lyrics memorable yet straightforward; employing an effective device and stretching it to its ends.  It is an odd introverted 50 Ways To Leave Your Lover-esque track, but one will a lot more middle finger raising.  To my mind, the most lasting and effective aspect of the track is Wilde’s vocals.  They were probably be seen as second fiddle to her guitar playing, yet it is her pipes that shout the loudest.  I mentioned Mosshart earlier, and there will be some comparisons with the Dead Weather singer.  A little Quatro/Jett/Bolan affectation and styling is into the mix, creating a ’70s Glam/Grunge/Punk-cum-’00s U.S. blues rock hybrid.  I have heard the rest of the Sold My Soul L.P., and there are few comparable tracks to the title cut.  Each song has its own mobility and energy; each sounds different and offers something striking- yet Wilde keeps her voice true and focused.  The album’s finest cut is here and has its alarming charms and not-teenage-anymore-kicks.  Its metre and pace almost calls to mind an army drill/marching song, and our heroine has conviction and intention throughout.  Do not think of some pseduo-rebellious teenage punk wannabe like Lavigne: Wilde is all grown up and in her own league.  The album itself may be a two-year-old, yet it deserves wider investigation.  This year will see the Australian preparing new material and thoughts: I cannot wait to see what she comes up with.

It is clear that there is more than meets the eye, when it comes to Wilde.  She is a woman who will be dropping jaws because of her beauty, yet dropping more because of her talent.  There is nuance to her music, which means it will grab people in years to come.  You have to put any prejudices and incorrect thoughts aside.  The song- and L.P.- Sold My Soul are not the creations of a teen idol wannabe; not the makings of a second-string replicant of the punk greats.  There has been too much ignorant negativity placed on Wilde by some.  She has edge, rebellion and force, yet there is no gimmick or false promise within these protestations.  Wilde is a strong and bold woman who knows what she wants, and is going out and getting it.  She is barely in her 20s, yet is proving to be one of the most exciting acts of ’10s.  There is a market gap and a hole that needs filling.  Too many examples of the type offered up by The X Factor and The Voice.  There is a soulless clan of dead-eyed singers, each with nothing to say, and a desperate desire for fame and excess.  Wilde is a distinct and impressive figure as she does not seem to be of this generation.  There are plenty whom play music honest and differently, yet it seems that this art is being lost.  You cannot ignore her guitar-playing skills; you would be foolish to overlook her potential, and her focus and drive are to be applauded.  Her album showed that she has the talent and ambition to be around for a long time; it is early days and will be interesting to see how she develops.  I hope that her music gets picked up by more people, as I have grown tired of too many listless and acoustic-driven solo acts.  They have their place in the market, yet I have always favoured music that offers up more intrigue and passion.  I feel that 2014 will see Wilde keeping her sound intact, yet pushing herself a bit.  I feel that there may be bluesy or more romantic sounds mingling alongside ’70s Punk and Surf- as well as some modern-day metal edges.  Whatever your opinions are of Sold My Soul, it would be churlish to overlook Wilde in the long-term.  Her L.P. offers up tantalising titles such as Freeek!, Classic Guitar Star and Love Buyer; there is some profanity and stark declarations, but above all, is the sound of an ambitious young woman whom wants to remain in music for many years to come.  She is someone I would be desperate to have in a band with me (I have at least two others I am trying to chase), and it is not often I am as instantly impressed by a talent.  This year is going to see many acts come and go, and there is certainly going to be a lot on offer.  There is a place on the scene for everyone, yet those who remain in the memory are those who do things differently- as well as expand their sound and keep fresh.  Wilde has clearly benefited from the air of California, and seems pretty content there.  I hope that the multitudinous and variegated sounds enforce her next L.P., and it seems that her U.S. fans are taking her to heart.  I want to leave you with a thought; or more of an invocation.  Social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook will see their days numbered, as new and brighter websites come along.  The nature of social media is predicated towards, and synonymous with promoting an individual’s every thought.  Few take time to promote worthy causes or bring to light important developments.  I would be naive to think that these sites consider music, and find a way to bring to light great new music- to everyone.  It would nice, however, if there was a music website that offered this.  I have encountered too many acts retrospectively.  It is annoying finding an act and then realising that they have been making great music for years.  I know there are so many acts out there that it is near-impossible to bring all of the greats to the public consciousness, yet to my mind, there is no effort to do anything.  If it weren’t for a select few websites, I would be unaware of a lot of great bands- some of whom I stay in regular contact with.  Wilde is a jaw-dropping beauty with snarl and mega talent in her arsenal.  They are dangerous weapons and alluring chalices; I hope that she will utilise her focus and momentum to unleash she fresh sounds this year.  On the evidence of the track Sold My Soul (as well as the album), there is plenty to suggest L.P. no. 2 will be snapped up and brought to the attention of the masses.  Musically, Wilde has a great range and can produce toe-tapping kicks, plenty of psychotropic fuzz and haze, and some evocations of the ’60s and ’70s masters such as Hendrix and Page.  There is some home-grown AC/DC sounds; pieces of Quatro and Joan Jett- as well as some spike of The Ramones.  These facets account for a modicum of Wilde’s whole, and she has her own unique flavour and business plan.  I hope that some diversity and differing themes come into her lyrics.  The profanity and f***-you attitude is needed, and works wonderfully over some songs; yet it would be great to see something more romantic; some different genres and influences thrown into the mix.  L.A. plays host to some terrific new and established acts, and I hope that Wilde employs a little of their majesty into her mix.  Her debut L.P. shows what she has to offer, and it is only a matter of time before that is augmented and bolstered.  Where she goes next is anyone’s guess, yet it is evident that she will be busy over this year.  As she states, herself:

I play the rules to a different game

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Follow Laura Wilde:

Official:

http://www.laurawilde.com/

Twitter:

https://twitter.com/laurawilde

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/laurawildemusic

YouTube:

http://www.youtube.com/laurawildemusic

SoundCloud:

https://soundcloud.com/laurawildemusic