Feature: Jeff Buckley- The Courage, The Strength, The Grace.


Jeff Buckley:

The Courage, The Strength, The Grace.


His majestic voice and entrancing songs have inspired legions of modern-day artists; a truly remarkable and singular human being. I investigate the incredible legacy of one of the music world’s greatest ever lights.


IT is hard to believe that Grace was released twenty years ago now…

I shall go into more depth about its release (and the year 1994) later on, but I guess that is the wonder of enduring music- it seems fresh and current, so long after its release. For me, Jeff Buckley (or Scottie Moorhead to give his birth name) is a unimpeachable icon- and my all-time music idol. Buckley is the musician that resonates most in my heart; a human I relate to and understand. Although he died seventeen years ago (this year), I still think about him every day: strange given we never even met. Watching and listening to various interviews, I always sit and sigh; his voice is so mellifluous and calming, it is hard not to become seduced. The way he spoke about music; his idols and influences; what it meant to him- it is something you do not hear often in the modern climate. In a capricious music industry, tastes and trends change; ‘idols’ are almost disposable, and fickleness mandates critical minds. Buckley seemed like a pure drop of sound in the ocean: few musicians have ever seemed so genuinely in awe of music and what it can do to a human being. When trying to distil the essence of Buckley into a single thought or semblance, it is impossible- vast and layered is his influence. I guess my opening paragraph is dedicated to one core responsibility: to offer thanks to the man. Buckley was-and is- the reason I picked up a pen (to write my first song). As a man (whom experienced much heartache and setback) his tenacity and focus is an awe-inspiring tapestry that has guided me past some tough times. His voice gives me shivers, and compels me to bend, mould and nurture my own- in quest for perfection that will never be realised. As a human, Buckley remains a relatable and down-to-earth figure whom resonates hugely with many; as a voice and musician (in my mind) he is untouchable. Many have tried to mimic and match the legend (I will touch more on this later), yet none have equalled him, and with good reason: his originality and talent are his and his alone. I know there will be some reading this- if any are reading at all- whom are familiar with Buckley’s back catalogue; some whom are intimately enamoured of his every move- and some unaware of the U.S. icon’s glorious- if brief- career. I shall do my best to fill in any blanks; reignite something in those (whom may have a dusty copy of Grace in their C.D. collection); as well as pay tribute to one of the most important- and underrated- musicians of the past twenty-or-so years.

In November, 1966, Jeff Buckley arrived into the world. Born to Mary Guibert and Tim Buckley in California, the star-in-waiting’s embryonic years were fraught with upheaval as well as musical influence. Tim Buckley- for those unaware of his name- was a key name in the music world during the 1960s and ’70s. His albums were paragons of Folk purity, free jazz experimentation- as well as Sex Funk sweat. Buckley senior’s voice was a multi-octave instrument of pure force; something that scored some remarkable songs and fascinating movements. He went on to make nine (studio) albums, and inspire a wave of enamoured and inspired musicians- each impressed by Buckley’s fierce talent and prolific output. Although the quality of Buckley’s albums varied, and in spite of the fractious relationship between him and his son, you cannot deny: fathering Jeff Buckley was his greatest triumph. Tim Buckley died (from a heroin overdose) in 1975 (aged 28; Jeff Buckley was an eight-year-old at the time), and abandoned Jeff when he was a child. The bond between Jeff and Tim Buckley was non-existent; our feature-ee did not consider Tim to be his dad at all. The Buckley household was awash with various genres and styles of music- peaking our icon’s mind from a tender age. The family (Jeff, his mum and step-dad Ron Moorhead) moved between various towns in Orange County- it was a nomadic and dislocated upbringing. The one stable constant in Buckley’s childhood years was music; from U.K. acts such as Queen, Led Zeppelin and The Who, through to U.S. legends such as Nina Simone and Kiss. Physical Graffiti (by Led Zeppelin) was the first L.P. Buckley bought (and fell in love with), and amidst a turbulent and anxious period of his life, music offered a sanctuary and safe haven. Buckley attended music school, yet considered it a huge waste of time- his talent was a birth right, and could not be taught or improved upon. Buckley’s instincts and upbringing enforced his music ideologies and ambitions, and it was the sounds he grew up on- not the teachings of any academy or college- that moulded the star. Buckley’s climb to prominence had humble beginnings. In his teenage years, the American played in various different bands- performing gigs in a range of hotels, bars and locations. Dividing his time between L.A. and New York, Buckley was initiated to new and fresh sounds and forms of music- yet in terms of performing, started out as a backing singer. One of Buckley’s first public appearances was signing at a tribute concert to his father (in New York in 1991), yet it was not until a few months later things started to really click- and begin an extraordinary trajectory. Collaborating with Gary Lucas, the two worked on songs (which would feature on Grace) including Mojo Pin and Grace. No longer was our hero a loner; no more was he a backing singer- he was finding his feet in the spotlight and starting to set tongues wagging. Towards late-1991/early-1992 a transformative (and elemental) period of Buckley’s life began: performing around Lower Manhattan and East Village in New York. It was not huge venues and arenas that were being charmed, but small and intimate cafes and bars. I shall expand more on Buckley’s interpretive talents and the importance of Sin-é (a small Irish café in East Village), but that moment and that tiny café seemed like Buckley (perhaps first) natural home. Buckley himself has some particular views on his itinerant travelogue: “Moving to the East coast from California was the most extreme and successful self-rescue operation I’d ever implemented. Otherwise I was going to rot from the inside. It was do or die. I’ve always done music, been in bands, but at the time I was staring at the walls, with no hope and no confidence”. It was here (in New York) that his formative moments were consecrated and gilded; it was here that many had the fortune of witnessing a young man, at the start of a wonderful career. A lot of various components and elements went into shaping and moulding a truly extraordinary musician.

I shall take you inside Sin-é shortly, but want to give you some lead-in. Buckley did not merely rock up to the café one day, ready-made and complete- his influences and music collection was a vital composite. I have touched upon some of the acts which peaked Buckley’s (young) mind- but it only tells part of the tale. When many think of Buckley, it is perhaps his voice that is the most synonymous facet. To me, anyway, I feel that this is our hero’s calling card. Buckley’s voice is something that he worked hard to foster, yet also influenced and shaped by his musical heroes. In many interviews, Edith Piaf and Nina Simone have been cited as major idols. As well as Led Zeppelin (and Robert Plant), the likes of Morrissey and Van Morrison featured highly in Buckley’s regards- helped to add additional colour and imperialism to his treasured pipes. Diverse artists such as Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Judy Garland, Bad Brains and Elton John were important too- the combination of all these disparate and wide-ranging musicians left their mark. When analysing Buckley’s voice in pure terms, it is hard to explain. There have been several artists (since his death) whom have tried to evoke some of Buckley’s essence (I shall highlight this towards the end of the feature), yet in the early ’90s, Buckley gorgeous and rarefied tones were certainly not commonplace: few male vocalists had the same capacity or ability as our hero: He was a tenor capable of reaching a falsetto pitch. A tenor’s range in the bass clef spans middle C to high F. Jeff’s actual range was four octaves. A student from the University of Queensland studied Buckley’s voice; and came to the following conclusions: “Jeff Buckley was a light lyric tenor. His very different registers were blended marvellously.  His chest, voice, and head voice were perfectly integrated. His falsetto was good, too, and his fluctuating between falsetto and head voice is something most singers are very jealous of. His tessitura (or comfortable singing range) was between E below middle C, which he often started verses on- (“Grace”, “Lover …”, “Last Goodbye”), and the notes D right above middle C and F# just above that- in most of his choruses. He also used his high A frequently. A typical lyric tenor tessitura. In other words, to the unacquainted, the same range as Pavarotti. Except, Jeff was very fond of the alto register, which he would exploit in falsetto, or coordinated head voice (a fuller, wailing type of voice). His lowest note was on a live version of “Dream Brother” (on the Australian Grace album pack- it must have been the weather!) and it was the second A below middle C — this is quite low for a high tenor voice. He loved to wail in head voice on the high E, which he did on half the songs on Grace, but mysteriously stopped doing them on Sketches. He could sing in an alto range quite effectively- check out “Strange Fruit” on the “Man in the Moon” session — breath-taking; or the Edith Piaf cover on Live at Sin-é”. Buckley never really mentioned his voice, and was always modest about its genius. As much as his idols helped to shade his tones, a natural ability and instinct made it what it was. Buckley explained by saying that “there is no ‘good’ singing, there’s only ‘present’ and ‘absent.’ That’s it—it’s the balls. Just the utter deathlessness, fearlessness… What really fuels your art is the courage to express yourself, and just, sometimes you get kicked in the nuts for it“. Before I open the doors of New York’s aforementioned Irish café, I want to mention Buckley’s song writing. In interviews- with self-deprecating humour- Buckley claimed he did not really know how to write songs- in a conventional manner. Often dreams and poems would influence songs and movements- our hero was not a fan of the traditional verse-chorus-verse structure. He was enamoured and impassioned by words; seeing song writing as a deeply personal thing. Buckley explained song writing, thus: “Your thought is your right, your art is your right. You are allowed to invent and explore your song. You are allowed to make it real through your concentration and hold onto your gift, man, and let go… I daydream thinking about great songwriters. I was brought up with all these different influences—Nina Simone, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Patti Smith—people who showed me music should be free, should be penetrating, should carry you“. The original semblances Buckley was compiling around 1991/2 were filled with romantic declaration, and paeans to cherished love. The young man was experimenting and finding what he had to offer as a songwriter. Buckley had views when it came to ‘sensitive’ song writing, and expressing himself this way: “Sensitivity isn’t about being wimpy. It’s about being so painfully aware that a flea landing on a dog is like a sonic boom  As Buckley was ready to bring his songs to East Village, everything was going t change for him; as he saw it: “Just feeling is a subversive act. Expressing it is rebellious“.

I am not sure what Sin-é looks like today- or whether it has been re-named- yet in 1993 (when Buckley recorded the songs that appeared on his Live at Sin-é E.P.)it was an intimate, homely and charming venue- small bit filled with character. Buckley would often help serve coffees and clean up tables (after and before gigs) and seemed comfortable and ensconced within its safe walls. Buckley felt naturally secure here (“I could never be tired of New York“), and it was at Sin-é that his firmest early steps were made. I will mention Buckley’s vocal range later, but if you listen to the Live at Sin-é (Deluxe Edition), it is a hugely impressive collection of songs, that highlight just how staggering his voice is. Tracks from the likes of Van Morrison and Bob Dylan were reinterpreted and redefined by Buckley: each was given a unique stamp of authority. As exciting as it was to hear original words from the young master, it was his huge interpretive talents that were wooing audiences the most. I have provided a couple of links (at the foot of the feature), that go to show just how good he was. Tracks such as Sweet Thing and I Shall Be Released became tender and hugely evocative tales: imbued with a falsetto vocal of purity and clarity. Each night he played, there was a new set list; songs played previously were given a different take, and one would never hear the same performance two nights in a row. Buckley had his own with regards to his music, and singing: “Music comes from a very primal, twisted place. When a person sings, their body, their mouth, their eyes, their words, their voice says all these unspeakable things that you really can’t explain but that mean something anyway. People are completely transformed when they sing; people look like that when they sing or when they make love. But it’s a weird thing—at the end of the night I feel strange, because I feel I’ve told everybody all my secrets”. Given the fact that Buckley was performing in a café, it was obviously a very small location: making the overall sound that more personal and intimate. Each night, the young hero would be on the (tiny) stage: just him and a guitar. I cannot do full justice to how great the performances and recordings from this time are- and I wish I could have been there. The way Buckley employed his guitar as an additional vocal element; changed chords and direction mid note: making each track as mesmeric as possible. Buckley himself said:  “It’s all about supporting the voice—any real guitar player should know that. Rhythm and melody are the king and queen and it’s all to support the voice—ask Keith Richards, ask Robert Johnson“. Original numbers (which would appear on Grace) such as Lover, You Should’ve Come Over, Last Goodbye and Mojo Pin were being worked on and witnessed for the first time. It is a shame that more modern-day performers do not take the route Buckley did: playing live at homely and character-filled locations, rather than bigger venues.  Buckley himself understood the importance of where he was playing (“I like low stage volume. I want the idea and the sound of the idea to intoxicate—not the voltage“). Very soon, the young American was about to get his big break. Record label executives would watch his performances, and it was the eyes and ears of Columbia Records whom would get the signature of Jeff Buckley.

Grace is what matters. In anything. Especially life, especially growth, tragedy, pain, love, death. About people, that’s what matters. That’s a quality I admire very greatly. It keeps you from reaching for the gun too quickly; it keeps you from destroying things too foolishly; it sort of keeps you alive and keeps you open for more understanding“. It was Buckley’s debut- and only- L.P., Grace, that contained a lot of these elements and considerations. Joining together with new band recruits Mick Grøndahl, Matt Johnson and Michael Tighe, the quartet laid down the movements that formed the basis of one of the greatest albums of all time. Retreating to the heat and striking landscape of Woodstock, the sounds and sensations of Grace took shape. As well as recommending you seek out the album and enjoy every moment, I would say it is well worth watching a promotional documentary about the album (the first link under Interviews). It was clear how much making music meant to Buckley, and how important it was. With producer Andy Wallace, a masterpiece was unveiled. Tracks such as Mojo Pin were based around dreams and psychedelic images; the title track is an epic song dedicated to true love- both containing Buckley’s mix of powerful belt and transcendent falsetto lines. One thing that struck me about the album is the maturity and range of Buckley’s lyrics. The title track was filled with evocative images and pain-ridden sacrifice (“And the rain is falling and i believe/My time has come/It reminds me of the pain/I might leave/Leave behind“). Mojo Pin blending emotional romantic sways as well as striking and detached images: “Precious, precious silver and gold and pearls in oyster’s flesh/Drop down we two to serve and pray to love/Born again from the rhythm screaming down from heaven/Ageless, ageless/I’m there in your arms“. Our hero was turning scribbled notes and verses into hugely emotive and stunning songs. Last Goodbye– perhaps his most effective track- defines what made Buckley whom he is: an impressive lyricist with a voice that brings every word to life. As well as being one of his most direct and memorable vocal performances, it also contains some of his most emotional and racked utterances (“Kiss me/Please kiss me/But kiss me out of desire, babe, and not consolation“). I shall go more into the vocal displays that augmented each track, but Grace demonstrated what a confident and talented songwriter Buckley was. It was the shared kinship and tightness of the entire band that added the colour and weight, but the strength of the lyrics and music was evident. It was obvious that Buckley would include some cover versions, and the likes of Lilac Wine were included: a song that Buckley wished he had written, and adored. That particular song- which has been performed by the likes of Nina Simone- was transformed into something that Buckley made his own. It was perhaps the lyrics of that track that Buckley connected to, and vibed from. When it came to his own words, Buckley had opinions on what made (great lyrics): “The thing is that I also like to have lyrics that are inclusive, that give you space to be inside them, to put your experience on to them, so that they can move through other moments“. The ‘inclusive’ nature of lyrics is perhaps an elemental focus when one looks at Buckley’s interpretive skills. He clearly identified with songs such as Lilac Wine, and found ways of making these tracks his own. I shall get onto one particular number soon, but want to mention a few more tracks. Lover, You Should’ve Come Over (a track moulded and shaped during the Sin-é regency) was Buckley longest track, yet one that was rife with scenery, fascinating characters and above all, pure declaration. The opening lines brought the listener right into the song: “Looking out the door I see the rain fall upon the funeral mourners/Parading in a wake of sad relations as their shoes fill up with water“. As it progresses, we see our hero parading the floor; hungry for his lover, but regretful, too (“And much too blind to see the damage he’s done“). As our hero waits in the rain, lonely and pining, the final words are unveiled: “Sweet lover, you should’ve come over/Oh, love well I’m waiting for you/Lover, you should’ve come over/Cause it’s not too late“. Eternal Life is an angry song that rallies against corrupt forces and men behind desks and masks, whilst the swan song Dream Brother are filled with lyrics that could have double meaning (“Don’t be like the one who made me so old/Don’t be like the one who left behind his name“). Before I complete my survey of Buckley’s 1994 masterpiece, I have to mention one song: Hallelujah. Originally written by Leonard Cohen (on his album Various Positions) it was owned by Buckley. This is the song that bring many to the wonders of Jeff Buckley- depressing, considering all the terrific work he has left behind. I suppose it is unsurprising that so many are in awe of Buckley’s rendition- it remains one of the greatest vocal performance of all time. Of course it was Leonard Cohen’s spellbinding words that provide the basis, yet Buckley gave the song a lease that the original did not contain. In a sense it was a perfect marriage: pair phenomenal words with a voice capable of bringing them fully into life. According to producer Andy Wallace, Buckley took many runs at the song. Versions ranged from hard and angry, through to ‘manly’ renditions: the young artist endless sought to hit that ‘perfect rendition’. The definitive take that we hear on Grace is the result of several takes sewn together: the result is one of the defining songs of the ’90s. I have mixed feelings about the success of Hallelujah. I am ashamed that so many reality stars and ‘YouTubers’ have covered it- they have watered down and eradicated its potency. Buckley’s version is the definitive version, and the song requires no further reinterpretation. It is a shame, but I suppose inevitable, given the potency of our hero’s voice. In a way, mind, I am glad as no one has even a modicum of Buckley’s talent: no subsequent version has got even remotely close to Buckley’s take. You can listen to it and come to your own opinions, but it remains the focal point of an album filled with huge confident, nuance, wonder and intention. The reaction to the L.P. was a bit slow-burning, and initial sales were pretty slow. It is one of these albums that arrived at a difficult time. Grunge was still present, and the likes of Britpop were beginning in the U.K. Grace seems somewhat alien when matched against these diffident genres, and it took many years for people to truly latch onto, and appreciate the album. The likes of the U.K. and France took the album more to heart than Buckley’s native fans, and a lot of post-Grace touring took place here. The album’s purpose what to highlight what a force Buckley was, and what a talent the young man had become. Many- in its wake- were keen to see the master in the live domain- witnessing the songs first-hand.

Buckley spent much of the next year and a half touring internationally to promote Grace. From the album’s release, he played in numerous countries, from Australia, to the UK (Glastonbury and the 1995 Meltdown Festival). Following Buckley’s Peyote Radio Theater tour, the band began a European tour on August 23, 1994, starting with performances in the U.K. and Ireland. The tour continued in Scandinavia and, throughout September, numerous concerts in Germany were played. The tour ended on September 22 with a concert in Paris. A gig on September 24 in New York dovetailed on to the end of the European tour and Buckley and band spent the next month relaxing and rehearsing. A tour of Canada and the U.S. began on October 19, 1994 at CBGB’s. The tour was far-reaching with concerts held on both east and west coasts of the U.S., and a number of performances in central and southern states. The tour ended two months later on December 18 at Maxwell’s in New Jersey. After another month of rest and rehearsal, the band commenced a second European tour, this time mainly for promotion purposes. The band began the tour in Dublin; Buckley has remained particularly popular in Ireland. The short tour largely consisted of promotional work in London and Paris. Touring recommenced in April with dates across the U.S. and Canada. During this period Buckley and the band notably played Metro in Chicago. Buckley’s Mystery White Boy tour, playing concerts in both Sydney and Melbourne, Australia, lasted between August 28 and September 6 and recordings of these performances were compiled and released on the live album Mystery White Boy. Buckley was so well received during these concerts that his album Grace went gold in Australia, selling over 35,000 copies. Between the two Oceania tours Buckley and the band took a break from touring. It was clear that Buckley meant a lot to people, and the demand was huge and consistent. After the consistent rigours of touring- which saw the young star tour relentless pretty much until early-1997- Buckley was keen to take a break, as well as work on new material.

Relentless, endless joy peaking into tears, resting in calmness, a simmering beauty. If you let yourself listen with the whole of yourself, you will have the pure feeling of flight while firmly rooted to the ground“. This was a quote from Buckley, and perhaps summarised how he felt about music, and what it meant to him. I guess some of its beauty had been lost in the mesh of touring commitments, so our hero was eager to reconnect with music’s wonder. Buckley said it himself: “I don’t write my music for Sony. I write it for the people who are screaming down the road crying to a full-blast stereo“. Buckley wanted to give something to the fans; explore new territory- and put as much new and original material onto tape as possible. Buckley became interested in recording at Easley McCain Recording in Memphis. He rented a shotgun house there, of which he was so fond he contacted the owner about the possibility of buying it. Throughout this period, February 12 to May 26, 1997, Buckley played at Barristers’, a bar located in Memphis, underneath a parking garage in an alley off of Jefferson Avenue. He played numerous times in order to work through the new material in a live atmosphere, at first with the band then solo as part of a Monday night residency. The new atmosphere and scenery compelled Buckley, whom spend time alone writing new material. Most of the time Buckley was in Memphis alone (whilst his band remained back in New York). Buckley would send tapes back to the band, whom would listen and digest- keen to meet up with their frontman. All of this activity would result in the (posthumous) recordings that would feature on Sketches for My Sweetheart the Drunk. Ultimately I will have to mention Buckley’s death, and it is all the more tragic, given that our young hero was in such inspired mood. Buckley was reconnecting with music, and saw it as a curative and healing process: “My music is like a lowdown dreamy bit of the psyche. It’s part quagmire and part structure. The quagmire is important for things to grow in“. Ensconced within a tiny house in Memphis, Buckley would commit rough sketches to four-track; seeing what he could come up with. Our hero was a perfectionist, and would often be unhappy with songs. Tracks were recorded and scrapped, as Buckley continued to chase his ideals of perfection. If you listen to Sketches for My Sweetheart the Drunk, you can hear some of the completed cuts- as well as the rough demos- and Buckley never intended them to be heard. Grace was a pivotal moment, yet Buckley wasn’t to create an album that was original and different- to break away from his previous sound. Tracks were taken into the studio and recorded with (producer) Tom Verlaine: yet Buckley was dissatisfied with them. Our hero parted ways with Verlaine, and called Andy Wallace up- keen to start from scratch and try to regain the energy and enthusiasm he had during the recording of Grace. Perhaps it was expectation and market pressure that got to him; or the strains and fatigue from touring, but Buckley was restless and constantly questioning himself. He suffered from Bipolar Affective Disorder which would have effected his creative process and put stress and pressure on his shoulders, and it seemed that a lot of the magic of music had been lost. In spite of everything, in May, 1997- as Buckley’s band mates were due to fly to Memphis to start recording new material- our hero was in good mood; excited by a new lease of life. Unfortunately, Buckley’s new enthusiasm was to turn to tragedy. On the evening of May 29, 1997, went swimming in Wolf River Harbour, a slack water channel of the Mississippi river, while wearing boots, all of his clothing, and singing the chorus of the song Whole Lotta Love by Led Zeppelin. Buckley had gone swimming there several times before. A roadie in Buckley’s band, Keith Foti, remained on shore. After moving a radio and guitar out of reach of the wake from a passing tugboat, Foti looked up to see that Buckley had vanished. Despite a determined rescue effort that night, Buckley remained missing. On June 4, two locals spotted his body in the Wolf River near a riverboat, and he was brought to land. It is typical of Buckley that he went into the river- he was a romantic that was impulsive; yet it was a move that cost the music world a true great. I shall not go into more detail, but in my conclusion will state why Buckley’s death hit me hard. Just when our hero was on the precipice of a second L.P., he died- at the tender age of 30. Luckily, a lot of the studio versions and rough takes have been released (on Sketches for My Sweetheart the Drunk). The quality varies- not surprising as our hero was still working on the songs- yet there are clear glimpses of where Buckley was heading. The overall sound was harder and heavier, evident in tracks such as Nightmares by the Sea and Witches Rave’. Buckley wanted to move away from the pure ethereal aspect and beauty of Grace and inject some elementary grit and force. Amongst the harder numbers, soulful gems such as Everybody Here Wants You and Opened Once remained; trippy swirls like New Year’s Prayer were delightful, and- one of my favourite songs from this period- Vancouver showed how Buckley’s song writing has developed. It is perhaps ironic that the dozen or so ‘professionally-recorded’ tracks would have made a terrific album- yet Buckley was not satisfied enough to take that leap. That makes Buckley’s death even more potent: just how good would have Sketches for My Sweetheart the Drunk been? It is well worth seeking out the album, and hearing our hero’s intentions- and imagine what could have been.

The only way to really make it—anywhere—is to put every bit of your being into the thing that only you can provide. The only angle is the art that you choose, that only you can provide. And to do that, you have to be quiet for a long time and find out what you bring forth. You have to know what’s in yourself—all your eccentricities, all your banalities, the full flavor of your woe and your joy. What does it look like? What does it feel like? What makes it different from everybody else’s? It’s totally subjective. You’re just given the task of bringing it up“. Buckley’s words, music and beauty still resonates with many- nearly seventeen years after his death. Birthday celebrations and tribute concerts are held each year (in November), with fans and musicians remembering Buckley’s brilliance and legacy. Tribute concerts and events take place regularly, with new acts all keen to pay homage and keep his legacy alive. It seems that- even after his death- many cannot (and will not) forget what the man gave to the music world. In New York, an annual tribute concert is held, and I am sure that this will be taking place for decades to come. In spite of having a brief career, it is clear how much the music means- and how hard it resonates.

When asked if he (Buckley) had any advice to new musicians starting out, he stated this: “I have no advice for anybody; except to, you know, be awake enough to see where you are at any given time, and how that is beautiful, and has poetry inside. Even places you hate“. To Buckley, music was the most important thing. He did not want to be remembered as a human (he did but it was secondary to the music); the songs and his musical memories were most important. Songwriting, to him, was a calling and something that defined his life. He said that songs come out of poems, and sometimes poems come out of dreams“. The U.S. dreamer gave the world a hell of a lot of beauty, and changed the music world forever. Before I give my personal thoughts (and sum up), just think about the legacy he has left. As well as the live recordings, Grace and various other tracks, we have the interviews- both recorded and written- that inspired a wave of musicians and artists. Thom Yorke said that The Bends (by Radiohead) would not have sounded like it did- and have been as good- were it not for Buckley. Radiohead watched Buckley perform in 1994, and following a particular mesmeric performance, Yorke was overcome. He rushed to the studio, and without anyone else, laid down a vocal take (that actually is the album version we hear) of Fake Plastic Trees. Such was the effect that Buckley’s music had; that it hit musicians and fans that hard. The softer and purer moments of The Bends was inspired directly by Buckley- that album, to me, is the greatest ever recorded. New and upcoming artists incorporate elements of Buckley’s voice and artistry, with musicians such as Matt Bellamy counting our hero to be amongst their all-time greatest icons. The greatest legacy the man can have, is for his music to be remembered and kept alive. If you have never heard any of his music; or have not visited it for a while, take the time to do so. I not writing it to be sad and to use this as a late obituary or eulogy; more to pay respects to a hugely inspirational figure. Because of Buckley, I picked up pen and paper and decided to write music. Listening to his voice reduced me to- and still does- goosebumps, and he is my music idol for so many reasons. As a human, he was down-to-earth, sensitive and beautiful. His speaking voice was a whispered and entrancing instrument, and the way he talked about music was infectious. Buckley was jocular and witty; upbeat and playful. He has a tragic and affected side; he was mysterious and alone, but as much as anything: he was Jeff Buckley. There was no fakery or sob story; no tinsel or scandal- it was just a young man trying to bring his music to as many people as possible. For me- being 30-years-old- feel more inspired by Buckley more than ever. By my age, the man had recorded everything we have heard from him, and covered so much ground. Being someone trapped inside a crappy life, in a place I do not want to be, I am always looking for the back door- to escape and be somewhere else. As a songwriter, I need to overcome nerves, financial poverty and depression (as well as procrastination) and make a move: whatever the outcome. The man compelled me to start writing music and to want to become a good a songwriter and singer as possible. Buckley was brave and bold; he moved between cities and took huge personal risks to make his music. For me, he defines what it is to be truly inspirational: do what you need to do, no matter what. I wish I could be more like him, as I hate myself for being trapped in a rut; for being in a stressful environment that I hate (more than I can say). Perhaps revisiting his music will spark an idea in my brain (I hope it does), but as much as anything I want to say thanks. Buckley is my hero and has made me into a better songwriter, and someone whom wants to follow dreams; and f*** ‘real life’ and all the boring stressy crap that comes with being ‘ordinary’. I guess you cannot ask for more from a human being: that is why I am writing this. Of course one cannot ignore Buckley’s voice, as it seems to be what he is more synonymous for. I am obsessed by the voice, and strive to reach to Buckley’s levels: knowing I perhaps never will. The year 1997 was so sad, because it was the year that a huge musical force was taken away. It was a senseless death, and I cannot do anything about it. It makes me sad thinking about it; how upsetting it must have been for his band (and family); what could have been. I guess it is not worth dwelling on the past, but celebrating what Buckley gave the world: the music, the influence and the beauty. He is someone we will never see the likes of again and was a true original. We are lucky for having him in the world, and his music and songs will remain long after we have all gone. As much as anything, listen to his music; hear the man talk in interviews, and don’t feel sad: feel compelled to change. If you are stuck in a rut, in misery; in a place you do not want to be; then get out- move on and be what you want to be. Buckley proved that lifer can be cruel and indiscriminate, and I guess it is pointless feeling regretful and trapped inside boxes you do not want to be in. I guarantee that, when you listen to his songs again (and again), it will compel change and something special: it has for me, indeed. I will leave you with some sagacious words, from the man himself (with regards to his own music): “I try to make my music joyful—it makes me joyful—to feel the music soar through the body“. Wherever you are and whatever you are doing- just listen to his music. Do not do so for the sake of things or because it’s apropos: do it because it is joyful. After all…

IT is what he would have wanted.


Ten Essential Jeff Buckley Recordings:

Calling You- Live at Sin-é (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EJk3RErKtmI)

The Way Young Lovers Do- Live at Sin-é (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8kPUT_1d4dA)

Grace- Grace (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eZSTTEoHVxo)

Last Goodbye- Grace (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8II4oKMvudk)

Hallelujah- Grace (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WIF4_Sm-rgQ)

Everybody Here Wants You- Sketches for My Sweetheart the Drunk (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IQN_OmIboNo)

Vancouver- Sketches for My Sweetheart the Drunk (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m0_pFAh6cbw)

Satisfied Mind- Sketches for My Sweetheart the Drunk (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iCU3HXNGaAw)

We All Fall in Love Sometimes- Live Radio Performance (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jYGZ4M-dXls)

Dido’s Lament- Meltdown Festival, 1995 (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y11AMsuh6Ls)






Further Reading:









Track Review: Ellie Rose- Speed Bump


Ellie Rose


Speed Bump



Speed Bump is available from:


The E.P., Speed Bump/Memory Foam is available at:



A mulberry-haired artist whom loves lyrics “to the point of deliberating over them for weeks on end“; a young star that claims “people struggle to take (me) seriously“, should have no fear: her brand of violet song is just what the music world needs.


IT appears that when it comes to the predictable nature of music, it is, well…

not so predictable. I have probably counted eggs before they have hatched. The solo realm is one that I have investigated widely over the past few weeks. From my favourite pink-haired Yorkshire girl Jen Armstrong, through to Elena Ramona and Chess, I have been provided ample healthy stock. In fact, the last few months- especially so- has given me a lot of food for thought. I have mentioned this point in these pages before, so allow me to carry on. Last year, it seemed that there was a surfeit of genuine ambition and pioneering to be found amongst new music, and I ended 2013 somewhat cold. Sure, I witnessed many great acts ply their trade and amaze me, yet on reflection, it seems that the great and bold were a sublimated minority. The band market is always going to be one of the most dependable markets. The music made by bands is what I grew up on, and the likes of The Beatles, through to Blur; along to Queens of the Stone Age- rank amongst my all-time favourite acts. There is an alacrity and ease with which bands go about doing things, which is not easily extrapolated by the solo market. The band has relatively few pressures and no real campaign burdens. Their manifestos are built around shared responsibility and remuneration, and as such, they have less stress and anxiety on their shoulders- their music reflects this. Consequently, it is the solo artists whom I admire the most, as they have to do all the heavy lifting by themselves. It is not enough to hide behind a drum kit or a guitar and allow the front man/woman to do the talking; to cower in the shadows and let your comrades make the noise: solo artists have nowhere to hide. It is brave going out into music sans teammates, and I often feel an additional sorrow when a lone star gets buried amidst the weight of expectation and fickle forces. Too many good and genuine artists are passed over and given short shrift- pure because of the sheer amount of participants on the scene. My tangential theory comes back around to my focal point: solo acts need our attention. Tomorrow I will focus upon a rather special talent: Jeff Buckley. To me, he represented what a solo act should consist of: a great and earnest ambition; huge and loveable personality, as well as an abundance of quality and consistency. Subsequently, most of my  and talent-seeking has been born from these components. It may be a tall order, yet- in a business that offers rewards to those whom are deserving- the motivation is all there. I have encountered too many dour and faceless sole stars, whom seem content to be as introverted and closed-off as possible. Embracing and capturing attention is important, and the most effective way of doing this, is with a multi-part assault. I feel that this year (as well as future ones) will see a break away from the predominance of mainstream music- and towards new music. With music sites popping up all over the place, it is easier now (more than ever) for a new-born artist to get their sounds heard. The discerning listener has more choice and availability than at any the time, and has tough choices to make. The reason I hone in on great solo talents such as Armstrong, Nina Schofield, and Chess, is because they have the whole package. They can connect with fans and allow them access into their development; they share their progress and updates- allowing fans to become part of the creative process. As much as anything, there is an undeniable sense of quality at work. Big and smiling personalities come out to play; music is available constantly (new and past); vlogs and blogs are published frequently, and the quality and consistency of their music is prolific. I am not entirely sure what the face of music will look like this time next year, but I hope that great new acts (many of whom I have featured) will get their just rewards. Our lone artists are those whom will need- and deserve- the biggest focus, so it is paramount that diffuse attention spans are rotated towards their harbours. Before I eloquently tango towards the subject of my featured artist, I will raise another (crucial) point. Exposure and promulgation is tantamount, with regards to ensuring a public foothold. One of my major gripes has revolved around the nature of promotion and social media attention. The solo stars I have mentioned earn their stripes and win consideration, because they ensure that their name and banner is seen as far and wide as possible. In this age, there is no real excuse to negate the necessity of self-promotion. I have seen too many new acts that have a Facebook or Twitter account- yet do not have a personal website or accounts on YouTube or SoundCloud. With the mass rise in new music coming through, it is near-impossible to be found (let alone elevated) if your portfolio is sparse and one-dimensional. You do not have to go overboard, but a well-considered personal site; smattering of sounds amongst the music-sharing platforms; tied in to the usual social media channels, and you have the necessary ingredients that the music-hungry public craves and desire. If you (the solo artist) get these entire bullet points (personality, music, media visibility) honed and cemented, then the rewards are bountiful and evergreen. The best examples (from the solo market) I have witnessed have managed to achieve all of this, as well as provide that extra something. For the female half, there may be an underlying seductiveness and sex appeal; married with an intransigent ambition and determination. For the men there is a charm and everyman quality; as well as a load of chutzpah and mystique. It may seem- on the face of all I have said- that being recognised, proffered and celebrated is Herculean and unassailable; yet I have seen several whom live up to expectations and deserving of mass appeal and consideration. Today I have come across an act whom will be much in-demand over the coming years…

When trying to assess and introduce our heroine, Ellie Rose, perhaps we should let her begin proceedings: “I’m not complicated. Which is not to say I’m simple either. I’m not a hopeless romantic, just completely fearless and sometimes a little naïve, oh and I’m told that I play guitar like a boy… Most of the time people struggle to take me seriously. Perhaps because I have BRIGHT purple hair. I write quotes everywhere, bop around London, England, so if you’re ever in town you’ll probably see me falling over my own feet in the street… I adore lyrics to the point of deliberating over them for weeks on end, I think it’s important to say what you mean, and mean what you say. I get really fixated on things, boys, foods, pretty much anything – that’s the way I became a musician, one day I picked up a guitar and I’ve been addicted ever since“. As we speak, Ellie Rose is preparing for upcoming gigs, that will see her taking her music to new audiences. Last year, the E.P., Speed Bump/Memory Foam was released- a quartet of tracks highlighting our heroine’s range, ambitions and talent. The love and affection for lyrics and ‘getting the words just right’ were evident within the scenes and evocations the E.P. offered forth. It was an impressive work that- nearly 10 months after its release- is still receiving effusive praise and regard. When The Flux came to review the collection, they summarised it thus: “A four track EP which showcases her great vocals and acoustic sound, this record is a feel good piece and one that will get you singing along almost instantly… When we saw her set at Dot to Dot, she had presence, talent, beauty and personality and the debut EP showcases all of those qualities. A good listen indeed and a young artist who has a promising career ahead of her”. There is no hyperbole or over-exaggeration on offer: it (the review) is a concise distillation of what makes Ellie Rose so memorable. I initially came across her only a few weeks ago, yet have been intrigued and compelled since. There seems to be multiple sides and contours to our heroine. When you investigate the Twitter feed of our star, there is a mixture of wit and wisdom to be found. A down-to-earth humility and humorous façade spars with open honesty and earnestness. It is very much a personable and relatable account of a young woman witnessing life in all its many forms. Her website is filled with colour and stunning designs; girlish glee and cartoon imagery; modest and image-setting biographical offerings. When you consider Ellie Rose The Songwriter, perhaps a more serious side comes to the fore. The jovial and uplifting elements of her personality are imbued within the music, yet there is a great degree of thoughtfulness, emotion as well as concise storytelling. Songs such as Mask offer some striking insights: “Mother to your right/Clenched her fists up tight/They said things she didn’t want to hear”; “Mask on/You’re so high strung/That you think you can take on the world/Nobody gets you but your mask doesn’t let them through”; “But don’t worry cause you’re gonna get out soon baby”. A passionate and consistent vein of stirring vignettes, runs through Ellie Rose’s music. Aside from her E.P., tracks such as Sell By Date look at the heartaches of love (“There are so many arrows in my heart/And every time it’s beats/They puncture my lungs/I can’t breathe/So I’m just lying/And now I’m crying”); Crayons mixes childhood images and metaphors with honest admissions (“I can get creative/Getting frustrated/I can be quirky/Whatever works for me/I can be boring, a little annoying…”). It seems that our heroine spends a lot of time honing and moulding her work. Perhaps falling over her feet and distracted clumsiness is conducive to prosperous outpourings. It is not just the songbooks themselves which catch the eye- and stick in the mind. Ellie Rose’s voice match her words. When a song calls for some direct and straight-talking, it is focused and potent; when sweetness and sensitivity are evident, the vocal performance contains these elements. With regards to influences- both in terms of song writing and vocals- our heroine is a little more secretive. It is clear that the likes of The Beatles have influenced her song writing style, but Ellie Rose would rather the music do the talking- and allow you to draw your own conclusions. Since 2007, no less than 170 gigs have been completed, which have seen our heroine venture to all corners of the U.K. I am sure that before too long, the likes of the U.S., Australia and Europe will demand her presence- her music has a sound that could easily transfer to these parts, and be met with huge demand. When looking towards the future, our heroine sees it in these terms “I’m not worried about the future and, unless there’s a Zombie Apocalypse, I’ll be happy as long as I get to make music“. World domination by the undead is an unlikely predicament, yet a busy music calendar is a very realistic one. When I sat down to examine Ellie Rose’s E.P., I was torn which song to review. Each track has its own life and appeal, yet I was most struck with- in my mind- the standout cut: Speed Bump.

There is no room to reflect or wonder (within the first few seconds). Ellie Rose’s vocal is straight in imploring: I need to get myself together/Because I’m falling behind”. The vocal itself is quite relaxed and breezy- without being too matter-of-fact. Backed by a springing and elliptical acoustic guitar line, the track’s embryonic moments are compelling- the vocal is syncopated and measured at the same time.  Our heroine has a certain kick in her step, yet there seems to be some dislocation in her life (“I’m hoping for some better weather/I could do with some sunshine in my life); friends in her life have been going through some tough times; our heroine (is) “just hoping they’ll survive”. The initial moments of the sun have a great mixture of sunshine optimism as well as reflective thought. The vocal performance ensures that (the less-than-sunshine) lyrics are imprinted in your thoughts. Our heroine’s vocal at once rises to a sweet high; before unfurling a breathy and romantic parable. The mood and pace shifts and changes- giving the song a constant energy. Ellie Rose draws in some personal biography as well as some sage advice: “We’re writing out our favourite lyrics/On our arms to pass the time/Don’t you know the charmers are the dangerous ones?/Don’t you know?” In spite of life throwing up some obstacles (“It’s all a learning curve/And I’m going round the bend/And I have learnt/All good things have to end”), there does not seem to be defeat or capitulation in our heroine’s mind. Most songwriters (when writing about similar subjects) would inject overt anger or mordent overtones; yet Ellie Rose seems more defiant- in spite of everything. Towards the 1:00 marker, it seems that ghosts are being laid to rest; demons exorcized. Whether she is speaking to a former friend or a no-good sweetheart, I am unsure, but she has some choice words: “And then you stabbed me in the back/And I’m hoping that you know/You were just a speed bump. The way in which imagery and metaphors are employed are effective indeed- the song’s title is particularly evocative.  The recriminations and aftershocks have done their work; our heroine unsure how to readjust (“I’m bitter like a Monday morning/Because I don’t know how else to be“)- whomever is the anonymous culprit has left some scars for sure. By the 1:15 stage, our heroine multi-tracks her vocals; providing augmentation and additional force. It is the juxtaposition of swaying and beautiful vocals; balanced against painful recollections, which ensures that Speed Bump keeps you engaged and wondering- whilst always rooting for our heroine. As our tale progresses, we are- once again- perhaps given a glimpse into our subject’s personality (and approachability): “And I am really fascinated/By the people I pass on the street/And they are just human…”. Although she is wandering the streets, and trying to reflect, there is an underlying anxiety and fear (“They shouldn’t make me nervous but they do“). There is always a sense of sympathy and empathy (that one has for our heroine); it appears a lot of unwarranted hurt has been caused; this is distilled in a rather heartfelt message:  “One day I hope you realise/You hurt the one girl who could never hurt you“. I detected a little U.S. influence in Ellie Rose’s vocal; perhaps also some elements of Eliza Doolittle and early-career Lily Allen- there is a comparable mixture of effusive mood and slice-of-life tableaux. After the chorus is reintroduced, our heroine is- once again- trying to put things back together: “And now I’m picking up the pieces/Like an end of the film cliché/And everyone is thinking/I’m a breathing catastrophe“. There is never any sense of a teenager being a teenager- i.e. having a bit of a strop on. There is an abiding sense of a woman having suffered setbacks and roadblock- dealing with it in the most mature way possible. With delicate and subtle piano plinks; backed with some wordless backing vocals, the lyrics are instilled with charm and life (and almost a lullaby quality): most contemporaries (of her age) would regress to infantile and child-like stomping. As the track enters its autumn stages, our heroine is in more philosophical and optimistic mood: “And I am almost sinking/But I know that it won’t last/And I have always wondered/Why do we sugar coat the past?“. As you become enraptured within the vocal line (and accompanying composition), you get the sense that the subject of Ellie Rose’s discourse, may be directed towards a former beau; someone whom was a snake in the grass; a cad, well… a bit of a bastard to be honest (’cause you were just a charmer and a dangerous one/Weren’t you?/It’s all a learning curve and you were dangerous and shameless/All of the way“). By the track’s closing moments, there is a slight air of resignation and shoulder drop, as our heroine states: “I can no longer trust you or anybody“. The energy and song’s relentless efficacy continues unabated, hiding heartbroken sentiments (“…and you didn’t care/And you still don’t/And you never wanted me/And you probably won’t… “). Into the last moments, we have witnessed a lot of change and outpouring from our heroine; she has traversed a great deal of emotional ground, trying to make sense of her lot. The song’s final sentiment mirror’s its opening(“I’ve got to get myself together”); and we are left wondering how things will work out- and whether Ellie Rose’s anonymous target ever gets their just deserts.

There has been enough offered, which suggests Ellie Rose will be making waves for many-a-year. I have hinted at the competitiveness and hustle that is present within the solo market (and music as a whole); so it is no faint praise to our heroine. Her music may not- as yet- be overly-familiar to many, and her songs may take a little while to bed in and reveal their charms. She is a gorgeous and striking musician whom is determined to get her name and music spread to as many people as possible- her ambition cannot be faulted. I have hears too many bland acoustic solo acts, as well as those whom favour the darker end of the colour spectrum. Ellie Rose is someone whom is instilled with a natural intelligence and poeticness; reflected in the music she makes. Our heroine has a bright and cheery exterior; she has a warmth and is a spritely extrovert, as well as a sense of demure. Her sounds are ready-made for the modern market. They contain upbeat redemptive mandates, and cutting bite and insightfulness. It is perhaps the range that Ellie Rose offers up, that is so impressive. On her Speed Bump/Memory Foam E.P., a hell of a lot of ground is covered. Songs that reflect on hard life lessons and inner city paranoia mingle alongside codas advising of change and strength; “Bright lights/A smell that bites and everybody’s rushing“. If you are more familiarised with heavier motions- such as me- or classic ‘60s elements, then I advise bravery. There is nothing cloying, saccharine or infantile about our young artist’s mandates- she has a maturity and rare intelligence that one would not expect. Ordinarily, young stars tend to be as little naïve or immature. Their music and outer projection comes across as- with a few exceptions- juvenile. Ellie Rose has a wise and mature head that means she connects with young audiences as well as all other sectors. There is a certain vibrancy and eye-catching schematic to Ellie Rose’s website and distribution, and is a facet that will reap dividends. On her official site, all the information one needs is laid out. Her designs and presentation is effective and impressive- the new fan has easy access to all of her work and biography. Ellie Rose has ensured that her music is available readily and in multiple locations; meaning that it is a lot easier to come across her music. I have been impressed by our heroine’s songs and music- in its fledgling stages- and there are suggestions that a long career is in order. Ellie Rose has an affiliation and affection for lyrics, and the concision and nuance of her words will remain in your mind. Her voice is strong and powerful; as well as sweet and coquettish- there is a noticeable emotional range as well. Ellie Rose can go from an entranced coo to an empowered rise within notes; seamlessly unveiling a myriad of scenes of movements. I have sought out or her E.P. and investigated its progeny; I find myself re-visiting and listening to the tracks on offer. Her music may not be able to convert Metal Heads and Grunge aficionados, yet there is the potential to win votes from Rock and Indie lovers; as well as her existing fan base. You cannot help but to admit that our heroine represents a needed breath of fresh air. Too few are too down-hearted and serious: the thrill and difference of music is often lost because of this. This year has started out quite triumphantly with consideration to new music. I have heard some great band music; terrific international flair- as well as a host of solo wonder. I am in desperate need of shaking up my routines and music rotation; it is a nice surprise when acts arrive that provides a viable and pleasant alternative. The benefits inherent in music are multiple, and the best way to attain a full sense of satisfaction is to seek out as much diverse and interesting music as possible. It will be noteworthy to see where our heroine goes next, and whether an L.P. will be on her mind. Her recent touring schedule suggests that there is a need amongst the public to hear her music, so there will be a lot to mull over (for Ellie Rose). There is resurgence and- as of now- dominance in the solo theatre from female acts- they seem best adept at tapping into what consumers want at the moment. Our heroine should be proud of what she has achieved so far- and how she has gone about doing it. Her mission statement suggests a young woman on the precipice of a breakthrough, and she is filling a void few are talking note of. There is introspection and tenderness within her motifs, yet the abiding sensation of redemptivness is something much-needed. Tomorrow, I am spending much of the day looking back at an idol of mine- Jeff Buckley- and although I will be exploring some brilliant music from the late legend, there will be sadness and reflection. It is good that I have something to smile about today; and would advise people to seek out Ellie Rose’s uplifting music. If new music continues to produce such range, consistency and fortitude, then it is quite clear….

MANY inspired (wannabe) musicians will be compelled to make their first moves…


Follow Ellie Rose











Tour Dates


Feature: Mélodie- “The Space Between The Notes”




“The Space Between The Notes”


Music means different things to different people; affecting them in ways that cannot be explained.  I examine the effect it has on me as well as countless others.  In my view, Bob Marley summed it up best: “One good thing about music, when it hits you, you feel no pain“.


THIS is going to be a long one, so please stick with me…

Prelude: The Curtain Rises.

It has been said- by someone with more patience than me- that everybody has a novel inside of them.  I dabbled with the idea of novel-writing a few years ago and hit upon an idea.  It was going to be called The Palookaville Bible; it would follow the ‘plot’ of the Old and New Testaments, yet be set in a modern-day Texas town.  It would have a striking and gorgeous front cover, and be have a story arc that would include everything from action thriller, romantic comedy to Breaking Bad-style drama.  I abandoned the idea the moment music really started to take a grip on me, deciding: everyone has an album inside them.  I think this is true, and I have been wondering what it is about music that so utterly compels and unites people; why it hits them and how it remains such a potent and awe-inspiring force.  There is an entire science dedicated to the study and effect of sound perception- Pyschoacoustics- and is a word that really struck me.  I have long wanted to open a central London music bar/cafe (a two-storey affair) with its own recording studio; something and somewhere that is dedicated to music and enjoyment of it- where it can not only be listened to (via jukeboxes) but recorded and enjoyed (via a music website that would project onto walls on the upper level of the complex).  It may seem pie-in-the-sky but fills a real need; the obsession and need to embrace music in all its form is a never-ending quest for perfection.  Before I go into more depth, I want to tell a parable.  I was in London last week, and- after walking around the capital for hours- dropped in for a coffee somewhere need Shaftesbury Avenue.  Having sat down a stranger asked me what song was playing over in the particular branch of Costa Coffee– it was Blue Hotel by Chris Isaak, if you’re curious.  Where I live and work- in and around Surrey- that would never happen.  No one would ask that question, and nobody would- after having asked you that question- allow you to enjoy your coffee- in an environment with no screaming children; just well-behaved adults.  Inspired by this act of human connection- via a few scribbled notes- I have decided to write this missive; to try to figure exactly what it is about music that connects humans; inspires them to open up and how it affects your early memories.  London- on that day- was inspiring.  After listening to Blue Hotel I began to scribble some words; as the song’s melody and energy compelled me to write lyrics (in accordance with the song’s time signature and structure); Champagne Supernova came on and again words flowed.  After listening to Your Woman (by White Town), scribbling continued unabated (“Your brain and your mind are transposed/Your heart and your soul exposed…” were the first thoughts); Black Horse and the Cherry Tree (by K.T. Tunstall) then came on, and… well you get the idea.  Suffice it to say that by the time I had drained my cappuccino, I had lyrics and ideas for several songs.  I felt my mind had been cleared; yet by the time I reached Green Park tube station I heard a busker sing, and my brain was off again…The proximate cause of my blog is that connection with a stranger; we get here, to the ultimate causation…

Can’t Get You Out of My Head: Why Music Sticks In The Mind.

John Lennon said that music was “everybody’s possession”; Plato claimed that it gave “soul to the universe“; whilst Marilyn Monroe stated that it was “the strongest form of magic“.  For me, music gripped me from a young age.  I have been curious whether it is upbringing and your formative year that enforce a love of music.  For me- being born in 1983- I was exposed to a myriad of genres, including New Romantic moves and Michael Jackson’s best work; as well as my parents’ music as well.  In so much as I have fairly dim recollections of childhood and key events, it is the music and songs I was exposed to that have remained firmest.  At the age of 5-or-so Rubber Soul (by The Beatles) was a permanent fixture on the family stereo.  I guess the quality of the music on offer compelled me to concentrate my life to its pursuit, yet the fact that I was subject to it at such a tender age is the most vital point.  There have been studies and papers written about how music affects children, and its importance in future years.  Music and its effects were some of my happiest early memories, and encouraged me to pursue it as a future career.  One-off songs, that I would not usually adore, became firm favourites.  The likes of Iron, Lion, Zion by Bob Marley; Song For Whoever by The Beautiful South; as well as A Good Heart (by Fergal Sharkey) have all remained in the brain- because they scored childhood scenes.  I am not sure- if my mother were no such a music obsessive and devotee- that I would have the love for it that I do.  Music years such as 1994 are especially vital as I was a schoolboy when they happened.  Amidst some tough and rather dull times of my life, the likes of Britpop and Grunge were circulating my brain- providing an escape and realistic portal for release.

On that point, music sticks in the mind, as it allows the listener to escape.  At this very point in time, there are a number of emotions rustling around my mind.  I have an uncle not long for the world, whom I am running a half-marathon for- and preparing for now.  Physically, it is going to be an incredible struggle and every ‘training’ run I am completing is leaving its marks on my heart and body.  I am leaving my job of nine months in a couple of weeks, and am scared of the future.  There are words and thoughts I should be communicating to particular people (in my life); afraid to do so, aware of possible ramifications.  There is a lot to take on board: possible romance; a frightening transition and planning the future.  I am not sure how each of these facets will resolve themselves, yet in music (as a listening experience and possible career) there is escape and a friend.  It is a marvellous art form that allows one to get away from their troubles and immerse themselves in something that will not judge or ask for anything in return- it is like a family pet.  There is barely a person I know that does not use music as a form of comfort; of rehabilitation and medication.  I know how f****** scary the next year will be for me.  I am not sure how my plans for a music career will play out; how romantic endeavours will play out- and just where I will be in the world.  In spite of some potential turbulence and unpredictability, music will always be there and provide warmth and a sense of reassurance.  It gets into your mind, because it should.  It gives a stability and constancy that human relations do not provide; the effects are never-ending.  Music compels me to be kind to others; buy gifts and show that I care; to connect with people I will never usually have met or encountered- I shall touch more on a particular case study, later.

Before I examine my favourite music, and why it means so much to me, there is another vital aspect of music: visual representation.  A lot of music lingers in the mind, because of music videos.  Videos allow actors to become involved with the form, and the video as an art form, is a vital asset.  Most of us will listen to a song- whether it has a video already created for it or not- and imagine scenes and scenarios.  The best music has the power to allow your mind to drift and wander; to speculate as to what the author(s) are imagining.  For me, songs such as (The Smiths’) Sweet and Tender Hooligan are begging for a video; such is its (the songs) evocative-ness and humour- I will figure a way of making a video for it, mark my words!  Great directors such as Jonathan Glazer and Michel Gondry have cut their teeth making the sort of music video that you cannot easily forget.  Consider Glazer’s videos for Street Spirit (Fade Out) and The Universal; Gondry’s efforts for Lucas With The Lid Off, Fell In Love With A Girl and Human Behaviour– watch them and be amazed.  Such if the kinship and fraternal bond between music and film, that there is a cinematic element involved.  Practically every new song has its own video, and the most impressive of the breed can give music new life.  I have written a blog dedicated to the art form, and how a wonderful video can elevate a song and give it a lease of life that it (often does not) deserve.

My Favourite Things: Artists and Albums That Have Meant The Most To Me.

Music, as much, as anything is a personal thing.  There is a degree of subjectiveness when it comes to selecting the best albums and songs of all-time.  For this piece, I made lists of my greatest songs, albums and singers- trying to find what makes them remain in my mind, and constantly compels me.  For me, it is the vocal side of things- the singers- that stoke a fire in my heart.  For different people, different aspects of music are most important.  I am attracted to voices and vocal nuance, and as such, a lot of my favourite albums and songs are delivered by some of the greatest vocalists ever.  To my mind, Freddie Mercury is the epitome of a vocal legend, as he brings music to life.  Queen’s songs are not amongst the best and most memorable (with notable exceptions) yet Mercury have such power and conviction to them all, that you cannot help but be spellbound.  It the operatic quality; the range and sheer power that gets to me.  Similarly, singers such as Michael Jackson and Kate Bush have that similar range.  Jackson has a child-like softer edge, yet has incredible lung power.  His unique tics and idiosyncracies enliven his music, and albums such as Bad and Dangerous remain in my regular rotation due to his compelling pipes.  Mercury and Jackson, to me, are two singers whom have no real equals.  Because of the way they project and pervade, means that their music and legacy has remained- they are icons everyone should be inspired by.  Kate Bush is a timeless voice that is like no other.  Some of my earliest memories revolve around The Kick Inside and the weird and wonderful moments within.  There is just something seductive, comforting and exciting in Bush’s voice that I cannot really explain.  Jeff Buckley and Thom Yorke are two singers whom inspire me hugely.  Buckley is my music idol, and a man whom makes sensitivity and purity inspiring.  If you listen to his live album Live at Sin-e, it is an intent and stunning work that shows the young master taking his first steps.  Grace is such a vital album for me, as Buckley scores every track with his gorgeous voice.  Tracks like Hallelujah haunt and stun; Last Goodbye is a stirring tale of romance; whilst the title track is a huge and powerful vocal performance.  It is debatable whether Thom Yorke would have been the singer he is, were it not for Buckley.  The album, The Bends changed direction because of Buckley; the falsetto nature and predominance of some of Radiohead’s best work is a direct correlate of the late American- it seems that Yorke is the most worthy incarnation of Buckley that we have.  It is the voices that- to me- make music come alive.  Albums like Superunknown are synonymous with Chris Cornell’s extraordinarily powerful roar;  songs such as Wuthering Heights are Wicked Game seem polar opposites: each song deals with romance but in different and striking ways.

Being a prolific writer, lyrics and imagery are reasons why music gets to me.  I look at lyrics and songwriters and try to get inside their heads- which in turn has inspired me as a writer.  Bob Dylan is a particular hero of mine, and find him to be without earthly equal.  Albums like Blonde on Blonde and Blood on the Tracks are paragons of quality and memorable tableaux and contain some of the finest words ever penned.  To my mind, Dylan’s finest album is Highway 61 Revisited.  As well as genuine classics such as Like A Rolling Stone, there was an even more impressive song in its midst: It’s Alright Ma (I’m Only Bleeding).  As much as I adore Dylan The Romantic Poet, when the master lets his stream-of-consciousness mind take over, the effects are mesmeric.  It’s Alright Ma spits out words and lines; fractured and dark scenes; vivid and strange side streets and wandered.  Words are vital in order to make a song remain in the mind, and the likes of Bob Dylan are synonymous with this- he is a genius of song.  John Lennon and Paul McCartney are rightful icons, and between them have written some of the finest tracks of all time.  Lennon may be the stronger songwriter of the two, yet the pair are strongest when they wrote together.  Some of my favourite albums include Abbey Road and Rubber Soul, and it is not hard to see why.  Rubber Soul looks at childhood memories and past friends (In My Life); upbeat and quintessential ’60s songs (Drive My Car) as well as tender love ballads (Michelle).  Abbey Road had harder moments and tough edges (Come Together for instance) yet also wore its heart on its sleeve.  The best songwriters make you feel better about your own life; share their experiences of failed love as well as introduce you to their childhood scenes and sights- Lennon and McCartney did this in spades.  The vocal performance is elemental, yet when you pen songs filled with delight and imagery, then you draw in the listener and ensure the track lodges into your brain.  I have spent most of my adult life writing lyrics, in the pursuit of fruitless perfection- trying to rival my lyric legends.  We all have our favourite lines and songs which best explain my point- think about what yours are.  I have compiled a list (below) that tabulate my favourite songs, albums and singers, and each are synonymous with one or two (or both) facets: great lyrics and/or brilliant vocals.  It is clear that past examples enforce our tastes and passion for music, but unless a new band of musicians keep the fires burning, then there is a danger our deepest passions will begin to wilt.

Time For Heroes: The New Wave of Future Wonders.

I will look at a few music examples, who I think will represent some of the best and brightest acts of the future.  I will begin with one of my most recent subjects, and someone whom illustrates another point I will bring up: geographic location.  Jen Armstrong is someone I featured a week ago, and one of the most impressive talents I have surveyed.  In spite of being drop-dead gorgeous (sorry…) there are multiple elements that strike me about her.  I shall touch on geography very soon, but it is clear that Armstrong will be a huge future prospect.  Her voice appeals to me because of its sheer range.  My love of Kate Bush, Eva Cassidy and Freddie Mercury are all within Armstrong’s lungs.  In her songs, covers and E.P.s (such as 60) there is such a range and force.  Her voice at once is sweet and cooing- quite coquettish and come-hither.  At the other end of the spectrum, huge vocal belt and prowess score tracks- her voice is such an impressive instrument.  Seek out her music as much as possible, but here is a talent whom does not rest on her laurels or restrain herself.  There is a conviction in all of her performances, and this is coupled with a skillful and memorable set of lyrics- that perfectly support her voice.  In last week’s feature, I investigated some of Armstrong’s songs and was impressed, not only by the intelligence and stirring nature of some of her tracks, but also the humour and wit that was abound.  60‘s title track is charming and piquant; funny and alcohol-strewn; her most romantic numbers are tender and heart-felt- she is a mistress of all trades.  Her recent tour of the U.S. introduced her to new scenes, but also gave her inspiration for new material.  I am going to be watching Armstrong closely, as I truly believe she will be a big fixture of the festival scene; a name and face to behold- someone whom has inspired recent mobility and inspiration in me.  I hope to meet her one day and experience her personality and music first-hand; ask her what inspires her musical mind and creations.  Before I surmise another key talent, I want to bring up a subject: geography within music.  I have wondered whether a location, or particular cities breed the greatest music- or whether it is dependant on other factors.

Armstrong is a Yorkshire girl, and Issimo- a band for whom I have spent a lot of time listening to- also call this county home.  They have an E.P. upcoming and are touring extensively at the moment- bringing their music to Yorkshire crowds are further afield.  Most of the best and startling music I have heard in the last year has emanated from this part of the world; Cuckoo Records stalwarts and one-off gems have enlivened my ears and brain.  Issimo consist of Marc Otway and Abi Uttley, and have some shared D.N.A. with Armstrong.  They pertain to the witty and romantic ends of the spectrum, and have crafted some memorable and brilliant numbers.  Otway is a multi-instrumentalist and incredible songwriter; Uttley a superb talent and brilliant singer.  In terms of their musical output, it ranges from romantic and heartbroken tales, through to humorous by-play and slice-of-life novellas.  They are another act I will be looking to investigate a lot more in the future, and are going to be riding the festival wave alongside Armstrong.  I have not heard a bad or mediocre song from the duo, and they seem to have an intuitive and close kinship which has enforced their songwriting output.

Bands have been on my mind recently, and I have witnessed many whom I can see as huge future prospects.  Two of the finest are Crystal Seagulls and Los & The Deadlines.  I have reviewed both acts, and have been constantly surprised by their quality and ambition.  Crystal Seagulls are an act whom have played some prestigious gigs and continue to strive to reach as many people as possible.  Their tracks have elements of classic ’90s acts such as Oasis, and present epic and uplifting mandates as well as cutting romantic tales.  Like Los & The Deadlines, they are based out of London- yet draw their membership from farther afield- and are helping to put the capital back on the musical map.  Los’ are masters of Zeppelin/The Mars Volta-esque heaviness and quality, and their recent output has seen them grow hugely in confidence.  Their tracks are filled with nuance and huge force; their lyrics range from insightful commentary on social media through to drunken local watering holes.  Both acts are natural-born performers and ready-made for the best festivals such as Reading and Leeds.  Keep your eyes on these two, as in a market that does not define quality- the band realm- here are two examples whom are capable of massive potential and glory.

Before I feature two female solo acts (that are going to be mainstays), I want to mention another band: Universal Thee.  These Scottish wonders employ elements of Doolittle-era Pixies; the rambunctious abandon of The Libertines; as well as Teenage Fanclub movements.  In spite of all influence, they are their own band and represent a huge originality and flair.  The husband-wife pairing of James and Lisa Russell spar and combine wonderfully; Robin Spivey, Andrew Perrie and Kevin Haddow provide a forceful and potent sonic backing- the band are tight and instilled with a close bond.  Their Back to Earth album is released on March 28th, and is the summation of years of hard work, scrimping and honing- I know that the results are going to be fantastic.  Like Crystal Seagulls and Los & The Deadlines, Universal Thee favourite anthemic and heavier motions, and are Scotland’s finest.  When we look at new music, there is always a need for something new and exciting- as well as a hint at the past.  Universal Thee have some shades of past masters, but offer up the sound of 2014- a fresh and invigorating sound and set of songs.  Again, these guys will be kicking arse on the festival circuit, and have the potential to rival current gods such as Queens of the Stone Age.

Lydia Baylis and Chess are two artists based out of the south.  Baylis is an arresting and stunning artist whom has a brilliant range and ability.  Songs such as Ghosts and Mirrors are awash with ghostly undertones, dark majesty as well as cracks of redemption and light- all wrapped up in Baylis’ stunning and pure voice.  I have reviewed a few songs from our heroine and have always been staggered by her range.  Like Armstrong, Issimo and our featured bands, Baylis does not stick to one path.  Life Without You had a happy-sad dichotomy, and saw our heroine in emotional and witty guises; putting an anonymous beau to rights.  Baylis is also a columnist and blogger and features other artists and touches on various subjects.  Here is a multi-talent whom works hard on her craft and has been touring breathlessly over the last year.  I am excited to hear what Baylis will come up with in the future months, and will be supporting her all the way.  Chess is an act based out of Surrey (but hails from Malta), and she was one of my first review subjects (all that time ago).  Recently, I reviewed her second E.P., Tuxedo, and was impressed by her quality, maturity and consistency.  Having been familiar with her work, I was expecting some striking goods, yet was not expecting such a great release.  Unlike Baylis, Chess has a grittier and harder sound (within a Pop/Soul realm); songs such as Dangerously Beautiful and Vanity are accusatory and forbidding; love and romance are given a new spin, and the nature of self-absorption are given fertile ground.  Chess’ previous E.P.- Babygirl- was a little gentler and more romantic, bot both releases show an artist whom is growing in confidence and determined to be around for many years to come.

The Extended Drum Solo: A Bit About Me.

Before I dovetail my components, and talk about my musical ambitions, I will speak of two women whom have had a profound effect upon me.  The first, is Chloe Jane Sparrow whom is one of the most dedicated music-lovers I have encountered.  A while ago- as I was starting my own music blog- I was reading her pages; inspired by the types of music she was listening to- and how she wrote.  I have never met her, yet her love of music and infectious work ethic compelled me to press on with my blog and seek out music beyond these shores.  Being based in Europe, Chloe has featured a lot of our continent’s best and finest- past and present.  She has had a brief sabbatical from music blogging, but is returning to it soon- I hope- and is someone whom I turn to when seeking out some great new music.  Music and shared interests bring you to the attention of some marvellous people; those whom you would not ordinarily encounter.  A shared passion for music- new and old- has connected me with a young woman hundred of miles from me- someone whom has helped to mould my writing and posts.  One of the most striking and important events of my life was happening upon Kate Hollowood.  I say ‘happening upon’ as I did get rather lucky.  Having been perusing a mutual friend’s (Brooke Dibble) art work, I stumbled upon Kate’s Twitter feed- back in February of 2011.  Having clicked on the link for her blog (mylittleponderings), I started to read her works.  The first encounters I had were Kate were via her blog; more specifically music-related posts.  She wrote about how much affected her and- in no small part- has inspired my own interpretation on this theme.  I was instantly spellbound by someone whom seemingly thought the same way as me; a human that shared the same passion for music and…well, she has been responsible for most of my writing career over the last three years.  I shall not be too fawning (to make her blush), but here is someone I have not met in the flesh, yet has unadulterated faith and belief in me.  My own family does not encourage my musical ambitions, yet Kate does- the two of us seemingly share a lot in common and have similar ambitions.  If was a simple- yet memorable- blog post (from Kate) that compelled me to contact her- it remains one of the smartest things I’ve ever done.  I owe more than I give her- reality, for a start- and have always been so thankful she has stuck with my loyally as a friend.  As well as pretty much being my ‘ideal woman’ she, above all, shares a passion for music and is an actor whom wants to achieve big things.  Forsaking a rather banal and everyday life, she has chosen to follow her dreams- in spite of everything.  It is her determination, focus and strength that have pushed me to plug ahead with my ambitions- for that I cannot thank her enough; one day I will do it face-to-face.  It is not intended as a sort of love letter, more of a valid point: music can connect you with some great people, and similar-minded humans.  Some may come and go; others drift away (I have one or two music friends who take a lot more than they give and have made me pretty pissed); yet there are the truly special people who stay with you and make life better-Kate is one of them and the best one of them, too.  I shall wrap everything up soon, but my final big point relates to where I am not: my own music and future aims.  Everything I have so-far written about has led to the here and now.  In the next week or so I will be writing a feature that is essentially a band pitch.  I have gone about my music career backwards: songs and ideas completed; all the details in place- just no band!  I am looking for four members; hopefully one woman amongst them- essentially 2 guitarists (and maybe vocalist); bass/piano player and drummer.  I have cemented all the details (below), so  am at the stage where I want to talk it over with like-minded musicians; get the group together and start making big waves:

Death of the Sweetheart- Marriage: The Beautiful Revenge

Black Majesty Blues:






Last To The Trigger, First One To Shoot:


Vanity Mirror:


I guess a summation of my influences and favourite music will be present within the tracks.  Mixing still and tender love songs; with orchestration and- hopefully- ethereal vocals will be in place (Minnesota); Queens of the Stone Age/Soundgarden-esque Rock force and fascination (Last To The Trigger, First One To Shoot); Arcade Fire/Blur/’90s Britpop cocktail (Communicator) will follow some Zeppelin-like Rock ‘epic’ (Black Majesty Blues); leading to the attempted- and inevitable- 3-part mini-opera Vanity Mirror.  For most new musicians, the first movements will have components of their favourite work and influences; yet be presented with as much individuality and personality as possible.  I am excited to get going and lay some tracks down- and complete all five tracks of the E.P.  I have the ideas for the (E.P.); inset, photos and all the minor details, and feel the incentive and impetus to work hard at this has been provided by, not only music itself- and the effect and hold it has- but musician contacts and good and loyal friends (pushing me).  As I say, I will be imploring and electioneering for cohorts and comrades anon, yet I have everything in black-and-white: and am proud of the lyric diversity, sonic spread and genre range between the tracks.  The proof will be in the pudding and the tasting, so I am hoping over the next year, I will have the opportunity to provide tasters to you all.  I won’t bore you with song descriptions, lyrics and designs, but I am excited to see what is to come.  It is because music means so much, and has given so much to me, that I am-in a very small way- repaying the debt…

Fin/”…The Love You Take Is Equal To The Love You Make”:

Everyone will have their own thoughts and ideas, with regards to what makes music so memorable.  I have touched on some possible explanations, and shown what- for me- defines brilliant and indelible music.  There is a combination of childhood memories; upbringing; past favourites as well as current wonders- with regards to what enforces our music mind- yet other factors come into play.  Certain songs are memorable because they lift you during a bad time; some define the start of a brilliant romance- other songs are just great because they are.  Music does not ask for anything or judge; instead it keeps giving.  Religion is all about blind faith and no reward; music has nothing but truth and does not rely upon some invisible deity.  Every person has their own tastes and favourites, and I am sure that people will come away (from reading this) with their own opinions.  I have hinted at a few artists whom could be considered to be a future legends; there will be many more that are coming through the ranks- all vying for their market share.  It would be interesting to hear from other people, and why music sticks in their mind.  For me, the most important aspect of music is the way it makes me feel.  A lot of time, I feel down in the dumps and stressed out by life: music offers tension relief and a place to hide.  A smile can be put on my face after listening to a great song; a certain voice or set of lyrics can turn a bad mood into something much more manageable.  As much as anything, music is giving me a future.  As well as my music reviewing and blogging, my long-term goal is to be a songwriter and band leader.  Music strikes everyone hard, but I feel that I owe the medium a huge debt.  Musicians and classic acts have compelled me to write my own music, and inspired a huge amount of time and honing.  My favourite singers have enforced my vocal style and allowed me to experiment with my voice and see what I can do with it.  Great lyricists and songwriters have pushed me in my own work, and I feel that my future movements will be stronger because of them.  I guess that is the most prescient and relevant point I can make: music has turned my future around.  I am at a stage where I do not want to work for money alone and be miserable in a job.  I am fed up of I.T. and the misery and strains that come hour by hour, and have just had enough of taking shit.  I feel that the road to glory will be expensive and filled with obstacles, but determined to make my mark on the scene.  It is not my record collection that has enforced this, but the raft of new artists I have been impressed by.  I see them out there working hard and aiming high, and want to join them.  Over the next few weeks I will be reviewing the likes of The Trouble With Temptation and Nina Schofield, and cannot wait to hear what they have to offer.  Schofield, especially, is someone I love at the moment, and her music is some of the strongest I have heard recently.  She- like Armstrong- is a down-to-earth and relatable young woman, whom can inspire all sorts of potential musicians- as well as draw all realms of music-lover.  Keep your eyes out for her, but I shall conclude my saying this: don’t give music short consideration.  We all listen to it, but do not underestimate its healing potential.  I am one of these people who debunk the likes of astrology and homeopathy as hokum and complete crap; I cannot stand any notion of fate, destiny or karma: nice in principle but it is a monumental lie and load of bollocks.  Similarly- as much as people would like it to be so- things do not happen for a reason.  There is no God, no universal hand at work: life is random and things happen because they do; there is no big meaning.  Believe in the statement and you have to explain why one of my dearest relatives is being robbed of life; why The Holocaust happened and natural disasters- you want to explain those then?  I am not raising the point to have a go at those whom believe in irrational and fake science- if religion and these notions give you comfort, then who am I to judge?  My real point is about music, and its truth.  I have detailed accounts of greats friends I have made thanks to music; a future career I am perusing as well as great memories.  Do not simply listen to it and let it pass you by.  I opened by saying that everyone has an album in them- I believe anyone can write music.  At its base level, music has the ability to lift a mood and provide warmth and comfort that human arms may not be capable of doing.  At its halcyon edges, music can transform lives and give direction those in need of it.  I have tried to explain why music hits me hard and theorised why certain songs and sounds stick in the mind; but it may be as simple as this: perhaps most of us need something reliable that we can turn to.  When you consider the unreliable nature of love, human relations and life in general; take all that into account, I put it to you:

ISN’T that the very point of music?


My Favourite Musical Moments (Past and Present):


There There


Wuthering Heights

Kate Bush

It’s Alright, Ma (I’m Only Bleeding)

Bob Dylan

Bohemian Rhapsody



Jeff Buckley

Wicked Game

Chris Isaak

Stairway to Heaven

Led Zeppelin


The Bends



Jeff Buckley



Rated R

Queens of the Stone Age

White Blood Cells

The White Stripes

Rubber Soul

The Beatles

Highway 61 Revisited

Bob Dylan


Freddie Mercury

Jeff Buckley

Kate Bush

Michael Jackson


Chris Cornell

Thom Yorke

New Artists:

Jen Armstrong


Universal Thee




Crystal Seagulls




Lydia Baylis


Los & The Deadlines


 Kate Bush,Wuthering Heights,USA,Promo,Deleted,7

Track Review: God Damn- Shoe Prints In The Dust





God Damn


Shoe Prints In The Dust


Shoe Prints In The Dust is available from:


The E.P., Heavy Money, is available via:



The duo have some reminiscence of classic Rock, Grunge and Metal, yet wrap up any past influences inside a striking (and original) outer shell.  It is rare to marry heavy sounds with melodic undertones, yet the fact is this: the Black Country boys do it with effortless aplomb.


NICE as it has been to hear some warmer and softer moments, my head…

has been craving something a bit more primal and raw.  When I have looked around new music, and what is currently on the scene, there seems to be a lot of gentle proffering.  In these pages I have reviewed some terrific solo acts and bands, each of whom have provided me with a fresh perspective.  On the wider scene, music still tends to err towards the more sedate end of the spectrum.  When notes and sounds are offered up, the abiding tendency is to give the listener something sedate or sexy- allowing aspects such as the voice or lyrics to take full effect.  Over the past year, most of my reconnaissance has revolved around these types of acts.  It is spring- not that you’d guess from the weather- and I guess market trends will reflect a desire for warmth and comfort.  It is naturally that music-lovers and admirers seek out something redemptive and soul-enriching- although there is a myopic narrow focus.  I suppose my opening paragraph is dedicated to the investigation of different sounds- and the effect they have on the human body.  Every time I have studied an artist like Annie Drury or David Ward I have come away with the same impression: a smile and a soothed whole.  The music that is put forth is filled with beauty and mesmeric appeal; nuance and wit mingle alongside cutting edge.  I will examine this phenomenon more tomorrow, but there is something about music that strikes different parts of the body- at different stages.  Elliptical and impassioned tenderness does its job well: it relaxes and makes one feel better about life.  Over the last few weeks my mind has been pummeled slightly by the vicissitudes and wankiness of life.  In the back of my head, there has been a desperate need for release; something to help to let out the pressure and provide some escapism- this is where today’s subjects come in.  I will introduce you to them in due course, but my thoughts- once again- turn towards the new music market.  This calendar year has been a bit of a shock as far as I am concerned.  I ended 2013 by saying this about new music: it was mixed at best.  In so much as I discovered some wonderful and vibrant acts, on balance it appeared that there was little originality and ambition.  I am perhaps an anarchism when it comes to songwriting.  My own work tends to reach quite far- further perhaps than it can graps- and I have always striven to cram as much into a song (or E.P.) as possible.  My patience and mind tend to become a little twitchy when music does not offer richness or a calorific palette.  Last year I was shocked and enlivened when hearing some great soul or acoustic acts- yet when a spate of similar-sounding replicant came into view, my delight was mitigated.  There were some Rock and Metal movements amongst the majority, yet there were few stand-outs.  The start of this year has provided me with some cause for re-investigation and reflection.  I have mentioned artists like Drury, but bands such as Crystal Seagulls and Los & The Deadlines have shown what Zeppelin-esque anthems  sound like via an international modern-day band of brothers.  Scots, Universal Thee are releasing their debut album now, and their Pixies-cum-Teenage Fanclub blend has made me grin widely.  Bearded Canadian David Ward- in slowly through the night– blends falsetto etherealness with some staccato rapping: tied in with some Kid A-era Radiohead guitar sounds.  The music gods have clearly been listening into my dreams, and realising that- if we are to see new music challenge the mainstream- then diversity needs to be provided.  It is true that there is still a desperate middle ground.  So many new artists are either so glaringly boring and lipid or inanely pointless that one wonders why they even bother recording music in the first place.  It is incredibly hard to record music in the first place, as it is not the most inexpensive activity in the world.  After you have completed a song (or E.P.) the business of competition rears its head: putting your music alongside thousands of other acts.  In the past, I have always used this as an excuse as to why new music was fledgling: but no longer.  There is plenty of ambition amongst some select new acts, which leads me to believe that financial constraints are not a viable excuse for wayward focus and projectile dysfunction.  In the professional and ‘mainstream’ realm of music there is a surfeit of potential genius: the long-stayers and established masters are still showing the kids how it’s done.  There is an unquenched desire to see a cabinet reshuffle take place: replace a large core of the market and introduce something fresh.  I have long suffered the likes of the Rhianna and One Direction.  I don’t care if some people like them and find their music to be inspirational- they are wrong and severely lacking in any real ambition themselves.  I’d say we could comfortably get rid of 70% of the current ‘mainstream’ market: replacing it with the best and brightest of the new music realm.  Diversity and equilibrium would mingle alongside one another, and it would not only foster some genuinely worthy talent, but inject a much-needed dose of range and eclecticism into the scene.  Perhaps I am being sentimental in my daydreaming, but it would be nice if some of the- sadly- struggling new musicians were provided just-rewards.  I guess my point and focus still comes back to market trends and current tastes.  The fact that there is still a heavy leaning towards Pop and fakery is because a potent and electioneering alternative(s) have not been allowed to the podium.  If the mark of a truly educated and reconciled music-lover is diversity and a variegated colour chart, then the pinks and greys need to be sublimated and reduced.  I have heard some bands whom have the essence of early-career Beastie Boys; others whom a semblance of ’60s and ’70s Punk and Heavy Metal- they need their place in the sun.  Above all, I am fed up to the back teeth of surreptitiously stumbling upon new music like an old man happening upon an unguarded packet of Viagra.  The media and social media outlets are conglomerate and monopolistic forces.  They foster the inner narcissist in everyone, yet neglect a real need: to promote great new music to those whom desire to hear it.  Perhaps like world peace, hunger and the appeal of Danny Dyer- there is no rastional explanation or cure.  I hope I am wrong, as I have listened to so many great new bands- worthy of mixing alongside the greats- whom I fear will be subject to premature demise- simply because they are not being given a sturdy platform on which to campaign.  I digress and dither- as is common for me- so I will wrap up this segment by saying this: acts such as God Damn illustrate my point marvellously…

I shall introduce the band by allowing them to introduce themselves: “Atomic drum and guitar duo God Damn – Thom Edward (guitars/vocals) and Ash Weaver (drums) – are pure attack: molten pop hooks galvanized in a blaze of bludgeoning riffs and furiously propulsive percussion.  Hailing from the heart of the Black Country and describing themselves as “rock music for degenerates”, God Damn fuse ‘Bleach’ era Nirvana, Jesus Lizard, ‘Surfer Rosa’ era Pixies and At The Drive In influences whilst swearing allegiance to the ‘Seven J’s’ of their Holy Bible: Hendrix, Homme, Cash, White, Page, Bonham and Jesse ‘The Devil’ Hughes (Eagles of Death Metal)”.  There is a vast degree of impressive influence to be seen here, and the band’s best music is no second-rate representation.  I have a lot to cover in this segment, so shall get to my points, thus.  The band go on to say- on their Facebook– page that (influences include) “The Black Keys, My Bloody Valentine, Slade, Modey Lemon, The Jesus Lizard, Martin Tomlinson, The Mars Volta + about 83918203982039 more“.  When coming across a new, I always have mixed emotions towards the subject of ‘influences’.  Too often one looks at a list of (an act’s) heroes and heroines as pretence to dismiss or elevate them.  A lot of times the mind overpowers the body and fools you into thinking the artists sounds exactly like their influences or is worse than them.  Most of the time a band includes a list of their favourite acts just to state whom inspires them, and what sort of music they like.  The music media is perhaps most culpable when it comes to fuelling my dissention.  Every new artists is invariably compared to another- otherwise why would the general public listen to them in the first place?  It is a cancerous and deplorable fashion that means a lot of acts are wrongfully passed over.  The discerning listener has the ability to tell whether an artist treads too closely on the toes of an existing act- most of the time new music is more original than the media would have us believe.  I bring this up, because many turn their noses up at God Damn- if they thought they were soundalike of another band.  When I come to write my own music, there are shades of Radiohead, Queens of the Stone Age and Bob Dylan- small elements rather than glaring wholes.  If you go into listening to God Damn with an open mind, then the rewards will be multitudinous.  There are some flavours of past wonders, yet they are a band whom offer up tantalising originality and personality: all draped around hard and invigorating sounds.  The guys have been rocking hard for a while now, and I shall cover more of their past history in due course.  It is clear that their music resonates, not only with fans, but the media alike.  Below are just a few of the glowing words that the music press have proffered to our intrepid duo:

‘I’m a Lazer, You’re a Radar’ is a rip-rollicking thrash, brutally mixing grunge and the regions finest export, heavy metal.” – NME
A heads-down, hair-in-your-eyes, twat-your-instruments-as-hard-as-humanly-possible riff riot.” – The Guardian
There’s sweat stains happening after that, that was one intense record.” Phil Taggart (Radio 1 New Music Show)
A frenetic, fuzzy progression, a sludgy half-time breakdown, crushing fills and a band destroying all of their equipment in an appropriately shaky video.” Artrocker
Best new band and video you’ll see for a while. You guys are awesome.” – Ginger Wildheart
Lazer/Radar manages to be both unfeasibly violent and immensely addictive – a brand new Wolf Town anthem. I’m left with bleeding eardrums, hurricane-swept hair and an intense tingling in my nether regions.” – Midlands Rocks
A testifying blues grunge prog rock pop metal thrashup…and if that sounds like a pretty awesome combination, you’d be right. It is.” Brum Notes
Crashing out of Wolverhampton come GOD DAMN, a three-piece of spitting fury and angry noise with more energy than the Hadron Collider. 5/5″ Loud Horizon
A great collection of lunacy.” – Louder Than War (Band of the day)

Quite a glowing representation from local and national music writers.  It is no over-exgreration to say that God Damn are on their way to something special: their band moniker is perhaps all-too-apt.  There is a sense of blasphemous disregard in the carefree and biblical music they offer up- being a stone-cold atheist, it bothers me not.  Perhaps more accurately, the words ‘God Damn’ are those that trickle from my lips (having heard their striking sounds).  Our featured act are perhaps a little bit of a rarity, as far as I can see.  For one thing, they are a duo.  There are a lot of two-piece acts around, yet few whom offer up so much energy and sound.  I have reviewed the likes of Yorkshire duo Issimio, whose music ranges from witty two-handed tales to endeavouring romantic tableaux.  Away from them, there are a few heavier acts around- yet very few that say as much as God Damn.  It seems like the duo have the manpower of a band twice their size- it is an impressive feat.  Of course, we have the likes of Blood Red Shoes and The Black Keys, yet I feel that neither can elicit and summon up the same sort of force and gravity as these guys.  Historically-speaking, there are few two-piece acts whom you can truly name.  When you think of music, you either imagine a solo artist or a (four or five-piece) act- yet how many duos can you rattle off?  One of my all-time favourite acts are a duo: The White Stripes.  Their music ranks alongside some of the very best that has ever been played; in no small part due to the close kinship of the participants.  I suppose that solo artists have no one really to talk with, as they are on their own- as such they focus energy into their sound, and are not distracted by exterior influence.  Bands have a sense of friendship in their ranks, yet sometimes too many cooks can spoil the broth- and cause fractious breaks in their structure.  With a duo, there is a sort of ersatz romance taking place.  Whether the configuration is boy-bot/boy-girl or girl-girl, I have always found that there is a closer bond between these acts- compared with larger bands.  As such, the music is a lot tighter, focused- with fewer rough edges.  God Damn will not thank me for comparing them to a married couple or suggesting sympatico; yet Thom and Ash clearly have an affection for one another.  Their songs are muscular and exciting and they combine wonderfully throughout.  Neither man has centre stage, and each is given equal rank and consideration.  The guys have, like Timothy Spall, been assumed to be from Birmingham.  They are from the Black Country, which, strictly speaking covers an area of land that goes from the north and west of Birmingham, and runs to the south and east of Wolverhampton.  If you do a Google search for ‘Black Country music’, you will be lead to pages of black Country music stars.  The regions of the Black Country are perhaps under-represented in music terms, and is not a locale that many would associated with great music.  The likes of Led Zeppelin have some membership from here, although they formed and played in London, predominantly.  Slade are Wolves boys, and aside from them, you would be hard-pressed to name a whole heap of other acts from the Black Country.  Our boys are helping to put the area back on the map, and like many of the acts that hail from the area, their music is filled with heavier vibes and ’70s Rock majesty- perhaps the name the Black Country is rather fitting.  Our heroes are going to ensure that 2014 is synonymous with ambition and memorable sounds, as their new music is some of the best they have produced.  Many may not have heard of them previously, but if you haven’t, I would recommend you spin their E.P., Heavy Money.  In a sense it is a mini-L.P., imbued with six tracks of rebellion, firm mandate and classic Rock edges.  Scream-fests such as Meat to Morrissey are combustible in their brevity, and New Invention Victory Club are swaggering anthems, instilled with a little bit of Kyuss, Judas Preist and The Mars Volta.  The finale, Dangle Like Skeletons is a slow-building epic with evocative scenes, and standout Heavy Money is a pulverizing balls-to-the-wall rebellion march.  That E.P. was unleashed just under a year ago, and our boys have not been idle.  In the wake of the huge positive feedback (from Heavy Money), the guys have been gigging locally and wider afield, as well as plotting their next moves.  The Guardian, whilst reviewing their previous opus, assessed it in these terms:  “In fact, listening to their Heavy Money EP, with its elements of goth, grunge, death metal and more, it’s tempting to see God Damn as offering a précis of rock styles past and present. Like Meat to Morrissey, with its abrupt tempo changes, is like prog-grunge and Dangle Like Skeletons is an eight-minute opus that doesn’t just do quiet-loud, it does fast-slow while the singer does everything from croon to roar“.  Fans and newcomers will be pleased to know that the duo’s elemental cores are all in tact and blazing brightly; yet their latest track offers up even more treasure…

It is not with a rambunctious clatter that introduces Shoe Prints In The Dust, but more of an epic call-to-arms.  There is an exhilarating and pugnacious electric guitar coda that stands you to attention.  In so much as many critics have alluded to suggestions of various bands; yet the initial seconds here remind me of Nevermind-era Nirvana.  The hints are feint, yet there was a delicious aroma of Stay Away within the intro.- and the mesmeric riffage that continues throughout the track.  The rumblings are purer and less fuzzy, but the effect is beautiful.  The intro. is a beat which mutates, evolves and is a sybaritic chameleon.  After a few seconds from the initial guitar parable, the sound gets dirtier and filled with grime.  A pulverizing and animatistic drum roll from Weaver, reminds me of the likes of Dave Grohl and Lars Ulrich, whilst the axe-weilding talents of Edward are potent and heart-grabbing.  The two commingle beautifully; eliciting a sandstorm of sonic force that shakes the cobwebs from all corners.  The mark of a memorable song is one which grabs you right from the off, and our heroes waste no time in allowing you to think; reflect on what is to come: the boys strike hard from the very first seconds.  After a frenetic and Metal-esque guitar and drum one-two, events become more linear and stabilised.  In my mind I was hearing shades of Stay Away, but the truth is, is that the guitar riff (and percussive slam) that comes into effect is one of originality and the sound of a band filled with confidence.  Minor notes of ’70s U.K. Rock as well as ’90s U.S. Grunge do their bidding, but the God Damn boys are playing and striking from their fists and hearts.  The intro. encourages you not only to dance and flail with drunken abandon, but also pump your fists and allow your senses to be carried away.  It is the kind of song that should be played at volume with the car windows down; sun shining and breeze extinct, it is a psychotropic melt that grabs you by the scruff-  and does not let go.  It is impressive that such an energy and amount of sound emanates from just two people.  The percussion seems to originate from an octopus- such is the multitude of drum smashes crammed into a single second.  The fret work is bleary-eyed and zombified; frantic and weaving in its directionality.  Early words hold no positivity or redemption for an unnamed subject.  Our frontman is pointing the finger at an anonymous focus; eviscerating and:  “How to live your life/How to live like the stars in the sky“.  If I had an early minor criticism, is that the words get a little buried in the rubble.  Clarity and comprehensibility are a little watered down by the energy of the audio, yet it is a minor and moot point.  The majesty of Shoe Prints In The Dust lies in the way it makes you feel, and what it does to you: the words give biography to a song of relentless quality.  The song has a sound that is ready-made for the live arena.  I can imagine whores of enthusiasts bouncing gleefully along with the tidlewave of a riff, and yet the band manage to summon this up a studio cut.  It is perhaps kudos to some intuitive and Steve Albini-esque production, yet the guys themselves have an inherent ability to bring an intimate and stuffy live sensation through your speakers- and into your ears.  Whomever is being referred to when our hero announces “You make me wanna scream” is being given a visceral derobement.  Edward’s vocal has a native accent and does not pay homage to anyone else: an impressive thing in this age.  A lot of frontmen tend to mimic others too closely and seem too indebted to another, yet our hero has a voice that does not lead your mind to another vocalist.  It is powerful and evocative, and dripping with menace, conviction and edge.  Before our song’s focus has been fully beaten down and buried, the intro.’s strutting riff comes back into play- except the structure is a little different.  We begin with a spiking and tantalising electric stab at 1:34, before another vocal score comes to play- superseding expectations and providing another twist of the viper’s tail.  Our hero elongates and stretches his words (“How to leave you“); a sentiment which is repeated and reinforced to huge effect.  Punctuating these utterances is Weaver, whom thunders and rolls with atomic pressure.  I am surprised how the guys had any arms left after the final seconds- even air drumming along would render the strongest to a squealing mess.  With a deathly and witch cackle’s scream at 1:57, our hero steps away from the mic. as the duo unleash another round of sonic tapestry.  Once more, the insatiable and burrowing riff is upon us, and it provides an ample sojourn for the listener to absorb what has been sung- well almost.  That is the thing with the track: you are constantly catching your breath, at the same time you are losing it.  I was constantly impressed at how the scuzzy and dirt-strewn sound implored and encourages everyone: it does not alienate or frighten.  In so much as the track has tattoos of Grunge and classic Rock, it is a song that is ageless and un-prejudicing in its quality.  It appeals to the Rock and Metal lover in me, yet it (the song) is just as capable as seducing those whom prefer their music a little less urgent.  As our frontman completes another battering ram of “How to live your life“, the chorus comes to a close, as a stunning outro. is introduced.  Whereas the intro. had its distinct and unique sound, the tail-end of the track presents a slightly darker and more crepuscular slink.  Again the duo spar and blend with a keen understanding and affection, and neither steals the spotlight.  The percussion is- as has been throughout- frantic and seamlessly unstoppable; the guitar work is variegated and imperious.  The song’s target has been buried and forgotten about, as hob-nail boots are being stomped and smashed above the embers.  I was intrigued by the song’s title and wondered whether it referenced death or something akin to a reawakening: it can mean different things to different people.  As the song concluded, I got the feeling that a painful experience had enforced the mood; maybe referencing a past love whom has caused pain and is better off out of the picture.  Subsequent plays reassess my thoughts, and I found it to be a track that dealt with something more redemptive.  Perhaps I am wrong, yet only the boys know the real truth.  That is the thing with Shoe Prints In The Dust: it is a track of nuance, mystery, but above all, unshakable perseverance.  Having investigated the duo’s previous work, I was expecting quality, yet was surprised at how good the track was.  It is a slight departure from their previous songs, yet preserves their core elements and hallmarks.  The force of nature bluster is all apparent, but there are new and exciting facets evident here.  Whether it is the riffs or the intro. that sticks in your brain; the strong and domineering vocal performance the entire track itself, you will be listening to over and over- well, at least I hope so.  Aside from a few niggles with regards to vocal clarity, I cannot find any fault within the song.  It appealed to my love of the likes of Pixies, Nirvana, Judas Preist and The Mars Volta, but more importantly, it showcases a fearless and ambitious band whom will be offering up some incredible promise throughout 2014.  I would advise you attune your ears to where they are now- to ready yourself for what is to come.

Well, then.  As I said at the top of this review; I have been listening a lot to some softer and soothing sounds, lately.  Gorgeous songstress and melodic acoustic acts have gently guided me into spring, and I thank them for that.  In contrast, I have been seeking out a paragon of force, that can add some balance and difference to my musical brain.  I adore my favourite music, and the bands that have inspired me, yet they offer nothing new.  When I am seeking out some modern-day potential, I always judge (potential candidates) on their merits alone: that is the mark of a truly great act.  I look at great lyrics, music and melody as hallmarks, and if someone can tick all three of the docket, then we are onto a winner.  God Damn provide this, yet are not a duo that are solely for fans of Metal and Rock.  Their unique tones can galvanise disparate cores and create a unity that is needed in the music scene.  Too many music fans stick to what they know and are familiar with, and miss out on a lot of great sounds.  I would implore everyone to take a listen to God Damn in their entirety.  Shoe Prints In The Dust is a tantalising glimpse at what a future E.P. or album will sound like, yet it is no fluke.  Their back catalogue shows what a solid and consistent act they are, and given a tragic back story- which I have not alluded to- it is impressive that their focus and ambition has continued, unabated.  The duo is a relatable and everyman pair whom one could share a pint with.  They have the looks one would expect for a band of their ilk- interesting hair, drinks in hand with a cheeky grin- and their sound and force can rank alongside their idols.  They have recently played Hammerfest VI, and are looking forward to rocking 2000 Trees and Camden Rocks over the coming months.  They deserve all the festivals and gigs they are playing, yet I feel that they should be preparing themselves for more illustrious gigs over the coming years.  The likes of Arctic Monkeys, Queens of the Stone Age and The 1975 are playing Reading and Leeds this summer, and I could well see God Damn playing the same stages very soon.  There have been some heavy purveyors such as Judas Priest and Black Sabbath whom can call the Midlands their natural home.  It must be the air, the geography or something that is giving birth to acts whom prefer their sounds harder; their alcohol beer-flavoured and their hair long and flowing.  Tomorrow, I am writing a feature on music as a whole, and what makes certain songs stick in the mind.  There is a whole science and pathology that is dedicated to this- Psychoacoustics- and I have often wondered what separates the great from the bad.  Maybe there is complication or mystery to it; perhaps if music hits you then it is good; if it is forgotten about, then it is bad.  God Damn have rolled my musical memory back through ’90s Grunge; through ’70s Heavy Metal, and to the early days of Led Zeppelin- as well as the modern-day movements of The Mars Volta.  In spite of some familiar cocktail components, the abiding taste and sensation is theirs and theirs alone.  Too many acts are too scared to really strike out on their own and leave their idols in the past- through fear that critics and fans will not latch onto them at all.  Our duo have shown themselves to be a confident and ambitious example whom will be reaping the rewards of their boldness.  You can see (from the reviews above) just how much the music press thinks of them, so they are clearly intent on remaining on the scene for years to come.  I shall leave you with one thing to consider (with regards to the music of 2014): whom will stick in your memory the longest.  I am going to be focusing on the likes of Jen Armstrong tomorrow (whom is the most immediate and indelible talents I have witnessed in years) and focusing on what makes them so appealing and awe-striking.  When compiling a new music playlist for this year, I am always looking for range and diversity.  I feel that I have been given a great deal of great acoustic and gentler music, and some terrific harder sounds- from the likes of Los’ and Universal’.  Our heroic two-piece are going to have a busy and eventful touring schedule coming up, and I am confident that there will be a new release imminent.  Whether they are going to release another E.P., or fully-fledged album, I am not so sure, yet on the evidence (of Shoe Prints In The Dust) it will be a stunning collection.  Spring seems to have come and gone (as pissing rain is imminent), so I am looking for some artificial sunshine, as well as a way of ‘getting everything out’; an outlet where I can be provided with joy as well an anger.  As much as anything, I want to discover music that is just purely great: no pretence or tinsel, just natural beauty and force.  When all of this is considered…

THERE are few (better) acts that can offer this.

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Feature: Jen Armstrong- The Life and Rise of a Modern-Day Music Icon.



Jen Armstrong:

The Life and Rise of a Modern-Day Music Icon.

Purchase Jen Armstrong’s E.P., 60, via:



Having just returned from a brief tour of the U.S., Armstrong is a determined talent with an incredible future ahead of her.   I investigate her musical background; plans for the rest of 2014; her heroes and idols- as well as the city where “you can be writing and playing every night of the week“.


THIS week, has been pretty interesting, all things considered.

In terms of real-world news, there is a Malaysian plane somewhere in the world- seemingly impossible to find.  The weather is starting to reflect something akin to spring; and there seems to be a genial calm that has spread amongst most people.  In music terms, I have had a busy and exciting weekend.  Yesterday I reviewed the wonderful E.P., Some Day, by Leeds-based artist Annie Drury.  I have reviewed many female solo stars in my two-or-so years of writing my blog, and yet I find myself constantly surprised by the quality of some artists.  It is the female lone stars whom are causing the greatest hope and excitement in me at this moment.  Drury’s four-track E.P. was awash with wit and emotion; nuance and mystery; wonderful vocals and compositions- coupled with sharp and thought-out lyrics.  It is not everyday that one experiences such a solid and incredible set of songs, and yet I am finding more and more artists whom are capable of such a standard.  Drury is a witty and loveable blonde, whom has the potential to melt your heart- as well as silence your tongue.  That configuration of personality components is something I am encountering quite a bit of music terms.  I have previously reviewed songs by the wonderful Lydia Baylis; an artist whom is piecing together an intriguing career path; Alison Levi is a new artist whom will be a common and familiar name in years to come- between them they are setting London and the south alight.  Today, I am surveying another wonderful blonde female- well, technically pink-haired!  I shall introduce you to the fabulous Jen Armstrong, anon, but for now, I shall conclude my point.  Yesterday (during my Annie Drury review), I prophesied that new music will be a genre that has the capacity to- and should be all rights- supersede and overthrow the hegemony of mainstream artists.  There are a few bands and solo stars (in the mainstream) whom offer consistent quality- yet it seems that the biggest movements are coming from sapling talent.  Kylie Minogue has just unveiled her nth album; a set that has been met with lukewarm reception and common criticism- embarrassing lyrics on sex; poor vocals and tonnes of filler material.  She is an artists I respected in the ’80s (Yes, I’m THAT old); but is someone whom has declined seriously in my estimation.   There are too many lipid and unambitious albums; too few great and solid acts capable of longevity- it seems there is a market demand for brand-new and hungry talent to come through and proffer with abandon.  I have surveyed many an act (and solo star) I feel will be dominating airplay and column inches (of the music press) in years to come, and today, I can add a name very much near the top of that list…

My first exposure to Jen Armstrong was through Abi Uttley- one half of Yorkshire duo Issimo.  I have reviewed the work of this two-piece a few times, and am always blown away by how authoritative and confident their music is.  Combining witty two-hander dialogues with tender songs on the inequalities and anachronism of love, Marc Otway and Abi Utley are going to be permanent fixtures on the live scene before too long.   When I consider Armstrong, I have confidence that we have in our midst a ready-made and genuine superstar.  There is no hyperbole when I say that she has the ability and potential to rival some of the all-time greats- she has the ambition and work rate that you do not see in many artists.  Over th last 24 hours alone, Armstrong has posted a couple of cover versions (both pretty damn amusing in their scope and delivery); talked of upcoming gig- as well as hinted at some potentially big future movements.  There seems to be breathlessness to her focus, and our heroine is in love with music and what she can contribute to the medium- something that should be applauded.  I shall get more into Jen Armstrong The Musician soon, but one facet impresses me about her presentation: her online portfolio.  Before I had witnessed a note from her wonderful voice, I was investigating her social media portals.  In a recent feature, Armstrong explained how social media allows fans to become involved with music (of their idols and musicians of choice).  I have seen too many acts with a slender and meagre online representation, and many run the risk of being overlooked and given short attention.  Armstrong can not be excused of negating this golden rule and boasts an impressive and eye-catching official site.  Her biography is presented in the form of a recipe; vocal and instrumental components are presented in the form of ingredients- the finished product is our Yorkshire heroine.  As well as a multitude of information and news from Armstrong, it is a comprehensive and impressive site- one that keeps you fascinated and amused in equal measures.  Away from this, her Facebook and Twitter sites are constantly updated, and her music is readily-available on several different sites.  Armstrong clearly has a lot of respect for her fans and understands the importance of directly connecting them with her music- a consideration which has seen her fan base rise and stay very loyal.  Once one becomes enraptured in her social media and online pages, you become entranced by the woman behind the music.

Before I examine Jen Armstrong myself, a little biography on our heroine: “Born in a village home to more sheep than people, Jen Armstrong didn’t have the most competitive of starts. This gave her a shock when, moving to Leeds to study a degree in pop music she realised that actually, she wasn’t the only person who could write songs and sing them well. Luckily, she has developed a unique pop / rock style with catchy, tongue in cheek lyrics coupled with a beautifully powerful vocal which gives her the edge over the usual pop songwriters.  Jen finished in the top 6 in her year at Leeds College of Music, being number 1 in performance, and followed this with a MA in Music Performance.  Jen has written and worked with acclaimed producer and arranger Dr Richard Niles. She has also collaborated with Mark Walker (Westlife, Kelly Rowland, Five).  Having recently played Shepherds Bush Empire supporting British singer-songwriter Nerina Pallot, and Wolverhampton Civic Hall supporting the likes of The Vaccines and The Horrors, Jen is now branching out in to the world – she has visited LA to write and perform throughout 2012, and wrote in Scandinavia August 2012 with various writing teams.  Jen released her debut EP on 8th June 2012, with a launch in Leeds which was a storming success. Her new EP was released September 8th, launching in style with a tour with Caffé Nero. She supported Billy Ocean at Grassington Festival, and Jools Holland at Cornbury Festival over the summer.  Recent successes include winning ‘Rock the House’ at the House of Commons in London, being nominated for the HMMA Awards in Hollywood with her song ‘Chemistry’ off the EP ‘Cyber Girl,’ and signing an endorsement deal with Nord”.  In pure form, our heroine is a beguiling prospect indeed.  With salmon-coloured hair, she stands out from most people you will see.  As a human, she is one of the most phenomenally beautiful women I have even seen, and is stunning to behold.  When you hear the artist speak (in interviews or online videos) she comes across as a friendly, amusing and fascinating artist- someone whom wants to connect whoelly to her fans.  There is a cheeky humour which runs through her songs, and it is framed by our heroine’s powerful and superb voice.  On her Facebook page, Armstrong gives a distillation of her past, present and style: “British singer-songwriter Jen Armstrong has been writing and performing music since the age of 12. She has developed a unique pop / rock style with catchy, tongue in cheek lyrics“.  On her official site, Armstrong gives us the ingredients which go into making our star: “1x breathtakingly powerful and beautiful voice; 10 x years as a professional singer-songwriter; An uncountable number of live shows; A Large amount of talent and drive; 1 x love and passion for pop music; 1 x life of classical music; A (large) handful of hit songs; 1 x tablespoonful of multi-talent; A pinch of stubbornness and inability to quit; 1 x 3-piece hot, sexy (and talented) session band“.  As well as displaying some native humour, it goes to show how long and hard Armstrong has been performing- and why so many tongues are wagging at the moment.  Her beguiling beauty is an irreverence in musical terms- her appeal and majesty comes from her unique personality and striking talents.  It is qualities- good ones- like stubbornness that have contributed to Armstrong’s trajectory, and our heroine is not someone who is ever likely to quit or slow down; so in love with music as she is.  When I interviewed Armstrong, I was curious to know what music was striking her ear at an early age; what sounds were heard in the family household.  She explained: “I grew up listening to and playing lots of classical music. I played in orchestras and quartets and sung in choirs – I think that made a massive difference to the artist I am today. I properly started taking notice of pop music when I was around 11, and I was obsessed with Hanson and Savage Garden for quite a while! They inspired me to write pop songs, and form a band with my sister!“.  That mixture of ’90s pop music, combined with classical elements is a juxtaposition and mixture that made me smile; Armstrong was introduced to a  wide range and diversity of music from a young age- something that has been extrapolated and integrated into her current movements.  Aside from aforementioned U.S. and Australian acts, Armstrong stated that “(My) mum and dad brought me up on ABBA, Queen, The Who, the Beatles and many more – we were always dancing around our living room music blasting away“.  It is that combination of inter-generational acts, as well as modern examples which struck my mind.  I find that many young artists take too much influence from of-the-moment music and fail to investigate and herald talents from decades past.  I am always fearful that the classic and legendary acts are being forgotten about, and I would hate to see the day where the likes of The Beatles and Queen were relegated to the annals of history- and collect dust.  Artists such as Armstrong understand the importance of these acts, and- by tying them together with newer influence- ensuring their sounds and sensations are kept alive.  Through her cover versions and original work, Armstrong has managed to mix in both ’60s and ’70s classic elements with contemporary wonder.  When I interviewed Armstrong, I was keen to find out which singers and vocalists have inspired her; which stars have been enforced her ambitions.  Armstrong stated: “I still see Gavin Degraw as one of the best vocalists out there right now. Freddie Mercury will always be on top. And Eva Cassidy could absolutely do no wrong in my eyes.”  Although I am relatively unfamiliar with Degraw’s music, I share a huge admiration of Mercury and Cassidy.  Mercury is my favourite singer of all-time, and in the way that Armstrong’s vocals are filled with force, passion and conviction, you can hear some influence from the late Queen frontman.  Eva Cassidy is the singer that came clearest to mind when hearing Armstrong.  Although Cassidy largely covered other songs, she gave each a transformative genius to each- due to her haunting and divine voice.  Our heroine has a similar beauty and potency to her delivery, and during cuts from Cyber Girl, 60– as well as her cover versions- I was put in mind of some of Cassidy’s Songbird and Live At Blues Alley moments.  I will go onto explain and investigate our Yorkshire heroine’s recent steps shortly, but time needs to be dedicated to her impressive and multitudinous past work.  Over the last few years, Armstrong has produced a great body of work; variegated and filled with quality- the testament of a hungry young woman whom wants enduring and evergreen success.  One of the reasons why Armstrong’s previous work has been celebrated and caused seduction is out heroine’s multi-talented approach.  Our star is a talented musician whom incorporates piano and guitar into her performances- each instrumental in her music.  Armstrong has a small band and performs with other players, yet by being a skilled instrumentalist, she ensures continual touring and output- as she can sing and play she does not have to wait for musicians and can produce as many songs and gigs as she wants.  When I caught up with Armstrong she explained that learning instruments was vital as “it helps writing and performing in so many ways“.

Our young star has been very busy lately, yet looking back, I am always impressed by how much she has already recorded.  If you check out her work on iTunes (link is at the foot of this feature), you can investigate and see just what Armstrong has produced.  Her Cybergirl E.P. was choked full of effusive and delightful music; the title track is a sweet and memorable take on boy-meets-girl- backed with a memorable and humorous music video.  That E.P. was released back in June of 2012, and along with Tero Potila, Armstrong crafted a strong and striking- highlighted a unique and down-to-earth personality.  The E.P. demonstrated the vocal and musical strengths of Armstrong, but also demonstrated a great talent for original and diverse lyrics.  The title cut spoke of: “I’m a cyber girl/And I’ll rock your world/Be my cyber king/Let the download begin/It’s a cyber place/We come from hyperspace/Take me I’m your cyber girl“.  Three months later, Armstrong released the Not That Kind of Girl E.P.  Although the lyrical themes had shifted from her previous release, the vocal mesmeric and compositional cores were all in tact- and in full force.  The cut, Mr. Loser looked at the embers of a broken relationship, with our heroine stating to her (anonymous) sweetheart: “You gave me promises and they all fell through/You said I love spending time with you…”.  The track was filled with cutting and witty lines (“I’m not a toy, just fun for a boy, go home and play with yourself” rank amongst the finest).  It was a triumphant three-track E.P., and showcased the strong and diverse voice our heroine has- as well as the chameleon-like songwriting ability she has.  In the two years since then, Armstrong has been restlessly producing (fine) work.  The December 2012 single This Time was another bold and confident song from our heroine, and filled with intrigue and striking imagery.  If you look at Armstrong’s YouTube page (see the link at the bottom of the feature) you get a sense of what a range- both of voice and influence- our heroine has.  The likes of Taylor Swift, Rhianna and Gavin DeGraw (the latter was a particular memorable performance of Candy, alongside Mike Attinger).  In the course of Armstrong’s, the likes of The Eagles, Muse, Ben Folds, Elton John and Flo Rida have been given a working over- each cover imbued with a sense of personality and nuance that the original did not contain.  I shall give a mini-review of Armstrong’s current E.P. later, yet our heroine has produced some terrific originals over the past months.  New Year’s Resolution is a fun and upbeat song; our star looking at all the goals she has set herself: all of which appear to be broken.  The gym is out of the questions and “Running shoes/Are still brand new“.  Our heroine surveys various scenes, and wittily investigates some short-lived New Year’s resolve: “Sarah next door tried to stick her promise out/She lasted roughly 7 days or there abouts/I caught her with, the biscuit tin“.  Armstrong is a master of fun and humorous songs; tableaux that look at the quirky side of life and love- backed by her striking voice.   I cannot do full justice to her cannon of originals and covers, but would implore you to head to YouTube and seek them out.  Covers of works by Keane and Arctic Monkeys mingle alongside brilliant originals.  Bullet was a track recorded during a live performance, and put me in mind of some of Eva Cassidy’s finest work.  Armstrong presents a delicate and entrancing vocal performance over elliptical piano, and shows our heroine in tender and considered mood.  Running Shoes again wears a serious face, and is instilled with maturity and openness.  Our heroine goes from downbeat (“I’m taking off this stupid smile/It’s been a lie for such a long time“) to escape (“You don’t get to know if I’m doing okay/I’m running from you, I’m getting away“) all the way to anxiety (“I once was brave, I stood my ground/But now these faces stare me down“).  Songs such as this, as well as This Time, go to show another side to our heroine: a more tender and vulnerable aspect.  It is merit-worthy that Armstrong is as skilled and authoritative singing of fractured love and sadness, as she is with upbeat and anthemic snippets of modern life.  The E.P. Pink Christmas was a set of carol covers, given a unique spin by Armstrong; that was released last Christmas, and was another feather in our heroine’s cap- it has been a hectic and productive last couple of years.  During 2012 and 2013, Armstrong was settled in the U.K, and drawing influence, not only from her idols and past, but her home in Yorkshire and scenes of British life.  The end of last year and the beginning of this year saw fresh scenes and sights, which have influenced our young star…

The past six-or-so months has seen a lot of change and activity for Armstrong, and has seen an E.P. release (60), as well as a string of gigs in the U.K.- as well as a whole host of new cover versions.  Perhaps the most exciting period for our heroine occurred a few weeks ago when she visited the U.S.  In her online videos You’ve Been Pinked, Armstrong updates her fans through a series of travelogues and diary entries: that chart her exploits and activities.  In the latest instalment, Armstrong has published her U.S. adventures.  It is evident that our heroine had a ball, and got to play her music in some rather illustrious venues.  During her Californian leg of the trip, Armstrong played in The Viper Room and House of Blues; across Hollywood and L.A.- entrancing U.S. audiences with her incredible music and personality.  New ideas (for songs) were percolated and realised and she gained fresh influence and inspiration amidst the busy Californian streets and locales.  When I asked her about what the U.S. experience was like, she told me: “The U.S. is a very different place for sure. Because I’m English (and have pink hair!) I always get a good reception, you have to somehow make yourself different from the other thousands and thousands of artists and performers out there. I’m not saying I’m different, but I try”.  With her pink hair and individual style, Armstrong managed to stand out from the myriad wave of performers whom ply their trade night in, night out.  It is likely that- finance depending- she will be returning to the good ol’ U.S.A. very soon, as the reception she received was incredible.  If the varying and diverse city scenes of L.A. struck a chord with our heroine, another city managed not only to strike a chord, but win her heart: Nashville.  The Tennessee safe haven is a place Armstrong felt at home with; a city preferable to the likes of L.A.  It is the natural home for a lot of musicians, including Jack White whom state that the variety and proliferation of live music inspires their minds.  Armstrong summed the home of Country music up like this: “Nashville was incredible – every bar has live music and is packed out a lot of the time. That doesn’t happen in many other places in the world… You can be writing and playing every night of the week. I just loved it and il be back soon! It’s all about music there”.  As well as meeting some wonderful and great people, it is clear that the city has compelled Armstrong to write and write- new songs have come out of that period.  One such song (written with Steve Hacker) called You And Me Time has a feel good and upbeat sound with Country and Pop edges.  Whilst performing in Nashville venues such as The Row, Armstrong not only got the chance to experience a new culture and landscape, but test her material out on a unfamiliar audience.  Drawing inspiration from local musicians and the live music scene, our heroine not only got her creative juices flowing, but fell in love with the city- I am sure that an album or E.P. will be recorded over there some time during her career.  It seems that the sojourn in the U.S. has given Armstrong a new creative lease and food for thought.  The different audiences and scenes will perhaps shape her future sounds, and it will be exciting to see.  Whether there will be Country or Blues elements in upcoming releases or U.S.-themed mandates is unsure- an intriguing proposition.  She is back on home turf now and performing to local audiences; there will be new material being produced eminently, yet I will introduce you to Armstrong last E.P. release.

I have mentioned previous releases such as Pink Christmas, Not That Kind of Girl and Cybergirl, yet it is 60 which is currently causing a lot of excitement.  Released back in November of last year, it is a collection of four songs that move on from past releases, whilst retaining Armstrong’s distinct cores and trademarks.  Stay With Me begins with a gorgeous and rolling piano line, before our heroine steps to the mic.  Recounting a romance where “he was 22/And she was three years older“, the lyrics- as we come to expect from Armstrong- are sharp and humorous.  Although there is some introspection and sadness within the tale, our heroine’s powerful and emotive voice does not wallow; instead infusing potency and invigoration.  By the time the chorus arrives, Armstrong’s voice rises and intones sweetly as she implores; “Stay with me/’til the end of time“.  It is a track that speaks (to an unnamed beau) to stay with our heroine; until they grow old together.  In so much that there is humour and light-hearted edges to the song, it is an honest love song and a sensitive coda- wrapped in tender piano lines and sweeping moments.  Armstrong’s voice has elements of modern-day U.S. idols of Pop and Soul, but is unmistakably hers throughout.  By the final stages we are introduced to some vocative strings and wordless vocals- adding extra weight to the atmosphere.  The entire track displays the key elements of our heroine’s talent: terrific compositions and lyrics; strong and incredible vocal range, as well as a memorable chorus.  Like Drury yesterday, Armstrong pens a chorus that is effectively simple and memorable; her voice ranges from hugely evocative to tenderly sweet- the result is a terrific lead-off song that will stick around in the memory (9.5/10.0).  The second track, Mr. Laid Back shows our heroine in provocative, humorous and upbeat mood.  Whereas the opening track was more inward-thinking and emotional, here the sound is fun and frivolous.  Early lyrics talk of “Rum truffles/Snooping on the computer“.  Pointing the finger at a figure who wears a suit to work “every day“, has a wife, responsibilities and a busy life; yet is not deterred of phased at all.  Whether the song is talking of a particular figure in Armstrong’s life I am unsure, yet it is someone whom compels her.  This figure, whom wears his walking boots, eats “cream with custard/On top of ice cream” and sits watching action movies sounds like an intriguing fella.  Again, the chorus has a catchy and memorable sound to it, and is something you will singing along to, without knowing about it.  It is such an upbeat and fun song, that it will put a smile on your face, and compel you to imagine various scenes and scenarios- picturing what the central figure looks like.  The hero of the tale is loving his life on his terms, and likes things the way they are; he knows what’s good and “what is shit“, which- according to our heroine- “suits him just fine“.  (9.4/10.0).  The title track is third off the block, and begins life with a spiritedly and jumping acoustic guitar strum.  Our heroine looks at a man who is, unsurprisingly, 60, yet she wouldn’t put him  “a day past 50“.  It is the celebration of a man who is reaching old age; our heroine asks the song’s focus if has made the best choices in life; know where he is going, and “Did you pick the right career?”  With wordless coos and cheery abandon I cannot help but look at the E.P.’s cover, when investigating the song.  The hunchback homunculus that looks at you looks like… well pretty much anyone’s grandfather, yet is someone whom perhaps is “more immune to the effects of beer and wine“.  In the way that northern acts like The Beautiful South were masters of witty and sardonic tales of modern life; odd figures and the reality of reality, here Armstrong has a ball investigating a man whom switches on Match of the Day; yet has made some mistakes throughout his years.  Once again it is a song synonymous with a catchy chorus- in fact the entire song lodges into your brain.  You cannot help but root for the hero and be swept up in the song’s infectious spirit.  It is rare to laugh along to music, yet here you elicit chuckles throughout.  The way tender and sweet vocals score lyrics about the inequities and delirium of old age is charming and brilliant.  By the end, our heroine says it best: “You’re not tipsy/Now that you’re 60“.  (9.8/10.0).  The E.P.’s swansong, Look up to You, follows suit from the opening track.  Romantic and soft piano score a romantic tale, where a sweetheart is told: “you have to let go“.  Armstrong is in impassioned and seductive mood as a tender and compelling vocal speaks of a figure whom is “Everything to me“.  The song reveals new light as the chorus comes into view.  Speaking of someone whom is up there “between the stars” it becomes a song to a lost loved one- adding sentimentality and raw emotion to proceedings.  Armstrong makes a promise to her departed subject to do them proud; be a huge success and fight on.  She clearly admires the figure and looks up to them; as she looks back  on her life our heroine pays tribute to an inspirational person.  Providing thanks, Armstrong produces one of her best vocal performances of the set: it is both beautiful and powerful at  the same time.  The backing is effective yet restrained, allowing our heroine the spotlight.  Having followed on from such an upbeat and funny track, it is a (pleasant) shock to witness this song.  It demonstrates just how effectively and seamlessly Armstrong can change direction- and do so with conviction and authority.  As the final piano notes end the E.P., you cannot help but be impressed.  (9.7/10.0).  Overall it is a brilliant work, and something everyone should grab a hold of.  Over the course of a quartet of songs, our heroine looks at the funny side to old age; a laid back anti-hero; a promise to  a departed relative- as well as tender pleas in love.  You never know what is coming next, and are surprised and won over with each track.  As well as a brilliant set of lyrics and compositions, it is Armstrong’s voice that stands out.  Hugely evocative and convincing throughout, she matches the sheer beauty of the likes of Kate Bush, Eva Cassidy and the like; yet has a power and set if lungs that rank her alongside some of her idols and heroes.  I came away from listening to 60 hugely excited at what could be coming.  She seems to become more confident with each new release, so it will be fascinating to see what our heroine comes up with next.

When it comes to the future, I quizzed Armstrong whether we will see a new E.P. or album in the next few months.  She stated: “I’ll always release things but my debut album will be very special and a big deal for me so that will take some time”.  Armstrong is always moving and working, so there is always new material afoot.  Most artists take months to write an E.P.; release it and then offer nothing new for a year or so.  It seems that there are few as hard-working as Armstrong, whom is always finding new songs to cover, and new songs to write.  In the last couple of days, a couple of brilliantly strange (and funny) covers have come to light; there is talk of new songs for the future- but for now there will be some more gigs.  I know how much the fan’s love means to Armstrong, and in turn she offers so much music and direct connection that you are very much in her world.  Between her Facebook page and official site, she lets her fans into her life and keeps them involved with every step. Over the last couple of years, our heroine has released more material than her contemporaries do in twice that time; so I hope she will allow herself some time to relax and reflect.  Although, knowing how much music means to her, there is going to be ambitions to return to the U.S.; new venues to play and new covers and originals to conquer.

I am writing this feature, not just as a musical love note, but to highlight the kind of talent that is out there right now.  There are few modern acts whom blow me away, but am coming across quite a few as of late.  Armstrong ranks at the top of the list, due to the quality of her material- as well as the frequency in which she releases it.  As a human, she comes across as witty, friendly, bubbly and filled with passion.  I envy the lucky bastard that ends up with her, as she is annoyingly mesmeric, and someone I would kill to collaborate with.  I know that London venues such as Ronnie Scott’s would kill to have her play there, so hope that she does venture down this way.  As much as a man would be one of the luckiest alive to have her, more relevantly, the music world is lucky to have her.  I asked Armstrong about new music; whether there were many artists she was compelled by.  She went onto to explain it, thus: “I must confess not a lot of new artists blow me away – maybe I look in the wrong places. Most recently I heard a guy called Matt Giraud in Nashville. He was flipping phenomenal and I hope he makes a nice living from music because he’s so deserving. Hannah Rei is one of my favourite artists and writers, and my best Meghann Clancy is so talented and so awesome“.  There are too many disposable acts and musicians on the scene.  When I asked whether Armstrong liked reality shows or saw them as the way forward she explained that “they’re just tv entertainment shows. That’s their purpose and they do it well“.  I guess the modern scene looks for quick fixes and the fly-by-night music examples; a lot of time great acts get buried amongst the clatter of reality stars.  I have reviewed quite a few great new acts, but I am hopeful that more will come through.  The mainstream artists and my favourite bands have their place,. yet it is always nice to hear something new.  Perhaps Armstrong has the right idea: see far-off places and experience new people.  Her travelogues in the U.S. have given her fresh impetus and allowed her to behold towns and bars that are filled with new fans and admirers.  Similarly, the likes of Nashville have given up great talent and inspiration to her, and I have not seen anyone more excited by music and her own material than I have with Armstrong.  When it comes to new artists, I pressed her as to whether she had any advice: “Learn an instrument. It helps writing and performing in so many ways. Network your ass off. It’s (unfortunately) mostly about who you know. Talent comes later”.  There is a lot of truth to what she has said.  Talent is paramount, yet networking and connecting via social media (and in music venues throughout the world) can be even more vital.  I am beyond confident that the future will be Armstrong’s for the taking.  She has the beauty, personality and raw talent to take the music world by storm, and there will venues and festivals lining up to sign her up.  I know that local record labels such as Cuckoo Records house similar talent, and I am sure that- if she should choose- there would be a natural home for her there.  In my role as a songwriter and reviewer I always look for inspiration not only in terms of great songs to hear, but artists whom inspire my own work.  Just now, I have written some new lyrics after listening to Look up to You and 60– I won’t bore you with them!  The songs I am putting together for my (five-track) E.P. tend to contain romance, raw edge and Queen-esque epics- but I have been lacking the humour and fun.  Listening to Armstrong’s tales of fractured modern life and the curious figures she presents has compelled me to reassess my own writing.  As well as lyrics, I am thinking of new songs; ideas of a differing nature and have fresh energy.  Armstrong’s voice and professionalism is something I would absolute love to experience and be a part of, and there are few people in music I can say that about.  I will leave you with a couple of points.  The first one regards our talent as a whole.  As much as I have gone on about how gorgeous and funny she is, my abiding point is this: she has a hell of a personality.  Too many acts are lifeless and intangible and hide behind facades.  There is a humanity and girl-next-door quality to Armstrong- she is someone who wants to welcome as many people to her world as possible.  Her music, as well, possess the sort of range and layers you do not often find.  Many acts get the voice or lyrics right- and are stagnant when it comes to range.  Some do it the other way around, yet there is a paucity that get everything just-so.  The combination of early influences, constant touring and an ambitious songbook has meant that Armstrong stands apart from her peers.  Too many false idols exist in music, and for that reason, we should give more light and love to the likes of our heroine.  My final point is perhaps a more whimsical one- yet a true one.  Yesterday I reviewed a Yorkshire lass (from Keighley).  Her E.P., Some Day was the best I have heard all year.  Issimo are from Bradford-way and their music is amongst the finest and most memorable about.  Having reviewed a lot of music from Cuckoo Records Electro-Swing artists from Leeds; multi-talented singers from Yorkshire and stupendous innovators from Hull and Sheffield have overwhelmed me somewhat.  I love music from London, Liverpool, Manchester and beyond, yet find that there is less consistency- and the biggest and best from here do not rival Yorkshire’s finest.  Skipton was recently voted as the best place in Britain to live, and is a place where Armstrong calls home.  Perhaps it is not an accident that such as idyllic town has provided happiness and richness for our young heroine; she may be loathed to ever leave there.  I am not sure why Yorkshire produces the best music around, yet it seems to be doing the county proud.  I asked what she attribute this to, and she explained succinctly: “(They’re) the best people in the world.  Simples“.  Given what I have witnessed within her music, artistry and personality…

SHE may well be on to something.


Follow Jen Armstrong:















For current tour dates:



E.P. Review: Annie Drury- Some Day.





Annie Drury

Some Day



Some Day is released on 17th March, but  available (to pre-order) from:


The single Some Day is accessible via:



One of Yorkshire’s finest acts has enjoyed a rather prestigious last few weeks.  Her success is no coincidence, however: her music ranks amongst some of the best you will hear from any artist (at the moment).


THIS weekend is a rather exciting one for me…

as I am focusing entirely on female talent.  Tomorrow I will be investigating the rise and authority of Jen Armstrong- an artist whom has already managed to encapsulate and excite U.S. audiences- as well as those in her home regions.  My featured artist has similar hallmarks with Armstrong.  Both are young and ambitious songwriters; each has the distinction of being in the fledgling stages of their career; the abiding and striking constant is this: both of the artists has the ability to be able to rival the best artists on the current scene.  I shall investigate Armstrong more tomorrow, but for today, my focus is levitated towards the intoxicating shores of Annie Drury.  Her biography and trajectory is an intriguing one, and is something I shall dissect more, anon.  Before I hone in, I want to take a step back.  Being in the position of surmising two similar- yet quite unique- artists, has got me thinking about a couple of points.  Recently, I have been reviewing a lot of male talent- either solo or bands- and have slightly neglected female artistry.  It has always been an easy job to praise and pat the backs of bands- their lives seem a lot more care-free.  Although the quality of the music can be considered to be marginally better- when compared with solo acts- their backgrounds and plights are less compelling and gripping.  When one looks at a band, you are very much gazing upon a small group of people.  Although there is often an exciting and considered core (either with the image of the music), you are often less taken with the individual personalities on offer: more the music alone.  This is not a bad thing, but I feel that the most meritocratic and eye-watering artists are those whom can mesmerize with their personality- as well as the songs they offer up.  The life of the lone artist is a stressful and unpredictable one, and encourages not (friendly) civil war, more a succession of nervous steps.  When I look across the landscape of modern music, the hills and valleys are filled with differing artists.  There is still a predominance of established and celebrated acts- with less attention paid to new artists.  The cemented and gilded artists whom enjoy continuous success have gained this honour because of their sheer talent.  It seems a little baffling, however, that fresh artists are not vying for the same sort of patronage.  I am digressing somewhat, but my point is this: there is a notable gap, ready for solo artists to fill.  The band market will always be one of the most profitable and evergreen sectors, and one which will see change and regression- in equal measures.  To my mind, the most interesting and considered music (this year) will (and has) come from the solo market.  Over the past few months I have reviewed and featured some rather diverse and wonderful lone artists: each proffering something new and brilliant.  In each case, it is the personality of the talent that has really grabbed my attention.  When you are part of a band, there seems to be less investigation of the person behind the music; whereas the facts are reversed with regards to the solo act.  New music will surely create the best solo music this year, as it seems that a lot of the mainstream is dominated by band music.  A few solo acts have managed to grab some critical acclaim, but can many people honestly name many examples of truly great (mainstream) solo stars?  I have been harking on about the latest release by Beck; hinted at some future movements by the likes of Jack White and Laura Marling, but when push comes to shove: that is about it, really.  I am not sure whether it is just because being (a solo artist) is fraught and unpredictable, but there has been a lot of capitulation and false promise (in this sector).  Our groups- both established and new- tend to be highlighted and afforded critical focus- whereas lone artists are given minor acclaim.  This is something that needs to change, as the best music I have reviewed this year has (predominantly) emanated from solo stars.  In each case, the person behind the music has spiked my mind and come equip with a full and enriching back story.  The boys have all done a good job of rustling interest and widening the eyes, yet it has been the female solo artists whom have done the hardest hitting.  Artists such as Chess and Elena Ramona are portraits of young and confident acts, intent on forging longevity and mass appeal.  Both hail from southern England, and each enunciates diverse and fascinating sounds.  Salt Ashes has a touch of Kate Bush and a whole lot of dark-and-light juxtaposition; whereas Emily Kay evokes the spirit of early Macy Gray- and London soul.  The range and differences between each of these artists is truly staggering, and is not something you can relate to modern-day bands.  In each case I have looked hard at the person creating the music; where they come from and where they are headed for- as well as the contours of their respective releases.  The overall experience is more enriching, and I have always come away from the experience (when listening to their music) of having fallen in love with the person- as well as the songs.  I feel that the modern music scene is lacking bold and brave solo talent.  There is too much gimmick and celebrity; far too many pretenders and plastic idols- and not enough relatable and tangible examples.  New musicians and inspiring songwriters such as myself are always looking out for idols to inspire; seeking out individuals whom display a pleasant and exciting outer core- as well as focused and differing musical machinations.  The next year or so will see a transition away from scandal-chasing solo artists and the vague and insipid talent, and welcome in the real and genuine articles.  Eyes are already straining to see whom will be first over the horizon; which will strike the hardest and fastest- and which artists will take your heart and mind.  Band will always be profitable and offer up (perhaps) the strongest music; yet the solo artist will always be the most inspirational- and worthy of our attention.  Perhaps the most obvious result of this conclusion, will be that completion and fervency will arrive from all corners- fast and unabated.  The business of separating yourself from the herd; making your voice stand about all of the others will that much harder- but the rewards will be golden indeed.

This all brings me to a talent I have reviewed previously: Annie Drury.  I shall introduce you to this wonderful lady shortly, but before I do, I want to mention her alma mater: Cuckoo Records.  I have surveyed many acts from the Leeds-based stable.  I have always been impressed by the sheer range and wonder to be witnessed within their walls.  There is no predictability or boredom to be found.  Electro-Swing artists such as Little Violet mingle alongside Jill-of-all-trades Cissie Redgwick; solid Rock talent such as Raglans share space with ’30s Jazz and Blues talent- it is a label that brings out the best in some of the very best.  The new music scene has plenty of talent, yet there are few record labels in the world that host such a diverse and impressive portfolio.  Between the various artists of Cuckoo, success and recognition has been flooding in.  Drury is one of the artists of the illustrious label that is seeing her stock rise.  Q Magazine gave her a very impressive nod when they nominated her track Some Day, as their ‘Track of the Day’.  Terry Wogan will be playing music from Annie tomorrow; there is praise and adulation being offered from some of the most high-profile corners of the music world.  I have reviewed some artists whom have had their music played by Wogan, and the life they have after this airplay is very prosperous and rewarding.  I am sure that- aside from the pride of having her music featured- there will be venues and gig organisers on the phone to our heroine: each keen to have her play and bring her music far and wide.  It will be a very exciting next few months for Drury, and she is getting the recognition she deserves.  If you have never heard of Drury, then I shall fill you in.  Our gorgeous heroine has been recording for a few years now, and is a down-to-Earth and amiable figure.  Capable of holding her drink as well as making you blush with her charm, Drury has a personality and appeal that can draw in fans from all sectors and walks of life.  When I was saying how solo artists win me over with their uniqueness, Drury is the epitome of this point.  There is no one to hide behind, and there is not a sole focus on the music (as you may expect from a band).  Her name is the only one you will hear, and the Yorkshire star draws you in with her looks, her loveable inner- but it is the talent and songwriting ability that hits hardest.  On her Facebook page, Drury’s biography is summed up, thus: “Born in 1992 and raised in Keighley, West Yorkshire, singer-songwriter Annie Drury has been performing and writing since a young age, when it was already evident to all around that music was her obsession. She was born into a musical family from an Irish folk background. Her father, a singer/songwriter and her late Grandfather was a well-known flautist in the London/Irish music scene from the late 1940’s . Both have been strong inspirational figures during Annie’s early years. Annie’s song writing has been influenced by timeless, classic female artists such as Joni Mitchel, Carol King and Kate Bush.  The style of music in which Annie creates, combines piano based melodies with effortless vocals through the influence of Folk and Soul music.  She has gained a vast amount of gigging experience in various parts of the country, both as a solo artist and as the lead singer of a band in 2011. She has played for venues in the Leeds area including: The Wardrobe, Oporto, The Hop, The Verve and also played for events around Bradford including:International Women’s Day and The Bradford Mela. Other performances include,The Beat-herder Festival and various local events in the Yorkshire area raising money for specific charities. In September 2011 she performed at Notting Hills Art club, for a night with ‘Communion Records’.  In late February 2012 Annie signed to Cuckoo Records, ( a Leeds based record company) and has been writing and working on her new E.P with the fabulous Bob Bradley which is due to come out May/June 2012″.  Time has passed in the ensuring time since the biography was published, and Drury will want to keep it fresh- mentioning her recent triumphs.  From the biography, you can tell how much music means to Drury, and her upbringing has enforced her sound and talent.  Having travelled the U.K., as well as the world- whilst having a mixed heritage- Drury has incorporated these experiences and flavours into her sound: the results are consistently strong and layered because of this.  It is rare to find young artists whom have such an impressive list of influences.  Drury’s idols include Amy Winehouse, Al Green, Bob Dylan, Blondie, Bon Iver, The Beatles, Kate Bush, Bruce Springsteen, Coldplay; Corinne Bailey Rae, The Cranberries, Neil young, Nina Simone, John Drury, Joni Mitchel- and many others.  Maybe I am typecasting younger musicians, but I often feel that there is a short attention-span- too often they pick up on what is new and fresh; negating the older and more treasured.  It is merit-worthy that our heroine retains some glorious artists of the past; mixes them with a smattering of modern-day idols: ensuring that her music retains a little of each.  In spite of everything, there is a stunning originality to Drury’s work.  She has been performing and writing for over 6 years, but throughout her career she has made a habit of projecting a very unique voice.  A lot of new artists are petrified that their own voice will not be well-received by critics, and feel that- unless you sound too much like someone else- no one will buy your records.  I have spoken with Drury’s manager Phil Cass, whom is extremely proud of our heroine.  Rightfully so!  Radio stations, magazines and music-lovers are being given front-row seats to the inner workings of a restless woman, whom is determined to ensure long-term success.  In a scene that is almost synonymous with disposability and brevity, Drury will be someone recording music into her 50s and 60s- like her idols such as Mitchell and (Bob) Dylan.  It is always fascinating watching the embryonic and fledgling steps: you always get a sense at just how far an artist has the potential to go.  For every several dozen or so generic acts whom cover songs and offer little fascination, it is always a relief to come across songwriters such as Drury.  I don’t know what it is about Yorkshire- and it is a subject I will be going into more detail about, tomorrow- but te rarefied air is breathing life into some incredible talent.  Let us, then, get down to business…

The E.P., Some Day, is one that is a rarity indeed- it offers a lot of bang for your buck.  Most E.P.s tend to have three (or maybe four tracks)- here we get seven in total.  I have always felt that a three-track E.P. is frustratingly short-sighted.  Unless you are a genius of a band (or artist a trio of tracks does not give the listener enough range and music.  Right from the off, I was soothed, knowing that a quartet of original tracks would be on offer here.  The four-tracks (the final three tracks are remixes) offer such diversity and emotional range; these are songs Drury has been working hard to craft, and reflect a young woman whom is strong and determined, itinerant and wandering; yet also imbued with a tender vulnerability.  The title track is- aptly- the first to enter your ears.  With a jubilant and impassioned piano, you are stood to attention and intrigued by the very first seconds.  As our heroine steps up to the mic., she tells of “Oh what a day/What a day“- her countenance and tones a little world-weary and fatigued.  Our heroine needs to get away and leave where she is- stiffled by the hardships and rigours of the day-to-day.  Drury casts herself in a role as a downtrodden and work-opressed artist- someone whom is looking at the world from the inside, looking out.  In the song, she professed how she “could have been a painter” in order to add “colour to your life“.  Going on to state that she could have been a fortune-teller; in order to “read your mind” your thoughts turn to romantic and relationship scenes.  It seems that Drury is speaking about the ineptitude and vicissitudes of love and the inherent turbulence.  There is a wonderful ambiguity to Drury’s memorable words: is she speaker about a lover, to a boss; or is everything based in fiction?  By the time we reach the chorus the mood is lifted higher; scored by a wordless rises; emphatic proclamation and effusive strings.  There is perhaps an ear of Alright, Still-era Lily Allen.  The two share a similar infectiousness and cheeriness, yet Drury has the authority and skill that Allen does not (yet) posses.  The way in which (almost) backwards-sounding strings are mixed with gleeful symphony give the words an additional majesty.  Our heroine- speaking now to an anonymous beau- points fingers; with a wit and biting message: “I’m not the one to blame“.  Drury’s subject has been name-calling and being less-than-chivellrous; creating perturbation and stress.  As the song develops, once again Drury casts herself in various roles; as a lawyer she could have made you (her subject): “… a better version/Of the miserable man that you are“.  Drury’s voice is pure, clear and impassioned as she fantasizes about kicking her lover into touch; each word resonates clearly- not been subjugated amidst noise or poor enunciation.  It is a track that brilliant starts the E.P. and shows what a talent Drury is.  Her original, witty and intelligent lyrics are quote-worthy and beautifully crafted; the composition is arresting and mobile, constantly engaging and connecting with the words- Drury’s voice gorgeous, sweet and intoxicating from start to finish.  As the title track’s words of “Some day/We can make it out of here” point at redemption amongst the strains of real life, the second track, Crazy World, take us somewhere different.  The intro. is a shift away, too.  Gone are the jubilant and punctuated piano lines; replaced by something more languorous and Country-tinged.  It is a romantic and sun-drenched opening that mixes arpeggio acoustics with twanging electric guitars: the combination is incredibly effective.  Early words hint at a young woman, yearning for security: “Keep me safe/In your arms“.  Whilst the composition and sound puts me in mind of early-career Joni Mitchel; Kings of Convenience and Folk’s finest, it is the vocal performance that captures most.  Whereas before (on the title cut) Drury was both upbeat and biting; mixing upbeat joy with downbeat introspection, here there is tenderness and longing.  The chorus tells how the world is mixed up and crazy; emphasised by Drury’s effective repetition and projection.  Our heroine- with her lover combined- could “conquer this land“; beat the odds and overcome the blues.  The song wins stripes by the way that it allows focus on Drury’s imploring and truth-telling words; it then backs off and provides space for the dreamy and seductive composition to then do some work.  There is no compression or wasted notes- the song expertly mixes a myriad of moods and shades seamlessly.  The way that the strings rise in the background reminded me of Way To Blue/River Man-era Nick Drake; our heroine’s voice tells how she wants to escape the crowd- it rises and sweetly strikes, making sure your hairs are on end.  By track two, you get the impression that here is a singer who has a huge conviction in all departments.  There is no huge focus on the voice alone- although it is ever-changing and stunning.  The compositions are diverse and hugely evocative and the lyrics are consistently memorable and fascinating.  Over the course of two tracks we have mutated from scenes of workaday strife and romantic stresses, through to a sensitive and tender paen to the need to conquer the land with her lover; a man “who I’ll hold out for“.  I got essences of Laura Marling’s brilliant songwriting here, as well as hints of Irish folk as well.  With so much to digest and reflect upon, I was all smiles by the time One Step arrived my way.  It is the lullaby-like intro. that begins the track, but is a brief in its beauty, as our heroine speaks:  “Hold your body/Close to mine“.  Drury, once again, forces vivid and picturesque scenes into your mind; here she is entwined with her lover- or companion- on the dance floor; nervous perhaps because of her “two left feet“- yet cute and self-deprecating in her charm.  Like Crazy World, here there is an emphasis on positive aspects of love and romance; Drury once again comes equip with a tender and soft vocal.  The entire track takes us to a dance floor; the two of them lost in the dance; the music.  Drury matches the song’s themes and movements by giving rhythm and (at times) a waltz-like feel to her projection.  Again, there is a memorable and repeated chorus; our heroine counts “One step… two step… three step…four“; letting her left feet sweep her across the floor: “because we want to“.  There is a little of Jacqui Abbot in Drury’s lower register; a bit of Mitchell in her higher reaches- but emphatically her unique blends scoring a wonderful track.  The vocal performance is filled with nuance and conviction, and shows what a range her voice has- both in terms of octaves as well as emotional range.  You are always focused and gripped by what comes out of her mouth, that the incredible compositions take you by surprise.  In One Step there are snatches of xylophone (or glass xylophone); bolstering and stunning strings, as well as thumping percussion.  At the two-thirds marker, Drury unleashes a wordless coo; her voice is layered and duets with itself, and combines beautifully with a romantic and stirring classical backdrop.  We come to land as our two subjects continue to dance; swaying into the night “because we love to“- another gem has been presented to us.  River Flow begins life similarly to Some Day and Crazy World– intriguing piano afoot- but its infancy is darker and slower.  There is an evocative and riparian sounds on offer, and it marks another shift by our heroine.  I have digested  this track many times before, yet am constantly surprised by its appeal and quality.  Drury teases us into the track; eliciting a moonlight mystery, before she comes to the microphone.  Early words hint at some dislocating in our heroine’s heart (“You know that I’m sorry“).  Drury’s voice is powerful in the early stages; giving additional emphasis and meaning to lines such as “You’ve become my overdose“.  Our heroine turns in possibly her best vocal performance of the set on the track; her voice goes from a potent allure to a trembling whisper (especially on the line “How I loved you so“).  The backdrop is kept minimalist, allowing our heroine room to shine and implore.  The sparse and delicate composition emphasises the lyrics, which reflect upon a relationship that has gone awry.  Whereas the previous two tracks looked at the redemptive nature of love, here we are back to more introspective terriroty- like the title track, sans bite and rebellion.  The track is a fitting finale to a brilliant set, and is synonymous with rushing and shimmering vocals- as well as baroque tenderness.  Drury is steeped in Blues and Soul acclaim as she surveys the scenes and fragments.  Aching strings married alongside river flow piano notes succinctly punctuate the mood, and provide the listener a chance to reflect.  As the song reaches its mid-point, our heroine opens up in honesty:  “I’ve tried, I’ve tried/We all make mistakes/And I could have lied“.  As Drury’s voice is multitrack and trickling, she admits that things may not be able to be salvaged; there is an “overflow” of words and blame to be placed upon the shoulders of the unnamed sweetheart.  There is a haunting stillness that runs throughout much of the song.  Drury again makes your mind imagine, and our heroine makes you picture scenes of tragedy and rebirth; transcendence and heartache.  As the final words are spoken, your sympathy is with our heroine and there is a cliff-hanger of mystery and questions as a beautiful outro. is unveiled.  In the final seconds- as piano and strings co-mingle- you wonder whether Drury ends the track with a smile on her face or genuine sadness.  By the final ember, the listener is left wanting more- the mark of a great E.P.  Over the course of a quartet of tracks, our young star has covered so much ground and given up a lot of her self.  I guarantee that by the end of River Flow you will be raring to re-play and investigate the E.P…

Having been familiar with Drury’s work- as well as her ambitions- I came into reviewing Some Day with some preconceived expectations.  I knew that the results would be consistent and impressive, yet I was in for a rather pleasant surprise.  I feel that Drury will have some work to do in the future- in a good way.  She has her page all neatly laid out on the Cuckoo Records website, yet maybe an official/personal website will be in order?  The young lady behind the music has a great back story, and a lot to say, and would be nice to see a fully fledged website dedicated to her- biography, photos, tour dates, videos etc.  In the same manner, there is a lot of info. that can be added to her Facebook site.  Aside from airplay and reviews, Drury has a lot to shout about, and I hope she will be putting it all in bold print and getting her name as far as possible.  In the manner that Drury is modest it is impressive that so little pomp and fanfare has unfurled, yet our heroine will be much in-demand, very soon.  Her music is ready-made for the audiences of the U.S., Australia and Europe, and her fan base will rise considerably.  She is going to be very busy this year (and next), and I hope that the likes of BBC Radio 6, XFM and Absolute Radio spin her music- bringing it the Rock-loving 18-40 demographic.  Terry Wogan’s patronage will be a highlight indeed, and will see her music played in households throughout the U.K.; from here who knows how far she can go?  It may be too soon to make grand claims, but Drury has the ammunition and talent to be able to challenge some of the most popular and profitable acts on the scene.  I have never met  the woman, yet she seems like someone whom could make me blush like a moron- then swiftly drink me under the table.  Too many modern acts project little flair, appeal or memorability, yet our young heroine is an artist whom can connect with both men and women; young and old- whilst galvanizing any undecided voters.  Some Day is a snap-shot of where Drury is right now; how she feels and what inspires her.  Being familiar with her previous work, it is very much business as usual.  I feel that she has matured a little in the last couple of years, and has augmented her musicianship and songwriting ability.  The voice, too, is stronger and more impassioned, whilst retaining its distinct sound.  Her scenes and travelogues have compelled the lyricist in me, and the way in which the music sticks inside your brain has focused my mind, too- got to get a band together, man!  In that sense, I could well see Drury’s sound being expanded and modified in ensuing E.P.s and albums.  Like label-mate Cissie Redgwick, Drury has a chameleon-like ability, and may favour some harder moments; sights from ’50s Jazz- as well as U.S.-style Blues.  Or maybe she will continue on a very safe and wonderful path.  That is the (albeit, brilliant) conundrum for any great artist.  I am sure for now, Drury will want to soak in the feedback for Some Day, and see where demand takes her.  In the back of her mind there is going to be plans for the future, and as a fan and well-healed supporter, I would say this: knock ’em dead.  I am listening to two tracks at the moment (’cause my brain’s weird).  One is Reckoner by Radiohead; the other is Feels So Good by Sonique.  Between the disparate and mesmerizing codas, I am entranced for separate reasons.  Yorke’s haunting and gorgeous float is backed by a light but delightful composition.  The song is from one of Radiohead’s best albums (In Rainbows), and is a song that compels you to sing along- and get lost in it.  Similarly, Sonique’s bygone club classic is a paragon of delirious abandon and happiness.  The track is scored by a wonderful song and a catchy chrous- infectious in fact.  I am lining up a triple play of Morrissey numbers as well, but my point is this: Drury could fit herself into any of these scenarios.  There is the potential for entrancing Yorke-esque gems; huge and anthemic (and quality) Dance numbers- as well as witty and Northern tales of broken love and disreputable characters.   Whether a full length L.P. will see our heroine venture into these communities is unknown, yet she has the world in front of her.  With a terrific management inspiring her ambitions, some brilliant label-mates, as well as the wide support of the music community, I am sure that whatever happens next should not be missed.  I hope, too, that Drury comes and entertains us southern ponces as well and comes down London-way.  I would make the trip to come see her and say hi, and I know for a fact that around my way (London/Surrey/West Sussex) there is already demand- think it over… Once in a while you get bored with music and feel that things are too stagnated and generic.  The recently-announced lineup to the Reading and Leeds Festival has provided little reassurance.  Besides some northern Monkeys and some American Queens, there are few acts you’d be compelled to see- hardly any solo acts at all.  There is still a demand for Rock acts and heavier sounds, yet in artists like Drury, we can well see a re-appropriation.  Annie will- I hope-not let my excitement force her mind too far ahead, but I always get energised and pumped when I hear true potential- it is hard to find I can tell you.  Take a listen to Some Day and let its warmth and emotion accompany the warmth of the weekend sun.  Investigate the back catalogue of one of Yorkshire’s (and the U.K.’s) finest talents, and allow yourself to smile and feel relaxed.  In a climate and scene where these qualities are hard to seek out…

WE should take the likes of Annie Drury very much to heart.


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Feature: Stop Me If You Think You’ve Heard This One Before.


english mozz

Stop Me If You Think You’ve Heard This One Before.


Ahead of the release of his 10th solo album, I look back at one of the masters of music.  Many admire and respect the man behind the songs, yet few are taking his influence on board.


WORLD Peace Is None of Your Business

is probably an apt title for an album by Steven Patrick Morrissey.  In fact, it IS going to be the title for the legend’s next album.  The Mancunian is- according to reports- “beyond ecstatic” with the results of the L.P.- provisionally earmarked for release in June/July.  Morrissey has had a bit of an eventful last year of so.  Having suffered various illness and injury, his touring schedule has been somewhat erratic and inconsistent.  It is not surprising given that the man is in his 50s, yet the legend does seems to have been particularly misfortune (lately).  In spite of these setbacks, he did release his autobiography last year; a volume that gained fervent praise and regards from all critics.  I have read only snippets but it contains all of the dry wit, poetry and cutting bite that you would expect from the icon.  As well as a forthcoming album, Morrissey is going to be hitting the road and touring  hard- taking Cliff Richard and Tom Jones with him.  I smiled when I heard whom would be supporting him, as it is not so much a f***-you to public expectation, more a fond regard (the singer has) towards the established singers.  Many young and fresh-faced fans will flock to see the gigs, but many middle-aged and elderly are sure to turn up as well- I wonder what they will make of Mr. Morrissey?  I will get down to some analysis of the 54-year-old in due course, yet I will open with this: I am not sure Morrissey would approve of me as a human.  Being a veracious and dedicated meat-eater, I feel that (if he were to learn of this fact) severe evisceration would be in order.  I am not crazy about the royal family, yet (being a history graduate) want them to remain in place- for as long as possible.  It would be incongruous to think that me and him would be mirror images of one another, yet there are some shared facets that are evident.  Throughout Morrissey’s five decades-or-so our hero has experienced romance and passion, yet the inextricable heartache of ‘unwarranted’ celibacy is something he has had to go through.  I am not sure in Morrissey’s case whether it was optional, but for me it certainly isn’t.  I have tried to fathom whether it is because of a certain personality type- more introspective; quiet- that dictates sexual proclivity, but it has (like Morrissey) enforced some songwriting inspiration in me.  I shall not dwell too much on my empty nights (if I were writing Never Had No One Ever it would be embarrassingly tragic).  I am sure that our legend is enjoying romance at the moment- I hope- yet there are other elements of our lives that dovetail.  Being someone whom has been craving to leave home and escape its confines and heartaches, I cannot relate to the time that Morrissey met Marr.  It seems almost fairy-tale (albeit with a northern twist) that Marr arrived at Morrissey’s home in 1982, and the two formed an instant bond.  The duo has a shared drive and determination, and it was only going to be a year after this meeting that the first (The) Smiths material was released.  I have always felt an empathy with Morrissey and can appreciate how hard his road to glory has been.  As someone whom has carried the beast’s burden of depression, anxiety and every other psychological parasite for the last several decades, it is a curse that inspires as well as cannibalize.  It is curious whether personal circumstance and loneliness is purely responsible for Morrissey’s genius, or whether it is innate and inherent.  Would we have witnessed so many memorable and witty songs if our hero were happier, more fulfilled and, well, frankly… boring?  I don’t judge people whom have a family and are live life the way most do; yet it never makes you stand out.  I have always felt that subjugating the humdrum predictability of the 9-5; two kids and a house in the country; retire and live happily ever after such a tedious and pointless outcome.  Too many possess no ambition or drive past living to old age, and few actually leave any legacy behind.  Morrissey has always been an idol as he has lived life the way he wants; dared to be different and inspiring- without getting bogged down in the quagmire of a ‘normal’ life.  Of course, our hero is not someone whom I always agree with.  Sometimes he can let his mouth run away with him.  Over various gigs he has lectured the crowd about the ‘evils’ of a carnivorous lifestyles; the tyranny of McDonald’s and other franchises- as well as stating how wrong meat-eaters are.  I respect his beliefs and his middle-aged curmudgeonly spirit, yet there is a time and place for these views.  He is a songwriter and musical icon and should be spending his bile and energy rallying against musical issues- and not matters that are none of his business.  It is part of his charm- as well as weaknesses- that he is so passionate about his causes.  Would we want Morrissey any other way?  Whatever you think of the man, and however you view his music, the fact of the matter is this: he is someone who we should treasure.  I believe he is one of the few sane people on earth that offers nothing but hatred and venom to horrid shows like The Voice– and their ilk.  The day Morrissey performs on The X Factor or lets one of the nauseating cretins cover one of his songs, is the day I give in.  It may have already happened, but I would like to think that such an intelligent man, whom has so much respect for honest and real music, would rather cut his own face off.  Anyway, I digress…

Part of the reason for this feature is because of a young lady called Katie Snooks; a fascinating goddess of a woman whom I have never met.  I have been following her- on and off- through Twitter, and am always fascinating and charmed by her love of Morrissey.  There are few people my/her age whom have such a love of Steven Patrick.  I know in Katie’s case she has one of Morrissey’s lyrics tattooed on her body; has been following his career and trajectory for some years- and is one of his most loyal fans.  As well as being a man whom I can relate to and, to me, is the epitome of a ‘alternative hero’, I have always connected with the human side of Morrissey- as well as his music.  My first experience of Morrissey came when I heard the words below:

And if the day came when I felt a
Natural emotion
I’d get such a shock I’d probably jump
In the ocean“.

These lyrics are from the song Nowhere Fast, from The Smiths’ 1985 album, Meat Is Murder.  A lot of attention and credence is given to last two albums by the band, yet I feel that their first two albums are of equal importance.  Recently I wrote this lyric: “If I were to put into words/My innermost emotions/They couldn’t ever fill the void/Between the heavens and the ocean“.  I came away from writing that (as part of my song Vanity Mirror) somewhat pleased.  It was only after re-listening to Nowehere Fast that it was Morrissey whom pretty much wrote the words.  The Smiths’ debut, as well as Meat Is Murder, contain so many songs that inspire songwriters- even today.  Everybody knows about This Charming Man (from The Smiths), yet that L.P. contains the magnificent Hand In Glove (with its standout line: “I’ll probably never see you again“). It (the song) is a paen to doomed happiness and is one of the strongest songs the band recorded (to that date).  This particular song demonstrates Morrissey’s love of literature and poetry; his fascination with writers such as Shelagh Delnay and Leonard Cohen- he paraphrased a line from the latter for that track (“Everything depends upon how near you stand next to me“).  The debut was a solid connection that showed the strong connection between Marr and Morrissey.  The compositions were mesmeric and tight, and allowed Morrissey to let his mind inspire and pervade.  Although a number of the songs dealt with darker subjects and inner turmoil, there were glimmers of wit and light throughout.  By the time Meat Is Murder arrived a couple of years later, our hero was an even stronger songwriter.  Many critics- and fans- consider this to be the band’s weakest album, yet is housed some of their best songs.  It is true that tracks such as the title cut and What She Said could have probably been left out, but the quality is hard to deny.  How Soon Is Now? (which originally did not appear on the U.K. version of the album;- only the U.S. one) is a swirling masterpiece where our young hero draws influence from Middlemarch, the Manchester gay scene as well as his own loneliness.  The track contains some of my favourite lyrics (“I am the son, and the heir, of a shyness that is criminally vulgar/I am the son and heir, of nothing in particular“) and it is a track that marked a departure for the band.  It was stylistically diverse from their previous work and sounded unlike anything else.  The song contained some of Morrissey’s best vitriol and poetry, and vistas of self-doubt and loneliness.  As much as Morrissey started to cement his reputation as a phenomenal lyricist, his voice itself was capturing attention.  The way that Morrissey phrases and intones was rare- sharing more in common with the crooners of the ’50s and ’60s rather than the modern scene- and set him apart from his contemporaries.  He could go from a falsetto through to a throaty growl; hold notes and words, as well as bend lines and phrases to unleash maximum potential.  Tracks such as Barbarism Begins At Home contain cutting insight and barbs, yet demonstrate his vocal prowess.  With yelps and barks, Morrissey mixed idiosyncrasy with tender and attention-grabbing force.  That Joke Isn’t Funny Anymore told the story of a suicidal figure, our hero empathizing with his plight.  The vocal is one of Morrissey’s greatest ever, and mixed tragic lyrics with liaisons “on cold leather seats“.  I feel the album is pivotal as it contains some of Morrissey’s best words and vocals.  The young man let his heart and soul talk, and the album contains some of the most affecting and inspiring lyrics ever penned.  It is the final duo of albums (from The Smiths) that garners most attention.  The Boy With The Thorn In His Side was the first single from The Queen Is Dead, and allegorically dealt with the band’s experience of the music industry.  Inspired by Oscar Wilde, the track looked at  the struggle our hero had with being understood and respected (as a genuine article).  Lines such as “If they don’t believe me now, will they ever believe me?” are pivotal questions that highlighted a real miasma and anxiety for Morrissey.  I Know It’s Over is a haunting tale, where our hero feels “the soil falling over (my) head“; and was a song written during a marathon writing session in the summer of 1985.  The album is so special for me as it galvanizes Morrissey’s gorgeous words and beautiful voice.  I Know It’s Over is a passionate and tender vocal that scores some of his most traumatic lyrics.  The title cut shows our hero in rampant mood; bold and galloping of voice.  The title track demonstrate Morrissey’s views of the royal family and their purposes; he mixes stochastic wit with humorous imagery (“I say Charles don’t you ever crave/To appear on the front of the Daily Mail/Dressed in your Mother’s bridal veil?“).  Bigmouth Strikes Again casts Morrissey as Joan of Arc, tied to a stake and facing imminent destruction.  It is a witty and memorable track that talks of:  “Sweetness, sweetness I was only joking/When I said by rights you should be/Bludgeoned in your bed“.  The entire album was a testament to Morrissey genius and diversity.  Songs like Bigmouth’ highlighted our hero’s cutting bite; Cemetery Gates mixed literary reference with funereal scenes; Never Had No One Ever looked at sexual frustration There Is A Light That Never Goes Out is a tale that draws everything together.  Here our hero yearns to escape home; inside a car with an unnamed girl he feels that being killed in a vehicular fireball would be preferable; stating that “To die by your side/Well the pleasure, the privilege is mine“.  The album is my favourite (from The Smiths) as the range on offer is startling.  Marr provided brilliant and compelling arrangements, yet Morrissey is the star of the show.  His voice takes my breathe, as it is consistently ear-grabbing.  As well as it being tonally different and unique, the phrasing and wording is tremendous; the emotional breadth is incredible- Morrissey’s emotional range goes from merry abandon to suicidal consideration, yet each mood draws you in.  By the time Strangeways, Here We Come arrived in 1987, tensions were evident within the band.  In spite of the fact that it was a fractious experience (Marr dissolved the band during recording), the songwriting duo consider it to be (the band’s) best.  The L.P. was a fitting end to Morrissey’s initial career stage, and shows our hero in fervent and inspired mood.  I feel the second half is weaker than it should be; songs like Paint A Vulgar Picture and Unhappy Birthday are not up to par, yet you cannot deny the quality.  Many critics are not overjoyed with I Started Something I Couldn’t Finish, yet I adore the song.  The way Morrissey pronounces ‘something’; the manner in which he rattles “typical me, typical me, typical me“; the imagery laid out- all wonderful!  I could imagine Morrissey strutting and dancing by the mic.; the manly growls; even during the famous outtake (where he asked Stephen Street whether he wanted another take) I could imagine a sly grin on his face.  Girlfriend In A Coma is one of the album’s best songs; telling of our heroine being near death.  In the song, Morrissey explains how it is “really serious“; recounting times there are times where “I could have murdered her“.  By the end of the track, our hero has to say his goodbyes, knowing she will not pull through.  A perfect distillation of Marr’s overly-cheery juxtaposed composition and Morrissey’s perfect lyrics, it is one of the band’s finest songs without a date.  Last Night I Dreamt That Somebody Loved Me was the lead duo’s favourite song from the album, and can be interpreted as a song from Morrissey’s heart to Marr’s.  Its words of “No hope, no harm/Just another false alarm” resonate strongly, and are backed by one of Morrissey’s most focused and memorable vocals.  The album has everything; comatose beaus; Morrissey on piano; ill-fated bicycle rides- the whole shebang!  As the final words to the album are elicited (“I’ll see you somewhere/I’ll see you sometime /Darling…“) The Smiths were no more; our hero was a man alone…

When the smouldering pyre of The Smiths had dissipated, Morrissey was roaming solo.  Rather than wallow of take a break, he was soon back recording.  Eight months after the disablement of the band, Viva Hate was released.  Stephen Street took on compositional duties, and between the duo a mini-masterpiece was created.  Those whom assumed Morrissey would struggled sans Marr, were surprised and assured when the L.P. came out in 1987.  The wonderful prose of Everyday Is Like Sunday was inspired by the novel On The Beach, and tells of a grey and damp English town, awaiting a- much-needed- nuclear apocalypse.  Songs like Angel, Angel Down We Go Together had elements of The Smiths darker moments (and Morrissey’s most poignant words); whilst Margaret on a Guillotine focused on political tirade.  The album showed a tremendous lyrical quality, and was accompanied by strong music.  Although the music suffered from the lack of Marr’s invention, it is Suedehead that remains my favourite Morrissey number.  I love the vocal performance, the melody; lyrics, the music- everything.  It is a perfect storm of queasy delight and jangling subtle orchestration.  Kill Uncle perhaps demonstrated a backwards step for Morrissey, and it was not an album well-received.  However, the following year (in 1992), my favourite Morrissey solo album was released: Your Arsenal.  The Grammy-nominated album is a filler-free joyride, that sees Morrissey hit the strides of The Queen Is Dead/Strangeways’ dynasty.  The opening number, You’re Gonna Need Someone on Your Side is Morrissey’s heaviest number since the days of The Smiths, and is a hard-swinging message to someone with “the world’s weight resting on (your) shoulder“.  Mozza came out of the blocks like a demonic greyhound, getting his messages across right from the first song.  The National Front Disco looked at a central figure (David) and the National Front- a far-right nationalist organisation. The lyrics describe how the friends and relatives of David, watch him drift away into racist extremism.  Rockabily and ’70s Glam Rock were covered after the first few tracks, and it is an album that constantly surprises.  The Ride A White Swan-influenced Certain People I Know swung with a kick and stomp, Morrissey having a ball with the lyrics: phonies and pretenders are given a sharp slap, and it is a delight to listen to.   You’re The One For Me, Fatty and We Hate It When Our Friends Become Successful are piled high with wit and humour: the latter concentrating on the cut-throat nature of the (then) Manchester music scene.  To many, it is Your Arsenal’s predecessor which shines brightest.  Vauxhall and I is rife with mesmeric and sombre mood.  It is a departure from previous albums and shows Morrissey in funereal mood: unsurprising given the events leading up to its release. Spring-Heeled Jim parodies English folklore and is interspersed with snippets from the 1959 documentary We Are the Lambeth Boys.  Songs like The More You Ignore Me, The Closer You Get are obvious hits, and display wit and paranoia in equal measure.  Many hate it, but I love Lifeguard Sleeping, Girl Drowning.  The mostly whispered vocal performance is entrancing; the almost upbeat composition beautifully contrasts a bleak tale: a girl screaming; drowning; destined to die as a lifeguard sleeps, unaware.  The album is a huge triumph and impressive given the tragedy and disruption present in Morrissey’s life in the months leading up to its release.  Southpaw Grammar and Maladjusted can be seen as mid-career stagnates, yet still contain some stonewall classics. Dagenham Dave and Reader Meet Author are two standouts from Southpaw Grammar: an album that saw Morrissey experiment more with song length and nature.  Torch songs were more in evidence throughout 1997’s Maladjusted.  Although critics were lukewarm, songs such as Alma Matters and Trouble Loves Me can be ranked amongst the best from Vauxhall and I.  Business as normal on You Are The Quarry?  Hell yeah!  To be fair Morrissey never dropped a step, but a seven-year respite between albums had seen our hero re-gather and relaunch.  The L.P. is a treasure chest of personal tracks including one of his finest ‘recent’ efforts, Irish Blood, English Heart.  It sees Morrissey reconcile the explain the themes of contention and the relationship between Ireland and England.  The song is packed with biting and political lines, including: “And spit upon the name Oliver Cromwell/And denounce this royal line that still salutes him. And will salute him, forever“.  First of the Gang to Die focuses on Hector, “With a gun in his hand/And the first to do time/The first of the gang to die“.  Poetic and stark images that spoke of: “You have never been in love/Until you’ve seen the stars/Reflect in the reservoirs” made the song such a triumph, and was one of the strongest tracks from the album.   With Ringleader of the Tormentors, Morrissey incorporated influences of guitarist Jesse Tobias.  The L.P. has a heavier, rock-driven sound and opened with a bang.  Vocal gymnastics and an incredible composition augmented I Will See You in Far-off Places; Italian influence and lines about prostitution in the streets of Rome (“Pasolini is me/Accattone you’ll be“) are to be found in lead-off single, You Have Killed Me.  The album sees Morrissey in fine voice and matching the often pulverizing and intense musical backdrop.  Perhaps the wit-o-meter was ranging between 5-6 (not up to his usual highs), but songs such as Dear God Please Help Me and At Last I Am Born are gems.  Our hero- at this time- was apparently happily in love whilst living in Rome, and a lot of the album’s tracks reflect this.  Three years later, 2009’s Years of Refusal signalled an about-face.  Writing duties were split between long-term collaborators Baz Boorer and Alain Whyte; as well as newcomer Jesse Tobias.  Alan Whyte was off guitar duties, and the band lineup rotated.  Like Queens of the Stone Age the only constant is the frontman: musicians had come and gone, and new ones taken their place.  This transition and re-staffing did not hamper the quality of the album- far from it.  Pitchfork Media reviewed it thus: “Years of Refusal comes as a gratifying shock: It’s his most vital, entertaining, and savage record since 1994’s Vauxhall and I. Rather than try to reinvent himself, Morrissey has rediscovered himself, finding new potency in his familiar arsenal. Morrissey’s rejuvenation is most obvious in the renewed strength of his vocals“.  The staggering voice and unique turn of phrase were all up to their peak; the swing and drive of albums such as Your Arsenal were back: Morrissey mixes muscular rock and depression with outward venom and solitary wandering. I’m Throwing My Arms Around Paris and Something Is Squeezing My Skull highlighted how Morrissey’s voice was as emphatic as it has ever been, with I’m Throwing’ offering up insights such as “Only stone and steel accept my love“.  The compositions were consistitenly brilliant and mobile; filled with delight.  That’s How People Grow Up is one of the finest cuts, and contains a fantastic melody and composition.  Morrissey tells how he was wasting his time looking for love: “Praying for love/For a love that never comes/From someone who does not exist“.  You Were Good In Your Time displays is a poignant and thought-provoking song, where our hero offers up lines like: “You made me feel not quite so deformed, uninformed and hunchbacked“.  In the ensuing years between Years of Refusal and now- autobiography-writing aside- Morrissey has been touring and dealing with illness.  With a new album due in a few months, it seems that whatever is contained within will be a wonder to behold.

Being born in 1983, I feel my life began when Morrissey’s did.  Our hero was making music before I was an embryo, yet pretty much the moment The Smiths’ debut was being dropped… so was I.  I am writing this piece, because the man behind all of the (wonderful) music, has inspired me more than anything.  I have left my job this week to pursue songwriting.  There are many music idols I adore, including Kate Bush and Jeff Buckley; Freddie Mercury and Bob Dylan, yet it is Morrissey that I connect with most.  In terms of personality; looks, loneliness and everything in-between I resonate most with him.  Instead of sombrely hide himself amongst four bedroom walls, he has turned his introspective doubts and unhappiness into some of the great music we have ever heard.  Many talk of Bob Dylan and Neil Young when we think of the all-time greatest lyricists, yet I feel that Morrissey should not be overlooked.  He has directly influenced Alex Turner (whether he admits it or not), and I feel that too many are overlooking his (Morrissey’s genius).  Perhaps too many see Morrissey as a miserablist and consider his work too morbid and mordant to truly inspire; this is myopic and naive.  I know that Katie (and others too) have Morrissey’s words imprinted on their body to remain for the rest of their life- I am not surprised.  The ’80s music scene was salvaged and made respectable by the man’s words.  Morrissey’s keen intelligence and well-read mind have been pioneering unabated for 30 years now, and we should all be watching harder.  The Smiths’ back catalogue were awash with stunning tales of frustrated love; bizarre and fascinating scenes as well as fractured depression.  I have heard too many boring and aimless songwriters working away in modern music: where the hell has the flair and ambition gone?  You do not have to plagiarise Morrissey, but learn from him.  There is no shame with being lonely or depressed; with not having sex or wanting it- put it on the damn page!  I feel that, away from the likes of Turner, there are few witty and intelligent lyricists that have the potential to rival Morrissey. Maybe times have changed or the talent is not out there, but I think there is a gap that needs exploiting.  I myself have written enough lyrics ‘inspired’ by Morrissey and work every day to try to get to within touching distance.  To me, Morrissey is more than mere words.  His voice is one of the most distinct ever.  There is no modern-day fakery; no The Voice-style copycatting- the instrument is emphatically his.  It has elements of crooners of decades past, yet a distinct accent and tone of the streets of Manchester.  It is honest, bold, diverse; filled with nuance and power; capable of unleashing gravitational force as well as heartbreaking emotion.  As much as I adore the likes of Bush, Yorke (Thom), Buckley and Mercury, Morrissey is one of those voices whom has not been equalled.  It is clear that he influenced scores of bands and singers, yet I feel that more people should be following in his footsteps.  Ahead of the release of World Peace Is None of Your Business, there is going to be huge anticipation and fervour.  Our hero has not released since 2009’s Years of Refusal– it will be interesting to see what is imminent.  It is true that due to controversy and certain beliefs, Morrissey may not relate directly to everyone, but you know what: he is human, just like everybody else.  There is sourness to his disposition; frank remarks, but is not something that should be prone to exculpatory regard.  Our hero is an honest and inspirational figure whom speaks his mind.  I cannot relate to him as a human and respect him hugely- I feel that he gets short shrift.  If you do not connect with Morrissey The Man, then listen to Morrissey The Songwriter.  The modern music scene is okay, but has been on a terminal path to obscurity since the heydays of the ’90s.  There are some true pioneers and originators out there, but they are being buried in a sea of retarded mediocrity and tweeness.  Through my retrospective investigation I have been compelled to replay all my favourite Morrissey moments- I have compiled a list below.  We all will have our all-time personal favourites, and it will be interesting to see what other people’s are.  As much as anything I hope that Morrissey keeps making music through his 50s and into his 60s.  If he stays healthy and focused I am sure we will be seeing several more albums before last call.  Our legends are slowing down and dying away, and one day will be inscribed in stone- rather than in hearts.  I feel that too many are losing touch with the musicians who got us this far; those whom have inspired generations.  Morrissey’s final days are decades away, yet I hope that people are compelled to listen to the man’s music- either as a way to feel good or to inspire their own music.  It would be a damn shame if this were not to happen.  Anyway, the sun is shining and I am spinning Suedehead (for the fifth time this hour); so I shall bid farewell as…

I have some lyrics to write…


The Best of Steven Patrick Morrissey:

Suedehead (Viva Hate):


You’re Gonna Need Someone on Your Side (Your Arsenal):


Last Night I Dreamt That Somebody Loved Me (Strangeways, Here We Come):


Something Is Squeezing My Skull (Years of Refusal):


Girlfriend In A Coma (Strangeways, Here We Come):


The National Front Disco (Your Arsenal):


The Queen Is Dead (The Queen Is Dead):


Let Me Kiss You (You Are The Quarry):


Spring-Heeled Jim (Vauxhall and I):


Hand In Glove (The Smiths):



Follow Morrissey:



True To You:




Morrissey’s autobiography is available via:


Track Review: Ninetails- Radiant Hex.






Radiant Hex


Radiant Hex is available from:


The E.P., Quiet Confidence is available on March 10th.  Sample E.P. tracks can be accessed via:



The Liverpool-based trio have been crafting beautiful codas for some time now.  They have captured the hearts of the media (and fans alike).  After the merest of investigations, you will be hooked…


LAST week was, for me, a tumultuous and eventful one I guess…

I have quit my job of eight months, and pushed myself- at the not-so-tender age of 30- to finally stop making myself angry.  I got to a point last Tuesday where I finally ‘snapped’: where clarity overtook my mind.  It was not so much an epiphany, more a wake-up for me.  Working (as I do) in I.T., you get accustomed to the daily routine of being yelled at; insulted; dealing with snarky and stochastic wastes of humans.  I would feel somewhat calmer if I were a doctor: if it were patients giving me this kind of disrespect.  Medical issues and life-and-death situations can overtake one’s senses and reduce them to scared children.  I can understand if someone were to unload on me- not be happy or like it, but take it on the chin- as this is the only arena I feel this kind o behaviour is even tolerable.  I have overheard conversations where people are on the phone to a bank (or building society), and are yelling at the person on the other phone; because their P.I.N. number has not been mailed; that money hasn’t transferred; when statements are late.  I always shrug and shake my head, as it demonstrates the worst traits of human beings.  I appreciate that certain life situations are undesirable, and no one likes to feel stressed or anxious, but you know what: join my world.  Because of very neurological and physiological issues, I am anxious and stressed all of the time.  My life will not be long; it will not be happy; it will not be anywhere approaching easy.  With this burden swinging around my neck like a dead horse, I don’t life vicariously through others, nor would I give a complete stranger a hard time for something insignificant.  It must have been 10am last Tuesday that this thought struck my mind.  Having just been roundly eviscerated by some foreign-speaking half-wit, my brain had had enough.  I looked down and was not dressed in a doctor’s coat, and realised how stupid my situation was.  I hate rude people or anyone whom even raises their voice over something stupid, and felt that it was not worth the depression.  Knowing that I am a month away from being released into the wild has left me feeling relaxed.  There is fear for sure, I can tell you.  I will miss the people I work with more than anything- but not the job itself.  The last time I left a job I didn’t find work for over a year- which saw my penniless and ashamed.  This time around, I feel that I will be okay (as much as I can ever be).  Mandating myself to never do anything in I.T., I have formulated a game plan.  It involves moving to London- or near enough- forming a band, working in bar jobs or reviewing music (to make money); putting songs together, and working hard to be better and more ambitious than any other songwriter out there.  I realise that being a 30-year-old means I have arrived late to the party, but I can handle my drink, and will be making up for loss time.  There are romantic and ‘real life’ ambitions, too, but I shall mention them later.  The point I am making is this: too many people work for money alone and miss out on the chance of taking risks.  In my mind there is a woman I cannot stop thinking of; a song I cannot shake from my brain; half a dozen ‘must-dos’ that I feel are long-overdue.  If I go for them and fail, then at least I gave it a shot.  Music offers an arena for the try-ers; the ambitious people whom live in the moment- and for those looking to placate any inner demons and loneliness.  I will be making some tentative steps into the amphitheatre of music; looking about wide-eyed and seeing whom I can recruit to help me out.  When looking about for inspirations, for surrogate musical parents; as well as seeking out the best and brightest acts, I always train my ear to new music.  Before I discuss the point further, I want to raise one particular element: the lack of fascination in music.  Last night I watched Troy– someone I have come to appreciate a little more.  I often feel that he is a more confident and chatty version of Dynamo (Magician Impossible), and never really saw the point of televising ‘magic’.  Real magic is, of course, an oxymoron.  Everything can be explained.  There are no such things as miracles or fate; or anything so absurd.  It is the fact that people watching cannot explain what they have seen make people like Troy so watchable.  No doubt, he has spent many (obsessive) years honing and making sure that his illusions and slights-of-hand seem ‘magic’- rather than just clever and seemless.  It is good to see people s jaws drop when he disappears or creates huge feats, which got my thinking: do we ever feel that way about music.  I am focusing on a brilliant band today, and one whom will dove-tail my two thesis quite neatly.  I think that same visceral synesthesia is harder to come by.  The voice will be the facet that is most likely to elicit the greatest awe in people.  I feel that we have witnessed the most staggering voices.  If you consider the singers whom could drop jaws such as Michael Jackson, Antony Hegarty, Kate Bush etc., they possess voices which are unique and untenable.  The best our generation can hope for is excellence rather than majesty.  Unless you have a voice that marries and galvanises all the greatest voices of all-time (and blends in and out of them), then (unless you are easily impressed and short-sighted) you have to work harder- to get a huge reaction.  Music is the most splendid, universal and un-prejudicing art form in the world.  It inspires and mesmerised simple folk like me to transcend their rather workaday lives and change everything.  Getting lost inside songs and notes is a proximal reaction that can see a life-changing change of events take place: fulfilment of dreams, finding love, connecting with humans; becoming happier and making everything in life better.  In that sense, music has so much more potential to amaze than any second-rate form of entertainment.  It may take a little more (non-literal) shouting to grab the attentions of the fickle and unfocused music-buying public, yet the rewards are bountiful.  We are all lucky enough to have witnessed (and remembered) the greatest songwriters and singers to have lived.  Their legacy and archives remain readily-available and act as a Socratic teaching guide.  It may seem like a lot of tumescent rambling, yet this week has cemented more confidence in me than any other- which leads me onto…

My featured band is a study of how to make an impression- and keep your attention.  Here are just a few nice things that the media has said about Ninetails:

A propulsive display of robust slickness.” FAKE DIY

Slept And Did Not Sleep exhibits a wandering will to reach out to the leftfield ether without ever quite leaving behind the sense that, should the fancy take them, they could produce a stone cold brain lodger oozing both intelligence and pop nous.” THE QUIETUS

Labels, terminology and clever references cease to matter when you’re dealing with music of this intelligence, heart and bizarrely refracted beauty.” DROWNED IN SOUND

The trios consist of Ling, Phil and Jordan, and they are based out of Liverpool.  I hope they forgive me opening statements, but they are partly responsible for my ascendancy.  This is a trio of men whom have been getting some rather adoring pats on the back as-of-late.  The Guardian featured them as their ‘Band of the day’ recently; Mary-Ann Hobs featured one of their tracks on her BBC 6 Music shows- and the list goes on.  Publications such as The Skinny, Dummy and Generator have all lend their patronage to Ninetails: all trying to define and summarise a band on the cusp of something truly awesome.  Whether my- by comparison- meagre journalism will feature on their social media sites is to be seen, yet I am proud to toss my ring into the hat (of the adoring watchers).  Before I get down to their music and history, I am fascinated by a number of aspects (of the group).  One thing that new acts- and established ones- negate gleefully is the importance of image. I don’t mean fashion or uniformity; merely making sure your E.P. (or album) covers are as striking as possible.  It is probably something that seduces the obsessive part of my brain, but too few acts take time to create anything eye-catching.  Maybe music is become digitalized and less tangible, yet it is paramount that we do not lose this aspect.  I- as well as everyone- has seen too many acts producing (album/E.P.) covers with a self-portrait or meaningless design- which leaves me bored.  The axiom and cliché of never judging books by its cover cannot be divulged here: if I am left cold by the outer skin, why bother investigating the flesh within?  Unless you have gigantic music balls of steel and can woo the birds from the trees, then getting your cover art right is as important as making sure the music is on-point.  Bravo to Ninetails, whom greet my cynical tongue with aplomb.  The cover to Quiet Confidence is a symphony of autumnal beauty and pastoral elegance.  It juxtaposes the title itself, whilst soothing your mind and soul.  Before a note has been investigate, I am already fascinated and curious about our trio.  It is not a coincidence that so many effusive reviews have been launched at the band’s feet.  The group have an innate understanding of context and content: how to project the most force with the slightest touches.  Their name itself- Ninetails- unleashing a hailstorm of images; in my mind the cat o’nine tails comes to mind.  Etymologically-speaking that device of punishment has been used for centuries and is still used in several Asian countries.  It is an instrument that can be seen as a disciplinary aid; a method torture or- in certain hands- a sexual aid (so I’ve heard!).  When you match refracted pulchritude amongst vibrant imagery, then the initial effect is mesmeric.  Before the music has been digested, the boys have already attracted unlikely sects of support: art-lovers, intellectuals and the curious alike.  The music itself is the boldest charm and some of the most alarming and urgent uttering you will hear (I shall expand on this after a slight digression).  Our pioneering three-piece have their base in Liverpool, which is, axiomatically-speaking a motherland for music.  The likes of The Beatles have ensured the city’s synonymous reputation, and the streets and sights of this historic location is producing a hungry swathe of fresh-faced musicians.  The boys have seen their stake rise since the release of Sleep And Did Not Sleep.  That five-track collection was abound with nuance and scintillation: the sound of a band intent on hegemony and dominance.  That (five-track) E.P. boasted an illustrious and stunning cover design (simple yet wonderful), and the track listing was a riot of literary imagery (Mama Aniseed spiked my brain hardest).  The E.P.’s progency demonstratively showed a band with a confidence and rare intelligence.  The media were quick to highlight how diverse and affecting the music was: it sucks you in and overwhelms.  There has been some transition since their last release, yet the boys have galvanised and strengthened their core: Quiet Confidence is the result.  It is not officially released, yet the buzz and compliments that it has garnered are not unjust.  I shall elongate my analysis of the E.P. later in this review, yet- before I investigate my chosen track- I will finish with one point: originality.  In the couple of years-or-so I have been reviewing new acts, I have witnessed few whom I can truly class as ‘unique’.  There is always a semblance of another’s voice within the tapestry; an underlying hint of something familiar and well-worn- at the very worst many are contented to repackage an exisiting act.  It is hard to make music that is free from any familiar D.N.A. (I am petrified of this stumbling block when I come to record).  Rare does not have to equate to divisive or niche: you can create original music and be elemental in tandem.  Our Scousers have a nouse for this; they elicited tiny sparks of relatable sounds, yet offer up a palette that is new and bold.  Their future success will not be augmented by happenstance or market forces- they will endure and remain due to their intelligence and talent.  I am looking forward to a new release just so I can see what song titles they come up with; what the cover art will look like- and of course what sounds they unveil.  I shall get down to business…

A slight rumble and crackle begins the travels of Radiant Hex.  Chimes and bells are entered into the mix, creating an initial sense of serenity- as well as brooding.  A swelling vocal rush then comes into force and lasts but a matter of seconds.  The band keep the song ever-changing and evolving; they introduce a sound sample of brief moment, before unveiling a new one after a few seconds.  The listener does not have time to settle in and predict what is coming next as you witness a scenic, atmospheric and symphonic within the first 20 seconds.  From this point, we hear a backwards-playing sample that reminds me of some of Revolver’s finest moments (Tomorrow Never Knows for instance).  There is a sense of ’60s Pyschedelia as well as Prog. Rock’s finest within this movement, and it is one that is tantalising in its brevity.  As you are listening to this passage, your head gets sucked in and it has an odd intoxicating and psychotropic effect- in fact the song up until this point does things to your mind that are usually reserved for alcohol and hallucinogenic drugs.  I loved the way that ’60s and ’70s music is blended with modern-day urgency: the result is a parabolic head-trip that makes you smile and gawk at the same time.  At the 0:50 second mark, a female vocal is introduced.  It is wordless and reversed, and augments the trippy and detached sensation.  After this moment has passed, vocal duties are to the fore- this time in forward motion.  The song is, according to Balber: “(something that) recounts an exorcism. The energumen was said to have had spiritual ‘serpents’ wrapped around his spine. I wanted to convey a feeling of suspension and anti-gravity, evoking bright, bold washes of colour. I imagined moments that were overtly ecstatic juxtaposed with zones of slow-motion and stillness“.  This sense of ‘anti-gravity’ is evidenced within the vocal line, which has a weightlessness that is hard to ignore.  The lyrics are- unsurprisingly- poetic, cryptic as well as stark: “Cryptic tongues for Christ, shot ten round/I WORSHIPED THROUGH MY VIRTUES, THROUGH MY SINS/An ancient HEX, a sacred text/Like serpents covering my bones but covered in dust/I’m inviting/Radiant HEX like serpents covering my bones but covered in light/I’m inviting you/Like serpents covering my bones but covered in light“.  Whilst our hero speaks of snakes and distorted religiosity, an exhilarating sonic backing provides a perfect counterpart.  As well as having Psychedelic undertones, there is also a little Trip-Hop and ’90s Trance on display (Portishead, Massive Attack etc.).  The soulful vocal is a juxtaposition; yet not the only one.  The entire track, from its title through to its composition provides differing and diverse strokes; each melting and sparring with one another.  Percussive rumbles do their bidding with reversed samples; jazzy and soulful edges compliment ghostly echoes.  As our hero steps from the mic., a spectral and detached female vocal arrives.  Parping trumpet blasts summon up a renewed energy, as the cosmic sonic whirl continues.  Again Radiant Hex continues to move, feed and hunt- all the while stretching your brain in every direction possible.  The tone becomes more celebratory and uplifting as the Jazz-infused brass becomes more linear, focused and connecting: it grooves and sways.  Just as you feel you are settling in for a sojourn of tranquility and Groove Armada-esque bliss, once more events turn towards our hero: talking of ‘serpents’ and bones being covered.  Elliptical and entrancing piano give way to another round of wordless chorus-ing as the song begins to reach its end.  With a final snippet of music-in-reversed there is a tiny crackle and we come to the conclusion.  Over the course of several minutes the band have managed to cover so much ground without losing concision and focus.  The track is one that is synonymous with the overall sound: the effect that all the diverse snippets and styles have when commingled.  The vocals and lyrics are memorable- yet brief- and unleash a myriad of strange scenes and gravity over a short period.  It is the overall effect of all the components that makes Radiant Hex so terrific.  By the end of the song you are still trying to soak in what has been heard; you listen through again, trying to keep up with everything that is offered up.  By the nth listen, you are still compelled to re-visit in case you have missed anything.  Such is the nature of the song that is begs multiple listens; by my fifth of sixth time investigating I am still going to keep returning.  Few songs I have heard this year have left such an indelible impression.

Ninetails were foreign and unborn- to me- a few weeks ago.   Having found the trio by serendipitous chance, I have been hooked and compelled ever since.  There are so many new acts out there, that is hard for any to really build a solid and unwavering fan base.  Music-lovers love shiny things; their minds and ears can often stray listlessly from act to act: in the vein search of ‘perfection’.  Too few new acts achieve a sense of healthy mortality: so many supersede and capitulate after a few albums.  There is an inherent sense of disposable nature with each new act, and it is vital that lessons are learned from the most durable.  Our heroic trio have formulated the equations for success, and they will be making records for many years to come.  Jordan (Balber)- whom is the E.P.’s songwriter- described Quiet Confidence, thus: “ a collection of songs reflecting on the concept of devotion… [It] aims to evoke the feeling of having multiple epiphanies, each of which you quickly forget and try desperately to remember again, like attempting to recall the details of a dream… I wanted the record to juxtapose very raw, earnest, human expression with thick, ecstatic walls of sound. This explains the dry, exposed vocals and the densely layered instrumentation surrounding them.”  The E.P. will see many new fans turned on by the band’s unique blend of song.  At the moment their social media representation is not befitting of a group of such quality, so I hope that there the next few weeks will see this corrected.  On the evidence of Radiant Hex, I have been compelled to dive into the E.P. as a whole.  An Aria begins with a swelling of variant sound and sensations, before opening up like an oyster: revealing myriad stages and treasures.  Sinn Djinn has a more sedate and longue-themed opening salvo, which then mutates into a hypnotic and stormy affair.  My brief words cannot do justice to those tracks.  They are multi-layered wonders crammed with sound effects, samples and variations- often an entire album’s worth of potential is stuffed into a single track.  The E.P. offers up even more wonder and scenery, and is music that appeals to everyone.  The Ninetails experience is not one that discriminates or appeals to the wisest and most astute listener.  Because of the depth and breadth of the music, these are songs that can draw in every sector and clan.  The Guardian have investigated the E.P., and described Quiet Confidence/Pure Utopia in these terms: “… a lovely cacophony of birds tweeting, bells ringing and water falling. Really lovely. The rehabilitation of prog continues apace”.  They go on to describe the E.P. and the band’s useage of sound: “ a fondness for intricate time signatures, complex structures, vibraphones, guitars (acoustic, distorted, reversed, looped with a DL4), MIDI organs, bass guitar, sub-bass, idiosyncratic samples and concrète textures (samples of lion roars, trumpet freakouts, recordings of a deck of cards falling on a table, keys, coins and cans rattling, the bells at the Liverpool Anglican Cathedral ringing, dogs barking, cans of beer being opened in slow motion), as well as organic and processed percussion… and you’ve got Quiet Confidence, issued on Monday by Pond Life, the label run by former Talk Talk manager Keith Aspden (previous releases include Talk Talk’s Spirit of Eden and Laughing Stock and Mark Hollis’ self-titled solo album)”.  If you investigate their official website and read their reviews, they all pretty much paint the picture of a band at the peak of their powers.  They manage to incorporate the greatest aspects of the best bands of the last couple of decades, whilst presenting head-spinning gems that demand repeated listens.  In a scene where celebrity and attention-seeking seem to be holy orders, it is refreshing to see a band whom are in love with music and the concerting their efforts to make theirs the best possible.  There is no histrionics nor any wild ululations: just a trio ensuring that their music reaches as many people as possible.  I started out by stating what a disruptive and changeable week it has been for me- one that has made me re-evaluate my life.  My focus has turned towards music and fulfilment of personal ambition, and when events turn this way, the immediate desire changes: finding a safe paragon.  I have been invested in making my own music for years, and having ‘discovered’ Ninetails, I have been filled with confidence and renewed purpose.  I have not heard the likes, and not since The Avalanches released their 2000 debut, have I experienced music with so much joy and pain; so many different shades and shifts within a single song.  Those Australian cut-and-paste experts assembled their ensembles from vinyls and older artists, whereas our Liverpool trio conjure up a comparable majesty with original strokes alone.  I implore everyone to not only seek out their new E.P., but also retrospectively listen to their embryonic steps.  You can see a natural progression, yet there is a startling sense of quality, straight from the off.  I am not sure what the group are planning over the next few months- touring aside- but I am sure they will be resting a little.  I cannot wait to see what they come up with, whether it is a fully fledged album, another E.P.- or a single.  Few acts have caught my attention and caused so much near-hysteria in me, so believe me when I say:

NO act this year will get near to bettering them.


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Track Review: Salt Ashes- Little Doves

Salt Ashes

Salt Ashes – Somebody (Video)




Little Doves



Little Doves is available from:



Brighton-based chantuese is exotic and striking to behold; her music is filled with darker crevices and starburst of hope.  Her overall sounds mark her out as one of the boldest and most restless talents we will hear all year.


THIS week- in particular- has been one of the most fraught and nerve-shredding ones…

I have ever had to go through.  I’ll not go into the testimonial details, but it has been a 7-day period where I have cogitated and re-evaluated more than ever.  Transitions and self-doubt has exasperated the overall mood, yet the abiding point is this: music is a constant that always manages to dig my mind out of a hole.  I have been investigating material from the past as well as some current-day stuff.  Music has the ability to transcend any negativity, and stabilise inner turmoil.  When things are particularly unpleasant and unpredictable, it is always a comfort to have a reliable matriarch, ready to balm wounds.  Over the past couple of weeks I have surveyed everything from Surrey-based Pop; through to London Rock- right across to female Soul/Pop.  At this very time, I find myself looking for something both primal, yet soothing.  There tends to be polygamy and narrowness in modern music- which is understandable.  New music is the burgeoning sector that will see the future kings and queens crowned.  With so much variety and choice being offered forth, it is quintessential that the best and brightest should be synonymous with keywords: surprise and range.  It is all well and good having an individual ‘voice’- a distinct sound and indentity- yet too many times we have witnessed a new band (or solo act) burst through, filled with promise; only to disintegrate and capitulate after an album or two.  When you consider all the greatest acts of all-time, they have been defined by their bold fearlessness; the ability to conjure a myriad of movements and sounds- yet keep their inner core solid and relatable.  I mentioned last week, that ‘the voice’ tends to dominate most of the music-based attention: we have been somewhat remiss.  There is a lot to be said with sheer lyrical talent; compositional flair- as well as a strong consistency.  I feel that if music is to grow and evolve with as few abnormalities and defects as possible, the entire whole needs considering- not a single facet.  My last few reviews have been so ‘glowing’ because the participants have latched onto this point (by themselves, not with my assistance).  Alison Levi has a voice that has evocations and whispers of the late (and great) Eva Cassidy.  Her songs are intelligent and awash with nuance; lyrics speak of poetic darkness as well as girlish highs.  The sonic backing is invigorating and full of life- her overall sound creates a mesmeric awe.  Elena Ramona has a more straight-forward model, yet delivers her material with as much conviction and passion as any I have ever heard.  Her lyrics are personal and honest; simple and catchy- her music emotive and solid.  When I surveyed Crystal Seagulls and their new E.P. (last Saturday), I knew I was going to hear some quality (I had reviewed them several times before).  Their guitar-based majesty is ever-changing and surprising; concentric and hypnotic; focused yet louche.  In future weeks I will be investigating some European Indie, as well as U.S. music: trying to see what the wider world has to offer.  I have little time or interest in musicians and acts whom play it safe: contended to present mediocrity as a viable alternative.  In terms of a career projection and progression, it is invariable that side-steps and shifts will be made.  If you look at current players such as Beck, he has managed to keep his unique identity intact, yet change his sound and soul between albums.  Little has altered in terms of quality- there have been few misfiring L.P.s- but the diversions and differences have been phenomenal.  If artists such as Beck take a retrospective glance, they can be comforted by the fact that their embryonic steps were solid and daring- meaning that their longevity is not the result of luck or market shifts.  As I type this, I am listening to a trio of acts: Arcade Fire, Laura Marling and Radiohead.  No D.N.A. lineage connects these three disparate acts, yet they have a genealogical tie.  Each of the artists started quite strong (even Pablo Honey was not a complete write-off).  Their initial movements were intentful and stunning, and their ensuing careers have been steeped with a similar quality.  Radiohead have been a little dormant as-of-late; Arcade Fire’s latest L.P. was a qualitative departure and back-step perhaps (aside from the stunning title track, Reflektor).  Marling- tender of years and cynical of tone- has managed to keep her pyschotropic treasure chest burning brightly.  With so much choice and variance being proffered by new music, it is vital that the first movements- tracks and E.P.s- mean business: making their points with hob-nailed boots.  For every dozen vague and yawn-inducing artist, there seems to be only one or two genuinely startling counterpart.  As a result entropy and consequence will extinguish the most lipid; and offer up a hungry market for those whom display the most imagination.  This is a cyclical process that sees many new internships and regencies- some survive; most don’t.  In a blood-thirsty amphitheatre, the lions will feed upon the bones of those unconcerned with fighting hard; those that battle and re-invent will be victorious.  I have every faith that 21st century music will see paradigm shift and new genres crystalised- I just hope that a lot of the music twenty years from now will be made by some current competitors.  Over the last few months I have heralded some pretty unique artistry that leads me to think that the modern-day masters will have some worthy successors.  It is difficult to know what public’s gastronomic desires will be in years to come (fickle as we are), yet if large imprints are created early on, then there is every chance that adoring ears will not waver far from their sides.

This brings me, rather ineloquently (as is my nature), to a prosperous young artist.  Her moniker may be steeped in images of Carthage and smouldering pyre; yet her projection and sound is even more fascinating.  Before I get into biography as well as any analysis (regarding her music), the name itself beckons interrogation.  When I came across the two words ‘Salt’ ‘Ashes’, I was struck by the neatness and sympatico; the division and autonomy; the stark contrasts and vivid imagery.  My brain- being a rat’s nest filled of attention deficit proportions- scurried in different courses.  I initially pictured a bonfire being extinguished by salt; one that played host to a ceremonial burning of a historical figure.  That seemed far-fetched, so I then summoned up scenes of a strange cartoon-ish figure having been melted; maybe still with a smile on their face.  It is a name (Salt Ashes) that grabs your brain and focus- before any music has been heard.  I have bitched- with eternal damnation- about a sin of omission: inventiveness.  Soo many acts have a name or title that does nothing to compel your attentions.  Ensuring that your song titles (and band or artist name) is original and thought-provoking is as important a virtue as any in the world of music- yet one that most negate.  Salt Ashes obsesses your thoughts and imagination right from the off.  When you have a name that is so expressive and inspiring, then in turn your L.P. (or E.P. and song) titles demand similar ingenuity.  Once those components have been galvanised, then the ensuing cover art (yes 21st century kids, artwork and hardware still exists) is eye-catching (as well as polarising).   Once the ‘peripheral’ itinerary has been ticked-off then that gives creative energy to the artist; whom then can inject that gravity into their music.  As a result, the overall package is a stark and capable of fond affection.  It is not only the music of my featured artist that grabbed me, but the attention to detail provided towards her outer skin.  The artist in question is one Veiga Sanchez.  Paul Lester of The Guardian opened his feature (of Sanchez) recently, pondering “What on earth would possess Veiga Sanchez to change her name to Salt Ashes, we have no idea. Maybe Veiga Sanchez is too Eurodisco, too pop, when really she’s using a heavier sound to seek a heavier reputation“.  It is a protestation that I find baffling, as I have always felt that (when you’re a solo artist) it seems second-nature to use your real name.  It is fine, yet why should only bands employ a fictional nominal device?  Salt Ashes is so much more evocative and mysterious, and something that Sanchez knows well enough- tongues out to you cranky Mr. Lester!  Sanchez is a 22-year-old solo act whom has drawn comparisons to the likes of Kylie Minogue and Kate Bush.  It is perhaps an unlikely pair of names, yet Salt Ashes marries their individualised qualities into her own pallette- mixing in plenty of original colours and sensations.  To look at her is to be startled.  In terms of looks, there is some Hispanic and European influence.  Smoky-eyed and gorgeous, Sanchez is an artist that can warrant breathless sighs of admiration, yet she has a natural aesthete that is ready-made for European, U.S. and Australian audiences alike.  It is axiomatic that she is a beautiful and striking woman, yet is someone whom has a savvy intelligence.  When you look at her official site (http://www.saltashes.com), there are links to her social media portals of course, yet in the foreground are video images of our heroine, writhing with a semi-naked male.  Salt Ashes is an act whom will grab your attention with vivid imagery, taut and compelling titles and stylish design.  There is no need post-teenage histrionics and media-seeking activities- that so many of her contemporaries have chosen to employ.  Our young heroine is as natural an artist as we will see, both one whom will grab headlines with her music.  On her Facebook page, the following is displayed: “Obsessed with Giorgio Moroder’s blend of disco and epic dark atmospheres, Salt Ashes first sprang to attention with her cover of Depeche Mode’s “Black Celebration.” Salt Ashes, aka 22-year-old Veiga Sanchez, has spent the past year honing her own songs in the studio, creating her signature electronic grooves, and drawing influence from artists as diverse as Madonna, Kate Bush, Daft Punk and MIA“.  Gleaming details from this paragraph, it is clear that Sanchez has dedicated a great deal of time getting her sound just right; making sure that her resultant outpourings are as striking as possible.  It is not only the intuition and intelligence of Sanchez that has led to brilliant music, but also her (diverse) list of influences.  There are some whom see her as Kate-Bush-cum-Kylie-Minogue; yet this is myopic in the extreme.  That mix of disposable Disco and by-gone Pop glory is not what Salt Ashes is all about.  There are darker, brooding and more fascinating creatures to be discovered underneath the earth.  Our heroine has employed her icons- from ’90s divas through to contemporary French masters- to maximum effect.  Her new single Somebody has been garnering a lot of attention and praise, but I wanted to focus on its B-Side: Little Doves.  It is true that Salt Ashes has gained some mixed press.  The majority have latched onto her sound and intentions, and met it with excited reverence.  Middle-class, middle-aged critics such as the previously-mentioned Paul Lester have been a little more damning (with regards to Somebody): “…with a linear groove that takes little account of any rhythmic developments of the last two decades – think 1986 Depeche (Mode), again“.  Lester sort of misses the point, which I shall expand upon whilst masticating the sounds and thoughts of Little Doves.

Pulsing nebulas of electronics are the first impressions we are presented with.  There are glimmers of Depeche Mode, yet also of modern Electronica.  In a sense there is also some embers of Radiohead’s Kid A work.  It is almost as if an electronic Morse Code is being tapped out, perhaps spelling out a secret message.  The pace and slowness of the intro. is not recalcitrant or moody: it allows for a build of intrigue.  Anyone expecting any Thom Yorke-esque musings to be presented to a microphone will be left disappointed.  The vocal we witness is a lot sweeter and romantic.  Our heroine tells that “pages turn grey/When you are paler“; her voice slightly distorted, but filled with clarity, concision and emotion.  There is plenty of conviction within Salt Ashe’s gorgeous voice- it drips with honey and sex appeal.  It is a combination of distortion and repeated vocals that builds the early fascination.  Whilst our heroine tells tales of her sweetheart subject (“Patiently you follow the ghost“), her voice is layered and spars with one another; sounds and lines weave and intertwine.  Past the 1:00 mark there is an sweetly-elicited coo that will bring to mind two previously mentioned subjects: Kate Bush and Kylie Minogue.  There is more suggestion towards the former (hints of This Woman’s Work are brought to mind); yet the latter’s late-career work is also hinted at.  There is an abiding theme of dark Disco; gorgeously vocals juxtaposed against a slightly downbeat implore.  When Salt Ashes lets the emotions do the talking, there is some earnest  confession: “I’ll be waiting for you“.  The way in which our heroine’s voice is distorted and become more electronic creates a mixed blessing: it augments the words and makes their meaning felt, yet it is often harder to distinguish the words.  Some comprehensibility and concision is lost in the machine, yet the overall effect and sound is more starling and alive.  The combination of bubbling and percolation synths. and secretiveness, combined with Sanchez’s alluring voice, creates a gorgeous effect.  As our heroine continues her thoughts (“I’ll be waiting/For you to change me“), the sonic interspersing is all twinkle and burst.  There is influence from the likes of Daft Punk in the way that the track manages to blend different strands of electronic sound together; it is modernised and amended to fit around our heroine’s unique words and voice.  Little Dove is the type of track that has epic potential, and could score a moody drama or scintillating thriller; yet has plenty of heart that could see it sound-tracking a romantic scene.  As much as influences have been mentioned and comparisons made, the overall sound is unique.  You would not listen to the track and think of anyone particular.  As the song enters its final third, there are some semi-primal percussive beats elicited.  The atmosphere gets a little heavier, yet it is kept from being too foreboding or dark due to our heroine’s vocal.  In terms of lyrics, there is a sparsity; words are effectively deployed where needed; repeated to ensure they stick in your mind.  The song itself is as catchy as it is emotive, and the way in which lines and sentiments are deployed and delivered are catchy and highly effective.  The winter years of Little Doves is reserved for some slight temporizing.  Vocals take a back seat, and sonic lines are allowed to work and play- wrapping the song up neatly.

Salt Ashes is, according to her Twitter bio., a “Songwriter. Singer. Lover. Bleeder“.  It is a succinct distillation of her varying shades and sights.  Sanchez clearly has worked her socks off in order to ensure her music is as focused and memorable as possible, and this is evident within Little Doves (and Somebody).  She does integrate swathes of ’80s Depeche Mode; something that may not be familiar with, or appeal too wholly with many young listeners; yet it is a facet that is under-used in music.  Whilst there may not be a co-joining of several decades of shared music, there is a concentrated essence of past glory; intrigue and fascination a-plenty- as well as the brave and unique voice of a worthy talent.  Too many new artists project predictability and straightforward vibes: neither delineated nor peculiar.  Salt Ashes’ blend of mystique, romance and darkness is plentiful enough to soothe the strictest perturbation and anxiety.  The bailment of Salt Ashes’ music is something fresh and urgent.  Her voice is one of the stars of the show; steeped and enamoured in beauty and lustre.  The sonic storms that accompany her voice are rich with emotion and compelling.  Sanchez reminds me of another artist I have reviewed: Nadine Shah.  In the case of Shah, I was won over by her fascinating biography and attitude to music- and life in general.  Her music related to more introspective scenes; darker moments and cigarette smoke-strewn avenues- the overall effect of this concoction has left indelible marks.  Salt Ashes is a talent whom will leave the same sort of tattoos upon music’s conciousness.  At the moment her Twitter and Facebook pages seem woefully under-subscribed, considering her talent and quality.  I guess she is new to the music scene, so I hope her fan base and army will multiple and duplicate rapidly.  She is on the precipice of a year that will see her make some important decisions.  I am sure that an E.P. or L.P. is in her mind (or already in the works), which will see her sound and music stretched and fully represented.  This year is going to see some interesting and potentially wold class albums being dropped.  The likes of Jack White and Bob Dylan are amidst a whirlwind of media speculation, regarding the timing and nature of their forthcoming work.  Bands new and established will be planning movements, and the job of new talent is to challenge for votes, but also learn from what is being made.  Diversity and mobility are paramount elements every new artist should adhere to, and Salt Ashes is doing just that.  The likes of Little Doves are the molecular basis of a restless talent, whom will be enjoying some critical acclaim very shortly.  Many have already attuned themselves to her brand, and reviews and adulation she is receiving tell you all you need to know.  The likes of Lester and the hardened souls may require a little more persuasion and assurance; and the next few months will surely see their cynicism re-appropriated and extinguished.  Whores of potential supporters and fans are up for grabs, and the undecided voters are always looking for new inspiration.  Salt Ashes has the ammunition and intention to grab the spotlight, and I am looking forward to what she produces next.  I shall end the review, quoting- once again- with a quote from The Guardian‘s ‘New band of the day’ segment.  With regards to Salt Ashes, Paul Lester stated the following: “Little Dove also alludes in its use of slo-mo electronics, even its language, with its reference to being “stripped”, to Depeche’s mid-’80s output. It’s nice – maybe too nice – and probably not noir enough or poppy enough to appease those at either end of the aesthetic spectrum. Nor does it find a happy (that is to say, darkly erotic yet commercially appealing) balance between the two“.  This particular music feature has alerted me to some great talents- many of whom I have reviewed.  I do not always agree with Lester’s findings, and in this case, strongly disagree.  I am predominately fascinated by Rock; heavier sounds- as well as classic ’90s-present bands such as Blur, Radiohead and the like.  I enjoy dipping my toes into foreign waters; yet I usually do not embrace all styles of music.  I will be waiting to see what Salt Ashes produces over the course of future releases, but on the basis of the material I have heard, new genres and sounds have made their way into my brain- and have urged me to seek out similar music.  Although my retched mood has not been fully abated, it has subsided a little- in no small part thanks to Sanchez.  Music is perhaps the toughest market there is to ‘break’; to get a foothold in and ensure future success.  Too many acts enter with a whimper and never break out of second gear.  In order for profitability to be ensured, one must set their sights as high as possible.  From Brighton, to your ears, comes a young woman whom will be making music years from now.  Her formative echos hint at a musician whom has a fond appreciation for past days (and acts) yet has her heart and mind firmly set in 2014.  Her labours and hard work will not be in vain, and there will be plenty of new listeners flocking to her door in the coming months.  What her intentions are going forward, I am not too sure, yet it will be fascinating to see what is afoot.  If  the weather and personal circumstances make 2014 unpredictable and shaky, then at least music can redress the balance.  As much as I cherish and adore my favourite acts, it is always better if there is some fresh sounds amongst the mix.  We are only a couple of months into the calendar year, yet there are some electric noises being made.  If everything else is uncertain, this is fact is carved in stone:

THIS year will be a very exciting one indeed.


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