Track Review: Huxtable- Juliet










Juliet is available via




The Scottish duo have a template that brings to mind the likes of Them Crooked Vultures; these endeavouring chaps have a striking and direct sound that is going to be on the lips of many before too long.


HEAVIER and more primal sounds have fallen under my radar…

over the last few weeks. In the next few days I am going to be exploring softer and gentler music, yet I felt compelled to feature a potent two-piece; an act who are just starting out and have a big future ahead of them. Before I investigate the duo more closely, let me introduce them to you:

Jordan Yates
Marc William Brown

Huxtable are a two-man rock band from Scotland. Near Glasgow to be specific. Kilmarnock in Ayrshire to be spot on. They make riff laden music with big drums, big guitars and big vocals. It is razor-sharp. It is loud. It is catchy. It can be softly spoken but not for long. It is Huxtable. We are Huxtable and we are pleased to meet your acquaintance. We have recently finished recording a collection of songs- the original plan was to release one EP and see where it went. However, upon listening back we felt the 6 songs on the upcoming release belonged together. They are supposed to be listened to as a collective. So here we are. Debut mini album coming soon.”

At present, Huxtable have a smattering of followers online (and a string of gigs under their belts), but this will soon change. They come across as affable and honest; an act that want to reach as many people as possible, and take their music far and wide. I have surveyed many different Scottish acts, from Echo Arcadia, through to Universal Thee, all the way along to Steve Heron. It is a nation that offers a huge diversity and range; where acts are keen to separate and distinguish themselves; supersede expectations and stick in the mind. Whereas cities such as London may provide a greater number of bands/acts, Scotland is housing a wave of eager and potent young musicians, keen to make their mark.

Huxtable have been compared to the likes of Them Crooked Vultures and The Raconteurs. In terms of modern acts, they have a sound that is similar to Royal Blood and Knuckle. There are many duos playing across the U.K., although only a few that provide such a Hard/Desert Rock kick. The duo blend elements of modern-day American and British music, yet should not be instantly compared with anyone else. Whilst there are shades of other acts, there is a distinct originality and sense of individuality that earns the duo their stripes. Those whom love Blues and vintage Grunge will find much to appreciate; similarly fans of Arctic Monkeys and Queens of the Stone Age will love what they hear. The duo provide music that is indiscriminate and all-inclusive; that which can be played in the heat of summer, and the cold bite of winter- it is music that makes you want to kick your feet and become immersed in.

A swinging Rage Against The Machine-esque riff is unleashed straight off; the guitar slams and twists; the percussion clatters with gleeful abandon- it is a metallic and animalistic clash. Primal urges are unleashed in the swaggering opening; our duo set the mood and ensure that intrigue and fascination are set to ‘maximum’. Twiddling and swooping guitar touches are employed (you can hear the influence of Them Crooked Vultures) as our front-man steps to the mic. The vocal (at first) is controlled and restrained. Yates introduces our heroine, and the story begins (“Here we are/Where we met“). Words are sparse and repeated, building in a mantra-like quality; the simple and direct lyrics are re-introduced, ensuring they stick inside of your brain. Before long the vocal becomes more impassioned and inflamed; our frontman opens up his voice and lets his heart pour out. Backed by guitar and drum which stutter and trip, the heady combination ensures that the listener stands to attention and takes notice. As with U.S. stalwarts Them Crooked Vultures, The Raconteurs and Q.O.T.S.A., Huxtable have a talent for stirring compositions; the guitars snake and hypnotize, the percussion pounds and pulverize. The duo’s talent for economy of language ensures that there are no unexpected surprises; by the second verse you are repeating and singing the words- as well as imagining some vivid scenes. Yates once more talks of where he and Juliet met (“It’s a stagehole“); the song puts you right in the picture and actively brings scenes and images to fruition. By the 2:00 mark the song builds; based around a single thought (“Here we are/Where we met/In the rafters“) you can hear the intensity and conviction in the vocal; our front-man wants his heroine to show some soul- although it sounds like his soul has been ripped apart and turned inside out. By the closing stages, the mood gets heavier and more fearsome. This time the words have a truthfulness and malevolence to their core: “Everybody’s gonna to die/It could happen to you.” By the time the final guitar-and-drum combo is elicited, you are overwhelmed and exhausted- and curious about how things worked out for Juliet. This is a song to get the blood rushing; for when you are pounding down an open highway or in the mood to cut loose. Not exclusive to lovers of the genre, its simplicity and urgency can be extrapolated by all. The production is clear and sharp, allowing the song’s evolutions to shine through. The enraptured and solid vocals mark Yates out as one of the most impressive singers around; similarly Marc William Brown marks himself out of as one of the strongest and more primal percussionists around. It is clear that the duo will not be (relatively) unknown for long.

The duo is in the fledgling stages, so it is hard to compare Juliet to anything else. What I do know (from reviewing the track) is that the two-piece will have a busy future. They are on the brink of unveiling their debut- a mini-album that will show just what a force Huxtable are. Juliet is a hard-hitting and urgent slice of Blues/Garage Rock rush that hits you instantly, but also compels repeated listens and investigation. Huxtable have some modest tour dates coming up, but once their mini-album hits, I expect things to change radically. As well as an increase in online followers, I am confident that venues through the U.K. will be snapping the chaps up. The sounds they offer are familiar and well-represented, but there is plenty of room in the market for the likes of Huxtable. In a year that is seeing the likes of Royal Blood rise to regency levels of acclaim, it is highly probable that (several years from now) the two-piece will be enjoying similar acclaim. In a music scene where urgency, passion and potency take a back seat to other considerations, you should do yourself a favor and…

CHECK these boys out.


Follow Huxtable:






Tour dates available at:


E.P. Review: Syren City- Fire In Your Name/Asphodel E.P.





Syren City


 Fire In Your Name/Asphodel E.P.



The Fire In Your Name/Asphodel E.P. is available via



1) Fire In Your Name- 9.6/10.

2) Asphodel- 9.4



Hailing from Bristol, five-piece band Syren City have won the support and hearts of local crowds. Their Punk-cum-Hardcore anthems to a much wider audience- marking themselves out as festival mainstayers-in-waiting


HISTORICALLY, Bristol provided some of the greatest acts of all-time

Certainly, when it comes to modern music based in Bristol, the likes of Massive Attack and Portishead spring to mind. These legends formed part of the “Bristol Sound” coined during the ’90s to describe the city’s musical elite. They created the Trip Hop and Electronic that Bristol is known for. While cities such as London, Leeds, Manchester and Liverpool are producing a greater number and range of diverse musicians. At present, there is a wave of hungry and eclectic acts, determined to put Bristol back in the collective consciousness. Bands such as Coasts and solo artists like Gaz Brookfield are among some of the most striking and ambitious acts to come out of Bristol. Fitting in this scene are the vibrant five-piece Alternative Rock band, Syren City.

Members Simon Roach, Adam Hopton, Ian Chadderton, Adam Armour and Louis Catlett draw their inspirations from Punk, Metal, and Hardcore to create a mesmeric and forceful British Rock sound. The group has fully utilised social media; as well as having extensive online coverage, the quintet have established themselves as one of the hungriest and most urgent acts on the underground circuit. Throughout the last year, Syren City has gigged extensively, completing 3 U.K. tours and a securing slot at Hit The Deck Festival, where they opened for the likes of Don Broco, We Are The Ocean and Mallory Knox.

If you are a fan of the classic Punk bands of the ’70s you will love Syren City; the guys not only mix vintage and classic sounds, but infuse doses of modernity as well. Fans of the Foo Fighters, Queens of the Stone Age and Pulled Apart By Horses should also dive in. Syren City mixes diving and spiralling guitars, heavy and emotive percussion and vocals, wrapping them all up in memorable and anthemic sonic blasts. The band’s debut disc, Fire In Your Name/Asphodel E.P. was released last year and has been garnering some high praise.

Fire In Your Name is the first song of the EP, and begins with an emphatic kick. The track’s impassioned vocals and powerful riffs get you to your feet. It is a number to listen to when the sun is out and you need to let loose- it has an emphatic and rebellious quality that implores you to sing along and punch your fists. The lyrics are evocative and striking (speaking to an unnamed subject) our hero implores: “You’ll ask for water/I’ll pour on gasoline.” Frontman Simon Roach claims that the song deals with “someone who’s grown up within their walls and comes to see the error of their ways – in the breakdown we dubbed in a sermon of hate from Fred Phelps himself“. Whilst the ecstatic and pummelling riffs burrow in your mind, the gang vocals and uplifting percussive work make you smile and root for our hero. The vocal is particularly impressive – In addition to being original and daring, it is consistently powerful and direct. Each word is sung with such conviction and force, ensuring that the song is not easily forgotten. Mixing blasts of Q.O.T.S.A. and Green Day alongside Fall Out Boy and Foo Fighters, it gives the track a hugely impressive quality and is a stunning opener. The E.P.’s 2nd track, Asphodel, according to frontman Simon, looks at “my own interpretation (Roach’s) of the Divine Comedy, about the poets journey through the Inferno and Purgatorio, making it to the edge of Paradiso and realising he regrets nothing of his sins so plunges himself back down…”. Once more, bruising riffs and masculine kick are the order of the day; the track has its heart in a fiery bordello, having backing vocals are practically screamed with desperation as the crackling drum work ramps the tension up. The vocal turn is once more throat-scraping and blood-thirsty; our frontman ensures that every song vividly comes to life. Shades of Grunge pioneers Niravana and some Badmotorfinger-era Soundgarden infused with Syren City’s rampant Punk energy create another stunning track that compels you to join the band in unison and make a lot of noise. The E.P. is well-produced and sharp; each track is clear and concise, allowing the fury, passion and mythology to come through with clarity. It is not something that only appeals to lovers of Punk and Hardcore: it is an E.P. dedicated to anyone who loves genuine and honest Rock. The infectious songwriting and emphatic sing-alongs will be impossible to shift from your mind.

There are other modern-day acts who offer the same sort of music as that of Syren City, yet few do so with such conviction and quality. They meld bygone Punk and Hardcore elements into their palate, as well as injecting a very original modern voice- one which will inspire legions of other acts and newcomers. Over the coming months, Syren City will be playing gigs across the south-west of England. They have a ready-made sound that will be welcomed across London, Manchester, Liverpool- and all across the U.K. The way they mix U.S. influences and strands means that in future years they could well play across Seattle, New York and L.A. While the band is still in its early days, there is ample evidence to suggest that Syren City a band watch very closely. The band gets in your veins, puts you in a better mood and compels you to sing along. You can lose your body in the music, and forget about your troubles.

MAKE sure you check out this electrifying act.


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Track Review: Ariana & The Rose- In Your Bed





Ariana & The Rose

Photo: Julian Marshall

In Your Bed





The track, In Your Bed is available via:

The E.P., Head vs. Heart is available from:



1) In Your Bed

2) Heartbeat

3) Hollow

4) Love Me, Hate Me


Released: 23 March 2014 ℗ 2014 Pookiebird, LLC


This New York-based artist is currently wooing crowds across the U.K.; determined to take her music as far and wide as possible. With an E.P. that has already set critical tongues into overdrive, this eager talent’s striking music is amongst the most memorable and impressive around.


IT has been investigating the music scene of L.A. recently, but for today….

I travel across the U.S.- and to New York. Whereas Los Angeles has a bustling and diverse music scene, New York may pip the Californian hotspot, when it comes to sheer range and multitudinous. L.A. boasts some stunning and character-filled neighbourhoods and alleyways; treasures can be found across the city, and there is plenty of music for everyone- all tastes are catered for. If you favour Hip Hop flavours or are akin to the majesties of Rock or Indie, there are bands and artists whom can tantalize. Similarly, if you prefer sunnier Pop and Soul movements, then there is going to be plenty to wet your appetite. In the U.S. there seems to be a multi-party civil war occurring; debate is raging with regards to which city/state provides the best music- the greatest amount of diversity and quality. Historically, the likes of Detroit and Seattle have always been at the forefront, yet for my money, New York is making waves to claim the crown. In the same way that L.A. (and California) is attracting a host of migrants and foreign musicians; each keen to soak up the atmosphere and influence of the city, New York is drawing in some terrific artists. Before I look into them (and the best that N.Y.C. is promoting), it is worth considering just how many genres of music are being played in New York; just how much one can experience and witness. Areas such as Greenwich Village offer new and spectacular acts; the likes of Joan Baez and Bob Dylan played here in the ’60s, and many great and fervent artists ply their trade and wow local audiences. Salsa, Hip Hop and Dance music are burgeoning and thriving scenes, but over the last few years, other genres have been making their voices known. Over the last couple of decades, New York has been a natural home for Proto Punk and No Wave acts such as Band of Susans and Sonic Youth- it was a short-lived movement but lead to greater things. The hardcore Punk and Heavy Metal scene that fostered the likes of Heart Attack, Murphy’s Law and Mortician are going strong; providing platforms for urgent and hard young bands. It is perhaps Indie Rock that has put New York on the map, or at least given the world some tremendous bands. Legends such as The Strokes, The Bravery and Yeah Yeah Yeahs; but in more recent years acts such as LCD Soundsystem, Grizzly Bear and The Drums have made their mark. It is not just native talent ensuring that New York remains at the precipice of modern music. Bands including The National, MGMT, Yeasayer and Matt and Kim have added to the majesty of The Big Apple. It is great to look back on the wonderful musicians whom call New York their home; the scenes and genres that are widespread and itinerant- but there are some terrific embryonic acts coming through. The 30-year-old Brooklyn-based heroine Diane Birch has been compared to the likes of Fleetwood Mac and Prince (the latter actually invited Birch back to his house to jam); her voice and music mesmerised fans and critics across her sophomore L.P., Speak a Little Louder. Brooklyn dwellers Drowners are invoking the wonder of ‘Britpop’; mixing Suede and Blur- as well as fusing Arctic Monkeys and The Strokes. Betty Who (born in Australia) infuses catchy melodies and insatiable choruses, wowing New York crowds, she is set to be one of the biggest names in music over the next few years. What I have noticed is that there seems to be a dominance of band music. St. Lucia’s Glam-Synth hooks are filled with exuberance and glee; and amongst the best Electronic music anywhere in the world. You have Punk rockers Cerebral Ballzy; Indie Pop’s Friends- as well as Rock-Synth-Pop hybrid masters Little Daylight. If you prefer your New York music band-based then you have plenty on offer; all sorts of styles and colours are ready to be experienced- yet there are plenty of stunning singletons. As much as I love the likes of Chairlift and their ilk, one yearns to hear someone a bit different- music that features on a single voice or personality. Smoky and minimalist R ‘n’ B stylings are the order of the day for the stunning Tei Shi; someone whom can make a track grow on you; its anatomy, evolution and development can be heard as the seconds progress- it is music that demands close attention. San Fermin mixes the emotional lustre of Adele and Amy Winehouse, yet delves deeper for subject matter; mingling baroque beauty with modern-day frustrations. Although these examples are backed by other bodies, the focus is very much on the lead; that single voice that comes through in every song. Whereas L.A. is promising a wealth of vibrant and multitudinous duos, New York still has the lead when it comes to the best bands (in the U.S.). I am sure that there are plenty of great solo acts in New York; those whom take on music completely alone (sans corroboration), yet it seems that it is a minority genre. My featured act today has a tremendous singular talent, yet is someone whom is supported by other musicians; those whom add to her sound- and support her glorious tones. In the U.K. we have a lot of solo acts, and their numbers grow by the week; I am not sure why New York favours kinship and musical comradery more, but it is something that has been rattling around my mind. I guess bands such as The Strokes and The National have inspired new musicians to do likewise; recruit warm bodies and ensure that there is strength in numbers. New York may get a bad rap as being a bit cold and disconnected when it comes to interaction; there is this impression that no one talks to anyone, and rudeness and detachment are favourite past times. This is simply untrue (and is something London is accused of); big cities and regions are always going to have a certain sense of hurry and anxiety to them, but Ney York offers plenty of warmth and wonder; fashion and passion- as well as friendliness and cohabitation. There is  openness and warmth present that is seeping into music; new musicians are keen to collaborate and merge with one another- rather than go out alone. I have featured Ariana & The Rose today for two reasons, which I shall explain now. One of the things I notice about London music (as well as U.S. styling) is that there are few terrific female-lead acts/groups. Over here we have some wonderful solo artists such as Alison Levi and Emily Kay (whom I have often mentioned in these pages), but in terms of brand-new music, there are few bold female voices. It may be an over-exaggeration, but I still hear too many all-male acts; there are all-female bands (as well as mixed gender examples) but in terms of that single female voice- there are few that spring to mind. In Yorkshire and the north there are a fair few, yet down in London there is a scarcity it seems- and this seems to be an issue in the U.S. as well. The likes of Caitlin Rose are amongst the finest American voices of the moment, but I would love to hear more examples like her. I adore the music made by bands and all-male acts, but I crave difference; something with a different personality; a new direction and philosophy- something fresh and enlivening, essentially. One of my biggest goals and desires for the rest of this year, is to uncover the best and brightest female voices out there; those which get under the skin- and whose providers get inside your soul. Before I introduce you to my subject (and neatly tie all my musical strands together), I will mention two more points: style and personality. These may seem like odd terms to introduce into a music review, and that may be because these are facets lacking (from music). I have met and been introduced to some lovely and warm musicians, along my travels, but when it comes to the rest of the market, things are a bit hit-and-miss. One of things I look for in great new music (as well as terrific songs and sounds) is a compelling figurehead; someone you can not only relate to, but also be inspired by. I have witnessed quite a few U.K.-based acts whom I stay in touch with; are down-to-earth and as likeable as they come- yet I find that too many new musicians do not project this; possess a rather stale and distant personality. It is true that the music is the most important aspect of any new artist, but if its creator(s) come across as aloof and boring, then few eyes are going to remain fixated. Just like a date or friend, personality and dependability are more important than outer layers and ‘looks’. The acts whom are going to remain in the public consciousness, are not only those whom dare to be different bold, but connect with fans- and project a warm and relatable personality. Music is about connecting with people and vote-winning; electioneering with multiple mandates and pillars; making sure that the public not only are compelled by the music on offer- but are drawn in by the human(s) making it. I shall go into more depth a bit later, but will conclude this paragraph by mentioning style- in terms of online fashion as well as personal style. A great deal of new musicians are so hell-bent on getting their sound and essence just so, that they negate a key fundamental: an eye-catching outer. I have said that personality is a paramount consideration, yet the music-buyer wants something to catch the eye as well; an act whom not only enliven the ear, but stir the senses too. I find that a lot of bands come across as rather stagnant and one-dimensional. Sure, the music can be stunning and inspiring, but when it comes to the men and women behind the music, they come across as pedestrian and dull. I am not suggesting that every new musician has to be as extroverted and striking as Lady Gaga, but a lot of ground can be covered by considering a few important points. In relation to fashion and style, something a bit different and sexy can go a long way; a sense of allure and difference does not detract from the business of music- it can augment it. This is something that is not just reserved for female artists, but us chaps can take note. If you look back at some of the greatest bands and solo artists of all time, each of them possessed a certain flair and sense of stylishness. Maybe some of Pop’s modern idols have scared new artists off from trying to be fashionable or stylish (the bold colours and geometry as well as controversial exhibitionism has put many into disrepute), but you do not have to go overboard. If you apply this parable to my examples of love and romance, you are going to capture more hearts and minds if you put some consideration into your wardrobe. Aside from clothing and presentation, online fashion is something that is being given little consideration. It is one of my biggest and more favourite rants, but too many new musician expend little time with regards their online pages. I have come across too many acts with only a Facebook and Twitter page- and do not have an official site. Those that do have an official site often miss out key information (biography, links to reviews, photos etc.), simply using it as a portal to their social media sites- an intermediary as it were. In this age it is not good enough to rely on Twitter and Facebook; these sites are vital when it comes to connecting with fans, but they strike me as a little hollow and impersonal. As well as not being the most in-depth and well designed sites on offer, they give little insight into the musician- what makes them tick etc. Official websites give the artist an opportunity to employ their own colour scheme and designs; put in as many photos and personal titbits as possible- and ensure that a great degree of relevant information is incorporated too. The most worthy and hard-working artists understand this importance, and go to great lengths to ensure that they have a brilliantly original and eye-catching personal site (as well as a comprehensive social media output). My featured act not only is amongst the most stunning and original female voices of the moment, but is someone whom projects style and panache; lets fans into her world, as well as ensures that her online sites draw in new listeners- and keep the hungry listener informed and compelled.

Before I introduce the woman behind Ariana & The Rose, I will tread on some dangerous quicksand. The mind and thoughts should never dwell too long and hard on looks and outer shell (and neglect the person behind the beauty) but you cannot help but ignore how stunning and captivating our heroine is. As well as possessing earth-shattering beauty, she is also one stylish and fashionable musicians on the current scene. As well as being a former actor, our heroine is familiar with the catwalks and the best that New York fashion has to offer. Mix a beguiling natural beauty with a keen eye for fashion and style, and you have an artist whom compels you to remember her; ensure that you do not forget anything about her. Before I stray into murky waters (sexism for one), I will clarify my point by mentioning that the music that Ariana & The Rose offers up is the biggest selling point- that which has been exciting crowds and fans throughout the world. Before I go into more depth about our heroine (and her moniker) I shall provide some personal information (gleamed from The Guardian).

DiLorenzo, a 24-year-old from Long Island originally, is a singing keyboardist, with one foot in the fashion camp – although not as camp as Gaga – who actually performed at the after-party for the Born This Way Ball, and who has a similarly broad, half-rock, half-cabaret showtunes background as Gaga’s. She learned to dance ballet, tap, jazz and hip hop from an early age, joined Manhattan’s Synthesis Dance Project at 12, was a Musical Theater major at the Professional Performing Arts School in her mid-teens while in free moments doing various voice-overs, jingles, commercials and walk-on parts on the likes of the Sopranos. She studied Journalism at the Tisch School of the Arts – the same one as Gaga – and did unpaid work at a casting agency before turning 20 and putting out her first record, a dance track called Beautiful.”

At the moment, DiLorenzo is in the U.K.; taking Ariana & The Rose across the country, and ensuring that as many Brits as possible fall in love and are captured and overwhelmed by the music. DiLorenzo herself spends a lot of time between New York and London- it seems that the U.K. is a second-home for our heroine. Her formative years have been busy and diverse indeed; our heroine never intended to follow a career in music and record- it just sort of fell into place. When speaking with, this curious and fascinating back-story was given tender investigation:

She hadn’t pursued the idea of writing pop music professionally: “I was only writing songs for fun at that time, which I think helped cultivate a relationship with my own music. I could be super-personal, because for so long I didn’t share it with people.”… But, after studying at NYU’s famous Tisch School of the Arts (whose notable alumni include Lady Gaga), Ariana began working with music producers and, at the age of 21, was inspired to pursue a career as a songwriter. She would end up writing toplines and demos for other singers for “everything from hip-hop to dance,” and, although she didn’t realise it at the time, was effectively in training, “I was learning how to be in the studio and work with other writers.”… More recently, with concert pianist Vera Tisheff as her mentor, Ariana has been able to cultivate her own sound and style, and was encouraged by Tisheff to study opera and classical composition. “We went back to basics with composers like Vivaldi and Bellini,” explains Ariana, “I still write pop music, but it influences how you structure songs and look at chord progressions and inversions.”… Asked about her true musical heroes, she unsurprisingly reveals a lot more pop: “I love Alanis Morrissette, for her honesty in her writing; Robyn and Kylie – people have been able to reinvent themselves in a current way. I love synth music, so it’s fun to apply a more traditionalist look at songwriting to electronic music.”… Ariana & The Rose is still very much based in New York, but they’re regularly found hopping from city to city; recently co-writing in LA, off to Sweden for another writing session, and now the UK’s capital is becoming a favourite destination… “I’m here every six weeks or so – I feel like I’m cheating on New York with London! We’ve played London Fashion Week and a Breakout showcase for Music Week.”

It is great that Ariana & The Rose are in the U.K., as it not only gives a chance for us here to witness one of the greatest acts coming out of New York- but means that the music press and publications here promote and proffer Ariana & The Rose’s unique sounds. At the moment, the press attention is split between the U.S. and the U.K., but I am sure that our heroine has her eyes cast to other international quarters. As well as Europe, Australia and Asia will be continents desperate to survey and digest Ariana & The Rose’s music in the flesh- it is something that our heroine should consider. Before music became a consideration for DiLorenzo, acting was very much a passion; she even appeared in The Sopranos. When speaking with Harper’s Bazzar (online) in April, she explained:

Yes, I’m in it for maybe 11 seconds. And I remember my mom couldn’t see, so James Gandolfini put her in front of the monitor so she could see me in all my glory. She was the proudest woman in the world. I come from a really Italian family so—to this day–I can sell out an arena, and my family will never care about what I do as much as being on that show. It was like I won the lottery. I brought honor to my family.”

At the moment, music is very much fuelling and inspiring our heroine, and the release of the Head vs. Heart E.P. has seen Ariana & The Rose put under the spotlight- and met with critical acclaim. If you are thinking that we are witnessing an American version of Florence and the Machine, then you can think again. It is true that both have stunning and powerful female leads; each act is backed by supple and talented musicians, yet Ariana’s Rose is a different kettle of fish than Florence’s Machine. Florence Welch’s music is Indie Rock and mixes Neo Soul with R ‘n’ B- whereas Ariana & The Rose is more bare but no less potent and powerful. When it comes to the business of writing, our heroine explained what her thought process was; how she wrote her music (when talking with Harper’s Bazaar):

A lot of different things. Generally I’m curled up in a ball on a couch of some sort. I’m always freezing, so notebook in hand, some sort of shawl wrapped around me. Today we started with a beat. I said I really want to do something with a huge drumbeat, and we pulled a bunch of samples. Sometimes you write to track.”

DiLorenzo is enjoying interaction with new fans; loving the music life at the moment, and drinking in as much as possible. Her debut E.P. Love Me, Love Me Not showcased a restless young talent intent on domination; a singular and emotive voice that scored varied and deep music. There was some minor buzz and acclaim that arrived off of the back of that release; the adulation has grown considerably since, and it is something that our heroine is not accustomed to. When conducting an interview with (last November), she was asked about how she deals with the feedback and praise:

“DiLorenzo is being quite modest when it comes to the buzz surrounding her music. Already receiving rave reviews in The Guardian, Women’s Wear Daily, and Vanity Fair’s George Wayne, while being compared to heavyweights from Lady Gaga to Fiona Apple, she is receiving the kind of attention that is the precursor to not just some solid record sales and a successful tour, but to something a lot bigger than that. But if she’s feeling overwhelmed or being affected by this rush of attention, you couldn’t tell…

The way that I see it right now is that there are a lot of people who don’t know about it and there are a lot of people I haven’t played the music for, and a lot of fans that don’t know about it. So you really just keep your head down and look to share the music with as many people as you possibly can. There’s always that thing that says ‘you’ve got to really keep making good music,’ and I don’t think that ever goes away. I hope it doesn’t.”

Modesty aside, it seems that the New Yorker is doing something right, and the music being offered is resonating with the collective mind-set. As well as gaining adulation and support in the U.S., the fans and press outlets here in the U.K. are turning themselves onto the music of Ariana & The Rose. It is a rise that has been much deserved, and something that owes to the uniqueness and simplicity of the music itself:

I wanted to make super catchy music that was absolutely pop, but I wanted to talk about the things that I wanted to talk about. I didn’t want to write la, la, las and sort of escapist music. I love that music when I go out and dance and all that, but I wanted to make something that got to be a bit more of a catharsis in pop. So you’re driving along and it’s super catchy, but it still lets you have a good cry if you want it. And I think maybe that’s why people like it – you get a melody stuck in your head and it’s not like you’re running away from the things that you’re feeling in your life. It delves right into the messy things, and that comes from the topics I wanted to write about. I wasn’t aiming for that, but when I turned around and looked at it, I thought that maybe this is something that is starting to happen with other artists, and I think it’s what people really want.”

In a scene that is promoting a lot of big personalities and brash music, it is great that Ariana & The Rose are receiving such celebration. A lot of new music tends either to be big and anthemic, or else gentle and tender- there is a middle ground that is not overly populous and busy. A lot of my recent features have focused on musicians whom favour heavier sounds and more primal movements. A great deal of solo artists at least, either present emphatic and operatic vocals, or take it right down- and favour introvertedness and sensitivity over pure force. If you think of all the female vocalists in music today, largely they will fit in either camp. It is an issue that was prevalent a few years ago (there has been some change and development), but there are still too few whom intersect soft and quiet; offer melody and power- tie together the two camps. As well as discussing her career and background (when speaking with, our heroine tried to explain the reason behind the lack of ‘middle ground’ artists:

“…that for a while, you either had your singer-songwriters coming through or pop divas coming through, and there hasn’t really been someone in the middle to take the crown and say ‘wait a second, I can still be larger than life, but I can talk to you about some real things.’ Obviously, someone like Adele does that, and there have been these kinks in the system that have gotten through, but it hasn’t become a bigger thing. Someone like Lana Del Rey does that, and it’s starting to get there. It’s inching its way to the mainstream, which is cool because I make mainstream pop music, and I love doing that. To be able to get to talk about some broader topics and write interesting lyrics is great for me.”

It seems that the future is going to be very prosperous and busy for Ariana & The Rose; due to the special and unabated connection our heroine has with her fans it is likely that not only will touring commitments expand and rise; but new E.P.s and albums will be on the horizon. I shall get down to reviewing one of Head vs. Heart’s gems anon, but looking at the wealth of positive reviews that have already come in, leads me to believe that here is an artist and act whom can seamlessly transition into the mainstream- and offer something genuinely new and fresh.  DiLorenzo is proving herself to be one of the most impressive songwriters and talents on the block, and it seems that her material will not only expand and improve, but new subjects and inspirations provided. Due to her youth as well as busy schedule, our heroine is seeing a lot of new sights; experiencing a lot of new avenues and landscapes- and taking it all in. DiLorenzo is starting out and putting her fledgling steps together, so it is going to be exciting just what the future holds and where she is heading. The affection she has for the U.K. may well influence future sounds, and maybe new genres will be explored and spliced. At present, Head vs. Heart is where she is at; what is on her mind, and the sound of a hungry young woman determined to bare her soul. When speaking with The Huffington Post last month, our heroine tried to nail down its sound and explain its intricacies:

Writing ‘Head vs Heart’ really felt like the beginning of a new path for me in terms of my career and defining myself as an artist, and now putting these songs out into the world is the greatest pay off. These 4 songs are a taster, an introduction to what I’d like to share with people. The EP was inspired by the feeling of being torn, of being a part of situations where you never quite know what the right thing to do is. I try to approach these moments with humor and light, which is why I set these story-telling lyrics and melodies to fun dance beats and surrounded them with synths… The combination of the lyrics and music on this record is an outgrowth of how I handle the struggle between having my head and heart disagree: a dose of reality with a lot of playfulness and an open heart. I’ve always felt like the best pop music makes you feel like you want to dance and cry at the same time, that it can be so real and relatable and utterly infectious. My hope for ‘Head vs Heart’ is that it provides a bit of catharsis, that people feel like they can hear their story in the words and also dance out their heartache.”

Having been compelled by the quartet of songs on offer, it was In Your Bed that stuck in my mind. It is a song whose video has been garnering a lot of attention (and setting male tongues wagging); its themes are not only modern and relevant, but personal and honest. Whereas mainstream Pop acts tend to stick too rigidly to fluff and plastic proferrings, Ariana & The Rose’s songs delve a little deeper; uncover themes, stresses and problems that everyone faces- and provides a new angle. Head vs. Heart’s lead-off track has already won over many critical pens, and I was determined to investigate it myself- and see what all of the fuss was about.

The opening moments of In Your Bed see wordless vocalisation mingle alongside tender and sparse piano notes. It is a lead-in that sets the mood, and influxes of energy and intrigue too. By the time our heroine presents her first words, you are drawn into the seductiveness and sexiness- there is a tempetuousnessness in the dark piano notes and a come-hither allure in the voice. Evocativenesss and clear intent are laddered out right from the start. Telling the song’s hero to “Lay me down slow/Touch me all over with your eyes“- the combination of foreground and background vocal lines i highly effective. The wordlessness is present still, but our heroine offers a vocal imbued with breathlessness and passion; words and ideas are teased and tempted from the speakers. The lyrics being proffered have defiance and hard truths at their core; the song’s subject is being advised not to get ideas- to put things in perspective. Perhaps our heroine is playing the role of the Siren, with words such as “Just because I’m in your bed/Doesn’t mean I’m yours, mean I’m yours” sending out a clear signal. In the early stages there is a sense of bait-and-switch; our heroine tempts her man forth, but is keen to read him his rights. Most modern-day icons would instil a venom and overt anger into the melting pot, but here the voice is sturdy and swaying; it is sweet and dripping in honey- making the lyrics meaning more vibrant and urgent somehow. Instead of layering too many instrumental elements and assets into the song, there is a sparse and bare-naked presentation that not only fully utilises our heroine’s vocal- yet gives In Your Bed an appropriately atmospheric and coquettish sound. Before the mood lifts and the sonic heavens open, the build-up continues. In the song’s video, our heroine writhes and cavorts (on her own) under a bed sheet. Shot in black-and-white, gorgeous and seductive smiles are thrown at the camera the one moment, before her face becomes downcast (as our heroine lies on her side). It is a simple idea but one that is highly effective; you find yourself mesmerised by DiLorenzo’s beauty and performance, but compelled by her delivery- she means every word and has a definite subject in mind. Whether the track deals with a former lover, or a temporary parabond, I am uncertain, but our heroine wants to remain independent and steadfast- she is her own boss and will not be dictated to. As the biting line “You’re nothing” is delivered, you can sense that shiver and emotiveness in the voice as well as a sense of clarity and directness. As the song begins its explosive trajectory, the video changes course as well. Black and white tones are replaced with colour, as our heroine becomes more relaxed and matter-of-fact. The song’s themes look at a love or boyfriend that has become a bit clingy; his expectations are set quite high and he may be looking at a long-term romance. It is a fresh angle to take, as usually the roles are reversed; the man is usually the one whom prefers disposability and control- artists such as Gaga and Beyonce have toyed with it, but never to this extent. Our heroine is definitely wearing the trousers and in control; calling the shots and trying to let her man down easily. Whilst this all comes to fruition, a popcorn-sounding and spattering electronic parable is unleashed; at once sounding vintage and cutting edge. To my ear, there were elements of Violator-era Depeche Mode; a little bit of Pet Shop Boys as well- I am no aficionado of the genre, but these artists and flavours came to mind. There is an elliptical quality to the sound which not only lifts your spirit, but perhaps allows certain lines to drift by- unaware of just how biting they are. Our heroine has a clear message: “Don’t know how to say it/Wish you wouldn’t hope for so much more“, her voice displaying mixes of Sophie Ellis-Bextor-cum-Britney Spears- although a lot less highfalutin than the former and more evocative than the latter. In the video, our heroine provides a sly grin, her eyes are bright as seductively rests on her hand (shots of her foot rubbing against her leg add to the song’s sexuality and sense of tease). The vocal delivery is focused and straight; it does not deviate or succumb to ululation- our heroine keeps everything composed and concentrated. It seems that a rather unfortunate faux pas and mishap has enforced the track’s mandates. Our hero and heroine has had their moment and their fun, but it seems they are different pages- with the song’s hero getting ahead of himself. Pillow talk has turned into romantic utterances, and perhaps a cloying eagerness has put off our heroine. When the lines “Wish you hadn’t said it/A whisper too loud to be ignored/Hear me, just hear me/You think that you want me, you need me…” are delivered there is no spite or mocking in the voice- a maturity and professionalism comes through. Images in the video start to juxtapose and contradict the lyrics, adding a sense of wooziness and misinterpretation (perhaps fitting given what we have discovered from the story so far). Whilst words of regret and misspoken protestations are unearthed, our heroine frolics and cavorts kitten-like beneath the bed sheets; with a girlish and impish smile, perhaps a sense of emancipation and relief has crept into her mind. Upon closer inspection it seems that the lyrics-image blend may be pretty apt; our heroine shakes her head at the appropriate interval; matches the song’s lines with her performance- it seems that there is no bitter recriminations, just plain truth. I guess a lot of people whom listen to the track can relate to what is being said; maybe the gender roles will be reversed but many would have found themselves in a similar situation- a one-night stand awkwardly being seen as a window into a dedicated relationship. Our heroine is quite clear when it comes to her verdict (with regards to the night of passion): “You don’t, and I won’t/Oh I, oh I, a wasted night.” The vocal delivery changes course; in the early stages it was whispered and chocolatey in tone; at this stage it is more energised upbeat; still rife with a sexy and alluring vibe, the tones are less breathy and more Pop-esque. In the same way that Kylie Minogue was (perhaps less so now) able to infuse uncomplicated but effective Electronic beats with a stirring vocal, so too does Ariana & The Rose’s front-woman. Our heroine blends her silky and full-bodied voice with the peppiness of the electronics; by the time the chorus arrives you find yourself singing along- there is a catchiness and memorability to the delivery for sure. Our heroine lets her man know exactly what the situation is: “Just because I’m in your bed/Doesn’t mean I’m yours, mean I’m yours/Get me everything I want/Give me nothing more, nothing more.” When listening to these words, two things strike your mind (if you are watching the video): the striking allure of the images, as well as the strength of the delivery. The words are sung with a sense of optimism, a light heart which not only means the words stick in your brain, but you find yourself siding with the heroine- if there was bitterness or sarcasm, that may have not been the case. There is a bona fide infectiousness and smoothness in the delivery; soulful and playful vocals blend beautifully with the bubbling and entrancing electronics. In a sense there is a European sound to the song itself. I have witnessed Swedish Electro acts such as Club 8 and Say Lou Lou whip up the same kind of atmosphere- yet the track does draw in embers of New York’s Dance scene. The video helps to enforce the song’s messages; our heroine’s heart-melting smile invokes shivers and sighs, and that unavoidable sexiness and seductiveness comes through in every image- there is no overt raunchiness or explicitness; everything is tempted and teased. The song’s memorable and catchy coda is something that not only will be chanted in clubs and venues, but can be extrapolated by all listeners. The female audience can use it as a rallying cry; a bellicose clarion call that acts as a one-finger salute to all those clingy and grabby boyfriends- even though the song’s hero probably had noble and honest intent. In the way our heroine has her fun and is keen to leave the past behind, she could come off as a little cold or detached in principle; yet there is no reason to suggest that she should have given her heart up (considering the circumstances); the song’s delivery is so smile-inducing and fresh that you cannot help but to be won over and converted to the cause. The re-employed and gravitational coda (“Just because I’m in your bed/Doesn’t mean I’m yours, mean I’m yours/Give me everything I want/Give me nothing more, nothing more“) acts as the song’s business plan- essentially, it says to the man who you knew this wasn’t going to be a permanent thing, so you have no right to complain or feel aggrieved. At the 2:00 mark, the track changes slightly; the mood becomes less effusive, but the beat certainly doesn’t relax or quell itself. The wordless vocals build up and gain momentum by the second; the electronic pips and bubbles become bigger and faster paced; vocals layer and the heat and glare of the sunshine deliver becomes more prescient and dominant. Soon enough, the sonics temporize and focus; things become hazier and more languid; the beats and electronics stretch and elongate- fizzes and bombs of light keep the energy and heartbeat going, as well as add to the sense of relaxation and relief. With a final invocation of the chorus, the song comes down to a close, and our heroine (in the music video) leaves with a satisfied smile- knowing that her message has been made clear and she is calling the shots. After listening to the song, you cannot help but shake the chorus’s infectiousness and insatiable sound. The song’s messages may appeal to and resonate more with women and the 18-30 demographic, but the flair and quality of the music is autosomal dominant- and speaks and connects with everyone. I have been replaying the track and find it is the perfect companion to a warm spring evening; it is upbeat and summer-ready but no flyweight or throwaway. Our heroine’s voice is cooing and seductive; strong and striking- whatever mood is required she is ably up to the task. The beat and drive of the composition has its roots in Electronic music, but has Pop sensibilities within; meaning it will appeal to wide clans of music-lovers. With a solid and uncluttered production, everything comes through to the fore clearly- and highlights our heroine’s strengths. With simple yet effective lyrics, stunning voice and music combinations, and a striking mandate at its heart, In Your Bed is a terrifically assured and confident song that is by no means a fluke or one-off.

Photo: Maeghan Donahue | Heartbeat acoustic session

Having assessed the entirety of the Head vs. Heart E.P., it is not hard to see why Ariana & The Rose are seducing our stiff upper lips. The four tracks are rife with confidence and meaning; there are no histrionics or needless show-boating; each of the tracks are tight and well-composed and demonstrate our heroine’s key strengths: a powerful and emotive voice; intuitive and sharp lyrics and a rich and varied palette. It is true that Ariana & The Rose can tie together threads of Lady Gaga and Adele, but don’t let that scare you off (if you are not a fan of the former- like me- then have no fear). Our heroine has the same sort of knack for hooks and melody as Gaga, but there are few other similarities- perhaps a similarly empowered set of tracks, but you would be hard-pressed to compare the two. What is on offer is a unique and urgent artist whom has already charmed large swathes of the U.S. and U.K. Ariana & The Rose are in the midst of a packed U.K. tour and critics and reviewers here have already paid testament to the strengths and joys that are offered forth. I know my two cents are not going to be amongst the most impressive reviews our heroine has received, but I could not help but to delve into the artistry and ambitious of one of New York’s proudest offerings. One of the things that impresses me most about DiLorenzo is the connection with her fans. Often she can be found backstage or near a venue chatting with supporters; hanging out and shooting the breeze- instead of hurrying away and slinking into the night. It is no cynical voting ploy; it is a young woman whom has an openness and passion for music and those whom believe in it. This sense of passion and conviction comes through the songs of Head vs. Heart, and signals a tantalising and promising future. When speaking with last year, our heroine signalled out her ambitions:

Well, I started in theatre as an actress, so I danced from a very young age. I have that whole ‘I was three when I started dancing’ thing, and I segued into musical theatre very naturally and started singing. It wasn’t until I was 13 or 14 that I was ever in a recording studio; I did jingles and things like that. Through doing a lot of that stuff, I ended up meeting lots of different producers and writers: that was how I got into it. I always did music on the side. It was a great release… I went to NYU for college and to performing arts school. When I was about 20, I was in with a really cool group of writers and I was doing top-lines and writing on dance tracks. That was the first time that I thought I like doing this more than anything else. One of the tracks I wrote went on a record that was going to get distribution through a label; things were starting to happen. It was all really natural. I was never dreaming of being a pop star at 10 years old or anything, although who doesn’t dream of doing that.”

It seems as though things are going to plan, and our heroine is making all of the right steps. Too many new musicians see themselves as denizens; stuck in one particular place- never to move or tour too far. DiLorenzo is making sure that the Ariana & The Rose name is being played and promoted far and wide- and it will pay dividends. At the moment, our heroine is concentrating on ensuring that the E.P. is heard by as many as possible and it gets rightful attention. When chatting with Harper’s Bazaar, our heroine was asked whom she would like to collaborate with- given the choice of anyone:

I have the longest list. I would love to write music with Ryan Tedder. He’s written so many unbelievable songs. I’m also a huge Robyn fan. If I could do a duet with her—or just sort of bop next to her while she dances—that would be amazing. She was the first tape I ever had. I had it on a tape.”

Ariana & The Rose’s music is not that which can only be appreciated by a niche audience; that which can only be construed and appreciated by a select few- there is a openness and earnestness in the music that means it can be appreciated widely. Our heroine has the personality, beauty and talent to subjugate the most reluctant, yet she knows that there is a long way to go yet. It is clear that appreciation and respect means a lot to DiLorenzo, and she is eager for people everywhere to take it in. When asked by where she wants her music to take her, our heroine answered:

I would love for my music to take me everywhere it could possibly go. Touring is my top priority, it’s my favorite thing to be doing. I’m also writing for a full-length right now. I just want my music to take me to as many cities as possible, and I want as many people as possible to hear it!”

I came away from listening to In Your Bed (and the E.P.) knowing that the next few years are going to be fulfilling for our heroine. When it comes to acts from the U.S., we tend to hear more about mainstream artists as a whole; the media introduces us to a few new American artists, yet for the large part, the listener has to do most of the digging. As well as The Open Feel and Little Dove (both based out of L.A.), I have had the fortune of reviewing a few U.S. acts, but feel that more should be done. It is great to promote and concentrate on home-grown artists, but it makes good sense to make us here aware what is happening across the world- bring the best international artists to the general attention. Perhaps the sheer weight and numbers of musicians has meant that prioritising has had to be done, but it could mean that some genuinely great acts are overlooked. In the case of Ariana & The Rose, it seems that things will be smooth at least. With an L.P. in the back of DiLorenzo’s mind, we will be hearing a lot more of the ambitious New Yorkerer- and her comrades. Our heroine is a case study of how to go about doing things the right way. She has not gone down the talent show route and succumb to sob stories and controversy- in order to win attention and fans. DiLorenzo may not have had the most auspicious of starts, but her hard work and tenacity has led to big things, and the momentum levied towards her music are opening doors and opportunities. When she was interviewed by last month, our heroine was asked what advice she would give to new singers and artists:

“…be really honest with yourself of who you are and do that unapologetically. and find that one thing that Identifies with who you are because I think that is what sets you apart from people and that’s the way to get to most people is to say that this is me and I hope you like it.”

Ariana’s bandwagon is currently in Scotland, before heading further south- ending up on the south coast. It is going to be interesting to see what different cities and venues make of the stunning New Yorker, but reception so far has been universally positive and upbeat. From her Facebook and Twitter feeds, it appears our heroine is enjoying being in the U.K., lucky enough to be witnessing some (rare) sunshine- and taking in a lot of new places and faces. Before the crew head back to the U.S., our heroine takes her music to Bermuda Triangle in Brighton-before bidding farewell to the U.K. I shall have to make a note in my diary…

AND make sure I catch her there.

Photo: Kimi Selfridge


Head vs. Heart

Track Listing:


In Your Bed- 9.4/10

Heartbeat- 9.4

Hollow- 9.5

Love Me, Hate Me- 9.4

Standout track: Hollow


Follow Ariana & The Rose:

 Live Music at Breakout in London









Last F.M.:





Tour dates available at:



18th: York The Duchess United Kingdom

20th: Preston 53 Degrees United Kingdom

21st: Nantwich The Studio United Kingdom

22nd: Manchester Academy 3 United Kingdom

23rd: Birmingham The Institute United Kingdom

24th: Norwich Open United Kingdom

27th: Cardiff The Globe United Kingdom

28th: Reading The Bowery District United Kingdom

29th: London Islington Academy United Kingdom

30th: Brighton Bermuda Triangle United Kingdom


Ariana & The Roses’ press cuttings can be accessed via:



Ariana & The Roses’ previous videos can be viewed at:



Ariana & The Roses’ debut E.P, Love Me, Love Me Not is available via:

 Love Me, Love Me Not cover art









Feature: The Rhythm Is King




The Rhythm Is King.



Many musicians have posed an (almost) unanswerable question; faced the eternal caveat, as it were. When it comes to creating music which comes first: the words or the music? Many have their own methods and interpreations- and their particular ruminative structure. In terms of my own struggle, I have found there is one clear-cut solution: get the composition laid down first.



THE next few weeks or so are going to be amongst the most…

hectic for me, in terms of music-writing. Recently, I have been focusing my attentions upon reviews; seeking out the greatest and more ambitious new musicians- and surveying their merits. Over the next week, I will be contributing to a brand-new website; in its infancy, it is a London-based site which profits and promotes the finest sapling acts that the capital has to offer. I am looking forward to scribing my first review and am optimistic that I will be able to find a lot to write about going forward (for NewMusicJunkie). It is great reviewing and spending time analysing and investigating an act, but there comes a time when one needs a breather- like today. I shall be back to ‘normal duties’ tomorrow, but an issue struck my mind; something that is quite a conundrum in terms of songwriting; a problem that I have been facing since I began writing music- about fifteen years.

When any songwriter begins work on a new track, there are a number of considerations. If you are a skilled composer and musician, then it is going to be a lot easier to compose your track; put the notes and tones into the mix- it is something I envy. Solo acts have all the responsibility themselves, and are charged with writing all the parts for each of their tracks (unless they collaborate). For that reason, there is a lot of pressure on the shoulder; not only does the quantity have to be consistent and varied, but the quality has to be up there as well. If you are a band, then three or four (or more) bodies are available to write with- even duos have an additional mind on hand. Not many acts (whether they are solo or a band) have managed to get everything ‘just right’: the lyrics, melody, composition and vocals. I will take the latter point out of the equation, but in reality, how many acts do you know whom manage to present superb and unparalleled lyrics and music all of the time? There are quite a few acts whom are superb lyricists; able to intrigue and fascinate at every turn; present a range and skill that few others possess. On the other hand, there are plenty of musicians whom present skilful compositions; deftly capable of deep and rich parables- yet are let down when it comes to the words. Of course, there are a small number of acts whom falls within the triple intersection- those whom master lyrics, melody and music with ample ease. I bring this issue and subject up for a few reasons. First of all, it seems that there is a genuine dip in quality with regards to music; that some spark has been extinguished- and the standard is not as high as it has been. New music fares a lot better, and there are plenty of stunning fresh acts- yet there are so many of them, that the overall percentage of ‘phenomenal’ artists is fairly low. I don’t know what it to account for this recession- changing tastes; my subjectiveness; fatigue- but there is not the headiness and excitement that there once was a couple of decades ago. I will explore this more thoroughly in a while, but another thing plays on my mind: the difficulties that arise when it comes to writing. I consider myself to be an above-average lyricist; perhaps in the top 2% percentile of current wordsmiths- perhaps optimistic, but I would challenge anyone on that point. As a singer, I am a confident and hardworking chap; wholly assured that I could set a few tongues wagging; present something different, that would get under the critical skin. The only thing that trips me up, is the business of composition and melody. Solo artists have to teach themselves to take care of everything; to ensure that they have a proficiency which means they can put all the components of a song together- sans assistance and help. Bands often have a lyricist and composer; or else two or more members will share the duties between them. Naturally, there are bands with one songwriter; he/she whom handles all of the songwriting chores, and it is something that I have always been envious of. Setting aside the issue of quality and diversity, the act of writing even a single track can be a Labyrinth of complexities and hardships- something that can scare off a lot of eager new musicians.

I shall use myself as a case study, in order to illustrate my point. At present, I am technically a solo artist; without a band, I am penning eleven tracks for a (theoretical) upcoming album; something that has been in the works for years; scurrying around my brain and obsessing my every waking moment. A lot of musicians have been asked about their songwriting process and compositions; posed the striking conundrum: do you write the lyrics or music first? For me, I have no choice but to write the lyrics first. I can come up with the song titles and themes; able to pen a set of lyrics and have everything set out in front of me- yet they stay there naked; without tune or clothing. Legends such as Freddie Mercury and Michael Jackson were not particularly adept at reading or writing music. In the case of Jackson, he would compose all the music in his head; skillfully sing notes and instrumental elements- producers were stunned at how assured and skillful Jackson’s compositions were. Mercury too could consecrate and form an entire song in his head; present it to the band, whom would in turn bring it to life. Neither artist were skillful musicians or played many instruments between them, yet they had a talent which meant they could get around this issue: I can’t. I have tried many times to learn the piano and guitar, yet I find dexterity and proficiency severely lacking. I have always seen myself as a guitarist-in-waiting, yet something in my brain stops me from excelling; something is lacking that means I find it near-impossible to play a simple chord sequence- quite problematic with regards to songwriting. In that respect, I write the lyrics first and try to muddle through the music. I am not on the same par as Jackson, yet can imagine string compositions and parables in my mind; guitar solos and drum fills; piano codas and multi-layered beats- yet cannot put them onto paper. What you get is a man with a series of songbooks lacking in notation; melodies and compositions are stuck in my head, fated to remain there for a very long time. For that reason, it seems that I will never make it as a solo artist; or at least one whom writes all of his own songs- without any outside support. This is not a problem, as I have always wanted to be part of a band, and will be sending out an advert next week- in order to recruit warm bodies to help me bring my songs to life. It all sounds like a roundabout ramble, but I have dug myself into a little bit of a ditch. Of course, I can form the band and get everyone sorted, but all I have at the moment (aside from my voice) is a set of lyrics, song titles and ideas. It is going to be difficult to visualise and express the songs fully; put any colour or meaning into them (as I do not write music); I am able to hum the compositions, but I will need a lot of assistance from the (as yet un-recruited) band. It is not a huge issue, but I wish that I were able to write songs entirely; be able to hand the composer duties- and have something fully formed on the table. I am sure that any forgiving and understanding band will not only indulge my inequities, yet help foster my ambitions- and provide compositional backing.


When answering the question ‘do you write the music or lyrics first?’, I always answer lyrics’– yet it is so much more organic and easier doing things vice versa. There is no right answer, but to me, the rhythm is king; the beat and music is the most vital facet of a song- and are such needs to be taken care of first. I can write lyrics either way, yet when I am faced with a blank piece of paper, it seems like such an uphill struggle. Unless I have words flowing around my brain, I find it incredibly difficult just sitting down and writing words- I need a melody or composition to get my mind working. I have (just) managed to write eleven album tracks, yet it has taken such a while, that it has left me exhausted and somewhat jaded. The thing is, it is remarkable how easy songwriting is when you have the music already worked out. Just recently I have re-acquired Beck’s 2005 album Guero. Most people are familiar with Beck, yet I am confident few have investigated this album. If you have not listened to it, I would suggest you give it a go. It is similar to Odelay– in terms of its freewheelin’ spirit and invention- yet more restrained and mature. As soon as I began listening to the tracks on the album, lyrics rushed to mind. There is so much range and genre-shifting across the L.P., that everything came tumbling out; entire songs were written and completed- after hearing Beck’s winding and jittering parables. E-Pro is an electronic rush that scrabbles and implores; mixing the talents of The Dust Brothers and Beastie Boys into the mix, it is an emphatic opener. Black Tambourine’s boogying and funk-laden workout gets you dancing and singing along. Across the opening stages, Funk, Hip Hop and Country are teased; Missing’s unique delineation and evocative lyrics inspire the mind; Go It Alone has a Z.Z. Top essence that gets under the skin- when each track plays I found myself writing a new song. Before I knew it, some of the ‘unfinished tracks’ had words; based on Beck’s varied and pulchritudinous motifs I found words pouring out- where before they had been lacking. Other albums have a similar effect, and it is strange the way other artists can inspire your own music. I find that music is the most important aspect of a song, as it is the most inspiring and compelling aspect of a track. For that reason, I have not only forged ahead with looking for a band, but decided to re-attempt learning music- picking up a guitar and trying to get to grips with it. I am proud of the lyrics I write, but find that they have come about through struggle and unnatural means. Even a simple tune or composition can lead me to pick up a pen and insatiable scribble hundreds of words.


I have written this piece (not only as a break between reviews) but a bit of a warning to new musicians. If, like me, you are not a skilled musician and composer (and are thinking of joining a band), I would suggest some caution. It can be a hell of a struggle writing songs if you can only deal with the words (or melody even). So much of the weight and glory comes through the music itself, that it can be near-impossible to write anything- if you do not know how to write music. Unless you are a Michael Jackson-like savant or have music software that can transcribe your hums and ‘ahs’, then it can be an uphill battle. I myself have found this to be true, and have spent a lot of time struggling to make songs complete; patently aware that I cannot do it all alone- as such, the writing process has been torturous and depressing. In terms of my own trajectory, I am hopeful that by forming a band, my cohorts can help me massively; make my songs real and complete- and get me out of this quandary. The quality of music is generally dipping, and I am wondering if this has anything to do with the songwriting processes; possibly the sheer weight of competition is causing too much pressure- maybe the innovation is not there at all. It is hard to say, but I think some of the problem relates my conundrum. Many bands and solo acts begin with the words or an idea; are charged with then putting the music and composition over the top. A fully rounded and fascinating composition can inspire hugely and force words and thoughts out of you. When it comes to the opposite assumption, I am a little sceptical. I have a basic proficiency when it comes to composing, yet find it phenomenally difficult putting colour or top of the black-and-white. I am very enamoured of the solo artist whom is able to do everything themselves; find their own method of working, but essentially taking charge of everything. For all of its counter-intuitive possibility, the music drives the creative process; gets the brain working and makes life so much easier. Maybe those reading have a different work ethic and process; have their own method of working- or find that my conclusions raise their own issues. One thing I have learned (when it comes to writing music and proliferation) that this much is true…

GET the rhythm licked first.



Track Review: The Rails- Breakneck Speed





The Rails


Breakneck Speed






The track, Breakneck Speed is available via:

The album, Fair Warning is available from:



1) Bonnie Portmore

2) Breakneck Speed

3) Jealous Sailor

4) Younger

5) William Taylor

6) Panic Attack Blues

7) Send Her To Holloway

8) Grace of God

9) Fair Warning

10) Borstal

11) Habit


RELEASED: 02 May 2014 ℗ 2014 Mighty Village Records Ltd under exclusive license to Universal Island Records, a division of Universal Music Operations Limited


The bona fide husband-and-wife duo Kami Thompson and James Walbourne are no purveyors of “wimp folk“. With their album Fair Warning garnering an enormous amount of kudos and patronage, they are an act to watch closely. In a time where there is still too much fear (and not enough risk-taking) in music, The Rails are an emphatic breath of fresh air; promoting tantilisation, beauty and dark corners: guaranteed to lodge in your brain and not let go.


DUOS have come under my radar a lot over the past week-and-a-bit.

From my most recent review subjects (Little Dove) through to Yorkshire’s hard-hitting Knuckle, there has been much to think about. As well as assessing the types of sounds that the duos are playing, I have also been afforded the chance to investigate their backgrounds- where they come from and what their musical life has consisted of. L.A.’s twin two-pieces Little Dove and The Open Feel are located nary miles apart, yet offer something completely different. Little Dove have garnered multiple comparisons to The White Stripes, yet I found this to be rather short-sighted. As well as singer/guitarist Vanja James having a voice that incorporates Aretha Franklin-esque soul, the duo’s music contains raw elements of Queens of the Stone Age; undertones of the modern-day Indie and Garage scene- as well as a whole heap of personality of individuality. The Open Feel, meanwhile, have a completely different aesthete. Promising dreamier and more laid-back affairs, their music looks at love and broken dreams as well as the hardships and realities of life today (Sidewalk Zombies). The U.S. is not renowned for their duos (in the current scene), yet they (as well as California as a whole) seem to be at the forefront of a new wave of music; duos that summon up a huge amount of sound and emotion- sometimes more impressively than fully fledged bands. My aforementioned acts are both girl-boy two-pieces; with the boy being on percussion duties; contributing to the songwriting, but leaving the vocals to their colleague. The Open Feel and Little Dove’s front women have strong and impressive voices, rebellious and deterministic personalities that not only enforce incredible songs, but add nuance and flair to every note (they sing). In the U.K. we have duos whom operate this way (including Blood Red Shoes), yet we seem to be leaning towards bands still. Knuckle is a Yorkshire-based duo whom have a similar sound to Little Dove. With some Led Zeppelin hob-nail boots and a kinship that marks them out as tremendous future prospects, they are amongst a small number of duos operating in this country. Away from the mainstream, there are a few Folk two-pieces, but for my money, we need to see a lot more. If you look at the case of Gypsyfingers (I recently reviewed their album Circus Life), their shared vocals and instrumentation inflamed my senses and left me in awe. Their songwriting mixes dark and unsettled tableaux, fond remembrances; as well as tender love songs and dream-laden island locales- one of the most varied and fascinating duos in this country. I would recommend you seek out their music, as they are going to be a name we are all familiar with in years to come. Maybe it is because their members (Luke Oldfield and Victoria Coghlan) are a couple (that their music is so tight and intuitive) which brings me to another point: the way relationships affect music. I have seen many bands break-up because their members put squabbles and egos ahead of the collective good. In a great deal of cases, the bands are still together, yet you can tell that there is no mutuality and respect- the music comes across as lifeless and unimaginative. If the common bonds are not in place, then the abiding sonics seem lipid and uninspired. All of the best music I have heard (from duos and bands) arises when there are strong friendships; romantic ties that mean that the players have a seemless and natural affection. Knuckle’s Ben Wallbanks and Jonny Firth have a great and close friendship; an understanding and parabond that comes across in their music- the two met by chance and sparks were ignited. I am not saying that you have to be the best of buds (to create great music) yet I always sag my shoulders when I come across a particular act- only to find something lacking. When I assessed duos The Open Feel and Little Dove, I was mesmerised by their music, as there was an equal partnership; the words, music and notes all commingled organically; there was no hierarchy and arroagnce- just a perfect understanding that resulted in phenomenal music. My second (of three) points, revolves around new music, and the range of sounds on offer. Over the course of my reviews, I get to take in what the world has to offer; the highs and lows; the hard and soft- the melt-in-the-mouth middles. Whilst I am quick to proclaim worthy acts and give paen to those deserving, I have come across a lot of similar-sounding music. More often, my featured artists either play delicate and Pop-flavoured templates or else energy-infused Garage/Rock songs. I love both camps, yet I always look for something a bit different; music that has elements of both pillars-but sets itself aside from the crowd. My featured duo has struck upon this, and are one of the most fervent acts of modern music- a name synonymous with range, substance, style, layered music and swathes of emotion and intrigue. It is acts such as The Rails that are exciting me, because they not only break me out of my comfort zone (as a reviewer and music-listener), but also broaden the palette- and provide something different and wonderful. When Gypsyfingers’ Folk-Cum-Rock-via-Pop opus Circus Life arrived, it was the first time (in a long while), that I took my mind elsewhere; got to revel in sounds that were both striking and new- yet universal and relatable. I still find that there are too many new musicians whom display timidity and myopic outputs (none of my review subjects are included, but there are plenty out there). Many culpable acts will simply try to pack as much noise and rabble into a song; the vaguest hint of beauty and sensitivity into the mix- and provide nothing more. I am not sure whether new artists are looking closely at the mainstream; seeing what is ‘popular’ and ‘fashionable’- and merely attempting to appropriate this. When it comes to the future; the existing order being overtaken by the younger generation, then we need to embrace and proffer the most hungry and stunning. Too many acts are raised on a pedestal and their virtues extolled- for no apparent reason at all. A lot of genuinely worthy artists are being given short shrift (and being overlooked) because of this; which can lead to unnecessary entropy. I myself have been compelled to expand my horizons and seek out the most worthy musicians around. My sweethearts for today are amongst the best and most exciting artists of the moment; those whom provide inspiration and uplift- but offer something unexpected and rare. Before I introduce you to them, I want to raise a quick point: Folk. This is a genre that many are familiar with, yet few truly embrace. Whether there is compartmentalization or a sense of snobbery; a certain naivety and prejudice that exists, I am not sure- but something needs to be done. When you mention the four-letter word, most people (of my generation) may cast their mind to the likes of Bob Dylan, Nick Drake, Neil Young or Fairport Convention. Whilst these giants should be embraced and subjected to continued support, there is a huge amount of new Folk artists on the scene- that we should be taking note of. Perhaps some have been ‘scared off’ by some of the wimpier and effete examples of the genre (naming no names, Mumford and Sons). Perhaps too many twee-voiced advert soundtracks have frightened the crap out of people; that the genre is synonymous with mediocrity and blandness. This is a sorry state of affairs, and one that should be overhauled and reappraised. Yes, there are an awful lot of rather weak and brittle Folk artists; those whom are a bit whingey and featherweight and do not provide anything original or even interesting. If you look closely, mind, there is a thriving scene that is very much alive and well. Events such as Cambridge Folk Festival and The Green Man Festival provide an opportunity for the public to witness the finest (Folk musicians), but mainstream stars such as Laura Marling are keeping the flame alight. Whether The Rails are a fan of Marling, I am unsure, but she (Marling) is amongst one of my favourite singer-songwriters of the moment. I have always adored her vocals; that unique sound and sense of authority and passion. Her albums are consistently brilliant; each L.P. seamlessly improves upon the last- and Marling becomes more confident with each release. Whether your Average Joe still has a clear impression of what Folk is- bearded man with acoustic guitar; strumming plaintively about nature and love in the ’60s woe- it is unclear, but the likes of Marling have shown how exhilarating and nuanced the genre is. With Rock and Pop still providing hegemony, we need more open-mindedness and bravery with our musical tastes. The Rails were unknown to me as recently as las week, yet when I heard their music come to life, I knew one thing- here is a duo that more people should know about. It is for that reason, that I was compelled to investigate them further.

The duo have a fascinating background, and a story that could spike the mind of an ambition young filmmaker. Before I get into things in more depth, our heroes consist of:

James Walbourne

Kami Thompson

“The Rails are running. English singer-songwriter duo Kami Thompson and James Walbourne have reached deep into their rich musical histories to concoct the kind of sharp, true folk rock blend rarely heard since the Seventies. Produced with indie legend Edwyn Collins and featuring folk frontierswoman Eliza Carthy on fiddle, The Rails debut album Fair Warning is a little wonder, packed with traditional and original songs that stand outside of time yet resonate with contemporary urgency. Recognising perfection when they hear it, Island records have revived their vintage Pink Label for the duo, home to John Martyn, Nick Drake and Fairport Convention. “There is something about folk as an ideal that we were reaching towards,” says Kami. “Music by the people, for the people. Songs so icky, and potent, and heart wrenching, they could have been written five hundred years or ten minutes ago, it doesn’t matter.” “We wanted something almost simplistic,” says James. “Singing, fiddle, electric guitar, no tricks. You can hear everything, it’s bare. It’s hard to convince people to make a record like that now but the sound is fantastic, it’s so direct.” James, a teenage prodigy with a fascination for early rock ‘n’ roll and roots Americana, is now one of the hottest rock guitarists in Britain. Cult singer-songwriter Peter Bruntnell took him to the US to make an album and James went on to play as a member of such Americana icons as Son Volt and The Pernice Brothers and record with the legendary Jerry Lee Lewis. Back in the UK, he has played with Ray Davies, become part of the touring line up for The Pogues and joined The Pretenders as lead guitarist in 2008. In 2011, he made his first solo album, The Hill, for Heavenly records. Author and fan Nick Hornby described his guitar playing as “an unearthly cross between James Burton, Peter Green and Richard Thompson” and enthused “Walbourne’s fluid, tasteful, beautiful solos drop the jaw, stop the heart, and smack the gob, all at the same time.” It was Hornby who introduced James to folk siren Linda Thompson, and James first met Kami when they both worked on Linda’s 2007 album Versatile Heart. “We hit it off on a musical level straight away but it took a long time to take that any further,” he reports. Kami is the youngest daughter of Richard and Linda Thompson, the first couple of Seventies folk rock. She has been a backing singer with Linda, performed with members of the Wainwright family, toured with Sean Lennon and Bonnie Prince Billy and released her own solo album, Love Lies, on Warner Music in 2011. “I suppose this was the music that was formative to me, but at the same time Folk was a box I didn’t want to be in, and I did my best to avoid it,” she admits. “In folk music, people love the idea of family. When a son or daughter picks up a guitar it’s like the legacy continues. In rock, it’s considered slightly nepotistic. They aren’t easy relationships and it’s difficult for me to talk about, so I think it’s better if I just don’t. I am a musician, and this is the music that was around me growing up, just as it was for many others, and I need to find my own way through it.” Kami and James have been working together since 2011, romance blooming alongside their music. They married in 2012. “The less said about that the better,” says Kami. “Our long term goal is to make the perfect divorce album, obviously.” ‘Fair Warning’, their debut album, is produced by The Rails with Edwyn Collins and Sebastian Lewsley at West Heath studio, in North London. “They usually do more punky stuff there, so this was a bit different,” notes James. “It’s all analogue, old mics, the sound that comes out of that studio is really direct.” Cody Dickinson (Mississippi Allstars) was recruited to play drums, the great Danny Williams (Black Grape) played bass, Eliza Carthy added fiddle to a couple of tracks but mostly it was James and Kami. Most of the songs on ‘Fair Warning’ are Walbourne / Thompson originals but the process started with visits to Cecil House, as so many artists have done before, to seek out lost treasures from the world famous folk archive. “We picked songs that we felt could have been written right now,” explains Kami. “‘Bonnie Portmore’ taps into our sense of endangered nature and fears about the planet. And ‘William Taylor’ is the ultimate bitch revenge fantasy for every guy you’ve had a shit time from. Those old murder ballads are my favourite songs ever, they give you permission to say something you’re not allowed to say in real life: I’d really like to kill you for fucking someone else.” “It’s quite therapeutic,” adds James, wryly. “My folk music is really ’56 Elvis, that’s where I come from. I was introduced to Harry Smith’s Anthology of American Folk Music at an impressionable age, bands like Son Volt taught me a lot of American old time folk ballads, and they are all rooted in the old English and Irish ones, as I found out spending time with Shane McGowan and even Chrissie Hynde, she knows all this stuff. Who is to say what is folk anymore? These are our own songs but written with a certain sound and attitude that connects to music that came before.” “Folk changed forever when we moved into a world of recorded music but the essence remains the same,” according to Kami. “To me the purpose of music is to feel the feeling multiplied by ten and get it out and have an emotional moment, be sad, cry, laugh, be angry. You make it so other people might feel the same way.”

The duo have just released Fair Warning on Island Records’ Pink label (once home to Nick Drake and Fairport Convention), and it mixes elements of classic ’70s Folk with a Rock-tinted modernity; a cocktail that is direct, classical and emotional- and has set The Rails aside from their contemporaries. I mentioned the importance of close bonds (when it comes to making great music), The Rails have a bit of an edge, being husband and wife. When interviewed recently by The Telegraph, Walbourne was asked about how he met Thompson.

I fancied her right away…I liked her dark songs and I liked the way she looked. Perfect combination

It seems that the immediacy of falling in love, has been extrapolated and transferred into their music. Recounting the courtship and seduction, Thompson expanded:

He gave chase…It helps that he’s incredibly talented. I must have some deeply entrenched respect for musicianship, because I’ve grown up watching someone playing guitar. And he’s so great that I can just love him with abandon. I couldn’t date a crap musician, could I? Imagine family gatherings!”

Thompson herself is the (youngest) child of Richard and Linda Thompson (hugely memorable voices of Folk throughout the ’70s and ’80s) and has that musical heritage (although her parents divorced before she was born). As well as being one of the most startling beautiful women in music- flame-haired and green-eyed- she is as alluring and heartbreaking as humans come. It is the voice and soul that emanates forth, that marks Thompson out as one of the best young talents in the music world. She has a maturity and intelligence that come through in The Rails’ songs; it is a facet that she has used to wow audiences and music-lovers for several years now. As well as recording a solo album in 2011, Thompson first met Walbourne in 2007- when they worked on her (Thompson) mother’s album, Versatile Heart. When The Telegraph’s Neil McCormick assessed Walbourne as a guitarist, he assessed him, thus:

Walbourne may just be the hottest guitarist in Britain. His style is so fluid and free, he never plays the same solo twice, and he is adept at locating the heart of a song and really driving it along. Author Nick Hornby has described him as “an unearthly cross between James Burton, Peter Green and Richard Thompson”. Spotted as a teenage prodigy, he left school to go on tour in the US with singer-songwriter Peter Bruntnell and wound up becoming a floating member of cult bands Son Volt and Pernice Brothers.”

The Rails’ stick in your mind because of their bond; but also because of their diverse background. Thompson’s rich and axiomatic Folk background mingles beautifully with Walbourne’s Rock sound, they are exactly like Gyspyfingers (spookily so): they can cross-pollinate genres and sounds and make it sound so utterly urgent and alive. Authenticity is what The Rails are trying to convey; there is no fakery and money-making sell-outs: the duo want to rank themselves alongside the greats of music. With such a pedigree and talent in the camp, it is not a shock that their new album Fair Warning has set critical tongues alight. There is a multitude of a glowing reviews out there; critics and listeners have vacillated when witnessing the duo’s mesmeric tracks- a selection are included below:

Kami is a fine, versatile singer with a style that at times echoes that of her mother, while Walbourne is an impressive guitarist who has played with Ray Davies and the Pogues. They are joined by Eliza Carthy on fiddle for a set that includes fine vocal duets on a gently exquisite 17th-century lament about the destruction of forests, a weepie country waltz and an upbeat folk-rocker about running from the police. A duo to watch.”

The Guardian

Their debut album Fair Warning sits somewhere between Bellowhead’s authentic, old fashioned folk and Mumford & Sons more commercial anthemic take on the genre. There are jaunty sea shanties about murder and revenge (‘Jealous Sailor’); traditional-sounding English folk tales of jealousy (‘William Taylor’); mentions of Portsmouth (‘Bonnie Portmore’) and other English towns, and an obsession with jails (‘’Send Her To Holloway’, ‘Borstal’). English folk doyenne Eliza Carthy contributes fiddle on a number of tracks, which gives an indication of the traditional feel. So The Rails start their new career together by wedding traditional and contemporary folk. That, along with a guitarist husband of her own, couldn’t make the similarities between mother and daughter any starker. That grounding, along with the vocal compatibility of the two, make this a very promising start indeed.”

“….ringing with the joy of a golden history while also pointing to an exciting future

MOJO ****

I first noticed James Walbourne’s talents when he opened up at a couple of Justin Townes Earle gigs. Justin the son of American singer songwriter Steve Earle could possibly offer Kami Thompson some advice on how to follow famous parents into the music business. Some say theres no place for nostalgia in music, I say the best modern music being made today has one foot in the past and just having the ability to write your own material makes you a traditionalist to start with these days . Yes the music here does echo the music of Kami’s parents Richard and Linda Thompson but Kami’s voice blended with James does have an identity and versatility of its own. On one playing there is enough to suggest that The Rails can forge their own path. If this review seems short its because Ive only listened to this offering once, there are many highlights though but on first listen Breakneck Speed is incredibly catchy. The Rails on this offering should have many people joining them on their journey.”

Mr. Thomas L. Bromley,

Given she is the daughter of folk-rock royalty Richard and Linda Thompson, a psychologist might have something to say about Kami Thompson’s decision to form a folk-rock duo with her husband James Walbourne. Parental issues aside, the results are delightful. Bonnie Portmore is a gorgeous take on one of the most romantic English ballads, with Thompson’s pure-toned voice bringing out the wistfulness of the words…”

The Times

There are fine original compositions and stirring arrangements of trad material on here, imagine Cecil Sharp never existed, but instead the songs were handed down naturally from artist to artist, parent to child or neighbour to neighbour. Excise that Edwardian Middle Class obsession with Merrie Englande that still hangs over the ‘tradition’ and I believe we would have record store shelves stacked with many more albums like this.”

Produced with a deft touch and a great respect for the material, former Orange Juice frontman Edwyn Collins puts his own stamp on Fair Warning by letting the album revel just enough in its classic folk-rock pageantry without wearing it on its sleeve. Rather than presenting an overtly retro production, the Rails simply sound like very good musicians performing very good music in a warm, familiar style. Perhaps the album’s finest, or at least most representative moment is the wonderful single “Breakneck Speed,” a track which blends bits of Celtic, soul, blues, and folk so agelessly that it could belong in 1974 or 2014. This is no easy trick, but the Rails pull it off gracefully, sounding perfectly comfortable and natural in their own skin.


“….Second-generation folk-rock royalty-in-waiting

Uncut Magazine 8/10

There is something familiar about folk rock duo the Rails. Kami Thompson is a slender redhead with an acoustic guitar and a clear-toned, mournfully expressive voice. She is accompanied by her husband, James Walbourne, a dark-haired guitar slinger with a brusque vocal style and some expressive electric solos. Together they have made a tough yet tender album, in which their perfectly attuned harmonies deliver sharply observed vignettes buoyed by old tunes dug out from the annals of British folk.”

The Telegraph

“….a beautifully realised collection filled with intuitive harmonies, deep harmonies, deep emotion, great stories and impeccable impeccable playing

The Sun Something For The Weekend

Indeed, they kick off with the latter in the shape of the lilting, predominantly acoustic Bonnie Portmore, Kami taking lead with James providing harmonies and guitars. It’s a perfectly straightforward reading, whereas murder ballad William Taylor, on which they share vocals, takes a more electric approach that may remind some of a lighter touch early Steeleye Span. Though self-penned, the shanty-flavoured Jealous Sailor, with James again on lead, is firmly of a trad persuasion and, one of five numbers to which she contributes, features some suitably fiery fiddle from Eliza Carthy…Across the course of six albums, Richard and Linda Thompson established themselves as enduring British folk rock legends. Island having resurrected their classic 60s pink label just for them, daughter and son-in-law seem highly likely to follow in their footsteps.”

This is a wonderful CD. I can’t praise it enough. Perhaps because of the Thompson connection there is a feel of some of Richard’s music on some tracks, particularly the standout ‘Send her to Holloway’. The musicianship is excellent throughout. I was particularly impressed by James’ guitar work. The vocals blend beautifully and don’t suffer at all on the more acoustic moments. Both traditional tracks included are highlights. Bonnie Portmore is a lilting ballad, whereas their version of William Taylor lopes along with some muscle. I have always loved Jim Moray’s take on William Taylor. Dare I say that this is an even better effort. All in all, this CD deserves to be one of the albums of the year.”

S.D. Crawshaw,

Fair Warning could, we suppose, give or take some of the technology, have come out at any point since Liege and Lief in 1969, which means, give or take some of the production, it could have been sung on street corners at any point since 1569, or whenever Olde Englishe Folke was the music du jour. There are vernacular interventions from the modern era, though. On Breakneck Speed Thompson gives someone “props” and mentions her “fragile, fucked-up heart”, not a term used in many madrigals, but we could be wrong. William Taylor – which sounds like a lightly rocked-up version of a trad arr ballad – is, Thompson explains, “the ultimate bitch revenge fantasy for every guy you’ve had a shit time from”, to coin a phrase from the Middle Ages. Panic Attack Blues alludes to Xanax, caffeine and cocaine and feeling “strung-out and left all alone”. It also has what they used to call a lyrical guitar solo, such is its eloquent expression of the protagonist’s pain (“I’m giving up, I’m checking out … It’s time to leave these earthly shores“).”

The Guardian, New band of the day

Stumbling across this album by mistake but what a great debut album it is.”

Glenn28, iTunes

Before I investigate the album cut Breakneck Speed (and the album as a whole), I have been investigating The Rails’ social media pages. When reviewing an act, I always look for plenty of information (to help assist me): biographies, links and review snippets are a must-have as far as I am concerned. I have overlooked some great musicians lately because they provide no information or insight. Their Facebook page usually consists of (something like): Rock band from Liverpool. Touring in 2014! If I was a potential fan and I saw that, I would look elsewhere and think that the act had no intention of winning votes- how sparse can you make it?! As a reviewer and investigator of music, it is down-right appalling that acts still provide so little story and scene-setting; they think that all you need to hear and see if the music- perhaps putting words onto the page gives themselves away, and strips them naked. You know what though, new bands? No one cares if you are giving a bit of yourself away; your music can be phenomenal but you come across as sterile and uncaring if you do not credit your fans with a little intelligence. The Rails made me smile, because I didn’t have to spend hours on Google trying to piece together a collage and mosaic- everything was in front of me. The most worthy and notable acts are those whom let you into their world; give you details and finer points- as well as make it easy to connect with their impressive online portfolio. Our gorgeous duo have an impressive biography; an official website which is informative and current- as well as nearly a dozen online/social media sites where you can access them (and their music). It is surprising that the duo have a mere 1,748 (at the time of writing this review) fans on Facebook; 500-or-so acolytes across Twitter– I wonder where everyone is hiding? There are too many acts and bands that have thousands of followers; those whom expend no effort with their online presentation or music itself- there needs to be some form of equilibrium. With such a vast amount of glowing reviews, I am confident that Fair Warning will draw in multitudes of new faces. Having listened to all 11 songs on the L.P., I was deeply impressed and in awe of the duo’s range and potency; songs that are cut-throat and murder ballad-y the one moment- and tender and more studied the next. It is a tremendous collection that will see them ascending to the top of the musical ball pit; ensuring that their names are remembered for many years to come. Until that day arrives, the music world is assessing the album itself; becoming familiarised and enamoured with an act whom mean serious business. It was the album’s sophomore track, Breakneck Speed which compelled me to put (electronic) pen to paper- and highlight its wonders. It is a cut that is not the strongest on the album, but is a tremendously memorable and electrifying number- which is no faint praise.

Breakneck Speed

It is hard not to get whipped up into an inquisitive frenzy, upon hearing the initial seconds of Breakneck Speed. After a tub-thumping and punchy percussive slam, fiddling and effusive strings mix with spiralling acoustic guitar; the brief guitar moment supersedes to the merriment and uplift of the mood, which pairs ceremonial and jubilant strings with an infectious upbeat sway- your feet tap and start to move as you get carried away in the audio smile. There are no maladroit tones or lacklustre proffering; such a festival of simple joy is summoned up that it gets straight into your brain. The duo admitted that simplicity and effectiveness at the heart of their music; no clutter or complexity, everything has to be direct; as they attest: “Singing, fiddle, electric guitar, no tricks…You can hear everything, it’s bare…It’s hard to convince people to make a record like that now but the sound is fantastic, it’s so direct.” It is true that few records (or songs) around at the moment have such an alacrity and pure and unhurried sound. The initial moments put you in mind of the glorious Folk of the ’70s and ’80s; the train is pouring from the station and smoothly tracking the sun-kissed rails. In a sense the intro. has that timeless sound; it is a song that could have been spun in the 16th or 17th century; been around during the ‘Britpop’ regency (1993-1997); perhaps been played by Tim Buckley during his avant-garde period- is such a freewheelin’ and perfectly effortless opening coda. Where as albums tracks allude to the bitch retorts and revenge fantasies; drugs and the psychotropic effects they posses; of being strung-out and alienated, here events pertain to the romantic- seductive and wooing endeavours that did not have a happy end. When our heroine lets her voice come into the light; it begins with a heavy-heart: “Give you props for even trying“. The vocal projection mixes modern Folk with Country; there is a bit of Nashville in the vocal timbre and pronunciation- you can imagine our heroine in a southern state house; her low-down husband returning with a guilty conscience. With our anti-hero’s eyes bulging, it is said that “Cheap perfume, fake tan and rouge” is clinging to the night air; cold and unforgiving. It seems that someone is in for a disquisition or else some low hanging fruit is pounding the street corners. In the embryonic stages the percussion and electric guitar add some key elements and add emotional weight. The drums pervade and implore, ensuring that the words make their meanings felt; the guitar twiddles and strikes; beautifully recoiling and striking- linking lines together and ensuring that a constant energy is present. Whether recounting the break-up of an established relationship or documenting the disenchantment that comes with reality; someone whom seemed perfect, yet is becoming less viable and lovable by the second. Our heroine takes a single glance (at the song’s hound dog); decides that it is “hello, goodbye and sayonara.” With the simplest of touches, the duo manage to invoke vivid tableaux and startling scenes. Each listener will have their own version of events; a unique mini-drama reeling around their brain- for me we are in a dusky London bar (in winter); our heroine at the end of her tether and disjointed. Things may have been rosy and conducive to happiness, yet this perfect picture “fades to black“; our heroine’s voice is potent and direct yet composed of emotional and heartbroken tones- you sense that imminent escape is a possibility. As wine glasses are drained and the cold night air clings to the skin, our heroine is out of the door. Duetting with our hero, the duo’s voices combine and electioneer; testimony to a love story that has taken a dramatic turn. Whilst leaving “at breakneck speed“, our heroine plainly states: “You can tell your mother and father that you’re not the one for me.” In spite of decompartmentalized anxieties and romantic cessation, there is a mellifuousness and breeze still apparent; there are no spike-heeled stilettos or cigarette burns- our heroine’s voice is levelled and stoic; our hero’s guitar supportive yet sympathising. The track’s disreputable beau is being given a debriefing; he was playing the puppet master and controller- and now is being left in the dust. It would be interesting to see if Breakneck Speed’s diatribe stems from Thompson’s personal experiences (or is fictional) I am not sure, yet I feel that there is some truth and painful back story at work. Whomever has inspired such anger is ripe for disenfranchisement; the passion with which our heroine projects and strikes is impressive- made emphatic by Walbourne’s stirring guitar notes. With the sound of Eliza Carthy’s fiddle work a distant memory, the story progresses (the fiddles are back in the mix, but you cannot help but concentrate on the vocal). Our heroine is laying her heart bare; recalling how (her former love) would”pick a fight at every turning“; she is determined to not repeat any mistakes- “I’m a fool/No more you’ll run.” As it stands, our heroine has a “fragile, messed-up heart” (although the official lyric is “fragile, fucked-up heart“). I mentioned that there was an air of Country at work; the fiddle-guitar-percussion parabond, when unison with Thompson’s yearning voice put me in mind of (Patsy) Cline, (Tammy) Wynette and (Dolly) Parton, there are sizzling embers of some of Folk’s greats: Joni Mitchell, Patty Griffin, Alison Krauss and Joan Baez. I can tell that Thompson’s formative years involved a lot of musical investigation; soaking in Folk’s heroes and heroines; heavier and harder sounds would have been in the melting pot- which come through in her voice which is both strong yet vulnerable. With our hero (and cohorts) in support, a sandstorm of subtle (yet imploring) notes are summoned; backing our heroine’s defiant bite and emancipated spirit. Sending out a warning to her disgraced former (“Try not to call when you get lonely“) it is a clarion call; one that can be understood by all- and one that the song’s villain should heed to. Our heroine’s mind replays tortured scene and hurt; she is looking back at the ruins, and keen to expunge them from her mind. It seems that this chowederhead will not be so easy to erase; our heroine has moved on anonymously; is un-contactable and cannot be reached (“so don’t bother trying“). There is no self-destruction and booze-wrangling; our heroine is hitting the road and getting away from the troubled vicissitudes of a former romance. The duo ensure that there is a balanced blend of vintage and modern; vernacular and utterances mix modern-day sayings with traditional professions; bygone sonic sighs are paired with fresh and vibrant; it is not hotchpotch, instead effective and judicious. Its tones and projections not only speak to and relate to the younger generation; but can be tacit by more mature ears. It is perhaps strange to say that the chorus is catchy and uplifting (given that it is a testimony about escaping from the clutches of a brute); yet it gets to you; by the second or third rendition it becomes a stonewall sing along- and swirls around your head hours after the song ends. Knowing that our heroine (probably) is better off, the sense of heartache and stress subsides (from the listener’s mind); you are eager to hear what happens next and whether there will be any twists in the (viper’s) tale. In the final third, our heroine is determined to ensure she is left alone; telling her ex “Don’t ever write to me“, her voices rises and grips; making sure that the words are not blithely ignored or misunderstood- you can hear the conviction and clarity come through. “My phone is forever off the hook” as it happens; our heroine is on to pastures new and keen to put (an ugly) past behind her (In my cinematic rendition, I can see the sunset beckoning; far-away hills coming into view, as Thompson is aboard a train- staring through the window and blocking out memories of her former suitor). After a final reprisal of the chorus, events are concluded and tied up; with little ambiguity present, it appears as though she will be okay- and find her way to happiness. Once I completed listening to the song, I could not help but to wonder whether a peaceful resolution or a tough life lesson was the most abiding take-away. From the vocal tones, melody and composition it seems as though positive things await; that our heroine is okay but keen to get away from things- but perhaps there is a darker heartache under the skin. The song’s potency and sway not only lodges in your mind and makes its effects known, but you find yourself raising questions; deciding whether our heroine is in pain and in need of salvation- or whether she is genuinely okay. Obviously things are great now, but Breakneck Speed is the documentation of a brave woman tired of the destructive proclivities of love; keen to make her own future and forget about her former lover. The track is not over-produced or too shiny, instead it is uncluttered and pure; allowing each note and word to be clearly understood- without detracting from the overall sound. Our hero’s guitar work is effective, stunning and mobile; he manages to change skin and camouflage; commingling with our heroine when needed- and becoming more detached when the mood calls for it. The fiddle work is uplifting and augmentative; wonderfully tender, but potent at the same time. Percussive elements are impressive and temporized; it adds to the overall majesty of the track but does not impede too hard- it is a solid performance throughout. The punitive messages and hard truths that emanate forth can be adapted by all listening: we have all been in a situation similar to this, and as such, you always root for our heroine. The lyrics are intelligent and simple; emotive and pugnacious; defiant and nuanced- few contemporaries are capable of throwing all of this into one song. Thompson’s voice is stunning and strong throughout; comparable with the Folk greats, yet imbued with a modern and fresh edge; it is seductive and sensitive the one moment; belting and evocative the next. Her voice is something that shows its striking plumage through the L.P., and on Breakneck Speed, it brings each word to life- and ensures that the listener is put right into the heart of the song. There is nothing flimsy or cute about The Rails- instantly standing aside from a large percentage of the modern scene. As well as being deeply impressed by Breakneck Speed’s messages and sensations, I found myself falling for our duo. The guitar playing and instrumental touches Walbourne infuses are multi-layered and fascinating; displaying a genuine passion and consideration. Thompson’s sumptuous and centrefold tones seduce and romance; they hit hard and bite as well- she is the full package when it comes to vocalists. Both make their presence felt across the L.P. and it is a collection that covers a multitude of themes of subjects. I have been lamenting the under-appreciation and sacrilegious ignorance provided towards Beck’s 2005 mini-epic Guero. Being a natural predecessor and update of (his masterpiece) Odelay, the L.P. is abound with style changes and genre-fusing; hispanic and Latin mandates sit alongside Electronic music and Hip-Hop. Kaleidoscopic visions that mingle Brazilian flavours with Indie Rock stylings. The master never packs too much into one song, instead remaining a master craftsman; ensuring that his unique sensibilities and personality are in tact throughout- and a giddy thrill is elicited with each new song. Beck was 34 when he recorded that album and the maturity and sense of restraint resulted in a thrilling record- yet one that was not too unfocused and jokey. I bring up this parable, as our London duo have a similar quality. Although they commonly work with the Folk Rock borders, they manage to change tempo and costume across each track; enjoy a similar sense of experimentation- but never lose that unique and dependable core. Whereas a less mature duo would lean towards crassness and ineffectualism, the combined wisdom and talents of our heroes results in a tremendous listen. In the same way as I cannot get Guero’s gems out of my mind (it is currently riding shotgun in my car at the moment), songs like Breakneck Speed posses a similar Manifest Destiny. It only took a single listen for me to succumb to the charms on offer- and will likewise affect you.

I am sure this is not the most high-profile and authoritative review the duo have (and will) received, but I hope I have gone some way to picking apart their music; providing thought and insight into where they are now; what makes them tick- and where they are headed. Both are fascinating and alluring characters. Thompson has a spikiness and wit that comes across in print; a sheer beauty and captivation that comes across in photos- and an incredible voice and songwriting talent that is evidenced across every song on Fair Warning. Walbourne is one of the most imperialistic and eye-watering guitar talents in the world; seemingly capable of mixing it up with the greatest on the current scene (and some of the all-time legends). From a smattering of interviews, I have gleamed enough to know that the duo are a little tentative (it is early days) yet dedicated and confident enough to know that they will be a huge name before too long. Over the next few months they are taking their music to festivals and venues; from Cambridge to Chester- as well as their London home surroundings. HMV named the duo as one of their tips for 2014; many magazines and website have expounded and promoted the talents of the husband-and-wife twosome. They may be based in London, but is seems that they need to start packing their suitcases. International regions will come a-calling, and the mesh of Rock and Folk will see them looking forward to busy touring schedules. I know that U.S. acts of a similar nature exist, and L.A. and California have bars and venues that are waiting for them. European and Australian quarters have burgeoning music scenes and an open-minded passion that means The Rails will be taking their startling parables across the globe. Songs such as Jealous Sailor and Panic Attack Blues are rife with energy and insight; nuance and lyrics that stick in your head and aer unshakable. What comes through richly and evidentially is the closeness and Teutonic bond that the duo share. The tracks are dripping with passion and understanding; the vocal and instrumental lines weave and spar with one another, and mix Thompson’s Folk D.N.A. with Walbourne’s Rock edges; his insatiable and augmentative guitar work beautifully links with Thompson’s voice- which is rife with conviction and authority. When speaking with The Telegraph, our heroine brought up a fascinating tidbit:

I grew up listening to Nirvana CDs and writing tortured songs in my bedroom. Folk wasn’t part of the conversation. I found my way here on a rather wayward path of my own.”

You can hear a Grunge sensibility come through in lyrics and vocal lines; there is plenty of raw and carnivorous numbers that are instilled with lacerating vocal turns. Although Thompson is a Folk goddess, she manages to mix in musical heroes from her youth- to create a beautiful beast. Walbourne has a naturally affinity for the guitar and a music; a passion to play as much as possible and enthrall audiences across the land. Our hero has ambitions to conquer the U.S.

All I really wanted to do when I was younger was play in clubs around America… That was a great time – although I spent most of it drunk.”

The future is going to hold some great treasure and prosperity. I have mentioned L.A. enough in this review, and there are locales and neighbourhoods which would welcome in The Rails. The Viper Room would be a venue they could inflame; it is a city which houses so many different clans and nationalities, that the duo could see themselves playing there for a long while. I will not fill their heads with U.S. scenes and bold proclamations, as I am sure that the duo have their own itinerary and agenda. Their music compels you to plan ahead; to envisage it being blared from speakers and jukeboxes across the U.S.; wowing cafe crowds across France- and compelling the beach bars of Australia. When the duo were speaking with The Telegraph, our two-piece had some unique and different views on music and the creative process. Walbourne said (with regards to his wife):

Kami comes out with whacked-out things I would never think of, because I know too many chords, I can hear what a song is supposed to do. I’m always trying to make it go a bit wrong. I picked that up in the Pretenders. Chrissie [Hynde] likes to f— things up a little bit, so something odd just pops out at you.”

I have stated duos are a lesser commodity; bands and solo acts still outrank and outweight them- but there is going to be a resurgence. They are less nervous and lonely than the solo act, and capable of presenting the same sort of majesty and force as four/five-piece bands- making them more economical and impressive. Folk is a genre that is still seen as niche and underground; that which appeals to certain people and has a limited appeal- balderdash. If you are a lipid excuse for a Folk act, then sure, people are not going to latch onto you. The genre is compelling and filled with beauty and grace, but there are plenty of darker and more introspective acts too. I feel that most have an impression of Folk that whips up images of river-side strumming and songs about nature and wildlife- it is a cliché that puts listeners off. If that is what you want, then there are plenty out there (whom can oblige), but as the likes of Laura Marling have shown, there is an abundance of quality, passion and genius to be discovered. When pressed about the Folk scene (and its inequities and distinctions), Thompson had this to say:

I have a real hatred of ‘wimp folk’, or nu-folk, adult females with an acoustic guitar singing in baby voices or anything that sounds a bit like folk but it’s really introverted shoegazing, like Mumf— & Sons… We’re not trying to be retro, we’re trying to be authentic, music for the people, by the people, songs so potent, and heart wrenching, they could have been written 500 years or 10 minutes ago, it doesn’t matter.”

I have seen too many adverts for the likes of John Lewis and Marks and Spencer; being scored by aimless and beiege singers with no personality or appeal- predictably butchering a classic song via the medium of a tedious and note-for-not cover. Just like Rock and Indie have bands that are more dog meat than filet mignon, so too does Folk. If you are not overly-familar with the genre, or have been scared by some rather dubious exponents of the brand, then I would advise you to take a leap and delve in. The Rails are not the only terrific duo inject something fascinating into Folk, but they are amongst the most impressive out there. I have been struggling to find many truly great London-based acts out there, and always love to proffer the music of acts based close to home. With the north and further-off extremities boasting the largest number of variegated and multifarious talent, the south has always lagged behind a bit. It is pleasing to see that London is making a comeback, of sort; putting forth some varied and incredible musicians- that are making sure eyes go back towards the capital. Of course, London has always had a thriving music scene, yet I feel that other parts of the country are better at mixing genres; offering range and broader colours- and ensuring that their music is not instantly disposable. With the likes of Gypsyfingers, Crystal Seagulls, Los and the Deadlines, The Tuts and Alison Levi being a few names (amongst the dozens of greats) capable of being massive future mainstays. The Rails are going to be staples of the best and most influential radio stations before too long, and they will achieve this through talent, perseverance, boldness and some romantic serendipity. Before I conclude (and give your eyes a rest), one more critical aspect has come to mind: that which regards age. Although The Rails’ two players have been making music (separately) for years and years, both are now in their 30s. Age and youthfulness are big selling points, and pre-pubescent snots such as One Direction and Miley Cyrus still pull in the big bucks. Although their music appeals to lowest common denominator fans and music-lovers, it is worrying that emphasis is still placed on age- the best music out there is made by those above the age of 25. My favourite album of last year was Queens of the Stone Age’s …Like Clockwork; my favourite this year is Caustic Love (by Paolo Nutini). The creators of both albums are past the 25-year-old mark (Q.O.T.S.A.’s members are in their 30s and 40s); it seems that a certain experience and maturity results in the most inspirational fans. Being 31 myself (and just starting to put my first songs together), I often worry that the music industry is remiss to extol the virtue of artists of a certain age- it is a baffling discrimination. Walbourne has been honing his skills and mastering his craft for years now (and can get even better); he would probably argue that time and experience is paramount with regards to creating the best music. It is debatable whether The Rails’ L.P. would have been as effective and stunning in younger hands; whether the duo would have amassed the necessary ammunition and experience five or ten years ago. They should have no fear, as they have many years ahead of them, and barely look a day over 21. A lot of my recent reviews have been somewhat duo-centric; something that I am pleased about, as I have discovered some of the best music currently available- as well as gained some insight into some wonderful musicians. It is great to read about how Walbourne and Thompson met; the distinct lives they had before- and how their shared love and passions manifests itself in their music. Both have a huge knowledge of music, as well as the Rock and Folk genres, and channel this in their stunning music. It is unsure just what the future holds in store, but our duo have gained a confidence and backing that should inspire them to keep plugging, playing and recording. As Thompson explained:

… I’ve done this on my own for a long time and it feels great to have a partner in crime to share the load. We spend all our time together, and bring the best out in each other, most of the time. Four hours into a rehearsal, I sometimes think, ‘What have I done?’ Especially when he won’t turn the guitar down. But so far, so good. Check back in a couple of years.”

Eyes and minds will surely be checking back in a couple of years, and the duo will surely have a lot of great stories to tell. I have heard some fantastic tracks and E.P.s this year; albums filled with turns and twists; acts whom have arrived from modest foundations- and looks set to be stars-in-waiting. Not only do The Rails have a rich pedigree and natural set of talents, but they have plenty to suggest that more songs are already in the works. When assessing Fair Warning, I reached the end of Habit, feeling that the duo had plenty more to say; that there were more to come pretty soon. Such was the urgency, effectiveness and passion of their music, that you get the impression we will see a hell of a lot more from the striking duo. A varied and thrilling live calender has been mapped out; the two-piece are taking their music to some diverse climbs; keen to seduce, charm, affect and win as many hearts as possible. In a realm and scene where hyperbole and over-exuberance are synonyms that can be applied to new musicians (and praise levied towards them), here is a duo whom are deserving of a lot more- and are pretty underrated at the moment. Plaudits from the likes of HMV and the press are much-deserved, and I predict that The Rails are going to be huge future names; one whom will inspire as well as constantly compel; and when it is all said and done…

THAT is something that few acts can claim.


Fair Warning Track Listing:


Bonnie Portmore- 9.6/10

Breakneck Speed- 9.6

Jealous Sailor- 9.5

Younger- 9.4

William Taylor- 9.5

Panic Attack Blues- 9.7

Send Her To Holloway- 9.7

Grace of God- 9.6

Fair Warning9.5

Borstal- 9.5

Habit- 9.6

Standout track: Send Her To Holloway


Follow The Rails:












Tour dates available at:



3rd: Hoxton Square Bar & Kitchen, London

14th: Sherwood Forest, Nottingham

27th: Dalby Forest, Dalby


4th: Delemere Forest, Chester

20th: Larmer Tree Festival, Salisbury

24th: Port Elliot Festival, St. Germans


3rd: Cambridge Folk Festival, Cambridge

14th: Green Man Festival 2014, Crickhowell

15th: Folk East Festival, Woodbridge


5th: Festival Number 6, Portmeirion


A free download of Bonnie Portmore can be accessed via:


The Rails’ previous videos can be viewed at:










Track Review: Little Dove- Into the Ground





Little Dove


Into the Ground.




The music video for Into the Ground is available via:

The album, Little Dove is available from:




1) Eyes

2) Misery

3) White Lies

4) Say Go

5) Into the Ground

6) Sink Ships

7) In My Bones

8) Not the One

9) Lion’s Den

10) When the War Comes

11) Let Me Fall



This L.A. duo have been setting alight U.S. audiences; drawing comparisons to the likes of The White Stripes along the way. There is a lot more to Little Doves than the defunct Detroiters; their music is germane and exhilarating; pugnacious and personable- they are a live act whom possess very few equals (and will be coming to the U.K. very soon).


IT was not so long ago that I featured Californian…

duo The Open Feel and their track, Sidewalk Zombies. To me, that reviewed marked a turning point and surprising apparition, as most of my reviews document U.K.-based talent. I have surveyed the odd North American talent such as David Ward and St. Paul and the Broken Bones, and it is always surprising when I get to do it. Our British acts have a great range of sounds, yet (by featuring a U.S. act) I get to go to another part of the world; see what sounds are being made elsewhere- and what may be arriving to our shores over the coming months. The media can be remiss when proffering international talent, and it has been at the epicentre of my recent discourse and egregiousness. To my mind, California is one of the most fervent and thriving musical hubs on the planet. Us over here tend to concentrate solely on what is happening on our doorstep, yet if you cast your eyes to Los Angeles and its environs, then you are in for a huge treat. A musician friend of mine (whom originates from Leeds, Yorkshire) was just there; in awe of California, she has made it a personal and professional goal to go back as often as possible- and soak up all the music on offer. I touched on it in my previous piece (about The Open Feel) by saying that the range of genres and acts on offer bordered on the profound:

In a blog post back in January, L.A. Weekly expounded the virtues and wonders of the music scene in Los Angeles. When explaining why the city was one of the most fertile stomping grounds for new musicians, they theorised: “We possess, of course, the requisite corporate music-industry behemoths: the Grammys, the major record labels and PR companies, Beats by Dre and Diddy’s Revolt TV, for starters. Equally important are our smaller cultural institutions, including the Smell, Pehrspace, Vex Arts, Dublab and the Do Lab, breeding grounds for emerging artists. Then there are the influential parties – Low End Theory, Das Bunker, the Do Over, Funkmosphere – which serve as breeding grounds for creative types. You’ll find exciting talent everywhere, from the Sunset Strip to backyard punk shows in East and South L.A.” Amongst the blog’s extemperanious outpourings, one of the most distinctive arguments was this: the range of genres on offer is staggering. Murs raps on the Sunset Strip; Echo Park’s The Growlers can be heard seducing in Echo Park; Latin Jazz can be heard wafting from downtown promenades and bars; The Entrance Band and Psych-Rock proceedings are often witnessed down at Silver Lake- the city is a mecca for diversity and music entnocentrisism. There is no boastfulness or arrogance; the city is open and all-inclusive, and as such, is marking itself out as the epicentre for new music. Of course, Nashville and Detroit offer up a great deal; New York and Seattle are axiomatic hubs for some of the U.S.’s best- and have provided some of the most legendary musicians ever. L.A. can be seen as the Dance capital of the world; a myriad of local labels provide sanctuary and nurturing for the city’s most ambitious folk, and festivals such as Coachella are amongst the world’s most important musical dates. There is a solitude and peacefulness that can enjoyed, and the clement and summery weather is conducive with prosperous and inspired musical mandates. Pitchfork wrote an article about the many San Francisco musicians who have departed for L.A., including Ty Segall and John Dwyer, who called L.A. “a place where creative people can come together, swap ideas; it’s a place of artistic cultivation. Plus I think there is a certain seedy, creepy mystery that has always lived here. It’s a good place for the freak, and the phantom.” Many out-of-towners have been drawn in by the great weather, the networking opportunities and the spaciousness the city offers up. Niche neighbourhoods and locales such as Venice Beach sees clans of musicians play and ply their trade; the natural beauty and diversities that is provided compels creative minds. With so much on offer, and with a humongous amount of diversity available on the Los Angeles menu, it is not a shock to see so many new acts coming through (here).

I came away from reviewing The Open Feel, determined to seek out the best and brightest that L.A. (and California) had to offer. Casting my lascivious and seduced musical eye about, it was not long before I came across my featured act. I shall introduce you to them anon, but I will raise a couple of other points (before I do). Heavier sounds and Garage Rock-infused temptations are present and (fairly) prevalent within the mainstream, yet in new music there is a slight scarcity- of the good quality sort, at least. When I reviewed Knuckle, and their White Stripes-cum-Led Zeppelin fusing, I was staggered by the power, potency and passion that was being offered up. As much as anything, there was a great deal of melody and catchiness; everything that music should offer was all present and correct- and nuance was provided in spades. It is the Garage Rock/Blues stylings that the music world needs more of; few acts are interesting in getting to the core of these genres, cross-pollinating elements from classic and modern day- and providing something hot, swaggering and emphatic. To my mind, the greatest mainstream acts (whom offer this up) are The Black Keys and Jack White. Having just taken receipt of The Black Keys’ latest L.P., Turn Blue, it is evidential that we need more of their ilk; acts whom pertain to their sense of glory and range- and leave a gaping smile on your face. That particular album is choked full with sharp and combustible Blues kicks; sprawling and multi-part ‘epics’; and reflectiveness in measures. The Ohio duo have output their fair share of albums, and are less immediate than on earlier cuts. That said, there is ample evidence to suggest that the two-piece will be offering up exciting and layered albums for many years to come. Civil war rival (and long-time detractor) Jack White seems to be in a dissociative state at the moment; embittered when it comes to The Black Keys- and keen to best them and up the ante at every opportunity. His forthcoming album Lazaretto, looks sure to not only galvanise existing fans (as well as draw in new ones) but also go some way to balkanising music to an extent. We have Black Keys fans; we have Jack White fans, and it seems like you are either in one camp or the other- with few exceptions (me included). White’s mandates are not a rederivation of his White Stripes work, but expand on the Garage Rock and Blues genres- and take your breath away. My point is, that these genres and this type of music does great things to the senses; offers sexualisation and seductiveness; kicks you in the heart and soul and grabs you by the hair; provides musical endorphins and eases the most severe depression. I have a lot of respect and time for the mainstream as a whole, yet for my money, there is not as much fascination and range as there could be. I have expounded the virtues of newcomers and sapling talent plenty, and shall do once more. In the recent cases of Knuckle and The Open Feel, here were two disparate acts whom showed how good they were; both are capable of being huge future players. It is not that I have Schadenfreude (when a mainstream act fails) but I am always happy when room is made available in the market; that which allows a new act to come through and provide a difference of opinion- something that is fresh and immediate. In my role as reviewer, I have evolved into a bon vivant; someone exposed to the decadent splendours that new music has to offer. I am a patriot and proud Brit at heart, yet I yearn to experience what the rest of the world has to give, what music is being made across other continents- and discover something truly staggering. I mention California and ‘heavier’ sounds, because to my mind, this combination is one of the most potent and psychotropic in all of music. There are some pioneering and long-sighted U.K. music publications whom are adopting and emphasising L.A.-based artists; making the public here aware of how good music can be- and what sounds will be on our shores very shortly. Before I bring Little Dove to your attentions, I will make one minor point: that which concerns band make-up. Our featured act are a duo (technically), and (in the case of Knuckle, The Open Feel, etc.) it seems to be a winning formula; a componency that seems to be conducive to tight and concentrated sounds- and proving that you do not need four or five players to make a truly wonderful sound. When I listen to the likes of The Black Keys (and The White Stripes) I am amazed by the kinship and relationship between the players; that borderline-telepathy that augments their music and gives you the feeling that more bodies would ruin their majesty. Knuckle’s two fellas have a natural bond and sense of camaraderie that not only allows free and organic songwriting, but leads to some jocular and enlivened live performances. The Open Feel’s boy/girl make-up provides sexual tension, some richer shades- as well as a relationship that is both professional and personal. I feel we may be onto something, when it comes to two-pieces and duo music; there is enough to suggest that this formation is producing some of the most diverse and spectacular music around.

Little Dove have not been on the scene for a long time, yet have laid down some spectacular Indie/Rock-cum-Blues/Garage Rock sounds that mark them out from their contemporaries. The L.A. duo have been whipping up a sandstorm of critical adulation; connecting with fans all across the globe- and ensuring that they are one of the most exciting names on the block. Our heroic twosome comprise:

Vanja James- Guitar and vocals

Dylan Cooper- Percussion

As well as being one of the most beautiful and striking women in music, James is also one of the finest talents, too. Her vocal parables contain strength and force in huge numbers; her axe work is amongst some of the most electrifying in all of music, and she is imbued with an innate passion and authority- when it comes to the genres of music she plays. Similarly, Cooper comes across as one of the most confident and pervasive percussionists in the musical ether; comparisons to Dave Grohl, Neil Peart and John Bonham are free from hyperbole and over-exaggeration. One of the things that impressed me most about Little Dove, is the range and style of their online portfolio. Not only is it easy to find the band online, yet when you do, there is a wealth of up-to-date and detailed information. Their official site is awash with live (and publicity) photos; live dates as well as songs- and an insightful biography. One of the things that erks me about new acts, is how few take the trouble to write a biography (let alone a great official site). People like me do not want to spend hours scouring Google, hoping that some interview exists that ‘fills in the blanks’. If you can’t be bothered to tell the public (and press) where you come from and what inspires you, then why would anyone take an interest? You never judge a book by its cover, yet if the book has no cover, you’re not likely to pick it up are you? I shall not rant excessively, but it is shoulder-sagging; when I hear of an act marked out as ‘Ones To Watch’; only to arrive at their Facebook page- and find that there are no personal details. You can only gleam so much information from the music alone, and if you are a fledgling act in the embryonic stage, then it is not good enough to offer perfunctory tidbits. Little Dove have an authoritative and eye-catching website; one which gives you all the information you need to know; plenty of press release links and interviews- as well as stunning and effective designs. Our L.A. duo also include (on their official site) an E.P.K. (electronic press kit); that which gives links to reviews as well as all the details that a reviewer could ever want- they get the point I am making here! The duo’s self-titled L.P. have been on the market for a little while…in fact, before I expand on this, here is some biography about Little Dove:

Little Dove played their first show at the Viper Room on April 7, 2013. In a year of being a band, they have accomplished more than most bands: They have toured, garnered radio play in the UK, France, and the Netherlands, directed and produced their own music video, had 2 of their videos have go viral on youtube,, and they have earned endorsements from equipment manufacturers. They have performed at the Viper Room and Canters in LA and the famed Casbah Club in San Diego, and plan on touring all over the states. Their single, “Into The Ground” was chosen by Nic Harcourt to start the show “Connections by Guitar Center” for the week of 7/20/13. Little Dove picked up UK and Europe management and booking in April of 2014, as well as representation from a boutique licensing agency. They expect to tour Europe in the fall of 2014, and are currently working on a new EP due to be released in Summer 2014. So how did Little Doves two members meet? Originally, VJ saw Dylan playing a show as a drummer with another band, while she still was living in San Diego. She remembered his unique drum kit and sound. Once she moved to LA, the two connected via facebook, had a couple of rehearsals in a Santa Monica rehearsal space, and the two clicked right away. Since VJ felt Dylan added a unique dimension to her existing songs and inspired her to create new songs with Dylan in mind, they agreed the project deserved a name of its own. They both agreed on the name Little Dove, and thus, the driving duo was born. Both fans and local music venues have been extremely supportive of Little Dove’s sound. Many refer to the early days of The White Stripes after viewing their gritty, energy-fueled performances. With no shortage of drive or enthusiasm, Little Dove has big plans for the future. This is a band to keep your eye on.”

Anyway… their L.P. has been gathering steady praise; media from the U.S. and U.K. (as well as other foreign parts) have been paying tribute to the album’s flair, consistency and brilliancy. Perhaps it would be lazy to compare the act directly to The White Stripes. Sure, they have a girl and boy (even if their roles are transposed); they are American; they play the sort of sounds that Detroit’s finest Garage Rock band used to- and that is about it. The duo is not married (or pretend to be brother and sister); they have no strict uniformity; they are in no danger of splitting up (any time soon at least)- the only similarity is the quality they provide. Being a White Stripes aficionado and latter-day Black Keys worshipper, I can attest to the fact that Little Dove are a different beast entirely. There are some similar flavour notes in their artistry and ambitions; something elements that tie them to The White Stripes- but you would be hard-pressed to find too many obvious comparisons. What the Californian two-piece give us, is music that is modern and etched with current-day relevance; yet also dips its toes in the past- and infuses sounds of past masters and mistresses. Having investigated the 11 tracks that their debut comprises, I have ample evidence to suggest that these two will be sharing the same sort of accolades that the Stripes and Keys possess- yet do so in their own way, with their own sound. The songs have a great range of emotions and subjects; the lyrics are well-considered and intelligent- and the sounds range from primal through to tender and introspective. In my conclusion I will give a capsule review (of the L.P. as a whole), but it is axiomatic to say that the media have taken the duo to heart. Looking at the below, and you just know that James and Cooper have a great deal of adoring sweethearts:

Over-all an impressive debut and with a proper recording contract and money pushed their way, god only knows what they could produce if this is anything to go by. “

Music Mafia UK

At present, Little Dove remain an unsigned act although, based on the strength of their debut, that can surely be just an ephemeral status. And with their recent acquisition of booking/management in the UK and mainland Europe (hence last year’s album is being promoted afresh in 2014), I predict this talented duo will soon become a globally successful phenomenon. They certainly have the potential for such. Let’s just hope that, with any future label backing and record deals, they’re able to maintain the raw, organic aesthetic that makes them such a refreshing listen at the moment.”

Metal Discovery

This is awesome, original songs, great riffs, soaring vocals and trash drum rock sound….and every song is great!”

Anonymous coop , iTunes

Even a Heart connotation comes to mind. The way Annie Wilson of Heart sings in 1977 in front of the huge crimson “Heart” logo in her blue “bad school girl” outfit with the white dots on it, – here you are – is an ethos that sounds to be chased relentlessly by this duo, even though they might not even be aware of said group. Little Dove, as an enterprise organized for silence massacre – logically – sounds to be a legitimate club act already, and I can’t wait to hear these slick, elemental songs revealing their faces amidst professional production standards.”

Noise Shaft

This band has a sound all their own. Really cool sound with lots of power!! Love this band.”

Chewbaccanando, iTunes

So, what are we dealing with style-wise? Comparisons to The White Stripes are abound throughout previous reviews of this duo and, although there are marginal similarities, for me, that’s about as redundant a comparison as likening Little Dove to Winnebago Deal, the UK two-piece. It’s ultimately a journalistically lazy comparison by equating bands of minimal constitution to each other, and one that undermines Little Dove’s creative individuality. The band, themselves, have quite simply opted to describe their style as rock/indie on their Facebook page although, as with all umbrella genre tags, it unjustly simplifies Little Dove’s musical stylings. Generic they are not.”

Metal Discovery

When you go for the music “itself”, the ensuing shape reminds me of the most wildest-, the wildestest – sorry about that – top form of Kidneythieves, – a fellow industrial cyberneticorganism act from Lost Angeles – consorted with an image of delirium-grade Nirvana. You can hear verbatim harmonic structures from certain Nirvana songs, but they are complimented by freshly fabricated and relevant ideas. The lead singer chick can sing like there is no tomorrow, while sticking to a guitar with both hands in the process. Her rhythm guitar playing is surprisingly ballsy and relevant, as is the rhythm section, that fuels and guarantees crude yet efficient beat-backrop environments for the crystal clear respective anatomies the songs convey.”

Noise Shaft

It’s difficult to avoid thinking of The White Stripes when you first hear Little Dove. Yet Jack and Meg’s influence was such that almost any two-piece blues rock band is bound to do the same. That shouldn’t take anything away from Into The Ground, a stomping blues assault packing a mega riff and an incessant, pounding drum beat. Don’t write this LA duo off as White Stripes imitators – their self-titled debut album does more than enough to suggest they’re a fearsome proposition in their own right.”

One Album A Week

Based out of LA, Little Dove are heading to the UK/Europe for some serious live shows and festival dates this year and in 2015. Famed back in the US for their gritty, energetic live shows, there’s going to be nothing standing in the way of these ones-to-watch.”

Never Enough Notes UK

Pounding straight into ‘Eyes’ Little Dove show a statement of intent to hammer you with the kind of songs the white stripes used to write before they went all arty and English? towards the end. Not that Little Dove are mere stripes copyists, vocalist Vanja James has a broader vocal range giving every song a huge epic feel while still retaining a basic blues stomp blueprint. Throughout the 11 tracks on this self-titled self-released album there isn’t a dud, recent single ‘Sink Ships’ is easily a highlight showcasing the band at their most stripped back. Little Dove are just one of numerous new bands showing that you don’t need major label backing to create some noise, you just need some cracking tunes and to put the effort in. Brilliant brilliant stuff.”

Stuart Brenton, Happy Days Music UK

…Likewise for Vanja’s fuzzily distorted guitar. Thus, the backbone of their music, while minimalist in constitution, production and overall sound, and indubitably an antithesis to the over-produced, clinical sonics of a modern-day Pro Tools polish, is actually a refreshing blast of organically conceived and executed music. Where the album genuinely shines, though, is in Vanja’s remarkably powerful voice.”

Mark Homes, Metal Discovery UK

With the two players and unique drum-kit there is a stark sound to the music that heightens the material to a space that entrances and captivates. Simple pared back rock that spills of emotional context and the essence of the spirit of indie music. The percussion resonates of that primitive dance that still lives within us ensuring the listener becomes engaged with the sound and just wants to join in while circling the flickering firelight.

Little Dove is a fresh new gritty rock duo from Los Angeles CA. Featuring Vanya James, a left handed guitarist/vocalist, and Cooper providing the backbeat on the drums. Whats Dylan interesting about this project is that they have a surprisingly full sound for a duo, and drummer Dylan plays on a kit that he has made himself, using items such as dinner ware to make some big percussive sounds. Little Dove is happy staying a duo project, and their live performance echoes the early days of the White Stripes. Mix all this in with well-crafted songs filled with catchy hooks and soaring melodies, and you see indie music doing what it does best.”

Real Magic TV

The actual music, while largely adhering to gritty, punk-edged garage rock is elevated way above the simplicity of its foundations by Vanja’s incredible vocals. With a wide-range, she has power at both the low and high ends of her voice. In terms of tonality, it has blues, rock, punk and soulful qualities… often simultaneously; an amalgam of styles, but idiomatically her own. And, most importantly, the profundity of emotion she’s able to convey is astonishing, and strikes a chord in the very core of my being. It’s difficult not to be moved by singing with so much affectively compelling depth.”

Metal Discovery

I was keen to introduce Little Dove for a few reasons, predominately of course for the music – but also…Their first gig was only 8 days ago (4th April 2013) at The Viper Room, have already gained TV exposure, have a catalogue of music, a live EP recording…. A home made drum-kit which includes items such as a Clothes Hamper and a Salad Bowl which Dylan calls The Drumster…. An EP in production, a US tour scheduled and a European tour in planning…. An EPK, which makes the whole process of finding out about the band readily available.”

Indie Mirror

The mark of a truly rounded band whom expound meritocratic principles, is the way they adapt their music for the live arena- the effect they provide through the stereo, as well as in the flesh. I have seen a lot of great new acts whom seem tight and mesmeric in the studio, yet have little to recommend as a live act: no patter or personality and performances that stick to close to the studio equivalents. Likewise, many musicians are great live performers, yet their recorded material seems comparably tame and stagnated- striking a natural balance is a hard thing to do. Little Dove have been gaining plaudits and plus points with regards to their album, yet they seem to be an incredibly engaging and memorable live act. When they come over to London (I hope they do), I will witness it first-hand, but I have seen enough reviews that suggest that the duo are a very special proposition. In terms of exposure in the U.K., Little Dove have made some impact, yet to my mind more can be done. Publications like Never Enough Notes and Metal Discovery can only do so much, and it should fall to some of the larger outlets (national newspapers, N.M.E. etc.) to do their fair share. It is great having the backing of your native land, but if your music is phenomenal, then it is only right that other nations start proffering this fact. I hope that the ensuing months see a reappropriation and rectification, as Little Dove have shown themselves to be most worthy; an act that can seamlessly transition into the mainstream- and have a natural home over here, should they wish. One of their album’s finest tracks arrives in the form off Into the Ground. It is a track that has been earning major kudos across YouTube and SoundCloud, and is a song that resonates with their fans- and perfectly distils their essence and unique sound. Few modern-day acts have such a hard-hitting and intoxicating sound; there are not many whom elicit the same sense of passion and force- which sticks in your head for a long, long time. I sat down to surmount and surmise Into the Ground; try to capture its essence- and ensure that those of you reading this, are compelled to listen to it.

After the spectral and echoed wail that beckons the track, arrives a crunchy and bloodthirsty guitar slam; backed by percussive pugilism, it is an evocative and urgent opening. Keen as I am to dispel and temporize any (early-) White Stripes comparisons, a sensation of Jimmy the Exploder, When I Hear My Name and Cannon (from The White Stripes) can be detected within the opening few seconds. The introductory moments whip up so much fervency and primal lust, that you get caught up in submissively. Our heroine arrives on the mic. to announce some direct utterings: “I’ve been my worst for so long/I don’t know what my best looks like.” There is a power and spike to James’ voice, and it is instilled with flair and sex appeal; hard-hitting hob-nail boots and razor blade sunsets- some of Alison Mosshart’s cutting bite comes through. After the spiralling and stomping mantra of the opening, there is little time to relax; the duo are keen to implore and campaign as staunchly as possible- the combination of guitar and drum in the sapling stages is relentlessly pummeling. You can almost hear the rose between our heroine’s teeth; blood trickling down her lips and whiskey in hand, it is a twilight dance that offers no surrender. In the song’s video, James is wrapped in a film; a sheet perhaps that envelopes her- as she sings through it, the material almost being swallowed as she sings. Perhaps it is an ample and apt metaphor to convey the track’s lyrics; those which see our heroine sticking it to the man; trying to get out of a detached life- that she has grown tired off. Lines such as “Cuz I’ve been cheating the system/try to buy me a new life/And they’ve been throwin’ them stones/yeah they’ve been throwin’ so long” are delivered with raw emotion and directness. There are no histrionics or needless vocal acrobatics; the matter-of-fact-cum-f*** you delivery sees our heroine’s voice hit hardest; its conviction and delivery cannot be faulted. The parables and truths that emanate from Into the Ground are from a personal place; the most heartfelt and honest words that James scribed (for the album) and as such, you are compelled to root for her; intoxicated by the knife-edged tongue that chews the words- and sets them on fire. Early plaudits must be levied towards the instrumentation and composition. There is a definite touch of late-’90s/early-’00s Garage Rock mixed with Q.O.T.S.A. punch; it stamps and smashes with a linear concentration and deterministic swagger that is straightforward but hugely evocative. Cooper marks himself out as a drummer to watch; possessing of a power that adds emotion and potency into every beat. James ramps up the tension and pressure; matches Cooper’s percussive rhythm as well as adding in sparks of electricity and grimey and Blues-infused stagger. Our heroine is surveying the facts of the matter and the truth of her situation; caught in an emotional and situational quagmire, she foretells: “Wait for the sound of your footsteps/still you are gone.” It is well worth watching the video (along with the song), as the first 55-or-so seconds are striking and wholly befitting of the song’s mood. Close-ups of our heroine’s lips pressed against the sheet (I shall find a more apropos term to describe it) are elicited; you find yourself staring at her movements; encapsulated by her words and the visuals of the videos- it is something that draws you in and does not let go. Before the video’s storyline changes and mutates, our heroine has some telling and forceful words: “When you don’t hear a sound/I’ll burn it into the ground.” The pace and ferocity rise incrementally; becoming more jagged and animalistic with every second. It is rare to hear something so honest and raw in 2014; sounds that have turn-of-the-century flavours, given an updated nuance. The hypnotic allure of the composition does not let you out of its grip; in the video our duo sway and nod their head, enraptured and mesmerised by the grumbling and brutal pound. As the video goes from black-and-white to colour, appropriately more colour and vivacity is thrown into the mix. Our heroine’s voice is less punctuated and dark; it opens up and becomes more enlivened and wracked. The Punk/Indie edge is very much present, but the power-o-meter is ramped up to 12; with microphone-bursting emotion James’ tongue twists like a viper: “They gave out enough rope/to tie up for hanging/you did it all on your own/for things not worth saving.” Lyrics paint mordent and deathly projections against a jet black canvas- yet one which offers cracks of redemption. From an intimate shot of our heroine’s (ruby-red) lips, the composition frames the band; blurred and obscured (as though viewing them with tear-strewn eyes) our duo rock their asses of; nod and stagger zombie-like; succumbing to modern-life gospel that James is preaching. Any comparisons with Detroit’s former brother-sister-husband-wife-red-white-and-black parabond are soon dispelled; the themes presented are more crepuscular and introspective (early Stripes material did not tread such darkened avenues). We see that our duo are still cocooned in sheets; they are almost shrink-wrapped and suffocating. Given that thoughts such as “put on the suicide suit/count the basement’s steps/the body rattles and shakes/til there is nothing left” accompany it, once more, medium and subject blend organically. Our heroine’s thoughts and soul is more soothed and less anxious now; yet Into the Ground must have been inspired by some rather capricious and turbulent horror shows- it all comes through in the performance. The production is clear and uncluttered, which allows James’ axe to wield, strike and maim. The composition barely changes course of delineation; the single-mindedness of the sound does not detract at all, but instead adds emphasis and conviction to the song’s words. Cooper’s swamp-dwelling percussion hammers and spatters with reckless abandon; it is a facet that is weaponized and ballistic- the duo’s musical partnership is an axis of pure electricity. Our heroine’s voice is not content to merely shout its intentions; there are soulful undertones (Aretha Franklin and Nina Simone spring to mind) as well as Blues and Garage Rock hybrids- when combined you get an instrument capable of doing anything. The video document’s the band’s torment and anxieties; our heroine’s scarlet lips are vivid and stunning- they score words that get inside your head and seduce your inner recesses. The video itself sees our heroine pressed against the material wall; looking forward she is trapped in a spider’s web; she seems lost and desperate for salvation and resolution. The final minute is a more sedate (well, almost) and calmed affair; the blitzkrieg rush abates, and the lights are brought down. James’ voice becomes more emotive and sweeter (which highlights the emotional and octave range that she possesses). The scenery becomes more vampiric, as the final chapter is written; our heroine introduces her most honest and earnest words on the track. With the vocals more distorted and hazier, James lets it be known: “Could anything be so still?/Death wish does what it will/Your body may be gone/but all your blood is mine/and we will shine/we will shine.” Throughout, our heroine’s voice drips with intent and power; it is hard to ignore such a passionate and gravitational pull- you are sucked in and compelled. A scratchy and springy riff mingles with lighter (yet no-less-impressive) percussion, as the mood explodes; finally our heroine manages to break free from the shackles of emotion (and in the video she manages to tear through her fabric coffin). The words “we will shine” are projected with so much force and potency, that they stand out as the headline: the redemption amidst the heartache. In the video, scenes become more frenetic and liberated. Both of our duo are free (Cooper is bare-chested at this point); the riff and pummel returns to its swaggering stomp- and the energy ramps back up, once more. In the final moments, the energy and dominance does not fade; our hero’s drum work is brutal and demonized; our heroine’s guitars are cackling, grumbling, spitting and a whirling dervish of sound. The song’s mantra (“When you don’t hear a sound/I’ll burn it into the ground“) is unveiled, re-injected and repeated in the final seconds; our heroine’s voice hits its emotional peak, as she is overwhelmed by the mood- yet one feels that an exorcism of sorts has been performed. When the song ends, a myriad of thoughts and emotions spring to mind. The unrelenting and militaristic beat and drive that defines the song, is a snaking and wild beast; something that lodges in your brain and will not let go. Like The Black Keys have proved (on their latest album, Turn Blue), tracks such as In Time and Fever are most memorable- complete with catchy and insatiable hooks. Into the Ground is no one-dimensional song; as well as boasting a vintage Blues/Garage Rock composition, there are multiple reasons to love the song. Cooper’s percussive inputs are sturdy, powerful and delirious; not only capable of keeping up with the song’s ragged punch, but keep it in check- and add to it emphatically. Lesser drummers would not instill the same energy and nuance; there are fills and moments that add sparks and bright colours into the palette- and keep the song mobile and compelling. James proves herself to be one of the strongest front women in new music; possessing a voice that is capable of summoning up vividity and startling lustre. At its heights, the vocals are demonic and possessed; demonstrative of pain and inner turmoil- few contemporaries are owners of such striking lungs. Our heroine is also capable of softness and sensitivity; the track’s embers pay tribute to this. With such a range and breadth to her voice, each line of Into the Ground comes to life; sticks in your heart- and remains in your consciousness after the first listen. James’ fret work is impressive and imperious; able to muster up a tremendous Moltov cocktail; one that ignites and burns. Whilst many are quick to run to the White Stripes well (certain songs on The Stripes’ debut are comparable by sound), James (as well as Little Dove) are no second-rate equivalent. Their individual spirit and ambitions come through; they can take tiny elements of other acts and modify and mutate them perfectly; inject a huge chunk of personal experience and flair- and come up with something new and bold. There may be stronger tracks on Little Dove (which is a compliment in itself), but Into the Ground is one of the most personal- and something we can all relate to. There is a sense of malevolence and grit; raw passion and deep anxieties- these emotions bubble through with clarity and conviction. On the whole, you are determined to re-play and re-investigate the track, delve into the band’s back catalogue- and immerse yourself in their album. It is almost ritualistic for critics to expound the virtues of a new act; only for them to be conflagrated within weeks. Our pioneering L.A. heroes will be a serious name to watch, and a duo with a hell of a lot to say- who sure of hell know how to say it (better than anyone else).

The duo’s album is a triumph in itself. The tracks have unique personalities and voices; each will enrapture and seduce. The opener (Eyes) is a brooding monster; one which speaks of: “I’ve got eyes in the back of my head/we are the monsters/we are the freaks.” When the War Comes is self-reflective and inward; its haunting moments bring life to words such as “Momma momma what have I done/everything has burned/down to the rubble/down to dust/nothing I have learned.” The defiance and pugnacious determination of Say Go tells us: “Don’t say a word/don’t make a sound/No I’m not gonna listen/got all their rules/took all their notes/no I’m not gonna give in.” My standout cut was Lion’s Den, an incredible and exciting coda that provides curious images and twilight scenes; our heroine sheaves her tongue and directs it towards the anti-hero: “Where will you go when it runs out/Using your mind and not your mouth?/When the blood starts to boil/When everything’s in turmoil/Where will you go?” There is plenty more contained within the album; a collection that offers up something for everyone, and is capable of uniting clans of Indie/Garage Rock fans- as well as drawing in lovers of disparate and diverse genres. When conducting an interview with I Know Where Its (sic.) At, the Californian duo were asked about their influences and past endeavours. James was asked about her influences:

Aretha Franklin is probably my favorite vocalist. But I definitely look to bands like Against Me!, Rocket From the Crypt, Queens of the Stoneage – as influences. And Rival Sons! Love those guys.”

You can hear the soulfulness and power in James’ voice; that same sort of empowered and uplifting vocal that gets under your skin; an incredible musicianship which puts you in mind of Homme’s gang- she can mingle Soul and Desert Rock with aplomb and seemless conviction. Cooper’s biggest influence is Led Zeppelin; an admiration and intuition that comes through in the powerful and emphatic drumming. When the duo were asked what advice they would give to new musicians (starting out), James stated:

When you are starting out, try to collaborate with as many people as you can. If you plan to thrive (make a living) in music, then study up on business. Talk to business owners and people that own their own businesses, even ones that aren’t related to music. You’ll be putting in long hours, and if you want to get stuff done, and you want to see your project go somewhere – you’re going to be doing the hustle yourself. Don’t expect any magical band fairy to come along, go “poof!” and make you famous. Do it because you love it, treat people with respect, and play from your heart, always.”

Cooper offered some prudent advice:

Don’t give up. That’s the only difference between musicians and regular people… Musicians don’t give up.”

You hear genuine musicians come through; those whom are indebted to an in awe of music- and are keen to pay it back. A sense of passion and heart comes through strongly, and the band’s itinerant ambitions are sure to see them reap the rewards. On the evidence of Into the Ground (and the album), the duo should prepare themselves for a long career and emphatic support. As it stands, they have over 2,000 supporters on Facebook; over 9,000 followers on Twitter– from all around the world. Few modern acts (in the same stage as them) have that wealth and mass of patronage. I am not surprised, to be honest, as I stated (in my opening) that the sounds they are currently playing are amongst the most sought-after and in vogue. That is not to say that Indie/Garage Rock is a fashion statement, just that musicians are acts are starting to realise how effective and appealing those genres out; how many people want to hear the best examples of the breed- and how the type of music Little Dove have mastered never goes out of style. It is fair to say that there are hints of The White Stripes in their overall sounds, yet there is a bit of Queens of the Stone Age and Led Zeppelin- one should not instantly compare acts with one another. Lazy journalism and myopic insight creates slovenly comparables, so you should judge their music on its own merits, as it has a fantastic individuality and personality that is overwhelming and stunning multiple audiences. The duo’s songwriting hails from personal and real-life events; James often bringing lyrics and ideas to Cooper- before they are fleshed out. Before I conclude and offer some proclamations and predictions, when asked- by U.K. Music Directory– about how songs come about, James suggested:

I’m looking at the track listing now. The song lyrics are inspired by real life people I’ve met along the way. A lot of metaphor mixed in with literal facts, and snapshots of memories in my mind. “Into The Ground” is probably the most personal song – it started off about an internal struggle – the kind we all have with ourselves, but for some reason I could not finish the song – I only had the first couple of lines. When someone close to my family took his own life, I was able to finish the song, in his honor. “When The War Comes” is also a really personal song for me – I’m not a fan of war and wish we could find a more peaceful solution to the world’s differences.”

The two-piece have a conviction and sense of ambition that shine through on their L.P.; they are keen to conquer the globe and have made some great strides. Recently, the duo won the backing of a U.K./European booking agent (and representation), which means that they will be touring hard and wide. It will be exciting when they bring their sounds and sights to us in the U.K., take them across Europe and win over a wealth of new fans and faces. There are venues here in London such as Koko, Cafe Oto and Plan B, which seem almost tailor-made for our duo. With the likes of The Black Keys riding the crest of critical acclaim, acts such as Little Dove will not only be gaining some of their fans, but (in years from now) be in their position. It is going to be an exciting 2014/15 for James and Cooper, whom are growing in confidence and stature. When I Know Where Its At asked the two-piece the classic interview question- where do you see yourself in five years’ time?- James had this to say:

Hopefully we will have some serious tour dates and big festivals in the US and Europe under our belts. I hope we get to break through to the masses so hopefully Little Dove will be a household name, and our bills will be paid, and we can afford to drive decent cars, n’ stuff.”

Our heroes should have no fear, as nice cars and paid bills will just be the start of things; when their new E.P. arrives we will get to witness a duo at the peak of their creative trajectory; an act whom are amongst the most underrated new acts in the world. I hope that more of the high-profile papers and websites give paen to Little Dove, as we here have few acts that provide such weight and range- it is high time that more in the U.K. are initiated to their music. For the time being, immerse yourself in Into the Ground, as well as their album. They belong to a wider audience, and I can see radio stations (here) such as Absolute, Kerrang! and XFM latch onto (and promote) Little Dove with glee, and I shall make sure that I do my bit to spread their gospel. I am going to listen to Into the Ground for the tenth time (it is a song that offers up something upon each new listen), and keep my eyes on the social media sites- to see when Little Dove are coming my way. In a week that is promising sunshine, warmth and radiance, the music of the L.A. duo seems almost too perfect; that which you can listen to with the car windows wound down, as well as blaring from the kitchen (whilst holding a glass of wine). If you do nothing else today…

THEN make sure you check out this scintillating act.


Little Dove Track Listing:

Little Dove, Little Dove

Eyes- 9.7/10

Misery- 9.6

White Lies- 9.7

Say Go- 9.8

Into the Ground- 9.7

Sink Ships- 9.7

In My Bones- 9.7

Not the One- 9.8

Lion’s Den- 9.8

When the War Comes- 9.7

Let Me Fall- 9.8

Standout track: Lion’s Den


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E.P. Review: Second Hand Poet- All My Life





Second Hand Poet

All My Life.




The Surrey-based solo star has recently signed with DyNaMik Records; a backing that will see his name being promoted far and wide. His music offers up escape, gentle beauty and stunning reflection, but best of all, an honest glimpse into the inner thoughts of a bright young talent- with songs that everyone can relate to.


A great deal of time music involves a lot of D.I.Y. considerations.

I bring it up, as my featured artist has made his name with his bedroom-created music; putting his moves and ambitions together within the ensconments of home. As well as giving the sounds an intimacy and sense of character, home recording (and a D.I.Y. approach) can be quite a prudent and effective method of recording. For any new musician, finance is always a consideration, and a lot of acts limit their output early on- aware of the high costs involved with studio recordings. From my own perspective, I have hesitated and put ambitions on hold; reduced the capacity and potency of various songs- aware of how much the resultant output will cost. I have touched on this previously, but the core of my discourse revolves around the issue of cost; how much it takes to put simple movements on tape- and produce just a single song. Unless you have a record label backing you, and hearty endorsement, the new musician has to do everything themselves. The base considerations such as rehearsals and planning can all by realised cost-effectively, but the true price comes when you get the studio bill. It is an unavoidable and necessary step for every musician, but I often wonder if the issue of money is scaring off new artists; making them put projects on the back burner- and compressing their scope and inner visions. Because of this, there has been a rise and fervency of musicians recording their fledgling steps from their own homes; making use of what is around them, in order to save money. It is not just financial efficiency and belt-tightening that is a big plus, but a certain something can be heard from home recordings; a sound that is delicate and tangible, emotional and sparse- but it does have some down sides. It works if you are a solo artist (and an acoustic act), but if you belong within a band, then that route may not be a possibility in reality. It may be something that I will need to conjugate and digest later on, so I shall leave it aside for the moment. Over the past few months I have looked around the country, and seen what is on offer from all parts; what various regions and their musicians are coming up with- and how it differs from area to area. As someone based near London, I am keen to survey what ‘local’ acts come up with. Bands such as Crystal Seagulls and Los and the Deadlines are some of the capital’s most promising newcomers; aside from their ranks, there are some fervent solo artists whom are making their impressions felt. Emily Kay and Alison Levi are a couple of female sole wonders offering up something special; they are amongst a small group of truly unique artists capable of making big changes within the music industry. Outside of London, Surrey is providing some keen talent; those whom could well relocate to the capital- yet are providing some indication of what the home counties are all about. As my featured act emanates from Surrey, it not only raises the subject of location and county lines- but also the issue of underrated and unique sounds. When looking at the best that new music has come up with, Surrey is perhaps not a county that is amongst the big hitters. I have often wondered why London and the home counties are not producing a huge amount of big names and stars; how come other counties are leading the charge and grabbing the attentions. Perhaps I am getting bogged down in the romantic idea that London is the music capital of the U.K.; this is where all music’s best and brightest are calling home. For my money, the north of England is playing host to the best new music of the moment, and the most ambitious and fervent talent on the block; the most diversity and style- that certain something that means critical eyes are being trained to these locales. In spite of the north’s hegemony, I am seeing southern counties making a comeback and laying their claim to glory; staking their share of the public attention. Recent review subjects such as Nina Schofield have caused me to belive that a resurgence and reappropriation is under way. The Surrey-born heroine is one of the freshest and most striking voices on the scene at the moment, and is going to be a name to watch closely. Acts such as Chess, Elena Ramona and Emma Stevens are doing the county pride, and it appears that few bands are making strides to add their names to the list. It is an odd thing, but it is the solo artists that are making Surrey glow at the moment; injecting urgency and quality into the local market. It is hard to speculate as to what exactly is causing this, but the proximity to London is an important consideration. Being located so close to its borders, there is a sense of dream fulfilment and escape. The capital provides the money, facilities and natural home for fulfilment and opportunities; something that musicians crave and demand- and I feel a lot of Surrey-based acts see London as a refuge of sorts. The home counties have small and dedicated crowds, yet there is not the wave of attention and chances that London can offer up. Because of this (and the chances that are there for the taking), some ambitious and stunning music is being laid down- by those based in Surrey. It is not that I have a lack of patriotism and loyalty to the county I was born in, but London (and the big cities) should be showing what it is made of; encouraging local talent in, and hustling for the majority share of the critical eye. Going back to my early subject of lack of funds and the expensiveness of music, the capital at least houses a majority of the biggest labels and venues- locations where talent can play and electioneer; with the eyes of record labels underneath them. I have seen a lot of acts and artists outside of London yearn to play the likes of The Borderline, Koko, Roundhouse and Ronnie Scott’s; not only bring their music to new faces, but hope to spike the interests of watching labels. Before I get down to investigating Second Hand Poet, I will talk (quickly) about the solo realm; and how underrated certain participants are. There still seems to be a bias towards bands and the music they play. In a sense it is understandable, as historically, band music has provided the fullest and most impressive sounds. Bands provide weight, energy and force, whereas solo acts tend to project subtler and less weighty sonics. Whether a sense of sexualisation and passion (bands provide) is seducing ears (and missing out on the solo sector), I am not sure, but there does seem to be something in it. Solo acts can provide some of the most colourful, invigorating and impassioned music; give a sense of intimate personality and self-reflection- that a band would be unable to. In the recent case of Shiftin’ Shade (Portuguese-born Darren Pereira), my point is certainly valid. Whilst employing the services of vocalists such as Adam Hume, the vast majority of the outpourings and sensations of Shiftin’ Shade are Pereira’s. The Leeds-based talent is amongst the most exhilarating and spellbinding new acts out there; someone whom can unleash a riot of Electro-Swing charm and joy with seeming effortlessness. Ordinarily, the same kind of motion and gravity would be synonymous with a band, so I was pleasantly surprised when I heard Shiftin’ Shade. I feel that too many lone acts are being overlooked as it is assumed that their music is not going to be as worthy and memorable as band-made movements- this is just plain myopic ignorance. In my pages, I have highlighted dozens of solo acts whom can mix it with the groups; overwhelm and supersede their sounds- and win eager ears. The plight of the new musician is fraught and difficult enough, so I always feel that the best and more talented- whether they are a solo artist or band- deserve a fair hearing; equal footing and a proper trial. With so many eager young singletons making plans to seduce their local crowds (as well as come to London to settle), we are often in danger or overlooking brilliant talent. It brings me to the case and story of Jamie Tipson; the man behind the Second Hand Poet- and one of the names to watch this year.

I am familiar with Tipson’s music already, having reviewed him once previously. Being a Surrey-based talent, I am always keen to proffer and emphasise talent from my local area; yet there was no need for exaggeration at all. Having made his early moves from within his bedroom, Second Hand Poet’s work has a D.I.Y. and homemade feel that few modern artists project. One of the things that impresses me most about his music, is the sound itself; the raw and earnest honesty that comes through clearly. Perhaps being in the comfort of his own home suits Tipson, but there is a sense of relaxation and ease that is evident throughout; a settled and relaxed voice that adds weight and conviction to his music. Now under the care of DyNaMik Records, it seems that Second Hand Poet’s music will find new audiences and fans; but before I investigate our hero closer, here is some biography (forgive the inclusion of a certain someone!):

Having spent his formative years writing & developing his lyrics & guitar, now aged 23 he is working on building his fan base more & can be found gigging around his local scene & other areas in the UK & beyond. Continuing to play Acoustic nights around Surrey and London Jamie gained more live experience before retreating back to the four walls of his bedroom to write another album. In September 2012 Jamie released “Heaven Knows” as a single (a sample of which you can hear on the player at the top right of this page) and there is a link to his Bandcamp page on the album below. Second Hand Poets ‘Bedroom Acoustics’ EP was released in May 2013, the five songs that appeared on this were early versions of a couple of later used album songs, all recorded in one take on Jamie’s Mac. A humbling review by music blogger Sam Liddicot for the track ‘Little Sun’ followed describing the songs on the EP as “Painting the portrait of a talent who could supersede the local scene and make his way to festivals and larger venues”. Shortly after the release of his latest self-released album in November 2013 also called “Second Hand Poet” he was invited to play the Boiler room, Guildford, during which he was asked back to feature on Boileroom Radio with a live session and interview. He went on to proudly provide support for the popular American Folk Band Widowspeak as well as Paper Aeroplanes at the same venue.  Christian Frank of Radio Stitch who regularly presents a podcast with his sidekick Jamie Morgan ‘The Lemon Circus’ on Mixcloud says this about the Second Hand Poet album “The FULL album is seriously top dreamy (is that even a genre???) haunting acoustic dreaminess (imagine it is spelt with an ‘i’ like happiness) – oh with a dollop of the odd soul shredding sorrow going on in between” 12/12. This is Second Hand Poet’s follow-up to his debut EP aptly entitled “Second Hand Poet”. All proceeds from this album (absolutely everything) have been donated to the charity, BUAV who are against Testing on Animals and general Cruelty to Animals, a cause which Jamie hugely supports.

Tipson is hard at work making as much music as possible; ensuring that as many faces and ears are familiar with his work, and give it the support is deserves. At present, Second Hand Poet has fewer than 1,000 fans on Facebook; a smattering of Twitter followers- he is deserving of a much larger fan base. I know that a great deal of crowds in Surrey and London have witnessed Second Hand Poet in the flesh, but it seems that there are a lot of lands and areas to be conquered; a huge wave of new fans that are as-yet undiscovered. It was almost a year ago today that I first reviewed Second Hand Poet (when featuring his track Little Sun). With the release of Bedroom Acoustics vol. 1, our young hero was putting some of his earliest thoughts together; showing the music public just what was capable of. When reviewing the (E.P. track) Little Sun, I tried to assess it, thus:

The song has ambitions to linger within your mind, and it does through a number of ways. Aside from the vocal being rooted within 2013, and the subject being something everyone can relate to, the way that the words and intentions are expressed is impressive. Many artists would tell their tales, with little consideration lent towards projection and resonance. Second Hand Poet mixes diffidence with angry protestation: some lines are punctuated sternly, before being countered by an emotionally overwhelmed riposte or rejoinder. This unique hybrid is a key focal point, and something that adds gravity to the song. The chorus has an air of mystery and open interpretation: “Hey Little Sun/Look what you’ve done”; emotions run high and there is a suggestive shrug elicited. If some of the themes of personal dislocation and uncertainty are prevalent: “Feeling lost/And/Stuck on a cross”, for example, then the way in which they are presented does not bring you down. The voice does not wallow too much nor hide its scars beneath thin-veiled deceit; the guitar remains strong and focused: hints of Noel Gallagher can be detected in lighter-edged (What’s the Story) Morning Glory. Towards the latter stages of the track, the Little Sun is turned upon, put onto the stand, and given accusatory regard: “Burned away/Chosen day”, is delivered with an emphatic guilt-trip and disregard. The tension that mounts is temporised, slightly, by the ensuing guitar passage: it picks and strums with delicate touches, before being swallowed and replaced with the final vocal touches.

With the release of a 12-track collection (as well as other tracks), Second Hand Poet has been busy and hard-working over the last few months. I know that Tipson wants a long and fruitful career in music, and I have no doubt that this will become a reality- so I hope more people turn themselves onto his talents. All My Life is where the young artist is at the moment, and it signals a leap forward for the Surrey-based solo star; retaining cores and elements of his previous work, but showing renewed confidence and striking ambition. The E.P. is not released until July, but is already getting some excited tongues wagging; it seems that Tipson’s name and reputation is gathering in many new supporters- signalling at an exciting new future. I suspect that in time, our hero will be moving closer to London and setting up camp there (it is the natural thing to do); bringing his stunning sounds to wider audiences and local musicians. Until this- and whether it does- happen, Second Hand Poet is trying to implore to, and connect with, as many people as possible; trying to get his music out into the ether as emphatically as he can- and see what the reaction is. Being a huge fan of his previous work, I was confident that the latest E.P. was going to be tremendous. When I concluded my review of Little Sun, I wrote the following:

The songs within Bedroom Acoustics paint the portrait of a talent whom could supersede the local scene, and make his way to festivals and larger venues. It is a very of-the-moment release, and one that does not suffer from the weaknesses of many within the solo scene and the associative flaws. The proficiency and striking acoustic playing is a highlight, and the lyrics are capturing and sharp. It is always interesting to hear where future talent may originate from, and what their core values and themes will be. Second Hand Poet is the sound of a heavy-heart, curious mind and endeavouring sound.”

In a scene where a lot of new musicians can be hit-or-miss; present a few good songs but not a lot more, Second Hand Poet has a consistency and flair that ensures he will be making music for many a-year to come; taking it on the road and to international climbs, too. With the support and backing of DyNaMik, it appears that doors and opportunities will open up, and horizons expanded; on the evidence of All My Life, it is not hard to see why.

Second Hand Poet - All My Life EP

Shadow you with tears” are the first words that greet Little Ghost. It is an emphatic and multilayered vocal that punctures and enforces the words- you do not expect such an instantaneous rush.. Promising to “love you all so dear“, our hero’s voice is strong and earnest; opening up the acapella beginnings which are haunting and direct. It is perhaps appropriate (given the song’s title) that the atmosphere is echoed and spectral; our hero is spending most of his time (in the”hollows of my mind“), contemplating and reflecting. Whilst “Gazing at sweet nothing“, you get the sense of a man on the edge; whether investigating his own life or documenting the rubble of a relationship, you can feel the ache in his tones. The sensation of instrumentation is an effective and unexpected facet, that instantly gives the E.P. authority and directness. You can practically hear the vocals resonate and reflect off of the bedroom walls; there is a mix of closeness and far-away etherealness that adds weight to an aged voice. Our hero sings to his subject; the ghost in his ear is humming softly, as it is requested: “Whisper me some words I can hear“. The hollow cathedral chorus is soon joined with soft acoustic guitar; Tipson accompanying himself in a story that sees him waiting for a day; longing for the moment “When my efforts will be paid.” It is the vocal itself which makes it mark in the first half of the song; each word makes their mark and comes through clearly; the sound is of a young man with a weight on his mind, and a need to bear his soul Whether the song looks at the problematic and unpredictability of love, or investigating the music industry itself, I am not sure; yet when words such as “A bandage on a wound that doesn’t heal“, you get the impression that the vicissitudes and struggles of life are at the fore. The plaintive and gentle guitar playing adds some emotionality and potency into the mix, and you sense that a very genuine and personal message is being played out. The lack of sonic clutter and business goes to highlight the words and phrases being elicited; it is a song which compels to stick in your mind and make you imagine what our hero sees. When a delicate and springing acoustic guitar coda is played just before the 2:30 mark, it offers a break and time for reflection; as well as a chance for Second Hand Poet to demonstrate his evocative and tender guitar-picking skills. It is a parable that weaves and trickles; displaying Country and Blues tones, as well as mixing optimistic rays of sun with darker undertones. Towards the closing moments, the strings become more pressing and heavier, making their way to the foreground and ensuring that they say their piece. Our hero’s voice echoes wordlessly in the background, summoning up ghostly images, and allowing himself to be taken away. A few far-off words are sung, but you get the sense of a soul that is tired and overcome; a man who is being lifted and summoned- it is quite an evocative moment. A few more striking and spiralling guitar strings wrap Little Ghost up, and end a fitting and impressive opening number. A lighter and breezier mood opens up proceedings for All My Life. There is the sound of Bryter Layter-era Nick Drake; a riparian trickle soothes and caresses acoustic strings into the open- a delicious and fascinating coda that makes you smile. Whereas its predecessor had darker and more introspective openings, here there is an extroversion and confidence that elicits summer vibes and romanticism. Once the delirious introductory moves have unfurled, our hero approaches the mic. “Can you hear the ocean wave?” is the question that is posed; your mind is already on a boat in the sea (as it is); so the words seem apt and evidentiary. Our hero is recalling memories; the wave of the ocean taking his mind back to a particular time; his voice imbued with urgency, yet plenty of heart is evident. The title cut is an investigation of life; recalling past events and the days that have led to here, life is going “so slow“. Perhaps there is an anxiety and unease underneath the surface; life is being pulled apart, and it is seen as though (our hero) is “Running down landslides“- perhaps the past few years and months have not been the most fortuitous and benevolent. At the bottom of his mind, mountains are being straddled; there is a sense that no matter what is being done- life keeps throwing obstacles in the way. From the lyrics and vocal delivery, I get a scent of Oasis; the early days of the band and their most considered and tender moments- there is that same sense of quality and conviction. You get the feeling (almost) of an older man looking back on life (and the major events and hardships), yet here is a young man whom is pining for better times- and finding it difficult to move on. Each thought-provoking and emotional recollection verse is punctuated with a beautiful instrumental. Actually ‘punctuated’ may be too harsh a word, as the sonics that follow the verse have such a depth and mesmeric charm to them, that they are mini-songs in themselves. Such as artists like Nick Drake, Neil Young and Dylan, Second Hand Poet knows the importance of considered and intelligent guitar parables. Not only does it keep the song’s momentum going, but creates intrigue and fascination as well- and readies you for what is to come. When it is asked: “Can you fee the air that I breathe“, you get the sense that a lover may be talked to; maybe the world at large is being targeted (wondering if the music of Second Hand Poet is getting through to people)- such is the sense of mystery that you start to imagine. The following lines provide some clarity or revelation at least; maybe events are directed towards the romantic; the attention that our hero is receiving and giving is being recounted, and you get the sense that cards are still being held to the chest- that there is something that is on his mind but is being held back. Like Little Ghost, there is an air of dislocation and discontent. Our hero is looking back and realising that he has been against the wall enough time; but you sense that he has ambitions and optimisms in life; he wants to be seen and appreciated, but is trying to negotiate and overcome everything in his way. The final minute is dedicated to aching and sighing vocals; our hero spars and commingles with himself, to unveil a wordless cry that defines and underlines what the song is trying to say- the sense of hope is there but underpinned by derailment and strife. As the song concludes its implore, you realise- after just two tracks- that a lot has been revealed about our hero- but there is still so much to be said. The third number takes the form of Fire and Gold. If you thought that it would be hard to beat All My Life‘s guitar intro: think again. It is a striding and brief parable that springs and swaggers; drifts and breezes- before our hero is on the mic. His voice is imploring and teasing; it makes words such as “…that the way you move so violently defies you” hit the mark and strike. Introducing an emotive and heartbroken violin into the track augments the mood, and our hero’s voice is deep in tought; entranced: “Wondering which way you’ll turn“. The combination of creeping and elongated violin, mixed with a spirited acoustic guitar line is an effective parbond- it gives a huge emotional weight and an eerie beauty. When our hero’s voice tells of (his heroine) “Shaking in your shoes“, you can hear the conviction and burden on his tongue; images and scenes are vividly summoned, and you wonder to whom he is referring. Whether it is a metaphor for broken love, or assessment of a broken soul, I am unsure, but our hero ensures that the words get inside your head and overwhelm. It is hard to ignore the potency and sound of violin; it is a storm cloud that lingers over the atmosphere and threatens to burst at any moment- both tender and evocative. By the final moments of the song, there is just the music alone (the soul has been drained); just guitar and violin play, and conclude the tale. After Fire & Gold’s majestic moments, the calming and soft guitar opening of Bruises comes as some welcome solace. The intro. has a sense of fatigue to it, backed up by our hero’s initial words; those which speak of sleeping for days; escaping, so that it is possible to “…escape from this boredom.” The song takes us to the bottom of the bottle; a stupor and sense of escape creeps in. Whereas love and hardships have been documented in previous numbers, here there is an air of self-destruction and pain. Telling the heroine that he is slowly wasting away, you can detect the wracked heartache in the vocal (once more); backed by supportive and consistent guitar work, you find yourself rooting for our hero. Stating that “You know the fields and valleys surround me“; the rain clouds and thunder are dragging his soul away; he implorss to his subject not to touch him: “I bruise easily.” You get a sense that there is some music biography within the song; possible a documentation of Tipson’s musical ambitions- and the need to do it as a full-time career. When he talks of dark and quiet surroundings, it could be his bedroom and home- a comfort and sense of safety that keeps him warm. He wants to get away from the fear and strains of work and day-to-day; move on and away from things- and get lost in something much more fulfilling. Perhaps I am reading into things too much, but there is a yearning and urgency in the vocals that compel you to dig deeper- to get inside our hero’s head. That sense of bruising easily; the susceptibility to touch and pain comes though throughout, and there is a fragility and sensitivity that bleeds and begs. In spite of the openness and honesty that is being presented, there is no sense of histrionics and woe-is-me; the back is strong, but the heart and mind are conflicted and torn- our hero wants something desperately but unable to grab it (just now). Firefly’s initial moments are wind-swept and storm-brewing. An audible thunder roll is heard; followed by trickling acoustic guitar, you get the sense that events (of the song) may have a similar timber: a heaviness and vulnerability perhaps. Wordless and cooing vocals arrive for a brief moment, but beautifully link us into the first verse. Talking of “fabled words” and the beauty of the deep; perhaps events are going to turn out differently. Our hero directs messages to his sweetheart; confessing that “I’m yours to keep“, the beauty he is speaking to is causing him no tribulation; he seems in awe and devoted to his beau. There is fire in his eyes; a sparkle that is “Like diamonds in the sky” and something that is deep inside our hero’s heart. It appears that his sweetheart is a medicinal and redemptive spirit; someone whom is “Like morphine when I’m weak“; someone whom lifts the darkness and attracts (our hero) “like a firefly.” Perhaps the most overtly positive and romantic track of the E.P., it is good to see that there is some hope and happiness within the mix. Meteorological and natural images are invoked to pay tribute to someone whom is under our hero’s skin; it is said that (he) “See lightning when you speak.” The chorus, as well, is one of most memorable on the E.P., and is simple yet highly effective; you know that whomever is in mind is an incredible Siren; a woman who is an elixir and curative aid; someone whom can balm wounds and inspire the thoughts. By the time the song reaches its end, you hope that a smile is on the face of Second Hand Poet; that our author concluded the track with a sense of relief and positivity- I hope so, as it is a song that is memorably evocative and tenderly honest. Wailing and echoing sounds mix with firm-headed acoustic guitars, to open up the final track Fading Out. There is still a sense of beauty and purity abound, with plinking and dancing piano notes coming into the mix, the opening moments are elliptical and spirit-lifting. Everything combines seamlessly to present sunshine and warmth; a lightness and romanticism is at the fore- the early moment see a man who is in need of redemption. Singing to his girl, he is fading out; imploring to her to “Give me a reason, won’t you listen baby…” Backed by swaying and haunting backing vocals, the song sees our hero once more in reflective and contemplative mood. Whilst watching films and the scenes they present, although he can relate to the people within, in spite of everything it is “all made up“- a facet that is disappointing and axiomatic. You feel that our hero wants toi escape into those scenes; have the same sense of freedom and carefree ease that they do- yet life is not being so kind and accommodating. The song is a short and direct mandate that hits the mark- and brings the E.P. to its conclusion. Once you complete listening, you need a few moments to recuperate. There is a lot of wonder and beauty within, as well as harder and weightier emotion; a perfect blend that makes the collection so memorable. Tipson’s guitar playing is authoritative and stunning throughout, never too heavy or intrusive, it adds colour and emotion to each track. The vocal performances are consistently strong and imploring, and the sense of conviction and potency comes through clearly; our hero never lets his pipes become too dark and brooding. Each track has its own weight and identity and covers a range of subjects; those that are all-inclusive and relatable- everyone will be able to relate to what is being said. Because the E.P. is encompassing and non-alienating it will strike a chord with many, and you find yourself rooting for Second Hand Poet- and hoping that things work out for the best.

Having surveyed the latest installment from Second Hand Poet, I am in no doubt that the next few years will see a great deal of progression and prosperity for the young hero. Over the coming weeks, I shall be investigating some new solo artists and bands- each with their own sound and quality. When it comes to Tipson’s moniker, it is clear that more London dates will be forthcoming; some local gigs and appearences- and a lot more music for sure. His voice is instilled with warm and soothing tones; a boyish charm that recalls Tom Odell; plenty of soulful passion and striking power- as well as a unique tone that gets under your skin. It is not just the potent and emotive vocals of Tipson that makes Second Hand Poet’s music so stunning. The sound is open and honest, and draws you into the music (at times it as though you are listening in Tipson’s bedroom); there is no needless polish or overproduction it is raw and pure, thus allowing each song to implore honestly and without pretension. All of the six numbers have personal relevance to the author, and highlight various shades and sides of a personality that offers tenderness, introspection, strength and hope. You are hard-pressed to compare anyone to Second Hand Poet directly; there is an individuality and heart within his templates that offer something fresh and vibrant. That said, there are embers of modern icons, thus ensuring that Tipson’s music will appeal and capture a wide sector of music-lovers. From my perspective, it is always great to hear original songwriters daring to make their own way and be bold. You do not get much more bold than Second Hand Poet, whom projects huge confidence and conviction across the entire E.P. The local (Surrey) scene has its share of interesting and diverse acts; everything from female Soul-cum-Pop vibes through to hard and brutal Metal bands- with a little of everything in the middle. There is always a desire for a particular act to wow their home crowds; to make their name in their locale- but I suspect that Second Hand Poet’s ambitions stretch wider and further. Here is an act that has an honesty and charming appeal to his music; making beats and notes in a distinctly personal and lo-fi way- thus separating himself from the bulk of his contemporaries. Towards the south, there is a need and desire for music that has romantic and tender edges; preference is still levied towards inward manifestations and a certain melody- which a lot of the local competitors offer up. With the tenderness comes a lot of potency, passion and genre mixing, and it is a facet that is missing from London on the whole. Recent subjects such as Alison Levi have shown me that they are out there, but most of my London-based reviews have focused on Rock bands and bigger anthemics. I feel that artists such as Second Hand Poet can bring new life and invigoration to the capital- and take their messages around the U.K. By recording material and songs in his bedroom, you can hear that intimacy and comfort, but witness an act keen to make music no matter what- and give his music a home birth. I guess when Tipson’s profile augments and explodes studios will come beckoning and that is going to be something that can provide benefits- bigger arrangements and additional musicians. By making music on his own terms and employing his own talents alone, Second Hand Poet is a curious talented and unique brand that will win many hearts. It is early days, but I fully predict that Facebook and Twitter numbers will multiply; people from all around the globe will come on board and witness a young man on the verge of something big. Before I wrap up, I will bring you a snippet from my previous review (of Second Hand Poet); when investigating the man himself:

I hope that in the future Second Hand Poet gains wider appreciation. He has a voice and sound that is almost tailor-made for the live scene, and will win over local patrons and those further afield, alike. The title of the E.P. suggests that further volumes will be unveiled in coming months, and will be curious to see what moves are made next. Whether there will be a move to the studio, and an incorporation of percussion and strings; or the format and structure will remain in tact, is yet to be seen. In the initial stages, the decision to present bedroom sounds and summations is brave and smart. It shows that the authour is comfortable with his surroundings, and knows the vitality and importance of authenticity and narrative. The songs within Bedroom Acoustics paint the portrait of a talent whom could supersede the local scene, and make his way to festivals and larger venues. It is a very of-the-moment release, and one that does not suffer from the weaknesses of many within the solo scene and the associative flaws. The proficiency and striking acoustic playing is a highlight, and the lyrics are capturing and sharp.”

As well as retaining all of his elemental and reliable cores, our hero has grown in confidence and looks set to carry on a bright and profitable trajectory. His record label have offered him some free studio time (in Ireland); the E.P. was mastered at a reduced cost, too- so the financial fears of studio life may not be a consideration for the future.  New music thrives best when diversity and quality are offered; no emphasis on sex appeal or controversial personalities- where the music is king. People like me- whom are starting out making music- are always nervous when trying to break onto the scene; figuring out a way of making things happen- and making music in a feasible manner. Second Hand Poet is not only an inspiration to new musicians and those intimidated by the financial burdens of studio recordings; and his themes are relevant and tangible- those which can be extrapolated by all. This year is almost halfway through, and as I sit back and re-read reviews (of artists I have surveyed) I can see a lot of range; instantly know which acts are going to go far (and those that may be more short-lived). I suggest and predict Second Hand Poet is going to be someone to watch closely, and we will be seeing many future E.P.s and albums from this determined talent. At the moment, investigate his social media space; get an insight into where he has come from- and where he may be headed. Make a note to snap up All My Life and help support a young talent with whom has a clear affection for music; someone keen to make his mark on the current scene…

AND put his music firmly in your heart.


All My Life Track Lisiting: Second Hand Poet - All My Life EP

 Little Ghost- 9.2/10

All My Life- 9.2

Fire & Gold- 9.3

Bruises- 9.2

Firefly- 9.3

Fading Out- 9.2

Standout track: Firefly


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