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, Amazon.co.uk

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, Amazon.co.uk

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 https://musicmusingsandsuch.wordpress.com/ 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 http://youtu.be/1-5BBADOBAc 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 http://www.buav.org/ 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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E.P. Review: Shiftin’ Shade- The Gramophone Gang E.P.



Shiftin' Shade’s avatar  

The Gramophone Gang E.P.



 The Gramophone Gang E.P. is available via:



It may be early days for Shiftin’ Shade’s creator Darren Pereira, yet with his tantalising and outstanding brand of Electro-Swing- he should be making plans. Few acts are offering up a comparable charm, luster and kick; so our hero is sure to reap the dividends- and invigorate and compel a fresh wave of new musicians.


TODAY I am returning to a theme that I have not delved into…

for some time now. My reconnaissance and investigation will be a bit shorter than usual, but more relevant that it has been for a little while. Most of the music I examine comes from artists whom have a few singles or songs under their belt, and are entering a new phase in their careers. In the case of recent feature-ees such as Universal Thee and Jingo, the acts have been making music for a few years; there are reviews and testimony in their back catalogues- and they are making plans for new L.P.s and E.P.s. It is rare that I get to surmise an artist whom is just coming through; making the embryonic steps and coming into the music world with that eagerness and ambition. There is always a nervousness and unpredictability for any new act coming through, as there is a lot to think about and prepare. As well as getting your profile and need out there, one must also consider a labyrinth of check-lists and ‘to-dos’. When investigating every new act, I always get to delve into where they have come from; how hard they have had to work in order to get their music off the ground- and how much they have had to spend to realise their inner ambitions. Being in that embryonic stage myself, I am looking at each new act as a guidance counsellor- as well as musicians to be inspired by, and promote. One of the things that worries me most (about new musicians) is the lack of originality and thought that goes into their templates; it is something I will investigate in more depth, but too many are blustering through, all full of promise and wide-eyed optimism- only to be let down by a stale and homogenized sound. It is a sad truth, but many do not do their market research up top; assume that whatever they put out there is going to be grabbed up and adored- that the collective music public will suckle at their creative teat. A huge voice or big personality may ensure some short-term, fascination, but soon enough eyes and ears tire of such threadbare offerings. Happily, most of my music features are completed with an anxiety-free heart; knowing that the act or band has thought everything through considerably- and will have a smooth and profitable future ahead of them. I still have fears for my own future, but when looking various success stories, it at least provides me with some buoyancy and hope. Such is the nature of the industry, that many eager acts are swallowed up before they have a chance to get going. The mainstream is showing newcomers what is on offer; what can be obtained if you hit ‘The Big Time’- and it may be leading many astray. My abiding point coming through, is that everyone whom has the ambition and intentions (to make music) indeed should- it is the greatest art form there is, and as such, should be embraced fully. Caution and maturity need to be cemented pillars that are viewed and examined before a single song is recorded. At the forefront of modern music, there is a classic division between Pop, Soul, R&B and its sub-genres (Lady Gaga, Rhianna, Beyonce etc.) as well as Rock, Indie and its offshoots (Kings of Leon, Arctic Monkeys etc.)- in addition there is a healthy ‘middle ground’. I may be over-simplifying, but there are few that fall within a triple intersection; hardly any whom manage to successfully fuse genres and tastes- to appeal to a wider market. To my ear, the former camp (aside from the likes of Beyonce) is synonymous with over-simplicity and minor appeal. The artists have their own fans and followers, yet I have never resonated with the brand of music, and always found it too lacking and cloying. The Rock/Indie market has some spectacular front-runners, yet there are still too many soundalikes coming along; those whom try to jump on the bandwagon of an existing act- without offering too much difference and nuance. The musicians and artists whom lay in-between these clans are showing the strongest signs of promise and diversity; it is these whom new acts should be looking towards- when putting their own sounds together. Too many fledgling artists either offer too much bland and senseless force or vague and fluffy utterings; there is are few whom take the trouble to invigorate their palate with flavours, colours, emotional range and an abundance of striking quality. Every time I give a positive review to an act, they have that extra something; a drive or thoughtfulness that takes these considerations on board- and generate sounds that are new and stunning. If new music is going to tussle with the mainstream; integrate its best and brightest within its waters, then it the sounds bein proffered should be stronger and more layered- in order to present a viable and preferrable alterative. It seems like a lot to think about and get hammered down (before you start out), but it needn’t be so daunting. Consider all the music that has come before, and how many acts have played their part in music’s growth, and you only really need to make some minor notes. Doing what hundreds of other acts or bands are doing is probably not the best start in life; if your music has the same sound and chord sequences as Acts A-Z, then at the very best, you are going to last a very short time. You do not have to be too diverse and freewheelin’, but infusing older genres, mixing styles and injecting your music with distinct and unique personality shades always produces the strongest offspring. As well as this, a set of lyrics and songs need to be created that not only provide an insight into your own life, but have a sense of sharpness and originality to them. Far too many acts present generic motifs and songbooks, and it can become annoying to hear the same type of songs endlessly recycled. The final important point to consider is that to your projection and social media output. Over the last week I have surveyed a couple of acts whose portfolio has been lacking. If you are literally putting your first songs out, then media detail naturally progresses later on, but if you have a solid foundation in place- what is the excuse for giving so little away? If your biography contains a couple of lines and you leave it to the listener to do all the hard work, then the fascination wears off pretty soon- if it comes at all. It is not creatively whorish or foolish to let someone into your life and give them some much-needed information: where you come from, who influences you; links to reviews and as much personal insight as you can give. I guess if you have the fundamentals all figured and sewn up, then your job and task is going to be a lot easier; free from as much strife as it could otherwise have been- it is important to make sure you can walk before you can run.

This brings me to the subject of my featured artist. By day, he is Darren Pereira, a “Producer/Dj and multi instrumentalist of Portuguese origin“; someone whom goes by the alias of Shiftin’ Shade (or Christopher Shade as well). Before I go into more detail about our act- you guessed it- here is a little bit of biographical information:

The Electro Swing sound and all it comes with. .. Clean blends of the 4×4 with some swing groove and a whole lot of feel, Shuffle those feet through the prohibition era yo with the Lord High Chancellor of Swing!

Our hero is at the beginning of a career which is going to be jam-packed and busy. With influence such as Goldfish, Parov Stelar, Caravan Palace, Scott Joplin, Duke Ellington and Nina Simone, there is a rich and fascinating range of sounds that come through in the music; when instilled with a striking and fascinating personality make up the superhero; the sobriquet- the alias that is Shiftin’ Shade. Its mere name alone gives you an insight into the grinning smile and heady scents that the music offer; it is something that brings me to another point. The Gramophone Gang E.P. is a trio of songs which is not only reviving a near-forgotten genre, but also giving a fascinating insight into a hungry young talent whom has clearly done his market research. As well as sounds being awash with originality and intent- as well as tones which can appeal to various camps of music-lovers- but the Shiftin’ Shade uniform is something that catches the eye; it has a mystique and charming appeal that catches the eye and imagination. These are the early days for Pereira’s endeavours, so reviews and biographies will be forthcoming, but from chatting with him, I gleamed a clear sense of someone whom is determined to succeed; whom has all the necessary ammunition and armoury at his disposal- and is keen to get as many people listening to his music as possible. The near-future offers up the very distinct possibility of a Shiftin’ Shade L.P., and I hope that a prosperous record label snaps up the young man, and assists in furthering his talents. When it comes to the sound, our hero seems to be one step ahead. Electro-Swing is a genre that has a smattering of mainstream players (Caro Emerald is amongst them), yet it is a segment of music that is much overlooked. When I have been reviewing, most of my acts are Rock/Soul or Pop-based (with exceptions), but I have stumbled across some terrifically inventive Electro-Swing artists. Little Violet is a name that has appeared many times on my pages, and coming out of the Cuckoo Records stable, she has been winning many hearts. Her beguiling beauty and alpha female mandates are backed by alluring and hypnotic Swing rhythms- sort of The Andrews Sisters with a healthy invigoration of the modern-day. When I assessed Little Violet tracks Don’t Stop and Shut Up, I was amazed by the richness and psychotropic swathes that were being offered up. The former track was abound with energy and feet-moving implore; our heroine had me on the ropes. Once I completed surveying the track, I was compelled to write:

The vocal is passionate and strong, and lyrics like: “Take control of what you’re worth” emit a steadfast refusal to be subjugated; with “Take it easy/just one step at a time”, imploring some ambition restraint. The theme of the song concerns not being content to stand still and taking the step to break the mould. “Keep on moving/Don’t stop” is the motivational mantra of the track. Special kudos goes to the band, who genuinely emit an appreciation and understanding of the jazz and swing greats, and yet add a retro, updated sparkle and kick to the sound, fusing a little bit of modern jazz to its supreme bodywork. The sound is tight and mesmeric throughout, and does what any great song should do: not only want to make you smile and dance, but dive into the jazz swing annals, and hear the original purveyors as well. On a positive note, the vocal as well has pleasing shades of Fitzgerald, Peggy Lee, as well as a little touch of Paloma Faith. In a way too, one can cross reference Little Violet with Caro Emerald. She too has a great talent and passion for a bygone, better age, but is similarly capable of modernizing the sound and making its appeal devoid of boundaries and labelling.”

The later is a more slowed-down and potent killer thriller; infested with pointed and sharp words; and I surmised:

The band is tight and stunning throughout. As the chorus fades I can hear echoes of Miles Davis’s ‘Kind of Blue’ (particularly the track ‘Blue in Green’). The band turn Lyrebird in their range of sounds. Davis can be seen, also shades of ‘Life in a Glasshouse’ by Radiohead can be detected; a little of Glenn Miller’s ‘In The Mood’; a smidge of Fletcher Henderson and Cab Calloway show up in the blood count. The band do not try to parody or replicate them. The sounds, spirits and perfumes are poured together and stirred to give a heady blend. It updates the genres and revitalizes them for the ’00s. The vocal does not suffocate or feel forced. At its most demure, it evocates Carmen McRae and modern singers such as Adele. When the tempo rises, Amy Winehouse, Sarah Vaughan and Nelly Furtado. It is a smoky and gutsy performance and has incredible soul and veracity to it. Our single lady talks about how (her former beau), had “a temper, which could break a heart”; who’d: “babble at you/Make you want to scream”. The chorus is deployed effectively between the heartbreak tableau vivants; the entire track is a bloodstained parable telling the story of a woman who is less Moll Flanders and more gangster’s moll.”

I know an L.P. is forthcoming from Little Violet and it will be an extraordinary collection, and one that is lacking from new music as a whole. Another Electro-Swing artist I assessed (again from the Cuckoo Records stall) is Cissie Redgwick. I assessed the tracks Gimme That Swing and Mister Mister. The former, is a track that had elements in common with Little Violet, but also a bold and unique personality. I was compelled by the music that Redgwick was presenting, writing:

The chorus is instantly indelible and simple. It strikes a huge chord, and the combination of swing (and at times Cuban-sounding) brass, combined with a voice and evocation fresh from the golden age, balances brilliantly with the slower, and more spiked verses. The entire song is never dragged too deep down: the key manifestos are energy; excitement, and an imploring desire to make your feet dance. It is an incredibly catchy and invigorating number, and the tune, melody and firestorm of jazzy tones will smash, as hard as the potent and personable honest, and well-observed lyrics. Redgwick is a woman who has been wronged, and is intent on releasing a biblical plague of retribution, through swing. It may sound like a temporised vengeance, but the sonic blasts and cursive vocal immediacy is more discommodious and miasmatic than any physical punishment.”

Again, I think that an L.P. is in the pipeline, but both those artists arrived on my radar a year ago; and I have desperately been seeking a similarly flavoured cocktail ever since. Both are strong and sexy female performers whom do not give a gender-specific account of life and love, but write songs whose relevance is meaningful to both men and women. As much as I adore the two individuals, it seems that a lot more should be coming through- it is a genre that offers up some much of life’s elemental requirements. As well as sexiness, sassy and bold musical parables and a kick that is hard to ignore, the music was happy and alive; vibrant and alluring- as well as compelling and catchy as hell. If you think about it, those are the components that most music-lovers seek out, yet few are ever offered. Most modern music offers some of these considerations, yet few contemporaries go the whole hog, and get everything spot-on. For that reason, I was excited when I heard about Shiftin’ Shade. As well as giving a male spin on the genre, he has the same compelling swing and punch that Little Violet and Cissie Redgwick do; is based in the same county as them (Yorkshire)- and may well come under the radar of Cuckoo. It must be a Yorkshire thing, but it is a county that is housing some of the most diverse and pioneering acts of the moment; perhaps the only county that is seeing a proliferation and reinvigorating of Swing; via the medium of Electro-Swing. Current stars such as Ruby Macintosh (Yorkshire girl too) are adding their input and coins into the hat, yet there is plenty of room and space still left- so much ground to discover and explore. It is true that the majority of Electro-Swing movements have been made by women, so it is refreshing and compelling to see Pereira come through. With Portuguese heritage and a striking moniker to his credit, I sat myself down to investigate his debut collection, The Gramophone Gang E.P. With colleagues such as Little Violet sure to be huge future names, I was certain that if Pereira were able to elicit just some of the majesty that Don’t Stop and Shut Up (as well as Redgwick’s tracks) contained then the next few years would provide vast opportunities and prosperities.

The Gramophone Gang EP

With a rousing “doo-dah-doo-dah-doo“, an a snippet of vinyl crackle, Speakeasy Suzy gets underway. Featuring the talents of Adam Hume, it is a track that begins life with a degree of gusto and jive that is hard to ignore. Staccato blasts of horns mingle and punch alongside percussive beats- which are intermittent but hard-hitting. The mood rouses and blears; celebrates and dances, waiting for Hume to step up to the mic. Before he arrives, you cannot help but get involved in the opening coda; wrap your head inside of the snaking and sparkling bursts that are elicited forth- is a joyous and authentic Swing rabble. With our hero unsure “what I’m gonna do“; chasing ‘baby do’, his voice is imploring and strengthened; imbued with a slight growl and gravel it is an impassioned vocal. The delivery itself is fast-paced and rifled; Hume disseminates the words at a rate of knots; mixing “bam bam booms” with “bang bang bangs” it has a breakneck presentation that gives the song a huge energy. With our heroine being tracked and watched; the “bang bang bang“s leave the boys “shot the boys down in the room“. At an early stage the song gets inside your head and compels you to imagine what is happening within. You can envisage black-and-white scenes; behatted gangsters and villains chasing around town; our gadabout heroine getting under the skin. The brass blastings that are deployed between lines have quite a modern sound to them; there is a freshness and vibrancy to the track which mixes ’40s Swing testimony with modern-day cutting-edge. Acts such as Rizzle Kicks have managed to deploy this same sort of cross-pollination, yet never with the same energy and force that Shiftin’ Shade does. With scenes being set and tension rising, it becomes almost unpalpable- before a the record is stopped sharply. A spoken word segment is now in the mix; a dapper-voiced gentlemen asks: “Are you sure you wouldn’t like to stay just a little while longer?” (whether it is Hume or not I am unsure). With our heroine replying “no“, the mood once more fizzes and jumps into life; catching you by surprise and providing another twist. There is no fakery or sense of shortcoming within the song, and you can tell its author has a clear passion and authority for the genres he is exploring and splicing. The songs pervasive kick gets you tapping your feet and smiling, and the sonic blasts and tapping percussion augments this; you find yourself humming along and moving your arms (perhaps I’m just a bit suggestible, but I dare say many others will do likewise). With Hume back on vocal duties, a new scene begins; our heroine “Said hi then bye“; not wanting to be reduced to tears, with a left and right (“out of sight“) it is a “sure-fire way to make the big boys cry“. As well as being entranced within the sun-kissed and gangsters and molls groove of the track, it is impossible not to be hit by the passion and urgency of the vocal (which almost scats) the lines syncopate, tangle and tumble into one another, giving an appropriate breathlessness to proceedings. Our hero is being tangled up and overwhelmed; he has never seen a girl with an angel face (“like yours“); there is an innocence and charm to the images; no salaciousness or extraneous profanity, it is a bona fide stomper- one which will appeal to all types of music-lovers. I mentioned the likes of Rizzle Kicks, and in that sense the track can draw in the 18-30 age bracket adeptly with its bracing kick and beach-ready smile; it will resonate with everyone else because of the infectious fun and unslakeable Swing groove. With a certain sense of emotional fatigue and overwhelm occurring, our hero scats and jives; wordless vocal annotations are unfurled; you can tell that this girl is in his head and leading him astray. Just prior to the 1:30 marker, the composition takes control; with darker flavour notes, the bass and percussive elements are more down-tempo and moodier; before another spoken word sample is presented. This time around, our hero blithely admits: “You must think I’m dumb, huh?”; that ritzy and opulent sense of class enforcing every syllable. Our velvet voice heroine offers a snappy riposte: “Do you really want me to answer that?” It is as though the dialogue is lifted from a ’30s film; the sort that you could imagine Clark Gable in- a San Francisco-cum-Saratoga by-play (I will have to ask Pereira where the sample is from or if it is an original recording). The second invocation of this form is evocative and humorous, and acts not only as a countenance to the fast-paced verses; but also as a chance for the listener to catch their breath…before we are back in the thick of things. Before we do, the composition has some speaking to do. It glistens and steps; weaves and jives- mixing elliptical brass with low-down bass and percussion, and twanging electric strings. We are back in the room, boys getting shot down (once more), and making the big boys cry. All of the Nu-Jazz, Electro-Swing and Swing elements bubble through and offer up a heady intoxication. Another snippet of vintage talk is delivered, this time our hero is sheaving his wit; promising his sweetheart he’ll do anything for her, he adds an addendum: “As long as it’s something I don’t want to do“. He is speaking to an audience or collective friends, as a hearty chuckle is elicited; applause and chuckles spar with the insatiable sonics- that continue to weave and jive with a restless energy. The track comes to an end (after another round of scats and wordlessness); bringing a stunning opening cut to its conclusion. With Hume on vocals once more, the *Live Bootleg Version* of Shy Street Swing Club arrives. With a title that offers alliteration, intrigue and vivid imagery, once again there is a slight crackle that opens proceedings- and we are under way. “High-class” and “elegant” is the heroine of the number; an axiomatic truth (“That’s a fact“); the vocal has a distortion and is lower in the mix. It a curious build-up that has a romantic edge and soothing please to it, with Hume enraptured once more. Providing paen to a heart-breaking girl, he confesses: “There’s nothing I’d subtract“. When she walks in the room (and makes her impact), our hero is overcome; she is mandated to dance; to cut loose and set the floor alight. Whereas its predecessor exploded into life from the off, Shy Street Swing Club has semi-appropriate beginnings (given the ‘Shy Street’ portion of the title), where proclamations and outpourings are muted but romantically graceful. From the gangsters, bordello and cat-and-mouse tableaux of the speakeasy; we are in the comparatively decadent surroundings of the swing joint- and ready to get down. The beat and flavour are softer and more composed in the early stages; our hero is setting the scene and not showing his hand too soon. Percussive and pattering beats are laid in; sonic accomplices are restrained and finger-clicking; Hume makes an earnest request: “Just close those eyes/Take a two steps forward…” Before we allow our senses to be overwhelmed, a crackling spoken word parable is unleashed. There is a disquisition and phallicratic control game being played; a two-hander between man and woman. She goes “Yeah boy!” (after he proclaims that he’s going to do things the old-fashioned way); our hero states: “I’m gonna ask questions/And you’re gonna have answers.” That is the clarion call for action; the brass becomes more emphatic and celebratory- with a beat that is hard-hitting and pulsating. Whereas Speakeasy’ had its roots in the ’30s-’40s; and its head in the modern-day, here there is a comparable lineage. With percussion that is heady and tub-thumping, it can unite and galvanise the dance floors; cause beach-goers and sun-worshipers to tap their digits- and make them move their feet. In the background is that Swing-era authenticity; that gramophone glory that is the hallmark of Shiftin’ Shade. By the 1:30 check-point, you sense there is a slight irony with regards to the ‘Shy’ Street; any timidity and demure has been abandoned and our self-effacing hero is in the mood to dance; conjoin with his beau and allow the music to entrance his soul. The inclusion and persistent of heavier and pugnacious piano strikes give the song a sweat and twilight potency; one which juxtaposes the mood brilliantly, and gives the overall sound a richness and great amount of intuitive detail- our creator has a sympatico for the grand Swing age, and knows how to show it. With some atonymic clarifications out the way, our hero allows his sensual purr to score the following lines. Letting the composition dip slightly, “’cause the rest can’t keep up pace“; it is a one-horse race- patently obvious truths are being laid bare. With the dance floor straggler and wannabies all retreating to the shadows and side-lines, our hero commands the spotlight; with his girl in hand, they are showing how it is done- and swinging the night away. The final 40 seconds is a mass of addictive and unshakeable repetition; our hero’s imploring coda gets inside your head, as he advises his partner to move her feet (self-consciousness be damned, as yours do likewise). Before we get carried away with the youthful abandon and get caught up the reckless energy of the night, a caution is forthcoming. A spoken word interjection sees a man speak to our hero: “..you get a little blinded when it comes to girls“. It is almost a father-son dialogue; the elder advising his eager offspring to step back and think things through- aware of how alluring and dangerous such beauties can be. Perhaps our hero has had his heart-broken too many times, but he is not willing to stop looking (for love)- and a final few words show that he is throwing caution to the wind. It is another intoxicating and catchy cut that roots itself in your brain- and does not shake itself loose. Completing our trio of numbers (sans Hume on the mic.) is the (gloriously titled) Wyther Lane Jazz. The E.P.’s 1-2 had their titles rooted in particular locations; swing clubs and speakeasy establishments were synonymous; yet here there is a less itinerant parable; one whose heart is paying tribute to an alluring paragon. Wyther Lane is a locale within the LS5 postcode, and not one that is particular glamorous. There is an industrial estate and residencies within its environs, but is as un-evocative a place as one can envisage. This gives the song a sense of humour, and the piquancy of the real-life setting spikes the intrigue- right from the start. I am sure that the Wyther Lane of Leeds has some charming and reputable businesses within, but the song Wyther Lane Jazz puts you in mind of the U.S. Carrying on from where Shy Street Swing Club left off, a comparable sound and setting is presented. There is an evolutionary and multifaceted build to the composition. With some grimier and low-down drive; mixes of horn blasts and grumbling undertones, the initial few seconds provide fascination and wonderful blend. Like whiskey, rum and cocktails all being mixed, you hear so many different (and nuanced) sounds fuse and romance, that it has the feel of an Experimental Dance or Trip Hop number- in the way that genres and sounds are seamlessly fused to create a animalistic whole. The pleasing soothe and jive catch the ear, but it is the percussion and hand-claps (bubbling underneath) that draw your eyes in; you are waiting for them to take charge and lead the way. Before you get a chance to speculate and forward-think, we are treated to a vocal interlude- another spoken word passage. What we get is Rhett Butler (from Gone with the Wind) utter his most famous (or infamous) line: “Frankly. my dear, I don’t give a damn.” It is not something you expect, and not only do you find yourself smile along; but it seems like such a natural progression. I mentioned Clark Gable previously, so his appearance seemed apropos; I have been picturing him all along- and it puts paid to my curiosity as to where the spoken word snippets were sourced from. Whether it is actually Gable’s voice (in the segment) or not, I am not sure (got to watch that film again!), you have nary a moment to check, as a sonic riot is unleashed. Our creator infuses brass parps and codas that are stonewall classics; the truest manifestations of the Swing Era players- that mingle alongside crisper and more retro trumpets. The way that Shiftin’ Shade manages to mix modern-day relevance and urgency with 70-year-old vintage nods is impressive indeed- few artists are as darting and inventive. Evocations of Glenn Miller and Bluebird Records come to mind, and everything is lovingly incorporated. Wyther Lane’ employs so much busy and jam-packed mood, it is like a musical sweet shop; elements and various multifarious lines are brought into the mix. Ceremonial and marching brass coda mingles with the skiffling and dace-crazed foreground; creating a beautiful double helix that enforces its way into your psyche and impressively hits the mark. Just after the 1:00 stage, plinking and highfalutin strings twinkle and crackle; a gorgeous and tender parable that changes the pace (once more) and relaxes you. With only a brief moment to be absorbed by the seductive touch of what is present, we are taken somewhere new; a renewed sonic boldness and bravery comes back in; the Glenn Miller-cum-Benny Goodman partnership reignites, and your feet move once more. The final 30 seconds is a delirium of electioneering, genre-splicing and passion. In the same way that cut-and-paste gods such as The Avalanches could fuse various sounds into a single passage and make it sound brand-new, here our hero does likewise- although with greater authority and awareness. Low and temporized beats and shadier notes rumble in the mix; interjected with upbeat and spiked trumpet blasts, there is an on-going sense of progression and romance- as though it is the calling card and courtship of an impassioned couple making their moves. Perhaps Shiftin’ Shade is trying to distil the essence of a dream or scene; giving the Leeds avenue a fresh coat of paint, but to my mind, there is a sense of wordless foreplay; a trajectory that sees the lovers meet and flirt; retract and tease- before giving into their urges and lusts. As the dying moments make their mark, you are left wanting more (the mark of a truly great record), and try to soak in everything that has come before- and succumb completely to the E.P.’s charms.

After all of my talk about new artists and what it takes to get a foot in the door, I feel that Shiftin’ Shade will do pretty darn well. The Electro-Swing genre that has some mainstream advocates, yet the essence of the movement is instilled into certain songs and albums- rather than fully explored by fully fledged artists of the form. New music is seeing a wave of young and hungry Electro-Swing acts coming through, each of whom offer something unique and fascinating. When I sat down to review The Gramophone Gang E.P.- knowing that I was a fan of the genre- I was expecting to be impressed and thrilled, yet was offered so much more besides. Such was the sheer joy and sway of the music, that I had a hard time getting my fingers to type fast enough. With each line or parable came a paragraph’s worth of thoughts; it is music that compels you to write and put down your opinions- I hope I have done it ample justice. Over the course of eight-and-a-bit minutes, I was witness to one of the most vibrant, striking and stirring E.P.s I have reviewed all year, and a perfect tonic to the miserable grumpiness that meteorological forces are offering. Smile and cheer is very much the order of The Gramophone Gang E.P., that you forget about your woes; allow yourself to become immersed within the hypnotic jurisdiction of the music and let go. The trio of tracks are short and explosive- but given the energy and pace that each offers- it is just right. Another song may have been too much; too weighty and breathless, with Shiftin’ Shade saying a phenomenal amount over three songs. The tracks have a sound that invokes the glory days of the Swing era; there is conviction and clear understanding throughout; these cores are entangled within modern vibes and semblances- the resultant mix is fresh and endlessly fascinating. The modern and of-the-minute tones are likely to connect with all music-lovers; resonates with those in love with the dance floor and the beach trance; Rock gods whom prefer their sounds electric guitar-heavy- and everyone in-between them. Few contemporaries have such an immediacy about their sounds, and Shiftin’ Shade is going to stand apart- and gain a lot of unchartered ground. These are songs that can easily have life as T.V. themes and scene-setters; score stunningly evocative and memorable film scenes- and tantalize and seduce stereos, clubs, pubs and venues for many a-year to come. The vocal turns by Adam Hume are impressive and give huge weight and patronage to each track. He manages to invest notes of Swing stars of the ’30s and ’40s with deft conviction, as well as provide unique vocalisations to the duo of tracks (he is featured on). His phrasing and dictation is effective and potent, and he brings emotion, life and curiosity to each line; showcasing himself out as a superb vocalist and a name to watch. Able to convey lust and too-hot-to-handle seduction, his voice can range from an overwrought and spellbound whisper to an invigorated and bolstered force of nature- which has a mobility, charm and colour chart that few of his peers possess. Shiftin’ Shade’s input is stunning; capable of summoning up huge and memorable compositions with apparent ease (although I’m sure it wasn’t); it sound so effortless and natural, yet there is a hell of a lot of detail and discovery within each track- tiny notes and subtleties that demand repeated listens. The authenticity that each track contains is down to their author; a man whom has a fond knowledge of the Swing wonders; but a heady musical polish to bring life to the (bygone) era, and gives the genre a huge lease of life. Where as artists such as The Avalanches merely splice genres into a musical collage (with anal detail and an immense about of work), Shiftin’ Shade explores there in more depth; ensures that the listener gets to witness them in their full glory- but also manages to shape shift and mutate like a carnivorous musical predator. I am sure that Pereira will be looking into an official website, and bolstering his online portfolio; as his music needs to be heard by as many people as possible. At present he has a SoundCloud site and followers there, yet there are thousands across Facebook and Twitter (and other social media sites) that would love and embrace his sounds. When that following and fandom arrives (and it will), I am confident that his pages will become fuller and more confident (I hope I can assist), as he has a lot to shout about. A lot of perfunctory rank-and-file reviewers and blogosphere candidates tend to summarise and distil an E.P. (or album) into a few lines; negating the importance and relevance of fully exploring a work- how can one get the true impression of an E.P. if it is surmounting in three lines?! I get some criticism and cheeky pokes about the longevity and loquaciousness of my blog, and whilst (at times) it can be loquacious, I try to convey a sense of passion, erudition and excitement separate myself from the pack. I hope I have done the E.P. full justice, as it was just what I need right now- music to make my forget my woes and hide me away from the rain. When I reviewed Cissie Redgwick last year, her duo of songs really got under my skin, and inspired me. Through Little Violet I was aware of the genre, yet was not sure if anyone else was following in her footsteps. With regards to her particular evocations and formations:

I think in a way there is a pioneering attitude from Redgwick, as well as Little Violet’s Cherie Gears. They break away from well-worn pop/soul/R ‘n’ B and rock parables, and re-energise and modernise a style of music that, to me, is timeless and faultless. Perhaps it does not have grit or the sort of graffiti lines to attract the most hardened of street/grime artists and fans; but from my perspective- as a huge rock/Grunge/desert rock fan, it is a wonderful sounds, and one wonders why there are not male artists whom are pervading the same electro swing lines. Maybe there are, but down to Redgwick (and Little Violet), there will be others waiting in the wings to sing the songs, they have sung, and try to take them on. There is a great deal of mobility available within electro swing- the lyrics, as well as the musical compositions, and with a voice as strong as Redgwick’s; she is going to be capable of a massive amount of good, should she choose to. With the combination of 1941-Andrews Sisters, with 2013 freshness and innovation, mingling with an underlying ’70s rock innovation in the music/lyrics set, Cisse Redgwick is sure of a long, and fruitful career; she is stunning, strong-willed and a phenomenally diverse and workaholic songwriter.”

I hope Shiftin’ Shade will not object to my comparing him to other artists of the genre, and brining in snippets from other reviews, because I feel it is making my point. As well as there being other artists whom are trying to regenerate embers from the ’40s and ’50s Swing movement, each are doing in their own way- and are sure to benefit from a long career. It is a lifestyle of music that is very much in people’s minds, yet in terms of mainstream representation, how many acts can you think of (whom offer up this music)? That is why these artists are so necessary and worthy, and Shiftin’ Shade is right at the top of the list. He may not look as mouth-watering in a sequin dress, but he has a potency, power and arresting set of songs that are sure to familiarise themselves with the public at large. It is clear how much music means to him, and how keen he is for his songs to be heard. The Electro-Swing genre is one that is undiscriminating and universal; built around an innocence and sense of adventure that everyone can relate to. With certain types of music appeal only to clandestine groups, we should all be embracing what this genre has to offer up. I have been replaying and re-investigating The Gramophone Gang E.P. for a couple of hours; compelled and buoyed by the sheer charm and energy that it proffers- and how memorable and striking the songs are. From speaking with our hero, I know that there are plans for a full-length album; gigs and future songs are all on his itinerary, and it seems that he has a clear idea for the future. I am sure that record labels and venues will be banging at his door, as the songs he has invented are abound with catchiness, spellbinding kick and nuance- you play them over and over to get them to reveal their full charms. The early days of a career are nervy and unpredictable, but our hero should have no doubts or need to demure: his debut E.P. is one is an incredible accomplishment. Whether the album will make an appearance this year, or come to view next year, I am unsure; yet one thing that I can say is…

IT will be one of the most eagerly awaited of the year.


The Gramophone Gang E.P. Track Listing:

The Gramophone Gang EP

Speakeasy Suzy (Feat. Adam Hume)- 9.8/10

Shy Street Swing Club (Feat. Adam Hume) *Live Bootleg Version*- 9.7

Wyther Lane Jazz- 9.7

Standout track: Speakyeasy Suzy


Follow Shiftin’ Shade:








To hear more of Adam Hume’s work:



E.P. Review: Laurel- To the Hills.







To the Hills



The E.P., To the Hills is available via:


The track, To the Hills is available at:



Cinematic grandeur and stirring compositions are rifely abound within the Southampton-born heroine’s debut E.P. With a voice that is compelling critics and fans alike, it will not be long before this young talent is synonymous to all- and taking the collective breath away.


RECENT movements and unveilings in music, have caused a bit of a stir…

in me. Over the last couple of months, I have been looking around the ‘mainstream’ market; checking all of the music reviews and previews- and trying to come across an album that has true potential. My optimism and adventurousness is short-lived and curtailed. It has been a while since the release of …Like Clockwork (by Queens of the Stone Age)- to my mind the last truly great album. The U.S. giants served up a tantalising and monstrous statement of intent with their sixth studio album; one which offered up nuance and spades of surprise. Having been a fan of Q.O.T.S.A., I was a bit ambivalent (with regards to a new album). Era Vulgaris (their fifth album), was, by their lofty standards a bit of a damp squib. Aside from choice cuts like Sick, Sick, Sick, Suture Up Your Future, Make It Wit Chu and Misfit Love, there was little to recommend. Their previous outing- Lullabies to Paralyze– provides heady Queens’ goodness, and was a natural progression, in terms of quality and range. Expectations were understandably high, but Era Vulgaris didn’t match them. Perhaps the band’s revolving-door-policy or tension had led to a qualitative fatigue, but something was amiss. Every band is entitled to a momentary step-back, yet even Q.O.T.S.A.’s ‘slip’ was still impressive, mind. When …Like Clockwork arrived, a sense of nervousness was elicited. What we were provided was, was (and is) a veritable nosegay of exotic and hypnotic sounds; anthems that pulverize and crepuscular crawlers that do their dirty work by nightfall. My God Is the Sun was a traditional Queens’ number; anyone familiar with Songs for the Deaf and Lullabies’ would have grinned like a fat Cheshire Cat. With Grohl on sticks duties, it is a rampant and unslakeable monster of a song that matches cool-as-f*** Homme vocals with lyrics of alacrity and relaxation: a man driving a desert road; without a care in his mind. It is the stand-out of the L.P. and an emphatic fingers-up to those dubious that the Californian clan had lost any of their punch. The band’s eye-catching nomenclature was all very much present and corrected, with numbers like Kalopsia and If I Had a Tail appearing on the docket. The former is a slow-burner (that, after a few listens, becomes your favourite track) which offers vivid lyrics and a particular moment that sends your back hairs into orbit (listen to it and you’ll hear when it occurs for sure). Smooth Sailing (with its wonderfully insane video) contains some of Homme’s most sexualized and witty lyrics; and boasts a tune and catchiness that is hard to defeat. With a title track (and swan song) that is amongst the most touching and truthful songs they have ever recorded, the album is a rightful masterpiece. Superseding expectations and ranking alongside their very finest (only Rated R tops it, to my mind), it is an L.P. that stays on your stereo for months and months (I am listening to it now); and is a creation that offers tremendously exciting future prospects. That album dropped back in June of last year. After that there was a bit of a gap; my mind wandered and nothing overly exciting was about, until London Grammar’s debut (If You Wait) was unveiled. Despite the fact that the album is being advertised and re-branded like a tattered feather bower, it is still an impressive work. I always wonder when an album (that is nine months old) is being promoted like it is brand-new; whether the band are running out of support or else are unable to provide anything new, yet If You Wait (upon its release) startled me. With Hannah Reid’s beguiling beauty and monumental voice scoring eleven stunning tracks, it is one of the finest albums of 2013. Reid herself marked her intentions as one of the best songwriters of the moment; tracks such as Wasting My Young Years and If You Wait (two of her sole compositions) display a maturity and well-educated set of lyrics; evocative and haunting compositons- and spectacular vocal performances. With her two male comrades, Reid’s Grammar lessons offered up spectral and multi-coloured delight; tender-hearted emotion and dollops of defiance. Although many have compared the act to Florence and the Machine, London Grammar come across as a more seductive version- with a very different set of ideologies and songs. The electronics and compositions had nods of Massive Attack, yet the way that the trio brand and convey their music came across as bracingly fresh and urgent. Another gem has been unearthed, and (to my ears) the last great album of 2013 had made its way to us. Fast-forward to a few weeks back, and Paolo Nutini’s third album, Caustic Love was released. It may be an over-exaggeration but nothing truly spectacular filled the void between London Grammar’s album (giving its title a strange irony), and Nutini’s latest. It is the best album of this year (so far) and one of the most immediate records I have heard in years. I have never been overly fond of the 27-year-old Scot, but one could not ignore Caustic Love. With raw passion and gravelled operatics, the L.P. is a cornucopia of sexual rambunctioiusness, sweat and sly smile; spiritual and religious examinations and tales of heartache and break-ups. Opener Scream (Funk My Life Up) sees Nutini screaming and wailing like a man possessed; exorcising an inner demon that is a slave to desire; one that has been summoned up by an intoxicating heroine. It is one of the best R&B tracks since the heydays of the ’70s; and is not even the best thing on the album. Iron Sky looks at religious organisations and their institutionalisation of their followers; the unsettling hold they have on the minds and freedoms of those whom worship- Nutini’s voice is up to the task. With one of the most deliriously overwhelming vocal turns of this year, our hero lacerated the track beyond belief. Whereas songs like Better Man highlight the young man’s lyrical talents; numbers like Cherry Blossom and One Day are synonymous with their catchy codas and strikingly beautiful vocal turns. In Caustic Sky we have witnessed what is likely to be the best album of this year; and for me, a revelation of sorts- I am now a bona fide Nutini lover. The point of my trio of truncated album reviews, is to show how infrequently and sporadically the ‘mainstream’ provides genuinely wonderful albums. When true musical immaculate conceptions are abound, then the eyes widen and the parotid glands salivate so- yet this occurs too rarely. With hundreds of acts plying their trade, one expects more than three or four ‘genius’ albums to arrive (in a year)- so what the hell is happening? I have been desperate to hear something that matches London Grammar’s torch songs and emotive swells; a parmour whom provides some of Nutini’s soul and earthquake-inducing tableau vivant– as well as Q.O.T.S.A.’s harder edges and razor-sharp swagger. When thinking about my featured artist (for today’s review), I am giving cause for hope and excitement. I shall introduce you to here very shortly, but shall wrap up my thesis with a small addendum. Many bands and acts of the moment, are releasing songs and albums that do what they are supposed to do- provide inspiration and lodge in your brain. I guess it may be my subjective and particular tastes that are enforcing my argument, because (debatably) there have been better albums released this year (than Caustic Love)- and many other wonderful equals. I feel, mind, that the realm of new musicianship is going to offer up the most fertile and prosperous future endeavours; from those I have reviewed I get the sense that we will be seeing a lot of diverse and wonderful acts come through very soon.

Before I investigate Laurel in greater depth, I am breaking a golden rule for her (Laurel Allen-Cullen). My howling execrating of the mainstream aside, I am always fascinating to discover a new musician; something genuinely different bold. Ordinarily, I need (as a bare-minimum) a fairly detailed biography; links to- or full-bodied- reviews; as well as enough information to get me started- and set the ‘wheels in motion’ as it were. With regards to these necessities, Laurel is a bit of an enigma- and someone I may otherwise have bypassed. Not only is the stunning Siren a captivating beauty, but someone whose music demands thorough investigation; songs that beg for consideration and appraisal. Having Google-d reviews of our heroine, and found some personal background (below), I been able to cobble together some heritage, although one suspects that there is a lot more being kept back. It would be great for Laurel to give us some insight into her background; what she has done these last few years, and how she has spent her time. As well as listing her influences, I would love to see some reviews listed, too- not so she can boast, but so the fan-in-waiting can see what others think of her, and bolster her reputation. Her online portfolio is varied and well-spread, but I hope she does give some thought into expanding her personal information, as I would hate to think that reviewers or music-lovers may be passing her by- fearing that our heroine had little to say. When you listen to her music, you realise that this young star has a hell of a lot to say; to shout about, and a weight that she needs to unburden from her mind. The largest proportion of my reviews (when dealing with U.K. talent) sees me travelling to Yorkshire or London; yet today I am pleased to hear of someone whom emanates closer to my neck of the woods- Southampton. Being Surrey-born, I am always looking for acts whom I am within ‘driving distance’ of’; or commutable at least. London is close to me, yet I always long for an excuse to get down to the coast; to head south and delve into the tender recesses and bustling cities of Hampshire. Few modern acts hail from Hampshire and the coastal regions of the south, so Laurel is a slight anomoly- and a vastly impressive one. Whilst Yorkshire seems to be the natural home of the best new music has to offer, one should not ignore other locales. London has a fair smattering of shining lights, yet if you look hard enough, you can find others (located elsewhere). I have reviewed a few Brighton-based acts (including House of Hats), and find that sonically they provide ample beauty. Not subjugated by the city smog and busy streets, the acts that hail from our southern coasts seem freer and less stiffled; their music is more open and inventive and imbued with a natural cheer and romance. Laurel is someone whom fits within this parable, and seamlessly promotes the virtues of her hometown- although she probably spends more time out of London these days. Before I get down to more detail, I was reading an interview she conducted with the girls are last year, where she laid out her plans for 2014, and how she has spent her last few years. In lieu of some official online biographical documentation, the snippet below helps you to gain a window into our heroine’s past- and present intents:

When she was 17, UK singer-songwriter Laurel uploaded a demo on SoundCloud. The track, ‘Next Time’, sent music blogs into a frenzy and as a result, Laurel soon found herself signed to the same management as Ellie Goulding and Rita Ora. Still only 19 years old, when asked how she would describe her sound to someone who had never heard a Laurel song before, she doesn’t hesitate to affirm, “teenage angst”. It’s no surprise then to hear such trepidation and melancholy within her songs, feelings which have obviously helped to fuel a beautiful, orchestral style of self-produced pop music. Music has always been a big part of her life: “I always loved music from a really young age, I did a lot of classical training and performances with my school but I never enjoyed singing other peoples’ songs, so I thought I’d try creating my own.” But creative drive and a strong sense of her own artistic vision weren’t the only motivations for getting into music: “I also really fancied Lil’ Chris and at the time I thought the only way I’d be able to marry him is if I got famous too and was a cool rockstar like him (oh, I wish I was a child again!).”… So what inspires Laurel? “Films are a big influence… ones with great sound tracks like Rush, and Where the Wild Things Are. I love the film Place Beyond the Pines too. I love the dark atmosphere which I try and get across in my songs. I’m also influenced by magazine editorials – the words they use in Vogue are beautiful – a few of my songs like ‘To the Hills’ and ‘The Desert’ are concepts taken from pieces of writing.”… There’s certainly a dark, brooding atmosphere emanating from Laurel’s latest EP To the Hills which hits virtual shelves this month via her own imprint Next Time Records. So what can we expect from listening to the new release? “It’s a big mix of dark, dirty drums and lush orchestration, a lot of pianos and random sound effects. There are two songs that I wrote on there which are fairly new“.

Her single To the Hills has been online for a little while now, but has been gathering some incredible feedback and testimony. The track was inspired by the Raymond Carver short story; with its Ben Newbury-directed video garnering a lot of focus and adulation (it has a feel of a Lana Del Rey promo with its stunning scenery and vintage feel noir feel/thematic). The song has been viewed over 47,000 times, and it has resonated with a huge amount of people; each encapsulated and entranced by the track’s huge chorus and scintillating power. It is a song that forms the bedrock of Laurel’s To the Hills E.P.- a collection that has gathered mass acclaim and caused ecstatic whispers amongst music reviewers and critics. Here as just a selection of tributes that have been to Laurel- and her E.P.:

Laurel’s mid-February Booth debut, Fire Breather, found the Southampton singer-songwriter head-over-heels for a man every bit as volatile as the titular element. On freshly-released follow-up To the Hills, romance is once again linked with destruction, but this time around she’s all too happy to fan the flames. Accompanied by her own production, a string-driven arrangement that slowly gathers steam over the record’s running time, she paints an apocalyptic, yet alluring lyrical picture of young love: “I feel the heat on my skin like demons. Cry with joy, ‘cause I know hell follows me. Out here in the garden of angels, / I felt what it’s like to be free.” Director Ben Newbury‘s cinematic visuals round out the package.”


Since the first day I discovered Laurel’s music I have fell in love with her music. I’m loving this EP and can’t wait for more live shows and a full studio album.”

Mr Chuey, iTunes

Soon, the time had come for Laurel to take to the stage. We’ve been following her every move since the release of her latest track Fire Breather and our first live experience was astounding. Laurel may only be young, but she has the most unique and mesmerising tone and quality to her voice – in fact, we kind of entered a trance like state during her set. As well as Fire Breather, she played soon to be released To the Hills and our ears swooned with delight – delicate, intricate and always laced with this sweet yet noir romance that cannot be forgotten.”

Bring The Noise

No, what this prodigiously talented young lady is giving us here is a grand cinematic swathe of romanticism and drama. The stirring orchestral arrangement gives “To The Hills” a gorgeously sinister edge, a sumptuous intensity that feels like it could unleash a darkness within your soul. A darkness that lurks undetected until freed by a horrific, neck piercing act* and that then becomes all consuming. Her voice is soft but powerful with moments of brief and enticing fragility woven within, conveying a fleeting feeling of remorse perhaps; a remembrance of a humanity lost.”

Alphabet Bands

The five track EP has a dark tone but instantly draws you in and is guaranteed to have you hitting the repeat button.”

The Journey

Saw her support John Newman and was like whoa! Superb voice. Await the album with glee.”

babycake08, iTunes

Laurel clearly knows what she wants to achieve and the type of music she wants to produce. Smart, sassy and self aware, there is a maturity and a certain air of knowing that surpasses her youth. Now London-based and having spent time in LA writing and recording, there’s a debut album planned for release later this year. To the hills and far away, go get lost in the sounds of Laurel.”


Produced and written by Laurel herself, lead track ‘To The Hills’ is almost otherworldly. Perfectly showcasing her knack for creating cinematic music dark in tone and beguiling in melody, it is as haunting as it is seductive and poignant.”

Pop Scoop!

Her debut EP To The Hills, while short and sweet with only five tracks is hard-hitting yet playful. The first track, ‘To The Hills’, opens with a graceful stringed arrangement, which makes way for the multi-layered vocals of Laurel. A modestly simple beat lays the foundation for haunting lyrics that lead through an arduous journey. The hook “Get higher higher/Get higher higher” enhances the pronounced tension and raises the feeling of running from an unknown danger… To The Hills has a bold, distinctive simplicity running straight through the EP and is a much-needed refreshing break from the sycophancy of today’s popular music.”

York Vision

Many comparisons are chucked at Laurel from the obvious Lana Del Ray and Florence that are thrown at every female artist that stands in front of a mic singing falsetto these days to more obscure inventions. I feel she is more unique than critiques give her credit. My first memory of Laurel was a pleasant smiley young lady playing acoustic gigs at Southampton’s Talking Heads and former legendary Southampton live music heyday Hamptons. She was a clear talent even back then with success written in her voice as she sang wholesome flowery pop songs that melt the heart. This image of a low-tech flowery country dress girl and her guitar has been well and truly shattered tonight with a performance that was sheer and cutting, dark and moody, unbridled and confident in its originality. The fluffiness of her coat could be seen from all across the land.”


With over 4,000 Facebook devotees (and a healthy army across Twitter and other social media sites), our heroine’s stock is on the rise. With her striking (lavender) E.P. colours, and a confident collection of tracks to her name, it is only a matter of time before Laurel ascends through the ranks of the underground, and to the precipice of modern music- rubbing shoulders with the Del Reys, Grammars and Nutinis of the world. When it comes to the female solo market, the competition here is as fierce and intense as one could imagine. With every passing week we are introduced to a gilded sweetheart; made susceptible to our most drooling instincts with a silk voice or soothing set of lungs. Music is a beast whose praise and patronage is simultaneously pernicious and a self-fulfilling prophecy. I have witnessed a great deal of female solo talents be hailed as near-genius; only to find that their sound is rather limpid- and their majesty quickly fades. Other times, critics are bang on the mark, and you get to watch a worthy talent gain their just rewards. When I surveyed female talents such as Chess, Jen Armstrong, Ruby Macintosh and Elena Ramona, I instantly knew that these names would be ones to watch very closely. A unique flair and determination augments their sounds, which are a blend of hard-hitting mandates on love and tender and evocative paens to life itself- as well as there being some witty and arresting numbers thrown into the mix. Too many critics become complacent when promoting a new act; others underestimate the potential of various examples- making it hard to really determine which artists are going to be future stars. Laurel is a young lady that is not only going to be bossing the festival scene in years to come; she has an intractable charm and allure that not only hits you from the moment she sings a note- yet becomes more evident as you investigate her music closely. A lot has happened quite quickly for our heroine. When interviewed by Idol Magazine (last month), Laurel explained how she came to become a songwriter:

It was only a year or so ago that I started writing all of the music. I was co-writing with people, but I’ve never wanted to sing other people’s songs. I just don’t enjoy it. So, I started to produce my own. That is when I really started to love my music. I always knew want sound I wanted to create. But there were a lot of producers trying to change it; saying it was similar to other females. I tried all this different stuff, but I just came back full circle.”

All of this has lead to the here and now, and the E.P. itself. When talking to the magazine about how she projects herself; whether there is a certain mould or model in mind, our heroine was very honest and matter-of-fact about it:

When you are doing something creative you can’t decide what people like and try to adhere to it. So, I just write whatever I want. If it is a good song, then great. If it’s bad, I don’t mind because I got my feelings out. It is usually more of a story from things that have happened in my life.”

A couple of days ago I featured Australian solo act Vancouver Sleep Clinic, and the (young) man behind the moniker; stunned at the depth and detail in his music; the sheer force of his voice and compositions- and how intelligent and poetic his words were. Being in his teens, we are going to hear a hell of a lot from him; a future L.P. is a distinct possibility, and it will be fascinating to watch this blossoming talent stretch towards the sky. Similarly, Laurel’s author has a potency and sense of captivation about her songbooks that lead me to declare that she will be a legend-in-waiting. Many people have already proclaimed how beautiful and striking To the Hills is; so for that reason, I have no choice but to add my applause.

Euphoric and cinematic strings open up the E.P., and introduce To the Hills’ opening track (and the title cut). You can detect a hint of Lana Del Rey in the sapling coda; the equivalent beauty is there, yet to my mind To the Hills’ string composition is more emphatic and potent. In the same way Bjork was capable of eliciting the same heady majesty on albums such as Debut and Post, here something equally stirring is presented. There is nothing hard-edged, foreboding or barbed wire about the compositional tone; it is romantic and swaying; one gets the impression of our heroine clothed in white- looking over the balustrade at hero below. It could easily be the a parable that scores of a classic film of the ’40s and ’50s; something epic and scene-building is afoot. With some electronic pulses, with its sonar radar and pulverizing heartbeat, our heroine approaches the mic. Early words tell of “Into the hills/Cry the tears of the crocodiles/Lost feet on the road/Said I love you so I don’t have to be alone“; the words temporized and staunchly delivered with a strong head. In so much as there are some faint influences afoot (Del Rey, Bjork etc.), you get the impression that this is very much the heartfelt testament of a young woman; one whom has her own soul and is pouring it forth. The composition is confident and fully realised, with an authority that bellies her tender years. Black-and-white film scenes mingle with sharp fashion and sweeping overtures; there is a mix of dark and brooding as well as elliptical and redemptive. Whether our heroine is surveying a personal experience- or else writing from fiction- I am not sure, yet I sense the former is probably true. When the words “Smoke fast/Out the door” are delineated, our heroine’s voice is dripping in meaning and emotion; you can hear something more vulnerable is lurking beneath the surface, yet (thus far) she is holding strong. Few songwriters put you in the scene; have the ability to draw your mind into the song, so that you can picture what is being sung. The music video for the song goes a long way to articulating the images, yet everyone will have their own version of events. Somewhere in the hills of Hollywood our heroine and heroine are making their way through the morning; barely saying a word, they are draped in cigarette smoke and the subtle chill of the hour. Singing “Sun’s coming up to early/My valentine“, the words stick inside your mind and you are won over by the plight and events that are unfolding. The chorus arrives, and the words are almost chanted; there is a strength and determination in the delivery that makes words such as “I don’t know if I could live much more” more emphatic and emotive. With our heroine’s distinct voice and accentuation bringing the words fully into view, the words sway and flow (where as before they were slowed and more fatigued); our heroine has a sense of the upbeat in her voice- although events are still downturned and oppressive. With our heroine smoking heavily and “Feeling on my own“, she has “Lost control“, there is an underpinning of hope and youthfulness (the backing vocal of “Higher, higher” adds weight and potency to the scenery). The way that the composition subtly and imperiously strikes is an impressive facet. Most contemporaries would err on the side of energy and needless force; throwing instruments and electronics into the mix, fearful that listeners would become bored or uninterested. Our heroine mixes electronic pulses with short-sprinting string bursts, adding an impressive amount of intrigue and passion into the palette but letting her voice shout the loudest. With only the faintest of nods to an Icelandic queen and a flame-haired modern-day idol, Laurel is encapsulating the feeling of emptiness and romantic abandon with a distinct and striking voice. Our heroine is on the beach and feeling alone; the sensation and feeling of her sweetheart’s touch still lingering on her lips; you get the sense of something spectral; that her lover is almost ghost-like and distant- that it is a paen to past memories. When the chorus is re-injected, it moves the story along, and you get the sense that our heroine is fleeing almost, desperate to escape to the hills; get away from life and find something more meaningful. The next verse demonstrates another pace shift; where the words are more delicately delivered; they are dripped and ease from the microphone, with sensual yet emotional implore. Telling us that “I feel it here on my skin“; she is in the garden of angel; an ethereal and spellbinding tingle is uttered in the composition; subtle electric guitar springs fuse with scuttling electronics to present meteorological elements, blood flow and inner tension. In spite of the sense of tears in the voice, the song has a striking message; one where our heroine will “Cry with joy/’Cause I know Hell follows me/Out here“. By the time that the chorus comes back around again, you wonder if redemption or answers will be realised; whether solace and peace will be found; and if resolution is forthcoming. It is an impressively confident and memorable opener that mixes darker cinematic sweeps with vintage scenes; our heroine the fashionista idol lays her heart on the line, and puts the listener directly in the song; her rich and stunning voice make every words burrow into your skin- To the Hills is a song that is hard to ignore. Some far-off and ghostly echo opens up Nicotine Dreams. Crackling and primal percussive notes back the apporitional cries; the intro. is one that atmospheric and detached, but also tantalising and mood-building. The opening notes mutate and evolve like a Trip Hop track of the ’90s; the same thing that master purveyors Massive Attack would unleash- with no less conviction and potency. The track sees our heroine (once again) detail and gently deploys her words, ensuring that the meanings are understood and stay with you. Sitting on the front lawn, our heroine is “so bored“, it seems as though the weight of modern-life is getting on her shoulders; Laurel sits back and watches everything unfold, but the mood is a lot more upbeat. As with To the Hills there is a dream-like element to the vocals; one which makes words like “Drunk all our money/In with nicotine dreamers/Heads lost inside the clouds” sound both striking and romantic. Where as the E.P.’s opening salvo was perhaps more emotive and strained, here is the documentation of two lovers living life in the freest sense; doing what they want to do. Our heroine says that her man would “die for me right now“; a sense of comfort and safety in her voice that has been a long time coming. The chrous is an augmentative and celebratory parable, one imbued with a modern and current flair. Where as the title track had vintage shades and classic movie scene sounds, there is a 21st century flavour that brings full life to the uplifted words: “Say, Oh Virginia/He’s the king I’m his queen/Best he’s ever seen/Oh buttercup take the sun with me you’re the dark star in the sky.” What I have noticed (at this point) is the sense of emotional range and common themes. From an opening that perhaps foretold of shadows and demons chasing our heroine to hillside recesses; a sense of detachment, here something more hopeful remains. Laurel is adept at projecting an inspired and renewed vigour, yet still intones some darker and shadier themes into the pallet. Themes such as God, devils and demons make an appearance intermittently; glamour, nicotine and sensuality mingle alongside one another, and our heroine has a genuine passion for lyrics and wordplay. Once more echoed and distant backing vocals help to add emotional weight and a far-off quality; lightning flash electronics and percussive scuffs kick an additional compositional gravity, and the vocal is commanding. There is no austerity or coldness in the vocal; an air of sexiness and seduction comes through, and you can practically feel Laurel’s breath through the speakers. With our heroine dancing with the Devil’s crown, the voice almost cracks (with emotion) as the words “Getting lost in strip clubs/Baby hallelujah/Everything we want we found” are delivered. Laurel has a clear affection for Americana, the images of Vogue magazine; old films with U.S. automobiles shooting towards the sunset. Far away from Southampton and London, our heroine and her sweetheart are once more driving into the distance- yet perhaps things might be different this time. Her lover is saying her name, in a way that she knows means he loves her; there may be a chance of happiness. What hits you is how skillfully words are projected and deployed; they are syncopated and pauses; ellipsis is laid in and then lines tumble and rush. With such a consideration towards language and its pacing, the words are giving additional consideration and weight; lines become more effective and electioneering- and the listener gets the impression of someone innately in tune with the needs of the modern-day music-lover. As the song’s fire starts to burn out, our heroine unveils a final verse: “Wide eyes boy/Am I glamorous as pearls/And all the other girls/Sell me out my lover, no other/Makes me feel as sweet as you do/It’s too much to lose“. There is an underlying feeling of ambiguity and double-meaning within the lyrics that make you wonder whether there is sincerity evident; if the romance is as wonderful as it could be- or if her beau is going to let her down or sell her short. Our heroine wants to hold on and embrace the feeling, yet you sense that there is an anxiety or doubt in the back of her mind; a feeling that possible things may not last. That may be me over-examining and misinterpreting, but such is the power of the music, that you are compelled to look into the words and investigate them thoroughly. The E.P.’s final track (original one; there are two remixes that follow it), is Shells. When speaking with the girls are, Laurel explained that the track was based around a personal love; in her own words: “It’s a song that reminds me of when I was madly in love with a boy and it was suddenly all over, so I have a really big attachment to it.” This time around, the intro. is not brooding or emotive; there is tenderness to it, but it more fairy-like and fairground; a sense of innocence and sinlessness preside over it. When the vocals arrive, they are tender and sweet; our heroine delivers the lines with a relentless pace; as though she has to get them out no matter what- the feeling of urgency comes fully into the fore. When singing “Skin and bones/We’ve lost ourselves“, the words are punctuated and emphasised by a composition which is classical-sounding and extremely tender. Boasting the most romantic and purest soundscape, piano rushes and skips give sentiments like “Holding on to all we’ve felt” an emotional weight that is hard to shake off. Keeping her voice true and levelled, Laurel’s anonymous paramour made her fall in love (“Just in time“); he has managed to win her over and entrance her- yet we know how the story ends. It appears that the (anti-) hero is tying our heroine in knots; causing her heart to skip, stop and rictus. The vocal that is presented at the 1/3rd mark is the sweetest and more balletic on the E.P. With a purity and crystalline delicacy, our heroine twirls and spins her words; they breathlessly twinkle and sparkle. At 1:26 a skiffling and striking percussive hammer-blow comes into the mix; it rushes rap-like; with a certain menace that juxtaposes with the piano yet beautifully entwine.  Her lover pushed her out “to survive” and the marks and scars of the fall-out have caused romantic agoraphobia. Our heroine is afraid to go back to the start and allow herself to become vulnerable and susceptible; made clear and concise with the punchy and perpetual motion of the composition. It is the sense of urgent unrest and push that makes the sonic score the finest on the E.P.; it never lets up and ensures that the track remains fully ensconced within your brain. The vocal sways, strikes and rouses with a delicate purity that is ethereal and mesmeric. With “tired eyes“, Laurel is picking herself up and trying to survive; trying to move on and make sense of it all. You can understand why the song means so much to our heroine; because of the personal nature of the track, she has gone out of way to ensure that it resonates with the listener- both the composition and the lyrics are well thought-out and stirring. The weightlessness and emotiveness of the vocals hit hard, and the song’s nature and themes can be extrapolated and relate to everyone- a lot of people would have been in the same situation as our heroine. With two To the Hills remixes completing the set, it is a confident, consistent and stunning collection, that shows what a talent Laurel is. She has her influences, but is determined to stand apart from any other names. There are cinematic touches of Lana Del Rey (and that same Americana-cum-cigarette strewn scenery); complex and nuances compositions that put you in mind of Bjork; Florence and the Machine’s emphatic power and detailed soundscapes- as well as a semblance of London Grammar when the vocal is at its most powerful. Overall, there is a clear sense of a young woman with a clear identity; a voice that is singular and rare- and a talent that will see her with a long career ahead. The tracks are well programmed and sequenced, so that the range and moods and emotions are presented effectively. There has been a lot of heartbreak, romantic dislocation (and happiness) in our heroine’s life, and she proudly lays it out in its full glory. There are no teenage strops or immature utterances; everything is maturely and confidently unveiled; making the E.P. more impressive and striking. Laurel takes care of the compositional and production duties, and does not miss a step throughout. Each instrumental and electronic element is carefully and tactically deployed, and nothing is buried in the mix. The vocals are clearest and highest on the order, but the sonics are clearly visible and weighty. Perhaps some decipherability does get lost within the headiness of Shells, but it is a minor negative in an E.P. that offers multitudes of positives. The first career steps are always tentative and unpredictable, yet on the basis of To the Hills, our heroine should have no fear. The three (original) tracks showcase a tender talent whom has had a tumultuous past, yet is able to transform and adapt that into some wonderful music, that can be loved and enjoyed by everyone. Certain songs could be used in stirring and epic film scenes (To the Hills and Nicotine Dreams); whereas the swan song could enjoy life as a club favourite. I am sure that Laurel has her own plans and views with regards to her tracks, but such is the burden she has- there will be so many options. With an album in the pipeline, many eyes will be trained to Laurel and what she comes up with next. It is going to be an exciting time ahead, and one which (given the momentum from her E.P.) will offer up many vibrant and scintillating soundtracks of modern love and life.

My opening statements about mainstream music may seem blithe and irrelevant, yet for all its inconsequentiality, it actually highlights a valid issue. I was stunned when Paolo Nutini released Caustic Love, not only because of the quality of material being offered up, but also because it seemed so alien and detached; an aberration that I have rarely seen. With a huge waft of mediocre and unspectacular offerings coming through (each week), genuinely wonderful albums can seem unexpectedly strange. In my reviews, I often expound the wonders of new musicians; not as aimless subterfuge, but to highlight how mesmeric sapling sounds can be. The amount of quality being offered by the unsigned, uninitiated and fledgling is outweighing the mainstream market by such a degree, that the majority of my music listening revolves around fresh sounds- acts whom are unfamiliar to the wider populace. Laurel is an example of an artist whom proves me point, and goes to show just how spectacular and interesting new music can be. I guess my reticence towards her lack of personal details (on her social media sites) seem inconsequential, as the sheer wonder of her music does all the talking. Whilst some sound bites and quotations would be supplementary, a lot of the gaps are filled in when you examine To the Hills– you gain an insight into the young woman who is a lot richer than anything that can be found on Facebook. Her startling beauty is reflected within her trio of original songs, which compel you with their titles; draw you in with their seductive beauty- and grab your ears with their startling sounds. The music and compositions are deep and rich; filled with nuance, emotion and introspection- as well as moments of joy and sanguine decadence. Comparisons will be (and have been) levied towards the likes of Lana Del Rey and London Grammar (amongst others), but our heroine stands apart from these examples- and her contemporaries at large. Laurel’s voice is possessed of a delicate beauty; one which mists the eyes and sways the head, yet capable of summoning up a huge amount of power and erotic electricity. When reviewing Vancouver Sleep Clinic a couple of days ago, I was impressed how he could take themes of love’s rubbles- and inject a degree of originality and invigoration into them. Most modern musicians tend to project an over-simplified and predictable set of lyrics, yet Laurel is marking herself out as a lyricist to watch- and one whom has an intuitive and educated ear for melody. The compositions presented are evocative and stunning; ranging from symphonic and multifarious lustre, across to sighing and romantic side-streets- with a huge amount of mobility and fluidity throughout. When chatting with the girls are, a valid point was raised: the hardships and struggles of being a woman in the music workplace:

It’s a part of the experience of being a woman in the music industry that Laurel perceives as an ongoing challenge, “I think it’s hard as a female to set yourself aside from other girls in the limelight. We are all constantly compared to one another and told to be different and make our own mark. For me, I am not trying to make revolutionary music, and I don’t specifically take any influence from my contemporaries. I think we obviously all grew up listening to similar music, so we all are taking influence from the same experiences and music of our time.”

The interview feature paints the portrait of a young artist with a clear sense of identity; one that is not enforced by her peers, but drawn from her personal experiences. Whilst there are shades and undertones of certain musicians, the abiding feeling is one of individuality- someone whom stands out from the crowd of copycat wannabes. At the close of the article, the author went on to conclude:

“Laurel clearly knows what she wants to achieve and the type of music she wants to produce. Smart, sassy and self aware, there is a maturity and a certain air of knowing that surpasses her youth. Now London-based and having spent time in LA writing and recording, there’s a debut album planned for release later this year. To the hills and far away, go get lost in the sounds of Laurel.”

A debut album is a prospect that will water many-a-mouths, and is something that will be in our heroine’s mind. Whether we will see an L.P. this year (or next) I am unsure, but I can guarantee that it will be instilled with the same qualities and layers that are evident within To the Hills. Whilst there is less sexual inequality and subjugation in the music industry (compared to the workplace at large), it is clear that there is a lot of inter-genre rivalry; a certain sense of hard-faced competitiveness has scared more than a few artists off the scent. Many female solo artists have a similar sound, and the spats and battles between them can be intense and bloodthirsty. Part of the problem centres around expectation and the business of comparisons. Many critics (I have been culpable once or twice) are quick to label a new act as “The Next…”; a new Mariah Carey or Amy Winehouse, which not only puts pressure on that musician, but also squelches their unique personality. Whilst our heroine understands how relentlessly difficult it can be to stand aside from your peers, her debut E.P. will go a long way to ensuring that tongues are set a-wagging. Too much new music sounds homogenized and samey, so the fact that Laurel has such a distinct and particular voice means she will have a prosperous longevity. The talent and intentions that are mandated within her songs uncover a curious and ambitious creative mind; one that is going to be a massive name to watch. She is taking inspiration from a number of different sources; from her day-to-day life, through to the big screen:

Films are a big influence… ones with great sound tracks like Rush, and Where the Wild Things Are. I love the film Place Beyond the Pines too. I love the dark atmosphere which I try and get across in my songs. I’m also influenced by magazine editorials – the words they use in Vogue are beautiful – a few of my songs like ‘To the Hills’ and ‘The Desert’ are concepts taken from pieces of writing.”

If you are in a quagmire or bored with what music there is on offer, then snapping up Laurel’s debut E.P. is the most perspicuous thing you could do- and would be a great largesse. Here is a young woman with a busy and exciting future ahead of her, and the best way to proffer and support an artist of this calibre, is not only to listen to her music- but share and disseminate it, so that many others can do likewise. In a social media age, there still seems to be too much compartmentalization and selfishness, and many artists find it hard to gain a widespread legacy. I would advise everyone to assist in divulging our heroine’s music as freely as possible, as it not only fits perfectly with the sun-kissed weather are experience, but has a timeless and indiscriminate appeal. The next few months are going to be action-packed and exciting, as our heroine explained to Idol Magazine:

We just announced I’m supporting a band called ‘Wet’ from New York. I really love them. I’m playing The Great Escape in May. And then I’m going back to America to do some shows in Toronto, Philadelphia, LA, New York, Washington and some other places. I’m pretty excited to go to New York. I would definitely love to live there for a couple of years.”

It seems that the U.S. may be a future home for Laurel, but for now she is concentrating on To the Hills; the reaction it gleams and how it resonates with the music-buying community. The straw poll and the ballot boxes are hinting at a landslide victory; one that should provide our heroine with a great sense of accomplishment- and perhaps some personal relief too. The air and lifestyle London is offering is conducive to creative inspiration, so she may be remiss to head to the U.S. any time soon. In an industry that is as notable for its cynicism and fickleness as it is for its fairness, Laurel will take solace in the fact that so many people are paying their respects to her music; that it is having such a marked impact. Too many great and vital artists are being overlooked and being granted a short-lived regard; investigate Laurel’s wonderful E.P. and keep it close to your heart…

OTHERWISE you may miss out on something truly remarkable.


To the Hills Track Listing:


To the Hills- 9.7/10

Nicotine Dreams- 9.6

Shells- 9.7

To the Hills (The Jane Doze Remix)- 9.5

To the Hills (Woodysproduce Remix)9.5

Standout track: Shells


Laurel’s music videos are available at:



Follow Laurel:















Last F.M.:








Tour Dates:



E.P. Review: Vancouver Sleep Clinic- Winter





Vancouver Sleep Clinic






The E.P., Winter is available via:


The track, Flaws is available at:



This striking Wunderkind has drawn comparisons with the likes of Bon Iver, London Grammar and James Blake. With a sleep-studying Canadian moniker, a cross-generational British influence (and Australian nativity), our hero’s music is causing worldwide effusiveness. On the evidence of his hypnotic debut E.P., it is not hard to see why.


ONE of the most difficult issues facing a new musician…

is separating themselves from the crowd. It is hard enough making it into the intramural walls of music; making a mark and differentiating yourself (from your peers) can seem like a daunting snake pit. During my last review of (L.A.-based duo) The Open Feel, I went into depth with regards the local scene in Los Angeles. Their latest track, Sidewalk Zombies is a number which marks them out as serious future prospects. In the U.S., there are a great deal of acts making their initial moves; each offering up something different and fresh- with nary a few making it across the Atlantic. In the U.K., there is a similar issue arising; acts based in certain parts of the country are finding it difficult making their names known beyond their borders. I have seen a few modern examples overcoming this rule; adept at ensuring that their music is known (and respected) widely; seeping its way to one and all. In a music scene where there are hosts and scores of players across multiple genres, if you are looking to get your brand recognised and adored, then something striking needs to be projected; sounds and music that differs from contemporaries- and stands you apart from the crowd. When I was listening to The Open Feel, they had touches of others; a little The xx in the guitar work; a shade of Chrissie Hynde in their lead’s vocals- yet there was a stark originality and boldness to their movements. In terms of the mass of acts playing out of L.A., I am predicting that they will be amongst the most prosperous; capable of making their way out of the U.S. and making claims as one of the most fervent acts around. Surveyance of homegrown acts such as Gypsyfingers and Knuckle have also compelled my mind. The former’s dreamy blend of ethereal vocals and cross-pollination; their daring and multitudinous sound is something that few other acts offer. In the case of this duo, we are going to be seeing future legends. Their Circus Life album is a bold testament to a young duo, with a lot to say. The latter are another duo, but one whom offer up heavier and more primal sounds. With plenty of U.S. Blues influences, as well as native Rock elements, the Yorkshire twosome are riding the wave of recent acclaim; bolstered and inspired to bring their unique strides to as many people as possible. In the case studies of the aforementioned, there is originality, intention and ambition; they stand apart from their colleagues by being that extra bit louder; something about their music has a qualitative edge that others do not contain. I hope (and am sure) that the future will be prosperous and profitable for these acts, yet I am seeing so many others fall short. Often the music is not to blame, but sheer numbers are crowding them out of the market. In a lot of instances, so many acts are presenting the same type of music with the same sounds, that swathes of (like-minded) artists are finding it hard to grab a foothold. There is a competitiveness in music, that means, unless you have something wonderfully unique and brave to give to the public, then chances are your career will be somewhat short-lived. In a year with an unabated and unregulated music population, it is going to be harder and harder to fulfil this demand. I am not raising the issue as a downer; nor is music a poisoned chalice that indiscriminately strikes- you just have to put some thought into things. A great deal of new acts and talent have spared little imagination when it comes to the bare essentials. Issues and elements such as band/solo name; album/E.P. titles and their online portfolio are often given short-shrift. If you have a lacklustre or generic name, then chances are people will move on to something new. I know you should never judge a book by its cover, yet (with the sheer weight of contenders on the scene), if there is a blandness and predictability to your moniker, then few eyes will stay trained to your door. Similarly, if song and E.P. (or album) titles are homogenous or stale, fandom and longevity will be hard to come by. Nothing radical or mould-breaking needs to occur, yet with a little insight and effort, great rewards can be claimed. All of the newest (and most successful) new acts I have reviewed have clearly understood this golden rule. As well as that, their online representation and spread has been thorough and detailed; compelling, colourful and informative- making it easy for people to find their music and become fascinated. My featured artist is someone whom has also taken the time to work on the small details; as a result, his stock and body of work are being given thorough appreciation; fans are flocking from all around the world- and it appears we may be seeing the rise of a sterling and bright star. I shall come to our hero anon, yet the point of my parable is to provide warning (as well as advice) to any new act. Talent is naturally the most important aspect to consider when making your moves (ensuring that you have it in vast swathes), but I cannot emphasise how crucial it is to ensure your foundations are solid. Over the last few days, I have been looking around for new acts to review; trying to find something striking and different. Unfortunately, I have had to review so many acts, for minor reasons. If a band or act does not have a full biography or not enough personal information, then what am I going to do? Reviewers and fans want to know about the artist, and having a single line of information is simply not good enough. In a social media age, there is no excuse to phone it in or be mysterious. You are not giving too much away by telling us about yourself- where you come from, whom inspires you and what the past has provided. Including some influences, reviews; photos and links to your music should be a given, and I am going to pass over an act if they do not offer this. It a shame (as a lot of great music has been subjugated), but if I am not compelled to probe further, then why would the public at large? An eye-catching name and set of designs do a lot of the hard graft; original song titles and sounds get you a long way, but if you are thinking that mystique and inscrutability are the way to get your name noticed: think again. All of my eloquent theorising and protesting, rather neatly brings me to the case of our Australian hero- whom drew me in with ease.

When looking around for an act that was non-British (just to give me pen a chance to see something new), I searched many-a website; investigated blogs and the Internet, seeking out a fresh and alarming subject. Many were relegated and overlooked because they expected me to fill in the blanks; write their biography for them, and guess do the hard work for them. Our hero’s pages and presentation caught my attention and caused a sense of relief- there is plenty of information and background to get stuck into. In spit of a Canadian-sounding moniker, Vancouver Sleep Clinic’s creator hails from Australia. The Brisbane-born youngster has been enjoying a lot of critical acclaim recently, all salivating over his latest E.P., Winter. Before I delve deeper, here is some biography about the Australian teenager:

Vancouver Sleep Clinic as a name in itself conjures up imagery of long cold winters, of isolation and remoteness and the sometimes self-imposed reclusiveness in all of us as the days get shorter and we move into the bitter months ahead. The adopted moniker of 17 year-old Tim Bettinson perfectly hones in on this visuality and with new track ‘Collapse’ taken from his forthcoming debut EP, the influences of those dark corners inside ourselves interweave throughout his sound. As we draw closer into the winter here in the Western hemisphere, VSC feels like it was designed to be delivered just in time for the onslaught of the colder weather. Taking into consideration that Tim lives in Australia, he set about writing songs for VSC during his winter but what was in fact our Summer – timing can be everything. After months of assembling lyrics and instrumentation from various maths books, notes, whiteboards and bedroom walls, humbly working with scattered cheap microphones, an old laptop and an outdated keyboard – Vancouver Sleep Clinic’s debut EP was born, soaring falsetto vocals built upon progressive synthetic instrumentation to create an ambient vessel of emotional connection. Bearing messages of sorrow, humility and hope above all else – songs are written from the heart alone. Together, let’s create something beautiful.

In terms of new music, we are not hearing too much for Australia. Artists such as Say LouLou have some Australian background, but the likes of Bloods are providing tantalization and resurgence. Their brand of uplifting and raucousness has similarities with the likes of Joan Jett, and leading many critics to hail them as one of the most promising acts of the moment. Courtney Barnett’s Dylan-esque songs are providing the music world with reflection and stunningly literate and memorable music; that which straddles down-to-earth with surreal. Brisbane cousins Black Realm mix grooviness and psychedelia, evoking the spirit of N.Y. Punk majesty of the ’70s. Brisbane female duo Screaming Match have an electrifying brutality and urgency that marks them out as one of the most potent and invigorating acts of the moment. With the likes of The Native Cats, Sky Needle and Go Violets providing ample support, there are at least a few names to keep your eyes on. I guess you have to look hard if you want to uncover the best that is on offer; when it comes to Australian music, we do not hear too much of it in the U.K.- the occasional blog of feature may offer some guidance, but not a lot else. If there were an all-encompassing music website that listed all the acts of a particular nation (arranged by genre and location), then that would make things a lot easier. If it were not for publications and sites such as The Guardian, then we here would not hear of so many great international acts. Vancouver Sleep Clinic is leading the wave of new Australian musicians, intent on making worldwide impressions. The nation is inspiring such a creative flair, because there is not the same sense of balkanization and compartmentalization. A certain freedom and lack of civil war means that the music is a lot more open and all-inclusive. Certain cities in the U.S. and U.K. have rivalries and battling bands; there is often a north/south divide or a sense of clandestine secrecy. Cities such as Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne are showing the most fervent activity and pioneering, but smaller towns and locales are playing host to some wonderfully vibrant and exciting acts. If your only exposure to Australian music is within Home and Away and Neighbours’ background sounds, then you owe yourself a lot more: investigate what the country has to offer. Although a number of the nation’s best acts are emigrating to the U.S. and U.K., there are plenty of native acts whom are putting their country back on the map. Whilst certain countries get most of the music press, I feel that Australia will be coming back strong; reappropriating cynicism or unfocused eyes back to their shores; and showing us what we are missing. Our hero is amongst the finest that Australia is currently offering, and his talent and artistry is being picked up by the wider community. Brisbane-born Tim Bettinson is not even in his 20s yet, but has a maturity and work ethic that bellies his years; puts him ahead of many of his peers- and sets him out as a man to cling to your bosom. Our hero’s D.I.Y. approach to music has a charm and anachronism to it. Collating notes and scribbled lyrics from notebooks and maths textbooks, Bettinson adjourned to the safe havens of home; assembled old equipment and laptops together- to create his unique and beautiful music. In an age where there is an emphasis of technology and digitialisation of music, it is impressive that one so young has an affection for traditional songwriting; for vintage methods and a more honest way of working (working on a laptop can be so artificial when creating lyrics). It is our hero’s voice that is getting a lot of the attention, and I shall go into more detail shortly. It is clear that many people have a lot of good things to say (about his music), and the songs offered up are resonating with all corners. Here is a selection (granted, a large one) of some of the things being said:

Vancouver Sleep Clinic has a mysterious sound. It’s chilled out, haunting and darn smooth. It has to be mentioned that this guy is only 17 years old and began this project out of his bedroom. His latest electronic delight is called Flaws and it is quite beautiful. Immediately, images of winter are conjured up whilst listening to the track. Not an Australian winter, with its kind of cold-ish days, but a winter somewhere in Alaska. There it feels dark, cold and you’re wrapped up in a blanket in a log cabin in the woods. That’s how it feels. The guy behind the excellent vocals is Tim Bettinson but it could well be Bon Iver right? This kid can really hit those high notes, giving a gorgeous substance to the sound. It is really something special. Whilst blissfully awaiting the release of Vancouver Sleep Clinic’s Winter EP, we can relish in the haunting sounds of Flaws and only imagine what other moving sounds will come off the release. In the mean time, go relax in bed with Vancouver Sleep Clinic.


Vancouver Sleep Clinic, aka Tim Bettinson. Having only released two songs – the appropriately titled Vapour and the delicate Collapse– Bettinson found himself supporting London Grammar on their Australian tour, which meant that his fourth ever live show was in front of a thousand people. Unfortunately a mooted support slot with London Grammar in America has been scuppered by antiquated VISA regulations (basically, the band haven’t been together long enough or something), but the connection to London Grammar, musically at least, is fairly obvious. New single Flaws – the first release from his forthcoming EP The Winter and premiered here – is all about restraint and minimalism, Bettinson’s Bon-Iver-minus-the-smoking-habit vocal floating out over a finger click beat, bubbling electronics and pockets of sun-dappled, meandering guitar riffs.”

The Guardian

He released his first track “Vapour” a few months ago, which mixes airy elements with the gentle tugs of an acoustic guitar. I’m not one for boxing music in genres but you could describe it as ambient folk, and yes, it is just as awesome as it sounds. In his latest single “Collapse,” Vancouver Sleep Clinic holds on to the acoustics but delves more into synth as he pulls you along on for a short reflective journey. “Collapse” highlights the vulnerability that comes with life’s changes, as VSC repeats “We’ve been outgrown.” The reminiscence of a not so distant, distant past and the retrospective descriptions of lost opportunities spin into a beautiful but sad tale of time gained and time lost. As VSC’s somber voice echoes throughout the track, you’re forced to relax, swallow the comforting sounds, and accept that sometimes less really is more. Vancouver Sleep Clinic has shown that he’s got quite a promising future ahead of him, so keep your ears and eyes open for whatever he puts out next.”


Only a teenager, Bettinson’s uncanny command of language and sound plays a trick of sorts on the passive listener. A name like “Vancouver Sleep Clinic” suggests what its creator himself had previously professed: music that’s easy to fall asleep to. Admittedly, the soft sound of Winter does allow for fading off into your own world quite easily. Underneath the pretty aesthetics and faultless falsetto, however, lies a treasure trove of insight, curiosity and reflection. Transcribe a Clinic song, and you’ll find yourself poring over seemingly simple couplets, attempting to unlock the meaning of it all. Winter is the child of fundamental experimentalism. More importantly, it’s the brainchild of Tim Bettinson, who possesses the vision and descriptive knack of an overlooking scry. As one of the longest snowy seasons in recent memory enters its final act on the east coast, a burgeoning music career begins to sprout through the frosted ground.”

Potholes In My Blog

Listening manages to be an immersive experience while at the same time being true ambient music. It sounds slightly like London Grammar mixed with Brian Eno, the former of which Bettinson toured with over their new year’s tour. It’s a truly special first release from such a young talent.”


The Winter EP from Vancouver Sleep Clinic is definitely no exception. And while musically it may be pleasing to the ear and calming to the soul, if you pay close attention to the lyrics they’re actually some of the most depressing words you’ll hear in your life. Good shit.”


Winter is worth everyone’s time. The comparisons with Bon Iver are inevitable, but if you can, leave them aside while listening. Tim Bettinson is a boy with personality and his work is strong enough to stand on its own feet. Although making music in very different genres, he and his fellow Oceanic young musician Lorde share another common trait: their works are almost unimaginably good for their ages, and they are sure to impress attentive ears. Tim Bettinson is very likely to soon become a force to be reckoned with. This EP already is.


Vancouver Sleep Clinic sounds like the electronic reincarnation of Bon Iver or Sigur Rós. Bettinson combines haunting vocals and captivating ambient melodies. The track “Stakes” is the most mature and well-constructed song on the EP, making it one of the highlights. Other tracks like “Flaws” and “Collapse” are extremely catchy and entrancing. Winter is soothing, and sounds like something that would be played at, well, a Vancouver sleep clinic. Winter is a must listen if you enjoy this particular strain of ambient electronic music.”

The Varsity

In the “Winter” EP, Vancouver Sleep Clinic explores atmospheric indie-pop. His use of slow moving pads and simple electro drum beats can be compared to groups like The XX and Purity Ring, while his unique falsetto vocal style and melodies lends similarities to Pacific Air and Avalanche City, respectively. Bettinson’s debut track “Collapse” opens the EP with a beautiful song about personal imperfections and accepting that people may grow apart despite their efforts to hold on. The lyrical ambiguity becomes immediately apparent with lines such as “I’d sunk in oceans blue / Now they’re all frozen over”, which are clear enough to express the song’s theme, but vague enough to allow the listener to interpret them for themselves. The emphasis on the line “I’m falling short again” further reflects the pained emotion behind the song.”


The last year or so has seen our hero put the final touches to his E.P., Winter; it is his first big kick in the music world and lays down his intentions, heart and personality to striking effect. With in excess of 12,000 fans on Facebook; add in 1,500-or-so Twitter followers, and it is clear that the music of Vancouver Sleep Clinic is making huge impressions. With youth on his side and a natural talent that is hard to ignore, I am predicting that the next few years will see our hero grow in stature and regard; become more confident and supported- and ensure that we here in the U.K. are more attuned to his mesmeric motifs. I for one would love to hear him perform, as his voice and sound- I would imagine- would sound ethereal and hugely atmospheric (in a live arena); and I am sure that thousands more share my recommendations. In the future, tour dates and an L.P. are distinct possibilities, but for now, the Winter E.P. is gathering huge momentum and praise; reviewers and critics are eager to lend their words and acclamations to this bold and nuanced work; and extol the virtues of our young hero. Not knowing a great deal about Bettinson’s past, I came into the experience with an unbiased and open mind; eager to hear what was on offer- and lend my insights.

Evocativeness and atmosphere are summoned up right from the off of Winter. With sighing and oceanic synths. and electronics, our hero approaches the mic. Begging a tableaux that sees him “sunk in oceans blue.” Whether speaking to a beau, or a friend, I am not too certain; yet the stunning mood that is presented gets right inside your head. There are nods and semblance of London Grammar and Massive Attack (in the sense that dreaminess and emotion are at the forefront) in the electronic coda; with our hero (imploring to his subject) advising “We should have crossed the border“, the soothing and gorgeous sways breeze into your soul. Electronic pulses are studied but hard-hitting; the vocals share embers of James Blake- our hero has a same dusky and masculine falsetto delivery. There is a yearning sense of romanticism and rush in the composition; certain threads bubble and percolate, whilst others strain and sigh. Shades of Overgrown-era James Blake (as well as Sigur Rós) come through, as our hero proclaim: “Because never again/Means none of this at all/Forever pretend/In our shelters we don’t fall.” There is an emphasis placed on the effect and weight of the vocal as opposed to clarity, as sometimes it can difficult to detect some lyrics- as the composition takes over and is at the forefront. In spite of the sonics impeding with the vocals, you are not too worried about intelligibility and decipherability. Our hero’s swooning and tender vocal has its own gravitational field. The pace and presentation of the composition changes as our hero assesses himself and his inner-self (“Falling short again/I’m falling short again/The ranges set so high/And I could never climb/Falling“); events become calmer as the electronics skiffle and patter (joined with subtle hints of acoustic guitar). It seems that our hero is sinking and facing doubts and borders. Maybe accounting the breakdown of a relationship or a sense of solitude, you get the impression that our hero has a particular figure in mind- there is a definite break of spirit and wounded heart to be heard. When thoughts such as “The knowledge that I’ve never known/The garden that I failed to grow” come to roost, you can hear the regret and anxiety in the vocals- the sonic backing emphasises and augments this. Speaking to his parabond, our hero looks back at the sunken wreckage; his voice quivers and seduces as he completes an oral damage report. Looking at the entropy of the relationship and addressing the fall-out, our hero advises (his sweetheart) that when the wreckage has been swallowed, “Maybe then baby, you’ll tell me that we didn’t cling to enough/That we couldn’t outlast the rough.” Like modern idols of electronic heartbreak and cinematic etheralness such as London Grammar, James Blake and The xx, our hero ranks alongside them, yet differs in his presentation. You can hear his distinct voice come through, and although there is Sigur Ros/James Blake outer edges, the core of his vocal is emphatically his; the accentuation and delivery are all Vancouver Sleep Clinic. A more optimistic sense of energy is elicited when “Falling short again…” is unveiled; yet there is a sense of irony. Collapse does what the title suggests; it looks at the injurious and deflating consequences of a break-up; the cessation of a bond has led to a collapsed soul; a dented heart- and a lot of self-reflection. Towards the song’s dying moments, our hero confesses: “On my own/I’ve been outgrown/We’ve been outgrown.” The final line is delivered like a mantra; a truth that is self-evident and destructive, and one that our hero cannot forget. With some layered vocals and tender piano interjections, the final moments are a mix of calm and raw emotion. Whilst a lot of contemporaries and fellow musicians would stick to some well-worn lyrical themes, our hero shows some consideration and personal space; the experiences are all his yet the way he articulates them hints at a literate and pioneering pen- one that has an innate knowledge of the past songwriting masters, and a fond affection for language. It has been said that our hero is a perfectionist; taking ages to finalize lyrics and compositions; ensuring that everything was as effective as it could be. The opening number pays testament to this, and it is a song that overwhelms you with the beauty of the vocal, as well as the evocativeness of the composition itself. Following on from the impressive opener is Flaws. Marked out as a fan favourite, it is a number that offers oblique beauty and some effective word projection. The rush and power of our hero’s vocal comes straight into the mix, and catches you off guard with its urgency. Whereas the opener unambiguously looked at the rubble of a broken love, here there is some (initial) ambiguity; some room for interpretation. With a typically symphonic and heady electronics, our hero starts comes to the mic., offering words that get you thinking: “The weight, I’m gone/In my skin, I’m lost.” Initial impressions give the sense of a young man encapsulated in anxiety and detachment; but perhaps some sexual or romantic undertones are being manifest. Lines flow and link with one another so that there are few wasted moments and gaps; you get carried away in the river-flow delivery that has a sparser backing (than Collapse); with our hero offering food for thought: “Tangled in the bones of this love/Melding to the flow of your blood.” Images of entanglement and entrapment may hint at sexual congress, or else a suffocation of sorts; such is the quality and intelligence of the language, that nothing is clear-cut- the listener can invoke and project their own conclusions. With some upbeat and high-pitched vocal notation (at the start), a sense of winter chill enters the soul; our hero introverts his tongue and lets his demons out. When foretelling “Grace bestowed/But I was shaped with snow/Seasons don’t change/Ignorance remains“, one cannot help but emphasise and root for our hero. Whether he feels that he does not deserve love, or is too young to see the light, I am unsure, but once more some fractured scenes enter the mind. Bold and scenic imagery comes through clearly, and you can almost sense the air of fatigue upon “Ignorance remains“. Finger-clicks and impassioned vocals soon arrive, giving colours to words that are crystal clear: “I need this alone“. At the 0:43 mark, electronic percussion rattle and rolls; a grand and stoic piano line conjoin with wordless vocals; which rise and fall; groan and contort- and seems like a vocal exhortation. With the composition unassuming, yet filled with flavoursome and potent ingredients (slight piano and guitar; moody percussive elements), our hero is looking inward; pain and loss are investigated and picked apart (“The burdens on this chest/The vessel of these words/Sinking under tension/Drew afterthoughts and hurt“). Although it is one of the shortest tracks of the set (3:19) there is so much atmosphere and story covered; between words, haunting and aching sonic parable are presented which not only punctuate the verses, but also instill a huge amount of emotion. Wordless choruses fuse with sparse (yet gorgeous) electronics that get inside your heart and ensure that the song is not easily forgotten. Moonlight piano codas see our hero re-introduce “I need this alone“; his vocals are held and elongated; our hero’s voices rises and almost breaks under the weight of emotion. The tone and sound of the track suggests that it could be used to open an epic Indie film; one which documents a turbulent but memorable road trip, set against a soul-searching and eventful romance. When the final moments arrive, the mood dies down, and the morning’s light starts to crack. It is another tale that not only highlights our hero’s talent for emotive and epic compositions, but completes another compelling set of lyrics; which compel re-investigation and further study. The longest track on the E.P. arrives in the form of Stakes. With a tender and romantic piano opening, one which mixes with acoustic strings and electronic echo, it is the finest intro. of the set (up to this point). Our hero’s voice is calmed yet imploring, offering early words that are memorable, oblique and vivid: “From the lake/Where I lost it all/Stacked on the stakes/Yet you blessed the fall“. In the same way that songwriters such ass Bon Iver, Nick Drake and Sigur Rós mix natural imagery with stunning poetry, our hero shows his talent for wordplay and precision. The first verse has a lullaby quality; the vocal is duskier and more relaxed; yet when the next verse arrives, things change; the vocal pitches up and becomes more wracked and emotive. When it is said that “I guess that I knew I was warned/I left my words in the cold/The things that I built for myself/Castles are tumbling down“; once more vivid images are planted in your mind; as well as hallmarks such as the cold; lonely and empty words, as well as structural decompositions and crumbling. Each is used as metaphors and symbols for loneliness, broken love and regret, which our hero emphasises with a vocal that is tender yet filled with powerful intent. In the line “The first time that I sought for grace” the delivery is more ponderous and moody; weary and masculine; when “But not the last lung I’d put to waste“, the vocal pitch is much higher, and spiritedly delivered- creating an instant mood shift. With some heavy-hearted percussive punches that act as ellipsis, our hero ups the ante; his voice becomes fuller and layered- there is almost a sing along quality to the lines “I’m burning down the stakes/Wash away, wash away.” Caught in the riptide and making sure his words are understood, our hero looks back at the love he had; the shards of glass that lay around his feet. As he is “Fumbling through this jaded book/The hearts I stole, the air I took” he questions his former love and looks at the only mementos that remain (“And now the photograph is all that’s left“). All that is left is to “feed the wolves and empty chests/To break the best.” When the words “I’m burning down the stakes/Wash away, wash away” are brought back, they are repeated; building the mood and is a spectral mantra that is hard to shake off. As well as being perfectly phrased and evoking as much potency as possible (in as few words), our hero is returns to the fold (after a verse break that calms proceedings but still carries a huge weight); offering determined and defiant words: “I never bled for a thousand lies/Just to stem the flow/I never wept over a thousand lives/Just to let this go.” Backing these tortured thoughts is a pulsing and tender electronic beat, that provides a fittingly emotive finale. It is another track that demonstrates our hero’s stunning lyrics and vocals; and offers up another twist in the tale of lost love and contemplation. Stakes is the longest song of the E.P.- and one of the most draining- so it is apropos that the shortest track follows it. The appropriately named (Aftermath) is next up, and is largely instrumental. Whereas the first three numbers have put striking words and vocals up top, the emphasis here is on the composition; a refrain that is at once uplifting and symphonic, and the next delicately gentle. The tracks only words are “Oh lover, asleep at last/Oh lover, it’s in the past/Of dust we rise and dust we part/So bless these lungs and save my heart“; sentiments that at once get you wondering how many meanings are inherent within; but also stir up some clear images and scenes (as has become typical with Vancouver Sleep Clinic). Initially the mood is slow to build, containing ponderous electronics and strings, it is like the dawn breaking; languid yet picturesque. Perhaps nightfall is more fitting, as a hard pulsed electronic beat mixes inside of echoing and sighing swathes; it is haunting and tender at the same time. Soon a piano parable enters (weirdly sounding a bit like To Build a Home); it gallops and springs and acts as a natural evolutionary progression. With hallmarks of The Cinematic Orchestra and Bon Iver, it is a romantic and gorgeous introduction, that acts as a much-needed counterbalance after a lot of heavyweight emotion and moody sonics. The songs lyrics arrive at the end, and are designated with a sense of urgency; our hero singing a noble and plain truth, but also showing some tender-hearted sensitivity as well. By the end of the track, you cannot help but feel relaxed and smile; waiting to see what comes next but pleased to see a new (and classical) edge to our hero. Ensuring that gravity and potency come back into the pallet, Vapour arrives next. At first, Vapour displays a softness and melody that was synonymous with the previous tack; it builds gently and dream-like. With Folk edges and a soothing beauty to it, the track relaxes you and caresses as it plays. Ghostly echoes and thumping percussive pulses soon come into the track, pricking the energy levels and presenting a human heartbeat. The first verse tells us: “This ship was only ever built to fall apart/The oceans that we couldn’t cross/The London Bridge is caving in/Cities melt into my skin/It’s looking thin.” Once more one suspects that romance- and its disbandment- are at the forefront of the track; architectural imagery mixes with vessels and nature; each deployed as metaphors that signify discontent and heartache. Our hero’s voice is reliably striking and aching, allowing the words to make their mark. The rousing and spirited acoustic guitar add an additional layer of beauty, and it seems that all is not well with our hero. Maybe love has gone cold once more; his soul is broken, and he is looking inside of himself. Where “These wooden doors are closed and this prison’s cold“, his heart is a concrete fortress- one that will not let anyone in. With our hero turning blind and starting to break, it is clear that there is little chance for redemption or rebirth. Speaking of “Winter birth, the fires burn into the snow/Surrender to the afterglow“; once more the poetic power and strong imagery projects filmic and sterling sights, but here, it is the composition that wins- once more. Even though the vocal is one of the most committed and stunning on the E.P., the way the composition mutates and changes skin is incredible striking. Skiffling percussion and slow-burning acoustic guitars melts into electronic samples which offer scuttling and rampant scurrying and staccato edges. Our hero’s voice once again mixes sonorous and seductive darker tones with effusive and high-pitched falsetto- sometimes weaving within one another- that provides multiple shades and colours. Towards the song’s conclusion, some optimism or redemptive spirit creeps in. Telling of “What a moment, encountering the dawn/Breathing in the air I’ve never known“, perhaps all is not lost- there may be light shining through. Brining Winter to a close is the swan song, Rebirth (and is the second-longest track). For those expecting an updated version of Hey Ya! are probably going to be disappointed. As we conclude this frosty season, there is still a sense of broken souls; a need to feel better and be born again. The intro. sees soft and tender acoustic tones open up our story; it is a beautiful and soft parable that matches the song title perfectly- it seems like a spiritual regeneration is afoot. With a vocal that is soothing and relaxed, our hero is in thoughtful mood; he claims that he has “been waiting/For the sun to rise up with the dawn“; words are sometimes unsettling, yet delivered in a way that is not foreboding and tormented. Whilst our hero has been sleeping 21 hours a day and experiencing bleeding decay- he makes his words sound strangely romantic. When it comes down to it, there is still that blend of ambiguous and mysterious; poetic and imploring. Our hero sings: “Oh, sweet surrender/Collapse to my knees/Beg and plead/Fill me with everything“; you can picture the knees buckle; the head arches upwards- waiting for emotional absolution. Speaking of leading flocks away, you wonder if a testament of fractured love is unveiling; or else something more spiritual and ethereal. Typical of our hero, there is room for imagination and interpretation; you can vividly imaging what is being sung, yet are never 100% certain what is being referred to. The gorgeous and still vocal that foretells of “Bent and broken vine/Choking at the spine” infuses with the emotive composition; you sense that personal revelation and self-examination may lead to an epiphany- or at least a chance to start over again. Towards the 2/3rd mark of the song, the composition swells and rushes; there is a clatter of percussion and electronics; a huge amount of force and weather whips into the atmosphere. Hardly shocking, considering the E.P.’s closing remarks; the final fit and bellyache as it were- although there are surprises here; something more uplifted. With a current trajectory that sees our hero “starting again/Tearing my flesh/Stripped to the bone“, enough is enough (a revelation of sorts); things have become too harsh and oppressive and there is a desire to recompose his soul. The album’s title coda and most hopeful sentiments come in the form of: “It’s taken the Winter/To find who I am.” As the track comes to the end, and you are caught up in the pace and fervency of the outro. you allow yourself time to reflect and deduce. Perhaps our hero will be okay, but it seems he has decided he needs to change; to make things better and start afresh. The E.P. marks a triumph for its young creator, whom not only manage to display a lyrical genius that writers twice his age cannot match; but the songs are deep, effecting, memorable and nuanced. Each song is contained of huge atmosphere and mood; gorgeous classical tones and pulsating and heady electronic parable. Like heroes Bon Iver and the Sigur clan, our hero has a gorgeous falsetto that is amongst the ripest and most direct out there; yet he has darker and breathier undertones that have a raw masculinity to them- and display his full range. There are some lyrics that are hard to decipher and I have had to rely on MetroLyrics quite heavily, but it is a minor qualm, as you are so caught up in the songs themselves. Winter may be long gone, but with the sun shining and the temperature rising, the E.P. has a timeless appeal that will not see it relegated to colder times- it is relevant all-year-round. Few young artists have such a depth of talent, and it is impressive to see it making an appearance on the debut E.P. I know that our hero would love to come see the U.K. and tour more, and there is going to be plenty of demand. If you are not a fan of the likes of James Blake and London Grammar, then it may take a while to convert you- but it will happen. It is a sextet of songs filled with grace, chilled scenery and surveyance of love-gone-cold. Our hero displays maturity that means he does not descend to histrionics and tantrums, yet has a grown-up and brave defiance to him- yet allows himself to wallow a little. I know that the rest of the year will see more fans and followers flock to his shores; and on the evidence of Winter it is much deserved- a fine achievement for such a sapling talent.

It may be early days and early doors for Vancouver Sleep Clinic, but all signs point towards a career of longevity and prosperity. The music on offer throughout Winter is compelling, swooning, heart-aching and rich: repeated listens and re-investigation are paramount. A couple of reviews of iTunes show how much the music-buying public love the E.P.:

Such an emotive piece of music, as someone with synesthesia I enjoyed this EP in every way, it takes you on a journey and then brings you back to reality with a better look at what you’ve already got. Thanks for this, this is a music gem .”


Having heard 3 of the tracks (Vapour, Flaws and Collapse) I was very excited about this EP. This guy has got so much talent, definitely worth a purchase the whole thing is perfect from start to finish. Keep it up VSC.”


I was hugely impressed by the maturity and authority that augments the tracks; how assured and intelligent our hero’s words (and musical mind) are, and what a range there is on offer. The vocals are consistently impressive and stunning, putting you in mind of masters such as Jeff Buckley and Thom Yorke (there is a comparable falsetto at work), but a clear sense of personality and passion comes through emphatically. All of the tracks come directly from our hero’s heart, and their personal and individualised messages are not just for Bettinson’s benefit- they can be understood and applied to everyone listening. We have all been through the rigours and hostilities of life and love; all experienced its inequities and hardships- in that way, the songs seem evergreen and omnipotent. In the way that a lot of contemporaries invest no difference or diversity into themes of love, our hero dares to be different. A lot of current musicians (and those past) tend to tread the same grounds when conveying heartache of anxieties; there is a bland and predictable mass of bodies all saying the same things in the same way. Our hero has a flair and creative mind that means he can take well-worn and age-old themes; revitalise and re-infuse the subjects- and instil them with some urgency and freshness. When interviewed by Can You Hear This (last year), he was asked how it finds it being compared to Bon Iver- one of the best and more synonymous golden voices in music today. Our hero stated:

To be honest, there’s no way I’ll ever be complaining about a comparison to Bon Iver. In my opinion, they’ve produced some of the most beautiful, well-constructed music I’ve ever heard. However, my new stuff will involve a whole new level of creativity. I’ll be looking to emphasis some post-dubstep drum beats and Daughter-esque reverbed instrumentals, whilst still incorporating the Bon-Iverish falsetto vocals that people have seemed to love.”

Although distinct of voice and music, the comparisons or just and not open to hyperbole. Like the U.S. giant, Vancouver Sleep Clinic’s epicentre has a divinely effusive and ethereal set of pipes; those which add emotion, weight and potency to all of his numbers. A lot of similarly aged musicians tend to enforce glib and immature themes; pen songs filled with juvenile delusions and angst- our hero is a step above. Occasionally, you get to hear of some great Australian acts, though I feel that the likes of the U.S. (as well as European nations such as France) are better are promoting it. When Bettinson was questioned on the subject; how he felt about the rise of Australian music, he did not hesitate:

Australian music has grown incredibly as of late! These days there are so many cool bands, venues, promoters, radio stations, blogs and websites all selflessly willing to see Australian music grow.”

It seems that stations here such as XFM and Absolute Radio would endless spin tracks such as Vapour and Flaws; BBC Radio 6 would put Collapse on regular rotation- and minor quality purveyors such as Radio One would also promote our young hero. The rise in V.S.C.’s social media portfolio, as well as buzz and praise that is being whipped up is going to sees Bettinson’s alter ego become big news, very soon. Having already flown the flag of Australia at SXSW, Vancouver Sleep Clinic is going to see an eventual road to domination. We here have the likes of London Grammar, whom can offer ghostly and spectral vocals and synthetic sonic flair; yet the market is very much open. There is still a huge emphasis on bands and their wares; heavy sounds and directness- we need more acts like V.S.C. to succeed. I am sure that the next year will see plans afoot for an album, and I hope that a U.K. tour is a possibility. The likes of the U.S. and Europe and going to start promoting and playing his music, and ensure that as many ears as possible hear his wonderful mandates. When asked what music meant to him, our young hero told Can You Hear This:

Music has always been one of the biggest parts of my life and I think my biggest inspiration to start this came from wanting to make an emotional connection with listeners through my music. I’ve always dreamed of playing with the likes of Sigur Ros, Daughter, Bon Iver, James Blake etc.; so I guess I finally decided it was time to take action.”

I guess that these dreams are not too far-fetched. It may take a year or so (more), but I can envisage our hero supporting the likes of Bon Iver very soon. You can always tell- from the first movements- whether an act will sink or swim; how far they will go and how long they will last. The fledgling signs are promising, indeed; Winter shows a young man in love with music; but whom has plenty more to say. Over the next few years we will see our hero’s name become more familiar and omnipresent. Hear what Vancouver Sleep Clinic’s debut E.P. has to say…

AND let it get underneath your skin.


Winter Track Listing:


Collapse- 9.3/10

Flaws- 9.4

Stakes- 9.5

(Aftermath)- 9.5

Vapour- 9.3

Rebirth 9.4

Standout track: Stakes


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Track Review: The Open Feel- Sidewalk Zombies






The Open Feel

Sidewalk Zombies



The track, Sidewalk Zombies is available from:


Written by Katie Harris and Tom Brayton

Produced by The Open Feel

Recorded at The Basement Studio in Claremont, CA

Engineered by Tom Brayton

The E.P., The Open Feel is available via:



The L.A.-based duo are presently laying the foundations of their debut L.P. Sidewalk Zombies hints at a future which includes beauty, seduction, slice-of-life truths- and an incredible amount of power.


IT is a rare treat when I get to investigate artists from across the Atlantic.

Much of my wanderings and examinations have revolved around U.K. acts, so it is always nice to hop on a musical plane; get my passport out, and enjoy some international sites. In historical terms, the U.S. has provided the world with some of the greatest and most memorable music of all-time. At the current time, plenty of mainstream acts such as Queens of the Stone Age are ruling the kingdom, and there are a huge wave of new American artists keen to come through- and follow in their footsteps. As my featured act are L.A.-based and a duo, my mind has been thinking about those too disparate and varied plains. Cayucus, Jenny O, Kisses and Warship are recent examples of acts that are putting the city on the map, but in all fairness, L.A. has always been at the forefront of music. 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). My featured act call L.A. home, and have benefited from the city’s beneficial charms and bounteous recesses. When looking at the musical stratigraphy and the various formations and flavours that are available, there is something for everyone. Plenty of bands play around L.A. and if you prefer your sounds heavier and Metal-infused; are more akin to Sunshine Pop and melodic offerings, then you cannot go wrong- from both bands and solo acts. In terms of duos playing around L.A., there are newcomers such as Little Dove getting a lot of positive press- this is an act that I will investigate soon, as I love their music. Others such as Deap Valley gLAdiator are making waves, but it seems that stronger links need to be formed between the U.S. and U.K. music media. We must come across as dunderheads when we proclaims a great L.A. act and how urgent and new they are- unaware they have been playing for years now. This seems to be happening a lot, with many acts making their way to us long after their birth. Whether our media are marginalizing U.S. acts or else prioritising homegrown ones, I am uncertain, but the fact is that we are missing out on some great sounds. I am not saying we need to mollycoddle L.A. (and U.S.) artists, but more effort needs to be made. Los Angeles offers allegorical splendour, primal and sweat-induced diversions and beautiful plumages, and they are being lost between the cracks. It is not just their duos whom are providing the most excitement, but there are many terrific solo acts and specialised artists causing twitterpation. The issue at hand may be one that is insolvable and terminal, but I am hoping that a change is afoot. It is always great when you discover a great act (L.A.-based or otherwise), and feel that they are somewhat under-appreciated and overlooked. My featured act is two guys I have been aware of- in awe of- for a long time now, and have a sound that us London bods would love to see; that can influence and inspire many new artists around these parts- as well as influence new musicians from all around the world. It has been a while since I have brought this act to your attentions, so it is with a revitalised heart that I do so today.

Californian treasures Katie Harris and Tom Brayton are a duo I have reviewed in the past, and I can pay testament to how vibrant and impressive their music is. Before I go into more detail about previous interactions, let me give you some biography about the intrepid two-piece:

The Open Feel is the alternative rock creation of Katie Harris (Vocals and Guitars) and Tom Brayton (Drums and Bass). The band began as a songwriting collaboration to give the duo an avenue to create music that was “as honest as possible for the two of us.” Without the aim of creating anything “commercial” or “spin-worthy,” they sat down and began experimenting and writing. After a year and a half, they felt they had finally found the “sound” that they wanted to develop into a band. It was then that the dreamy and ethereal rock band The Open Feel was born. They began recording their debut EP in the summer of 2009 at their home studio in Southern California with Harris and Brayton playing all the instruments (with a little help on guitar from good friend Clint Walsh on the song Detach) and taking on engineering and producing duties. Mixed by Will Brierre and mastered by Steve Hall, The Open Feel EP was released in 2010.

When I reviewed the duo’s track Kiss, Kill (Back to Love), I was impressed, not only by the uniqueness and freshness of the song itself; but at how assured and striking their sound was. In April of last year, I had not been exposed to too many (new) U.S. acts, so the arrival of The Open Feel was a bit of an epiphany. In a year that was not offering up a whole heap of promise, there was a huge sense of relief when writing my review. Delving into the track itself, I was prompted to write:

The lyrics are wonderfully oblique, poetic, and intelligent: “It’s like I’m walking on a wire/Above a two-sided face” is the opening gambit; and one of the sharpish and most interesting lyrics I have heard all year. Our heroine is able to take your mind somewhere else, and picture the words she is singing. I get the sense there is anxiety and fear in her heart, as well as an interchangeable emotional shift. She is, as she attests, “one breath from a smile to a cry”. The vocal tones have a pleasing originality. There is a little bit of Fleetwood Mac, a tiny bit of Alison Mosshart, The xx to the way the sultry is mixed with fiery. The chorus has an uplifting edge, and with some backing vocals, I am reminded of early career U2, as well as the guardians of the female solo market: Patti Smith, P.J. Harvey and Laura Marling.”

Aside from the likes of Little Dove, there are not too many mixed gender duos around L.A. (not that I have been made aware of). With a proliferation and leaning towards solo and band endeavours, there is a relatively untapped industry, waiting to be exploited. Having surveyed Yorkshire two-piece Knuckle on my last outing, what really struck me was how close and tight they sounded- as though they had been performing together for years. In the case study of Jonny Firth and Ben Wallbanks, their musical marriage has been in place for nary a matter of weeks. With regards to our L.A. duo, there is a similar kinship and passion present. With such an intuition and openness to their music, it would appear that The Open Feel have a long and happy career ahead of them. Both players combine wonderfully and play on an equal footing; no egos or leadership quarrels- they are a partnership with no hierarchy. When their self-titled E.P. was released a few years ago, it gave the world one of the first introductions to the duo. Songs such as Strength and Transition painted indelible and scenic imagery; words and phrases stick in your mind, and with the strong and impassioned vocals, combined with wonderfully deep and rich compositions, the effect was mesmerizing. Hardly surprising that a great deal of supporters and fans latched onto the duo’s music, and they have an impressive following in L.A. With songs such as Kiss, Kill’, Pushing Back and Wake This Dream being unveiled, patronage has grown and swelled; ears and eyes from international destinations have been turned on to their wonderful brand of song. Sidewalk Zombies has been in the ether for a few months now, but shows another confident leap forward (from the duo); one which sees them build on their previous work, whilst adding new elements. Amongst The Open Feel’s influences are My Bloody Valentine, The Pretenders, Siouxie And The Banshees, The Sundays, Mazzy Star, P.J. Harvey, Garbage, Patti Smith, The Breeders, U2, Radiohead, Boxer Rebellion, Silversun Pickups, The xx, The Cure, The Joy Formidable: you can hear tender shades of these acts in their incredible sound. The most abiding and endless truth is, that the duo are out on their own; you cannot apply any former name to the two-piece’s music- it is something that is distinctly theirs. Adulation and praise has been arriving at our duo’s feet for a while now, and it seems that acclaim is something that The Open Feel will have to get used to:

“…When all your friends and their mothers start blasting the Open Feel on their favourite alternative station soon, don’t say we didn’t tell you so.”

Seraphina Lotkhamunga, BUZZ BANDS.LA on the single “Wake This Dream”

I generally avoid posting about the same band as there is so much out there to share. This new song [Sidewalk Zombies] made me want to make an exception.”

Larry Lootstein, Alan Cross’ Blog: A Journal Of Musical Things

“…Those haunting aspects are staunchly applied but the way the whole song moves gathers in a way demonstrating true sophistication from beginning to end. 10/10.”

U&I Music Magazine on the single “Pushing Back”

A glance at their list of influences as posted on Facebook cites The Cure, The xx, Radiohead, Silversun Pickups, and the Joy Formidable, all of whom can be recognized throughout their sound. While it’s a lofty list and it’s always easy to cite accomplished bands as influences, few artists actually live up to the quality of their supposed mentors. I would definitely consider The Open Feel among those few.”

Kyle McCornack, Vinyl Me Please

Remember those long, stereo-blaring overnight drives when your vehicle felt propelled not by an internal combustion engines but by the Cure’s bass lines? SoCal duo the Open Feel nail that vibe on their new single “Pushing Back…’”

Kevin Bronson, BUZZ BANDS.LA

Love the feel of the vocals fully supported by a great sound!”

Larry Lootsteen, Alan Cross’ Blog: A Journal Of Musical Things

We just got a heads up that the brand new track by The Open Feel is ready for human consumption! We’ve listened to it and we APPROVE! Two thumbs up!”

Kelly Murphy, Indie Minded

“…The deep bass tone and lingering guitar flush out the sound while the expansive touches add scope to the running that marks it all out referentially as it breathes.”

U&I Unsigned & Independent Mag

Light and breezy Indie-Pop that goes far beyond any lengthy spontaneity, vocalist Katie Harris captures the mood with a lush crepuscular quality that highlights the band’s tremendous flair for dramatic rhythm…”

Andy, Mojophenia

“…It’s their uniquely atmospheric & ethereal ambience that initially grabbed my attention (amid my looming backlog of IndieOverdose downloads), a sound vaguely reminiscent of bands like Silversun Pickups and Sonic Youth, and it is this attention to sonic texturing guided by Katie’s alluring vocal characteristics that has now completely won me over.”

Jeffrey Burns, ROKLINE

Maybe it’s me, but can you ever really get enough of Katie Harris’ vocals? She has that ability to reach deep down into the nooks and crannies of your soul. Her voice is smooth and sensual, yet raw and emotionally charged all at the same time. Tom Brayton is more than solid carrying the entire backline. The duo have done it again with their most recent release “Pushing Back.” …The visual imagery works extremely well with the audio, creating a wonderful package for both the eyes and ears.”

Victor Alfrei, WordKrapht

“…It’s just kickass, relaxing, beautiful music…” –

Jo, Badass Bands Blog

Sultry vocals, and lush, dreamy melodies are what The Open Feel are all about. What originally started as a songwriting collaboration between Katie Harris and Tom Brayton took on a life of its own and a band was created. “Still Here” is off of their self-titled debut EP released December, 2010. They are currently recording their follow-up for a 2013 release, and some of us are waiting not-so-patiently to hear it.”

Victor Alfieri, Word Krapht- The Daily Krapht

Dream-pop comes in a variety of textures, with feather-light synths at one end of the spectrum and heavy bass lines on the other. Katie Harris and Tom Brayton of L.A. band the Open Feel offer alternative rock with a slight splash of atmospherics, an unbalanced formula that works in smoldering mantras you might’ve heard in the ’90s…”


What started out as a songwriting collaboration has turned into one heck of a project. Katie’s vocals are sultry, yet strong. The music is powerful and energetic and the lyrics something that pulls you in. I can think of more than one female-fronted rock band that wishes they could pull this off…”

Victor Alfieri, Indie Music Reviewer

“…Harris’ airy vocal and matching guitar tones give the tracks a supremely positive vibe that smacks of spring time sunshine, but when combined with Brayton’s meandering, yet groovy bass lines and steady drums the end result is more of a night on the town atmosphere. It’s hard to not be instantly entranced with the hypnotizing affect the band creates. The swirling, spinning interaction between the guitar and bass riffs in the chorus or “Transition” draw the listener in, until they’re gently laid to rest in the verses. “Detach” is destined to be the track played during the climax of a future romantic comedy. In fact, the entire EP has a very cinematic quality to it…”

Moragn, Enter The Shell

Yes, we have covered this band before, and with good reason. Some of us have been fans since the self-titled debut EP back in 2011. And yes, we will continue to bang the drum for a band like The Open Feel because, well after listening to Katie Harris sing, we’d give her our puppy if she asked for it. She and Tom Brayton almost sound like the anti-grunge movement of the 90s, but own the idea instead of trying to rent it from the past.”

Victor Alfieri, WordKrapht

The Open Feel is one of the best bands to watch for in 2011 and they are also our first Artist of the Week of this year. When listening to their debut Ep, you immediately get taken back by the band’s full sound, especially considering that the band is a duo. Harris and Brayton played every instrument on every track on the Ep. The 4 track Ep features the stand out hit “Still Here,” which combines clever lyrics with a great rock sound. “Strength” shows off Harris’ vocal range and gives you a glimpse of the raw talent that The Open Feel has.”

Mailo, Enter The Shell (Artist of the Week Write-Up)

“…their fantastic self-titled EP is ample evidence that the twosome has got some serious musical chemistry as well. Harris is the primary singer and guitarist on the four-track release and her powerful vocals help anchor keepers “Strength,” “Still Here” and “Detach.” She has an impressive ear for melody that’s nicely complemented by Brayton’s work on bass and drums. I’m anxious to hear what the Open Feel can deliver over the course of a full album.”

Jeffrey Sisk, The Daily News

Offering up four songs worth of deliciously melodic and atmospheric pop-rock, this EP CD hits the pleasingly mellow and soothing spot. The vocals are strong, sultry, and utterly entrancing, the arrangements clear, crisp, and tuneful, the lyrics sharp and concise, while the gradual tempos and subdued beats provide plenty of beautifully ethereal and enrapturing music for the listener to get totally caught up with and lost in. A top-drawer item.”

Joe Wawrzyniak, Jersey Beat

“…I’m just going to cut to the chase and say I love this band. They write incredibly melodic and beautifully lush songs. Plush guitars and driving yet melodic bass lines make for the best ear candy I’ve heard all year. …Check out the above track “Still Here.” Your auditory senses will thank you!” –

Aron Gibson, AFG Must Rock

Our gorgeous heroine’s voice is a dreamy and entrancing instrument, yet one that can elicit a tremendous amount of power, passion and soul. Amongst the hordes of female singers in the modern scene, Harris stands out from the rest; her voice can seamlessly adapt to any situation or song; it is chameleon-like and mobile, yet at its heart is a striking individuality and personality- one that implores and seduces at every turn. Brayton supports Harris’ voice and guitar with percussive shades and weight that is emotive and stunning; his bass work is exemplary and highly effective two- the duo have an understanding and by-play that marks them out as one of music’s most natural players. Gaining a lot of buzz and applause is their latest track, Sidewalk Zombies. You can tell from the title that vividness and evocativeness are going to be at the precipice, and it is song that has been getting a lot of supportive press in the U.S. I was excited to sit down and investigate their latest move; see where the band are heading at the moment- and what is on their minds.

Top of the Sidewalk Zombies ordo cognoscendi is an impassioned and powerful intro. With our heroine employing electric strings with a sense of delicacy but with intent; our hero’s percussion subsumes and integrates into the mix; offers up a driving force and rapid heartbeat. When listening to the initial stages, images of Californian highways come to mind; such is the breezy-cum-determined coda, you cannot help but to cast yourself behind the wheels of an open-top sports car- drive into the city, with the wind in your hair. As you get closer to the crowded streets, the tempo rises slightly; guitar bursts elliptically and infused; the percussion skips and trips (as well as containing an impressive drum fill around the 0:15/0:16 mark). Within the first twenty-or-so seconds, a wealth of mood and scene-setting has been whipped up. The intro. is both calming yet kicking; swirling but focused; before the vocal arrives in the spotlight, your mind is already primed and compellingly set. Our heroine’s voice is filled with conviction and blame; it contains edges of Chrissie Hynde-via-Hope Sandoval- there is a raw and breathy projection, with undertone of delicate beauty and sweetness. You get the impression- early on- that the song’s themes are enforced and inspired by real-life malaise; that the bustling stress of inner-city zombies has caused derision and fatigue. When delivering the lines “Dead alive/And unaware” you can sense the weight in Harris’ voice; a mix of somnambulism and politicisation mingles to project the cry of a young woman surveying pedestrian scenes and letting her stare do the talking. After the first words are sung, there is a percussive (and guitar) interjection; a punctuation that allows our heroine to draw breath, but also to stir up some dust and punch- and make sure the embryonic images stick in your thoughts. Once more, thoughts are offered (followed by a tumbling audio ellipsis); our heroine exclaiming: “Crooked stride/And vacant stare“. Rakish people walk dazed and confused; whether emphasising the pace and reality of modern-day life, or else electioneering a wider truth, I am not sure; yet you get the sense that our duo are speaking to everyone; proclaiming a universal message that can be extrapolated by anyone. Completing the first verse, our heroine sends out a signal; points her finger and ensures her message lands: “Right yourself/Before your crime/Your dried up well/Of dollar signs“. After the final words have been deployed, the composition spreads its wings and elicits a rush; our hero’s stern and measured percussion expands and strikes; patters and rolls. Our heroine’s guitar bubbles and electrocutes, backing up a dream-like and sighing vocal (“Ooh/Ooh“). The verse break is an effective and compelling swathe, that compels you to rewind and play again. A wealth of imagery and emotions are brewed up, and you are caught up in the sonic waterfall. If the song’s title summons up armies of vague and dead-eyed city-dwellers; aimlessly ambling forth, the body of the song (temporarily) take your thoughts elsewhere. The narrative turns to a more personal and first-person account; our heroine asks “I see you/Do you see me/Reaching through/Your life’s debris“; you wonder whether she speaks of a relationship, or a friend in need. It is likely that a paramour or former sweetheart is being addressed; our heroine’s smoky and seductive vocals provide a sexy breathlessness and meaningful directness that emphasise the words. Whilst picking up the pieces and clambering through the rubble (of a disjointed and fragmented human). In the way that the verses have the same pace, measure and sound give it a pleasing singularity and potency; as well as provide an effective and appropriate countenance. With our heroine wondering “Will you ever/Come awake/And give the love/You love to take“; as well as asking for reciprocity and receipt, it seems that she is asking (the anti-hero) to reassess their way of thinking. Here is someone whom has taken from life and picked the pockets clean; our heroine is pleading for some sort of revelation and rebirth. It is not just the incredibly catchy (in a great way) and sensual composition that hits hard, but also the potent and impressive vocal (the way that “take” is sung; it has a sharpened tongue and plenty of bite) wins you over; it is a juxtaposition against the composition but also an intoxicating facet. Once again the cooing and chimerical vocal sway arrives; containing greater meaning, relevance and potency the second time around. As well as each of the duo having their individual talents (Brayton: percussion, bass and production; Harris: vocal, guitar and production), it is when they combine that the greatest reaction is provoked. The lyrics are at once oblique and mysterious; yet unmediated and emotional as well (giving the song a mobility and nuance); yet the compositional commingle makes it for me. In the breaks between the verses, the duo spar and combine beautifully. The guitar’s restlessness and sparks counterpart with Brayton’s effective impetus and pace; the drumming keeps the song restrained yet provides huge emotional force; similarly the bass drives the song forward and keeps it flowing strongly. When our heroine introduces us to the song’s protagonists, some vivid -yet tantalizingly open ended- words are painted: “Sidewalk zombies/Everywhere/Sing along/And you won’t care.” It is during this section (the chorus, effectively), that our heroine’s vocals duet with one another; echoes are build; giving the lyrics an additional majesty. It is around the 2:44 marker that the song becomes zombified and distorted; a more ethereal and detached parable is presented. Brayton pummel and smashes; a tribalistic and striking drum solo is offered up; when our heroine’s wordless vocals are infused the atmosphere has a ghostly and storm-weathered heaviness to it- before our duo pick the mood back up. The outro. is one that has a delirious and weaving charm to it; we start off with lighter and more mellifluous beginnings. Before too long, the guitars become mechanised, weaponised and biting (with a Pixies-cum-Grunge undertones); elements of The xx and Jeff Buckley come into the mix and the monster mutates and evolves into something with teeth, lust and venom. By the closing seconds, the vocal has died away, and the track ends its life. First impressions are of another triumph by the duo; another track that keeps their key cores, influences and hallmarks intact, yet provides a change of scenery. Through the lyrics and composition, you get a real sense of detachment and need; of streets infested with vacant-eyed wanders; of anti-heroes being given a dressing down. There is no sermonizing, piousness or over-emotiveness at all, as our heroine’s vocals keep everything ordered. Kudos must be given to both Harris and Brayton, whom provide life, colour and urgency to a song which demands attention. Harris’ vocals have edges of Hynde and Salvador, yet imbued with a distinct personality and flair- one that not only the aforementioned do not posses; but one that has been synonymous across The Open Feel’s entire back catalogue. It goes from calm and soothing; through to invigorated and impassioned; along to hugely powerful- with layers and colours in-between. Her guitar values are equally forceful and wide-ranging; providing solace and calm when needing, but capable of stirring up a huge amount of passion and life. Brayton’s bass and drum parbond almost steals the show. The former is solid and temporized when it needs to be, yet it always drives the song forward and keeps everything focused and compelling. The percussion pitter-patter and seduces when our heroine does likewise; it rises and slams accordingly- as well as summon up spiritual demons and mass disorientation. At times there are beautiful drum fills and sections that make you smile and overwhelm it is another component I am familiar with, having surveyed the duo previously. The production is brilliant, too; it is not cluttered or too polished; all words and notes are sharp and clearly intelligible- nothing gets buried in the mix or muted at all; there is a pleasing balance and blend that benefits the song hugely. Overall, it is a wonderfully written track, whose lyrics not only can be understood and appreciated by everyone, but show ounces of heart and passion- as well as a feeling or disenfranchisement and weariness. If you are unfamiliar with the band, then the minor tones of The xx and Radiohead come through; there are some melodic sprints that put you in mind of Mazzy Star as well as The Joy Formidable. Whilst there are some subtle comparables, nothing strongly comes to the forefront, as the abiding impression is of a song (and duo) very much their own bosses; two people whom have an intuitive love of the past, yet are as fresh, original and vibrant as nay act out there. Sidewalk Zombies is one of the finest things I have heard from the duo (that says a lot too), and proves mouth-watering, with regards to a (potential) future L.P. As much as anything, it is a track that hits you at once, yet requires a repeated investigation for its meanings and beauties to be fully revealed. In a market where there is still a lack of true quality and a leaning towards disposability, The Open Feel are a duo who offer nuance in spades; songs that are layered and memorable- and a future which is going to be gilded and rewarding, indeed. It goes to show just how vital it is that we here (in the U.K.) embrace the L.A. twosome (as well as their local colleagues); as their music not only provides much-needed diversity and flavour, but are tones that can be adapted by foreign markets; appeal to multiple nationalities- and ensure that the duo have a long and busy (future) touring schedule. In a year that keeps offering up surprises and wonder, another one has been presented.

The Open Feel have deftly succeeded in creating another nuanced and layered song; one which wins you over on the initial listen, yet reveals something new with each additional play. Harris’ gorgeous voice has few equals in terms of its effect on the ears; her delivery and performance(s) gives such weight and meaning to each line. As a guitarist, she summons up a great deal of excitement and emotion; electric notes are often subtle and composed yet manage to say a hell of a lot. Brayton is a skilled and fervent percussionist whom supports Harris wonderfully; mixing in with guitar chords and giving songs a sense of wonder and conviction. Similarly, his bass work is well-defined, evocative and memorable; giving the detailed tracks a sense of mobility and energy. Having listened to the duo’s early tracks (from 2011), I was aware of, and am acutely in tune with just how authoritative and compelling their music is. Their debut E.P. is a collection that more minds need to investigate, as it has a timeless appeal that is sure to inspire a lot of new musicians. Since then, the L.A. pair has grown in confidence and ambition; each new song offer something new, but also provides something tantalising and fresh. As songwriters, you will be hard-pressed to find any other act whom have such a range and ability. Lyrics are always poetic and meaningful; instilled with meaning and stirring landscapes- as well as a lot of relevance and modern-life philosophy. When all these elements are bonded together, you find yourself in awe of the duo, and keen to seek out more of their work. Plans are afoot and movements are being made, towards their debut album, and it will be a collection that will offer promise, intrigue and a huge amount of quality. Whether our duo will incorporate tracks such as Kiss, Kill (Back to Love), Pushing Back and Wake This Dream, I am not sure, yet it is a probable eventuality. The future is very much in their hands, and Sidewalk Zombies is another gem of a track that possesses all of the duo’s hallmarks- but provides an evolutionary step forward. You can tell how in love with music the pair are, and this sense of devotion comes through in the song strongly; there is no sense of fatigue disinclination- conviction and passion are evident in every note. I am always fascinated to see what acts are coming through, and what is being offered up from music’s newcomers. With a few years of experience under their belt, L.A.’s The Open Feel have overcome the hurdles and obstacles that music throws, and marked themselves out as one of the scene’s very best. Recently, I have been in discussion with a contact about how difficult it is for acts located (in a particular country) to get attention outside of their native land. Whilst there is a great amount of love and attention from U.S. fans and media outlets, it would be great to see U.K. press outlets offering up their thoughts. California is providing some of the most exciting and original acts that music provides, and I know that there are a great amount of British venues that would welcome them in. One of the problems I can see with regards to linking musicians to (possible) fans, is the media links- or lack thereof. It is a subject I have explored in past outings, yet it has once again reared its head. The Open Feel have a lot to say, and have already made some stunning footprints; ones that might have been out of the range of U.K. media radars. I know a few British publications have assessed the L.A. duo, yet there are far more whom instantly latch onto their sound (N.M.E., Mojo and The Guardian for starters). When their album does arrive, I hope that a missive will be provided; our best and more influential music avenues will investigate The Open Feel and give them a fair hearing. A fair few U.S. acts are being highlighted by our media outlets, yet I feel that too many others are not being appropriately represented. Our duo have the affections of their local fans; of the U.S. at the moment- and a hungry foreign market awaits them. In the upcoming weeks I hope to investigate the likes of Little Dove and Quinn Archer- acts working around L.A. and making waves there; keen to see what their futures hold and where they are heading. It is one of the busiest and most productive music cities in the world, and to my mind, more eyes should be trained here. If The Open Feel and Sidewalk Zombies is anything to go by, then a veritable cauldron of psychotropic heroes are waiting for attention; for a wider audience to hear what they are producing. Our intrepid duo will probably not pay too much mind to this (minor) injustice for now, as they prepare to make the moves that will appear on their upcoming album. Whatever the next few months hold, The Open Feel will be making themselves known to a great deal of new fans and supporters, and making their intentions known. I hope that they come to London soon, as not only will there be a multitude of venues keen to host them; I would love to watch them play- their live performances have been marked as particularly stunning. For now, and for everyone else, investigate the qualities and insights that Sidewalk Zombies offer up; go back and examine the duo’s past work- and familiarise yourself with their multifarious musical spectrum. The remainder of this year will prove important and prosperous for them, and I cannot wait to hear what the Los Angeles two-piece are working on. Until then, I am going to replay and re-examine the cannon of Harris and Brayton, in all its glories. They are a duo whom are growing in stature and confidence, and have not missed a step over the last few years- they just get better and better. When you really think about it…

THAT is something you do not hear too often.


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Track Review: Knuckle- Living Hell







Living Hell



The single, Living Hell is available from:



They met by happenstance; came together over a shared sense of humour and musical tastes- and formed a beautiful relationship. With their music being described as sounding like “The Blacks Keys on crack“, no knuckle-draggers are these: they are fully evolved men, intent on taking your breath away.


I am always amused and surprised when I come across…

new musicians and acts. The nature in which certain bands are duos are formed can be as a result of a long search; a rigorous set of auditions and ‘interviews’- or it can happen instantaneously. From my own perspective (as a man in need of a band), I feel the process- for me- will involve a lot of the former; some weeding out and experimentation; a well-worded band notification advert- to find four people whom are a ‘perfect’ fit. When it comes to finding players and like-minded souls, to help put your music together, it can work like dating to an extent: bear with me here. Certain types take a more mechanical approach to recruitment and seduction; a business-like approach is taken with regards to selecting musical cohorts; often concentration and formalisation is attained after many years of performing and rotation (of band members). One of the reasons I have always wanted to put together a band, is not just to have my music scored and realised; but form friendships and new bonds. Fellow musicians not only allow you to fulfil your ambitions and make sweet music, but kinship and solid relations can be formed. Many of the duos and bands I have surveyed over the months have stuck in my mind, because you can really hear the closeness and understanding between the members. If there is a sense of telekinesis and innate intuition between band (or duo) members, then the music has a sense of authority and freedom- and the quality is a lot higher. Sometimes it can be necessary to take time and audition stoically, in order to find the best band members. If the bonds between the players is not solid and honest, then the act can implode and dissolve. My featured subjects seem to have that instantaneous affection; a musical sympatico that has caused reviewers and critics to mark them out as big names for the future. So many new bands negate the importance of friendships and personality clashes; often acts can be doomed from the start because of differences between the members. Of course, if you have been playing music with the same people for years, then a certain sense of fatigue and weariness can creep in- and take its toll at some point. If we apply the relationship paradigm to music, then there is a simple and universal truth: there is no such thing as a perfect relationship/marriage. At some stage during a musical career there are going to be roadblocks and hardships; times where heads may clash and tempers flare- it is how you overcome this that can make-or-break the act. Naturally, psychics are frauds, and no-one can predict the future, but I can always tell (from the off) when a new act have a solid bond; I can detect a natural sympatico and understanding that will lead to longevity and a golden future. It may seem like a minor point (I am making), but it is a vital issue that has not been explored that much. If you look back at all of the acts whom have broken up; those that suffered a premature entropy and decline (because of frictions within the ranks), it can prove quite unsettling reading. You wonder just how far the likes of The Libertines could have gone, were it not for the various fights, drug battles and Pete Doherty-led woes. The boys are playing a gig very shortly, but it is nothing more than a cash-in and last hurray: the days of The Libertines are long gone. Similarly, bands like Queens of the Stone Age have seen members come and go; a revolving door policy seems to be in place- yet that band seems as galvanised and assured as ever. I just get the impression that the world has missed out on so much incredible music, because of strains within the group. Maybe I am romanticising music and neglecting the golden rule of marriage: 50% of them end in divorce (or thereabout). Regardless, when there is an instantaneous lustre and affection between the musicians, you know (or hope at least), that their careers will be relatively carefree and smooth sailing. My Yorkshire-based duo are a perfect case study of that kind of explosion; a chemical bond that leads me to belive that they could be playing gigs and making music for many years to come. Before I get to them, I have been thinking about ‘heavy’ sounds- or the lack thereof. When I come to witness a new band whom labels themselves as ‘Rock’ or ‘Metal’, naturally, I expect sounds that verge on the satanic- restrained to an extend, but imbued with enough force to get take you off your feet. Over the last couple of years, I have not come across too many examples that fulfil this criteria. It is definitional dishonest to play muted and pared-down sounds (if you truly see yourself as a Rock band), and it is a disappointing aspect of music: the grit and barbed wire kick is lacking. There are- as you know- quite a few new acts whom have steel toe caps; those whom know how to use them- and are authentic masters of the genre. When reviewing artists such as Los & The Deadlines, Royal Blood, God Damn and Crystal Seagulls, I can tell from the start that they had a clear knowledge and understanding of (the harder side) what I am saying. The rise and profitability of acts such as Arctic Monkeys, Q.O.T.S.A. and their ilk, have shown that there is a definite need and desire for something more primal and raw: music that gets inside of your brain and rattles it around. When exploring the avenues and back alleys of new music, my search is often fruitless; often I come away disappointed and annoyed; wondering why there are so few artists whom prefer their sounds heavier and more pulsating. Certain music sites and publications provide enough examples of acts whom turn the volume all the way to 11, yet too few are making their way past the realms of niche and specialised corners- and to the fore. Royal Blood are an example of an act whom are making their way into the mainstream; a duo whom seem capable of bringing their brand of whiskey-soaked swagger to millions of ears. It is perhaps true that the mainstream will always favour sounds that are more ‘melodic’ and elliptical sounds; those which aim to soothe or seduce.

Before I give you some insight into our duo, I should let you know that Knuckle consist:

Jonny The Gurth – Lead Guitar/Lead Vox Ben Ballwanks – Lead Drums

Perhaps not the most charming or BBC Radio 2-friendly monikers, but it does display the humour (perhaps laddish) that comes through. Our duo are by no means your bottom-rung lowest common denominator music purveyors, as their music is filled with wit, emotion, passion and charm- they are a bona fide awesome twosome. It is not only the incredible music that strikes you, but the camaraderie and brotherly spirit that shines through (between Jonny and Ben); there is a wonderful sense of natural compatibility, that gives their music richness, conviction and plenty of spark. Before I explore specifics, I shall allow the boys themselves to summarise:

After meeting at a Halloween 2013 gig, while Ben Wallbanks (Kava Kava, Your New Antique, Steve Albino and the Lovesocks) was wearing a potato sack on his head and tights on his legs and Jonny Firth (Crybabycry, Jonnythefirth) was dressed as Jonny Firth, Knuckle were formed. Their first jamming session resulted in them writing 12 songs, a couple of practices later and they were already gigging. The two piece, with a combined age of 58 (it keeps growing), are younger than lots of bands because they normally have more members. The filthy garage blues music they make has recently been described as “The Black Keys on crack”. Knuckle are gaining a reputation for explosive live sets and the artistic freedom of their compositions. A fondness for playing as loud as possible, their creativity, flair and heavy blues style has seen them play support slots which have been far better received than the headline act. Career highlights so far have included sets at The Wharf Chambers, Milo and The Cockpit in Leeds, The Hop in Wakefield as well as London shows at The Old Blue Last (Shoreditch) and Birthdays (Dalston). Reviewers have praised the lightning fast and intricate style of drummer Ben Wallbanks and singer/guitarist Jonny Firth’s emotive blues lyrics and engaging vocal range as well as his energizing fuzzy guitar riffs. Happy Days Music Blog named Knuckle as one of their “40 Bands To Keep An Eye On” alongside the likes of Catfish & The Bottlemen, Royal Blood and Post War Glamour Girls. Happy Days are clearly not alone in their view as Knuckle will be given the rare honour of playing two sets at this year’s Live @ Leeds Festival and will also be playing at Long Division Festival. Recorded at Greenmount Recording Studios in Leeds, ‘Living Hell’ is their first self released single available as a “pay what you want” download from their Bandcamp page. Second single “Ejector Seat” will follow in the next few months before their debut E.P. which is set to be released in September on the revered Wakefield label Philiophobia Music, who are also responsible for releases from other fantastic bands including The Spills, Imp and Runaround Kids.

In regards to this review, I am ‘cheating’ a little bit. I have known Jonny the Firth (or Jonny the Gurth as he eloquently rebrand himself; a god of extraordinary penile dimensions); accustomed and in tune with the wonders that he offers up. Back in March of last year, I reviewed Jonnythefirth album Broken Bones. The 13-track release was something that appeared out of left-field; an L.P. that I was not expecting and one that stood apart from everything that was available at the time. When I delved into the tracks themselves, I was compelled to write:

The guitars are diverse and intriguing. At their most primal and urgent, they are electrifying and awe-inspiring; whilst when toned down they are equally impressive, yet enunciate a more sincere and sensitive side to proceedings. I was impressed from start to finish, and was impressed by the lyrical depth and wit, and were never heavy-handed or immature. There is a real heart and bite to the range of topics and sentiments illustrated. The vocals were constantly intriguing, imbued with an authentic blues timbre throughout, swaying between pugnacious roustabout and tender-hearted Romeo. It is the overall concoction of all these ingredients that makes the album such compelling listening. There are few blues punk bands, no least based in the U.K. at the moment. Amongst the swarm of pop, soul, and 3rd rate rock, it is refreshing and inspiring to hear such a confident and diverse artist who at once can make music sound so fresh, and at the same time so familiar, never succumbing to predictability or pastiche.”

Each of the tracks took your breath away; put you in mind of classic acts, but also struck you with their originality and vibrancy. Jonny’s guitar playing and compositional talents were evident and prescient, but our hero also displayed a knowledgeable affection for the Blues of the ’30s and ’40s, as well as the U.S. Blues offered up by the likes of The White Stripes. His voice came across as fresh and striking; not indebted to another, yet composed of grit, gin-soaked drawl and effusive and light-hearted shades that lead me to believe that he was one of the best new talents on the block. When I was summing up, I scribbled:

If you have not heard of jonnythefirth, then you really need to. I am a big fan of blues and punk, as well as modern oral historians of the genres, such as The White Stripes. There are a lot of similarities to be heard within ‘Broken Bones’. The guitars are diverse and intriguing. At their most primal and urgent, they are electrifying and awe-inspiring; whilst when toned down they are equally impressive, yet enunciate a more sincere and sensitive side to proceedings. I was impressed from start to finish, and was impressed by the lyrical depth and wit, and were never heavy-handed or immature. There is a real heart and bite to the range of topics and sentiments illustrated. The vocals were constantly intriguing, imbued with an authentic blues timbre throughout, swaying between pugnacious roustabout and tender-hearted Romeo.”

The Jonnythefirth shores may have been (temporarily) abandoned or on hiatus, but I hope that Jonny does reignite the old act; puts another L.P. out there, as I adored the previous one. Just as I was about to weep on my laptop, I was buoyed and reinvigorated when I heard our hero was making music. As well as working on other side-projects, Jonny has been dedicating his time and attentions to Knuckle, a Yorkshire-based duo whom have been setting tongues wagging. If you look at the reviews below, you can tell just how important and impressive their music is:

a blast of scorched earth rock with a hint of blues and surf guitar thrown into the mix. Singer Jonny Firth has a suitably gravelly voice whilst drummer Ben underpins the songs with some impressively tight, technical drumming.”

Leeds Music Scene

A couple of months after forming most bands wouldn’t be ready to gig and they certainly wouldn’t have a well crafted ten song repertoire to perform. They may be in the early stages and only seven gigs in but they are almost psychically tight and sounding great. They have a real flair for song writing and each track is a lesson in structuring. The set was full of interesting and clever twists and turns combined with engrossing builds and breakdowns, especially during ‘Idiot Bastard’. There was a joyous feeling of surprise and appreciation every time they steered away from the obvious direction everyone half expected a song to go in“.

Counterfeit Magazine

The track opens with this filthy riff, these chainsaw guitars barely concealing something the Arctic Monkeys might have used. It has this sort of laid back feel, despite the blistering drums that occasionally take the track near to oblivion. Despite that, it has the sort of blues tune that is impossible not to like. Sounds on this evidence that Knuckle are a filthy as they are fantastic. Or is that the other way around.”

Backseat Mafia

Their sound has been described as ‘filthy garage blues’, drawing comparisons to US duo The Black Keys. Although they haven’t been together long, the band have already played sets at major venues across Yorkshire including The Cockpit Leeds and The Hop in Wakefield. A fondness for playing as loud as possible, their creativity, flair and heavy blues style has seen them play support slots which have been far better received than the headline act. And you can appreciate why! This is a band which epitomize rock and roll with tracks packed full of grungy rock riffs and attitude. We love it!”


‘Living Hell’ is a slice of dirty, raunchy, bluesy rock pie. There’s nothing revolutionary here but just as that old guy down the local in the leather jacket always manages to pull, this music will always make people want to rock out. The Black Keys is the obvious to comparison to make but with a British twist in the shape of the Who or Led Zep. Immensely noisy stuff for a two piece and so dirty you’d need a hot girl in a pair of Daisy Dukes to sponge it down but she’d be pregnant before the job was even half done. If you followed any of that you’re a better man than I am but the bottom line is that this rocks and you should get it in your life.”

Listen With Monger

This brand-new duo have high ambitions for the future, and have some illustrious and key dates coming up. As well as playing around Leeds, Yorkshire and the north, I am sure that their minds and instruments will be journeying south; coming to London and us soft southern wimps. Even though the keys are in the initial stages of their career, I know how high their hopes are; how far they want to go, and this comes through in their music (which I shall get to soon). The fact that the duo managed to write twelve songs in four hours means that not only do they have a natural bond and shared musicianship, but also a passion and drive for what they are doing. There is a clear sense of down-to-Earth appeal; our heroes are two of the boys and are soaking up and drinking in (literally in a lot of cases) all the wonders and experiences that music has to offer. At the moment, the duo have close to 500 fans on Facebook; a little under 400 followers on Twitter– and a whole lot more in the live arena. I am sure that with a bit of time, the fan numbers will swell and burgeon, and it is only a matter of time before national publications are going to arrive at Knuckle’s door. If you are unfamiliar with Knuckle, I would advice seeking them out on social media. Of course, there are going to be tales of boys-being-boys; unpalatable pre-gig rituals and middle finger philosophy; but there is plenty of humour, fun and effusive elements to enjoy and smile to. It is always exciting to witness an act in their infancy; making their first (chess) move, and putting it in the ether. Living Hell is the duo’s lead single, and a song that has been doing the rounds across social media. Many are latching onto its wonder and raw energy, and sharing it amongst friends and followers. Knowing quite a bit about Jonny the Firth already, I had a certain degree of education and expectation going in, so primed myself for an inaugural listen.

A certain sense of eeriness and mystique open Living Hell. Perhaps befitting of the song’s title, initial moments mix creepy and tip-toeing sonics. Whether achieved using electric guitar or electronics themselves, I am not certain, but it is an unexpected and memorable opening. A slight pause and respite builds up suspense and tension, before a chug of guitar enters the fray. There is an electrifying sense of build-up and momentum; something is growing and plotting its course- waiting to strike. The guitar coda that follows is a weaving and snaking sound; one imbued with power and fuzz; funky undertones and an authentic sound of Punk and Rock gods of old. Wallbanks is quick to levy and bolster his partner-in-crime; augmenting the intro. with a punchy and powerful percussive rattle. The precision and force that comes into view not only stands you to attention, but builds upon the song’s (already) potent flair. When the two combine- the guitar and drums unite- the overall effect is one that invigorating. The beast has woken and is starting his surveyance of the town- ready to hunt. The way that the guitar and drums parabond and spar off of one another reminds me of mid-career White Stripes; there is a funkiness and kick to the sound that has tones of Physical Graffiti Led Zeppelin; a bit of Rage Against The Machine, perhaps, but unless my brain and honing devices are faulty, I cannot think of any comparisons- it is a coda and sensation that sounds very much fresh, alive and unique. After the intro., which provides sex appeal, spunk, funk, spit, sting and punch; the vocal arrives, with our hero stepping up to the mic. With some distortion and maybe a fleck of Alex Turner’s insouciant drawl, it is said: “I am forever with you“. The words are delineated and offered with a relaxing calm; there is a matter-of-fact delivery to the line, yet the vocal is hard and prescient. Less bait-and-switch but command and conquer, the duo combine marvellously. After the first line is laid in, Wallbanks provides a crackling of percussion; riffling a quick punctuation that bolsters the lyrics and leaves you anticipating what is to come. When our hero announces “I love that things that you do” his voice rises and writhes on the final word; the initial lines are repeated (with a more breathless pace); the emotion and tension coming through to the surface. Our hero lets it know that he’s always alone; at home with his “cheap telephone“, it seems that there is a lustful intention; our man is sitting and letting his mind wander- sending out a message to the anonymous heroine. In terms of vocal and instrumental by-play, there are some sensations and recollections of Humbug-era Arctic Monkeys; some touches of their A.M. work, too. Whereas the Monkeys’ tracks such as R U Mine? and Crying Lightning had some Josh Homme inferences, Living Hell is no Homme-nym; there are distinct Jonnythefirth hallmarks- the same grit and swagger that was synonymous in Broken Bones. Wallbanks adds huge power and intrigue with some subtle touch. As we approach the 1:00 mark, there is a decisive sense of a storm brewing. Our hero’s voice becomes more barbed and angered; the guitar and percussion mutates into an imperious and rebellious form. As (once more) the previous lines are re-invoked- once more our hero’s voice rising on the last word- the song elicits an explosion. Guitar notes are dirtier and fuzzier; the percussion rumbles and pulverizes- and the song’e evocativeness and vivacity is emphasised. At this point in the story, you get the impression that a riot has just occurred; our hero repeating a determined and purposeful mantra- his voice determined and impassioned. Just as you are predicting a full-out showdown, the mood is brought back down; the pace and sound of the opening 1:00 comes back in, and another twist in the snake’s tale. With your expectations superseded and subverted, you are fully on-board; curious as to where the boys are going. The guitar- this time around- becomes more lascivious; human of form it becomes more sexualized and low-down. When it wails and hums, you get the impression that our hero is deploying it as a metaphor; a way of putting certain images in your mind- without a word being sung. The drum work is sterling and levelled; it is punchy and testy; swaggering and intent. Lyrics returns us to the previous evocations; our hero re-emphasises solitude and cheap telephones; it seems that this time around a few more surprises will be thrown into the mixer. With a raucous scream elicited after “cheap telephone”, the chorus comes back into the fray. Our hero is in a living hell; his mind twisted and contorted- some of the decipherability and audiblity of the chorus’ lyrics is lost; the vocal is mixed lower than you’d imagine, making it hard for the words to be transcribed and understood. Minor qualms aside, the chorus has a swaying and chant-able weight that sees our duo combines emphatically. Jonny’s guitar groans and kicks; Ben’s drum flails and slams; before long a new parable is unveiled. A rhythmic and militaristic march is heralded; changing the song’s pace and (once more) catching you by surprise. There is the sensation of our hero marching into town; rain pouring down (and bottle of Jack Daniels in hand) he is kicking beer cans and rubbish out of his way. There is a pugnacious and altitudinal majesty to the segment; it is robotic yet animalistic; crepuscular and fierce. When our hero interjects, his voice is softer and more soothed; advising (his sweetheart) to “Come on/Calm down“, the protestation is interjected by rifled percussion and vibrating guitar- the drumming is particularly impressive, with Wallbanks on the brink of explosion. The final minute sees our duo notch the intrigue-o-meter all the way to 11; the pace changes from a syncopated kick to a more rampant drive. Our hero’s voice seems wracked and filled with implore; its conviction and Blues sound hits the mark fully; the percussion and guitars beautifully back this up. The repetition of “Come on” sees our hero in feral mode; possessed by a carnivorous demon, it sounds like love and life are ripping his appendix out- through his scrotum. The pained cry and blood-curdling screams have a conviction behind them that you cannot shake off; you can practically hear the sweat fly across the studio floor! After a short spell of enraptured fever, the song changes once more; the twiddling and vibrating guitar-and-drum parable arrives once more- taking the song down to land. Once Living Hell reaches its climatic end, you are left to asses what has come before. It is a hugely impressive and catchy song; one that is anthemic and memorable in the extreme. In terms of negatives you are hard-pressed to think of any. The only quibble I have, is with regard’s to the chorus’ opening words. The instrumentation gets in the way a bit and overcrowded the vocals, meaning it is a little difficult to understand what is being sung. The rest of the song has a clarity and concision that is near-faultless (so I apologise to the boys if I have misquoted any lyrics). In essence, there are a multitude of positives I can offer. The production (mostly) is wonderful and fits the sound perfectly. It is not too over-done or polished and allows the raw and stripped-down sound to come to life; to become fully realised. The economy of language is another high point; the song is built around just a few lines, yet the way they are deployed and delivered is highly effective. Our hero’s voice is at once wracked and tormented; the next Blues-tinged and sexy; the following calmed and restful- it develops and changes seamlessly. All guitar notes and lines are emotive and impressive; the riffs are catchy and argumentative, and perfectly score the song’s lyrics. Wallbanks’ percussive input is solid and hugely powerful; it goes from softer and measured moments through to heady and rampant heights- you get the sense that he is going to be a hugely effective component in the Knuckles machine. The track’s mobility and changes of pace are a huge highlight, and you never knew what was coming next- keeping you on the edge of your seat. It is the overall sound and sensation of Living Hell that is the most striking facet- the song is an emphatic opening statement. It is not too hard and foreboding yet is instilled with as much grime and sweat as you would expect; there is power and guts throughout, and the song’s themes can be easily understood and extrapolated. Given that the duo are newbies and brand-new names on the scenes, it is stunning at how confident and assured their first single is. Many have paid testament to the fact that the duo have a huge amount of impressive tracks to their name (some stronger than Living Hell); something that hints at a prosperous and glorious future. There aren’t a huge amount of duos on the scene (and fewer male ones), so there is certainly going to be a large market for Knuckle. With songs like Living Hell to their name, they are likely to rise to the same prominence as that of Royal Blood- probably in a matter of months.

If there is going to be a reappropriation of the current order; a shake-up of the established guard, then two things need to occur. First of all, personal relations need to be stronger; new acts need to ensure that any dirty laundry or issues are aired and resolved as soon as possible. I have seen many artists whom had such potential and possibility, yet frizzled out because of fractious spats and quarrels between its members. A sense of alacrity, quality and potency is obtained when issues and personality problems do not get in the way, so it is axiomatic to say that quandaries and differences should be ressolved- at the earliest of opportunities. The second thing that needs to happen, is that the public need to be more open-minded. There still seems to be a sense of stigma and discrimination afoot in the wider realm. When you bring a new act to people’s attention and mention that their sound is heavier or more primal, then noses are turned up. A lot of the music-buying public are too rigid with their tastes; not willing to accept great sounds- fearing that their head may explode if they listen to it. Just because an act prefers their sounds to be a bit more forceful, does not mean that they are Thrash Metal or the spawn of Satan. Past wonders such as The White Stripes and Led Zeppelin has an artistry and projection that mixed Blues and Rock together with Punk and a little filth: topped off with a smidge of beauty. Modern paramors such as The Black Keys, Royal Blood and Queens’ continue this trend, whilst lobbing in some sweat and anthemic; plenty of nuance and smoothness can be heard- and of course, plenty of memorable riffs and sing along mandates. I am not suggesting that everyone throws away their record collection and starts from scratch; starts embracing new genres of music- and forgets about everything else. The point is, that acts such as Knuckle are deserving of wide exposure and acclaim. Our duo have a working-class outer and a certain sense of blokeishness to their personalities. Being aware of Jonny Firth and his previous incarnation, I knew about the man behind the music. He is a witty and friendly guy; there is some bite and beer-soaked stumble; Yorkshire runs through his blood and he is as genuine and authentic a man as you will meet. When reviewing his Broken Bones album, although there were scenes and sights of U.S. Blues (White Stripes-cum-The Black Keys), and coal mining, there was plenty of home-grown influence and northern wit. His album (and music) is class-straddling and borderless; it appeals to all and is not just aimed at niches and clandestine sects. Similarly, Knuckle has a universality and everyman appeal that should see them being regarded be a wider audience. Sure, there is going to be some profanity; a modicum of sweat and spit; some Surf explosion and Primal Scream Therapy in various places, but you know what: how can that be a bad thing? In every relationships you need urgency; the heady rush and sense of combustible passion, otherwise you become boring and middle-aged. Too many new acts have a sense of twee suits and elbow patches; a restricted sound and a hesitancy that can be seen as a little vanilla and temporized. Knuckle are going to be offering up some tenderness and calm; some layered Blues sounds and plenty of diversions and colours, but also some head-on collision too. Many people whom have seen them live can pay tribute to the fact that they are serious names to watch. Their range of material is impressive and the boys are instilled with multifarious charm; sonic diversity and plentiful of ammunition. In the case of Royal Blood, we know that there is a desire and need for acts of their kind; Knuckle could well be making their way into the mainstream before too long. I am sure that our duo will be thinking of a future L.P. or E.P. and making plans as we speak. I am not overly familiar with Wallbanks (up until now), but knowing Jonny, I am aware at how hard-working and prolific he is. Knowing him, it may be a matter of weeks before something album-shaped is offered up, but I will not be making any firm declarations just yet. For now, the lads are enjoying taking their act on the road and playing to as many faces as possible. They have just come from Live at Leeds; a festival that showcased some of the nation’s best acts. With the likes of Royal Blood, Indiana, Love Zombies and Jaws featured, the city is seeing a lot of great artists play. Knuckle have not been around for too long, yet are already making big marks. I have gone into detail before (dozens of times) about what Yorkshire and the north is offering music, and the sheer range and wonder of the acts offered up is scintillating. Our heroes are amongst the very best out there at the moment, and it is no hyperbole to say that they could be one of the country’s most promising new talents. I adore the likes of Arctic Monkeys, and feel that there are some comparisons with the Sheffield band. As well as some Monkeys elements, there are heavy edges of the punk masters of the ’70s; classic acts such as Led Zeppelin and The Who- as well as plenty of modern-day relevance. It is clear that there is a lot of affection between Ben and Jonny; the two had an instant connection that comes through in their music. Living Hell is the distillation and manifestation of that friendship and musical bond- one that will ensure many years of prosperity. When you hear an act that have such a connection of tightness to them, you always feel that they will go the distance; grow in strength and make multiple albums and songs. The sense of rambuctiousness and grit is evident within Living Hell; there is sweat, lust and anger to be heard- but also plenty of nuance. Jonny has a gravelled and emotive voice that makes everything sound convincing and urgent; a range that goes from a soft and more laid back feel; right through to a scorched earth, balls-to-the-walls rampage. Wallbanks is a tight and proficient sticks man, but one whom possess a huge power and sense of majesty. At times it is as if Dave Grohl and Neil Peart sparring with an octopus; testicles and wood flying everywhere! I was staggered by the amount of music, sound and energy that was summoned up by two people. It is always impressive when a duo can conjure up the equivalent potency and force of a fully fledged band; concentrate the gravity of a four or five-piece and do it with a greater efficiency. Knuckle are spoiling for a fight, but not one that will result in blood and tooth loss. They are fighting to make their name heard and gain their rightful place in the upper echelons of music. Recent gigs around Yorkshire are whipping up fervent praise and paen, and it quite clear that it will not take too much time for the duo’s full force to take effect. They may in the embryonic stages and putting baby steps together, but the initial signs are incredibly encouraging. If you prefer your music softer or more Pop-infused, then I would advise some daring; break out of your mould and embrace something fresh and bold. Too few take the trouble to listen to music that falls outside of their comfort zone; fearful that it will lead them to the dark side. Have no fear, as Knuckle are here to not only embrace and electioneer, but make sure their music burrow into your senses and overwhelms. For that reason- as well as every other reason I have laid out- I would advise this:

GIVE them a thorough hearing.


Follow Knuckle:







Tour Dates:

May 09

Bull & Fairhouse

Wakefield, UK

May 24

BrewDog Bar

Leeds, UK

Jul 30


Huddersfield, UK

Sep 12

The Hop

Wakefield, UK

Sep 12

Long Division Festival

Wakefield, UK

Track Review: Jingo- Before You Were Born.







Before You Were Born



The single, Before You Were Born is available from:


To investigate Jingo’s previous songs, visit:



From a band whom are still criminally under-investigated arrives another track that lodges in the mind. If you are unfamiliar with the prolific and stunning four-piece, endeavour to rectify this.


IT was only a couple of days ago, I was expounding the virtues of a select group…

of new musicians. After publishing my 200th blog post (hold your applause), I looked back at what I had written; surveyed the acts I had included, and something struck my mind: there were so many whom are still being overlooked. I guess ‘overlooked’ may be harsh terminology, yet too many of the artists I paid tribute too are deserving of a much larger support base. Solo acts such as Jen Armstrong deserve a record label to help support her itinerant and ambitious future; Chess, Elena Ramona and Second Hand Poet are diverse and brilliant young artists. Bands such as Universal Thee have a great and loyal following in Scotland, yet it seems that getting their name beyond the border is proving quite tough- or is a slow process at best. At the moment, I am speaking with the band’s manager; trying to organise an event that showcases two Scottish bands (every few months) alongside two southern/London-based acts- and my featured artists are top of the list (to represent the south). The likes of Crystal Seagulls and Los & The Deadlines are on my radar too, as I feel that here are two examples of groups whom are worthy of huge fandom- yet seem to be working the media like a rodeo clown, in order to be seen. As well as (each act) being phenomenal musicians and diverse musicians, they are down-to-earth and everyman; they come across as hugely likeable and impressive: so why is it taking so long to get them their due rewards? It seems that due diligence is good enough (when it comes to media attention), and when it comes to promoting certain acts and artists, not enough is being done. I shall tie my point more directly when I arrive at assessing Jingo, but my point raises wider concerns. Acts such as Universal Thee are perfect examples that show that there is too much compartmentalization; not enough being done to spread the good word- beyond their native climbs. In terms of self-promotion, the artists are doing all they can; through Facebook, Twitter, SoundCloud, BandCamp (and countless other sites) music is published; updates given- and a whole host of information is put on their for the waiting public. I have touched upon (or molested) this subject before, but it is something that erks and annoys me; it has got to be easier to make the general public aware of great bands. I am aware that there are thousands of bands playing around the world; hundreds of great bands pioneering within the U.K.- yet social media is a powerful tool. Whilst the associated acts are making sure they do their utmost, there are plenty of sites dedicated to new music, whom are letting them fall through the cracks. Over the past two years, I have had the honour of featuring some splendiferous talent; bands and solo artists I believe are going to be on the precipice of a new movement; a wave of an eager musicians whom will take the mainstream by storm- and overthrown the more staid and bland elements we are witness to. Before I hop to my next ‘big point’, I will conclude by saying that more needs to be done. I guess it is a Herculean task to give appropriate attention to ALL the best acts (around), but it is not difficult to give them a helping hand at least. When I was reviewing Ruby Macintosh recently (a bold and bright young talent from Yorkshire), I was wondering why few others had latched onto her charms. She is a gorgeous and striking musician, and has had a hard enough last few years; it should be a given that the media in general make her job a lot easier. I suppose it highlights a wider malaise and pandemic; one that is going to see the death of some of music’s best new acts. My featured subjects should have no fear, but I am still perplexed, mind. My second point regards bands in general; and their components and configuration. A lot of acts tend to be either all-male or all-female; take their players from one country or nation- few contain ethnic diversity or bi-gender membership. It may seem like a minor note or moot point, but I feel that some of the best and more daring music has come from acts where there is a greater diversity. Universal Thee are a band with male and female vocal elements; Los and the Deadlines source their players from several different nations; Issimo (a duo from Yorkshire) have boy-girl by-play- and there are others, too. It is not a coincidence that the acts I have mentioned are amongst the best the U.K. has on offer. With powerful and soulful vocal input (from the females of the acts); endeavouring and myriad sonic swathes from the rest of the band; it leads to a rich and fascinating palette. I guess there is resistance and hesitation mixing men and women in bands; some think that there may be arguments, a weaker bond or danger of capitulation- this is narrow-minded and foolish. Stronger community and creativity comes when you break away from homogenized and rigid formations. You are not going to turn into Fleetwood Mac or Pixies; your band will not implode or squabble when you put men and women together (they are aberrations and anomalies). I, for one, would love to see more daring and adventurousness when it comes to bands; my featured band are a great example of a group whom not only mix genders- but nationalities too, to great effect. I suppose that it is going to be hard to make positive and evolutionary changes in music; to rectify imbalance- and ensure that equality and fairness are bolder synonyms. I will go into this more in my conclusion, but I suppose I better get down to investigating my featured act. With U.S./U.K. commingle; potent and nuanced sounds, and huge potential, they are a group whom will be big names to watch.

Jingo is a group I have surveyed a few times before. Over the past year they have released a succession of singles; each different and displaying bold and diverse colours. When I featured the act in my last post, I proclaimed that these guys are going to be big names to watch; they will be on the tips of everyone’s tongues in nary a few months. Their name may be a bit Google-proof, and you may not be familiar with them at the moment, but I would urge you to investigated all of their past work. My first encounter with the four-piece was when I investigated their track, 1Q84. When I completed my reconnaissance of the song, I was moved to write; “…the song is tight, focused and well rehearsed, and I am sure will become a live favourite. The combination of a sing along and memorable chorus, sharp and ubiquitous lyrics and an enthralling and battling percussion and electric guitar support that sets this song above many put forth by their peers. The shifting and unpredictable changes in tone and mood keep the track fascinating and unique, and is something many other groups would not think to do. The entire effect is contagious and commendable, and for a first song for a new band , it is quite an achievement“. There was oriental flavours to be heard; elements of Arctic Monkeys; hints of Bird Courage- and a whole treasure chest of percussive wallop. When investigating the vocal turn from Katie Buckett, I assessed that “Our heroine implores to her paramour to not leave her and to take her with him. One can draw comparisons with female contemporaries such as P!nk, The Pretty Reckless and Adele, but she there is a credibility and intelligence that the first two do not posses“. I came away from listening to the track, filled with admiration; completely in awe- and sure that I had discovered one of the best bands on the scene. Before I go into more detail, let me give you some band biography:

Katie Buckettvocals/keys Jack Buckett guitars/ backing vocals Joseph Reeves drums Sahil Batrabass/keys/backing vocals

“Jingo is a dynamic and curious four-piece affair. They are, consequently, Jack Buckett, his U.S. wife, Katie, Joseph Reeves and latest addition, Sahil Batra, discovered from their own warehouse Open Mic Night. The four have been making music with other bands in Brooklyn, New York and London for a fair few years but have now embarked upon a shared venture and have a loyal and devout group of co-patriots in the UK and US. Supporting Graham Coxon of Blur as their first gig in March 2013, they were out of the blocks and running. Since then they have been keeping busy in the studio whilst touring across the country relieving widespread attention from online bloggers (including a feature in FHM) In November they won the Made in Shoreditch Music Factory competition and 2 days recording at the legendary Strongroom studios. Jingo is a unique genetic composite, and one that has not been seen too often on the music scene. We had a similar nationality cross-breeding with Fleetwood Mac, The Magic Numbers, and a few other acts, but they are few and far between. They are set to release their debut album in summer 2014”.

At present, the quartet have just over 1,000 ‘Likes’ on Facebook; they have 229 (at time of review) ‘Followers’ on Twitter– this seems ridiculous. With such a sparse and meagre backing, I am always shocked. Their fans are dedicated and loyal (and I am sure the group adore all of them), yet I have seen weaker and less impressive bands with gigantic numbers of fans and supporters. Anyway, I digress; as I was telling you about the group’s previous tracks. After 1Q84, I reviewed Same Without You and The Matador (in April, 2013). With regards to the former, its lyrics struck a chord with me “… scenes and scores of the ’50s and ’60s; all smoky siren and street-lit avenues: “What if I called your bluff…” and “Please don’t lie to me”, are early cuts, and paint the picture of a woman who has either been wronged and is seeking validation, or is in search of honest. Before you have a chance to let your thought wander to the alleys of a U.S. city, where there is black and white sensuality and a variegated tension, there is a sonic kick that takes decisions out of your hands, and controls your hands and thoughts. The piano skips and bounces, as an echoed reverb lingers and vibrates, as the percussion waits, watches and kicks when needed“. The vocal line that was presented was intoxicating and there were elements of U.S. stars such as Billie Holiday, Joan Wasser and Madeleine Peyroux. When summing up the song, I surmised: “I smelt a flavour of Steely Dan in there as well circa-‘Can’t Buy a Thrill’. It is a most unexpected sonic diversion, and again adds a layer of U.S. influence to the melting pot. Bits of Santana, Slash and Clapton are heard in the D.N.A. as the sound of piano comes in. Instead of being romantic a hand is run across the keys with verve, as a ghostly and unstoppable snowball hurtles towards the village“. My most recent exposure the quartet was The Matador, and another rampant and stunning song. The vocal contained “a little bit of the likes of P.J. Harvey, (the rougher edges of) Tori Amos; as well as a distinct flavour of the U.S. There is, perhaps, a restrained air of Adele, too; sounding at times quite similar at times“; the guitar “(i)s swooning and romantic. It has a little bit of a build; as if it were going to peak and punch, but instead, comes back down“; the track, as a result lead me to state that it stood out, “in ways that are fresh and new“. Today I review the band for a fourth (and by no means final) time. It is a song that differs from their past work, yet keeps all the elementary and distinct cores in place. I shall add my plaudits and patronage to the band very shortly; but here is what other critics/reviewers have said about Jingo:

Angsty, melodic brilliance. They’re a no-nonsense act that fill the void left by the wimpy, foppish haired indie acts of late.”


Jingo have the potential, to re-invent the wheel.”


“(Belong to You) just screams festival anthem, but you don’t have to be drunk in a field to love it


Listening to London’s Jingo is a bit like listening to a rockier Portishead with Beth Gibbons being force-fed steroids.”


Next Big Thing


earth-shattering, seismic vocals and music to match.”


the feistiness of the vocalist Katie that reminded me of those awesome gals like Alison Mosshart and Leila from Duke Spirit.” “A Large Dramatic sound


If there is a finer natural vocalist in British rock right now it is hard to bring them to mind.” “impress beyond hopes and without warning.”


this brooding and heartbroken tune that’s full to the brim with emotion oozing from every pore.”


Criminally undiscovered


They have variety, a sense of innovation and style that is very rare these days


 a talented mix of the best East London and Brooklyn has to offer.” “their music is quite exceptional.”


the resonating, smouldering vocals courtesy of Katie, the eerie and the elegant yet fierce classical tones to the bass and guitar lines


Overall the songs share a lush full sound with plenty of variety, and musicality. “-“Kate Bucket, has a lovely voice that has a great masculine power without losing the feminine grace (Annie Lennox rather than Grace Jones, Aretha not Nina)”


You have seen what others think of the group; how their music has affected them (and me as well); so it was unsurprising that I sat down to listen to Before You Were Born, with a huge amount of optimism and excitement.

Previous numbers have shown a glimmer of Jingo’s romantic and tender side. The initial seconds of Before You Were Born are a refined yet emotive piano coda; one that has elements of Same Without You’s intro., but the piano notes are not as heavy and dark. An initial wordless vocal (by our heroine) is then joined by a punchy and upbeat percussive line; one which patters and playfully intones. Plinking and sharp (but subtle) guitar flicks join the mood, and it is a combination which puts you in a better mood; implores you to nod your head- in time to the swaying and hypnotic sonics. The track’s first line are beautifully deployed. Our heroine elongates and pauses; elongates and changes pace- giving the lyrics a more potent weight, and making sure they stick in your head. Whilst speaking of: “Coinci~denssse for~est of your life~bow and arrow~tate like a circ~ollect all of us~ave the planet while you still can“, the backing is kept light and sparse; electric sparks provide some light and colour; the bass and percussion tenderly support- as well as ripple and patter. Between the first two verses (or parables), wordless vocalisation returns once more; with some uplifting hand-claps and evocative guitar, the song starts to grow. At the 1:00 mark, the sound becomes fuller and more energised. Guitars become more gravitational and spiralling; imbued with a greater weight and volume, they do not change their pattern, instead augment and emphasise the overall sound. With her voice- once more- stretching and crawling; striking and punctuating, our heroine takes focus (once more). There is a tenderness and power in Buckett’s voice; a yearning and striking facet that adds emotion and memorability to the lines: “Improvisat~show me your intentions~lowle~ventually I’ve got you pinned like a doll-der and wis~er~ly before you were born“. It is hard to compare the track with another- as well as the band themselves- as there is such a unique charm within Before You Were Born. Between the lines, audio weaves are presented; filled with lilting beauty and calming meditation. Now our hero comes to the mic.; the atmosphere rises and there is a sense of urgency in his voice. Repeating the song’s title, elements of Elbow come to the fore. Like Garvey, Buckett’s voice is full of life and power; a combination of passion and kick that stands you to attention. Whereas our heroine’s voice is lighter and more mesmeric, our hero’s is emphatic and electioneering. Shifting vocal duties (again), our heroine returns to the fore. Whereas before, her vocal was darker and slowed-down, here is sweet (perhaps fairy-like might be more apt) and faster; the song takes another turn and expectations are subverted. Being familiar with Jingo, I am aware that they can mix obtuse and oblique lyrics with directness. In the lines “I knew you before you were born/Riding a bright light before you arrived” there is a mix of both; but perhaps with more of a leaning towards the former. Whether speaking of a spiritual rebirth or near-death conjecture, I am unsure, yet the images that form in your head are stirring and vivid. There is a delirious beauty and otherworldliness to the vocal delivery; a line is presented- there is a pause- before the next is sung- giving it is a weightlessness and dreaminess. When our heroine states: “I know you’re good, I know your evil/Like a snake eating its own tail” you cannot help but picture some evocative images; but also speculate as to the meaning of the lines. It appears that maybe a friend is being spoken to; someone whom maybe has gone down a bad path and is in need of redemption and guidance. Such is the nature of the song (and its words) that a sense of ambiguity arises; each listener may think or imagining different things- giving the track itself an additional majesty. Our heroine’s voice once more prolongates and holds; lengthening lyrics (“Before you were born/Tale/Before you were born“) to ensure that they are not easily forgotten. A brief shimmering and riparian sonic segment adds some punctuation; allowing some (temporary) reflection- and allowing your mind to drift a little. Before you can settle and float, a vocal rush comes sternly into view. It is at this stage (perhaps I am just a bit dim), that the full meaning and potency of the lyrics makes itself known. There is a sense of malevolence and funereal beckoning; our vocal pair combine magnificently. With events becoming rawer and more overwrought, the vocals likewise reflect this mood. Instead of speed and rapid-fire delivery, there is still an emphasis on considered delineation and crepuscular stalk. Our husband-and-wife duo are drawing in and sharpening the cut of the their tongues. When they conjoin and announce: “I’ve got you pinned like a doll/Meet your maker/I’ve got you pinned like a doll/Meet your maker” you feel, perhaps, that events will not work out for the better-that a tragic end may be in sight. Whether the band are looking inwardly; dealing with spiritual and personal demons and exorcise them; or else looking at a target and their ill-fated plight, I am not too sure- you are kept guessing and interpreting throughout. To my mind, Jingo’s 9th studio track is one that has double-meaning; a sense of cryptic inscrutability are evident within- perhaps only they know the real truth. After the haunting have been offered, there is a woozy and skipping outro; one at first plays thunderstorm percussion alongside elliptical and galloping keys. Before any additional transformation or shift, our pair have not done with us yet. Re-injecting “I’ve got you pinned like a doll/Meet your maker“; the lines have a weightier meaning- given the sonic rush that proceeds them. The background is emphasised and becomes more powerful; our hero adds some relative composure and restraint (when singing “Before you were born“). Once again, the song’s title is repeated mantra-like, and the snake’s tail turns once more- events are less spiky and foreboding. The final 40 seconds are reserved for an heady and conclusory outro; one which brings things down to Earth, but also is an effectively stirring piece in its own right. When the track ends, you are left to weigh things up and reflect on what has come. It is something that is instantly recognisable as a Jingo track (in terms of quality and spirit), yet differs from their previous eight numbers. Various members of the band have their own personal favourites. Katie said (when speaking to Holdupnow.com): “When You Want Me”, is my favourite to date and exemplifies our growing ability to jam a song into being“. Jack offers the opinion that “For me, out of the 6 songs currently online it would have to be either 1Q84 or Jaclyn Having said that, it’s hard to pick only one or two as we tend to vary the style of our songs a lot“. A few months have passed (since that interview) and I am sure that opinions may have changed. To me, the song is one of the strongest the band has created, and hints at what they could produce in the future. In the aforementioned interview, Jack went on to clear define what was great about being in the band: “Probably the openness and impartiality we have during the creation process. We’re all willing to take on any suggestion another member may have and give it a go. Of course we have a method and some people have certain roles but there are no limits, no rules and no guidelines we have to follow“. This sense of democracy and lack of parliamentary procedure, means Jingo’s songs sound care-free and effortless. Of course, a lot of work goes into them, but Before You Were Born has a charm, weight and sense of wonder that is a result of the band’s work methods. It is a song that signals a golden future, and one that I have been playing for hours now. It gets into your headl under your skin, and in your mind- and makes you smile in the process.

It has been over a year since I have featured Jingo on these pages- and they have not missed a step. I know that there are album plans afoot; speculation suggests that something could arrive in the summer, and on the evidence of Before You Were Born, it will be a stunning collection. The past three tracks I have reviewed (from the band) have all been very different and unique; they have projected their own identity and sound- yet they are emphatically Jingo tracks. Before You Were Born is another colour in the band’s rainbow; another side of the group that shows their stunning knack for putting a song in your head. The lyrics are, as you would expect, memorable and intelligent; the vocal performance is stunning, emotional and impassioned. For all my logorrhea, the band are fully deserving of positive feedback and celebration. They are a hard-working and prolific group whom adore music and all it offers- and want to add their names to the list of greats. When they spoke to Independent Music News, the band hinted at future plans: “I think that we’ll continue releasing songs we have, three singles at a time, until we have an album’s worth of material and then release the last three songs with the album“. In interviews, the band come across as witty, and friendly; eager to engage in banter and seduce. I have never witnessed Jingo live, but it is something I will strive to do, as they prepare their next moves. On SoundCloud– as well as their official site- you can hear every track they have produced; hear the range and intentions on offer. I started this review by raising two (distinct) subjects: how underrated some acts are; as well as how diversity can enhance a group. Jingo are amongst a number of artists whom are worthy of much greater acclaim and speculation. Their official website is vibrant, full-bodied and informative. It is incredibly well-designed and eye-catching, and all information anyone can want is in there. For someone like me, it is an invaluable resource, and allows me to keep up-to-date with all the band’s happenings. Their social media portfolio is well-rounded and all-encompassing, and the quartet are no strangers to a memorable photo shoot. With every image of our gorgeous heroine and her three handsome cohorts, you smile and love the band even more; they are the embodiment of a happy-go-lucky and universal act. If popularity and public representation is mandated by the quality of your sounds, then the variegated and nuanced cuts (the band offer) should see their stock rise considerably. I am going to do my best to make sure that reviewers and new music websites are informed and educated; they take Jingo on board and review their music. The band have a clear affecting for one another, and the bond between Katie and Jack is (perhaps obvious) stunning. Katie’s hugely powerful and mesmeric pipes blend beautifully with Jack’s; an all-male vocal set-up would not do full justice to the group’s songs. Adding feminine tones (in with masculine) not only adds beauty and tenderness, but gives the songs a richness and wider sound; a charm that would have otherwise been lacking. Because Katie is American, I am sure that the group have U.S. ambitions; our heroine is aware of the scene over there and I would not be surprised if the band were to find hosts of fans waiting (in the U.S.). Influences such as Bad for Lazarus and Bird Courage come through in some of their numbers, yet it is the originality the band offer, that is most memorable. When the band was interviewed by Holdupnow.com, they were asked what was the best thing about being in Jingo. Jack stated: “Probably the openness and impartiality we have during the creation process. We’re all willing to take on any suggestion another member may have and give it a go. Of course we have a method and some people have certain roles but there are no limits, no rules and no guidelines we have to follow. We also have a mutual thirst for keeping new material rolling out which keeps it fresh and exciting“. The group was asked about their hopes for the future; what was most vital for them. Katie explained that “The most important thing for me and I think for everyone is to make the best music we can possibly make“. The band’s uniqueness, assimilation and bravery marks them out as huge future stars. I have heard all of the songs they have offered up (so far), and their sound can be extrapolated and taken to huge arenas; but also has a tenderness and intimacy that means smaller crowds would flock to see them. The rest of this year will see our quartet embark on new ambitions and releases, and I cannot wait to hear what is coming next. There is a wealth of music out there, and when discovering new music (and paramours), it can be a tough endeavour- separating the best from the bunch. Our U.K./U.S. cohorts are one of the most innovative and dedicated groups out there; not beholden to stick with one path or course, their multitudinous sounds are capable of overwhelming and inveigelling. I would suggest that you investigate Before You Were Born thoroughly; but also go back and seek out their past glories. As 2014 ticks on, and eyes look to the horizon- waiting for terrific music to arrive- then you should keep a close on Jingo. Few new musicians are deserving of making it long-term; of making their way into the larger public consciousness, but when it comes to our wonderful four-piece…

NO ONE deserves it more.


Follow Jingo:











Last F.M.:




Tour Dates:


Upcoming Shows:

Fri 09 May, 2014

Jingo in Newport, Wales


The Patriot Inn

Main Street, Crumlin, Gwent NP11 4PT

Sat 10 May, 2014

Jingo in Ilfracombe, Devon


The Chill Bar

Fore Street EX34 9DJ