Album Review: David J- An Eclipse of Ships


David J


An Eclipse of Ships


An Eclipse of Ships is available at:


TRACK LISTING: Dust In the Wind9.4/10.0 Hot Sheet Hotel9.3 You Suit A Rainy Day9.4 Little Miss Impeccable9.3 Yokohama Blues 9.4 Visitation9.4 In The Blue Hour In Berlin9.5 Excruciating Allure9.4 La Femme de Montreal9.6 Where The Bloodline Ends9.4 The You of Yesteryear9.5

STAND OUT TRACK: La Femme de Montreal

DOWNLOAD: Dust In the Wind, You Suit A Rainy Day, In The Blue Hour In Berlin, La Femme de Montreal, The You of Yesteryear

RELEASED: 1st May, 2014


RECORDED AT: Ear Gallery Music in Los Angeles PRODUCED BY: David J ENGINEERED BY: Tony Green MIXED BY: Tony Green and David J MASTERED BY: Gary Hobbish at A. Hammer in San Francisco.

GENRES: Alternative, Gothic, Acoustic, Folk. _______________________________________________________________ Legendary musician and producer David J has had a long and staggering career- from his days with Bauhaus and Love and the Rockets through to his current situation. Mixing staggering stories with glorious blends of Acoustic and Alternative, An Eclipse of Ships is a rich and compelling set of songs- and Haskins’ strongest solo album to date. _____________________________________________________________________

IDEALS of proficiency and longevity are not assured in the music industry.

Having just witnessed Glastonbury (for another year), I could not help but be impressed by the performers on show: it takes a lot of talent to get that far, as well as determination. With competition in the mainstream being pretty high, the likes of Jack White, Metallica and Kasabian have had to overcome a great deal; ensure that their music is on the highest order- the call up for Glastonbury is reserved to the chosen few. In spite of the festival (this year at least) being Rock-heavy, there is room for anyone: all genres and types of act have a chance to make it there- so long as their music is capable of getting the crowds enraptured. As I look around the shores of new music, I can see a few bands/solo artists I feel will be making their way to Worthy Farm in years to come: I have reviewed a few of them, and have been delighted to revel in their confidence and ambition. As much as anything, I hope that a lot of my musical friends get the chance to play such a prestigious festival. There are smaller and less high-profile gigs out there, but Glastonbury seems to top them all: the sheer size of the venue is enough to get most musicians salivating with excitement. It is never impossible to make it that far; if you are talented and focused enough you can never say never- although you need to possess something rather special. There are precious few musicians around that have had a truly long-term career- when you look at the overall numbers- so I am always impressed when I do encounter such an example: today’s act has certainly had a prosperous and busy music career. Let me introduce David J to you:

David John Haskins (born April 24, 1957, Northampton), better known as David J, is a musician, producer and writer. He was the bassist for the Gothic-Rock band Bauhaus and Love and the Rockets. In 2004, his first play Anarchy In The Gold Street Wimpy was staged in Atlanta by the Dad’s Garage’ Theatre Company. In 2005, he composed the original music for a stage production of Samuel Beckett’s Cascando. In 2008, J wrote and directed a play, Silver for Gold (The Odyssey of Edie Sedgwick), which was restaged at REDCAT in Los Angeles in 2011. In 2008 J also released Go Away White with his Bauhaus bandmates and reformed Love and Rockets, who played at Coachella as well as Lollapalooza that same year. 2008 also saw David J contributing lyrics and vocals on a track entitled “Sleaze” for the Dutch band, Strange Attraction, and appeared on their album, Mettle (2011). He worked with the band again when he supplied lyrics and vocals on “The Corridor” for the album, Anatomy of a Tear. (2011) In a similar vein, J wrote the lyrics and sang the lead vocal on the track “Spalding Grey Can’t Swim,” which appeared on George Sarah’s 2012 release, Who Sleeps The Sleep of Peace. In 2011, J released a new solo album that was dark cabaret-oriented, Not Long for This World, and provided bass for Voltaire’s album Riding a Black Unicorn Down the Side of an Erupting Volcano While Drinking from a Chalice Filled with the Laughter of Small Children!. In 2012, he recorded bass for the song “Melody Dean” on the album Theatre Is Evil by Amanda Palmer & the Grand Theft Orchestra. He co-wrote the track “The Autumn Carnival” with Courtney Taylor-Taylor for The Dandy Warhols’ album, This Machine, 2012. Also in 2012, he toured using his opening act Adrian H and the Wounds as a backing band. David J produced and played bass, organ and sang on Starfishing (2012) the debut album by Darwin. He also co-produced, played bass and appeared on the Darwin’s follow-up EP Souvenir (2014). The video for the single “Meaningless” featured David, Victor DeLorenzo (Violent Femmes) and Emily Jane White. In 2013 he collaborated with producer Dub Gabriel, playing bass, bells and Farfisa organ alongside U Roy and Juakali. He also played bass on the Dub Gabriel produced Jajouka Sound System track “Salahadeen,” which featured Bashir Attar, leader of The Master Musicians of Jajouka on gaita. On Halloween 2013, David J in collaboration with Jill Tracy, released “Bela Lugosi’s Dead (Undead is Forever).” This was a dramatic cinematic reworking of the original Bauhaus song.”

There are few other musicians in the world that have such an impressive backstory; David J ranks amongst one of the most inspirational talents in the world. Having made five albums with Bauhaus; seven with Love and the Rockets- in addition to his solo L.P.s and E.P.s- it appears that the British-born star has no plans of slowing down any time soon. Since 1979, David J has played with a host of different plans; produced extensively as well as contributed to film scores- in addition to having written for the theatre. For those that feel modern music is synonymous with short-term glory and truncated careers, David J is an example of how things should be done. It is not just his talent that has got him where he is today, but his collaborative spirit. Too many modern-day acts tend to play their own music- without conjoining with others- and find that their energy levels drop and public fascination subsides. David J has kept his creativity high by affording himself the opportunity to play with a myriad of eager and varied musicians. If you have not heard of our aforementioned hero, you should set time aside to investigate his work: as well as being a celebrated name across the U.S., David J has inspired wealths of musicians across the U.K.- and throughout the world. It is hard to compare An Eclipse of Ships with any of David J’s previous outings. Having played in Gothic-Rock bands such as Bauhaus- as well as Alternative-Rock act Love and the Rockets- our hero has played a range of genres and incarnations. Fans of David J will not be disappointed by his latest effort: Not Long For This World (released in 2011) was his previous release and you can hear similarities between the two albums. All of David J’s unique traits have remained solid; they have been expanded and built upon- An Eclipse of Ships is perhaps his most assured work in recent years. One of the most distinct aspects of David J’s music is his lyrics and wordplay. His current L.P. is packed with vivid imagery and eye-watering scenes. Tales of drugs and drunkenness mix with intellectualism and self-reflection (across the eleven tracks): depending on what you are in the mood for, David J has it on offer. In a sense he is a musical chemist: no matter your malady or predisposition, our hero has the medicine for you. His music has a redemptive and restorative quality: the compositions are rich and detailed; his lines prick your mind and vividly put you in the song- his voice ties everything together with its sense of directness and authority. Right the way from Etiquette of Violence (his debut solo release) through to Not Long For This World, David J has ensured that every song has ambition and personality at their core: his consistency and quality have hardly dipped in the last 31 years. Many critics became ambivalent and mixed towards Love and the Rockets’ late-career Heavy-Rock sound; Bauhaus’s swan song was met with critical acclaim- in a sense An Eclipse of Ships is more familiar with Go Away White than Sweet F.A./Lift. David J has not tried to recapture his past days and early triumphs: his current offerings have moved forward and provide a mature and developed sound. Those that miss the days of Bauhaus and Love and The Rockets will not be disappointed: there is plenty of energy, rush and fascination; darker and shadowy mandates; powerful and emotional numbers. Perhaps the most distinct development (since David J’s early days) is the overall sound. An Eclipse of Ships is a more laid-back and gentler affair- compared to our hero’s band output- and provides more soothe than it does feral force. Those that are looking for something deeper and seductive should check out his new album. As difficult as it is to compare David J’s current album with his past work, it is perhaps harder to compare him with other acts. David J’s voice is quite rich and deep. Artists such as Tom Waits and Bob Dylan might crystallise (in people’s minds) when listening to tracks such as Where The Bloodline Ends (Vasectomy Song) and The You of Yesteryear. The entire album is wrapped around a chocolate-toned and evocative vocal line: those that are fans of masters such as Dylan, Waits and Neil Young will discover a lot to enjoy here. The lyrics across An Eclipse of Ships are the strongest David J has come up with: the words mix oblique and poetic with direct and intoxicated- there is such a wealth and range of topics explored that you struggle to take it all in. Few modern lyricists have such a detail for mood and scene-setting. If you have investigated some of my recent review subjects such as The Midnight Pine, Clara Engel and Kate Tempest; then you will appreciate An Eclipse’ and its amazing details. It is an album that not only appeals to lovers of intelligent and well-considered music, but those that have an affection for classic Folk and Acoustic sounds. Anyone that prefers their music more demonized and bloodcurdling- perhaps with more electric guitar- should not shy away from David J’s latest love affair: the sounds on offer will speak to anyone that prides conviction and beauty over emptiness and ephemeral brevity. Shades of current sweetheart Laura Marling can be extrapolated in An Eclipse of Ships’ tantalising wordplay and biblical scenery: tender and charming stories unfold in the mix, to allow a sense of balance to come through. An upbeat and joyous vocal performance give energy and rush to Dust In the Wind. Backed by yearning strings and pattering percussion, the song looks at the itinerant (“It’s a long way from Manilla to Amsterdam“) and vagaries and strife of life. The opening verse looks at a “poor wild gypsy girl“: her head and love life a mess, it seems as though fleeing and escaping is the only possibility. After the trepidation of the opening verse, we progress to something more redemptive: opportunities arrive that are “too good to rescind“- our heroine switches course and becomes dust in the wind. The alluring central figure has David J in a trance. Dangerous of hips and alluring of charms, the gypsy girl throws off all suitors: there is an essence of Bob Dylan’s Blood on the Tracks as our hero mixes stunningly vivid scenes with a tender but potent composition. With little more than percussion, mandolin, violin and acoustic guitar, we witness the seductress leave “sweetmeats and black lillies“- before departing and leaving our hero alone. Sweeping you up in a whirlpool of odd romance and intoxicating imagery, David J’s voice is instilled with conviction, passion and wisdom- the vocal line is optimistic and never loses its smiling kick and sense of movement. Hot Sheet Hotel opens with a gorgeous and sweeping coda. Country-flavoured elements come through in the song’s aching composition- matched by David J’s soothing and tender vocal. In a house of lasciviousness, guests arrive incognito: cheap patio furniture is chained down and rooms are “rented by the hour.” One may normally expect to find these kind of lyrics scored by electric guitar and full-bloodied vocals. Our hero brings the song to life with his swaying and determined vocal. As the tale comes to its conclusion, wives at home are “seeking retribution“- the no-good husbands that have cheated are getting their just-desserts. Humour and tongue-in-cheek (as well as other parts of the body) are fused to create a song that could easily fit on Leonard Cohen’s I’m Your Man– there is that same wit and mixture of beauty and impurity. Offering some reformation and salvation is You Suit A Rainy Day. David J’s voice matches the peppiness and pace of the album opener: here we investigate a more traditional muse. Visions of Tangled Up In Blue (apologies for going to the Dylan well) come to mind. Our hero’s sweetheart works at a strip joint (“On the east side of Tinseltown“): amidst a sea of clowns and fools, our heroine is working her way towards rebirth. A simple and effective composition beautifully support David J’s stunning fable. With storms brewing and a Victorian sofa waiting, our heroine smashes her glass and loses her phone- the sense of klutziness wonderfully blends with the poetic. In spite of the provocative weather, our hero sees his heroine in more palatial surroundings: on her way to the Grand Palais; lavish splendour would suit her just fine. Combining Rhodes piano and acoustic guitar, you get a wonderful sense of light and shade; stormy and sunshine- it is a song that makes you smile from start to end. Contradictions, perfectionism and vanities come to the fore in Little Miss Impeccable. Looking at the stars and the moon’s trail, our hero follows the mess of contradiction. With her “burqa drag” and “Goth Lolita” wardrobe; Champaign giggles and drunken pratfalls- you start to picture a rather shallow and messy figure. David J’s voice remains controlled and potent: he is caught up in the madness and wonder of what is unfolding- determined to ensure every word sticks. Displaying his gift for wordplay, our hero mixes apothecary and caprice with iTunes stores and lemon balm- once more the listener is afforded a wealth of rich imagery and fascinating story. Topped off with a fast-flowing and effusive vocal performance, Little Miss Impeccable keeps the album’s sense of strength and ambition riding high. Inspired by real-life events, David J recalls being stranded in Japan. Yokohama Blues’ emotive slide guitar adds weight and texture to a fascinating tale. Sipping sake by himself, our hero meets “this beautiful girl.” Having had an auspicious last few days, the two converge to Yokohama (her home) where he receives a golden fleece. You can practically hear the grin on our hero’s face as he is in her company. David J’s vocal is softer- yet more romanticized- than previous numbers: backed by a Blues-inspired composition, his pleasure is cut somewhat short. Memories in mind as part of him wants to return home and his “part geisha, part go-go dancer.” Visitation (Song for An Elegant Angel) sees David J let his darker tones do the talking. Recalling a “midnight apparition“, our hero’s voice is low-down and determined. Recalling memories- of his beau being a nerdy kid- “On a school trip to foreign towns“, witticisms, romantic longing and off-colour remarks are exchanged.  His lady of the night is an “Elegant Angel” (the production company she is contracted to); you can  David J’s voice possesses touches of Leonard Cohen- he has a steady and gravelled projection throughout the song- and the same lyrical talents. As the lovers exchange suggestive remarks, his girl dissapears- our hero wonders if she was “a digital download, alas!” (referring to the fact that the song is about a porn star).  From the previous landscapes of Japan- we are now in Germany, In The Blue Hour In Berlin sees our hero hearing the cabaret calling: hitting the U-Bahn, he meets a perfect stranger- someone who causes him awe and admiration. The composition is sparse and simple as our hero’s voice plays up front: it is more upbeat than its predecessor and instilled with a sense of playfulness. If the vocal has more energy at heart, subjects have darker back alleys: doom and gloom, cold eyes and oxygen deprivation mingle with hopes of romance and missed opportunities. As it is said (beautiful women) “disappear like phantoms“, there is a sense of resignation in the performance- David J will miss them like “IV heroin withheld from a junkie.” The listener is brought into Berlin night scenes: evocative and provocative images put you in the song and have you rooting for the hero- wondering whether he obtained the satisfaction he desired. Shades of Blood on the Tracks-Dylan come through (again) within Excruciating Allure. Looking at desire and unrequited love, our hero looks at what could have been: “The river rushed on” beneath hero and heroine; so near yet so far, it seems that David J’s heart will go unsatisfied once more. Sleep alludes the mind as a “screaming hole” appears- to replace the image of his muse and sweetheart. Few other tracks on the album are as wracked and anxious than Excruciating Allure. David J is a man “Crushed by the screws/Of  a lost posession“- with a heavy heart and rain in the soul, one of the most urgent and direct vocal performances is presented. “Calico and crimson” are the first images of La Femme de Montreal’s beautiful soul. With mentions of a Leonard Cohen concert, you can’t help feel that our hero has Cohen inside him: Being in Cohen’s native country, David J weaves tales of trapeze artists, ice buckets and kisses that leave bruises: sexual liaison and death-defying double acts are explored and investigated. Boating one of the most memorable melodies and compositions, the track trips and weaves around our hero’s hot-bloodied vocal. By the track’s final seconds he elicits a breathy sigh- enraptured in the scenes and images he is weaving. Where The Bloodline Ends (Vasectomy Song) is as vivid as its title suggests. Humour and grizzled sarcasm linger within early words: lines such as “‘Cos lust can lead to the sack and sin/And sin can lead to kin/So let’s get this damn thing over with/Pass the Valium and the gin” will make you smile. Unwanted pregnancy and conception are at the forefront of the track. Our worried hero wants a steady-handed doctor to “…eradicate the prospect/Of a pregnancy unplanned.” The middle-aged warrior does not want anything tying him down and ruining his winning streak. As he prepares to- with winking euphemism- “hang the pope“, the drugs and anesthetics are administered: the bloodline is going to end with one simple- yet sore- procedure. After the surprising merriment and humour of the penultimate track comes our final number: The You of Yesteryear. Nervousness and self-doubt are examined as we look at a central figure: someone trying to recapture their past; she is selling all their old clothes and in need of moving on. Maybe an unpleasant lover has made our heroine transform and change: there is sympathy in our hero’s voice as he continues his moving tale. David J’s voice is at its romantic and sensitive peak: backed by a tender and powerful composition, there is hope (for the heroine). As she packs away her belongings; her fiery love life is replaced with glowing embers- those embers “Can still kindle desire.” The track implores the subject not to change or cry: she is still a beauty and pretty special- ending An Eclipse of Ships on a redemptive high. Forgive my tumescent ramblings and long-winded reviewing: it is rare to come across an act that not only has had such a long and successful career, but one does not  seem to have missed a step along the way. Similar to legends such as Dylan and Cohen, Haskins has no plans to abandon his passion for music any time soon. You can tell just how much music means to him: An Eclipse of Ships drips with emotion, fascination and urgency throughout. In my mind, there are few lyricists that are as talented and spellbinding. When reading the album’s lyrics- I was sent a copy of the album for reviewing- I was taken aback by the brilliance and intelligence coming through. There are quite a few stunning wordsmiths on the current scene, yet few that have such a flair for story and projection. Having underlined a few lines in each track, it has given me inspiration for my own music: the mark of a truly great artist is one that compels your creative side when you listen to their sounds. David J has had a successful and prolific solo career, yet he has hit his peak here- it seems that he is as much in love with recording and performing than he has ever been. I know that he has plans to tour the album internationally; he will be making stops across the globe with the hope of connecting with as many fans as possible- if he arrives in London, I will be making sure I come and see him play. Haskins may have been performing for decades now, but it does not mean that his music is relegated and directed towards similar-aged fans: there is as much for teenagers and the young as there is for older listeners. A lot of modern music makes it moves based around the principles of heavy sounds and sheer energy: few newborn acts take the time to offer something deeper and more cerebral. I could spend hours dissecting David J’s words; take hours out to get inside of his mind and find out what inspires him. As you can tell the artist has been creatively compelled by a range of different events. Evidently our hero has had an adventurousss and fun-filled (is that the word?) last few years- if it leads to albums such as An Eclipse of Ships then I hope he has many more! The former Bauhaus master has produced his most complete and stunning collection of songs to date. Divine songwriting, terrific production, multifarious compositions and urgent vocals make it a must-hear L.P.: in a year where most of my favourite albums have been synonymous with heaviness, it is a huge pleasure to discover something different. If you are seeking an album (and artist) that takes you somewhere rather special.. YOU are spoiled for choice here.

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Track Review: Hayley Gaftarnick- Turn To Stone





Hayley Gaftarnick



Turn To Stone








Turn To Stone is available at:

The album Circles is available via:



Turn To Stone– 9.5/10.0

Circles– 9.4

I Don’t Mind– 9.5

Forgive Me– 9.4

Too Close For Comfort– 9.4

Forget You– 9.4

Self Destruct– 9.5

What Am I Worth? 9.4

Your Time To Grow– 9.5

For The Last Time– 9.3

Don’t Leave– 9.5



Turn To Stone, I Don’t Mind, Self Destruct, Your Time To Grow, Don’t Leave



4th October, 2013



Jonny Firth, Sam Lawrence


Adam Richards


Nici Todd


Pat Bannon


Shane Durrant


Rosie Doonan, Becka Ward


Sam Thornton


Ric Collie


Simon Beddoe


Dwaine Kilvington


Jamie Lockhart



Lee Smith


Lee Smith and Jamie Lockhart


Lee Smith at Greenmount Studios, Leeds


Tom Woodward at Hippocratic



Acoustic, Soul, Pop, Blues.


Leeds-based stunner Hayley Gaftarnick has been a staple of the Yorkshire music scene for a long time now. Her debut album Circles boasts an incredible amount of confidence, passion and personality- I investigate the album’s opener, Turn To Stone. With its catchy composition, stunningly powerful vocal and earnest longing, it is the perfect representation of our heroine: here is a talent that is going to go very far indeed.


SOME wonderfully colourful and bright musicians have…

come into focus over the months- many of whom hail from Yorkshire. It is not the case that this county is the only one providing fantastic and diverse music, but it does seem to offer something extra special- the sheer sense of confidence and conviction come through immensely strongly. Having focused on (Yorkshire-based) acts such as Issimo and CryBabyCry, the same impression is left: the sounds being made are different to anywhere else in the U.K. We have Blues-Rock and Soul elsewhere in the country, yet it is rare to find a huge amount of examples- Yorkshire seems the natural home of variability and originality. The big cities further south have artists that dare to be a little different; although there is still the tendency to stick to ‘traditional’ and safer genres- Rock, Pop etc. Since 2013, I have heard Electro-Swing, ’60s Pop, U.S. Blues-Rock and Country- the county is restless and adventurous indeed. It is not just the fact that lesser-heard genres are being presented and reinvented: the singers and voices behind the music set themselves apart, too. As much as I love what the likes of London and Manchester are putting out there, you cannot deny that Yorkshire’s stars set themselves apart- maybe it is the accents; the sense of friendliness and fun perhaps? I have been wracking my brain for so many months now, trying to figure out why the likes of Leeds are hotspots for quality and promise- I think I may have hit upon an answer of sorts. It is true that the musicians of the north perhaps have a bit more talent than those elsewhere, but something more obvious and impressive is making itself know: the collaborative spirit of the native musicians. In most cities, bands and solo acts make their albums/songs; they perform and they tour- there is compartmentalization and balkanization. Occasionally, bands collaborate with one another and feature on each other’s work- by and large there is not a lot of cross-pollination and brotherly spirit. In Yorkshire, there seems to be a natural desire to help out your fellow musician: guitarists, drummers, singers etc. will often play on an artist’s album; in turn the favour is repaid- not only does it make the music itself stronger, but it means that more is produced and with less stress and anxiety. My featured artist is someone I have been familiar with for a little while now; her music is that which appeals to the sapiosexual: it is thought-provoking and deep with a lot of emotion and joy. It is not only the central talent of Hayley Gaftarnick that makes her album (Circles) so strong: some familiar faces have conspired to ensure that the eleven tracks are as special as possible. Jonny Firth, Rosie Doonan and Nici Todd are names I have recently reviewed- I assessed CryBabyCry’s track Go Go– whilst Doonan and Firth themselves are particular busy: Firth is part of the duo Knuckle, as well as being a solo artist; Doonan is part of Rose and the Howling North- she is also the face behind Cissie Redgwick. The close-knit communities and reciprocity that is rampant throughout Yorkshire is leading to some rather remarkable music. It would be remiss to ignore Gaftarnick herself: she is the star of the show and has a talent and range that few other singer possess. I shall touch more on this in a second, but shall introduce Gaftarnick to you:

Hayley Gaftarnick, is an independent singer/song-writer from Leeds. Her husky and powerful voice tells honest and frank stories of a road well-travelled. Whilst being inspired by some of the great names of soul and blues, such as Otis Redding, Donny Hathaway, Etta James and Aretha Franklin, Gaftarnick manages to create a sound that is both familiar and yet truly unique. Having been recognised as one of Leeds’ favourite solo performers, the Leeds-based singer-songwriter has established a fan-base far beyond her home city. Hayley has released her eagerly awaited debut single ‘Turn To Stone’ which is an unbelievingly catchy, upbeat record about unrequited love, from her forthcoming album ‘Circles’. Hayley attended BBC Introducings’ Masterclass this year and her album ‘Circles’ is regularly played on Alan Raws’ BBC Introducing West Yorkshire show. Hayley also has the opportunity to record and perform with some of Yorkshire’s finest musicians, Rosie Doonan (Rose and The Howling North/Cuckoo Records/Cry Baby Cry), JonnyTheFirth(Cry Baby Cry/Cuckoo Records), Adam Richards(Spirit of John/Xray Cat Trio/Cuckoo Records, Sam Lawrence(Wilful Missing/Gary Stewart/Rosie Doonan), Nici Todd(Cry Baby Cry/Cuckoo Records), Samuel Thornton(Louis, Louis, Louis) Richard Collie(Hotfoot Powder/Louis,Louis,Louis), Simon Beddoe(Submotion Orchestra/Haggis Horns), Lee Smith(Middleman/Greenmount Studio’s), Jamie Lockhart (Mi, Mye./Greenmount Studios). Gaftarnick has recently supported big acts such as Jack Savoretti Band at the charity fundraiser ‘musicVcancer’ in Hartlepool where the band described her as having “four voices”. Gaftarnick also supported the incredible Syd Arthur in Leeds on their recent tour, who was described by Raven Bush as “amazing!”

You can clearly hear influences of those great soul names coming through in Circle‘s work: Gaftarnick has a clear affection for the likes of Redding and Franklin- that same power and raw emotion comes through in her voice. A lot of modern artists- who are inspired by Soul greats- tend to steer too closely to their heroes: often you get the sense that they are merely trying to mimic particular singers, rather than use them as a jumping-off point. Gaftarnick employs the greats as a reference point: her tones and style as unique as anything, and are amongst the most vibrant and honest around. With a growing online following and impassioned ears diverting themselves Gaftarnick’s way, it is clear that the ensuing months will see a lot of attention and paen arrive- the gigs are lining up and many reviewers and commentators are keen to make sure they lend praise and tribute to her music.

When trying to compare Turn To Stone and Circles to any of Gaftarnick’s previous work, it is a bit of a hard task: these are the first recorded movements from the Leeds-based talent. That being said, our heroine has been performing and playing for many years now: her reputation has grown steadily and she has established herself as one of the most respected and hard-working musicians in Yorkshire. Gaftarnick has been busy promoting other musicians, and has built a reputation as a considerate and benevolent talent.

If you are looking for like-minded and similar acts- on the scene at present- there are few examples that come to mind. Gaftarnick is influences by the likes of Eli Paperboy Reed, Donny Hathaway, Otis Redding, Al Green, Bob Marley, Etta James and Aretha Franklin: you can detect a bit of these artists in our heroine’s voice and music- she has that same sense of passion and potency. There is such a huge degree of movement and mobility in Gaftarnick’s music, that so many different colours and emotions come through. During her most emphatic and heartbroken moments one hears Amy Winehouse and Adele: Gaftarnick has that same deep-voiced soulfulness; a comparable urgency and tenderness. When songs turn towards Blues-Rock avenues, semblances of Rose and the Howling North can be detected (a band led by her friend Rosie Doonan). Gaftarnick has so much style and soul in each of her words that means you cannot ignore what is being sung: she can be ranked alongside the most impressive and striking Soul singers of today. Due to the uniqueness of her voice, few current names spring to mind: our heroine has more in common with the legends of old- those hugely inspirational idols of the ’60s and ’70s come to the fore.

Turn To Stone makes sure that it gets inside of your head at the earliest opportunity. An acoustic guitar-led intro. is both catchy and propulsive. Backed by pitter-patter percussive, no time is wasted in eliciting energy and fascination. Our heroine approaches the mic. and is in the mood for passion: “I need your love/I need your love.” Desiring of her beau’s warmth and touch, there is a palpable sense of longing and desire (evident in Gaftarnick’s voice): it is restrained and composed but possessed of energy, smokiness and sensuality. It seems that past events have enforced her messages; previous transgressions have transpired that have led our heroine to here: she does not want to be left in the cold and ignored this time; she knows what she wants and wants to get it. As much as passion and compunction rules her thoughts, there is aching in her heart. When singing “can’t breathe/You’re everywhere I turn“, Gaftarnick’s voice rises and catches fire: the first taste of that powerful soulfulness comes through and summons up a huge amount of emotion. With the composition remaining tender and supportive, it is our heroine’s voice that is left to strike and impress: imploring her lover not to leave her alone, every word makes its mark with conviction. With argumentative and impassioned backing vocals, the chorus delivers the first big shiver- it is the summation of the sense of fear and anxiety that our heroine feels. After the honesty and vulnerability of the opening verse, the tables are turned somewhat: Gaftarnick (tells her sweetheart) that he needs her love and warmth- it is not just her that will lose out if love is denied. Whether the relationship has ended or else in dangerous stages I am unsure, yet it seems that it needs to remain intact: our heroine lets it be known how much her touch and presence will be missed when her man is alone (at night). Few twisted or overly forceful notes encroach on the mood: the guitar and percussion elements have punch and addictive energy yet do not crowd out Gaftarnick and her words. By the 2:00 marker, the mood changes and develops: stuttering guitar and percussion introduce a sense of renewed fear and unease. Gaftarnick has walked away so many times before and is not sure what to do- it appears that this is a complicated relationship that has no easy answers or outcomes. As the foreground becomes enraptured in deep questions and doubts, the background offer some slight relief. A dizzying and elliptical guitar coda mixes with the composition- the guitar is fuzzy at times too- which give some lightness and catchiness to proceedings. With a mere matter of seconds remaining, Gaftarnick makes a final pitch to her lover: not wanting to be left alone, it appears that the two need one another. Whether events resolved themselves or not, you sort of hope they did: the heartache and pining that comes through in Turn To Stone is almost ineffable. The incredibly assured and considerate production makes sure the song is as urgent and evocative as possible. Gaftarnick’s voice summons up so much weight and force, that it is impossible not to caught up with the song’s twists. Going from a smooth and deep Soul line to a enfevered climb, vocals run a gauntlet of emotions and moods- it brings words and events to life with stunning clarity. The composition and melody are both catchy and tender: that mix of considerations is a rarity in most music today. With incredible performances all round; tied to lyrics that project a wealth of longing and desire, make Turn To Stone a sure-fire gem- and a perfect opening number for Circles.

The rest of the album is chocked with a riot of differing sounds and subjects. The title track has soulful openings and touches of Aretha Franklin and Amy Winehouse. A smooth and seductive number, Gaftarnick aims at her sweetheart: needing him in her life, she longs for him as “I know it feels so right.” The vocal twists, contorts and rises: backed by a gorgeous and romantic composition, our heroine lets her voice rise and campaign. Picking up from Turn To Stone, she needs stability and answers: the two have been around in circles so many times that something needs to change very soon. I Don’t Mind’s fast-paced and addictive intro. kicks proceedings up a gear. Gaftarnick’s voice is more inflamed and energised: she is waiting for the sunshine to shine down on her life. Looking at the nature of honesty and affection; tales are more optimistic and ebullient: Gaftarnick’s voice elongates and swoons- backed by a terrific brass-heavy composition, it is a woozy and magnificent swing. Hard-edged Rock drums and percussions mix with Soul, Swing and Pop- to create a memorable and dizzying cut. Having been stressed and burnt-out by life, Forgive Me sees our heroine perplexed: she asks for forgiveness but is not being afforded it. There is almost a Reggae tone to the song: vocals are more relaxed and chilled throughout- yet still imbued with huge power. Boasting an incredibly catchy and indelible chorus, the words stick in your mind- you find yourself singing the song after it has passed. Strangely, Finlay Quaye came to mind upon hearing the first few seconds of Too Close For Comfort: that same sunshine that came through in Vanguard can be heard here. These considerations are dissipated as Gaftarnick lets her voice work away: with vocal tics and incredible phrasing, the song’s themes- getting too close and needing to get away from things- are vividly brought to life. There is a Pop sensibility that comes through in the song, yet it far surpasses anything in the mainstream: the delightful compositional kick and wink splendidly supports our heroine’s full-bodied vocal. Stripping things back, Forget You is the album’s mid-way point. Not knowing “what to do“, Gaftarnick is surveying the rubble of a relationship. Although things have taken a turn for the worse, there is still hope: telling her beau to hold onto her, he is still very much on her mind- and causing her restlessness. Huge amounts of romance and tenderness come through in the track: backed by delicate piano notes and subtle percussion, the song melts into your soul. Self Destruct seems almost a polar opposite: from the steamy rush of the intro., Gaftarnick is turning her thoughts inwards. Falling over her shoulder and tripping up, her voice stutters, runs and rushes: matching the song’s drive and sense of self-flagellation, it is an intoxicating performance. Presenting one of the fullest and richest compositions, the track never loses pace and energy- it has a sing along quality that could see it as a live favourite (in weeks from now). What Am I Worth? is probably the most emotional cut from the album. Gaftarnick’s is fearful and needs to be alone: her voice is deep and resonant as it tells of sorrow and personal doubts. Questioning her own worth and strength, it is an open and deep song about the fragilities of life. Backed by beautiful guitar, it is one of the sparsest compositions- giving the vocal and words the opportunity to captivate and overwhelm. Offsetting the introvertedness of What Am I Worth?; ukulele strings give Your Time To Grow a chirpiness and sense of optimism. A redemptive tale, it implores the subject not to beat themselves up- everything will be okay in the end and work out for the best. Mixing Soul, Reggae and Pop, it is another full and fascinating composition- our heroine’s voice is instilled with compassion and emotional support throughout. As well as charming with its catchiness and sing-ability, it is one of the strongest songs on the album. For The Last Time sees our heroine holding onto memories: recalling difficult times and moments of regret, love has made a fool of her for the last time. Gaftarnick’s voice is at its most stirring here- words concerning lies and mismatched love sound utterly compelling. The composition is bare but impressive; a scratchy and persistent acoustic guitar drives the song forward and punctuates the angst-ridden and emotional outpourings. Bringing Circles to a close is Don’t Leave. With early guitars- that put me in mind of The Beatles’ This Boy-  reminiscent of ’60s Pop and Soul (fusing with modern-day Acoustic), it is a stunning swan song. Backing vocals once more add colour and vibrancy to proceedings as Gaftarnick begs not to be left “like this“. As well as the likes of Franklin and Redding (especially) coming through in the vocal- with its hot-blooded performance- there are mixes of early-career The Beatles and Etta James: it is an incredible mix of sounds and sensations that creates a modern-day Soul classic. The juxtaposition of impassioned and powerful vocals; tied with a calming and swaying backing, make the song a fitting finale- to a wonderful and compulsive L.P.

There are going to be few people out there that will be indifferent to Gaftarnick’s music: such is the overwhelming sense of passion, force and heartache, that it resonates and speaks to everyone. It is that incredible voice that does the most talking: deep and silky tones give such depth and conviction when speaking of unrequited love and heartache; huge belting notes augment tales of pain and self-reflection- Gaftarnick adapts her voice to score any situation. There are very few comparable voices in music at the moment- at least anyone who has that same sound and sense of range. Fellow Yorkshire musicians Jen Armstrong and Abi Uttley have distinguished themselves as incredibly stunning and inspirational singers: like our Gaftarnick, they have so many different emotions and shades in their voice, that they can pretty much make anything sound compelling and immediate. The aforementioned wonders have their own particular styles: Armstrong’s witty and slice-of-life songs make you smile; Uttley (as part of Issimo) mixes Soul and two-handed tales of life and love-  marking themselves out as two of the most important voices around. Gaftarnick has something a little bit extra: those darker and deeper tones carry so much weight; the song books have pain, examination and impassioned longing at their beating heart- Circles is a full-bodied testament of a young woman with a lot on her mind. There are a fair few phenomenal and ambitious female singers in the U.K. at present- whatever your taste or preference, there is something for you. It is no over-exaggeration to say that Gaftarnick is amongst the greatest voices in the U.K. Few of her contemporaries have such a stunning instrument at their disposal: with that incredible and indefatigable range, she has so much room for creativity. Vocalists with narrow ranges and limited potential do not have much chance for manoeuverability: they can make big impressions yet are somewhat scuppered when they want to stretch their pipes. Gaftarnick has limitless potential at her feet: that mesmeric voice is just as comfortable when singing genuine ’60s Soul than it is scoring catchy Acoustic-Pop. In additional to her vocal potential, the songwriting throughout Circles is brilliant. Most of Gaftarnick’s similarly-aged peers tend to be rather immature and short-sighted (when it comes to topics)- words can appear somewhat petulant and clichéd. Our heroine has maturity that belies her age: at times you get the feeling you are listening to someone far older (making their feelings known). This is a big plus for Gaftarnick: she has maturity for sure, yet is fresh and urgent at the same time. In addition to the scintillating vocals and nuanced songs, it is the musicianship and diversity that makes Gaftarnick such a name to watch. No two songs sound alike, and with each new number, the listener is treated to a different world: one moment you get a white-hot Blues stomp; the next some Country-tinged yearning- maybe a razor-sharp Soul anthem the next. It is a hard trick- to present a singular and unique voice- whilst expanding and broadening your horizons: if you create a work that is both distinct yet familiar, then you are onto something very special indeed. Gaftarnick has pulled off that rarest of tricks: both Turn To Stone and Circles have her undeniable personality stamped all over them, yet put you in mind of something comforting and relatable. With the likes of Nici Todd, Jonny Firth, Rosie Doonan and Sam Lawrence featuring on Circles, it means we could see Gaftarnick returning the favour in the future- perhaps a collaboration with CryBabyCry or JonnytheFirth may be on the cards? Because friends and illustrious colleagues help bring the music to life, you get a sense of safety and assuredness throughout: Gaftarnick sounds confident and inspired when she is backed by some familiar faces. All of this- plus the areas I have raised- points towards a very bright and promising future: there are future gigs in the pipeline, though bigger things will arrive. With a voice and talent as striking as hers, Gaftarnick is likely to be in big demand very soon. I know that London-based joints such as Ronnie Scott’s’ are used to hosting similar-sounding (and inferior) talents: there are multiple venues in the capital where Gaftarnick could find herself playing. I am pretty confident that our heroine will be travelling quite a bit next year- it seems highly plausible that she will be playing some big gigs and important dates before too long. Too much of today’s music comes across as limpid and resigned: it is always a treat to discover something with a passionate and wholesome heart; that which has a fascinating and compelling soul- when you do find these qualities, you should make sure others get to hear them. Given the fact that Gaftarnick herself has worked hard to promote others; she is deserving of a reciprocal gesture (not because it is the right thing to do, but because her music should not be confined to Yorkshire-based audiences). Gaftarnick has one of the most distinct and chatoyant voices you are likely to hear and a talent that demands focus. Sit down and investigate what this Yorkshire idol has to say…

YOU won’t regret it.


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Track Review: The Shanks- German Heavy Metal Girl






The Shanks




German Heavy Metal Girl









German Heavy Metal Girl is available via:



11th June, 2014



Rock, Heavy Rock.


Canadian Rock duo The Shanks follow-up the impressive Surfing The Lexicon with another sure-fire winner. Mixing vivid and humorous images with an urgent and distinct sound; the days of playing roller derbies and boxing rings may be a thing of the past- for music’s sake, let’s hope not.


OVER the last couple of years, I have discovered…

quite a few different acts. No two have ever been alike: in terms of sound or personality, there is always something to distinguish one musician from another. Occasionally, you find a band or solo artist that has that certain U.S.P.- and makes you smile before you even start playing their music. My featured act has done just that- which is no mean feat in itself- and compelled me to delve deeper into their story: few other artists have such a peculiar and charming back story. Canada has been providing some of the most striking and hungry musicians in the world. We all know how amiable and open Canadians are: their reputation for manners, friendliness and humanitarianism is well-founded and without exaggeration. One of the things that many do not know- in terms of music an art- is how busy and ambitious they are. When I reviewed Clara Engel (last week), I was impressed and bowled-over by her tireless work rate: she has produced a string of albums and discs over the last decade- cementing her reputation as one of music’s lesser-known treasures. I am sure that more ears and minds will switch themselves onto her wonder as the months progress; yet it seems that our heroine is in love with music itself: she plays to anyone that will listen and is in awe of the business of creating and sharing. It is an attitude and attribute that is seen in other parts of the world, but for my money, Canada seems to be leading a new wave of thinking: the results and outpourings are incredible and compelling. Being based in the U.K., I am always fond to lead a patriotic charge; define and highlight the best new music (we have on offer here), yet cannot help but look to North America- in terms of sheer proficiency and frequency, their musicians seem to be showing everyone else how it is done. My featured act hail from the fair city of Toronto- an area that one would not normally associate with terrific music. This is short-sighted and remiss, as many genius music-makers have made their moves here: Candi & The Backbeat, By Divine Right, The Demics and 13 Engines are just a few examples. Historically speaking, Toronto has produced some varied and tremendous musicians: Feist, Drake, deadmau5, Broken Social Scene, Crystal Castles, The Weeknd and Death from Above 1979 call The Queen City home. Being Canada’s most populous city, Toronto is leading the country’s most eager musicians- The Shanks are amongst them. Before I divulge more, let me present them to you:

Pistolwhip von Shankenstein- (Vocals, Bass)
Colonel Crankshaft- (Drums, Vocals)

Founded in 2005, the SHANKS are the rocknroll palatinate of songwriter/vocalist/bassist Ian Donald Starkey (Pistolwhip von Shankenstein). Riding 2011’s wave of heretofore unknown success, The SHANKS CV includes distribution on Fading Ways (UK), an EXCLAIM! Magazine “Album of the Year” nomination, American tour dates, showcase bookings at Canadian Music Week and NXNE, opening slots with the Arkells…, college radio support and arena performances for pro boxing events and the Tri-City Roller Girls. ‘On a farm in the middle of nowhere the SHANKS fine-tuned their bass/drum assault. Despite the lack of members, SHANKS manage to create some big-sounding music, stacking the haunting vocals of Pistolwhip von Shankenstein over pounding drumming” EXCLAIM! Choosing to focus more on stripped-down arrangements that emphasized his fresh chordal approach to busting out steep jams on the electric bass guitar, Starkey tapped drummer John David Brumell to play on the latest SHANKS release “Skordalia”, in the process resurrecting some songs that were locked away since Starkey’s days as bassist and songwriter in the Toronto art rock outfit Nancy, Despot. The SHANKS have performed in a variety of surreal situations, including in the midst of professional fireworks exhibitions, inside sheep pens, roller derby arenas and boxing rings. In Falstaffian Pistolwhip’s macabre and delusional theatre of the absurd, dramatic suspense, the chilling danger of raw firepower and fine quality cakes served in ethnic community halls are always major ingredients in putting on a powerful and emotional rock show.”

Anyone expecting Canada’s answer to Spinal Tap, think again: these boys are a genuine and stunning article- amongst new music’s most promising articles. In the course of my traversing, acts such as Knuckle, Royal Blood and Huxtable (all British-born) have summoned up a comparable sense of grandeur and sound: the ‘heavier’ side of music is as in vogue and necessary as any other genre. When you tend to mention the words ‘Rock’ or ‘Heavy Metal’ a lot of noses turn up: there is the clichéd assumption that these forms of music are tantamount to histrionics and screeching banshees- a hell of a lot of musicianship, melody and joy comes through in these genres. Before I get down to the business of business, I will make one more point: that which relates to background and birth. Most musicians- at least the ones I have surveyed- tend to meet at college/university; play a series of local, low-profile gigs- then get that ‘break’ that sees a gilded and prosperous trajectory. I am all for this- lord knows, I wish I hadn’t missed that particular boat- though my mind is always seduced purely when something brand-new arrives: a road-to-glory that has a sense of kookisness and originality:

Choosing to focus more on stripped-down arrangements that emphasized his fresh chordal approach to busting out steep rock jams on the electric bass guitar, Starkey tapped drummer John David Brumell (who started slaying stages as a SHANK in 2010) to play on the latest SHANKS release “Skordalia” (engineered by Arturs Sadowski). Brumell (Colonel Crankshaft) began to play the drums when his parents took him in utero to see Buddy Rich at the Imperial room before he moved on to perform and/or record with Our Lady Peace, Kenny MacLean, Paul Reddick and the Sidemen, Serena Ryder, Rik Emmett, Lorded and Zeppelinesque. The SHANKS have performed in a variety of surreal situations, including in the midst of professional fireworks exhibitions, inside sheep pens, roller derby arenas and boxing rings. In Falstaffian Pistolwhip’s joyous and delusional theatre of the absurd, dramatic suspense, the chilling danger of raw firepower and fine quality cakes served in ethnic community halls are always major ingredients in putting on a powerful and emotional rock show.

The Shanks’ current machinations have developed since their early work. In terms of their quality and ambition, they have kept previous highs in tact and unwavering. Surfing The Lexicon mixed rampant- yet not too heavy- sounds with fuzzy Grunge elements. Feel the Holes is direct and to-the-point; the riffs unabated- the entire song implores you to get up and move. Cornerman’s Grunge-tinged undertones mix subjects of loneliness and woe: fuzzy and dazed sonic elements add to the sense of distress. Miss Virginia has snaking hips and a cool-as-crap vocal delivery- the entire album mixes styles and sensatioins- but retains consistency and power throughout. Rewind to Skordalia, and you can see how The Shanks have progressed and mutated. Here, Bent Rose’s twanging guitars and catchy hooks play nicely against Like A Bomb and its quiet-loud dynamics- with its  apocalyptic composition. Welcome to the Camp of the Dark Meat Fantasy (can you think of a better album title?) contains pearls such as Mother Is It Easy: complete with chugging, machine-like stomp and Queens of the Stone Age-esque elements- it is dramatic and theatrical all at once. The subject matter has changed and altered (since previous outings) yet all the cores and bedrocks are there: the mutational Rock guitars; that central vocal demanding of attention and respect- vivid and stirring lyrics that mix everything from unhappy times to strange and ne’er-do-well characters. To my mind, The Shanks have become more confident and determined in terms of their overall sound and songcraft. Fledgling efforts such as Here Come The Shanks possessed potent stunners such as When I Get Even: the energy and directness comes through strongly, yet the production values are not as strong- as they are today- and the performances not as effortless and intuitive. The days and nights of bowling lane and farm-side performances have done the boys good: they have been able to hone their skills and build on their Judas Priest mandates- German Heavy Metal Girl is one of their boldest and most direct songs to date. Few bands have such a solid consistency and air of authority in their music: the Canadian duo lace each track with that sheen of supremacy.

The Shanks’ music has a sense of borderless ubiquity: it may not be to everybody’s tastes, yet it (the music) does not subjugate or overly define itself- it is easy to get into and appreciate. For anyone ‘worried’ or scared by the group’s unique paraphernalia and designs, have no fear: there is much to appreciate and discover here. Anyone that is enamoured with Led Zeppelin and their early work will find some familiar shades. Judas Priest count as an influence for the group, so if you like the British legends, check out The Shanks- they share some of Judas Priest’s sounds, yet present their own inimitable version of events. Being a two-piece (a duo rather than a band technically), they manage to whip up a riot of sound: if you are familiar with the likes of Knuckle, Little Dove (L.A.-based duo), Huxtable and Royal Blood, then you should seek out the boys- these are some of the most exciting and promising artists around. The U.S. Punk band Dead Boys have been mooted as a reference point- as well as Alice Cooper- so anyone that prefers their music Punk-flavoured (with some gothic oeuvres), then make sure you grab a slice of The Shanks. There is humour, intelligence and passion in everything the duo create- music-lovers that look for these traits will not be disappointed at all. To my ear, there are undertones of classic Rock/Punk acts of the ’60s and ’70s in many of The Shanks’ songs: not only will they appeal to older generations, but rekindle a passion for the likes of The Sex Pistols and The Rolling Stones. Plenty of rush, raw power and urgency comes through clearly- if you prefer these qualities in your sonics, then look no further.

I hope The Shanks find their way onto Twitter very soon: great songs and bands deserve to be heard and appreciated by as large an audience as possible- the social media site is one of the best ways to spread your material. German Heavy Metal Girl demands large listening numbers; I hope that the boys get Twitter-fied very soon: there are music-lovers, bands and labels that would wholly appreciate their tracks. After a brief German coda, the electricity and stomp of the intro. gets under way- starting life as something you may hear from British Steel; before mutating into a strutting and strumming guitar kick. The intro. beautifully twists in a matter of seconds: envisaging the approach of a Metal monster, events turn into a something more Rock-based and louche. Early sentiments portray alcohol-strewn inquiry: “Time after time/I found it in the wine“- there is no poison at the bottom of the glass; just much-needed answers. Our frontman keeps his voice controlled and distinct- there are no needless screams or elongated notes- with the hallmark edges of power and conviction. The deep-voiced tones give light and weight to his spiraling tableau- Starkey has touches of Rob Halford as lets his story unfold. Having consumed truth-finding amounts of alcohol, our hero stumbles in the snow; he falls and wonders “what it is I needed to know.” Before you get sucked into a world of frostbite and intoxicated blues, the chorus comes into view: our German heroine is in our frontman’s mind and stealing his thoughts. Her face has been seen around the world- in magazines and on the streets. It is the way the song is delivered that makes it so potent and enlivening. Few bands have such an ear and intuition for pace and projectile: words change pace and forcefulness- the guitars clatter and weave like lightning bolts; the percussion is endlessly direct and persevering. Starkey (sorry, von Shankenstein) unveils strange and wonderful scenes. The song’s heroine seems to be putting him in a flutter: causing him to question his fashion choices and state of mind, he is wrapped up in an odd spell. The Heavy-Metal girl is “waiting for this dude to die/Waiting for the cuckoo clock to jive“- in her vain and material world, she is calling the shots. Whatever our hero tries to do, he cannot ignore his German muse: not sure where their show will take them; it is going to be taken “around the world.” The song provides a touching insight into a mismatched- although strangely natural- pairing: the older Rock frontman and the hypnotic- one would imagine, tattooed and pierced- Metal aficionado. Everything in the song has its tongue firmly lodged in its cheek- including the music video, which I shall mention at the end- and makes sure that a sense of humour runs through proceedings. The closing moments of the song are dedicated to a gradual decline: the effects of the bond are starting to take their toll as our frontman becomes enraptured and overwhelmed. By the final notes, you can almost sense a grin come through: in spite of all of the events that have unfolded, he is better for the experience- the Metal-loving German has cast her spell.

A lot of new fans of The Shanks will be listening to this song- as their first taste of the band. It is one of my first impressions from the Canadian duo, and left me impressed and satisfied- with a sly smile on the face as well. There are some edges of Judas Priest’s British Steel/early-’80s creations: that same infectious pairing of humour and hardness come through. Those that find Judas Priest a little too heavy-going or frightening will want to listen to The Shanks: they have essences of the Birmingham band’s power but with little of the blood-curdling screams and satanic prophesies. Von Shankenstein and Crankshaft are perfect partners-in-crime: they blend supremely throughout and pull off a tight and controlled performance. There are no wasted or erratic notes; no spluttering and aimless drum fills: everything in the song is measured and distilled for maximum effect. Crankshaft’s drum skills are to be commended: he has the flair of Scott Travis and Dave Grohl, but manages to inject his own style and authority. Our frontman’s voice and guitar provide lashings of colour and evocative edges. Vocal delineations and passages are effectively and splendidly projected- providing sing along charm and deeper, darker power. The production on the song is sharp and inspired: each element contains clarity and concision, thus affording the listener a more pleasurable listening experience. Everything is mixed seamlessly and fastidiously to allow the song’s full potential to blossom- one of my biggest complaints is when songs are produced with little regard for these factors. The lyrics inspire colourful scenes and a mixture of emotions: from unusual date nights to rebelliousness; drunken stumble and deep thoughts mingle alongside one another. You come away from the song feeling a little bit better about things: it is a cool and mesmeric slice of Rock that stands out from most of what is being produced today. Most bands go for sex or broken love: the stories and plotlines tend to stick to predictable themes and the compositions tend to be un-adventurous. The Shanks employ facets of ’80s Metal and modern-day Rock; stir it in their bubbling band pot and let the entrancing vapours do their work. It is a brilliant track, yet I would advise investigating the duo’s back catalogue: German Heavy Metal Girl has few sound-alikes across their past work, so it is a good idea to get the fuller picture. The duo’s last album was released last year, so one would imagine the foundations of a new collection are in the offing- based on the evidence here, it will be a fascinating and curious collection. When listening to the song, I would advise you watch the music video- banned in Turkey it has caused slight controversy. Everything in the video is light-hearted and comical: political images and wartime memorabilia can be seen alongside old German cars- nothing from the video amounts to anything more than good-natured fun. For all of those outside of Turkey, take a look at the video and its scenery; listen to the song and its messages- and initiate yourself to the joys of The Shanks.

It is at this stage that I prophesize the future (of the particular act) and make my predictions: today is going to be a rather interesting case. Having played in farms and back-alley locales, I hope that the duo continue to rock these haunts: it would be a shame if The Shanks turned their backs on these places. Being omnists, von Shankenstein and Crankshaft are determined to play anywhere humanly possible: be it a huge venue or children’s party, the boys want to bring their brand of music to the people. German Heavy Metal Girl is a heady and energised slice of Rock that burrows into your brain, and compels you to listen again (and again). It is a venerable cut that could point at future promise: Surfing The Lexicon is their latest step and has impressed and been outstanding critics and fans. Despite their latest song’s video being banned in Turkey, it is being upheld and shared in less sensitive parts of the globe- and will see demand for more music very soon. Their current L.P. is a confident and busy collection of tracks: potency, heavy-hearted pummel and energy makes every track stand out- the same quality that albums such as Skordalia and The Dark Richard Show possessed. In the next couple of months, the duo play Canada and the U.S.: some unique venues in Ontario and New York are going to witness The Shanks in the flesh. I hope that the boys make plans to come to the U.K.: being the home of Judas Priest, fans of the band (as well as lovers of Punk-Rock) will jump at the chance to catch the Canadians. Having investigated each of their albums, it seems that their confidence levels and ambitions grow release to release- their palette more colourful and the sounds stronger. I urge you- if you are a fan of the duo’s kin or not- to check out their body of work: it is filled with plenty of anthemics, pure rush and good ol’-fashion kicks- as well as of-the-minute urgency and rich musical history. Starkey is one of the busiest bodies in music, and it would not be far-fetched to see plans taking shape for a forthcoming release- whether it is an E.P. or album, you get the impression that the Shanks boys will be thinking ahead. New music is going all sorts of places at the moment; so many different kinds of acts are coming through- never have we had so much choice available. Heavy sounds seem to resonate with critical ears: the ascendancy of the likes of Royal Blood have not only inspired legions of new bands, but converted many fans to the wonders of Rock/Heavy Metal. There is something about the form of music that hits people hard- there is primacy and passion to be found. From the days of Zeppelin through to the current offering of Jack White, you cannot beat music that makes the blood run hot. I hope that a method is discovered whereby artists such as The Shanks (and country-mate Clara Engel) make their voices known in the wider realm. I am fortunate enough to have acts come to me- to get their music reviewed- but I worry that a lot are missing out on something different and worthy: many great bands and newcomers have to work too hard to get fans and bodies into their camps. Canadian acts such as Feist and Broken Social Scene have managed to get their artistry recognised on a worldwide scale: they have transitioned into the mainstream and are going from strength-to-strength. It is always difficult and exhausting trying to make your way through the battlefield of new music: only those that are bravest and hard-fighting come away victorious. The Shanks have made some promising and firm first steps: their output is consistent and consistently engaging. They have been setting tongues wagging throughout North America, and it seems that parts of Europe are latching onto their promise- I hope that the rest of the world takes them to heart. German Heavy Metal Girl is where they are right now: a bold and assured slice of Rock that has a unique identity from a distinct twosome. Starkey’s ambitious outfit will be playing and plying across their native land- from farms and bars to restaurants, they are on a mission. If you live on a remote wasteland in the Middle East- with a good Internet connection apparently- they could well pay you a visit. Given where they have played before, and the love they have for music…

IT may well happen.



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E.P. Review: Victory Kicks- Emergency Noise





Victory Kicks




Emergency Noise









Emergency Noise is available via:



Everybody, All the Time– 8.6/10.0

Emergency Noise– 8.8

Sycamore– 8.8

Casual Soul– 8.3

My Favourite Machine– 9.2

National Low– 9.3

Fears– 8.6



National Low



Emergency Noise, Sycamore, My Favourite Machine, National Low



16th June, 2014



John Sibley


Victory Kicks


(C) Unmanned Ariel Vinyl (2014)




Alternative-Rock, Indie, Rock, Lo-Fi, Indie-Pop.


With so many bands focused on projecting as much power and punch as possible, meet the competition: a tight and unique London band that make sure their Indie-Pop song books stick in your head. Victory Kicks have developed and grown over the last year: Emergency Noise sees them at their tightest, focused and ambitious best.


LONDON is calling to the faraway towns…

Now war is declared- well, sort of. I have waxed lyrical- as regular readers will attest- as to the fervency and sense of direction in the North of England- how the musicians there seem to be amongst the finest and most ambitious in the U.K. I will not tread well-worn canvas again, but it brings me to a connected thesis: the upsurge and renewed prominence of the capital’s musical elite. The North-South divide (in music) is seeing quite a lot of friendly competition and one-upmanship: various acts and artists are putting their regions and locales on the map. One of my biggest concerns- when it comes to new music- is the difference between various cities: the northern elements of Leeds and Manchester provide diversity, rarity and speculation; southern cities such as London have range and difference- although I feel there is less mobility and manoeuvering. When assessing Yorkshire-based Swing and U.S. Blues-Rock, a question came to mind: how come we do not hear more of this further south? It may be that tastes and preferences vary depending on geographical location, though it points towards a wider malaise: there is too much homogenization and safety in the music of southern artists. I would have tattooed this opinion to my body- as little as a few months ago- yet a rebranding and uprising has occurred: musicians of London (and the Home Counties) have shown flair, tenacity and huge ambition- something that was missing at the tail-end of 2013. Aside from this rebirth, there are still quite a few Indie/Alternative bands coming through: they are probably amongst the most common-place and multitudinous examples in all of music. It is not just London that is culpable when it comes to this short-sightedness: Liverpool and Manchester have their fair share of genre examples. I have no issue with this trend- if particular bands present something new and exciting, then that can be a wonderful thing; relatively few are doing this at the moment. I have shrugged my shoulders often- when an anodyne and beige Indie/Alternative act comes through- and resigned my optimism and excitement to darkened corners: today, I have cause for a sense of positivity. Victory Kicks remind me of one of London’s most exciting new Indie acts: Crystal Seagulls. Like the high-flying precious musical birds, ‘Kicks are capable of big things. They may be a younger and fresher example (compared to ‘Seagulls), yet their determination, adventurousness and vibrant sound is likely to reap benefits. Let me introduce you to our featured act:

Victory Kicks are an indie rock band originally from the Isle of Wight and now based in London. Formed in 2013 and lead by singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist John Sibley, the band records and releases collections of melodic indie rock on its own independent record label Unmanned Aerial Vinyl. The band draws inspiration from the likes of R.E.M, Wilco, Yo La Tengo, Guided by Voices and The Replacements and makes home recorded rock music that features riffy, rhythmic guitar work, driving percussion and melodic vocals. Over the last year the band has released several EP’s, a full length debut album and has had several singles receive airplay in both the UK and America. The band spent the Autumn of 2013 recording their debut LP, The Decibel Age, which was released in February, Emergency Noise is the first collection of new material to be released since then, it was recorded over a couple of weekends during the early spring of 2014. On Emergency Noise the band gets through 7 songs in just 15 minutes. The record was recorded entirely at home with the songs being written, arranged and recorded on the same day, a change of approach for the band that lends a freshness and urgency to the music.”

The band’s social media following is a little under-subscribed at the moment, but this will soon change: their new E.P. provides enough sway, beauty, directness and brilliance to spike the interests of the uninitiated. What impresses me about the act is their self-determination and D.I.Y. approach- I have featured several bands that take matters into their own hands, and am always staggered by the bravery and mult-taking abilities. It is fascinating to witness the transition of Victory Kicks: few acts change their projection and work ethic- doing so allows freshness and urgency to come through in the music. After some important and defining airplay across the U.S. and U.K., the band’s decision to focus on concision and fast turnaround has benefited them hugely: their newer sounds come across as more alive and pressing; the passion and authority is there, but there is never a sense of inattentiveness- the music on show is of the highest calibre.

The Decibel Age was a confident and assured debut album that built off of the promise of their earlier work. Their L.P. (as well as their first E.P.) contained plenty of interest: the sounds were not explosive or overt; instead considered and deep. Due to Sibley’s arresting and imploring vocal, The Decibel Age’s songs contained intelligence, thought and lashings of catchiness- whilst there were few out-and-out rockers, plenty of nuance and memorability lingered. Mercury Rules’ tight and punchy swing seamlessly sat alongside softer codas such as Replaced With Birds– there is plenty of diversity and fascinating back roads. Whilst commentators and reviewers were kind and effusive towards the album, many shared the same recommendation: future releases would be stronger is length was replaced with muscular tightness and tightness. Emergency Noise has taken these concerns on board; the ambition, variation and range- beautiful acoustic numbers and straight-ahead Rock lust- remains, yet the band have tightened everything and condensed their spirits: the seven songs not only get through with business in quarter of an hour, but compel you to demand more- which will not only see desire for a new E.P. (or album) but bring in new respect and adulation. Victory Kicks’ debut album contained a few gentler numbers- most were effective and stirring; the odd one passes by with little impression- as well as harder-edged slices: there is a bigger emphasis on the latter throughout Emergency Noise– although we are still treated to acoustic beauty and soulful considerations. Jazzy edges and wracked vocals. Few wasted breaths mean that the band have completed a stunning transformation.

Amongst the band’s influences is Guided by Voices, Wilco, Yo La Tengo, The Walkmen, British Sea Power, R.E.M and Grandaddy: these names are as good a starting point as any when trying to find some familiar ground. U.K. and U.S. sounds mingle alongside one another throughout Victory Kicks’ work: there is that anthemic quality of R.E.M; the Classic-Pop/Alternative-Rock fusings of Wilco- as well as Yo La Tango’s flair and conviction. As I say (with every review), I offer caution: do not assume that Victory Kicks are merely a tribute act of the aforementioned- many reviewers are too quick to compare acts with one another: it clouds your opinions and thought process. The London assemble are in their professional childhood- so are still adapting and working on their sound- yet their pillars of urgency, emotion and directness defines their work- most of us seek these aspects in music; making Victory Kicks a band well-worth investigating. At the moment- when you think of other bands’ influences- there is a tendency to ply towards the likes of Arctic Monkeys, Oasis and Queens of the Stone Age- bands that offer anthemic grit and ‘Britpop’ wonder. Few current acts employ shades of The Walkmen and Grandaddy: that mix of ’90s California and ’00s New York together in a hypnotic package. Although there is a lot of American influence (in Victory Kicks’ arsenal); plenty of Britishness and home-gown pride makes its impact- fresh and modern-day London sounds give their tracks that additional majesty and splendor.

Everybody, All the Time certainly gets the E.P. off to a lively and invigorated start. The guitar winds up and strikes- retreats and repeats- with a punchy and fizzing introduction: the sense of immediacy and vibrancy is evident from the off. There is plenty of upbeat and optimistic grin in the melody and composition- the latter is urgent, yet has a summer-time feel and bouncing sensation (there are embers of ‘Britpop’ masters, Oasis and The Thrills). Our hero seems to be directing his missive to a sweetheart. Not able to make her believe (or make her see) there seems to be some disjointed thoughts and anxiety- perhaps the relationship is breaking down and needlessly pattering out. When Sibley sings “I’m calling it out again“, you get the impression that he has been through this before: he keeps his voice cool and detached, yet instilled with plenty of energy and life. Images of the walls dripping with blood help to emphasise the sense of urgency and conviction- although there are no violent intention’s in Sibley’s heart. One cannot help but get caught up in the melody and breeziness: the band manage to coax so much light and colour from proceedings; riffs mutate and spiral; solos are offered and sting; stirring percussion tumbles and strikes- the composition is endlessly energised and grinning. Any stresses or woes are dispelled by an infectious and chantable final coda: upbeat and sun-soaked “la la la“s sparkle and crackle- once again compelling the listener to sing along and move their feet. The E.P.’s title track has initial signs of R.E.M.’s Out of Time: those Alt.-Rock Atlanta tones come through from the initial seconds. Unlike the opening number- as well as Stipe’s voice- Sibley has a little more barbed wire intent in his pipes: words tell of “collisions tonight” and a real sense of unease. Like the E.P.’s opening, there is plenty of memorable riffs and measured hooks: there are loose edges and a sense of fun, yet the band come across as assured and well-rehearsed- making their songs stronger and tighter. Sibley’s voice is rife with coolness and conviction: he never shouts or belts; his tones are more relaxed and easy-going- yet lose none of their edge and weight. The band performance is consistently engaging and driving, and the entire track shows what Victory Kicks do best: create songs that get inside of your head and can adapt to any festival, venue or location. Sycamore is a more laid-back and tender acoustic number, which sees Sibley in a reflective state of mind. The guitar seduces and softly whispers, as our hero states “I’ve been shaken up/I’ve been washed away“- his voice abound with heavy-heart sentiment and burden. When our hero sings that “I don’t belong here“, it registers the E.P.’s most honest and open moment: he has been “stolen out of sight” and seems a little lost and directionless. Although time is always on Sibley’s mind, it is on his side: you sense that he may be okay in the end. Nothing mordent or suppressive comes through in the song: an unending sense of restitution and redemption seeps through the cracks. By the track’s final seconds the strings fade, and we are left to wonder: does Sibley get the answers he is looking for, or will we have to wait a little longer? Casual Soul is the E.P.’s shortest track- and one of the catchiest on the set. Sibley is accusatory and inquisitive mode in the opening moment: “Are you happier now you’ve got an answer?” Whether he is speaking to a former love (or a friend) I am not certain, but there is plenty of conviction in the vocal- one of the hallmarks of the E.P. as a whole. Before you can get wrapped up in the song’s sense of melody and calmness, the atmosphere blackens: the guitars explode and burst; the percussion peppers and stabs- the atmosphere snaps with thunder. Not only is Casual Soul the E.P.’s heaviest and most enlivened track, but one of the most emotion-packed. Sibley clearly has had scars left and been messed around: the way he questions and cross-references his subject drips with a sense of anger and resentment. Maybe my proclamations about Casual Soul– it being the E.P.’s hardest hitter- are myopic and rash. My Favourite Machine begins life with big intentions: the guitar and percussive rush that opens the song up instantly gets your feet kicking and your attentions stood up and sharp. There are touches of Parklife-era Blur (Tracey Jacks, Bank Holiday) in the bustle and rabble-rousing. Plenty of tension and angry undertone comes through in the song- Sibley is at his most wracked and potent here. Again, it is not clear if he is speaking to a former beau or a traitorous colleague: early thoughts such as “Now my brittle black heart inches close to decay” tell of a young man with an old man’s woes- it seems that emotional entropy may be imminent. The band manage to subvert expectation: most acts would accompany these sort of outpourings with a suitably aggrieved composition- Victory Kicks ensure that their standard sense of fun and melody are focused and determined. The song looks at the detrimental aspects of life and reality: the horrors of the morning routine feature alongside modern-day stresses and concerns. By the end of My Favourite Machine, Sibley is fading away: backed by a stunning and memorably insatiable composition, you suspect that our hero will find a way out of his anxieties and proclivities. Once more we are greeted with an elliptical and energy-filled opening mantra: National Low attempts to top its predecessor’s sense of adventurousness and style. The wonderfully focused drumming blends with nuanced and spinning guitars: once more shades of Blur come in, as well as R.E.M. and The Walkmen. Sibley will “gaze into the white heat” and is “sinking in the headlights“: the track contains the E.P.’s sharpest and deepest set of lyrics. When our frontman tells of “Morning takes my mind/to temporary daytimes/Vanishing completely/swallowed in a black sea“, various images and scenes swim in your mind: it is a stunning lyric that is both poetically dark and oblique. The band once more step up to the mark: the performance keeps events above the water and perfectly ensures that each note and word remains in your brain- long after the song has ended. Fears brings Emergency Noise to its conclusion: another acoustic-led number, it fittingly provided some soothe- after the events that have just unfolded. Sibley turns his attentions back to no-good suitors: he seems almost delighted as he tells his subject how rain clouds “rained on your parade.” Our frontman shows how aching and sweet-sounding his voice can be; amidst words that speak of “falling for the final time“, there is a sense composure and balance that makes the song oddly touching. Whereas previous numbers have displayed cynicism, personal strife and anger, Sibley is in romantic and supportive voice- it seems that initial words are not as vitriolic as one would imagine. No matter what has happened (to his subject) he is there to hold her hand: whatever fears and strifes are ahead, he is going to be at her side. Little more than acoustic guitar and voice feature on the track- giving it a sparse and intimate feel- the sort that Folk legends of the ’70s pioneered (think Nick Drake’s Pink Moon, sans haunting shadows). Fears is a sub-two minute gem that ends the E.P. in style: after some foreboding and spiky moments, you end up with a smile on your face- one sits back impressed at just how much the boys pack into fifteen minutes.

I shall touch on the constructive criticisms (before I get around to the positives). Each song on the E.P. is wonderful and engaging, although the production is not as strong as it could be. One of the only problems with Emergency Noise is the issue with decipherability and clarity (not on all tracks, but several). Accompanying their songs with lyrics would make things easier for reviewers such as me, as often I struggled to decipher what was being sung. It is a shame, as there is so much potential and brilliance within the E.P.- greater intelligibility would augment its potential and bring greater weight to the songs. I adore the band’s sound, yet the lyrics themselves have so much potential: words often can get buried into the mix and some lines do die beneath the waves of instrumentation and composition. It is only a minor criticism, and I hope the band manage to rectify it for their next release: it would be great to quote more lines and lyric snippets. I hope that I have interpreted the songs- and their meanings- as best as possible; the lines I did gleam and extrapolate pointed towards huge potential- songs such as The National Low are synonymous with their memorable lines. Emergency Noise isn’t quite as vivacious and immediate as the title would suggest, but that doesn’t come at the expense of the songs: the seven numbers here are filled with strong hooks and rousing choruses; thought-provoking words and tight performances. The band show how much they have grown since their early days: the immediacy and sense of urgency makes every song vital and alive: nothing is rushed or half-assed; instead the songs sound stronger and more assured- the tighter and more concise they are. Some critics were ambivalent towards Victory Kicks’ early-days acoustic numbers: some felt that they were a little hit-and-miss. This is an area they have improved upon greatly: Sycamore is a gorgeous and introverted number that ranks along their best work. Whilst many band take too many risk on being heavy and dangerous (with regards to their sound), our four-piece are a less carnivorous animal: they favour depth and texture over pure force- the end results sound more original and impressive for it. What makes the E.P. a gem is the band themselves.  Each performance is tight and strong- you can tell they have been playing together a while and have a clear understanding of each other. What you get from Emergency Noise is plenty of personality and festival brilliance; swathes of depth, emotion and intelligence- it is an E.P. that is perfect for this time of year. Sibley’s voice is perhaps the star of the show. In spite of my grumbles with regards to clarity, there is plenty to recommend and love. His lungs are capable of beauty and sensitivity (Sycamore, Fears, The National Low) as well as franticness and headiness (Casual Soul, Everybody, All the Time): the mark of a truly great singer is how effortlessly they can go from pillar to pillar- Sibley is a confident and striking singer. The entire band should be commended as well. The guitar work is filled with life and variation: springing and bouncy hooks, forceful and jarring riffs sit alongside riparian delicacy. Kudos goes to the percussion and bass; each drives the songs forward as well as helps to bolster and elevate the melodies: such a huge amount of energy and blissful punch is summoned up- when the mood calls for something calmer and more emotional, they are beautifully up for the task. If the band factor out the minor detraction, then you could well be seeing them headlining future festivals.

The Isle of Wight group have covered a lot of ground since their inception. It has only been a year, yet the boys have acheived more than most of their peers- even those that have been playing for many more years than them. Victory Kicks’ rate of progression is to be applauded: by changing their creative gameplay, they have managed to improve their music: Decibel Age was a tremendous and authoritative album- yet their latest offerings come across as a stronger and more satisfied beast. Emergency Noise– the band have a panache for sound-related titles- is more taut and concise: so much energy and story is ticked off over the course of 15 minutes. When I reviewed Twin Peaks (a Chicago Power-Pop quartet), I was amazed by their song, Flavor: it was a two-and-a-bit minute burst of introspection, personal investigation and reappropriation- from a band barely in their 20s. When I was investigating their music, I came away with one clear impression: some of the strongest and most memorable tracks are those that are short and to-the-point. Victory Kicks do not let any pretension or needless elongation ruin their overall sound: Emergency Noise’s seven tracks remain in the memory yet do not hang around for longer than they need to. I feel that the group will do pretty well for themselves (in the future). A fully fledged website- one that contains photos, bio., tour dates etc.- would be a congruent next move: the band’s ‘official’ site is BandCamp: there are plenty of potential fans that will come their way, so a band website would help to tie in all of their social media threads- and put them in a one-stop location. Likewise, it would be good to see lyrics attached to their BandCamp page. Their words (those that can be heard) are fascinating and quotable: their songs have depth and hidden layers, so it would be nice to have some words accompanying the tracks. These are minor points, and I am sure the band are already making plans- when it comes to these aspects. Few other acts are working as hard and tirelessly to get their music out there: the fact that they have released several E.P.s and an album since 2013 shows just how determined they are. When it comes down to it, desire and determination can play as big a part- with regards to attaining success- than the quality of music on display. Luckily, Victory Kicks are no musical slouches: their songs are fresh and vibrant; original and striking- they are likely to compel many up-and-coming acts to follow in their footsteps. The band have some modest tour dates in the pipeline, though they are likely to enjoy some high-profile success by this time next year. Nothing about their sound and music needs to change- they have all the quality- but I would like to see them get out there as much as possible- until a few days ago I was not aware of them. Of course, visibility and recognition comes from demand; this demand will arrive from representation (online fans included); that comes from public benevolence- the group are deserving of a large audience, so make sure you share the love. I hope the guys keep on plugging and performing, as- on the strength of their back catalogue- they have a lot to say: unlike a lot of bands, what they are saying is worth listening to. London is a busy and growing music marketplace: waves of clandestine bands are starting to come through; new delights are being discovered; brave talent are cross-pollinating and creating flavourful and colourful mandates- it is the city to watch at the moment. Because of the high price of real estate, Victory Kicks will have to work hard (to make sure they remain in the collective consciousness): on Emergency Noise’s statements of intent, they are on the right path- I know the group will be planning their next moves imminently. Indie and Alternative-Rock are genres with plenty of players (making moves). When you find an example that resonates in the mind, you should ensure that as many people as possible hear them…


TO ensure they receive their fair share.


Follow Victory Kicks:









Victory Kicks’ music can be accessed via:!/VictoryKicks/app_204974879526524



Tour dates available at:!/VictoryKicks/events



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Track Review: Twin Peaks- Flavor






Twin Peaks













Flavor is available via:



Wild Onion (the album) can be pre-ordered at:


I Found a New Way

Strawberry Smoothie

Mirror of Time

Sloop Jay D

Making Breakfast

Strange World

Fade Away

Sweet Thing

Stranger World



Ordinary People

Good Lovin’

Hold On

No Way

Mind Frame



5th August, 2014



Twin Peaks (Twin Peaks Dudes Publishing/ASCAP)


Twin Peaks, R. Andrew Humphrey and Colin Croom


R. Andrew Humphrey and Colin Croom at The Observatory Studios (Chicago)


Doug Boehm in Los Angeles, CA.


Pete Lyman at Infrasonic Sound (Los Angeles)


(C) Druid Dude Music (ASCAP), Murphy Lives Music (ASCAP), Barackafella Records (ASCAP), and Ben Franklin Tunes (ASCAP)




Power-Pop, Glam-Rock, Indie, Pop, Rock.


Fresh-faced Chicago quartet Twin Peaks have birthmarks of Big Star and Smith Westerns. Their youthful, fun-filled and energetic codas have been leaving fans and reviewers open-mouthed: Flavor is a hypnotic slab of summer-ready swagger- we are about to witness a wonderful Power-Pop explosion


A number of different topics are on my mind…

at the moment. One of the most pressing and persistent nags concerns youthfulness: the issue of fresh-faced energy. Most of my reviews look at acts that are in their 20s- or 30s in a few cases- and those in the embryonic stages of adulthood. As an embittered bystander in his early-30s (I jest of course), I am  instilled with a little jealousy when I come across a red-hot and ambitious young artist: it takes a lot of guts and determination to make a move that early in life- some only make it as far as a few songs before they crumble under the weight of expectation. My approach has been to wait a while and hone as much as possible: I have been writing since my late-teens and feel that my best work is a few years away- I am reluctant to jump in just now through fear of not being at my very best. Music is a mood swing mistress that can embrace and proffer those undeserving; slap-down the most fervent and forward-thinking- the young and restless musicians coming through are determined to succeed no matter what. When assessing many of my favourite U.K.-based young musicians, one thing never changes: their unabatable ambition and passion. I guess it is a good idea to enter the music scene when you are in your late-teens/early-20s- the industry is getting younger as the years go by. I often wonder whether the most tender and juvenile will find it hard to obtain long-term success: most of the mainstream’s legendary acts got to that lofty position having harvested a unique sound- most of the young mainstream acts coming through today are in danger of disappearing before they reach their 30th birthday. Of course, my scepticism bears both truth and exaggeration: current beaus such as Sam Smith may not be riding the crest of the wave several years from now, but there are plenty of bands and acts that have the ammunition to enjoy prosperous longevity. What it all comes down to, is hitting upon a sought-after sound: music that is urgent and all-encompassing; lyrics that are personal and can be extrapolated by all; vocals that do more than just come along for the ride- that is the way you will make it many years from now. Before I continue on my point, I want to introduce my featured act. I have surveyed- over the last few months- many U.S.-based acts: most have emanated from New York or L.A., though I have investigated acts from Arkansas and Missouri- these chaps hail from the fair city of Chicago. Being the 3rd most populus city in America (after New York and Los Angeles) I am surprised I have not heard more from the Illinois hot-spot: there is a thriving and growing music scene here, although not on the same level as the likes of New York, Los Angeles or Seattle. Twin Peaks are a quartet of teens- they may have just turned 20 actually- that are going to be putting Chicago right in the top flight:

Cadien Lake James- (Vocals)

Clay Frankel- (Guitar)

Jack Dolan- (Bass)

Connor Brodner- (Drums)

Despite sharing a band name with a fair few other acts, these Twin Peaks surmount and overthrow any like-minded artists: the boys have known each other since birth, and have a natural sympatico that marks their music aside from the rest. Power-Pop is a genre of music that is relatively widespread, yet few manage to make a decent stab of it: the Chicageans manage to master the form without coming across as overly-familiar or in-your-face. In order to create decent Power-Pop mandate, you must strike a balance between looseness and slaved-over fine dynamics- if you do get that right then the world is your oyster. When paying tribute to Steely Dan recently, I stated what (for me) defined their music: they managed to mix effortless and loose breeziness with fastidious and well-rehearsed strands- their resultant sounds are amongst the most nuanced, inspiring and richest the world has ever seen. The quarter may not be on the same wavelength as Messrs. Fagen and Becker, yet my point remains: offer that componcney to the listener, and you will strike gold.

Having already released the mini-L.P. (Sunken), the band have made their intentions known. Strands of Iggy Pop, Replacements and The Strokes come through in biting rushes Out of Commission; Ocean Blue and Irene are softer and floating numbers- the latter contains a compelling falsetto vocal line and waterfall guitars. The album is a lo-fi treat that employs influences of other bands, yet shows a clear and particular personality: shimmering beauties such as Baby Blue are modest cuts that showcase a distinct identity and sense of purpose. The nature of the lyrics- and themes of the songs- have changed since then: upcoming discs Wild Onion and Flavor E.P. add maturity and new-found love stories: the sound, dynamics and balance of subject matter remains loyal and intact. Being a fledgling act, you would not expect a radical leap from Sunken to Flavor: the group have such a breathless work ethic that it is hard to reinvent themselves or evolve too much. What the interim period has given birth to is a sense of confidence: the feeling of happy fun and headlong rush- that was synonymous on Sunken– is augmented and cemented (on Flavor). Spurred on by critical acclaim, there is newfound ambition and sense of direction in their current work: their songwriting is deeper and more diverse; their sound is more rounded and impressive- making the overall listening experience more enjoyable and well-rounded.

When it comes to identifying comparable sounds, the most obvious soundalike that comes through is Smith Westerns. The fellow Chicago band arrived prior to Twin Peaks; the two have some overlap across their songs: Smith Westerns’ Glam-Rock-cum-Indie-Rock moulds make their presence felt in a few cuts on Sunken/Flavor E.P. I am not sure what Wild Onions will offer, but it is likely that some further hints (of their fellow Chicago quartet’s) templates will come to the fore. That is not to say that Twin Peaks are the same band or a second-fiddle equivalent: such is the sense of rush and energy- in both bands- it is hard not to compare them. Sensations of Big Star’s early-’90s work can be detected as well; shades of Teenage Fanclub and The Posies linger in some numbers: that blend of ’80s and ’90s Power-Pop magic has been reinterpreted by our intrepid four-piece. As well as masters such as Iggy Pop making their influence known, it would be incongruous to lump Twin Peaks in with other acts: these guys are their own men and have a very stylised and fresh projection. If you like your music with an edge of cockiness; some perspective on the inequities of young love and modern life; sweaty rush and compelling force- seek out the fabled Chicago quartet. Few other acts- certainly in this country- have such an enthusiastic and uplifting set of songs: if you want to smile and be swept away, then there are not many other bands that do it as well as Twin Peaks.

After a brief percussive slam and pummel assault, James arrives on the mic. Flavor‘s newborn moments are packed with Indie and Punk rambunctiousness: the vocal line swaggers with alpha male roar and spit- it brings to mind the ’60s/’70s Power-Pop/Punk heyday, and kicks the track off emphatically. Twisted, oblique and spiked words get the listener in inquisitive mode: “I was born not breathing/Since I’ve woke up everyday” are the opening lines, and harbour a mixture of teenager sentiment, anger and moodiness. The entire band is tight and completely in step with one another- you can tell they have been performing with each since high school. The percussive kick, guitar punch and bass strangle mean the words tumble, poke and blaze: a huge amount of emotional rush and headiness is elicited in the opening seconds. Mentioning “the victims of the U.S.A.”, James seems in unsympathetic mood: “They all keep talking but have nothing to say.” You can sense a feeling of unease and discontentment in our hero’s tones: he seems aghast at the state of things, and utterly saturated by events. Whether referring to his fellow generation or addressing a wider malaise, you can hear the conviction and urgency come through: the vocal is hammer-blow and razor-sharp- it manages to twist and weave. Our hero modulates and teases his vocals; certain words are elongated and emphasised, whilst others are scattershot and bellowed- flavour notes of U.K.-based idols Alex Turner and Mile Kane come through in the accent and phrasing. Few young acts have such a sense of understanding- of classic Power-Pop and Indie- yet Twin Peaks come across as an established and legendary act: you get the impression you are hearing a fresh band from the ’60s hitting their creative peak. No loose edges or open seams linger: the performance is constantly engaging and solid throughout the early stages. By the time we reach the end of the first verse, so much energy and campaigning has already been completed- you are hooked and compelled. The song’s chorus (“Flavor your heart and your soul“) acts as a truncated mantra: James’s full-bloodied and epic vocal delivery is designed to get your arms pumping- and will no doubt get future festival crowds pogo-ing and leaping about muddy field (with excitement). After a thorough debriefing and missile strike, the boys swing round for verse two and a sense of personal revelation comes into the fray. Whereas the opening sentiments looked at victim culture and dislocation, new ideas point towards contentment and contemplation. James has been through a hard past (“I searched and drifted and grieved, man“) in order to discover who he wants to be: the inflamed and viper-like delivery make every word sound wracked with desperation and need. As well as being accompanied in vocal unison by his band members, the individual players make their sentiments known. Frankel’s guitars combine with James’s: they are secondary (in terms of force) to the vocal, yet drive the song forward and instill a huge amount of grit and alcohol-fuelled lust. Dolan’s bass is a muscular and taut monster; able to join the vocal and guitar together, it also contains looser corners- able to inject some cool detachment to proceedings. With Brodner’s striking percussion ensuring the song never misses a beat, you get plenty of genuine classic Power-Pop pummel. James took a trip to the sea; laying beneath evergreen trees, he engages in self-assessment and discovery- concluding that he is best as he is and no need to change. The anxiety that stung within the opening verse (“It had me seizing up/and so the season’s up“) is reversed and eradicated: with this new-found sense of belonging, our hero seems in a better frame of mind- and ready to ramble on. After a reintroduction of the chorus, the electricity and bluster takes a back seat: tripping and twirling acoustic notes take its place, and offer a sense of relaxation and calm- for a brief moment at least. Once more for the chorus it seems: repeated and reinvigorated, it is the perfect end to the track- the listener is free to consider all that has come before.

It is rare to hear a song (by any band or act) that is not centred on love and romance: Twin Peaks step away from well-trodden avenues and offer something deeper and more original. Politicised notions and questions of the self nestle with tranquility and epiphany- the band manage to make their words both simple yet complex all at once. A lot of credit- in this first round- must be given to the entire band: they have a closeness and sense of understanding that overcomes their tender years- they showcase the sort of intuition some bands twice their age lack. When it comes to the limelight, (and who sticks out) no one band member is allowed dictatorship. James marks himself out as one of the most direct and captivating voices on the modern circuit- there are undertones of the greats of old, yet such is the sense of youthful and captivating urgency; he can make anything sound vital. His band mates (as well as James Thomas Fleming) add additional layers of voice: when they combine, you get the impression of an army drill being sung and chanted- it has that same effect on you. The song’s  musicianship and performance is constantly engaging and surprising. Although the vocal sits higher in the mix, you cannot ignore the sonic elements: the guitars are rattlesnake sharp and filled with edge and attitude; the drum work is emphatic and solid from beginning to end; the bass keeps it all in check, whilst adding its own weight and conjecture. The band’s Wild Onion album will contain sixteen tracks, so it is vital that there are no rough edges or filler in the pack. The White Stripes incorporated the same amount of songs within White Blood Cells, and it seems like an apt comparison: there are those same raw production values and Blues-tinged vocals; a similar ambition when it comes to naked and ragged sounds- that mixture of soul and venom. The White Stripes managed to keep intrigue high by ensuring there were enough shorter tracks- Aluminum, Fell in Love with a Girl, Little Room, Now Mary– to keep the album from becoming bloated- in fact only four of the L.P.’s tracks surpass three minutes. Flavor is a 2:02 explosion of sound and intention (that a young Jack White would kill for): I have not heard Wild Onion, but one suspects it will contain quite a few short, sharp bursts. Too many acts emphasise long and ponderous tracks: by presenting something so concise, the boys show huge insight and maturity- and prove they are capable of distilling a huge amount of weight, without needless solo-ing or aimlessness. With such an ear for catchiness and texture, Twin Peaks make sure the listener is on the edge of their seat- their forthcoming releases will be met with fevered anticipation. Sloppiness and well-rehearsed sounds come together expertly; contradictions run amok: raw and soft, electric and still; composed yet ramshackle are perfectly paired- nothing seems forced or laboured, and the song lives up to its potential and promise. The ghosts of Teenage Fanclub and Big Star hover over Flavor: their sense of captivation and youthful abandon can be seen within the track’s stirring outpourings. Cadien Lake James and his band of brothers are going to be judged and determined on the strength of Flavor: the song is going to win legions of fans in very little time.

The next few weeks are going to be eventful and jam-packed. Sunken‘s octet of tracks were abound with fuzz, flavour, flair and some good-time elements: sophisticated arrangements, excitement and sex appeal. Subjects looked at teenage angst, pretty girls, street cruising and late-night drinking: issues that a lot of artists touch on, but few have Chicago as their setting and our quartet as tour guides. Excitement and anticipation was high following the mini-L.P.’s release: Flavor builds on previous sounds and themes, and keeps the momentum strong: it is possibly their most assured cut to date, and is a blustering, ramshackle statement of intent. Filled with exceptional guitars, urgent vocals and killer hooks, it is a mouth-watering insight into what Wild Onion and Flavor E.P. will possess. The E.P. is arriving next (July 7th) and will provide us in the U.K. a chance to hear where they are right now- as well as offering many their first experience of the band. Our boys are not exactly clean-living and shy icons: they have a unapologetic sense of rebellion and emancipation; kick and spit practically hit the speakers- plenty of sunshine, romance and sophistication can be discovered. I began this review by mentioning two points: the lack of great Power-Pop acts, as well as the uncertain life young acts face (in modern music). Knowing about the likes of Smith Westerns, I am always surprised there are not more acts like them: in the U.K. we have few artists that provide a similar authority and sense of confidence. In the U.S., there is a growing wave of up-and-coming Power-Pop outsiders: Twin Peaks are going to be the artists to beat. Being in their early-20s, it is easy to forgive slight immaturity and teeange-themed song books- the exhilaration and thrills they put forth take you somewhere special. Their sound is something that would fit well in the U.K.: we have a huge amount of headrush, thrill-a-minute bands that would not only support Twin Peaks- they would push them to become better and more ambitious. Venues and acts throughout London and Britain would happily host the boys- I hope that they do come here to play very shortly. With it being festival season; eyes and ears are focused on the likes of Queens of the Stone Age, Metallica and Arctic Monkeys: acts that compel and inspire by force and majesty. The four-piece have managed to rise and climb a lot over the last year, so I would not be shocked if they were to be festival darlings in coming years. There are a lot of bands out there that are so-so and ineffectual: those that swing, slam and seduce deserve wide acclaim and appreciation. Flavor demonstrates just how much punch can be packed into a couple of minutes of music- their upcoming E.P. and L.P. will build on this and demonstrate how multifarious and scintillating they are. Song titles such as Strawberry Smoothie and Good Lovin’ (from Wild Onion) practically drip with potential- make sure you grab a copy of the album in August. The word ‘youth’ can be seen as a synonym for ‘inexperienced’ and ‘lightweight’: Twin Peaks have an intelligence, sense of accomplishment and confidence that few other acts showcase- even those well-established in the mainstream. It is clear they will be making big waves in years to come, so make sure you investigate their current offerings- it is an exciting and prosperous time for the band. If you long for an exciting and brave flavour (or should that be flavor?) with a wonderful aftertaste…

ENSURE you make this quartet a staple diet.


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Feature: My New Favourite Song (For the Second Time)




My New Favourite Song (For the Second Time)



One of the strange things about music is that certain songs do different things: those tracks that seemed fresh and wonderful can suddenly lose their edge and appeal- whilst that one particular track can steal your mind completely.


I have not done a feature piece for a little while now…

One of the great things about music reviewing, is that you get to help and further new musicians- features seem a little needless and not especially self-effacing. The reason I am writing this piece is that something rather peculiar occurred: the song I considered to be the finest ever, suddenly lost its position- to a song that has been with me since childhood. This brings up an interesting point: what is it about a particular track that makes it so wonderful; separates it from everything else- seems so much better than anything out there? Music tastes are as subjective as anything in the world- few artists or tracks are beloved by everyone- so when you tell a person what your favourite song (or album) is, they turn their noses up: sometimes they have never even heard of it. Every one of us has our personal ‘Top 10’: our list of favourite albums and songs from all of music- the rankings and order can (and often do) change year-to-year. A lot of younger music-lovers have an ignominiously short attention span: their favourite song or album often originates from the last few years- they rarely investigate past wonder and delve into music’s annals (and subsequently miss out on a wealth of beauty). Having been drip-fed the likes of T-Rex, The Beatles, Bob Dylan and Kate Bush- from birth practically- I have been inoculated to some of the greatest sounds ever produced. About three or four years ago, a certain song stuck in my mind, from a band I have adored since their beginnings- it was always likely to have that effect.

Before I mention that track (and my new frontrunner), I will touch on another point: what make a particular song special to others? Darren Christopher Pereira (Shiftin’ Shade) plumps for Sting’s Moon Over Bourbon Street as his favourite ever track:

That imagery; amazing arrangement…even better with the Philharmonic Orchestra.”

Phil Cass (Cuckoo Records impressario) favours David Bowie’s Lady Grinning Soul. Explaining its appeal, he states:

The last track on Aladdin Sane…my fave album of all time. Such a seductive track (as is the album) and the genius piano playing of Dave Garson and beautiful guitar courtesy of Mick Ronson…Bowie’s finest hour in my opinion.”

Two differing views on two different cuts (by two diverse artists): there is something about a particular song that gets to all of us. Looking at Phil and Darren’s testimony; they share a similar recognition: a stunning composition and arrangement can make the song better than anything. Even though Bowie and Sting are legendary artists, they have produced some sub-par tracks (not many, but the odd few). Both Bowie and Sting are noted for their innovativeness and musicality: I have listened to both song selections and can agree with everything being said. I always find myself more fascinated by a vocal performance (more so than anything else)- a lot of my all-time choice songs and albums are synonymous with their vocals/singers. Dylan’s phenomenal lyrics make his songs so endlessly compelling-  they can be as evocative as anything else. When you really think about it, it is the overall sound and composition that lifts that special song over the edge. I guess we can pontificate and theorise as much as we want; sometimes inexplicable forces burrow a song deep into the soul.

Up until a few days ago, one particular track- for me at least- beat all of the competition; far surpassed mortal music- and compelled me to (with futile intent) try to equal it. That particular track is There There by Radiohead. Many of you reading this will have heard of the band (how could you not?!) but would not recognise the track. It is hardly a huge shock: the song featured on their album Hail to the Thief– it ranks alongside Pablo Honey in terms of critical approval and attention. The album is by no means a shocker (no Radiohead album ever could be); it seems like an awkward stop-gap between their glory years (the OK ComputerAmnesiac era) and their brilliant latter days (In Rainbows-present). The L.P. has quite a few gems nestling inside of its politicised and darker cores- 2+2=5, A Punchup at a Wedding and Sit Down, Stand Up stack alongside their very best work. The issue with the album is that there is too much aimless wandering: the album slouches and loses heat towards the middle- the extraction of three or four tracks would make it a meaner, leaner affair. After the foggy vagueness of The Gloaming arrived a superb treat: the majestic There There. The lynchpin of the album, it harks back to the anthemic cuts of The Bends: the endless inventiveness that made OK Computer a modern-day masterpiece nestles within the track- it is a riot of wonder. I am not sure whether it is the fact that Radiohead are one of my favourite all-time acts; if the diamond in the rough compelled my sensitive side; if something deeper struck me- the song demands attention and critique. From the hypnotic and punchy introduction to the scattershot drum finale, There There ticks all of the boxes: it has emotion, energy, memorability and plenty of nuance. Thom Yorke’s vocal performance fuses powerful rises (in the chorus) and tender falsetto: he brings the words to life with an authoritative and captivating performance. The guitars and bass twang, wobble, vibrate and lightning strike: such an incredible amount of texture and atmosphere is summoned up- the percussion is consistently powerful and mood-setting. All of these spectacular elements wrapped around the song’s lyrics: woodland scenes, Dogberryism, Sirens and heavenly tribute nestled with tales of love and longing. When the line “Heaven sent you to me” (towards the song’s end) is delivered, it brings me out in goosebumps even now- probably somewhere close to its 300th play. I love everything about the song, and for me it stood above other songs near the top of my list: Hey Jude, Hallelujah (Jeff Buckley’s version) and It’s Alright, Ma (I’m Only Bleeding). Up until a week ago, I was safe in my assertions and decisions: no song would likely budge There There from the musical summit. Then it happened…

The first time I came across Deacon Blues, would have been in the early-’90s. I often would spend days at my aunt’s house in Chesham: it was a second-home and a safe and warm retreat. As a shop owner (she owned a small jewelry/craft/gift shop) we would take trips to Crystal Palace- they held trade fairs there. Being a Steely Dan fan, she would play their albums on the drive there: songs such as Hey Nineteen and Dirty Work filled me ears- I was discovering a beautiful and wonderful Jazz-Rock world I had never encountered before. The one song that would always stand me to attention was Deacon Blues- taken from the band’s album Aja. Everything about the track excited me: from the superb and building intro., through to the tempting and languorous final moments. Aja was one of Steely Dan’s final albums (before they took a long hiatus): whereas its follow-up Gaucho was a study in fastidiousness and perfectionism, Aja was a looser and more effortless beast- things felt more relaxed and organic here. Gaucho had its genius moments- Hey Nineteen, Babylon Sisters– but other songs felt too over-rehearsed and arrived off of the back of personal and creative issues (for Steely Dan). Few were expecting an album that matched (and superseded) the heights of early works Pretzel Logic and Countdown to Ecstasy– what the world got was a masterpiece. The standard pillars of obtuseness and obliqueness were all there; the cut and sarcasm all present- business as usual in many senses. Tracks Peg and Josie had modal tones and intricacy; each track on the album has richness, texture and genre-fusion- vocal harmonies and gorgeous Jazz trumpets ensured each number gets right into your brain. In terms of themes/ambition, Deacon Blues continued where (previous numbers) Fire in the Hole and Midnight Cruiser left off: the track epitomised Aja and represented everything it stood for. The song looks at the realities and harshness of L.A. street life: the life musicians and artists face; the sense of repression and suffocation- Fagen declares “I’ll make it my home sweet home“. The song’s verses look at our hero walking the streets: he turns tricks, scams and crawls “like a viper“; making love to women and indulging in mind-staggering libations- there is a sense of rebirth. Fagen has declared his dreams before (and failed): this time he is going to make it. It wouldn’t be a Steely Dan classic without their lyric hallmarks: cutting wit, sarcasm and intellectualism bring vivid scenes to the imagination. Despite being New Yorkers, Becker and Fagen effortless distill the essence of L.A. life in the ’70s: artisans and dreamers on street corners; strange sensations and weird scenes. Fagen acts as the born-again writer: he has fallen and been dissolusioned, but- being ensconced in the seductive underbelly- is making proclamations: he is going to make it his home and come out on top. Fagen’s entrancing and conviction-filled vocal is backed up by Venetta Fields, Clydie King and Sherlie Matthews- they combine in the chorus to add cooing beauty and elliptical, shivering power. I get caught up in the images and sights that are being presented: every time the chorus hits (and the swirling, swaying trumpet line follows it) I shiver and smile- the song makes me feel better about life and provides a chance to forget about the harshness of circumstance. The song’s title is a juxtaposition to Crimson Tide– the sobriquet of The University of Alabama’s football team. Becker and Fagen felt it was a pretentious name given to “cracker assholes“: Steely Dan’s Deacon Blues was their lovable loser retort. The most emphatic and memorable aspect of the song is the composition itself: imbued with richness, depth and immense beauty, it is a work of art- and one of the finest arrangements in all of music. Soothing and romanticized trumpet and brass breezes; elegant and itinerant guitar lines work with supple drums- it is Pete Cristlieb’s tenor saxophone that hits hardest. I adore the track’s story and filmic development: Fagen will “learn to work the saxophone” and play “just what I feel“- with visions of all-night whiskey drinking and vehicular carnage; destruction, intoxication and free-spirit ideals- it all makes you root for the hero (in an odd way). Once all the words have been exhausted and all the bidding done, a delirious and splendid musical afterglow comes to the fore: you are free to swim and dive- awash in the languid saxophone, it is a perfect finale. The song has not only inspired me to write my own version of it (a boy can aim!)- Emma Cool and the Boston Dance Party (about the issues of modern music and the problems in the big cities)- but to pursue music and investigate all it has to offer: a song that can do all of that is one that I shall never take for granted.

It’s a strange thing, isn’t it? All of us have our own particular favourite song: it may be the case that it doesn’t reveal its true genius until many years from now. I guess in that sense, musical appreciation can be like love: the person you are truly happy with may not come into your life straight away- but the eventual revelation is quite profound. I am pretty sure that Deacon Blues will remain my all-time favourite until the day I die- yet I am hopefully something new and fresh may challenge for the crown. Music is pretty awesome in that respect: one person may adore a particular track; others may hate it- yet it doesn’t matter what anyone thinks. I implore anyone reading to investigate Deacon Blues– see if you agree with me, or have any thoughts. Likewise, it would be interesting to see what others consider to be the best song ever produced. Subjectiveness, personal relevance and fond memories will always elevate a particular number above the rest- and be different for everybody. Deacon Blues is a 37-year-old, 7:35 gem- I aim to listen to it every day. This bring me round to another point: will we see anything come along that can ever top that? My five favourite albums originated in the ’60s and ’90s (nothing from the past fifteen years makes the list); my top five tracks share D.N.A. and links (Buckley’s version of Hallelujah was released in 1994- some 20 years ago)- it would be good to think music has the potential to topple the giants and greats (from days past). I feel that a favourite song is as vital and relevant as a favourite friend: someone that is always there for you and always elicits a smile- it can make even the worst of moods that much more bearable. I am pleased that I have rediscovered a near-fogotten track from my childhood- being 31, it has taken a while- and it has renewed my energies and motivation: when an album of mine does appear, I sure as hell want a track that is Steely Dan-esque- it will not hit the heights of Deacon Blues, but there is plenty to take away from the track. Wonderful and scintillating lyrics, an impassioned and striking vocal; tied with a rich and endlessly detailed composition (as well as a sense of looseness and effortlessness) makes the song such a joy. Have a think yourselves: what defines the song dearest to you? Once you have identified it- I guess you will be playing the track again?- pick up a pen and be inspired by it- try to equal it if you dare. If you are ambitious and bold, you may well consecrate your dreams as to the pursuit of musical perfection. I am going to try my own attempt as we speak: make a song that has that feel and brings out the same emotions in those listening. In the words of the immortal Deacon Blues: “I’ll make it this time

I’M ready to cross that fine line.”








E.P. Review: Adam Hume- Horizons and Hurricanes





Adam Hume




Horizons and Hurricanes








Horizons and Hurricanes is available via:




Holding On9.3

Till My Heart Stops Beating9.2

Jigsaws (Bonus)9.2

Bridges for Burning9.4



Bridges for Burning



20th June, 2014



Adam Hume





Leeds-based artist Adam Hume has recently featured on several of Shiftin’ Shade’s get-up-and-dance Swing gems: here he is moving into the spotlight. Stunning texture and depth conjoin with a distinctive beating heart. Horizons and Hurricanes offers force and weather-beaten soul- with plenty of future promise.


THE proclivious nature of music is on my mind right now…

for a number of different reasons. In my own life, the issues of finance and reality are competing and stabbing away: not only making events rather difficult, but delaying my musical ambitions. One of the best things about music in general, is that it is free to imagine: you can write, hone your voice and plan- without it costing a single penny. With today’s technology, putting together tracks can be inexpensive and simple- this means that a lot of new artists are coming through and entering the scene. If you look around the music-sharing sites- SoundCloud, BandCamp etc.- then one has ample choice and selection: anything the avid listener desires can be found. Although the business of making music is relatively simplistic, it does not mean that this will translate into success or recognition- it can be a disillusioning and disheartening prospect. I have a huge amount of respect for anybody able to transition the barrier between conception and production: those that turn their ideas into fully fledged cuts. Adam Hume is someone I have been made aware of over the last couple of months. My first taste of Hume came via his work with Shiftin’ Shade (Leeds-based artist Darren Christopher Pereira). Pereira’s Electro-Swing alter-ego is something of a delightful rarity: good-natured and kind-hearted messages are wrapped up in delirious Swing kick; lashings of brass, electronics (and sounds of the ’30s and ’40s) come through in his music- marking him out as one of the most original and striking artists on the scene. Hume leant his voice to tracks Speakeasy Suzy, Shy Street Swing Club *Live Bootleg Version* (from The Gramophone Gang E.P.) and Cabaret Du Ciel. Backed by vintage film soundbites, leaky trumpets and mesmeric blasts of danceable bliss, Hume’s smooth and emotive voice crooned, struck and seduced throughout. Being impressed with his credentials, I was excited to see what he could offer on his debut E.P., Horizons and Hurricanes. Hume has a clear affection and dedication towards music, and has been plying and working hard to get his music together. There are many acts that arrive in music and are prepared to do the bare-minimum; there are those that put in the hard graft (and do not get their due)- the imbalance and injustice can be quite galling and frightening. Hume is in his early stages, yet has ambition and plenty of urgency to his music. The Leeds-based 22-year-old has a determination that will see rewards come his way: the initial signs are very promising indeed.

For those new to Hume, there are two acts that come to mind: OneRepublic and You Me at Six. Elements of each come into his music (Hume is a fan of OneRepublic especially), yet there is no blatant parody or mimicry. Like the Colorado Springs quintet, Hume incorporates aspects of OneRepublic’s Pop-Rock/Alt.-Rock into his palette- but comes across as a bolder and more fully rounded representation. One of the slight criticisms reviewers had about OneRepublic’s last L.P. (Native), is that it was a little dry and flavourless- compared to their previous work at least. Frontman Ryan Tedder is amongst one of the most important modern-day songwriters (having defined and shaped current Pop sensibilities and directions) and is still capable of surprising. Having listened to Native, it is filled with dense themes, rich sounds and plenty of depth and joy- there are the odd few fillers, yet nothing that deserves any derision. Hume has a similar sense of emotional resonance and catchiness; he is adept at weaving together stunning hooks and tender emotion. Anyone enlivened by albums such as Native and Waking Up (OneRepublic’s sophomore effort), should investigate Hume. Alternative-Rock strands- You Me at Six, Bastille- make their presence felt within Horizons and Hurricanes, yet one should enter with a clear and receptive mind. Hume’s work with Shiftin’ Shade showcased just how versatile and potent his voice is (and can be); meaning his E.P. is a multifarious and surprising set of tracks: music that everyone should seek out and study.

The first taste of the E.P. arrives in the form of Unbreakable. A brief (but beautiful) piano coda brings the song to your ears with romantic pride- it begins urgently (Morse Code-like in its deployment) before opening up into a flourish. Early events introduce the song’s heroine: she has dreams of a perfect wedding and a white dress. Hume’s voice is soft and deep as he lets the story unfold- the track’s subject “didn’t see the hurricane, twirling on the horizon“. The driving and vivid storyline swirls images in your mind: by the 1:00 mark, our heroine has lost all she planned; her dreams have been disjointed and shattered- the life she imagined has dissipated. Hume never lets his voice soar needlessly: it is measured, tender- displaying some sympathy in its tones- and filled with conviction. Unbreakable‘s lyrics mix the emotional sparse with simplistic beauty: our heroine’s heart is broken beyond surgical repair; the tears are streaming forth. Whether Hume is recalling events from his own life (or that of a friend) I am not certain, yet the scenery and wordplay paint a lot of detail and evocativeness. Even though our heroine has juggled pieces “carelessly“, you get the sense that there may be redemption in the future- there is never any judgement or condemnation. Backing a tale of disillusionment and dethronement, is the beautiful and elegant piano line: guitar threads and rushes of strings inject passion and potency, yet it is that piano sound that provides the biggest punch. There are signs of OneRepublic in the song’s melody and story: Hume displays character and flavour; heart and subtlety. Whereas the U.S. five-piece achieve their results with big hooks (as opposed to subtly and softness), Hume does not come across as static or rank-and-file: there is a soulfulness and heart-wrenching quality that lifts his songs beyond that of his contemporaries. The emotive coda of “You can’t unbreak what you broke” is perhaps the song’s crowning touch: it enforces the song’s message, and sees our hero’s voice mutate, hold and soar- oddly employing swathes of Matt Bellamy and Neil Finn within the transmogrification. The composition is ever-changing and evolving: at the start it was slowed and composed; it sways and floats towards the middle- before becoming emphatic and fully charged towards the conclusion. It is Hume’s voice (and words) that do the bidding- the composition is effective and gorgeous, yet never encroaches (and puts you in the picture directly): there is no sense that this is a pared-down, radio-lite vagary. Opening the E.P. in impressive and superbly crafted, Unbreakable is a song sung with intuition and from the gut- burnished, resonant and captivated. Driving piano-driven Pop-Rock is a common staple in music- from mainstays like Coldplay through a gambit of newbies- yet Hume personality and stellar songwriting makes songs like Holding On essential, new and re-appropriating. Working with a reliably yearning piano parable, Hume’s voice is contemplative and deep: U.S. Soul and Country tones come through (oddly, once more, parts Eddie Vedder and Chris Cornell present themselves when Hume allows gravel and growl to come to the fore). Our hero is “counting constellations“; vacant and dreaming in his own space, he is trying to “take my mind off of this“. Apparitions and familiar figures present themselves in the starry sky; Hume cannot dismiss what he sees- his voice rises and crackles with passion. Stylistically, Holding On is more introverted and personal then the E.P.’s opener: love is being looked at, but our hero puts himself under the spotlight. Emphatic and rampant piano notes score words of regret and longing: Hume longs for and remembers a bygone love; someone whom he desires to be with- his soul is colder without her. There is exploration and self-examination throughout the track; plenty of honesty and hopefulness. Our hero admits to having delusional dreams, yet never gives up on his goal: to have his sweetheart with him. The vocal is slick, soulful and unctuous (in a good way): Hume goes from a whispered sadness to a hot-bloodied cry. Crescendo and desire make the song a heartfelt triumph: there are touches of mainstream acts and Pop in places, but it is Hume’s distinctive and strong vocal that transcend expectations- the lyrics and composition remain heartfelt and stirringly earnest. Till My Heart Stops Beating picks up from its predecessor (the initial vocal has a similar feel, pace and tone)- Hume is surveying a central figure, and in cautious mood. His heroine is “chasing pavement, just around the corner“; the song’s ideals are more positive and heart-racing (as opposed to saddened)- Hume is pursuing a spellbinding Siren. Unlike a lot of modern-day songs and artists (that play similar music), there is warmth and playfulness here; it is not dogged or diligent- plenty of life and colour bursts through. Hume is not going to stop running red lights: he is searching for his role model, day and night. Lyrics mix directness with hyperbole (hostile deserts and untold forces will not slow our hero), yet it all adds to the mood: due to the conviction and passion in the vocal, the words seem genuine and true. Multi-track vocal lines add a choral effect to proceedings; graceful and nimble falsetto entwine with bare-chested tenor- to create a dizzying effect that drives the song forward. There is catchiness and memorable refrains throughout (“till the flames come crashing down” is the finest): Hume’s peers may succumb to vague quivering and anodyne predictability, yet Till My Heart Stops Beating has such mobility that it does what a Pop-Rock ballad should do: it gets inside your head. The penultimate number (a bonus cut) is Jigsaws. Whereas the E.P.’s opening trio of numbers are enforced by piano- here guitar is at the forefront (it is springing and sprightly). Hume sees his desire: hazel-eyed and brown-haired, she is causing him to question and second-guess. Our hero wonders whether he is chasing shadows; he has a confession: he didn’t mean to fall so far (in love). An optimistic and bubbling compositon- tied to a seductive and tender melody- once more ties to layered vocals: sweet-scented highs smoke alongside deep-voiced utterings. A sense of teenage innocence and chase comes through with charm: nightclubs and dank surroundings are replaced with chili fries and furtive glances- there is an American sensibility that shines through in the words. In spite of some romantic cat-and-mouse, Hume offers  self-examination: there is a breeziness and a sense of the redemptive that comes through- never does the song trip off the sunshine path. By the track’s dying moments, you can imagine Hume pounding on: you sense he is not going to let go of his feelings; as well as his heroine. Bridges for Burning is Hume’s most recognised- and to this moment, most-listened-to track- and completes the E.P. in style. A lot of commentators have highlighted how it is ready-made for radio: there is a quality and heartbeat that could see it feature on BBC Radio Two– as well as smaller, non-commercial stations. The track essentially draws everything together and emphasises the hallmarks: sweeping and touching harmonies, clean sound; brilliant and detailed composition as well as an original and itinerant soul. Train lines and far-off destinations and used as metaphors for love’s breakdown and personal derailment. Hume summons flashbacks and less-than-fond memories: our hero has no “safety car” as a ensconcement. Trapped in Memory Lane, he is being driven mad by his scenario: absolution and resolve is pined for. The most memorable aspect of Bridges for Burning is the vocal and production: the latter is clean (but not overly polished); the former is pure, aching and dripping with emotion- the vocal harmonies augment and emphasise the sense of tension. It seems that respite is not forthcoming: our hero enters Round Two; floored “straight to the mat“- love’s sucker punch has left its scars. The song’s anonymous (yet alluring) femme fatale is leaving Hume dumbstruck by the curvatures of her contours: her slanted smile holds dark prophesy- as she walks out of the door, our hero is bereft.

Horizons and Hurricanes is a five-track E.P. abound with beauty and power. Hume manages to make his lyrics straight-forward but highly effective: there are similarities with other Pop-Rock acts (and their style), yet it is Hume’s individuality and conviction that makes everything sound elementary and must-hear. Themes deal with various aspects of love: a lot of time our hero is on the losing end, yet there is redemptive hope and flirtatious potential within. Aside from the emotive overtures and epicness of the closing number, the quartet of proceeding tracks never seem drained or wracked: Hume’s voice remains buoyant and optimistic- even when he is singing about the greatest of losses. Being inspired by the likes of OneRepublic, it is inevitable that some of their melodic gifts and catchy choruses sneak in: our hero’s own versions will resonate harder with new listeners. One of the worst things you can say about music/a song, is that is lacks soul and character: many contemporaries portray dull-as-dishwater motifs and seem almost anodyne and mechanical. Hume’s strong and striking personality makes his music such a force of emotion: the E.P.’s five tracks are solid enough to recruit even the most die-hard Hard Rock/Metal aficionados. The elliptical, gorgeous (yet unimposing) compositions add layers of tears and smile to the music: they parabond beautifully with Hume’s voice, and bring vivid life to his words. Kudos must be paid to the production throughout Horizons and Hurricanes: it is never too polished or over-produced, yet makes sure that notes and lyrics are not sucked into the machine- allowing proceedings to come across as raw yet crystal-clear. I would offer an addendum- to anyone thinking of checking out the E.P.- which would be: clear your mind and preconceptions. It is all-too-easy to compare Artist A with Established Artist B: it not only naturally clouds your judgements, but limits your expectations. Hume’s voice, style and potency are home-grown and as a result of study and hard work: it means that the most effort and attention to detail is paid to each track. Having heard (recently) a lot of U.S. Folk and Indie-filled sets, it is nice to hear a fresh and vibrant U.K.-based talent: one whom mixes current-day Pop-Rock with latter-day Indie and U.S. influence. As I said, you should always judge an artist upon their own merits- few would argue (against the fact) that Horizons and Hurricanes is a confident and self-assured opening salvo. Hume is proud of what he has acheived- as are those that have listened to it- and I hope this belief will lead to future releases. It is rare to hear someone enter a busy and competitive Pop-Rock/Indie market and manage to side-step the natural folly: get buried in the Coldplay-cum-The Fray complacency quagmire. With that voice; that sense of direction- as well a unique core- it will be interesting to see where Hume heads next.

I have mentioned how hard it is to gain satisfaction and equality in music- obtaining distinction and patronage can be as hard as anything you can possible imagine. For me (and my music), I feel that it will be a few years before anything concrete makes its mark- financial issues and upheaval have delayed proceedings somewhat- yet the determination is always there. I think that is what is so appealing about music: it offers escape and chance for expression, but also allows you to channel your thoughts and inner troubles into something artistic and beautiful. There is a catharsis and therapeutic wonder that music offers: anyone that has a voice and a clear identity is welcomed and provided a platform. I always love stumbling across something new and great, yet I have a nagging worry in the back of my mind: are great and hard-working acts getting the attention and adulation they deserve? The short answer is ‘no‘- there is an imbalance and unfairness that seems ineradicable and hostile. It is no surprise, I suppose: there are simply so many new musicians coming through, that it is incredibly unlikely all of them will receive a fair hearing. What you do need- in order to succeed and get ahead of the crowd- is a clear and distinct sound; a dedicated passion and love- as well as a never-say-die attitude. Hume is a young and eager musician that has already cracked the first two points- one suspects that the third is already there as well. I have mentioned the likes of OneRepublic and You Me at Six (as comparisons) yet they act as mere foundations: Hume’s songs have such a distinct and incomparable personality and identity: making everything personal and purposeful. Horizons and Hurricanes is a collection not relegated to slender appeal: the energy, emotion and memorability is designed for the masses- it is music for everybody’s enjoyment. When listening to the E.P., I got a clear sense of ambition and drive: Hume knows where he wants to go, and intends on making music for some time to come. One of the most impressive things you can say about a new musician is their adaptability and work rate (I touched on this when reviewing Clara Engel). Hume’s voice is equally at home and authoritative when scoring scenes of jazz club dance-offs; effortless when singing about romancing and seducing shy speakeasy heroines- his efforts with Shiftin’ Shade marked him out as a genuine and impassioned Swing voice (I hope their collaborations continue for a long time). Stepping away from these parables- and going it alone- Hume seems equally comfortable in the Pop Rock/Indie arena: there is a naturalness and instinct that makes the E.P. so stirring and repeatable. There is plenty of romance, yearning and introverted questioning on Horizons and Hurricanes: soulfulness and stadium-sized heartbreak are all in check. I am confident that Hume’s future will be busy and prosperous- he has already covered a lot of ground over the last couple of months alone. His debut E.P. will appeal to anyone that looks for melodic flow, catchy choruses and sing-along charm; beauty and yearning are waiting to be discovered- if you are more familiarised with heavy sounds or other genres, it would remiss to ignore it. There are a lot of current artists whose appeal is niche and limited: their music is incapable of transcending party lines and drawing in undecided voters. Hume ubiquitous messages and fascinating songwriting should be enjoyed by everyone- it is free on SoundCloud, so why the hell would you not check it out?! Having spoken with both Hume and Pereira recently, I know that they are both ambitious and motivated artists: I am sure we will hear more hook-ups between Hume and Shiftin’ Shade- each song they collaborate on is compelling and filled with happiness. Our hero is only 22, so he will probably not be thinking too far ahead, yet it seems there is a huge market out there. He is based in Yorkshire at the moment, but I wonder whether ideas of relocating to London are in his thoughts: venues, clubs, audiences and labels are likely to be waiting- although a nomadic life may seem a little disorienting to him right now. There is such a force of repression and fatigue when noble musicians try to make their mark- the strife of getting representation is one of the biggest headaches- and it often stems down to three factors: financial limitations, finding a large and dedicated audience and distinguishing themselves (from what other musicians are doing). Hume has already developed and stamped out an uncommon voice; his work ethic and passion will (hopefully) see him obtain financial stability- in order to keep making music- but the third issue remains: getting the people into your tent. On the evidence of Horizons and Hurricanes‘ gems and stunning avenues, Hume should be pleased of what he has acheived- and keep the momentum coming. Positive reviews and feedback is already coming in (for the E.P.), and I am sure a year from now, his fan base will be large and impressive- and more music with be forthcoming. Hume’s debut E.P. contains smile, punch, potency; beauty, anthemics and infectious hooks and melodies- stuffed with nuance and style. When you are seeking out music to investigate and admire…

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