Laid Bare is available at:
Caution to the Wind– 9.3/10.0
Where You Are– 9.4
You From Me– 9.4
I’m All Yours– 9.5
I’m Your Friend– 9.3
STAND OUT TRACK:
I’m All Yours
Where You Are, You From Me, I’m All Yours
31st October, 2010
With plans afoot for a new release; anticipation is building for a new Bailey Tzuke release. Laid Bare is the 26-year-old’s last studio E.P.: a set of tracks that showcased a raw and distinct talent with a singular and emphatic voice. With so few of her peers- offering the same blend of engaging song- Tzuke has a prosperous and long career ahead of her.
CERTAIN thoughts have been batting around my head…
like a cat playing with a ball of wool. One of the most pressing thoughts is what- in terms of my own personal tastes- defines exceptional music. A couple of weeks back I explained how my favourite song of all-time had changed: previously I had been sure of my certainties, yet the last few months had seen a particular song nestle its way to the summit of my appreciation. That particular song is Deacon Blues (from Steely Dan’s album Aja): I won’t bore you (again- I did a whole blog post on it) as to why that particular song is so majestic- few of you would have heard it; my words will probably not change that- it just does something to me: containing so much beauty, grace, vivid imagery and feel-good charm, it completely overwhelms. Having a pretty unhappy and anxious life (woe is me!), music offer me the chance to escape to somewhere more comfortable and dependable. Songs such as Deacon Blues seduce me due to their hypnotic elegancce and urgency: there is something almost romantic that comes through- as such it lifts the mood and makes you feel safe. Various different people love different types of music (for different reasons): some love the violence and raw edges of Metal; others prefer the tenderness and relaxation of Folk; Rock and Indie speaks to those that want something energized and anthemic- nothing beats music in terms of the effect it can have on you. I adore Rock, Hard-Rock and Indie bands: the likes of Queens of the Stone Age, Radiohead and Arctic Monkeys are among my favourite artists- my mind and heart always yearns for something ethereal and sensual. My featured artist ticks all of the right boxes: her music is among some of the most emotive and direct around- before I go into more depth, let me introduce her to you:
“Bailey Tzuke (born Bailey Jean Muggleton-Tzuke on 28 June 1987) is a British singer/songwriter. She is the daughter of the singer/songwriter Judie Tzuke and record producer Paul Muggleton. Tzuke has toured with and performed backing vocals for her mother for many years. In October 2007, her vocals were featured on the Freemasons track “Uninvited” (a reworking of the 1998 Alanis Morissette hit) which made number 8 in the UK charts and number 4 in the Netherlands. More recently, Tzuke has since contributed vocals to Rollo Armstrong’s new project “All Thieves”. She has also been working on her own material, having signed up to the digital distribution company AWAL (Artists Without A Label). She released her debut EP, Strong, in May 2010, followed by another EP, Laid Bare, in October 2010. A live recording, Alive, was released in 2011 via Judie Tzuke’s official website.”
The 26-year-old is in the midst of creating new and exciting music- our heroine explains she is currently “writing, recording and walking the dogs.” Having been busy performing and writing, there is a lot of expectation and excitement growing: fans and newcomers (such as myself) are primed to see what Tzuke comes up with next- after the success and strength of her previous E.P.s, it will be fascinating to hear what is in the pipeline. The gorgeous songstress set critical tongues wagging after the release of Strong: in a year that saw the rise of many up-and-coming female talent, Tzuke stood aside from the crowd with her haunting and spellbinding talent. This brings me to another point- before I investigate our heroine in closer detail: the current female music market. With the likes of Lilly Allen, Lana Del Rey, Adele and Beyoncé representing the score of available options, the competition is as high as it has ever been: these artists have inspired legions of new musicians; whom in turn have compelled many more. I have never been a fan of Del Rey- the odd song catches me but I find her too effete and ineffectual- whereas Allen’s glory days may be well behind her. This year has seen a lot of great new bands and male acts come through- Sam Smith included- that have mesmerized a myriad of ears and souls- I am hard-pressed to point at too many brand-new stunning female artists. Those that have come through possesses more power and operatic potential (than they do beauty and sensitivity); there seems to be a slight turn away from the shores of introverted investigation and less overt offerings. Tzuke has an incredible voice capable of extraordinary power- but for me at least- it is her angelic and delicate shades that hit hard- and something the contemporary scene could with a lot more of. For that reason, I have been inspired to survey Tzuke’s sophomore E.P., Laid Bare– a quintet of tracks that are rife with confidence, determination, stripped-back beauty and elegance.
Alive– Tzuke’s 2011 live recording- is the sound of our heroine in full flight: the performances across the disc. display everything that makes her such a name to watch: that haunting sense of stillness and shiver; the natural charm that radiates through every song. Whilst not being a studio-pressed collection, it afforded Tzuke’s fans the chance to hear their heroine in her natural environment: striking and connecting with her followers- and showing just why she is so renowned and respected. For a full and authoritative taste of Tzuke, one must begin with her debut E.P., Strong. Although the title itself may be common and well-represented, the music within is far from it: right from the off you can hear Tzuke’s distinct song craft and personality come through. The title track- there are four tracks on the E.P.; the final two are remixes of Strong– is potent, emphatic and pulsating. Backed by determined and emotive percussion, Tzuke’s multifarious and striking voice laces around a passionate and redemptive tale. Whilst most modern-day acts tend to- when writing about relationships- focus on the negatives and vicissitudes of lies and indiscretions, Tzuke turns the tables: in spite of everything; the doubts and cloudy days (and all the”jealous clowns“) she is not giving in- “I know your heart like the back of my hand/I’m going to give you all that I am.” It is rare to hear something so optimistic, mature and confident from one so young- Tzuke was 22 when the E.P. was released- and you are left impressed by the professionalism and naturalness throughout. To offset the passion and you-can’t-break-me spirit of the opener is My Waltz: a track that transposes the title cut”s mandates and philosophies- here, our heroine is in a daze and unsure what to do. The vocals and compositions are similarly powerful and intelligent; Tzuke herself is bereft. Whether assessing the black box from a recently failed relationship or reflecting on personal anxieties and doubts, the track is something that we can all relate to: that sense of uncertainty and numbness that can overcome you. There is a clear personality in the lyrics; this is Tzuke’s story and thoughts- few comparable artists distill and surmise feelings of disconnection so effectively. Stating that “I will run until I hear the wind/Taste the rain again“, it is a song that leaves you rooting for our heroine- it pricks your emotions and causes self-reflection and inward investigation. Strong was a bold and stunning opening statement from an artist determined to put her stamp on music- since then our heroine kept herself busy. Her 2007 collaboration with Freemasons (Uninvited) saw her rich and urgent tones breathe new life into the Alanis Morrissette track- which the Canadian recorded for the soundtrack to City of Angels. Tzuke’s voice soars and succeeds in the Electro.-House setting. Although her debut E.P. was filled with promise and excellence, its follow-up stepped up a gear and hit a new high: Laid Bare sees Tzuke inspired and imbued with fresh confidence and direction. Being released so soon after her debut (Laid Bare was released in 2010 as well), one might expect a lack of focus or variety: what we get is not only focus and strength, but a wealth of new directions and fascinating stories- the hallmarks and highs all remain; Tzuke sounds more comfortable and confident here.
For those that have heard little of Bailey Tzuke, a good starting place would be her mother: the legendary Stay With Me Till Dawn voice, Judie Tzuke. A lot of Tzuke’s Soft-Rock, Contemporary and Folk colours can be heard in her daughter’s music. That same lyrical integrity and sense of emotion runs through both artists: like Tzuke senior, our heroine has a similarly powerful and stunning voice and fascinating songbook- to my mind Strong and Laid Bare have embers of Judie Tzuke’s The Cat Is Out/Turning Stones period. Being inspired by the likes of Fiona Apple and Joni Mitchell, you get a sense of both in Tzuke’s E.P.s: Apple’s gorgeous and stirring love songs and Mitchell’s depth and richness shows its hands in Tzuke’s tones. The sweetness and modern Pop sensibilities have resonances of Ellie Goulding; the powerful and driving compositions have touches of Bjork’s early work- Debut and Post especially- Tzuke’s sonics have a similar mobility and sense of direction. Having reviewed newcomers such as Jen Armstrong and Nina Schofield (two U.K.-based Pop acts), I can hear familiar sounds in Tzuke’s voice- that same sweetness and pin-sharp purity emanates and resonates. If you want to discover music lacking in cynicism and snideness; an artist that places conviction, universality and passion above all else- Bailey Tzuke is an act that you would be foolish to overlook. Many may be reading this and come to one conclusion: if it is Pop/Contemporary then it is not going to be my cup of tea. Such narrow and myopic sentiments should be dissipated. Yes, a lot of modern-day mainstream Pop has little life, individuality and personality: Tzuke is in no way similar or like-minded. A great deal of chart-based cuts have tinny and generic compositions and soulless vocals; Tzuke puts class and distinction into her music. Because her talent is pliable and itinerant- having collaborated with Electro.-Pop artists- it can be appreciated by fans of Dance, Electro., Rock and Indie- the power and anthemic uplift that scores so many of her songs will be appreciated by festival-goers from all walks.
Caution to the Wind opens up the E.P. with an atmospheric intro. Built around a solid and emotive opening, our heroine steps to the mic.- to document a tale of poor relations. Pernicious occurrences and fate lie at the heart of the track’s words: “So here we are again/Playing mind games/With words and rhymes.” Tzuke’s voice has a vulnerability and sense of burden to it; she has been here before and the scars are starting to take their toll. Whether talking about getting musical recognition and acclaim or documenting a strained love, the words can be interpreted by everyone- they wear their heart on their sleeve. Our heroine has so much to offer; yet she hasn’t got the time to show it (“Such a shame“): it adds to a sense of mystery and obliqueness- throughout the opening exchanges, half of your mind looks at the embers of a fragmented relationship; the other makes you think of the hardships faced when it comes to putting your personality into music. Our heroine knows the real answer, yet she skillfully leaves some room for interpretation- the words are skillfully deployed and intelligent, but intrigue and seduce you with their mystique. From softer and more composed early vocals, Tzuke’s voice rises and strikes in the chorus. The mood and composition sparkles and swirls as our heroine is going to “let go of everything I’ve held onto“- there is an optimism and sense of balance in the vocal and background that gives the chorus a sing along quality; it has a thick skin and is determined and proud. Displaying a sense of sensuality and teasing beauty, Tzuke lets her story unfold. Misconstrued emotions and “Cooking on a heated stove” have caused disenfranchisement and regret; there is a degree of sombre reflectiveness in Tzuke’s projections- your mind starts to crystallise towards the relationship avenue; although the words can be extrapolated as pertaining to the inequities of the music business. Tzuke seems suffocated and stifled by life- maybe a particular man has caused her to question herself and left her tired and fed up. Tzuke\s initial Pop-infused sweetness transmogrify into a smoother, duskier Soul parable: her voice has its light and aerated charm, yet has more depth and sexuality here: she is able to seduce the listener as well as stand you to attention. Our heroine’s vocal is direct and urgent: when she speaks of being ignored- and her subject’s ears “being shut“- you can hear the conviction smash through. Having tolerated enough subjugation, injustice and discrimination, Tzuke is determined to bring about rebirth: the chorus’ promises “I’m gonna get stronger and start all over again.” Most of Tzuke’s peers- that talk of rejuvenation and starting over- come off as a little petulant and hyperbolic: our heroine has a maturity and pride that makes her words compelling and stirring. The crystal-clear and unfettered production emphasises the vocals without burying the composition- the woozy and Folk/Country-flavoured guitars are sparse yet emotive; they support Tzuke’s gorgeous vocal and add depth and meaning. As the song reaches its final stages, Tzuke is going to live close to the edge and lose her negatives: whatever has happened- and whomever has hurt her- is not going to get to her. The mix of purity and power that comes through in Tzuke’s voice brings about duel emotions: you are compelled to root for her as she overcomes her plight; at the same time tenderized and allured by her sweet-natured sound. Gorgeously touching and plaintive guitar notes beckon in Where You Are. Whereas its predecessor looked at the need for re-appropriation- following on from personal woe- here Tzuke looks at her sweetheart: her man who has been “driving too fast” and “playing too hard.” Her beau has been ignorant to our heroine’s desires: she has a lot to give and implores him to “drink me in.” The seductive pace of the vocal allows each word to breathe and pervade: there are sexual undertones and intentions that mingle with honesty and emotional openness- it gives the song a sense of desire and intention. The air of redemptive spirit and unselfishness comes through glaringly in the song. There are no accusations and vitriolic cuts: Tzuke sees the light in her man and is keen to make sure it shines bright. Desirous to uplift and rekindle his former self, our heroine’s voice rises and flies- hitting its peak when she sings “When they tell you you’re lost, they’re lying.” There is a sense of mutual need and reciprocity: they are best suited when with one another; if Tzuke is going to redeem her man she wants him to be there when she falls- the yearning and tremulousness comes through beautifully. When the chorus comes back around- and backing vocals are offered- you can hear semblances of Country and Folk legends of days past- including Judie Tzuke. With her man’s smile betraying a deeper sadness; his bones breaking, Tzuke is there for him- and completes a song filled with honesty, charm and burning love. You From Me’s twirling and enriching guitar arpeggio possess darkened and troubled innards: one senses that events here will not be as positive as Where You Are. Tzuke watches her man sleep; deep in a slumber, she wonders whether he is dreaming of her- is here where he really wants to be? In a sleep-deprived state, our heroine begins to question events- whether well-founded or acting on suspicion- and if the relationship has life in it. The vocal is once again beautifully direct and pacy: the expeditious delineation of words gives the song a sense of desperation and urgency- and adds weight to words of anxiety and self-recrimination. Wondering if “we can make this last” our heroine’s mind is spinning and second-guessing. Boasting the most impressive and haunting vocal- up until this point- the track also displays some of the E.P.’s most memorable words: “There’s a million different things that could bring us down/And a thousand words can leave a hollow sound” is both intelligent and packed with emotion and power. Tzuke puts you into her thoughts: the sense of fear and imminent dethronement is arrestingly portrayed in her affecting and emotive vocal performance. With evocative wordless vocals- and that rolling acoustic guitar- you can imagine few other musicians being able to summon up such a sense of longing and need: the repeated mantra of “Don’t let it take you from me” could be the E.P.’s stand out line. With embers of Beth Gibbons and Hope Sandoval making You From Me so touching, I’m All Yours provides solace: its buoyant and upbeat beginnings provide some light and relief. Whereas previous events looked at the fragility of a doomed love, here there is a new chapter: perhaps a new lover or a new days; either way, our heroine has restored her optimistic soul- and brings a smile to your face. With a breeziness and sense of serenity in her voice, Tzuke attests how good it feels “To wake up by your side“- she is a woman in the throws of a pure love. The composition earnestly supports our heroine- it mixes R ‘n’ B snap with soulful kick; once again a solo guitar does most of the talking. Safe in this feeling, Tzuke does not want to see it break: maybe her man is being too reserved and secretive, but you sense that the lines of communication are not as strong as they should be. Tzuke admits that we all have flaws; everyone has their secrets, but this love is too good to suffer: with passion in her heart, our heroine confesses “If you want me/I’m all yours.” The lines and plot twists are vividly brought to life with the E.P.’s smokiest and most sensualised vocal: Tzuke’s gorgeous and mellifluous honey tones are pleasing and caramelized. By employing few original words- instead re-employing and repeating verses and choruses- it gives the song an indelible feel and memorability: making sure that after the song has ended the words pinball around your consciousness. No Bailey Tzuke song could ever be downbeat or depressed: it is sexy and elliptical tracks such as I’m All Yours which showcase our heroine’s key cores- sensuality and urgency alongside open-hearted and every-man sentiments. Uplifting and slinky backing vocals bond seamlessly with the riparian guitar line- adding additional weight and conviction to a stirring number. Piano notes are seldom heard within Laid Bare– they are saved to perfectly soundtrack the swan song, I’m Your Friend. The E.P. has deal with various aspects of love: from all-out happy-in-love through to edgy final days; along to break-up and resignation- here Tzuke steps away from the first-person to comfort a friend on the receiving end of a crap-load of unfairness. The song’s heroine hangs onto (her man’s) words “believing him“- he seems like a charmer that can lie his way out of any situation. Tzuke has been on the receiving end of a jerk’s broken promise: the song advises her to rely and lean on Tzuke- the man cannot be trusted, but our heroine can. Displaying just how tender and beautiful it can be, the vocal lines give words of pain and dishonesty a sense of delicacy and child-like purity. Midst the redemptive words and sage advice comes a bit of cut and criticism- “He’s just a man“- that puts us fellas in our place. In spite of Tzuke having clarity and objectiveness on her mind, her girlfriend seems to be under his spell: she can still see good in him and is being led down a bad road. Our heroine is “here whatever you choose to do“: a loyal subject to the end, she wants to let her friend make the right choice on her own terms. Whatever has happened, the heroine will learn to love again: better things are waiting for her- if she can just cut loose from the weight that is defining her. As the song nears the end- and the E.P.’s final graces are offered- you sit back and let your mind wander- hoping that events worked out for I’m Your Friend‘s ill-at-ease heroine.
I know I have waxed lyrical- and extensively- as to the E.P.’s merits and distinctions. Laid Bare is a record that never loses its potency and sense of wonder. Tzuke’s voice brings life and passion to everything she sings, and she does not remain narrow or single-minded: themes concentrate on love and relations, yet present five distinct and memorable vantage points. The compositions throughout are evocative and tender- they do not impinge on the vocal; instead support Tzuke and add layers and contours to her enriching tones. The vocal itself is the big attraction: capable of being coquettish and feline the one moment; empowered and augmentative the next, it is always entrancing and filled with conviction. I usually can compare one singer with another- being an anal-retentive- yet Tzuke only has the faintest whiffs of others: the overall sense is of a singer with a distinct and personal voice. Although most of Laid Bare has softer and heartfelt sentiments at the core, you never lose interest: in fact the E.P. seems to end long before you are ready to let it surrender. The running order is perfect: emotions are well-balanced so that proceedings never become too heavy or samey. Tzuke’s songwriting and ambitious music is allowed to flourish and electioneer due to a brilliant overall production: clarity and concision comes through; nothing feels muted or lost in the mix- it blends together seamlessly like an intoxicating musical cocktail. Displaying a maturity and sense of authority- that one would not expect from one so young- Tzuke’s words and sentiments are instilled with intelligence, affirmation and soul: they have inspired me to work on my own songs; provided new insight and direction. The E.P. is a triumph from Tzuke and a quintet of songs that is strong enough to compel and recruit any type of music-lover: unlike many of her cloying contemporaries, Tzuke has a voice and personality that opens its arms- rather than shutting you out. There are not many negatives or suggestions one can levy towards Laid Bare. Perhaps songs such as I’m Your Friend and Caution to the Wind would have been lended additional splendour with the inclusion of strings: violin and oboe would lend an orchestral and classical edge to the tracks. The compositions are rich and powerful, but the piano work on the E.P.’s finale is especially satisfying- it would be great to hear it on other tracks. I can hint at no other detraction or suggestions. Having missed out on Bailey Tzuke’s original campaign, I am determined to ensure that my mind is trained to her current developments: on the evidence of Laid Bare, the future is going to be very bright for her.
It may seem like I am late to the party- I’m not a fan of parties so it kind of makes sense- and I have a have a particular person to thank (for me discovering Tzuke): Tessa Maye. Having been introduced to our heroine via her (Maye’s) Twitter feed, I have been remiss in not featuring Tzuke sooner. As new machinations and movements are forthcoming, it seems apropos that I looked back on her past work- and her most immediate and compelling collection. Laid Bare may have been released four years ago, yet it sounds fresh and relevant: the messages and songs can be extrapolated by anybody at any time. Tzuke has had her heart broken- and seen her share of pain- yet it does not define her: there is as much redemptive insight and outright positivity within Laid Bare than any record you care to mention. Tzuke herself- from what I can gleam from her online feed and reputation- is a woman who puts her fans first: she seems comfortable and relaxed in her lifestyle; her state of mind seems to be strong and focused- this comes out in her music. Too few contemporary solo acts present music that has affirmation at its heart: Tzuke understands the importance and vitality of mixing light and upbeat among introverted and angst-ridden. Although the subjects of love and hesitation are topics that have been reinterpreted countless times, Tzuke’s personality and talent elevates her songs: there is no sense of cliché or commanlity afoot. The lyrics clearly come from a very personal and individual place; the compositions are a lot more developed and nuanced than many of her peers- that distinct and tantalizing voice could belong to nobody else. I began this review by mentioning my lust and desire to find beauty and soul in music- over raw emotion and force. Whilst current heroes such as Sam Smith have arrived- who can ignore songs such as Lay Me Down, Stay With Me and Leave Your Lover?- this opens the door for Tzuke: the public desire and crave something that cuts into your heart and makes you feel better about yourself- few female artists are currently providing this. The In The Lonely Hour troubadour is synonymous with his transcendent vocals and drop-you-to-your-knees power: if he can keep his output compelling and original he may well have a fair few albums in him. Tzuke has enough in her arsenal to suggest that she could make a similar impact (to that of In The Lonely Hour). Whilst she may be less tormented and affected than Smith, that is not to say she is incapable of his grandeur: I’m All Yours gave me the same visceral reaction as Smith’s Stay With Me. As well as performing around the country and keeping herself busy, our heroine has been a little tight-lipped with regards her future endeavours: not only increasing anticipation but affording some secrecy and creative freedom and space. Whether a new collection arrives this year (or next) it is likely to be a stunning and compelling work: Tzuke has seen some developments and happy events which are sure to enforce her current sounds. With a voice as enriched and beautiful as hers- as well as an original and inspiring set of songs- I cannot wait to hear what comes next. The modern music market has a few great solo artists, yet we still need more acts like Tzuke: those that write songs that everyone can understand. Her motifs are not exclusive to women or young females; her songs have a ubiquity and openness that means all ages and genders can appreciate them. Her mother- Judie Tzuke- enjoyed a long and fruitful career (and is still recording)- I am sure Tzuke will have a similarly adventurous one ahead of her. Before you prepare for what it is to come; look back at a fascinating and potent E.P…
THAT wants everyone to listen to and fall in love with.
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