Track Review: Scout Killers- Honey

TRACK REVIEW:

 

Scout Killers

 

Honey

 

9.2/10.0

 

 

Honey is available at:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7aMtzU4fn8M

RELEASED:
5th June, 2015

GENRES:
Rock, Alternative

ORIGIN:

Bath, U.K.

The E.P. Stand Your Ground is available at:

http://scoutkillers.bandcamp.com/

TRACK LISTING:

Stand Your Ground9.2

The Rains9.0

Time and Again9.3

Honey9.2

Cease and Resist9.2

DOWNLOAD:

Stand Your Ground; Time and Again; Honey

STANDOUT TRACK:

Time and Again

 

RELEASED:

12th December, 2014

ANOTHER day welcomes another band…

to my attention.  From Americana and Blues sounds, today something new is afoot: a band that has crafted their own stamp on the Alternative/Rock scene.  A lot of modern acts- that play in these genres- tend to tie too closely to other acts: lack originality and come across as a bit stale and forced- there are exceptions to the rules.  In today’s scene- and with the amount of new acts coming through- the competition is pretty tough; there are few excuses for playing it safe- if you do not distinguish yourself, you will find yourself buried.  The biggest variations (in music) come when you look to other genres- electronic music is perhaps ahead of the field.  When you mix genres and sounds; take leaps and be innovative- that is when you come up with the best music.  To my mind, the Alternative scene is becoming a little predictable: so many new artists lack that killer hook; their songs seem rather predictable and unmotivated- the whole sound comes off as insipid.  This is a generalisation, yet there are some bands that buck the trend.  For a start, the lyrics need to be unique: stay away from overused fell-in-love-had-heart-broken-what-will-I-do mandates; take time to craft words that have a distinct bent.  Once that has been cracked, the music needs to stand apart.  Too many acts present rather mundane and tired compositions; there are few surprises and distinguished moments- it leaves the listener somewhat disappointed.  The vocals are vital, too: make sure they are filled with passions and urgency; do not sound too like anyone else- grab you from the first moment.  Scout Killers are new out of the block: the band are taking their first steps; having released latest record (last year)- the band have already released an E.P.- the signs look good- fans and reviewers are pricking their ears; the five-piece stand apart from their peers; their heavy-cum-universal sound is proving very popular- and no surprise.  Before I continue on, let me introduce Scout Killers:

Scout Killers are a five piece alternative/rock/indie band that formed in late 2009 in the Bath and Bristol area. The band currently consists of Scott Cox (lead vocalist), Julien “Zombie Beast Man” Morrez (guitarist and backing vocalist), Beau Stevens (guitarist), Josh Ellis (bassist), and Chris Phillips (drummer).

The band draws its influence from such artists as Rage Against the Machine, Queens of the Stone Age, Pearl Jam and Red Hot Chili Peppers. It’s clear to see from their powerful live sets that they hold viscerally expressive vocals, atmospheric and foreboding guitar swells and shadowy rhythmic undertones high on their priorities when it comes to songwriting.

After a successful tour following the release of their EP “We Cage the Storm”, and a well-received music video for the single version of “The Waves”, it was time for the band to head to the recording studio. One bloody, sweaty, tear-filled year later, Scout Killers re-emerged.

Now, with their debut album released, and the music video for the album’s flagship song “No Reason” having been met with such a positive and welcoming reception from fans and critics alike, it’s no wonder that Scout Killers are being described as having a “very promising horizon ahead of them.”

Their new E.P./album (technically the former) Stand Your Ground is gaining positive feedback: their renewed confidence and fresh sounds are enlivening and festival-ready.  Although their influences are somewhat overused- Queens of the Stone Age and Rage Against the Machine are obvious influences- the band do not rip them off; they channel their essence- tie them around their own voice and flair- and come up with something striking.  One of the best things about the band is their location: based out of Bath, the boys are putting the city on the map.  So many bands emanate from London/the north, so it is great to see a Somerset band come to the fore.  I hearing what different parts of the U.K. are offering: you can get a real sense of an area, based on the music that comes through.  A lot of London-based bands tend to be heavy and hard; further north there is more melody and range; Scottish bands are among the most innovative and unique.  Too many new acts are scared of stamping their own footprint: they hear the mainstream bands do well and decide (the easiest course of action) is to take their sound; lazily repackage it and pass it as their own.  Scout Killers have their own range of idols- and instill a little of each into their boiling pot- yet are determined to present their own voice; not come across as uninspired.  Because of that, the band has built a solid fan-based.  Critics and fans have been flocking to see the boys; reviews have been positive and laudatory: their new track is already gathering some pretty impressive praise.

To see how far the band has come, one must look back- investigate their previous output.  Back in 2013 (in July) the band unveiled their debut album.  Self-titled, the L.P. was rife with early promise: from the distorted/T.V./radio tuning introduction of Red Sky; the band went in hard- and stamped a unique take on things.  Subverting expectations- and building up a lot of intrigue- it was a perfect opener.  Tracks such as Too Close bristled with stadium-sized riffs- the sort Foo Fighters are masters of- and Long Way Round possesses heart and genuine emotion- a track that mixes tenderness with prowess; power and sensitivity.  By the time we reach the closer (Push) the sense of innovation does not abate: the swansong is a perfect finale (to a tremendous L.P.).  To my mind, the band has improved in the last couple of years.  Their debut album was replete with sonic innovation and genuine talent.  Perhaps a little indebted at times- certain verses/compositions reminded me of Californication-era Red Hot Chili Peppers; sometimes elements of Rage Against the Machine were too evident.  From the debut days, the band has expanded their palette; brought in more diversity and range- in addition to crafting a more original and strong voice.  The performances are stronger and tighter; the compositions more fascinating and multifarious; the songs more nuanced and memorable.  Although there were exceptional songs from the off- the likes of Red Sky cannot be denied- the band are now more focused and confident.  The songwriting is more rounded and assured; the lyrics more fascinating/varied- a stronger outfit altogether.

With so much quality throughout Stand Your Ground, Honey is perhaps the most ‘traditional’ Scout Killers track- that would remind you of their early work.  Uniting their sapling sounds with more up-to-date influence/inspiration, the boys start with a huge kick.  Earthy and sensual; pounding and primal, the sparse beats (that welcome the song in) are an early declaration- the potency and passion is stunning.  Controlled and emotive, the band manages to whip-up infant fascination- with as few notes as possible. Yearning (guitar) strings melt with syncopated beats; reminding me of In Rainbows-era Radiohead- sensational cuts like Weird Fishes/Arpeggi and All I Need– the song remains controlled and firm whilst showcasing a real ear for emotional build.  Perhaps the Radiohead comparisons are apt- little flecks and moments put me in mind of their finest moments- yet it is the band themselves that shout loudest- a very distinct product of Scout Killers.  Swooning and floating; toe-tipping and serene, it is impossible (not to) get caught up in the introduction- it is one of the most perfectly-formed I have heard this year.  After the majestic opening, the song starts to crank up; the vocal comes in- initial words look bedroom scenes (lights on; blinds should be closed- questions about fatherly love).  Within a few lines- where our hero looks at an ingénue and distinct central figure- the song begins its mystique.  In my mind, I was looking at a lonesome teen (female); someone who maybe is shallow and free from respect- maybe pushed away by her friends.  The music video (on YouTube) sees a gorgeous young ballerina apply lip-stick; with a vacant stare, she is the embodiment of the song.  Caught up in the rip-tide, the listener is powerless to escape- picture the scenes and imagery.  With its accompanying video- that reminds me of Wild Beasts’ Albatross; shows the young star pirouette and dance alone; dazzle in the light- it perfectly soundtracks the song- helps to get behind the song’s meaning.  The band keeps things level and focused; the composition trips and delicately plucks- the vocal is whispery and romantic; filled with passion and potency.  Whoever the subject is- whether a former sweetheart or friend- you look at the song in two minds- caught between sympathy and a sense of condemnation.  Our hero advises warning and caution- “look at only your mistakes”- and there seems piecemeal empathy.  Whilst the verse progresses, things become clearer- the verse looks at a romantic partner; someone who has come crawling back (to our lead)- and light is shed.  Many songs look at similar themes- a former love comes back for more; causes much heartache and worry- yet Scout Killers find a new spin; do not make the song too heavy and accusatory- there is an underlying sense of forgiveness and tolerance.  Couple a griping and swooning vocal; a rich and engaging composition, and there is scant vitriol- making the song more three-dimensional and loveable.  By the chorus, the composition becomes harder and granite- Grunge shades of Ten-era Pearl Jam- as our lead lets his voice soar.  The band does not stray too far from a tried-and-tested presentation- in terms of the compositional elements and structure- but this works in their favour.  They do not wander or needlessly divert; instead keep the song focused and tight- instead adding ounces of beauty and grace.  A perfect soundtrack- for either your summertime festival throngs or late-night moonlight drives- the song soothes the sense and spikes the brain- the track is both gentile and forceful.  By the midway point, the composition starts to change a little: the percussion becomes more prominent; the vocal more determined and soulful.  Our hero looks at his girl; the ambitions and dreams she had; what she wanted to be- the sense she has wasted time and clung on to a life raft too long.  By the second introduction of the chorus, the scene becomes heavier still- the composition gets fiercer and the sense of anger more evident.  Mixing traditional Alternative shades with bespoke Scout Killers qualities- their ear for compositional dynamics and emotional deployment.  Essentially, the band knows when to hit it hard; how to get the biggest reactions from the music- how to build a song up.  Before the track is through, the band let the composition into the spotlight.  The guitars start to chug and sway- like a huge wave crashing the rock- those Grunge/Alternative shades become more persistent (and replace earlier calm and tenderness).  Combining with the chorus, the guys rise ever higher- the vocal is at its most tortured here.  Straining and roaring, our lead reaches for the heavens (or perhaps Hell I guess) as the song comes to its conclusion- and leaves the listener with questions.  Wondering whether issues were resolved- whether our hero will repeat patterns of the past; his girl will figure out what to do- there is that sense of mystery.  Whilst not their finest track, Honey is a perfect example of their modern work: it shows how far they have come; what confidence and quality they have at their disposal- a band that deserves a huge following.

Each member (of the band) turns in an exceptional performance.  Since 2009- when the band recruited its ranks from the Bristol and Bath area- the guys have become stronger and more confident.  Their Cage the Storm E.P. – forgot to mention it early; essentially a natural playmate of their debut album- was a terrific effort; their current work is their strongest.  Scott Cox’s lead vocal is very much his own: there are shades of Eddie Veder and such- yet nothing too obvious or scene-stealing.  His voice has developed and matured- since the earliest days- and his sense of passion and urgency is at its peak.  Capable of ranging from an impassioned coo- in the early stages/verses- to a blood-curdling assault—the latter moments- it is a stunning performance.  Cox very much takes you inside the song; grips the imagination and senses- his aching tones come across as completely genuine and true.  Julien Morez (“Zombie Beast Man”- must be a family name) and Beau Stevens unite their guitars.  Covering a huge amount of ground- from gentle and plaintive lows to enraptured highs- they showcase a huge amount of talent and skill.  Very much unique players, the duo conspire with a sense of unity and intuition- neither player steps on the other; they fuse their guitars to create a fantastic thing.  Josh Ellis’ bass guides the song forward; it is the heartbeat of Honey that guides the song forward.  With his unique voice- he fills the song’s spaces superbly; creates a distinct sense of identity and rhythm- his bass fits wonderfully with the band.  Seamlessly fitting in the fold, the bass work supports the percussion; emphasises the mood of the song- elevates the composition hugely.  The percussion work (from Chris Phillips) is exceptional throughout.  In the early stages, he elicits punchy beats: acts as an accelerated heartbeat; maybe a strike of anxiety- he manages to create a sense of atmosphere and (building tension) with a single beat.  As the song develops, his drum becomes faster and more empassioned- towards the end it is a firestorm of passion.  Never pushed to the back- his beats, at times, are right at the forefront- he perfectly supports the band; keeps things tight and controlled- whilst proving what an essential player he is.  The entire band are tight and in-step throughout; the track is a natural evolution from the band- they show just what a tantilising prospect they are.  Combining mainstream qualities with underground grit, Honey is a song at home on the airwaves (Absolute Radio and XFM) as it is at small (and sweaty) clubs.  It has sweeping emotion and a desire to be loved; a sense of rebellion and plenty of anger- all the things you want from a song.

Having listened (to the entirety) of Stand Your Ground, you can hear that confidence and passion: the band is not in it for the short-term; they have a desire to become festival mainstays- they have the potential to be just that.  Each (of the five tracks) bristles with energy and emotion; the performances are universally exceptional- the title track is the perfect kick-off.  Starting with moodiness and build-up, there are strings and echoes; ghostly vibrations and electronic buzz- a real mixture of moods.  Perfectly blended, the song punches and kicks; that neon fuzz is joined with sparking guitar- the combination elevates the song hugely.  Anthemic and defiant, the boys are standing their ground: our hero stands with his subject; fighting against the tide they are overcoming the odds- and not backing down.  With its swaggering and bolstering composition- that marries delicious riffs with powerful percussion- the song gets under the skin.  Completed with a lustful vocal; a huge amount of passion and it is the perfect lead-off.  The Rains begins more urgently- than its predecessor- and chugs into life; building steam it is a compelling number.  The vocal contains its patented blend of urgency and emotion: the composition itself is at its fervent peak- threatening to explode under the weight of things.  Teasing and testing; scenic and simple, the track is another gem- one that compels the listener to picture the scenes; immerse themselves in the music.  Time and Again is one of the most curious tracks: its introduction is lighter and more summer-like; there is a calm and serene breeze to it.  Almost an acoustic-led number, the track shows the band more restrained and reflective.  With a vocal that mixes breathiness and seductiveness, the band is in introspective mode.  Perhaps with a little edge of Pearl Jam (and their calmer, yet more emotive moments) the track never explodes or betrays its roots.  Wonderfully performed and gripping, those vivid lyrics come to the forefront: rain battering down; the need to protect (his sweetheart/friend); the building tensions.  Acting as a safeguard, our hero pours his heart out; the song acts as a declaration- the band are more than up to the task.  Tight and seamless, the entire song shows the lads at their most intuitive- one of the best tracks from Stand Your GroundCease and Resist has a spooky and hard-hitting beginning; ethereal build and squalling riffs marry together- it is the hardest track on the record.  Primal and brutal, the song clatters and claws; feeds and lusts- the band spring into life.  A perfect swansong, the song is impossible to ignore.  With a vocal that remains calmed- well, it does not scream- the song is one of the stand-outs.  The composition is one of the most dizzying: twirling strings and jumping riffs spar with tight and menacing bass; the percussion snaps and strikes- a fitting end to Stand Your Ground.  With its ferocious lust- still ringing in the ears- it is a memorable song- one that shows what a range the band has.

It is this range that defines Scout Killers: they do not stick with one tired sound; they vary their ambitions and projections- without sacrificing their own identity.  Sure, there are elements of Rage’ and Queens’- some little sniffs of Linkin Park in the finale- but the south-west boys are their own boss: a group that have their own tales and ideas; keen to break away from the pack.  I know how hard they have worked; how hard they tour- they are keen to get their sounds heard by a large audience.  Their social media numbers are rising; their name is starting to gather huge pace- Stand Your Ground is their statement to the world.  Honey is the perfect introduction to the band: it fuses their hard and passionate edges; some softer and more melodic centres- words that burrow into the mind and speak to the listener.  One of the most tight and well-rehearsed bands I have heard, their music sounds seamless and perfectionist- yet they have a great loose vibe to things.  It is only left for me to implore the band to come down our way (London).  As part of their tour, the band play Newcastle, Birmingham and Oxford- let’s hope they have a London date very soon.  There would be venues willing to house them; some right on my doorstep, so it would be great to see them- I can imagine they are a fantastic live proposition.  In a week where I have seen one of my favourite acts (Bi:Lingual) call time, I am keen to help bands survive- too many terrific artists have had to break-up; overcome by the lack of public support.  Scout Killers should have no such fears.  Their fan-base is pretty loyal and dedicated; they are gaining new ground (by the day) – hopefully they will recruit new followers very soon.  In an age of sound-alike and uninspired bands, it is great to see Scout Killers succeed- I cannot wait to see where they go from here.  I suggest you snap up Stand Your Ground– you can get it on their BandCamp page- and investigate Honey (and its terrific, balletic-themed video).  The lads are on a rampant charge; they have talent in their arsenal- a group to keep your eyes on.  If you are looking for a new muse; a band that ticks all the boxes; differs from (the tiring norm) then look no further…

I know just the guys!

 

________________________________________________________________________________

Follow Scout Killers:

 

Official:

http://www.scoutkillers.com/

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/scoutkillers

Twitter:

https://twitter.com/scoutkillers

Instagram:

https://instagram.com/scoutkillers/

__________________________________________________________________________

Music:

https://soundcloud.com/scout-killers

 

____________________________________________________________

Videos:

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCX7CkyTDXwkncDcQvtqH3Pw

________________________________________________________________ 

Gigs:

http://www.scoutkillers.com/gigs/

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Feature: Music- the Modern-Day Gamble

FEATURE:

 

Music: The Modern-Day Gamble

____________________________________________

With a few of my favourite (new acts) calling time; I am saddened and shocked- although it is perhaps not surprising.  So many new acts are coming through: given that, is the music industry turning into a giant gamble?

____________________________________________

THIS past week has been a weird Hell-ride of varying different…

emotions and plans.  On the one side, certain parts of my personality have done damage- the depression/anxiety coaxial; self-doubts and fears- looking at my bank balance have exasperated the issue.  On the flip-side, the bad aspects have forced me to focus elsewhere: namely London (moving to and working in); and steady employment- a full-time score at a music P.R. agency- coupled with some charity work- would be awesome.  When I consider the ‘plans’ part of the argument- doing what I SHOULD be doing; moving somewhere that is a lot more ‘me’- I have had my doubts.  In addition to worsening neurological symptoms making my writing a bit sloppy- my social media statuses have more errors of grammar and spelling- I wonder if I am cut out (to be a writer).  Having looked out the music world, I am throwing caution to the wind.  There are so many great acts out there- some stunning sounds coming through- I cannot help but get involved; put pen to (electronic) paper and share the word- the best music needs eyes and ears dedicated to it.  Something is making me sad, alas: many great artists are having to quit and pack things up; give up on their craft for various reasons- lack of commercial support; financial strains or bond-breaking within the ranks.

One of my favourite acts (from the last couple of years) is Crystal Seagulls: a London-based act fronted by the talented- and fine-looking chap- Jim Lawton.  The band mix (or I guess it should read ‘mixed’) Indie-inspired sounds with stadium-sized choruses- their songs mixed everyday emotions with personal heartaches.  On paper it may sound like a tried-and-tested formula, yet Crystal Seagulls superseded expectations: the workmanship and nuanced elevated them above their peers- songs like Play Dead and Stroked drip with quality and panache.  Having reviewed the band (on several occasions) each new visit brought fresh surprise: every single song contained its own personality and drive; no weak links or moments- I tipped them for festival glory.  Whether a death-kiss (I’d like to think I’m intuitive enough to know greatness when I hear it) the plain fact was, the band had to call it quits- these things do happen.  Not wanting to push the agenda- and find out the specific reason behind the band’s demise- I know its members are looking around- Lawton himself is planning new music; he’s a talent too ripe to be left on the shelf.  I was shocked when the band split up- back in March of this year- as things seemed so assured and set: their music was gaining recognition and support; the quality improved by the release- it was only a matter of time before greatness arrived?  Sadly, no; the market forces and competition- tied to pressures of making music- made their mark; the band went their separate ways- at least we got the enjoy their music in the first place.  I understand that bands/musicians- regardless of how awesome they are- don’t always go all the way; fulfil their full potential and make the mainstream- Crystal Seagulls seemed dead-set.

Two more acts- that have sadly gone the way of the elephant in the room (or dodo; I’m getting confused here) are The Bedroom Hour and Bi:Lingual.  The former were- in addition to being another London band- a great Indie-cum-Rock band.  With phenomenal vocals and lush compositions- think a splash of Elbow tied to something symphonic; via some edgy electronics and swaying codas- the band gained huge following.  Having crafted gems like Hinterland (their last full work) and Themes, the boys showcased huge qualities: the songwriting was relatable and inspiring; the performances tight and razor-sharp; the emotion dripped from the speakers- tied around anthemic scores and stunning stories.  Another band I oft-reviewed, each assessment brought a smile to my face: coming away from their music, I always felt better and more uplifted- compelled to pen my own songs; look inside myself.  Originality was never a factor: the band always produced unique and personal songs; never owing a debt to any of their heroes.  Although the vocals possessed a mingling of Elbow-cum-Doves, the songs stood above prediction- each one was very much a product of The Bedroom Hour.  A young and hungry act, it seemed like everything was laid-out- another act destined for the festival circuit.  Being based out of (west) London, the guys had the capital at their feet; a wealth of fans and venues- perfect opportunity to show just what they could do.  When the band decided to split, again, my heart was broken: I was looking forward to seeing the lads play; review their next release- watch them climb to the top.

This week has been tinged with sadness: my old muckers Bi:Lingual have announced their resignation from the music world.  Citing a lack of public support, I was shocked and shamed: the guys’ music is so rare and sparkling, how could it not gain a huge following?!  What separated the band from their contemporaries?  First of all, their style was fresh and innovative: fusing Hip-Hop and Rap, the boys laced in Hard-Rock and Metal- a veritable cornucopia of grit, rush and street-level Rap.  Putting important subjects under the microscope- the ineffectiveness of a lot of (modern-day bands); society’s less-than-reputable characters- the band were a gang on fire- saying things we were all thinking.  The lyrics were smart and sharp; the vocals frantic and impassioned- the band performances chocked with rage and style.  If you imagine a lovechild of Rage Against the Machine and well, THEM.  The boys (based up in the north-east called time due to personal issues; an inability to push their creativity forward- in essence public apathy can be added.  Their music deserves huge plaudit and promotion, yet many were not turned-on and in-tune- not sure why there was such a struggle to get the music heard and appreciated.  Maybe it is too vibrant and forward-thinking; perhaps a little too honest and raw- I am baffled to be fair.  Shocked at their announcement- the band has a last tour date; yet there will be no new music- it was a genuine kick in the face.  Speaking with Dylan Cartlidge- the band’s voice and lead- he has new ideas and songs; the man will be back and performing in the future.  With plans to book the band (for a charity gig); being close-knit with Allusondrugs- Bi:Lingual and Allusondrugs had a brotherly bond- the guys seemed like a great booking.  Whilst Yorkshire’s Allusondrugs continue to dominate, the equally-talented Bi:Lingual are nearing their final bow.  Few would have seen it coming; many are unwilling to believe it- the Bi:Lingual boys will play no more.

This is a subject I have touched on (well groped half-drunk to be honest); looked at in previous posts: a lot of great musicians are struggling to survive (in this current climate).  A few other acts- who shall remain nameless- have spoken about their struggle and expectations- the sense they are not (as far along as) they want to be; feel they are failing- unsure why they are not further along.  From superstar female artists to young bands, I hear a lot of the same thing: the public are not taking them fully to heart; their music is not getting full recognition- what is causing this?  There is an issue with personal expectation and desires: many new musicians want to be at the top instantly; they have ambitions to be big names- when it does not happen (at least at the early stages) it can cause stress.   The best musicians are always looking ahead; planning moves and aiming high- most want to be on the festival circuit; ruling the airwaves and dominate public consciousness.  Feeling marginalised and overlooked, musicians are feeling the strain: the feeling they are climbing a mountain; will they ever fulfil their dreams?  Away from personal goals, two other factors come into play: financial pressures and personal relations.  When you are entrenched in music- and have such a hectic creative process- personal bonds can be frayed; if you are in a band, relations can often take a hit.  That need to succeed and flourish demands huge time and effort; a lot of late nights and touring- inevitably things can become tense to say the least.  If that was not bad enough, financial issues can be a, well, issue.  It can cost- depending on which studio you visit- a hell of a lot to record a song/E.P.; many musicians have to work several jobs- just so they can cut a single.  With social media/music-sharing sites in full flight- and most acts feeling they have to give their music away- the profitability potential is reduced.  Unless you get gigs and sell music, where does the music come from?  After you have collected gig/music profits; deducted costs and expenses, there is not a lot left- you then need to find money to record new music.  When you work endlessly (at a job); spend what little time you have (recording music), it can become exhausting and devastating- leading to natural aging and decline.

Bands succeed and continue- the likes of Los & the Deadlines are perfect examples of groups showing no signs of slowing- and acts expand and succeed- graduating to the mainstream from the underground.  It is easy to point fingers (and pretty fun too) but it is hard to pin-point one aspect: just why certain musicians fail or split; why others continue to grow- social media is one of the worst perpetrators.  Still unregulated and compartmentalised (the likes of) Facebook and Twitter are chasms of randomness- no logical bonds and sense of organization.  What I mean is, they are a big mess; the layouts of both are insane- essentially one long timeline; you have to endless scroll to see if you have missed anything important.  Facebook and Twitter need a serious overhaul: with some organising and planning they can be a lot more effective and useful; make it easier to find the statuses/information you need.  It may be easy for me to say- and in practice hard to actually do- but social media needs to spend more time and money on improving their service; rather than whatever they do with their profits (the mind boggles).  Once this happens- and I’m not holding my breath the likes of Zuckerberg will do anything useful- we need a one-shop music website- something that tied together all the existing platforms.  There are some good music/social media tie-ins, yet nothing that is comprehensive and detailed.  If you had a Facebook-esque site for musicians/new music; channels for discovering new music/the best new acts (in addition to loads of other features) things would be a lot easier.  I tossed the idea around in a previous post- and my all-in-one website Psychoacoustics is still in the planning; would love to get a music café/bar set-up in London- and think it is a relevant concern- can we reliy on modern social media?  A contradiction in terms, social media is not pulling its weight; whether due to constraints- or people not being altruistic and thoughtful- bands are feeling the pinch.  All it takes is a share/re-tweet; a few seconds to click a button- it can change a musician’s entire career.

Whatever happens in the future- with regards music sites and organising social media- I am sad at the modern culture: it is not fair certain acts fail whilst others flourish.  As I bid farewell (to some great acts), my mind is racing; trying to figure something out- a way to make things better; prevent music-based tragedy from occurring.  As Bi:Lingual plan their farewell moves, all is left for me is to wish them the best of luck- I am sure the boys will be back soon (in various other formations).  I am always looking for ideas and inpuit; getting people involved- so we can all help and build something great.  Soon, I will be re-pitching/posting my music website/café idea (Psychoacoustics) – as I look to set up a charity too- and always want to promote great music.  It would be great to hear feedback- whether you agree with me; what the solutions are- so we do not have to bid farewell (to some bloody good musicians).  Music is a scary industry; it is a risk that does not promise success.  With success/the future being such a gamble, is it really worth the risk?  Well, in short, yes: I guess there is nothing we can do (to override the bad stuff) in the short-term.  For now, enjoy your favourite bands and acts; please share and promote their work- for God’s sake, it only takes a few seconds.  If I have to see another great act split up, I will have to think about my writing/journalism career (and whether it is really helping musicians).  When I think of that…

IT really does scare me.

Track Review: Lauren Housley- Ghost Town Blues

TRACK REVIEW:

 

Lauren Housley

  

Ghost Town Blues

 

9.5/10.0

 

Ghost Town Blues is available at:

https://laurenhousley.bandcamp.com/album/ghost-town-blues-single

https://itunes.apple.com/gb/album/ghost-town-blues-single/id1003856261

GENRES:
Soul; Blues; Americana

ORIGIN:

Manchester, U.K.

Written by LAUREN HOUSLEY (copyright control) and THOMAS DIBB (copyright control)

LAUREN HOUSLEY – Lead and backing vocals
CRAIG HANSON – Drums
MARK LEWIS – Bass/Backing Vocals/Percussion
THOMAS DIBB – Electric Guitars/Piano/Tambourine/Backing Vocals
LAUREN HOUSLEY – Claps and Foot stomps
STEVE PARRY – Organ
Ghost Town Blues Choir – TOM BARBER-REDMORE, JON KENZIE, PENNY NICHOLLS, HAYLEY WILLIAMS

Produced by MARK LEWIS and THOMAS DIBB
Executive Producer LAUREN HOUSLEY
Engineered and Mixed by MARK LEWIS
Mastered by PETE MAHER
Assistant mixing by ADAM STOKEL at SPIRIT STUDIO (Manchester)
Assistant engineering by MARK WAGSTAFF and GREG CHICHE
Album photography by SVEN ESELGROTH
Album artwork by JULIA LOWE
Makeup by JOY ONONOKPONO
BIG BAD RECORDINGS

The album Sweet Surrender is available from August 28th.

The album is available to pre-order at:

http://laurenhousley.co.uk/shop

TRACK LISTING:

Nice to See Ya9.4

The Waiting Game9.4

If You Were Mine9.4

Face the World Alone9.3

Ghost Town Blues– 9.5

When Autumn Came9.3

Sweet Surrender9.3

Show Me What Love Is9.4

It Ain’t About You9.4

All You Need is a Friend9.3

 

DOWNLOAD:

Nice To See Ya; Ghost Town Blues; Show Me What Love Is; It Ain’t About You

STANDOUT TRACK:

Ghost Town Blues

 

All tracks written by LAUREN HOUSLEY and THOMAS DIBB
All tracks produced by MARK LEWIS and THOMAS DIBB
Executive Producer LAUREN HOUSLEY
All tracks Engineered and Mixed by MARK LEWIS
All tracks mastered by PETE MAHER

Assistant mixing by ADAM STOKEL on tracks 2, 3, 4 and 5 at SPIRIT STUDIO (Manchester)
Assistant engineering by MARK WAGSTAFF and GREG CHICHE on tracks 5 and 9

Lead and backing vocals on all tracks by LAUREN HOUSLEY.

‘Nice To See Ya’
CRAIG HANSON – Drums, ALAN KEARY – Bass, THOMAS DIBB- Electric Guitar/Acoustic Guitar/Resonator/Backing Vocals, SCOTT POLEY – Dobro, STEVE PARRY- Organ, Rhythm Section and Vocals Engineered by DAVE KEARY at RED DOOR STUDIO (Limerick)

‘The Waiting Game’
CRAIG HANSON – Drums, ALAN KEARY – Bass, THOMAS DIBB – Electric Guitar/Guitar Solo/Piano/Backing Vocals/Claps, JACK MCCARTHY – Congas and Percussion, Mark Lewis – Backing Vocals/Claps, STEVE PARRY – Trumpet/Sax/Trombone/Organ/Wurlitzer, Rhythm Section and Vocals Engineered by DAVE KEARY at RED DOOR STUDIO (Limerick)

‘If You Were Mine’
JOHN HIRST – Drums, ALAN KEARY- Bass, THOMAS DIBB – Electric Guitar/Acoustic Guitar/Banjo, EWAN GUILFORD – Piano, SCOTT POLEY – Pedal Steel/Acoustic Guitar/Percussion, TOM BARBER-REDMORE – Backing Vocals

‘Face The World Alone’
JOHN HIRST – Drums, MARK LEWIS – Bass/Percussion/Backing vocals/Friction Fingers, THOMAS DIBB – Electric Guitar/Acoustic Guitar/Backing Vocals, LIVIU GHEORGHE – Piano/Electric Piano/Prepared Piano, SCOTT POLEY – Pedal Steel

‘Ghost Town Blues’
CRAIG HANSON – Drums, MARK LEWIS – Bass/Backing Vocals/Percussion, THOMAS DIBB – Electric Guitars/Piano/Tambourine/Backing Vocals, STEVE PARRY – Organ, LAUREN HOUSLEY – Claps and Foot stomps, Ghost Town Blues Choir – TOM BARBER-REDMORE, JON KENZIE, PENNY NICHOLLS, HAYLEY WILLIAMS

‘When Autumn Came’
THOMAS DIBB – Piano, CHRIS HILLMAN – Pedal Steel, ANDY CRICK – Cello, SIMMY SINGH – Violin

‘Sweet Surrender’
CLIVE MELLOR – Harmonica, JOHN HIRST – Drums, JOHN POPE – Double Bass, THOMAS DIBB – Electric Guitar/Acoustic Guitar/Piano/Backing Vocals, STEVE PARRY- Organ/Production/Engineering, SCOTT POLEY – Pedal Steel, RACHEL LASHAM – Percussion, MARK LEWIS – Backing Vocals

‘Show Me What Love Is’
STEVE PYCROFT – Drums, JOHN POPE – Double Bass, ALEX DEE – Electric Guitar, THOMAS DIBB – Acoustic Guitar/Piano/Backing Vocals/Banjo/String Arrangement, SCOTT POLEY – Pedal Steel/Electric Guitar, STEVE PARRY – Organ/Production/ Engineering, MARK LEWIS – Backing Vocals, String Quartet – Leos Strings: RACHEL SHAKESPEARE – Cello, CAROLINE PETHER- Violin 1, ROSEMARY ATTREE – Violin 2, ALEX MITCHELL – Viola

‘It Ain’t About You’
STEVE PYCROFT – Drums, JOHN POPE – Double Bass, THOMAS DIBB – Electric Guitars/Acoustic Guitar, STEVE PARRY – Wurlitzer, RACHEL LASHAM – Congas and Percussion, Backing Vocals – PENNY NICHOLLS and HAYLEY WILLIAMS

‘All You Need Is A Friend’
CRAIG HANSON – Drums, MARK LEWIS – Bass/Backing Vocals/Percussion, THOMAS DIBB – Piano/Acoustic Guitars/Backing Vocals, PHIL ROGERSON – Backing Vocals, RACHEL LASHAM – Percussion, STEVE PARRY- Organ

Album photography by SVEN ESELGROTH
Album artwork by JULIA LOWE

 

THE past few days have provided…

a chance to investigate some terrific artists.  From U.S. Americana to British Folk it has been an interesting last few days: the arrival of my next review subject causes me much pleasure.  When reviewing Little Sparrow last week- British-based artist Katie Ware- I was staggered by her work (I reviewed her song Wishing Tree) and the talent behind it- and how far she has come.  I love reviewing band, but for my money, the solo market provides bigger promise- the effort needed (to succeed on your own) is immense.  Solo acts have managers and support, yet there is a huge task ahead: they have to forge their own career; take on all the creative duties- it can be quite a lonely life.  If that were not bad enough, there is still that (public tendency) to air towards the band market: the public purse usually favours this type of music; sole acts tend to play second fiddle.  Because of the constraints of lone performing- the amount of sound/variety you can produce is already limited (compared to bands) – it is harder to find popularity; there are definite constraints.  When a great solo artist comes along, it makes it all the more impressive.  After reviewing Manchester-based (Cambridgeshire-born) Little Sparrow, here is another Manchester singer-songwriter: an artist with a tremendous future ahead.  When speaking (via email) with Lauren Housley, I was amazed by how accommodating she was: all the information/photos/links I required were provided- and a lot more.  Keen and enthusiastic, it was a pleasure to see- few acts have so much passion and an incredible personality.  When looking into Housley’s music- and her biography- I was struck by the immense quality and unique bent.  Someone who is very much separate from the crowd, you will not hear another like her- the music on offer is among some of the most captivating and memorable.  Utilising the classic sounds of Americana and Country, Housley ties this to Blues and Soul motifs; adds some Blues-Rock swagger together with some Pop sweetness- the resultant creation is something few listeners can/should resist.  Aside from a stunning sound, Housley boats two other weapons: a tremendous voice and wonderful songbook.  Before I continue (on this point) let me introduce Housley to you- in her own words:

 “A woman walks into a bar and asks: “Do you want some live music?” In no time, the place is ringing to the vibrant and original sound of one of the most notable new voices in Britain.

The artist in question is English chanteuse Lauren Housley, who’s been tirelessly honing her stage and song craft, playing regular gigs for her ever-expanding fan base as well as some of those impromptu ones, and winning widespread acclaim for all of them.

All of that groundwork by the native of Rotherham in South Yorkshire, now based in Manchester, will soon culminate in ‘Sweet Surrender,’ the excellent debut album she is ready to unveil. Housley’s songs, all written with longtime creative partner Thomas Dibb, evoke the same ambience as some of her forerunners among strong, empowered female artists, such as Janis Joplin, Eva Cassidy and Lauryn Hill.

After the promise of her ‘Rather Be There’ single and the earlier ‘One Step Closer’ EP, the album confirms the arrival of a vocal and songwriting presence with tinges of blues, Americana-style country, old-school soul, pop and rock in her locker, but a warm, intense and engaging style that’s all her own.

To name just two examples, the slow-burning intensity of the ballad ‘Show Me What Love Is’ turns heads every time she sings it. Meanwhile, the upcoming single ‘Ghost Town Blues’ moves stylishly among its soul influences from Massive Attack to Motown. And they’re just a taste.

“I think I’ve always had an ability to connect with certain emotions,” says Lauren of her emotive style. “I’ve been writing songs since I was about 13, but back then, I probably didn’t know that I was. It was just a form of expression at the time.”

Around a packed datebook of gig engagements, such is her popularity, Housley made ‘Sweet Surrender’ in three different locations, with some of the best up-and-coming young musicians Britain has to offer. Sessions included time in Ireland at the studio owned by Dave Keary, guitarist with Van Morrison, and featured his son Alan playing bass.

Further recording took place in Wallasey, on Merseyside, with multi-instrumentalist and producer Steve Parry, whose extensive credits include being musical arranger on ‘The Voice.’ Producer Mark Lewis then recorded some tracks and ultimately oversaw the whole set. “He’s ended up developing the whole album,” says Lauren, “which is really nice, because it’s given it an all-round feel.”

Housley grew up in a household where her parents were “massive music fans,” and although there’s no professional lineage, her dad loves to sing and does a great Elvis. In her pre-teens, Lauren was a British aerobics champion, travelling the country and practising every day. Then came her formative songwriting, and when her mum came home with an Eva Cassidy album, a creative light really went on.”

The solo market- and especially the female solo realm- is producing some interesting artists.  In the mainstream there are some rather bland examples (the likes of Lucy Rose leap to mind) but some terrific acts (the likes of FKA twigs for one) – in the new music sector, there is more choice and quality.  Lauren Housley rises above her peers due to her confidence and natural ability- there are few voices as potent and attention-grabbing.  With her album around the corner (Sweet Surrender) tongues and mouths are salivating: it will be a chance to see the young artist in full flight.  Having received the album as a private link- the perks of being a reviewer- nah nah! – I can attest to its potential: it is one of the most scintillating and diverse albums I have heard (this year).  Housley’s unique perspectives and touching tales bring her songs to life; her compositions are rich and filled with detail- that immense voice is one to behold.  The solo artist has a lot of hurdles to face; the stress of getting attention and gigs- the endless work to ensure their careers can flourish.  Housley has little to worry about: her early work is filled with wonderful moments; there are no weak links or lesser tracks- the entire listening experience is phenomenal.

Lauren Housley’s album is the first fully fledged account of the young star: an opportunity to see her songwriting in full force; that voice let loose.  To my mind, she has grown in confidence; her music has developed greatly.  Rather Be There was released last April and was hotly received.  Filled with passion and energy, the song is alert and packed with romantic implore.  Housley’s vocals are striking and bold throughout- reaching fever-pitch at times.  A bracing and staggering deceleration, it remains a superb song.  Her E.P. (One Step Closer) contains the same urgency and confidence: the songs are uplifting and vibrant; it is a wonderful set.  That said, Housley has improved and developed (since then): a songwriter, her lyrics are stronger and deeper- filled with more detail and insight; her new confidence and inspiration is to be applauded.  The compositions are fuller and more nuanced; as a singer her voice has come on bounds- it is more electrifying and bracing; stronger and more rounded; bigger highs and more delicate lows. Whether live experience/touring- or perhaps a natural development- Lauren Housley has built on her early promise; improved her craft and vocals- the future will be very exciting indeed.

After a few seconds of ethereal echo- adding in the spectral ghost feel in from the start- the track pounds in to life.  A rifling beat is delineated: possessing (strangely) Hip-Hop-style kick, it is rushing and gripping- making you wonder just what is coming next.  When Housley steps up, her voice is instantly bracing: both urgent and soulful, it is an arresting sound.  Before you can take it all in, your mind focuses on the early sentiments:  “So black was the night /Not a soul to be seen under the streetlight /Heaven’s been shut, it’s closing down/So what were you thinking?”  Alone in the ghost town (the song’s subject) is addresses with a lustful voice.  From the off, my mind was looking in different directions.  When it comes to the ‘who’ behind the lyrics, perhaps a sweetheart or former partner?  There is ambiguity and obliqueness to the early exchange: the listener is left conspiring and imagining- just who is being addressed.  The lyrics certainly paint vivid images: your thoughts race and tumble; the scenes and sights come fast- every person will have their own interpretation.  In the verse, Housley’s voice is fairly dark and husky: a serious and world-to-rights delivery, there are signs of Amy Winehouse to the delivery- yet Housley ‘s voice is a lot more powerful than the late Winehouse.  By the time the chorus arrives, the composition lightens; the song becomes more upbeat and sprite.  I wouldn’t go as far to say ‘jubilant’, fierce.  Rebelling and fighting, the chorus is an electrifying testament.  The lyrics- of the chorus- have less ambiguity; by this stage there is a little less mystery- it is not so much the ‘who’ but the ‘what’ that is evident.  Maybe not an attack/rally against a particular subject, there seems to be (and I may be off here) a push against life; bad luck and dark forces.  Whether directed at a group of people; the way some think only of themselves- or the troubles in the music industry- it seems Housley has had some heartache.  With its strong and intriguing lyrics (“So I said… Come on, ready when you want me, No fear/keep the karma coming/I’m here, standing on my own two feet /Just keep on looking at me /You ain’t got nothing on me.”)  There is that endless sense of defiance; Housley’s voice and spirit is mesmerically charged- backed by the Ghost Town Blues Choir- she is on fire; the composition crackles and dances; the instruments fizz and spark- the entire mood drags you in; you’re powerless to resist.  Throughout the song I am caught between romance and community: the song looks at broken hearts and disreputable sorts; there is a wider sense of discontent and anger- that mystery keeps presenting itself in every line.  By the next verse, Housley is directing her words to a subject; someone who is going to be hurt; you sense heartache is just around the corner- “Darkness fell, in the blink of an eye/So what were you doing?/All alone with the bad guy that night.”  Seemingly foolish and naïve (the subject) you get a sense of repeated patterns- perhaps this person has been here before; not listened to advice and reason.  Housley’s vocal remains strong and sturdy; filled with panache and caution, it is an intoxicating blend- seamlessly uniting Soul prowess with Pop undertones.  Where contemporaries of the mainstream tend to falter in one aspect- usually the lyrics or the originality of the vocal- Housley shows herself to be a wonderful talent- succeeding where (most) fail.  The vocal work is an exercise is emotion and nuance; the lyrics constantly engaging and fascinating- the composition is rich and variable; never slowing or relenting.  At the heart of Ghost Town Blues is a sense of personal reflection; in the midst of it all Housley questions her own self- the latter lyrics are the most intruiging.  When our heroine announces “All I hear are little voices say/Go back (go back, go back, go back)/Go back (go back go back go back)”, you start to wonder again- go back to a former life?  A town/hometown?  Maybe an old profession/way of life?  A relationship or single life?  There is that caught-in-two-minds mystique- each line is fascinating and gripping.  Hoping it was a dream, Housley opens her eyes- the nightmare/pain is real- there is that longing to get away; break from a way of life- shake the voices in her head.  By the closing moments, the defiance rating has reached boiling point: in spite of everything, Housley stands on her feet; battling against the tide, she is not going to be broken- not one to be defeated or overcome.  It is the rush of the composition that keeps proceedings ‘light’ and level- against the introspection and investigation of the lyrics.  That commingle of emotive lyrics and rushing notes blend perfectly; the fusion is a perfect blend of classic Soul via modern-day vibes.  Backed by a wonderful band- and terrific backing vocals- Ghost Town Blues is a cacophony of emotion, intelligence and vibrancy.  It is impossible not to move the feet; compel your body to move- at the very least a huge smile is on the face.  That takes care of the emotional centre of the brain.  When it comes to reasoning and processing, the words delve deep: yu feel sympathy and empathy (at the struggle and sadness); support at the sense of rebellion and strength- it is a song that grabs different parts of the brain.  At the very heart is heart itself: a track that speaks directly to the listen; can be appreciated by all- it resonates at a personal level, whilst retaining a very distinct voice and personality.  Ghost Town Blues is a perfect slice of Lauren Housley: it showcases her voice in full flight; a sensational weapon that cannot be beaten- few modern vocalists have such a range and passion- it is a tremendous thing.  Backed by solid production- which sounds polished and fresh- the song comes fully to life; each instrument and note is clear and concise; allowed full room to breathe- nothing seems overly polished or false.  The composition is packed with passion and soul; heart and bite- it is a myriad of colours and shades.  At the very core is Housley’s vision: her story is one that grips the imagination; her voice seduces and overpowers- the entire ensemble is sensation- and a perfect introduction to Sweet Surrender.

Having listened to Ghost Town Blues, I was blown away by the talent on display: it is a song that begs repeated spins; Housley’s natural ability is laced in every note and expression.  Speaking with her, you get a sense that this (music) means the world to her: few artists have such passion and determination.  It is not just the music (where this passion comes through) but in the way she speaks/interacts.  Having grown up in a musical household- where her formative years were awash with terrific artists and sounds- this has translated into a wonderful beginning: it is only a matter of time before the young heroine is gracing festival stages.  I would love to see Housley in the flesh- if she ever performs in London I will be front-centre- as I adore her music: Sweet Surrender is a bold and nuanced statement; an artist with a brave and original voice- a sound that is impossible to ignore.  With regards to Sweet Surrender– and the background/run-in- here is all you need to know:

The album follows the promise of her ‘Rather Be There’ single and the earlier ‘One Step Closer’ EP. To name just two highlights from ‘Sweet Surrender,’ the slow-burning intensity of the ballad ‘Show Me What Love Is’ turns heads every time she sings it, while the upcoming single ‘Ghost Town Blues’ moves stylishly among its soul influences from Massive Attack to Motown. And they’re just a taste.  ‘Sweet Surrender’ was recorded in various sessions in Ireland, and in Wallasey, on Merseyside, overseen by producer Mark Lewis. Contributors include some of the best up-and-coming young musicians Britain has to offer, such as multi-instrumentalist and producer Steve Parry, whose extensive credits include being musical arranger on ‘The Voice.’  The versatile singer has also formed a country band, the Chorlton Country Club, as a fun side project, and is a member of the Manchester dubstep and drum ‘n’ bass collective, the Kaleidoscope Orchestra. Now she’s coming to a live venue near you, armed with a debut album that will turn heads and win hearts.”

After being blown away by Ghost Town Blues, Sweet Surrender promises jewels a-plenty.  Opener Nice to See Ya begins with a Country-inspired kick; it is a pure Americana treat: our heroine opens her arms and hearts; offers her services and support- backed by a swinging and kick-ass composition.  Constantly energised and moving, the track is a perfecting opening statement- one that is impossible to forget (and will have you singing along for ages).  Away from the charm and humanity of the opener, come The Waiting Game and If You Were Mine.  Completing a dazzling trio, The Waiting Game is more introverted and restrained.  Romantic and investigative, there are more Jazz/Soul tinges: the vocal is softer and more alluring; the composition supportive and calm.  Looking at love and heartache, our heroine is in reflective mood: realising love is hard/the road is long, she is looking at her man (finally she seems to have found ‘the one’).  A tonic of sunshine, there is clear desire and relief- the composition is one of the most compelling and rich; brimming with gorgeous brass and funky guitar notes.  With her voice at its most impassioned, Housley changes down a gear- to stunning effect.  If You Were Mine capitalises on this: the song begins with elegant piano; the vocal is even more tender and shivering.  One of the album’s highlights, our heroine is both soft and arresting: her voice is shimmering and sensual; the composition remains pure and touching- a break-away from the likes of Ghost Town BluesFace The World Alone carries on the parable: another tender track, our heroine looks at a friend/special connection; she is saying goodbye- they will “face the world alone.”  Having been connected since a young age, there is that sense of bond and pride: Housley has seen this person grow; proud of how strong they are- she is seeing them into the world.  When Autumn Came– following on from Ghost Town Blues– is another tender number: Housley is at her sensual best; shivering and spine-tingling, it is a Blues-Soul blend.  Backed by Country strings- wailing and echoing guitar- she looks at loneliness and waiting; it is both sad and inspiring- our heroine’s plight is both moving and affecting.

Sweet Surrender is one of the most ‘pure’ Country numbers- what one would think when looking at the genre.  With aching harmonica and sun-kissed percussion, the introduction is a perfect swoon- Housley’s voice is at its most relaxed and investigative.  Chasing dreams “into the dark” she looks at life and realisations: there is that need to break the silence; a desire to get away- she retreats to the river, her head to the sky.  With her head held high, it is a rally against the odds; colours are fading- it is one of the most vivid and thought-provoking numbers. Hot off its heels is Show Me What Love Is: another personal song; one that looks at struggles and love.  Housley sees the years “go by so fast”; there is that need for love and completion- our heroine looks out at the world.  Scanning the landscape, she looks for her love/ideal: someone who will hold her and keep her comfort.  Aching and desirous, the song draws you in: the vocal is both entrancing and sweet; the composition gentle and pure- the lyrics are stirring and emotive.  It Ain’t About You kicks the mood back up: like Ghost Town Blues it is a high-octane rush.  Beginning with a twirling and Soul-infused opening- the strings twirl and hop; the percussion is snappy and tight- Housley is back in full voice.  Looking at a familial/tense sense, it is a flip-side of previous numbers- looking at desire and love- and looks at disappointment and lies.  The focal point (the anti-hero) comes home reeking; showing up late to the home, Housley (cast in the role as long-suffering wife/mother perhaps) is coming up with excuses- disappointed once more.  The song looks at what’s “going to be best”- it is not about either party.  Her man has been out every night; flirting and playing around- that sense things are hitting the rock.  Vocals switch between fast-talking and controlled; the backing vocals have elements of ‘60s Soul- the composition marries Soul and Pop; some ‘60s/’70s elements.  Sounding wonderfully vintage- that is to say, the glory days of Soul and Pop- the song crackles with life and energy.  The lyrics mix pathos and humour; the song changes course and projection- it is one of the most mobile and transformative cuts (on the album).  Looking at compromise and reason, the song looks for settlement and middle ground- all presented in a rhapsody of insatiable vocals; a song impossible to forget.  All You Need is a Friend is a perfect closer: it takes the mood down and ends the album on a reflective note.  Casting her eye to a friend/subject, there is the need for salvation: someone who is rolling around aimlessly; in need of a shoulder- somebody caught up in the tide.  Casting her hand out, there is a universal message: when things are at rock-bottom (and seem impossible) all you need is a friend.  A positive message and stunning number, it is a beautiful swansong- ending Sweet Surrender on a triumph.

The entire album showcases what a star Housley is: packed with diversity and style; mood and magic, it is a sensational album- one that will appeal to all music fans.  Switching between Americana, Blues and Soul (with some Country and Pop in there) the album never misses a heartbeat- there are no weak or ineffectual numbers to be found.  At the centre is that insatiable voice: it can go from a delicious whisper to entranced rapture within a line- without losing integrity or genuine personality.  Both original and classic-sounding, Housley has an incredible voice; one that gives light and power to every thought- able to knock you off your feet and steal the breath.  The compositions vary between romantic (and light) and go to insatiable (and jam-packed).  Employing a range of guitars, pianos and sounds, each composition is rife with emotion and nuance- you find yourself coming back to certain songs.  Demonstrating a wonderful lyrical voice- her writing is both mature and intelligence; switching to humorous and oblique- Housley is a wonderful writer.  Not one to be bogged in clichés and insipid tedium, each song has a very personal stamp- something that will inspire up-and-coming songwriters.  When all is said and done, Sweet Surrender is a staggering debut L.P. – something that builds from early promise and puts Housley square in the spotlight.  An album that begs repeated investigation, you should not be without it- make sure you snap it up; or regret missing the opportunity…

Lauren Housley is a young talent with a bright talent: one that is not only going to flourish for years; it will inspire ranks of up-and-coming singer-songwriters.  One of the U.K.’s most vibrant vocalists, every song (on Sweet Surrender) gets inside your head; it rattles around the brain- and lingers long in the mind.  Ghost Town Blues– one of the album’s standouts- is just the beginning: it is the perfect starting point; if you want a taste of what Lauren Housley is about- then you should start here.  It is only left for me to wrap up- I’m sure you’ll be delighted- to wish Housley good luck (not that she’ll need it) and hope I get to see her play: I know she plays London in September (at the Sebright Arms on the 22nd); I hope I have enough money to get up there.  I would recommend everyone check her out: whether you are a fan of Soul/Americana/Blues fusings or not, there are no limitations or restrictions- this is music with universal appeal and inclusion.    Sweet Surrender is out next month; an album that nobody should be without.  You may be sitting there and saying: “How can I trust it is fantastic; given there are only a few songs available online?”  Well, first of all, because I said so (and have no bias and sense of subjectiveness).   Most of all, the reception and feedback- fans and followers of Housley have provided- has been effusive and filled with praise.  No arguments; no hesitations, investigate Lauren Housley and her craft…

YOU have no excuses.

 

 

 

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Follow Lauren Housley:

 

Official:

http://laurenhousley.co.uk/

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/laurenhousleymusic?fref=ts

Twitter:

https://twitter.com/laurenhousley

Instagram:

https://instagram.com/laurenhousley/

__________________________________________________________________________

Music:

https://soundcloud.com/laurenhousley/tracks

______________________________________________________________________

Videos:

https://www.youtube.com/user/laurenhousleymusic

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Gigs:

http://laurenhousley.co.uk/shows

E.P. Review: The Moth Lantern- Barricade

E.P. REVIEW:

 

The Moth Lantern

 

  

Barricade

 

9.4/10.0

 

The E.P. Barricade is available at:

https://itunes.apple.com/gb/album/barricade-single/id1010907713

RELEASED:
24th July, 2015

GENRES:
Alternative

ORIGIN:

Lincolnshire, U.K.

TRACK LISTING:

Barricade (All of This is Everything) – 9.3

Bring out the Claws- 9.4

Air- 9.4

STANDOUT TRACK:

Bring out the Claws

 

ONE of the reasons for my rather ‘boisterous’ rate of output…

is due to a (the need for a) distraction.  What with the horrors of job-searching- fruitlessly trying to get my arse out of Surrey (and the worst it has to offer) and to London- I need something to keep me ‘upbeat.’  It is terrific discovering a new act- that I have not surveyed before- yet coming back to a band/artist; that does else: it gives me causes for celebration; a chance to see how they have grown/developed.  In the music scene, you go one of two ways: start out strongly and collapse under the weight of financial/creative pressure or you keep going.  It may be black-and-white but there are few exceptions: I have seen too many great acts go down the first road.  When a (truly great) act makes headway; keeps producing records, it sends out a positive message: newcomers need not be afraid; there is a chance for them to succeed.  It is not just luck and hard woirk that creates this longevity: the music being produced has to be original and striking; penetrate the public ear- essentially, it has to appeal.  This year has seen some great acts come through; there have also been some dreadful ones to boot.  It is the female solo acts that are impressing most; the band market is flourishing- the male singer-songwriting realm is somewhat dirge-producing.  James Bay is perhaps the epitome of the point: something so bland, generic and wasteful, I have no idea why anyone buys his music.  The most interesting thing about him is his head-wear, and to be fair, Pharrell Williams has him licked- and can produce a few good tunes to boot.  The band market is starting to inspire (acts of the underground), which is where my thoughts have turned.  Having reviewed Tennessee’s Daphne & the Mystery Machines this morning- with their uplifting and spine-tingling Americana- I am not back at home- and welcome back some old friends.  Last year, I was lucky enough to assess Light Waves: the debut album from Lincolnshire’s (The) Moth Lantern.  What impressed me about the album- in addition to many other factors- was the consistent songwriting.  When it comes to music- and especially new music- the lyrics are a let-down: usually it is the music and vocals that resonate most.  In Dan Clark- the group’s principle songwriter- they have a stunning pen-smith: someone who can not only effortless taps into the common heart; he can write oblique and obtuse themes- a songwriter who is both agile and inspiring.  Before I continue on, let me introduce the band.

Dan Clark– Guitars, Lyrics and Music.

Jason Rungapadiachy– Bass, Lead Vocals; Lyrics on Bring out the Claws

Joanne Clark– Keys, Backing Vocals

Eddie George– Backing Vocals, Percussion

The Moth Lantern are a four piece indie rock band from the UK whose funky ballads, catchy choruses and colourful jams encompass the spirit of timeless bands such as Fleetwood Mac and Beck. The Moth Lantern offer a concoction of powerful, gritty lead male vocals harmonised with soft, folkish female backing amongst crunching riffs, tight rhythm sections and psychedelic keys to create an edgy and enticing sound. Having been selected to play the Emerging Icons stage at The London 2012 Olympics and having featured on BBC Introducing East Midlands several times, The Moth Lantern’s mix of gentle acoustic ballads and harmonious rock songs present impossibly catchy choruses and immaculately layered production which makes their music impossible to forget.

The four-piece band (in general) may be as common as Katie Price- and as manufactured and fake a lot of the time- yet there are those peeking through.  The Moth Lantern are not your run-of-the-mill Indie/Alternative act: each player contributes to the sound; the music is not dominated by one voice- it is a group effort and communal sound.  Although Clark’s words are at the forefront, it is the compositions that resonate in the mind- the result of each band member.  Backed by Jo Clark- Dan and Jo are a husband-and-wife- the vocals switch from tough and pervasive, to lush and ethereal.  This time around- unlike Light Waves– Dan steps back from vocal duties; drummer Eddie George provides backing vocals.   Taking on lead vocals is Jason Rungapadiachy: his inimitable tones add weight and texture to each track.  Compositions move from psychedelic swagger to introspective tenderness- all within the space of a few moments.  Light Waves was met with acclaim and plaudit: I still listen to that L.P. now; the critical feedback was effusive and congratulatory.  Having retreated to focus on new material, the band is back: Barricade is as striking and focused as its title.  What differentiates the music- from their earliest work- is the confidence and growth.  Their L.P. was rife was stunning tunes and terrific band interplay- although there were one or two rough edges; the odd song that was not quite as inspired as you’d expect (no fault of anyone within the band).  The new, three-track E.P. is faultlessly focused as tight: there are no loose notes or wasted moments- every minute has been well thought-out and performed; this has all been achieved whilst retaining a great, live-sounding core- that makes it such a triumph.  I will go into more depth below, but I am impressed by the band’s development: it not only bodes well for future released, but serves as guidance to others- how you can progress/inspire if you have a great line-up.

Barricade (All of This is Everything) is first out the blocks: the title itself is intriguing and open to interpretation.  Any die-hard fans (of the band) may be in for a surprise: the springing and scratchy introduction notes signal a move towards more Rock-infused avenues.  The initial seconds- building off a fast and frantic guitar- joins with percussion: the resultant coming-together kicks the song up a gear; gets the E.P. to the races.  Reminding me of early-days Manic Street Preachers (The Holy Bible) and The Libertines (Up the Bracket) there is a mix of ‘90s Indie and ‘00s Rock- the early words mix trips “into the unknown” and uncertainty.  Whether speaking to a friend or lover- based in fiction or fact- the lines look at protection and danger: the hero is trying to keep the wolves at bay; barricade the doors shut- to prevent any harm befalling (his subject).  The vocal itself- stronger and more determined than previous Moth Lantern outings- is determined and impassioned.  Backed by a rushing composition, you are caught up in the story: that struggle-against-the-tide story unfolds and progresses- the sense of nerve and danger ever-present.  Barricade’ is a song that showcases just what the band defines: that effortless and natural sound; the fantastic relations the members’ have- each player adds to the overall mood.  Between verses the band unleashes some hurried and harried strings; clattering propulsion- that emphasises that sense of claustrophobia and struggle.    Our lead turns the spotlight on himself- focusing on his struggle and sense of strain- as the song becomes more heated and defiant (the Manic Street Preachers comparisons came back to mind).  With the walls closing in; the haters/forces gathering, our hero sends out a plea:  “Stay with me/ ‘cause we got history.”   The song wins stripes because of the blend of simplicity and universality.  The lyrics share common themes and ideals- yet have a personal perspective to them- whereas the composition is both classic and current- it is straight-ahead and simple; direct and strong.  The Moth Lantern always does well with sing-along choruses; here they reach new peaks: the chorus here is one of their most effective and chant-worthy.  When Clark (Jo) combines vocals, the song changes up a gear: it becomes more effective and real- that sense of interplay and comradery gives it that extra something.  At the closing stages, the chorus is reuttered and deployed: not only leaving the song on a high but ramping up the emotions and sense of strain.  My mind was racing (when listening to the song) as to what inspired it; what is behind the story- that mystery may die with (Dan) Clark.  A great opening salvo, it sets out the band’s ‘new’ sound- their more Rock-infused direction- and welcomes them back into the public bosom.  Showcasing a great band performance (although not the strongest cut on the E.P.) it is an impressively memorable track- one that is designed for the venue floors and arena crowds.

Bring out the Claws begins somewhat differently (compared to its predecessor) and possesses a softer heart- it fades in and starts more gently.  Given the song’s title, that sense of restraint does not last too long: the band comes to play and unfurl a pummeling introduction- one that rattles and runs; strikes and retreats.  The vocal here- low-down and crooning; dark and imploring- looks at something rather animalistic and dangerous (“It’s got teeth/and I know you saw them too.”)  In the midst of the unfolding images- blood on hand; beasts on the loose; being shred in two- there is humour and uplift (whether intentional or not)- the song makes you smile as much as it does think.  With a unique vocal- that sees Jason Rungapadiachy present his sonorous tones- the song is gripping and original.  Few bands have a great vocalist let alone three (Rungapadiachy comes into his own as a singer- performing on the E.P.- whereas Dan Clark steps back): their bass player joins with George to present a story with beasts and feasting; canine lust and blood-fest- another one of those songs you mull over.  Whereas the title track looked at fighting the forces, here there seems to be another dimension: a nightmarish vision; uncertainty and choices; fighting the darkness.  With Rungapadiachy’s sharpened pen (he wrote lyrics to this track)- presenting a track filled with oblique edges and stunning images- the song causes smiles.  Complicated and intelligent, defiant and striking, the vocal work is at its peak: Jo Clark joins the fray, and when the trio unites, you get the biggest shivers and effect.  It is the deployment of the lyrics that is stunning to hear: the words are not lazily tossed-off and sung; there is a real ear for timing and emotion; the phrasing and projection beings the words to life.  Bring out the Claws is one of the busiest and most bustling tracks (on the E.P.): the composition is multi-part and multifarious; the song changes direction and skin- agile and nimble it ducks and dives; making sure the listener is kept on their toes.  The guitar work- at its most effective here- adds necessary bite and vitality; the bass is taut and strong- the percussion gallops and guides.  Whereas Barricade’ was more Indie-sounding and focused, here there is adventure and expansion: the band does not repeat themselves at any time; Bring out the Claws is the perfect mid-way point.  Once again looking at life’s adversity- battling demons and bad choices; holding out in the midst of uncertainty- the band sound essential and urgent- completing a superb one-two.

Closing the E.P, is Air: one would think we have a light and airy closer here.  The opening notes dispel any sense of calm and relax: the initial notes are bouncing and ducking; the song is the most instant and rushing (on the E.P.)- making sure Barricade closes with a belter.  It is here that the new ‘Rock sound’ really shows its testicles: The Moth Lantern have never sounded as heavy and menacing.  Air kicks and swaggers; if it were a human it would be a leather-clad biker- thumbing against authority and smoking endless nicotine.  With elements of Muse and Radiohead, the track keeps gripping grabbing- little dashes of Talking Heads sprinkled in for good measure.  Spacey and gritty; insistent and bracing, the song is the band’s most anthemic and festival-ready.  When the vocal comes in, the subject matter is as foreboding (as the composition).  Our lead is looking over the precipice- and very evident of the mortal drop below- buckled against the rush of gravity.  There is a sense of disillusionment and not ‘fitting in’: our man (once more) is fighting against pain and adversity- the lyrics mix personal doubts and fears.  It is the incredible keys-and-guitar combination that gives Air its infectious belt: the track keeps bouncing and springing (like an extended version of the outro to Knights of Cydonia).  The band unites again vocally; when the voices are blended, you get the biggest rush- and the song reaches its peak.  When it comes to interpretations- trying to dig to the song’s core- there is a little mystique and wiggle-room.  Lyrics switch between dreaming and driving; falling and fears- they rush by as fast as the composition- causing a dizzying effect.  Essentially, there is that core of demon-facing/overcoming fears- one of Barricade’s hallmarks.  The entire E.P. looks at a very common issue (we can all relate to): whether Dan Clark has been particularly affected- and faced some personal upheaval- I am not sure; yet it shows a great new direction- the new, Rock-influenced sound suits them fantastically.  Whilst not quite as strong as Bring out the Claws, Air is a superb closer- one that is a fitting swansong.  Towards the closing moments, the band unleashes their inner space demon: the intergalactic, Space Age electronics fuzz and vibrate- you can feel those little touches of Origins of Symmetry-era Muse.  Like a galloping horse, the band keep that epic-ness afoot: the riffs are relentless and fast-paced; the percussion and bass frantic and fist-aloft-against-the-tide- each note and thought adds to the boiling, psychotropic cauldron.  Before the E.P. is through, The Moth Lantern throw in another de-tour: the final moments mingle softer moments (among the rapturous kick).  The hypothesis- or rather, the losing chapter- wraps things up.  Our hero is “not coming up for air.”  He has been wronged (and let down) and you sense some submissiveness and defeat- that sense that his luck is done.  Trying to be strong, instead he’s sinking like a stone- when all’s said and done; he’s not coming up for air.

Congratulations to the band, who have produced a stunning E.P. – one that gets stronger (and more compelling) with every new listen.  Improving on Light Waves, Barricade is their strongest work: their new harder edge works wonderfully.  Complete with a trio of stunning songs- that are unique and diverse- and you have a band with huge ambition.  It is hard to impress with just a trio of tracks, yet here they have done that: come the end, you find yourself wanting more; hoping there is a hidden track (there isn’t).  Perhaps the vocals get muted/buried a little at times- the opening track is most culpable- and this happens during Air too- for the most part, the vocals and clear and decipherable; the production rich and clear.  Minor detraction aside, The Moth Lantern should be applauded: they have compiled an E.P. that is personal and universal; ready for festivals- yet something that seems quite intimate (at times).  The production itself allows the band full flight: each instrument and compositional element is given full breathing room- nothing is compressed or mixed low; each composition is allowed to breathe and strike- meaning every track hits full potential.  In terms of vocal, it is not needlessly high up the mix- at times it suffers; for the most part it doesn’t- making the E.P. sound like a genuine band effort- some bands put their lead up front and leave the other members behind.  The Moth Lantern are, first and foremost, a collective: every member is essential to the music; each comes into their own here.  Vocal duties are split between the Rungapadiachy, George and Clark: it is Rungapadiachy’s that provides lead vocals; Eddie George and Jo Clark backing- when all three unify, you get the biggest hit (Dan Clark has stepped back from vocals on this record).  Rungapadiachy’s lead vocals are an impressive replacement; it is great to have the bassist up front- he graces the E.P. with some tremendous vocals turns.  The songwriting is impressive throughout- the lyrics are never cliché or run-of-the-mill- and are those that can be appreciated by everyone.  Sharp and incisive lines mix with sing-along broadness: Clark has ensured the E.P. can be extrapolated and appreciated by a wide sect.  Jo Clark’s keys and vocals are stunning and mood-changing.  Adding magic and vibrancy in spades, you cannot ignore its effect.  Rungapadiachy’s bass work is reliable as ever: his unique tones add weight and majesty to the music; his guiding bass keeps the songs taut and controlled.  In addition, his lyrics (to Bring out the Claws) are both humouress and fascinating- he is developing into a fantastic songwriter.  Dan Clark’s sturdy lead drives the E.P. forward: he is a guitar talent with a stunning (and original voice).  In spite of not providing vocals, Clark wrote the lyrics (to tracks one and three); penned the music for the entire disc- showing himself as a songwriter to be reckoned with  He is the band’s leader and songwriter extraordinaire.  With Eddie George’s percussion hard and heavy; controlled and calm, and you have a superb backbone- his drum work adds primacy and danger to (the E.P.’s finest) moments.  His backing vocals are impressively strong throughout- the band have shown they have a range of incredible singers- his blend of emotion and heart help bring the songs to life.  Barricade shows The Moth Lantern in full flight: something I hope continues for years to come.

It is the bond of the quartet (that translates into terrific music).  Were the relationships collegial and insincere, you’d soon hear it- the music would be half-hearted and limp.  The Moth Lantern are friends and close-knit; they have a great understanding and mutual respect- this funnels into some wonderful music.  After Light Waves’ stunning example, I was expecting a new E.P.: to my mind, it would have been a natural run-on from the album.  What we have is something both new and familiar.  The band retains their key strengths and core sound, whilst expanding and developing their craft.  New themes and ideas are tossed into the pot- Clark has crafted three (musically)- two lyrically- of his most compelling tracks- whilst the band sound more essential and tight- you can hear the new confidence and passion.  Simple things impress me when it comes to Barricade: it is a three-track release, yet it seems just-so; the length is spot-on; the running time is neither too long nor too short.  That said, the E.P. begs for repeated listens and some teasing- the greedy listener begs for a fourth track; it means there will be some hungry/eager fans (looking for more music from the band).  The running order is great too: the title track perfectly opens things; Air is a brilliant closer- any other arrangement would mean a weaker release.  I hope the Lincolnshire band find some more support and reviewers: I know I am the first writer to tackle the E.P.; I hope more follow suit- the social media ranks deserve to be fuller and expansive.  Hopefully Barricade will go a long way (to getting more people to their shores) as the guys have worked tirelessly- making sure their E.P. is as strong as it could be.  Wonderful vocals- that mix of harmonies and strong lead- and incredible performances are rife; the production values are clear and concise- the songwriting is at its peak.  As 2015 runs down, The Moth Lantern will be hitting the road; bringing their new sounds to the people- hopefully they will have a chance to relax and reform.  When the new year emerges, they will look around (at their next E.P. or album) and where they go from here- that will be exciting to see.  The Moth Lantern have managed to remain very much them- whilst bringing in a harder, Rock-infused edge.  They have not compromised their ethics, instead they have evolved and grown- the same way all great bands have.  Radiohead started with Pablo Honey; their Rock-edge masterpiece The Bends (the greatest album ever produced) followed- they went on to introduce new sounds and aspects (into future releases).  Great acts understand the need to keep mobile and open-minded- will the next release be a ‘Moth Lantern version of OK Computer?  I doubt it, yet the quartet is growing in strength and innovation; they are bringing in new themes and sounds- all to the betterment of their overall sound.  Barricade is a perfect soundtrack for the ‘summer’ days: the breeziness and alacrity (of their softer moments); the hard rush and hooks (of the harder) seep into the mind; it gets you singing along- gripped by the natural chemistry the band produce.  My one hope is The Moth Lantern gain wider acclaim: are embraced beyond their base; demanded further afield- a chance for new faces to hear their music.  Social media is doing what it can, but more can be done- they are a group with a great future ahead; a lot more to say.  If you are unfamiliar with the band, rectify this immediately: once you have cottoned-on, be sure to share the word- and get others involved.  Barricade is the result of hard work and a lot of passion: make sure this is justly rewarded.  Whilst the band’s masterpiece is in their future, their current work is deeply impressive and nuanced; good enough to nestle with the best out there.  I look forward to seeing the four-piece in the flesh; bring them down to London- get venues/crowds here converted.  When all is said and done…

THAT will be great to see.

 

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Follow The Moth Lantern:

 

Official:

http://www.themothlantern.com/

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/themothlantern?fref=ts

Twitter:

https://twitter.com/TheMothLantern

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Music:

https://soundcloud.com/themothlantern

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Gigs:

http://themothlantern.com/gigs.html

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Videos:

https://www.youtube.com/user/themothlantern

Track Review: Daphne & the Mystery Machines- Learn to Fall

TRACK REVIEW:

 

Daphne & the Mystery Machines

 

Learn to Fall

 

9.5/10.0

 

Learn to Fall is available at:

https://www.reverbnation.com/daphnethemysterymachines

RELEASED:
January, 2015

GENRES:
Folk, Americana

ORIGIN:

Franklin, Tennessee, U.S.A.

 

FEW current acts manage to really grip the imagination…

with any real panache- impress you with their music and imagery; personality and projection (the whole package). With current music producing so many acts- there being a desperation to make an impression instantly; through fear of being forgotten- it is hard to stumble across real ‘characters.’ In the U.K. we have some pretty interesting musicians: those who win you over with their charm and personality; seduce you with their charm- it would be good to see it more often. To my mind, there is a lot of seriousness and po-faced acts: those that concentrate on the music alone- in person they come off as being rather humourless and business-like. It is not a big deal- and not the most important thing in music- but you want to connect with the human being- it makes everything a lot more effective and memorable. Whilst assessing some U.K.-based acts- including Los and the Deadlines and Jen Armstrong- I was not only amazed by the music- and its uniqueness and quality- but the people behind them. Witty, fun and friendly, it was great to see: musicians that feel very human and relatable; people you want to go out and see- those that give a lot to their fans. In the U.S., they do this a little better: produce musicians that captivate you on many fronts; have that vote-winning smile- fully-rounded musicians that know how to win fans. I know it is a small point- and as I said, not as vital as getting music right- but if you work on the image/personality, you can gain many more fans- ensure people keep coming back to you (and want others to discover you). When Daphne & the Mystery Machines were recommended to me- by an aforementioned Yorkshire stunner- I was hooked from the first moment: here is an act that intrigues you by looks/imagery alone. Delving into their social media, the band comes across as familial and warm-hearted: an Americana troupe that are built on a foundation of fun and warmth; kindness and community (complete with some stunning music). Before I go any further, let me introduce the band to you:

Josh Preston (beard of directors, lead guitar, happy feet)
Courtney Kinzer Blackwell (cello, bg vox)
Jenn Palmer (lead vox, guitar)
Daphne Culver (lead vox, guitar, harmonium, piano, accordion)
Jess Perkins (upright bass)
Amanda Palmer (harmony vox)

Daphne and the Mystery Machines was formed in July 2014. Daphne Culver (Missouri native), most locally known from her musical career with the Granny Whites, had met some amazing artists since she moved to Tennessee. First there was Jenn Palmer, (Sugar Dames and Anthony Adams & the Nite Owls) they became friends a few years ago, after, and always had a mutual respect and adoration of each other’s songwriting and vocal styles, so they started collaborating, not knowing if anything would ever come of it. Then Adam Taylor (originally from Iowa), was working as an engineer at the Sound Emporium at the time Daphne was working in the studio for The Granny Whites. He was so talented on the boards and in the studio, but soon Daphne would find out he was hiding an amazing talent, besides beard growing. He was a stellar guitarist and caught the attention of the Granny Whites, they started featuring him at live shows. Daphne became so enamored with his guitar playing alongside her own, she wanted him to join in on her sessions with Jenn. Soon after this trio was formed Maria Kowalski, violinist of Sage and the Saints and several other studio and touring projects got thrown in the mix (after Jenn worked with her in the studio for the Sugar Dames and was blown away by her emotional playing and creative stylings). Marias past remains a mystery, was she a dolphin trainer? Carnie? Escaped convict? Her mysteriousness is only matched by her insane skills on the violin. Courtney Kinzer Blackwell, (cellist from Honeyboy and Boots) was the last addition. Courtney (Washington native) came in the mix a little more by chance. She was playing at a CD release show in Franklin, TN at Kimbro’s Picking Parlor, and her performance on stage got the attention of Daphne. She searched her out and befriended her inviting her to bonfire jams and such, until she agreed to join what is now known as Daphne & the Mystery Machines. Their much anticipated debut was at the Tennessee State Fair and they are all looking forward to recording their first album and performing on tour soon.

Daphne and the Mystery Machines plan to start releasing singles in support of their upcoming EP by early 2015.”

It would be interesting for the band to come to the U.K. – maybe support Florence and the Machine on stage. It would be good to get Daphne’s (Mystery) Machines together with Florence’s- although it may just be my odd fantasy/wish-list. The group are built from a base of emotion and heartache; passion and pain; desire and love- concoctions that go into their incredible music. With some tour dates coming up- the guys are travelling Tennessee ready to amaze the crowds- the rest of this year looks prosperous; they have an album out in September- something you will want to get your hands on.

Aching and teasing strings beckon Learn to Fall in. Beginning rather tranquil and haunting, it sound progresses into something precise and strong: twirling and dizzying acoustic strings lift the mind and intrigue the senses- make you wonder what is coming next. Underpinned by some electronic tones, the song starts to expand and mutate: pick its feet off the floor and stride onwards- there is a tangible sense of itinerary and travel. The initial words- when our heroine steps up the microphone- are rather innocent and compassionate (“When I hear you sing/the songs that I wrote/I get a little lump/Down in my throat”). The vocal has a quixotic blend of southern U.S. and modern-day U.K. It may be an odd partnership, yet there are traditional Country music sounds; a striking Tennessee accent- all the hallmarks of a solid Americana/Folk pairing. On top of that, you have a very modern and striking voice: little bits Amy Winehouse and Adele; something soulful and British- the combination is effective and seductive. When the verse develops, something more philosophical and ruminative comes to the fore: our heroine looks at choices and mistakes; regret and our own decisions- not only creating some mystery, but speaking to the listener more directly. Whether speaking to a sweetheart (or friend of hers) there seems to be some perplexity. Maybe a situation has arisen- or life has taken an unwanted turn- but there is that need to go back; change events of the past- to avoid the strains of the present. Our heroine (and her subject) is out on her own; going into the world alone- perhaps there is a feeling that time has been wasted; youthful ignorance has led to mistakes- and a price is being paid. After the first verse- that is very much placed in the centre of attention- the vocal retreats; the band comes to the forefront to whip up a swaying beat; a striking support- adding emotion in spades. The guitars rise and pervade; the percussion crashes and strikes; plaintive strings add shiver and somberness- as our heroine comes back to the fold. When the chorus arrives, images are built up: I imagine something quite every day and relatable; that sense of regret and walls-closing-in-against-the-odds fear we can all understand. Whether lies and indecision have come to take their toll; a relationship is on the rocks- because of mistakes by both parties- it is not too sure- the song has room for interpretation; there is some ambiguity among the lyrics. The song’s most arresting moments arrive when Culver unites with her cohorts- the female vocals weave in and out of one another. Laying down some hard truths- you don’t have to be by the phone “to get that call”- the vocals soar and tangle; creating a stunning harmony and heavenly blend. To my mind, there was a sound (oddly enough) of ‘90s Rhythm and Blues- the classic girl groups of the age- that inspired legions of modern-day acts. There is that same sense of shiver and nuance- you keep repeating the verse; unable to take it all in (upon first listen). After the captivating vocals are complete, the band unleashes an instrumental coda- one that sees shivering guitars come to play. Reminding me of (a combination of) 1995 Radiohead and modern Folk, it is a stirring parabond; one that raises the song even higher. Never predictable or one-dimensional, the band gets stronger and more assured; the track gets better by the second- something few other tracks promise. After witnessing the stirring guitar quiver- that builds up so many images and emotions- the vocal comes back. Our heroine is still in firm voice; not wanting to deviate- more thought-provoking messages are presented. Whether speaking to a wider community (a universal message that everyone should take in) or a shamed lover, there is some anger and judgement; they better watch what they say and do- “’Cause it’s all coming back to you.” Among the sense of disappointment, there is some honesty and openness- a sense of compassion too. In spite of all the mistakes and short-comings, all that has been given (“has always been enough”). By the time the chorus comes back around, the vocals become more electric and spiked; it seems more effective and striking- meaning the song finishes (on an incredibly high) point.

It is impossible not to fall in love with Daphne & the Mystery Machines. On paper (and in photos) they seem like a band you want to meet- striking and happy; fascinating and interesting. When it comes to the music, they are indebted to nobody. Whilst Learn to Fall has some familiar themes- that sense of backs-against-the-wall fight; learning from mistakes of the past- the way it’s presented is indeed unique. The group does not go for bare-minimum with their words: the way the images and scenes they conjure will stick in the mind; they are an act that has a very individual perspective. The instrumentation and composition is emotive and stunning. Mixing aching strings and tender percussion, the band throw in quivering electric guitar- the effect is quite spellbinding. Standing above it all are those incredible voices: the stunning lead and the insatiable combinations. When leading the verses, Culver’s native accent mingles with some British tones (although my ear may be off); her strong and wonderful voice gets inside your head- and does not let itself go. When the trio (of voices) comes together in the chorus, you get an immense sense of swoon and romance- that aching beauty and uplifting grace. No member of Daphne & the Mystery Machines falters of slacks: each member is focused and tight; each element essential and paramount- most bands have one or two faults. Keeping Learn to Fall tight and focused, it does not overrun and wander- a song that does what it needs to; without wasting any words. Traditional Americana and modern-day Pop (with some soulful elements) combine to create a song that cannot be ignored- something that will unite all music lovers. With some incredible production values- the track sounds both intimate and expansive all at once- and you have a tremendous achievement. It is hard to judge the future on one song, yet the signs are all positive: I cannot wait to see what Daphne & the Mystery Machines’ album contains. Whether you are unfamiliar with the Tennessee band (or not) then do yourself a favour and get involved- they have a stunning future ahead of them.

Social media can be a very handy thing indeed: when you put a plea out- looking for a great act to review- those in the know always come through. I mentioned it in my last post; it seems we need some sort of music-based social media site- there are a few out there, yet none really cuts the mustard. It is hard to patrol and filter fantastic music: compile a bespoke list/channel that the user will desire. That said, the basic steps would not be a challenge: with the burgeoning of social media, it would be easy enough to make a better site- something more effective and full than what is already out there. It may be one of those ‘to-do’ things for me, because I do worry a bit: so many great acts are being overlooked and going past- only coming to your attention if you are lucky/have a music contact. In a social media age, it is ironic that the ‘social’ aspect seems to be lacking: when it comes to music/promotion, there needs to be something better (out there for the musician). I mention it because Daphne & the Mystery Machine- alongside many others out there- deserve a wider audience; great exposure- they would love/be adored by crowds over here; across Europe- and find opportunity and fan-base. With their eye-catching ranks- you cannot ignore the staggering beard of Josh Preston!- and stunning music, the future is looking very good. Having graced their social media pages- and seen the feedback fans are providing- they put on one hell of a live show. On the basis of Learn to Fall, I am looking forward to the forthcoming L.P.: see exactly what the band has to offer; how they will vary and adapt their sound across a full album. I love the music this country produces- I still think we are just edging it with new music- the U.S. has greater opportunities and support. I find musicians are talent is looking across the ocean: eyeing up the big cities; the warmth of Nashville; the lights of New York- finding better fortune over there (than they have here). The U.S. do somethings a lot better than us- their comedy is a lot better (ours sucks big-time); their dramas are superior (bigger budgets and better talent); their economy is stronger and more prosperous- and it seems the country has a better music climate. In spite of its superior size/population there seems to be greater diversity and community- hardly surprising so many great acts are coming through. Tennessee is synonymous with its terrific music scene- not just Country music and Americana- and the wonderful acts coming through. With its warm and friendly locals; the unique and charming music venues; the opportunities out there, it seems a very tempting proposition. What you find with acts- like Daphne & the Mystery Machines- is a natural warmth and sense of ease. There seems little anxiety and fear- like they have to hit a certain target; always have to look over their shoulder- they have a loyal fan-base and tremendous sound- a rather secure future it seems. There is a lot of preconception and judgement when you say the words ‘Americana’ and ‘Folk’- and tie it to the word ‘Tennessee.’ Many would imagine something quite antiquated and divisive. Many still have that preconceived notion of Americana-style music- and what Tennessee musicians produce. Sure, there are a lot of traditional and old-fashioned acts, yet Tennessee is a large state; its musicians are among the most talented in the U.S. – Daphne & the Mystery Machines are among the finest. Learn to Fall has some regrets and harder tones; it has warmth and heart to it: terrific melodies and building tensions; a combination of emotions- that comes together in an arresting way. Two things come to mind; make me wonder: firstly, if the band would ever come to the U.K., and secondly, what their album will sound like. Even on the basis of one track, you just know the band would be well-received here: those melodies and vocals remind me of Adele (and Amy Winehouse); the lyrics/music would inspire a lot of fellow acts- the crowds would love to see/hear Daphne & the Mystery Machines. Through London (and further north) there are venues they would suit; a definite fan-base awaits- of course it costs a lot of money to come over here (yet something for the band to consider). More urgently, their album will be hotly-anticipated and received: if it contains gems like Learn to Fall then it will be a staggering album, indeed. I’ll wrap this review with a singular message (to those reading this): expand your horizons and start to get out of the comfort zones. For me, I would not normally have known about Daphne’- the type of act/sound that is coming out of Tennessee- but I am so glad I did. Take away any preconceived notions; leave your restrictions at the door and there is a musical world out there: one filled with new heroes and wonderful sounds; entrancing moments and brilliance- start your search in the U.S. This country produces some wonderful music, but to my mind, the U.S. has a greater diversity and range- so much out there to discover. It may be hard to seek all the terrific (U.S.) music out; get to grips with everything out there. If you are looking for a phenomenal starting-point then start here…

WITH Daphne & the Mystery Machines.

 

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Follow Daphne & the Mystery Machines:

 

ReverbNation:

https://www.reverbnation.com/daphnethemysterymachines

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/DaphneCulverandFriends?fref=ts

Twitter:

https://twitter.com/DaphneandTMM

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Music:

https://soundcloud.com/daphne-the-mystery-mach

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Tour Dates:

Track Review: Little Sparrow- Wishing Tree

TRACK REVIEW:

 

Little Sparrow

 

 

Wishing Tree

 

9.6/10.0

 

Wishing Tree is available at:

https://uklittlesparrow.bandcamp.com/track/wishing-tree-2

The music video for Wishing Tree is released on Monday

https://www.facebook.com/events/451602031676284/

 

ORIGINALLY RELEASED:
6th May, 2014

GENRES:
Acoustic, Folk-Pop

ORIGIN:

Manchester, U.K.

 

IN a week where I am re-reviewing existing artists…

I am returning to one of my very favourite- a young woman who has one of the most captivating voices in music.  On Monday the video is released (for her twin single) Wishing Tree/Garden.  Having reviewed Little Sparrow’s album (Wishing Tree) last year, I was excited to assess (once more) its title track- review it with fresh ears.  It brings me around to an interesting point: the effect new musicians can have on the public- those who resonate and linger.  Before I introduce Little Sparrow, it is worth looking around the music landscape: there is a quite deal of tremendous and wondrous artists.  To my mind, the band market always seems to fair much better: they have more bodies and resources; it is easier to connect with the public.  Bands have always enjoyed hegemony: from the early-‘60s to current day, public money favours groups.  Being a solo artist is a lot harder and more challenging: the one person has to do all the work; they have certain limitations (bands do not) and have a harder time of things.  For that reason (when a solo artist succeeds and lasts) it is that extra bit special.  With the flood of artists coming into the market, it is harder to find someone truly special: that act that really strikes a chord; sounds that do something truly wonderful.  With the proliferation (and expanse) of social media, that task is no less easy- and often the mind and body can become overwhelmed.  When it comes to solo acts- that resonate and stay in the imagination- it really comes down to two things: the originality and potency of their songwriting; the effect their voice/composition has.  If we look at Little Sparrow- the alter ego of Cambridgeshire-born Katie Ware- and she proves my point.  When I first came across her music- when her album Wishing Tree was released (last year) – I was overcome by her voice: something that seeped into the senses; left me somewhat dumbfounded.  Few people can deny its magic; reviewers and critics were stunned and amazed- her music is still causing tremors and stun.  Before I go, let me give you a short introduction:

As captivating to watch as she is to listen to, Little Sparrow’s beautifully emotive use of expression mirrors the sincerity of her delivery, making her someone not to be missed.  Her delicately crafted folk songs are created with a combination of flawless vocals, strings, guitars, percussion and tender harmonies.  Singer-songwriter Katie Ware adopted the name Little Sparrow as she felt it characteristic of the sound she had developed and the direction in which she wished to travel.  Drawing upon influences as diverse as Kate Bush, All About Eve and PJ Harvey she creates songs that are filled with a blend of styles, woven into the colourful tapestry of her music, often with a mysterious fairy tale quality.

Listeners are taken on a journey that touches upon every emotion, from heart-breaking sadness to uplifting joy.
2014 was the most exciting year for her yet as it involved more live appearances than ever and most significantly she was thrilled to have fulfilled a huge ambition by releasing her beautiful debut album ‘Wishing Tree’.  The album has gained many great reviews and much radio
play from those including Janice Long (BBC Radio 2), Michelle Hussey (BBC Introducing Manchester),
Dave Monks (BBC Introducing Merseyside); Guy Garvey, Tom Robinson & Chris Hawkins (BBC 6 Music); Simon Raymond, Ruth Barnes, Shell Zenner & Kathryn Tickell (Amazing Radio) along with many other radio stations regional and international.

Little Sparrow has worked tirelessly throughout 2015: her music has been championed far and wide- taking her on the road and playing to new crowds.  With the music video arriving on Monday- for her Wishing Tree– it is only a matter of time before Little Sparrow is a household name.  It is hard to overlook that incredible voice: something that is heavenly and human; emotional and strong- few other singers have that range and sense of captivation.  Writing songs that speak to the heart- and paint wonderful tales and vivid scenes- Ware is among the best songwriters in the U.K. – someone who is inspiring others to take up music.  When reviewing Wishing Tree, every note and line lodged in the mind: the compositions were (and are) both nuanced and impassioned; the songs filled with detail and prowess- ruled by that insatiable and crystal-clear voice.  Take the time to investigate Little Sparrow in the full- through SoundCloud and YouTube- and check out the new music video (arriving Monday).  In a music scene with so many unimpressive and sound-alike artists, we need to herald and support her music- that which can truly inspire and impress.

The opening notes of Wishing Tree have Country tones: straining and breezy U.S. embers; a romantic and swaying sound that gently beckons the track in.  Mixing with Folk strings and the listener is intrigued and fascinated.  When our heroine comes to the mic., her initial words are curious and compelling.  “Take a step back from the things you see/You might get confused quite easily” make you wonder with whom she is speaking- whether a new love or a former friend.  When delivering these lines, Ware ensures the words are carefully and considerably deployed: unveiled with clarity and concision, there is an intentional sense of italicising and precision.  As the lines are being delivered in the foreground, there is a light and tripping backing vocal (a repetition of the main line); it is layered and presented so the two threads overlap and intertwine- creating a sensuous mixture of romantic and dominant.  Our heroine looks to be addressing a love/man: someone who is on her mind and thoughts; an anonymous beau arresting her thoughts.  Wanting (him to be her) wishing tree, Little Sparrow’s voice floats and pervades; flies across the sky- that sense of desire and lust is evident.  When assessing the initial stages of the song, I am reminded of two artists: Fleetwood Mac and Tori Amos.  Whilst there is an essence of Kate Bush’s mystique and etherealness, there is a suggestion of Fleetwood Mac- especially their Rumours/Tusk period.  Pastoral and dreamy; the song could easily fit within those albums.  Ware’s voice has suggestions of both Stevie Nicks and Tori Amos: that comingle of huskiness and child-like beauty; womanly strength and vulnerability.  As the song continues my initial thoughts are questioned: with regards the exact inspiration of Wishing Tree.  As our heroine counts to 10; taking off for the stars, I was starting to rethink my impressions- perhaps there is another subject in mind.  With her wishing tree, our heroine floats across the heavens; passing rainbows- the colours seep into her skin- and on its way.  Throughout, there is a real sense of dream-fulfillment and longing.  Ware’s voice multiples and variates- the backing vocals are hugely effective; the foreground varies its pace and timing- creating something both dizzying and unpredictable.  Caught up in the whirl of her own imagination, Little Sparrow is caught in a daze- taking the listener with her.  Wanting the stars to (tie her to the ground) you really get seduced by the lyrics and imagery- start to picture yourself with her; follow her in her quest.  It is not just the voice that entrances; the composition is changeable and nimble: switching between Country-tinged romanticism to dream-like Folk, there is plenty of depth, colour and variation.  The final moments are a myriad of cooing vocal and plaintive strings: the song starts to move to the heavens and complete its work.  Ware’s voice remains firm and urgent throughout; never succumbing to tire and ineffectualness- remaining beautiful to the very last note.

Having reviewed Wishing Tree last year, it is great to hear it again- and come at it with a fresh mind.  Nuanced and spine-tingling, it is a perfect Little Sparrow track: one that demonstrates what a tremendous writer and singer she is.  Plaudits must be paid to the production, first of all- that makes the song such a clear and concise wonder.  Each note and syllable has clarity and strength; nothing is buried or muted at all- the entire song has a very professional and polished sound.  That is not to say it is too polished; the production also provides quite a live-sounding feel to proceedings- earthy and open; expansive and fresh.  Ware highlights what an original and strong songwriter she is.  Making sure her words contain depth, ambiguity and directness, the listener is open to interpret the song- you can apply different meanings to certain words/lines.  At its heart, Wishing Tree is about dreaming and desire; escape and wonderment- that is achieved with aplomb.  When it comes to vocals, Ware makes sure she seduces at every moment: from the first line to the last notes, there is no escaping that sense of beguilement and entrance.  Aching and sensuous on the one hand; noble and strong the next; few can deny the potency and passion on display- what a wonderful instrument (her voice is).  Wishing Tree staggered me last year; it continues to blow me away now- a song that begs for repeated investigation.

The future will certainly be a golden one (for Little Sparrow).  After speaking with Little Sparrow’s friend (Shay Rowan; who looks after Katie/Little Sparrow) I know how hard things can be: the touring demands and input needed (for her music to thrive) is both challenging and exhausting.  Katie Ware is not a woman who tires easily and has been working passionately- ensuring new eyes and ears fall in love with her music.  Wishing Tree is an album that is (still gaining) plaudit and commendation- new stations and reviewers are starting to realise how special it is.  Fresh from music video recording duties, Ware has been performing some intimate gigs- the young artist never seems to stop working.  I am not sure what is in store for the rest of this year (and next year- although there are plans for a new E.P. next year) yet new music is sure to arrive.  Following Wishing Tree will be a challenge, yet there is plenty of inspiration and potential- it will be fantastic to see what arrives next.  Few solo artists have that same blend of mesmeric vocals and captivating songs; exceptional personality and rare beauty- someone very much made for the stage.  Ware is a singer/songwriter that is at home here (on the stage); dedicated to bring her music to the masses- an artist that is hungry and passionate.  Wishing Tree is one of those songs that demands repeated plays- it gets inside of your head and will not shake.  Struck by the tenderness and beauty of the song, your thoughts go into the wilderness: try and jump inside the lyrics and conspire; dream and float away.  The video for Wishing Tree is as captivating as the song itself: shot in the woodland, it sees our heroin (and other figures) dressed in an animal mask- well, a material animal head- given it a quirky and surreal aspect.  Whilst Wishing Tree’s dreamy and earnest lyrics unfold, you are presented with these strange and beautiful visions- giving the song an extra layer of beauty and appeal.  The video’s innovative use of stop-motion technology gives things a trippy and delirious feel: imagine Radiohead’s video for There There and you get a sense of what to expect.  The animal (mask) motif gives the video an eye-catching and dream-like feel- emphasising the song’s sense of delirium and imagination.  If you are new to Katie Ware and her exceptional music, make sure you do not miss out- an artist that deserves huge respect and support.  Before I conclude- and let you go on your way- I was keen to catch up with Little Sparrow; see what influences her- and what the future holds.

Your album Wishing Tree was applauded- by me included- for its stunning vocals and spine-tingling tracks. Which artists- either growing up or now-have influenced your work?

All About Eve, Tori Amos, P.J. Harvey, Kate Bush and probably the most influential was my dad’s own music!

Now I love listening to the people that I normally find while I’m gigging like Tracey Browne and Raevennan Husbandes, Liam Frost, TGElias, Jessca Hoop.  Other artists are First Aid Kit, Agnes Obel, Elbow.  You are starting to tour quite a bit; see different parts of the world.

Do you enjoy touring/gigs? What have been the best aspects about hitting the road?

The best bits are meeting all the different people 🙂  My goal this year was to ‘play out of Manchester’, to play to new audiences.  (I am a home bird and thought I should try and fly the nest a little and see what happens!)  I am slowly achieving this throughout the year.  I love performing, so any opportunity that arises that seems a little exciting then I’m there!  I have a few lined up later in the year that are in different parts of the country.

A lot of songwriters have different ‘muses’ (when writing music). What subjects/themes go into making a Little Sparrow song?

Anything really!  Whatever is in my head at the time… A little song I am working on at the moment is about a spider, just because I saw one walking along the floor at the time!  But I also write from the heart, so the emotion will always spill out in some way.

What does the rest of the year hold for you?  Can we expect a new album/E.P. (this year or next)?

I am actually planning to hide away for a couple of months in the autumn so I can work on a new E.P., to release maybe later in the year or in early 2016.

Finally- and for being a good sport and lovely person- you can pick any song; which I will post here.

Do you mean a song that I would tell you to check out?  There’s so many… But I will pick Agnes Obel – ‘Riverside

KEEP your eyes out for this truly wonderful artist.

 

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Follow Little Sparrow:


Official:

http://www.littlesparrow.org/

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/singinglittlesparrow?fref=ts

Twitter:

https://twitter.com/uklittlesparrow

__________________________________________________________________________

Music:

https://soundcloud.com/uklittlesparrow

___________________________________________________________________________

Videos:

https://www.youtube.com/user/uklittlesparrow

__________________________________________________________

Gigs:

http://www.littlesparrow.org/#!gigs/cnnz

Track Review: Gorilla Punch Radio- No Retreat

TRACK REVIEW:

 

Gorilla Punch Radio

  

No Retreat

 

9.2/10.0

 

No Retreat is available from iTunes on 7th August, 2015

GENRES:
Indie-Rock; Alternative; Rock

ORIGIN:

Leeds, England

IT is time to say hello to one of the most…

uniquely-titled bands in the world.  The pronunciation of their name conjures everything from tropical radio stations to violent primates- their music, weirdly, mixes the two.  I have dealt with the Leeds-based band before: the tail-end of last year I got to say ‘hi’ and check out what they are about.  At the moment, the group is preparing to launch No Retreat: their huge single that is gaining radio-play and huge plaudits.  Before I delve more into the band, I want to raise an important point: getting acts together/social media compartmentalisation.  In the course of my ‘duties’ I get to hear some varied acts; hear a lot of great new music- you often wonder whether they could do better.  I don’t mean in the sense of quality; more quantity: can their social media numbers be boosted honestly?  I have managed to connect a few acts- through #FF-ing on Twitter; sharing stuff on Facebook- yet there is still some division- lots of similar bands are missing out (on one another).  It is good to be back in Leeds- at one point most of my reviews were set in Yorkshire- and a growing band with a great sound.  I am organizing a charity music day/night in November- at a local music venue- and getting bands together: Gorilla Punch Radio would make a perfect addition (to the line-up).  Like Goldbirds- another young act in their first stages- Gorilla’ make hot and heavy sounds- hardly a shock given their name- and birth colossal riffs and epic soar.  Working in a bar (as a D.J., among other duties) I get to do a Monday night slot I review four albums: one of them has to be brand-new; one ‘older’ (1985 and earlier) one of my choice- the final one has to be influential.  From the likes of Los and the Deadlines to Gorilla Punch Radio, Foo Fighters are a big influence.  In fact, this Monday night, as part of my album reviews- Sly and the Family Stone, Radiohead and Sleaford Mods are included- is Foo Fighters (and their seminal album The Colour and the Shape).  That album has compelled a lot of new acts- songs like Everlong and Monkey Wrench cannot be ignored for their impact and effect- and G.P.R. have taken this on board- their sounds under Foo Fighters’ riff-age and update it.  No Retreat is abound with Grohl-esque vocal; seductive slink and ferocious arpeggio jams; brutal to-the-bone pummel- tied around lyrics of alienation and against-the-odds f***-you mentality.  Returning to my original point, Gorilla Punch Radio has stablemates and hombres: bands that play a similar sound; have that same spark and booze-flecked abandon.  Hopefully I can get Gorilla Punch Radio to the south- come November time- along with Los and the Deadlines, Goldbirds, Bi:Lingual and Allusondrugs- to my mind, some of the most essential Indie/Rock bands coming through.  Yorkshire is producing (and has done for a while) some quintessential acts- a county cannot stop giving birth to some good-looking babies- and continues to do so- few county-mates sound like Gorilla’. Before I wrap-up the point, let’s have a look into the band’s biography:

Paul James
Stefan Gandhi
Mark Heppenstall
Elliot Vaughan

Gorilla Punch Radio, an exciting new alternative rock band from Leeds, are proud to announce the release of their debut single ‘No Retreat’.

After touring extensively in support of artists such as The Struts, The Pigeon Detectives and New City Kings with his former band Titans Troubadours, guitarist and singer Paul James decided to pursue his own sound and formed Gorilla Punch Radio in late 2014.

Mixed by the acclaimed engineer/producer Elliot Vaughan, whose previous clients include: Pulled Apart by Horses, Frank Turner and They Fell from the Sky, ‘No Retreat’ kicks off with an explosive guitar riff that’s sure to have fans banging their heads and punching the air.

The song’s theme focuses around the gritty realities of standing up in the face of seemingly overwhelming odds, with lyrics that are designed to inspire courage and a refusal to back down.

“We’re really excited about this song as it has taken a while to craft and perfect. Elliot has successfully captured the energy of Gorilla Punch Radio in this recording, and we can’t wait to share it with everybody!” – Paul James of Gorilla Punch Radio.

The radio-beating gorillas- I will ask them one day the genesis of their band moniker- have not been wasting time- instead honing their sound and making their new single the best it can be.  The band is coming into the market at the perfect time: the likes of Royal Blood and Drenge have redefined Alternative-Rock- that sort of White Stripes-cum-Led Zeppelin-via-Queens of the Stone Age jam.  Gorilla Punch Radio has a range of influences- mainly U.S.-led- and distills this in their unique brand of music.  The boys are looking ahead to 2016: who knows what is to come from the group; just what a potential album will sound like.

If you are new to Gorilla Punch Radio, there are a few acts that are good starting points- to see who has influenced the Leeds four-piece.  In terms of U.S. examples, I would say Nirvana and Foo Fighters count as idols (and to a degree our version of Nirvana, Allusondrugs).  Like their Leeds contemporaries Allusondrugs, Gorilla Punch Radio has their ear on ‘90s Grunge.  In terms of album comparisons- for Nirvana and Foo Fighters- I would select Bleach and The Colour and the Shape.  Nirvana’s debut was filled with rough and loose-sounding jams; Kurt Cobain’s burgeoning songwriting talent; a keen eye for social commentary and romantic rage- a perfect mix of meaty riffs and superb band interplay.  In terms of attack and lunge, The Colour and the Shape may not be in the Foo’s top 3; however, the album remains influential and inspirational.  Its Post-Grunge production values/sound inspired legions of bands and followers.  The powerful rushes and big hooks defined that Post-Grunge era; it comes through in Gorilla Punch Radio’s single- you can hear little bits of Up in Arms and Monkey Wrench.  Like Grohl, Gorilla Punch Radio has a graveled and masculine voice: a powerful set of pipes that shred through the material- no sense of cadence or fatigue throughout.  I would say- in terms of U.K. influence- you’d look at Royal Blood and Muse.  Royal Blood- themselves not long in this world- have created quite a furor; critics are salivating over their innovative sound.  Of course Royal Blood employ no guitars- getting that ‘guitar sound’ from bass only- but their straight-ahead attacks; mandates on love and broken hopes have been extrapolated by Gorilla’: the boys have aspects of Royal Blood’s debut- that same endeavor and ambition; the epic riffs and huge choruses.  Listen to the likes of Figure It Out and Out of the Black and you can hear a bit of No Retreat: the trip, duck and dive; the groove and head-rush; that immense carnivorous bite- all backed with some pretty cutting lyrics.  The production values are quite similar too: both bands come across as both live-sounding and polished.  Words and utterances do not get over-bleached or drowned; the vocals do not get pushed down and suppressed- it is all up-front and elemental.  At the same time, there is a great ragged edge to things: Gorilla Punch Radio wants their music to sound like it is in your face- no studio tinsel and needless overproduction here, thanks!  When comparing Gorilla Punch Radio to Muse, you’d go back to their ‘glory days’- the 1-2-3 of Origins of Symmetry, Absolution and Black Holes and Revelations.  Nowadays (and as was evident with Drones) Matt Bellamy has been getting his crayons out; scribbling pseudo-political lyrics with a surprising amount of juvenilia and homoeroticism- Bellamy is more Chad Kroeger than Bob Dylan when it comes to penning a line.  Among the over-serious attacks and lyrical retardation, the riffs and bat-shit-crazy goofiness remains- the likes of Repears, Defector and The Handler are among their best tracks.  Muse hit their peak (in my opinion) on Black Holes and Revelations.  That album saw their riffs at their sharpest- with Assassin and Map of the Problematique right up there- and the emotion at its most earnest (songs like Soldier’s Poem and Supermassive Black Hole are delightful).  Gorilla Punch Radio take that ‘overblown’ aspect and mute it slightly: they have retained the sharp and face-slicing riffs; the operatic and dramatic vocals; the made-for-the-U.S.A. sound.  What is most evident- and the best comparison- is the craft and production.  On Black Holes’, Muse sound fully-realised and equal- in previous releases it was The Matt Bellamy Show.  With No Retreat, Gorilla Punch Radio sound equal and in-step; each member pulls their weight impressively and there is no sense of imbalance- each instrument gains equal footing to add to the overall quality and force.

When the band released their self-titled debut album- at the end of last year- tracks like Bragging Rights stood out- that song was appropriate in its declarations.  The immediacy and intuition was evident from the off; the song was filled with passion and urgency.  On No Retreat the boys sound even more confident and assured- from the earliest seconds, they have improved their sound; come on since their earliest days.  From the get-go, the riff is snaking and poisonous: it snakes and jives its way through the speakers; a concoction of threads and notes- fizzing and popping with energy and potential.  Flecks of Foo Fighters and Royal Blood unite to create something fascinating and teasing- the listen has their interest and imagination pricked instantaneously.  Clattering and rumbling, the band unites tight and fiercely.  The boys are up the task at hand: the percussion is particularly dominant (in the early exchanges) as the Gorilla boys whip an epic and grand-standing introduction.  When our man gets to the microphone, you can feel the anxiety and hostility.  Pressure is building; the strain is coming- like “acid dripping in an open wound”- and he is pressure-bound and all-consumed.  Whatever has compelled this feeling- whether the stresses of modern life or high expectations- there is an unnerving degree of anger and explosion.  The fires are burning; the tensions are building: our man is overcoming the odds against some rather stringent forces.  In terms of the mixing and production, the vocal is given a good chance to shine and focus- it is not buried low and crowded by the instruments.  That said, the mix also allows plenty of instrumental swagger and prevalence- the band members never let up their energy and motivation.  With some Grohl-esque growl, the sense of balkanisation is evident: either rallying against life’s pressures- or people who are letting him down- our hero is putting up his armour (and suggesting sides are being picked).  Just after the 1:00 mark- and after the initial round of anxiety- the band crank out a spiraling riff; prabond their instruments in a flurry of fist-pump and shout- making sure the listener’s attention does not wane or wander.  In the same way Royal Blood slam and punch- not to belabour a point or compare the band to them too much- the Gorilla boys have that same raw and relentless sound; the mixture of ‘90s Grunge/Indie with something unique- an insight into the struggles the band face.  Defiant in the face of adversity, the lads are faced with fist-raising enemies- these gorillas are waiting in the mist- and detractors.  Both youthful and mature, the band is waiting for submission: they will not be beaten and put-down; they are here for the long-run.  Whether a declaration to the music industry- the band will not be overcome and overlooked- or something personal, that determined and relentless voice cannot be overlooked.  In fact, at the mid-way point, the guitar work shines brightest: a delirious and whacked-out grumbling riff burrows through the concrete; conspiring with drum and bass, the band reaches their heavy best.  Beefy and British- a fuse of contemporary ‘Blood and ‘80s Judas Priest- the fretwork is both exhausting and exhilarating; it keeps the mind guessing and the ears hooked.  When our man is back at the microphone, his burden is no less extinct- that insatiable chorus comes round to root.  Melodic and sing-along, forceful and bolshie, you cannot help but chant in support- the bitterness and side-choosing; rebellion and masculinity.  The lines have been drawn- as we find out by this stage- and the vocal becomes malevolent and cooing (down to a whisper at this stage) as the lines “have been drawn” and another has come; there is that tangible sense of warfare- sides coming together in an explosive riot.  The Muse comparisons may not be too far off (at this stage) as there is some tremendous vocal work- something operatic and high-pitched is unleashed in the background- and the riffs have that Absolution sound (Plug In Baby and The Small Print especially) – the lads expertly walk the line of genuine honesty and intergalactic epic-ness (a combination not even Muse can the hang of these days- one suspects Matt Bellamy needs to find a good woman and read some Aldous Huxley).  By the end, the boys join vocals; the heat is well and truly on- the song becomes a sprinting bull; a wild and horny monster (the extent of the emotions involved is combustible).  The final notes are a guitar hold: a final note is struck and it is held; floating in the musical cosmos.  This a good move as not only do you get a very vivid picture- imagine the boys downing instruments and walking off with triumph to applause- but it allows some calm and consistency (although a nice, sharp ending may have been better: think Out of The Black and Loose Change is we want to go Royal Blood again).

Each member of the band has expounded a lot of effort and time: No Retreat is testament to a lot of craft and discussion; some dry-runs and rehearsal- a song that sounds as loose as it does honed and studied.  The exceptional production values and tremendous mixing means every note is decipherable and crystalline- yet instilled with some dents and cracks (to give it a great live sound).  The lyrics remain simple yet personal; nuanced and open for interpretation: the band are fighting forces of suppression; trying to battle the odds- yet you are never 100% sure if they are battling particular people (or just the state of the world).  This means, not only can listeners fill in the gaps, but the song appeals to a wider audience- if it were too insular and personal its appeal would be finite and mortal.  As it is, their single has all the mainstream appeal or your Royal Bloods, yet is ready-made for the underground pits- the sweat-flailing floors of the country’s best music venues.  Arms aloft and fist-pumping in its criteria, the Leeds collective have crafted something both classic and current- yet they do not sound too like anyone else; only themselves.  The guitar work is exceptional and ferocious for large parts.  When it needs to be controlled and calm, it always bubbles with intent: threatening to punch you in the jaw at any provocation.  The bass work guides and glides in the calmer moments; frantic and driving when the song explodes.  Similarly the drums provide a constant heartbeat and sense of primeval beat: always making the song sound Jurassic and masculine in every moment.  Together, the instruments create a Rock symphony; a concrete-aiming kick to the senses- and it succeeds in achieving its aims.  With vocal work that has suggestions of Dave Grohl and the Grunge greats, we have a forceful and powerful voice: something that makes No Retreat such a terrific song.

It is hard to point at any negatives or suggestions.  At points, I would suggest making the vocal even fiercer and wracked: adding in a primal call and scream; adding extra intensity in the chorus perhaps- matching the passion and fervency of the instrumentation.  With regards the mixing- although it is exceptional indeed- perhaps putting the percussion higher up the mix.  No Retreat is a song that demands a huge beat and clear kick- putting the drum further up; clarifying and defining its quality and the song would have a punchier and harder sound (that its lyrics cry out for).  They are minor suggestions, and in reality, I cannot fault the song for any reason.  The Leeds collective has not only unleashed a superb stand-along single, but a taste of the future: if they produce an album with songs like his, they will be festival booked in a second.  Primed and born for both underground venues and large stages, the boys should prime themselves for the future- they are sure to be big names before you know it.

Having dealt with the band before (and their music) I knew what to expect to a degree- No Retreat blows away any cobwebs of expectation.  No mere Foo Fighters wannabe, the lads inject their own cocktail of force and relevance: a song that speaks to the listener whilst kicking them square in the nuts.  Cranking the volume all the way to 12 (even Spinal Tap couldn’t kick it that far) the Leeds brotherhood has unleashed a snarling cross-breed: the teeth and snarl of a British bulldog; the heart of and hunt instinct of an American Fox Hound.  Together, you have an unbeatable combination: edges of American greats with some home-grown honesty.  The band has taken every care to ensure No Retreat is a supreme thing; it is polished and ragged; rough-and-ready around the edges.  Let’s hope new music embraces the potential of Gorilla Punch Radio: the band is no mere one-trick ponies; they have a lot more to say.  When I reviewed Goldbirds- and their brilliant new music- I was confident they will go onto great things- I have no hesitations here.  Radio stations are embracing Gorilla Punch Radio; their fan-base is starting to climb- their social media ranks will be expanding and diversifying.  One day we will discover a social media platform for music- takes away the needless aspects of Facebook and Twitter- and dedicate something to music/musicians.  That way, not only will venues be aware of ideal/perfect bands (for their venue) but other musicians will be able to connect- fans will be able to find their type of music without serendipity.  ReverbNation and their ilk do okay but there is nothing comprehensive and fully-fledged.  At the moment, we have to rely on luck and good fortune: the mainstream media cannot uncover every great act out there; it is a hell of a challenge.  I hope the lads get some more sounds out there; get a full SoundCloud and YouTube account set up- at the moment, it is quite hard to locate their music.  In time- and when they have more songs out there- they will be readily available.  Their Facebook and Twitter accounts are well-maintained and full; they want to make sure they are updated and full- plenty of people will want to keep abreast of all their news.  What more can one say then?  Well, it seems new music is producing plenty of variety; some terrific acts are coming through- I wish Gorilla Punch Radio all the best.  The Indie/Rock/Alternative mould is starting to fill up; the competition and range is quite immense- everyone fighting for those future festival dates.  If the band keep crafting gems like No Retreat, then they will be assured: the likes of Los’ and The Goldbirds have shown what can be achieved if you get your sound right.  Personal and unique; contemporary and familiar in places, the Leeds clan should be very proud- make sure you do not overlook what they have to offer.  In a year that has provided some great acts; songs that stick in the mind, No Retreat is right up with them.  I have a feeling…

2016 will be a great year for the band.

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