Track Review: Echo Arcadia- Ghosts



Echo Arcadia








Ghosts is available at:


Folk-Indie; Pop-Rock


Edinburgh, Scotland


IT is a relief to be back with a band that….

have had a quiet year (this year).  I am glad to hear back from them- was going to check round their houses for any dodgy smells/piling mail on the doorstep- but the boys (and girl) have been busy working- getting some new music together.  Having called off the police- and putting my ‘body-poking pole’ back in the closest- I can breathe a sigh of relief and welcome them back- one of my favourite subjects from last year.  When assessing Beauty in an Average Life– the band’s L.P. released last April- it marked both a turning-point and an eye-opener.  On the one hand, my reviews became fuller and more detailed- the Scottish band’s music brought so much out of me- and consequently, turned me into a better writer.  The music- offered by Echo Arcadia- was so evocative and dream-inspiring; compelling and dramatic- filled with so much beauty and heart.  Few bands (up until that point) had elicited the same reaction- the hand-trembling visceral; that ecstatic paen- trying to get everything down.  Not to over-sell the band; the music had that special quality- something I had never heard before; have not heard since.  Deeply personal and special, it also had a wide appeal: songs that connect with listeners; sounds that both comfort and intrigue- the band’s passionate performances completely natural (and enough to overwhelm the sturdiest of ears).  Before I (re-)introduce the band- and update you on their activities- I am reminded of a few things.   My first point- don’t need to sigh that hard; I only have three (points) – concerns band variation/style.  A lot of what I am hearing- from my last review to the majority of this year’s- is heavy and Rock-influenced.  Bands tend to- and not that it’s a bad thing- turn the volume up; get those riffs screaming like a bitch; ensure (the music proffered) kicks balls and pulls hair- leaves the listener (a triturated) mess of skin and bones.  Within the chaos and coskureidness (not a word; sounds good, mind) there is nuance and intelligence- we’re not talking about Nickelback here!  It is always nice when bands are more ‘daring’; that is to say, go beyond the majority- craft something with that emotional depth; something possessed of symphonic edges- put beauty before muscles.  It takes a lot of guts and assuredness- making tender and emotive music requires more thought and patience- to deliver on this; go beyond the expected ‘norm.’- and create something that captures the mind (in addition to the heart and body).  I love my guitars-turned-right-up-brother kind of sounds: the Rock/Indie/Alternative market is throwing some terrific bands out (including my last review, Archi Deep and the Monkeyshakers).  Being influenced by the likes of Arcade Fire, The National and Radiohead- three of my favourite bands; shall touch on this more, anon– the Echo Arcadia-ns produce stunningly evocative sounds; filled with emotion and soul- no wonder they resonate so hard with fans and reviewers.  My second point is- shall return to my initial fascination soon- concerns Scottish music.  The six-piece hail from Edinburgh- a city that is producing some of the finest up-and-coming bands.  From my perennial, obligatory- and downright right-to-reign-supreme- lovelies Universal Thee (their Pavement-cum-Pixies blends are darned wonderful) to Ded Rabbit- a band amassing followers and effusiveness- and their tremendous anthems- the city is showcasing some (wondrous musicians).  I touched it on a previous interview- when questioning a Yorkshire-based musician- who said (the reason the county produced so much great music) was the lack of suffocation and shoulder-bumping- you may encounter in London and Manchester (and busier cities).  That lesser suffocation; the space and freedom (to conspire, breathe and relax) leads to better music; fewer anxious moments- a more intuitive and organic experience.  I think Edinburgh- maybe even compared to Glasgow, say- has that freedom; the engaging and brotherly (music) community; the space to create.  I know I bang on about London and its musical splendours- love that city; want to like it all over- but eyes should be trained to Scotland.  In addition to being quite overlooked- anything north of Manchester and the music media starts to switch off- the country is producing more variation and quality (in my opinion) than any other part of the U.K.  Echo Arcadia are the embodiment of this: a band distinct from the London-scene; indicative (of Scotland’s) growing nursery- where its children have already learnt to run; are a lot more savvy and developed (than their southern peers).  Before I get to my last point- and exhaust everyone’s eyes- let’s meet (once more) Echo Arcadia:

Leigh Moyes – Lead Vocals, Rhythm Guitar
Tony Dalton – Lead Guitar
Euan Mushet – Bass
Dan Ciesielski – Drums
Andrew Gray – Violin, Vocals
Jenna White – Vocals, Synth

Echo Arcadia make sweet music out of Edinburgh, Scotland. Their unusual mix of gritty rock backbeats, grumbling guitars and catchy pop melodies have gained them a growing fanbase. The seven members’ eclectic influences marry to create a fresh alternative to the usual indie-pop/rock fare.  The band consists of frontman and rhythm guitarist Leigh, lead guitarist and vocalist Vonny, guitar, vocals and trumpet taken care of by Kevin, Pete on keys and vocals, bassist Euan, Andy on violin and Dan on drums.  Following the release of their inaugural ‘Broken Chapter’s EP in October 2010, the Arcadians have enjoyed an intensive period of gigging, also relishing opportunities to play acoustically, allowing them to hone their sound and take their music to a new audience. 6 months later, they recorded their first single, ‘Joker’, (made available for download in early March 2011), Edinburgh Spotlight had this to say about it: “Sparkling and freshly polished…the track uses layers of shimmering guitar and Leigh and Siobhan’s atmospheric vocal harmonies to create a multi-faceted little nugget of poppiness.
All this builds up to a classic vocal refrain which we guarantee you will be singing in the shower, on the way to work, shopping at the supermarket and everywhere else until all your friends tell you to shut up (or until they get their own copy).”  
The band are scheduling gigs further afield with aspirations of a UK tour in the near future.

My last point relates to the band themselves: and, in addition to that, the personalities that come through.  A lot of new bands (and those bedded-in) do not win you with their personalities: they come off as gruff or aloof; concerned with the music itself- no need to speak to people, huh?  With Echo Arcadia- and what I love about the band- is their friendliness and approachability.  Having (had a) line-up reconfiguration- the odd change or two- has not fazed the band- they remain as effervescent and humorous as ever!  With their hirsute boys- except the under-fuzzed Tony: needs to get some serious beard-age going on! – and their gorgeous girl, the band compel and fascinate.  Their biography (on their official website) illuminates this side: Leigh is scared of submarines; Jenna is preparing for zombie apocalypse (aren’t we all, sister); Tony has a Burger-King-sign-meets-one-testicle-resulting-in-severance nightmare; Andrew’s street-cred. has upped; Euan has a magical bass- and Dan hits things (hope they mean percussion-wise; might want to keep an eye on that).  What you get- from their homepage and biographies- is a band filled with life, laughs and love- essentially qualities for any new act.  Why, you may ask?  Well, when you are a more relaxed and smile-inducing band, better music comes through: you have a complete package; you root for the band more heartedly; are more likely to want to see them live- and thus, remain in their camp.

Before I tackle (the band’s) new song- and get down to the nitty-gritty- it is worth assessing their progress; which acts infuse their sound- what new material sounds like.  In terms of new listeners- and where have you been all this time?!- the band list (the below) as influences

Arcade Fire, Radiohead, Biffy Clyro, Death Cab for Cutie, David Bowie, The National, Broken Records, The Smiths; The Cure, The Killers, Echo and the Bunnymen, Vampire Weekend, Pink Floyd, Air, Killing Joke, and Neil Young.

To my ear (the Edinburgh band) are the link between Arcade Fire and The National; they fuse Pink Floyd-elements with David Bowie hints.  Those male-female vocal partnerships (that Echo Arcadia’s Leigh and Jenna boast) remind me of early-days Arcade Fire.  That intense and naturalistic interplay; the superbly unique (both equally important tones).  Relating to the Canadian band, Echo Arcadia have that same sense of danger and ambition- seen across Arcade Fire’ debut Funeral.  On that album, euphoria and drama mingled together (sometimes within the same song); the band created something daring and foreign- that engrossed and stunned the critics.  Echo Arcadia lace high-drama with something tender and introverted; they can switch between symphonic and detailed.  Arcade Fire (on their debut) introduced love codas and rallying calls: songs that belted their intentions; interlinked sonic innovation with nuanced and addictive mantras.  Similarly, the band investigated hard-hitting issues- suicide and desperation- and well-worn love themes.  Echo Arcadia (on the debut album), displayed that same flair and style: able to go deeper and darker, they always bring it back around; they interweave dizzying compositions with something singular and tender- putting me in mind of the Canadian band.  In terms of The National (and Arcade Fire) front-man Leigh- who shares vocal duties more on the band’s new cuts- has those distinct tones: the sonorous and world-aware soul of Matt Berninger (that runs rampant on the American band’s discs) and Win Butler’s lightness and all-empowering directness.  The National are masters of downbeat and intense lyrics- that are highly poetic and vivid- matched against gripping compositions.  Echo Arcadia are less ‘morbid’- if that is a fair assumption of the band’s material- yet have those same poeticisms and lyrical intelligent; able to create stunning lines and oblique images- all spiraled around deep and engrossing sounds.  If you look at Davie Bowie and Radiohead- the former’s Berlin-period work; the latter’s albums Kid A and In Rainbows– you get some comparable beats.  Between 1976 and 1979, Bowie’s ‘golden period’ was unveiled- albums including Low and “Heroes” were produced.  Low cut the album in half: one half was Rock-driven and more ‘conventional; the other side more experimental.  Angular instrumentations and odd beauty united beautifully; the album is challenging and complex; the guitars go between robotic and furious; the synthesisers go from ice-cool to textured- the entire album was a masterwork of style and emotional balance.  Echo Arcadia (on their early work; on their current sounds) battle chilled electronics with some jagged guitar lines; compositions that change direction and impression- putting me in mind of Bowie’s 1977 work.  By the time of “Heroes”– released the same year as Low– Bowie utilised harder sounds and deeper compositions; more detailed synthesisers and groundbreaking sounds.  Echo Arcadia are Bowie acolytes; they have studied his gleaming regency- have created something personal and familiar; their music dips into Bowie’s 1977-era- and matches it with impressive ambition and intuition.  Finally Radiohead- Echo Arcadia are fans of U.S. and U.K. bands; varied styles and genres- I am reminded of Kid A and In Rainbows.  The former album- released off the back of a glorious 1-2-3 for the Oxford band; after The Bends and Ok Computer– and boasted their most experimental and daring work.  Forgoing their Rock-driven past, emphatic and pioneering electronics swam over songs of fractured love; remaining optimistic (in the face of reality-checks) and wanting to disappear- when solace and peace is required.  Fast-forward to 2007 and In Rainbows provided another groundbreaking change: the band turned-in one of their greatest achievements.  With no wasted moments or songs; heartbreaking beauty and emotion mix-abstract and accessibility nestled alongside one another.  Radiohead employed heartbreaking metaphors and vivid imagery- death and suffocation; a trapped animal in a hot car- with songs of desire and a tremendous sonic collage (that married Rock swagger with Synth.-laden/dreamy love songs).  Song-orientated and stunningly pretty, Echo Arcadia have considered the challenge: their music puts me in mind of (these two Radiohead) diamonds.  Both pioneering and challenging- their synthesiser work runs a gamut of emotions and possibilities; their subject matter fuses optimism with heartache- Kid A aspects come out.  If you consider Echo Arcadia’s sense of beauty and accessibility; their fusions of Rock-drive and electronic dreaminess- just listen to their debut album; you get bucket-loads of it.

Since their Beauty in an Average Life phase- when all these artists and albums stunningly come to the fore- the band have remained consistency; yet have introduced new challenges and changes.  All that beauty, emotion and sweeping soundscape- that was trickling in every note (of their debut L.P.)- remains intact and pure; if anything there shows greater promise and mobility- perhaps a great sonic depth and emotional richness; some new themes and fresh ambition.  The band sound more confident and determined (on their current offerings); more ‘together’ and inspired- building on their early promise; the Scottish band sound completely striking and daring; they ooze quality and nuance- every song possesses stunning details and depth.  The changes concern both sound and line-up: the band have incurred a minor shift-around- band members have been promoted; new faces have provided Synth. Sounds- which has not altered their consistency, togetherness and unity- a plight that would befall lesser bands.  In spite of some re-workings; Echo Arcadia sound even-more together and relaxed; they seem more natural and ambitious- their new songs (although at the rough-and-ready stage) showcase immense potential.  At its heart is the band’s relations and solidity: they are great friends and truly together; completely in-tune and old-friends-jamming-once-again- this radiates in their new material.  What this all means- the albums comparisons; the changes/improvements within the ranks- bodes well; pointing towards a huge future- their second L.P. could surpass their debut; it will appeal to loyal fans (the core sound has not shifted too much) and bring in new followers- Jenna’s central/duet vocals breathe new lust and beauty (into the band’s repertoire).  The bond between partners (Leigh and Jenna) is at its peak; the band tightness is at it level-best- the music is at its richest and most ambitious.

Recorded in March (among the band’s other upcoming album tracks); Ghosts begins with some haunt and echo- appropriate give its title.  Languid, aching strings romantically strain and yearn; backed by a driving and pitter-patter, beat, the song whips up an evocative and tender beginning- eliciting a lot of emotion and beauty (within the first few seconds).  Initial lyrics see Leigh step to the microphone; his voice soft and urgent; emotional and shivering.  Ghosts are wrapped (around him) like a “winter coat”- you imagine what is being referred to; whether (the ghosts are) memories or simply bad times.  Keeping the cold at bay; until “time stands still again”- the images of ghosts and protection are enforced; distinct and vivid images come through. Keeping his voice level and restrained- not letting it needlessly fly or rise- the words are clear and concise; that sense of emotion and determination is clear- you find yourself rooting for the hero.  Whether coming off the back of a relationship- maybe love has broken down or ruction has occurred- you start to question and speculate.  To my mind, something less tangible is being referenced: perhaps some self-doubt and unhappiness; maybe some sense of vulnerability; what has caused it (I am not sure).  Leigh’s voice- in the early phases- reminds me of a cross between Bryan Ferry and Win Butler.  There is that romance and breathiness; a calming and soothed tone- packed with plenty of meaning, heart and passion.  As you get entranced within the song; dive inside the lyrics- and, subsequently, follow our hero’s plight- the song develops and augments.  Spiked and shimmer guitar notes come through- earlier in the song, a beautiful electronic/piano sound backed up the song’s grace and serenity- and instantly transform the mood.  From its tender and introspective beginnings, Ghosts starts to climb and evolve: the strings rush and spark; there is a sound of ‘70s Rock greats lingering in the coda (suggestions of Pink Floyd eek through).  Joined by Jenna, the vocals unite and rise: the duo’s voices perfectly mingle (within each other); Jenna adds some beauty and enchantment- her voice remains calm and serve; never stealing attention, it perfectly fuses within Leigh’s aching heart.  It is said “ghosts sit still and stare at me”- causing the listener to project some rather striking images- and cause anxiety and sadness.  Throughout these early moments- and hearing what has come before- you start to wonder its causation and origin: why is our hero in this place?  What has enforced these thoughts?  The band manages to project that balance of intimacy and grand.  The scenes that unfold- spirits hovering; the cold beckoning- are simultaneously epic and personal; universal and unique; each listener can relate to the song; share experiences and similar feeling.  Once again- and before you start to predict where the song may be headed- the mood shifts once more; the composition becomes heavier and harder- the percussion hisses and fizzes; the song becomes even more urgent and haunting.  With some spectacularly and tender wordless vocals (Jenna’s voice particularly stands out), those shivers increase; an extra layer of beauty is unfolded- you get a real visceral sense of specteralness and ghost-haunting.  Adding in some quivering and spirit-inducing electronics/synths., Ghosts earns its most immediate (and title-referencing) hit- that sonic embodiment of the song’s ideals.  What Echo Arcadia do so well- and proved so on their debut album- is that ability to switch sound and course; take a song through the heavens without warning- then bring it straight back down.  Lesser bands would simply keep on the same course- with regards the vocal and composition sound- yet Echo Arcadia understand the importance of instrumentation and unexpectedness- keeping the listener on their toes; subverting expectations.  Those images and metaphors keep coming back in; our duo seem haunted (still)- you wonder whether resolution and answers will be found; what is causing such unrest and investigation.  The ghosts pass through “like an open door”; whisper secrets as they go, the vocals (from Leigh and Jenna) remain firm and tender.  Like a “debt that can’t be sold”, that mystique and intrigue climbs ever higher: the band keep true revelation at bay; ensure true meaning and genesis is never released.  This means the listener is free to interpret and wonder: to my ear, the song is a universal message; designed to appeal to the masses- not one necessarily enforced by individual circumstances.  I know the band have had some tough times- some doubts and personal woes- yet the song seems to have a ubiquitous and wide-reaching message: its lyrics and meanings can be extrapolated by all; each listener can relate to an extent- Ghosts is a track that seems like an anthem for the broken-hearted.  With the volume and tension at a high- the band come in rushing and hard; tight and fast-flowing- Jenna unveils a sweet-sounding (yet chilling) insight: her heart and soul are laid bare; her vulnerability and fears exposed.  Parabonding with herself- Jenna’s backing vocals remain on the scene- you get a layered and transcendent moment; the beauteous and gripping voice hits its peak- and leaves the listener seduced and overcome.  Before the track ends its fight, the composition spirals and storms once again: the guitar dizzies and rises; the bass drives the composition forward; the percussion remains strong-willed and leading.  It is the electronic notes (synthesiser offerings) that add colour and evocation: that compositional ghost hovers and flies across the night’s sky; its work and damage done- as the band put the song to rest.

Before I mention the band themselves (and their role in the song), it is worth mentioning: this version is a pre-album, ‘demo’ version.  Some aspects could change; the overall sound may sound a little different (when the song gets into the studio), but from what is on offer, I would not change a thing.  The track sounds fully-formed and ready.  Whilst it has that live-sounding feel to it- the band may want something more polished and full- Ghosts is a tantilising and fascinating insight (as to what the band are working on now).  I chose the song (to review) because it boasted their merits and hallmarks: those incredible (duel) vocals; the detailed and everyman lyrics- topped off with a stunning band performance.  Ghosts’ raw form may want to remain as such- although the band may have different ideas.  First of all, it is worth commending the production and sound of the song.  Although a ‘Living Room Session’, there is clarity and concision- a lot of acts I have reviewed recently have negated this concern- you can hear the lyrics clearly and sharply; the composition is sharp and colourful- the quality comes through clearly from start to finish.  This quality is the result of the band themselves: the performance is consistently tight and impressive; each note and thought is delivered with the utmost sense of importance and passion- there is no wasted moments; no lazy offerings.  Leigh has come up with a song (that shows him at his creative peak: clearly inspired and compelled (either by real-life concern or something else) Ghosts is a stunning and nuanced track; one that sounds deeply personal- yet has a voice that speaks to all; lyrics that will resonate and resound.  His vocals (throughout) are calming and concentrated; direct and emotive- shades Berninger, Bowie and Butler come through- is ensures the song never slips from the memory; each thought and word is brought to life.  Showcasing his lyrical and musical dexterity, our hero has crafted one (the band’s) finest tracks; something intimate and grand- a song that demands repeated listens and fond consideration.  I am slightly new to Jenna’s voice; that sensual and soulful vocal- Leigh explained he keen to share the vocals; claims not to be the best singer around (pish!).  Whilst Leigh’s voice remains reliably gripping and dramatic; pairing with Jenna is a wise and considered move: the duo sound natural and made-for-one-another (being partners you can hear that connection).  Their tones complement one another beautifully: Jenna has an ethereal and sweet quality; plenty of seduction and raw emotion- when it stands alone, you get the biggest emotional reaction.  Joining Leigh’s rhythm guitar, Tony’s lead strings realty stand out.  Never stealing focus and encroaching at all, what he does is augment and emphasise the mood; add an enormous emotion of energy and mystery- so many colours and possibilities are unveiled.  When solo-ing, you get a scintillating and mesmeric sound; you are swallowed-up in its immediacy- he manages to employ so much evocation and weight.  Not only (does Tony’s guitar) have its own magic and plaudit; it bonds with the rest of the band; drives the rest of the instruments- becoming more subtle and blended-in when required.  Euan’s bass work acts as guidance and backbone: keeping the song supple and focused, he drives it forward; perfectly conjoining with (the drum and guitars) the bass is instilled with colour and personality; rhythm and melody- ample heart and energy.  Dan’s drum work impressed me from the first to last (as it did through the band’s debut album).  Most of the time, the drum is required to remain subtle and controlled- add a heartbeat and sense of urgency to support the vocals.  When the song climbs and explodes, the percussion leads that charge: both granite and combustible, the drum stands out loud and clear; evokes such an amount of grit and influence.  Ghosts also boasts some wonderful synths. and strings.  With violin (I may be wrong, that is the sound I picked up) adding some romance and shiver-inducing beauty; Ghosts is given a necessary dose of despondency and grace.  The strings remain light and tender; just weaving into the background- adding a huge amount of emotion to the track.  The synths. really stand out and pervade.  During the initial phases, the focus is on the vocals (largely): as the song mutates and expands; the synths. comes in and do their work- the representation of the ghostly spirit; an audible embodiment that certainly creates haunt and coldness.  That said, there is also light and energy to be found: the synths., on the one hand, create drama and tension; on the other, there is plenty of charm and wonderment.  Overall, Ghosts will please older Echo Arcadia fans (such as myself) as it continues their Beauty’ work- they keep their hallmarks firm; do not radicalise and transform their sound too much.   For those new to the band, there is plenty to recommend: the song is perfect for when you’re feeling introspective and thoughtful; it makes the listener imagine and reflect- a powerful and hugely evocative song.  Ghosts also has a stand-alone quality: it is a great track that should be played at full volume.  Never morbid or overly-emotional, it is a terrific song that reveals new light (across further spins); one of the most stand-out and stunning songs on the scene- I cannot wait to hear it sit on their new album.  On that thought, I would recommend you follow Echo Arcadia; check out their progress and going-ons: with a new L.P. coming forth, there is no real excuse.  Being such a patron and supporter (of their debut) their new material is both faithful and different: keeping that unimpeachable quality and brilliance, the band is investigating new themes/subjects- Ghosts sees the Edinburgh clan in inspired voice.

Being my second experience with Echo Arcadia- barring a drunken dream we shall never speak of- I have been both surprised and comforted.  Having speculated as to their whereabouts- vivid images of zombie apocalypses, Burger King lawsuits and submarine attacks came to mind- I am glad the Edinburgh band is back.  As the band explains, they have been hard it; contributing their music to a film (Safe Haven); they have been adding synths. to their work; working busy-busy- putting together their sophomore L.P.  Can they top (the staggering) Beauty in an Average Life?  Short answer: hell-yeah, course they can, son!  To be honest with you- given that album’s impeccable standards- there was not much room for improvement- with their new material, I don’t know, they sound even better!  Perhaps re-inspired or energised- by relations within the band or some time away- but the new music (I have been lucky enough to hear) is among their very finest- and this is the ‘demo.-sounding’ tracks coming out.  I chose Ghosts– as their album’s standout track/one I think best sums them up now- as it contains all the bands’ hallmarks: those entrancing and emotive vocals (supplied by Leigh and Jenna); the incredible composition- that draws in so much beauty and atmosphere; history and evocation; grandeur and tenderness- and the stunning lyrics (that seem to connect with everyone, somehow).  The band themselves make (the music so) gripping: their performances are tight and well-rehearsed; they have such an affiliation and connection- you can hear those solid bonds; that natural (shared affection).  This all bodes well for the future: when their new album drops (not sure what it is called yet) I for one will want to get on top of that: dig into its mysteries and warm kisses; untangle its messages and mysteries (or something less pretentious).  What Echo Arcadia have done- in addition to pleasing my musical senses- is confirm my deepest beliefs: that Scotland is producing some fine-ass music; showing the U.K. how it’s done- differing from the London/Manchester/Liverpool (predictable; over-exposeed0 co-efficiency.  The band has that radiance and cheekiness; those distinct and loveable personalities: a group you want to hang with; lift pints with- share their adventures.  When it comes to the music, they are both entrancing and nuanced: their songs grip (upon the first listen) and then keeps giving more- every new spin uncovers something special.  Ghosts is a perfect 2015 track: it encapsulates a lot of modern vibes- and what the finer end of the mainstream is producing- and adds warmth and quality to a (let’s face it) somewhat lackluster musical year.  It only leaves me to summarise, now- sure you’ll be glad to hear.  Having been contacted by Leigh- the band’s leader and all-round nice dude- I was primed for something special: following Beauty in an Average Life; my expectations were high.  Having regrouped- or slightly reconfigured- the band have had a creative retreat; put new thoughts to paper- fusing and concocting their new sounds.  I can tell you this- and from having the new album (in a nearly-ready form) on my laptop- the signs are all good.  Building from their debut- retaining its core sound and qualities- the guys have added new elements (instrumental and lyrical); the vocals are stunning (both Jenna and Leigh offer highly-charged and gorgeous tones); the compositions are rich and colourful- lush and flowing; building and grand.  Make sure you check out Ghosts– go to the band’s iTunes page and check their first album out- and buckle your seatbelts: Echo Arcadia will be back hard and fast- sparing no prisoners!  It has been great to reconnect with the Edinburgh band- and hope they hit-me-up when the album is released- and assess their new sounds (again, one of my favourite songs from this year).  Having spilled my thoughts- and possibly caused pronation of the fingers- it is time to leave the zombie-bashing-testicle-missing-submarine-fearing-thing-hitting band to their business; wish them the fondest- and keep an eye peeled.  Back last year- when reviewing their album- that review changed my writing; made me more hopeful and deep- their music broke the boundaries of (the music I was used to) hearing.  This year, I have heard a lot of terrific music- more varied and impressive than last year- but Echo Arcadia have done it again: connected with a part of me (I thought had dissipated).  Whether it is their particular music brand; their kinship and warmth (something else, perhaps) – those Scots always strike me hard.  Anyway, have a listen/investigation; dive into their creative annals and…

BE sure to snap-up their forthcoming album!



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Interview: NINA






ANOTHER week; another great female artist…

has come to my attention.  London-based; German-born, NINA is one of the most impressive Pop/Electro.-Pop artists coming through- her voice is among the most distinct on the scene.  A lot new Pop-based artists tend to stick too closely (to someone else’s voice); come off as somewhat uninspired and unoriginal- NINA has no such flaws; she is one of the most captivating and singular artists on the block.  Under the caring wing of Aztec Records, the superstar has recently covered Heart of Glass– by the inimitable and timeless Blondie.  Her fan-base is building and diversifying- gaining support and kudos from all corners of the world- new music is mooted; the signs are all bright.  Inspired by the likes of HAIM, Fleetwood Mac and The Doors; NINA channels multiple sounds/sensations into her music; creates stunning atmosphere and compositions- those that get inside the heart; convey everyday emotions and personal insight.  Having released the E.P.s My Mistake and We Are the Wild Ones (one of its tracks is featured/reviewed below), eyes on are the German singer: it will be exciting to see where she goes next.  With her music gaining so much support; her songs winning-over so many fans, I was keen to catch up with NINA; see who influenced her (growing up)- and when we can expect a new E.P…

Hi NINA. How has your day been?  Where are you speaking to us from?

It’s been a productive day.  I just finished recording a new track in my home studio.

The modern scene is seeing a lot of female singer-songwriters come through.  What would you say separates you from the crowd?

It took me a long time to find a project (and a sound that I wanted to represent) and I think I found something that it’s different from the rest.  Something that takes me back to my younger years, the retro feel, the synths; the sounds I grew up listening to.  I think people can relate to that.

You are based in London- and represented by Aztec Records.  How have you found life in London?

There is no place like London- I’ve lived in London for 11 years.  I’ve pretty much lived here throughout most of my youth.  Although I’m a free spirit, and don’t call anywhere my ‘home’; I put London very close to my heart.  The music scene is like no other.  London is magical and very influential.

Being born and raised in Berlin, how does the music scene differ here (compared to London)?

I think it’s hard to compare Berlin and London.  I couldn’t tell you which music scene I’d prefer; they’re both so different. I like how hardcore Berlin can be- with their Techno/House raves- and how surprising London can be (with constant up-and-coming raw talent).  Amazing artists like Amy Winehouse, Ed Sheeran; Jessie J., John Newman (and many more) all started off performing in little venues in London.  It’s inspiring to see.

Growing up, which artists influenced your sound/direction?

I loved bands like Depeche Mode, Queen, The Doors and artists like David Bowie, Blondie and Cyndi Lauper.  Their stage presence, charisma and sound were mesmerising.

Which current artists would you recommend?

From the U.K. it has to be The Levity- a new up-and-coming band from Devon.  Their live shows are awesome and I’ve been collaborating with them recently on a couple of songs.  They’ve got the ‘80s sound nailed to perfection.

And from the States, HAIM- they’re simply awesome.

Your latest track is Heart of Glass (a cover of the Blondie song).  What compelled you to record that track?

I’ve always been a huge Blondie fan.  Growing up listening to them definitely shaped my music style, so it was an easy choice.  I knew I wanted to make it my own; but that isn’t easy to do with a song you’ve listened to all your life.  But me and my drummer (Laura Fares) sat down one evening and it just flowed.  I’m glad the response has been great- and I’ve had lots of Blondie fans sending me lovely comments.

Your My Mistake E.P. (released last year) was met with acclaim; it resounded with listeners.  What themes inspired the E.P.?

The ‘80s era and the New Synth-Wave movement.  The main theme is about learning from unsuccessful relationships.  It can hurt but it will get better.

I am reviewing We Are The Wild Ones -the title track from the E.P. – and was wondering: that particular song stands out in my mind.  Can you tell us a bit about it (what inspired it etc.)?

Like ‘My Mistake’, the ‘80s were a big influence.  I collaborated with another band and we knew exactly what we wanted it to sound like.  It’s about escape, wanting to be free and loving ‘til the end, no matter what.  “Find what you love and let it kill you” like Bukowski said.

Can we expect new music from you soon- an E.P. or album- and touring dates?

Yes; I’m releasing my 3rd E.P. very soon- and I’m working on that with amazing producer Richard X (who I deeply admire).  I’ll also be touring Sweden, Italy and Germany before the year ends.

What advice would you give to up-and-coming singers; are there any words you would offer?

Always stay true to yourself.  Work damn hard; find yourself and your own style and never give up.  Be strong, be focused.

Finally- and for agreeing to take part in the interview- I will play any song here (of your choice) – name it…

Massive Attack – Teardrop 



We Are the Wild Ones’ title track looks at “Midnight street lights”; a place where there is haunt and (lack of) forgiveness- a cold and shallow countenance.  The opening (electronic beats) remind me a little of Erasure.  Matching their Wonderland-era climb, the introduction pulses and smashes; it is a lot harder and more sexual (than NINA’s peeps’ music) and makes its declarations know.  The percussive beats are both dramatic and scenic- you get a sense of city streets and harsh sounds; cold and dark avenues; juxtaposed by star-crossed lovers and (the lights emanating from) local bars.  In fact, the entire introduction has that ‘80s-Synth-Pop sounds- the likes of Erasure, Gary Numan and The Human League.  NINA concocts her own (swelling and catchy) blend of beats and electronics; hard to tie them with anyone else- that distinction and originality shines through.  Eliciting so much potential (in the opening exchanges) you wait for the voice to come in; what tone it will take- how it will melt with the composition.  NINA’s voice- on the wave of ghostly Synth.-Pop beats- is light and emotive; not too heavy-handed, the vocal dispenses its words with careful economy- ensuring the listener understands each idea and image.  It seems our heroine is waiting for a man- her wannabe star-crossed lover- as she tangles within the shoulders of a London night- knowing some (of their) hearts will break.  Right from the start, the lyrics aim for philosophy and life truths- life is shorter than we’d care for; we have to do all our living soon- that urgency and sense of determination shouts its name.  Wanting to- in the name of her man- “stretch across the highways”; “Until our voices echo through the dunes”; you get a sense of the romance and bond- that hungry desire to be rekindled and united.  After initial proclamation, an air of defeatism creeps in: as (the two) are the wild ones; the lost souls- maybe there is no hope for them.  It seems those more ‘ordinary’ and predictable find happiness- they do not have ambitions and those desires- whereas the young and restless do not get what they seek.  That air of pessimism is never heavy and mordent: the electronics crackles and sizzle; the beat remains static and insatiable- giving the song a king-size sense of atmosphere.  As our heroine’s voice endeavours and promises- she has a “full tank” of gas; a heart full of dreams- you root for her (and her man).  Dreamy and nuanced, the electronics-cum-beats-fusions back up the mood and momentum: the voice is perfectly complimented; allowed to nestle in the sonics- and let (her words) do their work.  The chorus underlines and emphasises the song’s core: the lovers and wild and free; outsiders of sorts- maybe this world cannot accommodate their lust and ambitions.  Riding that wave of emotion, NINA lets her voice glide and break; there is an underlying sadness and acceptance- maybe the lovers will remain distant and parted.  Towards the final stages- and as the chorus completes its work- the dizzying, hypnotic electronics comes back around; sparkle with multi-coloured grace.

We Are the Wild Ones is an anthem for young love: those that do not fit within societal boundaries; sit outside the borders- and yearn for something special and different.  The gorgeous German has clearly witnessed frustration and heartache; short-lived desires and a lot of what-if- I hope she is in a happier place now (the song was released two years ago).  The entire track bristles and campaigns with alacrity and underlying twilight.  Perhaps in London- and her beau being in Berlin or elsewhere- you picture the scenes and conversations; that sense of alienation- all vivid and real.  The percussion bonds beautifully with the electronics; the former is a racing heartbeat; a granite-tasting kick- paradoxically, the electronics mutate between swooning romance and razor-edge anxiety.  Having fallen for the E.P. We Are the Wild Ones– and its motifs of frustrated love and wild hearts-NINA continued her noble quest; producing even-more engrossing and staggering music- it bodes well for the future.  With a third E.P. on the production line, I am curious where she goes next: more tales of near-miss desire; talents of happier romance (she may be in a committed relationship) – or something more oblique.  Given (NINA’s)




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Tour Dates:

Track Review: Archi Deep and the Monkeyshakers- Nowhere Man



Archi Deep and the Monkeyshakers



Nowhere Man







Nowhere Man (teaser) is available at:

9th September, 2015

Rock ‘n’ Roll


Oléron, France; London, U.K.

The album #3 will be released in October:

Recorded and Mixed at Ardent Studios (Memphis) by Adam Hill.
Mastered in London by Noël Summerville.
Designed by Storm Studios.

Produced by Archi Deep and the Monkeyshakers.


Nowhere Man– 9.5

I’m on the Run9.5

High Minds9.3

I Can See9.5


If Only it Was Sunny9.4


Nowhere Man; I’m on the Run; I Can See; If Only it Was Sunny


Nowhere Man


THIS is my first review I have had to resort to an online translator…

to decrypt a band’s biography.  Thanks to Bing- and apologies to the band if the biography (below) – is inaccurate.   My featured band is based in France: my first review to emanate here; few new bands hail from here- at least the ones that reach the media’s attention.  Today marks a departure and fascinating diversion: I get to assess a French act- not one you’d think of; you’d have preconceived notions- and look at Rock ‘n’ Roll- its representation in today’s scene.   Looking around the music landscape, most of the bands (coming though) originate from the U.K. or the U.S. – it is a generalisation that has some truth to it.  Having recently reviewed a few U.S. acts- two from New York; one from L.A. – I have been back in British territory- reviewing the talent here.  The media in this country tend to focus their attention on homegrown acts; occasionally putting their mind in the U.S. – although in the case of Totally Mild and Royal Headache; in Australia too- but rarely does it extend to Europe.  When we think of ‘European music’ we tend to have stereotypes and false ideals: a lot of people tend to think of Euro-Pop or something arcane and bygone.  Perhaps this was true years ago- as recently as the ‘90s the European music scene has not been that varied- but recently, a lot of great bands have come through.  From Swedish Electronica to German Pop; Europe is producing some incredible music- that is possessed of character, soul and diversity.  Although my featured band has links with London, they are a French act: their sound, oddly, has U.S. tones to it.  Perhaps geography is an irrelevance (in today’s market): so long as the music is good, who cares?  Well, there is a reason for my tangent: the mainstream media neglects a lot of land; tend to focus too narrowly- there is a world of varied music out there!  Recently I have encountered everything from Israel-based Electro.-Pop- the irrepressible ADI- and German Synth./Electro. sounds- the equally capitalised (and beautiful) NINA.  I understand (music from Europe and Asia for instance) is less voluminous- you have to dig quite hard to discover great acts away from obvious areas- but we should all change our thinking.  Being in contact/connected with French journalist/online peeps, I get to hear French music coming through: fewer acts come from here (compare to the U.K.) yet the quality is very high; the sounds are adventurous and agile- there is plenty of ambition and urgency.  The French music scene is showcasing some great new talent; depending on the region/locality, you can find some wonderful new sounds- that will blow away any antiquated perceptions and clichéd ideas.  Before I raise a new point, it is time to introduce Archi Deep and the Monkeyshakers (apologies if my translations appear idiomatic or inaccurate):

Everything begins in the dark light and the London fog, Deep Archi is armed with his guitar and preach the gospel to the streets of London (Himself!): I do not want your money, I want you to like me on Facebook!  Soon after, a phone rang, he must go, we need him, but he will not come alone …!  Deep Archi and the Monkeyshakers to appease on the island of Oléron between each eruption!  They are needed: strong, raw (l) s, free and possessed!  Their determination and their rage open the doors – without trial and without label – allowing them to dust off the lobes and globes with electrically incorrect riffs, bass and scrap O rage on drums!  All wrapped towering irate!  They take you away.  Fire begins to set, in November 2013 they released EP # 1!  A hundred dates in the legs, ultra-room equipped with the most creepy cellar, they exploit every centimeter between unstructured groove and tantrums! Live on stage and off!  A surprised public – lobotomized – starts with them!  Schizophrenic and transcendent, they operate, fast, very fast!  Basic training, eccentric structure, not at all impressed!  Almost disrespectful for a tangy Rock’n’roll, abused and assured manner and the Archi Deep Monkeyshakers!  The DANCE takes a prominent place in this public – monkeys – He has no choice, he is caught in the throat, the most violent songs (but sexier) since their creation, take everything on their passage!  Finally – regurgitating – EP # 2 album (June 2014) even stronger!  He strikes with US power!  A summer of more than twenty five dates!  All the more explosive than the other! They operate in Rock’n’roll service!  Psychotic and disconcerting!  September sees the start of a promo tour in five months European target for the second album!  With over thirty dates from France to England: they claim that their place is on stage!  These three are determined to prove that he will have to reckon with them from now on!  Hold on!  To quote a friend ‘Rican: {} They are (NOT) just a (fuckin’) rock’n’roll band!

In addition to having (perhaps the) best band name ever- you cannot read it in print without conjuring vivid/strange images- the boys really look the part: the have the ice-cold swagger and vintage-cool wardrobe of a classic Rock act; the cocksure sound and incredible exhilaration- they are compellingly tight and confident; brimming with confidence and intensity- without compromising quality and integrity.  One of the band’s qualms/issues is being called ‘just’ a Rock ‘n’ Roll band- the term, in fact, does tend to limit perceptions.  If you look-up the term ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll music’ you will get images/search results of 1950s music- maybe Elvis Pressley and Buddy Holly; something quite specific.  I guess their sound is Rock ‘n’ Roll to an extent- it has that thrilling evocation of Pressley and Little Richard; Bill Hailey and his contemporaries- although their projection/sound is very modern and 2010s.  What you get from the band is something familiar yet very unique: you can hear shades of (other bands); the overall sound and feel is very-much their own- they are a group indebted to nobody.  The most arresting aspect of Archi Deep and the Monkeyshakers is their comradery and tightness; their undeniable flair and quality- each of their songs is deep and layered; they do not produce tossed-off fillers.  Having just discovered the band- being tipped-off by their manager, Arthur Di Piazza; one of the best things (about the French band) is their song-craft: so many modern Rock/Alternative bands focus on one/several aspects; something always gets missed out- no such luck with these guys.  They have the stunning images and photogenic portfolio- they make sure fans/reviewers have plenty of photo options- and great personalities- whether dressed in costumes/masks; leather jackets or something else, they are always interesting, cool and compelling.  In addition, they have the music-related pluses: for one, their songbooks are packed with slice-of-life motifs; tidbits of wit and vitriol; slabs of modern-day love woes- quotable and relatable; unique and fresh.  Their compositions are full-bloodied and nuanced: with each listen you notice something new; their performances are consistently stunning and high voltage.  Most importantly is their spirit and genuineness.  They have a clear desire and passion; they are a True Rock Band- not posers or fakers in any sense.  With so many vague/mediocre bands on the block, Archi Deep; are a cut above.

When it comes to (the band’s) new ventures, it is worth looking back- and seeing how they have changed.  Looking back at their past work, it gives a glimpse of what inspires them; the themes they relate to- and what has compelled their current work.  I Got Inked has a scratchy and juggernaut opening.  Howling strings fuse in to create an intriguing and emotive opening.  The song looks at a hard relationship; being driven mad (by his other half); having to make sacrifices.  The chorus has a memorable catch to it; the vocal is a bit underplayed- and feel a bit more force could be elicited- with our hero sounding quite wracked.  Whoever the heroine is, it seems the relation is imbalanced and hard work: our hero is by her side; they are going through the motion- whether there is underlying love/passion, I am not too sure.  Erase Yourself is a more soft and gentle affair.  With its acoustic-led beginning, the song has a calming and relaxed air.  Our man is being treated like a fool; recriminations and anger comes to the fore- his voice remains controlled and level.  Mutating into something wracked and pain, the track begins to mutate and grow.  As the title suggests, there is that need for a break: our hero is in a bad place; a relation that is causing its scars and heartache.  You can sense that strain and annoyance throughout; the vocal here is more convincing and determined- portraying the full depth of emotions- whilst the band are tight and impressive.  Half of a Two is (at that point) the band’s best track: the full embodiment of their talents, it is a catchy and hypnotic number.  The song looks at wanting to be different; in a relationship it is a cautionary tale: our man sees everyone else- and the way relationships usually go- and does not want to be like that.  The voice is more characterful and alive; filled with idiosyncrasies and nuance- little yelps and howls come into the fold.  The quirkiness and vocal prowess reminds me of early-career The Rolling Stones- it has that ‘60s vibe to it.  The guitars rollick and strike with Blues licks; they jump and tumble; colourful and full-bodied.  Dizzying and dancing, this is the band’s stand-out cut- boasting their finest lyrics and most impressive performance.  With #3– and tracks like Nowhere Man– the band have hit their stride.  Sounding more confident and intuitive, they have upped the quality; there is more consistency and passion- the tracks are more detailed and memorable.  Their current offerings are their finest achievements: for new fans, it is worth going back; looking at what they have produced- it is stunning and filled with intrigue.  Over the last few years, the boys have regained new inspiration- fewer tracks deal solely with relationship imbalance- and they have introduced new sounds into their tracks; mingle more Blues-Rock tones- their music is more rounded and complete.

Nowhere Man starts with a slight pause: a teasing little gap; a moment of reflection- before the band rush into proceedings.  Cocksure and breezy, the opening seconds see our man in louche voice; relaxed and confident- living “like a nowhere man.”  Perhaps referencing The Beatles- and imaging themselves the lead in their Rubber Soul classic- the band (who would go on to reference other songs across the mini-album, #3) instantly intrigue.  Our man does not know “where to go”- only he knows he “can’t go back”- seemingly in the grip of unfolding drama.  Introspective and anxious; unsure and determined- there is that fight-or-flight instinct.  Things have reached a head- and the situation/life has got out of control- so there is that desire to escape.  Whether coming-up against an obstacle or for, our hero has reached a plateau- there is tangible stress and tension.  Addressing (perhaps a girlfriend or lover) you get a real sense of urgency: this is augmented and defined by the ensuing compositional coda.  The riff/parable unleashed is spiraled and groovy; swaggered and cool- a marriage of Blues-Rock sex and Classic-Rock authority.  Putting my mind if early-‘90s music- Rage Against the Machine’s debut; Nirvana’s Nevermind; perhaps some embers of Pearl Jam- and you get suggestions of Grunge and Metal; not overwhelming and visceral; that underlying threat and potential.  Having raised his initial concerns- and made his decelerations and feelings known- our hero is in reflective mood: backed by a bolstering composition, he is kicking his feet up; places and spaces are f******-up his mind- you feel a real connection with his plight.  Both oblique and emotive, some of the lyrics make you wonder: is he talking about his home town?  Is a relationship causing him to be so nervy?  What has caused this situation?  Rampant and edgy (the composition); cool-handed and concentrated (vocal); the song gets right under the skin.  Not able to complain- so the song foretells- our man asks (his baby) what to do; where to go- clearly our hero needs some direction and inspiration.  The French band brings in some Beatles suggestions.  Whereas they reference (Rubber Soul’s stand-out in the title); perhaps juxtapose and transpose the song’s theme- casting themselves in the role of the Nowhere Man– there are other Beatle-esque touches.  The riff- that spiraling and cocky swagger- puts me in mind of I Want You (She’s So Heavy) – from Abbey Road– cum-Revolver (little touches of certain songs).  At the backbone, is perhaps, some Rage Against the Machine touch- a little bit of Killing in the Name’s central riff (slightly muted and melodic).  This is not to say the boys are cribbing others; shirking originality: they cheekily lace-in classic samples; nod to the greats- lace it into their stunningly centrifuge.  Both pleasing and daring, the effect really comes off: that riff/the riffs have an air of familiarity yet seem completely natural- like they could belong in no other song.  Perfectly sound-tracking (our hero’s) travelogue- and supremely voicing his inner monologue- the band are tight and focused throughout.  The percussion clatters in the background- whipping up a heady storm- as the bass drives and powers through.  The guitar stutters and smashes; completely intoxicating to the very last- with our front-man in enflamed voice.  As the vocal gets echoed/processed- in the final stages- things become more blood-thirsty and dangerous; the song snarls and bites- this bad-dog attitude rules the foreground; it insinuates itself in every note and moment.  As the song starts to draw-in that chorus comes back around- our man still seeking guidance; seemingly drifting on a breeze of confusion; needing his girl to lend her hand.  Still invested in the unfolding; the song keeps its cocky swagger up-top: that energised and rampant riff presses and campaigns; it gets more urgent and spiky.  By the closing notes, the listener is overcome and exhausted- what with the pistol-whipped storm that has unfolded- and is given a chance to rest and reflect.

Before moving on- and reflecting on the rest of the E.P./mini-album- it is time to dole-out praise.  The vocals throughout are determined and focused: our hero lets his voice strike up emotions- without letting it wander- keeping things tense and tight.  Never over-abusing his talents, the vocal turn does not need to yelp or yowl- he projects so much passion and drama with few notes and pitch changes.  Making sure everything remains anxious and gripping; Rock-infused and energised- the vocal performance is stunning and nuanced; filled with detail and emotion.  The bass work is fantastic and driving throughout.  Containing plenty of melody and rhythm, it guides and supports the song; drives the (other band members) along- whilst ensuring things do not lose focus or become undisciplined.  Percussion duties ensure Nowhere Man has plenty of power and panache; huge weight and a real sense of danger.  At times it is viper-like and night-crawling; at others it is more teasing and subtle- switching course and projection within a few seconds.  Making sure the song never loses its fascination and unpredictability, the drum work is hugely impressive.  Mixing well (with the rest of the band) the percussion sits neatly in the fold; never treading too far into the spotlight- instead it shows its own personality and sense of endeavour.  Finally, it is worth mentioning the guitar work: the riffs and codas are exhilarating and scintillating.  Fusing and sparking so much passion and sexuality, they always get inside your mind; never renounce their ruler-ship- completely takes the senses away.  Employing some near-familiar riffs- some ‘60s and ‘70s Rock touches- the guitar mingles modern with vintage; tender with rampant- the results are immense.  Nowhere Man is synonymous with its stunning riffs and epic solos; that dangerous-cum-sassy electric drive; the fizz and explosion.  The song looks at common anxieties and concerns- that need to figure things out and get some perspective- and you wonder whether (the song’s hero) ever finds absolution.  Clearly pained and confused; aimless and determined- there is that contradiction of emotions and needs; a man desiring something real and stable.  Backed by fantastic production- which is clear and concise- you can hear every note in crystal-clear detail.  The production values give the song a rugged and raw edge- without making it sound slap-dash and under-produced- whilst ensuring each instrument and facet are given proportionate representation.  A stunning whole; a wonderful track: Nowhere Man is a perfect opener; a great example (of what Archi Deep and the Monkeyshakers) are all about.  Boasting their hallmark sounds and themes, the boys have created something timeless and of-the-moment- a song you dare not ignore!

Across #3, the boys augment their name and stamp their authority (on proceedings).  Building from their previous E.P.s, the tracks are more solid and detailed; more nuanced this time around- compared to previous outings.  I’m on the Run has a fuzzy and woozy opening; it is sexual and sensual- a really dizzying assault.  On the edge and tense, the composition teases and stops- before exploding into life.  Our man is on the run and hot; being chased and nervy- there is that sense of (wanting to kick away) the blues; find some solace and direction.  Mixing elements of Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Queens of the Stone Age (and Led Zeppelin); the track is propulsive and racing; raw and hardcore.  On the run (from pride) the hero is wrapped in a lusty and zesty- cigarette-stained and whiskey-drunk.  The band is up for the challenge as they unleash a meaty and compacted swagger- both unpredictable and heavy.  Riffs and solos erupt into sonic orgasms; the vocal crackles and ignites- the band sound at the top of their game.

   High Minds is gentler and rushing.  The acoustic guitar jumps, skips and hops; the track starts on a restrained note.  Referencing The Beatles- moving from Rubber Soul-referencing Nowhere Man- they bring in Revolver– paraphrasing Eleanor Rigby.  Our man looks at “all these lonely people”- a coda and lyric slant that is charming and bold.  Surveying scenes (and the world around him) our man sounds uninspired and lost.  His voice roars and electioneers; it sounds essential and assault-ready- in no mood to take prisoners.  One of the most exhilarating and gripping lead vocals, the song looks at the present and future- high minds are failing; our man drives like a “wild honeymoon.”  Hand-claps and calmer moments come in, to help define this song of change and desire.

I Can See is grumbling and chugging beast.  Locomotive and low-down, the opening moments are Blues-Rock (sound of early-career White Stripes; teasing in some modern Jack White elements).  The vocals have elements of Jack White throughout; that same yowl and yelp; similar tones and colours- without sounding too similar.  The song’s central riff is soaked in whiskey and attitude; it is without inhibition and motive; it is an animal cut loose.  That indelible composition then rushes and explodes again- the band is masters of subverting expectations.  Being cut out and alienated; that feeling of being distant is reintroduced- the mini-L.P. is a bible of disconnection and misdirection.  Funk-laden and cool riff strides and swagger about; the band unite in a tight jam- the composition is economical and hugely effective.  An arena-sized jam, it is designed to get voices singing and feet stomping.  Our hero can see no shame- not sure if he is referring to a girlfriend or friend- that sense of being pushed-away comes in.  The Most psychedelic and hypnotic riff, Archi Deep and the Monekyshakers are on fire.  The song is psychotropic and drug-addled; staggering and drunken- the boys make the sweat drip from the speakers.  Those squalling riffs remind me of Rage Against the Machine and Hendrix; parts Muse- without the needless bombast.

   Real has that Blues sound; part Detroit, part New York.  Classic-sounding and modern (at same time); the introduction has elements of Pixies- their Doolittle phase especially.  When the opening vocal arrive, they are haunted and cooing- the bass guides and supports with a supple heart.  The track begins to build second-by-second; gets a little more intense and pronounced.  No-one can faze him out (our hero); nobody can get him out- maybe he is in trouble or struggling.  With the vocal less intense and more focused, the track stands out distinctly; it is a stunning creation.  Strong tones and pure emotions a-plenty; great Rock/Blues sounds unite perfectly.  The bass work really comes into own; it drives the song forward (and contains lots of melody and passion).  Similarly, the percussion snakes and stings; rattles and rolls- keeping the song essential and vibrant.  Real has that quiet-loud dynamic- Pixieis and Nirvana come back to mind- and really catches you by surprise.

If Only it Was Sunny is a catchy and addictive closer.  Our hero’s voice is enraptured and snarling; it twists and turns; he wants to find reason and resource- showcasing full emotional and octave range.  Things would be better if it were sunny (so it is said); life needs to be understood- again those feelings of doubt and clarity define the motives.  Here, the band really come to the plate- their most electric and compelling performance.  Filled with rapture and drive, the boys are scintillating.  Things wouldn’t be scary (were things brighter); it seems life is in need of revitalization; some fresh inspiration- that feeling of anxiety seems palpable.  When you least expect it the track stops; the sound of (a rewound tape comes in); you think things have ended.  Just then, you get a wheezy and dizzy little riff; the vocal comes rushing in- and a final coda is elicited.  Repeated over and over (the words hard to decipher; the sense of emotion and pace gets in the way) – the song ends its plight.  Recorded in Memphis; mastered in London, the album unites British and American sounds; fuses classic and modern sounds- into a boiling pot of wonder.  The mini-L.P. has quality and emotion throughout; the band is seamless and tight- the songs are nuanced and addictive.  Each track is bracing and amped-up; the band brings the swagger hard and heavy-a concoction of pure Rock and Blues sex.  Revealing new insight with every listen, make sure you investigate #3 (upon its release) – one of the finest records of 2015.

I have vacillated and carried-on with loquaciousness and fervor- fascinated by these new kids on the block.  In fact, the band have been around for a little while; well-known in their local area- making waves (and building a reputation) in London.  With social media/music media being compartmentalised and disconnected- it would be impossible to have every media source aware of every great band- I guess we (at some point on another) will see great music slip by.  I am glad Archi Deep and the Monkeyshakers have not passed me by: investigating their current offerings has been a huge pleasure.  With my opinions already laid-out- with regards their forthcoming single and E.P./album- it is down to the reader/listener- I hope their music is shared around; they get due attention and acclaim.  It is just left for me to raise a few (smaller, you’ll be happy to know) points.  I hope the band come and play London soon: they have links here, so it would be good to see the boys in the flesh.  With the U.K. unaware (of acts like these guys) I hope that soon changes- their imminent release should see them grab column inches.  With a full and considerate online spread- their official website is full and eye-catching; they are all across social media and music-sharing websites- the band have laid the ground work.  When it all comes down to it- regardless of looks and electronic details; attitude and promises- the music does the talking- if that is not good enough, you will not last long.  What comes through with Nowhere Man- and their E.P./album itself- is the quality and confidence.  The words ‘epic’ and ‘anthem’ will be bandied-about (when reviews come in) but that is what you get- each song seems like an event; they have that grasp and sense of ambition.  The performances are stunning and bristling; the range of Rock sounds is exhilarating- all underpinned with genuine emotion and plenty of heart.  The French-Anglo band differs from their peers and colleagues: a lot of Rock/Alternative bands tend to sound like someone else; miss a key ingredient- what you have here is a group that has few cracks and minor faults.  When their new music is officially released, make sure you give it a fond regard: check the myriad twists and turns; the fascinating stories; all the drama and force- something that will (linger long) in the mind and invigorate the senses.  I started this review by looking at French/European music; its rarity and misconceptions- the way the public reviews and perceives it.  Gone are the days of Euro-Trash and narrowness; the European scene is as vibrant and prosperous (as that in the U.S. and U.K.)- the range of artists (coming through here) is impressive indeed.  For now- and because their latest cuts are privy to mine (and a select few) ears- get onto their SoundCloud account; check out the track below- and imagine what is to come.  Superseding and overthrowing their previous songs- the boys have produced their best work this year- you are sure to fall in love; admire the band’s spirit and verve- if you don’t now; soon enough you will.  Whatever you do, promise me two things: that if you love what you hear (and you will) share it about social media; the band have a bright and long future ahead.  For music to thrive- that which is instilled with promise and ambition- it needs continued patronage; a thoughtful audience.  Oh, and secondly, don’t call Archi Deep and the Monkeyshakers…

JUST a Rock ‘n’ Roll band!



Follow Archi Deep and the Monkeyshakers:













Track Review: Bee Meru- Paraphrasing Prophecies



Bee Meru



Paraphrasing Prophecies




Paraphrasing Prophecies is available at:

August, 2015

Folka Archaica


Swanage, U.K.

The mini-album A Handshake with Who is available at:


Paraphrasing Prophecies9.4

A Maya Calling9.2

When I Was a Hedge9.2

Pass on Through9.0

Giant, in This Life9.0

Post Bop9.4 


A Maya Calling, When I Was a Hedge, Post Bop


Paraphrasing Prophecies

Album features the wonderful musicians, in no particular order – (The silky day confederation have approved, reconfigured and beamed alien impregnation into all) –

Allan ‘Ghengi’ Varnfield – Drums (1,3,4,5,6)
Alec ‘Rover 2k’ Harrison – Bass (1,3,4,5)
Tobias ‘Baines’ Fitton – Bass (6)
Alex ‘Boo Big Gun’ Hedley – Vox (2,6)
Jack ‘Harmodessey’ Cullimore – Strings (1,3,4)
Michael ‘Vibagrove’ Alberry – Keys (4)
Anna ‘Anaine Banome’ Merrick – Vox (1)

OVER the past few days I have been concentrating on…

female-based music.  It has been great getting to grips with its depth and range: I have been amazed by what has been offered; how many different sounds have come forth- it has been quite sensational.  From Folk and Electronic music; across to Country and Beatbox; there seems to be ample talent out there- a scintillating melting pot of genres.  Few would argue about the quality coming out (when it comes to new female musicians).  The guys have their talent and abilities, yet the female acts/bands seem to be nudging ahead: when it comes to diversity (at the very least) they are edging into the lead.  I have been searching around for some great male solo artists.  Over the past few weeks I have been investigating the odd male-led band; U.S. artists that have intrigued me a lot.  When it comes to male solo acts, there has been a scarcity: not too many great examples are coming forth; I am not sure why this is.  I guess a lot of the male-based music is contained within bands: compared to the women, the band market is largely male-dominated.  The mainstream is not really helping issues too much: if you real think about it, can you name three (great) male solo artists?  I had to Google it, and still couldn’t name three- the solo realm is dominated by female talent.  I guess the girls are better on their own; there is a certain personality required (to make it as a solo act).  Less evident in new music, there are a few male sole stars coming through: when it comes to range and innovation, they are still (the men) lacking.  In my mind, the men seem less daring- when it comes to genre and sound fusions- less experimental and ambitious- their sounds are more linear; perhaps more restrained and confined.  A lot of Folk/Pop-based acts- represented by the likes of Ed Sheeran and James Bay- are emerging; fewer stunning artists- that lay out their emotions with any degree of sonic inventiveness.  My featured artist is a bit of a mystery and enigma: with few online sites- just a Facebook account- there is scant information; he is just starting out- emerging from the ashes (of a deceased) act.  Billy Merrick- the man behind Bee Meru- was a member of the band; one of the most distinct acts coming out of the scene- is stepping out on his own (albeit with supporting musicians) to create new life.  Before I go into more depth, it is worth mentioning Saturday Sun.  Having reviewed the band a while back- and being impressed by their originality and sound- it is sad they no longer play.  Derived from a Nick Drake song- from his album Five Leaves Left- the guys mixed gentle rhythms with gorgeous rhymes; lusciousness and beauty- tracks that crept and swelled; bubbled and overcame.  With the music industry being what it is- bands and artists can collapse and call time- out of it comes Bee Meru. Employing similar atmospherics and mood-shift; hugely evocative and emotive tracks- it is great to have him on the scene.  With the hole Saturday Sun has left, few artists have stepped into the breach- and continued their magic.  Bee Meru’s mini-album A Handshake with Who sees Merrick step out in the music world; bring his voice to the party- and capture new hearts.  It would be good to see Bee Meru more widely represented (in time).  Having a SoundCloud account- for the music- and Facebook (for the social side of things) a Twitter account would be wise: it would allow more fans and acts to connect; reach a wider audience.  When it comes to music-sharing and recognition; getting people connected and listening- Twitter is a much more effective and simple tool; something the young artist should consider.  That said- and when music videos start to come- a YouTube account would be good; maybe BandCamp too.  In the social media age, it is important to get your material (and name) as far and wide as possible- the first months/steps are all-important.  Some more Facebook photos would be good to: see the man behind the music; a few studio shots or live captures- just fill in gaps and reveal a bit more.  Merrick is in his initial phases; putting Bee Meru’s most together- I’m sure this will all come in time.  What is important- and what is being displayed now- is the music itself.  Stepping aside from his peers/market expectations, Bee Meru is an outfit with a distinct and striking voice: the music captures Saturday Sun’s hallmarks; adds Merrick’s distinct words and ideas- the resultant seduction has resulted in a terrific creation.  A Handshake with Who is a mini-album/E.P. filled with atmosphere and grip; passion and spirit- the songs are not predictable or sound-alike; they change course and projection.  One of Merrick’s talents- when he was a member of Saturday Sun- was his distinct guitar sounds.  On A Handshake’ they are put to the fore: stunning and variegated; scenic and passionate, he is one of the most stand-out strings-men on the block.  He is showing what the male singer-songwriter can achieve; go beyond boundary walls- and rival the best (the female representatives) are showcasing.

To get a sense of (some of the) potential of Bee Meru, it is worth mentioning Saturday Sun- and the legacy they have left.  Having been featured in The Guardian- part of their Band of the Day featured- last year; they highlighted the spine-tinging vocals (by Alex Headley); the shimmering and shivering guitars; the nature-referencing lyrics and scenes.  What the band did- and the main reference point for critics was- their fusion of The Bends-era Radiohead; Jeff Buckley (the vocals especially) and ‘90s-based bands.  Saturday Sun had that great evocative sound; when music was at its peak: sometimes downbeat and reflective, the music was never dull.  Compelling and emotional; grand and compulsive- few listeners could ignore its assault.  Out of the dissolvent (of the band), Merrick has kept a flame alive- his voice has its own stunning appeal; the instrumentation remains stirring; the songs equally potent and wondrous.  For Saturday Sun fans; this should be a natural move/discovery- you will find some familiar and pleasing similarities.  Anyone new (to Bee Meru) should judge it on its own merits; jump in with fresh ears- and let it do its work.  Whilst there are shades of Radiohead, Jeff Buckley and ‘90s music to the songs; what you get is something both modern-sounding and personal- songs that means a lot to Merrick; are defined by his stunning vision.  With Merrick’s voice recalling a little bit David Bowie; parts Nick Drake, it may be wise (to check out those) acts.  In terms of Bowie albums- that can be compared with Bee Meru- it is worth seeking-out The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars.  That album- whilst the songs’ style may vary from Bee Meru- showed grand-sweeping ambitions; individualised and unique vocal delivery; a far-reaching sense of musical ambition- Bowie mixed Glam-Rock with Pop; strings and hooks; cinematic and apocalyptic.  Bee Meru has a similar sense of adventurousness and innovative spirit: across songs, Classical shades fuse with Pop hooks; Rock drive spars with twisted undertones- running a gamut of emotions and sights.  On a contrary note, one would do well to investigate Nick Drake’s Five Leaves Left: an album that possess distinct melancholy and glorious strings; stately compositions and that rich voice- with one ear to the grave; another to the sun.  As I explained before- when it comes to making comparisons- Bee Maru should be judged on merit alone; use these references as a guidance/jumping-off point.  Combining ‘60s/’70s heritage with current ambitions, A Handshake with Who is an E.P./mini-album packed with power and quality; covering such a wide spectrum- in terms of instrumentations, emotions and ideas- it will appeal to a wide range.  With Pink Floyd influences- a combination of Wish You Were Here’s sweeping epics; Dark Side of the Moon’s odd beauty- and you have a stunning record; from a very promising artist.

One thing I would say about Paraphrasing Prophecies– and the vocals across A Handshake with Who– is that sometimes clarity and concision get lost.  Because of Merrick’s dusky and distinct vocal style, some of the lyrics do get lost and buried.  It is perhaps a minor qualm- and one that can be applied to a lot of acts coming through- yet the song’s instantaneous drama and wonder floods any concerns at all.  The early words looking at paraphrasing and “(All) prophecies new-born…” the song’s intriguing and compelling title is investigated and highlighted- there is an instance and urgency to the early words.  After an acoustic guitar-led introduction, the song gets underway quickly and efficiently: no needless build-up and wandering; the E.P./mini-album begins its pioneering within a few seconds.  Merrick’s voice tows the line between grave and optimistic: there is a sense of romance and calm to his tones; that husky/dusky quality gives the words gravitas- each utterance is delivered with conviction and passion.  The composition begins to build and climb- strings are introduced and the backdrop becomes moodier and duskier- and our hero sounds pained and reflective.  After the embryonic acoustic/calm scent, the composition becomes rushing and spiced; aching and spiraling.  The percussion starts to punch and pervade; the song becomes more electric and enflamed.  Mutating into something animalistic and invigorated, electric strings bubble and burble: sounding contorted and sexualised, the song changes course again- becoming more dramatic and gripping with each passing moment.  Having built off a few, cautionary words- the song now becomes something orchestral and grand; eliciting a range of images and thoughts.  As the guitars twinkle and yawn, the strings vibrate and shiver- the combination creates an ecstatic and exhilarating whole.  Whereas the listener (is at the early stages) invested in the vocal and its plight; now you become lifted by that composition- something that speaks a volume of words with few notes.  Strangely moving, the strings carry you away; there is plenty of energy and movement- it is hard not to be swept along.  Merrick’s voice quivers and tremors with meaning and desire: compelled by the heightening backdrop, he seems at his most intense and focused.  That insatiable and spirit-raising coda keeps coming round for more- few artists spend so much consideration when it comes to atmosphere.  Our hero seems to be entranced and intoxicated: his voice seems haunted and tormented; paradoxically hopeful and seeking.  Once more the composition mutates and changes: past the half-way marker, it becomes sparser and more relaxed.  Blues-infused and calming- strangely reminding me of Dire Straits to an extent- a spectral and gorgeous backing vocal comes into the fray; adding to that sense of chill and emotion.  I have mentioned Pink Floyd before- and so have other reviewers- when assessing Bee Meru.  In the most genuine/complimentary way, Merrick laces his compositions with Floyd-esque theatrics.  In the same way Dark Side of the Moon brims with peculiar sounds and off-kilter notes; fractured emotion and gorgeous melody- so too does Paraphrasing Prophecies.  The backdrop is at no times secondary: it always creates its own drama and story; grabbing the listener and eliciting such a sense of ambition.  Never disingenuous or muted, the strings (and percussion) continues its course; the guitar lines mix sensual and woozy; the backing vocal Siren-esque and tender.  Towards the final moments, you get the biggest hit of the song: given what has come before, the track starts to level-out and fade- you start to take it all in; look back and reflect; the song’s nuance and potency hits the mark.

Before congratulations and recommendations are ladled, it is worth looking at the lyrics- at times they do get overwhelmed and lost.  Merrick has a tremendous voice; is one of the most impressive lyricists on the scene- some of his potency does get watered-down and negated.  Putting the vocals higher up (the mix) would result in great decipherability and clarity: the words would become more focused and intelligible.  That said, the track is always going to compel as a whole: which is very much the case with Paraphrasing Prophecies.  The lyrics/vocal mix is a minor detraction: when you judge the song as an entity, it doesn’t really become an issue- only problematic when trying to interpret and extrapolate the meaning before the song.  What you come away with- and what is most obvious- are the song’s natural qualities.  Starting with the vocal itself: in spite of some words being missed; what I get is that sense of occasion and emotion.  Merrick is not a singer that has to fake and force anything: his tones are completely authoritative and natural.  Reviewers have noted the comparisons with David Bowie and Nick Drake- this would do him a disservice.  I have always found Bowie an acquired taste- limited in some aspects; not capable of truly haunting- and Drake too particular (no singer will ever come close to Drake’s sound).  Merrick infuses the slightest hint of both; he is very much his own artist.  Feather-light (and alternatively) filled with the world’s weight- it is a rich and varied weapon.  What Merrick does fantastically is to create weight of emotion, without ululation and over-emoting- which is what a lot of modern-day singers do.  Paraphrasing Prophecies is one (of A Handshake with Who’s) most orchestrated and composition-heavy tracks.  Whereas other tracks (across the record) are more bare and simplistic, the opener is heady and multifarious.  Allan ‘Ghengi’ Varnfield’s drum work is one (of the track’s) stand-outs: teasing and light at one moment; emphatic and steamrolling the next- he shows himself to be a stunning sticks-man.  Seamlessly keeping the song tight and flowing, the percussion ensures everything remains controlled and focused- no mean feat given the song’s ambition and sonic endeavours.  Alec ‘Rover 2k’ Harrison (love the nickname!) provides supple and passionate bass notes.  Like Varnfield, Harrison provides plenty of power and urgency; he offers plenty of texture and personality.  Harrison (like all good bass players) understands his role: he fits well with the other players; knows when to step back (and when to be right in the mix) – perfectly drives and augments the song.  Jack ‘Harmodessey’ Cullimore provides the song’s strings- and the song’s emotional heartbeat.  Being a progressive and inter-changeable song- in terms of the composition and energy- Cullimore perfectly sound-tracks (the hardest-hitting moments).  Emotional and graceful; sorrowful and shivering, his strings create plenty of beauty and amazement- at times you are overwhelmed by how affective (his performance) is.  Final kudos must go to Anna ‘Anaine Banome’ Merrick- the echoed, ethereal backing voice.  Whilst Merrick, (Billy) is the pained and troubled lead voice, Merrick (Anna) offers a counterpoint of light and hope- something that lifts the mood and perfectly sits in the mix.  The entire ‘band’ comes together superbly; there is such an intuition and closeness- each member understands the role (of the others).  Completed with a lush and polished production sound, Paraphrasing Prophesies is a dramatic and layered song: one that never loses its sense of beauty and force; that endless sense of invention and potency.  A perfect introduction to Bee Meru- and A Handshake with Who– the track is one of this year’s most affecting.

Having followed Saturday Sun- and been entranced by their music and way of working- Merrick contacted me; explained he has a new release out- wondering whether it could be featured.  I was expected some Saturday Sun-esque music; something that did not stray too far from their mould- I was pleasantly surprised.  Bee Meru- a great and catchy name- is an act to watch very closely.  A Handshake with Who is a six-track collection boasting fascinating stories, swelling compositions- subtle and effective guitar work to boot.  A Maya Calling sees Alex Hedley (his old bandmate from Saturday Sun) take on vocal duties: backed by echoing and haunting strings, the song is a beautiful and thought-provoking thing.  Shimmering and lustful; haunting and touching- it put me in mind of Kid A-era Radiohead- the song is stunning.  With the vocals yearning and firm; the acoustic guitars pastoral and simple; the emotive backdrop ever-urgent and pressing- it comes together superbly.  You are caught into that voice: it is quite tired and wracked; there is emotion and insistency- augmented by that symphonic backing, and the track envelops and flourishes; spreads its wings and encapsulates.  When I Was a Hedge is a more playful and delicate thing: with its introduction mixing Nick Drake (Five Leaves Left-era) with Folk stands, it is a gorgeous beginning.  Tripping and flowing; riparian and calming, the strings ache and echo; the guitar trickles and rushes- you transport yourself to somewhere safer and more ensconced.  Whipping-up images of sun and the river; the tranquility of nature- the listener is giving a chance to dream and imagine; witness something genuinely special.  Pass on Through begins with a clatter and upbeat march: the percussion smatters and jumps; the introduction mutates and grows- our hero comes to the microphone.  Merrick’s voice is up top- as it is throughout the record- and has a Bowie-esque croak and whisper: both natural and world-worn, it perfectly represents the (song’s lyrics).  Giant, in This Life is a serene and emotive affair.  One of the E.P./mini-album’s sparsest tracks- it contains no strings or keys- it mixes Pink Moon-Nick Drake with honest and open lyrics: that sense of emotion and vulnerability is never far from the surface; the song reveals its intimacies and honesty over repeated listens; shows something new (you may have missed upon an initial listen).  Post Bop sees Headley back into the fold: leading the vocal charge, he conspires with Merrick’s guitar- old bandmates back together; combining on one of the record’s most stunning tracks.  A perfect bookmark- that matches the opener’s ambition and quality-level- the track builds and builds; becomes more pressing and urgent.  Pink Floyd comparisons come to mind: mixing their Dark Side of the Moon experimentation/ghostliness (with some Wish You Were Here texture and imagination).  Soulful and tight- the composition and instrumentation is seamless and perfect- the song relies of wordless vocals (Headley lets his ethereal howl flow through the notes).  The track builds up to the heavens; gets more intense and loud- such an evocative and scintillating piece.  Tying together old Folk masters- the likes of Nick Drake and Neil Young- with ‘70s Psychedelic and Avant-Garde music; A Handshake with Who is a complex and masterful E.P.- something few other artists could produce; a product of a singular mind.  A perfect record for a new listener- those not attuned to Saturday’s Sun’s legacy- and fans of Merrick’s past life; there is enough for everyone.  Cleverley lacing in older sounds will unite older generations; the modern production and sound will draw in the young- the E.P./mini-album has a crossover appeal and ability to unite- it does not confine its appeal and campaign.  Before I conclude, it is worth going back to my initial point: that which concerns the male singer-songwriter core.  I have grown a little tired of the placid and boring male songwriters: those that sound bereft and uninspired; strum their guitar and offer little personality- they do not experiment with sound and genres; little regard to atmosphere and innovation.  Billy Merrick was always a skilled songwriter- Saturday Sun’s back catalogue can attest to this- and on his own (backed with a few choice musicians) he has produced something impressive- a sense of ambition few of his peers possess.  Since the early offerings from James Blake- and his stunning voice-and-electronics combination- I have been crying out for a new voice; someone with that quality and sense of accomplishment.  Bee Meru has a skillset not often found (in today’s music): that consideration for compositional atmosphere and nuance; the focus on stunning vocals and lyrics- the complete music package.  Differing from the bland-as-you-like modernity, Bee Meru is a name to watch; an artist with plenty more to come (let’s hope at least).  With A Handshake with Who in circulation- and it beginning to grab reviews and attentions- it is my hope others will follow suit- and come up with something distinctly unique.  With the (male) singer-songwriter genre being in stagnation, Bee Meru could act as guidance; give impetus to the new breed.  His music and ambition could well be a…

SIGN of things to come.



Follow Bee Maru:






This Week’s Albums: August 28th, 2015

This Week’s Albums



August 28th, 2015





IT is a case of “Something old, something new/something ‘borrowed’, something…


that doesn’t rhyme. “  I do a D.J. gig every week; I have the opportunity to play four different albums: one that is ‘old’ (to my mind, anything pre-1985), something ‘new’ (released brand-new that week); something influential (and has inspired a genre/other acts)- in addition to dealer’s choice (any album I choose).  Having done this for over a year-and played everything from Graceland to Pearl Jam; from FKA twigs to Beastie Boys- it is enormous fun.  I get to talk to people (about music); play some awesome stuff- turn people on to some great/forgotten sounds (well, I try to).  I shall publish this every week; try and highlight some fantastic albums- maybe some you had forgotten about.

The Old: The Rolling Stones- Sticky Fingers (1969)



Having turned-in Let It Bleed (in 1969) – the band’s most accomplished album up until that point- Sticky Fingers exceeded expectations.  Packed with punch and panache, the album tangled fury and anger- cuts like Bitch and Dead Flowers harked back to their early days- whereas Brown Sugar and Wild Horses rank as two (of the band’s best songs) to that point.  Filled with sex and raunchiness; attitude and confidence, the album saw the band at their peak- their creative levels firing on all cylinders.  Tangling Blues, Soul and Hard-Rock, the album enflamed and overwhelmed critics.  Jagger’s voice is at its most electrifying and rampant: tracks like Can’t You Hear Me Knocking bristle with energy and attitude; the Richards-led guitar groove is infectious.  With congas, brass and guitars entangled in a clatter of epic proportions, it is a stand-out riot.  The Rolling Stones showed a softer side (on numbers like Wild Horses); cranked the sweat levels up to 11- the emotional balance was perfectly-realised.  The band was in the middle of a creative hot-streak: they would follow Sticky Fingers with Exile on Main St. – argued as their very finest album.  For those looking for reminders at how good ‘60s music could be, check out a true masterpiece- one that has seldom been topped.


The New: Royal Headache- High (2015)




For the second week running (the best release) of the week is both Australian-bred and utterly fantastic.  Whereas Totally Mild (last week’s pick) mixed Electro.-Pop sounds with emotive lyrics and stunning vocals; Royal Headache are a different bag- they portray classic Punk sounds, wrapped around the unique vocals of front-man Shogun.  Back in 2011- when the Sydney band released their debut album- the band hit a crisis; their internal struggle and upheaval led to a break-up.  Back in the fold, the guys sound focused and compelling.  Their instrumentation is feverish and nervy; completely intoxicating and urgent- perfectly balanced by Shogun’s fiery and nuanced voice.  Another World boasts meaty hooks and plenty of Punk hammer; Carolina fused teary-Soul with heart-on-sleeve lyrics.  The band have clearly reconciled; peace is back in the camp: they sound tighter and more passionate (than their debut); working with one another, rather than against.  Not contented to be labelled a Hardcore or Punk band, the Australians offer plenty of breeze, soulfulness and romance- a heady brew that is hard to ignore.  In a week where the likes of The Strypes have disappointed- investigate a band that live up to the hype.

The Influencer: Public Enemy- It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back (1988)




Last week I reviewed Maxinquaye (by Trip-Hop maestro Tricky).  Its key song (the peerless Black Steel) was a cover of Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos– one of It Takes’ standout moments.  One of the most influential Rap albums of all-time, its political messages (and social commentary) compelled a generation of Rap wannabes- bands like Beastie Boys and Jurassic 5 have sampled (Public Enemy’s) music.  Revolution-mixology and smack-down beats sparred with socially-aware lyrics; sample-crammed moments and a staggering sense of grandeur.  Chuck D. (the band’s leader) looks at white supremacy and race issues; self-empowerment (for black artists) and musical exploitation.  With Chuck D.’s boundless vocabulary and dazzling rhetoric, the songs not only stood out alone- their messages inspired legions of listeners (who felt oppressed and discriminated against).  Throw in Flavour Flav’s machine gun-frenzied jokes and what remains is an album truly representative of its time.  Other Hip-Hop acts have attempted to match It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back– it has never been equaled.  Not just for lovers of the genres, its diversity and intelligent will appeal to all music-lovers; few have an excuse (to pass this album) by.


The ‘Other One’: En Vogue- Funky Divas (1992)




In an age where girl bands boasted credibility, influence and mesmirising tracks- as opposed to today’s severe draught and questionable examples- En Vogue stood at the top of the genre.  The girls’ insatiable harmonies define the album: each number is elevated to spiritual levels; when combined in voice they elicit a heavenly high.  My Lovin’ (You’re Never Gonna Get It) stands as their finest hour: a rampant and f***-you anthem of sass and independence.  Free Your Mind– in addition to brimming with Rock-hard attitude and swagger- addresses the issue of race and discrimination- in the song, our heroine cannot go anywhere without being watched and judged.  A call against narrow-minded judgement and bigotry, it is a stunning cut.  Whilst the album sags towards the end- it is a top-loaded L.P. – there is enough ammunition to please existing fans (and new listeners).  One listen to tracks like My Lovin’; recollections and nostalgia flows; those choruses lodge in the head- you are powerless to resists their allure.  One of the finest girl groups ever- who would go on to inspire a host of upcoming bands- Funky Divas is an essential cut; guaranteed to lift the spirit- and get the voice singing loud and proud.

Interview: Hannah Dorman



Hannah Dorman


IT has been wonderful watching great artists develop and mature….

and really start to spread their wings.  In this country, there are a lot of great young acts breaking through; offering terrific sounds- and taking the scene by storm.  When it comes to (the young) female acts, there is a high degree of richness and variation: from electronic sounds and genre-spicing; solid Pop and Rock; terrific Soul sounds- it is hard to ignore the quality of material (coming through).  I have known about Hannah Dorman for a while now: her music fuses Country and Rock; sounds of the U.S. – Kelly Clarkson; The Pretty Reckless and the U.K. – the likes of KT Tunstall count as influences.  Having caught the attention of radio stations, producers and venues- picking up blog kudos and effusive reviews along the way- Dorman ranks as one of the most promising young talents on the scene.  Country-Rock is not often attempted (by young U.K. talent); it a shame more do not attempt it- as Dorman has shown, it can lead to some tremendous results.  Mature and emotive, catchy and addictive; Dorman matches heady rhythms with nuanced lyrics- that combustible talent is catching ears and hearts.  Take Control– the next single from the young singer- is released on October 16th.  Launching the single at World’s End, Finsbury Park (the official release venue), it will be an exciting event: one sure to attract new fans and support; lead to lucrative gigs and some extended airplay- Dorman is already accruing some impressive patronage.  With all that has happened this year- gigs and Take Control afoot; radio play and new music- I was keen to catch up; see what the future holds- and what has been the best memories (from 2015 so far)…

Hi Hannah.  How has your week been?  What have you been getting up to? 

Hi, Sam, good thanks!  Very busy as always, but that’s the way I like it to be!  I’ve been working towards the single release.

Your new song Take Control is coming up for release.  What can you tell us about its inspiration and contents? 

I wrote the song about a big decision a friend made; saying they don’t need to rush into anything, and how they need to ‘take control’ of the situation- and think about what they’re doing.  The chorus is basically saying ‘you think I’m okay with this but I’m actually not’.  But as always, the song can be interpreted in multiple ways!

Having heard the track, it is a great fusion of Country and Rock; confident and dramatic.  Do you think that- mixing genres and emotions together- leads to better (and more memorable) music? 

If I’m honest I just write and whatever comes out comes out!  I was told my voice has country elements to it, and the band really bring the rock.  It’s nice to have something slightly different that makes people sit up and listen; even if it’s not the brief I set out with (as there’s generally no brief!).

With regards your influences and idols: which artists have been particularly important to you- with regards your musical upbringing? 

When I was little my late grandparents lived in Padstow, Cornwall (which was a 5-hour journey) and I would insist we’d play Anastasia, Shania Twain, Avril Lavigne (and other artists like them).  I’d sing the whole journey (even though at the time I wasn’t a very good singer).  These artists (as well as) others like Delta Goodrem, Alanis Morissette, No Doubt and Kelly Clarkson were played around the house when I was younger!

Take Control– and your back catalogue- is defined by its tight sound and stunning interplay.  It sounds like you and the band have a great chemistry.  How long have you guys known one another? 

Thank you!  I went to A.C.M. with this lineup- me Jack and Jon (bass and guitar) were in the same performance classes- so we were used to performing with one another, and they were already in a band with Kamil (drums) – so the dynamic works really well.  And we all get on, which definitely helps!

Can you give us a glimpse into 2016: any new music/E.P.s coming from you? 

I’m currently writing a lot, with intentions of more music in 2016… so watch this space!

I often ask musicians this question: what inspires your songwriting and creative process?  Do you have to be in a particular mood/mindset or do songs come from dreams/off-the-cuff moments? 

I generally have to be sad to write, but I’m trying to break out of that as I’m in a good place at the moment!   I’ll sit down with my guitar and usually I’ll get one hook, or one line- which I’ll work the rest of the song around.  I’ll have about 4 songs on the go at once as I’ll get bored of one idea and then move on to the next, and so on- then probably come out with 1 song and 3 unfinished ideas; I have so many voice memos on my phone of rubbish!

You are based in Surrey- and have London pretty close-by- where there are fewer music venues/opportunities?  Can you see yourself relocating/moving to a larger city in the coming years? 

Surrey is great.  I’ve lived in Surrey my whole life and it’s beautiful.   Regards to music I think there are a lot of opportunities here, if you look for them.  I went to A.C.M. which is the heart of so many talented musicians and contacts- I wouldn’t have had living somewhere else, but London can be quite saturated.  If my career moves me, then I’ll move with it, but for the moment I’m happy!

Your fans on social media seem to connect with your music.  How important has social media been with regards your music career? 

Social media has been 100% essential to me and my fans.  I launched a Kickstarter campaign for my last E.P.- and because of my fans and the relationship I have with them on social media- I was able to fund the recording of my last E.P.   I love keeping up-to-date on social media: whether it’s just a photo to say ‘hi’, or a funny video (that made my day), I think it’s a great way of the fans getting a glimpse of artist’s lives (which helps get to know them better).

Few of the female artists coming through play in the Country-Rock field.  What would you say to any female songwriters wanting to follow your example? 

Stick to your guns, write original music and keep plugging away!

You clearly have a tremendous passion for music and performing.  Take Control has just been featured as BBC Introducing (South)’s Track of the Day.  What have been your highlights from 2015? 

Yeah that was definitely a highlight!  Just the whole recording process and putting out a record.  When things go right, it’s amazing!  Don’t get me wrong, as any artist will know, 95% of the time things are going wrong; but what’s the fun if everything runs smoothly?  I love the journey of having a song and creating everything to go with it- the music, the imagery, the video- then seeing people’s reactions. Those are the highlights for me.

Modern music is defined by its financial pressures and stiff competition.  How have you managed to stay strong and focus- against the tide of tough competition? 

I look back to the 3-year-old singing in front of the T.V. to Top Of The Pops who would say ‘Mummy, I’m gonna be on that show one day’.  She didn’t have any doubts; and at the age of 3, something in me knew it was possible to make it onto the big screen…how can I let little Hannah down?

For those new to Hannah Dorman, can you tell us a secret (something you have never told another interviewer)? 

I’m a mean knitter!

Finally- and for being a good sport- you can select any song (and I’ll include it here) – why is it special to you? 

On the nostalgic theme… No Doubt ‘Don’t Speak’, because I sang it when I was 3! (Here’s the vid, I’m happy for you to feature it!!)



Take Control bristles with vigour and directness.   Beginning with a Rock-infused introduction, the mood starts to come down: Dorman steps into the spotlight.  Elongating and stretching her voice, the messages coming through loud and clear.  Backed by her band cohorts, our heroine has some clear advice: if you want to do it for yourself (and keep in control), then it is within your reach.  Motivational and uplifting, this (inspiring coda) is supported by a passionate and soulful vocal- Dorman sounds rich and filled with intent.  As the song progresses, some doubts creep in: whether (the subject) is trying their hardest; truly alright.  Letting her voice hit (crystalline highs) and soar upwards, you get a real sense of imagery and story: imagining someone lacking that extra self-confidence; demure and reserved somewhat.  Letting Dorman’s voice shine, the band provides ample support: the performance is consistently tight and strong.  Never encroaching into the mix, the boys ensure they drive the song forward (the percussion is particular noteworthy and punchy) – there is a clear bond and understanding (between the players).  Enraptured in her own tale, Dorman’s voice shine beautifully: switching between delicate swoon and belting highs; natural and genuine with each gear change.  When speaking of intentions- saying one thing yet doing another- there is a real longing in the vocal (as though Dorman has had her heart broken; been let down by someone).  Making sure notes and lines (stick in the mind) the track- and chorus especially- is a catchy and swaying affair- mixing U.S. Country sunshine with British Rock granite.  That summer-cum-rain juxtaposition blends superbly: at one moment you are smiling widely; the next rooting for our heroine.  The track has a great sense of rhythm, movement and dynamic: going down to a soften kiss; building up to a fevered chant.  Towards the latter stages, Dorman keeps her focus clear: that chorus is re-injected and repeated- its messages designed to resonate and affect.  As the band whip up the decibels (for one last round) you find yourself longing (to repeat the song) – it has a sense of brevity and tease (in spite of it being nearly 4 minutes long).  Closest in tone (to songs like Rent This Space) Dorman sounds comfortable and assured when powering and soaring- expanding on the promise of her previous E.P.  Take Control has oomph and panache; that killer touch and sweet touch- topped off with a tight-knit (band performance) and stunning lead vocal.  Keep the language and lyrics direct and simple (yet complete with originality, depth and wisdom), Dorman is a wise head on young shoulders: someone who knows how to win a smile with as few words as possible.  The song’s music video will be released soon: a great opportunity to see Dorman in the flesh; what images and scenes are conjured- from the evidence here; it will be arresting watch!

Words sourced from review of Take Control (Live Version):

Take Control is released on October 16th.



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Feature: You, Me and the ’90s- When Music Ruled the World



You, Me and the ‘90s



When Music Ruled the World


Music today is promising new artists and sounds; possibility and freedom- it is easier to make music now (than any other time).  With the quality coming through (quite variable); I was keen to look back; delve into a wonderful decade of song- the 1990s (to me) remains music’s greatest decade.  From ‘Britpop’ rivalries to Grunge’s death; it was a period to remember


IT is perhaps neigh-on-impossible to distill the entirety of the 1990s…

into one music-based blog post.   It would be hard to fit (a summary of 2015) into one post, so today, it will be a challenge.  Actually it won’t, really: most of you know ‘90s music; all of you have an opinion- it does not need too much explanation.  I have been thinking a lot (about bygone music): harking back to good times; when there was some wonderful sounds/acts coming through- a formative time that contains great memories.  I like a lot of today’s music; its best and brightest: to me, the finest music emanates from the underground; the SoundCloud-based artists that sit away from the charts; do not get played on ‘Radio One- and have a lot more quality at their disposal.  The mainstream strikes me as rather mediocre and unreliable: some weeks you have great albums produced; the next (week) none at all.  I know the ‘90s was not a flawless decade- there were bad weeks/months for sure- yet the fact remains: it produced some of the world’s greatest acts; spawned some all-time classic albums- the ‘90s music has inspired so many modern-day artists.  Some would argue the ‘60s was the best decade for music- aside from the obvious legends; it is an overrated era- others would say the ‘70s- finer still yet still lacking that overall diversity and consistency.

The 1990s Dance Scene: Music for the Masses


Perhaps an odd place to lead-off yet a relevant one: today’s Dance music seems to appeal to a niche audience; popular to particular people- few tracks and artists tend to unite the population.  With the proliferation of nightclubs, Dance music has had to conform: the music seems dumbed-down and basic; with little cross-over appeal and nuance, it is designed to satisfy sweaty club-goers: the importance of melody and memorability has been lost.  Too hard and heavy; lacking real soul and heart, the ‘90s did it best.  During the 1980s the rise of electronic-based music spawned some great artists; that popularity and momentum parlayed into the ‘90s- a scene was born and solidified.  From the start of the decade, electronic sounds went into Dance music: classics and one-off gems were produced.  My favourite song of the genre- and one of the most addictive tracks of the period- was Rhythm is a Dancer (by German Euro-Dance collective Snap!).  Hugely anthemic and addictive, it remains a legendary cut- during a time when Dance music started to entrance the masses.  Where Euro-Dance is less known/popular now- we don’t really have a separate genre; Dance/Electronic music is more integrated- Rhythm is a Dancer is that rarest of songs- it is not niche; its appeal is singular and universal- a song that appeals to (those who grew up during) that time; to those growing up now- its appeal will never wane.  Deliriously energetic and boasting a humungous chorus, it inspired a wave of similarly-ambitious acts.

Dance/Euro-Dance was not defined by novelty and one-off treasure: it was a culture that grew and inspired; at a time when the music was more innocent and less controversial (in this genre at least).  Ride on Time (by Black Box) is another diamond of the time- released in 1990; it is one of the decade’s most stunning Dance numbers.  As the decade developed, Electronic music started to build and flourish: it became affordable to produce Electronic jams; bedroom-born artists were coming from- the music developed from the dancefloors; made its way to the mainstream- the likes of Madonna and Moby were among the champions.  By 1999, Moby turned in Play: an album that stunned critics and fans- it went on to become the biggest-selling Electronic/Dance album of the 1990s.  Brimming with genius samples and stunning genre crossover, it drew the decade to a spectacular close.


Grunge: Its Rise and Fall

You cannot mention ‘90s music without including Grunge: a decade that seems retro and rare (now), the genre hit its peak (around the 1990s).  Having originated in the mid-‘80s- the movement was developed in Seattle- it hit its stride the following decade.  The genre struck a chord was disenfranchised teens and young listeners: dealing with apathy and social alienation, Grunge was their statements- the bands spoke for them; the band leaders were just like them.  To me, the three champions/finest acts of the Grunge kingdom (during the ‘90s) were Nirvana, Soundgarden and Pearl Jam.  You can mention other acts- Alice in Chains come to mind- but these U.S. giants defined the scene- Nirvana were the band that led the regal charge.  With Nevermind released in 1992, the decade started with a bang- that album remains one of the greatest ever produced.  Defined by epic riffs, throat-scraping anthems and rally cries to the affected- the album resonated with those feeling detached and angry.  Whilst Nirvana went onto create an album heavier and more genuine (In Utero); Nevermind remains their most popular album- its lead-off track stands as Nirvana’s most definitive moment.  Smells Like Teen Spirit is the song everyone associates with Nirvana: perhaps an albatross (for the band); it stands as a defiant testament- one of Grunge’s most staggering moments.  Having seduced and stunned the critics, Nirvana were the Grunge champions.

Although there were some knuckle-dragging Grunge acts- that appeals to the lowest-common-denominator.  Concerned with little more than aimless riffs and anodyne sounds, they composed the minority.  The genre is often perceived as simplistic and unintelligent: if you consider acts like Soundgarden and Pearl Jam, you would have to reassess your perceptions.  During the ‘90s, Soundgarden released two era-defining albums: Badmotorfinger and Superunknown– they released Down on the Upside in ’96; it never reached the giddy heights of its predecessors.  Badmotorfinger remains a raw and visceral experience: Chris Cornell’s voice was at its wracked peak; an emphatic weapon it was backed by stunning band interplay and intelligent lyrics.  Tracks like Jesus Christ Pose investigated the M.T.V.-generation bands- that stood in a messianic pose- with ego and arrogance to spare.  New Damage was the rapturous swansong; Outshined one of the album’s highlights- the line “I’m looking California/and feeling Minnesota” remains the album’s stand-out lyric.  On April 8th, 1994 Kurt Cobain’s body was discovered: with his death, Grunge was rocked; the genre lost its leader- the world was in morning.  From that moment, a decline occurred: with Nirvana’s front-man gone, fellow bands were on shock; the music scene was rocked to its core- it signaled the down-shift and entropy.  In the midst of tragedy and heartache, Superunknown was released: Soundgarden’s finest album, it both breathed new life into the genre (until its death a few years later) and channeled Cobain’s spirit.  The album’s key track was Black Hole Sun: a song that looked at the fall-out and shock.  Although written before Cobain’s suicide- Cornell claimed the song came from dreams and dreamscapes; experimenting with words and ideas- it can be applied to the Seattle icon.  That semblance of darkness and pain; the need to “wash away the rain”- Black Hole Sun seemed like a Grunge epitaph.   Pearl Jam completed the Grunge triple allegiance: their album Ten remains one of the decade’s best; it inspired legions of new bands- and remains the band’s career high.  Compelling, masterful and unique, the album spawned classics like Black, Jeremy and Even Flow.  The economic track-listing- most titles were one or two-worded- was coupled with stunning songwriting; add in wonderful lead vocals (by Eddie Vedder) and gutsy perfoirmances.  Towering, monumental and epic, the album (released in 1991) remains one of Grunge’s great.  The genre exists today- a lot of modern-day acts are keeping the flame alive- yet its spirit lived and died with Cobain.  Along with Nirvana, Soundgarden and Pearl Jam, the genre spawned tremendous music and moments- another side to a multicoloured decade.


‘Britpop’: What Made the 1990s Special

Perhaps the defining genre of the ‘90s, it put British music at the forefront: epic battles were formed; stunning music came forth- one of the greatest musical movements of all-time.  Anthem-making and hugely creative, (the ‘Britpop’ era) spawned some of the decade’s best albums.  Whereas Grunge was America’s- and represented the voice of the youth- ‘Britpop’ was the British equivalent: a happier, more uplifting comparison, it was defined by effusive and rousing tracks.  The scene was dominated by two groups: Blur and Oasis.  On their heels, the likes of Suede, Supergrass, Manic Street Preachers and The Verve campaigned.  Before mentioning the Oasis vs. Blur issue; it is worth looking at the culture’s finest- acts that helped shape it into something monumental.  Inspired by the Rock music of the ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s- and leading-on from the Madchester scene- Suede were among (the most sparkling proponents).  Their self-titled album (released in 1993) boasted poetic lyrics and Smiths-inspired motifs.  Led by Brett Anderson’s unique voice songs like Animal Nitrate and The Drowners burrowed into the nation’s subconscious.  Theatric and grand, Pop-wise and catchy, the band created one of the jewels of the ‘Britpop’ era.  To me, Supergrass were one of the ‘genre’s’ best examples: their youthfulness and insatiable energy was only matched by their stunning songwriting and immense ambition.  If you look at their two finest albums- their ’95 debut I Should Coco and the 1997 follow-up In it for The Money– the band created some of the decade’s most memorable songs.  From their debut we had Caught by the Fuzz; the irrepressible Lenny– plus their peerless track, Alright (that defined ‘Britpop’ within 181 seconds).  In It’ spawned Richard III and Going Out; the wondrous Late in the Day– the glorious Sun Hits the Sky.  Packed full of nuance, range and passion, Supergrass remain one of ‘Britpop’s most underrated acts- were it not for the likes of Blur and Oasis; they would have been crowned ‘Britpop’ kings.

You cannot examine ‘Britpop’ without mentioning its parents: Oasis and Blur.  I am not sure which is the mum; which is the dad- depending on your background/location/personality depended on which band you favoured.  Being a Surrey-born, working-class ‘nerd’ it has to be Blur: the band spoke to me more directly; their music connected in a way (Oasis’ didn’t).  In 1995, the battle reached its climax: Blur’s Country House went against Oasis’ Roll with It.  Although Blur won the honours; it was an exciting time to be alive: the music world would never witness a shaping-up like it; when the media and fans got on board- clans were united and divide.  Whilst it balkanised music-lovers, it was all done playfully and in good spirit: you were either on Team Oasis or Team Blur.  Aside from the media-heavy speculations; the Damon Albarn v. Noel Gallagher spats- tremendous albums were produced.  Oasis produced two of the 1990s’ best albums: Definitely Maybe and (What’s the Story) Morning Glory?  Although Noel Gallagher cribbed from other acts- from The Beatles to T-Rex- and Liam Gallagher saw himself as John Lennon-reincarnated; you cannot deny their influence and genius.  1994’s Definitely Maybe produced Rock ‘n’ Roll Star; the hypnotic SupersonicLive Forever was/is their finest achievement.  The band’s follow-up perhaps surpassed their debut: with Roll with It, Don’t Look Back in Anger sitting alongside Champagne Supernova and Wonderwall(What’s the Story)’ remains one of the ‘90s most audacious albums.  That 1994/’95 period spawned some of history’s best albums: Blur were not to be outdone.  Whilst Oasis crafted their masterpiece, Blur honed theirs- the biblical Parklife.  Having begun life before Oasis- having faltered on their debut album- Blur hit their stride here.  Parklife defined the zeitgeist; remains an era-defining masterpiece: the tracks were joyous and hands-aloft; sweeping and emotive- the songwriting was beyond comparison.  Boys and Girls is quotable and cautionary- looking at the morons of the 18-30 scene; those who swapped sperm more than conversation.  Mini-operas like To the End and End of a Century showcases Albarn’s perceptive and original voice; his tight and ubiquitous lyrics- the songs spoke to a generation.  Throw in the heartbreaking Badhead; spoon some the bouncing London Loves– cannot forget that Phil Daniels-narrated title track.  Ending with the epic and sweeping This is a Low and it was Definitely Maybe’s southern riposte.  Their 1995 follow-up did not match Oasis’ sophomore release: to me, The Great Escape is no shame; it boasts some of Blur’s finest tracks.  Charmless Man and The Universal show Blur’s wit and cutting (observational) bite; their swooning and sorrowful side.  Inspired by the competiveness and communal influence of ‘Britpop’, Blur created a truly great album- its second track would form one-half of ‘Britpop’s most epic showdowns.


Hip-Hop/Trip-Hop: The Experimentation and Possibilities


 Whereas Grunge represented the heartaches, anxieties and struggles of America’s youth; ‘Britpop’ reflected a sense of British optimism and unity- on the periphery, something extraordinary was happening.  Whilst the ‘90s Dance scene was evolving and growing, the Hip/Trip-Hop movement was producing some heroes.  Some of the most innovative and diverse genres, everything from Dr. Dre- and his 1992 meisterwerk The Chronic– to M.C. Hammer was laid bare.  With West Coast Hip-Hop going against East Coast (The) Notorious B.I.G., Hip-Hop grew to be the ‘90s biggest-selling genre (by the middle of the decade).   As the decade proceeded, Rap artists came into the fore: female leaders like Lauryn Hill and Queen Latifah came through.  Not just inspiration to the women of (the music world) their music crossed gender lines- and compelled a generation of up-and-coming acts.  Away from Rap’s hard and heavy slam, girl bands like Salt-N-Peppa and En Vogue coming through- and producing sharp, sassy and electrifying beats- the scene was jam-packed and exhilarating.

Across in the U.K. we were showcasing some innovative and genius-minds Trip-Hop acts.  From Bristol, came Massive Attack: formed in 1988, the band produced one of the decade’s finest albums- the masterful Blue Lines.  That Trip-Hop/Experimental album was not only a nine-track masterpiece- that mixed sounds and sensations- but highlighted the effectiveness of sample-splicing- the album used existing songs/snippets to dazzling effect.  Take decade-defining songs like Unfinished Sympathy into the arena- and its unbeatable confidence and entrance- look at Safe from Harm and One Love (two distinct and staggering cuts) and you have a must-own L.P.  Bristol also produced the Somerset-named Portishead: a fellow act that spawned a Trip-Hop masterpiece.  Although Dummy is not quite up to Blue Lines’ standard- hard to actually level it to be fair- the album saw the Beth Gibbons-fronted band produce something of-its-time.  Considered one of the ‘90s’ essential albums, tracks like Sour Times, Glory Box and Mysterons are recognised by all- even now they summon up recollections and happy memories.  Ice-cold and hot-headed; emotive and tear-stained; black-and-white (yet bursting with explosive colour) the album was a kaleidoscopic statement of emotion and passion- no surprise it remains such a memorable album.  The Trip-Hop scene spawned some distinct acts: in the U.K. the likes of Massive Attack represented hard and emotive music; in the U.S., the likes of The Notorious B.I.G.- and his New York Hip-Hop attacks- was more wordy and lyrics-based; representing the sounds of the streets (and the struggles of his peers) it was a distinct break-away- something that was foreign and alien in the U.K.  With the genres producing some startling albums, it showed the ‘90s has endless appeal and breadth.


The Rest… (Not to be Second-Best)


I stated in the opening- it would be hard to assess all of the decade’s best- and stand by that- not to say I am going to end it there!  Away from the main genres/players a lot of (other) great music arose: stunning Pop sounds, classic artists hitting their peak- greatly innovative acts doing their thing.  If you take the first point- and look at the Pop of the ‘90s- perhaps The Spice Girls are the most recognisable brand.  Aside from the quasi-feminist phenomena of ‘Girl Power’- something that seems quite nauseating in retrospect- their music (thankfully) was much more credible.  I am not (the girls’) biggest fan yet bow to their prowess: you cannot ignore their effect and quality.  Songs such as Wannabe and Spice Up Your Life remain (rightful) classics; their 1996-album Spice is a solid and tunes-laden accomplishment.  The girls not only heralded a wave of female-fronted Pop might; they inspired a wealth of young bands- that effect is being felt today; the number of Spice Girls-influenced bands today is huge.  Away from the Union Flag-laden Halliwell swagger, the Pop world was defined by its consistency and strength.  More reliable and fascinating (than today’s rather ho-hum offerings) U.S. artists like Sheryl Crow and Fiona Apple were coming though.  With Crow’s Friday Night Music Club; her awesome self-titled album: between them songs like All I Wanna Do, If it Makes You Happy and A Change Would Do You Good among the scores, the young American burst into public consciousness.  Leading the intelligent and nuanced Pop elite, Crow was joined by Fiona Apple: in 1998 she released Tidal: an album filled with supple and mature tracks; rich and deep compositions- the teenager was to remain a secret no longer.

In the ‘90s Michael Jackson was still ruling the Pop scene.  Having passed his glory days- Thriller remains his defining album; Off the Wall his most underrated masterpiece- History was unveiled: the 1991-album was greeted with applause and fervency.  With few minor niggles- a little over-long and overproduced- the album is a hard and heavy attack: blistering jams and assaults; smooth sensual gliders; wonderful Jackson-esque anthems.  With tracks like Black or White ranking among Jackson’s best; the furious Jam kicking (the album off to) a wonderful start- the album showed the King of Pop had lost none of his touch.  Drawing in new collaborators and styles- this album showed more Rap/Hip-Hop edges- Jackson’s songs are more accusatory and sharp; his voice firmer and angrier- his pen more varied and agile.  During the late-1990s, U.S. Pop was particularly productive: acts like Britney Spears and Backstreet Boys came through; lesser acts such as Hanson plied their trade- a varied mixture that supplied something for everyone.  Whilst today’s (U.S. Pop) market has a different sound/componence; there is no denying it derived from ‘90s acts: you cannot understand the influence/effect (the acts had).  Aside from the Pop legends of all, a lot of other (great) music was coming through: from British acts Seal and Jamiroquai; Hard Rock acts like Guns N’ Roses and The Black Crowes (from the U.S.)- a smorgasbord of sounds and sensations.


Why it is Special to Me: What Makes it so Enduring


Perhaps I am a little biased: being born in 1983, I grew up with ‘90s music- it sound-tracked my formative years; scored my childhood- formed some of my earliest memories.  For me, the 1990s music scene is synonymous for two reasons: its wealth of diversity and the staggering quality.  I have touched on a few genres/acts: the truth is; there is a lot I have missed out/couldn’t fit in.  If you look at today’s scene- and the music of 2010 onwards- what is the best we have done?  There are none of those great ‘Britpop’ battles- just spats between rappers and female Hip-Hop acts- and few enduring albums.  Just casting my mind around: you have the novelty songs and Dance anthems; the Pop classics and Rock epics; the Hip-Hop wonders and Neo-Soul smooth.  There is no denying how full and variegated (the ‘90s is): that wealth of difference and range has affected music forever; created and inspired terrific acts- you can keep your ‘60s music!  The quality helped to enforce this point: sure, there was some complete crap (as there is in any decade) yet the 1990s has an ear and eye for quality control- something the modern music scene could take note of.  Essentially, the ‘90s represented something wonderful and life-changing: the music is still in my head; the memories are burning bright.  Everyone has their own views- when it comes to the best decade for music- yet people of my generation have no doubt; the 1990s was an unimpeachable milestone; the finest time for music- we will never see a decade like it.  Just sit and think of individual songs- I am thinking about Seal and Snow- and you get a host of weird, wonderful (and unique) brilliance.


Penultimately: The 1990s’ Finest Album


The Bends by Radiohead: simple as.  We all have our own favourite and opinion: I can understand some choices- I love Nevermind and Urban Hymns; have plenty of time for Ill Communication and Dookie– but none come close to Radiohead’s finest.  Not only is a tremendous stand-alone album: it was the start of an unmatched 1-2-3 from the Oxford band; they followed-up with Ok Computer; then Kid A– three peerless, genius albums came forth (no other act since has achieved a feat as impressive).  The Bends wasn’t expected by anyone: following Pablo Honey (Radiohead’s debut) few could have predicted what was coming next- bands do not go from Pablo Honey– a solid yet unspectacular album- to an epoch-defining work of wonder.  I adore everything about the album: from its minor lapses (I’ll admit Planet Telex is an awful and poor opening track; the running order could be improved at the mid-way point) to its unbelievable highs, it is a perfect creation.  Thom Yorke’s voice comes into its own: when operatic, it swoons and strikes the heavens; its sweet falsetto-laden moments are ethereal and transcendent- he can switch from an angry bite to an angelic croon (within the space of a line).  The title track is a rampant and racing thing: vivid and image-filled, the song is among the band’s most urgent.  High and Dry– disliked by Thom Yorke especially- has an infectious chorus and stunning vocal turn.  Hard rockers My Iron Lung and Just showcases the band’s tightness and musicianship- the brutal honest of Bullet Proof…I Wish I Was.  Completing its work with (the wondrous and deeply affecting) Street Spirit (Fade Out) and you have the album’s finest moment; a chilling and hugely nuanced work of genius.  Thom Yorke- and his voice that inspired the like of Matt Bellamy and Tom Chaplin- is the star of the show.  Formidable and commanding, it boasts such a huge emotional range: that force and beauty is not forced or unnatural; it sounds completely seamless throughout.  So much urgency and spine-tingle, the Radiohead front-man turned each song into an exorcism.  The entire band is tight throughout: Jonny Greenwood’s guitar work is especially staggering to behold.  Filled with texture, passion and accomplishment, it is hard to believe (the ability he possesses).  The songs not only stand the test of time; the album placed Radiohead on the music map; marked them as serious contenders- they were bolstered and inspired to create a tremendous follow-up.  Radiohead were the ‘Britpop’ outsiders:: they were not cheery like Supergrass; not representing the youths’ voice (like Oasis and Blur)- they were the moody and independent spirits.  Loners on a voyage, they did not need to fit into a mould; become part of any scene- their tremendous music surpassed everything else.  For me, there is no better album ever created- nothing will come close to matching its legacy and quality.

Finally: My Favourite Artist of the 1990s

I shall finish off with my favourite musicians of the decade: the peerless and beautiful Jeff Buckley.  I ‘discovered’ Buckley about ten years ago: having heard Hallelujah (via a live recording he performed in 1992) I was compelled to check out the American singer; delve into his back catalogue- see what he was about.  When you look at Buckley you have to address the tragedy; his untimely demise (he drowned in 1997 aged 30) and his what-could-have-been mythology.  Once you get back from that precipice- and concentrate on the man and his music- well… that is when you are seduced.  What struck my hardest was that world-straddling voice: his lungs could belt out insane notes (beyond the capacity of human understanding); his immensely beautiful calm had feminine qualities- he is the epitome of the term ‘voice of an angel.’  Although Grace remains his sole studio album- there have been compilations and live recordings published- that is no minor feat.  That album demonstrates everything that makes Buckley great: his personal and tender lyrics; that deeply emotive and dramatic voice; his quirkiness and humour- a personality that equaled his talent.  Whilst Hallelujah remains his most famous song- few recordings are as transcendent and spine-tingling as this- Buckley’s original material is not to be overlooked.  His tales of love and sweetheart loss stand apart from his peers: his lyrics are not cliché and humdrum; his poet and Dylan-esque insights.  Just spend some time on YouTube; listen to all you can- just what he was capable of.  Having fallen in love with the Live at Sin-e (double album); that best showcases his interpretative qualities: recorded at a New York café (in the early ‘90s) Buckley tackles the likes of Billie Holiday and Van Morrison; Leonard Cohen to Mile Davis.  That goofiness and charm oozes out; the witty banter and rapport- the audience for the recordings must have been a dozen-or-so; that intimacy and special atmosphere led to some of his best performances.  Armed with his guitar (and an adoring café crowd), Buckley seduced and enraptured- leaving jaws open.  Radio interviews see the young man in a different light: that stunning intelligence and huge musical knowledge; his quirky and funny edges- someone you cannot help but adore.  I never met Buckley yet feel a huge sadness (when thiking about his death): the manner of its happening is heartbreaking (he was on his back in the water of the Wolf River; relaxing and listening to Led Zeppelin; just him and a friend)-he wouldn’t have stood a change; he was sucked under the water without a fighting chance.  You can’t change the past and change reality: all you can do is cherish what is left; be thankful for what was created- Buckley did not leave the world short-changed.  One of the most influential singer-songwriters ever- so many modern artists are influenced by him- I loved that guy; the reason I am a music writer is because of him.  He was shy and vulnerable- he suffered bipolar affective disorder- he was scarred and struggled; he gave love and compassion to so many- he deserved to be with us today.  I just am thankful for all his music; those timeless performances- every word and thought he left on this planet.  For me, Buckley represents what the 1990s was about: that freedom of expression and creativity; drinking in the diversity and multiculturalism of the music scene; the reciprocal warmth the crowds provided- the richest time for musicians to exist.  We may never see anything approach the ‘90s- and all the phenomenal music it provided- that is not to say we should let it fade.

Let me know your thoughts and favourites; what defines the decade (for you) – feel free to disagree with my conclusions.  Whatever your age; wherever you grew up, you cannot deny the spectacle of ‘90s music: those dreamers and innovators; that rich tapestry of song- so many wonderful and evocative memories.  For me, it was a better and simpler time; the music helped me overcome hard times- ritualistic school bullying; deaths in the family and the onset of depression; struggling to fit in- and focus on something pure and compassionate.  It also lead me to where I am not: the rich variety of ‘90s sounds inspired me to take up music writing; investigate bands and songs- perhaps no higher praise from me, I guess.  What does the 1990s mean to you?  Do you have fond memories and favourite songs?  Let me know if you can: it would be great to hear individual opinions; lead me to something (I may have forgotten about).  For now, do what I will be doing: revisiting some tremendous songs and albums (from a wonderful decade).  When it all comes down to it- and when the 1990s is concerned- we have never…

HAD it so good.


Your 1990s Playlist: 

No DiggityBlackstreet

Black Hole SunSoundgarden

Losing my ReligionR.E.M.

For Tomorrow- Blur

Groove is in the HeartDeee-Lite

Sabotage Beastie Boys

Glory Box- Portishead

CalifornicationRed Hot Chili Peppers

Everlong- Foo Fighters

Basket Case- Green Day

Street Spirit (Fade Out)Radiohead

All I Wanna Do- Sheryl Crow

Push It- Salt-N-Peppa

Track Review: Night Wolf (Ft. Kite)- Bitterness



Night Wolf (Ft. Kite)







Bitterness is available at:

August, 2015

Electronic; Hip-Hop


Bedfordshire, U.K.

THIS one is going to be pretty exciting…

Every time I review Night Wolf- I have done it a few times now- it always offers something startling and fascinating.  His genre-bending, sound-fusing kaleidoscopes mix emotions and dangers; elliptical beauty and razor edges- it sounds loose and effortless yet perfectly honed and concentrated.  Before I get to my review subject- and bring him to the public fore- it raises some interesting issues: chief among them, the innovation of the Electronic scene.  I have waxed lyrical regarding the virtues of the Electro.-Pop scene: its chief proponents (female-heavy let’s be candid) are doing some fantastic things; contorting emotional beats inside orchestral electronics; bristling and hard- topped off with some candid beauty and tenderness.  To be fair, there is a slight stagnation and stalling occurring- a lot of the new Electro.-Pop acts coming through are perhaps coming off a little samey- and this will soon abate.  Being fascinated by the likes of FKA twigs and St. Vincent, I am hearing a lot of similar-sounding acts: those that tie too closely to these artists; do not inject notes of difference and distinction.  It is understandable given the influx of hungry artists: there will be some familiar sounds for sure; the acts that stand out have their own voice.  Having reviewed the likes of ADI- the Israeli-born wonder- and others, there is a lot of innovation and personality: ADI especially is a mistress of urban beats and hard-stabbing; deft at weaving emotion into every note and swathe- all wrapped around her stunningly gripping voice.  When you have a guitar, bass and drum (at hand) there are instant limitations: bands come that surprise and seduce; that said, there are many more that sound uninspired and phoned-in.  Perhaps there are boundaries and limits- when creating something great in Rock and Indie circles- but that is where Electronica stands alone: there is great potential and variation; the chance to come up with something genuinely new and fresh.  With that, electronic artists like to mix genres and fuse cultures: tie in some Hip/Trip-Hop magic; drip some Urban-inspired swagger; maybe some Classical threads into the mix- and come up with a rich and multi-coloured feast.  Of course, this freedom has a reverse affect: sometimes the artists have no ear for concision and consistency; just wildly string notes together- like a bored child banging at a piano.  When the artistry is intelligent and focused; when the artists really hit the mark- that type of produce is beyond compare; few other genres provide the same degree of wonder and joy.  Before I continue on that point, let’s have a look at Night Wolf:

I am a composer/producer/artist signed to Fly Productionz Ltd (UK), working with MusicJar (UK) + SumSerious Music LLC (USA) + Sky Rocket Records (Europe) + GungHo Music Group Ltd (China).
Started out in rock bands as a drummer, had classical piano training at the age of 7, gave up after grade 3 to concentrate on my own music. Alongside solo projects I work with my partner Centrist (Mike Ziegler) From Dekalb Il. We formed into Harmony’s Descent around 1 year ago.
Please stay a while and sit back and browse over some of my work, please leave feedback as it’s always welcome, I am always on the lookout for new artists, accapellas and producers to collab with

Having such a rich and variable music upbringing, Ryan Wilcox- the man behind the wolf- has utilised this for his creations: his tracks combine gorgeous strings and epic compositions; dirty and gritty Urban notes; hard-hitting Rock beats- combustible inside his pot of psychotropic spark.  In 2013 I got to review (the fantastic E.P.) The Moonlight E.P.– a five-track collection that showed what the young artist could achieve.  With Watt the Time Mr. Wolf (arriving that year) and a stunning body of work beckoning forth, it has left me stunned and hungry- with every new release, something new comes out.  Whether he goes it alone- and comes up with a tremendous instrumental- or a collaboration (combining with some fabulous singers) the results are sensational.  It is that huge musical knowledge- and the love of multiple genres- that mandates the sound; his ambition and drive is immense- you can hear that confidence and passion slam from the speakers.  With Bitterness released- and Kite lending her voice to the song- it is a great preview of what’s to come; a new ‘Co.-Lab’ album is on the horizon- things are on the rise for the Bedford-based maestro.  An exceptional and intelligent composer, Wilcox varies his songs and themes: no two songs sound alike; with each new release something bracing and unique is offered- the latest cut is no exception.  Perhaps his most impressive and nuanced song to date, it seems this/next year will produce some wonderful music (from Night Wolf) – the creative juices are at their finest.

When it comes to Night Wolf’s latest maneuver, one must look back- and see how far he has come.  Bitterness builds from his latest works: if you take a look at the Night Wolf’s more recent work, there are definite similarities to be found.  In the earliest days- a few years ago- the music was fully-formed and confident; there were few loose edges.  With each new release, Night Wolf has become more insistent and nuanced; his tracks more emotive and ambitious- a trait that has defined his latest track.  Earlier this month, Dehumanised was dropped.  An instrumental track- like most of his output as-of-late- it twinkles and shimmers.  With stuttering beats- creating Trip/Hip-Hop edges- the song is dreamy and light.  That beat adds a sense of lurking danger- something that defines our hero’s sound and identity.  By fusing dark and light shades; force and passion, you get a full-bodied and diverse track- one that appeals to lovers of Rock and Indie; can draw in traditional Electronica fans; recruit some new support.  Atmospheric and lustful, it builds images and scenes- the listener is free to conspire and drift; fill in the gaps- there is a constant sense of chill and relax.  Although the song never explodes or expands; that consistency and focus works in its favour.  The Shard (released five months ago) boats harder beats and pulsing electronics.  Combining finger-clicks and vibrating passion- there is a Dub-Step undertone to proceedings.  Whilst the foreground mingles static pulse and fascinating string-picking, you get a Classical-cum-Hip Hop fusion; one that is evocative and emotive.  Give its title, you begin picturing the London landmark (whether this is what Wilcox had in mind I am not sure) – that is where my mind went.  Atmospheric and tender; epic and personal, the song is another Night Wolf diamond.  Vacant Mind (recorded around the same time) is another scenic and dream-like composition.  The electronics twist and turn; there is sawing and singularity- a bond of plinking and swelling; rushing electronics and nuanced undertones.  Distinguishing itself from (Dehumanised and The Shard); Vacant Mind lives up to its title: the composition draws very vivid images; it inspires the listener to imagine- and let the music do its work.  Wilcox is a master of emotion-building and atmosphere: he can say so much without any vocals (or needless noise).  Showcasing complete command and confidence, the recent output ranks among his best.  Bitterness continues that run of form for sure: the compositional backdrop introduces shades of (the aforementioned tracks); there is a slight move towards emphasising the beats.  With Kite’s spectral voice flowing over the composition, Night Wolf punches the percussion: it is hard-hitting and tough; combined with synthesisers, the composition is deep and detailed.  Having studied Night Wolf’s historic works- and vocal collaborations too- I can see growth and development.  The subject matter has changed and evolved- whilst retaining that distinct identity and style.  On Bitterness, there is incorporation of the modern Electronica/Electro.-Pop scene; little shades of ’80s Synth.-Pop; parts Hip-Hop too.  There is not a radical departure to the new track: retaining his central hallmarks, Wilcox has gained fresh confidence and inspiration; found a new muse- created a track that provide future glimpse; show where he is now.  The latest revelation combines so much; ties in multiple sounds and suggestions- fans of Night Wolf’s existing work will be pleased; new supporters will find much to enjoy.

The opening moments of Bitterness are a slow-building scene-setter: you picture moonlight and stars; something autumnal and haunting- a few people walking the street; silence gracing the pavements.  With electronic keys and strings- light and delicate, the mood starts to twirl and build- the song begins to take flight.  With such a romantic mood; a slight feel of orchestra- in fact, the opening coda puts me in mind of The Cinematic Orchestra- a lot of emotion and depth is whipped-up.  Given the lead-in sentiments, the opening line is somewhat juxtaposed: “It’s a bitterness I long for.”  Kite’s voice has elements of Bjork under its skin- the annunciation and pronunciation- together with sweetness and strength.  Swaying and hypntoised, her vocals are syncopated and paced: the line is carefully disseminated; floating on the compositional wave- lost in moment.  Mixing trippy-ness with dreaminess, the song instantly does its work: you settle into the sights and sounds; imagine the events unfolding- transpose yourself with the heroine.  Evocative and dramatic, the rain and weather beats; the night-time beckons.  As our heroine (looks at a subject or feel) that comes “back for more”; it licks its lips- you start to wonder (what is being) referred to.  Whether looking at bitterness- coming back and capturing her attention- or a particular person; you are in two minds.  There is intrigue and fascination mingling together; a concoction of ambiguity: the listener is left to guess that is being projected.  Tip-toeing and dancing in the composition- that remains firm and passionate; dark-hued and compelling- some of the words maybe echo a little (and lose something in translation)- this only adds to the sense of drama and grip.  While some of the lyrics get buried down in the mix, the vocal itself remains mesmeric and haunted: distance and washed-away; strong-tongued and sensual, Kite is consistently engaging and stunning.  Whilst the electronic foreground remains constant and focused: continuing its plight and sound; a lush Jazz-fused parable sound commingles.  Whilst Kite gets caught in the soul-grabbing breeze- the listener is wondering whether a broken romance is afoot; a sense of unease is haunting her mind- some ecstatic brass comes into the fold.  Soothing and chocolatey; sassy and vintage- you could hear it echoing from the doorway of a ‘50s Jazz club- the trumpet dives and kisses.  A rapturous tongue of velvet, the listener gets a chance to relax and kick-back: it is a deliriously calming sound; a hugely emotional hit.  Easing the sense of bitterness and anxiety, the composition starts to inject compassion and evocation- our heroine has her eyes closed and drifting away; her mind racing and conspiring.  Before you become too sedated and quelled, the composition suddenly ignites:  a gravitational beat sparks in; it cracks through the Jazz-flecked haze; the mood gets hard and hot- those trumpet notes still linger in the mix.  Combining seamlessly and naturally, your thoughts and attentions mutate: as Kite lets her voice glide and haunt- her vocal is aching and powerful; floating and magical- the song steps up another gear.  At its fullest and most dream-like, that beat scuffles and stutters.  Both tripping and vibrating; Urban-sounding and Hip-Hop-infused; the foreground hits its stride.  The sort of sound that could score an Ibiza club floor; a summer night-inspired rapture- it is a fantastic and wonderful sound.  Back again is our heroine: she is mired in the bitterness; she longs for that feeling of bitterness- whether it is human-formed or emotive; you are caught in its trance.  At each introduction, that voice does exactly what it is supposed to: drawing the listener directly into the song, it mixes ‘90s and modern-day (it is hard not to think of Bjork when hearing her voice).  The track itself bonds so many genres and time periods together.  With its Dance/Electronic undertones, aspects of ‘00s Ambient-Dub and Ambient-House- it will draw in the club-goers of old.  At its heart is a very modern and of-the-minute vibe.  Tranquil and emotive; full-bodied and descriptive the music is ready-made for the mainstream- although one suspects Night Wolf wants to stay under the radar.

Essentially, Bitterness is a track that boasts questions and speculation: why is the heroine in that state of mine?  What exactly is being referenced?  You begin to picture and imagine- as the song unfolds and develops- trying to get to the song’s heart.  The vocal itself is filled with emotional resonance and huge power.  Whilst (at its core) fairly soft and tender, there is an underlying force and passion; something quite pressing and urgent- the words clearly resonate with Kite.  Whether she is inspired by the likes of Bjork (I am not sure) but I get that vibe: that same sensual and weightless vibe; the hypnotic and wide-eyed wonder.  On that note- and looking at an album like Post– there are hallmarks and similarities- whether Night Wolf has been influenced too.  Minimal and bubbling percussion hints; Jazz and Electronic fusions- here something Bjork-esque is created.  Whilst the lyrics have an abstract and mysterious quality, the composition burnishes with volatile emotion and tranquil beauty.  Kite’s turns the minimalist lyrics into her own personal mantra: something that haunts and caresses her soul; dives and delves into her heart.  With impeccable delivery and complete conviction, the duo combines naturalistically- a perfect match, in fact.  Night Wolf is a constantly evolving artist; like the greatest musicians around, he is always evolving and changing- whilst keeping his innovation and personality strong.  The production is rich and expertly-handled: it allows the notes and composition to breathe; the vocal is not buried or hidden (in spite of some lyrics being a little unclear).  Not cluttering the song (with needless noise or effect) there is sparseness to proceedings: each note and instrument is employed to tremendous effect; a real sense of intelligence has gone into the track.  Whilst not as full and vivacious (as previous compositions) Bitterness shows more focus and emotion: Night Wolf may have crafted his finest achievement; something that showcases a new direction- and heralds a gleaming future.  A fond discovery, Kite is a singer with a great future: a voice that can go seamlessly anywhere, it would be great to hear more of her- perhaps the two will unite once more?

It is clear some great things are ahead; Night Wolf is on the prowl- the current offering is scintillating and amazing.  Having followed his work (for a couple of years now); seen the development happen- that level of confidence and innovation is at its peak.  With each E.P. release, the public gets varied and multifarious compositions: songs that tackle pressing issues; mix genres together- and leave the listener blown-away.  The one-off singles and releases surprise and grip; the collaborations bring in new voices-those who lend their tones to Wilcox’s compositions.  With Bitterness, Night Wolf has shown his flexibility and consistency: it can be nobody else but Night Wolf; here, there are new sounds and adventures; some fresh ambitious laid bare- the coming-together is quite sensational.  Having worked on The Co.-Lab Vol. 1 (in 2013) – the E.P. spawned huge response and praise- the second part is forthcoming; new songs will feature- another round of sensational collaborations and works.  Bitterness could feature anywhere; it could define the entire E.P. – knowing Night Wolf you can never realty predict anything.  It is rare to see a composer/artist that has such a consistency and sense of evolution: a lot of similar acts tend to grow fatigued and bored; others produce the odd gem- and then lose focus and traction.  With Wilcox, there is no such fate: with each new release, his ambitious increase and stretch- it not only creates new fans and support; it give people like me (reviewers and such) a real treat.  Make sure you keep your eyes and ears to the ground: in the coming weeks/months Night Wolf will be back into focus; up-to-date material will be dropped- a chance to see what is inspired (the young master).  Having been invested for a while now, I do not have bias or naivety: I have heard what has come before; how his music is growing- I know this year will see some truly spectacular music come forth.  If you are new to Night Wolf, make sure you do not stop at Bitterness: go back into the annals and investigate his catalogue; dive into the jungles of beats and strings- let your mind and body fall victim to the insatiable sonics.  Before I depart once more, I want to jump back to my original thesis: when it comes to Electronica and the genre-splicing innovators.  I am not critical of the band/mainstream market- and music that does not fall within Electronica realms- but feel that there is a lack of diversity.  Some truly great bands and solo acts are being produced; some innovative young stars- to my mind, there are confines and limitations (with the music they play).  Electronica has that potential to go anywhere: you can splice genres and decades; drop in samples and epic beats- bring in other voices to flesh out the music.  Of course, unless you have a focused vision- and are able to channel that potential into something coherent- then it can all go to pot.  Ryan Wilcox- and his night-dwelling moniker- has that experience and background: a classically-trained musician, there is confidence and proficiency a-plenty.  Since his earliest days, Night Wolf music has been defined by its stunning atmospherics and multi-layered compositions.  It is not just the instrumental moments that strike the brain: when lacing in political messages, he sounds authoritative and stirring- and not some faux-political singer/songwriter.  The mainstream market tends to focus heavily on bands and popular stars: genres like Hip/Hop/Electronica are still niche and under-the-radar- the media tends not to cast its eye away from obvious artists.  If you look away from the critically-approved festival acts; the obvious choices- you can discover something new and special.  Not all electronically-produced music is going to be high standard: there are limitations for sure; every genre suffers that reality.  My point is; there are some very obvious bonuses: the Electronic/Electronica artists have great mobility and options; when genres are mixed some of the finest songs can emerge- the biggest emotional hits are produced.  Night wolf is not your average hit-and-run artist: no random heaviness and aimless noise; no vague sounds and thread-bare compositions- with each song, you get depth, nuance and emotion; a guarantee of utmost confidence and stun.  Make sure you share Bitterness around social media; ensure the song finds new fans- and give Night Wolf some love.  Investigate Kite too: a young singer with a sensational voice; a singular talent indeed- someone with a definite future ahead.  A perfect compatriot to Night Wolf’s stunning visions, I hope the two collaborate again (very soon) – here they sound natural and made-for-each-other; completely in-tune and in-step.  Few British artists put out music as consistent and filled with colour and emotion- Night Wolf is one of those rare artists.  It is only left for me to dive back into Bitterness; speculate what is to come- and await The Co.-Lab Vol. 2.  With the weather being pretty awful; fortunes being mixed and unpredictable, I need something reliable and fulfilling.  With Night Wolf in full flight…

THAT is a guarantee.


Follow Night Wolf:






Track Review: Waiting For Wednesday- One Way Ticket



Waiting for Wednesday


One Way Ticket




One Way Ticket can be heard here:

August, 2015



Bradford, U.K.

When We Were Seventeen cover art

The album When We Were Seventeen can be heard here:


One Way Ticket

Girl You Don’t Love

Hold You Up

Looking for a Home

Train Wreck

Rhythm to this Song

There’s a Plan

Waiting For Wednesday are:
Laura Shackleton, Guitar & Vocals
Anna Watkins, Vocals

Huge thank you to our “When We Were Seventeen” band Virpi Kettu (Violin), Dave Kaer Jones (Drums), Christian Gallon (Bass) and Pete Dudbridge (Lead Guitar).

© & ℗ 2015 Waiting for Wednesday. (W4W02)
Recorded, mixed and mastered by Mark Sturgess at Soundstation Recording Studio, Wakefield, West Yorkshire.
All songs written and performed by Waiting for Wednesday
(L. Shackleton & A. Watkins)

Photography by Suggys Photography.
Retouching by Prefix Studio Ltd.


IN the ‘middle’ of my new-women-of-music marathon, today…

I am looking at a unique northern duo: a best friend twosome who makes some sumptuous music.  Before I introduce them I am pricked by two themes: female-related music and the diversity of the scene.  For some reason- perhaps fatigue at the lack of male diversity- my thoughts have been with the girls (of music).  As part of my D.J. set- I do a weekly spot at a local bar- my playlist is turning to some great female acts: En Vogue are among the top choice; their timeless songs and stunning harmonies strike the heart- something the male equivalents are not capable of (in quite the same manner).  Bering one of those (underrated) and legendary ‘90s acts, it has put my thoughts with genre range and diversity- but I shall get to that soon.  At the moment, new music is not exciting me quite as much as before (I am talking mainstream sounds here).  Bands like The Strypes and Foals are producing new material; not up to their best, there is a lot of fatigue and disappointment- not many acts really creating something magnificent.  The best new releases (from this week and next) are Australian acts: this week, the magnificent Totally Mild; next week, the Punk-Rock outfit Royal Headache.  These gems- from bands that are largely unknown in the public consciousness- are bucking the trend; however, the last few years have been (disappointing years) – how many great albums have stuck in your mind?  If anything, new music is offering the most excitement- with so much passion and competition bubbling away.  Not just a game of numbers, there is consistency and quality- away from the ho-hum/mediocracy of the mainstream players.  I love the bands that are coming up; the hard and hot anthems; the striking Electro.-Pop orchestrations- it is the girls that are lingering in the imagination.  Perhaps more imaginative and ambitious- I have raised this point in a previous review- the women are leading the way; coming up with the finest music- and showcasing an amazing sense of range and passion.  The boys can do soft and gentle: songs from the heart; designed to seduce and compel the soul- it is the girls that have that distinct edge.  Whether it is harmony-laden or Folk-based solo work, the girls showcase more beauty and nuance.  Aside from the serene and ethereal, they are better (when the mood calls) for something primal and enraptured- Electro.-Pop and similar sounds.  With more impressive solo artists- that pen more compelling tracks; have a bigger arsenal of emotions- the female acts coming out are impressive indeed.  It may be a brief reign- or maybe an over-exageration- but the boys could learn a thing or two- take a listen to some of the best (female acts); around; they are demonstrating how to make some genuinely nuanced and fabulous music.  Before I continue on my point- and in fact, raise a new one- let me introduce you to my featured act:

Feisty female duo with sweet and husky voices harmonise distinctively in their stirring songs of love, loss and the importance of strong women. Influenced by the likes of Joni, Janis and Emmy-Lou, they write stories in the folk tradition and play them with a rock passion and country twang.”

It is the solid friendship- the Bradford duo display in their music- that makes each note so sublime and urgent; they have a clear affection and bond- the sort usually reserved for lovers.  Of course, the boys (in bands) have a kinship and brotherly bond- nothing that comes close to the intuition Waiting for Wednesday show.  It is great to be back in Yorkshire: this country is my favourite music avenue; it is pressing some of the most fantastic music in the U.K.  Whether you like the stadium-sized jewels of Allusondrugs; the charming duo-play of Issimo; the solo beauty of Jen Armstrong (or some Jonnythefirth Blues magic) and you are well catered for.  It is not Yorkshire bias, yet their commentators are bang on the money: the county is the most fervent and diverse (in this country).  When interviewing Damien Hughes- of the band Allusondrugs- I posed the question (as to why there is diversity in Yorkshire).  He explained to me: “I think people are throwing themselves into music more in this area because there’s not as much to do…  I don’t think there’s any more opportunity up here than there is in London for example, but there’s definitely a lot more “competition” in London, there are so many people in one place so naturally there will be a lot of bands in the same place.  So maybe it’s just that the north isn’t as saturated as the south.  I could be wrong.”  It seems a good explanation to me: down south we are a lot more built-up and stressed; there is (perhaps more) anxiety and pressure- the north has less negativity and saturation.  Bradford’s Waiting For Wednesday not only go to prove the point- that show what great music Yorkshire is producing- but they display their own voice and sense of style.  Their Modern-Folk sounds have embers of Smoke Fairies and their contemporaries; little hints of U.S. Country sounds- when it comes down to it, they are their own group.  Having grown up (and been inspired by) a wide range of acts, the girls imbue this in their sounds: it is not singular and predictable; there are diversions and avenues; mixtures of sounds and emotions- music that is emotional and full.  Whilst the ‘90s is synonymous with its diversity and range of sounds- I will touch on this in a blog later in the week- the 2010s is seeing a decline (in this trend) – there isn’t that same degree of innovation and surprise; those epic battles and peerless chart sounds.  With acts like Waiting for Wednesday- epitomising the quality coming out in the Folk genre- there are embers (of the ‘90s) in their music; that same sense of originality and quality- something mainstream artists can take note from.  With new releases- when it comes to albums being dropped- a rather patchy affair; we need to give new music’s best some deserved acclaim.

This is not the debut of Waiting for Wednesday: Girls Don’t Play Guitar was their opening salvo.  A nine-track stunner, the album touched on issues or love and loss; passion and panache.  The opening (self-titled) track was the perfect introduction: rushing guitars and urgent vocals, the girls melt perfectly.  Assessing a tired relationship- where the two lovers are divided and hiding feelings- and ambiguity too.  Maybe looking at the music industry or ambition; moving on in life and losing friends- the song paints images with several meanings; the listener can picture their own interpretation.  Giving My Heart Away is more direct.  Having been heartbroken several times (the girls) are learning from the past: having been heartbroken several times, they are being put through fire.  Perhaps better not to have loved at all, the song has bruised skin and bloodshot eyes- a lament about the inequities of trust and love.  Over Her Shoulder is more sprite and upbeat; a jumping Folk coda: the girls unite their distinct voices; the wind blows and guides (our heroines) – it is a travelogue of evocativeness and scene-setting beauty.  Raincloud displays a softer and tender side: from its finger-picking opening, it is a beautiful and sensual song- showcasing how ethereal the (girls’ voices) are.  Both deep and introspective, it is another stirring and atmospheric track.  Filled with talent, range and variegation (Girls Don’t Play Guitar) stands as a remarkable achievement: an album that cemented their wonder from the off; is consistently tight and wondrous- a stunning achievement.  Since then- and with their new album in the ether- there is development and growth.  From the opening notes (to the lead-off song) there seems more confidence and urgency: those vocals seem even more arresting; those shivers come thicker and faster- their senses heightened here.  With fewer tracks (seven) and more economy the album is crisper and more emotive.  With shivering violin running through Girl You Don’t Love, those two (distinct and awesome) voices hit their heights- never have they sounded as intense and gripping.  Looking for a Home is a fast-flowing rusher: metaphors of sunken wreckages stalk; the vocals trip and effuse- that drive and punch never relents.  Both anthemic and intimate, it is a song filled with gorgeous wordplay and amazing performances.  There’s a Plan contains that inimitable violin- here it haunts and tenderises; sways and kisses- as the girls close the L.P.  One of the most Country-orientated tracks, it is gentler (than previous offerings); allowing them to demonstrate their beauty and sensitivity- providing wisdom and life lessons along the way.  The composition builds and glides; the track grows larger and more scenic- a stunning close to proceedings.  With a little more tightness and concision, the girls have developed their work; built on that (fantastic sapling) promise- come up with something both epic and personal; detailed and yet somehow simpler.  The duo list the following as influences on their Facebook page: Johnny Flynn, Janis Joplin, Bonnie Raitt, Joan Baez, Nancy Griffith; The Tallest Man on Earth, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, Radical Faces, First Aid Kit; The Dixie Chicks, John Prine, Tegan and Sara, Fleetfoxes, Mumford and Sons, Laura Marling; The Cranberries, Brandi Carlisle and many more.  If you are inclined to any of these artists; if you are familiar with a few- you will find some familiar tones within When We Were Seventeen.  There are shades of the ‘60/’70s Folk pioneers; a straddling of U.K. and U.S. sounds; modern Folk and classic singer-songwriter templates- use these words as a guidance.  What Laura Shackleton and Anna Watkins are (is their) own act: they have put some much personal heartache/input into the songs; honed their stunningly original voices; poured their hearts into the music- it would do them a disservice to compare (their music with) anybody else.  A produce of an innovative and constantly-evolving act, it bodes well for the future. 

Having attuned myself to Waiting For Wednesday, the issue of picking a track- that best represented their current ambitions- was a tough call.  One Way Ticket seemed like the best song to select (the opening track from their latest track).  The infant notes are tender and delicate: riparian and soothing, the strings give way to our heroine’s voice: it comes in rich and hard; determined and reminiscent.  Looking back at teenage love- “He was my baby/when we were seventeen…”- the song visits the past; directly references the album’s title- those themes of teenage passions and ill-fated bonds.  Hanging with the scene’s cool kids- and hanging by her fingernails- our lead lets her voice strike and emote: full-bodied and impassioned, you instantly start to picture; the images come vividly to mind.  The early moments are sparse and focused- the vocal is the most prominent sound- making sure the lyrics are not impeded and overcrowded.  With each word making its way into your mind, the duo unites in song: the track’s heartbreak and strain starts to come through.  Whoever the sweetheart was, his sights were set elsewhere- “He met someone cooler.”  Themes of alienation and teenage strife are not often represented in song- aside from the teenage Pop stars- it is not a subject touched-upon too much.  Both original and compelling, you are gripped into the story: always rooting for our heroine, your attention is grabbed; you hope things work out well- the urgency of the vocal makes everything striking and fascinating.  Having met someone prettier (and better for him) the song’s focus has gone with the cool kids; left our girl in the dust- and broken a heart in the process.  Before the song becomes too sad and emotional, the compositional comes into view: the (acoustic) guitars ramp-up and march; the tempo rises and swells- a Country-cum-Folk jam gets underway.  Another side of the story is unveiled; another friendship put under the microscope.  Perhaps a culpable party- the object of the boy’s true affections- there is plenty of deceit and duplicity.  As intended romances have crumbled, it seems friendships have too:  “Before she met her lover-boy/she was my best friend.”  Perhaps there is no so much bitterness, as there is caution and support.  The boy seems to grabby and clingy; always wanting attention it seems- our heroine advises her to run (for the hills) and away from him.  Warning the girl to “run for the hills my darling”, the song picks up and shifts; goes through another gear- that galloping coda gets under the skin; propels the feet and arms; gets the listener uplifted and energised.  In spite of wisdom and truth being expounded; the song’s (naïve and untrusting girl) is not being smart- the ‘cooler’ girl is smitten (to an extent)- a fly falling into a trap.  With a sense of desperation in the vocals- the two unite to emphasise that sense of danger and ill-fated love- you see the story unfolding clearly.  That boy is luring her in; making sure he gets his way, we all know how it will end- that teenage naivety is blind to sensibility; the girl is a victim walking into the lion’s jaw.  Our heroines want to buy a one-way ticket: there is too much love (in our lead’s heart) to “spend my days alone.”  There is some depth and cleverness in the lyrics: maybe there is a second (and other girls) being talked-about; maybe the unwitting victim is (our heroine) – perhaps employing an ambiguous narrative to help shield some pain.  To my mind there are other girls in the picture- the boy is unfaithful and a cheater- and you feel a real sympathy; our lead wants love and trust; someone true and supportive- instead she is fighting for a man who is a no-good.  With Watkins taking the lead; letting her smoky voice lead the charge, every word is stunning and pressing.  That voice is a rare thing indeed; it sounds like nothing on the current scene- parts Tracy Chapman and Janis Joplin; Etta James and the Blues legends.  It is impossible to really bring names to mind: that voice is cigarette-battered and sensual; whiskey-soaked and hurricane-strong- something that can be tender and light (in spite of its immense power).  Shackleton lends her sweet and supportive tones: contrasting Watkins’ darker shades, Shackleton provides gorgeous harmony; her tight and focused guitar work provides rush and energy- the two combine magnificently.  Back to the song, and it seems things will not work out: the anti-hero has promised the world (to our lead); he is kicking about with other girls- it seems once a cheat, always a cheat.  Someone who can’t commit, it seems heartbreak is imminent.  Whether they were teens when they settled down- or this is a little later on- the boy is being an idiot; thinking he can lead a double life.  When the truth out; the cat is out the bag- that is when a vengeance whirlwind is unleashed.  Our heroine grabs the rat’s tail; spins him about his axis- tosses his (cheating arse) onto the concrete.  Perhaps too trusting- or just deep in love at the time- a harsh truth has been learned; at least the boy is not getting a second chance.  Whilst investigating a horrible and disreputable guy- who could have snared other girls; cheated on them- our heroine (both in united voice) look at a more honourable gentleman- (Watkins’) grandfather.  He fought in the war; battled for love and peace- someone who only wanted good things in lie.  A true and reliable man, it seems he has departed- and would be ashamed of the world today.  Whilst there were never such a thing as ‘the good old days’- institutional racism and homophobia was rampant (from the ‘40s-‘80s for instance); domestic abuse was rife and more prescient; corruption was a huge concern- at least there was more honest and dignity (in love).  With fewer cheating dogs, it is perhaps good (her grandfather) cannot see things- he would be shamed at the world’s state.  It appears our heroine will live her life alone: having overcome heartache and hard lessons, it is time to take a breather from things.  The tale itself is a rare one to behold: a lot of songs concerning dislocated love take a different perspective; they are rather clichéd and trite.  Here, our duo present something classical- it has hints of older Blues and Folk templates- and deeply personal.  Their sense of storytelling and wordplay is stunning: they mix simplicity with complexity; heartache and defiance; memorable lines and uplifted choruses- a hugely impressive whole.  Ending the song in dramatic fashion- the duo unites once more; their vocals slowed and elongated- the messages are slower and more punctuated.  The song’s anti-hero is a shallow and lying type: someone who wants disposability and meaningless qualities, you hope he gets his comeuppance- and gets caught in his own web.  With the song drawing to a close- and our duo letting their voices reign one last time- the track settles down; the notes die and fade- One Way Ticket completes its travels.

Before I get to the duo (and congratulate them) it is worth mentioning the production sound.  Everything is rich and decipherable: the sound quality is amazing and sharp; every note and vocal is crisp and concise.  Nothing gets buried among the composition- like you hear in so many modern tracks- which make the song so effective.  Allowing the vocals to be heard and understood, nothing suffers as a result- the guitar and percussion are not second-fiddle or under-mixed; everything is perfectly balanced throughout.  The percussion work (throughout the song) is atmospheric and impressive.  Not overly-powerful or needlessly wandering, it is tight and emotive: backing the vocals, the drum work adds heartbeat and insistency; keeps everything gripping and tense- allowing some breath and beauty when the mood calls.  It is our Waiting for Wednesday duo that should be applauded.  Watkins’ central voice is at its peak here: more emphatic and scintillating (than on any other track I have heard) it is a perfect cocktail, here.  There are dusky and bitter notes; a sweetness and optimism underneath; a lot of power and anger- so much emotion and range within a single voice.  In fact, over the course of a single line you get a switch and change: the vocal mutates from raw to soothing; wracked to relieve- without compromising integrity and consistency.  One of the most distinct voices in modern music- how many other singers have that same sound and power?- Watkins lets her voice create magic and emotion.  Other (lesser) singers would come off as too weak or slight; maybe too effete and forced- Watkins sounds both naturalistic and completely intuitive.  Channeling the spirit of Blues and Folk legends, Watkins has a nuanced and rich voice- one that is hard to shake off.  Filled with power and passion, One Way Ticket is turned into a stunning exorcism: a song that jumps to life; burns and ignites with a furious fire.  Laura Shackleton provides the sweeter and lighter vocal: providing a sense of tranquility and grace, her voice is lush and full; sweet and sensual- a perfect counterpoint (to Watkins’ tones).  With her guitar charging and gripping; fast-flowing and scene-setting, you cannot ignore her talents.  Seamlessly blending with Watkins- that intuitive bond and closeness comes through in every moment- Shackleton provides a sense of light and soothe (but expertly backs up Watkins’ angry and accusation).  When the two unite, that is when you get the biggest hit: their voices are made for one another; that unique combination is hard to define- two voices that summon up so many emotions and possibilities.  Finally, to the song itself.  One Way Ticket is a perfect opener (to When We Were Seventeen) that explains and defines the themes.  Based around teenage love- the naivety and heartaches of that life- it is surprisingly mature and addictive.  The lyrics are original and fascinating; they do not suffer hackneyed thoughts and over-predictable sentiments (like so many contemporaries) – instead you have a sung that bristles with personality and intelligence; tremendous story-telling and drama.  Mixing redemeptiveness and strength- when our heroine deciders to get away and shake off her boy- you get some tenderness and honest confession- the lying and dishonor takes its toll; the scars are visible it seems.   Such a rich and stunning track, One Way Ticket should be on everyone’s playlist: a track that keeps revealing layers (across repeated listens); a masterclass in modern-day songwriting- that will appeal to lovers of Blues and Folk; as it will Pop and Rock.

Waiting For Wednesday are a duo who demand a lot of respect: they are among the Modern-Folk world’s most arresting acts.  Being familiar with dreamy duos (like Gypsyfingers- another blog regular); it has been great discovering the Bradford two-piece- an act with a clear future ahead of them.  Inspired by the likes of Fleet Foxes and Laura Marling you can hear (a little of both acts) in their music.  Those spectral and haunting harmonies- Fleet Foxes have perfected- makes its way to the surface; those spine-tingling voices get right inside your mind.  Like Laura Marling, the duo combine classic Folk songwriting with modern production and sounds.  The girls have received some high praise indeed- from local and nationwide press outlets- their songs are being broadcast (on a variety of) radio stations- they are gathering quite a head of steam.  No wonder when you consider it: since their debut album/mini-album, the duo have grown and developed; their sound is fuller and more electrifying- no small praise considering how great they were (in their debut stages).  Shackleton and Watkins have a solid friendship and unbreakable bond: when their voices mesh it is entrancing and silencing; when alone, they have their own style and quality- there is huskiness and sensuality; sweet-toned vibes and beauty.  With their heart in the ‘60s/glory days of Folk/Rock- you can hear shades of Bob Dylan and Janis Joplin- and their soul in the present-day, that vintage-cum-modern blend creates a full and crowd-pleasing sound- not only essential to the young and fresh-eared; it will spike an interest with the more mature audiences.  Their new album shows just what music-lovers require: stunning songs with wonderful stories; sensational and beautiful compositions; wonderful vocals with something a little extra- that unique and original sense of identity.  The seven-track record showcases the girls’ beauty and passion; their exceptional sense of love and drama- all tied around their unbeatable vocal wonder.  Hardly lesser-fiddles to the legends of Folk past, the Bradford duo have updated that sound; instill that distinct Country-Folk-Rock blend- and truly make it their own.  There are many treasures to be found along When We Were Seventeen: stunning emotional moments for those in need of solace; beauty and uplift for the romantics and lovers; hard Rock edges for the gritty and rebellious- the girls have crafted a record that speaks to everyone; not just reserved for the few.  Before I finish things off, it is worth circling back to my opening: regarding the music of Yorkshire.  I am not surprised the county has spawned another treasure; produced a sensational act- Waiting For Wednesday are going to be a festival act of the future; one of the best new duos coming through the ranks- the promise and potential is all there.  Soon they will break from the Yorkshire barriers; gets national (and international) demand- I can see them being mainstream regulars in years to come.  Whilst the future is very much that, we must concentrate on the here-and-now: One Way Ticket is the sound of (a duo) with plenty of potential; voices that demand attention- and lift the spirits in a rather spectacular fashion.  I know a lot of music fans growing bored at the moment: the mainstream is not really producing consistency; a lot of new music can be rather predictable and below-par- they are in need of something not only new; that which will last and reveal its true potential (across repeated investigation).  Waiting For Wednesday brand music that has nuance a-plenty- songs that get better with each listen; sheds a layer of mystery with each fresh play.  On top of that, there is consistency and popularity.  Their second album/mini-album, the girls are growing in confidence and stature: they are not about to call time or quit; they have many more records left in them- meaning fans can breathe easy and find something reliable.  With their social media ranks growing- and their fans being loyal and dedicated- it is the perfect time to discover something special.  Scupper preconceptions and hang any notions of underwhelm: these girls mean serious business; their careers are just starting- expect to hear more from them very soon.  With gigs and radio play mounting up, the dynamic duo is on their way up- make sure you get on board as soon as you can.  In a world of indeterminate music; acts that can fizzle with little provocation- it is good to hear an act not only solid in their bond; the quality is consistent and stunning.  Whether you are a Folk lover or not, there is much to recommend here.  Neither niche nor clandestine, the girls make sounds for the masses; they say it loud and proud.  If you have not investigated When We Were Seventeen, rectify this at once.  Not just one of the best Modern-Folk albums of the moment, perhaps one of the…

FINEST albums of the month.



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Interview: Alison Levi



Alison Levi


IN the coming days, I am turning my (electronic attention) to…

the girls (in a non-perverted way).  With interviews (with) Dana McKeon and NINA approaching; some interesting reviews and new bands- I am focused on the women of music.  Just having assessed IV Rox- a London-Essex Pop-R ‘n’ B collective- I turn my attentions to Alison Levi- one of my favourite musicians around.  Because I have followed her career (for a long time now) I was keen to catch up with her; find out what was on the horizon- following the release of her latest track, Long Way Down.  In the last few months shr has been performing various gigs; taking her music to new crowds- working on new projects.  When I reviewed Levi last year (in February) her track Boy You Better Run (live) came under my radar: I was staggered by thr vocal prowess; its beauty and intimacy; the power and emotion- I came away feeling stunned and seduced.  Few female singers have the same breadth and range; the ability to switch emotions (within the space of a line)- Levi is that rarest of artists.  Being such a down-to-earth and witty figure- her Twitter feed is filled with humour and comedic insights- it has been great catching up; seeing what makes (Levi tick)- and the finest moments from 2015.

Hi Alison.  I hope you are well.  How has your day been?

Alright thanks! I’ve been writing for an anti-smoking campaign.  Not exactly authentic songwriting but it’s actually a lot of fun.

You are based out of London- where a lot of (varied) female singers are based.  Do you feel pressure as a singer (to make your voice heard)?

I think that it doesn’t matter where you live; the industry as a whole is saturated with musicians and singers from all over the globe (that want to be heard and make a career for themselves).  This is on the one hand brilliant for music and the consumer- as there is an unlimited supply- though on the other hand, it makes it incredibly competitive and difficult for the musician.  I certainly don’t compete with other women: being female should have nothing to do with it.  There is a tendency I suppose, to make us compete with each other ‘cat fight’ if you like; but I try not to partake in that.  I’m competing with everyone equally, including myself!

What do you think distinguishes your music/voice aside from your peers?

The mix of genres maybe? I seem to be unique in my diverse tastes; I grew up listening to Bubblegum-Pop like the Spice Girls or Britney Spears (as well as) Hip-Hop and bands like Radiohead and System of a Down.  The contrast was really vast.  I just love songs and I think it doesn’t matter what genre- if you have strong chord structures and melody I’m yours.  Also the cinematic aspect too, I LOVE film scores; I’ll have them in my playlists along with my other music.  I love the sense of drama and emotion in them; it really gets me.  Mostly I hope people can hear that I’m a true songwriter (more than anything else) which I see as a unique craft- and I really try to make good songs.  Then you put my loud London voice over it and hopefully you have something that is undeniably me!

Your official website (and social media feeds) shows you have a cheeky and humorous side.  You come off as very fun and witty.  Do you find it important to connect with your fans; come off as quite personable and approachable?

Well first of all thanks for saying that: I do think it’s important to connect with fans but it can’t be contrived; they’ll sniff it out if it is, people know when you’re faking it.  I just like funny things- “I LOVE HUMOUR!” (If you’ve seen Amy Schumer on Jimmy Fallon recently you’ll get that).  If that’s how I come across them I’m chuffed but I’m really not trying to have a particular image per se.

With the proliferation of young singer-songwriters, have you any particular current favourites?  Perhaps any bands that have caught your ear?

Is there a particular proliferation of young singer-songwriters at the moment?  I think there always has been, and always will be.  I am LOVING Eryn Allen Kane’s ‘Have Mercy’– my God that’s such a good 3-minutes-35-seconds; she sings so genuinely and with such skill.  Kwabs has become a bit of a staple too; he’s a really exciting artist, and not many people have heard of him.  He ticks all the boxes for me, really great songs; really good lyrics, unbelievably good baritone voice with so much technical ability- I’m mad about him.  His live version of ‘Perfect Ruin’ on (YouTube) IS perfect.  Everybody has to hear it; go now and thank me later.  I actually met him backstage at his Koko gig (in Camden) a couple of months ago and decided I was going (to tell him how much I) respected him as a fellow musician- and what a brilliant contribution to the industry he was making.  But of course, me being me, I lost all my controlled demeanor and grace (if I had any to begin with) and just told him (I loved him over and over) as he awkwardly side-stepped to get away from me.  I regret nothing.

You have had a busy year- having performed at various locations- and achieved a lot.  What have been your fondest memories of 2015?

Playing Hay on Wye Festival (in May) was great fun.  I played last year too and it’s such a good festival; really relaxed atmosphere and people really shut up to listen to you.  This is going to sound really corny but I just really love writing and singing: my highlights are completing a song I’m really proud of or singing with friends at a house party.  I really (really) enjoy that.  So it’s those little moments I’m most fond of.

Back of the subject of music (and femininity): do you think the industry has a sexist side?  Do you feel a need to conform/fit into a particular ideal?

It’s so hard not to conform.  The most popular accounts on Instagram (for instance) are the stunning models.  There is a lot pressure to be seen having the best, most successful, happy life ever- and looking bloody great while doing it.  It takes a lot of self-esteem to remember I’m not a model; I’m a musician and I don’t care what people think.  That’s a fluid feeling that comes and goes though.  I definitely have my insecure moments.  This is probably going to be received with a collective sigh, but everything has a sexist side.  In fact, that’s sounds too apologetic of a sentence doesn’t it?

Unfortunately discrimination- whether sexism, racism, homophobia, whatever- is ancient and ingrained in our society; so it doesn’t matter what profession you’re in- it’s present in some way or another.  I used to spend my life debating with people; hammering my points of view until I learned (rather slowly) that people don’t respond positively to it.  There does seem to be a gradual understanding of it though (overall) which I am really happy to see.

I particularly love your voice; when I reviewed you (last year); I heard comparisons with Eva Cassidy.  Where does that voice come from?  Is it a very natural sound, or do you ‘go somewhere’ particular when you are singing?

That’s a huge compliment to me; but of course being British, I’m going to completely reject it!  I really don’t think I’m that good: Eva Cassidy had an angelic quality; her voice was gentle and tender.  I feel like a new-born baby elephant in comparison, but not as cute.  I can honestly say I wasn’t born with this voice; I was always musical.  I started writing as soon (as I learnt my) first 3 chords on the guitar and I definitely had an ear for tuning.

The actually quality of my voice (however) took a few years to get anywhere near-good.  I would copy my friend (who had an exceptional voice); I would listen to artists and harmonise along with them.  It took years of singing for me to find a shape in the notes that I was happy with.  “Practice ‘til your ears and fingers bleed” as my dad would say- oh, and having an emotional connection with whatever you’re singing or playing.  That’s probably the best quality to have; you can have a ‘technically’ terrible voice but if you’re feeling it, so will everyone else.  That’s so important.

On that subject: which singers and artists have inspired you the most (growing up); who ranks among your idols?

Oh that’s a loooong and rather clichéd ol’ list.  Stevie Wonder, Queens of the Stone Age, Otis Reading; Lauren Hill, Jill Scott blah blah blah.  No one’s really interested in knowing that, I don’t think. The most inspirational people; the people that got me picking up an instrument in the first place was a covers band called 100%- which sounds like the name of a ‘90s boy-band Pete Waterman managed- they were the antithesis of that I can assure you.  I used to go and see them every Saturday in Camden as a teenager.  They were playing other people’s songs in a rundown pub; their instruments were beat-up and the sound was terrible.  But they could play.  People would just go mental.  They were incredibly skilled musicians with so much passion; I used to look at them and be (like): “Arrrrghh I have to learn how to play like that!!”  Still haven’t though.

Long Way Down is a new (demo); some fresh material.  Can you tell us a little about the song and what inspired it?

I was asked to write a song for a film that was in its writing stages (at the time).  I was given the script to read and there was a particular interaction with the two main characters (that kind of mirrored what was happening in my life at the time).  I sat at the piano and it fell out.  Pretending to yourself that you’re over someone- and filling your life up with distractions whether it’s people or things- when all you really want is them (“but you’re the one I want”).  The film #FastLife should be out in 2017- so keep an eye out for that.

Can we expect a new Alison Levi E.P. or album this year/next?

Yes!  There’s so much to come.  I will of course post it when it’s ready in the coming months!   Not sure what to call it though… any suggestions?  Anyone?

I know a lot of musicians that struggle to make music; find the financial pressures too stressful.  Do you experience that yourself; what are the greatest obstacles (you encounter) as a young musician?

Of course; the struggle is real!  No really, that struggle is important.  It wouldn’t feel like an achievement if it was handed to you.

A large percentage of the greatest songs come from heartache and break-ups.  Knowing you- and knowing you are in a long-term and committed relationship- does that make songwriting more difficulty; does that happiness lead to more natural songwriting?

Life experience does lead to ‘natural’ songwriting, definitely.  But natural doesn’t always mean good.  I can write for other artists and it can feel natural because I tap into how they might feel.  Or I can write from genuine emotion of mine and the song can be terrible.  But inspiration does often come from love and heartache equally- they seem to conjure creativity like nothing else.

Recently I published an article about anxiety: how musicians tend to be susceptible; how music can aid anxiety.  Do you think there is a correlation between the two, and as a musician, how do you unwind/get your mind away from modern-day stresses?

I can only speak from my own experience- and I do suffer with anxiety funnily enough- so maybe that’s true.  Suffering in one way or another taps in to something powerful and people respond to it.  It’s vulnerable and genuine.  I still haven’t figured out a way of alleviating stress.  Writing my way out of it I suppose, but not always.  Sometimes you just have to sit there; fester in your own misery and ride it out.  Just try not to drag anyone else down with you.  Misery loves company after all.

You are based in London- an area I am keen to settle in very soon.  Do you find the city inspires your music and is there a big/friendly music community here?

Well, I’ve worked in the London music industry for a number of years: it’s actually surprisingly tiny (like a small town); everyone knows everyone and their business.  Like anywhere, you have friendly, supportive people and… not-so-friendly, supportive people- to put it politely.  I find people will often help you if you ask nicely (and boy do I owe a lot of favors).  You have to remember to pay them back!

To those that are following your footsteps; coming into music now: what advice would you offer to them?

Don’t do it…. No, it sounds cliché but it took me a long time to really understand it.  Work your f**king arse off.  Work every day.  Don’t stop working and you will reap the rewards (whether creative or financial).  Oh and be really (really) nice to everyone.  EVERYONE.

Finally- and for being a good egg- you can name any song you like; I’ll play it here…

Well it has to be Kwabs’ ‘Perfect Ruin’ (live version).  Really take it in; watch the way he sways as the song progresses.  Listen really hard.



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