Greenfield and Conder
I.O.U. is available at:
IN the coming days I will be stepping away from the arena of…
female singer-songwriters. It has been great getting to grips with some special singers: from U.K.-bred solo acts to female-led bands, I have heard a lot- some terrific music and diverse sounds. What strikes me about the solo field is the amount of female participants. In terms of the band market, the men dominate (over the women) – there are few female-only or female-led bands (by comparison) – when it comes to solo work, the girls have the edge (in number terms). The reason I am ‘looking about’ is to uncover a male solo artist. It may sound off- that it is difficult to find one- but it is hard to find an original one. Ed Sheeran has a lot to answer for when it comes to upcoming male artists: the acoustic-guitar led model is ever-present and rising. Most newcomers are not Sheeran; do not have his cachet and personality- they come off as endless insipid and boring. Unless you have an amazing songbook- or stunning voice at your disposal- you can unleash scant magic (with only a six-string). The best male sounds come when electronics are introduced: more sounds and shades go into the music; there is more diversity and range- the voice itself acts as instrumental support; rather than standing out alone. There are some great male singers, yet to my mind, they are a dying breed. Gone are the days of Jeff Buckley and Nick Drake: the artists who can own a room with their voice and guitar; their incredible songwriting inspired and compelled. There are too many sound-alikes and inane voices: male singers trying to be someone else, or simply coming across as unspectacular. The female singer-songwriters- when left to the simplicity of voice-and-guitar combinations- fare a lot better. Perhaps it is a stereotype, but I feel their range and sounds are more varied- there are more colours and contours; great depth and emotion on display. Sensual and fierce, emotional and direct, I cannot put my finger on it. Perhaps it is their style of music. The boys tend to go more Folk/Rock- with touches of Acoustic-led Pop- whereas the girls introduce more Soul and Blues sounds. The latter have greater richness and depth; the former is more restrictive and homogenous. When a great female singer arrives, it is great to expound their virtues: such as today’s artist. I am going to do things a little differently here: whereas most reviews look at current songs- released that week/month- today I am looking back (a couple of years). Featuring a terrific song (from an eager young artist), Greenfield is a name to be reckoned with. The gorgeous Londoner is partnered with Gavin Conder (her boyfriend) and the duo is striking indeed. Before I mention Conder- and the duo market- let me introduce them to you:
“Jess Greenfield and Gavin Conder met at a friend’s 60’s fancy dress party seven years ago. For the record, he was Austin Powers and she was a go go dancer. The usual stuff happened that happens when you meet your partner and they became a couple. Singing as a duo was still a way off. He wanted to be a singer but wasn’t doing it for a living. Infact Gav has had the obligatory every-job-imaginable essential for a future superstar. From an events manager in Greece to a forklift truck driver to a wood yard stripper, Conder started singing professionally after making his escape from Butlins where he was a barman, with the girl friend that helped him ‘acquire’ some cash. Hiding the cash in his guitar, he packed his life up and into his car and drove to Wiltshire.
Meanwhile, Jessica, who comes from a music loving family, found her rich, golden voice when she was on holiday with her family in France. Her dad would play guitar and get the family to sing along. The 15 year old Jess, who was already in love with the music of Donny Hathaway, Dusty Springfield and Tina Turner, sang ‘Cry Me a River’ and surprised everyone, not least herself. She also has the mandatory list of jobs on her CV including working in a bar, a secretary in a publishing company and a sales assistant in a homeware shop. By the time of the fancy dress party, both were working professionally as singers with a great live reputation, playing or singing in function bands and groups, while writing and recording their own songs, separately, whenever they could. Gav, whose singing inspirations include Sam Cooke, Connor Reeves and Marvyn Gaye, joined a blues band as lead singer and Jess did endless session work and gigs. The blues band came to an abrupt end and Gav, who loves all things martial arts and extreme sports, went to stay with the Shaolin Monks in China to completely get away from it all. While Gav was away, Jess had recorded a demo of a song she’d written called ‘Forgiveness’. A mutual friend suggested the song would make a great boy/girl duet and they should record the song together to see what it sounded like. Unbelievably, It had never occurred to them to sing together before. On Gav’s return they went into the studio. It was difficult at first. Bickering and sniping were in evidence but respect for one another’s talent won the day and a unique vocal accord was discovered. Greenfield and Conder, the duo was born. Jess’ warm, deep, soulful vocals and Gav’s heartfelt, rough but sweet voice alone can melt the hardest of hearts, but combined is a different ball game altogether. Live, she plays piano and he plays guitar. Together they make a sound that will take your breath away.”
The reason I raise my point- about male and female solo artists- is the fact then- when you get a great male and female singer together- that cynicism disappears; you eradicate the shortcomings- and are presented with something fresh and wonderful. Gavin Conder is one of the stronger male voices I have heard: potent enough to carry its own weight; it differs from the crop of rank-and-file male singers. Possessed of soulfulness and passion- presented in a very personal way- he is capable of tenderness and amazing highs. Not a run-of-the-mill acoustic troubadour, he has an amazing tone and sense of style. Not only has Greenfield augmented my passion for the female sector; Conder has (helped to at least) dispel some reticence towards the male scene. It is when the duo get together you get the biggest effect: their voices commingling is what makes their music stand out. Duos can be a tricky proposition: if they have a weak bond the music is bound to suffer. There tends to be some great male duos- the likes of Royal Blood spring to mind- yet tend to stick to Rock/harder sounds. Acts I know- like Knuckle and Huxtable- all project that same smash-and-slam Royal Blood (line)- it tends not to deviate too much. When it comes to female duos, it is largely eclectic. There are great Electro.-Pop duos- the likes of Say Lou Lou come to mind- and terrific Acoustic artists. By and large there are fewer Hard-Rock duos- the most fascinating two-piece is the boy-girl dynamic. Aside from a few of my regular duos- Ivy and Gold are the most prominent name- the reason why my point rings true is passion and intuition. When I reviewed the likes of Gypsyfingers- a fellow London duo that specialises in dreamy Acoustic-Folk and are a wonderful act- the byplay between Victoria Coghlan and Luke Oldfield (boyfriend and girlfriend) was evident. It is risky mixing romance with music (or ‘business’ as it were) but if you can detach your relationship- and not have the two stepping on toes- something spectacular can unfold. You can tell how close Greenfield and Conder are; they natural bond emanates in their music- elevating it beyond the boundaries of solo work; above that of the boy-boy/girl-girl dynamism. The duo is planning new work- there is talk of a forthcoming album- so it is high-time more eyes were tuned their way. It is not just their vocal byplay that sparks alive: the way they combine musically resonates. Greenfield’s piano-led beauty- combined to that of Conder’s guitar work- goes into their work; the way they pair-off one another- intersect and unite- cannot be faulted. Keen to investigate this up-and-coming duo- one of the strongest to come out of London for quite a few years- it seemed only right to check out their music. I.O.U. – recorded a couple of years ago now- sees them at their best: a testament to their songwriting talent; the way they blend with each other- in addition to their (myriad musical) abilities.
In 2012, the duo released Introducing Greenfield and Conder: their debut E.P. that did exactly what the cover promised- it introduced them to the wider world. The four-track collection instantly boasts their chemistry and commitment (to the material); the passion which they display- in addition to their stunning songwriting. Indiscriminate Act of Kindness is touching and piano-led. Conder’s soothing and melodic vocal swoons with romance and tenderness. Scenic and tale-telling, the song looks at a figure booking into hotel; strangers bunking down; an act of kindness forming- and quite a rare and unique romance unfolding. The song has a great scenic and episodic development; the tale goes on- as the strangers interact and move along- giving the song a real sense of reality and relatability. Forgiveness is soft and Soul-infused. Feeling foolish; restricted and being treated badly, Conder sings about the harshness of love; the need for forgiveness. The track has that sound of Soul harmony groups; the way the vocals are layered and interact elevate the song- it is one of the richest and most memorable tracks on the E.P. Forever Young has combination of piano and guitar. A guiding song that shows tenderness and compassion- it seems like a message to a child. Lead vocal by Conder- with terrific Backed by Greenfield- the song focuses on staying young; the world is quite scary and unpredictable- there is caution and support; a guiding hand all the way. Not Enough Love finishes the E.P. Sparser than previous tracks; and duo unite on the verses. Looking at inequality and imbalance; the fact (there is not enough love) in the world, it has maturity and insight- like Forever Young there is a sense of dissatisfaction and fear; that feeling of injustice. The E.P. shows Conder take on (the majority of) lead vocal- letting his soulful and powerful voice take the helm. Greenfield provides uplift and support (in the choruses) but when the duo unites- that is when you get the biggest hit and effect. Available at https://itunes.apple.com/gb/album/introducing-greenfield-conder/id482115533?ign-mpt=uo%3D4, it shows the young duo enter the music landscape- stamping their unique print upon it. Whilst mostly acoustic/piano-led, the E.P. shows some powerful moments- a real mixture of emotions and subjects. With consistently impressive songwriting, it was a fantastic debut- and an insight into (what their future signs) would contain. I.O.U. is a natural development: thematically it possesses a similar personality (to the E.P.’s themes); the vocal deployment is similar- the confidence and sound has developed and expanded. Building off the E.P.’s template, the track shows them at their peak.
Beginning with a vibrating guitar sound- quite woozy and Blues-sounding; intriguing and strong- the track begins strongly. Conder approaches the song with his patented blend of soulfulness and nuance- vocals that are both convincing and impassioned. The song looks (at our hero) being caught “in the rush from 9-5.” Treacle-smooth and unwaveringly direct, the voice comes to the forefront: our lead sounds like a man with a weight on his shoulders; whether referencing his own life (and hectic schedule) or not- you can feel that sense of strain and fatigue. Not able to say goodbye (either to loved ones or a friend) feet are not touching the ground- the pace of modern life is cataloguing his every move. When the song looks at love- and Greenfield joins the lead (previously providing wordless backing) – is when you get that sense of understanding. The song’s title references the duo’s love: it is “an I.O.U. kind of love.” There are times when each of them will be alone; the pace of the world pulls them apart- but will always be there in the end. It may be the case they owe (one another) time affection; whatever happens they will be there for each other. Augmented by some swooning backing vocals- both heartfelt and emotive- Conder offers support and comforting words. As said before- and across their E.P.’s songs- the tracks are at their peak when the duo combine voices. When Conder and Greenfield join their voices, you get that biggest rush- and the song elicits its shivers. Both have spent time apart; there is that feeling of disconnection- that desire to spend less time apart; break from the rush of the 9-5 life. In the chorus there is that combination of wordless vocals and directness- sweeping and unified; tender and beautiful, the chorus is both effectively catchy and a direct emotional hit. In terms of the composition, there is no needless overcrowding and layering. The guitar remains shimmering and light- a constant presence throughout the track- and never hurries or becomes too imploring. Delicate production provides necessary weight and backbone- the main focus on the vocals themselves. Towards the song’s 3-minute mark, the duo reaches fever-pitch: their voices rise ever higher; the intensity becomes palpable- and the song’s message becomes ever more pressing. Keeping the lyrics simple, the song makes its way into your mind- the chorus is especially memorable. Whether it is the busy nature of London life- or a sense of having too little time to themselves- the track can be appreciated by all. A lot of people find themselves in the same situation: when you are at the mercy of work and commitments; too rushed to kick back- yet know your relationship will always be there. Our duo has a solid foundation and bond; they cannot be separated or broken- by the strains and stresses of the modern age. The song is that which can be understood by all; it is quotable and memorable- it builds of Greenfield and Conder’s previous work; adding something new to the mix. Both showcase what incredible singers they are. Conder’s reliable tones are at their peak: honeyed and breathless; passionate and anxious, they add force and conviction the lyrics. Greenfield’s stunning and beautiful voice is a superb support: working effectively in the background, they are at their peak when united (with Conder) – the duo’s voices are a perfect blend. The production allows a live-sounding feel to come through; it is as though you are hearing this track in a small venue- it has an intimate and raw sound. That said; there are no loose edges or wasted moments- it is polished enough to allow the vocals to shine; lyrics and vocals are both clear and concise. I.O.U. is a terrific stand-alone song: a loyal addition to their E.P.’s work; a glimpse to their future sound- it will be fascinating to hear their new work; find out what is coming next. Differing from a lot of the duo’s out there, Greenfield and Conder show what a unique force they are- their style betrays a debt to nobody; they are one of the most individual acts about.
As I look around the new music landscape- and wonder if there are many great male singers about- the ideals of fascination and diversity are on my mind. The past couple of weeks have taught me a lot about the music scene: which sectors are rising fast; which are dying out- the best musical formations out there. I am still skeptical about the male singer-songwriter mould: I feel there are too few genuine surprises/heroes- not enough genuine unpredictability and quality. The female sector is much more assured: the sense of variety, adventurousness- and most important, quality- is right up there. What has struck me most- and changed my way of thinking- is the duo market: taking the innovativeness of the female voice; the potential and strength of the male one- combining them into something special. A fast-rising trend, duos are producing some of the finest music around. Perhaps that would quell the unease I feel; remedy the (male singer-songwriter) malaise: by joining forces, the overall soundscape is much more tantilising. Gavin Conder could survive and flourish as a solo artist: I feel he hits his full potential joining with Greenfield. Being a committed and established couple, this trust and connection comes out in their music- I.O.U. is alive with passion, potential and panache. Showing themselves to be exceptional musicians and voices, Greenfield and Conder are on a steady projection. I cannot wait for new music to drop: see how they have developed; what new ideas they have brewed- whether that insatiable simpatico is still alive. I feel it will be burning bright; the duo have such a gilded connection- their music demonstrates this unbreakable spirit. Their E.P. showed what a strong partnership they have. The four-track released bristled with inventive songwriting and exceptional performances; brilliant vocals and absolutely no filler. I.O.U. expanded this further: built on their E.P.’s strengths and added extra layers- the duo sound even more urgent and focused. London is at the forefront of the duo machine: creating some wonderful two-pieces, Greenfield and Conder are among the very finest. Everyone from Gypsyfingers and Ivy and Gold- both London acts- do something different; if you want something heavier, there are options out there- there is a huge demand out there. New music and the mainstream are overrun with solo acts and bands: an immense desire exists to see something different- the duo market provides that release. I shall leave with a quick thought: that which relates to originality and inspiration. I worry the new generation are being polluted by reality music shows- gives you a view on my politics and ethics- and feel the need to either take a cheap way out; or else they are being limited by what is out there- not enough variation to really compel them. Bands suit the band wannabes; the solo artists provide something else- the duos often get overlooked. I would love to see more come about; really tackle the hegemony and established orders- they are producing some of the most exciting music around. When this happens- and there is that much-needed explosion of change- you will breed a stronger culture; one that offers quality and concision. Greenfield and Conder should take heart (from these words): they have the potential to inspire other acts/musicians- keep that London-centric duo tradition going. Make sure you listen to I.O.U.- and come to your own conclusions- and visit their E.P.: a work that deserves wide acclaim. As the year fades by the pair are plotting new sounds; formulating their next move- make sure you do not miss out on that. I am not sure what direction (the proposed album) will take, but one thing you can guarantee is the quality. Never limited or uninspired, it will be a must-hear release. Given the strength/nuance of I.O.U. I am…
LOOKING forward already.
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