Track Review: Spy From Moscow- Little War



Spy From Moscow


Little War




Little War is available at:

July, 2015



Newry, U.K.

Guitar/Vox/Harmonica – Declan Feenan

| Drums – Luca Romano

 | Bass – Sara Klepp

 | Flugelhorn – Mark Schorah |

Recorded & mixed by J.B. Pilon @ Wax Recordings, London

 | Mastered @ Audioseige, Portland OR |
Artwork Jai Sewell |

Design Mandy Horton |

Thanks to Nicola & Carl for the gong | ©Copyright 2015

Released by:

  Rock The Church

The E.P. Little War is available at:


Little War9.5

It Never Comes9.4



Little War


THERE are a lot of upcoming singer-songwriters on…

the market now.  Given the dominance and hegemony of the band market- a point I shall not labour again today- it is important to shift some focus onto the solo stars.  I always love experience the depth and range of the sole star; the sheer personality and point of view- what goes into their music.  It is important individuality and personality goes into music, as so many musicians seem to just copying others and lacking that necessary innovative.  This is a point I am going to labour today.  I have heard far too many musicians that go into music with the desire to be ‘The Next So-and-So’: They have an idol in mind and want to replicate their sound and reputation without anything unique or different.  If you are going into the game of music, then at least have the intelligence to do something new.  Too many new musicians are either ridiculously bland and unimaginative, or simply replicates and dilettantes.  It is hard to get a foothold and make a name for yourself: Something that comes with time and sacrifice.  If you are not willing to accept the realities of the business, you will never gain any respect and support.  You do get some great up-and-coming solo artists in the mainstream, although there are far too many rip-offs and yawn-inducing types.  When it comes to their underground siblings, there is better luck and inspiration.  I am not saying all of the new underground solo acts are original- there are a wealth of insipid and foolish young artists- yet there is a greater desire and sense of emancipation.  Whether you are looking for some vocal wonder or witty lyrics; some genre-fusing sounds or songs that dare to be different, then you have plenty of options.  I raise this point (well, several actually) because my featured artist is a tantilising and stunning proposition.  Having been described as “choirboy Grunge”, you get a small window into his sound and creative process.  That mixture of purity and hardness; that beauty and dirt- all coming together in a head-melting blend of musical magic.  For all the rather lifeless and aimless songwriters, it is good to witness someone that puts so much thought into their sound.  Before I continue on my point, and raise a couple of new ones, let me introduce you to our featured act:

SPY FROM MOSCOW is the moniker of Declan Feenan – an Irish alternative songwriter based in London. Coming off the back of a 7 date UK tour (where it never stopped raining!) he’s now releases his new EP Little War – a simple but intense follow up to The Mile End Sessions (2014). 
Talking about what he sounds like: ‘Someone I know came up with ‘choirboy grunge’ and it’s kind of stuck. I just like messing around with textures and tones – I think about how all the other instruments will respond to my vocal sound and run with that. So I put the vocal at the centre and work everything around it. That’s how I make sense of the process. And as long as it’s in tune I’m happy.’
Recorded in Wax Recordings London and mastered stateside by Audiosiege in Portland OR, LITTLE WAR is delicate and intense trio of songs where simple guitar and melancholic vocals explode into heavy distortion and flugelhorn calls.

Thinking about what songs to include: ‘After gigging for a bit off the back of the Mile End Session I really wanted to release something in 2015, but I never thought I’d get round to it because I’d buckets of unfinished stuff lying around – half songs and bits of music – and all of it needed a lot of work. So I worked myself into a stalemate with myself, I didn’t really know where to start. Then a friend told me to shut up and just record the songs that were already written. Pretty obvious when she put it like that. So that’s what I did.’

…and a three track EP?  ‘Yea, it just fell out that way.’

LITTLE WAR is available on iTunes and Spotify from 15th October 2015.

There is a nice blend of casual and professional when it comes to Spy From Moscow.  I like how Feenan experiments and tests sounds; sees how his voice and instruments blend- coming up with music that is both natural and unusual.  A lot of artists are too rigid and disciplined with their working methods; they follow the pack and are rather predictable to be fair.  As a result, the music itself can be a little limited and infertile: Not really that inspiring or nimble; it takes its time to hit the mark.  Our Spy From Moscow has ensured the music he provides not only comes from the heart; it is the result of a man in his elements; getting in touch with what music means to him.  I have witnessed a lot of E.P.s this year yet none- I shall go into more depth towards the end of this review- that offer something so fresh and surprising.  My final point I guess- before I get down to specifics- is that which relates to differentiation and experimentation.  Some of the finest music from this year has been the result of bucking trends and going against the grain.  When I think of mainstream near-masterpieces, I think of John Grant and Royal Headache; Tame Impala and Sufjan Stevens.  These are artists that have produced some incredible albums; ones that do not necessarily fit into moulds and the ‘in crowds’- they are creations that are unique and nuanced; revealing great beauty across repeated investigation.  I am all for instant and engaging music.  When you listen to a lot of traditional Indie/Alternative acts, you get great riffs and epic choruses; stunning jams and passionate pleas.  How often do you come back and dig into that music?  For me, it is hardly ever.  That sort of music is a very primal and first-time thing.  I barely feel necessitated to re-listen and see what I have missed/overlooked- the music is not that complex and mysterious.  We need disposability and easy-to-understand music, yet the brain and heart craves something more studied and intelligent- whilst still retaining that core of accessibility into the bargain.  Spy From Moscow’s music perfectly suites all needs and specifications: Both in-depth and intelligent, there are some terrific sleep moments and under-the-radar touches.  Riding into the forefront is that special and stunning voice: One that could only emanate from a man with a clear direction and lashings of soul.  All of these elements and factors go into making Little War as apt as its title.  You get some heartache and uncertainty.  You get a lot of strength and fortitude; the need for peace and resolution- at the very end, you come away affected and touched.

When it comes to assessing and reviewing Spy From Moscow’s current life, we must go back and see how he has progressed.  Being influenced by the likes of John Cale, Neil Young and Stone Temple Pilots; the music of Spy’ has always been diverse and stunning.  When looking at Feenan’s list of influencers, there is quite a mixed and interesting list.  Few young solo artists have John Cale and Neil Young on their list.  Fewer might have Stone Temple Pilots on there.  Seemingly without link or lineage, it all comes together in the music.  That Young/Cale-esque heart and masculinity comes through in the music.  Similarly you get the stunning and emotive lyrics.  Words and sentiments that drip with meaning and resonance.  If we look back at The Mile End Session (Spy From Moscow’s debut) and you can hear how fully-formed he was.  Across the four tracks you get soul-bearing and heart-bleeding; determination and focus.

   River begins with pastoral and gentleness.  It is not long before that voice comes to the forefront.  Heartfelt and husky; emotive and pure, our hero lets his voice stretch and expand.  With some scratchy and insistent electric guitar working between the notes, the song is evocative and highly compelling.  Words about loss and struggle mix with vivid and stark images.  As the vocal haunt and float the instrumentation ensures the atmosphere is filled with electricity and shiver.  Shimmering and vibrating strings create something orchestral and Prog.-Rock.  You get aching and spectral notes that hang in the air and get inside the head.  A perfect and stunning E.P. lead-off, it is one of the most memorable tracks I have heard for a while.  Back upon its release, the entire E.P. received warm and effusive praise.  Writers were keen to highlight that original and wonderful voice.

   Hold Me begins with a similarly reverent and tender beginning.  Reminding me a little of Wildwood-era Paul Weller, that blend of guts and beauty comes out in the initial vocals.  The song looks at a heroine, whoever she may be.  Our man asks her to dream (of him) and he will take her under.  There is tremulous desire and the need to be pinned to the sheets.  “I am king” declares our man, as the tambourine and strings composition adds heartbeat and potency to the foreground.  Like its predecessor, it is a slow-burning and dreamy song that compels you to be drawn in and imagine.  Ensuring the listener is entranced and struck, it is a track that demands repeated spins.  Upon first listen, you are caught inside the vocal and composition.  When you come back again, you start to pick apart the words and scenes- everything starts to come together.

On The Way Home is another still gem that is built around a simple and effective composition.  The guitar strings bubble and flow.  The mood is sleepy and dream-like as our hero lets the song’s title create its own weight and gravity.  Letting the words stretch and mesmerise, again you start to conspire and imagine.  Allowing that hushed and chocolate vocal affect and strike, your mind begins to picture images and scenes.  Moonlit and romantic, I got images of quiet and deserted streets.  As lovers go hand-in-hand, a lone man wonders the avenues in search of answers and truths.  Of course, the song itself has a definitive truth, yet it is another song that is open for interpretation.  Not too rigid and clear-cut, the words allow the listener to come up with their own conclusions.

   Call In The Morning ends the E.P. with a woozy and swaying underpinning.  At the forefront our lead let’s his voice rise to its highest-pitched best.  Allowing his heart and soul to show its colours, you get an impassioned plea to a lover.  Whoever is being ascribed, you always root for satisfaction and coming together.  With a sensual and gorgeous composition, it is a perfect way to end the E.P.  Never becoming overwhelmed and forceful it is a short and sweet track that is economical and memorable.  The words are honest and sensitive; the music is lush and swimming.

Released in 2013, Spy From Moscow has developed his sound a little.  All the key components are still in place- that fragile yet strong voice; the rich and beautiful compositions- but there is expansion and increased confidence.  There is a little more overt upbeat across this E.P.  Perhaps with harder edges and a bit more grit, there is a definite step forward.  Whereas The Mile End Session was mainly riparian and becalmed; we get a bit more energy and panache on Little War.  The electric guitar comes more into the forefront, as songs see that voice opened-up and more vibrant.  With clearer and crisper production values, it is very much the sound of 2015- yet it differs and separates itself from the pack.  Feenan comes into his own as a writer and singer and shows new inspiration and meaning.  This all bodes well for any future sounds and releases.  Developing and progressing with each release, it would be wonderful to hear more from Feenan in 2016.  His latest cut is the most complete and rounded set of songs to date.

Little War’s title track is a song that begins with some minimalist strings and direct words.  Our hero has been “waiting so long” as you begin to wonder the inspiration behind the song.  Sounded tired and emotional, maybe desire and passion are being assessed.  Perhaps our hero has been waiting for happiness and completion; a chance to achieve dreams and follow his heart.  That inimitable vocal puts you in mind of the likes of Paul Weller and Guy Garvey without really dipping too far into their territory.  What the Irishman offers is a voice dreamier and more seductive than both.  It is a voice that could score the phonebook and make it sound utterly essential and meaningful.  Initial exchanges see Little War really build and create weight.  Maybe he has seen too much and knows that each day will bring disappointment and struggle.  Maybe the realities and honesty of love has its drawbacks.  In those sapling moments, your mind is transported somewhere serene and safe; somewhere you can drift away and forget yourself.  Stating “I don’t want you to break”, that sense of mystery and intrigue begins to build.  Whilst the strings and percussion create a flowing and evocative backdrop, you are concentrating on that vocal.  Our hero talks of a soldier with “more dogs at his door”.  Tomorrow will always bring another little war; things will always be hard and fraught.  Perhaps the strains of love are taking their toll.  Whilst the strings provide a sturdy bass and sense of movement, the percussion lightly clashes- giving a sense of heartbeat and harshness.  Riding into the equation, a delightfully tender and majestic flugelhorn cuts through the mist.  Perfectly realised and balanced, that beautiful and colorful instrument creates more imagery and scenery.  Ensuring every listener and ear is pressed to the speaker- the vocal is almost whispered meaning you have to lean in to listen- it is impossible not to surrender to the graceful and heartfelt words.  Soul-nourishing and honest, Spy From Moscow has created a song that could heal the lonely and make the most rain-lashed night tolerable and magical.  Something that could fit into a Nick Drake album, I was amazed by the musical innovation and sound.

The strings build up and then retreat with their lullaby-like sway.  That percussive beat remains firm and controlled; able to add weight and force when called upon.  At the mid-way marker, I was trying to imagine the origins and history behind the track.  Being familiar with Spy From Moscow’s debut, I know he has seen his share of heartache and loss.  On Little War there is that mixture of everyday reality and a very personal insight.  Half of my mind was concerning romantic struggle and battle whilst the other half was looking into personal anxieties and stresses.  Maybe our man has reached a plateau: Caught in the mire of a romantic break-down, the arguments and recriminations keep coming.  Whether his heroine is casting her eye elsewhere- looking for another soldier and hero- you start to symptahise with our lead.  It seems like they have reached an impasse and must decide how they will proceed.  On the other hand, one could look at a personal struggle and that desire for answers and happiness.  The rest of the E.P. looks at commercial desires and the need for fulfillment.  It would only be natural to think Little War looks at the day-to-day battles and realities.  Being a musician and songwriter, our hero has to face wars on a daily basis.  That need and desire to be heard and understood sit alongside the strains and fatigue of music-making and getting recognition.  Whilst the casual listener lets the music tell the story, I love how the vocals, instrumentation and lyrics perfectly mesh and conspire.  Towards the closing stages, the vocal gets harder and more emotive.

The entire song augments and enraptures as that indelible and memorable chorus comes back to strike.  Reminding me of early-days Elbow, Spy From Moscow allows the composition to create something symphonic and highly dramatic.  From its somewhat tender and minimal beginnings, the song turns into something enraptured and haunted- a song that screams its name in the final seconds.  You never know what to expect when it comes to the music of Little War.  Having been comforted and settled into the song’s sound and direction you are wrong-footed and redirected.  That latter-day burst of life takes the song in a new direction and gives you much food for thought.  As you try to take in all the compositional notes and nuance, you start to wonder how the story worked out- and whether there was a comforting resolution or satisfaction.  It is a song that makes you smile and sigh; a moment that creates vivid speculation and pictures- one of the most direct and emotional songs I have heard for a long time.  Clocking in at just over four minutes, Little War never seems over-long or too unfocused; it just remains compelling from beginning to end.  At the very end, you are motivated to go back and check the song out again (and again).  Upon each fresh listen something new comes to light.  One of the hallmarks of a great songwriter is nuance and you get that in spade-loads.

   Little War perfectly kicks-off the E.P. and shows Feenan has lost none of his ability to seduce and amaze.  The finest cut from the E.P., what you get is a young artist who sounds like no other.  I have mentioned the likes of Paul Weller and Elbow, yet in reality you would be hard-pressed to really link them together.  You get a little of Guy Garvey and Paul Weller’s voice, but Spy From Moscow is more entrancing and beguiling then both.  His imagery and songwriting is more compelling than most of his peers and shows a great amount of intelligence and maturity.  That vocal is perhaps the star of the show that ensures it would be hard to let the song escape the memory.  Backed by a terrific band and clear production, you get a song that oozes tranquility and soul; passion and fears- ensuring every listener is left with their own impressions and sense of interpretation.  The flugelhorn is a masterful addition that allows some sunshine and beauty to weave between the fabrics of anxieties and love-gone-wrong.  Bass, guitar and percussion push the vocal and ensure each word and sentiment is giving a stunning backing and guidance.  Those compositional elements never encroach on the foreground and seem too high in the mix.  On that matter, everything is balanced and mixed perfectly to allow every strand and facet to hit with maximum attack.  A stunning track that holds as much mystery as it does truth; you cannot the effect it has on the brain.  Not a simple thing that drifts along and does its thing, you can hear the detail and thought that goes into its creation.  Due to Spy From Moscow’s unique and original working method, it has resulted in a song that sounds unlike anything else, yet remains accessible and easy to love.  A rare feat in a music industry where you get scant originality and nuance, it is fantastic to witness a talent that has all the necessary ingredients for long-term appeal and success.

Having immersed myself in Spy From Moscow, it is refreshing and pleasing to hear an artist with a definite future ahead.  Too often I listen to musicians and feel uncertainty about their longevity and future moves.  Some just retreat and take years to come up with something memorable.  Other artists follow-up pretty quickly but suffer diminished returns.  It may be the early days, yet there is ample evidence to suggest the Newry-based artist has quite a packed and prosperous future ahead.  Little War is a three-track collection that displays a truly special voice.  Woven into its fabrics are words of longing and wonderment; vulnerability and passion- themes and sentiments that will resound with all listeners.  Before I wrap things up- and give a review of the E.P.’s other two tracks- I am compelled to return to my point about longevity and innovation in modern music.  Maybe there is a fear and sense of fatigue with some new musicians.  That is the only explanation I can find to explain a willful lack of energy and motivation.  Too often I hear music that either parodies the past or simply does the bare-minimum.  This is especially true in genres like Pop and Alternative.  Band and artists seem content to rock up to the party and put out music which, let’s be honest here, is the same as everything else out there.  On occasions I have reviewed artists so similar (to others) that you struggle for words.  If you look at the end-of-year lists and the best albums/moments from music, you will always find artists with the utmost consideration towards innovation and originality.  In 2015, the likes of Jamie xx and Beach House will be nestling for top honours.  These artists and albums are defined by their flexibility and originality.  A lot of fresh acts coming through seem too scared of laying themselves on the line.  Scared of potential failure, they hang onto the coattails of their heroes and influencers- without saying anything new or personable.  Our man has ensured Little War is an E.P. that betrays a debt to nobody.  Brimming with a mixture of confidence and soul, you are helpless to resist its charms and strength.  It is an E.P. I am compelled to dig into today- and will continue to do so tomorrow- to get to its roots and core.  The current scene is hot and heavy.  Filled with so many eager artists, it is always hard to decipher who will make the grade, and which artists will fall by the wayside.  I have a good radar when it comes to quality control and spotting those with inborn potential and natural ability.  Have no fear when it comes to Spy From Moscow.  As apt and fitting as his moniker, this stealthy agent of secrecy will be hard to take down and defeat.  With a mission statement that few will be able to top this year, it sets a great marker for the coming year.  Whether Feenan decides to expand his voice across an album has yet to be seen, yet it would be great to see something full-length.  Such is his talents and abilities, the music world will be keen and interested for sure.  For now, we must study what is already here: That is the stunning trio of songs across Little War.  If you want to find music that hits the heart and makes you think; that which resonates with passion and beauty, then look no further.  That central voice makes everything sound essential and compelling, and stands out as one of the most gripping on the current scene.  Having been influenced by everyone from Tom Waits to The Beach Boys, that eclecticism and diversity comes through in the music.  Not just your average workaday songs; what you get is an E.P. overflowing with personality and insight.  The future looks bright for the young artist indeed.

It Never Comes begins with a Folk-influenced kick that differs from a lot of Spy From Moscow’s work.  Whereas most of S.F.M.’s work begins more measured and serene, here we get something quite energised and upbeat.  The harmonica breezes and combines beautifully with the percussion.  Reminding me a little of Bob Dylan and the 1960s Folk scene, there are touches if Neil Young and his Forever Young-era work.  Looking at the sun and beautiful morning, it another of those songs that leads me in a couple of different directions.  Maybe yearning for true recognition and success- and investigating the realities of music- and how that rightful success never truly comes.  Here we get the E.P.’s richest and fullest composition.  The subtle and effective bass conspires with a stunning percussive beat that twirls and mutates.  We get a nice quiet-loud dynamic that sees the song explode and then retreat, allowing our hero’s voice to reach its absolute peak.  It Never Comes has an endless evolution and sense of mobility that ensures you are transfixed until the vey end.  Perhaps our man is looking at love and personal satisfaction and feeling dissatisfied and short-changed.  One of those songs that can mean different things to different listeners and leaves you with a smile on your face.  Whether that is the intention or not, you have a song that mixes upbeat and emotive; blending introspection with something overt and very passionate.

Persephone leaves the E.P. with a triumphant and wonderful song.  Starting with a calm and focused vocal, we get some haunting and affecting words in the early stages.  Our hero has been chasing applause for years.  Not an angel hair, “not the bride” you get a sense of resignation and dissatisfaction.  Attesting that it will sound be over, our hero seems to be in defeatist mode.  The song harks back to his debut-E.P. days and that sound and gives the listener a nice mix of current-day work and past glories.  The finale is a song that actually subverts expectations.  From its quiet beginnings, Persphone builds and starts to mutate.  That percussion gets louder and more primal as the guitars build and strike.  The composition raises the emotions and then comes down as quickly as it begun- allowing that vocal to come back in and soothe.  In-between the bursts and flourishes, you get some soothing harmonica and guiding bass lines.  It is a memorable and layered track that not only sums up the E.P. but leaves the listener wanting more.  So captivating are the trio of songs, you are hoping more will come.

Overall, the E.P. sees Feenan expand his sound and take a natural step forward.  More band-focused and inclusive, the songs benefit from that compositional range and fullness.  That is not to say our man gets buried in the notes as that is far from the truth.  Our lead is very much at the centre and his voice seems more developed and urgent this time around.  With greater confidence and depth you get so much gravitas and emotion from every note.  Reviewers have noticed how soul-etching and affecting it is; it is one of the E.P.’s most obvious take-aways.  Throughout the trio of songs, you get so much insight into the young man and his life.  Those relationship questions and life struggles mix with optimism and hopes; wars and battles come into the fray.  Stunning songwriting and wonderfully evocative compositions ensure Little War is an E.P. everyone should get hold of.  Marrying dreamy with potent, you get caught by the compositional shifts and insightful lyrics.  It is impossible to deny and refute the power of the central voice which makes sure every track is essential and of the highest caliber.  If you have not encountered Spy From Moscow’s latest creation…

MAKE sure today is the day that wrong is righted.


Follow Spy From Moscow:









This Week’s Albums: October 29th, 2015

This Week’s Albums

October 29th, 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 at The Stoke Pub and Pizzeria (; 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; 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 to highlight some fantastic albums- maybe some you have forgotten about.

The Old:  MC5- Kick Out the Jams (1969)




The Protopunk band arrived on the scene with a defining statement: Kick Out the Jams was an album that not only saw the ‘60s off in style (it was released in 1969); it remains one of music’s most influential albums- inspiring the likes of Rage Against the Machine along the way.  Kick Out the Jams is a live album filled with vivacious energy and insatiable power.  Some critics- upon the release of the album- felt it to be unfocused and sprawling; it showed just how phenomenal the Detroit band were- it stands as one of music’s most astonishing statements-of-intent.  The title track is one of the most urgent and memorable tracks of the 1960s: Having been covered by the likes of The Presidents of the United States of America and Jeff Buckley- it is one of those songs that transfixes and hypntoises.  With Come Together, Borderline and I Want You Right Now providing more sexuality, power and delirium than most bands can deliver in a career- few can refute the album’s effect.  Motor City is Burning is one of the album’s most calm- well, in an MC5 sense- moments that shows Blues heart and grit.  You cannot understate the importance of this album: Within a few minutes, you can hear how many bands have been inspired by its guys and glory.  It is a live album that is unsurpassed and unparalleled: Long may its reign continue!

DOWNLOAD: Kick Out the Jams; Borderline; I Want You Right Now

STAND-OUT TRACK: Kick Out the Jams



The New: Beach Slang- The Things We Do to Find People Who Feel Like Us (Released tomorrow)



Being a new convert to Beach Slang- they have just releases their debut album, so you could hardly blame me- The Things We Do to Find People Who Feel Like Us is ten tracks of against-the-odds, last-chance-saloon fight and hope.  The Philadelphia band aim for the heart and soul: Within a few bars you are helpless to resists its seductive lure.  Front-man James Alex is a man in a boy’s body:  A soul that might have lost its hope; an inner fight that wants to hold on to infantile potentials- the importance of never truly growing up.  The album is a rally cry against growing up: Hold onto that child-like spark; never escaping that feeling.  Bad Art & Weirdo ideas is the album’s most urgent and insistent moment.  Although it is hard to distinguish some of the tracks- the band have an open A-chord motif they ride hard- but that is not a criticism.  If you feel like an outsider; want to discover music that kicks against the swathes of manufactured and sterile bands- this is the album (and band) for you.  Fans of The Replacements and The Psychedelic Furs will appreciate James Alex’s smoked-ravaged and masculine burr.  If determined and head-spinning numbers like Young and Alive don’t dig to the depths of your psyche- you may need to reevaluate your life.  Whilst not 2015’s best album; it does stand as one of the year’s finest debut albums- expect to hear a lot more from Beach Slang.


DOWNLOAD: Bad Art & Weirdo Ideas; Too Late To Die Young; Young and Alive

STAND-OUT TRACK: Bad Art & Weirdo Ideas



The Influencer:  Lauryn Hill- The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill (1998)


The ‘90s had its fair share of phenomenal albums- more so than any other decade- yet few that remains as important and influential.  Hill’s views on family and female point-of-view life impressed and amazed critics.  The album is not only a vocal extravaganza: Hill’s deep faith resonated through her soulfulness and passion; she seamlessly blends the secular and universal- ensuring her messages and delivery leaves no mind undernourished and untouched.  Hill manages to mix the savage and serene: Her gender-bending sees her deliver with force but remained impassioned; ensuring the emotional and sonic balance is just right.  An epoch-making record- that brought Neo-Soul to the commercial forefront and inspired a wealth of contemporaries- Hill crosses genres and themes; sounding completely intoxicating no matter what she was addressing.  Her songs tackled the sex game from different perspectives- Doo Wop (That Thing)- to confronting her band-mates succumbing to the excesses and cheapness of commercial success (Lost Ones).  Although there are some stand-out collaborations- drawing the likes of D’Angelo and Mary J. Blige into the fold- it is Hill herself that stands out.  With no pretense or insincerity; the album entered at number one on the Billboard 200– selling 422,624 copies in its first week.  The album’s chart debut broke the record for first-week sales by a female artist.  It topped the Billboard 200 for a second consecutive week, during which it sold 265,000 copies.   In the United States, the album sold one million copies in less than a month and 2.4 million copies by December.   It spent 81 weeks on the Billboard 200; topped the Billboard Year-End Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart.  An album every human being should own.


DOWNLOAD: Lost Ones; Doo Wop (That Thing); Every Ghetto, Every City

STAND-OUT TRACK: Doo Wop (That Thing)

The ‘Other One’: Pavement- Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain (1994)



What is it with the year 1994?  If the likes of Grace and Parklife are not enough for you: Superunknown, Dummy and Definitely Maybe came along- and Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain.  The U.S. band followed Slanted and Enchanted– regarded as one of the ‘90s most seminal albums- with something more accessible.  Whereas S.A.E. is a dense, layered and mysterious; Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain is more direct and immediate.  Range Life is a sun-hitting Country-Rock gem; Stop Breathin’ is heartbreaking and tender; Unfair is wracked and tormented- the band never misses a beat or loses their identity throughout.  One of the ’90s best underground records, it is not just the genre-fuse and reaches that impresses: it is the focus on the everyday and banal that makes the album so magical.  Whilst most Californian-made albums look at the sun and dreams: Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain turns the spotlight onto fake oil-burning lamps (Elevate Me Later) and kids-on-skateboards (Range Life).  The quirky melodies and distinct lyrics only tell some of the story.  In a year that saw some of music’s finest albums created- add The Holy Bible and Ill Communication to the list- Pavement’s sophomore release damned-near stole the top honours.  If you have not heard Pavement- one of the most consistent bands who have ever been spawened- ensure you discover their astonishing music.  Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain is perfect for lazy days and uninspired moments; times when you need to smile and be uplifted; when you want to hear music at its very finest.


DOWNLOAD: Elevate Me Later; Cut Your Hair; 5-4=Unity


The Single Voice: From the Initiative… to the Charity

The Single Voice:


From the Initiative… to the Charity.


How it Began…


Over the past few months, I have been particularly devout, with regards ‘helping others’: feeling I am not doing enough to be a ‘better person’.  I enjoy my semi-regular half-marathons: I am taking on my 4th– for The British Heart Foundation- on Saturday; I like to spend the weekends doing ‘good deeds’/helping out; I have launched a few charity/social  media campaigns- it makes me feel more useful as a person.  One of the things that is getting me down is the unfairness of life.  A few people I know have recently been diagnosed with cancer; others are struggling to fulfill their dream as a musician; others are suffering horrible illness.  I guess you can say that it’s part of life: with so many people on the planet, not everyone can live happily/healthily.  As glib and unhelpful- advice/words like that are- it is still unacceptable in 2015 that so many people go unnoticed: so many blights blot the world’s landscape.  I am a man who is not just committed to supporting certain charities: I am passionate about various causes.  In addition to supporting equal pay/rights for women, I am passionate about animal welfare: I am dedicated to supporting the eradication of racism, homophobia and inequality- gun violence and social deprivation are not exactly twin barrels of laughs!  There seems to be a great deal of people unconcerned with ‘making a change’- at least doing very minimal motions.  When it comes to supporting causes; donating a bit of money here and there- I know exactly of my contacts on social media will ‘step up’- most will not bother.  I know we all have budgets- I earn less than most people I know- and it seems disheartening so few are motivated to do more.  I feel- as a person- that I can do a bit more: dedicate more of my free time to volunteer/get involved with campaigns and protests.  Across the world, there are some great annual charity campaigns.  Red Nose Day (Comic Relief) is looming large; Stand Up for Shelter and Children in Need do their part- they are hugely important events.  In so much as those events tend to focus for the most part of children who are the minority of the population; they seem to capture the imagination at specific times- namely when they are televised.  For the remainder of the year, momentum tends to be lost.  Social media have tried to ‘buck the trend’.  The dreaded/loved/cold Ice Bucket Challenge was a worldwide success last year, yet seems to have petered to a standstill: I hope people are still donating to fight A.L.S.  I have always thought- in order to perpetually unite the ranks on social media/general public- something a little longer-lasting needs to take place.  This brings me down to my point…

The Single Voice


The campaign I want to launch is an online one: something that anyone- neigh everyone– should be taking part in.  Whereas charity events- like Comic Relief- raise money for specific causes; this idea is designed to unite all charities- raise funds and awareness for all causes.  Being passionate about various charities- and angered by certain illnesses and social inequalities- I feel that certain ‘issues’ are being overlooked.  Through public engagement- and an easy but fun idea- here is a chance to raise serious awareness for important issues- raise money to help defeat some rather vile problems.  Rather than community events or sponsored events this idea uses YouTube- and videos on the site- to raise money.

How it Raises Money


The campaign is designed to bring together YouTube, Google, Apple and Microsoft: some of the most influential and important companies on the planet.  I will go into more depth below but the way the user raises funds is through YouTube ‘views’: every time someone views a video you have uploaded; 10p is donated to your chosen charity.  YouTube is the ‘hosting site’: it is their website that is the basis of the campaign.  Google will be the ones who are donating the money.  Each user/member- who chooses to take part- will register on the main site (see below) and through advertising and increased search results, Google will gain revenue- which in turn will be donated into The Single Voice.  Companies like Google and Apple generate enormous profits each year; they do great work but have a lot of profit coming in.  Finding a legal and non-invasive way for them to generate more funds- by advertising and getting more ‘business’- would allow them to channel this money into the campaign.

The Main Site

The initiative will have a homepage: which will be where each person goes to register.  The campaign will be shared and spread to social media, but at the first point of contact, each person would start here.  Like Facebook and Twitter, registration is painless and quick: and a great way to connect with other users and like-minded people.  The homepage will be well-designed and eye-catching.  The top half will have various links: A-Z of Charities; Contact Details; Discussion Board; Events/Fundraisers; Latest Members; Links; Generated Profit so far.  The bottom half will be fun and interactive.  Figures from music, film, T.V. and comedy past and present interacting with one another- they will be animated.



Each person will be asked to register simple details: name, D.O.B., location; campaigns; total raised and several others.  It will work a little like Facebook, where there is a profile page: it will be a simple process and contain plenty of information- although nothing too personal or revealing.  From the registration page, there are links to social media- where you can easily promote your page/share your success.  When all the personal details/key details are entered, then comes the ‘fun part’.  The Single Voice has the option of 8 different YouTube-based ‘initiatives’/ideas.  Each new member is allowed to ‘sign-up’/choose five of the eight options.  For each initiative you will be selecting a different charity- I will go into more depth later.  On the profile page will be your list of ‘initiatives’.  By each of your selections will be the total money you have raised; how many times your idea/entry has been shared- and how many times you have shared it.  This charity campaign will run for a year- from its launch date- and your selected charities will get donations each month- at the end of each month; however much you have raised will be donated to them.

The Initiatives


There are eight different ideas- covering film, T.V., music and advertising.  As I have said, each person will be allowed to select five different ideas from the list of eight.  When you register, it will ask you to select from the list- which idea/choice you want- and there will be a step-by-step guide.  It is very easy and simple to complete.  Before I explain how it is done; here is what you can choose from:

Top-10 Songs

Like Desert Island Discs and Tracks of My Years, each user gets to choose their 10 favourite/most important songs.  There is an option- on each entry- for a user to commentate/explain why they have chosen what they have selected; but it is a great chance for the person to share their favourite songs.

New Music

This is an option that is a chance for new music to be heard.  A person can give the world a chance to discover new music/musicians.  If a new band/act has posted to YouTube, then their music can be shared.  There is a chance to select your ten favourite songs from new acts.

Music Videos

It is nice and simple: choose your favourite ten music videos.  Whether it is from a new band- or classic act- you get a chance to have a good think- what you consider to be the best of the breed.

Top 10…

The broadest option, this covers a multitude of music.  On this option there is a drop-down list: giving you a selection of options.  Includes is Decades- best music from ‘50s, ‘60s- all way to modern-day; Voices; Cover Versions; Guitar Riffs- up to 10 different selections.


Whether it is a short clip- lasting a few seconds- or a full-length film/T.V. episode, this is comedy-orientated.  Whatever makes you laugh the most: get it uploaded!  I shall expand on this more- and what I would select- but you can choose a stand-up show; an episode of The Simpsons- or a comedic home-made video/prank.


Again, whether it is an episode of Breaking Bad- if they are allowed on YouTube- or a short film, this is the chance to get it shared.


This is the chance for a user to create something new- and upload to YouTube.  Not a chance for self-promotion, it is a chance to flex your creative muscles.  It can be anything you want: a mock advert; a new song; a comedy sketch- whatever you fancy.


If you have favourite adverts then you can get them seen hear.  This option gives voice to other videos: those weird and wonderful videos- YouTube seems to proffer by the bucket-load.  Beauty blogs and ‘how-to’ videos; home-made videos can be selected.  The rules are simple: it can be anything- as long as it is not sexual, offensive, and violent- or violates YouTube’s rules.

Beyond Social Media

Of course, the point of the campaign is not to share music/film- just for the sake of it.  The idea is to raise money and awareness of causes and charities.  On the home page, you get a chance to share your ideas and videos- and raise money each time they get a ‘view.  When you select a charity- for each entry- there is an information button: this gives you huge information and links.  If you select Diabetes U.K., then you get to find out about the charity.  There are links to their website; how to get involved in the community; how to spot the signs of diabetes; ways to further becoming involved with the charity- runs, fundraisers, volunteering etc.  This will be the case for every charity.  It means that, not only does the user get to learn more about their chosen charities and causes; other people do too.  On the site’s main page, there is an A-Z of Charities: a full list of all charities; information, links and videos for each.

In addition engaging people more with charities and causes; there is a hope it will lead to more community involvement.  There is a chance to ‘represent’/choose to support women’s rights, stamp out gun violence, support local communities and boroughs- causes not usually represented by the big fundraisers.  In addition to giving information about each, there are ways for you to get involved: get out onto the street and make a difference.  Raising money will be a huge and important part of the idea, but it is hoped that the government will take note- issues and campaigns will be highlighted; a chance to change law- change people’s lives and initiate social change.

Not only does one get to learn more about charities and causes- the main objective of the campaign- there is a secondary bonus’.  Each time you compile a list; there is a chance to benefit others.  Say you have selected Top 10 Songs.  After you have selected each track, there will be a link on each video/selection.  Song and album information is provided; links to other similar acts; ways to record your own music/become a musician.  In terms of new music, there is a chance to help new musicians- links to campaigns; ways to share their music and causes; find great new acts; support local venues and festivals- ways to bring about equality and change for musicians.  The same goes for film and music videos: ways to become a director/actor; local schools and campaigns; links to similar films/videos; local schemes; ways to support other charities and causes etc.

All of this video-selecting and information-finding is designed to be quick to share/promote.  With a click of the button you can share you entries/profile to social media; encouraging friends to get involved- taking this thing viral.  It is A fun, quick, and educational scheme; with the potential to raise a lot of money very fast.

If I was doing the ‘comedy option’, these three videos would be first up: when I was feeling very down recently they helped me hugely- and dehydrated me in the process- and all from the same T.V. show


The idea is going to take a lot of promotion and co-operation.  When it does start out: the website is designed, everyone has said ‘yes’, there needs to be some great backing.  The idea is to get five celebrities involved from three continents- North America, Europe and Australia.  They would cover the fields of T.V., film, music and comedy.  Covering a range of ages, both genders- who have a track record of benevolence and charity work.  I am wiring to various celebrities at the moment, but it when the scheme is kicked off- it would be great to have some terrific names involved.  They would post comedic/fun/serious videos on YouTube: hopefully inspiring ‘undecided voters’ to become involved- and reminding everyone what they are doing this for.

Going Forward

At the moment there is the idea and determination: without contracts being signed; sites being designed- the big guns being involved.  Of course it is not going to be as simple as it should be- celebrities and huge companies are as apathetic as they come- so will take a lot of effort and campaigning.  The point of this blog/the early stages is to gauge opinion: would people take part?  Would it interest people?  Could this work?  For each entry people select from the list you have to donate a small sum yourself- rather than relying on others- but this should not put people off- it is a chance to engage and unite social media; represent all charities; try to make some genuine change.  The rest of this year- in terms of this campaign- will be to get people talking; get names involved- contact YouTube and Google- and get them saying ‘yes’.  I want to launch this within a year- it sounds a long way off but will take a lot of work.  Above all, it will rely on people getting involved: I want it to be a lot bigger than the Ice Bucket Challenge.  It is a golden opportunity to raise millions and more for a lot of causes; raise awareness of various issues- get people involved- on the street; in the community etc.


Taking it Further: Making the Charity Work


The words above were how The Single Voice began: That initiative that was largely a one-off.  It seems to me that things need to go further: Take that idea and make it into a fully-fledged charity- something that can raise money and awareness.  I shall get into points concerning the big tech. boys; the way the charity works- three or four different prongs- and how it will all get kicked-off.  For now, it is worth breaking it down, point by point.

The Website


Home page-

The bottom half would be interactive and animated: music figures would interact in a variety of locations: from Abbey Road to Reading Festival; to a recording studio and around London.  There would be music and video player that can be accessed- linked to YouTube, SoundCloud etc. – and the locations would be around the world.  The entire homepage is designed like a vinyl and has a record design; the front would be the animated figures and site name- the back would be the options and information; opening like a vinyl sleeve.


There would be eleven different options; each would expand/open like a song.  The options/’tracks’ are as follows:


  1. Track One: Register

The user would sign-up-like a social media site- and be able to have full access to the site.

  1. Track Two: About/Contact; Guided Tour
  2. Track Three: A-Z of Charities and How You Can Support Them

A list of every charity around the world- from local causes to international names- that you can raise money for

  1. Track Four: Social Media

A bespoke social media site that the emphasis on charity and music: the connection between the two and engaging users to become more involved in the community.

  1. Track Five: Creative Zone

This would pull together everything within Psychoacoustics:

This will be expanded, too.  Not only will there be a spoke music zone; there will be a similar ‘creative one’ for directors- film, T.V. and music video- and actors; in addition, there would be one for comedians, comedy writers and YouTube stars

  1. Track SixThis Year’s Initiative

The Single Voice initiative detailed at the top of this post.  This would launch the charity


  1. Track Seven: Local; Sites, Music and Points of Interest.

It would allow you to programme your town/city.  If you lived in London for instance, you would be able to find all charities in your area; the music sites and venues- in addition to points of interest.  It would work with Google to create a bespoke search engine that would allow the user to be productive and engaged in the community.

  1. Track EightConnected: Tools for Musicians, Fans, Lovers and Labels; Writers to Charities and Organisations

This is a list of contacts and websites; connections and tools that allow charities to connect with musicians and the public; creatives to link-up with the right people- essentially, a LinkedIn-style site.

  1. Track NineListening Zone: Video and Media Player

Here, we have a huge library of music and video.  Bonding with YouTube, there is a defined and organised library of music, film and T.V.: One that is broken-down into sections and genres; decades and time periods- allowing listeners to discover new music and film.

  1. Track Ten: Psychoacoustics

This is the bespoke shopping site- working with the likes of Apple, Amazon and Samsung- that would not only sell music, D.V.D.s and vinyl; it would sell apps. And subscriptions; instruments and tickets- all under the one site.

  1. Track ElevenSearch/Archives

This allows the user to search through the music; film, T.V. archives: discover lost gems and album covers; information and interviews etc.


The Front Line


The Single Voice is a charity that raises money through music and entertainment: Working with giants of technology and social media; the aim is to unite music, charity and the global population- raising millions (and billions) within the first few years.   We have the central website; there would be an H.Q. – it would start as a modest London base; growing to larger premises as it becomes more successful.  There are so many great charities and local causes out there; a lot of illnesses and social issues that have not been cured; businesses making huge profits and technology and social media growing- they seem separated and disconnected.



There are so many great charities and people raising money every day.  Through social media and life, we see posts of people competing events: Running, walking and enduring for charity; doing something amazing.  One of the issues is that social media relies on sharing- in order to increase fundraising and awareness- a lot of time people can’t afford to donate a lot.  By engaging big businesses- see below- and utiilsing music and the creative arts; it allows for bigger fundraising; tying charities and people together- from all around the world.  The website lists all charities in the world; those that are both local and international.  The charity aims to proffer and promote all charities; put them under one umbrella- unite social media and posts to ensure that greater awareness is raised.  When users sign to the charity- and create an account- they can download music and support artists; discover great music and help musicians- earning points and rewards as they go along.  When they reach certain targets, they can cash-in these points; donate them to causes- the ability to raise thousands of pounds in a very short space.   It is not just reserved to charities and causes, either.  There is an opportunity to raise funds and money for bands and artists.  The artists themselves cannot raise funds; yet others can donate to bands and their recordings; filmmakers and projects- tying-in the likes of Pledge Music and Kickstarter.




The charity/fundraising elements will all come together in more detail- as the charity is set-up and developed; the full details and plans will be explained- but there is another element to the charity.  Through the bespoke tools and links, it encourages users and people to take up and create music; become engaged in filmmaking and television- this is where the likes of Microsoft, Samsung and Apple will come into the fold.  The companies would not only assist with designing the bespoke tools and sites; they would gain revenue and profit: In turn, they would be funding some of the world’s most innovative and well-designed music/creative tools.


Social Engagement


It is not good enough to sit behind a computer screen and just click away.  The idea of the charity is for it to be a part-time thing: Checking -in and not dedicating too much time to it.  Because the charity encourages social engagement and connection, it is hoped the users get out into the community: Supporting those in need and making a difference.  Whereas social media relies heavily on too much Internet time; The Single Voice aims to get people out and making a difference: Setting up schemes and businesses; forming charities and supporting the vulnerable.


Awareness and Connection


One of The Single Voice’s assets is the way it connects people around the world.  The charity looks at the user and tailors it around them.  If you suffer from an illness or disease, it not only puts you in touch with those who can help- giving information and advice; making sure the social media side of things gets people connected.  Every day we hear of new ills and issues- from gun violence to discrimination against transgenderism; animal cruelty and natural disasters- yet we feel helpless.  The charity puts these issues at the forefront: It mobilises people to tackle the issues; gets people working to fight discrimination- raise money and support quick, so we can stamp out these inequities and problems.  Issues like mental illness or still stigmatised; homelessness and social poverty is rife.  The charity aims to put them into the spotlight: Change ways of thinking and help bring about progression and discussion.

The Realities/How Big Businesses Can Help


The biggest tech and business giants make enormous profits.  Every second it is estimated Samsung makes $6,000 revenue.  The likes of Google and Apple are not far off.  Of course this is earned and deserved to an extent- they provide services we all need and use- yet think about how much they earn a year?  I have seen reports where some of those companies are unsure what to do: They have so much money but nowhere to put it.  Whilst they are developing multi-million dollar headquarters and facilities; it seems there is a lot of money that could be better used- a tiny amount of their yearly profit.  This is why The Single Voice is so important to me.  It is not a Robin Hood Effect- taking from rich and giving to the poor- as each company will be earning extra revenue/partnering with the charity: It is taking a tiny percentage of their revenue; giving it to some wonderful causes/charities- helping to fit big issues and social ills.  With such extravagant and unfathomable profits pouring in; there needs to be a better and fairer balance: Ensuring the organisations are charity-conscious as they can be.  I am not suggesting they hand over, say 1%, of their profits a year: They are getting increased advertising and business; they will see their custom rise- it is a win-win, give-and-take situation.  As it stands, the charity that is an idea and a seed: It needs the investing waters of businesses to get it off the line- and to nourish and help it grow.  Without them it will take a long time to happen: It is advantageous a working bond is created as soon as possible.  There is no real downside to either: The big companies- such as Apple and Microsoft- rarely work closely together; there is a sense of rivalry and competiveness- this is a way of bringing them together- without denting their business profits and market edges.


The Bottom Line


This is a charity I feel needs to happen: With every passing day there seems to be bigger gaps- between people and countries- big topics that are being hidden- too many people suffering silently.  Money-raising is only part of the solution: Awareness and social activation needs to occur; governments and bodies need to be on board- it will take time to happen.  The first step is seeing what people think; getting it going- getting those big names on board.  There is more and more music created each day; most people on the planet love/have an opinion on music- using this to make money and help people seems icily logical and sensible.  There is a lot of big business profits coming out; a lot of compartmentalisation and social disconnectedness: Unifying and remedying this would counteract these points.  I am in the process of mailing companies- the likes of Samsung, Google, Apple etc.- and some big names- I hope the likes of Emilia Clarke, Jameela Jamil and Stephen Fry will back the charity- to get this thing going.  Whilst there are a lot of words here (even for me!) the facts are this: Music and the arts is an easy and fun way of fundraising; we all need a little help and awareness; too many people are suffering needlessly- we all want this to change.  The Single Voice is not so much its own charity- raising for one specific cause- but a way of housing and promoting every charity there is- whilst encouraging creativity and social interaction; tackling issues our government are not.  In a way, it is a political party we can all get on board with: No false promises and crooked smiles- just a charity we can all support.

It would be good to know thoughts; whether people would get involved and support it- share and spread the word.  Regardless of how long it takes to get businesses on board; this will happen- it may take a while for it to fully fly and succeed.  The initial ideas, steps and components are in place: Now it is the time to take a big step- and appeal to the giants of the business/technology world.  My words cannot really fully explain and great it could be; how in-depth and all-inclusive it could be- nor the depth of my excitement and hopes.  With that said, let me know…

WHAT you think.

Track Review: The Holcombe Family String Band- Hard Times



The Holcombe Family String Band



Hard Times




Hard Times is available at:

September, 2015

Ragtime; Hokum; ‘Vampire-Jazz’


Leeds, U.K.

Written by C.D. Wallum
Artwork by Frank Garland
© The Holcombe Family String Band. All rights reserved.

The album Ragtime! Hokum! Western Swing! is available from 4th December, 2015


Hard Times– 9.4

The Great Fire of Armley9.2

You Really Done Me Wrong9.2

River, Black River9.3

Oh Celestine!9.4

Rag Mama Rag- 9.4

The Captain9.4

Yo’ Hair’s Too Long9.5

You’re My Woman Now9.3


Hard Times; Oh Celestine! The Captain; Yo’ Hair’s Too Long


Yo’ Hair’s Too Long


Gin House Records

Pre-order the album at:


ANOTHER weekend and another chance to concentrate…

not only on great music- but pursue ambitions and dreams.  In addition to me spiraling some rather tumescent words; there is a band ahead of me: One that makes some old-time and vintage sounds; something unexpected and original- that bucks the trends and familiarities of the music scene.  Before I get to my featured act- and look at unexpected genres; Yorkshire music and the need for the quirky- I am looking at dreams and ambitions- something that is filling my mind this weekend.  As work and the necessities of life become more unfulfilling and infuriating: My brain is looking at something more fulfilling and meaningful; a goal and aim that helps people and makes a real different- through the power and universality of music.  It seems music is the one thing we all have in common: No matter what your mood or state of mind; it has that mesmeric and uplifting effect- able to transcend any situation and do something rather wonderful.  I have been thinking a lot (with regards harnessing its power) and applying it to a charity scenario: Raising money through music downloads; the money and revenue will go to charities and causes- and a lot more besides.  The details are a lot more picturesque and intricate- and something my featured act will not want to steal their focus- but too few people are really chasing passions.  There is a lot of boredom and limits about; too many are just going through motions- living a mundane and everyday life.  There are too few colourful and interesting people; those that really capture the eye and imagination.  When it comes to music, there are still too many grey and insipid musicians- we always look for something enlivening and unique.  When it comes to Leeds’ The Holcombe Family String Band, you could never accuse them of being mundane and one-dimensional: They are a band that is designed to get crowds smiling and dancing: Their music is not niche and divisive- the fun and frivolity is hard to ignore and dislike.  A lot of musicians tend to play things too safe: Often they will copycat others or simply play market that fills market trends- without looking at quality and distinction.  The Holcombe Family String Band have been going a while; making some of the U.K.’s most special and fascinating music- let’s hope they will ascend to the mainstream in years to come.  There is always a risk when making music that is considered ‘quirky’: Not quite every-day; that which dares to harken to the past- tie some under-appreciated genres together- and create something unexpected.  That word ‘unexpected’ is good when you get the recipe right: Ensure the music unites and compels the audience; does not just confine itself to small clans- the Holcombe’ boys have got the balance just right.  Before I continue on my points, let’s have a look at Leeds’ Ragtime fellas:

The Holcombe Family String Band are a Leeds based band influenced by the ragtime, hot jazz, hokum and western swing of the 1920s and 30s.
Following prestigious supports, opening for the likes of CW Stoneking, Sheesham & Lotus & Son, Curtis Eller’s American Circus, Simone Felice, The Dad Horse Experience and The Stray Birds, numerous festival appearances and plays on BBC Radio 6 Music and BBC Introducing, The Holcombe Family String Band have won over fans of traditional and early roots music, taking something steeped in the past and highlighting the perpetual relevance of a music often thought of as primitive or archaic.

Even when music looks to the past, there is still a modern edge: Few bands and acts have an old-fashioned and vintage sound- something that is unashamedly bygone and days-past.  We have a lot of great Electro.-Swing bands- that infuse ‘30s and ‘40s elements into the music- but make sure the outer layer is vibrantly modern.  Few actually go as far to negate the trappings and comforts of modern-day music.  Perhaps there is an issue with fashion-ability and ‘coolness’: Maybe Ragtime/’Hot-Jazz’ music is not the most marketable sound; it is a brave sound to champion- it takes a while to convert those uninitiated and unfamiliar.  I get to review a lot of Rock and Alternative sounds; acts that can easily fit into the mainstream- music that is not that strange or particular.  Over the course of my years, there have been few musicians (that have come to me) that I could truly label ‘unique’- in the sense they cannot be compared to many other artists out there.  Bands and artists can be original; they can mark themselves as ground-breaking- the music they play always have similar-sounding competitors.  When it comes to The Holcombe Family String Band, how many other artists come to mind?  Maybe there are a few here and there; some local acts that plays the same sort of sound- but not exactly swarms of them, right?  When artists start their music careers, they are enforced by their musical upbringing and current favourites: Blending their heritage and youth (the acts that inspired them) with their current heroes- whilst adding some individual personality and direction.  We hear a lot of Pop and Rock acts because music has always spawned these artists/genres: They are the most bankable and favoured; the sounds that get festival crowds fevered and excited.  Artists like The Holcombe Family String Band perhaps have a smaller audience- at the moment at least- and you imagine local crowds in town halls- rather than teaming whores and sweaty gig-goers.  Crowd numbers and following-the-flock mentality does not equate to superiority and longevity: The best new music coming through rebels against the ‘popular’ and media-approved sounds.  If we have learned anything from the week’s music- with Joanna Newsome releasing another intoxicating album- the quirky and magical will always buckle the knees.  Divers is an enraptured and idiosyncratic thing: An album that is an easy listen yet filled with depth and wonder; demanding and beautiful- music that comes along once every few years.  Newsom will get tongues wagging and top ‘end-of-year’ polls: Divers will surely be one of 2015’s most enduring- an album that will not easily be topped.  The Holcombe Family String Band have a similar mix of complexity and beauty; music that should be unpicked- with an outer sheen of beguilement and oddity.  In a straight-laced and sociable music world, I love discovering people who will never be in the middle of a party floor (holding court and being the centre of attention) but are the most interesting and fascinating.  It is the Leeds’ bands non-conformist and personal directions that will see them gain a huge fan base.  Leeds is among the U.K.’s most impressive and fertile music neighbourhoods: From stunning Rock bands to great Pop artists, you cannot fault the ambition, quality and nuance emanating from that wonderful county.  What Yorkshire does well- and Leeds especially- is reviving ‘older’ and oft-forgotten genres.  There are great Electro.-Swing revivalists (Little Violet) to Barbershop and Doo-Wop bands: There are terrific and colourful avenues; some unexpected gems to be discovered- leading an example the rest of the country should follow.

Hard Times is not my first exposure to the glistening band.  Last year the guys released The La La Bird: A five-track E.P. that was one of their earliest cuts.  It not only gave the world a chance to see what they could do: The E.P. contained a lot of rich and memorable material.  The title track opens with a swooning and suave string-picked introduction: You are compelled to tap your feet and click along.  It is a rhythmic and cool-edged beginning that sees images of Devil-dancing and death- there are Country vibes and some terrific vocals.  Our hero is lost in the sleet and snow: He is struggling to move and facing the lure of the abyss.  The lyrics are delivered with gusto and passion: The combinations of string and voice make it a powerful and stunning opening gambit.  Minute Rag is a more juddering and racing start.  Thigh-slapping and merry, it is a song that spirals and dizzies: One of the band’s most uplifting songs, it is a short and memorable blast.  Ten of Spades looks at “good old-fashioned morphine” and company; modesty and whiskey: So many great images and scenes are projected; it is a softer and gentler affair.  Although the vocal and instrumentation begins quite refrained; it has a strong and building undercurrent: The lyrics look at substance abuse- tackling a harder issue- without cheapening it.  Memphis Flu’s scratchy and scurrying beginning gets the mood back into upbeat: Although the lyrics deal with a deadly flu virus; there is that abiding air of dance and rouse- the ecstatic strings and persistent beat keeps the song light and breezy.  Four Heathens ends the E.P. with a more graceful and grand sound: The introduction strings- quivering and trembling- put you in mind of a funereal scene.  The heavy drums and haunting atmosphere keeps building and mutating.  A stunning and captivating opening; you wonder what will come and how the song will develop.  The instrumental track allows you to picture and imagine: It’s scenic and potent strings are evocative and vivid- meaning you can picture your own song and what will occur.  A stunning end to the E.P., it wrapped up a tight and focused effort from the band.

Since last year, the band has developed their sound- not just in terms of song numbers and ambitions- but in terms of themes and subjects.  The production values are stronger and the songwriting follows that rule.  Generally-speaking, the sound has not developed too much- it has not needed to- and they stick with their well-defined blend of Ragtime, Jazz and Hokum- giving you a taste of the U.S. with a British core.  I was excited to delve into Ragtime! Hokum! Western Swing! and see what it’s all about.  Hard Times is its lead-off track and a taste of what is to come- it is one of The Holcombe Family String Band’s most instantaneous and stunning numbers.

The introduction’s opening seconds are very busy indeed.  In addition to a swan-like brass utterance, you get a heady beat and gliding, romantic strings: Fused into a enraptured bond, it kicks the track off with a sense of determination and purpose- one of the album’s most striking and memorable openers.  Bonding together, the instruments remain dignified and tight; making sure they do not become undisciplined and wayward; the opening moments build up the atmosphere- it retains The Holcombe Family String Band’s decorum and fun; that balance of merriment and restraint.  The opening words leave little room for ambiguity and misinterpretation: With his love in hand, our man seems in safe and content mood.  With the breeze and peacefulness in the air, he is going down to Lonesome River.  Hard times will come and plague (our lead) yet he has a strength and wisdom: Whatever happens, he will face it head-on; tackle it and deal with things- at the moment, he is basking in the serenity and calm of the surroundings.  You can picture the dapper lead walk to the river- probably bedecked in a jaunty hat and striped clothing; a nifty pair of shoes- and his sweetheart in tow (again, with some vintage and colourful clothing).  At every stage, Hard Times gives you projections of the past and its simplicity: You could not really imagine the song being set in a modern-day setting; everything seems very innocent and chased.  A lot of modern numbers- when it comes to love and its simplicity- puts you in modern streets and climbs; you always get a sense of modernity- when it comes to this number, your mind goes back to the ‘30s and ‘40s.  Imagining the song in black-and-white, you cannot help but drift inside the story- see things unravel and develop.  Our man looks at his girl- you start to imagine what she looks like and how she talks- as she dances; feather-light and serenely.  With heart very much on sleeve, that overt passion and profession is a rarity in modern-day music- without cynicism or anxiety, you are left with a song that resonates with purity and devotion.  Backing our hero’s voice; the band come together with one of their most defined and understated compositions.  Whilst the strings and percussion back the story perfectly, they allow vocals to stand up-front- as “my little goose” is assessed and watched; that passion pour from the microphone.  In a catalogue that contains its share of mortality and troubles, it is good to see the band present something free from strife and disorder: A song that brims with affection and togetherness- a duo that seem ready-made for one another.  Being the opener of Ragtime! Hokum! Western Swing! it is vital Hard Times delivers an instant punch: Gets the listener hooked and interested; ensures the album starts with conviction.  Our lead attests he must “have done something right”: you feel he has struggled so long; never had the best of luck- his time has come and things are on the up.  In the midst of the effusive and hopeful lyrics; we are treated to extended musical interludes: The band getting a chance to spread their wings and explode with colour.  Whilst other songs (on the album) are most upbeat and springing; here we get a more luxuriant and soothing parable- a composition that appropriately supports the central theme.  At their most together and stunning, the boys let their instruments do the talking: Switching between shivering and triumphant, the composition is a beautiful thing.  Up to the 1:30 mark, the composition changes course and direction.  The strings and percussion rise and fall; they combine and separate- creating something quite wonderful.  A lot of modern tracks ignore the importance of the music: ensure the composition is as strong as the lyrics/vocals- here it is more than a match.  You get a mix of New Orleans and the Deep South; touches of seaside Britain and 1940s dance halls- coming together in that rhapsody of strings, brass and percussion.  When our man comes back to the microphone, he is in pontificating and introspective mood.  Knowing things will not always work out- he is pragmatic among the throws of passion and safety- there will be tough times ahead.  Money comes and “money goes”, yet things will work themselves out- so long as he has his girl.  Whoever the heroine is, she has had quite an effect: I cannot help but picture what she looks like- the long, flowing hair; the cute smile and red heels- and how she evokes and moves.  Through the rain and storms, (the duo) have one another; they can weather things together- no matter what harshness comes their way.  It is a song that ends with a redemptive and high note: You feel our hero will be okay and satisfied; able to tackle anything that comes his way- leaving the listener in a good mood.

The album’s lead-off track; Hard Times is one of the most hopeful moments from Ragtime! Hokum! Western Swing!  Ensuring they kick the album off with a stunning cut, we get all the dependable ‘Holcombe’ hallmarks: The charming and off-beat swagger; the vivid and beautiful stories; those unique and comparable vocals- topped with a united and stunning band performance.  With its polished and gleaming production- that still allows for some rawness and simplicity to be heard- the track explodes with clarity and light; it resonates with its innocence and hopefulness.  Whilst Ragtime! Hokum! Western Swing! has some dark and addictive songs- where substance abuse and the Devil come to play- we begin with a chaste and love-drunk song: One where we can all relate and support; imagine the scenes unfold.  Each band member is at their peak here.  From the passionate and spirited vocals- you cannot think of any other singer when they are sung- and the terrific musicianship: The Holcombe Family String Band are compelling and incredible throughout.  A song not just for lovers of their genres- the Hokum and Ragtime devotees- it is wide-ranging and open to be enjoyed by everyone: It is not a song that pushes people away; it draws them in- a track that could easily be a mainstream success.  With modern-day acts like George Ezra giving a unique world view- a young man in a mature man’s shoes- it seems natural Hard Times would sit alongside Ezra’s insights: You could imagine Hard Times sitting inside Wanted on Voyage (Ezra’s debut album).

Ragtime! Hokum! Western Swing! Is unleashed in a matter of weeks and will be a chance for the Leeds-based boys to do some shouting: Their album is a stunning and jam-packed beauty (a mini-review below) that will see them gain new fans and footings.  They have a dedicated and loyal fan-base, yet deserve a lot bigger crowds: at the core, the band’s music is designed to cheer and provide merriment- it has depth and intelligence; fascinating characters and stories.  Few bands deliver music that has so much charm and distinction; a wealth of passion and energy- masses of quality, nuance and memorability.  Make sure you check-out their new album: Hard Times is a small window into its potential glory; the nature of its business- just what sort of musical beast they have created.  Music provides all kinds of variation and surprise; artists that do not play by rules and regulations- push the envelope and deliver something that defies the odds.  Perhaps The Holcombe Family String band will not be headlining Glastonbury in years to come; they do have a huge potential for international trade- reach foreign audiences and new lands.  At the moment they are performing a lot throughout Yorkshire: Most of their gigs are local and home-based; perhaps that will change in 2016.  Never judge music on its looks or reputation; those that have come before or expectations: Listen to and judge it upon its merits; how it makes you feel- how much you want to keep listening and investigate.  I assess a lot of acts that are quite impressive at first: When it comes to time and consideration, I get slightly lukewarm and ambivalent- few acts really compel me to come back and take a closer look.  A lot of music is quite personal and love-based: Looking at break-up and those kind of ideas; musicians that are more fictionalised and inventive always compel me more- their music seems less draining and introspective.  The Holcombe Family String Band- across the course of their latest album- conspire tales of curious figures and odd scenes; dizzying passions and offbeat heroines.  There are plenty of moments of romantic lust and personal heartache: The band ensures that modern/traditional themes marry with the unfamiliar and vintage- they blend together seamlessly and wonderfully.  What strikes me (about the band) is their energy and commitment: Every song and moment is delivered with endless enthusiasm and passion; a complete dedication to getting through to the audience- as a result, you are sucked into their world and stories; captivated by their smiles and kick.  The instrumentation and compositions remind you of seaside resorts of odd American bars- you imagine a good-time boys band whipping up a boozy crowd- and their vocals are very much their own.  That originality and flair mixes with dexterity and invention: No two songs sound alike; with each track there is a new ambition and sense of adventure.  The Holcombe Family String Band will be future-faces of the music media press: There are only so many po-faced Rock bands you can stomach before a revolt needs to ensue.  Yorkshire and Leeds are a mother-daughter (or father-son) combination that is leading a prestigious and forceful musical charge: This country is the most fervent and forward-thinking in the U.K.  It is because Yorkshire musicians- those that play genres and styles not overly-familiar- look to history and past sounds; polish and renew the older; go for originality and unexpectedness.  With their Ragtime and ‘Vampire-Jazz’ fusions; a dollop of merriment and rabble-rousing- with a suitable infusion of tenderness and compassion- you have a band/music that hits all the senses and ticks all the boxes- one of our most promising young acts.  Music needs a bit of a sort-out and shake-up: Get out of this complacency and embrace musicians that want to be different and better- not simply do what the media expect; play things safe and lack creative acumen.   Hard Times is a stunning cut- and one of the album’s less rousing moments- from an album that is spilling-over with originality and history; plenty of modern gleam and the sound of music with a purpose.  Ragtime! Hokum! Western Swing! Is as stunning and exclamative as the title suggests: A snapshot into the minds and souls of some rather offbeat and charming folk.  If you have not got into their spirit camp: Embraced and dived-into the music they summon; ensure you rectify this.  This year has seen them plan and record; conspire and plot: 2016 will see this all come to fruition; a chance for them to hit the road- take their music to new parts of the world.  Their album is out in six weeks and should be sought by all- you will not hear another album like it.

Ragtime! Hokum! Western Swing! Is an album that hits its stride from the very off.  From Hard Times’ dazzling colours, we come to The Great Fire of Armley.  A fire is in the sky; the scene is set and the Ragtime band plays “every Monday night”.  Whilst the fire burns- and our hero hopes his friends are alright- the band play around him.  The track is mostly light and gentle: The brass stands out and provides a real sense of power and emotion.   Taking you into the song- and giving you a clear sense of what is happening- it is a catchy and addictive track.  Designed for sing-along and audience participation- the chorus is particularly memorable- it sees the band at the peak of their powers.  You Really Done Me Wrong has a rather quirky and unique opening: You have to hear it to get a sense of what I mean!  After the ear-catching opening, we hear about a heroine: She has a fever and is causing our man some troubles.  Backed by his band-mates- who chorus in and support the plight- the heroine has (done our hero) wrong- that strain and heartache comes through.  Whilst the strings sway and pick their way through the lines, the drama increases.  River, Black River opens with more swoon and passion: It has a riparian and autumnal feel to it- more graceful and seductive than previous numbers.  When the vocal comes in; it is quite romantic and seductive.  Our man does not want to remain at the river: Asking to be put to the docks; tossed onto the rocks- he does not want to stay here.  Where the lilies grow- and with his body succumbing to mortality- it is another evocative and image-heavy song.  Lonely and haunted, the song sees our hero pour out his heart- supported by a gentle yet potent composition.  One of the album’s better moments; River, Black River is a confessional and broken-hearted thing: Our man has a resolve and determination; yet his body and mind seem weary and submissive.  Oh Celestine! begins with a soft and catchy beginning: Swooping and swooning in, the song grabs you from the off.  The song’s heroine is quite an intoxicating and beguiling thing: Capturing the hero’s heart, we get images and ideas of the central figure- someone who causes electricity and passion.  The song starts to accelerate and pick-up: The band joins the vocals; the composition gets more frantic and pressing- one of the album’s most energised and toe-tapping statements.  Another catchy and stunning cut; it is one of the album’s highlights.

Once I Was a Navy Man starts with some gentility and refrain.  Another of the slow-building numbers, the vocal is lower down the mix: Sounding almost echoed at times, it crackles with vintage beauty and potential.  Having been at sea for so many weeks, the crew is caught by surprise: A storm capsises the boat; the hero is stricken and in peril- the only soul “left alive”.  With its sleepiness and slow-moving vibe, it is a chance to reflect and stop: You get an opportunity to dive into the lyrics and images; immerse yourself in the song.  Rag Mama Rag clicks its heels and gets to the race rather impressively.  Starting with aching strings and a real sense of motivation, the vocal arrives on the scene- a song that introduces the Devil back in.  The lyrics are some of the album’s best: Looking at young whip-crackers and skin, bones and rocks- there is always a lingering threat and danger throughout.  The group chorusing is one of the song’s defining aspects: When they join in voice, you get the biggest sense of potency and urgency- this is true in the case of Rag Mama RagThe Captain is one of the most instantaneous and fast-talking numbers.  The speedy string and rushed vocals get the energy levels for.  Not wanting to work “for a wage no more”, our hero does not want to break his back- fed up with the rigours and harshness of the sea life.  Keeping us in the realms of the ocean and sea-faring ways; the band’s nautical imagination runs riot- giving us a spellbinding and dizzying array of characters and story.  After a short and memorable track; Yo’ Hair’s Too Long rocks up.  It has a similar compositional feel- when compared with the rest of the tracks- yet its lyrics differ slightly.  Our man has got into a fight: Having been concussed, the nurse says he will make it- there is a cute seduction that begins.  Trying to pick her up; the nurse does not favour the long-haired hero- get it cut and we can talk!  The band’s most humorous and charming numbers, you are always rooting for the befallen lead- hoping he will win the girl.  Getting his hair cut short; he hopes her mind is changed: When it comes to it, things have not changed.  Seemly unchanged and rather picky; she rejects him again- the band’s boys join the fray- and pushes him away.  By the end of the track you feel sorry for the lead- but leave with a smile on your face.  You’re My Woman seems more redemptive and hopeful- given how the penultimate track fared.  Beginning with a stately and dignified string opening, the song is one of the most Jazz-influenced tracks on the album.  Those brass elements define the track; give it its sense of momentum and movement- backing up the lead vocal with aplomb.  With a “taste for whiskey” and wine, our hero has not a penny to his name- that said, he is doing “fine”.  Letting the world “go to Hell”; the rivers dry, there is a matter-of-fact attitude to things- not really a care in the world.  Ending the track with its alcohol-inspired motifs; you are left with a closer that is befitting of the album- that mix of optimism and haunt; the stunning instruments and terrific vocals.

The band have developed since their E.P. days: The album here spreads their sound and shows them at full attack- each number resonates and hits the mark.  Perhaps it will not convert all music-lovers, yet has enough energy, quality and potential to sway a lot of minds- it will certainty please existing fans.  For those looking for something unique and special: Music that does not truck to market forces and tick corporate boxes- giving you something old-time and modern combined- then allow the Leeds band to do their work- and provide something genuinely different and special.  If you want to find a band that do not play by rules- and are too cool for school- then seek-out these chaps and…

MAKE your day brighter.


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Track Review: Manda- Criminals










Criminals is available at:

21st January, 2014

Pop; Soul


Los Angeles, U.S.A.


THIS is the second consecutive review…

looking at year-old music.  After yesterday’s study of Yearbook- a Hampshire-born Alternative band- I am now across the pond looking at Manda- a Swedish-born, L.A.-based artist.  Manda certainly stands out from the crowd: stunningly beautiful; the blonde hair and tattoos catch the eye; she is arresting and captivating- it is the music and voice that truly drops jaws.  There is a lot of emphasis on how musicians are presented and look- particularly for female artists- and as a result, there is this need to prove themselves.  I shall introduce Manda shortly, but for now, a few subjects/topics come to mind: European and U.S. music; reality T.V. shows and female solo artists.  A lot of my recent reviews have been around U.K.-based acts: It is nice to be able to travel somewhere foreign; study an artist that has quite an interesting background.  Although Manda is based in L.A.; she was born in Sweden: A nation that in itself is producing some tremendous music.  In addition to acts like Swedish House Mafia, The Cardigans and The Hives; we have Lykke Li, First Aid Kit and Robyn.  It is clear Sweden is no musical slouch: Some of the world’s most diverse and interesting artists come from here; some terrific acts are putting the country firmly on the musical map- rivalling the likes of the U.K. and U.S.  One thing that grabs me about Swedish music is the Pop and Electronic acts.  I have reviewed artists such as Say Lou Lou- an Electro.-Pop act from Sweden- who make majestic and seductive music.  Whilst the U.K. makes some great Pop music; Sweden seems to do it better- it is more nuanced and original; wide-ranging and colourful.  Maybe it is the environment and landscape of the nation; the personality of the people and their way of life- something most account for the terrific consistency and brilliance of their music.  Whatever it is, 2015 has seen some of its finest acts stamp out some wonderful music: Make impressions on the scene and promise great things for the year ahead.  In addition to great Swedish music, I am looking at L.A. – where Manda is based- and the artists coming out of the city.  California and L.A. are showcasing some scintillating and world-beating musicians: From Alterative/Rock bands and insatiable solo artists, it is one hell of a breeding ground.

There is a lot of community and competitiveness in L.A.; a range of different genes and claves- a vibrant and bustling city that is conducive to musical ambitions and wondrous sounds.   A lot of British media tends to focus too wholly on homegrown sounds; negating the flow and explosion of talent emanating from L.A. – we should all be more aware of what is happening here.  My featured act calls L.A. her home; is vibing from the city’s cultures and neighbourhoods; the inspiration it provides.  Manda was a finalist on Sweden’s X Factor in 2012, and since then, has been concentrating on a range of music/projects.  In addition to being a musician, Manda has a passion for fashion- as you can probably tell from looking at her.  On her blog/official website, Manda documents L.A. life and the everyday life of the city- the vibrancy and colour; bringing readers into her world.  I am not a big fan of reality T.V. shows- especially those that are music-based- and most of the winners and contestants lack originality; do not make great or interesting music- they do not last long and stay in the public consciousness.  Whether you subscribe to the view these shows foster and find the best new talent- I certainly can never accept this being a music purist- but there are some great artists that come out of the process.  Perhaps not the case in the U.K.; Sweden’s 2012 rostra has produced Manda: A genuinely fascinating artist that has a great sense of independence and style; a future star-in-the-making.  There are a lot of great female artists coming through, yet Manda seems to distinguish herself from the crowds: She does not instantly remind you of anyone else; the way she projects herself and her image are very much hers.  Predominantly she has cut her teeth tackling other artists’ songs: Making them her own and giving them a new and stunning spin.  Knowing there is going to be a future release and new music, I was compelled to check out the Swedish star; one of the most promising female solo artists in the world- someone who wants to make a big impact in music.  L.A. is producing a lot of great solo artists from all genres and avenues: It will be a challenge for Manda to rise above the fray; with her natural ability and strengths, she will certainly get there- someone I am keen to see perform in London.  It is not just her interpretive skills that wow me: The way her voice grips you and gets straight to the heart; the passion and energy infused into each track- few artists have such a natural affinity and ability.  Manda has a great songwriting and original talent too: Criminals shows just what she can come up with; I am sure this year (and 2016) will see the young Swede rising through the ranks and producing some new original music- showing the world just what she is capable of.  That beguiling and unique beauty is reflected in her voice and words; she has a compassion and connection with her fans- an unquenchable and endless passion for music.  In the City of Angels, music is seeing its fair share of divine artists: Would you bet against Manda going onto claim long-term success and adulation?  With few British faces familiar with her work, it is about time more here rectified this.

With Criminals being released last year; having performed cover versions and other tracks- the future will see Manda drop new sounds.  At the moment, we should judge her on Criminals and what is to come.   Previous singles such as Love-A-Holic (released shortly after Criminals) and Sweetest Heartbreak (a 2013 release) shows different side to Manda.  Although Criminals is her strongest cut; Sweetest Heartbreak is a stunning track that is upbeat and pumped-up.  Wrapped in a dizzy array of electronics and beats, it’s a track that compels listeners to stomp their feet and sing along.  Letting her voice pervade and soar, it is filled with energy and passion- showing Manda’s full vocal and songwriting range.  Love-A-Holic is more romantic and calmed: It is a cool and flowing track that has an infectious vocal and catchy chorus.  Perhaps more ‘traditional’ Pop moments- compared with Criminals sound- they see the artist showing how varied and talented she can be.  Manda has collaborated with other artists and proved a hugely versatile and adaptable artist: Her voice perfectly fits with hard and gritty tracks; those that are more serene.  It would be good to see Manda open a SoundCloud account- there may be one but cannot find it- that puts all her music/collaborations/covers in one place (at the moment they are on iTunes).  She has released some great singles and I believe preparing an album- although I might be wrong- so it is likely we will see these songs sit alongside one another perhaps?  What is certainly is the stunning Swede has a terrific songwriting mobility that sees her move between scenes and stories; tackle a host of topics with aplomb and full conviction.

It will be exciting to see what 2016 holds for the Swedish artist: Whether her new ambitions revolve around a full album or an E.P.; if some new singles will be released- the odd cover version too.  The past year has seen her recruit new followers and fans; spend time writing and performing in L.A. – plan her next moves and introduce her music to the wider world.  At the moment, few of us in the U.K. know about her sound: The majority of her fan-base is split between the U.S. and Sweden; more people here should be aware.  That will all change very soon, but for now, Criminals is a confident and stylish slice that fully exploits and showcases her voice; the urgency and commitment put into the music- the effect it has on the listener.  If it comes to comparing Manda will anyone else- drawing in other singers to the fold- there is a U.S. vibe to the vocals.  Sounding like it could easily settle alongside the best of the mainstream, there is plenty of soul and beauty to be found.  That said, no one name springs instantly to mind; Manda ensures that her unique and particular sound remains intact; there are little shades of U.S. Pop acts- nothing that is too obvious and counterfeit.  The music itself is quite populist and universal; again, there are little shades and slights that her peers do not possess- a perfect mix of ubiquity and individuality.

Criminals begins its defense with some tender and rousing piano.  Sounding romantic and insistent- with a gorgeous sense of serenity- it is a great way to beckon the track in.  Our heroine is putting up a front and investigating events- as the initial words come pouring out.  Making sure her voice remains firm and in-control, there are memories and questions of a drunken night: It seems her and (an unnamed man) had a regrettable encounter.  Whatever the situation- and however the coming-together occurred- it seems the heroine does “not regret it”- it is a rather unexpected sentiment, and something that intrigues and compels early-on.  That beautiful and strong piano line keeps flowing and pushing the song forward; the vocal is determined and imbued with soulful touches- maybe the drunken encounter was a fight the two had.  Whoever the hero is, it seems he is worth the fight and any stress: It seems people do not get their love; the reason they are together- they are being persecuted and judged unfairly; having to justify and explain themselves.  The early phases are definitely Pop-orientated and mainstream-sounding: Fans of current U.S. idols and singers will find some familiarities; those looking to dip their toes into the genre will find something accessible and impressive- a song and sound that is far sturdier and more fascinating than the majority of Pop songs.  Their love and relationship is instinctive and right; the people they are surrounded by are judging them like criminals- you start to wonder the history of the duo; what they have been through and the clashes they have faced.  It is clear the two have fiery and explosive personalities: There have been some blow-ups and explosions; some ill-tempered moments for sure- perhaps the odd break-up and flair-up.  The video for the song sees the pair frolicking and engaged in romantic surprise: It is all chaste and very touching; playful and happy- defining and italicising their innocence and togetherness; how made-for-one-another they are.  There are plenty of songs that look at taboo love and recriminations: The Pop market sees many examples present colour-by-numbers tales of we-shall-not-be-discouraged-in-our-love sentiments; they usually are over-dramatised and over-emotive- clichés flying all over the place.  Manda ensures her tale does not suffer such shortcomings: That controlled and stunning voice ensures the words and feelings hit the mark; the composition is sparse and gentle- you are forced to listen to the words and how much they mean (to Manda).  It is “incredible how low they’d go/just to shake us” our heroine tells: So-called ‘friends’ and communities tearing them apart and pouring poison.

Maybe the hero has a shadier or less appealing side; something a little unusual and distinct- someone who is not ordinary and they can’t handle that.  Were he just your average dull-as-dishwater guy; someone that was like everyone else- then the love would be solid; nobody would have an issue.  You feel the guy has a passion inside and is like our heroine: Someone that stands from the crowd and lives life differently; occasionally lets emotions come to the surface- at the end of it, a person that is dependable and romantic.  Ensuring the words remain simple and effective, you not only imagine and sympathise with the words; you have a song that so many people can relate to- how many of us have been in that same predicament?  That combination of illicit love and discouragement is something ubiquitous and universal: Manda has been through the emotions and survived and carried on- damned what anything thinks or says.  With that said, there is still emotion and some heartache: That desire to be accepted and people to be supportive- rather than see the bad in everyone.  By the time the chorus comes back around- and that lack of regret; the fight that was worth it- you have more insight and puzzle pieces.  The people- whether family or friends- were dumb to try and break them; foolhardy to stand in the way- they are being taken-down and scolded.  The passion and love the two has will overcome all the hurdles- it does not matter what anyone else says or does.  The song never really lets its temper flair until the 2:00 mark.  By the time the chorus comes to its end (second time around) you can hear an augmentation and gear change: The vocal gets more insistent and pressing.  Most Pop artists would needlessly through Dub-Step beats or huge electronics into the track- to express the heartache and desire- and muddle the song.  By doing that, it makes it too bracing and overpowering; it distills the messages and core.  Manda’s voice and songbook is in focus and will not be outshone.  The heroine will not “ask for permission” for the way she feels; there seems to be that suppression and need to rebel- people who keep on try to cause ruction and fracture.  A modern love-against-the-odds tale, it seems timeless in its definitions- it has shades of Romeo and Juliet and classic love stories- and everyone roots for a happy ending (for our pair).  At every stage of the song, you are sucked into that vocal performance which is always emotive and stunning- blending a distinct mix of Soul-cum-Pop; plenty of heart and grit.  The lovers are under “lock and key” and trying to break out of the prison- that need to run away and emancipate themselves.  In the final seconds our heroine makes her point known: she keeps asking questions about innocence and justice; why she is being treated this way- that anger and need to be understood.  It is evident the central lovers have had a chequered path and a hard road: By the song’s end, you wonder whether they will be okay; if they will ever manage to be accepted and be happy- or constantly have to fight and explain themselves.

It is rare to find a new Pop artist- for me at least- that has so much potential.  Criminals is a song that deals with some common themes and tried ideas- staying in a relationship people do not approve- but Manda presents something fresh and stunning; gives the theme new life and energy.  When reviewing Rock and Alternative bands, I find myself become a little repetitive- the vocabulary and adjectives do not vary much- but with Manda new ideas, words and phrases zing to mind; her music provokes clear imagery and some rather vivid possibilities.  Great music should do this: Make the listener think beyond the lyrics.  With terrific production and a fantastic composition, Criminals really comes to life: It is a song that remains interesting throughout; rarely does it remind you too fully on anyone else- that said, there are some nice evocations of existing U.S. acts.   With Manda’s strong, passionate and soulful voice reigning; you get a track that is strong enough to please Pop-lovers- in addition to recruiting new fans and those who bridle at the genre.  Maybe not quite strong enough to completely reinvent Pop; Criminals is a stunning and honest song that does not hide or shrink: It screams its intentions and has such a huge amount of force and nuance.  I have been playing the song over and finding new treasures and possibilities- it all bodes well for future releases.  If the Swedish star is planning an E.P., it would be good to see some Criminals-esque tracks- that look at forbidden love and battle-against-the-odds.  I know Manda has a full and vibrant palette; her writing and ambition could see her tackling all manner of topics- she is not an artist contented to just stick with love/relationships.  If you are new to Manda and her music; take a dive and discover an artist that will be more synonymous in 2016- and brighten a rather too-close-to-Monday afternoon.

Having assessed a lot of bands and male artists lately, I am pleased to have the chance to review and study a great solo artist: Someone who has a clear desire to succeed and develop; an artist that is writing new material and planning a fresh assault.  Her online portfolio is expanding and her fan numbers if increasing: With each passing week, she is recruiting new followers and attention.  Criminals was released nearly two years ago, yet it shows how effective and impressive Manda can be: A song that is both instant and memorable; it takes a few listens to really get to the bottom of it- that central voice is certainly one of the most immediate you will witness.  Before I round up, I want to return to my earlier points regarding international music and female artists; talent shows and the state of music.  One of the most important parts of music is encouraging and promoting great solo artists.  That side of things is suffering a little lack of fortune and quality: The mainstream especially has few genuinely great solo musicians.  Aside from the established and well-known solo acts, the newer examples coming through are quite uncertain and patchy.  New music is perhaps more reliable when it comes to quality and distinction: The female artists are especially stand-out and formidable.  Whereas the chaps still tend to stick with the acoustic-guitar-and-heartache parables; the girls are more endeavouring and explorative: Not just confining themselves to something singular and predictable.  Manda is a Soul/Pop voice that is going to develop and flourish.  Her itinerant and prolific posts- on her official website- show an agile and curious young woman; someone who wants to see the world and experience all it holds- this will come through in her music and musical ambitions.  Her eye-catching tattoos and colourful and stunning fashion sense shows an artist that could never be boring: Manda has a distinct flair and spark; something that should/could not be extinguished.  Having reviewed the likes of ADI- a similar artist when it comes to looks and style- and you can tell whether an artist will make it or fall.  The solo scene (in the underground) is promising some tantilising and glistening talent.  I have had my head in British music recently and have neglected the joys of U.S. music.  Manda’s Swedish heritage and personality comes out in the music; L.A. has inspired and compelled the young heroine- the difference and diversity of the city has propelled and captivated Manda.  I am always going to loathe and be against talent shows that deal with music: Most of the contestants in this country want fame and money; you do not need to go on a talent show to make it in music- it is an easy route and rather cheapens what other musicians are going through.  This is not the case for Manda who does not want the trappings and cheapness of fame: She is dedicated to music alone and making sure people hear her voice and love.  Three years from her finalist slot on ‘X Factor, she is now embarking on a new material and projects; next year will be a hallmark one for her: A chance for the music world to witness her in full flight; see how that voice and ambition translates in the studio.  Being familiar with her cover material and Criminals– and the way she can own any song she takes on- I am excited and pumped for her.  Taking all my points into consideration; the dominance of the band market still- it is always vital to make sure great solo artist get a platform and a chance to shine.  Music is such a tough and challenging industry; something that demands full-time commitment and dedication- it means a lot of sacrifice and due diligence.  Manda is not an artist that simply puts the music out there and expects it to grow and succeed.  Keeping busy with fashion and blogging; all avenues of lifestyle commentary and business.  A curious and intelligent mind; Manda is sure to see her curiosity and dedication pay off- the next year will be very important indeed.  Criminals may just be a window into her music and talent; a brief snatch of what is to come- it certainly shows what she is about; just how much ammunition she has at her disposal.  If you are looking about for a solo artist that has a clear desire for big-time success, then keep your eyes on the multi-coloured and vivacious Manda.  I am excited to see how far she can go and whether an E.P./album is going to be dropped soon- I am sure we will be told more in due course.  For now, I am going to say goodbye to L.A. and Sweden- the great music and beautiful views they provide- and see what is coming next.  I am encouraged to think music could grow and surprise next year: There are so many promising and exceptional artists coming through, it is going to be really exciting to see that unfold.  For a Sunday that is dangerously close to Monday; the final hours of work freedom- we all need some escape and something to get lost in.  With that in mind, have a listen to Manda at her best.  Someone we will all be hearing more from…

AS the new year gets ever-close.


Follow Manda:







Track Review: Yearbook- Old Bones






Old Bones





Old Bones is available at:




Hampshire, U.K.

The E.P. Old Bones is available from:


Old Bones– 9.4


We Are Strangers9.3

Classic Literature9.4

Time Management9.3



                Old Bones; Rope; Classic Literature


Old Bones


March 5th, 2014


I am a bit late to this particular party…

but plan to make up for lost time.  Yearbook are a band that have been making moves and music for a while now: One of the south’s finest up-and-coming acts; they have gained the ear of critics and fans- being hailed as a band to watch.  In November the boys play Boileroom: Supporting Black Peaks; it is a gig I will try and check-out- see the band in the flesh, do their thing.  Before I get to review them- and Old Bones’ self-titled track- I am back looking at the band market; young bands in the south- critical expectations and the coming year.  When it comes to all-male bands, the sounds they play- with the exception of the minority- tend to play with the harder end of the spectrum.  Over the course of this year, I have seen some great bands come through; a lot of memorable and sparkling brands- the boys have been making some interesting sounds throughout 2015.  This year has seen everyone from Blur and Panda Bear make some stunning albums; some of my favouite new bands- Allusondrugs and Los (and the) Deadlines- come up with some great material.  I have oft-derided the band market- in the mainstream largely- for being a little samey and limited- lacking necessary originality and surprise; that spark that captures the imagination.  The best albums/moments of this year- and with the Mercury’ nominees announced- have been created by solo artists (and some great duos): The band dollar has been a little fluctuating and stagnant.  If you look at the Mercury Prize nominees, you get a lot of solo/duo nods- from Gaz Coombes to Florence’; Slaves to Ghostpoet- with only a few band examples.  I think Wolf Alice will steal the prize on the night- would be good to see Coombes or Florence’ get the award- but my point remains this: Our mainstream solo acts are starting to gather a lot of the attention and press inches.  The lone stars have to work harder and seem more motivated: As a result, their music is more innovative and cross-pollinating; genre-splicing and bold.  If you look beneath the mainstream gleam and N.M.E.-recommended examples, how many truly great bands can you name (that are original and stick in the mind)?  For my money, it is the new/underground acts that are most impressive: Those playing the small music venues and are as-yet unsigned seem to be providing some excitement- I have reviewed a lot of wonderful and variegated bands.  From New York and L.A. riff-kings to Australian mixology mistresses, there is a wealth of wonderful groups out there- the competition is stiff and rife.  Living just outside of London, I am naturally curious of local bands: Which are worth investigating and hailing; which should be discarded- those that are a little undeveloped but have potential.  With 2016 almost upon us, there are eyes scanning the musical horizons: Which acts are going to be recommended and proclaimed?  Which will be under-the-radar secrets?  The Hampshire-via-Surrey collective Yearbook are a band that have caused me some excitement: publications like Kerrang! have extolled the virtues of their ear-seducing sounds; the attention and detail they put into their music- the sheer range and quality of their music.  The boys are keeping some cards to their chest- their social media biographies are sparse; letting the music fill the gaps- but before I carry on, they consist:

Andrew Ian Halloway– Lead Vocals/Guitar
Hamish Dickinson-
Thomas Brooker-
Lead Guitar/Backing Vocals
Louis Martin
– Bass

The kinship and tightness of the quartet is evident in their music: Each song showcases the boys’ understanding and intuition; the consideration and hard work they put into their agenda- without the music sounding over-rehearsed and sterile.  Last year, the band released their E.P. Old Bones: the reviews came in highlighted the raw vocals and guitar wizardry of Halloway; the interplay and guidance of Martin (bass) and Brooker (lead guitar; backing vocal)- the backbone and rudder of Dickinson.  Some reviews have been a little nose-thumbing and under-appreciative: some blogs have looked at a lack of inventiveness and an effects-heavy reliance; one or two underwhelming tracks- those that truly listen have picked up on the E.P.’s merits and strengths.  Old Bones is not a record you can say lacks originality and focus; it is bristling with bends and left-turns; Progressive-Rock drama and literary references.  With shades of (and for fans of) Lower Than Atlantis and Straight Lines, the inventive quartet created something for the modern age: Songs that stun you on a first listen; reveal new beauties and nuance further down the line- songs that are made for gigs and touring.  The boys were compelled by the touring regime and mixed fortunes on their travels: The songs are born out of frustrations and tireless work; the passion that goes into making music.  Before I review the music- and raise another little point- it is note-worthy mentioning the attention the boys put into the music.  In addition to the intelligent and varied lyrics- which range from historic name-dropping to fist-aloft statements of intent- the actually make-up of the music is fascinating.  When it came to recording the E.P., the lads filmed some ‘making of’ vignettes: Showing just how each instrument/component fits in, it was great to see a band letting the listener into the creative process- The Dead Weather recently did something similar; de-compartmentalising their creative process and giving inspiration to young up-and-coming musicians.  I think a lot of critics and press tend to assume bands have it very easy: They swan around and record a few songs; drop them into the ether- expect recognition and fame to fall at their feet.  The reality couldn’t be further from the truth: From relentless touring and mixed-blessing crowds; the huge financial burdens and stresses- following a passion of music could age and deter the best of them.  For that reason, we should celebrate those that put the graft in- not just to their work-rate but the music itself.  Although Yearbook are still in their infantile stages, they are a band that have a clear future.  Although their music is perhaps more durable in small venues and on the too-cool-for-school radio stations, they certainly have mainstream appeal: Their songs are varied and open enough to draw in all sorts of music-lovers and fans; it does not exclude anyone.  In addition to a November Boileroom gig, I am sure the four-piece have ambitions for the next year: It would be good to see a new E.P. or albums- perhaps a single dropped in there- and many eyes will be trained their way.

Although Old Bones compels some archaeological digging and investigation- shall stop with the bone-related analogies- their first real release was All Squares and Circles.  Unveiled back in 2010, the five-track release is an ambitious and fully-formed debut effort.  Have Patience starts with a pitter-patter percussive slam; some funky and hypnotic bass- emotive and dramatic vocals.  The vocals are insistent and urgent, yet are not over-emotive and false.  Wanting to “medicate myself from you” there is clear anxiety and a need for disentanglement.  Staying up “way too late” our hero has his share of scars and regrets: That desire to be free from a shackle; having been played and let down too many times.  The entire band is focused and exceptional throughout- the composition snakes and progresses as the song goes on- and the composition has so much depth and detail.  Unthink is more slow-building and evocative- not the instant attack of its predecessor.  Wanting to “adjust to your smile” again we are under the wheels or a dilemma.  The weapons-grade body- the song’s femme fatale possesses- is causing anxiety and anger; our front-man lets his voice climb and emote freely.  Another concentrated and disciplined track, it is that band unity that defines the mood.  The guitar enflames and stabs when needed; the percussion is relentlessly purging and searching.  It is perhaps the bass parts that provide most fascinating: Elastic and dirty; snaking and melodic- so much colour and range is explored throughout the song.  The title track is perhaps the E.P.’s most immediate and compelling cut: A song that begins with some personal doubts and matter-of-fact lyrics- it soon explodes into a demonic and animalistic beast.  The vocal screams and exorcises; the song becomes a stabbed and bleeding thing- stumbling and staggering with fury.  That quiet-loud dynamic keeps things unpredictable and exciting: It is a song designed for the sweating crowds; a mosh pit favourite that is designed to get bodies slamming against one another.  Fingertips In juxtaposes the previous number: A softer and more emotive start, the composition stutters and judders along; the vocal runs a gamut of emotions- an harsh break-up is being surveyed and ripped open.  Echoed vocals and a hugely exhilarating team performance keep the E.P. at its peak of desire and ambitious- that raw Punk edge blends perfectly with more melodic and introverted calm.  3’s and 6’s marries a dizzying introduction with an anthemic sound.  The track’s initial moments largely consist of wordless vocals and electioneering sonics- leading to the E.P.’s most memorable lyrics.  Slugs and snails (and puppy-dog tails) are “what little boys are made of”- girls are made of stronger stuff.  The reverse-sexism-cum-nursery-rhyme-cuteness is reintroduced and spun: A mantra that becomes more inflammatory and raging with each presentation.  Delicious strings; hissing percussion and rhythmic (and authoritative) bass give the song a richness and nuance.  Xylophones and child-like chimes sit with unadulterated passion and fervor-resulting in a perfect swansong.  A terrific initial E.P., the boys have since gained new confidence and quality: Old Bones sounds more varied and experimental; more wide-ranging and compelling.  That said; you cannot ignore the effects and wonders of All Squares and Circles.  Even in the earliest days, the band sound completely assured and vital: You can tell how much each song means; how much passion and attention goes into every moment.  Over four years, the quartet keep their core sound and themes in tact; they expand and augment their qualities in Old Bones– a natural progression that saw them galvanise and come up with their best set to date.

I shall examine its maternal origins later, but I wanted to concentrate on the E.P.’s golden child: The stunning and entrancing sounds of Old Bones.  The initial electronic distortion and discombobulation that opens the track puts me in mind of Progressive-Rock- a little bit of Radiohead’s Karma Police (the final moments of that song).  Building gradually, you lean into the speakers and wonder what is coming next; the song’s early tease and mystery is enticing and ear-grabbing- before jumping into a self-help/Spoken Word parable.  A predictably un-emotive and robotic sound- not sure who provided the vocal, yet it nails the inhuman sounds of self-help tapes- the voice speaks of lows and self-doubts; fears and clarities- at the sapling stages, echoes of Pink Floyd come out (not sure if they were on the band’s mind when writing the song).  Right away, you are studying this list of fears and doubts; the guidance and motivational quotes- before that anodyne voice is drowned-out but a band ready to kick out the jams.  The percussion leads the army into war: The composition is a canine attack that transposes the initial segment’s calm and composure- the composition has embers of ‘Britpop’ anthems and more current Alternative Rock.  Having had your head inside a self-help-style verse, you now have your senses re-organised and spiked- the urgency and primitive pummeling washes away the early faux-sentiments.  The guitars, bass and drums are strong and forceful from the off- this track is one that is highlighted in reviews for the E.P.- and once more demonstrates Yearbook’s unity and performance talent.  Evoking memories of ‘90s glories- there are even little touches of Grunge thrown into the mix- the boys are very much stepping up to the plate.  The bass notes mingling dirty and concrete with some genuine emotional resonance and colour- it works well with the guitar and drum to whip up a storm of sounds.  Initial lines see our hero in apologetic mood: Sorry for the “way I’m always leaving”, it is almost a confessional sermon- a regretful and earnest plea to his girl.  Whatever the reason for his flight-or-flight instincts, there is no instant explanation: Only the revelation that the absence means an “empty space in your bed”.  A lot of bands are not quite as sensitive and honest in similarly-themed songs- maybe in an ironic way; the girls are a little more compassionate- so it is refreshing to hear Old Bones raise some new qualities- and create something tremulous and soul-bearing.  It is hard to overlook the electricity and tormented nature of the vocals: High-octane and genuine, you feel empathy and sympathy for our lead (strangely, perhaps).  Initial abandonment seems to be the result of travel or touring- perhaps a musician’s insight into real life- and the distance between the two is justified by pillow talk and electricity.  If the lovers are separated by continents and oceans, their feelings and passions transcend the loneliness of their predicaments- you can hear that desire and passion in the vocal clearly (the composition is a lustful and impassioned outpouring).  I get little glimpses of Manic Street Preachers when the vocal reaches fever-pitch- the compositional and instrumentation has little shades of their Everything Must Go work.  A lot of bands include lyrics on their website if the song suffers clarity issues- shoddy mixing or poor production- yet Yearbook’s tones and notes are clear and crisp- whilst sounding almost like a live recording.  It is astonishing to see the amount of detail (a word I use a lot) and diversions in the composition.  Fuzzed-out guitar sits with twanging and hungry bass; riffled and militaristic drums cut through the mist- it is such an evolving and interchangeable beast.  Ensuring the song never becomes boring or tired, the boys ensure there are no weak or ineffective moments.  After the initial honesty and affection- marked by a distinct tonal shift in the composition- things become more recriminating and soured.  Whether enforced by arguments and disenchantment, the vocals are more spiked and dark.  If our man is following passion and sacrificing self; it seems his beau is suffering petulance and immaturity- maybe not being as accommodating and understanding as she should.  Having stopped taking her pills- as they’re “making you ill”- things are unraveling and disintegrating.  There is a been-there-seen-it fatigue in the lyrics- it seems this act has been tried a few times; a relationship that has seen its share of fall-out- and a weariness in the vocals.  Perhaps the intercontinental drift and musical itinerary is a dream; the reality is an anchor and fallback- there is a sense of resignation and limitation throughout.  The sexual passions do not burn and explode: The relationship is perfunctory and unspectacular; they are one another’s fallback plan.  Whilst our man is mired in anger and dissatisfaction, his spiraling sweetheart is a fiery and troubled mind- someone who’s silver spoon is tarnishing and copper-coloured.  The twin lead and compositional strengths- at every stage the band’s instruments create their own weight and shades- give the track a real power and urgency.  The song is a constantly-shifting animal- from the quirky start to the softer verse; the more-bitter sentiments are unfolding.  I was exhilarated by the how-many-arms-does-that-due-have?! drumming work; bowled-over by the addled and intoxicated guitar buzz; positively stunned by the buzz and command of the bass.  Each player supports one another- the drum compels and drives the bass; the bass inspires the guitar; the vocal vibes from this linkage- and it results in a song that never relents its grandeur and unexpectedness.  Past the half-way point, the compositional has done its work; the story carries on- hitting its most mordant and submissive point.  It is said- and referencing the song’s title- we are just “old bones/Waiting to decompose”- an image and sentiment that provokes some rather bleak and stark images.  Perhaps having seen the flame of dreams snuffed-out, our hero is resigned to his fate- perhaps ‘real life’ and the day-to-day is all we can rely on.  Even when the words become defeatist and ho-hum, the composition remains burnishing and inventive.  Contrasting the central themes/mood, the instrumentation ensures there is plenty of energy and endeavor- no shortage of colour and light.  After the haunting proclamations- old bones and decomposition- the boys ensure Old Bones ends with a little swagger and wiggle.  The guitar’s leather-clad cocksure cool combines with guiding and white-hot percussion drive- throw in some valiant and stand-out bass notes- give the song memorable dying embers.  Ensuring we end with a bang, Old Bones completes its campaign- and compels you to come back for more; a song that makes you go back in- its nuances and complexities beg for fond investigation and repeated study.

With Halloway, Brooker, Dickinson and Martin completely united and exceptional, it is hard to find any fault of weak moment.  Old Bones is brilliantly produced and mixed- ensuring nothing is watered-down or mixed-down- and the song has so much to recommend.  The lead vocals are instilled with so much conviction and passion throughout: whether protesting for common ground or spitting with venom, they are compelling and stunning.  Never sounding too much or too little, you get a perfect blend of technique, passion; power and nuance- with each play you spot little details in the vocal.  The percussion is something that is octopus-like and avalanching: Whipping-up so much hardness and masculinity, you get ample amounts of technique and composure- Dickinson (on percussion) blends perfectly with Halloway throughout.  The guitar work of Halloway and Brooker is impressive and strong, yet does not stand out as much as the drums and bass.  An exceptional amount of emotion and rhythm; intelligence and style is elicited in the bass parts.  Martin not only shows his mastery of the instrument; he combines wonderfully and keep the song level and disciplined at every stage- ensuring it never runs away and loses its focus.  The entire band ensure Old Bones’ title track sticks in the mind: It is hardly surprising it is a standout from the E.P.; a song that shows the Hampshire band at their very best.

Old Bones– the song and E.P. – reflects a band who put their hardest efforts and passions into the music.  Having toured and toiled relentless- I am sure their gig schedule still has the odd ‘challenging’ date- it would be good to see them sojourn to the studio; capitalise on that raw and nuanced gem- produce a sophomore E.P. that cements their reputation and fantastic songwriting.  The Yearbook structure does not rely on the front-man or one facet: Each component is vital- from the music to the lyrics- and the there are no egos at play.  Each player has full respect for each other; the songs are as a result of shared appreciation and understanding- few bands have such a tight and compelling sound.  Before I give a ‘mini-review’ of the E.P; I am going to sum up my points- relating to the band and music itself.  The mainstream is putting a lot of attention towards/currency in the solo acts: It would nice to see some genuinely scintillating and long-lasting bands emerge and prosper- in addition to the ones we have at the moment.  From Royal Blood to Deerhunter, we have some wonderfully original and merit-worthy bands around- those that are immune to the worst instincts of critical pens.  I am exciting about the underground music scene: Being connected with various venues and record labels, I get to see so many great acts emerge and seduce- those that could be festival favourites in years to come.  Yearbook are a band with no shortage of ammunition and confidence: Their songs do not suffer fatigue and lack of ideas- they uncover new insights over time; showcase a rare songwriting talent.  Old Bones is an E.P. that drops with dedication and love: The sheer joy and importance of making music; the hard and sweaty riffs; the sweet and ear-catching bass- topped with primal vocals and some heart-pounding percussive support.  If you have not encountered the innovative young band, make sure you follow their progress; see them at Boileroom in November- Old Bones is a testament of their abilities and acumen; a sign of things to come.  With that in mind- and seeing how the band’s year will pan out- there are some expectant ears and excited fans.  Whether they craft another E.P.; decide to expand over the course of an album- or dedicated themselves to some solid touring- there is certainly a fan-base out there.

Ropes is Old Bones’ second track: Following from the title track, we get something that is instant and insistent.  The track fires from the blocks and shows a consistency and intrigue throughout.  The band is tight and compelling as always; the lyrics look at break-down and holding on.  You can feel the hopelessness and strain in every lyric.  The band brings in biblical imagery and clever wordplay to score a song that sees two lovers going through the motions.  The walks between the bed and wardrobe are marathon-like; the heart and soul are empty and exsanguinated- pure silence where once there was energy and love.  Showing how deft and ingenious their lyrics can be; Ropes is one of the E.P.’s most stunning set of lyrics- some of Old Bones’ most haunting and unsettling lines.  There are funereal scenes and we-gave-it-our-best-shot haunt- by the end, you are emotionally rung and exhausted.

We Are Strangers boasts the E.P.’s most insistent and hard-hitting composition.  The drums are animal-like and rollicking; the boys are having fun on this one- you can hear how dedicated they are to the material.  One of the E.P.’s standout moments, the lyrics look (once more) at relationship imbalance and doubts.  Our lead is plagued by doubts and expectations: He has lost his dreams and is a shell of what he was; his lover is his secret- some self-pity and realism comes into play.  Never sounding too precious and false, the lyrics and vocals are delivered with conviction and reverence.  The song is perhaps not the E.P.’s finest moment; it does however affirm the band as a force to be reckoned with- another track that is designed to ignite and get the crowds singing along with pride.

Classic Literature is a symphony of pained vocals and Progressive-Rock riffs: sky-scarping and epic, the song starts with an immense bang.  Showcasing some primo screamed vocals, you cannot deny the importance and emotion at play- how much anger and resentment there is.  Whoever the heroine is- whether she is the same figure across all the tracks- she is certainly someone that causes pain (bit of a bitch by the sounds of things).  Our lead is in the eye of a hurricane; fighting demons and inner-turmoil, he lets his anger and vitriol spew with abandon.  Whereas the song’s first half investigates fall-out and resentments; a few clichés here and there- heart being kept in a box; being tied up in knots- the second half is a different affair.  Time is reset and the relation starts a-new.  Walking to Hardcore territory, the vocal delivery is at its most insistent and pained.  The final refrain- “I am Napoleon/I’m changing the rules on you”- is intriguing and fascinating.  The band likes to weave historical and religious imagery into things- perhaps our man has a Napoleon complex himself?- but the imagery here is fantastic and evocative.

Time Management is the E.P.’s penultimate number- quite a little beauty at that!  I have seen a couple of reviews that have noted it is bordering on filler- tosh and bollocks.  From its calm and riparian introduction- replete with tripping percussion- it is one of the band’s most accessible and memorable numbers.  Highlighting their most curious and noteworthy set of lyrics- “There must be more to us than the things we can’t escape” is perhaps the E.P.’s defining statement- the boys notch up the offensive.  Although not straying far from the shores of broken love and personal hollowness, they present their ‘comfort zone’ with new light.  Multi-tracked and duel vocals add potency and layers; the composition is one of the most fertile and detailed- changing pace and conjecture at will.  Our lead is caught between two minds really.  He is not sure he needs her (the girl) and is positively apathetic at times.  That said, there is a yearning and need that bubbles under the surface.  These emotional contradictions and murky agendas show a man whose heart is undecided- one of the E.P.’s most interesting manifestations.  Consistently dramatic and driving, the song end beautiful- you think it has stopped it has died but comes back for one final dive (like Carrie rising from the water).

A lot of bands- when it comes to E.P.s- do not realise your final number needs to be one of your best.  The golden rules of track listings are: Put one of your ‘top three’ songs up-top; make sure the middle is strong enough to sustain interest- end with one of your best cuts (ideally finish with your finest number).  I see too many E.P.s that violate these rules; end with a damp and forgettable track- puts their best numbers too far up the mix.  Whereas Yearbook begins with one of their finest jams- in the top three for sure- they ensure they wrap things up with a sizzler.  Already Heard- an online music blog- labelled Sinker thus:  “…less an echo of Brand New circa 2006 than a second-rate copy à la tribute band. Vocal mannerisms, song structure and instrumental arrangement all mirror Lacey and cohorts to an almost laughable degree, but much like B-movies borrow the conventions of blockbuster cinema and vulgarize them, it doesn’t inherently make it a bad track.”  Aside from the grammar errors and off-topic tangents, I would disagree with their conclusions and assumptions.  The band might want to send the review a package of dog mess in the post, but Sinker does not sink- it swims sublimely.  The lyrics show paranoia and fear.  Our lead’s heroine seems infatuated and obsessed with her man; there is a slightly unnerving edge to things.  The guitars, bass and drums really come into their own here.  The guitar work is riffled and exhilarating throughout; the drumming varied and mutational- matching and mirroring the lyrical/vocal needs.  The bass does not sit back and simply play away: It creates its own gravity and personality- the best bass work across the album, perhaps.  When the vocal rises and reaches boiling point- when our hero feels his head is taken-over; his bed too claustrophobic- that is when you realise the words are not hollow and forced.  The pained and defeated vocals show a man pummeled by attrition: His life is being controlled by an unwanted woman; someone who cannot take ‘no’ for an answer.  As visceral and overt as anything across the E.P. it ensures Old Bones ends on a high- Already Heard need to clean the wax out of their ears!

I am a year late to the Yearbook party; I have enjoyed dipping into their divine E.P. – I will make sure I review them when they come to Boileroom.  I would not say my time keeping is completely without fortune: It gives new listeners and fans a chance to seek-out a wonderful young band- one whose best days are still ahead.  Old Bones fizzes and entices from first to last; containing so much passion and range, there is something for everyone.  Above all, the lads showcase themselves as one of the scene’s most potential-filled bands- one who will be playing the high-profile festivals in years to come.  Whilst they decide what moves they make next, I would advise they put pen to paper- it would be great to hear another E.P.  In a scene that promises few genuinely great bands, make sure Yearbook are part of your rotation.  With that being said, think it is time…

TO give the E.P. another spin!


Follow Yearbook:











Track Review: Bird- Thrill Me






Thrill Me





Thrill Me is available at:

27th July, 2015




The album Figments of Our Imagination is available from:


Girl Can’t Decide9.4

Thrill Me9.5

The Dare9.5



Small Town9.4


Love Love Love9.3

Drink Drink Drink9.3

Think So9.4


Girl Can’t Decide; Thrill Me; The Dare; Think So


Thrill Me


September 18th, 2015


AFTER a week reviewing the boys- and my D.J. set next week featuring male-dominated sounds- it…

is great to be back with the girls: Starting with one of our best and most undervalued solo acts.  Despite having a common moniker, Bird is anything but: Her Alternative-Pop musings infuse raw emotion and sparkling wordplay; some real emotion and vibrant sounds- all melted together in a head-rushing boiling pot.  There is always some fear and hesitation when reviewing a new solo act.  I have said it before and will say it again: The solo realm is one of the most uncertain and patchy there is- not really producing as much quality as it should.  With the Mercury Prize nominees revealed- and it being composed of a lot of great bands- it makes you wonder about the solo market; just how dependable it is- how many truly wonderful artists there are out there.  One of the biggest issues- when it comes to ratiolising this slight- is the media dominance of band promotion.  Their sights are always trained to the bands coming through- maybe overlooking the solo acts- as the band market pulls in the most money.  Although there are some great groups out there, it would be unfair to say most solo work out there is lackluster and inferior: Bird proves what can happen when you really listen; give the listeners what they want- take them to a very special place.  I shall come to her soon; but for now, I am interested in the female solo sector: What sounds are coming through; expectations for 2016; the balance of power in the music industry.  On that first point- and when we look at the girls of new music- there is a dazzling array of ideas if scintillating.  There are a great number of Electro.-Pop artists- each providing their own insight into the genre- and seducing listeners with ease.  Just in London alone there are so many great Electro. acts: From NINA to Ivy & Gold- two acts I have reviewed before- they cover a wide spectrum; if you open your eyes and minds, you can discover so much.  What I find with male acts- as opposed to their female counterparts- is the limitations and realities.  There are a lot of great Folk/Pop acts (male) but there are fewer that really spread their wings- fuse genres and cover a wide variety of sounds.  Whilst the men are better at Rock-orientated sounds, their portfolio is not as gleaming and ambitious as the girls- who showcase a nimbleness and adaptability that is inspiring a lot of new acts.  The girls are masters of Soul and Pop; they are effortless and timeless when blending their voices into electronic compositions- I am probably not doing them a great justice.  My point is, the solo market should not feel deflated and overlooked: New musicians are showing just how good they are; in time they will rise to the mainstream- claim glory and give the industry a good kick.  The next year is looking rather positive: What I have heard this year has been the finest for a while; there have been so many great acts coming through the ranks- possible headliners for next year’s festivals.  What has been apparent- that was missing over the last few years- is the songwriting talent and the compositional ambition.  From reviewing a whole host of acts- from around the world and across the genres- is the quality and urgency that comes out.  In past years there has been a lot of vague and disposable music: This year so many long-lasting and wondrous artists have come through.  Chocolate-scented Soul lamentations have nestled alongside rampant and primal Rock gems; effervescent and crowd-uniting Pop and heart-melting Folk stylings- 2015 has rather spoiled us.  So what of next year?  Bird is one artist that could well be a key player in the market- a regular of the radio playlists and a festival darling.  Already garnering hot reviews- from the national newspapers, underground blogs and…well, me– you have an army of media lovers behind her.  The press have compared (Bird) with Ellie Goulding and Sia; the cream of the modern Pop crop- that would do her a disservice.  I guess we need to levy comparisons to give the listener- sometimes untrained and ingénue- a guidance and starting-point- I feel Bird have advantages of her gilded peers.  Her instrumentation and nuanced compositions- a noteworthy and regular review standout- is something that behold; the vocals surpass cliché and easy comparison- such a seamless mix of sweet and impassioned; strong determination and some fragile edges.  Janie Price- the woman behind the bird- is one of the most intuitive and accomplished musicians around at the moments: Her music is lauded for its inventiveness and fusions; how she mixes old and new- music you cannot quite put your finger on.  Not conventional as Pop; not as honed as Electronica; not quite Alternative- some wonderful and beautiful sub-breed that is wowing audiences with its multifarious plumage and glistening teeth; its incredible speed and immense ability (quite an odd freak of a hybrid there!).  Figments of Our Imagination is Bird’s daring and brilliant new L.P.: Just looking at the track-listing wets the appetites.  From Drink Drink Drink to Love Love Love and Lucky– almost a story and romantic entanglement in itself- you get a little window into its tales and torments; its humour and passions- just what is in store.  I shall investigate the album some more- towards the end of the review- but it seems Bird is wowing and buckling critical knees- and rightfully so!

Before I look at Thrill Me– and pick-apart Figments of Our Imagination– I am going to look back: See how far the young songwriter has come; how her modern work stacks up against older tracks- and what developments have occurred.

   Girl and a Cello arrived (six years ago now- following her debut album).  It all begins with the instrument in question: Building from sparse and classical foundations, the mini-L.P. runs a gamut of avenues and moments- never resting with one sound or way of thinking.  Songs like Bad Connection are more funked-up and dancey: Price showing how varied and stretching she can be- whilst keeping her core sound set and firm.  Some Boys’ tongue-in-cheek sexuality- a play on The Smiths’ Some Girls Are Bigger Than Others perhaps? – sees the young artist playing with seediness and seductiveness.  Elsewhere, 18 looks at flashbacks and youthful desires; High Price looks at more staunch and harder issues- perhaps the album’s most angry and serious moment.  The collection sees Bird tackle Pixies’ Debaser– turning its demented and animalistic yowls into something more composed- and gives it a breath of fresh air.  The entire collection shows how Bird can keep a central and distinct sound firm: Mixing in harder edges and different genres; she manages to captivate the listener with her incredible voice and undeniable commitment.

   Some Boys E.P. arrived next- and was a step up from her previous work.  Released in 2009 too, its Some Boys/20 Days combination (there was an alternative version of Some Boys too).  Skipping and dancing; the title track is joined by Bird’s vocals- transposing and reinterpreting The Smiths’ classic.  Beautifully suited to her voice, our heroine gives the song a new lease of life- making it sound fresh and her own.  Backed by a sparse spiraling string- some basic percussive beat- it is just the voice and words: Bird is in control and completely intoxicating here.  20 Day is just as affecting and memorable: The young artist is urgent and commanding; confident and spellbinding- ensuing punch and panache is packed into a short space of time.  A natural bedmate to her existing work, Some Boys E.P. provided a step forward in terms of confidence and authority: Never had she sounded as meaningful and blissful.  Whether it is a single, E.P. or an album; Bird shows just how strong she is; how adaptable and diverse, too.

  The Dare is one of Bird’s more recent cuts- it dates back to earlier this year.  The track mixes some fuzz and static with a strumming and tender acoustic guitar strum.  Bird’s vocals come into the fray quickly.  Words speaking of playing the game and being the same; on the edge of a concrete ledge- it all puts vivid images in the mind.  Although someone is calling out, our heroine is on the edge- and looking down.  Perhaps she is daring someone- that she can survive or go right to the edge- and that tense and unpredictability is echoed in the composition.  The vocals begin punctuated and carefully deployed; as the song develops- along with the composition- they accelerate and rush: The track gets more frantic and fast-paced; taking the listener along with it.  It is hard to compare the song with another- or any other artist freely- as it has a unique and impressive skin.  It dips and climbs; stops and starts: That momentum and unpredictable energy is what makes it so gripping.  The refrain (that begins) “Is it nearly over?’ is repeated like a mantra: A haunting and intriguing deceleration that produces all sorts of emotions and possibilities.  An impressive and hugely memorable track, Bird much she progressed and how confident she sounds.   In 2015, the London artist has not rested or taken time for a breather: with a brand-new album, she is back in force and at her very peak.  Drawing in all her existing strands; introducing new topics and storylines- such a mesmeric and unstoppable force.  I guess touring will come- before Christmas- and new listeners and reviews are discovering Bird’s talent.

Thrill Me is a track I have been looking at closely.  The sophomore track from her album, it is a quintessential Bird composition: It can be no other artists around; something inimitably hers.  Racing out of the blocks, the song has trippy and hurrying beginnings: The combination of electronic pulses and exhilarated percussive beats creates an instant start- the listener is hooked from the very off.  In a way, the initial moments remind me of ‘80s New-Wave/Synth.-Pop (in a good way): Bird has always mingled older sounds and new; here you get evocations of ‘80s blitz and modern-day Pop in one little package.  Caught in the primal beats and swelling atmosphere, you wonder what the vocal will recall; how the lyrics will develop- what will come first.  The initial sentiments see a heroine prescribed: She “ties her hair back”; you get a very gentle and simple image to start things off- your mind races to imagine the looks/idiosyncrasies of the song’s central figure.  Tearing the pages out- “Some things she has seen”- there is some ambiguity in there; just what is being referred to?  Maybe a magazine page- images of beautiful women or odd scenes- or pages from a book/diary- a personal outburst or low state of affairs.  Like all great songs, the early moments tease and compel you to think: After that desirous and stunning introduction; the song’s early sentiments create a maze of myriad possibilities.  Whatever is being torn and referenced; he is “staring back”- maybe a lost lover or heartbreaking anti-hero?  I get ideals of a lover that has broken her heart: Someone that was untrustworthy and a no-good liar; perhaps having cheated and betrayed (our heroine).  Throughout the lyrical outpouring, you are caught by the vocals and composition.  Bird’s voice is firm and impassioned- containing some gentility among the power- and it is allowed to fly and pervade with clarity.  Backed by superb and clear production values, Thrill Me’s vocals are allowed to reign in the mix: Not fettered and overwhelmed by the composition; nor blended low in the mix- every word and note is crisp and vibrant.  That said, the composition does not get second billing: The punchy beats and buzzing electronics- there are little see-saw strings that cut in occasionally- are as clear and impressive.  My ideas of heartbreak and anger might be short-sighted.  It is said (the hero/man) is everything she needs; someone that compels song and outpouring- maybe someone who is causing some swoon and attraction.  That initial paper-ripping was out of lust and girlish desire: Given the song’s title; that interpretation makes a little more sense.  After some relatively composed and tender beginnings, the chorus bursts into life: That voice rushes and augments- with a little bit of Sia and Kylie Minogue in places- with passion and huge force.  A mix of powerful Pop and delicate Synth.-Pop it is a marriage of delicate and striking: The chorus ranks among one of Bird’s best; something that is instantaneous and catchy.  The heroine- whether it is Bird herself- is waiting to be thrilled; wanting to go dancing through the night, that romantic longing radiates and explodes.  Sure that things will go right; this feeling is the real thing- you are invested in her fantasy and plight; that beguiled and swimming affection.  The persistency and urgency never relents: The composition keeps building and rushing; the whole mood and blend is designed to get voices singing and smiles created- a sunshine-bringing slice of song.  Not your average/traditional song- that deals with heartache and personal anxieties- there is some positivity and redemptiveness at the surface- something that eschews modern values; brings something much more inspirational into music.  That wave and swell of compositional elements- the high-pitched electronics and lower sounds; the spiking beats and slams- are stunning.  Blended with a rousing and soul-bearing vocal, the song really hits its stride.  As it progresses, we learn the heroine is incomplete and lying to herself: Tears are pouring and this fantasy is causing some noxious effects.  The lack of reality and clinging to dreams is causing her to lose her senses and mind; that desire to be thrilled and seduced will never be- you cannot shake off that feeling of loss and sadness.  The man in the magazine seems to be an ideal suitor: Whether escaping her own life and demons, she is clinging to something fake and fantastical- a topic and theme that will resonate with many.  In modern society, a great deal of people are obsessed with magazine images and fantasy; false ideals and something they can never obtain- few songs deal with this issue with such conviction and economy.  Bird’s voice ensures every word and line sticks directly in the mind: Never overwrought and overly-emotive, it is pure and direct- breaking through the beats to leave its mark.  Once more, that composition swings back in: The second time, you are singing along and the feet are tapping.  The girl with the ordinary life wants the fairytale love: You always want it to work out knowing it never will.  In the final minute, the composition starts to take the spotlight.  After the second chorus, the electronics and beats mutates and bend; there are little parables that come and go- emotions and feelings represented in sonic waves; you get a real sense of progression and development.  In the early stages, it was the vocals and lyrics that told the story: Here, the composition takes charge and provokes images and possibilities- each listener will have their own interpretation of events.  Scuttling and syncopated; primal and eventful, the beats race and rush- adding to that air of dissatisfaction and heartache; the fear and loss.  The chorus comes back in and completes Thrill Me.  By the final moments, you have a complete picture in mind: That tearful and dejected heroine; wanting the magazine man to come and save her- she does not want to be caught in a life that seems boring and hopeless.  There is a mix of juvenile and youthful innocence and adulthood woes: The central figure has fairytale desires yet is caught in a miasma of strife and personal crisis- maybe fantasising is a way to escape the disturbing aspects of her life (or maybe I am just overreaching).

What impresses me about Thrill Me is its mesmeric and unending pace and potency.  From that intricate and nuanced beginning, the song grows and evolves into something stunning.  Bird’s voice is commanding and dramatic in every moment: Mixing cooing and tender utterances with anxious power and pace, you are always invested and fascinated by the voice.  Most modern songs are synonymous with one aspect (or maybe two): Here the words, music and vocals have equal weight.  The lyrics will relate to anyone that has ever thought about escaping into a fantasy: We all dream of a better life and better love; something we cannot have but desperately need.  Not just confined to the girls/young women, it is a subject that every listener can understand and appreciate.  Presented with an original spin and unique edge; Bird ensures her lyrics are not clichés and stereotypes- she has always proved herself to be a fertile and mature songwriter.  It is that maturity and intelligence that levitates the song above the pulpit of predictability and her peers.  With a composition that says so much- without speaking a word- and you have a complete package.  I was compelled to repeat the song and witness that chorus again: Get inside the lyrics and dig for new meaning; seek that voice out and fall for its charms and romance.  With stunning and peerless production values- few songs resonate as clearly as this- and Thrill Me completely wins you over.  Whilst a lot of modern songs are stymied by their lack of clarity and intensity; here you get a song that bursts with colour, passion and drama- it reveals new light and beauty upon each new spin.  One of the album’s finest moments- the very best to my mind- and you see where Bird is now: One of our very best artists seems to be at her very peak.

Bird is showing how far she can really go: Her album is resonated with critics and fans; so many new people are flocking to her shores- something about the music just overpowers and wins your mind.  Whether it is the musicianship and compositional adaptability; the refusal to be tied-down and honed-in- the bold and confident music; who knows?  What I can say is that we have a terrific young songwriter in our midst: Someone who deftly dodges the pitfalls of some solo acts- the tepid songbook and rather aimless ambitions- because she has a natural talent and a great set of songs.  Janie Price has been making music for a while now- and has released her fair share of records and singles- but this is her finest moment: Figments of Our Imagination is the summation and combination of her past glories; her modern ideas and future possibilities- woven together into an eye-catching and breath-taking tapestry.  With a stunning musical talent and a distinct pedigree, the future is very bright for Bird- make sure you follow her closely.  I started my review looking at female artists and the potential for 2016- and shall end summing-up Figments’- and it is apt to return to its feet.  I have had my fill and share of the unworthy and senseless solo musicians: The John Lewis advert-scoring cover songstresses (who all sound exactly the same: robotic and utterly unpleasant); the Folk/Pop singers who strum and annoy (like a poor man’s Ed Sheeran, if you can stomach that) – the singers with an army of songwriters and an armada of producers.  Music deserves talented and multi-skilled people; musicians that go the extra mile and try and subvert expectation- humans that want to do something different and bold.  With so few about, we should herald and embrace those that rebel (if that is the appropriate word?) and make an impact.  You feel Bird’s best days are still ahead of her: The new album is a wonderful work- something that is being acknowledged by all- yet she has so much more to give.  More heartache and personal insight; more magic and music wizardry- simplicity and passion beauty and power.  How she channels and disciplines her potential is in her hands: Her fan-base is rising and the demand going with it; the songwriting gets stronger and more assured with every passing release.  As 2015 move on towards its end, the following year is in the womb and unready for the world- when it does arrive; all bets will be on- which musicians are the ‘ones to watch’- who will be dominating attention and producing the year’s best work.  Bird is among a series of female songwriters that are starting to gain mass appeal: Get inside the column inches and make their voices heard- stand out from their peers and fellow songwriters.  I am sure she will be performing around the U.K. – with the distinct possibility of international performance- and taking the time to take Figments of Our Imagination to the eager crowds.  If you have not heard of the London-based musician; investigated an incredible and fascinating talent- make sure you remedy this at the earliest convenience.  Few artists come around that are as special and filled with potential- for that reason, pick up Bird’s stunning album.

Figments of Our Imagination is a packed with gems and glistening tunes.  Girl Can’t Decide begins with a beautiful introduction: Swooning strings and pattering beats blend with bubbling electronics to create something seductive and beguiling.  A “high-class seduction” is underway: Our heroine is caught in complications and bad situations.  Unsure of her mind and instincts, there is a need to figure things out.  The vocal and chorus is entranced and beautiful: The composition sways and glistens in the background; the vocal is breathless and gorgeous.  A song that deals with real-life qualms and confusion, it will speak to the listener with its reality and meanings.  A terrific lead song, it gets the album off to a terrific start.  The Dare– a song I have looked at and summarised- completes a wonderful 1-2-3.  After the thrill-rides of Girl Can’t Decide and Thrill Me; The Dare is a darker and more introverted piece: One that looks at tense dares and concrete ledges.  The composition is one of the most primal and hard-hitting on the L.P.; Bellicose percussion and ecstatic electronics create a template of fear and uncertainty.  Stereotype begins with a gentle and skipping beat: Tender piano and a light vocal sees our heroine living as a stereotype- living life just like everyone else.  The vocal skips and swoons- like the composition but more graceful even- to create something both catchy and romantic.  Wanting more from life, our heroine seems stuck in a rut; perhaps tired of living in a mould- that desire to break free and experience more.  The chorus is another wonder: Both bold and big, it is memorable and sing-along.  Perhaps the album’s first insight into Bird’s classical talents- there is more emphasis on cello and strings here- it adds beauty and refinement to the track.  After the rawness and vibrancy of The Dare; here there is a more gentle and tender affair.  Hypnotise is the album’s most insistent beginning: That introduction is a dizzying and charming sound; the vocal quickly steps in- and leads the way.  Perhaps one of the album’s less immediate cuts, it is a song that benefits from fonder investigated- it may take a few listens to really get its full force and potential.  Brimming with love and desire; Bird lets her voice reach and glide- the production here allows all the components to blend seamlessly; create something of-the-moment and classic; a song that will be a sure-fire live favourite.  Small Town has a slightly quirky and offbeat start.  From the get-go it is a rather odd and fascinating song: It differs from everything that has come before.  Multi-tracked vocals and syncopated percussion joins lyrics that look at escape and the need to run- see the wider world and go somewhere more fulfilling.  Able to relate to the song’s messages, it is a particular favourite: A track that sees Bird at her most compelling and meaningful; let’s hope she has found satisfaction and a bigger town- somewhere that suits her a lot more.  Lucky is a song that has a sweeping and piano-led introduction; a particularly stand-out beat- a song that looks at fears and superstitions; intrigue and mystery.  One of the album’s most complete and memorable tracks, I was caught by that composition: There are Trip-Hop and Classical elements; a real fusion of sounds and sensations- it rises and falls; glides and runs.  One of the best compositions I have heard for a while, it perhaps steals attention from the vocals and lyrics (not in a bad way) and has a life of its own.  Love Love Love is a sparse and immediate track.  Our heroine is following time and wanting to be a led to a better life:  Wanting to grow and find certainty, it is a paen and plea to its guidance and mystery.  The composition remains fairly light and unobtrusive as Bird lets her thoughts and emotions to do the talking: it is a very of-the-moment and current sound; one that could rank among the mainstream’s very best.  Drink Drink Drink is not as drunkening as its title suggests.  More haunting and ethereal than earlier numbers, Bird is determined and angry here.  Calculations and lies are afoot: Our heroine wonders what will happen is she is drunk dry.  A provocative and memorable image, there are big emotions and pains at heart.  Gentle swaying and stumbling- the start of the intoxicated downfall- the drink metaphors are used to look at loss and leaving things behind; complications and troubles at heart.  Again, the chorus is a big and quotable thing: It is another song that will have crowds singing and compel voices to join together.  Think So ends the album with some scratchy and distorted beginnings; hand-claps and acoustic rush- the vocal is light and breezy; the mood more upbeat.  One of the album’s more optimistic and upbeat songs; you are captivated by the wordless vocals and acoustic strings.

Across the ten tracks, you get ten sides of Bird: From fear and escape to yearning and dare-devil behavior, you are treated to some fantastic songs and wonderful moments.  Never stagnated and one-sided, the album bursts with life and colours; range and possibility, it is an album that keeps you coming back- you cannot take it all in on the first listen.  Perhaps Bird’s finest record, it should listened to by as many people as possible- an artist that deserves a lot more attention and fans.  With few weak moments and unwavering and unimpeachable confidence, the string songwriting and stunning vocals are only met by detailed and varied compositions- Figments of Our Imagination is an album for those who love true music; want songs to capture their imagination and make them think.  This year has been a good one for Bird; make sure you check Figments of Our Imagination out and…

LOOK out for what is to come.



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Track Review: Gelato- Grey for Good





Grey for Good




Grey for Good is available at:

30 September, 2015

Rock; Grunge


London, U.K.


FROM the reviewing streets of Brooklyn- following my review of Yellow Shoots- it…

is back to London: once again at the feet of a stunning and exciting young band.  Before I introduce them to you, it brings me to the topics of London/U.K. bands and heavier sounds- the perils and hazards one can face.  It is hard trying to keep a track of all the bands coming through at the moment: those that are great and worthy; those mediocre and in need of patience- those that just suck a big ol’ hairy one. Over the years I have been doing this blog, I have witnessed some fantastic groups- with few average ones in the pack- and loved all they have had to offer.  When it comes to the public buck, the band market is still the most lucrative and money-spinning: pound-for-pound the band sector is the most popular and sought-after.  It is not hard to see why I guess: historically, bands have always produced the best albums and moments; today that is probably the case- although the solo market is making grounds.  It is just that strength-in-numbers ability: You have more members and more options; the ability to share the creative workload- radio stations and festivals seem to gravitate towards bands too (as opposed to solo acts and duos).  Although there is a big market out there, it is not good enough- with regards new acts coming through- to just be lazy and phone it in- you have to earn your place at the table.  I hear too many groups that replicate others; sling together something generic and formulaic- expecting the public to salivate and cling to their bosoms.  The best bands are those that go the extra mile: project something with grit and heart; resonance and lashings of memorability- something that digs right into the soul.  When it comes to my tastes, I love a band that can rock hard: Produce great anthems and meaty riffs; plenty of on-point messages and strong vocals.  London is showing how it should be done- as are Yorkshire and Manchester- with a real revival happening: in the past, the capital has faltered slightly; it is coming back strong- some wonderful bands are playing around London.  Being in contact with a fair few of them, it is a really exciting time in music.  Britain is tussling with U.S. to see who can produce the best music has to offer- it is hard to see who is winning the race.  Gelato are a band that are fairly new and fresh: They have produced a couple of cuts and are looking to launch an E.P. – the initial signs are all promising and positive.  Having reviewed their track Room Service, I am back with them once more.  What impresses me about the boys is their rugged and raw sound: they cross elements of Nirvana and Grunge; little bit Foo Fighters and Queens of the Stone Age- U.S.-led and going for the upper end of the quality meter.  When the vocals persists and endeavor, hints of Kurt Cobain are there; when the guitars and percussion dance with bass- and get the mosh-o-meter at its peak- there are definite Foo-cum-Queens shades- without ever straying too close to their paths.  It is not just the sound and style that stuns me: the way the boys perform shows how tight-knit they are; how passionate they are about things.  Having toured with the likes of Echo Boom Generation- another London-based powerhouse- they have enthralled the live crowds; garnered a great reputation- this has parlayed into their studio-based efforts.  There are a lot of twenty-something Rock bands out there; it is a tough market to crack- the trio are well on their way to achieving stardom.  Before I raise a new point, let me introduce you to them:

The head-hitting, high-energy pace of GELATO brings a solid rock sound with pop undertones, reminiscent of the Foo’s, Queens, and more.
After months of throat-shredding, string-snapping & stick-shedding, here is their debut EP, recorded with Tobin Jones (Bo Ningen, Twilight Sad, Cold Specks) and spearheaded by first single Room Service

With the scene filling with some energetic and anthem-penning bands, it is vital the songs make the biggest impression.  On their latest cut- which I shall get to shortly- the guys are at their most impressive and memorable.  Their songwriting is original and stunning- their lyric perspective and phrasing has few equals- whilst the playing is at its most primal and nuanced.  Few bands manage to create songs that are pummeling and intelligent; appeal to all genre-loving fans- they create songs that are designed to get the late-night venue-goers singing aloud.  It has been a year-and-a-half since Gelato unveiled their debut E.P.: their next moves are going to be very interesting; see how their next E.P. will compare- and whether there are any big changes.  Given what has come before- and how it was received- there is no need to tinker with the music too much- the instinct and quality the band has is exceptional.  I have oft-mentioned the popularity and influence the mainstream gods are having- your Royal Blood and Foo Fighters- which is inspiring a lot of young bands to write and perform.  Grey for Good is the London band’s attempt to forge some serious headway: make their voices heard and register their campaign with style- after a single listen you certainly are compelled to investigate them further.  With that live ability and flair, they translate this into focused and nuanced studio cuts- Grey for Good is as good a song you will hear from a Rock band this year.

When looking at Gelato’s current offering- and how they have evolved as a band- it is worth looking back.  With a new E.P. coming soon, the boys have a full head of steam- clearly ready to drop something quite impressive and fresh.  When Gelato’s self-titled E.P. was dropped, I was stunned by the confidence and range of sounds.  Although they are a Rock/Alternative band- a lot of their peers are quite narrow and stringent with their experimentation- the boys showed how effective diversity and adventurousness could be.  Get My Way begins with some Queens of the Stone Age buzz- imagine their work across Era Vulgaris; bits of Eagles of Death Metal too- and you get an idea of the ambition.  Although our hero’s vocal has a smattering of Josh Homme’s cool-cum-razor attack, the band retains a very British sensibility.  Not allowing their music to sound too similar to anything else; they cheekily nod to Queens’- have a play with their formula; the wordless coos and Desert-Rock swagger- and adapt it for their means.  The lyrics and story are very much their own: The suffocation and anxieties that resonate come from a very person place; it is not cribbed from anyone else.  Room Service (their biggest hit to date) has a similarly Grunge-laden/Q.O.T.S.A. introductory blast- it crawls and licks; sweats and winds.  What strikes me about the song is the band’s tightness and authority.  When portraying something U.S.-inspired and anthem-grabbing- the song again has some sneaks of Queens’; bit of Foo Fighters- bands usually replicate and lazily rehash.  Here, the band injects some idiosyncrasies and distinct vibrancy: there is a composition that has come from their jam sessions; their own ingredients are tossed into the pot.  It is nice to hear some familiarity in music- a little nod to your current heroes and favourites- whilst ensuring your music has its own D.N.A.  Gelato ends with Ruffians: Perhaps the E.P.’s most insistent and energised number; it has some Grunge elements to it.  The guys marry that ‘90s sound with something of-the-moment; Alternative and Indie shades tease alongside Queens’-esque sensations.  A number that twists and dances throughout- it is the E.P.’s most addictive and head-spinning numbers- it ends on a natural high.  The three-track collection is focused and economical; it provides plenty of bang and nuance- leaving you wanting more; it keeps you coming back.

Grey for Good is a step forward for the band: here they sound more distinct and original; they keep the elements of U.S. legends- but their latest track has more confidence and sense of identity.  Retaining their debut swagger, cool; charm, catchy songwriting- there is a little more discipline and danger.  Sounding more authoritative and stunning than ever; here the London band stamp their claim on the market- marking themselves out as one of our most impressive and potential-laden acts.  A sample of their upcoming work, it makes you wonder what (the E.P.) will contain: If they stick with the sound/dynamic of its lead-off track; mix in some of their debut sound- or pull off something brand-new and fresh.

     Grey for Good is the boys’ latest cut and- if initial reviews and outpouring is to be believed- it is one of their finest and most fully-formed efforts.  Beginning with a spirited and springing riff- one that bounces and kicks- the introductory moments certainly set the stage: The riffs fizz and strike; the percussion remains light and persistent- the bass keeps everything composed and balanced.  Before the vocal kicks in, the composition steps up a notch: Reminding me of debut-album Rage Against the Machine- and the expansive and colourful palette guitarist Tom Morello unleashed- you get a flair of U.S.-‘90s-Rap-Metal.  Sounding less indebted to the likes of Queens of the Stone Age and Foo Fighters; the track begins with a different ambition: It has a smattering of familiarity; yet has a uniquely Gelato flavor; a British sound- something that was not overly-evident on their debut E.P.  Like all Gelato songs, there is urgency and passion from the outset- no time to build-up and tease; straight in with the meaty hooks and menace.  Before the 0:30 mark; the percussion comes more into the fray: Bursting and swaggering, the entire band combine with force- ensuring the maximum amount of intrigue and mouth-watering is created.  Although there are some nods to U.S. giants- some Nirvana shades and still a lingering of Queens’- there seems to be a new side to the band’s side- they have gained confidence and developed their style slightly; never compromising their ethics and core sound.  Grey for Good never relents its sense of mystique and vivacity; the composition keeps swinging and campaigning- keeping that catchy and insatiable energy high and prescient.  Perhaps the vocal is mixed a little too low-down- and it can be hard to pick out a few of the lyrics; lines have gaps, making it hard to piece it together clearly- but the emphasis is on the overall mood and sound.  To mind, and the one word that stands out from the song, is “procrastinate”- something that seems to direct link to the song’s title.  You get images of a premature grey: Someone that is wasting his time and whiling away his dreams; hesitating and holding back- there is that ever-present danger and death.  The song’s video- that sees an elderly man and his young compatriot watching videos on a laptop; drinking whiskey and laughing- juxtaposes the song’s true nature.  Whilst the video sees an old man living it up; showing a youthful recklessness and rebellion- the song’s central figure seems to a transposition.  The vocal constantly pokes and prods its hero; the determination and passion breaks through the composition- always striking the ear and impressing with its determined spirit.

It is probably worth digging into the lyrics- must confess I asked the band for a lyrics sheet; give me a chance to investigate them- and see what the song is really about.  “Nasty scene in the underground/guys walks in and bumps his head/forgot you’re not allowed to stare” are the first offerings: They are oblique and mysterious; distant and bounteous- any spin can be provided on this.  To me, I think of the music industry in general; the bustle and cut-throat double-cross and deceit.  That need to get ahead and being let down: Bands and acts that suffer if they are ambitious; prosper if they conform to set ideologies.  Perhaps I am way off- and the lyrics hold openness for all to decipher- but you could be looking at a more general scenario.  When the lines “Sitting in the corner/he’s working on that air of innocence/remember nobody said it was fair”.  I am not sure why, but my mind keeps playing on that idea: The music business and the struggle for appeal and real estate; the lyrics are both original and intelligent- they say so much with very few syllables; make you think and imagine.  As the song develops- and the chorus comes in- there are more life/romantic notions: “Save yourself some brain/Don’t want to cross the line/you & I the same”.  It is hard to pull away from musical realms; although you could find some space thinking about relationships and their dynamics.  The lines look at overthinking and dumbing-down; mortality and staying young- again; that swirl of ambiguity and economy.  Later lyrics look at being trapped “inside the lens, we helped create” and feeling a bore.  There is just metaphor and miscomprehension; that numbness and dumb feeling- perhaps a symptom of youth or that feeling of becoming old too soon.  Throughout the song I am split between age and music: The struggle to stay sensible and focused; young and in your prime- maybe just that need to stand out and be individual.  Whatever the true meaning- by the end of the song our hero has submitted; is dead- you feel like the battle is lost; there is not point to hoping.  It is good to know the lyrics- and hope the band put them across social media- as it allowed me to give my own take on things- although the boys will be grinning slyly; knowing I am way off the mark.  That is the great thing about Grey for Good: It is a song whose composition is straight and defined; the lyrics juxtapose and allow everyone to adapt them for their own means.

What is great about Grey for Good is that combination of band parts: The composition itself inspires the feet to kick and move; the arms to raise themselves aloft- it is a track that is destined for the large crowds and eager gig-goers.  As you get caught up in the wave of strings and percussion, you are always drawn in a few directions.  That Nirvana influence is there but not necessarily too heavy- as with Queens of the Stone Age remnants- but you can’t fault the band’s expertise and intuition.  Throughout the track, they are completely sure of their lyrics and direction; they never sound nervous or unsure- a band brimming with assuredness and grit; a real unstoppable energy.  As I said before, the song never lets go of its rush and vibrancy.  Perhaps the ambiguity and slight decipherability issue gives the song an open-for-interpretation beauty: Each listen can extrapolate as they feel; paint their own conclusions- and imagine they own truth.   To me, there is that necessity to get up and start living life; to stop sitting around and waiting for things to happen- being stuck in a rut and skipping the benefits of youth.

In the current scene there is a lack of music depth and intelligence- when it comes to a lot of Rock and Alternative bands.  Gelato have always shown a side of sophistication.  A lot of contemporaries tend to just go for standard themes and lowest-common-denominator levels- focusing on love and its ills; the perils of heartache- whereas the London band dig deeper and come up with something dramatic and scenic- focusing on characters and uncommon issues.  Grey for Good is not as shiny and over-polished as a lot of contemporary Rock- and even Nirvana’s Nevermind was too glossy- which makes the core messages and sound more authentic and murky; a little dirty and ragged.  I have hinted at some intelligibility qualms- and that may just be down to the mixing; perhaps a deliberate distortion- but that does not detract from the song’s anthemic and fist-aloft appeal; the way it gets inside the head and provokes fascination and imagery.  Drew, Phil and Ben are a trio that is completely in-step and tight: The performances here show no weakness and lack of discipline.  With their soul being back in the ‘90s- when their idols began their careers- there is a modern aesthetic and sound too- it could easily slot into any festival bill and underground radio rotation.  Grey for Good is a good indication to the forthcoming E.P.: It would be good to see the boys expand and try something softer perhaps; broaden their sonic range and maybe take the mood down a little.  I love their latest cut because it keeps the spirits up and prompts the listener to use their imagination and get lost inside the song.  There are too many flimsy and simplistic songs floating about music; few bands that try anything different and unexpected.  Gelato always bring the goods, and they have done again here- producing their most urgent and immediate tracks to date.  Everything they produce is designed for the masses- it does not alientate the audience- and has plenty of punch and fun to suit any tastes.

The Gelato boys have once more produced a razor-sharp and bristling track: It is alive with danger and energy; catchy strings and primal percussion; dramatic vocals and cutting lyrics.  Few bands around manage to tick all boxes and attack on all fronts- for that reason; the boys should be very proud.  Of course, this is a good sign with regards their E.P. – it is likely to be even stronger than its predecessor.  I am very excited about some of the bands coming out of London: we have a lot of wealthy and healthy home-grown talent- those that could ascend to the mainstream and give it a much-needed injection of quality.  As 2015 draws into its winter moments, it is tempting to look back and reflect on the best music that has come- see what 2016 might produce.  From speaking with Drew- the band’s leader-in-chief- the band is jazzed about the future.  They have toured the U.K. and Europe; a young band who have achieved an awful lot- with a lot more great things to come.  Their sounds- that marry ‘90s Grunge and U.S. stadium Rock- is primed for a slot at Reading and Leeds; you could well see them at big festivals very shortly.  I hope they come and play Boileroom very soon- a great venue very close to me- and bring their brand of awesome-ness to the fans here.  Grey for Good is an indication of their hunger and desire: they are a trio that wants to remain for many years; inspire and join with others- take their music as far as they can.  The band market is a packed and busy one: there are so many competition; few ever make it all the way; get to rub shoulders with their idols.  It would be easy to say that Gelato have it in the bag; they are sure-thing successors and kings- they are just starting out so that may be incongruous.  What I can say is they have all the ammunition and potential: with each new release their confidence and quality expands; they notch up another gear.  Before concluding, let’s consider what the mainstream is offering; how many truly unique bands there are- that grab you upon first listen; compel you to dig further.  I have reviewed some terrific acts this year- that I keep coming back to and really stick in the mind- but I am looking at the mainstream at the moment.  It is true, there are fewer bands here- as it is the peak of music success- but the ‘best’ out there aren’t really as stunning as you’d imagine.  The acts that fly under the radar have made the biggest impressions; those that have been hotly-anticipated and bigged-up have not really lived up to the hype.  With that in mind, it means there is potential for some new and underground acts to claim their places.  Gelato are happy enough making music and seeing how things go: enticing the crowds and seeing where their travels take them- taking one step at a time.  Their success last year has motivated and propelled them to keep creating and working- with every new step they reveal fresh layers and something enticing.  If you have a chance to see them live, do not miss the chance- and witness one of our best young bands in their element.  As I plan the next reviews and scan around the musical landscape, it has been an exciting and fun last few weeks- I am really impressed by the quality of music coming out.  We all need sounds that lift us and dig deep inside the brain: raise the mood and do something primal and elemental.  Gelato have the fuel and songbook to produce a near-future: They are a band that could easily entrance across ten or eleven tracks; really do something wonderful- let’s hope 2016 affords them the opportunity to do this.  If you are lost for some great new bands; are hankering for an instantaneous and epic song; music that puts you in a better place- then look no further than Grey for Good.  Sit back, buckle in and discover something…

PRIMED for the major leagues.


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Boileroom: Getting the Community Involved



Getting the Community Involved



Whilst the town of Guildford- where Boileroom is based- is becoming less accessible and a little more self-parodying; it is pushing people to other locations.  With a new Waitrose store being built, it seems a rather unwise choice: if you are going to build a supermarket make it affordable (Lidl or Aldi for example); rent prices will rise (given the fact the new store is open); traffic will increase (on a road that is always busy and bottle-necked); it is becoming more middle-class and expensive- the less well-off population are having to relocate and downgrade.  Whilst town planning and redevelopment schemes are starting to overly-gentrify Guildford; Boileroom is drawing more people in- trying to be more inclusive and unifying.  A little slice of London seemingly- it is a venue that would not seem out-of-place on Camden High Street; wedged into Dalston maybe- the venue keeps growing and expanding.

I published a piece earlier in the year regarding the venue’s growth and popularity- and expounded its virtues and potential.  Having battled financial issues and fighting to get their name recognised; Boileroom has established itself as one of the U.K.’s most prominent and distinct music venues.  The trouble is- and the reason for writing this, I guess- is the fact it (Boileroom) does not quite get the full recognition it warrants- in spite of their growing calendar and augmented ambitions.  Boileroom has an army of Facebook fans- numbering into the tens of thousands- yet there is social media flaccidity and inertia- comparatively few share posts and promotes the venue.  Having just celebrated their 9th birthday- some big names have played recently; there are big events ahead- it seems a bit of a shame.  For one thing, the music agenda is looking exciting: Boileroom have just hosted Darwin Deez; they have Hooton Tennis Club and Duke Special playing next week- plenty more before this year is through.  With Hallowe’en and Christmas coming up; I am sure the venue has some plans- with regards a party or events for the community- and ideas in mind.  It is not just the music that Boileroom focuses on: Social mobility and political discussions sit with vintage fairs and craft/art events; aimed all ages and people.

There are few music venues in Surrey- in the U.K. for that matter- that has such a wide-ranging ternary: Actively encourages the community to get involved and take part; is so busy and passionate.  With Guildford having so few opportunities and places that promote social activation and craft; arts and charity events- in addition to yoga classes and comedy nights- Boileroom is a one-stop portal for all your music, creative (and social-political) needs.  The staff and public have a great bond; the staff has a great passion for change and involvement- every political discussion and meeting is designed to get people involved; make them think.  It is this determination and spirit that deserves reward: I guess being outside of London- with regards media attention and social media ranks- it is harder to gain true recognition.  The staff and patrons have a great relationship and are happy with how things are going- it will get better and more prosperous for the charming venue.

Surrey Soup logo

Let us hope the rest of this year- and the coming year- remains successful and bright for Boileroom.  There are some great new initiatives and schemes being piloted.  One such scheme is Surrey Soup:

Based at The Boileroom music and arts venue in Guildford, Surrey Soup is a volunteer effort and exercise in community, food, creativity and good times. We are creating new opportunities and lasting cultural exchange with our locality.

So what is Surrey SOUP?
Surrey SOUP is a community-focused and led creative, grassroots crowd-funding project. Ever had an idea, project, or start-up that will benefit the community? Have you struggled to get funding or get the project started? This is the place for you!

At each meeting:
3 applicants will be chosen to present to the audience for five minutes – with three slides – who they are, a picture of the problem, and a picture of the solution. Each presenter can also answer 4 questions from the audience. Each audience member then casts a vote for their favourite project. The one with the most votes wins the cash. And of course everyone gets a bowl of soup and bread – Everyone is a winner!

Our first dinner will be on Thursday 21st January 2016 – come one come all! You’re welcome to submit a proposal, come along and vote on what approved proposals you think would benefit the locality best; if you’re creative showcase some of your art (be it music, paintings, sculpture), or bring along a dish to share.

Perhaps it is the lack of like-minded venues- or the need to fill a gap in the community- but Boileroom is insinuating itself more into the local community; expanding its portfolio- broadening its conscientiousness and inventiveness.  Surrey Soup takes a U.S.-born idea and brings it to a British audience- something I have not heard done here before- and encourages local creatives/business-pitchers to have a platform- a voice that may have otherwise been lacking.   London is on everyone’s radar- when it comes to music, venues and attention- so it seems Surrey is a little overlooked- there are some great and worthy venues out here.  Demonstrating they are not just about the music- the bands and act they house are among the finest in the country- Boileroom are determined to grow and prosper; get everyone involved and motivated.  With so few music venues as ambitious- and few outside of London gaining much attention- share the love and keep your eyes on these guys- spread the word via social media (and those that would benefit from their events and schemes).  They have had a bumper year; let’s hope 2016 is even better- they deserve a lot of…

Success and support.


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Vote for Boileroom in N.M.E.’s ‘Britain’s Best Small Venue’:


Track Review: Yellow Shoots- Tame You



Yellow Shoots



Tame You




   Tame You is available at:

June, 2015

R ‘n’ B; Alternative


Brooklyn, U.S.A.

Produced by Yellow Shoots
Co-written by John Hamilton
Mixed by Jon Buscema
Mastered by Michael White

Art Direction: Troy Kreiner
Photography: Kevin Burzynsk


THIS is going to be a busy week ahead…

With the business of work- minor and pointless as it is- in-between there are going to be a lot of different sounds coming my way.  Some interview subjects are making final touches- a few lovely and talented ladies- before the band Gelato (Friday); Bird (Saturday)- finishing with Pop/Soul artist Manda (on Sunday).  Those reviews take me around the U.K. and the globe.  For now, I am back in the U.S., which raises a few interesting points: including U.S. music; the way we come to hear it- in addition to R ‘n’ B and Alternative blends.  I love British music- well most of it anyway- but it is always nice to hear something international and unfamiliar- get to grips with something new and fresh.  It is rare to really encounter music outside the U.K.: for us here, we have to rely on social media and word-of-mouth- unless the mainstream media point us in that direction.  We tend to all have our own tastes and particular music leanings: we revisited older music and tend to not stray too far from what is comforting.  If you are in the music business: either a music-lover or musician, you have a better advantage- naturally you come into contact with more bands/acts.  Most of my exposure to U.S. music comes from social media: I will be recommended an act or else I find a ‘friend of a friend’- it always seems like I stumble upon the music by accident.  I guess that how it is- you discover great stuff without intention- but it is always great unearthing something wonderful.  With regards American music, I am always keeping my ears trained and ready- seeing what is out there.  Of course, it is hard to assess and monitor all American acts- a lot will slip through the net.  When it comes to the location and providence of U.S. sounds, I look towards L.A. and New York- two vibrant centres for great music; bustling areas that are producing some of music’s very best.  Having encapsulated myself within L.A. recently- a few great musicians took my attention and stunned me- it is great to be back in New York- and a familiar spot for me.  After reviewing The Falling Birds- also based out of Brooklyn- I was compelled to seek some of their neighbours; just what the borough could provide- and how different the music is.  The Falling Birds are a hard and heavy act: their music is leather-clad and cool; their Rock music swaggering and attitude-laden- with plenty of melody, intelligence and wit.  On the other hand, my featured act has a different sound: the R ‘n’ B-cum-Alternative mesh is a smoother and more emotive thing- sensual and urgent; head-spinning and intoxicating.  It seems Brooklyn is one of the U.S.’s most prosperous and productive areas: the musicians here are inspired by their contemporaries and streets; the rich variety of sounds (coming out of Brooklyn) – there is something rather special occurring here.  Before I raise a couple of new points, let me introduce Yellow Shoots:

Greg Matthews is a New York-based singer/producer popularly known as “Yellow Shoots”. Prior to becoming a solo artist, Matthews was the lead guitarist for GoGo Morrow and Ryan Toby of “City High”, playing on big stages such as Jay-Z’s “Budweiser: Made in America”.

After moving from Philadelphia to Brooklyn in 2014, “Yellow Shoots” was born. He released his debut single “Pieces” in October 2014. His music demonstrates infectious melodies and a natural combination of electronic, rnb and ambient rock influences.

It is strange how fortuitous and happenstance music can be: without knowing it you get to witness something rather special and wondrous- having been a stranger to it the day before.  Social media probably needs something more organised and structured: there are a great many acts out there- worthy of attention and a lot of love- but they tend to slip through the net.  With the proliferation and swell of the music industry- owing to the fact there are dozens of new acts coming through by the day- how best to control/mediate this?  Well, when it comes to my music tastes, I tend to stick with familiar artists: their fellow favourites and acts usually proffer great rewards.  I love acts like Issimo- a British duo that play a variety of sounds- and they have a great spread of likes/choice musicians.  From there, I have been able to dig-out new review subjects and great music- it does seem unwieldy, mind.  It may be easy to monitor British music, but when it comes to American gems; it is a harder task- you just have to take it a step at a time I guess.  A lot of my recent reviews- and those coming up- concern Rock bands and British acts- with a bit of Folk and Pop thrown in there.  I do not get a chance to review an artist that fuses R ‘n’ B with Alternative measures- something Yellow Shoots has perfected.  With Tame You– released a few months ago now- there is that perfect hybrid of the genres; the crackling emotion and stunning beats- all tied into a colourful and dizzying cocktail.  There is still a proliferation of Rock and Indie acts out there, so it is great to stumble-upon something that breaks from those sounds- providing something more seductive and stylish.  Yellow Shoot’ central figure has amassed a number of social media fans; his stock is rising- I think 2016 will be an interesting year for sure.  With a series of songs under his belt, it would be great to hear a new album: something that expands his sound and material; showcases just what he is capable of- a fascinating and detailed investigation into his psyche and romantic life.

Tame You is not Yellow Shoots’ newest moment- Soul Find Me (featuring Faja) is fresher- yet it is a great middle point- we can see how the music has developed and changed; whether the newest moment is better/less striking.  Hold Me Down starts with direct and urgent vocals: fusing with tight beats, our hero is caught in a deep love- planets align and he is caught in a rather wonderful trance.  The vocal is both emotive and soulful- employing some great shades of past masters- whilst the composition is constantly moving and strong; it is passionate and detailed.  Backwards-sampling and scratches mutate to lashing percussion and cosmic electronics- meshed together and put through the blender.  The various threads and sounds mix together perfectly; there are no loose or out-of-place moments- it all sounds vital and stunning.  It is a song to get lost in and transport the mind; let it just drift you away- alternately, it could score a club dancefloor; such is its swagger and sexiness.  There are definite hints of classic/’90s R ‘n’ B wrapped inside modern-day Electronic music- the resultant genetic offspring is something quite beautiful.  Released ten months ago, Hold Me Down is the sound of a young man with a clear direction and sense of confidence- you can hear it all formed and complete here.

Pieces predates Hold Me Down and was one of Yellow Shoots’ earliest cuts.  It is bubbling and groaning; wandering and busy- a composition that has sparse beats and clicks; it relies on its evocative and atmospheric textures- the central vocal leads the way.  Sound rich and impassioned, it sees the hero pleading with his love; wanting her to prove (her) love- showing that she cares and feels for him.  That chocolate and velvety voice drips with emotion and intention; the composition twinkles, trips and shudders- the entire track promotes vivid imagery and dreaming.  Each listener will imagine their own course of events; how the story unfolds- ultimately how things resolve themselves.  Perhaps not quite as memorable as Hold Me Down; it is a valiant and impressive effort- one that could naturally stands alongside Hold Me Down.  Over the course of a couple of songs, there is a consistency and sense of improvement: Yellow Shoots demonstrates what a feel he has for his genre choices (R ‘n’ B and Electronica) and is consistently impressive.

  Soul Find Me is one of the newest examples from the Brooklyn maestro: featuring the sublime talents of Faja, it shows the collaborative spirit- how Yellow Shoots can work with a fellow artist.  For this track, there is no compromising or lack of integrity: that central and personal sound is all intact; you get a sumptuous voice added to the mix.  From its sensual and delicious opening- that is as sweaty and tongue-licking in its sexiness- our hero starts on the mic.  Again, the composition is fairly bare and minimalist- the spotlight is placed on the vocal and lyrics.  The entrancing beat augments the voice, as Yellow Shoots is laying his heart on the line- paying tribute to an addictive love.  With a Rap and Urban edge to proceedings, the song benefits from that collaboration and fusion- the gender role-reversal makes the song so fascinating.  Given the male-male vocal coming-together, it differs from a lot of similar songs.  When speaking of love and passion, you would normally have a boy-girl pairing; the female rapper or artist acting as the song’s subject- and sharing vocal duties with the lead.  Here, Yellow Shoots kicks the song off; Faja provides a slick and detailed break-down; the lyrics investigate love and soul-bearing- the importance of giving your all.  The track is a glimpse into future Yellow Shoots release: if an album or E.P. were to appear, we could see collaborations on there.  Brooklyn has a lot of great male and female acts; there are endless possibilities and song options- Soul Find Me is one of the best things Yellow Shoots has produced.

   Tame You is an equal to Soul Find Me and displays the same degree of quality, detail and nuance- showing a natural progression and development.  A new E.P. is being mooted- somewhere around autumn/winter- so I hope those rumours are true.  It would be natural to see the aforementioned songs included; maybe a new cut will see the light of day.  If it is a four-track E.P., one hopes we hear Tame You, Soul Find Me, Pieces and Hold Me Down– it would be a seamless and hugely impressive collection.  I am not sure what is in the young artist’s mind, but only time will tell- I am looking forward to seeing what is to come.

The initial seconds see dark and echoed beats working in the background.  Reminding me of the Trip/Hip-Hop explorations of ‘90s acts- the likes of Portishead and Massive Attack- there is huge early promise.  Nothing explodes out the gates and makes its way to the surface straight off- there is a slow build and a lot of tenderness to begin.  Although the beats and electronics are quite forceful and powerful, there is plenty of smoothness and laid-back chill.  Crackles and snaps marry with flowing and static; chilled vibes and lust sit alongside one another.  Before our hero takes to the centre, there is a brief glimpse of swelling and vibrating electronics: another little kick-up that paints a lot of images and emotions; the introduction is something that slowly builds and develops.  When the vocal does come, it is imbued with beauty and resonance- as smooth and emotive as any Yellow Shoots has produced.  His sweetheart’s lips; the tangle of their arms- the initial lines are bathed in passion and sexuality.  You get an initial sense of the song’s title: that fiery and sensual lover; perhaps needing to temporise things- maybe calm it all down a little.  If there is any reticence of hesitation, it is not apparent in the vocal itself- it is rife with desire.  The “red skies come crashing down”; the heavens and skies are flashing by- there is something tremulous and uncertain ahead.  Using them as metaphors for passion and love- although the imagery projected is more powerful than any clichés most writers use- the composition matches the mood- cascading and striking; stirring and rousing.  It makes you wonder what his sweetheart is like: someone that is in need of taming, there is that animalistic and undomesticated viewpoint.  Maybe too provocative and wild; a party-dweller with some loose morals- or someone who just needs to surrender to a sage and true love.  Whatever the scenario, you cannot help but to picture the heroine: what she looks like and how she moves; how she speaks and how she works- and how our hero tries to discipline and control.  It is that lead vocal that steals most of the honours; instilled with such a weight and potency, it is hard not to be drawn it- such a sensuous, sweet and smooth thing; yet rife with vibrant lust and possibilities.  As the song progresses, there is talk of submitting to a fate; surrender to this reality- lose the fear and “lose your mind”.  Without going into too much detail- what is unveiling and the turn of events- you get a lot of mystique and openness.  Every love song has its own way of conveying the relationships and turn of events; Yellow Shoots goes beyond the worst trappings of the songwriter- hyperbole and endless cliché; too many vague sentiments- instead offering a blend of reality and the surreal.  That sweet and rich voice guides us through a dramatic and plot-twisting love story: our hero has that desire for his girl but at the same time, things seem quick untamed and spiraling.  When the chorus comes back around, those lyrics and hard beats seem more relevant and important- as the song has unfolded, you get a better sense of the players and scenes; the layers start to unravel.  As his love goes “deep inside”, you are never far from the sweat and tease.  Before the track comes to its end, a diving and vibrating electronic parable blends with a punchy beat- as the fire starts to fade, you wonder how things worked out.

   Tame You was written with John Hamilton and benefits from a terrific production: it is clear and crisp; allowing each beat and note to really shine and impress- without being too plastic and over-produced.  When it comes to the song itself, it is a brilliant offering from the Brooklyn resident.  With comparisons to his early work, it is a step forward- one of his most inventive and bold tracks.  The composition has familiar threads- that mix of sparse and heavy- but the vocal and subject matter has developed somewhat.  Here, Yellow Shoots’ voice is at its most impressive and desirous: a potent and stunning weapon, it brims with emotion and passion; that huge amount of conviction and shiver.  Both sweet and sensual, it is ultimately a very striking and powerful tool- putting me in mind of legends of Soul and R ‘n’ B.  The lyrics look at a rather fascinating and uneven love; a burning and dangerous bond- a heroine that inspires all sorts of ideas and images.  The lyrics are economical, yet they manage to summon images of the heavens and fire; sweaty passion and a lack of control- with our lead offering heart, soul and submission.  Lesser writers would plague a song with words and lines; make it too cluttered and busy- the gift of Tame You is its nakedness and simplicity.  It is a song that could easily slide in alongside the modern R ‘n’ B tracks but it seems like it deserves more- a chance to get into the mainstream and inspire lots of artists.  Yellow Shoots has a lot of local approval, yet his name is not synonymous everywhere.  With such a strong offering and consistency, let’s hope that reward is forthcoming- few acts are as instantaneous as this.

It has been a busy week for me: one where I have traversed a wide array of music and sounds- some terrific artists have come to mind.  Yellow Shoots is an act that fits into a busy and packed scene: with so many contemporaries vying for market space, does he separate himself from the crowd?  The Brooklyn musician has an edge and distinction that elevates him above the majority of his peers: with a huge confidence and expertise, his music strikes directly to the heart.  Tame Me is a standout track that is definitely a thing of rare beauty: a song that defines some thorough investigation and detailed deconstruction.  Before I end, I am looking to discover more U.S. music and different styles- broaden my horizons and really see what is out there.  I am enamoured of my home music and the best Britain has to offer: every once in a while it is great to travel further afield; find some terrific international acts.  Yellow Shoots marks himself to be one of the more agile and inventive artists on the block: it will be fascinating to see how he progresses in the next year.  Having grown in ability and quality- his songs get better as time goes on- he is really coming into his own; showing just how fertile and imaginative his compositions are- someone that has a definite future.  I have mentioned about a possible album; a way for the young talent to expand and spread his wings- that will be an interesting proposition.  Of course money is a big evil when it comes to music- we never have enough and it is not free to produce an album- so I hope there is some finance and impetus available.  In that same manner, it would be nice to see Yellow Shoots come to London- there are a lot of new clubs and venues sprouting up- and there is a definite audience awaiting.  The seasons are closing in and the nights are getting harsher: music seems to be a balm and panacea that can ease the nerves and darkness- give us something to reflect on and feel happy about.  There does not seem to be too much energy and variation in a lot of music; certain acts are too stilted and flat- when a genuinely exciting act does come along, we should make sure they are promoted and heralded.  If you have not encountered Yellow Shoots, make sure you take the time to discover what he is about- and see what Brooklyn’s music scene is producing.  That borough seems to be teeming with eligible and vivacious musicians: your hard-striking Rock gods and tender Pop princesses; the soulful artists and the Electronica-based voyeurs- all mingling within a few blocks of one another.  London has a similar vibe, and as a result, it produces music that is cosmopolitan and diverse- there is so much treasure to be discovered.  I am compelled to delve back into Tame You and its insistent and glowing rush; its depths and contours- the way it transfixes and swims in the memory.  Make sure you take a listen and follow a great young artist- and see just where his music takes him.  You can take a trip to Brooklyn and experience something nuanced and compelling…

WITHOUT leaving your seat.



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