This Week’s Albums: October 10th, 2015

This Week’s Albums

 

 

October 10th, 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 (https://www.facebook.com/TheStokeGuildford?fref=ts); 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 and highlight some fantastic albums- maybe some you have forgotten about.

The Old: The Beach Boys- All Summer Long (1964)

 

8.5/10

 

The legendary U.S. group began their careers in the early-‘60s: their first few albums were met with muted acclaim and mixed reviews.  1964’s All Summer Long was the album that saw their ambition and sunshine sound coalesce- it is an album tight and short; packing tonnes of smile and stunning moments.  Whereas The Beach Boys’ surveyance of girls, sun and sand was still intact, this album saw dissipation- the band were more emotional and mature here.  I Get Around is an insatiable and phenomenal opener; Wendy is a sad and reflective track: it sees the boys at their heartbreaking best.  Girls on the Beach is swooning and delirious: boasting some of the band’s most spine-tingling harmonising.   The album’s second half sees some filler and disposability come into things- Do You Remember? and Our Favourite Recording Sessions lack necessary quality and durability- but that does not detract from a wonderful album.  Bidding farewell to their hot rod/beaches/summer-time girls haven; it is an immaculate farewell- one that should be revisited time again.

 

DOWNLOAD: I Get Around; All Summer Long; Girls on the Beach

STAND-OUT TRACK: I Get Around

 

 

 

The New: Deerhunter- Fading Frontier (Released on October 16th, 2015)

 

8.5/10

You would be hard-pressed to pinpoint too many great bands from Georgia, U.S. – besides R.E.M. of course.  Deerhunter have forgone their darker and introspective days- where Garage-Rock clatter and dreaminess sat hand-in-hand.  On their seventh album there are sunnier and more positive songs: the album is more focused on melody and texture; they have taken a left-turn and embraced a new way of working.  The results are surprisingly consistent.  The funky and psychedelic Snakeskin shows how natural the band sound: it is a foot-tapping and addictive slice that highlights what a skillful and compelling lead Bradford Cox is.  Breaker is another gem from the album: Cox’s enemies are trying to kill him (there is a morose undertone) yet the song itself is uplifting and somehow comforting- one of the album’s strongest set of lyrics.  Whilst not all tracks hit the heights of Breaker and Snakeskin, it is an album sure to please existing fans and draw in fresh followers.  Inventive, crisp and bold: a renewed band with a stunning sound- make sure you grab their L.P. on Friday.

 

DOWNLOAD: Living My Life; Breaker; Snakeskin

STAND-OUT TRACK: Snakeskin

 

 

 

The Influencer: Basement Jaxx- Remedy (1999)

9/10

 

It may not seem influential to many, yet Remedy was an album that shook-up the ‘90s Dance scene- it was in danger of stagnating and fading by the end of the decade.  Most acts lacked variety and invention; they took few chances and leaps- Basement Jaxx approached like a red-hot ball of fire.  Abound with colour, genre-fusion and thrill-ride; Remedy is an aptly-named record: one that inspired legions of Dance acts in its wake.  Brixton’s Felix Buxton and Simon Ratcliffe- nerdy and intellectual- created something universal, world-trotting and kaleidoscopic.  Rendez-Vous’ vocoderised Disco-cum-Salsa allure was a perfect opener; Bingo Bango rides horns and is an ecstatic jive: one that compels you to surrender to its power.  Red Alert is the standout: a banger of a tune that was one of the ‘90s most impressive anthems.  Across the fifteen tracks, the excitement and fascination does not relent: there are new offerings and strange scenes; wonderful dances and heartfelt avenues.  Durable and timeless; wildly inventive and fantastical: with its expert Deep House grooves and blissful sampling, it was an unexpected arrival- few Dance/Electronica albums have matched its giddiness: for that reason, it remains a hugely influential creation.

 

DOWNLOAD: Rendez-Vous; Red Alert; Bingo Bango

STAND-OUT TRACK: Red Alert

 

The ‘Other One’: Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds- The Boatman’s Call (1997)

 

9.5/10

Few albums have touched the heights of The Boatman’s Call– it remains Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds’ finest moment.  Highlighting Cave’s paradoxical mindset; his doubts about faith and love- it is a bold and stunning introspection; a gospel of haunted insights and affecting textures.  Into My Arms sees Cave doubting an “interventionist God”: a song that charts a heartbreaking split; pleaded with God not to touch his love- wanting The Almighty to direct her into (his) arms.  The album is raw, soul-bearing and exorcising: the author is at his most confessional and essential- few albums capture so much soul and pain.  Black Hair is a masterpiece of devotion and passion; Far from Me sees Cave pays tribute to “my mad little lover”; stuck in “a world where everybody fucks everybody else over”.  Brompton Oratory quotes Luke 24 and is one of the album’s most religious and spiritual tracks.  (Are You) The One That I’ve Been Waiting For looks at a doomed love- speculated to be about his former love, PJ Harvey- and sees Cave reflect on personal relations and failures.  I could go on and on: get the album and experience the majesty first-hand.

 

DOWNLOAD: Into My Arms; (Are You) The One That I’ve Been Waiting For; Black Hair

STAND-OUT TRACK: Into My Arms

Track Review: City of Lights- Here, Alive

TRACK REVIEW:

 

City of Lights

 

Here, Alive

 

9.1/10.0

 

Here, Alive is available at:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I4Ilxxt8tdc

RELEASED:
1st Janurary, 2015

GENRES:
Acoustic-Rock

ORIGIN:

Yorkshire, U.K.

_______________________________________

AT this very moment- as opposed to any other time in my life- I am getting…

very excited about music- and planning some very big endeavours.  I am looking to set up a music charity/business that really is all-encompassing and ambitious- so much so it will be a few years off.  I understand how much great music there is; how many fantastic artists are undiscovered and untapped- how much past glory is going unnoticed/underplayed.  In the same respect, there are a lot of people suffering illness and heartache: from mental illness to physical abuse; music seems a way of channeling depression and pain- balming wounds that are deep and painful.  In addition, there is a lot of big-business money out there: organisations like Google and Microsoft who are spewing cash like it’s going out of fashion- not sure where they can put it.  There is so much imbalance and inequality: so many people suffering silently; too much gluttony out there- music’s power and influence going under-the-radar.  I am hoping to invent a site/charity that unites people and music: helps harness and augment its huge power and effect- help those in need and really make a huge difference.  Aside from the music-helping-the-public-through-tough-times, there are a lot of musicians that need exposure, money and support- some great acts that deserve a lot more.  I come across a load of terrific acts- there are so many more that struggle to gain fans- and it seems such a shame.  My featured artist are creating some buzz and excitement: one of the U.K.’s best up-and-coming acts, there not only create original and embracing sounds- their music has the power to make some change; alter people’s perspectives and lives; inspire others to take up the art-form.  I have said it quite a few times before- and am not loatyhed to repeat myself- but there are a lot of bands out there.  In every town and city, there is a multitude of variety and quality; sounds that differ- every band have the same intention.  In addition to making their mark, they want their music to stand out; really differ from what is around already- pull that rareist of tricks off.  In the mainstream- and another point I have labored to the point of torture- is that apparent lack of variation and surprise.  There are some great bands bustling in the undergrowth, but by and large, there are a lot of rather uninspired acts.  When it comes to the north- Yorkshire in particular to my mind- there are some terrific bands coming out.  The likes of Allusondrugs and Issimo have always been in my sights; lovelies like Crybabycry too- the county has a huge amount of choice.  City of Lights are a new name to my radar- having been recommended by a good friend and fellow musician- and it is great to hear their stuff.  Whilst embracing some semblance of other acts- there is a nice mixture of bygone Rock giants and a contemporary sprinkling- their overall sound and sensation is original and very much theirs- something the mainstream should well embrace given time.  Before I continue on another point, let me introduce the band to you:

Matt Dunwell – Guitar & Vocals
Ash Howey – Bass Guitar
Alex Humphreys – Lead Guitar
Ben Freer – Drums

Although City Of Lights are based in Leeds, the original seeds of the band were formed in Paris in April 2011, when Matt Dunwell (acoustic Guitar & Lead Vocals), inspired by the ever-present swirl of possibility floating throughout the French capital, decided to form a band. Collaborating with long-time song-writing conspirator Sean Howey (Ex Drums & Backing Vocals), the two formed City of Lights in the aim to create their own brand of honest rock-pop that would ignite and engage. When the duo pulled in Sean’s brother Ashley to play bass and handle backing vocals, the enterprising crew undertook over a year’s worth of rigorous rehearsals and shows throughout the UK to help shape their sound. In order to further complete the line-up, they drafted lead guitarist Alex Humphreys into the fold to become a 4 piece. With the departure of Sean and the introduction of Ben Freer to the drums in May ’14, City of Lights are a band that have fine-tuned their sound to remarkable proportions and are prised for laudable notoriety.

Meshing the song-writing aptitude of Biffy Clyro with the melodic mastery of UK big guns Snow Patrol and the heart and drive of Thrice, City Of Lights adeptly glide along the tight-rope of having an accessible sound with true longevity. After an initial series of successful shows, the band quickly assembled an army of fans, and word spread fast about the crafty Yorkshire tunesmiths.

Evidently, appearances at Reading & Leeds Festival ’13, various O2 Academy’s and UK and European tours have proven to the masses that the alt-rockers have truly created a sound that will quench the thirst of fans needing something solid, fresh, and inspiring from the rock genre.”

Next week I am focusing on the girls of music- an interview with a London-based singer; two reviews of two very different solo acts- but this weekend is reserved for the chaps.  I am often skeptical when it comes to bands in general at the moment- less so the underground/unsigned variety- because I hear a lot of replication and banality.  For every promising chorus you get an aimless and generic riff; a flat and un-emotive vocal- it just lacks that necessary kick and sense of ambition.  I know music is a hard chestnut to crack but there is so much potential out there: play with the sounds and be adventurous; try something new and exciting- without compromising your integrity and musical ethics.  Rock and Alternative bands get caught in limitations and boundaries: the assumption is they need to be rigid and overly-disciplined- if they were too freewheelin’ and genre-splicing it would leave them vulnerable to derision and a lack of respect.  City of Lights are not your average Rock band: they employ classic and modern seams; thread together something very personal and passionate- songs that have resonated with a large audience.  Their appeal is not just confined to the Yorkshire area: from London upwards, their fan-base is expanding and multiplying.  It is not hard to see why the boys have earned such a hefty following.  Their influences are varied- something I will touch on below- and names that can be app;lied to their sound.  They do not just do anthemic and stadium-sized choruses: the tenderness and emotions come through; there are big and upbeat moments- they ensure they tick all the boxes.  Reviewers have noted (how the band) seem to fill all the prospective checks: their music is not cynically designed or calculated; their natural intuitions and talent is all-encompassing and without prejudice- good enough to unite the hardened Rock clans and lovers of a softer kind of sound.  The guys have quite a future ahead and it cannot be long until an E.P./album is dropped: they have the momentum and potential to craft something quite sensational.  As 2015 draws to a close- and the nights and days get colder and darker- the band have signed-off in style- they are on the lips of many-a music-lover.  With the scene showcasing so many new bands- and there is quite a spread of genres and options- the Leeds boys marry Alternative and Indie options with some U.S. Rock gods- it comes together with a natural and graceful manner.

The boys have not been idle or aimless since their formation.  I have mooted the possibility of a future album, but the boys have already unveiled a couple- Live and Learn was released in March of last year.  Being D.I.Y. and self-funded, the album is a labour love- you can hear the time and passion that has gone into it.  Make sure you check it on iTunes and download it: it is an L.P. that has no filler or weak moments; it has a perfect blend and balance of emotions and ideas.  The band underwent band change and rotation during 2014: their path and plight has not been easy or care-free.  There are no anxieties and fears throughout Live and Learn: the album is a sparkler from the start to finish.  Live and Learn’s title track has a soft and yearning introductory vocal: telling of a fragile world; one where we all live and learn- it erupts into life and goes through the gears.  The composition is tight and taut; the performances are solid and stunning- the track chugs and propels.  The musicianship throughout is inventive and impressive: little bass runs and drum fills; details and avenues- all contributing to a rich and deep sound.  The entire album has a consistency and distinct sense of personality: each song tells a different tale; comes from a very personal perspective- shows just what strong songwriters the boys are.

The band’s debut album arrived in the form of Season’s Change: a ten-track record that saw them explode right out of the blocks.  From the very first tracks- Was it All Worth It? and Did I Stutter– the band are alive and alert- making sure their album does not suffer from early nerves.  Completely formed and alive, the songs jump right out of the speakers- grab the listener and ensure they are hooked-in and attentive.  It is a tight and economical album that does not linger too long nor fade too quickly- its nuances mean you keep coming back to experience new moments.  Like Live and Learn; Season’s Change has a great range of emotions and thoughts: they are skillful and stunning when talking about love and life’s struggles; effortless when rising to the heavens- the compositions here are vibrant and impassioned.  Both albums have a rich variation and consistently brilliant performances: with each release the group increases in confidence and direction- becoming more assured with each passing moment.

With both albums, the boys come across original and very much fully-formed: there are elements of other bands and artist that present themselves.  The two biggest stand-outs are Kings of Leon and Biffy Clyro.  Both acts have stadium-sized songs and a stunning collection of songs.  City of Lights mix three angular and emotive sounds of Biffy’- especially the sound that was rife on Opposites– the well-crafted songs and fusion of beauty and hard emotion.  When Biffy Clyro released Opposites, critics noticed how it brought in ‘70s Rock elements; that tying-together of mainstream Pop sounds and Progressive-Rock ambitions.  City of Lights have a similar ear for dichotomous and anthemic moments: there is bombast and crowd-uniting songs; plenty of tenderness and inward questioning- songs that are hugely ambitious and multifarious.  Kings of Leon are more bombastic and Blues-Rock inspired: grittier and more hard-hitting than Biffy’, perhaps.  The U.S. legends have produced some stunning albums and classic tracks- defined by their epic choruses and stunning band performances.  City of Lights have a U.S. feel to their music- you can hear the grizzle of the Deep South and the street-pounding riffs of New York and L.A.- which blends seamlessly with their U.K. voice.  Across their two albums, there is plenty of original voice and distinct ambition, yet a nod to their idols and heroes- all distilled in a heady and captivating blend.  If you have not checked out Season’s Change and Live and Learn, then make sure you investigate them- get onto iTunes and discover just how great the band are.  In terms of development, there is a leap from album-to-album: their sophomore release sounds more rounded and confident; more wide-ranging and varied- building on early promise and expanding their craft and sights.  I know the boys fund their own albums and creations, so might be remiss to leap into another album- given the real costs and effort that goes into it.  If they are released a new album next year, I am sure it will be a development from their previous two: keep that sense of pace and distinction alive; offer some new insights and stories for the listener.

When it comes to Here, Alive, there is much to recommend.  The introduction is one of their most immediate and hard-hitting: pummeling out the blocks, it is an attacking and pulsating slam- one that gets the senses primed and the tongue salivating.  Not just your predictable beat and attack, it is a springing and jiving thing; working with a luscious and emotive guitar line- it is a full-bodied and lusting beginning.  Making sure that energy and promise does not fade, the band keep things focused and tight.  The sharp and economical introduction ensures there is no wasted notes and aimless solos- just an exhilarating and energetic swagger.  Reminding me of Foo Fighters and Kings of Leon it fuses U.S. Alternative with something very British and historic- elements of ‘70s Progressive-Rock thrown into the balance.  Before a word is uttered, you are fixated by this bold and brash moment: something that does not define the song; instead it leads you in- makes you wonder what is to come.  After some lighter strings and fine details- the introduction does not simply die down; it beautifully transitions into the vocal- the band is ready to go.  Our hero does not mind if he gets out of here (wherever that may be) alive: there seems to be a lot of fear and uncertainty- although the vocal shows no signs of weakness and trepidation.  The lead can find his way; get out of the situation and make his way to safety- your speculative mind starts to conspire and picture.  Perhaps a life situation- feeling tied-down and trapped; maybe a love scenario- there seems to be a been-there-seen-it-escaped-that mentality- one that seems almost routine.  If the vocals and lyrics suggest calm and casual danger, the composition does not share those feelings- it remains primitive and wired in its jagged support.  Contrasting the smooth and emphatic vocal (it has soulful touches and a great sense of drama) the band presents something forceful and hard- although it does not encroach too strongly nor put too much acid into the mix.  It is hard to really dig into true meanings and decipher the mystery: there seems to be a love-against-the-odds story unfolding; our hero and his girl trying to get away from things- make their way from a bad situation.  In the early stages, that composition-and-vocal combination puts you in mind of Alternative and U.S. Rock bands- it has a Californian feel; something that could easily slide into the mainstream roster.  Perhaps it is my ears, yet the band summons something between Foo Fighters and Biffy Clyro: the composition is uplifting and ecstatic; it is fast and primitive- plenty of calmer underpinnings and more casual moments.  Having been buoyed and propelled by that introduction; compelled by the early words and vocal strength- the band keeps you guessing and fascinated.  Now that “I’ve made it out of here alive”- so the hero and front-man accounts- he is pressing on and looking ahead.  Those words of death and narrow escape add urgency and momentum to the track: that central force and villain (whether a person or a state of affairs) remains anonymous and pressing- the past is definitely out of sight.  It seems the past is an unwelcome thing; days and months that caused stress and heartache- now is a better and more prosperous time.  It seems clear a love and romance is being ascribed: our lead seems suitably infatuated and appreciative- this girl has saved him from a black fate it seems.  That love-as-a-new-beginning metaphor is played well and effectively: the lyrics have been done before- the same sort of tale and projection- yet City of Lights give their own spin and fresh perspective- ensuring they do not succumb to cliché and predictability.  The duo is far from home: away from the crowds and voices, they are in strange territory- nobody knows who they are.  You get a real feel of journey and transition throughout the song- in no small part because of that intoxicating and persistent composition- and the hero is keen to run from the bad days.  Whether he knows where he is going- I think there is that necessity to just flee the misery and suffocation- there is determination and some hope.  Here, Alive never relents its rushing and determined plight: the percussion keeps smashing and driving; the bass and guitars weave something anxious and punishing- the vocal remains enflamed and lascivious.  On that front, the vocal does not put you in mind of Foo Fighters, Kings of Leon and their ilk- it is very much a unique and stand-alone sound; you would not easily imagine another singer (with regards its origin and feel).  Making sure words resonate and succeed, the vocal is not too rushed or indecipherable- it allows the lines and sentiments to breathe.  Waiting for the “sun to come up” the fleeing lovers are in the uncertainty of the city: among the unfamiliar faces and strange places, they are seeking daylight and clarity.  To underpin this- and at that moment of the song- the band break into soloing territory.  The vocal relents to allow the composition to develop and flourish: you get myriad scenes and ideas; a great and tight jam- that adds a weight of drama and occasion to proceedings.  That composition break keeps stretching and mutating: twisting and snaking; racing and exciting- you are caught in its trance and uncompromising power.  Having absorbed the story so far- where you feel the sweethearts have their backs against the wall- the composition provides chance to reflect and breathe.  Perhaps adding to that uncertainty and dangerous element, you can imagine your own turn of events- just where they are headed and how they are faring.  To my mind, I see them hovelled in a doorway; against the suppression and tyranny of the elements, they are in each other’s arms- seeking a salvation and chance for redemption.  What they have come from- a community and people they couldn’t stand; a town that was harsh and foreign- they are gambling and throwing caution to the wind.  With some wordless chorusing- the band unison in voice- there is that semblance of defiance and strength.  Not one to be defeated and defined, our hero is away from home; not sure what is coming next- determined to find his way to safety.  The final moments see the song conclude and end: you are not sure whether there is a safe resolution- whether the lovers made it to a better place; found somewhere more tranquil and pleasant.

A natural development and step forward from their earliest work, City of Lights have produced something both traditional and original- a song that can only be theirs yet instilled with flecks of others acts.  Whilst they wear their influences on their sleeves, they do not just sling together a Foo-Leon-Clyro thing; assume the public will buy it- take a cheap and easy way out.  Instead, they borrow little shades and colours of each; the emotions and stadium-filling grandeur- and reinvent it for their own justifications.  Alive, Here is as a staunch and intriguing as its title: the deathly tangle and swimming-against-the-tide struggle never abates and relents.  Although the song’s ideas have been explored before- escaping a harsh world with a love; migrating to a safer place- City of Lights ensure they document something free of formulaic riffs and tossed-off lyrics.  Everything is kept sharp and economical; their energy and tightness is infectious and impressive- a band that have a clear intuition and sense of role.  Each player backs the others; the vocal supports the composition- everything is entwined and natural.  The production values are quite polished- not in a bad way though- which means the song has a contemporary shine and a made-for-radio sound- something that could well see the boys progress to the mainstream soon.  Matt Dunwell’s lead vocal presents the song with the utmost consideration for emotion and meaning: he does not over-emote or sound insincere; his voice sounds completely dedicated to the material at hand- portraying the subjects/words with consideration and intelligence.  A powerful and agile singer, he is compelling and heightened throughout: capable of coming down low and emoting; sky-scarping and dramatic when the mood calls.  Combining with Alex Humphrey’s guitar, the two whip-up a huge amount of potency and avalanche: ensure the song has grit and persistence from the first to last notes.  Humphreys himself ensures he makes his voice heard: his guitar remains sharp and impressive throughout; weaving plenty of colour and nuance into the track, he marks himself as one of the scene’s most impressive axe-wielders.  Ash Howey lets his bass guide and glide: it has rhythm and melody; it has strength and snaking sting- driving the song forward whilst presenting its own authority and charm.  Usually in songs- especially big, sweeping dramas- the bass does not get a great opportunity to shine- the guitars and percussion usually take care of that.  Here, there is democracy and equality: that bass can be heard making its mark; shaping its own direction- adding a huge amount to Alive, Here.  Ben Freer showcases his strong and pummeling percussive chops: making sure the track always remains gripping and dramatic; he displays a huge amount of technique and strength.  Acting as the band/song’s aching heart, the drums are hugely important and central- at times they almost take the limelight; perfectly sparring with the lead vocal.  Not only blending with his bandmates, what you get is a player with a big future- another musician with a superb skill and identity.  Together the band unleashes one of their most instant and compelling songs: something that could score festival sets and stadium evenings- a song that will mark itself as a live favourite.  Uniting their past work with future potential, City of Lights sounds completely bracing and brilliant throughout- something few of their contemporaries achieve.

Here, Alive is a song that not only defines the band- and is an apt shout-out to the music industry- but a sign of where they could head.  Not your average and predictable number; the song is catchy and nuanced; it has a cracking vocal and brilliant band performance- a track that compels you to repeat until exhausted.  It would be great to see where the band head next- whether there is an album due in 2016.  The music industry is an expensive and demanding thing: the process of recording an album (or E.P.) is quite a difficult thing- the boys should consider it, mind.  With their fan numbers growing- and that demand rising by the week- there is a market and audience waiting for them.  With Kickstarter providing a good option, it would be worth getting their head down- seeing just what they can come up with next year.  Having already rocked and seduced Reading and Leeds in 2013, the guys have grown in confidence and ambition- surely a good time to get those creative juices onto record?  Perhaps they are a step ahead- and really training their mind that way- but I know a lot of people cannot wait for that day (an album drops).  In a world of ropey bands and some forgettable examples, it is great to hear a young group that has legs: they have longevity appeal and a real sense of where they want to head.  It is true there are bands that play similar sounds- they have one or two close peers to watch out for- but that is no trouble- they are distinct and passionate enough to share market space with the best of them.  I am going to conclude by looking at the band/music market in general- wrapping up with a word on Yorkshire music.  A lot of our perceptions and judgments about the music world stem from the mainstream: in terms of sounds and tastes, the media focuses heavily here.  There is a busy and huge underground market; yet critical minds pull us to the already-established and legendary acts- the new releases from people we are familiar with already.  With so much focus being set here, new bands are looking at reviews and charts; the festival line-ups and harking to their record collection- maybe trying to find a magic formula.  There is no shame in being inspired by bands and acts; bringing some of their sound into the fray- so long as the overall impression has some original touches.  The trouble is, the new and fresh bands should be looking more at themselves.  Whilst a lot of music- from new bands and upcoming acts- can be generic and familiar, the lyrics and vocals should really not sound like anyone else.  I find too many acts that mimic others and sound like a knock-off: if you show too much fear and a lack of imagination, you are not going to last long.  City of Lights have a love of Biffy Clyro and Coldplay; they like Kings of Leon- their backing and music has a lot touch of each.  When it comes to the overall sound- the vocals and lyrics particularly- they ensure they do not hang onto coattails.  The riffs and choruses are familiar yet imbued with a hefty weight of their own; the vocal are hard to compare with anyone else- the band is making leaps to separate themselves from the pack.  When it comes to remaining in the public focus, it is vital to get this right- and ensures you are your own band; do not simply repeat another band’s sound.  In anything, it would be nice to see the boys really spread their wings: with their love of hard-cum-acoustic mixes, they have the potential to paint a rather broad spectrum of songs.  They seem effortless when it comes to the arena-focused songs- those big and epic numbers- but are adept at taking the mood down when called for- and proving they have plenty of heart and soul.  I have hopes and high expectations for the band: the signs are all good and they have a real flair and adventure.  I am sure they have plans and ideas for the next year, so keep your eyes locked in their direction.  Yorkshire is showing how good their musicians really are: a county that always brings the good; it seems like there’s an inexhaustible army of indefatigable and brilliant musicians- there must be something in the air!  Until now, the City of Lights boys have been confined to Yorkshire and the north: it can only be a matter of time before they make their way across the globe.  Having been formed in Paris- as their name suggests- it would be good to see them play France; maybe take a few dates in Europe- head across to the U.S.  This all depends on finance and demand- it is an expensive business gigging across the globe- but who’s to say it will not happen?  With their members primed and eager; their songs stunning and popular, I predict a prosperous next few years- that will see the collective taking their brand around the world.   For the moment, we have Here, Alive and all it offers: a song that sets out their stall and what potential they have- make sure you keep offering support and spread their music around.  I am pleased to discover a band that have genuine direction and passion- there are too many that lack that necessary spark and sense of life- so City of Lights should be respected and applauded.  Find yourself some time, sit back and embrace a band that differs from the run-of-the-mill examples out there.  Here, Alive is a song that rings with truth and resonance: it is a track that digs deep and hits all the emotional marks- a song that can beat away the autumn blues.  With 2015 providing so few genuine band wonders, it is great to witness City of Lights…

A group who will be around for years to come.

 

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Follow City of Lights:

 

Official:

http://www.cityoflightsofficial.co.uk/

Facebook:

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

Twitter:

_____________________________________

Music:

https://soundcloud.com/cityoflights-official

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Videos:

https://www.youtube.com/user/cityoflights2011

This Week’s Albums: October 4th, 2015

This Week’s Albums

  

October 4th, 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 (https://www.facebook.com/TheStokeGuildford?fref=ts); 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 and highlight some fantastic albums- maybe some you have forgotten about.

The Old: Buzzcocks- Singles Going Steady (1979)

 

9.5/10

 

Intended as the band’s introduction to the U.S. market, Singles Going Steady sees the English Punk band present their most accomplished album- it was not released in the U.K. until 1981; after the band had split up.  Featuring their most famous track (Ever Fallen in Love (With Someone You Shouldn’t’ve) it was the band’s most complete album.  There is sly and wonderful humour to be found- especially on Orgasm Addict’s tales of a lascivious sex freak.  I Don’t Mind sees the band ratchet the offensive and create one of their most urgent and frantic songs.  Harmony in my Head’s barked lyrics look at social inequities and neon signs: our hero is caught in the clatter of shoppers; he is long in the tooth- rallying against the world.  Everybody’s Happy Nowadays’- the album’s second-most famous track- sports simple and repeated lyrics (love as an illusion; our hero feeling tired of being sad).  Maybe the album’s most memorable chorus, it is a mantra for the disaffected dreamer- that feeling of disillusionment is tangible.  Across the L.P. the band are tight and peerless: mixing humour with asocial (although there is a great social element) commentary; Singles Going Steady stands the test of time- it has inspired the like of Nirvana no less.  One of Punk-Rock’s finest statements.

 

DOWNLOAD: Ever Fallen in Love (With Someone You Shouldn’t’ve); Everybody’s Happy Nowadays; Harmony in my Head

STAND-OUT TRACK: Ever Fallen in Love (With Someone You Shouldn’t’ve)

 

 

The New: John Grant- Grey Tickles, Black Pressure (Released October 9th, 2015)

 John Grant - Grey Tickles Black Pressure Cover.png

9/10

A lot of people may be unfamiliar with John Grant: the former Czars front-man has released an album critics are buzzing about.  The 47-year-old is synonymous with his candour and honesty: the way he uses humour to diffuse and sanitise potentially hard subjects- his latest release is no exception.  Ensconced in Iceland, Grant recently received a diagnosis of H.I.V.: a crippling blow he addresses right from the offset- an impressive and brave move.  Whilst there are dark hues and disturbing avenues- especially on Down Here’s we-all-die-in-the-end realisations- Grey Tickles, Black Pressure is a largely affirmative and fascinating study.  The Tracey Thorn-duetting Disappointing sees him listing his favouite things; Guest How I Know exorcises a broken love; the title track is a grand and emotional (piano-led) gem.  Most artists would wrap serious illness and heartache in morbidity and anger: Grant ensures his songs tease absurd and thoughtful; never bring the listener down- instead offer something redemptive and astonishing.  One of 2015’s finest albums, John Grant is a name you should familiarize yourself with: fall in love with a remarkable album from a truly wonderful artist.

DOWNLOAD: Grey Tickles, Black Pressure; Guess How I Know; Disappointing

STAND-OUT TRACK: Disappointing

  

The Influencer: The Jesus and Mary Chain- Psycho Candy (1985)

9/10

 

Not a sweet shop I’d ever frequent; Psycho Candy is nevertheless one of music’s landmark albums.  The combination of guitar feedback and Pop-based structures foretold and welcomed-in the Shoegaze genre- inspiring the likes of Primal Scream in the bargain.  The Scottish innovators may not have intended to create a genre, but they did just that: it is hard to ignore the album’s grandeur and accomplishment.  Just Like Honey is a haunting and beautiful number: both Pop in sensibility and somehow not; it is a beguiling and entranced track- where our lead (asks his heroine) to use him like a plastic toy.  Never Understand is a rollicking and cascading number: it is a demented and feedback-heavy beast; finally succumbing to its own weight- the final moments are a miasma of distorted vocals and feedback.  Whilst the percussion work (from Bobby Gillespie) is a little robotic- it perfectly matches the mood in fact- the songs do not stray far beyond sex, drugs and dissatisfaction- the surly and somnambulistic delivery makes everything sound essential and vital.  N.M.E. described the album as “a great citadel of beauty whose wall of noise, once scaled, offers access to endless vistas of melody and emotion”- that just about covers it!

DOWNLOAD: Just Like Honey; Never Understand; You Trip Me Up

STAND-OUT TRACK: Just Like Honey

 

The ‘Other One’: Arrested Development:  3 Years, 5 Months and 2 Days in the Life Of… (1992)

 

8.5/10

The band’s debut (and essentially their greatest hits album) 3 Years, 5 Months and 2 Days in the Life Of… refers to how long it took the U.S. Hip-Hop group to secure a record deal.  During the early ‘90s (the album was released in 1992) there was a feeling Hip-Hop was going into new territory: Arrested Development’s positive messages and religious oeuvres seemed like a tide turning.  The revolution never happened, yet the album did impress critics upon its release.  Fusing African rhythms, laid-back grooves and melodic R ‘n’ B, it is a fine album.  Inspiring the likes of Outkast and Nappy Roots you cannot ignore the songs: Tennessee (which shows lead voice Speech to examine the issues of the south) is the band’s defining anthem.  Mr. Wendal looks at the homeless life: the plight and struggles they face; give money regardless of your status.  People Everyday– a twist on Sly & the Family Stone’s Everyday People– is the album’s highlight.  Whilst not as cutting as their peers and contemporaries, Arrested Development crafted an album with pure optimism and unity pleas: not a bad thing given music’s tendency to introvert and campaign for the opposition.  A hugely evocative and moment-defining release; 3 Years, 5 Months and 2 Days in the Life Of… is an album to drift away to- in a time when music was simpler and much more compelling.

DOWNLOAD: People Everyday; Mr. Wendal; Tennessee

STAND-OUT TRACK: People Everyday

Track Review: Issimo- Coldest Queen

TRACK REVIEW:

 

Issimo

 

 

Coldest Queen

 

9.6/10.0

 

Coldest Queen is available at:

https://soundcloud.com/issimomusic/coldest-queen

RELEASED:
2nd September, 2015

GENRES:
Pop; Alternative; Folk; Swing

ORIGIN:

Yorkshire, U.K.

The E.P. The Coldest Queen is available from:

https://itunes.apple.com/gb/album/the-coldest-queen-ep/id1032136232

RELEASED:

26th September, 2015

TRACK LISTING:

Coldest Queen

Like You Do

Money

Get You Excited Does He?

If You Know How

______________________________________________

WHEN it comes to assessing Issimo…

it is hard to know how to charcaterise them.  It is near-impossible to define and label them: the duo has such a reverent and fascinating style of music; they flirt with genres and decades- melting it all in a delicious pan of bubbling musical bliss.  Before I investigate the Yorkshire-based two-some some more, a few points are to be raised: that which concerns duos and their variability; the unsigned acts in the U.K.; the importance of music diversity.  When it comes to duos in the U.K., we have a fair smattering of available varieties: from your Electro.-Pop champions and Folk-Pop purveyors; across your Hard-Rock hitters and Alternative flavours.  A lot of attention has surrounded Rock/Alternative duos this year.  Given the success of the likes of Royal Blood, a few like-minded duos are coming through.  In the north you have acolytes Knuckle and Huxtable (Scotland): two duos that play that similar sound; the fierce and hook-laden magic.  The hirsute duos do a good job of summoning-up that Royal Blood swagger and confidence- two headline acts of the future.  I see a lot of Hard-Rock/Alternative duos come out of the north: in the south (and Brighton, where Royal Blood hail) there are fewer examples; in London there aren’t quite as many of these duos- the capital and south house differently-minded two-somes.  What London does well is house Electro.-Pop and Folk duos.  Having been exposed to Ivy & Gold (Electrro.-Pop) and Gypsyfingers (Folk/Alternative) you get a different experience and sound- no less impressive and stunning than their northern contemporaries.  London has quite a mix of duos: I have reviewed Them & Us (Dub-Step-cum-Electronic) and Greenfield and Conder (Pop/Soul) – a lot of variety and diversity can be sought.  Elsewhere, you get some Sunshine-Pop and Indie duos; depending on your tastes, there is something for you.  What I find with most duos is their particular sound: they have a very defined and particular style.  Not to say they are rigid, yet they are not as experimental and wide-ranging as fellow bands and solo acts.  With any musician it is important to have consistency and personality- so you come across as original and personable- but it is vital to have some elasticity and adventure- otherwise it is easy to stagnate and stall.  The aforementioned duos work well within their remit and borders; they have enough vitality and talent- without the need to cross-pollinate and fuse genres.  I always love when a duo goes that bit further: they retain a distinct sound, yet understand the importance of surprise and freshness.  Issimo are a duo that makes these wishes a necessity: their back catalogue shows them switch genres and styles; they are as comfortable turning-in ’40s-influenced Swing as they are modern-day Pop.  A tight-knit and passionate duo; let me introduce them to you:

Unique songwriter duo Marc Otway and Abi Uttley, backed by the ISSIMITES make up the funky pop band ISSIMO. Branded as Yorkshires answer to “The Scissor Sisters” they take their influences from an eclectic range of genres, reggae, ska and even latin, and write thematic pop songs, that are lyrically driven and rhythmically charged. They will start an iTunes Pre-order Tour from 1st September for their Debut EP “The Coldest Queen”. The music video/short film, fan funded via Kickstarter, by the same name will also be on VEVO from the 2nd Sep.

In their short history ISSIMO have already brought their infectious vibes to Latitude Festival, Cornbury Festival, Beatherder festival and Bingley Music Live to name just a few. 

Debut E.P “The Coldest Queen” is set to be released 26th September; it includes their debut single “If You Know How”.

What I love about Issimo is their optimism and upbeat: few of their tracks are introspectively sad and emotive.  They are such a colourful and hypnotic act, it is impossible not to adore them- their latest work is no exception.  Uttley and Otway are a duo that has a unique connection and friendship: their songwriting and simpatico is scintillating; their songwriting is assured and quirky; dramatic and catchy- they are masters of big hooks and bold choruses; stunning vocals and exceptional musicianship.  A lot of duos tend to focus too wholly on vocals or composition- one side of things is either undeveloped or lacking.  The Hard-Rock/Alternative acts go for power and pace- whilst their lyrics may be simplistic and the vocals too defined- whereas the Electro.-Pop/Folk acts tend to negate compositional complexity.  The lovelies of Yorkshire’s Issimo have all corners covered: their compositions are expert and nuanced; the vocals always compelling and ear-catching- the lyrics are clever and humorous (they love to pen a witty tale!).  Issimo are unsigned and free-spirited at the moment: they are a duo that deserves a label endorsement; a P.R. company behind them.  Knowing quite a few down south, it seems logical Issimo should be on their radar- hopefully time will change this.  Few acts work harder than Issimo: their consistent quality and wonderful personalities seduce and captivate crowds; their latest offerings are among their very best.  They are self-sufficient and hard-working, yet they deserve a record label/company backing: it would help fund and aid their music; get their name spread wider across the U.K. – take the duo overseas.  With an ear for American-sounding music- they have Country tinges and Americana shades- they seem likely to play the U.S. – I could well see them in Tennessee, New York and L.A.; taking their brand across the land.  I am sure 2016 will see them transcend to the sights of P.R. companies afar; get them involved in some rather exciting projects- see them get the rewards they deserve.  All of this aside, it brings us neatly- if not quite succinctly- to the current-days Issimo.  A few months ago, they started a Kickstarter campaign: to get their E.P. The Coldest Queen funded.  That E.P. is available to buy (on iTunes) and was accompanied by a promotional video- funded by their fans via the campaign.  The Coldest Queen short film featured a full cast and great production values; an elaborate plot and some wonderful scenes- sort of Game of Thrones mixed with a historical epic.  The E.P.’s lead-off single (and closing track) If You Know How has been released; I have been struck by the E.P. title track- one of the duo’s most memorable and mesmeric numbers.

Before coming to their current music- and reviewing Coldest Queen– I am motivated to look back; see how the duo has changed and whether they have altered their sound that much.

   Carpe Diem is one of the duo’s earliest numbers (and does not feature on their new E.P.); it shows how strong they were from the start- and how confident everything sounds.  A springing and upbeat introduction leads to Otway’s lead vocal.  There are Reggae and Ska elements to the song; it has a summer-time vibe and a real swing- Uttley comes in to provide backing and support.  The lyrics look at life and its realities; returning to a “clean slate”.  The production is crisp and clean to allow the notes and instruments to resonate and impress.  From start to end the song keeps kicking and moving: that endless sense of movement makes it such a wonderful track.  With little Jazz elements and Pop undertones it is such a wealthy and fertile track- one that keeps you coming back.  The infectious byplay between Uttley and Otway brings a smile to your face.  Swaying and parping trumpet notes give the song a sizzling grandeur and smile- few modern acts have produced anything like this.  Charming and filled with joy, it is a song that implores upbeat and resolve- ensure whatever life throws at you; you get back on your feet and face it.  A track that means a lot to the duo, it is a fan favourite and a great track to hear live- showing how strong the two were in their earliest days.

   Pretty Simple is another non-E.P. track and early cut: like Carpe Diem it has Reggae and Ska openings.  Otway takes the lead again and lets his soulful and stunning tones lead.  Uttley comes in with a beautiful and soothing vocal- acting as Otway’s partner and other half.  Our hero is adapting to what the girl wants; he is changing to make things simple or complex- the heroine does not like what is unfamiliar.  The new and fresh can be thrilling- as he says- yet our heroine is not impressed.  The boy is being too smart and cock-sure; it cuts no mustard with our heroine.  That need to simplify and be himself; that is the message that comes throw- back by rampant and effusive brass.  The connection between the two is stunning and intuitive: each knows their role and combines wonderfully; weaving their vocals inside one another- creating such a harmonious and catchy number.  Designed to get crowds single and feet tapping, it is a deliberately simple song- one that is quotable and memorable to the extreme.  With similar shades to Carpe Diem– the subject matter changes yet the composition has similarities- Issimo showed consistency and huge passion here.

    If You Know How was originally recorded a year ago; it features on the band’s The Coldest Queen– a chance for new fans to hear it.  I became aware of this song a year ago, and it is shows another great step for the band.  Keeping their core sound and styles firm, it sees Otway up front again- being propelled by a serene and stomping compositional blend.  His girl does not love him deeply enough; there is some doubt and hesitations- our man is seduced by her smile and twinkling eyes.  Uttley comes into the background to support the chorus; the composition remains tender and rushing- never impeded on the mood and encroaching too much.  A funky and addictive slice, Issimo demonstrate how catchy their music is- once more creating something that remains firmly in the brain.  Our heroine wants her man to read between the lines; sing a song “and take my hand”- come closer and surrender.  Those smiles and optimistic vibes reign throughout the track: the chorus is perhaps the most insatiable and additive they have ever penned.  If You Know How sits naturally on The Coldest Queen: with the exception of a couple of numbers, the E.P. culls songs from last year- they are sit alongside one another easily and comfortably.

   Like You Do is the E.P.’s lead track and shows Uttley taking the lead here: her smoky and smooth voice drips and pours honey over the opening moments.  Soul-infused and stunning, you get caught in her web.  The tone has some Jazz and Swing elements- sourcing its core from ‘30s and ‘40s musicians- to create something retro and modern at the same time.  Uttley does not need to fake her voice or adapt it: throughout, she keeps her unique and powerful voice her own- letting it swim and glide inside the composition.  Our heroine’s hero is casting a spell: whether it is the rhythm or the words (beating to the rhythm of his heart); it is causing effects and desire.  That passion and longing comes through in the track: again you get a very catchy and bold chorus; something sassy and vampish- the composition is intricate and clever; stepping and dancing alongside the vocal.  Acting as an aural character, you get the idea of the duo (Uttley and her man) dancing and swaying: you are drawn into the song and imagine what is taking place; two young lovers casting glances alongside a packed hall/ballroom- as the hero is centre stage and under the spotlight.

Because the new E.P. contains a mix of brand-new and older tracks, you might expect some dislocation and split: each track fuses perfectly and nothing seems out of place.  Coldest Queen shows a new side to the duo, yet is a natural step- it does not deviate too far and it is good to see Uttley take some lead vocals.  Whereas Otway dominated vocals on earlier cuts, the switch means the E.P. is balanced in that sense- you get different perspectives and a nice mixture of vocal sounds.  Whereas Otway has a soulful and Jazz-influenced sound, Uttley is more Pop and Soul-orientated: her power and sexiness defines the tracks she leads.  It is when the two combine you perhaps get the biggest hit: the duo have a clear affection and work wonderfully with each other; both the talented vocalists have their own style and shades- blending magnificently when the tracks call for it.  Issimo are expanding their sounds and diversifying with each new release.  Whereas their 2014 work had more Reggae and Ska touches, Coldest Queen suggests something a little different and darker- they keep the sunshine in there but show they can be effective when taking the mood down.  It means the duo have a lot of options in their future: they do not just stick with one idea and genre; they like to keep things unexpected and mobile- changing their themes and songs when needed.  The Coldest Queen is a unification of their past and current agendas: what you get is unilaterally brilliant songwriting and bold compositions; stunning and awe-struck vocals- songs that are catchy and compelling; music that begs you to keep coming back for more.

   Coldest Queen is their E.P.’s newest (full-length) cut: something fresh to many ears- a song I was keen to investigate.  The track begins with a trickling and dancing electronic underpinning: supported by swaggering and drunken brass- it is actually quite composed but has a merriment and sway to its movements- and you get a fantastic introduction.  Already you are projecting images and possibilities- based on the song’s title- and wondering what will come next.  The first words take you into the mystical and historical: our heroine is on the microphone and lets her voice survey the land and scenes.  The song’s heroine is instantly in the picture: surrounded by her eager-to-please servants, there is a heady and fantastical scene set- one you are sucked into and keen to explore more.  Uttley’s vocal is quite smooth and levelled at the first stage: letting her words clearly ring, there is power and resonance.  There are volatile winds and a storm brewing perhaps: right from a few lyrics, you get a vivid picture in your head; start to predict where our travels may take us.  In terms of vocal-and-composition sound, I get embers of Amy Winehouse and Adele: Uttley’s voice is Blues and Soul-infused; dripping with emotion and potency- and backed against those stunning horns and evocative undertow- you get something both classic and contemporary.  The servants are kneeling to the ground- the ground “that she made”- and there seems to be trouble and heartache imminent- you get a sense of danger and knife-edge here.  It is impossible not to be seduced and entranced by the track- the lead-off track on the E.P. – as it is both immediate and layered.  The composition has a nice and straight-ahead electronic (either piano or guitar) twinkle that adds some mystique and magic.  That brass work topples back and forth: the two in combination create a psychotropic and lush whole; something that goes straight to your brain.  With Uttley’s vocal commanding and holding court- the fantastic composition supporting her every step- you are powerless to resist.  Being Issimo, you get humour among the pathos and hardships: the servants are staying away from the stocks; keen not to be beheaded- the lines are delivered with a cheeky wink and smile.  This cold queen has eyes that “turn green”: when they do, her armies are summoned to cause damage and war- she is a pantomime villain and arch baddie; someone you do not want to double-cross.  As the song continues its plight, that brass wave carries everything along: our vocal heroine keeps her voice stunning and focused- ensuring each word and line is delivered with gusto.  The cold queen will reign supreme- “if you believe the bluff”- and has her kingdom at her feet.  The chorus is a typical slice of Issimo gold: simple and effective, it is a big and uplifting beauty- something that radiates and strikes; gets you singing along.  Past the 2:00 you get a musical breakdown: the vocal steps aside (briefly) and the instruments unleash a storm- adding more vividity and mystery to the fold.  At first it is those brass notes that compel and overwhelm- being at their most eager and anxious best- but the percussion starts to come into its own- keeping things tight and hard-hitting; eliciting quite a punch itself.   Few acts are as effective when it comes to penning a colourful composition: each Issimo number is packed with life and joy; stunning details and a great sense of joy.  I have mentioned the likes of Winehouse and Adele- in the most complimentary and true way- and you get hints of a Mark Ronson-produced jam: the production and composition is exceptional and mesmeric; the vocal is such a beautiful thing.  Whereas the duo usually looks at love and life’s realities; here they step out of a ‘comfort zone’: away from biography and reality, it is their first foray into science fiction and fantasy- they do not sound nervous or unnatural at all.  Brilliantly confident and scene-setting, the song’s lyrics are hugely effective.  Those cheeky brass notes- reminding me of Paul Simon’s You Can Call Me Al– are part-carnival-part-conga- one would imagine the queen brushing her cape over the town; twirling with malevolent glee- scaring the townsfolk with her imperious glare.  Being a fairly short song- it doesn’t even hit the three-minute mark- it packs a huge amount of wonder and nuance in.  Issimo have always been intuitive when it comes to economy: they do not let songs linger or needlessly wander; they get their message and vibe across neatly- simultaneously leaving you wanting a little more.  By the final embers of Coldest Queen– and that green-eyed and danger-laden chorus- you are hungry for a little extra- just see how the story progresses and ends.

   Coldest Queen is The Coldest Queen’s opening salvo and most urgent track: the E.P. is choked with wonderful moments; this is my absolute favourite.  It is a new and fresh song from the duo; one that will see the live crowds latching onto it- I can see it becoming a favourite of fans across the country.  With Otway turning in a fantastic and rich composition- there is so much atmosphere and detail throughout- and Uttley at her vocal peak, it is a remarkable track from the duo.  I have always loved Uttley’s voice- it can be sweet and sassy within the same syllable- but here she sounds utterly authoritative and sensual.  With a magisterial and grand delivery, it is no short-sight to say she has Amy Winehouse’s gifts- without replicating her voice.  Uttley is her own singer and artist, yet manages to steal focus with her incredible performance.  I was impressed by how Issimo have ventured into fantasy territory: it shows another dimension to their songwriting and proves how adaptable and varied they are- sounding completely natural wherever their songs take them.  An incredible and polished production allows the song to burnish and explode into life- it is perhaps the duo’s most impressive song to date.  With so many new acts petering-out after a few songs; Issimo seem to grow and become more wondrous.  In an E.P. that contains no weak or ineffective moments- everything is stunning and a joy to hear- Coldest Queen is the jewel in the crown- gleaming and dazzling for sure.  Perhaps that wobbly-legged brass stays in the mind; maybe the whiskey-soaked vocal and sensuousness- perhaps the story as a whole.  To me, everything comes together and balances: the composition drives the vocal; the vocal drives the players- everything slots together so comfortably.  When you have heard the song once, you go straight back in to pick out little asides and notes- each new play reveals something new and unexpected.  A triumphant cut from a consistently brilliant act.

Over the coming weeks- past the inconvenience of work- I will be reviewing and interviewing a range of different acts- predominantly female-led acts, it will be an interesting time.  Issimo have always been in my sights; they are one of my favourite duos- they fully warrant some high-profile attention and acclaim.  With each new song/release they grow in confidence and desire; they are one of this country’s most prosperous acts- make sure you watch them carefully.  The Coldest Queen– the E.P. and Kickstarter campaign- took a lot of promotion and determination.  Their fans and supporters came together to ensure they could record their music- the results speak for themselves.  Coldest Queen shows so much drama and storyline; a tremendous and tight performance- it is one of the Yorkshire duo’s most complete and nuanced numbers.  Perfect for any weather and situation, make sure you investigate it now- and pick-up The Coolest Queen E.P.  The E.P. not only shows the hard work and passion that has gone into things; it also represents how much support Issimo has- it cannot be long until labels and P.R. bods are in-tune and on-board.  It makes you wonder where they head next- after they have toured and promoted their E.P. – and what their feature moves might entail.  I have always seen Issimo producing a wonderful and deep L.P.: something that shows them on full attack; expands their music and proves just what they can achieve.  When spring and summer rolls back around, you can expect them to hit-up festivals and stages: get their warm and vivacious music to the masses; get the feet and arms waving in unison.  I started the review by looking at the nature of duos and how they compose themselves: there is a lot of diversity out there; few acts have such an accomplished sound as Issimo.  They are not musicians that wildly throw sounds together- in the hope they coalesce and make sense- but instead have such affection for music- they are keen to explore it in as much depth as possible.  The Coldest Queen demonstrates these points fully: that wit and love-gone-wrong humour mixes with history and queens; the catchy hooks and bold choruses are matched with brassy music and stunning courtship- everything fizzes, flows and explodes.  A thrill-ride from start to finish, you have to tip your hats to them- and wish them success for the future.  I guess a lot of eyes and ears are trained to London and their musicians- it is where the majority of P.R. companies and labels seem to be based.  Whether their telescope is trained to the north it is hard to say: it would be a shame to think the likes of Issimo are being overlooked.  I would recommend Issimo get in touch with brands like Mystic Sons- who I mentioned in my previous review; they take care of Nina Schofield- and see if they will listen.  That failing, there are ample others who would welcome the duo into their nest- Uttley and Otway are too good to be localised and confined to the north.  They have played in London and the south, yet I can see them going a look further- I mentioned the likes of the U.S.; they would be at home here.  Perhaps a bigger ill with solo acts there seems to be some form of limitation with duos: their music does not really exceed expectations and few are daring enough to really broaden their motifs.  Coming back to Royal Blood, their debut album was met with applause and celebration (rightfully so).  What I find lacking was that sonic range that could spell trouble for album two.  The likes of The White Stripes, Queens of the Stone Age- who the duo have taken hints from- succeeded because they are broad and emotional wide-ranging.  Tying in some acoustic numbers and softer elements, their albums are more compelling and interesting.  Royal Blood struck me as two one-dimensional and samey: the band had to stamp an identity, yet you wonder whether they could really stretch themselves- how long will the public embrace the same sound/songs on a second album?  I worry they may just repeat their debut- with only a few tweaks and new diversions- thus risking losing their appeal and momentum.  Perhaps it is just short-sighted nerves, yet duos (as do bands and solo acts) need to be more forward-thinking and agile- the consumer market demands new sounds and freshness.  Issimo never stay still and are always looking to showcase something brand-spanking and vibrant- few of their songs sound alike.  What separates them from the pack is their songwriting and vocal dynamics.  Otway is the chief composer and is one of the most talented musicians on the current scene.  Whether penning a guitar lick or a Jazz/Swing riot- via some tender piano lines and feet-kicking acoustic moments- he is masterful and accomplished.  Uttley takes on the vocal majority and has sexiness and sensuality; plenty of smoke and tenderness- powerful and enflamed when the moment calls.  The duo’s stunning lead, she possesses such a gorgeous and emotive voice: it allows Issimo to really spread their wings are write any song they please (knowing she can accommodate and nail it).  The lyrics and stories are the most fascinating facet: the duo can write witty two-handers; they do slice-of-life stories and observations- perfectly capable of old-fashioned love and poetic utterances.  It is these talents that will see them endure and succeed: they are still a new act and have already achieved so much- from award plaudits and festival dates to gaining armies of new fans.  The fact they have managed to draw in so many new faces that prove they are a duo to take seriously- ensure they are not cloistered and exclusive to the northern crowds.  The nights are drawing in and the days are getting colder and more unpredictable- we need something comforting and warming to soothe our souls.  Off the back of a successful charge, the Bradford two-some are going to make future plans and seeing where they go next.  They needn’t be nervous or uncertain, as they are an amazing and unique act- few come up to their lofty status.  If you have not encountered the duo make sure you make up for lost time: they have a wide array of past songs to check; keep your eyes peeled in their direction.  With so many musicians coming across too downbeat and limited, we need acts that buck the trend and bring life back to music.  With that in mind…

SEEK this Bradford duo out.

______________________________________________

Follow Issimo:

 

Official:

http://www.issimomusic.net/

Facebook:

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

Twitter:

https://twitter.com/ISSIMOMUSIC

 _____________________________________

Music:

https://soundcloud.com/issimomusic

___________________________________

Videos:

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCS4vlVv1QKYB2qQC9s28wIA

Track Review: Nina Schofield- Come Down

TRACK REVIEW:

 

Nina Schofield

 

 

Come Down

 

9.5/10.0

 

Come Down is available at:

https://soundcloud.com/ninaschofield/come-down-nina-schofield-1

RELEASED:
6th November, 2015

GENRES:
Pop

ORIGIN:

London, U.K.

LABEL:

23rd Precinct/Notting Hill Music Publishing

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ONE of my favourite things about music reviewing is…

coming across great solo artists.  I love the band market; discovering some great duos and artists: for me, it is most satisfying discovering a solo star- someone taking steps into the music world on their own.  My featured artist is someone I have reviewed before- and featured on these pages a few times- and is on a great rise right now.  I shall mention Nina Schofield in a second, but for the moment I am compelled to speak about a few issues: the solo market today; the rise of the female Pop stars- and the future of British music.  On the first point there are some great solo acts about: from Electro.-Pop and Folk artists, there seems to be a great range coming through- perhaps there is a slight lack of overall quality.  What I find (with solo acts) is that there is a sameness and familiarity: especially when it comes to acoustic-led artists, there is not a lot of differentiation and distinction.  I may be over-simplifying; I just find that I have heard it all before- there is not a lot of surprise and awe happening.  On the mainstream, there are a few great solo acts; although they are harder to find.  Great acts like John Grant and Angel Haze are releasing great albums: aside from them, there is still a proliferation of bands dominating the scene.  When it comes to the Mercury Prize nomination coming out; you can bet it will be band-heavy: a few solo acts may appear, yet the groups will probably be near the top of the list.  In the underground/new music, there is saturation and overcrowding.  When trying to discover a great solo act, social media does help a little: finding someone that separates themselves from the pack; goes out their way to be different and fresh- that can be a hard task.  A lot of Folk, Pop and Electro.-Pop acts tend to sound too like a mainstream example; a lot of new artists struggle to really stamp their personality into the music- coming off as quite uninspired.  I have reviewed and interviewed acts that could be replicants: you would not be able to distinguish them from other artists; from their vocal sound to their lyrics, there is borderline plagiarism at work.  It is quite depressing but perhaps not too shocking: in a scene where musicians are crowding in; how easy it is to be truly original?  When it comes to Nina Schofield, I am pleased to announce there is originality and personality- it is hard to really compare her with anyone else.  I have followed her career since the earliest days: from performing in school halls and making her first moves, she has blossomed into a fine and stunning artist: a woman with a terrific ambition and voice; somebody that defines the ambitious and hungry musician- what can happen when you set your mind to things.  There are a lot of Pop artists that tie in Electronic themes: to my mind, that is the hardest genre(s) to get right and make original.  What I find with a lot of female solo acts (who play in this arena) is that their voice sounds the same- you cannot distinguish their tones from their countless peers.  Schofield has built her voice- inspired by her idols and current favourites- and very much has her own style and endeavor.  Inspired by great female acts; bands like Coldplay- she brings a little of each into her make-up.  Before I talk about Schofield- and bring in a couple of new points- let’s introduce our featured act:

Imagine a touch of Ellie Goulding mixed with a sprinkling of Jessie Ware and you are well on your way to hearing the epic sounds of singer-songwriter Nina Schofield.

Classically trained and having successfully completed a Degree in Vocal Performance at the Academy of Contemporary Music Nina has done a great deal of professional work to widespread acclaim.

The release of her first album “Drifting” led to a nomination for Best Female Vocal at The Hollywood Music in Media Awards with her second single “Slow Down Soldier” charting at number 4 in the iTunes Singer/Songwriter charts.

Her featured vocal/co-write with successful trance act Aurosonic has seen radio support from the likes of Armin Van Buuren and ASOT.

No stranger to the stage, Nina, who is a proud ambassador for charity The Rose Road Association, has already performed at prestigious venues and events including The Paralympics Torch Lighting Ceremony at Stoke Mandeville Stadium, The Buxton Dome, Derby and The Montreux Jazz Festival as well as supporting artists like John Power (The La’s/Cast) and Polly Scattergood. Working with internationally renowned producers and writers such as Jud Friedman (Whitney Houston), Richard Niles (Kylie Minogue, Ray Charles), and Lloyd Perrin (Pixie Lott, Newton Faulkner) has helped sculpt Nina’s individual pop sound into something truly unique and the release of her new single ‘Come Down’ is sure to place her firmly on the map of pop’s rising stars.

Schofield has worked hard to get her name out there: she is one of this country’s most promising solo acts- in no small part because of her stunning voice and phenomenal songwriting.  Working with award-winning producers and a great team, she has ensured her music shout its name- critics and fans are falling for her new sounds; desperate to investigate her thoroughly- and all the promise she offers.  I will get down to the business of reviewing- and looking at Schofield’s music- in a while; but for now, it seems like another issue is at foot: the plight of the solo scene and this year’s music.  I have loved some of this year’s solo acts; there have been some great moments and albums- the bands are still stealing the limelight.  I am not sure what is causing it; what you can ascribe it to- it might just be the limits imposed on artists.  When you are a solo act, you have to work harder; you have fewer members to make the music resonate- perhaps some limits with regards composition and range.  It is hard to say, yet there needs to be a shake-up of sorts: the underground acts are showing what is possible; there are some tremendous solo acts coming through- let’s hope they translate to the foreground.  Schofield seems like an artist that could make her way to the mainstream soon: start playing the large festival dates; get her songs on national radio- and really make a name for herself.  That voice has huge range and possibility; her writing is varied and consistently strong- her hunger and passion is undeniable.  With the mainstream filled with hit-and-miss sounds- and you have to dig hard to discover great acts- it is a relief to hear an artist that brings quality every single time- and is getting better with each new release.  It is sure to be a prosperous 2016 for Nina Schofield.

Before getting to Come Down– and what her current movements behold- it is worth looking back; seeing how she has developed- and progressed as an artist.  Over It Under It is a year old now, but saw Schofield in her element: a song that brims with confidence and a stunning vocal performances.  From the introductory moments, there is that Coldplay-esque sound: Pop and Alternative mix together; quite calmed to begin with- the song soon expands and blossoms.  The song’s composition stays tender and considerate: allow that vocal to shine and pervade, it is a track that drips with emotion and determination.  There are little shades of Ellie Goulding and Coldplay throughout; that soft and evocative piano line (that cuts through the atmosphere and elicits shivers) is supported by a whispered and hushed beginning.  There is quite a ‘U.S. feel’ to the song- I am reminded of Katy Perry and Pink at times; little shades of the current Pop crop- yet Schofield’s distinct projection and tones override this- the chorus is one of the most catchy and powerful she has ever penned.  Lost in confusion and doubt, the song sees our heroine strike against the odds: she battles her demons and heartache; passes through the darkness- and makes her way alone.  The lyrics have a familiar and individual contrast: they will speak to the young female sectors- and the heartbroken that can emphasise- whilst showing a superb way with words and expressions.  Schofield mixes in some electronic elements, but for the most part, the song has a Pop-cum-Alternative blend- one of the strongest songs she has ever put out.

    Colours’ title track was released last year (along with the E.P.) and follows a similar path to Over It Under It: the vocal projection and sound is similar; the introduction is very similar- both songs share E.P. space so it is not a surprise.  On this track, the lyrics are more redemptive and romantic: there is a soulfulness and deep sense of passion; that safety and security- the initial vocals are without anxiety and are beautiful to hear.  A very crystalline and pure thing, Colours mutates and starts to grow- the pace and energy begins to pick up.  That chorus sticks inside the brain naturally: it is upbeat and colour-filled; evocative and stunningly delivered- Schofield’s voice matches urgency and effusiveness to a spellbinding effect.  Taking little pieces of Electronica and sounds of the clubs- the beats and electronics bristle and tease in the undergrowth- it is another shining and spectral Pop attack.  Multi-tracked vocals augment that sense of wonder and purity: you are lost in the tide of light and life.  Every vocal note and utterance is delivered with a huge amount of panache and style: Schofield ensures she makes every word count; her control and authority is incredible.  Joyous and endlessly addictive, it shows the other side of Colours: the paen and pride; juxtaposing the rejection and sense of loss.  Within both songs, Schofield is strong and not to be trodden-on: there is no gloominess and woe-is-me; she is always independent and defiant- making the E.P. something that appeals to all ages, genders and music-lovers.

   Come Down is anything but: it shows Schofield employing and bringing in new sounds and styles- whilst keeping her true voice intact.  Whilst Colours is largely Pop-orientated and chorus-heavy; Come Down sees harder electronics and more cutting-edge force.  That is not to say her messages have become cynical and depressive: her style and personality are the same; instead you get a bit edgy and Electro.-Pop feel to things- a little bit of Future-Beats.  Breaking away from the Coldplay-by-Goulding stylisations, here we get something perhaps Ferreira and Rudimental-based- two acts that have been linked to Schofield.  Schofield has ensured she does not stagnate or repeat herself: her new single is rife with detail and stunning electronics; great bass notes and stunning production values- sure to please existing fans and draw in new support.  If she had released a similar-sounding single- that strayed too close to her previous work- it might not have drawn in too many new faces: as it stands, she has kept her integrity but shown bravery and innovation; taking in new influences and exploring new horizons.

There is a lot of excitement surrounding Come Down: a song that sees Schofield right back in the limelight; showing a huge amount of assurance and inspiration.  Clash Magazine have premiered the track: it has picked up some positive reviews and resonated with the music press.  Right from the first seconds this is no ordinary Nina Schofield track: comparisons have been levied to Sky Ferreira.  There is a little bit of Chvrches in there too; some incredible evocations and familiarities- whist very much sounding natural and unforced.  The early moments see bubbling electronics and some seductive bass and beats- a great combination that wouldn’t sound out of place on an FKA twigs release.  It is such an of-the-moment and modern sound; an introduction that seems to sum-up and define 2015- the introduction puts the listener on their toes; draws them in and creates a whirlwind of fascination.  When Schofield arrives at the microphone, her soul seems exhausted and in need of energy- needing another hit to get her through.  Whether addressing a lover or friend, there seems to be some tension and anxiety- her subject is bringing her down; that need to get away and find some space.  Schofield keeps her positivity and natural sunshine brimming: she is on all all-time high; at the peak of her creative happiness, she will not let anyone knock her down- too many people forcing negativity and doubts.  The early words could speak as a message to the music world and critics: those that doubt Schofield and her dreams; anyone that is cynical and unsupportive is being talked-to and investigated- why would you want to knock someone when they are at their happiest and most fulfilled?  On the other hand- and perhaps a more likely explanation of events- we are looking at personal relationships and love.  Maybe her subject is weighing her down and not showing enough respect: Schofield’s pure and gorgeous vocal cuts through the atmosphere- sending a clear message across the horizon.  Evocative and tender, it is a nice balance against the early jaggedness- the song blooms and swings; there is a great sense of movement and time elapse; the composition does not merely sit still and remain passive.  On previous releases, Schofield has started breathless and in awe; she explodes and expands in the choruses- bringing the song along a typical and assured tangent.  Here, there is a slightly different tactical approach.  After that instant and stunning introduction the vocal does begin serenely and dreamily: before long, Schofield increases her pace (her words are almost Rap-like at times); increasing that sense of insistency and determination- catching the listener by surprise.  Letting her beauty and expressive voice lead the charge, she is backed by scuffling and compacted beats- which augments the foreground and injects a note of danger and fight.  Our heroine does not want to become entangled with those who are pessimistic and unsupportive: she fears her allegiance (to her subject(s) is going to bring her down; she does not want to surrender this high.  Schofield is spinning “out of your control”; on a different sphere (to her subject) – making her own way and moving on.  At this stage- and thinking about the song so far- the lyrics are designed to resonate with the mass audience.  There is a distinct motivation to the song- having been inspired by real-life events and struggles with others- yet the sentiments can be extrapolated by all.  We have all been in a similar situation: whether it is a partner or friend; a town or community- that sense of being held back and knocked-down is easy to identify with.  Come Down is an anthem that is reserved for all: a song that can ignite and unite the dance-floors; get feet and voices blended in a throng of song.  As the chorus slams and rises- and Schofield is at the peak of her powers- the composition comes back to take charge.  Whilst the bass and beats rumble and clatter- never aimless or erring into Dub-Step territory- there is a sharp and kaleidoscopic parabond (your mind is pulled into the trance of electronics).  Sampled and processed vocal snatches tangle with the bubbling bursts and static pound- creating something dizzying and intoxicating.  You can never predict where Come Down will go next: by the 2:00 marker, so much ground has been covered; the sonics and vocals never let up or desist- it is a song that demands attention without a moment’s breath.  After the little explosions of composition, Schofield comes back into the centre.  Having shaken away some negative people; tried to move past the bad.  As the song progresses, perhaps there is a person responsible for the happiness and good mood.  My mind speculated a lover or friend was causing heartache and annoyance: as Come Down progresses, my thoughts turn.  Schofield is at a high place; she is swimming in the joy of this feeling- is it success/music or love creating this?  It is a song that has mystery and obliqueness: each listener might have a different perspective; have their own version of events.  Schofield is a strong soul that wants to be fixed to this feeling- and not let it go by- and is throwing the shackles from negative spirits.  The track catches you by surprised with little vocal bursts- when the word “woah” is delivered by the chorus it is sharp and ecstatic- and its sheer energy.  Ecstasy and delirium seem to be the common themes: Schofield is one of the most positive and resilient songwriters; even when people are holding her back, she manages to find strength and light at the end of the tunnel.  Here she is hovering above the world; she is lost in the clouds- at her most comfortable and ambitious.  It is not just the sentiments, determination and etherealness that grip your attention: the composition is restless and constantly contorting- it is such a detailed and deep thing, you rewind the song to revisit snippets of beats and electronics.  Before the 4:00 mark- and the song starts to reach its close- there is some tempering and evaluation.  The scuffing and skittled beats vibrate and buzz; the bass line underpins the movement- the variegated electronic twists tie everything together.  With her sights set, Schofield unleashes one more charge: the song ramps up and reaches its absolute peak- beginning with some sped-up and mutated vocals.  Schofield is the master of hooks and huge choruses: whilst not using the song’s title as a chorus centre-point; instead it is that vocal-and-lyrics blend that hits the mark.  With her words reloaded and ready- spiraling out of her subject’s control; pushing away the doubters- you get that squirreled and accelerated vocal exclamation- cemented into the heavy and determined beat.  It is a track that gets more addictive and compelling as it unwinds: by the final notes you are not done digging and listening- and yearn for it to keep going.  Schofield and her production team have ensured the song ends sharply and economically: it allows her to spread her wings but does not overstay its welcome- that combination of nuance and tease is a wonderful thing.

   Come Down is a song that has a summer vibe and a real sense of energy- you can tell Schofield was sun-drenched and serotonin-filled when writing it.  Whether her inspiration- and the people/person mentioned in the song- is a friend or group of people, her lyrics ring true and hard.  Whilst its core is optimistic and determined, you always get that sense of internal struggle and weight: although she is looking to the heavens, there are things and people waiting to try and put her down.  If there are any fears or doubts, they are not evident in the song: every moment is defined by a huge amount of force and passion.  Schofield has never sounded as focused and determined as she does here: it is a song that seems to be where she it at; she is on a creative hot-streak and in love with music- her admiration and happiness is put to tape with stunning accomplishment.  Schofield has stepped aside from her Colours-era workj a little: her latest single is not a totally departure; it does invest some new influences and genres into the boiling pot.  Retaining some Pop sensibilities and motifs, we get harder edges and a more primal core- the electronics are more complex and emotive; the production values have shifted slightly.  What you get is a natural step and a great degree of consistency- it bodes incredibly well for a future E.P./album.  Schofield seems to be at her most inspired and happy: with her heart and mind this assured, how long before future music?  I know she has had struggles and anxieties- nothing foreign to musicians; she has channeled it into her songs- and has risen above these negativities.  What Come Down shows is how a positive outlook and pen can lead to some wonderful results.  Too many musicians are insulated and shallow- always looking at a half-empty glass; never projecting any energy or optimism.  There is a lot of upbeat and delirious Pop/Electro. tracks/acts out there; a lot of them get bogged-down in clichéd lyrics and fake vocalisations.  Schofield is an artist that surpasses her peers and has a sharp and intelligent pen- never succumbing to anything ordinary or tried.  Each track she produces sticks inside the head; it demands repeated listens- the sheer rush and energy draws you back in, helpless to resist.  Come Down is already enlivening social media- it is not officially released until November- yet Schofield seems to be at her most comfortable and committed- and gaining appropriate rewards and attention.

I am always startled by Schofield’s talent and music: with every new track, you get something different and developed- an artist that keeps on growing and improving; showing so much confidence and assurance.  Since her Colours days- more-or-less when I started to fall for her music- she has built on that incredible sound: she has developed a nice edge and grittiness; employed addictive bass and stunning Electro.-Pop sounds- fleshed-out and augmented her core sounds.  With this newly-honed sharpness and edge, you get an artist that is showing no fear: few other artists have such a determination to succeed and inspire- Come Down is the sound of a young woman who has no thoughts of slowing or quitting.  Schofield has joined forces with Mystic Sons- and the lovely people there- and is gaining huge momentum.  Schofield has the energy, talent and sound of Ellie Goulding and Sky Ferreira; the musicality and expertise of Coldplay- the way she can fuse genres and emotions seamlessly- and the vocal chills and cinematic flair of Lana Del Rey.  People like me (those that review music) need to compare artists with others- to make them more accessible to the public- yet Schofield does not cling to anyone- she simply employs little pieces of certain acts.  Her words and stories are her very own- and her experiences of love and life- whilst her compositions are alive with fizz and excitement; serene and sensuous undertones- few modern acts can match her sense of colour and innovation.  I guess we compare acts to see how good they really are- if they get compares to X, Y and Z they must be as good?- so Schofield should be proud- she is more than a match for the mainstream’s finest.   I am glad she is getting some London patronage and representation; she is getting her name heard in Mortimer Street- it is only the start of things to come.  I look at solo acts and wonder really: which ones will make it to the mainstream- who will fall and fail?  Schofield loves the flavours and scenes of the touring life- seeing new people and taking her music throughout the U.K. – so she seems dead-set to be an international fixture.  There are some great U.S. and Australian acts- that play similar music- so there are venues and crowds that would love her- that much I could guarantee.  London is a city that is more than hospitable: there are so many venues and clubs she has yet to conquer- this is the start of something great.  To get a foothold; to really make a name in this town- one must keep the pace going and not let the quality meter drop.  Her latest single sees the young artist really hit a stride: her music will only become more intriguing and confident.  On that note, what does the next year have in store for Nina Schofield?  I would imagine an album would be next on her agenda- as opposed to an E.P. – yet I might be wrong.  I feel she has enough impetus and stories to fill an L.P.: show what she has learned and seen since Colours– although she may want to tour for a little first.  Colours was as vibrant and multifarious as its title: abound with style, emotion and confession there was plenty of dance and epic hooks- songs that lodged in your brain and would not relent.  That four-track cut was out last year; since then she has matured slightly; upped her ante- and really expanded her sights and palette.  I can see an album cover and title; I could imagine the track listing- Come Down would be a perfect lead-off track- and the range of sounds contained within.  What Schofield has in mind is her choice, yet there is a market and an eager audience: she has ears and eyes enamoured and set.  It is clear 2016 will be her most prosperous and busy year: a chance for her to mingle with her heroes and current idols- her hard work will be rewarded for sure.  Too many solo acts- in the mainstream too- seem to lose pace and focus as time elapses; maybe falter and show fatigue- I do not see this being the case with Schofield.  Her consistency and adaptability is what marks her out: when an album does come out (whether it is next year or later on) it will be a bold and impressive statement- nuance and quality by the bucket-load.  I shall leave with a note about London music: the scene that keeps on growing and producing.  The capital is fertile and nurturing some agile talent- from your Dub-Step hitters to sweet-smoke Pop princesses; down to your grizzled and whiskey-soaked Rock acts; throw in some Soul-cum-Folk hybrids.  The Pop market is one of the most crowded and closely-investigated: if you can rise above the fray here, you can pretty much make it all the way.  It is tempting to settle in London and spend your musical life playing the venues and the people- there is a whole world to see out there.  Schofield shows this in her songs: she is not somebody that is going to stay rooted in the U.K.: how long before she stars to tour across the U.S.?  If you have not heard Nina Schofield, go back and explore her earliest work; take a detour via Colours– and finish with Come Down.  If you want an artist (and a song for that matter) that sticks in the heart; really compels you to revisit and pick apart- then look no further.  As far from effete and simplistic as you get, the details and production details are fantastic: each note and vocal comes across richly and unimpeded- ensuring the listener gets an unbridled and natural listening experience.  The voice is rich and sweet; it has raw power and huge passion.  The music is busy and rousing; it switches course and perfectly matches the lyrics.  Those lyrics are universal and personal; they are quotable and thoughtful.  The woman at the centre of this is on a charge; she is growing by the year; she is simply…

NINA Schofield.

 

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Follow Nina Schofield:

 

Official:

http://ninaschofield.com/

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/ninaschofieldmusic?_rdr=p

Twitter:

https://twitter.com/nina_schofield

Instagram:

https://instagram.com/nina_schofield

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Music:

https://soundcloud.com/ninaschofield

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Videos:

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

Track Review: Ethan Ash- Face to Face (Taken from his Live at Hunter Club’ E.P.)

TRACK REVIEW:

 

Ethan Ash

 

 

Face to Face

 

9.1/10.0

 

Face to Face (original E.P. version) is available at:

RELEASED:
2nd October, 2015

GENRES:
Folk; Alternative; Soul-Pop

ORIGIN:

Newcastle, U.K.

The E.P. Live at Hunter Club Bar & Venue is available from Friday 2nd October at:

http://www.musicglue.com/ethanash/shop/

TRACK LISTING:

Face to Face9.1

Long Drive Home9.0

Chasing Your Love9.1

Don’t Regret Me9.1

Boy Like Me- 9.0

 

DOWNLOAD:

Face to Face; Chasing Your Love; Don’t Regret Me

STANDOUT TRACK:

Face to Face

E.P. ‘Live At The Hunter Club’ released 2nd October 2015.
Recorded in front of a live audience at Hunter Club in August 2015.
Ethan Ash – Vocals and guitar
All songs written by Ethan Ash except ‘Don’t Regret Me’ which was co-written with Amy Wadge.
Recorded, mixed and mastered by Steve Long, Hunter Club Recording Studio.

____________________________________

IT has been hard maintaining a satisfying balance…

when you mix work with passion.  Returning to the world of work, it has been good having something to keep me focused- or at least get me a bit of money.  Before this, I spent a lot of time reviewing and writing: that has been reduced and leveled-out somewhat.  It has been a bit disheartening (reviewing acts) at the moment: a lot of bands and acts have not been sharing the reviews; some only to Twitter (and not Facebook) – meaning few people see it; it seems like a waste of time.  I appreciate musicians are busy, yet it takes a few seconds to share a review; you need not even write accompanying comments- it baffles me musicians fail to uphold their end of the deal.  Were the review to come from a ‘reputable’ or mainstream source; I am sure they would not ignore it- perhaps it is just me having a moan.  My point is, I love discovering new music: being alerted to great acts and artists; if others do not get to know about it- and my effusive words are seen by a small number of faces- then it seems like an unwise marketing strategy.  When it comes to today’s artist- hoping that there is some love-spreading after the review- he deserves some wider acclaim.  Before I go into more depth- and bucking a trend for me- let’s hear more about Ethan Ash:

Singer songwriter Ethan Ash is regarded as an exceptional guitarist, on acoustic or electric guitar, a fine vocalist and terrific live performer. His soul-infused folk pop style, strong song writing, increasing reputation on the live circuit and many festival appearances have seen his stature as an artist grow, evidenced by an ever-increasing fan base, and international and UK national radio play, including CBC Canada and Radio1, and several television appearances.

Born in the north east of England Ethan has spent the large part of his life living in Cambridge. He began studying music and playing guitar at age six years and has been passionate about music ever since. He played his first solo gig age 12 and went on to perform solo and front a teenage band which played all over the UK but after studying music at university he decided to pursue a solo career.

One of Ethan’s songs was chosen to feature as an iTunes Single of the Week.

Solo gigs and festivals played include…

Bestival, Cambridge Folk Festival, Camp Bestival, Wilderness, Latitude, main stage at The Secret Garden Party, Y Not Festival, MK International Festival, Cambridge Corn Exchange, and several O2 Academies and Music Week, ASCAP and IMC showcases in London. Headline shows include The Stables (Milton Keynes), The Glee Club (Birmingham)The High Barn (Essex)CB2 (Cambridge)

Ethan supported Ed Sheeran on one of his sell-out UK tours. Other artists he has supported include Passenger, Seth Lakeman, Nick Harper, Foy Vance, John Bramwell (I Am Kloot), Jamie Woon, Amy Wadge, and he was guest artist on Janet Devlins’s O2 Academy tour.

Ethan co-writes with other artists/songwriters including award winning songwriter, and Ed Sheeran co-writer, Amy Wadge. His new E.P., Face To Face’, was released on 16th March 2015. Tracks mixed by Grammy award winner Simon Goggerly (U2, Paloma Faith, Gwen Stefani) and mastered by award winning engineer Mandy Parnell (Bjork, Faithless, Franz Ferdinand)

It is not often I get to investigate a solo act- especially the guys.  When it comes to the sole acts; the lone artists that go out into the world- the most impressive and impassioned are the girls.  I am not sure what it is- and it’s not reverse-sexism- I just find them more impressive.  If anything, my impressions of the solo scene are enforced by the mainstream acts: the artists in the public fore; those we are all familiar with.  My featured act has supported Ed Sheeran- to be fair, an artist I do not like at all- yet that is just my point: I assume every male singer will sound like him; it will all be that same sound.  What I find; when digging through new music’s best, is something quite different: there is a great deal of range and surprise; some terrific artists out there- you just need to dig quite deep.  I still think the girls have the edge in all departments: when it comes to their diversity and mobility; the effect they have- they are taking the honours.  I am not sure what is behind this trend; whether the girls are more ambitious or wide-ranging- there seems to be an imbalance on the scene.  For that reason, it is always great hearing a tremendous male artist: someone who has that flair and voice; an exceptional songwriter and example- there are not too many out there at the moment.  Ash is one of music’s most impressive songwriters and talents: having garnered critical praise and support; he is still ‘under the radar’- deserving of more respect and acclaim.  The solo sector is quite a mixed thing: the quality does seem to be unpredictable; there are too many stale and uninspired artists- which put off a lot of listeners.  Too many solo acts (particularly the guys) are just acoustic guitar and no talent; a rather insipid and aimless musician.  Ash certainly breaks away from this fate: having played from a young age- picking up the guitar as a child- he has played in bands; released a number of E.P.s- supported some terrific musicians.  His latest E.P.- a live outing recorded at a Bury St Edmunds- shows what natural performer he is: in his element and completely at ease; the crowd are sucked into his magical world- the simplicity and effectiveness of his music; the beauty of his words.  I am glad I have been introduced to Ethan Ash- by his management company and representative- but feel like Christopher Columbus: discovering something (America) after countless others have before him.  Before I get down to reviewing Ash (and his new E.P.) I am reminded of the northern towns; the live E.P. realm.  Ash hails from Newcastle: a location that has produced some terrific musicians; some of the music world’s most enduring acts.  The likes of Prefab Sprout, Brian Johnson (AC/DC’s lead) and Sting hail from Newcastle- as do The Lighthouse Family; that is a different story!  Having reviewed a lot of northern acts- mainly from Yorkshire and Manchester- it is great to be back in Newcastle- the band Kobadelta may have been my last Newcastle review (apologies if I have reviewed any others in-between).  I am not sure whether geography and location has an effect on music- and defines just what it will sound like- but there is something in it: London music tends to be more harried and busy (reflecting the pace of the city perhaps); Manchester and Liverpool reflect their rich musical heritage (and often nod to classic home acts) – Newcastle combine the two facets.  Borrowing that northern magic- and the spirits of legendary bands past- there is a sense of urgency and pace; often balanced with something more romantic and nuanced.  Ash is an artist that has grown up on some wonderful sounds; married them to modern and chart-friendly vibes- topped-off with his unique blend and artistry.  His songwriting ability is second-to-none; the way he crafts images and words- more adept and skilled than the majority of his peers.  It seems only right that his latest E.P. was a live recording: he sounds natural in that element; great to hear the crowd experience the songs direct- the combination is beautiful.  You do not hear many artists (newer ones anyway) produce live recordings: not sure why; perhaps there is too much focus on original material.  Some of my favouite musical moments have been live recordings- from Jeff Buckley’s transcendent Live at Sin-e to Nirvana’s MTV Unplugged in New York– you can learn so much; experience an artist in a new light.  In those two cases, there was fresh revelation and insight.  Buckley was at the start of his career- recorded before he was signed; went on to record Grace– and shows how gorgeous his music could be.  Armed with an electric guitar and microphone, he seduced and entranced the New York coffee house- a tantilising glimpse into what was to come.  By contrast, Nirvana produced something similarly beautiful- although this album was recorded at the end of their careers; shortly before Cobain’s death.  That album stripped Nirvana right down; gave the back catalogue an intimacy and new perspective.  Ethan Ash sort of fits in the middle- when it comes to his progress and stage of music- and gives his songs a warmth and delicacy; a real charm and sense of emotion- naked and pure; powerful and primal.

It is hard to compare Ash with many other artists: he has such a unique and characterful voice; one enforced by his own passion and identity- he does not simply replicate others; hangs onto shadows and contemporaries.  Having toured with peers like Ed Sheeran, he retains some of that modern Folk-cum-Pop sound: he can sound contemporary and classic; loose and relaxed- engaging and urgent.  Whilst I am not a fan of Sheeran- and find his music lacking in that original bite and sense of diversity- he does have a loveable and winnable personality- that sense of optimism and smile comes out in his music.  Ash has purposely ensured his voice and music is his own: not beholden to anyone; a young man with a clear idea of who he wants to be.  For that reason, the songs really separate themselves (from the mainstream predictability); that passion and talent radiates through- compelling fans and listeners.  If you want a good assessment of Ash; how he has progressed and whether he has developed a lot- it is worth looking back; checking his older sounds out- and how his new material stacks up.

If one goes back to Playing by Numbers (the E.P. released in 2012) there is a gradual build- before a vocal explosion.  Our hero looks at his love and sweetheart on I Like: how she whispers and seduces; the way she moves and tantilises.  Ash ensures his words and sentiments are not clichéd and over-sued: the way he projects his thoughts and desires sets him aside from the crowd.  Boasting a quasi-orchestral sweep; a real sense of drama- it is a passionate and gripping number.  Wouldn’t Get Through is more sprite and nibble: the vocal springs and jumps- sounding a bit like a Soul legend, strangely.  Letting his lush and smooth side come through, there is directionless and loss (in the words); that need to find his girl- find something that will complete him.  The song looks at wanting to get words off his chest: saying words that mean more in the flesh; wouldn’t mean much on paper.  An addictive and catchy numbers, it shows the range and breadth of Ash’s songwriting ability and vocal prowess.  No Love in That Bed demonstrates how soft and seducing his voice is: tender and finger-picked, the song looks at the proclivities and cheapness of modern-day love- as the heroine picks up cheap dates and thrills.  Trying to find completeness and fulfillment; the song takes us inside the mind of a sordid day- as it descends into a seedy night.

  Haven’t Got There was released a couple of years back.  The song sees the young talent traverse more into Blues and Soul.  The song has that distinct and strong vocal performance- sounding more confident and assured here.  Like a young Jeff Buckley, the song shows Ash in rich form: he lets his voice kick and campaign; promoted by a springing and sensuous guitar sound- when combined it creates something quite scintillating.  With some soothing and rich female backing vocals, it is one of the singer’s most powerful numbers.  Since the earlier work- and the 2012/2013 period- Ash has grown as a songwriter and performer.  In the sapling years, his voice and songs has Ed Sheeran tones- perhaps clinging too closely to that sound.  Perhaps lacking that killer blow and completeness; the songs has their charms and power- yet seem to hold Ash back a little.  Demonstrating himself as a terrific songwriter and guitarist, the work shone and radiated- whilst not completely overwhelming and distinguishing.  The best modern songwriters betray a debt to nobody; they do not remind you of anyone else- which is what Ash developed into.  Over the last couple of years, he has brought in new styles and genres- more Blues, Soul and Pop elements- to make his music more full, spectral and stunning- showcasing his full range and ability.  Not relying on the acoustic-guitar-and-love-song model- that has been tried, tested and flogged to death- he has blossomed into a more mature and intelligent writer.  His music contains the cores and hallmarks- love’s separation and personal doubts; personal strength and longing- but does so with a sense of individuality and personality.  Increasing his proficiency and wonder by the release; Ash gets stronger and more assured- it is a very promising song for the future.  His current work- live album that has developed from his Face to Face E.P. and earlier work – sees the young man at his peak: coming across as more confident and timeless; Ash is now a definitive and essential solo artist- someone every listener should fall for.


    Face to Face is my favourite song of Ethan Ash: the title track from his latest E.P.  I was keen to see how it translated into the live arena; what Ash would do differently- and whether it would be a faithful rendition.  The track boasts a most sumptuous and delicate introduction: Ash’s guitar playing is romantic and gorgeous; flowing and seducing- a most beautiful and calming beginning.  Reminding me of Nick Drake- and the magic he could weave with his guitar- for the new listener, you are not sure what to expect.  After the trickling waterfall; the dancing and twinkling strings- our hero comes to the microphone.  Ash keeps his voice impassioned and soulful- never getting out the traps with too much energy and emotion- letting his words do their work.  Early thoughts look at romance and longing; that need to be with (his) sweetheart- and find satisfaction.  Our man has been waiting to- with his girl one presumes- “talk to you”; let his words come out- get something important off his chest.  Without revealing too much insight and secrecy, the initial thoughts are quite compelling and simple- letting the listener imagine and conspire (as to what is unfolded).  It seems there has been some dislocation and upheaval; maybe an argument has ended- and the two lovers are split and balkanised.  Our hero does not want things to end; he is determined to keep the flame alive- broker reconciliation and get things back on track.  In this live setting- compared to the E.P. version- Ash’s voice sounds even more wounded and desperate: that desire and tremulous need echoes strongly.  The “little situation”- what has happened between the two lovers- is underplayed to some extent- maybe the hero is shirking his share of the blame; maybe things have gotten out of hand.  When love songs are written- that look at similar themes and storylines- the author never takes much of the blame- it always seems to be the fault of the other party.  To an extent, Ash is owning-up and taking his lumps; he just wants things to return to normal- that ache and honesty in the vocal is hard to ignore.  On that front, the vocal never deviates from that determined and soothing soulfulness- eliciting so much raw passion and pride with every note.  I have mentioned Jeff Buckley’s ‘Sin-e performances: the way he bends notes and keeps the audience enthralled; making sure his voice cuts right through the air- you can hear this happening here.  Ash has clearly studied Buckley- whether consciously or not- and translates some of his early-‘90s majesty and accomplishment- showing himself to be a stunning and soul-seeking voice of this generation.  It would be easy to walk away; cut the ties would be the simplest things: his girl seems to want a way back in- they need to be face to face.  That stridulating and crooning guitar creates atmosphere and force; summoning up plenty of possibility.  The hero asks questions of his girl: would she ignore his calls?  Would she just pass him by?  What would see do were they to meet again?  There is that anxiety and fear; the uncertainty for the future- they need to fight to make things right.  Perhaps they are in two different camps; their minds in different places- it is hard to ignore all they have shared and been through; they should not let that die.  Repeating the song’s central mantra- how it is easy just to “walk away”- Ash tried to keep his emotions in-check; there is that possibility he might crack- and let the force of his confessions come wailing out.  By keeping everything tight and focused; not letting his heart overtake his mind- it means the song always has that intrigue and mystery; the sense of what-if and suspense.  As it progresses to its final beat, you wonder what will become of the duo: will they ever rekindle their passion and deep love?  By the final moments, that voice is at its more alert and determined: getting that message across, it weaves and entices- sending a clear message across the land (hoping it hits its target).  Question marks are hanging and unanswered; you speculate as to the next steps- things may be beyond repair.  As Ash ends the track, the crowd loves his performance; they are scintillated by the performance- our hero turns the track inside out; gives it new life and meaning here.  It would be easy to say that Face to Face– and the rest of the E.P. – performed live is just a means of getting money and new fans.  Some artists release live albums; few really put much effort into them- they seem like a stop-gap and afterthought.  Ash ensures the songs are reworked yet kept consistent and recongnisable- exciting existing fans and bringing in new ones.  With the crowd sitting back in reverend mode- and not making a sound or motion- it allows the track to really show its heart and soul.  One of the U.K.’s most promising up-and-coming singers, Ash proves why he is such a popular artist- and is deserving of a lot more acclaim and attention.

As a new Ethan Ash convert, I am coming in with fresh eyes- assessing an E.P. that nods to his past and present; is a perfect introduction for new fans.  The current market is obsessed with disposability and turnaround; the instancy of music- wanting artists to produce music constantly; not leave gaps between recordings.  There is a fixation with short-attention span: few reviewers and critics (listeners for that matter) have that much patience.  Ash is an artist that is in no hurry: his music is pulling a huge amount of fans in; striking them hard- his reputation is growing by the release.  Still somewhat under-appreciated- not quite at that mainstream level yet- it is surely only a matter of time.  Live at Hunter Club Bar & Venue shows just what the young artist can come up with: confident and memorable; emotive and passionate- the sound of a musician in his element.  Coming back to my original points- before I give a ‘mini-review’ of the E.P. – Ash is an act that burns and smokes (has to throw some dodgy wordplay in there!).  The north is showcasing some of music’s most exceptional artists: compares with the south, there is a lot more range and innovation; a great spectrum of genres and possibilities- although London maybe has the edge in terms of quality.  It is great to compartmentalise the U.K.: see what each region comes up with; how the music differs- the northern climbs are really fascinating.  Whereas Manchester and Liverpool is more band-heavy- compared with solo/duo music- Newcastle seems to be unveiling more solo gems- there are some great bands; they are overshadowed by the solo artists.  Ash has come a long way; crafted some spectacular E.P.s- growing with each new record; on a very promising trajectory.  A great deal of modern solo artists are slacking and falling: the mainstream scene is showing occasional promise; new music is throwing a lot more promise up- artists not conforming with market expectations; free to write and project from a more relaxed heart.  Ash has been noted because of his terrific lyrics: ideals that are personal and honest; they also speak to the wider audience.  A lot of newer artists cannot pen consistent lyrics: keep their formidable force and retain a sense of adventure, ambition and integrity.  From release to release, Ash produces deep and reflective lyrics; songs we can all relate to- music that is nuanced and highly charged.  That voice stands right in the middle: the stunning tones beautifully blend into the mix; the result is an exceptional and potent thing.  I hope he comes down to London; takes his music to the capital- there will be a lot of ears waiting for him.  With the music scene growing and flourishing (in London) there is that desire for a brave and assured artist- someone who can command a crowd; really get the punters in.  Ash already has a reputation and fan-base; there are many more unaware of his music- let’s hope that changes soon.  On that note, it would be good to see an album emerge: Ash has the ammunition and quality; he could stretch his music over ten or eleven tracks- really put his stamp out there.  Following his E.P.s and singles; it seems like an album would be the next step- something that could cement him as one of the U.K.’s best.

Across the E.P., the beauty and power does not relinquish its grasp.  When his E.P. Face to Face came out (back in the spring) it was met with fond applause and impassioned support- fans and new listeners paid tribute to its solidity and consistency; the depth of emotion and wonderful songwriting.  Live at Hunter Club’ sees that E.P. out in the open (with Long Drive Home and Don’t Regret Me in there): performing to an intimate crowd and letting the music do its work.  Long Drive Home sounds sparse and intimate: right in the midst of the song, it sees the singer let his voice shine- looking at his love and his accompanied heart.  When driving and making that trek home, he is never alone- you can sense that insistency and devotion in his delivery.  Switching between wordless highs and soulful swathes, the energy and pace never drops- giving the song a sense of importance and urgency.  The guitar-playing abilities are right up front: adding so much momentum, mood and movement; the performance is stunning throughout.  Throughout the song, Ash never lets his voice slip or loosen: he sounds completely natural and at ease here; lost in the music, that warmth and purity comes out.  Reminding me of my favourite live album- Jeff Buckley’s Live at Sin-e– it is that mixture of familiarity and intimacy.  When Buckley recorded that live album- collected moments from several gigs at the New York coffee house- it predated his Grace work.  The songs on ‘Sin-e were being honed and experimented-with; tested and tried- not quite at their peak and final stage.  That is what made the record so wonderful: there was a sense of playfulness and improvisation; just going with the flow- what Ash displays here.  Being a new and fresh E.P., the songs are being changed and mutated; little details and nuances come to the plate- hearing them in a live setting gives the songs a natural backing; a raw and romantic vibe.

   Chasing Your Love proves all these points: one of Ash’s most impassioned tracks is given an airing before a devoted crowd.  Looking at chasing the heart (of his intended girl) there is history and a back story- when they used to play and chase one another.  Showcasing some youthfulness and child-like naivety, you can picture the young Ash and his girl- that innocence and sense of what-if.  Now there is that urge and need to obtain love and satisfaction- regressing to childhood days; wanting his girl to be his.  One of the E.P.’s shortest and most concise numbers, the guitar flecks are fast and spirited- reflecting the song’s endless sense of liveliness and the upbeat.  Not simply succumbing to the tendancy of his peers- letting himself wallow in his thought; present a by-the-numbers slush-ballad- the song has its head up high- a real determination to get what it wants.  Ash’s voice is enflamed and enriched; completely engaged in the moment- a stunning live performance here.  Being an assured and established star- with plenty more fans and lands to conquer- you might expect strings and supporting musicians to come into things; give the songs too much emotion and music- drown the lyrics in orchestral movements and needless over-production.  In this live setting, you get bare bones and a real atmosphere: Ash strips the song to its core; lets its meanings and feelings come off the page- get right into the minds of the listeners.

Don’t Regret Me slows things down- and gives a faithful comparison it’s the original recording- letting the crowd catch their breath.  Ash allows his soulful and stunning tones to come out: mixing elements of Stevie Wonder, Jeff Buckley and the current best; showing just what a range and emotional palette he possesses.  The track almost steals top honours- in terms of the standout of the E.P.- because of the range of emotions and themes throughout the track.  The guitar composition is simply a supportive aid: it gives the song its drive and movement; the real stars are the lyrics and the vocals.  Our man will write down a list- and “give it to you”- stating and declaring his love.  Asking the girl not to regret him- perhaps he has been remiss giving praise and affection- there is that need for safety and love.  Not wanting things to fade and dissipate; the song shows what an aching and tender heart he has- and what a sensational voice is at play.  That Stevie Wonder-esque Soul sound spills out- his high notes are crystal-like and heartbreaking- and does not sound forced or disingenuous.  You implore and support Ash; get caught in his plight and fight- hope he wins her heart.  Providing a nice sonic and emotional balance- between the high-rolling and feet-moving pace of earlier numbers- you get a window into his mind and soul.  Whereas other tracks have looked at love and break-up; pure affection and child innocence- here there is some honesty and mindfulness; taking his share of the blame.  Ash is in confessional mode; he is laying his thoughts on the line- a real fear and anxiety comes out.  Not just another love-them-and-leave-them guy, things are different here- bravery and real need for things to be better; regret of what has come before.

Boy Like Me is a perfect closer: one of the best acoustic performances I have heard for a while.  The guitar is the perfect backing and support aid: adding so many words and emotions, it perfectly aids the hero.  The words he has been saying; the words that come off his tongue- they are getting him into trouble.  Urging his girl to stay with him; he needs that particular girl- no other woman would stay with him.  The second part of his honesty fable, Ash is open and completely bare here: he knows his limitations and faults; he is desperate for his love to stay with him.  Letting his guitar twirl and conspire, you get lost in the drama of the song: all the images that are whipped-up; the pure force of that voice- all the possibilities and avenues.  Keeping things simple and traditional- Ash keeps his songwriting fairly straightforward and uncluttered- here is a man that specialisies in to-the-core song-craft- not overcrowding songs and straying off course; keeping his mind and attention to the task at hand.  Boy Like Me– and the E.P. as a whole- has quite a modern vibe; it could easily sit alongside the current scene’s finest- but offers that little bit more.

In a music world where solo acts- those that pick up an acoustic guitar at least- tend to lack individuality and unique direction; you get the same voice/lyrics/sound coming out the same way.  At some points I cannot tell artists apart: the vocal and tones are identical; their themes and stories samey and predictable; their compositions too simplistic and boring.  Ash has developed and grown as an artist- since his early days he has developed his personality and sound- and has really come into his own.  One of music’s weaknesses is the male singer-songwriter genre: few modern acts really take the breath away; make you want to stick with them.  Throughout the live E.P. you get a sense of what Ash is all about: he is a very distinguished and special singer; someone with a lot of heart and intelligence.   If you are a fan of his work, you will find much to love: he has not changed things drastically; increased the consistency and quality- improved his game and shaved away some rough edges.  It is that serene and pure soulfulness that shines brightest: when he is at his most ardent and impassioned, his voice flies and entrances- beating any other singer that comes within its path.  Imbued with so much entice and spectral haunt, you cannot deny its wonder.  The balance of love emotions and lyrics works well: there are not too many clichés or recycled ideas; the lyrics showcase a maturity and innovation- something lacking among his male peers.  Overall, Live at Hunter Club’ is an E.P. is one you need to get hold of.  You imagine you are sat in the crowd; you are alongside those who witnessed it in the flesh- the production allows you a front row seat to see the show.  What you get is an artist that is completely confident and determined to succeed; win the minds and hearts of his followers- show just what a unique and brilliant talent he is.  One of the best live releases I have heard for a while, it is has urged me to follow Ash; dive into his back catalogue- see just what he is capable of.  With regards his future, he will be in need beyond the U.K.: he could well translate to U.S. crowds; find success across Europe and Australia- he is a singer that has a big future.  What 2016 has in store is anyone’s guess- although Ash can be guaranteed of success and new interest- and I would not be surprised to see festivals, radio stations and nations line up- all eager to see the young man show what he’s made of.  With so many modern singer-songwriters showing little heart, courage and fascination; make sure you check out Ethan Ash…

ONE of this country’s most promising musicians.

 

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