TRACK REVIEW: Yui Karlberg- Seasons in a Day

TRACK REVIEW:

 

Yui Karlberg

 

 

Seasons in a Day

 

9.3/10

 

 

Seasons in a Day is available at:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bAt4jm7c8uo&feature=youtu.be

RELEASED:
November 20th, 2013

GENRES:
Folk; Pop

ORIGIN:

Bournemouth, U.K.

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IT is not often I get to look at serious issues when it comes to musicians…

When reviewing acts, I spend a lot of time investigating the artists themselves- rarely does anything away from music come to mind.  Today, and with regards my featured artist, it raises new themes and something important.  In addition to looking at transgenderism and how it addressed (in the music world) I wanted to look at inspiration and how the voice can change everything- finishing things by looking at musical transformations and developments.  Over the course of several years- the length of writing this blog- I have always just reviewed a band/act and left it at that.  Even if the music has been great- which it often is- that is where it is left.  I never look at anything deeper or discuss social themes at all.  Yui Karlberg is a transgender artist that has had to fight to get her voice heard.  In a world where it is difficult enough getting the music heard and favoured:  Talking about subjects like transgenderism is even more challenging.  In a so-called ‘modern world’ there are still conversation points that are seen as taboo or awkward.  People are not nearly as open-minded and accepting as they should be (not everyone, but a lot) and it can create a lot of anxiety and upset (for those affected).  When it comes to transgenderism, a lot of people tend to skirt around the subject.  It is always really depressing and angering watching people close their minds and not embracing humans the way they should.  It baffles me why areas such as transgenderism, race and sexual orientation still have to fight stigma and repression in 2016.  We have come a long way in some respects- with regards technology and science- but when it comes to emotions, human development and awareness:  Are we as ‘human’ as we could be?  Far from being unusual or strange, transgenderism should not be an issue at all.  If a person wants to change their gender and become who they are supposed to:  Why should there be any problem with that?  Perhaps the general population are scared by something that is slightly different or foreign to them.  Maybe we all get used to a perspective of ‘normality’- or what we define it to be.  Anything hat rests outside of that definition scares us.  It is a problem of human-kind that we are not as accepting and loving as we should be.  Whether transgenderism is wholly accepted and embraced in society- unfortunately, we may have to push a lot harder- I am not sure.  Where it shouldn’t be a problem- and should actually be seen as a massive positive- is when it comes to music.  My featured artist has shown bravery and a lot of courage in her life.  Looking at transgenderism, it is not something that is being addressed by music media and the press.  While there are quite a few artists in new music who are transgender:  The only mainstream role model we have is Antony Hegarty.  We should valorise musicians who are transgender and not see it as an embarrassing thing to discuss.  It is hard enough having to live and succeed in life as it is:  If you have to fight against people’s narrow-mindedness and prejudices, it makes things a whole league worse.  Hegarty is an artist who has come out in the press and stated he is a transgender artist.  In early interviews and features, Hegarty started how she struggled to identify herself and has wrestled with demons.  Hegarty is a female artist that has a distinctly male voice:  This is something that scares people and they cannot understand it.  Maybe it asking too much for humans to fully change their perceptions and ideals of normality:  I plea that in years to come we will see transgenderism addressed and discussed in very positive tones.  With the likes of Hegarty inspiring legions of musicians coming out, we have something terrifically starting.  By talking about the topic (transgendrism) it is seeing other musicians come through and talk about it.  Yui Karlberg is someone inspired by Hegarty and his fight.  Not only compelled by her (Hegarty) amazing voice and distinct sound:  The way Hegarty has embraced and realised who she is has motivated Karlberg to talk more widely about transgenderism and how important it is.  I shall not labour the point too much- we are here to talk about the music, alas- but I am pleased something other than music comes to my attention.  Before I move onto new topics, let me introduce Yui Karlberg:

Sometime way before March 2012, Yui had heard ‘Skinny Love’. A song written and produced by Justin Vernon aka. Bon Iver. She then purchased his debut album ‘For Emma, Forever Ago’ and she was hooked…

She had been playing songs and performing under the stage name of Miss Interpreted for about a year and then in January 2012, she thought she wasn’t getting anywhere and called it quits.

For 2 months, she was mentally somewhere else…in a zone searching for the ‘new sound’ referring to an episode of hit UK comedy ‘The Mighty Boosh’.

She was tired of singing in a voice that everyone else around her seemed to be doing. She was tired of playing guitar like most other people do too. It was time to go back to the drawing board.

Then she remembered a song of hers called ‘Unspoken’ that she wrote back in 2005 in DADGBE tuning (standard tuning is EADGBE).

For those of you who don’t know and it’s not such a big deal , but it is relevant for this biography…is that Yui is a transwoman…which means she was born male but lives, talks and does anything else that most women of her own age do.

So bearing that in mind, she remembered about Bon Iver’s vocals and used that as an inpiration to sing ‘Unspoken’ in a falsetto/high voice.

After a few singing lessons, she tried it out at a local open mic and people wanted to hear more.

She was astonished!

Shortly after, she worked out how to play chords in that tuning and wrote ‘Endless Journey’ ….

Her debut album ‘YUI’ was released mid 2012 via iTunes. It has sold over 200+ copies.

Since then, she has recorded a second album ‘Beauty Within the Beast’ which is by far her most popular yet and this is what transformed her from an ambient folk artist to the electro-pop artist she is today.

As Karlberg is inspired by Antony Hegarty; it brings to mind the relevance of having a stand-out voice.  The voice is not just an audible representation of your music:  It is the dynamic, personality and spirit of the music you are performing.  While lyrics and composition hold a great cache:  The voice, to me at least, is the most vital aspect of music.    A lot of musicians still undervalue the vocal and do not give it enough originality and power.  Karlberg has been compelled by a range of artists but Hegarty is someone very important to her.  By that same token, Bon Iver (Justin Vernon) has also been vital with regards moulding her sound and music.  If you consider those two musicians, you have deeply atmospheric and bold vocals.  Hegarty has that operatic and transcendent low:  Capable of rising to a delicate high, it has enormous grace and peculiar allure.  Hegarty is seen as one of most singular voices in music history:  Karlberg possesses some of Hegarty’s wonder and etherealness.  When I Am a Bird Now as released- the 2nd album from Antony and the Johnsons in 2005- critics noted how metaphysical and otherworldly the record was.  The multi-octave vibrato tackled themes like love and loneliness with new life and light:  Few artists before have made these themes sound so new and heartbreaking.  Karlberg has that ability- to turn everyday themes inside out with a powerful voice- but plenty of beauty and tenderness too.  With Bon Iver’s lead being an idol- and that unescapable voice defining every song- you get themes of isolation and struggle being addressed.  Whilst the aforementioned artists address darker themes and battling the odds; they do so with unique beauty and wonderfully rich and engrossing songs.  Karlberg is perhaps a little less haunted than some of her idols:  The songbooks contain a little more celebration and positivity.  That said, she is keen to make the songs stand out and get inside the head.  The voice can make any song sound essential if you get the blend right.  A lot of artists either come off too powerful and wayward- those Pop idols whose force of nature approach can fatigue quickly- or ridiculously slight and passionless.  Karlberg is one of those musicians that has a perfect blend of sky-scraping and intimate.  Having begun as a Folk artist in the early days- no doubt enforced by the likes of Bon Iver and the sound of For Emma, Forever Ago– Karlberg is playing Electro.-Pop with less introversion and more layers to it.  While those early years showcased songs with intense emotion and a stunning originality:  What we have now is perhaps something more layered, accessible and uplifted.  That is not saying the music has taken its heart away from beauty to embrace something commercial and insincere:  Seasons in a Day is perhaps Karlberg most arresting statement and demonstrates a songwriter with an arresting voice and plenty of years yet to come.

Having spoken about how Karlberg has developed and changed as an artist; it is worth looking back at the early sounds and how the music has come on.  Yui is a song released a couple of years back- when Karlberg was starting to make her first impressions- and showcases a wonderful musicianship and tones.  You get a mix of deep and beautiful vocals- that come together beautifully and purely- and a song that has plenty of punch and drive.  A personal statement and summation of musical influences- Thai sounds and Pop music alongside Folk- you have a performance that is engrossing and stunning.  Personally open and with some familiar tones- you get a bit of Antony Hegarty’s wonderful timbres- it is a solid and confident song.

  The Ghost of Love is one of Karlberg’s most celebrated songs- the debut single from her- and demonstrates new direction and purpose.  The vocal has a huskiness and depth that gives the subject and lyrics the emotion and relevance required.  Needing instruction and guidance- how to love and be “your lover”- there is that calling-out.  Whilst friends are procrastinating and not helping; our heroine sings to Romeo and puts her heart out there.  The track has an addictiveness and catchiness- that Pop energy with a chorus that cannot be ignored- and you have a song that is short but very sweet.  It is no surprise the track has gained popularity and a cult status among fans:  It draws genres together but its central themes of desire and acceptance are relatable and very human.  It is an honest and heartfelt song from a musician that shows a step forward and natural evolution.

  Restless Mind is another track that shows a jump forward and sea change.  Whilst Karlberg has always been an artist with innovation and quality in spades:  Here, we get a song that seems to be one of the most urgent and direct tracks to date.  Released last year, the song’s title is repeated over hard beats and a Dance-cum-Electro.-Pop composition.  While earlier numbers have been more Folk/Pop-driven:  On Restless Mind, we get something that could be destined for the club dancefloors.  It has that pounding and relentless energy that gets people united in dance and voice.  A pumping and daring- bangin’ and hard-hitting- you get drawn into the vibrated and echoed vocals.  Tender piano notes mix inside quivering electronics- a daring mix of ideas and sounds- to create a song that has so many layers and nuances.  A bona fide club classic- something that has the drive and ambition from ‘90s Dance music- it is a song that stunned me upon first listen.  Such an authoritative and confident song- Karlberg sounds completely lost in the beauty and headiness of the music- you have a song that demands multiple listens.  The quirky-cum-accessible composition drives a vocal that documents a restless young woman who is struggling to overthrow anxiety and troubles.  Perhaps my favourite song from Karlberg- one of those that just hits you and does not escape attentions- it proves what a varied and stunning artist she is.

That range and forward-thinking approach will make any future E.P. a tantilising proposition.  It would be great to see songs like Restless Mind kick things off; a bit of The Ghost of Love with Seasons in a Day.  With those three songs you get a varied lyrical bent- love and anxiety sits with uplift and hope- whilst the compositions switch between tender introspection and out-and-out swagger.  I cannot wait to see Karlberg release a solo effort this year- I know she is busy with band music and performances- but there is so much promise and variation.  The music has universality and it would be wonderful to hear the songs played more widely across radio.  Tracks like Seasons in a Day and Restless Mind could alternately play across Radio 1 and 2- the former being suited for that audience; the latter for theirs- but the truth is, the music could easily slot into any radio station.  There are no walls and divisions in the messages and compositions.  Seasons in a Day is one of Karlberg’s proudest achievements and one of the most personal statements from an artist with a clear sense of identity and strength.

Seasons in a Day has gained a few listens across SoundCloud and YouTube- to my mind, it deserves more attention and views- but the social media crowds have been keen to highlight a track with a terrific consistency.  From the early notes you get recollections of a young Nick Drake and his haunting refrains.  The acoustic guitar finger-picking and notes put me in mind of Five Leaves Left and Bryter Later.  With its pastoral/Folk elements, there is a nod to Karlberg’s earliest days and her love of acts such as Bon Iver.  Without a word being evoked, you are transformed somewhere scenic and befitting of the song’s title.  The seasonal and changing sound- the introduction gives impressions of summer’s warmth and the grace of autumn- puts your mind in a better place and makes you smile.  Not only is the guitar playing exceptional and original- few guitarists give new ideas and room when it comes to acoustic introductions- but it is impressive to hear Karlberg completely in control and lost in her music.  There are doubts and questions in the early stages of Seasons in a Day.  The central character- whether Karlberg is using herself as the heroine in the song- has been walking road for years and trying to find who she is.  Filled with doubts and concerns- her mind struggling to find truth and happiness- there is that quest to overthrow negativities and discover happiness and truth.  With friends around her- who are meant to eradicate the doubts and fears- there seems to be a lot of confusion and fear early on.  Perhaps Seasons in a Day refers to the way a single day can go through various stages- the cold and uncertain to the positive and light-baring- and that balance of beauty and heartache is perfectly represented early on.  Karlberg has said- when she began music in 2012 and had doubts about it- the need to break away and show a voice that differed from the masses- she grew tired of singers sounding like everyone else and not being original.

That passion for individuality and personality shows itself in a vocal that has enchanted beauty and wonderfully rich harmonies.  Whilst the elliptical and arpeggio guitars have Folk tones- and can be easily compared with masters like Nick Drake- the vocals draw in the Chamber-Pop of Antony and the Johnsons with the intrinsic transcendence of Bon Iver.  The mix of sweet and low notes fuse together naturally and augment and emphasise the lyrics.  You get swept inside the wave-crashing harmonies and the stillborn beauty they contain.  At every turn, I get the impression the song is autobiographical- or at least has a lot of Yui in it.  The girl- the central figure of uncertainty- is trying to find a voice and a sense of satisfaction. Seemingly a “bit distant”- perhaps struggling to find acceptance with some and fighting hard- there is that heart and determination that comes through.  Ascribing some loneliness and soul fallowness- a heart that is not beating as fast as it should- it is an emotional performance that compels the listener to surrender themselves to its purity.  That mix of low and higher notes creates an odd sort of beauty:  You do not hear many singers with such a range, so as such, it may take a few listens for the vocal to truly resonate and seem natural.  Karlberg is a singer that can inject the soulful beauty- everyone from Antony Hegarty to Jimmy Helms- whilst having that sweet and agile side to the vocal.  If you take away preconceptions and embrace the vocal in all its wonder:  You will find so much joy inside Seasons in a Day and what it offers.  As the song progresses, more insight and storyline is revealed.  The heroine- in spite of the distance and aloofness at times- is okay and doing fine.  The song seems to look at the way some people can change moods and attitudes within a day.  Some days can throw so many obstacles and unexpectedness:  We all have to face uncertainty and difficult times.  At the end, everything will be okay in spite of the troubles and strife.  With that calming and trance-like vocal swimming and calm against the ocean; the consistently impressive guitar work keeps the heart beating and the soul enriched.  The blend of fast and consistent strings- against the slower and more emotive vocal- gives Seasons in a Day a wonderful contrast and identity.  That sense of not knowing whether “she’s coming or going” is reintroduced and highlights the confusion the heroine feels.  Perhaps some friends have not been supportive as they should- some people not truly understanding- but it is those that are loyal and loving that eradicates the confusions and loneliness.  Seasons in a Day has a lot of Karlberg in it- that desire for acceptance and belonging- but has such a universal and open-ended potential.  So many of us feel distance and struggle- whether depression or anxiety or feeling lost- and we all seem to go through a rigour of emotions.  The track assesses and highlights the desire for comfort and safety:  Overthrowing those negative people/thoughts and finding a more assured and safe tableaux.  The breath-defying beauty of the song keeps pervading until the final notes.  Such gentility and softness partners with a deep and conscious song that wants you to think deeply and understand what is being said.  Whether I am off the mark- with regards the origins and true nature of the song- it struck a chord with me and really seemed to speak for me.  With that heroine in the spotlight- whether it is Karlberg herself or a friend- you look at someone that has some bad times and shadows- in the end, she will be okay and find her way.

When Crowded House addressed similar themes- in their track Four Seasons in One Day– they address how contradictions can occur within a day.  The bed could feel cold while the blood can run hot.  Whether personal relationship- or struggles with the self- are in the fore:  You can go from elation to sorrow; change to numb and angered over a single day.  Karlberg’s seasons-of-uncertainty track has more personal relevance to it yet has an openness and need to connect with the listeners.  Looking back at Karlberg’s tracks- her early recordings and head-rush anthems- you have an artist that is always moving and has a restlessness.  Karlberg has released some tremendous albums over the years- including YUI and Beauty Within the Beast– and seems at her most assured and stunning here.  Whilst I love other songs she has done- Restless Mind is a song that deserves huge acclaim- Seasons in a Day seems to tie together Karlberg’s past and present together with her musical passions and ideals.  On a lyrical basis, you get insights into a human that is on a path to discovery and seeks happiness.  Whilst a day can see seasons change- friendships and support capricious and nights cold- there’s a well-being and security to be found.  When we look at the vocal, you have the inter-gender range and beauty of Antony Hegarty.  The hit-you-in-the-gut lower notes elicit different responses to those high-pitched and angelic notes.  When blending together, you get a mixture of debut album-era Antony and the Johnsons with more current and contemporary Pop sounds.  Bon Iver is an idol of Karlberg and you get that intimacy and frozen beauty that can be heard across For Emma, Forever Ago.  Whilst Seasons in a Day is not as isolated and hermetically sealed as Bon Iver- the oblique lyrics and little concern for personal insight and narrative- Yui Karlberg is more direct with the lyrics and a more confessional musician.  With 2016 promising productiveness and new music:  Seasons in a Day is a confident and memorable song from one of music’s most important stars.

It has been a good review for me, because I get to look at things besides music.  While Yui Karlberg is a great artist with a big future, she has made me connect more deeply with transgenderism and how important it is.  Not many people talk about it and it is not one of those areas that is addressed in the media.  Whilst others fight to have transgenderism discussed and accepted- in should already be; such is the way of the modern world- the music media needs to do more.  I shall bring Antony Hegarty back in- she seems the most relevant artist with regards this point- and how transgenderism is being fought and highlighted.  Back in 2012, Hegarty was interviewed by The Independent and explained his shock with regard’s the attitude of the press.  She stated how interviewers talked (euphemistically, in her words) about the anatomy and were very forward and insensitive.  Whilst it is great to hear about the person behind the music:  Hegarty feels the media does not take golden opportunities to address bigger issues and talk about transgenderism in a positive and human way.  That de-humanisation and (often, degrading) way of speaking seems callous and hugely immature.  Like schoolboys snickering in the playground:  It is shocking that such normality is seen as taboo and abnormal.  While it may not be widespread- with regards the amount of transgender people in the country- that does not mean to say it should be overlooked and derided.  Hegarty explained how she had become accepted- not the case with a lot of peers and friends- and how there is confusion between transgenderism and transsexuality.  With terminology and definition being muddled and confused:  Is it any wonder transgender artists feel such anger and alienation.  Hegarty explained how that alienation (for her at least) can lead to positives:  Make you a stronger person and that growth-through-pain experience leads to great things.  Karlberg has brought transgenderism to my mind and given me a platform- however small or under-subscribed- to address this point and ensure other people open their minds.  There are over 10 million transgender persons on the planet- that number is growing as communities and countries become more accepting- and it is vital musicians promote transgenderism and transfeminism to de-stigmatise it.  In a later interview- recorded in 2014 by Flavorwire- Hegarty spoke candidly about how the word ‘he’ was an invisible pronoun.

By calling (Hegarty) ‘she’ it gave validation and identity:  Something that is lacking and shows ignorance in some people.  Yui Karlberg is an upcoming musician that is keen to keep the topic burning and ensure it is discussed.  Not just having the words ‘transgender’ and ‘transfeminism’ on her bio; she promotes it and compels other to discuss it too.  That is a brave and noble move from a musician that wants people to think deeply about something that is important and very personal.  There is still that reluctance to ‘accept’ transgenderism:  Karlberg is going a long way to ensuring attitudes change and we all become more open-minded and human.  When we look at the music; there is so much to recommend and point to.  Whilst Karlberg has been performing a string of intimate gigs- smaller venues and crowds- that is not to say she has niche appeal and a small fan-base.  Those fan numbers are growing and spreading by the week.  That loyal core promotes her music whilst new appreciators are coming in and discovering a rare artist with a definite future.  Seasons in a Day is a perfect representation of what Karlberg is about and how effective she is.  I am not sure what the plans are for 2016:  Whether there will be a new E.P. or a string of singles will be unveiled.  Inspired by Thai music- not surprising given Karlberg’s heritage- and modern artists like Sanitgold and Rhianna:  You have an artist that is very unique and should inspire many others.  That central voice has the depth and glorious power of Antony Hegarty and Justin Vernon but is capable of a special intimacy and universal passion.  Those distinct contrasts and blends feed into music that is affecting a lot of listeners.  Based in Bournemouth, it would be great to see Karlberg perform a few gigs in London- and travel around Britain- and amaze the crowds here.  I feel Karlberg will have a prosperous year and showcase a lot of great songs.  Before completing it is worth readdressing the importance of evolution and vocals in music.  If you have a very special and powerful voice- which Karlberg does- you are much more capable of reaching a wider audience and ensuring your music is remembered.  The mainstream has too few genuine singers who stick in the memory.  There is too much disposability and featherweight vocalists around so it is always pleasing discovering a singer with a lot more depth and ability.  Karlberg is a musician that wants to get people talking and ensure the music is allowed exposure and consideration.  An artist that is difficult to compare with anyone else- one of the most unique I have encountered- that success and evolution is no happy accident.  From the early days as a Folk artist- and compelled by heroes such as Bon Iver- the music has transformed and grow into stunning Electro.-Pop moments.  Those Folk elements still remain:  The songs are broader and more urgent; the vocals more assured and affecting- everything has improved and grown.  That growth may have resulted from confidence and acceptance- lots of fans and supporters embracing Karlberg and the subject of transgenderism- but I feel like she wants to get more people converted and talking.  Take some time to discover a musician that possesses a fantastic sound a consistent songbook.  The pleasures and moments you can take from Yui Karlberg make it all worthwhile.  She is an artist that addresses the wider world- universal subjects come into the music- but is keen to look at personal growth and feelings.  In a world where there are still too many narrow and close-minded people; we all need to do more to ensure attitudes change and acceptance reigns.  Whilst transgenderism may be a subject that will take more time (so it is properly accepted) one thing you cannot ignore…

IS the power of Yui Karlberg’s music.

 

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Follow Yui Karlberg

 

Official:

http://yuikarlberg.wix.com/yuikarlbergmusic#

Facebook:

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

Twitter:

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Music:

https://soundcloud.com/yui-karlberg

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Videos:

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCn_ebkcntYmnEL0vMIAGiLA

 

 

 

TRACK REVIEW: Robert Lane- My Love’s in Deep

TRACK REVIEW:

 

Robert Lane

 

 

 

My Love’s in Deep

 

9.6/10

 

 

My Love’s in Deep is available at:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N64Z9YFRBzE&feature=youtu.be

RELEASED:
February 4th, 2016

GENRES:
Pop

ORIGIN:

Birmingham, U.K.

Robert Lane

The extended E.P., Ends and Starts is released on March 26th.  It can be pre-ordered via:

http://www.fishrecords.co.uk/robertlane/robertlaneendsandstartsextendedep.html

TRACK LISTING:

My Love’s in Deep

Feels Like 5000 Miles

Break My Heart Blues

Willful Independent

Teardrop Tattoo

Alone Now

Mary’s Theme

Launch Date:

Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery on the afternoon of the 26th of March

E.P. tour dates:

06/02 Albion Brewery Bar, Northampton

13/02 Busk Love Folk Festival, Southport

24/02 Bury Songwriters Circle

25/02 Speakeasy, Sunderland

26/02 Launderette Sessions, Durham (supporting Bob Fox)

27/02 Suddabys, Malton

21/03 Stafford Gatehouse (Supporting Kelly Oliver)

26/03 Album launch Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery

01/04 Foley Arms, Malvern

03/04 South Hill Park Arts Centre, Bracknell

08/04 Kontra Roots, Finnedon

09/04 Old Cock Inn, Droitwich

14/04 Southside Blues, Birmingham

27/04-03/05 Tour of Germany

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WHEN considering today’s featured artist it provokes me to…

Look at a different type of solo artist; the importance of character and charm in music- in addition to the discipline of being an actor and musician.  I will start off with the little point which is an interesting one to raise.  A lot of the upcoming musicians tend to focus predominantly on music itself.  Rarely do you come across a musician that exists as an actor- or has another discipline to their name.  It may seem like an irrelevant point to make, but it interests me to see how acting translates into music itself.  I have reviewed a couple of actors- who are musicians too- and always find the performances and songs that little bit more special.  Perhaps it is the skills involved within acting- projection and performance- that easily leads to some rather accomplished music.  I am not sure, but what I do know is the actor-musician label should not be one open to derision (it can often get a bad reputation).  If you look at some T.V. stars that have made a stab at a music career- I shall name no names here- their attempts can be summed up as ‘mixed’.  You get a few actors who can deftly amaze in music- bringing their skills and personality to great songs- but many come off embarrassingly short.  In modern music, there are a lot of singers/musicians going into acting; the reverse is also true.  Perhaps the two areas have a closer link (than I imagined) or there is something inherently attracting about a music career- something an aspiring actor cannot refute.  I raise the point because my featured artist mixes acting with music:  A talent that is making in-roads in both fields.  If you have not heard of Robert Lane- he is one of many making their way through right now- then yu will do soon enough.  One of those honest musicians toiling and crafting their current sounds- trying to get as many as possible engaged and listening- this year will see his extended E.P. dropped.  That seven-track record showcases a unique talent with a different way of working.  I have mentioned Pop music a lot recently- and the much-maligned attempts from our current crop- but it needn’t be that difficult.  Before I carry this point on, let me introduce Rob Lane to you:

“Robert Lane is a singer songwriter based in Birmingham.

Robert’s musical path began with liberating his brother’s guitar from a bedroom cupboard. “He’s eleven years older than me so he had all the cool toys, including this guitar. I asked if I could have a go or even borrow it, he always said yeah sure tomorrow. So in the end I went into his room one day when he was at work and sat on his bed playing it. I did this for a week or two, having to put it back in his cupboard before he came home. I couldn’t re-string it as a left handed person should do as that would give me away. By the time he lent it to me legitimately I had learnt too much to start again left handed and so to this day I play the wrong way round.”


Inspired to write and perform by the likes of The Beatles, Pete Townshend, Rufus Wainwright and Ron Sexsmith, Robert played with various bands as a guitarist before taking the decision to perform as a solo artist.

 

Robert was chosen by the LG Arena to perform before concerts by Dire Straits front man Mark Knopfler, BBC Sound of 2010 winner Ellie Goulding and international superstar singer/songwriter John Mayer. In May 2013 he returned to the Forum Live to play before Eric Clapton’s main stage appearance. In August 2013 he was one of 15 songwriters selected to attend a song writing retreat/course with Kinks front man Ray Davies. Robert has appeared at Beverley Folk Festival, The Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Birmingham Artsfest and The Tenby Blues Festival as well as venues including Birmingham’s Glee Club and Jools Holland’s famous venue The Jam House. He has supported a wide range of performers including Nell Bryden, Polly Paulusma, Gary Knock, Lotte Mullan, Paul Liddell, Alice Gold, Cattle and Cane, Jazz Morley, Edwina Hayes, Dan Wilde, Jess Morgan, Steve Gibbons, Jay Leighton, Dan Whitehouse and Steve Ajao.


As well as writing and performing Robert works as a guitar teacher and workshop leader for musicians of all ages. “I’ve learnt an awful lot whilst teaching. Sometimes you have to find new ways to explain things you haven’t thought about for years, and in doing that you get a new understanding of them.”

 

He’s worked as an actor, comedian and shoe salesman. “I’ve performed in some very strange places…a shed, a tree house, busked on the street, art galleries, in a glass box for 6 hours on BBC3…strange but wonderful.”

Robert’s work as an actor and teacher has brought new skills and realisation into his music.  His exposure and work with musicians/actors has enforced realities and truths about the industry.  These realisations come through in the music which distinguishes itself from what is out there.  So many Pop crop wannabes are throwing the same old jams out there:  Those love songs with a few chords to their name.  Away from the derisory and ill-fated attempts at Pop:  There are artists that are doing something different and exciting.  Robert Lane- to be fair is not a pure Pop act- plays Acoustic, Rock and Alternative sounds- infuses them around a Pop base.  What impresses me about him- and one of the reasons for assessing his music- is the charm and charterer that emerges from the music.  Maybe that stems from his natural acting ability- an issue I will have to explore more in future- but you hear that smile and depth emerge in every word.  Not someone simply going through the motions:  The songs he puts forward stick in the imagination and showcases a natural talent who wants to keep making music.  It is often hard bringing new light when talking about solo acts- I have been doing this for so long now- but Robert Lane is an artist that subverts preconceived expectations.  Over the years, he has performed at a string of festivals- and supported an array of great musicians- and has grown in confidence and stature.  He is an artist that manages to balance his many endeavours- from acting to teaching- whilst ensuring the music is stronger for it.  Lane takes some well-worn/traditional themes- love’s strife and the unfairness of relationships- but ensures there is much more originality and diversity across his sounds.  Quirky tales and wonderful charterers mix with songs about wit and confessional moments.  It is clear to me Lane has gone to great lengths to ensure his music has its own mark and distinction.  Not an average Pop singer:  An artist that has a unique flair and voice that should be fostered and encouraged.  His E.P. is available to order and shows what a proposition he is.  The consistency and breadth across the E.P. mixes the themes of heartbreak alongside charming tales and songs filled with imagination.  Birmingham is perhaps not a region that has produced a lot of current masters- Mike Skinner was the last great musician from here- but there have been some legends who hail from here.  Everyone from Jeff Lynne (E.L.O.) to The Beat; Duran Duran to Black Sabbath:  There have been some terrific musicians that call Birmingham home (or hail from nearby).  Lane wants Ends and Starts (his new E.P.) to inspire people and get fans talking.  Having collected some dedicated followers across social media- all attracted to that very special type of music- you would not bet against those numbers swelling and expanding.

Seeing as I am a fairly recent fan of Robert Lane:  It was apt to have a look-back and investigate his earliest moments.  Having been performing music for a while now, I was expecting his sapling songs to be a little under-formed and slight.  Well Adjusted was unveiled six years ago and shows how confident he was from the start.  Catchy and memorable- I get touches of Oasis, The Beatles and Bob Dylan at various intervals- it is a song that showcases a terrific and emotive composition.  Our hero holds a line he cannot cross- he feels lost and disconnected- he speaks to a heroine that thinks he does not care.  Unable to bare the tensions and realities of the situation- hoping there is more than this- no-one does it “like I do”.  The well-adjusted star boasts incredible vocals- the lead performance is emotive and passionate throughout- bringing in huge backing vocals to enforce the lyrics and add to the mood.

  Lost But I Can’t Care is another song that showed Rob Lane’s many sides and abilities.  A softer and tenderer vocal- compared to a track like Well Adjusted– we go into more Folk/Soul territory as the young musician shows his adept ear for melody and a catchy chorus.  Few artists craft such melodic and memorable tracks so early in their career.  In the earliest cuts, I was swept in the graceful and gorgeous moments; the strong and nuanced lyrics- everything hangs together and Lane sounds completely natural.  Giving the impression he has been playing for decades:  Such an assured and confident artist grows in strength with every release.

More recent tracks like You Want It Both Ways and One of Those Guys demonstrate that evolution and Lane’s ability to craft classic-sounding Pop- the likes of The Beatles keep coming to mind- whilst throwing wit, intelligence and mature into the mix.  Those big and memorable choruses can be found once more- You Want It Both Ways’ is particularly stunning- whilst the compositions have retained that mix of Folk, Pop and Alternative blends.  What you get- comparing the earliest sounds with the songs produced a couple of years back- the consistency and quality.  Lane does not sound fatigue or lacking any inspiration:  If anything, his songwriting is more ambitious and he brings new ideas and sounds into the frame.

  My Love’s in Deep is perhaps Lane’s most assured and stunning cut to date.  The composition employs more grit and gristle- some scratched electric guitar strings- and boasts Lane’s most soulful and direct vocals ever.  It is a song that marks new life and direction whilst retaining his identity and sound.  I will be fascinated to see if the E.P. continues the themes of My Love’s in Deep– it may stray away and concentrate on other areas.  What I do know is how confident Lane appears right now.  You can tell his years of performance have strengthened his music and given him fresh inspiration.  This will mean future records carrying this trajectory on and building on these exceptional foundations’.

My Love’s in Deep is Robert Lane’s latest single, and- judging by the feedback across social media- it has connected with a lot of people.  The opening strings race and hustle into life.  Sprightly and ready for action:  You get a boisterous and invigorated introduction that gets the listener involved and ensures their attention is focused.  Unable to sleep- with his love being in deep- you get Country-esque twangs and Folk threads coming out in Lane’s vocal.  With perhaps a touch of early days-Dylan in the delivery- that acoustic guitar sound reminds me of his earliest work- the song starts off with a solid and impressive flourish.   Having lost his “last chance to leave” I began to wonder whether the hero was in a rather struggling bond.  Maybe the relationship has felt strains and seems beyond the point of repair.  Most songs that deal with love both address break-up and its heartache; some look at casting blame and pointing fingers when necessary.  As the lyrics start to unfold, I realise my early interpretation is a little wayward.  The hero continues his story and looks back at when the two first met.  That vintage/classical storytelling- the superiority of the ‘60s songwriters against the grain of some modern-day cliché- boasts a terrify narrative and charm.  The duo- you start to picture what the girl looks like- met by chance it seems.  Perhaps the heroine is someone Lane knows- or has seen around- but he always wanted to see her one-on-one.  That cute and almost teenage-like meeting- perhaps it is a recollection from an older bond- see the girl inviting our man to see a band.  The hero becomes god-smacked when the girl takes his hand- enforcing that innocence I get from the song- and the bond starts to blossom.  As they go and see the band- that feature’s the heroine’s best friend- you start to explore possibilities and various images.  Our boy cannot sleep and it seems like this girl has made a huge impression early on.  Having lost that chance to leave- you wonder whether he wants to leave or feels he needs to- there is no turning back.  Perhaps this is new territory- or the romance is moving along too quickly- but you get some nerves and hesitations early on.  With the initial stages laid out- the hero letting his voice campaign and explain- a beautiful compositional punctuation adds evocation and atmosphere.  Blue-inspire guitar soloing sits with energised and heartbeat percussion to move the song on and give the listener a chance to reflect.  Lane is one of those artists that is capable of inspiring various parts of the body.  The lyrics and vocals get in the mind and heart- that mixture of thoughtfulness, romance and intelligence- whilst the composition ensures the feet and arms are activated.  I love the layers and different genres Lane can bring into a song and make everything sound consistent and completely natural.  That authority and bravery emerges throughout My Love’s in Deep.  Following that chugging motif, we hear more of the story.  The two- our boy and his girl- sojourn to a party after the gig and that is when the first kiss arrives.  The hero did “not stand a chance” and is taken unaware.  Recollections of early-days Beatles- the songwriting style of Paul McCartney especially- comes through in a song that never fails to put a smile on the face.  As they are at the party- and that kiss has been planted- the two go for dinner (the girl would not let our man pay).  The heroine is used to having her own way and there seems to be differences in this relationship.  As things have continued and flourished- from those early days they are now more settled- there is no guessing where things are headed.  Those nervy and quick-moving moments are in the past:  What we have now is a love that seems serious yet has uncertainties.

Lane has a beautiful knack of storytelling and narrative- perhaps not surprising given he’s an actor- that moves things forward but ensures the listener can envelop themselves in the lyrics.  The coming-together/bond has been, in the words of our hero, an “unqualified success”- almost as quirky as The Streets line in Let’s Push Things Forward:  “I wholeheartedly agree with your viewpoint” against scenes of disagreement and argument- showing a distinct Britishness and distinct pen.  With so many songwriters being overtly direct and blunt- their choice of language and words lacks imagination and surprise- Lane has a distinct dictionary and a great turn of phrase.  Unable to sleep- in the grip of this deep love- the hero seems invested and stuck (perhaps not the best word) in the relationship.  That infectious and rousing chorus is reinterpreted to emphasis the points and get the listener singing along.  One of the most catchy and unforgettable choruses I have heard all year- an out-and-out stomper- the song’s final moments are a riot of uplift and addictiveness.  The guitars chug and spark; the percussion rifles and smatters- that voice continues to climb and strike.  A coming-together of all Lane’s strengths and assets:  My Love’s in Deep is his most accomplished and impressive song so far.

   Ends and Starts’ lead-off song- and perhaps one of the most upbeat that will appear in that collection- shows just how confident and accomplished Robert Lane is.  I have heard his older material- and how assured he appears on those cuts- but his latest revelation is the most memorable he has ever produced.  The lyrics bring together childlike innocence- a love story that could be taken from 1950s Rock ‘n’ Roll- with something modern-day and contemporary.  With that in mind, the composition has a great blend of Rock, Blues and Alternative.  Robert Lane is an artist with one mind in the past; the other firmly planted in the future.  The way they come together (on his latest track) will appeal to a wide range of listeners and those who love their music with depth and nuance.  I find myself revisiting the song and becoming entranced by the storyline and that final coda.  There are so many strands and little touches that reward a devoted and passion listener.  In the solo world, it is so challenging discovering an artist that differs and really sticks in the mind.  Robert Lane has shown how he can negotiate and overcome hurdles- an artist that has continued to play for years- and this is a good thing.  My Love’s in Deep is a stunning number from a songwriter that ranks himself among the most talented and able we have in this country.  Do not let him pass you by.

Ends and Starts is a collection of songs that showcases what a talent Robert Lane is.  Not just reserved to narrow themes and tastes:  The width of genres and subjects explored across the record are hugely impressive.  At the heart is that consistency and core which will ensure his existing fan-base go away very happy.  With every release Lane seems more assured and confident.  As an actor and teacher it is only natural the musician would be able to project and inspire- one of the most credible and respectable actor-musicians working in the U.K.  Bringing influences as wide ranging as Kate Bush and The Beatles into his songs:  You have an artist that has a great love of the legends of the past.  Of course, there is a contemporary edge to Lane’s music- it is very much the sound of here and now- but those older/classic touches mean his music resonates with older generations and more mature listeners.  I got hints of Paul McCartney when listening to My Love’s in Deep:  One of those lovely tracks that could easily have slotted onto Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.  It is a track that has a charmed smile and plenty of character.  Lane is an artist whose lyrics get inside your head and paint pictures and vivid scenes.  Few songwriters are capable of stepping away from cliché and providing music that has character and nuance.  If you have not heard Robert Lane then check his previous songs out- available on his SoundCloud account- and get to grips with one of the rising stars of British music.  With people seeking what London and the big cities are providing music- Birmingham is a part of the U.K. that is showcasing some great artists.  While not on the same level as London, there is evidence to suggest here is an area that could grow (as a musical hot-stop) in years to come.  Robert Lane is a fascinating example of what can be achieved when it comes to music.  Having his fingers in a few pies- as a teacher and actor- you would see him on paper and maybe think this:  Here is another actor who is trying to become a musician!  Truth is, music has always been a key love for Lane:  Acting is just another area that interests him and he loves to do.  You can tell how vital music is and what a passion he has.  From his compositions- that mix Acoustic and Blues together with Pop and Folk- you have a musician’s musician that wants to inspire others.  That will not be hard to do- I know others that have latched onto Lane’s music- and it will be exciting to see what this year has in store.  Lane is going to be traveling across the U.K. in support his new record:  A chance for fresh listeners to come see him and hear those songs in a live environment.  I hope he gets to come to London and give the capital a glimpse into his stunning music.  For now- and with his extended E.P. dropping- it is going to be great seeing just how far Rob Lane can go this year.  I can see more music arriving and the young musician making plans for festivals.

With a ubiquitous and much-need sound at his disposal, it seems like Lane has the ability to translate abroad and have a career there.  It would not be an exaggeration to say he could gain plaudits in the U.S. and Australia.  I mention these two nations- as I have done in a lot of reviews- as they are the most popular and notable nations for new music (Australia to a lesser extent).  The point is, Robert Lane has the ability to get his music heard far and wide- marking him as one of the brightest talents around.  With Birmingham recently voted as the third happiest place to live in the U.K. – a recent survey showed areas of London to be the least happy- fewer sniggers should be leveled here.  It is clear the atmosphere and lack of anxiety in Birmingham works wonder for musicians.  Take away the jokes and clichés- the accent gets a bit of a ribbing- it will be interesting to see if this honorific achievement will reveal similarly exciting songwriters.  I always find it interesting London- with its anxiety and bustling environment- showcases so many unfettered and great artists.   I feel London will relinquish some of its dominance as its boroughs become more compacted and overly-populated.  The sheer numbers flocking to the capital is exciting for music- the range and mass of artists to be found- but a lot of the young artists are feeling the strain.  I talk to many artists from London who all tell me how difficult and challenging life in London can be.  It appears other parts of the U.K. are stealing focus and producing treasures.  Robert Lane is promoting and campaigning hard- with the release of Ends and Starts– so keep your eyes on him.  The solo market is producing a depressing amount of robotic and faceless acts.  From the boring and lifeless acoustic guitar-strumming Pop example; through to the big-choruses-and-uplifting-messages female solo acts:  I get rather red when looking around music at the moment.  Those musicians that strike against the conformity and sheer averageness of music- and the worst traits of the young coming through- should be commended and congratulated.  Not only does Robert Lane stand aside with regards quality and consistency:  The individuality and personality of his music makes him a very relatable and warm artist.  My Love’s in Deep is Ends and Starts’ lead-off song and a great representation of Robert Lane’s music.  Possessing all his traits and ingredients; it is a track impossible to ignore and guaranteed to put a smile on your face.  An exciting and original musician that deserves a wider fan-base; let Robert Lane become a part of your music rotation.  Few truly unique and memorable solo artists are coming through so here is someone…

WE all need to follow.

 

___________________________

Follow Robert Lane

 

Official:

https://twitter.com/robertlanemusic

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/robertlanemusic

Twitter:

https://twitter.com/robertlanemusic

_____________________________

Music:

https://soundcloud.com/robert-lane

TRACK REVIEW: Hunting Bears- Sweet Anthony

TRACK REVIEW:

 

Hunting Bears

 

 

 

Sweet Anthony

 

9.6/10

 

 

Sweet Anthony is available at:

https://soundcloud.com/huntingbearsband/sweet-anthony

RELEASED:
December, 2015

GENRES:
Baroque-Pop

ORIGIN:

Leeds, U.K.

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WITH the raft of Hard-Rock bands that fill my…

daily playlists- I am a guy who likes his bands to be a bit heavy- I am always pleased to review new music- bands that differ from my usual rotation.  In my day-to-day I tend to immerse myself in a range of music- with Rock and Alternative being at the heart- and love to dip into a spectrum of sounds and genres.  When it comes to new music, perhaps the assortment of music is not as varied as you’d always hope.  It is true, there are some fantastic artists fusing genres and crossing boundaries:  Musicians that are rallying against predictable and obvious to provide the public with something genuinely innovative.  My featured artists are a Baroque-Pop band that has opened my eyes to a whole new possibility in music.  Before I come to them, it is worth talking about that genre:  Moving onto investigating consistency and evolution among musicians- concluding with a bit about embracing music that is outside our comfort zone.  Leeds has once more produced another wonderful act- a catchphrase of sorts for these pages- and I never cease to be amazed at the breadth and quality of the musicians that play here.  I shall not wax lyrical (once more) on this subject but it is great to see the city so fervent:  Where else in the U.K. do you get such a range and consistency of music?  Maybe London is boasting the same variety and ingenuity:  Leeds is a constant hotspot that many should look to if they seek something special and fresh.  Bereft of sameness and fatigue:  I can see 2016 showcasing a whole wave of phenomenal Leeds-based musicians.  Pop music is a style and genre that has enormous possibility yet seems to have few true pioneers.  In the mainstream, we still hear too many power ballad-producing artists (normally female) that are aiming at a very specific audience.  It is essential to have a few examples of this type of music- to provide inspiration to young women- but there is a suffocation and over-reliance on rather bland and unoriginal motifs.  The most standout artists- in my view anyway- are those that take that Pop core and mix in other genres.  Whether it is Rock or Electronic ideas; something Folk-based or pastoral:  There are no limits to how far you can stretch Pop to create something sensational.  Baroque-Pop fuses Rock sounds and is commonly played by artists from the U.S. and U.K.  During the 1960s, artists like The Beatles, The Beach Boys and The Rolling Stones brought the style into public prominence.  By the mid-1970s, the popularity (of Baroque-Pop) started to fade due to the rise in Disco and Punk-Rock artists- and the explosion of Punk music for that matter.  With that said, the genre never truly died and gained resurgence during the 1990s.  With acts such as Belle and Sebastian- Regina Spektor and the Divine Comedy displaying immense talent- revitalising the genre:  That has influenced modern artists to keep the torch burning bright.  Designed to be less commercial and more mature- less edgy than Rock- Baroque-Pop incorporates Classical elements and instruments to mix the popularity of Pop with something more cerebral.  Hunting Bears have a little in common with the likes of Regina Spektor and classic acts like The Beach Boys.  Being relatively unfamiliar with Baroque-Pop, it has been great looking into the band and how their sound has developed.  The orchestral Folk-cum-Pop blends of the quintet from Leeds has enthralled and stunned critics and music reviewers.  There are few acts like Hunting Bears which got me thinking about how difficult it is to be consistent in a music scene that sees so much brief fling and beauty.  I have often stuck to a band that seemed promising and amazing upon their first release:  With my heart seduced, said band/act would crumble and feel the pressure of the industry.  It is always sad to see a genuinely promising artist feel the pinch of a jam-packed music climate.  Those artists that can pervade and remain in music are those that deserve a lot of applause and respect.

Day-to-day- speaking with musicians on social media- I hear about their daily woes:  The struggles to get gigs and earn money; the disappointment of underwhelming radio play and patronage.  It is heartbreaking to find great acts so disheartened and despondent.  Passion and purpose go a long way to ensuring musicians survive and prosper.  Away from that, it is the originality of music and the evolutions of music that create footholds.  It is great having an induvial sound- one that has commercial promise but is unexpected too- but you need to keep evolving and provide the listener with new ideas now and then.  Even the legendary acts of old- The Beatles, Led Zeppelin etc. – did not stick to rigid sounds in their music.  From each album, you get new ideas a definite progression.  By the same token, modern-day artists must ensure they keep their music fresh but consistent.  Hunting Bears are looking to create their third E.P. – rumours it will surface this year- but do not doggedly stick to a narrow sound and stretch it across the E.P.s.  Every song has a definite personality and sense of purpose.  While their debut E.P.- 2011’s So Long– was a confident and immediate release; Brother Sister (unveiled in 2014) was a step forward and showed new ideas.  As 2016 is here, the Leeds five-piece will look to keep consistent but ensure their third E.P. has new endeavours and sounds.  Too many music listeners get caught in a ‘comfort zone’ and do not often seek anything that does not conform.  I am sometimes guilty of ensconcing myself within the sounds of ‘90s music and Rock.  I love most genres but do spend an inordinate amount of time coming back to the same artists and sounds.  With bands like Hunting Bears emerging, I have been compelled to broaden my horizons and find like-minded acts.  The recollections Pop past- The Beach Boys’ harmonic, Baroque music for one- sits with of-the-moment Pop and Rock to create something involving and romantic.  The five-piece are not one of these niche bands that will be playing specific festivals.  The guys have a sound that can transcend boundaries and has a universal appeal to it.  All the ingredients we look for are there:  The immediacy and nuance; songs that look at love and relatable figures.  Importantly, the passionate performance and exceptional musicians cannot fail to impress anyone who listens.  I love the E.P.s they have produced already- having gone back and seen what they are about- so am looking forward to finding where they head next.  The Leeds collective has a very popular and marketable sound- the likes of Joanna Newsom showing what can be done (she is more avant-garde but mixes Classic elements together with Folk and Pop) there is no telling just how popular Hunting Bears can become.  Many listeners and music fans are looking for something deeper- that makes them think but ensures it speaks to the heart- and you get that in spades from Hunting Bears.  Let us hope a new E.P. does arrive and the band come and play down south- it would be great to see them arrive in London.

A lot of bands I review tend to have a very small back catalogue- or the song I am reviewing is their first- and that virginal timidity makes it hard to discover how they will mature and develop.  Luckily, Hunting Bears have a couple of wonderful E.P.s under their belt:  I can see how they started out and whether their music has changed at all.  So Long is nearly five years old and is a four-track release that shows immediate conviction and originality.  Mother City is a gentle and immersive song that is awash with gorgeous strings and passion.  The vocal interplay looks at chasing streams to the hills:  An idyllic and riparian scenery unfolds as the percussion adds race and clear movement.  Compiled of live and early-career cuts; So Long is an insight into a tender and young band making their first step.  You get so much atmosphere and live-sounding tangibility in every recording.  Despite the fact, these are early recordings’ it does equate to a lack of development and authority.  The band sound completely formed and tight in every track.  Mother City boasts a range of wonderful vocals and evocative lyrics:  The band create a song that lifts your spirits and makes you imagine what is being sung and unfolding.  Holes In Your New Shoes ends the E.P. is one of the most emotive and reflective tracks across the E.P.  The lyrics see the leads ask the question:  “Who says I’m to blame” for a static surrender?  Creaking stairs and confessions- “I’m the oldest man I know” show a unique lyrical bent and a charming sense of storytelling.  Colours are being turned black and blue- the old man has holes in his new shoes- and the song seems like a fable or nursery rhyme.  Differing across the E.P.- in terms of the production sound and quality- you have an E.P. with plenty to recommend so many different ideas.  The E.P. has a little bit of a two-sided sound- live tracks and early recordings but this does not affect the consistency and overall tone.  If anything, it provides precious insights and revelations from a band that sound stunning from the offset.

   Brother Sister was recorded after a three-year ‘hiatus’- the band working on new songs and performing across the country- and does not lose anything at all.  You might think that gap would see a slight dip in quality- the band unsure of what direction they are taking- but the performances between E.P.s leads to a stronger and more confident E.P.  Julia opens things and is a crisper and more affecting song.  Right from the off, you become entranced by those haunting and ethereal vocals.  Choir-like and beautiful:  The heroine has a knife in her back and is feeling the strains of the world.  Looking at characters and figures- rather than making their songs first-person and love-based- makes the music more interesting and original.  It is here we get more musical ideas and tighter performances.  The band bring more strings and elements together- violin, harp and piano- to fuse Folk, West Coast harmonies and Pop into a rapturous blend of sounds.  The production is sharper and more polished allowing all the elements and notes to radiate through.  Her Velvet Dress is one of the most arresting and stunning songs the band created (to this point).  Pin-sharp vocals present redemptive vocals and the need to defeat the odds and remember a wonderful velvet dress- when things were perhaps a little better.  Tears are being fought and the hero is struggling to look at life’s positives.  Maybe the sweetheart has broken up or moved:  That longing and remembrance is truly affecting and memorable.  You can picture the scenes and there is something classical and old-time about the song.  It seems like a literary chapter and has its heart in a classic text.

The band have developed and improved between E.P.s.  Their debut was confident and showed what they were capable of.  If anything, Brother Sister is a sharper; more layered and nuanced E.P. that fully exploits their shared talents and genre ambitions.  You get more ideas and a crisper sound (compared with So Long) and that shows a natural evolution and step.  This means a third E.P. could take another step forward and bring in yet more sounds and ideas.  Whether we will get a Brother Sister-sounding E.P.- that continues where their last record left off- or a reinvention, I am not sure.  Sweet Anthony suggests there will not be a big departure.  You have a band that has fresh influence but keen to keep their well-formed and unique sound intact.

Sweet Anthony has been claimed to be bolder and more experimental than before- the assessment from the band after a recent interview.  The band stated- in that same interview- with each song/E.P. they bring in new ideas and show a natural shift.  With Sim on keys- a new dynamic change- their latest offering shows fresh insights and moves from a band constantly changing and improving.  I can feel the new-found hero/heroine influences from Joanna Newsome and Sufjan Stevens- artists Hunting Bears have been digging recently.  Bringing the U.S. giant into a British palette- the storytelling and sensibility of the lyrics- shows a fresh story with a new central figure.  Whereas previous characters like Julia– from their E.P., Brother Sister– we have new perspective and incentive.  The opening moments launch straight into a wordless vocal.  Instantaneous and unexpected- the band’s past songs would suggest a building composition- you are taking aback by the vocal force and urgency.  That tone continues and is backed by soulful and atmospheric keys.  Right from the opening notes, you sense new direction from a band that are probably revisiting past Soul masters and U.S. idols.  I know the likes of D’Angelo have been name-checked by the band- one of their new songs has that vibe to it- and I get the impression they have shifted away from The Beach Boys/Bob Dylan avenues- for a few songs anyway- to embrace artists that are perhaps bolder and bracing.  The band has not betrayed their roots for one moment:  Sweet Anthony is an updated version of Hunting Bear’s established sound and is a song that (probably was) cemented after some experimenting and science in the studio.  It seems “Hell this peace we’re chasing” and seems to look at a distant relationship that is causing strain and anxiety.  I know the band’s member find themselves in a long-distant relationship- their new material is more personal and intimate- so Sweet Anthony seems to be the reflection of a very personal and current malaise.  Whether the lyrics were penned by one particular member- or it is a collaborative effort from the group- you know each musician finds relevance and truth in the words.  The song is almost a call-across-the-oceans:  A desperate cry to try and bond too-far-apart hearts.  In past releases- especially Brother Sister– the band have relayed stories from people close to them.

The songs came from heartaches of friends and close ones:  Now, we have something more particular to the band and ‘traditional’ perhaps.  As the song continues, the fight seems to be “our own creation”.  The schoolyard tricks and infantile games have caused a separation and the distance between them.  The lush and harmonic vocals- that sway and intertwine like the rapturous flight of birds in the summer sky- you get confessions and honesty from the heroine.  It seems like her man has been pushed apart but it may not be so one-sided.  Too in love to play politics and be dishonest:  Maybe things- the way they sit right now- are for the best and the only way they can be.  Whatever the reality and circumstance- where the hero may be right now- it is causing a lot of strife and upset.  The band’s stunning and soulful harmonies- the staggering vocals perhaps reveal the best any band has to offer- provide candour, tranquility and strange beauty.  The tetchy and heartbeat drums add Soul edges to the track:  The instrumentation sees traditional Folk ideas mix with something more experimental and mind-altering.  Unlike any previous song- or quite with the same effect- the lyrics and notes are bent and elongated to create something heavenly and transcendent.  With musicians like Joanna Newsom and Dirty Projectors counting as influences:  You get Newsome-esque harmonies (with those wonderful love songs) and something innovative and genre-splicing.  ‘60s Folk and ‘70s New Wave combine in a marriage bed that gives Sweet Anthony huge nuance and repeatability.  Upon the first spin, it is those immense and captivating vocals that hit me.  Later on- when I replayed the song- composition touches and lines of the song find influence in my brain.  The heroine has demons and the Holy Ghost breathes down her neck.  The hero has given a lot and means a lot to our lead.  That need for “mutually-assured forgiveness” comes out and mistakes have been made.  It is rare to see a singer cast blame on themselves and perhaps confess to transgressions and immaturity.  Whether there has been a communications breakdown or some petty argument- the hero may have run away to try and find space- you wonder what provoked the current situation.  My mind being romantic and purist:  I see a love that exists with few arguments but obstacles to overcome.  Perhaps the duo is in communication but find them separated by seas and land rather than ideals and party lines.  The emotions are raw and revelation-spilling:  Whether that openness can lead to reconciliation and togetherness is uncertain.  Before the 3:00 mark- and after the vocals bid to sweet Anthony- you get glitch and quirky guitar sounds that fuse elements of Vampire Weekend and their ilk- to my mind at the very least.  The bond of twiddling and racing strings- going to stick with Vampire Weekend- produce a call-and-response with the violin, that mixes Classic with Indie into something contemporary and traditional.  The band produce one of their most interesting and developed composition that shows them embrace new influence and show fresh confidence.  While the group has mentioned Sufjan Stevens, Talking Heads and The Punch Brothers- when chatting to The State of the Arts– Hunting Bears are no less experimental and impressive.  You got little hints of other acts/genres but all presented in a unique way.  Caught in the breeze and wave of the strings- joined by aching violin towards the latter stages- it is impossible not to fall for the song.   Darker and haunted strings fuse with hissing percussion and starlight guitars:  The resulting excelsior is a potent one indeed!  Not only does the compositional conclusion please the senses:  You get narrative and fill in pieces of the jigsaw.  Whereas most of the lyrics are portrayed within the opening half- and set out the realities and circumstances of the situation- now you get fresh revelation and possibilities.  With final harmonies- that sound graceful and heaven-reaching- the band leaves the listener wondering how things worked out.

Whether Sweet Anthony sees a satisfactory conclusion- the lovers make it to one another or open the lines of communication- it is an engrossing song that shows the band at the peak of form.  They have stated how they are keen to experiment and progress as a band- not stand still and trot out the same songs.  Sweet Anthony is a wonderful glimpse into their upcoming E.P.  A song that is insistent and memorable straight away- they go in harder and more assured than ever- it marks a progression and confidence they have not shown before (not to this extent, anyway).  The composition seems to have brought in new elements- the keys stand out as do the string sections- whilst the entire band interplay shows a terrific bond and affection for one another.  The performances are tight and the intuitiveness borders on telekinetic.  How the song truly began- and whether rehearsal saw it bloom and form- it is clear a lot of work and passion has gone into its creation.  The melodies, vocals and harmonies have surpassed anything Hunting Bears have attempted before- in terms of range and beauty- and the five-piece sound as essential and mesmeric as ever.  Sweet Anthony marks a shift from impersonal narratives- bringing in friends’ experiences to their songs- towards a more personal and self-reflective tone.  While a lot of bands would look at these themes- distant love and the need for a happier bond- with cliché and rather lipid presentation; our band demonstrates a rare talent that shows immense power and beauty.  Congratulations must go the Leeds outfit shows they are one of the most promising and consistent bands working in the U.K. right now.

So Long and Brother Sister showed how confident and unique Hunting Bears are.  The development and consistency between the E.P.s highlighted a band with a lot more years ahead of them.  I am excited to discover a quintet with beautiful and nuanced sound.  Sweet Anthony is their latest offering a tantilising glimpse into what 2016-music could reveal from Hunting Bears.  If you are a fan of the ‘60s masters like The Beach Boys and The Beatles- who took Classic and Folk elements and sprinkled them inside Pop- you will find a lot to love about Hunting Bears.  Whether they go to create their own Pet Sounds or Sgt. Pepper’s in years to come remains to be seen.  What we have right now is a young band with plenty of ambition and ammunition.  They have a great following across social media and are being touted and promoted across a range of media sources.  Interviews and reviews are getting their music out there:  The band’s profile is building and that can only be a good thing!  Of course, it is the music they play that is speaking to those who like their music with depth and emotion.  Ensuring listeners are not divided or exclude:  What you have with the band is an all-encompassing and warm sound that has so much passion and tenderness to be found.  Leeds has once more- hardly surprising to me! – pushed a band forward that puts the city right back in the focus of the music press.  London’s dominance and ruler-ship seem to exist out of convenience and sheer numbers- close to the majority of the nation’s press and with a larger population- but Leeds is not exactly inferior when it comes to quality and diversity.  The mark of a great city is one whose musicians do not trot the same sounds:  They show innovation and the desire to separate themselves aside from the masses.  L.A. and New York boast an enormous amount of possibilities and artists:  Each doing something different; here are cities that are restless and hugely impressive.  London too has that sense of character and work ethic:  Leeds can be mentioned alongside those much-heralded hubs for musical excellence.  Baroque-Pop is a genre (sub-genre) I was only familiar with via my association with bygone acts- The Beatles and those that popularised the genre throughout the ‘60s.  Whilst we saw a slight dip in the 1970s- musicians influenced by this type of music- the 1990s and 2000s saw that slump conquered.  Of course, it would be narrow and foolhardy to mention Hunting Bears alongside The Beatles and The Beach Boys.

Not in terms of quality- the Leeds bands are exceptional- but our five-piece have so much more to them.  Influenced by West Coast melody and Gospel-tinged harmonies:  They fuse ideas and genres into a sound that is very much theirs.  Reminding you of the legends- whilst having a very contemporary relevance- there are so many ideas and layers inside their stunning music.  You find yourself coming back to the songs and finding things you missed the first time around.  This nuance and authority stand them in very good stead.  Too many modern acts are so thread-bare and unexceptional, you crave something with more substance and meaning.  With so many of their peers falling at early fences- the strains and demands of music are too much- this Leeds quintet is here to stay.  Whilst they have had a slight change- they started as a six-piece- that has not compromised their music and integrity.  This year, we will see another E.P. drop- Facebook suggests the guys are recording at the moment- and that can only mean tour dates and performing across the U.K.  I hope festivals and venues snap these guys up and ensure they make it onto their stages.  I feel too many of us- I include myself with this point- tend to get too safe when it comes to our music tastes.  When we see a unique and unusual act come along- that strays from what we are comfortable with- the noses turn up and the eyes turn away.  It is true, there are so much rubbish acts and waste in music- acts that deserve very little acclaim- but there are a huge amount of acts that deserve a lot of acclaim.  If we all broaden our horizons and embrace something new; that can lead to a broader and more educated musical palette.  Hunting Bears are accessible and by no means an acquired taste.  Sweet Anthony is where they are headed but have a look-back and see where they came from.  A restless and innovative band that could ensure for many years to come- add to their fan-base and discover something fantastic.  Consistency is a hard thing to obtain in modern music.  The level of competition- tied with the over-crowded population of musicians- means it is harder than ever making a lasting impression on the scene.  So many new artists find the realities too daunting:  They will make a few good songs before tiring under the lash of demand and day-to-day work life.  It is a hard graft ensuring fans and media appreciate your music.  Not only do you have to campaign and ensure people listen to what you have produced:  There is that demand to keep your music consistent yet evolving.  It is no good sticking with one formula and repeating things- people grow tired and will look for something new- and the challenge of originality and evolution is scaring a lot of people.  I am looking forward to seeing where the Leeds five-piece are headed next.  It is sure to be exciting and- if Sweet Anthony is any sort of guide- it will lead to a lot of new fans coming aboard.  If you are (currently) not one of them…

SORT yourself out, sharp!

 

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Follow  Hunting Bears

 

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/huntingbearsofficial/

Twitter:

https://twitter.com/Hunting__Bears

Instagram:

https://www.instagram.com/huntingbearsband/

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Music:

https://soundcloud.com/huntingbearsband

 

TRACK REVIEW: The Ronaynes- Panic Attack

TRACK REVIEW:

 

The Ronaynes

 

 

Panic Attack

 

 

9.5/10

 

 

Panic Attack is available at:

https://soundcloud.com/the-ronaynes/the-ronaynes-panic-attack-mp3

RELEASED:

2015

GENRES:
Grunge; Rock ‘n’ Roll

ORIGIN:

Glasgow, U.K.

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IT is challenging being in this line of work and coming up with anything…

new to say.  Not in a bad way:  I just encounter so many bands, it is near-impossible putting a different spin on things.  Whilst The Ronaynes play music with plenty of life, quality and originality:  I find myself (briefly) back in Scotland.  I am splitting reviews for the next week- a lot of them feature artists from Scotland and Yorkshire- so it is good to start things with a look into one of Glasgow’s best kept secrets.  Before I come to them, it is worth revisiting the music emerging from Glasgow; the importance of mixing genders into a band- looking at the genres of Grunge and Rock ‘n’ Roll to complete things.  So many music fans are looking around searching for those quality bands:  Those that can play heavy and hard but make sure there is nuance and repeatability to be found.  With so many brief and disposable bands coming through- that drop a great album only to disappear from view- the challenge is finding an act that can endure and improve.  With the sheer amount of competitors flooding the market, the question is this:  How do you make sure you are in the public’s attention years down the line?  The simple answer is ‘you can’t’.  Music today is such an overcrowded and unpredictable thing:  You never know which artists are going to go the distance.  That said, I can always detect an artist that has that potential:  Early sounds that have the potential to lead to long-term success and acclaim.  Away from the obvious avenues for new music- those big cities of England- it is great to see Glasgow producing so many terrific and unique artists.  Historically, the city has produced a wide range of artists who have made their impressions on the music world.  From Franz Ferdinand’s arty Rock to Primal Scream’s legendary music:  Glasgow is a city that has not exactly slouched when it comes to those legends and leaders.  Throw in Marmalade, Mogwai and Belle and Sebastian:  Softer ‘middle-of-the-road’ acts such as Deacon Blue and The Fratellis call Glasgow home.  I often speculate- when assessing a city or area- what causes the type of music and quality that emerges.   Glasgow prefers to play with that core of Rock:  Throwing in Electronic and Dance elements; that primal and exciting core seems to mandate a lot of the output.  Whilst areas like London have more Pop and Soul artists:  Glasgow has a tougher edge and more grit than elsewhere in the U.K.  This can lead to some homogenisation- you have to dig deep to find great Pop, Electro.-Pop and Folk singers- but the Rock bands they are producing rank among the best of the moment.  I have listed a few legends- some of them still playing today- and that is just the tip of the iceberg.  Rock (or Rock ‘n’ Roll) is one of the hardest genres to make new and original.  There is mobility, but due to the sheer number of bands doing the same thing, separating yourself from the pack is extremely difficult.  I encounter so many bands that are cut from the same cloth:  At the end of the song, you hardly come away overly impressed or surprised.  Luckily, The Ronaynes have taken the time to ensure their music leaves the listener wanting more.  Whilst they do wear a few influences on their sleeves, the music they are coming up with has enough verve, passion and invention to stand them in good stead.  Here is a band that is building slowly and ensuring their music has plenty of nuance and appeal.  I think so many acts are nervous they need to put out music:  You get rushed and hurried songs that possess no depth and intelligence.  The Ronaynes have grown up listening to Grunge, Rock and Indie artists- from the ‘70s/’80s legends to the upcoming acts via Nirvana and their Grunge peers.  With so many boy-only bands out there- I am stunned there are so few mixed-gender acts- it is always a nice surprise finding a band with a female lead.  It is 2016 but there is that depressing over-reliance on the 4/5-piece band with only men among the ranks.  I guess it is not their fault:  Diversity and difference always leads to stronger music, mind.  With male and female members (in the band) not only will the vocals have a greater range- the music and lyrical content will have different angles and possibilities.  The Ronaynes understand how important it is to distinguish themselves and not just be your run-of-the-mill band.  Before I continue my point, let me introduce them to you:

Debi Mason – Singer

Guitar – Steven Mcauley

Guitar – Jamie Reid

Bass – Mark Mcguinness

Drums – Jenny Tingle

A filthy breed of classic rock, glam and grunge with a controversial twist has the music world talking about the Ronaynes”.

The band’s description of themselves (above) is a pretty apt summation.  There is no room for relaxation and Pop cliché in the ranks.  With a powerful female lead- and an equally assured female percussion section- the boys’ strings nestle together in songs that have that familiarity to them.  Those who love the past masters of Grunge will find a lot to love inside The Ronaynes.  The Glasgow five-piece do not simply replicate the past:  Their fusions of Rock and Glam are the perfect blends that make the feet move and the hairs stand to attention.  Authoritative yet melodic; direct and developed:  A band that hits you first time but ensure their notes stay in the head for a very long time.  I am not sure what they are planning for the next few months- a new record or single- but it seems like they have enough material for an E.P.  Maybe the guys have already been in the studio- recording that E.P. – but it will be interesting to see what is coming next.  Having completed a series of great gigs, the band are looking forward and keeping their fans abreast.  Keen to connect with their followers- keep them in the loop with regards developments and plans- I am going to be following their progress and what they have in mind.  Panic Attack is a stunning insight into one of Glasgow’s best upcoming acts.  They are not an act that simply throws songs about love into the ether.  They investigate common and diverse concerns; they have a social coincidence and are a relevant band.  In a tumultuous and uncertain time, you need musicians that are speaking for you- not those that are obsessed with their own heartbreak and misery.  An honest and vintage-sounding band with modern attitude and impetus:  This year will surely see them make their way into the public forum.  With a loyal fan-base and solid sound:  Who would bet against them taking the festival circuit by storm?

Panic Attack was originally released a while ago:  It is one of the band’s newest cut and something that represents where they are at the moment.  Capturing their live energy and those wonderful performances- together with a sturdy and professional production- I was keen to look back at their earlier works to see any changes and alterations.  Johnny Jones mixes a Rock backbone with an emotive and impassioned vocal from our lead.  The band comes together in a performance that has soulful edges and something quite melodic.  When called for, the mood lifts and the harder edges come through.  What the band does is have Grunge and Rock working in the back but give it a controversial twist.  The emphasis is very much on distinguishing the sounds aside from expectations.  Those vibrant and full-bodied vocals have huge soulfulness- and could be straight out of Motown- whilst the composition brings some gravel and pummel into the mix.  The songs look at issues of love and relationships but give the areas new meaning and potential.  When It Comes Around is another song that shows the band are not your average and predictable players.  Every track has those captivating vocals and a rounded and multi-genre composition.  It would be good to see the group stretch their subjects out across a future E.P.  Whilst they tackle everyday love and relations with new angles:  There are other subjects and concerns that would benefit from their chemistry and shared talents.  Political unrest and modern-day social issue are not often tackled by a lot of bands.  That gritty and hard-rocking music could inspire young listeners to become more involved in social and political issues.  Whether The Ronaynes are settled on their current themes- tales from their lives and something more relatable- I feel they have that potential to broaden their horizons and address lesser-heard themes.

The band released the E.P., No Courage Without Fear– that brings all their previous songs together in one record- and showcases their full talents and abilities.  I hope the band have another E.P. in them and continue their sterling work throughout 2016.

I love that the band has already put out in terms of quality and sound.  That inimitable lead vocal and core sound has meant they are building their fan-base and growing in reputation.  It would be good to see the band exploit this on future recordings and perhaps expand their palette.  Having such wonderful musicians- and incredible singer- at their disposal could see them own anything they touch.  Perhaps something more pained and angst- like the classic Grunge anthems- could come in or maybe something overtly Glam-Rock and danceable.  It is not my job to suggest the band’s angle but I love the music they have already offered.  So much confidence and authority already exist:  I just know they can achieve some great things and really expand their influence.  With each new release, you get something a little different and unexpected.  Panic Attack takes love and day-to-day but gives it a new angle and attention.  It would be great to see the guys step aside completely from relations (for a few more songs) and fully exploit their abilities and hugely powerful music.

Panic Attack begins with a rampant and meaningful charge.  Reminding me a little of Elle King’s Ex’s & Oh’s– that same chugged momentum and sound- you have a track that has that Blues rooting together with a blend of Detroit Rock and Amy Winehouse-esque soul.  Everything comes together in those initial moments but remains restrained and controlled- the band does not explode out of the gates too soon.  The firepower and potential come out right from the start.  Our heroine starts with advised a man to “keep on running”.  That vocal is well-paced and ensures every word is delineated with care for emotion and setting the scene.  Whilst the composition has those Blues-cum-Rock blends, the vocal is a lot more soulful than you’d expect.  This is a good thing as it gives the lyrics of chase and anxiety a charm and beguiling allure.  Perhaps the song looks at two lovers with very different agenda or perhaps an overall warning against panic attacks.  Whilst so many of us get those feelings in our veins- a caution that is laid out on the song- maybe there is panic inside a bond that has hit the skids.  You cannot ignore the confidence and passion that comes through in the vocals:  It ensures each lyric has that quality and urgency desperately needed.  In previous numbers, the band has experimented more with Grunge and Rock edginess.  Here, that is done to a lesser degree:  What you have is a song that marries Rock ‘n’ Roll of the ‘50s and ‘60s with something modern and contemporary.  Tying these older and modern threads together- ensuring the track has its heart in the 21st century- will mean a multitude of listeners and music fans will appreciate the song.

Interpreting the song, we see a man that is not who he used to be.  I become curious as to what has happened and compelled the song.  You cannot shut this man “out of the door”.  There seems to be control and something dangerous coming out.  The man is hard to shift and there is that air of suffocation.  When the heart “skips a beat” it is not in a romantic thing:  That fear and attack has Grunge sensibility but is delivered with beehive swing and revives the swinging ‘60s Soul sound.  Few bands mine the territories of Rock, Soul and Blues inside songs that investigate unsavoury characters- it works wonderfully here.  Whether this song is written in the first-person- our heroine is recalling hard times from days past- or it is fictional, I am not sure.  The Devil stands over her and there seems to be no room to escape.  Inside the domestic unrest and entrapment, you get a song that plays a catchy and addictive beat.  The percussion keeps slamming whilst the strings have groove and dance to them.  From my “front to my back” that panic attack is making its feeling known.  With some backing vocals- that add to that intensity- you get a song that ensures the issues and lyrics have accessibility to them.  The Ronaynes are a band who has shown how hard-hitting and unique they are- the themes they explore and the sounds they unite- and here they have probably created their finest track.  At every stage, Panic Attack showcases what a tight unit they are.  The performances are consistently committed whilst that lead vocal ensures the right balance of light and grave danger.  It is rare to find a band that deal with well-worn cores- relations and love- but push it out and tackle different sides.  The desperation and need for escape keeps coming up for breath.  Our heroine asks whether we heard her scream:  That hopelessness and need for salvation is one of the most haunted and electrifying pleas you will hear.  If the delivery lacks that necessary scream and Grunge roar, perhaps the soulful and big-bodied alternative works even better.   Spooky and ill-fated, our lead seems to pray to the heavens and look for a savior to lead her away from her tormentor.  Themes of domestic abuse and stress might not seem like a goldmine for musical revelation:  Such is the rarity of its exposure The Ronaynes sound utterly fresh and new.  There is no other band that treads the same lines with that blend of sounds and elements.  The composition never relents its campaign and urgency:  The percussion slams with sweat whilst the guitars and bass keep the blood flowing fast.  The rough-and-tumble nature then explodes into something demonic as our heroine unleashes a single scream- the summation of her pains and harrow.  The chorus remains catchy and memorable- in spite of the subjects it broaches- whilst the band ensure the final notes are as compelling as the first.  At every stage, you wonder whether you have the song licked and have interpreted it right.  That central figure- who started out/in the past was so nice- has now turned and showing a different side.  I wondered whether the song was a personal revelation from the lead or something that distances itself from personal revelation.

The mix of ‘60s Soul and Rock/Grunge undertones makes the track such an instant thing.  In future cuts, I would love to see the band ramp things up and let their Grunge animal out a little more.  The lam-cum-Blues sounds unite inside Panic Attack.  The testifying Soul and Rock swagger bonds surprisingly effective and ensures there is fire and rumble throughout.  You cannot refute the emotion and conviction of that central performance.  Debbie Mason has a mature voice that stands her apart from her contemporaries.  Singers like Amy Winehouse are inspiring a wave of new artists of the moment.  The combination of grit and anxiety- together with Soul power and something utterly exposed- means artists like Ella King are getting a lot of attention.  Perhaps an unsurprisingly sound- given how much Winehouse meant to people- it is nice to see a female singer step away from that obvious idol.  You get a bit of Winehouse but the abiding sound is a singer with native accent and love of ‘60s Soul.  On Facebook, the band markets themselves as a blend of Rock ‘n’ Roll, Grunge and Glam.  Whilst there is some Grunge barbed-wire and undertones, you get more Glam and Rock ‘n’ Roll emerge.  Those ‘50s Rock swings- unusual for a modern band to be influenced by that genre- is given a retro. twist and lease of life.  The Ronaynes are a band that take existing genres/styles and give it vitality and fresh lease.  Steven Mcauley and Jamie Reid allow their guitars to give the song Rock nervousness and plenty of layers.  It is not just about raw emotions and directness.  With the guitars, you get danceable swing and something tender in places.  The duo combines well and propels the vocal- ensuring the pained lyrics are given appropriate support and drive.  Mark Mcguinness ensures his bass keeps things disciplined and ties all the threads together.  With Jenny Tingle providing sturdy percussion- that pummel and constant drive- you have a drummer that perfectly injects a tormented heartbeat and spades of urgency.  Together, the band ensures Panic Attack lingers in the mind and reveals its true potential over repeated assaults.  Given the subject matter and nature of the lyrics, everything is dealt with maturity and intelligence.

It is always a nervous experience- for me anyone- coming up with something new to say about a band.  Having reviewed hundreds of acts across the last few years- and having a very set style and way of writing- it is getting harder finding new angles and topics.  Whilst Glasgow- and the words written about them- have become familiar and a little worn- the acts emerging from here are anything but.  Having previously reviewed The Fables- a couple of great local bands coming shortly- it is the music and sounds that are the most important things.  With the next few reviews being a challenging thing- new ways to write about Glasgow, Rock and bands in general- for today I have been captivated enough with the music on offer.  The Ronaynes have only been playing for a short time but have made in-roads and created a name that has seen them amasses some loyal and dedicated fans.  It is no surprise (this has happened) given the mix of sounds and the way they perform.  Their songs are not predictable and the same as other acts- heartbreak tales and overly-familiar stories- whilst every performance bursts with energy and commitment.  The tight-knit connection of the members can be heard in every single note.  Having two female members (and three boys) in the band has resulted in a rare chemistry that allows their music to showcase depth, diversity and layers.  So many bands are filled with boys and you get limitations and predictability.  That strong and to-the-bone vocal is backed by incredible compositions that have instantaneous and epic status.  There are Grunge bones and gristle inside Glam stomps and Rock ‘n’ Roll swagger.  That blend of cool-and-spiked makes the Glasgow band a fascinating proposition.

Rebelling against the worst instincts a lot of bands show- stadium-sized songs with no depth and originality- you have a five-piece that is grittier and more real than a lot of their peers.  With 2016 shaping-up to be a rather unsettling and unpredictable one- in terms of the political turmoil and violence that rages- there is anger and fear in the minds of many.  The Ronaynes are a band that reflects a lot of this uncertainty inside songs that strike against the normal yet document universal feelings.  Away from that, there is plenty of personal insight and familiarity:  They are not a band that is too singular and restrictive.  I am curious to find where the quintet is headed and what their next move is.  They have unveiled a few tracks and it seems like there is definite scope for an E.P. or album.  Having has a run of gigs under their belt, they will be more confident and assured than ever.  Having gained that live experience- and made sure their songs have been rehearsed and well received- surely will compel them to not only record some new tracks but put the existing tracks together with them.  In 2016 it is important our bands and musicians separate themselves and try and make their music as long-lasting as they can.  I am worried there is that tendency to rush into making music through fear of missing out- as a result, songs seem half-baked and under-cooked.  While too many bands are sticklers for Indie and Alternative sounds- they are popular so why not? – there are so many other avenues worth exploring.  Dance and Electronic sounds can be thrown into Rock music- like Primal Scream did across Screamadelica– whilst Punk and Grunge are always there for the taking.  The Ronaynes have ensured they are not a divisive band:  By the same token, they do not want to be too familiar and predictable.  While a lot of their peers make music to get the feet moving; here we have music with a much more ambitious intention.  Those Glam-cum-Grunge minglings get the brain inspired and make the heart pump.  The feet and arms move; the voice shouts and supports- songs that get the entire body activated and united.  Glasgow has once more showed what it is capable of.  There is a thriving local scene which sees bands and artists support one another.  I was lead to The Ronaynes by a Scottish photographer- other Glasgow bands have pointed me to home-town favourites- so there is that desire to get the city on the map.  The truth is; Glasgow has never stopped impressing and producing great acts.  It is just the media and largest attention is trained to other parts of the U.K.  Being so far away from the capital does not mean the music deserves to be overlooked.  Maybe there is not the number of great solo artists you’d hope for- there is a tendency towards bands largely- but the groups on offer have that energy and originality the music world craves.  If Punk and Grunge is not your bag then there are more subtle and studied alternatives.  If you are a fan of something more artful and Pop-based then you have plenty of options available.  Our Glasgow quintet has a future ahead of them and need people to support their music and help it spread.  With Panic Attack currently on offer…

NOW is the time to get these guys the attention they deserve.

 

____________________________

Follow The Ronaynes

 

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/The-Ronaynes-257182377807275/

Twitter:

https://twitter.com/theronaynes

_______________________

Music:

https://soundcloud.com/the-ronaynes

TRACK REVIEW: Ursa Major- Dusk

TRACK REVIEW:

 

Ursa Major

 

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Dusk

 

9.4/10

 

 

Dusk is available at:

https://soundcloud.com/ursaspeaks/dusk-1

RELEASED:
January, 2016

GENRES:
Psychedelic R&B.

ORIGIN:

Toronto, Canada

PRODUCERS:

Noah Barer and Cavewerk

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ONCE again I get to come back to Canada and view a new artist…

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who has crafted quite a special sound.  Before getting to Ursa Major, I wanted to have a look at Canadian music; the genre of R&B- talking a bit about the great young acts emerging right now.  Canada is a country that keeps producing some rather special talent and artists to watch.  Like Australia, it is one of those well-known countries that we don’t instantly turn to for new music.  The U.K. and U.S. press are desperate to make sure their home stars are proffered:  Canada is missing out on a lot of deserved attention.  Existing/established acts like Broken Social Scene, Drake and The Weeknd all call one place home:  Toronto.  To my mind, it is the most fervent and exceptional part of Canada (for new music).  Legends like Neil Young call the city home.  Such a prosperous, diverse and exceptional city:  So much great music is stemming from here at the moment.  Last year, artists like New Fries, Jazz Cartier, STACEY and Dilly Dally were highlighted- each representing different genres and areas of music.  I know the likes of London, New York and Los Angeles etc. have that reputation and well-known artists.  Most of us would probably not look to Toronto if we want to discover the best the music scene has to offer.  That is a shame, as the city is boasting some tremendous young artists.  Ursa Major hails from Toronto and ranks among one of the best artists to hail from here.  When looking at the 19-year-old, I was completed to look at the city and see if there were any like-minded performers.  Other parts of Canada- Ottawa and Montreal etc. – have some terrific bands, but to my ear, Canada’s best solo artists are playing in Toronto.  I am not sure what it is about the place- the communities and heritage the city has- but so many bright and ambitious musicians are making their names heard.  Take away the likes of Drake and The Weeknd and you have a wide range of genres and sounds being fused exceptionally.  Ursa Major describes his sounds as ‘Psychedelic R&B’:  Not something I have ever heard a musician say.  Ursa Major’s lead wants his sounds to recall the masters and mistresses of the past- the R&B/Soul greats- and bring it clearly into the future.  There is a stunning mix of older sounds and modern-day urgency across music that will very little social media details; it will be interesting to see how he develops.  Dusk is a track that was almost destined to spend time collecting dust and potential.  Recorded in dorms., basements and bedrooms:  The song’s D.I.Y. aesthetic was handed to producers Cavewerk and Noah Barer and brought to life.  Together, the trio has created something that is very much a song for 2016.  The dark and troubled lyrics talk of struggling to move on from love and heartache:  The troubles and obstacles faced when trying to move on and face uncertainties.

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Those pained utterances are supported by a composition that fuses the passion and sexuality of R&B whilst giving it a Psychedelic twist.  That coming-together creates music that stands among the most original out there right now.  The teenage has scribbled the lyrics- worked on the music and ideas- between classes; whilst ensconced in dormitories and facing the troubles of youth.  If you look inside Dusk you will find much you can relate to.  The track is not just confined to our author:  The themes and moments explored can be understood and speak to everyone listening.  There is a lot of pressure put onto artists, and with Ursa Major being so young, let’s hope he manages to overcome the hurdles and expectations and keep making exceptional music.  The media loves a fresh-faced and hopeful young artist.  Few terrific teenage acts are performing in the world of music:  Ursa is a rare commodity and someone we should all keep an eye for.  I know Ursa Major has performed a few songs before- hooking up with other artists- yet Dusk seems the most personal and individual track he has created.  I can see 2016 being filled with possibilities and more music-making from the Toronto native.  That sound he has perfected is such a beautiful thing you cannot escape its wonders and nuance.  It is great to hear a young musician that has such a sense of identity and purpose so early in their careers.  Too many artists struggle and take time to discover who they want to be.  You get no such qualms with Ursa Major:  A star that is already shining and seems sure to burn bright for a long time to come.  I hope a trip to the U.K. is planned- I always say this with every artist I love- but there is such a great sound laid out.  So many fans-in-waiting would welcome him in and be keen to pay tribute to one of the most original artists currently working.  If an E.P. or album is planned for this year, I am not sure but it seems like Ursa Major has plenty of inspiration and potential in him.  If Dusk is anything to go by, it will be a very exciting and deep record:  Something that will pick up a lot of fans and new support.

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If you want to know how Dusk’s author has progressed and matured, you will need to look back at his past efforts.  Being such a young and upcoming act, there are a couple of songs out there- a little window into what he is about.  Night Sounds was unveiled a month ago- performed by Jules Mercer- and features contribution from Ursa Major and Erez.  Those blended and diverse voices come together to create something harmonious and atmospheric.  The lyrics mix images of ashes being scattered by the ocean and the yearning of our heroine.  It sounds like lovers’ conversation and has such a relaxed and cool vocal that mixes with the edgy beats and wonderful atmosphere.  The composition sees darting thuds and vibrating electronics sit with sound effects and a great R&B.-cum-Electronica fuse.  A great input from Ursa Major- who provides a contrast to Mercer’s soulful voice- it is a wonderful collaboration.

  Indigo was recorded with False Mystics and is a softer and more contemplative affair.  Acoustic strings and echoed electronics being the track in- the energy starts soon enough.   Chilled and boasted some confident vocals:  It is a song that has catchiness and huge effectiveness.  The performances are brilliantly realised and bring life to the track.  Colours of indigo- and moments of years ago- “laugh like a child“.  The Psychedelic elements- and some wonderful electronic guitar work- give bristle, emotion and spark to the song.  You can get lost in the words and allow the song to seep into the mind.  Showing different sides to Ursa Major- who can bond with any other artists seamlessly- you have a talent with huge mobility and diversity.

   Dusk is the first chance for Ursa Major to step out alone and create a track with his voice alone.  What you have is elements of other tracks- where he has collaborated- but a much more unique drive and a sense of personality.  Rather than joining forces and being a back member:  Here you have a song that is a testament from a young man affected by love’s heartaches- keen to burn the past and move on.  As a songwriter, there is a lot of depth and originality to be found.  This progression and mobility means Ursa Major is an artist that has a long career ahead.  Most solo artists either do well on their own or hooking with other artists.  Occasionally you get someone who seems effortless and natural in all arenas and dynamics.  If an E.P. is due- either this year or later- it will be interesting to see if there are any collaboration to be found- maybe just solo songs.

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Dark and vibrating electronics spar with clicked beats to begin Dusk with an appropriately unsettled and nervy opening.  Right from the off you are immersed in the force and black majesty of the introduction.  Putting me in mind of ‘90s Trip-Hop- acts like Massive Attack came to mind- you have a song that is so fascinating and meaningful within the initial seconds.  Atmosphere, drama and images are summoned as you surrender to the building momentum.  The production values allow those compositional elements to come through sharp and clear.  When our hero gets to the microphone, his words are unsettled and show some restrained anger.  “Dark haze right before my eyes/when I was numb, I succumbed to your lies” show a young man that was in love and got his heart broken.  Maybe too invested to see the truth- the real motives and calculations of his girl- you can feel that disappointment and unhappiness come out in the vocal.  Looking back at events and a hard time for him; you have these strained and harrowing recollections we all can relate to.  We all know the type of vixen that is being ascribed:  Maybe the heroine was cheating or making false promises to keep her man happy.  Maybe the past was better and filled with some more prosperous times.  Wrapped inside a lonesome existing- “Smooth winds make me reminisce”- you have a subject that cannot help think of love and scars that have been left.  Although there are recriminations and accusations emerging- looking at the dissolve of a once-pure bond- our man has some fond memories and a part of him still yearns for the girl.  That soft skin and beauty is in the mind- maybe a desire to rekindle the better days- and a new-found lust can be discovered in the performance.  At all stages, that composition keeps pervading and inspiring.  The mix of beats and electronics create something haunted and spirited; R&B-influenced and dangerous- the loud and soft contrast with fast and slow.  Our lead ensures his voice has those same characteristics and qualities in them.  In the first verse there is some pace and consideration:  Making sure the words resonated and are given true passion; an emotive and leveled projection.  As darker subjects start to come in; that voice races and accelerates the tempo.  Looking at drinking and drowning sorrows- given the realisation the bond is broken- Ursa Major wants to numb himself and forget his troubles.  I am not sure what caused the relationship to crumble.  Maybe there was no communication or the girl was feeding too many lies.  In spite of the demolition and mistrust; you can tell there were some great days and a true connection.  Without her soft skin and tenderness, our hero wonders what he will do.  Such desperation and anxiety comes out; it is impossible to ignore that suffocation and sorrow emerge.  Being a teenage musician- and others who tread this same ground- most would deal with such issues with a lacking maturity and clichéd lyrics.  What you get here is such wisdom, maturity and intelligence come through.  While the lyrics do look at bleak possibilities; you cannot deny there is a need to change things and expunge the past.  Ursa Major ensures the lyrics are universal- and do not disconnect listeners- but have enough personal history to make Dusk an authentic and authoritative track.  It appears the girl only calls when she is drunk and things are going bad.  When the tears run and the walls are closing in:  That is the time when our hero receives a phone call.  Once upon a time there was a natural love that seemed like it could endure any struggle.  Now, there are those late-night calls and something rather pathetic.  Maybe the heroine was a support for Ursa Major- when he was struggling she was there for him- hence the reason she is missed.  On the one hand, you get a young man that seems to want to get rid of her influence- and all the troubles and heartache caused.  On the other, there is that longing and need to reset things- capture those glory days and how things used to be.  The boy is inspired by soft keys and piano melodies.  Perhaps recalling the origins of the song- turning that pain into something productive- you get some recall and a story progression.  In his room or basement- wherever that music and lyrics came together- memories still tumble and make their way onto Dusk.  Remembering “beer-stained perfume” and broken glass:  All those elements and shards are put together in a musical collage that keeps pressing to the final moments.  Changing his voice up- the pace and way the words and presented- gives the lyrics such energy and unexpectedness.  The composition bubbles, burbles and vibrates to soundtrack a heart that is feeling the effects of a rather tumultuous past.  The hero is merely stated words and saying how things were in the past.  Now everything is over, he is making decisions and seeing how he will progress.  A chance to change life and make a new plan:  The influence of this break-up cannot be understated.  In the final seconds you are caught in the drama and wonder as to the song’s true nature.  Of course there is a lot of pain and unsettled recollections.  That obvious, you wonder whether everything is that clear-cut.  Maybe there were some great times that have made Ursa Major the artist and man he is now.  That girl- whoever she happens to be- has been important whatever way you look at it.

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A terrific and assured song from a Canadian artist that can speak and connect with any listener.  Noah Barer and Cavemen have ensured Dusk sees the light and is given the exposure it deserves.  Helping with the composition- and producing the song- you have a number that is among the most affecting you will hear.  Fans of Drake, The Weeknd- and other natives of Toronto- will find some familiar strands within the track.  The abiding impression is a song that is very much the work of a musicianship keen not to be compared with anyone else.  The subjects of love and regret are hardly groundbreaking:  The way you address them can determine how far you make it in music.  Ursa Major has not simply employed the same clichés and ideas as his peers:  You have an artist with a very distinct pen and a new way of covering the topics.  Among the shadows and hard realisations, you have a hopefulness that comes out.  Wanting to escape the bad days and focus on a better future:  Dusk is a song that has many layers and ideas working away.  A track that does lose its appeal over time- a song that gets better in fact- it is a hugely impressive effort from the 19-year-old Canadian.

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It is great being contacted by new artists and hearing what they have to say.  Usually- and the last few weeks especially- I have been reviewing U.K.-based acts.  In fact, they will make up the next couple of weeks of reviews.  It is always good investigating terrific acts from Britain:  It is nice to take a trip out once in a while and expand my horizons.  A lot of media sources are not really looking beyond home when it comes to promoting the best music around.  It is a shame artists like Ursa Major seem to be confined to Canadian attentions.  Of course, the 19-year-old has fans throughout the world- despite some social media anonymity- but it would be good for press sources here to recognise his ilk and what they are capable of.  It is not surprising to me to discover another treasure from Canada.  Throughout the country there is such a wealth of wonderful and varied music.  Every artist that comes through has such passion and potential:  I can think of few other nations that are so consistent and diverse.  Toronto is a city that a lot of us will only ever visit as tourists.  As much lovers, I think more people should turn their attentions here.  Away from the obvious likes of London and New York:  You can discover so much untapped gold across Toronto.  I have highlighted- in the top of this review- some of the bands and acts heralded last year.  They will continue to plug throughout 2016; there are a whole host of new upstarts that are just starting to come to critical attention.  Whatever your tastes in music- some sexy R&B or ‘60s-sounding Rock bands- you are pretty much covered.  Toronto is a part of the world that has been in my thoughts for a few years now.  The music that comes from here never fails to surprise and surpass expectations.

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Ursa Major is- I am going to avoid any star-based puns and jokes- a talent that deserves a lot more credit than he has.  To be fair, he is hard to locate across social media and the Internet- just a SoundCloud account- I hope the youngster gets an official website together and ensures many more people discover him.  The music is certainly affecting those who have heard it.  Looking at the SoundCloud comments- the feedback for the single, Dusk– there is plenty of love and admiration to be seen.  Dark and heavy; passionate and intelligent:  A musical insight into a man who wants to dissolve his past and move into the future.  As we surge further into 2016 there will be a lot of people wondering who they should follow and invest in.  With the band market getting attention and biggest focus- rather unfairly I think- I am looking at the great solo artists emerging.  In this country there are some stunners to be found for sure:  Each with their own ambitions and objectives.  Being a passionate music lover, I find myself looking at other countries for inspiration.  The U.S. has always been good and reliable:  So many cutting-edge and amazing acts play here.  Canada needs to get more people behind it; supporting the music they house.  Whilst their native media sources are doing this; why are more people not getting behind them?  You cannot accuse the country of lacking quality and consistency.  In terms of cities, few match the reach and splendor of Toronto.  Whilst Ursa Major- and the producers behind the track- have Montreal roots; it is Toronto that comes under the microscope.  I will be spending a lot of time this year keeping my eyes focused on the city to see what comes next.  I am not sure who the city’s media are highlighting (to watch as the year progresses) but Ursa Major must be among them.  Such tender artists- Ursa Major is not even 20- tend to start out rather uncertain or take the time to mould their sound.  The maturity, direction and confidence are already there with our young star.  There is no precociousness and predictability with regards the music.  A lot of younger artists focus on love and heartbreak but do so with little flair, depth and grit.  You want someone that take meaty and troublesome issues and delivers them with some punch, nuance and effectiveness.  You do not have to scream down the microphone or throw everything into the pot.  What Ursa Major does is take some dark issues- moving on from the past and making a better future- and creates something intense and hugely memorable.  I have been seeking solo acts that I can stick to and promise great future returns.  Ursa Major will be releasing new material very soon- let’s hope so anyway- and there is such a unique and special sound already cemented.  R&B and Psychedelia are not genres you would ever imagine could come together.  The sensuousness and sexiness of the former marrying with the latter’s edgy, druginess and hardness make a wonderful couple.  It is said opposites attract and this seems to be the case for sure.  Not only do they match but they better one another.  The R&B shades of Dusk are augmented and given fresh life:  The ‘60s/’70s-recalling Psychedelia is given modern vibe and sounds completely reborn.  At the centre is that voice that sounds unlike any I have heard.  Making sure those personal and harrowed lyrics are given hope and memorability:  You have a performance that is filled with life, heart and soul.  A long career for Ursa Major awaits so do not miss Dusk and…

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THE first steps from a brave and bright young hope.

 

________________________________

Follow Ursa Major

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Twitter:

https://twitter.com/j_chusid

_______________________________

Music:

https://soundcloud.com/ursaspeaks

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TRACK REVIEW: Scott Quinn- There For You

TRACK REVIEW:

 

Scott Quinn

 

 

 

There For You

 

9.4/10

 

 

There For You is available at:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xKTOgZEHiO0

RELEASED:
January 21st, 2016

GENRES:
Electro.-Pop; Soul

ORIGIN:

Harrogate, U.K.

____________________________________

BEING in the middle of planning a new radio station…

I am looking about for some great solo artists that could (theoretically) be featured.  I find myself going back to band music and older sounds.  When it comes to modern artists, there are still far too few great acts emerging- those that do things differently.  Before reaching my featured artist, it is worth looking at the value of radio these days; the continuing output of great Yorkshire artists- finishing with a bit about male solo artists.  To begin, it has come to my attention how few people (my age at least) are invested in radio these days.  It seems the Internet- SoundCloud, YouTube etc. – is a more popular option when listening to new music.  Most people prefer to stick to their own song selections:  Few actually take the time to listen to the radio and investigate what they have on offer.  If you think about the mainstream radio stations playing from London- Capital F.M., X Radio etc. – do they really reflect the tastes of the general public?  I know stations have a target audience and have to conform to those guidelines- it seems there are few options for those who like their music more cutting-edge.  Away from the more Pop-friendly stations, there are few genuinely fascinating radio stations.  Absolute Radio is my favourite for a good reason:  They play a great range of music and have presenters passionate about the songs they play.  You have to look at the ‘lesser’ players- the up-and-coming stations that have fewer confines- to get a better spread of music.  One of the biggest drawbacks of modern radio is how little-unsigned music is featured.  Sure, some of the smaller stations dedicated time to the under-the-radar acts:  Commercial stations tend to stick to the mainstream and popular.  It is harder for a musician to get their songs heard across the airwaves- local radio is an option I guess.  There are some phenomenal new bands and solo artists coming through that struggle to get their songs championed.  Whilst there is a mass of acts coming through- how do you get to focus on the most worthy artists? – there needs to be more done to showcase some of the best out there.  Scott Quinn has management behind him and has established a dedicated fan-base.  To my mind, Quinn should get his music spread a little wider and further.  It is great to see an ambitious young artist come through that overturns my skepticism about the solo market.  I have heard too many artists that do not stay in the mind and do not simply install enough originality and passion into the songs.  Quinn (on paper at least) might strike you as your average solo artists:  When you dig deeper there is a much more to him that meets the eye.  From the unique and impassioned voice; the songs that tackle love in a new light- there is something fresh about our hero.  It is no surprise to see Yorkshire produce yet another wonderful musician.

Recently, I have been immersed in London and the musicians coming forth- I will be in Yorkshire and Scotland for the new week of reviewing by-and-large- so it is great to come back to a very prosperous county.  Although London is leading the current charge- when considering the most diverse and stunning acts around- Yorkshire by no means a slouch.  I have often speculated the reason behind Yorkshire’s consistency and quality.  Perhaps there is less stress and hustle (compared to London) or a lack of expectations.  When interviewing bands from the county, I asked that question.  When answering, you get a clear conclusion:  Less anxiety and a supportive network of musicians results in a prosperous scene.  What I love about Yorkshire- among many reasons- is the sheer range of music that you can find.  Other parts of the U.K. are diverse:  Yorkshire acts go a lot further and take more care to ensure their output is as original and surprising as possible.  The bands have that extra urgency and variegation; solo acts revoke the wonders of ‘30/’40s Swing- into a retro. blend of Pop and Electro.- whilst the Rock/Pop-led solo acts distinguish themselves from the pack.  I always take a deep breath when it comes to a new male solo act:  It is a patchy affair and often challenging finding one that differs from the James Bay/Ed Sheeran blandness of the mainstream.  If you are talking about love and heartache- themes musicians need to move on from and expand their horizons- it is here you get some rather samey and forgettable moments.  Luckily, and showing true promise, Scott Quinn has very in little with the maligned Pop stars of the charts.  Quinn’s subjects often look at love, heartache relationships:  He tackles these issues with enough personality, difference and urgency to ensure he does not fall into the traps of his lesser peers.  Having a look back at his previous work- his Lust Game E.P. for instance- you have a young man who wants to stay in music for years to come.  In each track, you cannot escape that commitment and soulfulness.  Being compared with some of the best, older solo acts- a talent to keep your eye on.  The main reason Quinn appeals to me is the way he backs up his lyrics and vocals:  Those highly-charged and atmospheric compositions are a scintillating mix of beats and electronics.  I think that is a way to elevate and improve songs about love and loss:  Add those crackling and edgy backdrops and ensure the vocal has enough heart and soul.  Quinn is a performer that sits alongside the most impressive and notable young talents emerging right now.  His lyrics reflect universality and a shared pain:  Issues that deal with break-ups; wondering where home is and assessing the world around him.  Not willing to stick to tried-and-tested subject; there’s wide-ranging reach and something irrefutably special at work.

It wasn’t until I started getting into There For You– I thought this was the debut song from him- that I noticed Quinn had already released an E.P.  I had to go to his SoundCloud page- I would highlight this across Facebook more- that I got to check his previous offerings.  What struck me about the E.P.- his Lust Game E.P.– was the conviction and confidence right from the start.  The title track spares no time in getting to work and evoking some stunning compositional sounds.  Whirring and machine-like sounds boast a vocal that brims with heartache and passion.  Many will be reminded of Sam Smith- the soulful and Blues concoctions- but Quinn is very much distinct.  A catchy chorus- that looks at losing the heart of the girl- sees our man confused and lost.  That drive and wave- the vocal has a restless energy and wonderful projection- ensures the song gets into the mind and provokes sing-along.  Our hero wants his girl back and misses her touch.  Whatever has caused the break-down burns hard and has left its scars.  A wonderfully accomplished song that is endlessly memorable and impressive:  That ambitious and edgy composition is the perfect backing for a lush and heartfelt vocal.  Changing course and throwing surprises into the mix- you can never predict where it will head next- it is a wonderful track.

The City and Guess This Could Be boast more of the same qualities.  The former has that rushing and head-spinning introduction.  Pining for a girl once more- when she is all alone our man should be in her mind- we look at the cessation of a relationship.  Maybe there is blame and recrimination- some issues that have not been worked through- there is imbalance and mixed motives from the start.  Our hero is running through the city looking for answers.  A Gospel-cum-Soul backing vocal- putting me in mind of the best harmonies I have heard- enforces that urgency and attack.  The ghost of the girl lingers and is still in his soul.  Guess This Could Be begins more gently and has a charming introduction.  The vocal is more relaxed- backed by finger-clicked beats and a sparseness- it is one of the most soulful and honey-dripping vocals from Quinn.  Recalling Michael Jackson, Boyz II Men and Marvin Gaye:  A match for the best male voices over the last few decades.   The backing vocals- whether Quinn alone or joined by other singers- augments the lyrics and sends shivers to the back of the neck.  The song looks at the possibility of love- this feeling that is inside- and sees our man dancing with the girl.  He needs to catch his breath and slow things down.  Showing mature and control- needing to take time and not rush to the bedroom- it shows another side to Quinn.

There For You continues that mature lover-man bravery- a gentleman that wants a true and noble connection- you get more of that insatiable sweat and soulfulness come through.  There have been no big departures from Lust Game E.P.– no need when the material was that strong- but if anything, the quality has gone up.  The production and sound is as rich and polished as ever- allowing edge and rawness to come out too- but the vocals seem even more gripping and rounded.  Quinn is an original voice that has elements of past masters:  On his latest track, he mixes contemporary Pop with Soul of the ‘70s- topped off with some deliciously pure and sweet undertones.  Being a sapling artist, any major shift would alienate and confuse existing sounds.  What we have is a natural step and a reliably strong song and another gem from a young artist with a rare talent/.

Beginning with an atmospheric and night-time vibe- the darkness and sense of uncertainty pervade- lightness emerges to give lease a voice full of intention.  Our hero recalls a girl that came to him- whether a current love or a friend in need- and someone who means a great deal.  It seems like the girl was stuck and needed “space to breathe”.  Perhaps a love was burning bright and took a turn for the worse.  You get that feeling of disappointment and resentment in the early vocals- as confusion reigns and there is a sense of injustice- with that voice reflecting the disenfranchisement.  With a rain-cloud hanging over the girl- backed by a tribal beat and a backing eeriness- you start to picture the scenes and emotions at play.  The sweetheart might be exaggerating things and misinterpreting the situation:  Perhaps there has been a lack of communication in the relationship and the desire to find some solace.  I am not sure what the reasons behind the fracture is- whether the two have different aims or there’s been arguments- but you start to wonder whether they are together still.  In these early stages, that feeling of loss and haunt comes through very strongly.  Whilst the vocal has elements of the Pop mainstream- not quite as soulful and bold as previous endeavours- it is appropriate given the circumstances and subject matter.  The song remains subtle and emotive in these early stages:  Our hero ensures his voice is pure and does not needless explode right away.  It is the composition that provides the most curious initial impressions.  With the girl taking her smile away- the days turning to night- and memories starting to linger- you get a turn in fortunes and narrative.  The hero promised he’d be “there for you” and that is employed as a mantra and mission statement.  The beats get harder as the composition starts to swell.  Reflecting on times lost and the years that have passed:  It seems like the girl has not been in touch and they have drifted apart.  In love, they promised the world and they would be there for one another- that has not been kept by the girl.  Maybe the circumstances behind the break-up have meant communication and connection have not been a realistic option.  You can tell There For You has been inspired by past events:  That emotion and impact from the vocal comes from a soul that has seen too much pain and loss.  The teary-eyed subject is not given a saccharine or overly-emotive delivery:  Every note and idea is handled with dignity and a real composure.  I became captivated by the composition that keeps getting bigger and harder as time elapses.  More urgent and busy than previous numbers- showing a fresh direction from Quinn- you have a song that ensures every listener is roused and involved in the track.  It is impossible to disassociate yourself from the lyrics that deal with an over-used subject- loss, relationship break-up etc. etc. – but ensure it does not devolve into  a boring and predictable territory.  It is vital to have these songs played but they account for an alarmingly large percentage of current sounds.  What Quinn does is make universal issues sound fresh and personal.  You do not have the same worn clichés and predictable stories unfold.  Most songwriters show a lack of imagination when it comes to their lyrics and interpretations.  It is good to hear a song that highlights a common qualm with an uncommon ear.  That central idea- promising to be there for the girl- keeps coming back to bite and remind.  Our hero wanted to keep that promise and ensure she was okay:  For whatever reason, that promise has been broken and there seems to be little chance for repair and togetherness.  The song builds intensity and passion into the final stages.  That voice is multiplied to create a rapturous and heartbroken chorus.  That choir-like vocal adds elements and additional regret to a song that seems like an exorcism, of sorts.  Beats, heady electronics and dark undertones mix with something ethereal and uplifting.  That strange mix of beautiful and disturbed blend supremely in a track that showcases what an agile talent Scott Quinn is.  By the last notes, you reflect back and wonder where that song came from.  If it is a relationship long in the past- or a current one that has a slight chance of rekindling- I am not sure.  All I do know is we have a track impossible to ignore and forget.

Fans of Quinn’s previous work will find much to love in his latest single.  Carrying from where Lust Game E.P. left off:  There For You sounds like it could have been included on that record.  The production and sound remain central to ensuring each note and lyric are given huge support and naturalness platforms.  Quinn is impressively restrained in a song that deals with some harsh realisations and a lot of anger.  That voice employs some of the soulful touches in the E.P. – although not as many as perhaps you’d like- and will bring in new listeners and followers.  Whilst the subject matter does not stray from the familiar and every-day:  The way it is addressed and represented shows Quinn to be a rare talent intent on originality.  Fans of Electro.-Pop’s best will discover a new artist that ranks among the very best the genre has to offer.  There For You is not a disposable number that does not demand interpretation and multiple listens.  It will hit you on the first listen but you come back to try and assess what is being sung.  I was wondering if the girl ever came good and got in touch with our hero.  It is perhaps a mystery that will never be answered in a song that has an enormous amount of courage, nuance and positives.

There For You is another stunning cut from a British artist with an impeccable talent.  Electro.-Pop and Soul fusions are a popular and appealing blend- Jamie xx beautifully exploited them in his album In Colour– and if you get the dynamics right; it can result in something simply breathtaking.  I am not sure what is in mind for Quinn this year- if a new E.P. is going to be on the horizon- whether There For You is going to be a sign of future sounds.  Lust Game E.P. was a compelling and nuanced release that marked Quinn as a definite artist to watch.  I am staggered his social media numbers are not higher- there are lesser acts that have amassed more followers- so let’s hope this year that imbalance is rectified.  There are so few artists that have that originality and quality at work.  In a scene that is seeing an indeterminate amount of good musicians emerge- this is especially true of the mainstream- we should all take more time to celebrate those that go the extra distance.  Maybe it is relevant to bring back the subject of radio-play and the way radio stations operate.  I understand how commercial stations have a certain brand they need to conform too.  By the same token, local stations and newer stations also have to confine themselves to an extent.  With 24-hours in every day:  You would think more time could be dedicated to a wider selection of new music.  I am fearful the bright and restless best we have to offer are struggling to get their voices heard.  Musicians coming through- that are original and impressive- are needlessly struggling for the smallest crumbs of affection.

The amount of graft, grit and electioneering involved- getting the music heard and promoted- is damn near killing them.  I hope commercial radio- in years to come- dedicated more shows the underground stars that are showcasing so much more vibrancy and ability than a lot of the mainstream’s best.  Quinn seems contented to perform and record for now:  He will set his horizons on the festivals and big venues soon enough I am sure.  If he were a weak and unoriginal artist, I wouldn’t care too much how his future shaped up.  As it stands- being a performer that deserves acclaim and exposure- I am hopefully his following and music will get rewards and following.  He should be proud of the fact he has distinguished himself from the pack and is capturing the ears of the music press.  Another week and another fabulous Yorkshire-based artist under the microscope.  A county that continues to stun me- that variation and quality- it is perhaps not that surprising someone like Scott Quinn should be discovered.  That county sure loves Electro. blends- making sure honest and human emotions are elevated to the highest plateau- but Quinn surely ranks among the most impressive from God’s county.  As London seems to be taking a lot of the top honours- when it comes to critics’ tips for this year- I think eyes and minds should highlight what great music is emanating from Yorkshire.  Quinn is a new proposition and a musician that is just taking his first steps into the (shaky and hard) world of music.  He understands the realities, expectations and capriciousness that he faces:  The fact even the most intuitive and special have to fight needlessly hard.  As this year unfolds for me, I hope to get a radio station started:  Something that dedicates a lot of time to artists like Quinn (from all around the world) and gives more attention to those who would otherwise struggle.  I am hopefully Quinn will bring his sensational blend of sounds down to London and seduce the audiences down here.  There are plenty of places he can perform and contemporaries he could share the stage with.  London is producing lots of agile Electro.-cum-Pop acts:  It seems to be the in vogue sound that is rightfully getting acclaim and attention.  Make sure you hear There For You and a direct statement from a musician that deserves a future in music.  As I said, I am not sure whether an E.P. or album is mooted- shall have to speak with his management- but I will be all over it.  A fresh musician to my ears, I am compelled to follow him closely and see were 2016 takes him.  The men of the solo realm are not particularly standing tall in the imaginations of many.  I have spent too much time criticising the likes of Ed Sheeran and their ilk- that represent the lack of energy and originality in music- but it is perhaps unfair.  Those artists have their market and represent the desires of many listeners.  For those listeners seeking something more adventurous, new and edgy:  There are plenty of options coming through right now.  There is fatigue and need for these artists to overthrow the bulk of boring and idea-less Pop artists- hopefully, it will happen soon.  I shall sign off by commending Quinn on his authoritative and stunning track.  There have been few male solo acts this year that have appealed to me:  I am certain Quinn will be continuing his rise and endeavor years down the line.  Let’s just hope the savviest radio stations get their act together and acknowledge a musician with a rare ability- songs that the masses want (and need) to hear!  If you don’t believe me…

LISTEN for yourself.

 

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Follow Scott Quinn

 

Official:

http://www.scottpquinn.com/

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/scottpquinn

Twitter:

https://twitter.com/scottpquinn

_______________________________

Music:

https://soundcloud.com/scottpquinn

________________________________

Videos:

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCSp1xGs6WnRZz5U07z8LqfA

TRACK REVIEW: Canou- Last Leaf

TRACK REVIEW:

 

 

Canou

 

 

Last Leaf

 

9.6/10

 

 

Last Leaf is available at:

https://soundcloud.com/canoumusic/01-last-leaf

RELEASED:
January 2016

GENRES:
Folk; Jazz

ORIGIN:

Dorset, U.K.

The E.P., The New Eye-Sky is available at:

http://canoumusic.bandcamp.com/

TRACK LISTING:

Last Leaf– 9.6

Mother Ivey (Swim)9.5

The New-Eye Sky- 9.5

Soft Sun9.6

Laurel9.6

DOWNLOAD:

Last Leaf; Soft Sun; Laurel

STANDOUT TRACK:

Last Leaf

This E.P. was recorded and produced over a period of around three months in Plymouth, England in the autumn/winter of 2015.

Credits:

Released:

January 15, 2016

All music written, performed, recorded and produced by Louis Alberry except for:

Louis Alberry except for:

Carly Bell

Saxophone on Laurel

Michael Alberry

Piano on Soft Sun

____________________________________

GIVEN the rather unsettling and unhappy January that has…

just gone; many of us are looking for something more uplifted and prosperous in February.  With the passing of so many icons of music- including Terry Wogan- it proves what an effect these icons had and how important they were.  With each new loss, we reflect on music and how these people contributed.  Music is one of those areas that seem to bond everyone.  Regardless of gender, age and location:  All of us seem to have music in common.  As we reflect and look back at a rather strange month:  We can look forward to some great new music coming through at the moment.  Before I look at Dorset-based Canou, I wanted to look at the music coming from Dorset; the blends of Jazz and Folk you can find- in addition to the struggles artists can experience when they start out.  Perhaps not stereotyping a country:  It seems Dorset and the counties of the south-west share a love of softer/Folk-influenced music.  As a reviewer, I have encountered quite a few bands/acts based here:  There appears to be that connection with the more reflective side of things.  Whilst it has not produced a huge rafter of legendary acts:  At this time, there are a few promising artists emerging from Dorset.  I always love to find music outside the major cities of the U.K. and what is being made elsewhere.  I think we all- and raising this point again- tend to focus too heavily on the major areas- London, Manchester etc. – and do not find time to take our thoughts anywhere else.  Perhaps there is not enough media attention being paid to smaller/less-known parts of the country.  This is a shame, because there is so many terrific music being produced in counties away from Greater London.  It is interesting to think about various parts of Britain:  Whether you get a particular type of music depending on where about you live.  Whilst countries like Dorset have plenty of Rock, Alternative and Indie bands:  There seems to be that majority who perform that Folk/Blues blend.  As such, venues such as Royal Portland Arms, Sixty Million Postcards and Finns emerged:  Showcasing the best and brightest Dorset has to offer.  I have perhaps been a bit keen to define Dorset and the music coming out here.   From a country that gave us PJ Harvey, it is unsurprising to see so many hungry and original musicians hailing from here.  With the dominance of London, Manchester and Liverpool still evident- a holy trinity that will always get most exposure- we should all take some time to look around.

Canou is the moniker of musician Louis Alberry.  Hailing from Swanage- and based out of Plymouth- you have an artist who is just making his first maneuvers in music.  A couple of years ago he released the mini-album, In a Window in a Canvas.  That seven-track release was recorded in Swanage and saw the young artist make that first impression.  Looking into the record, you realise what an impression that was.  Mixing together Jazz and Folk elements- together with some Pop and Rock touches- you have music that possesses depth, emotion and spark.  Being the early days, Canou’s social media pages are growing- the fan numbers will increase given time- and there seems to be a loyal following already.  Whether Alberry can transcend to the attentions of the larger cities- or prefers to familiarities and faith of the home crowds- here is music that deserves wider exposure.  Having just reviewed a New York band (Too Many Zooz) that has thousands of fans across the U.S.- but not widely known in the U.K.- here is an act with a unique sound and an army of acolytes.  Canou, by comparison, is a more intimate artist that surely has some golden years ahead.  It is not often you see artists authoritatively fuse Folk and Jazz together- putting in some mainstream sounds within those blends.  Perhaps influenced by the classic Folk artists of the past:  You have a young man who values craft and nuance above mindless power and commercial expectations.  Too many upcoming musicians seem determined to make music that is chart-friendly and critic-friendly.  As such, there are so many mindless songs coming through:  Musicians that are so cloying, you wonder why they bothered in the first place.  In an age of social media and amassing followers- the obsession with popularity and getting ahead- it is refreshing seeing a musician taking time to craft some wonderful music.  Not concerned with how many thousands he can get- in terms of his Facebook page and downloads- there is an honesty and tradition to Canou’s music.  I love the Folk artists of the ‘60s and ‘70s- Bob Dylan and Neil Young; Fairport Convention and Arlo Guthrie- and the Jazz-Folk blends of Tim Buckley.  You get a little bit of these artists within Canou’s work:  The New-Eye Sky is a colourful and introspective work that recalls the masters of old with a great, contemporary twist.  His five-track E.P. shows the passion and talent on display:  A consistently engaging and stunning work that is capable of captivating a new wave of fans.  There are a lot of young artists starting out; all of whom have to face the realities and struggles of the industry.  Recently, reports have been documented that attest this point:  The early stages see hardship and financial struggles for so many.  Unless you ‘make it’ and get your name across the mainstream; how easy it is to make a living from music?  Not to put a damper on anyone’s ambitions:  It just seems a cruel reality for musicians to encounter.  With the number of musicians increasing- all willing to tackle the obstacles and shortfalls- it makes it harder for the individual to make a living and gain recognition.  It is wonderful we have so much music coming out.  What it means- for others artists- is they have to fight harder to get their music out there.  When they release an E.P. – or have a gig to promote- they are battling with thousands of others around.  Against the haunting (and daunting) nature of music, one thing stands firm:  Musicians find it hard but continue regardless.  That passion and desire is always going to see them play on and make music.  Canou is an artist that seems anxiety-free and just concerned with making the purest music he can.  I know Alberry will have the same thoughts and aims as every musician- that desire for acclaim and getting his sounds out there- but you cannot hear any nerves or strain the music itself.  Everything sounds completely impassioned, crisp and stunning.  Let us home he has some gigs lined up for 2016.  Having reviewed his friend Bee Maru- you may remember that from a while back- here is an artist that could get some of the capital’s venues interested.  Whatever he has in mind- and whether he will be taking the new E.P. across the country- we have a young talent to be proud of.

Canou is a brave and bold musician that lets the instruments do the talking.  Weaving textures and stories with that that guitar- and the incorporation of a few other instruments- and you have an act that impresses with instrumentation, performance and musicianship.  Whilst there are very few non-vocal artists along new music and the mainstream- usually reserved for the confines of World Music, Jazz and lesser-heard genres- you have an artist that could have mainstream appeal.  Whilst it is difficult to truly capture people without that vocal lead- many look for a human voice to connect the dots- Canou allows the listener to let their mind drift and let the music do the talking.  Given my reticence towards a lot of solo artists- and the fact their voices sound similar and insipid- it is a simultaneously brave and necessary move, here.  I think the importance of compositions- the feel and wonderful richness you can evoke- is often lost behind the voice and production.  Maybe I am off the mark, but I find a bad vocal- or one that does not inspire and impress- can ruin the potential of a good composition or set of lyrics.  If you have not encountered Canou before ensure you listen to In a Window in a Canvas– the 2013 debut that saw an impressive and wide-ranging compositions sit alongside one another.  Almost three years to the day, the follow-up arrives:  The majestic The New-Eye Sky.  One of the marked differences between the releases is the economy and clarity of the songs.  Whilst In a Window in a Canvas was wide-ranging and lo-fi:  The New-Eye Sky is more honed and polished- without sacrificing integrity and emotion.  There is more concision and concentration on the latest E.P.:  The sign on an artist evolving, learning and adapting with each release.  Having come up with an impressive and ‘non-conformist’ sound straight away, I am pleased to say Louis Alberry has not changed things too much on his latest E.P.  You get those haunting and busy strings elicit myriad possibilities, scenes and soundscapes.  Whilst the number of tracks has been cut down (7 appeared on the debut; 5 are seen here) you get more confidence and nuance from the latest record.  Maybe some inter-E.P. gigs have sharpened the skill-set and songwriting:  The New-Eye Sky seems more affecting and able of translating into the mainstream.  I have stated how it may be hard to gain a true grip within the mainstream- with the lack of vocals to be heard- but that is not to say it will never happen.  Great music should pervade regardless of its dynamics and make-up.  It is stunning just how effective the music is with the limitations inherent.  This rate of progression and development could well see an album appear some time very soon.  I know Canou will want to tour and perform across the U.K. and although the music may be reserved to intimate/smaller venues at first- the local bars and halls- there is a great possibility those songs could find themselves being played in bigger venues soon enough.

Louis Alberry is a one-man production, music and writing machine that needs few outside bodies- aside from two others musicians he brings into the fold.  Having creative control and ownership of the music results in something wonderful across Last Leaf.  If a producer- untested or a friend- to come in; the music might lack that necessary quality and personality.  The same could be said of the music itself:  Why bring in other musicians when you have an artist completely controlled and sure of his direction.  So many new artists have an army of writers, producers and musicians:  The music comes across as hollow, soulless and utterly impersonal.  It not only shows a lack of talent- if you can only sing- and do not have the ability to write your own songs- then there seems little point coming into music.  I always adore a musician that can do everything themselves and showcase enormous promise into the bargain.  Here, you have a musician that has seen his music fruit from the ideas stage to recording:  Making sure every note and passage is as stunning as it could be.  Given the quality and near-genius of In a Window’; there is perhaps some heady expectations for The New-Eye Sky’s opening number.  Any fears or uncertainties are allayed instantly.  We get tumbling and child-like guitar notes that welcoming the song in.  With few fears and endless possibilities- you get images of children and innocent minds frolicking with nary a care in the world- it is impossible not to be seduced by the beauty and purity of the music.  Soon enough, you notice a build and acceleration come in.  Percussion can be heard adding a little thunder and heartbeat into the pot:  A light but stunning addition that adds depth and force into the compositions.  Such is Alberry’s imaginative grasp and lack of limitations:  You have a song that throws a lot into the composition whilst keeping it focused and accessible.  After those dizzying and wonderful early strings- our hero shows how deft and sensational he is as a guitar player- that scuffling and Jazz-like beat adds an extra layer.  Your mind starts to look at the last leaf possibilities:  Perhaps there is that progression into autumn and a certain somberness to the song.  Looking at that leaf drop to the ground- the cruelty of winter will soon be upon us- there is a seasonal change and a sense of wistfulness that bonds together to create something truly special.  Electric string come into the pack- light but their influence can be felt- that says so much.  By not having vocals on the tracks- other cuts across the E.P. have wordless vocals- you have that pure composition doing the work.  The Last Leaf was a poem written by Oliver Wendell Holmes in 1895.  It’s most affecting verse- in my humble and less-than-poetic mind- is:  “But now he walks the streets/And he looks at all he meets/Sad and wan/And he shakes his feeble head/That it seems as if he said/”They are gone!“.  I get the idea Alberry had this poem in mind when he was penning the track.  Even if not, you can extrapolate that sense of loss, age and inevitability in the song.  O. Henry penned a short story called The Last Leaf that had a slightly different concept- but was similarly memorable and beautiful- and you get literary ideas and possibilities within Canou’s parable.  So vivid and tangible is that sense of season, age and mortality.  With no vocals or lyrics, it is hard to see exactly what the inspiration behind the song was.  Maybe words and vocals would cheapen and distill the essence of Last Leaf.  As it stands, you have a moment that is inescapably mesmerising:  A song that is personal and poetic; deeply human but fantastical too.  At every moment, I find myself helpless to deny the momentum and atmospherics of the song.  It keeps building, developing and evolving as time elapses:  From its acorn beginnings, it blossoms into a proud and statuesque tree- before seeing its progeny submit to gravity one-by-one.  Last Leaf seems like that universal and ubiquitous soundtrack that could accompany a summer’s day or be accompaniment for a rain-lashed night.  It is a track that does not push you away and refuse your company:  It beckons you in and asks you to take it into your bosom.  As such- and contrary to the nature of much modern music- here’s a song that digs deep and begs the listener to let their mind imagine.  You get a lot of insincere, unmemorable and shallow music that does nothing but produce a quick hit and easy-to-digest moment.  Musicians that go further- giving you something enduring and studied- are a rarity indeed.

Louis Alberry is the modern-day embodiment of the genuine Folk innovators of better days.  If you yearn for a reincarnation of Nick Drake and Bob Dylan- with originality and a modern edge- then you should not have to look further than Dorset’s Canou.  Last Leaf is a track that perfectly encapsulates all Canou’s highs- that stunning craft and ability to summon a variety of emotions- into a tight and focused song.  While other songs across The New-Eye Sky are longer and more experimental:  The E.P.’s opener is a concentrated and shorter song that stands as Canou’s finest track.  The production values here- compared to the debut offering- are sharper and a little more polished whilst retaining that live-sounding feel to things.  Few acoustic guitar players have such a wide and nuanced palette at their disposal.  Canou is a musician that can portray emotions, seasons and changing landscapes with ease.  I found myself repeating Last Leaf and seeing what I missed the first time around.  The song keeps revealing new insights and possibilities each time you come back to it.

While I have focused on Last Leaf– for me it is the most complete and authoritative track on The New-Eye Sky– the E.P. serves up plenty of treats and treasures.  Mother Ivey (Swim) boasts that curious title and parenthetical lake-swimming grace.  You imagine yourself reflected against a moonlight riptide:  Something beckoning but dangerous that lures romantic souls to a watery end.  Perhaps our author had other ideas but you get such a rush throughout the song.  After the elliptical and potent poignancy of early moments:  The song erupts into a symphonic and head-altering cacophony that throws up so many possibilities and hard emotions.  Lacing together some warped and Jazz-inflected sounds together with a solid Folk core and you have something experimental and progressive.  Almost a Prog.-Rock-like anthem unfolds.  Multi-part and epic; it unveils new buds and chapters as the song unfolds.  Every listener will have their own interpretation and idea as to the inspirations behind the song- for me, it has to be two lovers swimming and being pulled under the waves.  Given the title, perhaps something more ecumenical and faith-based is being ascribed.  Maybe wrestling with ethical and religious conflicts has enforced the song.  Who knows, but what I do know is, it’s a track that will compel you to come back and revisit.  That unexpected build- with its ecstatic race and furious dance- is one of the biggest emotional hits on the E.P.  A veritable hurricane and snowstorm in one- you get a gale-force slap across the face- it is a bracing and breathtaking sense awakening.

The title track is the most listened-to and popular song across the E.P.  The track begins with a tender and reserved guitar line that sees some echoed vocals- one of a few vocals that appear inside the E.P.- give haunting and atmospheric ingredients.  Light and breezy, that conflict and juxtaposition- the eerie, spectral voices against the peaceful and becalmed composition- results in a song that has so much depth and fascination.  Again, you get a building anthem that has that epic status attached to it- at over 7-minutes long; it’s the E.P. longest track.  Not a musician to be taken lightly, you get elements of Nick Drake, Neil Young and the Folk greats in that extraordinary finger-picking.  Perhaps Drake is the most immediate recollection as a beautiful and riparian beauty unfurls before your ears.  Pastoral and emotive; you are lost inside the contrasts of lightness and the dark:  Helpless to refute the strange and beguiling power that is projected.  Towards the latter stages, the track hits a stride and increases its edginess.  A catchy and pressing beat steps the song up as Jazz elements fuse with bristling electronic strings- together with those core Folk sounds.

  Soft Sun is no misnomer or false promise.  Early on, you get some gorgeous and entrancing piano notes that remind me of the Jazz greats of old.  The percussion rumbles and crashes like a wave; the piano rolls and weaves with aplomb and a swooning heart.  Bonding together- the song has a great quiet-loud dynamic- you have some wonderfully immersive and escapist.  Here is a song to get lost in and reveal yourself in its bracing emotiveness and romanticism.  Stunned by the authority, musicianship and originality that radiates through- one of the most startling and triumphant cuts across the entire E.P.  The piano work is especially mesmeric:  A performance that mixes dizzying highs with reflective lows.  That energy, fascination and grandeur never releases its grip on this song:  Every minute and passing passage gets inside the mind and will not escape the thoughts.  A song that allows you to imagine the morning sun- it all its resplendent beauty and peacefulness- one of the most evocative and transcendent moments from Canou.  I can tell how much detail, time and attention has gone into the process of making this song.  Whilst Michael Alberry is responsible for those piano sounds; you must give kudos to our hero who has put so much of his soul and heart into a truly wonderful moment.

Laurel ends The New-Eye Sky with more haunting vocals and something strangely beautiful.  The guitars and electronics lead to something (again) that reminds me of Prog.-Rock.  Building into an astral and cosmic sound- weird and quirky at the edges- everything is kept grounded by that consistent and gripping vocal.  While the acoustic guitar ensures beauty, tranquility and romance are always inside that beating heart:  Projecting outwards you get shadows and something more bracing and unusual.  Allowing the guitar to prosper and interject towards the middle- a nice moment that showcases Alberry’s impressive chops, fluidity and range of ideas- against the ghost of a young Nick Drake can be detected.  Such a stunningly impressive player that can mix the grave and affirmative together and make it sounds natural and completely right.  Before you get entranced in the guitars, a soothing and sensuous saxophone- played by Carly Bell- adds mystical sexuality and Blues/Jazz coefficient that stuns the imagination.  Such a gorgeous and soulful sound spars spectacularly with boulder-like percussion and the frantic build-up.  Reaching fever-pitch heights, the song gains fresh impetus and intensity- taking its sound to a wonderful righteous crescendo.

In A Window In A Canvas cover art

Having investigated In a Window in a Canvas– the curiously-titled debut release from Canou- it has been a pleasure looking into The New-Eye Sky and the most essential cut.  I was keen to review the lead-off track as it gives the fullest impression of the E.P. and what it is about.  The entire collection shows what a talent and ability Louis Alberry’s alter ego has.  Filled with life, love, passions and vivid scenes:  You have an E.P. that is perfect for any mood and time of day.  You get recollections of the ‘60s and ’70s Folk acts alongside Jazz interspersions and Pop flavours.  At every possible avenue I am trying to push out of my comfort zone- Rock and Alternative music- and embrace sounds that provide depth and diversity.  The mainstream’s best Folk-Pop-Jazz mixers are either under-the-radar or hopelessly inept.  There is so much unspectacular and predictable music coming out, it is always a treat discovering an artist that sounds new and promising.  Derision and criticisms have been levelled at B.B.C.’s ‘tips for 2016’ list:  The winner, Jack Garratt, is seen as representing the worst traits of the music industry.  While that assessment is particular to a few publications; there is some truth in the matter.  The Independent- in an article from 25th January- ascribed Jack Garratt as the definition of blandness.  They were keen to highlight particular issues- the songs have no nuance of durability; the singing is off-key and un-affecting- whilst there seems to be the proliferation of tear-inducing singers with little grit and originality.  The media-trained and disposable artist seems to be the norm. these days- according to The Independent’s writer- and represent the death knell of modern music.  In a similarly scathing article, The Guardian bemoaned the replication of the white-boy Soul singer:  The James Bay-type artists that seem to pollute the charts and radio waves.  There is editorial bias and subjectiveness in these pieces although there is a little truth in the pieces.  Too many similar and zeitgeist acts are coming through with the same husky voices and songbooks.  I am not sure what has inspired the proliferation- acts trying to sound like U.S. Blues/Soul artists- but it seems to be popular with a particular group of music listeners.  Canou is an artist that is not only a genuinely fascinating Folk artist- someone who will never receive a derisory beat-down from a broadsheet paper- but a guanine article.

There is no fakery and forced qualities to his music:  Every note showcases a musician who knows his craft and does not want to follow the pack.  Whilst there is little to distinguish between Ed Sheeran, James Bay and Jack Garratt- besides their facial hair and fashion sense- we need to embrace artists that rebels against the radio-friendly sounds that have a baffling vogue at the moment.  The New-Eye Sky has more in common with the glory days of ‘70s Folk than it does the Folk-cum-Pop artists of today.  This is a good thing, because not only will the music resonate with older listeners- there is that opportunity to give younger listeners something genuinely quality-controlled and nuanced.  A big problem is music is the narrow and homogenised nature of the media and artists.  The aforementioned singers are all London-based (or near enough) singers that produce much of a muchness.  While a lot of genres and acts are proffered, there seems to be that obsession with a certain look and type.  For that reason, too few outlets are concentrated away from the capital and towards something more fascinating.  If you have not heard Canou- a bit of a local secret- then you should reserve some time to get inside the music and magic.  Perhaps not as immediate and hard-hitting as Royal Blood or their ilk:  What you get is music that reveals its peacock feathers upon future listens and gets inside the soul.  The songs do what great and original music should do:  It is cerebral and thought-provoking whilst ensuring it stays in the mind and gets the heart throbbing.  No cliché lyrics and lamentable (boring) guitar strumming.  There is so much adventure, scenery and story within Canou’s motifs you will want to come back to the music time again.  I can see a big future for Louis Alberry in London.  I have stated how there is an obsession with London Folk/Pop newcomers, but that was a parable:  A way to show how positive reinforcements can lead to a more diverse and qualitative music scene.  Too little attention is paid to the purveyors of originality and surprise:  For that one reason, we need to ensure the likes of Canou have their opportunity to shine.  Free from the weedy-voiced depressiveness of so many male artists:  Canou is a comparative supernova that is a proper musician sans cynicisms and box-filling.  It is just the compositions alone (without vocals to his music) that have the work to do- and do so with stunning conviction.  While there are issues with the assessments of The Guardian and The Independent- the troubling ‘white boy’ racism of one piece; the narrowness that is displayed- you can take some truths from them.  Essentially- regardless of genre, colour and location- music that has soul, authenticity and personality should supersede anything inferior and less.  That seems to be axiomatic:  Canou is a Dorset-based act that is sure to see his name and brand expand to a wider audience.  While few new artists successfully blend together Pop, Folk, Jazz and Rock- in the mainstream at the very least- it is impressive everything hangs together so impressively.  With the giant that is Terry Wogan departed-a D.J. that prided himself on championing the best and most original musicians- keep his memory alive and…

ENSURE the likes of Canou gain the royalties they richly deserve.

 

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