TRACK REVIEW: Toothless- Terra

TRACK REVIEW:

 

Toothless

 

 

Terra

 

9.4/10

 

Terra is available at:

https://soundcloud.com/toothlessband/toothless-terra/

RELEASED:
23rd March, 2016

GENRES:
Alternative

ORIGIN:

London, U.K.

LABEL:

Transgressive Records/paradYse Records

____________________________________

IT is quite exciting looking at a new act that has been formed from…

an existing one.  In the case of my featured artist:  Toothless stems from the mind of Bombay Bicycle Club musician, Ed Nash.  I will come to him soon, but for now, I wanted to look at the solo artists making their mark; the way the music industry is shaping up- completing with a bit about atmospheric, dramatic sounds.  With the end-of-year lists already out there and being digested:  there seems to be an oversite, from what I can see.  A lot of (these lists) focus heavily on the bands and they produce.  Over the last few years, I have seen a varying degree of solo acts emerge.  Sometimes you get an instant, unforgettable act- someone who sticks in the mind for ages- whereas a lot seem to be rather hit-and-miss.  This year, there seems to be a lot more quality around (compared with last year).  I have grown a little weary of the B.B.C. and their predictions for the coming year.  There is that leaning towards ‘commercial’ sounds:  what will thrill the mainstreams and provide a sense of safety.  No recklessness or bravery at all:  the artists (selected) have nothing to distinguish themselves from what is already out there.  Tell a lie, actually:  Billie Marten- a young singing prodigy- is a name that should be known by all.  Her golden, tender voice is the only name (from the B.B.C. longlist) that I would recommend.  If we want music to progress- and I think we do- we must embrace musicians that do things differently.  The U.S.A.’s Abra is a magical proposition:  bedroom-made hooks and emotive songs are just what we need to embrace.  Cloves is an Australian (female) solo artist who has a honey-rich voice and a distinct down-to-Earth quality to her tones.  Tinashe is an R&B hotshot whose track B.B.C. longlist) that I would recommend.  If we want music to progress- and I think we do- we must embrace musicians that do things differently.  The U.S.A.’s Abra is a magical proposition:  bedroom-made hooks and emotive songs are just what we need to embrace.  Cloves is an Australian (female) solo artist who has a honey-rich voice and a distinct down-to-Earth quality to her tones.  Tinashe is an R&B hotshot whose track All Hands on Deck surpassed the 26-millin views marker on YouTube.  What you can tell from my examples is the emphasis on female solo artists.  In the past, there has always seemed like an imbalance:  the boys have always dominated the ‘to watch’ lists- whether part of a band or on their own.  This year, the women of music are making their voices heard.  When it comes to the guys, the gas has gone off somewhat:  whether tarnished by mainstream ‘stars’ who do not really cut the mustard; the general predictability of the genre.  It is true:  there are some sensational female artists to watch out for.  The guys should not play second-fiddle:  it should not be assumed there are few gems to be found.  I have grown weary of the placid, somnambulistic sounds being promoted across national radio.  There are some rather drab male artists around which is causing a conundrum.  If you dig hard enough; you can discover some incredible artists who deserve a lot of focus.  Ed Nash- him from Bombay Bicycle Club- already has a name and reputation.  Before I continue on- and highlight his strengths- let me (if you have not heard of him) introduce Nash to you:

“Toothless is proud to unveil a debut single, Terra. It’s released on the 13th May 2016 through Transgressive/ParadYse Records (Marika Hackman/Spring King/Blaenavon) on limited edition 7” vinyl/digitally.

Ed Nash is Toothless, a brand new project from the Bombay Bicycle Club musician. His opening statement here, Terra, was self-produced and then mixed by Beach House/TV on the Radio’s acclaimed producer, Chris Coady (with some additional production by Jack Steadman).

Toothless will make his live debut at Moth Club on 17 May. Tickets available via. DICE”.

Although backed by a rich and compelling sound:  Toothless is very much the work of Ed Nash.  In a culture where there are more Ed Sheerans than James Blakes:  we need to be promoting acts that are genuinely fresh, promising and original.  I am proud there are so many female artists getting due recognition:  they are showing the guys up; good for them.  Nash is a musician who does not need to prove himself:  his work with Bombay Bicycle Club is exemplary and captivating.  Going out alone, Toothless is anything but:  there is plenty of bite, gutsiness and snarl to the music.  That is what’s missing from the mainstream:  there are few artists that grab you by the senses and drag you into the music.  So much pacificity and laziness.  I think we have reached a point where love songs hardly prove surprise.  The acoustic guitar-strumming Pop stars have pretty much covered all of the bases over the years.  I am getting a little tired of the sickly, who-gives-a-crap nature of music:  where are the musicians who want to do things differently?  Nash’s latest carnation has certainly got inside my head.  Terra is a song that compels and grips you from the first listen.  Building, growing and campaigning:  the song lusts, lunges and swells with orchestral spelndour.  I cannot wait to hear what he comes up with next.  If he keeps this sound/style consistent- songs that have the same dynamics and style- then he could be among this year’s most talked-about solo acts.  The boys need to make their stamp- the girls have no such problems- and overturn the current malaise.  With heavy focus being paid to bands- they ALWAYS hold the majority vote- the male solo artist is in danger of slipping away and being a minor pawn.  This does not seem just or right.  If we want future generations to come into music:  we need to make sure there is balance and inspiring musicians.  The only way this will happen is to clear-out the beige, boring acts- that are not going to stay in the mind- and augment those who have drama, emotion and variation to their music.  The boy doth protest too much, huh?  Perhaps so, but I feel justified:  I want to feel music’s future is in safe hands.  The way things are; I cannot make that proclamation.

As the bass player for Bombay Bicycle Club:  we did not get a lot of opportunity for Nash to take centre stage.  The future of the band is quite uncertain- they are taking an indefinite hiatus but may be back sometime- so Nash is stepping out solo.  Bombay Bicycle Club’s last album, So Long, See You Tomorrow saw the band go out on a high note- if indeed that is to be their last statement.  Not overbearing or too powerful:  it is a beautifully captivating and emotive swansong.  Nominated for the 2014 Mercury Prize– and no small wonder- it showed the band in peak form.  The thoughtful, engaging melodies were inspired by trips around Europe and India- lead singer Jack Steadman was inspired by his travels and recorded a lot of sounds/influences whilst there.  Whilst there were some heavy and unforgeable softer moments:  it was the playful and friskier elements that resonated most with critics.  The Bollywood-esque touches were not too intense and liberal- peppered sporadically for maximum impact- and as such, the band sounded more focused and disciplined.  Luckily, there are some strands of B.B.C. in Toothless.  That swooning and hypnotic sound is all here and correct:  Nash has ensured he does not replicate the music of his former band.  Whilst Terra has melody and softness at its heart; you can hear a definite defiance: a man breaking from the shadows and showing what a prospect he is.  The kaleidoscopic, colourful moments are all there:  what you get is a revitalised musician who has his own personality.  Toothless has few comparisons in the modern music world.  I mentioned the likes of James Blake earlier- someone who can combine moody and melodramatic with huge conviction- but Toothless is a very unique force.  That is a refreshing thing in the modern age:  few acts sound new and unlike anyone else.  If you are a fan of Bombay Bicycle Club, you will be able to empathise with Toothless.  New listeners- not familiar with Nash’s past- need not worry:  Terra is a song that welcomes you in and seduces you with aplomb.  How Nash grows and develops will be exciting.  Whether he employs some of his Bombay Bicycle Club past- the softer side with Bollywood touches- or keeps consistent, will be fascinating to see.  I would love to see an E.P. come forth:  a full exploration of what Toothless can provide.  As debut singles go:  Terra is going to be a tough one to beat!

Terra begins with heavy breathing and a real air of mystique and tranquility.  Those intense breaths are replaced by something throbbing and evolving:  an electronic parable that feels like an ocean trickling in the moonlight.  Evocative and spellbinding; our hero soon approaches the microphone.  Allowing his words to flow and elongate:  Nash has finally arrived where he wants to be; cradling terra.  Whether the title refers to a sweetheart or something else, I am not sure.  In Latin, terra is the name for Earth.  The dreamy, relaxed nature of the vocal leads your mind in various directions.  On the one hand, there is a certain romance and revelation to the delivery:  a proclamation or declaration to someone treasured and special.  On the other, our man is floating in the atmosphere and seems to be at one with his surroundings.  The cosmic-cum-spacey sound gets my thinking about Earth (and the bond he shares with it).  Now that the “wait is over”:  it seems like they are united- whether a girl and Nash; the Earth and our lead- which got me thinking once more.  As the lines are delivered, the percussion builds and heats.  A militaristic roll adds energy and gravity into the surroundings:  juxtaposing with the floaty, eerier weightlessness of the opening.  This central idea- the wait being over- makes you wonder and speculate, somewhat.  It is a curious thought that could have multiple interpretations.  After the serene and soothing introductory stages:  the composition has transformed into something skyscraping and hard.  Almost like the waves crashing down- or fires burning- you can feel that shift and rawness make its presence felt.  Our hero remains graceful and soothed above the chaos:  almost at peace with what is happening around him.  If some words do get lost in the composition- as the electronics and percussion reach their height; the words get slightly compressed in the mix- the sentiments and codas are clear.  Our man is holding on and seems keeps the mystery strong.  At every stage, I detach myself from love and towards something less personal and more universal.  Given the song’s title; I am curious what inspired its creation.  Pushing against modern/boring themes- heartache and the same, cliché sentiments- Nash ensures Toothless’ debut cut transcends expectations and categorisation.  The vocals have an inimitable personality and colour to them.  Never too unconnected or intense:  you get a brilliant balance between raw emotion and floating-to-the-skies etherealness.  Similarly, the composition could only come from someone who has put his heart and soul into it.  It would be impossible to rush Terra’s composition:  I can hear the detail and discipline that has gone into the making.  All of these points stick in the mind as the song gets more urgent.  Orbiting (the Earth) “forever” you wonder whether there is imminent doom- our planet being struck by an impending downfall- or whether (the words) are metaphors for something else.  Maybe Nash- when writing this song- felt the need to disassociate himself somewhat.  Maybe inspired/harrowed by the unfolding events around the globe- terrorism and political corruption- and wants to get away from all of it.  Whatever the genesis behind Terra:  you cannot deny how the song involves every listener and makes you jump inside.

A lot of tracks can be played in the background and never elicit any emotional reaction.  Here, that couldn’t be further from the truth.  I hear little touches of Bombay Bicycle Club- although they never sounded as meaningful and nuanced- and bits of Beck, too- when he was at his brooding, experimental best (Mellow Gold and Modern Guilt are two such examples).  Thinking of Beck’s twin (aforementioned) albums, a compound comes to mind:  mellow guilt.  Those words could well be a definition for the song:  there is a degree of mellowness- stuff what is happening and submit to the Earth- but an underlying feeling of stress and culpability.  Perhaps I am over-reaching but the song does that to you:  everyone will have their own interpretation and take-away.  I have mentioned B.B.C. and Beck:  there are some little touches of David Bowie too (during his Ziggy Stardust regency).  Nash pulls from the ‘70s, ‘90s and ‘00s to create something classic and of-the-moment.  This song could have easily fitted into those decades and sounded completely natural:  it is a track that defies genres, ages and tastes.  Those who like their music modern and current will be swayed by the tremendous production and utilitarian lyrics.  The experimental, psychedelic touches will resound with fans of Bowie and Beck:  those who like their music more cutting-edge and imaginative.  In truth, few listeners will be able to quibble with Terra’s majesty.  By the closing moments, that clawing heat starts to cool a little.  The composition deconstructs and strips itself piece-by-piece.  The light comes back up and the song ends on soothing and tender notes.  Wordless vocals echo and rebound; the electronics trickle and bubble:  a perfect way to wrap things up.

Congratulations must be given to Ed Nash who has truly stepped from the sidelines of Bombay Bicycle Club.  Always a potent force in the band- the backbone that made their sound so elemental and stunning- he shows no nerves on his debut cut.  Toothless is a great name but one laced with irony:  few musicians have sounded as canine and impactful.  Terra is a song that will hit you immediately and cause a certain fatigue.  It is an intense and busy song that demands you pay attention and surrender to its mandate.  That said, you will want to come back (to the song) and let it soothe the soul.  So much detail and colour go into a song that- on the surface anyway- seems relaxed, detached and Space Age.  Kudos must go to the producer- whether it was Nash or someone else- who has ensured things are not too polished and clean.  Some elements do get buried- one or two of the lyrics lack decipherability- but overall, you have a production that seems epic and hypnotic in equal measures.  Nash shows what a stunning and original voice he is.  As a singer, he sounds everyman yet betrays a debt to no one.  You get emotion, sleepiness and calm; force, passion and soul:  all wrapped inside one another and eliciting different responses.  I would love to see Toothless create another Terra; the song deserves huge applause and attention across the country.  If we hear more artists/songs like this:  music could well get the lifeline it sorely deserves.

I have been quite negative towards some solo artists, but with good reason:  there is no room for poor quality and sameness in the music industry.  There is nothing wrong with being daring and trying something new.  It might not work out the first time- and you need to go back to the drawing board- but that is the wonderful thing.  Artists that last longest- and influence others hugely- are those that do not follow the pack.  I seriously doubt the boys will overtake the girls this year:  in terms of solo acts; they are beating us comfortably.  I would hope there can be some redress and levelling-out over the coming:  some of the chaps coming through with original and thought-provoking sounds.  Ed Nash has always been ‘on my radar’:  I have followed him since the start of Bombay Bicycle Club.  Whilst I loved the band; I sort of waned a bit towards the end:  favouring their earlier work and yearning for that kind of surprise and stun.  Luckily, Toothless is an act that has the potential to change ways and compel other artists to change things for the better.  Terra is a song that announces Nash’s arrival with confidence and nuance.  You get hooked into the song and are helpless to resist its strength and dominance.  Future listens see new layers unpeel:  a song that needs a few plays to get the most from it.  Of course, there is plenty more with that came from- let’s hope, anyway- and this is the start of things.  I am sure Nash has plans for this year already mapped out.  Whether an E.P. is coming in the spring/summer- it would seem the logical next step- that would capitalise on this early promise.  Being a prolific and seasoned musician, I can only guess what is to come.  Touring, promotion and radio interviews will all be forthcoming:  after that, the world seems like his proverbial.  I try not to get too carried away with a single song:  it is just one moment and not indicative of an artist completely.  After hearing Terra; I feel Toothless can grow even sharper and more impressive.  Maybe, emotionally speaking, new ground will be ventured:  the sound might get tweaked and taking in a new direction.  What I hope is- and surely what will happen- is that quality remains of the highest order.  Toothless show just how ironic their name really is:  one suspects Nash had a smile on his face when concocting that name.  The truth is, there are plenty of artists (of the male variety) that are just waiting to get mainstream approval.  From Rap artists Mozzy and Nef the Pharaoh; Hip-Hop’s Allan Kingdom and R&B artist Daniel Caesar are just a few musicians to watch closely.  The male artists promulgated by the likes of the B.B.C. are not my idea of what the music world need.  Sure, they have a radio-friendly sound and a bit of vigour to their music:  when you listen hard; they sound bereft of real originaility and potential.  I suppose it depends on your tastes:  if you love current Pop; you’ll no doubt love what is already out there.  I just have this feeling in the pit of my stomach:  the solo realm will see the boys battered down and a real minority.

As a songwriter, I do not want to look at the past and keep drawing influence from musicians either dead or retired.  I need to support something contemporary and of-the-moment.  As I scan the Internet, radio and social media; I find few male solo artists I get excited about.  Either there is that need to replicate someone else- fitting into expectation moulds or too limited to forge their own sound- or the musician just doesn’t have what it takes.  Luckily, there is a small band of artists who are starting to make their first steps.  Ed Nash does not need to rely on his cache to ensure Toothless gains support.  The music is very much speaking for itself, right now.  Terra has been shared and spread across social media:  fans are backing the song and ensuring it gets itself about somewhat.  If anything, more people should investigate Toothless:  get on Facebook and Twitter and throw their weight behind (Toothless).  Every time I hear a musician- either current or past- bemoan the state of modern music; I get this uneasy feeling in my stomach.  On the one hand, they make pertinent arguments:  things are not as good as they used to be.  We have to face the fact:  music reached its precipice in the ‘90s:  those days are gone and we will never see the likes again.  With that cemented, we need to start being more positive:  with passionate enforcement; music can improve and grow.  It will take a long time to do this- and a lot of changes need to occur- but we can get there in time- and revitalise the scene completely.  I shall leave with a bit about Toothless and the significance of the music.  I know so many people who all say the same thing:  “where are the musicians that stand you to attention and recall the masters of old?”  Okay, the question isn’t phrased that way, but the sentiment is unchanged:  we want to discover modern musicians who have the quality and originality of the past.  Toothless is a tanker of steel that cannot be overlooked and downplayed.  These are the early days but I have high hopes for Ed Nash’s latest project.  Gaining experience from Bombay Bicycle Club; this has been brought into a fascinating song:  the mighty Terra.  If he can follow this- and there is no reason why not- then that will be…

SOMETHING to witness.

 

______________________________________________

Follow Toothless

 

Official:

http://www.toothlessband.com/?lf=697f5f7cf3dc9a7751867ea061a15b7b

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/toothlessband?lf=9a8eb963f3859b5e08d888a3beb54df0

Twitter:

Instagram:

https://www.instagram.com/toothlessband/?lf=1f1363f426f279e324fcbe3d997f5678

_________________________________________

Music

https://soundcloud.com/toothlessband

INTERVIEW: Gary Hector of Jointpop

INTERVIEW:

 

  

Gary Hector of Jointpop

 

_________________________

THIS is the first time I have featured music from…

Trinidad and Tobago on my pages.  A Facebook contact recommended I check out the music of Jointpop:  the most celebrated band to hail from the islands.  Gary Hector is one of the most influential and impressive songwriters in the world and has been lauded by media and fans around the world.  This Is Radio TNT is a four-track E.P. that blends exceptional, detailed compositions alongside singalong choruses and terrific band performances.  Across the quartet of songs; the listener is treated to a heady blend of Punk; Indie and Rock ‘n’ Roll:  all delivered by a band at the height of their powers.  Jointpop are planning a tour of the U.K., and with the E.P. available to the public, there is no excuse to overlook them:

“JOINTPOP are a band from Trinidad and Tobago led by Gary Hector. They are
easily the most influential band to come out of TnT (not playing the local
flava: calypso) and have an international following, having toured the UK
several times (100 Club, Dublin Castle, Hope’n’Anchor among many others) and
the USA (CBGB’s, The Mercury Lounge, etc.). This new, previously unreleased
E.P ‘This Is Radio TnT’ was produced by Paul Kimble of legendary US band
Grant Lee Buffalo. Paul is not the only person to have recognised the
potential of Jointpop as they have had continued support from Tom Robinson
(BBC Introducing) and Jim Gellatly (XFM Scotland/ Amazing Radio)”.

This is what they say about Jointpop:

They sound like The Clash being molested by The Beatles while smoking with
Bob Marley

 (The Guardian)

Jointpop are:

Gary Hector: Vocals, Guitar

Damon Homer: Guitar

Dion Camacho: Drums

Phil Hill: Keyboards, Backing Vocals

Jerome Gidharrie: Bass

Fascinated by the band’s progress and plans:  I caught up with Gary Hector to see what this year holds.  Few of us are familiar with the music of Trinidad and Tobago; it is an area not often covered by mainstream media.  Jointpop are putting the nation on the map and inspiring many up-and-coming bands.  The band’s lead/songwriter chats about the bands that inspired him; how the band remains so active- what they do when afforded a chance to kick-back…

________________________________

Hey Gary.  How are you?  How has your week been?

Hello to you Sam.  Yeah man.  All good here in Trinidad and Tobago.  We actually just headlined a cool weekend festival here called NEW FIRE Festival.

For those who have not heard your music:  can you tell us a bit about yourselves?

Well, we are just a five-man Rock ‘n’ Roll band- born and raised in Trinidad and Tobago (The Caribbean). We write, record and try to tour (and make a holy noise).

You are based out of Trinidad and Tobago.  What is the music scene like in the country?

Yes we are from Trinidad and Tobago:  the music scene here is cool at times; crazy at times and (mostly) terrible at times.  We are a Rock ‘n’ Roll band so that makes it even harder to be part of the local music scene- but we just do our thing.  The music of T. ‘n’ T.  is Calypso and Soca- and that is how it will always be.  We have no dreams to change- that, as it’s very indigenous to the country- and like any style there will be good and bad; so it’s all just fine.

Your new E.P. was released a couple of weeks ago.  Can you tell us a bit about the songs and inspiration behind it?

Yeah, March 2016.   The London-based Indie label Flicknife Records released the E.P.  This Is Radio TNT by Jointpop.  It includes four songs and was produced by Paul Kimble of Grant Lee Buffalo.

The songs are really social snapshots of our country but maybe they tell a similar story in other countries of this world. The four songs are:  Reality and T., Trinidad’s Burning (a cover of London’s Burning by The Clash); Simply Beautiful and Down to Me.

You can get the E.P. online at top download sites worldwide.

In terms of the musicians you guys grew up listening to:  which bands and artists were important to you?

Bands like The Clash, Sex Pistols; The Beatles, The Stones; Bob Marley, David Rudder; Grant Lee Buffalo , David Bowie; The Carpenters, Blondie… and lots more.

Everyone from The Guardian to B.B.C. 6 Music has celebrated and hailed your music.  What is the secret behind your success?

Yeah, we’ve managed to get the music out there in the U.K. and get some support which we are thankful for; and we just keep building a vibe in the U.K. over the years.

 

 

In the last 20 years, you guys have recorded six albums (quite un-Trinidadian in terms of work rate).  Do you think it is important to keep busy and putting new music?

Well, just for our sake to stay active and involved as a band.  We like to write songs and feel the sensation of it coming together.

In your 20-year career, which memories/gigs stand out in the mind?

I’m sure we forgot some along the way (haha) but mostly when we tour; we got some great memories. From playing legendary venues like CBGB in New York to the 100 club in London- and just moving around as a band in strange places around the world.

Jointpop has played all around the world- including the U.S. and U.K.  Are there any plans for you guys to come and play in Britain any time soon?

Well, with the E.P. released now, we are working on a U.K. tour in 2016 to support it. Of course, it’s easier said than done- with us coming from Trinidad and Tobago- but that’s just our story. We’re trying to hook-up with U.K. booking agents and management to help the process.  But we MUST tour the U.K. this year.

Your music mixes Punk, Indie and Rock.  The lyrics look at social issues and deeper concerns.  What inspires the song-writing process?  Do you look at the news for inspiration or relationships closer to home (or a mixture of both)?

Whatever bothers me and whatever fascinates me.  We just let it flow.

Which current-day artists- either mainstream or local- would you recommend to us?

To be honest I’ve been shut-off recently with new music for whatever reason.  It’s not planned:  I’m just not checking.  Have to start again soon…

What advice would you give to new musicians coming through, inspired by your music?

I would advise them to not take any advice.

With so many musician legends passing:  do you think we have lost the true icons and characters from music?

Yeah man, but that’s just part of us being humans, but the music lives.

The band is in-demand performs regularly.  Do you have a lot of time to kick-back, and if so, how do you spend that time.

Oh yeah, because in T’n’T. is very small so we have to space out the gigs.  So lots of time to kick back; but when we tour it’s less kick-back time, so it’s (sort of) the best of both worlds.  But I’m into sports, so either I’m playing it or watching it- football, cricket and golf.

Finally- and for being good sports- you can choose any song and I’ll play it here…

Thanks man.  The single off the E.P., Reality and T.

__________________________________

Follow Jointpop

 

Official:

http://www.jointpop.com/

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=25241271136&fref=ts

Twitter:

https://twitter.com/jointpop

YouTube:

www.youtube.com/jointpop

SoundCloud:

www.soundcloud.com/jointpop

 

The Classics Series: Pink Floyd- The Dark Side of the Moon

The Classics Series:

 

 

 

Pink Floyd- The Dark Side of the Moon

 

 ______________________

I am not sure whether it is a good thing that the best albums…

(from all time) are from a certain period.  Depending on which polls you look at- the range is usually from the early-‘60s to the mid-late-‘90s.  You would be hard-pressed to find an album (on said lists) that originate from the past 15-20 years.  Perhaps the best music ever created has already passed:  maybe there are some classics yet to come- we will see some genius in our lifetime, yet.  Whatever the solution/answer; there are certain albums that will always come out on top.  Music is a subjective thing that can create pitched battles and debate.  For me, personally, my top-5 albums would run, thus:  1) The Bends– Radiohead; 2) Grace-Jeff Buckley; 3) Superunknown– Soundgarden; 4) Graceland– Paul Simon; 5) Rubber Soul– The Beatles.  Inside the top 10 you can add Kate Bush and Miles Davis:  my tastes are quite ‘varied’ I guess.  Whilst my assertions are solid and unwavering; I will always have a special room reserved for Pink Floyd.

Here is a band that influenced and changed music radically.  Up until their formation- 1965 and prior- there was nobody quite like them.  The London-formed Psychedelic/Progressive-Rock band arrived into music with a huge bang:  although, that said, their first couple of albums were quite modest (by their standards).  Pink Floyd were founded in 1965 when students Syd Barrett, Nick Mason, Roger Waters and Richard Wright met.  Led by Barrett, the group gained notoriety touring the capital in the late-1960s.  The band’s debut, The Piper at the Gates of Dawn, was received with immense critical praise.  With songs being written and composed by Syd Barrett:  the music world had never really witnessed anything like it.  In 1967, the Psychedelic-Rock genre was just coming into effect:  Barrett was the proponent and master that inspired others to be more experiment and ‘out there’.  If you needed any proof- as to Barrett’s unique talents- you just need to look at the songs themselves.  Gnomes, fairies and interstellar space travel sat alongside one another.  Barratt’s lyrics saw a childlike humour and abandon sit with something experimental and strange.  Charming, short tracks were balanced with longer, experimental passages from the band.  With The Beatles recording Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band at the same time- they were just down the hall from Pink Floyd- the London group would drop one of the greatest debuts ever.  Barrett would subsequently suffer a deterioration of mental health:  he would leave the group in 1968.

In the ensuing years- with their leader no longer part of the band- Pink Floyd struggled to find their sound and edge.  Consistency and quality eluded them to a degree:  they were never able to match the dizzying heights of their debut.  It was until Meddle arrived- in the autumn of 1971- that the band started to regain focus and grab attention.  The group were transitioning between the Syd Barratt-led psychedelic sound (of the late-‘60s) and something more progressive and traditional.  Unlike earlier albums, Meddle saw each band member contribute to the song-writing.  The album was recorded between touring commitments- at studios around London-and saw the band arrive with very little direction.  Arriving at Abbey Road Studios– equip with 8-track recorders- the band relocated to AIR and Morgan in West Hampstead- which they found more conducive to their visions and demands.  After settling on studios, the business of material proved quite tricky.  Sessions would often begin mid-afternoon (and last to the early hours) and see very little music being committed to tape.  Although the band would start with simple guitar riffs and ideas:  eventually they were able to craft an album that was seen as more cohesive and appealing than its predecessor, Atom Heart Mother.  David Gilmour really came into his own as a guitarist- a fact that did not escape critics at the time- and the entire looked like they were getting things together.  Experimental, epic tracks (the album closer, Echoes, runs in at over 23-minutes long) blended with more focused, shorter numbers.  If Echoes allowed the group to combine and flex their muscles; the album’s first side was marked by fearlessness, attention to detail and inspirational song-writing.  Struggling with Barrett’s departure; Pink Floyd were starting to regain form and identity:  playing with sonic textures and mood.  Gilmour assumed a lead role- he dominated the vocals on the album- and would help shape a new era for Pink Floyd.

Following from the success of Meddle; the band followed it with Obscured by Clouds.  Based around their soundtrack to film La Vallée:  it marked a downshift for the band and a dip in quality and consistency.  Having already started work on The Dark Side of the Moon; the band would sojourn to Paris and begin recording.  The band’s drummer Nick Mason recalled how hurried and fraught the sessions were.  Constricted by deadlines; the band managed to create a 16-track album that did not impress critics and fans at the time.  A lot of the instrumental tracks seemed aimless and too light:  never engaging enough to grab attention.  The more successful numbers on the record- Blues rockers like The Gold It’s in The… and Free Four– were to provide a glimpse into The Dark Side of the Moon.  Those songs- investigating death and life; the haunting and beautiful- showed Pink Floyd were not completely spent.  In fact, Obscured by Clouds has gained retrospective acclaim:  in no small part due to its influence on their soon-to-follow masterpiece.  Acting as a soundtrack- and really not a typical Pink Floyd album- it, at last, showed the band were busy and full of ideas.  After the rather ‘spotty’ creative period of the early-‘70s:  few people would guess where the band was heading next.

 

 

The Dark Side of the Moon is considered Pink Floyd’s greatest accomplishment.  Although Barrett was long-gone and departed:  the 1973 album (the band’s eight) explored mental illness in addition to time, space and greed.  Whereas early Pink Floyd albums saw long instrumental passages:  The Dark Side of the Moon was a more lean and tight album.  At the time, studios like Abbey Road were more equipped to deal with the group’s desires and ambitions.  Prior to recording the album, the band met to discuss their future sounds and themes.  Keen to recognise Barrett’s legacy and mental health- coupled with the stresses of touring and recording demands- The Dark Side of the Moon would address themes that made people mad:  a singular creation that was more direct and unifying.  Previous Pink Floyd albums were marked by varied themes and rather oblique lyrics.  Waters was keen to record something that deals with a single issue- explored in a number of ways- and ensure their words could be understood and interpreted by all.  Waters would record early demos at his house in Islington:  every band member participated in the album’s recording; ensuring it was one of their most together and unifying work.  Knowing they were going to push the limits and produce something epic:  the band got very serious about recording equipment and hardware.  A 28-track mixing desk was purchased with a new P.A. system.  This was the first Pink Floyd album recorded on tour- the band would hire three lorries to transport their kit around- and it was to prove a masterstroke.  Whether inspired by the cities and people they saw; maybe the band was more together and focused:  whatever the reason (Pink Floyd) were at their peak and in tremendous form.  Although their tour of North America and Europe was lengthy; there were few interruptions to the recording process.

The Dark Side of the Moon is charcaterised by the transition from experimental instrumentals- defined by Barrett’s writing and leadership- to music that was more honed and less psychedelic.  Despite the band abandoning Barrett’s musical template and ideals:  his legacy and influence can be heard throughout the record.  From the philosophical deep lyrics to the addressment of mental health deterioration:  Barrett, essentially, was an uncredited writer/producer.  Each side of the album is marked by a continuum:  the songs flow into one another and acts a concept piece.  Early songs like Breathe and Speak to Me contrast the mundane nature of life with the ever-looming threat of madness and disintegration- the need to live life and show empathy.  Transitioning to the airport-based On the Run highlights the stress of travel- made more personal by Wright’s fear of flying- while Time shouts against those obsessed by life’s mundanity and insignificances.   Ending with a flourishing, heavenly evocation of death and transition:  The Great Gig in the Sky stands out as the album’s defining moment.  Not just the most curious creation by Wright- coming into his own as a songwriter- but Clare Torry’s extraordinary, peerless, vocal performance.  Over the course of one side, the band had covered so much ground and addresses a myriad of concerns and themes.

If listeners were unmoved and motivated by the opening half- that compelled people to stop fixating on the unimportant; lend more credence to life’s importance and brevity- the second side would leave no doubt.  The change-rattling opening to Money focused on greed and corruption.  Mocking consumerism and greed that pervaded society:  it stands as one of the album’s most celebrated (and, ironically, most commercially successful) moment.  Us and Them is a harrowing investigation of isolation and depression.  Any Colour You Like is an ironic track that highlights the lack of choice (one had at the time) in modern society.  Brain Damage is the most Syd Barrett-related track across the album.  It is a testament to their brother’s breakdown and disintegration- looking at the wider issues of depression and mental health.  Eclipse looks at alterity and unification:  encouraging people the commonality and togetherness of mankind.  An album defined by dichotomy, duality and conflict:  The Dark Side of the Moon was the band’s most extraordinary and vital work.  Few albums at the time had addressed such vital themes:  capitalism and greed; embracing the beauty of life; stop focusing on the stupid, unimportant things in life.

 

 

It was not just the lyrics that resounded with critics at the time.  In terms of composition, the most advanced recording equipment of the time was used.  Abbey Road’s 16-track mixes allowed the band to let their minds run wild:  as such, The Dark Side of the Moon is one of the most vivid and sonically ambitious records in their cannon.  From the tape loops and sound effects of Money; the metronomic effects of Speak to Me:  this was one of Pink Floyd’s most daring and imaginative albums.  Clinking coins and tearing paper (Money); the chimes of antique clocks (Time); the bass drum simulating a human heart (Time, Eclipse; On the Run and Speak to Me) are memorable sounds from a defining record.  From the instrumental and sonic experimentation:  the band was equally daring when it came to vocals.  The band employed more harmonies- Wright and Gilmour could harmonise their voices; they had very similar tones- and Clare Torry’s contribution is perhaps the defining moment of the album.  When Torry arrived in the studio; Gilmour took charge of directing the session.  Trying to explain the concepts of The Dark Side of the Moon; Torry improvised a wordless vocal run in the booth.  Backed by Wright’s emotive piano line:  Torry was initially embarrassed by her ‘flair’ in the recording.  Wanting to apologise to the band; Torry was surprised to find they loved the performance.  It is really not hard to see why:  the end result is one of the most breath-taking vocals of all-time.  If Torry’s singular performance was hard to top; the group were much more daring and bold when it came to vocals.  Waters wrote a series of flashcards with questions printed on them.  Handing them to staff and occupants of the studio:  their answers were recorded and used throughout the album.   The Irish doorman, Gerry O’Driscoll provided the immortal words:  “I am not frightened of dying. Any time will do: I don’t mind. Why should I be frightened of dying? There’s no reason for it – you’ve got to go sometime”- appears on The Great Gig in the Sky.  Elsewhere, answer snippets were peppered throughout the album:  giving it a real human touch and providing some of the quirkiest and most noteworthy moments.

Whilst some critics were tepid towards the album’s release- lambasting cliché lyrics and an imbalance between sides one and two- the sales figures told another tale.  The Dark Side of the Moon stayed on the Billboard chart for 741 weeks; it has gone on to be the seventh biggest-selling album of all-time- behind Michael Jackson’s Thriller– and certified 11-times platinum.  If some reviewers (when the album was unveiled in 1973) were a little unsure of the album; subsequent reviews have isolated just what a milestone (the album) was.  The most focused and dense albums of Pink Floyd’s career:  it would provide the band’s members with extraordinary wealth and opportunity.  As a creative piece; The Dark Side of the Moon changed Rock music and ranks as one of the most influential albums ever.  Radiohead’s OK Computer is seen as a ‘90s version of The Dark Side of the Moon:  both albums address the struggles of the modern world and themes of isolation and loss.

Two years later; Pink Floyd would create another masterpiece:  the staggering, Wish You Were Here.  The five-song album saw a sort-of return to the lengthier, experimental tracks of old:  Shine on You Crazy Diamond bookends the album and- both parts combined- top-in at 26 minutes.  After the celebration and applause lent to The Dark Side of the Moon:  the band’s bond and unity were starting to fray.  Some critics had addressed The Dark Side of the Moon in sour tones- the band did not employ a publicist to filter the bad reviews out- and there was a feeling of negativity in the ranks.  Whereas The Dark Side of the Moon assessed the vitality of life and societal issues:  Wish You Were Here documents the band’s weakening and a critique aimed at the music industry.  Shine on You Crazy Diamond nodded to their fallen brother, Syd Barratt:  the group remember him fondly and feel the hole he had left.  Pink Floyd had found extraordinary wealth and the fulfilment of childhood dreams:  they had reached their goals and became drained by touring demands.  Although the group struggled with new material- Waters began to conceive the album’s concept soon enough- Shine On’ became the album’s celebrated centrepiece.  Welcome to the Machine and Have a Cigar are attacks on the music industry- pouring scorn on the fat cats and idiot up-comers who would ask inane, clichéd questions- and showcase an angrier band who were tired of the pressures they faced.

 

 

Again- and like The Dark Side of the MoonWish You Were Here was met with muted praise.  Some critics found the album lacked imagination and the depth of its predecessor.  Some were, perhaps fairly, sensitive at the attacks towards the industry at large- feeling the band were taking pot-shots at critics in the songs.  Wish You Were Here, if anything, is heled in higher esteem by some critics:  noting how its clear soul and sincerity was a testament to a band that could create magic against the backdrop of turmoil and uncertainty.  Whichever side you fall on- or whether you prefer albums like The Wall– you cannot deny the strength and influence of Wish You Were Here.  I am shocked Pink Floyd managed to produce the album at all.  Given the success and money that arrived with The Dark Side of the Moon:  the band became jaded, worn and directionless.  Few modern-day groups could produce such a wondrous turn-around.

Absolute Radio listeners just voted The Dark Side of the Moon their favourite album ever- for the second time- and it shows what a legacy the album has.  The texture, melodies and depth (of the album) spurred the band to up their game and become more adventurous.  Who knows what music would sound like were it not for The Dark Side of the Moon.  In the ‘70s it transformed the scene and marked Pink Floyd as one of the world’s most astonishing and bold acts.  Just have a listen to modern music and you can still here the album resonating and striking.  The band are still playing but have never reached the giddy heights of the early-mid-‘70s.  The love The Dark Side of the Moon receives shows (the record) is not just a product of its time.  The themes explored are relevant and vital today:  as the world becomes more obscure and dangerous; the tales of isolation and embracing the good seem ever-pressing and vital.  Whether you escape in the ambience or let your imagination surrender to the compositional brilliance:  there is something for everyone within The Dark Side of the Moon.  As much as I play the album, I can never get the bottom of the multi layers and ideas.  It is a record that always reveals something new and suits a multitude of moods.  Few albums promise that, and for that reason, Pink Floyd’s masterpiece remains one of music’s…

MOST timeless wonders.

 

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TRACKLISTING

SIDE ONE:

Speak to Me

Breathe

On the Run

Time

The Great Gig in the Sky

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SIDE TWO:

Money

Us and Them

Any Colour You Like

Brain Damage

Eclipse

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DOWNLOAD

Breathe; The Great Gig in the Sky; Money; Brain Damage

STANDOUT TRACK

The Great Gig in the Sky

ALBUM REVIEW: Chess Galea- 1869

ALBUM REVIEW:

 

Chess Galea

 

 

1869

 

9.5/10

 

1869 can be streamed at:

http://www.chessgalea.com/

OFFICIAL RELEASE (digital platforms):
18th April, 2016

GENRES:
Soul; Pop; Alternative

ORIGIN:

Surrey, U.K.

TRACK LISTING:

Intro (I’m Ready)9.5

Hard to Handle– 9.6

Ready to Roar– 9.6

Perfect9.5

Missing Person9.5

I Am9.5

Because We Can– 9.6

Sold– 9.6

Beautiful to Me– 9.5

#PL- 9.6

Right Now– 9.5

Wherever You Are– 9.5

No, You Can’t Go9.5

Sold (Reprise)9.4

DOWNLOAD:

Hard to Handle; Ready to Roar; Because We Can; Sold; #PL

STANDOUT TRACK:

Ready to Roar

____________________________________

I have been looking forward to this review, as my featured artist…

was one of my first (reviews).  I have watched Chess Galea emerge, develop and grow:  Her album, 1869, is her first full-length release.  Before I come to that, I am interested looking at the current music scene; the best solo artists around (and what makes them so) – looking at what it takes to succeed.  Yesterday- when reviewing London-based artist Natalie Gray- I was amazed at the vocals and composition laid out (on the track, Little Secrets).  Modelling herself as a Katy Perry-cum-Kelly Clarkson singer- U.S. tones and an overall Pop sound- there are few that are leaving impressions in the imagination.  Gray is an artist capable of making her stamp on the music scene:  I wonder how many others have that potential and ability.  Yesterday, I was listening to an interview with Kate Bush (she conducted with Mark Radcliffe in 2011; promoting her album, 50 Words for Snow).  During that interview; Bush was quizzed about the current music scene:  what her views were with regards its state and consistency.  The reply- even back then- was a bit of a revelation:  it is a mess that is showing deterioration and an abiding lack of quality.  One of the major problems with today’s music is how impersonal and factory-produced it seems.  Songs whip off the conveyor belt and are released into the ether:  songs drop on iTunes/SoundCloud and lack that personal touch.  One of Bush’s criticisms- among many others- was how few albums there are:  you get a lot of songs/E.P.s but nothing tangible and real.  There is that crux between demand- the public wanting something now; else their minds will wander- and the real-world cost of producing an album.  With studio prices rising and technology ruling things- the days of simplicity and home-recorded albums are waning- musicians are being priced out of the market.  Chess Galea is an artist who understands these concerns and responds with aplomb and conviction.  1869 is available via her official website- to stream ahead of its official release- but here is an artist who has a fondness for music’s glory days and the vitality of a physical release- something you can hold and enjoy time and time again.  Knowing Galea, I understand how costly the album’s creation has been.  Enjoying some time abroad- able to pen songs and find inspiration in warmer climates- she has toiled to ensure 1869 is the best it can be.  Having to scrimp and save with determination- affording few luxuries along the way- we have an L.P. that shows that sweat and devotion.  I know 1869 will be released on C.D. but it (is also a creation) that would look wonderful on vinyl- perhaps a limited edition series would be affordable?  Whatever she has in mind, I have been anticipating this album for years now.

Before I carry on- and if you are unfamiliar with Chess Galea- let me introduce her to you:

Chess Galea announces the release of her debut album ‘1869’ – Official release 18th April 2016

An eclectic blend of old-school sounds and feel-good pop, Chess has penned an album that  touches every emotion. The album is written and performed from the soul – Chess writes about current affairs of the world and pressures of society, as well as bold affairs of the heart. You’ll find songs to dance to and songs to enjoy with your eyes closed.

The UK launch party will be held on 20th May at PRIMO BAR London, Park Plaza Hotel 7:30pm start (support by BR James). The Malta Launch Party will be held on 6th June at 7:30pm at Razzett L-Ahmar (support TBC)
Chess started her music career in 2010, with her debut single reaching number 1 in the Maltese radio charts. She’s been nominated for ‘Best Solo Artist’ there, in her home country, featured on BBC Introducing & Best Of British Unsigned, collaborated with DJ’s around the world, sang her heart out in New York and the Caribbean, and she’s now ready to show the world what she really is about”.

Chess Galea is one of the U.K.’s finest young songwriters right now.  After a few years in the music industry- recording songs anyway- the progression and steps she has taken are hugely impressive.  I have been supporting Chess Galea since her E.P. days:  the Babygirl beginnings; the Tuxedo step-up; across to her here-and-now.  Whereas Babygirl showed sweetness among strength- some vulnerability against real-life tales- Tuxedo boasted more maturity, confidence and passion.  Babygirl was a wonderful release, yet Tuxedo was Chess Galea in full flight:  1869 brings her previous work together and shows another leap forward.  With every solo artist I hear, I do wonder how long they will last in music.  Maybe a great song/E.P. will arrive but I worry:  will they ever keep that quality going and endure?  Perhaps Kate Bush had a point:  the honest, real way of working has been replaced by something impersonal, rushed and bitty.  Chess Galea is one of those artists bringing music back to what it used to be.  1869 is a fully-fledged album that shows so much passion and personality:  every song oozes conviction, effort and dedication.  Another factor (behind Chess’ success) is the mix of sounds she employs.  Being a fan of ‘80s and ‘90s Soul-Pop artists- from Prince and Michael Jackson to Freddie Mercury- you get a blend of the older and new.  Kelly Clarkson, Lady Gaga and Christina Aguilera are influences:  there is that leaning towards American sounds but Chess’ sound always retains that unique, British sensibility.  I have seen few artists that are prepared and organised as our heroine.  Her official website- http://www.chessgalea.com/- is gorgeously-deigned and hugely accessible.  You have everything you could need there:  social media links and new music; news and contact details.  Similarly, her social media feeds are up-to-date and detailed.  From her images to logo designs; the website through to the promotion side of things:  I am impressed and stunned by how professional it all is.  Chess has also started up her own label and is taking care of the promotion and album launch:  few other artists are this disciplined and hard-working.  I am getting tired of modern-day acts putting so little graft into things:  they have a manager and P.R. team and see to disassociate themselves with the process of music-making and production.  Chess involves herself from start to finish, and as such, 1869 is a deeply personal work that comes from a very special talent.  I was a little wary when the album came out:  would a 14-track record be able to hold attention and fascination?  Would there be filler material and some bloating?  Well; the answer is a crystal-clear:  she has managed to make a stunning record, that if anything, seems a little short.  By the end, you want to hear more and keep the music playing!  That insatiable mix of sassy, confident vocals- vibing the likes of Freddie Mercury and Michael Jackson- sit with contemporary soulfulness and Pop.

Whereas previous releases Babygirl and Tuxedo are the sounds of a young woman finding herself- both personally and professionally- 1869 is the sound of the woman fully-formed and arriving.  Babygirl mixed redemptive tales and against-the-odds support.  Storm and Breathe had anxiety and struggle at their heart but implored defiance and fight.  The E.P. was very much a statement of hope and staying true to who you are.  Things Take Time left little to the imagination and was very much the perspective of a young musician with her sights set:  knowing success and respect take years to arrive.  Tuxedo arrived and showed Chess inject a more saucy and hard-edge sound to her songs.  In the same way Michael Jackson created Off the Wall– a personal, accessible and confident album- and then produced Thriller- a more direct, authoritative and Rock-influenced album- Chess performed the same feat.

Tuxedo was a more judgmental and angry affair.  The vain and shallow subjects of Vanity were being given a dressing-down and kick to the teeth.  Maybe motivated by night-life around town or people she came into contact with:  this was a record that denounced modern culture and embracing the stupid and vain.  Tuxedo boasted a more rich and gutsy production sound- more raw and powerful than Babygirl– and shifted its focus from soulful strength to kicking against those who bring people down.  If Tuxedo was a Jackson-esque Thriller:  1869 is very much the Bad/Dangerous regency:  the superstar hitting peak form and addressing modern-day concerns with personal struggle.  1869– unlike its predecessors- looks at the plight and realities of the modern world; bringing in something more personal and universal.  I only use the Jackson analogy because Chess shows a similar development.  1869 is an angry album but one that shows plenty of consciousness and heart.  1869 is Chess’ most rounded and complete work.  Addressing societal pressure and matters of the heart:  the album covers so many bases yet has a consistency and focus that is hugely impressive.  This ambition and confidence has resulted from inter-album releases and live performances.  Recently, Chess put out a Covers album:  songs from her favourite artists with that distinct Chess stamp.  The Great Gig in the Sky– a sensational and hauntingly powerful version of the song- sat alongside Jazz standards.  Collaborations, covers and one-off originals have been delivered- the young star is one of the busiest musicians in the world- and all lead to her debut album.  Uniting her previous E.P.s- the mix of emotions and subjects- so much effort and time has gone into the album.  Over the past 7-8 months, Chess has put her heart and soul into the album:  the results speak for themselves.  Mixing Britney Spears with Nelly Furtado- especially when giving thanks and in spoken word territory- there is a contemporary, Pop-based sound that comes in hard and intent.  Announcing her arrival with a stunning opening:  1869 gets underway…

1869 begins with a lovely introduction that gently brings the listener into the fold.  Intro (I’m Ready) starts with wordless vocals that are chorused and emphasised.  Backed by quirky electronics and tumbling beats; you get a list of singers being announced- from Britney Spears to Christina Aguilera; Michael Jackson to Prince- of the artists important to Chess.  Those beats become heavier and hotter and our heroine keeps the list going- James Brown is thrown into the pot.  After the echoed, in-the-background announcements:  our heroine comes to the spotlight and lays down her statement.  She has been waiting in the shadows but her time is now:  ready to conquer and follow in her heroes’ footsteps.  “It’s been a tough, long road” it is said.  Not only a perfect way to introduce the album:  the song stands on its own feet and has its own gravity.  Perfectly highlighting the albums influences- the new sounds and old heroes she hails- it gives fans (old and new) a mission statement from 2016 Chess.

Scatting from the opening notes:  Hard to Handle shows Chess at her most bracing and direct.  With a girlish laugh and Jazz hands-aloft swagger:  there is a blitzing horn sound that notches the song up a level and adds electricity and pizazz.  The song’s title refers to our heroine who can be “illogical” and unpredictable.  A little misspoken and direct:  this is a rare assessment of faults and downsides.  Few artists are self-examining and soul-searching.  The mechanical, snarling horns- mixing beats into a machine-like stride- back vocals that are carefully deployed and delivered with a mix of sensuality and honey-dripping soulfulness.  A brash and hypnotic stunner- where our heroine is a little bit Grace Kelly; “A little bit Grace Jones”- you cannot help but smile and submit that that intense performance.  Chess lays it on the line and just admits it’s “who I am”.  Twisted horns and rushing vocals remind me a little of Christina Aguilera’s early work.  Everything in the track holds together and hits the mark.  The composition is hugely inventive and atmospheric:  backed by tremendous production and the appropriate amount of polish.  The lyrics are never cocky or insincere:  our heroine is confessing and explaining she is human (just like us all).  Hard to Handle is in the perfect place:  up-top and one of the first real ‘hits’ on the album.  Picking up the pace:  the song starts to jog and instill energy.  Bringing in elements of Doo-Wop and Swing- you get echoes of 1930s/’40s groups like The Andrews Sisters.  It is charming hearing of-the-moment production bring in older elements:  ‘90s Pop and close-harmony strands sit together with huge confidence and conviction.  The boy in question- at the centre of things- has been warned and given notice- our heroine has her ‘moments’.  An additive, head-nodding; body-rocking jam:  Hard to Handle shows Chess at her most assured and in-control.  An electrifying vocal and incredible musicianship ensure 1869 lodges itself in the mind at the earliest possible moment.

Ready to Roar is a song that sings its intentions without a note being played.  Jubilant, rushing brass- sounds of ‘70s Soul, ‘00s Pop and old-style Jazz infused perfectly- ensures 1869 keeps up the tempo and (keeps the) sound consistent.  Once more, you get primal, rumbling percussion:  our young star is at her most exhilarating and assured throughout the album.  Whereas previous releases- Tuxedo and Babygirl– have employed piano and more Pop-led sounds:  1869 utilises Blues, Jazz and Soul motifs through a modern-day prism.  Chess is at her most mature and contemporary all at once:  bold, fresh and ready to attack.  The song’s hero- perhaps Galea’s current love- has given her strength and motivation.  Knowing Chess- and the support her boyfriend gives her- I cannot help but think part of this is dedicated to him.  That endless championing and backing has fed through a soul that is more safe and grounded than ever.  Past records have seen Chess wrestle with emotions and the uncertainties of love:  now, she is a woman reborn and in a very good place.  This emotion shift does not come at the expense of soul:  Ready to Roar sees that staggering voice at its most nuanced, layered and exciting.  “Your faith in me has made a different” is no understatement.  Props must be given to Chess and her team (producers) who have fashioned a sensational composition.  You get elements of U.S. idols- Britney and Christina- yet Chess creates something even finer:  music that brings in myriad genres/time periods and ensures everybody will be singing and dancing along.  This generosity- that her man is displaying- comes with no agenda and reciprocity clause.  It is rewarding finding an overtly positive song:  one that celebrates the vitality of a good man and what that can do.  Knowing some history behind the song- relationship transitions and Chess unsure whether she should give her heart so soon- I am thrilled it is being addressed in mature and open terms.  Here is a woman that is at her happiest and most content:  the gambles and trust she has shown has been repaid with affection and loyalty.  Blending echoed/processed vocals with that raw, impassioned core:  you have a song that is agile, constantly engaging and utterly infectious.  Ensuring the track order is bang on:  Chess ensures 1869 begins with passion, power and electricity.  By the third track you are hooked and invested- curious and excited to hear what comes next.

Perfect has been championed by local radio and no wonder.  After the positivity-cum-rousing slam of the previous two tracks:  Perfect takes things down slightly and sees our heroine in more pensive, unsettled mood.  Sitting here “frustrated”:  there is an element of discontent and disquiet that pervades the piece.  The composition remains fairly demure:  there are some hard beats but the soft, delicate piano line keeps things in-check and restrained.  It is the vocal that rides high in the mix:  speaking of perceptions of beauty and false ideals:  Chess openly addresses issues in society and notions of ‘perfection’.  Shifting thematic attention from personal to worldwide:  she handles the subject with grace, emotion and intelligence.  “How can this be a flawless society?” she asks.  Before long, electronics buzz and the percussion tightens and rises.  The song’s chorus directs its attentions to a subject:  maybe the embodiment of fakery and vanity.  Whether addressing models who are airbrushed and unnatural- not representative of what beauty is- or society at its most shallow:  you become curious and interested in the origins.  A “one-way ticket to happiness” is not what we need:  inner peace of mind is more essential; stepping aside from negativity.  In a way, Perfect reminds me of Dangerous-era Michael Jackson.  On that album, Jackson started to address society more- previous albums saw him look inward- and look at peace and positivity:  how negative people were getting him down.  Chess looks at judgmental people and wonders why we need to be this way:  perfection, in a truer sense, is something less tangible and more complicated.  Ensuring the album is urgent and compelling:  the vocals and composition remain intense and pressing to the very last.  A song that has mainstream appeal- easily topping the offerings by our current favourites- but takes its heart away from love to look at something even more profound.  Chess shows what an agile and thoughtful songwriter she is:  ensuring the listener looks at themselves and thinks more deeply about the world around them.

Missing Person sees our heroine “right on the edge”.  Her voice is at its smokiest and most emotive as she looks at issues:  solving them before “time takes its toll”.  At once, there is fascination and obliqueness.  Chess wants (the song’s subject) to kiss her goodnight:  I was wondering who inspired the song and what is being addressed.  Clearly there is a sense of longing and dislocation:  yearning for somebody that is estranged and far away.  Whereas previous numbers have been more direct and straight-to-the-point:  here there is that lingering air of mystery and mystique.  This ‘missing person’ is someone escaping Chess’ grasp:  she wishes she could reach out and hold.  Whilst your mind conspires and investigates; you get struck by the vocal and composition.  Less savage and urgent than previous tracks:  here, the sound favours a mix of Blues and Jazz.  Sure, there are tumbling and fast flowing vocals- that get your head into Pop territory- but I get essences of the queens of Soul:  artists that would have inspired our heroine growing up.  Missing Person is another shift that shows how versatile and flexible Chess is.  In terms of emotional balance:  it perfectly counterpoints the opening numbers and gives the album depth and vulnerability.  A paramour has deserted her- and that voice seems haunted and lost- and our girl pines for their return.  Whether a relative or friend:  you fall for the honesty and emotion that comes from the central performance.  One of the album’s most nuanced tracks- you need a few spins for it to hit you- it shows Chess’ histrionic range and full abilities.  Ranging from sweet and seductive coos to a near-explosion belt:  few singers can allow their voice to swoop but keep it controlled and focused.

   I Am is a shorter number (it falls shy of the 2-minute mark) that sees a return (of sorts) to the immediacy of 1869’s opening trio.  After the emotions and turbulence of the previous numbers- from heart-baring thanks to strife in society- there is a chance for a little decompression and brevity.  I Am is a skippy and energised number that sees our heroine assess her development and self:  she has “time to grow” and more things to learn.  Like Hard to Handle, there is a look inwards.  Knowing it will “all come together one day”:  you cannot help but imagine (the song) refers to music development and success.  Maybe these moments- the album and songs- are building blocks and steps forward.  That true goal- a mainstream fixture who can influence the new generation- is what is aimed at.  Chess is not going to betray her intuitions and self:  she is working hard to ensure she reaches her goals.  The idea of what/who I am is repeated as a mantra.  Chess feels comfortable in her own skin and confident of her objectives.  While a lot of singers are needlessly self-flagellating and intense:  here there is a sense of relaxation, comfort and self-appreciation.  She is not perfect but you cannot deny the confidence in the song.  Whether hearing a song on the radio- Chess’ latest release- being repeated and celebrated:  that is when she will start to shout proudly.  Backing the soothing lead vocal- it slinks and purrs with sensual undertones- is a delicious guitar lick.  Blues-natured and Santana-esque:  it gives the song an alluring and Latin feel that adds more colour, contour and dynamic to (an already) compelling album.

Because We Can starts very Moby-esque:  strings and a rush that recalls Extreme Ways (the closing theme to The Bourne Identity).  Those racing and pizzicato energy shifts 1869 back to its former ways:  the energetic and body-slamming propulsion of the beginning.  Soothing, entranced vocals lead to one of the album’s most important tracks:  something that addresses the modern world and asks some very pertinent questions.  In a world “full of sorrow”, our heroine queries, how can we remain silent and motionless?  Given recent unfolding- terrorist attacks around the world- the song seems timely and appropriate.  The truth is- the song would have been written before the most recent attacks- bad and violence seem to be irrepressible and uncontrollable.  It seems we have “become immune to the dangers” of tomorrow.  Chess compels people to stand up and be accountable:  rebel against inequities and evil and take action.  That tense, Dance-via-Electronica backing is the perfect canvas on which Chess can campaign and electioneer.  Bristling with edginess and endeavor:  it is one of the most compelling and immediate songs across 1869.  Rarely has Chess sounded as urgent and arresting as she does here.  If we shift the blame, things will not evolve.  Beauty in the world is being subverted and marginalised:  we need to revert the balance and set an example for the new generation.  That central theme- to “stand up”- reminds me (again) of Michael Jackson.  A cross between Earth Song and They Don’t Care About Us you get that same sound and energy.  Towards the end, you get more of that electric guitar- snaking and buzzing with luster- and Chess lets her voice expand- bringing in some Aguilera-esque candour.  One of the most memorable, proud and meaningful tracks across the album:  it will not escape your head for many weeks to come (let’s hope it is not any longer!)

  Sold is a song Chess has a lot of faith in- a reprise features at album’s end- and arrives at the central point.  Another one of the ‘shorter’ tracks; it spares no time sowing the seeds.  Echoed, multi-layered vocals arrive around a slinky and seductive beat.  Our heroine teases the song in and gives one of her most alluring introductions.  Another investigative/personal track:  it sees Chess looking at success, achievement and capriciousness.  She has been around the cities and the transitory nature of life.  Whilst some are trapped in a 9-to-5 existence- and frustrated they cannot fulfil their dreams- the heroine wants to break free and do what she SHOULD be doing.  For that reason- it carries a very personal tattoo- you get invested in the song and follow its plight.  The vocal, perhaps not surprisingly, is one of the purist and strong across the album.  Showing what a proposition she is:  Chess mingles sweet, crystalline vocals with something red-bloodied and womanly.  That contrasting nature- between a sweet girl and proud woman- is a sensational (proprietary) blend that makes the song such a smash.  Reflecting on her rise- working all hours to get the money together- the narrative gives you a glimpse into Chess Galea The Artist.  Life may be complicated- the road to success is often fraught- but her mind is set.  A proud song of self-actualisation and epiphany:  music is what drives Chess; no other life will do.

Beautiful to Me does not relinquish the fascination and innovation factor.  The smooth and slow-building introduction suggests we are going into romantic terrain.  Purring and sensual- Chess exploring Jazz of the 1960s and ‘70s- you see yet another side to the heroine.  Looking at a particular person- not sure whether a lover or friend- who has a “heart of glass”- that seems consistent whether mad or unhappy.  Maybe (the hero/heroine) has reservations and unsure of their worth:  Chess, in no uncertain terms, finds them beautiful and special.  Asking why this is- the particular reason behind this revere- perhaps the smile and soul-ignite is the reason.  Maybe (in the past) they have shut our heroine out:  masculine pride or a sense of aloofness.  Contrasting emotions and conflict seem to run through the song.  On the one hand, you have a person capable of augmentation and betterment- they can make Chess smile and feel at ease- yet someone with quite a fragile heart.  They are special to her, for sure, but the reasons are not crystal.  A curious and fascinating tale:  you start to pick at the lyrics and dig deep.  Ensuring the words hit the mark:  Chess delivers one of the smokiest and intoxicating performances to date.  Maybe reflecting on her current romance- in the manner of Ready to Roar– there is a sense of safety and hope (among the lows).  Dreams of growing old together come in; that well-being and security:  a love that seems secure, solid and unflinching.  Other tracks (across 1869) have dealt with love/contentment with flair and rush:  here the emotions are laid bare and the lights are dimmed down low.  Close your eyes and let the song drift over you.

  #PL is one of the most contemporary and unique tracks across 1869.  High-pitched vocals- like a drug-addled trip through Chinatown- put me in mind of FKA twigs, Banks and Jessie Ware.  A certain eccentricity and late-night, neon-lit, head-f*** opens the track.  After the dizzying opening, our heroine comes in.  “When times get tough” there is no need to worry:  she is there to comfort the fall and lend support.  A joyous song built on mutual indemnity and respect.  There is a feel-good factor that runs through the number:  set against that quirky backdrop and you will be amazed at how Chess can change dimensions and sound like her.  Few artists are able to take such leaps- genre-to-genre; mix styles and sounds- with such authenticity and confidence.  I am not sure what compelled #PL– or what the hashtag means- but it is a paen to a friendship, copacetic.   After such a sensational opening to the album:  you would expect its mid-way/latter songs to suffer a bit of fatigue.  Chess has balanced everything perfectly so that these songs- that herald the final third- are just as vital and stunning as the openers.  Hooked by the smile and celebration that runs through the song:  our heroine is happy to have such a friend/supporter by her side.  The detail and focus that has gone into #PL really shows.  It is one of the most fastidious and perfectionist tracks yet have a casualness and sense of cool.  A hard trick to pull off; it goes to show how what skill and talent Chess has.  By the final moments of the song- you cannot help but sing along- you are left beaming and hooked on the myriad aspects and sounds.

Right Now continues the self-examining nature (of #PL) but announces itself with a more conventional tone.  Showing defiant spirit and a definite hop in the step:  the track is motivated by a fizzing acoustic jam that perfectly suits Chess’ voice.  Our heroine has been down- that stiff upper lip has been there a long time- and the money supply is looking rather tragic.  Here is another song that falls into the category ‘real-life concerns’.  Listeners will relate to the struggles with money, balancing commitments and finding chances to relax.  In spite of the ‘realities’ of life:  things are better than they would appear. There’s a breeziness and chart appeal to the track.  A song that can appeal to lovers of mainstream Pop:  it is an easy song to fall for and is packed with sing-along chorus and plenty of memorable moments.  Messages contained in the song will inspire listeners and get them to think about their own situation.  Her head is “held high” and wings are being spread.  If 1869 marks a new high for Chess- one step closer to stardom- then Right Now is the core song.  It brings all the other themes together and is the definition of the album:  a hungry young star working her way up and around.

  Wherever You Are has a fairytale, child-like innocence to the beginning.  Light, balletic notes see Chess look at someone “set free”:  they have found a place that “no-one knows”.  I get the impression (the song) looks at a family connection or relation.  Home life is investigated- the time the person turned off the T.V. to say they believe in her- and it seems like a thank-you letter to someone who has always been loyal.  Backing our heroine and supporting her dreams:  this loved-one is at the centre and being shown how much they mean.  Underneath the praise and respect is the refrain:  “miss you”.  It is hard to say whether the song’s subject is departed or simply living elsewhere.  I would like to think they are back in Malta- Chess’ mother or brother perhaps- or maybe an older relative who is sadly no longer around.  The earnest and heartfelt performance provokes emotion in the listener:  you cannot ignore how intense and meaningful the delivery is.

No, You Can’t Go is the penultimate number and one of the most haunting introductions.  Tender pianos lead into a vocal that sees our heroine lay her emotions bare.  Making a promise never “to be apart”:  there seems to be a commitment that runs deep.  One of the album’s out-and-out ballads; it gives the closing stages dignity, emotion and revelation.  Chess lays out a supplication:  she does not want to be left and would feel lost (were they to leave).  It is at this point I wonder about the influence of the song:  whether it is about a lover or friend.  The relationship has been unexpected- an unlikely partnership- and the split is being felt.  Letting her soul fly and campaign:  it is impossible not to be affected by the song and root for the heroine.  Mystery and curiosity linger- as to who is being attested- and my mind looked at (maybe) a former sweetheart who has uprooted or betrayed affection.  Whatever the reality behind the song:  we get one of the most impassioned and intense vocals across 1869.  It gives the album vulnerability and shows Chess in a new light.  The composition remains sparse which means the emotions are unimpeded and allowed to come through.

  Sold (Reprise) closes things and is a curtain call for Chess Galea.  It brings back those struggles and questions:  sacrificing time and energy for the pursuit of happiness and dreams.  An appropriate and succinct ending:  it brings 1869 down and closes an extraordinary and accomplished release.

Congratulations must go to the production and mixing of the album.  The professional and glossy sound suits Chess’ voice perfectly and ensures every song shines and blasts from the stereo.  I know Chess has spent a lot of time honing and perfecting every aspect of the album:  from the album cover shoot to the track listing.  That passion and commitment reflect in a record that is among the most personal things she has ever recorded.  I can see a clear development from her early recordings- the E.P.s and collaborations- and am astonished at how confident and commanding she is.  As a singer, the voice has always been her stock and trade.  It is here (on 1869) that it reaches its precipice and full potential:  across 14 tracks you see so many sides and emotions it is hard to take in.  Whether riding a heavy beat- and swaggering with confidence- or tenderly breathing- everything she sings sounds memorable, exceptional and assured.  It is the lyrics and compositions that show the biggest development.  Previous records have seen Chess look at a variety of situations- facing oppression with pride; disreputable people in society- but there she brings all the elements and themes together.  More socially conscious and mature:  this is the most nuanced and deep set of songs she has ever written.  Quotable and highly addictive: her current predicament and state of mind have resulted in her most astonishing music ever.  The compositions mix infectious beats and electronic contortions; blasting horns and delicate piano.  Running a gamut of emotions and ideas:  the eclecticism and variation is truly stunning.  The fact everything is kept in-check and individual- this is very much a Chess record- shows what a talent she is.  I can see Chess growing even more confident and ambitious as time elapses.  1869 is a remarkable record but you feel her finest album is still down the tracks.  As a young artist- who has not been on the scene for a while- 1869 is the best album I have heard this year.  The time, energy and money put into its creation have paid dividends:  here is a wonderful talent who deserves huge acclaim and attention.

I must congratulate Chess Galea on producing a phenomenally accomplished album.  The Maltese-born star has worked hard these last few years.  From rather modest beginnings, she has blossomed into a strong, defiant and stunning woman:  an artist that has thrown off the pressures of the industry and continues to evolve and amaze.  I remember when she first came through- just before Babygirl was released- and was amazed at how mature and authoritative she sounded.   Every track sounded polished, sleek and from a voice that has few equals.  When Tuxedo arrived; there was no lack of energy and inspiration:  another E.P. that spilled-over with instant tunes and wondrous performances.  Chess is one of the most compelling voices we have in Britain.  Although she wears some influences on sleeve- Christina Aguilera and Freddie Mercury, for example- you cannot deny how unique and original she is.  Having moulded and honed that voice for years- from cover versions to live performances; teaching to recording- the young sensation is at her very peak.  Every song (on 1869) has that Chess Galea stamp pressed all over it:  a singer that explodes through the speakers and grabs you by the throat.  Balancing that ecstatic power and passion is a woman who has a deep soul and pure heart.  Riding alongside that confidence and swagger is introspection, reflection and purity.  This is not a calculated move- to appeal to a wide audience and betray authenticity- but a glimpse into a fascinating and complicated artist.  Chess Galea has seen her pains and experienced heartache:  she is not letting it drag her down; her sights and focus are trained towards success and stardom.  I am a little reticent with regards this year’s potential releases.  Scanning the mainstream, there are few albums that have captured my attention.  Last year, the likes of Kendrick Lamar and Jamie xx created some truly extraordinary works:  aside from that, there was little to get excited about.  This year seems even worse- although it is only March- with Radiohead being the most promising proposition (their new album is long overdue).  Maybe there is too much expectation and demand on new artists.  Given the raft of new musicians emerging (by the day); you have to ask yourself:  will we ever see a return to the heyday of the ‘90s?  Here was a decade when you released a record because a label had faith in you- and thus, afforded you the chance to get into a studio.  Now, music has become more accessible and real than ever:  anyone can arrive and create their own songs.  Music should be an art form and expression of who you are:  complete, rounded and detailed.  Given the exorbitant costs of recording; the disposable nature of music and the short attention spans of this generation:  is music on the decline?  There is some truth and harsh reality in that question:  maybe things will never get near to matching that gold standard.  What we need- in order to balk the trend and restore faith- are musicians that bring music back to the past and do things honestly and right.  Chess Galea adjusts her music for the modern age- 1869 is streaming online; it will be dropped on iTunes too- but she has a deep love of old-style music and the ways of the past.  Her debut album has polished and slick sounds but contains grittiness and bare-naked revelation.  I know our heroine will put C.D.s out- ensuring the fans can hold her album in hand- and I would not be shocked were a vinyl released.

It is only left for me- dispense with moaning- to look at Chess’ future and what is in store.  On May 20th; Chess will launch 1869 at Primo Bar in London.  Within that sumptuous, modern cocktail bar- on Westminster Bridge Road- our star will hold a loving crowd and show what she is made of.  From there, the album will be premiered in Malta (on June 6th) and a chance for the home crowds to see their expat shine and seduce.  I have heard little to recommend this year but 1869 is the finest album I have heard this year.  I am not the biggest fan of modern Pop music- the U.S. chart acts and ‘best of the bunch’- and prefer my singers from the ‘80s and ‘90s.  Chess takes the essence of old-skool sounds and modernises them through songs that slam hard and leave entranced.  The confidence and passion of the vocals are only matched by the innovative, busy and uplifting compositions.  Perfect- one of the album’s leading lights- has already been premiered on B.B.C. Introducing:  there is a lot of faith and love for Chess Galea.  I am in no doubt the young Surrey-based artist will continue to impress and develop.  I know finances are tight but she has a hungry audience in the U.S. – she recently performed in America- and would have Australian audiences eating from her palms.  In fact, she could well put together a mini world tour:  taking in Europe (France, Italy and Germany perhaps) with a brief spell in Africa (South Africa) and the U.S. (New York, L.A. and Seattle, for example).  Maybe a lack of money will dictate itinerant desires, but the demand is out there:  1869 is a bold and brilliant statement that can bring huge audiences in.  Congratulations to Chess Galea who has produced her most astonishing and personal record to date.  There are plenty of albums (and E.P.s) in the stunning musician:  how far she can go is really up to her.  I would not rule out mainstream success and national radio play:  from there, she could find herself at the world’s biggest festivals.  If you are in any doubt- and think my words are as a result of loyalty and hyperbole- then I defy you to listen to 1869 and refute my claims.  A dazzling album that can grab, melt and conquer any heart:  here is a modern-day musician that means…

SERIOUS business.

 

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Follow Chess Galea

 

Official:

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TRACK REVIEW: Natalie Gray- Little Secrets

TRACK REVIEW:

 

Natalie Gray

 

 

Little Secrets

 

9.4/10

 

 

Little Secrets is available at:

http://nataliegray.bandcamp.com/releases

RELEASED:
24th October, 2015

GENRES:
Pop; Rock

ORIGIN:

London, U.K.

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PERHAPS it is the interminable slew of adverts on at the moment…

but I am finding my love of female singer-songwriters starting to wane.  I am being unfair, I guess:  There are some wonderful female artists emerging right now.  What chills the blood are those adverts- from John Lewis to God-knows-who- that have the reedy-voiced artists (usually murdering someone else’s song) who could be the same person- the voice is THAT similar.  I am not sure where they (advertisers) find them- if there is some sort of website- but my heart sinks every single time.  I mention this because we are not seeing female artists represented heavily across radio- an area that should be making strides.  It seems the girls of music are heard more often on T.V. than they are the airwaves.  I listen to Absolute Radio every day and- among the mainstream artists played- there is that tendency to feature the boys.  Perhaps Heart and Kiss are more equal- although they focus on the same artists time again- but what of the unsigned/new artists?  Local radio does its best but we need something national- that is more credible/listenable than local radio- that features more new artists (women especially).  My charming rant- or annoying aside- stems from the quality that is available out there.  I have heard- over the last few weeks- some truly exceptional female songwriters emerge:  I may not have encountered them were it not for my position (as a reviewer) and social media.  Here is a quandary I might never extricate myself from- discovering the best artists more naturally- but that is one for the future.  Whether I can figure out a way to make it so- a bespoke music website that puts EVERY new musician in one place- time will tell.  For now, and with my featured artist in sight, it is great discovering a musician that fires straight out of the block.  Before I come to her, I wanted to talk about powerhouse singers and putting performance into music.  I find there are lots of musicians- both male and female- that resist the urge to let their voices be heard.  Whether they prefer a softer, more subtle approach to music, it is hard to say.  You all know the type of singer:  The sensitive, heart-on-the-sleeve type that tries to soothe the birds from the trees.  It is rewarding discovering artists that do this- and can do it in an original way- but the body yearns for an act that can blow you away with power.  Just this morning- whilst investigating Absolute Radio’s countdown of the ‘Top 100 Albums of All-Time’- I remembered what an album Lungs was.  Released back in 2009, it introduced Florence and the Machine to the world.  Compared with Kate Bush, Regina Spektor and Fiona Apple:  Florence’s Welch’s beguiling beauty was surpassed by her intense performances and extraordinary musicianship.  Those sky-scarping vocals scored songs that left their mark and ensured listeners were hooked.  The machine gun-fire songs- Rabbit Heart (Raise It Up) among them- were backed by bellicose percussion; atmospheric electronics and a woman wrestling with her own soul.  Welch showed she could be seductive and restrained- in addition to being a howling goddess- and mixed emotions and vocal styles perfectly.  The same ambition was applied to the songwriting which brimmed with imagination, daring and memorability.  Natalie Gray has an essence of Florence Welch which is exciting me.  Aside from the flame hair and explosive voice- that can bring soothe and sweet into that ecstatic electricity- you have an artist with a flair that is rare these days.  I have had my fill of wearied songwriters all strumming listlessly.  I desire that kick to the heart and bucket of water to the face.

Before I continue on, let me introduce Natalie Gray to you:

Natalie Gray is a 23 year old London based singer / songwriter launching her solo career this year (2015). 
Growing up listening to acts as varied as Whitney Houston to Guns & Roses has helped to define her strong and distinctive vocal style that has been likened to Katy Perry, Hayley Williams (Paramore) and Kelly Clarkson.
After focusing heavily on dance and performance over the last few years, Natalie has recently recorded her debut EP, ‘Welcome to the Show’ and released her first single Little Secrets which does exactly what it says on the tin.
Natalie has featured on Debonair’s new single ‘Thanks to You’ promoted to a wealth of underground stations throughout the UK through Beat 1.
If you get a chance to speak with Natalie, perhaps
you should ask her about a recent UK tour with The Hoff. Just a hint”.

With her vocals compared to Katy Perry and Kelly Clarkson; I think Florence Welch would be a more relevant name- someone who had more widespread appeal and ability.  Whatever name comes to mind; you cannot deny the personality and passion that emanates from that singular voice.  Given Gray’s performance history, it is not shocking she can belt out a tune with conviction and control.  Maybe that is what’s missing from music:  Artists that need lessons in theatrics and performance.  I feel the music school-produced acts are being moulded, consciously, into pre-existing names.  There is that sense of conveyor belt production:  Stamp out acts that all seem chart-worthy and ‘safe’.  Were something extra-curricular available- theatre course or something similar- it would give musicians that needed gravitas and sense of show.  Natalie Gray is new to my ears, yet her debut single was released five months ago.  The fact it is still gaining feedback and attention shows what an impact she has made.  Endlessly touring and performing- as an actor and musician- Gray is one of the most explosive propositions I have heard for quite a while.  I am not sure what she is planning for this year- if an E.P. or album is planned- but fitting it in will be a challenging.  Given the fact she’s touring- with nary an ending in site- will studio time be a possibility?  Let’s hope so because that voice- whether covering a well-known song or something original- is attracting thousands of followers.  I have high hopes for Gray and am curious to see how far she can go.  I know she is being compared to some heavyweight (U.S.) chart stars, but find it bellies her true abilities.  Having grown up with the grit of Gun N’ Roses and soul of Whitney Houston:  Those names are more fitting for a talent who is a very rare commodity.  Whatever form a future record will take, I can see ‘80s/’90s Rock elements mix with Houston-esque soulfulness; that staggering breath of Florence Welch- topped off with something uniquely special.  I have been suffering a bit of writer’s block- maybe stifled by homogenised charts and a lack of influence- but Gray is an artist that has kicked my mind up a gear.  I am always seeking musicians that going beyond what is expected and cause some real excitement.  Little Secrets is a track that provides a glimpse into a strong young woman with bags of promise.  I cannot believe she has not been signed up- whether that has happened and I am remiss- but Gray deserves record label patronage.  Someone to help guide that variegated talent and foster the burning ambition:  Filter it into albums and tours, one would hope.  I am sure our heroine has her own plans, but right now, ensure you familiarise yourself with a very special musician.

It is rather exciting, thinking of Natalie Gray.  Ordinarily, when I come to review an act, I weight their new material against their older stuff:  A sort of weighted mean assessment of their sound.  With regards the London-based singer; there is more of a challenge.  Having investigated her cover versions- across YouTube– you get the sense of a singer finding out who she is.  In spite of unflinching confidence and assurance, there is that self-discovery occurring.  Gray can sing about scrappiness and fight for survival.  She is a master of assuming the mantle of a lusty, sense-inspiring vixen:  A natural actress that is effortless and sensational in whatever role she plays.  Each cover version shows a different side to the young heroine.  Whilst you get some consistency in each- the stunning voice and impeccable delivery- no two ever sound the same.  The range of artists covered is also quite wide-ranging and surprising.   Little Secrets is a song that blends sauciness and sweat with something quite revealing and open.  Within the track you get a woman who knows what she wants- there is little ambiguity in her come-ons and lusts- but someone who can control her man.  That sort of unabashed revelation- a young woman exploring her body and soul- is a commodity that has always done well.   Whether the mainstream U.S. artists- from Lady Gaga to Rhianna- to our homegrown acts:  Natalie Gray puts her own stamp on things.  What will be interesting is what a forthcoming E.P. will contain.  A lot of pre-existing cover versions deserve a place (on the E.P.).  Little Secrets seems like a natural opener; Gray will have picked up new inspiration and ideas.  Whether compelled by touring- performing in Last Night a D.J. Saved My Life– and the tales of the road:  There will be new songs formulating in her mind.  How these come together and coalesce will be the real challenge.  Gray is just as authoritative playing a hot-bloodied woman as she is the soul-revealing girl.  Whatever the outcome- when the new record does emerge- we are going to see one of our brightest new artists show just what she is capable of.  Possessed of a voice that can blow the clouds from the skies; I would love to see that utilised in new ways and across a variety of tracks.  As a writer, it seems Gray has the potential to rival the likes of Florence Welch, Kate Bush and Regina Spektor:  Fearless musicians who stun across composition, vocal and lyrics.

I have been excited about Little Secrets for a few days now.  From the opening moments, you are left in no two minds:  Here is a song that means serious business.  The opening guitars signal intent and arrive with panache and direction.  It is not long before our heroine arrives to the microphone.  When she does, her words resonate and explode with passion.  I can see how her voice has been compared with Kelly Clarkson- there is a familiar, U.S.-based tone to the voice- and her Pop-Rock sound.  “The taste of your lips” is the first line and a window into the ideals and temptations lurking within Little Secrets.  Our heroine is directing her words to a man- maybe a lover or former beau- that is either closed-off or quite emotionally distant.  Maybe not as brazen and revealing as he should be- keeping that flame dim inside his chest- there is that desire to let it out and embrace something exciting and raw.  The opening line- the romance and sexuality- sit alongside oblique intrigue and something quite interesting.  There is clearly some history at work- a song I find based in fact rather than fiction- and that need to revert to a former state.  The guy is perhaps too secretive and not letting (our heroine) in.  By the second verse, we find the duo sat on the backseat of a London taxi.  Gray is someone who constantly burns for that particular touch:  She wants her name screamed:  She definitely wants to spend the night with the hero.  That lack of inhibition and discretion shows an artist who shows little fear and holding back.  Perhaps those U.S. comparisons become more relevant with each passing verse.  Our homegrown stars- by comparison, at least- are a bit reserved and typically-British.  Gray is not someone who wants to keep things bottled-in and play it coy.  The emphatic and libidnous delivered is supported by a composition that keeps driving and pressing.  Never becoming too spotlight-hogging for a moment:  It sits in the background and provides perfect support for the vocal.  The ‘little secrets’ title seems like a coy euphemism, in effect.  Maybe not purely intended:  There is that desire to reveal sexual secrets rather than heartfelt ones.

The man in the frame has lied and been dishonest in the past:  Perhaps playing away and double-crossing our heroine.  Those oversites are being papered-over and there is a chance for transformation and a new relationship.  Whatever has compelled this forgiving nature is quite fascinating.  It is that confidence and single-minded charm that will appeal to most listeners.  A lot of songwriters can be quite prim and buttoned-up:  Gray’s prowling kitten is an animal that will be very hard to tame.  To be fair, there is a lot of sensitivity and maturity that runs throughout Little Secrets.  Whilst the end result might be close to the bedroom; there is a woman who wants (her man) to change and grow.  The past might have produced scars and arguments but the future is now and things can change for sure.  Backing herself on vocals- a sweet and augmentative chorus- you get both sides of the artist:  That sweetness and light; the harder-hitting Rock singer.  At every stage- whether teasing secrets or casting thoughts to the bedroom- there is never a lack of focus and direction.  The song is tight, expertly produced and mixed to ensure every verse and vocal ties together beautifully.  By the final stages- and with that infectious chorus lodged inside the forebrain- you are left with a smile, for sure.

I have tried to decipher the lyrics and reflect on their true meaning.  I am not sure whether our heroine got the boy- or at least coaxed secrets from him- but that unambiguous intention reigns in every moment.  Propelled by a rocky and gritty composition- tied together with softer Pop melody- Little Secrets marks an artist with huge promise.  A singular track that leaves images in the mind; you cannot deny the passion and talent of Natalie Gray.  In future releases, it would be great to see that voice stretched the very limits.  I have mentioned Florence Welch before- and shall temper it- but feel there is that same scope, both musically and vocally.  Little Secrets is a song that could well fit into the mainstream:  It will appeal to fans of U.S. idols such as Kelly Clarkson and Katy Perry.  Gray has that crossover appeal and could easily reach a huge audience.  I know there are many sides to her; so it will be fascinating to see how she exploits that.  Heading into the studio; I would love to hear a creation that mixes Little Secrets-esque numbers with something even more epic and dramatic.  Perhaps aimed more at a ‘younger audience’- the teen-early-20s demographic- Gray could push that even further.  Little Secrets is a confident and stunning song that sparks and explodes with aplomb.  It has a radio-friendly vibe yet possesses a sauciness that marks it as a late-night club song.  Natalie Gray could well blossom into an artist who is among our most treasured stars:  Little Secrets is the first step on the road to glory.

We all have our own tastes and predicaments when it comes to music.  Whether you favour subtlety and sweetness over power and intensity; that is your choice.  I like to hear a balance between those two extremes:  A polemic does not need to be a harrowing thing to achieve.  There are a lot of musicians that aim for that sort of reach- going from the cooing bird to the roaring dragon- but lack discipline and command.  I opened by highlighting our very Florence Welch.  As we speak, she is seducing the crowds in South America.  After that, back to Europe- Spain and Italy are on the agenda- with no time for relaxing and reflecting.  It shows what love and support there is for her.  One of our most consistent and prominent female songwriters:  I can see Florence and the Machine ruling the charts for years to come.  She (Welch) has smashed that blend of honesty and fantasy that creates some truly awe-inspiring music.  The woman behind the Machine is one of the most down-to-Earth and human personalities I have come across.  She is also one of the most eye-catching, fascinating and loveable.  Ticking all the boxes one could desire- and creating her own spreadsheet of frigging boxes- I have yearned for a new musician that has a bit of Welch in her bones.  Natalie Gray is someone who evokes the best qualities of Florence Welch- the scarlet hair is a link that is hard to ignore- but she goes deeper and has her own style.  I bring up the comparison out of flattery; rather than diminishment.  If you can (in all honestly) evoke spirits of wonderful songwriters- whilst staying true to your own vision- then you have cracked it.  Little Secrets is a glimpse into what Natalie Gray can really achieve.  I know how busy she finds herself, and that is a good thing.  That touring- she has just performed alongside The Hoff himself- will go into recording, which I hear, is a distinct future prospect.  Gray is heading into the studio to work with producers:  The nature of these recordings is being kept secret for now.  Part of me hopes an E.P. is forthcoming:  I cannot wait to see what the young heroine can come up with.  I feel there needs to be an explosion in the mainstream.  As I type- and have been playing all morning- is Absolute Radio’s playlist of the best 100 albums ever.  It is soundtracking this review and bringing some fantastic music to mind.  One thing baffles me, mind:  Some rather dubious albums are (higher up the list) than the classics.  Ed Sheeran’s X is, by all accounts, a rather patchy affair.  In the eyes of Absolute Radio’s voters, it is a finer work than Carole King’s Tapestry– and Paul Simon’s Graceland, for that matter.  This kind of mind-boggling insanity is the result of few modern idols coupled with unadventurous record collections.

One suspects- a lot of the voters that put X so high up the list- are of a certain age (the teens and those in their early-20s) whose album collections do not go beyond 2006.  I do worry about the public when you witness such flagrant naivety and poor tastes.  Oh well.  It is my crux and one I shall have to bare for now.  I swore I would step away from London for a few weeks and go on a music detox.  My wagon-jumping ambitions have lasted all of a few days- a brief musical trip to San Francisco aside- and find myself falling from said wagon with a bang.  It is perhaps inevitable the capital will come back to mind:  It is my favourite city and seems incapable of disappointment (when it comes to music).  It is only a matter of time before Natalie Gray is hitting the big stages and a name synonymous with all.  I see so many here-one-moment-gone-the-next artists arrive and then dissipate instantly.  It is alarming there is such a casual disposability in today’s music.  So few artists endure and keep on making music.  Maybe there are factors behind this- financial strains and the stresses of demand- but I think it is more to do with consumer tastes.  Once upon a time, there was that desire for easily-digestible music that never pushes any boundaries.

I feel there are higher expectations now that are not being met.  Take acts like Rhianna and Adele.  Two singers lauded for their consistency and talent:  Their latest albums have been rather mediocre affairs.  It is not acceptable to rest on your laurels- like Adele has- or not make significant leaps of evolution- Rhianna’s Anti promises to spark but rarely does.  As the mainstream tries to sort itself out- some artists are fading whilst others are on the rise- it is the new musicians of the underground that are making the biggest statements.  Inspired by their contemporaries- those in the same boat- and seeing gaps in the market:  I am hearing a lot of potential stars emerge right now.  Natalie Gray mixes commonplace/relatable- lyrics of love and heartache; vocals that contains touches of others- with original spirit, composition and delivery.  The secret to terrific music is blending the bygone with brand-new:  Putting enough of yourself into the mix; together with something universal and comforting.  Whatever your musical tastes and preferences- in terms of genre and style- you will find much to love in Natalie Gray.  On social media, the young singer has an infectious personality and has a connection with her fans.  The multi-talented singer is a seasoned performer who can deliver songs like few others.  The music itself- Little Secrets the most relevant example- shows an artist that has the desire to inspire others and state her claim for stardom.  Someone able to cover songs and make them her own- a rare combination- you have a born talent that should be applauded.  Studio sessions are booked and there is speculation and plans afoot.  Just what the result will be, who knows.  What is for sure- whatever results from these recordings- will signal Natalie Gray out as…

A great British talent we can all love.

 

__________________________________________________

Follow Natalie Gray

 

Official:

http://nataliegray.co.uk/

Facebook:

http://nataliegray.co.uk/facebook/

Twitter:

https://twitter.com/nataliemusic24

Instagram:

http://nataliegray.co.uk/instagram/

_____________________________________

Music

http://nataliegray.co.uk/youtube/

TRACK REVIEW: Jeremy Passion- We Can

TRACK REVIEW:

 

Jeremy Passion

 

 

We Can

 

9.4/10

 

 

We Can is available at:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U3-hE_EuHC8&feature=youtu.be

RELEASED:
March 14th, 2016

GENRES:
R&B; Soul; Gospel

ORIGIN:

San Francisco, California

____________________________________

CONTRASTS and contradictions are aspects of this job that ensure…

no two days are the same.  Yesterday, I was reviewing a local Country music band:  The exceptional, South of the City.  In their early stages, the band is recruiting a new member:  Following the resignation of their bass player.  That said- in spite of some upheaval- the band sound remarkably assured and solid.  Reminding me of The Shires; the band has a definite future and wonderful sound.  Today, I am investigating an artist who is worlds apart.  A YouTube sensation that has a loyal and devoted fanbase:  My featured artist is among the most talked-about young artists in the U.S.   Before I come to him, I wanted to look at artists of San Francisco; the young Soul-cum-R&B artists around the world- looking at personal mantras and attitudes to life.  When we think about Californian music; our minds naturally drift to Los Angeles.  Perhaps geographical ignorance- a lot of people would struggle to name more than one part of California- there is an exceptional and varied scene in the state.  I have reviewed many L.A.-based artists, but for today, I get to travel to San Francisco.  If you think about some of the bands that emanate from San Francisco- and the Bay Area in this case- you have Counting Crows and The Donnas; En Vogue and Night Ranger.  In fact, if you break it down further- into North, South and East Bay- then you get a full impression of just HOW many legendary acts started out here.  Dead Kennedys, Chris Isaak; Faith No More and Steve Miller Band:  Some of North Bay’s finest.  Hope to the South Bay and you will find everyone from Doobie Brothers to Smash Mouth.  It is clear San Francisco has a golden and notable history (with regards producing musicians).  In the last year, bands Night School, Talkies and King Woman are among a list of hotly-tipped acts.  Whether you favour Shoegaze and Experimental genres; ‘60s Pop or melodic Indie:  You are catered for and some!  Backing these bands are some wonderful venues like Bimbo’s 365 Club and Great American Music Hall; The Chapel and Fillmore Auditorium.  Every year, new bands are springing up with promise:  New bars/clubs emerge to home, said musicians.  San Francisco is a growing hotbed for musical treasure.  While there are some terrific bands in the area- I have just touched the tip- you cannot ignore the best of the solo market.  Whether you have heard of Kendra McKinley and Jordannah Elizabeth:  They are two (of San Francisco’s) best female singer-songwriters.  For the boys, few can rival the impact and ability of Jeremy Passion.  Promoting messages of purity and faith- within a vocal that is smooth, luxurious and soulful- you have a musician that fits perfectly into the city.  Compared with L.A., say; San Francisco seems to have that immense breadth and diversity.  Los Angeles has some great bands and solo acts:  Few that have the same sound/sensation as Jeremy Passion.  Whether it is the diverse cultures and neighbourhoods; the way of life (or something else):  Passion is one of the brightest musicians coming from San Francisco.

Before I raise a couple of points; let me introduce my featured artist:

Jeremy Passion Manongdo is a singer/songwriter/producer known for his soulful, melodic voice, and delivers his music with messages on love, life and faith. Born and raised in San Francisco, California, he grew up with an immense appreciation and love for music. At age 4, he taught himself to play piano and, at 15, started songwriting. By the following year he was self-taught on the guitar and developed his talents into his signature style today.

Considered a “YouTube sensation” to his fans and musical peers, he is acknowledged as a pioneer of the acoustic R&B /soul movement on the internet. Passion was one of the first Asian-Americans to go viral online with his famous original songs “Lemonade” and “Well Done,” and his acoustic covers of “So Sick” and “Cater 2 U” featuring Melvin Gutierrez, aka, MelvinSings. His subscriber base has exceeded 287,000 followers and has over 37 million channel views.

Passion is an avid traveler as he has toured across North America and internationally in more than a dozen countries. He has performed with artists including Colbie Caillat, Kirk Franklin, Tori Kelly, Bobby Valentino, Jo Koy, Ernie Halter, Alain Clark and Goapele, among others. In addition to his writing and vocal talents, he is also an up-and-coming producer, creating tracks for Taboo (Black Eyed Peas), Slim (112), Megan Rochelle and more.

Along from his love for music, Passion has a heart for people. After doing volunteer work in Ghana in 2007, he was inspired to kick off The Empty Suitcase Project in Tanzania — a music and arts project with the mission to provide kids with an opportunity to find their own creative passions. Passion hopes to take The Empty Suitcase Project to the Philippines in the near future.

The essence of Passion’s “Music with a Message” is to inspire through personal stories about family, faith and relationships. He values maintaining who he is as a creative artist, even if it means swimming against the mainstream current. Passion believes that music is an international language and has the power to change things. He says,

“IF YOU’RE A SINGER, ARTIST, DANCER OR PAINTER, AND YOU GET ‘VIEWS’ FOR DOING SOMETHING YOU REALLY ENJOY DOING, USE IT TO HELP OTHERS, TO NOURISH, ENCOURAGE AND INSPIRE OTHER PEOPLE.”

In late 2011, Jeremy Passion teamed up with producer Jesse Barrera (formerly from San Diego-based band, My American Heart) and independently released his first full-length album “For More Than a Feeling,” along with a concept EP entitled “Pixelated.”  “For More Than a Feeling” reached No. 4 on the iTunes R&B/Soul charts, and “Pixelated” — dedicated to long-distance relationships — reached the No. 9 spot.

Currently, Jeremy Passion is in the process of writing and producing his sophomore LP set to release in 2016.

Jeremy Passion has a huge band of followers behind him:  Perhaps not a shock when you listen to its music and experience its majesty.  I am not sure about the wider world on this point:  In the U.K., we are seeing a lot of R&B/Soul artists being embraced and celebrated.  I feel there is a general fatigue towards ‘heavier’ music:  The public is looking for something more subtle and engaging.  Sure, Rock/Indie/Alternative artists are always going to have their supporters:  The market share (these artists just to have) seems to be relaxing a little.  More and more, the soulful and beautiful are coming into the spotlight.  In the U.K., artists like Amy Winehouse left a huge impression on the music world.  Not just because of her voice:  That whiskey-soaked and heartbreaking weapon of wonder.  Winehouse was a singer that could captivate without shouting and immense instrumentation:  The way she delivered the words was enough to buckle the knees.  In the U.S., musicians like Leon Bridges are doing the same thing- perhaps not to the same degree.  In a world that is becoming increasingly tempestuous and foreboding:  People are looking for music that provides comfort, direction and safety.  I am not suggesting we are looking for a musical religion:  Sermons and sanctity that takes our mind away from the horrors unfolding.  I am suggesting there is a favouring of more subtle music:  Sounds that pack emotion but allow us to reflect and think deeply.  Whilst there is some derision towards mainstream music- not as good as it used to be; few acts sticking in the mind- our new musicians are ensuring there is plenty of optimism and belief.  Jeremy Passion is clearly hitting all the right notes.  We Can– his latest single- is just shy of 29,000 YouTube views- amazing considering it was released 12 days ago!  Passion is an artist that believes travel broadens the mind.  There is no point staying rooted and wondering about the wider world:  Getting out there and seeing it is the only way to do things.  You cannot really understand people- in a wider sense- unless you travel and explore.  Everything would be distinct and abstract:  Engage with communities and let the world show you what it can offer.  As such, the music Passion produces casts your mind around the world:  It instills wanderlust and huge passion.  I am very impressed by Jeremy Passion as an artist.  He is backed by wonderful teams- I know Urban Soul have been taking care of his digital campaign- and there is a lot of faith in the young American.   People can become very rooted in their hometowns.  I feel we all get a bit ‘safe’ and get stuck in ruts.  It is great having pride in where you come from:  If you travel the world; it will still be here when you get back.  I, myself, have not been abroad for 15 years- financial constraints have dictated this- and I yearn to see the globe- Australia is top of my ‘to-do’ countries.  Jeremy Passion encourages listeners to go and see the world and find just what is waiting.  As an artist, he has performed across the world and has no plans of stopping.  Passion’s crowd-funded sophomore album will be unveiled in the coming months.  Following from his debut, For More Than a Feeling, there is a lot of excitement and anticipation.  It is not just Passion’s mantra- travel broadening the mind- that impresses me.  His official website (and social media pages) are engaging, full and informative.  Passion is not an artist who keeps things hidden- so many musicians reveal little personal insight- ensuring he connects with his fans.  I hate the fact so many artists provide scant biographical information:  It makes them seem distant and stubborn.  We do not need to know EVERYTHING about a band/act:  Giving some personality/background away is not stripping you bare and exposing yourself.  Passion understands- as should every musician out there- that by knowing about the musician:  It is easier to connect with the music and appreciate it in new ways.  We Can is another wonderful release from a young musician who is going to be a globe-straddling mega-star of the future.

For More Than a Feeling mixes Blues, Soul and R&B inside Pop cores.  Greater Than He saw Passion unleash his inner-Stevie Wonder.  That immensely passionate voice looks at faith and comparing himself with God (not in an arrogant way).  Passion looks at himself and what God has given his life.  By letting go of his pride and trusting in God; that is when things can improve and grow.  Maybe enforced by love and personal struggle:  Passion is becoming more mature and open in the face of things.  That devotion to God and his trust- the direction and guidance he will provide- drives a song that packs a kick, mesmeric swing and memorability.  Songs like Survive are defined by their strength-against-the-odds and luxuriant vocals- multi-tracked to the heavens- to ensure they stick in the mind.  Every track (from the album) elicits some sort of emotional respond:  The passion and strength of the performances burst from the speakers.  Songs like Stephanie sees more ‘traditional’ subjects being broached:  Putting trust in a girl; hoping his heart will be safe.  Even during the love songs, Passion sound fresh and original:  The sheer intensity he puts into the music elevates him above (his) peers.  Throughout the album, you get a great blend of self-investigation- especially those conversations with God- and world-conquering ideals.  The young singer has troubles and strife in his life:  The way he tackles them shows maturity and a huge inspiration.  Pairing faith and spiritual comfort with the need to inspire the people- get them to connect with their fellow man- makes For More Than a Feeling a superb album.  Pixelated is an E.P. that shows consistency with For More Than a Feeling.  Both records see that inimitable, passionate voice get inside the brain and soothe the soul.  Whereas the album looks more faith-based concerns- talking about love and the wider world- Pixelated looks more at holding out for love- having faith that it will arrive if they believe.  We Can continues where Passion left off but brings in fresh inspiration.  The performance confidence has grown, here:  Passion sounds at the height of his determination and power.  Forgetting petty disagreements- whether Los Angeles or San Francisco is California’s finest city- it demonstrates that need to break out of narrow confines.  You should have pride in your home but it is not the entire world:  There is a lot more out there to see.   We Can brings together his traditional themes- pushing the mind and experiencing the world- but is his most immediate and thought-provoking composition to date.  With every release, Jeremy Passion becomes more exceptional and fully-formed.  Whether it is the increased fan numbers and tour dates- honing his craft on the road- We Can is the deepest and most immediate song from the American.

We Can opens with a gradual build and sense of intrigue.  Finger-clicked beats and far-off electronics are a soothing and soft way into the song.  Passion does not want to come across to bracing and strong in the early phases.  What we get is a gentle and caressing sound that ensures the listener is engaged and curious.  Given the song’s themes- travelling the world and getting out of the comfort zone- the introduction is almost a flight across the oceans.  Breezy, itinerant and atmospheric:  You take your mind across the world and drift into the beauty the song provides.  We Can is a conversation between two friends.  Passion’s subject is holding onto that rigid affection for L.A.  Unwilling to accept the world beyond California- the heroine seems intent on remaining here forever- our hero explains there is a wider world out there.  Maybe there is a lot of wonder in Los Angeles- a city that can provide inspiration and fulfillment- but it is not the be all and end all.  Letting his voice glide with honey-rich tones- one of the most stand-out performances of his career- Passion ensures his words drive home and stick.  The sun-kissed, laid-back groove emanated ensures every listener is entranced and fully relaxed.  It is hard not to agree with Passion’s mandate.  We all become too familiar and safe in our own little world.  Often ignoring the planet at large:  More of us need to get on a plane and see other countries/cultures.  “Take my hand and come with me to another place” is sung with intention and immediacy.  Trying to inspire the heroine- and get her mind away from stubbornness- you imagine the two running away and seeing strange new places.  At the heart of We Can is that charming inter-state ribbing.  Passion is dedicated to San Francisco and all it provides.  His mate has affections and loyalty to Los Angeles.  The humourous, teasing conversations add a playful cuteness to the track.  Wanting to settle the debate with intelligence and wisdom:  Our hero wants to expand the mind (of the heroine) and get her thinking more widely about her planet.  In previous tracks- across his debut album and E.P. – Passion has worn his influences on his sleeve.  Stevie Wonder is a voice you hear on a lot of the songs.  Here, there is more individuality and personality than ever before.  You get the ‘70s Soul flavours but they are less dominating and obvious.  What we get is the young artist putting more of his own voice into the music.  Whether particularly inspired by the song- that need to engage with the world- has compelled this transformation:  It is encouraging to see this development and change.  Harmonising, multi-tracked vocals augment the beauty and passion of the song.  From Alaska to The Netherlands; across to Italy and Asia:  The two can get away and witness the wonderful beauty out there.  Money worries are addressed (“We don’t even have to fly first class”) and fears are allayed.  Passion lets it be known that home will be there at the end of things:  No matter how long they’re away for; Los Angeles will be waiting patiently.  At times, Passion imbues elements of Michael Jackson’s early-career sound.  It is impossible to ignore that velvety, enticing coo:  Every word drips with a sensuality and seductiveness.  Keeping the composition simple and uncomplicated:  The song allows the vocal to reign high and get its messages across.  Whether they are traveling to Spain or the far reaches of Asia:  They will be safe with one another and happy at every stage.  We Can ensures there are no worries and stresses at any stage.  Rare to find a song that has endless positivity and uplift.  It is that central voice that evokes the biggest reaction (in my view).  Whether building in the background- that mini-choir of soul- or leading the charge:  You are powerless to resist the incredible urgency of Passion’s delivery.  If life is throwing up problems and obstacles then remember this:  There are lands and nations that are yet to be explored.  Our hero is not saying travel is a temporary fix that will take the mind off problems.  He is exploring a notion that has existed for years:   Traveling broadens the mind and makes you more conscious of the world as a whole.  When you travel and see other cultures it changes life and can make the everyday seem very different.  If you are stuck in L.A. and no nothing of the world beyond it:  How can you ever understand how other people live and interact?  So many thoughts and possibilities sit within the song:  It is a track that compels the listener to assess their lives and make alterations.  Towards the final stages, we see the duo board planes and explore the globe.  Maybe these images are theorised and desired- trying to get a stubborn friend to come with him- but you’d like to think they made it.  Whatever the circumstances and outcome:  You cannot deny what a powerful and stunning song We Can is.

   We Can is the lead-off song from Passion’s forthcoming album.  Whether accompanying songs will tread the same ground- exploring the world and broadening the horizons- I am not sure.  Traveling and gig demands have clearly affected Jeremy Passion.  Touched by the cultures and people he has seen:  Our hero knows the planet can provide so much beauty and possibility.  A wonderful, polished production backs a stunning vocal and determined performance.  Balancing soothing, tranquil soul with insistent R&B energy elicits a huge emotional response.  I am a fairly new follower of Passion and will follow his career from now on.  I can see progression and development with every release.

My introduction to Jeremy Passion came via Urban Soul:  I have been a little slack getting this review together (unusual for me!).  I am glad I got things organised and dedicated time to a wonderful young singer.  I am never going to be engaged fully with messages of faith and belief (being an atheist).  I admire Passion bringing faith into music as it is not often explored.  It is those messages of mind-expanding travel that impress me the most.  Listening to Passion makes me want to expand my horizons and see the wider world.  Not only are you seduced by the wonderful lyrics- taking the imagination on a great trip- but the intense grip of the vocals.  Passion ticks all the boxes and ensures his music strikes on all fronts.  I am not sure what form the forthcoming album will take.  If it is anything like his debut- the sounds and themes are likely to be similar- then his fans will be very satisfied and fulfilled.  Passion is a musician that is drawing new fans by the week:  New acolytes unearthing something tremendously fresh and beautiful.  I am sure our hero will be traveling the globe promoting his new single:  When the album is released, he is sure to discover new countries and people.  Jeremy Passion has a love for people and wants his messages to connect and resonate.  The U.S. musician performs volunteer work- he launched the Empty Suitcase Project in Tanzania; helping children find their own creative process- and is not going to stop there.  I opened by looking at the music coming from San Francisco and R&B/Soul artists of the moment.  Having spent too much time with L.A. artists- when it comes to U.S. music- I discovered another jewel in California.  The state keeps on producing wonderful music and inspiring artists.  There is a lot of attention expended to the bands and what they summon- always an obsession with their dollar- and not enough focus on solo acts.  Over the past week, I have been ensconced in London and seeing what the capital’s musicians are up to.  It is great promoting home-grown acts and putting them out there:  Every once in a while, it is refreshing to come to the U.S.  I know Jeremy Passion will have a busy year ahead.  That much-anticipated sophomore album is in-the-works.  Following from the much-lauded debut, For More Than a Feeling, there will be many eyes and ears trained in his direction.  There is no question (Passion) is one of the most tantilising prospects in modern music.  A young man who writes music FOR the people- not someone who pushes them away or becomes selfish- it is a rare thing to see.  So many artists are obsessed with their own love lives and eliciting sympathy:  When an artist does things differently, it can have a wonderful reaction.  I am sure we will see some heartbreak and relationship quandary emerge- on his new album- but that is not the way Jeremy Passion does things.  He is a young man who things more deeply and wants to promote positivity.  Whether embracing spirituality or changing views:  Getting the likes of you and me to go see the world and not be so rigid.  Music has the power to change things- a philosophy that Passion himself expounds- and it is something we should all be aware of.  Not enough musicians are utilising music to change views and affect change.  There is that obsession with the self that is galling and endless; few artists are actually using music as a platform for change and improvement.

I know Jeremy Passion will inspire others and start a mini-revolution among the ranks.  It is great/relatable hearing about love’s struggles- it is a currency that should not be scrapped- but where is the originality?  Luckily, the San Francisco resident has a bit more wisdom and passion than your average musician:  One of the reasons he has amassed such an army of followers.   With his YouTube subscription numbers rising:  2016 is a year that will see the promising musician become a mainstream proposition.  One of the reasons bands are heralded and highlighted- stealing the majority share of attention- is because of the money and market-share they have.  Groups will always fill more venues and be the most profitable part of music.  I feel there is too little focus put on the promising solo acts of the world.  They might not command the same demand and profitability of bands:  That is not to say they should be second-fiddle at all.  What I find with regards solo acts- that bands do not possess to such a degree- is the range and variability of the sound.  Not just confined to Rock, Indie and Pop:  We have a wave of R&B, Soul and Folk artists emerging.  Jeremy Passion is accruing support and patronage across San Francisco.  In a wider sense, his music is being heard all around the world.  I hope- when his new album is released- he gets time to come to the U.K.  A lot of U.S. artists have come to Britain with the same views:  We will get a few dates and that’s about it.  The reality is a lot different:  Crowds here want the artists to stay and keep on playing.  The Vim Dicta are a perfect case in point.  Assuming there would be scant demand in the U.K.:  They arrived here with intentions of playing a small selection of dates.  The band is here for the next few months at least- having already been here for many weeks.  I feel Passion would experience a similar amount of love and affection.  Whatever he has planned- and, however touring dates will shape up- there is clear opportunity for his music here.  There are few U.K. acts that do things the way he does.  Too many of our artists concentrate on insular themes and predictable subjects:  Not enough are promoting positive messages and forcing audiences to think more clearly and deeply.  If you have not heard We Can then make sure you remedy this.  A song that looks at homegrown squabbles- inter-state rivalries and debate- that expands its horizon across the world.  Not only do the lyrics stick in the mind; the vocals and compositions ooze beauty, soulfulness and something wonderfully rich.  The fan numbers are climbing and the music gets stronger and stronger.  With regards Jeremy Passion- and how far he can go- who knows…

JUST what he can accomplish.

 

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Follow Jeremy Passion

 

Official:

http://www.jeremypassion.com/

Facebook:

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

Twitter:

https://twitter.com/jeremypassion

Instagram:

https://www.instagram.com/jeremypassion/#

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Music

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

 

TRACK REVIEW: South of the City- Up in the Sky

TRACK REVIEW:

 

South of the City

 

 

Up in the Sky

 

9.4/10

 

 

 

Up in the Sky is available at:

https://soundcloud.com/sotcmusic/up-in-the-sky-finished-mix

RELEASED:
March 9th, 2016

GENRES:
Country

ORIGIN:

Surrey, U.K.

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A lot of my recent reviews have centered around artists that…

are established; making their next steps into music.  It is nice seeing bands/acts that survive the hazards music throws- financial costs and media fickleness- and keep producing music.  Perhaps a bigger treat is seeing new artists form.  My featured arc- who I shall come to very soon- is just beginning their music career and are dipping their toes into the water.  Thinking about my review subjects gets me reflecting on local music- its necessity and importance- in addition to malleability and social media; British Country music and its popularity.  I am based out of Surrey- not my first choice for location; needs must- be one of the (few) advantages of living around there is the variation of music.  Granted, the proximity to London always helps; Surrey has its own sound and way of working.  The music scene here is split into a number of different sectors.  You have the music school-produced artists of A.C.M. (the Academy of Contemporary Music, Guildford) where our young hopefuls go to hone their craft.  After reviewing Dannii Barnes- a vocal student at the academy- and her hook-up with Ace (of Skunk Anansie) I was pleasantly surprised.  I have never really followed A.C.M. and the music coming from there, assuming it would all sound the same:  The boys moulded to sound like Ed Sheeran/James Bay; the girls Adele/whoever is riding high in the charts.  That may be the case of many students there- consciously creating chart-ready musicians who fit into preconceived holes- but there are artists (like Barnes) with exceptional originality and talent.  Away from the music school crowds, there are the under-the-radar bands:  The type you might see doing the pub circuits and just entering the music world.  Being affiliated with (Guildford locations) The Stoke– where I work- and Boileroom:  I get to see a lot of local bands seduce the local crowds.  Although, again, there are some bands that deliberately replicate others- if I hear another Foo Fighters-sounding band I might just blow my head off- there are those that take care to sound like they want to remain in music.  In fact, Surrey is showcasing some of the most explosive and variegated groups currently working.  The third sector of musicians- that are local to Surrey- are the solo acts:  Those who are independent and often self-funded.  Including the likes of Chess- former A.C.M. alumni Francesca Galea- they are probably the majority share.  I will be reviewing Chess’ debut album soon- the hotly-anticipated, 1869– and it will be exciting to witness.  She is among the most passionate, and intense performers around- hard and catchy beats back huge, emotive vocals.

My point is- there is one lurking inside the hay bale- is how rich a local music scene can be.  I cannot speak for other areas of the country:  Surrey has a wide range of musicians- and often gets overlooked in the wider scene- that should be studied very closely.  A lot of these acts (from Surrey) will be moving to London- to get greater exposure- and will be radio names of the future.  South of the City are a band making their sapling steps right now.  Based in the Guildford area- and liable to be playing some of the town’s most recognisable venues- the quartet is a mysterious quantity.  Just looking at them- the photos on social media- mix brooding/cool shots with some live performance snaps- they are working hard, even this early on.  Although little biographical information is shown- that will come with time and development- the band are still forming, essentially.  In their earliest days- when the guys came through last year- they were called Contraband.  Whilst a cool name- and something I could have predicted- they found a few other acts with said moniker.  Naming a band is always a hard thing:  You can happen upon a name (you think is perfect) to find plenty of others with the same thought process.  Renaming themselves South of the City- a more intriguing name, for sure- the four-piece are looking for a second guitarist- to flesh their sound out and give their music more possibility.  Hungry and passionate; you can tell South of the City have plenty of passion.  The adaptability they have shown- changing their name and keeping engaged with their fan-base- is only matched by their dedicated gigs and output.  Few bands- that are in their stage of progression- have that much material sorted; they tend not to gig too much.  South of the City are performing locally and ensuring people know who they are.  Having released some material to SoundCloud:  There is an album mooted for later this year.  That amazes me somewhat:  I do not see many bands think about an album this early in a career.  It just goes to show how much faith and hunger there is in camp.  South of the City are a Country band- a ‘deluxe’ one, no less- and actually, look like a band.  I am not sure what the backstories are- if the members have played with other groups prior to their formation- but there is a professionalism about South of the City that is very impressive.  You do not hear a lot of Country bands on national radio- well, Radio 2 , perhaps- and there is still that assumption:  This is music reserved for a slightly ‘older’ audience.  Last year, The Shires became the first British Country band to crack the U.K.’s top ten album charts.  It might sound amazing, but a true fact:  Country music is seen as a niche, American genre.  The band was aghast at the realisation:  Wondering why this (a U.K. act being in the top 10) hadn’t occurred before.  Knowing the great Country acts out there- including Surrey-born Hannah Dorman- it is baffling.  I feel people have cliché expectations of Country music:  It will be Stetson-wearing middle-aged crooners singing about heartbreak.  True, artists like that exist yet Country music is so much deeper and richer than that- with some exceptional artists.  South of the City subvert expectations and are capable of transcending the local underground and making waves:  In time, they could well make a dent on the mainstream.  The Shires started modestly, to be fair.  Crissie Rhodes began touring pubs as a solo artist.  Ben Earle put an advert on social media asking for Country singers:  Wondering whether there were any out there.  When the duo came together, the rest was history.  Their success is inspiring other acts and showing how good (British) Country can be.  It is no longer a U.S.-owned genre.  Up in the Sky is new from South of the City and shows plenty of promise:  I cannot wait to see what their album contains.  With so many predictable Indie-Rock bands emerging at the moment:  We need more bands like South of the City.

It is this point in a review (ordinarily) that I look at a band/artist’s progression and past work.  Given the fact South of the City is a fledgling band, there is a limited supply of material to be found.  Trains and Planes has been picking up positivity and not hard to see why.  The song- which is likely to feature on their album- shows determination, driving passion and a clear-set sound.  There is that southern twang- a conscious move to give the music more authority and naturalness- from the vocal that gives the track plenty of heart and emotion.  Looking at separated lovers- a man boarding a plane to foreign anonymity- his sweetheart remains behind.  Wanting to be remembered- wherever he goes; do not forget her- the lyrics paint some vivid scenes and compel the listener to project their own series of events.  Poker Town has a grittier edge and bouncy chorus.  Another U.S.-indebted sound- nodding to the legends of Country- there is an air accessibility and memorability in the music.  The vocal is another impressively strong and bold delivery.  The consistent energy and hop- the band come together wonderfully- ensure the song stays in the head and gets the listener singing along.  A song that is destined to get the crowds united in voice- and the bodies dancing along- we see more traditional Country themes being explored.  Our heroine has her heart broken- staying in Poker Town with a “handful of aces”- poker simile and romantic strife marry together with ease.  South of the City are at their most relaxed and breezy here; showing what a range and mobility they have.  Move On is a stomper that takes Country and filters it through a prism of Rock:  There is plenty of granite among the tender-hearted professions.  Directed at a hero/heroine; our lead recommended moving on and going somewhere new- singing a “new song” and being somewhere different.  If something is “holding you back” you need to “find yourself some space”.  It is a wise and relatable song that will relate to a lot of listeners.  Another vibrant jam from the band:  Surely another track that will enliven the festival crowds.  Whilst the band are strong and compelling when joined together; they are stunning when going solo.  Whether a passionate and lustful vocal delivery or scintillating guitar solo:  You get chances to see individual talent come through.  A lot of Country bands- the ones I have witnessed- are too defined and predictable with their song structures.  Tracks tend to stick to verse-chorus-verse and rarely break the mould.  While South of the City have discipline; they allow for some surprise and unexpectedness.  Rock guitar solos sit with catchy, effusive Pop chorusing:  You get a lot of other flavours inside their Country sound.   Because of this, the group is liable to win a lot of younger fans.  Country music has (in the past at least) been more directed towards a certain audience- usually slightly older to be fair.  South of the City ensures mainstream touches go into a pure Country core.  Like The Shires; there is a blend of Pop and Rock:  Foot-stomping choruses and more tender moments sit alongside one another.   I cannot wait to hear Poker Town and what the Surrey band can come up with.  In terms of production, the album would benefit from something a little polished- not too much but just enough to bring all their elements into focus.  If they can mix in some more tender/reflective moments- to balance out the energetic jams- then that will give (the album) some diversity and depth.  The band showed how confident they are when going up-tempo:  They could easily captivate when showing sensitivity and heartwarming vulnerability.  In terms of their overall sound and themes; their hearts are lodged in the U.S. south.  You get that U.S. drawl from the vocal and stories that deal with dislocated lovers and desert-dwelling cheats; packing up your troubles and finding somewhere more hospitable and inspiring.  It would be good to see the guys mix British sensibility within their U.S. sounds.  Maybe some homegrown themes/ideals- show some patriotism- would bring their wit and national pride to the fore.  If they can get the track order spot-on- not too top-heavy; ensure the record ends with a bang- they could well have a hit on their hands.  Given the fact they have been together such a short time:  The authority and quality on display is impressive indeed.  Leading the charge- a song that sounds like a ready-made album opener- is Up in the Sky.

I mentioned Up in the Sky could be an album opener.  The reason behind this theory is exemplified in (the song’s) introduction.  Rolling thunder and tender guitar strings evoke something primal and widescreen.  The song’s title comes to mind straight away:  A turbulent, colourful sky ignites and teases.  In the opening stages, you can hear how distinct and tight the band is.  The performances are exceptional whilst the production is surprisingly polished and clean.  Leading the listener in- building intentions and atmosphere- the song builds in stages.  From the thunder and rain, you get curlicued guitars that are surprisingly sumptuous and engaging.  Ensuring every listener immerses themselves inside the song:  South of the City ensure the song is never pastiche; there are high-drama and originality from a band that has an exceptional chemistry.  The raw and Blues-y guitars lead to heavenly backing vocals- our heroine is like a spirit in the sky; calling from above.  Kicking the song up a gear:  Those guitars unite with a thudding percussion and bellicose intention.  Making sure the song swaggers with cool-edged intention- a cowboy strutting into a local saloon- the band keeps things tight and electric.  Those moody and storm-weathered opening moments have passed and the lightning is striking.  It is hard to compare South of the City with any other act- when listening to Up in the Sky– but that is a distinguishing factor.  It is clear the temperature’s rising:  “It’s going crazy like the fourth of July”.  Whether there are fireworks in the sky or an ensuing conflict on the ground:  Something hard and heavy is about to go down.  Wild West drama is a theme that creeps into South of the City’s music:  They always keep a part of their consciousness in the heat of the desert.  As our heroine’s voice becomes more intense and pressing; the vivid lyrics reveal new insight.  “Hold onto your mumma’s skirt” sees the band members combine their voices- and add to the emotion and drama- which gets you guessing and interpreting.  Cards are kept close to the chest in the early phases.  The heat and spark of the song are evident, but I was curious to know what inspired the song.  Maybe a work of fiction- compelled by past Country songs- or based on real-life events:  The words not only provoke speculation but ensure you are hooked and invested.  “You’ll be dancing in the dirt” is a promise that is delivered with panache and stamp- the band lets their voices commingle again- and you are caught up in the swinging, catchy vibes being thrown out.  South of the City shows what a bold and tight proposition they are.  The performances are beautifully connective and focused:  Each player drives the other and the song sound well-rehearsed and confident.  All Hell breaks loose down in the street.  The dogs howl and bark as cars drive by; the neighbourhood is rattling and alive.  Part of my brain imagining the songs in a suburban backwater:  Somewhere quite humble that is seeing a cavalcade of bike-riding hounds drive-on through.  On the other hand, you get suggestions of the desert and something more old-fashioned.  The band’s blend of contemporary and traditional makes their music so appealing and rich.  The banshee is wailing in the sky- the song’s subject needs to “find some shelter”- and you become ever-curious about the song’s origins.  Truly, the band has a way with words and building that tension.  Painted, howling skies sit with mystical gods and hellacious weather:  Language is kept simple but manages to promote some rather heady and epic scenarios.  On previous songs- you can hear on SoundCloud– the band elicit solos and compartmentalise their music.  That may be true of the introduction- the instruments come one-by-one; there is that gradual build- but the song is distinguished by its focus and unity.

Every member is in-step and content to play their part.  The vocals are exceptional and memorable throughout.  One of the criticisms that befell The Shires was the pitchy, over-ambitious nature of Rhodes’ voice.  There are no individual issues within South of the City.  Our heroine’s voice is assured and without fault throughout:  When the band joins vocal forces you get even more electricity and force.  In a music world where there are too many careerist chart-hungry artists- asinine and robotic- you get such a bracing and different sound here.  The guys have ambitions- they would like to be ruling the charts one day- but their music is very much aimed at those who appreciate music’s finer points- not calculated towards the lowest-common-denominator fan.  Occasionally, the guitar steps into the spotlight to provide some aural drama.  Given the song’s themes- something dangerous forming in the sky- it would be nice to hear that guitar turned up even more; create something viper-like and angry.  It is a small nag in a song that gets better and more rewarding each time you play it.  In a town where power lines pop- the “trees are dropping”- something apocalyptic can be seen in the sky.  Among the chaos and danger is warmth that makes the song such a winner.  A lot of artists- when assessing such themes- would put too much dourness and mordant into their tones.  The vocals are consistently heartfelt and caramel-sweet:  Imbued with enough punch to drive every (eye-catching) line home.  Mixing traditional Country twangs with an edgier Blues sound:  The band has created a track that is sure to find patronage across a wide range of listeners.  The contemporary and of-the-moment freshness comes through in every note.  The group master catchiness without compromising purity and quality; the performances are exciting and stunning throughout.  I can tell how much the band has rehearsed Up in the Sky.  The song has a confidence and nuance but it never sounds overdone and too familiar.  By the very end, you are compelled to reinvestigate the song and get caught in the whirlwind and destruction.  Charm, smile and memorability are words that perfectly describe Up in the Sky:  A very strong statement from a band that deserves wider scrutiny.

Congratulations must be given to a band that has defied my expectations.  Up in the Sky is going to be a hard song for them to top.  Of course, it will be part of their forthcoming album.  Where it sits in the line-up- thinking about it; it would be a perfect closing track- is up to the four-piece.  Propelled by unexpectedly polished production values- the most-clear and concise the band has come up with- ensures Up in the Sky crackles, shines and sparkles.  The entire band shows what a tight-knit team they are:  Every instrument and vocal part sticks in the mind and is hugely memorable.  Country music is a hard domain to come into:  Given its under-appreciated status in British music; there is a lot of work to be done.  Whether (Country artists) will find equality and equal-footing remains to be seen.  With bands like The Shires and South of the City emerging:  The future looks set to show some change and progress.  Up in the Sky mixes top-tapping energy with something moodier and brooding.  An explosive number that will not shake the brain for days to come- trust me, it will move into your brain and be a belligerent tenant- that is a big bonus.  So many songs I review dissipate from view following a few spins- no such pitfalls from the Guildford band.  The band/their latest cut have the potential to migrate from local levels to reach the plateau of national radio.  With a shift occurring- Country becoming more flexible and popular- I can see South of the City getting their music played on national radio.  U.S. stations could well become involved- our Radio 2 would love the vibes South’ put out- and that all bodes for a bright future.   They may have a fairly modest year ahead- local dates and a new album out- but that will all change in years to come.  If they keep the quality and consistency up:  We could well see this charming band become household names.

Perhaps I will never fully convert to Country music:  My heart will always belong to other genres.  That said; we should all be more open and bold with our music tastes.  If we all believe stereotypes and turn up our noses:  How will we ever get to discover great new artists?  I looked at The Shires earlier and highlighted them:  The first British Country act to crack the top 10 (with their album, Brave).  Maybe it is early days yet- not a whole lot of U.K. Country bands emerging- but I think we will see a lot of change and development.  I am seeing fewer Rock/Alternative bands come through:  Our new musicians are looking at other genres and the possibilities inherent.  South of the City are at the local level right now.  They are still solidifying their membership- the hunt for that elusive second guitarist- and playing the bars and venues of Surrey.  The fact they have evolved so naturally- name changed and an album in their sights- proves a number of things.  To start, the guys have an affection and bond that can see them play for many years.  They have a lot of faith in their material and sound:  They would not look at an album were they unsure and hesitant.  The band has quite a raw, lo-fi sound- a rarity that I am always happy to witness- and there are humour and closeness in the group.  The quartet has a wittiness and everyday charm that is resonating with social media followers.  Across Facebook and Twitter the group is recruiting fans and gaining some positive feedback.  Up in the Sky has gentility and drive; reflectiveness and passion:  All bonded and augmented by the energy and tightness the band possesses.  Up in the Sky is the sound of a modern Country band that mixes Rock and Alternative elements into a traditional, relatable core.  South of the City show adventurousness and originality in their lyrics- not all about love’s losses and splits- and have that drive to go as far as they want.  Already connecting with local audiences- they have played festivals and are very much in-demand- the best days are still ahead.  Whether they find another guitarist soon- there are plenty out there I am sure- or continue as a quartet, I am not sure.  When their album does hit- expected to be released very soon- it will show what the Surrey band has to offer.  On the evidence out there- Up in the Sky and song snippets across SoundCloud– the results will be exciting and well-worth checking out.

Tomorrow, I am reviewing Californian, YouTube sensation, Jeremey Passion.  The American’s smooth R ‘n’ B music has captured a wide audience and (he) looks set to be a star of the future.  One of the great things about this blog- apart from the chicks and money, of course- is the variety of music out there.  I would hate to- as some reviewers do- plug the same styles of music- focusing on bands only, perhaps.  It makes life so boring and predictable.  From my last review- London girl band IV Rox- to South of the City:  I feel a close bond with the Country band.  Despite the fact they are throwing distance from me- probably bumped into them about town- they have a genuine hunger to succeed.  They are local names right now, but that is not to say they will remain as such in years to come.  The Shires’ success might seem like an anomaly but really it is a wake-up call:  Listeners need to expand their horizons and stop being so rigid.  You do not need to be life-long fans of South of the City- their infectiousness might just change your mind- but their music cannot be disliked and ignored.  Over the last few years, U.K. bands Red Sky July and The Good Intensions have made an impression in Country music.  Slick harmonies and well-crafted songs have ensured they have a future, for sure:  They are just two names that are reassessing preconceptions around Country music.

I feel younger and inflexible listeners- who tend not to stray beyond the mainstream charts- check out Country music.  It is one of those genres that can bring in other components:  The beauty and beguile of Folk; the cool swagger of Rock; the accessibility of Pop.  South of the City releases their eagerly-awaited album (Poker Town) this spring.  The quartet has a good mix of fans and supporters right now.  In order for them to transcend through- reach mainstream levels of success- they might need to think about The Shires as an example.  The reason Brave made history was its air of bravery and familiarity.  At its heart, the album was a Country creation- recorded in Nashville by two musicians who have a fond love of bygone Country acts- but there was plenty of mobility.  Songs incorporated Pop and Rock together with drum loops, electronic elements and myriad possibilities.  Whether Poker Town will contain that blend- or settle for an Americana-cum-Blues template- that is up to the band.  They have the potential to make waves and give British Country music the exposure it deserves.  There’s a definite buzz and resurgence occurring.  British country acts are being embraced more and there is that tipping point unfolding.  I can well see South of the City at home in Nashville:  Perhaps (if finances allow) they could record their second album there?  For now- keeping feet planted on floor- they are trying to get people listening and make a mark on the local scene.  With Surrey being packed with promising new musicians:  There is nothing to suggest South of the City cannot mix it with the finest.  The smile, wit and connection are evident:  The members have friendships and bonds that reflect in their performances.  Their songwriting is inventive and solid:  Music that can reveal something fresh with each new investigation.  Above all- against the endless tide of Indie variations- South of the City provide something strangely new and unheard-of.  That factor is what will see them capture many more hearts and minds.  If they continue to grow and expand- a solid five-piece in time; add more colours to their impressive core- there is no telling where they could end up.  Whilst mainstream chart success might be a few years off, there is evidence to suggest this Surrey band…

COULD become one our finest Country music acts.

 

____________________________________________

Follow South of the City

 

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/southofthecitymusic

Twitter:

https://twitter.com/sotc_uk

_________________________________________

Music

https://soundcloud.com/sotcmusic

The Classics Series: The Beatles- Abbey Road

The Classics Series:

 

  

The Beatles- Abbey Road

 

 

RARELY has an album carried such weight and expectation…

than Abbey Road.  Often regarded as one of music’s greatest albums:  Abbey Road was the penultimate release from the legendary band.  Of course, Let It Be was recorded (before Abbey Road):  The contrast between the two albums saw a huge shift and a chasm of evolution.  It is a sad fact The Beatles had to call time on a wonderful career.  Whatever the true circumstances behind the split- Yoko becoming too influential; band tensions too severe; a natural time to call it off- you cannot deny what a legacy The Beatles left.  They are a band that is even more influential than you may imagine.  Whilst a lot of modern-day bands/artists are not directly influenced by the band- in terms of sounds and themes- nearly every musician owns at least one ‘Beatles record.  I have never come across a person who dislikes The Beatles:  If I ever do encounter one they will be swiftly punched in the face.  Modern music would not be what it is without the Liverpool band and what they gave to the world.

If you are a lover of ‘60s music- I cannot say I am a big supporter- some of music’s legends began their careers around this time.  Bob Dylan started off in the early ‘60s:  The master of song began honing his craft and showing the world just what a genius he was.  Bands like The Who and The Rolling Stones waved the flag for Britain.  Led Zeppelin began to emerge towards the late-‘60s.  If subsequent decades saw a balance between U.S. and U.K. artists- both nations producing supreme quality- the 1960s saw Britain absolute dominate.  Sure, the likes of Dylan put America in music consciousness:  Britain’s best were showing just what music was capable of.  The electric sexuality of The Rolling Stones- reworking the Blues with their distinctive swagger and musicianship- gained legions of fans around the globe.  The Who’s youthful anthem- the album My Generation was released in 1965- captured the hearts and minds of a new generation of music fans.  I do not need to give you a concise history of The Beatles- lord knows, that has been done enough- but it is worth looking into their late-era albums.

In 1968, The Beatles were starting to show some strains.  In the run-up to The Beatles (‘The White Album’); the band members were writing separately and communications were strained.  Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (released in 1967) was a cultural landmark and saw the quartet achieve their most successful creation to date.  Critics practically drooled over the album- some thinking The Beatles were agents sent by God- and fans responded accordingly.  Nobody can deny what a significant impact that album had at the time:  An album that has not been equalled or topped by any musicians since.  Whether it is your favourite ‘Beatles album or not- mine is Rubber Soul– the influence it had was staggering.  It is strange; therefore, that The Beatles was such a tricky affair.  Writing songs at a Transcendental Meditation course in India- some songs were written in England but most were penned here- the band needed to get away from things are reflect.  Towards the start of the sessions, band friendships were as strong as ever.  Lennon and McCartney would often meet in the afternoon to review one another’s work- Lennon felt he wrote some of his best material at this time.  The band recorded around 40 songs before heading home- George Harrison came into his own as a songwriter- and there was optimism and high hopes in camp.  When the band sojourned to Abbey Road Studios, cracks started to appear.  Lennon and McCartney would often record in different studios- employing separate engineers- whilst Lennon’s twin devotions- to Yoko Ono and heroin- changed his personality.  With Ono in tow- and balkanising the song-writing leads- there was a hostile atmosphere in the air.  Petty fractions would arise- George Martin critisised McCartney’s vocal on Ob-La Di, Ob-La-Da to which McCartney responded:  “Well, you come down and sing it then”- the brotherhood was breaking.  Lennon found McCartney’s songs cloying and sickly; McCartney considered Lennon’s cannon harsh and unmelodious.  By August 22nd (1968) Ringo Starr had had enough:  He left the group; unable to come with the arguments and acrimonious divorce that was unfolding.  The Beatles had essentially created their ‘break-up’ album.

The Beatles was received positively by critics upon its release.  In spite of the fact it was a double-album and hugely fragmented- the band members covering so many genres and ideas- that dislocation and lack of cohesiveness fascinated listeners and reviewers.  The emotions and contradictions (within the album) won hearts and minds.  A staggering achievement considering the album almost didn’t get made.  Let It Be was The Beatles’ next release and see existing tensions reach fever-pitch.  Although released as their final album:  Technically it is their penultimate cut (recorded before Abbey Road).  McCartney- worried that the band was beyond repair- felt the way to repair relations was to get back into the studio and jam together.  No overdubs and 8-track recording- the band switched from 4 to 8-track for The Beatles- just keep things nice and simple.  Of course, things would not work out that way.  If things had changed- George Martin was not in the producer chair- the band could all relate to one thing.  Each member was keen to return to a back-to-basics performance style.  The band felt albums like The Beatles were too complicated and technical:  The Beatles built their success on no-thrills straight-to-the-point group performances that showcased their affection and bond.  In an attempt to return to their former state:  The guys were excited to see whilst they could come up with.  McCartney assumed the mantle as ‘group leader’:  A fact that irked George Harrison especially during this time.  Lennon became disengaged and preferred working with Yoko Ono:  Like two parents separated; the ‘children’ of Harrison and Starr were caught in the middle.

Lethargy, conflict and power struggle defined an album that was effectively spelling the end of The Beatles.  The fact the recording sessions were filmed- another nail in the coffin- only made tensions worse.  Whilst rehearsing in Twickenham Studios, the first real explosion occurred.  Harrison was growing frustrated at Lennon’s lacking inspiration and disengagement from the band.  Reputably escalating into a fist fight- Harrison denied this in later interviews- the duo fell out hard.  Harrison also turned his anger on McCartney who he felt was patronising and controlling:  Harrison subsequently returned home and left the band as a trio.  Soon after, the band commenced to Abbey Road Studios, with Harrison back in the fold.  The Beatles abandoned the idea of public performance- a concept McCartney hoped would solidify the group’s discipline and focus- and went back to basic recording.  Fruitful sessions lead to hundreds of songs being penned.  In spite of this creative spurt; it was a band aid for the band’s scars.  Just before the album was completed, Lennon walked out of the band.  I Me Mine was the final song recorded and there was a lot of uncertainty.

 

 

Critics were a little lukewarm to Let It Be when it was released- after Abbey Road– and it was an unwise final release.  Were it, like it should, to follow Yellow Submarine (the soundtrack was recorded after The Beatles) then Abbey Road would be a naturally fitting conclusion- a return to the band’s highpoint.   The Beatles had not always resonated universally with critics- albums like Magical Mystery Tour gained muted acclaim- but Let It Be was the first real sign affections were waning.  The patchy quality was not befitting of a band that once ruled the music world unchallenged.  Knowing Let It Be could never be repeated- those tensions and awful days- The Beatles came to a collective decision:  Abbey Road would be their final album.  Knowing the end was in sight, something wonderful happened:  The group were filled with life and affection.  There were no pretences and high hopes for the future:  This was their last hurrah, so let’s go out with a bang, eh?!  The atmosphere had improved and The Beatles seemed more united and solid as a band.  In spite of this collegial return, the group suffered arguments and disagreements.  Songs like Maxwell Silver Hammer– not a golden moment for McCartney- drew criticisms and saw McCartney slave over it to insane degrees.  The perfectionist tendencies were on display and unchanged since Let It Be.  To be honest, Abbey Road’s recording signalled maturity and wisdom from The Beatles.  They wanted to get rid of the conflict and return to the way things used to be.  As such, George Martin was brought back to the producer’s chair.  Martin’s influence and strict instructions- especially pressed towards Lennon at this time- seemed to hit home.  The quartet was ‘The Fab Four’ once more.  Harrison- who had suffered the most during the Let It Be sessions- reflected positively on the sessions.  There were no cameras and cold rehearsal spaces:  The band were at their spiritual home and had returned (in a slightly diminished sense) to their former, better selves.  Despite a more solid band, old issues started to rear their heads.  Ono’s constant presence was starting to grate McCartney.  Both Lennon and Ono were involved in a car crash during recording:  Ono was forced to rest; installing a bed in the recording studios.  Hanging over the band like a nagging teacher (me editorialising a bit) it was no wonder there was danger the album would be derailed like Let It Be’s tumultuous progeny.

McCartney and Lennon arrived on a compromise.  Lennon wanted to return to a Rock-based, concept-free style of recording- a sound akin to their mid-‘60s period.  McCartney and Martin were desirous to return to Sgt. Pepper’s’ thematic approach.  As such, Abbey Road was split into two distinct sides.  Side One was marked by its focused and ‘old-style’ ‘Beatles sounds.  Side Two was a medley that saw characters united and song snippets flowed into one another.  Despite détente being reached, Lennon still couldn’t resist poking the bear.  He felt McCartney’s medley was trash:  Snippets of songs that had no real value.  Valuing (McCartney’s) contributions for “grannies to dig”:  Not every aspect of recording had seen The Beatles regress to their glory days.  That said, the album did get made and its majesty resounding hugely with critics.  Many consider Abbey Road to be The Beatles’ crowning achievement.  It is hardly Abbey Road is considered a stone-cold classic when you investigate the songs.

 

 

Come Together opened proceedings and saw the boys put in one of their finest performances.  A simple Rock song that sounded like The Beatles of old:  Come Together flowed with effortlessness and unity.  Many picked the song apart for hidden meanings- maybe a sly dig at McCartney’s role; the importance of Lennon and Ono to the group- but definitions aside, it was one the group’s best songs.  Lennon had recaptured his desire for song-writing and seemed more focused and engaged.  Seeing himself as a peace-loving, higher figure- the rough draft of the lyrics were created during a bed-in event in Montréal- there is a charm and wit alongside arrogance and mystique.  A complicated-and-simple juxtaposition that brought the best from The Beatles.  A perfect opener and endlessly-quoted track:  A warning shot that showed there was life in the band yet.  George Harrison was coming into his own as a songwriter around The Beatles’ creation.  Whilst his efforts- across that album and Let It Be– showed some weak moments (Piggies from The Beatles; I Me Mine from Let It Be); he was at his most consistent and spectacular on Abbey RoadSomething is considered to be Harrison’s greatest song in The Beatles’ catalogue.  The song began life during the sessions for The Beatles.  Inspired by James Taylor’s Something in the Way She Moves:  Harrison refined the lyrics during Let It Be’s creation.  Lennon considered the song to be Harrison’s greatest moment- a sentiment shared by the rest of the band- and was issue alongside Come Together as a double A-side release.  The first number one from The Beatles not written by Lennon and McCartney:  Harrison was emerging as one of the country’s best songwriters.

Maxwell’s Silver Hammer is seen as one of Abbey Road’s less-inspired tracks.  A song that divided the group- angered by the time McCartney dedicated to such an average thing- it was first performed during the Let It Be sessions.  The band felt the song was too complicated whilst Lennon flat-out hated it- feeling it was another McCartney song primed for old listeners.  Harrison was also weary of the time spent on the song.  Having heard the track over and over, there as that need to get it done and out the way.  In spite of criticisms, it is a necessary balance in an album that saw The Beatles embrace a more playful sound.  You would not want an album too heavy-handed and solemn.   If it is a little juvenile, then what of it:  It shows the range The Beatles had and the need to keep things light and upbeat.  Oh! Darling was another McCartney song that saw him try a Frank Zappa-esque track.  Recording it over the course of a week- arriving first thing saw his voice was quite raw- it saw McCartney deliver one of his most emphatic and impressive vocal performances.  Lennon clearly had affection for the song:  Feeling he should have sung the vocal as it was more his type of song.  If certain McCartney songs divided opinion:  Oh! Darling was a simpler and more natural song; free from endless takes and perfectionist tuning.

  Octopus’s Garden and I Want You (She’s So Heavy) brought Abbey Road’s Side One to its conclusion.  If Maxwell’s Silver Hammer was considered as a slightly silly song:  Octopus’s Garden was down-right bonkers.  A rare Starr solo composition- good to see the drummer get a say on the album- is considered another minor footnote on the album.  I Want You (She’s So Heavy) is one of Lennon’s most intense songs.  Written about Yoko Ono; its simplicity and passion ensured it had a huge impact and stood as (one of the album’s) key moments.  Although the song had a Blues structure; there were white noise effects and odd time signatures:  The song runs in at nearly eight minutes and suffers a sharp cut at the 7:44 marker.  The result of two recording sessions- one after the Get Back/Let It Be point; the other during Abbey Road’s recording- it demonstrated Lennon has rekindled his song-writing genius.

 

 

Side Two opened with another Harrison composition:  The breezy and hopeful, Here Comes the Sun.  Recorded in Eric Clapton’s Garden in Surrey- Harrison was relaxing, following stressful band business meetings- it saw McCartney on bass and backing vocals; Starr on drums (Lennon was not involved; still recovering from his car accident).  A critically acclaimed song; it is seen as one of Abbey Road’s most immediate and sing-along songs- showing just how much Harrison has matured as a songwriter.  Because preceded the famous ‘medley’ and was one of Lennon’s contributions.  Inspired by Yoko Ono playing Moonlight Sonata on piano:  Lennon wondered what the notes would sound like played backwards.  Upon Ono’s reverse delivery; the inspiration for Because arrived.  Featuring Harrison, Lennon and McCartney on vocals:  Their voices were triple-tracked to create a stunning choir-like sound.  Each singer considered it to be among the most technically challenging they had attempted.

The 16-minutes medley is considered to be among The Beatles’ most inspired decisions.  George Martin- wanting the band to return to a more structured, disciplined form of song-writing- forced Lennon and McCartney to become more serious about music.  The lead-off track, You Never Give Me Your Money, is a McCartney composition aimed at Allen Klein.  Based on Klein’s empty promises and mismanagement.  Lennon and Harrison became heavily involved with the track’s recording.  Both would record guitar solos with Lennon’s contribution- the final solos- being seen his finest guitar work.  Sun King works in a similar way to Because.  Those dreamy, multi-part vocal harmonies- again, Harrison, McCartney and Lennon in unison- were sunnier than Because’s intense and haunting effects.  Mean Mr. Mustard and Polythene Pam are Lennon vignettes of two contrasting characters.  Polythene Pam is based on an experience Lennon had.  Whilst on Jersey, Lennon was introduced to a woman who wore polythene:  He elaborated and fabricated certain details to fit it into Abbey RoadMean Mr. Mustard was written in India- Lennon disliked the song and saw it as a throwaway- and introduced Polythene Pam.  Following Lennon’s two contributions came a run of four McCartney songs.  She Came in Through the Bathroom Window was penned following a fan breaking into McCartney’s apartment (through the bathroom window).  With McCartney living in St. John’s Wood- close to Abbey Road Studios– fans would often attempt to get into (The Beatles’) houses.  Golden Slumbers– inspired by the poem, Cradle Song– takes the poem’s first stanza and modifies the wording slightly.

 Carry That Weight is one of the most interpreted and relevant songs from Abbey Road.  Featuring all four members on vocals- a rarity for The Beatles- the song incorporates You Never Give Me Your Money (the beginning of the song is given new words).  McCartney, Starr and Harrison recorded the track in 15 takes- whilst Lennon was in hospital; recovering from his accident- with takes 13 and 15 being fused together.  Many have their opinions on the song’s origins.  McCartney’s take was (the song) was a representation of the struggles the band had with Apple:  The bad relations and business fall-outs that were experienced at the time.  Other see the song as a calling-for-togetherness:  The fact The Beatles would never sound as strong apart as they would together.  The End is the perfect end for The Beatles:  “The love you take/is equal to the love you make”.  Each band member played a solo on the song and it was one of the most complicated and unifying tracks across the album.  Her Majesty is a 23-second snippet that ends Abbey Road with quirkiness and humour.  McCartney hated the song- he wanted it binned- but owing to the fact no ‘Beatles material was ever discarded:  The song remained and is the final thing heard on the album.  At the time of the album’s release; the song was not included in the original sleeve:  It is, therefore, considered one of the first ‘hidden tracks’ in Rock music.

Critical response to the album- in the aftermath of its release- was somewhat mixed.  Publications felt there were some lovely moments- the medley was highlighted especially- but there were too many gimmicks and an inauthentic production sound.  Retrospective reviews have painted the album in more positive (and true) light.  Commending the lush and big sounds; the cohesive song-writing and the band unity:  It seems like Abbey Road’s merits were lost on critics during the late-‘60s/early-‘70s.  Constantly featuring in critics’ lists of ‘greatest albums of all-time’:  Abbey Road is a masterpiece that was a fitting finale from a legendary band.  Whilst the album’s cover has been oft-parodied and spoofed:  The music and themes inspired musicians at the time- Abbey Road continues to drive and compel artists to this day.  It was a sad day when The Beatles called it quits, but is was perhaps not a surprise.  Abbey Road seemed to show the boys back to their old selves and rekindling their love of music.  To my mind, few albums have matched the quality, scope and impact of Abbey Road.  If you are a fan of The Beatles’ mid-career moments- Rubber Soul and Revolver- or their later work:  Few people can deny the significance and cultural impact…

OF their 1969 ‘farewell’.

 

_____________________________

TRACKLISTING

SIDE ONE:

Come Together

Something

Maxwell’s Silver Hammer

Oh! Darling

Octopus’s Garden

I Want You (She’s So Heavy)

____________________

SIDE TWO:

Here Comes the Sun

Because

You Never Give Me Your Money

Sun King

Mean Mr. Mustard

Polythene Pam

She Came in Through the Bathroom Window

Golden Slumbers

Carry That Weight

The End

Her Majesty

___________________________ 

DOWNLOAD

Come Together; Something; Because; She Came in Through the Bathroom Window; The End

STANDOUT TRACK

Come Together

E.P. REVIEW: Eliza Shaddad- Run

E.P. REVIEW:

 

Eliza Shaddad

 

 

 

Run

 

9.6/10

 

 

Run is available at:

https://itunes.apple.com/gb/album/run-ep/id1083120395

RELEASED:
March 18th, 2016

GENRES:
Alternative

ORIGIN:

London, U.K.

TRACKLISTING:

Wars9.5

Run– 9.6

Always9.5

Make It Go Away9.6

DOWNLOAD:

Run; Make It Go Away

STANDOUT TRACK:

Run

___________________________________

All songs written by Eliza Shaddad
Recorded at
Deep Litter Studios, Devon
Engineered by
Andrew Bond
Produced by
Chris Bond
Mixed by Catherine Marks
Mastered by John Davis

____________________________________

THIS will be my last review this week to feature an…

artist from London.  It has been an interesting and diverse last few day:  I have witnessed some tremendous music and moments.  From terrific girl bands (IV Rox) and great solo acts (Mi’das):  I am back with an artist I have reviewed in the past.  Before I come to my featured artists; I wanted to look into female artists emerging in addition to artists who redefine what music should be about.  There is still a worrying trend of female solo artists not showing necessary originality, power and distinction.  Too many upcoming acts are looking at love from the wrong perspective:  Heartbroken and (almost) beginning for another chance.  Among these misty-eyed songs of sorrow; it is hard to connect with the listener.  When I was assessing Laish- the moniker of London songwriter, Daniel Green- I was amazed by the chirpiness of his music.  The current single, Learning to Love the Bomb, is a song that makes you sing along and smile.  In terms of our modern artists- both female and male- there is that tendency to be quite dour and depressive.  Female solo acts are among my favourite musicians:  I can detect something special happening right now.  One of the drawbacks- that is holding back change and instant dominance- is that reliance on woe-is-me music.  It is all very well-being sensitive and open- many people respond to that- but it can be a bit predictable and annoying.  The artists who are willing to show some defiance and grit are always going to fare better and last longer.  Eliza Shaddad has been around for a little while now and becomes more assured and amazing by the release.  Being familiar with her previous body of work- I reviewed her last E.P., Waters– and was genuinely stunned.  Rarely has a musician amazed me so much.  What I dug about the E.P. was that mix of masculinity and femininity.  This has been touched upon by other reviewers- when assessing Run– but Shaddad has a mix of vulnerability and defiance; the strength-against-the-odds with that necessary tenderness.  Her voice is a distinctive one that has soulfulness and a gorgeous smokiness.  Among the sea of female songwriters- many of whom are still determined to be as fragile and broken as they can- you get something different with Shaddad.  Sure, there are songs about letting go and revealing pain (every songwriter will write songs about this).  Shaddad is defiant and mature in spite of heartbreak and obstacles.

Whereas many contemporaries would cry their heart out:  There is no such weariness and depressiveness among our heroine’s music.  Waters was an E.P. that introduced Shaddad to the world with a huge impression.  That four-track release (June 2014) showed an intelligent songwriter able to elicit huge emotional responses from her music.  The compositions (were) deep, layered and atmospheric.  Haunting passages fused with unexpected time signatures:  The entire effect left one breathless and hugely impressed.  If anything, her current offering builds upon that and goes even further.  Run has picked up some effusive reviews- plenty keen to lend their praise into the mix- and it is clear the heroine is not done yet.  She will grow stronger and more ambitious as the months go by.  Picking up new followers and support:  There are towns and ears that are desperate to hear Shaddad up-close and personal.  Presenting atmospheric drum beats- layers and layers- and gripping harmonies:  Everything Shaddad touches is given a unique flair and huge amount of emotion.  It is hard to really define Eliza Shaddad’s music- I shall try my best, soon- but that is a very good thing.  A lot of today’s mainstream artist are too simplistic, defined and base.  Shaddad- like her finest contemporaries- digs deep and brings the listener into her soul.  Not just relying on that voice:  You get dynamic compositions and lyrics that mix the personal with universal.  I am confident Run’s release will see hundreds of new fans embrace Shaddad’s wonderful, evocative music.  Her social media support is firm right now:  It is only likely to grow more impressive over the coming weeks.  I will be keeping my eyes on Facebook to see when she is touring.  I can imagine her music is entrancing and unforgettable in the live arena.  I encounter so few solo artists who I (honestly) believe will go the distance and remain years from now.  Shaddad has a defined and particular sound; it is not one that will ever grow wearisome and staid.  She has a pen and voice nimble enough to eek nuance and fascination.  Run is a different beast to Waters:  Both E.P.s has an inimitable style but the themes/issues covered are distinct.  Shaddad has been through the wars but is not letting things drag her down.  Defiant and strong against the tide:  You can hear that confidence and strength in every song.  It is the leap of confidence- that has been gained between E.P.s- that amazes me.  Maybe it is the touring and performances that have solidified her core.  Perhaps life’s circumstances- finding new love or recognising her own strengths- has compelled this evolution.  What impresses me about Shaddad- among many other things- is how authoritative and intuitive Shaddad is.  She has a small team behind her- handling promotions and the day-to-day- but our heroine has professionalism about her.  Every E.P. she produces is tight and focused- typically, four songs that never outstay their welcome.  She keeps in touch with her fans and understands the importance of social media.  Above all, you get that immense charm and smile coming through- an infectious artist who is happy doing what she does; someone deeply in love with music and its possibilities.  With so many musicians giving up- feeling the financial squeeze or running out of ideas- you have to tip your hat to an artist who is only just starting to hit her stride.  I am not sure whether another E.P. is mooted for this year- maybe she will be planning something in 2017- but we are likely to hear a lot more from Shaddad.

Run follows on from Waters and shows differences and similarities.  Like Waters; Run is a lean, four-track E.P. whose tracks are concise and do not overrun.  A lot of artists put out E.P.s that has too many tracks- desperate to do as much they can- but Shaddad keeps things focused and controlled.  Waters dealt with a lot of love issues:  Brave in the face of break-up and how heartache affects the soul.  They are sides that are explored across Run.  Shaddad has progressed and matured since her last E.P. – new experiences have unfurled and new romances encountered- but the confidence levels are at their very peak.  Run is the work of a woman wholly confident in her skin and assured throughout (the E.P.).  Maybe touring and new recording has led to this development- becoming more passionate and assured- but you can hear it across the four tracks.  The biggest comparison- between the two E.P.s- is the quality and musical depth.  Waters was a stunning E.P. that packed emotive compositions around soothing, direct vocals.  It is business as usual now:  If anything; the compositions and vocals are even-more electric, stunning and engaging.  New listeners will find plenty of nuances, quality and stand-out moments:  Existing fans will be pleased to see there is no radical tonal shift; the maturity and new insights will excite them.

Wars is the opening track (of Run) and is an appropriate title.  With our heroine following “fizzy hands” and words; you are treated to an oblique- and very curious- opening sentiment.  The song’s subject is standing before her in a familiar position- maybe disapproving or in judgement- as things are heated and strained.  The song’s opening arpeggio- a confessional guitar bounce that builds atmosphere and dark clouds- leads to some intense vocals.  Shaddad is in reflective mode:  Picking over the pieces of a blow-up, it seems.  Trying to escape- and fade from the “morning faze”- you start to wonder what the lyrics pertain to.  Initial opinions have my mind levelled towards relationship conflict and personal set-to.  Maybe there is something more insular- assessing the self and conflicts within- but it is impossible to see beyond love’s battles and scars.  Shaddad is one of the most inventive lyricists in modern music.  Most artists keep their language too simple and straight-forward:  Maybe the average listener wants something easy-to-understand that doesn’t tax the imagination.  Our heroine has no such concerns:  She wants the listener to think and use their brains; she will not compromise her talents for the sake of disposability and dumbing-down.  The chorus comes into view- the vocal is still tender and haunted; the guitar still driving and persistent- where Shaddad poses questions.  Who wins these words that are unfolding?  What are (you) fighting for?  The oblique nature of the lyrics means every listener might take their mind in a different direction.  Given the state of the modern world- the terrorist attacks and daily bloodshed- you could ascribe a political arc to the words.  I am guessing it was not Shaddad’s intention- I feel the song is much more personal/not political- but that is the beauty of things.  You can interpret Wars in various different ways.  Just as the chorus elapses- and we await a second verse- the percussion steps in and provides a necessary kick and spark.  The composition accelerates and the entire mood becomes more tempestuous, uncertain and drunken.  Although our heroine keeps her voice statuesque, dominating and determined- making sure her words are heard and direct- the composition gives her a little confidence kick.  When the beat kicks and pervades:  Shaddad seems more motivated, energised and up-for-it.  Lines like “I feel it down in every sound” and “You ruin everything still” has that mystique at its heart:  Just what is being said here?  I am still looking towards love and having Cupid’s arrow shoved through the ventricles.  Wars is a song that seems personal to everyone who listens to it.  Like a horoscope- the Forer effect means every daily astrological interpretation could be about anyone; in other words, it’s all bullshit- Wars is equally relevant to every person- with a lot more meaning, direction and science.  Shaddad is a lyricist who can expertly reveal her soul without coming across too vulnerable and emotional.  The lyrics are intelligent and cryptic:  She never reveals her hand and uncovers too much of the truth.  By the time the second chorus comes around; our heroine is at her peak, vocally.  She is entranced by the song and gives the track a buoyant and restless persistence.  Oddly, Wars has a groove and dance to it that will get your feet moving.  Although the Byzantine lyrics spike the brain:  The composition certainly speaks to the body in a very primal sense.  When the percussion slams and rolls- Shaddad’s smoky and alluring voice subsides slightly- and the electronics build and fizz; you get impressions of Radiohead and Wild Beasts.  Radiohead comes to mind especially- their Kid A and Amnesiac work- and their experimental beast.  Perhaps it is not a band Shaddad had in mind, but it is hard to ignore (Radiohead’s influence).  “And I can’t feel you for the blood” is one of the most harrowing and unforgettable lines across the entire E.P.  You instantly imagine something disturbing and cold:  The war is at an end and the victim is fading fast.  Whether singletons looking for love or lovers moored by unavoidable rifts:  All of us go through battles that can claim the heart.  I get the distinct impression (listening to the song) Shaddad has had her fill of arguments and violent nights- the type that leaves you restless and unable to sleep.  Maybe I am short of the mark with regards my interpretation:  Like all the best songs; the true nature is sacred to the author.  By the closing notes- and with the brain packed with conflicting images- you are left to catch your breath.

Many reviewers have shared opinions and words (with regards Shaddad’s latest E.P.).  Whereas early work was filled with innocence, hope and affection- a young woman wanting to be loved and discover the mysteries of love- Run is the second half of the concept.  I reviewed Big Deal yesterday- the London band’s third album is out soon- who explained their three albums are one long concept.  Their debut looked at break-ups and making sense of things; the second was more positive and embracing; their third looks at heartache again and facing obstacles dead-eyed.  Shaddad has been in love as a young woman and comes out the other side a brave and changed soul:  She has had her heart broken and is not letting (the man/sweetheart) forget the impression he has made.  Whereas Wars had elements of My Brightest Diamond and St. Vincent- the composition of the former; the vocal beauty of the latter- Run is a different prospect.  Keeping song titles short and sweet- making them memorable and to-the-point- you can already guess the song’s direction.  The E.P.’s title cut acts like Scene II:  The opener saw the heroine caught in the storm of a brand-new break-up; making sense of the immature battles and needless bloodshed.  Run is a cautionary tale that implores people (facing the same predicament) to get the Hell away.  Echoed, far-off guitars open the track and act like the breaking dawn:  Following on from the previous night, our heroine is on the road and walking away.  Looking at “fake memories” and clothing coming away- excuse offered to avoid an unwanted experience- it sees Shaddad at her most conflicted.  Walking the path- trying to throw off the scent of her man- it is one of the most ethereal and mature songs on record.  Shaddad is not needless profane, direct and angsty:  Every lyric seems like it was well-considered, deeply-thought and the result of huge lessons. Wars had a bold and propulsive nature:  Run is ironically slow-moving and funeral.  Shaddad is not just trying to escape a man for her own good:  She implores him to get away “as fast as you can” before things are too late.  Maybe our heroine knows her own future- she might explode or push him away- and is being kind, here.  The boy needs to get out and hit the bricks- our heroine needs time to her own- and you immerse yourself in the chaos.  If anything, you sympathise for the man:  You can imagine teary exchanges and stuttered pleas.  Our heroine lets her voice crack slightly- you can sense the emotion getting to her; this song resonates directly- whilst the composition remains disciplined and sparse.  The spotlight is on the vocal which keeps pleading and rising:  Sending out the warning siren to a man who is perhaps better off.  Few songwriters turn the tables and offer humanity:  Shaddad wants her love to go before she ruins him, essentially it.  It is a heartfelt and considerate action from someone who is going through repentance and self-investigation.  As the emotions get more fevered and hot:  The composition clashes like waves and becomes much more dangerous.  Perhaps signifying a boat tossed against the rocks:  The electronics swell like waves whilst the percussion clatters in the stormy weather.  Mantras and lyrics are repeated in a conversation style:  It is as though Shaddad is shouting these words to her man; needing to reinforce them against his protestations and heartache.  Climaxing with some wonderfully raw compositional notes- contorted electronics and something snarling- the song is wrapped up with the biggest impact you could imagine.

After the stormy and exhilarating passion of the E.P.’s opening duo:  Always is a softer and more restrained affair.  The track has gained kudos from various publications who have noted the candid and cathartic nature of the song.  Wars is an E.P. of two halves:  The fiery and confused lover who is breaking up with someone.  The second half sees a woman rebuilding her life with someone new; unable to forget the memory of her vanquished true love.  Perhaps the most drained and soul-baring song on the record:  Always opens with reverent strings and magisterial electronics.  That juxtapose and bond creates a swelling mood that leads to our heroine’s whispered voice.  Thinking of her man- trying not to- she is falling into “someone new”.  Like a winter flower- a beautiful creation battered by harsh weather- you “still exist”.  Shaddad is going through the motions in order to gain physicality and comfort- perhaps not committed to her new guy.  Maybe she sits in her bedroom and looks out the window:  Always is like a diary entry that documents absolute honesty.  The song is an ecumenical experience- almost religious in its nature- whilst the central vocal is among the E.P.’s most beautiful and powerful.  The composition remains sparse and light- to start, there are spattering drums and few other influences- that grows as the song progresses.  To punctuate the verses- and provide aural story development- the guitars become more cohesive, structured and filmic.  The percussion gains discipline and the conjoined paramour gets inside the mind.  Run’s opening tracks contained complicated emotions and oblique lyrics:  Unobvious words that could act as a metaphor for the state of the relationship (crossed lies and confused sentiments).  Now the war has ended- the dust has settled and Shaddad yearns for the hero- lyrics are more simplified and clear.  No time for pretty phrases and depth:  Here is a woman who knows what she wants and wants us to know how hurt she is.  For that reason, every listener will understand every line and its meanings- there is no room for misinterpretation.  If the listener felt conflicted towards Shaddad in the opening two tracks- unsure of her motives and culpability- your heart belongs to her completely.  You can feel those open wounds and her fragility and cracks in a very brave and strong woman.  Always is the shortest track (from Run) and it needs to be:  Our heroine sounds positively exhausted after the 189-second song completes.

In a way, you don’t want Run to end.  You know what Make It Go Away concerns- given the songs that came before- but you know how the song will conclude.  The listener wants Shaddad to be happy and content by the E.P.’s end:  Given the nature of the final track; will this transformation occur on a new E.P.?  Like Big Deal’s completed trilogy- from broken to fixed; back to broken- Run is almost like a trilogy mid-way point.  Waters was a tranquil and probing work that saw a young woman embracing her passion:  Wanting her heart captured and aware of the pitfalls of love.  Run sees the heroine flees and finds herself conflicted by a relation’s end:  Pushing a man away but unable to get over him.  Will an E.P. number three- maybe something called Reborn– see the London singer find firm love and show a heart settled and adored?  No end, for we must look at Run’s swansong.  A stark track that awakens with a weariness and sense of lamentation.  I have seen critics compare Shaddad to Hope Sandoval (Mazzy Star’s quixotic and compelling lead) and they seem appropriate here.  Our heroine’s voice is at the centre- the composition is happy to add influence when needed- and this is the most naked and harrowing confession she has laid to record.  Gleaming interview- promoting Run to the media fans- I know Shaddad wants to remain a little guarded and less revealing.  In the middle of a rancorous break-up- at a breaking point and feeling she needed to get these words onto tape- Make It Go Away is the music equivalent of a woman who is about to completely break down.  Shaddad is determined not to cheapen her experience and end with something fake and saccharine.  The most depressive and earnest track on the album:  Make It Go Away sees our heroine admitting:  “I never did deserve you”.  Words are repeated- “It is easy”- to give the listener little doubt:  How the Hell is she going to recover from this?  Oddly, the track is one of the catchiest on record.  The instrumentation and mixing are stunning:  Bringing the best from each player; each component adds a new dimension and enhances the overall experience.  Shaddad (as a writer) is brilliant at writing for musicians:  Knowing exactly how to articulate an emotion or sentiment via the medium of performance.  Make It Go Away is almost choir-like in its intensity and scope:  Layering her vocals brings the E.P. to the absolute precipice of emotion.  You can almost hear Thom Yorke sing “This is my final fit/my final bellyache” as he embraces a romance with carbon monoxide.  Shaddad is stepping toward the water and wants to erase her thoughts:  The pain is almost too much to live with.  By the time the track ends, the listener will feel like a better person.  We are hearing something completely honest and pure:  This woman is not hiding anything and we are treated to something we may never hear again.

I hope Eliza Shaddad has a nice man in her life and is a happy woman.  I say this as a concerned fan who has taken so much from Run.  The E.P. drips with emotion, blood and tears:  Every song seems to show our heroine become weaker and more submissive as time progresses.  Congratulations must go to Chris Bond (producer).  Ensuring every song sounds completely essential and brilliant:  He brings the best from Shaddad and gives her a perfect platform.  Catherine Marks brilliant mixes everything and provides a wonderful balance and sense of control.  Lesser hands would be daunted by the emotions and contradictions:  Unable to properly mix instruments, vocals and lyrics together.  As it is, she has helped make Run something nuanced and endlessly fascinating.  Andrew Bond oversaw the engineering and is another crucial element in the E.P.’s success.  Special applause must go to Shaddad who have unveiled her finest work.  I know how much toil and work went into each song- she would demo them straight away; it took months between those demos being laid and the final versions being premiered- and you will be stunned by the honesty and impact the E.P. has.  I cannot recommend Run enough, so do not be put off:  The songs might be honest/raw but they will make you a better music lover for hearing them.  Keeping things simple and sparse- few instruments recorded on basic equipment- helps to highlight the soul-baring nature of the E.P.

Eliza Shaddad is one of those artists who has a strong vision and never betrays her own instincts.  A lot of songwriters dump too much into songs and expound little intrigue.  Shaddad pares her lyrics down to the essentials- economical and to-the-point with her words- and ensures there are no wasted moments.  The compositions have a density and experimentation but never run away with themselves.  Our heroine’s skill and precisions ensure her songs have a familiarity and impact upon first listen- reveal new layers each time you go for a spin.  To that end; Run is an E.P. that seamlessly integrates the personal and every-day.  You get confessional insight and revelations:  Never do you feel drawn into something awkward and cliché.  The lyrics show an intelligent mind who can create phrases that stick in the mind.  Tropes mix with metaphors; the stark can bounce with the beautiful:  Every line is logical and nuanced.  It is not just the lyrics book that gets inside the head and compels you to dig deep.  That central voice carries myriad emotions and sides.  It is clear Shaddad’s musical upbringing has enforced her direction.  You hear elements of Soul queens in the mix:  Bits of modern-day Pop and bygone Blues pioneers.  It is a beguiling chemistry that beautifully soundtracks every song.  Few artists expend a lot of time on compositions:  Making sure they resonate and create their own impact.  I feel a lot of singers- not reserved to any gender, here- assume their own voices will do most of the work.  Unless you have the pipes of Freddie Mercury- no-one since him has got near- then you have to think about every component.  Shaddad is a musician who is able to create drama and story without a single word being sung.  Isolate those compositions and you get a stand-alone piece of art.

Not to over-dramatise with florid language:  I mean there is a lot of attention and thought put into the music.  When you bring all these chemicals together- the bittersweet words and dark run-flavoured voice- and add it in with something with darker shades:  The resultant taste is one that certainly leaves you wanting more.  A musician who knows the importance of nuance:  It is small wonder Shaddad has such a dedicated fan-base.  Run sees the young heroine builds upon early promise with fresh revelation and promise.  The songwriter was great to begin with; it sounds ever more urgent and attention-grabbing than before.  In that vein; the songs are tighter, more focused and majestic- without sacrificing ambition and wonder.  Whilst I type this I am listening to Beck’s album, Guero.  An apropos point- trust me, it’s going somewhere- I hear comparisons (to Shaddad).  Last night, I dreamt about Guero and could not figure out why.  Its Latin rhythms and snaking beats conspired vivid scenes; that distinctive drawl beat around the brain; the experimental genre-fuse obsessed my sleeping mind.

Upon waking, I started to listen to Run.  When Beck was a slip of a thing- his ‘90s regency when Odelay was seducing critics- that experimental, balls-to-the-wall freewheel amazed minds.  Splicing Hip-Hop with jagged beats; strange samples and every-genre-mixed-together sat with huge confidence and commitment.  Odelay is regarded as one of the hallmark albums of the ‘90s.  When Guero arrived in 2005; Beck returned (to a lesser degree) to that Odelay-esque sound.  A more mature and settled companion- Beck was in his 30s at this point- that bravery, boldness and amazement was still there.  Shaddad shares D.N.A. with Beck:  The way the two subvert expectations and go beyond their peers.  In a way, our heroine links Beck’s Guero with Sea Change: Fusing more melancholic reflection with experimentation and constant movement.  Whilst Eliza Shaddad will never go to the lengths Beck does- the wacky humour and out-there music- I am impressed to discover an artist who steps away from the ordinary and is truly individual.  Run sees our heroine embracing some deep concerns and tackling life’s problems head-on.  Sure, there are some raw emotions on display but you never feel uncomfortable and a bystander.  Shaddad brings you into the music and motivates you to reflect upon your own lives.  Few artists go to those lengths, so it is paramount we all get behind Run.  Another triumphant E.P. that sees a bold artist grow in confidence and scope; few modern-day musicians…

DO things quite like her.

 

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Follow Eliza Shaddad

 

Official:

http://www.elizashaddad.com/Eliza_Shaddad/Home.html

Facebook:

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

Twitter:

https://twitter.com/elizashaddad

Instagram:

https://www.instagram.com/elizashaddad/

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Music

https://soundcloud.com/elizashaddad

TRACK REVIEW: IV Rox (feat. Sneakbo)- Pumping (Out of My Speakers)

TRACK REVIEW:

 

IV Rox (feat. Sneakbo)

 

 

 

Pumping (Out of My Speakers)

 

9.5/10

 

 

 

Pumping (Out of My Speakers) is available at:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-oA_xlwl0zY&feature=youtu.be

RELEASED:
19th February, 2016

GENRES:
Pop; Soul

ORIGIN:

London/Essex, U.K.

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MY final review of the day arrives in the form of…

one of the nation’s most promising girl bands.  I have reviewed IV Rox before and was blown away by the first experience.  I have never been a loyal, girl band fan.  Given the quality and rise of IV Rox:  I am becoming braver and more adventurous with my musical choices.  Before I introduce the girls to you; it is worth addressing girl bands of the moment; the potential (girl groups) have across music as a whole- with a bit about bringing the edge back into music.  As I have explained- twice today at least- London keeps bringing us terrific acts and varied music.  I shall not labour that point again- I feel everyone gets the idea- but few people talk about girl groups.  Given their relative decline- not as popular as they were in the ‘90s, for instance- I would like to see a resurgence.  I am a big fan of the days past-  The En Vogue and Destiny’s Child regency.  The memory of The Spice Girls has long-since gone and there seem to be gaps in the market.  We have bands like Little Mix- one of the most credible girl bands- but very few at the moment.  With so many young musicians and music lovers discovering their feet:  I feel more girl bands need to come through and provide some variation on the scene.  Boy bands seem to have quite a few representatives- they outnumber the girls a bit- and have their own fan-base.  What I find regarding the boys are a lack of variety and sonic experimentation.  There is that reliance on a Pop core and chart-aiming safeness.  Not taking enough risks:  There is a tepidness that means recruitment does not reach a wide range of ages and genders.  IV Rox are a band who are free from labels, expectations and easy categorization.  If you are a fan of the classic girl bands- from the U.S. and U.K. – of the ‘80s and ‘90s:  You will find much to recommend within IV Rox.  The chemistry and bond the girls share go into music of the highest order.  I shall go into more detail, but for now, let me introduce the group to you:

Hailing from London and Essex, IV Rox are fast becoming the next big British girl group! 
IV Rox girls have gained themselves over 18,000 followers on Twitter and have landed themselves with a hugely dedicated fanbase of ‘Roxstars’.
Natalie, Raquel, Nadine and Dolly have an infectious energy and impressive vocals complete with effortless harmonies. Their already loyal and dedicated ‘Roxstars’ are hugely important to the girls and they will continue to interact with and appreciate there rapidly growing support as they look forward to a big year and a big future!

I was surprised to see All Saints make a return to music.  The English-Canadian group burst onto the scene in 1997:  At a time when the likes of The Spice Girls were still storming the charts.  Maybe All Saints didn’t quite match The Spice Girls in terms of hits and memorability.  Without the same writers and producers behind them; the All Saints went in a different direction and offered an alternative for the market.  Whereas The Spice Girls were more Pop orientated; All Saints employed Hip-Hop and Soul into a Pop core.  A so-called ‘edgier’ version of The Spice Girls:  They are now back on the scene and have not missed a beat.  While their songs are a little more mature and grown-up- they cannot bring out tracks like Booty Call anymore- there is a definite return to form.  One of the biggest criticisms (for All Saints) has been that lacking personality.  A lot of songs seem rather flat and do not possess that necessary pop and snap.  The girls’ voices are uniformly excellent- especially when blended in harmony- but the songs are rather run-of-the-mill and cliché.  Over the last decade-and-a-bit- since the cessation of groups like The Spice Girls- the ‘current’ crop have tried to recapture the majesty and strengths of the girl band best.  Maybe the U.S. – in the past, at least- have produced grittier girl acts, but that might not be the case now.  IV Rox overcomes initial hurdles with grace and ease:  They have bags of personality and distinct voices.  They are not a committee-written band that is following the instruction of producers and record labels.  There is freedom and control that makes their songs sound completely natural and personal (to them).  Each girl has their own tones but- like the best girl groups- IV Rox are at their peak when their voices combine.  I like Little Mix and feel they have a great sound:  One of the best bands (girl bands, anyway) the U.K. has produced in a while.  IV Rox have very little competition when it comes to sound-alike groups right now.  Maybe this is a bad thing- rivalry can lead to some terrific music- but the girls are sure to inspire other acts to follow them.  There is plenty of market room for like-minded acts, so let’s hope resurgence occurs.  The fascination for solo acts and (Rock/Indie) bands has seen a lot of girl acts feel uncertain and hesitant- whether there would be an audience waiting for them.  Raquel, Natalie; Dolly and Nadine seem to galvanise with every release:  Their current track sees that endless confidence and assurance come out in full.  It will be exciting to see how the girls expand and develop over the coming year.  They have made big impressions and have a die-hard fan base.  So much love comes through on social media- the band’s core express love and admiration on a near-daily basis- and that is a great sign.  That motivation and love compels and drives the girls onwards.  I am not sure whether there is a new album planned- have not heard anything on social media recently- but I know there is the fuel and desire in the IV Rox camp.  When/if that does arrive- either this year or next- there will be a huge (and hungry) market waiting.

Although IV Rox have only been around for a year or so:  They have managed to craft a number of memorable tracks and gain huge reputation.  Case of the Ex was unveiled a year ago and was one of the first statements from the girls.  Showing their softer side (in the early moments) with the girls:  “What you gonna do when she wants you back?”  The song’s hero (or anti-hero) has separated from a girl and has made a break.  He is a weak-willed man who seems like he will go back to her.  Currently in the arms of our heroine: There is that fear the boy will succumb to his ex and forget where his loyalties lie.  It is a theme that is not often addressed in music.  That will-he-won’t-he cheat scenario:  Desperate ex-partners trying to reclaim their lovers; the struggles that occur within relations.  In the softer moments- the girls posing questions and the man put on the spot- the harmonies are delicious and almost gospel-like.  When things get more raw and urgent- and our heroine wants to give an engagement ring back- the beats step up and the song goes into Dubstep territory.  Mutating from Pop and Gospel; along to R ‘n’ B and Dubstep:  The song evolves and grows into something domineering and unstoppable.  Even on this early cut, the girls demonstrate what a force they are.  The harmonies are nimble and exceptional- consistent but varied- whilst the lyrics are sharp and relatable.  It is perhaps the composition that remains in the mind.  Propelled the vocals and augmenting the song’s messages:  That fuse of genres makes Case of the Ex such a winner.

Badder Than a Mother (featuring Stormzy) followed Case of the Ex and showed the girls in fine form.  The track is even edgier and harder-hitting than Case of the Ex.  Stormzy brings an explosive and street-level performance that gives the song pace, danger and conviction.  His fast-flowed Grime spits contrast the girls beautifully.  The vocals- when solo or harmonised- are stunning and atmospheric.  The girls look at their boy in a rather different light.  Here is a more positive spin on things:  Although the boy is “badder than a mother” he is “good to me”.  That loyalty to the girl- knowing where his heart and eyes should be- is emphasised and highlighted with aplomb.  There is a leap from the earliest cuts to this particular track.  The band sound more urgent and confident, here.  Happy to link with another artist; they do not lose their identity or fade into the background.  Whilst Stormzy is memorable and impressive on this track:  The girls are in control and leave the biggest impressions.

IV Rox are effortless when it comes to subject matter and mixing things up.  They concentrate on love and relations- a staple for most bands- but add new dimensions and insight into the themes.  From cheating boys to bad-as-Hell lads- they play with the rebels and rough-around-the-edge types- there is plenty of intelligence and nuance in their lyrics.  Most girl bands- the weaker varieties at least- tend to present cliché lines and choruses that seem tacked-on and lightweight.  IV Rox ensures their verses are tight, focused and sharp.  When it comes to the choruses:  They are huge and memorable statements that are designed to get inside the head.  With every release, the band raises their stake and sound alive and potent.  Pumping (Out of My Speakers) proves my theory and stands as their most impressive song to date.  Sneakbo is another cool and credible musician who brings his talents and voice into the IV Rox camp.  Given the progression the girls have made- and the endless confidence they put into the music- it will be wonderful seeing where they go next.  I would love to see an L.P. with their previous singles included; put some new material in there and show what variety that have.

Even after a few seconds; Pumping (Out of My Speakers) gets the senses primed and ready.  The bouncing and tribal electronic slam wrap around scuffed beats and a crisp production sound.  Putting me in mind of Rhianna- perhaps the most obvious influence on this track- the girls show a shift in their sound.  Earliest numbers (from IV Rox) share common strands with ‘90s acts like En Vogue and U.S. idols.  In more recent months, they have stepped away from that sound to something more current and of-the-moment.  Whether this was a conscious move- the need to evolve and grow- or just a temporary step-away; I am not too sure.  What is consistent and reliable is the girls’ authority and confidence.  The music is blaring from the speakers and moving the floor.  Our heroines are getting with the vibe and feeling the room shake.  Able to feel and embrace the vibrations: IV Rox rides the rhythm and present one of their most exhilarating and ice-cool vocals in a while.  To be fair, the girls have always been utterly engaging and fiery.  They seem to have found new energy and influence here.  “Everybody to the dancefloor” is the declaration that is hard to refute.  With vibrancy and can-you-resist-me allure; you get sucked into the song and let your body move in time.  The composition is so insatiable it is near-on-impossible remaining stationary and flat.  Every listener will evoke some sort of reaction given time.  Pounding beats and a restless attack is the perfect backdrop for the girls’ unique dynamics.  “Let me show you how to drop it” is a bold claim from a band that have complete control of the dancefloor.  I was amazed to see how much the girls have changed since their sapling days.  Songs like Case of the Ex has plenty of power but contained soothe, sweetness and some vulnerability.  Here- only a year down the line- there is that maturity and growth from a band that will not be taken for granted.  Whether dealing with capricious lovers or summoning bodies to get with the music:  It is here and now they are at their most arresting.  Addictive choruses are the least we expect from IV Rox.  Once more- and hardly a shock- the quartet bring it hard and strong.  Perhaps their most sensual and sexual call-to-arms (in a musical sense) so far:  Here is a song that will recruit male and females; cast its net to a very wide audience.

When Sneakbo comes into the mix; he steps into the club with black shades and “chains on”.  You can picture our hero enter the rave with a cool swagger and clear intentions- dancing is not the only thing on his mind.  A singer that effortless slots into the song- another collaborator who is not intimidated by IV Rox; able to come in on an equal footing- there are no ego clashes and vying for attention.  Sneakbo lets it be known “Every girl looks pretty where I come from”:  Whether it’s “My black girls looking real meaty” or girls telling (our man) he’s “too cheeky”.  There is that part-confident, part-rogue-about-town smile that gives the song a heart and discipline.  A lot of rappers present needlessly vulgar, braggadocio-laden stories that can put off a lot of listeners.  Sneakbo keeps it clean and classy but ensures there is a little bit of ladishness and confidence bubbling away.  Our man is a “real G” with his keys in the B.M.W.  Sneakbo’s introduction- and subsequent hold on the microphone- is hugely memorable and leaves you wanting a bit more.  Perhaps not breaking the mould when it comes to subject matter and lyrics- a lot of U.S. rappers have covered similar themes- against the tones of IV Rox; his raps seem new and fresh.  When the girls come back in- letting that chorus hammer, swing and campaign- it kicks the song up and get the crowds dancing once more.  In a lot of occasions- when rappers and artists collaborate on tracks- it can seem unnatural and a little forced.  I am not sure how the partnership came about- whether the girls are friends with Sneakbo- but there is a natural affinity and sense of intuition.  At no point does the song drop a step or lose its energy.  That constant dance and swagger are infectious.  The girls are caught up in their “favourite song” with their shoes off.  You picture the scenes and get the sense you are dancing alongside the girls- few of us are that lucky.  Unlike a lot of girl bands, IV Rox gives each member a chance to take a solo.  Given the fact there are no weak voices; you get varied takes and vocals- each girl has a different angle- which makes the song unpredictable and unique.  Not only are the girls stunning when combining their voices- their harmonies are amazing throughout- they show how able they are when stepping out alone.  Pumping (Out of My Speakers) rides the chorus towards the closing moments to ensure every listener is singing along.

IV Rox are one of the most consistent and fascinating groups in British music.  Not a mainstream act just yet:  It is only a matter of time before the girls are household favourites.  Many British groups (girl and boy bands) have been derided for their lack of edge and widespread appeal.  IV Rox oozes confidence and authority with every track but never push anyone away.  They prove they are capable of sensitive and soul-baring moments.  If you manage to shake off Pumping (Out of My Speakers) then you’re a stronger person than I am.  You find yourself hooked on the song and will have that chorus bouncing around the brain for days- thanks, girls!  Backed by wonderful production- glossy yet raw enough to ensure the song retains its grit- it is a pure gem from this country’s finest girl band.  It is only a matter of time before IV Rox are played across national radio- if they aren’t already- as they are one of the most wide-reaching bands around.  Not reserved for Pop lovers and a female audience- that illustrious 13-21 demographic- they strike a chord with me (a 32-year-old man).  I am excited to see how far the girls can go and how big they can become.  Pumping (Out of My Speakers) is one of the most enticing songs I have heard all year and has resonated with fans and new listeners alike.

Pumping (Out of My Speakers) is a brash and sassy smash from a band that have just to miss a beat.  Even when the girls take the mood down- and are more reflective- they are arresting and engaging.  IV Rox are at their peak when the volume is turned up and the attitude levels are raised.  On their latest cut; they hook-up with Sneakbo and find a worthy collaborator.  The voices- different and with their own personalities- fuse well and sound natural alongside one another.  The hook-laden beats and electrifying chorus lines drill into the skull and make the feet stomp.  There are few bands that genuinely want to make you get up and dance:  Inspire the voice to sing-along and shout proud.  Whether you are a fan of girl band music or not:  IV Rox knock down the barriers and will reach all music listeners.  That is the appeal of IV Rox:  They are not your average girl band that has a very set audience.  I have been sad to see the decline of girl groups at the moment.  Maybe the decline of talent shows- relieved about that at least- has spelled the death knell for girl bands.  Gone are the ‘90s and ‘00s when we had some stunning examples owning the charts and bossing the airwaves.  In 2016, there are the odd (girl band) around but fewer than ever before.  I have a huge passion for all music and rank En Vogue and Salt-N-Pepa among my all-time favourite groups.  It is the power and girls-against-the-world prowess- when tied to fantastic, tight compositions- that wins me over every time.  It seems decades since the time of ‘Girl Power’ and something genuinely exciting.  With emerging acts like IV Rox; we could see a resurgence of The Spice Girls and All Saints.  All Saints are still about- Red Flag is a definite return-to-form- but their best/young days are behind them.  The mainstream is in danger of lacking any focus and consistency right now.  There are some dependable, long-term artists that continue to produce fine work.  To my ear, there are too many acts that are one-shot and brief:  They stamp a few good songs out but then start to fade away.  I feel there is too much homogenisation and narrowness when it comes to music tastes.  The media are partly to blame for this occurrence.  Every year, the same type of bands and artists are proffered:  Festivals like Glastonbury (and) Reading and Leeds are highlighting the same old groups and showing little bravery.

I feel there need to be a kick up the backside of the music industry.  Too many great acts are being temperised fearing they will not fit into critical moulds and mainstream tastes.  I hope IV Rox are able to transition to the big-time and show bands how it is done.  We all need music that cuts through the mist and delivers something entrancing, bold and to-the-point.  Whilst U.S. queens Beyoncé and Rhianna are through their best days:  Who will take their place and fill the (soon-to-be-available) vacancies?  In the U.K., we have very few acts that evoke the same sort of fireworks, spectacles and sexed-up verses.  The huge range, Hip-Hop flows and effortless cool- the likes of Beyoncé showcase on every album- are missing from British music.  IV Rox are, therefore, an anomaly that should be encouraged and fostered.  While they are not up to the regency-level heights of Beyoncé:  That is not to say they cannot climb those heights in the coming years.  The girls are young and still coming through but have made some impressive early strides.  They have great producers and writers behind them- the girls themselves are accomplished writers who have their own voices- and demonstrated what a vocal force they are.  One of the criticisms- when it comes to girl groups of four or five- is the lack of distinction between the vocalist.  Often, girl groups gain plaudits because the voices are melted together in harmony:  It disguises weak links and papers over any bum notes.  If you look at the likes of The Spice Girls:  We all know who the best singers were in the band (and which were a little out of the depths).  IV Rox are a band where each member has a stunning voice and could flourish on their own terms.  Girls Aloud is probably the most relatable, recent girl band:  Its members have gone on to record solo projects (with varying success).  The time is right for IV Rox to take over from Girls Aloud:  Fill that void and brings that vitality and verve back to the charts.  Pumping (Out of My Speakers) is a strong statement for a number of different reasons.  It is a song that proves what exceptional singers can be found within IV Rox.  That inseparable and undeniable chemistry explodes from every note.  There are few bands that have that connection and deep affection at the core.  IV Rox are almost like sisters:  As such, their music is so tight and compelling it is infectious and utterly irresistible.  The girls have the chance to make a big impact in music and inspire the young generation.  Although their sound has more in common with U.S. examples- Rhianna and the aforementioned Ms. Knowles- they have their own brand and sound.  Sharp, glossy and utterly seamless:  The girls have a white-hot assault that takes the breath and gets the body moving.  Let’s hope the girls have tour plans as the year progresses.  There is demand out there and I would love to see them live- if they have any London gigs soon.  Ensure you offer the band your support and follow them as they grow and evolve.  Few great girl bands are emerging in the U.K., so for that reason, I sincerely hope…

IV Rox stays in music for many years to come.

 

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