I’m Not Right
I’m Not Right is available at:
3rd April, 2016
The E.P., Shimmer + Shade, is available at:
I’m Not Right
Lights On (Remi Caumont Remix)
Low Tide (Sistex Remix)
THIS is the first time I have reviewed an act from Wales.
I am not sure how this has happened- over the hundreds of reviews published- but I shall have to double-check that. It seems strange that this oversite has occurred: there are a lot of fantastic musicians emerging from Wales at the moment; it is something I want to talk about. Before getting to my featured act, I will (also) explore the best Pop/Electro.-Pop artists and the big hopes for this year in music. I announced my shock regarding my lack of Welsh artists. Most of my current reviews have focused on musicians in and around London: I have been a bit narrow recently. It is great assessing musicians from Cardiff; the city has a rich and noble musical history. From Super Furry Animals to Catatonia; Mclusky to Los Campesinos!: there have been some terrific bands emerge from Cardiff. Wales gets overlooked when highlighting the best and brightest of music. Often second-fiddle to the likes of London and Manchester: you cannot ignore the wealth and variation on display. The Moon Birds are one of the most promising bands from Wales right now. Their electric chemistry and stunning live performances hint at a wonderful future and many years on the scene. Ofelia is a five-piece Folk act that looks set to make their impressions this year. Catchy, original tunes gave drawn in crowds and captured the public imagination. Throw in the likes of Hipcat- a 6-piece from Newport- and Willow Wonder (one of the most promising singers in U.K. music) and there is plenty to get your teeth into. To be honest; there are going to be some phenomenal bands and acts playing around Cardiff and Wales. It should not be down to the local media to put (these musicians) into the public consciousness. I feel the mainstream publications are remiss and often focus narrowly. I have just taken on a new role for The Metropolist. It is a London-based music website that helps promote the best music around. When looking around the site; I have discovered some hot new bands and brilliant musicians. One day, I hope these websites will gain more exposure and attention. There are too many wonderful musicians struggling to get their voices heard. If Cardiff does not seem like the most obvious place for tantilising sounds: you might just have to think again. XY&O are a hugely promising 3-piece act that is hard to tie down. They have a Pop base; fed through a spectrum of Electronic motifs. In reality; the boys have such a varied and kaleidoscopic palette: they have no barriers and can be appreciated by all. I feel music is evolving and improving as the months go by. Last year, I was a little disappointed by the ‘best’ of the bunch. There were some great bands and solo artists but I yearned for a bit more consistency and promise. XY&O have a solid bond and incredible sound that has seen them gather a wealth of fans and followers. Shimmer + Shade is their new E.P.: the summation of a trio that is going to go onto huge things. I often make proclamations when it comes to a band- and how far they can go- but there seems no need with the Cardiff boys. They are already touring the U.K. and seem incapable of slowing down and fading away. Such is the gravitas and nature of their music- universal lyrics wrapped inside deep, connecting sound- it is no surprise they have such a loyal fan-base. Musicians like Keep Up and Hinds have been proffered; Dua Lipa and Kacy Hill are sure to do big business too. There is a great level of competition but this is a good thing. 2015 was a year that had its moments but was not exactly the best we have seen. There has been a big improvement and kick into 2016.
Whilst the mainstream still disappoints me- few great albums and the same, boring musicians plugging away- the musicians of the underground are whipping up a storm. Electro.-Pop is a genre that is attracting a lot of artists right now. Pop itself can be too defined and rigid- not enough room to explore- whilst adding an electronic element provides opportunity. XY&O might refute the claim: they are one of the most original and distinct Electro.-Pop artists around. I have heard a great deal of promising musicians: few have made such an instant impression. I have been lending heavy patronage to London the last few weeks: a trip to Wales was just what my musical brain needed. Who would have thought Cardiff could provide such a gleaming treasure? Maybe we all need to be more adventurous and bold when discovering new musicians. A few seconds into XY&O’s latest track, I’m Not Right, will blow the cobwebs away and stay in the mind. The boys are busy and launching their E.P.: they have released a track from it every three months; I’m Not Right is the (fourth and) final one. Looked after by Rachel White of Brick‘ (someone I have relied on to push terrific music my way) they are in very safe hands. Not only is XY&O’s music stunning and addictive: their social media pages and official website is slick and informative. Too many artists rock up and hope their music will say all it needs to. They negate the importance of promotion and having an effective campaign. Supported by a tremendous P.R. company: the Cardiff trio is making sure they keep their social media clan up-to-date and in-the-loop. Everything about the three-piece impresses me- from the ground up; they work tirelessly and with a huge commitment. It is, of course, the music that is the most important asset. Luckily, XY&O are among the most promising musicians the U.K. has right now. You would be hard-pressed to find a band that is so instant and assured. Whether you call them ‘Hazy Pop’ or ‘Electro.-Pop’: the music they summon gets in the brain and stubbornly refuses to budge.
XY&O are a pretty fresh name out of the box. That means- and as I do at this stage in a review- comparing their work quite a challenge. What the band has done is release a new track every three months: over the past year; Shimmer + Shade has been carefully deployed to the public. With each song; you see a new side to the band. Whilst it is hard to look at evolution and changes- whether the new work differs from the old- I can see an overall quality and consistency. Low Tide has a Pop sensibility to it. An engaging and determined vocal performance: it is backed by a busy, upbeat and pulsating composition. A song you can easily sing along to: it is one to get the festival crowds united and in full voice. Lights On plays along the same lines: another rich and swelling song that has such immediacy and heady rush. Perhaps the finest track from the E.P.: its lyrics are among the most thought-provoking and memorable the boys have created. Fahrenheit keeps their solid sound intact. All the key components are there and firm. Pressing beats and summertime vibes are supported with an electrifying and sky-reaching vocal. Your mind is transported to a beach or warmer climate. The trio is endlessly uplifted and optimistic in every note. Throughout Shimmer + Shade you see an impressive consistency and immense talent. Each song balances personality and diversity. There is a solidified and assured XY&O flex: a muscular and confident core that makes everything sound utterly essential. That in mind (XY&O) keeps the music original and fresh. Each track has a new skin and different story to tell.
I’m Not Right is the latest cut from an extraordinary E.P. The leading track: it gets Shimmer + Shade off to a magnificent start. If you have not followed the boys’ progression- and the other three singles’ release- then this might be your first taster. Logically, I’m Not Right should be your first port-of-call- chronologically it makes sense- and for me, it is their best track. The fizzing, busy electronics have a great mix of ‘80s Electronic music and modern-day artists like Empire of the Sun. Mixed in is the sound of Penarth coast- the sea crashing down combines superbly with the bouncy, juvenile electronics. Perhaps not quite as sunny and optimistic as other tracks: the guys have created something a little moodier and direct. Whilst Shimmer + Shade has sunshine and delight: I’m Not Right is a more bold and daring effort. Tudor Davies (programming) ensures (the song) has a mix of retrospective charm and of-the-moment urgency. Even before a note has been sung; you are engaged, ready and hopeful. Unabashed piano chords strike through the composition: the song’s layers build and build into something entrancing and smile-inducing. With intrigue rising exponentially, our hero comes to the microphone. It seems like a rather perlocutionary relationship is being attested: one that has its meaning but no depth or long-term promise. In dogmatic mood; our lead asks what is demanded (of him). The two lovers are going through the motions and seem like they are treading water. Skip Curtis wrote the song with very clear ideas in mind. I’m Not Right is about walking away from a bad situation: being honest enough to get away and just break the tie. Maybe my initial assessment- the meaningless love bond- is a little obvious and hurried. In essence; our man is fessing-up and mature enough to see the signs. Maybe love is at the heart- a girl that is clinging on for no reason- but there is a wider meaning to the track. Running away from turbulence and uncertainty: it seems like there are other factors at play. As you interpret the track- and picture the lyrics as they unfold- you cannot help be drawn to the effusive and swaggering composition. While not as joyful and overly-optimistic as previous numbers; there is enough spark and positivity to ensure every listener is hooked and giddy. The intertwining vocal and guitar melodies are at their peak during the chorus: an indelible and straight-to-the-head coda that will translate into the live arena. In fact, and one reason why the song came to light, was the positive reaction it got from fans.
Initially, the song was going to be scrapped- or reduced to B-side anonymity- but got such a warm reception. It is small wonder really: the song is endlessly energised and determined; the lyrics can be understood and relate to everyone. Even when experimenting and trying something moody: the trio cannot help but create something shimmering, gleaming and utilitarian. When the chorus relents- and the composition fades down- the hero is dusting the ground; trying to find pieces “I can’t see”. Caught in stupid fights and conflict; there is exasperation and guilt. What exactly are (they) fighting for? Whether caught in a battle with a lover; sparring against friends and contemporaries- he has reached his tether. Few bands would present such themes- running from love- with an intelligent and nimble pen. Aphrodite is mentioned- no need to evoke another deity- and there is a real originality to the words. Blending the oblique with the literal: it provides a nice balance and a real depth; a great nuance is evoked from something that, on paper, could be plain and forgettable. Imploring the girl to go “with somebody else”: you start to elicit a little sympathy and condolence (with the heroine). Although there are squabbles and a natural plateau; she is never made out to be a monster of a reviled figure. It seems like the two are on different pages and there needs to be common clarity. It is rare to find songs- that deal with love- with such directness, honesty and uniqueness. Most love songs are either heartbroken and sorrowful- the majority that is doe-eyed and teary- or accusatory and bitter- where one party is blamed and has caused immeasurable damage. Here, there is no regret and real accusatory spirit: just one man walking away from something bad and toxic- without resorting to name-calling and anger. XY&O keep the song’s spirit big, bold and brash from first to last. The beats tumble whilst the guitar and percussion glide over the atmosphere. It is perhaps the lead vocals that evoke the biggest reaction. Committed and emotive; they have immense power, emotion and spark. It is hard to compare Skip Taylor’s tones with anyone else: a rare confession in modern music. By the closing moments, the song’s energy and pressing spirit never relents and relaxes. It is a shame I’m Not Right almost become confined to the bin: it would be a tragedy were it to be discarded and never see the light. What you get is an exceptional moment from a group that has endless promise. There are a few like-minded acts that have a similar sound; none has quite the same effect and aftertaste as XY&O.
I know the guys of XY&O have a busy touring schedule over the coming weeks. I also know how proud they are of Shimmer + Shade. Drake has supported their music- random but true- so their magic is not just confined to Cardiff. Far from it in fact. With each new track release, the boys are gaining new ground and armies of support. Across media and social media: the trio is staking their claim as one of the big names to watch. Their first-released track, Low Tide, has been streamed millions of time and really got the ball rolling. From there, they have gone from strength-to-strength. I’m Not Right is filled with honesty, directness and cutting the cord. We have all been in the situation of going through the motions: stuck in a relationship of convenience rather than purpose. Opening Shimmer + Shade with a bang: it is one of the finest tracks the trio has created. I am not sure whether they will be coming to London soon: there are loads of venues and faces that would love to see them here. It cannot be long before the guys are touring internationally and have some U.S. dates under their belt. With Drake’s support- and fans around the globe- XY&O should prepare themselves for a very busy and colourful future. There are too many artists that are too immersed and wrapped up in something rather sorrowful. It is important to connect with listeners through emotion and honesty: that does not mean you need to compromise energy and passion. I have grown weary of musicians that are dolorous and gloom-stricken. If we want to inspire the upcoming generation of musicians; there need to be some changes made. XY&O have the right idea and are a template we could all learn from. Their lyrics touch on everyday concerns and experiences. Whether trapped in a loveless bond; experiencing what life can offer: they tap into something familiar and tangible. Capable of emoting and baring their souls: they do this and keep the music light, breezy and engaging. Were they to employ acoustic guitars and turn the smiles upside down: would they have the same support and huge fan-base? I seriously doubt it. What strikes you about the guys- and what more acts need to realise- is that the public demands something uplifting, positive and hopeful. Sure, the band mixes in darker shades and moonlit reflection: ensuring they are multi-dimensional and deep. I opened by looking at some great acts on the scene; the importance of focusing our attentions away from London. Music will only progress and grow when we become less stringent.
The mainstream media need to get their head from the big cities and broaden their horizons. It would be tragic if I missed out on XY&O. Were it not for Brick’ and Rachel White: perhaps I would have never discovered them. Cardiff might not be your first choice- for the best music has to offer- but you would be pleasantly surprised. There are some great bands playing around Wales in 2016. Whatever your tastes and preferences, you are catered for. Perhaps not on the same level as London- that can change in time- that is not to say we should be ignorant and snobbish. Over the last few months, I have had my mind opened and widened- looking away from the likes of London and L.A. Perhaps I am losing focus and letting my anger get the better of me. XY&O are embarking on a lucrative and scintillating career. A trio that grows more assured and strong with each release: I’m Not Right is another evolution step from one of this country’s biggest names. In years to come, I can see the guys playing the biggest festivals this country has. Right now, they are keeping their feet planted and seeing how Shimmer + Shade fares. The terrific promotional material- their press release is very professional and sleek- is matched by compelling and informative social media pages. Here is a band that takes music very seriously and knows what it takes to succeed. The casual listener has quite a task on their hand- when they want to discover bands that will go the distance. There are so many choices out there: from Soul solo artists to Folk duos; Punk trios and Alternative bands. I see so many artists that look promising- and seem like they can go the whole way- only to splutter and dissolve soon after. While it is impossible to predict the future; I am confident XY&O have plenty more years in them. Their music mixes in Pop and Electro. sounds inside lyrics that speak to us all. Whether they have plans for an album this year- or will concentrate in touring and E.P. promotion- it will fascinating to see. Take some time out your day and let I’m Not Right put a smile on your face: it is a song that will make you think deeply (about your own life) and may just compel you to put pen to paper. After that; investigate Shimmer + Shade and let its beauty and panache get inside the soul. Let’s face it: if they’re good enough for Drake then…
THEY’RE good enough for everyone.