TRACK REVIEW: FloodHounds- A&E

TRACK REVIEW:

 

FloodHounds

 

 

A&E

 

9.4/10

 

 

A&E is available at:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2pgnI0RSWZ8

RELEASED:
3rd April 2016

GENRES:
Indie; Blues-Rock; Alternative

ORIGIN:

Sheffield, U.K.

____________________________________

I always like a rarity in music as it gives the listener something…

new and unexpected.  There are very few trios in modern music- compared with bands and solo artists- and for that reason, my featured act is fascinating.  I shall come to them soon, but for now, I will look at trios- and boy-girl combinations in bands- in addition to Yorkshire-based bands and the changing face of Rock.  I love looking at band dynamics and seeing which combination makes the best sounds.  The four/five-piece band is always going to interest me:  if anything; having more members can be quite unwieldy and excessive.  The same could be said for the solo artist:  perhaps there is not quite enough- when it comes to players- to truly hold attention- it depends on the talent of the individual.  The band commodity is still the most bankable and in-demand in all of music-  the duos and trios are starting to make a charge.  I find the traditional quartet is not quite as dominant as before.  We all look to bands like The Rolling Stones and The Beatles as the ultimate line-ups:  where each member was crucial and unreplaceable; without them, the music would not be as electric.  Led Zeppelin can be added to that list:  the epitome of the golden four-piece:  a group that would have been inferior with fewer members; if any player was replaced.   Over the last few years; I have encountered some truly special duos:  from Folk and Indie two-pieces; across to Electro.-Pop and Soul.  Royal Blood has shown just how effective a well-groomed and slick duo can be- with some cracking facial hair into the bargain!  The likes of Royal Blood are not only compelling waves of followers- the male two-piece keen to do likewise- and proving what scope music has.  Apply that logical in a wider sense and you it seems the trio is the perfect combination.  More depth and possibility (than a duo); not as packed and cramped as a fully-stocked band:  it is something I want to see more of.  If you look at the best trios from music- Nirvana, Cream; Muse, Green Day; Beastie Boys too.  As they have shown:  if you have some incredible musicians in the line-up; you can have the same effect as a full band.  Whilst the aforementioned play the harder, grittier side of music:  there are ample supplies of softer, deeper trios.  FloodHounds are not just an incredible three-piece- that can Rock as hard as any- but have a great chemistry in the ranks.  The boy-girl, three-piece formation is quite a rare one in the current scene.

A power trio with a sturdy reputation:  they are a British combination of The White Stripes; throw in a little bit of Band of Skulls and you are half-way there.  Before I continue, let me introduce FloodHounds to you:

FloodHounds are a fast-paced 3-piece British indie-rock band from Sheffield. Their “gloriously guitar-heavy rock,” takes you from British Indie/Rock to raw American Blues and hits you like a British Black Keys, crossed with The Rolling Stones, fed on a diet rich in Band of Skulls, The White Stripes, Blur and Kasabian.

Floodhounds were picked, out of 1,200 unsigned bands who applied, to play at Sheffield’s iconic Leadmill for Tramlines 2015 with rave reviews,see www.exposedmagazine.co.uk/music/tramli…floodhounds

A video of the band recording of “Bare Bones” at Sheffield’s iconic 2FlyStudios is atyoutu.be/24xT906F1kU.

Storming local gigs at the Rocking Chair and Plug Sheffield supporting October Drift, saw FloodHounds playing further afield this year, at Live in Barnsley’s 126-band Festival in June, and 3 successful London gigs in Camden and Shoreditch in April and supporting DJ sets by the likes of Gus from alt-J at 229 The Venue’s Mayday Festival.

The band’s new 3-piece incarnation emerged in late 2014, when founder members Jack Flynn – the vocalist, guitarist and songwriter of the band – and bass player Rhys Owens, were joined by drummer Lauren Greaves.

There are not many bands that pack quite the same punch and drama- with only three people in their line-up.  I think Rock/Blues needs to evolve and take a leap.  There is that over-dependence (for bands coming through) to rigidly stick to four or five-piece line-ups; the music is similarly uninspired and predictable- the overall effect is quite disappointing and leaden.  Many critics have asked that controversial question:  Is Rock dead?  If you compare (Rock music) of today with the golden years:  you can probably agree with that sentiment.  There is not the same quality, consistency and shock:  it is hard to really reinvent the wheel and compete with the all-time greats.  Whilst Rock is not as monumental and inspiring as once was:  there are some great bands keeping the spirit alive and burning.

Floodhounds 2015 _ Photo by BACKSTAGEUK _ Image 0011.JPG

The artists that break away from the mould- the same, arena-primed sing-along ‘epics’- are always going to impress me most.  FloodHounds mix the traditional with forward-thinking.  At their heart, they have that love of classic Rock and Blues- they wear influences on their sleeves- but have huge originality and personality.  The trio unites U.S. Blues-Rock with something very much them.  The stories they tell- and the way they play- could only come from an act that does not want to be compared with anyone else.  FloodHounds are one of those bands putting the spark and promise into Rock music.  Not only do the guys keep it expansive- Blues and U.S. strands alongside British ‘70s Rock- but they are focused, tight and singular.  The music they play lodges itself in the brain and is perfect for the hungry crowds- plenty of memorability and tasty riffs.  I know the guys are planning an E.P. at the moment- the track-listing and inclusions are being debated and decided- which will be exciting to see.  When that arrives; it will afford people the chance to discover a hungry young band in full flight.  A&E is a teasing taste of what we can expect:  a stunning track that is slinky, sexy and pummeling; filled with explosive highs and catchiness.  The Sheffield-based trio is yet another Yorkshire act that keeps the county fully in focus.  I have been looking at London and L.A. musician the last couple of weeks:  seeing what those twin pillars can offer modern music.  It is nice to be something more ‘real’ and relatable: a city that has been in my sights for a while now.  Whether assessing Leeds-based bands- there have been many over the years- or Bradford duos (Issimo):  I always love coming to Yorkshire and seeing what is on offer.  With every town and city, there is newness and surprise:  artists that vary greatly but have that exceptional quality.  I know FloodHounds are going to keep growing and getting stronger by the year.  They have gone through line-up change and challenges:  with each obstacle, they have overcome it and built in confidence.  The current material is their best to date.  Committed to touring for the next couple of months:  plenty of chances to see this wonderful young band in the flesh.

When I was listening to A&E; I had to look back at FloodHounds’ past work to see how far they have come.  A lot of bands tend not to improve and change over time:  doggedly sticking to their sound and not straying far from the familiar.  FloodHounds came out of the blocks fresh and eager several years ago.  Their debut, three-track, E.P. showed plenty of promise and quality.  Songs such as Moving Pictures and The Fall packed plenty of punch and charm.  Moving Pictures was a cool and swagger song that reminded me of early-career Oasis.  You got little recollections of Liam Gallagher in our lead’s vocal:  the song had that Definitely Maybe-esque sound to it.  The Fall was more of a direct and attacking number.  A song that drew ‘70s British Rock with U.S. Blues-Rock:  a locomotive steamer that certainly got inside the head.

Twisting Cover.jpg

Bare Bones came out last year and showed development and changes.  That central FloodHounds dynamic was in place but the trio introduced new elements.  The production values were more raw and bare (than the predecessor) which gave the E.P. a grittier sound.  FloodHounds moved away from the Oasis-esque, ‘90s Rock and towards something more individual and unique.  The songwriting was stronger and the performances tighter.  Twisting and Turning– the closer from the E.P.- best represented that growth and change.  There are bits of past bands in the song; what you get is more depth and colour in the music; greater industriousness and nuance.  With each passing year; FloodHounds grow in stature and become more confident.  Their current line-up has been in place since late-2014 and the bond they have now is unbreakable and stunning.  A&E draws together their older sounds and themes- a song that is definitely from FloodHounds- but they have taken another step.  The trio does not want to come across stagnant:  they are mobile and looking for fresh inspiration.  I am not sure what influenced the song but the guys are in top form.  Whenever their new E.P. is out- it should not be too long- it will be met with huge acclaim and attention.  The three-piece has a solid fan-base and that does not surprise me- one of the most impressive and original bands we have right now.

band shot 1.jpg

A&E’s video has been on YouTube for six days but already accrued 356 views- at the time of this review going out.  Flourishing, trickling strings bond with galloping beats:  the guys get out of the traps with plenty of intent and focus.  A&E never comes across too strong in the opening phases.  The percussion is compellingly tight and powerful yet the guitar-and-bass combination remains restrained and disciplined.  That combination- between instant and slow-burning- opens the track with fascination and potential.  Soon enough; the trio whips up a catchy, head-bobbing coda that has that blend of familiarity and unexpectedness.  You get essences of classic Blues-Rock riffs but through the funnel of FloodHounds.  The trio put their own stamp on the genre and infuse their influences with personality:  a stunning blend of evocative and brand-new.   You get caught in the rollicking, driving force the trio summons.  Not only does your feet move and head nod:  you start to hum along with the composition and get lost in its charm and grip.  When our hero comes to the microphone; those early words are spoken:  “All the people look so tall…”.  Delivered with consideration and pace:  you wonder what the lyrics relate to.  Maybe a commentary on anxiety and not fitting in; feeling smothered by the modern world and it changes- you start to speculate and delve inside those words.  Before you can become comfortable in your assessments:  more pieces of the puzzle of slotted.  When you are down- it is sung and declared- other people look taller.  A&E is a song that instantly struck a chord with me.  When life gets you down- and you struggle with darker times- it is hard to relate to other people and their lives.  Maybe our man is struggling against the tide and looking for salvation.  Given the song’s title- and the images it provokes- perhaps an event has unfolded; something violent and dangerous.  The song goes on to introduce a central figure- someone who is on their way (they say).  With an impressive amount of calm in the voice- not too rushed and emotional- that mystery and intrigue builds.  Every new revelation pushes the interpretation to the former assumption.  If it is a former love or a friend:  there is this person that is battling some hard times.

790A1019.jpg

Whatever is thrown their way:  they can “take it on the chin” and overcome anything.  Our hero will be there for them- and able to meet them halfway- and is offering a semblance of support and comfort.  Looking at the hero/heroine- knowing they will always be there- you wonder what has compelled the story and song.  Our man does not want to take them for granted:  you feel like there is mutual respect and sense of support.  Maybe I am misinterpreting but we are looking at something other than love:  more geared towards a friendship and important bond.  FloodHounds have managed to keep their central sound form but bring in new elements.  Previous numbers have leaned heavily on ‘90s Rock bands.  On A&E, you get touches from ‘60s and ‘70s groups:  a little bit of Hard-Rock with some Power-Pop.  Toss in some modern-day examples- the likes of Royal Blood- and there is that blend of raw 2016 and vintage melody- a little classic riffage into the mix.  The band sounds at their most compelling and unique, here.  Less reliant on idols and tribute:  their current offering is their most original to date.  Innocence and emotion emerge when our hero and heroine (it is a girl being ascribed) sit by the sea.  You picture them say side-by-side as she asks:  “Is there a better place to be?”.  Maybe both have faced tribulations and challenging times:  they have gotten away from the hurly-burly and somewhere more tranquil and peaceful.  With so much fraught existence plaguing them:  you feel like this nirvana is a red herring.  When the waves crash- rising high above them- the heroine will let them wash over her.  Whether this is a cleansing ritual- she can take the wave; is indestructible- or something submissive- you are caught between romance and heartache.

Each emerging line sparks contradictions and fascination.  The story progresses beautifully and there is a definite sense of movement and change.  If the “cold is closing in”:  our heroine can take it all in her stride.  It feels a relief to know that:  here is someone not looking at the end; she is a strong character that is going through something rough.  Our hero is there to lend support and always by her side.  That bond and link at the song’s heart appeal in many ways.  The vocal has a cool calm to it.  Jack Flynn is a singer that has a lot of respect for the gods past but never replicates them.  Coming into his own as a singer:  it is here we get his most impressive performance ever.  Changing pace and direction:  the words are given full consideration; he is a master when it comes to giving emotion and power to the lyrics.  Letting his guitar cut and swing with abandon:  when teamed with his band-mates you are helpless to resist the power of the composition.  There is such an anthemic sound to A&E.  The percussion is constantly forceful and impressive; the bass guides the song and is imbued with rhythm, power and melody.  When all three come together, you get a tight and impactful sound:  the band has such an intuition and affection; that explodes into life, here.  Towards the final stages; Flynn gets the chance to do some solo-ing.  Not just a chance to show his chops:  it acts as the next step in the story.  Adding new dimension and flesh to the song- without a word being sung- you get pictures of waves crashing and storms lashing.  An exhilarating and racing solo:  it lifts A&E to new heights and keeps the fascination-o-meter right up to 11.  Riding that cool-as-Hell riff- with some solid bass and percussion support- you start to nod the head again and get caught in the momentum.  Right from the off; the trio ensures your attention is grabbed and you are hooked.  Never letting the energy and pace drop:  you are invested and alert right until the final note.  A&E is a song that could easily have arrived during the classic days of ‘Britpop’.  It has that quality and tone to it:  a track that looks to positivity and redemption.  Unlike a lot of modern acts:  FloodHounds have crafted something rather singular and beyond compare.

Rhys Owen and Lauren Greaves ensure A&E gets plenty of pummel and power.  Jack Flynn gives a typically understated- but immensely focused- vocal that gives the song such a nuance and weight.  Lesser singers would throw too much into the song:  emote too much or fill their voice with needless scream and histrionics.  Not only do you get control and layers to the vocal:  Flynn keeps his accent firm and unchanged.  The likes of Alex Turner- another Sheffield lad- made Arctic Monkeys songs synonymous with genuine vocals and homegrown pronunciation.  Maybe Turner’s current work is more Americanised and changed:  I always love hearing singers that do not kowtow to U.S. audiences.  With that Yorkshire accent riding over the mix:  it gives A&E gravitas, genuine spirit and rare distinction.  As a guitar player:  Flynn is able to shred with the best of them.  When stepping into the light- his solo towards the end- you get embers of Hendrix and Eddie Hazel (Funkadelic).  Rhys Owen is one of the most naturally assured bass players in new music.  He manages to tie all the instrumentation and sounds together:  acting as the song’s bouncer:  keeping the song disciplined and not letting any stray elements get into the fold.

Photo by BackStage:UK

That said; he shows plenty of passion and rhythm, too.  His bass lines go from fluid and sexy to firm and edgy; without losing a step along the way.  Owen bonds beautifully with his bandmates and drives their performances forward.  Lauren Greaves is one of the most inventive and powerful drummers- a natural rival and equal to her male counterparts.  Acts like Rews (a London-Belfast duo) have a stunning drummer at their core- the wonderful, Collette Williams.  Greaves ensures A&E is a powerhouse smash from its beginning to end.  Seemingly multi-limped and octopus-like:  her performance remains stunning and avalanche-like throughout.  She is not just a one-trick cat that slams with animal abandon.  Capable of intricate fills and under-the-radar calm; catchy bounce and infantile energy- a rounded, multi-layered performance that gives the song immense personality and depth.  Congratulations to a trio that have unveiled their strongest work (in my humble view) so far.  There will be many eyes and ears hungry for an E.P.  The guys are taking their time and ensuring they are not rushed- too many bands are hasty and do not consider quality, production and track-listing.  A&E is a mouth-watering offering that has already resonated with hundreds- a stunning song from one of Britain’s most essential bands.

FloodHounds have played all around the country the last few months.  Not only stopping off at B.B.C. Introducing:  they have rocked Manchester and Huddersfield.  The trio comes down to London in a couple of weeks- Spice of Life in Soho- and are going to be very busy indeed.  Not only will new audiences have a chance to discover sparkling-new material:  it gives the band a chance to strength and hone their craft.  I guess they don’t really need to:  they have been playing for a long time and seem flawless.  That said; with each month, they seem to become more electric and assured:  touring is clearly galvanising their music and giving them impetus and inspiration.  Sheffield is a city that gets overlooked with regards new musicians emerging.  Perhaps London will always be at the forefront of media attention:  that is not to say we should ignore a growing, developing area.  In the past; Sheffield was renowned for its steel production and industrial prowess.  Over the decades; it has emerged into one of the most stunning areas of the U.K.  Vast redevelopment has seen Sheffield become one of the cultural hubs of Britain.  In 1999, the National Centre for Popular Music was opened.  Leadmill, the Boardwalk and New Barrack Tavern are hosting the city’s musicians:  giving them a platform and chance to thrill the local crowds.  With Yorkshire creating a music revolution- THE place for great new music- Sheffield is leading the vanguard.  The Long Blondes, Arctic Monkeys and Pulp call Sheffield home:  Slow Club and Richard Hawley can be added to that list.  So many musicians are relocating and moving to larger cities.

Snowy Wall Lean Back Black n Whire.jpg

I see so many bands head to London or L.A.; bereft at the lack of chances and platforms.  From south coast-born bands to suburb-dwelling solo artists:  there is that  lure and bright lights-lust of the big cities.  I hope FloodHounds do not uproot and stay put in Sheffield.  It seems like the Yorkshire gem is growing and providing plenty of exposure for its native musicians.  Whatever they have in mind; you cannot deny how direct and stunning their new song is.  You might be hard-pressed to name too many legendary three-piece acts:  the mind might struggle to name that many current-day ones.   I am always keen to break-away from the tried-and-tested four-piece:  embrace something fresh and new.  Band music will always be the most popular and yearned-for in music.  With this demand, comes a lot of risks.  Young acts are jumping into the scene with optimism:  eager to show their material and stake their claim at the biggest festivals.  I feel too many artists rush in and do not put proper thought into their music.  What we are finding is a lot of bands that are rather so-so:  few that stick in the mind; many melts away and struggle to meet public expectations.  FloodHounds are savvy enough to realise the pitfalls that are in front of them.  They adapt and keep their music nimble:  having that core sound but ensuring their songs are not repetitive and recycled.

Cracked Windows 2.jpg

With every new venture, you get something genuinely exceptional and unexpected.  A&E is a guitar-heavy smash that has already garnered a lot of praise and respect.  I know an E.P. is mooted- not sure when at present- and that will be exciting indeed.  Whatever form that takes- with regards number of tracks and sounds- it will be an opportunity for the Sheffield trio to get some critical attention.  They are one of these bands you know will ‘make it’ one day:  ascend through the ranks and become one of this country’s best artists.  It is great to see the stunning trio come through with new material.  I have seen (the trio) progress and evolve as the years have passed.  Their earliest songs were assured and confident:  they have become stronger and more solid with each new song.  I just know 2017 will be their year.  This year, they are going to be unveiling the E.P. and touring:  getting more acclaim and building their fan-base.  Next year, that will be when they can expand and progress.  I can see the big festivals calling and the spotlight shone their way.  A&E is a bold and brassy deceleration from a fearless, impossible-not-to-love band.  The social media numbers are climbing and the fan numbers are rising exponentially:  one of the most consistent and loveable groups we have right now.  Take a chance to discover a hot trio that is going to be a fixture for years to come.  A&E might have that emergency urgency to it.  Trust me on this one:  their success and continued popularity is…

790A0931-2.jpg

CERTAINLY no accident.

 

__________________________________

Follow FloodHounds

 

Official:

http://www.floodhounds.com/

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/FloodHounds

Twitter:

https://twitter.com/FloodHounds

Instagram:

https://www.instagram.com/floodhounds/

______________________________

Music

https://soundcloud.com/floodhounds

 

 

 

 

MINI-ALBUM REVIEW: Snoh Aalegra- Don’t Explain

MINI-ALBUM REVIEW:

 

Snoh Aalegra

 

  

Don’t Explain

 

9.7/10

 

The mini-album, Don’t Explain, is available at:

https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/dont-explain-ep/id1096228514

RELEASED:

8th April 2016

GENRES:
R&B; Alternative/Pop; Soul

ORIGIN:

Stockholm, Sweden; Los Angeles, U.S.A.

___________________________

TRACK LISTING:

It’s Just a Fever (Intro.)- 9.6

In Your River- 9.8

Charleville 9200 (feat. James Fauntleroy) – 9.6

Home9.7

Don’t Explain– 9.7

Under the Influence– 9.8

Under the Influence pt. II- 9.6

It’s All On Me (Outro.)- 9.6

Chaos– 9.7

DOWNLOAD:

In Your River; Don’t Explain; Under the Influence; Chaos

STANDOUT TRACK:

Under the Influence

LABEL:

Artium Recordings

____________________________________

THERE are few musicians out there as majestic and loved as…

snoh_alegra_12.07.143913_LEV_G

Snoh Aalegra.  Her new mini-album, Don’t Explain, is a matter of hours old:  the social media devoted are cooing and vacillating over the newly-bred babe.  Its stunning atmosphere and memorable songs- I shall touch on them below- have resonated and caused an immediate reaction.  I may not be the first to review this new work- someone will sneak in before me- but I hope to be among them.  Before I concentrate on the songs, it is worth talking about our heroine and her work.  On paper- and in photographs- Aalegra is one of the mist jaw-dropping artists you could imagine.  With model-good looks; she is one of the most extraordinarily beautiful women you will see- and not just in music.  It is not meant as a dismissive point:  a beautiful woman who captivates with beauty but struggles with the songs.  If anything, the music surpasses the supernatural beauty of a musician who has a lot of support.  As I type, her Twitter feed is going nuts.  Throughout today- and the next few days- there will be the same comments published:  those paying tribute to a remarkable mini-album that is causing shivers, shake and explosion.  Born in Stockholm- another city that produces all manners of world-class musicians- it is not surprising to find another Swedish treasure before me.  From the classic/bygone music of Abba and The Cardigans:  Sweden has spawned some of the most varied and exceptional artists from all time.  Masters of the effectively simple and catchy Pop sound:  just think of The Cardigan’s sophomore album, Life.  A banquet of delicious moments and stick-in-the-head-for-years choruses:  it was one of the finest albums of the ‘90s, regardless of genre.  In the current climate, we have Tove Lo, Robyn and Lykee Li; Anna von Hausswolff and First Aid Kit- legends like Roxette.  You may scoff yet the latter name has been in my brain for weeks now.  I keep replaying their tracks Joyride and The Look:  two wonderful- if the same-sounding- hook-laden songs that burrow in the brain and compel you to sing along without constraint.  Whilst Sweden (as a nation) has a proud and noble legacy:  Stockholm is their musical capital that keeps providing musical wonder.  It is no shock Snoh Aalegra is another name you can add to the list.  With her half-Nordic, half-Persian background:  you get an understanding which nations and ingredients go into that extraordinary D.N.A.  The 28-year-old is based in L.A., which seems like a natural move.  I am not sure how much opportunity the likes of Sweden offers its naturals:  whether there is the same reputation and exposure as L.A.  It seems like the relocation to California has done (our heroine) the world of good.  Cast aside her beguiling beauty- can’t be accused of being one-minded- everything about Snoh Aalegra captivates the senses.

Her colourful album artwork has a mix of comic book adventure and ‘70s chic.  If anything, the young musician is more a product of the 1970s than today.  The lush strings and evocative songs (throughout Don’t Explain) remind you of Soul/Pop legends Michael Jackson and Stevie Wonder; Prince and their contemporaries.  Fed in a little ‘80s overspills and of-the-moment production grit:  you have a performer that is one of the most unique and spectacular around music.  Given the proliferation of purely Pop artists- that are bereft of energy and are dolorous to the ear- it is always wonderful hearing something new.  Don’t Explain drips with cinematic strings and jam-packed compositions; a staggeringly pure voice and stand-in-the-mind lyrics.  There is candour and expletives; honesty and raw emotions- wit and humour to be discovered too.  It is no shock Don’t Explain is enrapturing fans and being talked-about in fevered tones.  There are so few artists that do what Snoh Aalegra is doing.  You have Lana Del Rey I guess, but there are difference.  Del Rey’s albums look at bad boys and The American Dream:  ironic images of apple pie-eating, Cadillac-driving heroines decked in Levi produce:  cruising sunset strips with tattooed brooders and blowing smoke rings through scarlet-lipped pout.

Whilst Del Rey is evolving into a staggering musician- her latest album, Honeymoon– is took the 30-year-old time to cement that quality.  Our heroine is younger and a different proposition.  Songs do not obsess over a certain type:  the rough-around-the-edge boys and dream-like visions.  Snoh deals with loss and finding her place; trying to discover where home is- personal actualisation and maturing.  There is fiction among her works but you get an honest and raw woman emerge.   The deliver has grit and drama; a swagger inside the immense beauty- the compositions have so many dimensions and revelations.  I find Snoh Aalegra a superior artist (to Del Rey):  how long before she is getting international acclaim and attention?  I hope the L.A.-based songwriter will be visiting London.  I say it a lot- and said it in a previous review this morning- but there are a wealth of chances for her, here.  Venues, pubs and bars will be lining up; radio stations will be eager to play her- Britain is very much her oyster!  Too many (mainly men) will be seduced by Snoh’s staggering beauty and intoxicating personality- the girl has a way with words; someone you could fall for in a heartbeat- but that would belie an extraordinary talent.  I find too many singers are committee-written and a product of marketing men.  With every album you have a cavalcade of writers’ credits and notes:  how much of the artist goes into a song?  No such qualms when it comes to Snoh Aalegra.  Here is a woman with the talent and passion to carry an album; she puts her soul and vision into the music- only employing others to help augment and contextualise sound.  Enthroned in passion and mystique:  the world is going nuts for a seriously

I suggest you go out and buy Don’t Explain– it is available on SoundCloud but the Snoh deserves money after creating something this good.  It’s Just a Fever (Intro.) has vocal snippets:  dialogue from films and old a real sense of vintage glamour.  Here is a wonderful interlude that makes you smile and gets your head in a dreamy paradise.  I am not sure whether this was written for the record- or taken from old films- but the words seem very apt.  The lines:  “What use is warmth if it can’t keep you well?/It’s just a fever” make you very curious and are remarkable sentiments.  There is imagery of illness and love; a mixture of visions and emotions.  Even within a few seconds; Snoh Aalegra has planted the seeds and set the tone of Don’t Explain.  The one-minute song has charm and background strings; layers of audio and a sense of sweeping romance underpinning it.  No listener will be immune to its warmth, wisdom and brilliance.

  In Your River is the latest single and has gained an avalanche of praise and investigation.  The track looks at dealing with infatuation and a sensational bond- so deep in a trance everything else starts to disappear.  Whether Snoh wrote it during a particular romance- maybe a passion that was burning and intoxicating- it results in a truly dizzying moment.  Tumbling beats remind me of Trip-Hop acts like Massive Attack.  There is a feeling of ‘90s glory mixing alongside something older-days and ‘70s-influenced.  Backed by aching, evocative strings:  that beautiful and smoky voice drips with honey, soul and affection.  Within a few notes you learn so much about our heroine:  what makes her heart tick and how her mind works; the need to regain focus and step back from something bigger than her.  The invariable comparisons to Amy Winehouse will arrive; that is no minor compliment.  In the way the sadly-departed icon gripped you with that cigarette-ravished voice:  Snoh has an equally gorgeous and electrifying tone.  Not as aged and worn as Winehouse:  there is a purity and caramel-dipped sweetness that mixes into the boiling pot.  Our girl confesses she never knows “what to do”.  She is trying to please her man and is ignoring her own wishes and life.  So deep in the throes of love:  the composition perfectly encapsulates the changing moods and seasons; the way the head spins and the heart beats- the swirling, drugged effect love can have.  Sparse beats and parping horns melt; rising strings sit with something tribal and brutal- as our heroine lets her voice roar and rise.  You get the sense (In Your River) is a mixtape:  perhaps four or five songs expertly knotted together.  Realising her best is “not good enough” you sense that pain and defeat:  maybe she set herself unrealistic expectations.  The song switches courses and goes from investigative reflection to defiant shout.  A stunning composition that packs so much in:  many have compared this song to a Bond theme.  You can see it scoring a new Bon film:  something dangerous and seductive.  The espionage theme is far superior to Sam Smith’s recent effort.  You have all the components of a classic film:  your head switches between James Bond-esque chase and a classic film- where the heroine walks away from a dangerous love.  To the very last note, you are invested in a pure and graveled voice that possesses so much power and conviction.  It takes multiple listens to drink the song in:  different spins will see you focus on different aspects.  By the final note you sit back aghast:  having heard something truly life-affirming.

Charleville 9200 (ft. James Fauntleroy) is the third track from Don’t Explain and takes us in a different direction.  The opening pair seemed like a connective suite.  The opening interlude perfectly backed In Your River.  Both numbers had their heads between the ‘40s and ‘70s:  love was being looked at in a very classic and honest way.  With those James Bond theme-esque instruments creating something epic:  the listener is curious to hear what arrives next.  The hollow, edge beats- they roll and tumble- reminded me of a classic Soul number:  the type you could see James Brown killing.  There is an edginess and contemporary vibe that sees Snoh check the mic- “One, two…”- and welcoming in a dramatic and gorgeous number.  In terms of motivation; the song is based on true events.  Written with Fauntleroy:  the song reflects on a blissful memory for Snoh Aalegra.  After sitting/lying on the grass with her boy- kissing his eyelids as strangers walked by- there is an element of high school cheese and juvenile cuteness that backs this song.  Declaring “This is how it feels to be alive” you get inside the song and are sat with the lovers.  The energy- passed through the boy to her- this movie vibe- sets the scene and captures the heart.  A sweeter, more high-pitched vocal- to represent the song’s youthful purity- you see another side to Snoh.  Again, you get the insatiable beats and tender elements.  Whilst this romance is not perfect:  every step they take is like a movie.  It is great hearing the heroine swimming in a pure and wonderful memory.  Whether she is still with her love- and the relationship has blossomed- or it is in the past:  you cannot ignore the importance of the track.  Your feet are whipped by the militaristic drumroll; the piano plinks and adds a graceful step; a concoction of sounds and emotions.  Fauntleroy comes in with his smooth and chocolate-rich voice.  Beautifully contrasting our heroine:  he acts as the song’s hero; giving the song serenity, seduction and allure.  The two vocalists seem like a match made in Heaven:  both are able to get inside the head and evoke something quite indescribable.  “A tidal wave in my bed” is a very unique- and quite vivid- representation of this love.  Sweaty and animalistic at times;  the duo is surrendering to their instincts and submitting to the feeling.  As the song comes to its end; there is a clear aim:  get into a car and just drive away together.  Wherever they are headed- somewhere new or familiar- you see them cruise into the sunset; together in each other’s arms.  The electronics warp and crash like waves; the vocals have that R&B-cum-Soul vibe: an emotive and rushing end to a wonderful song.

  Home begins with a building electronic motif that brings together snatches of voices and ghostly echoes.  Before a word is sung you picture what is coming next:  your mind starts to work and project little scenes and figures.  Snoh arrives at the microphone with that soulful and bold voice ready to work.  Written with Sam Drew:  it is a track about what makes home:  whether it is somewhere you live or where you have loved ones.  After travelling across the planet to chase he dreams- leaving Sweden behind- it was an odd and uprooting process.  These confusions and experiences come through strongly.  Seeing herself as a wanderer and roamer:  she has been homeless and directionless for a while.  Alter feeling dislocated for a while:  now our heroine is home and has a place she called her own.  There is a real ‘70s Soul that runs through the track.  The multi-tracked vocals and looking-for-safety lyrics put me in mind of Stevie Wonder, to a great extent.  Snoh Aalegra sounds effortless when in this milieu:  someone naturally comfortable when channeling the bliss and genius of Wonder; making that sound very much her own.  An agile and nimble song that has a distinct sense of purpose:  it is one of the most personal and stand-out from the mini-album.  You get a contemporary vibe- a song that could soundtrack the club floors of L.A.- that site effortless with sounds of Soul’s past.  A catchy and soul-baring number:  it marks a blissful half-way mark.

Don’t Explain’s title track welcomes in the next half with a bang.  This is a Billie Holiday number that means a lot to Snoh.  A song about living in the moment and not thinking about the future:  some things do not need to be explained.  It is a brave and impressive choice; one you might not expect to hear in 2016.  Few artists cover Holiday now and that is a shame:  her songs have such power and inspiration; they are timeless and filled with truth and wisdom.  Those sparring, fighting beats come in- the trademark from the heroine- and introduce a smooth and delicious vocal.  Not trying to mimic Holiday:  what you get is a very personal representation of an important song.  Adapting the words for her own means; you can tell how crucial and appropriate Don’t Explain is.  Sentiments like “I’m completely yours” and “You know that I love you” get your mind thinking:  who was she directing these words to?  An intriguing chapter that is expressed with some of the most beautiful and pure vocals I have heard in a while.  Beats keep beating and flowing; evocative strings bring a touch of the ‘40s and ‘50s to the fray- united; you get a wonderful, vivid impression.  Snoh has always been exceptional when it comes to composition- and her producers help too- and here you get a fine example.  You would not recognise this song from the original:  it has been reinvented and made to sound completely new.  Few artists can cover a song and make it seem like an original:  this sounds like a true Snoh Aalegra track; that is an impressive feat indeed.

Under the Influence is a two-part song that deals with love’s dangers.  Snoh wrote the song(s) based around the notion of love as a drug:  you might leave someone- thinking it’s for the best- but want them even more.  Trying to go cold turkey can be a rather tricky thing.  Ensuring the mini-album employs different ideals, themes and emotions:  we witness something rather shaky and uncertain.  Opening the song with cooing vocals and cinematic strings:  the influence of Amy Winehouse creeps back in.  One cannot help but imagine her when Snoh comes to sing:  her subject matter could easily fit inside Back to Black.  I mean this with the greatest faith and respect:  Snoh Aalegra takes Winehouse’s best assets and puts her own heart and soul into the music.  J.P. Saxe gets a writing credit on a song who keeps its sentiments simple and direct.  The words see the two lovers trying to distance and make sense of things.  Our heroine is a little afraid (both are); feels she must be alone:  when she is with her man; she is caught in his inescapable spell.  Perhaps the finest composition on the mini-album:  the detail and attention is a marvel.  The same can be said of the vocal delivery:  so many emotions and expressions are uttered; each with the utmost professionalism and sense of drama.  An accomplished singer that makes you shiver and sigh:  Snoh’s voice is at its very peak here. In pure Soul territory:  our girl is caught under the influence and fighting a losing battle.  Whether she can walk away or not:  you yearn for her and hope things will be okay.  The boy is confused and the two are working things out.  The boy has “never felt anything like this” and you wonder just HOW explosive the love is.  Clearly, Snoh Aalegra is a woman who can reduce a man to his knees.  Every relationship she has been in:  she has turned boys into men; seduced them with little effort; left them a gibbering wreck.  It seems both needs to cool-off and take time out for themselves.  In so much as you want the story to end- so they can both find peace- you do not want the song to end.  That electric, unstoppable voice elicits something primeval and instant:  you close your eyes and are helpless to refute its kiss.  The composition goes from simple and teasing to rousing and firework-heavy.  One of the finest songs on Don’t Explain:  this song will be a live favourite for sure.  We can all identify with its messages and empathise with the heroine.

 

The song’s second part sees John Mayer on guitar:  he was so stunned by the track he insisted on featuring.  The Blues-tinged coda is a stunning performance- with so many strands and ideas.  A lusty, mellifluous thing:  the guitar luxuriates and floats in a mellow sky.  Lip-licking and sensuous:  a wonderful way to end the song.  This is Mayer vibing and feeling the weight of the song:  closing his eyes and letting his guitar do some talking.  It would have been foolhardy to nix this line- thinking it indulgent somewhat- but it works brilliantly.  Effectively an instrumental track, it not only concludes the song the right way:  it stands on its own feet and gives the mini-album another contour and side.

   Don’t Explain has acted as a concept album of sorts:  a continuous story with various chapters; a film with progressing scenes.  We have not reached the finale:  the end of the classic that sees the characters wrapping things up.  It’s All On Me sees Snoh reflect on what has come before- those dangerous love affairs and decisions made- and realising it is all on her.  Whatever has happened- and whether she has her heart broken- she is responsible for this.  A mature and impressive deceleration from an intelligent woman:  one who does not blame others and takes responsibility for things.  The spoken word snippet expresses this confession:  like the introduction; we hear weeping strings score a classic-sounding film snippet.  The heroine- again; whether it is Snoh or a well-sourced film- confesses to making a mess- maybe some unwise choices have been made along the way.  Everything is brought down in a gentle and soul-searching vignette.  Under one-minute long:  it is a beautiful way to wrap things up…

Well it would were it not for the ‘hidden track’:  this is the ‘end credits’ and the chance to get a last shot of the main feature.  Chaos is another cover version:  this time from the wonderful Sia.  It is wonderful to think of two disparate musicians:  Billie Holiday and Sia.  It shows what a breadth and range of idols Snoh has.  It is a perfect choice as- the previous cover- looked at older times and a Blues legend.  Here, we get someone modern-day and more relevant.  Whereas the Holiday cover will resonate with those of a certain age- and inspire new listeners- the Sia cover is more aimed at younger audiences.  Once again- and with every track on this record- it is given a fresh perspective and completely different take.  Hot and racing beats fuse with crackling electronics.  When Snoh comes to the microphone she delivers one of her most direct and earnest performances.  Recorded three years ago; it is one of the oldest inclusions.  Our heroine loved the song- upon its original release- and was compelled to record it.  You have a song that, once more, sound like an original.  Lines that look at chaos itself- “What am I to do/without chaos?”- seem ready-made for the mini-album.  The entire song looks at chaos effect and results- a butterfly flapping its wing- and employs metaphors for love and desire into the song.  Such a shrewd choice (of song) for Snoh who gives the track new meaning and a wonderful performance.  Dramatic and atmospheric:  you are drawn into the unpredictability and making-sense-of-it-all confusion that is unfolding.  It is here you get the most unique and personal vocal from Snoh:  she casts off influences and sounds like a woman reborn.  In previous numbers, we hear bits of Soul and Blues greats; ‘70s masters and ‘00s influencers- here this is very much Snoh Aalegra.  Even though this track was recorded in 2013:  it sounds utterly relevant and fresh.  Layering her voice- giving the song a head-spinning and drugged wooze- we get a wonderful swansong.  It pulls all the themes of Don’t Explain together:  leaving the listener wanting (a lot) more.

Congratulations must be given to Snoh Aalegra who has produced one of this year’s most important records.  As I type- I have been writing this for the last few hours- I am watching her Twitter feed.  The comments and praise and coming in fast:  she responds to each one with charming emoticons and thanks.  When the rest of the world hears Don’t Explain- she will get a lot more feedback in the next 24-hours- that is when things start to happen.  A gorgeous and dramatic 9-track release; a powerful, personal and divine creation:  you will be listening to this time and time again.  Kudos must be given to producers No ID and DJ Dahi; Boi-1da and Frank Dukes; Christian Rich (In Your River).  The team has naturally fitted into the groove and bring the best from Snoh.

Every track has a distinct vibe- thanks to the production hand- but every track fits together seamlessly.  The track order is perfect to ensure the mini-album is neither top or bottom-heavy.  There is a perfect weight distribution and an unfolding story.  It is like a drama/film playing out:  the early uncertainty to the explosive love; walking away and finding a safe place.  The L.A.-based musician mixes ‘30s and ‘40s snippets together with ‘70s Soul and modern-day beats.  You get so many ideas, genres and time periods playing together:  lesser artists would make a mess of it.  In authoritative and skilled hands; we have an accomplished and stunning thing.  The songwriting is impressive, intelligent and nuanced throughout.  Whether combining with other songwriters or solo-ing:  the words stay in the mind and always elicit a response.  You would query whether a coupe of cover versions should go into a record of such importance.  Not only are both choices completely right and essential:  they give Snoh the chance to channel a different lyrical style and explore new ground.  Effortlessly reinterpreting Billie Holiday and Sia:  this shows a young artist who is one of the finest interpretive voices on the planet.  Overall, you have a mini-album that is unforgettable, indispensable indeed.  Whether Snoh will read this or not, she must realise:  the buzz and praise is not going to stop anytime soon.  The demand will be on for that next record:  not bad from a woman who has spent a lot of time traveling and finding ‘home’.  When it comes to music; she has very-much found her place.  Let us all hope she continues this momentum and carries on with the music.  Don’t Explain is a wonderful achievement from one of the world’s brightest voices.

In Your River was released a matter of days ago and received huge acclaim and feedback.  The lead-off single from Don’t Explain:  it has been championed around the world and is a sensational song.  It was the perfect window into one of music’s most special and original voices.  Given the fact Don’t Explain has just been unveiled:  the future is very much that of Snoh Aalegra.  I can see her going on to big things this year.  Once the mini-album truly hits- picks up more reviews and gets radio play- the festivals and venues will come a-calling!  Let’s hope Snoh’s itinerary includes London:  there are those here that need to see her in the flesh.  From there, well who knows?!  I was staggered by the depth, nuance and addictiveness throughout Don’t Explain.  Even though it is a 28-minute, 9-track record:  you have so many ideas and blissful moments.  In the middle is that intoxicating and jaw-slacking voice:  one that makes the heart melt and lips salivate.  With Snoh Aalegra you have that trouser-troubling, blush-inducing beauty; the hip-shaking, voice-ringing panache- a complete package that we have not seen the likes of.  Over the course of the last year- when the song Emotional was released- there has been a progression and evolution.  Back then- and when her E.P. was dropped- the heroine was keen to collaborate on writing duties- all-too-eager to share her pen with others.  Now, there is that increase in confidence and personality.  Snoh is emerging from a chrysalis with vivid wings and multi-coloured lustre.  A butterfly with a cigarette in her mouth:  I am fascinated by everything the young artist comes up with.  I am a relatively latecomer to the Swedish-born singer.  Snoh always knew what she wanted to do:  from a tender age, she knew music was her calling.  Even as a teenager- when thoughts and dreams are capricious and ever-changing- that determination and goal remains unchanged.  Having been surrounded by the sound of Lauryn Hill and Michael Jackson; Prince and the best from music:  you can see why she was compelled to follow in their footsteps.  Many musicians adore their heroes and try to reproduce their sound.  Not the case with Snoh Aalegra.  She has a foundation of Hill and Jackson- the raw and earthy beats; the strong, proud lyrics; the swagger and swing- but cannot be compared with another.  It is only left for me to congratulate Snoh Aalegra and pray she comes my way.  I know there will be demands from around the world- even as we speak.

I know how much effort and herself went into Don’t Explain.  She has been giddy and excited for weeks now:  keen to share her work with the general public.  Judging by the initial reaction- effusive praise and profanity-laden love- you can judge for yourself.  In Your River was met with ecstatic reception and (Don’t Explain’s) companion tracks will gain a similar reaction.  Throughout the 9 numbers you get a consistency and variegation juxtaposition.  The music has an identity and stems from the same woman:  no two songs sound the same; so much ground is covered.  If you have not fallen in love with Snoh Aalegra, then you are about to.  Don’t Explain is a marvelous work from a stunning human.  Previous E.P., There Will Be Sunshine, mixed Swedish elements (the introduction Stockholm) with a woman discovering her voice and place.  The 6-track record mixed negativities- bad sh** unfolding around her- with positivity and hope for better days.   Right from the start, the unique and beautiful voice gave each track candour, emotion and huge weight.  Turn the clocks forward a year and Sweden is replaced with America.  The Persian roots bubble in the background but what we have is a young woman in a new place exploring new visions.  With each passing year; we see a leap in confidence and the most exceptional songwriting to date.  Whether inspired by a particular guy- heartbroken or yearning for someone special- it has gone into a creation that you will not forget.  Just look at the cover art to Don’t Explain and it says it all.  You have (our heroine) is a headscarf and shades:  driving along and heading for Hollywood Hills.  The pink-dressed, rabbit-holding example gives a sad look to camera.  Elsewhere you get tableaus of progressing passion:  our girl being dripped by the hero; going in for the kiss.  In another image- on the bottom right side- you have potential conflict and argument.  Each picture tells what goes into the mini-album.  Don’t Explain has heartache and regret; there is lust and passion- explosion and a rebellious soul.  At its heart is a relatable and honest young woman who bares her soul in the music.  She has a huge connection with her fans and an endless love for music.  If you need any further proof Snoh Aalegra is one of this year’s hottest properties:  let her latest record spin and…

SURRENDER to its immense charms.

 

 

__________________________________________________

Follow Snoh Aalegra

 

Official:

http://snoh-diary.tumblr.com/

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/Snohofficial

Twitter:

https://twitter.com/snohofficial

Instagram:

https://www.instagram.com/snohofficial/

____________________________________

Music

https://soundcloud.com/snohaalegra

TRACK REVIEW: Joy Oladokun- Shelter

TRACK REVIEW:

 

Joy Oladokun

 

 

 

Shelter

 

9.5/10

 

Shelter is available at:

https://soundcloud.com/joyoladokun/shelter-mix-60

RELEASED:
March 2016

GENRES:
Soul; R&B

ORIGIN:

Los Angeles, U.S.A.

____________________________________

IT is a rarity encountering a musician who brings faith and hope…

into music.  In the sea of love-against-the-rocks-cum-my-heart-is-broken songs; it is refreshing finding someone who strays away from such obvious themes.  After the recent upheaval in the world- attacks around the globe- we need to embrace music that gives us strength and makes us reflect.  There is selfishness and self-obsession among many current-day artists.  Writing a love song- for instance- is a necessary and brave move.  After a while, the tutored listener yearns for something more fulfilling and inspiring.  My featured artist- who I shall introduce shortly- is bringing hope and faith to people.  I do not mean in an ecumenical sense, exclusively:  something uplifting in a general sense, more like.  There are not many musicians out there who use their voice and songs to promote purity, thanks and honesty.   I feel like there is much negativity and accusation in today’s songs.  I am starting to sound like a middle-aged man- I shall temper my rant- but there are masses of vitriol, pain and finger-pointing to be found.  Once in a while, we want to listen to music that has that positivity and redemptiveness; using music as a gospel, in a sense- reaching listeners and concentrating on something deeper and more profound.  Music is a tool that should inspire and amaze people:  do something primal and elicit all sorts of emotions and thoughts.  There are opportunities being wasted and too many who plague music with their own pain and opinions.  In the way politicians have the platform to make real change- and really don’t when you think about it- musicians are similarly privileged.

When I think of Joy Oladokun; I am amazed by her for a number of reasons.  I shall go into more depth, but for now, let me introduce her to you:

Joy Oladokun is a LA-based singer/songwriter who combines the sounds of roots rock, with folk songwriting and a voice that oozes with soul and honesty. Writing and playing the guitar from the age of 10, Joy has always used music as a way to make sense of the struggles and celebrate the triumph of life. In 2015, Joy self-produced and released her debut EP titled ‘Cathedrals’, still available on iTunes. Last year, Joy raised $30,000 in a Kickstarter campaign for the funding of her first full-length album.

Joy Oladokun has recently released Shelter, the first single taken from her upcoming debut album. As for the meaning behind the song she adds ‘Shelter is a song I wrote about learning how to receive love, and fighting to give it without reservation or condition’.

Her debut album Carry is set to be released on April 29th. Joy states ‘Every song stemmed from a lesson I learned, or a lesson I’m still learning. I write to process and to heal, and I sing to help others do the same. I think this past year has taught me that my voice is one of the few gifts I have, and I can use it to spread a lot of love and lift people up. That’s the heart behind the album, and that’s my motivation as a person too.’ Joy will embark on a worldwide tour later this year to support her new material.

Again, I’m at the feet of an L.A.-based musician.  It seems inevitable to find myself in this position:  with every passing week, I swear I will wean myself from the alluring bosom of Los Angeles.  Oladokun has an arresting voice that delivers its messages with a stunning weight and authority.  When I listen to her sing; hear those tones rise and power:  you cannot help but be blown away and overwhelmed.  With such a weapon at her disposal:  Oladokun uses it to teach lessons and exorcise demons inside her.  As our heroine has already stated:  songs stems from experiences and harsh realisations; the aural projection of reality check and revelation.  Yes, you are going to get the odd line about love and broken hearts:  by-and-large, the music concentrates on something much wiser and deep.  It is rare to find a songwriter who does things differently to everyone else.  Her album, Carry, is released in a few weeks and has come about due to a (successful) Kickstarter campaign.  The fans and followers have backed the L.P. and ensured it sees the light:  clearly there is a lot of love and support for Joy Oladokun.  Music is an industry that demands relentless dedication and a- seemingly endless- supply of money.  I feel financial concerns are pricing upcoming artists out of the business.  You can have immense ambition and plenty of energy:  that can all dissipate when the issue of financing and money comes into view.  Certain people have views on crowd-funding websites.  Many consider it a bit of a cheat:  an easy way to get money for projects; not an honest way of doing things.  I disagree with this completely.  I have reservations- with regards this issue- when it comes to celebrities and big bands.  I have seen many well-off celebrities use these sites to raise extra money:  funds they surely have in their pocket?!  Crowd-funding websites are essential for musician and a way for the art-form to survive.  Was it not for the generous pockets and faithful hearts of her followers:  Carry might never have seen the light of day?  I am glad it has as it is among the most impressive and unforgettable albums this year.  Shelter is a wonderful window into a record that amazes and stuns with every listen.  I am looking at social media and seeing the reviews come through:  writers are eager to lend their praise and adulation to Oladokun’s cause.  Not just confined to L.A.-based writers:  around the world; the paen and appreciation have been flooding in.  It makes me happy to see this happen.  Joy Oladokun is among the strongest and real musicians out there:  somebody born to do this; gives music the soul and honesty it desperately craves.  I know touring dates are on the cards this year.  Whether Oladokun will come to the U.K. – let’s hope she does- is another matter.  There is a great fan-base waiting here and thousands who would come to her gigs and show their support.

I have seen commentators and reviewers who share the same opinion:  Joy Oladokun is an artist who sounds like a veteran; someone who has been producing albums for many years.  The truth is, this young artist has been playing for a few years- she has many years in front of her.  Shelter is the latest cut from one of the most prolific and impressive musicians around.

   MJ was released near the end of last year and is a heart-stopping and tender thing.  A curious and wonderful song:  you start to picture the scenes and get to the roots of its mysteries.  Backed by guitar- a beautifully raw and rumbling string- that voice swoons and seduces.  Praying for peace and answers; “We’re no more than strangers” is a coda that causes emotional reaction and curiosity.  Whether documenting a broken love or falling friendship:  our heroine is not going to kick and scream; not beg and let things get her down.  That strength and resilience overrides the mood and shows incredible fortitude and strength.  Even from such an early track; you hear that authority and conviction.  Sounding seasoned and completely in-control:  the song makes an enormous impact and shows the heroine in entrancing mode.

   Falling Stones was released shortly after (MJ) and is a similarly-paced song.  If anything, there is a softness and gentleness to be found.  Perhaps the finest and sensitive song from Oladokun:  it is a pure Folk song given a modern twist.  Finger-picking guitar backs a song that tackles demons and investigates the issues of loneliness.  The heroine turns the lights out and closes the door:  the floor’s writing is being read; she falls asleep and thinks about life.  Here is a song that has maturity and wisdom at its heart.  Our heroine looks back at hearts she’s broken:  how life has thrown obstacles and the struggles she has witnessed.  There is no sense of guilt and anger to be found:  just a woman that wants to make things better and learn from these lessons.  Each new occurrence/pain makes her stronger and more determined.  This is reflected in a song that gets inside the head and makes you think about your own life.

    Little Runaway is perhaps the most haunting song from Joy Oladokun.  The voice is at its most shivering and shimmering.  The song’s subject is running and affected by liars and the deceitful.  The heroine is singing to him/her and wanting a safe return.  Maybe they (the runaway) wants a dream life and something safe:  not quite what they have right now.  As the song progresses, it seems like a call to a lover or friend.  Oladokun will do anything just to be with them:  the chance to sit with her and put down their weary head.  It is a scintillating song that explodes with emotion and declaration.  One of the most direct and urgent songs you can hear:  that bare-naked, exposed voice is a thing of beauty.  It cracks and holds; it coos and strikes- so much pain and heartache come through in some moments.

Given the varied and consistent catalogue shown:  it seems Carry will include a few of these tracks.  I would love to see all the aforementioned included:  the songs show the different sides to Oladokun and just what she can achieve.  So confident and cemented in her early days:  few musicians have that sort of ability and quality at such an early stage.  Not only will her album show what an amazing talent we have:  its reception and reviews will (one hopes) give her the confidence to keep making music- to grow and do what she loves.  A lot of artists seem rather cautious in their sapling recordings:  Joy Oladokun is one of the boldest and determined musicians I have ever heard.  Long may she continue!

The reason I am typing is to review and investigate Shelter.  Given the weight of love and degree of consideration the song has been granted already- what can I provide?  Starting with a combination of gentle piano- carefully paced and elliptical- we hear some far-off, wordless vocals:  the earliest moments cause you to lean into the speakers and inside a dreamy and peculiar sound.  Emotive and distant; direct and mysterious:  there are contradictions and conflicts to be discovered.  Some people might get an impression of Adele in Oladokun’s voice.  There are similar tones and conviction, but for my money, that is where the similarities end.  Oladokun has far more gravitas and variation to her sound:  it is a deeper and more fascinating vocal.  The early words are from a woman that is trying to mend fences and talk things through.  Her sweetheart is walking out the door; ignorant and blind to the issues in front of them.  Things need to be discussed and reconciliation arrived at.  Our heroine is patient but keen to get the dialogue started.  Shelter was inspired by- in Oladokun’s words- the need to fight for love without reservation; learning how to receive love.  Looking at indiscretions and faults- the hero has negative and is not perfect- there is not that need and desire.  While many songwriters are angry and short-tempered when it comes to the imbalance in love:  here, there is that need to maturely discuss things and make the relationship stronger and purer.  With only one demand- “Promise you’ll be honest”- you cast your imagination inside the song and are sat alongside the two lovers.  Oladokun keeps the composition slight and bare:  the piano is fleet-footed and punctuating; it is the rich and emotive vocal that is given the spotlight here.  Without pretense and pressure; without force and demands:  this relationship can only grow and succeed if they are on a level plain.  Showing compassion and maturity:  the duo needs to work through things and come together.

There is positivity and faithfulness that rides through the entire song.  There are never any regrets and harsh words:  the heroine is a safe haven and shelter for her man; she will protect him when needs be.  Before too long, the vocals layer and augment:  the song starts to build and the narrative changes direction.  It takes a while to make a “house a home” it is said:  things will not improve and be wonderful in such a short time.  A tense and spattering beat joins the mix as the song accelerates and kicks up.  With energy and fresh impetus:  Shelter transforms from gospel-like investigator to motivated soul jam.  Oladokun brings that chorus back in and it has gained fresh relevance:  sounding bigger and more memorable than the first time around.  Many songwriters have covered similar themes- learning from hurt and changing the past- but few with such a conviction and originality.  At every stage, that deep and entrancing voice ensure each lyric is given huge meaning.  The song’s hero has been scarred before and seems reluctant to lend his heart freely.  Our heroine understands this and is not looking to rush things.  What they both need- that desire coming through- is a strong and safe love.  Mutual indemnification if you will:  it may not sound like Romeo and Juliet but it is what both crave and need.  The hero has his wounds and gone through hard days; our heroine promises safe arms and a secure foundation.  If the hero is lost and in need of a shelter:  Oladokun is going to be there and will not run away from things.  I know our heroine has reflected on real-life events, but it makes you wonder.  Is this relationship- the one being investigated- still going?  Shelter seems like such a logical definition of Carry:  the purest and honest song you can ever hope for.  The album is sure to feature different angles on love, faith and support:  Shelter is the most evocative and beautiful example of this.  By the final seconds, you are powerless to resist the power and potency of the chorus.  Oladokun layers her voice- some wordless coos in there- and ensures her intentions and promises are heard and understood.

When things do end, you smile and take it all in.  Shelter has a contemporary sound- I have mentioned the likes of Adele; perhaps an apt comparison- but looks at the soul and folk of the ‘70s and ‘80s.  Those legends of the genre- from Tracy Chapman to Aretha Franklin; to Marvin Gaye- might come to mind but you cannot overlook the singularity and personality of Joy Oladokun.  Here is a singer that does not want to be compared with anyone else and has her own way of working.  There are not many musicians that write such positive and inspiring songs.  Shelter is one of the most overtly hopeful and fighting-against-the-odds songs.  When I review similar tracks- that try to build a relationship- the outcome is always the same:  things hit the rocks and there is blame left in the air.  Not the case here.  That strong ethic remains throughout- talking things through and just knowing (our heroine lets it be known) there is comfort and safety to be found in the storm.  With that in mind, you cannot help but fall for Shelter.  The terrific production values allow Oladokun’s rich and expressive voice sit at the top of the mix:  unimpeded and at its most striking.  Few songs this year will leave such an impression in the mind.

Shelter has resonated with a lot of people over the last few weeks.  Since its release; I have seen so many reviews come through that say the same things.  The positivity and adulation cannot be overstated:  a singular moment that cannot be faulted or diminished.  There are a lot of promising solo artists that each has their own sound.  I am hard-pushed to compare Joy Oladokun with anyone else.  A heartwarming and joy-seeking artist:  how many musicians look for the positives in life?  I feel we are becoming unevolved and going backwards somewhat:  so many aspects of society are regressing to past days.  With violence and uncertainty rising; political turmoil and horror- the unstoppable force of the monster Trump- we all need a common grace and light.  In the past, music used to provide that.  I am not sure what it is but things are starting to disintegrate and fragment.  Fewer trailblazers and emerging; the captivating spirit of Rock is weaning; the surprise and originality are coming out of music (to a degree).  When I look at Joy Oladokun I see a musician from a different time.  She has elements of the soul greats of the past:  when the likes of Aretha Franklin and Nina Simone used to rule; the Folk goddesses like Tracy Chapman reigned.  Essentially, we have a musician that is bringing the good and virtuous back into music.  Someone who is promulgating positive messages and baring her soul with it.  Shelter is a gorgeous song that gives thanks for this love; it does not pour cynicisms and scorn on it.  There are those who use music to portray the tragedy and heartache of love:  being duped, dumped and infected by something wholly regretful.  Oladokun is not your average songwriter, sir:  she gives love without reservation; ensures her heart and soul is received with no malice and prerequisites.  Who can argue with such a force of nature?  If more musicians were like our heroine then the industry would be in a much better position.  It is not just the words and ethics that impress me.  That central voice is undeniably raw and wonderful.  You get shades of Soul and Folk greats- bits of Chapman seep through at times- but such is the originality and flair of the voice.  It is hard to take it all in for one reason:  it is a pure and very real sound.  Artists- not all, but many- ululate and project too much they disguise their personality or mimic others; they lose focus and control.

Oladokun is one of the most direct and natural singers I have heard.  There are no added ingredients or needless showiness:  just a passionate young woman who wants her music to inspire and uplift.  The sermon-like songs are having an effect and making their mark around the world.  When Carry is released, it will show Oladokun at full flight and full force.  I cannot wait to get inside the album and revel in its many sides and emotions.  If Shelter is anything to go by; we are about to witness one of the most essential and impressive albums in years.  I will end looking at Oladokun’s future and how she fits into the current scene.  I have talked about her tour dates and plans- taking the music around the U.S. – but surely a stop-off in Britain is on the agenda?  The U.K. holds so much love and affection for one of music’s most promising stars.  I know a few London venues that would host Oladokun and see the bodies pack in.  With summer approaching, it seems the perfect time to have her come to London:  seduce and amaze the audiences with that singular and mesmeric sound.  From there, who knows?  Carry is the result of crowd-funding faith and a lot of demand.  Once the dust settled and the record has been received; where does the L.A. musician head?  There is no telling how far Joy Oladokun can go.  She has said herself- on a Twitter post from a couple of weeks back- you can be red-hot one moment; forgotten the next.  Love, as she attests, will outlast everything.  As a musician, the parable is relevant indeed:  there is fickleness that means the very best can be buried and overlooked for no reason.  Putting faith, love and acceptance into her songs; trying to lift the listeners and provide guidance:  I find it hard to believe Joy Oladokun will ever be forgotten and passed by.   Whilst I type, I am listening to Shelter (again) and letting it do its thing:  washing into the subconscious and soothing the soul.  It also- clever little thing- hits the heart and provides immediate reaction.  I wonder how a song can do that, but when it comes to Joy Oladokun there is…

A lot more where that came from.

 

________________________________________________

Follow Joy Oladokun

 

Official:

http://www.joyo.rocks/

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/Joy-Oladokun-1396909417288631/?fref=ts

Twitter:

https://twitter.com/joyoladokun

Instagram:

https://www.instagram.com/joyoladokun/

________________________________________

Music

https://soundcloud.com/joyoladokun

TRACK REVIEW: Alexandra Jayne- Clumsy Love

TRACK REVIEW:

 

Alexandra Jayne

 

 

Clumsy Love

 

9.5/10

 

 

Clumsy Love is available at:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rYmlOtO7oUM

RELEASED:
7th February, 2016

GENRES:
Folk; Alternative/Pop

ORIGIN:

Staffordshire, U.K.

The E.P., Clumsy Love, is available at:

https://itunes.apple.com/gb/album/clumsy-love-ep/id1078715226

TRACK LISTING:

Clumsy Love

Hullabaloo

Bright Lights

Slow Down

____________________________________

THERE are few solo artists that are playing with such a distinct…

voice and way of working.  My featured act has been lauded due to her incredible tones and immersive, beautiful music.   I shall come to her shortly, but for now, I wanted to look at the vitality of a unique voice; artists of the West Midlands- completing with a bit about making your way in music.  I have encountered a great deal of musicians that stick too firmly to their idols and current heroes.  There is a real problem in modern music:  too few artists have their own style and truly original voice.  I find- even in 2016- that necessity to replicate others burns strong.  This is a point I have raised a lot:  it is an ever-apt argument that gets to me.  In the modern climate; musicians have to work harder than ever to find success and longevity.  With so many artists flooding the market; there is a constant battle for survival and growth.  For that reason, it is paramount to consider the vocal you are putting out:  if it sounds like someone else; are you going to have long-term support and appreciation?  Those musicians that do not work on this- content to sounds fake and over-familiar- will always have a hard time of thing.  In the mainstream, there are some culpable musicians.  We all know the sort:  singers that remind you of legends past.  Whilst it is hard to create a completely original vocal:  there is no excuse for being lazy.  Alexandra Jayne has been compared with Stevie Nicks:  to be honest; the young musician is one of the most standout vocalists I have heard in a while.  You can tell how hard she has worked to craft that vocal.

Touring and performing widely:  with each year, she grows in confidence and adds new beauty and layers (to the voice).  Before I continue on my point, let me introduce Alexandra Jayne to you:

“Alexandra Jayne is a singer-songwriter from the West Midlands who recently supported James Blunt’s ‘Moon Landing’ tour at the NIA in Birmingham. See footage of her at the NIA via BBC Midlands Today.

Two of her songs have been BBC Radio Shropshire’s Song of the Month, firstly ‘Who I’ve Become‘ and most recently her cover of Wizzard’s ‘I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday.’ Last year, whilst based in Liverpool she won the Liverpool Acoustic Songwriting Challenge with her song ‘1969‘.

A classically trained singer, Alexandra first picked up a guitar at the age of 15 and has since crafted her own distinctive songwriting. Her acoustic style is complemented by a strong, soulful voice which has led to comparisons with Joan Baez.

Alexandra gigs regularly and has previously performed at Liverpool’s world famous Cavern Club and at festivals including Oxjam, Threshold Festival and Shropshire’s Rock n Bowl Festival. She has performed live on BBC Radio and is a regular on BBC Shropshire Introducing.

Quite a glittering and impressive career (so far) from a musician that is set to get stronger and more successful.  Clumsy Love is a four-track E.P. that showed what a proposition we have.  Whether you see Alexandra Jayne as a Stevie Nick-cum-Joan Baez Folk/Pop singer, you have to admit:  the sound she produces is very much her own.  There is that special and personal vibe- you get listening to the songs- that emanates from a very distinct personality.  Although she touches on common themes and ideas- struggling with love and overcoming heartache- the way she does it is both charming and wise.  There is a mature mind at work:  someone who has a young heart that has experienced some pain.  Having featured a load of London acts recently- another common theme on mine- it is nice to stay away from the capital.  Being based in Shropshire- located in the West Midlands- it allows me to explore the musicians that made the area famous.  From The Specials to Electric Light Orchestra; Black Sabbath and The Beat:  quite a line-up of stunning talent and legendary bands.  Judas Priest and Duran Duran, too:  such a mixture of sounds has emanated from the West Midlands.  Given that fantastic legacy, one would imagine media minds would be focused here:  trying to unearth the best on show from a prodigious and fertile musical landscape.  The truth is, it is down to local press/stations to promote the good word.  It is a sad sign of the times there are few media sources that get their heads away from the big cities.  I just know there are some immense bands located in the West Midlands.  The truth us, unless we happen to live in the area, how do we discover them?  The same can be applied to the solo talent:  again, how does one unearth the best and brightest here?  Alexandra Jayne is one of the brightest and most celebrated young artists emerging from the West Midlands.  Having travelled around the U.K., I wonder whether she will remain here:  will the lure of London or L.A. seduce her?  I can imagine her fitting nicely into Los Angeles and playing her music to crowds there.  The same can be said of London:  she would make a big impression down here.  With Alexandra Jayne, there is a mix of intimacy and quirkiness; universal truths and raw power:  an intoxicating blend from a stunning, hard-working musician.  What impresses me about Alexandra Jayne is how she has remained passionate and committed for quite a few years.  I have been following her work since the early days and impressed by how far she has come.  Too many artists get ahead of themselves and assume recognition and success will come straight away.  They may have dreams of fame and fortune; set unrealistic expectations and goals.  Our heroine has a level head and has kept her feet rooted to the ground.  Beginning from humble and modest roots- performing locally and to the home crowds- she is getting stronger; gaining new acclaim and showing immense promise.  After supporting James Blunt; it seems the future is very much hers.  To succeed in music, you need to keep plugging and show that dedication- no matter how hard times get.  Alexandra Jayne has her sights set on bigger things- I can see her being a mainstream act of the future- but knows how much work and commitment are required.  A young and wonderful musician with an incredible sound:  if you have not discovered what she has to offer; you are missing out on one of the best upcoming artists in the country.

Clumsy Love is the latest offering from an artist with a prolific and impressive back catalogue.  Early songs like I Won’t Break and Troubadour showed what a beautiful and entrancing voice (Alexandra Jayne) possessed.  Although these were her first moves in music; that confidence and sound were already crafted and assured.  The rich, emotive compositions and personal lyrics sat alongside absolutely beautiful.  Stamping out a distinct personality and style:  here was an artist that arrived with a huge band.  Not just limited to tender reflections:  the music could be skippy, uplifted and energised (Troubadour is a case in point).  Alexandra Jayne showed how agile and nimble she was as a songwriter.  Few musicians would be able to stretch themselves and still remain focused and authoritative.  Clumsy Love builds on that early promise and shows an extra level of confidence and assurance.  Amazing and fully-realised out the box:  there was no huge need to improve and grow.  What we have- with her new E.P. – is an artist who has grown in urgency and shows what a proposition she is.  The songwriting is more varied and the four tracks demonstrate what a unique and sensational voice she possesses.  This development and strengthening mean future records will provide new insight and possibilities.  Clumsy Love gives insights into the life of Alexandra Jayne:  things that sit in her heart; things that compel her mind.  There are maturity and fragilities; you get wisdom and hurt:  ingredients and components the modern listener desires in their artists.  Unlike most other artists; there is  huge originality and nuance to be discovered.  You cannot spin Clumsy Love and be unaffected.  The first play (of the E.P.) hits you and gets straight inside the mind.  You then find yourself revisiting it and unearthing new sides and joys.  Music this rich and rewarding does not come about that often:  for that reason, Alexandra Jayne deserves a huge amount of support and affection.

Clumsy Love’s title track begins with a plaintive and gentle-strummed acoustic opening.  The introduction is short and sweet- the vocal arrives with clear intention and passion.  Whether compelled by a past (and extinguished love) or taking from the experiences of others- you have a love song with a twist.  There is “nothing interesting” about the hero:  the duo are through and things have reached an end.  Despite the realisation and reflection; the vocal has a chocolate-rich soulfulness and a gorgeous sound.  Gorgeously breathless and tongue-stiffening mature:  it is hard to define that voice and get to the bottom of it.  I am hardly surprised some Stevie Nick comparisons have been made.  You can tell Alexandra Jayne has spent time with Fleetwood Mac and old vinyl:  immersing herself inside the voice of some of music’s most arresting examples.  When listening to Clumsy Love unfold- you fall in love with that treacle, soul-teasing soothe.  Our heroine has a tinge of reflection and sadness in the voice; she is contemplative and separating herself from the bond.  This clumsy love has seen its good moments, but only natural that it ends.  In the early stages, you wonder whether the relationship is through; maybe they are just on a break and taking time apart.  With pillow firmly over her head- blocking out the sound and memories of the boy- you get a very vivid and involving song.  You picture the scenes unfold and are gripped by the wonderful performance.  Not hearing a word the guy said- closing her ears or taking her mind elsewhere- you get a mix of wit and honesty.  The poorly-coordinated relationship seems doomed but strangely meaningful.  As I mentioned:  I am not sure whether this is based upon personal events.  From the strong and meaningful vocal, you would have to say it was.  Few singers are able to emote and captivate as much as Alexandra Jayne.  The way she deploys the lyrics; giving certain phrases and words extra emphasis:  twisting others to create huge resonance and meaning.  In the first moments; the composition remains supportive and tender.  The percussion and guitar bond and ensure the lyrics are given appropriate backing and dressing.  Soon enough, the song kicks up and a gear and things get a lot heavier.  The percussion and guitars race whilst the vocal gets a lot bolder and inflamed.  It is two in the morning and things are just the same.  Those age-old arguments and conflicts are rearing their head.  Our heroine wants to see promise and potential in the romance:  in honesty, they are going through the motions and treading water.  There are some things “you should know”:  sentiments to suggest there were an imbalance and innovativeness between the two.  The boy (was perhaps) lackluster to the needs of our lead:  that dissatisfaction and annoyance are tangible.

Once more, Alexandra Jayne contorts the words beautifully.  Repeating and echoing some syllables; changing pace and course:  at every phase, the song sparks and displays new colour and force.  I have heard few singers that put as much attention into the vocal and reading.  Lesser acts would sing the lyrics and not spare much attention to how they are presented.  Alexandra Jayne brings emotion, intelligence and drama into the song:  making sure each line hits the mark and sticks in the mind of the listeners.  Maybe the duo was on different pages.  Memories of “fooling around” are attested- certain seriousness inside carefree submission- and each lover had different ideals and objectives.  It is refreshing hearing a love song so original and against-the-tide.  Artists tend to put their heart out there- cliché lyrics and the same old stories- or get angry and accusatory.  Alexandra Jayne has a superb way with words and is a wonderful storyteller.  The chorus is a short and concise thing- essentially the song title sung- and it keeps coming back in as punctuation.  This is a chapter unfolding with the characters drifting apart:  our narrator has no regrets but is looking for answers.  In spite of my protestations and lustful arguments about originality- our heroine is truly one-of-a-kind- you could see Clumsy Love appearing on Rumours, for instance.  It has the same dynamic (as many of the album’s tracks) and a sublime, Stevie Nicks-esque vocal.  A modern day amalgamation of Go Your Own Way and I Don’t Want to Know:  a ‘70s-influenced number that will resonate with listeners who grew up listening to Fleetwood Mac (and the legends of Folk).  Standing “here in the pouring rain”; you cannot help but give your heart to the heroine.  She is not giving up on her sweetheart or tossing their history aside:  she wants things to work and is assuming the best.  Here is a young woman who has faith in love and believes it will work out; in her mind, she realises the same patterns will emerge.  Asking an important question- “Was it real or show?”- one can detect that bubbling anger and disillusionment  Ensuring the song never loses momentum and swing; that fifth gear composition hardly relents:  Clumsy Love is a song that gets you singing along and hypnotised by its energy.  When the mood calls for it- towards the final stages- the spotlight is raised and things become tender and reflective.  “I won’t be the one to leave” are the most heartbreaking and assiduous lyrics on the record:  the testament and peak of profession and declaration.  It is here you get to see that voice at its most beautiful and heart-stopping.  You are not given much of a chance to swim in that luxuriant and divine purity:  the composition sparks back and our heroine drives it home.  Constantly keeping you on your toes and guessing:  a song that builds; switches and weaves.

It is amazing to think the song has not hit 1,000 YouTube views (the official video).  Not only is the video beautifully shot and engaging- seeing the heroine walk through town/scenes with heart balloons; thinking about life and walking away her troubles- but the song is one of the finest of this year.  A wonderful insight into the E.P.:  the title track is a hugely impressive and wonderful statement.  Other artists- with songs that do not pack the same punch- have accrued millions of YouTube views.  It is a sad reflection of the age when so-called ‘stars’- who produce mediocre music- gain millions of views and comments.  Genuine, ‘proper’ artists like Alexandra Jayne have to work a lot harder.  Her music is far superior to most of the stuff out there:  she deserves endlessly critique and appreciation.  Clumsy Love is a song that will bounce around the brain and cause you to smile- perhaps against better judgement.  I hope things work out and (the two) figured a compromise:  a détente was reached that could salvage the romance.  The heroine is never going to give in; she will batter to put things back together- an impressive and determined young woman, for sure.  If you want more treasures like Clumsy Love:  snap the E.P. up and you will find a musician that is incapable of anything less that complete wonderment.

Clumsy Love has been out a while but is still receiving a lot of praise and patronage.  I hear a lot of artists and many do not linger in the mind- it is just one of those things.  It is hard to distinguish yourself from the crowd and really make something big.  Huge competition and short attention spans are making things a lot tougher for musicians now.  It is not good enough to come in and play:  hope people will love you and success will come your way.  It takes something wonderful and stunning to remain in music and remain essential.  Alexandra Jayne may be unfamiliar to many of you but that will change in time.  If you are immune to that beautiful, emotive voice- can’t imagine how you would be- then the captivating songs will win you over.  Clumsy Love is an E.P. that is perfect for the new listener.  The songs have a familiarity to them yet sound original at the same time.  The warm and rich vocals from our heroine get inside the heart and will remain there.  I keep playing the songs and find new textures and meaning every time I investigate.  I have high hopes Alexandra Jayne will continue to gain confidence and new followers.  Clumsy Love (song) is a stunning achievement from a young musician that has immense confidence and talent at her disposal.  So where does she go from here?  I know she will be performing and continue to enthrall local audiences.  I can well see Alexandra Jayne get requests from big venues and festivals very soon.  My heart goes out to musicians that are starting out right now.  It is a tough time to make a living.  I hear- on social media and through contacts- how challenging the daily life can be.  Not only is it hard to make money- with music able to be streamed for free- but there are so many competitors around.  Many musicians have that passion but find it can extinguish:  the harsh realisations get to them and they call things quits.  Alexandra Jayne is not someone who will give up on music; nor should she.  Having performed since a teenager; she has played a number of different festivals.  Her music has been played on the radio; the social media numbers are increasing.  All positive signs from a musician with few equals.  I get tired of hearing same old singers who lazily sound like everyone else.  If you want a career and long-term success; why bother ripping someone else off?  The best singers from music’s history are defined by their originality and personal take.  Alexandra Jayne has figured this out and pulled off a wonderful trick.  Little shades of others can be hard- Joan Baez and Stevie Nicks for instance- but you would never bring them too closely to mind.  Riding high in the mix is the sound of a young woman doing things her own way.

The West Midlands has provided us some of the best bands and acts of all-time.  Over the past few years, there has been an over-reliance with regards London and the music emerging here.  As I said earlier:  there are not enough media outlets breaking rules and highlighting musicians from other parts of the U.K.  One of the great things about my blog is the fact I can travel (figuratively) around the world and find music that few others have.  I hope attitudes change and more people are given the chance to hear under-the-radar musicians.  My discord and annoyance aside, let’s just be thankful for the artists we have right now.  I have stated (on countless occasions) how female solo artists are ahead of their male peers.  There is just something about them/the music they make that has that edge and drop of quality.  Bob Harris has played Alexandra Jayne’s work and I can see why.  Each of the E.P.’s four songs has such a wonderful smile and personality to it.  You are treated to a sumptuous, gorgeous voice that oozes passion and honey.  There are some rougher edges- as though our heroine has lived a hard life- that gives the tones a maturity and well-worn touch.  The compositions mix Folk traditions with Pop/Alternative freshness:  so much colour and diversity can be discovered.  A truly special young artist with a loyal and dedicated fanbase:  Alexandra Jayne is going to go on to wonderful things.  Few musicians work harder to get their music to the people; this endless devotion will pay dividends soon enough.  If you have not discovered the Clumsy Love E.P.:  I cannot recommend it highly enough.  Its title track is a gem that will make you smile and cause you to think and reflect.  Play the song and close your eyes:  let its magic take you somewhere wonderful and safe.  I just know there will be more material from Alexandra Jayne this year- I cannot wait for that!  She has created a wonderful body of work so far.  But the real truth is this:  the best and most successful days are…

STILL ahead of her.

 

_______________________________________

Follow Alexandra Jayne

 

Official:

http://www.alexandrajaynemusic.com/

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/AlexandraJayneMusic

Twitter:

https://twitter.com/A_J_Music

__________________________________

Music

https://soundcloud.com/alexandrajayne

 

TRACK REVIEW: XY&O- I’m Not Right

TRACK REVIEW:

 

XY&O

 

 

I’m Not Right

 

9.4/10

 

 

I’m Not Right is available at:

https://soundcloud.com/xyando/im-not-right

RELEASED:
3rd April, 2016

GENRES:
Pop; Electro.

ORIGIN:

Cardiff, Wales

XY&O - Shimmer & Shade - EP - FINAL PNG - 1400x1400

The E.P., Shimmer + Shade, is available at:

https://itunes.apple.com/gb/album/shimmer-+-shade-ep/id1093574791

TRACK LISTING:

I’m Not Right

Low Tide

Lights On

Fahrenheit

Lights On (Remi Caumont Remix)

Low Tide (Sistex Remix)

LABEL:

Electric MVM

____________________________________

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.

 

_________________________________________________________

Follow XY&O

 

Official:

http://www.xyando.com/

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/xyando

Twitter:

https://twitter.com/XYandOmusic

_________________________________________

Music

https://soundcloud.com/xyando

INTERVIEW: Anthony Winkley of Defeat the Band

INTERVIEW:

 

 

Anthony Winkley of Defeat the Band

_________________________

MY second interview of the day sees me chat with…

the lead of Arizona-based, Defeat the Band.  Anthony Winkley established the band in 2014:  since then, there have been line-up changes.  Right now, the group is at their most solid and ambitious.  It seems like the ranks are bonded and the trio is looking to the future.  Their blend of Punk-cum-Pop has seen them seduce the local audiences.  The video for Love and How It Got That Way has been unveiled:  it seems like this year will be a big one for the Tuscon band.  With their fan-base under-developed in the U.K.:  I was eager to chat with Winkley and see if they (Defeat the Band) has plans to come our way.

Filled with bonhomie and determination- cigarettes and alcohol, perhaps? – the front-man chats about the music scene in Arizona; what inspires the creative process- the reaction to the rise-and-rise of the political tyrant, Donald Trump…

_________________________

Hi, Anthony.  I hope you are well.  How has your week been?

I’ve been good! We are full steam ahead around here lately, so I have been going non-stop. We’ve had 5 shows this month!

You are the lead of Defeat the Band.  How did you guys all get together?

Well, back in 2014, I started Defeat’ on a whim, sort of.  I never really knew if I was gonna (sic.) to pursue it this far, haha.  At first, it was just me on an acoustic guitar:  the first addition was my friend Zack Riter. He was my first drummer and shortly after my other friend, Librado Valezuela, joined on bass.  They were a solid team but after several shows (and some time) they both left- for different reasons mind you; but I was alone again.  Then, just by chance, I met my current drummer James Ringstrom and he offered to just fill in for a while… well over a year later he’s still here and fully vested, haha!

Then we had Michael join.  Michael Story is an amazing bassist and person.  He had a short life in this band but we send love to him in whatever he has found his way into.  Our good friend Luis Rodriguez is filling in for us right now.  Most exciting!  We have just added a lead guitar to our line-up and I won’t announce it just yet- but it sounds so amazing; look out world!  Our next album is gonna blow your head off!  Haha!

Defeat the Band play out of Arizona.  What is the music scene like there?  How does it compare to areas like L.A. and New York, for instance?

The scene here is interesting.  There’s a scene in Phoenix that reflects a micro-Denver or L.A. – with several large stadium-type venues and lots of smaller venues and bars and such.  So, there’s a diverse crowd of bands playing on any given night.  Tucson is a little bit more interesting, L.O.L.

There’s a thriving Metal scene here:  like, maybe 65% of live music here is Metal; not a bad thing if you like it, haha.  Then there’s a small- but solid- Hip-Hop scene here that tends to do underground shows and things like that.  So then, the final large scene here is the ‘Indie-Hipster-Jam-Rock movement’.  Hahaha.  Here, in Tucson, there is a large number of bands that have a groove and coolness about their sound- that is hard to put into words.  Basically… a lot of chill Rock music you can do drugs and f*** to, haha!

 

This year has been a busy one for you and the group.  Which memories (from this year) have stood out particularly?

Well, we put out our first video this year for our song Love and How It Got That Way.  We are already working on our second!  It was a lot of fun and it was really cool to see the music take to another media. It’s up on YouTube (when it comes out).  We also just this week opened up for The Bastard Suns:  an amazing Reggae-Punk group that we really hope to do more with soon.  This year has been fun so far, haha!

Can you tell us about the new video?

It was so fun. Our good buddy Taylor- from another local band called Thomas Rex- helped us film it.  We spent the day basically getting super-high and driving around doing fun stuff, L.O.L.  Again, everyone please like, share and subscribe (to that) video!  We need it, haha!

 

 

As a musician, how important is social media to you?

Very!  Ha, if you couldn’t tell already.  I am the manager of the band basically; even though I would never call myself that, haha.  But, I’m the one that usually plans out our P.R. campaigns and things like that.  We try to maintain a presence on the major players but we also try to not force it on people.  Just sort-a plant the seed and see what happens.  I hope it’ll keep growing like it has been!

Given what’s happening in America- Donald Trump making his ‘mark’ on politics- how do you, as a musician, feel about it?  Does it inspire your music at all?

Oh man.  I am so conflicted as a human on this issue, ha!  I feel like Bernie:  although he has the best ideas and gets my vote he also has a lot of flaws with his plans (that he doesn’t talk about).  Trump?  L.O.L.  I honestly can’t believe it’s gotten this far.  I mean, the guy was a reality T.V. star and now he’s a stone’s throw from The White House.  It’s fu***** crazy.  No other word for it.  Then you have Hillary on the side- hiding emails and ignoring Benghazi and whatnot.  Its insanity and I think America is in for one hell of a ride, no matter which direction it goes.  It’s become clear that stupidity levels on both sides are pretty high- as more and more protesters assault one another and try to actively disrupt rallies  It’s all madness!

Then you have Hillary on the side- hiding emails and ignoring Benghazi and whatnot.  It’s insanity and I think America is in for one hell of a ride- no matter which direction it goes.  It’s become clear that stupidity levels on both sides are pretty high- as more and more protesters assault one another and try to actively disrupt rallies  It’s all madness!

When it comes to writing a Defeat the Band song:  what themes/subjects inspire you particularly?

Well… in short?  Women.  Haha.  In depth:  I’d say all aspects of life.  Struggles with self-worth and image. The faceless demons that we all have- at least, I hope we all have them, haha!  Honestly, just about living and the convictions you choose to keep.

Which bands and artists have been influential when it comes to moulding your sound?

HUGE Brand New fan. Deja Entendu has some very (very) intense memories (attached to it) for me.  I was a big fan of Say Anything’s first and second albums when I was young- and Taking Back Sunday’s first and second.  I feel like they touched on a style that they quickly migrated away from; to find something new for themselves and that is awesome.  But I wanna migrate back there because I feel like that weird genre of music has more to say, haha.  I know those songs changed me as a teenager and I feel like I am constantly trying to write songs for that kid.  Boy… this is a weird level of exposition of myself, haha!

Say you were deserted on an island; you can take only one record with you:  which one would it be?

If I’m there for less than one year:  The Front Bottoms- Back on Top.   If I’m there less than 5 years:  Action Bronson-Blue Chips Mixtape.  If I’m there for LIFE:  Pink Floyd- Wish You Were Here

If you could turn back time and offer your younger self some advice, what would you say?

Lose weight.  I’m trying to do it now and it’s (like) so much harder.  Seriously, everyone should take care of themselves, haha!  It’s not worth it otherwise!

Are there any up-and-coming acts- either locally or internationally- you would recommend to us?

Always my boys here in Tucson; Thomas Rex.  Internationally, I’d have to say Pup (from Canada).  I would love to tour with them!

 

 

Does Defeat the Band have any plans to play the U.K. this year?

If we can get enough fans over there, sure!  If any bands or promoters read this and are interested in putting something together; please contact us!

There will be some young artists inspired to follow in your footsteps.  What advice would you give them?

Play more!  Seriously:  everyone needs to play more; they want to be famous (or think they’re famous-less). I have always felt a need to connect with people through music so that’s why I write so many songs.  For every one good Defeat’ song I might write ten not-so-good ones.  But the magic is in knowing what’s really good- and not being worried about throwing songs away; you can just make more!  Literal magic

Looking ahead to the rest of the year:  any plans for an album or E.P.?

Yes!  Now that we have a full lineup we are excited to announce our first single off our upcoming album- It’s Only Permanent– will be out sometime in the next few months!  We hope to have that single out in July (sometime) and then, if we can, put out a full-blown studio album this December.

Finally- and for being a good egg- you can name any song you like; I’ll play it here…

Well, if you’re meaning one of my own?  I guess Ghostheart off our album Something Unheard Of.  If not one of my own:  Action Bronson and Blue Chips.

 

 

_________________________

Follow Defeat the Band

 

Facebook:

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

SoundCloud:

https://soundcloud.com/defeattheband

 

INTERVIEW: The Blue Lenas

INTERVIEW:

 

 

The Blue Lenas

 

_______________________

SOME of my finest ‘band discoveries’ have been artists who play out of Glasgow.

I am not sure what it is about the city- each act will have their own view- that makes Glasgow sound so utterly compelling and different.  Whilst I try and answer that (perhaps, impossible) question, I’ve been catching up with The Blue Lenas.  One of the finest bands playing out the city:  their new E.P., False Idols, is out and winning over a lot of new fans.  Jamies, Scott and Jordan- our intrepid three-piece- set aside some time to chat about music.  I was keen to learn about their influences and idols; the plans for the year ahead- how the band came together.  The boys were only too happy to comply…

_________________________

Hi, guys.  How has your week been?  Get up to much?

(Jamie) Me, personally?  Nothing super-exciting.  Mainly exploring different styles of music at home and learning how to use a synthesiser!

(Jordan) I’ve just been cuttin’ about, going to some gigs; listening to some good music!

(Scott) A night out in Camden- which is always great.  Came back up the road yesterday.  Now, just enjoying the Glasgow weather which is bang on form at the moment…

For those new to you and your music:  can you introduce yourself to us?

(Jamie) We are a band based in Glasgow, who enjoy playing , writing and recording our music .  We are called The Blue Lenas.

You are all from the Glasgow area.  How did you chaps get together?

(Jamie) We all knew each other one way or another.  Scott, I knew through music and he came from the same area as me.  I went to college with Jordan for 2 years and have played (in bands previous) with Jordan.

(Scott) Jamie & I used to play as solo artists.  We were playing the same pubs & clubs and realised we shared a common vision for our music.  I met Jordan through Jamie and the three of us just clicked as soon as we got into the studio together.

There are a lot of great bands coming out of Glasgow.  What is- about the city- that leads to so much great music?

(Jamie) It has a special vibe about it.  Depending on where you go , there are lots of pubs like The Priory on Sauchiehall Street which attracts cool people who are musically-orientated- which is often a trigger to meet new people who have a similar mind-set to enjoy each other’s music.

(Scott) I think there are a lot of bands and artists in Glasgow who write about what they know and they aren’t afraid to tell it like it is.  People can relate to the songs.

Wake Up– a track available on the band’s SoundCloud– caught my ear recently.  What was the inspiration behind that song?

(Jamie) We like to infuse different styles, tempo and rhythm change into our songs:  this was a fair example of this.  Scott will be able to expand on this a bit more as he wrote the core of this song, along with the words…

(Scott) I wrote the basis of the song just before the band got together.  Not sure what I was listening to at the time, if I’m honest, so no idea where the tempo-shift came from.  It was probably made up of two half-finished songs that I had- and was in one of my experimental moods!  When I showed it to the other guys, and we worked on the track, it just all fell into place.  The lyrics are about letting fear get in the way of hope & then regretting what could have been.  Deep

 

 

False Idols is your new E.P.  Can you tell us about the writing/sound of the E.P.?

(Jamie) We hope it captures an exploration into different styles of music; nice chords and melodies- interesting use of instrument placement and song structure considering we are currently a three-piece.  An example is on the track, Porta Bella:  I subconsciously infused a Latin feel on the chorus; in contrast to the verse which is a very dark and minor feel.  We have enjoyed the challenge of performing and recording as a three-piece as often it forces us to be more creative because you have fewer elements to work with.  I personally feel the best songs are when one of us write the core of the track (on our own) and then bring it to the band to add each person’s influence into it.

(Scott) We all have such eclectic tastes in music.  The first E.P. was a bit more Rock/Blues-orientated but we kind of allowed other influences to take over on this one.  To me, it sounds a lot more colourful than the first.

One track from that album (Porta Bella) has a great ‘60s Power-Pop/Merseybeat vibe.  The vocals are really arresting and the band seems at their peak.  You guys sound like you are having an awesome time in the studio.  What are the reasons (do you think) behind this?

(Jamie) It is a fun track to play, and considering we recorded everything live, the feeling and vibe of the band is captured in this recording.  The day as a whole was just generally good fun:  we had a good laugh and came up with some really cool ideas on the spot (for some of the songs).

(Scott) It’s a definite live favourite for me, personally.  The chorus has great energy & is really catchy.

 

 

The band has some ‘diverse’ influences- from Funkadelic to Muddy Walters.  What music/albums were you listening to growing up?

(Jamie) With the greatest respect- considering I have a lot of growing up to do- I find myself listening to artists like Miles Davis, Funkadelic; The (Rolling) Stones, The Beatles; Led Zeppelin, Robert Johnson.  More recently:  Tame Impala, the Allah-Las.  Very recently, I have come across a band originally from Japan called Bo Ningen who is very experimental.

(Scott) The first album I ever got into was A Hard Days’ Night by The Beatles.  There’s a home video in my parents’ house of me singing “Whoa, oh, I…” at the age of two, which is hilarious.  Aside from that, and purposely omitting the embarrassing ones, I was a big fan of Metal and Hip-Hop in my teens.  Bands like Megadeth really made me want to be a better musician & they had something meaningful to say in their lyrics.

A lot of modern bands have samey influences- sounding quite idea-less.  Do you think it is important to be varied and original in today’s market?

(Jamie) I don’t think it’ll make any difference whether you are original or not.  I think the main problem- in the current climate- is the general public does not appreciate good art anymore; therefore, good artists don’t sell art and it cripples their chance of having a career.  Also, it is a combination of other things like local promoters ripping off young upcoming bands.  For example, platforms like Spotify and iTunes giving the artist a pathetic financial cut from their hard work.  Sure, it’s nice to see a band that has something really special and creative.

(Scott) I feel it’s more important to stick to your guns and create the music that you want to make.  If you’re really into what you’re doing, people get that vibe from you.  If you’re writing music to please other people, an audience can tell a mile away.

 

Which current artists and acts would you recommend to us- either mainstream or unsigned?

(Jamie) A band from Edinburgh called The Jackals; The Blue Lenas, Bo Ningen; Allah –Las.  Also, a band called LYLO who I really enjoyed.  Melody’s Echo Chamber from the south of France.  The first album is amazing and she’s recording the follow-up at the moment.  I’m also a big fan of what Bo Ningen are doing.  We got to hang out with them the other night which was great.

In terms of your inspiration:  what subjects and themes drive the music of The Blue Lenas?

(Jamie) I would say that musical freedom pushes the band forward!  We don’t have to worry about sounding a certain way; if it sounds cool and interesting then we will try it.

(Scott) Our music is a big melting pot of our influences.  We write purely to amuse ourselves but as the influences cover such a big spectrum; I think most people might hear something they like.

As a group- or one member can answer- which five albums would you, on a personal level, are the most important?

(Jamie) The most influential album for me personally is Exile on Main Street by the Rolling Stones

(Scott) Revolver by The Beatles.  The sonic textures they managed to create way back in the mid-‘60s is unbelievable.  There’s an album called Spilt Milk by Jellyfish that’s as close to perfection (in a record) you’re going to get- and had a huge influence on my song-writing.  More recent albums- including Sun Structures by Temples and Lonerism by Tame Impala- were recorded at home which really changed my perception of how an album can be recorded.  Moondog’s self-titled album was made using instruments he had crafted himself which I think is really cool too.

(Jordan) I’d have to say Led Zeppelin I is the album I find most inspirational.  All their other albums are amazing!  But that one stands out most for me!  The band has been performing a lot of gigs over the last few months (Glasgow mainly).

Which gigs stand out as being particularly memorable?

(Jamie) 13th Note after we played on STV during the day:  we were really in the groove and improvising a lot on stage which is great.

Do you have any advice for any musicians coming through; those just making their first steps into the industry?

(Jamie) Yes; do it yourself.  Create your own scene.

(Scott) Make music to please yourself.  Don’t pay-to-play.

Finally- and for being a good sport- you can select any song (and I’ll include it here) – why is it special to you?

(Jamie) Me, personally?  Wow, hard one.  #9 Dream by John Lennon.  It’s just the finest melody ever.

 

 

 Photo Credit: Pat McGuire/PMG Photog

_________________________

Follow The Blue Lenas

 

Facebook:

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

Twitter:

https://twitter.com/thebluelenas

SoundCloud:

https://soundcloud.com/thebluelenas

The Classics Series: Jeff Buckley- Grace

The Classics Series:

 

 

Jeff Buckley- Grace

 

 _______________

YOU might not think an album released in 1994 could genuinely count…

as a ‘classic’.  That is where you’d be (sort of) wrong.  You cannot overstate what effect Jeff Buckley’s debut (and only) studio album had upon the world.  In today’s music scene, the heavenly falsetto-laden troubadours are something of a familiar quality.  Back in the early-‘90s, few had seen the likes of Jeff Buckley.  Born on 17th November, 1966, Scott Moorhead (Jeff’s real name) was born in Anaheim, California.  The son of legendary Folk musician Tim Buckley:  the young artist’s formative years saw him move from town to town.  Buckley would go on to say- in subsequent interviews- how he was a nomad in his childhood- various cities and towns would be ‘home’ for him.  A “rootless trailer-trash” existence- Buckley’s actual words- his step-father, Ron Moorhead, would stabilise and guide the young Buckley.  Whilst relocating around Orange County; Buckley and his mother (Mary Guibert) would often harmonise together- she was a classically trained pianist and cellist- and perform around the piano.  Moorhead would open his step-son’s eyes to legendary bands of the time:  Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd and The Who were played in rotation.  Given the atmosphere and influence in his home-life:  it is hardly a shock Buckley would foster a deep love for music.  Perhaps a way to block out the stress and uncertainty of his upbringing:  Buckley would pick up a guitar aged 5 and never look back.  Bonding with the instrument- and starting to mould that extraordinary voice- it seemed like the future was clear.

During his teenage years; Buckley was bought his first electric guitar (at age 13) and went on to attend music school in Hollywood- a “complete waste of time” was how he ascribed the experience.  Over the coming years, Buckley performed with a number of (struggling) bands- often playing guitar and reducing his vocal part to backing-only.  In February 1990, the young musician moved to New York to chase opportunity and exposure.  Upon arrival, Buckley struggled to find work and chances to perform.  A little disenchanted, he returned to L.A.  Later that year, Buckley began recording demo. songs- including early versions of Eternal Life and Last Goodbye (under its original title, Unforgiven) – and honing his craft.  On April 26th, 1991, Buckley performed at a memorial concert, Greetings from Tim Buckley:  held at St. Ann’s Church in Brooklyn; Buckley would perform a number of Tim Buckley songs.  The performance drew a huge reaction- few had seen the young master perform- and many questioned his motives.  Buckley explained how he regretted not attending his father’s funeral:  this was a way of showing respect and paying tribute.  Following that; Buckley would travel to New York and perform with Gary Lucas (Gods and Monsters) and the duo would write together- Grace and Mojo Pin were written around this time.  Just as Gods and Monsters were offered a record deal- and a chance to launch their career- Buckley decided to leave the band.  Moving to the Lower East Side at the end of 1991:  this was to be Buckley’s home for the next few years; a natural atmosphere for someone keen to perform to a variety of audiences.

Buckley began performing around Lower Manhattan throughout 1992:  Sin-é would offer a regular Monday night slot to the young singer.  April 1992 was possibly the most important month (to that date) of Buckley’s career:  the first time he performed at Sin-é.  The audiences that attended- the very small, charming coffee-house- could not imagine what they were about to witness.  Demonstrating an extraordinary range of influences:  Buckley would cover the likes of Bad Brains and Nina Simone; The Smiths and Led Zeppelin; Leonard Cohen and Bob Dylan- dozens more name to boot.  Playing on a borrowed Fender Telecaster:  the audiences would grow and the attention was starting to rise.  By the summer (1992), queues were forming around the bloc.  Limos were parked in the street- record company executives keen to examine the young master- and big things were about to happen.  Buckley learned to play onstage based on these intimate gigs.  It was in October that Buckley signed to Columbia Records:  a three-album deal was struck.

   Between late-October, 1992 and mid-1993, Buckley would continue to play at Sin-é:  he would release a 4-track E.P. in November 1993- including a majestic cover of Van Morrison’s, The Way Young Lovers Do.  The stage was set and the dream was starting to be realised.  With little (early) interference from the record label:  Buckley was free to assemble a band and record how/where he wanted.  Andy Wallace was selected as producer:  Mick Grøndahl (bass) and Matt Johnson (drum) were chosen and the quartet would encase themselves in the climate of Bearsville Studios.  Located in Woodstock, New York; it was a perfect environment to get music made.  Free from the distractions of the city- the studio was located in woodland; miles from the centre of New York- it gave the boys an opportunity to focus and get material laid down.  Recording was productive and saw Buckley unite with former bandmate Gary Lucas- he would play guitar/co-write Grace and Mojo Pin.  Between January and March 1994, Buckley left the studio to perform a mini-tour of Live at Siné.  Performing across North America and Europe:  it was a chance for Buckley to play café/coffee house audiences; clubs and in-store gigs.  When returned, he would link with guitarist Michael Tighe- who would join the band and become part of the fold.  By June 1994, Buckley took the band on the Peyote Radio Theatre Tour.  Early audience members included Chrissie Hynde (The Pretenders), Chris Cornell (Soundgarden) and The Edge (U2).

 

 

Upon Grace’s release, the reaction was someone mixed.  Critics and contemporaries heaped praise upon the L.P.  Bob Dylan- an idol of Buckley’s- would call (Buckley) one of the great songwriters of the ‘90s.  Robert Plant and Jimmy Page were complimentary, too- the latter considered Grace one of the most-treasured albums of the decade.  Despite the praise received:  Grace would struggle with regards sales figures.  Critics and musicians loved the album but perhaps it was released at a bad time.  During 1994, Grunge was seeing its forefather, Kurt Cobain, depart the world.  Bands like Soundgarden and Pearl Jam were coming through:  taking the baton over and keeping Nirvana’s memory alive.  Grace seemed (in 1994) like a strange, outcast album when it arrived.  The romantic, sweeping songs seemed at-odds with the popular demands at the time.  Of course, Grace would go on to record incredible sales- after gaining retrospective acclaim- but it would always struggle to amass the sales figures desired by record company executives.

In spite of the so-so chart performance; Grace’s songs had a huge effect on the public.  The title track- my favourite Buckley track- showed what a force of nature Jeff Buckley was.  Lyrics of living for the moment- grabbing romance and passion whilst we’re still here- were backed by an extraordinary, powerhouse vocals.  From whispering, seductive coos:  Buckley’s voice reached impossible heights towards the final moments.  I have tried to perform the song and find it a real struggle.  You can track for the first few minutes but then start to struggle.  I wonder how Buckley managed what he did on that song:  the lung power and technical ability just blow my mind.  One of the most potent and stunning moments across the album; it remains a wonderful demonstration of what Buckley was capable of.  Last Goodbye is one of the most-played Grace songs.  Hardly a surprise when you consider the performance and lyrics.  An underrated songwriter- hardly talked about in the same terms as the greats- sadness, longing and desire lingered; the young musician laid his heart out and exposed his soul.  So Real– often considered one of the weaker songs on the album- was written with Michael Tighe.  Originally Forget Her was to be included on Grace (it would appear on the Legacy version of the album) but Buckley grew to hate it.  It is a strange assessment considering how popular the song is among fans.  Perhaps a little too saccharine in places; maybe a little bit personal- that song was nixed and discarded to the annals.  Looking for inspiration; Tighe would provide the spark (composition) for Buckley.  Walking around the studio- trying to find the words- he would return to the studio in excitement.  Recorded fairly quickly- in maybe a couple of takes- the song is one of Grace’s heavier tracks.  Eternal Life suffered the same sort of review and consideration.  Another Rock-inspired number; it received some tepidness from critics at the time.  Not quite a balls-against-the-walls jam; not as tender and reflective as it could be- it sat uncomfortably in the middle of the spectrum.  If you listen to alternative recordings- the soft, beautiful Live at Sin-é cut; the hard-hitting, rampant, Live at Chicago version- the song was given more appropriate consideration.  On Grace; Eternal Life seems a little a little out-of-sorts.  That said, it showed Buckley’s flair for lyrics and politics:  it was one of the angriest tracks he had recorded at that point.

Dream Brother is one of the earliest songs- and one the first the band wrote together- that has been interpreted in a number of ways.  If you look at the lyrics closely- “Don’t be like the one who left his name behind”- you would think of Tim Buckley.  Waiting for someone who “never came”:  many were keen to link the song to the late Buckley.  If you look more carefully, it is a rather optimistic reach.  Buckley (Jeff) himself refused claims:  it was not about his father but concerning someone he knew- who had lied and not been loyal to their true nature.  A fascinating and accomplished work from Buckley (and the band) it would end Grace on a huge high.  Lover, You Should’ve Come Over documents the breakup of Buckley and his then-girlfriend, Rebecca Moore.  Despondent and confused; it sees our hero struggle to deal with the changing situation and reality of the break-up.  It was hardly a surprise Grace would feature a selection of cover versions.  Given Buckley’s authoritative nature- and the ability to make a song his own- Lilac Wine, Hallelujah and Corpus Christi Carol made their way onto the record.  Lilac Wine was written by James Shelton in 1950 and recorded by the likes of Nina Simone and Elkie Brooks.  Buckley’s version remains one of the finest and most distinct.  Perhaps inspired by Simone’s take- many thought Brooks’ take was the most influential- it breathed new life and beauty into the song.  Corpus Christi Carol– Buckley and his electric guitar played softly- is one of the most beautiful recordings I have ever heard.  Encouraged by Andy Wallace- who urged Buckley to include it; Buckley dedicated it to a friend- it is an astonishing reading.  You would not expect a modern-day singer to cover such a song:  upon hearing it; it sounds ready-made for Buckley’s angelic, divine falsetto.  Those well-covered songs pale into insignificance when lined-up against Hallelujah.

 

 

Performed during his Sin-é days:  Hallelujah is what many of us associate with Jeff Buckley.  Arguably Grace’s highlight- many have argued it is Buckley’s finest performance- you cannot overlook the sheer transcendence of Buckley’s delivery.  Leonard Cohen wrote the song for his Various Positions album (released in 1984).  It was not Cohen’s- rather forgettable and flat version- that motivated Buckley’s rendition- John Cale was the catalyst.  Inspired by Cale’s beautiful version- much closer to Buckley’s version than Cohen’s- a magical moment in music was cemented.  Cohen spent years trying to get Hallelujah just-so:  over 80 versions were written before the final lyrics were honed.  Buckley- with a similar, perfectionist drive- attempted a number of different takes.  Ranging from manly and deep; angrier and more direct- the final version was not recorded in a single take.  Andy Wallace- keen for a final version; worrying one would never come- mixed a couple of different takes to produce the finished version.  Upon reflection, Buckley was disappointed with his performance:  feeling it could be more masculine and raw.  Jeff Buckley’s seminal version of Hallelujah would stagger critics at the time.  It is hard to describe the performance and put it into words.  Celebrating the “hallelujah of the orgasm”- how Buckley approached the song- you get that mix of seduction and transcendence; spiritual reading and harrowing thing.  Few artists- up until that point or since- have performed anything as heart-stopping and peerless.  Many have interpreted Cohen’s lyrics- the stories of Samson and Delilah (from the Book of Judges) – but Buckley’s version takes the song to a new plain.   With just him and electric guitar:  what you get is one of the most beautiful recordings of all-time.  Inspired by Buckley’s seminal performance; hosts of musicians- perhaps hundreds- have put their stamp on the song.  That is one of the most depressing aspects of Hallelujah:  Buckley’s version was the definitive cut; subsequent artists have watered down its essence and it all seems pointless.  Why try to top Buckley’s sublime rendition?  It just can’t be done.  With every rather weak and inane YouTube delivery- talent show nobodies murdering it- it strips beauty and meaning from the song.  Despite the terrible-by-comparison cover versions:  Buckley’s Heaven-sent performance remains the very finest.

In the three years that followed Grace’s release; Buckley would commit himself to a blizzard of tours and live dates.  From Ireland and Japan; the U.S. and Canada:  the band tirelessly took the album across the globe.  On March 1st, 1996, Matt Johnson would play his last gig.  Tensions arose between Johnson and the band:  Buckley would fire the long-time collaborator and halt touring (until a replacement could be sourced).  There were rumours surrounding Johnson’s departure- tensions in the band; drug abuse- but it left Jeff Buckley with a quandary on his hands.  It was not until February 12th, 1997 that Buckley would perform (with a band).  In the interim period; Buckley would retreat from the stage and give himself a chance to reflect and relax.  Feeling exhausted by touring commitments; the 30-year-old yearned for the bygone days at Sin-é:  playing to strangers in an intimate venue; that need to reconnect with something he loved deeply.  By 1997, Buckley has already begun writing material for his forthcoming album, My Sweetheart the Drunk.  Recording began in mid-1996 with producer Tom Verlaine.  With Parker Kindred hired as the new drummer:  the newly-reorganised band laid down tracks like Yard of Blonde Girls and Everybody Here Wants You.  Trying out new material across New York; the band would play at Arelene’s Grocery:  one of the first gigs that Parker Kindred would be involved with.  Despite the new line-up and impetus; Buckley felt unsatisfied.  Recording sessions with Verlaine were not going well and in February (1997) Buckley was on the phone to Andy Wallace:  wondering if he could fill-in and oversee recording.  After the band’s third recording session- with Verlaine in Memphis- Buckley stayed put and rented a small house here.  Recording songs on a 4-track recorder:  he sent rough demos. to the band back in New York.  Feeling free and unconstrained- just the artist and his own thoughts- by May, the band was preparing to return to Memphis.

 

On May 29th, 1997 everything changed.  With the band flying in- to record the newly-written material- Buckley was driving near Wolf River Harbor with his roadie, Keith Foti.  Struggling to find their way- the duo was lost and had driven the same streets a while- they pulled over.  Buckley- in black boots and fully clothed- ran to the water and began paddling on his back.  With stereo and Foti on the shore; Led Zeppelin’s Whole Lotta Love was playing.  Buckley began singing along and the mood was high.  Suddenly, a passing tugboat created a wave that dragged Buckley underwater.  Foti- who has moved the stereo from an oncoming wave- had only turned his back for a moment.  Looking back, and realising Buckley was gone, he looked out at the water.  A search was conducted but all in vain:  Jeff Buckley had died.

Music was changed and lost one of its most promising, extraordinary stars.  It seems like such a senseless and needless death.  Considering Buckley’s impulsiveness and romantic nature:  maybe the circumstances/outcome was not that shocking.  You can quibble with ‘what-if’ scenarios and the like:  the reality and tragedy of that fateful day are being felt today.  As shocked and saddened as people were- and continue to be- Jeff Buckley’s legacy remains.  Grace is that epic masterpiece that signalled what could have been.  You cannot argue how important that 1994 album has been to today’s music.  Thom Yorke saw Buckley play during the recording of Radiohead’s The Bends.  Upon seeing him perform in London, Yorke resumed to the studio and recorded Fake Plastic Trees.  The entire album- and Radiohead’s future career-w as inspired by that performance.  Allowing the music to become more sensitive, tender and emotive:  many more artists felt exactly the same way.

Subsequent releases- compilation albums and cash-ins- cannot distil Jeff Buckley legacy and important.  One of the greatest singers we have ever witnessed:  Grace remains a peerless statement from a young man making his first steps into music.  Matt Johnson recalls fond memories-http://www.popmatters.com/feature/184862-an-artist-capable-of-making-something-magnetic-matt-johnson-on-jeff-/– and the wonderful experience of the album’s recording.  I am a huge admirer of Buckley and he is my all-time music idol:  someone who compelled me to review music and support musicians.  All of us will have some connection with Buckley and his majestic music.  His songs are timeless and reveal new meaning and majesty every time you hear them.  In an age of talent show rejects and fly-by-night Pop stars; will we ever see anyone like Jeff Buckley?   I hope not because it seems (Jeff Buckley) was a once-in-a-lifetime genius.  And for that…

 

 

GRACE should be adored for the rest of time

____________________________________

TRACKLISTING

Mojo Pin

Grace

Last Goodbye

Lilac Wine

So Real

Hallelujah

Lover, You Should’ve Come Over

Corpus Christi Carol

Eternal Life

Dream Brother

DOWNLOAD

Grace; Hallelujah; Lover, You Should’ve Come Over

STANDOUT TRACK

Grace

TRACK REVIEW: Jessica Rotter- Porch Song

TRACK REVIEW:

 

Jessica Rotter

 

GREY_645

 

Porch Song

 

9.3/10

 

 

Porch Song is available at:

https://soundcloud.com/jessicarottermusic/porch-song-1

RELEASED:
March 2016

GENRES:
Folk

ORIGIN:

Los Angeles, U.S.A.

Plains, Jessica Rotter

The album, Plains, can be pre-ordered here:

http://www.pledgemusic.com/projects/jessicarotter

____________________________________

AS I start to scale the solo artists back a bit…

I am excited by my featured artist.  Before I come to her, I wanted to look at production values in music; the possibilities within the Folk genre- with a little about diversification and music success.  When I encountered a new band/solo artist I always find the music is a little too polished.  Artists have that central fear:  if it is not shiny and gleaming (a song) will not get radio play.  When it comes to clarity and decipherability- hearing the lyrics and instruments- it is important to ensure the track is mixed and produced effectively- ensuring the listeners do not miss out on anything.  I understand this consideration.  What I am desperate to hear are more artists that create something real and under-produced.  You do not need to make it live-sounding and completely bare:  just strip some of the gloss and reduce a song to its bare essentials.  Music has the potential to grip and seduce people:  illicit huge emotional reactions and speak to them.  I feel- if you load your song with shine- then it can be harder to hear that rawness and naturalness come through.  It is like someone heavily made-up and cosmetically-altered:  you have less of a person; more of an experimentation.  It may seem like an odd theme to raise- trust me:  I’ve raised weirder- but I long to discover a musician that sounds completely honest and genuine.  I have discovered a lot of bands (over the last few weeks) that have a variety of sounds and ideas.  Every time I witness a track, there is a very professional and glistening impression.  Very slick and seamless:  where is the reality and emotion?  I have been investigating music from the ‘70s and ‘80s:  some of the best bands at the time and some classic albums.  I am not sure whether it is a sign of the modern age:  artists seem to have lost what made music special in the first place.  Whether the intense competition or studio costs- getting the most for your money- has led to this oversite:  music is becoming too polished and over-produced.  It is a general assessment- there are a lot of artists that do not fall into this territory- but definitely something in it.

Before I continue my point, let me introduce Jessica Rotter to you:


Jessica Rotter is able to transcend creative boundaries and defy what’s expected of a modern female musician. The songstress’ voice has been heard across multiple genres, from movies, TV shows and commercials to backing vocals and collaborations with other artists—all in addition to her original songs. Rotter describes herself as a “musical storyteller” and is just as comfortable using her voice in a major feature film (credits include Pitch Perfect 1 & 2 and Frozen) as she is performing one of her original songs live. Following the success of charting #1 on HypeMachine with her mashup of Stay/Animal with Emily Colombier, Rotter is embarking on her most powerful and ambitious project to date; the full length release of “Plains.” Produced by Cazz Brindis and mixed by Scott M. Smith (Carole King, John Mayer, Katy Perry), the 11 track record is breathtakingly stunning and cinematic. Plains will be released April 22nd nationwide

Jessica Rotter’s music has that earthiness to it:  you can hear every breath and feel like you are in the room with her.  Were the songs to be fed through the machine- all processed and fake- the music would not have that heart and meaning.  It is impressive to hear someone who brings music back-to-basics and has that consideration.  It is no surprising Rotter has amassed a loyal fan-base:  her followers are among the most dedicated and passionate you will find.  Folk is a genre that has its critics and doubters.  I am someone who treads lightly and cautiously.  Just yesterday, I was reviewing James Edge and the Mindstep and their track, On a Red Horse.  Folk was employed as bedrock:  the On a Red Horse.  Folk was employed as bedrock:  the Five Leaves Left-esque sounds Edge played were the focal point.  Not leaving things at that; the composition employed Psychedelia, Jazz and Alternative strands- the entire composition was improvised by musicians with very little direction.  Some basic strings- violins, viola; double bass and cello- combined with guitar and drum to create something stunning.  Folk was the starting point yet colours and contours were layered:  the results very much speak for themselves.  The danger comes when you get Pure Folk.  What I mean by this is the sound of Nick Drake, Neil Young etc.:  those acts that have inspired many and changed the face of music.  They have come and conquered- and should not try and be topped- but have a very distinct sound.  In addition to being incredible songwriters- you can add Joan Baez and Laura Marling in there- they have their own voice and style.  I feel too many (folk artists) are trying to replicate them.  There are a lot of dull Folk acts out there:  a very tepid voice and gently-strummed guitar; no real flair or originality to be found.  Luckily, Jessica Rotter has enough beauty and diversity in her music to push it beyond boundaries and predictability.  Not only do the slight-produced and tender-hearted songs resonate but the lyrics hit home:  immersive stories that bring the listeners in and paint some rather wonderful pictures.  Rotter has already cemented success and reputation in the music industry.  Not only has she gathered a large fanbase- that keeps rising by the week- but her music has been used on T.V. and film.  The L.A.-based musician will release her 11-track album, Plains, in a few weeks.  It is an album that came about after a (successful) Pledge Music campaign.  The fans and followers showed faith and were keen to get the album financed- signs that Rotter writes music that people NEED to hear.  Folk is getting a lot of criticism- not enough artists pushing boundaries and writing original music- but Rotter is definitely an exception.  I have mixed feelings when it comes to advertising and music:  I hate adverts and avoid them at all costs.  One of the reasons is they are hysterically unfunny and embarrassing:  the music is often overlooked; distilled by the cringe-worthy nature of the presentation.  I am a bit more positive when it comes to film and T.V. music.  The right song on a certain scene can have a profound effect on a human.  In a social media age- where we can often miss great artists- film and T.V. is a platform that allows us to discover some terrific musicians.  Rotter is not in the game for money and fame:  she wants to inspire fellow musicians and push Folk past its stuffy reputation and limitations.  I was going to talk about L.A. artists- but have covered the subject too often- but I have heard few Los Angeles-based Folk acts.  I will follow Rotter closely and ensure I get her album, Plains.  Every song and moment coms from a young woman who adores music and the effect it can have on people.  I hope she comes to the U.K. some time and plays to the crowds here.  I know she will have a lot of support here and will find willing venues.

Plains will show Jessica Rotter in full flight:  the exploitation and representation of her talents and abilities.  If you have been following her- and familiar with her work- you would have heard some of Plains’ songs already.  The album’s 11 tracks were recorded and produced at various times over the last five years.  Not only do the tracks sound completely natural and seamless- whether recorded last year or several years before- but there are so many different sides and sounds.  Rotter does not just stick with a tried-and-tested Folk sound:  she incorporates so many contrasting elements and makes everything sound natural and deeply personal.  I know Rotter wrote Plains’ songs when her life was in a bad place:  she was searching for something and looking for clarity.  Rotter receives emails from fans- saying how much the music means to them- so here is an artist that connects with people and can tap into a very spiritual place.  I can see Rotter growing and developing as an artist.  Even though this is her debut album, it sounds completely solid and professional.  There are no nerves and uncertain tracks:  each song brims with authority and assuredness.  Although her grandfather wrote for the likes of Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin:  the young American is out on her own and proving her merits.  Hooking with Cazz Brindis (producer) and Scott M. Smith (who has worked with Carole King and John Mayer; he mixes Plains) you have a team that brings the best from Rotter.  Emerging from a musical family; it is no wonder you can hear other artists emerge in Jessica Rotter.  ‘60s and ‘70s musicians like The Beatles, The Mamas & the Papas sit with The Beatles and Carole King- musicians that would have been in heavy rotation in her childhood home.  Modern acts like Lykke Li and Bon Iver count as influences:  if you are inclined towards any of these acts; you should seek Rotter out and hear those idols come through.  To be fair, Jessica Rotter is a standalone artist who only sprinkles the faintest suggestion of other acts.  Having had a hard last few years- seeking fulfillment and identity- and experimenting with music:   Plains is the sound of a woman that wants HER voice to come through on record.  Each of the 11 songs shows a new concern and story:  every track will stick in the head and compel you to revisit it.  Porch Song is a track that flowed organically.  The swansong to Plains:  it is a song that has already garnered a lot of heady praise and wonderful reviews.

The opening seconds to Porch Song see Rotter extend her voice and open her lungs.  The gorgeous, call-across-the-oceans declaration is filled with immense power, beauty; spine-tingling grace.  I am not sure what affected the song- and how it was created- but our heroine calls out to a subject.  Whether a friend or former sweetheart; you can hear the dedication and commitment in the song.  Having the chance to “breathe easy”; the song’s lead seems to be in a bad place.  Maybe affected by stresses and the perils of love:  there is that need for a helping hand and support.  Luckily, our heroine is at hand and willing to provide a comforting heart.  At the earlier stages, you are intoxicated by that sensual and breathless vocal.  It is almost an acapella performance:  there is very little backing; the sparse production allows the voice to crack through the clouds and shine brightly.  Backing herself on vocals- you get a multi-tracked effect- you keep guessing and speculating.  The hero/heroine is “dreaming alone” and needing a safety net.  Gentle, carefully strummed acoustic guitar accompany Rotter who provides one of more arresting and captivated vocals to date.  At every stage- when the lyrics are revealed- you start to picture who is being represented.  In a way, Porch Song is a song for everyone:  a universal message that each listener can relate to.  Few artists are as open and supportive as Rotter:  a human who throws her arms open to catch the struggling figure.  Whatever has got in the way- and the song’s lead is fighting against- our heroine has some sage words and consistent support.  Life is not so hard when you “let your head/fall on my shoulder”.

The vocal remains passionate and firm:  never needlessly flying and getting away with itself.  Despite the relaxed and committed delivery, the listener is always hooked and invested.  Rotter showcases a blend of Pop and Country tones; sitting inside Folk and Alternative strands:  it is a complex, rich and luxuriant voice that delivers shivers with every note.  Each new revelation builds clarity and definition.  When our heroine asks (the song’s lead) to rest their heart in hers:  I got thinking relationship issues were being attested.  Maybe the song looks at a relationship that has gone through strains but starting to gain traction.  Perhaps we are looking at a man that has kept things bottled-in and not revealed his feelings.  Whatever your interpretations, you will find a lot of mystery and fascination within Porch Song.  Jessica Rotter knows the truth but I do not want to know it:  I am happy in my assertions and loved delving into the evocative and heartfelt lyrics.  When singing “Free your mind”- layered vocals backed by a raw production- it is like you are hearing the heroine up-close.  The song has such a direct and urgency to it:  every vocalisation comes through the speaker and gets straight inside the head.  Throughout Plains; Rotter explores more upbeat and fast sounds:  here, she is at her most explorative and tender best.  Our struggling fighter- be they a lover or close friend- has their mind tangled and is in a mess.  Rotter is close by and is always keen to be a good friend and confidante.  I know Rotter is inspired by the Earth and the world around us; her songs emerge from broken relationships and finding salvation.  Porch Song is one of the most memorable and stunning creations across her debut L.P.  There are no peripheries and baubles:  just one voice and guitar projecting immense beauty and shiver.  If Folk artists- who play songs similarly have been accused of being dull and limited- I know plenty of examples- the same cannot be said of Rotter.  Her voice sounds like no other and is one of the strongest, most beautiful out there.  After providing comfort and dedication- to her wandering hero- you get emotional and sonorous strings:  they provide a mid-way point of reflection and contemplation.

Similar in nature with Pray for Rain– a song that ends with a cool and airy tone- Porch Song seems like a natural companion.  Rotter has ounces of charm and can win every listener in with ease.  That voice never escapes my mind:  after listening to Porch Song I had to go back and let that beauty and passion get into my soul.  Given the vocal and its richness; I am fascinated to learn more of the woman behind it.  On the outside there are obvious observations:  immensely beautiful and impeccably styled; it is what’s inside that really appeals.  A mature and intelligent soul from someone so young:  music can learn a thing or two from L.A.’s Jessica Rotter.  Porch Song continues to amaze and strike to the very last notes.  The simplicity of the lyrics- honest, earnest and universal- can be extrapolated by all.  We have all been in that position when a friend/contact needs loyal arms:  Jessica Rotter has penned a song that can be loved by everyone who hears it.  Whether the subtle, tender acoustic guitar wins you; if it is the quotable and direct lyrics- for me, it is always going to be the voice.  It has been a while since I have encountered a singer that makes an impression with such authority and conviction.  Supported by a terrific producer and mixing engineer:  Porch Song shows just what promise Plains holds.

Make sure you get Plains when it is released on April 22nd.  It is the result of intense hard work and a lot of personal revelations.  Songs have been compelled by a number of things:  perhaps wrestling with love in uncertain times (Pray for Rain) or the restless moments in a relationship (Let Me Go).  With each track, you understand a bit more (about Rotter).  The heroine has a tender soul and is keen to share it with the public.  Tracks- featured throughout Plains– explore love and the contrasts existent.  Some songs have that positive and celebratory tone; others are more introspective and heartbroken.  At no point do you feel bogged down and depressed by the music:  that sensational voice and musicality raises each track to the heavens.  Porch Song is the latest track from Plains:  one of the most stunning and memorable tracks from Jessica Rotter.  Our heroine has been recording music for many years now but seems at her most assured and confident here.  Maybe past events- falling in love and her current situation- has been particularly influential.  The material on Plains– and Porch Song especially- is the finest material she has crafted.  A lot of you will turn your noses up at Folk and assume it is a rather niche, particular sound.  I agree with that assessment, in part:  there are a lot of Folk artists that can compel you to put a bullet through the temple.   I am not sure what they expect- those that stick to the plaintive and narrow form of the genre- but those are musicians that will never get respect from me.  Jessica Rotter uses Folk as a template and expands it for her own measures.  On some tracks (in Plains) you get a Pop semblance:  sounds that will appeal and fit into the current mainstream.  Elsewhere, you get something more Rock/Indie flavoured.  Critics have noticed how cinematic and raw Rotter’s music is.  I cannot argue with this assertion.  No wonder her voice has been featured on Frozen and Pitch Perfect (both films).  I mentioned how there are too many over-produced songs in the modern scene.  It is a tendency that needs to be reversed and overhauled.  Once in a while, it is great hearing music that has the polish stripped away to showcase something very human and revealing.  L.A. keeps producing wonderful, scene-changing musicians, so I have high hopes for Jessica Rotter.  She does not need my patronage, of course:  her reviews and fan numbers speak for themselves.  Influenced by nature, the Earth and love:  all these elements come together in stunning, emotional music.  I feel Rotter- and the success she is finding- will inspire other musicians and lead to a new way of working.  Balking against the tendency to polish a song to the point of insanity:  the L.A. musician favours feel and a human touch over machine-fed productions.  Jessica Rotter has had a fascinating career and covered a lot of ground.  Having provided backing vocals for Carole King and Alicia Keys; conquering towns and cities- the young star is only just starting out.  I am excited to see how she develops and grows throughout 2016.  Plains is going to be much-reviewed and celebrated.  From there, Rotter will travel across the U.S. and take her music to the masses.  I would not be surprised to see (songs from Plains) feature in T.V. and film.  Whether you are aware of it or not:  you have probably heard a Jessica Rotter song somewhere.  She is a musician that writes universal songs that capture the heart and mind.  When she has done with the U.S.- seducing the home crowds- I hope there is room and money aside for the U.K.  If I got the chance to see/interview her- were she to swing through London- it would be great to see her in the flesh, up-close.  One of the most original and exciting female artists coming through right now:  I will follow Jessica Rotter’s career closely.  It is hard finding a musician that remains consistent and ever-evolving.  Too many artists come on strong and dissipate across time:  maybe squeezing a couple of albums out before fading out.  It is rare finding a musician that not only remains and improves but gets stronger with every record.  I can hear the confidence and commitment in Rotter’s new music:  she is at her most essential, inspired and compelling.  As the rain comes down- I think we have had summer in this country- you’ll be looking for something to bring some peace and beauty into the day.  With that said, sit back and allow Porch Song

plainsapril22white

TO wash the rain away.

 

________________________________________

Follow Jessica Rotter

 

Official:

http://jessicarotter.com/

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/jessicarotter

Twitter:

https://twitter.com/jessicarotter

_________________________________

Music

TRACK REVIEW: James Edge and the Mindstep- On a Red Horse

TRACK REVIEW:

 

James Edge and the Mindstep

 

 

On a Red Horse

 

9.5/10

 

 

On a Red Horse is available at:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VXK1Tg9Ga3Y&feature=youtu.be

RELEASED:
14th March 2016 (video)

GENRES:
Alternative; Jazz-Folk

ORIGIN:

Kent, U.K.

______________________

On a Red Horse by James Edge and the Mindstep
Written by James Edge

James Edge – acoustic guitar, vocals, string quartet and bass solo arrangements
Andy Waterworth – double bass
Avvon Chambers – drums
Ali Dods – Violin
Howard Gott – Violin
Sophie Sirota – Viola
Vicky Matthews – Cello

Recorded by Tom Aitkenhead at Milk Studios
Mixed by Tom Aitkenhead and James Edge
Mastered by Ade Emsley at Table of Tone
Artwork by James Newman Gray

Released by:

  Folkstock Records

The E.P., On a Red Horse, is released on 15th April on Folkstock Records

____________________________________

THIS review sees me document and enthrone a song that has been…

garnering a lot of attention and praise.  As I type this, I’m listening to Funkadelic’s 10-and-a-bit-minute epic, Maggot Brain (from the album of the same name).  I am mentioning the track- not just because it’s freaking awesome- but of what it does to you:  how the song reaches inside and elicits something in everyone.  That track, according to legend, saw George Clinton- Funkadelic’s leader- instruct guitarist Eddie Hazel to play an epic solo.  The premise/inspiration was this:  play like your mum had just died; then you found out she hadn’t.  There are variations on this legend- including some preposterous conspiracies- but that beguiling instruction resulted in something mystical.  If you feel Jimi Hendrix is the maestro of mind-melting guitar work, then listen to Maggot Brain:  it is an exorcism and psychotropic dream that remains- 46 years after its release- a true masterpiece.  I listen to the song with mixed emotions.  I adore the song and know I will be affected by it:  wonderful, life-changing songs are a rare breed.  That is the bad part, really.  How often do you find music that is THAT unique and strange:  something that nobody else is doing?  Luckily- rare in 2016 music- my featured artist is pushing musical boundaries and creating sounds few others are trying.  Before I come to them- and the latest video- I wanted to discuss music videos; a bit about Kent music and experimental music.  Music videos are seen by some as a trudge:  an inevitability you have to endure to appeal to YouTube viewers.  I know some artists (in the mainstream) who couldn’t care less about video promotion- that really does show.  I would say (music videos) are more vital than they have ever been.  With the proliferation and rise of YouTube/Vevo etc.:  there is little excuse to negate a vital area of music promotion.  I appreciate there is (for new artists, especially) a tight budget at work.  After studio/recording/promotion costs are all tabulated:  how much do you have to spend on a music video?  Even with a meagre amount of capital, you can still create something memorable and influential.  I bemoan the demise/decline of the music video.  From Michael Gondry-created gems- his work with Bjork, The White Stripes and Daft Punk- from the edginess of Chris Cunningham; the peculiar charm of Spike Jonze:  just recall those works of beauty.  Some of my favourite music videos have pushed away from the ‘traditional’ modes of filmmaking and pushed boundaries.  Consider two works:  Blur’s Coffee & TV and Radiohead’s Street Spirit (Fade Out).  The former- directed by Hammer and Tongs- saw an animated milk cartoon (called ‘Milky’) go searching for the band’s guitarist, Graham Coxon.  Negotiating the streets and its dangers- a brief, if tragic flirtation with a strawberry milkshake carton- he finds our hero.  It is a video that brims with inventiveness and stands-in-the-mind storytelling:  perfectly backing an exceptional song.  Conversely, Radiohead’s Street Spirit (Fade Out) promotion is a black-and-white video filmed in a desert outside of Los Angeles.  The surrealist moods and beautiful saturation were sat alongside a mixture of speed effects:  the result was profound and utterly gorgeous.  You have to watch the video and see what I mean but, if anything, the video eclipses The Bends’ haunting swan-song.   We see a lot of videos emerge weekly:  all of a variable quality.  I find the overall quality is somewhat lacking.  Whether defined and constrained by finance- unable to create something imaginative and fully-fledged- I am not too sure.  James Edge and the Mindstep- inspired by Radiohead’s animated video for Paranoid Android– have managed to make an awesome video on a small budget.  They have shown it is possible to create eye-catching art without breaking the bank.  Videos are vital with regards music and pushing a song:  it contextualises the messages and helps to promote a track.  If it (the song) were posted to YouTube, sans video:  how many people would watch?

I want to raise a new point, but for now, let me introduce you to my feature act:

James Edge is already a studious musical maestro and a top drawer composer. The Kent-raised musician studied composition to master’s degree level under Joe Duddell – arranger for the likes of Elbow and New Order. After moving to London and starting to gig in 2006, he formed James Edge and the Mindstep to record 2010 debut album ‘In The Hills, The Cities’. The working relationships he built around this time would provide him with some dependable collaborators, including regular engineer and occasional co-producer Tom Aitkenhead, best known for his work with Laura Marling and Bloc Party. A core jazz-folk trio of Edge, double bassist Andy Waterworth and drummer Avvon Chambers materialised. Together the trio started recording second album ‘Machines He Made’ over a five day period tracking everything live and only overdubbing the backing vocals. The songs were largely unrehearsed, with band members and additional session players mostly having not heard the pieces before. This spontaneous hodgepodge has resulted in some of the most whimsical and deeply experimental music to come out of the capital in a while. The eerie acoustics of Nick Drake inform the atmospherics of much of James’s songwriting, but his sheer compositional nous – which draws on aspects of jazz, modern classical music and punk rock and roll – elevates songs like ‘On A Red Horse’ to a place far above any glib and generic categorisation. He is closer to a modern day Zappa, channelling his eccentric art through folk arrangements to create something deeply surprising, raw, and unnerving.

The On A Red Horse EP is released 15th April 2016 on Folkstock Records. An award winning independent label, they have achieved over 20 plays on BBC Radio 2, 3 and 6 Music over the last year, receiving positive Sunday Times reviews for their compilations and charting albums in The Telegraphs’s Top Folk Albums of the Year for 2014 and 2015”.

Kent is not, perhaps, the first place you’d think of when it comes to your music innovators.  Given its proximity to London:  it is not surprising there are some mouth-watering artists emerging from the county.  Historically, the likes of Soft Machine and Slaves; Caravan and The Rivals call Kent home.  Fatboy Slim was born in Kent (Bromley) and here is a county that is very much on the rise.  With James Edge born here, you have to ask:  how many other treasures can be found?  As opposed to other areas of the U.K.:  I find Kent-based musicians have a bravery and edge to them few others possess.  Maybe it is the local scene- or the need to prove themselves- but you get something more colourful, daring and nuanced (in Kent).  I hope more bands/artists make their voices heard:  steal London’s hegemony and show what they are made of.  I am glad to review James Edge and the Mindstep because their latest track, On a Red Horse, has so much to recommend.  In addition to the wonderful vivid music video- I shall touch upon when reviewing the song- its recording process was like no other.  An unshackled and unpredictable recording process from unpracticed musicians given very little guidance.  Armed with scant musical notation- enough to get a feel for the song- they essentially jammed the song from scratch.  That nervous energy and improvisation resulted in a natural and stunning song.  Playing in the Folk milieu; the band were keen to break from the pulpit of everyday and boring- Folk has that stuffy reputation among many critics.  The stream-of-consciousness recording is something you do not find in music today.  I would love to see more bands- Indie and Rock, for example- abandon rigidity and just live in the moment.  Like an inspired painter- not to get too wanky- live in the moment and be FREE.  James Edge’s troupe have shown just what can happen when you throw away the rulebook.  On a Red Horse bristles with what-ifs and unpredictable concoctions.  The top-of-the-league outcome has been heralded and celebrated- and rightfully so.

James Edge and the Mindstep are not a new proposition in music.  James Edge formed the group in 2006- having moved to London from Kent- and released the debut album in 2010- the wonderful In the Hills, The City.  With Tom Aitkenhead- an engineer and collaborator who would become a regular fixture- Edge would unite with double bassist Andy Waterworth and drummer Avvon Chambers.  The Jazz-Folk trio went to record the album Machines He Made over a five-day period.  Even in those early days, the rules and working handbook was notarised.  Songs were largely unrehearsed:  that hodgepodge of experimentation and spontaneity defined the guys straight away.  The debut was a strong and unique effort that saw eerier, Nick Drake-esque atmosphere coloured by compositional nous- enforced by a  love of Punk, Jazz and everything in-between!  What you do notice- and the greatest change- is how assured the guys are.  With each year; they seem to galvanise and solidified their bond.  Despite the untutored nature of the performances that does not dampen the final result- every song sounds utterly compelling and intoxicating.  I cannot wait to see how the group grows and builds from here.  I know there will be a lot more music coming, but what form will it take?  With each record, James Edge and the Mindstep are trying to draw more people in.  The social media numbers are climbing but they could be higher:  the band deserve more fans and supporters.  In terms of sounds/influences (James Edge) is compelled by guitarists Bert Jansch and John Martyn.  David Bowie and Bjork; Everything Everything and Joanna Newsome:  all idols and influences for Edge.  If you are inclined towards any of these acts- and need something fresh and memorable- check out James Edge and the Mindstep.  Machines He Made will be released later in the year- after their new E.P. – and shows a musical outfit who seem to be the most hard-working and consistent in modern music.

On a Red Horse begins with gentle, finger-picked acoustic sentiments.  Reminding me of Five Leaves Left-era Nick Drake- the riparian tenderness and accomplished talent- our hero sound approaches the microphone.  With coughing-up and unexpected horrors:  the song’s central figure is heading to war astride a crimson horse.  Given the song’s vivid and quirky lyrical openings- watch the video and how it matches the words- you get a warm and Thom Yorke-esque vocal.  Not making the comparison as a detriment or slight:  Edge has a similarly warm and expressive falsetto that gives every word impact and emotion.  “Quoting from the book (of what) you’re fighting for” leads me to think of holy wars and something historical.  Given the nature of the world- the mobilisation of terrorists and modern religious crusades- you can interpret the song in a couple of ways.  Showing the world has not changed much- as barbaric and insane as ever- I cast my imagination towards older-day battles and an armoured warrior on a trusty steed.  After the rather contemplative and gentle moments:  the song begins to open its wings and embrace the new dawn.  The percussion rifles and builds in intensity- a multi-limbed roll that gets the sweat pouring- whilst the strings conspire and strike.  Double bass and cello- mournful and resplendent- fuse with busy, sparking viola and violin:  the mood contrasts and off-the-cuff performances are beautifully realised and performed.  Adding texture and conflict to the song:  you have an ecstatic and sensational confidence from each musician.  While the song looks at truth-telling and reality- the song’s hero is struggling to tell the truth- you wonder what compelled Edge.  An angry song that spews against facile and dishonesty:  I was wondering just what motivated the creative process.  James Edge will know the truth but you get hooked and intrigued by the oblique-and-real blend.  Entranced by the pure and driving vocal- that sees The Bends-era Thom Yorke kiss Jeff Buckley at his Grace-ful best- you have a lead that captivates and holds the listener aghast.  It is the composition that hooks the hindbrain:  a mezzanine of preening peacock feathers; an aberration of conviction and swirling vortex of unhinged emotions.  Whilst I struggle to define and rationlise Maggot Brain:  I am faced with the same challenge across On a Red Horse.  Edge clearly holds umbrage and hostility at heart:  the song is his exploration of deep intensity and disquiet.

When the musicians play, you get different sides of various albums.  I know Edge is inspired by Nick Drake and Five Leaves Left.  I can see that- when the acoustic guitar spirals into impossibly-dreamy territory- but I get shadows of Pink Moon.  A certain moodiness and harrowed soul- Drake recorded the album shortly before his death across a single night- lingers within the performance.  You can envisage our man sat (alone) in a candle-lit studio:  alone with sadness and anxiety; this is a musical execration and cry for help.  Were it not for the composed and honey-sweet voice you would be fooled.  Elements of Bjork (Medulla and Vespertine especially) mix with Miles Davis strands (Kind of Blue and Bitches Brew).  The immaculate romance and spine-tingling etherealness provided by strings- the morose and angered becomes tranquillised and utterly beguiled- elicits an enormous sensual response and acts as a needed juxtaposition/disciplinarian against the bubbling anger.  Despite the free-natured sound of the performance; it seems as though Edge and his cohorts have an unspoken connection.  The vocals and acoustics drive the players and vice versa:  they each ensure the story moves along purely and without constraint.  Past the half-way marker- when the musical parable reaches its crux- Edge’s acoustic boings and strikes with lustful vitriol.  Reverence of Drake emerges within James Edge’s gorgeous performance.  Just then- and with nary a warning shot- a grumbling, monster-like string sound emerges.  Almost brass-like in nature- listen to Radiohead’s The National Anthem finale- the low-born cello/double bass (excuse my ignorance) lends an air of eccentricity and neon-lit drunkenness.  Moving from a chapter of twilight reflection and somnambulist drift:  we now transport to a running-from-adversity chase that acts as the song’s high point.  The hero is at his most dangerous, unpredictable and uncontrollable.  Odd, bracing and delirious:  such a wonderful and unforgettable performances is laid out.  Like Paranoid Android– that must have been an influence- the song goes through various ‘suites’.  Our man comes back on the microphone and continues the tale.  Fireflies and rain (are enough) to get the hero “riding out again”.  At every stage- when the lyrics unfold- you imagine horse-straddling fighters going to war.  I might be subjective but am resolute in my interpretation- the truth, of course, will be very different.  Inside the final minute, the players are not done shocking and amazing.  The once-brooding strings tighten and become more intense.  Perhaps the aftermath- of war or a singular, unforgettable moment- the listener is dragged into a whirlpool of emotions, images and colours.  By the final notes- when the song releases you from its grip- you have to take time out and let it all sink in.

Congratulations must go to the people who made the song happen.  Tom Aitkenhead and Ade Emsley (who recorded and mixed the song between them) capture and mix everything superbly.  Allowing the musicians to reign free and naturally:  Aitkenhead and Emsley have captured the variegated notes and ideas into a cohesive (strangely enough) track.  Supported by Edge (who helped mix the song) I was amazed by the production values and sound that came through.  Each instrument and layer are clear and concise:  not over-produced; just the right amount of gloss has been expended.  Andy Waterworth’s double bass acts provide the moody, mordant tones that give On a Red Horse its most stark and edgy moments.  Avvon Chambers’ drums are consistently focused and strong:  giving the track its heartbeat and driving force.  Ali Dods and Howard Gott match their violins beautifully.  Orchestral, symphonic at once; gliding, graceful and graceful the next.  Sophie Sirota blends her viola in and contrasts Vicky Matthews’ cello with authority and discipline.  James Edge leads the players and has assembled an incredible troupe.  Together- and with little direction- they have created a mind-melting track that will compel you to revisit it many times over.  It is not just his guitar-playing acumen that impresses and amazes.  The lyrics have nuance and obliqueness that means they can be extrapolated in a variety of ways.  At its heart, is anger from a young artist with a lot to get off his mind.  Lesser artists would be unfocused and too intense- losing musicality and concision for the sake of directness- but Edge has created a wonderfully rich and multifarious delight.  I have not mentioned the music video- needing to concentrate purely on the music- but it is a phenomenal work of art from Ross Butter.  Directed by James Edge, the duo has summoned up a meticulous- a process of hand-drawn scenes that show a huge dedication- and unforgettable video.  Perhaps inspired by Radiohead’s Paranoid Android; we see the song’s lead- a rather odd and troubled individual- reveal himself (naked exposure) rather graphically.  Going on a kind-of rampage- genitalia swinging and drug-addled crusade:  he is confronted by the police; overlooked by a shocked crowd.  By the closing moment- in the midst of an L.S.D.-provoked freak-out- the hero grows to truly gargantuan propositions.  Ending with a blood-spattered assault on the town- eating and scalping anyone within reach- we end with a bit of humour (a passer-by putting the coin in the cap of our fallen- and deceased- lead).  Altogether, On a Red Horse is a stunning work from one of music’s true innovators.

I have been shrugging my shoulders a lot, lately.  I have loved the music reviewed- the variation and quality I hear- but in a wider sense, there are few musicians I would recommend.  James Edge and the Mindstep has provided some solace and chance for reflection.  A new- and wholly unexpected prospect- I have loved witnessing something original and daring.  When their E.P., On a Red Horse, arrives it will provide the public with a chance to hear something sensational.  If it’s title track is any indication:  the E.P. will be a rousing success and contain truly wonderful material.  I opened this review looking at experimentation and music videos:  how each facet is being ignored and watered-down to an extent.  The modern music scene is never going to inspire and progress unless (musicians) push themselves.  There are too many artists that either follows the pack- blind sheep looking for guidance- or expend the minimum amount of energy and thought.  Whether you consider it a gamble- doing something bold and against-the-grain- I admire those who take chances and genuinely experiment.  Many would imagine something messy and scattershot:  musicians throwing notes together in the hope they stick.  That is not the case at all.  As James Edge and the Mindstep have shown:  bending the rule book can lead to something truly exciting and fresh.  If you have not discovered a James Edge and his Mindstep then make sure you dedicate some time to them.  With albums and acclaim under their belt, they are one of the most exciting and inspiring groups playing.  If you heard genres like ‘Folk’ and ‘Jazz’ mentioned- were you not a fan- the nose might crinkle and the smile might contort.  I agree on a couple of things:  not everything in the Folk realm is promising and recommended.  There are a lot of stilted and dull musicians who think an acoustic guitar and honest heart are enough to seduce a listener.  James Edge realises a shake-up needed to occur:  add colour and strangeness into a genre that is seen as very safe and unsurprising.  My Maggot Brain diatribe was hardly a coincidence:  it is an experimental/unrehearsed song that shows what can happen when you play with emotion and live in the moment.  If that song too studied and honed, what would it sound like?  It would probably be a comparative house cat:  something that would take a long time to make its mark.  The same can be said for Jimi Hendrix’s most inspired jams.  He was not a guitarist who spent a lot of time crafting songs and slaving over notation.  I am not saying every musician needs to go in without anything committed to paper:  just see what comes out and hope for the best.  If you are a Pop artist or part of an Alternative band, then once in a while take a chance!  James Edge and the Mindstep are evolving and growing with every release.  I can hear that progression and confidence expand with each new record.  The fact On a Red Horse boasts a freewheelin’ performance shows just how assured the musicians how; how brave James Edge is.  The video for On a Red Horse is a strange and unforgettable documentation of an equally bizarre creation.  James Edge is seen, by many, as a modern-day Frank Zappa- without the mad scientist facial hair!  In a couple of weeks, the On a Red Horse E.P. will be released and show the band in full flight.

If its title track has wetted the appetite- it sure should of! – then you will want to get your ears on the E.P.  I am an advocate of the music video and its importance in the current climate.  If you look back, we all have our favourite videos.  Whether you are a fan of Peter Gabriel’s Sledgehammer– and its progressive, plasticine-motioned animation- or Michael Jackson’s Thriller– and that John Landis-directed epic film- everyone has their opinions.  Over the last few years, very few music videos have stuck in my mind.  Kendrick Lamar withstanding- who can back up his genius with some truly astonishing promotion videos- there are few that expend that effort and passion.  It might seem like a minor point, but it really isn’t:  the video is just as important as the song.  The video is the promotional tool and visual representation of a song.  If you bare the minimum effort and just phone it in-  it will, consequently, drag the song down.  My arguments aside, we can all agree on one thing:  On a Red Horse is a song that wins you over on the very first play.  Watch the video with it and you’re treated to a mind-altering and sense-lifting musical experience.  I am not sure whether James Edge and the Mindstep have any touring plans- I guess there will be at some point- but it would be great to see them up-close.  Given the experimentation within On a Red Horse; it will be wonderful seeing how that translates on stage.  There are so many musicians that are too restricted, passive and limited.  When artists like James Edge and the Mindstep come around, we must do everything to ensure they get…

THE attention they deserve

 

 

________________________________________

Follow James Edge and the Mindstep

 

Official:

http://www.jamesedgeandthemindstep.com/

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/jamesedgeandthemindstep

Twitter:

https://twitter.com/andthemindstep

_____________________________________

Music

https://soundcloud.com/jamesedgeandthemindstep