TRACK REVIEW: Kyle Britton- Villain

TRACK REVIEW:

 

Kyle Britton

 

 

 

Villain

 

9.6/10

 

 

Villain is available at:

RELEASED:
April 13th, 2016

GENRES:
Indie-Folk

ORIGIN:

Los Angeles, U.S.A.

____________________________________

OVER the coming weeks I am going to start spreading my horizons…

and break out of easy habits.  The more ‘focused’ reader will note how often I have reviewed L.A.-based musicians- almost a second home when it comes to the best sounds around.  A lot of my recent attention has been divided between L.A. and Folk music:  today I bring both together; perhaps the last time I will do so for a little while.  It is not a bad thing at all:  new talent is new talent; finding great music should not be dependent on location and genre.  It is, in fact, just nice to be able to ‘get out there’ and hear some different music.  I shall not talk too much about L.A. – lest everyone complain- but Folk comes back under the radar; as does defiance in music- finishing off with a bit about U.S. artists coming over to the U.K.  I have been bashing Folk a little; making it pick up its feet and starting working:  too many artists are playing in the genre without injecting any personality and passion.  I am siding with (some) critics who bemoan the raft of somewhat boring Folk musicians:  those that strum their guitar and sing with such listless desires.  If you are going to be a musician- and want people to follow you and be fascinated- then you need to stop doing what everyone else is.  In the same vein:  unless you have a mega-super-wonderful voice:  plaintive string-plucking and cliché love songs are not going to cut the mustard.  It is not just Folk that has this reputation:  there are too many Pop acts that seem intent on b the world; making music as vanilla as possible.  Since the ‘60s and ‘70s- when the legends of Folk were born- the genre has struggled a little bit.  Never as popular and dependable as others- Indie; Rock etc. – there has been variability and inconsistency through the last few decades.  I am not saying everyone who does not sound like Bob Dylan and Neil Young has failed- quite the opposite in fact.  I feel like too many young Folk artists are unwilling to push boundaries and capture a larger audience.  You get musicians that are happy in their own wheelhouse- rather traditional and predictable- and do not realise the opportunities in front of them.  Folk- when married with other sounds- has the potential to inspire so many; go far beyond the expectations of critics and listeners.  Maybe this is a generational bias- me being a rather snooty young reviewer- but Indie-Folk seems like the most logical approach to the Folk-quality conundrum.  If last year showed anything, it was how much you could do with the genre.  The likes of Father John Misty and Laura Marling produced stunning works.  Throw Sufjan Stevens and you have three of the finest artists in ANY genre.  What these artists showed was what could be done when you mix Folk cores with something deeper.  Father John Misty is perhaps the most pertinent comparison.  Writing universal themes- heartache and love; struggle and longing- with heartfelt melodies and personal transparency- you have an astonishing album (I Love You, Honeybear).  Kyle Britton is an artist who takes the traditional elements of Folk and expands those outwards.  Not just confined to acoustic guitar-based love songs:  here is an artist who understands the importance of daring, emotion and response.  His music elicits something deep and human:  able to bring beauty and hope to dark moments.  Before I continue, let me introduce the L.A. musician to you:

Inspired by the quiet musings of troublesome love and the path to understanding, the emotionally evocative music of indie-folk singer-songwriter, Kyle Britton, epitomizes storytelling in its truest fashion. Britton’s distinctive sound combines undeniable dark undertones with roving melodies and atmospheric refrains, offering a unique experience for his listeners.

Britton enlisted help from Los Angeles’ most seasoned musicians including Kyle Crane on Drums (Daniel Lanois, Elle King) and renowned violist, Ginny Luke (Rihanna, Dave Matthews Band). Famed engineer, Darryl Swann (Macy Gray), made sure to highlight Britton’s warm and natural vocals.

 

Perhaps it was growing up in a military family which led to Britton’s desire for non-conformity and individuality. Britton expressed on his father’s influence “I grew up with my dad telling me that if music is not evoking an emotional response it’s not doing its job.” The EP is a demonstration of Britton’s continuous hard work towards his childhood dream. His natural dedication has led him from ‘fake-playing’ his 7-year-old rendition of Def Leppard’s ‘Pour some sugar on me’ to creating an EP that actively analyzes his decisions in life, whilst convincing us to do the same.

Once more, Los Angeles is proving what a stunning musical climate it is.  Perhaps it is the weather:  that perennial warmth that ensures its musicians are at their happiest and most relaxed.  Maybe the bubbling, multi-cultural communities compel something.  Who knows?  Whatever the reason (behind the upsurge) it is hardly surprising to hear Kyle Britton come through.  When his E.P. is released in a couple of months:  it will show what a talent we have in our midst.  It is always challenging predicting how far a musician can go.  The signs are all good when it comes to Britton.  There is a defiance to him that impresses me greatly.  He is not an artist that betrays Folk’s true nature:  his music contains traditional arrangements and does not stray too far from ‘70s Folk ideas.  What we get is a musician that strives to hit the heights of Father John Misty, Laura Marling and Sufjan Stevens.  Indie-Folk is a style of music that is becoming more popular and appealing.  Any artists that rebel against Rock and Alternative music is alright by me.  There is a proliferation of new musicians that have that arena-pining sound:  they want to be the Next Big Band; follow in their idols’ footsteps.  That is all well and good:  yet I am not hearing THAT much originality and quality.  Some of the most merit-worthy and fascinating acts of this year are those that tease Folk and Indie together.  This is personified by Kyle Britton who is a musician I can hear going far.  Based in L.A. right now- enthralling the local crowds- it would be good to see him come over to Britain.  More and more American artists are finding a home here and spending a lot of time around Europe.  I am all in favour of embracing musicians beyond our borders:  making the U.K. a more cosmopolitan and all-embracing musical nation.  Music is still hamstrung by costs and distance.  Unless an artist is close-by- I am talking about new musicians- the press can often pass them by.  It is challenging keeping abreast of all the brightest and most attractive artists around the world- I can sympathise with that.  If Britton were to play a few shows here- maybe a few across France and Europe in general- that would give him exposure here.  Britain has some great, emerging Folk acts:  there is a definite audience for him here.  Villain is a fresh cut that announces the arrival of a determined and forceful artist:  someone who can hold attention and fascination for years to come.  These are the early days- making bold proclamations might be a little unwise- but who would bet against him?

Riddle is going to be released on June 10th.  It will give the world the opportunity to show just what Britton is made of.  I am predicting the E.P. will be a concept record of sorts.  The tracks will all roughly ascribe the same ‘muse’:  a woman that has left her share of pain and heartache.  Villain is a song that recounts the fall-out of a relationship:  the scars and rubble left following a painful split.  The song is not as one-sided and obvious as one might suspect.  There is self-confession and honesty here.  No finger-wagging number- our hero opens himself up and is not free from blame- it shows huge lyrical and musical diversity.  Soundtrack was released late last year and performed with Jewelia Hepburn-Zaferes (Britton’s fiancé).  Showcasing affection and devoted love:  it is one of the most positive and celebratory tracks Britton has performed on.  Villain has darker undertones and shows what variation and range our hero possesses.  When his E.P. is released; it will be interested to see which songs are included.  Whether he included Soundtrack– or collaborates with his fiancé again- that will be interesting.  What you will get is confidence, authority and originality.  A Folk musician that does not want to be labelled and overlooked:  the coming years are going to be very prosperous for the L.A. musician.

Villain opens with a mix of staunch strings and funeral undertones.  A bell rings in the background; there is a storm-lashed atmosphere and a real scene being set.  The studied and emotive guitar sound put me in mind of legends like Nick Drake and Neil Young.  You get drawn into something historic, wonderful and familiar.  It is when the voice arrives do you get the biggest impact.  Husky, smoky and beautiful:  the perfect canvas that brings the song fully to life.  With your soul and heart lost inside that embracing tongue- a vocal that grabs you and drags you in- the self-confessional tone of Villain elicits speculation and curiosity.  Our hero is warning the girl to stay away.  Not wanting his blue eyes to fool her:  pain and heartache will wait.  If they continue to play, it seems the heroine will get hurt:  there is warning and caution that rings through the early stages.  Bits of Paolo Nutini emerge in the vocals- that same duskiness and caramel-smooth burr- and you get touches of Soul legends.  Such a complex and rich voice ensures the listener is invested and seduced.  Most songs- that deal with heartache and loss- cast blame on the other party.  In fact, when seeing the song’s description on paper, I was feeling rather weary and anxious.  I was assuming we’d get another she-broke-my-heart-what-a-vixen song:  one where the knives are out and there is a lot of immature blame.  Britton is a mature young man that realises his foibles and indiscretions.  A man that is brave enough to show a darker side:  one that his sweetheart should be very wary of.  I know Britton is engaged- not sure if this song recounts a previous relationship- but I was hooked by the impressively bold and honest confessions.  After the initial strumming and acoustic-led composition- and with the chorus arriving- you get a thumping and militaristic percussion.  The hero confesses his sins- being a villain and heartbreaker- and announces it with determination and resonance.  On the one hand, there is certain defiance and swagger- like this revelation is not such a big deal- but on the other hand, you feel like the young man is baring his soul and letting the pain free.  When the chorus arrives- and explodes with dance and energy- Britton’s vocal reaches fever-pitch levels of smoke-ravaged husk and intensity.

Admitting to being a “bad boy”- again; perhaps the tongue is placed in cheek- you get a mix of humour, honesty and self-confession.  These components work together wonderfully and highlight a song with depth and originality.  I mentioned artists like Father John Misty up-top- the benchmark for the best in Indie-Folk- and Britton has some comparable threads.  He takes Folk’s traditions and heritage and brings his own blend to the genre.  It is hard to define and put your finger on-  you just know something special is happening.  Villain has a theatrical touch and almost seems like a production unfolding.  So much attention is put into every aspect of the song.  The lyrics mix the everyday nature of cautious love- and not putting faith in someone who will do harm- with something very personal and different.  The way Britton projects the lyrics- “I’m a bad, bad boy” gets elongated, truncated and repeated beautifully- adds drama and flair to proceedings.  In that vein; the nature of the lyrics- stay away from a slightly toxic bond- is impressive indeed.  Britton’s choice of words and delivery blend malevolence, wisdom and cheekiness; emotion, terseness and passion.  The composition mixes marching beats and swooning strings- they rise and fall; jump and dance- that leads to something quite extraordinary.  It is impossible to listen to Villain and not be fascinated and nod along.  The energy and rouse bring Blues and Rock into a Folk centre:  an electrifying song that rattles around the brain and involves every listener.  Too many Folk artists seem too bland and vague:  not the case with Kyle Britton.   That raw and naked voice is essential and utterly superb.  Stinging strings and bait-and-switch ensures there is nervousness and unpredictability to Villain.  The hero has a teasing allure but comes with a dangerous sting:  do not be fooled and keep at bay.  Britton is happy when writing about love’s universality and desires:  embracing the good and acknowledging the inherent good.  Villain is the flip-side that was born from a dark place.  Needing to exorcise demons and doubts:  the song is a warning sign and burden that needed to be defeated.  Given that premise:  one might expect an unfocused and rather off-putting song.  What we have is something cohesive, hugely dramatic and memorable.  You can tell how much attention goes into every note and idea:  a lot of time has been expended to ensure the song is as good as can be.  Shimmering, country-fried strings join the throng- another wonderful addition- and give Villain new layers and shine.  Towards the final moments, there is some tenderness and swoon.  The wordless vocals rise and fall; the strings shiver and the percussion teases.  Before you get comfortable, the chorus swaggers back in and suddenly ends- a beautiful and unexpected dead-stop.

Kyle Britton has combined with some of L.A.’s finest musicians- Ginny Luke is the violist; Kyle Crane on drums- and backed by the engineering of Darryl Swann.  The husky, warm and varied vocal- from the man Britton- is given wonderful shine and exposure.  Joining wonderful musicians together can often be a risky business.  Sometimes they do not click and sound unnatural together.  Here, we get something cohesive, symphonic and together.  Every player is completely in-step and knows their part:  the ensuing performance is among the most impressive you’ll hear this year.  Kyle Britton proves what a stunning writer and performer he is.  The lyrics (to Villain) mix pantomime anti-hero and raw-emotions-come-clean confessions.  There are intelligence and wit together; catchiness and catharsis:  all the ingredients that make a perfect song.  Throw in a sensational voice- that has few equals- and few can deny the brilliance of Villain.  What his forthcoming E.P. will contain- and how Villain sits in- we are in for a real treat.  Having just a few songs under his belt, I have heard few artists as confidence and distinct fresh from the box.  If you have not discovered the brilliance of Kyle Britton:  go and correct this forthwith.

Riddle and Villain are two songs that signal a musician with an incredible sound and talent.  Both songs look at universal themes and keep things relatable and tangible.  Not breaking the mould too much- ensuring the audiences have something familiar and comforting- Kyle Britton adds something intensely personal.  His music looks at disreputable and heartbreaking women- perhaps both songs are based on the same girl- and ensures darkness, atmospherics and non-conformity.  Heralding from a military background; it is perhaps not a huge shock Britton has that rebellious side.  He is not a Folk artist that plays it too soft and safe.  Every track he performs leaves deep impressions and gets inside the mind.  I have mentioned a trio of Indie-Folk artists- Laura Marling, Father John Misty and Sufjan Stevens- and am not employing these names liberally.  Between the three superstars; it shows what Indie-Folk is capable of.  Many are too reticent and reserved when it comes to musical endeavor.  We all get comfortable in our skins and are reluctant to be too adventurous.  I am one of those people that tip-toes around Folk quite a bit.  I have heard so many musicians (in this genre) that leave me cold and lifeless- playing music that could bore you to tears.  Folk is evolving and starting to show some ambition and potential.  Too many artists get caught in that Bob Dylan-via-Nick Drake-by-Joan Baez style of Folk.  Unless you have their lyrics and voices- nobody in modern music ever will- you are not going to captivate too many hearts.  Artists- that play this kind of music- stick to love-loss themes and never let their voice/music fly.  That is not the case with Britton.  A musician that leaves instant impressions on the listener:  the music he plays contains so many layers and possibilities; dark hues inside light and hope.  Maybe his themes of love and scorn are not the most original and progressive- that does not really matter.  It is hard to be truly original (when it comes to themes) but that is not to say it is impossible.  Even when talking about love and fall-out; there is still huge potential for gold and depth.  Villain does not leave too much to the imagination- the title pretty much tells you all you need to know- but the vocals, melody and music catch you by surprise.  You would never be able to predict Kyle Britton at all.  On paper, he seems like your everyday musician.  All these assumptions and predictions are overthrown when you hear the music take hold.  I have found a hungry young artist who could well be a big proposition in the future.  I make declarations and predictions when faced with a new artist.  I shall do this less- as some bands have split up following my reviews; not my fault I’d like to add- but that is the fault of the industry/public and not the music.  I have every hope Britton will grow bigger, stronger and more dominant.

His social media numbers keep going up:  the basis he has cemented is loyal and dedicated.  Not just confined to U.S. audiences:  the L.A. musician has support from all across the globe.  It is rare to find a musician so loved and assured right from the off.  Kyle Britton is making his first steps but already sounds assured, fully-formed and arrived.  When artists do this- swinging in and have that confidence- you always get excited.  I know his debut E.P. arrives in June:  make sure you grab it and let its tracks take your heart.  Maybe Kyle Britton will not ascend to the bonkers-as-hell magic of Father John Misty:  our hero has his own ideas and sound; no-less impressive, imperious and beautiful.  What you get with Kyle Britton is to-the-bone lyrics that we can all understand and abide by.  Music is becoming too indirect and machine-made.  I feel the soul and heritage is slowing fading from today’s sounds.  It is easy to record music and put it online:  when there; you can ‘like’ and share music to your heart’s content.  I love how music can be shared with the masses; the variety available and the fact we can get it for free.  What I worry about is the human element.  Behind machines and SoundCloud links; it is tough to get an impression of an artist:  just how they tick and what goes into the music.  In the past- and before the Internet- records got to your ears off the backing of record labels.  Few musicians made it into the studio without a record contract and faith behind them.  Publicity and promotion involved radio and T.V. interviews:  making sure the artist could be heard and seen.  Now, that is not the case at all.  There are a lot more musicians but fewer that linger in the mind.  That might be me being subjective and biased:  music was a lot better in the past.  Whilst my heart will always belong to a past time:  I have every hope the new generation can provide some wonderful music and inspire millions.  This year is seeing a bumper crop grow and flourish.  Kyle Britton is another one of those musicians that make me smile and wonder.  I cannot wait to see his E.P. drop and what the future holds for him.  Although his music comes to us via digital means and studio production:  he is one of the most human and emotional artists you can discover.  The music is not layered with polish and fake tinsel:  you get hard-hitting reality and beauty; contrasts, complexities and soul.  My expectations are high- when it comes to modern music and matching the past- but there are so many wonderful artists working away; trying to get their music into the mainstream.  Given that determination and effort- and with the likes of Kyle Britton making huge footprints- it would be fair to say…

THE future looks rather safe.

 

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Follow Kyle Britton

 

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/kylebrittonmusic

Twitter:

https://twitter.com/kyle_britton

__________________________________

Music

https://soundcloud.com/kylebrittonmusic

TRACK REVIEW: Duke of Wolves- It’s Real

TRACK REVIEW:

 

Duke of Wolves

 

 

It’s Real

 

9.6/10

 

 

It’s Real is available at:

https://soundcloud.com/dukeofwolves/duke-of-wolves-its-real

RELEASED:
5th April 2016

GENRES:
Rock; Alternative

ORIGIN:

London, U.K.

____________________________________

THIS will be the second time I have reviewed Duke of Wolves…

in fairly quick succession.  The reason I want to return to them- aside from having a new single out- is to take a look at the great Rock bands emerging right now.  I have been getting excited that Royal Blood are back on the scene- well, sort of.  When their self-titled debut album arrived two years ago, there was a lot of excitement:  a British Rock band that evoked memories of the legends of the genre.  Whilst (the album) had its fine moments and anthems; I worried there was little originality and mobility.  The songs put you in mind of other artists too heavily:  the likes of The White Stripes and Queens of the Stone Age came through too strongly.  I know the boys are working on a new album:  let’s hope there is an evolution and change.  The guys claim it will take time for new material to surface:  they want to great something rawer and heavier; put more time into the songs to ensure there is a natural progression.  I am getting hung-up on the issues of originality- ironic, seeing as Led Zeppelin are in the midst of a plagiarism lawsuit over Stairway to Heaven’s similarity to Taurus by the band Spirit- because it is missing the point entirely.  A lot of new Rock bands have an essence of bygone artists:  that is not to say they should be criticised or ignored.  Royal Blood’s back-to-basics, bare-boned sound manages to get the crowds jumping and speakers blowing.  So long as (a particular band) injects enough personality and unique D.N.A. into their music; you should enjoy it and embrace something exciting and primal.  I feel the U.S. is stealing a lot of focus:  their best and brightest are in danger of eclipsing the finest we have in the U.K.  Every time I go hunting for a Rock band, that same question pops into my head:  Is Rock music on the decline?  There is a school of thought that suggests bands that play Rock/Alternative lack the same magic and innovation as their forefathers.

While the band dollar is the most precious in music:  making your way to a critic’s attention is quite a grueling and challenging thing.  The reason people ask the question- whether Rock is dead- is because of the lack of opportunities in the local community.  Most towns have some form of open mic night:  the small numbers who attend these events do not help promote the music much.  What do you do outside of that?  Perhaps I am going on a tangent:  it seems like there are few chances for Rock bands to get under the radar and have their music promoted.  Duke of Wolves came together with that shared ideal:  making music that gets the audiences engaged; songs that stand up to repeated battering.  Knowing their frontman (Jim Lawton) for a while:  I understand the struggles and realities inherent in the band market.  His former incarnation- the look-set-for-the-big-time Crystal Seagulls- split and created shockwaves across the music world.  An amazing act that seemed primed for international success:  things came to an end and the members went their separate ways.  Back with Duke of Wolves:  this London-based band is filled with promise and sights to the future.  While there are few opportunities away from the big cities- for new young bands right now- London does not suffer such a fate.  The city is teaming with venues of all sorts:  whatever your genre and sound; you are going to be catered for.  The problem arises when you consider the competition in London.  There are so many bands and musicians flocking here- excited from the drab and limited appeal of their hometowns- to seek success and longevity.  Ben (drums and backing vocals), Jim (lead vocal and rhythm guitar); Orlando (lead guitar and backing vocals) and Sara (bass guitar and backing vocals) understand the hurdles that face them.  They have a pretty loyal and solid London fanbase- one that stretches wider afield, in fact- and have gigs lined up- in no danger of being overlooked and forgotten.   It is all well and good putting songs online:  you can’t really get a good handle (on a band) unless you see them live.  Our quartet is doing their best to play to as many as they can:  they are gaining a great live reputation and emerging as one of our most impressive bands.  Although Duke of Wolves have some notable influences- Queens of the Stone Age; Muse; Led Zeppelin- the guys have their own sound and way of working.  Employing hints of other acts:  the band is one of the toughest- and most promising- we have right now.  I cannot wait to see how the group progresses and what they have next.  With Royal Blood in the midst of a sophomore album:  there is great excitement for British Rock and what it can achieve.  I have reviewed a great many Rock bands over the years:  few that are quite as instant and confident as Duke of Wolves.  The four-piece will be keeping active over the coming months:  taking their new single to the masses; gaining as much new support as they can.  I have been obsessed with solo artists lately.  It is great to be back in band territory and witnessing one of our hungriest artists go in full guns.

It’s Real and Hollow Eyes share similarities.  Both are around the three-and-a-half minute mark:  each track showcases an incredible chemistry in the band- songs that leave you breathless and amazed.  It is rare to hear such confidence and conviction from a band that have just started out.  Normally, a group will gig for a long time before recording a debut single.  Said song will give you a taster of what to expect- there might be a gap before the next song.  Duke of Wolves have gone in with a bang and are wasting little time.  They know how the scene works:  there are so many groups emerging; you need to remain in the consciousness and get the music out there.  That is not to say their singles lack discipline and substance.  Hollow Eyes proved they could create a song that was both live-sounding and well-honed.  Each player stands in the memory and nobody is overlooked.  Too many bands keep the bass low in the mix or have a rather unspectacular drummer in their ranks.  Duke of Wolves have such a muscular and equal-rank line-up.  The percussion is constantly avalanching and stunning; the bass keeps everything in-check and driving- the guitars create thunderstorms and hurricane.  The band cites Led Zeppelin and Cream as idols; Muse and Queens of the Stone Age.  If you count any of these acts as favourites:  you should definitely check out the music from Duke of Wolves.  The London quartet does not rattle off a third-rate tribute to their influences- like many artists do out there- instead, add suggestions of the aforementioned with elements from their past.  Each member has been playing music for a long time- often in other bands- and brings their shared experience and talent into a stunning blend of Classic Rock and of-the-minute magic.  I am not sure what plans are in mind for the remainder of this year.  The guys will be looking at more new music and producing something E.P.-like (let’s hope).  Right now, they are cementing themselves in the community and playing as many gigs as possible.  This live experience helps when it comes to their music.  The confidence they accrue on their road feeds directly into the songs.  With every step, they become more assured, daring and gilded- they will only get stronger from here.  If you loved Hollow Eyes and were wondering whether they could equal it- It’s Real certainly does not disappoint.

Beginning with a jumping and sparring riff:  It’s Real gets down to business with very little mystery.  Direct, to-the-point and barking:  the song gets right in your face and stakes its claim.  Meaty, siren-call strings are backed by a taut and steroid percussion.  Those missing the anthemia bliss of Royal Blood will find much to enjoy from Duke of Wolves.  The band goes in hard and strong:  right from the first moments, you are hooked into It’s Real.  Our front-man approaches the microphone with caution and concerns.  Things are disturbing his dreams; bad thoughts and harsh experiences are unravelling- the problem is, they are not dreams.  Real-life horrors are unfolding and leaving their scars.  Lawton shows how much he has grown as a singer.  When It’s Real started out; you get flavor notes of Muse’s Absolution-era work.  Shades of Matt Bellamy can be heard in the voice:  that same range and flourish:  able to go from a tense and concentrated projection into a falsetto-laden hang.  With his thoughts being taken away- the need to reclaim them and find some stability- there is edginess and darkness creeping in.  With his voice rising and wailing in anxiety:  our lead is afraid to turn the lights out; seemingly running from something haunting and unstoppable.  In these early phases, you wonder what inspires the words.  Maybe a relationship is exploding and both parties are at loggerheads.  Maybe personal stresses and expectations are becoming too heavy- society, perhaps, is too dangerous and unpredictable.  Whatever has influenced It’s Real will leave impressions on every listener.

The sizzling, fiery atmosphere does not abate:  you are always at the mercy of the band’s brutal assault.  Throughout It’s Real you get a nice mix of decades and genres.  Blending Hard-Rock of the ‘70s- bits of Led Zeppelin- with Desert-Rock from the ‘00s- throw in a little Muse- and you have a song that will appeal to those who know their Rock heritage.  Whilst Duke of Wolves have some clear influences; they do not sound too limited and too obvious.  The London quartet beautifully balances the past and present into a song that gets hotter and harder as time progresses.  This enflamed passion is perfectly emphasised by Lawton whose vocals are at their peak, here.  Semi-operatic and filled with emotion:  there are few singers that have such a range and control.  The band are not exactly slouches, either.  Props must be given to the groups as a whole.  They have such a tightness and understanding.  As fascinated as I was by the lyrics- trying to understand where they emanated from and what compelled them- your mind gets distracted.  Before you submit yourself to curiosity; the guitars step out front and sting with viper-like toxicity.  A wailing, stinging riff emerges:  acting as a punctuation mark; the song is given new light and progression.  Many acts are rather lazy and limited when it comes to composition.  They tend to put very little imagination into their music.  Duke of Wolves ensures there is invention, colour and surprise at every turn.  It’s Real will strike a chord with Rick purists:  those who favour their music loud, catchy and riff-laden.  Our London band expertly bond primal, chest-beating simplicity with something more intricate, intelligent and nuanced.  The effect is quite sensational.  You will need a few spins of It’s Real for it to really sink in.  The first play will see you struck and hit by the waves of sound and energy.  Towards the end- or what you consider the end- the song dies down and you presume everything is wrapped up and completed.  It would not be a Duke of Wolves track without some mystery and trickery.  The final thirty seconds starts with some neat little riffing.  Scratchy, blood-lusting and intense:  things are not done here, for sure!  Joining the rumble is the percussion which clatters in with immense authority and power.  With the bass keeping everything straight, in-check and disciplined:  the guitars and percussion kick up a gear and hit the ceiling.  A little bit Them Crooked Vulture- shades of No One Loves Me & Neither Do I– and Queens of the Stone Age fuse with a distinct air of Duke of Wolves.  Showing what a focused and confident proposition they are:  even towards the final moments you are eager for much more.  They keep your attention and ensure It’s Real never becomes anything less than essential.  My mind kept looking for answers and clarity- behind those intriguing lyrics- but my heart and body was captive to the sweaty and animal-like composition.  A song that is sure to get the live crowds fired-up and unified:  It’s Real shows Duke of Wolves get stronger with every release.

Ben, Jim, Orlando, and Sara have unveiled a track that shows them at the height of their powers.  You can tell how much live performances have done for them.  Hollow Eyes proved how assured they were out of the blocks.  If anything; their latest cut exceeds expectations and shows another step forward.  Let’s hope the guys keep building and planning for the future.  Aided by James Billinge- who produced the track- they have a solid foundation that is resonating with fans around London.  I can see the guys touring more extensively around the U.K.  Perhaps international dates will come calling in the future months.  The guys have that universal sound that cannot be ignored or disliked.  In spite of their influences-on-sleeve sound; the quartet have plenty of originality and unique flair.  At every moment- throughout It’s Real– you find yourself immersed in the music and swept up inside it.  Few bands can offer those kinds of qualities.  For that reason:  we all need to support and promote Duke of Wolves.

It’s Real provides a seamless 1-2 for the London band.  When Hollow Eyes was unveiled a couple of months back, I was wary they would not be able to equal it:  Duke of Wolves have shown a consistency that excited me greatly.  I wonder how far they can go and what plans they have for the remainder of the year.  The spirit in the camp is high and there is an incredible bond between the players.  Duke of Wolves have that energy and passion that is hard to fake:  you just know they will be rocking hard for years to come.  I looked at the fate of British Rock at the top of this review.  With bands like Royal Blood starting to put the U.K. back on the Rock map:  how many other (similar-minded) artists are there around?  There are plenty of eager groups around but many are facing challenges in their local community.  Unless you are near to/live in a big city, what sort of opportunities is there around?  Few towns are set-up to accommodate the ambitions of bands emerging:  proper venues that can give a platform for our best musicians.  There is another challenge when you consider London and the Internet.  Social media- and music-sharing platforms- are the most-utilised forms of promotion in the modern age.  Nearly every musician out there uses music-streaming services.  With so much music going up there- on a daily basis it seems- how do you get on top of it?  The best way to check out a band- and see what they are all about- is to witness them in the live setting.  Many groups are bemoaning the lack of chances that are available right now.  Social media can only get you so much acclaim and exposure:  you need to get the faces into gigs; get the crowds hearing you up-close and personal.  London is a natural refuge for bands that seek necessary opportunity and support.  Given the mass that is arriving in the city, you have to ask the question:  Are we going to see over-saturation in London?  Maybe there is some truth; although the finest bands will make their voices heard.

Duke of Wolves are one of those acts that will keep getting bigger and find new success.  Their first two singles have gained a lot of support and sharing:  fans and listeners are getting behind them and showing love.  Mixing the grit and epic-ness of Led Zeppelin and Muse; sprinkling in a little Wolfmother swagger into the pot- you have a band that is exploding with venom.  It’s Real is a brash and authoritative statement from a brilliant young band.  Can we see a Duke of Wolves E.P. before the end of the year?  Let’s hope so as there are many eager ears that are ready and willing.  I just know- when an E.P. does arrive- there will be depth and variation.  What irked me about Royal Blood’s debut album was the lack of sonic diversity.  Every song was hard, direct and primal:  there were no softer and more reflective numbers.  It would have been nice to hear the odd tender moment:  give the record more balance and show some depth.  I hope Duke of Wolves- if they do bring out a new record- will include something calmer and more considered.  On April 22, the guys will play a gig at Camden Barfly (at 1am, to boot).  It will give the capital the chance to hear It’s Real in the flesh:  bring new followers the way of Duke of Wolves.  Those who have stated Rock is on the slide- and its best days are done- would do well to show more faith in the bands we have in this country.  Sure, music is a lot different to the glory days of the ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘90s:  we will never see those beautiful days ever again.  That is not saying we should be dismissive and short-sighted.  The U.K. has always been at the forefront when it comes to inventive and stunning bands.  2016 is no different and there are no signs of slowing down in the near-future.  If you want to discover a Rock group that evokes memories of the past- some of the classic bands- yet keep things fresh and forward-thinking, then look no further.  It’s Real is a tough and hypnotic deceleration from a quartet that is ensuring Rock music…

BURNS very bright indeed.

 

___________________________________________

Follow Duke of Wolves

 

Facebook:

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

Twitter:

https://twitter.com/DofWmusic

Instagram:

https://www.instagram.com/dukeofwolves/

___________________________________

Music

https://soundcloud.com/dukeofwolves

TRACK REVIEW: Richard Maule- For You

TRACK REVIEW:

 

Richard Maule

 

 

For You

 

9.2/10

 

 

 

For You is available at:

https://soundcloud.com/richardmaule/for-you

RELEASED:
March 2016

GENRES:
Folk; Electro; Blues

ORIGIN:

London, U.K.

The E.P., Siren’s Call, will be available soon.

 LAUNCH DATE:

4th May

LOCATION:

The Half Moon

http://halfmoon.co.uk/

DETAILS:

http://london.carpediem.cd/events/40606-richard-maules-ep-launch-sirens-call-at-the-half-moon-putney/

____________________________________

THIS is one of the last reviews I will be publishing…

before jumping back into the world of (full-time) work.  Over the past few weeks, I have witnessed some great acts and artists:  all doing their own thing and sticking in the mind.  I am really pleased and hopeful as this year unfolds:  the music coming out leads me to believe we will have a bumper year for quality musicians.  I have been promoting the best female solo artists around:  I have neglected the boys, to an extent.  There is a good reason for this:  I have always been a bigger fan of the girls (and their music).  The way they do things- the range and confidence- has always made a bigger impression on me.  That said:  there are some great male solo artists emerging:  those that can challenge and succeed the best (of the girls) around.  Before I come to my featured artist; I want to talk more about male solo artists; the concept of the ‘one-man band’- finishing off with a bit about how to survive in the modern climate.  If you look at any list of the ones-to-watch, you will always find the same thing:  there are an awful lot of bands on there!  In fact, it seems the media has forgotten about the solo artist, altogether.  I get fed up of the heavy focus on bands:  they are always put in the spotlight and given an unfair advantage.  Publications like N.M.E. are pretty obsessed with the new groups coming through-  their ‘tips’ for 2016 saw very few solo acts included.  Time Out are a little less single-minded but have, instead, shifted their focus to female solo artists.   They have highlighted some worthy new name:  Alessia Cara, Kalis Uchis; Anne-Marie, Tinashe.  Away from the mainstream-ready Pop stars:  there are some great male solo stars pushing through.  Moses Sumney and Majid Jordan are worth closer investigation.  There seems to be some skittishness among the press currently.  Perhaps addressing accusations of sexism- fewer women promoted compared with men- these so-called ‘best of’ lists are female-heavy.  I definitely approve of the balance of opinion and addressment.  I feel this open-mindedness has come at the expense of the male solo artist.  Jack Garratt has gained a lot of praise, but apart from him, there are relatively few boys high on the list of critics.  Maybe there is a lack of flair and originality (from the lads) but I think this is very narrow-minded and cliché.  If you listen closely:  there are waves of wonderful male artists putting colour and quality into new music.  Richard Maule is one of those musicians happily working his way through the ranks.  Supported by a dedicated, loyal fan-base:  he is surely one of the artists to watch this year.  I have heard tonnes of great female solo acts (this year) and it’s time for the boys- let’s start giving them a bit more support.  Siren’s Call is an E.P. that proves what a proposition Maule is.  The four-track release is available to the public and contains emotion, reflection and beauty.  One of the reasons why the girls are starting to dominate is the subject of energy and passion.  The music they play- the majority of the hotly-tipped acts- have punch, power and pizazz to their songs.  Inventive and uplifting:  positivity and uplift are very much in favour.  Artists like Maule prefer more on tenderness and emotional depth.  Perhaps there have been too many heart-on-sleeve solo artists- the need to switch the trend and embrace something more positive- but that would be remiss.  There are some very boring and depressing male musicians who are incapable of grabbing attention and providing anything new and interesting.  Richard Maule is one of those artists that is gentle and emotive but not at the expense of originality and appeal.

With every track- throughout Siren’s Call– you are drawn into the stunning music.  That rich, chocolate-rich voice sucks you in- the songs make you think about your own life; turn the mirror and probe deep inside.  At the end of the song(s) you are compelled to come back and listen again- not something you can say about a lot of (male) solo acts.  Based out of London, the young musician is a force to be reckoned with.  A lot of solo artists are backed by producers and musicians.  These examples have the voice but need others to help:  flesh out songs and play instruments for example.  Maule is a man who is capable of covering all the bases.  Not just restrained to acoustic guitar and voice- a combination that can cause people to sigh- there is a whole arsenal at his disposal.  Electronic beats and soaring strings; layered vocals and charging guitar:  all played at the same time (on stage) by our hero.  Perhaps Jack Garratt is a notable comparison- when we think about the one-man band approach.  While some have derided Garratt because of his lack of excitement- he is seen as rather placid and lifeless- you cannot say the same of Maule.  I admire a musician that has that ability and desire:  they do not need a band; they want to take control of their sound.  Maule is not only one of the most multi-talented artists around but one of the most fascinating.  Many male artists are tepid and insipid:  Maule should be rubbing shoulders with the most-celebrated of 2016.  Right now, he is making steps and working very hard.  Appearances across local radio- he just featured on Soho Radio– and venues mean he’s getting his music out there.  Siren’s Call is gathering attention and exposure:  we are surely going to see more of the stunning Londoner.  Too many musicians are ignorant to the demands of the music industry.  They do not realise how much work is needed to succeed.  Perhaps they expend too much energy and thought into the music itself- have very little left when the songs are out in the ether.  There is so much competitiveness and variation available:  no musician can take it easy and expect popularity to come find them.  Richard Maule is a modern-day artist that works tirelessly to get his music to the people.  Not only has a great deal of love and the self gone into Siren’s Call:  Maule is ensuring he engages with fans and the media, constantly.

Esoteric Groove was Richard Maule’s last E.P. and gained a lot of respect and airplay.  Aside from patronage from Radio 2– and Dermot O’Leary- it saw legions of supporters come his way.  I Can’t Feel It  combines rugged, rushing strings with echoed vocals.  From there, you get a raw and heartfelt song that explodes through.  Perhaps influenced by a rather rose-thorn lover- not being able to resist the temptation- that heart-pumping, fist-clenched anger builds up.  It is a song that comes from a very personal place.  The vocal remains controlled but is able to flow and contort- ensuring every lyric is brought fully to life.  The title track has a softer, more tranquil opening.  Punchy beats sit with light, breezy strings.  What remains consistent is the smooth, soulful vocal from Maule.  Given the meaning of Esoteric (adjective: intended for or likely to be understood by only a small number of people with a specialised knowledge or interest) you might think the song relates to Maule’s own sound.  Perhaps Esoteric Groove is about a particular bond- a love story that is personal to him- and something more sexualised.  Whatever the inspiration behind the song; it brims with nuance, urgency and fascination.  Waiting on Me and How You See Me are heartfelt and stunning examples of Maule’s incredible songwriter.  Not only do the songs display heartfelt sentiment and tenderness:  they have varied compositions that will speak to every listener.  What I find with Maule’s new work- For You and the remainder of Siren’s Call– is a step forward and slightly different approach.  The vocal and lyrics have that mix of positivity and self-investigation.  Perhaps (the new E.P.) has a more positive and uplifted approach:  this is reflected in the compositions throughout.  More bold and edgy than Esoteric Groove:  the electronics are more insistent and raw; the beats tighter and more memorable.  Even though (both creations) were created on an iPad:  I find the brand-new music more atmospheric, emotive and well-produced.  Maule has gained confidence and strength in the last few months.  For You is perhaps the most memorable song yet from Richard Maule.  Shades of James Blake- and his sensational debut-era songs- can be detected; more Electronica and Blues; less reliance on Folk.  Fans of Maule’s music will see a consistency and familiar.  All his key components are here and in-check.  The new material will bring in new listeners- those who love their music deep and interesting- and sees a young musician that is improving and evolving.  I can see the London-based wonder going onto big things in the coming years.  There are so few artists like him- that have the consistency and quality- so he should brace himself for worldwide acclaim.

For You is Maule’s latest single- Siren’s Call’s title track has been shared on social media- and a glimpse into his 2016 oeuvre.  A delicate, moody finger-picked guitar introduces the song to your ears.  Within the introduction notes, you get images of moonlit confessions and lovers-in-arms strolls:  21st-century anxieties and old-days romance.  When the hero approaches the microphone, his vocals are tenderly deployed.  Words are stretched and expanded to create maximum emotion and effectiveness.  It is hard comparing Richard Maule with anyone else- when you listen to that beautiful vocal.  Influenced by everyone from Mumford and Sons and Damien Rice:  neither artist comes to mind when you hear For You.  The dark, whiskey-soaked voice has more in common with James Blake- someone who has been lauded because of his impactful vocals.  Our man is willing to sacrifice himself and go to war:  do whatever it takes (for) the girl.  Previous Richard Maule tracks have shown a more direct and fast-paced vocal.  Here, we get something much more awed and slowed-down.  In fact- and given my James Blake comparisons- you get little shades of Chris Cornell and Eddie Vedder.  These titans might not be your first port-of-call- considering the style of music Maule plays- but there is gravitas and depth.  Not your average man-with-an-idea musician:  Maule digs into the soul and makes the listener think deeply.  He could have fought battles and overcome obstacles:  he is writing this song as a testament to love.  Whilst this subject has been covered before- putting feelings into a song as a gift; using music as a way to profess admiration- he gives new spin and light to a much-trod area.

Knowing the origins of the song’s production- recorded on iPad and with that home-made/D.I.Y. approach- you can hear that earthiness and bare sound.  It is as though we are sat in a room with Maule:  right beside him as he lets his soul flow through the song.  Given the live-sounding sparsity of the song- naked and revealing- the track becomes harder and more emotive.  The beats come into play and the vocal starts to spark.  Our hero unleashes a beautiful falsetto:  enraptured and lost in the moment; that passion and devotion reach boiling point.  The song’s title becomes an anthem in itself.  Presenting those twin words with enraptured fever and sweat:  For You reaches its emotional and spiritual climax.  With devotion and pride at his heart; Maule lays out new professional and promises.  Willing to wait for his sweetheart- for “all of time”- you know he means every word.  Many songwriters employ hyperbole and ridiculous sentiments.  Love songs are often filled with cloying lines and stereotypical rhymes.  Richard Maule is a songwriter who breaks away from the worst instincts of his peers.  For You is a very personal track whose lyrics have special meaning and relevance.  Wanting to “Lift you up when you’re feeling sad”:  the author provides a window into his relationship; the connection the duo has- the day-to-day struggles they face.  I am not sure whether For You accounts a current relationship or something bygone.  Whatever the circumstances behind the song, you are powerless to resist its potency and meaning.  All these professions and promises- lifting her up and making the girl smile- are overlooked in favour of music.  “Why didn’t I…?” is a line repeated mournfully and with regret.  Maybe (our hero) is remiss to let his emotions out.  Perhaps there is hesitation or problems between the two.  Whatever the reason why- he is unable to give himself completely- music is his portal and way of getting his feelings out.  Music-writing seems a more romantic and bolder gesture.  Few humans are able to pen something beautiful and heartfelt.  In a way; For You is a more fitting testament than action and words.  What I love about the song is the mystery that lingers.  I was wondering whether Maule was happy about things- writing a song rather than putting his words into action.  For You is a hugely evocative song that mixes explosion with tenderness.  By the closing stages- warped electronics and racing beats add urgency- you start to wonder and drill down to the nub of the song.  It is a track you need to listen to again to understand its truths and depths.

Siren’s Call– and For You, for that matter- is the work of a D.I.Y. artist that is breaking new ground.  Siren’s Call was recorded exclusively on the iPad.  Maule’s previous E.P. was recorded in the same way:  D.I.Y. musicians are turning to technology in order to record their music.  Studio costs and the realities of recording are pricing artists out.  I hear horror stories from musicians who always say the same thing:  making music is becoming unbearable pricey.  Too many promising artists are facing an immense hurdle right from the start.  Because of the soaring studio bills; musicians are recording fewer songs and working themselves into the ground.  Richard Maule is showing the alternative available.  Not only can he record all his music on the iPad:  he can mix and produce it; promote and share it from the same device!  It might seem like a bit of a ‘cheat’ but I would disagree.  Electronic/machine-created sounds are no less genuine and exciting than real instruments.  Once upon a time, musicians made it into the studio because of merit:  they had record label backing and money behind them.  Because of that; they were free to record music with few pressures and financial demands.  Today’s scene is an open market- everyone is free to put music out there- there are so many unsigned musicians who do not have the cachet and backing of labels.  In turn, these artists are forced to either run themselves into the ground- to raise funds to get into the studio- or find alternatives.  Electronically produced music makes me think of T.V. comedy.  Studio-set, live-action sitcoms are reigned-in by budget.  If you want to blow things up or travel around the world, it costs a lot of cash.  The same logic cannot be applied to animation.  Whatever is in your mind- whether you want to demolish a city or do something mind-bending- the cost is the same.  Studio-produced music is the same as live-action comedy:  you are limited to a certain extent.  The iPad is to music what animation is to comedy.  With the iPad– other tablets are available- you have an in-your-hand studio; there is no limit to creativity.  I feel so many musicians are letting themselves down a bit.  With the amount of contemporaries plying their trade:  you cannot do what everyone else is; get lazy and phone it in.  Technology is a portal that is providing opportunity, breadth and possibility.  Richard Maule creates waves of sound and beautiful colours throughout Siren’s Call.  You get so many different emotions and threads revealing themselves.  The listener is treated to something magical and entrancing.  If D.I.Y. music comes up with music this good; we should all be following the example of Maule.  In three weeks; he will play The Half Moon in Putney- hopefully, I can make it there- and premiere his E.P.

Maybe soon- if I get the time in-between work- I will give Siren’s Call a thorough debriefing.  For now- and with much excitement- For You is creating hope in me.  I have been immersing myself in the best female-made music of this year.  Bands have been under the microscope:  I have been neglecting the solo males and what they are capable of.  Too many are still stale and idea-less:  replicating the acoustic guitar-led sound that offers little surprise and originality.  Music will only succeed and grow if there is balance, originality and affordability.  The sole male artists need to up their game somewhat and follow Richard Maule’s lead.  If you can afford an iPad then you have an entire studio of tricks at your disposal.  Unfortunately, studio-based music is becoming too expensive and unrealistic.  If you want to produce E.P.s and albums, what do you do?  The answer is right in front of us:  embrace technology and do it all at a reasonable price.  Dermot O’ Leary has played Maule’s music- Esoteric Groove was played last summer- and Wilderness Festival has played host to Maule’s unique brand of song.  Not only has Richard Maule shown progress and potential- growing bigger and more assured with each release- but inspiring musicians coming through.  I have affection for the girls and bands of 2016:  we can’t overlook the boys and what they are doing.  Maybe I have labored the point too much- I shall pick it back up another day- but Siren’s Call is an E.P. you need to listen to.  I have written a few songs and am always stifled and balked by the money needed (so that they can be recorded).  Technology is giving new musicians the opportunity to live their dreams and record what is in their heads- free from budgeting, scheduling and restrictions.  For You will connect with anyone who has followed Maule’s career so far.  It has that distinct sound that comes from a musician with few rivals.  That deep, emotion-filled voice ensures every word provokes a reaction.  While you dive into the voice and its layers; the composition compels the imagination and heart.  When it comes to Richard Maule’s incredible musical charge…

IT’S only just begun.

 

_______________________________________

Follow Richard Maule

 

Official:

http://www.richardmaulemusic.co.uk/

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/Richard.Maule/?fref=ts

Twitter:

https://twitter.com/richardmaule1

___________________________________

Music

https://soundcloud.com/richardmaule

 

 

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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…

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CERTAINLY no accident.

 

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Follow FloodHounds

 

Official:

http://www.floodhounds.com/

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/FloodHounds

Twitter:

https://twitter.com/FloodHounds

Instagram:

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

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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.

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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

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

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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.

 

 

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Follow Snoh Aalegra

 

Official:

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

Facebook:

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Music

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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.

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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