TRACK REVIEW: Youth Man- Fat Dead Elvis

TRACK REVIEW:

 

Youth Man

 

 

Fat Dead Elvis

 

9.6/10

 

 

Fat Dead Elvis is available at:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6oS3aRDmZow

RELEASED:
9th April, 2016

GENRE:
Punk; Alternative

ORIGIN:

Birmingham, U.K.

The E.P., Wax, is available at:

http://hyperurl.co/YouthManBundle

RELEASE DATE:

1St July, 2016

RECORD LABEL:

VENN Records

(https://twitter.com/vennrecords)

TRACK LISTING:

Sweet Apples
Fat Dead Elvis
Pigs

Look: Wait
Painted Blue

____________________________________

IT is hardly an exaggeration saying there is a lot of transition, anger and…

progression occurring. With England being dumped out of Euro 2016– unceremonious embarrassment and a true lack of heart- our nation is detaching away from the European union- our little island is drifting away. Maybe hyperbole: there is a lot of change happening; who knows how it will work out. Regardless: there seems to be a lot of disappointment and upset in the country. Setting aside- the heated and raging- debates and recriminations: distractions and music is needed. I have posed this in previous reviews- how balming and healing music can be- not just on a worldwide level: it can ease and transcend personal issues. For me- not to get in an elongated story of my current predicament- I am undergoing changes and uncertainties: in my career and who I am; where I live and the place I am in. It is quite intense and stressful: hopefully, I can break out (the malaise and anxiety) and make some real steps- get where I want to me. Against the backdrop of sadness and loneliness: it is music I turn to fulfil me and provide something nourishing. We often underestimate how powerful and meaningful music is to people. I have noted how tense things are in the U.K.: a time where we are all a little worried; unsure how things are going to work out. The mud-filled sermons from Glastonbury have provided much-needed fun and togetherness- people coming together in worship of stunning music and festivities.

Just when I have reached a plateau- seeking a hard-hitting and gritty band- one comes along. I love discovering acts of all varieties and fancies: whether Pop, Indie or whatever. Lately, there has been a surfeit of genuinely ramshackle and youthful acts- those that evoke something primal, ill-disciplined yet professional. Certain genres- Electro.-Pop for one- are rising: more artists playing music of this kind. I am always baffled why there are so few great Pink bands around. If you consider the state of the nation- how disaffected and let down the young feel- Punk seems like the natural leader in music: the mouthpiece that truly expresses the mixed emotions and feelings of the disenfranchised. Punk is a genre that (some would say) reached its zenith in the ‘70s and ‘80s.

Modern-day examples- not all, but many- are too clinical and safe- reluctant to completely let loose. Those glory-day acts like Sex Pistols and The Ramones showed how it was done. The sharp, short (The Ramones’ songs often did not exceed 2 minutes) were the perfect catharsis for their generation: moments that got into the head and said what they need to. No needless riffs and repetition: tight, taut songs that blazed with originality, gusto, and rebellion. Sex Pistols- always been more a Ramones boy- snarled and spat with the best of them. Whether rebelling against the monarchy and her majesty- on their masterwork, Never Mind the Bollocks– the band spoke for the youth of Britain: those who felt they did not have a voice; were being ignored and overlooked. Bands that take the spirit of Punk and evolve the form- whether employing Metal and Hip-Hop elements or less-intense Rock shades- the spirit of Punk has never died- it has just been mixed with coke and lemonade; a bit weaker than it should be. Now is the time to herald bands that provide release and representation: get the voices ringing and the crowds chanting. My featured act is not overly-political-more The Ramones than Sex Pistols, for instance- but provide vivid humour, off-kilter songs; kinetic performances that have seen them enthrall audiences in their native Birmingham. Before I carry on- about Punk; raise a couple of other points- it is worth meeting Youth Man:

 

Kaila Whyte – Guitar + vocals
Miles Cocker – Bass + vocals
Marcus Perks – Drums

Formed in January 2012 and bored of seeing the same predictable shit bands at bars, front woman Kaila Whyte and drummer Marcus Perks decided to start jamming together – later joined by bass player Miles Cocker, they would soon to transform into one of the most raw and exciting new punk bands in the UK.

This is what Youth Man are all about: unbridled, riot-grrl-tinged passion and the high velocity punk energy of legendary Welsh trio Mclusky mixed with an artistic edge that leans towards The Dead Kennedys’ trippier moments – throwing caution to the wind, saying “fuck it”, and smashing your guitar into a thousand sweat-soaked pieces. With appearances alongside Sleaford Mods, Together Pangea, Them Wolves, Bovine, Shapes, PINS, Fair Ohs, Sauna Youth and Her Parents, they’re quickly building a rabid following.

Self-proclaiming themselves as the loudest live band in the UK, the trio once supported The Bots and played so loud that they fused all the electricity in the entire venue – there’s no doubt that this caustic and visceral punk trio are out to defy convention, perception and expectation. With songs about tyranny, the hypocrisy of the West, isolation, the human experience and the largest organ in the human body, their dedication to presenting an honest and undiluted version of their music has led to them charming critics and audiences alike. Always putting substance before style, their chaotic live shows are quickly gaining a reputation for creating absolute pandemonium.

 

Hot on the heels of a coveted UK/EU support tour with LA soul-punx Letlive: fast-rising Birmingham noise-punk trio YOUTH MAN are pleased to announce a run of headline UK tour dates for July 2016.


The tour includes a London date on 9th July at The Roundhouse, where the band headline the 
Roundhouse Punk Weekender celebrating the 40th anniversary of the punk movement, appearing alongside False Heads, Birdsong, Molasses, The Antiseptics, BullyBones, Mystified, Drones and Screech Bats as they go head to head on the Dr. Martens Stage in the venue’s Main Space. In addition to the music, there will also be a punk record fair, ‘zine fair, food stalls and more.


Commenting on the news, the band say
“We cannot bloody wait to get this record out and we’re even more excited to get back on the road, back in your faces, playing some new jams at you whilst you gawp in awe and disbelief. The new records and shirts look sweet as hell too so come and hang at the merch table with us afterwards and say hi and buy our shit so we can eat.”


The threesome recently revealed that their 
new EP ‘Wax’ will be released on 1st July 2016 on VENN Records, the independent label owned by visceral punks Gallows and home to releases from Heck, Marmozets, Milk Teeth, Moose Blood and more.


Fans can get a taster of the new EP – which was recorded completely live in one session – on frenetic and caustic 
new track ‘Fat Dead Elvis’. It’s a typically oppressive and raw cut from the band, dripping in overdriven scuzzy guitars and trashy cymbals that highlight their off-kilter approach to punk”.

It is incumbent on us all to celebrate artists that go beyond what is expected: are not your run-of-the-mill types; those who stand against predictability and really touch their audience. The boys (and girl) of Youth Man always connect with their audience. When they perform a gig: they hang around by the merchandise table; say ‘hi’ to their fans and encourage conversation. Maybe a drink or two will be shared: they do not hide in the dressing room and close themselves off. There are artists who have that common touch: there need to be more; those who want to bond with the audience. In a social media/Internet age; a lot of communication and connect happens through gigabytes and no drunken late nights; status updates rather than being mates- a more detached and digitised approach to humanity. It is understandable, I guess: it can be grueling- keeping the energy up after a gig- but the gig-attending, fee-paying punters respect that dedication. The trio gets involved with merchandise and their images- they are very proud of their new T-shirts- and are a good, old-fashioned group. Although they have to release music online: you would imagine them happier in vinyl stores hanging with music fans; before they trudge to a local bar to rock faces and bring sweat and blood to the walls- just like their heroes of the past. The antidote of the mainstream musicians: these chaps are all-too-happy to hang and bond with their audience (to an extent, obviously!). It is refreshing hearing any artists take that approach: it makes you want to check the music out; involve yourself with all corners (of that act). Their pragmatic and brotherly approach to music stands them in fine stead: a three-piece that has gained an incredible reputation; their fan-base continues to swell; so many wonderful reviews have come their way- let’s hope this one does them justice!

Before moving on- seeing how the guys have changed musically; what their current sounds are like- it is worth looking into Birmingham (where the band is based) and the music scene there. I get into that mindset- a lot of others will- when it comes to British musicians: you always focus on the ‘major’ cities like Liverpool, London; Edinburgh and Manchester- few of us cast our attentions elsewhere. The truth is the U.K. has phenomenal musicians in every county and corner: Birmingham has always been a solarium for music of all colours and diversions. At the moment, there are some stunning local acts emerging: keen to break into the mainstream and put their stamp on the current scene. Looking back; everyone from Black Sabbath, E.L.O. and Ocean Colour Scene have put Birmingham (and the Black Country) on the map. Duran Duran, Judas Priest and Swim Deep; The Twang and The Streets (Mike Skinner is a Birmingham boy with a London-commercial affectation) – such a wonderful list of influential musicians. Invariably, their best emigrate- Skinner and others to London; Ocean Colour Scene around the country; they still return home to gig- but always recognize their roots.

That Birmingham pride is strong and unerring: the city is growing in terms of opportunities and exposure. A lot of towns and cities do not provide chances and platforms for musicians: thus, they feel the need go to London (or other large cities). Birmingham is a cosmopolitan, evolving city that is keen to keep its musicians local and fulfilled. Large/arena venues like the Barclaycard’ and Genting Arena house your large/well-recognised acts- Town Hall and 02 Academy, too. The Institute (played host to Death from Above 1979) and Hare & Hounds (Klaxons have performed here) are two of the city’s most exciting, well-received and incredible venues. The Dark Horse (its Blues and Jazz vibe) attracts plenty of faces; Sunflower Longue (Royal Blood and Peace have rocked the joint) is a must-visit venue. The Jam House (Ocean Colour Scene and others have been seen) and The Actress and the Bishop (Mark Morriss is among the acts to have passed through) can be added to the list- a wealth of amazing places for musicians established and upcoming. Records like Wax– the trio’s latest E.P. – will not only see them in hot demand around Birmingham: they could easily thrill the masses across the U.K. and internationally; over the U.S. too.

Wax has been garnering some rather excitable whispers: those who have been sent advance copy (sworn not to reveal its contents) can attribute to the fact: the trio are at their peak right now. Changing their creative dichotomy- favouring a more live-sounding, less polished sound- they are not only stripping their music down- they’re bringing their Punk-cum-Post-Hardcore music back to the ‘70s. Still the sound of 2016- it is a very modern and relevant E.P. – it perhaps their most engaging, open and impressive release so far. Considering their current E.P.; it is worth looking back at their recent work: Hill of Knives was released last year. Opener SKIN is fast-rushing and rampant: a short burst of Punk fury that boasts some cryptic lyrics (“Keep the inside inside/Keep the outside out of me”). The vocal performance is filled with typical Youth Man intensity: a pugnacious and blazing delivery that punches the words into the brain. The insatiable drive and bellicose statement can be found on Always the Same.  Feedback and fuzz introduce the song. More casual and slow-building- then SKIN at least- there’s a swagger and confidence to the vocal delivery. The chorus coda is snarled and growled: just what it refers to- things always being the same- is hard to say. Terrific, tight performances from the trio- among their most electric and exhilarating deliveries- shows them at full chat. Dead Kennedys and Bad Brain elements come through: the percussion is hollow, primal and intense; the guitar work is frantic and blistering. Dead Weight begins with intriguing build-up. Ghostly stroking and flickering lights; the beat emerges and gallops off; searching, probing and meaningful. Propped by chugging, locomotive riffs: it is a heavy, sexy and hard song. Slapping percussion and threadbare beating: providing a perfect canvas for a guttural and determined vocal beat-down. With production from Issac Benjamin Cartwright, Mark Gittins (and the band): it is an incredible, action-packed record.

Before Wax– to satisfy appetites for the craving- Pigs arrived with similar hunger and demand. The August-released song (2015) saw our heroine feel the cravings- those she cannot satisfy. Wicked thoughts “running through my swine mind” get you thinking: a sexual desire or something vengeful? Future demands- “And I’m hungry/Will you feed me?”- put your thoughts towards the libidinous and sensual- our lead looking for satisfaction and sweat. Giving the oblique nature of the words- the pig motif and its vivid openness- one could look towards capitalism and the government- a modern-day update of Animal Farm. Humans are so full of lust and gluttony- a truth that is revealed later- and this can get the better of us. Always filling our bellies- not knowing the consequences; greedy to the last- our brains do not kick in. More atmospheric and layered than previous tracks- especially with regards the vocals- Pigs is a fascinating and curious song- one where you are helpless to interpret; your mind will swirl with ideas and interpretations. Issac Benjamin Cartwright laid down the recording: the band return to the Bad Weather days- that five-track E.P. was released a couple of years back- and unleash a mini-masterpiece.

It has been great getting inside Wax– a more in-depth assessment near the end of the review- and hearing a band burning the candle at both ends (see how many wax-related puns I can get in there). You can imagine the guys in the studio at night: laying it down on tape and getting lost in the moment. The rulebook has well and truly been tossed to the wolves: this is music that has no curfew or permissions; kebab-stained and unruly- dare you implore it to calm down and have an early night. In so much it will not sober-up and stop dancing on the tables: it is not as cloying and undisciplined as the analogy would suggest. Youth Man is a savvy and clever band that understand the vitality of keeping the music relatable and grounded- not veering it off at oblique tangents; ensuring it is not reserved for a narrow clique. After the trio has finished promoting Wax– and Fat Dead Elvis’s majesty has been fully cemented- it is onto the rest of the year. They have touring and commitments but that will spike their creativity and writing bubble. New towns will provide fresh impetus: where will that take the Birmingham band? They seem at the stage where an L.P. is a very real proposition. Maybe a 10-11-track cut that combines existing material with new offering- who could rule out that eventuality? I am not sure what they do have in mind: many people will be keen to find out; following the three-piece with anticipation and expectation. Wax is a wonderful E.P. that mix slow-burning (at it again!) and intense: fiery and rambunctious at first; deep and nuanced the more you play the songs. If a future cut- E.P. or album- retains that live-sounding component; that will be interesting to see. The ball is very much in their court: the music world is there for the taking!

Fat Dead Elvis, on title alone, is enough to get the curious invested. In an E.P. of callisthenic power and staggering band performances: the guys reach their peak here. A woozy, lo-fi opening is a red herring that puts you in a relaxed mood. Youth Man is a group who upcycle and repurpose Punk: take its foundations and make it more modern, urgent and burning. Given what we know of them- and how previous songs have sounded- Fat Dead Elvis was never likely to remain restrained too long. Even after the first few notes: the listener realizes something is lurking. The song’s video- an essential accompaniment and companion- sees an Elvis impersonator on a bar stool. Solemn and hang-dog: he nurses a beer and seems entrenched in thought. Perhaps hoping for a large crowd- the video is shot at a bar- he is a dejected figure maybe the warm-up act for Youth Man. The star attraction blows the Memphis god’s music clean out the water. Loud and rude (rather than Blue Suede Shoes); Kaila Whyte approaches the microphone and is in the mood for physicality. This is an encore: The Devil is in the belly; our girl is pumped, tormented and angry. It is interesting deciphering the band’s words; what they refer to. You always get vivid images and something memorable- they will have different meanings for different people. Reports from media and fans- who have heard this track performed live- attest to its quality and savageness. The E.P. version is as close to a live version as you will get. You can almost feel the spit fly from the microphone; the bass and guitar in either ear; the percussion banging in the head. Fat Dead Elvis is a song that implores your body, soul and heart to unify: create detente and work together in an orgy of movement, submission and recklessness. Not a song reserved for Punk purists: the gale-force hurricane and cyclone will move everyone (very literally).

In the early phases; the guitar and bass create a sense of melody and twiddle- almost cute and infantile to the touch. Miles Cocker and Marcus Perks provide drum-and-bass tease; it continues to grow and rise to avalanche levels- one you are happy to get caught up in and submit to. Roofs are caving in- another one it seems- and you wonder whether it has a direct or oblique link. Given the song’s title- and its hero’s rotund, over-fed frame- there might be a King-sized hole in the roof- having plummeted to his demise. On another tangent: (the words) can ascribe something freeing and unshackled; a general heat and electricity. Whyte’s voice is at its dependable best: a blend of indecipherable emotion and full-bodied passion. Everything she sings has emotion and passion to it- never feeling histrionic or too shouty.

Some of the lyrics- like previous Youth Man tracks- do get lost in the composition; the decipherability does slip at some points. Hearing the song’s intense and desperate delivery: it is hardly a surprise to find this. If there is a party going down- or Elvis is losing his crown- there is a Devil in the garden. Images of burning and satanic demonic bring new candour, imagination and possibility into Fat Dead Elvis. Crooked spines and lyrical madness: a fire-cracking composition and hellacious bone-down. The sparring of sexuality, youthful attack, and Punk vitriol comes together vibrantly: there is a nod to U.S. Punk masters and the likes of Bad Brains. Endlessly frenetic and desperate: a song that propels the body and sends 10,000 volts straight into the stomach. Whyte’s vocal sustains an animalistic prowl throughout; never slipping or cracking under backing from her band. Unwilling to edit and edify her words- as not to offend- few people could stop her: a singer with very few equals and competitors. A vivid young band that lays everything on the line: it is great to hear in 2016. I fear too many bands are timid or reluctant to unleash a certain fury. Many are concerned with radio-play and mainstream success- Fat Dead Elvis might make it to Daniel P. Carter; Capital F.M. might go puce- but that is a shame. Youth Man have gained a reputation on being honest, real and unpretentious: songs that blend Punk and Hardcore; designed for those who like their music with teeth and guts.

Alongside evocations of Fat Dead Elvis– you cannot get certain scenarios from your head- there are words of torment, torture, and violence. The strings stand out and go up front: an aural representation of the emotions and tension that is building up. In the video; there are close-ups of the band; cut-aways and quick shots- the song rushes like a wave and draws you under; you are intoxicated and spellbound by the force and determination of the song. Bringing the Youth Man live experience to the masses: an unbarred and unshackled beast that is baying for blood. Whether you can get to grips with the lyrics- in terms of meaning, clarity and story- that is down to the individual. Fat Dead Elvis is an acid-flash song that is rebellious and no-holds-barred.  If the video’s protagonist seems a shadow of his former self; the song shows no sympathy or comfort- constantly stabbing, thrusting and viper-like. Whyte is in rude form (language-wise and quality) and is a woman on a mission. Together with Cocker’s huge bass and imperious presence; Perks’ bolder percussion: the trio is an unstoppable army of song. Final moments notch Fat Dead Elvis to explosive realms. Supernatural anger and emotion drive a dark mood: agonised and pummeling vocals- chanting “death” with a bond of glee and anger- translates into an all-out thrash across the line.

Youth Man proves how adaptable and amenable they are. Forsaking comforts of time, studio equipment, and various takes- they are notable because of their quick recording turnaround- but recording songs like Fat Dead Elvis so speedily- in a single take; like a liver performance in the studio- you hear the song at its elemental best. Free from bells, whistles; gloss and studio redactions: the purest version of the track is heard. Because of this, the band’s performance is scintillating. Whereas Fat Dead Elvis’s video actor- at the end of the film- takes off his wig; looks to the band before declaring “That was shit”: a jealous tantrum from someone upstaged and blown away. The King is Dead: Long Live Youth Man. Whyte, Cocker, and Perks have been performing together for years: you’d imagine current tracks would be pretty routine, rehearsed and familiar. Instead, Fat Dead Elvis sound like a brand-new band jamming in the garage: filled with hope, ambition and youthful rage. Imbuing those components and dynamics: Youth Man provide authority, experience and intuition; they know exactly how to craft an instant classic.

Perhaps Fat Dead Elvis will take a while to convert those unfamiliar with Punk/Neo-Punk- with harder, faster deliveries- but Youth Man is an everyman band that is sure to bring everyone to their side. In a recent interview with B.B.C. 6 Music’s Cerys Matthews; Neil Young talked about modern music. He suggested modern music is defined by limitation, reduction, and false economy. Whether down to financial burdens or quick turnaround- bands keen to get their sounds laid as soon as- we only really hear 5% of a song- in terms of its full potential, sound, and layers. It is an extraordinary claim that might hold some truth: quite a sobering fact if you think about it. If some acts/bands are missing 95%- or the production cuts that from their music- groups like Youth Man take give 100% all the time. Dynamic, in-the-moment recordings like Fat Dead Elvis show what music should be: about losing yourself and embracing its urgency. Perhaps it is a risky stratagem- you have limitations and need to be a phenomenal live band- but Youth Man are going to inspire many to follow their steps. Wax’s highlight comes in the form of the vivid, bracing and picturesque, Fat Dead Elvis– a song that proves they are one of Punk’s most incredible acts.

Its cover is the stuff of (children’s) nightmares: a demonic, wide-smiled clown/jester/zombie head with candles protruding from the top- an image that is part-Stephen King, part-killer-on-the-loose. These ideas and images are aurally represented in opener Sweet Apples. Percussion defined and hard- more so than on previous records- and the excitement level is off the charts. Whyte’s vocal performance is typically explosive and nuclear: as though you are stood in front of her hearing this live. The band’s decision to create a live-sounding E.P. pays off from the very start. Ramped and ready for the challenge: Youth Man launch into the song with a captivating drive and determination. Some of the lyrics do get buried under the wall of strings, percussion, and vocals. The song’s title is chanted and erupted: the vocal cracks and screams; Cocker adds to the vocal throng- anger, venom and barbed-wire in every note. Towards the song’s end; the pure weight of emotion takes its toll: Sweet Apples implodes in the hectic drama and pure force: the perfect way to open the E.P. Pigs has already been unleashed to the world but sounded extra-squealing and demented. Un-distilled, pure Punk spirits whips the track up. Whyte’s sturdy, planet-hopping vocal power adds a grittiness and edgier to proceedings- making the song sound dirty, attacking and enrapturing. Queens of the Stone Age-like Desert Rock scuzziness creates twirling, catchy mantra- a shot of colour inside the melodrama and mayhem. Mid-point guitars and bass produce tonal balance and leadership- the bass is particularly sturdy and standout here. Tight, controlled yet drunken: the song is one of the most frightening and hard performance so far. That satisfaction-desire and hunger: it keeps showing its teeth and baying for blood. Sexual sweating and a raw edge: chunky riffs and Blues-tinged undertones give the song contours, shades, and range.

Look: Wait is a direct missile that does not allow reflection, space or demure- the band are keen to keep the punches coming and the energy at its peak. If this were a live set: crowds would probably have dehydrated to death; such is the unfettered and unrelenting attack. Here, we have a Ramones-style lesson in economy and concision- a track that does its business in just 70 seconds. So many modern bands struggle to keep songs focused and tight- they often wander for minutes and are quite self-indulgent. Ball-beating, voice-shredding vocals spars with psychotic, to-the-gut instrumentals: ensuring Wax goes into war with guns blazing and voices screaming. Each band member competes for Loudest and Most Bad-Ass Performer: terrific to hear a group put so much blood and sweat into a performance. One of Wax’s ragged and genuine songs- in the sense, it could have been clipped from a live performance. The fact Look: Wait is brief and abstemious means Youth Man throw Hell to the wind: the percussion is allowed spotlight; the multi-limbed flurry gives proceedings accelerated heartbeat; against feedback and electric tirade- it is a physical, tangible song. Everyone gets involved and feels every note: it sticks its head through the speaker and wails in the face; a sonic slap that the listener is happy to receive.

Painted Blue is hardly an acoustic swansong. That said, there is a calm and crepuscular tease in the opening seconds. Almost romantic to start- the strings have a lustrous, tender-kiss gentility to them- a gradual incline unfolds. Lyrics of “artful deception” and laid back figures: you piece together your own jigsaw; what the words pertain to. Children are poisoned and knowledge “is broken”- “Turn your radio off” is the command from our heroine. Nervy, anxious and paranoid: whether a political statement or proclamation; you are powerless to resist its power and pull. The band unites in vocals to enforce the message and sense of meaning: the animal-like guitars bark, growl, and bite; ‘90s Grunge and Experimental-Rock vibes hang together. Fitting on a final fling: Painted Blue is Youth Man’s most epic and grand statement of their career; a song that has stadium-sized riffs; immense vocals and a terrific band performance. Groove, sassiness, and stripped-back savage mix into one awe-inspiring vision: a long track- from a short-burst Punk band- that sustains interest and keeps the listener hooked. Acolytes be calmed: there is ample mess, beer-soaked chaos, and ill-discipline to be discovered. A parabond of professional and juvenile makes it a stunning creation: lyrics asking whether the “devil painted blue can go fuck himself” is one to ponder, for sure.

Wax is as hot, burning and binding as the title suggests: a louche, swaggering bloodhound that shows its teeth and menace- there is plenty of heart, intelligence, and professionalism in there. Youth Man are not a band that rock up and hope energy compensates for a lack of nuance. The songs are loose and attacking but always detailed, rehearsed and layered- tunes that impact right away but stand up to endless battering. After returning from a U.K. /E.U. tour with Letlive: they are going to be hitting the tarmac in July; headlining the Roundhouse Punk Weekender in London. Punk has been in effect for 40 years- that is what they are celebrating in London- and no better time for one of the nation’s finest new Punk bands to show their fight. Their new sounds- compared with their early work- is rawer and compelling, perhaps. Recorded over the night in a single-take: that urgency and excitement do not compromise quality and sound. Perhaps darker and angrier than their older stuff: it is also their most accomplished and all-encompassing. Never limiting their music to one theme/person: a Bad Brains/Dead Kennedys-evoking party that gives you a wonderful sense of abandon and command- one of the tightest groups I have heard in a long time. Heading on the road- and when they hit London- they’ll appear alongside False Heads, Molasses and BullyBones (and others) in a phenomenal night- something you should all get down to and see- they will be a ‘zine, Punk stall and entertainments in addition to the music.

The band is chopping at the bit: eager to get in faces and premier their new jams; introduce their new merchandise. An honest and real group- they need to see T-shirts etc. so they can eat and perform- Wax is an E.P. likely to seduce the Punk loyal; cross genres and drag in new support. The infectious personalities (of the group) and incredible passion is powerful enough to shake the birds from trees- music that gets down to business and shakes the bones. Released by VENN Records– owned by Gallows; housing bands like Milk Teeth and Moose Blood- it will be one of 2016’s most-essential and exciting E.P.s. Fat Dead Elvis is a wonderful taste- that leaves impressions in the mouth and subconscious for a long time- that shows how far they have come. Completely confident and engaging: their new approach to recording has not changed the dynamic and sound. Keeping their core foundations solid- the bond and performance excellence; the subject matter and topics- they are more unpolished and vehement; bringing their live experience into a studio-recorded release. Involved and ensconced; entangled and at-one with the audience- Wax is a gripping and fearless statement.

Oppressive, dirty and scuzzy; trash-laden and bonkers: welcome to the beautiful world of Youth Man! The trio will release the E.P. digitally- link is at the top of this review- but there’s a limited edition 300 pressing 12” (on frosted clear wax) featuring Marcus Perks’ artwork- a sculpture of candles, clay, dentures and googly eyes. That will be a collector’s item if ever there was one! Unless you’re a Punk dilettante; you can never be truly modern and detached. The genre is defined by its physicality and roots: most modern Punk bands source influences from the legends of old. As they pounded the recording studio; the band took hundreds of Polaroid photos: showing us the way they work and the process involved (available with the vinyl copy of the E.P.). It is rewarding finding a group that put that much attention and themselves into the music. Some mainstream acts put out great vinyl packages and releases- Radiohead’s last couple of albums have included treats and extras- but it is a rarity. Vinyl is an expensive thing- you can pay up to £20 for a newly-released album- and that is quite steep. By offering a few little additional gifts- that supplement the music and give a window into the artists’ personality- it makes it more accessible and reasonable. Few new acts can really afford to do that: many more do not feel they need to put that effort in. It is testament to Youth Man’s love of their music- and the people buying it- that puts them over the top.

Of course, it is easy to perceive an idea of an act from their music: the litmus test is getting close and witnessing them in the live milieu. Some acts have very professional and ‘predictable’ sets- pleasing the fans and providing a nice and nourishing evening- whereas Youth Man might leave you with fewer teeth- but a much bigger smile. Recalling the ‘70s Punk gods: a turbo-charged, balls-by-the-handful alternative that are festival leaders of the future. Not just suited to the more intimate, enclosed venues- the charming small-capacity where that intensity and passion is at its most concentrated- they could translate to Glastonbury/Reading-sized stages- that magic and mayhem would easily waft its way across the sludgy fields and into the food courts. On July 7th, the guys play John Peel Centre in Stowmarket; Music Hall (Ramsgate) then: from there, they play Roundhouse in London (9th) and take in Milton Keyes, Glasgow, and Newcastle- Leeds is their penultimate gig before a homecoming at Sunflower Lounge on the 16th.  Recent tours alongside- German punks- Adam Angst and KMPFSPRT; Brighton cohorts Tigercub and Cardiff heck-raisers Astroid Boys- they have gained valuable experience, exposure, and momentum. Not tired by the demands of the road- they also played Montreux Jazz Festival, Reading and Leeds and Wickerman– there is no end in sight. The guys love performing and bring their tunes to the fans: just what you want from a band. I am in a rather humble position: hardly the meatiest reviewer that has ever taken their music on. Infectious personalities, charm, and incredible work ethic have seen Rolling Stone, Alternative Press and N.M.E. pay tribute: B.B.C. Radio 1, Clash Magazine and Artrocker are in the mix; Drowned in Sound and Rock Sound are definite fans- quite an eye-watering list of patrons.

I have mentioned- as I do with all great artists that come my way- how they could take their music internationally. Youth Man are fairly established- having international reputation and close to mainstream breakthrough- and that big break cannot be too far away. New bands like Loose Meat, Yuk and Royal Blood (not that new; still…) are showing how popular and in-demand granite-hard music is- those insatiable, head-thrashing jams that get the listener involved, intoxicated and captivated. Wax is the sound of Youth Man highlighting the Venn diagram intersect: that connection between live performance and studio sound; the songs are twilight through and through. The songs were written at night and performed then: a quick turnaround from a group in inspired form. Channeling the unexpectedness and dangers of the night- the odd characters, drunkenness and mystic energy- that is funneled into a primal and bare-naked E.P.

Those reading this and balking- they sound like very primal and for-the-niche musicians- have no fear: the songs are not intended to scare and divide: they are intended for everyone. Yes, the songs are quite confrontational but never in an offensive and hostile way: they are there for the listener to become involved in; create an aural response. I know Youth Man’s touring calendar is pretty full for the next few weeks. After the dust has settled- do this trio ever take a day off? – you have to wonder about the wider world. In New York and L.A. alone (the trio) could find themselves held hostage- the American audiences woulddrink inn everything on offer. From Brooklyn’s edgy sidewalks (Mantoba’s and The Cobra Club are premier Punk clubs) and Manhattan’s (Clock Bar on 21 Essex St.) downtown rush; the head-spinning scenery of Los Angeles (The Smell and The Echo are Punk joints worth checking)  and serenity (by comparison) of Pasadena (The Colorado Bar): this three-piece could plant their flag anywhere they please. If they want to unify Europe- someone needs to- the likes of Germany, Holland and France are possibilities; Sweden, Norway and Denmark- their love of Black Metal and heavier sounds- could be a possibility? Whatever they decide- and how their year pans out- you have no excuse to ignore Youth Man. Saddle up; get Fat Dead Elvis– and Wax, too- in the stereo: press ‘play’ and get ready…

TO have the senses blown wide open.

 

_________________________________

Follow Youth Man

 

Official:

https://youthman.bandcamp.com/

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/youthmanband

Twitter:

https://twitter.com/youthmanband

__________________________________

Music

https://youthman.bandcamp.com

 

TRACK REVIEW: Ruben- Only the Young

TRACK REVIEW:

 

Ruben

 

 

Only the Young

 

9.5/10

 

 

 

Only the Young is available next week

GENRES:
Electro.-Pop; Pop

ORIGIN:

London, U.K.

ENGINEERED BY:

James Waldron and Matt Knight (Greystoke Studios)

____________________________________

THIS weekend has certainly been marked by…


contrasts and diversity. In terms of the reviews and music put forward: I have had a couple of U.S. acts at different stages- and from different states- who are poles apart: a young, energetic Pop queens and more introspective Folk star. Today, I have looked at Chris Selman’s response to the Orlando shootings (Solidarity): a song written in the aftermath of the tragedy; a song that looks at togetherness, equal rights, and answers. From there, it is to London-based- wasn’t too long before I was back in the city- artist, Ruben. It is rare I get a chance to assess an artist making their very first steps: someone who is just breaking through and laying down their debut single. Before I come to him; it is worth looking at that side of things- embarking on music and planning your path- in addition to the themes we employ in music; finishing off with a bit about young artists coming through this year. Back in London territory- another musician taking the city by storm- it gives me a chance to look at the capital in a wider sense. London is a city that continues to amaze and startle me: not just as a music lover; as a human being in general. What I find (with London) is the consistency and variety of genres out there to the public. Other areas/cities are stagnant and limited by comparison. London seems to be on the precipice of a new wave: artists that are balking against the boring and mundane. I respect music that digs deep and trades on common emotions- songs that dig deep and urge the listener to take time and reflect. After a while, you need something a little energised and joyous- whilst not ignoring the importance of sensitivity, depth, and emotion. Across all the genres music has to offer: Electro.-Pop offer so much scope, potential and malleability. My featured artist is someone who understands the potential of the form: how many shades, shapes and elements you can throw into the music; without dampening the lyrics or cheapening the mood. London is particularly impressive when it comes to Electro.-Pop surge. SKYES is a three-piece who has supported the likes of Bleachers and Kodaline. Having been championed by (some of this country’s) most prestigious and ear-to-the-ground magazines- they are a group hitting their stride.

Charli XCX– born in Cambridge but based down London-way- adds Punk and Power-Pop into Electro.-Pop to create something unique. Never over-simplistic or hollow: the songs address inner emotions and deep concerns; alongside proud proclamations and sexual ambition. Another young star with a gleaming future. Following 2014’s Sucker; it seems the best days are still ahead of her. Outside of the capital, such luminaries La Roux, Hot Chip and Robyn provide ample panache, vibrancy, and multifariousness. I have grown a little weary of some genres- Alternative and Rock- and find the new brand of Electro.-Pop/Pop acts- mainly solo- are producing the most fascinating and long-lasting music. I am impressed by a lot of the young artists coming out now; the passion they have for music. It is a hard and challenging industry so should not be taken lightly. Whereas previous years have seen few standouts (from young musicians) 2016 has been more prosperous and enriching. All the signs look good as the year ticks down: 2017 could see that talent build and expand. I have mentioned Electro.-Pop artists- and those around London- making an impression; what a statement the capital is making. If we cast the net wider: I can see a lot of our upcoming stars taking their first steps. Whether lugubrious and sensual Pop; dark-hued Soul or arena-filling Alternative- a distinct excitement and electricity is building. One artist that is hoping to rub shoulders- make his presence known in music- is Ruben. Before I continue to a new point, let me introduce him to you:

Ruben has been playing his new material throughout London since January 2016. He has played at venues such as Cafe1001 in Bricklane, Trinity Bar in Harrow and WedgeIssue in Farrington. 

Ruben has a degree in Film Production, having directed short films before he started making music. It is this film approach that he brings to his music as he aims to create work that sounds epic in size and emotive in spirit.

The young, London-based musician is taking his first steps in music; Only the Young is the single that will announce his presence. The film/production background goes into the song. It is widescreen and sky-scraping but is disciplined. Scenic, vivid and imaginative: plenty of texture and nuance that will make it sit with lovers of all genres. The infectious delivery and bold personality will win hearts; the lyrics dig deep and address something serious. On the surface, you may think you have Ruben’s music all figured out. A complicated and thoughtful young man that cannot be written-off or predicted: Only the Young is a song that draws you with its energy and spirit; it keeps you invested with its intelligence, strong, and wise shoulders. Making the decision to go into music comes with a lot of balance and thought. It is a risky game that demands undivided commitment and dedication. Imbued with risk and challenges: it is not a sure-thing; regardless of your talent and fervency. So many young artists make a debut single that has too many cooks in the kitchen. Countless producers and writers in the mix; crowded sounds and differing ideals- you lose that personality and unique vision. I see a lot of musician lead by committee and moulded by others. Of course, having bodies around you- especially from the first days- ensures some comfort and support; those that can direct you and help your career. I have respect for those who show fortitude and bravery: write their own music and go out alone; take that gamble and show heart. Ruben is someone who does not suffer stumble or any uncertainties. You can tell he means business and is determined to succeed and remain: that confidence and foresight is to be commended.

If you are new to Ruben, you might be looking for some background and context. In terms of artists who influence him: Pet Shop Boys, Depeche Mode and Hurts are all counted. The cinematic, lustrous sound of Lana Del Rey is a vital component; the instancy and rawness of Dua Lipa; the ‘80s heyday of Duran Duran- a combination of artists and sounds are vital to Ruben’s music. If you have a love of any of the aforementioned- I am especially keen to Lana Del Rey and John Grant- then you will find some recommendable elements. To be fair (to Ruben) he is very much his own musician. He takes hints of other artists into his songs- little drops here and there- to enhance and flavor the music. When you dig deep, you can hear such originality and unique flair. A confident and brash artist who has plenty of sensitivity and perception under the surface. Only the Young is the debut single release: other Ruben songs are available on YouTube– such as Rogue. It was written by Ruben in the face of being single: how he deals with it and addresses the situation he finds himself in; trying not be weighed down by heartache. The song is not available on SoundCloud– I managed to hear it via Twitter– but provides a glimmer into Ruben’s new movements. I am not sure whether that song will appear on the Only the Young E.P.; perhaps it is a between-releases cut to wet the appetites. The best assessment and judgement one can make is with the current single. After listening to Only the Young (single) I can tell just how exciting the current sounds are. You can hear the detail and work-rate in the music. Starting life at the piano- at his London home; it always starts with the keys- the components are layered on; the song gets heavier, fiery and more intense. It would not be an exaggeration to say Ruben has many more years ahead. His unwavering commitment to music is deeply impressive: someone who would not want to do anything else in life- that love and passion comes through in (his extraordinary) music.

In the next couple of days, we will get a chance to hear Only the Young– some of us have been lucky to get a sneaky peek already! Starting its life with high-note, intricate piano- the definition of delicate, fairy-like and glass-like- the hero soon comes to the microphone. Swooping his vocal in- a precise projection that gives it a stuttering, Rap-like presentation- we investigate mistakes and remorse early on. “We’re coming out” is a mantra that is inserted between tense lines and feelings of regret. “Eat the cake/will they rejoice/when we can barely make a choice?” is a sentiment that seems appropriate given political results in the last couple of days. The powerlessness and submission- whether fighting against the generations or the way life is unfolding- that is causing fears and doubts deep down. The way Ruben chooses his words- mixing the oblique and obvious beautifully- there is enough mystery held back. Influenced by a general dissatisfaction and learning from mistakes: Only the Young asks some important questions and looks out at the world. Trying to get a handle on things- the true meanings and origins of the words; how our author feels- is a difficult task. You get drawn into the vocals which summon up a majesty and command- yet have enough impuissance deep down. Modern youth is being led astray- “Only the young can live that way”- and being taken down a dangerous road, perhaps. You might look at purely social-political possibilities. Maybe addressing the state of the nation- how choices and decisions are being taken out our hands; control slipping away- or something more general- you never get the impression our hero is going to be defeated. He is looking around and seeing his contemporaries struggle; perhaps things are not quite that bad. Innocence and youth come and go. We hold onto them like prized possessions: unwilling to pass that stage and lose a grip. At some point, you have to let go and accept life will change; for better or worse. Making mistakes- accepting he has gone wrong at times- he is not dwelling on past days. Those mistakes are part of who you are: you need to learn and  grow; the way you deal with dejection shapes the rest of your life.

Many of us get haunted by errors and can never get rid of them. In reality, everyone will mess up and feel powerless; think they have lost control of life- we have to take control ourselves and shape the future. Written before the E.U. vote: the lyrics and ideas seem as very appropriate and well-timed. I said this when reviewing Chris Selman’s single- unity and coming together is desperately desired- and Ruben has seen into the future. We (the young) who are going to live today; making the same mistakes. I know Ruben uses his past regrets as a way to mature and evolve as a man. Perhaps there is a certain naivety when you are young: you feel you are always right and unwilling to bend to sensibility and rationale. Realising you are more than the sum of your mistakes is the only way we can evolve and move on. Inside this sagacious and mature head is someone who is still very young. That vibrancy and energy is defined in the composition: something that consistently bustling, pulsating and interesting- without impacting on the vocal too much; becoming too forceful. In a short space of time, a lot of ground has been covered. The composition has altered direction and changed shape; the lyrics throw a lot of interesting ideas up- that voice keeps strong and indefatigable in the presence of harsh realisations. “Take your place with Joan of Arc/seeing colours in the dark” are lines not many of us would be able to conjure. Not your average Pop star- whose army of writers could not craft lines like that- you instantly dream and imagine. Joan of Arc- spoiler: history lesson approaching- was The Maid of Orléans. She commanded the French army against the English during the Hundred Years’ War. The heroine of the Lancastrian phase of the war: she was eventually captured and burned at the stake (handed over to the English) in 1431. At 19-years-old she was in the history book: claims against her were debunked and she was made a martyr. I could go into details about her rise, campaigns, and back-story- that will wait for another day- but she is not often made the subject of songs (Joan of Arc by Leonard Cohen and Big Mouth Strikes Again by The Smiths are the only examples I can conjure). Maybe a sense of optimism and noble purpose- Ruben might have been thinking when writing those lines- it is a wonderful diversion and adds weight and history into the song.

Already; social, political and historical ideas have been used in a song about youth and hard education: embracing where you go wrong and making sure it is a positive experience. If you think you have the song figured out- exactly what it is trying to say- there are right-angles and fascinating avenues. Joan of Arc felt the fire more than most- quite literally- but made her mark on history. Even in such a short life: Joan of Arc is one of history’s most prominent figures; an inspirational figure that has endured for centuries. It is impossible not to be captivated by the lyrics: the ever-growing composition brings beats in hard; it starts to tighten and become more impactful. Your body starts to engage with that shift as your head wraps itself around the imaginative, discerning words. The chorus becomes more imperial and regal the second time around- gaining more headwind and addictive; you find yourself singing along to it. Many artists might put too much pace and energy into the chorus- thus, forcing it onto the listener. Ruben paces it beautifully to sure you get some regret and emotion inside the effusiveness- he never cheapens the mood. New verse and new insight. Decadence is reigning and youth is being stained- you wonder just what this refers to. Perhaps referring to shallow possessions and the zeal for wealth and material goods: another delivery that gets the mind racing and wondering. We live in a time where prosperity and austerity are fighting side-by-side. The young are culpable of chasing shiny objects and not connecting with people on a human level. Perhaps that was not in Ruben’s mind; thus the song’s strengths are unveiled: a track that allows free license and open consideration. In a general sense- Ruben has described the song looks at different generations co-existing on different levels- it fits with what we already know. Each lyric casts fresh perspectives and possibilities. Few songs go that deep and can compel the listener like that. Artists often sing stereotypes verses and predictable poetry: neglecting the importance of the words; how valuable they are to the song.

Towards the end; we get the chorus cycled and at the forefront: the song’s definitions and core are up top and have the final say. The percussion continues to work and campaign- a lot of bass comes through in the song; a kick and hum is audible- whilst Ruben still tries to make sense of it all. Only the Young can be taken in two different ways. To those who want something fun, frivolous and instant: they can bond with the track and get lost in its memorable chorus and ebullience. It is highly likely stations will recognise the song’s potential right from the off. After the first time, you know a stunning Electro.-Pop song has been crafted. It ticks all the necessary boxes and appeals to all the senses. Adaptable enough to feature in clubs and bars; commercial radio and the niche stations of London- it can be the king of anywhere it pleases. That is no small part down to the presentation, performance, and production. Confident, authoritative vocals and a simple (if highly catchy) composition get straight into the brain. Production values mix polish and rawness. Things are never too shiny and plastic; never too loose and sparse: the perfect blend to ensure Only the Young is as perfect as it can be. Those who shrug and bridle- looking at the song on paper- might scoff at the promise of depth and complexity. The judgmental and stuffy will always write-off certain songs and styles. If you listen carefully, there are some fascinating lines and thoughts. The idea of mistakes- youth will keep making the same ones over again- can be taken two ways. We all- of a certain age- will screw up and go wrong: we can learn from that and turn us into better people. On the other hand, there is the sense our generation is being led astray and deceived: forced to make these errors; perhaps unavoidable. Throw in the likes of Joan of Arc and some personal insights: a track that has many colours and themes. It is a fascinating thing that will need a lot of plays and study- just so you can get to the heart of the matter. Only the Young will have its video released soon (currently in pre-production) and will form part of a four-track E.P. (called Only the Young). It is Ruben’s first official release- although not his only recording- and will definitely put him in the minds of many new listeners. An eager and multi-talented musician that has incredible talent and determination.

Only the Young will be one of the tracks from the forthcoming E.P. On social media- Twitter especially- you can see updates of the recording process. Whether watching his music mixed- James mixing the vocals- or in the recording booth: an artist that is dedicating his time and energies into his passion. Some 8-hour days and endless sessions would deter the steeliest of musicians- not the case with Ruben. He would not have it any other way, it seems. Only the Young addresses fleeting innocence and how youth can be lost; embracing mistakes and acknowledging they’re a natural part of life. Remorse and difference- different generations have their own way of living- are all addressed. I cannot wait to hear the E.P. as it seems like a lot of sweat and hard work have been put in. It will be out later this year but you can keep a track via Facebook and Twitter. Ruben has that balance of going alone and having some loyal people around you. The creations and songs are his- in terms of their creation and direction- but he has a great team around him. Never letting his identity and music be led astray: they help mix the sound; lend assistance and advice. Only the Young– the name of the forthcoming E.P.- will be one of the hottest new releases from the year. The fan numbers are starting to increase and eyes are cast in his direction. There is something charmingly eccentric about Ruben- in the best possible way- and he will always stand out from the crowd. Perhaps a male equivalent of Ke$ha- that same spirited personality and direct music- or however you see him; you cannot deny what a pull he has.

A lot of young Pop artists are accused of being too shallow and cliché- never transcending their lyrics/songs beyond the bare-minimum; always sticking to the same themes and ideas. Ruben’s music has a universality and drama to it- layers of synths. and electronics create a soundscape- but his words come from the soul. Not just concerned about love and break-ups- the staple of most artists- there are wider concerns and deeper issues. Youth and inter-generational differences; owning your mistakes and learning from the past- all subjects we can learn from and be inspired by. A lot if happening fast for Ruben. Setting his website up and getting the E.P. announced: lining up gigs and planning his agenda. The past has seen some high adventures and painful moments: happy times in L.A. and its tranquility; breaking up with his boyfriend and moving on- a well-lived life that goes into his music. The bliss and glitz of L.A. can be heard in the single, Only the Young. I would not be surprised were he to have demand there. I often urge American acts to come to London and give us the live experience: perhaps an exchange programme would be in order? Ruben is someone who could fill a lot of L.A. clubs and venues; get his music played across the city- enjoy a nice mini-tour there.

I have spent a lot of this weekend wrapping myself up in the unfoldings of Pride in London. The festival is winding down and will soon be at an end- having enjoyed huge numbers and a lot of coverage. I know musicians that have played there and they have come off stage buzzing: inflamed and lifted by the crowd’s response; the love and affection they have been provided. We all need to turn to more positive areas and distract ourselves from a lot of negativity forming- especially with regards the E.U. vote. Music is a great way to bond us and give us some togetherness and hope. Ruben is preparing his debut E.P. but has recorded songs in the past. Singles and songs have been released; showing what he is about and how he has come along. Only the Young is his most confident and indelible. Highly catchy and evocative; so many different strands in the one track- its relentless energy and determination speak to the masses. Ruben has played across London- including a gig at Brick Lane- and has built a reputation in the city. When Only the Young is released next week: that basis will augment and bring fresh opportunity and possibilities. Maybe he will want to go to L.A. – and experience the U.S. in its full glory- or stick to London for now. Finances always put scuppers on our wildest ambitions: that shall rectify itself across time. Ruben’s music has an openness and quality that will see him picked up by the media, radio and new fans. Inspired by everyone from John Grant to Lana Del Rey: a man who appreciates the finer side of music; those artists that make music that is cinematic, emotive and wondrous. Snippets and songs exist from Ruben; Only the Young is the number that truly signals the arrival of a fine young artist. The eponymously-named E.P. will be great. Ruben has worked so hard on it- spending days crafting songs and exhaustively recording- and that loyalty is likely to pay dividends. There is a blend of anger and togetherness in the air right now; a confusion contradiction and sense of imbalance. We need some stability and unity to help us focus on the future; what is important in life. Arts and music provide escape, reflection and positivity for us all. Electro.-Pop artists always do something special to me: go deeper than anyone else; register emotions you thought were dead and buried. Lots of great Electro.-Pop acts- mainly coming from London- are in my head and getting me pretty excited. Ruben is a musician you can definitely…

ADD to that list.

_____________________________________

Follow Ruben

 

Official:

http://www.ruben-music.com/

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/Ruben-720947391339968/?fref=nf

Twitter:

https://twitter.com/Ruben_Official_

Instagram:

https://www.instagram.com/ruben_official_music/

______________________________________

Music

https://soundcloud.com/user-560953367

 

TRACK REVIEW: Chris Selman- Solidarity

TRACK REVIEW:

 

Chris Selman

 

 

Solidarity

 

9.4/10

 

Solidarity is available at:

https://itunes.apple.com/gb/album/solidarity-single/id1125347147

RELEASED:
17th June 2016

GENRES:
Folk; Acoustic

ORIGIN:

Manchester/London, U.K.

____________________________________

AFTER the fever and sweat of…

Glastonbury (and the festival throngs): it is nice to take things down a notch and reflect on something more serious and deep. It is great surrendering to the haze, amazement and merriment of the festivals. Once it is all done- and the mud has been scraped from the boots- it is back to life; back to reality. Given the subject of this review- in addition to talking about the musician behind it and where he comes from- the subjects of solidarity and togetherness come to mind. My featured artists- and his track, Solidarity– was penned in reaction to the horrifying events in Orlando. When Omar Mateen- the man responsible for 49 deaths and dozens of wounded others- decided to open fire in Pulse– a high-energy gay club in 1912 S. Orange Avenue- he changed the face of the modern world. We have all lived through terrible gun crimes and horror: few have hit us as hard as the recent ordeal. Around the world- nearly on a daily basis- there are acts of terrorism and murder- rarely do we see the human element; get extensive coverage and a glimpse into the people affected. The Orlando shootings were analysed and widely represented: the images and insights flashed across our screens; the magnitude of the shooting become very clear. Piece by piece, we were told the movements of the night: the fact the gunman visited the club; he was angered by seeing two men kiss in Miami; he had been interviewed by the F.B.I. before. From the anger and upset of the event- that still reverberates today; several weeks after the fact- there is this movement towards pride, unity, and understanding. Issues around tolerance and homophobia have been placed into the forefront. Whatever motivated Mateen- whether it was a hate crime or the will of I.S. – we shall never know. Speculation, theories, and finger-pointing will solve nothing. What we need to do is stem the tide of gun murders: make it hard to access weapons and police those who are seen as dangerous and volatile. Perhaps an impossible dream: the U.S. needs to wake up to this latest bloodbath and realise it cannot go on; stop kowtowing to the gun lobbies and nuts that hang to the Constitution like a petulant child. If things continue this way: America will not be the land of the free and the brave; it will be a toxic cauldron or hatred, aggression, and undisciplined violence. It is those standing up and taking action that will make the difference.

Outside of the political rebels- those in U.S. government who stand up against the idiots who allow this to happen- musicians are becoming involved; making their voices heard. Just like J.J. Rosa- the London musician who penned a song in response to the Paris shootings last year- Manchester-based artist Chris Selman headed to the studio with a heavy heart. Solidarity does what it says on the cover: it implores love and peace against those who threaten the good in this world. These ideals and aims might seem like a ‘60s movement; a Summer of Love unfolding- perhaps that is where we are heading? I would like to think this summer is defined by a mass togetherness: the public joining in force and celebrating peace. Perhaps idealistic; the likes of Selman’s Solidarity could inspire other artists to put pen to paper- release songs that create awareness and raise funds for charity. Before I come to the song itself- and have a look at Selman’s past endeavours- I wanted to look at Manchester music and Pride in London. Based out of Manchester: Selman is based in a city that has produced some of music’s finest acts. From the ‘80s-‘90s gods The Smiths, The Stone Roses and James; ‘Britpop’ leaders such as Oasis; modern innovators such as Everything Everything and PINS: the city boasts so many wonderful, astonishing musicians. Throw into the mix Horsebeach, Blossoms and Whyte Horses: some of the future-leaders of music. Blossoms are gaining especially hot praise: one of those bands once heard; will be in your regular rotation for months to come. Spring King, Man Made and False Advertising are well worth your time: a few bands that do not play by any rules. False Advertising is a trio I have reviewed before. Their D.I.Y., Grunge-Rock band are festivals kings in the making: I suggest you head their way and see what the fuss is about. Selman’s alma mater Words & Noises are a keen duo that is being heralded and tipped as stars of the future. I have spent a lot of time- over the past couple of weeks- looking at U.S. and London music: negating and overlooking the joys of Manchester; one of the most important and inspiration places for British music. Whilst not intending to raise the stock of Manchester- lest we forget the true purpose of this review- it is worth taking some time out to discover some Mancunian treasures.

With so many eyes cast to London and America: we often overlook Manchester and how important it is to modern music. So many terrific bands and solo artists are coming from the city; dynamic duos and lustrous trios- a cavalcade of hungry artists that have their own style and take. Selman is one of the most promising and consistent musicians in Manchester. Aside from his Words & Noises work: his solo endeavours have gained huge traction; marking him as a fine artist in his own right. It will be fascinating watching Selman as a musician: he has so many ideas and energy; witnessing that take shape is going to be very exciting. Pride in London is just wrapping up in London and has brought the nation together. Free from incident- nothing major at least- it shows those who celebrate love and equality are much more peaceful than those who celebrate football- an example has been set that should be followed to the letter. Colourful, vivacious characters; wonderful musicians performing; people getting together to celebrate the L.G.B.T. community. Events like the Pulse massacre have made this year’s pride more relevant, attended and exposed: some good has come out of the tragedy. Yesterday, I saw the news piece where a police officer broke ranks to propose to his boyfriend: captured on film; it went viral and showed the love and affection shown at the festival. London has always embraced multitudes of religions, races, and cultures: hardly surprising Pride in London has attracted so many people. Proceedings are starting to wind down but the legacy and lesson will be this: the L.G.B.T. community deserves the same love, support, and rights everyone else enjoys. So many (lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender people) have to struggle against prejudice and judgement: this should not be happening in 2016. The inalienable should not have to come about after mass shootings. The coming weeks and months will be quite unstable and uncertain- given the result of Brexit and the anger being felt- so it is important- now more than ever- we become closer and more galvanised as people; work together and making positive changes.

Chris Selman is a busy musician that dedicated most of his time to Words & Noises. The duo will release their E.P., The Collector, this summer. Play Your Cards is the new single and shows what tremendous promise. Alongside Simon Williams: Words & Noises are one of the finest duos out of the U.K. – certainly one of Manchester’s finest acts. Selman’s current track has been gathering a lot of heated praise. A few years ago, the E.P. All or Nothing was released. Tracks such as Glorious are driving and immersive: showcasing a gorgeous vocal and humbleness- our hero making the most of what he has. Hugely atmospheric and shivering: it is one of the most immediate and bold songs from the E.P. Whether speaking of a love or friend: he will follow “anywhere that you please”. A river running into an ocean; an obedient and loyal subject. Modern Romance is a jaunty and celebratory track. The composition has Music-Hall vibes: a show tune that gets the feet kicking and has a festivity to it. Yearning for a lover- it is not the same having them digitised on a screen- the vocal pines for someone far away. Distance and disconnectedness drive the song: there is jealousy and anxiety throughout the song. Unable to keep checks on his lover- whether there is cheating or whatever- that is the way modern love is- we hide behind screens and are losing the common touch. All or Nothing is an apt title for an E.P. that lays its intentions and heart on the line. Looking at love and commitment: a young man that wants more from life; find true romance and find positive. Tracks like The Smile Upon Your Face are heartfelt and highly emotional- the tears and sorrow practically leap from the speakers. Tender and reflective: our hero lays down one of his most affecting and sublime vocal performances. A confident and compelling E.P. from a terrific songwriter.

Since then, tracks like The End of the Night have arrived (released a year ago). Embracing Country and Folk vibes- changing directions from the E.P. – it has a consistent drive and energy to it. In spite of the common theme- longing for someone nearby; trying to avoid argument and find common ground- the song shows Selman evolving and keeping his sound fresh. There is that personality and consistency- from the E.P. to here- but you can hear the changes and switches. Few songwriters make a difference in their music and ensure they expand their horizons. Perhaps time in Words & Noises- and writing with Williams- enforced this directive- perhaps motivated by new music and bands in Selman’s collection. Over the past year, Selman has been spending most of his time working with Words & Noises. Although The End of the Night was on SoundCloud a year ago: I believe it was completed long before then. Selman has been releasing singles for years- 2010’s The Gender Agenda; In the Morning in 2009; Falling Down Again in 2012- but Solidarity is the first new single for a few years. It is understandable there were some nerves when it was released- whether that old magic and confidence would come back. The truth is, the confidence, quality, and distinct sound is all there and solid- no need for any nervousness. Solidarity has a D.I.Y. sound- it was recorded at Selman’s home studio in a short space- but that embracement of urgency works wonders. If it were tailored and toiled over: it would lose that naturalness and fire; perhaps sound less genuine and too studied. The loose edges make Solidarity sound like a calling-out; a plea from a musician that feels the pain of millions. Despite the fact the mass-shootings were a couple of weeks ago: the song is no-less-powerful and meaningful; we all still feel the marks and memories.

Given the impetus and circumstances behind Solidarity: the track has a refined and emotive beginning. It does not explode in anger or start aggressively. There is anger and upset in Selman’s soul but he channels this into something composed, graceful and compassionate. Having been recorded quickly: the track sounds incredibly clear, professional and assured (fears of rough edges and uncertainties are dispelled within seconds). A flowing piano arpeggio is neither funereal nor too upbeat: it is reflective and respectful; towing the line between uplifted and respectful. Our hero comes to the microphone; his first words ask a pertinent question: “Why would you hate us/for being born a certain way?” That is a question we all asked; something particularly relevant to Selman and the L.G.B.T. community. The Orlando massacre seemingly came out of nowhere. If it was a direct attack on homosexuality and difference- or a crusade and personal agenda- it was a vile act that claimed the lives of some kind, decent and innocent humans. The hurt and confusion can be heard in the vocal: a pained delivery that manages to keep together and not crack; showing the bravery and fortitude of Selman. Caught in the immediacy or emotions- at a time when the tragedy was new and raw- the song is surprisingly dignified and sagacious. Selman looks at the uncertainties and challenges of coming out. Some feel self-loathing and fear; others receive vitriol and hatred- why go through all that to be judged and scorned? Revealing a lifestyle path that- in this day and age- some do not accept and acknowledge: it takes immense strength and guts to do that. Everyone in the L.G.B.T. community has struggled and found it hard to do so: if the price of that is violence and fear; is it worth the trouble? The answer is very clear: if we all stand together and unify; there need not be that dread and uncertainty.

Photo published for London Gay Men's Chorus releases vigil song in aid of Orlando shooting fund

Orlando’s instigator- his name should not be bandied- had his reasons (never justified or sane) but one feels the whole thing was avoidable. Perhaps better education and support- mental health education and more stringent checks from the government- would have stopped the shooting before it happened. “You’d rather bear arms/than hold hands” is directed at the gunman- and anyone who follows his direction- and asks a rather important question. Knowing he visited Pulse– and went there several times- it is baffling that he acted the way he did. In a wider sense, Solidarity strikes against those who promote hate and division above love and acceptance. Riding a beautiful piano flow- that benefits from less polished production- it gives the track constant emotion, shiver, and gentleness. Possessing enough passion and power: any other instrumentation would have been too much; distilled the song and made it less potent. Able to marry and go about their day- Selman representing and speaking on behalf of the L.G.B.T. community- there is also a burden and unease. The legalisation of gay marriage is a fairly recent happening: something that has made a lot of gay/transgender feel more accepted and belonging. In spite of all this, there are those that want to undo that good work and history- spread hatred and abhorrence. “We must continue to fight” is one of the most stirring and standout lines from the song. Even though there have been developments and changes: there is not true equality around the world; some feel like they have to hide away. A lot of towns and people can be judgmental and offended. Not able to hold hands in public- still true in a lot of places- you feel that hurt and bafflement. Imagine being heterosexual and not feeling confident displaying your love- how unnatural and insane would that be? Homosexuality is as natural and normal; it is no different to heterosexual love: why then is there imbalance and injustice. If it results from religious instruction- homosexuality seen as sinful- or generational hang-ups- people of a certain age unwilling to change with the times- we need to all be more understanding and loving. Perhaps London and Manchester- larger cities in this country; the same around the world- are more understanding and less judgmental. Perhaps it is an age demographic- the educated young are less discriminating than their older peers- I am not sure; there is some truth in that.

Orlando is an area of the U.S. that has quite a few gay clubs; a thriving community that has never had to struggle the same way. There are occurrences of this thing happening- one person showing their disgust at the L.G.B.T. community- but never on this scale. We are all confused and angered why it happened: why express your feelings and thinking through bloodshed? Selman expressed universal sentiment within Solidarity. The speed and urgency in which the song was written affect the delivery and sound. Most songs have a traditional verse-chorus-verse algorithm: the pacing and phrasing are familiar. Solidarity sees some words tumble and speeding; other elongated and hovering. Selman’s inimitable voice- with shades of James Blunt; more appealing and rounded- adds so much gravitas, character and commitment to the words. Always sounding intense, upset and questioning: the track is less a musical moment; more a statement and personal speech. Having seen prejudice and hate- perhaps seen as vile and animal-like by some- this has all been reinforced and brought to life. It is not just one gunman that expresses this view- there are many out there who want the world to be white, straight and- in their view- ‘normal’. The ideal of normality and pure is not just reserved to the religiously puritanical and Christian faith: unfortunately, those without faith; those of differing faiths and nationalities share this world-view. While the piano climbs and lowers- a hypnotic, river-flow delivery- you start to picture the scenes and flashbacks. Those personal upsets- to me; the thought of desperate hostages sending near-to-death messages to their loved ones- are brought up and made stark. That was the only reason they died: because of their sexual preference and lifestyle. They did not kill anybody or cause any problems to the world: they were enjoying themselves and trying to live their lives like everybody else. Selman wants everyone to work together and join forces: separation, division, and segregation is never going to create conversation, change and peace. In the final segment; Selman’s voice cracks and rises; wordlessly strains and glides- the full summation of emotions come to the fore. Perhaps struggling to take it all in- or closing his eyes and remembering those fallen- the song reaches its emotional climax. Few will be able to hear the vocal and not be affected by it. When the voice subsides; the piano takes centre stage and brings things to a close. Allowing the listener to reflect and show remembrance: a beautiful and elegant conclusion.

Solidarity seeks answers as much as it raises questions. Many of us saw the news and saw what happened at Pulse. On first impression; it seemed like a simple case of prejudice- a man fighting against those in the club; their sexuality and way they conduct themselves. Revelation and investigation bring new light and sides to the argument. Perhaps more complex than we first thought- links to I.S. or the result of a mentally ill man whose mind snapped- we will never know. It is hard to overlook the obvious: a human being targeting his anger at the gay, lesbian, bi-sexual and transgender patrons of Pulse. Let’s hope positive changes are made. Atrocities like this surely most compel Americans to take action and demand constitutional alterations. They cannot hold onto an idiotic amendment: the right to bear arms does not allow you to slaughter innocent, defenseless people. Let’s hope we live to see the day there are fewer incidences like we saw in Orlando. Selman is a man who has seen the hatred unfold and wants things to be better. He does not want to feel ashamed and fearful; none of us do. Pride in London has acted as a reaction against Orlando and a celebration of L.G.B.T. communities around the world. The banners have come out and the public has joined together. There are a lot of questions to be asked from a population that is still absorbing what happened. Chris Selman felt motivated to lay down a track that expressed common anger and personal anxieties: a song that displays pure emotion and power; a young man that feels the weight of burden. Solidarity is a terrific song that could stand on its own feet and is not just relevant in light of recent events- its messages and words cannot be ignored.

Chris Selman watched the news on June 12th and was aghast at what unfolded. An indescribable and inhuman act that claimed 49 innocent lives- wrecked and changed many more. It is not just the murders themselves that get in the mind but the events leading up to them. Including the young man texted his mum- a frantic series of text when he was trapped in a toilet; knowing he would not make it out alive- that hit me hard. Imagine the fear and panic when he was crafting that message: the letters barely hung together; enough to make their meaning known; a desperate attempt to get help to him. That still haunts me: imagine if we were in that same situation? You could hear the shots ringing and you are trapped against the wall- how do you hide or make it out? Aside from a stroke of massive luck- alas, that did not occur- your only hope is letting your mum know you love her; before the inevitable happened. Such a horrifying and stark example; one of many that were unfolding in that nightclub. The innocent men and women died for no reason. They were at the club- it was a Latin-themed night- to embrace each other and have fun; surrender to the music and have a wonderful night. The political and social ramifications are immense. The U.S. has to change its ways and bifurcation: listen to the majority who want an end to gun violence; an edict arrives that underlines what we all want to see: ban guns and make it a safer, less hateful country. Out of the pain and rubble has come something redemptive and positive. Every horror like this- whether a mass-shooting or isolated event- makes it clearer we need to make changes in the world. The Pulse occurrence was not as simple and clear-cut as the media made it out. Whatever side of the fence you are on- a brainwashed, I.S. acolyte carrying out the will of his brethren; a mentally ill man who had snapped; something other- we need to tackle problems before they occur. Chris Selman’s Solidarity raises money for Mind: a charity that tackles mental health and raises awareness for those affected.

Most gun crimes result from mental illness rather than political affiliations. If you look at the statistics and biographies of the gunmen; the same patterns emerge. An isolated, misunderstood individual; those with a grudge and hatred; feeling detached from the world. If we were to provide education and support to the mentally ill- rather than equip them with guns and let them vent their frustrations through death- then we can minimise these types of horrors without having to circumvent gun lobbyists and right-wing insane. It is sad it takes this sort of thing- the shootings at Pulse– to make people talk about gun violence and eradicating arms. As I mentioned earlier: the good that has come from this is a worldwide pride; a coming together against hatred and embracement of the L.G.B.T. community- the love and passion they have. As humans, there are still those ignorant and uneducated about L.G.B.T. and what they fight for- you cannot convert all the small-minded- but Pulse and The Pride Festival have gone a long way. The dancing, singing, and unity will end today- before the logistical nightmare of clean-up occurs- and it will mark the end of a wonderful couple of weeks. San Francisco has a gay pride festival but there are a lot of events happening across the U.S.- http://www.gaypridecalendar.com/. In New York; there is the N.Y.C.: Dance at the Pier event on Tuesday; one of the city’s premier gay pride celebrations. To my mind, we need to go further: create a worldwide day/event that celebrates L.G.B.T. The days/events we have are wonderful if compartmentalised. Can we ever see the days where there is a Hands Across America-like event where we all give a day up: join together and unify in a mass celebration? Chris Selman would probably share my sentiments- as would many thousands around the world- if it ends tragedies like what occurred in Orlando.

Solidarity has been gaining attention from around the world- reaching far as Australia. A little rough-around-the-edges- Selman’s word- the song was a direct reaction to the horror- rather than just a general think-piece. In a wider sense, the song will start dialogue and consideration: how we can (as the human race) make lasting changes and stop this happening again? The Albert Kennedy Trust is founded to support members of the L.G.B.T. community in crisis. I urge you to buy Solidarity (https://itunes.apple.com/gb/album/solidarity-single/id1125347147)- it is available via SoundCloud– and hear a song that reflects the feelings we all share- the fact Orlando is not an isolated event; the determination to overcome and fight will not be broken. Whether a member of the L.G.B.T. community or not: we want to fight prejudices and make changes; find acceptance and tolerance. Solidarity was quickly-recorded (it was online two days after the tragedy) and went on to garner thousands of views; many have found comfort in the song and been hit by its messages and emotion. Few reviews I write address wider issues and social concerns: reactions to shootings and violence; a musician deeply troubled and scarred by the bloodshed. Solidarity stands on its own feet regardless of context and circumstance: a song from one of the strongest songwriters in the U.K. Its relevance can be applied to the E.U. fall-out- how we need to work together rather than fight and squabble- and a soundtrack to the soon-to-be-completed ‘Pride Festival. More musicians need to follow Selman’s example: not just show your concern and upset; urge people to make changes and raise awareness. Solidarity is a beautiful and heartfelt song that has resounded across the globe. A memorable track and message across the land: against hatred and subjugation; we will stand shoulder-to-shoulder. In that sense, Solidarity is a song…

THAT speaks for all of us.

 

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TRACK REVIEW: Jonny Carroll- Leaving on the Light

TRACK REVIEW:

 

Jonny Carroll

 

 

 

Leaving on the Light

 

9.4/10

 

 

Leaving on the Light is available at:

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

RELEASED:
6th June 2016

GENRES:
Folk; Pop

ORIGIN:

Michigan, U.S.A.

The album Leaving on the Light is available at:

https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/leaving-on-the-light/id1123868507

RELEASE DATE:

June 17th 2016

TRACK LISTING:

Painted Jars

February

Leaving on the Light

Sound of Falling

When I’m Alive

Words Unspoken

Joshua

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IT is probably best I stick in the U.S…

for today. I have spent a lot of time being London-centric: concentrating on the prime capital cuts. Every time I get away from the U.K. – and investigate foreign sounds- it leads me to think about America. It is a nation with a lure and growing scene. It is obvious stating America’s musical appeal: it is toe-to-toe with Britain in terms of quality and variation. Having just come from the U.S. – in reviewing terms- and a New Jersey-based artist (FLETCHER) is it over to Michigan- and the music scene coming out of there. My featured artist hails from Grand Rapids: a part of Michigan that has some musical treasures for sure. When we think of Michigan musicians; invariably- depending on how steeped we are in the folklore and history- we think of Iggy and the Stooges; The White Stripes: some of the raw, Punk/Blues-based acts. MC5, The Accidentals, and The Temptations: that threesome of Michigan acts has made their own distinct footprints. Detroit alone has pretty much shaped musical history on its own. From the Motown/Tamla of the late-‘50s- acts like Mable John and Eddie Holland burst onto the scene- it evolved and grew- the Four Tops, Jackson 5 and Stevie Wonder– from the ‘60s to ‘70s- helped define the sound. Suffering a natural death in the late-‘90s: the label/sound underwent a revamp and regeneration in 2011. From then (until now really) the Universal Motown sound was born; the likes of Ne-Yo is on the roster. The Motown sound was always defined by Soul-Pop cross-over: a cross-pollinating sound that placed emphasis and accentuates the backbeat. Pop techniques/sounds- charted horns and orchestra strings- gave the production and sound a richer, fuller luster. Motown by itself has helped craft Detroit (and Michigan’s artists): had a profound effect on modern music in general. After the ‘70s Punk explosion- the likes of MC5 and The Stooges bossing the scene- there has been some expansion and diversification. Of course, the hard, Punk/Blues primacy is still there: in general, Michigan is less homogenised and adventurous.

Chiodos, JR JR and La Dispute are a trio of recent names: each with their own inimitable and distinguished flavor. Over the past few years; Michigan has seen a lot of its native acts go onto big things. XXX– hailing from Detroit- has been talked about in revered tones. One of America’s most buzzworthy Rap acts- a name that we should all keep a watchful eye on. The Soil and the Sun– hometown heroes that Jonny Carroll will be familiar with- they have grown since their 2008 inception. From an initial two-piece: they have blossomed into a full, harmony-beautiful band that is making distinct impressions. The Dirtbombs are a band many would have heard of. Another treasure from Detroit: they have been going for a while but one of those acts that continue to surprise and amaze. Ann Arbor’s Chris Bathgate and Absofacto (from Ypsilanti) are musicians I would recommend. Too many of us get stuck in New York and L.A.: never casting our American attentions beyond obvious areas. Like New Jersey- when I was looking at FLETCHER- it is great to dive into Detroit.

Before I come to a new topic- looking at Folk-cum-Pop mixes; a bit about musical festivals in the U.K. – it is worth looking at Jonny Carroll:

Sitting somewhere on the fence of chart pop and contemplative folk, Jonny Carroll’s sound has been cultivated by his eclectic taste in musical extremes and his manic depressive sense of creativity. Hailing from Grand Rapids, MI, Carroll cut his teeth by busking the streets of West Michigan for a living, spending winters playing shows and street performing in England and Scotland. His debut EP “The Willow” was nominated for 4 WYCE Jammie Awards in 2014 and his music has been featured on a number of regional radio stations spanning from Midwest America across the Atlantic, as well as in the award winning short film ‘Step One’ by Chris Eckenwiler.

Jonny’s debut album ‘Leaving on the Light’ is set to be released on June 17th. He adds “Most of this album was written just after an abandoned wedding engagement, and I found myself wandering the streets of the UK for a couple of winter months trying to make sense of it. The songs are very pop in melody, but folk in narrative.”

Jonny Carroll has just unveiled a lyric video for the title track of his album. As for the meaning behind the song, he explains “Leaving on the Light is about wrestling with fragments of lingering hope for a relationship to somehow heal itself once disbanded, while at the same time trying to become the person you knew you should have been in it.” He will embark on a US national tour next month.

Having had such an unusual and hard background- having to perform on the streets for a living- the cold climate and tough nights have not dampened Carroll’s enthusiasm and passion. In fact, that struggle as motivated him to become the musician he is today. While a lot of new artists have a privileged background; never knowing how bad life can be: Carroll has endured hardships and appreciates the opportunity he has. His music, as a result, has that determination and beauty; elements and aspects many can only dream of. Folk and Pop are genres often tied together: it takes a very particular type of musician to get it right. Maybe Pop is seen as sugary and too mainstream; Folk a little stuffy and niche: surely bringing them together is the way to go? Often- when I hear musicians attempt this- they are rather stolid, predictable and overly familiar. Jonny Carroll suffers no such fate. He deals in common threads- vulnerability, relationship questioning and yearning- but never sounds like someone else.

Carroll goes for hi-fi, honest and catchy music: songs that mix his personal stories with accessible sounds; big Pop hooks/melodies with Folk narratives. Given the fact Glastonbury is going in full force- a prisoner to the bad weather again- it gets me thinking about the acts and musicians that can get the (rain-soaked) crowds uplifted, unified and distracted. Music has the potential to create magic and mystery; transcend emotions and connect people together. On paper, it might seem like Jonny Carroll would be a downbeat and hard-to-love artist. His album (Leaving on the Light) was sparked by a painful experience in England. After an abandoned wedding engagement: Carroll was left wandering the streets- looking for answers- around England and Scotland; freezing himself in the harsh winter. Out of the blue and pain has come an album of realisation, sense-making and contemplation: a deep and soul-searching work that is strangely beautiful and joyous. In the fragile and heartrending tales, you get light and hope: common elements and stories we can all appreciate. These are the kind of songs that can get festivals jumping. I would love to see an artist like Carroll play Glastonbury: get the mid-morning crowds woken, singing and smiling. He has come a long way in a short time. His latest single (Leaving on the Light) is about holding on to a fractured relationship; trying to be the person you should be. Carroll’s exegesis is painful but heartfelt: he has transitioned a hard time and made something beautiful. A song- and eponymous album- that will establish him as one of Folk’s brightest newcomers.

In 2014, Carroll released The Willow E.P. That six-track collection brought together personal revelations and lovelorn confessions. Among the unique struggles- having to deal with a hard condition and suffocating illness- there were insights into love and relations: how they affected Carroll and what effect they have had. Common staples of both Folk and Pop: the songs were anything but familiar and predictable. Every song stands in the mind from the first listen. Be they gentle and contemplative; more determined and steely- the music connects and resonates instantly; unearthing new sides along time. ‘Nuance’ is a word I use in a lot of reviews- a quality that should not be undermined- but Jonny Carroll is the epitome: his music has so much detail and depth; slow-burning elements and shades. Over the last couple of years, the American has been moving about and going through transitions- including painful marriage splits. Enduring a lot of pain and displacement; you’d think he’d suffer fatigue and disillusionment; create weak material and suffer a creative setback. From his E.P.; Leaving on the Light is the most confident and complete release yet. The vocals and compositions are strong and fantastic; the production clear and crisp; the entire record is galvanised by Carroll’s terrific performances and incredible voice- not to mention the lyrics that will unveil emotions and truth in all of us. Most artists experience creative and personal leaps between releases: usually, they do not have to contend with Carroll’s level of unhappiness and upheaval. It makes Leaving on the Light so much more impressive and unexpected. The fans and followers are showing their love and respect for Grand Rapids’ Jonny Carroll. The coming years will see (I hope) new material and even more wonder. If that takes the form of an E.P. or album: that is down to Carroll. For now, touring is taking precedence: getting the new material out to the crowds; taking the songs around the U.S.

Leaving on the Light’s title cut sees Jonny Carroll making sense of dissolved love; rebuilding himself and being the man he should be- recapturing a semblance of his old life. Given the background and high emotions: one would expect the song to be quite disconsolate and accusatory. The initial phases of the song dispel and subvert those expectations. A brief, scuffed acoustic guitar start- nice and raw; teeing up what is to come- translates to  rousing vocal lifts and a distinct sense of defiance. Embers of Country and Blues come together- zesty electric springs and a laid-back charm- give Leaving on the Light such early promise. Not resorting to paroxysm: Carroll is reflective and introspective to begin. “Lately, I’ve been thinking/about the person I’ve been” is the young man looking back at the past. Treading over the rubble- the deceased love and struggles- he is making sense of it all. Before he fell (for his sweetheart) there were goals and dreams; definite plans for love. Marriage put those on-hold- or redefined them to an extent- but now things are different. There is that need to return to those days: a time where there was a sense of future and hope. Picking up the pieces of a winter’s end; you get impressions of what Carroll has gone through. It seems there’s a distinct history between “your dad” and a “bottle of gin”. Knowing where the song came from- the remnants of his former love- these words are curious and stark. In interviews, it is not revealed why things broke down- that is personal and something you might not disclose- but clearly there’s a disapproving father and problems.

Perhaps having to win over a disapproving and unpleasant father- the parent-in-law that seems like a burden- this thought keeps him sober; straight and focused when thinking about their love. The pain has registered but that has not turned Carroll sour. He has a connection with his love and there’s that desire to rekindle the better days: those fond memories and great times they had. These revelations and thoughts come tumbling out. Delivered with a mixture of gusto and restraint- the timbre and tone have inflections of Sheeran- we learn more about Carroll’s past. Offered a one-night stand; the number was in his hand; he could have gone through with it- most guys probably would have. Trembling and uncertainty- knowing the magnitude of making such a decision- those memories keep coming back. Unwilling to completely dislocate from his former bride: the loyalty and fondness are imbued with some resentment and sharp tongue. The duo had plans and their futures mapped out but our hero is stronger and more moral. He will not succumb to the cheap and shallow; much in the same way his fiancé threw away their lives. Taking the moral high-ground- adding some jab and hard truths in there- you can hear the pain come through. It is impossible to perform such a personal song and not let it affect your performance. Carroll keeps his voice focused but you can hear some anxiety emerge- as he looks back at break-up and blind-siding. It still hurts inside- but not as much as before- as our hero seems aghast at how things unfolded. His fiancé headed for the door without so much as an explanation and second thought- seemingly delivering cruelty and a bitter kiss-off. Never clear what caused this distress- arguments perhaps; the two on different pages- but you become invested in the song; rooting for our man. Unwilling to become robotic and drained: the music has exuberance and bounce; a catchiness that will get the listener stood to attention. Tumbling, impactful percussion; rousing, spirited Folk guitars back a determined vocal- one that crosses the genres to deliver elemental truth and honesty. Staying sober and hopeful of a return: Carroll is leaving the light on in case she comes home.

I’m miles out and I’m planning to stay” are words that stick in the mind- at once, harrowing and oblique. Perhaps representing emotional turmoil- the unwillingness to get out of that hole- it seems like our hero needs time to grieve and mourn. Going through a traumatic and life-changing experience: it is not easy to get back on a safe path. In another town- the song was written in London not long after the split- Carroll is yearning to go back to Rapid Springs- so he can burn and destroy her letters; the words that will stab at the hurt and drag up the past. Meaningless and cruel in hindsight: the lyrics are vivid and intense; Carroll is keeping his anger and frustration in-check; channeling this through beautiful music. Being honest won’t make the pain go away but it is a necessary step forward. If he is going to erase the pain- you will never get rid of all that darkness- it is best to approach the situation head-on; make a fresh start and stop pining. Never cheapening the sentiments: Carroll acknowledges his hurt but is resolved to stay sober, focused and optimistic. Saying this, the chorus paints the picture of a man who wants things differently: have his former wife through the door; as though nothing has happened. Conflicting sentiments and juxtapositions compel me to dig deeper as to the circumstances- how things got this bad and why they got that way. It is not my role to pry but that is the strength of the song: it causes you to become more involved and questioning; how a woman can throw a marriage away so freely.

One would imagine such a song- heavy at times and quite dark- would descend into mournful strings and something quite defeatist. Never the case with Leaving on the Light. The percussion has a gentle charm and strength: eliciting pattering beats that give the song a skip and step. Guitars yearn and purge but has a wonderful, melodic beauty. Carroll’s vocals are not steeped in depression and viciousness: they are always calm, pleasing and tender. There were good times between the two- the reason they fell in love- but those bad evocations make the biggest impressions. Falling apart at the seams: the way to stitch over the tears are making (our hero) bleed. Whether self-medicating or self-destructing: some of the most direct and unsettled parts of the track. Despite the light being left on; faithfulness deep down: you feel like any hopes of reconciliation and compromise are gone. Inside the madness and unease is a lot of light and purity. Carroll’s voice rises to angelic heights: showcasing himself as an impressive falsetto and stunning voice. Surpassing the likes of Sheeran- Carroll’s music is more fascinating, unique and beautiful- Leaving on the Light is a track that will resound with many broken hearts. Towards the song’s end; our man is calling it a night and turning the light off- perhaps putting an end to his hopes of a peace accord. The listener is taken into Jonny Carroll’s world and a glimpse into his mindset. You hope things will work out and he will be able to move past things. A strong and hugely personal song not just reserved to our (brokenhearted) hero- it is a song for the masses.

Jonny Carroll grew up listening to his mum’s music- Dire Straits and Billy Joel in there- and Folk acts such as James Taylor and Simon & Garfunkel. Having grown up in an eclectic and cosmopolitan musical upbringing: this has sparked Carroll’s passion for multiple genres. If not listening to West Coast Hip-Hop; ‘90s one-hit wonders and Irish Folk are among his regular rotation. That desire to be a musician was instilled as young as 6: everything from Disney film soundtracks and Rock acts of the day sparked the imagination and gave Carroll focus and purpose. Jonny Carroll has bi-polar affective disorder: something that can be a personal hindrance and a creative spur. Whether manic or depressed: it can go into the music and lead to inspiration. After a failed marriage- exacerbating the condition- many would assume Carroll would regress, retreat and close himself off. Having gone through some personal investigation and struggling with questions: he has come back strong and put his everything into his album. Leaving on the Light is an album that is full of gems, anthems and wonderful moments. Painted Jars is concerning a sweetheart- possibly based on his engagement woes- who was only looking for something temporary. After being scarred so many times: there is reluctance and hesitations; the song never becomes mordant and insular. A big, bold song that has a sing-along charm: a tune that could be a festival favourite. February is a rumination on the “best month of my life”. One of the most ‘pure Folk;’ songs- Celtic instrumentations and acoustic melody over big hooks- it is one of the album’s highlights. Carroll’s wide palette is reflected on Word Unspoken. Yearning strings and Jazz undertones nestle with haunting vocals and something shimmering and shivering. Perhaps the finest vocal on the L.P.; it is also one of the most vulnerable and open tracks, too.

Born from a (successful) crowd-funding campaign- ‘The Carrollers’ who helped get it made- is a seven-track album that explores genres, themes, and backstory. Struggling mental illness and the burns of failed love: many would isolate themselves and see no way back from it all. Carroll knows there is a long way to go- he will love again and find happiness- but is concentrating his energies into his true passion: music. Before I wrap this up- apart from recommending you buy Leaving on the Light– it is worth assessing Jonny Carroll as a musician and human. Over the last few weeks, he has been very busy interviewing and promoting the album. Just thinking about the album’s title gets you thinking. Does the light refer to a deep-down love or hope? Does it represent a visible reminder: Carroll is a man still fighting and intent on making his way back into the world. Before you have even heard the songs; there are so many questions, thoughts, and ideas.  Music- for our hero- is the step towards rehabilitation and recovery. A therapeutic method; a way to make sense of all that has happened: Leaving on the Light’s writing process was done so in humble and various locations. Sometimes writing at a London friend’s flat; alone and casting his mind to bad days- a very raw, real and uncertain time that has led to something beautiful and accomplished. Carroll has ranked the likes of Ed Sheeran among his must-write-with idols- not a fan of the guy myself- and hopes occupy the same kind of commercial ground. I feel Carroll has the potential to be a bigger star (than Sheeran) as his music is deeper and more appealing. He knows Pop does not have to be meaningless, vague and shallow- the lyrics can be poetic, emotional and purposeful. In that same vein; Folk does not need to be middle-aged, boring and slight- it has the potential to be anthemic, universal and dynamic. As proven- across the course of his album- Carroll shifts gears and moods; lets his history and emotions out onto the page.

The title track has been gaining a lot of respect, praise, and aplomb. As a man; Carroll is down-to-Earth and charming. A friendly and positive guy that welcomes fans and the media in- always keen to chat and explain his music. There are not many musicians that have that humbleness, warmth, and personality. You still get a lot who hide behind facades and ego: not willing to check them in for a few seconds; guarded and unpleasant at times. We need more figures like Jonny Carroll in music. Having to endure bi-polar affective disorder- I can relate to the capriciousness and unwieldiness; the horrible downs and unpredictable mood shifts- it is great to see such great music come through. A brave talent that will give guidance and inspiration to many like-minded people- ensure you support Carroll’s music. As we speak, he is preparing to play Chicago- he will be at Uncommon Ground Lakeview tomorrow. Going to Indianapolis, Texas and Kentucky: quite a busy and long-haul tour; many different towns and crowds will pay witness to an extraordinary talent. He will be back in Grand Rapids later this year, but for now, the world is his oyster. Picking up British reviews- a few publications have promoted his album- it seems like has a natural home here. Being guided by Project Light Agency– my go-to with regards great new music- it seems like Carroll will perform here in the future. London seems like a possible second home- he might be fed up of the place- and plenty of venues and boroughs to play. Busy in the U.S.: we might not get to see him until later this year. After busking and experiencing the highs and lows of that environment: it seems Carroll is on more solid ground. The fans and followers are behind him strong- an army that continues to grow- and things look good.

It is a testament to his passion and talent Leaving on the Light got made. The fans have shown their support and faith. The struggles and pain still remain- it will take a while to forget some memories- but that is not getting Jonny Carroll down. He is a young man that shows fortitude and huge bravery. I know the future will be filled with touring, success and new records. A new album or E.P. would be obvious- the fans would be keen to support its making- and let’s hope the coming years are happier and more prosperous. Maybe new love will arrive or relocation- Carroll seems pretty settled in Grand Rapids- or something more stable and settled. Whatever arrives will be fascinating to see. I have loved listening to Leaving on the Light (album) and its stunning title track. Aiming for acclaim and respect of Ed Sheeran; I think Jonny Carroll is selling himself short. Whilst Sheeran has a charming personality- great to hear him in interviews- I have never connected with his music. Lacking a certain kick and originality: Carroll is someone that is already ahead, musically. The success and stature will come in good time. He has adulation and regard for some of the mainstream’s best and brightest Folk/Pop stars. In truth, though, Jonny Carroll is fully capable of…

GOING even further.

 

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Follow Jonny Carroll

 

Official:

http://www.jonnycarrollmusic.com/

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/JonnyCarrollMusic/

Twitter:

https://twitter.com/thejonnycarroll

Instagram:

https://www.instagram.com/thejonnycarroll/

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Music

https://soundcloud.com/jonnycarrollmusic

 

TRACK REVIEW: FLETCHER- Avalanche

TRACK REVIEW:

 

FLETCHER

 

 

Avalanche

 

9.3/10

 

 

 

Avalanche is available at:

https://soundcloud.com/findingfletcher/avalanche-single

RELEASED:
21st June, 2016

GENRES:
Pop

ORIGIN:

New Jersey, U.S.A.

PRODUCER:

Jamie Kenney

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THE last couple of days have been a sad one for…

proud, loyal British: those who have been removed from the European Union against their will. Extricated from a relationship that showed promise and future: there is a lot of fear among the (mainly young) people of the U.K. London, Scotland and Northern Ireland voted to remain in the E.U.- the sane, intelligent sectors- whilst everyone else felt differently. Not to politicise the review- the anger still runs deep- but the larger point is this: diversity, togetherness and brotherhood is the best way for the world to move forward. Not just that: economies, cultures, and countries are much richer when they are all-encompassing, open and together. My wider point is this: there is fear among the musicians of the U.K. Now that things have changed; we are left with a daunting realisation: the music industry itself will decline; musicians will struggle to play in Europe; have less money and opportunity- a frightening time for so many different sectors. Not to beleaguer the point like a ragged feather boa: how will music continue and evolve in the next few years? Whilst there is anxiety and uncertainty in U.K. music- and Europe for that matter- in the U.S., different concerns arise. Not facing the same conundrums and consternations as us: they have the impending (hopefully not realised) threat of King Trump: an ape-like, uncensored animal that seems intent on turning America into something quite horrifying. Throw in the recent tragedies in the U.S. – Orlando shooting and ongoing violence- and you have a nation that is facing some hard times. Against all the tumultuousness and strain; there is one thing certain to bind us all: music. Never capable of wiping all problems away: it, at least, provides a common view and sense of relief- something we can all hang to and feel comfort in. Even the most stoic and resilient require the magic and uplift only music can provide. My featured artist- I shall come to her soon- is someone hell-bent on eradicating frowns and unhappiness: the personification of sunshine and positivity; producing music that has a lot of depth and flair into the bargain. Hailing from Asbury Park (New Jersey) it gets me thinking about the state’s musical past; the artists coming through right now. When we think of American music, our minds instantly go to one of two places: New York or Los Angeles. It is understandable as (between them) they house most of America’s most promising new music.

Huge epicenters and vast cities: it is impossible to ignore the staggering array of musicians emanating. Whatever your tastes and proclivities: you are well catered for, no doubt. Neighbouring New York- and imbued with that rivalry and will-they-ever-get-along tension- New Jersey is a state not to be overlooked. Historically, legends like Bruce Springsteen and Bon Jovi call New Jersey home. Cast that net wider and you find so many established and world-famous artists. My Chemical Romance, The Sugarhill Gang, and Lauryn Hill; P.M. Dawn and The Misfits. So much variation and quality can be located in New Jersey. It is not just ‘mainstream’ genres- Rap, Rock etc. – that are synonymous with the state. Boasting a strong Jazz and Folk background- Newark was a prominent Jazz hub in the early-20th century; Hoboken and Princeton played host to an active Folk scene- in no small part due to the spread of nationalities and neighbourhoods. New Jersey has a great mix of nationalities, languages and people: this has fed into their historic music scene. Over the last year or so; a great number of New Jersey natives have been making their impressions on U.S. music. Modern Chemistry– from New Brunswick- promotes big, bold Rock songs- one of the best live bands in the town. Bayonne’s The Scandals’ blend of sharp, hard-hitting Punk is enough to shake the birds from the trees. If punchy, upbeat Pop-Rock is your bag: Middlesex County’s The New Royalty have been compared to Paramore but are much more distinct and stand-out. Alus is a sultry, sensual singer whose club-ready Pop has translated wider than Montville. New Brunswick has few odder and more delightful artists than Screaming Females: a well-traveled cousin-based act that has played over 700 shows in the last few years, It is Nicole Atkins-formally based in Neptune- who is helping put Asbury Park on the map.

The black-and-white film heroine vibe sits with contemporary siren: a singer that is going to be a big name of the coming years. Formally the sixth-best beach in New Jersey- back in 2008- Jersey Shore’s Asbury Park has seen the population decline lately. Key nightlife venues like The Stone Pony– and a thriving, growing gay scene- put the colour and energy into Asbury Park; there are an array of restaurants, coffee houses and hang-outs for the locals. Perhaps the brightest star out of Asbury Park is FLETCHER: a fantastic singer and artist who is gaining a huge amount of fans- no small wonder. Before I carry on, let me introduce FLETCHER to you:

Summer 2015, FLETCHER put her “War Paint” on for the world. The pop newcomer premiered her debut single via NYLON, with a video shortly behind on Billboard. After conquering Hype Machine, her blog-declared pop summer anthem made its way onto Spotify’s Viral 50 Chart. With support from top-followed playlists such as New Music Friday and Today’s Top Hits, “War Paint” became the #1 most socially shared track on Spotify in the U.S. for two consecutive weeks, as well as #2 across the world. Now nearly 35 million streams later (including the popular remix and new single “Live Young Die Free”), the 21-year-old talent is set for stardom.

FLETCHER is a hybrid creation, unconfined to the concrete jungle she now calls home. According to Billboard, she’s hoping to “inspires others to ignite their individuality and to fearlessly fight for whatever is they want out of this crazy life.” The pop newcomer was listed as an Artist To Watch for 2016 from many prestigious publications such as Teen Vogue, Wonderland Magazine & Idolator. Furthermore, she was selected as a Spotify Spotlight act for 2016 (following in the footsteps of prior years’ artists such as Lorde, Tove Lo, Hozier & Kygo.)

That bold-type name says it all: she is a vibrant, vivacious young woman who grabs you with her music. It is hard to see FLETCHER and not be bowled over. A gorgeous and eye-catching young woman- her sense of fashion and intoxicating smile- there’s an allure and definite star quality. Her colourful motifs- the artwork to her new single for example- ensure she stands in the mind. Many have been raving about Avalanche: a song that celebrates youthful abandon and a sense of freedom. So many songs get caught up in their own feet; too po-faced and serious to connect with the musical electorate- heart-aching and somber, largely. I love a good love song- they are a staple that we need to keep alive- but it nice to hear something different and exciting. In a stressful and uncertain period: music that gives energy and upbeat is not to be scoffed at. FLECTHER is an artist that has wit, verve, and cheekiness; a charm and vivacious personality that busts from the page- straight into the mind of the idlest listener. With the weather starting to heat up- not sure what it’s doing in New Jersey- it is the perfect time to let Avalanche work its magic. That magic comes thick and fast: a song that makes you forget your troubles without coming across too shallow and immature. FLETCHER is a young woman whose head is screwed on: a bright and wise musician who knows where she wants to go.

Avalanche is fresh off the press and gaining a lot of love from critics. Few have been able to ignore the joy, addictiveness, and quality. With co-writer/producer Jamie Kenney: it is a summer-ready anthem that is thrilling ears. Looking back, you can see how far FLECTHER has come. Warpaint boasted bellicose drums and a tribal spring. This time last year- when FLETCHER was announcing her arrival- Warpaint stands out as a confident and incredible track. Switching her vocal between pure Pop and Hip-Hop- going from straight to swaggering; teasing to edgy- it is an authoritative and compelling performance. Liking the way he feels- whether a sweetheart or friend- the shots and firing and the arrows drawn. You picture images and battles unfolding: a certain sexuality and lust under the surface. Essentially, it is FLETCHER being confident and self-embracing: shouting out her war cry and being proud and determined. The polished production gives the song drama, panache, and attack- the components needed to bring all the components to life- but never makes it sound too glossy and cheap.

Live Young Die Free continues that compositional balance and dynamic. Finger-clicked electronics and fresh, hot beats: perhaps a more restrained at first; the song soon ramps up and kicks out. FLETCHER’s vocal rides, tumbles and shouts; it is a proud and confident performance that lays down her intentions- someone that wants to keep going until she makes history. Another song that promotes self-pride and determination: again there is a balance of romance and self-proclamation; cries to the wider world- take pride in yourself and reach for your goals. If its ethos and sound is rooted in mainstream Pop: there is enough grit and personality to take thoughts away from peers: a track that showcases a unique musician with a very distinct voice. The blend of familiar and original will not only appeal to mainstream Pop’s core- young girls and teenagers- but those who look for something more edgy, mature and intelligent. Rachel Platten- and her track Fight Song– has a similar sound and declaration: FLETCHER surpasses Platten in my mind; a stronger vocalist with a stronger set of lyrics. It is the composition that reveals most surprise. Sounding quite direct and one-dimensional upon first listen: it releases new energy, layers and messages every time you hear it. Over the course of two songs, there is a positive blend of consistency and development. A distinct FLETCHER sound is chiseled; a personality and core that carries across both numbers. Both contain messages of positivity, self-drive and embracing your own skin- with a little sweat and sensuality underneath. The biggest leap- from Warpaint to Live Young Die Free is the confidence leap and variation. The tracks are varied and distinct enough without compromising FLETCHER’s sound and artistry.

She sound effortless over each track; that determination and strength can be found in Avalanche. Each new song sees fresh inspiration come to the fore: with it, the performances are more stunning, electric and passionate. Avalanche is the most direct and instant song from FLECTHER. It takes the reigns from her past numbers and adds to it. The youngster is at her most astonishing and original here: pushing away from her peers’ sound- and fitting into a mould- and showcasing her true colours and soul. Still retaining mainstream Sugar-Pop vibes- so that her core audiences are not put off- FLETCHER is stepping into new territory and bringing new genres into her mix. This rate of growth and evolution is impressive. FLETCHER has only been releasing music for a short time: her progression and quality are to be applauded. I cannot wait for the possibility of an E.P. It will be well-received and showcase one of the U.S.’s- and the world’s- most promising stars. Unlike Platten and her contemporaries- who get accused of lacking depth and lyrical craft- FLETCHER’s bombast, fire-cracker songs have enough raw emotion and depth. If Platten and her ilk are seen as personality-free and lacking identity- unfair but something that has been said a few times- you can never say the same of FLETCHER. She is not moulded by record labels and trying to be anyone else: her music comes from the heart and delivered like nobody else. Able to please the loyal Pop fan- who flocks to see the likes of Adele, Taylor Swift and Katy Perry- Avalanche will resound with those who have affection for other genres. It is an adaptable and impossible-not-to-love song that will bounce around the head all day long.

Tumbling beats and whistled notes- a cross between falling rocks and a serene casualness- those juxtapositions work well in the introduction. You get the hard heartbeat and energised kicks; the lackadaisical and quirky affectations: mixed together to create something intriguing and instant. Timidities, fears, and reluctance are found in the opening lines. Someone- whether a song about herself or a subject- who always finds exit signs in crowded rooms- you get a sense of someone trying to run; fears and anxieties in their everyday life. That idea of exit signs and crowds works well taken literally- getting out of the room and away from people- but also on a deeper plain. Essentially, when things get busy and heavy: the song’s inspiration is looking for a way out; perhaps when it gets serious, they are looking for easy answers. Maybe I misreading but that is the impression I got. FLETCHER keeps her voice restrained and light to begin with- enough potency and drama to enforce the words- and lets the composition drive things forward. Everybody “wants their shot” but “you’re bulletproof”. Whatever is unfolding; the hero/heroine is taking things in their stride- showing fortitude and bravery. Each new line changes my impression and story arc. Self-effacing the one moment; bold and warrior-like the next: a song that creates some mystery and curiousness. The fire is burning (in the heart and soul) but the cave has gone cold. Maybe this refers to love or passions- aiming for a different life or achieving dreams- and the weight of the world is getting too heavy. Never resorting to stereotypes and tropes- predictable lines and average sentiments- Avalanche gets the mind working early on.

There is fear and trepidation: the friend is uncertainty and not sure if they can make it. Rather than submit to the nerves and reluctance: our heroine is urging confidence and brave steps. Always there with them- FLECTHER is on hand and a loyal heart- they will both surrender to the unknown; go into this together. Each new line gets the mind more alert and investigative. Never are the full details disclosed- what is being referred to- so it is down to the listener to piece things together; make their own minds up. Perhaps it is a general survey of self-confidence- someone who does not feel comfortable in themselves- or the desire to achieve something bigger and scary. Whatever the circumstance, you cannot deny Avalanche’s building mood. The track grows in intensity and directness when the chorus comes. Imploring to a boy- the track concerns something more romantic and lustful- there is that declaration: let down your defenses and walls; surrender to the heat of the moment. Tumbling “like an avalanche” you start to picture and imagine the scenes unfold. Building from ambiguous and oblique basis: the foundations are built; only to be torn down and purged.

Such is the intensity and confidence of the vocals: you have no time for false ideals and interpretations. Stuttering, wordless vocals- FLETCHER layers her voice to create urgency and drama- bond with bouldering percussion and shimmering electronics. Wearing its intentions and soul on sleeve: you get caught up in the blitz, clamber and youthful energy of the song. The chorus and its components are instantly recognisable and memorable. Never straying too far away from mainstream Pop choruses- a deliberate move that ensures recognition and instant appeal- FLETCHER’s personality and distinct colours make the song what it is. Waves and oceans are brought in- as the chorus dies down- and our heroine wishes (her man) could feel the water coming in. The metaphors and images are not only epic and atmospheric: they have double-meaning; your thoughts always look beyond something obvious and romance-based. Of course, FLETCHER has that yearning for bond, togetherness and simpatico. Maybe her boy is not on the same wavelength- couldn’t resist! – or the two have different objectives. You can detect vulnerability and hurt in FLETCHER’s voice- that is a stark contrast to the chorus’ bold decelerations- that gives the track texture and maturity. The two have a history and great connection- not just new lovers coming together- but there is imbalance and fear that is separating them.

The guy feels unable to love- as though he could not commit himself- but our heroine is imploring bravery and brashness. Every FLETCHER song has that same ideal: coming out your skin and showing fortitude; be proud of who/what you are. Underneath the vocal- which continues to strike and press- the percussion is sparse but effective. Painting colours atop mountains- the lyrics become more vivid and eye-catching as they progress- our heroine will hold (his hand) and walk with him. Even though the aims seem clear- that need to bring the boy out of himself; submit to her- there is part of my looking at other ideas and possibilities. Perhaps more pure and friendship-based- tackling obstacles together and rebuilding cracks- it is a song not as simple and obvious as one would imagine. Whereas few Pop singers can offer those sort of promises- a song you have to come back to in order to understand its message- it is rewarding discovering someone like FLETCHER. As the two roll fast and entwine; spending one night together: perhaps there is more to it? Maybe that is me being puritanical- which is very unlike me!- but there lingers that suspicion. However you view the song- a call to a lover to free himself; two people that want to embrace life to the maximum- you will immerse yourself in the song. Not as overwhelming and sky-scraping as previous numbers- there is more subtlety and calm. Being FLETCHER; the vocals are always exhilarating and ripe: able to soar and explode; never coming across too intense and forceful. It is the beats that add additional weight and conjecture- an audible heartbeat that remains strong and pulsating.

Towards the final seconds, you get to hear the chorus revoked and repeated: if it is not in your head by then, then you are not listening hard enough. FLETCHER’s songs always boast festival-ready, heartfelt choruses; big, multicoloured and bright. Avalanche is a song that demonstrates how adept and solid FLETCHER is as an artist. A singer that always puts her all into the music: a star you know is going to be a mainstream proposition of the future. Know and revered in the U.S.; how long will it be until she is in hot demand around the world? It cannot be too long, surely? Avalanche is designed for the Pop crowd yet never excludes anyone. The curious, detail-rich verses perfectly fuse with simple, for-the-masses choruses- something for everyone. It is the vocal strength and pure passion that wins you around. Even if you are not a Pop fan- and prefer your music a little gritty- you will appreciate what Avalanche says. Jamie Kenney’s production (who is based out of Nashville) and co-writing ensures anthemic quality is achieved. The layered vocals and composition are never crowded and cluttered: always mixed just right; propelling the vocal and creating plenty of emotion and story. A stunning song from a wonderful young talent. It will be a very busy and prosperous future for FLETCHER.

It will be fascinating watching FLETCHER’s career unfold and spark. A stunning young woman who has such a drive and confidence. You do not find too many musicians that can appeal to the heart, body, soul and mind. Having played Coachella– her first time at the festival- FLETCHER divides her time between home and New York. New Jersey has opportunity and platform for the young artist: perhaps not as many as New York. It is only natural the city’s lure and lights have resonated with the young American. Right now, she is ensuring Avalanche is heard by as many as possible. The song sells itself- the energy and addictiveness; the wonderful performance- but FLECTHER is not going to leave it there. She is someone who puts her everything into music. That passion and commitment are likely to pay dividends. The Pop market is a busy and competitive one. There are a lot of bright, confident female artists: each with their own take on sunny, screw-your-troubles dance. FLETCHER’s unique blend of youthful indiscretion, uplift-in-the-face-of-adversity, and pure confidence will see her stand aside from the crowd. Warpaint and Live Young Die Free have promoted messages of seizing the day and living for the moment- being comfortable who you are and embracing your strengths.

This positivity and humanitarian approach to music is something that needs encouraging and promulgating. Few musicians have the same style, personality, and sensibility as New Jersey’s FLETCHER. Her fashion and style stand in the mind. A young woman with a mix of sophistication and spontaneity; youthfulness and class- a stunning human who is inspiring many others. Avalanche has a Sugar-Pop vibe: a mainstream sound that is attracting radio stations and the press. Even if you are not a fan of the genre- FLETCHER counts the likes of Adele as heroes- you should definitely check out Avalanche. It is a song a lot stronger and compelling than you’d think. There is no cheap production and processed vocals; lazy lyrics and clichés- just an assured and ambitious artist who knows what she wants. I would love to see FLECTHER come to the U.K. and bring her music here. She is sure to find audiences and venues here. London would be especially hospitable and welcoming. We have a lot of like-minded musicians that she could support; eager crowds waiting to flock- something to think about, for sure. Whether a new E.P. is due this year- momentum and speculation suggest that could happen- I am excited to see what happens. Warpaint was released a year ago and launched FLETCHER as one of Pop’s most instant and individual acts. Avalanche arrives with that same rabble, rouse, and nuance.

I know FLETCHER has been particularly affected by the recent deaths in the U.S. Not just the Pulse nightclub shootings: the untimely and cruel death of Christina Grimmie. Someone who not only connects with her generation and peers: a person that expresses the pain and confusion in America right now. It is an odd and troubling time: the hostility, danger, and uncertainties are all real and present. Against this backdrop, we have an artist that provides music that takes our troubles away; digs deep and elicits something primal, wonderful and joyous. Songs that address teenager themes- a sense of rebellion and living in the moment- and having pride in yourself- there are many sides and dimensions to FLETCHER. British artists like Dua Lipa- who have a similar sound and aesthetic- are starting to gain traction and respect. Perhaps there is less effusiveness and expectation in the band market; more credible Pop acts coming through- there is a change in the wind. Many have this expectation of mainstream-aiming popstars: that too-sweet and over-polished sound; the naivety and lack of quality.

That is still true of many artists out there. Those getting attention and respect are taking Pop’s backbone and giving it respectability and originality. FLETCHER’s music is replete with powerful, shining vocals; choruses that are proud and crowd-uniting- plenty of depth, maturity and detail too. All of us- no matter where you are in the world- are feeling a certain pain and fatigue right now. The world is becoming unsure and we need to discover something that provides a blanket- speaks to us and lets us know it will all be okay. When mere words fail- they can seem quite trite and meaningless at times- music fills that void. Whilst known best in the U.S.; it cannot be too long before FLETCHER transcends the waters and is a huge name across Europe and Australia. She could ably dominate both continents: I know for sure Britain would embrace her in her bosom. In fact, Asia would not be immune: such is the adaptability and ubiquitousness of her lyrics, music and vocals. That will give her much to think about. The road awaits her. If finances are a little restricted- and she will need to wait a while- the world is out there; keen to see her. Avalanche is another confident, impressive step from an artist who grows stronger with each song; a personality and human you easily fall in love with. Colourful, beautiful and strong; wise, unique and charming. Truly, there is nobody…

QUITE like FLETCHER.

 

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Follow FLETCHER

 

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/findingFLETCHER?fref=nf

Twitter:

https://twitter.com/findingfletcher

Instagram:

https://www.instagram.com/findingxfletcher/

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Music

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TRACK REVIEW: Scarlett Saunders- Windmill

TRACK REVIEW:

 

Scarlett Saunders

 

 

Windmill

 

9.5/10

 

Windmill is available at:

https://soundcloud.com/scarlett-sings/windmill-1

RELEASED:

June 2016

GENRES:
Pop; Alternative; Folk

ORIGIN:

Suffolk, U.K.

The E.P. Blue Again is available soon

TRACK LISTING:

I Should Know

Under My Feet

Circus

Windmill

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IT is not hardly an exaggeration saying few artists…

jump off the page and get straight into the heart. I am not going to bandy words like ‘level’ and ‘soul’ around too liberally: musicians that strike you on various levels- first and last time I will use that word- are always likely to remain in the soul- ditto- and appeal. I have touched on this issue previously: how important personality and characteristics are to music. Before I come to my featured artists; I wanted to look at the people behind the songs; what we (or I especially) seek in a musician; those that shun the cheap comforts of fame for something purer and more meaningful. As more and more people come into the musical bosom- allured by its freedom and magic- it is harder to resonate and remain. There is a disposal element to modern music. From the quick-and-easy streaming services; the rotunda of radio interviews and ask-the-same-questions interviews; the mass of music out there- how are we ever going to decide who should be followed and who to forget? I will not go into the- rather divisive and hot issues- regarding music’s quality: whether we peaked and have been seeing diminished returns ever since. What I do know is how many wonderful acts are out there: the variety of options/sounds available is staggering. Because of that- and the desire to find that U.S.P. in a musician- I look at the human being making the music. Maybe a radio interview or performance will stick in the mind; a bonhomie or sense of fun: whatever it is; each time (that spark is ignited) it makes me feel hopeful. So many musicians project little interest beneath the surface- a façade of grey and brick; simply about the music alone. All the greatest artists of all-time have possessed that distinct edge: a sense of magic and mystery that separates them from the pack. The music business is an exhausting and demanding mistress. The rigors and realities can drain the most optimism of us: it is understandable few musicians have the energy to connect with the listener fully. You do not need to brim with life and perform a stand-up routine: just something that interests me; hooks the imagination and ensures I keep coming back time again. The disposal element- I alluded to earlier- means so many artists are heard and forgotten; we move onto the next musician with a fickle lack of regard.

Being someone who is quite creative and ambitious- across various mediums- I love musicians that have an artistic side; extra-curricular interests that they can bring into their music. ‘Art’ is not a word that is reserved to painting: it translates across music, film and various platforms. In order to become a fuller and more educated songwriter/musician: connecting with the wider world; taking up other passions and hobbies- that can make the music so much richer and interesting. Not only that: it means the person making those sounds is far more intriguing and fascinating than your average musician. This brings me, rather artfully- see what I did? – to Scarlett Saunders. Before I carry my point on- and go onto a new one- I wanted to introduce Saunders to you:

Creative polymath Scarlett Saunders is an old school artist. Kickstarting her days by painting on foraged wood, she then makes her way to acting school for a twelve-hour stretch before going home and working late into the night by channeling her remaining creative energy into wonderfully poetic pop music. For Scarlett, all mediums of creativity reflexively bleed into her work. Music is one of several mediums open to her, all of which are tended and watered with equal dedication. Her fixation with art stems not from any ego-flattering preoccupation with being an artiste or celebrity. She entertains no highfalutin dreams of top 40 stardom. Instead it stems from something much purer; a driving need to express herself purely to entertain and enrich her life. Growing up in a house where her mother didn’t believe in TV or games as a form of entertainment, she would sing or read to occupy herself. The result, as manifested in her music, is a close emotional connection to her subject matter. Music and lyricism are as natural to her as eating or breathing. On her debut EP ‘Blue Again’ she goes some way to prove that, producing four graceful and lyrical compositions that explore human relationships and remembrances. With writing as concise and direct as hers, all the world will surely be her stage”.

Windmill has already been championed and lauded by Clash: the music’s freshness and beauty sound strange and original; you cannot connect Scarlett Saunders with anyone else. As you can tell from her biography: Scarlett Saunders is someone deeply committed to art in all realms. Saunders is someone from a different time. Her rural, woodland-based childhood is the stuff of novels and classic literature. Charming, quaint and highly impressive: Saunders is the type of musician you fall in love with. There is no pretense and zeal for limelight- she shuns the shallowness of chart positions and big money- but an honesty and commitment to the craft of music-making. The term ‘left-field’ is employed when speaking of Saunders. Her music is instant and definable- Pop moments ensure urgency and familiarity are detected- but a literary, strange serenity lingers- music that has nuance and hidden depths; many layers and components. Scarlett Saunders is not someone who feels comfortable tickling her ego and hyping herself: much more at home painting and getting her music created; a more simple and earnest life. All of these considerations- the woman behind the music- appeal to me profoundly. Before I have heard a single note: I am invested, entranced and seduced. Take away the element of beauty- Saunders is extremely beautiful; an issue hard to ignore- and look at the kind of human she is. Modest and engaging; of-the-past but in-tune with the modern market- a rare musician that is ready-made for the masses. If her songs do not buckle the knees- they surely will- you only need to look at Saunders’ artwork (attached in this review). Everything she produces has evocativeness and poetry; personal depth and incredible detail- hardly surprising from an accomplished artist and creative polymath. Blue Again is an E.P. full of immediacy and urgency; explorations of love lost and time passing: a contradictory and conflicting set of songs that can win the die-hard Pop lover and studier of left-field music.

Trying to gauge Saunders’ musical future and development is incumbent on her current efforts. Her first E.P. – and real statement in music- it (Blue Again) is a stunning and powerful record from a musician that has been preparing (for this) her entire life. Influences like Jeff Buckley (Windmill) and Ella Fitzgerald (I Should Know; Under My Feet) can be heard. If you are inclined towards any of these musicians- and similar-sound musicians- you would do well to investigate Scarlett Saunders more carefully.  Whilst Blue Again is the debut E.P. from Saunders: the four-track release brings together childhood memories and tough adolescence; her current-day conflicts and everything in-between. It is a life’s work, essentially. The detail and vivacity that has gone into the creation is beguiling. So many different aspects hit you upon first listen- more unveil their beauty when you play (the E.P.) again. An upbringing that focused on music- various singers and styles- and art has prepared Saunders for a music career. So many influences and elements go into the music: making sure it is borderless and open-to-all. A populist and omnipresent E.P. – few people will come away feeling dissatisfied or indifferent. It is a magnetic and engrossing E.P. that leaves you wanting more. Whether that desire will be slaked this year- or in the coming year- I am not certain. The momentum is strong and critical approval at an all-time high. It would be great to see another E.P. from Saunders in the coming year: she is a musician we all want to see go as far as possible.

Windmill is Blue Again’s closing track- ending the E.P. on a huge high. After the tensions, nerves and anger of previous numbers: Windmill is as evocative and peace-seeking as its namesake. A tender arpeggio opens the track. You can hear embers of Jeff Buckley in the guitar notes- should check to see if she was using a Telecaster. The plaintive, dreamy notes transport my mind to Live at Sin-é: when the young American was starting to gain the attention of record music executives (Columbia would eventually win those bragging rights). Part introduction-to-Hallelujah-cum-1993-New-York-Coffee-House: a sweet sound that transports the mind to a fine time. Having built a solid- and fascinating foundation- the cobweb-thin guitar waltz sees our heroine come to the microphone. Elongating and pacing the vocals- adding urgency and grit to them- “I want to feel your gentle hands” is some of te earliest utterances. Imploring (her lover or friend) not to turn around: there is that desire for closeness and connection. A pure song that wears its heart on sleeve: you are helpless to overcome and ignore the beauty and tenderness. Many will find links to Ella Fitzgerald and Jazz greats. Saunders’ voice has that tone which will remind you of the likes of Fitzgerald and Holiday- so powerful and natural; surpassing most her peers in terms of passion and evocativeness. Crying about love before- whether a lover or friend; it is hard to tell- our heroine is there; arms ready and willing to provide support and landing. The windmill analogies/metaphors are impressively done: never heavy-handed or clunky; beautifully written; ensuring the listener lets their imaginations fly. (Spinning and unstable) her subject needs guidance and stability.

The wind is blowing hard- representing the forces of life and the uncertainties- and feet are hovering close to the ground: enforcing that need for gravity and certainty. Every word presented makes my mind more curious and nimble. It is hard not to transport yourself into the moment and become a witness- our heroine is sailing and fighting against the breeze. Spinning and running in circles- the windmill representation at its starkest and most defined- you sense Saunders battling against emotions and love. Like all great sounds: every listener will have their own sense of interpretation and truth. Perhaps a sweetheart has caused upheaval and distress- Saunders is trying to sort her head out and seek direction- or maybe it is not as clear-cut and straight. Backed by a solitary guitar- those Buckley/New York coffee shop ideas keep coming to mind- you can picture a young Buckley on stage in the zone- playing to a few slaw-jawed patrons. Such is the nature of the production: it is as though you are in the room with Saunders; sat right beside her as she pours her heart out. Every progressing second leads me in the direction of love and a past break-up. Wind blowing in her head- the heroine becomes more intriguing with each line- the subject (whether friend or former love) has opened their heart and been damaged- “You’ve got the world hooked on a string”. Saunders is hooked in and helpless: perhaps misguided into a new romance or repeating old patterns; a confidante that cannot resist but become involved- you are constantly unpicking ideas and digging into their possibilities. “Full of you” and “Full to the brim” of love/you: an arresting and evocative sentiment that is as heartfelt as any thought expressed in Windmill. “Running in circles”- the boy seems to be doing; causing Saunders to do likewise- but that seems to be okay. Not wanting things to change- there is an ease and sense of seduction to the revelation- the opinions change- your mind looks at something more positive and redemptive. As you get your head together- and think you have things figured- the puzzle pieces (verbal ones at least) are all placed.

Ending the track is a building storm- the windmill has been described; its driving force comes into the spotlight- of white noise and guitar flurry. Dreamy twinkles- the guitar hovers and creates something delirious and detached. Suspended in the air- like your body is separate from your mind- the dynamic switches and the body is relaxed. Windmill began- and continued to the end third- with passionate vocals and fascinated vocals. The listener was drawn into a tale; a love story that built its scenes and images. At the point of complete immersion- surrendering yourself to the grace and intricacies of the song- something more all-consuming and awe-inspiring takes its place. To begin; the lyrics built atmosphere and story: now, the composition takes things in another direction. Sparse, cosmic (hollow) strings begin to dull and quite; a white noise takes its place- bonding with a crackle; echo. An original and hugely unexpected finale: every listener will be blown away and overwhelmed. Few artists manage to encompass so many different possibilities, ideas, and emotions into a short passage: Scarlett Saunders does it; seemingly without breaking into a sweat. A musician that has a definite feel, intuition and authority: Windmill us a stunning way to end Blue Again. Not only does it end the E.P.: it introduces the music world to one of its most unique and seraphic youngsters.

I Should Know opens Blue Again with a hard and determined vocal. Against atmospheric and stirring electronics: our heroine keeps her voice tense and edgy- a contrast to the later, sweeter sounds. Someone has lived with “no regret”; living to impress. The E.P.’s opener was inspired by her father. Dating a 19-year-old- his daughter was the same age at the time- there is definite anger and disapproval. Hands in each other’s pockets- a mismatch that seems unnatural and displeasing- you can hear that darkness and tension at every stage. Channeling the same magic and drama as Lykke Li- many will make comparisons in the vocal style- the song gets right to the heart of things. The crowds watch- the girlfriend is dressed rather trashy; hardly an adult by the sounds- and eyes are cast their way. Daughterly pride and support are lacking- few can blame Saunders. “Are you stupid enough to touch her with your love?” is one of the harshest and most striking lines from the E.P. I am not sure about the circumstances- whether Saunders’ parents divorced or what happened- but there is a resentment and vitriol; a sense of disgust at how things have worked out. Warm, creamy syths. ensure there is  buoyancy and lightness to proceedings: a balance is held which keeps I Should Know level-headed and wise. Despite the internal confusions- someone so young having to process this- the vocal/lyrics is dealt with maturity and strength. Echoed backing vocals- wordless and pressing- sit with bubbling bursts of synthesisers and electronics. This central mantra- her dad being foolish enough to entertain an ingénue airhead- is not sitting well. Regretting decisions- asking for her name and becoming involved- you can detect that hurt and upset. Saunders’ voice is pure and gorgeous from start to end- only occasionally showing the cracks of emotion. In a strange way, the song is an anthem: something people would chant and dance to; perhaps not realising the song’s very personal relevance.

Under My Feet offers some light and change of fortune. Delicate, soul-touching piano lines fuse with echoed, spectral swathes. Saunders looks at her life and losses; how foolhardy she has been at times. A lead guitar- steel and nervy- is a perfect representation of the song’s core and ideals. A musical experience that brings us into the heroine’s heart: such an amazing and standout track from Blue Again. Too stony and hard to truly love- realising scars are deep and she needs to time to be with herself- you get an insight into a very special and complicated woman. If the sentiments and revelations are quite harsh: the way they are presented and sung gives Under My Feet a tenderness and sense of compassion. You never hear the song and feel weighed-down and sorrowful- you always root for the heroine. Not holding anything back- true disclosure and taking a long look in the mirror- there is that need to push forward and make changes. Chains have held her back- the need to be unshackled and free- but there’s a hope and end to the tunnel. Few artists are as brave and revealing in music- when it comes to their own faults and hindrances- which is to be applauded. Far from being a wallowing, woe-is-me song: Under My Feet is one of the most heartfelt and pure offerings from this year’s new musicians.

Circus is a heartbreaking and emotive number that looks back at first love- “We were only 16 when we first met”. The lovers were at the fairground: the speed and merriment of the carousel juxtapose against the gravity of reality and reflection. A honey-rich and divine vocal- reminding me a little of Billie Marten- against spiraling, swirled synths. The past days are fondly remembered- the innocence and freedom of those days- against the rather disappointing and sameness of today. The lovers are going round in circles- ironical, when we look back at the fairground setting of the opening- and there is wistfulness- the need to go back and recapture those moments. Stuttering, juddering synths. lead to hard and primal beats: signaling new insight and revelation. Remembrance of “Jumping through glitter” comes into our heroine’s mind. Maybe her current life is not as fun and fulfilling; perhaps strained and stressed. These past images keep a flame alive; a desire that cannot be extinguished. Saunders never lets her voice become too depressive and intense: it is always intoxicating and beautiful. You become entrapped in the song and are a character in the dreams: watching things unfold; the smiles and giggles. Towards the closing phases; the serenity and etherealness of Saunders’ voice get into the head- an impossibly delicious song that shows what a talent (she is).

Windmill’s flows, ebbs, and majesty bring Blue Again to a special and marvelous close. Unable to quite take it all in at first- you need to go back and get a real impression of the E.P. – that deceptive simplicity takes you unaware. The vocal is a deeply nuanced and wonderful instrument: something that makes every word dramatic and alive. The compositions can pack Pop chorus- plenty of energy and uplift- but are more detailed and layered than that. Whether you hear shades of Lykke Li or FKA twigs- there are threads of each- you will never be disappointed. Sometimes, the vocals are sturdy and imperious- as with I Should Know– or feather-light and crystalline- the rest of the E.P. Stunning lyrics and personal truths- a balance of openness and oblique- make every song precious, valuable and wonderfully compelling. Her social media numbers might be modest (but growing) right now: Blue Again will not only get those figures triplicate: they will bring Saunders’ music to the worldwide masses. Her career is soon to explode.

Felixstowe artist Scarlett Saunders seems contented and comfortable doing what she does: painting and producing art; spending her days making music. This harks back to her early years where she would spend her days acting and painting: returning home to record songs into the night. The routine and day-to-day have hardly altered: what is different is the attention coming her way. Her four-track E.P. – I will touch on in more detail- boasts so many sides and tales. Stoniness and an impenetrable façade- unable to be open enough to love- and family turmoil; fallen heroes and first loves- all explored in a dazzling and variegated E.P. It is small wonder Saunders is starting to get attention and seeing her stock rise. People and publications are starting to talk: where she goes from here is entirely up to her. Of course, there is plenty of potential and options open. As Blue Again proves: Saunders has a spellbinding sound that I like nobody out there. The songs are accessible and easy-to-understand but have their own personality and complexities. Living such a fascinating life- I think so, anyway- one gets little windows into (Saunders’) psyche with the E.P. Maybe another E.P. is already in the mind; perhaps a full-length release? Whatever she has brewing- or would just prefer to tour the current record- it will be fascinating following her footsteps. If she comes to London to perform- or to the south coast- I will try and see her in action. I can only imagine how evocative and transformative her songs are in the flesh: the chance to witness something profound, first-hand.  Windmill is a beautiful and unforgettable end to a sensational E.P. I opened by talking about personality and human-touch readability in musicians- how few modern examples allow us a window into their life. I hope Saunders has a good group of friends- a boyfriend perhaps- because I imagine her in her house (something quite modest and woodland-set).

The nights spent painting, perhaps; the days recording music. It seems like an idyllic lifestyle but one that might come with drawbacks- a certain loneliness; the realisation there is a world out there hungry for her music. On that note: surely international orders will come in (following Blue Again’s release) and a chance to conquer new nations. In the U.K., we are going to hear a lot more from her. The truth of the matter is this: Scarlett Saunders is doing everything just right at the moment. From her phenomenal artwork- it would be good to see an exhibition one day- and the way she writes music- so much wisdom, depth and emotion- to her incredible voice- one that is completely addicting and beautiful. If Blue Again is the sound of a young woman in the middle of sorrow and hurtful remembrance- explaining and revealing it through music- one hopes- in a strange way- few things change. Like any songwriter; she has experienced her share of pain and heartache- from romantic full-start and personal loss- but the way this is channeled and unveiled is sumptuous. I wish happiness for Saunders and know she will be okay: the hard and unforgiving times are rationlised and distilled in her songs; hopefully elevating some of the burden. If she continues on this path- her style and source of inspiration; her original music- then she could well be one of the future stars of the mainstream. Naturally, that payday and peak are not something Saunders dreams of- she is much more content doing what she does and playing for her fans- the potential of worldwide exposure should not be ignored. Raised in a quiet- some would say overly-disciplined and Spartan- household- where T.V. and video games were banned- Saunders’ mind and attentions turned to literature and music- instilling a desire for endless coexistence; it is her one true love and companion. Maybe she would be a different person- or a lesser musician- were she brought up in a more ‘traditional’ and spoiled household. Thankfully her parents instilled something more fulfilling in the young Saunders: the importance of words and music; how T.V. and video games are a distraction; a false education in essence. This ethos and mindset have bled into Scarlett Saunders’ music. The way she does things and conducts her career are to be applauded. Not your everyday musician- desiring mass attention and endless promotion- Saunders is happy in her own zone. She does not need an arena stage: the world itself provides that sort of pulpit. A traditional and bygone attitude in an ultra-fast, technology-obsessed era: Scarlett Saunders’ day-to-day existence is…

THE way we all should live.

 

___________________________________

Follow Scarlett Saunders

 

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/scarlettsings

Twitter:

https://twitter.com/scarlett_sings

______________________________

Music

https://soundcloud.com/scarlett-sings

INTERVIEW: Sasha McVeigh

INTERVIEW:

 

 

Sasha McVeigh

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HAVING reviewed/interviewd artists like…

Hannah Dorman; I know there are a lot of eager British Country artists coming through. Combining- the genre- with Rock and Soul: you need to keep your eyes peeled. Country music- in this country, at least, has always had a bit of a poor reputation- seen as inferior to the U.S. equivalent. Perhaps that is true of the ‘older’ examples: the new, young breed of Country artists (in Britain) are causing re-appropriation and resurgence. I caught up with our leading proponent, Sasha McVeigh. At present, she is looking to perform in the U.S. – visa issues are delaying that a bit- but the young heroine has determination and ambitions. When I’m Over You– Sasha’s latest single- marks her as an extraordinary talent with a massive future. I was keen to discover Sasha’s influence; how recent events in the U.S. – including the shooting at Pulse- affect her as a musician0 any advice she would give to new musicians…

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Hi Sasha. How are you? How has your week been?

It’s been up and down. Right now I’m waiting for my U.S. visa to come in so I can get over and start my tour!

Those new to your music: can you tell us a little about yourself?

Well, I’m a British country singer/songwriter but my music also has Pop, Folk and Soul overtones. I’m very real and honest in my songwriting and I consider my fans to be friends. We’re all on this journey together.

Being a Country singer-songwriter: which artists were influential to you growing up?

I’d have to say the more traditional artists were my major influences at first; Dolly Parton and Willie Nelson were the main two. My dad is the big Country music fan in the house and he would dance with me around our coffee table to C.M.T. when I was little. I loved Shania Twain growing up and also Elvis Presley. Music was always playing in my house. It went from Motown to Cat Stevens in the blink of an eye so I had a very diverse musical upbringing.

Do you think there is a growing/notable Country scene in this country- or is it something still U.S.-led?

The perception of the genre, over here, has changed drastically in the last two years. Country music was very much considered to be a bit of a joke in the U.K., but with more and more American artists coming over and the rise of U.K. Country acts- people have finally started changing their opinions and seeing that it’s probably the most genuine genre out there. I’m not sure that it will ever be as popular over here as it is in the U.S. because, in America, it’s the genre is a part of American culture and it’s tied up with patriotism- whereas we don’t have that same assimilation with it here.

You have played a number of gigs and cities in the U.S. – Sasha’s first American dates saw her play in Nashville- and the U.K. Which stands in your mind as particularly memorable?

Oh wow, there have been so many incredible gigs. I’ll never forget the times I spent singing on Broadway in Nashville at Tootsie’s and Rippy’s etc. I made lifelong friends there and just learnt so much from all the musicians I played with. Also, I had the chance to sing the national anthem when I played the main stage at Taste of Country Festival in New York. There were 20,000 people in the audience and everyone was singing the anthem along with me: I had tears in my eyes it was so magical. However, a huge highlight for me was when I played the Academy of Country Music Awards Kick-Off Concert in Las Vegas with Hunter Hayes. It was the first big show I’d ever done; my face was on a 100ft billboard and everything. I would give anything to go back and do that again!

This year has been a busy one for you. What does the rest of 2016 hold for you?

Well, I have my U.S. tour coming up where I’m performing at festivals and also doing some headline shows all over the country. I’m also planning on recording my next record later this year which is very exciting.

Aside from yourself, of course: which new musicians have struck your ear recently?

I’m not really sure who I’d pick in terms of “new musicians” but in terms of ‘new to me’ (in that, people I don’t normally listen to or hadn’t heard of before) I’d have to say the band, Disturbed. My band is also a band in their own right, Loveless Effect – you should check them out, by the way, their stuff is killer and they just released a new single – but we were on our way to a show and they put Disturbed’s new C.D. in and Sound of Silence came on- they’ve done a cover of it and it’s the most hauntingly beautiful thing I think I’ve ever heard. It’s been played on ‘Radio 2 a bunch of times recently and it catches my ear every time.

Reviews of your live performances have been very effusive and impressive. What is it about live performances that connect you with the audience? Have (early-career) dates across America given you a lot of confidence and experience?

It has definitely served me well, gaining so much experience in Nashville. When I started doing this professionally in 2012, I wasn’t very confident on stage. It wasn’t that I was nervous; I would just do things like touch my hair and fiddle with my clothes. It really allowed me to come into my own and get a stage presence. Live shows are my absolute favourite and I think it’s hugely important to connect with the audience. I got a great tip from Jerrod Niemann when I performed at Country Jam. He said he was given the advice from another artist; it was to remember when you play a big festival, the way you connect with the people way in the back is to look into the cameras that they have on the stage because those feed to the big screens and that’s what the people at the back focus on. I think that’s how you can make a show in front of 10,000 people really intimate.

I Stand Alone– Sasha’s debut album released last year- was met with acclaim and fan support (its creation was the result of a crowd-funding campaign). What themes and events inspired the album’s creation?

All of those songs told the story of my life right up to the recording process of the album. I wrote the title track, I Stand Alone, when I was 14 and then Someone to Break My Heart was written a week before I went into the studio. Recording a full album was something I’d been dreaming of since I started all of this. I was dying for these songs, these stories to be heard and it was amazing to see them get the response that they did.

 

 

On that front: can we expect a new album/single any time this year?

That seems to be the million-dollar question lately. I hope to get something new released this year. Obviously, I already released my new single, When I’m Over You, which is a definite taster of the new music that’s to come. It honestly all depends on finances and whether I can find or raise $25,000 to record an album or $15,000 for an E.P. I have all the songs ready to go and I even know what the album title will be, it’s all about funding. So, we’ll see, fingers crossed!

Love and heartbreak go into a lot of Country- and all other genre-types- and music. Have relationships and heartache been particularly important to you as a songwriter? How would you say (your style of writing and singing) differs from others?

Songwriting is all about putting emotions into lyrical and musical forms and nothing stirs emotions as much as falling in love; being left heartbroken and falling out of love. Everybody can relate to that. People are actually quite surprised that I haven’t dated a lot of guys because my songs would have them believe otherwise. For example, since August, I’ve probably written 20 songs about the same guy; dealing with different emotions, different angles of the relationship. I never get why the press gives Taylor Swift such a hard time for writing about her exes because EVERYBODY does it, people have been writing about their exes for centuries! But, the point is, I write about whatever is relevant to me. I find it difficult to write from fiction, I prefer to write out of personal experience so that probably makes me different from other people because in general songwriters can just sit down and write a song, I can’t do that. I try to be as honest as possible in my writing so that if I spoke the story, it would be almost identical to the lyrical form. I’ve been told my voice is different from a lot of my contemporaries because I have a deeper tone and of course my British accents comes out from time to time. It’s nice to know I’m unique.

Taste of Country hailed you as a name to watch: you have been backed by the likes of B.B.C. Introducing, Bob Harris, and the U.K. Country Music Awards. Is such attention quite daunting for someone so young?

It can be if I think about it too much. It’s amazing to get recognition from such prestigious music outlets and especially from someone like Bob Harris. He’s been wonderful and I can’t thank him enough for his support. There aren’t words to describe how incredible it feels to have people appreciate my music the way they have. I couldn’t believe it when Taste of Country did an article on me and said I was “one to watch“. It was very surreal.

This year has seen a lot of tragedy and unrest- from famous musicians’ death and the atrocities in Orlando. Has/does this motivate/affect you as a musician? Do happenings like this spur you to get your music out there and bring it to the people?

The music world has lost a lot of greats this year. It’s actually quite sad because artists like Prince and Bowie really shaped their genres and carved new paths in the industry, who knows what it would be like now if it weren’t for them. That kind of thing inspires me to carve out my own path and not be afraid when doors close. It’s a tragedy about Christina Grimmie: she was born a few days before me and she started putting videos on YouTube around the time I did. I loved her videos and I was always so surprised that she didn’t break into the mainstream because her talent was out of this world. It’s scary, thinking about what happened to her. She was doing what she loved and let her guard down to be with her fans, and that guy used it to his advantage. Then a few days later there was the shooting at Pulse. I just don’t really know how to comprehend it all. Orlando is like a second home for me, I’ve been vacationing there since I was three-years-old. I have more friends there than I do in my hometown and it was terrifying watching the events unfold and not being able to get a hold of some of them. Thankfully they’re all okay. I can’t imagine what the families are going through.

You have accomplished so much already. Are there particular things you’d like to tick off your Music Bucket List?

I try not to keep a bucket list if I can help it because then it makes every opportunity seem like a tick in the ‘dream box’ so to speak. But I’m definitely hoping to get to perform at The Ryman in Nashville; if I had a music bucket list: that would be at the top.

 

What advice would you give to anyone following in your footsteps?

Umm…buy a lot of lottery tickets and hope you win! Okay, I’m kidding, but all joking aside, it is a very expensive industry. You need to be prepared to go into debt you may think you’ll never get out of – unless you’re lucky enough to have a wealthy family or an awesome investor. Touring costs money because of hiring venues, renting a vehicle, paying the band. Recording costs money because of the studio, the musicians, and the producer. It costs money to get merchandise made. It costs tens of thousands to get played by major radio and in the U.S. You’ll need around $300,000 to put on a radio tour. You will get more no’s than yes’s. Doors will close and you’ll contemplate giving up at least three-times-a-day. But if you want it enough, you won’t give up. I honestly can’t imagine myself doing anything else. I live and breathe music. For me, it’s not about making millions or ending up on the cover of a magazine. I just want to be able to tour whenever and wherever I want to and be able to record music without restrictions. That’s the dream for me!

Finally- and for being a good sport- you can choose any song and I’ll play it here- it can be one of yours or a particular favourite.

Ooo, nobody’s ever let me do that before…hmmm…well my manager and P.R. guy are probably going to want me to choose one of my songs- but I’ve never been one to do what I’m told so I’m going to go with Jar of Hearts by Christina Perri- because it sits along the lines of what I’ve been writing recently and I’ve always loved the way she portrays the relationship and the guy in the lyrics.

 

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Follow Sasha McVeigh

 

Official:

http://sashamcveighmusic.com/

Facebook:

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

Twitter:

https://twitter.com/sashamcveigh

YouTube:

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

SoundCloud:

https://soundcloud.com/sashamcveigh

Instagram:

https://www.instagram.com/sashamcveigh/