Element is available from:
Milton Keynes, U.K.
4th July 2016
HOW many of us can truly say that we have a grip…
on all the terrific music out there at the moment? One of the most baffling things about music is how vast and disorganised it has all become. I have labored this point many times but it always seems relevant: how do you fully grasp everything that is coming out right now? I get annoyed when an album/act comes along and I am a few weeks late to the party. A lot of the time; there is a band working away and gaining ground- it has passed me by on social media and gone under my radar. Of course, it would be impossible to know everything happening in music. I have pitched the idea of an all-under-one-umbrella site that breaks music down by genre and location. That way, we could seek out all the best of the mainstream; the finest bands/acts coming through and where they are performing- surely not too much housekeeping and maintenance? That brings me, rather eloquently, to my first point which relates to bands and the most original out there. It has been a sore point for me looking at certain bands: those that have very obvious influences and seem tired before they’ve even begun. Hard-hitting, Rock-based bands tend to go for groups like Foo Fighters and Led Zeppelin; Pop bands can come across uninspired and samey- when a genuinely surprising group comes along, that is what peaks my interest. My featured act- who I shall come to anon- have spliced some rather unexpected and wonderful musicians into their mix- creating wonderful music and setting themselves out from the pack. I feel musical education and upbringing- when it comes to raising a wannabe musician- is absolutely essential. The sounds and sensations of the family household will directly enforce the tastes of the child/musician. I read interviews with some musicians who didn’t have a full and varied musical upbringing. Perhaps exposed to recent acts and radio tracks- they have had to do all the legwork themselves; their own music, as such, is limited and unfocused. If music is going to develop and evolve; we need to ensure the next generation get to hear where music came from- the bands and artists that have shaped the face of music. It is not a coincidence that the greatest voice/bands/musicians we have in our midst have enjoyed a rather heady and complete musical education- growing up listening to a whole range of genres and performers.
That brings me to The Hallows; whose membership have been inculcated against bad music; raised on some fine artists that have gone into their own music. Before I continue my point; let me introduce the band to you:
“Championing their own very unique sound, The Hallows are an enchanting concoction of Kate Bush, Muse, Portishead and Tori Amos with their own individual dreamy essence thrown in.
The group’s eclectic sound is a result of the band members’ individual musical meanderings. Sarah has played as a backing vocalist/keyboard/Glockenspiel for Hafdís Huld supporting the likes of Paolo Nutini, Mika and Bloc Party at festivals as large as Glastonbury and SXSW. Joe meanwhile has supported notorious cult pornographic band Rock Bitch (a band renowned for rarely sporting support acts). He and Sarah have also shared the stage with Ronan Keating playing a number of television performances.
Meeting at university, the band shared a house together, in which third band member Dave subjected the group to strict drinking game rules, whilst also ensuring they all ate proper meals (now holding the unofficial title of ‘band chef’).
Sarah has played the role of Snow White whilst working at Disneyland – several elements of this fantasy world clearly making their way into the mystical sound of ‘Element’. As a child, Sarah also lived by a zoo and was kept often awake by roaring lions (the lions would often set the wolves off too, which sounds absolutely terrifying!)
Since forming, the group have been hands on with all aspects of their music including coming up with video concepts, artwork, set design, production and blogging.
Their upcoming album Of Time and Tides is out August 29th and the single ‘Element’ is out July 4th
The group explain: ‘The album is about life, relationships and how things can change over time. The album was written in the spirit of a bygone era because we wanted to encapsulate elements within all our lives that have influenced us both musically and personally. Sarah draws inspiration for the lyrics from the elements because they represent the never ending cycle of life and time in which we exist for a moment. We have combined these influences to create an album that displays our love for atmospheric instrumentation, lush melodies and, hopefully, pop songs you will want to sing along to”.
Whilst I am a few weeks late to their new single, Element; I have loved discovering a band who leave a clear impression in the mind. Looking at their biography and the acts that have compelled them- it gets me thinking about things. I have not seen a band cite Portishead and Kate Bush in the same sentence: a wonderful concoction that you can definitely pick up on. Sarah and Joe Rodriguez were born into a very musical household; as was bass player Dave Pugh. Sarah’s love of Jeff Buckley and Nina Simone was supplemented by her parents’ collection- including AC/DC, Pink Floyd, and Fleetwood Mac. Joe’s drumming passion was fostered by bands like Queen, Radiohead, and The Smashing Pumpkins. Dave’s bass direction was inspired by everyone from Rage Against the Machine, Jimi Hendrix and Cream. All of these musicians have seeped into the imaginations of the trio with their business statement being this: create punchy Pop music that has a big, crowd-pleasing sound. It is a simple mantra but one they live by; their music is capturing the attention of crowds and critics around the country. Before getting down to assessing their music; it is worth spending time looking at a musician’s early days and the best way to endure and survive in the industry. It might not seem like an interesting point but one that gets overlooked by many. It is not good enough to simply rock up and get the band/act together; perform a few cover versions and assume everything, in time, will fall together. So many young musicians hurry into music without considering the elementary building blocks and necessities. The Hallows’ name derived from a lot of thought and consideration. The band started without a name- that would have been an interesting career had they never thought of one- and eventually The Hallows was decided upon. A combination of fire, water; air and earth: sides and elements to their music that seemed, when the name was decided upon, was an obvious choice. The Hallows is a name that sticks in the mind and one the band is very pleased with. The trio did not simply come straight into music and launch into the studio. Some eighteen months of experimentation and rehearsal was laid down before they got into the studio- to start the sessions for their forthcoming album.
Many artists would be itchy and anxious having to wait that long to record music: feeling they are wasting precious time whilst their contemporaries forge ahead. This considered approach and discipline have really paid off as the band has crafted a wonderful single in Element. You can, in the single, hear shades of their influences but the identity and individuality of the members comes through strongest. It would be foolhardy to think that the music alone can speak for an artist. It is not good enough to put a song/songs out there and think that will take care of things. As The Hallows have shown: taking care of all considerations early on creates a large and loyal fan-base. The guys have worked on their website and been concentrating on social media- making sure they connect with fans and reach out. So many artists hide behind screens and never really bond with their fans. It can be disheartening seeing this happening but that is not the case with The Hallows. Our trio has crafted a wonderful official website where all their information and biography can be found. You have links to music and tour dates and get a real glimpse inside the camp of The Hallows. When you go to their Facebook and Twitter pages (links can be found below); it is packed with useful information, photos and quotes- everything the fan and new follower can expect and desire.
Euphoria and Icicles are two previous singles one could compare with Element– if you want a true sense of The Hallows’ sound. Icicles starts with quite a warm vocal but one that leads to some haunting and affected lyrics. Sarah Rodriguez’s voice is serene and soft; she sings about being frozen and waiting for “someone to melt my heart”. Perhaps born out of loneliness and struggle: that desire to have someone come rescue her and soothe her soul. Tender strings linger beneath and lift the song; giving it a graceful, semi-orchestral grandeur- whilst the foreground is kept intimate, pure and still-born. Rodriguez’s voice has a definite combination of Tori Amos and Kate Bush. The former is especially evident and one gets hints of Amos’ Little Earthquakes. Trapped behind “these heavy bones”; the heroine is looking for release and a new way of life- it makes you curious what inspired the song. Wanting the sun to shine and find some warmth: the song gets more atmospheric, emotive and visually arresting by the second. A Nirvana-esque mantra (“Dissolve me”). The haunting guitar arpeggio and flighty, pin-sharp vocal puts one in mind of Amos but not in an obvious way. Rodriguez injects enough of herself and ensures her own tones and personality go into the delivery. The song starts to move through the gears and goes into Absolution-era Muse territory. Reminding me of Butterflies and Hurricanes: there is a definitely shift up and you can sense the song getting heavier and harder. There is never a guitar storm (perhaps would have added an extra bit of spark) but the trio wants to keep the song composed and focus- which they do very confidently. Spectral and gorgeous; that lead vocal stays in the mind and has a very profound effect. Our heroine is tangled in a “web of ice”- one of the most vivid images on the song- and constantly looks for release, relief, and satisfaction. A terrific song that sets out the band’s stall- let’s hope it finds its way into their debut album.
Euphoria begins with more zeal and flair that Icicles– hardly a shock given its title. Right from the off; the song has a Muse-like quality and you can hear that influence come through. Boasting that same echoy, spacey electronics work (especially from Absolution and Origins of Symmetry) you are reminded of the Rock giants. Rodriguez proves what an agile and malleable vocalist she is as here, where Icicles was serene and beautiful; this is more strident, forceful and operatic. The voice rises and gets powerful: able to sustain an intensity and sense of occasion from the first to last. One gets images of waters and mermaids (our heroine hears the mermaids’ song) and that quirkiness, once more, brings you to the shores of Kate Bush and Tori Amos. It is great to hear Bush’s vocal stylings and lyricism come into modern music- you can definitely hear suggestions of her albums The Hounds of Love and Never for Ever. Amos, once more, is a muse and again, Little Earthquakes seems like a focal point. Able to craft an insatiable, crowd-pleasing chorus: Euphoria is catchy and compelling in spades. The lyrics, like Icicles, gets the listener thinking and speculating. The heroine finds the current strong and the waves pull her to shore. Solid, guiding bass has plenty of looseness and groove but it keeps the song disciplined, level and focused. The percussion is tight and compacted but opens up to create rhythm, dance, and impact. The track has a great live-sounding vibe and never under or over-produced. Compositional elements are big but never too bombastic and hysterical- keeping that blend of contemporary Pop and Progressive-Rock in-check. A more celebratory and uplifted song (to Icicles): it shows the two sides of The Hallows and what they are capable of. Element ties together Icicles and Euphoria and is a natural step forward for the three-piece. Containing the passionate, tender elements of Icicles; the race and energy of Euphoria– their most complete and intriguing song so far. I know Of Time and Tides is forthcoming and that will be a fantastic thing to hear. I have not seen the track-listing but can only assume Icicles and Euphoria will feature in the running order. The trio, across the three tracks, show quite a range but have a definitely core sound- one that is unique but brings other musicians to the mind.
Ensuring the opening notes of Element get inside the heart and elicit a reaction: the listener is brought into a very special place. One gets images of beautiful countryside or a tender night; a quiet scene that beckons romantics and lovers. Sparse, potent piano notes have plenty of romance and compassion; leading to Rodriguez’s vocal which is amongst her most beautiful and pure. “The stars call out your name” is the opening line and one that sets the scene. A trio that has always had an ear for romance and love songs: this is, one would imagine here, a more celebratory and positive vibe. Those Bush-Amos elements and sounds come back in this song. I always have time for a singer that can evoke the rawness and vulnerability of Tori Amos; the fragility, child-like quality and balletic purity of Kate Bush. Sarah Rodriguez, having been raised listening to their music, never copycats or panders- her voice has nods to both (Amos and Bush) but her heart and soul go into things; that cannot belong to anyone else. Another still and twilight song: it is just piano and voice at the very start. Our heroine builds images and starts to paint a picture. “Light it up in flames” could be about love and deceleration; it has possibilities and each listener will arrive at their own decision. With regards the vocal and atmosphere of the composition: it is Lana Del Rey who comes to mind. There’s a breathlessness and seductive allure to Rodriguez’s voice and one that matches smoky whisper with a glamorous, alluring beauty. Words are delineated carefully and it seems (our heroine) will “never be the same”; the “hallows will proclaim” and you are brought further into the song.
One is drawn, moth-like, to a very tip-toeing and swooning vocal that packs so much soul and tenderness into it- words that I have used to define Icicles. Whether looking at a sweetheart or friend of hers: Rodriguez is seeing the world through their eyes; gaining new perspective and new lease on life. I am not sure what inspire the track but you can tell how special it is to the group. The production values are exceptional; Seb Pecchia brings the best from the song and gives it a real shine and gloss. I love Euphoria but found the production values were a little too raw- maybe a bit more polish would have brought more from the track. Here, if it were to be too sparse and unfocused, it would dampen the song and the gracefulness and beauty would be lost. Pecchia does not put too much gloss into things but ensures every note and vocal line is given real attention and focus- thusly, the song has a stateliness and definite spelndour. Fascinating and romantic at every point; you find yourself seduced by the vocal and really interested where the lyrics stem from- at least you will if you listen hard enough. The “golden autumn light” is sought and upon us- the song has a real dynamic shift and the percussion comes in. Adding some heartbeat and season-change; the drum work gives the track a kick and autumnal feel, appropriately. “Hold your head up/and count the stars” are inspirational words that could be direct to a subject- or a more general profession to the world at large. Few songs address positivity and hopefulness without cynicism at all. The Hallows are a trio that trade in positive, uplifting songs and that is the case here- one that will get inside the mind of every listener and resonate hugely. Perhaps not solely concerned with a lover or personal quest: Element is a track more concerned with delivering philosophy, inspiring messages and a sense of perspective. It is the band’s influences that come to the fore and give the song relatability and background. I have mentioned musicians like Kate Bush and Tori Amos but you can hear them once more. ‘80s Kate Bush and early-‘90s Tori Amos fuse with some modern-day/Honeymoon Lana Del Rey to stir the loins and make the heart skip a beat. Rodriguez is her own woman but has clearly been influenced by these vocal icons- so much emotion, colour and character can be discovered in her delivery.
It would be advisable watching the song’s music video which helps to explain Element and give some visual explanation. The video’s mixture of fairytale charm and domestic insight is a perfect companion. The band keeps pressing and each member comes together wonderfully. Ensuring Element has ample determination, invigoration, and nuance: the instrument bond without crack and there is a definitely telekinetic intuition between the members. Rodriguez’s vocal continues to smile, shine and rise as the listener is fully invested in the song- taking its messages in and building scenarios. Our heroine seems to be coming from a very personal place and one wonders, as each word is delivered, what the true origins are. I feel there is a mix of circumstance and romance (a good album title, surely?!) that go onto the song. Perhaps a relationship is in her mind but one feels, at the very core, the plight and fate of her friends is attested. Some brooding strings come in to add some drama into the song; it balances well with the vocal and gives Element roundedness and new layers. The video, which sees irascible squaring off between a trio of women- is supported by words of hope and inspiration- a wise person is seeing the world differently and making changes in the world. Suitable of the title; the elements are brought into play as villains and oppressors. The storms and rain cannot break the bonds; the winds and seasons will not change things- this connection is stronger than anything. Lyrics that could be seen as common and well-worn are given new lease and relevance in the hands of The Hallows. Rodriguez is a singer that makes everything sound new and alive- completely intoxicating and swimming. Looking at the video- its Cinderella arc and window into modern-day home life- you get an updated fairytale that will get the listener wondering about the potential of romance- whether the song has a relationship at its base. No matter, for the lyrics and vocals are strong enough to take the imagination to rare heights and you are so hooked by it- the exceptional band performance provides wonderful reality, nuance, and emotion. By the final notes; the stars are calling out your name (the subject) and that pure, pin-drop clarity is back- a perfect bookend to Element. I have witnessed new singers like Billie Marten come through and celebrated for their sensational voices and relatable, listener-friendly songs. Marten’s music takes us into relationships and offers hope- stories of home, hearth, and the heart. The Hallows are a band on the rise and prove how good they are on Element. A gorgeous song that simultaneously lifts the spirit but makes us reflect- a wonderful offering from the Milton Keynes trio.
The Hallows have been busy bees and making sure their forthcoming album, Of Time and Tides, is as good as it can be. If you love Element (who wouldn’t?!) it is likely to contain more of the same blends and sounds. Looking at Twitter; you can see the guys in the studio and the songs being mixed. There is a lot of excitement in the band and it appears like a lot of blood, sweat and tears have gone into the creation (of their debut album). When describing the album’s recording/creation process; the band assesses it thus: ‘The album is about life, relationships and how things can change over time. The album was written in the spirit of a bygone era because we wanted to encapsulate elements within all our lives that have influenced us both musically and personally. Sarah draws inspiration for the lyrics from the elements because they represent the never-ending cycle of life and time in which we exist for a moment. We have combined these influences to create an album that displays our love for atmospheric instrumentation, lush melodies and, hopefully, pop songs you will want to sing along to.’ Tracks like Euphoria and Icicles have given a glimpse into what the album could contain- Element is another bold step that announces The Hallows as one of the best Alternative-Pop bands in the country right now. I opened by looking at the importance of building a foundation before leaping into the music world. The trio has taken care of their websites, promotion, and image and this hard work is starting to pay off. At the moment, they are touring radio stations and getting the word out- making sure Of Time and Tides get into the mind of the listening public. Being young and fresh off the blocks; this has not dampened the ambition and aims of the trio. They want to share the bill with some of their idols- the likes of Muse and Coldplay- and have a definite zeal to succeed and climb the ladder.
Element is a fantastic offering from the Milton Keynes three-piece and a teasing glimpse into their new album. Milton Keynes might not seem the most obvious place for great new music but, as The Hallows, have shown; there are some terrific acts to be discovered. The band themselves- in an interview with Know Me Better Music– highlight Forest of Fools as ones-to-watch. An incredible live proposition that has played at Glastonbury– a group worth some of your time. Icarus Fell source Queens of the Stone Age into their tight-focused, stunning songs. The Shamed, like Icarus Fell, prefer their music heavy and loud and have captured the imagination of the local scene- a band that seems primed for the mainstream. You can imagine The Hallows, in addition to their local contemporaries, enjoying festival headline slots and being fixtures of modern music. I have never really considered Milton Keynes to house that many great musicians but I have been proven wrong. Venues like The Stables, MK11 and The Craufurd Arms provide platform and exposure for artists to play; there is a rich local scene that has seen many hungry acts gain a valuable springboard. The Hallows seem contended and happy where they are and finding plenty of opportunity to perform and get their music out there. In the next couple of months; the trio will play Milton Keynes and London; they release their album and will, no doubt, find themselves on the promotional circuit. It is a busy time for the young friends and a very exciting one. Element has scooped accolade and fevered reviews so it seems like the future will be very promising. I have waxed lyrical about the great albums that have arrived from music throughout 2016- it is going to keep going for the next few months. We have been really spoiled by some fantastic record and this has compelled the young newcomers to up their game and come to play. Over the last few years, the quality and nature of music have been rather ho-hum. This year, it has all changed and I am delighted to see a real explosion occur. The Hallows are springing into music at just the right time. Element is a wonderful taster from Of Time and Tides and shows what the band is capable of. Take the time out of the day to experience a sensational trio that is on the cusp of something very special. If they keep their sights set and the music strong; they could well go on to be…
ONE of our finest acts.
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