FEATURE: Inside Lark Recordings

FEATURE:

 

 

Inside Lark Recordings

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 MANY people assume, when thinking about new music, that the best…

and most worthy artists are exclusive to the city. We forget how many great artists and studios are available locally – supporting some wonderful music and stars of the future. One such studio is Lark Recordings. Based in Surrey: I was afforded the opportunity to visit them and gain an insight into the work they do – meeting the people that produce the music and support the artists (that record there). I was fortunate to chat to Producer/Owner Andy and  Marketing Assistant Elena – and the fantastic Jacqui Brown.

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ABOUT LARK RECORDINGS

Lark is a digital content company that produces audio and video products for global distribution via all major digital music and video outlets including iTunes, Amazon, Spotify and YouTube.

We own a portfolio of digital labels that specialise in curating albums and playlists by combining new recordings with strong catalogue material across Pop, Rock, Classical, Jazz and New Age genres. We also operate Lark Studios, a high quality audio and video recording facility in Surrey.

Founded in 2007, our team has over thirty years experience in the recording, production, music and entertainment business. Our team are experienced in all aspects of sound engineering and music production from recording intimate acoustic sets with bands such as The Stereophonics, Nick Heyward, Everything But The Girl, The Manic Street Preachers and Squeeze to classical recordings and staging and recording ‘Party in the Park’ over a period of many years.

We feel very lucky to have an experienced team of engineers and producers who have worked with renowned artists across a wide spectrum of musical tastes but are equally passionate about working with the fantastic array of local talented community and youth groups.

 

Landa at Lark

A HISTORY AND LOOK INSIDE LARK RECORDINGS

I got the opportunity to chat to studio Producer/Owner Andy about how Lark Recordings got started. He explained how the studio has been running for eight years; three years in its current location in Artington.

Helping to builds careers up; Lark Recordings help artists “gain a following” as Andy explained; a way for talent young stars to gain a foothold and get valuable experience. With regards the range of recordings/genres that have been laid down in the studio – everything from Classical recordings to Pop has been recorded at Lark.

Andy explained how much great local talent there is throughout Guildford and Surrey – Lark Recordings is a way of promoting them and ensuring they have recording facilities and expertise available at their disposal. It is not just a case of artists coming into the studio, recording their music and going off into the world. The guys at Lark Recordings help musicians get their songs just right, but it doesn’t stop there. It is expensive to rent in Guilford, as Andy explained, which can put artists and people off – the reality of living and performing can be a daunting balancing act. Lark Recordings is an affordable and supportive space: Andy, Jacqui and Elena (who I will introduce later).

EQUIPMENT

Our studio is based around a 24 channel analogue Allen and Heath (GS-R24M) desk with a selection of analogue outboard equipment including:

Microphones: Nuemann U87, SE Z5600 Valve, ElectroVoice RE20, Avantone CV-12, SM57s, SM58s, Sontronics Halo, Shure Beta 52, SE GM10, Shure PG48s, matched pair Oktava MK012, SE X1.

Pre-amps: Trident Series 80B, dbx286, Focusrite Liquid Saffire, Allen & Heath.

Analogue Outboard: Urei LA4 Compressors, Thermionic Culture Phoenix Valve Dual Channel Compressor, TC Electronic Finaliser, DBX channel strip, TL Audio 5013 Ivory Dual Channel Valve EQ, FMR RNC1773, Joe Meek MC2.

We run both Logic X and Pro Tools 10 and our plugins include:
Melodyne, Waves Gold Bundle, PSP Vintage Warmer and Old Timer, Slate Digital Virtual Channel, Isotope Ozone 5 & 6, RX 3, Nectar 2 and Stutter Edit.

In addition to our studio, we have a 24-track digital mobile rig for recording in any venue”.

Chelsea Hart

ARTISTS RECORDING AT LARK

When at the studio; Andy gave me an insight into the musicians that come through the doors. I was curious to know whether it was unfair areas like Guildford get overlooked when it comes to great musicians – as opposed to the larger cities.

Andy stated how the A.C.M. (The Academy of Contemporary Music) and the University of Surrey are producing so many great young musicians – those that can more than rival the best the cities provide. In conjunction with high rent prices (and cost of living) is the comparative lack of local venues – there are a few, Andy pointed out, but not a hugely thriving scene.

Bars like The Star Inn and the legendary Boileroom provide a platform but there not a huge amount. I got a chance to listen to one local artist, Meg Birch, and a couple of songs she had performed at the studio. The single Feel Alive has Country vibes and a real flair of Nashville: one of the slickest, catchiest and most impassioned Country track I have heard all year. If you have not heard her music: she is an artist that is well worth a look. Her E.P. is out in October but will be proceeded by a single release next month. A huge, soulful voice – that recalls Adele and Amy Winehouse – she is one of the most exciting musicians playing locally.

Meg Birch has recorded at Lark as a solo artist and as part of Megana

Karizma Duo is another top act that has recorded at Lark. They have a terrific repertoire of songs and turn tracks inside out. Andy explained how songs can be saturated and how hard it can be to successful cover a song. Karizma Duo reinvents songs and gives such a new spin on them- making them sound fresh and original.

Image result for karizma duo

Karizma Duo

Chelsea Hart, Chris Snelling and Alice Lamb are a trio of names Andy tipped to me: to be honest; there is a long list of fantastic young musicians that have recorded at Lark; all demonstrating what a variation of talent is performing across Surrey. Other stunning upcoming acts like Elena Ramona, Max Tanner and Chess Galea have recorded at the studio and created some of the finest moments there.

 Alice Lamb is a young artist to watch very closely

 

ALWAYS THE SUN

Lark Recordings are involved with the inaugural Always the Sun festival in Stoke Park, Guildford.

Lark Recordings is thrilled to sponsor a buskers’ stage for up and coming local acoustic artists at the Always The Sun, Guildford’s first Community Music and Arts Festival to take place on Stoke Park on 10th -11th September”.

Andy explained how (the benefit of the festival) is that it is “what musical festivals for the communities should be about”.

Always the Sun will bring together established acts like Mystery Jets and Tusks but provide exposure for local talent. The Buskers’ Stage is a way for Lark to become directly involved; promulgate and showcase artists they have worked with; some of the best musicians performing in the county. It is an affordable festival set up for the community and those who live in the area.

COSTS AND SERVICES

Studio Hire with Engineer

Studio and Live Room with mirrored wall suitable for up to 8 musicians

From £50 per hour.  Daily rate from £250.

Dry Hire

From £25 per hour.

Rehearsal Space

During non-peak times – £35 per session of up to 4 hours.

Peak times – £25 per hour.

Mixing/ Mastering

Have your track mixed through our outboard analogue EQs and compressors

From £50 but please get in touch for a more detailed quote.

Custom produced backing tracks

We can tailor a package to meet your needs and budget.

Chris Snelling is a regular face at Lark Recordings

YouTube video studio

Our live room is set up for video production including green screen, lighting, cameras and director from £25 per hour.

All prices plus VAT at 20%

Discounts available to students and non-profit organisations

Music Production

We’re able to offer access to a range of music producers who can work with you to produce recordings ready for distribution and sale. Our aim is to get an understanding of your music, direction and ambitions and then introduce you to a suitable producer who can help you capture your sound.

Musicians and Backing Tracks

We have a team of musicians we can call upon if you don’t have your own band and would like professional accompaniment or a backing track, from a single guitarist to a full band in any style.

CD/Digital Packages

We can provide a full 360-degree recording/distribution/publishing package. We are able to take care of recording, mixing, mastering, album artwork, assigning ISRC and barcodes, digital distribution to all major download and streaming services, registering your works with collection societies and publishing.

Soundtracks and Music for YouTube Videos

We have an extensive catalogue of fully cleared production music including specially composed repertoire. Our albums of material include Dance, Chill out, Documentary, Classical and many more.

We can also produce bespoke compositions for all your needs: whether its background/mood music for a television programme, youtube video or film, advertising, social media activity or location music such as specially curated and composed playlists for your workplace or business“.

In this photo: Elena Ramona

BEYOND THE MICROPHONE: MARKETING AND PROMOTION

After speaking with Andy and getting a rare chance to listen to recordings; an insight into the daily life at Lark – I got the opportunity to speak with Marketing Assistant, Elena Ramona. She has not only recorded at Lark but she works at the studio and helps market artists – she has been there for almost two years now. In addition to working at Lark; Elena works in retail and brings those customer skills to the role. She has a lot of passion for her work and talks keenly about some of the acts that have come through Lark. Elena told me how Josh Franklin (one of the artists to record at the studio) has had a couple of tracks appear on Love Island. Name-checking Meg Birch and Karizma Duo: Elena has edited videos for the acts and talked fondly about the artists.

Elena became involved via A.C.M. – she found Lark via the A.C.M. Industry Link (when she was a recording artist in the studio at A.C.M.). Elena was able to come to Lark and tie together her experience in music and retail. She is very much a people person and finds the job a “good challenge”. In the future, Elena is keen to expand and work more in marketing – working at Lark is a great experience and has, in her words, “helped me with my own promotion; seeing from different perspectives how you can promote your own stuff”.

Always the Sun will see Elena promote the competition and work closely with the artists (appearing on The Buskers’ Stage).

 Chess Galea has recorded several times at Lark

 

THE LARK PLAYLIST: ARTISTS WHO HAVE PERFORMED AT THE STUDIO

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE FUTURE: GOING FORWARD

Andy, Elena and Jacqui are excited about the future for Lark Recordings and the musicians coming through. It is a studio space filled with charm and distinction – a comfortable, affordable and hospitable space. There is a warm, supportive vibe at Lark and a real passion for discovering new talent.

I got to speak with Managing Director Jacqui, who has great enthusiasm and passion for the studio and the musicians that have recorded there. We get too obsessed with the big cities and the musicians there and forget what a chest of local talent is available.

Visiting Lark Recordings has not only given me an insight into the range and depth of musicians around Surrey – it has provided the opportunity to discover how a studio works and what is involved with recording/promoting an artist. It is well worth keeping your eyes on the artists that come through here – some big names to watch for the future. The team who work there are filled with enthusiasm and dedication for what they do – this is evident the moment you walk in. My time there was invaluable and gave greater insight into the workings and energy that goes into a recording studio. Against the backdrop of expensive, city-set recording facilities; it is wonderful discovering somewhere charming…

 NESTLED in the heart of Surrey.

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FURTHER LINKS

Official:

http://larkrecordings.com/

Facebook:

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

Twitter:

https://twitter.com/larkrecordings

YouTube:

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC3lGArTLjp25ytI3teRu55A

Spotify:

https://play.spotify.com/user/larkrecordings?play=true&utm_source=open.spotify.com&utm_medium=open

TRACK REVIEW: The Trend – Going Under

TRACK REVIEW:

 

The Trend

 

 

Going Under

 

9.2/10

 

Going Under is available via:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9dB1Nz4rge8&app=desktop

ORIGINS:

Glasgow, U.K.

GENRES:

Rock; Indie; Alternative

RELEASE DATE:

17th January 2016

The E.P. Something to Shout About is available at:

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ONCE more, and without resorting to a mock Scottish accent, I…

am looking at a much-rated Glasgow band. I will come to the band themselves anon but it is prudent to reflect on the great music that has emanated from Glasgow; the difficulty of creating Indie/Alternative songs with originality; a bit about expansion with regards music tastes and areas that are burgeoning. As I am back into Glasgow; it is prudent reflecting on all the fantastic music that has come from the Scottish city.  I guess, when we look at Scottish music, we often think of Glasgow and Edinburgh: forget that there are a lot of other wonderful towns/cities with terrific musicians. It is not down to laziness that we herald Glasgow and its music – just taking a gaze back to history makes you realise how many of the best British bands of the last few decades came from here. Franz Ferdinand – if they are still making music? – call Glasgow home and perhaps are one of the best examples of a great Post-punk/Indie band with an arty, slightly pretentious twist. There is something both common and elitist about the group. One of those ‘00s bands that swept you away with anthemic songs but got you thinking – a lot deeper and more compelling than most of their peers. Orange Juice, a bit older but same sort of aesthetic, are another terrific Glasgow band. Many, particularly of my generation, pass them by but you cannot underestimate how vital and influential albums like You Can’t Hide Your Love Forever (their debut) were. Leader Edwyn Collins remains one of the most consistent, unique and intelligent songwriters of his generation. Primal Scream, one of the titans of the ‘80s and ‘90s. Their sophomore album, Screamadelica is a classic creation that has influenced so many bands and remains one of the greatest albums from any period. You can add Deacon Blue to the list of great Glasgow bands. Not quite as bracing and experimental as other Glaswegian groups: they had a knack for crafting accessible Pop with huge choruses and heart – songs Real Gone Kid and Chocolate Girl are familiar to all. Other Glasgow legends like Simple Minds, Marmalade and Belle and Sebastian are definite stalwarts – among the finest bands from the past twenty years.

It is not just established bands that have made Glasgow such a wonderful city for music. The Yawns, been playing for years but still relevant, are a group that created bedroom-made, D.I.Y. albums and showed you did not need industry cash to make music happen. 1990s are led by John McKeown, have plenty of hooks, wit and native narrative at their disposal – a group that are distinctly Glaswegian yet have a universality and everyman quality to them. Like the aforementioned, and not brand-new-new, The Delgados  were/are an intellectual band with a bookish edge. A band who put huge imagination and intellect into their music – they went on to establish their own record label. The Deathcats put Glasgow in the consciousness with their head-spinning, electric saw riffs and reverb-heavy gems. Instant, urgent and laced with plenty of attitude: another band that shows the variation and multiple sides to Glasgow. Perhaps the likes of Happy Meals and Catholic Action are more relevant. The former fuse minimalistic Disco vibes with French vocals of Suzzane Rodden – alluring and sexy but instilled with groove, dance and beauty. Catholic Action, aside from their awesome name, are masters of the hook: capable of dragging the listener in and seducing them without breaking into a sweat. That is just the tip of things really.  Neon Waltz are an upcoming six-piece who have ties to Glasgow but have toured throughout Scotland. Honeyblood, Paws, and Strange are a Glasgow trio worth money, time and focus – all capable of being mainstream propositions for years to come.

The Trend fit into Glasgow pretty easily and have a distinctly local, read: anthemic, sound to them. I have listed quite a few bands: one wonders how many of them featured in the band members’ thoughts as youngsters. We often see a band/artist and what genres they play in and think we have them pegged. If they are an all-male Indie band they are all going to sound the same, for instance. It is narrow-minded to think every group will be predictable and lack necessary originality. I agree, there are so many groups that replicate one another or come across uninspired and predictable – sticking too closely to their idols or incapable of crafting songs with hooks, kick or any electricity. The Trend have a lot of similar bands playing near them so have had to work hard to forge their own path and stand out from the crowd. The boys have ample energy and passion which means their songs have anthem status and come swinging with instant hooks and sizzling guitar work. Our Glasgow band call for other bands to do something useful and meaningful with their platform: get up and say something new and purposeful. The boys can knock simple songs together but go deep when the mood calls for it – not your average one-dimensional band. Whether you are a fan of Indie, Alternative and Rock in general: you will be impressed and affected by the band’s musicianship and compelling connection. The music comes across as fresh and enlivening but has enough emotion and vulnerability at times – even the most crowd-pleasing and anthemic numbers do not merely reproduce what has gone before. It would be naïve to suggest the band have redesigned the wheel and are completely unexpected. Part of their appeal and popularity hinges on some familiar edges and embers of other bands. Comparisons have been made (among others) to Oasis at times. The same way the Manchester band could get crowds together and singing loud: The Trends are a group that pen universal songs that demand you get together and sing along. Memorability and catchiness are important commodities but can be cheapened by copy-catting your idols. The Trend take a sprinkling of some heavyweight artists but ensure their most prominent trait is a new and original sound – something that is distinctly theirs. In genres that have been accused or stagnation and homogenisation: it is pleasing finding a band that understand the need for originality and respond accordingly.

I will get to the Glasgow band’s work in a minute but wanted to look suggest people get out of preconceived comfort zones. I feel most of us, I am culpable, get used to certain artists and cities; do not stray beyond those walls and get into our own little rut. It is definitely worth getting behind home-based artists and supporting the local music community. Naturally, London gets a lot of exposure and is, as I see things, the British epicenter for music – the finest acts and biggest hitters reside here. Manchester and Liverpool get attention (not as much as they deserve) but our adventurousness and energy levels stop there – we often do not spend too much time digging any deeper. It is impossible to cover every town and city in Britain let alone the world – we have to be rational and sensible about this. I just mean there are some very obvious areas that are being ignored by large sections. I would argue Edinburgh should be on the list; Oxford and Bristol are productive and interesting; Glasgow certainly should be there. Often, our tastes and recommendations come from radio: following the tips and teasers they put our way. It might be like pulling Excalibur from a stone: one day we’ll get a website together that compartmentalises music by town/county but encourages users to spend time and find some genuinely unexpected music – from parts of the country/world we had not thought about before. Until that time comes (if ever it does) it is worth being a bit bolder and accepting the likes of The Trend are worth your time – imploring you to seek out more of Glasgow’s musicians.

Something to Shout About is their new E.P., and you get a full impression of where they came from, it is worth looking back at their earlier stuff. The E.P., as I will look at in more detail later, has great hooks and plenty of arena-primed songs designed for maximum impact and getting the crowds roused and lifted. Going Under has bristling, stabbing riffs and a swaggering mood. Reminding you of Artic Monkeys to an extent: something modern and Alternative-based; bringing together influenced from the north and Scotland – whilst keeping a distinct character and sense of self. You can hear those sorts of mixes in songs like Act of God. A warping, spacey opening leads to a racing arpeggio. The song tumbles and spoils out the gate and unleashes something fiery and determined. The kind of people that don’t know they’re born, as the lead attests, there is trouble brewing and something happening. The band ensures the song is provided maximum energy and electricity with a tight and commanding performance. Departing from your average Indie/Alternative fare: the lyrics go deep and you wonder what influenced them. Our hero looks at cynicism and problems around and wonders how things got that way. Whether directed to a government or ruling class; an individual that is blind to what is going on around them – a track that hits on multiple plains and gets you fascinated and addicted.

Falling Apart, recorded about 3 years ago, has that gritty and gravel slam to it. A fast-paced, Punk-influenced song: it was cut around the time of Act of God but does not stick too closely to it. Proving they have variation and different sides to their game: The Trend creates something fiercer that aims to hit the gut. Perhaps attesting domestic drama and a relationship falling apart: a song that swings and throws around but is controlled and nuanced. Every song The Trend plays is defined by their chemistry and incredible bond. The vocals are gutsy and intense – some of the lyrics get lost under the composition – but you get carried away by the sheer energy and catchiness of the song. Falling Apart is a song designed and aimed, once more, at festival crowds and for live audiences. It is hard to ignore them as a band because each track carries so such conviction, weight, and invigoration. Here, they have bits of Oasis to their sound but never come across too similar to them – merely employing them as an influence. Other songs like Free and Beauty Queen, recorded during the same time period, once more push their boundaries whilst retaining that core sound. Elements of ‘60s Power-Pop and Punk; Alternative and Indie: you get so many different shades and sides to the band. What stands out then, as it does now, is how different they are and gripping. I have mentioned that word but it seems very apt. So many modern bands are slight and weak when it comes to sound. The Trend burst from the speakers and grip you by the collar – bringing you into their world and taking you off their feet. Songs move the bones and get the voice singing proud. Having started so strongly, it would be foolish to suggest the band step it up and improve their game. Tactically, the guys have created (with Going Under) have improved on their foundations and sound at their very peak. In terms of sound, there has not been a huge leap nor did there need to be. What you notice is the production is slightly crisper and cleaner whilst the performances are sharper and more engaging. Perhaps extensive touring or new inspiration but the boys are intoxicating and expert; sounding like a group that has been gigging for decades now. Going Under is the centerpiece to their E.P. – and why I wanted to focus on it – as it assesses where they are now and what they are about. I wonder, given the material was recorded a little while ago now; if there will be anything new by the end of the year. You can hear the passion and energy in the ranks and just know they will keep building, crafting and producing exceptional songs.

I want to concentrate on Going Under as it seems like the truest and concentrated example of the E.P.’s themes, sounds, and shades. It has been released as a single, and has a video, so the boys have a lot of faith in the song. That faith is not blind and it is a song that signifies its dominance without much hesitation or foreplay. The bass and percussion unite once more and show what natural partners they are. Few bands lead like this and certainly never put the bass out front in their music – it is often left to work in the background and rarely gets the exposure it deserves. A tense and nervy start: The Trend keep it light but there is a definite element of danger and caution in the opening moments. Teasing, testing percussion gives anxiety and nerviness to the song; the bass adds to that environment and, without overloading the song and being too heavy, you feel the emotion build. Before long, the riffs break out and The Trend crack out their scintillating jams. It is hard to describe and define the riff but it has that definite classic quality and recalls the likes of Artic Monkeys and Paul Weller. Vibing from the spirit and essence of those stalwarts: The Trend create something instant and captivating. Before a single word has been sung: the music has said so much and the feet are moving; the brain is ready and the body is already invested in the music. Just after the percussion crackles and smacks again: you are primed for the first vocal offerings and just what direction the song will take. Our man is heading into the night (away from the light) and slipping away. You wonder what is being sung about as the lyrics have quite an oblique quality early on. Perhaps emotions have got the better or a romance has fallen away – maybe just a general feeling of losing control and not being who he thought he was. Ensuring the voice has plenty of meaning and conviction: it never runs away but remains focused and direct; ensuring each word can be heard and understood. Early songs from the band have suffered a little from clarity but here it is very clear and concise: the production values mean every note is understandable and not lost in the mix.

With any great band/song, there is that mystique and indirect charm to the song. You are left to come to your own conclusions early and draw your own impressions. The band joins their voices in the chorus and you are curious (once more) just what the song is looking at. Of course, there is a lot of fear and uncertainty from our hero – not sure if he is going to be okay and what the future holds. I was imagining a general malaise and struggle against the pressures of life. Not necessarily defined by creative or romantic abnormalities: it is a song that brings home the obstacles and realities of the modern-day existence. He is feeling the pinch and needs some relief and space; get away from the hurly-burly and find some comfort and quiet. I may be off the mark but that is what Going Under does: registers different interpretations in the listener and has a broad lyrical basis. At the point “of no return” and aware of his situation: the fascination builds and you cannot help empathise with the lead. Despite the vocal never being sad or affected – you just know that need for answers and salvation is burning. Before you get too invested; the band step in with that opening riff and give the song a break and chance for the band to come together. Whereas other tracks on Something to Shout About (title track for instance) are specific and make their intentions very clear: Going Under is always an enigma and casts its net pretty wide.

The hero is moving on and looking at thought racing away; at the back of the mind and niggling him. Nobody is “safe anymore” and you feel the song is looking at general society and a building danger. With the way things are going – the general state of affairs – few of us are truly safe and secure in our lives. Perhaps Going Under reflects that dread; the lead is staying in the hole and is struggling to come out. Despite the negativity and repressed lyrics and sense of dread: the song is never bogged down or a hard listen. The sheer spirit and resilience of the band keep it light, defiant and engaging throughout. Like classic Punk and Rock bands: they are in a crap situation but are damned if it going to define them. The Trend’s determined spirit and combustible performance puts the song in your head and compels you to sing along – or move your feet at the very least! Working around the central riff and all its alcohol-fueled, swaggering assuredness – the band lace in some lovely touches and riffs. With the percussion and bass continue to drive the song and give it an accelerated heartbeat: guitars allow some colour, vibrancy, and sexiness to strut through. Towards the end, the song has an optimism and sense of hope to it. The hero is finding his way home and seems to be in a better place. Perhaps disconnected from home and somewhere he is unsafe: that desire and endless spirit is in the mind and you are with him all the way. Going Under has a simplicity to it which will make it easy for fans to sing along and makes it accessible and direct. The words, despite their oblique touches, get you thinking and everyone will have their different views. The Trend are a band who always bring exceptional compositions to the fore and here is no exception. So many details come out and the central riffs are exceptional. If you want to be cheered and find a song that will put the smile on your face: Going Under does that and introduces one of Glasgow’s finest young bands in the process.

It has been good discovering another great Glasgow band. I am sure the city has plenty of incredible solo artists but it seems like the bands rule the roost. Few cities are synonymous when it comes to band concentration. That is not to say Glasgow is narrow and limited: if you look closely; there are plenty of solo musicians (duos etc.) that are making their presence known. It just seems Glasgow are well-stocked for bands and there is a lot of variability and choice. If you prefer your music band-made then you need to spend more time investigating what the city has to offer. The Trend are certainly one of the most exciting and hard-working; grabbing the attention of critics and fans – signaling themselves as potential mainstream stars of the future. It will be interesting seeing how they develop and what their plans are for the coming years. I have looked, at the top of the review, at the great artists that have come out of Glasgow. It is easy to be fixated with the likes of London (and what it has given us) but Glasgow’s legends cannot be understated. I am not sure what it is that differentiates Glasgow from the rest of the U.K. Perhaps a sense of community or a different way of life: greater performance opportunities for its musicians or a feeling of freedom and support. Whatever it is; many new artists are adding to a very solid and impressive foundation. Indie and Alternative are words thrown around a lot when describing a fresh band. I mentioned how those genres gained a reputation for rigidity and a sense of weariness – musicians perhaps not as original and impressive as they should be. There is some truth in that, but we shouldn’t assume every new Indie/Alternative band suffers that fate. It is a hard style to truly redesign and shine in – one of the most popular and defined by a particular sound and lyrical style. Luckily, The Trend manage to make something (potentially forgettable) stand in the mind and brim with personality and addictiveness. Critics and fans have pointed out what a proposition they are live: their studio prowess can be found throughout their E.P., Something to Shout About.

Something to Shout About has gained some great reviews and clearly strikes a public chord. The title track is a spiraling mesh of riffs and strings; it howls and burst with intention and spares no time in making an impact. It “don’t flow through our veins no more” and you know the band are talking about their contemporaries – bands that are not saying anything new and making an effort. They are afraid to say what’s on their mind and are playing things safe. Carried under the wave of anger and passion: the band is at their most together and meaningful. They are looking for something to shout about and a band they can rely on.  Drug-free and lacking Rock spirit: there is tepidness and fear among groups; nobody is going out their way to create something special and brave – not saying what is on their mind. The Trend attack with venom and show, ironically in the song, they are something to shout about. The composition is detailed and emotive. Bass shines and provides melody, grumble, and emotion; the riffs sparkle and bristle; psychedelic and explosive. Percussion notes pummel and make sure the song beats hard. Not your predictable or average track: it dies down and comes back up; there are diversions and asides; change of course and subversions of expectations. A classic call-for-action and rallying cry from the group. By the final notes, you are left with a smile but also compelled to think. Complete with wordless chants and a classic feel-good vibe: a perfect insight into the band’s mindset and artistry. Take Me Away is bellicose and avalanche right from the off. That percussion comes through and gets straight into the brain. Building with the guitar and bass: Take Me Away has a sense of smile and sunshine early on. Bright-hued and vibrant; little elements of ‘60s Pop, The Libertines, and other bands – whilst keeping The Trend’s definite sound solid and sharp. “I’ll never understand a word that you say” leads you to believe there is another look at society or other bands. Our lead wants to be taken where the skies are clear and wants to get away. If it is looking at a relationship or romance, then you can hear the boredom and dissatisfaction. The same conversations and routines unfolding; that desire to go somewhere better and different – escape the dull days and not return. It is an intriguing song that reigns clear and gets into the heart. The band, once more, shows their malleability and is less foreboding and intense than the title track. “Don’t want to see it anymore” declares our man: you speculate what is being referenced but just know he is not going to stick around.

Tonight begins, as one might hope, with an intriguing compositional build. The percussion spatters and patters, while a growing, groaning riff starts to stomp and make its impressions felt. An odd combination that works well for the song. In terms of sounds, you get the sense of early-career Oasis and their anthemic tracks. Guitars and vocals have an element of the Manchester band but the lyrics very much play into The Trend’s camp. Unlike other tracks, there is a sense of romance and hope and you get affected by the purity and desire in the performance. The soul is being nourished and the blood is rushing: the hero is embracing Rock and music; feeling alright and pushing on. Others say he is out of his depth and battling the waves – curious to find out why that is – but that sense of defiance and rebellion comes out. Music is the focal muse and perhaps the salvation against a backdrop of uncertainty and struggle. His life is falling apart but he has music and surrendering to Rock and all its beauty. It is a subject matter that has been covered but not quite the same way as here. A perfect way to complete Something to Shout About. It is a song that will definitely resonate with audiences and you can see people chanting it and joining together in celebration. Tonight is not a dead-ahead and one-dimensional song. Going through stages and having a sense of evolution running through it: you are kept on your toes and always surprised; the band is masterful when it comes to throwing curveballs. Something to Shout About lives up to the title track’s desires and necessities. That song looks at bands who say nothing new and do not get the mind engaged – too timid and cautious when it comes to subject matter. By addressing that subject head-on, the Glasgow band show they are not like them. Never sticking with romance themes and everyday tropes: the E.P. covers more important subjects and hits you much deeper. The title track makes you think and makes a point. It could be arrogant to write a song like that and would be a disaster if The Trend do not live up to their lyrics and differ from their peers – luckily they do and make their point know. The entire E.P. is packed with gems and potential future anthems. I know the songs have been played live and imagine the crowds are lapping them up. One of those bands that tie together some familiar bands – Oasis for one – but never copies them; merely lace in some of their magic; they are one of the freshest and most distinct groups of the moment. Exceptional musicianship and comradery break through and every song has its own voice and will stick in the head for a long time. I know the boys have been touring hard and getting out there. Those dates, with a terrific E.P. under their belt, is just…

THE start of many great gigs.

 

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Follow The Trend

Facebook:

www.facebook.com/thetrendglasgow

Twitter:

www.twitter.com/thetrendglasgow

SoundCloud:

www.soundcloud.com/thetrend-1

FEATURE: The August Playlist: Vol. 4

FEATURE:

 

the august playlist VOL. 4 musicmusingsandsuch

  

The August Playlist: Vol. 4

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PERHAPS it is a testament to unexpected single drops….

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and great albums out this month: August has turned into one of 2016’s best months for music. I thought I’d be wrapped up with three volumes of The August Playlist – I wouldn’t be surprised if I got juice out of a fifth. There have been a few great singles out; some terrific albums, and to celebrate the anniversaries of Jeff Buckley’s Grace (22-years-old) and Blur’s Leisure (25-years-old) – a couple of classic tracks in there.

Enjoy…

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Frank Ocean (ft. Beyoncé) – Pink + White

 

 

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Empire of the Sun – Two Vines

 

 

Chromatics – Dear Tommy

 

 

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Grouplove – Traumatized

 

 

Dua Lipa – Blow Your Mind (Mwah)

 

 

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Kate Tempest – Don’t Fall In

 

 

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Jimmy Eat World – Get Right

 

 

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Glass Animals Season 2 Episode 3

 

 

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Jack Garratt – BYSKB V2M2

 

 

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Ezra Furman – The Refugee

 

 

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Bastille  Good Grief

 

 

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Thom Sonny Green – Beach

 

 

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Cassius (ft. Ryan Tedder & Jaw)  The Missing

 

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Crystal Castles – Sadist

 

 

 

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Jeff Buckley – Grace

 

 

 

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Blur – There’s No Other Way

 

 

September is upon us next week and I can just smell the paint drying on some fantastic albums and musical revelations. Frank Ocean has dropped Blonde and took everyone by surprise. Next month, Jamie T. looks set to make another huge statement – Trick is already gathering some rather heated praise and bold proclamations. Of course, there will be singles released at a moment’s notice and who knows what: another exciting month beckons us.

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FEATURE: Electric Vinyl

FEATURE:

 

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Electric Vinyl

 

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SO what is the concept behind the idea?


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I have been inspired by some developments in music recently. Hearing about Laura Marling’s new series, Reversal of the Muse, has got me thinking. That interview/discussion concept brings women together (musicians mainly) to discuss the lack of women behind-the-scenes in the industry – how few engineers, producers there are, for instance. It is a much-needed spotlight on an issue that, has until recently, been cloistered and hidden in the shadows. If you really think about it: how many women are employed in studios and away from the microphone? Perhaps many assume (these jobs) are male-dominated and there’s never been a problem with that. It may not be the case there has been deliberate discrimination but not enough is happening to encourage women more – reduce stigma and barriers and make changes.

We often focus on musicians and what they do without giving kudos to those who work away in the background; making sure the songs get to us. Whether D.J.s, promoters or journalists: these people are often overlooked and do not get the recognition they deserve.

There are not too many (if any) web series that brings together these people. It would be great to see a fantastic promoter celebrated or hear the insight of a London D.J. – sitting alongside a musician and trading experiences, insight and revelations. Maybe this sort of things happens in daily life but often takes the form of short interviews or online interviews. I cannot recall ever seeing an interview series like this: one where musicians and the unsung face one another and give us a glimpse into their day-to-day life. It got me thinking about a concept: Electric Vinyl was what came from it.

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TITLE/EPISODES

Electric Vinyl: When (    ) Met (   ).

EPISODES PER SERIES

10 per series; 1 hour per episode.

LOCATION

For a sense of centrality and ease-of-access, it would be set in London. In terms of locations and accessibility, it would make sense. I hope to recruit guests from areas like Brighton and Manchester but London seems like an idea centre. Most of the innovators and upcoming musicians (in Britain) are based in London so it makes sense to come from the capital. I have not decided what part of London it would be based and that is open for discussion. It seems like east and central would be best: perhaps somewhere like Shoreditch or Hackney, but once again, it depends on available sites and costs.

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SET

My feeling is to give it a bar setting but not having it crowded and busy. The aim is to have an intimacy but a general feeling of conviviality and comfort. Inspired by music-themed bars – hope to set one up myself – the décor and furniture is going to be important. The guests would sit on a chair each but they would get to select the furniture. They could have a bar stool or beanbag; a sofa whatever they choose – a chance to create a bespoke environment and give the set a sense of character and individuality. It would be a basic concept and have the interview subjects sat opposite one another. The name Electric Vinyl would be a bar name, in essence. We would see a sign – perhaps neon or painted – that is near the bar and there might be a few people in the background – a bar person or patrons (only a few) to ensure there was a bit of motion. While the bar is in the background, in the foreground we would have an electronic jukebox to the right – one that would play guest selections and give the ‘Electric’ side flesh. On the other side would be a turntable/record player (‘Vinyl’) where the guests’ vinyl choices will be spun – more on that later. Because there will be solo artists/bands coming together; a small stage would be there – opening and closing the episode with live performances. The filming dynamic would change to become more active and mobile – the stage would be located opposite the bar.

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LENGTH AND FILMING STYLE

Each ‘show’ or interview would last for 60 minutes (the Happy Hour) – that might increase if the demand is high. It would be a filmed series that keeps things simple but has a sense of style to it. We would have a few cameras: one that shoots proscenium; another one that is mobile and films guests’ faces/reactions and another that would be mounted near the ceiling – an overhead view of the location and people coming and going. There would be a mix of colour and black-and-white to give it a modern and vintage mix – as befits the title. Varying between static shots and close-ups: it would aim to give some fluidity and motion to things but never compromise or distill the interview; always emphasising mood and emotion over flair and needless flash. In essence, the aim is to give it a professional feel and differentiate it from other examples on the market.

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START OF EPISODE (0-5/10 MINUTES)

I am hoping there is a small animated opening sequence as a title page. It would see a series of well-known and new musicians interact in a comical sequence and would head towards Electric Vinyl. There would be a theme but this would most likely be instrumental and have a funky/upbeat vibe – perhaps meshing Blues, Rock and Hip-Hop. From the sequence, it would then open on the set/bar and the empty chairs. The two guests (either two people or band and another guest) would come from the bar and shake hands – set their drinks down and sit. Almost like Made In Chelsea (not in a bad way) there would be light music playing – a series of songs would play each edition – and the guests’ names would appear and their title.  Before they get down to talking they would introduce their drinks. Each guest can have any drink they like but there is a full cocktail menu – ingredients and name would appear on the screen. It gives the episode a sense of pub chat but, again, is quite stylish and modern – cosmopolitan and homely at the same time. Nothing will be scripted and the only thing interviews plan is their song choices and music. From the off, it is encouraged they be relaxed and chat. The opening couple of minutes would see them introduce themselves and what they do (pieces to camera) before they open things up with casual chat. As they are getting into things, their food arrives: usually a small dish/starter but delivered to them. Of course, they are discouraged from eating whilst talking but it gives it a more social feel.

MAIN BODY OF EPISODE (5/10-40 MINUTES)

The interview series will mix musical choices/inspirations and deep topics together with insights into the music industry and casual chat. Every edition will have a set format and give the guests an opportunity not only to discuss what they do and highlight important issues but introduce new songs (they are loving) and the music that inspired them.

The opening ten minutes or so would see each guest talking about what their job entails and how they got into it – links and information would appear on screen like websites – and their day-to-day life.

From 10-20 minutes the guests would choose a new song/artists that they are listening to. It would either be an unsigned artist or mainstream but essentially be their Brand New Headies. Every segment would have a music slant/pun and this would be the first one. We would then either cut to a music video or hear it on the electronic jukebox. After each song, there would be a link (social media) to that artist and any necessary information.

After the 20-minute mark, there would be a section about their favourite music. Throughout there would be a chalkboard menu behind each guest (at bottom of shot in front of the furniture) and each person(s) would get to talk about their favourite albums/songs from their childhood; their favourite song of all time . It is, in essence, an insight into that person’s musical upbringing and the music that matters most. The songs would be played on the jukebox and each guest would take turns. As each song plays the title/image would come up. If there is a music video then we would cut to that, but if not, the cameras would move around the bar/set or capture the guests’ reactions. After each song ends, and before the next, they would say why it is relevant to them.

From 40-50 minutes there would be discussion about a topic that is relevant to each. Whether it is women in music or mental health; the urban scene or lack of finding for new artists – a chance for the guest to discuss with one another.

Throughout each discussion, there would be relevant links to appropriate websites (mental health charities etc.) and tweets (followers letting their voice contribute; more later).

The final 10 minutes would be a blend of social media questions and vinyl choices. Of course, and like all segments, this would appear on the chalkboard. The questions come first and would be collated from Twitter and Facebook. Before each edition is filmed, a week’s notice, you can pitch questions to each guest – they can be serious or silly. For bands and artists, it might be aimed at touring and new records; for D.J.s and promoters it would be geared towards their influences or questions about their jobs. The questions would appear on screen (there would be one to the side of the set but it would appear on the screen large) and a way to get others involved. The last segment would be a vinyl choice for the guest. It can be a vinyl that means the most to them or sounds great on that format. It would be loaded onto the record player and maybe there would be information about that song and facts.

To end, the guests would finish their drink and food; they would embrace/shake hands and conclude however they like. Either heading out of the bar into the night or back to the bar for another drink. The credits would role as their social media links would come up – the lights might come down and that would end things.

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MENU CHOICES/SEGMENTS

Rhythm and Booze – the drinks the guests have chosen

9-5 – job discussions

Brand New Headies – a selection of new tracks to enjoy

Consensual Grooves – music that means most to the guests

What’s Going On – the guests shine a light on an issue/discussion topic that needs addressing

Stage Dive – Q&A from social media

Drop the Needle! – the vinyl selection to end the show

Closing Time – the guests say goodbye and depart

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GUEST IDEAS/DYNAMIC

I do not want it just to feature musicians: the idea of the series is to have non-musicians featured heavily. Of course, we would have bands, solo artists and other acts but it would not be a promotional tool – it is a chance to learn how they got into music and guidance for those following suit.

It is aimed at a younger audience, so most of the guests would be between 17/18 and 40, say. That rule can be extended but Electric Vinyl aims to be a cool, breezy series aimed at a younger audience but one that would engage older viewers. Having just interviewed RKZ, a London-based mental health advocate and musician, he is an ideal choice. I want to bring it to be a diverse and varied platform that brings together different music genres and professions. In terms of music guests, it would not concentrate on Rock/Alternative: Hip-Hop/Grime acts; Soul solo singers and bands are all encouraged but the emphasis is on highlighting variation and those artists that do not usually get focus.

With respect of non-musicians, this is an opportunity for real scope. I know people who are event organisers and book acts; those who work in P.R. and are journalists. They would be encouraged, and Electric Vinyl emphasises fascinating characters, colour and energy. For example, one episode could pit a Grime artist/Rap musician with a D.J. The people would not have met before so it is like a first date – a chance for two unique personalities to converse and shine. Again, there is a focus on ethnic diversity and gender diversity – not just young men.

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OTHER IDEAS

In addition to the bar setting: maybe having a resident D.J. there. I like the idea of the guests’ songs being played on an electric jukebox but it might be cost effective/better to have a D.J. there who would interact (only when songs are mentioned) and play it. It is a possibility but would perhaps clutter things – wondering what the general feeling is regarding that.

Songs would play in the background – like a bar and it would not be intrusive – but perhaps could lend to the conversation. If a guest notices a song that they like it could be discussed, but again, it might detract from the focal points and be surplus.

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GOING FORWARD

It would be easy to get guests, I am hoping. I know enough people from all musical walks that would be fascinating to see on the screen – bringing together great personalities and seeing how they interact. When things become difficult (costly) is the filming equipment, personnel and location. The setting need not be an actual bar but made to look like one. It might be unfeasible to clear a bar out an hour a week for filming so it could be a studio space/abandoned warehouse that could easily be furnished and utilised. I have mentioned the electronic jukebox which is a prop rather than a working thing. The song might be typed in and would come out a speaker but the actual song would be fed from a laptop – an MP3/YouTube clip so cost-wise, that would not be huge. There would be additional players/’staff’ that would work the bar, serve food and be extras.

For bands, and with regards live performances, the stage would be quite simple and small and the backline/equipment would be hired. Ideally, it would be great to film in an existing music venue that is set up to cater for the specifications and demands. I am going to enquire nearer the time but if it is too costly then alternatives will have to be arranged.

Electric Vinyl would be uploaded to YouTube and have its own channel. The only other real costs are the cameras/equipment and clearance rights. Quite a few songs will be featured throughout the episode so will have to ensure we do not infringe copyright and have clearance/permission before featuring every track. I have mentioned how the show would use three cameras, so purchasing/hiring them would be a consideration. It is not going to be an overly-expensive series but would have definite costs to consider.

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KICKSTARTER

This would be the way to raise money to get the series funded and realised. It would (success) rely on the campaign being shared as widely as possible. I am not sure the exact budget but for a single series (excluding music rights) it would possibly be a couple of thousand pounds – covering equipment/location and small guest fees.

It might not sound like a huge amount but if everyone (who pledges) puts in a couple of quid – we would only need 1,000 people to be involved.

Again, that sounds like a lot but consider the potential audience – you’d imagine many would want to see a series like this come to life. Should the campaign be unsuccessful and fall shy then I will either source a less-expensive option – hire equipment or fewer episodes in a series – or self-fund it.

Rewards will no doubt be the incentive for pledging. When it comes to an album or film finance: you can offer rewards, merchandise or credits (on an album linear notes for instance). With a web series, bearing in mind there is no audience or outside physical interaction, it makes it a little harder. Interview subjects would receive a small fee for appearing so it is hoped, as a quid pro quo, they would be able to offer reward. Either a signed album or merchandise, perhaps. I guess the easiest way to attract people is a combination of musician reward-based incentives and appearance in the episode. Live performances will happen so there’s a chance to see that artist/band play; opportunities to be in the background (near the bar) as it is being filmed.

FINAL WORD

Projects like this only become a reality is people get involved and show their support. I hear from a lot of people – musicians and non – who want to see artists on the screen and gain more insight into music and various sides. We see printed interviews and YouTube/radio interviews: each gives us a window into a performer. Rarely do interviews stray beyond simple promotion; most are quite concise and short. By bringing musicians and music professionals together: it is a new incentive but allows (the viewer) to learn what happens away from the microphone; the realities of music and also hear some great music – inspired by the guests’ choices and selections. I am hoping to get a ‘pilot’ filmed as a demonstration for the Kickstarter campaign – something that is barer than what it will become but gives a semblance of what will follow. Ideas/feedback/opinions are always welcome and let’s hope…

A YOUTUBE SERIES BRINGING MUSICAL FIGURES TOGETHER: electric vinyl ...

ELECTRIC vinyl becomes a reality.

 

 

INTERVIEW: Mike Liorti of Rosedale

INTERVIEW:

 

  

Mike Liorti of Rosedale 

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KNOWING how hard it can be running a music career is going to seem…

like an insult to Mike Liorti. The man is a one-man wrecking ball who seems to have boundless energy, optimism, and passion for music. Based out of Ontario, Canada: not only is Rosedale a fascinating act in its own right: you are compelled to listen to local contemporaries and investigate Ontario in more depth. I have been intrigued by Liorti and his work ethic; how he keeps going and what new music is afoot.

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

Hey pretty good, thanks. It’s been a long week out here on tour. It’s about at that part of the tour where things just start breaking. Even just little things like pedals and gear housings. It’s been a fix-it kind of week for sure. But that’s how it goes when you have a lot of stuff; eventually, some of it is gonna break. I still can’t think of a better way to spend my summer, though. It’s all worth it.

You started Rosedale in 2004. What was the spark or moment you decided you wanted to get into music?

We were a Pop-Punk band called Uneven Number for a couple years before we changed our name/sound in 2004 to Rosedale. The big spark that made me realize what I needed to do with my life, and also had an influence in our decision to switch to a darker/deeper sound, came from a show at The Kool Haus in Toronto with Boxcar Racer and The Used.

Rosedale is your band but you travel with a lot of musicians and support. What is that experience like? Are you ever tempted to surround yourself with a proper band or does a flexible approach suit you better?

I’d love to have a full-time band. Unfortunately, with how much I tour it’s a lot harder to maintain full-time members. But I gotta tour because, especially these days, I know having fans and creating fans is more important than having a band or members. Fans don’t fall into place and you can’t train them to.

You need to actually go out and give all of yourself to them and the best way for me to do that is to give them a captivating live performance they will never forget. I don’t make music only to get fans, but I definitely need fans if I want to make music everyday as my source of living.

Full-time members that can’t leave their home day-jobs only make me have to go back to needing a home day-job. So, until I find the right musicians who totally understand and support what I am trying to achieve as an artist (or at least enough to work with it on a consistent level of ethics/contribution), I just have to train and take anyone who can learn the parts and take vacation time to tour temporarily. Obviously, nobody’s perfect. But if they’re not willing to try and sacrifice as much as myself then they are only holding me back. Yet I totally understand why any musician wouldn’t devote their lives to my art full-time for all-time. I’ll still always give anyone the chance to, though. Maybe one day I’ll have a band again.

I see you have played a lot of gigs around Texas recently. What was the experience like? There is such a huge music scene there I can imagine it was quite intense? 

From my experiences, East Texas is terrible. There’s a lot of cool people that get it but good luck getting them your music. It’s a tough place for new touring bands.

 Every time I work on booking Texas dates the response rate is, at best, around 1%

The venues I do end up successfully booking usually end up getting double booked “accidentally“, and have tiny corner-stages (which is the biggest “music is the least important thing here” sign a venue can have). The local bands are usually extremely late, or don’t wanna play first or last, or break-up around a week before the show. And getting ‘fans’ to come out to the shows is near-impossible. I love my friends/band-fam in Austin & Houston. But the Punk-Rock/Alternative scenes have really gotta step it up. Fans, venues, bands, and promoters, I challenge you! It seems the more West you go the better. El Paso is cool. Again, only speaking bluntly based on experience.

You hail from Brampton in Ontario. What was life like growing up there as a music lover? Are there a lot of bands and artists or is it quite a quiet scene? 

There has definitely been an insanely high amount if talent that has come from Brampton in the last couple decades. We had such an awesome little scene in the early-2000s. Like many suburban cities; every kid in Brampton and their cousin had a MySpace. So, everyone was checking out new local and touring D.I.Y. bands/shows every day. Consequently, everyone was so into music and influencing each other to grow their talents- whether it was promoting, producing, performing, etc. Music stores and venues were beyond comfortable! It was a really inspiring time for kids and it created some amazing adults and, some now; parents and even celebrities. There was also those local scene WordPress-type websites where people would promote/gossip/heckle every band- big or small. So, the internet really inflated Brampton’s already-blossoming and talented music scene.

 

 

But (also like many suburban cities everywhere) that all slowly diminished to basically nothing as smart-phones/apps./Netflix/Facebook/YouTube/Spotify/E.D.M./Covers0nly -…contemporary entertainment took over. Depressing, but It’s really amazing to look back on and relate our generation to history. The industry is always changing and scenes come and go for reasons unknown until they arrive. I’m glad I was around the Brampton music scene and in that generation. It would be really cool to see an Authentic Original Bands scene start brewing up again in Brampton and cities alike. I definitely wouldn’t take it for granted.

Growing up and starting to get into music, it must have been all analogue and tapes. Now it is largely digital and faceless (to an extent). Is it quite hard transitioning to a more ‘modern’ ethos or are you an artist that still does things in a ‘traditional’ way? 

It’s interesting because C.D.s replaced tapes, but nothing really replaced C.D.s. Even though there’s online digital sales and now streaming, C.D.s are still the go-to physical product to play music. Vinyl and cassette is also making a comeback. It’s weird to say that

I’m behind on the vinyl and cassette trend but it’s true. I’d like to get Rosedale tapes and vinyl. But I probably sell more C.D.s than digital copies because they’re at my merch. table and I’m always on tour. So I guess I am an artist who still does things the traditional way, or at least how I discovered new bands when I was really starting to get addicted to music

I’m not against the digital download world. It’s a great movement. But the artist is getting wayyy too small (piece) of the pie in the streaming world. As much as we need to be on Spotify to be heard, someone has to take a stand and make things right for artists on there.

Canada often gets overlooked when it comes to new music in favour of America and the U.K. Do you think this is unfair? What makes Canadian music stand out to you? 

I don’t really understand the Canadian music scene. It’s very clique-y and political because there’s government grants and things like that for music. So everyone’s very competitive behind the scenes in a really weird dog-eat-dog way. There’s not as much teamwork as the American music scenes. I’ve only toured U.K. once so I can’t say I know much about their scenes yet. But I do know they love a lot of North American bands. I think there’s a fair amount of Canadian bands and artists that become iconic, though. What I find interesting is that lot of listeners don’t realize these iconic Canadian bands are Canadian. Maybe because Canadians don’t even really take pride in their artists until they’ve had success elsewhere. Or because Canada is often just considered another state to a lot of people. We should just get rid of the borders! No more passports/work permits!

What does the rest of this year hold in terms of gigs? Any plans to come over to the U.K. and play? 

I would love to tour the U.K. again. If an opportunity came up that held some promising shows I would definitely take it in a heartbeat.

I love traveling and playing music in new places. And I have a drummer in Germany learning the parts and a guitarist in the U.K. so I’m already building my roster for whenever that opportunity does come.

 

 

Being without a band must give you a lot of freedom. It must be pretty cool going around the world and seeing lots of people. Any cities and countries you dream of playing? 

Yes, there is definitely a lot of freedom to do what I want. And it’s great touring around seeing friends every few months like we just hung out last week. I’d love to play Japan. I feel like they would love Rosedale over there. All of my favourite artists do so well in Japan and they love extravagant productions so I feel like my show would be very appreciated. Spain and Australia would be cool too. I’ve heard a lot of good things.

Can we expect a new Rosedale E.P. or album during 2016? 

The Delux will be coming out in November with the Rosedale documentary. It’s going to be great.

When it comes to writing a new song, what is the process like for you? Do you usually have an idea of the lyrics or does it all begin with a tune?

Every song is completely different. Sometimes, I’ll have just a melody or riff and finish the song with that. Sometimes, I’ll build off just a hook or a chorus. Sometimes, it’s just a song on

Sometimes, I’ll have just a melody or riff and finish the song with that. Sometimes, I’ll build off just a hook or a chorus. Sometimes, it’s just a song on piano or a full-band demo. and I’ll write lyrics. Sometimes, I’ll just write an entire song as just vocals in my head while driving.

Either locally or internationally: are there any bands you would recommend to the readers? 

Briar McKay from Springfield, MO. Time and Distance from Charleston, WV. What Great Fangs from Wheeling, WV. Between California and Summer out of Orange County, CA. The Home Team out of Seattle. Plans out of Indianapolis. Third Place from Montreal. The Bus Tapes from Santa Fe, NM. Birote The Musical from Chino, CA. The Paralytics from Olympia are the nicest kids I’ve ever met and super-talented. I’m forgetting so many; I feel bad now. Just check my tour calendar because I always list the local bands and they’re usually great.

Which bands or musicians did you grow up listening to? 

Blink-182, Radiohead, Boxcar Racer; The Ataris, Newfoundglory, Boys Like Girls; Michael Jackson, Weird Al, Deathcab For Cutie; The Postal Service, The Starting Line and many, many more.

I know sports are a bit love of yours. Do you get time to indulge or does music take up a lot of time? Which sportsmen/women would you regard as your heroes? 

I still play hockey every week or so whenever I’m home. I think I’m gonna start bringing my hockey gear on the road with me. I play some golf when I have time – and snowboard maybe once a year if I’m lucky. I’ll play some basketball every now and the. Michael Jordan has always been a hero because he can’t

I play some golf when I have time – and snowboard maybe once a year if I’m lucky. I’ll play some basketball every now and the. Michael Jordan has always been a hero because he can’t not be everyone’s hero, really.

For being such a great sport you can select any song- not your own; I’ll pick one of those – and I’ll play it here. 

If you could play the theme song to Jurassic Park I’d be stoked.

 

 

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FEATURE: The Drop Zone – The Art of the Surprise Album Release

FEATURE:

  

The Drop Zone

 

THE DROP ZONE ANDSUCH MUSICMUSINGS the art of the surprise album re...

  

The Art of the Surprise Album Release

 ______________________

IN this day and age, there is a split occurring right down the middle…

 

of music. Over the last few years, there has been a trend among mainstream artists: releasing albums with little or no warning. It is a way of shaking up convention and keeping fans on their toes; the question that remains is this: is it a sign of things to come? Of course, there are plenty of conventional released but the surprise release is proving to be hugely effective and popular. Frank Ocean’s hotly-anticipated album, Blond, has been dropped and took people by surprise. There has been long talk about when/what/how the album would come out; what it was going to be called (Boys Don’t Cry was the expected title) and whether it would be a natural progression to his debut, Channel Orange. Although Blond has been talked-about for a long time, nobody really knew when it was going to come – Ocean has been delaying it and creating a wave of hype and expectation. To preface the album: Ocean released the ‘visual album’ Endless: a solid and compelling work that left some amazed and others a little perplexed. Now Blond is out, it does make you wonder: is this going to be the norm for all forthcoming albums?

 

 

Frank Ocean’s Channel Orange, in itself, was a surprise drop and sort of blind-sided everyone. It is debatable whether the album would have created such an impact were it released through pre-planned, conventional methods. Beyoncé is another artist who has shunned tradition lately and embraced a more hush-hush method of marketing. In 2013, her self-titled fifth album was dropped with no build-up or knowledge – her own record company did not even know it was going to come out when it did. Not only was Beyoncé a return to form and bold declaration: it has inspired other artists to take the same sort of tact when it comes to bringing out their new albums. This year saw Lemonade released and led some to believe it was her pre-divorce, break-up album. Like Frank Ocean and Endless: Beyoncé released Lemonade as a visual album to start: there was no huge fanfare and its exact release date was subject to mystery and speculation. By ‘surprise’ release I mean one with no real announcement or E.T.A. date. I was taken aback when Lemonade came out and there was not the traditional P.R. assault and pre-release singles. Lemonade not only shows huge confidence, anger and authority from Beyoncé: the way it was brought about and promoted is almost as memorable and notable as the material within. You have to wonder whether mainstream artists will prefer this stratagem with regards their records. You cannot say Ocean’s enigmatic and cryptic what-if way of promotion has done him any harm. By tantilsing the public and unleashing an album without given due notice: you are going to get the sales figures high and people rushing out of sheer intrigue and shock factor. Is it a cynical marketing ploy or a way of shaking the industry up?

 

 

It is fair to say the surprise album release is not a fad of 2016. It has been happening for quite a few years but has become more prevalent and widespread the last year or so. Radiohead are no strangers to this way of working and started that ball rolling in 2007. One of the first bands to employ this tactic: In Rainbows arrived into the world with scant expectation and announcements. Their pay-as-you-like decision was applauded by many and was seen as groundbreaking and revolutionary. The King of Limbs, their 2011 L.P., was brought out without an official release date and the Oxford band showed, once more, they are the masters of catching you by surprise. Perhaps their most relieved and wonderful sneak-round-the-back album drops was this year’s masterpiece, A Moon Shaped Pool. There was Twitter talk and rumours the band was working on a new release. Between interviews, Instagram posts and oblique online messages: it was never certain whether something would come and if so, when that would occur. What Radiohead did this year, as opposed to their last two albums, was take the lights down and blank-out their online portfolio. Wiping everything clean, like the spotlights going out before a play starts, the band built tensions and got people scratching their heads. When first single Burn the Witch was introduced; we knew an album was coming: once more, they had created an inspirational and unexpected way of launching their album. It gets you speculating whether the band will ever release a new album in a traditional way again. It has certainly got people talking and the band seems bored at conventionality and a humdrum, P.R.-driven way of working. By getting people guessing and keeping them on their toes; it means mainstream music is never going to stagnate and be boring.

U2’s Songs of Innocence, Kaiser Chief’s The Future Is Medieval and David Bowie’s The Next Day were all shock and unpublished releases. The former was perhaps an unwelcomed thing (U2 putting their album onto iTunes users’ account against their will; forcing them to delete it or listen to the album) whereas Bowie’s The Next Day was his first record in a decade. In February 2015, Drake released If Youre Reading This Its Too Late, and ensured fans and music lovers clambered to the Internet to hear his music. Nobody knew it was due and the sheer surprise value saw the album accrue huge sales and recognition. It brings me back to the idea of cynicism and financial ploys. By bringing an album to public attention with little warning is a risky move but one that leads to huge aftershocks and attention. If Beyoncé or Radiohead went down the normal routes – release dates and single releases – we’d know when the album was out and it would seem rather normal and anticipated. Even if the music is fantastic, one wonders whether there would be such a media circus and spotlight put on them. Lemonade and A Moon Shaped Pool were introduced with a sense of theatre, showmanship and misdirection. Psychologically, people were hooked and waited with baited breath. When the albums came out, it can be argued that this mix of instant release and eye-catching pre-release added to the downloads and reviews – thus affording the artists more kudos and sales. There is the debate whether it is a way to attract bigger sales or whether it is musicians showing innovation and pushing the boundaries of modern music.

 

My final points look at the other side of the debate: what of the unsigned/new artists that have no choice but to go down the familiar, traditional route? Guerilla releases can be the start of things for artists. As Beyoncé (and many others have shown) it is just the start of a multi-part offensive. The digital/visual album comes out; it is then available to stream on iTunes and Google and paid subscription platforms. It is not a case of just dropping an album and letting people take it all in and make their own minds up. There is so much follow-up and compartmentalisation that gets that finished product out in the rather across all sites, sources and services. David Bowie, once more, released a surprise album very recently: his final creation, Blackstar, was unexpected as his untimely death. If he has announced the album release date and subjects it might have tipped people off about his death – something he wanted to keep a secret. I digress, but there is a rich and fascinating sub-culture happening that is deserving of discussion and debate. It gets me thinking about non-mainstream musicians who do not have these options. Imagine if a new Rock band from Liverpool released their debut E.P. with no announcements or singles? Just put it there and let people do all the legwork. The sort of backfire they would experience would probably ruin their careers. The modern-day musician is entrenched in a daily routine of interviews, promotion and touring. There is not the option to spend thousand on visual albums – most do not have the sort of money Frank Ocean does.

No modern, unsigned act could try anything as audacious, costly and brash. I review and follow bands as part of my journalism and know the tireless work they have to put in. So many have to call time because the rigours and lack of focus is killing their careers. There are so many acts out there and it seems space is a premium – reserved for the luckiest and hardest-working. In a digital age it brings a new problem to mind: how much revenue can a new musician realistically expect to mate? Gigs are the only effective and dependable way to earn a crust in the current scene. Sites like BandCamp, YouTube and SoundCloud make music accessible but, to the detriment of many, free of charge. If an artist does put their record on iTunes (for a small fee) they run the risk of being overlooked and criticised – why would people pay for something when they can get it for free elsewhere? Competitiveness and marketing is such a risky venture. If you make your album/songs available on free platforms so anyone can hear it: will you ever make money from it and last in the long-term? If you do the opposite and risk the paid option: will people go for it and is it liable to explode in your face?

 

 

 

These considerations alone are enough to make the head explode so it must be galling, for new artists looking to the charts, seeing bands and acts surprise the world with a new album – and getting paid handsomely. It is not the duty of the well-established artists to consider their successors and how their actions affect them. It may sound callous but everyone has to look out for themselves and we cannot expect the wealthier, popular artists to take lesser musicians into consideration. To be fair, surprise album releases like Blond, Beyoncé and A Moon Shaped Pool are not hurting new musician directly – it is just a bit deflating seeing those artists breeze through confidently and gets enveloped and drowned by the drools of music critics. Does this circus of celebration propel them to succeed and follow suit or is it putting them off releasing music at all? Could there be a way for a new band/artist to do a surprise release and it actually work? It is hard to say but this debate is getting hotter and more relevant. Who knows which artists will release albums without warning the next few months?  One thing is for sure: the surprise album leak/release is very exciting and does give music a kick and breath of fresh air. The reaction to Frank Ocean’s visual/traditional release Endless/Blond has been met with a lot of coverage but few explosive reviews – many, including myself, thinking it a muted, toned-down version of his best work. I guess the material shouts loudest and the release date/promotion is just a tool: if your songs are not good then it does not make a difference how you release it. I feel the surprise album release is keeping music unpredictable, surprising and genuinely evolving. If you consider this a good or bad thing it is something that is not going to slow down. Musicians like Beyoncé and Radiohead are getting into a roll; Frank Ocean has shown the sort of publicity that can be acquired – other artists find freedom bringing out an album in a new and exciting way. Now Blond is in the ether and gaining (somewhat mixed) feedback, it makes you wonder this…

WHO will be the next artist to tantilise us with the surprise release?

TRACK REVIEW: Victory Kicks – Skyscrapers

TRACK REVIEW:

 

Victory Kicks

 

 

Skyscrapers

 

9.4/10

 

Skyscrapers can be heard via:

http://victorykicks.bandcamp.com/track/skyscrapers

The album, Emily’s Hours, is available at:

http://victorykicks.bandcamp.com/

TRACK LISTING:

Skyscrapers

Emily’s Hours

Wino Lino (Part II)

Battleships

Take It Out

Night Train

Daylight Saving Time

Get Blurred

The Losing Side

We’re Still Running

RELEASE DATE:

August 5th, 2016

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Emily’s Hours is the seventh record to be released by Victory Kicks since its formation in 2013. The band’s fourth LP and its second this year, it consists of ten short, sharp pop songs about work, based around overheard conversations on rush hour trains.

Released August 5, 2016

All songs written by John Sibley except:

Wino Lino (Part II) which includes lyrics and melody by Martyn Piggott. For Wino Lino (Part I) see Sweeney. New album Men of Funk out now at ohsweeney.bandcamp.com.

Night Train is written by Martyn Piggott and originally recorded by Space Team 4: soundcloud.com/spaceteam4

Performed and recorded by Victory Kicks

Produced by John Sibley

Unmanned Aerial Vinyl 2016. UAV-VKLP004

_____________________

FOR the second day straight…

I am looking at a solo artist who is a lot more intriguing than you would imagine. It seems like a strange sentence but we get impressions with solo artists and what to expect. By and large, the lone artist is perceived as quite slight and lacking – when compared to a band sound. Not as invigorating, full and layered as the group dynamic – our minds think of something calmer, more stripped-back and restrained. As my review showed yesterday: This Modern Hope, the moniker of Rob Payne, is capable of producing songs of majestic propositions; portraying the sound of a full group and subverting expectations of the solo artist. The same can be applied to my subject today: John Sibley’s Victory Kicks is a fully-fledged band projection. It is weird we assume certain things with a one-piece artist: that they will play a certain way and not have the authority of an average band.  It is something that has irked me and got my wondering. Before I look at D.I.Y., bedroom-made music and unusual influences; I will look a little more at that point. One listen of the aforementioned This Modern Hope brings you into an evocative and beautiful world: all full of graceful, wave-crashing strings and vivid lyrics. Bracing, atmospheric and beautiful: the listener is brought into a new world and moves alongside the music. When a solo artist can do that it is deeply impressive but not rare these days. We all the idea that solo musicians are acoustic guitar-carrying and are Folk/Pop-based. That may account for a certain percentage of musicians but the modern evolution is producing musicians that incorporate more instruments and themes into their songs. Perhaps dictated by influences or fulfilling the changing demands of the marketplace: today’s musician is a lot more varied and accomplished than in previous years. It is not sufficient to merely rock up with a guitar or hollow sound and expect to stand aside from the crowd. Among those type of artists, there are very few that genuinely stick in the mind and compel you to investigate them more. Today, Victory Kicks is a more established band dynamic but it all started with Sibley making music with a few friends kicking in. Victory Kicks wouldn’t have come as far were it not for its leader’s determination and clear vision. Even now, it is Sibley’s characteristics and input that defines the music and distinguishes it from his peers.

I have noticed a sea-change in music that is seeing musicians become more multi-tasking and self-sufficient. As the likes of This Modern Hope has shown: you cannot expect a record deal straight away and must take initiative; get on with music and not hope someone will snap you up. Because of this, the new young musician has no choice than to carry on without record label approval and try and make an impression on their own terms. The music they are providing (by and large) is deeper, richer and more textured sound. John Sibley’s Victory Kicks is the epitome of this and someone who has had to craft music, unsigned. One day that deal will come but Sibley knows it might be a little while down the track. Undeterred and determined: his latest work is among the very best yet; destined to see him scooped up and exposed to a wider audience. Before I come to that, I shall introduce Victory Kicks to you:

Victory Kicks started life in early 2013 as a home recording project for songwriter and guitarist John Sibley. After writing a large number of songs and realizing that waiting around for a record deal would mean that most would inevitably be forgotten, John decided to start piecing a recording studio together at home. Old songs were finished off and new songs were written and often recorded the same day with John handling vocals, guitar, bass and drums as well as production duties and working out how to do the latter as he went. Early EP’s and singles containing short, lo-fi pop songs were recorded and shared amongst friends and family.

Victory Kicks then went from solo project to band with the addition of friends from other London based acts and established its own record label with the release of its first official EP, Rockets for Ghosts in July 2013. Comprising seven home recorded tracks of short, catchy indie rock, Rockets for Ghosts was a success for the band garnering favourable reviews and receiving airplay for the first time on stations in both the UK and the US. Ghosts was followed by the release of three singles, including the song Radio Saves which saw the band make its debut appearance on BBC radio playlists.

Taking the decision to record music at home would allow the band the flexibility to record new songs as and when they were written and since the release of its debut EP in 2013 Victory Kicks has built something of a reputation for prolificacy – 2014 has already seen a full length album called The Decibel Age as well as a seven track EP called Emergency Noise. A third record called The Young Flood will be released on November 17th. Today, Victory Kicks is a four piece band consisting of old friends making home recorded music whenever possible”.

 

I mentioned artists (solo) that have to up their game and become more band-sounding in order to resonate. Music is changing and becoming more challenging and less predictable. It has always been the case artists have had a tough time but the more people that come into the world; the existing musician has to struggle harder for recognition and acclaim. Record deals are near-impossible to come about and financial rewards are reserved for the most established and successful. What is happening more and more, is new musicians turning to D.I.Y. approach. Victory Kicks’ John Sibley started on his own and realised studio costs would be extortionate and unrealistic. Knowing the only way to produce music would be to do it at home: he set up his own studio at his flat and laid down music there. It is becoming more common in today’s climate. I am not sure how much an ‘average’ E.P. would cost to record but I imagine it would be hundreds of pounds. Many of us do not have that sort of money lying around reserved for music. So much of today’s music is free of charge and can be accessed by anyone, anywhere. The profitability of being a musician is scares and unpredictable. I hear so many artists having to quit and change their goals because of this. Sibley started on modest footings but has grown into a more established artist – more musicians and a bit more luxury at his disposal. That said, he is still someone who is not surrounded by lavish studios and expensive producers-for-hire. There is a sense of D.I.Y. rawness and something quite sparse – harking back to the early days of Victory Kicks. Technology and online software is being utilised more and providing an affordable space and option for today’s musicians. If we had to rely on studios for out output: modern music would  be far poorer and more restrained. I feel we have to do more to make music, not cheaper, but less daunting for those coming in. If you have to busk relentlessly and work several jobs in order to make a few songs then something is wrong. It is baffling so many great, ambitious musicians are being priced out; so the question remains large: is the bedroom-made sound the way forward? Perhaps so, but it is not always conducive to original and memorable songs. You have certain limitations in technology – artificial samples and under-produced sounds – and don’t have the same options as studio-set music. Sibley’s London crew have started from sapling roots and grown into a respected and popular group. In spite of the prolific output and exceptional music; the future is still not as certain and solid as it should be. One assumes someone like Sibley would be able to command long studio stays and get gigs wherever he pleases. I shall not go into too much detail only to say there needs to be a two-level approach to music. Not only ensuring studios are more affordable and less pricey; there are greater financial rewards for musicians and a way to finance them without having to rely on crowdfunding, for instance. It is a perplexing quandary but I am sure there is an answer in there.

Before I get down to looking at Victory Kicks’ latest album/songs, I wanted to pay tribute to those who do not employ oblivious and stayed influences. Every musician has their idols and to an extent will integrate these into their music. The same is certainly true of Victory Kicks whose music has definite hints of certain artists. Looking at their biography and seeing who makes them tick, it made me smile a bit. Guided by Voices, Wilco and Yo La Tengo are key. So too is British Sea Power, R.E.M. and Grandaddy. I have never seen all these names together and few of them actually sourced by a musician (as an influence). Perhaps it is an issue among bands but I find so many are inspired by the same type of act. You hear the same bands being name-checked and mentioned; it is understandable in some cases but can be very predictable and shoulder-sagging. Victory Kicks, and their listed influences, breaks away from convention and is a rarity. I know all the bands individually but have never known an artist to put them together. Listening to Victory Kicks’ music and it sort of all makes sense. You get the accessibility of R.E.M.’s mid-later-career accessibility with touches of Murmur (their debut album). Wilco and British Sea Power can be detected in Victory Kicks’ early work and definite nods to Yo Le Tengo. None of those musicians leap from the page – Victory Kicks are unique and original when you think of it – but it is refreshing seeing lesser-mentioned acts sit alongside one another. Not only does it suggest a musician/band that are a bit different and less predictable: you are compelled to listen to those acts and see where Victory Kicks came from. If music is to evolve freely and inspire the future generations then artists need to be less rigid and more flexible with their influences. So many new artists are overlooked older music and taking their inspiration from modern artists. It is going to lead to music being more homogenised, narrow and ‘new’. I hate to think one day musicians and the young will forget about the legendary artists and what they gave to us. Again, this is a theme for another day but something worth considering.

Victory Kicks have had a long and varied career and you need to go back to 2013’s Dead Language Evening Class to discover their earliest sounds. That E.P. was a four-track release that sounded more like a John Sibley solo project. He has help with the record but the abiding takeaway is Sibley and his talent. It was home-recorded and has that lo-fi charm to it. More electric-based and harder-edged than current work: it owes a little nod to ‘90s Rock and Indie bands; an insistent and fast-flowing E.P. that announced a singular talent with a lot of focus. A series of singles were released by the E.P. Emergency Noise was the next full release. Released in 2014, and with seven tracks on board, more acoustic elements were brought into the fray and it remains a more rounded and diverse listen. Again, there was a D.I.Y. aesthetic but the E.P. seems crisper and more defined than the debut. Sibley pushed himself as a songwriter and brought more sonic elements and instruments into the pot. Recorded in Sibley’s flat and benefiting from the creature comforts of his abode: it has an intimacy and deeply personal relevance; a wonderful live sound that makes every song shines and stand out. If it has a polished studio sound it would lose its edge and appear too theatric and insincere. Sibley’s heartfelt and tender voice comes through and he progressed as a singer too – bringing more cadence and sides into his performance.  High Wires was released last year and an album that pushes Victory Kicks up another notch and improves on previous efforts.

With every release, Sibley becomes more intriguing and boundary-pushing as a songwriter and that is evident here. Recorded and produced by Sibley and sounding more band-mate and full; the L.P. owes more in common with the latest album, Emily’s Hours. Every song seems fuller and more polished – not quite as bare and raw as earlier work. It gives the music a more commercial sound but not at the expense of conviction and emotion. Get Blurred takes this theory further and is another step up. Now a more band-themed concept: more elements and voices are brought in; the record is more compelling than one would imagine. Those thinking other components and vocal would take away from Sibley’s established sound but in fact it elevates the music. From the earliest days until here; Victory Kicks have evolved and grown into something extraordinary. The first few efforts were simpler and brought in certain influences; the newer records are more variegated and mix genres and new inspirations into the records. Every new release sees to top the last and that is true with Emily’s Hours. Victory Kicks seem like a full band now but one that have very few equals when it comes to what they are producing. Sounding completely in the zone and assured: it is wonderful hearing the guys bond and combines across truly incredible songs. There is still a rugged and modest production sound but the music is cleaner and has more polish than the earlier material. This rate of progression is impressive and hints at a band that is ready for mainstream recognition. How long before that happens? Surely not that long, one would imagine.

I was keen to review the entire album but wanted to focus on one track especially. Skyscrapers opens Emily’s Hours and does so with a definite sense of purpose. No time for fade-up or building the mood: it goes straight in and gets away with intention and determination. Scratchy, accelerated guitar scuffs open Sibley’s vocals up perfectly. The front-man is keen to lay down his lyrics and get his messages across. As Emily’s Hours documents commuter conversation and the stories we hear unfold on trains: Skyscrapers’ titrle might bring obvious ideas to the mind. The sight of pulling into Waterloo, perhaps, and seeing the tall buildings and London panorama beckon into view. Our hero implores against the workaday life and the humdrum, depressing daily existence. Whether speaking from experience or recalling the tale of someone he encountered: you get a real sense of mundanity of the working day and the stresses we face. The employers will not appreciate you and you will be undervalued and wasted. We all have that job where we feel invisible and anonymous and that comes through here. Those rushing and spiraling strings give ideas of locomotion and trains pulling into the station; the heavy foot traffic at train stations and the general busy nature of the streets. Many musicians have tried to assess the miasma and soul squalor of a Monday morning but few as effectively and vividly as this. You hop into the song and embody yourself the central figure – getting pushed along by London citizens and harried into the workplace; slum into your workstation and prepare for a crushing day ahead. Like Victory Kicks’ modern songs (and a lot of their older ones) we start from subtle, softer beginnings before the song expands and gets hotter. Starting inside a tense and energised delivery about arriving at work and feeling squashed underfoot; Skyscrapers changes tone into the chorus.

The song’s title is never really utilised as a mantra (like previous Victory Kicks songs) but instead it is the composition and vocal that is left to seduce and impress. Other Victory Kicks tracks have repeated chorus lines and song titles to get into the head and register a reaction. On Skyscrapers; the emphasis is put on the overall performance and the shift from acoustic-led drive to a fuller, bolder sound in the chorus. The lead implores us/the subject to open their eyes and see the sense of decay and depression. It is a number that will have different visions in each listener’s mind. I was picturing a lone, solemn commuter moving from train to underground to office; walking the streets and feeling lost among the huge crowds. Never feeling needed or like a human being: you sense that the man is just a cog or ghost lost in society. Perhaps Sibley is looking at consumerism, the modern workplace or the city in general. Always comfortable being a musician in London; one wonders whether the band experience is being documented. Maybe they feel undervalued and aghast at what is unfolding and the state of the music industry in general. It is an interesting point and shows Skyscrapers has many levels and possibilities at heart. One notices an obliqueness to some lines and it can be open to the individual to decide what is being said. Some of the lyrics do get a little buried in the composition and can be hard to decipher but that adds to the overall effect and emotion of the song. The band keeps the score edgy, rushing and moving without outpacing the vocal and making things suffocating. Sibley’s voice sneers at times and has a distinct tone of anger and upset to it. I was imagining the acidic tongue of the working life being twisted and tied but I also thought more generally about modern society. I was looking at R.E.M.’s debut album Murmur yesterday as part of a feature on the 1980s’ best albums. That L.P. was distinguished due to its enigma and austerity; the richness and intelligence that came through. Stipes vocals have a lack of intelligibility at times but that all sort of adds to the song. Michael Stipe’s vocals murmur and mumble but it elevates the song and adds mystery to them. Sibley has a similar quality and while his voice is clearer and faster; there is a loss of clarity at times which, rather than detracting and hurting thw song, seems appropriate and elevate it. The lyrics can be applied to the malaise we face approaching the working week but work deeper than that.

It is a great opener for Emily’s Hours and a bold statement from the band; they get stronger and more fascinating with every album/E.P. Skyscrapers is a perfect opening statement and song that provides rouse and energy but has a deeper message and motivates us to consider what is being said and its wider implications. It is not just Sibley’s vocals and lyrics that get under the skin and hits the listener but the composition provides plenty of splendor and quality. You get caught up in the spirited guitar and sturdy percussion and surrender yourself to its youthfulness and engagement. It is a composition to dance to and sing along to; another track that will get the crowds involved and unified. At the end of things, those lyrics leave you curious and you’ll be listening back to try and dig down to its roots. Emily’s Hours was inspired by train travel and conversations therein so one assumes the opening tracks looks at the morning commute and the experiences of getting into the office. Take it wider, and there are other implications and possibilities to the words. A song that mixes complex and simple without ever confusing or misleading. Such a wonderfully rich and terrific song that opens Emily’s Hours up with a real sense of impact and meaning. I have followed the London band for a while now and know how good they are. Skyscrapers ranks among the finest work to date and shows how much talent and creativity is still on offer: it means the future will be very interesting and I will wait with baited breath.

I am a little late to Emily’s Hours and joining the party. It is amazing to think Victory Kicks have released two albums in the space of a few months. It shows there is huge productivity, creativity and hope in camp. From the early days, the project has started from modest and homemade origins to grow into something more established, assured and full. Sibley is still at the heart of things but Victory Kicks have the sound and nature of a full band – not just a solo artist getting a few mates to contribute to their music. Victory Kicks are keeping their social media pages updated and ensuring fans are kept abreast of the latest happenings. The accounts are very professional, informative and easy for people to discover and follow. If you are not already a fan of the group then make sure you get involved and catch them live. So many great London artists are emerging and there is a lot of hustling and competitiveness. Standing aside from the crowd is incredibly hard and gaining the ear of studio bosses and record labels harder still. I looked at This Modern Hope and how it is, in essence, a one-man band and project of Rob Payne. He is based in London and stands aside from so many of his contemporaries. In the same manner, John Sibley’s Victory Kicks is not your average band/endeavor and goes a lot deeper than many out there. One of the most productive and accomplished acts I have come across: their albums are an exploration into music, emotion and dynamics. All anchored and galvanised by Sibley’s assured voice: the music creates something dream-like and wondrous. To be honest, there are so many shades and sides to Victory Kicks it is hard to narrow it down to one word or sentence.

Previous L.P.s have shown a development and progression: more confidence and sounds coming together; the songwriting stronger and possessed of more nuance. Where they are now is where they need to go: surely not long until international recognition and big-money deals one would imagine? It is always risky tipping a band for success – I have done that and a few have split up; not my fault, to be fair – so I am always hesitant making big statements like that. Victory Kicks deserve a lot greater acclaim and opportunity than they have. I know Sibley will take them across London and promote the latest album but one knows there are huge crowds who would love to see Victory Kicks in their town. The U.S. seems like a likely home and plenty of L.A. opportunities you’d think. Their sound is not cliché or predictable: it has clear personality and brings together wonderful artists like R.E.M. and British Sea Power. Varied, emotive and wonderfully fascinating: every album brings so much to the plate and leaves the listener stunned and deeply impressed. Get Blurred was released in June and has been followed up by this month’s Emily’s Hours. Not a mere copy or continuation of the previous album: the ten-track record is a different beast but still has that distinct Victory Kicks sound. I have been following the group since the debut album and am staggered by how they have grown and come along. Sibley is one of the most assured and talented songwriter in the country and his cohorts give the songs flesh and blood.

The title track drives off the blocks and races away. “Emily’s Hours trying to turn it around” is repeated as a chorus line and one wonders what that relates to. Oblique on the one hand but quite direct on the other: you will have your own ideas and conclusions. Sibley’s vocal is firm and determined and gives the lyrics a sense of urgency and passion. The composition pairs percussion and strings and has simplicity to it. Not needlessly crowding the song out or putting too much into the mix; it is a catchy and compelling song that has instant appeal and is sure to be a live favourite. There are flavours of R.E.M. in the composition but it is very much Victory Kicks in charge: they provide the merest hint and suggestion and employ the U.S. band as a springboard. Missteps, distortion and feedback give the impression the song ends but it comes right back to life: a wonderfully unexpected touch that gives it fresh momentum and a cheeky demeanor. Battleships is a less springy and more tense track whose vocal and composition has plenty of life but more seriousness to it. Perhaps not a crowd singalong: it is a song that makes you reflect and looks the inner-workings of a relationship. The words make you think of two lovers who are on different pages; trying to reach a compromise but perhaps not – again, Sibley’s lyrics are not obvious and give you the chance to interpret yourself. Take It Out is acoustic-led but soon gets harder and heavier without coming on too strong. A typically tight and memorable song from the band: it revolves around trains and new days; the commuter lifestyle and a certain sense of routine. The entire album is built around overheard conversations on trains and the sort of odd and everyday mixes you hear from commuters’ chat. Take It Out looks at the mundane, workaday life – getting the magazine out and head straight; wanting a slow day and no stress – but characterises it with heart and definite romance. You transport yourself into the skin of the song’s subject and feel the emotions, scenes and people that aree being projected.

Night Train takes us into another side of the commuter saga and twilight experiences. Daylight Saving Time has elements of British Sea Power with the composition. The strings have that definite The Decline of British Sea Power vibe while the vocal (a two-hander) is a beautiful fusion of tones and expressions; constantly engaging and brilliant. The Losing Side is another propulsive number that catches you unaware. The percussion is especially impressive and gives the song kick and drive; propels all other components forward. Sibley’s talents as a songwriter are brought to the fore as he turns the everyday ruts and experiences into something transcendent and fresh. He elevates these random conversations into little art pieces and galleries of human oddity. The Losing Side has some memorable lines (a mantra asking why they had to be “stupid fuc****” among them) and it is another concise and addictive jam that is sure to register a big response in the live setting. We’re Still Running is one of the shortest tracks on the album but closes things with a definite bang. Built, like many songs, around the song’s title: one of the finest cuts from the album. Bringing the entire band in more directly: it is a glimpse into another side of modern day life and gets you thinking hard. One is seduced by the gorgeous duel vocals and breezy, heartfelt codas that come forward. Never too anxious or foreboding; never needlessly offensive or vague: another quality cut from Victory Kicks that shows why they are one of the country’s finest unsigned acts. It is hard to define Emily’s Hours and drill it down to a few words.

Across the ten tracks, whilst levied to the theme of commuter discussions, you have so much story and different interactions. From stress-laden morning rushes to the nighttime unpredictability of the city; the sort of lifeforms that we take the train with to more everyday considerations – you need to study the album repeatedly for it all to sink in and get the full benefit. Victory Kicks have created a wonderfully unique album that shows how consistent and tight they are. Every song is defined by wonderful chemistry in the group and Sibley’s songwriting is at its very strongest. Previous albums have been wonderfully engaging and solid but here you get the finest work from the band. There is a lot of excitement and hope in the group and they will have a busy next few months ahead. Following Get Blurred and its release; many would not assume another album would come out so soon. It just proves what a love for music they have and how much the creative juices are flowing. I am not sure we will see another Victory Kicks album in 2016 – you would not put it past them, mind – but they will be getting out to crowds and performing their new music. Take some serious time to discover a band that is likely to be one of our future mainstays. They have already set down an extraordinary benchmark and you know more is coming from them. I, for one…

CANNOT wait to see what they produce next.

 

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Follow Victory Kicks

 

BandCamp:

http://victorykicks.bandcamp.com/

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/VictoryKicks/

Twitter:

https://twitter.com/victory_kicks

 

FEATURE: 10 Essential Albums from the 1980s

FEATURE:

 

10 Essential albums from the 1980s MUSICMUSINGSANDSUCH

 

10 Essential Albums from the 1980s

 

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ONE of the things that angers me most about musical debate…

is how overlooked and ridiculed the 1980s are. Seen as a ‘joke decade’ with nothing more than hair bands, New Romantic tosh and power ballads – it is only a minor player in a huge, wonderful time for music. You just have to look at the albums and artists that came out of the ‘80s to realise how special it was. Few of the 1990s’ best would have existed were it not for what came before. In fact, modern music as we know it owes so much to the 1980s. It will never get the credit it truly deserved but music lovers who truly know their stuff know better – just how crucial and sensational the ‘80s was. In honour of that spirit and defiance: I have been looking at the albums that emerged from the decade; trying to decide the most important records from the time. There are some omissions but, to me, the 10 albums here are the very best from a truly astonishing decade.

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Beastie BoysPaul’s Boutique

Many do not realise what state of affairs Beastie Boys were in during Paul’s Boutique and its creative inception. The group was away from their native New York and embarking on a rather challenging sophomore album – one that would keep them fresh and relevant but differs from their debut album. When Paul’s Boutique was released, it was received with a sense of tepidness and confusion among critics. Essentially a samples album; there is none of the teenage-themed rebellion, filth-riffs and Punk attitude of their debut. The boys were at a loss how to present and launch themselves. Step up legendary producers Dust Brothers who not only gave Beastie Boys a new direction and inspiration – they are the uncredited heroes of Paul’s Boutique. Critics in 1989 didn’t know how to handle the album but that is their folly. Filled with stunning samples, imagination and astonishing ambitious songs: it stands as one of the most colossus albums of the ‘80s and reinvented and pushed forward Hip-Hop. Sampling, being tricky, costly and reserved for the brave, was not a huge fixture of the late-‘80s. Beastie Boys inspired the likes of Beck (whose album, Odelay seems like a ‘90s Paul’s Boutique) and set a president for every other Hip-Hop act out there. Paul’s Boutique is full of contradictions and variation. Some songs, such as 5-Piece Chicken Dinner and Ask for Janice, last mere seconds: B-Boy Bouillabaisse is the 12-and-a-bit-minute finale and one of the most awe-inspiring, head-melting pieces from Beastie Boys. Packed with humour, bravado, and fiery raps: a marvellously compelling and astonishing recording that could take on any album from any decade – the critics of the ‘80s weren’t the smartest!

 

 

PixiesDoolittle

It is fair to say Pixies are, if not the most, then second-most influential Indie band that have ever lived. Without them there would be Nirvana: without them, there would be no Grunge and, well… music as we know it would be a very different place. 1988’s Surfer Rosa was fed to frenzied critics who found their sleazy, lugubrious riffs inventive and savage; the band interplay exhilarating and defiant – the songs anthemic and wondrous. They weren’t wrong: Doolittle would build on Surfer Rosa’s incredible foundations and be instantly celebrated as one of the ‘80s’ finest records. The 15-track album was not hotly regarded by all critics. Some found the production a little theatric and not fitting of the album’s intentions. Those who were willing to truly listen were blown out their skins and overwhelmed by the explosions they discovered. Short, sharp attacks like Tame – one of the most berserk Black Francis vocals so far – set the tone. Tensions between Francis and bassist Kim Deal were palpable during recordings – placing strains on the rest of the band and delaying the process. This tension and hostility filter into the album which is fraught with tussle, fight, and venom. If the band’s leader and most influential musician were at loggerheads: the same could not be said of the music of Doolittle. Consistent, focused and accessible: it is a far-reaching and ambitious album in terms of lyrics. Black Francis explores environmentalism and crazy ex-roommates; eyeball-slicing and driving cars into the ocean – balking against the tried-and-tested-and-boring clichés of broken hearts and doe-eyed romantics. Musically, the band reacted to Francis’ lyrical dexterity and gave each song its own style and sub-genre. From Western-influenced sounds to dead-eyed psychosis: Doolittle laid the groundwork for ‘90s bands and (Doolittle) stands as one of the most important Alternative-Rock albums in musical history. It is a testament to the importance of Pixies that they are still recording today – about to release their latest album, Head Carrier.

 

 

The SmithsThe Queen Is Dead

You can tussle and argue all you like when it comes to deciding The Smiths’ second-finest album: there can be little debate about the top spot. The Queen Is Dead was the moment the band cemented their legacy and proved they were worth the hype. To be fair; they didn’t need to prove anything to anyone but The Queen Is Dead was a quantum leap from their earlier work. No filler or weak tracks: Johnny Marr’s compositions and Morrissey’s lyrics were at their very apex. Morrissey especially was lauded because of his witty, intelligent and astonishing lyrics. Seemingly a romantic anti-hero who seemed happier being killed by a double-decker than sandwiched in a threesome: the doom-laden fatalism of his songs was a world away from his peers. His performances and vocals swooned and swayed; that voice managing to register so much emotion and effectiveness whatever he was singing. Marr’s always-mesmeric compositions created mini-worlds and straddled genres – marking himself as one of the greatest guitarists of his time. The Boy with the Thorn in His Side and There Is a Light That Never Goes Out stands the test of time and are considered among the greatest songs of all time. Morrissey’s lyrics subvert expectations that he was a depressive, misery guts with no alter ego. The Queen Is Dead’s songs provide tenderness, social commentary and gorgeous poetry – coupled with humour, devastation, and heart. There are not many modern guitar bands that can, if they were honest with themselves, omit The Smiths from their list of influences. Johnny Marr and Morrissey both state Strangeways, Here We Come was their favourite album (not true with the critics): they never made a more celebrated and solid album as this.

 

 

 

Public Enemy It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back

In the same way Paul’s Boutique threw away the Hip-Hop rulebook: Public Enemy’s career-defining sophomore release threw down the gauntlet and was revered as a genius work of social commentary and force. Against the backdrop of Ronald Reagan’s America: Public Enemy had plenty of fuel to stoke the fire. The noble army of The Bomb Squad, Professor Griff; B-Boy and Flavor Flav were joined by renegade mouthpiece Chuck D. His super-smart, pistol-whipping rhymes were given impetus, haulage, and artillery by The Bomb Squad heavy and intense soundscapes. With Flavor Flav adding huge clocks and humour: Public Enemy were a unique force that was much-needed in an America that was falling apart. Black voices felt ignored and subjugated: not represented by politicians and very much a silent minority. Public Enemy saw the chaos around them and funneled this anger and disgust inside an album that brought the nation’s forgotten armies right into the spotlight. The quintessential general and mercurial commentator: Chuck D.’s astonishing lyrics not only documented the reality and truth of life for the urban underclasses – he would inspire a generation of Hip-Hop and Rap acolytes that needed that common hero and guidance. Unlike some of their lesser-minded peers: Public Enemy’s primal and hard-striking lyrics were not sound-tracked by knuckle-dragging, one-dimensional sounds. Jazz, Rock, and Musique Concrète were fused together to bring about something truly astonishing and original. It is hard to think of a Hip-Hop album that has surpassed It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back. It was a staggering revelation and creation back in 1988: its influence, timeliness, and power have not waned in the proceedings 28 years.

 

 

Paul SimonGraceland

Leading up to Graceland’s creation: Paul Simon’s life went through a lot of change and turmoil. Briefly reuniting with Art Garfunkel: the two performed a couple of reunion concerts but nothing past it materialized. Solo album Hearts and Bones arrived in 1983 but was not well-received by critics. That failure led to a period of depression for Simon who retreated to an extent. Finding pleasure in South African township music: that sparked the fuse for Graceland’s conception and recording. The landmark album brought together Zydeco Isicathamiya, Pop, and Rock together with themes of social discontent, apartheid, and political upheaval. The album proved controversial due to the South African musicians that appeared on it – there was a cultural boycott at the time which prohibited such things. Against the impositions, rules and hatred arrived one the 1980s’ best albums. Graceland not only bridged cultures and pushed African music to the public consciousness: it stands, in its own right, as a masterpiece. Zydeco and Conjunto elements fused with traditional western music to give the songs a distinctly unique sensation. Simon moved away from a more straight-ahead narrative to focus on more poetic, character-filled songs. Satiric, cutting and abstract at varying points: it provided Simon a new lease of life and put him back in the critics’ good books. A stark and bold departure from Hearts and Bones: Graceland was a phenomenal leap forward and became one of the most successful albums of the decade. Over 16 million copies of the album have been sold and it continues to beguile and influence modern musicians. At a time when cultures and races (in South Africa especially) were balkanised, divided and fearful: Graceland were a unifying, glorious work that was all-inclusive and celebratory. Graceland is an album you can get lost in and transcends time, origin and location.

 

 

 

R.E.M.Murmur

I guess it is easy to overlook R.E.M. when compiling a list of the 1980s’ best albums. In 1983, when it was released, R.E.M. were a new commodity and some did not know what to make of them. A record that did sort of go unnoticed among many: it registered with critics and scooped enormous acclaim. Deep, moving and enigmatic. Luscious, black-and-white; completely beguiling. Sometimes front-man Michael Stipe hardly sounded like he was singing: slurring his words and lost in the power and potency of the music around him. Talk About the Passion was a hunger song that addressed famine and poverty. Not as successful and celebrated as it should have been: its lyrics suffered from a lack of decipherability and it only gained full acclaim many years after its release. Radio Free Europe is the standout and most memorable song. Other bands, peers of R.E.M., may have played harder and faster than guitarist Peter Buck but few bands could ever hope to achieve what Murmur did. Stipe’s lyrics, often cryptic and unintelligible, defined the album and sparred muscular and feminine sides; plenty of anger and social awareness – the band arrived from nowhere and instantly made a mark. Future R.E.M. albums would have more jangle, joy and energy (especially Out of Time) but Murmur remains a strange and singular album. Some would argue R.E.M. topped their creative efforts with Automatic for the People but nothing ever quite matched Murmur’s sense of entrance and stripped-down genius.

 

 

 

Michael JacksonThriller

If you dislike Michael Jackson as an artist (why would you do that?!) then you cannot argue against Thriller and how important it is. Still the best-selling album of all time: it finally broke Jackson to the world and truly established him as The King of Pop. Up until that time, black artists were not often (if at all) seen on MTV. Thriller’s promotional videos, with Jackson annoyed at the lack of representation, turned into huge events and ensured his face was seen by millions. Released at the end of 1982: Thriller, in its peak period, sold over one million copies per week. It seems baffling and intangible in a time where digital downloads seem to have replaced physical purchasing. Jackson, irritated and angered at Off the Wall’s lack of Grammy wins and acknowledgment, dispensed the boy-like falsetto to bring a tougher and meaner persona to Thriller. This was a young man primed and hungry for success and adulation. As such, Thriller’s songs smash, slam and groove. True enough, there are fillers and weaker moments that could have been left on the cutting room floor – Baby Be Mine is often singled as an especially poor choice. Opener Wanna Be Startin’ Something is sizzling, raw and frenzied. Thriller, Beat It and Billie Jean are the three we all associate with Thriller. Iconic, timeless and utterly irrepressible: the sound of Michael Jackson without equal or peers; creating songs that have endured for decades – and will continue to do so for many more. So much can be traced back to Thriller and its influence. Changing modern music and resonating with artists like R. Kelly and Justin Timberlake; ensuring there was greater equality on music T.V. – the list goes on. For an album that does contain a bit of filler: it is amazing that it remains as popular and addictive as it does. That is the power of Michael Jackson and the sheer confidence and songwriting talent that shone through. He would create more consistent albums but none as unstoppable and important as this.

 

 

 

Prince and the RevolutionPurple Rain

The Purple One may (sadly) no longer be with us but his legacy burns bright. By 1984, Prince was one of the hottest and most exposed musicians on the planet. Purple Rain was his masterpiece (others followed) and his music was everywhere. It is understandable why the album registered as such and struck a nerve. The most emotional and dramatic album of his career: every song possesses huge passion and wonderful delivery. Whether seduced by the catchiness and heartbreak of When Doves Cry; the dance, joy and Rock grit of Let’s Go Crazy – there was a song for everyone. Prince went on to win two Grammys in 1985 for the album (Best Rock Vocal by a Duo or Group; Best Album of Original Score Written for a Motion Picture of TV Special) and elevated Prince to new heights. His songwriting talent, guitar brilliance, and vocal dexterity were never in doubt: everything came together and was at his peak here. Selling 13 million copies in the U.S. alone: Purple Rain has sold over 20 million copies worldwide. Prince aimed at superstardom with Purple Rain: he designed and executed the album with that outcome very much in mind. Superbly crafted and brilliantly executed: the nine-track album did just that; made him a peerless, household icon. So many genres, ideas and colours are thrown together with authority and discipline. If you are not hooked by the majestic, sweeping title track that you probably need your pulse taking. Given the ambition and cross-pollination involved: it would be a risky venture in lesser hands. Prince’s sheer talent and drive turned Purple Rain into an almost religious experience – one whose potency helped turn it into one of the finest albums ever laid down.

 

 

 

Talking HeadsRemain in Light

After the astonishing Fear of Music in 1979: Talking Heads entered the ‘80s with expectation on their shoulders. That album was hugely celebrated and the apex of their career, to that point. Having to not only top themselves but more with the changing demands in music – the band found themselves looking around. Punk was starting to die and change: it was an awkward time for the genre and it was feeling a little tired and predictable. Pop was perhaps too broad for the band so they ensconced themselves in Compass Point Studios, Nassau with a certain Brian Eno in tow. What the band created was an album that integrated African influences and music with heavy percussion leaning and tonnes of rhythm, quirkiness, and idiosyncrasies. Less conventional than their peers: Remain in Light was awash with sparkling, effect-driven strings and bellicose, tribal percussions – all delivered by David Byrne who was in peak creative form. His lyrics were at their weird and wonderful best. Never a literal, predictable songwriter: depth and emotion sit alongside eye-catching characters and surrealism. Once in a Lifetime highlights life’s crossroads and contemplation and hard realisations we all must face; Crosseyed and Painless about a paranoid, urban figure stressed by his surroundings. Byrne wrote a lot of the lyrics in a stream-of-consciousness way; employing free-association. Although the album is the most lyric-heavy and wordy the band has ever created: it is the music and exceptional compositions that stay in the mind the longest. Talking Heads would take three years to follow up Remain in Light: 1983’s Speaking In Tongues would see them embark on a new route and enter a new phase. Remain in Light is not an album reserved for intelligentsia and die-hard Talking Heads fans. It is a ubiquitous, accessible record that has so many nuances it is impossible to ignore or forget it. Decades after its release, the lyrics and themes sound as pertinent and vital as the day they were recorded. Songs that alternately put a smile on your face and see you entrenched in deep thought and reflection: an extraordinary achievement from a truly unique band.

 

 

 

MadonnaTrue Blue

You cannot do any feature on the 1980s without recognising the Queen of Pop, Madonna. In 1984, Madonna released Like a Virgin and it was an album that turned her into a global mega-brand. After the assured but shaky-in-places debut: her sophomore record was a genuine hit and its two most notable songs, Like a Virgin and Material Girl, were on the airwaves for months. Madonna not only inspired girls and young women everywhere but came with a certain air of controversy – the title track was seen as especially risqué and impressionable. True Blue came along in 1984 and contained familiarity and evolution. Topics of fidelity and love were there but True Blue seemed a more mature and conscientious record. Looking at real-world concerns and deeper issues: the girl Madonna was turning into a woman. Plenty of fun remained as did red-bloodied sexuality and a definite playfulness. Madonna herself was hitting her peak as a songwriter, performer, and icon. True Blue showed she was more than a one-hit wonder and that spoke to young women coming through society. Rivaling Michael Jackson and Prince as one of the biggest stars of the ‘80s. Of course, the album was not without its share of condemnation and disapproval. Papa Don’t Preach addressed a girl keeping a baby to spite her father’s brow-beating. What shone through brightest was the cohesiveness and variation throughout. Not confined to pure Pop and one-note songs: Madonna laced Latin rhythms (La Isla Bonita) and Dance (Open Your Heart) with stunning balladry (Live to Tell). Maybe a little committee-designed and aimed for the masses: that cannot dampen or disquiet the sheer audacity, brilliance, and achievements throughout True Blue. Madonna would never hit the dizzying heights of True Blue: the moment she became the biggest and most influential female Pop star in the land.

 

 

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It is hard thinking about the ‘80s and not smile. It was the decade I was born and remains pivotal for me. I can see some of the downsides and criticisms: there was a lot of terrible music and the appalling fashions hardly did much to give credibility to the decade. If you dispense with that and go further, you do not have to dig much to discover just how much wonder and brilliance was created during the 1980s. Make sure you remind yourself (listening to the albums above) at what quality there was – go further and properly investigate a wonderful time for music. So much of today’s music and the best sounds from the ‘80s-present owes a debt to the 1980s. We should give thanks and be truly appreciative.

FEATURE: The August Playlist: Vol. 3

FEATURE:

 

The August Playlist: Vol. 3  MUSICMUSINGSANDSUCH  

The August Playlist: Vol. 3

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THE talk this weekend will naturally revolve…

around Frank Ocean and his as-yet-untitled-no-idea-when-it-will-drop album. His visual release, Endless, came out yesterday and was met with generally favourable reviews. Muddled and long in places, yet filled with great moments: it provided a real glimmer of light and tantilisation for his new, traditional album. That will be with us shortly, but in the third part of this August feature, let’s have a look at other songs and acts out there. All these tracks are either out or will be out in the form of albums in the coming weeks – a few sneaky peaks into early-September and the musicians who will be unveiling new work then. With a rainy and traditional British day upon us: what better excuse than discovers some great new music…

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BANKSMind Games

 

 

MousesGreen

 

 

Fat White FamilyBreaking Into Aldi

 

 

PixiesTalent

 

 

Crystal CastlesFleece

 

 

Stormzy Birthday Girl

 

 

John Paul WhiteWhat’s So

 

 

Ed HarcourtDionysus

 

 

The Veils Low Lays the Devil

 

 

Cass McCombs – Opposite House

 

 

Lydia Loveless  Longer

 

 

ScientistsBet Ya Lyin’

 

 

Lisa Hannigan  Fall

 

 

Ages and AgesThey Want More

 

 

BaysidePretty Vacant

 

 

Glass Animals Youth

 

 

Beach BabyU R

 

 

The Divine ComedyCatherine the Great

 

 

Zomby Her

 

 

Helms AleeUntoxicated

 

 

The Album Leaf Between Waves

 

 

Cassius (ft. Cat Power)Feel Like Me

 

 

September promises some bumper releases and who knows what singles will be revealed prior to that? It has been a productive and exceptional last month for music and so many terrific songs have made their way to us. Frank Ocean is creating waves and whatever comes, it is sure to be met with a flurry of fevered praise and excitable proffering. The weather is pretty unpredictable and harsh so it is a great time to close the window and surrender to some of August’s finest new tracks.

 

TRACK REVIEW: This Modern Hope – The Storm

TRACK REVIEW:

 

This Modern Hope

 

  

The Storm

 

9.5/10

 

The Storm is available via:

https://soundcloud.com/thismodernhope/the-storm

ORIGINS:

London, U.K.

GENRES:

Alternative-Rock; Indie; Art-Rock;

RELEASED

August 2016

__________________________

THERE are not many musicians that can…

come from a well-respected, established band; see it dissipate and then re-launch themselves as an impressive solo artist. I shall come to my featured artist This Modern Hope but is worth addressing that first point; looking at the art of blending moods/genres; a bit about the understated value of intricacy and beauty in music – and how hard it can be with regards originality and effectiveness. I have mentioned before, but I’ve seen too many great bands consigned to the musical scrapheap. Whether affected by inter-band tensions or a natural end: it is always heartbreaking seeing it happen. In the mainstream, The Maccabees recently called time: one of the most promising and interesting bands Britain has produced the last few years. I guess music is challenging and unpredictable, and hopefully, This Modern Hope’s Rob Payne won’t mind the discussion, but one is curious what causes bands/acts to crumble – maybe finding ways to avoid it perhaps. In the modern climate, there are more and more musicians coming through by the week. The accessibility and easy, D.I.Y. approach to music have made it easier and more cost-effective to produce your own songs. To this extent, the existing artists about are having to work harder and getting less attention. The music industry should be open-doored and impose no borderers and checks: if we discourage artists and people coming in then we are likely to lose a lot of talent and wonderful music. I just fear some bands, who have high hopes and look set to go the distance, are needlessly struggling and having to think of a Plan B. If you expand this theory out; you see a lot of venues and clubs closing too. Even in London, with the money and opportunities available, there is little security and assurances. Maybe it is the way of the world but I’d like to think we see fewer great acts (and music venues) going under for very little reason. If your members are fighting beyond the point of repair or you lose that passion, then that is fair enough. I know, from speaking with former bands, it is issues like finance, gig availability and lack of promotion that is causing them to split. In this time, there seems little excuse for not promoting bands: social media is easy to use and designed for that sort of thing. Perhaps the smaller towns provide few platforms for new musicians but the larger cities should be well-stocked and set-up to accommodate the rising demand. It is, as with many rants/issues I provoke, perhaps best discussed in future. I mention this opening topic because This Modern Hope’s Rob Payne was former member of the band The Bedroom Hour.

That band was hugely praised and respected because of their widescreen songs and wonderfully rich tapestries. A cross of Elbow-cum-Doves Art-Rock and dreamy, cinematic swathes: their break-up sent shock-waves among their fans and some media avenues. Out of the dust of The Bedroom Hour came Rob Payne’s This Modern Hope. Before I carry on; it is time we are introduced to the aforementioned venture:

This Modern Hope, the new solo project from West London musician and producer Rob Payne, is ready for take-off and poised for success. Drawing on influences such as Death Cab For Cutie, Doves and his brother’s record collection, This Modern Hope’s sound is classic yet fresh, switching seamlessly from up-tempo, driving rock to stirring ballads, Rob’s soulful voice floating effortlessly over the melodies as the beats flow. Lyrically deep and with a heady vocal intricacy, the songs come straight from the heart and leave a lasting impression that words can’t describe. With a strong musical pedigree, masses of talent and a little help from some friends, This Modern Hope’s tunes are ready to be heard.

I will not theorise why The Bedroom Hour are no more (we will just mourn their passing) but instead celebrate the success and rise of This Modern Hope. I know, from following the social media feed of Payne, there was some doubts whether new music would be made and whether he’d be able to rekindle that passion. What strikes me about This Modern Hope, and some of the best artists out there is the seamless ability to blend genres (often disparate) and make it sound natural and entrancing. It is quite a risky venture with regards cross-pollinating and it can often be a failed venture. So many artists, in a bid to sound original and fresh, put wide-ranging moods/genres together in a hope it will just hang together. It takes a very special artist to be able to do that so caution should be exercised. One of the most commendable facets of music is when someone can take dreamy, sea-swimming gracefulness and unify that to a harder, more driving element – and create something new and hugely atmospheric. This Modern Hope, while retaining a touch of Elbow and Doves in the mix, conjure something enticing and vivid; symphonic and rousing. Payne’s experience with The Bedroom Hour has prepared him for This Modern Hope: if anything, his new project is even more impressive and commendable. With the help of friends and that determined, singular vision: he can lace reflection inside joy and a light under an ocean of shadows. I hear a lot of promising and hungry Rock acts but feel they do not possess relevant variation and malleability. This Modern Hope shows how things should be done. You get bristling, electric strings but within, there are subtle shades and emotional elements – a much richer and broad palette at work.

Those who see the words ‘beauty’ and ‘passion’ in music will have a few reactions. They may see those words as tropes and overused terminology. Others might have clear views of what they can expect; others will bridle and assume something saccharine, treacly and unappetising. There are musicians that aim for something emotive, spine-tingling and blood-rushing and come up hopelessly short. What This Modern Hope does, and other like-minded colleagues do, is parabond accessibility with rarified. You get appealing, stays-in-the-brain lines but with it, something delicate and balletic – hard to define and very special. Beauty and romance in music is portrayed in all manner of ways and can, depending on the artist, be a success of failure. I am a huge fan of instant, raw songs but always love being washed away by something evocative and poised. This Modern Hope’s urbane, opulent and captivating songs take you to far-off lands are across oceans; they deal with everyday emotions and inner-reflection. Payne is showing how consistent and variegated he is as a writer and musician: let’s hope this productivity and creativity continues for many years. After adapting to a life sans bandmates: the solo endeavor creates its own struggles and obstacles. A lonelier, more autonomous way of existence: This Modern Hope has ridden the waves and shown immense fortitude and ambition. The Storm, having been out for a little while now, proves what a true and unique musician Payne is.

This Modern Hope’s music has always been built on a foundation of beauty and building emotion. If one looks back at The Abyss. Released late last year: the song was one of the very first offerings from This Modern Hope. Squalling, rain-lashed guitars opened it and the driving percussion gave it a definite urgency. The vocal has pain and anxiety but there is a luscious, romantic quality to it. It (the abyss) is here for our hero and there seems to be that air of expectation and acceptance. One hopes, throughout all the song, that there will be redemption and hope – maybe a romance or chink of light that will pull him back. Friends and allies are gone and it is n uncertain and dramatic mood being painted: you get moved by the power of the song and everything going on. Guitar flecks, sparkles and elicits diamonds of fire and a raw, Blues-like quality. Percussion keeps steady and ensures the song has a solid backbone and sense of consistency; different lines, elements, and interactions work around the two – such an evocative and vivid creation. I pictured an empty city and our man walking the streets in search of comfort and answers; ravaged and hit by the conditions and weather – such a bracing and head-spinning song. Few artists come in that confidently and compelling but, with the previous experience under his belt, it is maybe not too unexpected to hear such authority from This Modern Hope.

Ship on the Ocean, like its sister tracks, has that trademark echo and low-fade intrigue from the early stages. Graceful, soulful pianos and subtle electronics fuse to give the song an early gravitas and quality. You instantly go to the ocean and picture a lone vessel traversing the waves. The guitars whip up and skip along with a definite jauntiness – never too racing or aimless; always keeping perspective and balance. More positive and open than The Abyss: it shows a new side to This Modern Hope and takes the listener in a different direction. Embroiled with so many emotions and possibilities: it is hard not to be engaged with the composition and start to envisage various outcomes and scenarios. Away from the ship-based storyline; our hero’s professions of youthful indiscretion change perception. Opening his mouth and saying words with little consideration for recourse and consequence – perhaps a rebel or someone who was not as caring as one would hope. Payne’s has an element of Guy Garvey and you detect Elbow’s frontman in his dramatic and burr; a little bit of Noel Gallagher too. Our hero is a ship on the ocean and seeking stability and reliability. It seems, the song’s subject/heroine, is the only one he can rely on. Perhaps speaking to a sweetheart or a good friend: it appears many have abandoned our man and left him feeling jaded and scarred. Elongated his words and putting so much potency and power into the delivery – one of the most affecting and emotive songs from This Modern Hope. It is a different direction from The Abyss but still has some pain and loneliness at its core. Ship on the Ocean, like other songs in This Modern Hope’s cannon, possesses an exceptional composition and so much going on. With strings, electronics, and percussion; it is almost a film-like presentation: sweeping, haunting and lustful in equal measures.

The Storm progresses from previous songs and is the most confident and stunning creation from This Modern Hope. All the usual components and dynamics are in place – the sweeping composition and assured, soulful vocals – but there is that tiny lift in quality; all the elements are more focused and glistening – the overall effect more profound and nuanced. Like previous numbers: there is that weather-beaten, emotion-drained centre with semi-symphonic composition – ensuring existing fans find familiarity and consistency. For any new followers: so much to discover and a wonderful song in its own right. Let’s hope The Storm leads to more creativity from Payne’s This Modern Hope and an E.P. or album. I could easily see an L.P. emerge and a 10/11-track collection of songs from the London musician. It seems like This Modern Hope has plenty of ideas and motivation and it will be exciting to see what the next few months hold in store. With inspiration bands like Elbow, Doves and Death Cab for Cutie either inactive or on hiatus: there is a definite gap in the market for the kind of music This Modern Hope is putting out there. I notice a vacuum and need for something that provides chills and shivers but gives the soul and heart nourishment and tenderness.

A sentiment of breeze and storm opens the song and is subtle and building. Almost too slight to hear: the song begins to grow and expand as the guitars raise and campaign. Almost like the rain starting to pour down: the strings are never too heavy or fast but have a definite strength and impact to them. Like early songs from This Modern Hope: the vocal never comes in too quickly; apt for the composition to work and create imagery – always compelling but never giving too much away too soon. You become involved and fascinated by the song right from the start and wonder where it is going to lead us. The guitar has subtleness and melody but there is an aching, yearning quality to them. Many songs go in hard and feel the need to throw weight and heaviness in; the hope the listener will be braced and strong-armed into liking a song. This Modern Hope shows more consideration and allow songs to speak for themselves and gentle make their way into the consciousness. The storm has “already begun” and they have to move. Whether talking about a lover or friends trapped by the incoming threat: there is a definite tension and urgency right away. One listens and wonders whether it is as simple and clear-cut as first imagined. Maybe there is a literal storm or maybe it is a metaphor for something else. Perhaps an argument or change of culture; a desire or harsh situation: your mind will think of various possibilities and what is being attested. Payne’s vocal is backed by a sturdy and thumping beat that presents footsteps, rush, and wind; the guitars fade slightly but still keep keen, sharp and imperious. Our hero is a pastor and leader who is giving advice to the people and preparing them for the imminent storm. Hide behind the tables and brace yourself for what is to come. Again, I was thinking about something other than a literal storm and took my imagination elsewhere. That is the beauty and power of any great song: it gets you thinking beyond the literal and conspiring. Payne’s tremulous, firm voice brings the words to life and gives them so much decorum and sobriety. Never rushing or needlessly overpowering; always restrained and mature – it ensures the lyrics are clear to understand and are giving the maximum amount of respect and consideration.

Knowing “we can’t go back” and the situation is too fraught and dangerous: you cast yourself in the song and are affected by its physicality, grandeur, and evocativeness. Almost accepting that life will change and there is no real way to remain, Payne’s vocal is solid but there is weariness to it. Nobody can deny the atmosphere and conviction of The Storm. It is not a song that sits back and lets the listener do all the leg work when it comes to imagining and connecting the dots. Despite the level and typical Payne vocal prowess; here, there is plenty of fresh determination, power, and depth. One of the staples of This Modern Hope is the intricacies, vocal nuance, and layers to that instrument. Payne does not simply replicate what he has done across previous singles, but instead, provides one of his most compelling and affecting performances yet. Just as you become too invested in the lyrics, the composition steps in and provides movement and development in the story. From the desperation and warnings that have been provided; you know have a break where the strings and percussion step in. The sound of the building mood and what is to come: it is a blend of nerviness and strange calm; an underlying uncertainty for sure. It is a short parable but one that bridges the verses perfectly. Never outstaying its welcome or being too concise: you are afforded the chance to direct the story and dictate where the song is headed. When Payne comes back in, there are more cautionary tales and sage advice for those fleeing. The fires are raging and it is best take what you can – leave any other possessions where they are. The Storm is a song that has those stark and apocalyptic lyrics but the compositions remains, by comparison at least, strangely calm and controlled. Other bands, if they were to write a song like this, would throw intense solos and pummeling percussion in and maybe dampen and distill the effect. The Storm is something that always intrigues the senses. Following the lyrics and jumping into the song: it is impossible not to feel a bit of fear as the lyrics grow heavier and more agitated. Repeating that message to leave and flee: Payne’s voice starts to rise and becomes more dramatic; perhaps realising the situation he is in. Again, I was not thinking about literal situations and cast my focus outside the circle. Yes, there is the possibility of a real-life storm and something as simple as that. It is hard not to dig deeper and think about other avenues and digressions. Perhaps there is a nod to a relationship breakdown or a general shift in music culture- subconsciously or not; the song is not as straightforward as you’d imagine. Maybe I am over-thinking and looking down rabbit holes, but This Modern Hope does that to you. Great songwriters are those that can keep their songs relatable and accessible but have more than one direction/explanation.

After the repeated warning and increasing desperation, there is another compositional passage that ensures things do not get too heavy and intense for the listener. Similar to its predecessor, there is lightness and grace but enough unsettle to ensure the story keeps its intensity and anxiety firm. Percussion slams, pitter-patters, and rolls to give the impression of thunder and wind. Those strings keep lashing and giving ideas of rain and gust. Around it, there is a general aura of downpour and gales that is hard to escape. One speculates at this stage what compelled the song and whether there was a particular inspiration. Like I said with regards emotional and romantic possibilities: was there an event from Payne’s life that caused him to put pen to paper and create The Storm? It is another terrific and compelling track from This Modern Hope and a perfect album closer. I hear whispers there might be an album and if that is forthcoming, I could see The Storm being its finale. I say that because the song’s final minute finds the compositions accelerating and becoming more detailed and busy. Everything starts to race and there is a distinct move through the gears. You can feel the storm coming in and there is nowhere to run. Maybe the song’s characters evaded the worst and managed to find a shelter. It is a curious and gripping track that will leave you guessing and get you repeating it in search of conclusion and answers. As The Storm ends, the guitar notes repeat in a mantra-like quality and enforce their sound. Perhaps indicative of the rain or trying to punctuate a particularly stern expression: it a huge effective closing and one that will leave question marks and possibilities. Whatever the true origins of the song and the truth in Payne’s mind; every listener will get something different from it and have their own interpretations. The Storm has a similar feel to tracks like The Abyss but I feel This Modern Hope have created the finest song yet. Perhaps it is the story or the details in the composition but I found myself revisiting the song and trying to get to the heart of the matter. At its face, it is a simple song about outrunning a storm but there is that lingering doubt and potential something else is being assessed.

I dedicate this section of a review not only rounding things up but predicting the artist’s future. Starting with the latter: it is an exciting time for This Modern Hope. An impressive collection of singles under his belt and a (seamlessly) unlimited supply of avenues and stories. Following This Modern Hope’s social media pages; it is clear more music will come but what form will that take? The Storm is a typically assured and impressive piece from This Modern Hope that will surely get people talking and speculating. Perhaps there will be an album coming this year (there are photos to suggest there are), but for now, it is great hearing This Modern Hope in top form. With Payne, as one experienced during The Bedroom Hour’s regency, was his multi-discipline prowess. Every aspect of his musicianship and performance struck you and evoked some sort of emotion. So many musicians are sterile and faceless that it leaves you a little weary and disappointed. Every track Payne puts his name to seem to drip with emotion and has that atmospheric and cinematic blend. London is filling up with so many tremendous musicians and This Modern Hope can rub shoulders with the best of them. I am sure there will be gig opportunities afoot but, knowing Payne’s current schedule, he will want to get his music (and The Storm) to crowds and keep as busy as possible. The capital is a demanding mistress and does not guarantee platform and finance to all musicians who play here. I have witnessed too many undeserving and cliché musicians gain success and huge fondness – those that are worthy of success have toiled and had to fight very hard. This Modern Hope has a loyal and dedicated fanbase that is deserving of augmentation and multiplication. There are not many artists that do things the same way and paint pictures (like This Modern Hope). The Storm might provoke scenarios of violence, disorder and disturbance (which you get to an extent) but so much more is brought to the mix. One struggles to properly define the musical and components incorporated. This Modern Hope has that knack of pairing simplicity and accessibility with complexities and fine details. As such, it is important that This Modern Hope’s music is given wider regard and brought into the public consciousness with greater determination. Payne is doing his very best but it is down to social media followers and new fans to become proactive and engaged.

No matter what plans are afoot, it is clear – from The Storm’s huge force and nuances – that This Modern Hope is poised for future success. Payne has a good network of friends and musicians but it is his sustained vision and singular talent that keeps pushing through. It is, as I suggested up-top, a blend of moods and a nod to beauty that sets him aside from a lot of his peers. In a time where too many go straight for force and momentum (opposed to reflection and restraint) it is commendable This Bedroom Hour subvert the need to explode and whip out needless guitar solos. Those thinking reflection, evocation, and grandeur are uncool and ineffective would do good to spend some time listening to artists like This Modern Hope. To conclude, then. The Storm is a definite beauty that has a very instant and obvious impact but the more you play it, the more you get from it. Various passages, compositional elements and moments stand out (where they were quiet before) and the song gains new light and splendor. Call it nuance or talent: This Modern Hope should be part of your regular playlist; songs that nullify the petty dramas in life and engulf around you – bringing you into song and easing the mind. Keep updated on all the social media goings-on (links below) and ensure artists like Rob Payne’s This Modern Hope…

IS provided plenty of support and love.

 

___________________________

Follow This Modern Hope

 

Official:

http://www.thismodernhope.com/

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/ThisModernHopeMusic

Twitter:

https://twitter.com/thismodernhope

Instagram:

http://instagram.com/thismodernhope

SoundCloud:

https://soundcloud.com/thismodernhope

YouTube:

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCoezfwi011FeoW9kzzAqDaA