TRACK REVIEW: Yearbook – Faster, But Slow






Faster, But Slow





Faster, But Slow is available at:

1st December, 2016



Hampshire, U.K.

The album, I Stop Somewhere Waiting for You, can be purchased here:


2nd December, 2016


THIS is a review tinged with a bittersweet taste…

Not only is this, I Stop Somewhere Waiting for You, the first album from Yearbook – it will, effectively, be the last – as the band are looking to part. Before I get to the band and focus on one of the songs from the album, I wanted to look at bands and those that have made an impact this last year; the nature of the music industry in general and the importance of differentiating yourself from the crowd. Thinking about the Hampshire formed/based group has got me wondering about all the great new acts I have heard this year. As I have stated in (many) previous reviews: it seems this year has been dominated by solo artists and their albums. I defy you to open up a list of the ‘Best Albums of 2016’ and count how many band-created records are on there. I am willing to wager the majority of inclusions will be from solo artists. That is not to say bands are obsolete: it seems there is a leaning towards solo acts and what they are producing. Perhaps not surprising given the way music is developing. There seem to be more solo artists emerging and it is only natural they should be represented. Whereas your lone act has to shoulder the duties of myself by themselves; the band has a few members to share responsibilities. That said, the reasons why solo artists stop making music is often different to that of a band – I will touch on that more in a minute. I have loved reviewing all sorts of artists from the last twelve months and have been pleased by the great bands coming through. Even if poll-makers are preferring the sounds of the solo market, there are those fully engaged with the hottest and more resonating bands in the land. After all, the major festivals in this country rely on bands to headline their stages – that is the main reason people go to them. If the ‘mainstream’ festivals like Reading and Leeds have, rather predictably/boringly, chosen Muse to be their first headliners for 2017 – almost as obvious and uninspired as asking Foo Fighters to do it – then the lesser-known stages are going to be hosting some of our most promising young bands.

I mention this topic, not as an aside, but a relevant point pertaining to the Yearbook boys. Andrew Ian Halloway, Hamish Dickinson; Thomas Brooker and Louis Martin are the noble foursome that provides Yearbook its memories, colour and immense passion. I hope, were their current album to be the last recorded material as a group, they would at least consider a farewell festival. I know, as I will explain in the conclusion, a couple of dates set aside – it would be a tragedy to think they’d miss out on one or two summer dates next year. The boys have been playing together for a while now and in that time have cemented themselves as one of the most striking and immediate bands in the country. I have reviewed a lot of bands this year – few stick in the mind quite like the quartet. Being a fan of their Old Bones E.P. – which felt like digging up the past and surveying past memories – then their album is a documentation of the here and now. It is the freshest, most complete and stunning work produced: hard to think such a body of work could originate from a group on the verge of dissolution. Whilst it is sad to reflect on their premature departure; it provides one a moment to look at music and the challenges faced. It is true, modern music is defined by huge demands and a rather Herculean set of obstacles – tasks and practicalities one must navigate and conquer in order to succeed. I have seen too many great bands call time the last couple of years and it always creates the same impression: why is more not done to provide support to musicians? This is a question I posed in my last review and seems to hold firm in my consciousness. I have not quizzed the boys about the reason for their break-up but it seems to be, from a rather far-off vantage point, a mutual decision – free from acrimony and spite. In fact, the boys have just (if they’re not still there now), completed a tour of Europe and had a bit of a ball – including a rather misjudged/conversation-provoking status updated posted on Brooker’s Facebook page but a “funny” – read: I’m going to kick his arse – bandmate a few days ago. There is revelry and brotherhood in the ranks so it seems – and I will have to ask why they are calling time – there are other reasons why Yearbook are moving onto pastures new separately. Their band name reminds me of leaving school and having to go in different directions minus the friends formed and cherished at school – that fear and unhappiness that comes with facing a rather adult truth. Perhaps there is an issue with finance and demand; maybe the boys have different creative ideas or some members are less enamoured of the band life than they once were. I would not be labouring the point so fervently was I not so awed by the boys’ music and potential. When Old Bones arrived, I was certain the group would ascend to the peak of the new music mountain: future festival kings and those likely to be dropping into the studios of ‘6 Music to play a session for Steve Lamacq or Lauren Laverne. Alas, that is not to be, so it provokes a question in my mind: why are so many talented bands splitting up? Maybe there are ‘too many’ musicians coming through which can make it hard to A) get necessary gigs and regular spots and B) stand aside and persist. Yearbook has cemented a furious local following and a deep well of fans across Europe; they would have had the potential to transcend to the U.S. and take their music global. I just feel, in relation to them, there was so much they could have done and territory they could have carved. Today, and with the groundswell of new bodies emerging, it is harder to balance the realities of workaday life with the ambitions of being a musician. Venues are closing – and those well-established finding their foundations cracking – so it is with turbulence and uncertainty musicians are playing these days. Of course, this might be rendered moot were the explanation (behind the band’s end) to be something simple or unavoidable.

Whilst we mourn and debate the domesticity reality and capricious fate of modern music, we should never ignore the band in question and how they got to where they are now. So many bands are beholden to the legacy and sound of some rather obvious sources – Foo Fighters and Arctic Monkeys still the appetiser of choice for many young upstarts. Seeing how certain bands have climbed onto the festival circuit the natural instinct, of many bands, is to copy their sound in the hope of reciprocal attention. I have grown weary of the rather middling and spineless Indie bands whose subject book is filled with heartbroken clichés and clever-clever attempts at Turner-esque witticism. You know the kinds I am referring to: the clean-shaven lads with faux-attitude and the same sort of lines, impressions and snarl as Turner; guitars, bass and drum that are dedicated but hardly stand aside from the pack. Again, there are many that want to copycat the hirsute and chunky riffs of Dave Grohl’s gang: throwing together a collection of sub-Foo’ sounds with little imagination provided to originality and legitimacy. Those acts that have the intelligence, fortitude and ability to stamp out something unique and special should not be ignored. I feel too many of the former – the forgers and lazy – and being presented golden tickets and unwarranted airplay whereas the brave and strong are fighting too hard and becoming fatigued; tired having to get their voices heard above the parapet of the beige and average. Yearbook have a bit of Alternative and Rock but they incorporate so many different sounds and sub-genres into their psychotropic potions. The lads can muster up a Molotov cocktail of gnarly strings and bellicose beats; soul-infusing basslines and the sort of commanding vocals reserved for the most-celebrated bands around. Chuck in lyrics that rarely succumb to predictability, and are imbued with humour, savviness and literary intellect, and here is a band with all the components needed to triumph in the warfare of music. Alas, my protestations and supplications seem bereft of hope as Yearbook will be closing the doors and going their individual ways in a matter of weeks. It is sad to see such a strong and fine band separate but these things do happen. Against the 2016-appropriate sadness and tragedy we must not dwell on the negativities but celebrate the positives and goodness the band have left us. In terms of progeny: there are few finer than their L.P., I Stop Somewhere Waiting for You. The title alone beckons all sort of imaginative interpretations and speculation. The music, as I will explore in more depth, is as ripe, stunning and nuanced as you’d expect from the band. If this is, as it seems to be, their final statement: it is one hell of a legacy to leave.

Old Bones was rife with great tunes and promising moments but I feel the band have upped their game and created their finest work in I Stop Somewhere Waiting for You. I am sure they will admit the album is important and their best work yet. Old Bones is an amazing work and hard to believe it emanated from a band so young. In each song you hear so much detail and exceptional musicianship. More creative and inspired than their peers: this is emphasised through their debut album. In the eleven songs, the guys run through a variety of themes and concerns: each song sees them up the ante and turn the volume up. The band is not just noise-makers only concerned with force and aggression. They are a group who provide texture, beauty and refinement – counterbalancing the more assiduous fire and ensuring their songs are rife with nuance. That is something a lot of bands lack: the ingredient and kick that keeps the listener coming back for more; discovering each song in a new light and talking something new away. If I Stop Somewhere Waiting for You is to be the final thing we hear from the band then it is amazing finale. Let’s hope, somewhere down the line, they reunite and produce an E.P. at least. As they have shown, they grow stronger and more determined with each new release. It makes their album, not only an essential purchase, but a work that fully represents and defines what they are as an act.

Faster, But Slow is another catchy and intriguing title that warrants fond investigation. There are contradictions and quasi-philosophical impressions laid in the opening seconds of the song. It is a rather far-off and echoed introduction that sees the lead down in the mix and singing from a distant realm. Representing that feeling of confusion and dislocation: one imagines a confined vocal booth with very little space and light; such is the nature of the vocal performance. In terms of lyrics, we hear about life and death; defeat and success. The hero is, conversely, omnipresent and extinguished – almost like Schrödinger’s cat – and provokes some rather vivid interpretations. It seems like something has caused this rather defeatist and somber mood. True, there is no overt cynicism and anger at the start: more a series of ponderings and oblique statements. Whether a romantic ruction has caused this or just a look at life around him: the listener is left wondering the genesis of the song. The band keeps the composition rather clean and causal as they score their companion in his quest. Mortality and ageing are subjects that have been addressed in previous Yearbook work – Old Bones’ archeological nominal provokes images of fossils and growing old – but here you get the most arresting assessment of the subject. The hero is growing old and his face can be seen in everyone around – also growing old and starting to slow down. It seems odd a bunch of twenty/thirty-something musicians should tease such a subject. Such thoughts are usually reserved for more ‘mature’ musicians of a different generation. I guess it is just the weight and imbalance of life that does mandate one thinks like that. Whereas other tracks across the album go in fast and burst from the lines: here, there is slow-burning smoke and a moodiness that is hard to shake. It is foggy and open; echoed and strange – all the components that sow seeds of curiosity and get the imagination and body prepared. Being a Yearbook song, there was never a doubt a volume shift would occur somewhere down the line. As it stands, that does not arrive until relatively late. In the opening moments, you get invested in the lyrics and the rather downbeat sound of the hero. One can interpret the song as an insight into the band’s mentality.

Some of the words can be attributed to their situation and what their mindset was like when recording. We often get carried away with interpretations of a song – look at issues of mortality when an artist has just died – and that can cloud the truth and individual feelings. It is interesting to note but you can apply some of Faster, But Slow’s revelations to the cracking façade of Yearbook. Whilst gilded and bonded in blood: the band knew they were going to come to an end and that must have weighed heavy. In other realms, one hears a young man growing older and seeing a world not as rosy-cheeked and innocent as it used to be. Given the growing threats and uncertainties around the globe; how many of us are as secure and safe as we once were? Maybe this is the truth of the matter but that is the beauty of the song: nothing is that obvious so one can scurry down all manner of different-sized rabbit holes looking for Wonderland. The band themselves have that knowledge but the listener is free to interpret. Just as you get comfortable in your thoughts and await the next verse: the band unleashes a Tyrannosaurus Rex – or Pachycephalosaurus maybe – that is stalking through the undergrowth and baying for a tiny little entrée. There is echo and reverb; there is an eerie silence and snarling guitars aplenty. You wonder what is coming next although you kind of realise the seduction and foreplay is done with. It is unprecedented just how exploding and bridled the revelation is. The staccato stabs and guttural bellows are greeted with multi-limbed percussion and insane bass work. The band step up to the plate and create a Mosher Symphony: a perfect soundtrack for those on-edge pit-dwellers to get their bodies flailing and their beer flying. I can imagine, when this is played live, there are some head nods and refinement from the crowds up until this point: that changes to an insatiable and floor-pounding stampede when those first guitar notes strike. By the end – providing you have not moshed across the room and lost yourself completely – there is more feedback at the end. The song has completed and the band are letting the instruments echo and buzz; giving just a little bit of reality and live presence to their songs. Whether, when/if this song is played in Brighton, instruments will be intact at the very end is hard to say. It is a song that provokes guitar-smashing defiance and like-minded rebellion from the capacity crowds. Faster, But Slow does what it says on the proverbial and delivers a jaw-smacking, body-juddering burst of heat and alcohol. It is drenched to the skin in flammable liquid before willingly lighting the match and racing around like a mobile barbeque. The hibachi-like nature of the song means it might take a few minutes before you embark on another listen. Anything thinking such a direct song lacks nuance will be sorely disappointed. It is a song of two halves and one that very much appeals to the senses as it does to the body. A perfect lead-off single from the album and perfect opener for I Stop Somewhere Waiting for You. The boys carpet-bomb the landscape and ensure every dwelling and citizen is immolated and crisp. You are helpless to resist the sheer force and pummel of the outpouring. The band show how tight and together they are. No performer misses a beat and you get a blitzkrieg of emotion and physicality. Faster, But Slow is, on reflection, just as advertised. Less a title for huge interpretation it is a spoiler and dynamic description. It starts slow and shows maturity and depth before downing some shots and deciding to destroy every stool and awning in the joint!

Before I wrap up – revisiting the points I made at the top of the review – it is prudent mentioning the merits of I Stop Somewhere Waiting for You. The Unreasonable Man, with its hero “washed away by the rain”, is a start-stop, quiet-loud beast that takes you by surprise and delivers a granite punch to the gut. It is one of the most rapturous and rollercoaster-like songs in the band’s cannon and instilled with gunpowder, blood and focus. I can hear the sweat flying from the walls and the unbreakable intuition and bond the boys share. It goes into a song, and the entire album, with effusiveness and undeniable authority. A majestic and festival-ready song that boasts one of the strongest vocals on the set – sad the song might not get an airing at a large venue. That said, the guys have played in Europe and I hope the track has been getting an airing out there. “That is not enough for me” is a niggling mantra running rampant through Holy Trinity. It is here you get more experimentation from the guys: the percussion and guitars seem more alive and rebellious; there are effects and fantastic little moments abound; a strong core and huge chorus that demands crowd unity and endless singalongs. A fiery and cracking mandate from a group completely in the groove – another album highlight that will see you replaying the song time again. All Dead provides, at first, more melodic and tranquil reflection. There is almost a contemplative element to the opening – and a rare appearance of female backing vocals – that marries beauty, tenderness and confusion in a strange and wonderful ménage à trois. Before long you get that rapture and primal scream from the lead; on the Yearbook Rorschach Test you wonder what has caused such furious discontent. There are loneliness and disconnections; a feeling of injustice and fear – deciphering and unpicking its origins is a fascinating task. One gets covered by a tidal wave of sound and irascible anger; a band that step up to the plate and provide their lead plenty of thunder, avalanche and electricity.

Only Love is one of the most real and conversational songs on the album. Stepping outside (“for the first time”) there is some confusion and questions being posed. Finding out what the hell is going on and what this is about: the hero implores with the girl not to listen to him; there seems to be some romantic disenfranchisement and strain. It is almost like a gritty and real episode of Made in Chelsea – minus the setup emotions and needlessly beautiful cinematography. The Yearbook boys can present relationship dilemmas and fraught emotions and concentrate it in a song that appeals for a number of reasons. Whilst it is another commanding and domineering band performance; the guitars stand out here. At once sterling, driving and gliding: they turn into bouncing, swaggering animals that register high on the fuc*-yeah-o-meter. This, like a couple of other tracks, seems destined for wider airing and one, I hope, will get a showing at their gig at Brighton’s Green Door Store. Wild Machine puts the focus on percussion and is almost Electronic/Electro.-Pop at times – reminding me of ‘80s Synth.-Pop and acts like New Order. The guys keep the electronic histrionics in the locker whilst the percussion and keys. As the foreground builds – and recriminations and self-doubt come in – that parabond of synths./keys and percussive hiss grows larger and more scintillating. Whilst Wild Machine seems dystopian and Lynchian in its manner and composition; the song has redemption and hopes against the tide. “Holding on” against the machine is the takeaway vibe: that central message that is the heartbeat inside the mechanism. That mechanical embodiment is represented by clanging pots and off-key metal; tender notes and all manner of surprises. The half-time substitution is a riot of hurricane guitars and percussion – rampant with impunity, indiscretion and engrossing ferocity. Props must be paid to the band who subvert expectations and deliver an amp-busting orgy that catches the breath and overwhelms the senses.

The Great Destroyer was never going to be a Keane-esque piano ballad. As it is, it’s a divine swansong from Yearbook. Starting strong, but never too hot and intense, the track starts to build and show signs of impending cacophony. A brief interlude of Funk – bit of slap bass on the side, perhaps – has a Red Hot Chili Peppers vibe; that evolves into a stringently austere and imperious delivery that blows away any romance and clouds – a stunning and angered vocal that gets into the mind. Not only does the song bounce around the brain (like an ill-mannered and impudent child) it staples itself to the testicles. I am not sure what the lads have in mind for their final set list – I can see The Great Destroyer being a set-closing grandstand; one that will get the moshing crowds, even more spirited and unified. It is a song that switches between harmony – some delicious multi-part harmonies – and utter chaos. It is a nose-bleeding fighter that screams (literally) its name and demands respect. A wonderful and epic way to end the album.  I Stop Somewhere Waiting for You is a spectacular, surprising and complete album from a band that sound at their very peak. Maybe, knowing the end was nigh, they threw it all into the blender but one suspects the decision to split arrived during recording – maybe I am wrong. You would not be able to tell here was a band considering ending their partnership. The songs are so urgent, together and focused: like a band who had been performing for years and had more ahead of them. I have selected a few to review but the truth is there are eleven gems to be discovered. No players steal the limelight; no player is anything less than incredible and indispensable. At times, the guitars and bass seem peerless whereas the vocals are always dramatic, full-bodied and utterly commanding. Percussion is the heartbeat and backbone that drives the song and gives the album is guts and raw edge. The songwriting is stronger than Old Bones and a step up from their E.P. Here, there is less reflection and more direction; much more confidence and range from a band that could never be accused of being average and sound-alike. They started off on very solid foundations but have built a veritable People’s Palace here. Unlike the Romanian one; the British bands have crafted something imperialistic but socialist – oh f*ck it, I’ll dispense with imagery and metaphor. The album is immense and amazing and a record that ends 2016 with a huge high. Totemic and beautiful at times; carnivorous and violent the next – how many albums can boast these sort of dichotomies and emotions?

The band plays Brighton’s Green Door Store on 22nd. It will be a pre-Christmas present that is unwelcomed as a pair of grey socks. Nobody wants to consider the band splitting up but in a way it is the perfect venue to end things – for now at least. You can never truly close the door on music, and as many legendary acts have shown, the lure of demand is too heady at times. Whether Yearbook does a Libertines/Stone Roses act and re-ignite the spark years down the line; it will be fascinating to see where the members head in the meantime. I Stop Somewhere Waiting for You is a perfect goodbye and album that shows just what music will be missing – a veritable vacuum that others will struggle to fill. The Yearbook story has been one of anger and stress at times; happiness and unbridled liberation with some rather unforgettable memories put it. They have a scrapbook they can proudly look back on and have, whether they realise it or not, inspired other bands to follow in their wake. There are few bands as original, emphatic and popular as Yearbook so I can predict a few like-minded souls entering music in the next year or so. 2016 has been a pretty crap one for a lot of reasons: Yearbook announcing their split//hiatus can be added to the list. It is like Death has got bored this year and decided he is a bit cheery: discriminately picking off the finest out there; ensuring there is unhappiness all around. Let’s not end things with a tragic reflection on a band’s end but celebrate a marvellous album that ranks alongside my favourite of this year. Faster, But Slow is the highlight (in my view) but there are many more (songs) like it across the album. Bands have been getting rather muted acclaim this year but I feel that will change in 2017. Few real and genuine groups have emerged which might be part of the problem. The likes of Yearbook show there is spirit, invention and promise in the market and that is a good thing. Yearbook is composed of multi-talented musicians so I am sure each member will find success in other groups – or go solo should they fancy that life. Being based in Hampshire/Surrey/East Sussex; they are in the middle of creative hubs that will provide chances for them to perform and grow. I cannot wait to see where they each head in 2017. In fact, I am sure the guys will perform again, but for now, this is them and this has been I Stop Somewhere Waiting for You. It is a jam-packed stocking of treats that will not only delight their existing fan-base but entice and allure new followers to their ranks. If you can make the Green Door Store gig, then you will be in for a treat I am sure. It will be emotion, no doubt, but with such fine and enduring songs in their arsenal, it is also going to be…

A night where incredible memories will be made.


Follow Yearbook







FEATURE: The December Playlist: ‘The Best and the Rest’



The December Playlist 'The Best and the rest' musicmusingsandsuch 


The December Playlist: ‘The Best and the Rest’


I have resisted the temptation to launch into…

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a full-blown Christmas selection. True, there are a couple of Christmas covers in the list but the idea was to lay out the new tracks – either from new albums or standalone – and the best songs of 2016. I have unified the songs that, for me, were the best from this year; those that have had a particularly profound effect. I am looking ahead to next year but there is still plenty of opportunities for great music to arrive. It is hard to say what the next couple of weeks hold but there are sure to be some fantastic tracks. Keep your eyes peeled and be aware of that. For now, it is time to look at the best songs from this week and those that have defined this year in music.



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Katie Melua – Oh Holy Night

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Billie MartenWhite Christmas

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Reggie N BollieLink Up

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Circa WavesWake Up

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Dec 99thTall Sleeves

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Hodgy Barbell

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Crystal Fairy Chiseler

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Tom OdellSilhouette

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G-EazyVengeance on My Mind

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At the Drive-InGoverned by Contagions

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J. ColeFalse Prophets

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Jax Jones (ft. RAYE)You Don’t Know Me

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Neil YoungIndian Givers

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Laura MvulaReady or Not

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Rebecca FergusonSuperwoman

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Afrojack (ft. Ty Dolla $ign) Gone

Kyla La Grange Justify

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MahaliaIndependence Day #DiaryofMe

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Jamie T Tescoland

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Post MaloneStoney

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Sara HartmanFrom the Other Side of the World

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DJ Fresh vs. Diplo (ft. R City, Selah Sure and Craig David)Like a Star

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G.R.L.Are We Good?

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Izzy BizuTalking to You

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Little CubMy Nature

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Liam BaileyLove My Neighbour

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Nadia Rose (ft. Red Rat)Tight Up



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Julia Jacklin Coming of Age

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Radiohead Burn the Witch

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Billie Marten Emily

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Warpaint  New Song

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M83 (ft. Mai Lan) Go!

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The Stone RosesAll for One

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Bat for Lashes Sunday Love

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Beyoncé Formation

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David Bowie Blackstar

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Anohni Drone Bomb Me

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Christine and the Queens Tilted

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Slaves (ft. Mike D) Consume or Be Consumed

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Charli XCX (feat. Lil Yachty) After the Afterparty

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Jamie T Tinfoil Boy

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Liv Dawson Tapestry

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Laura Marling Soothing

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Rihanna (ft. Drake) Work

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Michael KiwanukaLove & Hate

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Sia Alive

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Kanye West Famous

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M.I.A. Borders

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The Wytches C-Side

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Dua Lipa Hotter Than Hell

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Underworld I Exhale

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Car Seat HeadrestDrunk Drivers/Killer Whales

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Paul SimonWristband

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Tegan and SaraBoyfriend

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Leonard CohenYou Want It Darker

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Emeli SandéHurts

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Frank Ocean Pink + White

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James BlakeRadio Silence

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Bon Iver33 “God”

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A Tribe Called QuestWe the People…

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Angel OlsenShut Up Kiss Me

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Jenny HvalFemale Vampire

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The Avalanches Subways

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PJ HarveyThe Orange Monkey

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KanoNew Banger

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Kate TempestDon’t Fall In

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SolangeCranes in the Sky

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Iggy Pop Gardenia

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Nick Cave and the Bad SeedsJesus Alone

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Fifth Harmony (ft. Ty Dolla $ign) Work from Home

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Chemical Brothers C-h-e-m-i-c-a-l

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Justice (ft. Morgan Phalen of Diamond Nights) Randy

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Glass Animals Youth

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It is a great time of year not only to look back but look forwards. These last days of 2016 provide us a time to reflect on some wonderful music but predict what 2017 has in store. It is inevitable there’s going to be some cheesy songs making their way into the final Playlist from this year – you have to surrender at some point! Until rationale gives way fully – although there are some wonderful Christmas songs, for sure – it is only right to give this year’s best and brightest fair due. I am sure next year will continue in the same vein this one has ended: strong, determined and hugely exciting.

TRACK REVIEW: Talitha Rise – Invisible Fishing



Talitha Rise




Invisible Fishing




Invisible Fishing is available at:

1st October, 2016

Folk; Psychedelia; Art-Pop; Progressive-Folk


Lewes, U.K.


WHILST the tastemakers and musical tipsters are collating….

their list of this year’s best albums; there is something niggling at the back of the mind. I have scoured quite a few and a consensus is starting to formulate. At/near the top of most lists is Beyoncé’s Lemonade: other albums from the likes of Chance the Rapper and Solange are getting nods. There are some British acts in these lists but the majority – those lauded and celebrated – are U.S.-based and addressing modern times and concerns. If one looks at the polls you will see a wave of strong, defiant albums in the elite places. That is mirrored in features such as BBC’s tips for 2017. In their eyes, Urban artists are going to be making the loudest noises: those assessing the realities of the nation and what is happening; more relevant and raw than your average chart act. It is nice seeing a shift against predictable bands and rather wet solo artists. I feel political events and social confusion/anger has led to this dynamic shift. Yes, it is encouraging discovering a new breed of songwriter gain respect but that seems to come at the cost of another sector of music. I promised I would not mention her name until 2017 – been exhausting her music the last few months – but a certain B*lli* Ma*ten has had an incredible year: her debut album has been released and shown what a fantastic young proposition she is. Whether you have heard of Billie Marten or not, it brings to mind a concern: how many like-minded artists have been overlooked in this year’s ‘best of’ lists. I was somewhat aghast her album, Writing of Blues and Yellows, was not mentioned in any of the polls magazines/sites have released. Fair, it might not crack the top ten of most sites but the top fifty, surely?! Hmmm. Aside from being my standout of 2016, it has made a huge impact among the public and being taken to heart by stations like ‘6 Music – in their rundown of the year’s best albums I expect to hear it mentioned. Folk is a genre that often gets overlooked – something I have mentioned before but cannot explain why. Before I come to my featured act, and raise a couple of new points, I was to expand on that.

If music fans and the media are favouring a more urgent, arresting and socially conscious brand of music; it is only right something should be done to ensure the preservation of refined, calmer sounds. It is only right the best of the best should be recognised but insufficient acclaim is being provided to the ‘best of the rest’. Having mentioned her-that-shan’t-be-named it brings to mind Folk and its variations. A much more intriguing and enigmatic genre than many give it credit for: listen carefully and you will find musicians pushing boundaries and adding new light to the form. Talitha Rise, who I shall come to very shortly, are archetypes of a new, more progressive brand of Folk. Whether you would label them as purely Folk – or Art-Pop for instance – that is up to personal interpretation. My point is that their basis – earthy and pastoral tones – are augmented by psychedelic elements and all manner of fresh tones and fascinating sounds. I guess it is just a phase music is going through – where different artists are being embraced – but quite a few albums this year, that spills over with quality and promise, have not been given proper recognition. Even if the compositions are not as hip-shaking and body-moving as that: that is not to say there is not immense power and pull to the music. I will continue on this point, looking at artists in East Sussex and new duos, but before I do, it is worth being introduced to Talitha Rise:

Talitha Rise write songs of undeniable emotional depth and beauty. At times, more akin to a musical landscape than a song, their tracks journey hypnotically through evocative worlds of heart-breaking hope and the rawness of life’s deeper realities with ethereal mystique.

Whether recorded or live, the combined alchemy of Jo Beth Young and Martyn Barker grab the listener from the first few notes and plunges them deep into a combination of diverse and haunting vocals, melodical journeys and beautiful instrumentations that makes you wonder where on earth you have been for the last 30 minutes.

It is hard to pin down what genre or influence is behind them: hints of Psychedelia, Art Pop, Progressive Folk, and World Music all shine through but above all they have done something rare in today’s musical world….they have created a new one.

‘Talitha’ is an uncommon feminine name meaning ‘little girl’ in Aramaic; given in reference to the Biblical story in the Gospel of Mark. It is an intriguing origin to a duo who create music instilled with power, tender emotions and gorgeous harmonies. I tend to find, when out of the capital, you get music a lot less busy and loud – that might change with tomorrow’s review subjects – and something rather different. It is rare I get to traverse out of London and investigate musicians from East Sussex. It is a county that contains one of Britain’s most prosperous and eclectic musical cities (Brighton) and not often mentioning in the hallowed pages of music’s coolest press bodies. It is a shame the cities (and obvious areas) get a lot of attention – at the expense of other parts – but it is encouraging seeing acts like Talitha Rise emerge. A more experienced, mature and rounded alternative to the worn and humdrum Pop sounds of the mainstream – you get depth, tranquillity and activity; serenity and intense emotion within the same songs. I mentioned a certain B.M. earlier because her music reminds me a lot of Talitha Rose. Based in Yorkshire – another area providing exceptional musicians – her album was acclaimed and highly praised. Music lovers and commentators want to discover musicians who offer a beautiful and graceful approach to some of the more aggressive and forceful options in the market. Perhaps there is no easy and quick way to ensure music’s finest get appropriate representation and attention – other than having to spend a long time working their way through the ranks. The Lewes-based duo has been performing locally but making a name for themselves in Brighton. That is an area that is still relatively untapped and a burgeoning market for new music. You only need to stick your head around some of the venues there to get a flavour and scene of Brighton’s brew. It is a heady and variegated one: so many different genres and a different approach to music and community. A more relaxed and less suffocated feel than London; perhaps finer new bands than Manchester – worth a lot more time and attention. I am wandering off topic but it is important to recognise not only the full spectrum of musicians around but look beyond media-tipped areas and obvious hotspots. If today’s music scene is to be as evolved and interesting as possible, we must be as broad-minded and invested as possible. This year, and as part of my reviews, I have come into contact with a whole gamut of weird, wonderful and wise artists: many I feel will be stars in the coming years and taking big strides. Talitha Rise is gathering local praise but are more ambitious and hungry than that. It cannot be too long before they get more time and opportunity to play around London and the U.K.; perhaps get their music out to international ears. As it is, East Sussex is quite a convenient and upcoming area for music. The proximity to London is good but there is less of the stress and over-populated rush of the metropolis.

Almost time to get to Talitha Rise’s music, but before I do, a quick glimpse into duos. I know I have rhapsodised prolifically on this subject but will keep this short. Regardless of genre – and how you label the Lewes two – there is no denying the simple chemistry and connection shared. Jo Beth Young and Martyn Barker have that (almost) brother-sister bond and a deep understanding of what each other is about. A duo, in a way, is like a relationship: one that is harmonious, solid and uncomplicated. A band can seem like an unwieldy and undisciplined unit whereas the solo artist can appear solemn and over-worked. In terms of practicality, load-sharing and longevity: the duo has everything and seems like just the right size. Maybe that is too simplistic but I am hearing some fantastic duos spring up and each has something new about them. Not only (is the duo) an exciting proposition but their music, I find, is a lot more intriguing than most of the band-made stuff around. Talitha Rise are just starting out and their debut cut, Invisible Fishing, is the sound of where they are. I always look at a sapling cut and get an impression of what the artist is about. With regards Talitha Rise, it is hard to define them and explain. If you had a band – that had similar ideals – they would perhaps aim for something more commercial and festival-ready; a solo artist perhaps more stripped, restrained and bare. As it is, Talitha Rise blends little bits of Folk and some left-field elements; bits of Psychedelia and gloss it all with sumptuous vocals. I am not sure what they would call this new-found genre (‘New World-Folk’, perhaps?) – however you deem it there are few artists providing anything as detailed and unexpected.


As this is the first step for the intrepid and ambitious act: it is quite hard comparing their single with anything else. The fact they are thinking about an album means there is a lot of faith in their future songs. That is all encouraging as few acts spring that far ahead this early on – favouring E.P.s and covers until a little way down the line. I know, from following the guys, there is a lot of excitement in the camp and hopes for the future. Rather than comparing them with another act or their older material: the best thing to do is assess the debut single (which I shall do shortly) and look ahead to the album. I am not sure what it will be called – whether they favour an eponymous title – but it is likely to contain similar songs to that of Invisible Fishing. I know 2017 holds many opportunities for the duo so make sure you follow them and keep abreast of all the happenings. Their debut single is a strong and emphatic one. Usually, I hear acts that release a debut single and it has nerves and is not their best work. Talitha Rise has gone in so strong and sure; they come across natural – like they have been together for decades – which makes it a solid and stunning song.


You get a sense of metaphor with the first line of Invisible Fishing. Before they arrive, one is treated to gentle strings a rather seductive opening. The acoustic guitar beckons and sets the scene; the song arrives gently and without too much force – the listener is given the chance to soothe themselves in and get comfortable. When the heroine arrives at the microphone, one gets images of lighthouses and searchlights being extinguished. It is open for interpretation whether words are directly attributed to the heroine or whether another subject is being described. There is that sense of lacklustre and hopelessness; maybe looking for love and companionship but having to come away with nothing. The idea lights have been turned off and there is darkness adds to that aura of invisibility and mystery – having to fumble in the waters looking for a catch. It is a clever way to bring the song’s emotions and themes to life: right away you are picturing what the song is about and what is occurring. The vocals from Young have a blend of firm and seductive. She rises into the stratosphere and provides angelic elements but has a grounded and gravelled side too. That is quite a range from a singer one that is exploited throughout the song. If some words get buried in beauty and passion – not always a bad quality – you are able to get a sense of what is unfolding. The narrative definitely becomes third-person and that sense of someone else hanging their line into the waters. That line/rod, in fact, is one that represents fear and trepidation. At once, I was thinking of love and lost chances: that inability to secure romance and searching (aimlessly) for someone. I mentioned metaphors and it seems like Invisible Fishing is that practice of casting the line and getting nothing nibbling. Maybe that is purely about love or just taking chances. The song, in the early stages, opens up so many possibilities and interpretations.

Throughout the song, and backed by the hero’s impeccable and finger-picked support, the heroine sings from the heart and ensures every word rings out. I was looking into the lyrics and picturing a heroine alone – maybe standing on the rocks and looking out to the ocean. Maybe it is not love being sought but some kind of salvation and hope. There is a voice ringing out across the distance but no reply. One gets a sense of dread and suffocation: where questions are going unanswered and there is a degree of loss. I may be over-analysing but I get the impression of someone who has lost love – once pure and solid – and is searching for a new way of life. Maybe this fear, employed as a rod in the water, is holding her back and causing this stress. That openness and free-for-interpretation flair of the song gets the mind racing and puts your thoughts in all sorts of directions. At the heart, you are captivated by the chemistry and bond of Talitha Rise’s two – they have that seamlessness and understanding. I dove into the song and tried to cast my mind into the images. You get gripped by the beauty of the vocals and how the guitar carries you away. The duo has their own talent and roles but very distinct. The musicianship and composition are stunningly evocative and rich: perfectly atmospheric and rife with emotion and nuance. The vocals swoop from low-down and calm to multi-layered and choir-like. You get shades of light and dark and it really adds to the song. As the track continues, the tense switches and applies to people as a whole. Gone is the personal focus; replaced with a look at the world at large. The angels and Muses have abandoned the people and not answering their calls. Maybe Invisible Fishing, by this juncture, looks more at society and what we are facing. Although the song was written a number of months ago, it seems to reflect general fears and anxieties we all have – maybe not. I just get the feeling of the unknown and what we are facing. Maybe the song is two sides to a love: the heroine and her doubts and the hero on the other side. One gets that sense as the song nears its end.

Holding tight and battling the waves; looking at the starlight and survival seems to underpin a tale of fortitude-against-the-currents. You never feel like there is negativity or a sense of defeat: always that spirit and desire to survive and battle on. Talitha Rise, in addition to other genres, employs Gaelic strings and there is an Irish flavor to the song. Pack that into traditional Folk and something more experimental and the song has so many ideas and sounds fused together. By the final seconds, you start to get a general sense of what the song is about but still ask questions. One of the key strengths of Invisible Fishing is its passion and pure beauty. Whether you take a clear message from the track you cannot overlook its sheer glimmer, transcendence and flight. Rich, sumptuous vocals and evocative backing – guitar lines sit with determined percussive patters – are a perfect pair and elevate the song to rarified heights. If it assesses a personal love and two sides overcoming the forces against them; a general sense of uncertainty and fear or something else – everyone will have their own ideas and take something different away. As a debut single, it is a strong one from the duo and sets out their stall. I hope subsequent cuts follow suit and contain the same ingredients and stories. I know Talitha Rise will sing about love and their own personal experiences but, as they have shown here, they have a real grasp of language and imagery. Never too obvious, unsophisticated or cliché: their lyrics provoke deeper understanding and impress with its choice language and wordplay. It is the performances of the duo that resonates longest. They sound like (and may have been) have played together for years; there are no gaps or any weak moments. Completely solid and entrancing throughout – a duo that is sure to do great business in 2017.


The Great Escape and a debut album are already on the docket for next year. It will be a busy and eye-opening one for the East Sussex residents who are taking their first swim in the clement (if busy) waters of music. As it is winter – and Christmas is nearly here – there the likes of Talitha Rise is much needed. The verisimilitudinous of their songs get into the heart and will resound with the listener. There is little in the way of avoidance and mystique with the two: they write direct, immersive songs nobody will be able to ignore. Invisible Fishing, on its title alone, provokes all sorts of metaphysical and quasi-philosophical interpretations. Whether you were expecting a lone figure in the dark – by himself in the tundra looking for life – or a metaphor for love and acceptance, you can take something away from the song. Its words and meanings are open to an extent but, broadly, look at relationships and balance. I hope my assessment has at least dented the surface and tried to gain an insight into the song. That is the beauty of a song like Invisible Fishing. Upon the first survey, you have ideas and possibilities but something new is revealed each time. The music and vocals are instant but the lyrics have that sense of nuance and complexity. Before I bring this thing to an end, and briefly returning to the opening concerns, it is worth predicting the arc and next few months for Talitha Rise. I mentioned how the duo will be playing The Great Escape next year: quite an accolade for a new act. The three-day festival is held in Brighton and in addition to being local, it will bring in new audiences and those based further afield. Media, reviewers and radio will be covering it so it’s an opportune moment for the duo to strike and impress. That is likely to be a rather easy task. Not only do they have the acclaim and positive reviews of Invisible Fishing but the flesh and bones of their album. Whether the L.P. will be out before that festival experience – it would be savvy releasing it a month or two before – it is going to be received with plenty of affection.

After that, and throughout 2017, there will be options and chance afoot. I am not sure (in 2017) just how trans-continental their music will become – or whether it remains indigenous – but I am sure they will get their songs heard outside the U.K. You just know, when hearing their music, there is more of the same coming; another batch of songs that have the same effect and intense passion. It will be interesting seeing what the duo decide and how they develop in 2017. I am sure, when their debut album is out, there will be a lot of people in their camp and following them. It is hard to get your name heard and survive in the modern scene. There is so much music out there – and so much competition – it can be intimidating for musicians coming through. The secret to success and longevity is originality and effectiveness. I looked at Folk variations and artists that have warranted more acclaim. In addition to Talitha Rise being among the most transcendent, captivating and hard-working acts around: they are on their debut stage and looking to claim a foothold very easy. Festival dates and a new album will bolster that but it is encouraging discovering a sensational act that emanates from outside the capital – we do not often get to celebrate artists away from London. East Sussex is upcoming and diverse with regards music and never fails to amaze me. Aside from the great bands there (The Wytches are from here) there are wonderful solo acts and duos. I have been, in the last few weeks, bemoaning how many artists do not expend energy into their social media and making themselves known. It is not sufficient having threadbare social media pages and not putting photos online – they do not cost a lot and should always be available. Talitha Rise is an act that gives me faith: they understand the importance and are highly visible and detailed. That gives the new listener insight and understanding of what they do; where they want to head and what inspires their music. The future will be bright and long for the Lewes duo and I am thrilled by Invisible Fishing. Become accustomed with a talented and busy duo that is on the cusp of something great. 2017 might be just around the corner but will be…

A great one for Talitha Rise


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INTERVIEW: Greg from Cocoa Futures



Image result for cocoa futures blue  PHOTO CREDIT: Sara Amroussi-Gilissen


Greg from Cocoa Futures


THESE end days from 2016 is a great opportunity to…

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look back at the artists I have featured in this blog. It is good to chat with Cocoa Futures’ Greg about the year and how The Grey, the latest single from his London-based band, came together. He chats about the differing scenes in Scotland (where he was born) and London; the group’s forthcoming E.P., Blue – and what he will be up to this Christmas. In the midst of all that, the talented songwriter tells me about how he met his bandmates and what it was like working with Marc Withasee on the new E.P.


Hey Greg. How are you? How has your week been?

Hello! Good thanks. Tried to have a quiet week after our E.P. launch on Saturday – but Christmas celebrations have got in the way! We also had our label’s Xmas do last night so I’ve got a bit of a sore head 🙂

For those new to your music: can you introduce yourself, please?

We’re a band from London called Cocoa Futures. We make Pop music.

Fabric has just announced its reopening. Are you familiar with the venue and what was your reaction when you heard the news?

I think I’ve only been to Fabric once and saw a band that I really like called The Invisible there. Glad to see it’s going to open again!

The Grey is your new single and deals with positive, hopeful subjects. It implores strength and faith against harsh odds. What was the inspiration behind the song and was it quite a cathartic experience?

The Grey is inspired by someone I know having a difficult period in their life. It’s about the idea that they would get through it but would probably need some time.

I don’t know if it was cathartic for me but I was really pleased with how it ended up.


The song has soaring vocals and plenty of bounce. It seems to be a staple of Cocoa Futures’ sound. Do you think too few musicians keep things light and what was the reason behind this approach to music?

I didn’t really have a grand plan as to how I wanted our music to sound – it just kind of ended up that way. I like a bit of bounce in music and have always been into rhythmic stuff. As for other musicians, I think people should write whatever they want.

Blue is the forthcoming E.P. Can you tell us anything about the songs included and what themes are being explored?

There’s four songs on there. The themes are about stuff that was happening in my life around 2015. There’s one ballad-like song called How Strong You Are which I’m probably most proud of. It’s not really that cool/trendy but I’m really pleased with how it’s turned out. Would love to hear what you think!

Marc Withasee produced the E.P. What was it like working with him?

Really great! He really pushed us in the nicest way. I found out more about myself – that I naturally wrote songs too slow and too high and going through the process with him meant that we all learnt a huge amount. He’s a fantastic producer, drummer and human.

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PHOTO CREDIT: Sara Amroussi-Gilissen

Cocoa Futures brings together Dave, Zoe and Jack into the band. How did you come to meet the guys and what were the initial recording sessions/jams like?

I knew Dave from Scotland and then met Jack and Zoe later through mutual friends and other projects. They’re all really, really nice people to be around and great musicians.

Playing with them in the early days was great – it was apparent, very quickly, that we all fitted together well.

The band has been releasing music since 2014. Do you think Coca Futures have changed a lot in the last couple of years? What are the main changes/differences in today’s songs?

I think I’ve got a bit better a finishing off stuff. Better to finish something off and it be alright than half-finish something and talk about how great it could be. I’ve also spent time learning to produce more which is useful for taking a demo. to a live set – also saves money so that someone else doesn’t have to do it for you!

Critics and fans have really latched onto the music (of Cocoa Futures) and taken it to heart. Why do you think this is and did you expect this sort of support when you started the band?

I’m not sure really. I’m really happy because we put a lot into the E.P. so it’s nice other people like it too. There’s been a good response that I didn’t really expect.


Greg, you hail from Scotland. What is the main difference between the music scene there and down in London?

Scotland’s music scene is great. I love a lot of Scottish bands.

The main difference is the price of rehearsal rooms. You can get a rehearsal room for £4-an-hour in Scotland!

What are the plans and ambitions for Cocoa Futures in 2017?

Play some nice gigs; record another E.P. and stay vegetarian (I turned vegetarian 2.9 months ago – it’s great)

Are there any new bands/acts coming through you advise we keep a close eye on?

Stuff I’ve seen and really liked recently: Coby Sey. Dama Scout. Suitman Jungle.


It is almost Christmas so I have to ask: what is top of your wish-list and where will you be spending Christmas this year?

I’ll be spending Christmas in Scotland with the family. I’ve got my fingers crossed for snow so I can go sledging.

As for my wish list? Wouldn’t mind a new pair of trainers.

For any new musicians coming through: what advice would you offer to them?

I don’t really feel like I’m in too much of a position to offer advice. Music feels like this huge exciting (and occasionally frustrating) thing and when I’ve learnt one new thing it usually opens up a whole range of other questions.

But (I guess) something that I heard recently really struck me: that making, playing and listening to music are three different things. Splitting them up can really help you take an honest look at a song and get it finished.

Finally, and for being a good sport, you can select any song you like (not your own as I’ll include that) and I’ll play it here.

Roxy Music’s If There Is Something – got into this band more and more recently. What a tune.


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PHOTO CREDIT: Sara Amroussi-Gilissen






INTERVIEW: Scarlett Saunders





Scarlett Saunders


THROUGHOUT 2016 I have been seeking a solo artist that not only…

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intrigues with their music but has a certain allure and originality to their personality. In terms of ticking all those boxes, Scarlett Saunders seems a perfect fit. Her recent E.P., Blue Again, has been received with praise and reflects on some hard times – relationship break-up and overcoming fraught emotions. Not only does one (when hearing Saunders) get a rich and beautiful voice but a songwriter with a unique and fresh bent. I talk to Saunders about her, some might say, unorthodox upbringing – where nature and art were favoured to distractions like T.V. – and how that affected her life today. She also chats about this Christmas and plans for next year; what it was like putting an E.P. together and how the reaction to it has affected her.


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

Hey there. My week has been okay: long and wintery, but okay. How’s yours been?

For those new to your music: can you introduce yourself, please?

Hello. I’m Scarlett. I’ve been writing songs since I can remember and I really hope you enjoy them.

I Should Know was released a couple of months ago and was received with praise. Has it been quite humbling hearing that sort of feedback?

Yeah. It’s been great actually!

It was a song I wasn’t going to put on my E.P. as it was very personal and I was worried how people might react – especially my dad as it was written about his relationship with a girl my age.

But I think there are so many interpretations you can take from the song. It was interesting to see what everyone’s slant on it was.

Circus – also released this year – is taken from the Blue Again E.P. Can you tell us about the rest of the E.P. and what inspired it?

The E.P. was largely inspired by the seaside town I grew up in, Felixstowe. And my first love who was, coincidentally, called Felix (haha). I was getting into that stage where I was reminiscing a lot about my younger life and how everything seemed so much easier then – a longing for the sea and a longing for home.

How hard was it putting the E.P. together? Had you been working on them for quite a while or were a lot of the songs written quite a while ago?

It wasn’t difficult at all actually. I did it with a friend and an amazing producer, Barnabas Poffley. Everything flowed pretty naturally. Most of the songs I wrote all around the same time with Barny’s help (apart from Windmill). I had written that on a train a year before and had been saving it up.

I believe, when growing up, you did not have a lot of exposure to T.V. and video games – your parents favouring art and literature. How influential was that style of upbringing to you with regards your ambitions to be become a musician?

I think it gave me a lot of scope to ‘think’.

Screens and technology seem to create an extra barrier for people to get through in order to be creative today. I think the more time you spend in your own head and company without distractions is a damn good thing.

It keeps you open, aware and malleable to ideas and possibilities. It’s what I hate and don’t fit into in the modern music industry though – the last thing I want to do is check my Facebook page or Tweet about my day.

You have quite a passion for art yourself. Do you get a lot of opportunities to indulge that and how does your music and art connect would you say?

I do love art. I don’t get a lot of time for it though I have to say – although my Christmas presents this year will definitely have to be painted and I am skint as hell (haha). I think all things creative connect. Sometimes just reading a poem can spark an idea or seeing people on the Tube.

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A lot of new artists tend to come to the cities in order to find opportunity. You are based out of Suffolk. What is the area like in terms of the music scene? Are there quite a few promising new artists there?

There’s loads of stuff going on there! Ed Sheeran is from there (have you heard of him?). He’s rather good. But I never got massively into it. I suffer from terrible stage fright when I have to get up there on my own but am getting over it.

In terms of local talent or artists that have impressed you this year: which would you recommend we check out?

My best mate’s band Loud Mouth Machine. Great guys.

Who were the artists that influenced you growing up?

Bob Dylan was a massive part of my childhood. Nina Simone, Cat Stevens and Janis Joplin’s exploding energy. I always wanted to look that cool and sing that well on stage.

I have noticed the female singer-songwriter is coming more into view: a lot of this year’s best albums have been created by solo female artists. What, would you say, is behind this shift?

I think people are just starting to become more aware of new artists now as there’s so many ways online of finding them out.

But I’ve noticed female artists are leaning less towards the Pop/X Factor in-your-face thing and stripping everything down – so they are just writing and singing from real places that we can all connect to.

Looking ahead to the future: is there any new music planned for 2017?

Yes. I have written a new E.P. for next year. Fingers crossed it all goes to plan.

This year has seen a lot of great albums and singles released. Which album and song would you choose as your favourite of 2016?

Adele’s 25 without a question. That album came out at the same time me and my flatmate were crying in our bedrooms about men. I don’t care if it sounds ridiculous – she sorted me out.

Is there any advice you would offer to new singer-songwriters coming through?

Just write what you like and don’t worry about what anyone else thinks.

It is nearly Christmas. How would you be spending it this year? Any gifts that you particularly want this year?9

I will be spending it by going back to the (Splitz) Bandbox in Felixstowe (voted the worst club in Britain, apparently) to hang out with old friends on Christmas Eve. Otherwise, I will be drinking tea and snuggling up. I actually don’t know what I want! (Who does?) That’s such a hard question.

Finally, and for being a good sport, you can select any song you like (rather than your own as I’ll include that) and I’ll put it here.

Raury – God’s Whisper


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FEATURE: The December Playlist: Grammys Special



The December Playlist: Grammys Special Musicmusingsandsuch - 07/12/...


The December Playlist: Grammys Special


IT is that time of year again!

I am not referring to Christmas but the whatever-number-we-are-on-th Grammy Awards. It is that occasion where some of music’s best – and those thoroughly undeserving – get recognised for their hard work. There are some notable omissions from the nominations (naming no names) but some great acts recognised. Beyoncé leads the list, and so gets one of her songs featured, but there are other great acts getting their music exposed – including Metallica and Frank the Rapper. Of course, there are some new releases from the ‘ordinary’ artists out there: those not in the Grammy sightline; going about their careers as always. As December starts to blossom, I will start leaning towards Christmas tracks: until that merciless moment arrives, enjoy some wonderful non-tinsel-infused songs.


New Single/Album Tracks Musicmusingsandsuch

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Biffy Clyro Re-Arrange

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Joe GoddardLose Your Love

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Bonobo (ft. Rhye)Break Apart

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Justice Fire

MUNA – I Know a Place

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Emma BallantineSecret Tunnel

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Gurr Moby Dick

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Gabriella Cohen Downtown

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The Rolling StonesRide ‘Em On Down

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The Magic GangOnly Waiting

Elbow Magnificent (She Says)

Image result for imagine dragons

Imagine Dragons Levitate

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Parcels Older

BruisingI Don’t Mind

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Peter DohertyDown for the Outing

PHOTO CREDIT: Nicky Kelvin Photography

VaultsOne Day I’ll Fly Away

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Jake BuggThe Love We’re Hoping For

Fort HopeSay No

The ShiresA Thousand Hallelujahs (Live at The Pool)

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Angelina Rose Cascade

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The Last Shadow PuppetsThis is Your Life

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The LaFontaines Release the Hounds


extended play the grammys MUSICMUSINGSANDSUCH


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BeyoncéHold Up

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AdeleSend My Love (To Your New Lover)

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Sturgill SimpsonIn Bloom

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Chance the RapperSummer Friends

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DrakeChild’s Play

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The Chainsmokers (ft. Halsey) – Closer

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Kelsea BalleriniPeter Pan

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Ariana GrandeDangerous Woman

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Anderson .PaakPut Me Thru

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Demi LovatoConfident

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Flume (ft. Kai)Never Be Like You

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UnderworldI Exhale

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Twenty One PilotsHeathens

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Sofi TukkerDrinkee

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Metallica Hardwired

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Carrie Underworld Church Bells

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Panic! at the DiscoDeath of a Bachelor

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Alabama Shakes Joe (Live From Austin City Limits)

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René MarieSound of Red

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Blue Highway Hallelujah 

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RadioheadBurn the Witch

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Rhiannon Giddens (ft. Bhi Bhiman)Freedom Highway

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Cage the ElephantTrouble

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Ro James Permission

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Maren MorrisMy Church

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Leon BridgesRiver

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Jamie xx – Gosh

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Jill ScottCan’t Wait

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Iggy Pop Sunday

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PJ HarveyThe Wheel

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RihannaKiss It Better

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Bon Iver8 (Circle)

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SolangeDon’t Touch My Hair

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Kanye WestFamous

Lalah Hathaway Angel

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Two-and-a-bit weeks to go and it is Christmas. I am noticing a decided slowing-down among music’s most prominent and prolific. Maybe there is less demand this time of year – as the awards have been handed and end-of-year lists cemented – so there is less impetus and demand. Be sure to brace yourself for a wave of 2017 music in a few weeks. Musicians will be racing out the blocks in an attempt to make that first, big strike – what an exciting proposition!

FEATURE: The Five Best Tracks of 2016: Radiohead – Burn the Witch



The Five Best Tracks of 2016:


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Radiohead – Burn the Witch


IT is not favouritism/nepotism my favourite band should find themselves…

in the gold medal position of my rundown – that which looks at 2016’s best songs. I feel they are deserved winners. With other, and many, sites plumping for something like Beyoncé’s Formation or a track from The 1975 – I have chosen a song that created one of this year’s biggest reactions. Following Radiohead’s previous album – the superb but flawed-in-places The King of Limbs – there was speculation the Oxford boys may have downed tools for good. That was an alarming proposition. The fact they are, in my biased opinion, this generation’s most innovative group would have been a huge loss – were such rumours to have been believed. A Moon Shaped Pool’s lead-off single wasn’t so much a release as it was an event. Like an opera about to begin: the curtains were closed and the lights off; there was an awed hush and expectation – before the stage lit to a bright and impassioned performance. Radiohead shut off their social media sites and created a blackout: what the heck were they up to?! As it happens they had just pulled off another unexpected and marvellous hype move – or P.R. stunt depending on your philosophical bent (Yorke has since been interviewed and said he wants to return to conventional releases/promotion). An historical look at Radiohead’s locker would tell you they are not a band that does things by halves. Burn the Witch’s discourse of immigration, finger-pointing and scapegoating – a wave of faux-panic and cold-hearted communality – was only matched by the song’s video. In it was depicted a village of Camberwick Green-referencing figures: an envoy/council representative inspecting a village only to find red crosses on doors and an ominous Wicker Man-style figure – in which he was entrapped and subsequently torched in (only to make it out at the very end). Thom Yorke’s vocal is typically gorgeous, dynamic and dramatic: a symphony of beauty, control and underlying fear. Throw into the mix a sensationally creepy-cum-tranquil string articulation – the album was orchestra-heavy and moved the band into more ethereal/Classic territory – and some incredible band interplay and you have a song of immense proportions; life-giving bailment. There is no denying just how spellbinding and nuanced A Moon Shaped Pool was/is. From Daydreaming’s somnambulistic tones and provocative lyrical suggestions to Ful Stop’s jittered punctuation – one of the freshest and most exciting tracks the band have levied in years. That is not to mention the much-needed inclusion of fan favourite True Love Waits and the encore-ready desires of Identikit. Burn the Witch is the opener. The Daddy. The Boss. It is the Big Bang of their 2016 creation and a song, once sampled, provides a witch’s brew of exciting highs and brooding, foreboding lows. If the song’s “low-flying panic attacks” do not inspire vivid scenes then the apocalyptic, nihilistic outcries – Yorke sticking it to corrupt governments and those looking for sacrificial lambs – surely will. Burn the Witch is almost a foreshadowing of the Trump presidency; the Brexit horrorshow and subsequent fall-out. Burn the Witch may be seven months old but its messages and relevance is as current as any song out there. Strip away interpretations, expectations and personal preferences and you have a song indisputably stunning, intense and utterly beguiling. In short: just another day at the office for The World’s Greatest Band.


Follow Radiohead:

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The album, A Moon Shaped Pool, is available at:

FEATURE: The Five Best Tracks of 2016: Michael Kiwanuka – Love & Hate



The Five Best Tracks of 2016:


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Michael Kiwanuka – Love & Hate


MOST of the ‘Best Songs of 2016′ lists, I have found, have…

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included Beyoncé’s Lemonade standout, Formation. Perhaps that is a reactionary decision: given Trump’s success – and frightening presidency – the song’s messages of hope and fighting injustice are being heralded and beholden. That song fights against the white-on-black racism and the need to be recognised (especially women and the need for sisters to stand firm) – make hateful perpetrators aware of their evils. In so much as it promotes an abolition of tyranny and imbalance; it does not make my top five. For one – even though it is a great song – Beyoncé is not the sole writer – I feel there are too many cooks in a kitchen that should be hers alone. My choice, and an equally affirmative and inspiring song is Michael Kiwanuka’s Love & Hate. The title track from his Mercury Prize-nominated album: “You can’t take me down” is a mantra as scintillating, spine-tingling and powerful as any across Lemonade. Love & Hate (the album) is a huge spiritual and creative leap from the young master. His debut, Home Again, was well-received and applauded due to its singular visions and astonishing vocal performances. Perhaps, in a few songs, the Soul ghosts of old were too intrusive. On his sophomore release, there was more Kiwanuka – less in the way of the Reddings, Gayes and other assorted kings. Black Man in a White World was the first taste of the album – and a song, like Formation, that addresses racism and solitude many black people can feel – but the title track is the first real ‘epic’. From the slow-building introduction and burning guitar solos; the aching, tremulous strings and consistent, defiant beats – a symphony of emotion, fortitude and defiance. Kiwanuka seems entranced by his words: floating over the composition like a pastor; crashing over the waves and desperate to get his message heard. There is funky, tripping bass; we get some cool backing vocals and stop-start dynamics – explosive orgasms of sound; contemplative and shy at various interludes. Whilst the composition is contradictory, unexpected and shape-shifting: the central message-and-vocal combination is single-minded and precise. Four years after releasing his debut album, many would be forgiven for thinking Kiwanuka was struggling for inspiration and completion. That doubt and assertion are overhauled by an emphatic album of personal statements: ranging from questions of race and equality to love and discourse; right along to crucial introspection and societal injustices. The title track not only recognises vital topics and addresses them with insight and intelligence: you are arrested by the staggering composition and heartfelt vocal. Less a song and more a symphony: something you submit freely to and let it carry you away. I hope there is more music from Kiwanuka next year – he is growing stronger and more confident with each passing year. Even if you do not recognise Love & Hate as a year-defining album – judgement for those who do not – then few can overlook the tremulous, divine title track. It is the work of a musician on top form and showing no nerves or fear.


Follow Michael Kiwanuka:

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The album, Love & Hate, is available at:

FEATURE: The Five Best Tracks of 2016: Jamie T – Tinfoil Boy



The Five Best Tracks of 2016:


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Jamie T – Tinfoil Boy


ONE of the biggest surprises from this year…

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was hearing Tinfoil Boy drop. I use the word ‘drop’ as that was the effect it had: like a comet falling out of the sky. Jamie T has always had a reputation for being one of our finest and most consistent songwriters. 2014’s Carry on the Grudge resounded in the critical mindset and was heralded as one of his (if not the) finest album of the Londoner’s career. Tracks such as Zombie and Rabbit Hole are instant and highly memorable; the twelve-track album bristles with energy and innovation; Jamie T’s personality and expertise shining through. Fast-forward to this year and Trick arrived with a lot of expectation and hype. Whilst it did not gain the universal acclaim as its predecessor: Trick still packed a meaty punch and kept the ball very much rolling. A lot of critics noted obvious influences – Arctic Monkeys on Power Over Men and other moments; The Clash coming through in Tescoland and Police Tapes – the Combat Rock-era ‘Clash. It is the album’s opening tracks that resonate hardest. Drone Strike has a bit of Dizzee Rascal (strangely) but ignites and explodes in the chorus. If, at times, the Wimbledon lad has adopted a Sheffield accent – baffled by how many people want to copycat Alex Turner – then Tinfoil Boy (with a little Yorkshire fleck in it) differed from anything Arctic Monkeys have created. The creepy and unsettled video stole focus for a bit but nobody can deny the potency and power of the song. The hero is “tricked into waking up” and there seems to be an air of fear and depression in the song. That fatigue and uncertainty are destroyed by the swaggering, bangin’ chorus that, when I first reviewed Trick, reminded me of Underworld. It has that clubland vibe and Trance/House vibe. Whilst the verses sees Jamie feeling like a child and under foot – it is that indelible chorus that rattles around the brain. When the single came out June, I feared the chorus would never get out of the brain – it wasn’t until November it started to fade out. An immaculate and memorable song that stands as Trick’s highlight – Drone Strike, Tescoland and Sign of the Times completing the best of the rest. If critics were not hot to the entire album: there was more consistency and love aimed towards Tinfoil Boy. Radio stations could not get enough and it was a clear sign Jamie T had lost none of his surprise and talent. In the cold and wintery days, we need songs like Tinfoil Boy to get us jumping and uplifted. Let’s hope there is another Jamie T album down the line. If he can dispense with his Arctic Monkeys tributes – no qualms about The Clash’s inclusion – and claw back some of that Carry on the Grudge magic – he will gain a foothold atop the mountain. Still a geezer king and mouthpiece of this generation: a successful and busy year for the thirty-year-old. Having revisited Tinfoil Boy, there is a stark danger it will be in my head for the rest of this year – perhaps it can silence the sickly-sweet cloy of Christmas songs. Tinfoil Boy may be my fourth-favourite song of 2016 but it is by far the catchiest.


Follow Jamie T:

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The album, Trick, is available at:



TRACK REVIEW: Helene Greenwood – Flat Roof House



Helene Greenwood



Flat Roof House






Flat Roof House is available at:

5th June, 2016

Ambient; Alternative


London, U.K.

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The album, Exquisitely Hopeless, is available via:


This Is the News Today

Flat Roof House

Dream Horses

Crystal Vase

Exquisitely Hopeless

Madame Marina

I Say a Little Prayer


…Travelling Inside and Travelling Out

To Live In the Moon



28th October, 2016


ONE of the things that linger in my mind as we approach…

the coming year is how many great solo artists have emerged. I will come to looking at my featured artist soon, but before I do, I wanted to look at the female solo sector – and why they are outranking their male counterparts – a little about ‘unique’, expected sounds and the emotions music provoke. It is worth (first) addressing the sort of artists that have defined this year. I have mentioned, with repeated fervency, just how much tragedy and loss we have encountered in 2016. Titans like David Bowie and Leonard Cohen have left us in addition to some other musical stalwarts. That is not to say 2016 has been a cursed year – it was always probable we’d lose a few great musicians given age and prolificacy of illnesses like cancer – but it seems rather unfair. What has been born out of this black velvet movement is a need for celebration and reflectiveness. I hear many already looking ahead to next year and the sort of artist they will be investigating. Over the past few days, I have completed my compendium of musicians I feel will be prominently shining in 2017. Whether you call is ‘Ones to Watch’ or something else: it has been interesting collating the names and putting everyone together. What I found, and as I did last year, the majority of my tips are female. This is not a reaction to imbalances in the industry – men getting more money and focus – or reverse-sexism: this is a truthful outlay of the strongest artists we have in the world right now. The fact the majority of them are women is actually a positive thing. Too long, and not long ago, male-only bands were the toast of the media world.

You’d often see these end-of-year lists and read nothing but male bands being lauded and elevated to the status of kings. I suppose the proliferation of bands at the time – Artic Monkeys, Foo Fighters etc. – first of all started the rush of male band but also directed critical minds. Over the past couple of years, there has been a change in the wind. I am seeing more female artist come into focus and being proffered by the mainstream media. Given the shift of tastes and sounds – the band market taking a bit of a dip – seeing female artists being given their due is encouraging and heartening. There is, as I’m sure they’d agree, a long way to go to redressing the imbalance and a gender-blind scene being created. Years ago, around the time male bands were ruling, I was seeing a lot of sexism and injustice towards female artists. I am not suggesting that has been eradicated but things are changing. Maybe there is that determination and resolve to be noticed: the women of music are making big indents than the boys. A lot of this comes down to the solo market – there are far fewer female bands than male; there are more mixed-gender bands – and the sort of sounds being proffered. It is hardly a surprise artists like Billie Marten – the final time I shall mention her this year – and Laura Marling feature on my end-of-year lists. It is also not a shock to find so many other female artists feature highly – innovation, passion and talent reigning proud and strong. Helene Greenwood fits into my argument superbly and prompts other topics too. She is one of those musicians that has a Marling-esque quality: the consistency and innovation; the stunning delivery and exceptional lyrics. It is not going to be long until Greenwood transcends into the mainstream and starts getting big recognition. As she says herself (on the Facebook biography) she writes everything from Lynchian-Utopian contradiction to ‘60s-influenced gangster scores; Japanese soundscapes and odd, incongruous meshing of genres. Having been recording music since studying at Stanford University – and before that one imagines – I have seen her grow and blossom into one of the most individual, strong songwriters in our midst. I have explained how female songwriters are taking charge and I have a couple of theories.

For a start, there is – among them – an innate sense of ambition and experimentation. I am not saying male artists lack that sense of chemistry – James Blake is someone who does it in spades – but the female artists seem more daring and skilful when it comes to subverting expectations and pushing through boundaries. Also, one gets something more captivating and beautiful – again, the boys can bring this to the party when they feel like it. This is all distilled marvellously inside Greenwood’s music. She is someone who creates her own mini-universes and takes the listener into strange and magical realms. At every step, there is a realism and sense of tangibility to the music. It is never as out-there and strange as that but is never completely grounded and conventional. In a sense, Greenwood reminds me of American singer-songwriter Joanna Newsom. Here is someone whose writing blends quirky and honest: a talent who can bare her soul savagely but elevate the consciousness into a far-off, safe world filled with all manner of characters and situations. Greenwood has that flair and sense of endeavour; her compositions mic Folk, Classical; Pop and so many different strands. At no point do you get a sense of an artist following the pack of replicating anyone else. Helene Greenwood is her own woman and a songwriter who is impossible to classify. I feel one of the things lacking from this year’s best is that sense of magic and strange. You do not find many artists that blend genres and push the envelope readily. The more traditional musicians have created sensational work and are rightly being celebrated. I briefly mentioned Laura Marling – who we will hear more of when her new album is released in March – but someone who touches the surface of what I am saying. She can create some truly sensational music that is hard to define and has a dizzying, life-affirming quality.

That is something we do not often find in music: sounds that create escapism and enrich the senses; provoke serious reaction and take the imagination somewhere special. Too many musicians are so direct and unnuanced it is hard to rev the senses through the gears and get any sort of speed going. Talking about relationships and sex – often rather animal-like and carnally – is not something that mandates repeated listens and any thorough investigation. There is still that prolificacy of relationship-mentioning songs and issues of sex. Few songwriters cast away from those shores and explore something more original, nourishing and enriching. That is a shame because music, some sectors of it anyway, are in danger of stagnation and extinction. Helene Greenwood is someone who is doing things her own way, and in the process, inspiring others. Her music digs deep and gets the listener thinking and imagining. There are songs that look at love but never in a crude and simplistic way. An imaginative and intelligent songwriter inspired by more honest, charming themes: all this is funnelled into her beautiful and immersing work. I am sure we will be hearing more from Greenwood into next year and more tour dates for sure. Her current album, Exquisitely Hopeless, has been picking up positive reviews and amazing critics. It is that hard-to-define sound and colourful songwriting that has compelled so many people. Across the album, you get the sense of a woman not only discovering herself but urging the listener to search themselves and think more deeply about the world around them. Perhaps that is me over-interpreting but that’s the feeling I got. I wanted to focus on Flat Roof House – a song that she recorded a little while ago – as I feel it best represents the album and leaves the biggest impression in the mind. I am sure Greenwood will be making strides in 2017 and building on the success she has accrued. That will be exciting to see and discovering just how far she can go.

In terms of assessing how far Greenwood has come as a musician, one must look to the past. The fact Exquisitely Hopeless is her first, full work is not to say she has been idle for the last few years. Greenwood has been busy since studying in California and recording music for a long time. Songs that feature on her album have been in gestation for a while. I have known about her for a long time and know she is a prolific musician that should not be overlooked. Exquisitely Hopeless is the best way to judge and assess Greenwood as an artist and what she is about. Throughout the eleven tracks, you get a real sense of a young woman who likes to watch the world go by and documents that like no other. One imagines her people-watching in cafés and parks; casting her mind to new worlds and transposing the people in it. It is clear Greenwood has a rich imagination but she is never too flighty or surreal. With every song, you get that heartbeat of realism and relatability: a woman who has real emotions and concerns but does not portray them in any obvious and predictable way. That is what separates her from her peers: that ability to transcend expectations and blend the extraordinary with the ordinary. I feel we will hear a lot more from her in the coming years and some terrific albums. I have never seen her perform live but can imagine it is quite an unforgettable experience. More of next year will see me interview musicians and really getting into their mind – seeing what makes them tick and learning more about them. Helene Greenwood’s world is one I want to become accustomed to and learn more about. She is an enigmatic and intriguing human whose music is among the most arresting and memorable I have heard in a long while. Anyone new to Helene Greenwood should immerse themselves in Exquisitely Hopeless and its myriad themes. It is dreamy and floating; raw and open and times but never too wide-reaching and unfocused. Everything is anchored by an incredible vocal and authoritative command; the compositions always layered and gorgeous – a musician who you are loathed to compare with anyone else. I have mentioned artists like Joanna Newsom and Laura Marling: perhaps there is a smidge of both within Greenwood. That said, she is someone whose lyrics and stories are inherently her own and immune from easy categorisation and assessment.

Initial seconds of Flat Roof House put the vocal at the centre. There is little waltz of seduction: the song gets underway and the heroine is in view. Almost child-like in its purity and sound, the vocal has a sweetness and sincerity that is filled with innocence and hope. You are imagining the scenes unfold and following what Greenwood is singing about. There are highways “zooming past” – something the heroine can hear at night – and you imagine a rather busy, built-up scene of traffic and sound. In a way, there is a romance to the words. Not necessarily documenting pollution and stress: there is a feeling of life happening around her and a simple, honest life. One imagines, when hearing about the flat roof house, it is about someone else rather than the heroine. Perhaps a friend or character of the imagination; one envisions a simple girl lying by white kitchen goods – as Greenwood sings – and wondering whether it is a dream from yesterday. There is an oblique, dream-like quality to the lyrics that make you wonder what is being talked about. You see the girl in the house – rather honest and traditional – hearing the traffic race by and trying to find solace. The detail and mention of kitchenware could make it, in lesser hands, perfunctory and run-of-the-mill. Greenwood laces her words with something quite extraordinary. It is hard to put it into words but that voice is compelling and sensational. The compositional ‘interlude’ matches zooming, spacey electronics with more composed, balletic piano. There is that mix of gravity-defying and level-headed: blending supremely and creating a rhapsody of beauty and possibility. In a way, the composition best represents the contradictions and complexities of the lyrics. On the one hand, you get traffic noises and nods but there is an oddity and far-off quality that could represent dreaming and the imagination taking flight.

The “Milky white skin” and “Thousand possibilities” that arrive in the next verse bring about new interpretations and thoughts. Greenwood’s vocals – and composition in fact – are inspired by Japan and Japanese music. Her delivery has that calm and unique delivery one would hear from a Japanese artist. You get sounds of the Far East in the composition and vocal – quite still and slow but graced with tenderness and eccentricity. Greenwood’s voice is pure and precise; her words are pronounced with the utmost care in order to ensure they hit the mark. It is unusual hearing an artist with such an expressive and pin-sharp voice. In terms of the lyrics, you wonder what is happening in this segment. We have stepped fully away from domesticity and the ordinariness of life and have transcended somewhere more scintillating, unexpected and magical. The song’s heroine is lying on the floor – or floating in the atmosphere – and letting her mind conspire. I have been loathed to look at any interpretations about the song (Greenwood explaining its origins) as the words provoke different reactions and explanations. These possibilities have “Captured my breath” – the narrative seems to shift to first-person and be about the heroine. Flat Roof House keeps you compelled and guessing; the music and vocals so singular and enticing. At times, one gets glimmers of Icelandic queen Björk and her music. That same sort of delivery and intense (but safe) world where nothing is normal and anything is possible. It would be remiss of me not to mention that legend but incongruous to compare the two directly. Greenwood is her own musician and employs little touches of other artists. In fact, it is that cuisine fusion of Japanese and Icelandic (Súrir hrútspungar sushi, perhaps?!) that makes the song so hard to nail. At every stage, you are captivated by the beauty and softness – Greenwood the narrator and guide who takes somewhere safe and secure.

In a way, the song is like a recollection of past times and childhood memories, perhaps. Having a flat roof house where everyone has a room; there was simplicity to life and a purer time. Against the patterning, tribe beats and shivering, opulent string you ensconce yourself in the scene and spectate. It is hard to refute the majesty and divinity of the voice – something that continues to amaze and impress at every stage. There is a sparsity to Flat Roof House that makes the song more powerful. You are left to paint your own pictures and come to your own conclusions. Songs that provoke that are rare but rarer still are tracks that float into the imagination and calm the senses. In the final minute, you get the conclusion and wrap up. The voice takes a step back and you are left to swim in the electronics and strands; the whispers and echoes. At no point are you anything less than hooked and spellbound. Despite there being few words, Flat Roof House keeps you coming back with its unexpectedness and strange beauty. At the heart of the song is a reality: one that is special to the heroine and one we can all relate to. Even if you do not fully immerse yourself in the song and relate to the sentiments; there is enough beauty and refined grace – plenty of emotion and passion to get you involved. It is that sense of involvement and activity that makes the song so special. Unable to idly sit back, you spend the closing moments assessing what has come before and continuing to follow the story through. First thoughts looked at a fictional heroine who was in her simple house listening to traffic. That changed to ideals of our heroine casting her mind back to times at the house – where there were possibilities in life and everything was ahead of her. Upon further study, I got the feeling of a woman looking back to when she was young and the simple innocence of the time. Perhaps that view will change again but Flat Roof House never stops with its intrigue and fascination. A stunning song from Helene Greenwood that is a pretty good starting point when listening to Exquisitely Hopeless. That album is rich with bounty and marvelousness. One marvels at every song and casts themselves in Helene Greenwood’s world. Flat Roof House is that seraphic gem that keeps on shining and demonstrates what a talent Greenwood is.

I started by looking at Greenwood in the context of the modern scene. There has been a real surge of female artists doing some extraordinary things. This year has seen a lot of tragedy and stress and we are starting to rebuild and evaluate at the moment. Given the unusualness and extremism of 2016, it is understandable many people are willing to put it to bed and forget about it. It is true we can do without the tragedy and death that has been stalking the landscape – and the political insanity – but we cannot overlook just how many great musicians have laid down markers this year. In addition to the mainstream artists and their work: a whole host of new artists are doing great work and showing they can rub shoulders with the best of them. I have been hearing a lot of quality but finding the female artists are making the biggest impact. I am not sure what the reason and rationale is but I suspect there is a general move against the samey, predictable music that has been stalking the landscape for a few years. You still have those female acts – who shall remain anonymous – who are producing sexualised, relationship-heavy songs that are more boring than titillating. Even if they were the latter, you do not want to hear that for too long – the brain starts to rot and the imagination is almost forced into hibernation. Against this rather ill and primaeval movement is a counter-culture of sophisticated, intelligent music.

I have mentioned examples like Laura Marling but Helene Greenwood represents what I am talking about. I feel, is she were male, she would not have been able to create music quite like this It sounds rather odd but there is something innately beautiful, sensual and, almost maternal, unfolds. Among the men of music, I have been impressed by everyone from Radiohead – A Moon Shaped Pool is my album of the year and James Blake; Michael Kiwanuka and Jamie T – but have the most affection and time for female musicians. The girls have been leading the way: this is especially true when you listen to the new/underground musicians of the moment. Greenwood is an individual and special talent who is not following the herd and producing the same old music about the same old things. You get familiarity and relatability but there is that magical quality and entrance. That is in no small part down to the vocal-and-composition coupling that runs riot throughout Exquisitely Hopeless. Ripples and Dream Horses have been available for a short time and invested with something quite transcendent and mind-altering. It is that voice that elevates the songs and puts the words (at times relatable at others mystical) right into the brain. Flat Roof House is the standout and a song, I feel, best represents the album. Of course, the entire work is brimming with quality and beauty – many critics have noted that – but you get the biggest hit on Flat Roof House. I am not sure how Greenwood will capitalise on Exquisitely Hopeless into next year but feel there will be more work and perhaps another album. I have been thoroughly impressed by her album and it is one of the most interesting and detailed I have heard all year.

A stunning and busy work that introduces us to a range of characters and situations – just what we need in music right now. At times, one or two of the songs sound alike, but the abiding impression is of an album perfectly balanced and immensely impressive. The production is rich and polished – without being too so – but it is Greenwood’s assured and intelligent songwriting that stands proudest. Throw in a special and captivating voice and you have one of the best artists (and albums) currently operating in music. We need music that provokes hidden emotions and takes us somewhere special. A lot of the time, when hearing the mainstream’s best, you get some of those emotions uncovered. Whether relief, release or joy: musicians that can enrich and lift a listener is to be congratulated and encouraged. Too often musicians go for the gut and are incapable of producing anything with depth and nuance. Those that go the extra mile and really do something amazing are those we should be concentrating on. I urge you to get involved with Helene Greenwood and a musician with a definite future. I am not sure what her touring schedule looks like next year but she is likely to be performing around London and further afield. She has international quality and that demand should follow: an artist that could hold court around Europe and make a name for herself there. Exquisitely Hopeless is certainly exquisite but its author is far from hopeless. In fact, it that contradiction (in the title) that is reflected in the music. You get a sense of someone discovering themselves and pouring her heart out – a sense of realism and honesty – but that otherworldly effectiveness and stun. Make sure you get the album and investigate it thoroughly. If you are feeling like many out there – exhausted and confused by this year – Helene Greenwood is the person who can banish those bad memories and replace them with something purer and more positive. I have been listening to her album for a few days now and finding new insight and nuance every time I do. It is Flat Roof House that reverberates loudest and creates the biggest reaction in me. After a rather fraught and tempestuous year, it is such a relief…

HELENE Greenwood is among us.


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