TRACK REVIEW: The Old Pink House – Black Hole

TRACK REVIEW:

 

The Old Pink House

 

Image may contain: 3 people, people sitting and indoor 

 

Black Hole

 

9.3/10

  


Black Hole is available at:

https://soundcloud.com/the-old-pink-house/black-hole

RELEASED:
3rd December, 2016

GENRES:
Cosmic-Pop

ORIGIN:

Newcastle, U.K.

________________________

MANY may have noted how I have somewhat…

Image may contain: one or more people, people on stage and indoor

bemoaned a lack of credible and attractive bands emerging this year. That is not to say the band market is bereft of quality and potential – that would be a foolish suggestion. I am just saying, when compared with solo artists, there are fewer genuine groups and those that stand out. Maybe that will all change next year but I have therorised why this is. There is that focus on talent and artists that are more concerned addressing social issues and more urgent themes. Bands, by and large, are more focused on other themes (relationships and personal issues) but still hold the majority share of the festival circuit. That, the band dollar, is always the most bankable and long-lasting – I feel when the festivals crank back up there will be more focus on them and a push away from solo acts. Maybe not but who can ever predict what will happen in music? Before I come to my featured artists, I wanted to look at northern bands (The Old Pink House are from Newcastle) and the importance of local gigs; how hard it is for bands to get under the lens of a manger and get promoted; a bit about influences and how new bands can survive longer. It is nearly Christmas time which means a lot of people are overwhelmed by ‘classic’ Christmas songs and general mush. There is less time spent on new music: many are waiting to see what next year brings and have already had their fill of new music. Before we get there, it would be remiss not looking at artists who are still playing and campaigning around the nation. The last few months have seen my settled around London and not really straying too far beyond that. It is good to be back up in the north: once the ancestral home of the most influential and awesome bands.

No automatic alt text available.

I know Manchester and Liverpool get the most press – with regards northern exposure – but we should not overlook areas like Newcastle. Looking at the ‘historical’; or established artists from Newcastle; there is plenty of variation and quality. Maximo Park, The Animals and Dubstar are just a few acts that call Newcastle home – you could not put a line through these acts and have it make sense. Looking at nearby Sunderland – I will probably get stick for daring to name Newcastle’s local rivals – but The Futureheads, Kenickie and Field Music have put the city of the map. Newcastle’s well-heeled and celebrated acts are, in most cases, years down the line and not really as fresh as one would hope. This is all going to change. Over the last few months or so; a few new bands have shown their wares and are impressing critics around the nation. Street Party in Soho – I am reading from http://www.gigwise.com/photos/106343/best-new-newcastle-bands-and-artists-2016—punk-indie-garage – are impressing with their sunshine blends and ethereal promise. The guys turn everyday situations and concerns into anthems and beautiful things. There is not the tendency to go for morbid and depress with a lack of energy: everything the trio touches is instilled with some sense of uplift and energy. SoShe mix grooves and beats and have garnered comparisons with London Grammar. Mouses are a duo I am well aware of and have been linked with The White Stripes. To be fair, they are a bit more straight-forward and simplistic than the Detroit duo. The Newcastle twosome have that festival-ready sound and already being tipped as breakaway stars for 2017. Post-Punk magic from Kobadelta is also not surprising. I reviewed the guys way back and was hooked by their fantastic, rings-in-the-ears magic. There is plenty of anger and aggression but it never boils over – always imbued with control, nuance and intelligence. In terms of young bands: they do not come much tenderer than Far Pacific. All teenagers (most of the members are sixteen or seventeen) the boys know how to put on a show and already crafted a set of lovable and indelible tracks. Deep.Sleep are also young and new but have that charm and rebellious streak that is impossible to overlook. That is just a collection of Newcastle bands that are already making a mark. It is fair to say the city is not exactly dormant when it comes to music.

Image may contain: indoor

It is not worth mentioning how fervent and fertile London is when it comes to new bands. Although the capital is, like most of the country, putting its solo artists further forward, there are plenty of new groups unwilling to play second-fiddle. That is the same with Newcastle. There are some great solo artists around the city but there is, as we have seen, more than a few epic bands that have all the components needed for success. The Old Pink House – in addition to that fantastic name – are more than capable of rubbing shoulders with the Geordie best. They are getting under the radar and looking to become more exposed and known in 2017. The way they are doing this (and gathering momentum) is by pounding the local scene. Whether embracing the toilet circuit or supporting better-known artists: the hungry boys have supported Let’s Eat Grandma and are being noted for their tight sets and engaging personalities. Although Black Hole (whether it should be capitalised I am not sure) is their second effort: there is no reason the guys will not be making more music in the coming months. Many bands – and solo artists too – are looking ahead right away to the big festivals and gaining the ear of B.B.C. I have seen some great London bands rely on the local venues in order to gain a foothold. Artists should not be jumping right for the big leagues and understand the necessity of gaining a live reputation. Getting your local peeps on board not only ensures you have a solid core but means you will always have gigs and demand. There are so few towns/cities with a great music scene: if there is one, keep hold of that and do not underestimate that. Even if your town/city has only a few venues: it is important getting as many dates booked and pounding hard as possible. I understand the excitement of dreaming and thinking what can be – that should not come at the expense of local gigs. The Old Pink House are benefitting from the great spots around Newcastle and pulling the punters in. It may be their earliest days but they are already making strides and showing they have what it takes to cut their teeth further south. If they manage to secure some gigs in own locations (Manchester, Leeds and London for example) that will do them a lot of good. I am pleased The Old Pink House are hitting the local circuit and making sure Newcastle knows their name. The likes of Mouses have got into the minds of mainstream press by doing just that: starting local and watching their music spread; tongues wagging over social media and everything sort of happening after that.

No automatic alt text available.

Before I come to the new single from The Old Pink House, I wanted to talk about the importance of management – how hard it can be securing a deal. This point was provoked by a recent conversation with Saints Patience guitarist, Spencer. Chatting with him, he explained that, although the band’s debut album was coming along nicely, getting gigs was proving challenging. Not because they lacked energy and the motivation: they had it in spades but were not getting any calls. In addition to dealing with all the recording/production side of things; the band are having to secure a lot of gigs themselves and becoming restless. It is a tragedy seeing a talented young band, full of vigour and potential, being denied opportunities to perform. Being based in London (or near enough), the guys are in the perfect spot to get those gigs – it is a lack of management that is causing such anxiety. Of course, it is great having P.R. bodies behind you getting those dates but it needs a one-man/woman army making calls and getting out there. The Old Pink House are doing well in Newcastle but will be looking at performing across the U.K. and Europe. If they had a manager calling venues and hooking the band up; it would not only provide The Old Pink House more gig experience but mean they were pulling in more money and spreading their music far and wide. I am not sure what is on the boys’ minds but I am sure they would love to perform across London and further south; get their music spun on ‘6 Music and get some notable support slots. That comes through hard work and great music but making sure the music is being pushed firmly. Of course, the band is promoting themselves but would benefit from a dedicated body campaigning and electioneering on their behalf. Their music, from one song alone, suggests there are fans waiting to find them. Maybe it is hard putting managers together with musicians. How many of them are out there and is it expensive/feasible having one? Maybe commissions – and giving a large slice to a manager – is putting people off or perhaps it assumed artists take care of all their own P.R. I would suggest the boys go hunting for a manager in the future: expand their arsenal and ensure their (terrific) music makes it far across the airwaves. That might be a future consideration but something to chew over. As I said, speaking with a musician looking for gigs and support: it can be frustrating not getting gigs and having to struggle for attention. I know Saints Patience will get those dates and acclaim – I shall ensure that – but they need those gigs now whilst they are hot and ambitious. The Old Pink House, even at this early stage, will be looking far ahead and wanting to see their music explode.

Image may contain: 2 people, people standing

I was originally going to compare the band’s previous single, SO BAD (or ‘So Bad’). Given the work I have had to get through, it got to the stage where the guys had released Black Hole – so it makes more sense concentrating on that one. It is good as it gives me a chance to compare the two songs and detect similarities and patterns emerging. Max Middleton, Ollie Winn and Christopher Brown are the intrepid trio and create music that elevates mood and notably lifts the soul. This is ratified and codified within a few seconds of debut slice, SO BAD (I will capatilise it for now). The song opens with bright and cherry strings: bouncing, ripe and sunny. The optimistic and spirited compositions score lyrics that deal with anxiety and loss. Our hero is sleeping on the floor and facing a world without his girl. Maybe there has been a fight and the two have separated for a bit. That love was strong and definite: losing it has caused such a pain (in the heart) and sense of displacement. Our man is like a suburban nomad: squatting on sofas and hollow of energy; weighing up the past and present and speaking from the heart. Whoever the girl is, she has already made a huge impression and seduced the hero. The band keeps the background light without cheapening the mood. This is not their attempt at a Girlfriend in a Coma-esque juxtaposition:  there is a sincere desire to project a serious-and-hopeful blend without making anything jokey or diluted. As the song plays out; there are more revelations and story. Things aren’t working out and the hero is creeping out the door. Maybe there have been one too many disagreements and the two are on different pages. Whatever the reasons, it is clear the bond is no more. It is a rather rare and honest approach to a love song – one where the hero, admittedly, is being a bit of a coward. That sneaking out and evasion might not be the bravest approach but seems logical given the turbulence between the two. SO BAD keeps bouncing around the brain long after it has played and wins you with its blend of layers and simplicity. SO BAD has those beats – that have Hip-Hop and Indie strides – but throws all manner of sounds into the boiling pot. What you get is a vivid and colourful landscape never overly-cluttered and under-resourced. The band has penned a song that is instant and radio-worthy and one that can still exude merit months down the line. Black Hole deals with similarly weighty issues but presents things in a more sedate and temporised setting. There is still enough energy and SO BAD-esque shades to follow on but Black Hole is a very different song. It has a lot of maturity and sadness – understandable given its title – but is perhaps more nuanced and slow-burning than its counterpart. The song registers intent and impact upon the first play but you need to get your head around it one or two more times for all the different sides to coalesce and resonate. That is a hard trick to pull off but one the band does well. They could have penned a very similar song to SO BAD but haven’t. Instead, they subvert expectations and deliver a song with more candidness and heart; perhaps it lacks the bounce and rouse of their debut but both songs deal with weighty and serious issues. This range and compositional contrast mean any future release will be hotly received. The Old Pink House have shown they can move in various directions whilst retaining their singularity.

No automatic alt text available.

It was unlikely Black Hole would look at something hopeful and positive. That is not what is on the boys’ minds and not where their music is coming from. Rather than pen something insincere and needlessly peppy, the guys have crafted a song born from a very real and relatable place. If they do bring out an E.P. one hopes there will be more hopefulness and redemptive spirit there. As it is, Black Hole looks at a torturous time where the lead has a black hole in his chest. Wanting to be dragged back to the shore and rescued: one feels a love breakdown but it is not too clear in the opening seconds. Whereas SO BAD/So Bad was a confession of mismatched love against sparkling and bright backdrop: here, we have a more introverted and personal song whose support is more twilight and contoured. The strings, light and nimble in the first phases, sparkle like stars but never expend too much light and energy – they twinkle and implode before coming back again. The vocals switch between processed and dark to a more levelled and organic presentation. It gives the song depth and fascination. You are never put off by the rather bleak mood. The band do not go in with a mopey and resigned attitude; each stage of the song has a lot of hope but the lyrics are tackling some rather thorny and fiery situations. There seems to be that need for love and salvation. Whereas SO BAD was more an admission of past glories and current realities: Black Hole is the embodiment of the vacuum one feels when denied love’s fulfilment. The hero wants the heroine to give him her life/love; save him from a rather wretched and destitute alternative that is causing quite a lot of pain and discomfort.

No automatic alt text available.

The guys do not merely present their lyrics with basic elements and predictable guitars. You get little flashes and gurgles; lovely little interludes and physicality that not only embody what is being sung but throw in nice little details for the listener. Aside from some of the vocals (in the chorus) being treated: there are compositional touches that seem to express emotion and story. It is hard to explain but the song goes in all sort of directions and has that elastic composition. The lyrics are single-minded in their focus and intentions: the boy wants to be lifted from his miasma and win the girl. I am not sure whether the song’s heroine is the same we saw in the band’s debut single – maybe a prelude to that song – but it is a grand contrast to what was being expressed there. No creeping out and evasiveness; there is none that of that surrender and need for space. If anything, Black Hole is the polar opposite. Maybe past heartache and stress have caused huge damage to our hero. He is in a dark place and wants to find that light. Rather than wallow in torment and what-ifs, he is laying his heart on the line and sending a message out across the sky. Whether the girl is attached and feels the same way is not explained. The chorus never really references the song’s title but is more a plea to the girl – wanting her to give herself to him and save our man from a life of emptiness. Of course, I may be stretching when it comes to interpretations of love – although it seems quite simple and clear in that sense.

Image may contain: 3 people, sunglasses

The band gives a performance that shows they are properly tight and innovative. The bass is constantly driving and guiding: pushing the song forward but providing its own rhythm and power. There is a nice and solid percussion tied to some experimental and raw guitar notes. Put it all together and you get a score that balances burning, hard emotions with something more relief-laden and hopeful. I mentioned Black Hole is not as light and positive as SO BAD. That is true but Black Hole ensures it is not caught in a web of misery and dejection. It is a track that has so much detail and depth it is impossible to ignore it or have it in the background. It demands a certain level of concentration and one imagines it will prove very popular in the live setting. The band has reached their second single and providing fans a couple of glimpses into what they’re about and where they’re going. Black Hole is a song that could be played across the most credible stations in the U.K. but also score a tense relationship drama too – it has that mobility and appeal. I am not sure where the band is heading next in terms of sound and songs but Black Hole is a fascinating glimpse into where they are now. You need to hear the song a few times as it does keep producing new meaning and possibility each time. Bands such as Car Seat Headrest have impressed me this year with their broad sonic palette and memorable songs – they are one of those bands everyone is tipping for 2017. The U.S. band have crafted one of 2016’s best albums in Teens of Denial and one of the most prolific acts in the music world – they seem to stamp out an album every year! I see bits of them in Old Pink House, but more importantly, a band like Car Seat Headrest provides inspiration and guidance the new breed. Bringing it back to the Newcastle clan and I see a bright future ahead. Black Hole is a terrific song from the trio and one that shows they have plenty of inspiration and talent in their ranks. It will be fascinating seeing how the band grows over the next few months.

Image may contain: 1 person, standing, shoes and text

Black Hole (sometimes in BOLD capitals) is the sophomore song from the Newcastle band. Although it is their second cut, there is plenty to suggest more music will come sooner rather than later. In previous reviews, I have stated how vital the first songs are with regards standing out. If you do not go in strong and hard you risk losing market share and being overlooked. Such is the fickleness and competitiveness of modern music: if you are not prepared and organised right from the off it can be hard coming back from that. I would expect the guys to produce an E.P. next year; a four or five-track collection that has Black Hole in its mix. I am not sure how much more material they have left but will surely vibe from the respect and appreciation they have gained live. Supporting Let’s Eat Grandma is no minor feat and something that makes their C.V. stand out. I opened by looking at local gigs and their importance; how Newcastle is often overlooked in favour of other cities. The local media are doing best to promote their artists but need the backing of mainstream and nationwide sources. I am sure The Old Pink House will gain that but are entering the market at a very busy and changeable time. As I stated, there are a lot of solo acts being proffered and tipped for 2017 success. Whether this sea change is as a result of thematic and lyrical tones – something more relevant and original – I am not sure. Too many bands have played it safe for too long. Concentrating on love and modern life without adding anything new to the recipe: artists like The Old Pink House are doing their best to provide fresh and engaging music. Black Hole, if it is the sound of where they are heading, is much-needed right now. I expect them to tour a lot after Christmas and promote their new single.

Image may contain: one or more people and indoor

After that, things can get exciting – if a little tough and stressful. They have created a wonderful song but have to decide whether to keep on touring, and get a reputation around the U.K., or get back into the studio. Time recording can mean other bands get gig spots and focus heads their way. In the same vein, too much touring means the band can tire and start to show strain. It seems best, therefore, a fine balance is creating: one where there are enough solid tour dates but concrete plans to get some more music laid down. Next year will be an exciting one for music and one where bands will be making a lot of noise. If this year has been defined by some wonderful solo-made music – and many tipsters are featuring them heavily for next year – then bands have a chance to prove they are worthy of attention. I feel the reason solo artists are getting more love is because of the variety and nimbleness they bring to music. They are not hampered by festival demands and fitting into moulds. They have the potential to do whatever they want and the final vote is theirs – not having to debate with other members as to direction and schedules. When the dust of Christmas settles, I know The Old Pink House will be putting new stuff together and trying to get it under the noses of influential D.J.s and big stations. I have no reason to believe they will not achieve that: their latest single shows plenty of promise and sticks in the mind for a long while. Few bands have the savviness to embrace the local scene and keep busy touring. Too many are preoccupied with running before they can walk and being a bit impatient. That is understandable (considering how many other groups are out there) but you need the backing of your home crowds before you win the heart of the majority.

Image may contain: one or more people, people playing musical instruments, people on stage, guitar and night

PHOTO CREDIT: Daniel Stark

I have talked about management and getting someone to get the music to the venue bosses; how important touring is and how Newcastle will come more into focus in the coming months. I alluded to influences – forgot to mention it at the top – but something that excites me about The Old Pink House. It is hard to label the band and fit them into traditional genres. Black Hole has psyched-out sounds and Hip-Hop-inspired rhythms. You get huge Pop hooks and plenty of sparks. In the live setting, the guys have already been compared to the likes of Foals and Unknown Mortal Orchestra. Those are two acts I do not hear come up too much. Foals, especially, are a band that have crafted some superb music but do not get the acclaim they deserve. Unknown Mortal Orchestra is another wonderful act that is more influential than you would think. Being linked to these artists, at such an early stage, is quite an accomplishment and not to be taken lightly. If you consider all the threads, sounds and genres the band splice; the acts they are being compared with – it all sounds very exciting and the recipe for success. I am not sure just what the boys want to achieve next year but they seem like the type of band who dream of big festival sets. When the weather improves, many established acts will be loading their vans with gear and travelling all over the place. The lure and romance of the road are attracting a lot of musicians and ensuring music is not short of passion and potential. I have not seen many ‘Ones to Watch’ lists that include bands. When we see these band-heavy lists that will give us an insight as to who the taste-makers are backing for success. It is not just local sources that will be supporting The Old Pink House and ranking them as a force to keep an eye out. The Newcastle lads have a fascinating and exciting sound that, one imagines, will be championed by stations like ‘6 Music and see a lot of London venues take notice. Black Hole is a song that does strike instantly but reveals more when you play it again. I keep mentioning the importance of nuance – rather ironically – because it is a word/subject that is being ignored by a lot of musicians. That is the one ‘asset’ that is common among the most-celebrated mainstream albums/acts this year. I know the trio of The Old Pink House will keep building and delivering quality songs into 2017. How they take flight will be exciting to see. However they choose to do it; the possibility of a debut E.P…

Image may contain: 3 people, people sitting and indoor

WILL delight many.

____________________

Follow The Old Pink House

 Image may contain: 3 people, sunglasses

Official:

http://www.theoldpinkhouse.co.uk/

Facebook:

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

Twitter:

https://twitter.com/theoldpinkhouse

Instagram:

https://www.instagram.com/theoldpinkhouse/

SoundCloud:

https://soundcloud.com/the-old-pink-house

INTERVIEW: KEELS

INTERVIEW:

 

 

KEELS

___________________

KEELS (or ‘Keels’) is one of the most talked-about songwriters around…

Image may contain: one or more people and indoor

the U.K. and E.I.R.E. at the moment. As former member of the band Empire Divide, Niall Keels cemented his reputation around London as a name to watch. Stepping out alone, the single Surrender brings together embers of The National and Bon Iver. There will be more work coming – which is exciting indeed – so I was eager to talk to KEELS about the new material and how life solo compares to that in a band. Having toured with the likes of Augustines, Catfish and the Bottlemen and Young Rebel Set; working with established filmmakers Kim Roden and Alfie Biddle – many would be envious of that sort of C.V. Always humble and forward-thinking; KEELS has his sights set on 2017 and just what can be achieved.

__________________

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

I’m all good, thanks. Just trying to get everything done before the Christmas panic-shop. On the music front, I have been getting a few bits in place for the video (for the) next single Darkest Nights – and getting the live rehearsals going.

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

Sure. My name is Niall Keels. I am a singer/songwriter on a journey to live the dream! I have lots of new work to share which I’m very excited about. If you like The National, Bon Iver and Massive Attack you should give my music a listen.

I do not often get to interview Irish artists. Which part of the country do you hail and how does the music scene compare there (to England)?

(I have) A very Irish name and a very Irish dad but I was born and brought up in Surrey/Sussex.

I have a lot of friends and family over in Dublin and spend a fair bit of time there. My allegiances are with the men in green when it comes to sport.

This was drilled into me from a very early age from my dad and the rest of his mates down at London Irish Rugby Club in Sunbury. I played with the club all the way through ‘til I was about nineteen and it was there I had to quickly learn a good Dublin accent.

Based out of London, I can imagine the capital provides its fair share of inspiration and frustrations. What is it like for an aspiring musician living in London?

London is a great CITY but it is an expensive place to live! On the music scene, there are some brilliant venues to play for up-and-coming artists like the Lexington, The Sebright Arms and St. Pancras Old Church – where I’m playing in March of next year. It’s great that so much music is readily available and it certainly helps provide creative motivation. London is such a diverse, multicultural hotbed: you meet so many people from all walks of life which can only be a good thing in terms of creative inspiration – especially when you’ve worked as a waiter/landscaper/carpenter/brickie’s assistant.

Looking at reviews that have been paid to your music – you are being compared with the likes of The National and Bon Iver. So early in your career, is it quite daunting or humbling receiving that kind adulation?

It’s both! Very humbling as these, in particular, are two acts whose works I love. I have been to see The National live in London a few times and absolutely loved it. Epic songs delivered so well on the big stage: Slow Show and Hard to Find are two of my favourite tracks. Bon Iver has inspired so many people: just look at how many artists have covered Skinny Love! What a voice and what great songs.

You are a former member of Empire Divide. What was it like being part of the band and how does solo life compare?

Being part of a band is great. Working collectively on a track is an awesome experience. It’s not all that different now as Keels.

I still enjoy writing with old band members and I work closely in the studio with my producer and other writers – which means the creative process is similar. I just get to have the final say. Live, I will be playing with a band, so that shared performance/enjoyment of the music on stage won’t change all that much. I always work with musicians who are into the music and believe in the project, which is very important.

Surrender is your new single. What can you reveal about the origins of the song and what inspired it?

Hard to say. The chords and melody to the song came about when I playing at home on the piano. The lyric “Heart will surrender to nothing but The Devil’s play” came out of nowhere, almost immediately.

We have all lost someone at some point or another so once you have a starting point – the skeleton; chords, structure and lyrical idea – it’s just a matter of fleshing it out and building the track up – and retaining the theme of loss and regret which I did with a friend in the studio.

Was it a difficult song to get together or did it kind of flow when you got into the studio?

In terms of the body of the song it all came together pretty quickly but the production on the track has evolved. Building up the sounds/pads and vocal layering took time.

The video for the song is beautifully shot and conceived. Whose idea was the video and what was it like working with Kim Roden and Alfie Biddle (whose work includes V for Vendetta and Harry Potter)?

After putting together a mood board the video was storyboarded by Kim Roden and Alfie Biddle. Alfie is one of my best and oldest friends and he also happens to be one of the best up-and-coming cinematographers in the film business. He is immensely resourceful and generous with his time and I have been very lucky to work with his talented team. Alfie has worked on some huge films in differing capacities and his wealth of experience and knowledge plays a huge part in delivering such a powerful visual that works so well with the track. I couldn’t recommend a better team of people to work with and I think the video is sufficient evidence of this.

Can we expect an E.P. or album next year perhaps?

There will definitely be an E.P. first and hopefully an album at the end of 2017.

Image may contain: 1 person, beard
PHOTO CREDIT: @pedroalvesphotography

In terms of the musicians that have inspired your music: which would you rank as the most important and why?

Again, a very tough question to pinpoint as there are so many artists that have influenced my vocal delivery and songwriting.

I would say Johnny Cash/Roy Orbison/Elvis are three vocalists that I listened to more than any growing up. They all had an amazing ability to convey their message through a powerful and honest vocal delivery.

For me, honesty is the most important quality in delivering a message through a great melody.

Having toured with everyone from Young Rebel Set and Catfish and the Bottlemen you must have some fond memories. What has been your career highlight so far?

Young Rebel Set are a good bunch of lads with great songs and I am always surprised that they haven’t had more success. Berlin Nights is brilliant. Career high is hard but playing with Augustines to a sold out KOKO was pretty special. They’re another band I am amazed haven’t exploded and was very sad to see that they had called time. Another high was playing more recently out in Moscow in a sold-out Imagine Café – where my brother came and joined me for my set. We’re best mates so to have him with me for that show singing to a sold out venue was awesome.

Are there any new artists coming through you recommend we check out?

Amber Run are a new band coming through that I played with a little while back: nice guys with a good sound. Also, an Irish act called Picture This are definitely worth keeping an eye on.

Image may contain: one or more people, people playing musical instruments and night

PHOTO CREDIT: @der_ivanov

Is there any advice you’d offer to any new artists coming through?

Be determined/persistent. I have been grinding away for a long time now and it feels like things are starting to really come together.

Luck plays a huge part in music but you have to be in it to win it. Of course, be true to yourself as an artist and don’t rush. Look at Sia: her first number one came album in her late-30s.

It is almost Christmas. Any plans for this year? What have you put on your list to Santa?

Excited to spend Christmas with old friends and family: it’s the one and only time of the year some friends are about.

Also super-excited to get all the live performances going in the New Year and can’t wait to put more tracks out. I’d love to get on a few more shows overseas: always a great opportunity to see a new city/town.

I have asked Santa for a Christmas number one. I didn’t specify what year so we’ll have to wait and see!

Finally, and for being a good sport, you can choose any song you like (not yours as I’ll put that in) and I’ll play it here.

Hard to Find – The National

Thanks to you all and a very Merry Christmas. 

____________________

Follow KEELS

 Image may contain: 1 person, beard

Official:

http://www.keelsmusic.com/

Facebook:

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

Twitter:

https://twitter.com/keelsmusic

Instagram:

https://www.instagram.com/keelsmusic/

SoundCloud:

https://soundcloud.com/keelsmusic

YouTube:

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCkfu8IoyAjGyODM-34aHx1g

 

INTERVIEW: The Peppersplum

INTERVIEW:

 

Image may contain: 2 people, closeup

 

The Peppersplum

___________________

THIS year, one of the nicest surprises was discovering…

Image may contain: 2 people

Mexican sisters Marie and Sussie Fernandez. Known as The Peppersplum, they are heavily influenced by older English music and U.S. Rock; European Dance and more traditional Latin sounds. Songs like Take the Adventure of Love pulls all these disparate threads together and shows what passion and talent the duo has. Into next year, the girls will be looking at releasing new music. They discuss these plan alongside memories of the year so far; what type of music inspires them and how Is It Love? (their last album) came together. In addition to that, the girls are working on two new albums – which shows just how hard-working and determined The Peppersplum are. They chat about those releases and what they have planned for Christmas.

____________________

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

Sussie: Hi there. It is so nice to talk to you. Thanks for this time you take to talk about music. Also, we would like to thank you so much for the review you wrote: we really like it and enjoyed reading it.

Marie: Some parts are as if you had been there watching very close to what it was. Surprisingly accurate.

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

Together: We are The Peppersplum. (*smiling*)

Marie: We’re sisters…

Sussie: …and we do music.

You began your musical life 2006. What compelled you to start a duo and can you remember the first song you recorded?

Marie: Not only the first song we recorded but also the first song we wrote.

Sussie: Well, we always wanted to sing and express ourselves in an artistic way.

We can recall when we were very little: every time we saw a theatre play we tried to replay, in our house, all the roles by our own – all the singing, all the words and acts like it were a children’s game.

As sisters, what was the type of music you grew up listening to?

Sussie: We listen to a lot: all Rock and Roll; ‘50s, ‘60s; ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s music.

Marie: Yes, we like all the old music stuff.

Image may contain: 1 person, standing and indoor

What is the musical scene like in Mexico? Is there a lot of great indigenous music or (does the country) take in a lot of U.S. and British music?

Marie: Well, we can´t really say what’s the scene (as we listen to all stuff) but Mexico does take lots of English music.

The Beatles still have a daily hour on one of the biggest radio stations.

Sussie: Yes, indeed. I think it is (as you have probably said) half local music whilst half of the population goes for English music.

You have won a collection of awards and accolades over the year. What has been the proudest achievement for The Peppersplum?

Sussie: Wow, well, every one of them. They are different and we like to think it is because of our fans and their love and amazing support.

Marie: Yes. All of them have a special place in our hearts, in our music; most of all, a big thanks to all the people involved: the ones who work alongside us and the fans; the prizes are them.

Can you tell us about the coming months? Any new music coming through or E.P.s in the pipeline?

Marie: No. In fact, we did a pause to answer this interview. We are recording the album. The album has been delayed for many reasons. Upcoming is two new singles – but totally different. The two albums will have twelve to fourteen songs on each one – so, if you count the two of them that will be at least twenty-six or so new songs. Their titles will be Fast Love Vol. I (Dance) and Fast Love Vol. II (Rock).

Sussie: Yes.

We are recording two albums – following the single format. This E.P. is, in fact, the first single from two different albums: one the Rock side and the other is a Dance album.

They are two singles from two different albums (but with the same name). We’ll hopefully finish recording the two albums next year.

Is It Love? composes eleven unreleased tracks and was your second studio album. What was the inspiration behind it and how does it differ from your debut work?

Marie: Guess we have to start by talking about our debut album and the difference (with that) and Is It Love? Yeah!, as it’s called, was the first step to achieving our dream (to write music). When we finished it, we were like: “Can’t wait for everybody to listen to it”. The second one we hid a bit so it stays a little longer – only for us alone. Is It Love? has lots of emotions. When we recorded, it was a tough time for the person not for the musician. We were having a real hard time recording. That album was what kept us going. In Life, for example, is about loss – but not to a love – but concerning our grandfather because he was like our dad – and then he passed away. Every one of the eleven songs is a story on its own. They are different. The only one thing permanent in all our songs and albums is genuineness.

Sussie: Yeah! was an affirmation: it was a “yes it’s possible“. We’d been told: “Girls in a Rock world? Only in more than ten years“; “Girls for Rock are not good“. So Yeah was: “Look at us, we did it! Is It Love? came together in a more accomplished way.

We wanted to write more about us and we added some more thoughts and emotions, as you said (which was very amazing for us, you figured it out). Words we really use, that are totally us, like: “I just can’t believe…”  This is a phrase we used a lot (maybe we’re not believers) (*smiling *). But we wanted to take away all the bad experiences we were living by singing.

What has been your favourite song to record? Which one has meant the most to you?

Marie: The new one we’re working on in that moment is the favourite. All the others left a mark, of course, but they have gone.

Sussie: We like them all. They were part of us in a time and space, and when we listen to them again, it is like seeing an old friend.

Do The Peppersplum have upcoming gigs or are you spending time in the studio?

Sussie: Well, as we said, we’re finishing recording these two albums – but we have signed with a new manager so we are eager to confirm some upcoming gigs.

Marie: Hey, she said it all (*smiling*). Some surprises soon.

You have a lot of love for the U.K. Can we expect to see you play in the country anytime soon?

Marie: We grew up listening lullabies like (*singing*) “Orange and lemons/say the bells of St. Clements”, so you can say that.

Sussie:Oh, The Grand Old Duke of York…” (*again singing*). We love to play there. We hope with this new guidance (manager) we could play there very soon. As soon as we know we’ll share it with you as well as well as new stuff.

Marie: Yes. We are really curious about finding out your opinion on the new tunes.

Are there any local artists or artists you love you’d recommend we investigate?

Sussie: Oh God! We only listen to old music as we said. Wow, this is a hard one.

Marie: The Beatles and Elvis are so well known (joking) – sorry, we really don’t know who to name.

For any bands/musicians wanting to follow in your footsteps: what advice would you offer them?

Marie: Constancy! It’s the only thing that would make you get your goal.

Sussie: Be patient and don’t let down yourself.

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

Sussie: Always good sports and fair players so mmm… would be nice to listen to an old tune like E.L.O.’s Last Train to London.

Marie: Or we can go a little bit earlier and listen to House of the Rising Sun but we’ll leave it up to you. Thanks a lot for this interview; we were very glad answering it. Looking forward to your review of our next tunes.

Sussie: Thanks. It was so nice. Hoping to see you all of you at a gig.

__________________

Follow The Peppersplum

Image may contain: 2 people, closeup

Facebook:

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

Twitter:

https://twitter.com/thepeppersplum?lang=en

Instagram:

https://www.instagram.com/thepeppersplum/

SoundCloud:

https://soundcloud.com/thepeppersplum

YouTube:

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCwjH43XXtfM44VeHlXZYX1A

FEATURE: Track of the Year: Radiohead – Burn the Witch

FEATURE:

 

Track of the Year:

 

Related image

 

Radiohead – Burn the Witch

___________________

YESTERDAY, I expounded the virtues of an album by a blonde-haired…

Image may contain: 1 person, playing a musical instrument, sitting and guitar

Yorkshire native – my favourite record from this year in music. Facing some hefty competition and long odds: the fantastic debut cut beat off all other competition to claim the honour of best album of 2016 (I am not mentioning her name as promised it would be the last time this year; you can check yesterday’s post if you are that curious). Today, I am looking at the track that, for me, stood out from the rest this year. Given the amount of songs unveiled throughout 2016, it is challenging narrowing it down to that one choice. There have been songs of all shapes, sizes and genres; from across the world and exploring all types of subjects. It is true; my longlist contains music from Hip-Hop, Electro.-Pop and Alternative. The one that actually takes home the gold it the lead-off track from Radiohead’s ninth studio album, A Moon Shaped Pool. There are quite a few reasons the album transcends all others and sticks in the memory largest. As 2016 came into view, there was the odd bit of press about Radiohead’s movements. Aside from Twitter-based tease and Instagram snapshots: few were really sure whether the Oxford band has an album in them. True, there was some hesitation and doubt after 2011’s The King of Limbs. That album contained the usual array of beauty, mystique and command. Following the near-career-defining In Rainbows: many were hoping for a similar album yet The King of Limbs traversed new ground. Not that their eight album was a disappointment: it just felt a bit short of In Rainbow’s majesty and quality. There was a fear, if 2016 was to produce a Radiohead album, it would be a run-on from The King of Limbs.

Image result for burn the witch

As it was: the doubters and fearful could rest easy. A Moon Shaped Pool took the purest and finest elements of The King of Limbs – the orchestral sways and attention to detail; the sense of refinement and purity – but cast the net wider and expanded the sound. Aside from some ‘older’ Radiohead songs – True Love Waits finally made an album appearance – there was plenty of nervous energy, atmosphere and life. Ful Stop, Deck’s Dark and Identikit cannot easily be compared to the more regent and introspective string-laden tracks. Say what you want about the album, one that cracked my top five; making it to the second-placed spot, but its first single cannot be questioned. I remember the moment (in May) it dropped to the world. This year has seen too much bloodshed, division and separation – as I type this I am reading another horrifying piece of Aleppo and failing ceasefire – and musicians have been responding this. Burn the Witch is a song that looks at the negative, accusatory and hateful elements of society. Whether you see it as a caution against groupthink or a general pervading scepticism: lyrics like “abandon all reason/avoid all eye contact/do not react/shoot the messengers/burn the witch” are as powerful and haunting as any committee to tape this year. Against the news stories of mass immigration and prevailing wars: Burn the Witch is Radiohead at their most relevant and unsettling. Not since How to Disappear Completely (from the profound and life-affirming Kid A) have they managed to marry that overwhelming beauty and creepy undertones so naturally.

Image result for burn the witch

The song’s promotional video was directed by Chris Hopewell, who helmed their stop-motion film for There There, and employs a similar technique to achieve its results. Rather than a lone Thom Yokre tripping through a woodland filled with miniature animals and strange Sylvanian Family-esque figures: this one incorporated elements of the 1960s T.V. show, Trumpton Trilogy. In addition to homages to The Wicker Man; the video sees an inspector looking around a quaint (if unnerving and disturbing) community – where a local fair is unfolding; complete with dripping blood and strange, Pagan dancing. At the end, the representative is imprisoned in a giant Wicker Man figure. An evocative and unforgettable way of representing the song’s themes of right-wing activism and polemic political rhetoric. It is not just the visual accompaniments and build-up that makes the song such a triumph. The entire band is completely in-check and awe-inspiring. There is Jonny Greenwood’s string articulation and genius – a man who knows how to score an incredibly moody and exciting set of players. The orchestral flavours are bolstered by fantastic and atmospheric performance; a production that is clean, crisp and astonishing. Thom Yorke’s vocals, as is the case with the album as a whole, is the emotional centre and most remarkable asset. Never has he sounded as seductive, spectral and beguiling. There is no vocalist capable of producing such spine-tingling and evocative vocal deliveries. Burn the Witch is Yorke at his very peak. Whether elongating or syncopating he is completely engrossing and spectacular. If you put all of these considerations and commendations together you have a song that is worthy of A Moon Shaped Pool’s acclaim and solid reputation. Even if other critics have placed the song scandalously low down their list (of the year’s best songs) that is their issue. Those who know their music at least place the song in their top twenty choices of 2016. Burn the Witch provided 2016’s music one of its biggest shocks and most dramatic moments. Radiohead took down their social media pages and created whispers and hushes of fevered excitement. Few could have predicted anything like Burn the Witch and its myriad wonders. Even seven months after its release it continues to yield answers, insight and questions. Some might say it was long-overdue from the legendary band; others wanted more (of Burn the Witch) across A Moon Shaped Pool. To the neutral observer – and those unconcerned with petty criticisms – recognise Burn the Witch as a rare marvel…

Image may contain: 1 person, playing a musical instrument, sitting and guitar

THAT made 2016 just that little bit more special and strange.

_______________

Follow Radiohead:

Image result for burn the witch

http://www.radiohead.com/deadairspace

TRACK REVIEW: Lewis Fieldhouse – Naked Psycopathic Blues

TRACK REVIEW:

 

Lewis Fieldhouse

 

Image may contain: 1 person, standing

PHOTO CREDIT: Ray Roberts

 

Naked Psycopathic Blues

 

9.5/10

  

 

Naked Psycopathic Blues is available at:

https://soundcloud.com/lewisfieldhouse/naked-psycopathic-blues

GENRES:
Americana; Alternative-Pop

ORIGIN:

London, U.K.

Image may contain: outdoor and nature

The album, Theodor Washington and the Central Valley, is available at:

https://fieldhouse.bandcamp.com/

RELEASED:

2nd December, 2016

________________________

NOT too many reviews left for this calendar year…

Image may contain: 1 person, beard

PHOTO CREDIT: Ray Roberts

but there is always time for a fantastic solo artist. I have included, in these pages, quite a few throughout 2016 but none that sound quite like Lewis Fieldhouse. Before I come to him, and look at his music, it is prudent investigating the male solo artist and those who source inspiration from unusual places; a little bit about original vocals and music that hits various parts of the body. Quite an odd compendium of subjects but all fitting when thinking of Fieldhouse. I have been assessing and featuring my favourite albums from this year (mainstream) and what defines them. Among my top ten, there are few inclusions from male solo acts – James Blake is a rare exception – with the majority either being band-made or female-created. There has been, as I have stated before, a move away from bands and their dominance and towards solo artists – I feel the female artists have been getting (long overdue) dues. There is nothing to suggest this proliferation and focus will halt in 2017 – that is something quite heartening and pleasing. I am casting my mind around the mainstream works from this year and trying to think how many – those great, titan albums – derived from the boys. Kanye West and Frank Ocean perhaps; James Blake and David Bowie. Just looking at The Guardian’s run-down of their selected ten from 2016 and the opening gambits are mostly female-led. Apart from Kanye West (number four) there is Christine and the Queens, Rhianna; Anohni and Solange in their list. Bands are getting critical nods but there seems to be a surfeit of solo males creating extraordinary works. In the underground, there is hope to suggest that will change in future years. It is fascinating seeing trends change and various dynamics unfold. There was a time, not too many years ago, the boys were ruling the landscape – that is all changing now, thankfully. I am, with no small gratitude, pleased there are some great new male acts coming along. The new musicians I have witnessed this year possess more mobility, hunger and variegation than a lot of the best of the best. Lewis Fieldhouse is an artist who seems ready-made for the demands and challenges of the mainstream. Not your average turn-up-sing-some-pretty-songs-bugger-off artist: his music and words go beyond the average and elicit beautiful images. Before I carry on my point, and get to the music behind the man, it is apt we learn more about Lewis Fieldhouse:

Image may contain: 1 person, standing

PHOTO CREDIT: Juliette Carton Photography

London-based Lewis Fieldhouse creates unapologetic alternative pop, with the raw touch of the American south-west. A story-teller at heart, Lewis has a lyrical eye for the absurd and sincere, offering up snippets of life coupling humour with honesty. His music evokes the lush sound of The Beach Boys and Father John Misty, with acoustic flair and undeniable hooks. In the past couple of years, Lewis’ work has caused a positive stir amongst music blogs like the The 405 and The Vinyl District, with It’s All Indie crowning him “one of the most exciting singer-songwriters in London at the moment.”
Originally from the north of England, Lewis arrived on the London circuit in 2013, by way of a number of “life affirming” road-trips in the US. Lewis is a self-professed ‘geography and Tolkien enthusiast’, with an impressive collection of colourful shirts. He describes his vibrant musical style as almost a rebellion against the darker, more hostile indie sounds he grew up with. In 2013 his debut single, The Water’s Fine, featured on the soundtrack to Emily Diana Ruth’s independent film of the same title. Glasswerk describe his first EP, Born Human, Raised Human, as Fieldhouse’s own “contemporary brand of infectious, sun-soaked acoustic alt-pop”. His tracks have spurred the attention of DJ’s at BBC London Introducing, Amazing Radio, as well as BBC2’s Janice Long. In 2015 Spreading the Seed called his latest single, Not Done Loving You “an acoustic pop masterpiece”, as Lewis continues to hone his combination of immediate hooks and flourishing guitar. Lewis is currently gigging in London and across the UK while working on his debut album. His next single, Goodbye, a nostalgic ode to summer love, will be aptly timed, hitting the airwaves in August 2015
”.

Image may contain: 1 person, beard and closeup

PHOTO CREDIT: Ray Roberts

With Fieldhouse, you have a musician that stands in the mind instantly. In addition his suitcases of colourful shirts and his impressive social media platforms – lots of cool images and information – it is his stories and songbooks that get inside the head. Normally, when it comes to a lot of male artists, there is a dependence on relationship dramas and personal conflicts – maybe some inner-investigations and emotional outpourings. Essentially, there is little in the way of plot, progression and originality. Fieldhouse has, which is evident in his latest album, been influenced by the U.S. and his travels on the road. Not only going there to find himself and try to find answers: his songs reflect some unusual characters, weird landscapes and chance conversations. It is a travelogue of peculiar and charming adventures: like M.C. Esher and Picasso melting work, minds and thoughts – something twisted, bizarre utterly engrossing.  It is hard to get to the core of Fieldhouse’s work – in terms of defection and genres – so it is best to be heard and experienced. In a way, he reminds me of John Grant: another artist whose big personality and unique songwriting stands out from everything else around. Whilst the Iceland-based American is taking time out to record a new album; Fieldhouse is presenting his – I shall come to that a bit later. Essentially, the London-based musician stands out by being himself. There is no pandering to the media and fitting into holes; no run-of-the-mill songs and radio-ready cuts. Because of that, critics and fans have been celebrating his work and tipping him as one of 2017’s great hopes. Whilst my favourite albums from this year have had some ‘predictable’ subjects at their heart – songs about heartache and struggle; unearthing personal torment – it is the performances and music that really gets to me. With Fieldhouse, you get an extra layer of intrigue. There is that incredible voice and luscious, interesting music: you get tales and lyrics that fizz with imagination and humour; cut with their honesty and rawness – so many contrasting emotions and ideas.

Image may contain: 1 person, sitting, playing a musical instrument and guitar

PHOTO CREDIT: James Byrne

Before I summon the discipline to cut to the quick, as it were, it is worth noting Lewis Fieldhouse for his colourful and full-bodied music. I alluded to artists who put little effort into their compositions and overall sound. It is becoming quite common in music and something that needs to be controlled. It is encouraging hearing artists like Fieldhouse adding verve, character and fascination into music: let’s hope others hear his lead and follow suit. What is so fascinating is the way (Fieldhouse) keeps things quite calm and controlled yet manages to evoke serious weight and atmosphere. Reviewers have compared Lewis Fieldhouse’s work with the likes of Father John Misty and The Beach Boys – that is no exaggeration and hyperbole. You get the lusciousness and harmonies of The Beach Boys with the sincerity and urgency of Father John Misty. There are elements (of other singers) in Fieldhouse’s music but, when you drill down, it is the man himself who stands out. I have heard a lot of artists this year who have each offered their own sound and ideas – there are few as striking and assured as Lewis Fieldhouse. Many new artists provide music that gets into the heart, body or mind – finding those who achieve that rare triumvirate is a long and arduous process. Fieldhouse is that lesser-heard musician who produces heartfelt, gorgeous vocals with compositions that provoke energy, movement and involvement. It is the candid and novelistic tales throughout Theodor Washington and the Central Valley that seduce the mind and imagination. I mentioned early – how many musicians concentrate on love strains – but Fieldhouse assesses and documents his travels and the people he meets; observations about society and what is happening in the world. Of course, there is a bit of heartbreak and romantic misadventure in there: by and large, songs are more imaginative and ambitious; mesmerising with their individuality rather than their relatable edge. Naked Psycopathic Blues, as one can guess from the title, is not your average ballad about a disreputable lover. It is part of a fascinating and colourful album whose adventurousness and strange sights are anchored by heart, humour and a human core.

No automatic alt text available.

Previous Lewis Fieldhouse compositions have shown strength and merit: his new material is the strongest and richest yet. The Water’s Fine was released a few years ago and contains a typical blend of soothing harmonies and rousing acoustics. It is a descriptive, involving and immediate song that draws you into events and captures immediately. Refugee, from the E.P., Born Human, Raised Human, is another beautiful and scintillating track that frames that amazing voice and luxuriant harmonies. If we wind forward a few years – and come to the debut album – one can hear that development and growth. The same components are there – in terms of the harmonies and compositions – but the subject matter is more intriguing and imaginative. On that same note, on Thedor’, one can detect new-found inspiration and energy. I have stated how many of the songs (on the album) do not directly address love but there are the odd moments. In fact, the turmoil and unpredictability are explored throughout the record employing various compositional shades and vocal nuances. I have found, when comparing the new and older work, the production is glossier and fuller; the confidence is hard to ignore whilst the singing is more emotive and heartfelt than ever. I can see another album arriving in a short space: it seems Fieldhouse is at his most inspired and vibing from his adventures and U.S. expeditions. Maybe current events, such as the U.S. election catastrophe, will compel new songs and lines. Whatever happens, it is encouraging hearing a songwriter in full flight.

Image may contain: one or more people, people standing and outdoor

Theodor Washington and the Central Valley was launched two weeks ago and as a result of a successful Kickstarter campaign. The fans’ faith in the material has meant a lot to Lewis Fieldhouse. Had the money not been raised, it would have been tragic to watch the album sit on the shelf – perhaps not seeing the light of day for a long while. It is perfectly timed because 2016 is coming to a close: a year that has seen so many unwanted events and timely deaths. The music is comforting and makes you forget your troubles; at the same time, it provides so many wonderful images and scenes. The listener is helpless but to engage in the physicality and directness of each song. Naked Psychopathic Blues’ title provokes instant interpretation. One envisages a crazy and bare-naked man raving and ranting; a derelict that is on the rampage perhaps. Whatever views and ideas you have ahead of time are evaporated and mutated after the first few notes. The opening seconds are as hard and grizzled as any on the album. If other songs stray towards Country, Alternative and Folk territory: here, we get a full-out balls-to-the-wall swagger. The percussion is tight and steel-fisted whilst the guitars wail, bite and groove their way into the spotlight. At once, you are elevated and motivated by the composition; physically moved and curious as to what is coming next. There seems to be some biography and personal relevance to the song’s lines. Noting how “We got married eighteen months ago today” seems to mirror Fieldhouse’s own life – having just celebrated eighteen months with his love. The song is certainly raw and direct. You feel, when the hero describes the rain dissipating against the weight of passion, that the carnality and spectacle of the coming-together is immune to gravity, compromise and reason. Maybe I am misreading but one feels that unity and recklessness: the desire to throw off the pressures of future and embrace the necessity of now.

Image may contain: 1 person, sitting and outdoor

PHOTO CREDIT: Juliette Carton Photography

Perhaps (the song) is less direct and more theoretical; maybe there is a fictional component coming to play. It is hard to misread lines that speak of doubting relatives and struggling-against-the-rock love. Many people, including parents of the sweethearts, felt the bond would not last. Perhaps the two are mismatched or have very different personalities – whether this was the case with Fieldhouse’s relationship – but there is a sadness and anger in the vocal. Maybe the sceptics are casting their aspersions at Fieldhouse/the hero. The girl is seen as a “trophy wife” and someone beyond conceivable reach of such a boy. Again, it is remiss to attribute the words directly to Fieldhouse but the parallels seem to fit. It is intriguing unpicking a song and getting right to the heart of the matter. It is galling hearing such negative words from the sweetheart’s parents. In a way, it has the ring of a classic love story. In classic novels, you hear of the down-trodden man or the social inequality of the lovers; the untraditional nature of love and how it flies in the face of social mores. In a rather nineteenth-century backdrop is the guise and blood of modern love. These two humans have fallen for one another but are facing the clucking tongues of those they seek acceptance from. As the story progresses, the title becomes somewhat oblique and byzantine. You do wonder what inspired that choice and whether it is the distillation of a genuine emotion – the embodiment of the anger and disgust felt by the hero. In spite of the strain and stresses felt by the hero: the vocals rise and the song starts to kick up a few gears.

Image may contain: 1 person

PHOTO CREDIT: Juliette Carton Photography

Those lush and pleasing harmonies come in as the composition loosens and takes the song into its next phase. Fieldhouse changes from the man casting his mind back and recounting the story to someone with more bitterness and spite at heart. Maybe, and playing devil’s advocate again, there is fictionalisation and third-person narrative – maybe the song is looking at someone similar to him. The immature mate that is alcohol plays it roles and has infected the body of the hero. Hitting out at the girl and, deliberately it seems, causing wounds gives the song a sourness and sharp punch. It is contrary to the hopeful romanticism and struggles one hears in the previous verse. There is never attack from the hero but frank confession. Maybe having to battle so many oppressive voices has caused him to self-destruct and embrace a darker side. This virulent tonic that is released is causing scars and burns. As the song carries on, there is a line about making someone’s day – his wife’s/love’s mother it appears. Whether this relates to a moment of indiscretion and lust or walking in when they are at their most fraught and destructive – it seems like a told-you-so attitude would prevail. Fieldhouse gets more aggressive and charged as the words come out. Not his favourite woman it seems (the matriarchal figure is being put in her place) it seems like our hero is The Devil incarnated. There is a lot of tension and hatred in the house and it is fascinating finding out where true blame lies. True, the wagging finger from the mother is unjustified but it appears the hero is maybe acting out and engaging in futile rebellion. It seems this fight back is necessitated by an inflexible and judgmental tone from his girl’s parents. Now they are eighteen months down the line it seems like all the doubters can go to Hell. Naked Psycopathic Blues is the third song on Theodor Washington and the Central Valley and seems like a moment where Fieldhouse has to leave home and go somewhere less tense and unwelcoming. The fact he stands up for love and is so stubborn against the spitefulness is to be applauded. The entire song sticks its middle finger up and does not give a damn for idiocy. By the end, you know the lovers will get their way and be together no matter what anyone else says. Against the companion tracks of Theodor Washington and the Central Valley; Naked Psycopathic Blues is the standouts. It does look at love but in a way few other artists would dare. There are no tropes and lazy clichés: you get a mixture of emotions and a blend of classical heroism and modern poverty – in terms of emotions and depression. We know how things worked out for the pair: happily together and finding (albeit it not perfect) acceptance from in-laws and those around them. Looking back to a time where this passion was taboo is quite an eye-opening experience. Thankfully the entrenched sweethearts dug in their heels and followed their hearts.

Image may contain: 1 person, standing

He Hath Made You Rich is one of the standouts from the album and begins with gentility and soothe. The strings are soft and light; the vocal at its exquisite best. In many ways, the track reminds me of U.S. Soul legends and harmony groups like Boyz II Men. The Boyz’ were renowned for their extraordinary, velvet tones and heart-stopping beauty. I can hear a little of that in the song: the vocal is so chocolate-like and sweet; it has a calm and reflective nature but is direct and hard. Perhaps looking at a lover or someone gone: one senses the hero is pauper-like and willing to try again; regretting past decisions and looking on from the window. Perhaps events have transpired that makes love impossible and unrealistic. Whatever the origins, it is a song that glistens and glides; it grabs the heart and gets into the mind instantly. Live So Fast, Kiss So Slow is on the “wrong side of the tracks” and “drinking ginger and rum”. The hero is taken home by the girl and, right from the off, you get images of U.S. roads and lights ahead. Some of the album’s smartest lyrics (the girl taking advantage of the hero’s XY chromosome is beautifully executed) are here as are some of the most spirited guitar lines. The song has an infectious bounce and itinerant jog. One is infused and lifted by the energy and panache of the song. Showing what contrast and range there is on the album: Fieldhouse unleashes one of his most vivid and fascinating songs. You follow the tale and the imbalance of unrequited love. It is less about the ill nature and poor fate of events; more concerning the details and landscapes; the humour and buzz that is audible throughout. Fieldhouse sounds at his most alive and adventurous here. The entire album emanated from a (rather less-than-happy) trip to the U.S. Fieldhouse had intended to discover himself and drink in the scenes and sights of America. Rocked by personal tragedy in the U.K. and strain in the U.S. – the album’s themes and emotions reflect this upheaval.

Image may contain: 1 person, sitting and indoor

PHOTO CREDIT: James Byrne

Great White Hope seems to be an assessment of the struggle and tangle of home and America: that need to get straight and find feet once more. It is “too late for me” as the hero says; not too late for the song’s heroine. That need to get a job and evade the pollution (both social and vehicular) of the city. It is another buoyant and mobile song that mixes elements of Country and Alternative into another album standout. Megan, Are You Goin’ My Way? is our hero heading for San Francisco and looking to cadge a ride it seems. The girl might be going that way but is a bit more reluctant. The lead wants to get away from the urban sprawl and concrete anxieties. He is looking to the horizons and using supplication on the heroine – asking if she will come with him. Here you get a portmanteau and proprietary blend of cherry red and sharp white – a heady wine that swims in the senses and elicits a relaxing kiss but makes you think. In a way, the album is a concept piece that follows a story arc. Megan, Are You Goin’ My Way? was the lead-off – our boy heading for a new place and wondering what is ahead. Istanbul is that travel back home. Appropriately, the song is another restrained and delicate number that perfectly ends things. Maybe Istanbul would have been a nice destination: somewhere away from where he is and a lot more agreeable than where he is now – perhaps a nice dream but not to be. There is wistfulness and sense of pining that comes out in the song. Fieldhouse has a love in mind and carries her with him (whether physically or emotionally). That raw and unquenchable desire keeps protruding and niggling at the hero. Looking back at regrets and indiscretion: this is the chance to make things right and redress the balance of things. The erudition that is displayed in each of the ten tracks is as a result of a life-changing and eye-opening trip. That time in the U.S. was not as wasted and fraught as one would imagine. Fieldhouse met some odd characters and great barroom tales; wide roads and quixotic nature – the contrasts and complexities of the country. In essence, realisation and clarity were obtained. Theodor Washington and the Central Valley is a wonderful and vast album that takes you on the plane and down the road. You are an uncredited companion of Fieldhouse and looking through his eyes. Songs switch from emotional and vulnerable to rousing and intense. Fieldhouse’s voice is consistently sharp, divine and varied throughout. Able to make every line and verse sound essential and compelling: there are not many artists that achieve that.

Image may contain: 1 person, smiling, standing, beard and outdoor

PHOTO CREDIT: Juliette Carton Photography

There is not much too much time left to make a big impression on the yet Lewis Fieldhouse might have done that with his debut album. So full of treasure, life and appeal: it takes a long time for every song to truly unveil its beauty, truths and full potential. I admire a lyricist who can provide something interesting and thought-provoking. I will not exsanguinate the body of the argument – with regards lyrics and making them stand out – but this year’s finest albums/creations are defined by relevant/strong words. I have argued against those albums most critics select as their 2016 favourite – although their long-list is pretty spot on. Such a busy and quality-strewn year for music that has seen some of this decade’s best albums produced. I am sure 2017 will keep the momentum strong and inspire those musicians coming through at the minute. That is the dynamic we need to see fostered and funded: mainstream’s best providing impetus and energy to the newcomers. The most exciting thing about music is seeing great new artists make strides: start climbing their way to the giddy heights of mainstream’s apex. I predict Lewis Fieldhouse will get there as he is one of the most curious and interesting musicians around. Not just one of London’s finest: music that has spread across the country and will cross to other continents very soon. It is not often artists experiment with Americana, Folk and Alternative ideas – fewer still who pull it off with aplomb. I am interested to see where Fieldhouse goes in 2017. There is going to be more music (naturally) but what form that takes is down to him. It would be good seeing an E.P. down the line: a nice between-the-albums release that follows from Theodor Washington and the Central Valley and provides the same sorts of tales, tease and tribulations. It is hard, with all the best artists, to really distill Fieldhouse’s essence and describe such an album (as Theodor Washington and the Central Valley). Exciting times ahead for the London-based artist. Capping off a busy and vital musical year; Fieldhouse can relax (a little) over the next couple of weeks before deciding what his next move is. The days are ticking down and we are looking ahead to the musicians who will be doing good things next year. I have heard a lot of really great artists who have the mannerisms, ability and sight to reach the upper echelons and mingle alongside this year’s very finest. I have heard so many average acts come along and there are precious few that pull you in and overwhelm the senses. Lewis Fieldhouse is one such artist; someone who has a lot more left to say. He may be one of the standouts from the capital’s musicians. When it comes to musicians that provide a unique blend of travelogue-cum-characterful lyrics, gorgeous vocals and detailed compositions…

Image may contain: 1 person

LET’S hope he isn’t the last!

_____________________

Follow Lewis Fieldhouse

 Image may contain: 1 person, beard and closeup

PHOTO CREDIT: Ray Roberts

 

Official:

http://www.lewisfieldhouse.com/

Facebook:

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

Twitter:

https://twitter.com/lewisfieldhouse

Instagram:

https://www.instagram.com/lewisfieldhouse/

SoundCloud:

https://soundcloud.com/lewisfieldhouse

YouTube:

https://www.youtube.com/c/lewisfieldhouse

FEATURE: Album of the Year: Billie Marten – Writing of Blues and Yellows

FEATURE:

 

Album of the Year:

 

  

Billie Marten – Writing of Blues and Yellows

___________________

THOSE keenly observing might have noticed one name appearing on my blog…

PHOTO CREDIT: Harvey Pearson

the last few months. I am not sure what the plans of Billie Marten are in 2017 but one suspects it will be a combination of studies – she still has to balance academia and music – and working on new material. I know Marten has just stepped into the studio with Scott Quinn (not sure what the result will be: likely to be magic and marvellous) but one suspects there will be E.P./album/possible songs arriving. Billie Marten is an artist that does not have recording deadlines and demands from record labels – like U.S. giants being pressured by the bosses to get an album out by a certain date.

She is a seventeen-year-old comfortable being by herself and writing when the mood strikes her – creating music when the time is right and it is not being forced.

It is, because of that, I was so awed by her debut cut: the hugely nuanced and beautiful Writing of Blues and Yellows. It might seem like a subjective choice – going against the popular opinion of tastemakers and poll-conducting sites – but there are good reasons for it. When I reviewed the album for The Metropolist (http://www.themetropolist.com/music/album-reviews/album-review-billie-marten-writing-blues-yellows/) I was not only one of the first allowed access to the album – I was struck by someone who was compared to many but sounds like nobody else. The invariable Laura Marling comparisons came in, I have been putting names like Kate Bush, Eva Cassidy and Nick Cave in the same sentence, but the Ripon girl is very much her own singer. Most critics, when it comes to their favourite album, have been seduced by Beyoncé’s Lemonade; some go for Solange – everyone from David Bowie, Frank Ocean and Chance the Rapper topping other end-of-year lists. I agree Beyoncé’s career-defining album is a superb work – few can refute the dominating performances, immense passion and sense of command from the U.S. legend. It is, in my view, a top-ten worthy inclusion but not my number one pick. The fact NONE (maybe some will come through) of the polls I have seen included Writing of Blues and Yellows in their list is a bit of a shock.

Marten may be young (and at the debut album stage) but inferior albums have been making it into top ten/fifty lists. For me, it is the consistency and nuance that really grabs me. I know ‘nuance’ seems to be my buzz word but I do not speak that word lightly or without knowledge. There are few albums that are as revealing and gets-better-each-time-you-hear-it as Writing of Blues and Yellows. When I reviewed it (for The Metropolist) I, rather stupidly, considered Emily a track that sounds too much like others – perhaps it could have sat a bit further down the album. It was only a few weeks later its true power, beauty and potential were unveiled. That song was pipped by Radiohead’s Burn the Witch in terms of my favourite songs from 2016: other tracks from Marten’s album could make their way into the same list (Green, Teeth and Untitled among them). Emily is a song that continues to amaze: not just because of the potent and majestic vocal performance but the mature and rich songwriting. One of the few tracks on the album without any other writing contribution: it is Marten at her most singular, focused and ambitious. Building, layering electric guitars; swelling, heart-aching strings and ghostly, lost-in-the-wind vocal interjections made it but eerie and spellbinding.

It is not just Emily that captured my heart but quite a few – pretty much all – tracks on the album. Heavy Weather remains my standout because of its unbeatable chorus and stunning imagery; La Lune is a song unlike any other: Green one of the more spright and energised performances on the record – even if its lyrics project anxiety and self-doubt. It’s  a Fine Day – one reviewer was foolish enough to label it pointless and expendable – shows how gripping Marten is when reducing technology to its bare bones – recorded on an app. one day as her dad mowed the lawn. Teeth is an honest and gut-wrenching testament from a young woman who lies through her teeth in order to keep the façade strong: she is suffering inside but does not want to let the world know.

I have stated Marten is beyond easy comparisons but naming her among her idols, even at these early junctions, is not rash.

Teeth, Untitled and Bird have various shades of Nick Drake – a combination of Bryter Layter and Pink Moon sounds – whereas Emily is a Marling-esque gem; Kate Bush and Joni Mitchell’s spirit can be detected in some of the vocal deliveries – bits of John Martyn in the finger-picking and authoritative acoustic stylings.

I have a lot of respect for other sites/magazine and the determinations they have made. I am not suggesting they should have Marten’s debut at the top of their lists: it is worthy of a place in their favourite twenty at the very least – in the top fifty, one would think?! Maybe Writing of Blues and Yellows is an album that will take a few more months before its true class and powers are realised; perhaps there is a leaning towards certain genres/types of music. Given the political unrest and mortality turbulence of this year – the passing of some music icons and racially-motivated, disturbing political decisions of ‘the people’ – musicians that tackle these concerns and provide escape are being celebrated. Marten’s future, as I started out by saying, is very much ahead of her – in the sense the best days are going to come in the next couple of years. Not to bring Laura Marling back into play but look at her trajectory: with each album new confidence and quality; a musician that grows stronger with each release and is one of the finest songwriters on the planet. If Marten keeps her passion and focus strong she could not only be producing a lot more albums but gain the same acclaim and reputation as a certain L.M.

As it stands, Writing of Blues and Yellows is not just an original, accomplished and gorgeous album from a bright and lovable songwriter: it emanates from someone unfazed and unaffected by the trappings of success; someone pure, honest and down-to-Earth.

One imagines Billie Marten ensconced in a quiet nook: pen in hand and mind adrift; conspiring and imagining the next song; lost in her own world and prisoner to the tease of thought and language.

All this is evident on her debut album and is the fuel that will continue to burn strong and hard into 2017. After releasing a cover of White Christmas (available across Spotify and SoundCloud) she will be enjoying Christmas and taking some time to recharge and relax. When 2017 kicks into view, one imagines she will be looking ahead. Whether that is gigs in France and a new E.P.; studying and a few new songs or a fully-fledged campaign to get a sophomore album out I am not sure. Whatever it is will be exciting and wonderful. Many argue an album like Lemonade or The Life of Pablo (Kanye West) addresses modern desires and provides relief, release and guidance. I argue, conversely and at the other end of the emotional spectrum, an album such as Writing of Blues and Yellows should receive equal acclaim, demand and attention. It is gentle, tender and thought-provoking; comforting, brave and soul-nourishing. Even if it did not crack your list of best albums this year: at the very least it should be afforded a chance to shine and reveal…

Billie Marten @ St Giles In-The-Fields Church

PHOTO CREDIT: Harvey Pearson

 

ALL of its wonderful beauty and power.

_______________________

Follow Billie Marten:

PHOTO CREDIT: Danny Payne

http://www.billiemarten.com/

Writing of Blues and Yellows can be purchased here:

https://itunes.apple.com/gb/album/writing-of-blues-and-yellows/id1133221077

 

TRACK REVIEW: Yearbook – Faster, But Slow

TRACK REVIEW:

 

Yearbook

 

 

Faster, But Slow

 

9.6/10

 

 

Faster, But Slow is available at:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cgu_QqNopAA

RELEASED:
1st December, 2016

GENRES:
Alternative-Rock

ORIGIN:

Hampshire, U.K.

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

https://musicglue.com/yearbook/

RELEASED:

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

 

Official:

http://www.yearbook.band/

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/yearbookofficial/

Twitter:

https://twitter.com/yearbookband

SoundCloud:

https://soundcloud.com/yearbook-1

YouTube:

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCOYb5j_VIBCgMh9ggJYBfng